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Kansas City Lawmakers Vote To Remove All Local Penalties For Marijuana Possession

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 00:03

The Kansas City, Missouri City Council voted on Thursday to approve an ordinance ending all penalties for marijuana possession under the municipality’s local laws.

Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) and four local lawmakers filed the cannabis measure last month, which repeals a provision of the Code of Ordinances stipulating that possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana carries a $25 fine and more than 35 grams is punishable by a $500 fine.

The vote to approve the proposal was 9-4.

Lucas, who has previously said he plans to pursue efforts to remove other “minor drug offenses from our code,” celebrated the measure’s passage.

“The City doesn’t need to be in the marijuana policing business—and we remain focused on helping open doors to new opportunities & empowering people to make a decent living,” he said on Twitter.

Update concerning Ordinance #200455, “Possession or control of marijuana” to eliminate the possession or control of marijuana as a violation of the Code of Ordinances.

*** City Council passed the ordinance to remove marijuana from the City Code of Ordinances. #KCMO https://t.co/pLmxqpTZvi

— Kansas City, MO (@KCMO) July 9, 2020

Text of the measure, which does not change Missouri state laws that continue to criminalize cannabis for non-medical use, describes racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests and states that the Council “believes future resources should be focused on the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of violent crime in Kansas City.”

In 2018, Missouri voters approved a statewide initiative establishing a medical cannabis market.

The year prior to the medical marijuana vote, Kansas City residents overwhelmingly approved a local ballot measure to decriminalize possession of up to 35 grams of cannabis.

In February, Lucas announced a pardon program for those with previous convictions for possession of marijuana or paraphernalia.

A campaign to legalize marijuana for adult use in Missouri ended in April due to complications from the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor isn’t singularly focused on marijuana. He introduced a separate resolution calling on the city manager to review all ordinances in the code that “that have led to negative interactions, arrest, conviction, and incarceration of black men and black women in disproportionately high numbers.” That includes “those covering minor drug offenses.”

One way we improve police-community relations is by eliminating laws–like those covering minor drug offenses or criminalizing poverty–that have led to negative interactions, arrest, conviction, and incarceration of black men and black women in disproportionately high numbers. pic.twitter.com/OUPaF9k1sT

— Mayor Q (@QuintonLucasKC) June 13, 2020

“I’ll be clear. We should remove any marijuana or minor drug offenses from our code,” he said.

I'll be clear. We should remove any marijuana or minor drug offenses from our code. We should end failure-to-pay arrest warrants. We should stop wondering why there are disproportionately higher negative police-community interactions in neighborhoods where we are "over-law'ed"

— Mayor Q (@QuintonLucasKC) June 13, 2020

Read the new Kansas City marijuana ordinance below: 

Marijuana Ordinance Kansas … by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Task Force Doesn’t Recommend Legalizing Marijuana To Biden, Despite Support From Panel Members

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

The post Kansas City Lawmakers Vote To Remove All Local Penalties For Marijuana Possession appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

FDA Updates Congress On CBD Product Labelling Accuracy

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 18:34

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submitted a report to Congress on the state of the CBD marketplace on Wednesday, and the document outlines studies the agency has performed on the contents and quality of cannabis-derived products that it has tested over the past six years.

The report, which is responsive to a mandate attached to congressional appropriations legislation last year, shows significant inconsistencies between cannabinoids concentrations that are listed on labels and what the products actually contain. At the same time, it found negligible evidence that dangerous metals and minerals are added to these products.

Reform advocates have emphasized the need for FDA to develop regulations to ensure quality control in the market. The agency is in the process of creating those rules, but in the meantime it is generally allowing CBD to be sold while prioritizing enforcement action against companies that make particularly outlandish claims about the medical benefits of their products.

“FDA recognizes the significant public interest in CBD products,” the agency wrote. “However, there are many questions about the characteristics of currently marketed CBD products because the Agency lacks significant information on what CBD-containing products are on the market and there are little data available on those products themselves.”

“FDA believes that understanding the characteristics of marketed CBD products is critical to making informed decisions about how best to protect public health in the current marketplace,” the report states.

While the agency has previously conducted sampling studies for CBD, a spending bill that provided funds for FDA requires it to perform another, especially since hemp and its derivatives were legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. The legislation stipulated that FDA had 180 days to “perform a sampling study of the current CBD marketplace to determine the extent to which products are mislabeled or adulterated.”

“Together, this information will provide the Agency with a better understanding of product characteristics in the current CBD marketplace and will help protect and promote public health,” the report said.

FDA described the three phases of CBD testing it has overseen since 2014.

During the first period, from 2014 to 2018, it looked at a sample of 78 cannabis products marketed to humans and pets. They found that 67 of them (86 percent) contained CBD. Of the 23 products FDA analyzed in 2014, only eight (35 percent) had CBD concentrations that were consistent with their labeling.

In 2019, the agency tested 34 additional CBD products for a wide range of potentially dangerous materials such as arsenic and lead. They determined that the “levels found in these 34 products did not raise significant public health concerns.”

Among 31 products that were tested for cannabinoids, 21 had labels that specified a CBD concentration. Only seven of them (33 percent) ultimately contained CBD within 20 percent of what was noted on the label.

For 2020, the agency said, “Given the extensive data gaps regarding the current CBD marketplace, the results from previous product testing, and in response to the congressional directive…FDA is undertaking a more extensive CBD product sampling effort.”

That effort involved a short-term plan to 147 products for cannabinoids, 138 of which contained CBD.

“Of the 102 products that indicated a specific amount of CBD, 18 products (18 percent) contained less than 80 percent of the amount of CBD indicated, 46 products (45 percent) contained CBD within 20 percent of the amount indicated, and 38 products (37 percent) contained more than 120 percent of the amount of CBD indicated,” the report states. Only one of 133 samples had potentially hazardous materials, however.

Looking ahead, the agency has long-term testing plans that will involve using “a sampling methodology to create a representative, random sample of the current CBD product marketplace.”

“The Agency is purchasing data on brands, product categories, and distribution channels for CBD products,” it said. “FDA is also in the process of developing its own comprehensive list of brands operating in the CBD market space by assembling data from targeted internet searches and analytics. FDA intends to leverage both data sets to randomly sample products across brands, product categories, and distribution channels, while favoring products with a higher market share.”

The sampling is expected to cover cannabis tinctures, oils, extracts, capsules, powders, waters and other beverages, food items, cosmetics, personal lubricants, tampons, vape cartridges and products sold for pets.

Interestingly, FDA also revealed in the report that it is working with the nation’s only federally authorized marijuana cultivation facility at the University of Mississippi to develop techniques to test for hemp and its derivatives in cosmetics.

The advocacy group U.S. Hemp Roundtable said in an email blast that “there’s not much news” in FDA’s report.

“Citing previous testing data and some more recent but limited random sampling, the FDA revealed what we already knew: While more work needs to be done to ensure CBD products consistently meet label claims, the majority of products do not contain unsafe contaminant levels, specifically heavy metals,” it said. “As an industry that holds itself to the highest standards, we would like to rid the marketplace of all improperly labeled products and unsafe products.”

“It’s high time for the FDA to regulate CBD as a dietary supplement and food additive,” the industry group said. “The agency’s current public stance not only impairs hemp farmers and small businesses; an unregulated marketplace poses real health and safety concerns.”

The Consumer Brands Association (CBA), for its part, said that the FDA data “further affirms the need for federal regulatory clarity.”

“Allowing bad actors to continue to put products on the market, unchecked, is a threat to consumer safety everywhere,” Betsy Booren, CBA’s senior vice president for regulatory and technical affairs, said.

Today's findings are even more reason Congress must provide funding and resources to @US_FDA so it can create the regulatory framework consumers of #CBD products deserve. https://t.co/v6T1l8LeDQ pic.twitter.com/6gn4HlFWNO

— Consumer Brands (@consumerbrands) July 8, 2020

As FDA continues to conducts these tests and develop regulations for CBD to be marketed as food items or dietary supplements, it continues to issue warnings to cannabis businesses in certain cases—such as instances in which companies claimed CBD could treat or cure coronavirus—and provide public notices about recalls. It provided an update on its CBD enforcement guidance to guidance in March.

The agency also recently submitted guidance on marijuana and CBD research to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which is currently reviewing the proposal.

Read FDA’s report on CBD sampling below: 

CBD-Marketplace-Sampling RT… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Pennsylvania Senate Democrats Push For Marijuana Legalization To Boost Revenue Amid Coronavirus

Photo by Kimzy Nanney.

The post FDA Updates Congress On CBD Product Labelling Accuracy appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Pennsylvania Senate Democrats Push For Marijuana Legalization To Boost Revenue Amid Coronavirus

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 17:07

A majority of Pennsylvania Senate Democrats sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders on Thursday, arguing that lawmakers should pursue adult-use marijuana legalization in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter, led by Sen. Sharif Street (D), stresses that the state’s economic situation is “dire” and that the government “should do absolutely everything we can to raise revenue.”

“That is why we come together as a committed group of Pennsylvania Senators to urge our leaders to take up the bi-partisan issue of adult-use cannabis legalization,” they wrote.

Street and the other 14 senators made a series of arguments in favor of approving comprehensive cannabis reform. They talked about the issue’s increasing bipartisan support, for example. A recent poll found that almost two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support recreational legalization, and that includes majorities of those who identify as conservative, moderate and liberal.

The end of cannabis prohibition is long overdue in PA. Proud to be joined by 14 @PAsenateDems colleagues to urge the legislature to take up this issue as soon as possible and help move Pennsylvania forward. It’s time. pic.twitter.com/aiMjS3f5Jh

— Sen. Sharif Street (@SenSharifStreet) July 9, 2020

They also emphasized the need to avoid raising taxes on Pennsylvanians or making budget cuts as well as the potential boon to the job market that legalization could represent.

“We need to ensure our spending on healthcare, education, housing, and small businesses continues unabated throughout this crisis,” the letter states. “Legalizing adult-use cannabis will raise revenue and help mitigate the possible need for cuts, and additionally can serve as a revenue saving tool in agencies such as the Department of Corrections.”

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Thursday that “there’s never been a more appropriate time to have this conversation.”

“I’ve been saying this now since the pandemic started. I’ve never understood why it wasn’t always a top Democratic priority along with the other ones,” he said. “It hits on every cylinder. You have the criminal justice reform aspect, you have the economic development reform aspect, jobs, revenue. I mean, there’s so many different things that this can bring. And now that we’re in the height of a pandemic with record unemployment and record budget deficits.”

The senators also highlighted racial disparities in marijuana enforcement, noting that black Americans are significantly more likely to be arrested for a cannabis offense compared to white people despite similar rates of consumption. They are also more likely to serve longer sentences.

“This is damaging to communities and families and a waste of valuable resources,” they wrote. “Legalizing adult use cannabis will not only save the Commonwealth money but will bring much needed justice to those who have suffered the most under the impact of prohibition.”

The letter goes on to say that an adult-use market—which is estimated to bring in about $581 million in tax revenue annually—could be modeled after the state’s existing medical cannabis program. That revenue is “no small sum and would be instrumental as we navigate this hundred-year crisis.”

“Once again, the single most important goal we should have right now is ensuring we can continue to provide for the communities of Pennsylvania,” they concluded. “Through legalizing adult-use cannabis, we can protect Pennsylvanians from harmful tax hikes and spending cuts and raise new revenue to continue providing vital services and assistance for our constituents. We urge you to consider this issue during this year’s budget negotiations, and work with us to enact a responsible budget that will benefit all Pennsylvanians.”

Prior to state shelter-in-place and social distancing mandates, Rep. Jake Wheatley (D) announced that he would be introducing a revised legalization bill for the session. The lawmaker, who filed a similar bill last year, wrote that his proposal will be “the most comprehensive and well-vetted legislation providing for a legal adult-use cannabis industry.” It would also provide for expungements and releasing people from prison for non-violent drug offenses.

While Gov. Tom Wolf (D) initially opposed adult-use legalization, he came out in support of the policy change last year. That shift came after Fetterman, a major ally of the reform movement, led a statewide listening tour last year to solicit public input on the issue.

This story has been updated to include comments from Fetterman.

Read the letter from Pennsylvania Senate Democrats on marijuana reform below: 

Pennsylvania senators lette… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Bipartisan State Treasurers Call For Marijuana Banking Protections In Next Coronavirus Bill

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

The post Pennsylvania Senate Democrats Push For Marijuana Legalization To Boost Revenue Amid Coronavirus appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Bipartisan State Treasurers Call For Marijuana Banking Protections In Next Coronavirus Bill

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 15:42

A bipartisan coalition of state treasurers sent a letter to congressional leaders on Wednesday, asking that they include marijuana banking protections in the next piece of coronavirus relief legislation.

The letter, led by Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read, says that the current pandemic has underscored the need to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would protect banks that service the cannabis industry from being penalized by federal regulators.

“This provision would not only address new safety issues created by the COVID-19 crisis, but also those caused by the existing conflict between federal and state cannabis laws,” they said. “The 28,000 cannabis related legitimate businesses and their 243,700 employees, who already faced significant burdens before the pandemic, are now confronting dangerous new obstacles as  they attempt to address the changed circumstances. To keep workers, patients and consumers safe, it is essential that we reduce the use of cash by creating access to financial services for these state-licensed businesses.”

The House did include the SAFE Banking Act in its COVID-19 relief bill that it approved in May, but Senate leadership has indicated that the larger bill as such will not advance in the chamber and President Trump said he would veto it. Some Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have specifically criticized aspects of the cannabis banking language itself.

The standalone SAFE Banking Act previously passed the House in a largely bipartisan vote last year.

“Lack of access to financial services forces businesses to operate exclusively using cash making these businesses, their employees, and  customers targets for violent crime,” the 16 state treasurers wrote to McConnell and other congressional leaders in the new letter. “In many cases, cannabis stores and dispensaries are  limiting sales to curbside pickup or delivery, forcing these all-cash transactions to take place outside, without the option of no-contact exchanges.”

The letter explains how the use of cash “is particularly dangerous” for the millions of registered medical cannabis patients” because the virus can live on surfaces, including cash and coin, for extended periods of time.”

“In response to the coronavirus, the international financial community, many major businesses, and even governmental entities have looked for cashless alternatives to financial transactions. However, the overwhelming majority of medical cannabis transactions still involve cash. This is particularly dangerous for medical cannabis caregivers and patients who are already at a higher risk for contracting the virus. Allowing cannabis-related legitimate businesses access to traditional banking could reduce the spread and protect many of the most  vulnerable among us.”

The letter goes on to discuss the growing economic impact of the marijuana industry as more states legalize and the importance of securing protections for the financial institutions that service these businesses. It also points out how, despite the fact that many states have deemed cannabis providers as essential, they are ineligible for federal coronavirus-relief loans due to ongoing prohibition.

“With millions of dollars in cash transactions putting employees, patients, and consumers at risk, it is vital that Congress act swiftly to pass this important legislation,” Read said in a press release.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, said, “I appreciate the ongoing support of the SAFE Banking Act by our nation’s state treasurers.”

“Legitimate cannabis-related businesses and their employees already faced significant burdens before the pandemic, but now they face even greater risk during the COVID-19 crisis,” he said. “The SAFE Banking Act respects states’ rights and allows critical access to the banking system while making our communities safer by reducing the public safety risk associated with all-cash transactions and helping to reduce the spread of the coronavirus through banknotes and coins.”

I appreciate the ongoing support of our nation’s state treasurers. The #SAFEBankingAct respects states' rights and allows critical access to the banking system while making our communities safer and helping to reduce the spread of #COVID19 through banknotes and coins. https://t.co/Lo20gMbHPa

— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) July 9, 2020

The congressman said in May that he felt there was a 50-50 chance that his legislation is approved in the Senate through a COVID-19 package.

Treasurers from Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virgin Islands and West Virginia each signed the letter.

Another bipartisan coalition of 34 state attorneys general similarly wrote to Congress in May, urging the passage of coronavirus relief legislation that contains marijuana banking provisions.

As for the standalone cannabis banking bill, it remains pending before the Senate Banking Committee, where negotiations about the details of the proposal are ongoing.

Meanwhile, recent federal data shows that the number of banks and credit unions that are working with marijuana businesses declined slightly in the last quarter. It’s not entirely clear what’s behind that trend, however.

Separately, a House appropriations subcommittee released a spending bill this week that includes a provision that would bar the Treasury Department from using its funds to penalize financial institutions that service the industry if the business client activity is legal under state or tribal law.

Read the letter about cannabis banking from the state treasurers below: 

Treasurer COVID SAFE Letter by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

House Includes Marijuana Protections For States, Banks And Universities In Funding Bills

The post Bipartisan State Treasurers Call For Marijuana Banking Protections In Next Coronavirus Bill appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Task Force Doesn’t Recommend Legalizing Marijuana To Biden, Despite Support From Panel Members

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 13:07

Legalizing marijuana is not among the recommendations made to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by a criminal justice task force his campaign created in partnership with former 2020 primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Advocates had held out hope that the panel would push the former vice president to join the majority of U.S. voters—and a supermajority of Democrats—in backing legal cannabis. But, despite the fact that most individual members of the Biden-Sanders group have previously gone on record in favor of legalization on an individual basis, its report mostly reiterates the candidate’s existing marijuana position while adding a few specifics.

“Decriminalize marijuana use and legalize marijuana for medical purposes at the federal level. Allow states to make their own decisions about legalizing recreational use. Automatically expunge all past marijuana convictions for use and possession,” the document, released on Wednesday, says.

“Lift budget rider blocking D.C. from taxing and regulating legal marijuana and remove marijuana use from the list of deportable offenses,” it continues. “Encourage states to invest tax revenue from legal marijuana industries to repair damage to Black and brown communities hit hardest by incarceration.”

The 110-page document also says that “Democrats will decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level.”

“We will support legalization of medical marijuana, and believe states should be able to make their own decisions about recreational use,” it says. “The Justice Department should not launch federal prosecutions of conduct that is legal at the state level. All past criminal convictions for cannabis use should be automatically expunged.”

Legalizing marijuana had reportedly been a topic of discussion and contention for the criminal justice panel, and some members have spoken publicly about their desire for Biden to further evolve his cannabis position since the task force was convened.

“We didn’t reach consensus on legalization. That conversation will have to continue. But we did agree on some important new aspects of marijuana policy for the vice president’s agenda,” Chiraag Bains, a former federal prosecutor who was a member of the criminal justice task force, told Marijuana Moment. “We agreed on lifting the D.C. budget rider to allow the District to regulate and tax marijuana, removing marijuana from the list of deportable offenses and pushing states to invest revenue from the marijuana industry to repair damage to the Black and brown communities that have been most harmed by over-policing and over-incarceration.”

“That last piece is incredibly important,” said Bains, who severs as director of legal strategies for Demos. “These policies will help build racial justice, reduce harm and repair generational damage caused by the racist War on Drugs.”

To that end, the task force document also speaks to broader drug policy issues beyond cannabis.

“It is past time to end the failed ‘War on Drugs,’ which has imprisoned millions of Americans— disproportionately people of color—and hasn’t been effective in reducing drug use,” it says. “Democrats support policies that will reorient our public safety approach toward prevention, and away from over-policing—including by making evidence-based investments in jobs, housing, education, and the arts that will make our nation fairer, freer, and more prosperous.”

While Biden’s campaign put representatives onto the task force and presumably exerted considerable influence on the scope of its report, the document doesn’t necessarily represent new positions supported by the candidate himself; rather, it constitutes recommendations to him and to the Democratic National Committee to consider when drafting its 2020 party platform.

“For the millions of Americans facing hardship due to President Trump’s failed coronavirus response, this election offers the chance to usher in a stronger, fairer economy that works for our working families,” Biden said in a press release. “I commend the Task Forces for their service and helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country. And I am deeply grateful to Senator Sanders for working together to unite our party, and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come.”

In addition to Bains, other members of the criminal justice panel included former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Tennessee Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D), South Carolina Rep. Justin Bamberg (D), Linn County, Iowa Supervisor Stacey Walker (D) and Biden campaign spokesperson Symone Sanders. Separate task forces created by Biden and Sanders focused on issues such as health care, immigration and climate change.

The group called on Biden to “support diversion programs” and “reduce criminal penalties for drug possession and support increased use of drug courts and treatment diversion programs instead of incarceration for those struggling with substance use disorders.”

“The misguided and racist federal war on drugs and the systematic criminalization of poverty means that one in three Black men—and one in six Latino men—will spend time in jail or prison at some point in their lives, reducing their lifetime earnings and making it harder to get a job upon release and build family and community resources,” the recommendation document says.

“Substance use disorders are diseases, not a crimes [sic]. Democrats believe no one should be in prison solely because they use drugs,” it continues. “And rather than involving the criminal justice system, Democrats support increased use of drug courts, harm reduction interventions, and treatment diversion programs for those struggling with substance use disorders.”

Despite the modest reforms included in the document, legalization advocates are not pleased with the end result of the panel’s recommendations.

“It is impractical at best and disingenuous at worst for the Biden campaign to move ahead with these policy proposals,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “Rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act would continue to make the federal government the primary dictators of cannabis policy, and would do little if anything to address its criminal status under federal law.”

“Rescheduling marijuana is intellectually dishonest,” he added. “Just as cannabis does not meet the strict criteria of a Schedule I controlled substance, it similarly does not meet the specific criteria that define substances categorized in schedules II through V.”

In February, Biden appeared to mistakenly say marijuana is “at the point where it has to be basically legalized” before correcting himself and insisting that further research be done before he commits to actually supporting policy change beyond the modest reforms such as decriminalization and federal rescheduling he had already backed.

The task force document also touches specifically on the opioid crisis at length:

“The opioid epidemic has devastated American communities, and the Trump Administration has completely failed in its response, leaving millions of families desperate for help. Democrats will make medication-assisted treatment available to all who need it, and will require publicly supported health clinics to offer medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. Democrats recognize that incarcerated people suffer from serious mental health and substance use disorders at higher rates than the general population, which is why we will support expanded access to mental health care in prisons and for returning citizens. We will ensure no one is incarcerated solely for drug use, and support increased use of drug courts, harm reduction interventions, and treatment diversion programs for those struggling with substance use disorders.”

“End the Opioid Epidemic: The opioid epidemic remains a national epidemic, devastating rural communities. The Task Force believes we must end the epidemic by holding pharmaceutical corporations accountable, increasing access to medication-assisted therapy across rural, urban, and suburban communities, improving medical and behavioral supports for incarcerated people and better assisting their re-entry into communities, increasing access to life-saving treatments, investing in harm reduction strategies, and fully funding research on current and future interventions.”

Sanders, who during his own campaign had pledged to legalize marijuana nationwide by executive action on his first day in office, said that the report fell short of what he would have recommended but still represents progress.

“Though the end result isn’t what I or my supporters would’ve written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country,” he tweeted.

Though the end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country. 2/3

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 8, 2020

In an interview in April, Sanders declined to list legalizing marijuana among the issues he thought the task force could bring Biden around to supporting.

Democrats’ 2016 platform endorsed rescheduling cannabis, allowing states to set their own laws and “providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization.”

“We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty,” is said.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s reelection campaign is working to highlight Biden’s long record of supporting harsh drug penalties during his time as a senator and is seeking to position the incumbent as the criminal justice reform candidate.

While Trump has signed modest criminal justice reform legislation and granted clemency to a small number of individuals incarcerated on drug charges, he has also has voiced support for using the death penalty against people who sell drugs and has urged police to be rough with suspects.

When it comes to marijuana, he personally opposes legalization but has said that states should be able to set their own cannabis laws without federal interference and has voiced support for pending legislation to exempt state-legal activity from the Controlled Substances Act.

But his administration has also taken a number of hostile actions when it comes to cannabis.

Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, rescinded Obama-era guidance known as the Cole memo. Under that directive, federal prosecutors were advised not to pursue action against people for state-legal cannabis-related activity, except under a limited set of circumstances.

The president has on several occasions released signing statements on spending legislation stipulating that he reserves the right to ignore a long-standing rider that blocks the Department of Justice from interfering with state-legal medical cannabis programs, and he has asked Congress to end the medical marijuana protections as part of his own budget proposals—something the Obama administration also previously did to no avail.

Despite his pledged support for medical cannabis and states’ rights, Trump apparently holds negative views toward marijuana consumption, as evidenced by a leaked 2018 recording in which he said that using cannabis makes people “lose IQ points.”

The Trump administration has also used marijuana as a way to punish immigrants. In 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a memo stating that using marijuana or engaging in cannabis-related activities such as working for a dispensary—even in states where marijuana is legal—is an immoral offense that makes immigrants ineligible for citizenship. That same year the Justice Department issued a notice that it was seeking to make certain cannabis offenses, including misdemeanor possession, grounds to deny asylum to migrants.

Most Republican voters join the vast majority of Democrats in supporting legalizing marijuana, according to Gallup.

Some observers have suspected that Trump could issue a surprise endorsement of cannabis legalization as Election Day approaches as a way to outflank Biden and undermine Democrats’ support from young people in particular. If the president has in fact been considering such a move, the Biden-Sanders task force’s refusal to even recommend legalizing marijuana to the presumptive Democratic nominee presents perhaps his greatest opening on the issue yet.

House Includes Marijuana Protections For States, Banks And Universities In Funding Bills

The post Task Force Doesn’t Recommend Legalizing Marijuana To Biden, Despite Support From Panel Members appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Legal psilocybin therapy qualifies for Oregon ballot (Newsletter: July 9, 2020)

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 10:13

Fed marijuana PSA filmed like horror movie; Congressman wants to block DC psychedelics decrim; Study: Legal cannabis reduces crime

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

The Oregon secretary of state announced that activists collected enough signatures to put a measure to legalize psilocybin therapy on the November ballot. This comes one week after a separate initiative to decriminalize all drug possession in the state and expand treatment services also qualified for the ballot.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), whose budget rider has prevented Washington, D.C. from legalizing marijuana sales, is now trying to block a psychedelics decriminalization measure that could be on the November ballot in the nation’s capital.

  • “This is a bald-faced attempt to just make these very serious, very potent, very dangerous—both short-term and long-term—hallucinogenic drugs broadly available.”

A new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration PSA on impaired driving is styled like a horror film and urges people not to operate a car while high on marijuana even if they are being chased by an axe-wielding murderer.

A study found that “border counties in the Colorado region saw substantial decreases in overall property crime rate and larceny rate relative to nonborder counties following Colorado’s legalization” of marijuana.

  • “This finding suggests that recreational marijuana legalization in a state (e.g., Colorado) may not bring about negative consequences on crime in neighboring states, which challenges the assertions made by public officials in these neighboring states arguing a crime-inducing effect of legalization.”

/ FEDERAL

The U.S. Department of Agriculture added hemp to a list of seed kinds for which it maintains standards for certification.

Tennessee Democratic congressional candidate Christopher Hale tweeted, “Why is that kids and veterans who smoke marijuana have criminal records, but Wall Street executives who committed massive fraud and wrecked our economy do not? I’ll be the most pro-weed Congressman God ever made. I’m asking for your support.”

/ STATES

Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor is touting marijuana legalization as a fiscal stimulus for the state.

Ohio regulators added cachexia as a medical cannabis qualifying condition, but rejected anxiety and autism spectrum disorder.

Oklahoma regulators agreed to temporarily not enforce rules that could force some medical cannabis businesses to close down while a judge considers a lawsuit challenging them.

Guam regulators plan to finalize a draft of legal marijuana rules for public comment by next month.

Nevada regulators are projecting $10 million less revenue from recreational marijuana sales for Fiscal Year 2021.

Massachusetts regulators will consider marijuana vaping issues and enforcement actions on Thursday.

Florida regulators will hold a workshop on hemp rules on Thursday.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,500 cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

/ LOCAL

The Grand Rapids, Michigan City Commission approved a measure to advance social equity in the marijuana industry and to fast-track approval of businesses.

The Nevada County, California district attorney filed a motion to dismiss nearly 600 prior marijuana convictions and reduce more than 50 cannabis felonies to misdemeanors.

/ INTERNATIONAL

The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care is conducting an open consultation looking at “the ways in which drugs are fuelling serious violence and at treatment, recovery and prevention.”

The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana plans to resume its review of cannabis issues soon.

The Colombian government gave approval for a company to grow, produce and export high-THC medicinal cannabis extracts.

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A review concluded that “pre-clinical and clinical data suggest a potential for therapeutic benefit [of medical cannabis] amongst some persons with [autism spectrum disorder] and that it is overall well tolerated.”

A study concluded that “current school-based cannabis prevention efforts do not appear sufficiently effective.”

/ ADVOCACY, OPINION & ANALYSIS

Marijuana activist and lobbyist Eapen Thampy pleaded guilty to federal charges of attempted cannabis distribution.

A Harm Reduction International analysis found that “around a fourth of countries implementing [coronavirus-related prison] decongestion schemes explicitly excluded people incarcerated for drug offences; effectively prioritising punitive approaches to drug control over the health of the prison population and the individual.”

The National Association of Cannabis Businesses said it will be drafting recommendations for marijuana social equity programs.

/ BUSINESS

Several ancillary marijuana businesses—including Akerna, Metrc and Arcview Group— received Paycheck Protection Program loans from the Small Business Administration.

The Justice Department is reportedly investigating whether Wirecard participated in an alleged $100 million bank fraud conspiracy connected to Eaze, which hasn’t been charged or named directly in documents in the case.

Ignite International, Ltd. is being sued by its former president who says he was fired for refusing to go along with founder Dan Bilzerian’s efforts to classify “extravagant personal expenses” as business-related.

Enlighten says it is the first cannabis company to have data listed on Amazon’s AWS Data Exchange.

KushCo Holdings, Inc. reported quarterly net revenue of $22.3 million and a net loss of approximately $13.5 million.

Insurance costs for marijuana businesses are reportedly rising as more cannabis companies face shareholder lawsuits.

/ CULTURE

Ice Cube tweeted an editorial cartoon of an incarcerated person reading a newspaper with the headline, “Marijuana Is OK Now.”

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The post Legal psilocybin therapy qualifies for Oregon ballot (Newsletter: July 9, 2020) appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Maryland Congressman Tries To Block D.C.’s Psychedelics Decriminalization Ballot Measure

Wed, 07/08/2020 - 20:11

Washington, D.C. activists are hoping local voters will decriminalize psychedelics at the ballot box this November, and public opinion polling suggests there’s a good chance they’ll do it. But a Republican congressman from Maryland who’s long stood in the way of marijuana and drug policy reform efforts in the nation’s capital says he will do everything in his power to stop the measure from being enacted.

“This is a bald-faced attempt to just make these very serious, very potent, very dangerous—both short-term and long-term—hallucinogenic drugs broadly available,” U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) told the New York Post on Wednesday, two days after organizers submitted more than 35,000 signatures in an effort to qualify the decriminalization measure for November’s ballot.

Harris told Post reporter Steven Nelson that he will use Congress’s control over D.C.’s budget to block the measure through a House Appropriations Committee amendment next week.

Harris famously led congressional efforts to block Washington, D.C.’s local leaders from passing legislation to create a legal system of recreational cannabis sales in the city after voters approved a 2014 ballot measure legalizing low-level possession and home cultivation of marijuana.

The new proposed D.C. ballot measure, Initiative 81, doesn’t attempt to legalize the sale of psychedelics. Instead it would make the enforcement of existing laws against psychedelics possession among the lowest priorities for the Metropolitan Police Department. The measure would apply to all plant- and fungi-based entheogenic substances, including psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and DMT.

While Harris’s push to prevent D.C. cannabis legalization has run into increasing pushback in the past few years, he seems to be drawing a new line with psychedelics. In his comments this week, he said he believes his colleagues across the aisle will agree that psychedelic substances go too far.

“I think there’s probably a lot of Democrats who draw a very distinct line between potent hallucinogens and marijuana. And whereas the majority may support recreational use of marijuana, I doubt the majority supports the broad use of these potent hallucinogens,” he told the Post. The newspaper noted that Harris is “an anesthesiologist and top pharmaceutical donor recipient.”

Melissa Lavasani, chairwoman of Decriminalize Nature D.C., the group behind Initiative 81, said that Harris’s use of the congressional budget process shows how Washington, D.C.’s lack of statehood prevents voters from exercising control over their own government.

“Continued overreaching actions like this by Andy Harris are the reason why D.C. needs statehood now,” Lavasani told Marijuana Moment in an email. “Why should a Maryland representative have any say on laws that govern the over 700,000 federal taxpaying citizens in the District?”

A public opinion poll from April commissioned by Decriminalize Nature D.C. found that a majority of voters (51 percent) supported the measure after reading the ballot text. After hearing pro and con arguments about the policy, that number rose to 59 percent. Thirty-two percent of voters were opposed after hearing the arguments.

As for D.C. statehood, the House voted 232–180 last month to support a resolution to make the District the country’s 51st state. Though Senate Democrats are largely supportive of the move, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he won’t let the issue come to a vote in his chamber.

“After my D.C. statehood bill passed in the House last month and has shown momentum in the Senate, Republicans have become increasingly fearful,” Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said in a press release. “Representative Andy Harris, who has been a chronic abuser of home rule, is the latest example. Republicans are right to be nervous. We will continue to fight any and all attempts to overturn D.C. laws, regardless of the policy, as D.C. has a right to self-government.”

Many in D.C.’s reform community say they feel Harris is using the drug issue in a neighboring jurisdiction as a way to capture attention.

“We have a history, and it’s not surprising to me that Andy Harris is butting in on our coattails,” Adam Eidinger, a longtime D.C. drug reformer who is also involved in the decriminalization campaign, told Marijuana Moment. “He’s just butting in and is just using us a way to get his name in the press.”

On the marijuana front, Harris and his allies have been able to block D.C. sales for years, but there are signs that support is flagging. Last year, after House Democrats introduced an annual spending bill without the cannabis provision, Harris didn’t even bother trying to reintroduce it as an amendment despite having a seat on the relevant committee. Asked why by reporter Matt Laslo, he replied: “We’re not in charge anymore,” referring to the GOP.

“We’re not in charge anymore,” Rep. Andy Harris says of why he didn’t try and offer his amendment restricting DC from setting up a regulatory system for marijuana

— Matt Laslo (@MattLaslo) June 13, 2019

Harris’s measure was eventually introduced in the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2020 spending bill, and Congress as a whole ultimately approved it as part of the final spending legislation sent to the president. But this year could be different. The senator who inserted the language in last year’s bill, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), has been replaced as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who is generally considered less of a drug war hawk than Lankford, though he is by no means a legalization supporter.

House leaders this week introduced an appropriations bill for the coming fiscal year that again doesn’t include Harris’s traditional budget rider against D.C. marijuana sales. Advocates are now watching to see whether the Senate version of the bill, which has yet to be introduced, will seek to preserve the language.

In the meantime, Washington, D.C. officials have less than 30 days to verify thousands of signatures submitted by the psychedelics decriminalization campaign.

“D.C.residents are tired of being treated like second class citizens with no representation,” Lavasani said Wednesday. “We will vote on this in November.”

In the unlikely event that Harris’s new psychedelics rider gets attached to federal spending legislation, it could potentially prevent the District from spending its own money to event print ballots with the decriminalization question on it or to count the results of a vote on it, depending on when the restriction is enacted.

House Includes Marijuana Protections For States, Banks And Universities In Funding Bills

This story was updated to include comment from Norton.

Photo elements courtesy of carlosemmaskype and Apollo

The post Maryland Congressman Tries To Block D.C.’s Psychedelics Decriminalization Ballot Measure appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Oregon Voters Will Decide On Legalizing Psilocybin Therapy In November, State Announces

Wed, 07/08/2020 - 19:07

Oregon officials announced on Wednesday that the state’s voters will get a chance to decide whether to pass a first-of-its kind measure to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use in November.

This isn’t the only far-reaching drug policy reform question that Oregon voters will have before them on the ballot this year, as a separate initiative to decriminalize low-level drug possession formally qualified last week. That proposal would also use existing tax revenue from marijuana sales, which voters legalized in 2014, to fund expanded substance misuse treatment programs.

Psilocybin activists turned in their final batch of signatures for verification last week and were confident they would have more than enough valid petitions to qualify.

The campaign collected 132,465 valid signatures form registered voters, the secretary of state’s office said. That exceeds the 112,020 needed to qualify by a comfortable margin. In all, 82.30 percent of the 160,963 signatures accepted for verification were deemed valid, officials determined.

“We are thrilled that Oregon voters have come together to tackle mental health and depression by qualifying this ballot measure for the November election,” Tom Eckert, a licensed psychotherapist, who is a co-chief petitioner for the initiative, said in a press release. “Oregonians deserve access to psilocybin therapy as a treatment option—and now we officially have a chance to win it.”

It's official – WE DID IT! After turning in 132,465 signatures, the campaign team is proud to announce we are officially on the 2020 November ballot. Come #electionday2020, every Oregon voter will have the opportunity to make psilocybin therapy legal for those in need. pic.twitter.com/WuZ2NkKEnC

— Yes On IP 34 (@yesonip34) July 8, 2020

If voters approve the measure, known as IP 34, Oregon would become the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to implement a therapeutic legalization model for the psychedelic derived from so-called magic mushrooms. There wouldn’t be any specific conditions that make people eligible for the therapy.

“We want to thank the thousands of volunteers and the over 160,000 Oregonians that made this ballot measure possible, and we look forward to talking with voters over the next four months to share the research and show why psilocybin therapy is a part of our collective answer to the mental health crisis our state faces,” Sheri Eckert, who is Tom’s wife and the other co-chief petitioner, added. “This careful, regulated approach can make a real difference in people’s lives and we’re looking forward to bringing this program to the state.”

The Oregon measure’s formal ballot qualification is one of the latest examples of the success of the psychedelics reform movement after Denver became the first place in the U.S. to deprioritize enforcement of laws against psilocybin last year.

That was followed by a unanimous Oakland City Council vote in favor of a measure to make a wide range of entheogenic substances among the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities. The Santa Cruz City Council followed suit, and activists in more than 100 cities are now exploring ways to enact the policy change.

Colorado activists are likely to pursue a legal psilocybin ballot measure in 2022 after a poll showed majority voter support.

Here’s a status update on other 2020 drug policy reform campaigns across the country: 

Washington, D.C. activists turned in what they believe are more than enough signatures to put a broad psychedelics decriminalization measure on the November ballot this week.

In Arizona, the organizers of a legalization effort turned in 420,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot last week.

Organizers in Nebraska last week submitted 182,000 signatures in an attempt to put a medical marijuana measure on November’s ballot.

Montana activists recently turned in more than 130,000 signatures to qualify a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives for the November ballot.

Idaho activists behind a medical marijuana legalization initiative could get a second wind after a federal judge said recently that the state must make accommodations for a separate ballot campaign due to signature gathering complications due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and stay-at-home mandates, measures to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes qualified for South Dakota’s November ballot.

The New Jersey legislature approved putting a cannabis legalization referendum before voters as well.

And in Mississippi, activists gathered enough signatures to qualify a medical cannabis legalization initiative for the ballot—though lawmakers also approved a competing (and from advocates’ standpoint, less desirable) medical marijuana proposal that will appear alongside the campaign-backed initiative.

A campaign to legalize cannabis in Missouri officially gave up its effort for 2020 due to signature collection being virtually impossible in the face of social distancing measures.

North Dakota marijuana legalization activists are shifting focus and will seek qualification for the 2022 ballot.

Washington state activists had planned to pursue a drug decriminalization and treatment measure through the ballot, but citing concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak, they announced last month that they will be targeting the legislature instead.

DC Activists Submit Signatures To Put Psychedelics Decriminalization On November Ballot

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman.

The post Oregon Voters Will Decide On Legalizing Psilocybin Therapy In November, State Announces appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Don’t Drive High On Marijuana Even If You’re Being Chased By An Axe Murderer, Federal PSA Says

Wed, 07/08/2020 - 17:42

The latest push by the federal government to deter marijuana-impaired driving is coming to TV, radio and the web. Its message? Even if you’re being chased by an axe-wielding psychopath, it’s not worth driving high.

The ad, a partnership between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Ad Council, is the first TV spot developed by Vox Creative, the advertising arm of Vox Media. In it, two men run for their lives from a would-be murderer, dodging axe blows while reciting reasons not to drive stoned.

The men ultimately find a vehicle to escape the scene, but the driver pauses before he turns the key in the ignition. “Wait wait wait,” he says. “I can’t drive. I’m high.”

(Don’t worry. The two would-be murder victims swap seats and end up getting away safely while the sober one mans the wheel.)

“The rules around marijuana use can be confusing. But when it comes to marijuana use and driving, all you need to remember is one rule: Driving impaired is illegal everywhere.”

The Ad Council campaign also includes radio and online advertisements. A 30-second version of the video will run on TV, while a longer, 80-second version (embedded above) will reportedly run on Vox.com and the brand’s ad marketplace, Concert.

“Many marijuana users don’t see a problem with driving after use, but research shows marijuana can slow reaction time, impair judgment of distance, and decrease coordination – all skills necessary for the safe operating of a vehicle,” the Ad Council said in a statement accompanying the new video. “Our campaign targets young men aged 18 to 35, many of whom reject the common stereotypes of marijuana users.”

Stereotypes or no, the campaign reminds consumers that driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in all 50 U.S. states—even if cannabis itself is legal in a growing number of them.

“The rules around marijuana use can be confusing,” its website says. “But when it comes to marijuana use and driving, all you need to remember is one rule: Driving impaired is illegal everywhere.”

Beyond the video and radio ads, the awareness push also includes a number of self-aware signage with messages such as “This is an ad that says you shouldn’t drive high.”

Courtesy of the Ad Council, NHTSA and Vox Creative

As more states have considered legalizing marijuana in recent years, highway safety has become a major focus. Opponents often contend that increased roadway risks themselves are enough to tap the brakes on reform.

In a typical example, the Washington Post’s editorial board in 2014 came out against legalization in Washington, D.C., citing “negative consequences, including increased instances of impaired driving.”

While being impaired no doubt increases drivers’ danger to themselves and others, some critics have complained that the risks of marijuana-impaired driving have been overblown, used as a fear tactic to chill cannabis reform. They argue that research on cannabis and driving is still thin and conflicted, and that the drug’s effect on driving pales in comparison to alcohol and some prescription drugs.

A report commissioned by Congress and published last year cast doubt on the dire warnings of THC-impaired driving. “Although laboratory studies have shown that marijuana consumption can affect a person’s response times and motor performance, studies of the impact of marijuana consumption on a driver’s risk of being involved as a crash have produced conflicting results, with some studies finding little or no increased risk of a crash from marijuana usage,” the Congressional Research Service wrote.

NHTSA, part of the Department of Transportation, has long acknowledged that THC concentration in drivers’ blood levels does not correlate with driver impairment. (The campaign even includes that fact on its website. “Unlike alcohol, there is no correlation between rising THC level and driver impairment,” it says. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive high: “Some research studies have found that peak performance deficits are observed long after peak THC level occurs.”)

The lack of a clear correlation between marijuana and impaired driving has been enough to push some jurisdictions to reconsider per-se THC limits, under which drivers can be charged with a DUI based on the amount of THC in their blood regardless of any evidence of actual impairment.

In Pennsylvania, lawmakers last month introduced a bill that would force police instead to prove impairment. The legislation would exempt medical marijuana patients from the state’s existing DUI law, and police would instead have to demonstrate that a patient’s driving was actually impaired by the drug.

Meanwhile, Congress is taking steps to require states to study the impacts of marijuana-impaired driving. Legislation introduced last month would force states that have legalized cannabis, and only those states, to consider how to educate and discourage people from driving while high. Advocates have questioned that approach, noting that while impaired driving is an important issue, it’s not limited to states with legal cannabis.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to take a number of steps related to marijuana-impaired driving, including directing federal agencies to prepare a report on “the establishment of a national clearinghouse for purposes of facilitating research on marijuana-impaired driving.” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), a sponsor of the bill, also wants the report to outline how researchers in states that haven’t legalized marijuana can still access cannabis from dispensaries to study the drug’s effects on driving.

Congress rejected another amendment, however, that would have required NHTSA “carry out a collaborative research effort to study the effect that marijuana has on driving and research ways to detect and reduce incidences of driving under the influences of marijuana.”

Colorado’s Marijuana Legalization Law Decreases Crime In Neighboring States, Study Finds

Photo courtesy of Carlos Gracia

The post Don’t Drive High On Marijuana Even If You’re Being Chased By An Axe Murderer, Federal PSA Says appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Colorado’s Marijuana Legalization Law Decreases Crime In Neighboring States, Study Finds

Wed, 07/08/2020 - 14:02

Law enforcement and other opponents of marijuana legalization have long warned that ending prohibition would lead to surges in crime, wreaking havoc on neighborhoods that hosted retail stores and spilling into neighboring states that wanted nothing to do with the drug. But as researchers crunch the data since Colorado and Washington State because the first two states to pass adult-use marijuana laws in 2012, they’re finding scant evidence to support the dire warnings.

One of the latest studies to examine before-and-after crime data, which looked at how legalization in Washington and Colorado affected crime rates in neighboring states, finds that passage of adult-use cannabis laws may have actually reduced certain major crimes in nearby jurisdictions.

“We did not detect any increases in the rates of multiple types of crimes in border counties of the nonlegalized states bordering Colorado and Washington,” wrote the authors of the new study, published in the Journal of Drug Issues. Moreover, “we observed a substantial reduction in certain types of crimes, namely, property crime, larceny, and simple assault, in border counties in the Colorado region.”

“Overall, the results for the Colorado region provide some evidence suggesting a crime-reducing effect of legalization on neighboring states.”

“This finding,” the authors add, “challenges the argument made by the opponents of legalization that marijuana legalization would increase crime.”

The research was conducted by Guangzhen Wu of the University of Utah, Francis D. Boateng of the University of Mississippi and Texas-based economic and statistical consultant Thomas Roney.

Existing research on how cannabis affects crime is limited and largely mixed, the authors write. On one hand, there exists what researchers called “substantial evidence” suggesting that legalizing cannabis increases certain criminal activities. Some studies, for example, have found that neighborhoods with a higher rate of retail marijuana outlets experienced higher rates of crime. Another found that both medical and adult-use marijuana retailers were linked to increases in certain crimes.

Confusing that data, however, is the fact that cannabis businesses typically lack access to traditional banking services, forcing most transactions to be handled in cash. “As scholars have reasoned, the criminogenic effect of recreational marijuana dispensaries is largely attributable to the fact that marijuana sale is a cash-and-carry business,” the study says, “which exposes both the business and customers to criminal victimization.”

Meanwhile, other researchers have argued that legalization in fact reduces crime. They assert not only that decriminalization of cannabis itself reduces crime, but also that legalization shrinks what the study describes as “the underground marijuana market that is believed to be fertile soil for violent crime.” Certain studies support that claim, for example research showing drops in rape and property crime in Washington state compared to neighboring Oregon after Washington legalized marijuana for adults.

Little research has been done, however, into how legalization affects crime rates in nearby states. To answer that question, the team dug into county-level data in neighboring states before and after Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana.

“Border counties in the Colorado region saw substantial decreases in overall property crime rate and larceny rate relative to nonborder counties following Colorado’s legalization.”

Researchers drew data from a variety of sources, but a key source was the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, which tracks a variety of crime statistics. “The UCR data provide not only crime information on most serious violent and property crimes, categorized as Part I crimes, including robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft, but also less serious crimes such as simple assault, categorized as Part II crimes,” the study says, capturing many of the crimes critics have warned might accompany legalization.

The team controlled for demographic changes, such as population, poverty level, household income and unemployment rate, because of those variables’ strong association with crime rates. They also attempted to control for other changes, such as nearby Oregon and Nevada passing adult-use marijuana laws in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

Analyzing the data, the researchers found no significant changes to crime rates in nonlegal counties bordering Washington following marijuana legalization, refuting the idea that legalization might lead to a spillover of crime to neighboring states.

Data from the Colorado region went further, suggesting “a crime-reducing effect of recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado on neighboring states.”

“In the six states surrounding Colorado—Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming—following Colorado’s legalization, the border counties experienced, on average, a decrease of 393.1 cases of property crime and 277.3 cases of larceny per 100,000 population relative to the nonborder counties.”

“Specifically, we observed that the property crime rate and larceny rate experienced substantial decreases in the border counties in neighboring states relative to nonborder counties following the legalization in Colorado,” the study says. “This is also true for the rate of simple assault…if Utah is not considered (only considering Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming as neighboring states of Colorado).”

“This finding suggests that recreational marijuana legalization in a state (e.g., Colorado) may not bring about negative consequences on crime in neighboring states, which challenges the assertions made by public officials in these neighboring states arguing a crime-inducing effect of legalization,” the researchers concluded.

What might be causing the decreases in crime? Researchers can only speculate. One idea is that lower marijuana prices in legal states “would arguably reduce individuals’ motivation to resort to predatory crime to support their drug use,” the study says. Another is that police may be more alert to cannabis-related crimes in counties close to where cannabis is legal. It’s also possible that easier access to marijuana has led to lower rates of alcohol consumption, the authors said, “which may reduce crime given the well-documented connection between alcohol use and criminal involvement.”

While the study’s findings contradict arguments by some public officials that legalization in a neighboring state might hurt communities at home, researchers caution that they also can’t say with certainty that legalization reduces crime. Counties neighboring Washington, after all, showed no such effect.

“This suggests the potential spillover effect of legalization (either exacerbating or reducing crime in neighboring states, may be a function of the differential social/cultural and policy contexts of the neighboring states,” the authors conclude, “which certainly deserves further scholarly exploration.”

‘Lazy Stoner’ Stereotype Smashed By Study Finding Marijuana Consumers Exercise More

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