When racial disparities in drug enforcement continue after legalization. Philadelphia’s D.A. will stop prosecuting marijuana possession cases. Many states already have bans on drug felons in the hemp industry. Also: Oklahoma’s governor signed new medical marijuana rules. 🌳
Why racial disparities persist after non-commercial legalization. Marijuana-related arrests dropped substantially in Washington D.C. after voters approved a ballot initiative that legalized marijuana possession (but not sales). But new data shows that arrests are growing again. While possession offenses used to be the top charge for a cannabis arrests, those charges have been overtaken by arrests for public consumption and distribution. “In 2012, distribution accounted for only 4 percent of arrests. In 2017, it was 43.5 percent.” Nine out of every 10 people arrested for a marijuana offense in D.C. are black. “Four years [after Initiative 71] black men continue to be overwhelmingly targeted for arrests. This is unacceptable and must stop,” said one advocate. Advocates say both local and federal policies are to blame for the increasing, racially disparate arrest rates. Marijuana Moment
Philly D.A. to stop charging marijuana possession cases. Philadelphia’s district attorney will no longer bring charges in cases of marijuana possession of less than 30 grams (about one ounce). Larry Krasner’s office has declined to bring charges in about 300 such cases this year. A spokesperson for Krasner’s office said that policy is a step towards his campaign promise to end mass incarceration: “The hope is that people will not needlessly have interactions with the criminal justice system.” Manhattan’s D.A. recently announced a similar policy change. NBC Philadelphia
Advocates against felon ban in hemp bill. Advocates are unhappy with the Farm Bill provisions that would ban drug felons from working in the hemp industry. But some states already go further than that and ban even those with drug-related misdemeanors from working with hemp. States including Kentucky and South Carolina have restrictions on those with misdemeanor drug convictions from obtaining a hemp license. Meanwhile, Colorado has no such restrictions after initially considering such a policy. “We looked at it and figured, ‘If it’s an agricultural crop, it’s an agricultural crop,’” said one government official. “If it’s going to be a legitimate industry we don’t want to be fingerprinting farmers who want to find a productive crop.” Passing a federal ban could complicate things for states that don’t have a ban in their hemp programs. McClatchy DC
How one epilepsy patient helped get FDA approval for CBD medication. Sam Vogelstein’s family was desperate to find an effective treatment for his epilepsy after pharmaceutical therapies failed. After his mother learned that the U.K.-based GW Pharmaceuticals was developing a CBD drug, she begged them to let her son try it in the U.K. Sam became the first patient in the world to receive Epidiolex, and his seizures dropped significantly. His parents were determined to find a way to keep treating him with the drug at home in California, dealing with the bureaucracies of the FDA and DEA. Now, the drug is on its way to become the first federally approved marijuana-derived medicine. NPR
When a drug crisis doesn’t affect white people. The opioid crisis in the U.S. has spurred calls for a more compassionate drug policy focused on treatment and harm reduction. In the past decade, cocaine deaths have spiked, but has gained little attention from the media or politicians. “A single-minded focus obscures the multi-drug nature of America’s current crisis. This monomania almost certainly explains the lack of discussion of cocaine, especially because where the opioid epidemic — which has consumed much of the nation’s drug policy oxygen — is overwhelmingly impacting white people, the victims of cocaine overdose deaths are overwhelmingly African Americans.” Overdose rates from other drugs have increased too. “America’s current predicament not as an opioid epidemic, but as a drug epidemic… it is imperative that black Americans suffering under the scourge of cocaine be afforded precisely the same concern and empathy as white Americans coping with opioid addiction.” The American Conservative
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How to break in to the cannabis industry. Cannabis education platform Green Flower is hosting a virtual summit featuring 13 professionals from all corners of the industry talking about how they landed their dream jobs. The lineup includes everyone from lawyers to doctors to marketers to cultivators who have found their own niche in the industry. To watch the virtual event from August 6 – August 19, sign up here: Green Flower
Studying teens. Teens who vaped or used hookah were more likely to consume cannabis later. Researchers found that teens who had used the tobacco products as freshman were more than three times likelier to have used marijuana by the time they were juniors in high school. “That doesn’t mean necessarily that the association is causal,” said one professor who was not involved in the study. CNN Another study found that medical marijuana dispensaries’ proximity to schools did not increase rates of teen marijuana use. While regulations often limit distances between cannabis businesses and schools, the researchers found no association between “the proximity and density of medical marijuana dispensaries in school neighborhoods with adolescents’ use.” Marijuana Moment
Lessons from California. “I helped make marijuana legal in Calif. N.J. gets to learn from our mistakes.” A co-author of Proposition 64 advises against “putting too many rules into a marijuana law.” nj.com Similar to Massachusetts, the state is dealing with a lack of testing labs. There is a total of 31 labs licensed to test products for cannabis distributors serving more than 400 licensed dispensaries in the state. Meanwhile, consumers blame retailers for the issues and the industry is concerned that the backlog could help the black market. NBC San Diego Humboldt is cracking down on unlicensed cannabis grows by sending hundreds of abatement orders or cease-and-desist letters to suspected marijuana growers. But many recipients who received the orders say they weren’t growing cannabis, prompting fears of government intrusion. Redheaded Blackbelt
In other cannabis business news… Denver prosecutors dismissed charges against Sweet Leaf budtenders after the company lost its licenses due to an illegal “looping” scheme. Now, prosecutors are homing in on the company’s management and co-owners, who will likely be charged. Marijuana Business Daily A look at one Army veteran’s journey to start his own cannabis processing company. Military Times Medical marijuana company Vireo raised $16 million for expansion efforts and is eyeing a Canadian IPO. Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal 🔒
Elsewhere around the world… A growing list of countries including Canada, France, and Norway, is having a political discussion about decriminalizing personal drug use. Several countries, including the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Portugal have had success with such policies. The U.S. could be moving in this direction too: “Polls show that a majority of U.S. voters support ending arrests for drug use and possession.” The Hill The case against all-out legalization. Vox Argentina‘s Congress will debate drug decriminalization. Insight Crime
A lobster fest’s cannabis controversy. The 18-year-old who won the Maine Lobster Festival’s Maine Sea Goddess pageant was stripped of her title after a past social media post depicting her with marijuana resurfaced. “They told me it was disgusting and they’re disappointed. The whole thing made me feel really terrible about myself,” said Taylor Hamlin. While the festival claims she resigned, Hamlin says she was forced out. People Festival organizers say they’ve been receiving death threats and backlash over stripping Hamlin’s title. The Associated Press
Word on the States
- In Oklahoma, the governor signed new medical marijuana rules. Pro-marijuana groups make one last push to collect signatures for the legalization ballot. Former group members allege that they inflated signature numbers. Energy companies top the list of biggest donors to opposing medical marijuana legalization.
- In New Jersey, a look at opposition to marijuana legalization. Senators advocated for banking in the cannabis industry.
- In Missouri, a look at the competition between competing medical marijuana ballot initiatives.
- In Wisconsin, a Republican congressman criticized his Democratic opponents for their pro-legalization stance.
- In Florida, the attorney general filed a 57-page brief supporting a ban on smokable medical marijuana. A judge declared major provisions of the medical marijuana law to be unconstitutional. Another judge sided with an orchid grower against the health department in a case about marijuana licensing.
- In Michigan, a closer look at why police raided a licensed marijuana facility.
- In Montana, the state health department will defer to Billings’ ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.
- In Maryland, the medical cannabis industry is growing.
Word for Word
“Research is clear: most people don’t jump right to violent crimes, and if you give someone the help that they need, they don’t progress to violent crimes. And if you look at it from a practical standpoint, my office would not prosecute misdemeanor amounts of marijuana. We’re not going to do it. Because even those cases require hours and hours of manpower and womanpower from the prosecutor’s office and we’re going to take those people who would been doing that misdemeanor marijuana case and we’re going to reassign them to more serious crimes.” – St. Louis County prosecutor candidate Wesley Bell, The New York Times
“I used to support legalizing all drugs. The opioid epidemic changed my mind on the issue — by showing me that maybe my vision of sensible drug regulation in a world where everything from marijuana to heroin was legalized was not based in reality… Regulatory capture, when regulators are over time controlled by the industries they’re regulating, was a key cause for the broader opioid epidemic, as it has been for other drug problems throughout US history. And it should give people pause about the government’s ability to regulate away the worst risks involved with drugs should more be legalized.” – German Lopez for Vox