Chuck Schumer Drops New Cannabis Legalization Bill

Nope, not drop like he left it behind. Chuck Schumer, who has been working on a cannabis bill for quite some time, finally made it official. What’s the deal with this new bill, and could this be what finally legalizes cannabis in America?

Chuck Schumer just unleashed his new cannabis bill, and if it passes, it will legalize cannabis throughout the US. Does it have a chance? We’re a wholly independent news publication specializing in cannabis and psychedelics reporting. Join in on the experience by subscribing to the THC Weekly Newsletter, which also nets you access to promotions on smoking paraphernalia, edibles, and cannabinoid compounds like HHC-O, Delta-8, Delta-9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP, and HHC. These days cannabis options are unlimited, so shop carefully, and only buy products you’re happy with using.


The bill

After months of circulating it around for feedback and review, Chuck Schumer finally officially presented his new cannabis legalization bill on Thursday, July 21st. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act can be considered either a decriminalization or a legalization. It would effectively decriminalize on a federal level, while leaving individual states to create their own specific legalization policies.

This bill is not new at all. It’s not just that Schumer has been shopping it around, but he’s been doing so for over a year. It was, prior to July 21st, a discussion draft only. This means it was never up for vote, and Schumer could spend the time getting feedback and updating it, so as to give it the best chance of passing. Bills fail all the time when there isn’t enough support, and it seems Schumer was doing everything he could to ensure his bill would get support once officially put out there.

Chuck Schumer is a democratic senator who’s been the senate majority leader since January 2021. Generally speaking, proposing a democratic bill to a democratic-led senate, should mean a good possibility of passing. However, it’s not always that simple, and this bill is a good example of why. The Senate has consistently killed previous cannabis bills, which is why Schumer shopped around his bill so much before presenting it.

Said Schumer last year to Politico, “When a state like South Dakota votes by referendum to legalize, you know something is out there… The American people started speaking sort of with a clear message. More than two-to-one, that they want the law changed.” It should be noted that Schumer used the example of a state that voted in recreational cannabis, and then had it taken away by its own governor.

What’s in the bill?

If Chuck Schumer gets his cannabis bill to pass, here are some of the particulars it would institute concerning cannabis in the US.

  • The expungement of cannabis-related records on a federal level
  • The funding for law enforcement to fight those cultivating illegally
  • The establishment of social equity programs in the form of grants for small business owners who come from communities hit hard by the war on drugs
  • The requirement for the Department of Transportation to come up with standards for driving while impaired
  • The restriction of cannabis product marketing directed at minors

As a note on a couple of these points, there has been nothing linking driving issues with cannabis use, and in fact, current research points to less traffic issues in legalized states. Plus, plenty of other research says legalizations don’t increase new user numbers, which automatically indicates that there shouldn’t be an increase in driving issues either, as its already been the most popular drug for so many decades. So long, that its realistically silly to assume that these legalizations are whats getting anyone to do anything. A provision like this stands to treat drivers unfairly, even if they haven’t done anything wrong; and is likely meant as a way (both here and in individual legalized states) to collect money from residents.

The other point of note is the social equity allowance. In a recent TIME interview, two high profile economists spoke of their new book, Can Legal Weed Win?: The Blunt Realities of Cannabis Economics, which gravely calls into question the value of these social equity programs. The men point out how the laws for this are shoddy at best, and don’t take into consideration the population they’re working with, or the actual and realistic needs for getting into the industry. More and more I think these provisions are put in place to sound nice, while essentially setting people up to fail.

One last thing, the bill would also support interstate cannabis sales, something that doesn’t exist right now. This would allow businesses to expand past a single state, and legalize the ability to transfer cannabis over state lines. Right now, such an act is considered trafficking. It would also work to minimize cannabis business verticals, so as not to create monopolies in the industry.

So, why wouldn’t this bill go through?

The House of Representatives has repeatedly passed different bills of this nature, while the Senate is the more problematic arm of congress. Why is this the case? If these are democratic led bills, why wouldn’t a democratic congress work in the favor of Chuck Schumer and his cannabis bill?

cannabis law

The reality is that as private residents, we’re not always privy to all the moving pieces that go on in the process of passing a bill. If it really was about congressmen voting by way of the will of their constituents, it would be an open and shut case. According to Politico, national polls consistently put the approval rate at 2/3 of the population for legalized cannabis. Realistically, that should do it.

This is also reflected in 19 states with official recreational use legislation; one state – South Dakota – that voted it in and had it taken away by its governor; one out of one federal districts that legalized – DC; and two out of five territories with recreational policies – Guam and the Mariana Islands, with a decriminalization policy in the US Virgin Islands. On top of all that, 37 states have comprehensive medical policies, and nearly every state has some sort of medical allowance or decriminalization measure.

Yet, even with all this evidence of the people wanting it…its actually expected that a democratically led senate will kill the bill. Even now, many congressmen simply won’t go against federal mandate. Why this is, exactly, when their job is to serve their constituents, varies between politicians. But one of the biggest undeniable issues is outside factors, like business relationships that put money in legislator pockets. How many states would continue doling out opioids, if representatives weren’t taking money from big pharma companies?

So, while the bill technically should pass. It also very well might not. Not only would Schumer require all democrats to vote for his bill, but 10 republicans as well, in order to have a big enough majority. With some democrats already saying they won’t do it, this creates a problem. On the other hand, the bill’s unveiling only just happened, and how much pressure is created for lawmakers, could play into how they do end up voting. After all, they might like taking money from Johnson & Johnson, but they also want to keep their seats.

A final issue is that Biden himself has made different statements, and it’s hard to know if he’d sign off on a bill. He says he supports decriminalization, but doesn’t act that way. Under his administration, at least five white house staffers lost their jobs for speaking of prior cannabis use, even though some was in legalized states, and all of it was in the past. It’s hard to believe that supporting such an action, is a stepping stone to a country-wide legalization.

Maybe it isn’t shocking that an old man is sticking to his old school standards, or, it could be the exact same reason that congressmen will go against constituent wishes. But there is another truth here as well. The one where the federal government loses power every time a state goes against it, even if it tries to bury this reality. I expect if Politico published a headline blaring the weakness of the federal government in getting its states to follow federal mandate, weed would be legalized overnight. For this reason, I expect if the bill manages to get through, Biden will ultimately sign it.

cannabis vote

What about the other bill?

There is yet another cannabis bill making the rounds in congress. The MORE Act, aka The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act (H.R. 3617), passed the House of Representatives on April 1st of this year. That bill is often touted as a decriminalization bill, as it lacks the structure of Schumer’s bill. However, it also acts as a legalization, as it sets tax rates for cannabis sales.

Should this bill pass, it would de-schedule cannabis from Schedule I, and take it off the Controlled Substances list, entirely. By doing this, it would invalidate certain crimes and punishments related to cannabis, free those being held for such crimes, and expunge records. This bill, like Schumer’s, would leave individual states to set their own local legalization policies.

And what of the tax? The bill introduces a 5% tax on cannabis products, with a rise to 8% over a period of time. I expect the word ‘decriminalization’ is used as a marketing line because it sounds less extreme than the word ‘legalization’, for those still in the middle of the road. It should be remembered, though, that the government can’t tax an illegal or even decriminalized industry. That the bill incorporates this, means the bill would be allowing legal markets, making the bill a legalization measure, regardless of the words used to describe it.

This bill is in the same place as Schumer’s at the moment, with backers trying to build support to get it through a senate vote. Which bill is more amenable to passage in the Senate is hard to say, but it’s certainly a competition now, and it will be interesting to see how everything plays out.

Conclusion

The sad part of all this is how badly politicians are ignoring their constituent’s desires, and how not-well-understood this is by constituents. I don’t really like either of these bills, and am disappointed by the legal weed industry in general. But I also think whatever can be done to keep kids from going to jail for smoking a joint, should be done as fast as possible.

Hey guys! Thanks for making it over to Cannadelics.com (formerly known as CBDtesters.co), your first choice for independent news reporting on the cannabis and psychedelics spaces. Join us for daily updates on important happenings, and sign up for the THC Weekly Newsletter, so you’re always on top of what’s going on.

The post Chuck Schumer Drops New Cannabis Legalization Bill appeared first on Cannadelics.

Senate Dems Ready To Introduce Cannabis Bill, Hearing Scheduled Next Week

With Congress set to break for its traditional August recess––and with this year’s midterm elections drawing nearer––Democrats in the Senate finally appear ready to introduce a bill that would end the federal prohibition on pot.

The Senate Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism has scheduled a hearing for next week that is titled, “Decriminalizing Cannabis at the Federal Level: Necessary Steps to Address Past Harms.”

The chair of the subcommittee, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), has taken a leading role in crafting the Senate’s cannabis reform legislation.

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Bloomberg had reported previously that Senate Democrats intended to introduce the bill this week.

Whenever the legislation drops, it will represent long-awaited action from a Democratic caucus that has moved methodically on cannabis reform––despite repeated pledges from party leaders that it will get done.

At the beginning of April, Democrats in the House of Representatives passed their own pot legalization package: the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would deschedule cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

Senate Democrats said they would move forward with their own cannabis reform bill that has been overseen by Booker, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. 

After previously saying that the Senate would release its own version by the end of April, Schumer said that the bill would likely be introduced closer to the Congressional recess in August.

And after recent suggestions that Senate Democrats might be looking to offer up a more modest reform package, it now appears that they will seek to match the House and end the federal prohibition as well.

Politico reported last month that Schumer “doesn’t have the votes to pass a sweeping marijuana decriminalization bill — despite repeatedly touting his support for ending federal prohibition,” and that “realization is leading Senate Democrats to look for a compromise on weed.”

But Bloomberg reported last week that Democrats will indeed introduce the bill that Booker, Wyden and Schumer have been working on: the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which will also remove pot from the Controlled Substances Act, although it would also give states discretion to establish their own cannabis laws.

Bloomberg noted that “the legislation faces long odds in the evenly divided chamber,” with 60 votes necessary for passage.

The bill faces significant opposition from Republicans in the chamber, and even some Democratic members.

President Joe Biden has long said that he is in favor of decriminalization of cannabis, but not outright legalization––though he has struggled to explain the distinction.

Earlier this week, Biden reiterated his belief that no one “should be in prison for the use of marijuana,” and said that he is working with Congress on a bill to fulfill his promise to release inmates serving time for pot-related offenses.

It is unclear whether he supports either the House’s MORE Act or the Senate’s Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.

Despite the slow-motion progress of the bill in the Senate, Schumer has been unequivocal in his support for sweeping cannabis reform.

“We will move forward,” Schumer told Politico last year. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, ‘Well what changed?’ Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states—Oregon and Colorado—wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” he added. “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.”

The post Senate Dems Ready To Introduce Cannabis Bill, Hearing Scheduled Next Week appeared first on High Times.

DEA Reports Ongoing Decline in Federal Pot Arrests

Federal law enforcement continues to make fewer and fewer arrests for weed, according to data released by the Department of Justice, a trend that dovetails with the new cannabis laws that have bloomed in the last decade.

From 2010 until 2020, there was an 11% decline in cannabis-related arrests by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers, the report from the Justice Department said.

That same time period saw a seven percent decline in arrests for crack cocaine, and a six percent decline in arrests for powder cocaine.

In raw numbers, the DEA made 8,215 arrests for cannabis-related offenses in 2010, compared with 2,576 in 2020. 

The number of pot-related arrests declined each year in that decade.

The cannabis reform advocacy group NORML also pointed to data from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), which reported that “federal convictions for marijuana-related activities have similarly declined over the past decade.”

“Marijuana law enforcement is becoming less of a federal priority in an age where the majority of Americans believe that cannabis ought to be legal,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “It is vital that Congress takes action to amend federal law in a manner that comports with this reality,” he continued.

The decline in weed arrests coincided with a period in the country that has seen a growing number of states and cities end prohibition and legalize recreational pot use for adults.

Polls consistently show broad, bipartisan support for cannabis legalization.

But despite the change in laws and attitudes, cannabis remains illegal on the federal level as a result of its status on the Controlled Substances Act.

With Democrats controlling Congress and the executive branch, there is hope among advocates that legalization will finally go national.

In April, Democrats in the House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, a measure that would remove pot from the Controlled Substances Act.

Democrats in the Senate have said that they will offer up their own legalization bill. That was initially supposed to happen by the end of April, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer later said that the bill will likely be unveiled before the Congressional recess in August.

Schumer has made no secret of his desire to pass a legalization bill.

Last year, he said that the party was eager to move on the issue, despite President Joe Biden’s own misgivings about ending prohibition.

“We will move forward,” Schumer said at the time. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, ‘Well what changed?’ Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states—Oregon and Colorado—wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” he added. “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.”

There were other notable takeaways in the report from the Department of Justice, which noted that “U.S. marshals made 120,112 arrests [in Fiscal Year 2020], a 42% decrease from the 206,630 bookings in FY 2019.”

The report also said that the “coronavirus pandemic drove an 81% decline in arrests and 77% decline in cases charged from March to April 2020,” and that of “the 26,696 Drug Enforcement Administration arrests in FY 2020, the most common drug type involved was methamphetamine (8,783 arrests), followed by powder cocaine (4,474 arrests).”

The post DEA Reports Ongoing Decline in Federal Pot Arrests appeared first on High Times.

Schumer Pushes Back Release For Senate Legalization Bill

The wait for the Senate’s version of a cannabis legalization bill will continue for months, with Democratic leaders in the chamber indicating Thursday that it will come sometime in the summer.

According to The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he’s proud of the progress senators have made in “bringing this vital bill closer to its official introduction” before the recess in early August.”

The timeline marks a shift from what Schumer had said previously and it may dismay legalization advocates who had hoped that the Senate’s legislation would arrive sooner—especially after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own bill to end prohibition on the federal level earlier this month.

The New York Democrat said after the House’s passage that he hoped the Senate would unveil its legalization measure by the end of this month.

On April 1, the Democratic-led House passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively ending the federal prohibition on pot.

Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who is working with Schumer and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden on the Senate’s legalization bill, said that the bill passed by the House was unlikely to win approval in the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats.

“Right now we’re looking at doing the one that we’ve been working on for a long time,” Booker said, as quoted by Roll Call.

According to The Hill, Schumer said that the Senate’s bill is titled “the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act,” and the majority leader said the legislation will remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and “help repair our criminal justice system, ensure restorative justice, protect public health, and implement responsible taxes and regulations.”

Schumer and other Democrats on Capitol Hill have made it clear since the party took control of Congress and the White House last year that they intended to move on federal legalization.

In an interview with Politico last year, Schumer said that Democrats would take action, despite President Joe Biden’s reluctance to support legalization.

“We will move forward,” Schumer said. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

Schumer said in the interview that seeing legalization work on the state level contributed to his evolution on the issue.

“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, ‘Well what changed?’ Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states—Oregon and Colorado—wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer said. “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.”

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden said that he supported decriminalizing cannabis, but stopped short of advocating legalization.

Following the House’s passage of the MORE Act earlier this month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the president believes “current marijuana laws are not working.”

“We look forward to working with Congress to achieve our shared goals, and we’ll continue having discussions with them about this objective,” Psaki said at a press briefing.

Winning over Biden may prove easier than getting support from Republicans, however. As The Hill noted, “Many Republicans are opposed to legislation legalizing marijuana, posing one of the biggest hurdles to Schumer getting such a measure through the 50-50 split Senate,” and that to “secure passage, Democrats would need the support of their entire caucus, and at least 10 Republicans to bypass a likely filibuster.”

The post Schumer Pushes Back Release For Senate Legalization Bill appeared first on High Times.

Schumer Pushes Back Release For Senate Legalization Bill

The wait for the Senate’s version of a cannabis legalization bill will continue for months, with Democratic leaders in the chamber indicating Thursday that it will come sometime in the summer.

According to The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he’s proud of the progress senators have made in “bringing this vital bill closer to its official introduction” before the recess in early August.”

The timeline marks a shift from what Schumer had said previously and it may dismay legalization advocates who had hoped that the Senate’s legislation would arrive sooner—especially after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own bill to end prohibition on the federal level earlier this month.

The New York Democrat said after the House’s passage that he hoped the Senate would unveil its legalization measure by the end of this month.

On April 1, the Democratic-led House passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively ending the federal prohibition on pot.

Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who is working with Schumer and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden on the Senate’s legalization bill, said that the bill passed by the House was unlikely to win approval in the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats.

“Right now we’re looking at doing the one that we’ve been working on for a long time,” Booker said, as quoted by Roll Call.

According to The Hill, Schumer said that the Senate’s bill is titled “the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act,” and the majority leader said the legislation will remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and “help repair our criminal justice system, ensure restorative justice, protect public health, and implement responsible taxes and regulations.”

Schumer and other Democrats on Capitol Hill have made it clear since the party took control of Congress and the White House last year that they intended to move on federal legalization.

In an interview with Politico last year, Schumer said that Democrats would take action, despite President Joe Biden’s reluctance to support legalization.

“We will move forward,” Schumer said. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

Schumer said in the interview that seeing legalization work on the state level contributed to his evolution on the issue.

“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, ‘Well what changed?’ Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states—Oregon and Colorado—wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer said. “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.”

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden said that he supported decriminalizing cannabis, but stopped short of advocating legalization.

Following the House’s passage of the MORE Act earlier this month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the president believes “current marijuana laws are not working.”

“We look forward to working with Congress to achieve our shared goals, and we’ll continue having discussions with them about this objective,” Psaki said at a press briefing.

Winning over Biden may prove easier than getting support from Republicans, however. As The Hill noted, “Many Republicans are opposed to legislation legalizing marijuana, posing one of the biggest hurdles to Schumer getting such a measure through the 50-50 split Senate,” and that to “secure passage, Democrats would need the support of their entire caucus, and at least 10 Republicans to bypass a likely filibuster.”

The post Schumer Pushes Back Release For Senate Legalization Bill appeared first on High Times.

Will Elon Musk Make Twitter Great Again?

Will Elon Musk make Twitter great again? As in, a fully-functional town square where people are free to speak their minds? Eccentric tech mogul Elon Musk acquired 9.2% of the company’s shares last week. He is also going to be sitting on the company’s board of directors. He’s already tweeted about having “high-minded ideas” for […]

The post Will Elon Musk Make Twitter Great Again? appeared first on Cannabis News, Lifestyle – Headlines, Videos & Cooking.

Several GOP Senators Oppose Legalizing Pot Following MORE Act Vote

One of the most pressing current issues for cannabis advocates across the country is how U.S. senators, including GOP party members, plan to vote on multiple pieces of federal legislation to end the prohibition of cannabis. Ten or more GOP senators, as well as every Democrat vote, would be needed to pass.

Shortly after the advancement of the MORE (Marijuana Reinvestment and Expungement) Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, a journalist from CNS News confronted several senators at the Capitol on April 5 and asked them if they themselves consume cannabis. The senators disagreed on whether or not cannabis should be legalized and left up to states to decide—almost entirely on party lines. 

CNS News asked Senator Ted Cruz, “The House voted last week to legalize cannabis. Do you use cannabis, and if not, why not?”

“I don’t because it’s illegal and because it’s harmful to you, Senator Cruz replied. “It’s not healthy.” Senator Cruz has flip-flopped back and forth on the topic of cannabis over the past several years.

Forbes Senior Contributor Kris Kane listed Senator Cruz as one of “The 5 Worst U.S. Senators on Marijuana Policy.” One can only wonder why he was included on the list, despite occasionally being on the side of cannabis when it suits him. 

Senator Cruz’s statement was followed up by other GOP senators, including Senators James Lankford and Rick Scott. When also asked if he consumes cannabis, Senator Lankford said, “Do I use it? No, I absolutely do not.”

Lankford added that consumers need to follow the science. “I understand the House is going to try and skip the science and say we’re not going to look into that because people use it; we’re just going to allow it,” said Lankford. “But increasing the use of cannabis doesn’t make our streets safer, doesn’t make our workplaces safer; it doesn’t make our families stronger.”

Senator Rick Scott said, “Okay, I don’t support that. I’ve had family members who have had a lot of drug issues, and so I’m not going to do it.”

One Democrat was also interviewed. Senator Elizabeth Warren was also asked if she smokes cannabis by a CNS News correspondent, and alluded that you don’t have to consume it to understand that cannabis should be legalized. “I don’t use it, but I believe it should be lawful,” she said. “We need to regularize our banking laws and our tax laws around a business that will bring in billions of dollars for users and take a lot of risk out of a system right now that is legal in some places, but illegal at the federal level, and it makes no sense.”

April 1, the U.S. House of Representatives voted and passed the MORE Act, or H.R. 3617, in a floor vote. It’s the second time the U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill as the historic piece of legislation makes its way to the Senate.

The MORE Act was approved on a mostly party-line 220-204 vote. A previous version of the bill was approved in December 2020—also on a mostly party-line vote—and was the first comprehensive cannabis policy reform legislation to receive a floor vote or be approved by either chamber of Congress.

“Specifically, it removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana,” the bill summary reads.

The MORE Act faces what some call an uphill battle, as it would need GOP support to approve the bill and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The post Several GOP Senators Oppose Legalizing Pot Following MORE Act Vote appeared first on High Times.

Why Should We Care If Pot Offenders Get Released From Prison?

Once upon a time, getting busted by the police with a bit of pot in your pocket in Anywhere, USA, was going to set off a chain reaction that, to the unknowing passerby, the unaware, might appear as though somebody was murdered. Officers would have the pothead perp face down on the sidewalk, cuffed up tight, eventually hauling his ass down to the local precinct where the real reaming would begin. That’s where the offender would inevitably be charged for their felonious actions, booked into jail, and stuck inside a cell until going before a judge to answer for their green indiscretions. From there, if convicted — and they surely would be — the offender might find themself carted off to state or federal prison to live out the next several years with the real ruffians of uncivil society. Life as that poor bastard had come to know it was officially over.

Fast forward a few decades, and times have changed. At least to some degree. More than half the United States has some sort of pot law on the books that either allows Americans to consume cannabis for medicinal purposes or gives that right to adults 21 and over. The real upside is that fewer people are getting slammed face down on the pavement and carted off to the pokey for having an appreciation for the herb. All is right in the world. Well, not so fast, maverick!

Prohibition is still alive and well in the so-called Land of the Free. Although there is a political tug of war in Congress with respect to legalizing the leaf at the national level, the federal government still hasn’t budged on bud. Cross Uncle Sam by messing with cannabis — a product that is enjoyed legally by millions of people all over the country — and it could spell serious trouble. Meanwhile, many states are still sticking it to the average stoner, and some of them big time. They are handing down criminal charges for petty possession, drug classes, hefty fines, and even jail time.

It is a little-known fact that tens of thousands of people are still sitting behind bars because of cannabis-related offenses. Jonathan Wall, currently incarcerated at the Chesapeake Detention Facility, a super-maximum jail in Baltimore, Maryland, is one of them. The 27-year-old aspiring cannabis entrepreneur is presently facing 15-years to life for conspiring to traffic pot from California to Maryland. His attorney, Jason Flores-Williams, argues that Uncle Sam’s aggressive pursuit of this young man is nothing short of lunacy. “Our government is locking people in cages for pot while it’s legal to go down to the local strip mall, buy an assault rifle and a fifth of whiskey,” he told High Times. Flores-Williams went on to say: “Corporations around the country are generating billions from the same activity for which my client is facing life in prison.”

Some of the most vocal naysayers of the nug — a title that requires little more than a disconnect from progress and reality — are of the opinion that, despite the herb’s legality in parts of the country, people who are incarcerated for pot must be the dregs of the doob, the scoundrels of a stoned nation: dealers, drug traffickers and violent, weapon-wielding maniacs. Why should they care if any of these people rot in prison? “I don’t want a bunch of saggy-pants thugs in the streets selling weed or anything else to my kids,” Joseph, a 47-year-old factory worker from Lafayette, Indiana, told us. “There are laws in this country for a reason. Some liberal states might not care about addiction and crime, but some of us still do. This country has enough problems.”

There is an apparent communication breakdown between discussing the compassionate release of pot offenders and some slick moves to unleash savage beasts back into productive society. Contrary to what people like Joseph might think, turning loose gun-toting felons who eat young children for breakfast isn’t what’s happening, nor is it the intention of the cannabis movement.

Mariah Daly, a legal fellow at the Last Prisoner Project (LPP), an organization vying for the release of pot offenders nationwide, told High Times that their constituents — the incarcerated men and women they step in to help see the light of day once again — must meet a specific set of criterion to receive the LPP’s assistance. Firstly, the primary offense must be cannabis related. No other illicit substances can be involved in the underlying violation. Next, and perhaps most importantly, the incarcerated individual must be a non-violent offender and not have been convicted of any sex crimes. Nobody is trying to ensure that violent criminals are set free to run amok.

Yes, the people incarcerated for cannabis indeed broke the law. It is important to consider, however, that the punishment didn’t fit the crime.

“Many of our constituents were sentenced to life, de facto life, or 20+ years for their cannabis offense,” Daly said. “No other drugs were involved in the underlying offenses and these men have zero history of violence/sex offenses over the course of their lifetime. Even if you disagree regarding whether cannabis offenders should be incarcerated at all (like say, in convictions “more serious than simple possession”), cannabis offenders who have received excessive sentences should be released.”

The majority of the average, run-of-the-mill cannabis advocates we spoke to about it, some of which are in just as much jeopardy of similar legal consequences, wholeheartedly agree. They contend that society should care just as much about releasing non-violent pot offenders as it does crushing statues of the confederates and uncovering backasswards governmental deceptions like the War on Drugs. At the very least, they should show more interest in freeing discarded offenders than Keeping up with the Kardashians and the release of the McRib. Without correcting the errors of the past, some argue, the country doesn’t stand a chance of experiencing real growth. “Freeing cannabis prisoners is a correction long overdue,” one advocate said.

But why should anyone really care if a bunch of pot prisoners ever get out? Aside from it being a crime in and of itself to simply lock people up for going against the grain of laws that we now know were created out of reefer madness, all the while doing it in a manner that ensured no vile acts were committed against their fellow man, we should — every single one of us — appreciate the volatility of freedom. All it takes is one bad day, and a similar fate could be bestowed upon us.

“Everyone should care about restorative justice in this area because cannabis should never have been illegal in the first place, and because it could easily be anyone in the wrong circumstances,” Morgan Fox, political director of the national cannabis advocacy group NORML told High Times.

“Given the lifelong negative effects and collateral consequences of simply having a criminal record, let alone spending time behind bars, it makes no sense to continue to punish people for federal violations for behavior that is no longer illegal,” he added. “Not only do these direct and collateral effects hinder people from becoming productive, independent members of society and harm their families and communities, but the costs associated with punishing them are an unnecessary drain on the taxpayer.”

The toll of this drain is significant.

According to the latest Federal Register’s Annual Determination of Average Cost of Incarceration (COIF), the average annual COIF for a federal inmate in a federal facility in Fiscal Year 2020 was $39,158 ($120.59 per day). The average annual COIF for a federal inmate in a Residential Reentry Center for FY 2020 was $35,663 ($97.44 per day). Considering roughly 40,000 people are still in cages for non-violent pot offenses, the price tag for keeping them is sheer lunacy.

It is worth noting that arrests for federal cannabis crimes have gone down since 2019. There were fewer than 1,000 people slapped with federal pot charges in 2021. Still, hundreds of thousands are arrested for weed every year, most of which (89%) are for simple possession.

Now, state and federal prisons are not full of harmless pot users who have been stripped from their families forever over a measly joint. That much is true. Still, thousands of these low-end offenders continue to be put through the wringers of the criminal justice system every year, taking it on the chin royally even when the likelihood of spending a day in prison is slim to none.

Most first-time pot offenders are tossed into the system and forced to swallow their fair share of probationary requirements — they can’t smoke weed, can’t be around people who do, can’t leave the state, must attend drug and alcohol classes, pay elaborate fines and court costs, submit to random drug testing, etc. Failure to comply with any of these probationary terms, and, well, there’s a jail cell waiting for them. The punishment for pot possession only gets stiffer with subsequent offenses. In some cases, three-strike rules have put non-violent pot offenders like Missouri’s Jeff Mizanskey in prison for life. In fact, Mizanskey, who had his life sentence commuted in late 2015 by then-Governor Jay Nixon after serving more than two decades behind bars for pot possession, would still be a resident of the Jefferson City Correctional Center today if not for the tireless efforts of lawmakers and cannabis advocacy groups fighting for his release.

A heck of a lot of people like Mr. Mizanskey remain in prison for a plant that’s poised to become one of the most prominent economy boosters this country has witnessed since booze. Some of the latest predictions show the national pot market will be worth nearly $40 billion once Uncle Sam admits to losing the drug war and lets the herb go legal. It means millions of new jobs and a substantial economic boost for everyone from contractors to independent businesses.

Furthermore, most reasonable citizens would agree that the US government’s attitude and behavior toward cannabis offenders is wrong. And according to Stephen Post, campaign strategist for the LPP, the issue hits close to home for many American families. “Given that over a third of United States residents have experienced the trauma of having an immediate family member who has been to jail or prison, I think more people already care about this issue than is realized,” he told us.

For those who don’t give two flying squirts about pot offenders, perhaps it is time to consider the moral argument.

“Communities in the United States need to care about the release of those still imprisoned for cannabis if we are ever going to achieve our nation’s democratic ideal that ‘all men are created equal,’” Post added. “The enforcement of cannabis criminalization is one of this nation’s biggest hypocrisies as tens of thousands remain behind bars, while others are privileged to generate millions of dollars.”

Although progress on Capitol Hill has been slow concerning changing the nation’s weed laws, there is a push, one with bipartisan support, to not only legalize the green at the national level but in a way that also allows for the release of those incarcerated for a variety of cannabis offenses. The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was just approved by the US House of Representatives and now advances to the Senate for consideration, would allow more states to open cannabis markets to adults 21 and older. It would also ensure that those caught up in the gears of cannabis enforcement over the years are not forgotten. This policy change would come with strict criteria before a pot offender finds a reprieve. 

“The MORE Act explicitly limits the charges that are eligible for expungement or resentencing to non-violent cannabis convictions without ‘kingpin’ enhancements,” Fox asserts. “In cases of resentencing of a person who is currently incarcerated on multiple convictions, only the portions of the sentence directly tied to eligible cannabis convictions would be considered and affected, and a judicial panel would weigh all the factors in a person’s case before making final decisions about whether to shorten their sentence.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the MORE Act will go the distance any time soon. Even if the Senate were to give it the favorable attention it deserves — an improbable move considering the power struggle within the upper chamber — President Biden still isn’t willing to give his full support to the cannabis cause. For now, pot offenders all over the country will continue to sit in prison while others (maybe even you) could join them one day. So, if there is a message that needs to be conveyed, according to Flores-Williams, faith that our lawmakers are looking out for our best interests is an ignorant and dangerous position. The time for asking “why” we’re still jailing pot offenders is over. Americans should demand as much from the actions of their government as they do casual society. Where’s the cancel culture when we really need it? Because keeping otherwise innocent people behind bars for weed is the real cancellable offense.

“Try not to be blindly obedient,” Flores-Williams advises. “The law and justice are different things, and to blindly follow the law without any concern for justice reduces you to a non-citizen. “That said, I don’t know anyone who thinks that someone should be doing life in prison for pot in 2022. Except maybe a DEA agent whose job depends on it.”

The post Why Should We Care If Pot Offenders Get Released From Prison? appeared first on High Times.

Border Patrol Warns Against Carrying Pot In New Mexico

New Mexico just became the 18th state to legalize recreational pot use for adults, but that makes no difference to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which issued a warning this week for anyone passing through the Land of Enchantment: it is still illegal to us.

“Border Patrol agents have drug enforcement authority. Marijuana is still a prohibited drug under Schedule 1 of The United States Controlled Substances Act. Therefore, U.S. Border Patrol agents will continue to take appropriate enforcement action against those who are encountered in possession of marijuana anywhere in the United States,” the agency said in a media release, as quoted by Border Report.

Recreational pot sales launched in New Mexico late last week, following dozens of other states and cities that have enacted their own measures to end their prohibition on cannabis over the last decade. 

But the admonition from the Border Patrol is a reminder that customers should still tread carefully if they happen to be carrying in the state. As Border Report noted, “Border Patrol operates highway checkpoints in New Mexico on Interstate 10 near Deming, north of Las Cruces, south of Alamogordo and north of Columbus, among others,” and agents who are situated there “primarily check for immigration documents of people traveling to the interior of the United States, but they also make drug seizures under Title 21 authority of the U.S. Code.”

And, as in other states, New Mexico hailed the new policy as an economic driver for state and local economies.

“As we look to rebound from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, entrepreneurs will benefit from this great opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises, the state and local governments will benefit from the added revenue and, importantly, workers will benefit from the chance to land new types of jobs and build careers,” New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement after signing the legalization bill into law last year.

“This legislation is a major, major step forward for our state,” Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, added. “Legalized adult-use cannabis is going to change the way we think about New Mexico for the better — our workforce, our economy, our future. We’re ready to break new ground. We’re ready to invest in ourselves and the limitless potential of New Mexicans. And we’re ready to get to work in making this industry a successful one.”

But the warning issued by the Border Patrol captures what has been the defining tension of this era of legalization, with the new state and local cannabis laws invariably running afoul of the federal government’s ban on cannabis. 

It is why Congress is facing mounting pressure to finally change that. The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would legalize cannabis on the federal level. 

The legislation now heads to the Senate, where leaders say they intend to produce their own legalization proposal by month’s end. 

At a press conference on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he is consulting Republicans in the chamber to see what they would like added to the cannabis bill.

The MORE Act passed the Democratic-controlled House largely on a party-line vote.

For Schumer, getting something done will represent the fulfillment of a promise his party made last year after they were swept into power. In an interview last spring, Schumer said that “at some point we’re going to move forward [on legalization], period.”

“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, ‘Well what changed?’ Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states — Oregon and Colorado — wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer said at the time

“The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.”

The post Border Patrol Warns Against Carrying Pot In New Mexico appeared first on High Times.

Sen. Cory Booker Hints Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act is Nearly Ready

Sen. Cory Booker, Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plan to release cannabis legislation to both end the federal prohibition of cannabis and help communities that are most impacted by the War on Drugs, possibly by the end of the month.

Sens. Booker, Wyden, and Chuck Schumer introduced a discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) last July, which would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level and allow states to decide whether to make it legal. It would also expunge nonviolent cannabis crimes, and taxes would be allocated to help communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.

Since releasing the outline of the bill, lawmakers called for feedback on what to include and exclude from the final bill. The community responded. NORML, for instance, called for strengthening civic protections to clear records, revising outdated testing requirements, and providing a pathway for small businesses to compete with large ones. Others showed concern about tax rates.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced at a press conference in February that he intends to formally introduce the bill in April. NJ.com reports that the bill is almost written, and due to drop towards the end of the month. While the media is targeting April 20 as a good symbolic date for an announcement, the Senate is in recess through April 22, so a bill being introduced during the week of April 25 is more likely.

“I don’t mean this to be fully in jest but there’s been a lot of conversation about doing it on 4/20,” Booker told news outlets at the U.S. Capitol. “Aspirationally, I would love to see it done on 4/20 but I can’t speak to that, given all the things that are sort of backing up in the Senate.”

The U.S. House approved another comprehensive cannabis bill on April 1, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, but that gained support from only three Republicans. Booker needs the support of at least 10 GOP senators if the Senate is to pass any sort of legislation, but remains optimistic about ending prohibition the right way.

“This cannot just be about simple legalization,” Booker said. “It has to be about restorative justice. We had a really awful run of prohibition. This war on drugs has been not a war on marijuana. It’s been a war on people. This idea that you can just suddenly legalize or decriminalize and have so many Americans still suffering the consequences for having a criminal conviction where they can’t get a job, a loan from a bank, that’s just patently unfair. So this is a bill built around those ideas of restorative justice.”

Steven Hawkins is president and CEO of the U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC), as well as the former executive director of Marijuana Policy Project. Hawkins said that we don’t have the full bill quite yet, but a few things stand out. A full list of the USCC’s guidance for the draft discussion was released last September, but a few immediate issues come to mind.

“First of all, the proposed tax, at least in the draft, had the federal tax at 25% on top of high state taxes that exist currently,” Hawkins told High Times. “It would just make it impossible for the industry to succeed in most states. So that would have to be addressed. And then the question of primary jurisdiction. The draft proposed that the FDA have primary jurisdiction. We certainly have concerns with the role of the FDA. We’d rather see the Tax and Trade Bureau have primary jurisdiction.” 

The CAOA would also establish a regulatory framework for cannabis under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Descheduling would also normalize income tax for legal cannabis businesses, meaning existing businesses would no longer be subject to Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code. But some argue cannabis should be regulated more like alcohol. “The Tax and Trade Bureau is already dealing with adult-use products with alcohol and tobacco,” Hawkins said. “We’d want that agency to have jurisdiction over cannabis as well.” 

The bill, once introduced, will head to the Senate, where it will pass through several committees and converge with more. “The bill—to our knowledge—will intersect with at least a dozen committees,” Hawkins said.

The CAO Act (or CAOA) has been characterized as a states’ rights bill, allowing states to choose, and differs from bills such as Rep. Nancy Mace’s States Reform Act, mostly due to the inclusion of items such as social equity provisions.

“Normally legislation this comprehensive doesn’t pass on the first go,” Hawkins said. “You have to build support. What we saw with the MORE Act, was that there were some Republicans asking questions: How do we protect children. How do we deal with intoxication. There were a couple people who said, absolutely not, we should not allow this ever, but there were not anywhere close to the majority in terms of comments during the hearing. What we’re seeing is the maturity of our movement. There are now competing bills in the House of Representatives with Nancy Mace’s bill, the MORE Act, etc.”

While some leaders worry about the bill’s odds in the Senate under the current Congress, others worry about the tax implications. Rep. David Joyce opposed the MORE Act, issuing an announcement citing that it has no chance of passing the Senate, while others disagree.

“The movement towards cannabis descheduling and legalization is growing stronger and stronger,” Hawkins said. “We now have competing visions in the House. We’ll see what Republican support emerges in the Senate. It may be—given the partisan nature of the Senate—that the CAO bill will just be seen—rightly or wrongly—as simply a Chuck Schumer bill. But that doesn’t mean if a Republican bill were to emerge in the Senate, that there would not be [more supporters].”

The post Sen. Cory Booker Hints Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act is Nearly Ready appeared first on High Times.