Top Cannabis Stories of 2022

What were some of the top cannabis stories of 2022? It was a big year for legalization efforts, but full-scale implementations are still needed. While Germany looked to legalize cannabis, it didn’t happen in 2022. Likewise, despite beliefs that Biden and the Democrats would legalize cannabis or, at the very least, pass some cannabis banking regulations, nothing came of it. Cannabis didn’t fare much better in Canada, where authorities launched a full-scale war on medical cannabis and legacy medical providers. […]

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Biden’s Cannabis Pardon Helps No One

No one is currently incarcerated in federal prison for simple possession of cannabis. The White House has put out the figure of 6,500 people this pardon will benefit. But no one is in federal prison for simple pot possession. Biden’s cannabis pardon helps no one. I was under the impression that this pardon would expunge one’s record and allow people with cannabis on their record to get a job or hold office. What else does pardon mean? Turns out, not […]

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Did Biden Just Legalize Cannabis?

Did US President Joe Biden legalize cannabis? No, but his administration did pardon Americans with federal charges for small amounts of cannabis. This move will help over 6,000 people, but “it’s important to note here most small cannabis offences are actually sitting at the state level,” says Nawan Butt, Portfolio Manager at Purpose Investments Biden is urging state governors to pardon those with simple possession convictions. Biden Finally Makes a Move Toward Cannabis Reform  “It’s completely unexpected,” Nawan tells CLN. […]

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Wisconsin Governor Pardons Several With Cannabis Convictions

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Friday announced dozens of new pardons, including nine for individuals previously convicted for cannabis-related offenses.

“There is power in redemption and forgiveness, especially for folks who’ve been working to move beyond their past mistakes to be productive, positive members of their communities,” Evers said in a statement. “I’m grateful for being able to give a second chance to these individuals who’ve worked hard to do just that.”

Evers, the first-term Democrat, has now “granted more pardons during his first three years in office than any other governor in contemporary history,” according to a release from his office, which said that he has granted a total of 498 pardons since taking office in 2019.

The nine individuals previously busted for pot-related offenses who received a pardon on Friday include Danielle Arrigo, who “was 22 when she twice sold marijuana to a confidential informant,” and “now resides in Burlington with her daughter and has earned her associate degree.”

There was also Jeremy Busch, who “was pulled over for suspected drunk driving” 22 years ago when “police discovered he had been drinking and smoking marijuana.” Busch was 18 at that time.

“Now 22 years later, he resides in Genoa City and has obtained an associate and bachelor’s degree in the fields of civil engineering and architecture, graduating magna cum laude,” according to the governor’s office.

Per the Friday announcement from Evers’s office, the following individuals with marijuana-related convictions were also pardoned: “Christina Darby was 22 when officers found marijuana in her home. She has since moved to California with her children, earned an associate degree, and works as a property manager.”; “Gary Davis, Jr. was around 20 years old when he was found in possession of marijuana and other controlled substances. Three decades later, he now resides in Madison and has worked as a youth/juvenile counselor with local social services organizations.”; “Henry Hong was 20 when he sold a controlled substance and was also found in possession of marijuana and a stolen pistol. He now resides in Raeford, North Carolina, where he owns a restaurant and has earned a master’s degree.”; “John Jezuit was a teenager when he punched someone while on probation for selling marijuana. Nearly two decades later, he now resides in Madison and has earned his bachelor’s degree in social welfare.”; “Travis Nelson was 18 when he sold marijuana to a confidential informant. He now resides in Denmark with his family and founded his own trucking business over 13 years ago.”; “Lawrence Riche was 20 when officers found marijuana in his residence, and several years later, he was again found with marijuana, controlled substances, and firearms. Now 40 years later, he resides in Menomonee Falls, has remained sober, and has maintained long-term employment as a steamfitter.” 

As the governor’s announcement on Friday explained, a pardon “does not expunge court records,” but it is “an official act of forgiveness that restores rights lost when someone is convicted of a felony, including the right to serve on a jury, hold public office, and hold certain professional licenses.”

For Evers, who is up for re-election this year, the pardons are consistent with repeated calls for cannabis reform in the Badger State. Last year, Evers’ budget proposal included a plan to legalize medical and recreational cannabis use, both of which are against the law in Wisconsin.

In February, Evers vetoed a Republican-backed measure that would have instituted new penalties in Wisconsin for manufacturing and distributing cannabis or resin by butane extraction.

“It is widely accepted, and, indeed, research over the course of the last decade confirms, that marijuana criminalization has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, especially in Wisconsin where have long-standing racial disparities in incarceration rates,” Evers said in his veto statement at the time.

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis Grants Slew of Pardons

Colorado Governor Jared Polis rang in 2022 with a pardon party.

Last Thursday, the governor’s office announced that he had “granted three commutations, 15 individual pardons, and signed an executive order granting 1,351 pardons for convictions of possession of two ounces or less of marijuana.”

The move was made possible by legislation that Polis signed in May, which “authorized the Governor to grant pardons to a class of defendants who were convicted of the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana.”

“Adults can legally possess marijuana in Colorado, just as they can beer or wine. It’s unfair that 1,351 additional Coloradans had permanent blemishes on their record that interfered with employment, credit, and gun ownership, but today we have fixed that by pardoning their possession of small amounts of marijuana that occurred during the failed prohibition era,” Polis said in a statement.

Signed into law by Polis on May 20 of last year, the bill increased “the amount of marijuana that adults 21 and older in Colorado can legally possess from one ounce to two ounces,” and built upon the 2012 voter-passed constitutional amendment legalizing recreational cannabis, which gave the governor such authorization.

The governor’s office said in a press release that individuals “who are unsure whether a conviction on their record has been pardoned may fill out a form to request confirmation of a pardon on the Colorado Bureau of Investigations website.”

Colorado has been a trailblazer for the legalization movement in the United States, becoming the first state (along with Washington) to end the prohibition on pot in 2012. Since then, restorative justice measures have become a fixture of new cannabis laws, with previous low-level offenders receiving pardons.

The governor’s office said that the cannabis pardon “applies to state-level convictions of possession for two ounces or less of marijuana, as identified by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI),” and that “individuals who have these convictions did not need to apply for pardons, and the Governor’s Office has not conducted individual assessments of the people who have been pardoned through this process. Individuals convicted of municipal marijuana crimes, or individuals arrested or issued a summons without a conviction, are not included in the pardon.”

The new year will bring some tighter restrictions to Colorado’s medical cannabis laws, however. The Denver Post reported in November that the state’s Department of Revenue “will limit the daily purchase to two ounces of flower and eight grams of concentrate such as wax and shatter for medical marijuana patients,” and that it will drop two grams per day for patients aged 18 to 20.

Per the Denver Post, the Department of Revenue unveiled the rules after “several months of deliberation over how to execute a new state law meant largely to limit young people’s access to and abuse of high-potency THC products.”

The newspaper reported that there are exceptions to the new rules, but they apply “to a patient whose doctor affirms in writing that the patient has a physical or geographic hardship that should allow them to exceed the daily purchase limits, and that the patient has designated a store as the primary place they get their medicine.”

The limits were made possible after lawmakers passed a bill that created a task force to produce new rules.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic state House Representative Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician, who said that she wanted to ensure that young people cannot “get their hands on an incredible amount of products and very concentrated products that they can then give or sell to people their age or younger who don’t yet have access to legal market because they’re not 21.”

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Senators Urge Biden to Pardon All Non-violent Cannabis Offenses

Decrying “over a century of failed and racist cannabis policies,” Elizabeth Warren and a pair of other Democratic senators are urging President Joe Biden to use his executive authority to “pardon all individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses, whether formerly or currently incarcerated.”

Warren, the senior senator from Massachusetts, made the request in a letter to Biden on Tuesday. Warren’s fellow senator from the Bay State, Ed Markey, and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley also signed the letter. 

“America’s cannabis policies have punished Black and Brown communities for too long. Beginning at the turn of the 20th century, states enacted anti-cannabis laws to specifically target Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans,” the three senators wrote. “By 1937, the battle against cannabis—buoyed by a high-profile campaign relying on racist tropes—had escalated to a federal ban. 

“In the 1970s, President Nixon launched the War on Drugs over the objections of his own advisors and experts, spawning mass incarceration policies with devastating effects on Black and Brown families. Today, despite legalization efforts across the country and roughly equal cannabis usage rates, Black Americans are still nearly four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession as white Americans.”

The Democratic trio also came with receipts, pointing to the mounds of polling data showing record numbers of Americans in support of marijuana legalization.

“These policies are increasingly out of step with the views of the American public. Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe that cannabis should be legalized,” the senators wrote. “Eighteen states, two territories and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use, all in the past decade.

“Twenty-seven states—ranging from New York to North Dakota—plus D.C. have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis,” they continued. “Thirty-six states, three territories and D.C. have allowed for the medical use of cannabis. And a number of tribal governments have legalized cannabis for various purposes.”

But despite all that evidence of robust public approval for marijuana reform, Biden has thus far balked at the idea of outright legalization. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in July that the president remains opposed to lifting the prohibition on pot.

However, on the campaign trail last year, Biden had said that he supports decriminalizing marijuana, as well as expunging the records and releasing from jail individuals who had been convicted of pot.

Warren and her colleagues noted that campaign pledge in their letter to Biden on Tuesday.

“Our country’s cannabis policies must be completely overhauled, but you have the power to act now: you can and should issue a blanket pardon for all non-violent federal cannabis offenses, fulfilling your promises to the American people and transforming the lives of tens of thousands of Americans,” they wrote. 

“As a candidate for President, you argued that, ‘We should decriminalize marijuana,’ and, ‘Everyone [with a marijuana record] should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.’ The first and simplest step in the process is a blanket pardon. The Constitution grants you the authority to pardon broad classes of Americans to correct widespread injustice, as previous presidents have done. 

“Most importantly, such a pardon—combined with your leadership on an accessible expungement process to formally clear the criminal records of those affected—would mark the beginning of a reversal of decades of ineffective and discriminatory cannabis policies, allowing Americans to return to their communities, find housing and jobs and rebuild their lives without the burdens of an unjustly imposed criminal record.”

The senators called on President Biden to once and for all make good on the campaign promise he made on the campaign trail. “We urge you to act swiftly on behalf of the countless Americans punished by the country’s senseless cannabis laws,” they added. “Thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

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