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Decriminalization of marijuana likely under Joe Biden’s administration

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Is Joe Biden's decriminalization of marijuana enough for policy reforms or does he need to do more?

Joe Biden has gained prominence yet again on the political scene of United States as a presidential nominee for the 2020 elections. According to his running mate Kamala Harris, decriminalization of marijuana is a change in the design of the system which will definitely be dealt with if they win the elections. Effectuation of this policy will also involve an automatic expungement of all marijuana-use convictions and ‘end incarceration for drug use alone’.

Kamala Harris outlined these proposals during a virtual roundtable she hosted through Facebook Live on September 14th.

“This is no time … for half-steppin’, this is no time for incrementalism. We need to deal with the system, and there needs to be significant change in the design of the system.” said Kamala during the virtual roundtable.

The proposed alterations in the legislative policies reflect a huge change in the political stances of these democratic leaders. Both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have been active supporters of strict actions against drug use. From proposing decriminalization of marijuana to desceduling it, the duo has evolved a lot on their attitudes towards the drug.

Biden has spent a career in Washington that stressed for mandatory minimum sentencing. According to Naomi Murakawa, author of  The First Civil Right:How Liberals Built Prison America, Joe Biden’s policies have ‘made the criminal justice system more lethal and just bigger’.

Biden helped write the controversial 1994 ”tough on crime” law. This law had resulted in aggressive policing, mass incarcerations and more prison cells in the 1990s. He was at the center of framing many other federal policies that escalated the war on drugs.

Biden has defended the 1994 law as recently as 2016. He argued that it helped to put an end to an era of crime and violence in American cities. Biden’s past records with criminal justice issues had put him at odds with most Democrats as a vast majority of them were in support of some sort of reforms in marijuana policies.

Earlier this year, Joe Biden has admitted to making mistakes in his political career. “I haven’t always been right. I know we haven’t always gotten things right, but I’ve always tried,” he said. In an attempt to highlight the changes in his political views, he admitted to the presence of systematic racism within the nation. His decisions had trapped an entire generation, but despite of this he was hopeful about carrying the legacy of MLK forward.

California and Proposition 19

Proposition 19 is also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. The initiative had proposed legalization of marijuana and its related activities for adults 21 years and older. It had also allowed local governments to regulate, tax and control these activities.

About 53.5% votes opposed the initiative on the ballots, leading to its defeat. Kamala Harris was also among those who opposed it and saw the proposition as a public safety issue. She only supported the legal use of medical marijuana but not anything beyond that.

Policy reforms by Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is often mocked by her opponents for her past record as a prosecutor of marijuana cases. According to some sources, she is responsible for putting 1500 people in jail for marijuana related crimes.

In July of 2019 however, Kamala Harris introduced the MORE Act, short for Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungment Act. The bill proposed a removal of marijuana from the Schedule 1 classification. In addition to this, criminal justice reforms and decriminalization of the drug were also a part of the bill. This bill has not received a single vote from the republican controlled Senate.

This September, the MORE Act would be up for vote in the House of Representatives. Voting for rescheduling marijuana in the Congress is a history changing event which has never happened before. Many are seeing this voting opportunity as ‘a chance to end a failed policy’.

If successful, the Act will allow marijuana a legal status at the federal level, although sales will not be legalized immediately in states. “As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), an advocate of marijuana legalization.

Will marijuana be legal?

Republicans have criticized Democrats for ignoring more urgent issues like handling the pandemic and handling healthcare issues. Therefore, the chances of this bill passing in the Senate are low in light of the severe opposition.

Furthermore, both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have been supporters of decriminalizing marijuana not legalizing it. This is why many politicians, including Barbara Lee, think that Joe Biden will need to evolve more on his marijuana policies.  Although the decriminalization of marijuana and its removal from the Schedule 1 classification are big steps but more needs to be done.

A graduate in Bachelors of Business Administration, Yumna Haq is an ardent researcher and a dedicated writer. Having lived in three different counties, her cultural exposure is vast, allowing her to reflect more knowledge in her work. She's currently working for Cannabis Health Insider as a news writer.

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Why are there age restrictions on CBD products?

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Age restrictions on CBD products is 21+ years in most states of the US.

Whether its for toys, movies or alcohol, the end goal for regulations on every product category is the same – safeguarding consumers from potential harm. The same holds true for the marijuana industry as well where age restrictions and other directives are imposed on all cannabis off-shoots, including CBD for consumer welfare.

Although some might find the age restrictions on CBD products as being too conservative, but it is a fact that the marijuana industry is still in its infancy. This means that researches revealing the true impact of the drug on the mind and body, whether positive or negative, are very limited.

Unfortunately, a majority of what researchers have strived to know to this day are very recent developments. These can be proved inaccurate at any point in time by further researches, setting new paradigms for analysts. Federal prohibition of the drug has wasted about 80 years of knowledge that could have been fruitful today and helped in a better understanding of its behavior.

Therefore, age restrictions on CBD and other cannabis derivatives are deemed necessary to stop any possible negative impacts from affecting individuals, specially the youth. According to many studies, the negative impacts of drugs or alcohol are amplified exposure is at a younger age.

Why is the Marijuana industry moderated with age restrictions?

Looking at the behavior of other industries like tobacco and alcohol, the legal age for consuming their products is 21+. Surely, this benchmark is not a random selection and has a scientific explanation behind it.

The age limit of 21 years is applied because below this age, these substances can interfere with the brain development of young adults. This can negatively impacting their cognitive responses and capability of emotional regulation. The repercussions can be serious for the individual as well as anyone who comes into contact with them.

From cases of driving under the influence to a decline in workplace productivity, exposure to marijuana and it’s derivatives at an early age can be damaging to individuals as well as society as a whole.

Are all derivatives of cannabis equally addictive?

Hemp Vs Marijuana

Both hemp and marijuana are offshoots of the cannabis strain of plants and are a rich source of CBD. Their major difference is their THC content.

THC is a compound that is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana. It causes users to feel high when consumed.

While CBD is free from psychoactive effects, some products might carry trace amounts of THC in them. Hemp derived CBD contains less than 0.3% of THC, and that derived from marijuana contains a higher concentration of THC. Due to its lower THC concentration, hemp derived CBD was removed from the Schedule 1 classification. Later it was legalized in all 50 states.

However, in an attempt to give users the ‘entourage effect’ a lot of CBD products contain THC.  A study conducted in 2010 found that a combination of THC and CBD was more effective in relieving symptoms of cancer patients than a THC and placebo combination.

When consuming products that contain a higher level of THC, users can possibly experience withdrawal symptoms in cases of overuse. Even though many researches have proven that overdosing on CBD is an impossibility, but addiction, cognition difficulties and dependence that come with other ingredients used in it are also factual realities.

Is CBD completely safe?

Despite of its low potential of addiction and abuse, CBD is not a completely side-effect free product.

Minor side-effects like drowsiness, fatigue, and dry mouth have been reported. In addition to this, the possibility of drug interactions with CBD can become a huge health risk.

According to a study conducted in 1993, CBD blocked an enzyme that was responsible for eliminating drugs from the system. This could result in a toxic buildup of pharmaceutical chemicals in the body, leading to serious consequences.

Are age restrictions on CBD justified?

Considering the possibility of side-effects that may result with using CBD products, age restrictions are quite rightly justified.

Most teenager are itching to explore their newfound freedom and might end up getting themselves in harms way. The legal age of 21 assures that individuals are past the excitement phase and will make sensible decisions.

In addition, age restrictions also assure that the mental development of individuals is not affected with an early exposure.

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Cannabis legalization question on the 2020 ballots: Which states will legalize it?

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The question of cannabis legalization is going to appear on the ballots of 6 states in the 2020 elections.

The wait for the 2020 elections is almost over with early voting sessions already underway in various states. Although issues like the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, countrywide protests against racial injustice, and the future of Affordable Care Act were the top most highlighted issues during the election campaigns, advocates of marijuana legalization have strived really hard to get their voices heard amidst all the chaos. In an attempt to get public opinion on their stance and validate the status of marijuana, these proponents have managed to get the question of its legalization on the ballot of at least 6 more states in the 2020 elections.

Here is a brief round up of the legalization efforts and ballot initiatives put forward in these states.

Arizona

This is not the first time that Arizona is going to put up the cannabis legalization initiative on its election ballots. In 2016, the legalization initiative was defeated by a mere 2.6% majority of the opponents.

This year, Arizona has placed the cannabis legalization question before its residents yet again in the form of Proposition 207. If it wins, the initiative will allow the possession, cultivation and use of marijuana to adults aged 21 and older. In addition to this, a provision to expunge past offences related marijuana has also been made.

 Mississippi

In Mississippi, residents would be voting on two different and competing initiatives related to marijuana legalization.

While Initiative 65 has proposed access to medical marijuana for 22 types of qualifying conditions, Initiative 65A has limited the consumption of smokable marijuana only to the terminally ill.

Further more, Initiative 65A has also stressed on the pharmaceutical grade of medical marijuana. The right of amending any regulation are placed with the legislature under this initiative.

Montana

Medical marijuana is already legal in Montana. This year, the question of legalization is on the ballots yet again to take the process a little further.

One initiative would allow adults 21 years or older to purchase, own and consume cannabis recreationally. In addition, it has proposed a tax of 20% on sales that will be directed to national parks and wildlife.

The other initiative establishes the legal age of consumption, possession and purchase of cannabis at 21. What’s different in this initiative is that it does not position itself to establish an industry within the state.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, the legalization question will be put forward in the form of Public Question No.1.

Public verdict on the issue is very important in this state as it will have almost immediate impact on neighboring states of New York and Pennsylvania. Upon success, the proposition would legalize cultivation, retail, processing and recreational use of cannabis for adults 21 or older.

The commission already overseeing medical cannabis business of the state will be manage the initiative upon success.

South Dakota

South Dakota has broken previous norms set by other states in their legalization efforts. This is because the state is putting forward the question of legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana in one swift move under Measure 26.

Measure 26 aims to provide legal medical marijuana access to patients with qualifying conditions. It will put a registration system and medical cannabis program into effect if it gets enough voter support.

Additionally, another marijuana initiative called Constitutional Amendment A is also on the ballots.

Oregon

Oregon has already legalized marijuana use in its jurisdiction. In the elections of 2020, the state will take voter opinion on Measure 109. This is the Oregon Psilocybin Program initiative that would allow the access of psilocybin to qualifying individuals over 21.

In addition to this, the state is also putting forward Drug Addiction and Treatment Recovery initiative that would expunge all criminal penalties related to Schedule I, II, III, or IV drugs.

Why more States need to legalize marijuana

Although 35 states have already legalized medical marijuana and 11 others, along with Washington DC have permitted its commercial adult use, the immense confusion due to different state policies and their contradictions with the federal law demand more to be done.

A classic example of this was seen in the case of Chris Bartkowicz , a licensed marijuana grower in Colorado. Despite of its legal status there, the cultivator was arrested.  “He was in violation of federal laws and he had the intent to distribute marijuana.”

In his defense Bartkowicz said, “If I knew what I was doing was illegal, I would have never made a public display of myself. I would not have put myself in the line of fire if I was knowingly violating the law.”

There are undeniable legal disagreements even between different states that have granted marijuana a lawful status. Due to these discrepancies, marijuana users are unable to carry their products/medications across state lines. In some states where marijuana is legal, consuming the drug on federal property could lead to some serious charges by authorities.

In addition to this, current laws surrounding marijuana have fueled racial disparities in the country. Since the beginning of its ban, marijuana has been tout with xenophobia. Its therapeutic qualities were scarred in an attempt to tarnish Mexican immigrants, who were active users of marihuana.  According to statistics, people  people belonging to the African American descent make up only 34% of the American population, yet they makeup for about 13% overall arrests.

 

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Massachusetts Loosens Restrictions On Marijuana

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Massachusetts State Building

The state of Massachusetts has set a wonderful example for the rest of the country in marijuana legalization. While the rest of America is debating on whether cannabis should be legalized, this state really pushed the envelope. The state announced the results of a vote to remove a few key restrictions on cannabis went through, signally things are looking brighter for cannabis laws. Amongst other announcements, cannabis can now be legally delivered to resident’s doorsteps.

Nationwide, the scope of influence of this decision remains to be seen. Still, a win is a win. Cannabis laws becoming more lenient is definitely good for the average consumer, no matter where. Follow us as we read through the changes expected to be made below.

The laws will be inclusive of all entrepreneurs where others haven’t been in the loop before

Alongside the momentous decision came a welcome surprise for many investors. The new system came from a council with a legal mandate to ensure equal opportunities for all. And that promise has been kept, it seems. The new system proposed will make fair allowances for black and brown businesspeople.

In the US, cannabis production and distribution require a license to do each of these activities. Due to various socio-economic factors, very few of those permits ever made it to the hands of black and brown businessmen. And that means that the folks running the whole cannabis scene are, well, monochromatic. Now, however, that’s all to change, with laws passed to grant permits to budding producers and distributors of color. And boy, is it a welcome sight.

The proposed system involves two new permits

That’s right. The new permits would basically be licenses to transport cannabis for commercial distribution and handle them. Officially, this is basically what the council has proposed. And it is definitely a step forward. Having workers carry licenses means they can’t be racially profiled for transporting marijuana. They also can be thoroughly checked so that smuggling and illegal distribution could come to a standstill.

The “courier” license is available to companies already, granted to more than thirty seven companies in Massachusetts. This means that once logistics teams and support infrastructure is developed, producers can distribute much more freely than ever before. A second license, for working in cannabis distribution centers is already available too. This is key for economic growth in the state because it allows for more freedom in retailer variety. As an example, the same storehouse can be used by brands with in person, large shops open. On the side however, that warehouse could also be the base of several online marijuana retailers. This means there is much more diversity in the ways to buy and distribute the commodity than ever before.

Marijuana business are building trust in the government

The biggest reason that the council was able to dole out such generous concessions to companies was that they have earned trust. And we don’t mean plain old trust. Trust refers to a reputation for reliability and efficiency, which is worth more than gold to a company. For a business, it doesn’t matter how much you have in investment funds or stock value. The biggest factor in predicting whether a company is worth going the extra mile for or investing in is trust. You have to know that a company is capable of handling whatever you throw at them before you’re going to risk assets or political leverage doing them a

And regarding that, Massachusetts officials have nothing but praise to give local producers. This track record of positive rapport goes way further than any other factor in deciding how free our companies are to make better changes to society.

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