Amazon announced that it supports nationwide cannabis legalization and will no longer test most job applicants for marijuana use.
“We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation, and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use. We will continue to do impairment checks on the job and will test for all drugs and alcohol after any incident,” the company said in a blog post.
Additionally, the company said they would actively lobby Congress to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would legalize cannabis nationally.
“And because we know that this issue is bigger than Amazon, our public policy team will be actively supporting The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act)—federal legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and invest in impacted communities. We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law,” according to Amazon’s blog.
Support for legalization and dropping drug testing for employees is a huge change for the second-largest private employer in the U.S. Prior to this announcement, the company disqualified people who tested positive for marijuana use from employment.
For example, in March, the company was sued by a man who said that the company reversed a hiring offer because of marijuana use—testing prospective employees for marijuana has been banned in New York City.
The Drug Policy Alliance expressed support in a statement in response to the policy change.
“Drug testing has never provided an accurate indication of a person’s ability to perform their job, and yet this incredibly invasive practice has locked out millions of people who use drugs—both licit and illicit—from the workplace.”
However, the advocacy group urged Amazon to go further by ending all drug testing and supporting policies that promote equity for people of color.
“We implore Amazon and other employers to let this be the starting point and not the goal post. This change can and should be the catalyst to a much larger move—ending drug testing for all drugs—that would ensure a more just and equitable future for millions of people, especially Black, Brown and Indigenous communities who have been disproportionately impacted by these policies.”
On December 4, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to end federal marijuana prohibition.
Under the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, cannabis would be decriminalized and removed as a scheduled substance.
The MORE Act would expunge federal marijuana convictions and create a reinvestment program to support individuals most impacted by the War on Drugs. A 5% federal tax on cannabis would go toward services such as job training, legal aid, and literacy and health education programs.
Rep. Ed Blumenauer (D-OR), who has long advocated for marijuana legalization, said that the bill is “going to make a huge difference for people all across America as Congress starts to catch up to where the American public is.”
“There’s a whole range of things that the MORE Act fixes,” Blumenauer said. “But most important is it stops this failed war on drugs that is so unfair to Americans of color, particularly black and brown. It will stop the federal interference with research. It’ll allow this emerging market to thrive, make it possible for more people to participate and be able to get on with their lives.”
The bill passed by a vote of 228 to 164, with 222 Democrats, five Republicans, and one Independent voting in support.
At a press event following the bill’s passage, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said that this “really is a moment for racial justice. We know that this year has put inequality and systemic racism to the forefront of our attention, and there’s no better way to close out this year than to really begin to atone for the destructive policies brought on by the failed war on drugs.”
The House might be as far as legalizing marijuana goes for now, however. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate Majority Leader, is against ending cannabis prohibition. McConnell, also known as the Grim Reaper when it comes to killing legislation, is expected to block any marijuana bills from getting a vote in the Senate. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D-CA) is the lead sponsor of the Senate version of the bill.
Researchers Study Whether Cows Fed Hemp Will Get Meat Eaters and Milk Drinkers High
Will feeding hemp to cattle pass along a high to humans? That’s what researchers at Kansas State University hope to discover after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded them a $200,000 grant.
Although the federal government legalized hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill, it’s prohibited for use as animal feed, and no one really knows what effect cannabinoids have on cattle. Plus, using hemp as livestock feed could potentially result in concentrations of THC in meat and milk.
“Our goal is to fill in the knowledge gaps,” said Michael Kleinhenz, one of the researchers at Kansas State University. “Until feedstuffs containing hemp are established as safe in animals, our data will assist producers in managing situations involving intentional or unintentional hemp exposures.”
Fewer Vaping Illnesses Reported in Legal Marijuana States
According to a study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health, higher rates of e-cigarette and marijuana vaping did not result in more vaping-related lung injuries (known as EVALI) in states with legalized marijuana.
“Indeed, the five earliest states to legalize recreational marijuana—Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington—all had less than one EVALI case per 100,000 residents aged 12 to 64. None of the highest EVALI-prevalence states—Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, Delaware and Indiana—allowed recreational marijuana use,” according to Yale researchers.
So what accounts for the difference? It turns out that the use of Vitamin E acetate, a vaping additive used to dilute marijuana oils in mostly black-market vaping products, is responsible for the rise in EVALI cases. People in states where marijuana is still prohibited are more likely to seek out black-market products.
Yale researchers used data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) related to EVALI hospitalization and deaths nationwide.
Another Month, Another Colorado Marijuana Sales Record
Marijuana sales in Colorado have been breaking records nearly every month, despite (or maybe because of) the COVID-19 pandemic. July was no exception: Recreational marijuana dispensary sales amounted to $183,106,003, while medical marijuana sales amounted to $43,268,565. Combined, that’s $226,374,568 worth of weed, up 13.8% from June.
So far, Colorado dispensaries have sold more than $1.2 billion worth of marijuana edibles, concentrate, and flower in 2020, amounting to $203 million in taxes for the state.
If cannabis sales continue to break records, 2020 could surpass 2019’s record of $1.75 billion in annual sales.
The Garden State could legalize recreational marijuana by the end of this month. After a year of negotiations, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced Tuesday that he had reached an agreement with leaders in the state legislature to legalize adult-use cannabis.
Lawmakers are expected to hold a vote on the legislation on March 25, and the governor could sign in the bill into law later the same week. It’s not clear how soon the bill would go into effect.
“Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system,” said Gov. Murphy in a press release. “After months of hard work and thoughtful negotiations, I’m thrilled to announce an agreement with my partners in the Legislature on the broad outlines of adult-use marijuana legislation. I believe that this legislation will establish an industry that brings fairness and economic opportunity to all of our communities, while promoting public safety by ensuring a safe product and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on serious crimes.”
The agreement includes a plan for expedited expungement of low-level marijuana convictions as well as provisions to encourage women and minorities to open cannabis businesses.
“The prohibition on marijuana has long been a failed policy,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D). “This plan will bring an end to the adverse effects our outdated drug laws have had on the residents of our state. As a regulated product legalized marijuana will be safe and controlled. It is time to legalize adult use marijuana in New Jersey and this is a well crafted legal reform that will advance social policy in a fair and effective way.”
According the legislation, a five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission will establish rules for marijuana cultivation and distribution. Three members will be appointed by the governor, and the other two will be chosen by the Assembly Speaker and the Senate President.
The state will collect excise tax at a rate $42 per ounce of adult-use marijuana, subject to collection at cultivation. Municipalities with cannabis retailers will collect a 3% tax, 2% from cultivators or manufacturers, and 1% from wholesalers.
Canada legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday, becoming the second country in the world to end cannabis prohibition. The Cannabis Act legalizes marijuana possession, home growing, and adult-use sales. The law will enable adults 18 years-and-older to possess and share up to 30 grams of cannabis in public and to cultivate up to four plants.
Unfortunately, Canadians will have to wait a couple of months until they can legally buy recreational marijuana. Provincial governments will set their own regulations regarding cannabis sales and distribution, and they have set an expected roll out date of October 17th. Initially, legal cannabis sales were hoped to begin July 1.
Independent Senator Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said, “We have seen in the Senate tonight a historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition of cannabis in this country, 90 years of needless criminalization, 90 years of a just-say-no approach to drugs that hasn’t worked.”
The Cannabis Act was passed after months of back and forth between the Senate and the House of Commons. The bill was first introduced on April 13, 2017, and passed at the House of Commons in November. The Cannabis Act was finally approved in the Senate with a vote of 52-29.
Uruguay was the first country to legalize weed in December 2013.
Cannabis availability will vary across Canada. In Ontario, only 40 state-run shops will be able to sell recreational weed, while in Alberta, cannabis will be available at more than 200 private retailers. In Newfoundland and Labrador, cannabis will be sold at grocery stores.
During his campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to legalize cannabis to reduce underage consumption and black market crime.
“It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate,” Trudeau tweeted yesterday.
Colorado Senator Cory Gardner (R) and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) have teamed up to create marijuana reform legislation called the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES).
In a statement, Gardner said, “The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters – whether that is legalization or prohibition – and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry.”
The bipartisan effort would not legalize cannabis, but it would give additional protections to states that have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana. The STATES Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to make it illegal for the federal government to prosecute people who are complying with local, state, or tribal cannabis laws. The bill also spells out that marijuana transactions operating within the law should not be considered trafficking, potentially opening up banking to the cannabis industry.
In a joint press conference with Gardner, Warren explained, “The science is clear: Medical marijuana treatments are effective. There is absolutely no reason patients should be prevented from seeking scientifically approved care, but right now, that is the reality for millions of people across the country. These archaic laws don’t just hurt individual people. They also hurt businesses that are in the marijuana business from getting access to banking services. That forces a multi-million-dollar industry to operate all in cash. That’s bad for business and bad for safety.”
In addition to access to medical marijuana and banking services, Warren wants to reform drug laws that have resulted in “widespread discrimination these policies foster across our communities…that have devastated communities of color.”
Gardner primarily sees marijuana issues from a states’ rights perspective, but he also believes that it’s time to legitimize the marijuana industry. “It’s time that we take this industry out of the shadows, bring these dollars out of the shadows and make sure we hold these people accountable for an industry that states are moving forward with regardless of the pace of business in Washington, D.C.”
The STATES bill would also remove industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances prohibited under the CSA.
Read a STATES Act Fact Sheet here.
On Wednesday, President Trump signed the “Right to Try” bill into law. Legislation was first introduced by Republican lawmakers in March.
The new law allows terminally ill patients to try experimental treatments and drugs that have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–including medical marijuana.
According to Forbes, terminal patients wishing to access medical cannabis must be in “a stage of a disease or condition in which there is reasonable likelihood that death will occur within a matter of months, or a disease or condition that would result in significant irreversible morbidity that is likely to lead to severely premature death.”
In addition, patients would need to have “exhausted approved treatment options” and not be eligible to otherwise participate in ongoing clinical trials on the drug because they don’t meet inclusion criteria or live within geographic proximity of where the study is taking place.
In order for a drug to qualify under the new law, it must have completed a Phase 1 clinical trial. Luckily, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been studying cannabis since 2010 and marijuana is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials.
In an interview, Brad Burge, the director of strategic communications for MAPS, said, “Making medical marijuana available for terminally ill patients would certainly be a significant step forward for federal policy. If MAPS’s current Phase 2 clinical trial of marijuana for symptoms of PTSD in military veterans qualifies marijuana for use under the proposed Right to Try Act, then the trial will already have helped a lot of people.
“Still, only making marijuana available for those on the verge of dying isn’t nearly enough, and the best thing the federal government can do for patients is to end the federal monopoly on marijuana for research currently being upheld by Jeff Sessions.”
According to a new poll released by Qunnipiac University, 63 percent of Americans think that marijuana should be legalized nationwide. To date, that’s the largest level of support for legal cannabis measured by the Qunnipiac survey. That’s up from 2012, when 51 percent of surveyed voters supported legalization.
“Voters are more favorable to legalizing marijuana than in any previous Quinnipiac University survey, and do not see its use as a gateway to more serious drugs,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
The numbers are even more dramatic when it comes to support for protecting states with legalized medical or recreational marijuana. Voters oppose 70 -23 enforcement of federal laws in states with legalized cannabis, and support 74 – 20 percent a bill protecting states that have ended marijuana prohibition.
The 11 marijuana-related survey questions were included as part of a federal bill query and represent the largest number of cannabis-related questions on a single Quinnipiac poll.
Below are the marijuana poll results:
Do you think that the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States, or not?
- Yes: 63%
- No: 33%
- DK/NA: 4%
Do you support or oppose allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it?
- Support: 93%
- Oppose: 5%
- DK/NA: 1%
Keeping in mind that your answers are confidential, have you ever recreationally used marijuana or not?
- Yes: 43%
- No: 54%
- DK/NA: 2%
If you agreed with a political candidate on other issues, but not on the issue of legalizing marijuana, do you think you could still vote for that candidate or not?
- Yes: 82%
- No: 13%
- DK/NA: 5%
Would you support or oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana?
- Support: 23%
- Oppose: 70%
- DK/NA: 7%
Is recreational marijuana legal in the state in which you live, or not?
- Yes/Legal: 22%
- No: 72%
- DK/NA: 5%
(If yes/legal) Do you think that legalizing recreational marijuana has been good for your state or bad for your state?
- Good: 48%
- Bad: 25%
- DK/NA: 26%
As you may know, legalizing recreational marijuana allows states to tax the sale of marijuana, which can result in increased revenue. Do you think that increasing revenue in your state is a good reason or a bad reason for recreational marijuana to be legalized?
- Good reason: 54%
- Bad reason: 42%
- DK/NA: 4%
Do you consider marijuana a so-called “gateway drug”, or not?
- Yes/Gateway drug: 31%
- No: 61%
- DK/NA: 8%
Do you think that legalizing marijuana will make people more likely to use opioids, less likely to use opioids, or don’t you think legalizing marijuana will have much impact either way?
- More likely: 20%
- Less likely: 20%
- Not much impact: 56%
- DK/NA: 5%
1,193 voters were surveyed nationwide between April 20 -24, with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, including the design effect. Live interviewers call landlines and cell phones. Keep in mind, some results are also from states without legal marijuana laws.
When it comes to cannabis in Colorado, it turns out that residents know their stuff. With more dispensaries than Starbucks (in Denver, at least), Colorado’s passion for weed probably comes as no surprise. But far from the stoner stereotype, Coloradoans are knowledgeable about marijuana laws, health effects, and risks.
A new report released by the state Health Department shows that locals are better educated about marijuana than they were when it was legalized. Coloradoans weed education is partly thanks to a campaign launched by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE). “Good to Know,” a public education and awareness campaign, was launched in 2015 with the aim of promoting the safe, legal, and responsible use of marijuana.
Dr. Larry Wolk, the executive director of the CDPHE, said the department’s public education approach differs from previous drug education programs like DARE. Rather than scare tactics or promoting abstinence, the “Good to Know” approach is decidedly more friendly and upbeat.
Wolk explained that “Good to Know” is “not an aversion campaign. This is really a way to educate folks without alienating folks.”
The report shows the shifts in attitudes, knowledge, and perceptions of marijuana since the beginning of retail sales. Here are some of the highlights from the report:
- Among cannabis users, adults familiar with the Good to Know campaign were 2.5 times more likely be familiar with marijuana laws.
- Current cannabis users (80 percent) have significantly higher knowledge of the laws compared to nonusers (59 percent).
- The number of those who knew the risks of driving within 6 hours after using marijuana increased 23 percent and those who realized daily use could impair memory increased 26 percent.
- Increased perceptions of risk (12 percent) of over-consumption of edibles.
- Because marijuana has been shown to have negative health effects during pregnancy and breastfeeding, part of the education campaign focused on women of reproductive age. Today, nine of 10 of these women agree there are some risks of using marijuana during pregnancy.
- The number of adults prepared to talk to their children about the risks of using marijuana increased 12 percent.
If you live in or around Denver, you already know what a nightmare the housing market has been for the last few years. And, chances are, you probably place some of the blame on the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2014.
New recreational cannabis markets–especially in a behemoth of a state like California–are looking to Colorado to predict what impact legalization will have on their communities. Luckily, a group of researchers studied the effect on housing prices in Denver both before and after recreational marijuana was legalized–and their results were surprising.
Rather than negatively impacting property values in the immediate vicinity of a dispensary, they found that selling recreational cannabis had a “large positive impact on neighboring property values.”
James Conklin, a real estate professor at the University of Georgia, co-authored the study and told The Cannifornian, “We went into the project and we weren’t really sure what to expect. We thought maybe there would be a negative impact. I think our takeaway after working on the project was that we don’t see a negative effect — we do see results point to a positive effect.”
In fact, they found that existing medical marijuana dispensaries that expanded to included recreational sales actually raised nearby property values. Single-family homes within 0.1 miles of a dispensary saw gains of 8.4 percent relative to houses located between 0.1 and 0.25 miles away. For homes in the 0.1 mile range, the average property value increase was $27,000 higher after legalization.
Moussa Diop, an assistant professor of real estate and urban land economics at UW Madison and co-author of the study, explained that “the presence of retail marijuana establishments clearly had a short-term positive impact on nearby properties in Denver. This suggests that in addition to the sales and business taxes generated from the retail marijuana industry, municipalities may experience an increase in property taxes. It’s an important piece of the puzzle as more and more voters and policy-makers look for evidence about the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana.”
However, as the researchers note, the correlation between legal marijuana and housing values is only one factor affecting the Denver market. Even before 2014, Colorado’s population was on the uptick and affordable housing was (and still is) in short supply.
So, while new cannabis markets are looking to Colorado to predict what will happen in their own communities, there’s no guarantee that what’s happened in Denver and the state will impact new cannabis markets in the same way.
Some realtors in California have expressed disbelief that legal weed will increase home values. Rick Smith, president of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, said that regulations prohibiting dispensaries from operating close to neighborhood schools would likely have a dampening effect on home values.
Oakland-based realtor Kerri Naslund-Monday agreed. “The demand here is so high already,” she said, “even without that element, that I don’t foresee it causing too much of an effect that could be measured.”