DEA Report: Fewer Marijuana Seizures, But More Arrests In 2018
Washington, DC: Federal agents seized fewer total marijuana plants in 2018, but made more arrests for cannabis-related offenses, according to annual data compiled by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
According to figures published in the DEA's Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, the agency and its law enforcement partners confiscated an estimated 2.82 million marijuana plants nationwide in 2018. This total represents a 17 percent decline from the agency's 2017 totals and a 66 percent decline since 2016.
Driving much of the year-over-year decline was a nearly 40 percent reduction in the seizure of outdoor plants in California, which fell from 2.24 million in 2017 to 1.4 million in 2018. Adult-use retail sales of cannabis began in California in 2018.
Separate data published recently in the journal Ecological Economics identifies an association between the passage of adult-use marijuana regulatory laws and the reduction in the number of grow operations in national forests.
However, while the total number of DEA-seized plants fell in 2018, seizures of indoor cannabis plants nearly doubled – rising from 304,000 plants in 2017 to just under 600,000 in 2018. The agency also reported 5,632 marijuana-related arrests in 2018, a 20 percent increase over 2017 figures. The agency reported over $52 million in confiscated assets in 2018, more than twice what the agency reported in 2017.
Jurisdictions reporting the greatest number of total plant seizures in 2018 were California (1.8 million marijuana plants seized), Kentucky (418,000), Washington (112,000), Mississippi (70,000), and West Virginia (68,000).
Senate Banking Committee to Hear Testimony Regarding Need for Marijuana Reforms
Washington, DC: Members of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs are scheduled to hear testimony next week regarding the need to provide greater access to financial services for state-licensed marijuana-related businesses.
The Senate hearing, titled "Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives," will take place on Tuesday, July 23, at 10am est. It marks the first time that members of the Senate have officially considered the need for marijuana-related banking reform.
Federal law and regulations currently discourage banks and other financial institutions from working directly with state-licensed cannabis businesses. According to recently published data from the US Treasury Department, fewer than 500 financial institutions nationwide currently provide services to cannabis-specific establishments.
Members of the House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Consumer Protections and Financial Institutions previously heard testimony on the issue in February. NORML submitted written testimony to Congress at that time opining: "For an industry seeking legitimacy and requiring transparency, the inability to obtain banking and credit access remains a primary but unnecessary roadblock. In order to truly bring the marijuana industry out of the shadows, actions need to be taken by Congress to amend these outdated and discriminatory practices."
Legislation (HR 1595 | S 1200 – The SAFE Banking Act) is pending in both chambers to create new federal protections for financial operators who work with state-compliant marijuana businesses. The House version of the Act, which was passed out of Committee earlier this year, has over 200 Congressional co-sponsors while the Senate version has 31 cosponsors.
Review: Patients Frequently Report Consuming Cannabis To Mitigate Symptoms of Pain and Anxiety
Syracuse, NY: Those who consume cannabis for therapeutic purposes typically self-report using it to reduce symptoms of pain and anxiety, according to the results of a systematic literature review in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
A team of researchers from Syracuse University in New York pooled results from 15 separate studies, involving over 6,600 medical cannabis patients in over 30 countries.
Authors reported that subjects commonly self-report consuming cannabis to address symptoms of pain (67 percent) and anxiety (52 percent). About one-third of subjects also reported consuming cannabis to address symptoms related to depression or some other mood-related disorder. The use of cannabis to stimulate appetite and alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress were also reported by many patients.
They concluded, "Collectively, these data indicate that pain, anxiety, and depression are common reasons that patients report as reasons for using medical cannabis."
A 2017 report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that "conclusive or substantial evidence" exists for cannabis' efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain, but reported only "limited data" in support of the use of cannabis for anxiety disorders.
Full text of the study, "Patient-reported use of medical cannabis for pain, anxiety, and depression symptoms: Systematic review and meta-analysis," appears in Social Science & Medicine.
North Dakota: Low-Level Marijuana Offenders Eligible for Pardons
Bismarck, ND: State officials have approved procedures permitting those with low-level marijuana possession convictions to seek unconditional pardons.
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who backed the plan, said, "By destigmatizing these minor, and in many cases, distant offenses, we can give individuals a second chance at a successful, healthy, productive life."
Under the newly approved process, the Pardon Advisory Board will convene twice per year to review marijuana-related pardon applications. To be eligible for pardon, one must have been convicted of a crime involving the possession of either marijuana or marijuana-related paraphernalia, and have had no subsequent convictions for the following five years.
Applicants may apply for a pardon at no cost, and all requests must be received 90 days prior to the Board's April and November meetings. Those requests approved by the Board will then be forwarded to the Governor, who takes final action on all pardon applications.
According to the state's Attorney General, an estimated 175,000 North Dakotans may be eligible for relief.
Historically, North Dakota has been among the leading states in per capita marijuana possession arrests. In May, lawmakers enacted legislation reducing low-level marijuana possession penalties for first-time offenders from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, to a criminal infraction – punishable by a fine but no possibility of jail time. The new penalties go into effect on August 1, 2019.
New Hampshire: Governor Signs Marijuana Annulment Measure
Concord, NH: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has signed legislation into law establishing procedures permitting those with prior, low-level marijuana convictions to petition the court to have their convictions annulled.
House Bill 399 provides an opportunity for those convicted of offenses involving the possession of three-quarters of one ounce of cannabis or less to seek an annulment. If the prosecuting attorney does not object to the request within ten days, the petition will be granted.
The new law takes effect on January 1, 2020.
State lawmakers decriminalized low-level marijuana possession offenses in 2017.
In June, the Governor signed separate legislation, House Bill 350, into law permitting physician assistants to make medical cannabis recommendations to qualified patients. House Bill 364, which seeks to allow state-registered patients to grow personal use quantities of cannabis at home, awaits action from the Governor.
Separate legislation that sought to remove existing rules requiring patients to have at least a three-month relationship with a medical provider prior to seeking a medical cannabis recommendation was vetoed by Gov. Sununu.
Wisconsin: Blacks Four Times More Likely Than Whites to be Arrested for Marijuana Possession Offenses
Madison, WI: African Americans in Wisconsin are four times more likely than whites to be arrested for violating marijuana possession laws, according to an analysis of 2018 arrest data by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
The finding is consistent with those of prior analyses. According to a nationwide study by the American Civil Liberties Union, "[O]n average, a Black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though Blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates."
The Center's analysis also reported a slight increase in total marijuana possession arrests in Wisconsin in 2018 to just under 15,000. The counties with the highest percentages of possession arrests per 1,000 people are Green Lake (6.4), Walworth (5.4), Dunn (5.3), Monroe (5.1), and Marinette (5.0). Under state law, low-level marijuana possession offenses are classified as criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Commenting on the state-specific study, University of Wisconsin-Madison sociology professor Pamela Oliver said: "The only possibility for these statistics to happen is for police to be stopping blacks more than whites. ... We know the usage patterns are not different, so if you're generating a difference in arrests, it has to be differential policing."
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has proposed eliminating both criminal and civil penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses, stating, "[W]e are spending too much money prosecuting and incarcerating people – and often persons of color – for non-violent crimes related to possessing small amounts of marijuana."
Pennsylvania: Health Officials Expand Medical Cannabis Access Program
Harrisburg, PA: Health officials have expanded the pool of patients eligible to receive medical cannabis access.
The State Health Department Secretary publicly announced on Thursday that patients diagnosed with anxiety disorders and/or Tourette syndrome will be eligible to receive recommendations to legally access medical cannabis products. The new rules take effect on July 20.
Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman called the changes "a truly powerful expansion" of the state's program.
An estimated 110,000 patients and over 1,600 physicians currently participate in the state-sponsored access program.