Word on the Tree is brought to you by the generous support of our readers. Is the newsletter valuable to you and your work? Consider making a monthly donation to help cover the costs of producing it. Learn more here.
How legal cannabis in Canada puts pressure on the U.S. Why legalization in wealthy nations hurts cannabis farmers in poorer countries who have relied on those markets for decades. Is the DEA’s widespread surveillance machine even constitutional? Also: Canada’s public safety minister says the government won’t expunge past cannabis convictions because prohibition didn’t amount to an “historical injustice.” 🌳
Legal weed in Canada puts pressure on the U.S. American cannabis companies are at a disadvantage now that the Canadian federal government has legalized retail cannabis sales. “My district is hugely impacted,” said U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) “You have California universities trying to do research — and they have to buy the product from Canada.” Lawmakers from across the political spectrum are advocating for federal reform to resolve the absurdities of the state-federal conflict in cannabis laws. Politico A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to the Trump administration demanding answers on how U.S. border agents treat those in the Canadian cannabis industry. “Why is it that we’re penalizing our biggest trading partner in the world with these archaic, almost Dark Ages-type of [rules]? It makes no sense,” said U.S. rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) Rolling Stone Democratic leaders in Congress are dismissive about cannabis reform, much to the dismay of pro-reform lawmakers. “This reticence from the old guard to attach the party to such a popular issue is filling many Democrats with disbelief.” The Daily Beast
How Canada’s legalization could hurt farmers in poor countries. Cannabis growers in poor countries like Jamaica and Morocco aren’t necessarily drug cartels. Often, they’re just poor farmers struggling to make a living. With Canada’s federal legalization of marijuana, those farmers will be competing with large, multi-national corporations. “With no international institution to represent them because of the illegality of marijuana in most of the world… growers risk being left behind.” As Western countries increasingly reform their cannabis laws, poor farmers will lose the markets that they have depended on for decades. For example, about 25 percent of the cannabis consumed in the Netherlands is produced in Morocco. The Dutch government is experimenting with allowing domestic production, threatening the livelihoods of tens of thousands of farmers in Morocco. CNN
The DEA is spying on you. You know those digital road signs that warn drivers against unsafe driving? They could contain Drug Enforcement Administration license plate readers. Also known as “LPRs” the DEA is expanding their use in road signs, ostensibly to curb “drug traffickers, money launderers, and other criminals.” But the plan raises questions about mass surveillance, privacy, and the Fourth Amendment. “No federal or state courts have made any rulings on the constitutionality of an LPR program as vast as the DEA’s… the DEA’s massive database, and the sharing they engage in with other agencies, clearly exceed the ‘single-instance’ that courts have ruled constitutional.” The American Conservative
Alabama’s war on weed. Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people in Alabama. When it comes to felony marijuana possession cases, the racial disparity rises even higher. While state lawmakers have stymied any attempts at decriminalization, electing reform-minded district attorneys could have a major impact on people like Wesley Shelton. Shelton was charged with a felony for possessing $10 worth of marijuana. He was unable to post bond, and sat in jail while he begged the authorities to be able to plead guilty. After 15 months in jail, “authorities finally allowed him to plead guilty to the felony, despite the state’s failure to test the drugs he was accused of possessing.” The Appeal
Oklahoma authorities struggle to figure out this whole medical marijuana thing. A 49-year-old Oklahoma medical marijuana patient was charged with marijuana possession, despite having a state-issued medical cannabis license. While she told a police officer that she had her medical marijuana card, the officer said that possession is still illegal. KWTV After reviewing the law, the district attorney is dismissing the case. The state’s medical marijuana law prevents licensed medical marijuana patients from being prosecuted for possession. “We’re going to get together with our law enforcement partners and we’re going to make sure that we’re doing the right thing,” said the D.A. Tulsa World
🚨 Shameless Promotions 🚨
Help a Reefer Dad. Longtime cannabis activist Rick Cusick is suffering from health issues and needs a liver transplant. “The infamous donor list… may not welcome a person with my personal history. I haven’t drank alcohol in 34 years and never smoked cigarettes, but my public lifestyle might kick me down the list,” he writes on his GoFundMe campaign. Cusick has raised more than $11,600 of his $15,000 fundraising goal so far. GoFundMe
The science of cannabis. When Jonathan Page was a postdoc in Germany, he worked on research that helped characterize cannabis genes that were involved in producing certain terpenes. But when he got a job at Canada’s National Research Council, his boss quickly put a damper on any hopes to continue his cannabis research. Now that the country has legalized marijuana, cannabis producers, federal, and provincial governments are funding research in this little-understood drug. Nature A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the frequency of collision insurance claims rose about 6 percent in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington compared to neighboring states that have not legalized cannabis. It’s unclear what role marijuana consumption plays in the data. Bloomberg Quint
In cannabis business news… The news that MedMen would acquire PharmaCann in a $682 million deal made headlines as the largest acquisition of its kind. But the deal seems to violate New York’s medical marijuana law, where both companies hold licenses to operate in the state. A spokesperson for the company said it is “in talks” with regulators. But a health department spokesperson said “MedMen and PharmaCann do not have approval from the department to conduct this transaction.” Times Union Canadian businessman and Shank Tank host Kevin O’Leary said he would “never” invest in a cannabis stock until the U.S. government legalizes the drug. “I am not going to look good after 26 years in prison, so the chance that I am going to invest in cannabis is zero,” he said. Yahoo Finance Legalization in Canada could create new opportunities for Colorado cannabis companies. The Denver Post
The problem with Canada’s pot pardon plan. The Canadian federal government recently brought forth legislation that would allow people to expunge criminal convictions for consensual sexual activity between same-sex partners. Why doesn’t the government afford a similar opportunity to those with cannabis convictions? “We have utilized the tool of expungement in cases where there is a profound historical injustice that needed to be corrected,” said the country’s public safety minister. Ralph Goodale said the government does not think that applies to marijuana convictions. “He claims there is no historical injustice… I completely disagree. The disproportionate impacts felt by Indigenous people and racialized communities represent a deep historical injustice and one that should be addressed immediately,” said a lawmaker who introduced an expungement bill earlier this month. Toronto City News
Cannabis in Canada. A look at the first day of legal cannabis sales from coast to coast: While some consumers eagerly lined up to purchase legal pot, others had to wait. In Toronto, cannabis dispensaries haven’t opened their doors yet. But people still celebrated the end of prohibition. The Globe and Mail The Canadian online cannabis stores that were powered by e-commerce firm Shopify were processing more than 100 orders per minute. Global News Indigenous communities are fighting to maintain regulatory control of cannabis in their own communities. They’re “concerned that they will not be able to self regulate growing and dispensing cannabis.” Global News Related: As Canada legalizes cannabis, here are six other countries that are likely to follow in its footsteps. The Associated Press
On psychedelics. LSD likely conjures a certain aesthetic — one of “the psychedelic pink-and-orange swirls of the 60s; naked people with flowers in their hair; the shimmer of a sitar.” Here’s a look at an LSD-inspired play that delves into how the drug has influenced Western culture beyond its association to ’60s hippies. BBC “Tribalism feels like an intractable problem, something that runs so deep it’s not clear what we can do about it.” Here’s the case for how psychedelics and meditation could help cultivate a belief in oneness as an antidote to tribalism and identity politics. Vox
Word on the States
- In Utah, how a medical marijuana ballot initiative could affect a tight House race.
- In Mississippi, a look at the campaign to legalize medical marijuana in the state.
- In New Jersey, the effort to legalize recreational marijuana may be set back by a sexual assault scandal in the governor’s administration.
- In Pennsylvania, both gubernatorial candidates oppose adult-use legalization.
- In Utah, a draft of the medical marijuana compromise raises questions.
- In North Dakota, patients and caregivers can apply for the medical marijuana program.
- In Iowa, the state’s first medical marijuana manufacturer presented its first products.
- In Oklahoma, a fifth lawsuit has been filed over local marijuana ordinances.
- In California, Santa Rosa approved the first cannabis extraction permit.
- In South Dakota, a judge denied an attempt by rapper Chief Keef to dismiss marijuana possession charges.
- In Florida, Miami police say they’ll offer those with opioid addiction rehab instead of jail.
- In Guam, the governor vetoed a bill to give him waiver authority over the medical marijuana law.
Word for Word
“Obviously, as a Coloradan, I had been very active on the issue of marijuana. … I was trying to explain it to Mitch McConnell. We were in the well of the Senate during the tax debate, talking about some of the marijuana tax issues, small business tax issues. So I said, ‘Hey Mitch, 47-plus states have legalized some form of marijuana, medical marijuana, CBD.’ I said, ‘Even Utah is most likely gonna legalize medical marijuana this year.’ And McConnell looks at me and he goes, ‘Utah?’ And just this terrified look. Right as… he says that, Orrin Hatch walks up, and Mitch looks at Orrin, and he says, ‘Orrin, is Utah really gonna legalize marijuana?’ And Orrin Hatch folds his hands, looks down at his feet and says, ‘First tea, then coffee, and now this.’ It was just hysterical.” – Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Roll Call
“By my 24th birthday, I had called five prisons home… I read every book written by Richard Wright, all of Steinbeck and most of Alice Walker. I discovered the poetry of Robert Hayden, Lucille Clifton, Wanda Coleman and Agha Shahid Ali, and wrote 1,000 bad poems. I completed a paralegal course and became a bootleg jailhouse lawyer. I taught myself Spanish to speak the language of men I met from seven countries whom I’ll most likely never see again. And once, I turned my back on a man being stabbed. I’d seen and heard enough to understand how prison ruins everyone: prisoners, guards, family, the ground it’s built on. I left prison convinced that the third of my life lost to maximum security wouldn’t haunt me. I was wrong.” – Reginald Dwayne Betts for The New York Times Magazine