Prohibition began 100 years ago, and its legacy remains

In this era of bottomless mimosas, craft beers and ever-present happy hours, it’s striking to recall that 100 years ago the United States imposed a nationwide ban on the production and sale of all types of alcohol.

The Prohibition Era, which lasted from Jan. 17, 1920, until December 1933, is now viewed as a failed experiment that glamorized illegal drinking, but there are several intriguing parallels in current times.

Americans are consuming more alcohol per capita now than in the time leading up to Prohibition, when alcohol opponents successfully made the case that excessive drinking was ruining family life. More states are also moving to decriminalize marijuana, with legalization backers frequently citing Prohibition’s failures. Many of the same speakeasy locations operating in the 1920s are flourishing in a culture that romanticizes the era.

And in a time of heightened racial divisions, Prohibition offers a poignant history lesson on how the restrictions targeted blacks and recent immigrants more harshly than other communities. That treatment eventually propelled many of those marginalized Americans into the Democratic Party, which engineered Prohibition’s repeal.

”Prohibition had a lot of unintended consequences that backfired on the people who worked so hard to establish the law,” said Harvard history professor Lisa McGirr, whose 2015 book “The War on Alcohol” examines Prohibition’s political and social repercussions.

“It helped to activate and enfranchise men and women who had not been part of the political process earlier,” she said. “That was not the intention of Prohibition supporters.”

Ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919, which set the stage for Prohibition’s launch a year later, culminated a century of advocacy by the temperance movement. Leading forces included the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Anti-Saloon League and many Protestant denominations. Prohibition supporters assailed the impact of booze on families and the prominent role that saloons played in immigrant communities.

Prohibition greatly expanded federal law enforcement powers and turned millions of Americans into scofflaws. It provided a new revenue stream for organized crime.

By the time the constitutional amendment was ratified in January 1919, many states had enacted their own prohibition laws. That October, Congress passed a law detailing how the federal government would enforce Prohibition. It was known as the Volstead Act in recognition of its foremost champion, Rep. Andrew Volstead of Minnesota. The law banned the manufacture, sale and transport of any “intoxicating liquor” — beverages with an alcohol content of more than 0.5%, including beer and wine.

Statistically, Prohibition was not an utter failure. Deaths from alcohol-related cirrhosis declined, as did arrests for public drunkenness.

What the statistics don’t measure is how extensively Prohibition was flouted. Bootleggers established vast distribution networks. Makers of moonshine and “bathtub gin” proliferated, sometimes producing fatally tainted liquor. Determined drinkers concealed their contraband in hip flasks or hollowed-out canes. Maryland refused to pass a law enforcing the Volstead Act.

McSorley’s Old Ale House, established in New York in 1854 and still flourishing as one of the city’s oldest bars, never closed during Prohibition. Ostensibly, it served “near beer” with permissibly low alcohol content, but in fact produced a strong ale from a makeshift brewery erected in the basement.

“It wasn’t a near beer. It was McSorley’s ale,” said the pub’s manager, Gregory de la Haba. “At least once a week, people ask, ‘What did we do during Prohibition?’ And my reply, ‘We made a ton of money.’’’

The federal government, as well as state and local authorities, spent huge sums on enforcement yet never allocated sufficient resources to do the job effectively. Bootleggers awash in cash bribed judges, politicians and law enforcement officers to let their operations continue.

“Newly hired and poorly trained Prohibition agents, along with local and state police, targeted violators at the margins,” McGirr wrote in a recent article. “But they lacked the capacity, and at times the will, to go after powerful crime kingpins.”

It’s simplistic to say Prohibition created organized crime in America, but it fueled a huge expansion as local crime gangs collaborated with those from other regions to establish shipping systems and set prices for bootlegged alcohol. Beneficiaries included Chicago-based gangster Al Capone, who earned tens of millions of dollars annually from bootlegging and speakeasies. In the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, gunmen disguised as police officers killed seven men from a gang that sought to compete with Capone’s empire.

Beyond the ranks of gangsters, legions of Americans were committing or abetting crime. Michael Lerner, in his book “Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City,” says courtrooms and jails were so overwhelmed that judges began accepting plea bargains, “making it a common practice in American jurisprudence for the first time.”

Anti-immigrant sentiment was a key factor behind Prohibition, partly because of record-high immigration in the preceding decades.

Saloons in immigrant neighborhoods were prime targets, says Slippery Rock University history professor Aaron Cowan, because middle-class white Protestants viewed them as political and social danger zones.

“Often the political machines run by the bosses were based in these saloons, or used them as a conduit for extending favors,” Cowan said. “So there was concern about political corruption, changing social values, immigrants learning radical politics.”

Prohibition’s start in 1920 coincided with a major expansion of the Ku Klux Klan, which supported the ban on alcohol as it waged its anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and racist activities.

The Volstead Act “provided a way for the Klan to legitimize its 100% Americanist mission — it could target the drinking of those they perceived to be their enemies,” McGirr said.

One notorious example occurred in 1923-24 in southern Illinois’ Williamson County, where the Klan mobilized hundreds of volunteers to raid saloons and roadhouses. Hundreds of people were arrested and more than a dozen killed.

That kind of social friction helped spur efforts to repeal Prohibition. Economics also played a role.

While some Prohibition supporters predicted it would boost the economy, instead it proved harmful. Thousands of jobs were lost due to closures of distilleries, breweries and saloons. Federal, state and local governments lost billions in revenue as liquor taxes disappeared. One major consequence: Increasing reliance on income taxes to sustain government spending.

The onset of the Great Depression hastened Prohibition’s demise, as the need for more jobs and tax revenue became acute. The Democratic Party called for repeal of Prohibition in its 1932 platform; its presidential nominee, Franklin D. Roosevelt, embraced that cause as he rolled to a landslide victory over incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover.

In March 1933, soon after taking office, Roosevelt signed a law legalizing the sale of wine and 3.2% beer. Congress also proposed a 21st Amendment that would repeal the 18th Amendment. Prohibition formally ended that December, when Utah provided the final vote needed to ratify the new amendment.

One of the pithiest summaries of Prohibition came earlier — a scathing assessment from journalist H.L. Mencken in 1925.

Five years of Prohibition “completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists,” he wrote. “There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”

Prohibition’s centennial comes as the United States is incrementally ending the criminalization of marijuana. Recreational use of pot is now legal in 11 states. More than 30 allow its use for medical purposes.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance, believes most Americans now view the anti-marijuana crusades of America’s “War on Drugs” as misguided in ways that evoke Prohibition.

“Even some of the older generation are saying, ‘We went too far. That was a mistake,’” he said.

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GB Sciences Closes the Sale of GB Sciences Louisiana Cannabis Business to Wellcana Plus

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — PRESS RELEASE — GB Sciences, Inc. completed the sale on Nov. 15, 2019 of its 50% membership interest in GB Sciences Louisiana, LLC to Wellcana Plus, LLC, an affiliate of Wellcana Group, LLC who owns the other 50% interest. The sale immediately eliminates current cash obligations due from GB Sciences as well as the company’s share of operating expenses going forward. While selling the cannabis cultivation and oil production business, GB Sciences retained the benefit of Wellcana Plus’s 50% interest in intellectual property developed under the Master Research and Development Agreement.

The terms of the sale include a promissory note from Wellcana Plus to GB Sciences for $8 million, with payments commencing in June 2020 through December 2021. The promissory note is secured by a pledge agreement with the 50% interest as collateral, declining pro-rata with note payments until all principal and accrued interest have been paid. In addition to the note, there will be an earn out of $8 million from operations through the term of the Agreement for Services including renewals, if any. The actual proceeds realized through the earn out and the timing of those proceeds will depend upon patient count accretion and the profitability of the Louisiana operations.

John Poss, CEO of GB Sciences, stated, “We think the transaction is a win for everyone. Wellcana Group has been an exceptional partner in Louisiana. With the same managers, we know Wellcana Plus will lead GB Sciences Louisiana to even greater success for not only their investors but also the patients and other stakeholders in Louisiana. For our own shareholders, the sale will greatly reduce our operating expenses while maintaining the benefit of intellectual property developed in Louisiana. It allows us to focus on continued development of clinical cannabis formulations for which the company has filed numerous patents, and progressing the research on our Parkinson’s Disease and Chronic Neuropathic Pain formulations towards clinical trials and first-in-human pilot studies. We believe this strategy offers tremendous opportunity to create shareholder value in this untapped segment of the cannabis sector.”

Read the entire article here


Gov. John Bel Edwards picks new pharmacy board member at center of dispute over marijuana pharmacy license

Gov. John Bel Edwards has appointed to the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy Sajal Roy, who earlier this year was simultaneously suing the board over his lost bid for the coveted exclusive medical marijuana pharmacy permit in New Orleans and gunning for the board seat.

Roy, who owns a marijuana pharmacy in Maryland, successfully pushed a new law through the Legislature earlier this year that changed the requirements for serving on the board so he would qualify. That law reduced the minimum requirement from five years of practice in Louisiana to two years.

At the time, Roy said he wanted to make changes to the board in part because of how the marijuana pharmacy permitting process played out, in 2018. Roy was passed over for a marijuana pharmacy permit last year despite being recommended by a selection committee.

Roy, through a specialty pharmacy he owns in Metairie, also donated $50,000 to Gumbo PAC in August, Ethics Board records show. Gumbo PAC is the Super PAC that spent millions to help Edwards win reelection Saturday in a closely-contested race against Republican challenger Eddie Rispone.

Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Roy was on a list of recommended appointees and didn’t have a lawsuit against the state when Edwards appointed him. She also said he is not going after the 10th marijuana pharmacy license, which is expected to be handed out for a high-demand region of the state sometime in the future.

“Also, he has knowledge and experience in the medical marijuana field, which is an important addition to that board,” Stephens said.

Edwards appointed Roy on Nov. 15, a day before the runoff election, according to an appointment letter. The term runs through 2025.

Louisiana’s tightly-regulated medical marijuana program called for nine initial marijuana pharmacies that dispense the drug to patients, each in a different region of the state. While a subcommittee of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy recommended Roy’s firm win the license for the New Orleans region, the board itself picked H&W Drug Store, owned by longtime local pharmacist Ruston Henry.

About a month after that decision, Roy filed suit against the Board of Pharmacy over its selection of H&W, accusing it of “improperly” issuing the license there. The lawsuit argued that because the board ignored its own committee’s advice, the selection process was flawed, among other things.

A Baton Rouge judge tossed the suit in May and Roy dropped a planned appeal, making the board’s decision final.

Roy was running against the board member who previously held the seat representing Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes, Diane Milano. State law requires the candidates for a board seat to win votes from pharmacists that live in the seat’s district. The top three vote-getters are then sent to the governor, who picks one. Public records show Roy placed third, with 22 votes, while Milano got 85 and another candidate got 83.

Read the entire article here


Marijuana Legalization Bill Approved By Congressional Committee In Historic Vote

For the first time in history, a congressional committee has approved a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition.

The House Judiciary Committee passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act in a 24-10 vote on Wednesday, setting the stage for a full floor vote.

The vote saw two Republicans—Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Tom McClintock (R-CA)—join their Democratic colleagues in support of the bill.

Debate on the bill generally followed two tracks. Republican lawmakers argued that the bill was being rushed and that it should be subject to additional hearings, while Democratic members responded that there’s been enough debate on the issue and that there’s no time for delay in beginning to reverse decades of harms of prohibition enforcement.

On the other hand, some GOP members who recognized that the status quo is untenable pushed for legislative action on a separate piece of bipartisan cannabis legislation—the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act—which does not contain social equity elements or formally remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and would simply leave cannabis policy up to the states, arguing that a scaled-down approach would fare better in the Senate.

“We may need something a little less than MORE,” Gaetz said.

The approved legislation, introduced by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge the records of those with prior marijuana convictions and impose a five percent tax on sales, revenue from which would be reinvested in communities most impacted by the drug war.

It would also create a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated for marijuana offenses, as well as protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearance due to its use.

“These steps are long overdue. For far too long we’ve treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health,” Nadler said in his opening remarks. “Arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people at the federal level is unwise and unjust.”

“I’ve long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake,” he said. “The racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities.”

House and Senate members, and outside legalization advocates, cheered the bill’s committee approval.

“The passage of the MORE Act represents the first time that the Judiciary Committee has ever had a successful vote to end the cruel policy of marijuana criminalization,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “Not only does the bill reverse the failed prohibition of cannabis, but it provides pathways for opportunity and ownership in the emerging industry for those who have suffered most.”

(See Marijuana Moment’s full reaction roundup piece for more commentary from other stakeholders.)

Earlier, lawmakers that have advocated for cannabis reform held a press conference in advance of the vote on Tuesday to highlight the need for the federal policy change. And while Nadler said that it was possible that compromises could be made later in the legislative process, he doesn’t see the need to scale back the proposal’s reach at the onset and feels that bipartisan support will build around his bill.

He also told Marijuana Moment that he is optimistic the legislation will get a full floor vote before the end of the current Congress, and part of that confidence comes from the fact that his panel has been communicating with other committees where the bill has been referred in the hopes that they waive jurisdiction to expedite its advancement.

Read the full article here:
https://www.marijuanamoment.net/watch-live-congress-holds-historic-vote-on-bill-to-federally-legalize-marijuana/


The Cajun Cannabis Conundrum

Despite being a historically conservative state, Louisiana first legalized medical marijuana back in 1978. It amended the law in 1991, then left the program to wither on the regulatory vine, with the Department of Health failing to appoint a Marijuana Prescription Review Board or to draw up contracts with national groups for production and distribution.

That began to change in 2015, when Republican state Sen. Fred Mills, a pharmacist and the former executive director of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, sponsored legislation to implement the distribution of medical cannabis to patients. In 2016, Mills sponsored a second law that laid out the program’s specifics. Both bills eventually passed the state House and Senate and were signed into law by former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. In early August, Louisiana officially became the Deep South’s first state to dispense medical marijuana.

In theory, the program is working: Roughly 1,500 patients in Louisiana are receiving medical cannabis. But some 5,000 patients have consulted with physicians about the program, and there doesn’t appear to be enough legal marijuana to go around. Advocates say that’s because a series of compromises among lawmakers, the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, and conservative Christian groups have made a regulatory disaster of the law.

Mills says he originally intended for the legislation to be “more of a free market system.” It’s not. Under state law, only nine pharmacies in nine zones across 52,000 square miles received permits to dispense medical marijuana. Smokeable and edible versions of the product were banned, as was vaporization. (Oils, tinctures, sprays, pills, and gelatin-based chewables are allowed.) The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry has licensed just two growers—GB Sciences and Ilera Holistic Healthcare—to contract with the agricultural departments at Louisiana State University and Southern University, respectively, to produce medical cannabis for the entire state. As of this writing, only LSU’s operation is producing medical marijuana; Southern University’s first crop isn’t expected until later this year.

Despite advocates’ pleas, only certain doctors are allowed to recommend medical cannabis to patients, and the state created a list of qualifying conditions rather than allowing physicians to use their discretion.

“I’ve always testified that this should be a decision 100 percent between a physician and a patient, and if somebody has a debilitating condition, then why should government get in the way?” Mills says. But he was forced to change his approach. “The only way I could get the legislation passed was to work cooperatively with the law enforcement community. I think if we hadn’t done what we needed to, to basically take an approach of crawl before you walk and walk before you run, I don’t think we would have passed the legislation.”

Kevin Caldwell, the president and founder of the cannabis reform group Commonsense NOLA, says the current system is “unsustainable,” an outcome his group warned of early in the legislative process. “But nonetheless that is how things were decided,” because the Louisiana District Attorneys Association and the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association “are the kings of the Louisiana Legislature.”

Patients and advocates were excluded from the regulatory process, Caldwell says, and it shows in the state-run market. A 30-milliliter jar of THC tincture costs between $180 and $220 at certain medical marijuana dispensaries—three times the price found in states where recreational adult-use cannabis is legal. What’s more, he adds, “a lot of the sickest patients that want to use the program are on Medicaid and don’t quite have the money for a $200 visit and then the follow-up visit.” Restricting how many physicians can recommend cannabis has likely made the cost of obtaining a recommendation more expensive.

Republican state Agricultural Commissioner Mike Strain, whose department regulates the production of medical marijuana, doesn’t see a problem. “If you have the type of diseases that it’s designed to treat under the law and you can go to a physician, and there are a significant number of physicians there, and one of the nine pharmacies that distribute it across the street, there should not be a problem to access.”

Mills hopes increased social acceptability will eventually push the program forward. He points to how former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s family recently went public about her using medical marijuana on her deathbed earlier this year. “Her family really attributes medical marijuana to her quality of life,” Mills says. “I just think that [the medical marijuana program] is going to be more accepted and I think the unknowns will become more familiar for those who have been fighting us.”

Read the entire article by Xander Peters here


2020 Presidential Candidates on Marijuana: The Ultimate Guide

With support for marijuana legalization stronger than ever before, the issue of cannabis reform is slated to become a prominent issue in the 2020 presidential election.

Donald Trump, seeking a second term as President of the United States, is expected to earn the Republican party’s nomination. Trump has yet to take any notable actions related to marijuana, neither positive or negative, since taking office.

On the Democrat side, an abundance of declared primary candidates will battle in the primaries for their party’s nomination. Among Democratic voters, marijuana legalization has become a mainstream stance and politicians vying for their support have responded. So far, nearly every single declared Democratic presidential candidate has come out in support of either completely legalizing marijuana at the federal level, or descheduling it and leaving it up to the states.

Make informed choices by reviewing each candidate’s stance on marijuana legalization. Through the interactive tools below, you can quickly and easily sift through each candidate’s position on cannabis reform and any comments they’ve made about the issue. Click around the interactive graphic below to review each 2020 presidential candidate’s legislative support, public statements, and even tweets related to cannabis. Through the interactive timeline, you can click-and-drag and pinch-in and pinch-out zoom to discover when each candidate first made a pro-marijuana statement, first backed cannabis reform legislation, and any time there was a major development in their cannabis stance. Want to cut to the chase? A cannabis “temperature gauge” offers a quick-glance view of how strongly each candidate champions marijuana.

From now until the 2020 presidential election, this article will serve as home base for 2020 presidential candidates and their stance on federal marijuana policy. It will be regularly updated to reflect changes as presidential hopefuls enter and drop out of the race, as well as to document any shifts or major updates in cannabis views.

Read the entire article here


Helping Underscore a Longstanding Tenet of SMPL – Cannabis Policy is a Public Health Issue Rather than a Criminal Justice One

It’s time for drug policy reform – in America and across the globe

America’s “war on drugs” has failed. We need more policies that treat drug abuse as a public health issue

Earlier this month, a Philadelphia judge rejected federal objections to the opening of what will be the nation’s first legal overdose prevention site—paving the way for other jurisdictions to bring this lifesaving tool to their communities. Overdose prevention sites are facilities where people can use drugs under medical supervision by staff who can immediately address and reverse any overdoses that occur. While the U.S. Department of Justice has claimed that these sites are illegal under federal drug laws, the opinion concludes that a public health response — and operating a facility such as this —  is not in contravention of federal law. This is a landmark ruling in the U.S., but not internationally where 118 safe consumption sites operate in 12 countries, with plans to also open them in Mexico and Ireland. It’s well past time for cities across the U.S. to follow suit and embrace harm reduction practices, not simply in regard to this issue, but also more generally in the criminal justice arena.

Nearly 50 years after the United States declared a “war on drugs” there is ample evidence today that a criminal justice and punitive response to drug use has failed. Meanwhile, countries like Portugal and Switzerland have embraced public health approaches to reducing the harms associated with drug use for decades, with proven success. Switzerland was the first country to open an overdose prevention site over 30 years ago, saving countless lives and without recording a single fatal overdose. Indeed, since the 1990s, the number of opioid-related deaths has fallen by more than 60%.  Portugal decriminalized the personal use of all drugs in 2001, and since then, overdose deaths have decreased by more than 80%. As a group of U.S. prosecutors learned during a recent trip to Portugal, decriminalization worked in large part because it helped reduce the stigma of drug use and replaced a justice system response with a public health starting point.

It is time for all nations to follow this lead and embrace a new global vision for drug policy based on principles of harm reduction and respect of fundamental human rights, including the right to health care. Harm reduction is a public health philosophy that posits governments can more effectively and humanely address substance use by aiming efforts at reducing the negative consequences of drug use. These strategies include needle exchanges and overdose prevention sites, where people can use drugs under the supervision of individuals trained to reverse overdoses.

Some elected prosecutors are already leading this charge and implementing reforms that recognize the ineffectiveness of criminalizing drug use and the need for a paradigm shift. Seattle District Attorney Dan Satterberg has stopped charging virtually all personal possession cases of small amounts of drugs; San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is wiping out over 9.000 past marijuana convictions; Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby recently decriminalized marijuana possession and is similarly working to expunge past marijuana convictions; and Chittenden County, Vermont State’s Attorney Sarah George has stopped prosecuting possession of the opioid treatment buprenorphine and has called for the opening of a supervised consumption site.

Before more lives are lost to jails or overdose deaths, leaders should follow the example of these pioneers and other countries around the world. Criminalizing and incarcerating people for drug-related offenses not only hasn’t worked but has led to additional harms to communities: an explosion in incarceration that fractured families and disparately impacted communities of color, the spread of infectious diseases and thousands of drug-related overdoses. We know now that most people who use drugs do not develop a substance use disorder, but for those who do, treatment is far more effective than jail. Harsh approaches don’t reduce drug supply or use. They simply drive people who use drugs into the margins of society. Further, overly punitive strategies that focus on prohibition are enormously expensive and take vital resources away from efforts that reduce overdoses and limit the spread of diseases. Criminalizing people who use drugs doesn’t just fail to make people safer and healthier, it makes them sicker and more likely to overdose in the shadows.

This shift from punishment to harm reduction requires a fundamental change in attitudes around drug use and the nature of addiction. From criminalizing people who sell drugs to fund their addiction, to jailing people who relapse during court-mandated treatment, the idea of drug use as a moral failing is deeply embedded in too many of our justice system policies. True change will require us to end our counterproductive use of criminal penalties for people who use drugs, stop demonizing them, and instead treat them as individuals deserving of compassion and care.

Global leaders, researchers and health care providers have already done the critical work of showing that harm reduction combined with the decriminalization of drug use and possession works in communities around the world.  If the U.S. seeks to joins other countries that have successfully implemented harm reduction strategies, its justice system must do its part to catch up and stop inflicting further harms. It’s time for leaders at all levels of government to affirm – through both words and action – that people who use drugs deserve dignity and respect, not isolation, jailing and death.

Read the whole article at salon.com


Bernie Sanders unveils plan to legalize marijuana, invest tax revenue in minority businesses

(CNN)Sen. Bernie Sanders released a comprehensive plan late Thursday afternoon to legalize marijuana, begin a process to expunge old pot-related convictions and take steps to shape the emerging legal sales industry.

The proposal dropped, winkingly, at precisely 4:20 PM ET.
Sanders, a longtime proponent of marijuana legalization, would also ban tobacco companies from getting into the increasingly lucrative business, while creating a $20 billion grant program — using tax revenue from marijuana sales — to provide new capital to minority entrepreneurs.
Decades of harsh laws and sentencing requirements have “disproportionately targeted people of color and ruined the lives of millions of Americans,” Sanders said in a statement. “When we’re in the White House, we’re going to end the greed and corruption of the big corporations and make sure that Americans hit hardest by the war on drugs will be the first to benefit from legalization.”
Sanders unveiled the blueprint ahead of his appearance Saturday at the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at Benedict College, an HBCU in South Carolina. The proposal takes a number of specific steps to address the disproportionately destructive impact federal drug policy has had on the African American community. The capital grant program will be would be administered through the Minority Business Development Agency.
As part of the plan, Sanders would create a federal clemency board to deal with past marijuana-related convictions, similar to a panel established in California. That body would instruct state and federal authorities to review all applicable cases to determine if a new or vacated sentence is required. It would also give prosecutors one year to appeal any decision, after which those convictions would be immediately vacated or expunged.
The 2020 Democratic candidates broadly agree on the need to reverse or roll back current drug laws. Decriminalizing possession and reducing sentencing guidelines, at the least, are popular among many of the leading primary contenders. But there is some disagreement over the scope of the reforms being suggested.
Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have said they would effectively legalize marijuana by executive action, with Sanders pledging to do it in his first 100 days in office. Their Senate colleague Cory Booker has been a leading reform advocate and his Marijuana Justice Bill counts Sanders, Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Michael Bennet among its co-sponsors.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg supports decriminalizing the possession of all drugs including marijuana, and said Wednesday during a visit to a marijuana dispensary in Nevada that past marijuana convictions should be expunged. Former Vice President Joe Biden does not back full legalization, saying he would leave that decision to the states. He would downgrade marijuana’s federal classification, to schedule II, which is the same as cocaine.
At Sanders’ rally this past weekend in Queens, the first after he returned to the campaign following a heart attack, he teased a plan to free prisoners convicted of certain drug-related crimes.
“We are going to end the horrifically destructive war on drugs and legalize marijuana,” Sanders said, tying the cause to a broader criminal and racial justice message. “And we are going to end the disgrace of 400,000 people right now locked behind bars because they are too poor to afford cash bail.”
In seeking to prevent major corporations from seizing on wider scale legalization, Sanders plans to incentive marijuana growers and distributors who choose to start non-profit or community co-op businesses that would benefit local economies. Existing companies that sell tobacco and cigarettes, along with those “that have created cancer-causing products or (are) guilty of deceptive marketing” would be locked out of the market, according to the Sanders plan.
At an event in Iowa in September, the Vermont independent promised that he was going to shift the bounty of marijuana sales from big corporations to the people who have been most heavily impacted by current, or only recently reversed, drug laws.
“I go to Nevada, and there are these big billboards, I don’t know if you’ve seen, and it says buy this or that brand of marijuana, have you seen this? They are advertising hemp,” Sanders said. “And I’m thinking that there are people in jail for doing exactly what these large corporations are doing, selling marijuana.”

American Bar Association Urges Congress To Let States Set Their Own Marijuana Policies

 

The American Bar Association (ABA) adopted a resolution on Monday that calls on Congress to allow states to set their own marijuana policies and recommends rescheduling or descheduling cannabis under federal law.

Members of the ABA House of Delegates approved the measure at the organization’s annual meeting in San Francisco and, according to the ABA Journal, it was broadly supported—passing “without audible opposition”—even after proponents waived their time to speak.

Though ABA specified that it was not taking a position on marijuana legalization generally, it recognized that conflicting federal and state cannabis policies are untenable and have created complications for cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state law. That includes a lack of access to financial services that lead such companies to operate on a largely cash basis, making them targets for crime.

The resolution states that ABA “urges Congress to enact legislation to exempt from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) any production, distribution, possession, or use of marijuana carried out in compliance with state laws.”

ABA, an association established in 1878 that now touts 411,000 members, also wants Congress to “enact legislation to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act,” which could involve placing it in a less restrictive category or removing it from the list of federally controlled substances altogether.

Finally, the resolution recommends that Congress pass legislation to “encourage scientific research into the efficacy, dose, routes of administration, or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States.”

A report attached to the measure provides context on state-level legalization efforts, the history of federal prohibition and the “resulting regulatory quagmire.”

“There is an obvious tension between marijuana’s Schedule I status – which prohibits marijuana in virtually all circumstances—and state regulatory reforms—which increasingly authorize marijuana for at least some purposes,” ABA wrote. “While state and federal law often diverge—on everything from environmental to workplace laws—marijuana policy is the only area where the states regulate and tax conduct the federal government nearly universally prohibits.”

The temporary protections that lawmakers have been able to secure for medical cannabis states and guidance memos from the Justice Department are not enough to relieve the regulatory tension produced by federal prohibition, ABA argued. While the House approved a budget rider that would extend protections to adult-use programs, it’s not clear how that will fare in the Senate—and even if it passes, it must be annually renewed, creating uncertainty.

More fundamentally, however, because the spending riders operate only as a restraint on Justice Department action, they have not prevented other parties from using federal law against state-compliant marijuana businesses and users.

ABA listed various problems that these businesses face under the current regulatory framework: a lack of access to banking services, “unusually high federal taxes,” no federal protection for their trademarks and an increased number of private lawsuits.

“No one should be satisfied with the regulatory quagmire that has resulted from the unresolved tension between state reforms and federal law.”

The report goes on to describe how its recommendations would help resolve some of these issues.

Passing legislation such as the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act would mean “marijuana businesses could obtain banking and legal services, deduct their reasonable business expenses when computing their federal tax liability, obtain federal protection for their trademarks, avoid civil RICO liability, and so on.”

What’s more, Congress could attach provisions to such legislation that would establish a basic federal framework for state cannabis programs by “incentivizing states to adopt and maintain careful controls on marijuana activities,” including age restrictions for adult-use programs.

But creating an exemption for legal cannabis states under the CSA wouldn’t fix all of the problems that federal prohibition is created, which is why ABA also made a scheduling recommendation.

It said that knowledge about marijuana’s risks and benefits has evolved in the years since the drug was placed in Schedule I of the CSA and that it no longer made sense to schedule cannabis in the same category as substances that are decidedly more dangerous. Loosening federal restrictions by rescheduling it could help, but “Congress could even choose to remove marijuana from the CSA altogether, in the same way it exempted alcoholic beverages and tobacco from the statute’s coverage in the first instance,” ABA wrote.

The final part of the resolution discusses the need to support research into cannabis. One area that could be quickly improved is in the sourcing of research-grade marijuana. ABA noted that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced in 2016 that it is accepting applications for additional cannabis manufacturers, which could bolster research, for example. Coincidentally, ABA’s resolution on the topic was approved exactly three years after DEA made that announcement, which the agency still has yet to act on.

The measure “urges Congress to actively support scientific research on marijuana,” ABA wrote. “As greater scientific knowledge of the benefits and harms of marijuana develops, Congress and the states can work together to ensure that the benefits of marijuana can be realized while the harms of the drug are properly addressed. Encouraging careful scientific study of marijuana will be beneficial regardless of the direction of marijuana law reform in the future.”

“You can’t do massive blind studies because everyone who does it is afraid they’ll get prosecuted,” Stephen Saltzburg, who moved the resolution, told ABA Journal. “We should have that research. We ought not to have states and [the federal government] flying blind.”

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Politics Top FDA Official Slams Federal Drug Scheduling System For Blocking CBD Research

 

The federal drug scheduling system inhibited research into CBD that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now scrambling to conduct following the legalization of hemp and its derivatives, a top agency official said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the National Industrial Hemp Council’s 2019 Hemp Business Summit, FDA Principal Associate Commissioner for Policy Lowell Schiller gave an extensive overview of the agency’s role in regulating cannabis products, repeatedly stressing that FDA is “excited” about cannabidiol’s potential.

That said, Schiller said FDA retains regulatory authority over hemp-derived products and it remains illegal to introduce CBD in the food supply or as dietary supplements unless the agency develops alternative rules, which it is actively exploring. Because CBD exists as an FDA-approved epilepsy drug, Epidiolex, creating a regulatory framework is more complicated.

He also talked about other potential medical benefits of CBD and how the federal ban on hemp and its compounds, which was lifted under a provision of the 2018 Farm Bill that President Donald Trump signed in December, restricted research.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD, but we’re excited about the possibility that new therapeutic uses of CBD might be demonstrated to be safe and effective,” Schiller said, according to his remarks as prepared for delivery. “The last thing we want to do is to discourage that research, and potentially stunt our knowledge of potential uses of CBD. So we need to be thoughtful in our approach.”

“One thing we realized very early on in evaluating these questions is that there was still far too much we didn’t know about CBD, and about the implications of putting CBD in foods, dietary supplements, and cosmetics,” he said. “This is part of the legacy of almost all CBD being a Schedule I controlled substance until late last year.”

“It was difficult to research, and it hasn’t been studied nearly as much as we would like.”

Schiller said that more studies are needed to determine potential risks associated with consuming large quantities of CBD, interactions with other drugs, using the substance while pregnant and long-term consumption. Resolving those questions will “help to inform our path forward.”

That’s why, he said, FDA is “focusing on a different CBD: Collect Better Data.”

“We want to learn as much as we can, as quickly as we can, to support informed and efficient decision making. If there are data or studies that are relevant to the safety of particular uses of CBD, we want to see them. And if there are gaps in our knowledge, we want to understand how big those gaps are and what can be done—by us and by others—to start filling them.”

The federal drug scheduling system inhibited research into CBD that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now scrambling to conduct following the legalization of hemp and its derivatives, a top agency official said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the National Industrial Hemp Council’s 2019 Hemp Business Summit, FDA Principal Associate Commissioner for Policy Lowell Schiller gave an extensive overview of the agency’s role in regulating cannabis products, repeatedly stressing that FDA is “excited” about cannabidiol’s potential.

That said, Schiller said FDA retains regulatory authority over hemp-derived products and it remains illegal to introduce CBD in the food supply or as dietary supplements unless the agency develops alternative rules, which it is actively exploring. Because CBD exists as an FDA-approved epilepsy drug, Epidiolex, creating a regulatory framework is more complicated.

He also talked about other potential medical benefits of CBD and how the federal ban on hemp and its compounds, which was lifted under a provision of the 2018 Farm Bill that President Donald Trump signed in December, restricted research.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD, but we’re excited about the possibility that new therapeutic uses of CBD might be demonstrated to be safe and effective,” Schiller said, according to his remarks as prepared for delivery. “The last thing we want to do is to discourage that research, and potentially stunt our knowledge of potential uses of CBD. So we need to be thoughtful in our approach.”

“One thing we realized very early on in evaluating these questions is that there was still far too much we didn’t know about CBD, and about the implications of putting CBD in foods, dietary supplements, and cosmetics,” he said. “This is part of the legacy of almost all CBD being a Schedule I controlled substance until late last year.”

“It was difficult to research, and it hasn’t been studied nearly as much as we would like.”

Schiller said that more studies are needed to determine potential risks associated with consuming large quantities of CBD, interactions with other drugs, using the substance while pregnant and long-term consumption. Resolving those questions will “help to inform our path forward.”

That’s why, he said, FDA is “focusing on a different CBD: Collect Better Data.”

“We want to learn as much as we can, as quickly as we can, to support informed and efficient decision making. If there are data or studies that are relevant to the safety of particular uses of CBD, we want to see them. And if there are gaps in our knowledge, we want to understand how big those gaps are and what can be done—by us and by others—to start filling them.”

Those gaps in knowledge are partially due to the federal drug scheduling system, which has faced bipartisan criticism for hampering research initiatives. The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse acknowledged in April that continuing to classify drugs like marijuana as Schedule I makes it “very difficult” to research.

But as FDA works to make up for lost time, it has pledged to engage in a transparent rulemaking process that takes into account what Congress and industry stakeholders have called for—namely a regulatory scheme under which hemp and CBD can be lawfully marketed without excessive interference.

FDA said it is speeding up its process to develop regulations and that it plans to release a report on its progress in the fall.

“In closing, I want to reiterate how excited we are about the potential uses of CBD and other hemp and hemp-derived products,” Schiller said. “The hemp industry has come an incredible distance in an incredibly short period of time. And in some cases, the enthusiasm and the commercial appeal have outpaced the scientific research. The science needs to catch up.”

He also told the hemp crowd that as FDA works on its end, “we need your help.”

“As this industry matures, it needs to start taking on more responsibilities—for the safety of consumers, and for the future development of an industry that can meet the same requirements as apply to other industries we regulate,” he said. “We look forward to working together as this industry continues to mature.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach also spoke at the hemp conference on Tuesday.

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