Booker Marijuana Provisions Pass House Judiciary Committee

2017 Booker bill provided framework for MORE Act

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Three key marijuana provisions designed to reverse decades of failed drug policy and first introduced by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) passed the House Judiciary Committee today: record expungement, reinvestment in the communities most harmed by the War on Drugs, and removing marijuana from the list of deportable offenses.

Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, originally introduced in 2017, was the first congressional bill to incorporate record expungement and community reinvestment with marijuana legalization. This legislation along with a Booker provision to remove marijuana from list of deportable offenses provided the framework for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (MORE) passed by the House today.

“This is a significant tipping point. The Committee passage of this bill is an important step towards reversing decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income individuals. These draconian laws have sacrificed critical resources, violated our values, destroyed families and communities, and failed to make us safer,” Senator Booker said.This legislation continues us down the path towards justice and I’m excited to see momentum growing around the movement to fix our nation’s broken drug laws.”

Background on Booker’s leadership on issues of marijuana and criminal justice:

Booker has seen the effects of our broken marijuana laws first-hand, dating back to his time as a tenant lawyer, City Council member, and Mayor of Newark, where he created the city’s first office of prisoner re-entry to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-integrate into their communities. He is the author of the landmark Marijuana Justice Act, which would end the federal prohibition on marijuana, automatically expunge the records of those convicted of federal marijuana use and possession crimes, and reinvest resources into the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs through a community fund. Since introducing the bill in 2017, Booker has garnered support from Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Ed Markey (D-MA).

In the Senate, Booker was an outspoken critic of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ effort to revive the failed War on Drugs. More recently, he pressed Attorney General William Barr on his stance on marijuana legalization and the rescission of the Cole memo, winning a commitment from Barr to leave states alone that have  legalized marijuana.

In addition to the Marijuana Justice Act, Booker is the co-author of the bipartisan CARERS Act, which would allow patients to access medical marijuana in states where it’s legal without fear of federal prosecution, and the bipartisan REDEEM Act, which would allow nonviolent drug offenders to petition a court to seal and expunge their drug offenses, while automatically sealing, and in some cases expunging, the nonviolent records of juveniles. These reforms would reduce a major barrier that formerly incarcerated individuals face when attempting to rejoin society. He is also a cosponsor of the Fair Chance Act, which prohibits the federal government and federal contractors from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to a conditional offer of employment. Earlier this year, the Fair Chance Act passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight and Government and Reform Committee. In June, Booker introduced legislation to remove marijuana from list of deportable offenses.

Chairman Nadler Statement For The Markup Of H.R. 3884, The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment And Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks during the markup of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019:

“H.R. 3884, the ‘Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019,’ or the ‘MORE Act of 2019.’ This bill would make three important changes to federal law. It would:

(1) remove marijuana, or cannabis, from the list of federally controlled substances;

(2) authorize the provision of resources, funded by an excise tax on marijuana products, to address the needs of communities that have been most seriously impacted by the War on Drugs, including increasing the participation of minority communities in the burgeoning cannabis market; and

(3) provide for the expungement of federal marijuana convictions and arrests.

“These steps are long overdue. For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one’s views on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating users at the federal level is unwise and unjust.

“This issue is not new to Congress. There have been many Members who have introduced bills upon which provisions in this bill are based. Representative Barbara Lee has sponsored bills that are the foundation of key provisions of the MORE Act, and I thank her for her longstanding leadership on this issue.

“Federal action on this issue would follow growing recognition in the states that the status quo is unacceptable. Despite the federal government’s continuing criminalization of marijuana, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use.

“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake, with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities.

“Marijuana is one of the oldest agricultural commodities not grown for food, and it has been used medicinally all over the world since at least 2700 B.C., but its criminalization is a relatively recent phenomenon.

“The use of marijuana, which most likely originated in Asia, later spread to Europe, and made its way to the Americas when the Jamestown settlers brought it with them across the Atlantic. The cannabis plant has been widely grown in the United States and was used as a component in fabrics during the middle of the 19th century. During that time period, cannabis was also listed in the United States Pharmacopeia as a treatment for a multitude of ailments, including muscle spasms, headaches, cramps, asthma, and diabetes.

“It was only in the early part of the 20th century that marijuana began to be criminalized in the United States—mainly because of misinformation and hysteria, based at least in part on racially-biased stereotypes connecting marijuana use and minorities, particularly African-Americans and Latinos. In 1970, when President Nixon announced the War on Drugs and signed the Controlled Substances Act into law, the federal government placed marijuana on Schedule I, where—unfairly and unjustifiably—it has remained ever since.

“As a consequence, thousands of individuals—overwhelmingly people of color—have been subjected, by the federal government, to unjust prison sentences for marijuana offenses. This needs to stop.That is why we are taking action today.

“The MORE Act would remove marijuana from Schedule I and, as a result, would decriminalize it at the federal level, leaving it to states to regulate marijuana as they may choose. Removing marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances is especially just because the same racial animus motivating the enactment of marijuana laws also led to racially disparate enforcement of such laws, which has had a substantial, negative impact on minority communities. In fact, nationwide, the communities that have been most harmed by marijuana enforcement benefit the least from the legal marijuana marketplace.

“The MORE Act would address some of these negative impacts, by establishing an Opportunity Trust Fund within the Department of the Treasury to fund programs within the Department of Justice and the Small Business Administration to empower communities of color and those most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.

“These programs would provide services to individuals—including job training, reentry services and substance use treatment—would provide funds for loans to assist small businesses that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and would provide resources for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.

“The collateral consequences of a conviction for marijuana possession—and even sometimes for a mere arrest—can be devastating.

“For those saddled with a criminal conviction, it can be difficult or impossible to vote, to obtain educational loans, to get a job, to maintain a professional license, to secure housing, to receive government assistance, or even to adopt a child.

“These exclusions create an often-permanent second-class status for millions of Americans. This is unacceptable and counterproductive, especially in light of the disproportionate impact that enforcement of marijuana laws has had on communities of color. The MORE Act recognizes this and addresses these harmful effects by expunging and sealing federal convictions and arrests for marijuana offenses.

“It is not surprising that over the past two decades, public support for legalizing marijuana has surged. In the most recent Pew Research Center poll—which was released just last week—67 percent of Americans now back marijuana legalization, up from 62 percent in Pew’s 2018 poll.

“States have led the way—and continue to lead the way—but our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change. We need to catch up because of public support and because it is the right thing to do.

“In my view, applying criminal penalties, with their attendant collateral consequences for marijuana offenses is unjust and harmful to our society. The MORE Act comprehensively addresses this injustice, and I urge all of my colleagues to support this bill today.”

Indiana NORML Applauds Acting Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears’ Focus

INDIANA:  In a press conference, Acting Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced that the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office will no longer prosecute citizens for possessing less than an ounce of cannabis.      Indianapolis now becomes the first Hoosier city to exercise “lowest priority” status for dealing with simple possession of small amounts of cannabis.

According to , this policy shift is expected to dramatically reduce the number of marijuana possession arrests made by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and Marion County Sheriff’s Department law enforcement officers.   “For many years Indiana NORML has worked diligently to address the severe racial disparities in arrests and prosecutions for simple possession of cannabis and to advance civil liberties,” said Smith.  “We’ve also fought for Hoosiers’ right to use medical cannabis with a doctor’s prescription to treat chronic pain and other medical and emotional conditions, so patients can live in peace, without fear of arrest, and criminal prosecution.”

Though INORML has advocated for these changes for decades, the efforts of many of the INORML Board of Directors has intensified over the past months in many different areas.   “These efforts have included face-to-face meetings with several elected officials, including representatives of the Marion County Prosecutor’s office, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council, and numerous state and local officials over the last several months,” said Bill Groth, Indiana NORML Board of Directors. “We are most pleased that our efforts have finally resulted in a sound, compassionate, and permanent reassessment of law enforcement priorities as they relate to possession of cannabis.”

In the interim, the organization looks forward to working with other public officials to enact similar policies across the state to bridge the gap until the Indiana General Assembly decides to finally take direct action to resolve our detrimental and outdated cannabis laws.

New Jersey Requesting Applications For 24 ATC Endorsements – What Applicants Need To Know

By: Rosemarie Moyeno Matos, Esq.

NEW JERSEY: Hot on the heels of Governor Phil Murphy’s May 2019 announcement that his administration would be moving forward with expansion of New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program (the “MMP”), the Department of Health (the “DOH”) published a new Request for Applications (the “RFA”) for new alternative treatment center (“ATC”) permits and endorsements on July 1, 2019. It’s important to note that this RFA process still falls under the purview of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (“CUMMA”),[1] despite Governor Murphy signing the “Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act” (the “Act”) into law on July 2, 2019. The Act will eventually turn oversight of the MMP from the DOH to a Regulatory Cannabis Commission upon its creation.

Pursuant to the RFA, the DOH will award up to 24 permits and endorsements for cultivation, manufacturing and dispensary operations throughout the northern, central and southern regions of the state. This article will summarize the RFA requirements and any significant differences from prior application requirements.

NUMBER OF ENDORSEMENTS BY REGION & OPERATION:

For the first time since the inception of the MMP, the state will be issuing separate “permit endorsements” for cultivation and dispensing operations, presenting an opportunity for small businesses and minorities to enter the industry on a smaller, more affordable scale. The RFA is looking to award:

Total Permit/Endorsements Type of Permit/Endorsement
4 Vertically Integrated Permits (“VIPs”)[2]
15 Dispensary Endorsements
5 Cultivation Endorsements[3]

The 24 ATC permits and endorsements awarded under the RFA are to be distributed regionally and by operation in the following manner:

Region Number and Type
Northern (Warren, Morris, Essex Counties and up):2       Cultivation Endorsements5       Dispensary Endorsements1-2    VIPs*
Central (Hunterdon, Somerset, and Union through Mercer and Ocean Counties):2       Cultivation Endorsements5       Dispensary Endorsements1-2    VIPs*
Southern (Burlington and Atlantic Counties all the way down):1       Cultivation Endorsements5       Dispensary Endorsements1-2    VIPs*

*One VIP will be awarded in each region. The region of the 4th VIP will be determined at the time of award based on the applicant’s overall score and patient need.

Except for VIP permits, each individual endorsement requires a separate application. Applicants should note:

  • you are limited to a maximum of three (3) applications, one (1) per region;
  • you may not submit for a VIP and for individual endorsements;
  • you may only submit for one (1) cultivation endorsement; and
  • you will only be awarded one (1) VIP or one (1) individual endorsement.

APPLICATION COSTS:

Two checks totaling $20,000 must accompany each application submitted. The checks represent a $2,000 non-refundable application processing fee and the $18,000 permit endorsement fee if awarded. The DOH will destroy the $18,000 checks submitted by applicants not awarded an endorsement.

In addition to application fees (up to $24,000 depending on the number of applications submitted and whether a permit/endorsement is awarded), applicants will need typically need budget for real estate, professional services and contractors, and construction costs. Property and construction costs vary depending largely factors such as location and form of interest (lease vs ownership). Professional or contractor’s costs largely depend on the fees of each professional or contractors and the specific needs of the applicant, but an applicant can realistically expect to pay well over $100,000 for professional and contractor services leading up to and during the application process.[4]

APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS:

Similar to last year’s permit applications, current applications will consist of Part A Mandatory Information, Part B Scored Criteria and Personal History Disclosure Forms for each owner with 5% or more ownership interest in the ATC, as well as each principal, director, board member, and employee.

Part A Mandatory Information largely seeks entity and property information including listing of all individuals and entities having greater that 5% ownership interest in the ATC, all creditors and all individuals and entities having managerial/operational control over the ATC. Applicants will also need to include all formation documentation, all contracts related to management, intellectual property, real estate, equity in, or funding of applicant, Letters of Support and evidence of zoning compliance, site plans and a list of its medical advisory board members with a copy of the board’s by-laws.

Part B Scored Criteria (300 points) includes:

1.   Submission of security, environmental impact and quality control and quality assurance plans (30 pts);

2.   ATC’s compliance history in government-regulated marijuana programs or other highly regulated industry (20 pts);

3.   Financial plan/proof of funding evidencing applicant’s ability to meet supply demand (20 pts);

4.   Evidence of community support and participation (20 pts);

5.   Ability to provide appropriate research data through evidence of past contributions (10 pts);

6.   Compliance experience in cultivating, manufacturing, or dispensing marijuana, as applicable, in government-regulated marijuana programs (100 pts); and

7.   Submission of labor peace agreement, labor compliance plan and a workforce and job creation plan with evidence of WBE, MBE or VOB certifications (100 pts).[5]

IMPORTANT DATES:

Action Date
Application Opening Period on or before July 15, 2019
RFA Question Submission Deadline July 26, 2019
Pre-Application Webinar August 2, 2019
Dispensary Apps Submission Deadline 3:00 pm EST on August 21, 2019
Cultivation & VIP Apps Submission Deadline 3:00 pm EST on August 21, 2019
Final Agency Decision None Provided

CONCLUSION: While the number of endorsements to be issued from the June 3rd RFA (108) versus this RFA (24) dropped significantly, there is reason to believe that additional RFAs will be published soon after the Regulatory Cannabis Commission is established and operational, as the medicinal marijuana  patient population continues to grow in leaps and bounds. The question we frequently receive from interested applicants is whether they should be preparing for this application round or future rounds. The answer depends largely on where the applicant stands with its business plan, site control, capital and team (including owners, managers, and employees, as well as outside professionals and contractors). However, if you are not application ready for this round, you should actively continue to work toward it for the next. If history has taught us anything, an applicant truly vested in this space should be preparing themselves to be application ready at a moment’s notice since RFAs tend to drop with little to no advance warning!

The law firm of Moyeno Gonzalez & Associates PC has represented previous applicants in this space and is ready to assist in answering any questions you may have regarding the RFA, the application process and post-licensing compliance. Please feel free to reach out to us via our website.

In her current role as Partner at Moyeno Gonzalez, Rosemarie Moyeno Matos represents both for-profit and non-profit organizations, rendering a wide range of legal services from entity selection and formation to regulatory compliance advice and commercial transaction representation. In August 2018, she represented a client who submitted two applications for vertically integrated Alternative Treatment Center licenses through New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program. Currently, she represents several entrepreneurs and start-ups in the medical and recreational cannabis space. Through her corporate and regulatory background, Rosemarie has a keen awareness of the issues faced by those participating in the cannabis industry and successfully helps her clients navigate them.
[1]N.J.S.A. 24:6I-1 et seq.
[2] VIPs include one (1) each of a cultivation endorsement, a manufacturing endorsement and a dispensary endorsement.
[3]Cultivation Endorsements are further broken down by tiers based on canopy size. Of the 5 individual Cultivation Endorsements awarded under this RFA, endorsements will be awarded based upon canopy size in the following manner:
1       for a Canopy up to 5,000 ft2
2       for Canopies between 5,001 ft2 and 20,000 ft2; and
2       for Canopies between 20,001 ft2 and 30,000 ft2.
VIP applicants are not restricted to canopy tiers and may choose any canopy size up to 30,000 ft2.
[4]Additional capital needed to evidence financial suitability and to commence operations are not factored into these application costs.
[5] Applicants who fail to submit a signed labor peace agreement will lose 30 points. Additionally, applicants who submit proof of WBE/MBE/VOB certifications will receive full credit of 30 points, while those who submit evidence of meeting the criteria in the future may receive partial credit.

Senators Harris, Nadler Introduce Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Legislation

MJLegal

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, one of the most comprehensive marijuana reform bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress.

“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” said Sen. Harris. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives. As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry. I am thrilled to work with Chairman Nadler on this timely and important step toward racial and economic justice.”

“Despite the legalization of marijuana in states across the country, those with criminal convictions for marijuana still face second class citizenship. Their vote, access to education, employment, and housing are all negatively impacted,” said Chairman Nadler. “Racially motivated enforcement of marijuana laws has disproportionally impacted communities of color. It’s past time to right this wrong nationwide and work to view marijuana use as an issue of personal choice and public health, not criminal behavior. I’m proud to sponsor the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, remove the needless burden of marijuana convictions on so many Americans, and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.”

“I am encouraged by Senator Harris’ Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act,” said Wanda James, CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary, Denver, CO, and the first African American woman to own a marijuana dispensary in Colorado. “Her focus and dedication to ending the generational damage done by mass incarceration due to federal cannabis prohibition is what is needed from our leadership. I am also excited about her emphasis in providing a path to ownership and wealth creation in communities that have been the most affected by this failed and racist drug war. It is time to change this history.”

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by requiring resentencing and expungement of prior convictions. This will create new opportunities for individuals as they work to advance their careers, education, and overall quality of life. Immigrants will also benefit from the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, as they will no longer be subject to deportation or citizenship denial based on even a minor marijuana offense. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act also ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juvenile offenders.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act:

  • Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
  • Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
  • Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
    • The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.
    • The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
    • The Equitable Licensing Grant Program: Provides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
  • Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
    • Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
    • Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
  • Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.

Along with Harris and Nadler, co-sponsors of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act include U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR); and U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-NY), Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Steve Cohen (D-TN), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Debra A. Haaland (D-NM), Ro Khanna (D-CA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups, including: the Drug Policy Alliance, Center for American Progress, 4thMVMT, ACLU, California Minority Alliance, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Sentencing Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, UndocuBlack Network, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

“The disproportionate rates of marijuana arrests and incarceration faced by low-income communities and communities of color only scratch the surface of the devastation that prohibition has caused,” said Queen Adesuyi, policy coordinator for Drug Policy Alliance. “Marijuana convictions have disrupted people’s lives — from one’s ability to secure or maintain employment, housing, funds for education, a valid driver’s license to the ability to keep one’s kids or remain in this country for noncitizens. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act ends prohibition in a way that centers communities most impacted by criminalization with reform that is as comprehensive as the decades of harm inflicted.”

“America’s black and brown communities have paid the heaviest price for this country’s drug war. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act marks an unprecedented step toward repairing this harm and represents the responsible way to move forward on marijuana policy,” said Ed Chung, Vice President of Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress. “We look forward to working with Congress to swiftly pass this bill.”

“At a point in time when simultaneously one person could have their life ruined in New York for the exact same action that makes someone in California a millionaire, now more than ever we must end the federal prohibition of marijuana,” said Justin StrekalPolitical Director for NORML. “The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act embodies the need to legalize cannabis and restore the rights of those who have suffered under the cruel and failed policy of criminalization.”

“Marijuana legalization is imperative if we are to move closer to true criminal justice reform, racial equality, and economic justice,” said Jesselyn McCurdy, Deputy Director of the Washington Legislative Office at the ACLU. “Too many communities of color have been disproportionately targeted and over-policed as a result of the war on drugs. We support this comprehensive bicameral legislation that aims to not only chart a more equitable path forward, but also repair some of the harm caused by the punitive marijuana laws of the past.

“We thank Senator Harris and Chairman Nadler for introducing the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “To successfully mitigate the damage of a biased criminal justice system, we need legislation that directly addresses the racial and economic disparities caused by marijuana criminalization. As an anti-poverty organization, we applaud the bill’s promotion of equal access to economic opportunities in the marijuana industry, support for community reinvestment strategies, and provisions ensuring that people with marijuana convictions no longer face the collateral consequences of a criminal record. By doing all this, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act would be an important first step to repairing the harm to communities of color and low-income communities from decades of discriminatory drug law enforcement and mass incarceration policies.”

For bill text, click here. 

 

Illinois Passes Transformative Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization with Sales Starting January, 2020

ILLINOIS: Cresco Labs Inc., one of the largest vertically integrated multistate cannabis operators in the United States, today provided comments on the legalization of adult-use cannabis in its home state of Illinois. Cresco Labs CEO & Co-Founder Charlie Bachtell served on the Cannabis Legalization Subcommittee of Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s transition team as the sole representative for cannabis operators in the state.

“The legislation passed today legalizing adult-use cannabis in the state of Illinois beginning in 2020 represents a thoughtful expansion of access to cannabis in Illinois and we expect it will have a positive impact on both social justice issues and from a tax revenue perspective by expanding the employment and ownership opportunities for cannabis businesses in the state,” said Mr. Bachtell. “As the current market leader in the rapidly expanding medical-use cannabis program in the state, we look forward to also serving what will no doubt represent one of the largest adult-use cannabis customer bases in the U.S. The legalization of adult-use cannabis continues to be strongly supported by voters across the country and the legislation passed in Illinois represents a good model for other states to legalize cannabis by statute rather than developing a program only after a ballot initiative is passed. Cresco Labs fundamentally supports legalized and responsible access to cannabis, as we have seen proof of the resulting societal benefits of lowering crime rates and helping curb opioid addiction and fatalities. We’re very excited about the new opportunities adult-use cannabis will bring to Illinois and we’re also anticipating some very beneficial improvements to the existing medical program as well.”

Mr. Bachtell continued, “This legislation also includes important social equity provisions that are close to our collective heart at Cresco Labs. These provisions will enable a broader segment of our population to pursue employment opportunities in the growing cannabis industry. As the first company in the cannabis industry to introduce a comprehensive national social equity & education initiative (SEED), we are fully committed to supporting the social equity provisions within the current legislation. Our team has already taken the initiative to partner with community organizations to hold expungement events, created educational programs for college students on the fundamentals of the cannabis industry and launched a community impact incubator to assist with funding and support for people wanting to own businesses in this emerging industry.”

Illinois Adult-Use Legislation

The legislation passed by the state of Illinois legalizes cannabis for adults 21 years and older, beginning on January 1, 2020. It is forecasted that the Illinois adult-use market will be 10-20 times the size of the state’s medical program.

Illinois is currently the fifth most populous state in the U.S., with a population of nearly 13 million. Cresco Labs currently has a presence in 11 states including four of the five most populous states1.

Impact on Cresco Labs in Illinois

Under Cresco Labs’ current medical-use license in Illinois, it will have the ability to open five additional retail dispensaries for the sale of adult-use cannabis, bringing its total number of dispensaries in the state to 10 and the total cultivation footprint to three facilities, the maximum any one company is permitted to have.

The market share leader in Illinois, Cresco currently distributes its suite of wholesale brands to every dispensary in Illinois:

  • Cresco  an everyday cannabis brand with above-average quality
  • remedi  products designed for the medically-minded patient, with forms similar to traditional pharmaceuticals
  • Reserve – a premium cannabis line
  • Mindy’s Artisanal Edibles  a line of culinary-backed, cannabis-infused edibles created by James Beard Award-winning chef Mindy Segal
  • Mindy’s Kitchen  a line of fun, fruity confections

NJ Governor Murphy & Legislative Leadership Announce Agreement On Outlines Of Legalization Of Adult-Use Marijuana

Agreement Reached on Tax Rate, Regulatory Structure, and Expungement Provisions

NEW JERSEY: Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senator Scutari, and Assemblywoman Quijano today announced an agreement on the broad outlines of legislation to legalize adult-use marijuana in New Jersey.

“Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system,” said Governor Murphy. “After months of hard work and thoughtful negotiations, I’m thrilled to announce an agreement with my partners in the Legislature on the broad outlines of adult-use marijuana legislation. I believe that this legislation will establish an industry that brings fairness and economic opportunity to all of our communities, while promoting public safety by ensuring a safe product and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on serious crimes.

“This plan will allow for the adult use of cannabis in a responsible way,” said Senate President Sweeney. “It will create a strictly regulated system that permits adults to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. It will bring marijuana out of the underground market so that it can be controlled, regulated and taxed, just as alcohol has been since the end of Prohibition. This plan will also advance important social justice reforms to help reverse the discriminatory impact that drug laws have had on diverse communities.”

“The agreement reached to legalize adult-use cannabis is the result of incredibly hard work by many people over many months,” said Speaker Coughlin. “Getting to this point wasn’t easy. We talked and we negotiated in good faith, but most importantly, we listened. I want to thank Governor Murphy and Senate President Sweeney for their tireless efforts and willingness to compromise so we could put forth the most responsible legislation possible. I believe this new, regulated industry will help boost our economy, but I’m particularly proud of the critical social justice components included in the bill.”

“The prohibition on marijuana has long been a failed policy,” said Senator Nicholas Scutari. “This plan will bring an end to the adverse effects our outdated drug laws have had on the residents of our state. As a regulated product legalized marijuana will be safe and controlled. It is time to legalize adult use marijuana in New Jersey and this is a well crafted legal reform that will advance social policy in a fair and effective way.”

“After months of discussions and debate, I am proud that we have come to an agreement on a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. “We learned from stakeholders and listened to opponents. The final product is fair, responsible and focused on social justice. I want to thank Speaker Coughlin for his leadership in the Assembly and express my gratitude to Governor Murphy and Senate President Sweeney for partnering with us in this daunting endeavor.”

Under the terms of the agreement, adult-use marijuana will be subject to an excise tax of $42 per ounce, which will be imposed when marijuana is cultivated. In addition, municipalities that are home to a cultivator or manufacturer will receive the revenue from a 2% tax on the product within their jurisdiction.  Municipalities that are home to a wholesaler will receive the revenue from a 1% tax on the product within their jurisdiction, while municipalities that are home to a retailer will receive the revenue from a 3% tax on the product within their jurisdiction.

Adult-use marijuana will be governed by a Cannabis Regulatory Commission, composed of five members. Three members will be appointed by the Governor, with the Governor’s initial appointments to serve terms of at least four years and not be subject to Senate confirmation. Two other members will be appointed by the Governor, upon the recommendations of the Speaker and Senate President. The Commission will promulgate all regulations to govern the industry and will oversee the applications for licensing of adult-use marijuana dispensaries.

Provisions in the bill establish an expedited expungement process for individuals convicted of low-level marijuana offenses, and a virtual expungement process that will automatically prevent certain marijuana offenses from being taken into account in certain areas such as education, housing, and occupational licensing. Additionally, there are a number of provisions that aim to ensure broad-based participation in the industry for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs), low- and middle-income individuals, and disadvantaged communities across the state.

Final text of the legislation will be released in the coming days, subject to pending technical edits.

 

Delaware Attorney General Calls For Expanding Use Of Civil Penalties For Marijuana Violations

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DELAWARE: Delaware prosecutors will no longer be encouraged to pursue criminal charges against those who possess marijuana for personal use, according to guidelines issued last week by the state’s new Attorney General, Kathleen Jennings.

In a February 15th memorandum, Jennings called for sweeping changes to help prioritize resources toward the prosecution of violent criminal offenders and away from non-violent defendants. These changes include encouraging prosecutors and “police agencies to expand the use of civil citations [for] marijuana possession in lieu of criminal arrest.”

News radio station WHYY reports that the decriminalization policy will apply to possession cases involving up to 175 grams of cannabis.

Under state law, the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis is a civil violation. By contrast, offenses involving the possession of marijuana in greater amounts (between one ounce and six ounces) are classified as criminal misdemeanors — punishable by up to three months in jail and a criminal record.

The Attorney General’s actions to cease criminally prosecuting minor marijuana possession offenses are similar to steps recently taken by municipal law enforcement officials in other states, including BaltimoreSt. Louis, and Philadelphia.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500, or visit Delaware NORML.

Teens Living In US States Allowing Medical Marijuana Smoke Less Cannabis

MASSACHUSETTS: According to a large-scale study of American high school students, legalizing medicinal marijuana has actually led to a drop in cannabis use among teenagers.

The study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse used the results of an anonymous survey given to more than 800,000 high school students across 45 states to calculate the number of teens who smoke cannabis.

It found that the number of teenage cannabis smokers was 1.1% less in states that had enacted medical marijuana laws (MML) compared to those that hadn’t, even when accounting for other important variables such as tobacco and alcohol policies, economic trends, youth characteristics and state demographics.

“We found that for every group of 100 adolescents, one fewer will be a current user of marijuana following the enactment of medical marijuana laws,” says Dr Rebekah Levine Coley, a Professor of psychology at Boston College, who led the study.

“When we looked at particular subgroups of adolescents, this reduction became even more pronounced. For example 3.9% less Black and 2.7% less Hispanic youths now use marijuana in states with MML”.

As the survey was administered over a period of 16 years, the researchers were able to compare the changes in teenager’s marijuana use in states that adopted MML with those that hadn’t, allowing them to more precisely pinpoint the effects of the legislation. Intriguingly, the study found that the longer the laws had been in place, the greater the reduction in teen marijuana use.

The results shine a light on an important debate taking place in America about the relative benefits and risks of decriminalizing marijuana.

“Some people have argued that decriminalizing or legalizing medical marijuana could increase cannabis use amongst young people, either by making it easier for them to access, or by making it seem less harmful.” says Dr Rebekah Levine Coley.

“However, we saw the opposite effect. We were not able to determine why this is, but other research has suggested that after the enactment of medical marijuana laws, youths’ perceptions of the potential harm of marijuana use actually increased. Alternatively, another theory is that as marijuana laws are becoming more lenient, parents may be increasing their supervision of their children, or changing how they talk to them about drug use.”

Importantly the study found that unlike medical marijuana laws, decriminalizing recreational marijuana had no noticeable effect on adolescents’ cannabis use, except for a small decline in marijuana smoking among 14-year olds and people from Hispanic backgrounds, and an increase in use among white adolescents. Neither policies had any effect on frequent or heavy users of marijuana, suggesting that these students are not easily influenced by state laws.

Governor Evers Announces Proposal to Reform Wisconsin’s Marijuana Laws

WISCONSIN:  Governor Tony Evers today announced that his budget will include proposals to legalize medical marijuana, decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, establish an expungement procedure for individuals who have completed their sentence or probation for possession, and align Wisconsin’s laws on cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, with federal standards.

The governor believes it is time for Wisconsin to join more than 30 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical marijuana. Last year, nearly one million voters in 16 counties and two cities in Wisconsin voted to approve non-binding referenda asking if marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational use. These referenda all passed by significant majorities.Under the governor’s proposal, a physician, or a practitioner under the direction of a physician, can recommend the use of medical marijuana to alleviate symptoms related to medical conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, severe nausea, and seizures.

The governor will also align Wisconsin’s laws on cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, with federal standards. CBD oil is made from marijuana and can be used to treat seizures in children. Currently, Wisconsin law requires families to possess CBD oil only with yearly certification by a physician. The governor believes that families and individuals should be able to obtain this treatment without additional barriers.

“As a cancer survivor, I know the side effects of a major illness can make everyday tasks a challenge. People shouldn’t be treated as criminals for accessing a desperately-needed medication that can alleviate their suffering,” Gov. Evers said. “Wisconsinites overwhelmingly agree that this is a critically important issue. But it’s not just about access to health care, it’s about connecting the dots between racial disparities and economic inequity.”

Reforming Wisconsin’s marijuana laws to align with the people’s support for medical marijuana is an important part of the governor’s plan. But so, too, is addressing the social and racial justice aspect of marijuana use. Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate in the country for Black men, and drug-related crimes account for as many as 75-85 percent of all inmates in our prisons.

That is why the governor will also decriminalize possession, manufacturing or distribution of marijuana for amounts of 25 grams or less. This language would also prevent localities from establishing their own ordinances or penalties for possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana. The governor’s plan will also establish an expungement procedure for individuals convicted of possessing, manufacturing or distributing less than 25 grams of marijuana who have completed their sentence or probation.

“Too many people, often persons of color, spend time in our criminal justice system just for possessing small amounts of marijuana. That doesn’t make our communities stronger or safer,” Evers said. “This shouldn’t be a Republican issue or Democratic issue, and I look forward to working on both sides of the aisle to pass this proposal in my budget.”