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Longtime drug warrior Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is the latest to “evolve” on the issue of marijuana. The four-term Senate Democrat told McClatchy that “Federal law enforcement agents should not arrest Californians who are adhering to California law.” It’s a stark departure from the Dianne Feinstein who argued in 1996 that Prop 215 would “encourage recreational drug use among teenagers,” who chaired the campaign against Prop 19 in 2010, and who falsely claimed in 2016 that Prop 64 “allows marijuana smoking ads in prime time, on programs with millions of children and teenage viewers.” That Feinstein is facing a tough primary battle against two progressive state senators, Kevin de Leon, who has championed California’s marijuana laws against federal interference, and Alison Hartson, who aired this attack ad last week. [HARTSON CLIP: “Dianne Feinstein has the same position on marijuana as Jeff Sessions. She’s against research, she’s against legalization, she’s against criminal justice reform.”]
Maine lawmakers voted 109-39 in the House and 28-6 in the Senate to override the veto of Gov. Paul LePage on the regulations for marijuana sales. Last year, lawmakers passed a bill to regulate recreational marijuana in Maine that LePage vetoed but could not muster the two-thirds majority support needed in both chambers to override. The new law makes serious reductions to the initiative legalizing marijuana, including lowering the limit for home-grown cannabis plants from six to three and banning home delivery and public marijuana social clubs.
The Missouri House has passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana, sending it to the Senate for consideration. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim Neely, is a doctor who invoked Missouri’s opioid crisis in support of the measure. [NEELY CLIP: “There’s a lot of people in my world, from the hospice and the long-term care world, that feel that this would be appropriate for people to ease the pain, suffering, and the side-effects of the opioids and this might be the best way to go.”] There are currently three different groups in Missouri campaigning to place a medical marijuana initiative before the voters in 2018.
During the Idaho Democratic Gubernatorial Debate, State Representative Paulette Jordan endorsed not just medical marijuana, but recreational as well. [JORDAN CLIP: “I see nothing wrong with recreational marijuana. I think it is up to the people to decide for themselves what they are comfortable with.”] When pressed by a moderator with alleged unintended consequences of marijuana legalization in Colorado, Jordan did not waver. [JORDAN CLIP: “Listen, I’m always about listening to the people first. So, when the people want this, I’m all for it.”] AJ Balukoff, who was the Democrat’s losing gubernatorial candidate in 2014, only offered support for decriminalization of marijuana. [BALUKOFF CLIP: “I am not in favor of putting people in jail for using marijuana.”] But when it comes to support for medical or recreational marijuana, Balukoff retreated to a familiar refrain from candidates afraid of the marijuana issue. [BALUKOFF CLIP: “With marijuana, I believe more research needs to be done to identify the unintended consequences that may be there.”]
For the first time since legalizing marijuana in 2014, the state of Alaska has netted over $1 million from marijuana sales. Over 1,100 pounds of marijuana flower and over 850 pounds of trim were sold wholesale, according to Kelly Mazzei, excise tax supervisor at the Alaska Department of Revenue. The taxes were paid by 92 licensed growers at the rate of $50 per ounce for flower and $15 per ounce for trim. Three out of four dollars paid to the state are delivered in cash, due to the federal restrictions on banking for the cannabis industry. Mazzei said that Alaska should meet its expectation of over $9 million in marijuana tax revenue for the fiscal year.
The Drug Czar’s office announced that a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (or HIDTA) has been established in Alaska. That means that there is a HIDTA now in every US state, despite nearly a half-century of fighting the drug war and over one trillion dollars spent. The HIDTA designation indicates areas of the country where drug trafficking is most concentrated, leading to multi-jurisdictional law enforcement task forces being employed there, funded by special grants. Responding to the announcement on Twitter, journalist Lindsay Beyerstein compared it to Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone, “where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the Drug Trafficking Areas are High-Intensity.”