With neighbors on both our southern and northern borders opting for legalization, it would seem like there has never been a better moment for federal legalization. With six different proposals making their way through Congress, it does that seem that legislators are gradually, carefully, even lethargically, making their way toward either federal legalization or immunity for states that legalize. Increasingly, Leafly reports, the issue is not whether to allow for legalized cannabis, but how.
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Mexico is now the third country in the world to roll back the prohibition on cannabis use. The other two are Uruguay and Canada. The decision also leaves the U.S. as the last nation in North America to maintain a ban on cannabis use although there is a continuous stretch of jurisdictions along the Pacific coast of North America in which cannabis is legal.
It is not often that we are able to announce any good news on the DEA front. Although much progress has been made on cannabis law reform, the federal government has largely dug in its heels at every possible turn. But, according to a Forbes report., the DEA, in an upcoming Federal Register filing, is announcing its plan to grow five times more legal cannabis for research next year than is being grown in 2018.
In light of state-legal cannabis, it would be easy to assume that users are safe from the persecution and marginalization of the prohibition era, such as missing out on a job or getting fired thanks to a cannabis drug test – a notorious dilemma for cannabis users. After all, alcohol has a much greater potential for leading to bad decision making, addiction, and affecting your state of mind the following day. Yet, no one can imagine getting fired from a job because your boss heard you were drinking the night before. In fact, Mad Men style office drinking has made a modest comeback in the digital era. So, it might come as a bit of a shock that neither recreational users nor medical patients are widely protected from discrimination by employers.
The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act was introduced a day earlier, and immediately stood out from the plethora of cannabis bills that had already been introduced, but had failed to garner much support. The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exempt those following state laws “relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of [cannabis]."
California’s cannabis legalization measure has been hailed by most as a timely, if not long overdue, step into the future. However, not all cannabis fans supported the measure. Many pro-cannabis opponents took issue with the new tax system, and the ways it could affect businesses and low-income patients. For many consumers, the hype surrounding legalization obscured the substantial tax hike behind the scenes, learning about the increased costs only on their first visit to a dispensary. To make matters worse, the high costs also applied to medical patients who saw no change in their ability to purchase cannabis, but still faced a massive
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to revoke the Obama-era Cole Memo could be his most substantial policy attack on legal cannabis yet, after a year of somewhat mixed signals on the issue. And indeed, it removes an important set of Justice Department guidelines for a rational approach to cannabis enforcement. This move has signaled to states and industry players that the time has come to institute a new way to handle cannabis questions.
As we enter the new year, Californians have something else to celebrate in 2018. January 1st marked the start of legal recreational cannabis sales in the Golden State. While doubt persisted for much of the year over whether regulators would meet the deadline to make room for a recreational cannabis industry in the country’s most populous state, at least some areas of the state have started to enjoy legal sales since the first day of the year.
Alongside much less populous Maine (who voted for legalization the same day) Massachusetts is also the first state east of the Mississippi to legalize cannabis (Washington DC being not quite a state and not quite having full legalization). While it has admittedly come a long way from its Puritan roots, in many ways Massachusetts is a bastion of east coast traditionalism, sandwiched between places like Connecticut and New Hampshire. While California’s legalization was in many ways only a matter of time, the Massachusetts vote came as a shock to a lot of people. It appears that the current tide of legalization has spread far beyond its western birthplace. How exactly did this happen?
In November, California passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), allowing cannabis use for adults over the age of 21. The state is required to open applications to license recreational cannabis businesses on January 1st of 2018 – just over three months away. As the largest state in the US to move towards legal cannabis, California faces a number of regulatory hurdles on the way to implementing the plan.
This past July, in a move that received relatively little attention in North American cannabis circles, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize the sale of cannabis across its entire territory. Sales began last month, but significant challenges from international financial institutions may still stand in the way.
On Monday, a federal lawsuit was filed by cannabis advocates, challenging the Schedule I status of cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as both unconstitutional and irrational. Both long time anti-cannabis voice Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Charles Rosenberg, were named as defendants.
Yet another new cannabis bill introduced to congress would alleviate the friction between Attorney General Jeff Session’s anti-cannabis views and cannabis-friendly state laws. The bill would reschedule cannabis under the DEA’s classification system, downgrading it from Schedule I to Schedule III, a category that includes the likes of Tylenol, codeine, and ketamine. Still unnamed, House Bill 2020 was introduced by Florida representatives Matt Gaetz, a Republican, and Darren Soto, a Democrat.
A new open letter from four governors makes a case to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to maintain existing guidelines on the enforcement of federal cannabis law. The Governors ask the two cabinet members to “engage with us before embarking on any changes to regulatory and enforcement systems.”
In the wake the Trump administrations stance on marijuana in legal states, two new bills have been introduced to congress that would protect the rights of individuals in legal and medical states who are complying with state cannabis laws. One bill would rule out federal prosecution for anyone following state laws, while another seeks to end federal cannabis prohibition entirely, removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
It appears that state governments and newly elected/ appointed federal officials seem to be at an impasse when it comes to marijuana laws. Newly appointed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions - who has a history of being in staunch opposition to legal marijuana and is also as a big proponent of marijuana enforcement on a federal level - recently commented that - "States ... can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.” Not only have these statements echoed anti-marijuana sentiments made by the Trump and administration, but they have also more than implied the possibility of federal crackdowns in states with legal marijuana programs.
On the 31st of August, a federal appeals court ruled that a federal ban on the sale of guns to medical marijuana card holders does not violate the second amendment rights of cardholders. The ruling will apply to states within the jurisdiction of the 9th US. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes nine western states such as Washington, Oregon, and California.
While the DEA and its agents undoubtedly work hard to keep drugs out of the hands of criminals and minors; it seems as if some of their policies may have become archaic. Despite the abundance of research studies and surmounting evidence outlining the medicinal benefits of cannabis, on the morning of August 11th, the DEA announced that it would decline to reclassify cannabis (currently a schedule one narcotic) under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).