New Mexico Races to Legalize Pot by the End of February

New Mexico Races to Legalize Pot by the End of February

Original Post: Cannabis Now: New Mexico Races to Legalize Pot by the End of February

[Canniseur: Will the legislators in New Mexico get their act together and actually pass legislation that the Governor wants and the population wants? Hard to tell at this point, but a week from Friday (February 20th), we’ll know whether they can actually act on what the citizens want or will act on their own self interest.]

New Mexico is serious about being the next state to legalize cannabis. But the state has a legislative session of just 30 days in 2020, and the deadline now looms ominously.

There is a sense of déjà vu here. Last year, New Mexico came very close to legalizing marijuana. A legalization measure was approved by the state’s House, but never made it out of the Senate — despite the support of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat. As a kind of consolation prize to cannabis advocates, a decriminalization bill did pass.

After that, Lujan Grisham launched a Cannabis Legalization Working Group, with members from the public and private sectors, as well as representatives from activist groups including the Drug Policy Alliance. In October, it issued its recommendations, calling for a legalization model based on “equity and opportunity,” with low licensing fees and “micro business” licenses designed to keep proceeds within local communities.

When the session opened in January 2020, legalization bills were quickly introduced in both chambers of the statehouse. But with the finish line now just two weeks away, lawmakers are still nailing down the details.

Down to the Wire 

Most people expect, that if the bill passes, it will be a close call — including Pat Davis, the Albuquerque city councilor who headed the Working Group. He told the Albuquerque Journal last month that he expects the measure’s fate to be decided during the final days of the session, which ends on Feb. 20.

It’s somewhat predictable that most opposition is coming from Republicans. Even Albuquerque’s Sen. Mark Moores, one of three Republican senators who last year joined with Democratic colleagues on a legalization bill, is now balking at the idea of cannabis legalization. One issue is that last year’s proposal would have allowed sale only through state-run stores. The new measure follows the recommendations of the Working Group for a more decentralized system based on small private operators.

On Jan. 28, the Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 4-3 along party lines to advance Senate Bill 115, the Cannabis Regulation Act, which would legalize personal use for those 21 years and older. It has yet to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee or the Finance Committee — where last year’s version died.

The bill calls for a 9% tax on cannabis sales. And, as the Santa Fe New Mexican notes, it has plenty of elements designed to appease conservative sentiment. It requires law enforcement agencies to compile an annual report on the number of arrests, citations and other violations connected to those using cannabis. It mandates “cannabis education programs” for middle and high school students, and funding of additional substance abuse treatment programs. In what will certainly be a controversial move, it calls for police to devise an “oral fluid test” to determine if motorists are driving under the influence.

Beyond compromises that may end up not pleasing either side, however, there is also a degree of sheer confusion in the proposed legislation.

‘Haze of Unknowns’ 

A Feb. 5 editorial in the Albuquerque Journal was unable to resist the smart-alecky headline “Haze of unknowns clouds legislation on recreational cannabis.” But after you get past the puns, it noted some of the confusion around SB 115 and its counterpart House Bill 160.

For one thing, the “timelines don’t track.” Under the proposed legislation, existing cannabis retailers operating under the state’s medical marijuana program (in place since 2007) will be able to start adult-market sales on Jan. 1, 2021. But that’s also the deadline for the regulations overseeing the market to be issued — meaning those retailers be “forced to comply on the fly.”

Complicating it further, those regs are for seed-to-sale tracking, quality control and the like. But the mandatory server training rules don’t even have to be drawn up until April 1, 2021 — leaving retailers unregulated for three months.

And while customers have to be 21, the servers can be 18. The Journal asks: “How does that make any sense?”

Then there’s the strange contradiction that “recreational” buyers will be able to get more product than medical patients. Current law limits medical users to eight ounces every 90 days, though recreational users will be able to buy two ounces per transaction. Retailers will supposedly be required to reserve enough product for the state’s 80,000-plus medical users, but there are concerns about shortages — especially because there will be no increase in the number of plants commercial growers are allowed.

The closing assessment of the Journal’s editorial may prove accurate: “There are simply too many unanswered questions, too many contradictions and too hard of a push to get recreational cannabis through in a short 30-day budget session.”

It is clear that lawmakers in Santa Fe are going to have to work fast if they are to avoid a repeat of last year’s narrow defeat for legal cannabis in the Land of Enchantment.

New Mexico Races to Legalize Pot by the End of February was posted on Cannabis Now.

Could Medical Caregivers Help Avoid a Cannabis Shortage in Michigan?

Could Medical Caregivers Help Avoid a Cannabis Shortage in Michigan?

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Could Medical Caregivers Help Avoid a Cannabis Shortage in Michigan?

[Canniseur: The regulators in the state of Michigan are still sticking their collective heads in some very dark and dank places. It might seem from the outside that ‘regulators’ are thwarting an open market. Open as in, the normal economics of a market would govern supply. The reality is, this more about the lack of knowledge and experience. They need to look at the alcoholic beverage industry as a model for cannabis industry.]

The adult-use cannabis market in Michigan officially opened for business this morning, Dec. 1.

A year has come and gone since Michigan voters passed Proposal 1, making the Wolverine State the tenth in the nation to legalize adult-use cannabis. Just 10 days after the law was verified, it became legal for adults in Michigan to possess 2.5 ounces of cannabis in public and 10 ounces at home. However, it has taken a year to get a licensed retail distribution system ready to go — and just barely, at that.

The only places selling cannabis to adults today in Michigan are medical marijuana dispensaries who have been approved for recreational sales. In fact, only three Michigan dispensaries are licensed to sell pot to adults today, according to the Detroit Metro Times, and they’re all in Ann Arbor. These dispensaries are now going to be able to sell products that have sat for 30 days or more on their medical shelves to any person over 21 years of age.

This strategy has an obvious dilemma: there will likely be big supply shortages in the adult-use cannabis industry. It’s ramping up to be a less than spectacular start.

But there’s a group of people who could solve the problem. They are legally growing more cannabis than they need, and until recently, Michigan let them sell to dispensaries.

The Plight of Medical Cannabis Caregivers in Michigan

Read the rest of the story here:

Could Medical Caregivers Help Avoid a Cannabis Shortage in Michigan? was posted on Cannabis Now.

Is ‘Smokable Hemp’ Legal?

Is ‘Smokable Hemp’ Legal?

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Is ‘Smokable Hemp’ Legal?

[Canniseur: This is a conundrum. The real question is; “Is cannabis sativa really cannabis sativa”? The answer should be obvious, but it’s not. The federal government needs to pull its collective head out its collective nether region and figure out a way to either de-schedule cannabis entirely or move it to at least Schedule 3. It should just be removed. It’s starting to get silly and this article shows why. Attorneys will have a field day.]

When the federal Farm Bill passed last December, it’s doubtful that its crafters — like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — anticipated what we are now witnessing. In convenience stores, smoke shops and truck stops across the country, what is to all outward appearance marijuana bud is freely and openly for sale. To the eyes as well as the nose, this stuff is marijuana: fragrant flower-tops, sticky with resin. There’s only one real difference: it doesn’t get you high.

While it may be rich in the non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD, it contains less than 0.3% THC — not nearly enough to feel high. This makes it “hemp” under the law — and, its purveyors insist, therefore perfectly legal.

And so far, the courts agree with them.

Read the rest of this story on Cannabis Now

Is ‘Smokable Hemp’ Legal? was posted on Cannabis Now.

Advocates Push Workers’ Right to Cannabis Use

Advocates Push Workers’ Right to Cannabis Use

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Advocates Push Workers’ Right to Cannabis Use

[Canniseur: The courts are finally starting to turn around on the question of workers rights within legal medical or adult-use cannabis. 15 States have made progress, while California, Michigan, Oregon, or Washington do not have protections in place.]

Advocates increasingly assert that cannabis legalization is not fully realized unless workers are guaranteed their right employment even if they partake of the herb off-hours. Some states are finally taking measures to rein in the use of urine test results as an excuse to fire or turn down job applicants.

If you use cannabis on your own time in a state where it is legal, should that be grounds for terminating your employment or rejecting your application for a job? Advocates are starting to say no, and demanding action to protest workers’ rights to use cannabis without the fear of the sack and unemployment.

Some states have already made progress in this direction. Yet California, which led the way toward opening legal space for cannabis with the Propositio 215 medical marijuana initiative in 1996, is not among them. Neither 215 nor the Prop 64 adult-use legalization initiative exactly 20 years later provided any such protections.

California Out of the Vanguard

California’s Supreme Court actually ruled on the question in 2008, finding that Prop 215 does not protect workers’ rights. The high court dismissed a suit brought by Gary Ross, an Air Force veteran who suffered from a back injury sustained during his military service. Ross sued under the state’s Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA), charging that he had been wrongfully denied employment by RagingWire Telecommunications after testing positive for cannabis use. The court found that 215 did not create a general right to use medical marijuana, but only protected patients from criminal prosecution.

Later that year, the State Legislature passed a law to correct this situation, making it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers in non-safety-sensitive jobs for using medical marijuana. However, it was vetoed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has launched a campaign to instate employment protections for cannabis users.

Progress in 15 States 

Fortunately, things are looking a little better elsewhere in the United States. Fifteen states have passed laws making it illegal for an employer to discriminate against either an employee or job applicant who uses medical marijuana as permitted by state law. These states are Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

In June, Nevada became the first state to actually ban pre-employment cannabis testing altogether — for workers not in public safety positions, an inevitable exception. The law was signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak and will take effect next year. 

In Maine, which voted to legalize adult-use cannabis in the same 2016 elections that California and Nevada did, employers are not allowed to discriminate based on cannabis use. This was written into the text of the Pine Tree State’s 2002 medical marijuana law. However, there are no laws that directly address drug testing. 

The New York City Council also passed a measure this April that bars employers from requiring job applicants to pass a cannabis screening test as a condition of employment. 

There is likewise a sense of the tide turning on the judicial front. After years of upholding employee firings for use of cannabis even under state medical marijuana programs, the courts are finally starting to turn around on the question. The rights of Massachusetts medical patients were upheld in state court last year, as were those of patients in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

In February of this year, another such victory was reported from Arizona — this time in the federal courts. Carol Whitmire, a former Arizona Walmart employee and card-holding medical marijuana patient who was fired after testing positive for cannabis, won a wrongful termination suit in the U.S. district court in Phoenix. 

A remedy from Capitol Hill may also be in the works. Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives this year would protect the jobs of federal employees who use cannabis in states where their use is currently legal. The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act would prohibit cannabis drug-testing “from being used as the sole factor to deny or terminate federal employment for civilian positions at executive branch agencies if the individual is in compliance with the marijuana laws in their state of residence.”

And the Golden State, which has long been at the forefront of expanding freedom for cannabis users, may soon be catching up with Nevada, its supposedly more conservative neighbor to the east. California NORML asserts: “Employment drug testing has been shown in federal studies not to improve worker safety, but it’s a great way to discriminate against cannabis consumers. We hope to sponsor a bill that will truly make marijuana legal for all adults and educate unions and employers about the needlessness of drug testing.”

Advocates Push Workers’ Right to Cannabis Use was posted on Cannabis Now.

South Dakota Tribe Sues USDA Over Right to Grow Hemp

South Dakota Tribe Sues USDA Over Right to Grow Hemp

Original Post: Cannabis Now: South Dakota Tribe Sues USDA Over Right to Grow Hemp

[Canniseur: USDA is foot-dragging! It sure seems like all Federal departments are in chaos, which is a logical outcome from having a president that thrives on chaos and lies. Get it together, it’s hemp!]

One Native American tribe heads to court to demand the right to cultivate low-THC cannabis and to force the USDA to live up to its regulatory responsibilities under the 2018 Farm Bill.

The federal bureaucracy hasn’t yet caught up with the law where hemp cultivation and commerce are concerned — leaving a lot of would-be entrepreneurs and enterprises in the lurch.

Legislation is now pending on Capitol Hill that calls upon the Food & Drug Administration to finally regulate CBD products, addressing a dilemma that has been outstanding since hemp-derived CBD was legalized under last year’s Farm Bill. The failure of the FDA to create regulations for CBD as a food additive or drug means many such products actually remain illegal — despite the clear will of Congress.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also failed to bring its regulations into conformity with the Farm Bill. The USDA in late May issued a memo establishing protocols for interstate commerce in hemp. But it has still failed to provide any legal clarity on the question of hemp cultivation, including on Native American tribal lands. 

Given the unique jurisdictional status of such lands, it is the USDA that has the authority to permit and oversee such cultivation. Its failure to issue regulations on the matter is another legal hindrance to Native American cannabis cultivation.

Now the USDA is under pressure from litigation. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe has launched suit in a South Dakota federal district court, seeking to force the USDA to approve its plan to regulate hemp production on tribal lands — or get out of the way. 

Bureaucracy Bottlenecks Tribal Sovereignty 

Under provisions of the Farm Bill, states must submit their plans for hemp cultivation to the USDA for approval before planting can begin. For South Dakota, this doesn’t really matter anyway, as Gov. Kristi Noem in March vetoed a bill that would have allowed hemp cultivation in the state. The good news is that since Indian reservations are considered sovereign entities under federal law (just like states), they may apply separately to cultivate even if the state they are situated in doesn’t allow it.

The bad news is that the USDA hasn’t issued its own regulations for approval of such plans, meaning everything is at a standstill.

According to the Farm Bill, both state and tribal hemp plans must be approved by USDA within 60 days of being submitted. The USDA received the Santee Sioux plan back on March 8, and the tribe made clear that it had already invested money in anticipation of planting a hemp crop in 2019. The tribe says the USDA’s inaction on the plan places it at jeopardy of losing a revenue source it counted on.

“A delay in approval of the tribal plan and unlawfully withholding tribal authority curtails receipt of the tribal revenue from hemp production at grave cost to tribal members, putting tribal members’ health, safety, and welfare at risk,” the lawsuit states, according to the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls. 

Instead of approval, the tribe received a letter dated April 24 from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, saying that no plans would be approved until the USDA established regulations to oversee hemp cultivation and that these regs are not expected to be completed until this fall.

On June 6, the case was dealt a setback when Judge Karen Schreier in Sioux Falls denied the tribe’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have allowed cultivation to commence. The Santee Sioux must now wait until the case is resolved or until the USDA approves the tribe’s production plan, Sioux Falls’ KSFY reported. 

The court concluded that the Farm Bill “provides exclusive authority to the Secretary to issue rules and regulations” relating to hemp. The court continued: “A harmonious reading of the statute lends to the likelihood that the 60-day window to approve or deny a plan does not begin until regulations are promulgated by the USDA.”

The USDA on June 24 had a series of “summary descriptions” of pending regulations published in the Federal Register. Among these was “Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program.” It noted: “This action is required to implement provisions of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill).” The timetable for this regulation indicated that an “Interim Final Rule” would be ready by August — too late in the year for the Santee Sioux to plant a hemp crop. 

First Crop Was Burned — And Not the Good Way

The Flandreau Santee Sioux voted to legalize cultivation and use of cannabis on their tribal lands in June 2015. Later that year, tribal leaders announced plans for the addition of a cannabis-themed resort to the reservation’s successful casino. Marijuana grown on the rez was to be available in a new nightclub and “smoking lounge.” Plans for “social consumption” of cannabis were being pioneered by the Santee Sioux before various states and municipalities around the country started pursuing the idea. “We want it to be an adult playground,” tribal president Anthony Reider told the Associated Press at the time.

But that November, the Tribal Council voted to temporarily suspend their marijuana operation. Immediately after the vote, the tribe’s first cannabis crop was burned in the fields. 

The decision was taken after South Dakota officials, including then-Attorney General Marty Jackley, warned that legalization on the reservation would only be seen as applying to tribal members. Therefore, non-tribal members using cannabis on the reservation risked prosecution under state law. Rather than risk a confrontation with state authorities, the tribe agreed to suspend the project. 

However, the move was explicitly seen as a tactical retreat. Tribal attorney Seth C. Pearman said in a statement, published by Indian Country Today: “After government-to-government consultation with the United States, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is temporarily suspending its marijuana cultivation and distribution facilities. This suspension is pivotal to the continued success of the marijuana venture… The Tribe will continue to consult with the federal and state governments and hopes to be granted parity with states that have legalized marijuana. The Tribe intends to successfully participate in the marijuana industry, and Tribal leadership is undaunted by this brief sidestep.”

After this setback, hopes were revived for reservation hemp cultivation after the passage of the Farm Bill last December — only to be met with frustration yet again, this time by USDA foot-dragging. 

The Santee Sioux are certainly owed a little bit of long-delayed justice from Uncle Sam. Their history is the all-too-familiar one of expropriation of their traditional lands, followed by forced relocation.

The Santee Sioux briefly made news in December 2012, when tribal members made a horseback pilgrimage to Mankato, Minnesota. The cross-country ride was made to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1862 mass public hanging there of 38 Dakota Sioux men, for crimes allegedly committed in that year’s U.S.-Dakota War, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The execution order was personally signed by President Abraham Lincoln. After the war, the Dakota were pushed west from their Minnesota homeland and became known as the Santee Sioux. They settled at Flandreau, and a second Santee Sioux Reservation in Nebraska.

TELL US, who do you think should be in charge of regulating hemp production? 

The post South Dakota Tribe Sues USDA Over Right to Grow Hemp appeared first on Cannabis Now.

South Dakota Tribe Sues USDA Over Right to Grow Hemp was posted on Cannabis Now.

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