Prospective drug czar’s ties to Big Pharma. House rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) is widely reported to be the Trump administration’s pick for drug czar. During his political career, Marino has received more money from the pharmaceutical industry than any other sector. His “signature legislative accomplishment is a bill that shielded prescription opioid distributors from law enforcement scrutiny,” despite representing a district that has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis. His tough-on-marijuana views align with those of attorney general Jeff Sessions. International Business Times
The claim: marijuana is not a ‘factor in the drug war.’ Homeland Security secretary John Kelly downplayed the significance of marijuana in the war on drugs on Sunday’s Meet the Press. “Marijuana is not a factor in the drug war,” said Kelly, who pointed to other harder drugs as the main culprit. Politico Editor’s Note: It’s unclear exactly what he means by that: Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S. Marijuana is also the biggest profit generator for drug cartels (although legalization in the U.S. has cut into those profits). Still, Kelly talked up demand-side reduction as opposed to the supply-side approach of the war on drugs. His stance on cannabis contrasts with those of Sessions. The Washington Post Contrary to Kelly’s statements, immigrants who are arrested for marijuana offenses “are rushed through the prison to deportation pipeline.” Think Progress
Drug warriors face bipartisan opposition. Jeff Sessions and other tough-on-crime cabinet members face opposition from Congress where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle favor criminal justice reforms. Yahoo News Jared Kushner, who has expanding responsibilities as an adviser to president Trump, has been pushing for reforms that are at odds with Sessions’ views. The New York Times Sessions also faces increasing acceptance of cannabis from Republican states. West Virginia, which voted for Trump by nearly 42 points, just saw its Republican legislature approve a medical marijuana bill. The Washington Post An op-ed argues that Sessions’ desire to “bring back” the war on drugs is “a white power grab to control black and brown people couched in the restoration of past glory.” The Guardian
Criminal justice and Canada’s legalization plan. The minister of public safety said that the federal government’s plan to legalize cannabis will not include amnesty for those previously convicted of possessing marijuana. Ralph Goodale pointed to the process where those convicted of possession can apply for a pardon. But they can only apply for a record suspension five years after they complete their sentences. CBC News An expert says there’s “almost a paralysis in the system” when it comes to low-level pot possession cases. In 2014, more than 24,540 people were charged with possession in Canada. CBC News The country’s justice minister is coming under fire for some of the more severe penalties in the country’s legalization bill. “I am not going to apologize for the strict penalties that we put in place,” said Jody Wilson-Raybould on the possibility of a 14-year sentence for selling cannabis to minors. CTV News
Flip-flop of the day. A city councilor in Chino Valley, Ariz. was once a vocal opponent to marijuana policy reform. Corey Mendoza criticized voters for legalizing medical cannabis in the state in 2010. Now he’s trying to get local officials to let him launch a medical marijuana research facility on property that he owns. He says he’s changed his mind after getting “much more educated” on the uses of cannabis. The Daily Progress
Hackers prey on #weedstagram. Hackers who take over high-trafficked Instagram accounts have exhausted those belonging to celebrities. So they’ve set their sights on the accounts of cannabis businesses, holding them for ransoms of $2,000 to $25,000. Cannabis-related accounts make good targets because Instagram is an indispensable marketing tool for marijuana companies. “The cost can be worth paying for businesses that rely on Instagram to make money.” LA Weekly
‘Remember, you’re black.’ African-American families have a complicated view of cannabis legalization, informed by religion and the disproportionate impact of drug enforcement on minorities. Here’s a look at two black cannabis entrepreneurs and their “missions to reshape the black community’s relationship with marijuana.” Yahoo News
What’s going on in the pot biz. Small cannabis farmers in Northern California fear a potential crackdown from the Trump administration. But scarier than Trump is the prospect of Big Marijuana: “As pot’s become increasingly mainstream, large corporations are starting to creep in on the turf of smaller, family-owned farms.” Yahoo News Indeed, large-scale cannabis grows are increasingly popping up in the state. The New York Times Meanwhile, California’s wine industry sees cannabis as a companion rather than a competitor — a contrast to some other sectors of the alcohol industry. The New York Times Federal authorities charged four men with securities fraud and conspiracy in a pump-and-dump scheme involving a marijuana breathalyzer. philly.com
Poll: Americans don’t care about cannabis consumption. A new poll found that 56 percent of Americans think cannabis use is socially acceptable. The survey of 1,122 Americans found 52 percent willing to admit to trying cannabis. A majority of respondents said that they wouldn’t care if their own doctors or their children’s teachers used marijuana. MassRoots
Word on the States
- In Maryland, about 1,200 patients have registered for the medical marijuana program.
- In Michigan, the state centralizes medical marijuana regulation. Officials chose a Florida-based company for its seed-to-sale tracking contract.
- In North Dakota, a look at the upcoming medical marijuana program in the state.
- In New York, a look at the fine print in the state’s Raise the Age law.
- In New Hampshire, decriminalization faces opposition from law enforcement. The Republican state Senate majority leader predicts the measure will pass this year.
- In Utah, state lawmakers plan to study opioids and medical cannabis.
- In Kentucky, officials burned 100 pounds of hemp that had too much THC.
- In Colorado, despite new legislation, a dispute over the marijuana taxing authority may continue.
- In Nevada, for unbanked marijuana businesses, paying taxes is risky. An Assembly committee passed legislation to remove urine and saliva tests from marijuana DUIs.
- In Guam, the medical marijuana program has been plagued with delays.
Word for Word
“Until change to federal law can be made, the Trump administration should retain the Cole Memorandum, instead of pursuing a review of existing policies in a federal task force. Issued in 2013, the memorandum provided guidance to prosecutors and law enforcement on how to prioritize marijuana enforcement. The Cole Memo has allowed the federal government to prioritize investigating and stopping the illegal drug trade and associated crimes, instead of focusing on highly regulated industries, such as marijuana in Colorado.” – House rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) for The Denver Post
“When it comes to cannabis reform, I’m an incrementalist, because I’ve seen that work. You’ve got a lot of folks who would like to fully, recreationally legalize marijuana. You’ve got other folks who would like to have it medically available if you’ve got a hangnail. And others are just reflexively opposed to any change in cannabis policy. So, governing from the extremes on cannabis hasn’t really done much for sick people. So, my strategy was to find an unassailable position and present it for consideration.” – House rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), SandsPaper
“[Laurie Wolf] seemed troubled by the men of the Trichome Institute. Though they were obviously ‘passionate’ about cannabis, she worried that they were a marketing operation. ”Budtender’ classes online!’ she moaned. She especially disliked a plan to regularize the grading system for cannabis. ‘To me, it’s like picking a baby,’ Wolf said. ‘Like saying, ‘Well, you definitely want your baby to be blond, but maybe with green eyes.’ It feels so removed from the community aspect of this business. It’s making it soulless.’” – Lizzie Widdicombe for The New Yorker