In some U.S. counties, the war on weed is alive and well. How three billionaires had an outsize influence on legalizing cannabis. Chicago’s prosecutor looks into expunging past pot offenses. Also: A deep dive into MedMen reveals the company’s rapid expansion amid scandals and lawsuits. 🌳
Marijuana arrests in the age of legalization. Despite gains in the legalization movement, there are some counties in the U.S. where more than 40 percent of all arrests are for marijuana. County-level cannabis arrests are higher than the national average in conservative states from North Dakota to Texas. But states like New York and New Jersey, which are trying to legalize adult-use marijuana, also have relatively high arrest rates. More than 43 percent of arrests in Hamilton County, N.Y. were for marijuana possession. The only other county with a higher arrest rate is Dooley County, Ga., where more than 54 percent of arrests were for marijuana possession. Washington Post
Thank three billionaires for legal weed. Three billionaires — George Soros, Peter Lewis, and John Sperling — spent more than $70 million on marijuana legalization efforts over two decades. “The simplest explanation of why marijuana reform happened is that three billionaires decided it should happen and they bankrolled the process for many, many years,” said one drug policy researcher. Here’s a look at the legalization movements key gains that probably wouldn’t have happened without these three ultra-wealthy men. At the same time, the movement “had big donors to help pay for things, but also a growing group of social-justice advocates who formed a grassroots constituency. This combination of billionaire funds and passionate activists turned into a winning formula for medical marijuana.” The Stranger
Chicago prosecutor looks into expunging pot offenses. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is looking into how to fulfill her campaign promise of expunging cannabis convictions. While her office won’t expunge all of them at once, it “hopes to start clearing the first round of convictions in a matter of months.” Meanwhile, Foxx is also hoping to work with Code for America to automate the labor-intensive process of identifying cases that qualify for expungement. Code for America has worked with three California counties to speed up the expungement process with an algorithm. Her office is also re-evaluating how it handles cannabis sale offenses. Chicago Sun-Times
On who supports marijuana legalization. Women are generally more liberal than men, with the exception of one issue: marijuana legalization. While 68 percent of American men support legalization, only 56 percent of women do. Political scientists initially suspected that motherhood was a key driver in this gender gap. “We were wrong.” Word on the Tree / The Conversation Three major national U.S. polls have found overwhelming support for marijuana legalization. The General Social Survey by NORC at the University of Chicago found that 61 percent of Americans support legalization. Gallup and Pew found 66 percent and 62 percent of Americans support legalization, respectively. In other words, legal weed is very popular — more popular than individual politicians and other political issues. Vox
The rise of MedMen. MedMen, one of the most prominent cannabis companies in the U.S., is hoping to become the Apple Store of weed as the company manages a “fierce” burn rate thanks to its expansion plans. But scandals and lawsuits have threatened to derail the operation. Here’s a deep dive into the company and its founders — Andrew Modlin and Adam Bierman. The pair ran a marketing business when Bierman was behind on rent and found out an elderly woman running a medical marijuana dispensary was making $300,000 a year. “If the crazy blue-haired lady and her dirty-ass dispensary can make 300 grand, why is it that I can’t pay my rent?” said Bierman on how he got into the industry. While the company seems to be opening (or acquiring) dispensaries left and right, MedMen is fielding criticisms from longtime businessowners in the cannabis industry, dubious investors, and former executives. Rolling Stone
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Cannabis in Congress. Top financial regulators from 25 U.S. states have sent a letter to Congress pressuring lawmakers to pass marijuana banking reform. “It is incumbent on Congress to resolve the conflict between state cannabis programs and federal statutes that effectively create unnecessary risk for banks seeking to operate in this space,” it read. Forbes The executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project talks about the differences between legalization bills in Congress and the proliferation of cannabis lobbying groups. “In order to effectuate change in Congress… there needs to be an inside the Beltway strategy to influence Congress, there has to be a strategy that’s outside of the Beltway to influence Congress.” Cannabis Wire
Bay Mills Indian Community legalizes marijuana. The tribal government of the Bay Mills Indian Community is the first federally recognized tribe in Michigan to legalize recreational marijuana. “Our tribal government does not necessarily promote the use of marijuana, but we believe that criminalizing it is bad policy,” said the tribe’s chairman. “Our new tribal law ensures that people on our lands are no longer at risk of prosecution.” While tribes can set their own marijuana policies, Michigan’s cannabis regulators are in talks with tribal leaders as they review their marijuana policies. M Live
The studies say… A new study found that cannabis consumers may need more than twice the amount of anesthesia before medical procedures. Regular cannabis users also required a higher dose of analgesics and sedatives. “Because cannabis has such a long life in the body, it may take months to ameliorate the effect… Patients absolutely need to inform their providers about cannabis use prior to any procedure,” said the study’s lead author. Reuters A study found that people who use marijuana before exercising reported greater enjoyment of exercise. Those that used marijuana after exercising reported enhanced recovery. “While it might seem counterintuitive… many marijuana enthusiasts engage in active lifestyles.” Marijuana Moment
Celebrities in cannabis. Jim Belushi is one of many celebrities who have gotten into the cannabis industry. But unlike other celeb weed brands, Belushi “is actually growing the pot on his own property, often with his own hands.” Belushi has been selling the cannabis he grows for years, but only recently put his name on it. He believes his brother would still be alive if he had access to medical marijuana in the ’70s. The Stranger Snoop Dogg will appear in Grass is Greener, a Netflix documentary that drops on 4/20. The film tackles the history of prohibition and the hurdles to entering the legal industry. Billboard
Elsewhere in cannabis business news… PAX Labs, the cannabis vaporizer company, is in talks to raise a $400 million round that would value the company at $1.3 billion. The Information 🔒 Canadian companies are racing to produce cannabinoids without the cannabis plant. BNN Bloomberg Shares of Canadian cannabis producer Aphria dropped more than 12 percent after the company reported a decrease in the amount of cannabis it sold. The Street Jackson D. Tilley, an executive at cannabis company Organa Brands, has inked a book deal with Post Hill Press for Billion Dollar Dimebag: An Insider’s Account of America’s Legalish Cannabis Industry. The Hollywood Reporter
Word on the States
- In California, San Luis Obispo County officials voted to shut down a large cannabis businesses.
- In Colorado, Denver’s city council advanced a proposal to ease location requirements for cannabis social use businesses.
- In Washington, lawmakers voted to remove control of cannabis testing from the Liquor and Cannabis Board.
- In New Jersey, the Senate president says the governor’s pledge to expand medical marijuana is hurting the effort to legalize adult-use.
- In New York, what residents need to know about the anti-marijuana testing legislation.
- In Pennsylvania, most people at the lieutenant governor’s marijuana listening tour favor legalizing adult-use marijuana.
- In New Mexico, the governor’s office believes the medical marijuana law doesn’t extend to incarcerated patients.
- In Florida, lawmakers and officials want insurance coverage for medical marijuana.
- In Virginia, most doctors are steering clear of the medical marijuana program.
- In Missouri, a look at what’s on the state’s medical marijuana business application.
- In Montana, the House approved a bill to reform the medical marijuana program.
- In Nebraska, lawmakers advanced a bill to legalize industrial hemp.
- In Iowa, the Senate passed an industrial hemp bill, sending it to the House.
- In Kansas, the governor signed a bill to allow industrial hemp cultivation.
Word for Word
“Away from the Capitol and largely cordoned off from reporters, roughly 170 Democratic lawmakers and their families took part in yoga and a celebrity-chef demo, with several members sharing a tee time at the golf course on-site. Democrats were even able to cut loose with a game of trivia Thursday night, answering questions about Beyoncé’s fan base — one of many Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) easily got right — and a category titled the ‘Green New Deal’ that was all about marijuana.” – Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle for Politico