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Chronicle AM: Lawrence, KS Ends Marijuana Prosecutions, El Chapo's Gunmen Free His Son in Firefight, More... (10/18/19)

The head of the Senate Banking Committee wants some changes made to the SAFE Banking Act, Kansas' Douglas County ends marijuana prosecutions, the Sinaloa Cartel battles Mexican soldiers and police to free El Chapo's son, and more.

The Mexican police and military were no match for the Sinaloa Cartel in Culicacan on Thursday. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Key GOP Senate Chairman Outlines Changes He Wants for Marijuana Banking Bill. Sen Mike Crapo (R-ID), head of the Senate Banking Committee, wants to see some changes in the SAFE Banking Act passed last month by the House. "The things we're looking at are, first of all, to make sure we improve and clarify the interstate banking application of all of this," Crapo said. "Secondly, money laundering issues with regard to legacy cash to make sure how that is managed properly. [Financial Crimes Enforcement Network] issues and other related issues. And then finally the health and safety issues about what is going to be banked."

Florida Marijuana Legalization Would Create 100,000 Jobs, Report Finds. A study from New Frontier Data finds that legalization would be a job booster for the state, creating more than 100,000 jobs by 2025. "Assuming full federal legalization, New Frontier Data estimates cannabis jobs could reach 128,587 by 2025," says John Kagia, chief knowledge officer at the DC-based research group. That's up dramatically from the state's current number of cannabis jobs, which Kagia says is at 16,792.

Kansas County Home to University of Kansas Ends Marijuana Possession Prosecutions. Douglas County, with a county seat of Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas, will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases, District Attorney Charles Branson said Thursday. Branson cited changing attitudes, law enforcement priorities, and noted that pot prosecutions have "a disproportional impact upon people of color and the poor." The decision takes effect immediately.

Drug Testing

Louisiana Supreme Court Rules Unconfirmed Drug Test Can't Be Used to Deny Workers' Comp Claim. The state's highest court has ruled that an unconfirmed or unverified drug test is not sufficient to prove intoxication or fraud as a means of denying workers' compensation claims for injured workers. The court noted that state law requires verification or confirmation of any testing before disqualifying any claims.

International

Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel "Unarrests" El Chapo's Son as Security Forces Retreat. Mexican security forces captured one of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's sons in the cartel heartland city of Culiacan on Thursday, but were forced to release him after cartel gunmen surrounded the house where he was being held, triggered gun battles with authorities, and organized a prison break. Police said Ovidio Guzman was one of four people in a house where militarized police came under attack, but when they arrested him, cartel gunmen quickly outmatched them, and Guzman was released to prevent lives being lost, security officials said. As Guzman was being held, fighters emerged throughout the city, fighting police and soldiers in broad daylight, used burning buses as barricades, and left at least one gas station ablaze. At least two people were killed, though some reports mentioned seeing three bodies at one location.

Chronicle AM: MA Will Get Cannabis Cafes, Australia's Capital City Legalizes Weed, More... (9/25/19)

Massachusetts regulators approve cannabis cafes and home delivery, a key congressman pledges continuing support for broad marijuana reforms, Australia's capital city legalizes pot possession, and more.

Cannabis cafes are coming to Boston. (RegulateMass)
Marijuana Policy

Judiciary Committee Chairman Pledges Broader Marijuana Reform After Banking Vote. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that a vote set for Wednesday on the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1595) would only be the first step in a broader push toward marijuana policy reform. "The House is expected to consider the SAFE Banking Act on the floor tomorrow and I will vote for it," Nadler said. "This bill will address one of the many serious problems that results from the criminalization of marijuana at the federal level. "As the sponsor of the MORE Act (HR 3884), I also strongly support additional marijuana reform -- to deschedule marijuana federally and to provide critical assistance and relief to individuals and communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the racially biased war on drugs," Nadler said. "I am therefore committed to marking up this bill and look forward to working with reform advocates and my colleagues in this important effort going forward." The statement comes amid division among reform advocates over whether to seek broader reforms before passing the SAFE Act.

Arizona Legalization Initiative Gets Updated, Begins Signature Gathering. The Smart and Safe Arizona Act marijuana legalization initiative has been amended to allow more people to expunge past pot convictions and to allow for 26 retail licenses to be issued to "individuals from communities disproportionately impacted" by marijuana prohibition. Now, signature gathering gets underway. Organizers have one year to come up with some 237,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Massachusetts Regulators Approve Cannabis Cafes, Home Delivery. The state Cannabis Control Commission on Tuesday voted to approve regulations that will allow for cannabis cafes where people can eat, vape, or smoke marijuana legally and for marijuana home delivery services. "We feel like we have got a good balance between trying to meet the will of the voters but recognizing that there are concerns from a public health and a public safety standpoint," said Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman. Both new types of licenses will be reserved for the first two years for social equity and economic empowerment applicants, which are categories of businesses owned by minorities, people with drug convictions and people who have lived and worked in communities disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition.

New York Governor Seeks Cooperation with Neighboring States on Vaping and Marijuana Legalization.Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Tuesday he will travel to Connecticut and New Jersey to try to create regional coordination on marijuana legalization. "For one state to do it, it makes no sense if the neighboring state has a different policy because then you just incentivize people to drive over the border and buy it there," he said. "When you start to discuss how to legalize marijuana it moves into the vaping space because a lot of the marijuana products can be vaped" Cuomo said. "When you start saying I want to outlaw flavored cigarettes well how about gummy bear marijuana products?"

International

Australian Capital City Legalizes Marijuana. Canberra, the national capital, has become the first ciaty in Australia to legalize marijuana. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory voted Tuesday to approve a bill allowing people 18 and over to possess and grow marijuana for personal use. The new law will go into effect on January 31, 2020. People will be able to legally possess up to 50 grams (just under two ounces) and grow up to two plants per person, or four per household. The new law, however, conflicts with national marijuana prohibition laws and could be overridden.

Canada's Trudeau Says Liberals Not Looking to Decriminalize Drugs. As he campaigns to keep his job, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the Liberal Party is not going to decriminalize drugs. "We're not looking at full decriminalization at all right now," Trudeau said. "There are other things that we are doing that (are) having a big impact and we're going to make decisions based on science," Trudeau said, pointing to the Liberal government's actions on safe injection sites and other harm reduction methods. Trudeau's stance contrasts with that of the national Liberal caucus, which approved a resolution last year to "re-classify low-level drug possession and consumption as administrative violations" rather than criminal ones.

Chronicle AM: House MJ Banking Bill Vote Next Week, Guatemala Now a Cocaine Producer, More... (9/20/19)

The House prepares to vote on a marijuana banking bill, New Hampshire lawmakers override a veto to ensure patients can grow their own, Guatemala concedes it is now a cocaine-producing nation, and more.

Cocaine -- it's not just from South America anymore. (US CBP)
Marijuana Policy

House Will Vote on Marijuana Banking Bill Next Week. The House leadership confirmed Friday that the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (HR 1595) will get a House floor vote next week. The move comes with support from financial institutions, but over the objections of advocacy groups who want to see broader marijuana reforms advance before those catering to the industry alone.

Senate Funding Bill Would Again Block DC Marijuana Legalization. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Financial Services and General Government funding bill for FY 2020 and again included a provision that blocks Washington, DC, from using its own money to implement a legal marijuana sales regime.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Legislature Overrides Veto on Patient Home Grows. The state Senate joined the House Thursday in overriding Gov. Chris Sununu's (R) veto of HB 364, which would allow qualified patients to grow up to three mature plants and 12 seedlings.

Wisconsin Lawmakers Announce Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Bill. Sens. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) have announced a bipartisan bill to introduce legalized medical cannabis in Wisconsin. The bill "recognizes that people should not have to engage in a criminal act to access medicine for debilitating conditions," they said.

International

Guatemala Joins Ranks of Cocaine Producers. Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart conceded Thursday that the country is now a full-fledged cocaine producer after security forces there uncovered several coca plantations and processing laboratories. Guatemala has long been a major transit country for cocaine, and traffickers have exercised influence over political parties and in some cases territorial control. The country has made little progress fighting the drug war. "Following the discovery of these narco-laboratories and the different fields with the coca plants, Guatemala now becomes a cocaine producer and that puts Guatemala in a totally different situation with respect to regional security," Degenhart said.

Chronicle AM: Coalition Urges Delay in House Pot Banking Vote, Chicago Mayor: No Pot Shops Downtown, More... (9/18/19)

Civil rights and drug policy groups fearing a loss of momentum in ending federal pot prohibition are urging a delay in a marijuana banking bill vote, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot doesn't want pot shops downtown, and more.

Should Congress move on marijuana banking or end federal prohibition first? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Civil Rights Groups Urge Congress to Delay Marijuana Banking Vote. A broad coalition of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and Drug Policy Alliance is calling on Democratic congressional Democratic leaders to postpone a planned vote on a marijuana banking bill next week until farther-reaching legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition advances first. "We are concerned that if the House approves this bill, it will undermine broader and more inclusive efforts to reform our country's marijuana laws," the groups wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) in a letter on Tuesday.

Chicago Mayor Wants No Pot Shops Downtown. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) rolled out a proposal Tuesday for how legal marijuana would work in the city. Under her plan, use of marijuana would be banned in public places and no pot shops would be allowed to operate in the Central Business District. That's generating some pushback from some city council members. The proposal would also prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana within 500 feet of schools and within 1,500 feet of other dispensaries. A vote on the proposal is expected next month.

International

Colombia Bill to Legalize, Regulate Marijuana Filed. Leftist opposition Sen. Gustavo Bolivar has filed a bill to legalize and regulate the production and consumption of marijuana. The bill is part of a package of drug policy bills aimed at ending the repressive policies of President Ivan Duque. The bill is reportedly backed by former President Juan Manuel Santos, but it is the votes of the Liberal Party that will determine whether the bill advances.

Chronicle AM: OR Drug Decriminalization Initiative Filed, CA Pot Banking Bill Dead for This Year, More... (9/10/19)

A drug decriminalization initiative could make its way to Oregon's 2020 ballot, South Dakota's Republican governor vows to veto any hemp bill again next year, a California marijuana banking bill is dead for the year, and more.

Drug decriminalization would result in many fewer scenes like this. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Marijuana Banking Bill Won't Happen This Year. A bill that would have let the state charter special banks to deal with the marijuana industry is going nowhere this year, its sponsor said Monday. Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D) said there will be no vote this year and that if California is going to do this, "we have to do this right."

Baltimore City Councilwoman Introduces Ordinance Banning Marijuana Testing for Some City Job Applicants. City Councilwoman Shannon Sneed (D) filed an ordinance Monday under which applicants for many jobs with the city of Baltimore would not face pre-employment drug screening for marijuana. She said positive marijuana tests could keep otherwise qualified applicants from jobs "due to private recreational activities." Applicants for jobs with the health department, fire department or positions requiring certain security clearances or a commercial driver's license would not be included in the ban and could still be tested. The ordinance is cosponsored by five of the city's 14 other councilmembers.

Hemp

South Dakota Governor Promises to Veto Hemp Again Next Year. Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who vetoed a bill legalizing hemp farming earlier this year, is now vowing to veto such legislation again if it resurfaces next year. She said she would continue to oppose hemp legalization until law enforcement can tell the difference between hemp and marijuana. "Every experiment needs a control," she wrote on Monday. "I believe the social experiment our nation is conducting with highly potent legal weed will end poorly. But to create evidence for a comparison, we need leaders willing to stand up and say, 'No.'"

Drug Policy

Oregon Drug Decriminalization Initiative Filed. Oregon reformers have filed an initiative to decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs with an eye on the November 2020 ballot. The measure, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (Initiative 44), would make the possession of small amounts of drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, a civil violation punishable by a maximum $100 fine and no jail time. There would be an option to avoid the fine by completing a health assessment through an addiction recovery center. That process would involve a substance use disorder screening from a licensed health professional.

Chronicle AM: Opioid Maker Ordered to Pay $572 Million, Purdue Pharma Offers Billions to Settle, More... (8/27/19)

Big Pharma companies that deal in opoids are taking a hit, California moves to get rid of a vestige of the dope squad days, and more.

Purdue Pharma is offering to settle thousands of claims arguing that it jumpstarted the nation's opioid crisis.
Drug Policy

California Senate Passes Bill to End State Narcotics Registry. The state Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to approve AB 1261, which would abolish the state's narcotics registry. A vestige of dope squad days, the registry was a requirement that anyone convicted of a drug felony, including marijuana cultivation, register with their county sheriff for five years after release. The measure has already passed the Assembly but has to go back for a final vote after changes were made in the Senate.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Oklahoma Judge Finds Johnson & Johnson Liable for Opioid Epidemic. In the first of more than a thousand lawsuits against Big Pharma over its role in the opioid epidemic to be settled, a district court judge ruled Monday that Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel the state's opioid crisis and ordered the company to pay a whopping $572 million. "The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma," Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman said before announcing the judgment. "It must be abated immediately." Johnson & Johnson said it planned to appeal.

Purdue Pharma Offers to Settle Opioid Lawsuits for $10-12 Billion. Purdue Pharma, the makers of Oxycontin, and its owners, the Sackler family, have offered to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits pending against the company for $10 to $12 billion. The lawsuits, brought by states, cities, and counties, allege that the company and the Sacklers are liable for starting and sustaining the opioid crisis. They maintain that the company's sales practices were deceptive and at least partly responsible for the opioid crisis. In a statement, the company said: "While Purdue Pharma is prepared to defend itself vigorously in the opioid litigation, the company has made clear that it sees little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals. The people and communities affected by the opioid crisis need help now. Purdue believes a constructive global resolution is the best path forward, and the company is actively working with the state attorneys general and other plaintiffs to achieve this outcome."

Kratom

Michigan Bill Would Require a Prescription for Kratom. A Republican state senator has filed a bill that would require kratom users to get a prescription for the herbal supplement. Sen. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek) filed SB 433, calling kratom "dangerous and addictive" in a news release. He also cited "an alarming increase recently in the number of deaths from this relatively unknown drug," but in almost all cases of fatal overdoses involving kratom, other drugs were present, making it difficult to determine kratom's role -- if any -- in those deaths.

Chronicle AM: Florida Decrim Bill Filed, Louisiana MedMJ Sales to Begin, More... (8/6/19)

A key Republican senator signals an openness to marijuana banking reforms, a Florida state rep files a decriminalization bill, the first shipments of medical marijuana have gone out to Louisiana dispensaries, and more.

Medical marijuana dispensary sales should begin this week in Louisiana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

GOP Senate Committee Head Signals He's Open to Marijuana Banking Reforms. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), head of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, has indicated that he agrees that barring the legal marijuana industry from access to financial services is not viable and that he's open to reforms around that problem. But he also said he doesn't necessarily support the SAFE Banking Act (S 1200), currently the leading vehicle for banking reforms. "We now need to, I think, move forward and see if there's some way we can draft legislation that will deal with the issue," Crapo said late last week.

Florida Decriminalization Bill Filed. Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-Broward County) filed a bill Monday that would decriminalize small-time marijuana possession in the state. Under the bill, possession or delivery of less than 20 grams would be a noncriminal violation with no jail time. "We must restore justice to our broken criminal justice system," Jones said in a press release. "For far too long, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana, and we must end this injustice once and for all."

New Mexico Legalization Working Group Has Hearing Next Week. A working group on marijuana legalization appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) will hold its first hearing next Wednesday. The public has an opportunity to comment online or in person before the hearing. The panel will hear presentations from the Department of Regulation & Licensing and the Department of Health on regulatory frameworks and medical marijuana, respectively. Then the panel will consider multiple topics surrounding possible legalization. Grisham has said that the goal of this working group is to create a bill that would go before the legislature by January 2020, which is the start of the 30-day session.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Sees First Medical Marijuana Shipment to a Dispensary. At least nine medical marijuana dispensaries are set to open this week and begin selling product after GB Sciences, one of two state-licensed growers, began shipping to them on Tuesday. The move comes after state regulators completed final tests and cleared the shipments for release.

Chronicle AM: Marijuana Descheduling Bill Filed, Model West African Drug Law Presented, More... (5/22/19)

A federal marijuana descheduling bill picks up some cosponsors who want to be president, the California Senate approves a bill to allow special banks to deal with state-legal pot businesses, the drug czar announces a new initiative, and more.

There is getting to be an awful lot of marijuana bills floating around the Capitol these days. Now, there's one more. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Four Democratic Presidential Contenders Sign on to Federal Descheduling Bill. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) are all cosponsors of companion marijuana rescheduling bills filed Monday by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). The bills would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and use some funds from marijuana taxes to help socially disenfranchised individuals find a role in the legal industry.

California Senate Approves Special Banks for Marijuana Retailers. The state Senate voted 35-1 Tuesday to approve a bill that would allow people to start banks and credit unions that could accept cash from state-legal marijuana businesses. SB 51 would allow those banks to issue special checks to retailers that could only be used for certain purposes, such as paying state taxes and state-based vendors. The bill now goes to the Assembly.

New Jersey Decriminalization, Expungement Bills Held Up. A last-minute move to pass decriminalization and expungement bills after legalization was stifled in the legislature is itself now stalled. A vote that was set for Thursday has been canceled after Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) said he was not in favor of the legislation.

Hemp

Louisiana Hemp Bill Advances, But Is Encumbered by Regulations. A bill to legalize hemp farming in the state, HB 491, has passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, but only after committee chair Sen. Francis Thompson (R), an avowed hemp skeptic, tacked a series of amendments on the measure that imposes a "tremendous amount" of regulation, according to Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, who supports the bill. The measure has already passed the House and now goes to the full Senate. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has said he will sign it if it makes it to his desk.

Drug Policy

ONDCP Director Carroll to Convene Emerging Threats Committee. White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) Director Jim Carroll announced Tuesday the formation of an Emerging Threats Committee to identify and respond to evolving and emerging drug threats in the United States. "The drug threats facing the United States are constantly changing and more complex than ever before. It is critical we not only meet the challenges of today, but also prepare to address the threats of tomorrow. By bringing together those people on the front lines of this fight, we can position ourselves to proactively respond to these threats, and preserve the safety and security of American citizens," Carroll said. The committee consists of 14 representatives from National Drug Control Program agencies, state, local and tribal governments, and non-governmental agencies.

Foreign Policy

House Committee Votes to Increase Colombia Anti-Drug Aid. The House Appropriations Committee has approved a $40 million increase in development and counternarcotics assistance to Colombia. That would make next year's package worth $457 million, far more than the $344 million the Trump administration requested in its budget. "The committee is inclined to continue its partnership with Colombia and to build on the progress of recent years made possible by the adoption of the peace accord. The agreement, combined with a renewed initiative to fight illegal crop cultivation and drug trafficking, offers great hope for the social, economic and political future of the country," the committee said in a statement. $189 million of the funds would go to anti-drug efforts.

International

Model Drug Law for West Africa Presented to Health Ministers on Sidelines of 72nd Session of the World Health Assembly. The West Africa Commission on Drugs, UNAIDS and the Global Commission on Drug Policy presented the Model Drug Law for West Africa to ministers of health of the Economic Community of West African States on Wednesday. The model drug law provides concrete templates that countries can adapt to reform their drug laws -- legal provisions and how they relate to international legal obligations -- as well as useful commentary that explains different options and reasons for choosing the proposed legal solutions. The model drug law offers a measured way for decriminalizing drug use and possession for personal use by introducing thresholds, thereby allowing people who use drugs to access health services and seek support. The model drug law acknowledges that barriers must also be removed so that the millions of people in need of health services, including people living with cancer or with HIV, can access the treatment and care they need.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: NJ Marijuana Moves, IL Needle Exchange Bill Filed, More... (5/20/19)

The state treasurers' association wants banking access for legal weed, New Jersey sees a sudden decriminalization and expungement bill, a Texas CBD medical marijuana bill gets expanded, and more.

Welcome to New Jersey, where legalization is stalled but other marijuana reform is happening. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

State Treasurers Call on Congress to Pass Marijuana Banking Legislation. The National Association of State Treasurers adopted a resolution last Friday calling on Congress to pass legislation to allow the legal marijuana industry access to financial services. The association "supports common sense federal laws and regulations to provide essential banking services to state legalized cannabis businesses, promote public safety and financial transparency, and facilitate local, state and federal tax and fee collection." The group cited public safety and regulatory concerns. The resolution comes after 17 state treasurers sent a similar letter earlier this month.

New Jersey Marijuana Decriminalization and Expungement Bill Suddenly Emerges. As the push to legalize weed falters in Trenton, lawmakers have come up with a new bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces and reduce penalties for other marijuana offenses. It would also allow people with existing marijuana convictions to apply for expungement of their records and dismiss pending criminal cases against anyone caught with less than two ounces. This new bill cleared the Senate Health Committee Monday and a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday afternoon.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Advances. As the legalization push falters in Trenton, a bill that would greatly expand the state's medical marijuana system is now moving. The Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, S 10, was advanced by committees in both the Senate and the Assembly on Monday and could head for floor votes as early as Thursday. The bill increases the amount of medicine patients can buy each month from two to three ounces and legalizes edible forms of medical marijuana.

Texas Senate Committee Expands CBD Medical Marijuana Bill to Include More Patients. The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services last Friday voted to advance HB 3703, which would expand the state's CBD-only Compassionate Use Act. The bill originally expanded the list of qualifying conditions to include multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spasticity, but the committee amended the bill to add even more conditions: ALS, terminal cancer, and autism. The bill now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Harm Reduction

Illinois Needle Exchange Bill Filed. State Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Chicago) last Friday filed SB 1828, which would legalize needle exchange programs statewide under regulation by the Department of Public Health. The bill also provides criminal immunity for needle exchange workers. Some counties in the state currently have needle exchange programs, but workers fear being subject to arrest under ambiguous current state laws.

Legal Marijuana Is a Job Creation Machine [FEATURE]

As the marijuana business comes out of the shadows and into the legal marketplace, jobs in the legal industry are coming with it -- by the hundreds of thousands, with more on the way. In fact, the legal marijuana business is forecast to see the greatest increase in demand of any profession over the next ten years.

More than 200,000 people work in the marijuana industry now. (Sandra Yruel/DPA)
That's according to the marijuana information clearing house Leafly, which crunched the numbers in its recently-released Special Report: 2019 Cannabis Jobs Count. That report finds that legal marijuana has already created 211,000 full-time jobs, with more than 64,000 added last year alone, and tens of thousands more being created this year.

The marijuana workforce increased 21 percent in 2017, jumped by another 44 percent last year, and Leafly expects at least another 20 percent growth this year. That's a more than doubling of the industry workforce in just three years.

By way of comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently listed the industries with the fastest job growth prospects. Home health care aide positions are expected to jump 47 percent, while openings for wind turbine technicians and solar voltaic installers are expected to double. But that's in the next 10 years; the marijuana industry did it in three.

Because marijuana remains federally illegal, the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't count pot jobs. That left Leafly's data team, working in conjunction with Whitney Economics, to come up with the numbers. They did so using state-reported data, industry surveys, on-the-ground reporting, Leafly's own proprietary data, and economic formulas devised by Whitney.

The upward jobs trend is likely to continue for years to come, rolling through the individual states as they embrace medical marijuana and recreational legalization. So far, 34 states have some form of legal medical marijuana, but only ten have achieved full-blown legalization, so the medium-term job creation potential is substantial.

We can see this playing out in the legal states. Early legalizers Colorado and Washington saw double-digit jobs growth last year -- 17 percent and 26 percent, respectively -- but these numbers actually represent a plateau as their legal markets mature. Triple-digit job growth figures are common as states come online. In Florida, when medical marijuana dispensaries opened up last year, the state added more than 9,000 pot jobs, a stunning increase of more than 700 percent.

The Sunshine State wasn't alone in seeing huge job increases last year. Nevada added more than 7,500 jobs, Pennsylvania went from 90 pot jobs to nearly 4,000, and New York nearly tripled the number of full-time positions. By year's end more than 5,000 New Yorkers worked in the industry.

This year, Leafly predicts the biggest harvest of new jobs in the industry will come in California, where hiring was flat last year because of disruptions caused by the shift from the unlicensed medical system to tightly regulated adult-use legalization. The Golden State should see 10,000 new cannabis jobs, bringing total employment to around 60,000.

Massachusetts, where the adult-use market is just getting started, is set to add some 9,500 positions, while Florida's rollout of medical marijuana should see jobs there increase by 5,000 this year, bringing the total for the state to 15,000. In Oklahoma, there were no legal marijuana jobs in 2018, but with the November 2018 victory of a medical marijuana initiative, there are more than 2,100 jobs now, which should more than double to 4,400 by year's end. Similarly, in Arkansas, where the first dispensary is set to open any day now, the number of industry positions is expected to go from 135 now to nearly a thousand before the year is up.

Now, just imagine what happens when states such as Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York manage to actually get legalization bills through the legislature. The jobs will follow in a wave that will eventually make its way to the last stubborn prohibitionist holdouts in places like South Carolina and South Dakota. The marijuana job boom isn't ending; it's just getting underway.

This article was produced by ​Drug Reporter​, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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