Bipartisan senators introduced a long-awaited marijuana bill. Trump’s decision to give clemency to a drug offender sparked a discussion about his use of clemency powers. A man who spent decades in prison for marijuana in Canada describes the country’s hypocritical approach to legalization. Also: Some religious leaders in Oklahoma argue that legalizing medical marijuana is the moral decision to make. 🌳
Senators introduce bipartisan marijuana reform bill. Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have introduced legislation that would allow states to legalize marijuana without federal interference. The STATES Act takes a federalist approach to marijuana reform by amending the Controlled Substances Act. The Hill The bill does not legalize marijuana, but amends the CSA by protecting individuals and businesses that comply with state, territory, or tribal marijuana laws. “The bill also states that compliant marijuana transactions are not considered trafficking, and, finally, removes industrial hemp from the list of substances prohibited under the CSA.” CNBC Related: Elsewhere in Congress, U.S. rep. and Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) blocked four cannabis-related measures: “Three of the proposals concerned military veterans’ ability to access medical cannabis without punishment or hardship, and one was about water rights for marijuana and hemp growers.” Marijuana Moment
More on Trump’s clemency decision and a correction. Alice Marie Johnson, the 63-year-old woman serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense, was released from prison after president Trump granted her clemency. BuzzFeed News The decision set off a debate about Trump’s use of his commutation powers. It’s “a flagrant example of the president using one of his few virtually unlimited powers to reward political allies and celebrity friends — and that should trouble even the most ardent supporters of Johnson’s commutation.” Vox Correction: Yesterday, we wrote that Trump pardoned Johnson. Trump commuted her sentence, but did not give her a pardon. We regret the error.
‘The hypocrisy is staggering.’ Rosie Rowbotham served 20 years for conspiracy to import, possess and sell cannabis. Despite not being involved in violent crime or other drugs, he was sentenced to nearly 70 years in prison — more than some violent offenders. With Canada legalizing marijuana, Rowbotham is not celebrating. As prime minister Justin Trudeau continues to talk about the negatives of prohibition, his government continues to bust people for marijuana possession and has not offered details on record expungement. “I’m also bothered by the fact that the government’s current plan is to bar people with pot convictions from participating in the huge marijuana economy that is now emerging. We have the expertise. We know how to grow high-quality plants… Instead, the government has turned the pot economy over to the people who lost the drug war: the cops and politicians who were responsible for destroying so many lives by turning pot smokers into criminals.” The Guardian Related: Indigenous groups in the country agree that they want a voice in the legalization process. But they are divided on what that means. Cannabis Now
A sheriff’s support for criminal justice reform. An Iowa sheriff penned a piece commending senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) criminal justice reform efforts in Congress. Grassley, who is spearheading a bipartisan reform effort that includes sentencing reforms, is opposed to legislation that only includes prison reform. Grassley’s legislation would reform mandatory minimum sentencing for some, including non-violent drug offenders. “Sen. Grassley has it right. Prison reform alone cannot break the cycle of crime. It must be coupled with sentencing reform. Those of in the law enforcement community hope that the rest of Congress follows his lead,” writes the sheriff. Des Moines Register
Reform-minded D.A. hopefuls lost in California. Progressive DAs across the country have been changing the way they enforce minor marijuana offenses. But voters in California rejected progressive challengers in local DA races across the state. “I don’t think they suggest that the movement to elect reform prosecutors has hit a wall,” said a Stanford law professor. Reform advocates have focused their efforts on such races as such prosecutors “wield enormous influence within local criminal justice systems, deciding what charges to prioritize for prosecution and when to seek rehabilitation or lengthy incarceration.” Meanwhile, law enforcement officials “warn of a slippery slope if prosecutors pick and choose what laws to enforce.” The Marshall Project
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The morality of marijuana. A recent poll found that Americans who are more religious are more likely to think that consuming cannabis is immoral. But a medical marijuana initiative in Oklahoma has split religious individuals. Some religious leaders in the state argue that legalizing medical marijuana is the moral choice as it could help those suffering from a variety of ailments and potentially reduce dependence on opioids. “It really might be that somebody who’s in pain just needs something that hasn’t been tried just yet, that offers some help for relief and quality of life, that they would not have had otherwise,” said one pastor. RNS
A different kind of cannabis conference. An online cannabis conference organized by the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network focused on how the burgeoning marijuana industry could help address the disproportionate impact of drug enforcement on blacks and Latinos. “Can you really have an impact? And the answer is yes, unequivocally, yes,” said one doctoral criminal justice candidate. Mass Live Meadowlands, “an antidote to the networking blahs,” combines a weekend retreat with a cannabis conference (sort of). The gathering includes a keynote from California’s top regulator but also leaves an entire day without programming — aside from a wake-and-bake brunch. Meanwhile, there are no vendors or booths. Cannabis Now
Today in cannabis business news. High Times is looking to reclaim its territory in an era of marijuana media proliferation, but the storied stoner brand faces “significant financial challenges.” “From 2014 to 2016, it swung from a $3.4 million profit to a $2.9 million loss as advertising and circulation declined, according to a regulatory filing in January. In the first nine months of last year, it reported an operating loss of $1.2 million, the company said.” Bloomberg A change in cannabis regulations in California show the lobbying might of delivery service Eaze. Some in the industry are wondering “about how a tech company that doesn’t hold a state cannabis business permit could pull the political strings necessary to alter regulations when it’s technically not part of the space those rules are supposed to govern.” Eaze has spent $174,000 on lobbying this legislative session. Marijuana Business Daily A look at how some states are trying to address the banking woes of the cannabis industry. Marijuana Business Daily
Cannabis in Canada. An overview of marijuana legalization in the country. The Guardian Two Conservative senators abstained from voting on legalization legislation because of financial interests in the cannabis industry. CBC News A survey suggests that two-thirds of cannabis consumers will switch to the regulated market. CTV News Small cannabis farmers are worried about being shut out of the legal market. In the Kootenays, cannabis supports 15 to 30 percent of the region’s economy. Those who have been growing marijuana for decades aren’t sure if they’ll be able to make a living under the new rules. CBC News
Word on the States
- In Massachusetts, Worcester county is home to the most marijuana applications filed out of any county in the state.
- In Colorado, the lieutenant governor signed an executive order calling for more research on medical marijuana for autism.
- In New Jersey, lawmakers consider expunging past pot convictions if the state legalizes marijuana. Charges in three cases against marijuana activist NJ Weedman have been downgraded or dismissed.
- In California, Pasadena voters lifted a ban on marijuana dispensaries.
- In Alaska, the state collected more than $1 million in marijuana taxes in April.
- In New York, the Assembly approved a bill that would allow medical marijuana to be used to treat opioid addiction.
- In Delaware, the owner of a clinic admitted to forging medical marijuana applications.
- In Ohio, lawmakers are furious about the medical marijuana program’s delay.
- In Georgia, Fulton county decriminalized marijuana.
- In Arkansas, the state is asking the state Supreme Court to seal a filing in a medical marijuana case.
- In Florida, why a Democratic candidate for governor won’t endorse recreational legalization.
Word for Word
“Up until the age of 30 I was the least athletic person imaginable. But for the last five years, I’ve been regularly loading up on cannabis chocolates and sprinting through the city, feeling weightless as I leap up steep hills and tackle distances I never thought possible. The combination of music, stress, and weed blend into a euphoric stew that has somehow turned me into a runner. And a troubled addict… The supreme euphoria of running at full tilt with a head full of grass, music at a thunderous volume, is the most addictive sensation I’ve ever known. But there is no satisfactory summit of pleasure, only a ceaseless hunger to take things one step further. I worried that pushing this experience into full marathons and ultramarathons would be flying too close to the sun. And I’d like to keep my feet on the ground for a few more years.” – Josiah Hesse for Esquire