What 2019 will bring for marijuana. Trump finally gets an official drug czar. A federal court in California dismissed a RICO suit against a cannabis cultivator. Also: Racially disparate marijuana arrests are getting worse in Baltimore, despite decriminalization. 🌳
2019 will be a big year for weed. The cannabis legalization movement reached new heights last year as California and Canada introduced their adult-use markets. “At the same time, pot prohibition is not over. Well over half a million folks are still arrested for possession every year. Smoking weed or working for a pot company can still threaten your housing, employment, immigration status, finances and freedom.” Here, everyone from corporate execs to political activists weigh in on what we can expect in 2019: More state-level marijuana reforms, possibly federal reform, and an increase in federally funded research. Rolling Stone
Senate confirms drug czar. After the post of White House drug czar sat vacant for nearly two years, the Senate confirmed James Carroll to the role on Wednesday. Carroll has served in the position in an acting capacity since February. “The Trump administration has identified the opioid crisis as a top priority, but lost its first ONDCP nominee to scandal and has in many cases sidelined the office while devoting much of its portfolio to Kellyanne Conway, one of the president’s top political advisers.” Stat
Witnesses say congressman used marijuana with staffers. In a 47-page report on former U.S. rep. Thomas Garrett (R-Va.), two witnesses told investigators for the House Ethics Committee that the congressman inquired about buying cannabis and used the drug with his staffers. Garrett denied the allegations: “I prosecuted for the better part of a decade. If I wanted to buy marijuana, I could have it for you right quick like,” he told investigators. The report found numerous rule violations and suggested that Garrett and his wife “were trying to run out the clock on the Committee’s jurisdiction.” The Washington Post
Goings on in the federal courts. A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against a California cannabis grower by his neighbors. The plaintiffs were suing the cultivator under federal racketeering laws, arguing that the “sickening cannabis odor” diminished their property values. “RICO is not the appropriate venue to remedy cannabis odor,” said an attorney for the grower. A similar lawsuit failed in Colorado last year after a jury ruled in favor of the cannabis operation. The Press Democrat Federal marijuana prosecutions dropped 19 percent during the fiscal year 2018, according to a report by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. Marijuana Moment
Despite decriminalization, racially disparate marijuana enforcement remains. Black people in Baltimore are still disproportionately targeted for cannabis offenses, despite a decriminalization policy from 2014. According to an analysis of cannabis misdemeanor charges from 2015 to 2017, “96 percent of the people arrested for cannabis offenses over the course of three years after marijuana was decriminalized in the state of Maryland were black.” Marijuana possession arrests actually increased by 15 percent last year. One city councilman argued that the disparate arrest rates show why the state should legalize recreational marijuana. The Root
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Lawlessness in Humboldt. A new docuseries on Netflix examines the lawlessness of the famed marijuana growing region of Humboldt County, Calif., which produces about 60 percent of America’s weed. The series follows the story of a 29-year-old, who disappeared when he was working on cannabis farms in the area. Faced with apathy from local police, his family relies on a private investigator and a group of vigilantes, who obtained a murder confession and located the man’s body. “Strangely, rather than probe the man who confessed to [his] murder, police seem more interested in prosecuting the vigilantes who shot that suspect in the knee, forced him to lead them to Garret’s body, then dropped him off at a hospital.” The Daily Beast
In cannabis business news… A look at the opportunities and challenges facing cannabis entrepreneurs in the year ahead. Marijuana Business Daily JP Morgan launched coverage of GW Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the first FDA-approved, cannabis-derived drug. GW’s stock was up 5 percent on Wednesday, and the development marked a “step toward Wall Street respectability” for the sector. Barron’s
Studies show… Researchers in Israel found that terpenoids in cannabis oils could bolster the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids. Marijuana Moment A study of marijuana claims made by websites found that 76 percent of them “were inaccurate and were based on low-quality evidence.” Journal of Pharmacy Practice A small trial found that brain scans could help scientists predict the risk of relapsing in those who are being treated for addiction to stimulants. stanford.edu “Festival attendees use different drugs depending on the genre of music featured at the events, a new study found, but marijuana seems to be the great unifier.” Marijuana Moment
Cannabis in Canada. Cannabis cultivators in the country are racing to scale — building larger and larger greenhouses. But some in the industry argue that high quality cultivation in million-square-foot facilities is simply not possible. “You don’t have as much control in an expansive greenhouse,” said the CEO of a licensed producer. Financial Post Vancouver is finally getting its first licensed cannabis retailer. CTV News The Ontario Cannabis Store is stocking cannabis seeds for the first time. Leafly
More MMJ patients in Oz. The medical marijuana patient count in Australia has surpassed 2,000 for the first time. Thanks to a new streamlined process for medical cannabis applications, November saw a 42 percent month-over-month increase in approvals. Marijuana Business Daily
Word on the States
- In California, the cannabis black market is flourishing as state-legal sales fall. Unlicensed medical marijuana cooperatives and collectives will become illegal next week.
- In Oregon, the state is sitting on 1.3 million pounds of unsold cannabis flower.
- In New York, the governor plans to push for marijuana legalization in the state budget. Unions are planning to organize cannabis industry workers.
- In Michigan, at least 80 communities are banning recreational marijuana businesses. Dozens of unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries were shut down. Entrepreneurs are using a loophole to “gift” marijuana.
- In Maine, the lack of mandated cannabis testing could expose cannabis consumers to toxins.
- In Colorado, the state celebrates the five-year anniversary of legal weed sales.
- In Illinois, the legalization debate has shifted from “when” to “how.”
- In Massachusetts, a state commission recommends extending the open container law to marijuana.
- In Ohio, residents may finally be able to purchase medical marijuana in the next few days.
- In Pennsylvania, some lawmakers are gearing up to push marijuana legalization this session.
- In Oklahoma, the state has processed more than 30,000 medical marijuana licenses, bringing in millions.
- In Arkansas, residents will be able to receive a temporary medical marijuana license in neighboring Oklahoma. State regulators plan to issue medical marijuana IDs within 30 days.
- In Louisiana, after failing to find private labs, the state government will handle cannabis testing, prompting conflict of interest worries.
- In Iowa, more than 900 Iowans have received medical marijuana cards so far. Aspiring hemp farmers are waiting on lawmakers to decide on regulations.
- In Missouri, patients will have to wait a while before getting access to medical marijuana. The St. Louis county prosecutor won’t prosecute marijuana possession.
- In Minnesota, Democrats prepare for a major push to legalize recreational marijuana this year.
- In Connecticut, marijuana legalization has momentum in the state government this year.
- In Texas, a state senator calls for medical marijuana legalization.
- In South Carolina, 72 percent of South Carolinians support medical marijuana legalization, found a poll.
- In Virginia, marijuana decriminalization looks like a nonstarter for Republicans.
Word for Word
“Each New Year’s Day for the past seven years, an online community meant to support people who want to transition away from cannabis puts out an open invitation on the popular pro-marijuana subreddit r/trees. And, believe it or not, the members of r/trees welcome the pitch with open arms, voting the posts to the top of their cannabis enthusiast forum… While cannabis isn’t physically addictive in the way that other drugs like cocaine or heroin are, a subset of consumers can become dependent on it. The problem is that some who find themselves in that boat face stigma—and not just from the usual anti-drug suspects but also from marijuana enthusiasts who don’t accept that cannabis use can become problematic.” – Kyle Jaeger for Marijuana Moment
“We would be remiss if we did not recognize the success of the Casino Control Commission as we plan the legalization of marijuana. The establishment of a five-member, full-time New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission is the most responsible course of action. It will ensure the success and integrity of the new industry. An independent commission is the best way to protect the industry from outside influences, illegal enterprises, tax evasion or even shifting leadership — always a concern for initial investors. If a new governor could cripple the industry on a whim, then investor confidence will inevitably suffer.” – State senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) for nj.com