As both cannabis and criminal justice advocates reel from a Sessions memo urging federal prosecutors to impose mandatory minimum sentences on low-level drug offenders, New Jersey pushes forward with cannabis reform. And damn, Americans really like to do drugs—all sorts of them—and have been failing their drug tests. Read on!
Sessions Brings Back Horrific Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
Attorney General Jeff Sessions managed to roll back years of prison justice progress in a single memo, which ordered federal prosecutors to re-establish mandatory minimum sentencing for low-level, non-violent drug offenders. This essentially means judges can throw the book at these minor offenders that have been proven to target African Americans and increase the prison population. For example: anyone with prior felony convictions can be sentenced to life for possessing more than one kilogram of marijuana (read the tale about one such case, a 75-year-old disabled veteran who was busted for growing pot plants, here).
Everyone’s favorite libertarian Rand Paul is introducing a bipartisan bill along with Patrick Leahy from Vermont to let judges impose sentences below the mandatory minimums. Also, many people that are incarcerated are in state prisons instead of federal ones…so (for now) all hope is not lost.
Bye, Christie, We Definitely Won’t Miss You
It seems like almost everyone in New Jersey is counting the days until Chris Christie leaves office (Lord knows this Jersey girl certainly is)—so they can get started on comprehensive cannabis reform in the state. State Senator Nick Scutari, who sponsored the state's medical marijuana law, is now introducing legislation to end prohibition, and last week a medical marijuana review board voted to expand the list of qualifying conditions to include Tourette’s syndrome, chronic pain, and anxiety. But unfortunately, you won’t get to miss Christie too much—rumors have it that he could become our next Drug Czar, even though Trump may slash the agency’s budget by 95%.
Cannabis Consultant for Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe on Trial
Hey remember when a tribe in South Dakota was going to open a marijuana resort that sounded amazing, but they had to burn their whole crop after it looked like they were going to get raided? Well, the consultant that tribe hired is now on trial for drug charges in a case that's worth paying attention to because the state attorney general who is pressing charges is also running for governor next year, and the case could have far-reaching implications for tribal sovereignty and cannabis rights.
Portland Is About to Get Even More Portlandia-like
Ah, the dream of the cannabis lounge—Colorado has a handful, but state regulators recently shied away from regulating them for fear of a federal crackdown. But it looks like a new bill making its way through the house in Oregon would allow indoor cannabis smoking lounges. Portland, ever the artisanal craft-cocktail farm-to-table paradise, is eager to get into the game.
Governor Inslee Has Signed a Bunch of Weed Laws
One of them is an adjustment to the original legalization law that that (weirdly) didn’t allow adults to share weed. Apparently, we were all breaking the law for the last few years every time we passed the bong to a friend. Another law will start an organic certification process for growers in the state (but without using the word “organic”), and yet another law will force the Liquor Control Board to look into the “feasibility” of allowing home-grows. Lester Black lays it all out here.
Make America High Again?
According to Quest Diagnotics (which performed more than 11 million drug screenings last year alone), more Americans are testing positive for drugs than in the past 12 years. "Twenty percent of the people are failing," said the company’s president."We're seeing positive tests anywhere from marijuana through amphetamines, right all the way through crystal meth and heroin." Nice job, America!
Get a Clean Slate at Tomorrow's Washington Expungement Day
A group called the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) and cannabis company Marley Natural will host an expungement day tomorrow for people who were convicted of prior cannabis crimes to get them wiped off their record. Read more about it here.