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National cannabis advocates demand end to blockade of Washington DC’s adult-use market

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In 2014, voters in Washington DC overwhelmingly voted to legalize possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, as well as home-grow of up to six plants, and gifting of up to an ounce. Nearly a decade later, the commercial market is still on hold. And while medical and gray markets have helped fill the gap, some major local, state, and national organizations have had enough. So they wrote a letter to the Biden Administration demanding action.

Advocates led by the Drug Policy Alliance signed a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland pushing for a non-enforcement approach that would end the current legislation blocking the District from launching a legal and regulated adult-use market.

The coalition also includes the ACLU, NORML, and the soap aficionados at Dr. Bronner’s. The advocates are backed by the wind of pro-420 advances in last week’s election, and progress last month from President Biden, who directed all state governments to release non-violent cannabis prisoners.

merrick-garland
Merrick Garland, once blocked as an Obama Supreme Court nominee, became Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The letter calls for an end to the Harris rider, which was signed about a month after DC voters approved legalization through ballot measure Initiative 71 (I-71). Months after the 2014 vote, Maryland Rep. Andy Harris effectively blocked commercial sales in the District with a rider that prevents the DC Council from adopting comprehensive regulations for a legal cannabis industry.

The same Andy Harris made up racist facts to justify his active blockade of DC legalization in 2016. His stance is clear.

Back in the early days of the Trump Administration, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions further complicated things in 2018 by rescinding the Cole Memo, which protected state-licensed businesses from federal cannabis laws. Without the Cole Memo’s protections, and with the Harris rider’s restrictions in place, DC regulators have their hands tied in regards to rolling out the regulations that would allow a licensed market to move forward.

The newest workaround is a medical marijuana self-certification program that was launched in June, which allows virtually any adult to prescribe themselves access to DC’s licensed and regulated medical market. The District’’s patient count has grown by 55% since self-certification was signed into law by Mayor Muriel Bowser. But it’s still a workaround. The Harris rider could be permanently removed from the 2023 Fiscal Year budget through Congressional legislation—which is less likely if Republicans take control of the House—or action from Merrick Garland if the coalition gets what the letter asks for.

In total, 75 organizations signed the request for a non-enforcement approach, calling for an end to the Harris rider and the related Anti-Deficiency Act, which keeps DC as the “only jurisdiction in the country that cannot regulate marijuana sales or fruitfully tap into the public health and safety benefits of proper regulation,” according to the letter.

“We recognize that not everyone in Congress supports DC’s right to become a State, which would ensure the rights and liberties of its diverse, voting, tax paying, military serving residents. Nevertheless, we collectively call on the Department of Justice to at least commit to a non-enforcement approach for DC that includes the non-enforcement of the ‘Harris’ rider and the Anti-Deficiency Act with respect to the rider, and permit DC to spend its local dollars on priorities such as regulating marijuana in the same way that 19 other States have already done… Allowing DC to regulate cannabis would alleviate public health and safety concerns due to the unregulated marijuana market in DC, promote economic development in DC, as well as demonstrate this administration’s support for DC’s right to home rule.”

Letter signed by DPA and 74 other cannabis advocates

In 2020, House Democrats tried to get DC’s market going with a funding bill that never made it to full approval. At the time, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), committee chairman, said, “Americans deserve a government that will invest in the long-term protection of consumers and investors, strengthen our national security, and promote entrepreneurship here at home.. This year’s [Financial Services and General Government] funding bill takes significant steps to accomplish each of those goals.”



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ACLU

Arrests for weed in Minnesota show glaring disparities among demographics, here’s the data

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This story was written by Joana Scopel and originally published on Benzinga.

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Black Minnesotans are nearly five times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than whites.

“In 2021 there were 6,055 marijuana arrests in the state,” according to BCA’s latest data. The drug accounted for a little over one-third of all Minnesota drug arrests. “Close to 90% of marijuana arrests in Minnesota are for simple possession, rather than sales or distribution.”

Infographic highlighting Minnesota marijuana arrest data including 0.67 marijuana arrests per 1,000 for white Minnesotans and 3.19 marijuana arrests per 1,000 for Black Minnesotans
Black Minnesotans are arrested more than four times as often as White Minnesotans despite usage rates less than 1% higher.

Marijuana is decriminalized in Minnesota, and since then many incidents listed as “arrests” for possession in the state’s database are actually citations for possession. However, “marijuana citations can be very damaging if used as a pretext for more intrusive police behavior such as searches and interrogations.”

In 2018, Minneapolis police launched a series of raids against low-level marijuana sales in the city. The program was abruptly halted after the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office noted that 46 of the 47 arrests were of black suspects, raising concerns about racial profiling.

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Minnesota marijuana laws

“The fact that racial disparities are so common nationwide in the enforcement of marijuana laws is one of the reasons I support full legalization,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement at the time.

Despite data showing that Black and white residents use cannabis at similar rates, the ACLU noted that “there were more than six million arrests between 2010 and 2018, and black people are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in every state, including those that have legalized marijuana.”

Marijuana legalization in the state: Do Minnesotans support it?

Additionally, the recent legalization of certain marijuana edibles in the state has likely sparked even more scrutiny of police marijuana practices.

A recent survey found that “61.4 percent of Minnesotans back legalizing cannabis for adult use. 30.2 percent oppose legalization, with 8.4 percent saying they are undecided.”

Related

Make no mistake, marijuana edibles are legal now in Minnesota

The poll is an informal, unscientific survey of issues discussed in prior legislative sessions and that may again be topics of discussion in 2023. In addition, it intends to inform lawmakers about where voters stand on a range of policy issues.

Moreover, the survey indicated “that is a slight bump in support among fairgoers as when the same question was asked in 2021, 58.3% said they favor legalization, and 34.1% were against it.”

Fairness and social equity on the marijuana legalization path

All over the country, Black Americans are more likely to be arrested and prosecuted over cannabis than others. Expungement efforts aim to mitigate past harms in the legal system. More than 20 states have passed laws to expunge or seal records.

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Benzinga’s mission is to connect the world with news, data, and education that makes the path to financial prosperity easier for everyone, every day.

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ACLU

Majority Of Americans Support Drug Decriminalization

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More than half, 60%, of Americans believe the War on Drugs should end, and support the decriminalization of illegal substances.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Drug Policy Allegiance (DPA) released the poll ahead of the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring that drugs were “public enemy number 1.” This rhetoric and decision impacted the lives of thousands, resulting in mass incarcerations and the proliferation of violence all over the world, disproportionately affecting Black, Latino and Indigenous people.

RELATED: A Drug War With No End: How It Will Ultimately End Our Freedom

drugs
Photo by Getty Images/Handout

According to the poll, 65% of the people surveyed agreed that the U.S. should stop the War on Drugs, with 66% of participants believing in decriminalization of drugs altogether.

Poll results show how much views have evolved since the 70s. Nearly two thirds of the country believe there should be new healthcare enforcement instead of new law enforcement. The majority of respondents think drugs should be a problem solved by healthcare providers and not officers. And 83% of respondents believed the War on Drugs has failed.

The message of the poll and statement was for the Biden Administration to take actions against the War on Drugs, using these results as evidence of what the American people want and believe in.

RELATED: Drug Decriminalization Vs. Legalization — Here’s The Difference

“On this 50th anniversary of the drug war, President Biden must make good on his campaign promises and take steps to begin dismantling the system of over-policing and mass incarceration that is endemic to the war on drugs,” said Udi Ofer, director of the ACLU’s Justice Division.

How Cannabis Banking Bill Fares In Senate Will Dictate Future Of National Marijuana Reform
Photo by krisanapong detraphiphat/Getty Images

“Today, drug possession continues to be the number one arrest in the United States, with more than 1.35 million arrests per year. Every 25 seconds, a person is arrested for possessing drugs for personal use, with Black people disproportionately targeted by this over-policing,”

In the coming weeks, the ACLU and the DPA will be launching a media campaign asking President Biden to begin dismantling the war on drugs by reducing the sentences of people in federal prison due to drugs.

RELATED: Why Do So Many Americans Now Support Legalizing Marijuana?

In the past, Biden has said that no one should go to prison for low-level drug cases. His administration has stated that rescheduling cannabis would be a good first step in order to release inmates charged with marijuana convictions.





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