The criminal justice reform bill advances in the Senate as one lawmaker seeks to attach marijuana reform as an amendment. Why the Farm Bill isn’t going to create a free-wheeling hemp market. New Zealand will hold a binding referendum on marijuana legalization in 2020. Also: A look at the revolving door between the California government and the cannabis industry. 🌳
Criminal justice reform bill advances in the Senate. The Senate overwhelmingly voted to end debate on the First Step Act and bring the criminal justice reform legislation up for a final vote. The bill will reform harsh sentences for drug offenses, among other provisions. The Washington Post A look at the efforts of lawmakers who have been pursuing criminal justice reform for years, spurred by stories of outsized sentences for drug offenses that judges vehemently disagreed with. USA Today President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner was also key in helping to convince hesitant Republicans to support the legislation. The Los Angeles Times Related: Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is confident that he has the votes to pass marijuana reform legislation as an amendment to the criminal justice reform bill. boston.com
The Farm Bill and the hemp industry. As the Farm Bill awaits president Trump’s signature, the legislation is poised to make life easier for those in the hemp industry. Marijuana Business Daily However, the Farm Bill will not create a free-wheeling hemp market. There are significant restrictions in the legislation, including “shared state-federal regulatory power” over the industry and possible punishments for those who violate the law like cultivating hemp without a license. “Ultimately, the Farm Bill legalizes hemp, but it doesn’t create a system in which people can grow it as freely as they can grow tomatoes or basil.” Brookings
New Zealand will hold a referendum to legalize marijuana. It’s official: Kiwis will get a chance to vote on marijuana legalization during the 2020 elections. Polls show that there’s widespread support for legalization among voters. If the measure is approved, it would be the first time that a country legalized marijuana through the ballot box. Other countries that have legalized the drug have done so through the legislature. The New York Times “We know when it will be, we have a commitment that it will be binding, and now it is just a question on filling in the detail from there,” said the country’s Justice Minister. Critics called the move an attempt to distract voters from other issues. BBC
The revolving door. While Jason Kinney serves on governor-elect Gavin Newsom’s transition team, he appeared at a cannabis conference in Las Vegas with two former lobbying partners who recently started another lobbying firm. Large players in the cannabis industry have increased their spending on lobbyists, raising concerns from smaller businesses who don’t have similar resources. The chair of a cannabis farming co-op in Northern California said that the general mood among smaller farmers is that “it’s a pay-to-play system.” Several in the cannabis industry who attended the conference said they “saw Kinney’s presence there as a subtle sales pitch for the access he and [lobbying firm] Axiom could have to Newsom’s administration.” CALmatters
More on legalization in New York. Governor Cuomo emphasized the social justice angle in his speech announcing his administration’s push to legalize marijuana. “We will advance our justice agenda, and particularly address the forms of injustice that for too long have unfairly targeted the African American and minority communities,” he said, without offering any details. Cannabis Wire “Cuomo’s cannabis conversion, like that of another New Yorker, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, illustrates how far leading Democrats have lagged behind their party’s rank-and-file and the general public on this issue. Cuomo was still opposed to medical marijuana at a time when more than four-fifths of Americans supported it, and he did not endorse broader legalization until it was favored by two-thirds of Americans, including three-quarters of Democrats.” Reason
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The plight of a weed scientist (no, not that kind). Scientist Gerry Mulligan spent his career researching farm weeds for the Canadian government. After he retired, he created a website as a resource on weeds in North America, which originally ran as part of Agriculture Canada’s website. He spun it out as his own site — weedscanada.ca — a serious guide on weeds that is used by institutions and universities all around the world. But legalization in the country has reduced his traffic to nearly zero. It turns out, people are getting blocked from visiting the site as servers mistake it for a cannabis retailer. “It means that the people that are trying to get their weeds identified, or to get information on weeds, just can’t get through,” said Mulligan. “It’s very disappointing to me. After all the work I’ve done, suddenly something happens like this.” Ottawa Citizen
The studies say… Rates of cannabis use among teens has held steady in recent years, despite the spread of legalization laws and changing attitudes towards the drug. “Once again, federal survey data has debunked the myth that rolling back marijuana prohibition will result in increased rates of use among teens,” said one cannabis advocate. Marijuana Moment Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine say they’ve uncovered a possible explanation for why youth marijuana use is harmful to some teenagers. Studying adolescent mice, the scientists found that marijuana increases inflammation in a certain type of brain cell that carries a genetic mutation that has been linked to major psychiatric disorders. While more research is needed, it could help explain that some people are genetically predisposed to experiencing certain harms of cannabis use. EurekAlert
In cannabis business news… Canadian cannabis giant Tilray has signed a partnership with the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG to distribute medical marijuana around the world. Shares of Tilray jumped 13 percent on the news. Bloomberg While a cannabis supply shortage continues in Canada, some believe that a supply glut is inevitable. “Opinions vary on when it will hit, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Canadian marijuana market experiences a supply surplus by 2020.” The Motley Fool U.S. cannabis company Terra Tech is being sued by one of its investors for fraud. The lawsuit alleges that the company “looted” the successful dispensaries that it had acquired. It also alleges numerous accounting errors and false statements in SEC filings. New Cannabis Ventures
Cannabis in Canada. The country’s first cannabis hotel is hoping to launch in 2019. But a deeper dive into its operations reveals some… problems. Cannabis Air is more like an Airbnb than a hotel, and is located in a condo complex that bars short-term rentals. Leafly Cannabis entrepreneurs are frustrated with Ontario’s decision to cap the number of licenses for cannabis dispensaries — an about-face from its original plan to not limit the number of licenses. Entrepreneurs who have already signed leases and hired staff are now worried that their efforts could be wasted. CBC News
Medical marijuana in the Philippines. The Duterte administration says that the winner of Miss Universe 2018, Catriona Gray, could have taken cues from the president in how she answered a question about marijuana policy (she’s for medical and against recreational). The Philippine Star A spokesperson for Duterte said he would be willing to sign any sort of medical marijuana legalization bill sent to his desk. The Miss Universe question renewed public discussion about the policy. ABS-CBN
Headline of the day. Florida man tried to pay for McDonald’s with bag of weed. The Associated Press
Word on the States
- In New Jersey, the state adds six new dispensaries to its medical marijuana program. One business that lost out on a license pledges to keep trying.
- In Nevada, a cannabis company filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s licensing process.
- In Oregon, lawmakers will consider barring employers from firing workers for off-duty marijuana use.
- In California, a cannabis distribution company filed a class-action lawsuit to block law enforcement from seizing assets from state-legal marijuana businesses. San Diego is auditing marijuana dispensaries’ tax payments. The Emerald Cup announces its winners.
- In Arkansas, a police captain has been appointed to the state Medical Marijuana Commission. State regulators announced that it would postpone its dispensary score release until January 9.
- In Colorado, a Denver business voluntarily recalled its retail marijuana over mold and yeast concerns.
- In Ohio, a state board authorized a $2.1 million loan to the medical marijuana regulatory agency for litigation costs.
- In Nebraska, a closer look at the medical marijuana ballot initiative for 2020.
- In the US Virgin Islands, lawmakers advance medical cannabis legislation.
- In the Northern Marianas, government officials nominate members to the Cannabis Commission.
Word for Word
“‘I was in a deep rut,’ [actor Jax] Taylor says. ‘I was literally going to lock myself in a room and do enough drugs to hurt myself.’ But before Taylor could follow through, [fiancée Brittany] Cartwright stepped in once again. ‘Brittany was, like, ‘I understand where you’re coming from. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but can you try something?’’ Taylor says. Cartwright then encouraged Taylor to get a medical marijuana card to smoke weed in the hopes that the high will help keep him relaxed. ‘I tried it and it changed my life,’ Taylor says. ‘I said, ‘You know what? I’m not going to hurt myself. I’m not going to drink. I’m going to flip this around and make my dad proud. I’m going to go to the gym. We’re going to start some businesses. We’re going to move up.’'” – Eileen Reslen for Men’s Health
“Back in mid-2017 I embarked on a journalistic endeavor that, to my knowledge, has not been replicated. Through a contact in the New York harm reduction community, I purchased a box of 100 test strips developed by a Canadian firm to detect the presence of fentanyl in urine… I hoped to determine how much of Philadelphia’s retail heroin was adulterated with fentanyl, and what, if any, geographical variations existed in the composition of the city’s street dope. This would, among other things, inform my lifelong fascination with the dynamics of government paternalism and illicit markets… The news isn’t good. With very few exceptions and city-wide, all of Philadelphia’s retail heroin is now adulterated with illicitly made fentanyl.” – Christopher Moraff for Filter