Sessions blamed heroin addiction on marijuana. Republican senator Cory Gardner has held up 11 Trump administration DOJ nominees in his fight against Sessions’ anti-cannabis memo. House Republicans blocked a marijuana amendment from reaching the floor. Also, say hi to Big Weed: 10 businesses control about 30 percent of California’s licenses for “small” cultivators. 🌳
Sessions’ blames opioid crisis on marijuana. Jeff Sessions made some suspect claims about the role of marijuana in the opioid crisis during a speech on Tuesday night. “We think a lot of [heroin addiction] is starting with marijuana or other drugs too,” said the attorney general. “Sometimes, you just need to take two Bufferins or something and go to bed.” The comments came among growing evidence that access to medical marijuana actually reduces opioid abuse and overdose deaths. The Week
Cory Gardner stands up to Sessions. After Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) vowed to hold up all Trump administration appointments for the Department of Justice until the attorney general walks back his decision. So far, the senator has prevented 11 nominees from getting a floor vote. Gardner opposed marijuana legalization in his home state in 2012, but he isn’t “going to sit back and let Colorado’s rights be trampled on by the federal government,” said a spokesperson. While discussions are ongoing, there’s little indication that Gardner and Sessions will reach common ground on the issue of marijuana. The Denver Post
Military veterans stand up to Sessions. “We see cannabis not as a gateway drug,” said former Navy SEAL Nick Etten. “We see it as an exit path off opiates.” Etten is the founder of the Veterans Cannabis Project and is speaking out against veterans’ “limited and imperfect access” to medical marijuana. While recent guidelines allow VA doctors to discuss medical marijuana with their patients, the agency still classifies cannabis use as substance abuse. “The VA is simultaneously condemning marijuana and telling veterans to be open about their marijuana use with VA providers, and many veterans simply avoid cannabis altogether because of the confusion.” CNBC
House Republicans block marijuana amendment. The House Rules Committee blocked a marijuana amendment from consideration. U.S. rep. Jared Polis’ (D-Colo.) measure would prevent the Justice Department from using federal funds to prosecute state-legal cannabis activities. (The amendment is similar to Rohrabacher-Farr, except it applies to both recreational and medical markets.) A similar proposal in 2015 fell nine votes short, and advocates are optimistic about the amendment’s chances if it came up for a vote. But U.S. rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the committee, has been a staunch opponent to cannabis reform. Marijuana Moment
Treasury secretary supports marijuana banking. Steven Mnuchin told a House committee that the Treasury Department is reviewing its guidance on marijuana banking in the wake of Sessions’ decision to rescind the Cole memo. “We do want to find a solution to make sure that businesses that have large access to cash have a way to get them into a depository institution for it to be safe,” he said. “I assure you that we don’t want bags of cash… We want to make sure that we can collect our necessary taxes and other things.” Forbes
Yale Business of Legal Cannabis Conference. I’m excited to share the stage with such eminent folks as Ebele Ifedigbo, co-founder of the Hood Incubator, and Jesce Horton, co-founder of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, at Yale School of Management’s Business of Legal Cannabis Conference. On February 16, Yale will host the first-ever cannabis conference held at a U.S. business school. Tickets and more details here: Yale
Big Marijuana in California. Ten cannabis businesses control nearly 30 percent of the “small” cultivator licenses in California. Two cultivators have been awarded about 30 of these licenses each. A trade association representing cannabis farmers filed a lawsuit “arguing that this is a threat to the new recreational marijuana industry that voters meant to encourage when they passed Proposition 64.” The larger cultivators, meanwhile, say they are simply following state regulations and scaling back could choke off supply that regulators are already worried about. Sacramento Business Journal
Could legal weed up North affect the US-Canada border? American officials have expressed concern to their Canadian counterparts over the country’s plan to legalize adult-use cannabis this year. U.S. officials are raising questions about how the new policy would affect traffic at the border. “Our answer is: Not unless you change your procedures. And there’s no reason for you to change your procedures. Because the law with respect to the border hasn’t changed one iota,” said Canada’s public safety minister. CBC News
Law enforcement fighting Trump plan on drug prevention. A Trump administration proposal in a draft of its budget plan would move a $275 million drug prevention program from the Office of National Drug Control Policy to the Department of Justice. State and local law enforcement officials are opposing it, “fearing that such a move would steer the country’s drug-fighting strategy toward federal legal crackdowns and away from years of holistic, community-based approaches.” The plan would “effectively gut” the ONDCP and sent “confusing signals to law enforcement officials who saw an ally” in Trump. The New York Times Related: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised Colombia’s drug eradication efforts while rallying countries in the region to step up the war on drugs. VOA News
Women fighting the war on drugs. Two of the nation’s most prominent drug policy organizations are now helmed by women of color. Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno became the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance last year, and Monique Tula took the same position at the Harm Reduction Coalition in 2016. Both women have witnessed the harms of prohibition: Sánchez-Moreno grew up in Peru and saw how the U.S.-led global drug war harmed the country. Tula’s father, who grew up poor in a family with a history of mental illness, self-medicated with illicit substances. She has dedicated her career to harm reduction. “It has historically been harder for drug warriors to dismiss women—and especially mothers—as simply wanting to legalize selfish pleasures when they argue the status quo is destroying families.” Vice
Cannabis in Canada. The health minister said that adult-use marijuana would only go on sale a few months after legalization is passed. The Liberal government is aiming to pass legalization legislation by July 1. Provinces, which are assuming the bulk of regulatory responsibilities, say that [they] need eight to 12 weeks for “preparatory activities” like moving the products from cultivators to retailers. Reuters Cannabis activist Jodie Emery is speaking out about Royal Bank closing her account. “I’ve had that bank account since I was a little kid with my babysitting money… I’ve paid taxes. I’m a great client. I don’t carry a lot of debt.” Emery thinks the account closure came as a result of a cannabis conviction. The bank wouldn’t comment on the case, but said that it “does not provide banking services to companies engaged in the production and distribution of marijuana.” CBC News
Word on the States
- In California, recreational marijuana is reviving interest in state-issued medical marijuana ID cards. A look at cannabis delivery in the legal market.
- In Washington, pot shops panicked after an “application bug” in the new traceability system prevented them from accepting deliveries.
- In Maine, lawmakers consider changes to the medical marijuana law that could benefit caregivers.
- In Connecticut, the historically anti-pot governor signaled a willingness to legalize recreational marijuana.
- In Georgia, the chances of a recreational legalization bill passing are slim.
- In New York, the governor is adding synthetic cannabinoids to a list of controlled substances.
- In Florida, the governor defended the rollout of the state’s medical marijuana program. Sarasota lifted its ban on MMJ dispensaries.
- In Arkansas, a Supreme Court ruling says citizens can’t sue the state for missing out on an MMJ license.
Word for Word
“[People’s Harm Reduction Alliance] requires a majority of its staff, volunteers and board members to be active drug users, a group that includes [Shilo] Jama, who has stirred controversy with statements like ‘Heroin saved my life’ and ‘I have always enjoyed drugs and they’ve always made my life better…’ The figures speak for themselves, but beneath the data — and what distinguishes Jama’s approach to harm reduction — is empathy for users and lack of judgment… ‘I wanted to fight for homeless rights and drug users’ rights,” he recalls, ‘but all the nonprofits told me I was a homeless junkie and all I was going to do is die.'” – Elizabeth Brico for Ozy
“Someone alerted us to the fact that they were undercover cops, but before we had a chance to make any kind of decision, two huge German Shepherds entered the venue, too. My partner and I were very high, and I still had two caps of MDMA on me. I was paralyzed on the outskirts of the dance floor as the dog came closer, its eyes locked on mine. Then the animal sat down, signifying to the officers that it had found something. I thought I was done. But he’d sat in front of a guy who turned out to have a gram of weed in his backpack. My feet danced guiltily for the rest of the night.” – Sarah Bird for Vice