Saskatchewan Bill Would OK Cannabis Licenses for First Nations

The provincial government of Saskatchewan, Canada announced on Tuesday that it has introduced legislation designed to give the province’s First Nations regulatory authority over cannabis operations in the areas they govern. The first of two bills, The Summary Offenses Procedure Amendment Act (SOPA) of 2022, will provide a legal framework that First Nations communities can use to enforce laws and bylaws on reserve lands, while the second piece of legislation establishes the provincial legal framework for First Nations to license and regulate the distribution and retail sales of cannabis.

“The Government of Saskatchewan is proud to take this important step as part of our ongoing work with the Muskoday and Whitecap Dakota First Nations,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said in a statement from the provincial government. “These amendments will allow these and other First Nations communities in the future to use the more simplified summary offenses procedure, instead of the long-form process under the federal Criminal Code, to issue tickets and fines such as those issued for traffic violations and other provincial offenses.”

The second bill, The Cannabis Control (Saskatchewan) Amendment Act of 2022, establishes the provincial legal framework for First Nations to license and regulate the distribution and retailing of cannabis on First Nation reserve lands. Under the legislation, First Nations will be subject to existing provincial and federal legislation to establish a local authority to self-govern cannabis operations. Retailers conforming with the regulations, which have not yet been written, will be able to purchase from cannabis producers regulated by the federal government.

Legislation Follows Memo Of Understanding

The new legislative amendments follow a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by the Government of Saskatchewan, the Muskoday First Nation, and the Whitecap Dakota First Nation in October 2019 to address longstanding issues concerning sovereignty and the enforcement of First Nations’ laws.

“First Nations assert their jurisdiction and maintain community safety by creating laws under the Indian Act, land codes, and other federal legislation but there have been difficulties in enforcing these laws in the courts,” said Chief Darcy Bear of Whitecap Dakota First Nation. “Through our work with the provincial government, the amendments to SOPA will give us access to prosecution and enforcement tools that will give force to our laws in areas such as environmental protection and community safety; and strengthen the place of our laws alongside federal and provincial law.”

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority is responsible for administering and enforcing cannabis regulations within the province. Lori Carr, the minister who heads the SLGA, said that the province is in favor of giving First Nations autonomy over cannabis regulatory administration and enforcement on reserve lands.

“Our government supports First Nations exercising their authority over on-reserve distribution and retailing of cannabis through a legal framework with SLGA,” said Carr. “This change further fosters reconciliation by ensuring First Nation-owned businesses are able to fully participate in the economic opportunities presented by the retail cannabis industry.”

“One of the biggest benefits that they’ll have is they’ll be able to access the product from the Canadian government, so they’ll be able to ensure the product they’re getting is safe for their consumers,” Carr added.

The Zagime Anishinabeck First Nation has operated a cannabis dispensary for retail sales near Regina, Saskatchewan since 2019, overseeing the enterprise via its own policy and regulatory bylaws. Chief Lynn Acoose said that because the sovereign First Nations are self-governing communities, the new legislation from the provincial government is not necessary. 

“We have our own laws and bylaws,” Acoose told reporters on Tuesday, adding, “So far, the framework we’ve put in place has served us well.”

With the First Nation’s regulations already in place, Acoose said that the Zagime Anishinabeck does not support regulations that would give Saskatchewan officials authority over First Nation cannabis enterprises.

“We would not be interested in entering into any kind of agreement with the province with respect to enforcing any kind of provincial statutes on reserve,” said Acoose, adding that complying with federal laws is a different matter.

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Virginia Officials Consider Measures To Reduce Stoned Driving

Officials in Virginia are exploring ways to deter drivers from getting behind the wheel after getting stoned, the latest effort by the commonwealth to smooth out its new adult-use cannabis law.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that the “the Virginia Crime Commission — an arm of the General Assembly tasked with studying issues of criminal law and making recommendations — [has] discussed some potential steps police and sheriff’s offices can use to crack down on driving while high,” and that the “commission is expected to meet Dec. 5 to draft their proposals for the legislative session that begins in January.”

“One thing under consideration at the commission’s Nov. 16 meeting: changing state law to allow roadside screening devices in which officers and deputies can have a driver swab his or her cheek in order to gather saliva to test for marijuana and other drugs,” the outlet reported this week. 

“Virginia officials said the ‘oral fluid tests’ under consideration to detect marijuana intoxication are similar to a ‘preliminary breath test’ — a roadside test for alcohol. The test results, while not admissible in court, can help determine when the cannabis was consumed, and can be combined with other factors to get probable cause for extensive blood testing,” the publication continued. 

Kristen Howard, the executive director of the Virginia Crime Commission, told the Virginian-Pilot that officers can “swab the inside of someone’s mouth, and you get a positive or negative and it just gives you some indicators.”

“It’s designed to hone in on the recentness of use — how many hours ago you used this drug,” Howard explained.

The moves come within a month of a survey from the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority (CCA), which showed that a high number of Virginians are comfortable toking and driving. 

According to the survey, roughly 23% reported consuming pot in the past three months and about 14% of drivers in the state said that they have driven high several times in the past year. 

The survey also showed that a third believe marijuana improves their ability to drive safely. 

Virginia officials sounded the alarm on the survey results.

“These results are worrying and underscore the General Assembly was right to direct the CCA to undertake a safe driving campaign,” said John Keohane, a board chair of the Cannabis Control Authority.

Jeremy Preiss, the CCA’s Acting Head and Chief Officer for Regulatory, Policy, and External Affairs, said that the agency must make the issue a priority.

“As a public safety and public health agency, the CCA currently has no greater priority than creating a well-funded, aggressive, and sustained campaign aimed at reducing the incidence of marijuana-impaired driving,” Preiss said. 

Virginia legalized recreational cannabis last year, becoming the first state in the south to do so

But that came under a Democratic governor, Ralph Northam. Republicans took back the governor’s mansion last year when Glenn Youngkin was elected. 

Youngkin said from the start that he has no interest in rolling back the marijuana law, but his election––as well as Republicans winning back control of the state House of Delegates––has stymied its implementation.

The Democratic-controlled state Senate passed a bill earlier this year to fast-track the launch of recreational pot sales, but the legislation was rejected in the House.  

Prior to taking office earlier this year, Youngkin spoke about his vision for the new cannabis program.

“When it comes to commercialization, I think there is a lot of work to be done. I’m not against it, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Youngkin said. “There are some nonstarters, including the forced unionization that’s in the current bill. There have been concerns expressed by law enforcement in how the gap in the laws can actually be enforced. Finally, there’s a real need to make sure that we aren’t promoting an anti-competitive industry. I do understand that there are preferences to make sure that all participants in the industry are qualified to do the industry well.”

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Irish Lawmaker Files Cannabis Legalization Bill

An Irish lawmaker last week introduced a bill to legalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. The legislation was introduced on Thursday by Gino Kenny, a lawmaker known as a Teachta Dála (TD) and a member of Ireland’s People Before Profit political party. If passed, the bill would legalize the possession of up to seven grams of cannabis and 2.5 grams of cannabis resin for personal use.

Kenny’s bill would amend Ireland’s Misuse of Drugs Act, which has been in force since the 1970s, and apply to adults aged 18 and older. Kenny said that he expects further debate on the proposed legislation to occur next year.

“The Bill is quite moderate. It amends existing legislation that dates back 42 years,” Kenny said during a recent debate in the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament. “Forty-two years is a very long time. I believe the existing legislation is out of date and out of time. We need a different narrative around drug reform.”

“I hope the Government can support this legislation,” he continued. “It is timely. Different parts of the world are looking at different models which do not criminalize people and which take a harm-reduction approach. I look forward to the debate.”

Lawmaker Says Criminalization Doesn’t Work

In an op-ed explaining the legislation published on November 24, Kenny said that “the present laws on criminalization do not work” and noted that many countries in Europe and beyond have reformed their cannabis policy or are in the process of doing so. 

Although the text of the bill states that possession of up to seven grams of cannabis use by adults aged 18 and older “shall be lawful,” Kenny referred to the legislation as a decriminalization measure. The lawmaker said the legislation would amend Ireland’s unsuccessful policy of total cannabis prohibition.

“[E]ven though it is illegal in Ireland, we can see that the use of cannabis has increased. Ireland has one of the highest usage rates of cannabis in the EU,” Kenny wrote. “Almost 30% of adults between the age of 15-64 in Ireland have said that they have used cannabis at least one in their lifetime, whilst 17% of the adult population has used cannabis in the last 12 months – over double the European average of 7%.”

The lawmaker noted that under the proposal, the criminal penalties for low-level cannabis possession would be eliminated but the plant would remain illegal. Cultivation and sales of marijuana would continue to be prohibited, meaning the illicit market will continue to be the source of cannabis for most consumers.

Although Kenny’s bill will likely jumpstart the conversation surrounding cannabis reform in Ireland, whether or not it will succeed is another matter. In an interview with the Irish Independent, the head of the Irish government, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, warned against the prospect of the proposed legislation making cannabis more desirable.

“I think we have to be careful that we don’t glamorize cannabis either because there are real concerns within the health community and the medical community about what cannabis can do to young people,” he said, adding that he would support a more healthcare-based approach to addiction and warned about the potential harms posed by cannabis.

“I would prefer a system that decriminalizes in the sense that it were there to help people with challenges with harmful substances such as cannabis,” said Martin. “Cannabis can do real harm too, to young people, and many people in the medical world have said that to me. That’s just a concern I have. I’ve been a strong advocate for the facilitation of medical cannabis for people.”

Medical cannabis is legal in Ireland, although each patient must obtain authorization from the national health ministry. Kenny said that his proposal would end the prohibition of cannabis for all users, a position that is supported by his party.

“People Before Profit are totally opposed to the criminalization of cannabis users,” he wrote in his op-ed. “We believe that prohibition should come to an end, and that proper research should be undertaken by agencies that are independent of corporate influence into the benefits of regulation.”

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Numerous California Cities Approve Cannabis Retail Measures

A majority of the cannabis-related initiatives that were approved were located in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, green lighting the possibility of 70 additional cannabis retail licenses. In California, Los Angeles leads as the most populated county, followed by San Diego County, Orange County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.

Los Angeles County voters approved 25 retail licenses with Measure C by 59.88%, which enacts taxes in unincorporated areas of the county. This includes $10 per square foot for cultivators, 6% tax on gross retail receipts (as well as a gross receipts tax, including 2% tax for testing facilities, 3% tax on distribution, and 4% for “manufacturing and other marijuana business facilities.”) Additionally, Santa Monica voters approved Measure HMP with a 66.79% “yes” vote to implement taxes for non-medical cannabis retailers, medical retailers, and all other licensed cannabis businesses (the city currently only has two licensed retailers). Cannabis-related measures in Claremont, Cudahy, Lynwood, and South El Monte also passed. However, there were numerous cities that chose not to embrace cannabis such as Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and El Segundo all chose to maintain bans on commercial cannabis businesses.

San Diego County, which has only approved five cannabis businesses so far, saw the approval of a cannabis tax through Measure A with 57.28%. This implements a 6% tax on retail businesses, 2% on testing, 3% on cultivation (or $10 per canopy square foot, which is an adjustment for inflation) and 4% for all other businesses. County officials estimate that these taxes could generate up to $5.5 million annually in the general fund, and could lead to 20 new cannabis business licenses. According to George Sadler, CEO of the San Diego-based cannabis brand Gelato, any news is good news. “Access has always been an issue,” said Sadler. “Any progress is a big plus.”

Currently, most of Orange County doesn’t allow for cannabis businesses with the exclusion of the city of Santa Ana. However, last week Huntington Beach voters approved Measure O with a yes vote of 54.69%, to approve an ordinance that will implement a 6% tax on gross receipts for retailers, and 1% of gross receipts for other cannabis businesses (estimated to generate $300,000-$600,000 annually). This could lead to up to 10 retail cannabis licenses. In Laguna Woods, voters also approved a cannabis tax that would go toward general city services with Measure T with 62% of the vote.

In Northern California, Sacramento County voters were presented with a cannabis tax measure called Measure B but it failed. Although 53.49% of voters approved of this initiative, it required a 2/3 vote (or 66%+) to pass. Neighboring cities such as Monterey and Pacific Grove approved tax measures. In Sonoma County, Healdsburg voters approved Measure M.

In San Bernardino County, voters approved a tax initiative in Montclair with Measure R. Central Californians in Kings County, Avenal approved a tax initiative as well with Measure C, as well as voters in McFarland, which is located in Kern County.

While local cities and counties in California delivered on cannabis initiatives, the state has also been implementing other changes recently. 

California state voters also chose to keep Gavin Newsom as governor for another term. Earlier in October, Newsom signed a bill called the “Alternate Plea Act” that will help defendants who have been charged with drug-related offenses. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the “public nuisance plea will carry the same criminal penalty as the drug offense charged but without triggering the collateral consequences.”

“With this plea option, individuals will be able to resume their life after incarceration and not be blocked from securing housing and employment,” the organization explained.

In September, Newsom also signed a bill to protect employees who choose to consume cannabis off-the-clock. “For too many Californians, the promise of cannabis legalization remains out of reach,” Newsom said in a press release. “These measures build on the important strides our state has made toward this goal, but much work remains to build an equitable, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry. I look forward to partnering with the Legislature and policymakers to fully realize cannabis legalization in communities across California.”

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Missouri Regulators Draft of Adult-Use Cannabis Rules

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) released proposed regulations to govern adult-use cannabis in the state on Thursday, only two days after voters approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana.

Missouri voters ended the prohibition on cannabis with the adoption of Constitutional Amendment 3 on November 8, which appeared on the ballot for last week’s midterm elections. More than one million voters decided in favor of the amendment, which received more than 53% of the vote as of Monday morning, with 99% of the vote counted.

The successful amendment to the state’s constitution legalizes the possession, use, sale, and delivery of cannabis for personal use for adults aged 21 and older and sets a 6% tax on commercial cannabis sales. The amendment also includes provisions for the expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions.

Only two days after voters went to the polls, the DHSS released its draft adult-use cannabis regulations and opened up a public comment period to receive feedback on the proposal from interested parties. The public comment period is scheduled to run through Friday, November 25.

The text of Constitutional Amendment 3 stipulates that the measure goes into effect 30 days after passage, which will be December 8. Lyndall Fraker, the director of the medical marijuana section of DHSS, said the agency began preparing the proposed regulations before election day in order to meet the deadline in the event that the ballot measure passed.

“Our legal team has been working on the rules for a few weeks now, so we actually have those ready — the rough draft ready for public display — and I think you’re going to see those in the next day or two and that’s important to get those out there,” Fraker told local media.

License Applications To Be Accepted Starting Next Month

Under the proposal, the health department’s Division of Cannabis Regulation will begin accepting recreational cannabis retailer license applications from the state’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries beginning on December 8. Regulators will then have 60 days to approve license applications, meaning that sales of adult-use cannabis should begin no later than February 2023.

Legal recreational weed sales could begin in Missouri even sooner than that, however. DHSS spokeswoman Lisa Cox told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that officials expect to convert licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries “before the 60-day deadline, as soon as we have rules for comprehensive facilities filed.”

“We anticipate comprehensive dispensaries will be able to begin selling to adult use consumers as soon as their license is approved for conversion,” Cox said.

Cox noted that the amendment bars the DHSS from issuing any new “comprehensive” licenses to stand-alone recreational marijuana dispensaries “for 548 days after December 8, 2022.”

Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said the timing of the proposed rollout “likely means that Missouri will have one of the quickest and smoothest transitions to adult use sales in the nation.”

The regulations call for a total of 192 licenses for combined medical marijuana and “comprehensive” adult-use dispensaries, to be evenly divided among the state’s eight districts. The proposed rules also set a limit of 62 cannabis cultivation facilities and 88 product manufacturers. 

Beginning in June 2023, the DHSS would begin to accept applications for up to 144 cannabis microbusinesses. A limit of 48 microbusiness licenses distributed among the state’s eight districts could be approved within the first 270 days, according to the regulations.

Constitutional Amendment 3 also legalizes the home cultivation of cannabis for personal use for adults who obtain a permit from the Division of Cannabis Regulation. Cox said the state “will begin accepting applications for adult use personal cultivation during or before the first week of January.”

Public comments on the proposed regulations for adult-use cannabis regulations in Missouri can be submitted through the DHSS website.

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Los Angeles County Voters Approve Cannabis Tax

Los Angeles County voters in California approved Measure C on Tuesday, which will impose a tax structure on businesses in unincorporated areas of the county once they receive permits, Los Angeles Daily News reports.

At the time of writing, nearly 60% of the votes were in favor of Measure C as the final tallies came in.

Measure C imposes several initial tax rates: 4% on gross receipts for retail operations, 3% for manufacturing and distribution, $4 per square foot for mixed light cultivation, and $7 per square foot for indoor cultivation. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors may decrease or increase the tax rates within the maximum approved by the voters after July 1, 2026.

It’s important to note that Measure C itself does not legalize cannabis sales in the county, with additional steps before the industry can launch. The Board of Supervisors still needs to vote on that, and they’ve indicated they plan to do so in early 2023.

“All cannabis business activity will remain prohibited in the unincorporated areas of the County until the cannabis business permitting program is launched in 2023,” the bill summary reads. “This measure would make it legal for the County to tax the revenues of cannabis businesses operating in these areas. Once the permitting program launches, a cannabis business operator will need to obtain all the required permits and licenses from the appropriate state and local regulatory agencies including a cannabis business permit issued by the Los Angeles County Office of Cannabis Management.”

The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) under Los Angeles County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs is developing an equitable commercial cannabis program that includes permitting and resources for eligible applicants with a proposed launch in late 2023.

“The approach we’ve adopted will equitably distribute legal cannabis businesses in each supervisorial district and specifies that cannabis cultivation will only be permitted indoors—not outdoors in greenhouses,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said at a recent board meeting.

“Our board must be clear: we will not tolerate illegal cannabis operations. Growers who operate illegally undermine our efforts to create a regulated and responsible cannabis industry, and often do so at the expense of the rural communities I represent. I’m firmly committed to upholding the law and will corral all available resources to enhance enforcement and abatement efforts.”

County officials estimate a total of $10.4 million in tax revenue that would go to the Los Angeles County General Fund and a cannabis equity program that would provide equitable access for entering the cannabis industry.

For the time being though, cannabis businesses remain prohibited in unincorporated areas of the county until the permitting program launches.

Any existing or newly established cannabis businesses in the unincorporated areas must register with the Los Angeles County Treasurer and Tax Collector within 30 days of commencing operation once the permitting program has launched or within 30 days after the effective date of this ordinance.

Regulations are still being developed, but Los Angeles County staff said the initial plan will likely allow for up to 25 storefront retail cannabis businesses countywide, 25 delivery retail businesses, 10 indoor/mixed light cultivation establishments, 10 manufacturing businesses, 10 distribution facilities, and 10 testing laboratories.

A similar vote also took place nearby in San Diego County.

Voters also decided whether or not to approve Measure A in San Diego County’s unincorporated areas will pay a tax that would generate revenue going toward government services such as health care, fire safety, and parks.

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Five Cities in Texas Approve Decriminalization Initiatives on Ballot

This effort was passed with the help of Ground Game Texas, a local advocacy group that targeted those five cities specifically for the ballot. The organization has also been involved in other campaigns in Austin, El Paso, and San Antonio. “Big night for Ground Game! All five of our cities looking to pass marijuana decriminalization. Motivating new voters with popular, progressive issues!” the organization wrote on Facebook.

For Denton, the initiative was referred to as Proposition B, but the other four cities listed their initiatives as Proposition A. Each of them establishes an ordinance (rather than a resolution) to remove all citations and arrests for cannabis-related possession, prevent local police from issuing citations for drug paraphernalia or cannabis odor, and ban the city from using funds for THC testing, among other changes.

According to Texas NORML Executive Director Jax James, the most recent wave of approval from voters shows that people of Texas want statewide decriminalization. “Texans have shown that they want major cannabis law reforms in Texas via polling, legislative engagement, and now at the local ballot box!” James said. “This will have a positive impact on the almost half a million people living in these cities.” A poll in August also confirmed James’s statement, showing that 55% of Texans support cannabis legalization, and 72% support medical cannabis.

In 2019, the Texas House approved a cannabis decriminalization bill, but it didn’t make it through the Senate. James praises the decriminalization victories won in the November ballot, but wants to see more progress from his state. “While these local advancements are important in mitigating harm on citizens and reprioritizing law enforcement time, they result in a patchwork of differing marijuana enforcement policies based on location,” James added. “It is time for lawmakers to take steps to enact statewide reform when they convene in January 2023.”

In order of population, the top five Texas cities include Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, and Fort Worth. In May 2022, voters in Austin approved the “Austin Freedom Act,” which also enabled decriminalized cannabis. “It’s official! Austin will hold an election May 7, 2022 on the Austin Freedom Act. Voters will be able to pass a new city law that (1) ends enforcement of marijuana possession and (2) bans dangerous ‘no knock’ warrants. Thank you to everyone who got us this far—now let’s win!” Ground Game Texas wrote on social media in May.

Next up could be the city of San Antonio, which might have decriminalization on the ballot in May 2023. “These are all things that, for whatever reason, the city government hasn’t accomplished even though there’s public demand for them,” said Ground Game Texas co-founder and political director Mike Siegel. “That’s the beauty of this direct democracy tactic—the initiative tactic—where we can take something that’s popular with the people and the people can legislate directly.”

Although states such as Maryland and Missouri legalized adult-use cannabis this November, voters in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas did not. Few southern states currently allow adult-use, with the exception of the Virginia (and Washington, D.C.).

Meanwhile, Texas falls behind in progress. Earlier this year in August 2022, former NBA player Iman Shumpert was arrested for possession in Dallas. According to reports, he was carrying 6.2 ounces of cannabis in his luggage while traveling through the airport.

Recently, news outlets began to pick up a story about a single mom, Candace McCarty, who was evicted from federally assisted housing for medical cannabis. “I thought it was all legal, because I obtained it legally from the state,” McCarty told Kxan.com. “I’m just a single mom on disability, and I’m just trying to make it … facing homelessness right before the holidays.” The federally illegal status of cannabis affects countless others like McCarty.

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Judge Tosses Out Lawsuit on Rule Barring Medical Cannabis Users From Buying Guns

A federal judge last week threw out a lawsuit brought by a top Florida official challenging a rule that prohibits medical marijuana patients from purchasing and acquiring guns. 

The News Service of Florida reports that U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor “issued a 22-page ruling [on Friday] that granted a request by the U.S. Department of Justice to dismiss the lawsuit, which alleged the prohibitions violate Second Amendment rights.”

The crux of the lawsuit, which was filed in April by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, centered around a discrepancy between state and federal law. 

As the News Service explained:

“Under federal law, possession of marijuana is illegal; under a 2016 Florida constitutional amendment, hundreds of thousands of patients are able to buy medical marijuana. Federal laws also bar certain people from buying and possessing guns, including people who use drugs illegally. The lawsuit, filed in April, alleged the federal prohibitions ‘forbid Floridians from possessing or purchasing a firearm on the sole basis that they are state law-abiding medical marijuana patients.’”

Fried, a Democrat who at the time was running for governor of Florida, said in her announcement of the lawsuit that she was “suing the Biden Administration because people’s rights are being limited.”

Medical marijuana is legal. Guns are legal,” Fried said in the announcement, which came on 4/20. “This is about people’s rights and their freedoms to responsibly have both.”

But in his ruling on Friday, Winsor disagreed.

“In 2016, Florida stopped criminalizing the medical use of marijuana. Many people refer to this change as Florida’s ‘legalizing’ medical marijuana, but Florida did no such thing. It couldn’t. ‘Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, state laws cannot permit what federal law prohibits,’ and federal law still prohibits possession of marijuana — for medical purposes or otherwise,” Winsor wrote, as quoted by the News Service of Florida.

NBC News, reporting on Fried’s lawsuit in April, said that it “[targeted] a federal form that asks whether the gun buyer is an unlawful user of drugs and specifies that marijuana is illegal under federal law.”

“A person allowed by the state to use marijuana must then check “yes,” which results in denial of the purchase. Lying by checking ‘no’ runs the risk of a five-year prison sentence for making a false statement,” NBC explained at the time. “Fried, whose office oversees concealed weapons permits and regulates some aspects of medical marijuana, argues in her lawsuit that the form violates the Second Amendment rights of lawful medical marijuana patients and runs afoul of a congressional budget prohibition on federal agents’ interfering with state-sanctioned cannabis laws.”

Fried was a candidate for governor this year, but she fell to Charlie Crist in the Democratic primary held in August. 

She has long been a champion for cannabis reform.

Crist, who is challenging Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis in Tuesday’s election, has pledged to legalize recreational cannabis in the Sunshine State if he is elected.

Crist also announced last month that he would “expunge criminal records for those arrested on misdemeanors or third-degree felonies related to the drug if he were elected governor next year,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

DeSantis, who is heavily favored to win on Tuesday, has said previously that legalization will not happen on his watch.

“Not while I’m governor,” DeSantis, widely regarded as a possible Republican presidential candidate, said in 2019. “I mean look, when that is introduced with teenagers and young people, I think it has a really detrimental effect to their well being and their maturity.”

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Senator Introduces Bill To Set Up Framework for Federal Cannabis Legalization

Sen. John Hickenlooper on Thursday introduced a bill that would set up the regulatory framework in the event that the federal government legalizes marijuana. 

Hickenlooper, a Democrat from Colorado, said the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment (PREPARE) Act would help the government ready itself for such a dramatic shift in policy. 

The bill’s introduction comes ten years after Colorado became the first state in the country to legalize recreational pot when voters there approved Amendment 64, which happened when Hickenlooper served as governor of the state. 

Hickenlooper set up a task force a month following that vote in 2012, which provided recommendations for the state’s cannabis regulations. 

With the PREPARE Act, Hickenlooper said he is drawing from the same playbook. 

“Colorado successfully pioneered marijuana legalization a decade ago, thanks in part to the Amendment 64 Task Force,” Hickenlooper said in a statement on Thursday. “Federal legalization doesn’t need to start from scratch, and we should prepare for when it arrives.”

The senator’s office said that the bill “would establish a fair, honest, and publicly transparent process for the development of regulations at the federal level that incorporates many of the lessons learned by these states,” and that the legislation is “a Senate companion to Republican Congressman Dave Joyce’s bipartisan bill in the House.”

“I’m thrilled that the PREPARE Act will be introduced in the Senate, making it not only further bipartisan, but bicameral, and bringing it one step closer to becoming law,” Joyce in the press release on Thursday. “This legislation gives lawmakers on both sides of the aisle the answers they need to effectively engage on cannabis reform, safely and effectively regulate it, and remedy the harms caused by the failed war on cannabis. With those answers, Congress can develop a much-needed federal regulatory framework that not only respects the unique needs, rights, and laws of each state, but also ensures a responsible end to prohibition and a safer future for our communities. I was proud to lead the introduction of this commonsense bill in the House and thank Senator Hickenlooper for advancing it in the Senate. I look forward to continuing to work together to pave the way for more comprehensive reform.”

Despite having control of Congress and the White House, Democrats were unable to get a federal legalization bill over the finish line before next week’s midterm election.

The House of Representatives in April passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would have removed pot from the Controlled Substances Act.

But the Democratic-led Senate has yet to introduce its own version of a legalization bill. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last weekend that the Senate is “very close” to passing a bill that would allow state-legal cannabis retailers to receive financial services from banks. The legislation would also include expungements for marijuana convictions, although it would not legalize pot. 

President Joe Biden last month announced pardons to everyone with federal convictions for marijuana possession, while also expressing his intention to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances.  This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic,” Biden said at the time.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” the president added. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

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Virgin Islands Inches Closer to Adult-Use Cannabis, Expungements

Cannabis remains a hot button issue with politically-driven fanfare in the U.S. territory of the Virgin Islands. Two bills were introduced in the Virgin Islands on Oct. 24: One that would legalize cannabis for adult use and another that would expunge eligible cases of cannabis convictions.

Bill No. 21-0160 would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over, and Bill No. 21-0137 would pave a way to expunge eligible cannabis convictions. After at least two previous attempts, government officials continue to push forward a workable bill.

Both bills were sponsored by Sen. Janelle Sarauw, who has been working on cannabis reform for some time. “It has been a very cumbersome process to get these bills to where they are today,” she wrote in a press release, which she also posted on Facebook, referring to past promises to get legislation going on the islands.

“Although there have been many politically driven false narratives about this cannabis legislation, I am proud of the work done to ensure that locals and minorities are not locked out of the industry and have an opportunity to participate in the economic potential of the industry — from farming, to dispensaries, to incentives for boutique labs, and micro energy providers,” Sarauw wrote.

“To ignore those lessons would be foolish,” Sarauw continued. “As a political scientist, but most importantly as an elected representative of the people, it is my job to do the due diligence to protect the masses and the best interest of our residents by creating equity in opportunity.”

The 69-page legalization bill covers just about any provision that you’d expect in a U.S. state bill. Under the legalization bill, an Office of Cannabis Regulation (OCR) would issue business licenses, oversee the industry, and set rules on advertising, packaging, and labeling. Edibles would be capped at 100 mg THC with 10 mg doses. Licensing fees would be imposed and a potential 50 cent per gram tax would be imposed on cultivators who sell cannabis to other licensees. The bill would include several equity components.

Under the expungement bill, people with past cannabis convictions can petition the courts to clear convictions for violations of up to two ounces of cannabis.

On Aug. 10, the V.I. Cannabis Advisory Board (VICAB) in the U.S. Virgin Islands unanimously approved draft regulations for the territory’s medical cannabis program. On Aug. 12, the Office of Cannabis Regulations posted the draft publicly. Long story short, the timeline didn’t adhere very well. Gov. Bryan’s administration was blamed by Sen. Sarauw for delaying the rollout of medical cannabis earlier on the islands.

Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan Jr. proposed an earlier version of the Cannabis Use Act in 2019, and introduced another version in 2020. Recently, Bryan’s re-election campaign fired back and slammed Sen. Sarauw for failing to fulfill promises to legalize cannabis, which she said in 2021. But it was the pressure put on by the governor that may have contributed to Sen. Sarauw’s recent actions to release the new pieces of legislation.

Sen. Sarauw herself and fellow candidate Sen. Kurt Vialet, who is against cannabis legalization, are both running to de-seat Gov. Bryan and Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach in the upcoming election on November 8. 

The Virgin Islands is a hotbed for Caribbean music like reggae, so it’s safe to say a lot of tourists go there to smoke. But despite an active medical cannabis program, tourists are warned that public consumption of cannabis is still forbidden in the Virgin Islands. Even with a medical cannabis card, you can not smoke weed in any public space.

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