Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have the broadest allowances for marijuana use, legalizing medical and adult recreational use; a handful of other states have passed legislation allowing medical marijuana.
Overall, 47 states have some form of cannabis allowance, only Idaho, Kansas and Nebraska do not have any public programs for marijuana use. But marijuana laws and programs remain a highly contested topic and often see modifications as political power changes. (See also: State Marijuana Laws from 2019 Map)
Earlier this year, Mississippi overturned a 2020 medical-use marijuana measure, which could make the state’s already limited laws even tighter. South Dakota, which currently allows medical marijuana use, ruled earlier this year that a 2020 measure for nonmedical usage was unconstitutional and is awaiting appeal. Colorado, the first state to legalize marijuana in 2012, will limit high-potency concentrates in 2022 in an effort to decrease teenagers’ access to cannabis. But other states, including Alabama and Virginia, saw expansions of their marijuana programs within the last 18 months and Connecticut was the latest state to legalize recreational use of cannabis with the passage of SB 1201 in June.
Despite most states approving its use, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I illegal substance by federal law. But pressure is mounting to legalize cannabis nationally as the industry grows. Insurance lenders, testing labs and retailers are eager to keep up with the increasing demand (some businesses were even offering free weed as an incentive for getting vaccinated against COVID-19). Legal cannabis sales increased 45 percent last year and are predicted to reach $41 billion by 2026, but until there are federal policies, states will be left to determine how they will navigate the growing business.
Delta-8 is the latest trend to hit hemp shops across the country, including here in Kentucky. But the hemp-based product is not without controversy. The legality of Delta-8 might depend on who you ask.
What is Delta-8?
Delta-8 THC is a compound derived from hemp. In flower form, it looks like marijuana, but it's different than the Delta-9 THC compound in marijuana, which is what gives folks a "high."
Some users have reported much milder effects. Others have described euphoria.
Delta-8 can be sold in a variety of forms, like an oil or edible. It can be smoked, vaped, or ingested.
It's a product Dee Dee Taylor added to her shelves at 502-HEMP last September. Her Louisville CBD store is a place people go to find a fix for pain, anxiety, seizures, and more.
The legalization of cannabis in the U.S. has been long in the making. Back in the early 1970s, states such as Oregon, Texas and Colorado began the process of decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis. Fast forward 50 years or thereabouts, and the momentum toward legalization is undeniable.
True, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, but state after state is legalizing the substance for medical and adult use. California was the first to do so for medical usage in 1996. Since then, several others have jumped on the medical cannabis bandwagon, and a total of 19 states have legalized cannabis for adult use. It seems, then, that it’s just a matter of time before the federal government follows suit.
A Bit of Background
There are two key federal laws concerning cannabis that criminalize its use: the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act (CDAPCA) and the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which is part of the CDAPCA. The CSA became effective in 1971 and grouped cannabis along with heroin, LSD and cocaine as Schedule I drugs that are tightly regulated and deemed illegal by the federal government. For its part, the CDAPCA, also enacted in the 70s, was an element of the U.S. “War on Drugs,” and served to significantly restrict manufacturing and distribution of cannabis, among other substances, and amp up related security laws.
Times have certainly changed over the decades, and so has public sentiment about cannabis use. In fact, over 91% of U.S. adults say that cannabis should be legal for adult use or medical use—this according to the Pew Research Center. Clearly, more and more states are hearing this message loud and clear given the uptick in jurisdictions legalizing the substance, be it for medical or adult use purposes.
The Booming Legal Cannabis Market
The legal cannabis business is on fire, with recent estimates suggesting that the size of the global market will climb to $84 billion by 2028. This is a staggering number that spells opportunity for budding (pun intended) entrepreneurs in the U.S. and beyond, not to mention tax authorities. It gets even better when taking into account the popularity of CBD products. CBD, which is derived from the cannabis plant but does not contain THC and is legal in the U.S., has become an integral part of the wellness industry. Experts predict that the global CBD market is on its way to reaching a value of $55 billion in years to come.
In June, the state legislature of California approved $100 million to help cannabis companies. The majority of such businesses – 82 percent as of April – have been operating under provisional licenses. These earmarks will help them move to annual licenses, instead.
“The licensing process can be expensive, time-consuming and difficult,” Jamie Steigerwald, industry expert and Chief Marketing Officer of Los Angeles marijuana delivery service Nug Avenue, stated recently. “Moving from a temporary license to a permanent one involves studying any negative environmental effects and explaining how to alleviate them. These grants will go to cities and counties so that they will be able to support businesses as they navigate this complicated process.”
In part, the legislature approved this money because legal operations need help competing against illegal ones. Ever since California legalized recreational marijuana five years ago, the traffic in illicit weed has increased. According to the United Cannabis Business Association, there are more than three times as many illegal cannabis sellers than licensed ones. An analysis in The Motley Fool states that the black market accounted for 80 percent of recreational marijuana sales in 2018.
Multiple theories have been advanced to explain the proliferation of unlicensed marijuana deals.
“Licensing takes a lot of time, money, and effort, so plenty of people decided not to bother,” Steigerwald explained.
America’s increasingly liberal attitude regarding cannabis consumption has started to impact workplace policies. For decades, both federal and state law outlawed cannabis, which was in turn mirrored in workplace policies across the country. Most employers had a zero-tolerance policy on cannabis, with some even requiring regular drug tests and firing employees who failed. But with cannabis reform sweeping the nation, companies are starting to reconsider their drug policies.
This became increasingly clear when Amazon, the largest player in the e-commerce market with 1.3 million employees around the world, announced that it would cease testing job seekers for marijuana. A lot of businesses had been revising their drug policies in the wake of increased cannabis legalization, but Amazon’s announcement showed that the cannabis reform movement was gaining major traction. However, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Todd Maisch says that while plenty of companies are relaxing their attitudes toward cannabis, there’s still plenty that aren’t.
No business wants their employees to be impaired while on the job, he says, but for a lot of them, the days of random drug tests are drawing to a close. It ultimately depends on the type of business, with some having a lot of flexibility regarding their drug policies and others being unwilling and in most cases unable to relax their drug policies. For instance, businesses in construction whose employees have to use heavy machinery have to maintain a drug-free policy to keep their staff safe while on-site as well as to limit their culpability in case an impaired employee is involved in a workplace accident.
Additionally, entities and individuals that have contracts with the federal government are required to stay clear of all drugs, even the ones that are state legal, because drug use is outlawed by federal law. As such, Maisch says, the evolution of workplace policies regarding cannabis consumption has had two approaches, with some companies adapting to the changing times and others digging their heels in and adhering to federal policy on cannabis. Fortunately for cannabis-reform proponents, current events have influenced how employers treat cannabis.
The pandemic had a historic effect on the job market, forcing a lot of industries to slow down in the wake of lockdown orders and promoting a work-from-home culture. More than a year after the coronavirus struck and as the world started opening up, people began questioning the job market and demanding fair pay and benefits. This has led to a labor shortage of the likes we have never seen before, and employers are scrambling to hire employees who are willing to join their ranks.
PALMDALE — Deputies on patrol last week in Palmdale secured a firearm and marijuana and arrested a person wanted on a warrant, following a traffic stop.
Deputies conducting a traffic stop for a vehicle code violation noticed the smell of marijuana coming from the car and that the driver appeared fidgety and looked to be reaching for something.
The deputies detained the driver and passenger while finishing their questioning.
The marijuana smell provided justification for the deputies to search the car, where they found a firearm under the driver seat and bags of marijuana.
There has been a recent flurry of movement – both in the courts and in state legislatures – on the marijuana law front across several states. As we previously reported, on February 22, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed three separate cannabis reform bills into law (NJ A21, NJ A 1897, and NJ A5342/NJ S3454), formally legalizing the use and possession of recreational marijuana in the Garden State. The new laws contain express workplace-related provisions that impact New Jersey employers by establishing non-discrimination rules for recreational cannabis users or marijuana users, codifying that employers do not have a duty to accommodate cannabis use in the workplace, and establishing procedures for employee drug testing. The laws’ employment provisions were effective immediately, but they do not become operative until the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”) adopts implementing regulations.
As we have also reported, on March 31, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing recreational cannabis in the state of New York, effective immediately. Among the many changes that this new legislation brought were amendments to and expansion of New York’s lawful off-duty conduct law to protect cannabis use by employees when they are not on the job. This statewide change follows New York City’s April 2019 ban on pre-employment cannabis testing, which deems screening for marijuana or THC as a condition of employment to be an unlawful discriminatory practice, with limited exceptions.
Other jurisdictions are catching up to the marijuana law frenzy. From East Coast to the South, Midwest, and Southwest, state lawmakers have legalized cannabis and restricted employers from making employment decisions based on employees’ and prospective employees’ use of marijuana. Here’s a round-up of the most recent developments:
On May 17, 2021, Alabama Governor Ivey signed the Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act (“Hall Act”). Named in honor of the son of an Alabama lawmaker who had passed away at age 25, the Hall Act legalized certain forms of medical marijuana, but explicitly stated that Alabama has no plans to authorize recreational use of marijuana.
The investigations were spurred, in part, to conserve salmon and steelhead habitat.
None of the sites investigated were properly licensed and numerous sites were interfering with local watersheds and spawning streams
In a span of four days this month, deputies with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Marijuana Enforcement Team removed more than 64,000 illegally grown cannabis plants.
The seizures came from multiple grow sites and also resulted in 79 environmental violations, according to a statement from the HCSO, per The Times-Standard.
Among the 79 environmental violations, 42 relate to water diversions, 24 were for depositing trash in waterways and 13 were for water pollution.
Environmental scientists were also on the ground with officers, tracking damage to the area. The investigations were spurred, in part, to conserve salmon and steelhead habitat, according to the news release.
Former California Mayor of Adelanto Richard Kerr was arrested by FBI Agents for alleged accepting almost $60,000 in exchange for bribes related to the local marijuana industry licensing.
A former California mayor was arrested last week after being indicted by a federal grand jury over allegations that he accepted thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks related to commercial marijuana activity.
Richard Kerr, who served as mayor of Adelanto, California from 2014 until 2018, was taken into custody on Friday by FBI agents. He was indicted on allegations that “he accepted more than $57,000 in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for approving ordinances authorizing various types of commercial marijuana activity within the city, and ensuring his co-schemers obtained city licenses or permits authorizing certain commercial marijuana activities,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
The indictment asserts that Kerr “voted on ordinances governing zoning regulations in the city and served on Adelanto’s Cannabis Dispensary Permit Committee, which determined the number of dispensary permits that would be issued and which applicants would receive them.”
In 2016, while Kerr was still serving as mayor of Adelanto, California voters passed a measure legalizing recreational marijuana use, paving the way for a regulated market.
The Department of Justice said that, in his capacity as mayor, Kerr “supported marijuana legalization, voted in favor of an ordinance authorizing marijuana cultivation in the city, voted in favor of an ordinance authorizing the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, and voted to authorize the distribution, transportation and testing of medical marijuana, among other commercial marijuana activities. At the same time, Kerr secretly used his official position to enrich himself and his co-schemers by passing these same ordinances, according to the indictment.”
Yesterday, the Josephine County Sheriff's department raided a ranch in the Illinois valley that is being investigated on charges of illegal marijuana cultivation, involuntary servitude, human trafficking and forced labor.
This raid is part of a larger investigation that began with the death of a man from a different illegal marijuana farm, located on Martin Road in Cave Junction. The man had been driven to the Chevron gas station in Cave Junction in critical condition and left there. The man later died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Within two days of his death, that Martin Road farm had been harvested, and the workers moved to this ranch, called the Q Bar X Ranch, in the Illinois Valley.
The allegation of human trafficking followed multiple 911 hangup calls that came from the property, as well as a source who is remaining anonymous for their own safety. Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel says that on these farms, which have the earmarks of a cartel, the workers are often victims.
“We’ve heard of the threat of harm to your family if you don't go with us”, says Daniel. “And then they are transported up to the location. From what we are understanding, these workers are not paid until the end of the year when the shipment goes out and the money is brought in. There's not like a weekly payroll going on here.”
The operation included over 1,300 acres of property as well as 200 workers. Due to the size of the farm and the scope of the investigation, the Josephine County Sheriffs department was joined by 16 other state and federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
At the conclusion of the operation, 10 firearms and $140,000 in cash were seized. In addition, 72,283 marijuana plants were destroyed along with 6,000 pounds of processed marijuana and 373 greenhouses.
Chuck Schumer’s dream of advancing nationwide cannabis reform must come now, or else it might not get another chance.
Democrats are on borrowed time with respect to their control of Congress, which means they either must work extra hard to ensure the votes necessary to stay in power, or beg, borrow, steal, and call in every favor to see that the party’s agenda is well-served before they are snuffed out by Republicans.
Among the many issues the Democrats are trying to pass, nationwide cannabis reform is a hot topic. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier that legalizing marijuana at the federal level was a top priority for the upper chamber, but he has so far come up short. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking for the Democrats to get something on the books.
As it stands, next year’s midterm elections aren’t looking good for Democrats. Early indicators show that the Republicans are poised to take back control of the House majority, further dividing Congress. “Based on all factors, you’d have to consider Republicans the early favorites for the House majority in 2022,” David Wasserman with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report recently told NBC News. As for the outcome of the Senate, it seems to be any party’s game at this point.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Some politicians believe that history is repeating itself — and it’s not going in favor of the Democratic Party. Senator Lindsey Graham said earlier this week that next year is looking like another 1994. That’s when the GOP swooped in with a vengeance and gained total control of Congress. “I think a tidal wave is brewing,” he said. “When you look at rampant inflation, out-of-control crime, and a broken border and just [a] general lack of knowing what you’re doing, lack of competency … the Republican Party’s going to have a great comeback if we recruit the right people.”
“We received reports from a local factory of a strong smell of cannabis permeating through the building. It transpires it was being taken in via air-conditioning systems.”
Police in the U.K. were called after the smell of cannabis was brought inside a local factory by linked air-conditioning units.
Officers went to the factory’s rooftop and were able to determine where the smells were coming from by a “process of deduction,” eventually seizing about £200,000 ($350,000) worth of cannabis from two nearby properties, reports Yorkshire Live.
The bust was part of a string of arrests in the area over the last week, with officers seizing just under £1 million ($1,741,402) worth of cannabis.
“I appreciate some may not be so appreciative of such seizures, but it really does cause problems in an area with rivals pushing for the upper hand, anti-social behaviour, theft of electricity that others have to pay for,” the spokesperson said, adding that police will be following up on “forensic leads” and contacting landlords.
Earlier this year, police in Scotland busted a $1 million illegal grow-op after the smell of weed and sound of fans led them to inspect a warehouse.
Backers of New York’s successful push to legalize recreational marijuana are pinning their hope on incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul to give the stalled rollout process a shot in the arm.
Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, implementation of New York’s adult-use program has been stuck in neutral, according to Michael Hiller, an attorney specializing in cannabis law. But Hochul’s stance on the legalization of recreational marijuana suggests she will make it a priority when she takes office. “Lt. Gov. Hochul’s approach to legalization, which appears to be motivated by her desire to raise tax revenue, appears to be more genuine and focused,” Hiller said.
Hochul has come out in support of the legalization of recreational marijuana in the past, tweeting in January 2021 that it was time to “create an equitable adult-use cannabis program that generates much-needed revenue for New York.” She also told Cheddar in an interview the same month that “anticipating bringing in about $300 million will help our budget somewhat—not enough—but it'll be a start.”
Cuomo, who recently announced his resignation effective Aug. 24 in the face of multiple sexual harassment accusations, has faced criticism for moving too slowly on setting up the state’s regulatory framework for recreational marijuana. He was specifically accused of holding up his nominations for appointees to the Cannabis Control Board and executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management because he first wanted the legislature to approve his leadership overhaul at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
“The expectation is the new governor appoints this board as one of the first things she does when taking office because the program has kind of slowed to a stop after all of these months,” said NYCGPA President Allan Gandleman, “and if we are to get stores open and businesses built for next spring and summer, we have to start immediately.”
The California Supreme Court ruled this week that inmates in the state prison system do not have a right to possess marijuana under Proposition 64, the landmark 2016 ballot initiative that legalized cannabis in the state. The ruling overturns a lower court decision in 2019 that found that prisoners could possess marijuana but could not smoke or otherwise ingest it while behind bars.
“It seems implausible” that the voters intended to essentially decriminalize marijuana in prisons with the ballot measure’s passage, Associate Justice Joshua Groban wrote in the court’s majority opinion.
2019 Decision Overturned For California Inmates
The Supreme Court’s decision was handed down in a case of five men who were convicted of marijuana possession after being found with cannabis in their prison cells. In 2019, California’s 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that although smoking and ingesting marijuana in prison is illegal under state law, possession of cannabis was not specifically outlawed by statute. Under that ruling, the appeals court found that state prisoners could legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Other appeals court decisions, however, had found that marijuana possession in prisons is still against the law.
“We agree with the Attorney General that if the drafters had intended to so dramatically change the laws regarding cannabis in prison, we would expect them to have been more explicit about their goals,” wrote Groban.
“While perhaps not illogical to distinguish between the possession and use of cannabis, it is nonetheless difficult to understand why the electorate would want to preclude laws criminalizing cannabis possession in prison, but permit laws criminalizing cannabis consumption in prison,” he continued.
SOUTH RIVER – The borough will allow licensed facilities to grow and process marijuana wholesale, but will not permit retail pot stores to open.
The Borough Council unanimously approved two ordinances earlier this month that allow certain licensed marijuana facilities to operate in nonresidential areas in the borough.
"By allowing this, you're bringing in manufacturing, which is the largest tax revenue this town will actually see," Councilman Peter Guindi said. "Besides what the town may implement once this does come into our town, the state actually not only supersedes us, but they have even stricter rules and regulations. I can tell you that this is something where it's not going to be a storefront, nobody's going to be allowed in it."
It's going to be "so discreet" you won't know it exists, he said.
"Right now, we're going after the manufacturing part of it, which I think is probably the most cleanest and straightforward part of the cannabis," he said.