Governors to Trump admin: Leave legal weed alone. The governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington (which all have state-legal, adult-use markets) wrote a letter to attorney general Jeff Sessions and treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin imploring them to leave their cannabis programs alone. The Associated Press A marijuana policy advisor to the Colorado governor said that changing federal enforcement would interrupt collaboration with local law enforcement and the federal government. “Our hope is that we can continue working with the administration to build on a regulatory system that prioritizes protecting public safety and public health.” The Cannabist
The Trump administration’s drug policy. President Trump and New Jersey governor Chris Christie often bring up their own stories of losing loved ones to addiction when drug policy comes up. The stories show how personal experiences affect policy-making — especially when it comes to race. Lawmakers now advocate for more compassionate drug policy, which has led to resentment from black communities: “When it was happening in my neighborhood it was ‘lock ’em up.’ Now that it’s happening in the [largely white, wealthy neighborhood], the answer is to use my tax dollars to fund treatment centers. Well, my son could have used a treatment center in 1989, and he didn’t get one.” Vox The pattern continues to this day. Trump has advocated for better addiction treatment, while simultaneously criticizing Obama’s clemency initiative for low-level drug offenders. The reasons for criminalizing drug use hasn’t held up: “If the government truly wants to eradicate cocaine use, why are white Wall Street executives and college fraternity brothers not behind bars?” The Pacific Standard
What members of Congress are saying. House rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is calling out the DEA for enacting barriers for the industrial hemp industry. Meanwhile, New York rep. Hakeem Jeffries criticized the war on drugs — detailing the growth of the DEA’s budget while the nation’s drug crisis worsened. Texas rep. Sheila Jackson Lee “decried racial disparities in drug law enforcement.” On racial disparities, the DEA’s acting administrator said, “I don’t have those numbers and I don’t ask for them and I don’t keep them.” MassRoots
No organ transplants for cannabis consumers. “[The doctor] was willing to let him die over testing positive for marijuana. This is what shocked me,” said the father of a young man who needed a lung transplant. With no federal guidelines, hospitals create their own policies, which vary widely and add confusion for patients searching for the right hospital. A hospital in Nebraska (which has no state-legal marijuana) said the issue was decided on a “case-by-case basis.” A hospital in Massachusetts (which has legal medical and recreational marijuana laws) said any cannabis use would make a patient ineligible for a transplant. “Just denying access to a life-saving procedure for someone who’s just using marijuana? I think that we have to rethink that policy nationally,” said one California doctor. BuzzFeed
The problem with stoned driving laws: science. Nevada has the strictest rules on THC limits while driving — but those rules are complicated by its new adult-use marijuana law. The problem: Those limits aren’t backed up by science. “You have people that are just baked, they have that Spicoli persona and yet they ace the driving test. You have others who are totally sober and they flunk that blood test,” explained the state’s traffic safety resources prosecutor. The lack of scientific support for THC levels and impairment has been at the forefront of regulation discussions. “If you are going to punish people for not being under the influence of a drug that you just legalized, that’s not fair. You can’t take corrective action,” said one pharmacology professor. Reno-Gazette Journal
SCOTUS, DOJ and civil asset forfeiture. The Supreme Court recently declined to hear a case on asset forfeiture. But justice Clarence Thomas expressed his desire to review the issue in the future. His position is supported by a recent Inspector General report from the Justice Department, which found that many seizures “weren’t connected to any larger policing purpose.” Thomas has signaled that “he thinks the long-standing deference to law-enforcement agencies is untenable… [his] discomfort with forfeiture has built slowly since his early tenure.” The Atlantic
Civil disobedience in the District. DCMJ, the advocacy group behind Washington D.C.’s successful legalization initiative, is planning two protests this month in a bid to attract attention from Congress. On 4/20, the group will give out joints filled with locally grown cannabis to members of Congress, their staff, and credentialed journalists. On April 24, the group will stage a smoke-in at the Capitol to destigmatize marijuana use. “I fully expect to be arrested that day,” said one of the group’s co-founders. CNN
Who gets to grow cannabis? Disputes about growing cannabis are playing out on the state level. In Colorado, home-grown pot is taking tensions between neighbors “to a whole new level.” Residents say that large-scale co-ops are ruining their neighborhoods, while law enforcement are wary of stepping in thanks to confusion over state laws. KUNC In Massachusetts, small farmers want to add cannabis to their crops. Thanks to state regulations, the existing medical marijuana industry is dominated by well-financed corporations. Those companies will have a leg up in the recreational market, while small farmers will have to wait years before they can even apply. “[It’s] not a fair market,” said one aspiring cannabis farmer. “Most of these people are not horticulturists, not farmers; they’re just deep-pocketed folks who saw there was money to be made.” The Boston Globe
It’s tax season. Which means the IRS is about to get a lot of cash from cannabis businesses who can’t access financial services. IRS offices in states with legal weed have previously been caught off guard by the large quantities of cash payments. This year, IRS offices in Denver and Seattle will offer secure, cash-counting rooms for the week leading up to tax day. “As well intentioned as the new service may be… it does nothing to address the real obstacle facing so many cannabis operations: the difficulty of finding banking services.” Leafly
VC fund Lerer Hippeau Ventures delves into cannabis industry. The venture capital firm previously invested in BuzzFeed, Casper, and Oscar Health. Now, they’re leading a $3 million seed round for the New York-based cannabis e-commerce startup LeafLink. “We have been looking for companies providing infrastructure to the cannabis industry,” said one of the firm’s managing partners. Crain’s New York
Word on the States
- In Massachusetts, lawmakers ponder marijuana law changes.
- In Maryland, a proposal to use MMJ to treat heroin addiction was dropped from a bill.
- In Hawaii, there are more medical marijuana patients but fewer caregivers.
- In South Dakota, backers of a recreational marijuana initiative emphasize tax revenue.
- In Texas, a House committee approved a marijuana decriminalization bill.
- In Florida, a Senate panel approved a medical marijuana regulation bill.
- In California, tensions flare as unions seek toehold in the new cannabis industry.
- In West Virginia, the House takes up a revised MMJ bill.
- In North Dakota, a House committee approved revisions to a MMJ bill.
- In Massachusetts, the legislature may set up an independent commission for cannabis regulation. The agriculture department needs more money to regulate cannabis pesticides.
- In North Carolina, a look at the women who inspired a medical marijuana bill.
- In Delaware, a group of former police officers and attorneys are banding together to advocate for legalization.
Word for Word
“The US attorney general on Monday ordered a nationwide review of all reform agreements with local police departments, placing a key part of Barack Obama’s legacy on criminal justice in jeopardy… ‘It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies,’ Sessions said in the memo.” – Jon Swaine and Lois Beckett for The Guardian
“Forty years ago, when Julia Negron was married to a rock star and addicted to heroin, ODs were so common in her household that she kept a paramedic on call. When someone nodded out, he would dispense emergency injections of naloxone, a drug with a reputation for bringing seemingly lifeless bodies back from the dead. Today, the back of Negron’s black SUV is loaded with the drug as she pulls into a Sarasota, Florida, parking lot and pops the trunk. A trickle of people approach to grab doses of the drug, which may one day revive a friend, a spouse, or a child.” – Julia Lurie for Mother Jones