Tag: united states

border patrol united states mexico

Cannabis Seizures At U.S./Mexico Border Fall To Historic Lows

By many measures the border shared by the United States and Mexico has served as ground-zero for the war on cannabis. It’s no secret that for many years cannabis, among other things, was smuggled from Mexico into the United States via various entry points along the nations’ shared border.

Starting in 1996 the demand for cannabis smuggled from Mexico into the United States started to be impacted by domestic cannabis reform in the U.S., with California becoming the first state to pass a medical cannabis legalization measure in U.S. history.

Between 1996 and 2012 several other states also passed medical cannabis legalization measures, many of which involved the launch of a regulated industry, and in 2012 two states passed the nation’s first set of adult-use legalization measures. Every state-level industry that launched in the U.S. further reduced the demand for smuggled cannabis from Mexico.

Cannabis is still smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico, however, the rate of it happening continues to dwindle, as reflected by recent seizure statistics from the United States Border Patrol. Below is more information about it via a NORML news release:

Washington, DC: Federal law enforcement agents are intercepting historically low quantities of cannabis at the southern border, according to newly released data provided by the US Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection.

Federal statistics reveal that Border Patrol and Field agents confiscated an estimated 155,000 pounds of marijuana at the US/Mexico border in 2022. That is down almost 50 percent from 2021 totals and continues the dramatic decline in seizure volume that began in 2013, when nearly 3 million pounds of cannabis were confiscated at the southern border.

Some experts have previously speculated that licensed retail access to cannabis products, which began in Colorado and Washington in 2014 and is now available in almost half of all states, has significantly undercut demand for imported Mexican cannabis. According to conclusions provided by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, “In US markets, Mexican marijuana has largely been supplanted by domestic-produced marijuana.”

Separate data published last year by the Government Accounting Office and elsewhere indicates that interdiction efforts along the US border now typically involve the seizure of small quantities of marijuana and no other controlled substances.

Drug seizure statistics are available online from the US Customs and Border Protection website.

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US Germany

Which Country Is More Likely To Legalize In 2023 – The U.S. Or Germany?

When it comes to the ongoing fight to end global cannabis prohibition, there’s a saying that I often use – the bigger the nation’s economy, the bigger the domino. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly believe that cannabis legalization in every country is significant, and that any such victory should be thoroughly celebrated. However, there’s clearly a difference from an overall momentum-building standpoint between nations in regards to cannabis politics, and that is largely based on economic clout in the international community. For evidence of that, consider how much of the international cannabis community’s focus is dedicated to monitoring what is going on in Germany and the United States.

The United States and Germany are two of the top four economies on earth, ranked first and fourth respectively. The other two countries that round out the top four are China (second), and Japan (third), and as anyone that monitors international cannabis politics will be quick to point out, China and Japan are trending in the wrong direction and will not be legalizing cannabis for adult-use anytime soon. Conversely, both the United States and Germany are trending in the right direction, with advocates in both nations pushing harder than ever to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level within their borders. Advocates around the world are watching closely to see if either domino falls in 2023 because, after all, either domino falling would dramatically boost the chances of legalization efforts happening elsewhere on the planet.

Will The United States Legalize In 2023?

The United States is a very unique place when it comes to cannabis policy. At the federal level cannabis is a Schedule I substance and is greatly restricted, although hemp is legal and limited cannabis research is also permitted. Meanwhile, cannabis is legal for adult-use in a growing number of states and is legal in medical form to some degree in nearly every state. It makes for an interesting situation from a political science standpoint in that every year cannabis reform seems to spread at the local level in the United States while legalization at the federal level remains elusive.

A new Congress was recently sworn in after a federal election in the U.S., and it’s virtually guaranteed that no major legislation will be able to pass through both chambers in the next two years due to each chamber being controlled by opposing political parties. Cannabis reform, unfortunately, is going to presumably take a back seat to 24 months of partisan food fighting in the U.S. Arguably the saddest irony from a political science standpoint is that federal cannabis legalization is extremely popular in the United States, with Gallup’s most recent annual legalization poll holding steady at a 68% approval level for legalization. You will be hard-pressed to find anything in U.S. politics right now that has that level of support among all voters.

Cannabis advocates in the U.S. have remained hopeful year after year that federal legalization would finally happen in some fashion just to have their hopes dashed, and I personally think that the odds for legalization were better in the last Congress than this new one. Divisiveness is at the top of the menu in Washington D.C. right now, and even limited cannabis reform measures are likely to languish in the 118th Congress, with full legalization almost certainly being completely out of reach for the time being.

Will Germany Legalize In 2023?

Legalization’s progress in Germany may not currently be as some want it to be, myself included, however, Germany has a far greater chance of passing a federal adult-use legalization measure in 2023 compared to the United States. Pro-cannabis lawmakers in Germany have gone as far as blocking some of the Health Ministry’s funding due to delays in the introduction of an adult-use legalization measure. Politics and federal funding work different in the U.S. compared to Germany, and yet even with that factored in, there’s no equivalent level of pressure being incorporated by lawmakers in the United States right now. Performative federal cannabis legalization rhetoric is abundant in the U.S. Congress’ hallways, but actual action is rare on both sides of the aisle.

Germany’s Health Minister is currently trying to make his case at the European Union for a legalization measure to be introduced. The Minister previously indicated that the European Union’s approval would be required prior to a formal introduction of a legalization measure in Germany. Every day that the European Union lobbying process drags on pro-cannabis lawmakers in Germany grow increasingly frustrated, and rightfully so.

At some point in 2023 a German legalization measure needs to be introduced, regardless of if it has the blessing of the European Union or not. If the European Union does grant its approval in the coming months, that would nearly guarantee legalization’s passage in Germany not too long after the granting of the approval. However, in a scenario in which the European Union does not grant its approval in the first half of 2023, the pressure to introduce a measure in the second half of 2023 will be enormous. After all, legalization was part of the German governing coalition’s agreement once the 2021 election results were finalized.

It’s likely a safe bet that Germany’s Health Minister will not receive the same level of grace in 2023 that he did last year, and as we have already seen, there will be budgetary ramifications for any perceived delays. If pressure proves to be enough to get a measure introduced early enough in 2023, and the measure is truly in line with the spirit of the coalition government’s previously agreed upon legalization goals, then legalization could certainly occur in Germany in 2023. If that happens, that will, in turn, boost legalization’s chances on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Germany, united states

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What Were The Top U.S. Cannabis Policy Stories In 2022?

The United States has historically led the charge when it comes to global cannabis prohibition, so any time cannabis policies are reformed in the U.S. it’s good news for the rest of the world, in addition to being good news domestically.

Unfortunately, 2022 did not yield national legalization in the U.S. as many cannabis advocates had hoped, however, there were still many notable victories. Below is NORML’s top ten cannabis policy events from 2022 per a news release:


Voters and lawmakers in three more states — MarylandMissouri, and Rhode Island — enacted laws in 2022 legalizing adult-use marijuana possession and regulating retail cannabis markets. Voters in Missouri voted in favor of a constitutional amendment while Maryland voters approved a legislative referendum. Rhode Island’s law was enacted by the legislature. In total, 21 states — comprising nearly one-half of the US population — have now adopted laws regulating adult use marijuana production and retail sales.

“Reformers achieved numerous significant legislative victories in 2022,” NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “As more lawmakers recognize that advocating for marijuana policy reforms is a political opportunity, not a political liability, we anticipate future legislative gains in 2023 and beyond.”


The President of the United States and several state officials issued mass pardons and expungements in 2022 to those with prior low-level cannabis convictions. In October, President Joe Biden granted pardons to over 6,500 people with federal marijuana possession convictions. In ConnecticutColoradoOregon and elsewhere, officials issued over 100,000 marijuana-related pardons and expungements. To date, two dozen states have enacted legislation explicitly facilitating the expungement of prior marijuana-specific convictions. As a result of these laws, NORML estimates that 2 million Americans have had their cannabis-related convictions set aside in recent years.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans unduly carry the burden and stigma of a past conviction for behavior that most Americans, and a growing number of states, no longer consider a crime,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that public officials and the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”


The 117th Congress adjourned without members of the US Senate holding any hearings or votes on either the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act or other significant pieces of marijuana reform legislation. Since 2019, House members have advanced the legislation on seven separate occasions. The Senate companion bill had 42 co-sponsors, including nine Republicans.

“It is unfortunate that Congress, and members of the US Senate specifically, failed to take this opportunity to affirm the legitimacy of state-legal marijuana markets and instead acted in a way that will continue to deny this emerging legal industry access to basic financial tools and services,” said NORML’s Political Director Morgan Fox. “Until Congressional action is taken, state-licensed marijuana businesses, the hundreds of thousands of people they employ, and the millions of Americans that patronize them will continue to be at a higher risk of robbery due to the cash-heavy nature of this industry created by outdated federal laws. Furthermore, smaller entrepreneurs who seek to enter this industry will continue to struggle to compete against larger, more well-capitalized interests.”

Prior to the 2020 election, Sen. Chuck Schumer – then Minority Leader – pledged on multiple occasions that he would prioritize bringing legislation to repeal the federal criminalization of cannabis to a floor vote.


State lawmakers adopted numerous laws in 2022 limiting employers’ ability to either fire or refuse to hire employees solely based upon their off-the-job marijuana use. Specifically, lawmakers in California, the District of Columbia, and Rhode Island prohibited employers from discriminating against workers who test positive for carboxy-THC on a drug test, while protections for patients were enacted in several other states (e.g., Louisiana, Missouri, and Utah). In total, eight jurisdictions — California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Montana, and Rhode Island — have enacted statutes limiting employers’ ability to hire/fire workers for their recreational cannabis use in certain circumstances, while more than half of medical marijuana access states have enacted similar workplace protections.

“These decisions reflect today’s changing cultural and legal landscape surrounding cannabis,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no legitimate threat to either workplace safety or productivity.”


The percentage of Americans who support adult-use cannabis legalization remains at record highs. National survey data compiled by Data for Progress reported that 74 percent of likely voters now “support ending the federal ban on marijuana.” For the third consecutive year, polling data compiled by Gallup found that 68 percent of US adults say that “the use of marijuana should be legal.” Separate polls released this year by Fox News, Monmouth University, YouGov, Politico, and several others similarly reported that most Americans back legalizing cannabis.

“There is no buyer’s remorse on the part of the American people,” NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “In the era of state-level legalization, voters’ support for this issue has grown rapidly — an indication that these policy changes have been successful and are comporting with voters’ desires and expectations.”


Data provided in October by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that in 2021 over 400,000 drug-related seizures involved cannabis; however, for the first time in decades the agency failed to provide national estimates regarding the number of people arrested for marijuana-related violations. Data previously provided by the FBI has allowed NORML to track yearly marijuana-related arrests since 1965.

“At a time when voters and their elected officials nationwide are re-evaluating state and federal marijuana policies, it is inconceivable that government agencies are unable to produce any explicit data on the estimated costs and scope of marijuana prohibition in America,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said.


President Joe Biden signed legislation into law facilitating the federal approval of cannabis-specific clinical research and drug development. It is the first time in over 50 years that a President has signed a stand-alone piece of legislation loosening federal marijuana prohibitions.

Under the new law, the US Attorney General is provided with a 60-day timeline to either approve or deny applications from scientists wishing to conduct clinical trials involving the use of cannabis by human subjects. The law also mandates the US Attorney General to solicit applications from those seeking to grow cannabis for either research purposes or for potential drug development, and it provides a timeline for the AG to approve those applicants. It also calls upon federal agencies, including HHS, to provide a report on the “potential therapeutic effects of cannabidiol or marijuana on serious medical conditions.”

NORML’s Political Director Morgan Fox said, “While the significance of POTUS signing the first stand-alone cannabis policy reform bill should not be overlooked, in truth, we don’t need more research to know definitively that prohibition is a misguided and disastrous policy.” He added: “That said, this legislation is certainly a step in the right direction that shows there can be bipartisan cooperation on this issue.”

With advocates facing a divided Congress in 2023, virtually any efforts to advance cannabis-specific reform legislation would require bipartisan support.


The state-licensed cannabis industry added over 100,000 new jobs in 2021 and now employs over 428,000 full-time workers, according to data compiled in February by and Whitney Economics.

According to its latest report, the cannabis industry created an average of 280 new jobs per day in 2021. That represents a 33 percent year-over-year increase, and it marks the fifth year in a row of annual jobs growth greater than 27 percent.

“At a time when the rest of the economy is struggling and people are leaving their jobs in droves, the legal cannabis industry is blooming, showing exponential employment growth, and attracting talented and driven individuals from across the workforce,” NORML’s Political Director Morgan Fox said.


The overwhelming majority of pain patients provided medical cannabis treatment report either reducing or ceasing their use of opioid medications, according to data published in August in the Journal of Addictive Diseases.

A team of Israeli investigators affiliated with Tel Aviv University assessed the relationship between cannabis and opioids in a cohort of patients with non-cancer specific chronic pain. All of the patients enrolled in the study were prescribed medical cannabis therapy in accordance with Israel’s medical cannabis access laws. Among those patients who reported using opioids at baseline, 93 percent either “decreased or stopped [using] opioids following cannabis initiation” – a finding that is consistent with dozens of other studies involving numerous other patient populations.

“The data is clear and consistent,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Cannabis is effective in treating a variety of forms of chronic pain and, for some patients, it provides a viable alternative to potentially deadly opioids.”


State lawmakers passed comprehensive legislation in February regulating the production and dispensing of medical cannabis products. The legislation was enacted 15 months after state voters initially passed a similar medical marijuana legalization initiative. However, the courts later struck down the state’s citizens’ initiative process – thus nullifying the 2020 election result.

“Marijuana access has been long overdue for Mississippi’s patients,” NORML’s State Policies Manager Jax James said. “The overwhelming majority of voters decided in favor of this policy change two years ago, and while lawmakers cannot make up for lost time, they have an obligation to roll out this program as swiftly as possible so that patients can finally access the medicine they need.”

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mexico united states border

Cannabis Seizures Decrease 98% At California/Mexico Ports Of Entry

Historically, one of the most active parts of the world for illegal cannabis activity was along the border shared between the United States and Mexico. For many years cannabis cultivated in Mexico, and farther south in the hemisphere, was smuggled into the United States where it was then transported throughout the country.

In recent years, however, demand in the United States for cannabis cultivated in Mexico has decreased significantly due in large part to the rise of the legal state-level cannabis industry in the U.S. Starting in 1996 with the legalization of medical cannabis in California, a number of states have passed medical cannabis reform measures in the U.S. that resulted in the spread of legal sales.

The spread of legal cannabis commerce in the United States accelerated in 2012 with the passage of adult-use legalization measures in Colorado and Washington State, leading to a situation today in which nearly half of the United States now lives where cannabis is legal, with many states currently allowing home cultivation to some degree in addition to permitting sales.

With all of that in mind, it likely doesn’t surprise anyone that cannabis seizures at California/Mexico ports of entry are down in recent years. Although, it may surprise people just how much of a reduction has occurred. Below is more information about it via a media release from United States Customs and Border Protection. As you will see, cannabis seizures are down 98%:

SAN DIEGO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers conducting security operations at California’s ports of entry with Mexico performed more than 54.7 million inspections of travelers, seized more than 50 tons of illegal narcotics, and apprehended more than 74,000 immigration violators during federal fiscal year 2022.

CBP’s field office in San Diego includes the San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, Tecate, Calexico, Andrade and the San Diego air and seaports of entry.

During the fiscal year, which ended September 30, CBP officers at ports in San Diego and Imperial counties inspected more than 29 million passenger vehicles, more than 1.5 million trucks, almost 19,000 buses, and nearly 16 million pedestrians entering the U.S.

The total amount of narcotics seized during the year at California’s six ports of entry with Mexico decreased 38 percent compared to the previous period. Marijuana seizures decreased 98 percent to 320 pounds; cocaine seizures decreased by 23 percent to 8,790 pounds; heroin seizures decreased 68 percent to 764 pounds; methamphetamine seizures decreased 23 percent to 86,227 and fentanyl seizures increased by 5 percent to 6,704 pounds.

Mexico, united states

united states congress

U.S. Congress Passes Historic Cannabis Bill

In many ways the United States has historically served as ground zero for the war on cannabis. The U.S. is not the only country to prohibit cannabis at the national level, however, decades ago it largely led the charge in support of cannabis prohibition and wielded its international influence to make sure that prohibition became the law of the planet.

In recent decades the frost of cannabis prohibition in the U.S. has steadily started to thaw, particularly after Colorado and Washington State became the first in the nation to pass adult-use legalization measures in 2012 and subsequently launched adult-use sales in 2014.

Zoom forward to today and there are now 21 states that have passed adult-use legalization measures, in addition to Washington D.C. Gallup recently released its annual cannabis legalization poll results, and support remained at a record high of 68%. As I often point out, you will be hard pressed to find any other political issue in the U.S. right now that has that level of support.

Yet, despite that backdrop and growing momentum, cannabis reform within the United States Congress has lagged considerably. Various bills have come and gone over the years, with some seeing limited success in one chamber but not the other. That changed recently when both chambers of the U.S. Congress finally passed a stand-alone cannabis bill, with the bill currently awaiting the U.S. President’s signature.

The bill is called the “Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act” and it would boost cannabis research efforts in the U.S. The legislation, which was originally introduced in July with bipartisan support,  passed the House prior to successfully making its way through the Senate.

“After working on the issue of cannabis reform for decades, finally the dam is starting to break. The passage of my Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act in the House and Senate represents a historic breakthrough in addressing the federal government’s failed and misguided prohibition of cannabis.” stated Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who co-introduced the legislation in the House. Congressman Blumenauer has previously spoken at International Cannabis Business Conference events.

“As we have seen in state after state, the public is tired of waiting for the federal government to catch up. Nearly half of our nation’s population now live in states where adult-use of cannabis is legal. For far too long, Congress has stood in the way of science and progress, creating barriers for researchers attempting to study cannabis and its benefits. At a time when more than 155 million Americans reside where adult-use of cannabis is legal at the state or local level and there are four million registered medical marijuana users with many more likely to self-medicate, it is essential that we are able to fully study the impacts of cannabis use.” Congressman Blumenauer went on to say.

“The passage of this legislation coming just weeks after the change in President Biden’s posture towards cannabis is extraordinarily significant. We must capitalize on this momentum to move subsequent common-sense House-passed bills like the SAFE Banking Act, which finally allows state-legal dispensaries to access banking services and reduce their risk of violent robberies.” Congressman Blumenauer concluded.

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united states flag

United States 2022 Election A Mixed Bag For Cannabis Reform

November 8th was Election Day in the United States, and cannabis reform was on the ballot in several jurisdictions, both at the state level as well as at the local level. Voters in five states had the chance to vote on adult-use legalization measures – Maryland, Missouri, Arkansas, South Dakota, and North Dakota. Unfortunately, only two of the measures were approved.

The first state to have a victory announced was Maryland. The measure in Maryland was somewhat unique, in that it was essentially an up or down vote, and after having been approved, it now tasks lawmakers to come up with public policy that implements adult-use legalization.

“State lawmakers have had many years to prepare for this moment,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a press release that I received by email. “Statewide polling had consistently shown that a supermajority of Marylanders support legalizing cannabis, and the outcome of this referendum was never in doubt. Now it is incumbent upon lawmakers to move swiftly to adopt rules to oversee a regulated cannabis marketplace in accordance with voters’ demands.”

The other state that passed a legalization measure yesterday was Missouri. It took a bit longer for victory to be announced, as the results in Missouri were much closer compared to Maryland, however, the result of overall victory was still the same in the end. Missouri became the 21st state in the U.S. to pass an adult-use legalization measure.

“This is truly a historic occasion,” said Dan Viets, co-author of Amendment 3, Missouri NORML Coordinator and Chair of the Amendment 3 Advisory Board in a press release that was emailed to me. “This means that the great majority of the 20,000 people who have been arrested year after year in Missouri will no longer be subject to criminal prosecution for victimless marijuana law violations.”

The measure in Missouri permits adults to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and to cultivate up to six flowering plants, six immature plants, and six plants under 14 inches at home for their own personal use.

“Voters in both red and blue America agree that it’s time to enact sensible cannabis laws that replace prohibition with regulations that protect public health and safety while fostering a vibrant small business sector that can create jobs and new tax revenue for their communities,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of the National Cannabis Industry Association about the state victories in a press release that was emailed to me. “With nearly half of Americans now living in a state with legal cannabis, it’s long past time to harmonize federal law with the growing number of popular state cannabis programs across the country. The first step toward realizing that goal would be to enact the bi-partisan SAFE Banking Act.”

Unfortunately, voters in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota all voted down the legalization measures in their respective states. In the case of South Dakota, the state’s voters previously approved a legalization measure, however, after various legal issues another legalization vote was held and voters apparently had a change of heart.

The State of Texas was a winner from a local perspective, with five jurisdictions (Denton, Killeen, San Marcos, Elgin, and Harker Heights) voting to reduce penalties for personal cannabis possession.

“Texans have shown that they want major cannabis law reforms in Texas via polling, legislative engagement, and now at the local ballot box! This will have a positive impact on the almost half a million people living in these cities. While these local advancements are important in mitigating harm on citizens and reprioritizing law enforcement time, they result in a patchwork of differing marijuana enforcement policies based on location. It is time for lawmakers to take steps to enact statewide reform when they convene in January 2023,” Texas NORML’s Executive Director Jax James said in a press release that was emailed to me.

The 2022 election marks the first time in U.S. history where less states approved legalization versus approving them when given the chance, which is a fact that cannabis opponents are touting to anyone that will listen. While technically the results in some states in the 2022 election were not as favorable as some had hoped, the election still had its cannabis victories and the emerging cannabis industry will continue to expand as a result. The states that failed to pass a legalization measure this time around will hopefully get on the right side of history they next time they have a chance to do so.

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US Germany

Who Legalizes First – The United States Or Germany?

When it comes to cannabis policy there are two nations that likely have more eyes watching them right now than any other countries on the planet – Germany and the United States. It is no secret that many lawmakers in Germany are working really hard right now to determine which provisions should be included in a national cannabis legalization and industry model. It is also no secret that United States President Joe Biden recently tasked federal Departments with re-examining cannabis’ current status in the U.S.

Efforts to reform national cannabis policies in both countries are making headlines, and understandably so, as both Germany and the United States are home to two of the largest economies on earth, and both countries wield tremendous political influence around the world. However, that is not to say that the efforts in both nations are on the same trajectory or timeline, as that will almost certainly prove to not be the case. One nation is far more likely to legalize at the national level soon than the other one.

Germany Is ‘In The Lead’

One thing that is always important to point out is that nothing is guaranteed in the world of politics. With so much rhetoric being thrown around by lawmakers and aspiring lawmakers, especially these days, nearly everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt. As the old saying goes, ‘actions speak louder than words,’ and from that perspective Germany is clearly farther along in its effort to legalize nationally compared to the United States.

The current governing coalition in Germany previously announced direct intent to legalize cannabis for adult-use and to launch a regulated national industry. Since that time, many members of the governing coalition have engaged with stakeholders in multiple ways, gaining insight and feedback, and working meaningfully towards their goal. The process is not going as fast as many had hoped, however, just as Rome wasn’t built in a day the same is obviously true for a country trying to launch what will instantly become the world’s largest regulated cannabis market by far.

Compare that to the United States where things are much more fractured, both from a governing standpoint and an industry standpoint. Yes, President Biden did issue pardons for simple possession and tasked Department leaders with re-examining cannabis’ current federal status. However, that is not the same as Biden taking the lead on pushing for a regulated national industry. It’s quite possible that nothing could occur between now and when Biden is up for re-election, and it’s anyone’s guess where things go from there if/when he is not re-elected.

Furthermore, Biden can only do so much, as the burden for much of the work that needs to be performed lies on the shoulders of Congress. The current Congress has failed to get even a limited legalization measure passed, and with another election looming next month, the deck will be re-shuffled and likely in a manner that doesn’t move the needle. In fact, if the needle is moved, it will likely be in the wrong direction given historical midterm election trends in the U.S.

Adding To Momentum

Make no mistake – both the United States and Germany will legalize federally sooner rather than later, although, Germany is likely to do so on a quicker timeline compared to the U.S. Whereas Germany will presumably legalize nationally in one fell swoop, the U.S. will continue to see state after state pass their own legalization measures until the point where it reaches such a critical mass that it tips the scales. And just as every state that legalizes adds to the momentum for federal reform in the U.S., so too will legalization in Germany add to the momentum of efforts in the U.S.

The United States would be a larger domino between the two countries given that the United States has historically led the charge on prohibition and its economy is bigger. Yet, that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon in the U.S. The two largest economies behind the United States are China and Japan, and neither of those countries will be legalizing anytime soon, unfortunately. That puts the spotlight squarely on Germany, and once the German prohibition domino falls it’s going to speed things up everywhere else on earth, including in the United States.

Germany, united states

white house usa washington dc united states

Is The Biden White House Waiting On Germany To Move Ahead On Recreational Reform?

The US president is putting off further conversation about American cannabis reform until after the mid-terms. Is he waiting for Germany if not Europe beyond that, to go first?

President Joe Biden’s track record on cannabis reform is very poor. This has not changed since he entered public service in Congress.

The most recent discussion is how fast the Administration might move forward on the reforms it has promised – namely stopping the federal imprisonment of people convicted of non-violent cannabis crimes. In July, six senators sent a letter to Biden to express their frustration over the failure to substantively address the many harms of Drug War policies. They urged Biden to use executive clemency authority to help speed this up.

So far, Biden has ignored such calls. Indeed, according to Marijuana Moment, a leading cannabis policy publication in the US, as of last Friday, the President announced that he was punting any new drug reform policy until after the mid-terms.

Is Biden waiting for other countries to go first?

The Giant Discussion Over International Cannabis Policy Is On

One of the reasons that Biden may be waiting until after the mid-terms, apart from the fact that Democrats seem to be on course to do well in the off-year elections, is that he may be waiting for the conversation in Germany, if not Europe, beyond that, to proceed. It is widely expected that a draft bill of the German cannabis legalization bill will be made public either late this fall or early next year. This, along with the working group of European nations now focused on cannabis legalization (which includes Malta and Luxembourg), is the first international attempt by multiple countries to address both domestic law and international regulation.

One of the thornier issues, according to conventional wisdom, is how countries (and regions like the EU) will move forward to implement recreational reform without thumbing their noses at, or withdrawing completely from, the two main international laws that now make cannabis illegal. Namely, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

Germany, after all is the fourth largest economy on the planet. America is number one, with a GDP five times larger. Nonetheless, the fact that Germany will go first, or so the rumours continue to say out of Berlin, will give political cover to those who have gone before (Canada and Uruguay) as well as those who have yet to take the plunge.

One thing is for sure. In Germany, national politicians are ready for the change, not to mention the German people – and no matter when Biden chooses to proceed, it is almost certain at this point, that Germany will go first.

Germany, joe biden, united states

Medical cannabis

From Gun Bans To Driving Limits: The International War On The Rights Of Medical Cannabis Users

In the United States, the Biden Administration is in favour of banning gun ownership for medical users. In Germany, there is an ongoing debate about driving limits. Such policies rely on outdated criteria to penalize cannabis users

The push to fully and federally legalize cannabis in places like the US and Germany right now is leading to some very unfortunate (and certainly rights-infringing) regulations.

In the US, as various cannabis bills languish in both the House and Senate, and Brittney Griner cools her heels in a Russian prison for possession of less than one gram of cannabis oil, the Biden Administration is (shamefully) defending a federal gun ownership ban for medical cannabis users. The issue is now front and centre in a legal battle launched by Florida agricultural commissioner Nikki Fried (a Democrat) to challenge the same. Fried is running as a Democratic challenger to the sitting Republican governor, Ron DeSantis.

No matter how one feels about gun control, the idea of punishing a sick person who takes a certain kind of medication (which could be any medication, beyond cannabis) is highly worrying. Not to mention represents grotesque discrimination against those with disabilities requiring medication.

In Germany, with a federal government now in the process of figuring out how to craft legislation for the full legalization of cannabis, one of the most controversial aspects of the same is setting drugged driving limits. Currently, drivers are charged with drugged driving if they are caught with even one nanogram of THC in their bloodstream – the smallest measurable amount possible. Both ADAC, the German version of AAA, and the working group of Traffic Court Day, an annual and highly influential congress that recommends new driving regulations to the government, are in support of the smallest limit possible.

That said, there is beginning to be a debate here about how problematic that is for medical users – particularly as they have a continual THC presence in their blood, even if not “high.” Beyond these heavier users of course, even a light recreational user can show traces of cannabinoids in their blood up to 60 days after their last joint. While nobody wants stoned drivers on the speed limit-free Autobahn, there needs to be some kind of compromise – not to mention some kind of technology deployment to the police – which can differentiate between recent enough use to impair driving and a THC blood level that shows constant use.

No matter where this kind of debate is taking place, however, it is clear that such questions have never been answered – and any new regulations are likely to be controversial enough to end up in court. Legislators are unlikely to be able to figure this out on their own.

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Germany Or The U.S.: Who Will Go First On Federal Cannabis Reform?

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act introduced in the U.S. Senate in late July, removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and allows states to legalize recreational cannabis. How are American developments stacking up to current events aus Deutschland?

Ironically, just two days after Burkhard Blienert addressed the International Cannabis Business Conference in Berlin about pending German reform and outlined a rough schedule for legislative passage, a cannabis reform bill was introduced in the US Senate by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

A Side By Side Comparison

While German politicians are still unwilling to unveil details of the pending legislation until later this fall, the US version is now available for review and debate. The American bill specifically proposes removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act – an issue still of some contention in Germany. Beyond this, it would create a tax on cannabis product sales, expunge the records of those with past cannabis convictions, and allows federal prisoners serving time for nonviolent cannabis convictions to petition for resentencing. The legislation, if passed, would also establish a national regulatory framework to protect public health and safety.

In Europe, things are still less specific, although first-of-their-kind multilateral talks have now been launched between Malta, Luxembourg, and Germany. Beyond the information gleaned from the hearings in June, European lawmakers are now considering how to proceed not only on a national but regional level.

One of the standing questions on this side of the pond is how individual countries and the region itself will handle the actual legalization itself, including removing cannabis from sovereign narcotics laws as well as regulations at the EU level. There seems to be less interest in dealing with issues like racial justice, although there will clearly be a discussion about how to handle those with both convictions and those who are currently in jail for nonviolent cannabis offenses.

The discussion about taxing cannabis based on the levels of THC found in products and plants appears, for now, to be just a European debate.

The Likely Path To Passage

Right now, the US Senate is the main battleground for cannabis reform. Various bills have passed the House over the last decade only to be shot down in the Senate. It is also unclear whether Schumer has enough bipartisan support to carry the bill through to passage this time – and whether, once also passed in the House, the reconciliation between both bills could happen before the midterm elections.

On the other hand, the German timetable for reform is more likely to create a bill that passes both the Bundestag and Bundesrat, and further on a timetable now alluded to by national politicians.

For these reasons, while it is also very plausible that both debates will drive each other, it seems that Germany (and beyond that Europe) is likely to take the plunge into recreational reform on a schedule ahead of the US.

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Cannabis Smuggling Continues To Decline Along US/Mexico Border

Cannabis advocates have long pointed out that when cannabis is prohibited, people still consume it. That may seem obvious, however, cannabis prohibitionists try very hard to pretend that it’s not the case.

Under prohibition, cartels largely control cannabis sales. That is not to say that every single piece of cannabis is cartel controlled. Surely there are people cultivating small amounts where cannabis is prohibited and presumably some of them are selling it to other people.

In a regulated cannabis system, many consumers and patients will gladly make their purchases at licensed outlets, even if it is a little more expensive compared to unregulated sources.

That is on full display along the border shared by the United States and Mexico where cannabis seizures continue to decline year after year as legalization continues to spread north of the border. Below is more information about the latest numbers via a news release from NORML:

Washington, DC: Federal officials report a significant drop in the quantity of marijuana they are seizing at the US international border, according to data compiled by the US Department of Homeland Security.

According to reporting provided by, “Department of Homeland Security agencies in FY2021 seized 160 tons of marijuana, an average of 874 pounds a day. With three months left in the current fiscal year, agents have seized 56 tons, an average of 408 pounds a day.”

The year-over-year decline in marijuana-related seizures at the border is in stark contrast to more generalized data showing a 25 percent increase in overall drug-related seizures. However, it is consistent with longstanding trends previously reported by the US Drug Enforcement Administration that determined, “In US markets, Mexican marijuana has largely been supplanted by domestic-produced marijuana.”

Separate data provided earlier this year by the US Government Accounting Office reported that “most drug seizure events [at the US border] involved only US citizens (91 percent), of which 75 percent involved the seizure of marijuana and no other drugs.” Of those seizures, 69 percent involved only personal use quantities of cannabis.

Additional information on drug-related border seizures is available from the US Customs and Border Protection agency.

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Will The United States Ever Legalize Cannabis Federally?

The negative impact of cannabis prohibition in the United States goes far beyond the country’s borders. Every country around the world enacts its own cannabis laws, however, prohibition in the U.S. largely drove prohibition abroad over the years.

Yet, whereas much of the world followed the United States’ lead when it came to enacting prohibition policies, countries such as Uruguay, Canada, and Malta didn’t wait around and have zoomed past the U.S. when it comes to ending cannabis prohibition for adult use.

For that matter, many states within the U.S. have already taken matters into their own hands and passed legalization measures at the state level. Every passing year seems to result in more states passing legalization either via legislative action or through the ballot box.

Lawmakers at the federal level have tried for some time, to varying degrees, to pass an adult-use legalization measure. Unfortunately, it has failed to happen, with bill after bill dying a slow death in Congress.

There is optimism that something could happen this session in Congress, with the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act finally being introduced in the Senate. The measure was teased for quite some time prior to being introduced and was essentially hyped as a measure that the Senate could finally support after the Senate has failed repeatedly to pass measures previously passed by the House.

I don’t personally have a lot of hope for this specific measure passing, partially because some advocates do not think that it goes far enough, and mostly because Congress is dysfunctional, and getting anything reasonable passed these days seems to be extremely difficult.
Only time will tell. No one knows for sure when cannabis will be legalized federally in the U.S., and anyone that says otherwise is likely trying to sell you something.

Below is more information about the newly introduced Senate measure via a news release from our friends at the National Cannabis Industry Association (sent to us via email on June 21st):

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY) along with Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) which is now the Senate’s only pending legislation that would provide comprehensive cannabis policy reforms across the nation.

The landmark bill would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act and move regulatory responsibility from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies to protect public health and safety. The legislation would also allow the state-regulated medical and adult-use cannabis industries already in place in 37 states to operate without federal interference.

The Senate Democrats’ CAOA would also institute a federal excise tax of 5-25% on cannabis on top of the already-hefty state taxes imposed on the industry, concerning advocates for small cannabis businesses and equity operators.

“We applaud the authors of this legislation for working to bring federal law into harmony with the states and the vast majority of voters who have called for an end to prohibition,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “We look forward to working with Senators on both sides of the aisle to improve the tax provisions in this bill on behalf of small cannabis businesses and eventually pass it into law.”

The long-awaited CAOA Act was introduced after a bill sponsors circulated a discussion draft last year. NCIA and other advocacy organizations provided comprehensive feedback to the bill’s authors last year. Notable changes to the legislation include:

  • Increases the permissible THC by dry weight from the current 0.3 percent to 0.7 percent and refines the definition of “hemp,” and consequently “cannabis” by taking into account the total THC in a cannabis product, rather than just delta-9 THC.

  • Changes to the weight quantity to qualify a person for felony cannabis distribution or possession charge under the section from 10 pounds to 20 pounds.

  • Provides that a court shall automatically, after a sentencing review, expunge each federal cannabis conviction, vacate any remaining sentence, and resentence the defendant as if this law had been in place prior to the original sentencing.

  • Enables a noncitizen who has received a deportation order based on a cannabis-related offense to file a motion to reconsider that decision. If the motion to reconsider is filed within 30 days of the removal order, the motion may allow for the cancellation of the deportation order.

  • Establishes a new 10-year intermediary lending pilot program in which SBA would make direct loans to eligible intermediaries that in turn make small business loans to startups, businesses owned by individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, and socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses.

  • Removes the requirement to maintain a bond for any cannabis business that had less than $100,000 in excise tax liability in the prior year and reasonably expects excise tax liability in the current year to be below such amount.

  • Incorporates rules similar to rules currently applicable to permitted malt beverage producers and wholesalers.

Whitney Economics submitted a report outlining concerns with the tax plan, finding that the CAOA would impose an additional $1.1 billion in taxes on the already-struggling and cannabis industry.

“Introducing this far-reaching bill is a historic and important effort but we hope that the Senate moves quickly to pass the bi-partisan SAFE Banking Act which would provide tangible and immediate relief to small businesses and improve public safety by opening access to banking and financial services in our industry,” added Smith.

The SAFE Banking Act has been approved by the House of Representatives seven times and the Senate version of the bill (S. 910) enjoys the support of a bipartisan group of 43 co-sponsors but has yet to be brought to a vote in that chamber.

Laws to make cannabis legal for adults have passed in 19 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 37 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states.


The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is the largest cannabis trade association in the U.S. and the only organization broadly representing cannabis-related businesses at the national level. NCIA promotes the growth of a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry and works toward a favorable social, economic, and legal environment for that industry in the United States.

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