Sen. Kamala Harris Joins the Ranks of Marijuana Justice Act Sponsors


Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) is undeniably a rising star in the Democratic party. Her announcement Thursday that she would back federal marijuana legalization has quickly propelled her to the ranks of progressive heavyweights like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). A potential 2020 contender for the White House, Harris’s recent statements signal she is ready to move the country toward progressive marijuana and criminal justice reform.

Sen. Kamala Harris Vows To Support Federal Marijuana Legalization

As Sen. Kamala Harris joins the ranks of Marijuana Justice Act sponsors, she moves alongside progressive Democrats like Cory Booker, the bill’s sponsor, and Kirsten Gillibrand, who champion marijuana legalization as a social justice issue.

Sen. Booker’s legislation would remove marijuana from the federal government’s list of Schedule I controlled substances. But the justice component goes much further. The Marijuana Justice Act would additionally expunge the criminal records of any American with prior marijuana use or possession convictions.

It’s a radical proposal that would dramatically alter the criminal justice landscape in the United States. And that’s something for which Harris, former attorney general of California, has long fought.

“It’s the right thing to do. And I know this as a former prosecutor. I know this as a senator,” Harris said in a video posted by NowThis announcing her decision. “I just look at what we want as a country and where we need to be instead of where we’ve been.”


And where we’ve been, according to Harris and many who support cannabis legalization, has been a nightmare of racially disparate drug enforcement and incarceration. Where we’ve been, Harris says, is the failed war on drugs.

“The war on drugs was a war on communities. Not somebody smoking a joint,” Harris says in the video.

Making Good On Her Progressive Credentials

While Sen. Harris’s record on criminal justice reform is laudatory, her action on legal cannabis has been less so. Even so, Harris’s coming out to support Sen. Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act fits in with her long-standing critique of the criminal justice system.

As San Francisco’s district attorney and later as California’s attorney general, Harris adopted a number of progressive stances. The list is admirable, and includes significant measures like sentencing reform and adopting measures to reduce recidivism in California’s over-populated prison system.

Harris was also a vocal supporter of the Affordable Care Act and defended the rights of same-sex couples to marry. And she was responsible for getting California’s justice department to adopt body cameras and mandate implicit racial bias training for its police officers. She’s even gone after polluters and corporate fraudsters.


With Trump in office and Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Kamala has become an even more outspoken progressive. She has supported single-payer healthcare along with Bernie Sanders and is a backer of free college tuition for low-income households.

All of that is impressive and praiseworthy, even if critics of Harris point out that her deeds have not always follow her words.

Unfortunately, those criticisms seemed especially valid when it came to Harris’s stance on marijuana. While she frequently blasted the war on drugs as a failure, as California AG she took no meaningful action on drug reform. In fact, in some cases, she endorsed the “tough on crime” policies of her conservative colleagues.

Of course, that was then and this is now. And politicians have pivoted more rapidly toward legalization than Harris. Whatever disappointments Harris’s past record on marijuana may cause, her statements Thursday make clear that in 2018, the senator is completely on board with justice for cannabis users.

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.

Data Shows The Demand For Legal Cannabis Is Increasing


Demand for legal cannabis continues to show a steady increase, according to new data from Anderson Economic Group (AEG). In particular, the data reveals a significant jump since the 2016 elections, when a number of states passed new legalization laws.

Digging Into the Data

According to AEG’s AndCan Index, which tracks trends in the marijuana industry, the first part of 2018 showed a small uptick in the demand for legal cannabis products. In particular, the report found a 0.1 percent increase in the U.S. demand for legal weed in January of this year.

On its own, that figure is obviously not impressive. But the relatively slow start to 2018 is an anomaly in the context of larger trends, more dramatic trends.

“While 2018 has gotten off to a slow start, the demand for legal cannabis products is poised for even further growth in the coming months,” AEG consultant Traci Giroux said in a press release. “The recreational market in California will start to settle, and the market in Massachusetts is expected to come online this July.”

Despite the tiny uptick in January, the cannabis market has been showing steady growth for years. Since the beginning of 2015, the demand for legal weed in the U.S. has grown by 25.8 percent. Similarly, demand is up almost 11 percent since this time last year.


In the timeline of legal cannabis, 2016 was a standout year. That’s because a number of states voted to legalize new marijuana bills during that year’s elections.

More specifically, Nevada, California, Massachusetts, and Maine voted to legalize recreational weed. Additionally, Florida, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota all managed to pass new medical marijuana laws.

As a result of all those legislative changes, 1 in 5 Americans now has access to some form of legal cannabis, whether recreational or medical.

Not surprisingly, these new markets have contributed to the rise in demand for legal weed. And the experts at AEG expect that demand to keep rising. That’s especially true as more and more states continue to loosen their cannabis laws.


Final Hit: Data Shows The Demand For Legal Cannabis Is Increasing

One of the biggest changes to the national weed scene this year was the rollout of legal recreational cannabis in California. Retail sales began at the beginning of 2018. Close on California’s heels, Massachusetts is also expected to get its retail program up and running this year.

Earlier in 2018, Vermont lawmakers voted to legalize recreational weed. There are also at least 12 other states that could see marijuana bills on the ballot this year.

All of these changes could add to the spiking demand for legal weed. But at the same time, the Trump administration continues to generate uncertainty. A lot of the confusion and concern coming from industry players has to do with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions has long been an outspoken opponent of cannabis. He once said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Earlier this year, he suggested that cannabis is one of the primary causes of the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo at the very beginning of January. The Cole Memo is an Obama-era policy that directs federal agencies to take a “hands-off” approach to dealing with states where weed is legal. By rescinding the Cole Memo, Sessions may have opened the door to a federal crackdown on weed-legal states.

Colorado Plans To Survey Residents On Weed Consumption And Driving


The Colorado Department of Transportation is encouraging Coloradans to “join the cannabis conversation” about driving under the influence. The new initiative, called The Cannabis Conversation, seeks input from cannabis users and non-users alike. Officials want to hear the opinions, habits, behaviors and other thoughts people have about marijuana and driving. But as Colorado plans to survey residents on weed consumption and driving, the actual impact of legal cannabis on traffic safety isn’t fully understood.

The Department of Transportation hopes their drugged driving initiative will help the state develop practical solutions and assuage public concerns.

Colorado Department Of Transportation Launches Drugged Driving Initiative

Around midsummer last year, newspapers in Colorado began running stories that recreational cannabis use was contributing to a spike in driving accident fatalities.

The Denver Post, for example, ran a story in August reporting that more drivers involved in fatal crashes were testing positive for marijuana use. Yet the authorities quoted in that story admitted that the numbers cannot definitely be attributed to recreational legalization.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that testing for cannabis consumption is tricky. Different detection methods test for consumption in different windows.


Did a driver involved in a fatal accident used cannabis prior to getting behind the wheel? Were they high while they were driving? Or did they just consume cannabis at some point in the past?

In short, the correlation of the data is strong. But proving causation is a different and more difficult matter. In their search for answers, Colorado plans to survey residents on weed consumption and driving.

Colorado’s Drugged Driving Problem By The Numbers

Police, public safety officials, and victims families all say the numbers are too high to ignore. Between 2013-2016, drivers involved in fatal accidents in Colorado rose from 627 to 880, about a 40 percent uptick.

In the same period, drivers who tested positive for alcohol in those fatal crashed increased 17 percent. However, the number of drivers who tested positive for cannabis jumped from 47 in 2013 to 115 in 2016, a 145 percent spike.

Those numbers sounded the alarm for many public health and safety officials in Colorado. And CDOTs drugged driving initiative is the first significant step toward addressing what is undeniably a real concern for many.


Many suspect the root of the problem is cannabis users’ perception that driving high isn’t a major concern. And that’s why Colorado plans to survey residents on weed consumption and driving.

Officials want to better understand why some cannabis users don’t seem to take the dangers associated with high driving very seriously. And more importantly, what it will take to make these drivers change their minds.

Final Hit: Colorado Plans To Survey Residents On Weed Consumption And Driving

The Department of Transportation’s survey is completely anonymous and only takes about five minutes to complete.

Questions range from the practical to the highly subjective. How often do you drive? Consume cannabis? And do you think society still stigmatizesmarijuana use?

The survey also wants to know where you consume cannabis, how you consume it, and who/where you get it from.

Midway through the survey, you have the feeling you’re being interrogated about your cannabis lifestyle in general, not just about your thoughts on driving.

But right about around question ten, the survey takes a turn back to questions that aim at the heart of the issue. Do you drink when you smoke? Do you drive? And when you are high, how do you get around? Are your stoned friends giving you a lift?

The survey, overall, is this odd blend of informative and perceptual questioning. Gathering data about real cannabis habits but also asking people to reveal how they think other people view them.

And more interestingly, how capable they think law enforcement is at identifying drugged driving.

Do you think cannabis makes you a better driver? What would convince you not to drive high? If you knew cops were just as good at catching high drivers than drunk drivers, would you drive high less often?

At the end, the survey pivots to what feels like a pop quiz about the legality of driving under the influence of cannabis.

The answers to these types questions are obviously “yes,” but CDOT isn’t sure people really understand the law. And finally, the most interesting question. Who would you believe, who would actually convince you, if they told you driving high was unsafe?

Arkansas Judge Considers Effort to Halt Marijuana Licenses


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge said Friday he’ll rule by the middle of next week on whether to allow the state to issue its first licenses for companies to grow medical marijuana after hearing complaints from an unsuccessful applicant challenging the permitting process.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen did not rule after hearing testimony from the state and Naturalis Health LLC, which wants the 95 applications for medical marijuana cultivation facilities to be re-scored by an independent evaluator. The Medical Marijuana Commission had planned to issue licenses to the top five applicants on Wednesday, but Griffen issued a temporary restraining order halting the process so he considered the request for a preliminary injunction.

“This is a potential billion dollar industry,” Keith Billingsley, an attorney for Naturalis, said during closing arguments. “Ninety-five people submitted applications and spent a lot of time, including my client, on this process assuming the state of Arkansas would get it right, that the state of Arkansas would conduct a blind examination of applications and that it would be done in a fair and impartial way.”

Naturalis ranked 38th out of the 95 applications submitted, state officials said.

Arkansas voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana for patients with certain conditions. The commission is expected later this year to license up to 32 dispensaries to sell the drug.

The company’s lawsuit claims the process for scoring applications and awarding the licenses is flawed. The company also cites two potential conflicts of interest, including one commissioner whose law firm represents the owners of one of the facilities that was going to receive a license in non-marijuana related matters. The state, however, has said that the applications scored by the commissioners were redacted and did not include any identifying information about the applicants.

The state has also said Naturalis has not proved it would suffer irreparable harm if the state is allowed to award the licenses.

“The fact that they spent money to get ready for an application and they submitted an application that was a losing application and, if they were possibly scored again and they improved their ranks from 38th to one of the top five, they might then reap the return on their investment, those are speculative harms,” Deputy Attorney General Monty Baugh said.

Griffen earlier Friday also denied an effort by the state to dismiss the company’s complaint, rejecting arguments that Arkansas was immune from the lawsuit and that Naturalis did not have standing to sue.

Arkansas has approved more than 4,500 applications for patients to use medical marijuana and will issue registry cards about a month before the drug is expected to be available legally.

This State’s Medical Marijuana Program Might Be Delayed


Montana’s legislature seems to be suffering from some last-minute indecisiveness just weeks before the state implements changes to rules governing legal medical cannabis. Slated to take effect on April 10, now this state’s medical marijuana program might be delayed. The hangup has to do with rules governing the production end of the cannabis industry. The concern from lawmakers is that larger producers can grow so much cannabis, they’ll drive out smaller producers.

Montana Lawmakers Say “Canopy Limit” Rules Are Bad For Small Businesses

Under Montana’s current rules, producers are subject to a “canopy limit” that determines how much cannabis they can grow. The argument from legislators who want to delay the start of the state’s program is that the limits are in fact too high. This, they say, gives an unfair market advantage to large commercial growers.

Specifically, the rules set a 50 square foot limit for each patient registered with the state’s program. In other words, producers cannot grow more than 50 square feet of cannabis per patient registered with the state.

Kate Cholewa, spokesperson for the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, says that amount of canopy space is way too excessive for the state’s medical cannabis program. Cholewa points out that the 50 square feet limit is twice the space allowed for growers in Washington state. Washington has a recreational market in addition to its medical industry.

Legislators in Montana are echoing Cholewa’s concerns. Rep. Tom Jacobson (D-Great Falls) said the current rules leave the door open for larger growers to dominate the market with lower prices.


“That will force small producers out because they won’t be able to compete at that scale,” Jacobson said.

And he’s not alone. State Sen. Jill Cohenour (D-Helena) says the canopy limit decision may have been premature. “I’m concerned that some of this stuff was done quickly and maybe with limited information,” she said.

Both Democratic legislators serve on the Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee of the Montana Legislature. Committee members raised their concerns about cultivation space at a meeting Wednesday.

By the end of that meeting, the committee had approved a motion to draft a letter recommending the health department to change the rules and postpone the effective date.


This State’s Medical Marijuana Program Might Be Delayed

The letter will go under review by the Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee. This committee conducts the primary oversight of the state’s medical cannabis program.

Erica Johnston, who manages operations services for the state health department, said the committee’s letter is just the latest in the deluge of feedback they’ve received about the grow area limits.

But Johnston also admitted that she wasn’t aware of the reasons for setting the canopy limit to 50 square feet per patient.

The rules, she said, “were made based on what we found in other areas and what we theoretically in design thought would be a good idea,” Johnston said.

Consistent, negative feedback about the limit, however, may compel Montana lawmakers and regulators to revisit the issue. According to Johnston, the health department is already looking at ways to modify the canopy limit rule.

And that’s why this state’s medical marijuana program might be delayed past the April 10 deadline.

In addition to concerns about cultivation space, there’s growing concern the health department isn’t ready for implementation in any case.

With less than a month to go, the Montana Health Department has its work cut out for it. They’re still interviewing facility inspectors. No clear guidelines for product testing are in place. And providers just have to register and get their license by the end of the year, not by April.

In fact, the health department wants to change the rules on how it can change the rules. This way, it will be more prepared to make quicker rule changes in the future.

Montana’s Medical Marijuana Program On Hold

No doubt, Montana is still trying to dial in the right regulations, rules, and procedures for its medical cannabis program. But newness and lack of precedent seem to have gummed up the works.

Indeed, some state lawmakers think Montana should throw the baby out with the bathwater, and start from scratch.

“We’re already in the business,” Rep Alan Refield (R-Livingston) said. “But we don’t have the rules.’

In whatever form legal medical marijuana ultimately takes in Montana, it’s certain that it will come with more rules and regulations. The hope is to set policy that works to the benefit of patients and small producers, not just large-scale commercial growers. Until then, it’s likely that this state’s medical marijuana program might be delayed.

Airport Sets Up Amnesty Boxes For Flyers To Dispose Their Weed


Visitors to Las Vegas have a new way to help keep them out of trouble, as the local airport sets up amnesty boxes for flyers to dispose their weed or other recreational or prescription drugs, giving new meaning to the adage “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. ”

The Boxes

The bright green boxes were installed February 16 at McCarran International Airport as a way for travelers to safely get rid of cannabis or other items that might not be allowed through Transportation Security Authority checkpoints. Recreational cannabis sales were legalized in the state of Nevada on July 1, 2017, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal everywhere.

In October of last year, Clark County, home to Sin City, passed an ordinance outlawing possession of cannabis, marijuana, and THC on  McCarran grounds.

“Marijuana is prohibited on airport property,” said airport spokesperson Christine Crews in an interview with local media. “You could face a citation fine, or you could face arrest depending on what those amounts are,” she added.

The boxes are located just outside the airport terminal so items can be left before entering the building, no questions asked.


The amnesty boxes, as they are called, are about the size of a large trash can and have been bolted securely to the ground. A drawer drop, similar to those on a corner mailbox, prevents anyone from reaching inside and keeps the contents safely inside until they are removed by a contractor.

What Happens After A Drop-Off?


 Travel Weekly

That doesn’t mean a free stash for someone, however.

“They [the contractor] will be collecting whatever’s surrendered and disposing of it appropriately, depending on what contents are in these boxes,” Crews said. “We don’t want your pot; leave it somewhere else, that’d be fine.”

Crews also noted that because cannabis is still illegal under United States laws, the drop boxes will enable the airport to avoid being complicit in smuggling marijuana across state lines.


“Being a federally regulated industry, we want to make sure we are more than compliant with their standards,” Crews said.

The amnesty boxes seem to be getting a positive reaction from travelers. “I think they’re great, said Michael Aldaya, a visitor from Minnesota. “This is probably where you should dispose your drugs.”

Aldaya hedged when asked if he had anything to leave in the boxes. “Uh… I don’t want to disclose that right now,” he joked.

But Shannon, in town from San Francisco, thinks the boxes might not get much use. “I feel like anyone who probably has some sort of cannabis, weed, would probably do it before they threw it away,” she said. “I’d be interested to see how full that gets.”

In the first week of operation, the boxes have collected several vape pens and a plastic bag of pills, according to reports.


Final Hit: Airport Sets Up Amnesty Boxes for Flyers to Dispose Their Weed

So far, 13 of the amnesty boxes have been installed in high-traffic areas of the airport. Ten are located at the terminal, with three more at the car rental complex.

The Clark County Department of Aviation, the airport operator, has plans to install seven more of the amnesty boxes at other sites including the Henderson Executive Airport and the North Las Vegas Airport, bringing the total number to 20.

Massachusetts Commission Weighs ‘Cannabis Cafes’


BOSTON (AP) — Could Massachusetts become the first U.S. state where adults can gather and use legal recreational marijuana at so-called “cannabis cafes?”

The Cannabis Control Commission, the five-member panel set up to regulate the state’s marijuana industry, is expected to decide later this month whether to approve draft regulations that would allow for the licensing of social consumption establishments.

The idea has received strong opposition from Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration and from law enforcement officials who warn of public safety and public health risks if such facilities were to open.

Baker has suggested the Commission at the very least hold off on licensing social operations until after the commercial pot industry is up and running later this year.

Some questions and answers about the controversy:

What’s meant by social consumption?

Simply put, it would be a place (other than a private residence) where adults could gather to buy and use marijuana legally.
While the voter-approved law legalized the sale and possession of recreational marijuana, it remains illegal to use pot in public places. That’s why any social consumption sites would have to be licensed by Massachusetts and adhere to guidelines.
Under the proposed regulations, the locations could not serve alcohol and must have rules to keep marijuana away from minors. They must also have a plan for transporting intoxicated patrons home safely.

What types of establishments are envisioned?

The Cannabis Control Commission’s draft regulations propose two types of social consumption licenses.
A primary use license would be required of any business that would derive more than half of its business from the sale of marijuana products. The term “cannabis cafe” is sometimes used to describe such an establishment: Think a coffee shop but one where you would order weed instead of a fresh brew.

Still unresolved, though, is whether smoking could be allowed at such establishments.

A mixed use license would be for a business that wants to sell marijuana as a sideline to its principle business. Examples could include restaurants wishing to add a marijuana-infused dish to its menu, movie theaters and even yoga studios.

Why is it controversial?

Baker argues that marijuana regulators already have their hands full in implementing the recreational pot law and should be focused on the licensing of retail pot shops and cultivation facilities by July 1.

Any of the more exotic, specialty licenses can wait until later, he contends.

“People should crawl before they walk and walk before they run,” Baker told reporters Monday.

Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo echoed the governor’s sentiments, but stopped well short of suggesting the Legislature would step in to prevent social consumption sites from opening.

Law enforcement officials, including the Massachusetts Association of District Attorneys, argue that social consumption sites would inevitably lead to more stoned drivers on the road and increase the chances of theft and diversion of the drug to the black market.

What do supporters say?

Proponents of cannabis cafes contend there is nothing extraordinary about the concept.

“Social sites will simply give cannabis users the same options available to alcohol users — and I have not heard Baker or DeLeo issue similar criticisms of those establishments,” said Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Massachusetts chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project.

Shaleen Title, an associate commissioner of the CCC, argued that such establishments would provide options for people who would rather not bring marijuana home because they have children, or non-approving family members or roommates.

What have other states done?

Social consumption has been a matter of discussion in nearly every U.S. state that has legalized recreational marijuana, but the proposed regulations in Massachusetts would go further than what any state has allowed so far.
In 2016, voters in Denver approved clubs where marijuana can be consumed on the premises. But a major difference is that such clubs — if and when they open — could not legally sell marijuana. Patrons would have to bring their own pot.
To find a global model for cannabis cafes, try Amsterdam, which has dozens of legal “coffeeshops” where patrons can buy and use marijuana.

Is New Jersey Favoring Decriminalizing Marijuana Over Legalization?


As New Jersey continues to push for the legal cannabis, detractors of the plant continue to look for ways to stop the state from achieving its goal. While this will be somewhat of a tall task for anti-cannabis foes, a group of bipartisan lawmakers have come up with a compromise— decriminalize cannabis in lieu of an outright legalization. And at this point, it’s fair to wonder: is New Jersey favoring decriminalizing marijuana over legalization?

The Suggested Compromise

“This whole legalization stuff needs to slow down. I think folks need to listen to Sen. (Robert) Singer and myself, and people in the community,” said state Sen. Ronald Rice, one of the legislation’s main sponsors.

Under the suggested legislation, pot offenders with a small amount of cannabis would, essentially, be treated like traffic violators.

The new bill would allow those caught with under 10 grams of cannabis to only face a $100 fine for a first offense. Second-time offenders would receive a $200 ticket, and any further offenses would result in a $500 fine. As it stands, offenders, first time or not, can face up to six months in jail, a $500 fine, or both.

Additionally, the bill would also speed the process of expungement for past marijuana arrests and allow municipalities to pocket all but $50 from every fine. The bill would also offer treatment services for those who claim to have a marijuana dependency.


State Sen. Robert Singer, another one of the bill’s sponsors, believes the legislation gets to the root of the problems plaguing New Jersey.

“We are not putting people in jail. We are helping them get treatment if they need it,” Singer said. “What bothered all of us is we are going to try to solve the woes of the state by tax money coming in from marijuana. Shame on us.”

Anti-legalization proponents agree that the bill will help New Jersey lawmakers reach its ultimate goal— providing social justice for its community.

“Marijuana legalization is not the step forward for social justice that has been promised,” said Bishop Jethro James, the president of the Newark/North Jersey Committee of Black Churchmen. “In fact, it’s just the opposite, as the marijuana industry routinely targets vulnerable communities as profit centers. Just take a look at Denver, where the number of pot shops littering the city is greater than the number of McDonalds and Starbucks combined.”


Final Hit: Is New Jersey Favoring Decriminalizing Marijuana Over Legalization?

While the compromise remains an interesting option for New Jersey, it remains a long shot that the bill will usurp any potential plans for outright legalization of the plant as the state’s number one priority.

Governor Phil Murphy made the legalization of cannabis one of the key components of his platform, and it’s unlikely Rice and Singer’s bill would do anything to stop him. Additionally, the bill needs the approval of Senate President Stephen Sweeney in order to make it to a committee hearing, something that appears more than unlikely while legalization is still on the table.

Regardless of the outcome, the proposed bill is still seen by some as a step in the right direction. Even amongst certain pro-cannabis groups.

“This legislation goes a long way in addressing the social injustice surrounding our youth and people of different ethnicities,” said Dara Servis, the executive director of the NJ Cannabis Industry Association. “People of color are targeted and arrested at an alarmingly high rate and this could aid in offsetting the injustice within our community.”

Recreational Marijuana in Canada Will Be Delayed


There’s bad news for those hoping to blaze up north this summer. Today, the Canadian federal government announced that recreational marijuana in Canada will be delayed. The government will not cast the final vote on bill C-45 until July 7th. And it will take 8 to 12 weeks following that vote for Canada’s provinces and territories to prepare their own policies and infrastructure for retail marijuana sales.

It seems that Justin Trudeau’s prediction that Canada would legalize weed by July 1st was overly optimistic.

What is bill C-45?

Two significant bills comprise Canada’s marijuana legalization initiative introduced last year on April 14thC-45 and C-46. The first one legislates the sale, cultivation, and use of marijuana. The second one toughens laws to stop driving under the influence. On July 7th, the Canadian Senate will be voting on C-45, the more contentious of the two bills.

Under these new laws, Canadians 18 and older can have up to 30 grams of cannabis, purchase weed from licensed retail locations, and grow up to four marijuana plants.

Why the delay?

Politics. The conservative Tory party has been pushing for more time to study the impacts of legal weed on law enforcement, national health, and minors. Conservatives view the July 7th date—as opposed to the May date proposed by Senate liberal Peter Harder—as a victory.

The police force, too, asked for more time to prepare for implementing this new legislation. They also requested that the government rethink letting people grow their own marijuana at home.


After hearing the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police’s concerns and passing bill C-45, the federal government will still require royal assent to implement the bill. Since Canada is a part of the British Commonwealth, a representative of the Queen of England must give a bill royal assent for it to become an Act of Parliament. This won’t really slow down the process, but it is an extra-legal step.

Next, each territory and province creates its own policy to implement bill C-45. This means that provinces and territories have to vote on local legislation and build infrastructure before weed hits the market. For example, provinces can set their own age restrictions for cannabis, like they do with tobacco. Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor estimates that this will take eight to twelve weeks.

Only after legislation passes the federal, provincial and commonwealth levels can Canadians buy marijuana. In all likelihood, this won’t happen until late August or September.

The Consequences of Delaying Recreational Marijuana

The fact that recreational marijuana in Canada will be delayed will take a toll on summer fun and legal marijuana sales. For starters, you won’t be able to legally celebrate Canada day, July 1st, with the THC session and ounces of weed it deserves. This means another beautiful summer without recreational cannabis. Legally, of course.

More seriously, though, experts value the illegal marijuana industry at $7 billion in Canada alone. As long as cannabis is illegal recreationally, much of this money will go to organized crime, instead of boosting local, taxpaying business. Concerned by the economic consequences of this delay, Independent Senator Tony Dean from Ontario proposed imposing a time limit on conservatives if they delay voting further.


Final Hit: The Good News about Canadian Cannabis

Few are surprised that recreational marijuana in Canada will be delayed. Luckily, the majority of Canadians, the Prime Minister, and the Liberal party support legalization. This means that it’s not a question of if, but when, Canadians will smoke freely. And it looks like not until the end of this summer