House Democrats Voted To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

The national consensus is very clear: the public wants to legalize weed. But police and prosecutors continue to make arrests and charge individuals (disproportionately prosecuting minorities). In 2019, there were nearly 550,000 marijuana-related arrests. That might not seem like a big deal to some people, but considering there were fewer arrests made in response to violent crimes, it’s clear that the priorities of our law enforcement and legislators have little to do with making our streets safer.

What could President-elect Joe Biden do? He could immediately move to reclassify marijuana. Right now, the substance is included as a Schedule 1 drug, right up there with heroin and cocaine (both of which can be deadly and addictive, unlike weed). Biden could also pardon or commute the sentences of every individual currently serving a sentence for marijuana-related offenses, transforming our prisons from cash cows into facilities where actual criminals are incarcerated. 

This is clearly how House Democrats would like the incoming president to approach weed, as they just passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE), was passed 228 to 164. The bill would change marijuana’s status as a non-controlled substance, help expunge the records of those convicted for related crimes, and provide federal incentives to push state and local authorities in the same direction without forcing the issue. In addition, Veterans Affairs doctors would now be allowed to prescribe marijuana, which is still illegal at the federal level. Immigrants would never again face deportation when caught with marijuana. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “For too long, draconian marijuana laws have contributed to racial inequality. These bills are part of a broader movement to address inequalities in criminal justice, business and more. Today’s bipartisan vote shows just how far that movement has come. I am encouraged by the action the House has taken and I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to support these efforts as well.”

Of course, the Senate will push the bill aside — and no one knows exactly what Biden will do.

Will Texas Ever Legalize Recreational Marijuana?

Texas is one of those states where we all think something is about to happen — again and again — but the desired outcome consistently eludes us. For example, Democrats seem to put the state into play in each presidential election, but it never quite shifts away from its Republican overlords. Marijuana-related laws are another such illusion. It also seems like legislators might take a step into the modern era, but they never quite do. 

This January, a record-setting eleven state bills will be put forth when the Legislature meets after their winter break. A similarly record-breaking spate of bills were put forth in 2019. All of these laws have the same goal: loosen marijuana restrictions. There hasn’t been much movement, though. The Legislature has allowed a limited number of individuals to use cannabis oil and others to grow hemp. 

Why hasn’t more changed? We can blame it on the fact that socially-conservative legislators control most of the forward movement in Texas. 

There is some reason to remain optimistic, though. For example, lawmakers need to find a way to make up the $4.6 billion windfall created by COVID-19 — a number which is only increasing now that the pandemic is getting worse by the day. Sadly, marijuana laws around the country have typically loosened restrictions only because legislators realized there was profit in doing so. It was sort of the same thing with gay marriage, and we know how that turned out.

Another ray of light exists because police and prosecutors both have a say in who they arrest and prosecute for crimes. 

Dallas Fort Worth Police Captain Mark Barthen acknowledged that his police force had discontinued the practice of arresting those caught with insignificant amounts of weed. He said, “We have only been seizing the marijuana. We are also not issuing citations in lieu of arrest like some jurisdictions.”

But even that was because of technical issues with “testing,” he explained. 

Those who were caught and prosecuted often skated because their attorneys argued that the differences between marijuana and hemp (which we mentioned was legalized) were difficult to distinguish. This made prosecuting marijuana possession harder. 

Defense Attorney Mimi Coffey said, “Since hemp is legal, how do prosecutors prove what they actually confiscate is hemp versus marijuana if they can’t test it?”

Policies regarding marijuana and arrests vary depending on state, county, and even city, making it even more difficult to find ways to effectively prosecute. If for no other reason, this could make the path to legalization in Texas easier.

Because the law only functions when prosecutors squeeze money out of those charged with crimes, it becomes a financial issue regardless of what your beliefs are on the ethics of marijuana. 

University of North Texas Department of Political Science Chair Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha said, “It’s a matter of time before we replace those individuals with more progressive conservatives, perhaps the ones who see the value on the more libertarian side of Texas’ political culture.”

In other words, many people don’t care which party resides in the state Legislature so long as they support what makes the most sense for the residents of Texas.

What States Legalized Marijuana During The 2020 Election?

Only a few decades ago, almost all states barred recreational and medical use of marijuana. But today, only fifteen states outlaw the drug in one form or the other. This new paradigm has experts asking whether or not a tipping point has been reached in public perception of whether or not the drug should be legalized. And point in fact: marijuana legalization made strides on the Nov. 3 ballot. 

Recreational marijuana initiatives received overwhelming support in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Medical marijauan received enough support to pass in Mississippi and South Dakota.

Professor Robert Mikos of law at Vanderbilt University said, “There’s been building momentum towards this. A change in attitudes is what’s driving legalization, and it’s interesting about why people view this drug more positively today that 50 years ago. In part, I think it’s because we’ve come to realize that it’s not as harmful as we once thought it was. People are less worried about it.”

That makes sense considering the person responsible for forming government opinion against the drug admitted he basically made everything up years ago.

The first states to allow recreational use of the drug were Colorado and Washington. 34 states allow the drug to be used for medicine (and let’s face it, most of those guidelines are fairly relaxed).

A Pew research study conducted in September 2019 found 67 percent of adults believe marijuana should be legalized for recreational use — but nearly a third of Americans still disagreed. This is a stark contrast to a prior study conducted in 1969, when only 12 percent of Americans were in favor of legalization. Most likely, they were the ones using the drug!

Mikos said, “There’s two different stories here, a difference between the recreational measures and the medical measures. Medical marijuana is oftentimes promoted as a drug that rather than being harmful for some people can actually improve their lives, so it’s a public health story.”

Can Taking Medical Marijuana Affect Federal Benefits?

Although some states have legalized recreational marijuana and an even greater number have legalized medical marijuana, the drug remains a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level — which means its sale and distribution are completely locked down at the federal level. We’ve received a number of inquiries from readers who are worried that they might lose access to their federal benefits — such as social security disability — if they continue to take medical marijuana, even though it’s legal where they reside.

Nearly half of the states have legalized medical marijuana. The Obama administration continued to allow states to regulate the drug on their own, although he did take some action to crack down on some dispensaries — most notably those along the Californian coast and in LA. Trump has done little to ease federal restrictions. Some believe that a Biden administration would end federal regulation once and for all.

For now, there are no definitive answers except that “it depends.” Is marijuana a factor that contributes to your disability? If the Social Security Administration can find a way to argue that the answer to that question is “yes,” then it can deny an application or revoke benefits that have already been approved. The answer should be “no” if you are only treating the condition with marijuana, so…in theory, your benefits should be safe.

Although that is the SSA’s official stance on drugs and alcohol, the fact that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level means that the organization can basically do whatever it wants if you’re a user. That means you should be careful not to aggravate the wrong people — because they could decide to make your life more difficult.

Because this is the case, medical users are generally urged to request both legal and medical advice before putting in a social security disability application. Your lawyer and doctor can make sure that you provide all the relevant information to the SSA without error, which increases the odds that the application will eventually be approved. And remember: even without medical marijuana, these applications can take years to be approved. You’re in for a wait either way.

There is good news for those who are worried that their benefits might be denied because of marijuana: several states have enacted disability-discrimination laws to protect medical users. These laws make it far more difficult for anyone to trounce on your rights, even at the federal level.

But there’s also some bad news for those who are still employed even with the disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects your rights as a worker in that your employer must reasonably accommodate you. However, because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, your employer can still terminate your employment if you fail a drug test or admit to using. This is true whether you’re a recreational or medical user since neither category is protected under federal law.

At the end of the day, just make sure you act prudently before taking any next steps. Seek out qualified legal and medical advice before applying for your benefits.

Is Marijuana Legalization On The Ballot In 2020?

The last decade has resulted in a wave of medical and recreational marijuana legalizations in states across the country — and one might expect that additional measures to legalize marijuana use are on the ballot in 2020. And anyone who would make that assumption would be right. Votes will take place in five states: New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, and Mississippi.

Mississippi will ask its residents to vote on whether or not to legalize medical marijuana, which most other states already do. But in the deep south it’s hardly a foregone conclusion, but a recent survey concluded that around 81 percent of residents favor adopting the new initiative.

South Dakota residents will vote on both recreational and medical marijuana, both of which are illegal under state law. Measure 26 will offer residents the option of validating medical marijuana, while Amendment A would legalize recreational weed and tax the hell out of it. Surveys show widespread support for both, but some analysts expect an Election Day surprise in a state where pot is so very illegal.

Montana residents will vote to establish legality for recreational weed and adopt 21 as the official recreational use age. Another measure would allow all those with marijuana-related convictions to request a resentencing under the new laws.

Arizona has already struck down a previous measure to legalize recreational weed, but another measure is on the ballot in 2020. Proposition 207 would allow anyone 21 or over to possess recreational weed while imposing a 16 percent tax on all related sales. Does the previous measure mean this one is also likely to fail? No! All states who took two votes during two different elections passed a law on the second attempt. 

Public Question 1 asks New Jersey residents to vote on whether or not to allow residents age 21 or older to consume recreational marijuana. Only the local tax would be imposed. Legalization is likely in this state.

Can Consistent Marijuana Use Result in Brain Injury?

One of the biggest hurdles in marijuana studies is actually procuring the substance — because it’s still classified as a Schedule 1 drug, right up there with heroin or methamphetamines. That means it’s closely regulated. This is true even though there was never much evidence to categorize it as such. But now that marijuana legalization is becoming more widespread, we might discover the real side effects of the drug. Can it result in brain injury? The National Institute on Drug Abuse is researching exactly that subject.

When opponents of marijuana legislation point to a growing body of studies that show how marijuana consumption during adolescence can damage the developing brain. Many of these studies were conducted on animals. When exposed to the drug before birth or soon after, animals would have more difficulty remembering when compared to a control group. But studies on humans sometimes show similar effects — while others show none at all.

What we know for sure is that marijuana may or may not cause brain “injury” during development, but that it can actually be used to treat brain injury for sure. One Virginia brain injury attorney noted that marijuana use after traumatic brain injury (or TBI) can decrease nausea, increase appetite, reduce insomnia, and improve mood — all of which are symptoms associated with TBI.

Using medical marijuana to treat symptoms of TBI and other injuries, illnesses, and diseases can be effective when you realize that consumption changes how your body reacts to the drug. For example, smoking can lead to lung issues — which you don’t need with a head injury. Vaping provides a faster response, which makes it a better option. Edibles sometimes last longer than other consumption methods, which makes it another good choice for anyone suffering from long-term, consistent pain.

There are side effects, however. 

First and foremost, those who are unaccustomed to using the drug will certainly experience being high — which is a sensation not everyone enjoys. Those who use marijuana also have the “munchies,” or increased appetite. Weight gain could become an issue for those with sensitive metabolisms for this reason. Other side effects include, dry mouth, lethargy, and memory issues in the short-term.

As with any other drug, users will want to eat and drink when marijuana is administered.

There is also evidence that cannabis can help slow down the effects of TBI. This is because using CBD or THC can prevent cytokines from circulating throughout the body. Cytokines help increase inflammation in the brain, increasing the chance of permanent damage. Cannabis can reduce inflammation and swelling because it helps the body produce and release minocycline.

Unfortunately, many doctors are still hesitant to prescribe marijuana — even in states that have legalized the use of the drug medically. Doctors are more likely to prescribe the drug when recreational use has been legalized as well. We still have a ways to go. 

Can Cannabis Treat Or Prevent Coronavirus Infection?

Months ago, we asked an important question: will the economic destruction wrought by coronavirus affect upcoming marijuana legislation? We believed the answer was almost certainly “yes,” not for ethical reasons, but for financial reasons. Revenue during a deepening recession gets stuff done. Little did we know that there was a better question to ask! Can marijuana products be used to treat or prevent new coronavirus infections?

Scientists think the answer is yes.

University of Lethbridge researchers conducted an April study to show that high-concentration CBD could shut off the access routes used by coronavirus to infect a person, preventing the disease COVID-19 from ever taking hold.

Olga Kovalchuk said, “We were totally stunned at first, and then we were really happy.”

Her husband Igor added, “Our work could have a huge influence — there aren’t many drugs that have the potential of reducing infection by 70 to 80 percent.”

The biggest problem lies in the fact that cannabis can be used to treat all sorts of medical issues ranging from epilepsy to cancer — and governments still don’t legalize the drug for medical or commercial use without a brutal battle. Usually, marijuana legislation is only passed due to public referendum because lawmakers don’t agree with the public on the issue.

It was only a small study and more research is needed to verify the results. Olga said, “The key thing is not that any cannabis you would pick up at the store will do the trick.”

The study explained that certain powerful strains of cannabis could help them “develop easy-to-use preventative treatments in the form of mouthwash and throat gargle products” to reduce the ability of the infection to reach the airways.

It should be noted that the products used were high in CBD but low in THC, meaning they might save you from coronavirus — but they won’t get you high.

Will COVID-19 Affect Future Marijuana Legislation?

While many of us are increasingly worried about the future of our country and its economy, others simply want relief — and relief comes in many forms. Some who have lost jobs as a result of the spread of the novel coronavirus want relief in the form of money. Others who have been infected with the novel coronavirus and become sick with the disease it causes, COVID-19, want a different kind of relief; i.e. pain relief.

And what better way to relieve pain than use marijuana?

Unfortunately, recreational marijuana is far from widely available in the United States. Those who cannot legally purchase the relatively low-risk drug are worried about the future of marijuana legislation as the country continues to shut down its services, with no end in sight. What will that future look like?

Well, right now things are great for marijuana businesses already up and running. Those same people who are stocking up on canned goods and toilet paper are rushing out to procure a month’s supply of weed.

And you might not need to worry about upcoming marijuana legislation at the state level, either. It seems the outbreak might actually accelerate the introduction of new recreational or medical marijuana laws.

Take South Dakota, for example. Advocates for medical and recreational marijuana had planned a massive campaign to ensure proposals could be added to the 2020 ballot. With the new pandemic still ongoing, this opportunity seemed doomed. How do you get the signatures needed if you’re stuck at home?

Thankfully, the campaign received the needed signatures long before the deadline. That’s the power of weed. Most advocates for legalized marijuana strongly believe that the drug will soon be made available — and more importantly, that it will be well-regulated and taxed to bolster state revenue. As with most controversial issues (think marriage between two men or two women), it will probably only be legalized because of the potential revenue for the state.

But we don’t mind. One step at a time, as long as those steps are taken in the right direction.

A word to the wise: COVID-19 is not the flu and some symptoms are entirely different. The most important difference revolves around the likelihood of fighting for air. When you smoke any substance, you increase the likelihood for diseases such as COVID-19 will be able to do more damage long-term. If you’re a recreational marijuana user or simply use the drug to manage pain, you might consider consumption over inhalation. Better to be safe now than sorry later.

This is especially the case since the underlying infection can occur without symptoms.

How Long Has Democratic Candidate Bernie Sanders Wanted To Legalize Marijuana?

Most people know Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’s stance of legalizing recreational marijuana by now. He also endorsed changing outdated drug laws last time he ran for the presidency beginning in 2015. Sanders wants to end federal criminalization of marijuana possession and recreational use of the drug. More than that, he would like to reschedule the drug to be considered much less dangerous than, say, heroin —  because the current scheduling makes no sense and is based on debunked misinformation.

The real question is this: how long has Bernie Sanders been a supporter of new marijuana legislation? 

The answer probably won’t surprise you if you know about his record on pretty much all his beliefs. That is, he’s one of the most consistent people you’re likely to hear about in politics today. He’s pretty much always wanted to decriminalize and legalize marijuana.

He supports the recent Marijuana Justice Act. If passed, the law would declassify the drug as a controlled substance and prevent retaliation against states that pass their own marijuana legislation. Right now, most state laws are at odds with more restrictive federal laws.

Sanders also supports the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act to deschedule the currently Schedule I drug.

Those are newer bills (that will almost certainly be struck down by the Republican-controlled Senate, but Sanders co-sponsored a House bill that sought to legalize medical marijuana over two decades ago. That’s the kind of record of sensible drug laws that we like!

One financial issue with recreational marijuana in states that have already legalized it is federal prosecutorial action taken against the banks that choose to offer loans to new marijuana businesses. Not only has this occurred, but sometimes Federal agents have shut down otherwise legally operated businesses in California and other states where weed was recently legalized. Sanders wants to protect those banks from prosecution.

In fact, Sanders has voted at least four times in the House to protect states from federal intervention (you would think this would go a long way with Republican voters who routinely shout their wish to increase state powers while reducing federal powers from the highest mountaintop).

Sanders has said that, if elected, he would take executive action to legalize recreational marijuana at the federal level while descheduling the drug within 100 days of taking office. More recently, however, he decided to up the ante. Now he says that executive action would occur on day one

More than that, he has said he would expunge all non-violent drug-related crimes, and free those who are currently serving sentences for possession of marijuana. Not enough? He also wants to put marijuana selling licenses in the hands of the minority groups who have suffered most!

Missouri Struggling To Balance Legalized Marijuana With Inevitable Controversy

This month, hundreds of entrepreneurs were granted permits to conduct medical marijuana business in Missouri. The licenses provide access to several facets of the weed industry, from cultivation, to safety testing, to sales. It even provides stringent guidelines in how to cook up edible the right way. More licenses expanding access points are expected by the end of the month.

But that’s not enough. Only one out of every six applicants received a license to sell. 

What does that mean? The obvious: angry letters, marijuana litigation, appeals, and lobbying. Everything you’d expect of a potentially billion-dollar industry in its infant stages. Missouri isn’t alone. This was the same reaction received in every other state that has legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

Not every state has provided marijuana licenses the same way, though. In Arizona, a basic lottery was conducted. When Florida tried to implement a similar system, the state was promptly sued. After all, why shouldn’t the best applicant be the one to get the first license? Why should it be randomized when the inferior applicants are so much more likely to fail?

Missouri residents began applying for medical marijuana cards as early as June. That resulted in about 1,000 new patients every week. 

New states will most likely legalize recreational marijuana soon. Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota are all poised to get on the ballot in 2020. There may be others. That means the wave is most definitely upon us. Make no mistake, this is a domino effect in progress.

Other states are planning to put medical marijuana on the ballot instead, deciding on a more incremental approach to legalization. Idaho, Mississippi, and Nebraska are among them. South Dakota will likely add a measure to the ballot as well.

Springfield News-Leader reported: “Pro-cannabis types laud marijuana for its capacity to manage pain, wean people from opioids and improve life for people with terminal disease. But due to federal prohibition, little traditional scientific research on cannabis as medicine has been done in the United States, so many of these claims rely on experiential ideas more than empirical study.”

Desmond Morris is the proud owner of Wholesome Bud Company in Springfield, but also Pride Auto Dealing. It seems everyone wants a piece of the new marijuana industry. Still, he says, “The patient is going to be most impacted by this.”

Even though his business is ready, he was denied a license. So was every other Springfield grower. 

He said, “I’m feeling like the goalposts got moved. Not on purpose, but whenever people do things, they make mistakes. When groups do things, they make mistakes.”

And that’s the point. He wants fewer mistakes to be made so the process can become fairer in the future.