• Canna Blog

Supreme Court Denies Case of Nebraska and Oklahoma v. Colorado Legal Marijuana Dispute

by Melanie Marquis

The U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision this morning to not take up the case of Nebraska and Oklahoma v. Colorado, and Colorado is breathing a big sigh of relief. On Monday morning, March 7th. The SCOTUS blog posted the following statement:

“The Court issued orders from its March 4 Conference on Monday. It did not grant any new cases.”

Following a closed door meeting this past Friday, March 4th, the court ultimately sided with the opinion of the Justice Department to deny Oklahoma and Nebraska's suit against Colorado.

The case would have held Colorado responsible for increased crime in Oklahoma and Nebraska that the suing states claimed to be a result of Colorado's legal marijuana.

If the case had come before the Supreme Court and the ruling was in favor of the plaintiffs, the commercial cannabis industry could have been completely crushed. If Oklahoma and Nebraska and Oklahoma had gotten their way, Amendment 64 which made commercial cannabis legal in Colorado would be deemed unconstitutional based on its violation of the constitution's Supremacy Clause. Whenever federal and state laws are in conflict, federal laws take precedent over state laws. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, so technically, Colorado and all other legal weed states are in violation of this rule. To the dismay of Nebraska and Oklahoma, however, not everything is always so cut and dry. The Justice Department itself has urged federal officers to make persecuting non-violent marijuana crimes in legal weed states a low priority, so building a case against Colorado based on its violation of federal drug policy proved a weak angle of focus and thanks to the high court's decision to not take up the case, commercial cannabis consumers, business owners, and industry professional's say its a positive for the marijuana industry.

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What the 2016 Election Means for Legal Marijuana

As the 2016 election draws near, the cannabis industry and community is waiting anxiously to see what a new administration will mean for legal marijuana. Will the many marijuana dispensaries be allowed to remain open under a new administration? Will marijuana become legal across the country, or will legal weed be completely shut down? Which candidate is likely to win, and where do the top candidates and political parties stand on the issue of legal cannabis? With billions of dollars at stake and access to medication on the line, the future of cannabis effects millions of Americans. Here is a breakdown of how cannabis legalization might be handled under a Clinton, Trump, or Stein administration.

Clinton and the Democrats on Cannabis:

In 2007, Hillary Clinton summarized her feelings on marijuana legalization by saying “I don't think we should decriminalize it,” and in 2016, her official stance is that she does support moving marijuana from the Schedule 1 list of controlled substances, which are considered the most dangerous, to the Schedule 2 class of drugs where it would reside along other prescription medications such as opium and codeine. If marijuana does end up reclassified to Schedule 2, it could possibly lead to further prohibitions on the sale of cannabis as marijuana could potentially become subject to the same rules and FDA regulations as other prescription drugs.

The Democratic party as a whole seems to be taking the smallest of steps beyond Clinton's stance, deciding at the Democratic National Committee's 2016 National Platform meeting to endorse an amendment that would recommend legalizing marijuana federally and offer legal marijuana businesses protection from federal interference. The amendment would stop short of truly decriminalizing marijuana nationwide, however. Marijuana would be legal at a federal level, but it would be up to states to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to keep marijuana illegal or legal within their own state borders. The vote in support of endorsing the marijuana amendment passed with only a one vote margin, with a sharp division between Bernie Sanders supporters in favor and Hillary Clinton supporters opposed.

Trump and the Republicans on Cannabis

Meanwhile, cannabis legalization in any form doesn't seem to be anywhere on the Repulican radar, despite the number of Veterans and others who depend on marijuana for medical reasons. Neither medical marijuana nor marijuana decriminalization or even reclassification will be a part of the 2016 Republican platform. Donald Trump, meanwhile, sounds a whole lot like Clinton. He seems to favor medical marijuana, and says that states should decide their own marijuana laws without federal interference. Without the backing of his party on these endeavors, however, many are skeptical about his ability to actually carry any of that out.

Stein and the Green Party on Cannabis

Jill Stein and the Green Party as a whole are in full support of marijuana legalization, for both medical as well as recreational marijuana. Stein believes that, “Marijuana is a drug that is dangerous because it's illegal. It isn't illegal because it's dangerous.” The official platform of the Green Party states that “Cannabis/Hemp is to be legalized, regulated and controlled like cigarettes and alcohol. Until this happens we advocate that medical marijuana be made a prescription drug that doctors may prescribe to their patients.” If Stein were to win the presidency, efforts to truly legalize marijuana across our country at both the national and state levels could be expected and the marijuana industry could breathe a sigh of relief.

Who will win?

In a poll last week following the Republican National Convention, Trump and Clinton appeared to be very close in popularity, with Clinton scoring 41% of supporters to Trump's 38%. The poll, conducted by Reuters/Ipsos, surveyed 1036 English-speaking voters in 50 states. However, polling numbers are traditionally less accurate during this time period, with candidates often getting a short-lived boost following official nomination at the Party conventions. The New York Times presidential forecast gives Hillary Clinton a 74% chance to win. Does Jill Stein have a chance? If the thousands of marijuana business owners and millions of marijuana users decide to put protecting and expanding legal cannabis above other political concerns, Stein could very well become our country's next president. Only time will tell, so for now, smoke it if you've got it!

 

 

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States across the US are changing their views on cannabis, and they have been doing so for some time. That’s why it was monumental to see movement at the federal level, and not just the state. On December 4, 2020, the US House of Representatives passed H.B. 3884, titled the “Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2020”, or the MORE Act for short. But when will weed be federally legal?

When will weed be federally legal

While it is likely to be blocked in the Senate, the passage at the House of Representatives comes after 50+ years of strict federal prohibition of marijuana. While it may have taken a lifetime, and we still are not there yet, this is hopeful - and not just because it would make marijuana federally legal. 

The bill is loaded with resolutions that reach across political parties and offers some compassion for the mistakes and tragedies our criminal justice system has placed on consumers, growers, and non-malicious purveyors. 

Let’s take a look.

50 Years in The Making: Removing Cannabis From The Controlled Substances Act of 1970

The Wall Street Journal reports “The vote was largely along party lines. Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan and five Republicans voted in favor of the bill, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.) who was a cosponsor. Six Democrats voted against the bill, all centrist lawmakers.” 

The bill passed the House with 228 Congressperson's voting in favor and 164 votings against the Bill, marking the first time since 1970 a measure for reforming cannabis laws that make marijuana federally legal was passed by either chamber of Congress.

What Would The MORE Act of 2020 Change?

There are several high-impact components in the Bill, most of which can stunningly reduce the past, existing, and future harm individuals and communities have faced from criminalization. 

Given these harms are and have always disproportionately impacted minority communities, the push to right the wrongs of our systems is front and center in the minds of many voters - and it seems most US House representatives support change as well. See some of their remarks below.

  1. The MORE Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act

If signed into law, the MORE act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively leaving it to states to determine how they want their residents to engage with the plant.  

“Across this nation, thousands of men and women have suffered needlessly from the federal criminalization of marijuana, particularly in communities of color and have borne the burden of collateral consequences for those ensnared in criminal legal systems that have damaged our society across generations.” - Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)

  1. Like the states already do, The MORE Act would allow the Federal government to tax cannabis

The legislation would impose a five percent federal tax on cannabis products. These funds would be used by programs in communities hurt by the war on drugs.

According to Marijuana Moment, “As now structured, the MORE Act would make it so cannabis would be federally taxed at five percent for the first two years after implementation and then increased by one percent each year until reaching eight percent. After five years, taxes would be applied to marijuana products based on weight rather than price.”

If passed, the MORE Act would both make cannabis federally legal - or at least states can choose without fear of a federal crackdown - and would create a Community Reinvestment Grant Program. 

The program would use tax dollars for job training, literacy programs, and youth recreation and mentoring services, and numerous other community services and organizations.

“This is about allowing states and localities to self-determine what their marijuana policies should be.” - Justin Strekal, political director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, to WSJ.

weed federally legal

  1. The MORE Act expunges criminal records for most offenders

Within the bill, there are measures to resentence individuals currently incarcerated for criminal offenses related to cannabis. While ‘resentence’ means that the individual may still be sentenced for a crime, under the MORE Act, a majority of low-level cannabis offenses will be expunged. 

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2020 clarifies that not all marijuana offenses are eligible for expungement. More specifically, violent marijuana offenders and “kingpins” will be barred from resentencing/ expungement under the MORE Act. 

Under the rules making cannabis federally legal, the number of incarcerated individuals for nonviolent marijuana charges would see a substantial drop. 

  1. The MORE Act does not require that federal positions be tested for THC or other cannabis-derived compounds, except in limited circumstances

The rules go on to say that the Transportation Department and Coast Guard may continue to include marijuana in drug testing programs, but most federal employees (and applicants) would no longer be ineligible for work because they got high on holiday. Hurray!

If you didn’t know, marijuana testing was a federal employee requirement. And since THC can be detected in urine for 2-4 weeks, people seeking federal employment had to worry about their employment, and their activities outside of the office would collide in a negative way. The MORE Act would allow this anxiety to disappear. 

  1. Immigrants would have broader marijuana protections under the MORE Act

The bill, passed Dec. 4, 2020, aims to further protections for immigrant individuals and families. With regard to immigration laws, the MORE Act, in making marijuana federally legal, states the following:

....an alien may not be denied any benefit or protection under the immigration laws based on  any event, including conduct, a finding, an admission, addiction or abuse, an arrest, a juvenile adjudication, or a conviction, relating to cannabis, regardless of whether the event occurred before, on, or after the effective date of this Act.

BONUS: The MORE Act minimizes barriers to entry for small business owners through loan program access

Under the MORE Act, a Cannabis Justice Office would be started. The Office would have appointees under the Justice Department. This individual or office would be responsible for distributing funds provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that provide loans for small cannabis businesses owned and controlled by socially and/ or economically disadvantaged individuals. These loans seek to reduce inequality by minimizing any existing bias or discrimination in current borrowing practices. 

federally legal weed

Making Marijuana Federally Legal: What’s Next?

While the MORE Act passed the House of Representatives, the Senate is less favorable. The reasons for this are largely political and civil. However, since criminal penalties are being discussed, it is likely to cause a bit of frothy conversation first. 

The passage of the MORE act in Congress marks a first, but also a half-way point. There is more political and social support for changing the law than ever before, but it is not yet enough. When will weed be federally legal?

Not yet, but we're almost there.

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