Month: December 2019

Happy New Year! Illinois Governor Pardons Over 11,000 People with Cannabis Convictions

One of the biggest developments in 2020 for the cannabis community will be the start of legal cannabis commerce in Illinois on New Year’s Day. Legalization in the Midwestern state will reverberate across America’s Heartland as neighboring states will see the Land of Lincoln usher in more freedom, jobs, and revenue and will want to follow suit. Even more important than the direct economic benefits of cannabis sales are the rights and freedoms that more people will enjoy as those saddled with old convictions will have the ability to expunge those past offenses off of their records. Thankfully, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker kicked off the New Year right by pardoning 11,017 people with minor cannabis offenses, as ABC 7 Chicago reported:

“Tomorrow when adult-use cannabis becomes legal, pay attention to the fact that we are beginning to accomplish four very important things: We are ending the 50-year long war on cannabis. We are restoring rights to many tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Every state that has legalized cannabis has seen high demand and long lines in its earliest weeks, and to be sure, our state will too. But unlike other states, in Illinois, we purposely built a system where the market has room to grow, so that entrepreneurs, including especially those from the communities devastated by the war on drugs, will have real opportunities in this industry.”

The Cannabis Regulations and Tax Act provides for ways to expunge convictions and arrest records for minor cannabis offenses, with more than 700,000 records that will be eligible.

***

Governor Pritzker acknowledged that marijuana convictions have disproportionately impacted black and brown people and stressed that this new industry emphasizes equality saying it will bring safe oversight and an end to a decades’ long war. Pritzker made the announcement at Trinity United Church of Christ Tuesday.

Hopefully, Governor Pritzker’s pardons will influence other governors to do the same across the nation. Too many people have had their lives disrupted or ruined by nonviolent cannabis offenses, hindering their ability to find jobs, get an education, or maintain custody of their children. It’s time to move forward with a sensible public policy that truly treats the cannabis community equally and fairly from sea to shining sea. Here’s to 2020 and let’s all resolve to continue the fight for freedom and liberty for all.

Legal Cannabis Retailers Doing a Great Job Preventing Sales to Minors

Reefer Madness fear mongering has been a staple of prohibitionists for decades, but the truth about cannabis has been debunking each myth one by one. The fear tactics originally started with outrageous claims, like folks turning deranged, that a basic understanding of the plant and those that utilize it revealed that the stories were nonsense. The denial of medicinal properties has melted away as a majority of states legalized medical use and predictions of highway carnage have proven to be false as well.

The fact that regulated cannabis would do a better job of preventing sales to minors than the illicit market would take some studying, and now, the results are coming in, and legal retail outlets are indeed checking identification and turning away underage would-be buyers. A recent study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that cannabis retailers in Washington and Colorado, the first two states that legalized cannabis commerce to all adults, did a better job than alcohol establishments of denying purchases by those underage. Washington State retailers denied those under 21 86.6% of the time, while Colorado stopped minors 92.6% of the time. Marijuana Moment reported on the study:

The authors highlight that “refusal rates exceeded those for alcohol and are similar to those for tobacco.” In other words, the policies and regulations of the cannabis industry in Colorado and Washington could be used as potential models for other states looking to legalize recreational marijuana sales.

The findings are comparable to a sting operation conducted by Oregon regulators last year that showed a 100 percent compliance rate by licensed marijuana stores in not selling to underage individuals.

According to the new Colorado and Washington study, when it comes to cannabis, “regulators in both states worked with the industry, performed compliance checks, and penalized stores that failed.”

Those in the cannabis industry have a huge interest in ensuring that cannabis stays out of the hands of those under the age of 21 as minors’ brains are still developing and noncompliance with identification checks will lead to a backlash against legalization. Licensed and regulated cannabis retail outlets should be commended for their efforts in checking IDs and preventing sales to minors, helping prove, once again, that legalization is a better policy than prohibition.

Just Like Every Year, 2020 Will Be a Big Year for Cannabis

Since California passed Proposition 215, becoming the first state to legalize medical cannabis, back in 1996, virtually every single year has been a big year for the cannabis community, as we’ve continued to make progress dismantling Reefer Madness-inspired prohibition across the nation. Major election years tend to have the biggest developments and 2020 is certainly no different as we’ll be seeing numerous states consider important reforms either at the ballot box or through legislative actions. Of course, the federal elections will go a long way towards Uncle Sam’s cannabis policies in the coming years.

One of the most important ballot measures, particularly to those of us living in the Great Pacific Northwest is a medical proposal currently gathering the 50,000+ needed valid signatures in Idaho, the last bastion of complete prohibition in the area. Full disclosure–I helped draft early versions of the initiative, and am extremely proud of the dedicated, hardworking advocates that are currently traveling the state urging folks to sign the petition. With conservative Utah passing medical cannabis in 2018, there is optimism that Idahoans will join the medical cannabis majority, as support for medicinal use as strong majority support across demographics.

Tom Angell reported on Idaho, and 15 other states with potential 2020 reform measures for Forbes, here’s what he had to say about the Gem State:

Idaho is one of only a handful of states in the U.S. that doesn’t even allow patients to access CBD medications with low-THC content. That could change, however, under a proposed medical marijuana ballot measure for which activists are currently collecting signatures.

The Idaho Cannabis Coalition’s proposal would let approved patients and their caregivers possess up to four ounces of marijuana. A system of licensed and regulated growers, processors, testers and retail dispensaries would be established.

Patients would not be allowed to grow their own medicine unless they qualify for a hardship exemption for those who have have a physical, financial or distance difficulty in acquiring marijuana at a dispensary. Those patients could grow up to six plants.

It will be great to see Idaho and other states move forward with positive reforms as there are still too many people getting arrested and patients in need across the United States. In addition to people’s freedom and wellbeing being harmfully disrupted, federal business regulations, particularly tax and banking policies that are hurting small businesses, will only be addressed with a groundswell of support as we increase our political power state by state. So long as we keep working hard and spreading the truth about cannabis, 2020 will be another banner year for our community.

Last Minute Christmas Shop at Kind Leaf, the Cannabis Boutique that Gives Back

I’m not a huge gift giver. My Christmas gift to everyone is that they don’t have to buy me anything. Of course, a few loved ones will give me presents, so I will reciprocate, I’m not a monster. If you have members of the cannabis community on your list, I urge you to support small cannabis businesses like Kind Leaf. Mom and pop retailers give back to our local communities and profits aren’t shipped out of the state or to other countries. Kind Leaf, easter Oregon’s premier craft cannabis boutique, goes a step further with its Kind Tree program. This year, 23 families with 54 children will have great Christmases because of the kindness of Kind Leaf and their customers.

2019 Kind Leaf Kind Tree Gifts
The Kind Leaf team is delivering gifts to over 50 children from families in need this Christmas.

If you are in Pendleton, Oregon, or anywhere close enough for a rewarding road trip, Kind Leaf has many products that are exclusive to them in Pendleton. For cannabis flower and pre-rolls, those brands include: SoFresh Farms, 7 Points Oregon, Geek Farms, Fox Hollow Flora, Yerba Buena, Ideal Farms, Highland Provisions, Otto’s, and Gnome Grown. If you are looking for extracts, concentrates, or vape cartridges exclusive companies are: Happy Cabbage, Willamette Valley Alchemy, White Label, Dr. Jolly’s, Highland Provisions, Dab Society, Hood Oil, and Phantom Farms. Exclusive edible products are from Serra, Peak Chocolate, Highland Provisions, Legal Beverages, and starting in January, Grön.

79978421_1862433030557956_322808105584820224_n

80195395_2605685652877116_6860728510353244160_n

79759437_550613099114620_8992140309127233536_n.jpg

79505942_803666076752075_4684931673433833472_n

There are even some amazing non-cannabis items that make great gifts, many featuring local businesses. “Voting” with our hard-earned dollars is one way that we can help create the society that we want. If you want a local economy that benefits Oregonians, supporting Kind Leaf is one way to be a bit of the change that you want to see in this world.

Kind Leaf is closing at 6pm on Christmas Eve and is closed on Christmas Day to allow employees to enjoy the holiday with loved ones.

80121157_2811451995561152_2532208869707350016_n.jpg 

 

Cannabis Community Must Rally to Pass Banking Bill in the U.S. Senate

Those thinking that the cannabis industry is a get-quick-rich plan are most likely to be severely disappointed. A long list of obstacles hinder cannabis businesses from over regulation to over taxation, at all levels of government. The lack of access to banking services is one major hurdle for hard working entrepreneurs that are foundational pioneers in the burgeoning industry. The lack of a bank account poses enough problems, but without the business loans and other programs available to other industries, growth is severely stifled.

Thanks to the diligence of advocates, we won a major victory by passing the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Act at the United States House this year, but unfortunately the much-needed banking bill faces a tough path in the Senate. Passage in the Senate will take a strong lobbying effort by the cannabis community after Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, while open to passing banking legislation, announced his opposition to the SAFE banking Act, as Marijuana Moment reported:

A powerful Senate committee chairman said on Wednesday the he opposes House-passed marijuana banking legislation and laid out potential changes he would like to see to the bill before he takes it up in his panel.

Among other amendments being floated for public feedback is a 2 percent THC potency limit on products in order for cannabis businesses to qualify to access financial services as well as blocking banking services for operators that sell high-potency vaping devices or edibles that could appeal to children.

“I remain firmly opposed to efforts to legalize marijuana on the federal level, and I am opposed to legalization in the State of Idaho,” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, said in a press release. “I also do not support the SAFE Banking Act that passed in the House of Representatives. I have significant concerns that the SAFE Banking Act does not address the high level potency of marijuana, marketing tactics to children, lack of research on marijuana’s effects, and the need to prevent bad actors and cartels from using the banks to disguise ill-gotten cash to launder money into the financial system. I welcome input from all interested parties on how to thoughtfully address these concerns.”

Regardless of one’s stance on cannabis legalization, everyone should support banking access for industry participants. The SAFE Banking Act will help businesses grow, creating more jobs and generating more revenue. Public safety and prompt tax payments will also improve if banking services are fully legalized. The lack of banking services hurts small and medium businesses the most and these mom-and-pops and craft cannabis boutiques need our support, both with our dollars and our political activism.

The future of the cannabis industry depends upon our community shopping with local companies and urging our elected officials, especially United States Senators, to treat the industry like any other business sector. It certainly seems like Idahoans need to contact Senator Crapo and it is imperative that we make our voices heard. We’ve come a long way, we just need to remain vigilant and keep making progress for the cannabis community step by step, piece by piece, law by law.

The Veterans Administration Should Provide Medical Cannabis

Many Americans rightfully appreciate the sacrifices made by military veterans, especially during the holidays, but our country unfortunately lets down our vets time after time. One glaring example is the lack of medical cannabis information and assistance available to vets through the Veterans Administration. One vet is rightfully making a push for the VA to provide medical cannabis directly to those that have put on a uniform to defend our nation, as CBS12.com reports:

”Medical marijuana gave me the chance to reduce my medications down to where I’m only taking four pills a day,” said David Eniss, a Delray Beach resident.

Eniss, a grandfather and U.S. Air Force veteran, says he doesn’t know what he would do without medical marijuana.

***

“I would hope that they would pass a law to take care of our veterans in that way, and that they would consider cannabis as a legitimate medication that could be covered under Veterans Administration benefits,” he explained.

We have made some good progress on medical cannabis laws across the nation and we did take a step forward recently when VA policy was changed to allow vets to participate in state medical cannabis programs and VA providers to discuss medical use as part of their patients’ comprehensive medical care. For too many veterans, this simply isn’t enough as too many are on limited incomes, let alone living in states that prohibit all forms of cannabis. It is past time that our government do right by vets on a variety of fronts, including regarding their safe access to medical cannabis.

 

 

Banking and Hemp Laws Highlight Some Big Victories for the Cannabis Community

Author and historian Joseph Marshall III stated that, “Success is rarely the result of one swell swoop, but more often the culmination of many, many small victories,” while author Chris Brogan, said, “Celebrate small victories often. Mourn failures quickly.” These quotes have stuck with me over the years and are good reminders for activists working in cannabis law reform, or any other field. The cannabis community has had victories big and small over the years, with a few major setbacks, but building upon our wins and not letting our losses detract us, have been important to our momentum.

When the end of the year winds down, there are always a rush of “Top 10” lists and cannabis is no different. Tom Angell listed his top 10 marijuana victories of 2019 in Forbes, including banking and hemp legislation. Here’s a snippet:

After decades of being swept up in broader cannabis prohibition, hemp finally became legal late last year through the 2018 Farm Bill. In response, numerous federal agencies have taken major steps in 2019 to implement the legalization of marijuana’s non-psychoactive cannabis cousin.

While the most high-profile move was the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal in October of broad rules under which states can submit hemp regulatory plans, a number of other developments occurred following the Farm Bill’s passage.

***

In other big cannabis news from Capitol Hill, the full House of Representatives voted in September to approve a bill to let banks service marijuana businesses without fear of being punished by federal regulators.

The roll call tally, 321 to 103, demonstrated broad bipartisan support for fixing an issue that industry leaders and regulators alike have pointed to as a public safety concern. Current law, by preventing many cannabis operators from being able to store their profits with financial institutions, forces them to operate on a cash-only basis and makes them targets for robberies.

The victories for the cannabis community in 2019 will certainly be a springboard into 2020 as the U.S. Senate should take up banking legislation and the federal government is expected to provide more clarity around all things hemp. We can look forward to reforms to pass in a few more states and the advances we make in 2020 will reverberate across Washington D.C., and across the country. We have made such great progress over the years, that it is easy to forget to celebrate all of our victories. Let’s not fall into that trap, let’s appreciate how far that we have come and come back in 2020 more motivated than ever before to fight for freedom and equality.

Two New Polls Show Strong Support for Cannabis Legalization

People that utilize cannabis have suffered with criminal punishments and negative stigma for two long. Even in states where cannabis is legal, too many people are still unfairly harmed by a variety of laws and policy practices from housing to loans to employment to child custody. Those that have studied the issue understand the need to end the Reefer Madness-inspired war on the cannabis community, and thankfully, poll after poll demonstrates that a strong majority of the American people agree.

Marijuana Moment reports on two newly-released polls that demonstrate that more than 60% of Americans support cannabis legalization:

A Fox News survey, which involved phone interviews with 1,000 adults from December 8-11, showed that 63 percent of respondents support legalizing “the recreational use of marijuana on a national level,” while 34 percent oppose the policy.

A Marist poll, conducted in collaboration with NPR and PBS, surveyed 1,744 Americans from December 9-11. The results similarly showed 62 percent of respondents saying it is a “good idea” to legalize cannabis, with 33 stating it would be a “bad idea.”

***

“This holiday season, Americans are more likely than ever to agree in favor of legalizing marijuana when the topic comes up at the dinner table,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “With a public majority mandate, now is our time to demand ending prohibition in advance of the 2020 elections.”

Holiday gatherings can be stressful for everyone, especially when sharing meals with friends and family with various disagreements, including whether cannabis should be legal. The cannabis community can feel strength in knowing that we are in the majority and that we are a part of a growing movement for freedom and equality. So, be sure to purchase that cannabis-related gift for your loved ones and don’t feel that you must hide your beliefs, you, and most folks across the nation, agree that it is time to stop prosecuting and persecuting the nonviolent cannabis community.

Featured Photo Credit: Drug Policy Alliance/Darrin Harris Frisby

 

It’s Official, Major League Baseball No Longer Considers Cannabis a “Drug of Abuse”

A few days ago, it was reported that Major League Baseball would stop punishing minor league ball players for cannabis use, treating cannabis like alcohol. It was expected that this change would reach the big leagues sooner than later, and it just took a couple of days as MLB has made the dramatic change official. This is a major step in the right direction as baseball is “as American as apple pie” and this move will impact the National Football League and other sports, further mainstreaming cannabis in our culture.

ESPN reports: 

Marijuana will be removed from the list of drugs of abuse and will be treated the same as alcohol as part of changes announced Thursday to the joint drug agreement between MLB and the players’ association. In addition, suspensions for marijuana use will be dropped from the minor league drug program.

Opioids are classified as a drug of abuse under the joint big league program, which began in late 2002 and until now has limited testing to performance-enhancing substances and banned stimulants.

***

“It is our collective hope that this agreement will help raise public awareness on the risks and dangers of opioid medications,” deputy baseball commissioner Dan Halem said.

The opioid addiction and overdose epidemic is severely impacting families across the United States, and it is good to see baseball taking the issue seriously and making some common sense changes to its drug policy. The road towards achieving true equality for the cannabis community and implementing a sane drug policy is a long one, but it is great to celebrate victories like this today, wherever they occur in our societal landscape. Step by step, person by person, sports league by sports league, common sense is on the march!

Chicago Prosecutor Expunges 1,000 Cannabis Convictions, Let’s Do This Everywhere

Legalizing cannabis is just one part of our battle to end the harmful war against the nonviolent cannabis community. Even after ending arrests and prosecutions, we still need to fight to implement sensible business regulations, worker protections, and parental rights, among other policy reforms. Expunging past criminal convictions is an obvious next step and it’s great that Oregon and other states have passed sensible expungement laws following legalization. However, Oregon, and other legal states, should go a step further and automatically eliminate old cannabis convictions, just as Chicago prosecutor Kim Fox is doing for 1,000 people, as reported by the Associated Press:

“Today, we made history and took the first step in the single largest and most equitable piece of criminal justice reform Illinois has ever seen,” Foxx said in a statement. The effort to expunge records in minor marijuana cases is required by the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.

Technology developed by a non-profit organization called Code For America is already being used elsewhere, most notably in California, to clear thousands of convictions. Foxx’s office will use the same technology to evaluate eligibility and remove minor marijuana convictions from people’s records at no cost to them and, in many cases, without their knowledge. The defendants will be notified by the court clerk’s office via email or by a letter that the convictions have been expunged.

The people whose cases are being expunged include those who were convicted of misdemeanors, or Class 4 felonies, the lowest category of felony in Illinois. Anyone convicted of possessing more than 30 grams must apply individually if they want to have their records expunged.

In Oregon, and too many states, expungement is too burdensome, confusing and expensive. Once your dues to society have been paid, and you are a nonviolent, law-abiding citizen, expungement shouldn’t depend upon where you live, on your ability to decipher forms, or how much expendable income that you have. While there are helpful expungement clinics in Oregon, they are usually held in Portland, Eugene, or Medford, and those living outside of the I-5 corridor may not have the means to attend.

Call me a dreamer (but I’m not the only one), but your freedom and equality shouldn’t depend upon where you live and how much money you happen to have in the bank. While it may be a difficult task, let’s bring more justice into our society step by step.