California Escalates Its War on the Marijuana Black Market

Having utterly failed to end the marijuana black market in California, lawmakers have decided to backslide into the drug war by increasing fines on those who operate outside of the state’s very costly and tightly regulated legal cannabis system.

California will begin 2022 not just by increasing taxes on legal marijuana cultivation but also by introducing new fines against anybody “aiding and abetting” any unlicensed dealers in the state.

Lawmakers passed A.B. 1138 in September, and it was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October to take effect at the start of 2022. California law establishing recreational marijuana already permits civil penalties against unlicensed marijuana dealers. A.B.1138 threatens civil fines of up to $30,000 per violation against anybody providing assistance to an unlicensed dealer. And each day of doing so counts as a new violation.

California’s implementation of recreational cannabis regulations, authorized by the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, has been a massive mess. The ballot initiative allowed for municipalities to decide whether to allow cultivation and dispensaries, and two-thirds of them still refuse to do so despite the public vote. The state levies high cultivation and excise taxes that are escalated further by local sales taxes in any municipality that does allow for dispensaries to open up shop.

The result has been price and availability issues so severe that experts estimate that between two-thirds and three-quarters of all marijuana purchases take place through unlicensed dealers, which means that the state isn’t getting its share of the revenue. The problem is so severe that the editorial board at the Los Angeles Times recently acknowledged that high taxes for goods fuel black markets.

But instead of eliminating or reducing these taxes, the state is instead taking a more punitive approach. And it’s not just lawmakers looking to make sure the state is getting its cut of the money. The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Blanca E. Rubio (D–Baldwin Park), but the Assembly analysis of her proposal explains that it was co-sponsored by the United Cannabis Business Association and The United Food and Commercial Western (UFCW) States Council, the union that represents some licensed cannabis industry workers. Several licensed cannabis industries and trade groups have also signed on in support.

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California offers $100 million to rescue its struggling legal marijuana industry

The California Legislature on Monday approved a $100-million plan to bolster California’s legal marijuana industry, which continues to struggle to compete with the large illicit pot market nearly five years after voters approved sales for recreational use.

Los Angeles will be the biggest beneficiary of the money, which was proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to be provided as grants to cities and counties to help cannabis businesses transition from provisional to regular licenses.

“California voters approved Proposition 64 five years ago and entrusted the Legislature with creating a legal, well-regulated cannabis market,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. “We have yet to reach that goal.”

Many cannabis growers, retailers and manufacturers have struggled to make the transition from a provisional, temporary license to a permanent one renewed on an annual basis — a process that requires a costly, complicated and time-consuming review of the negative environmental effects involved in a business and a plan for reducing those harms.

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Drug War-Addicted Cops Defy Will of the People, Overturn Vote to Legalize Cannabis in South Dakota

In the historic election cycle that took place in November, multiple states made their voices heard in regard to the prohibition of cannabis and they voted to legalize it. As we reported, in many of these states, the ballot measures to legalize cannabis received more votes than both Biden and Trump. South Dakota was one of these states. Now, despite the overwhelming support for legalization by the people, drug war-addicted cops challenged the popular vote — and overturned it.

Immediately after the vote, Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Col. Rick Miller came out fighting, letting the state know that they are not okay with the citizens of South Dakota having access to the devil’s lettuce, so they filed a lawsuit challenging the voter referendum that legalized cannabis.

Thom and Miller nitpicked the vote to legalize by challenging what is little less than a strawman they created. They said the vote to legalize cannabis which required a constitutional amendment to do so — was done so illegally — because semantics.

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Constitutional ban on legal cannabis advances in Idaho

As legal marijuana becomes a reality in every corner of the U.S., Idaho is putting up a fight.

State lawmakers on Friday moved forward with a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar the legalization of marijuana in Idaho in an attempt to keep the growing nationwide acceptance of the drug from seeping across its borders.

Idaho is one of only three states without some sort of policy allowing residents to possess products with even low amounts of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Residents can cross the state border in nearly every direction and find themselves in a place where marijuana can be bought for recreational or medicinal purposes. Support for medicinal marijuana use is growing among some residents — with legalization activists trying to get an initiative on the state ballot in 2022.

It’s made some lawmakers in the deep-red state nervous, particularly after voters in the neighboring state of Oregon decriminalized the personal possession of drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine last November.

The joint resolution to ban all psychoactive drugs not already legal in Idaho won approval along a 6-2 party-line vote in the Senate State Affairs Committee. The list of substances would change for drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

But the primary target over the two days of testimony on Monday and Friday was marijuana as Idaho finds itself surrounded by states that have legalized cannabis.

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Cops Brag About Forcing Lies About Marijuana on School Children Using Bogus “Weed Googles”

As the following example shows, even in Illinois where it is legal, police are still devoting resources — using scare tactics and propaganda — to deter its use. The Moline police department took to Facebook this week to brag about AAA giving them a grant to propagandize school children with false information about marijuana.

“These goggles model the effects of recreational marijuana, so the user can experience the impact of what it’s like to be under the influence of marijuana while driving,” police said in the Facebook post. “Marijuana affects the brain differently than alcohol, and the goggles simulate marijuana’s true effects — they diminish the participant’s capacity to make quick, accurate decisions, and that causes a driver to miss important external cues that could lead to a crash.”

Police said in their Facebook post that these “kits will be brought to area schools and community events as a way to educate people about the effects marijuana impaired driving.”

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House Speaker Admits Marijuana Could Save Texas Economy, But Won’t Pursue It

Recent polls show a plurality of Texans support fully legalizing the plant. But impassioned attempts to legalize medical marijuana fell short in the last legislative session. Bonnen added he wouldn’t pursue recreational cannabis as a post-pandemic economic solution and doesn’t believe it has the votes to pass.

“No, [I would not,]” he replied. “I think it creates other financial costs outside of the benefit of the tax income.”

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If weed is legal, why are so many people still being arrested and locked up for it?

While Michigan dispensaries collectively bring in millions of dollars every month, Michael Thompson is serving a de facto life sentence in the same state for the very same reason — selling cannabis. 

As the country grapples with both a global pandemic and nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism, cannabis remains at the forefront of the cultural and political conversation. Cannabis was deemed an essential business by nearly all states with a medical or adult-use market during COVID-19, yet its criminalization has resulted in the arrests of millions of Americans, with Black individuals arrested at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. 

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