Prominent NYC district attorneys are considering a plan to stop prosecuting low-level marijuana offenses. Advocates and others defend Cynthia Nixon’s proposal for drug-war reparations in the form of priority licenses in the cannabis industry. A $2.2 billion cannabis acquisition deal is the largest ever in the sector. Also: How a reluctant psychonaut came to try tripping. 🌳
DAs consider not prosecuting pot offenses. The district attorneys for Manhattan and Brooklyn are considering plans to stop prosecuting low-level marijuana offenses. “Those changes, if put into practice, would amount to a forceful disavowal by two high-profile prosecutors’ offices of criminal penalties for an offense that has been taken off the books in some states and that in New York City is enforced overwhelmingly against black and Hispanic people.” Meanwhile, the NYC police commissioner acknowledged that a third of people arrested for marijuana have no criminal record. “I acknowledge this does not help us reduce crime,” he said. The New York Times But wait, isn’t Brooklyn already doing this? Not really. In 2014, then-Brooklyn D.A. Ken Thompson said he would stop prosecuting low-level marijuana cases. But the policy applied only to marijuana possession and not public consumption, which are both classified as the same misdemeanor. A 2017 analysis found that blacks and Latinos were still being disproportionately targeted for marijuana misdemeanor offenses and that whites and Asians were more likely to see their cases tossed out by the D.A. WNYC
Backlash to the backlash. New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon stoked controversy last week when she advocated for the cannabis industry as “a form of reparations.” On Monday, a group of African-American clergy demanded an apology for the comments. I spoke to Jacob Plowden and Nelson Guerrero, the founders of Cannabis Cultural Association, about why a policy many advocates agree with drew such harsh criticism from leaders in communities of color: “There’s an intergenerational gap… dealing with black and Latino churches — [marijuana is] a very touchy topic.” Forbes “You’d think she’d gotten caught slipping saying the n-word or something. Nope. The New York gubernatorial candidate used the words ‘marijuana’ and ‘reparations’ in the same sentence… there is nothing wrong with exploring what reparations in the form of marijuana legalization looks like.” Nixon apologized to Al Sharpton for the comment and the two plan to meet in the near future. The Root Related: The New York state Democratic Party is planning to endorse marijuana legalization at its convention next week. New York Post
Criminal justice reform in Congress. U.S. rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) were able to advance prison reform legislation after it looked like hope was lost for any criminal justice reform measure. But advocates in the Senate don’t think the compromise goes far enough. While proponents of the House bill said concessions were made to gain the support of attorney general Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department says that Sessions opposes the bill. Meanwhile, senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is pushing for sentencing reform to be included in any criminal justice reform bill. “We don’t have to worry about senator Sessions,” he said. “You don’t have to know why. We just don’t have to worry about him.” Rolling Stone A look at the growing movement advocating for the voting rights of former inmates. Millions of U.S. citizens are barred from voting due to former felony convictions. “The United States is one of only a handful of countries that strips voting rights from felons even after they have served their time. The concept dates to the colonial era.” The New York Times Related: The new book Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison explores what it’s like to re-enter society after being incarcerated. The Atlantic
SCOTUS for drivers’ rights. The Supreme Court ruled that people who borrow rental cars has a reasonable expectation of privacy and cannot be searched without a warrant or probable cause. The ruling centers on the case of Terrence Byrd, who was driving his fiancé’s rental car when police pulled him over. He told the cops he had a joint in the car, and the troopers told him they could search it without a warrant or consent because he was not the authorized driver of the car. Police found heroin when they searched the car and Byrd was sentenced to 10 years in prison. It’s unclear if the SCOTUS ruling will have an effect on his case. The Associated Press
A very big weed deal. Canadian licensed producer Aurora Cannabis agreed to buy competitor MedReleaf for $2.2 billion in stock, making it the largest acquisition ever seen in the cannabis sector. Aurora’s stock fell on the news. Its CEO said the company will continue its acquisitions activity. Bloomberg Bank of Montreal advised on the deal, making it the most aggressive of the major Canadian banks in the cannabis industry. Financial Post Canopy Growth, another large Canadian producer, announced its acquisition of the remaining 33 percent stake in B.C.-based Tweed. It also applied to list on the New York Stock Exchange. If approved, it would become to first cannabis company to trade on the NYSE. Ottawa Business Journal Related: Also in Canada, the heir of Jim Beam is betting big on the marijuana industry. Bloomberg
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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
How legalization is good for the environment. Much has been made of the environmental harms of illicit cannabis farming whether it’s pesticide contamination of forests or the high energy usage of indoor grow operations. But legalization incentivizes environmentally friendly production methods and allows states to put marijuana tax revenues towards green energy and other eco-friendly projects. Meanwhile, hemp has vast environmental benefits, even though the crop has been federally illegal to grow since the ’70s. While the 2014 Farm Bill legalized a narrow definition of hemp cultivation, standalone legislation in Congress right now would fully legalize its cultivation on the national level. The Environmental Magazine
Luxury cannabis brands on the rise in California. Fancy pot brands like Kiva, Lord Jones, and Bebo are prospering as the state moves towards a regulated market. Défoncé, a luxury cannabis-infused chocolate brand, has seen an 800 percent increase in sales over the past year and has doubled its staff this year. Here’s a look at the regulatory hurdles — even for a well-heeled company — and why it’s so difficult for the company to open its own retail outlet. “Anyone who wants to start a new cannabis business here can expect the path to be long and winding,” said one San Francisco regulator. Eater
A look at legalization campaigns around the country. Medical marijuana initiatives are set for Oklahoma, Missouri, and Utah this year. Meanwhile, Michigan voters will get a chance to weigh in on recreational legalization. The success of the four measures would boost the state-legal cannabis industry by tens of millions of dollars — and their chances are looking good. Here’s a look at the details of each initiative. Marijuana Business Daily
Elsewhere around the world… Tired of spending government money on medical marijuana for veterans, Canada slashed the limit for government-funded weed from 10 grams to 3 grams a day for vets. “The results? Less taxpayer-funded cannabis is going to the veterans… an accompanying uptick in PTSD-related symptoms, including suicide and homelessness as well as other, ‘lesser’ conditions like insomnia and paranoia.” Cannabis Now Protestors rallied for drug legalization in Georgia. Former Soviet countries tend to have harsh drug laws, and the weekend protests were in response to two law enforcement raids. The demonstrations were organized by an activist group that formed in 2013 to defend a man who had been sentenced to eight years in prison for possessing two ounces of cannabis. The New York Times
The ‘reluctant psychonaut’ tries tripping. Michael Pollan describes himself as “more a child of the moral panic about psychedelics than a child of the 60s” who bought into the propaganda about the danger of psychedelics. Here, he talks about the “agonizing” propspect of trying psychedelics for his new book and how he hopes it will prompt more people to come out and talk “about how their experience with these drugs changed them.” The Guardian An excerpt from his book How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. The New York Times Magazine Related: A British scientist thinks that psychedelics can be used to treat things like anxiety, depression, and addiction. Here’s a look at his research and the struggle to get funding for it. Wired
Word on the States
- In California, the governor increases marijuana tax estimates despite a disappointing first quarter.
- In Oregon, a marijuana processor lost its license due to CBD sales to unlicensed retailers.
- In Massachusetts, a look at the price of legal weed.
- In Pennsylvania, patients share their medical marijuana success stories. The governor announced eight research centers for medical marijuana trials.
- In Missouri, the case against the House’s medical marijuana bill.
- In New Jersey, a state senator says a vote on marijuana legalization is coming this June.
- In New York, a look inside a medical marijuana grow.
- In Michigan, the House Speaker said the issue of marijuana legalization will go to the voters.
- In Arizona, the governor signed a bill to allow industrial hemp.
Word for Word
“At a time when tens of thousands of Americans are dying annually from their use of opioids, it is almost inconceivable that the DEA would willfully and publicly maintain such a Flat Earth position with regard to the use of medical cannabis as a potential alternative. Their failure to acknowledge basic and readily available facts and science is once again indicative of the reality that the DEA, admittedly, is an agency that places political ideology above all else.” – Deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Paul Armentano for The Hill
“Every hotel up here has a cannabis problem and no one knows what to do with it. You’re mixing families with dope heads.” – Inn owner who wants to put on cannabis events Jim Desrochers, The Associated Press