Marijuana legalization stalls in New York. How marijuana regulations are evolving in legal states. A Maryland medical marijuana firm withdrew a lawsuit amid fierce backlash. Also: Toronto gets its first licensed dispensary. 🌳
Marijuana legalization didn’t make it into NY’s budget. The effort to legalize marijuana in New York has stalled after the governor and legislative leaders couldn’t agree on legalization language for the budget. Governor Cuomo said that they would work on a deal before the end of this legislative session in June. “The sides were unable to work out how much to tax marijuana sales, where the money would go and how many stores would be able to open.” The Democrat & Chronicle Some criminal justice reforms made it through, including a measure to eliminate cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes. The New York Times Why marijuana legalization is a critical part of criminal justice reform. syracuse.com
The evolution of marijuana regulations. As larger markets like California legalize adult-use marijuana, “Colorado’s status as the frontier for legal marijuana is fading fast.” Current marijuana rules in Colorado are set to expire, and lawmakers are considering a raft of marijuana reforms: allowing outside investors into the industry, regulating home delivery and social consumption spaces, and adding autism to the state’s medical marijuana program. It’s a potential turning point for the industry, “though some legislators and activists view the changes as risky.” The Denver Post Still comparatively young, the coming months “will likely bring the most significant changes” to California’s marijuana program. The industry is moving from temporary to annual licenses, and state regulators voted to create “subcommittees on social equity, delivery, and laboratory testing.” Cannabis Wire
Medical cannabis dispensary withdraws lawsuit after backlash. Days after a medical cannabis company in Baltimore filed a lawsuit to stop regulators from awarding new licenses, Curio Wellness has withdrawn the legal challenge. The new licenses were aimed at addressing the lack of diversity in the industry after the state published a disparity study. Curio’s lawsuit argued that the commission failed to conduct a market analysis required by regulations. The backlash to the lawsuit was swift, with “state lawmakers, regulators, other cannabis growers and patients… [saying] the lawsuit would derail a yearlong effort to increase diversity in an industry.” Baltimore Sun
Diversion program results in far fewer marijuana arrests. Harris County, Texas estimates that its district attorney’s office has saved $35 million thanks to an initiative to reduce marijuana arrests. An estimated 14,000 fewer people have been arrested in the past two years over minor marijuana offenses. The initiative was part of county D.A. Kim Ogg’s criminal justice reform efforts. But “even with the program in place, about 6,000 people have been arrested in the past two years for small amounts of marijuana.” Ogg’s office recently stopped prosecuting marijuana offenses for people on parole or probation. “Compared to past district attorneys in Harris County, Kim Ogg’s record looks promising… Compared to so-called ‘progressive’ district attorneys at the national level like Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, she looks very moderate,” said one criminal justice expert. Houston Chronicle
States consider hemp and CBD regulations. Texas is removing hemp from its list of controlled substances on April 5 — a move welcomed by cannabis advocates and businesses. State lawmakers are considering legislation to decriminalize hemp and to allow farmers grow the crop in the state. But the change in scheduling has added to the confusion about hemp’s legal status when CBD products are widely available. The Dallas Morning News Regulators in Michigan issued guidance on CBD: “CBD products will no longer be regulated like marijuana, no matter whether the products are sourced from hemp or marijuana plants, as long as the THC concentration is below 0.3 percent. Any product with a THC level above 0.3 percent will continue to be regulated as marijuana.” The Detroit Free Press
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The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists presents The Color of Cannabis — Philly’s first cannabis media event. Join Word on the Tree’s editor on April 6 to learn about what legalization in Pennsylvania could look like and how communities of color could be impacted. Tickets here: Eventbrite / PABJ
When substance treatment programs test for THC. Some states have added opioid-use disorder to their medical marijuana programs, while others are weighing a similar change. But patients who are getting methadone or buprenorphine often face hurdles when consuming state-legal marijuana. In Colorado, patients have lost their methadone doses — thinking “that their medical marijuana card would spare them this sanction. Some decided to leave treatment as a result… Methadone patients use nicotine and alcohol without sanctions, yet the same still doesn’t apply to state-legal marijuana.” One regional director for a medication-assisted treatment provider said that many patients moved to Colorado specifically for marijuana. Filter
Cannabis in Canada. Hunny Pot is Toronto’s first licensed cannabis store. Toronto Life Other cannabis dispensaries in Ontario are beset by delays — only 10 out of 25 retailers ready to open. “Licenses require stores to open on Monday, those that don’t will face fines of up to $12,500 every two weeks, and $25,000 if they’re not open by the end of April.” CBC News Researchers urge the federal government to keep medical and adult-use marijuana programs separate. Leafly
Cannabis in Spain. Spain is home to some of the most active research teams looking into the cannabis plant. But as other countries around the world work to reform their marijuana laws, there has never significant pressure on lawmakers to legalize medical or recreational marijuana in the country. With a vast underground cannabis market that supplies coffeeshops in the Netherlands, advocates for legalization are hoping “to establish a social economic model in Spain that benefits everyone, not just Wall Street.” Here’s a look at reform efforts in the country, which recently awarded a cannabis license to a pharmaceutical company after turning down hundreds of applicants in recent years. El País
Elsewhere around the world… Marijuana possession is now partially decriminalized in Israel. The Times of Israel Medical marijuana in Germany could be worth $8.6 billion by 2028. While the country has been importing medical cannabis for the past two years, that could change soon. Deutsche Welle Officials in the Netherlands are warning that Britons will be banned from visiting cannabis coffeeshops once the country leaves the European Union. Dutch News The Irish government has granted a license to import medical cannabis from Denmark. thejournal.ie A growing number of seniors in Australia are breaking the law to use medical cannabis. ABC News
Nixon’s marijuana report. A graphic novelist takes a look at the time when Richard Nixon commissioned a report on cannabis. “The suggestions it made were ignored for decades under many different presidential administrations.” The New York Times Related: The report made two major recommendations: “decriminalize personal use and possession, and decriminalize the act of giving away cannabis. Unsurprisingly, Nixon was not pleased.” Word on the Tree
Word on the States
- In Oklahoma, how medical marijuana could create housing problems for some patients.
- In New Mexico, the health department rejected a proposal to allow seniors to automatically qualify for medical marijuana. The state’s medical cannabis board reaffirmed its support for adding opioid-use disorder to the list of qualifying conditions.
- In Michigan, a judge blocked regulators from shutting down unlicensed cannabis businesses. New narcotics dogs won’t be trained for marijuana detection.
- In Rhode Island, the state’s three MMJ dispensaries are on pace to sell $56 million worth of cannabis this year.
- In Georgia, the state Senate approved a bill to allow in-state production of medical cannabis oil.
- In Iowa, a physician resigned from the CBD advisory board after lawmakers voted to get rid of the 3 percent cap on THC.
- In Massachusetts, Amherst officials want to know more about the state probe into the ownership of marijuana licenses.
- In Alabama, more than 20 House lawmakers are co-sponsoring a bill to allow medical marijuana.
- In Louisiana, what candidates for governor are saying about medical marijuana.
- In South Carolina, the governor signed a bill to expand the state’s hemp program.
- In Florida, the state’s chief financial officer called on Congress to pass marijuana banking reform.
- In California, local authorities shut down a licensed dispensary in Grover Beach, which then re-opened.
Word for Word
“I don’t think it’s clear to leaders in any state what precisely is meant by putting communities of color first. The consistent themes are automatic expungement, tax revenues reinvested into disproportionately harmed communities and economic justice through prioritized ownership and employment, but no state has provided a functioning model for this yet. That’s where I think Massachusetts’s role comes in (along with California), and why we can be almost obsessive about collecting and transparently releasing detailed data.” – Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title, Marijuana Moment