Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced S.2667, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, in the Senate on April 12, 2018. The bill's general purpose is stated as "A bill to amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to provide for State and Tribal regulation of hemp production, and for other purposes."
S. 2667 aims to make hemp an ordinary agriculture commodity by removing it from Schedule I of the United States Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The bill defines hemp as "the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis." The CSA describes a Schedule I drug as a drug that has a high potential for abuse and has no current accepted medical use in treatment.
Under S. 2667, if a State or Indian tribe wants to have "primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp" in their territory, then the State or Indian tribe must "submit to the Secretary, through the State department of agriculture...or the Tribal government...a plan under which the State or Indian tribe monitors and regulates the production" of hemp as described in the bill. The State or Indian tribe's plan must provide the following:
(i) a practice to maintain relevant information regarding land on which hemp is produced in the State or territory of the Indian tribe, including a legal description of the land, for a period of not less than 3 calendar years;
(ii) a procedure for testing, using post-decarboxylation or other similarly reliable methods, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration levels of hemp produced in the State or territory of the Indian tribe;
(iii) a procedure for the effective disposal of products that are produced in violation of this subtitle; and
(iv) a procedure to comply with the enforcement procedures under subsection (d)...
After a plan is submitted by a State or Indian tribe, the Secretary must approve or disapprove of the plan within 60 days. However, if the plan is disapproved because it does not comply with the requirements stated above, the plan can be amended and resubmitted.
A hemp producer can negligently violates their plan by:
(i) failing to provide a legal description of land on which the producer produces hemp;
(ii) failing to obtain a license or other required authorization from the State department of agriculture or Tribal government, as applicable; or
(iii) producing Cannabis sativa L. with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis[,]
If a hemp producer does violate their plan, then the hemp producer must correct the negligent violation by a reasonable date, and they will be required to "periodically report to the State department of agriculture or Tribal government...on the compliance of the hemp producer with the State or Tribal plan for a period of not less than the next 2 calendar years." The bill provides that if a hemp producer negligently violates their plan they cannot "be subject to any criminal or civil enforcement action by the Federal Government or any State government, Tribal government, or local government other than the enforcement action" stated above. But, a hemp producer that violates their plan three times within a 5-year period will become ineligible to produce hemp for five years following their third violation. The bill also provides that a hemp producer that violates the State or Indian tribe plan with a culpable mental state shall be reported to the Attorney General and the chief law enforcement officer of the State.
Additionally, S. 2667 aims to amend the Federal Crop Insurance Act to make hemp insurable, and the bill proposes other amendments to legitimize hemp research and its funding.
The Atlantic reports that it is "legal to sell products made from hemp in the United States, but the market is currently filled almost entirely by imports from other countries" such as Canada and China. So with the passage of S. 2667, United States farmers could reduce the amount of hemp being imported. The article also states that farmers struggling to make a profit on tobacco may be able to make up some of their losses with the legalization of hemp.
Unlike many of the new marijuana related bills that have a small chance of being enacted, S. 2667 is expected to have a moderate chance of becoming law.
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
OPINION: State-legalized marijuana businesses probably need not fear federal prosecution, but that "probably" should be more clear
States with legal marijuana cannot have complete confidence in the legitimacy of their businesses because marijuana remains federally illegal. Cannabis in the U.S. is a Schedule 1 drug, which has a very specific meaning according to the DEA website.
Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:
heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote
Cannabis is explicitly illegal on the federal level to this day, despite state efforts to legalize marijuana locally. Adding further confusion to the mix, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not made it clear whether legal marijuana business owners will be prosecuted.
Dispensaries can take small solace in the apparent lack of Congressional or presidential support for Sessions. In a Wall Street Journal article, authors Sadie Gurman and Natalie Andrews noted that Sessions did not seem to have the backing of the president or Congress behind his desires to crack down on states with legal marijuana:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to use federal law to get tough on marijuana, announcing in January he was ending Obama-era protections for the nascent pot industry in states where it is legal. Six months into his mission, he is largely going it alone.
Mr. Sessions’ own prosecutors have yet to bring federal charges against pot businesses that are abiding by state law. And fellow Republicans in Congress, with support from President Donald Trump, are promoting several bills that would protect or even expand the legal pot trade.
The article went on to explain that Sessions told members of Congress that the Justice Department is now emphasizing the pursuit of more dangerous drugs.
And well they should -- by many measures, cannabis is a far less dangerous drug than even legal alternatives like alcohol and tobacco. Smoking tobacco has been linked to lung cancer, and drinking too much alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning and even death.
Yet it is functionally impossible to overdose on the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC, and medicines with CBD oil have been successfully used to treat patients suffering from seizures. Perhaps due to the fact that alcohol and tobacco have been accepted and abundant for so long, they remain legal and well regulated, as opposed to cannabis.
Although unlikely, at any point, federal agents could bring suit against a state's legal marijuana businesses and arrest the people running it. This should not be the case because it leaves marijuana businesses in an uncertain place. If federal agents are not going to enforce federal marijuana law, perhaps the law should at least be altered, or abolished.
Keeping marijuana illegal does not benefit society overall. It results in unnecessary prison sentences for nonviolent offenders charged merely with small scale possession. It inhibits research into medical applications.
Some argue that legal marijuana might lead to lower productivity and differences in brain development for young children, but such detriments are far outweighed by other factors at play. Those factors include huge potential for tax revenue generation; potential medical treatments for nausea, loss of appetite, seizures, and pain medication; and focusing of resources toward other larger problems like the opioid epidemic.
Marijuana legalization is an incredibly complex process, in which countless factors are at play and there is no simple solution for everyone. Things would be much simpler, though, if the federal government stepped up in favor of legalization, whether for medical or recreational marijuana. Even if the government actually did start cracking down on legal marijuana businesses, that might be preferable to this Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of every pot business owner, held up by just a single thread.
-- Alex Bennett
Sunday, October 21, 2018
Spearheaded by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and California Rep. Barbara Lee, the Marijuana Justice Act is attempting to set the foundation, on a congressional level, for what equitable and progressive marijuana legalization should look like.
The Senate Bill, S. 1689, was introduced by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker on August 1, 2017, during the 1st Session of the 115th United States Congress. In January of this year, an identical bill was presented to the House of Representatives during the 2d Session, titled H.R. 4815, by California Representative Barbara Lee. Although the proposals have not yet garnered traction within Congress, the bills mark a progressive attitude towards legalization.
Senate Bill 1689 and House Bill 4815, both named the "Marijuana Justice Act", are a pair of identical Congressional bills that center marijuana legalization around criminal justice reform, accountability, and community reinvestment, and they represent the first time that companion legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The Marijuana Justice Act, if enacted, would:
- Remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis;
- Incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests by:
- Cutting federal funding for state law enforcement and prison construction if a state disproportionately arrests and/or incarcerates low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses and;
- Allowing entities to sue states that disproportionately arrest and/or incarcerate low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses;
- Provide a process for expungement of federal convictions specific to marijuana possession;
- Allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations the right to petition the court for resentencing;
- Create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.
A Bill to amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide for a new rule regarding the application of the Act to marihuana, and for other purposes.
The stated purpose of the Act is to de-schedule marijuana, apportion funds, and create a “Community Reinvestment Fund”.
Section 1. Short Title
Both bills began with their titles, with the Senate bill stating: This Act may be cited as the “Marijuana Justice Act of 2017”. The House bill has identical language, with the only amendment being the change of the date from 2017 to 2018 when the House bill was introduced.
Section 2. De-Scheduling Marihuana
This section serves as the cornerstone for the legalization aspect of the Act.
For context, the Controlled Substances Act is the federal drug policy that places all regulated substances into one of five schedules based on the potential for abuse, current accepted medical use, and degree of physical or psychological dependence resulting from abuse of the drug.
As quoted in the CSA, the finding for Schedule I drugs include that:
(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
Section 2 (a) of the Marijuana Justice Act is titled "Marijuana Removed from Schedule of Controlled Substances." The purpose of this section is to de-schedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) by striking the terms "marihuana" and "tetrahydrocannabinols", and re-designating subparagraphs within §202(c) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812). 21 U.S.C. 812 (c) (10) and 21 U.S.C. 812 (c) (17) force cannabis-related substances "marihuana" and "tetrahydrocannabinols," respectively, into schedule 1 regulated substances; therefore, by striking the terms as mentioned above, they would no longer be listed as schedule 1 substances under federal law.
Section 2 (b) of the Act, captioned “Removal of Prohibition on Import and Export”—§1010 (b) of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21 U.S.C 960) strikes the language that penalizes:
Any person who -
- (1) … knowingly or intentionally imports or exports a controlled substance,
- (2) … knowingly or intentionally brings or possesses on board a vessel, aircraft, or vehicle a controlled substance, or
- (3) … manufactures, possesses with intent to distribute, or distributes … a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marihuana.
Additionally, the Act would conform the following amendments to the Controlled Substances Act by striking variations of the term "marihuana" and restructuring the designations of paragraphs and subparagraphs within:
21 U.S.C. 802 (44) – Definitions
21 U.S.C. 841 (b) – Prohibited Acts, penalties
21 U.S.C. 842 (c) (2) (B) – Prohibited Acts, penalties with prior convictions
21 U.S.C. 843 (d) (1) – Prohibited Acts, penalties and terms of imprisonment
21 U.S.C. 859 (a) – Distribution to persons under age twenty-one, first offense
21 U.S.C. 860 (a) – Distribution or manufacturing in or near schools and colleges, penalties
21 U.S.C. 863 (d) – “Drug Paraphernalia” defined
21 U.S.C. 886 (d) – Payments and advances, Drug Pollution Fund
The last measure of de-scheduling marijuana would amend the National Forest System Drug Control Act of 1986 by striking the terms "marijuana and other" and "marihuana" from the act.
Section 3. Ineligibility for Certain Funds
Although this section is titled, “Ineligibility for Certain Funds” the section also provides guidelines for expungement and sentencing review.
Section 3 (a) provides definitions for terms such as “covered state,” “disproportionate arrest rate,” “low-income individual,” and several other terms cited throughout the section.
Section 3 (b) details the considerations for distributing Federal funding to states. Under the Act, if a state is determined to have a disproportionate arrest or incarceration rate for marijuana offenses, they will be deemed ineligible to receive federal funds to staff or construct a prison or jail. However, covered states will not be subject to more than a 10% reduction of funds that would otherwise go to law enforcement assistance programs, block grants, and justice assistance grant programs. Additionally, any funds not awarded to covered states will be deposited into the Community Reinvestment Fund.
Section 3 (c) requires that each Federal court issue an expunction for marijuana use or possession offenses that resulted in a conviction. Subsection (d) provides for sentencing review and states that individuals who have been sentenced and imprisoned have the right to motion the court to conduct a sentencing hearing. Lastly, subsection (e) allows individuals who have been aggrieved by the disproportionate arrest or incarcerations rate the right to bring a civil action in appropriate district courts.
Section 4. Community Reinvestment Fund
The final section of the Marijuana Justice Act establishes a "Community Reinvestment Fund" within the United States Treasury. According to the bill, deposits to the Fund will consist of funds not awarded to covered states, states that have not enacted a statute legalizing marijuana, because they have disproportionate arrest and/or incarceration rates for marijuana offenses in addition to amounts otherwise appropriated to the Fund.
Section 4 (c) outlines the uses for the funds; making them available to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to reinvest in communities most affected by the war on drugs by funding job training, re-entry services, community centers, and other programs and opportunities. The Act concludes by authorizing $500,000,000 to be appropriated to the Fund for each fiscal year from 2018 – 2040.
The Marijuana Justice Act is rooted in social justice and community development. While the objectives of the Act are noble and progressive, perhaps the Act is attempting to tackle too many issues at once. There has been vocalized support for federal legalization, making Section 2 of the Act the most accessible.
Additionally, expunction efforts for marijuana-related crimes have been a topic of discussion on both the West and East coasts. However, there is a likelihood that courts will get overloaded by individuals who desire to bring civil suits. In regards to the Community Reinvestment Fund, the introduction of the fund would be groundbreaking; however, it is important to realistically consider the logistics and operations of the fund, as there would need to be continuous data-collections and attention to the appropriations on a federal level. If the Act were to be passed in its entirety, it would be a victory for communities impacted by the war on drugs and individuals who have been negatively affected by the implicitly discriminatory enforcement of current marijuana laws.
Saturday, October 20, 2018
On October 17 Canada became the second country to legalize marijuana allowing Canadians to grow, possess, and consume marijuana recreationally. Canada expects the legalization of recreational marijuana to boost their economy, but the laws surrounding marijuana are left up to each province's experimentation. Inquirer.net reports:
... legalization is expected to boost the Canadian economy, generating $816 million to $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter without taking into account the black market, which is expected to account for a quarter of all joints smoked in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.
A $400 million tax revenue windfall is forecast as a result, with the provinces, municipalities and federal government all getting a slice.
In total, Statistics Canada says 5.4 million Canadians will buy cannabis in legal dispensaries in 2018, about 15 percent of the population. 4.9 million already smoke.
Inquirer.net states that by legalizing marijuana, the Canadian federal government overturns the marijuana ban that had been in place since 1923. The federal government left the task of creating laws to regulate legal marijuana up to the individual provinces. Hence, the world gets to sit back and watch to see which province's experimental regulations work the best. The article further reports:
Several [provinces] have already said they will not fully implement the law.
For example, even though federal law will permit each household to grow up to four cannabis plants, central Manitoba and Quebec in the east say they will ban it and go all the way to the Supreme Court over the matter.
Like with alcohol and tobacco, the question of legal age also falls to the provinces. Nineteen seems to be the standard, but it is 18 in Alberta, while Quebec, whose new government will enter office the day after legalization, wants to raise the age to 21.
With regards to sales, some provinces such as Quebec will implement a public monopoly while others, including Ontario and Nova Scotia, have decided to trust the market to the private sector.
As for law enforcement, federal police will be ordered to abstain for 28 days before working, as will police in Toronto.
Officers in Montreal, however, are simply asked to not show up to work high.
Another issue for the provinces to mull over is open consumption, with Montreal deciding to impose the same rules as those for tobacco, while people in other provinces will have to light up at home.
Legalizing marijuana clearly leads to many new problems, but with each province able to conduct their own experiment concerning the laws surrounding legalization, perhaps these experiments will lead to a structure the rest of the world can implement when moving towards a greener future.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
With almost half of all U.S. states having decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, one would think that marijuana-related arrest rates in the U.S. would be decreasing. Not so, according to new data released by the FBI last week. Forbes.com has the story:
There is now an average of one marijuana bust roughly every 48 seconds, according to a new FBI report released on Monday. The increase in marijuana arrests—659,700 in 2017, compared to 653,249 in 2016—is driven by enforcement against people merely possessing the drug as opposed to selling or growing it, the data shows.
Last year, there were 599,282 marijuana possession arrests in the country, up from 587,516 in 2016. Meanwhile, busts for cannabis sales and manufacturing dropped, from 65,734 in 2016 to 60,418 in 2017.
"At a time when more than 100 deaths per day are caused by opioid overdoses, it is foolish to focus our limited law enforcement resources on a drug that has caused literally zero," Don Murphy, federal policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project said in an interview.
"Actions by law enforcement run counter to both public support and basic morality," added NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. "In a day and age where twenty percent of the population lives in states which have legalized and nearly every state has some legal protections for medical cannabis or its extract, the time for lawmakers to end this senseless and cruel prohibition that ruins lives."
Overall, marijuana arrests made up 40.4% of the nation's 1,632,921 drug arrests in 2017.
Marijuana-related arrests rates have historically been a major topic of debate in U.S. marijuana policy. Advocates of legalization argue that the drug is harmless, citing the lack of reported overdoses normally associated with drug use, and that legalization would actually decrease the amount of illegal drug trade that can result in violence. They state that it is unfair to group persons in possession of marijuana together with violent offenders, and that it fills our prisons with non-violent offenders, effectively ruining lives over possession of a substance that has not been found to cause physical harm of any kind.
Meanwhile, supporters of the status quo cite the unknown–and possibly unknowable–health risks associated with marijuana, including possible damage to the hippocampus, which is responsible for short and long term memory. Additionally, supporters of marijuana's current criminal status argue that it is difficult to police marijuana intoxication and that more widespread use will result in more traffic fatalities. Finally, some argue that marijuana is a gateway drug, and legalizing it will not only create new weed smokers, but will also create a morality vacuum in which young people may believe that other drugs are not as harmful as they have been made out to be and begin venturing into the world of casual drug use.
For the time being, these statistics suggest that marijuana use and possession are increasing, even in states where the drug has not yet been legalized. This inherently means that the illegal drug trade is still alive and well, possibly vindicating the position of those that are in favor of federal legalization or decriminalization. However, some data has shown that even in states where marijuana has been legalized, foreign cartels are still able to sell the drug to customers, indicating that even full legalization may not be a cure to illegal marijuana trafficking. Regardless, there is a sharp outcry against the current harsh penalties for marijuana possession, and these new FBI statistics indicate that the problem is only getting worse.
Friday, October 12, 2018
As have various US states, BC is now faced with the dilemma of how to handle legalization of an industry that is still in its infancy. CBC has the story:
The B.C. government's expert on keeping people safe in the consumption of recreational cannabis says getting ready for legalization on Oct. 17 is still very much a work in progress.
"What we have been saying for the past eight months is that we are building the plane as we are flying it," said Gerald Thomas, the director of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and gambling prevention and policy for the Ministry of Health.
Thomas is an academic consultant on public health as it relates to consumption of those substances.
On Friday, he participated in a panel discussion at a cannabis conference at the University of British Columbia on issues concerning upcoming legalization.
. . .
Thomas did not take questions from media afterwards, but told around 150 people in attendance that the government doesn't "have it right," when it comes to its recreational cannabis policy.
Since the majority of marijuana legalization policy has not had to stand the test of time, there is not a tried and true basis for British Colombia to model their policies on. CBC goes on to report:
Despite the work done to date, there are still unknowns such as how people seeking to use marijuana for therapeutic uses will get reliable advice in the legal recreational system.
It's also unclear what will happen to producers of products, like edibles, which aren't currently part of the recreational plan, and how police forces will deal with impaired driving and marijuana.
"Having just spent the last eight months of my life consumed by the cannabis monster, I call it, I would suggest with most of folks here that we don't have it right," said Thomas.
"We have been pushed to the wall to try and make this happen in such a short time frame."
Still he told the audience though that people in the government who are working to be ready for legalization are doing their best to get it right.
The article lastly notes that Thomas hopes the government can get marijuana policies right before parties conform to the existing structure and make the policies difficult to modify.
Saturday, September 29, 2018
On Friday, a small US territory made a big splash in the country’s marijuana legalization history. According to Forbes.com, the Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands signed a bill into law that provides
adults over 21 years of age will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as infused products and extracts. Regulators will issue licenses for cannabis producers, testing facilities, processors, retailers, wholesalers and lounges. Home cultivation of a small number of plants will be allowed.
The article further points out that this is the first US jurisdiction “to go from having cannabis totally illegal to allowing recreational use without first having a medical marijuana program.” It was “unclear if the governor was going to sign or veto the legislation, as he had previously expressed concerns about the public safety implications of legalizing marijuana.”
Though the governor signed the recreational scheme into law, he also used his “line-item veto powers to cancel some provisions of the proposal, including one to allow a government entity to be licensed to grow cannabis, as well as a provision requiring recreational marijuana consumers to obtain $5 permits.”
Legalization advocates are hopeful about the effect this may have on other US Jurisdictions.
"This is the first legislatively enacted law in the U.S. that taxes and regulates marijuana for adults’ use, but it will be far from the last," Karen O'Keefe, state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an interview. "New Jersey could follow suit within weeks, and as many as five more state legislatures could do so within the next year. Public support for legalizing marijuana is strong and growing, and elected officials are increasingly getting the message."
Other advocates are hopeful that the “building momentum will add pressure on the federal government to modernize its approach to cannabis.”
--Ashleigh Morgan Williams
Nevada is the latest state to feel the economic boom of legalized cannabis, and so far it is smooth sailing for state regulators. The state fully legalized the drug beginning in January 2017 and total industry sales soared over $500 million, $425 million of which came from recreational sales alone. These numbers drastically outperformed both state projections, and first year sales of other states. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has the story:
Including recreational and medical marijuana as well as marijuana-related goods and accessories, Nevada stores
eclipsed a half-billion dollars in sales, just under $530 million, according to figures released Tuesday by the Nevada Department of Taxation.
Bill Anderson, executive director of the Tax Department, said that the industry “has not only exceeded revenue expectations, but proven to be a largely successful one from a regulatory standpoint.”
“We have not experienced any major hiccups or compliance issues,” he added. “As we move into fiscal year 2019, we expect to see continued growth in the industry by way of additional businesses opening up, and we expect revenues to continue to be strong.”
This stunning performance translated into $70 million in tax revenue for the state. To give some context to these metrics, state regulators projected $265 million in sales and $50 million in tax revenue, according to the Review-Journal. Furthermore, the states of Colorado, Washington, and Oregon–largely considered to be trailblazing states in the cannabis industry, and all with larger populations than Nevada by at least 1 million citizens–recorded first-year cannabis sales of $303 million, $259 million, and $241 million, respectively, putting them far behind Nevada's first year numbers. Perhaps most surprisingly, despite being home to Las Vegas, Nevada only collected $49 million in intoxicating beverage taxes from 2016-2017, signaling that marijuana may be a greater source of revenue for the state than alcohol moving forward.
Nevada's "sinful" tourist economy can likely be thanked for such astounding numbers, although the state's casinos have come out against marijuana use in their facilities, out of fear of losing their gaming licenses. Additionally, the state's marijuana law prohibits consumption anywhere but in private residences. State Senator Tick Segerblom told the Las Vegas Sun: “The numbers are kind of leveling off, and we need to reach the tourist market a little more. We need a venue where people can come and enjoy marijuana properly."
These results suggest a few things: first, that tourism economies can drive marijuana sales even in states with lower populations and where marijuana use is not widely supported by dominant businesses. Second, that as more states legalize cannabis they may take cues from states that have previously approved legalization in order to more efficiently bring the drug to market. Finally, that there is still much progress to be made with respect to laws surrounding marijuana consumption in states where it has been made legal. Perhaps as more states begin venturing into legalization, they will use Nevada as a model of how best to regulate, tax, and sell cannabis.
September 29, 2018 in Business, Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Legislation, Medical Marijuana, News, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Taxation, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1)
Saturday, September 22, 2018
It's no secret that recreational marijuana is a cash cow, but until recently, retailers have had no piggy bank in which to deposit all their earnings. However, thanks to the efforts of Gardner Federal Credit Union, marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts may have found a home for their earnings. The Boston Business Journal has the story:
The bank said Friday afternoon that it would begin banking for the industry, working with Safe Harbor Services, a
wholly-owned affiliate of Partner Colorado Credit Union that is the leader in compliance-based cannabis banking services.
“As a credit union committed to helping people and serving the underserved, we found in Safe Harbor a partner who offered a viable and proven compliant-based cannabis banking option and a way to keep our communities safe. Our board of directors recognizes the need to provide banking services for the safety of our citizens in reducing the ‘cash on the streets’ and I applaud them for their vision and commitment to providing public safety," said GFA Federal Credit Union’s CEO, Tina Sbrega.
Banking has long been a thorn in the side of recreational marijuana retailers. Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, if a bank were to accept funds derived from marijuana sales, that would constitute money laundering. The resulting friction between state legalization and federal drug policy has created an business ecosystem where cash is king. Colorado marijuana entrepreneur Babak Behzadzadeh told The New York Times: "If we had bank accounts, it'd be much easier."
Safe Harbor Services began helping local banks and credit unions in Colorado accept marijuana money in 2014, serving a vital–and very profitable–role in the cannabis industry. The company has expanded its reach outside of Colorado, now offering its services to credit unions like Gardner Credit Union in Massachusetts. The company is able to help its customers deposit their cannabis profits "legally" by ensuring that none of the money is derived from activities specifically prohibited by the Cole memorandum, and that the banks who accepted cannabis cash were careful about what they did with it–specifically ensuring that it did not migrate outside of states in which marijuana was legal. However, with the recent rescission of the Cole memorandum by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it is not clear that Safe Harbor will be able to continue offering their services to financial institutions.
Polls show that the majority of Americans favor legalization of marijuana, and 30 states have legalized the drug in some form. With this increasing momentum in favor of legalization, states have expressed an interest in allowing banks to accept money derived from marijuana sales in order to quell threats of violence and robbery to marijuana businesses, who generally carry large amounts of cash on hand. Whether the current administration will crack down on organizations like Safe Harbor and their partners like Gardner Credit Union in Massachusetts remains to be seen, but something will have to be done with all of the cash currently being generated by the marijuana industry.
September 22, 2018 in Banking, Business, Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Finance, Law Enforcement, Local Regulation, Medical Marijuana, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)
A public event supporting legal medical marijuana organized by the Utah Patient Coalition has attracted hundreds of supporters. The bill being considered, Proposition 2, would allow patients with doctor recommendations to legally obtain medical marijuana from privately owned dispensaries.
According to an article by Kathy Stephenson of the Salt Lake Tribune, the event included music, food trucks, bounce houses, T-shirts and lawn signs.
Not all Utahns are in favor of the bill in its current form, though. The article explains that despite empathy for suffering children, some groups don't support Proposition 2 due to a perceived lack of sufficient procedural safeguards.
A Dan Jones and Associates poll, conducted for UtahPolicy.com, found 64 percent of likely voters to be “somewhat” or “strongly” in support of the measure.
However, several groups, including the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Drug Safe Utah Coalition — made up of medical experts, clergy, law enforcement, educators and business leaders — are opposed and say the initiative as written lacks procedural safeguards.
“We are aware of many in our neighborhoods who seek relief from pain and suffering and are moved with empathy by stories of children who endure debilitating seizures and other medical conditions," said Marty Stephens, the church’s director of community and government relations. “The church supports medicinal use of marijuana, so long as proper controls and safeguards are in place.
“In the spirit of compromise,” he added, "we urge a timely, safe and compassionate approach to providing medical marijuana for those in need without the harmful effects that will come if Proposition 2 becomes law.”
The upcoming elections in November will show whether events like this are enough to sway the voters of Utah to become the 32nd state to legalize medical marijuana.
Friday, September 21, 2018
Canada’s budding cannabis industry is poised to create over 150,000 jobs over the next several years. However, the newly legalized industry has found a shortage of skilled workers, leaving companies there scrambling for help, according to a story in Newsweek magazine.
Max Simon, the founder and CEO of Green Flower, told Newsweek that marijuana legalization of marijuana in Canada has ushered in a new industry and with the new industry, jobs. Specifically, legalization has seen a boom in retail and procurement positions such as “retail needs managers, products specialists, purchasing managers, etc.”
But, with the jobs available, Simon continued, “finding skilled people in cannabis is an enormous problem for the industry right now, and it's affecting every sector.”
One of the biggest issues causing the shortage in skilled workers is the lack of knowledge regarding the industry. “Most people don't really know what actually happens in a legal cannabis business because it's all so new,” Simon told Newsweek. Adding an additional wrinkle is the fact that cannabis industry workers must also be knowledgeable about the many regulations that govern the business.
Companies are desperately looking to fill vacancies, but cannot find the right talent. In order to become the type of worker this industry is looking for Simon told Newsweek he recommends people “learn about the plant, the science, the products, the license types, and how people actually use cannabis today,” he said. “It sounds simple, yet most people don't actually have this fundamental knowledge.”
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
A vote to legalize marijuana in New Jersey could be approaching in the upcoming month. New Jersey Senate President, Stephen Sweeney recently expressed confidence that there will be enough votes to pass a recreational bill as early as this Fall. However, the vote may face delay as there have been changes in budget proposals, and currently, a pair of new bills regarding recreational legalization and medical expansion are awaiting finalization.
Governor Phil Murphy has built a reputation as being a champion for legalization in the name of social justice. While Murphy's promise of legalizing recreational marijuana within his first 100 days in office did not come to fruition, he has been able to make strides in expanding the state's medical marijuana program by including more qualifying conditions.
Although Murphy wants the legalization efforts to materialize, budgetary obstacles are proving challenging to get around. Reports stated that Murphy intended to include $60 million in revenue of a state budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, with many legalization supporters hoping the revenue would go toward an expungement program. More detail can be found in an article in Rolling Stone:
Advocates want this expungement to be automatic, where the state takes on the process of expunging records rather than the person charged. However Kate Bell, legislative council for the Marijuana Policy Project, says that the phrase “automatic” is very misleading.
“People have this idea that the government can still press a button and magically expunge all these past convictions, but that’s not necessarily correct,” Bell says.
Record expungement is affecting marijuana policies across the nation, as a California expunction bill has just passed the Senate and is awaiting the Governor's signature. On the opposite coast, Senate Bill S-2702 was introduced in early June by NJ Senator Nicholas Scutari and would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over, and included a provision about expungement; however, expungements would still require an application.
Although there is no concrete time frame for New Jersey to pass legislation, an increase in cannabis-related arrests and racial disparities in said arrests has yielded a newfound urgency for legislative action.
-- Gianna Redeemer
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Californians who have marijuana convictions on their records may soon be getting some relief. NPR reports that a California bill, AB-1793, has passed the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in the coming week.
California legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2016 when voters passed Proposition 64. That proposition applied retroactively to convictions for many marijuana-related offenses that occurred before 2016. But it did not contain provisions to enable those eligible to have such convictions removed from their record or reduced to from felonies to misdemeanors.
AB-1793 would mandate that eligible persons be given the chance to clean up their records. In fact, the Bill requires California State Department of Justice officials to determine which cases are eligible for review and send them to the District Attorneys' office by July 1, 2019.
While the bill has received pushback from those who believe people with marijuana-related convictions should not be given a free pass, the City of San Francisco has already begun the process of expunging or reducing convictions for possession and recreational use going back to 1975. aSince people were unfamiliar with the process, a mere 23 people in the city had started the process themselves. This is not surprising, as the expunction process can be expensive and those who were affected by these convictions likely do not have the resources to pay an attorney.
Brown has a history of pardoning people who were convicted on charges concerning controlled substances and drugs. It is likely difficult for many people with a criminal record to hire an attorney to discuss the mere possibility of expunction for charges filed up to forty years ago. By putting most of the burden on the state, AB-1793 will relieve the stress of those whose past actions would be legal today in California. . "[The] role of government should be to ease burdens and expedite the operation of law," said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, "not create unneeded obstacles, barriers and delay."
Monday, August 27, 2018
Medical marijuana is coming to Oklahoma, and the state began accepting and approving patient applications on the 25th. In June, Oklahoma voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana via a statewide ballot measure, and it is clear that decision will have major economic ramifications on the state. ABCnews.com has the story:
More than 1,600 people and businesses applied for Oklahoma medical marijuana licenses on the first day that applications were made available.
The online application system went live at 10 a.m. Saturday at www.OMMA.ok.gov for all potential medical marijuana patients, growers, dispensaries, processors and caregivers. Oklahoma State Department of Health spokesman Tony Sellars said that by Saturday evening, the agency had received 1,054 patient, 634 business and three caregiver applications.
Officials awarded 23 licenses to patients Saturday to test the approval process and will resume approving applications Monday, Sellars said.
Sellars added that the state collected $1.5 million in application fees on Saturday.
For those who have followed the saga of legalization in Colorado this is not a huge surprise. In 2017, total marijuana sales in the state reached $1.5 billion, with roughly $416 million of that total coming from medical-use sales. The state collected $247 million in taxes on marijuana that year. Based on these early numbers from Oklahoma, it seems as though the state can look forward to a similar boom in revenues resulting from the introduction of medical marijuana into their economy.
A pro-marijuana group in Oklahoma called Green The Vote has begun collecting signatures to qualify recreational marijuana legalization for a similar statewide ballot initiative, but as of this writing they did not have enough signatures to do so. Perhaps as the effects of medical marijuana legalization ripple throughout the state, Oklahoma voters will embrace the concept of full legalization.
Thursday, August 23, 2018
The National Cannabis Bar Association's "Cannabis Law Institute" is just two weeks off. The two-day event features more than 70 speakers from the legal, business ,and political worlds, and looks to have some terrific programming. Check out the conference web site for schedules, registration, and other information.
I'll be seeing you there!
August 23, 2018 in Banking, Business, Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legal Education, Legal Ethics, Medical Marijuana, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, November 9, 2017
Lary Nichols is currently a Sergeant of the Dallas Police Department. Nichols, like his father and grandfather before him, was born and has lived his entire life in Dallas, Texas. He attended Lake Highland high school and had a part-time job selling cars at his father’s used car lot.
After high school, he headed to boot camp to join the Marine Corps. Because his goal had always been to become a Dallas police officer, Nichols joined the Marine’s military police to gain the necessary experience. After four years of service, Nichols left the Marines to pursue his dream. But unlike today’s standards—where recruits need to either have earned a minimum of 45 hours of college credit or have 3 years of military experience—DPD strictly required the minimum college credit then. Thus, Nichols took the requisite courses at El Centro, Dallas’s County Community College, before being admitted into Dallas’s police academy in 1992.
Upon graduation, Nichols worked full-time patrolling Southeast Dallas, until he was promoted to Senior Corporal in 1997. There, he worked with Dallas’s K-9 Unit for three years until he returned back to patrol. After four years, Nichols was promoted to Sergeant in 2004. As Sergeant, Nichols was placed in charge of one Dallas SWAT unit and has played a pivotal role in organizing the city’s security measures for large events such as marathons and protests. Currently, DPD is considering promoting Sergeant Nichols again, this time to Lieutenant.
Sergeant Nichols has been married since 1988, and has two children. His son recently graduated from Dallas’s police academy this year, following in his father’s footsteps; his daughter graduated from Texas A&M and is currently attending nursing school in Dallas.
Q: What training regarding marijuana detection and how to handle situations involving marijuana have you experienced?
A: In 1992, when I was in the academy, they had a narcotics officer come in and teach various things about the drugs we should expect to confront on the street. This included street names, what to look for; they also did something called a “controlled burn,” which is where they burned DEA-grade marijuana, so we could recognize the smell and be better equipped to testify about it in court if we made a traffic stop and we smelt marijuana. But I think that practice ended because now everyone knows what it smells like; plus, your trainer will say “Hey, that’s marijuana” while on the street. This was followed by update-training every few years. I’ve had some outside narcotics training, which consisted of either eight or forty-hour courses to improve narcotic detection and intervention. But most of my experience has come from making arrests and testifying in court.
Q: Do you believe that the methods currently used to detect whether someone is high on marijuana are effective?
A: I don’t think enough. Although there’s a lot of training to detect people high on marijuana, there probably isn’t enough to be adequate.
Q: Would you be open to police departments adopting a marijuana breathalyzer that would measure a person’s current level of THC?
A: Yes, I would. I think that would be a great tool. Especially as we move towards more states legalizing marijuana, law enforcement needs an effective method, similar to a BAC breathalyzer, to detect whether someone is operating a vehicle under the influence.
Q: What problems do you personally perceive regarding people using marijuana?
A: I actually think the use of marijuana is less problematic than alcohol. People don’t smoke weed and go beat their wives, but they do that with alcohol. But some problems associated with marijuana are long-term. The health effects are probably worse for you than smoking cigarettes; obviously there are cancer concerns. Also, marijuana tends to dull people’s initiative and motivation. From my high school experience, there were those stoner friends who smoked a lot of weed; they weren’t go-getters. Especially if people smoke too much. Overall, I believe the health effects and dulling of people’s initiative and ambition are the biggest problems. Also, people think they can smoke and then drive, but they can’t. Their reaction times are slow; their judgement is impaired. So that’s another large issue.
Q: Do you believe marijuana is a “gateway drug?”
A: I do; especially for younger people. It’s a way for them to start using illegal drugs. They feel like “Oh, I can smoke marijuana and go to school and then wake up the next day and feel fine? Well, maybe I can do this cocaine and pills too.” Adults though have a little more maturity. Similar to having a drinking age of 21, once people are more mature they realize “Yeah, I can smoke weed, but I’m not going to jump to heroin.” But I do believe it is a gateway drug for the more vulnerable population and younger people to lead them to more addictive drugs.
Q: Do you believe marijuana should be legal in any form? Explain.
A: We spend a lot of resources and a lot of money in the criminal justice system and law enforcement on enforcing marijuana laws. But I think that money could be spent better elsewhere. I think alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana. So personally, I’m not opposed to legalizing it. But the problem I have is kids getting a hold of it. I know that’s a big problem in states that have already done so. Similar to getting older people to buy you beer here. I think marijuana is extremely detrimental to the young population. I’ve seen studies where it affects their mental and physical development. So, if it is legalized, it needs to be strictly controlled. I’m not opposed to it, and I think it will be legalized eventually because it doesn’t make sense all the time, effort, and money being spent putting people in jail. We are slowly reducing the penalties and enforcement of it. We should stop beating around the bush and just legalize, regulate, and tax it. We always talk about personal freedoms, well people should be free to do what they want. You can have an abortion and kill a baby, but you can’t smoke a joint in your own house. I think it’s kind of hypocritical; it’s similar to prohibition in the 1920s, which didn’t work at all.
Q: Do you believe your job would be easier if marijuana was legal for adults 21 and older?
A: There’s a catch 22 about that. Law enforcement would spend less time bringing people to jail for marijuana offenses, but there would be more people under the influence causing problems, so I don’t know if it would make our job that much easier. We would still have people driving impaired and stealing to get more marijuana. Especially initially after legalization, I believe there would be a lot more people using it, because believe it or not, there are people who refrain from smoking because it is illegal.
Q: In a given week, how many of your on-duty calls had some relation to marijuana?
A: I’m not in patrol right now, but back in the 1990s in Southeast Dallas, I would say probably 60-70% of what I did there involved some aspect of marijuana. Whether it was present, they were using it, or they were under the influence. So, it was consistently prevalent throughout my time patrolling.
Q: Do you believe marijuana enforcement has disproportionately impacted African Americans?
A: It probably does in a way, but ultimately, I believe it disproportionately impacts lower socioeconomic groups. Poorer people don’t tend to have private places to smoke, so they drive around or smoke in public place like the streets or in parks. This leaves them more vulnerable to getting caught by us. Whereas, someone with means and wealth will have a house or other place they can smoke where law enforcement won’t be able to catch them. Unfortunately, this is true for law enforcement in a lot of regards, not just marijuana.
Q: Which do you believe is more dangerous: marijuana or alcohol consumption?
A: In my experience, it’s clearly alcohol. If you look at traffic accidents, domestic violence, or other violent crimes, a lot of them involve alcohol abuse. Alcohol, especially in the short term, is worse. I don’t know if we have sufficiently studied the health effects of marijuana for the long term. I’ve heard there are things in marijuana that cause cancer, worse than in cigarettes.
Q: How do you think your job will be affected if marijuana is nationally legalized?
A: I think it will be a mixed bag. There will be some things that will be easier, some harder. Obviously, we will have more people using it, initially at least. But hopefully there will be more people using it responsibly. I think it will be a learning curve; I’m interested to learn from law enforcement in the legalized states on how they are dealing with these issues.
Sunday, October 8, 2017
Atlanta has joined a host of cities and states throughout the country which have drastically reduced the penalties for marijuana possession that the federal government established decades ago. Atlanta's unanimous decision to decriminalize marijuana possession has inspired legalization advocates nationwide due to its breaking away from both the federal government and the state its located in. Carl Willis of WSB-TV reports the impact of Atlanta's new law:
The current law allows for a penalty of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail for anyone caught in possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana. The new legislation would lower that to just a $75 ticket and no jail time.
Councilman Kwanza Hall proposed this legislation during his current run for Atlanta's mayor. State Senator Vincent Fort, another candidate for mayor, also supported Hall's decriminalization efforts. They have both stated their motivation behind their efforts involves how the former law unfairly punished African-Americans.
Citing studies that show whites and blacks use marijuana at virtually the same rate, they reveal that 92 percent of Atlanta's arrests for marijuana possession under an ounce are African-American.
Stanley Atkins, an Atlanta citizen, supports the new law because a marijuana arrest as a teenager caused him to lose his employment. Atkins explains how the former law ruined lives:
"I have associates who have completely lost jobs. They've lost careers. I know students that have lost scholarships," Atkins said. "That cancels an internship, which later on cancels a potential job opening."
Opponents of the ordinance fear that removing jail time from marijuana possession offenses will be a disservice to young people because "it could encourage them to take more risks with marijuana, which some consider to be a gateway to harder drugs."
Another worry stems from increased driving fatalities. Police believe this law will "contribute to an increased possibility of folks driving under the influence of marijuana."
While this may be a big step towards Georgia pursuing similar laws statewide, the new city ordinance does not supersede state law. Thus, Georgia could withhold funding or send in state police to compel Atlanta to adhere to its state's law, if it so chooses.
Alternatively, Atlanta's Chief of Police could ignore the ordinance and continue making marijuana possession arrests. However, State Senator Hall believes this is an unlikely outcome due to police desiring stronger community relations. And when a community unanimously passes such legislation, Atlanta's police may find itself reluctant to go against the public's wishes.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
A New York mother possessed amounts of marijuana not even enough to be a misdemeanor. Prosecutors did not pursue charges, but Child Protective Services (“CPS”) decided it was enough to remove her children. Click here to read the full story from 2011.
A Michigan couple was state-licensed to use and grow medical marijuana for epilepsy and multiple sclerosis; however, CPS removed their six-month-old daughter, sending her to live with a grandmother a few hours away. The couple got their daughter back, but only under CPS supervision. Click here to read the full story from 2013.
Much more tragic, is the Texas couple whose toddler was removed from her home when CPS learned that the couple was smoking marijuana at night after their daughter went to bed. In a state-licensed foster home the toddler was beaten to death by her angry foster mother. Click here to read the full story from 2013.
As marijuana laws become more relaxed, the injustices to families at the hand of state agencies are on the rise. If CPS’s policies were updated to be consistent with state law and societal values, these stories likely would not have happened.
The public policy behind custody battles and CPS investigations is the best interest and welfare of the child. Up until recent years, society has generally viewed marijuana use as bad, and our agencies’ policies and state laws have reflected those societal values, as rules and laws should. Now, however, things have changed. Marijuana is decriminalized in over half of the states, and many states are adopting some form of legal marijuana use. Increasingly, marijuana use is no longer associated with danger or even substandard morals. As such, keeping the best interest of children in mind, it is time to rethink our standards as to agency rules and state laws to keep up with changing marijuana laws.
Suggested remedies for the problem include reform to the standard for assessing both recreational and medical marijuana use in the home and including “parent-protective” language in state marijuana laws and policies. (Family Law & Cannabis Alliance). However, these resolutions will take time to evolve. In the meantime, families are being affected in very real ways. If you find yourself in a situation like this, a great resource is the Family Law & Cannabis Alliance website. The website includes cannabis research related to family issues and a page on how to handle CPS.
Friday, September 8, 2017
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., has announced new sentencing guidelines in low-level marijuana possession cases. As reported in an article in PoliticoNewYork, the change will be an encouraging step for supporters of immigrant rights and recreational marijuana use.
The new approach is expected to help some immigrants avoid penalties that could lead to deportation and comes amid backlash from municipalities and states over President Donald Trump's immigration policies — specifically the use of courts to identify and deport undocumented immigrants. Vance announced that his office is also working on a policy, to be implemented in the spring, to end prosecutions for low-level drug possession.
The sentencing guidelines for marijuana possession in the Manhattan DA's office previously offered a 12-month "adjournment in contemplation of dismissal" — or ACD — on the first offense, where the case is adjourned for 12 months and then dismissed and sealed if the defendant isn’t arrested again.
On a second offense, the previous guidelines allowed for the defendant to plea to either a marijuana violation or a disorderly conduct violation.
Now the Manhattan DA will offer an ACD for three months for the first offense and an ACD for six months for the second offense.
Vance explained the decision in a statement saying that a year is too long to have an open criminal case for a low-level, non-violent offense because it is publicly searchable online and can interfere with applications for college financial aid, housing or a job.
The city expects that some 4,100 individuals a year will be affected by the change. The program is set to being in the Spring of 2018. Proponents expect that it will mean fewer deportations for low-level possession.
-- Clarissa Dauphin
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Britain's largest newspaper has endorsed the recent Royal Society of Public Health proposal to decriminalize all illegal drugs. Here's a an editorial take on the proposal from The [London] Times:
Would it ever make sense to jail a chain smoker for smoking or an alcoholic for touching drink? On the basis that the answer is no, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is urging the government to decriminalise the personal possession and use of all illegal drugs. This is radical advice, but also sound. Ministers should give it serious consideration.
Prosecutions in Britain for small-scale personal cannabis use are already rare. To this extent the new proposals would not do much more than bring the statute book up to date with the status quo in most parts of the country. But the change the RSPH has in mind would go much further. It would push Britain into a small group of countries that have switched from regarding the use of drugs including heroin, cocaine and ecstasy as a health issue rather than one of criminal justice.
This is not a switch to be taken lightly, nor one the Home Office under present management is likely to take without sustained pressure from elsewhere in government. Yet the logic behind it and evidence from elsewhere are persuasive. Indeed, the government should be encouraged to think of decriminalisation not as an end in itself but as a first step towards legalising and regulating drugs as it already regulates alcohol and tobacco.
The RSPH’s model is a drug decriminalisation initiative in Portugal that is now 15 years old. Since 2001 possession of even hard drugs in Portugal has meant at most a small fine and, more likely, referral to a treatment programme. It does not earn the user a criminal record. More importantly, as of last year the country’s drug-related death rate was three per million citizens compared with ten per million in the Netherlands and 44.6 in Britain. Recreational drug use has not soared, as critics of decriminalisation had feared. HIV infection rates have fallen and the use of so-called legal highs is, according to a study last year, lower than in any other European country.
The Times suggests that the ultimate solution is to move to a legal supply chain for all of these drugs -- a step that the authors of the report didn't quite get to.