5 Notable Cannabis Headlines - 11/5This week’s recap looks at a busy week in politics, midterms, and a possible light at the end of the tunnel for cannabis legalization.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigns after midterm elections, cannabis stock prices increase
Attorney General and staunch legalization opponent Jeff Sessions submitted his official resignation on Wednesday after pressure from President Donald Trump. "At your request, I am submitting my resignation," Sessions says in a letter he wrote to White House chief of staff John Kelly. As things stand, Matthew Whitaker will take over as acting Attorney General.
Sessions, a staunch opponent of legalization, famously rescinded the Cole memo back in January spreading uncertainty across the legal cannabis industry. His move led to a nation-wide sting operation, leading to the shutdown of several dispensaries.
News of his resignation caused stock prices for cannabis companies to rise almost immediately. Canadian company Tilray rose 30% on the NASDAQ stock exchange, while Canopy Growth was up 8% on NYSE. Aurora Cannabis and Cronos group also saw their stock price rise by 9% after receiving the news.
Michigan becomes the 10th state to legalize recreational cannabis
Cannabis has been a big part of the 2018 midterm elections, with four states voting for its future. Although marijuana was also on the ballot in Missouri and Utah, the most significant victory for cannabis legalization happened in Michigan, where voters legalized Proposal 1 by a margin of 55% to 45%. This measure allows adults of 21 and older to possess, use, buy and grow recreational marijuana, paving the road for commercial sales.
In doing so, Michigan became the first Midwestern state to fully legalize cannabis and the 10th nationwide, following a growing trend. Josh Hovey, a spokesperson of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said to High Times that their efforts were always a battle of facts versus fear:
“The data from the nine other states to have legalized marijuana made clear that regulation and taxation are a better solution. Legalization of marijuana will end the unnecessary waste of law enforcement resources used to enforce the failed policy of prohibition while generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year for Michigan’s most important needs,” he added.
Utah votes to legalize medical cannabis
Although Michigan dominated the headlines this week, Utah also moved one step closer to the legalization of medical marijuana. Voters approved Proposition 2 with a margin of 54% against 46%. The question now is whether or not this vote will mean anything. According to the Washington Post, the result was “essentially a foregone conclusion” regardless of what happened at the polls.
According to reports by Leafly, around a month ago, legalization opponents and supporters struck a deal to establish a more limited cannabis program that would satisfy both parties. This compromise likely means is that Proposition 2 was already a dead letter by the time it reached the ballot.
Lawmakers have guaranteed that they will decide on passing the bill by next month, in a special legislative session. Prior agreements mean that Proposition 2 will likely be ignored. Still, this was an important victory for Utahns, whose vote sent a robust pro-legalization message.
Senate Majority Leader Vows To End Federal Hemp Ban
On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has reassured the public that the federal prohibition on hemp will be lifted as part of The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the 2018 Farm Bill).
“If there’s a Farm Bill, it’ll be in there. I guarantee that” McConnell told reporters.
“I don’t want to overstate this – I don’t know if it’s going to be the next tobacco or not – but I do think it has a lot of potential. And as all of you already know, in terms of food and medicine but also car parts. I mean, it’s an extraordinary plant,” he added
Senator McConnell has included provisions to expand and facilitate the production, research, and commerce of state-licensed hemp. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 will also be amended, meaning that hemp will no longer be classified as a Schedule I drug.
Illinois Governor-elect JB Pritzker wants to legalize recreational marijuana 'nearly right away'
Governor-elect JB Pritzker said Wednesday marijuana legalization would be among his priorities immediately after being sworn in. “That’s something we can work on nearly right away,” Pritzker told FOX 32, while he added that he would also look into vacating the arrest records for people who have been convicted for marijuana-related offenses.
“I want to look at all those arrest records. If we’re going to legalize recreational marijuana, then we shouldn’t have all the, what I think are, challenges in our criminal justice system, you know, still existing, people sitting in prison for things that are currently legal,” Pritzker said.
According to Illinois law, the Governor can legalize recreational cannabis by signing legislation approved by the lawmakers in the general assembly and no voting is required.