March was a busy month for legislators racing to open up cannabis markets, but it’s calls for justice reform that appear to be carrying some measures across the finish line. Meanwhile, investors are licking their chops as Mexico signals national legalization (hopefully for real this time), and New York greenlights a projected $4 billion dollar industry. More Celebrities launched cannabis brands, but they might be a little different than what we’ve seen in the past, and even the White House is caught up in the changing cannabis culture.
With the wave of legalization continuing to roll, the cannabis industry is heading into this year’s 4/20 with more momentum than ever before. Let’s get to the headlines.
New York Legalizes Adult-Use Marijuana
New York Recreational Cannabis Legislation
- Regulation of sales to adults
- 3 oz. possession limit
- Personal cultivation of 6 plants (3 mature, 3 immature)
- Consumption lounges
- Delivery services
- Automatic expungement of prior violations that are now legal.
In a statement, Governor Cuomo (D) called it, “a historic day.” Indeed, it is quite a historic bill that signals a turning point in attitudes toward cannabis – particularly as a tool of oppression–on a national and global scale.
For decades, New York City was complicit in, if not synonymous with, the “War on Drugs” that targeted minority neighborhoods, leading to mass incarcerations and inescapable cycles of poverty. “We heard there was a war on drugs but all we saw was a war on the poor,” said Senator James Sanders, Jr. (D).
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D) proclaimed, “Today we’re reversing 90 years of prohibition.” Additionally, 50% of all new licenses plan to be awarded to equity applicants.
Sales will likely not begin until next year, though they are expected to pour $350 million into the state coffers annually. The state industry, up and running, is projected to be worth over $4 billion – quickly rivaling California – and produce 21,000 jobs within two years.
New Mexico Goes Green, Passes Legalization Legislation
At the eleventh hour on March 31, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico announced they would become the 16th state to legalize marijuana. Also citing the failed war on drugs, the bill will automatically purge prior convictions for personal possession.
The bill has not yet been signed to complete the final step, but Gov. Lujan Grisham has indicated that she intends to sign it. Once completed, any person twenty-one years old or older will be allowed to possess up to two ounces of cannabis, sixteen grams of cannabis extract, and eight hundred milligrams of edibles.
White House Fires Staffers for Past Cannabis Use
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki could not deny a report that “dozens of young staff members had been pushed to resign or had been reassigned to remote work based on their past marijuana use” only weeks after announcing that past cannabis use would not necessarily disqualify new hires.
Cannabis remains illegal under federal law, and past use barres many promising candidates from certain staff jobs in Washington D.C. Secretary Psaki defended the move saying, “only five people… were no longer employed as a result of this policy.” An anonymous source later told the New York Times, several of those let go turned up additional disqualifications on closer inspection.
Of the remaining staff, some have signed a pledge not to use while serving in the White House, and others have agreed to random drug testing. Regardless, the move has stirred a cultural schism within the administration and presents another flashpoint in the changing attitude toward cannabis use.
Udi Ofer, director of the justice division at the ACLU, offered a broader perspective. “There are competing interests within administration and policies that have been on the books for a very long time that are now coming in contact with new ideas and new people that want to change those policies.”
The conversation, at least, has begun.
Mexico Advances Decriminalization
The lower house of the Mexican congress overwhelmingly advanced a bill that would decriminalize cannabis for recreational use, as well as medicinal use and scientific research, and it has the support of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
While the bill will not explicitly legalize cannabis, it drastically increases the punishable possession from 5g to 28g (1 oz), and issues a fine for anything up to 200g (7 oz). The measure also allows cultivation for personal use.
The ruling Morena party – or National Regeneration Movement, a political party formed in 2014 – also expects decriminalization to reduce drug violence and the political power of the nation’s infamous cartels. If passed, Mexico would debut as one of the largest cannabis markets on the globe.
More Celebrities Launch Designer Cannabis Lines
Seth Rogan’s cannabis company, Houseplant, began selling products in California. Seth Rogan founded the company in 2019, in conjunction with Canopy Growth Corporation, who have also worked with Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart.
While many celebrities launch cannabis lines with profits in mind, Lynch has partnered with the Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit focused on cannabis justice reform, for a more limited (and local) release.
Lynch said, as he learned about “the good that could be done, and the doors it could open, I knew it was something I needed to be rockin’ with. And at the end of the day, the industry has the ability to raise up Black and Brown communities—and I intend to lift up those who I can.”
The busy month of legislation is expected to continue into April, as many other proposed laws pass through various stages in states across the country. But make no mistake, New York’s law is a big deal. You can bet that if London or Paris allowed cannabis anywhere one could smoke a cigarette, the world would take notice. Well, the financial capital of the world has done just that. Brace for aftershocks.
Tons more happened in the U.S. and beyond this past month! Be sure to follow PotGuide and the rest of the linked outlets above for all the latest on cannabis reform in the U.S. and beyond.