The Conservative National Review: Legalize Cannabis to Stimulate Our Coronavirus-Decimated Economy

As someone that has been lobbying to end cannabis prohibition for about two decades now, I have always stressed how the issue goes beyond political demographics and partisan squabbles. During the Measure 91 legalization campaign, I was adamant about going on conservative radio programs and fighting for every vote in every corner of Oregon, not just running up the vote tally along the I-5 corridor.

There are liberal and conservative reasons for legalizing cannabis, making it one of the few “controversial” political issues that garners broad public support. Compassion, personal responsibility, and entrepreneurship can be supported regardless of your voting preference. Neither mainstream political party has fully embraced legalization like they should, unfortunately, and as Zoe Zorka, writes in the conservative National Review, our economy could use a boost during our coronavirus pandemic:

Sunk Costs and Missed Opportunities

Even before the pandemic, marijuana represented a massive untapped revenue stream for governments. Drawing on the most recent available data from a 2018 Cato Institute study, Dwight Blake of AmericanMarijuana.org estimated that the fiscal windfall that would be achieved through drug legalization could amount to $53.23 billion dollars in annual budgetary gains for federal, state, and local governments. For perspective, that’s enough money to cover the cost of treatment for 37,354,386 coronavirus patients, or the purchase of 357,248,332 twelve-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer or 2,681,500,000 face masks.

A Twofold Benefit

Those gains would come from two primary sources: decreases in money spent enforcing drug prohibitions and increases in tax revenue. As state, federal, and local officials look for ways to cut law-enforcement costs, an almost $43 billion reduction in the amount spent annually enforcing marijuana prohibition would be a huge help. Releasing nonviolent offenders convicted of minor marijuana charges from jail would alleviate the burden on an already-overburdened criminal-justice system. And expunging such offenders’ records would allow them to reintegrate into the labor market more smoothly, giving them a fairer chance to break the cycle of recidivism.

The New Small Business on the Block

Marijuana legalization wouldn’t just create a new opportunity for “sin taxes.” It also has significant potential to stimulate local economies by promoting small-business ownership and creating jobs for the almost 20 percent of Americans who are expected to be unemployed or underemployed following the pandemic, according to Paul Shea, who owns an Indiana-based seller of legal CBD products and says his “business is booming.”

It has been a shame that our federal elected officials have been lagging behind the people on cannabis legalization these past few years. Now, during our nation’s greatest crisis since World War II, it is almost criminal. Small businesses like Kind Leaf are helping revitalize communities across our country that have legalized under state law, but they are doing so with one economic hand tied behind their back. With unfair federal tax provisions and banking regulations, Uncle Sam is depriving Americans of much needed jobs and revenue during our worst economic climate since the Great Depression.

If drug policy activism has taught me anything, it’s that we can’t count on politicians to save us. No matter who wins federal office in 2020, it will be on the people to rise up and force the next Congress and president to put an end to the failed and harmful policy of cannabis prohibition.

U.S. House Spending Bills Includes Cannabis Banking and Other Reforms

The fight to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level is a slow grind, seemingly with one step forward preceded by another step or so back, but progress continues. The latest sign of cannabis law reform advancing are the initial drafts of U.S. House spending bills that include some much-needed provisions for the cannabis community. As usual, Marijuana Moment is on top of the reporting:

As Congress prepares large-scale legislation to fund federal agencies for the next year, marijuana reform seems to be making progress. House versions of spending bills unveiled this week include provisions to protect medical legalization laws from federal interference, ease marijuana businesses’ access to basic banking services, expand cannabis research, oversee the country’s fledgling hemp and CBD industries and finally grant Washington, D.C. the ability to legalize recreational sales.

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Among the most notable inclusions in the new spending bills for Fiscal Year 2021 is a provision that would remove some roadblocks to banking and financial services for state-legal cannabis businesses. Cannabis firms have been pushing lawmakers to allow such access for years. The House has passed standalone banking legislation, later inserted into a recent coronavirus bill and approved again, but so far the matter has stalled in the Senate and is yet to become law.

The new spending rider suggests House lawmakers aren’t giving up. As introduced, the spending bill introduced Tuesday to fund fiscal and general government matters restricts Department of Treasury funds from being used “to penalize a financial institution solely because the institution provides financial services to an entity that is a manufacturer, a producer, or a person that participates in any business or organized activity that involves handling hemp, hemp-derived cannabidiol products, other hemp-derived cannabinoid products, marijuana, marijuana products, or marijuana proceeds” that is legal under state or tribal law.

It has grown tiresome to continue having debates around the need for sensible solutions to our nation’s cannabis policies, but no one ever said that political revolutions are easy. Decades upon decades of Reefer Madness propaganda and the entrenched powerful interests that have benefited from prohibition aren’t going away easily, but we are chipping away with common sense and the truth. Stay tuned as bills weave their way through Congress and be sure to contact your legislators and urge your like-minded friends and family members to do the same.

Study Finds Cannabis Community Exercises More, Smashing Stereotype

Everyone in the cannabis community has dealt with stoner stereotypes of all kinds, from being stupid to being lazy. Time and time again, we shatter those stereotypes, whether it’s with geniuses like Carl Sagan or world-class athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. The “lazy stoner” stereotype was just dismantled again, this time with a new study, as Marijuana Moment reported:

“Compared to older adult nonusers,” says the study, out of the University of Colorado at Boulder, “older adult cannabis users had lower [body mass index] at the beginning of an exercise intervention study, engaged in more weekly exercise days during the intervention, and were engaging in more exercise-related activities at the conclusion of the intervention.”

In other words, not only were adults over 60 who used marijuana generally in better shape than their peers who abstained from cannabis, they were also more responsive to an assigned four-month “exercise intervention trial”—essentially a regimen of physical activity prescribed by a clinician.

“These findings suggest that it may be easier for older adults who endorse using cannabis to increase and maintain their exercise behavior, potentially because cannabis users have lower body weight than their non-using peers,” wrote the study’s authors, a team at CU’s Department of Neuroscience and Psychology. “At minimum, the evidence suggests that cannabis use does not hinder older adults’ ability to engage in physical activity, to participate in a supervised exercise program, or to increase their fitness as a result of physical activity.”

Of course, the activity level of Oregonians (known for a higher than average rate of cannabis use) should have dispelled this myth long ago. As The Oregonian reported back on January 16, 2020, that a study revealed how Beaver State residents were among the most active in the nation:

Oregon is known for an outdoorsy brand of fitness, and new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests this reputation goes beyond an affinity for the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

The study, released Wednesday, defines physical inactivity as not participating in activities such as running, walking for exercise, or gardening for a period of at least one month.

In Oregon, just 15-20% of residents polled ranked as physically inactive. That means that along with Washington, Utah, Colorado and the District of Columbia, Oregon ranks as one of the most active states in the country.

This summer, be sure to experience a ton of natural beauty across the great state of Oregon, from border to border. Of course, no summer is complete without a trek to Eastern Oregon, so be sure to stop in Kind Leaf and acquire some amazing cannabis products from the craft cannabis boutique with the best selection around. Enjoy yourselves and keep shattering those stereotypes, step by step.

Be Kind, Be Safe, Wearing a Mask Required in All Oregon Businesses Starting July 1st

Kind Leaf has been at the forefront of consumer and public safety, long before the coronavirus pandemic, taking precautions that protect everyone, including a curbside, walk-up window. Now, every Oregon business is required to enforce mask wearing inside, as The Oregonian reported:

Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday that she will require Oregonians to wear face masks everywhere in the state — not just in a handful of select counties — to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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The governor hinted that the new statewide requirement could be a last-ditch measure against surging numbers of new cases and hospitalized patients over the past month in Oregon. Repeatedly in recent weeks, Oregon has broken records for the number of new cases.

“I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing,” she said in a news release. “If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face covering when out in public.”

Kind Leaf would like to remind its customers that wearing masks is now the law of the land, no different than checking identification, so please don’t take out the new mandate on them, or any or local business. Kind Leaf is a true Oregon-owned small business and is only following the rules required of everyone. A message from Kind Leaf that has been posted on its Facebook page:

👉🏼 We know, we know – but hey, we’ve been wearing them all along – just pretend you’re a ninja with the rest of us for the duration of the mask mandate. 😷

🎈If you do not want to wear a mask, you can totally place and online order and utilize our pick-up window – which actually gets you an extra 5% off your order- 🧾

☝🏼Please remember we are just doing as directed, our staff didn’t make the rules, but we do have to abide by them in order to remain in compliance with our regulatory requirements. 📋

✌🏼 Please do not provide our staff members with your personal political opinions – they are valuable, but others are waiting in line for our staffs time, if you would instead send an email to your state representative that would be amazing! 📝 🙌🏼

#BeKind

Kind Leaf
1733 SW Court Ave
Pendleton, Oregon
(541) 612-8588

You can order online and check out all of the great deals and products Kind Leaf has to offer on Leafly.

Bernie Sanders- Joe Biden Task Force Members Advocate For Cannabis Legalization

As Joe Biden campaigns against president Donald Trump, a task force comprised of members of his and Bernie Sanders’ supporters are meeting to discuss various issues. Biden, hoping to avoid a similar fate as 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, has taken the step of forming the task force to try and bridget he divide between progressive and moderate wings of the party.

As Marijuana Moment has covered, the criminal justice task force has been debating cannabis legalization. Progressives hope that the former vice president will get with the times, a supermajority of the party, and a strong majority of American voters, and move from merely supporting decriminalization to supporting legalization:

Most of the group—which consists of advisors appointed by both Biden and former primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)—support ending cannabis prohibition, and advocates have held out hope that they would recommend that Biden adopt the policy platform in the run-up to the November election.

While some members have publicly talked about the issue since joining the task force, including Linn County, Iowa Supervisor Stacey Walker, who recently commented on the need for reform in light of racial disparities in marijuana criminalization, a new report from Politico appears to be the first confirmation that the group itself is actively considering a formal recommendation on the policy change.

From Politico’s report:

Multiple people said marijuana policy has been discussed on the criminal justice panel, one of the policy groups of the unity task force. Sanders appointees have advocated for legalization. Some Biden appointees personally support legalizing pot and have debated putting the policy in the panel’s recommendations to the former vice president, according to two people familiar with its deliberations.

Biden supports decriminalization, but has resisted calls to make cannabis legal—a reform endorsed by the majority of his primary opponents, including vice presidential contenders Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. The criminalization of marijuana has contributed to the country’s mass incarceration problem, disproportionately affecting black men.

Chiraag Bains, a co-chair of the criminal justice task force tapped by Sanders, said Biden should “end the War on Drugs, including by legalizing marijuana.” He said those are his personal views, however, and he was not speaking as a leader of the task force.

It will be interesting to see what direction Joe Biden plans to take, especially if his pick to be his running mate supports legalization, like frontrunner Kamala Harris. With a big lead in the polls, the Democrat may want to play it safe, but he’ll be playing it wrong if he thinks opposing legalization is safe.

Biden will run the risk of getting outflanked by Donald Trump on the issue, who not only wants to win for himself, but may want to throw a lifeline to Republican Colorado Senator Cory Gardner who could use a win on cannabis. Only time will tell, but both presidential candidates would be wise to adhere to the will of the voters and call for an end to the failed and racist policy of cannabis prohibition.

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Carl Sagan’s Best Friend and Cannabis Community Giant, Passes Away at 92

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School has been one of the most important voices in the cannabis community, helping speak truth to power, passed away this morning, the morning after celebrating his 92nd birthday. Grinspoon’s status as a Harvard professor and his friendship with renowned scientist Carl Sagan were instrumental in dispelling common cannabis myths and stereotypes.

Dr. Grinspoon’s 1971 book, Marihuana Reconsidered, about the real effects of cannabis and its place in society was a landmark publication for the movement to reform our nation’s unjust laws. Just two years later, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize personal use, kicking off a wave of decriminalization laws across the nation and laying the foundation of our fight for freedom and science that still continues to this day.

Lester Grinspoon’s son, Dr. Peter Grinspoon, who has followed in his father’s path in promoting science and truth, posted about his father’s passing on Twitter:

Vice Magazine profiled Grinspoon’s relationship with the late, great Carl Sagan, and cannabis, back in 2013:

Dr. Lester Grinspoon’s interest in marijuana dates back to 1967, the year he decided to research the subject sufficiently enough to convince his best friend—who just happened to be Carl Sagan—and a few other associates to stop smoking the stuff. While the internationally renowned astronomer never publicly acknowledged his use of cannabis, the bestselling author and host of “Cosmos” did partake frequently and enthusiastically in private, invariably encouraging his straight-laced companion Lester to join in.

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Four years later, despite facing pressure at Harvard not to touch the subject, Grinspoon published Marihuana Reconsidered (1971) to document his findings. The bestselling book described, among other things, a decades-long government propaganda campaign undertaken to keep marijuana illegal at all costs.

In addition to an authoritative, scientific refutation of the many myths then commonly accepted about cannabis, the book included an essay from a man in his mid-30s identified only as Mr. X. Writing under a pseudonym, Carl Sagan explained that his support for ending marijuana prohibition was not just political, but also deeply personal:

I do not consider myself a religious person in the usual sense, but there is a religious aspect to some highs. The heightened sensitivity in all areas gives me a feeling of communion with my surroundings, both animate and inanimate. Sometimes a kind of existential perception of the absurd comes over me and I see with awful certainty the hypocrises and posturing of myself and my fellow men. And at other times, there is a different sense of the absurd, a playful and whimsical awareness. Both of these senses of the absurd can be communicated, and some of the most rewarding highs I’ve had have been in sharing talk and perceptions and humor. Cannabis brings us an awareness that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds.

Everyone working to end cannabis prohibition today stands upon the shoulders of giants who sacrificed so much before us. Dr. Lester Grinspoon is one of those giants. All of us enjoying more freedom today owe him a bit of gratitude. May the legendary giant rest in power.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful sentiment posted by his son. It brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes.

Gallup: 70% of Americans View Cannabis Use as Morally Acceptable

It is easy to see that cannabis use has become more morally acceptable in American society. More and more states have passed various legalization laws, more federal politicians are embracing legalization, polling shows strong support, and you cannabis is being discussed more within our mainstream culture. A new Gallup poll now shows that 70% of Americans view cannabis as morally acceptable, up five points from last year, just below gambling (71%).

From Gallup:

Americans View 13 of 21 Issues as Morally Acceptable

Of the 21 issues included in the latest poll, all but five have been measured since the early 2000s, and 13 are considered morally acceptable to majorities of Americans.

  • At least seven in 10 U.S. adults say birth control, drinking alcohol, getting a divorce, sex between an unmarried man and woman, gambling, and smoking marijuana are acceptable moral behaviors.
  • Likewise, two-thirds of Americans consider gay or lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage and medical research using human embryonic stem cells as acceptable.
  • In addition to the death penalty, medical testing on animals, buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur, and doctor-assisted suicide are morally acceptable to narrower majorities.

While utilizing cannabis is deemed more moral more so by liberals at 83%, a majority of conservatives (51%) now feel that using cannabis is a morally acceptable choice. Once again, it is great to see progress across the political spectrum, but the overall results remind us that we still have a lot of work to be done to combat decades of Reefer Madness propaganda. Drinking alcohol is viewed as morally acceptable by 86% of Americans when cannabis use is clearly the safer joice. Also, the fact that 28% of Americans still view cannabis use as immoral can have huge implications in housing, employment, child custody, and other aspects of our lives.

Step by step, we’re making change for the better, but revolutions are marathons, not sprints. Keep sharing your experiences and the truth about cannabis and we’ll continue making strides for true freedom and equality.

Featured photo credit: Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance

Would Donald Trump Sign a Cannabis Legalization Bill Passed by Congress?

Donald Trump’s position on cannabis has been tough to pin down. During the 2016 campaign, he stated that he supported medical use and that he was a believer in states’ rights regarding legalization. However, the hiring of Reefer Madness prohibitionist Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, signing statements regarding his administration’s ultimate right to enforce federal cannabis laws regardless of state legalization laws, and comments by members of his staff, have caused confusion.

That confusion has only been exacerbated by a recent interview of Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who has a an anti-cannabis history, and the ensuring Twitter beef that sprung out of the interview with reporter Matt Laslo. Marijuana Moment reported:

President Donald Trump’s stance on marijuana legalization became the jumping off point for a spat between a top White House aide, Republican operatives and a reporter on Thursday after Chief of Staff Mark Meadows laughed off a question about the prospects of broad cannabis reform advancing before the election in November.

But the controversy wasn’t solely about the administration’s position on legalization; rather the dispute centered on how freelance reporter Matt Laslo characterized the conversation on Twitter, where he said that Meadows suggested pro-cannabis reform Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) “has been misleading voters on marijuana” and that “Trump has no plan to lift a finger on cannabis legalization or even normalization.”

Laslo also shared audio from the interview and wrote that it showed Meadows “mockingly laugh when I ask if Trump plans to carry through on his promise to [Gardner] to relax federal marijuana laws.”

Some Republicans pushed back on Laslo’s characterization of Meadows’ response and the implications that Colorado Senator Cory Gardner has been misleading his constituents. Gardner is seen as very vulnerable Republican who the Democrats hope to defeat this November. With legalization very popular in Colorado, the issue is an important issue for his re-election prospects.

Laslo responded to his Republican critics on Twitter:

As Politico reported, any type of cannabis legalization legislation would help Senator Gardner, but he hasn’t been able to move the needle in the Republican-controlled Senate:

But so far, the GOP’s most ardent promoter of cannabis in Congresshasn’t delivered any legislative wins for the state’s $1.7 billion, rapidly growing cannabis industry, where marijuana was legalized in 2012. The two major cannabis bills Gardner sponsors — one to increase access to banking and capital for the cannabis industry and one to codify federal protections for states that choose to legalize marijuana — have not advanced in the Senate at all, despite the banking bill passing the House with a bipartisan majority last fall. Gardner does not support any bill that would legalize cannabis nationwide.

“At some point, I have to go to Cory Gardner and say, ‘Why should the industry continue to support you?’” said Marijuana Policy Project’s Don Murphy, a former Republican lawmaker in Maryland. “I know you’re trying, but you’re not getting anything.”

With so many issues facing our nation, it seems unlikely that cannabis legalization legislation will be passed by Congress. With a lot of negative stories dominating the news cycle, it would certainly benefit Trump and Gardner to have a feel-good cannabis story make some headlines, but each day that passes, it seems more and more unlikely this term. We’ll see what the next four years will hold.

Juneteenth Commemorates the End of Slavery, but Slavery Still Exists in American Prisons

When you are fighting for equality and civil rights, it is extremely important to celebrate your victories. There are so many things wrong in this world, that we can easily get overwhelmed and burnt out unless we take the time to find joy. After celebrating, we activists then can move onto the next political or cultural battle, recharged and ready to create more positive change.

Like many, my heart is filled with hope seeing so many people taking to the streets and getting active fighting for freedom. Juneteenth, the day commemorating slavery finally ending in the United States, is certainly a day to reflect and celebrate important victories. However, after acknowledging the day, we need to remember that slavery actually still exists in American prisons as The Atlantic has covered:

In the shining promise of freedom that was the Thirteenth Amendment, a sharp exception was carved out. Section 1 of the Amendment provides: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Simply put: Incarcerated persons have no constitutional rights in this arena; they can be forced to work as punishment for their crimes.

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In this new era of prison industry, the criminal “justice” system, the state determined the size of the worker pool. Scores of recently freed slaves and their descendants now labored to generate revenue for the state under a Jim Crow regime.

More than a century later, our prison labor system has only grown. We now incarcerate more than 2.2 million people, with the largest prison population in the world, and the second highest incarceration rate per capita. Our prison populations remain racially skewed. With few exceptions, inmates are required to work if cleared by medical professionals at the prison. Punishments for refusing to do so include solitary confinement, loss of earned good time, and revocation of family visitation. For this forced labor, prisoners earn pennies per hour, if anything at all.

A significant number of convicted prisoners can be safely released, as Time Magazine comprised a team of criminologists, lawyers, and statistical researchers to analyze criminal codes, convictions, and sentences to write the report How Many Americans Are Unnecessarily Incarcerated?. Time reported:

We found that approximately 39% of the nationwide prison population (576,000 people) is behind bars with little public safety rationale. And they can be released, significantly and safely cutting our prison population.

How did we get to this number? First, many people who are in prison shouldn’t have been sent there in the first place. For example, we found that 25% of prisoners (364,000 people), almost all non-violent, lower-level offenders, would be better served by alternatives to incarceration such as treatment, community service, or probation. Second, another 14% (212,000 prisoners) have already served long sentences for more serious crimes and can be safely set free.

Releasing these inmates would save $20 billion annually, enough to employ 270,000 new police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 school teachers.

The war on cannabis and greater Drug War have created a New Jim Crow system that not only deprives people of their freedom and educational and employment opportunities, but also perpetuates modern day slavery. Even for people that don’t get sent to prison solely for cannabis or other nonviolent drug offenses, these victimless “crimes” put people in the system in the first place, or end of being probation and parole violations that end up imprisoning them. Let’s reflect this Juneteenth, but remember that we have a lot of fights left to win, including truly ending slavery in the United States of America.

Nevada Pardons Over 15,000 with Cannabis Convictions, Let’s Do This Nationwide

Cannabis prohibition has always been a terrible policy, but it is getting even more embarrassing to defend as each day passes. Reefer Madness prohibitionists can try all they want to rely upon decades of propaganda to prop up the racist and failed war on cannabis, but, when given the chance, voters would legalize nationwide. Even many that oppose cannabis use now see that our country has too many serious issues to tackle to waste limited resources citing, arresting, jailing, prosecuting, and jailing people for cannabis.

Nevada has taken a great step in the fight to right the wrongs of cannabis prohibition by pardoning over 15,000 people of their convictions. These folks can now become full members of society, getting their Second Amendment rights back and having their ability to vote restored, among other rights and privileges that have been denied to them for far too long.

Marijuana Moment reported:

The measure extends unconditional clemency to individuals with possession convictions of up to one ounce from January 1986 to January 2017. It was introduced to the board by Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) last week.

“Today is an historic day for those who were convicted of what has long been considered a trivial crime, and is now legal under Nevada law,” the governor said in a press release. “Since the passage of [adult-use legalization] in 2016 and the decriminalization of possession for small amounts of marijuana, many Nevadans have had these minor offenses remain on their records, in some cases as a felony. This resolution aims to correct that and fully restore any rights lost as a result of these convictions.”

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“Today we took another step toward justice by pardoning thousands of Nevadans for actions that Nevadans decided should no longer be illegal,” state Attorney General Aaron Ford (D) said. “I’m proud to work alongside Governor Sisolak to make it easier for these Nevadans to get jobs, housing, and financial aid for college. Together, we’re making criminal justice reform a priority across Nevada.”

We need to take this movement to pardon people persecuted by the war on cannabis nationwide and look for ways that we can right wrongs of our past. Too many tax-paying-otherwise-law-abiding citizens have had their educational and employment opportunities squashed by a racist and harmful policy that a vast majority of Americans now realize was a mistake. Legalization is great, but it’s just a first step of reconciling the sins of our past when it comes to cannabis prohibition.