A new book makes some dubious claims about marijuana legalization. A showdown over cannabis use and the Second Amendment is brewing in federal court. Despite decriminalization, black people in Philly are still disproportionately arrested for pot. Also: A campaign to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in Denver submits signatures for its ballot petition. 🍄🌳
Against reefer madness. Coverage of the forthcoming book Tell Your Children, which makes connections between marijuana, mental illness, and violence, has been making the media rounds. A deeper dive into the data makes the case that the book’s claims are “pointlessly misleading scaremongering.” It’s true that there was a nation-wide uptick in violent crime starting in 2014, but a closer look at state-level data tells a different story: “If one insists on positing a tight causal relationship between pot laws and murder rates, one could just as easily argue that Oregon’s homicide trajectory has been softened by pot legalization in these years, at least relative to national trends.” New York Meanwhile, there’s no good scientific evidence that marijuana causes schizophrenia. Marijuana use in the U.S. has increased considerably in the past two decades. But there has been no increase in schizophrenia diagnoses. Mother Jones
A showdown over cannabis and gun rights. The federal-state conflict in marijuana laws presents problems for consumers and the industry in numerous ways. But the issue of gun rights is becoming more prominent as an increasing number of conservative states move to reform their own cannabis laws. State-legal medical marijuana patients can’t own guns thanks to federal prohibition. Now, a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania is challenging the ban as a medical marijuana patient in Pennsylvania claims that his Second Amendment rights were violated when he was rejected from purchasing a firearm. “You’re perfectly legal treating yourself with Ambien or Percocet, and even though those are far more dangerous drugs, they don’t deprive you of any constitutional rights,” said an attorney in the case. Cannabis Wire
Racial disparities despite decriminalization. Philadelphia decriminalized small possession of marijuana four years ago. The city also elected a reform-minded D.A. in 2017, who halted most charges for cannabis possession. But black people were still disproportionately targeted for marijuana arrests since decriminalization. “Given the equal use of marijuana by persons of different races, the fact that 80 percent of the arrests continue to be of black suspects cannot be justified on the grounds that more blacks than whites possess marijuana,” said a civil rights attorney. Similar racial disparities in arrest rates can be found in other jurisdictions that have decriminalized cannabis. Billy Penn
Congresswomen and cannabis. In 2016, senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) declined to support California’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative. In her new book, she outlines a very different stance: “We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it.” Like many other lawmakers, the shift marks “a significant evolution on cannabis and drug policy.” Forbes Freshmen House rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has always supported marijuana reform in her nascent political career, has hired a former marijuana lobbyist as a policy advisor. He left the marijuana advocacy world in 2014 over the corporatization of cannabis. Marijuana Moment
The man behind Utah’s private MMJ negotiations talks. Outgoing Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes talks about how he convened closed-door negotiations to come up with a compromise deal on medical marijuana legalization that would replace the medical marijuana ballot initiative. The process has drawn criticism from those who say it was an “undemocratic power grab made against the state’s voters.” Here, he talks about why he convened the negotiations in the first place and how they almost fell apart many times throughout the process. “There became this immediate narrative that it was everybody that voted for Prop. 2 opposed the agreement. And I’m not saying that I know the minds of everyone that voted. But I’m saying those critics don’t either.” Deseret News
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Federal government seeking to study cannabis compounds. The federal government is seeking applications from researchers for $1.5 million in grants to study minor cannabinoids and terpenes. “The aim of the grants will be to learn how these components work—separately and when combined—as potential pain-relieving agents.” The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health said it’s particularly interested in the compounds’ analgesic properties, especially if they can be separated from the cannabis plant’s psychoactive properties. Marijuana Moment
In cannabis business news… PAX Labs, a cannabis vape company, is banned from demonstrating its products on the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show. The company is trying to get CES to change its policy since marijuana is legal in Nevada and “there’s no shortage of beer, wine and alcohol poured and consumed at CES.” Barron’s Cannabis analytics firm Headset raised a $12.1 million Series A round led by Poseidon Asset Management and AFI Capital Partners. GeekWire Green Thumb Industries inked a deal to acquire a Connecticut medical marijuana company for $80 million. Marijuana Business Daily
Cannabis in Canada. More than a dozen unlicensed cannabis shops are still open for business after a law enforcement crackdown. City officials say they’re working with police to close the shops but it’s a “complex process involving a number of steps.” CBC News A group of shareholders of Origin House, a cannabis company that trades on the Canadian Securities Exchange, have reached an agreement to protect the company from a hostile takeover amid an increase in M&A activity for the sector. BNN Bloomberg Sweden’s pension funds blacklist Canadian cannabis producers thanks to the UN convention on narcotic drugs. IPE
One step closer to the ballot. A measure to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in Denver turned in 8,000 signatures for its ballot petition. (It needs 4,726 verified signatures.) If approved by voters, Denver would become the first city in the nation to decriminalize the drug. The measure mirrors past initiatives related to marijuana. Activists in Oregon are planning a statewide measure for 2020 to legalize psilocybin-assisted therapy. The Denver Post The campaign’s director said that about 70 people are arrested a year for possessing psilocybin in the city, and that the measure would benefit those who want to use psilocybin to treat certain medical conditions. Denverite
Word on the States
- In Alaska, as the cannabis industry grows, some cultivators close up shop.
- In California, San Francisco is giving more time to cannabis businesses to apply for permits after missing deadlines.
- In Colorado, the outgoing governor’s legacy on cannabis is his cautious approach.
- In Massachusetts, what regulators will be working on in 2019.
- In Vermont, the Senate leader wants to fast track a bill to tax and regulate marijuana, while the House leader is not so sure.
- In Maryland, medical marijuana sales approached $100 million in the first year. 58 percent of voters support marijuana legalization, according to a poll.
- In Nevada, the Assembly Speaker thinks all marijuana tax revenue should go towards education.
- In Washington, government officials will consider changing marijuana regulations.
- In Michigan, law enforcement say there has been no increase in stoned driving arrests since legalization.
- In New Jersey, about 45 towns have preemptively banned marijuana dispensaries.
- In New York, lawmakers pre-filed two bills to expand the medical marijuana program. A look at Brooklyn’s first medical marijuana dispensary.
- In Florida, voters want insurance companies to cover medical marijuana.
- In Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers remain opposed to marijuana reform. Confusion surrounds enforcement issues for Racine’s marijuana possession decriminalization directive.
- In North Dakota, the state says that the medical marijuana program will pay for itself.
- In Virginia, the prosecutor for Norfolk announces that his office will stop prosecuting marijuana possession cases.
- In Oklahoma, a fire at a strip mall damaged a new medical marijuana business.
- In South Carolina, a look behind the medical marijuana push in the state.
Word for Word
“On the BART ride home, I found an ad for sign dancing for a doctor less than a mile from my grandpa’s place. Staying there is hard because I had an abusive childhood and spent a lot of time in my grandpa’s spare room as a result. So here I was again at age 33. I got a response to my résumé for the sign job from a pleasant-sounding woman… The next day I’d be dancing for a weed doctor… I was kicking ass at the sign-dancing gig though, and they were making more money than ever with whatever this ‘joy’ thing was that I was trying to practice while dancing. But then another turn: The recent legalization of marijuana dried up many potential patients, so the business was not sustainable. Cops come and search me for no reason while I’m working. The vibe is all wrong. The weed doctor could have told me they couldn’t pay me, but instead, they had me work a whole week first.” – Rex Vincent for Ozy