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Trump Clemency Recipient Says MORE Act Will Leave Many Prisoners Behind

Trump Clemency Recipient Says MORE Act Will Leave Many Prisoners Behind

MORE Act may not help cannabis convictions

Advocates are eager for a House vote on a recently reintroduced bill to federally legalize marijuana—but some others are sounding the alarm about provisions related to resentencing that might not help to repair the harms of the war on drugs in the way lawmakers are aiming for.

The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances. But it also has a concerted focus on social equity, which includes providing for resentencing for people convicted over certain federal marijuana offenses.

To many advocates and legislators, there’s a necessity to couple legalization with equity. And that’s what the resentencing language, along with other provisions, is supposed to achieve. But in a letter to congressional lawmakers, a pro-reform individual who received clemency for a cannabis conviction from President Donald Trump warned that the bill, as written, would not have the impact that the sponsors intend.

Because the legislation gives significant deference to the courts to make decisions on resentencing petitions—but also declines to resolve cases where there are aggravating factors such as possession of a firearm or sums of money at the time of an arrest—relief could be out of reach for a large number of federal inmates, the letter states.

Craig Cesal, who is serving a sentence of supervised release after being granted clemency by Trump over a federal cannabis trafficking case, said in the letter that many people incarcerated for marijuana “would receive no relief from their conviction at all” under the MORE Act, and some would “continue to serve life sentences for conduct which would no longer be considered illegal.”

He pointed to three specific parts of the legalization legislation that could keep people incarcerated over marijuana based on the language.

First, it would give “discretion to the sentencing court as to whether the marijuana conviction or related conduct would be expunged.” The bill states that people would be eligible for expungement only if their case was non-violent, and courts have frequently disagreement about what constitutes a violent offense.

Second, it does not “provide relief for additional counts of conviction inextricably relying on the criminality of the marijuana offense.” For example, if a person who was convicted on a cannabis charge was in possession of a firearm that would’ve otherwise been lawful if marijuana wasn’t illegal, that could complicate resentencing processing.

Finally, those “whose offense involved five or more people, which is most marijuana offenses, would be specifically excepted from relief under the MORE Act,” Cesal said.

A spokesperson for the Judiciary Committee did not respond to Marijuana Moment’s requests for a reaction to Cesal’s concerns about the chairman’s bill.

Washington State Announces ‘Joint for Jabs’ Covid Vaccine Program

Washington State Announces ‘Joint for Jabs’ Covid Vaccine Program

Washington state joint for jabs

A vaccine can now get you some pre-rolled bud in the state of Washington.

The state’s liquor and cannabis board announced on Monday that in an effort to support coronavirus vaccinations, it will temporarily allow state-licensed cannabis retailers to give a free joint to adults who get their first or second dose at a vaccine clinic at one of the retail locations.

Call it the latest bounty in an ever-expanding list of incentives popping up across the country meant to push Americans to get their shots. “Joints for jabs” and similar campaigns have been around for months, with cannabis activist groups and local dispensaries offering joints for vaccinations. Now, a state is promoting the program.

Health experts have repeatedly said vaccine demand would wane and each new shot in an arm would be harder to achieve either because of hesitancy, access or logistical challenges for the population left unvaccinated.

“Since the start of the pandemic itself, we’ve always had about a quarter of the population that’s been like, ‘Uh, I really don’t know,’ ” said Rupali Limaye, a behavioral and social scientist that studies vaccine hesitancy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It makes sense we’re at this place where we’re having to persuade people to get the vaccine.”

She said it was “pretty fascinating” to see how creative states can get with their incentives, especially as health officials and local leaders figure out how to tailor messaging, and incentives, around different segments of the population. Officials in New Jersey and D.C., for example, said they were targeting younger populations with campaigns offering free beer for shots.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) also announced a suite of other vaccine incentives last week — including lottery prizes, sports tickets and game systems — to help encourage unvaccinated residents.

“For some people it may be enough to say, ‘You get a doughnut.’ For others, they may need something more, like a college scholarship,” Limaye said. “To me, it matches the general principles of how we should focus on behavioral science, by meeting people where they are.”

Vaccination incentive campaigns have ballooned in recent weeks — getting a vaccine can make you a millionaire, or at least get you a free beer. These marketing strategies from local leaders and corporations have taken on added urgency as vaccination levels across the country fall. The Biden administration has itself pushed an array of incentives to get more people vaccinated ahead of the Fourth of July, a deadline set by the president to get 70 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated.

In recent days, the nation’s daily average doses has dropped to under a million, down more than two-thirds from a mid-April peak of more than 3.3 million daily average doses, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. The lag puts Biden’s national goal at risk, even as more than a dozen states have already reached the 70 percent milestone.

 

Read Full Story on Washington Post

Connecticut Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill

Connecticut Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill

Connecticut cannabis legalization has passed in the Senate

The Connecticut Senate early Tuesday morning passed a bill to legalize marijuana, sending the proposal to the House for final approval with just days left in the legislative session.

House leaders say they plan to take up the legislation in that chamber before Wednesday’s end-of-session deadline but after first tackling the state budget.

The cannabis bill is the product of weeks of negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) office. Finalized language was introduced only on Saturday, giving lawmakers little time to review the roughly 300-page proposal.

But during a marathon floor debate that stretched into the early hours Tuesday morning, the Senate passed the bill in a 19–17 vote.

“We have seen what has been wrought by having a war on drugs,” Sen. Gary Winfield (D) said on the floor before the vote. “Whole communities have been decimated. And some people will say, ‘Well, there are not a lot of people in our state in jail for cannabis today,’ but there are vestigial ways in which communities are still impacted by what we were doing.”

Noting that cannabis was once available in American apothecaries, Winfield ran through the history of the drug war and argued that marijuana prohibition’s racist origins and consequences continue to be felt in Connecticut today.

“The reason I think we should legalize cannabis is not because of the money—that’s an important part of this,” he added, “but because we should have never made cannabis an illegal drug. It should never have been prohibited. It should never have been a Schedule I drug, particularly given how it got there.”

Asked whether there will be enough support in the House to pass the measure, Majority Leader Jason Rojas (D) said earlier Monday that he believes the votes will be there—but he’s “still answering lots of questions” from members about specific provisions.

“I’m confident that we’ll get there,” he said.

House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) added that “we do expect it to pass.”

“We don’t think we’ll have 97 votes,” he said, referring to the total number of Democratic members in the Connecticut body. “We understand there will be noes in our caucus … But we’ve heard from a few people on the other side of the aisle too that have had a chance to digest and stuff, and I would say there’s a few people involved in conversations there too.”

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.

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 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.

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