The Marijuana Justice Act Is Back In 2019 to Deschedule Cannabis

The Marijuana Justice Act Is Back In 2019 to Deschedule Cannabis

[Editor’s Note: If this were to pass, it would end cannabis prohibition and essentially make it legal, the same as alcohol. The states deal with alcohol how they choose based on the language of the 21st Amendment. Let’s see this happen.]

The Marijuana Justice Act is back. On Feb. 28, the bill’s authors reintroduced the bill, which made headlines last year for its plan to end cannabis prohibition federally and let states choose their own path for regulating the plant.

The previous congressional effort to pass the Marijuana Justice Act was led by Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, along with California Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna. Last year, the three were able to pull together solid support, with 43 cosponsors in the House and six in the Senate. Roughly 10 percent of Congress was on board last time around between the two houses.

As with its last iteration, the Marijuana Justice Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances List, where it currently sits among the most dangerous substances the U.S. is trying to keep under control and off the streets. Also, the bill would end federal crimes around the possession, cultivation, manufacture, import and export of cannabis and provide a pathway for expungement for people already charged.

The trio of the elected officials took to Facebook Thursday morning to make the announcement on the new bill. Khanna took the lead on the chat, giving his peers credit for leading the fight over the past few years.

“This is an issue about racial justice,” said Khanna. “Because the reality is many folks who come from more privileged backgrounds, if they try marijuana in high school or college their lives aren’t ruined.”

Khanna went on to note that, in less affluent communities, these rules simply don’t apply, especially in communities of color. Khanna said one of his favorite parts of the bill was added by Booker to expunge the records of those weighed down in life by the simplest personal possession offenses.

“What really ticks me off and it gets me really angry is when I hear people talking ‘adult use, adult use, adult use,’ but don’t in the same breath talk about undoing the damage of an unjust system,” said Booker, before noting the disparity in arrest rates was not mirrored by use statistics between white and black people, who smoke and sell pot at the same rates. Black people, however, are four times as likely to be convicted of a pot crime, he said.

The bill pushes for a restorative justice approach to cannabis legalization, in an attempt to create a federal cannabis industry that can lift up the communities that have been pushed down by the War on Drugs. The bill would create a fund to push money into job training and social services for impacted communities.

Booker is currently running for president, and many of his fellow 2020 Democratic candidates signed on as co-sponsors for the bill, including Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The advocates at NORML celebrate their 50th birthday next year, after all that time, they say that the Marijuana Justice Act is exactly the kind of law they’ve been pushing for.

“The Marijuana Justice Act is the most comprehensive piece of federal legislation ever introduced to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and to address the egregious harms that this policy has wrought on already marginalized communities,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in a statement on the bill. “This robust legislation not only removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, but it also provides a path forward for the individuals and communities that have been most disproportionately impacted by our nation’s failed war on marijuana consumers.”

The National Cannabis Industry Association’s Executive Director Aaron Smith commented on those aspects of the legislation in a statement released not long after the bill was reintroduced.

“We cannot talk about making cannabis legal without considering how to undo the harms caused by years of prohibition,” said Smith.

“As more and more states move to regulate cannabis, it is completely unfair to continue saddling people with the lifelong negative effects that come with a criminal record, nor should a past arrest be a barrier to taking part in the burgeoning cannabis industry,” Smith said.

Smith said while much more work needs to be done at the state and federal level, “the Marijuana Justice Act sets an excellent example for others to follow, and will make it much easier for states to make necessary reforms to address this injustice and maximize the opportunities created by a legal cannabis market.”

The Marijuana Justice Act Is Back In 2019 to Deschedule Cannabis was posted on Cannabis Now.

California to Send National Guard to Raid Pot Farms

California to Send National Guard to Raid Pot Farms

[Editor’s Note: Contraband markets take a long time to dry up. Good legislation is needed to make it more profitable for the illegal growers to become legal growers. It’s that simple.]

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this week he would be sending the state’s National Guard north to assist in the battle against unlicensed growers.

The move comes as Newsom begins his biggest skirmish with the Trump administration yet. On Monday, Newsom announced that he had signed a general order that rescinded his previous authorization for the National Guard to work at the California-Mexico border, a job typically reserved for federal personnel.

Newsom didn’t just take California’s National Guard from the border, he also said he would redeploy them. The first batch of 110 troops will go to support CalFire’s fire prevention efforts, in the hope that stronger efforts to clear brush will mean that there is not a repeat of the last two devastating fire seasons in California. Another 100 troops will conduct counternarcotics search-and-seizure operations in Northern California, targeting traffickers who use legal points of entry to smuggle their wares, as those legal points of entry represent where the bulk of illegal narcotics enter the United States.

But the third mission Newsom said he would send the National Guard on is the one that raised the most eyebrows in cannabis circles.

“Another third will boost the National Guard’s statewide Counterdrug Task Force by redeploying up north to go after illegal cannabis farms, many of which are run by cartels,” Newsom said in the State of the State address on Feb. 12. He said these illegal cannabis farms “are devastating our pristine forests, and are increasingly becoming fire hazards themselves.”

His general order announcement the day before his State of the State address had only alluded to the fact 150 troops would be expanding the California National Guard’s statewide Counterdrug Task Force, but during the speech he let us know exactly what they would be up to. Newsom also plans on making the federal government pay for the 150 troops transitioning from the border.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, Newsom noted the returns California has seen from the task force with limited federal funding. With only $27 million in funding during 2018, the task force was able to seize $2.2 billion in drugs. Since 2018, the task force has seized 71,488 pounds of marijuana.

During that same period, California’s National Guard seized 2,600 pounds of meth, 19 pounds of heroin and 47 pounds of cocaine. You could take everything the troops seized that wasn’t weed and fit it into one U-Haul truck for sure, so it’s a safe bet that any resources directed towards drug policing will mostly be targeting illegal marijuana.

The murkiest question that remains for California’s cannabis industry is what enforcement will look like going forward. The governor claims that the cartels are responsible for unlicensed marijuana production, but one would presume that their bottom line has been decimated just like the mom-and-pop growers of The Emerald Triangle since California’s legalization changed the dynamic of the state’s market. If the cartels don’t think it’s worth it anymore, who is left to go after?

The Balancing Act of Cannabis Enforcement

We reached out to the California Cannabis Industry Association to get their take on the new enforcement effort from Sacramento, and the balance between protecting their members’ interest and recriminalizing marijuana.

“Enforcement is a very nuanced concept,” CCIA Communication and Outreach Director Josh Drayton told Cannabis Now. “In no way shape or form do we want to support any enforcement program that mirrors the failed War on Drugs that targeted and prosecuted black and brown members of our communities… nor do we want to enforce on operators that are trying to come into compliance and are working to have a place in the regulated market. With that being said, we have to address the operators that have no intention of becoming regulated and choose to operate illegally.”

Drayton lived in Humboldt for over a decade, and during that time he says he saw the good and the bad of the industry.

On the good side, Drayton cites “mom-and-pop back-to-land growers who respect the treatment of their land,” in contrast with the “large scale cultivators that clear cut mountain tops, divert[ing] water from the rivers during droughts and dump[ing] toxins and pesticides in the rivers, killing fish and wildlife.”

He also noted as much as the concept of cannabis cartels may seem far-fetched, the state of California has a long history of large-scale cartel grows on public lands and throughout our national forests.

“California has a legacy cannabis industry that goes back decades, and bringing a pre-existing industry into the regulated market will be a long process,” said Drayton. “Many cannabis operators continue to face barriers to entry into this regulated market, and we must work with local municipalities to begin regulating operators, incentivizing operators to come above ground, and then equitably enforce upon those that have no intention of doing so.”

The folks at NORML also noted just because there is some form of enforcement, that doesn’t necessarily mean throwing the progress of legalization in the shredder.

“There is not necessarily an inherent contradiction between supporting legalization, while allowing for some enforcement action against illegal large-scale growing operations, assuming those being targeted are truly tied to cartels or other criminal elements and not just small personal cultivators,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri told Cannabis Now.

Altieri believes this will probably do little to address the problem.

“California has been exporting marijuana to other states for as long as marijuana consumption has been around in the United States and as long it remains federally prohibited and illegal in many states, the demand for this type of exportation will likely continue,” Altieri said. “To truly address the issue of black market cannabis operations, Congress must act to end federal marijuana prohibition once and for all and the remaining states with policies of criminalization must move towards legalization and regulation.”

This all follows the news from two weeks ago, when the Bureau of Cannabis Control and the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation-Cannabis Enforcement Unit announced enforcement actions on two unlicensed cannabis businesses operating in Sacramento County and Los Angeles. In Sacramento, they seized over $250,000 in products. In Los Angeles, six people were taken into custody.

California to Send National Guard to Raid Pot Farms was posted on Cannabis Now.

Survey Says Consumers Are Expecting Amazon-Branded Cannabis

Survey Says Consumers Are Expecting Amazon-Branded Cannabis

[Editor’s Note: A very funny, yet serious look at what consumers are expecting of Amazon. There’s a lot to the logistics of selling cannabis through the world’s largest retailer, online or offline.]

A new survey of Amazon shoppers found they were ready for Amazon-branded marijuana products, with many even expecting the tech giant wasn’t far off from joining the cannabis industry.

The data comes from an survey of over 1,000 Amazon customers, where 29.5 percent said that they would feel comfortable purchasing marijuana from an Amazon brand. And in an even more unexpected glimpse into consumer expectations, cannabis was also among the top five items that consumers hypothetically anticipated being able to purchase on Amazon in the not-too-distant future.

MarketWatch noted Amazon is, in fact, a big player in the private label businesses, with baby products from Mama Bear, women’s fashion brand Lark & Ro, and over 100 more brands that are increasingly dominating different industries.

But would a company that just hit a trillion dollar valuation, one that has a CEO worth a couple times more than the cannabis industry has ever been valued at, mess with the regulatory debacle that is legal marijuana in the United States?

For one, Amazon is known for buying a ton of white label stuff for your kitchen and throwing their logo on it, and cannabis could be thought of as a very profitable kitchen ingredient. The entire cookware industry was only worth $17 billion in 2017, while some folks have put the cannabis industry’s potential at as high as $57 billion— or as we call it .41 Bezoses — by 2027. Is it crazy to think Amazon could just buy up a couple of farms or start its own distribution company in California, waiting for federal law to catch up? Just being able to deliver to the largest marijuana market in the world would help cover a lot of the costs to come.

According to a recent report from California delivery platform Eaze on last year’s trends, Californians were placing an order to get marijuana delivered to their home every 8 seconds. Add to the report’s revelation that first-time buyers increased in 2018 by 140 percent (many of them already likely Amazon customers) and you’re looking at decent positioning right off the bat. But how would the behemoth company do it?

What’s Keeping Amazon Out of Cannabis — For Now?

We reached out to the National Cannabis Industry Association to get their take on what barriers might be keeping Amazon out of the cannabis industry at the moment. NCIA Media Director Morgan Fox told us it looks like Amazon would need specific federal legislation permitting interstate commerce, or in lieu of that, legislation that completely removes any federal criminal laws pertaining to cannabis.

On top of federal law, the company would have to be in compliance with all applicable state laws, and could possibly run into the issue of individual states impeding or outlawing transport of cannabis products within their jurisdiction, which would make shipment more difficult. Also, the company would need the majority of states to allow delivery services and make sure that it was impossible for people in states that do not allow it to be able to order from their system.

“It strikes me that Amazon would have to drastically change its fulfillment infrastructure to accommodate consumers and stay in compliance with all state laws,” Fox told Cannabis Now.

Despite all those hoops, Fox said there were plenty of positives to take away from the survey that didn’t involve having to worry about a massive corporate takeover of the cannabis industry.

“I think that the fact that a third of [surveyed] Amazon customers would be comfortable ordering cannabis from them is indicative of how much the stigma around cannabis consumption has eroded, and how much the cannabis market has evolved in just a short time,” said Fox. “This level of public acceptance was unheard of 10 years ago.”

One of the craziest things about this whole conversation is the fact that consumers are asking these sort of questions while Americans continue to serve time behind bars for cannabis offenses. We reached out to cannabis advocate Mason Tvert, who led the effort to legalize marijuana in Colorado. We asked Tvert how these conversations can still coexist with the progress marijuana law reformers have made over the last decade.

“There really are two Americas when it comes to cannabis,” Tvert told Cannabis Now. “One is living in fear of being arrested for simple possession. The other is living in fear of their local marijuana store running out of their favorite strain.”

Tvert says the dichotomy occurs because cannabis policy changes are taking place primarily at the state level, and different states are at different stages in their evolution on the issue.

“This gap is closing, though, and it will continue to do so, faster and faster, as the country moves closer to ending prohibition at the federal level,” said Tvert.

TELL US, would you purchase corporate cannabis from Amazon?

Survey Says Consumers Are Expecting Amazon-Branded Cannabis was posted on Cannabis Now.

West Hollywood Is Set to Double the Number of Pot Lounges in the U.S.

West Hollywood Is Set to Double the Number of Pot Lounges in the U.S.

[Editor’s Note: It’s exciting to watch the legal adult-use cannabis mature and take shape. West Hollywood will become an even trendier vacation spot.]

West Hollywood is slated to double the number of licensed cannabis smoking lounges in the U.S. in 2019, all thanks to a recent flurry of recently approved application proposals.

Though public spaces where customers can legally consume marijuana are still a rarity in the United States, a recent spate of cannabis license approvals in West Hollywood, California will drastically increase the number of pot lounges open nationwide.

While San Francisco, Denver and Oakland, California together have about a dozen permitted cannabis smoking lounges open today, this December, the city of West Hollywood approved licenses for 16 consumption-friendly facilities. Eight of these venues will be edible-only, while the other half will allow smoking, vaping and edibles. The city also approved licenses for 24 other cannabis storefronts, including medical dispensaries, adult-use retail stores and delivery services.

Applications Reviewed, Licenses Awarded

The momentum for these approvals has been building at the municipal level since late 2017, when the West Hollywood city council originally set the plan in motion. At the time, they called for a merit-based selection program in which applicants were asked about what made their model “innovative,” as well as “their connection to West Hollywood, proposed operations, social equity and product offerings,” according to a statement from the city announcing the top scoring license applicants. Prospective licensees filed their answers in the spring. The city even went as far as scoring the applicants’ plans for interior and exterior design concepts, along with the more obvious criteria like a security plan and the amount of experience the team has. WeHo’s city manager picked a five-person team to review the 300 applications, filed by 120 different applicants.

“We were truly impressed by the quality and caliber of the applications that the city received,” the official report noted in December. “Many of the proposed businesses were unique, innovative and world class. We also want to say how excited we are to soon have consumption lounges in the city, many of the top concepts will be the first of their kind in the country, if not the world.”

Flore West Hollywood — set to allow vaping, smoking and edibles — was the top-scoring consumption site. According to a deck from WeHo, Flore intends to apply the farm-to-table model to food and flower and will feature an outdoor patio, lined with Spanish and Moroccan tiles, as well as a fountain and a photographic trip through the history of cannabis and West Hollywood. Their tableside “Flower Service” will be accompanied by a seasonal menu of dining options, and customers will be able to order their food “virgin” or with up to 10 mgs of THC.

A Victory for Destigmatization

Over recent years, particularly as California has been writing its new adult-use cannabis regulations, California NORML has been working to give consumers access to safe consumption sites.

“We’re glad to see consumption rooms opening as part of the move towards freedom and legalization. The positive socialization aspect of cannabis use is long-established and forcing people to consume only in their homes (if permitted) separates people unnecessarily,” Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML, told Cannabis Now.

She went on to explain how these types of facilities are an important part of where she sets the bar for legalization. “It’s not legal enough to me until people can use cannabis in the way they might go into a bar to socialize and consume,” said Komp.

But in advance of the green light for consumption lounges, California NORML is also advocating for the usage of human performance-testing apps like MyCanary so that people can test their potential impairment level before getting on the road after consuming cannabis.

“We are concerned about consumption rooms for edibles, since the effect of those can impact someone hours after consuming,” said Komp. “We advocate for low-dose edibles in such circumstances, and for public health warnings about the lag time between consumption and effect, as well as facilitating alternate transportation option like Uber, buses or trains.”

Hopefully, those running WeHo’s new consumption lounges take heed.

West Hollywood Is Set to Double the Number of Pot Lounges in the U.S. was posted on Cannabis Now.

Will Marijuana Be Legal in New York in Time for Woodstock 50?

Will Marijuana Be Legal in New York in Time for Woodstock 50?

[Editor’s Note: Woodstock is the iconic stoner party. One can be sure the sweet aromatic scent will be omnipresent. But will it be legal, that’s the question.]

Organizers just announced that the 50th-anniversary edition of Woodstock will be held this August in New York. Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo is promising that cannabis legalization is imminent. Which will happen first?

Times are changing quickly in New York. New York City was once one of the most prolific places on the planet when it came to arresting people for marijuana, especially minorities, but today it’s riding the wave of cannabis decriminalization and political momentum is building behind cannabis legalization. Up state in Albany, everybody is watching the clock and waiting for it to strike weednight, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised that reform is right around the corner.

As the New York Times notes, Cuomo made his intents for legal marijuana clear last month. In fact, he said he stated it was one of his priorities for the first 100 days of his new term. This timeline is particularly interesting in the context of a new announcement: A 50th-anniversary Woodstock festival will take place in upstate New York this summer.

That means if we’re going by the governor’s perspective plan, Cuomo could be signing cannabis legalization legislation within three months and well before Woodstock 50.

The question is not whether or not Woodstock attendees could stop at the weed shop on their way to Woodstock this summer. It will likely take year or more for the regulated marketplace in New York to open up. As we have seen in the past, as legalization travels from state to state, regulators take years to figure out how to set up a system for people to sell and grow cannabis, and then count the tax money.

The question is really whether or not it would be legal for Woodstock attendees to have the possibility of possessing cannabis by August. It doesn’t seem that crazy.

We reached out to the nation’s oldest marijuana reform organization, NORML, to get their take on the prospects for New York. NORML was founded only a year after the original Woodstock in 1969.

“It is certainly not impossible that marijuana will be legal to possess in New York in time for Woodstock 50,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri told Cannabis Now. “Only time will tell.”

Altieri said that he is hopeful that the timelines put forth by Cuomo become a reality.

“It is dependent on state lawmakers and Gov. Cuomo putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to turning their recent pro-legalization rhetoric into a reality,” said Altieri. “They need to make this legislation a top priority and treat it with the seriousness it deserves before the state spends another year arresting tens of thousands of its otherwise law-abiding residents.”

In the end, Altieri doesn’t believe politicians will have too much to do with whether there will be a lot of pot at Woodstock.

“No matter the state of legalization in New York come August, something tells me that marijuana will just be at home at Woodstock in 2019 as it was in 1969,” he said.

Despite all this, the Woodstock brand is already way ahead of the curve on cannabis. Last August, Woodstock Ventures LC and its affiliate The Woodstock Cannabis Company granted cannabis company MedMen the rights to use the iconic Woodstock brand on cannabis products manufactured and sold in six states: California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois and Arizona.

“We’ve been looking for the right partner — one with our values and our quality standards. When we were introduced to MedMen, we knew that our search was over,” said Michael Lang and Joel Rosenman, co-producers of the 1969 Woodstock Festival and all Woodstock reunion festivals. “They are tireless innovators of new products who never lose sight of the number one focus for both of our companies — quality.”

Lang told Rolling Stone he’ll be booking the festival himself this year to help bring back the original peace and love vibe which we may now need more than ever.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Press Office did not respond to whether weed will be legal by Woodstock50.

Will Marijuana Be Legal in New York in Time for Woodstock 50? was posted on Cannabis Now.

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