Prohibition ends in Illinois
It was a historic New Years Day in Illinois.
Residents across the state and visiting tourists waited in long lines to be the first wave of adult-use cannabis consumers in the Lincoln State.
Social equity and fixing the wrongs of the War on Drugs were a common talking point for lawmakers and participants, all of whom recognize the state’s unique opportunity to act as a leader in social equity for the cannabis space.
“For too long, IL residents, particularly those that are black & brown, have been targeted and criminalized for #cannabis possession,” wrote Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton in a tweet. “It’s not just a new year, it’s a new day. Thank you, @GovPritzker, for ending prohibition and building a more equitable Illinois.”
Before the big day, Gov. JB Pritzker pardoned 11,017 low-level possession-related cannabis offenses. Local officials estimate that number could climb up to 800,000 people by the end of the year.
Virginia officials advocating for progressive cannabis law reform
Fairfax County’s new prosecutor Steve Descano announced he and his staff will not be pursuing or prosecuting individuals for possessing small amounts of cannabis.
In his announcement, Descano referenced the failings of the War on Drugs, offering a new approach that cautions against incarceration.
“Prosecuting adults for simple possession of marijuana does not improve community safety. In fact, such prosecutions can spur future crime. An otherwise law-abiding person that’s found with a relatively insignificant amount of marijuana does not constitute a threat,” wrote Descano
Following his announcement, Judge Mark Simmons dismissed 6 individual cannabis possession-related cases. Unlike other municipalities, Fairfax County judges will see each charge on a case-by-case and judge-by-judge situation.
Descano’s announcement is just the latest pro-cannabis conversation to dominate headlines in Virginia. In December, Attorney General Mark Herring held a private ‘Cannabis Summit’ that welcomed a handful of state officials, policy experts and lawmakers; all of whom continue to advocate for the legalization and decriminalization of the plant.
Alabama Panel recommends legalizing medical cannabis
The Medical Cannabis Study Commission, a legislative panel featuring Alabama State Senators and House of Representatives, recently voted in support of legalizing medical cannabis.
The panel made two distinct conclusions;
- There is strong scientific evidence that both hemp and cannabis contain medicinal properties that can benefit a variety of Alabama residents facing various symptoms and ailments.
- To create a fair and safe market, the state will need to implement a permanent regulatory agency – deemed the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which will feature 11 members responsible for licensing and safe
With the recent approval, a detailed bill that would legalize medical cannabis in Alabama is expected to be presented during the next legislative session, beginning February 4th, 2020.
It’s likely the proposal will face an uphill battle, as popular political leaders like Senators Doug Jones and Richard Shelby are outwardly against the plant. But, with fresh faces in the House of Representatives, combined with recent polling that suggests more than 80% of current residents would Vote Yes for MMJ, it’s possible 2020 is the year Alabama finally introduces a cannabis market.
USDA approves separate hemp state programs
Hemp programs in Ohio, Louisiana and New Jersey have been federally approved by the USDA.
In 2018, hemp cultivation and processing was legalized in the United States through the approval of the 2018 Farm Bill – but federal regulators have failed to introduce clear guidelines on the plant, creating a gray area that has made it exceedingly difficult for farmers to enter the new industry.
16 more states are ‘pending review’, including Illinois. But no clear timeline on when states can expect a decision has been shared by the USDA.
For now, the US hemp industry is experiencing more pain points than success stories. But that could soon change if the federal government becomes more transparent and swiftly approves statewide regulations.