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Donald Trump Pardons Marijuana Offenders on Last Day in Office
With fewer than 24 hours left in his term, twice-impeached President Donald Trump issued his final wave of pardons, with some marijuana offenders in the mix.
The New York Times reports that Craig Cesal was serving life in prison on a first-time, non-violent marijuana offense. His trucking company repaired semi-trucks that has been fitted for smuggling marijuana. While Cesal pleaded that he never had anything to do with marijuana smuggling, the government charged him as part of a criminal conspiracy. President Obama denied his pleas for commutation four years ago. With Trump’s pardon, Cesal is now free after serving over eighteen years in prison.
Another federal marijuana prisoner freed by Trump is Michael Pelletier, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic since the age of 11 who was also serving a life sentence for a marijuana conspiracy. Pelletier has been incarcerated for over 14 years.
American Medical Association Backs Suit to Overturn Mississippi Medical Marijuana
The American Medical Association and its Mississippi state Affiliate are signing on to a lawsuit that seeks to overturn Mississippi’s just-passed medical marijuana law on a technicality.
Mississippi’s medical marijuana law passed with over 70 percent support in two votes last November. Opponents are suing over a state law that declares that “signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot.”
The problem is that that law was written when Mississippi had five districts. The state now has only four districts, so naturally, the medical marijuana initiative needed at least 25 percent of its signatures to come from each of four districts.
Should the courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs, the people of Mississippi would lose their medical marijuana law and be functionally barred from placing any future initiatives on the ballot.
Biden Taps Marijuana Legalization Supporter to Head DNC
President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is a strong backer of marijuana legalization—the latest example of a nominee holding cannabis policy reform views that go further than the incoming president’s.
If confirmed by party leaders on Thursday, as is expected, former South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison will be responsible for coordinating Democrats’ national political activities. To that end, a push from the chair to emphasize marijuana reform, which is overwhelmingly supported by Democratic voters, could be broadly influential.
Harrison made a 2020 run for a Senate seat held by outgoing Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) but didn’t prevail. During his campaign, he stressed the need to legalize marijuana as a means to promote racial justice.
North Dakota May Drastically Improve Decriminalization
North Dakota lawmakers have introduced a bill to significantly expand marijuana decriminalization in the state.
The legislation, which was filed on Monday, would build on an initial cannabis decriminalization law that was enacted in 2019.
Under the current statute, possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, with no jail time. The new proposal would make possession of up to an ounce a non-criminal offense that carries a $50 fine.
Further, possession of more than one ounce and less than 250 grams would be treated as an infraction, rather than a class B misdemeanor, as it is currently classified.
Possessing more than 250 grams of marijuana would be a class B misdemeanor and possessing more than 500 grams would be a class A misdemeanor.
Oregon Marijuana Prices Top $1,500/lb, Ending Three-Year Slump
Increased consumer demand for cannabis in Oregon helped push wholesale prices in the state out of a three-year slump caused by overproduction.
For the first time since 2017, the median price per pound of recreational marijuana sold by cultivators to retailers topped $1,500 in December, according to data provided by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Recreational marijuana sales in the state grew 38% in 2020, ending the year at a record $1 billion. Medical sales added another $109 million to the overall total.
The state experienced year-over-year growth in every month of 2020, indicating that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting recession didn’t negatively affect overall demand.
In fact, the pandemic might have helped sales as consumers turned to cannabis for stress relief.