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Illinois starts new year by expunging nearly 500,000 marijuana arrest records

Illinois starts new year by expunging nearly 500,000 marijuana arrest records

Illinois expunges over 500,000 marijuana arrest records to start 2021

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said in an announcement hours before the start of the new year that his state had expunged nearly 500,000 marijuana-related convictions.

The move follows Pritzker signing legislation in 2019 legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state starting in 2020. The expansive legislation also paved the way for 770,000 state residents to be eligible for expunging marijuana-related offenses.

Pritzker initially estimated it would take four years to start getting records expunged, but announced on Thursday that nearly 500,000 had already been tossed going into 2021.

“We reached this milestone one year into what will be an ongoing effort to correct historic wrongdoings fueled by the war on drugs,” he tweeted.

“We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of the damage in communities of color, who have disproportionately shouldered this burden. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past — and the decency to set a better path forward.”

Illinois joins more than a dozen states in recent years that have legalized marijuana recreationally and sought to address convictions related to the drug.

California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington have each enacted legislation to explicitly expunge or seal the records of those convicted of low-level marijuana crimes.

Original Story from The Hill

How state marijuana legalization became a boon for corruption

How state marijuana legalization became a boon for corruption

Bribery and corruption in the cannabis industry

By making local officials the gatekeepers for million-dollar businesses, states created a breeding ground for bribery and favoritism.

Jasiel Correia’s star was rising.

The son of Cape Verdean immigrants in the working-class Massachusetts port city of Fall River — famed as the home of Lizzie Borden — Correia was a home-grown prodigy. At 23, he was elected mayor, fielding congratulatory calls from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Joe Kennedy.

That was in 2015. Four years later, just a week before his reelection race, federal agents ignominiously led him away from his home in handcuffs and charged him with attempting to extort cannabis companies of $600,000 in exchange for granting them lucrative licenses to sell weed in his impoverished city.

“Mayor Correia has engaged in an outrageous brazen campaign of corruption, which turned his job into a personal ATM,” declared U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling during a press conference announcing the charges.

The downfall of Fall River’s young mayor wasn’t just a tragedy for the thousands of people who invested their hopes in him: It was emblematic of a rash of cannabis-related corruption across the nation, from Massachusetts to California to Arkansas and beyond.

In the past decade, marijuana legalization for adults over 21 has been passed in 15 states, and another 17 have legalized medical marijuana. But in their rush to limit the numbers of licensed vendors and give local municipalities control of where to locate dispensaries, they created something else: A market for local corruption.

Almost all the states that legalized pot either require the approval of local officials — as in Massachusetts — or impose a statewide limit on the number of licenses, chosen by a politically appointed oversight board, or both. These practices effectively put million-dollar decisions in the hands of relatively small-time political figures — the mayors and councilors of small towns and cities, along with the friends and supporters of politicians who appoint them to boards. And these strictures have given rise to the exact type of corruption that got Correia in trouble with federal prosecutors. They have also created a culture in which would-be cannabis entrepreneurs feel obliged to make large campaign contributions or hire politically connected lobbyists.

For some entrepreneurs, the payments can seem worth the ticket to cannabis riches.

For some politicians, the lure of a bribe or favor can be irresistible.

Correia’s indictment alleges that he extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana companies in exchange for granting them the local approval letters that are necessary prerequisites for obtaining Massachusetts licenses. Correia and his co-conspirators — staffers and friends — accepted a variety of bribes including cash, more than a dozen pounds of marijuana and a “Batman” Rolex watch worth up to $12,000, the indictment charges.

Read the full story on Politico

60 Los Angeles cannabis businesses losing licenses on New Year’s Day

60 Los Angeles cannabis businesses losing licenses on New Year’s Day

los angeles cannabis businesses are losing their licenses after New Year's

At least 57 licensed cannabis companies in Los Angeles are poised to see their business permits yanked by city authorities at the end of the year – with no obvious way to get the licenses reinstated.

The licensees in question – which appear to be a mixture of retailers, distributors and perhaps other business types – represent roughly 14% of the 418 marijuana business permits issued to date by the city, according to the L.A. Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR).

Although the City Council has a motion pending to give the 57 companies a lifeline, the council is in recess until Jan. 8.

So it’s unclear if the Council would be able to act in time to save the businesses. But even the Council motion itself warns that all of the companies might be forced “out of business” next month.

The situation has many business owners “frantic,” said Jerred Kiloh, president of the L.A.-based United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA).

The situation

At issue is those companies’ annual license renewal applications and fees for 2021, which were due Nov. 2.

The vast majority of licensed cannabis companies in the city paid and got their paperwork in on time, but at least 57 failed to do so.

Under current city law – which was put in place in July 2020 – there’s no way to grant the businesses extra time, a DCR spokesperson noted in an email to Marijuana Business Daily.

“(City code) does not permit DCR to waive late renewals or allow reinstatements,” the spokesperson wrote.

After Dec. 31, 2020, according to the DCR website, all 57 licensees “will be required to cease operations and will not be allowed to engage in commercial cannabis activity until a new application is submitted to DCR and a new temporary approval or license is issued.”

So it appears all 57 will have to start from square one in applying for both local and state permits, a process that could take months, or even years, before those businesses can reopen.

At the moment, there appears to be little that can be done to avert the closures.

“Late renewals and/or reinstatement would require the City Council to amend the Los Angeles Municipal Code,” the DCR spokesperson wrote.

New Jersey cannabis legalization approved by state legislature

New Jersey cannabis legalization approved by state legislature

New jersey legislature passes legal cannabis

​The measure now heads to Gov. Phil Murphy, who is expected to sign the legislation

Recreational adult-use marijuana is just a signature away from becoming legal in New Jersey after both houses of the state legislature passed legislation on Thursday to decriminalize and legalize the industry.

The measure now heads to the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill creates the organizational and regulatory system needed to oversee the industry in New Jersey. It will direct 70% of all sales tax revenue generated and all “social equity excise fees” on cultivators toward communities that have been most adversely-impacted by drug laws.

The other 30 percent of all sales tax revenue generated will go toward the operations of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, as well as to support state, county and municipal law enforcement.

The five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be tasked with governing the industry in New Jersey. It will include three members appointed by Murphy and one each nominated by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.

The measure will cap the number of statewide cannabis facilities at 37 for the first two years. Towns will be allowed to prohibit marijuana businesses in their communities, and those who choose to allow such businesses to operate will be permitted to collect and keep a 2% tax.

The legislation will provide for certain criminal and civil justice reforms, including the elimination of criminal penalties for marijuana possession. It will also regrade the unlawful distribution and possession of less than five pounds of marijuana or less than one pound of hashish.

Law enforcement officers across the state made over 24,000 arrests, or one every 22 minutes, for cannabis possession in 2012, which was more than in the previous 20 years. Marijuana possession arrests also made up for three out of every five drug arrests that year, according to Assembly Democrats.

Distribution of less than five pounds, but at least one ounce or more, of marijuana or distribution of less than one pound, but at least five grams or more, of hashish is punishable as a crime of the third degree under current law. Offenders can face imprisonment of 3-5 years and/or a fine of up to $25,000.

Smaller distribution amounts of less than one ounce of marijuana or less than five grams of hashish is punishable as a crime of the fourth degree under current law. Offenders can face up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

The bill also includes business incentives for minorities, women and disabled veterans to help them partake in the industry. 

Why medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is some of the most costly in the U.S.

Why medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is some of the most costly in the U.S.

Pennsylvania medical marijuana is some of the most expensive in the country

Bill Cobb uses medical marijuana to treat PTSD and chronic back pain.

“I’m a 50-year-old Black man who’s been a civil rights worker,” said Cobb, now a criminal-justice activist in Philadelphia. “I smoke to have my brain slow down. But to be honest, I also smoke because I enjoy it.”

 

Alleviating his physical and mental pain is difficult when he feels another sting: His doctor-recommended medicine is not covered by insurance. He pays out of pocket — as much as $120 a week.

 

“It’s way too expensive,” Cobb said. “It’s ridiculous.”​

Other marijuana users in Pennsylvania agree. Surveys show that the Keystone State has some of the highest prices for medical marijuana in the nation.

 

Cannabis is most often sold in eighths of an ounce, which can be rolled into about seven joints. An eighth of Gorilla Glue 4 marijuana sells for $35 in California. It’s $40 in Maine. It costs $58 in Pennsylvania.

 

In Colorado, a full ounce of average weed often sells to consumers for $190. In Pennsylvania, the price is closer to $500. Some especially rapacious growers charge $600.

Mexico puts legalization of marijuana on hold

Mexico puts legalization of marijuana on hold

Mexico cannabis legalization gets delayed until 2021

Mexican president says delay is matter of “form, not substance” and expects approval in early 2021

The Chamber of Deputies last week put the brakes on the legalization of marijuana in Mexico. However, that country’s president on Tuesday said he expects approval in early 2021 of legislation decriminalizing possession and consumption of small amounts of marijuana.

“They asked the (Mexican) Supreme Court for an extension because the two chambers could not come to an agreement and they were running out of time to make revisions. But it’s an issue of form, not substance. I believe this will be resolved” in the next session, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in his daily news conference.

The Mexican Senate last month approved a landmark bill decriminalizing the possession of up to 28 grams (1 ounce) of the drug, allowing individuals to grow up to six plants and licensing production and sales. It also created a commission within the Health Department to regulate the cannabis law.

The Chamber of Deputies was under a Dec. 15 Mexican Supreme Court deadline to approve the law, but deputies asked for and got an extension through the end of April. The deputies are expected to pick up the discussion in early February.

​“There is no opposition to what the Senate authorized regarding the medicinal and limited use of marijuana. It’s just a matter of errors, lack of precision about the amounts and other contradictions in the law itself, and that’s what will be resolved,” Lopez Obrador said.

If that happens, Mexico would be the second country in Latin America – after Uruguay – to decriminalize recreational use of small amounts of marijuana.

The premise might seem odd in a nation plagued by drug cartel violence and with rising rates of addiction in northern border cities. But experts say it reflects a change of attitude in Mexican collective thought and won’t necessarily fuel more violence or addictions.

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