The chances of marijuana banking reform look good in the next Congress. For New Jersey, the legalization debate is tied to criminal justice reform. A viral video shows a black man getting arrested after helping a drunk neighbor walk home. (Police claimed to smell weed and alleged that he was intoxicated.) Also: Residents near a Massachusetts dispensary are very upset about all the traffic caused by avid pot consumers. 🌳
Marijuana banking reform gets boost from Democratic House. Even before the recent midterms, some Democrats in the House were working on marijuana reform plans in case they won back the House. Now, it looks like Congress is poised to tackle the marijuana banking issue — something that Democrats and Republicans alike can get on board with. Banks themselves are asking Congress to enact rules that would allow them to work with state-legal marijuana businesses without risking penalties from federal regulators. One analyst put the odds of federal marijuana legalization at 25 percent and marijuana banking reform at 75 percent. “I doubt we will see the green-sky scenario of federal legalization, given the divided Congress and the inherent incrementalism of this issue… But a banking fix is clearly in striking distance for the next Congress,” said the analyst. Politico
Marijuana legalization is a debate on race and fairness. While reform efforts on the federal level are focused on issues like banking and tax reform, the discussion has moved towards criminal justice on the state level. In New Jersey, state lawmakers — especially ones that represent African-American communities — say they would not support a legalization measure without expungement for past cannabis convictions. Some lawmakers are pushing for broader expungement provisions aimed at other drug crimes. New Jersey now stands apart from other states in the effort to link sweeping criminal justice reforms to the legalization bill. The New York Times The bill could be better, though. There are no provisions for reinvestment in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by drug enforcement. Expungement doesn’t apply to people currently incarcerated for marijuana offenses. And, the bill still outlaws home grow. Filter
Lots of marijuana sales come with lots of traffic. The first adult-use marijuana retailers in Massachusetts raked in more than $2.2 million during their first five days of operation. A total of 56,380 cannabis products were purchased. The Associated Press Leicester, Mass. residents gathered at an emergency Town Hall meeting to excoriate local officials and company executives from Cultivate — one of the two pot shops that have opened in the state. “Among their complaints: long lines of traffic, closed streets and detours, pedestrians trekking along a highway with no sidewalk, litter, public urination and pot consumption, overly aggressive shuttle bus drivers ferrying customers to and from a nearby parking lot, and poor communication from Cultivate.” Officials acknowledged that the only real solution would be to wait for more dispensaries to open across the state to serve the overwhelming demand. The Boston Globe
Man arrested after helping his drunk neighbor for ‘odor of marijuana’. The smell of marijuana is often used by law enforcement to justify stops and searches by law enforcement. For Samir Ahmed, who was arrested in Silver Spring, Md., police said that they “smelled an odor of marijuana coming from him” and that they found “suspected marijuana” in his coat pocket. Emergency services had been called for a drunk man, who Ahmed helped back into his home. When emergency personnel arrived, Ahmed explained to them that he had already walked the man home and was subsequently arrested. “Ahmed said he thinks the situation went awry because he is black. One of the officers claimed that Ahmed was intoxicated and repeatedly stated that she smelled marijuana. He said he was sober.” His attorney disputes that the police officers could have smelled the “negligible amount” of marijuana in his coat pocket. The Washington Post
Three months behind bars for… cotton candy. A Georgia woman is suing after Monroe County law enforcement officers arrested and charged her for trafficking meth. Police had found a bag of “blue crystal-like substance” on the passenger floorboard where Dasha Fincher was sitting. The substance, which Fincher told officers was cotton candy — tested positive for meth and MDMA with a roadside drug testing kit. She was jailed on a $1 million bond and remained behind bars because she couldn’t afford the sum. It turns out that the substance was indeed cotton candy. Fincher is “suing Monroe County, the two deputies who arrested her and the company responsible for the drug test that confused her sugary snack with a Schedule 1 drug.” The lawsuit says that the particular roadside test has a history of producing false positives and that the officers “falsely presented their findings to the court as scientifically reliable.” The Washington Post
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The story of a corrupt official who tried to become a marijuana mogul. Thomas Espinosa took bribes as an inspector for Oakland’s Planning and Building Department. But allegations surrounding his wrongdoing extend much further than his role as a government official. “For the past several years, Espinosa has also operated a large cannabis real estate company that at one point controlled up to half-a-million square feet of industrial space in Oakland and Sacramento, and possibly other cities… [he] was also boldly attempting to become a kingpin of ‘green zone’ properties. And he was allegedly drawing on his city job and contacts to do it, while buying expensive gifts and trinkets for his new bride.” But his aspirations came crashing down after he was sued by his investors for fraud and had to declare bankruptcy. Here’s a deep dive into the story of how a corrupt public official used his government ties to get building permits and cannabis licenses. East Bay Express
In cannabis science news… Experts question the hype surrounding CBD, which is high in anecdotal evidence but lacking in scientific substance. One doctor, who completed a review of the scientific literature on cannabis, says there is some reasonable evidence to show that medical cannabis can help in a few circumstances. But “bias is pervasive throughout the medical cannabinoid literature, including in randomized controlled trials.” Folio More research illustrates the promise of cannabis in combating the opioid crisis. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, not all counties allow it. An analysis found that counties with medical marijuana dispensaries had 6 to 8 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths and 10 percent fewer heroin overdose deaths. “Importantly, these effects are limited to counties where dispensaries opened and do not apply to non-dispensary counties in states with that have legalized medical cannabis,” wrote the researchers. Marijuana Moment
Marijuana: medicine or vice? The socially responsible investment industry is grappling with how to view the cannabis industry. Should marijuana stocks be categorized as “sin stocks” like alcohol or tobacco? “There’s a lot of mixed feelings about cannabis, whereas with tobacco there’s a lot of consensus that tobacco is not safe in any amount,” said one director of responsible investing. Some firms invest solely in business that pass environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) screens. MSCI, which maintains a list of ESG-compliant companies, say there are some cannabis companies that pass the criteria. But that could change as the alcohol and tobacco industries eye cannabis as an opportunity for growth. Reuters
A top U.S. cannabis company is the creation of Russian billionaires. Two wealthy men who made their fortunes from Russia’s return to capitalism banded together to fund Curaleaf and made a billion dollars in the process. “At $2.8 billion, Curaleaf’s valuation is 40 times the annualized revenues of its cannabis dispensaries in the last-reported June quarter. It lost money on the quarter. But Jordan said his company just turned cash-flow positive and will generate $100 million in free cash flow next year… Curaleaf’s Russian roots may be fascinating history, but they don’t diminish the size of the U.S. cannabis opportunity or the cash the company raised from over 100 institutions and wealthy individuals around the world.” Barron’s
How Lesotho is cashing in on pot. Last year, Lesotho became the first nation in Africa to legalize medical marijuana in hopes of spurring the economy. But there have been farmers cultivating the crop for decades to supply the illicit market. Just like U.S. states that have legalized the drug, these small farmers cannot afford the costs of licensing and becoming compliant. “Yes I know it’s illegal to plant marijuana,” said one 48-year-old mother of five who has been growing cannabis “for as long as she can remember.” “My children are in school because of marijuana.” The country’s nascent medical marijuana industry is set to dwarf the smaller famers as Lesotho encourages international investment. BBC
Word on the States
- In Washington, local boards can approve medical marijuana payments for police and firefighters, read an opinion from the state attorney general.
- In Michigan, the state won’t close medical marijuana dispensaries by the end of the year. Marijuana will become legal in the state on Dec. 6. New medical marijuana rules will allow home delivery.
- In Nevada, some lawmakers look to legalize cannabis lounges next year.
- In Oregon, officials certified language for a psilocybin ballot initiative, allowing campaigners to start gathering signatures.
- In New York, marijuana legalization looks likely for the next legislature.
- In Texas, the San Antonio police chief said the department will stop arresting people for small marijuana possession.
- In Montana, two Missoula medical marijuana dispensaries were burglarized on Thanksgiving.
- In North Carolina, no one showed up to a meeting for the cannabis caucus. But medical marijuana legislation is in the works.
- In Massachusetts, a Worcester medical marijuana dispensary is seeking the city’s first recreational dispensary license.
- In Minnesota, the governor-elect says the state should legalize marijuana.
- In Wisconsin, the Eau Claire City Council approved reducing marijuana penalties to $1.
- In the Virgin Islands, a measure to legalize medical marijuana was well-received by lawmakers during a hearing.
Word for Word
“I have patients who have tried every prescription medication intended to treat their specific medical condition, and cannabis is their last resort. The best feeling in the world is when a medical-use patient comes back and lets me know how much my recommendation has helped their condition and improved their quality of life… I see plenty of beautiful people of color in this industry. Being Choctaw, German, and African-American, I’m proud to be part of that group. I’ve had a welcoming experience so far, but I would love to see more people of color in higher positions, and claiming ownership of their own cannabis brands and dispensaries. Our dispensary is unique because it is operated by women, which is one of the many reasons I love it! But I know that’s a rarity.” – Educator at the Los Angeles Patient and Caregiver Group Delilah Dalton, New York / The Cut