los angeles

Immigrants Can Be Denied Citizenship for Working in Legal Marijuana Industry

The California Compassionate Care Network (CCCN) marijuana dispensary’s grow operation is one of the stops on the cannabis tour organized by L.A.-based Green Tours, January 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.  ROBYN BECK/Getty Images

The California Compassionate Care Network (CCCN) marijuana dispensary’s grow operation is one of the stops on the cannabis tour organized by L.A.-based Green Tours, January 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

ROBYN BECK/Getty Images


 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued guidance a day before the unofficial marijuana holiday that makes clear working in the marijuana industry, or even just possessing cannabis could be grounds to reject a citizenship application—regardless of whether it is done in a state where it is legal.

Violations of federal marijuana laws “are generally a bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization, even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law,” according to the guidance issued Friday. Merely being “involved in certain marijuana-related activities” could be sign that an applicant for citizenship “may lack good moral character” regardless of whether “such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws,” according to the USCIS statement.

Immigration lawyers who work in states where marijuana is legal say they have been dealing with this issue for a while now, leading Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock to send a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking for clarification about policies that have been affecting immigrants. This isn’t just a theoretical issue either. CNN reports that two immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than two decades were told they were not eligible for naturalization due to their work in the marijuana industry. “I work hard in an industry that offers opportunity and that’s unquestionably legal within the state. For the government to deny my citizenship application because I’m a bad person is devastating,” one affected immigrant tells CNN.

Advocates for legalization say the guidance is more a reflection of the government’s anti-immigrant attitude than about drugs. “I don’t think this is about marijuana at all,” said Michael Collins, national affairs director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “I think this is about them using the war on drugs to go after migrant community and that’s what they’ve been doing since Day 1.” A total of 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana while 10 states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana.


California bill encourages banks to work with pot businesses

56137448875_e7c449_o.jpg

California legislators considered a plan Monday intended to encourage more banks to do business with marijuana companies that have been frozen out of thousands of financial institutions.

Most Americans live in states where marijuana is legally available in some form. But most financial institutions don't want anything to do with money from the cannabis industry for fear it could expose them to legal trouble since the federal government still considers marijuana illegal.

The conflict between state and federal law has left businesses in California's emerging legal pot industry in a legal dilemma, shutting many out of everyday services such as opening a bank account or obtaining a credit card. It also has forced many businesses to operate only in cash — sometimes vast amounts — making them ripe targets for crime.

An Assembly bill would authorize state regulators to share detailed sales, cultivation and shipping information collected from cannabis companies with banks, a step supporters hope will provide additional assurances to financial institutions that a pot shop or grower is operating within the law.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department issued guidelines to help banks avoid federal prosecution when dealing with pot businesses in states where the drug is legal.

But most banks don't see those rules as a shield against charges that could include aiding drug trafficking. And they say the rules are difficult to follow, in effect placing the burden on banks to determine if a pot business is complying with all legal rules.

Cara Martinson of the California State Association of Counties told members of an Assembly committee that the bill represented an incremental step until a solution is reached at the federal level.

"This could help move the ball," she said.

The number of banks and credit unions willing to handle pot money is growing — it's over 400 nationally — but they still represent only a small fraction of the industry.

Bill Allowing Locals to Ban All Cannabis Deliveries Defeated in Committee

smokesacto.jpg

 A bill that would have allowed local jurisdictions to ban cannabis deliveries originating outside their jurisdictional borders, was defeated in its first committee hearing today after cannabis activists and industry representatives objected to the bill.

Cal NORML wrote to the committee and testified against the bill, and promulgated an Action Alert that generated hundreds of letters to lawmakers in opposition. Thanks to all of our members and supporters who took action!

In introducing the bill, Asm. Cooley noted that he has been involved in both cannabis and local control issues for many years, citing his success as mayor of Rancho Cordova in enacting a local tax on cannabis businesses (however, that tax is overly high and was objected to by Cal NORML). Several times he referred to locals getting past a "parade of horribles" and tried to argue that passing the bill would somehow encourage locals to license cannabis businesses. He conceded that Prop. 64 allowed locals to ban adult-use cannabis businesses, not medical ones.

Unsurprisingly, the League of Cities, Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), and California Association of Counties (CSAC) expressed support for the bill, as did the City of Santa Monica.

Amy Jenkins of the California Cannabis Industry Association testified that the CCIA must "sadly and regrettably" oppose. She gave statistics on the abysmal failure of local jurisdictions to license an adequate number of cannabis retail outlets as the reason that delivery access must be permitted.

Ellen Komp of Cal NORML and Sabrina Fendrick of Berkeley Patients' Group challenged Asm. Cooley's assertion that patients who required access would be able to grow their own, citing restrictive local cultivation ordinances, the lack of renters' rights, and the inability for disabled patients to grow their own.

Also opposing the bill were representatives from Epilepsy CA, the CA Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Weedmaps, and the city of St. Helena, as well as a score of veterans.

After the public testimony, Asm. Grayson (D-Concord) spoke first, saying that while he is in favor of local control, he wouldn't be able to support the bill because delivery is necessary for those who need cannabis. "No doubt that my mother would be alive today had she had access," he said. "I thought delivery allowed people to have access when locals banned storefronts."

Asm. Eggman (D-Stockton) then spoke up, saying, "I don’t think you can take something away from people after you have provided access." Noting she is also a veteran, she mentioned the opioid crisis as a consideration.

Asm. McCarty (D-Sacramento) then chimed in saying he could not vote for the bill, noting that while Sacramento was "killing it" bringing in tax revenue from licensed dispensaries, people were driving as much as 100 miles to those dispensaries, and many don’t have access to transportation. "By having more jurisdictions shut it down, it just means fewer tax dollars coming into California and perpetuates the illegal market," he said.

Committee chairman Evan Low (D-San Jose) announced that he would be voting in favor of the bill in order to keep the conversation going, but said he would vote against it in future if it was not amended.

The vote fell on bipartisan lines, with Republicans Bill Brough (Dana Point), Vince Fong (Bakersfield), and Jay Obernolte (Hesperia), and Democrats Jacqui Irwin (Oxnard), Jose Medina (Riverside) and Kevin Mullin (San Mateo) joining Low in voting Aye.

Voting No were Assembly members Bloom, Chen, Cunningham, Eggman, Gloria, McCarty, and Ting; Chiu, Dahle, Gipson, Grayson, Holden and Wood abstained. The final tally was 7 in favor and 7 against, with 6 members not voting.

In the meantime, 24 cities and the county of Santa Cruz have filed suit against the Bureau of Cannabis Control over its regulation allowing state-licensed delivery services to deliver cannabis statewide.

Los Angeles hiring cannabis social equity program manager

76761457_l-236x236.jpg

The Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) in the city of Los Angeles is looking for someone to run its social equity program.

The project is part of a handful of efforts in California intended to get minorities and those negatively affected by the war on drugs involved directly in the state’s legal marijuana industry.

According to an online job posting, the position pays $95,776 to $140,021, requires a master’s degree and at least three years of experience with either economic and community development or providing services to low-income, minority or underserved communities.

The L.A. social equity program has been a point of contention for many in the city’s struggling legal cannabis market and has not yet been fully rolled out.

Other California cities that have social equity programs include Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco.

California only made half as much on 2018 marijuana taxes as expected

When California, the most populous state in America, legalized recreational marijuana last year, many had high hopes for the industry, writes Joseph Misulonas. But unfortunately, it appears initial projections for the success of the industry were a little off.

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration announced that in 2018 the state collected $345.2 million from marijuana taxes. While that is a huge number, it's actually only slightly more than half of the state's initial projections of $643 million in tax revenue that they predicted they would receive in 2018. 

Many have argued why the state didn't make more money off of legal sales. The biggest reason seems to be the tax rate. California has some of the highest cannabis taxes in the nation, and customers can sometimes pay tax rates up to 45 percent on their marijuana purchases. These high prices are forcing many cannabis users to continue purchasing black market marijuana. This would also explain why California cannabis sales actually decreased between 2017 and 2018, despite it being legal recreationally last year.

Despite the fact that almost everyone acknowledges the tax rate is an issue, California legislators continue dragging their feet on the issue and not passing bills to lower the rate, despite several proposals to do so.

California Lawmakers Pass Bill to Overturn Pre-Legalization Marijuana Convictions

california-lawmakers-pass-bill-overturn-pre-legalization-marijuana-convictions-featured-560x600.jpg

California lawmakers have passed a bill directing prosecutors throughout the state to overturn convictions for acts that are no longer illegal under the state’s Prop 64 cannabis legalization initiative. The bill would also reduce many felony convictions for marijuana-related crimes to misdemeanors.

The measure, Assembly Bill 1793, was passed by the California Senate Wednesday with a bipartisan vote of 22-8 after being approved by the California State Assembly on May 31 by a vote of 43-28.

If the bill is signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, it will direct the state Department of Justice to identify cases from between 1975 and 2016 that are eligible to be overturned or reduced by July 31, 2019, and notify the appropriate district attorney for action. Prosecutors will then have until July 1, 2020 to decide if they want to challenge the reduction or elimination of any of those convictions.

Prop 64, passed by voters in 2016, legalized the recreational use and sale of cannabis and eliminated many marijuana-related crimes. That decriminalization also applied retroactively, making many eligible for a reduction or elimination of past cannabis convictions. Those with convictions for non-violent felonies including possession or distribution of less than one ounce of cannabis are eligible for reduction to misdemeanors. Prosecutors have the right to challenge relief based on the criminal history of affected individuals.

 

Thousands of Cases Eligible For Relief

The justice department estimates that 220,000 convictions qualify to be reduced or eliminated.  Prosecutors in San Diego and San Francisco have begun to proactively reduce or eliminate convictions, but many other district attorneys in the state have said that they do not have the resources to follow suit. That puts the burden of relief on those with the convictions, many of whom may not be aware that they are eligible. Some with convictions that qualify for a reduction or elimination have taken it upon themselves to petition the court for relief, but only a small minority of those who are eligible have done so.

Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who voted for the measure, said it “creates a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page,” according to an Associated Press report.

State Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from San Diego County, said that reducing felony convictions to misdemeanors will allow people to regain lost civil rights, including gun ownership.

 

“This bill will take those people off the prohibited list, save us time and money,” Anderson said.

AB 1793 was introduced by Democratic Assembly Rob Bonta of Oakland. He said that “the role of government should be to ease burdens and expedite the operation of law — not create unneeded obstacles, barriers, and delay.”

Although AB 1793 received broad bipartisan support, not all lawmakers agreed with the elimination of past convictions. Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen of Gerber argued against passage of the measure by his colleagues in the Senate.

 

“This directs us to forget any prior behavior that was illegal,” Nielsen said. “They should not be given a pass.”

With the approval of AB 1793 by both houses of the California legislature, the bill now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his approval.

Oklahoma Legalizes Medical Marijuana

9ab321b02c437e122a4845870044c766.jpg

Marijuana is now legal in Oklahoma for medical purposes.

Voters approved State Question 788 in Tuesday’s primary, which makes it legal to grow, sell and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The law provides no outlines on qualifying conditions, giving physicians broad latitude to determine why they recommend medical marijuana to patients. Under the law, adults with a medical marijuana license would be authorized to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana, six flowering plants and various weight of edibles and marijuana concentrates derived from the plant.

“The passage of State Question 788 highlights the strength and diversity of public support for laws allowing the medical use of marijuana,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, a drug policy reform group. “Most Oklahomans agree that patients should be able to access medical marijuana safely and legally if their doctors recommend it. It is noteworthy that this measure passed in such a red state during a primary election, when voter turnout tends to be older and more conservative than during a general election.”

Oklahoma becomes the 30th state to legalize cannabis for medical use. Legal recreational marijuana has been approved in nine states and Washington, D.C., which continues to ban sales, unlike the state programs. Despite the states’ efforts to scale back on criminalizing the plant over the past few years, marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.  

Former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department allowed states to forge their own way on marijuana policy with guidanceurging federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations. But in January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era guidance, a move that has possibly paved the way for a federal crackdown on legal marijuana. But states that have legalized medical marijuana retain some protections from federal interference under a budget rider known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which must be renewed every time Congress passes a government-funding bill.

In order to more fully protect marijuana states from the policies of federal prohibition, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill earlier this month that would allow businesses and individuals working in the burgeoning legal marijuana industry in states around the nation to operate without fear of Department of Justice prosecution. The bill would also protect banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses. President Donald Trump has said he will “probably” support the bill.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the United States, and the trend of states bucking prohibition in favor of legal regulation of the plant reflects a broad cultural shift toward greater acceptance of marijuana. National support for the legalization of the drug has risen dramatically in recent years, reaching historic highsin multiple polls. And states like Colorado, the first to establish a regulated adult-use marijuana marketplace, have seen successes that have debunked some lawmakers’ and law enforcers’ predictions that such policies would reap disaster.

Weed YouTubers Speak Out After Having Their Channels Deleted

weed-youtubers-speak-out-after-having-their-channels-deleted-hero-400x240.jpg

YouTube has been systematically shutting down marijuana-centric channels on its video-sharing site with little-to-no explanation since at least early 2018. Cannabis YouTubers—or WeedTubers—have been dealt channel strikes, suspensions, and restrictions on the same platform that seemingly used to embrace them. In addition to receiving little information about the purge, creators have been left confused by YouTube’s inconsistent enforcement of standards and policies concerning cannabis content.

“As soon as they decided to close all of our channels down, it’s just been radio silence for every single one of us,” said Josh Young, creator of the channel Strain Central.

Young had been a WeedTuber since 2014, even getting a tattoo of YouTube’s iconic red, “play” button logo on his wrist when he hit 100,000 subscribers about two years ago. He had cultivated a following of nearly 500,000 subscribers with educational cannabis content until his channel was shut down in late April. Young still sees the tattoo as a reminder of how he found both his passion and voice in his YouTube videos but is disappointed to see his channel disappear without a clear explanation.

“I think the weirdest part for me is that for a long time, I had been [regularly] in contact with YouTube,” he said. “I wasn’t doing a lot of the big consumption challenges or anything like that, so I felt like they were a little more open with me… It almost seems like once they made that decision, it was an executive decision for everyone.”

 

Preparing for the ‘Adpocalypse’

Setting the scene for the creation of YouTube’s vague content policies, the platform has undergone a wide variety of changes dating back to March of 2017, an era dubbed the ‘Adpocalypse.’

Huge brands including Pepsi, Walmart, and Verizon—in addition to institutions like the U.K. governmentpulled their ads after finding that their spots were featured alongside problematic videos touting political extremist views and hate speech. AT&T issued a statement: “Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.”  A resounding message heard not only by employees at YouTube, but the creators who relied on the platform for their livelihood.

According to ArsTechnica, YouTube’s response was to place an age restriction on anything that might be objectionable, which demonetized those videos—essentially meaning they were not eligible for ads, and therefore, would generate no revenue for their creators. Brands were also allowed to opt out of advertising on videos based on broad criteria, including “tragedy and conflict” or “sensitive social issues.”

 

As over 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, scouring that content is a huge task—one predominantly carried out by algorithms. Though creators may submit appeals, the process can take several days to complete. This lag upset several creators, who began jumping ship to other platforms, such as Twitch, or soliciting donations via Patreon or PayPal to continue their channels.

The crackdown on content didn’t save YouTube from its next controversy. In December of 2017, YouTuber Logan Paul posted a video depicting a suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara forest. Though YouTube condemned the video, Paul, who has 17.5 million subscribers, was not permanently booted from the platform.

Yet the most shocking turn of events came on April 3, when a 38-year-old vlogger shot and wounded three people at YouTube’s San Bruno, CA headquarters before taking her own life. Her videos, whose videos were largely focused on fitness, veganism, and animal rights, had expressed frustration over YouTube’s policies, claiming that many of her videos were demonetized.

 

All of this sets the scene for what cannabis content creators claim is now happening with their channels, over a year from when this so-called “Adpocalypse” hit.

What’s Happening to Cannabis Channels?

WeedTubers’ channel restrictions and deletions seem to follow a similar pattern. First, content creators first receive a strike. According to YouTube’s guidelines, strikes can be issues for a variety of issues, including copyright violations; harmful, dangerous, or hateful content; scams, or “misleading metadata.” One strike can stop the channel from live streaming, while two within a three-month period prevents the posting of any new content for two weeks. Strikes are not permanent, can be appealed, and will expire in three months’ time. However, if a channel receives three strikes in three months, that account will be terminated. It’s this strike-to-deletion pathway that seems common among cannabis channels, regardless of the type of content posted.

Matthias Gast said he racked up three strikes on his channel, Matthias710WRX in February. He typically posted reviews of dabbing products and videos in which he took “massive dabs” for his some 100,000 subscribers.

“It was kind of like a Jackass of weed thing, just trying to make people laugh and show them that cannabis isn’t dangerous,” he said. “You can smoke a whole ton of it, and I’m still standing here just fine.”

The first strike was on one such CBD review, in which Gast took a half-gram dab and gave his thoughts on how he felt.

He admits the second video strike, which featured the inclusion of a psychedelic mushroom, made more sense to remove. Yet his third came minutes after posting a video about a trip to Hawaii containing footage of him taking dabs and smoking, and his account was terminated within the span of a week. Gast said he was sent a generic email which indicated he was not following the platform’s terms and conditions.

 

 

Similarly, Joel Hradecky’s channel boasting 1.5 million subscribers, CustomGrow420, was deleted earlier this year, only to have it reinstated on June 6 without notice. Like Gast, he said he received generic emails from YouTube without specific answers. In one such email, of which he posted a screenshot to his Instagram account, YouTube writes they do not allow content that “encourages or promotes violent or dangerous acts that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death.” Examples included drug abuse, bomb making, and underage drinking or smoking.

“They have lots of alcohol stuff on there” Hradecky pointed out. “It’s just weird because everybody could post [cannabis content] for a long time, and then all of a sudden, everything changed.”

Clark Campbell and Alice Addison, a Los Angeles-based couple who posted cannabis and lifestyle content to their channel, That High Couple, had their channel suspended in April. Campbell works as a digital community manager for a Multi-Channel Network, which means his day job is to work with influencers and content creators on growth strategies. In his experience operating under YouTube’s policies, he sees the rise in strikes and flags as the likely result of an algorithm, not a human monitor.

“Across the board, we’re seeing cannabis tags and cannabis-related titles and topics [being removed]; those are the ones that at least the algorithm, on its basic level, is picking up, flagging, and removing,” Campbell said.

 

Courtesy of That High Couple

The High Couple received their first strike on April 19 on a video explaining how to roll a joint, followed by a channel suspension. When their channel was reinstated, it came back with two strikes; the second strike was on a 360 tour of a dispensary in Vegas. The couple is now afraid to post any new content, for fear of a third and damning strike. So, they intend to move their cannabis content elsewhere and only post lifestyle and travel content to YouTube.

“It hasn’t been anything we, as content creators, have done differently, it’s just that the platform is changing this year,” Campbell said. “It’s a shame because it’s one of the biggest, most radical changes since I’ve started working with YouTubers, and it’s something that they’re just not communicating enough over what it is they’re flagging.”

While some cannabis YouTubers have had their presence wiped out with no clear path to return, Matt Lamb, who posts educational and how-to content to his Ruffhouse Studios channel, has had his channel reinstated, though not without much back and forth.

Lamb found YouTube supportive when he first started his channel in 2011. He enjoyed repeated invitations to YouTube’s space in Los Angeles, where he both produced content and used their equipment. Another time, said he was introduced to various brands like Chipotle and SweeTarts at a party; he was one of about 15 to 20 other creators and the only cannabis creator present at the time.

Yet about a year ago, he began experiencing demonetization, followed by the complete deletion of his channel. When he reached out to YouTube to ask why, he was told he was using spiders or bots that would artificially inflate view counts, generating fake traffic. Lamb denies this, and said YouTube provided no evidence of what he had supposedly done. On May 29, Lamb’s channel was reinstated and he was sent an email indicating the channel did not violate the platform’s policies. Browse his channel today, and you’ll find his over 400,000 subscribers and video content in tact. Lamb still, however, doesn’t know what went wrong in the first place.

Why the Purging of Cannabis Content?

Given the range of reasons provided in YouTube’s vague emails and the absence of personalized communication, many WeedTubers are left wondering why — and, especially, why now. High Times reached out to YouTube for a statement, and have not received a response at the time of this writing.

Without a clear answer, theories abound. One might argue that cannabis is a stigmatized drug that remains federally illegal, but it’s also considered a medicine in 29 states and legal in 9, as well as D.C. Although this would seem to go against the trend of YouTube not only allowing cannabis content, but seemingly encouraging it for quite some time with invites to film in the YouTube Space with studios and equipment or partner managers assigned to WeedTuber accounts prior to the wave of deletions.

Some hypothesize that YouTube is attempting to become more brand-friendly and more appealing to TV advertisers. Lamb notes that some bigger content creators who cover cannabis but already have ties to TV, like Snoop Dogg and VICE, have been permitted to stay on the site.

Others believe the platform is simply still trying to clean up its content after the Logan Paul outrage by bumping off smaller creators. While cannabis seems to be the common denominators among the WeedTubers we spoke with—whose subscriber counts and content styles vary—it’s not the only genre of channels that’s been experiencing strikes, suspensions, and deletions. Following the Parkland shooting, conspiracy theory and firearm channels began complaining of similar treatment. In 2017, LGBTQ creators found their videos were being placed in restricted mode.

It seems the algorithm, blindly flagging and restricting videos containing anything that might be construed controversial in the slightest, is at the core of the confusion leading creators to criticize the lack of transparency at YouTube. And if YouTube is unable to clarify what, exactly, is acceptable on its platform, they could stand to lose a fair amount of creators—which may not matter to them if they’re still getting those advertiser dollars. For creators, it may mean seeking out new, more accepting platforms, or finding niche platforms centered around the communities they love.

Marijuana Sales: Strong in Nevada, Disappointing in California

4c61c7d6a834a8e35bdbf98b5b0f5a24.jpg

© ThinkstockLegal sales of marijuana for recreational use began last July in Nevada and in January in California. Although California sells a lot more legal weed than Nevada, California sales are much lower than projected while Nevada's are much higher.

First the good news. From July 2017 through March 2018 (the first nine months of Nevada's fiscal year), combined taxable sales of marijuana totaled $386 million, of which nearly $305 million represents sales for recreational use. Sales in March posted a record total of just over $41 million. Through March, the state has collected almost $49 million in taxes, about 97% of its estimated full-year take of $50.32 million.

 

The less-good news about recreational pot sales comes from California, where the latest projections based on sales to date estimate sales will be about half the original estimates.

According cannabis industry analyst firm New Frontier Data, sales in California this year will total $1.9 billion, exactly half the original estimate of $3.8 billion. Giadha Aguirre De Carcer, CEO of New Frontier, told the Los Angeles Times that strict rules on growers, distributors, and retailers combined with low governmental authorization in California cities are to blame.

Only about 30% of California's 540 cities have have so far permitted commercial cannabis activity. The effect has been to send consumers to the black market where they pay no taxes and illegal sellers easily undercut legal prices.

In February the Los Angeles Police Department shut down 8 illegal pot stores but the deputy chief told the Los Angeles times that another 200 to 300 illegal stores were still operating in the city.

Marijuana tax collections in California totaled $33.6 million in the first quarter of 2018, virtually guaranteeing that the state would not reach its estimated 6-month total of $175 million in tax collections.

California's estimated legal and illegal marijuana market totals around $7.8 billion. About $2.3 billion comes from sales of medical marijuana. If the legal market is only taking about $1.9 billion of the total, the rest ($3.6 billion) is going to the illegal market.

And that illegal market is only for sales inside the state. California also exports (illegally, of course) tons of marijuana. State residents consumed about 2.5 million pounds of marijuana (most of it illegally) in 2016 and produced about 13.5 million pounds. Those 11 million pounds are sold, illegally, to out-of-state buyers.

NYPD Sergeants Union Criticizes Mayor’s Orders Against Cannabis Arrests

nypd-sergeants-union-criticizes-mayors-orders-against-cannabis-arrests-hero-400x240.jpg

New York City has been relatively slow to change when it comes to cannabis laws, but recent activity from the mayor’s office could be shaking things up. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to make potentially significant alterations to how the city enforces weed laws — and, unsurprisingly, not everyone is happy about it. In particular, the NYPD Sergeants Union is criticizing the mayor’s orders against cannabis arrests.

NYPD Pushes Back Against Mayor

The back-and-forth between de Blasio and NYPD leaders arises out of recent developments in NYC’s gradually-evolving approach to cannabis laws.

Last week, Mayor de Blasio announced that the city will create a new task force to prepare it for legalization. According to NY Daily News, the task force will have 30 days to review the NYC’s current practices regarding cannabis law enforcement. It will then make recommendations for ways to improve those practices.

But that’s not all. Mayor de Blasio went a step further. He directed the NYPD to stop arresting people caught smoking weed in public.

 

This change is the one that seems to be generating the most controversy. So far, the most outspoken critic is Ed Mullins, President of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association.

Yesterday, he told the Wall Street Journal that the new change could put officers “in positions of conflict.” Mullins argued that such conflicts could arise if residents called cops to crack down on public weed-smoking, but then were not allowed to arrest offenders.

“You can’t just circumvent the law,” Mullins said. “If you want to not have enforcement of arrests, then you need to change the law.”

This isn’t the first time Mayor de Blasio has tried to change New York City’s approach to cannabis law. In previous years, he instructed NYPD to stop arresting people caught with small amounts of marijuana. In response, officers began writing simple summonses instead of issuing arrests.

 

Since going into effect, that change has led to a 40 percent drop in marijuana arrests. But data from recent years reveal ongoing problems. In particular, the city has seen persistent racial disparities in the marijuana-related arrests that are still being made. NYPD reportedly arrested 17,500 people for marijuana last year. A full 86 percent of those arrested were black and Latinx.

“The racial disparities have not changed one bit, and arrests are still too common in communities of color,” Councilman Donovan Richards said earlier this year. “If the administration is serious about changing this disparity, we’re not seeing it.”

Now, it seems that Mayor de Blasio may be taking Richards up on his challenge. The mayor’s office indicated that his latest order to stop arresting people for smoking weed is in large part intended to address these racial disparities.

Additionally, de Blasio has indicated that the change is part of a larger effort to prepare the city for legalization. Although de Blasio has voiced opposition to legalization, he now believes it will happen sooner or later.

In any case, the newest change will not go into effect until the end of the summer. It remains to be seen if the tensions between de Blasio and NYPD leaders like Mullins will intensify in the meantime.