May 1, 2021

To safeguard public health, let science guide marijuana legalization

The lesson we have learned all too well from the COVID-19 pandemic is to “follow the science” when formulating health policy. Yet, science is unfortunately taking a back seat as state houses across the country hastily approve marijuana legalization laws. Last month, for example, legalization in New York State coincided with the publication of a new study by the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) showing that, among teenagers, cannabis can be nearly as addictive as prescription opioids — a finding that failed to compel Albany lawmakers to strengthen safeguards. As more and more states line up to legalize, a closer look at the New York law reveals how legalization is weighted in favor of the increasingly powerful cannabis industry — rather than protecting vulnerable populations, including young people. While the law does focus on such worthy goals as marijuana decriminalization and achieving social equity and criminal-justice reform — in addition to helping communities disproportionately harmed by the failed War on Drugs — it is weak on regulating the soon-to-boom marijuana market.
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May 1, 2021

Tennessee legislature approves low-THC oil in medical cannabis compromise

After narrowly failing to pass a wider-ranging medical cannabis decriminalization bill, advocates for the legislation struck an agreement with opponents in the Tennessee legislature for a watered down version. The bill flew through six specially called House committees and a Senate committee Tuesday, one of the final days of the legislative session, after members from both chambers who were for and against an earlier measure reached a deal. It narrowly passed the Senate on a vote of 20-12, with some members who voted against arguing the legislation did not go far enough. Others remained strictly opposed to any form of marijuana legalization. In the House, the bill passed much easier on Wednesday, 74-17.
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May 1, 2021

As more states legalize marijuana, people with drug convictions want their records cleared

Michael has struggled with kidney disease since he was in his early 20s serving in the military. The high stress of the job ultimately put him in the hospital, and he was not able to return to the service due to his condition. The 37-year-old Virginia Beach resident, who requested his name be changed because of concerns about retaliation from future employers, said that a nurse mentioned during that hospital stay that marijuana could help alleviate many of his symptoms, like nausea and vomiting. But at the time, the substance was not legal in Virginia. In order to pursue that treatment, Michael had a relative send him marijuana from a state where it was legal. But police tracked the package back to Michael, and he was arrested and charged with felony possession and intent to distribute in 2015. He was convicted and sentenced to three years of probation. At the time, Michael was working in an administrative role for a federal government contractor, and having two felonies on his record prevented him from advancing in his job.
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May 1, 2021

Aiming for equity, D.C. may reserve some medical cannabis licenses for ex-inmates with drug convictions

The D.C. Council will vote later Tuesday on legislation that would reserve some new medical marijuana business licenses for people who were previously incarcerated for drug-related offenses — the latest effort by city lawmakers to bolster equity in the expanding industry. The bill, introduced by Council member Robert White (D-At Large), comes as Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) is considering legislation passed last month that allows people with felony convictions to work at medical dispensaries, cultivation centers or testing labs. The council unanimously approved that legislation, which also makes it legal for people with felony convictions to own and operate medical cannabis businesses if they haven’t been convicted of certain crimes within three years of filing an application. White says his bill goes a step further by instructing the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, which oversees the medical cannabis program, to reserve at least one dispensary license, one cultivation center license and one testing lab license for businesses that are majority-owned by people who were previously incarcerated for drug crimes whenever new licenses are next approved.
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May 1, 2021

Retail cannabis gets the green light in Costa Mesa as council passes new law

Six months after Costa Mesa voters resoundingly approved Measure Q — a move to legalize retail cannabis sales and delivery — city officials on Tuesday adopted legislation intended to regulate such businesses while weeding out bad actors. “Out of humility I’ve said it’s not perfect, and that’s probably true,” Mayor John Stephens said of an ordinance that will allow dispensaries in commercial zones but institute a 1,000 barrier from sensitive uses, such as K-12 schools, playgrounds, child daycare centers and homeless shelters. “But we’re never going to get perfect, and we shouldn’t have the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Stephens continued. “And these ordinances drafted are very good, very well thought out and very considered by staff and by the council.” The law will also prohibit pot shops from opening within 600 feet of youth centers, where children socialize; buffer distances will be measured, in a straight line, even through what some claim is the impenetrable barrier that is the 405 Freeway. Costa Mesa will impose a 7% tax on all cannabis goods — a move that’s estimated could bring in $3 million to the city annually but which, on top of sales tax and a state excise tax, will constitute a 30% levy customers will have to pay. While no cap will be placed on the number of businesses in town, any property where an illegal business has operated in the past cannot be granted a retail permit until at least one year has passed. A recommendation by the city’s planning commission to prohibit dispensaries from doing business within 500 feet of one another was overruled by a set of recommendations made by an ad hoc subcommittee just prior to an April 20 first reading and approved in a 5-2 vote.
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May 1, 2021

TN lawmakers form commission to study the legalization of marijuana in the state

Tennessee lawmakers didn't agree to make medical marijuana legal in the state this year but did pass legislation that could pave the way in the future. On the final day of this legislative session, members reached an agreement on a bill that would form a special commission to study the legalization of medical marijuana in Tennessee. The legislation would also decriminalize the possession of cannabis oil containing 0.9% or less of THC for patients with specific medical conditions. The committee, made up of nine members appointed by the leaders of both houses and the governor, would study laws and legislation regarding the medical use of cannabis. The members would be tasked with preparing recommendations on how best to "establish an effective, patient-focused medical cannabis program in this state and include proposed legislation in its recommendations." A growing number of states have approved the use of marijuana for those with serious health problems and those whose conditions are terminal. The new legislation says people with nine debilitating medical conditions could possess and use the specifically defined cannabis oil if they have a letter from a doctor. Those illnesses include Alzheimer's disease; ALS; end stage cancer; inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis; epilepsy or seizures; multiple sclerosis; Parkinson's disease; HIV or AIDS; and sickle cell disease. The letters from the doctors would only be good for six months, and the patients would have to obtain the oil from out of state because it cannot be sold in Tennessee. Governor Bill Lee still has to sign the bill before it becomes law. Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) sponsored a bill this session that would have decriminalized the use of cannabis for people with those same debilitating diseases. It failed to pass, but she believes support is growing in the state. “That the attitudes toward marijuana, I think are changing,” said Massey in an interview last month with WBIR.
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April 26, 2021

Will cannabis legalization reduce crime in Mexico? Has it in the US?

In this column, I will examine whether cannabis legalization is likely to eliminate the black market, deprive violent criminal groups of money, and reduce criminal violence.
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April 26, 2021

Adult-Use Cannabis Sales In U.S. To Surpass $30B By 2025 Driven By NJ, NY, Others

The national market is set to reach $30.6 billion by 2025.
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April 21, 2021

How Regulatory Uncertainty Helped Give Rise to a New Street Drug

The arrival of delta-8-THC—which is being sold in various places as a tincture, in vape pens, added to food, and sprayed on hemp flower so that it can be smoked—coincided with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, in which Congress repealed the federal prohibition on hemp and its byproducts.
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April 21, 2021

Poll: 1/4 of U.S. Adults Are Current Cannabis Consumers

A recent poll found that approximately one-quarter of U.S. adults said they had used cannabis within the last year.
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