The fate of marijuana reform in Congress comes down to three Republican senators. A look at how the feds are handling state-legal cannabis. Marijuana regulators are dubious about a company’s claim that sponsoring an oyster festival fulfilled its obligation to help communities impacted by drug enforcement. Also: How hemp is becoming the cannabis industry’s cash crop. 🌳
Cannabis in Congress.
There are more marijuana reform bills in Congress than ever before. While there is increasingly bipartisan support for the issue, three key senators could stymie any progress on cannabis reform: Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). While senator Crapo has scheduled a hearing for a marijuana banking bill, many hurdles still stand in its way, including the Senate Judiciary Committee led by senator Graham. Rolling Stone A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill aimed at accelerating medical cannabis research in the U.S. Marijuana Business Daily A Senate committee will hold a hearing on hemp production next week. Marijuana Moment
On federal drug enforcement.
Three Missouri government officials have been interviewed by the FBI as they oversee the implementation of the state’s medical marijuana program. “Each says the interviews were not investigative in nature, but were routine meet-and-greets the FBI requested to get to know the people in charge of the new — and potentially lucrative — industry.” The Kansas City Star The amount of marijuana plants seized by the DEA in 2018 declined by 17 percent from the previous year. But marijuana-related arrests increased by about 20 percent in the same time period. State-level legalization laws are generally associated with a decline in plant seizures. “It’s not clear why there was a significant uptick in marijuana-related arrests, but those increases generally did not occur in states where legal cannabis systems were recently implemented.” Marijuana Moment
VA stymieing medical cannabis research?
A researcher at the University of New Mexico wanted to study how cannabis use impacted veterans. Jacob Vigil tried to recruit veterans by putting up flyers in the state’s VA clinic. Higher-ups at the VA heard about the study and rejected his attempts to recruit veterans, telling him that his study “competes with enrollment” for the VA’s current research activities. But when reached by a reporter, the New Mexico VA said that the real reason his request was rejected was due to marijuana’s Schedule I status. “New Mexico VA did not address questions on why Vigil was given another explanation for the rejection of his request to put up flyers.” Cannabis Wire
Criminal justice reformers vs. law enforcement.
The rise of the reform-minded prosecutor across the U.S. has caused tension with law enforcement agencies. Reformer prosecutors have been elected in everywhere from Harris County, Texas, to Philadelphia in recent years. Their offices have reformed how they approach low-level crimes like marijuana possession. But the sudden changes created confusion for law enforcement, prompting police chiefs to convene a national summit meeting between law enforcement leaders and the prosecutors of 10 American cities to “hash out their differences.” The Washington Post Related: “In 25 states, police are allowed to access sealed or expunged arrests—and then profile you based on these past allegations that no judge or jury ever found you guilty of.” A lawsuit in New York hopes to challenge the practice. The Marshall Project
Social justice and marijuana in Massachusetts.
Cannabis regulators in the state deferred consideration of a license renewal by Pharmacannis, questioning the company’s compliance “with state law requiring it to have a positive impact in areas disproportionately affected by past drug laws.” The company detailed how it spent $1,000 to sponsor an oyster festival, as well as $250 each to the Wareham Historical Society and the Onset Bay Association. Two state cannabis regulators “both said they did not see how these donations helped communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana enforcement.” Mass Live State regulators granted a provisional license to a recreational marijuana dispensary in Boston — “the first granted to a member of the state’s economic empowerment program, which aims to help people from communities disproportionately harmed by pot criminalization.” The Boston Globe
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How legal weed could impact other vice industries.
A new study found that legalizing marijuana was associated with increased interest in tobacco and decreased interest in alcohol. In states with legal cannabis laws, searches for tobacco increased by 8 percent and searches for alcohol decreased by 11 percent. PhillyVoice The researchers also found that interest in cannabis among young people seemed to decline after legalization. “Contrary to widely held public concern after recreational cannabis is legalized, teenagers appear to lose interest, rather than gain interest,” said the study’s lead author. Marijuana Moment
From notorious kingpin to legal cannabis grower in one generation.
Randy Lanier was a champion racecar driver who was busted “as one of the most prolific marijuana smugglers South Florida and the country have ever seen.” He got out of prison after serving 27 years of a life sentence. Now, his daughter Brandie is making a living in Colorado’s legal cannabis industry. While former smugglers were serving lengthy prison sentences, public opinion and state policies on marijuana have shifted substantially. “Brandie Lanier is more than comfortable with her decision. Her family made a fortune with pot illegally and paid a price — her father behind bars for decades. Now, pot is paying the bills again.” Miami Herald
Today in cannabis business news…
Forget marijuana. Hemp is becoming the cannabis industry’s cash crop thanks to demand for CBD and regulatory reform around the world. Bloomberg Rapper Post Malone is partnering with Mario “Mr. Sherbinski” Guzman on a line of hemp pre-rolls. Billboard Hemp-marijuana cross pollination is a problem for cultivators. Regulators are largely behind on figure out how to manage the issue. Leafly Curaleaf spent $875 million to acquire a Chicago-based cannabis company. It’s the latest bid by a multi-state cannabis company to get in on the Illinois market. The Chicago Tribune The deal makes Curaleaf America’s largest cannabis seller. Barron’s Katie Majeski has joined Acreage Holdings as the director of brand communications. She was previously the senior manager of public relations at Saks. WWD Alfred Miranda is joining Acreage Holdings as its chief information officer. He was previously the SVP of technology for MedMen. Release
Cannabis in Canada.
Nine months into Canada’s legal marijuana market, the hospitality industry hasn’t caught up to tourist demand for legal weed experiences. Most hotels prohibit marijuana consumption, leaving travelers with few options if they want to consume cannabis. Now, some companies are starting to cater to 420-friendly tourists by offering cannabis-friendly accommodations, hikes, and tours. The Toronto Star Alberta is on track to license 200 cannabis retailers by the end of the month. Contrast this with Ontario, which is still struggling to open its 24th dispensary. Leafly
Elsewhere around the world…
A federal court in Switzerland ruled that possessing small amounts of marijuana (under 10 grams) is not a punishable offense for minors and adults alike. The ruling clears up confusion surrounding marijuana enforcement for adults vs. minors. SwissInfo A Cork man is appealing his five-month sentence for growing marijuana in Ireland. His defense attorney argued that he is on the autism spectrum and was growing cannabis to self-medicate. The judge said he would adjourn his decision in the case until November. Irish Examiner The agriculture commissioner of the US Virgin Islands is holding a medical cannabis conference on St. Croix on Saturday. The St. Croix Source
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Word on the States
- In California, an audit by the state Finance Department found that cannabis regulators are struggling with oversight. Prosecutors said a man kidnapped and tortured a medical marijuana dispensary owner for cash in opening statements for his trial. Santa Barbara capped the number of cannabis cultivators. The county is struggling with the permitting process. Morro Bay has selected two cannabis businesses for retail operations.
- In New Hampshire, the state’s new law could help many individuals with past cannabis convictions.
- In Washington, outages in the seed-to-sale tracking system have prevented B2B transactions over the past four days.
- In Oregon, marijuana regulators are seeking advisory committee members.
- In Ohio, the state House passed a bill to legalize hemp and CBD, sending it to the governor.
- In North Carolina, a House committee voted to classify smokable hemp as a controlled substance.
- In New Mexico, the health department puts non-residents’ MMJ applications on hold and could face a legal challenge over it.
- In New Jersey, some new medical marijuana rules are taking effect today.
- In Wisconsin, the Madison Rastafarian church has reopened thanks to a favorable court ruling, but won’t be offering any marijuana.
- In Illinois, Canton considers marijuana regulations after recreational legalization.
- In Missouri, the top medical marijuana regulator said most applicants in the Kansas City area won’t get a license this year.
- In Kansas, CBD products are available, but their legality remains confusing.
- In Michigan, cannabis dispensaries have a growing need for security services. Marijuana companies are staffing up.
- In New Jersey, a postal service worker was convicted in a marijuana scheme.
Word for Word
“The question is no longer if or even when we legalize marijuana nationally. The question policymakers must grapple with is: How should we legalize marijuana? From my standpoint, as the lead prosecutor in a city devastated by the war on drugs, I made clear to Democrats and Republicans that they must be thoughtful and ensure that any legislative proposal repairs the damage done by marijuana prohibition and creates opportunities for those communities most adversely impacted… we must ensure that legalization is done the right way. Impacted communities must be made whole again through automatic mass expungement, resentencing, and reinvestment. To do otherwise, would be to perpetrate the injustices of the past.” – State’s attorney for Baltimore Marilyn Mosby for Baltimore Sun