Thursday, September 17, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Thursday, September 17, 2020 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// House Marijuana Vote In Question Following Leadership Remarks But ‘Schedule Hasn’t Changed’ (Marijuana Moment)

// Vermont Lawmakers Finally Reach Deal On Marijuana Sales Legalization Bill (Marijuana Moment)

// Illinois recreational marijuana sales hit nearly $64 million in August marking a new record (Chicago Tribue)

These headlines are brought to you by Curaleaf, one of the leading vertically-integrated cannabis operators in the U.S. With legal medical and adult use marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, and processing facilities all over the United States, Curaleaf has served more than 350,000 medical cannabis patients and looks forward to helping many more long into the future. Swing over to to learn more about this very cool company!

// Congressional Lawmakers Ask Supreme Court To Hear Marijuana Lawsuit Against DEA (Marijuana Moment)

// Is Arizona’s New Medical Marijuana Testing Program About to Cause Shortages? (Phoenix New Times)

// Canadian Retailer Fire & Flower Q2 Revenue Increases 24% Sequentially to $28.6 Million (New Cannabis Ventures)

// Trulieve Raises C$100.45 Million Selling Shares at C$24.50 (New Cannabis Ventures)

// Sheriff’s deputies are not serving warrants cutting down weed in wildfire evacuation zones (Growth Op)

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National Expungement Week Seeks to Help Ex-Pot Prisoners Get Fresh Start

Working at the intersection of the cannabis industry, racial equity, and reparative justice, activities around National Expungement Week (N.E.W.), from Sept. 21–29, 2019, seek to right some of the wrongs and social injustices stemming from the war on drugs.

Now in its second year, N.E.W.’s goal is to provide legal services to as many people as possible by helping them clear up convictions and the consequences that often extend well beyond the completion of a prison or jail sentence, stifling opportunities and civil rights that most take for granted.

Some 77 million Americans, or 1 in 3 adults, have a criminal record and are routinely blocked from getting good jobs, housing, government assistance, educational loans and, in many cases, reinstating their voting rights.  

“Too many people are locked up in this country, and far too many people are still locked out of society long after they’ve completed their sentence,” said Torie Marshall, Director of Programs at Cage-Free Repair, one of the leading organizations behind N.E.W. along with Equity First Alliance.

 With more than three dozen organizations involved, N.E.W. has enlisted the participation of numerous attorneys, organizers, educators, community leaders and activists nationwide who will provide information on expungement opportunities and clemency petitions where possible.

More than 40 events are scheduled to take place throughout the week, including no-cost clinics and workshops to help people to start the process of removing, sealing, or reclassifying eligible convictions from their criminal records, depending on local legislation. Attendees will learn from experts how to get their arrest records expunged and where to receive the necessary forms to undertake the process.

“This week offers a way to provide legal relief and wraparound services to justice-impacted people and their families while calling for automated expungement,” Marshall said via email.

The Equity First Alliance points out that in addition to providing expungement assistance, there will be nationwide events where people can also get advice on immigration issues, enrollment in public benefits programs, job opportunities, health screenings, legal advice, and guidance on fulfilling educational needs.

Cannabis Convictions

While expungement services are open to everyone in need, a large number of people expected to seek help are victims of the drug war and former pot prisoners, which number in the hundreds of thousands.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance:

  • In 2017, there were 1.7 million arrests in the U.S. for drug law violations.
  • Of that number, 1.4 million, or 85%, were for drug possession only.
  • The number of people arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2017 was 659,700, or about 39% of all drug arrests.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, pointed out that in 2017 there were more arrests in the U.S. for marijuana possession than for violent crimes. That was also true of 2016 and 2015.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) confirmed that marijuana arrests are much higher. The organization’s tally found that over half of all drug arrests in the U.S. are for marijuana. Between 2001 and 2010, out of 8.2 million pot arrests, 88% were for simple possession.  

Adding to these statistics, arrest data reveal a further disturbing trend: racial bias. Despite roughly equal usage rates, African Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana, the ACLU noted. 

Those statistics underscore the urgent need for expungement, said Tracey Henry, the New York-based spokesperson for N.E.W.

“Though expungement legislation, especially when in the case of cannabis convictions, has gained some acceptance across the political spectrum, but the laws themselves present a virtual web of legal procedures, red tape, and restrictions,” Henry told Weedmaps News.

“For that reason, we need to solidify N.E.W.’s push to expand access to expungement and streamline the use of automated expungement,” she said.

Automated expungement is available in some states, Henry said. 

In February 2019 San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced that more than 8,000 marijuana-related convictions going back to 1975 were erased or reduced.

In Illinois, as part of a bill signed into law in June 2019, about 800,000 marijuana arrests and convictions were automatically expunged. In Cook County, home of Chicago, Code for America worked with authorities to expunge records.

Michigan, the first Midwestern state to legalize adult-use cannabis, introduced a bill in July 2019 to allow roughly 235,000 misdemeanor pot possession records to be automatically expunged.

Massachusetts, which legalized recreational cannabis in 2018, still requires people to go through a legal process to amend their records.

Cities holding N.E.W. events, which have nearly doubled in number from 16 in 2018 to 30 in 2019, are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

Events Coinciding with N.E.W.

N.E.W.’s launch on September 21 coincided with the seventh Annual Code For America’s National Day of Civic Hacking, which brought together civic leaders, public servants, designers, coders, and engaged citizens who are partnering with local government and community groups to help those affected by the criminal justice system, particularly in the area of record clearance.

N.E.W. also coincides with the Sept. 24, 2019, National Voter Registration Day, which highlights the need for voting rights restoration. 

The N.E.W. website provides a link to an online toolkit so communities can organize such events beyond the scope of the week.

For more information about N.E.W, visit the National Expungement Week website; or follow @expungementweek’s social media’s channels on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as the hashtags #offtherecordus and #NEWeek19.

Feature image: More than 40 events are scheduled to take place throughout National Expungement Week, including no-cost clinics and workshops to help people to start the process of removing, sealing, or reclassifying eligible drug arrest convictions from their criminal records. (Photo by By Inked Pixels/Shutterstock) 

The post National Expungement Week Seeks to Help Ex-Pot Prisoners Get Fresh Start appeared first on Weedmaps News.

Seth Rogen Raises Awareness for Marijuana Crime Record Expungement

Actor Seth Rogen is helping to spread the word about how to get criminal records cleared as part of the second annual National Expungement Week (N.E.W.) initiative.

In a public service announcement (PSA) released in late September 2019, the noted marijuana enthusiast and co-owner of the cannabis company Houseplant talks about how 77 million Americans have criminal records, adding that “a large amount of these records are for minor offenses and seriously impede millions of people’s ability to live.”

Having a record can impact “access to jobs, housing, education and the right to vote,” Rogen said. “It doesn’t help them and it doesn’t help this country,” Rogen said.

To facilitate expungements and help those with prior convictions, advocacy groups across the country are holding events from Sept. 21–28, 2019, that will provide services including legal aid, voter registration, health screenings, and employment workshops.

Cook County, Illinois, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who advocated for a marijuana legalization bill that Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed in June 2019, also called attention to the events in a series of Twitter posts.

“There’s just millions and millions of people in America who can’t vote, who can’t get a job, who can’t do things that many, many people take for granted because they have been arrested for something that isn’t illegal anymore,” Rogen told Vice in an interview about his advocacy efforts. “To us, that is just unacceptable. Weed should have never have been illegal in the first place, that’s the premise that we operate under.”

While the N.E.W. events aren’t exclusively for individuals who’ve been convicted for cannabis-related offenses, clearing marijuana records has been a focus of lawmakers and reform advocates as more states opt to legalize the plant. This is the second year in the row that N.E.W. has organized these events.

Expungement is one restorative justice policy that advocates argue is essential to any legalization model — state or federal — because it benefits communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

Rogen said he recognizes that racial disparities in marijuana enforcement have put people of color at a disadvantage in the burgeoning legal industry and that many of those who haven’t been marginalized “have been rewarded by being some of the first to flock to the industry and profit off it.”

“We think it’s wildly important to understand the roots of the industry that you are trying to be a part of and to us there would be no way that we would even consider entering this space without really actively trying to rectify the issues that go along with being in the space, and one of the major ones is exactly what you’re saying,” he said.

While perhaps better known for his personal affection for cannabis, which has come across clearly in movies such as “Pineapple Express,” Rogen has also incorporated marijuana into his philanthropic pursuits. He hosted an adult carnival featuring cannabis in September 2019, the proceeds of which went to support research into Alzheimer’s disease.

He also testified before a congressional committee in 2014, joking that he wasn’t there to talk about marijuana but an issue he feels more passionate about: exploring cures for the degenerative disease.

View Rogen’s public service announcement on YouTube.

This article was republished from Marijuana Moment under a content-sharing agreement. Read the original article here

The post Seth Rogen Raises Awareness for Marijuana Crime Record Expungement appeared first on Weedmaps News.

Weedmaps Event Aims to Shine Light on Social Injustices in Cannabis Industry

Despite a move toward legalization in much of the United States, thousands of people remain imprisoned for non-violent, cannabis-related crimes. To shine a light on the topic, the Weedmaps Museum of Weed will host “Together for Fair Social Policies” on Sept. 26, 2019, featuring a panel of experts speaking on the topic of cannabis advocacy and social justice. Entry to the museum will be free all day.

Panelists include Jay King, president of the California Black Chamber of Commerce; David Hua, CEO and co-founder of Meadow; and Yvette McDowell, co-chair of the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) Diversity, Inclusion and Social Equity subcommittee. The panel will take place from 3–6 p.m. at the Weedmaps Museum of Weed, 720 N. Cahuenga Blvd., in Hollywood, California. They will discuss barriers to entering the cannabis market for people of color and the impact the war on drugs has had on these communities. Additionally, the panel will discuss policy solutions to creates a more accessible and equitable cannabis retail market for people of color. 

Those interested in attending can reserve their free tickets by visiting the Weedmaps Museum of Weed website

The Weedmaps Museum of Weed provides a comprehensive exploration of the history of cannabis prohibition in an expansive, interactive space. It provides helpful context to allow visitors to understand how the war on drugs led to mass incarceration, and missed opportunities for agricultural investment and medical science progress. The exhibits and the Social Equity Day panel aim to help audiences understand how the decades-long anti-cannabis propaganda became accepted fact, with consequences that linger today. 

For four decades, the federal war on drugs has ensnared millions of Americans, many for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

A 2010 analysis of U.S. marijuana arrests by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for possession, and frequently only for small amounts. The ACLU arrest data also found “significant racial bias,” noting that nationally, African-Americans are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.

And while blacks and Latinos constitute 31.5% of the U.S. population, they accounted for nearly 47% of all people arrested for drug law violations.

States such as Illinois have incorporated social justice measures into their marijuana legalization efforts, while others are still searching for answers.

A History of Injustice

Terrell Anderson was 15 when the Chicago teenager was arrested and charged with possessing 1 ounce and 3 grams of cannabis.

It’s been a downhill ride ever since, said Anderson, who has spent 13 of his 37 years in prison. The youngest of three children, he never finished high school, never married, had children, or maintained a full-time job.

His convictions have haunted him for more than two decades, a “paper prison” that has constrained him from obtaining steady jobs, from applying for educational loans or public housing, and even from joining the National Guard.

“Every time you try to open a door, someone slams it shut in your face,” said Anderson, who supports himself with odd jobs such as moving furniture and minor home maintenance. “Mentally, you get depressed after all these setbacks. You ask yourself why you put yourself through all of this.”

With 33 states and the District of Columbia approving medical marijuana, 10 states with legalized adult use cannabis and more states, such as Illinois, New Jersey, and New York, attempting to pass legalization laws, the issues of social justice and social equity loom large.

For four decades, the federal war on drugs has ensnared millions of Americans, many for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

A 2010 analysis of U.S. marijuana arrests by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for possession, and frequently only for small amounts. The ACLU arrest data also found “significant racial bias,” noting that nationally, African-Americans are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.

And while blacks and Latinos constitute just 31.5% of the U.S. population, they accounted for nearly 47% of all people arrested for drug law violations.

Anderson told Weedmaps News that his convictions have killed his chances for employment.

“I served my time, but they hold my record against me. This hopelessness is why so many people return to the streets,” he said.

He added that legalizing marijuana in Illinois “would stop many young black men from going to jail and getting caught up in the justice system cycle. I would like to work in the marijuana industry once it’s legalized, but there’s that Catch-22. I can’t do it without having a clean background and to get a clean background I have to have a job and a clean record,” he said.

Past convictions for marijuana possession have had life-long consequences, including the inability to qualify for a job or a loan. (Weedmaps file photo)

Former Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2016. Twenty-one other states have also decriminalized or ended prison sentences for simple weed possession, but penalties in some states remain harsh.

The sponsors of Illinois’ adult-use legalization bill, now awaiting Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature, have integrated measures to redress past convictions. Illinois is poised to become a leader in social equity legislation with its new legalization status. In a Twitter post on May 31, 2019, the governor said, “The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation.”

Rose Ashby, field director for Democrats state Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, sponsors of that bill, said its backers are “throwing a lot of darts at the equity board. To help deal with the past, we’re proposing criminal records expungements. For the present we’re modifying the business and licensing structure to allow greater access and entry for minorities to the cannabis industry and for the future, we’re re-investing in the minority communities devastated by the war on drugs, rebuilding through the proceeds of marijuana sales,” Ashby told Weedmaps News.

Illinois legalization advocates hope that will coalesce diverse support and overcome growing opposition. Mark Peysakhovich, a Chicago-based marijuana lobbyist and consultant, said while the bill does include minority business set-asides, he noted that economic equity will be difficult to achieve.

“One of the main issues in other states was that the communities most impacted by the war on drugs did not feel they had a say in their bills. That’s not true in Illinois, where our Legislature’s black caucus has been involved since the beginning,” Peysakhovich said. “Social justice has been the goal all along. Hopefully, the sponsors in Illinois will have learned from what tripped up legalization bills in other states and avoid those problems.”

Post-Legalization Challenges in Michigan

Matthew Abel, an attorney specializing in marijuana issues with the Detroit firm Cannabis Counsel, said he strongly believed expungement should have been included within the adult-use law passed in November 2018 by Michigan voters.

But Abel, the director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said: “Unfortunately, that was not included out of concern that components of expungement efforts would have invalidated the law.”

Abel told Weedmaps those drug minor drug convictions effectively freeze out offenders from participating in the legal commercial marijuana market.

A criminal record is a block. You do not pass go. Under Michigan law, selling as little as one joint was a felony.
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“A criminal record is a block. You do not pass go. Under Michigan law, selling as little as one joint was a felony. It doesn’t have to be a kingpin conviction to bar somebody. It shouldn’t have been a felony in the first place,” Abel said.

Expungement, Abel explained, is the court-ordered process of deleting a conviction from the public record and is the gold standard. If a court grants that request, then the crime should cease to exist.

Sealing a record is different. Sealed records still exist, but they are not part of the public record and can be accessed and reviewed only by court order.

A pardon is an executive act of clemency. The conviction still exists, but the crime is forgiven.  

Expungements and sealed records shouldn’t turn up on criminal background checks, Abel said, but sometimes do.

He conceded that expungement is hotly debated in Michigan.

“The Legislature could authorize expungement. It could be done by ballot initiative, but that’s doubtful. There was more buy-in for legalization than there was for expungement,” Abel said. “The governor could do it on her own. She has the pardon power.”

California passed a law that will expunge the records of hundreds of thousands of offenders. A few California cities and counties have collaborated with San Francisco-based Code for America to speed the record expungement process in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Joaquin counties.

Reining in Enforcement

In a recent joint letter from social justice and civil rights organizations to leading congressional committee leaders, the ACLU, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Sentencing Project, and the Drug Policy Alliance urged Congress to suspend the enforcement activities of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

“The agency approaches drugs from a purely criminalization standpoint, under the misguided belief that the U.S. can reduce drug use through arrest and incarceration. Its approach is heavy-handed, ineffective, unscientific, and deeply damaging to communities in this country,” the organizations wrote.

Their letter noted that while 95% of the nearly 2.2 million currently incarcerated Americans will be released from prison and jails, nearly 40% will be re-incarcerated within three years.

Pain of Life Outside Bars

Sodiqa Williams, General Counsel and Vice President of External Affairs for the Chicago-based Safer Foundation, a nonprofit agency working to re-assimilate criminal offenders, told Weedmaps News that it isn’t just minor marijuana convictions that can ruin lives.

“It begins with the arrest, which can cascade into unforeseen legal circumstances,” said Williams, who called minor marijuana convictions the entry point into a justice system that can wreak havoc on offenders’ lives.

“Once the justice system gets a hold of you, it’s hard to get out,” she said. “It keeps piling on as you move through the system. Court hearings. Fines. Probation and probation officers. Incarceration. We’re finally seeing decreases in our prison population. But this still happens for some cannabis offenders.”

Williams said residents in economically depressed communities of color are at higher risk to stumble into the judicial morass.

“People in communities of color are policed more frequently and more aggressively, have higher rates of unemployment, economic disinvestment, and health and housing access issues, and are struggling just to keep it together,” she said. “I see cannabis arrests as the first step in getting hooked into that system.”

Feature image: Even minor marijuana convictions can become the entry point into a justice system that can wreak havoc on offenders’ lives, experts say. With a criminal record, few can escape the “paper prison” that limits their ability to hold a job, get an education and more. Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

Mark Taylor contributed to this report.

The post Weedmaps Event Aims to Shine Light on Social Injustices in Cannabis Industry appeared first on Weedmaps News.