Canada: Trudeau Administration Seeks To Legalize Marijuana By July 2018
Ottawa, Ontario: Legislation is anticipated from the Trudeau administration in early April to regulate the use, production, and sale of marijuana. In 2015, the Liberal Party pledged to "legalize and regulate" marijuana if Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister.
The forthcoming legislation will likely be modeled after recommendations issued in 2016 by a federal task force. Members of the task force called on Parliament to permit those over 18 to possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana, and further recommended lawmakers regulate and tax the commercial cannabis market.
The pending legalization legislation is expected to be introduced the week of April 10, CBC News has reported. Proponents are seeking to have the new law in place by July 1, 2018.
Until that time, however, Canadian police are continuing to enforce marijuana prohibition. In recent weeks, police in several Canadian cities - including Toronto and Vancouver - carried out raids of various storefront dispensaries, including those operated by longtime activists Marc and Jodie Emery.
Pennsylvania: Municipal Measure Takes Effect Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession Offenses
Harrisburg, PA: Minor marijuana possession offenders are no longer subject to arrest in the city of Harrisburg under a new local ordinance that took effect last week.
The municipal measure, approved by members of the City Council in July, reduces local marijuana possession penalties for first-time and second-time offenders from a criminal misdemeanor to a summary offense, punishable by a $75 fine.
Harrisburg is the third major Pennsylvania city to decriminalize minor marijuana offenses, following the enactment of similar laws in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
State law classifies the possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, possible driver's license suspension, and a criminal record.
Earlier this month, the state's auditor general publicly called for legalizing and taxing Pennsylvania's marijuana market. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has indicated that he would not support such a broad policy change, but that he is in favor of decriminalization.
Illinois: Two-Thirds Of Voters Support Regulating Adult Marijuana Use
Carbondale, IL: Sixty-six percent of voters believe that the adult use and sale of marijuana ought to be treated like alcohol, according to statewide polling data compiled by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.
Support for legalization is strongest among voters under 35 years of age (83 percent) and among Democrats (77 percent). However, majorities of respondents in every age demographic and of every political ideology endorse regulating the cannabis market.
The poll results come just days after state lawmakers introduced legislation in the Illinois House and Senate to legalize the plant's use, production, and retail sale.
DEA To Classify Liquid, Synthetic THC As A Schedule II Controlled Substance
Washington, DC: Officials from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have recommended that Syndros, a liquid form of synthetic THC, be classified as a Schedule II controlled substance under federal law. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials determined last year that the drug formulation is safe and effective for use by patients with cancer and AIDS.
Two other synthetic forms of THC, dronabinol and nabilone, are also FDA approved. Dronabinol (aka Marinol) is a Schedule III drug while nabilone (aka Cesamet) is Schedule II.
Syndros is the first synthetic cannabinoid in liquid form to be approved by the FDA for use by prescription.
The makers of Syndros, Insys Therapeutics, donated $500,000 last year to a political campaign to defeat Arizona's Proposition 205, a statewide ballot initiative to regulate the adult use, cultivation, and sale of cannabis. The measure ultimately failed at the ballot box by a vote of 48 percent to 52 percent.
The company is also seeking to bring a synthetic version of cannabidiol to market.
Insys Therapeutics markets the drug SUBSYS, a spray containing the potent opioid fentanyl. Several recent studies have identified an association between state laws regulating medical cannabis access and declining rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.
New Senate Bill Would End Federal Marijuana Prohibition
Washington, DC: Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis have introduced legislation in the House and Senate -- to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. In addition to removing marijuana from the United States Controlled Substances Act, this legislation also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matter concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales -- thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.
"The first time introduction of this particular piece of legislation in the US Senate is another sign that the growing public support for ending our failed war on cannabis consumers nationwide is continuing to translate into political support amongst federal officials," said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, "With marijuana legalization being supported by 60% of all Americans while Congress' approval rating is in the low teens, ending our country's disastrous prohibition against marijuana would not just be good policy, but good politics."
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for qualified patients, while eight states now regulate the production and sale of marijuana to all adults. An estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters support these policy changes. According to a 2017 Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and 71 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy.
"If we are truly going to move our nation towards sensible marijuana policies, the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act is paramount. Annually, 600,000 Americans are arrested for nothing more than the possession of small amounts of marijuana and now is the time for Congress to once and for all end put an end to the national embarrassment that is cannabis prohibition," said Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director. "Passing this legislation would end the current conflict between state and federal laws and allow the states to implement more sensible and humane marijuana policies, free from the threat of federal incursion."
These statewide regulatory schemes are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.
The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant's medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.
By contrast, regulating the adult use of marijuana stimulates economic growth, saves lives, and has the support of the majority of the majority of Americans.