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Biden’s proposed budget keeps a block on recreational weed sales in Washington, DC

Biden’s proposed budget keeps a block on recreational weed sales in Washington, DC

A rider that has effectively blocked recreational cannabis for years in Washington, DC appears in President Joe Biden’s proposed 2022 budget, which may keep weed on the back burner yet again.

Even though residents of DC voted to legalize possession of recreational marijuana in 2014, the measure has been in limbo since then, derailed by a rider to DC’s appropriations bill first introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), that prohibits the District from spending its local funds on commercialization of recreational cannabis, such as dispensaries. And Biden’s proposed 2022 budget includes the rider’s language yet again.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said in a statement she was having a hard time reconciling the Biden administration’s support for DC statehood with its budget that would prevent DC from commercializing recreational cannabis. “With Democrats controlling the White House, House and Senate, we have the best opportunity in over a decade to enact a D.C. appropriations bill that does not contain any anti-home-rule riders,” Norton said.

Asked if the president plans to remove the language from the proposed budget, a Biden administration official said in an email to The Verge that the president “continues to strongly support DC statehood, under which the people of DC could make policy choices just like other states.”

DC has long had a so-called “gray market” for marijuana, with medical cannabis legal, and recreational cannabis technically legal, but unable to be taxed or regulated because of the Harris rider. DC voters first approved medical marijuana in 1998, but it too was initially blocked, by the Barr Amendment, legislation that Congress finally overturned in 2009.

Biden, once a leading voice in the “War on Drugs” of the 1980s and ’90s, said during the 2020 presidential campaign that it was “time to decriminalize” marijuana use, but so far during his administration there’s been little action to do so at the federal level. Dozens of US states have legalized medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, or both, and public opinion supporting legal weed is at an all-time high. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), have said they would work together to advance comprehensive cannabis reform.

In February, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed legislation “to create an equitable adult-use cannabis program” in DC, which would impose a 17 percent tax on cannabis sales. But it’s unlikely to take effect if the rider remains in Biden’s proposed 2022 budget.

Legal cannabis sales rose $17.5 billion during pandemic

Legal cannabis sales rose $17.5 billion during pandemic

cannabis sales rose over 17 billion dollars in 2020

Shortly after Nevada officials announced that licensed cannabis stores and medical dispensaries could reopen after lockdown, Nicolas MacLean said cars were lined up for five blocks waiting for curbside pickup.

Like many industries in Las Vegas, the cannabis industry used to rely on tourists for sales, but that changed when the pandemic hit, MacLean, who serves as the CEO of Las Vegas-based cannabis producer Aether Gardens, told The New York Times.

“Locals are very discerning – they want something they aren’t going to find on the black market,” MacLean said. “Especially when you are stuck at home.”

The year of 2020 saw extraordinarily strong sales of legal cannabis in the US, up 46% from 2019 to a record $17.5 billion (R245 billion), according to cannabinoid market research firm BDSA.

“I expect this will be the first year Nevada does over a billion in cannabis sales,” MacLean said. “And it happened on the back of what I think no one expected.”

In western Massachusetts, where recreational cannabis use is legal, Meg Sanders, CEO of Canna Provisions, said government restrictions and later social-distancing requirements forced her to radically change her sales strategy.

At first, only medical dispensaries were allowed to remain open, while recreational-use retailers were forced to close.

“To have liquor stores deemed essential and not adult-use cannabis – especially when the law passed in Massachusetts was about regulating cannabis like alcohol – was surprising and unfortunate,” Sanders told The Times.

As Canna Provisions was allowed to re-open, the shop’s particular boutique-style in-person shopping experience had to change in favour of over-the-phone preorders.

“Our county is an internet desert,” she explained.

Now when customers call, they speak with a salesperson who can answer their questions and walk them through the available topicals, edibles, and smokables – a method, she said, is “working” for business.

“In our Lee store, preorders have become almost 100 percent of our business, so we bought more handsets and hired more people to answer the phones, and our revenue is up,” she said.

Religious Americans Split Over Cannabis Legalization

Religious Americans Split Over Cannabis Legalization

Christian cannabis support is higher than evangelicals

When it comes to supporting the legalization of cannabis, the religious community in the US is divided.

According to the latest polling from Pew Research Center, 60% of all US adults support legalization of medical and recreational cannabis, with only 8% that want to keep it illegal and 31% supporting medical cannabis only. 

However when these results are broken down and analyzed on the community level, the polling is much more complex, and interesting.

Christian Cannabis Legalization Support

Overall, religiously affiliated individuals are less likely to support broad cannabis legalization. White evangelical Christians were the least supportive of legal cannabis, with only 44% supporting full legalization and another 43% supporting medical only.

However, the protestant population — that is the general Christian population that isn’t evangelical or Catholic — is much more supportive of cannabis legalization at 53%. Additionally, white, non-evangelical Christians support broad cannabis legalization by a margin of 62%.

That’s 2% higher than the national average.

Black non-evangelical Christians are nearly identical in their support, with 63% supporting full legalization. Catholics are similar to protestants in their support also at 53% overall with 58% support specifically from the white Catholic community but only 51% support from hispanic Catholics.

Religiously Unaffiliated Most Supportive

Compared to the former, religiously unaffiliated individuals are the most supportive of broad cannabis legalization. Overall, 76% support legalization, with 88% and 86% support coming from Atheists and Agnostics respectively.

Opinions about whether marijuana should be legal for recreational and/or medical use also differ based on how often people pray and how important they say religion is in their lives. 46% of adults who pray every day say marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use, compared with roughly seven-in-ten (72%) of those who pray less often.

Similarly, people who say religion is “very important” in their lives are less likely to favor broadly legal marijuana than those who say religion is less important (44% vs. 71%).

Colorado Hemp and Marijuana Growers at Odds Over Proposed Cannabis Farming Law

Colorado Hemp and Marijuana Growers at Odds Over Proposed Cannabis Farming Law

Colorado hemp and marijuana growers can't agree on new legislation to help farmers plan for weather

A bill in the Colorado State Legislature attempts to cut outdoor marijuana farmers some slack in the face of bad weather and reduce cross-pollination between marijuana and hemp grows. However, not all of the Colorado hemp industry is on board yet.

House Bill 1301 — a beefed-up version of a similar bill last year that was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic — would allow outdoor cannabis growers to create a contingency plan to prevent crop loss during extreme weather conditions. The measure would create working groups to reduce cross-pollination between marijuana and Colorado hemp plants, as well.

Home to spontaneous weather, Colorado is more than capable of an untimely freeze for outdoor cannabis farms, which only harvest once per year, during the fall. Representative Daneya Esgar, the prime bill sponsor, says that these farmers deserve more protection for such financial impacts.

“This bill was introduced last year in response to outdoor grows having very stringent regulations and losing millions of dollars because of adverse weather,” Esgar told her colleagues on the House Finance Committee during HB 1301’s first successful vote, on May 24. “We’re just bringing it back and making it better than it was.”

The best practices to prevent crop damage from bad weather would be created and enforced by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division, according to Esgar’s bill.

The other outdoor cannabis issue HB 1301 hopes to address — cross-pollination between plants — could be more polarizing among farmers. Although marijuana and hemp are regulated and grown differently, they’re still of the same plant genus and can easily cross pollinate miles away from each other if grown outdoors. Marijuana plants grown for THC content are feminized and don’t have seeds, just like hemp grown for CBD. However, industrial hemp grown for grain and fiber is full of seeds and pollen, which can pollinate seedless cannabis plants, including hemp.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can educate everyone, because there are some unintended consequences of cross-pollination,” Esgar said.

When cross-pollination between marijuana and hemp occurs,  a handful of problems with regulations, including loss of yield and profit, are presented, according to Zack Dorsett, a Colorado hemp farmer for Blue Forest Farms in Longmont.

“It’s so bad,” he says in an interview with Westword. “We had a neighbor one year that grew un-feminized seeds and was spraying pollen all over the place, and the whole crop pretty much got ruined that year.” Hemp can also be harmed in the cross-pollination process, with some Colorado hemp crops testing above the federal THC limit of 0.3 percent after being pollinated by other cannabis plants.

There is pushback against the bill from some hemp industry members, however.

Colorado marijuana regulation bill overwhelmingly passes in House

Colorado marijuana regulation bill overwhelmingly passes in House

A Colorado marijuana regulation bill has been passed in the state house

It would restrict teens’ access to high-THC products and tighten rules for medical marijuana

The Colorado House of Representatives passed the state’s most substantial marijuana regulation policy since legalization on Thursday, intending to crack down on youth access to high-potency THC products and tighten rules for the medical marijuana market.

HB21-1317 passed overwhelmingly, 56-8, and moves on to the state Senate, where it is also expected to pass.

Some of the few House members who did criticize the bill argued data collection would lead to discrimination against consumers, as well as a slippery slope toward a fresh round of prohibitionist lawmaking.

Garnett disagreed, saying on the House floor just before the vote that he supports “making sure we all understand where this market has gone, how this (high-potency) market has expanded. … I just want to make sure that if there is an impact on the dev brain then we have public health research.

“We have waited too long to get to this point.”

Colorado’s legislative session must end no later than June 12, meaning this bill will move to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis in the next two weeks if it passes as expected.

Louisiana Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances To Senate

Louisiana Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances To Senate

Louisiana marijuana decriminalization bill has passed the house
A bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in Louisiana that already passed the House was approved in a Senate committee on Tuesday, sending it to the full chamber for final passage.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Cedric Glover (D), would make it so possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis would be punishable by a $100 fine without the threat of jail time. It cleared the Senate Judiciary C Committee in a 3-2 vote.

“House Bill 652 it seeks to address a problem that I think many of us have recognized over the years,” Glover said in opening remarks, adding that while opinions on full marijuana legalization vary, there’s widespread acceptance that low-level possession should not lead to incarceration or felony convictions.

If the decriminalization bill is approved on the Senate floor without amendments it will head to the governor’s desk.

This development comes as Louisiana lawmakers consider a number of separate marijuana bills this session, including one that would allow patients to access smokeable cannabis products. That measure has also passed the House and is pending action on the Senate floor.

A complementary bill to tax flower marijuana is also set to be taken up by the Senate.

The House additionally passed a resolution on Monday requesting the legislature conduct a formal study on the impacts of recreational marijuana legalization prior to the start of the 2022 session.

While advocates are encouraged by the modest reforms advancing, there is disappointment that a bill to enact adult-use legalization was pulled by its sponsor this month after the House defeated a companion bill to tax recreational sales.

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