From the head of the DEA to local police departments, law enforcement officials are claiming that marijuana leads to death. Mitch McConnell isn’t into marijuana legalization, disappointing his colleague Chuck Schumer. Cynthia Nixon’s “reparations” comment is causing controversy in New York. Also: Canadian advocates are pointing to expungement and equity programs in the U.S. as a model for Canada too. 🌳
Death by weed. The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration Robert Patterson said that he is “aware of a few deaths from marijuana” but backtracked when pressed further, saying that the deaths may have been due to adulterated cannabis. He also claimed that “science” is the reason why marijuana is a Schedule I substance. Marijuana Moment A Fresno, Calif. sergeant recently made a similar claim: “These [infused] gummy worms get into a home, some little girl or boy partakes of that, it could cause death.” The police chief echoed his comments, despite that a marijuana overdose death has never been documented in human history. Cannabis Now
Marijuana legalization in Congress. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has introduced a bill to legalize hemp, said that he does not “have any plans to endorse the legalization of marijuana.” McConnell has faced opposition from some Republicans who fear that hemp legalization will lead to marijuana legalization. McConnell said that hemp and marijuana are “two entirely separate plants.” But that’s not entirely accurate — hemp and marijuana belong to the same species. The Hill Senator Chuck Schumer, who has introduced legislation to legalize marijuana, replied, “Aw come on, Mitch… I think this is something that is long overdue. I would hope to see it happen. I would hope the feds would take the heavy hand off and let each state decide to do what it wants to do.” Marijuana Moment Related: A soon-to-be-introduced bill to deschedule marijuana would exclude industrial hemp from the CSA and also provide a fix for the industry’s banking woes. Marijuana Moment
Controversy over Nixon comments. New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon caused controversy after referring to cannabis equity programs as “a form of reparations.” The Rev. Al Sharpton, Manhattan Democratic Party chairman Keith Wright and Black Lives Matter all spoke out against the comments. The Root New York assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes also spoke out against the comments. “There’s not enough money to be paid for what we’ve been through in this country… So I take offense to that suggestion.” She is among the state lawmakers advocating for adult-use legalization. Pro-pot lawmakers say they have enough votes in the Assembly, but not the Senate. Times Union
Another case of cops smelling marijuana. In Virginia, a cop held a student at gunpoint, handcuffed him, and searched his car because they claimed to smell marijuana. The officer found no marijuana. Reporters have been (unsuccessfully) trying to get their hands on the body camera footage from the incident. Here’s what happened to an intern who was sent on a quest to take on the state’s frustrating bureaucracy and ineffective Freedom of Information law. “‘Pretext’ traffic stops like this one—in which police pull over drivers with the true intention of searching for drugs—are one of the most commonplace forms of American policing. They’re fishing expeditions, but thanks to the Supreme Court, they’re entirely legal. In most states, an officer’s unverifiable assertion that he smells marijuana is enough to create the ‘probable cause’ sufficient to conduct a search even without the driver’s consent.” Reason
The fight for medical marijuana in Utah. A campaign seeking to legalize medical marijuana through a ballot initiative has filed a complaint against its opponents with Utah’s elections office. After the legalization initiative made the ballot, a group of opponents joined forces in an attempt to convince voters to remove their signatures from the ballot petition. Medical marijuana supporters now allege that the opposition illegally offered money for signature removal forms. “The sparring has reached voters, several of whom have contacted the lieutenant governor’s office with questions or concerns about the tactics used by both sides of what has quickly become the most contentious potential ballot measure this election cycle.” The Salt Lake Tribune
🚨 Shameless Promotion 🚨
Earl Blumenauer in NYC. High NY is hosting U.S. rep. Earl Blumenauer this Friday in Brooklyn. Tickets go towards the congressman’s Cannabis Fund, which supports “pro-cannabis candidates, ballot measures, initiatives, referendums and oppose those who stand in our way.” ActBlue / The Cannabis Fund
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
Cannabis and corruption. FBI agents raided Adelanto City Hall, the mayor’s home, a marijuana dispensary, and the law offices of the dispensary’s attorney on Tuesday. The feds are investigating dealings between the California town and marijuana businesses after a city councilman was indicted for accepting a $10,000 bribe to help a marijuana business with zoning issues. No arrest warrants were issued, but an FBI spokesperson said that there is “an investigation into criminal activity.” The San Bernardino Sun
Another Facebook headache. Missouri state rep. Shamed Dogan saw his post about medical marijuana legalization in the state blocked by Facebook when he attempted to promote it. “They said it was because it was promoting the use of illegal drugs,” said Dogan. “Facebook explicitly permits ads for the purpose of advocacy or awareness. If an ad by a legislator to promote a bill that passed doesn’t count as advocacy, what does?!” he wrote in a Facebook post. The lawmaker has since successfully appealed the rejection and a Facebook spokesperson apologized for it. KMOV Related: The Missouri Senate gave initial approval to a medical marijuana bill that passed in the House earlier this week. Marijuana Moment
How to help moms incarcerated for cannabis. Most incarcerated women in the U.S. are mothers, many of whom are behind bars for marijuana offenses. Various advocacy groups provide support for the children of incarcerated mothers, and there’s legislation in Congress that aims to address the needs of women prisoners. Meanwhile, those on the outside can write clemency support letters and offer their support in a variety of ways. Leafly
Cannabis in Canada. Lawmakers are facing growing calls to offer amnesty for marijuana offenders as the federal governnment moves towards legalizing the drug. More than 15,000 people have been charged with marijuana offenses since prime minister Justice Trudeau took office. Advocates are pushing for blanket amnesty, citing U.S. cities like San Francisco and Seattle, which have expunged past pot convictions in the wake of legalization. They’re also pointing to equity programs as a model of Canada. The Guardian An immigration lawyer is warning people not to be open about their marijuana use at the U.S. border, contrary to the advice of Liberal MP Bill Blair. The immigration lawyer says that people can be banned from the U.S. for life for admitting to consuming cannabis. Instead, he advises Canadians not to answer questions about past pot use: “Chances are (on a different day) you’ll get a different officer who doesn’t care.” Global News
Elsewhere around the world… Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm has introduced a bill to legalize cannabis in Australia. The legislation would allow states and territories to legalize and regulate the substance themselves. Australian Associated Press The front-runner in Mexico‘s presidential election Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that the country should debate legalizing drugs as “a way to staunch violent crime that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.” “Why not talk about it? And why not — if it’s what’s best for the country — approve it and implement it, listening to everyone’s input?” he said. AFP
Word on the States
- In Colorado, the General Assembly approved a bill to add autism to the list of MMJ-qualifying conditions, sending it to the governor. Frisco warns Vice Media against smoking weed in public.
- In Massachusetts, regulators mistakenly gave 10 applicants priority status for cannabis licenses.
- In California, lower-than-expected cannabis tax revenue complicates the marijuana business.
- In North Carolina, Durham elects a reform-minded sheriff and DA.
- In Maryland, the medical marijuana industry attracts students, entrepreneurs.
- In Mississippi, a U.S. Senate hopeful supports marijuana legalization.
- In Connecticut, legislative leaders said marijuana legalization is off the table for this session.
- In Pennsylvania, Allentown’s city council approved a measure to decriminalize cannabis.
- In Missouri, the Senate gave initial approval to a medical marijuana bill.
- In Utah, a top prosecutor supports legalizing medical marijuana.
Word for Word
“The war on crime and drugs did not fail. It was a roaring success. The success came as a direct result of rejecting the criticism and policies of the progressive left. The country gave its attention to the American people and crime victims for a change. High school drug use rates and homicide rates fell by half after the dreamland policies of the fuzzy-headed left were rejected, and sound professional policies were adopted.” – Attorney general Jeff Sessions‘ prepared remarks, U.S. Department of Justice
“[Willie Nelson] was never comfortable with me quitting [pot]. It just bothered him. He just kept trying to [makes joint-passing motion] and you know, finally I see it says ‘Willie’s Reserve’ on the pen. His special Willie’s Reserve. Now I’m thinking, how am I going to ingest this without smoking? I would always say, ‘Willie, you know I’m not smoking.’ He would do the same thing as if he just heard it the first time, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ And this happened 500 times. Finally he passes me the pen and after I win a big pot, we’re playing poker, and I’m in a celebratory mood. He hands me that pen, and I go, ‘aww fuck it.’ I take a big draw off of it and he says, ‘welcome home, son.’” – Actor Woody Harrelson, YouTube / TheEllenShow
“A lot of people want [Supernova Women] to be everywhere, and that’s really hard because we don’t really operate with a profit model. We don’t have a lot of money. All of our programming is run by us on a volunteer basis. But still, a lot of people want us to scale, come to their cities, help them do this. But really what we’re trying to do is empower people to do it in their own cities. We’re trying teach people to do this where they live.” – Supernova co-founder and entrepreneur Amber Senter, The Outline