Tag: cannabis legalization

Automatically Release Cannabis Prisoners and Expunge Criminal Records

Ending cannabis prohibition is a transformational policy that ends thousands upon thousands of arrests while generating millions upon millions of dollars. Lives are drastically improved as nonviolent, law-abiding citizens no longer have their educational, employment, and housing opportunities stripped from them. And more people have access to a safe medicine that can help alleviate their condition, and for some, could even be life-saving. But more still needs to be done after legalizing cannabis, starting with broader criminal justice implications. First and foremost, everyone in prison for cannabis should be released from prison and all criminal records shoulds be expunged automatically. This shouldn’t be controversial, but it’s not easy to accomplish.

Following the passage of Oregon Measure 91 in 2014, one of my favorite stories that emerged was of a man who had tears of joy after he was able to expunge a felony that had followed him his entire life. While I am still extremely happy that Oregonians can remove criminal convictions that they previously couldn’t, we didn’t go far enough. Clearing your criminal history shouldn’t depend upon the ability to pay an attorney, filing fees, and jumping through hurdles. Cannabis is legal now, signifying that it was a mistake to criminalize it in the first place. People shouldn’t have their lives hindered forever because the law was an error. They are grappling with this very issue in Virginia, one of the most recent states to end prohibition, as NBC Channel 12 reported:

Marijuana will soon be legal in the commonwealth starting July 1, but that does not mean those jailed for marijuana-related offenses will get out right away.

While the new legislation takes effect July 1, people will not have marijuana-related charges cleared from their records right off the bat, especially if they are more serious.

“I’m pretty sure that the expungement of past convictions is going to take a while to put into effect,” Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley said.

Noah Strike, a columnist for the The Cavalier Daily, rightly took the state to task:

The General Assembly’s move to legalize recreational marijuana and create a regulated market for it in the Commonwealth is undeniably a good thing. Governor Northam’s commitment to social justice in legalization is exactly what Virginia needs in our contemporary period. But it is impossible to legalize marijuana under the banner of social justice without accounting for and actively addressing the historical harm American drug policies have caused. It is impossible to fulfill our goal of racial justice without freeing those incarcerated for past marijuana offenses.

Legalizing personal possession and regulating cannabis commerce is only a part of the battle to implementing sensible and sound legalization policies. There’s a lot of work to be done after cannabis is legal. Let’s start with ending the ridiculous notion that people should have job and housing opportunities denied because the state made the mistake of criminalizing cannabis in the first place.

Gallup: All-Time High 68% of Americans Support Cannabis Legalization

Imagine living in a world where only 12% of Americans support cannabis legalization. The year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and the Beatles played their last performance, 1969, was when Gallup first polled Americans, “Do you think the use of marijuana should be legal or not?” Nearly 90% of Americans either opposed ending prohibition or were unsure. Fast forward to 2021, and we can clearly see the success of the cannabis community all around us, in our many political and cultural victories. And Gallup has the receipts, as support for legalization has reached an all-time high of 68%, as the polling company revealed, noting the success of the movement over the decades:

Americans are more likely now than at any point in the past five decades to support the legalization of marijuana in the U.S. The 68% of U.S. adults who currently back the measure is not statistically different from last year’s 66%; however, it is nominally Gallup’s highest reading, exceeding the 64% to 66% range seen from 2017 to 2019.

Gallup first measured the public’s views of marijuana legalization in 1969, when 12% of Americans backed it; by 1977, support had more than doubled to 28%. It did not exceed 30% until 2000 but has risen steeply in the two decades since then, and is now twice what it was in 2001 and 2003.

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The trajectory of the public’s support for the legalization of marijuana has coincided with an increasing number of states approving it. It is not entirely clear whether the shift in public opinion has caused the change in many state laws or vice versa. Given recent trends, more states are likely to legalize recreational marijuana in the future. Considering the high level of public support for such a measure, a change in federal policy could even occur.

While its been easy to see the success of the drug policy reform community in educating the public about cannabis, it’s always great to view hard data as our fight for freedom will only get harder in the electoral battles ahead. Reefer Madness prohibition has been the law of the land for decades and prison-industrial complex and other business interests that have perversely benefitted from arrests and convictions of those that dare to utilize cannabis, will give up their entrenched power willingly. If every state had a fair initiative process, where we can take the issue directly to voters, our electoral challenge would be much easier. Passing groundbreaking legislation that upends nearly a century of lies is still a difficult task, especially when wealthy business interests opposing legalization flex their political muscle. However, with the truth on our side and supermajority support from American voters, we just need to continue doing the hard work that has led to so many successes, step by step, state by state.

Cannabis community, come celebrate your supermajority status at Kind Leaf in beautiful, Pendleton, Oregon. Eastern Oregon’s premier craft cannabis boutique has the best selection in the Great Northwest and great deals that include discounts for military veterans, OMMP patients, and senior citizens.

With Mexico Moving to Legalize Cannabis, the U.S. Is in Danger of Getting Left Behind

Our entire lives we have been taught about American exceptionalism. It is ingrained in us with our nation’s origin story about how the great George Washington, who allegedly wouldn’t lie about chopping down a cherry tree, led a ragtag group of freedom fighters to win independence from the mighty British Empire. Yes, we often ignore or downplay our faults and mistakes along the way, but Americans love to tout our great nation as the greatest of all-time, and the land of the free and the home of the brave does have some great accomplishments, such as winning independence from England and being the birthplace of Rock and Roll, for starters. We are supposed to be the leaders of the free world, so the United States getting left behind by our North American neighbors on cannabis legalization is just embarrassing, and as the Dude said, “This aggression will not stand, man.”

First, our neighbor to the north ended cannabis prohibition as Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party was swept into power with legalization as a foundation of its political platform in 2018. After years of Vancouver, British Columbia, helping lead the way, drug policy reformers cheered on our Canadian counterparts, just knowing the their success would soon help our political battle here as well. While we are proud of the work of Canadian advocates, it soon became distressing to see big multinational corporations headquartered in Canada use their newfound freedom to buy up smaller American cannabis businesses who have been too stifled by Uncle Sam’s probationary policies to compete.

Now, as Politico reported our neighbor to the south, is on the verge of ending cannabis prohibition:

Mexico is on the verge of creating the world’s largest legal marijuana market, a move that could pressure President Joe Biden to embrace weed, too.

Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies passed landmark legislation Thursday morning, ahead of a April 30 deadline set by the country’s Supreme Court to legalize recreational sales. The Senate is expected to back the billin the coming days.

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President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose party strongly backs the proposal, is expected to sign the bill, sandwiching the U.S. between the world’s two biggest legal marijuana markets.

While I am gland the Mexico is moving towards legalization and am hopeful that their progress will help spur Congress to act quickly, I am fearful that this will open up yet another wave of corporate takeovers. The 280E IRS tax code and lack of banking and financial services are crippling American companies while corporations will now be able to utilize Mexico’s more favorable laws to purchase companies here in the U.S., just as companies have done in Canada. Now that American entrepreneurs will face major competitors from both sides of our border, on an uncompetitive playing field, it’s even more imperative that Congress pass legalization as soon as possible. We can start with the SAFE Banking Act and move forward from there, but time is of the essence.

Nebraska Governor Infected Reefer Madness

The days of Reefer Madness are waning as legalization is supported by a supermajority of all voters, more than a dozen states have now legalized cannabis after nearly all have passed medical legislation, and there is majority support to end federal prohibition in United States House of Representatives and potentially the Senate. The hyperbolic claims of the evils of marijuana, rooted in racism and dripping with harmful propaganda over the decades, have met science and common sense and the truth has been winning a lot lately, especially at the ballot box when the voters are provided an opportunity to have their say. Even some of the biggest former promoters of Reefer Madness nonsense over the past couple of decades have tried to soften their rhetoric a bit, claiming to support decriminalization (although that usually includes forced rehab), but just opposing commercialization. Unfortunately, those used to power don’t give up easily and Reefer Madness has still infected too many, including the governor of Nebraska as the USA Today reported:

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has launched an aggressive campaign against the legalization of medical marijuana in his state, going as far as to warn residents that legalizing the drug would kill their children, even though it has never been linked to a fatal overdose. 

“This is a dangerous drug that will impact our kids,” Ricketts told reporters on Wednesday. “If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids. That’s what the data shows from around the country.” 

The Republican governor made the statement as the state legislature is considering a bill to legalize the use of cannabis if recommended by a health care practitioner. The legislation restricts the form of consumption to oils, pills or tinctures, and prohibits marijuana smoking, even in the patient’s home. 

The notion that kids will die because Nebraskan grandparents will be able to treat their glaucoma and chronic pain with cannabis is obviously ridiculous, but it points to a huge problem facing too many voters for far too long: those in power who are completely out of touch. Given a fair vote, medicinal cannabis would win huge on the Nebraska ballot and legalizing for all adults would likely win majority support as well. Unfortunately, Reefer Madness is still alive and well and the infection has reached the highest levels of government in a handful of states such as Nebraska, Idaho, and South Dakota.

Ironically, the Reefer Madness-inspired “the sky is falling” rhetoric currently employed by Nebraska’s governor was once used about decriminalization laws, the type of decrim policies that Nebraska passed back in 1978. Just as those Reefer Madness Chicken Littles were wrong about the states that passed decriminalization in the ’70s, Governor Ricketts is wrong today. State by state, freedom and common sense are on the march, but Reefer Madness has caused some to remain blind to the truth.

Voters Find Cannabis Legalization Both Nonpartisan and Inevitable

I sometimes cringe when I hear people, especially non-activists, proclaim cannabis legalization as “inevitable.” On one hand, it is good for our political fight to ending prohibition as most voters don’t want to ruin lives and waste taxpayer dollars to perpetuate a failed and harmful policy that is going to end in the near future. However, the feeling of inevitability can discount the tons of work that people have put into the fight for freedom and make some people think that they don’t have to put in any work to help end the war on cannabis. While I do believe that it’s true that legalization is inevitable, it is only inevitable because so many people are working extremely hard every single day to spread the truth about cannabis and explaining the many reasons that prohibition should be repealed to voters, legislators, and policymakers.

A poll surveying voters in the four states that legalized cannabis last month (Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota) did indeed find that voters find legalization as inevitable, and most promising, non-partisan, as Marijuana Moment reported:

Three in four respondents said that, beyond their individual states, they view federal legalization as “inevitable.” And while Congress has been relatively slow to act to that end, their belief is bolstered by the fact that they view cannabis as an increasingly bipartisan issue.

Almost two-thirds of voters in these four states—which include a mix of red, blue and purple states—agreed that legalization is a policy that “both liberal and conservative voters can get behind.”

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“In sum, public opinion in the four states that legalized marijuana this fall shows a pattern of shifting opinions that bodes well for marijuana policy reform across the country,” FM3 Research and Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, which conducted the poll on behalf of the pro-legalization New Approach PAC, wrote in a memo. “Support for legalization in principle has become broad, strong, and bipartisan—reflecting a steady positive shift in perceptions of voters of all parties over the last few years.”

According to the New Approach PAC poll, a whopping 76% of these voters feel that legalization is inevitable, compared to 19% who don’t. Very promising, 65% of all voters, including 53% of Republicans, found that legalization is a non-partisan issue. I have long argued that cannabis law reformers needed to make the case to all voters about the progressive and conservative values at the core of the legalization debate, especially where the two sides meet: the need to remove government interference from the lives of otherwise law-abiding citizens that aren’t harming anyone else. Virtually every poll on cannabis is good news these days, but never forget that polls aren’t votes and that we cannot get complacent. The polling looks good because people are putting in the work. Let’s keep it up.

Another Historic Cannabis Moment: Mexico’s Senate Votes to Legalize

As the United States continues to make slow, steady progress towards ending cannabis prohibition, our neighbor to the south is helping show the way. With Canada already leading the way, the U.S. is in danger of falling behind Mexico as the Mexican Senate just voted to legalize. The Chamber of Deputies now has to pass the bill and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has already stated his support.

Like the debate in the U.S., as we are seeing both federally and in states like New Jersey, the issue isn’t just whether cannabis should be legalized (it should, of course), but around how the plant and its products should be legalized and regulated. Marijuana Moment reported:

While advocates have celebrated the advancement of cannabis reform through the legislature, they have fought hard for changes to better protect consumers’ rights and promote social equity in the legal market. Namely, they remain concerned about high penalties that can be imposed for violating the cannabis rules and feel the bill should do more to allow opportunities for small farmers.

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That said, Ricardo Monreal, the ruling MORENA party’s coordinator in the Senate, argued last week that the proposal is a significant improvement on current laws against possession, which have “only caused the detention centers to be full of people for possession of a few grams of cannabis, which is why they seek to reduce the penalties in carrying of this product.”

In a column published on the senator’s website on Sunday, he said the “intensity, duration and complexity of the discussion reflects the desire to achieve the pacification of a country that for years has been a victim of violence caused by drug trafficking, as well as the will to respect the right to free development of the personality, at the same time that favorable conditions are generated to expand national economic development,” according to a translation.

With 68% of U.S. voters supporting cannabis legalization, it is going to be an embarrassment if we are the last North American nation to end prohibition. Let’s get our act together so that our farmers and entrepreneurs can truly flourish.

Will the 2020 Election Lead to Federal Cannabis Legalization in 2021?

Cannabis legalization, for both medical and adult use, is on the ballot in a few more states in 2020. Will more state victories lead to some common sense cannabis banking and tax law reform? Or, dare we dream big that the federal government will finally end the failed and harmful policy of prohibition in the coming years? Next year?

It’s always dangerous to pin your hopes to the words of most politicians, but if things go right, Uncle Sam could finally sweet Reefer Madness cannabis prohibition into the dustbin of history. Leafly has a breakdown on where the state efforts currently stand as election day nears:

New Jersey? Fuhgeddaboudit. Voters there are expected to approve adult-use legalization (Question 1) in a landslide.

The adult-use vote (Prop. 207) in Arizona may be a little closer, with 55% currently supporting legalization and 37% opposing.

Montana legalization (I-190 and CI-118) looks secure, as long as undecided voters break at least partly in favor of adult use.

South Dakota voters seem to love medical legalization (IM-26) but remain split on adult-use legalization (CA-A).

In Mississippi, a lack of recent polling, along with new campaign donation data, lead us to put that state’s medical marijuana legalization measure (Initiative 65) in a tight 50-50 battle going into Election Day.

As Marijuana Moment reported, United States Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told Green Enterprise that success at the state level has demonstrated that cannabis legalization works, it’s a necessary step to promote racial racial justice, and that he looks forward to championing a legalization bill next year:

“I’m a big fighter for racial justice, and the marijuana laws have been one of the biggest examples of racial injustice, and so to change them makes sense,” he said. “And that fits in with all of the movement now to bring equality in the policing, in economics and in everything else. Our bill is, in a certain sense, at the nexus of racial justice, individual freedom and states’ rights.”

Schumer’s legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, was first introduced in 2018 and was refiled last year with a House companion version.

If he’s reinstalled as senate majority leader, the top Democrat said he “will put this bill in play,” adding “I think we’ll have a good chance to pass it.”

Regardless of how the 2020 election plays out, or who you support, it will be imperative that the cannabis community continues to make progress at the state and federal levels. Small, craft cannabis businesses like Kind Leaf need banking and tax reform to fully unleash their potential. And we need to end the federal war on cannabis. Too many lives are being held back and ruined. Please vote, and make your voices heard.

U.S. House Will Vote on Cannabis Legalization this Month

When I first became a cannabis law reform advocate about twenty years ago, I figured that I had two decades of fight in me. If we didn’t end prohibition in a state by 2020, I would call it quits and pick up another cause to dedicate my time to. Well, thanks to the hard work and dedication of so many unsung activists, farmers, patients, and heroes, the movement managed to beat my timeline by 8 years and we’ve gained momentum each and every day since then. Most of the action has taken place at the state level, with just a few positive federal accomplishments, but we knew that it was only a matter of time before our successes at the state level would bring about federal change.

While the law ultimately won’t pass this year, it is still a great victory for the cannabis community that a legalization bill will be voted on by the United States House of Representatives this month. Politico was the first to report about the pending vote for H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act:

The MORE Act is not the only bill that would remove cannabis from the CSA, but because it expunges records and creates funding for grants to benefit people who have been negatively impacted by criminal enforcement, this bill has garnered the most support from Democrat leadership and legalization advocates.

“As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime champion of marijuana legalization.

Does this mean cannabis will be legal? No, the odds of this bill passing in the Senate are still very slim, given the opposition of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. During this week’s Republicans National Convention, speakers criticized Democrats for purportedly prioritizing marijuana sales during the pandemic over more important services like health care and religious gatherings.

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It will be extremely interesting to see how the Democratic-led House ends up voting on the MORE Act. Very likely, the vote will be largely along party lines, but two Republicans did vote to pass the bill out of the Judiciary Committee. Hopefully, plenty of politicians, on both sides of the aisle will understand that there are both liberal and conservative reasons to be on the right side of history on ending cannabis prohibition.

While the legalization bill is probably dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, passage in the House will be another big step forward for the fight to end the failed and harmful war on cannabis. Very notable, one of the Senate co-sponsors, Kamala Harris, has a decent chance of being the next vice-president of the United States. Regardless of the where you stand politically or how the next presidential election turns out, it is easy to see that the cannabis legalization movement is only going to continue growing stronger and stronger over the coming years.

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.

69% of Oregonians Believe that Cannabis Legalization Has Been Successful

Cannabis legalization laws certainly aren’t perfect. There are a lot of improvements that need to be made at local, state, and federal levels to better help patients in need and small businesses. However, there are a lot of successes to be proud of as well, especially around criminal justice penalties and the fact that cannabis retail sales, illegal everywhere just a decade ago, have now been deemed essential during a global pandemic crisis.

There are fewer arrests, jobs are being created and revenue has been generated for important social services, yet Reefer Madness prohibitionists want to turn back the clock and scream about how the sky has fallen in legal cannabis states. Thankfully, we have the facts on our side, and the voters. As Marijuana Moment reported, YouGov polled over 32,000 voters in legal states and a whopping 69% of Oregonians believe that legalization has been a success:

They were given five options: “Success only, more of a success than a failure, more of a failure than a success, failure only or don’t know.”

Here’s a breakdown of percentages of people in legal states who said the policy has been a success compared to a failure:

Colorado (71-17 percent)

Oregon (69-20 percent)

Massachusetts (67-15 percent)

Washington (65-18 percent)

Nevada (64-17 percent)

California (59-20 percent)

Illinois (59-17 percent)

Michigan (56-20 percent)

Maine (47-20 percent)

Too often, the cannabis community is still treated as second class citizens in many aspects of our lives, from child custody battles to employment rights. Entrepreneurs are still fighting for access to regular banking services (which could pass soon) and sensible taxation policies (further away, but needed ASAP). As we continue to mainstream cannabis legalization and advocate for equality, we should always note that the voters that know the best, those that live in legal cannabis states, understand that legalization is a much better policy than prohibition.