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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.

Germany, united states

US Germany

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.

Germany, united states

mexico flag

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 borderreport.com, “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.

Mexico, united states

united states congress

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.

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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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mexico united states border

Limited U.S. Legalization Continues To Hurt Cartels In Mexico

Historically, the United States has served as the largest cannabis market on earth, and for many decades that market was completely illegal. These days, medical and/or adult-use cannabis dispensaries are located in a growing number of states, although cannabis still remains illegal at the federal level. The rising number of state-legal outlets in the U.S. is having a direct, negative impact on cartels in Mexico according to a new report from U.S. Congressional researchers.

Throughout prohibition in the U.S. cannabis smuggled into the country from Mexico largely supplied the unregulated U.S. market. Having lived my entire life on the West Coast of the U.S., and consuming cannabis for nearly 3 decades now, I can personally attest that ‘brickweed’ from Mexico was once very common around here. That is no longer the case.

The Rise Of Safe Access

Cartels in Mexico benefitted greatly from cannabis prohibition in the United States. The cannabis that they smuggled into the United States was awful and was presumably contaminated with all kinds of nasty stuff. Unfortunately, for many consumers and patients, it was all that was available. That started to change drastically in 1996 when California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medical use in the U.S.

Once California passed a medical cannabis measure, it opened the floodgates to other states following suit, almost all of which created safe, legal access to cannabis in some manner. Every dispensary and delivery service that opened up at the state level, especially in the Western United States, diverted money to state-licensed cannabis outlets that would have otherwise likely gone to cartel operations.

The shift in consumer purchasing habits further accelerated in 2014 when Colorado and Washington State launched adult-use cannabis sales. With state medical programs, patients had to be registered in order to frequent dispensaries. Now that consumers of legal age from all over the country (and the world for that matter) can make legal purchases of regulated products through licensed outlets there’s literally no good reason for people to ever purchase cartel cannabis ever again, hence the drop in cannabis revenue for cartels.

Proof Of Concept

Many valid reasons exist regarding why cannabis should be legalized, with a popular one being to defund cartels. Cartels have caused so much misery over so many years, and any dollar that can be prevented from going their way is always a good thing. Legalization in the United States is proving to be extremely successful on that front, as demonstrated by the latest Congressional report.

Cartels still smuggle cannabis into the U.S., and still set up illegal grows on public lands in the U.S. However, that business model is becoming less viable with every passing year as consumers continue to migrate towards legal options. Imagine when cannabis is legal nationwide in the United States. Obviously, once all consumers and patients in every state can go the legal route, there will be no room for cartel cannabis in the country, assuming that regulations are sensible and prices are at least somewhat competitive.

Just as legalization will continue to succeed in the United States, so too will it succeed elsewhere, and in the process, eliminate cartel cannabis worldwide. When cannabis is illegal, cartels will fill the void. After all, consumers and patients don’t refrain from consuming cannabis just because it is illegal. They will continue to seek out sources for cannabis, and cartels will always be willing to meet the demand. The more that the legal cannabis industry is allowed to operate the more it can directly address the cartel cannabis issue, and when that happens, everyone wins (except for the cartels).

Mexico, united states

Canadian currency money

Researchers Identify Two Main Motivating Factors Behind Unregulated Cannabis Purchases

Legal cannabis is spreading across the planet, and with it, purchasing freedoms for some consumers. Yet, the unregulated market still exists even where cannabis can be purchased legally. Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario recently examined the factors that motivate a consumer or patient to purchase unregulated cannabis versus regulated cannabis in North America in an attempt to understand why the unregulated market still exists in Canada despite legalization, and to a lesser extent, the United States.

By human history standards, cannabis prohibition is a relatively new thing. After all, cannabis is not a new plant and humans have used it for medical and recreational purposes for centuries. It wasn’t until the last century that political forces prohibited it. Fortunately, three countries have now legalized cannabis for adult use – Uruguay, Canada, and Malta. Cannabis can be legally acquired in some form in Uruguay and Canada, and soon, Malta.

Out of the three countries, Canada has the most robust industry model. Cannabis consumers of legal age from anywhere around the planet can come to Canada and make a legal purchase through a storefront dispensary, through the mail, and/or through delivery services. Similar options have existed in the U.S. at the state level for many years. Researchers have kept a close eye on North America as the ‘cannabis experiment’ has continued to roll out, including researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

Motivating Factors

The average cannabis consumer is more sophisticated now than arguably any other time in human history, and that is largely due to the options available to them, particularly in Canada. Some consumers want to smoke cannabis flower, some want to vaporize it, and still, many others prefer smokeless forms of cannabis such as edibles and topicals.

Regulated industries boost the options for patients and consumers. I live in a legal jurisdiction, and the different types of cannabis products and consumption methods are exponentially greater now compared to when there was no regulated market With that being said, the unregulated market still exists where I live, albeit at a much lower level than before legalization.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario looked at consumer data from 2019 and 2020. The data was compiled as part of the annual International Cannabis Policy Study. Survey data asked consumers about their purchasing habits over the past 12 months, and when they indicated that they purchased cannabis from an unregulated source they were provided a list of reasons to select from regarding what motivated the unregulated purchase.

“‘Legal sources had higher prices’ was the number-one answer in Canada in both years (35.9% in 2019, 34.6% in 2020) as well as in the United States (27.3% in 2019, 26.7% in 2020). Convenience (both ‘legal sources were less convenient’ and ‘legal stores were too far away/there are none where I live’) was high on the list as well, with the percentage of respondents who named these as reasons ranging from 10.6% to 19.8%.” researchers stated in their press release.

Sensible Regulations To Help Boost Legal Sales

On average, the cost of legal cannabis will always be greater than unregulated cannabis. A legal cannabis company has to pay ongoing licensing and compliance fees, rent on their commercial facilities, and a number of other operational costs that do not exist in the unregulated market. All of those added layers contribute to the overall cost of legal cannabis.

Speaking anecdotally, I am willing to pay extra for legal cannabis being that it is tested and regulated. However, there is a point to how much more I am willing to pay, and I assume many consumers are the same as me in that regard. Paying 10% more is reasonable, however, if legal cannabis costs 2-4 times as much as unregulated cannabis, clearly many people will choose to go the unregulated route.

The second motivating factor identified by the researchers, convenience, is much easier to address from a public policy standpoint. Boosting the ways in which consumers and patients can legally acquire cannabis helps a considerable amount. Conversely, the fewer ways people can legally acquire cannabis the more it creates opportunities for unregulated sources to fill the void and meet the demand. Jurisdictions that choose to cling to prohibition or hinder safe access do so at their own peril.

Lawmakers around the world need to do everything that they can to strike the right balance between regulating cannabis, generating public revenue, and implementing sensible regulations that help keep the cost of legal cannabis down as much as reasonably possible. Everyone needs to temper their expectations when it comes to getting rid of the unregulated market. Just as there will always be a market for unregulated alcohol, so too will there always be an unregulated market for cannabis, at least to some degree.

Canada, united states

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Australian Researchers Examine Motivation Behind Increased Support For Legalization

Support for adult-use cannabis legalization is stronger now at the global level than at any other time since the start of international cannabis prohibition. Now that Uruguay, Canada, and Malta have passed national cannabis legalization measures and the sky didn’t fall, that should only further add to the momentum for legalization in other countries.

Researchers in Australia recently examined survey data in an attempt to try to identify why support for cannabis legalization has risen in recent decades, specifically in the United States. The researchers leading the study were all affiliated with The University of Queensland, and they examined, “historical changes in legalization attitudes and the period-specific individual and external influences on these.”

“A systematic search was conducted for publications in PubMed, EMBASE, and PsycINFO up to October 2019. Six studies with a regionally or nationally representative adult US-based populations were included.” the researchers stated regarding their methodology.

“A secondary analysis was conducted using data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Hierarchical age-period-cohort analysis assessed the trends in perceived harmfulness and availability of cannabis between 1996 and 2018. Ecological comparisons were made between these perceptions and support for cannabis legalization over time.” the researchers went on to state.

The researchers determined that support for adult-use cannabis legalization started to increase considerably in the 1990s, and that the increase continued in a linear fashion until 2019. That is reflected in the results of Gallup’s annual cannabis legalization poll, a graph of which can be seen below:

Gallup polling cannabis legalization 2021

Gallup’s polling is particularly useful because they have asked the same question every year since 1969. As you can clearly see, support for legalization was a dismal 25% in the mid-1990s, and it continued to rise nearly every year through 2020 when it leveled off at 68%.

“Most people developed more liberal views, with no evidence that changes within any one sociodemographic group was disproportionately responsible for the overall attitudinal change. Increases in the proportion of people who use cannabis, non-religious population and political liberalism may partially explain the increased support for legalization.” the researchers determined.

“The decline in perceived harmfulness of cannabis, as reflected in the media, may have contributed to the increased support for legalization.” the researchers stated.

“The US population has become more accepting of cannabis legalization. The attitudinal change is related to changes in the perceived risks and benefits of cannabis use, influenced by broader political and cultural changes over the study period.” the researchers concluded.

The researchers obviously have their views regarding why cannabis legalization has increased, however, I don’t necessarily agree with all of their conclusions. I definitely do not think that there was a ‘decline in the perceived harmfulness of cannabis reflected in the media.’

To back up that personal belief, I would point to the ongoing ‘coverage’ by media companies that are blatant reefer madness propaganda. Mainstream media outlets still regularly provide cannabis opponents access to their platforms and allow them to publish nonsense without any attempt to fact-check it from what I can tell. What has changed is the increased volume of peer-reviewed studies regarding cannabis, and the increased availability and awareness of the results of those studies, many of which directly refute long-standing anti-cannabis talking points.

I also don’t think that increasing support for cannabis legalization is the direct result of an increase in ‘political liberalism’ being that support for cannabis legalization has increased among voters from all major political parties. I personally believe that there are two major factors at play in the recorded increase in support for legalization, and this goes for polling data in the United States and everywhere else.

First, many people have always supported legalization and are only now willing to admit it since prohibition is crumbling and the stigma is reducing. Secondly, people that were on the fence about cannabis legalization quickly move to the ‘supporter’ category when they see that legalization is working wherever it is allowed.

Once legalization goes from a hypothetical to implementation, and it works, many cannabis prohibition talking points instantly die in the minds of many voters. The legalization supporter base expands to non-consumers that just want to see sensible public policy enacted. It also expands to people that want to see society reap the economic benefits of a regulated industry. That is likely why you see polling results continue to improve as legalization continues to spread, at least in my opinion.

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Will The US House Vote On Cannabis Reform Mean Anything?

The vote is important in keeping the issue in front of lawmakers in the US and other places, but will it mean any change this year, anywhere?

As of the second quarter of 2022, there is a great deal of talk about the need for full and final cannabis reform in both the US and of course much of Europe. However, last week’s House vote to legalize cannabis reform in the US is a straw man that is unlikely to lead to real change this year – anywhere.

In the US, the legislation must now pass the Senate, which is unlikely. Across the pond in Europe, specifically Germany, politicians are diddling with specifics while claiming they are too busy on more pressing issues to give this entire issue prioritization.

Why Is the Final Step So Hard?

For those in the industry as well as patients, there are large issues that have not been solved. The first of course is the fact that the UN has refused to remove cannabis from international drug scheduling as a Schedule I drug. This creates a convenient leaf to hide behind for those who are being pushed politically into reform they would otherwise continue to ignore.

See Germany right now, beyond the US.

However, this Catch-22 is already being challenged within Europe. Both Luxembourg and Malta as well as presumably Portugal, are moving ahead with their legalization plans. Holland now is on the verge of a nationally regulated recreational market. And indeed, the intent of the UN in not removing cannabis from the global Schedule I designation was not stagnation but rather to let individual countries deal with the issue themselves.

The bottom line is that tight control of the cannabis plant benefits only the pharmaceutical industry, which is trying to keep the drug as expensive as possible.

Even this strategy, however, is not working. In Germany right now, the entire industry is now hanging on recreational reform to increase sales as medical approvals have stalled.

Reform NOW!

Excuses being what they are, it is entirely likely that the German recreational market will not happen for several more years. This is because so far there has been little taste to actually decriminalize the plant, much less its cultivation until there is a plan for a recreational market in place.

This is unlike the US (for example) where state markets have been able to move the entire issue forward on a federal level – but only to a certain point.

Regardless, in two of the world’s largest federal markets right now, reform still hangs in the balance. And that is a status quo that is overdue for change.

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