Calgary is Open to Idea of Public Consumption Areas for Marijuana

There seems to be one common similarity among the different states and countries that have moved to legalize marijuana.  Each law mentions the issue of public consumption and explains that it is still illegal.  Even though the punishment for consuming in public is minor in most jurisdictions, the only legal place the law allows consumption without penalty is your own private property.  If you look at any other recreational substance that is popular in our society, it’s clear that it is not a reasonable expectation for people to never consume marijuana outside of their own private property.  The local city council in Calgary is concerned with this issue and wants to address it before legalization even takes effect in Canada.

One of the issues that are brought up by opponents of public consumption areas is that there will be a rise in impaired driving rates in cities that allow these type of businesses to run.  The truth is that if lawmakers were truly that concerned about the dangers of impaired driving, alcohol wouldn’t be served at nearly every restaurant and corner store.  Alcohol has been proven through numerous studies to have a much larger impact on motor skills and leads to more aggressive driving behaviors then marijuana.  Not to mention drunk driving is responsible for more than 10,000 deaths a year   Anybody that has used both will tell you the same thing.  However, the availability of more dangerous substances for public consumption by itself doesn’t justify allowing these places to operate.  The fact that there are enormous amounts of people who visit/live in Calgary without owning any property means legally they can’t use marijuana at all.  Why make it legal in the first place if only property owners have the right to consume?  This essentially keeps prohibition in place for the rest of the local population.  People will of course not abide by these rules and smoke in public places regardless, so it’s only sensible they establish designated areas to help regulate where it is used.

Canada’s legalization measure not only banned public consumption of marijuana but it also prohibited its use in apartment buildings, condominiums, and hotels.  It seems counterintuitive that the country wanted to eliminate smoking in these locations but did not offer any alternative in order to make this law reasonable.  This is why the city council is taking matters into its own hands.  It is proposing that there be four separate locations that were selected in relation to their distance from schools and areas frequented by children.  All of these locations would be located in Ward 9 and within a relative proximity of one another.  Even though the public is most likely going to be in agreement and support the availability of cannabis clubs, the government wants to reach out and receive feedback before the 9th of September.  The committee will be holding a meeting on the 9th of October where the public can also make comments in person about the important issue.  Calgary should have a clear decision made by the time the new law goes into effect so consumers won’t have to worry about being prosecuted for consuming a legal product.

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New California Bill Aims to Expunge or Reduce Past Pot Convictions

Legalizing marijuana has offered some great benefits to California and the other 8 states who have passed similar legislation.  Some of the main benefits that come to mind are tax revenue, reduction in crime, personal freedom, and job growth.  These are all improvements that will help to make the future a better place.  Like other states in the past, California lawmakers are trying to undo some of the enormous damage the war on drugs has had in the past.  The senate voted in a large majority to require prosecutors to expunge or reduce the punishments for people who were convicted of marijuana related crimes since 1975.  The Department of Justice would need to review all these cases and determine which ones are eligible for reevaluation.  Misdemeanors would be expunged in most cases while some felonies would be able to be downgraded to what is now considered a misdemeanor offense.  This bill has not yet become law; it must be signed/vetoed by Governor Brown or it will go into effect automatically in early September.

Currently Oregon, New Hampshire, Colorado and Maryland have made it easier for past offenders to have their records sealed.  While California wouldn’t be the first state to successfully expunge past marijuana records, other legal states have struggled to offer similar protections.  These bills have faced opposition from prosecutors and other lawmakers who argue that these people knowingly violated the law at the time and it’s a dangerous trend to apply new laws to old cases.  For example in 2014, the year recreational sales began in Colorado, a similar bill died in committee.  The opposition argued that many drug distributors had their charges lowered to low level felonies.  Their concern was that these serious convictions would have the possibility of being changed to misdemeanors.  Luckily later in 2017, a similar bill was passed that just targeted marijuana misdemeanors instead of felonies.  While it won’t have as much of an effect at reducing the damage of the drug war, it is still helpful for many people.

If California is successful at passing this bill, they will have done more than any other state when it comes to requiring judges to excuse past marijuana crimes.  This is likely due to this issue being mentioned in Amendment 64, the initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in the state.  There was no framework established in 2016 when the initiative passed that established how the Justice Department would enforce the changes.  This bill clarifies many of the uncertainties by establishing deadlines for the department and establishing that both misdemeanors and felony pot convictions must be reviewed for eligibility.  There are a total of 218,000 cases that have the possibility of being expunged or downgraded to misdemeanors in the state of California alone.  Imagine how large this number is if we included all Americans since 1975. All these people likely have faced issues when it comes to key parts of life.  Things like seeking great employment opportunities or getting federal loans or grants for education can be nearly impossible.  Regardless what the laws used to be, people convicted of non violent marijuana crimes were never criminals.

Michigan Medical Marijuana Businesses Threatened by Licensing Deadline

Across the great lakes state, cultivation facilities and dispensaries are facing a September 15th deadline to either be approved and licensed by the state or shut down operations.  Those who have gained approval from their local officials and have already submitted their applications to the state are extremely worried.  The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) began accepting applications in December of 2017, but the process to approve businesses is taking a very long time.  There have already been two previous deadlines set that were extended before the fast-approaching September 15 cutoff.  It seems that the government was not prepared to handle the overwhelming number of applications.

Currently,  only 16 applications were given approval out of the 637 submitted for one of the four license types: cultivation, retail, transportation, and processing.  Processing refers to businesses that will purchase cannabis from growers and create infused products or extracts like Rick Simpson oil.  There seems to be a small number of resources being devoted to inspecting and approving licenses.  Luckily, local officials are concerned for patients access to medicine and have been reaching out to Snyder asking for an extension.  It’s equally important to support the cannabis pioneers that have invested their life savings into provisioning centers in order to legally help patients find relief.  Now, dispensary employees are left to question if they will have their paycheck coming next month or if they will find themselves unemployed.  It is crucial that the state responds back quickly so these people aren’t forced to abandon their investments and careers in order to pursue other sources of income.

It almost seems like the officials enjoy causing problems among the medical cannabis community since they can no longer arrest those involved.  Why even set a deadline at all for these businesses to get approved?  Deny and approve the licenses as they come in and if they have been approved by their local city/township then they should be able to operate until they are given a response.  It’s bad enough they are picking and choosing which dispensaries can and can’t operate as they please. Shutting them down before they even get a chance to be evaluated because people created a random date is just wrong.  No other industry is facing the same level of regulations and hoops to jump through in order to legally operate.  It’s just another example of unnecessary government regulation.  The number of stores should be determined by the levels of supply and demand and as a result of certain companies gaining competitive advantages over one another.

There should be some regulation when it comes to advertising and locating next to schools, but not with arbitrary date setting.  These businesses would risk losing the chance to secure a license in the future if they operate past the September 15th deadline without being approved.  I can’t imagine the level of stress these owners are dealing with right now.  They only have two options if the deadline is not extended.  Either close temporarily and pray for a license while still paying overhead costs, or close permanently and exit the business.  Staying open and risking being raided/closed shouldn’t be considered a valid third option.  Criminal charges and no possibility of entering the industry would be the worst possible outcome for a successful marijuana entrepreneur.  The next coming weeks are going to be full of uncertainty until a solution is offered by the state.

Medical Marijuana and Universities

Medical marijuana legislation in the United States currently provides essential protection from prosecution to approximately 2.3 million patients.  These patients are allowed to take their medicine almost everywhere, but when it comes to a federally funded college campus, those protections can vanish.  Medical marijuana use is viewed as narcotics use thanks to the controlled substance act that still lists marijuana as a dangerous drug.  Colleges are continuing to enforce a complete prohibition of the plant, and I’m afraid some people are not aware that bringing their medicine on campus can have serious consequences.  Not only have some students faced criminal prosecution, but they have also suffered additional penalties from the school administration.

One of the best ways to eliminate running into any trouble would be to seek off-campus housing.  It simply isn’t a viable solution to live in a dorm and hardly ever be able to find relief.  There would be nowhere safe to store it and even the idea of smoking off campus would mean getting a new small supply each time.  Edibles would be effective and stealthy, but many people prefer smoking/vaporization because the effects are immediate and much more predictable.  Storing edibles may be harder to detect but I would still not recommend keeping it anywhere on school grounds.  It wouldn’t surprise me if university police decided to weigh the whole edible and charge as if it were normal cannabis.  Having your medicine at housing near campus guarantees no legal trouble and allows you to use it as needed.  Patient possession limits are often set high enough to be considered intent to sell by police/universities.  In Michigan, patients are allowed to have 2.5 ounces in their possession which would easily land non-patients a felony charge for intent to distribute.  Always remember you’re subject to different laws on school grounds, regardless if it’s a college, high school, elementary etc.

I’m uncertain how long this type of prosecution will continue but I would expect to see some legislation taking effect before federal law officially changes.  Arizona has already made headlines this year when the supreme court ruled that banning medical marijuana on public colleges violated the protections of the voter-approved law.  Students in Arizona who have medical marijuana cards will not face criminal prosecutions but they have faced administrative penalties.  The possession, use, and sale are all still prohibited on college grounds due to the federal funding provided by the U.S. government.  That funding would not be threatened based on whether students are criminally prosecuted, but instead would be based on whether schools still prohibit the substance.  This is definitely a step in the right direction as students will likely be willing to risk administrative action in order to have their medicine easily accessible.  While other states have yet to enact similar policies, colleges across the country are removing the requirement that first-year students need to live on campus.  Universities are doing this so patients can continue using their medicine and pursue an education without the risk of endangering their future.  We still have a long way to go to ensure protection in the educational environment is not limited to those who treat their illnesses with pharmaceutical drugs.

 

Parent Company of Corona Invests Big in Cannabis

The beverage company that owns several brands of wine and beer including Corona and Modelo just gained 38% ownership in the Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth.  In order to acquire this much ownership of Canada’s largest medical marijuana producer, Constellation Brands made a record-breaking investment.  The owner decided to drop $3.8 billion in order to establish his company in the cannabis community before Canada’s recreational sales begin and before that sector of the economy explodes.  He believes like many other cannabis consumers and businessman that the time for federal legalization in the United States is also quickly approaching.  Robert Sands is confident that Canopy growth has market-leading capabilities that will allow them to expand and build their company across international borders.

This nearly $4 billion investment by an alcohol company is clear evidence of the culture change we have and currently are experiencing in both the U.S. and Canada.  If this kind of thing were to happen just ten years ago it would have been considered shocking and extremely risky.  Ten years ago there wasn’t even a Canopy Growth Corp. operating in Canada.  Although medical cannabis laws have been in place in the country since 2001, recreational legalization didn’t pass until this year.  Also, the U.S. hardly had any laws regarding medical cannabis besides a few select states which were mostly out west.  The market was in early development and did not have the legal protections or the enormous customer base that continues to grow over time.  Many still think that shifting focus away from the lucrative alcohol sector that Constellation brands worked so hard to build is questionable even at this point in time.  There still is no guarantee that legalization won’t hit more roadblocks and get delayed for years.  Nobody knows for sure if Canopy Growth will be successful in expanding its operations into a new country with established medical and recreational companies.

This move has to be extremely exciting for Canopy Growth’s point of view.  With an enormous boost in capital, it should be able to maintain it’s status as the largest cannabis company/producer in Canada.  Canopy also has stated they will not grow or distribute any of their products until it is legal at all levels of the government.  They will not be dealing with individual states that have passed laws allowing recreational or medical cannabis.  They are playing it safe and trying to remove any possibility of liability.  This may have an impact on their ability to establish themselves in the United States and other countries because other companies may be willing to take the risk and build their business behind the security of state or local laws.  However, with the type of cash they now have access to, they might be able to enter late and still be successful.  They would still have a strong reputation from their presence in the north and use that as a sales point for new customers who aren’t aware.  Another result of this investment is that Constellation will now be able to select four of seven directors for the company.  Management positions are going remain the same for Canopy Growth for the time being. When news of Constellation Brands acquisitions first broke the stocks for the Canadian company rose 31.3%.  I’m hoping that everybody has made their investment before Robert Sands did.

New Bill Would Allow Government Workers to use Legal Weed

As things stand right now, private corporations across the country in states with or without legal weed are drug testing applicants and current employees for marijuana.  This is not required by law but instead has been a common practice among businesses since the drug war was launched in the 1970’s.  Even when states began legalizing the herb for medical and recreational purposes, things have remained the same.  There may have been a decrease in the number of employers testing for marijuana or other drugs, but it’s still very common.  A large reason for this is insurance companies refusing to provide service to businesses unless they make a considerable effort to maintain a drug-free workplace.  Even though there is evidence showing the ineffectiveness drug testing has had on workplace safety, tradition has trumped information.

It was exciting to hear that on July 26th a bipartisan bill was introduced to Congress called the “Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act”.  If passed it would prevent the government from denying employment to new employees or punishing existing employees for a positive THC drug test given that the cannabis use is legal in that state.  Civilian government employees cannot be punished as long as the use was outside of the workplace.  The only other exception to the bill is that positions requiring a high-security clearance are not barred from testing for the drug.  This would be an enormous positive change for the entire country because many private companies would likely follow suit and stop testing for the drug as well.  Also, I’m sure there are a ton of recreational/medical marijuana users who have passed up an opportunity or never considered working for the federal government due to their marijuana use.  The government has been notorious for its strict policies on cannabis use citing its schedule 1 status under federal law.  My mother and other people I know who are civilian employees have been randomly drug tested and went through a thorough background check to ensure there’s no history of drug use or other criminal activity.

The fat-soluble nature of THC is what allows the government and companies to be able to detect its use.  Essentially all other drugs that are known to man exit the body in a much shorter period of time.  For example, meth is only detectable in urine for around 72 hours.  One long weekend and you’re good to go back to the office on Monday after a tweaked out Friday night.  Heroin and Cocaine are the same way.  It seems the hard drugs are eliminated by the body much quicker as if our body is flushing them out for our own well being.  With marijuana and other drugs, detection times will vary from person to person due to an individuals metabolism among other factors.  Marijuana metabolites are stored in fatty tissues and are slowly released into the bloodstream over the course of days or weeks.  If this weren’t the case there would be little reason to drug test employees. It would be much harder for those who use other drugs to be detected by an upcoming drug screening.  The effectiveness of workplace drug testing would be further questioned and likely eliminated shortly after marijuana is no longer tested for.

Allowing government employees to use cannabis on their own free time could benefit the employer as well.  It gives them a much larger list of qualified applicants to choose from and likely a better candidate for the position.  Outside of new employees, existing employees may decide that using cannabis to relax and unwind is a much more effective than alcohol.  Having access to a safer alternative could help prevent work-related problems caused by alcohol abuse.  Also, employees won’t have to hide their use from co-workers and will be less hesitant to build stronger relationships with the people they work with.  Those suffering from medical conditions that interfere with their effectiveness on the job would be able to find relief without turning to prescription medication that comes with a long list of side effects.  The list of positive results from a bill like this passing could go on forever and I can’t wait to see the workforce begin to openly accept the cannabis community.