By Dalton Rosario

As it stands, our continued partial government shutdown is contingent upon a national security threat necessitating a wall spanning our souther border to keep illegal drugs from being smuggled into our country. The problem with this narrative lies in the fact that roughly 90% of all illicit drugs enter our country through legal ports. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in 2017 almost 1.6 million pounds of cannabis was seized from our souther border. This sounds like a large amount without proper context; however, licensed cultivators within the state of Oregon alone grew 2.6 million pounds of cannabis that same year. Certainly this does not negate the fact that at least 10% of illegal drugs entering our country comes from our southern border. But the 1.6 million pounds of cannabis confiscated by the DHS in 2017 - although a sizable amount - totals half of illegally imported drugs seized four years prior in 2013.

This denotes progress due to state legislation supporting the cannabis industry and its commercial viability to generate income and tax revenues from medical programs and recreational use. Not from buffing up Border Patrol with an already finite amount of resources at the federal government’s disposal. According to a marijuana supply chain analysis at the Cato Institute, an American Libertarian Think Tank, boarder patrol seizures dropped 78% over a span of five years due to a clear correlation that cannabis was the predominant drug being smuggled into our borders. As Cato analyst David Bier wrote, “State marijuana legalization starting in 2014 did more to reduce marijuana smuggling than the doubling of Border Patrol agents or the construction of hundreds of miles of border fencing did from 2003 to 2009.” 

For years now advocates have been calling on state lawmakers to introduce quality control measures into legislation for cannabis to be treated as any other consumer good that is regulated for consistency, potency and purity of product. With this now-pending “state of emergency” comes a sense of urgency to act. Including this excuse for a wall to strengthen our border security - countering illicit drugs smuggled into our country - and the inevitable catalyst of backlash from those who harbor reason within our Congress; leading to the continued stalemate of this governmental shutdown. 

By Dalton Rosario

Cannabis headlines across the internet cheered for the newly appointed U.S. Attorney General William Barr, when he candidly responded to Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) remark of whether or not he would seek out cannabis companies in compliance with state laws. In his confirmation hearing today he made a point of repeatedly stating that he is not interested in using the federal government’s limited resources to track down businesses that have lawfully followed state guidelines and regulations for growing, distributing and selling cannabis within their state. As Barr comments, “My approach to this would be, not to upset settled expectations and the reliance interest that have arisen as a result of the Cole memoranda. Investments have been made and so there has been reliance on it. So I don’t think its appropriate to upset those interests.” 

Barr’s mentality towards protecting state dealings with working businesses portrays a position of reason. It is not the cannabis boom per se that he is interested in, but fulfilling a promise for honest business. Commendable by measure, but this doesn’t deny the fact that if given the binary option, Barr would admittedly prohibit cannabis nationwide punishable by federal law. What we observed from the seat today is a firm step forward from former U.S. AG Jeff Sessions’ anti-cannabis rhetoric - as once infamously slandered - good people don’t smoke marijuana. We know this not to be the case. But for Barr to showcase a firm and fair stance towards cannabis legalization at such critical timing for combating prohibition ought to be recognized with regard. Although not an outright victory for allies and advocates alike, it is neither a win for those who would oppose the forward momentum of cannabis reformation throughout our country.

By Dalton Rosario

Illinois has officially joined the green list of states sweeping the nation with governors pledging to work alongside legislature and pass cannabis reformation bills that create lucrative institutions for taxation and regulation throughout our country. As it stands New York’s Reelected Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), Colorado’s newly elected Governor and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus Jared Polis, and Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam have all openly promoted motions for legalization ranging from decriminalization to state regulated programs for recreational and medicinal adult use. 

To add onto this list are states such as West Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri and Texas. Each proof of how the tides of conservatism are changing as mainstream culture continues to increasingly accept and embrace adult cannabis use. For some of these state governors, up to a generation ago public discussions of cannabis legalization would have been political suicide as marijuana had been deemed entirely outside the realm of acceptable discourse. But now there is room for reason to shed light upon antiquated laws stigmatized with biases that no longer match the needs and resounding beliefs of the people. 

In the case of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D), he is determined to make due on his campaign promise and has pledged in his inaugural address to promptly address cannabis legalization, opening the state budget to projections upward of $500 million in tax revenue and a billion dollars of economic surplus by next year. Not to mention the 24,000+ jobs that would be created in Illinois based on necessity for cultivation expertise, distribution/fulfillment, storage, retail sales, licensing and peripheral services from lawyers, bankers and medical practitioners. Illinois illustrates just one framework for how several states across our country have developed practical and valuable infrastructure for introducing cannabis legislation safely and effectively throughout our communities. The consensus is universal. Yes weed can ladies and gentlemen.

Yes Weed Can. 

By Dalton Rosario

Yesterday lawmakers on both sides of the aisle put aside party differences to file the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act, which has been promptly referred to the House Judiciary Committee. This bill sponsored by Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) seeks to protect state cannabis rights by not allowing the U.S. Attorney General to prosecute “any conduct that concerns marijuana for medicinal or recreational use… authorized by the laws of the State involved.” Within this proposed legislation are federal laws that remain enforceable by the Justice Department, including but not limited to: selling cannabis to minors, distribution to states where cannabis has not been legalized, violence and firearms used in the cultivation and distribution of cannabis, impaired driving, growing cannabis on pubic lands where it can be hazardous to public safety and possession or use on federal property. 

This marks the fourth official cannabis bill filed by the 116th Congress furthering the power of states’ autonomy; proving particularly necessary for conflict resolution when the federal government intervenes against lawful state sponsorship for fair adult use of medicinal and recreational cannabis. As observed from last year's momentum continuing into the first weeks of 2019, our country is at a turning point in federal prohibition fueled by the demands of the people supported by lawmakers and legislation. Without hesitation the Congressional Cannabis Caucus is steadfast on rectifying racial injustices in cannabis related arrests, implementing common ground policies that support federal reformation and healthy cannabis use furthering research for its medical benefits.  

By Dalton Rosario

In a bold move this past Wednesday, the 116th Congress made nationwide headlines filing bill H.R. 420, titled the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.” This legislation intends to combat federal prohibition by removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively streamlining statewide efforts for pro-cannabis regulation by transferring authority of cannabis oversight within our country from the Drug Enforcement Administration to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, Firearms and Explosives.

Leading H.R. 420 author and Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), commented in a press release following the filing of this bill, “Congress cannot continue to be out of touch with a movement that a growing majority of Americans support. It’s time to end this senseless prohibition.” This bill marks the third piece of pro-cannabis legislation filed this year, showcasing Congress’ progressive stance towards ending federal prohibition favored by popular public opinion.     

As outlined in this legislation, licensing would be permitted and issued federally for cultivation, distribution and fulfillments by the Department of Treasury under the Alcohol, Tobacco and Marijuana Tax and Trade Bureau coupled with oversights from the Food and Drug Administration. Despite the increase of nationwide transparency delineated in bill H.R. 420, pro-cannabis states are still federally prohibited from supplying the demand of neighboring regions that have yet to regulate cannabis both recreationally and medicinally.   

By Dalton Rosario

Now that our nation’s 116th Congress has begun ramping up efforts for extending a pro-cannabis rider protecting states’ and U.S. territories’ medical marijuana programs from federal persecution, it comes to advocates as a shocking standstill that the proposed legislation barres Washington D.C. from investing capital towards regulatory infrastructure for legalizing adult cannabis use.       

Incoming House Appropriations Chair, Nita Lowey (D), author of this rider includes in Section 537 of the proposed bill, “None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the [50] States… to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” 

Unapologetic tactics from the government shutdown representing a negotiation ploy by President Trump to secure funding for his campaign promise of a wall extending the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico has spread doubt and confusion about whether or not the Republican-controlled Senate is even willing to pass this Democratic bill to the executive office without it including provisions for funding Trump’s wall. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), author of the 2018 Farm Bill, and the Chamber’s Appropriations Committee Chair, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), have both casted doubt on voting favorably for a bill that the president would not support without first securing the Democratic-approved funding he seeks. On the other hand, if the Senate and House both approve this bill, and if it successfully gets signed into law by President Trump, nationwide programs supporting medicinal cannabis use would be protected from scrutiny by the Department of Justice and DEA. 

By Dalton Rosario

The United States has nearly 25% of the world’s incarcerate population despite comprising less than 5% of the world’s total population. From 2001-2010 Police made 8.2 million cannabis related arrests, costing the U.S. $3 Billion every year to enforce. And in 2017 alone there were a total of 659,700 cannabis related arrests, from which 599,282 of those arrests were possession related. This equates to one cannabis arrest every 48 seconds according to a recent FBI reporting.

What is most alarming about these infringements are the level of systemic discrimination inflicted upon minority groups across our country. Last year in Washington D.C., 90.85% of all cannabis related arrests involved African Americans, compared to 4% for Caucasians and Hispanics. In New York City from 2014-2017, 48.3% of all cannabis related crimes involved African Americans, 38% involved Hispanics and only 9% involved Caucasians. 

It is a fact that cannabis arrest rates have been dropping since statewide legislation supporting cannabis programs protecting adult consumption have combated federal prohibition. As written by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in a report encompassing statistics from 2016-2018, "Drug crime defendants, who accounted for 28 percent of total filings, grew two percent, although defendants accused of crimes associated with marijuana decreased 19 percent.” Despite these facts, the wrongs of our immediate past must be overturned by the enforcement of our democratic right to choose to allow cannabis in our communities as a healthy means of profitable industry. Public opinion favors pro-cannabis legalization by a majority 62%, and non-violent drug offenders require expungements and restitutions for the violations of their civil liberties during this era of prohibition. We can mitigate this by allowing the proper infrastructure for state sponsored medical and recreational cannabis programs, facilitated by certification and retraining opportunities for those most affected by the war on drugs to earn a livelihood in this industry of commerce.   

By Dalton Rosario

Despite the World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence declining motions for rescheduling cannabis at the United Nations’ International Cannabis Policy Conference earlier in December, the global cannabis market is poised to earn revenues as high as $57 billion in the next decade, with 67% of consumer dollars spent by recreational users. 

According to collaborative studies conducted by Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics earlier this year, the United States bolsters the largest market potential estimated at $47.3B by 2027. And with the EU spending roughly $1.3 trillion in government subsidies on universal health care, Europe’s medicinal marijuana market has the infrastructure to become the highest grossing in the world. 

To reach this global market capacity a few moving pieces must be set in place. This includes removing cannabis as an illicit drug by rescheduling its current classification. U.S. Federal law considers cannabis a threat to public safety, providing no medical benefit in rank with heroine, ecstasy and bath salts. Global rescheduling initiatives can be accomplished by amending the United Nations’ 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, contingent upon the United States leading by example and ending federal prohibition. Unquestionably 2018 has been a remarkable year for cannabis reformation throughout our country and now the world is watching to see what will come from our 2020 presidential elections. There is much to be gained holistically and financially by empowering our communities with the means to invest in progressive developments within the cannabis industry. 2019 legislation set in motion by our 116th Congress will declare the historic turning point in a worldwide cultural movement that has been a lifetime in the making.   

By Dalton Rosario

Canada’s Department of Health has opened public feedback for proposing new parameters within their emerging markets for edibles, cannabis infused beverages and THC/CBD derived extracts. Business owners, social advocates and market consumers have until February 20th, 2019 to let their voices be heard on a range of topics from licensing to manufacturing and packaging restrictions. Health Canada is pushing for legislation to be passed in the summer with new regulatory infrastructure set in place by October of next year. 

Canadian manufacturers have risen concerns regarding the harsh single-serving restrictions proposed for packaging and labeling requirements, limiting THC concentration to 10-milligrams per serving. To put that in perspective, states within the U.S. that have established recreational markets such as Colorado, Washington and California allow consumers to buy as much as 100-milligrams per product serving. Furthermore, Health Canada has allowed up to 1,000-milligrams of THC for concentrates and extracts, begging the question of what benefit comes from such confining regulations specific to edibles. And if these restrictions are imposed by lawmakers, what does this mean for legitimate cannabis businesses competing against Canada’s illicit $6B - $8B black market. 

By Dalton Rosario

Hemp and cannabis plants are composed of non-psychoactive cannabinoids crystallized in the form of mushroom-like trichomes that interact with our body in the form of endocannabinoids. These microscopic compounds are naturally created in our body and interact with receptors in our cells impacting physiological processes that regulate our immune system, memory, appetite, mood variance, sleep patterns, anti-inflammation and pain. A number of non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as CBD, CBDa, CBN, CBG and CBC can be ingested and received by our endocannabinoid system along with psychoactive cannabinoids most commonly in the form of THC. 

The body’s endocannabinoid system receives cannabinoids through two primary receptors called CB1 and CB2. The former are found in the brain and central nervous system while the latter are located in peripheral organs and cells linked to the immune system. Although distinguishable, both receptors are responsible for physiological functions related to our health and well being. Not only does our body create cannabinoids on its own but we also receive cannabinoids like a key into a lock. This symbiotic relationship spanning thousands of years represents a distinct dynamic between human beings cultivating cannabis and cannabis shaping neurological receptors in our brain and corresponding cell tissues. 

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