Alabama Bill Would Require Negative Pregnancy Test To Buy Medical Marijuana

“Under Stutts’ proposal (S.B. 324), medical marijuana dispensaries would “require a negative pregnancy test for women of childbearing age before allowing them to purchase medical cannabis,” per a legislative summary of the bill. Pregnant women on the marijuana patient registry would also be required to report pregnancies to the physician who approved their patient status.
Having to go to a doctor or medical lab and pay for a pregnancy test before every medical cannabis purchase would be not only invasive but inconvenient. In effect, it’s an added tax on young(ish) female patients.

The bill would also ban new moms who are breastfeeding from purchasing medical marijuana for themselves. It does not say how this ban would be enforced.

Alabama only recently legalized medical marijuana (and with a lot of caveats). Gov. Kay Ivey signed a medical marijuana legalization measure into law in May 2021, and the state has yet to license any dispensaries. The Alabama Cannabis Commission has until this upcoming September to creating a system for dispensary licensing, a patient registry system, and rules for cannabis packaging, labeling, and advertising.

The state already limits the number of dispensary licenses that can be issued to a mere four, and it bans dispensaries from being located within 1,000 feet of any “school, day care, or child care facility.” Stutts’ bill would further restrict where dispensaries could operate by stipulating that this rule includes home-based child care operations and colleges.

All these restrictions will probably discourage even many people who could qualify as patients from registering and purchasing through the state’s legal system. If Stutts’ bill passes, it will become yet another incentive for patients to bypass state dispensaries and keep buying on the black market.”

When Will Democrats Get Serious About Repealing Pot Prohibition?

“Both the MORE Act and the legalization bill that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) plans to introduce this spring include unnecessarily contentious provisions that are bound to alienate Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to resolve the untenable conflict between federal prohibition and the laws that allow medical or recreational use of cannabis in 37 states.

According to the latest Gallup poll, 68 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal, including 83 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans. Even Republicans who are not crazy about the idea should be able to get behind legislation that would let states set their own marijuana policies without federal interference.

Such legislation can be straightforward. The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017, sponsored by then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R–Calif.), consisted of a single sentence that said the federal marijuana ban would not apply to conduct authorized by state law. Its 46 cosponsors included 14 Republicans—11 more than voted for the MORE Act last week.

The Common Sense Cannabis Reform Act, which Rep. Dave Joyce (R–Ohio) introduced last May, is 14 pages long. So far it has just eight cosponsors, including four Republicans, but that still means it has more GOP support than Democrats managed to attract for the 92-page MORE Act, which includes new taxes, regulations, and spending programs.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.) thinks Congress never should have banned marijuana, because it had no constitutional authority to do so. He nevertheless voted against the MORE Act, objecting to the “new marijuana crimes” its tax and regulatory provisions would create, with each violation punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The 163-page preliminary version of Schumer’s bill doubles down on the MORE Act’s overly prescriptive and burdensome approach. It would levy a 25 percent federal excise tax on top of frequently hefty state and local taxes, impose picayune federal regulations, and create the sort of “social equity” programs that gave pause even to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.), the MORE Act’s lone Republican cosponsor.

GOP support for marijuana federalism is clear from the fact that 106 Republicans voted last April for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would protect financial institutions that serve state-licensed marijuana businesses from federal prosecution, forfeiture, and regulatory penalties. The SAFE Banking Act would already be law if it had not been blocked by Schumer, who insisted that his own bill take priority.

Instead of building on the Republican appetite for letting states go their own way on this issue, Schumer is effectively telling GOP senators their views don’t matter. That makes sense only if he is more interested in scoring political points than in reversing a morally, scientifically, and constitutionally bankrupt policy that should have been abandoned long ago.”

California Escalates Its War on the Marijuana Black Market

“Having utterly failed to end the marijuana black market in California, lawmakers have decided to backslide into the drug war by increasing fines on those who operate outside of the state’s very costly and tightly regulated legal cannabis system.

California will begin 2022 not just by increasing taxes on legal marijuana cultivation but also by introducing new fines against anybody “aiding and abetting” any unlicensed dealers in the state.”

“California’s implementation of recreational cannabis regulations, authorized by the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, has been a massive mess. The ballot initiative allowed for municipalities to decide whether to allow cultivation and dispensaries, and two-thirds of them still refuse to do so despite the public vote. The state levies high cultivation and excise taxes that are escalated further by local sales taxes in any municipality that does allow for dispensaries to open up shop.

The result has been price and availability issues so severe that experts estimate that between two-thirds and three-quarters of all marijuana purchases take place through unlicensed dealers, which means that the state isn’t getting its share of the revenue. The problem is so severe that the editorial board at the Los Angeles Times recently acknowledged that high taxes for goods fuel black markets.”

California’s weed market should be flourishing. But bureaucracy is blunting it.

“Complicated local rules, understaffed city departments and slow communication with state regulators have made starting a weed business in California a protracted and risky ordeal. Red tape and paralyzing legal battles are stunting the market’s growth, leaving aspiring entrepreneurs in cities such as Los Angeles, Pasadena and Fresno waiting months or even years for permission to open, often while leasing empty storefronts.”

More And More Americans Are Smoking Pot. What Does That Mean For Their Health?

“Many of pot’s effects are tangled in contradictory research, but there are a few clear health risks to consuming the drug. Smoking cannabis regularly can cause bronchitis-like symptoms, and research published last month found that chronic cannabis users, defined as people who used pot at least four times a week for more than three years, had impaired pancreatic function. There have also been cases of daily cannabis users developing pancreatitis without having any other obvious risk factors.

Regular pot use has also been associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and poorer life outcomes like being unemployed, but causality has not been established because other factors could predispose someone both to using cannabis and having a mental illness or not having a job.

There’s also evidence that cannabis can be dangerous when used in certain situations, like during pregnancy or while driving a vehicle. A recent study linked increasing rates of childhood leukemia to an increase in cannabis use, and a separate study found a correlation between women using cannabis while pregnant and their children having higher rates of anxiety. There’s also evidence that using pot while pregnant can lead to lower birth weights, although that evidence is still considered limited. And driving a car while high has been shown to moderately increase the risk of getting into a motor vehicle accident.

Addiction can be an issue as well. Some people who smoke pot develop what’s called cannabis use disorder (CUD), a clinical diagnosis of problematic and uncontrollable cannabis use. There’s evidence that CUD rates have increased since 2008, but Dr. Kevin Hill, an addiction psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School, told FiveThirtyEight in an email that “it is still important to point out that most people who use cannabis don’t have a problem with it.”

The 2020 NSDUH found that 4.1 percent of people ages 12-17 met the criteria for CUD,1 13.5 percent of people ages 18 to 25 had the disorder, and 4 percent of people over age 26 had the disorder. Yet those numbers were below rates of alcohol use disorder across all age groups in 2020’s survey.

Deborah Hasin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, said she is very concerned about adults’ increasing use of cannabis because CUD is associated with poorer quality of life, cognitive decline and impaired educational and occupational employment. Hasin’s research has found that 19.5 percent of people who use cannabis met the criteria of CUD in their lifetimes.

“It’s clear that not everybody who smokes marijuana has all of these problems, but the risk is there, and it’s a greater risk than people assume,” Hasin said.

Using cannabis frequently increases the risks of developing CUD, and frequent pot use is growing among adults. Monthly use for 26-to-34-year-olds has more than doubled since 2008, and the share of people getting at least five days a week increased from 5.8 to 13.8 percent between 2008 and 2019, according to NSDUH survey results.”

“A 2016 study that followed a group of New Zealand adults for 20 years found that cannabis use was associated with worse gum health, but better cholesterol levels, lower BMI and reduced waist circumference.

Those results were further substantiated in a 2020 study that looked at cannabis use among people over the age of 60. Cannabis users in the study exercised more often and had a significantly lower BMI than non-users.

While there’s evidence that BMI, which measures only weight and height, is not the best way to gauge health for people who are normal weight or are slightly overweight, very high BMI scores are significantly associated with mortality.”

South Dakota’s Governor Succeeds in Blocking Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization

“South Dakota voters made history last November by simultaneously approving ballot initiatives aimed at legalizing recreational and medical use of marijuana. The success of the broader initiative, Amendment A, was especially striking because it prevailed by an eight-point margin in a state that is mostly Republican and largely conservative. But thanks to a legal challenge backed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, Amendment A was almost immediately tied up in litigation, and last Wednesday the South Dakota Supreme Court definitively overturned it, ruling that the measure violated the “single subject” rule for constitutional amendments.”

“State legislators proved more willing to set aside their personal views on marijuana in deference to the policy preferred by voters. “In my mind, [legalization is] inevitable because we’ve already seen the support from the public,” Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack said after Klinger’s decision. “I didn’t vote for recreational marijuana, but my constituents did,” added Greg Jamison, another Republican senator. “Rarely do we get a chance to enact a law and not for sure know what our constituents think of that. Here we know.”

In response to such comments from members of her own party, Noem threatened to veto any legalization bill the legislature might decide to pass. Noem later suggested she might be open to decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession. Possessing two ounces or less is currently a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine.”

VA rejects cannabis research as veterans plead for medical pot

“Millions of veterans are self-medicating their war-caused ailments with marijuana, and they are frustrated the VA continues to dismiss the drug’s possible benefits. The VA will not expand the piecemeal cannabis research it is undertaking, despite recent bipartisan calls from Congress, doctors and veterans. And without that research, the VA continues to deny cannabis recommendations to veterans in 36 states that allow medical marijuana.”

This Woman Served 11 Years in Prison on a Marijuana Charge. She’s Been Sent Back Over a Clerical Error.

“Over the last year and a half, thousands of low-risk inmates were given the chance to serve the remainder of their sentences on home confinement. The move was meant to curb coronavirus transmission rates in overcrowded prisons. But the trial period has been viewed as a successful tactic beyond that of a COVID mitigation measure; of the approximately 4,500 released due to COVID, just three have reoffended, two of whom committed nonviolent crimes, according to Michael Carvajal, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).”

“The average annual price for a prisoner at home is $13,000; for an inmate at a correctional institution, it is almost 3 times higher at $37,500.”

A better way to legalize marijuana

“Marijuana is nowhere as dangerous as alcohol. You can quite literally drink yourself to death; the same doesn’t apply to marijuana. So it’s almost certain that legalizing marijuana the same way won’t lead to all the same bad outcomes.

Still, there are some risks. A thorough review of the research, by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, found that marijuana poses a variety of possible downsides, which can include a higher risk of respiratory problems (if smoked), an increased risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses, an increased likelihood of car crashes, a general decrease in social achievement, and, potentially, some harm to fetuses in the womb.

There’s also the real risk of addiction and overuse. As Stanford’s Keith Humphreys put it to the Atlantic, “In large national surveys, about one in 10 people who smoke [marijuana] say they have a lot of problems. They say things like, ‘I have trouble quitting. I think a lot about quitting and I can’t do it. I smoked more than I intended to. I neglect responsibilities.’ … People will say, ‘Oh, that’s just you fuddy-duddy doctors.’ Actually, no. It’s millions of people who use the drug who say that it causes problems.”

None of that is to make the argument for prohibition, which produces its own problems”

“An obvious question is: If the standard commercial model works for alcohol, why can’t it work for a newly legal drug like cannabis, too?

But this model doesn’t work well for alcohol. The nation’s second-most popular drug (after caffeine) is linked to nearly 100,000 deaths a year in the US — about the same as all overdose deaths, and more than the combined death tolls of car crashes and murders.

A different model could help. Previous research, for example, found that states that maintained a government-operated monopoly for alcohol kept prices higher, reduced access to youth, and cut overall levels of use”

This Navy Veteran Was Deported Over a One-Time Marijuana Offense. After Nearly a Decade in Exile, He’s Back in the U.S.

“Howard Bailey came to the United States from Jamaica when he was 17. He served nearly four years in the Navy right out of high school, completing two tours in Operation Desert Storm and earning a National Defense Service Medal. But when it came time for Bailey—a lawful permanent resident—to apply for citizenship, his application was denied over a one-time marijuana offense.

What was already a devastating blow then turned into almost a decade in exile, with Bailey deported to a country he hadn’t seen in 24 years. Last Wednesday, he finally won the fight to come home.”

“From 2003 to August 2018, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, over 45,000 people were deported for marijuana possession. And according to immigration lawyers and advocates, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has denied citizenship applications from immigrants who admit to using marijuana in states where it’s legal. The agency requires that applicants have “good moral character.” Even legally sanctioned behavior can come into conflict with such a subjective criterion.

Around 5,000 noncitizens enlist in the military every year, and an estimated 94,000 veterans do not have U.S. citizenship. Biden administration officials announced steps to support noncitizen veterans and service members in July, including allowing those who have been unjustly deported to return to the U.S. There are likely around 1,000 military deportees in 40 countries, and recourse for those wrongfully removed is difficult to come by.”