Marijuana News: A Senate Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana At The Federal Level Is On Its Way


ut plainly, the cannabis industry is budding worldwide. Cannabis research firm ArcView Group has estimated that North American legal marijuana sales could explode from $9.7 billion in 2017 (which represented 33% sales growth from 2016) to more than $47 billion by 2027. Meanwhile, Cowen Group recently raised its global legal cannabis sales forecast from $50 billion by 2026 to $75 billion by 2030.

This article originally appeared in the Motley Fool. 

At the heart of these lofty sales estimates is a major shift in consumer opinion toward pot. What had once been considered a taboo topic is no more. Five national polls over the trailing one-year period -- CBS News, Gallup, Fox News, Pew Research Center, and the independent Quinnipiac University -- found support ranging from 59% to 64% for nationwide legalization. Furthermore, support for medical marijuana in the aforementioned Quinnipiac University poll from August hit an overwhelming 94%. 

Despite Changing Opinions On Cannabis, The U.S. Is Stuck In The Mud

Yet in the United States, the cannabis industry remains stuck in neutral. Despite the fact that 29 states have broad medical marijuana laws and nine states have OK'd the use of recreational weed, the federal government has entrenched its stance on cannabis being a Schedule I drug. This places weed on par with drugs like LSD and heroin, suggests it's highly prone to abuse, and means it has no recognized medical benefits.

In addition to being wholly illegal at the federal level, marijuana's Schedule I status can wreak havoc on businesses operating in the pot industry, as well as patients hoping to receive medical cannabis or cannabis-derived medicines.

For instance, marijuana companies often have little to no access to basic banking services, which constrains their ability to expand and hire. Also, the three-decade-old tax rule known as 280E disallows businesses that sell a federally illegal substance from taking normal corporate income-tax deductions. This means that profitable pot companies could pay an effective tax rate of as high as 90%! And, as noted, patients can suffer given the lengthy amount of red tape surrounding medical cannabis trials and research.

The industry is also challenged by Attorney General Jeff Sessions leading the Justice Department. Sessions is perhaps the most ardent opponent of cannabis in Washington, and he's tried on more than one occasion to upend state-level expansion. In May 2017, Sessions (unsuccessfully) requested that a few of his congressional colleagues repeal the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which is responsible for protecting medical marijuana businesses from federal prosecution.

However, Sessions was successful in rescinding the Cole memo in January. The Cole memo provided a loose set of guidelines that states would follow in order to keep the federal government at bay. These guidelines included keeping grown cannabis within legal states and ensuring that adolescents didn't have access to marijuana. Its rescinding opened the door for state-level prosecutors to use their discretion in bringing charges against individuals or businesses that violate the Controlled Substances Act.

This Influential Congressional Leader Is Set To Introduce A Decriminalization Bill

But big changes could be on the way. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced a little over a week ago his intention to introduce a bill to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level -- i.e., remove it from the controlled substances list.

In an interview with Vice News Tonight, Schumer had this to say:

The time has come to decriminalize marijuana. My thinking -- as well as the general population's views -- on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there's no better time than the present to get this done. It's simply the right thing to do. 

If this sounds somewhat familiar, it's because former House Speaker John Boehner, who once described himself as "unalterably opposed" to the idea of decriminalizing marijuana, announced his change of heart just days before Schumer made his own announcement about proposing a decriminalization bill. Said Boehner in a statement to CNBC on why he was joining a cannabis company's board of advisors:

Like that of millions of other Americans, [my thinking on cannabis] has evolved as I've learned more about the issue. I decided to get involved because of the struggles of our country's veterans and the opioid epidemic, after learning how descheduling the drug can potentially help with both crises. Descheduling will reduce the conflict between federal policy and state programs. 

However, Schumer's proposal wouldn't completely wipe out the ability of the federal government to enforce certain controls. Federal regulators would still be able to penalize instances of drug trafficking between legalized states and states that have not chosen to OK the use of legal weed. In addition, the federal government would retain authority over marijuana advertising so as to ensure that children aren't targeted. Ultimately, though, states would have the final say on whether or not cannabis is legal and how it's regulated.

Is Decriminalization A Real Possibility?

Of course, the $64,000 question is this: Does Schumer's decriminalization bill have a chance of passage in the Senate and/or House?

Based on the current make-up of Congress, I'd suggest it wouldn't pass. In Gallup's October 2017 survey, 51% of respondents who identified as Republican favored legalization, albeit this "majority" was still within the margin of error for the poll. Though this represented the first time in history a majority of the GOP was in support of legalization, Republicans still have a decidedly more negative view of weed relative to Democrats and Independents. With numerous big-ticket issues expected to be on the table in Congress this year, including healthcare reform and an infrastructure bill, the chance of a decriminalization bill gaining majority support seems unlikely. 

But things could change after the midterm elections in November. If Republicans lose their majority in the House and/or Senate, it may be possible to garner enough support to reschedule or decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

Should the U.S. alter its stance on cannabis through decriminalization, it's probable that Canadian growers would rush in to stake their claims. For example,  Aphria (NASDAQOTH:APHQF) , which is expected to be a top-three grower by annual production in Canada (approximately 230,000 kilograms a year), announced its intention to sell off its passive U.S. assets in the wake of Sessions' repeal of the Cole memo. Aphria made good on this promise in February when it announced a divestiture of more than 26.7 million shares of medical cannabis company Liberty Health Sciences. If the U.S. reverses its anti-cannabis stance, Aphria would likely reenter the U.S. market, along with most of its peers. 

More importantly, decriminalizing marijuana in what could arguably be described as the most lucrative weed market in the world would likely remove any concerns about a marijuana glut in Canada. With some estimates suggesting that supply in Canada could outweigh domestic demand by over 1 million kilograms of dried cannabis, the ability to export to legalized countries will be paramount to supporting the margins of Canadian growers.

Personally, I don't believe this is an issue that'll be resolved anytime soon. Chances are that we're going to need to wait until a few months after the midterm elections before we get any clarity on whether a decriminalization bill has any chance of passage in the U.S.

Sean Williams has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Cynthia Nixon Plans To Improve Racial Justice By Legalizing Weed


Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon announced last week that she’s running for governor of New York. During a private fundraiser, Nixon came out in support of recreational marijuana. Today, she clarified her stance on marijuana on Twitter. Cynthia Nixon plans to improve racial justice by legalizing weed. Here’s what we know about this gubernatorial candidate’s marijuana platform.

Why Cynthia Nixon Supports Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in New York

This actress turned politician plans to improve racial justice by legalizing weed, as announced on Twitter. In a video she posted, Nixon explains, “I believe it’s time for New York to follow the lead of eight other states and D.C., and legalize recreational marijuana.”

Nixon is making marijuana a big part of her political campaign. “There are a lot of good reasons for legalizing marijuana,” she continues, “but for me it comes down to this: We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity.”

Cynthia Nixon goes on to list some alarming statistics. According to Nixon, black or Latino New Yorkers make up 80 percent of those arrested for cannabis. This is “despite the fact that whites and people of color use marijuana at roughly the same rates.”

New York Is Publishing Arrest Demographics

After a recent bill passage, the New York Police Department must publish arrest demographics online. This is following a City Council hearing in which evidence substantiated the claim that the police discriminate against people of color.

At this hearing, the City Council heard a report that found that 86 percent of people the police arrest for marijuana are Black or Latino. This doesn’t correspond to the population of New York City as only 52 percent are Black or Latino.


These figures are even higher than those Cynthia Nixon lists, but the trend is the same. Black and Latino New Yorkers are ten times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than Whites.

The Current Approach To Changing Arrest Demographics

The NYPD is now publishing arrest data in hopes to hold the police force accountable for racially-motivated arrests. The authorities will publish these reports quarterly.

The data will include low-level possessions and summonses divided by borough and precinct. Furthermore, the report will sort arrests by gender, race and age.

Cynthia Nixon’s Approach To Curbing Racial Disparities In Police Arrests


Cynthia Nixon@CynthiaNixon

A lot of you have been asking about my position on marijuana. Here it is.

7:08 AM - Apr 11, 2018

Twitter Ads info and privacy


Per her Twitter video, Cynthia Nixon plans to improve racial justice by legalizing weed. Specifically, this gubernatorial candidate is concerned about the difficulties of having an arrest record. “The consequences follow people for the rest of their lives,” Nixon explains, “making it harder to get jobs, or housing.”

She adds that the threat of arrest poses a danger to immigrants. “And for non-citizens, putting them in the crosshairs for deportation.”


Legal Weed Would Benefit New York

Legalizing recreational marijuana is an important step in reducing arrests and incarceration rates. It would also be of huge financial benefit to the state. Cynthia Nixon is optimistic about what marijuana could do in New York.

Nixon says, “In addition to ending a key front in the racist war on drugs, regulating and taxing marijuana would generate hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue for our people and create important agricultural opportunities for our state.”

We’ve seen this phenomenon in states with legal recreational marijuana. Nevada earned $3.68 million in tax revenue during the first month of legalization.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the state collected half a billion dollars in taxes. The State is using this income to fund education and build much-needed housing.

Final Hit: Cynthia Nixon Plans To Improve Racial Justice By Legalizing Weed

Cynthia Nixon plans to improve racial justice by legalizing weed and provide the state with increased tax revenue.

She also raises the important point that New York is a democratic state, but marijuana is far from legal.

“In 2018, in a blue state like New York, marijuana shouldn’t even be an issue,” Nixon says, concluding her announcement.

This actress believes that she has the “political courage” to make recreational marijuana—including justice reform and increased state revenue—a reality of New York.

Antigua and Barbuda Move Toward Decriminalizing Marijuana


The Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda is on the brink of a big development in cannabis law. There has been a growing movement in support of decriminalizing weed in the country, and this week, lawmakers took concrete steps toward making that a reality. As Antigua and Barbuda move toward decriminalizing marijuana, countries around the world continue reexamining cannabis laws.

Antigua and Barbuda is About to Decriminalize Weed

Lawmakers officially introduced The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) bill last December. It received positive feedback. From there, a special committee studied it and made revisions. Lawmakers reviewed the bill again on January 23 and they voted on it earlier this week.

On Tuesday, the country’s House of Representatives passed the decriminalization bill. The Senate will now review the bill to decide whether or not it will become official law.

So far, it looks like the bill is on track for a smooth passage. Once it becomes law, adults can possess up to 15 grams of weed without the possibility of criminal charges.

The Antigua News Room reported that Rastafarians will be allowed to grow and consume limited amounts of marijuana for religious purposes. Finally, the government of Antigua and Barbuda will set up a committee to study medical marijuana as well as the implications of legalization.


Decriminalization Is Not Legalization

While decriminalization is a step in the right direction, lawmakers were very clear that this is not the same thing as legalization.

“A lot of persons thought that decriminalization simply meant that [they] would not be penalized for the use,” said Samantha Marshall, head of the government’s marijuana commission. “Decriminalization as we understand it is that you will not be given a criminal charge, but of course you will be ticketed.”

Prime Minister Gaston Browne shared similar thoughts. “I want to make it abundantly clear that my government is not advocating the use of cannabis,” he told The Antigua Observer. “We do accept, though, on the other hand, that marijuana utilized in different forms has significant medicinal benefits.”

Browne also said that decriminalization was helping bring laws into alignment with public opinion. In fact, the country recently completed a survey to gauge public opinions on cannabis. It found that 70 percent of people in Antigua and Barbuda support loosening laws against weed.

“The use of marijuana is now socially acceptable,” Browne said. “It is, in essence, a part of the culture of the country.”


Final Hit: Antigua and Barbuda Move Toward Decriminalizing Marijuana

The changes in Antigua and Barbuda reflect growing support for marijuana around the world. They also place the island country in the ranks of other countries working to loosen weed laws.

Lawmakers in Antigua and Barbuda said they are going to continue exploring the idea of legalizing weed. In particular, they plan to see how things develop in Canada.

Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada plans to legalize cannabis in July. If all goes well, it could be a landmark development. It could also establish Canada as a global cannabis leader along with countries like Uruguayand The Netherlands.


Indiana Has Finally Legalized Industrial Hemp


Indiana has finally legalized industrial hemp, which means that farmers could soon have the freedom to grow this cash crop. Lawmakers have been pushing for years to bring this versatile plant to the Hoosier State. But some worry it is a step in the wrong direction.

Law enforcement and other state officials have voiced concerns that fields of hemp might become problematic. They believe it might create opportunities for black market players to grow weed under legal cover. Maybe even become so confident that they take it a step further and grow organic weed.

There is also the concern that permitting farmers to grow marijuana’s low-THC cousin might be a pathway to full-blown legalization. Nevertheless, the Indiana Legislature has taken steps to legalized industrial hemp.

Indiana House Votes to Legalize Industrial Hemp

Earlier this week, the Indiana House voted unanimously in favor of a measure allowing Indiana farmers to cultivate industrial hemp. The proposal, which was brought to the table by Republican Representative Jim Lucas, would give farmers the opportunity to grow hemp in the same fields as corn and other crops.

The goal is to provide the agriculture sector with a new economic opportunity—create jobs for Indiana families.


There seems to be a lot of support in the 2018 session for an upgrade to last year’s CBD oil law. Lawmakers from both parties are now pushing for a more comprehensive reform.

But the idea of allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp is not exactly the move that some lawmakers had intended. Still, supporters of the Lucas’ “jobs bill” hope to convince the naysayers that this is the right move for the state economy.

Not only would industrial hemp production lead to economic growth, but it could also open up a venue for patients to get local CBD products. Yet, federal law is still a concern.

Some lawmakers are still worried that the Justice Department and its head goon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are going to impose a crackdown. So they want to err on the side of caution.


“Everything I’ve seen says industrial hemp is probably a harmless crop,” Senate leader David Long told the Indianapolis Star. “I have no problem with that, I’m just not sure the federal government issue isn’t still holding us back.”

Federal Farm Bill and Hemp Legalization


In 2014, the federal government passed a bill that gives states permission to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes. Many states, including Indiana, took advantage of this opportunity.

There were some problems, at the beginning, with respect to getting seeds without hassles by the DEA. Kentucky, which has one of the strongest industrial hemp programs in the country, made national headlines with its seed debacle.

But in Indiana, industrial hemp is a relatively quiet scene. As for now, Purdue University is the only location allowed to grow the crop. Still, no one is positive whether the “research” adheres to federal law.

“There’s been no research that I’ve seen directly,” professor Janna Beckerman, a hemp researcher at Purdue, told the Star. “It’s sort of a big wink: ‘Oh yea we’re doing research.'”


But if Indiana was to get on the same page as Kentucky, big opportunities would come-a-knocking. Some of the latest data shows that Kentucky farmers produced 3,200 acres of industrial hemp in 74 counties last year.

And the new industry has created hundreds of new jobs. The state was recently approved to grow 12,000 acres of the product in 2018.

Final Hit: Indiana Has Finally Legalized Industrial Hemp

Regardless of the obvious benefits, many conservatives in the Indiana Senate are expected to carefully approach the industrial hemp bill. This chamber is responsible for the majority of the snags with last year’s CBD proposal.

Many lawmakers still do not understand that industrial hemp does not have intoxicating prosperities. That it is impossible to get high by smoking this stuff.

They fail to comprehend that if marijuana is beer, hemp is O’Doul’s. But the two plants look similar, and that is enough for some lawmakers to turn their backs.