How Republicans came to support criminal justice and marijuana reform. Doctors tried (and failed) to resist police orders to search a man’s rectum for drugs. Anheuser-Busch gets into the cannabis industry. Also: The NBA is considering changing its pot policy for players. 🌳
How Republicans shifted away from punitive policies. The criminal justice reform bill making its way through Congress shows how conservative lawmakers have pivoted away from the harsh, law-and-order stances of the ’80s. The First Step Act passed the Senate with 37 Republicans favoring the bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has also expressed support for it. “Many Republicans are also embracing the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana, which is legal in 10 states and the District.” The Washington Post Now that the First Step Act is on its way, criminal justice advocates are thinking about next steps. “There’s going to be a second step and a third step… There’s a lot more to do,” said an attorney for Koch Industries who leads the Koch network’s criminal justice reform efforts. The Marshall Project Related: While senator Cory Gardner’s bid to insert marijuana reform into the legislation failed, he says that the president supports legislation similar to the STATES Act. The Washington Times
WTF of the day. Syracuse police wanted doctors to search a man’s rectum for illegal drugs. But an X-ray had indicated that there were no drugs in the man’s rectum and the doctors refused to perform an invasive procedure against the man’s will. A hospital lawyer got roped into the dispute between the doctors and the police, and the lawyer said that a search warrant required the doctors to perform the procedure. “So St. Joe’s medical staff knocked out the suspect and performed the sigmoidoscopy, in search of evidence of a misdemeanor or low-level felony charge.” Experts in medical and legal ethics expressed surprise that such a procedure was ordered for a common offense: “You’re looking for marijuana and cocaine? It’s extreme. If they wanted to cut him open and look at his stomach, that would be OK, too?” said an attorney and professor. Critics say the procedure could have violated the man’s civil rights. And if that weren’t bad enough, the hospital sent the suspect a $4,595.12 bill for the procedure. syracuse.com
Marijuana proponents hopeful about next Congress. The cannabis industry is plotting an aggressive legislative agenda now that noted marijuana foe U.S. rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) lost his re-election race. Sessions was one of the biggest obstacles to advancing bipartisan, marijuana-related legislation. “Lobbyists for marijuana reform groups say they hope to pass new measures aimed at allowing cannabis businesses to access the federal banking system, giving those businesses access to tax breaks for business expenses that other industries take, and aligning federal policy with state policy in places where voters have already opted for legalization.” The Hill Related: Meanwhile, plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the federal government over marijuana prohibition are appealing a decision in their case. They “could get a new trial or end up petitioning to the Supreme Court.” CBS News
Anheuser-Busch gets into cannabis. The world’s largest brewer is partnering with Canadian cannabis producer Tilray in a $100-million joint venture to research cannabis-infused beverages. It’s the latest in a string of deals between Big Alcohol, Big Tobacco, and cannabis producers in Canada. The Budweiser brewer will invest up to $50 million to research drinks that contain THC and CBD (but no alcohol). Reuters Shares of AB InBev didn’t budge much, but shares of Tilray jumped 15 percent in after-hours trading. The Associated Press
NYC mayor backs legalizing pot. Days after New York governor Cuomo backed marijuana legalization as a legislative priority, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has come out in support of it too. “I have been convinced that we can establish a regulatory framework that keeps our streets safe, rights the wrongs of the past, and gives economic opportunity to communities hit hardest by the war on drugs,” said de Blasio. Two weeks ago, he expressed concern about a corporate takeover of the marijuana industry. While de Blasio has struggled to influence the legislative process in Albany, city officials hope to carve out provision for local control in marijuana legislation. The New York Times Related: A Massachusetts town near the state’s border with New York is worried about becoming a destination for tourists from New York City seeking legal weed. Boston Herald
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Positive drug tests on the rise. Data from Quest Diagnostics found that retail workers test positive for illicit drugs at the highest rate among industries. Employers have largely moved away from pre-employment drug screening, especially as states have liberalized their cannabis laws. “The positives for cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana climbed, while the rate for opiates dropped sharply amid state crackdowns on excessive opioid prescriptions.” Some blame a growing cultural acceptance of cannabis use for “encouraging more pot smoking,” even in states where it’s still illegal. Employers, struggling with a tight labor market, are eliminating drug tests as a way to tap into a larger pool of applicants. USA Today
NBA considers changing its pot policy for players. The NBA has had discussions with the National Basketball Players Association about the league’s marijuana policy. “I don’t want to speak for [NBPA executive director] Michele [Roberts], but she and I have a somewhat similar view on this, which is: We should follow the science… It’s not a moral issue for me. I obviously see what’s happening in states around America,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. He acknowledged that banning marijuana may lead players to use medications or alcohol more — “and that might be much worse for them.” Bleacher Report
What the studies say… Marijuana use in Washington state actually declined among 8th and 10th graders after the state legalized marijuana for adults. Use among 12th graders stayed steady. Marijuana Moment A study found that marijuana use has an impact on the “human sperm’s epigenome — the group of chemical compounds that tell the genome what to do.” The scientists can’t say whether those changes are good or bad and they hope to conduct additional research on the subject. Inverse In a study that compared the brains of cannabis users with non-users, researchers found no evidence of structural differences that could hamper cognitive function. Marijuana Moment
Today in cannabis business news… Royal Bank of Canada’s investment-banking division will start working with the cannabis industry on stock sales and arranging takeovers. The bank also started research coverage of the cannabis industry. “We’re going to be selective in our approach,” said the head of RBC Capital Markets. The London Free Press Brand development and scale are driving deals in the cannabis industry. Marijuana Business Daily U.S. cannabis companies are outraising their Canadian counterparts despite marijuana prohibition at the federal level. “Investors’ imagination is being captured more by what’s possible in the U.S.,” said the managing director of investment banking at a brokerage firm. Bloomberg
Elsewhere around the world… Canada‘s privacy watchdog is warning cannabis consumers to pay with cash instead of credit cards. “Cannabis is illegal in most jurisdictions outside of Canada. The personal information of cannabis users is therefore very sensitive… Some countries may deny entry to individuals if they know they have purchased cannabis, even lawfully,” said the country’s privacy commissioner. The Huffington Post A marijuana activist in the U.K. has been previously arrested for giving cannabis oil to the parents of children who suffer from various illnesses. Despite run-ins with the law, what Jeff Ditchfield did is technically legal because the oil contains THC-A, not THC. THC-A is not psychoactive, though heat and other environmental factors will change it to THC. The Home Office has said that isolated THC-A is not a controlled substance under the law. Ditchfield is currently in a legal limbo and is seeking clarity about his arrest and detention. Vice
Word on the States
- In Massachusetts, regulators have started accepting applications for its social equity program. Public records show minimal criminal activity around medical marijuana dispensaries. Holyoke’s city council approved a special permit for home delivery of medical marijuana.
- In California, West Hollywood approves cannabis cafes and consumption lounges. The problem with San Francisco’s marijuana awareness campaign. The Sacramento city council approved a large cannabis cultivation and delivery business.
- In Alaska, most people who testified at a hearing supported allowing social marijuana consumption.
- In Maine, new regulations open up new possibilities for medical marijuana providers.
- In Nevada, the state is asking marijuana companies to voluntarily disclose how their applications for conditional licenses were ranked.
- In Vermont, the government’s marijuana commission recommends that the state find a way to test for marijuana impairment before allowing commercial sales. A look at the rest of the report.
- In Missouri, Missouri has begun moving to implement its new medical marijuana law.
- In Pennsylvania, the governor expressed openness to allowing recreational marijuana.
- In South Carolina, state lawmakers pre-filed four marijuana-related bills for 2019.
- In Florida, an appeal court delayed a circuit judge’s ruling against the state’s implementation of the medical marijuana law.
- In Indiana, a state senator filed legislation to legalize marijuana. A look at the prospects of marijuana reform in the state.
- In Wisconsin, the Racine City Council directed police to stop criminally charging people for pot possession.
- In Michigan, a legislative panel advanced a bill to make it more difficult to initiate ballot drives.
- In Ohio, the state’s medical marijuana program calls into question the legality of CBD pet products.
Word for Word
“The First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill winding through Congress that aims to roll back the excesses of tough-on-crime laws, deserves the polite plaudits it’s receiving. But if passed, it still can’t temper the attitude problem in policing, the insecurities of hot-blooded, poorly trained police officers whose first instinct, far too often, is escalation and force. For insulting an officer, Mr. Espinosa was beaten, cuffed, dragged in public and taken to the hospital, then locked up for several days because of felony-level bail too expensive for him. (I’ve seen white men I grew up with in the South and Northeast do much worse in the presence of the police without reprimand, and I’ve heard college students of color at protests on elite college campuses call officers equally harsh names to their faces without being tackled.)” – Talmon Joseph Smith for The New York Times
“Some say that marijuana helps them unwind after work or fall asleep at night. I think it’s important to be nonjudgmental, because it’s really not up to me to decide whether someone should or shouldn’t use it. Some people say, ‘I smoke pot and I get my stuff done, and I feel pretty good about the way I handle things,’ and I look at it like, Who am I to say, ‘Stop doing that’?” – Clinical psychologist Dr. Joel Minden, Psychology Today