Congress is wrestling with a provision that would ban those with drug felonies from the legal hemp industry. Body cam footage raises questions about New York marijuana arrests. A Los Angeles woman was briefly detained in Canada for bringing her medical marijuana into the country. Also: Greece issued its first medical cannabis licenses today. 🌳
Marijuana legalization and racial justice in the U.S. Allowing those with felony drug convictions to participate in legal cannabis programs is one of the criminal justice reform issues shaping up in Congress. At issue is senator Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) hemp legalization effort, which includes a provision to ban those with felony drug convictions from entering the hemp industry. There are no similar restrictions on those with other types of felony convictions. “If you exclude him, you put him in that category where he might want to rob a bank or a Walmart. If you ban him from the one thing he knows, what’s left for him to do now?” said one licensed hemp grower who has been convicted of a felony. “If I was busted for moonshining, would it be illegal under the farm bill for me to grow corn?” Politico
Body cam video raises questions about marijuana arrests in New York. Despite that marijuana arrests in New York City have been declining, more than 6,000 (mostly black or brown people) have been arrested for pot possession in the first half of this year. Lawyers for one of them — Lasou Kuyateh — allege that officers planted marijuana in his car. Body cam footage of the encounter “though not conclusive… were problematic enough that prosecutors abruptly dropped the marijuana charge while one of the officers was in the middle of testifying at a pretrial hearing.” In the footage, one of the officers “expressed frustration and urgency. ‘We have to find something,’ he said.” The footage has a gap of more than four minutes before the officer found the marijuana he claimed to find. “How did Officer Erickson find a lit marijuana cigarette in plain view on the rear floorboard just minutes after Officer Pastran searched the same area and found nothing?” The New York Times
How poor, minority women are prosecuting for using cannabis to treat morning sickness. Studies about the harms of using cannabis during pregnancy is conflicting and inconclusive. But women who turn to cannabis to treat severe morning sickness and share that information with their doctors risk having their families torn apart by child services. For one black woman in New York, being honest about her cannabis use to her doctor caused the Administration for Children’s Services to file a neglect petition against her — even though her twins tested negative for cannabinoids at birth. “You can’t even be honest with your own doctor, it’s like your permanent record now,” she said. Rolling Stone “I recognize how my white privilege and economic advantages play into my access to cannabis,” writes a white mom who penned a piece about how medical marijuana made her a better parent. The Washington Post
Ohio court rules against “racial quota” for cannabis licenses. Ohio’s medical marijuana law required that 15 percent of all medical marijuana licenses be awarded to minority-owned businesses. But a judge ruled that setting aside a certain percentage of licenses for minorities is unconstitutional. “Minority set-asides have been upheld by courts when there’s documented evidence of discrimination in the industry and they’re narrowly tailored to increase participation. Medical marijuana is a new industry in Ohio, so there isn’t history of discrimination, [the judge] wrote. Attorneys for the state offered reports that African Americans and Latinos are arrested for marijuana crimes at higher rates. But Schneider wrote that’s not enough to prove discrimination across several racial groups in the new industry.” The Cincinnati Enquirer The state’s Department of Commerce could appeal the ruling. “We are reviewing the judge’s ruling and considering next steps,” said a spokesperson for the agency. cleveland.com
Legal cannabis sales finally coming to Massachusetts. On Tuesday, the first recreational cannabis dispensaries in the state will open their doors, marking the first state-legal marijuana sales on the East Coast. Some advocates expressed concern at the lack of diversity of equity in the industry. The problem is “one that’s particularly poignant in the marijuana space, given the drastic racial disparities in how prohibition was enforced. Most of the companies that have received licenses from the commission so far are established medical dispensaries led and financed by white men.” The Boston Globe Related: Two veterans are set to become the first people to purchase marijuana from the two dispensaries that are opening tomorrow. The Boston Globe
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National cannabis companies trying to take over Maryland businesses. Maryland’s medical marijuana law bars any ownership changes for its licensed businesses for another year — a measure aimed at industry consolidation. But despite this law, several national cannabis companies “have told investors they are moving ahead with deals to take over Maryland marijuana companies by the end of this year.” Curaleaf, MedMen, and GTI are among the firms that have made acquisition offers or are in the midst of pending deals for state-licensed businesses. Meanwhile, lawmakers are questioning whether the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is capable of regulating the industry. The agency was unaware of the deals until notified by the paper investigating the deals. The Baltimore Sun
Elsewhere in cannabis business news… Acreage Holdings, the cannabis company that counts John Boehner and Brian Mulroney as board members, had a “decidedly meh” first day of trading in Canada. Volatility “doesn’t concern us,” said the company’s CEO. New York Post Aurora, one of Canada’s largest cannabis companies, says it is ready to expand into the U.S. “the moment it becomes allowable,” said one executive. Marijuana Business Daily
Cannabis in Canada. Thirty-five percent of Canadians who purchased legal marijuana in the past month have gone back to their black-market dealers, according to a new poll. Meanwhile, 54 percent of Canadians think legal cannabis is too expensive. Global News A Los Angeles woman was detained for 2.5 hours and had her medical cannabis confiscated by the Canadian Border Services on a recent trip to Halifax. The woman said she asked her airline twice if she could bring her medicine and was told that it was OK. “I told the border agents: ‘What is the difference between this prescription I have and the other medicines I’ve been prescribed? It’s what’s keeping me alive,'” she said. The Chronicle Herald The country’s privacy commissioner is planning to issue guidance on using credit cards to purchase cannabis online amid concerns that such data may be used against consumers when entering the U.S. The Toronto Star
Elsewhere around the world… Greece issued its first medical cannabis business licenses on Monday. Two were granted today, and 12 more are expected to be issued by the end of the year. The country legalized medical cannabis last year, hoping to tap into the economic benefits of a new industry. Reuters After a landmark court ruling that declared personal use of marijuana to be legal, entrepreneurs in South Africa are cashing in on hemp. Selling marijuana is still illegal, but they are looking forward to when THC-containing products are regulated. VOA News As New Zealand moves towards legalizing medical marijuana, one cannabis startup is hoping to revitalize a declining town that is mostly populated by Maoris. One Maori grower, who spent six years in prison on marijuana charges, is concerned that people like him could be locked out of the industry. The New York Times
Dead Dog on the Left. Two Marines are the subjects of a new mini-documentary about how MDMA can help veterans dealing with PTSD and other medical issues. The documentary is part of a larger feature film on MDMA, but was released early by the filmmaker in hopes of challenging the stigma towards the substance. The film shows how difficult it can be for vets to access MDMA therapy — one of them resorted to underground therapists after failing to get into a clinical trial. “We know MDMA works on a large majority of people suffering from PTSD… Our goal was not to prove that to anyone; the FDA studies are the real proof. Rather, I wanted to make an emotional film that told a story. And I think the love and friendship between these two veterans is what really comes across,” said the filmmaker. The Guardian
Word on the States
- In Michigan, recreational legalization laws are expected to take effect Dec. 6. Medical marijuana dispensaries are facing a shortage of product from licensed growers. Some communities intend to ban recreational marijuana businesses. Kalamazoo’s prosecutor will dismiss hundreds of marijuana cases in light of the new legalization law.
- In Utah, the Senate president warned lawmakers that he could compel them to vote on medical cannabis at a special session. Regulators will require hemp products to be registered with the state.
- In Oklahoma, the medical marijuana authority removed the addresses of medical marijuana licensees after coming under criticism for privacy concerns.
- In Oregon, cannabis sales are soaring while prices plunge.
- In Illinois, how lawmakers will pursue marijuana legalization.
- In Kansas, the new governor supports medical marijuana legalization.
- In Ohio, a non-profit plans to fight for local marijuana ordinances at the state Supreme Court.
- In Iowa, only 325 of the state’s 7,000 physicians have signed on for the medical cannabis program.
- In California, Pleasant Hill will consider extending a moratorium on cannabis businesses.
Word for Word
“I didn’t realize what a big deal it was until I got there that day, probably around 6:30 in the morning, and the parking lot was wall-to-wall full with TV trucks. Inside, the entire place was packed full of people, every single one of them holding a camera. It was extremely intense — the most intense thing I’ve ever dealt with outside the military. It was a pretty crazy thing to go through. I was never expecting to be thrown in a spotlight like that. It was a whirlwind for a long time. I wouldn’t suggest other people with PTSD do it… I was lucky. I got to do a ton of stuff I wouldn’t have done otherwise. It gave me a platform to talk about how marijuana can help veterans. I did a ton of interviews, a lot of speaking engagements — I even went to Congress and did some lobbying. I got to go on the Arsenio Hall show. I mean, I grew up watching that guy. It was a big deal.” – Former Marine who purchased the first state-legal cannabis in the U.S. Sean Azzariti, The Boston Globe
“[Scrubs] had to scrap a whole story line about medical marijuana because the Disney-owned network didn’t clear content about drugs. ‘We only shot one thing ever that Bill [Lawrence] had to throw out,’ [Zach] Braff told the crowd. ‘That many years ago they were like ‘Medicinal marijuana? Get the hell out of here!’’ And Lawrence had a conversation with studio reps about the issue that raised an… interesting moral hierarchy. ‘This is how screwed up network television is,’ he explained. ‘We had this story about getting medicinal marijuana for somebody who was having trouble with chemo and cancer. So to make a point, I said, ‘What if the patient was a virgin and decided they want to have sex for the first time and Carla and Elliot wanted to go looking for a male prostitute for him?’ They said, ‘Oh, that’s fine.’ We could get a prostitute, just not medicinal marijuana.'” – Jordan Crucchiola for Vulture