[Editor’s Note: Excellent news coming out of U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s been several years in the making, but relief is now near.]
Medical cannabis was legalized in another U.S. territory on Thursday after the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands signed a long-awaited bill into law, the legislation’s sponsor told Marijuana Moment.
The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act allows qualified patients to obtain, possess and consume marijuana for therapeutic purposes. It also establishes legal dispensaries and facilities to cultivate, test and manufacture cannabis products.
“After such a prolonged beating, I don’t know how to feel, except relieved for the people who will finally have access to healthy, effective, and affordable medicinal cannabis,” Senator Terrence “Positive” Nelson, who for several legislative sessions in a row has sponsored medical marijuana bills that were ultimately defeated, said in a text message.
“I feel redeemed and excited that the effort went from ‘laughable’ to law!”
Patients suffering from a list of serious medical conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain will be able to receive a recommendation for medical marijuana from a licensed medical practitioner. Qualifying residents can possess up to four ounces of cannabis at a time and possession for non-residents will be capped at three ounces.
Newly sworn-in Gov. Albert Bryan Jt. (D) signed the legislation about a month after it passed in the Senate.
In an interview with The St. Thomas Source last year, Bryan said he supports legalizing medical cannabis “based on the proven health benefits in the relief of pain and treatment of symptoms for many serious ailments including cancer.”
“I believe a properly regulated medicinal cannabis industry can provide relief to those seeking alternatives to conventional medicine and can also be an economic driver attracting new revenues for the Virgin Islands,” he said.
Revenue from the territory’s medical cannabis program will be used to fund drug rehabilitation, tourism projects, agriculture investments, work training and infrastructure.
While reform efforts in mainland U.S. have been receiving significant attention, advocates are also scoring wins in various U.S. territories. For example, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands fully legalized cannabis last year, before even implementing a medical cannabis system.
“I am ready to assist with the establishment of rules and regulations which will be the next step,” Nelson said. “However, each jurisdiction cannot be satisfied with our own success in getting local law changed, but must continue the charge until there are changes to federal government law.”
“This is just another small victory on the rugged road to full legalization.”
Read the full text of the Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act below:
Photo element courtesy of Wikimedia.
Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Medical Marijuana In The U.S. Virgin Islands was posted on Marijuana Moment.
[Editor’s Note: This aspirational bill (HB 420!) is a view into the new congress looking to shake things up. It’s also bipartisan!]
Pro-marijuana bills introduced to congress used to be largely symbolic — now they have a chance to actually reach the floor of the House and come to a vote
Even with the government shutdown that’s been ominously hovering over Washington these past three weeks, there’s still a fresh Congress in town. That means the nation’s 535 lawmakers are in the first stages of trying to get their favored pet issues on the radar of party leaders. That focused energy and flowery optimism that marks the start of any new Congress is different this year for marijuana proponents, because this time around they believe they can actually pass some sweeping cannabis reforms.
At this time two years ago, while then-Speaker Paul Ryan was adamantly keeping any marijuana amendment from ever getting to the House floor, the rollout of most any marijuana bill was basically all symbolism.
Today’s a new day in the swamp, and supportive lawmakers are coming out of the gates swinging, signaling to marijuana supporters across the nation that this time around what was formerly just viewed as rhetoric now has a strong chance of becoming reality.
That’s why the founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), is excited — giddy, even — in this new year. He dropped the third purely marijuana-focused bill in the 116th Congress. Named the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, it would explicitly do what its title states.
Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP /REX/Shutterstock
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., speaks about green infrastructure during a news conference, on Capitol Hill in Washington
The lofty proposal basically represents a wholesale reimagining of how marijuana is treated nationwide. It would put marijuana under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and not the Drug Enforcement Agency. It would also allow marijuana businesses to access the banking system and allow long delayed research on the plant to go forward without the constraints currently imposed on cannabis by the federal prohibition that currently views marijuana as the same as heroine.
The legislation also snagged the slot of H.R. 420 – yeah, that 420 – a symbolic title that’s perfectly suited for this aspirational bill.
“We wanted to focus people’s attention so that, although it’s not probably the top priority for very many people — maybe not the top priority for anyone — it is in fact important to a wide range of people, and it’s something this Congress can do,” Blumenauer tells Rolling Stone.
While still just a dream now, Blumenauer contends the bill isn’t a gimmick. He says outright legalization is coming the near future, whether opponents admit it or not. That’s why the measure’s number is memorable, and its title — the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act — is almost too straightforward.
“It is important to sort of raise the profile a little bit early, and this is one of the things that’s pretty simple to comprehend,” Blumenauer continued. “And ultimately, I think it’s likely to be something, as we work our way through, that this is maybe one of the most likely outcomes. Is just to regulate it like alcohol.” To reach that help reach that goal, Blumenauer gathered a clan of new leaders in his Cannabis Caucus. The team is historic because it now includes Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) — the first black woman to ever co-chair the caucus. It also still includes Rep. Don Young (R-AK) — a cagey old timer who is currently the longest serving member of the House and isn’t really known for marijuana policy, but is senior enough to do basically whatever he wants in the House — and then there’s Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) — the only leader in the group who isn’t from a state where recreational marijuana is legal.
While some in the Cannabis Caucus support drastic overhauls of the nation’s marijuana laws, they’re also vowing to focus their attention on undoing the most tangible, truly mind-numbing areas of the nation’s drug policies. The top of their list — and those with the best chances of gaining broad, bipartisan support — are bills to allow marijuana business owners to use the nation’s banking system instead of the all-cash businesses they’re forced to run now because the federal government still views marijuana as an illicit drug. The other measures that are widely seen as having the best chances of becoming law are proposals to expand federally condoned research on marijuana, and others to allow the nation’s many PTSD-scarred veterans to access weed without the repercussions or hurdles they currently face.
The cannabis caucus, along with the growing ranks of pot-friendly lawmakers on the Hill, are already pushing national party leaders and the chairs of important committees with jurisdiction over the issue to make these a priority in the coming weeks and months. “They’re all bipartisan, they’re all relatively straightforward and simple and they all speak to real problems,” Blumenauer contends. The pressure campaign seems to be working, according to Blumenauer and others. Even though Pelosi’s been lukewarm on marijuana reform, she also has had to promise to give her members more input on legislation. And the thing is, most of her members are clamoring for marijuana reforms. “Under the new leadership in Congress, I think, there’s an understanding that these bills will be coming to the floor for a vote,” Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) tells Rolling Stone. Correa’s planning to introduce his own bipartisan marijuana bill aimed at veterans shortly. His proposal would force — not merely request or advise — the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct studies on how pot could help veterans. But Democrats are still trying to get a true sense of where the House will stand on marijuana. “I think right now it’s a matter of testing the waters,” Correa continued. “Cannabis policy in this country is changing faster than most people can gauge.”
Some Republicans are on board too, but they’re worried because the top Democratic leaders in the House are all in their seventies and have dismissed marijuana policy as a second- or third-tier issue, even as others in those Democratic leadership ranks have dismissed it out of hand. “Let’s hope the old Democrats in charge today are more open minded than the old Republicans recently tossed from power on cannabis reform,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told Rolling Stone. Gaetz has been in talks with some Democrats on how to best address the glaring disparity between federal and local marijuana laws. “The key question is whether to attack cannabis reform piecemeal,” he says. While Blumenauer’s new bill would mean a wholesale change that would reverse a huge portion of the war on drugs, proponents like Gaetz fear Democratic leaders will opt for that piecemeal approach that would merely nibble around the edges of the disparity between increasingly open state marijuana laws and the federal governments lingering prohibition on the plant.
Either way, proponents agree that the growing number of states that approved marijuana for either recreational or medicinal use in 2018 — which included blue-ish Michigan, red-as-hell Oklahoma and staunchly independent Vermont — shows voters nationwide have outpaced the federal government, once again. The national conversation around marijuana will change this year too, in part because most of the handful of sitting Democrats who are now either running in 2020 or preparing their White House bids have endorsed decriminalizing marijuana in one form or another. But proponents also say that’s because voters on the ground in more than have the nation have already spoken and legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational use in their states. It seems it’s only a matter of time now for Washington to catch up to the states.
“We are going to win this. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told Rolling Stone. “The American people have already spoken in state after state; red state to blue state.”
Originally published in Rolling Stone: Cannabis in Congress: Why Federally Legal Weed Could Soon Be a Reality
(Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-cannabis activists take part in a rally on Capitol Hill on April 24, 2017 in Washington, DC.
[Editor’s Note: The Licensing and Regulatory Affairs division of Michigan did the right thing. There were a lot of Michigan patients who lost access to their medical cannabis. Here’s what we published on Monday.]
At the beginning of the year Michigan legislature required that all non-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries shut down until proper licensing is obtained. Unfortunately, the closing of over 70 dispensaries left very few with their doors open to patients. This, in turn, abruptly left many patients without access to their medicine.
Last Wednesday, the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board agreed in a unanimous 4-0 vote to allow dispensaries that are in the process of applying for a license and have a local buy-in to re-open their doors – at least until March 31st.
“We have heard from Michiganders closely affected by the ongoing transition to licensed marijuana facilities,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a news release Tuesday. “It is important that we ensure that patients have access to their medicine while the medical marijuana industry continues to develop.”
Along with the lack of open dispensaries, 72 unlicensed provisioning centers were closed at the start of the year and there are not enough established licensed growers in the state. All of this has led to an extreme shortage of product. Regulators have now put temporary regulations in place in an effort to fix this problem, allowing licensed provisioning centers to continue buying marijuana from a caregiver or temporarily operating facility and sell it without testing it until March 31st.
“There is a shortage of supply in the market because there are only a handful of licensed growers in Michigan,” Jeff Schroder with law firm Plunkett Cooney said. “This would allow dispensaries and retail provisioning centers to purchase their quantities from caregivers again.”
However, patients are required to sign an acknowledgement that states that the product has not met complete testing requirements before they are able to purchase it. As it stands now, there are nearly 300,000 medical marijuana cardholders in the state of Michigan. For several years they have been purchasing their medical marijuana from local dispensaries that get their product from unlicensed growers or even local caregivers – so most of them are frustrated with the less than smooth transition to a more regulated market.
“I think it’s a step forward,” said The Reef’s Rush Hassan. “It’s definitely a short term solution but it does open up patient access for these products.”
Until the medical marijuana industry in the state is functioning optimally, it will be almost impossible to successfully roll out the recreational industry that was legalized in November 2018. Hopefully by the time these temporary regulations expire at the end of March there will be enough licenses for the industry to properly sustain itself.
Original Post: Marijuana Times: Michigan Sees A Shortage of Medical Cannabis So Unlicensed Facilities Are Re-opened
[Editor’s Note: One day, maybe this year, Washington state legislators will get that growing up to 6 plants at home is a great way to keep the illegal market at bay, while supporting the legal market.]
In the world of legal cannabis, Washington is unique: It’s the only adult-use cannabis state that entirely prohibits adults from growing cannabis at home.
A pair of bills introduced Wednesday in the state Legislature would change that, allowing people 21 and over to grow up to six plants at home for personal use. But whether the bill can pass remains an open question. Past efforts to legalize home cultivation have withered at the Capitol.
This year’s effort could be different. Both bills boast bipartisan sponsors, and supporters say they’re optimistic.
“I am absolutely convinced that if we get this to the floor, we can get it passed,” John Kingsbury, a longtime medical cannabis and homegrow advocate, told The Stranger.
Kingsbury helped lobby the Legislature to get the measure introduced and described lawmakers as cautiously supportive of the change. “I have gone to dozens and dozens of legislators asking for their support,” he said, “and the thing I kept hearing was, ‘I don’t want to sign my name on it, but I will vote on it if it comes to the floor.”
The newly introduced bills, filed late last week, do away with many of the strict limitations suggested by cannabis regulators at the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), which was tasked to study the issue the last time it came up, in 2017. The LCB’s recommendations included mandatory government-issued permits, a four-plant limit, and—in the case of one proposal—even a system to track each individual cannabis plant across the state.
Under the latest proposal before the Legislature, adults would be allowed to grow up to six plants, and neither permits nor tracking would be required.
Skeptics of homegrow worry the allowance could expand Washington’s illicit cannabis market, which continues to function in much of the state, especially in areas where access to legal cannabis is limited. In its 2017 report, the LCB warned that “home grows have operated as a cover for the illicit market and diversion and could undermine the regulated system.”
“Any approach that allows for private citizens to grow marijuana at home will carry considerable resource impacts and costs for regulation and enforcement,” the agency said.
But supporters say those blanket statements ignore important distinctions in state homegrow laws, such as caps on the number of plants per household. In an interview with KUOW before the new bills were introduced, state Rep. David Sawyer (D-Tacoma) noted that lawmakers are drawing on “what we’ve learned from other states.”
“We learned what not to do,” Sawyer said. “Colorado had a limit of 99 plants, and law enforcement had no way of taking down illegal operations.” (Colorado has since reduced its homegrow limit to six plants.)
A well-functioning homegrow law could actually help reduce illicit sales, he suggested. “If no other option exists, no retail store, a home grow is a way for at least some folks to provide their own marijuana without having to pay off a criminal element to give it to them.”
Sponsors of Senate version of the bill, SB 5155, include Sens. Maureen Walsh (R-Pasco), Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle), Sam Hunt (D-Olympia), and Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle).
The House bill, HB 1131, is sponsored by Reps. Brian Blake (D-Longview), Drew MacEwen (R-Union), Laurie Dolan (D-Olympia), Jim Walsh (R-Longview), and Shelley Kloba (D-Bothell), Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline), Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), Monica Jurado Stonier (D-Vancouver), and Jesse Young (R-Gig Harbor).
Photo Credit: (Dmitry_Tishchenko/iStock)
Original Post: Leafly: Try, Try Again: Washington Lawmakers Introduce Homegrow Bill
[Editor’s Note: Kentucky is making headway on getting medical cannabis legalized. Doctors, not lawmakers, should determine who gets medical marijuana.]
Medical marijuana might be on its way to Kentucky, thanks to a state senator who smoked cannabis after being diagnosed with cancer.
It has been said that all that really needs to happen to further the marijuana legalization movement in the United States is to get all of the pot-hating naysayers stoned for the first time. Then these political figures, religious zealots and cold-fish conservatives could see for themselves that weed is not as frightening as they been told all of these years. But that’s the trick, you see: persuading the other side to enter another dimension, even just for a second, to see whether they can appreciate, or at least understand anything other than what they’ve been programmed to accept all of their lives. Change is hard for some, even harder once they’ve been convinced that apocalyptic rumblings will transpire in the days, weeks and years after they inhale. But submission does happen on occasion, and this first dance with the doobie almost always results in a change of opinion. In fact, it could be what eventually leads Kentucky to enter the realm of a legal state.
Last week, a group of Republican lawmakers introduced a bill, House Bill 136, designed to bring medical marijuana to the Bluegrass State. Considering that the GOP has been one of the main reasons the state has not yet ventured into toking territory, it is somewhat curious as to why this group of elephant-eared suits has all of a sudden decided to switch sides on this debate. Well, it turns out that one of them “smoked a joint” a few years ago while undergoing treatment for cancer, which completely changed his attitude toward the concept of medicinal cannabis.
State Sen. Dan Seum, of Bullitt County, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that weed eliminated his nausea and kept him from taking opioid painkillers. He believes Kentuckians should have the freedom to experience this magic as well. He has signed on to a companion measure for legislation filed in the House.
A Medical Marijuana Program Without Qualifying Conditions
The basis of the medical marijuana proposals being pushed in the Kentucky General Assembly is that doctors should be making the call on whether patients can use medical marijuana, not the lawmakers. While this sounds like common sense to most, many Kentucky lawmakers remain skeptical that cannabis has any therapeutic benefit at all.
On Wednesday, Senate President Robert Stivers didn’t provide much hope that medical marijuana would find success in the new year. During a discussion on the subject, he asked, “Where is the study?” when proponents mentioned the therapeutic value of the plant. “Deliver me the study. An appropriate Tier 3 study with control groups that says it is medicinal or therapeutic,” he said.
Although medical marijuana is legal in more than 30 states, it remains a Schedule I outlaw substance at the federal level. This has made it next to impossible for scientists to explore the potential benefits of the herb to give those apprehensive fools like Stivers some reassurance that legal weed is a solid alternative treatment and will not drag civil society into the sewer.
But there is a large body of evidence that medical marijuana is useful for a variety of health conditions. A study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which was overseen by the country’s top scientific minds, found definitive proof that marijuana is an effective treatment for pain, nausea, spasms and insomnia. No, it doesn’t appear to cure cancer, according to the report, but it can help ease the symptoms associated with chemotherapy treatments.
There are also studies that have found that medical marijuana could be an active combatant in the scourge of the opioid epidemic. Nevertheless, the federal government maintains that pot has no medicinal value, which is what some state lawmakers, like Stivers, seem to have gotten hung up on.
But the bill that pro-pot lawmakers are working to get passed does not come with a list of qualified conditions. These forward-thinking individuals are of the opinion that if a medical professional deems marijuana a possible treatment for any condition, a patient, many of which have found little to no relief with prescription drugs, should have the right to use it.
“We’re trying to address the 40,000 to 60,000 Kentuckians who are not having symptoms addressed by conventional medicines,” said Representative Diane St. Onge, one of the sponsors of the House Bill 136.
Does the Bill Have a Chance to Pass?
There is some belief that the measure has enough support to make it through the House this year, but considering the poor attitude of Senate leadership, it will likely not received any attention. That could stop progress altogether. House Majority Leader John Carney told the Lexington Herald-Leader that as long as the bill is a non-starter in the Senate, the House isn’t going to mess with it. “We’re not going to vote on it unless it could probably go through both chambers,” he said.
Sen. Seum, the Republican who shifted on pot reform after getting high for the first time, believes that if the bill can get some traction in the lower chamber, the Senate will bite. “I think that if the House passes the bill … there’s some movement in the Senate,” he said. “There are some people who just aren’t talking.”
One thing is sure, medical marijuana is what the people want. A Kentucky Health Issues poll published in 2012 found that even back then nearly 80 percent of the population was in favor of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Still, lawmakers have continued to sandbag the issue year after year even though most of their concerns have been discounted by other legal states.
Perhaps the only chance Kentucky has at legalizing medical marijuana this year is if more of the state’s Republicans smoke a joint. We’d be happy to facilitate in this research. Just have your people call our people.
Kentucky Republican Smoked Marijuana, Changes Mind About Legalization was posted on Cannabis Now.
[Editor’s Note: Good to know there are bipartisan politicos working on behalf of the cannabis industry. Federal laws need to support what’s happening in the states.]
On Feb. 16, 2017, a bi-partisan group of House members officially launched the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, making it the first marijuana-focused congressional member organization. There are nearly 300 issue-focused caucuses.
At the press conference announcing the new group, the four initial members—Democrats Earl Blumenauer (OR) and Jared Polis (CO) and Republicans Dana Rohrabacher (CA) and Don Young (AK) and suggested that they were ready to put up a fight should the Department of Justice ramp up enforcement of federal prohibition.
“If we have to, we’ll bump heads with the attorney general,” said Young, referring to embattled AG Jeff Sessions, who has since left the Cabinet.
Rohrabacher stressed that recreational cannabis legalization should get serious attention from Congress. So far, it’s only approved protections for state medical marijuana programs in the form of an appropriations rider, commonly known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. Blumenauer stepped in as the co-sponsor when Sam Farr retired in January 2017.
Update: With Rohrabacher recently losing his re-election and Polis being elected governor of Colorado, two new members joined the Caucus on Jan. 9: Barbara Lee (D-CA) and David Joyce (R-OH). Joyce has replaced Rohrabacher as the Republican sponsor of the amendment.
Most importantly, the caucus will work on changing federal law on cannabis policy. “We don’t want to be a place where we rely on the goodwill of which side of the bed any attorney general wakes up on at any given day,” Polis pointed out. “That’s why we’re pursuing statutory changes.”
Among the other cannabis issues the congressmen plan to focus on are reforming tax code 280E, which prohibits businesses in the industry from taking typical business deductions, and finding a fix to the banking problem for companies that are awash in cash.
On Jan. 10, Blumenauer said he’ll be sponsored a new bill with the numbers 420 in it, known as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.
A 4/20 Message from Rep. Earl Blumenauer
Barbara Lee Sponsors Marijuana Justice Act
Colorado Reps Create First State Cannabis Caucus
Rohrabacher Received Campaign Donations from Manafort
Original Post: Freedom Leaf: Congressional Cannabis Caucus Challenges Trump Administration
[Editor’s Note: This new legislation is the fourth standalone cannabis bill that has been filed so far during the 116th Congress, which began last week. Hopefully at least one will pass this year.]
A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers on Friday filed legislation that, if enacted, would essentially revive the Obama-era marijuana enforcement memo that was rescinded by then-U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year.
The full text of the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act, sponsored by Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) and six other House members, is not yet online. But a bill that Correa filed last Congress under the same title would have clarified that the attorney general “shall not prosecute for any conduct that concerns marihuana for medicinal or recreational use and is authorized by the laws of the State involved.”
That legislation also carved out several exceptions for areas where the Justice Department could continue to enforce federal anti-cannabis laws, such as:
- Distribution of marijuana to minors.
- Revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels.
- Diversion of marijuana from States where it is legal under State law in some form to other States.
- State-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity.
- Violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.
- Drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use.
- The growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands.
- Marijuana possession or use on Federal property.
Those provisions closely mirror the so-called Cole Memo that was issued by the Obama Justice Department in 2013 to essentially direct federal prosecutors to respect state marijuana laws by not interfering with their implementation except in certain circumstances.
But Sessions formally revoked the guidance last January, a move that generated broad bipartisan pushback in Congress.
“The Department’s ill-conceived decision adversely affects California and other states that in ‘good faith’ implemented regulatory frameworks that relied on the memo,” Correa said in remarks inserted into the Congressional Record on Friday. “The repeal of the Cole Memo contravenes the will of the American public. Furthermore, this decision will negatively affect numerous Americans who utilize cannabis for medical purposes.”
“We need to provide consumers, patients, businesses, and regulators with certainty.”
Lawmakers that have so far signed onto Correa’s new proposal include Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Don Young (R-AK), Dina Titus (D-NV), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA). It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
The version that Correa filed last Congress did not receive a hearing or a vote.
The new legislation is the fourth standalone cannabis bill that has been filed so far during the 116th Congress, which began last week.
One bill, H.R. 420, would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and instead regulate cannabis like alcohol.
The other two pending House proposals concern access to medical cannabis.
No cannabis bills have yet been introduced in the Senate this year, though a staffer for Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) told Marijuana Moment that he would “soon” file comprehensive medical cannabis legislation.
New Congressional Bill Would Enshrine Rescinded Marijuana Memo Into Federal Law was posted on Marijuana Moment.
[Editor’s Note: Mr. Bascaro’s long saga needs to end. Hopefully, this will be the year he gets released. ]
As we put to rest 2018, Antonio Bascaro—the longest-serving non-violent federal cannabis prisoner—endured his last Christmas behind bars. After nearly 39 years in prison, he is finally scheduled to be released in June of 2019. Bascaro, an 84-year-old Cuban war hero, has suffered in prison since 1980 for conspiracy to import and distribute cannabis.
Prior to being incarcerated, he attended two years of medical school, but left to pursue his passion for flying. He joined the Cuban Naval Air Force and became one of their best pilots. Bascaro excelled to the point that he even had a brief stint with the CIA in an effort to overthrow Fidel Castro.
But his precision as a pilot attracted heavy hitters in the Miami drug scene. After leaving the Air Force, Bascaro began importing cannabis into the United States.
“He could fly close to the water, he could not be detected,” said Eugene Fischer, a friend Bascaro made in prison for a (you guessed it!) cannabis conviction. Fischer has since passed away due to complications from the poor conditions he endured in prison.
Alas, Bascaro’s passion for flying (and cannabis) got him in trouble. 38 years ago, Bascaro was arrested and charged for importing 600,000 pounds of cannabis into the United States. Federal agents expected him to turn over the evidence, but he refused to cooperate due to his deep sense of loyalty and honor. Bascaro’s case played out during the harshest years of the War on Drugs. Jury nullification wasn’t an option. A jury would never exercise their right to nullify unjust drug laws due to the overwhelming propaganda and fear instilled in the American psyche.
Ironically, the actual kingpin who hired Bascaro was already released from prison. Bascaro is the only one who remains locked up for this non-violent crime. Despite the severity of his sentence, Bascaro and his family remained hopeful that someday he’d be free and finally, the day is nearly here. Instead of counting down the years, they’re counting down the months and weeks.
“Even though we have a date and nothing can stop it, it just doesn’t seem real,” says daughter Aicha Bascaro, her dad’s greatest supporter. “It is hard to believe because for so many years we have been hoping that he will come out, but he never did. It’s like I am scared to believe it. My siblings and I are planning a huge welcome home party with lots of his friends in Miami. He will be staying in Florida with his sister. He is doing okay. As you can imagine, he already has a huge plan. He is going to get a driver’s license to start driving right away. He even knows what computer he wants to get. He is ready to start living again.”
Although Bascaro’s release date is near, his health remains a concern. His family feared he would die behind bars, and that fear intensified as he aged. The following link is Bascaro’s online petition asking for President Trump to grant him clemency. Presently, the petition has nearly 110,000 signatures. As we witnessed in the well-publicized case of Alice Johnson, the president has the power to release anyone at any time.
Voices Of the Cannabis War (VOW), an advocacy group dedicated to being the voice of pot prisoners, urges you to sign the petition as a message to the federal government indicating support for Bascaro’s release. No one should be caged, not even for a day, especially because of a plant.
If you wish to reach Bascaro directly, you can send him mail:
Antonio Bascaro #03846-021
PO Box 779800
Miami, FL 33177
You can also follow updates on Bascaro via Facebook. To learn more about his life as a Cuban hero and how he got to the US via the lens of his daughter, you can listen to VOW’s show here.
Kristin Flor and Mindi Hall are founders of VOW, a non-profit comprised of dedicated cannabis activists who strive to be the voice of prisoners incarcerated for cannabis. VOW writes articles, hosts radio shows and speaking engagements, works on special projects, and makes images in honor of those locked up due to cannabis crimes. VOW has ‘vowed’ to help free these people through education, prisoner support, courtroom support, and helping to end prohibition.
Antonio Bascaro: Father. War Hero. Longest Living Pot Prisoner was posted on High Times.