Massachusetts is trying to remedy the injustices of the drug war with legal cannabis. Cynthia Nixon wants New York to do the same. A New Hampshire court ruled that CPB searches for marijuana were illegal. Also: YouTube says it only takes down cannabis channels for promoting marijuana sales. (Weed YouTubers beg to differ.) 🌳
Legal weed and the war on drugs. Massachusetts is home to the first state-wide equity program for the cannabis industry. The program gives a head start to entrepreneurs who have past pot convictions or live in low-income neighborhoods that have been disproportionately impacted by drug enforcement. “While it may seem radical to give previously incarcerated people the right to sell a product that was illegal until recently, the equity provisions so far haven’t been particularly controversial. Even Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael, a fierce critic of legal marijuana, is on board.” The Boston Globe New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon spoke about the importance of such programs at the NYC Cannabis Parade: “Now that cannabis is exploding as an industry, we have to make sure that those communities that have been harmed and devastated by marijuana arrests get the first shot at this industry. We [must] prioritize them in terms of licenses. It’s a form of reparations,” she told me in an interview after her speech. Forbes Related: Technical, legal, compliance, and fundraising help will be key to ensuring that the equity program succeeds in Massachusetts. The Telegram & Gazette
CPB drug searches were illegal, rules court. A New Hampshire court found that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection broke the law when it set up checkpoints to target marijuana users. The court also found that “local law enforcement violated the state constitution by colluding with CBP officers to search vehicles for drugs.” “By working with CBP, local law enforcement could maximize its marijuana prosecutions before it lost the power to arrest cannabis users… by teaming up with CBP, the Woodstock police hoped to reap the rewards of searches it could not legally conduct on its own.” Slate
The changing politics of cannabis reform. Cannabis advocates say that public support for legalization is spurring politicians to embrace the issue. Opponents argue that campaign contributions from the industry are driving the shift. While attorney general Jeff Sessions continues his marijuana opposition, there’s increasing support in Congress for reforming federal cannabis policy. PBS As an increasing number of Republicans come out in support of marijuana reform, the issue is making unlikely allies. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is signing on as a co-sponsor to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s hemp legalization bill. “Why are we buying hemp from other countries, when we have hundreds of acres that could be grown right here in our backyard?” said Schumer. Forbes Related: “How anti-marijuana Jeff Sessions became the best thing to happen to pot legalization.” USA Today
Speaking of hemp… The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has received 350 applications from farmers to grow industrial hemp. Most of that hemp would be used towards manufacturing CBD products. Just days before the deadline to apply for a hemp license, the Justice Department released a memo saying that “holding a DATCP license does not authorize you to produce or sell CBD oil or CBD products.” A Farm Bureau official says the guidance was unexpected, unfair, and that it is now considering taking legal action against the DOJ. WKOW
One state on two sides of the debate. Pro-pot members of Congress point to Colorado as an example of how marijuana legalization can be a successful policy. But those opposed to cannabis reform seize on other data points like increased crime, car accidents, and “overdoses.” Studies promote conflicting narratives and Colorado lawmakers are “a tad annoyed by all the cherry picking of studies.” “For those who continue to oppose it, despite the overwhelming support for marijuana legalization, they result to fake news stories that are incorrect about the Colorado experience,” said U.S. rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.). He and other lawmakers from the state are trying to educate their colleagues on the issue. CPR
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Cannabis Law Summit. The first annual Cannabis Law Summit is coming to New York City this May. Hear from such eminent speakers including Shaleen Title, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, Cristina Buccola, a cannabis attorney, advocate, and business developer, Senator Liz Krueger, an advocate of marijuana reform in the New York state legislature, and Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Word on the Tree readers get $50 off with the discount code: WORDT50. Cannabis Law Summit
Advocating for the cannabis industry in Congress. One of the country’s most prominent pro-pot politicians U.S. rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) sent a letter to the head of the Small Business Association, criticizing the agency’s new guidelines concerning the cannabis industry. Small businesses “will be put at a competitive disadvantage if just one of their clients are part of the burgeoning cannabis industry – an industry that was in many states created by voter ballot initiatives,” wrote the congressman. “I call upon you to repeal this guidance immediately to prevent further economic harm.” KOIN The cannabis industry is trying to amend the tax code and 280E as Republicans in Congress discuss “phase two” of tax cuts. Other niche industries including kombucha and cryptocurrency are also hoping to get a break as part of larger reforms. Roll Call
YouTube is treating cannabis like guns and conspiracies. The streaming video giant has been struggling to moderate harmful content about guns and conspiracy theories. But a crackdown on objectionable content has ensnared cannabis educational, advocacy, and news channels. YouTube maintains that it only removes content that promotes the sale of marijuana. But many cannabis channels were not promoting sales. Prominent cannabis grow expert Jorge Cervantes is one of the creators who saw his channel removed from the platform. But much of his content still lives on the site, reposted by others. “I’m quite flattered that people would copy my things…. At the same time, I’m the original poster of all this stuff and YouTube has taken my things down and given me no recourse whatsoever,” he said. The Outline
A deep dive into the Vireo case. Two former executives at medical cannabis company Vireo are facing felony drug charges for allegedly trafficking cannabis from Minnesota to New York. The case highlights the challenges facing the industry. “In almost any other industry, moving inventory from one state to another is a simple task… It’s not so easy when dealing with cannabis.” The prosecution is relying on circumstantial evidence as the cannabis oil that was allegedly diverted was never found. “It is a prosecution akin to a murder case without a body. That’s not an insurmountable challenge, said Vanderbilt University law professor Robert Mikos.” Leafly
Time for a new discussion. It’s reasonable to conclude that the risks of consuming cannabis outweigh the potential harms. But in the age of state-legal weed, a “new evaluation of marijuana’s risks is overdue.” Here’s a look at what the current science says on marijuana’s role (or lack thereof) on cancer, heart disease, lung function, and more. “It’s important to note that the harms [of marijuana] we know about now are practically nil compared with that of many other drugs, and that marijuana’s effects are clearly less harmful than those associated with tobacco or alcohol abuse.” The New York Times
Elsewhere around the world… People took to the streets around the world to call for legalization as part of the Global Marijuana March. Demonstrations took place in Berlin, Santiago, New York, and more. Metro German imports of medical cannabis from Canada will likely continue. marijuana.com “Zimbabwe’s new president is rolling out freedoms as never seen before.” Legalizing marijuana farming is just one of his reforms that is “making heads spin.” The Associated Press The Zimbabwean government reminded people that marijuana is still not legal for recreational purposes. The Herald
Word on the States
- In Utah, the DEA is backing an effort opposing medical marijuana in the state.
- In Massachusetts, a new trade group will represent the marijuana industry.
- In California, Sacramento hosted the state’s first legal marijuana festival. Cannabis businesses need more insurance.
- In Colorado, a controversial marijuana tracking bill died in the state Senate.
- In Florida, the medical marijuana program is attracting troubled doctors. The state plans to regulate marijuana edibles like other food products.
- In Rhode Island, how one family is fighting for medical cannabis at schools.
- In Michigan, regulators consider expanding the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The House speaker says that a marijuana legalization vote is possible but unlikely.
- In Connecticut, the state’s MMJ patient count has skyrocketed in the past 12 months.
- In Illinois, a Senate bill would use medical marijuana to fight the opioid crisis. Concerns about pot-sniffing dogs amid discussions of marijuana legalization.
- In Missouri, two groups delivered more than enough signatures to get medical cannabis on the November ballot.
- In Montana, some medical marijuana providers are concerned about new rules.
- In Washington D.C., a medical marijuana dispensary was forced to shut down temporarily.
Word for Word
“After he was sworn in, Gonzalez didn’t waste time moving on some of his campaign promises. Almost immediately, he introduced a pretrial diversion program aimed at people charged with marijuana possession. By issuing $250 fines and mandatory drug classes for those in possession of two ounces of pot or less, Gonzalez and his team hope to keep low-level marijuana offenders out of jail while generating new revenue for the county. The fines have brought in more than $500,000 in the first year… ‘With Mr. Sessions, I honestly think he has no real grasp on the reality for how most people across the U.S. really feel or think about marijuana,’ Gonzalez says.” – Timothy Bella for Politico Magazine
“Few if any psychiatric interventions for anxiety and depression have ever demonstrated such dramatic and sustained results. The trials were small and will have to be repeated on a larger scale before the government will consider approving the treatment. But when the researchers brought their data to the FDA last year, the regulators reportedly were sufficiently impressed to ask them to conduct a large phase 3 trial of psilocybin for depression—not just in cancer patients but in the general population. So how does psychedelic therapy work? And why should the same treatment work for disorders as seemingly different as depression, addiction and anxiety?” – Michael Pollan for The Wall Street Journal 🔒
“Most of my inspiration comes from music—psychedelic rock, a bunch of old school R&B, this and that… There’s also a lot of rappers now—like A$AP Rocky has the song “L$D,” and Flatbush Zombies—inspired by psychedelics. I love that it’s creating a whole different style of hip hop. It has a different groove to it that I love, because I generally love a bunch of old shit. Stuff from the 60s and 70s, that sort of thing.” – Artist Vernon O’Meally, Vice