It doesn’t matter if you’re innocent. A deep dive into plea bargaining shows how the practice — which started out as a seemingly fair and reasonable one — has corrupted the criminal justice system. The story looks at how Shanta Sweatt ended up pleading guilty to a marijuana offense, despite being innocent of the crime. Her public defender “believed that Sweatt was innocent of the drug charges against her… But the idea of taking this case to trial was a nonstarter.” Sweatt pleaded guilty to avoid prison time. While she still struggles with the consequences of her arrest, she was able to keep her job due to the plea deal. The Atlantic Related: In New York, more than 98 percent of felony arrests end in a guilty plea. “Most take the deal.” The Marshall Project
What will Sessions do? The attorney general’s task force made no recommendations for a change in marijuana policy, putting the onus on Jeff Sessions to explain his anti-cannabis stance. He doesn’t have to listen to the task force’s recommendations — “if his past is any indication, Sessions’s preference is a crackdown.” He could still use federal law to stifle state-level legalization. Vox A lawmaker, a law professor, and a Brookings Institute fellow all suggested that a crackdown would be unlikely. At a panel held by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), “each said tight funding and other pressures should keep federal law enforcement at bay.” Lowell Sun In a letter to the governor of Oregon, Sessions argued that legalization did little to stop the illicit market. The Cannabist Related: How Sessions is taking law enforcement back to the ’80s: “On asset forfeiture, prison sentences, and police oversight, Trump’s beleaguered attorney general is rolling back decades of progress.” Reason
State legislators push feds to legalize cannabis. The NCSL has adopted a resolution that calls on the federal government to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act so that banks can provide “services to cannabis-related businesses.” Last year, the NCSL called for removing the drug from Schedule I. Lawmakers also discussed a separate resolution on medical marijuana’s potential in addressing the opioid crisis. The measure will be voted on later this year. MassRoots
Today in officers behaving badly. Two former law enforcement officers in Kern County, Calif. were sentenced to probation for stealing marijuana from evidence lockers and selling it on the black market. They faced maximum sentences of five years. U.S. district court judge Lawrence O’Neill seemed “moved by the defendants’ remorse… the pain the families have already suffered, and the unwavering support the two wives have given their husbands.” The Bakersfield Californian “I wonder if any other aspiring drug dealers have been spared prison due to ‘unwavering support’ from their wives.” Twitter / @radleybalko
From anti-pot to cannabis entrepreneur. When Leone Posod found out her best friend had tried marijuana and liked it, she was shocked. “I could not believe that she would do that! I was also puzzled that she looked healthy and was maintaining good grades.” Eventually, she came around to the idea that marijuana was not as bad as anti-drug propaganda made it out to seem — so much so that co-founded Treat Yourself, a cannabis company in California. CNBC Related: CNBC profiles five cannabis businesses (including the aforementioned Treat Yourself). CNBC
CSE is open for business. The Canadian Securities Exchange says it will allow medical marijuana companies that have business interests in the U.S. The move seeks to ease concerns over marijuana’s federally illegal status. The Canadian Depository for Securities is considering whether to settle such trades — a move that could have implications for publicly traded medical marijuana companies in the country. Marijuana Business Daily
Synthetic cannabinoid drug fails study. Zynerba Pharmaceuticals stock took a hit after its synthetic CBD gel aimed at treating epilepsy failed in a mid-stage study. The company is evaluating whether the gel can be used to treat other conditions, including osteoarthritis. GW Pharmaceuticals, another company making CBD pharmaceutical drugs, saw its share price rise on the news. GW’s Epidiolex, its CBD epilepsy drug, is derived from the cannabis plant, unlike Zynerba’s “synthetically processed formulation.” Reuters
Marijuana company ‘buys’ town, but can it even pay for it? News that cannabis company American Green bought a town in California made national headlines. But can the company even afford it? A look at its financials found that it “doesn’t have the financial capacity to buy the town or develop the project. It has historically relied upon convertible notes to fund its money-losing operations.” (American Green did not return Word on the Tree’s request for comment.) New Cannabis Ventures
A secret supervised injection facility. Somewhere in the U.S., a social service agency has been operating a clandestine supervised injection facility (SIF). It’s modeled after legal SIFs in other countries, “where users can take drugs in a safe space with clean supplies… The site’s existence, an act of public health civil disobedience, is a throwback to unsanctioned needle exchange sites that appeared during the HIV/Aids crisis.” The new surgeon general said last week that SIFs should be explored as an option for combating the opioid crisis. The Guardian Related: How Big Pharma is hindering opioid addiction treatment by keeping prices high for addiction treatment drugs. The Conversation Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics is prepared to pay $4.5 million to settle an opioid lawsuit from Illinois. (The company is developing synthetic cannabinoid drugs and opposed a measure to legalize cannabis in Arizona last year.) Chicago Tribune
On psychedelics. Psychedelic drugs could transform how we treat mental illness. Despite positive results in clinical trials, “outdated societal prejudice against psychedelics is proving a formidable handicap.” Wired Psychedelic research is making a comeback, though. The question is, “How does [self-transcendence] help those with long-term psychiatric disorders?” While no one knows for sure, “the mysteries of psychedelic therapy might be a hidden opportunity to finally start unravelling the controversy.” Aeon
Word on the States
- In Colorado, a study found that age restrictions are effective at keeping cannabis away from minors.
- In Vermont, the governor plans to create an executive commission to study marijuana legalization.
- In Massachusetts, the pot lobby spent at least $300,000 this year trying to influence lawmakers.
- In Florida, an Orlando-based bank opens accounts for medical marijuana companies. The state has added 10,000 MMJ patients since June.
- In Ohio, a company announced it would partner with a state school to test medical marijuana.
- In Iowa, a medical cannabis law expansion could be delayed.
- In Pennsylvania, doctors and nurses are interested in medical cannabis education.
- In Virginia, the Democratic candidate for governor called for marijuana decriminalization.
- In Indiana, a state lawmaker plans to introduce legislation to legalize medical cannabis to help the opioid crisis.
- In New York, the Drug Policy Alliance on racial disparities in marijuana arrests under de Blasio.
Word for Word
“If you really analyze it, relative to other things that are legal, there’s no reason for [marijuana] to ever have been made illegal in the system of laws. Alcohol is legal and it can mess you up way more than smoking a few jays.” – Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Massroots
“Rolling Stone was one of the first places where people openly admitted to smoking marijuana. People like Timothy Leary were going to jail for pot. But here were people in Rolling Stone willing to talk about getting high, which was pretty courageous at the time.” – Former editor Robert Greenfield, Rolling Stone