It seems as though we are reaching the point where cannabis will eventually be legal all across the United States.
In a complete departure from the person he is looking to replace, U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr said in his Senate testimony Tuesday that he would not use the Department of Justice to go after state-regulated and compliant cannabis businesses.
This is opposite the agenda of former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who rescinded the 2013 Cole Memo last year. The Cole Memo, named after former U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, was a directive to U.S. attorneys in all 50 states advising them not to interfere with state legalization efforts and not to prosecute those licensed to engage in the production and sale of cannabis as long as those engaged in cannabis businesses did not sell to minors or divert their products to states that have not legalized its use.
Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a release Tuesday: “It is encouraging that William Barr pledged not to enforce federal marijuana prohibition against the majority of US states that have reformed their laws. With this commitment, Congress has a clear mandate to take action and end the underlying policy of federal criminalization. In an era when 47 states have laws on the books that defy the Schedule 1 status of cannabis, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective to try to put this genie back in the bottle.”
Currently, 33 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have legalized cannabis for medical use. There are 10 states in which adults 21 and over may legally purchase cannabis for recreational use. There are other states that have passed laws which specifically legalize the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for therapeutic purposes.
NORML released its 2019 Gubernatorial Scorecard Wednesday, which is a database that assigns grades of ‘A’ through ‘F’ to state governors based on their comments and voting records specifically as it pertains to cannabis policy.
NORML’s fall 2018 national poll shows that 67 percent of Americans believe that recreational use of cannabis should be legal. Those types of legalization efforts are happening at the state level, so it is important to look at where state governments stand on the issue.
The key findings from NORML’s 2019 scorecard are as follows:
- 27 U.S. governors (22 Democrats, five Republicans) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or better on the list
- Of those 27, nine received a grade of ‘A’ up from just two in 2018.
- The nine governors who received the ‘A’ grades are Gavin Newsom of California; Jared Polis of Colorado; J.B. Pritzker of Illinois; Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan; Tim Walz of Minnesota; Phil Murphy of New Jersey; Kate Brown of Oregon; and Jay Inslee of Washington
- All 22 Democratic governors received a passing grade, while just five out of 24 Republican governors did.
- Of the 20 newly elected governors taking office for the first time, six received an ‘A’ grade. All six are Democrats.
NORML predicts that more states will be on board with cannabis legalization. Vermont legalized adult cannabis use through legislation as opposed to voter initiatives, and NORML believes that Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Rhode Island will follow suit in the near future.
In his State of the State speech Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called for the legalization of adult-use cannabis.
“Legalize adult-use cannabis,” Cuomo said. “Stop the disproportionate impact on communities of color and let’s create an industry that empowers the poor communities that paid the price and not the rich corporations who come in to make a profit.”
Cuomo wants to legalize cannabis for adults over the age of 21, and he is proposing a plan that includes a 20 percent state tax and two percent county tax on marijuana transfers from wholesalers to retailers, in addition to a $1 per gram tax on dry flower for cultivators, along with a $0.25 per gram tax on trim.
Cuomo believes that legalization “will create the good union jobs that we need.”
At the federal level, Comptroller of the Treasury Joseph Otting said Wednesday that he hopes Congress will come up with a solution that will give banking access to the cannabis industry—another huge impediment that cannabis businesses face.
Otting, who said he hopes things will change for the industry by 2020, told reporters that lawmakers “have to act at the national level to legalize marijuana if they want those entities involved in that business to utilize the U.S. banking system.”
“If I’m a betting person, I’m like 25-30 percent maybe next year, but I would hope by 2020 we can get this issue resolved,” he said.
Enabling the cannabis industry to have banking access would clear a huge hurdle and likely clear the way for more states to go through the legalization process. It certainly would make it easy for the people trying to break into the industry the right way.
It is high time (pun intended) we recognize that all people into marijuana want to do is get high and eat their snacks. There is no harm in that.
If alcohol can be legal, so can cannabis.
Legalize it. Periodt.