People With Marijuana Convictions Should Know About National Expungement Week

People With Marijuana Convictions Should Know About National Expungement Week

Marijuana legalization is a solid first step, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to resolve  socioeconomic and racial inequities brought about by the war on drugs.

Hence, we now have National Expungement Week. The first-of-its-kind campaign, supported by a coalition of cannabis and social justice organizations called the Equity First Alliance, is taking place from October 20-27.

The organizations will offer “expungement and other forms of legal relief to some of the 77 million Americans with convictions on their records,” according to the campaign website. “These convictions can restrict access to housing, employment, education, public assistance, and voting rights long after sentences have been served.”

In an open letter, the alliance also said it was “largely unsupported by the cannabis industry and by the traditional funders of equity work.” While a main argument in support of legalization is that it would help to repair drug war damages, which have disproportionately affected communities of color, the laws and markets created by the successful movement haven’t necessarily lived up to its name, the alliance wrote.

To that end, the campaign has organized events across the country—from Los Angeles to Boston—to provide legal services to those whose criminal records are able to be reduced or expunged. You can check out the full list of events here.

The alliance’s agenda touches on numerous reform policies, including using marijuana tax revenue to fund communities that have been impacted by prohibition, implementing social equity programs, ensuring corporate responsibility for businesses that profit off cannabis and providing affordable medical cannabis for low-income patients, among other policies.

“We believe that we have a short but vital window of opportunity to change the course of the cannabis industry—and by doing so, we can prevent further harms to the most impacted communities and create a model of reparative economic and criminal justice.”

Adam Vine, co-founder of Cafe-Free Cannabis and an organizer with the campaign, told Marijuana Moment that the campaign is necessary “because millions of Americans have been harmed by the war on drugs and continue to face collateral consequences for convictions that may have happened years ago.”

“These consequences restrict people’s access to employment, housing, education, and social services, so our coalition decided to do something about it,” he said. “We are coordinating these events to provide free legal relief and to say that as states move towards cannabis legalization, expungement needs to be the first priority.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

People With Marijuana Convictions Should Know About National Expungement Week

Marijuana And Other Drugs Should Be Legalized, Likely Next House Judiciary Chair Says

Marijuana And Other Drugs Should Be Legalized, Likely Next House Judiciary Chair Says

A Democratic lawmaker who many political observers believe will likely be the next chairman of the powerful U.S. House Judiciary Committee implied in an interview on Wednesday that he supports legalizing other currently illicit drugs in addition to marijuana.

“From everything we have learned, people are going to do drugs. And certainly the softer drugs like marijuana, there’s no good reason at all that they cannot be legalized and regulated properly,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said.

“The major effect of the war on drugs has been to fill our prisons with huge numbers of people to no great effect except to waste money and to ruin lives.”

In the comments, which Nadler made during an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, the congressman did not specify with substances he believes should be legalized, but his use of the pluralized phrase “softer drugs like marijuana” and the word “they” suggests his anti-prohibition views extend beyond just cannabis.

There is no precise definition of what constitutes a “soft drug” as compared to a “hard drug,” but some analysts categorize substances like LSD, psilocybin and MDMA in the former category in light of their lack of addictive potential.

Nadler is currently the top ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal law enforcement agencies involved in drug enforcement and prosecution. If Democrats take control of the House in the midterm elections, as many poll watchers predict, he would likely ascend to the panel’s chairmanship and have the power to bring marijuana and other drug reform bills up for a vote.

Also in the radio interview, Nadler called the war on drugs an “abject failure” that is “not succeeding in reducing crime or doing anything else.”

“We ought to look at drugs as a public health issue.”

The comments came shortly after another key Democrat, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), released an eight-page memo to fellow party members laying out a step-by-step strategy for how they can accomplish federal marijuana legalization in 2019 if they take control of one or both chambers of Congress. The plan includes a hearing on marijuana descheduling before the Judiciary Committee.

When it comes to marijuana, Nadler sees it as “far less damaging than nicotine to people’s health and we should probably regulate it similarly,” he said in the interview, adding that its current restrictive Schedule I status “doesn’t make any sense.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Marijuana And Other Drugs Should Be Legalized, Likely Next House Judiciary Chair Says

Melissa Etheridge Talks Art, Culture and Marijuana Advocacy In The Legalization Era

Melissa Etheridge Talks Art, Culture and Marijuana Advocacy In The Legalization Era

It’s been a little over a year since singer, activist and marijuana entrepreneur Melissa Etheridge was arrested for cannabis possession by federal agents in North Dakota near the U.S.-Canada border. Her tour bus was stopped and searched shortly after touring in Alberta, and agents discovered a vape pen containing cannabis oil.

Etheridge, who’s become an outspoken advocate for legalization in the years since she started using the plant medicinally after being diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s, told Marijuana Moment in a new interview that the experience of being busted did not deter her.

Rather, it has motivated her to continue advocating for patients and spreading the word about marijuana’s therapeutic potential.

Later this month, the singer plans to continue that mission, giving a keynote talk on how art and culture can help bring cannabis into the mainstream at the California Cannabis Business Conference in Anaheim. In the interview below, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity, she speaks about what the audience can expect and the role of celebrities in the legalization movement.

Via Tina Lawson.

Marijuana Moment: Let’s start by talking about your upcoming speech. How exactly can art and culture “mainstream” cannabis?

Melissa Etheridge: I know that I have lived my life in art. I have made my life art, and my art is my life. I write music and I have experience—when I went through my breast cancer experience, and I used cannabis as medicine for the first time, it was inspiring. It made sense to me on so many levels. Artists, we spend a lot of time in our right brain. We get inspiration—which means “in spirt”—from nothing and make something of it. So it’s easy for us to understand plant medicine. Why shouldn’t we be the ones to help bridge that gap?

MM: Inversely, I wonder how using marijuana has influenced your artistic career?

ME: Oh my goodness, well if you hear everything from after my cancer on, you can hear it. The difference in the work, the depth of my soul-searching, the depth of my spiritual journey. It changed my understanding of parenting. To be more balanced in one’s consciousness, to understand that we have a problem-solving consciousness—the left side, and that gets everything done—yet we need a balance of the oneness, the all there is that’s in the right side.

MM: Where do you see the role of celebrities when it comes to advancing marijuana reform?

ME: Celebrities have a funny role in our world, you know? We keep saying, we’re just people, people. And sometimes we’re just people who have done one thing really well for a long time and that’s what you become a “genius” at—that’s all that that is. So all of a sudden, people are interested in that, so you get this currency, this energy, that is celebrity. Then it’s up to each of us.

I went through this with the LGBT community. I proudly came out and said ‘yes!’ and I’ve heard from, and know that I’ve inspired, many, and that makes me just so happy in my life. Yet I’ve made some mistakes, you know? And we’re all just walking through this. Celebrities, if they choose to, can do a lot. My hope is that I can help others look at cannabis as medicine, as an alternative, when the choice that they’re given is a painkiller, an opioid, to say, “Hey, let’s try to put the stigma away and really get into this plant medicine that won’t harm us as much.” I hope my celebrity can help there.

MM: Do you think there’s a greater need for celebrities who are profiting from the marijuana industry to contribute to the movement in terms of grassroots organizing or contributing to national advocacy groups, for example?

ME: I think that’s a natural byproduct of the movement. I think that the majority of people in the cannabis industry understand it is as a social game-changer on so many levels—on justice reform, on racial inequality, it goes deep. This is a movement.

MM: You also run a marijuana business based in California. What has your experience been like since Proposition 64 went into effect?

ME: We all agree that legalization is a good thing. Prop. 64 is full of almost impossible criteria to me, and it’s causing undue financial burdens. No other industry has ever had to meet these regulation requirements—not even the food industry and certainly not the pharmaceutical industry.

MM: The anniversary of your arrest near the border recently passed. I wonder what you make of the progress we’re seeing in Canada, which is set to launch its legal cannabis system next week, compared to the United States.

ME: Oh, Canada. Again, there are parallels with the LGBT movement. I remember Canada went completely federal—we’re doing gay marriage, bam, same-sex marriage, equality. I don’t know what it is, unless it’s just that anybody who would come to Canada to live—because it’s so darn cold—that they really believe in rights for all, this great thing. I think they also jumped on cannabis pretty early and have seen what it can do for communities, what it can do medicinally, what it can do for businesses and that’s what’s going to just kill us. We are missing out on the opportunity to be the international leaders on cannabis. And it’s these beautiful people up in Canada who are doing it so well. It’s like when the Japanese started making better cars than us.

MM: As a longtime activist, what message would you send to our elected official in Congress, where cannabis reform has stalled for decades?

ME: I’d say, I understand the fear. It has been many decades of misinformation telling us that cannabis is evil. I get it. I’ve heard that also. These are different times and it’s possible to think differently about this medicine. This is an answer for you. Really give it a chance.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Melissa Etheridge Talks Art, Culture and Marijuana Advocacy In The Legalization Era

Democrats And Republicans Clash Over Which Party Will Lead On Marijuana In 2019

Democrats And Republicans Clash Over Which Party Will Lead On Marijuana In 2019

Which party is going to take a leadership role in advancing marijuana reform after the midterm elections? It depends on who you ask.

On Thursday, both Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) indicated that their respective party would be backing legislation to change federal cannabis laws in the months after November’s critical election. Rohrabacher said that he’d received assurances that the White House would support reform efforts during the 116th Congress, which begins in January.

“It could be as early as spring of 2019, but definitely in the next legislative session,” he said, noting that President Donald Trump planned to keep his promise to support a bipartisan bill to protect legal states from federal interference.

Later, Blumenauer—a close colleague of the Republican congressman when it comes to cannabis reform efforts—said that Democrats would promote legislation to change cannabis laws in the first half of 2019 if his party retakes the House.

“With Democrats in control, we will be able to have the legislative process work and we’ll see more progress in a relatively short order, I think.”

“These will be some of the easiest things to do in the first six months of a new Congress because they’re supported by the public, the legislation is already teed up and ready to go,” Blumenauer said in an interview with Bloomberg. “It’s one of these areas of progress that will show we can get our act together and move forward.”

“It doesn’t have to be the top priority. It’s simpler than health care or global warming. And it’s supported by the public. I think it’s a no-brainer. I think it moves in the next six months.”

Watch the full interview here:

Blumenauer seems to be breaking somewhat from his party’s leadership. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), for example, said last month that top Democrats haven’t yet “talked about” promoting federal marijuana legislation if the party retakes the House in the midterm elections. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also suggested that the fate of federal cannabis reform would depend, in part, on the will of the president.

“I don’t know where the president is on any of this,” Pelosi said. “So any decision about how we go forward would have to reflect where we can get the result.”

Trump Plans To Back Legal Medical Marijuana After Midterms, GOP Congressman Says

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Democrats And Republicans Clash Over Which Party Will Lead On Marijuana In 2019

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Launches Online Petition To Promote Marijuana Legalization Bill

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Launches Online Petition To Promote Marijuana Legalization Bill

Should Pennsylvania fully legalize marijuana? A state lawmaker launched an online petition Tuesday asking his colleagues to do just that.

In an effort to drum up public support for a legalization bill he plans to introduce, Pennsylvania Rep. Jake Wheatley (D) called on residents to co-sign his petition in support of cannabis reform in the Keystone State.

“In the near future, I will introduce H.B. 2600 to legalize the sale of marijuana for adult recreational use in Pennsylvania, and I’m asking for your support,” Wheatley wrote. “Legalizing marijuana—which is already permitted for medical use here in the commonwealth—would yield tremendous benefits for our state.”

The politician went on to list nine reasons to back legalization, including increased tax revenue, depriving drug trafficking organizations of profits and stimulating growth in the agricultural industry.

“My bill would also expunge criminal records for marijuana-related convictions that would have been considered lawful under the act. It’s time to end the 21st-century version of prohibition, stop squandering billions of dollars in revenue and balance our budget!”

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, which counts about 30,000 registered patients (with another 22,000 awaiting approval as of July 31), has been in effect for two years. But Gov. Tom Wolf (D), a vocal supporter of the system, recently cautioned against moving too fastto implement a recreational program.

“My sense is, right now, Pennsylvania’s not ready for it,” Wolf said earlier this month. “We’re working really hard to make sure that the medical marijuana program is done the right way.”

But public opinion, as revealed by polling, seems to disagree with the governor. A 2017 survey from Franklin & Marshall College found 59 percent of Pennsylvanians support legalizing adult-use cannabis, while just 31 percent oppose it.

Via Franklin & Marshall College.

That sentiment is bolstered by a report from the state’s auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, which found that Pennsylvania could see more than a half-billion dollars in additional tax revenue if the state approves recreational marijuana.

In any case, Wheatley is pushing ahead with his plan to introduce marijuana legalization in the legislature.

“There are tremendous benefits to legalizing marijuana and few downsides,” Wheatley told Fox 43. “It’s estimated that legalization would generate more than $580 million in annual tax revenue for Pennsylvania. That’s money to balance our budget, strengthen our economy, bolster our workforce and improve our schools.”

“What’s more, legalization would save taxpayers millions in enforcement costs while freeing up crime-fighting resources to combat serious, violent crime,” he said. “Prohibiting recreational use of marijuana does nothing to meaningfully reduce access to this relatively safe drug.”

UPDATE 8/21/18 2:54 p.m.: This story has been updated to clarify the number of currently registered medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania).

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Launches Online Petition To Promote Marijuana Legalization Bill

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

 

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