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Mexican Supreme Court Extends Deadline To Legalize Marijuana As Lawmakers Continue To Advance Bill



The Mexican Supreme Court has again agreed to extend the deadline for lawmakers to legalize marijuana nationally, even as Senate-passed reform legislation advanced this week through at least two Chamber of Deputies committees.

This is just the latest extension the court has approved since it deemed the prohibition on personal use and cultivation of cannabis unconstitutional in 2018 and mandated that Congress end the policy. The Senate passed the legalization bill last month ahead of the earlier December 15 deadline.

But now the court says legislators have until the end of the next session, which starts in February and ends April 30, to enact the reform. This is the fourth deadline the body has imposed. First it was October 2019, then April 2020, then December 2020 and now April 2021.

Overall, the bill would establish a regulated cannabis market, allowing adults 18 and older to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

Leaders in the Chamber of Deputies said they needed the postponement to further review the Senate-passed legislation. However, that hasn’t stopped several committees from taking up the bill, with the Human Rights and Budget and Public Account Committees having already considered and advanced it in recent days just before the new deadline extension request.

In her request for the deadline extension, Chamber President Dulce Mar铆a Sauri Riancho stressed the “complexity of the issue at hand” and added that the coronavirus pandemic “has made it difficult for the legislative process” to move forward “with the depth and care” needed to address the seriousness of the cannabis issue.

“This Chamber of Deputies has been forced to implement extraordinary measures to protect the right to health and life of legislators and other public servants,” she wrote, “which has inevitably affected the work of the committees and of the plenary sessions.”

While advocates are eager for Congress to formally end prohibition, this new delay will give them more time to try to convince legislators to address their concerns about certain provisions of the current bill, namely the limited nature of its social equity components and strict penalties for violating rules.

“It’s disappointing that the two legislative bodies couldn’t have better coordinated their work in order to ensure that they meet the obligation and the deadline made by the Supreme Court,” Zara Snapp, a legalization activist with the Instituto RIA and the coalition #RegulacionPorLaPaz, told Marijuana Moment.

“Since that didn’t happen, we hope that as they work on this in the next legislative session, they will ensure that human rights are at the center as well as improve and expand the opportunities for communities affected by prohibition,” she said, adding that it would be a shame if any additional revisions further benefited transnational corporations instead of local farmers.

There were several revisions made in the Senate prior to last month鈥檚 vote, but most of those were technical in nature.

However, there were a number of notable changes, such as an increase from the initial limit of four self-cultivated plants per person and to make it so people who grow cannabis for personal use will not be subject to a requirement to have regulators track plants.

An additional change mandates that the government clear criminal records of people with past cannabis convictions within six months.

Lawmakers also removed a prohibition on owning more than one type of marijuana license, allowing for vertical integration of cannabis businesses. A previous version of the bill would have only allowed people from vulnerable communities to hold more than one license type.

Another modification that advocates are not happy with says that nonprofit associations of consumers that collectively cultivate cannabis must be located at least 500 meters from schools, sports and recreation centers and anywhere that third parties who have not given their consent could be exposed to smoke.

The legalization bill聽cleared a joint group of Senate committees聽prior to the full floor vote, with some amendments being made after members informally聽considered and debated the proposal聽during a virtual hearing.

Members of the Senate鈥檚 Justice, Health, and Legislative Studies Committees had聽approved a prior version of legal cannabis legislation聽in March, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed consideration of the issue.

Senate President Eduardo Ram铆rez previously said that there was a 鈥渃onsensus鈥 to achieve the reform by the court-mandated December deadline, but that did not pan out.

The legislation makes some attempts to mitigate the influence of large marijuana corporations. For example, it states that for the first five years after implementation, at least 40 percent of cannabis business licenses must be granted to those from indigenous, low-income or historically marginalized communities.

The Mexican Institute of Cannabis would be responsible for regulating the market and issuing licenses.

Public consumption of marijuana would be allowed, except in places where tobacco use is prohibited or at mass gatherings where people under 18 could be exposed.

Households where more than one adult lives would be limited to cultivating a maximum of eight plants. The legislation also says people 鈥渟hould not鈥 consume cannabis in homes where there are underaged individuals. Possession of more than 28 grams but fewer than 200 grams would be considered an infraction punishable by a fine but no jail time.

Sen. Julio Ram贸n Menchaca Salazar of the MORENA party said in April that legalizing cannabis could fill treasury coffers at a time when the economy is recovering from the pandemic.

As lawmakers work to advance the reform legislation, there鈥檚 been a more lighthearted push to focus attention on the issue by certain members and activists. That push has mostly involved planting and gifting marijuana.

In September, a top administration official was聽gifted a cannabis plant by senator聽on the Senate floor, and she said she鈥檇 be making it a part of her personal garden.

A different lawmaker聽gave the same official, Interior Ministry Secretary Olga S谩nchez Cordero, a marijuana joint聽on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies last year.

Cannabis made another appearance in the legislature in August, when Sen. Jesusa Rodr铆guez of the MORENA party聽decorated her desk with a marijuana plant.

Drug policy reform advocates have also been cultivating hundreds of marijuana plants in front of the Senate, putting pressure on legislators to make good on their pledge to advance legalization.

Read lawmakers’ request for a deadline extension and the court’s response below:聽

Mexico Supreme Court Marijuana Delay by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Embracing Marijuana Legalization Could Have Offset Democratic Election Losses, Poll Indicates

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


Washington Supreme Court Strikes Down Criminalization Of Drug Possession



Washington State鈥檚 felony penalties against drug possession abruptly disappeared on Thursday after the state Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional. As lawmakers decide how to respond to the decision鈥攚ith a bill to decriminalize all drugs having already passed a legislative committee earlier this month鈥攕ome police departments and prosecutors have now announced they鈥檒l no longer arrest or pursue cases against people over possession of small amounts.

Simple drug possession 鈥渋s no longer an arrestable offense,鈥 the Seattle Police Department said in a public statement following the ruling. 鈥淓ffective immediately, officers will no longer detain nor arrest individuals鈥 merely for having drugs.

The ruling in the case, State v. Blake, applies only to possession of controlled substances. Other state drug laws, such as those against selling or driving under the influence of drugs, are unaffected.

Meanwhile, according to The Associated Press, the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys sent a memo directing its members to drop ongoing drug possession cases and seek orders vacating convictions for past cases.

“While the legislature can change this prospectively (such action is doubtful), police officers must immediately stop making arrests for simple possession of drugs,” an official with the prosecutors group wrote in an email to Seattle police. “No search warrants. No detentions upon suspicion of simple possession awaiting canine units, etc.”

“You will need to advise your officers as to whether officers should still seize the unlawful drugs as contraband or leave them in possession of the individual,” the email continued.

Pacific County Prosecutor Ben Haslam told The Chinook Observer that the ruling “has come as a shock to our office.”

鈥淥n the prosecutor鈥檚 office鈥檚 end, we are preparing to request the immediate release of individuals being held in custody only for simple-possession cases,鈥 he said. 鈥淣ext, we will have to quash all active warrants on pending possession cases. Moving forward, I expect we will be required to vacate charges for individuals previously convicted of possession, and I鈥檓 sure there will be many other ramifications as well.鈥

How long Washington鈥檚 de facto legalization of drug possession will last is an open question. The court struck down the state鈥檚 possession law over a single issue: the statute failed to require proof a defendant knowingly possessed the drugs, allowing people to be convicted without any intention of committing a crime.

In response, lawmakers could simply replace the old law with a new one that includes such a requirement. Or they could not.

The idea of reducing or removing criminal penalties for simple drug possession is growing in popularity, with Oregon voters recently replacing penalties for possession of any drug with a $100 civil fine or referral to a health assessment. A bill introduced in Washington鈥檚 legislature earlier this year would make similar changes, removing all penalties for possession of personal-use amounts of drugs and significantly expanding state funding for outreach, treatment and recovery services.

The measure, HB 1499, passed a House panel earlier this month.

鈥淭oday鈥檚 Supreme Court decision gives renewed urgency to the conversation about our state鈥檚 response to untreated substance use disorder,鈥 the bill鈥檚 prime sponsor, Rep. Lauren Davis (D), told Marijuana Moment late Thursday. 鈥淚t presents an opportunity to continue the discussion that was begun in the legislature this session with HB 1499.鈥

The court decision accomplishes only part of Davis鈥檚 proposal. While one prong of her plan would decriminalize drugs, the other would create a 鈥渃ontinuum of care鈥 to ensure access to drug treatment and recovery services鈥攕omething Thursday鈥檚 ruling does not do.

鈥淚t is imperative that we stop handing down felony possession convictions that compound shame and create barriers to recovery. We must stop criminalizing symptoms of a treatable brain disease. Today鈥檚 decision does that,鈥 Davis said. 鈥淏ut that alone is insufficient. It is equally important that we build out a response to substance use disorder that truly works鈥攁 robust and fully funded continuum of care ranging from outreach to treatment to recovery support services.鈥

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said lawmakers should act to address the court’s action.

“While there will be a significant amount of work necessary to comply with this ruling in the courthouses throughout the state, it is equally important that the Legislature take steps now to amend this statute to correct the defect found by the Supreme Court,” he said in a statement. “The Legislature should act with a sense of urgency to add the necessary elements to make this statute constitutional this session, and not leave a defective statute on the books.”

Justices on the court weren鈥檛 necessarily setting out to legalize drugs when they undertook the case that led to Thursday鈥檚 decision. Rather than taking aim at the broader drug war, the ruling says that Washington鈥檚 possession law unconstitutionally allowed innocent people to be charged and convicted by failing to require that a defendant knew that drugs were in their possession.

鈥淭he possession statute at issue here does far more than regulate drugs,鈥 the court wrote in a majority opinion by Justice Sheryl Gordon McLoud and signed by five of the court鈥檚 nine members. 鈥淚t is unique in the nation in criminalizing entirely innocent, unknowing possession.鈥

The statute would criminalize a postal carrier who delivers a package containing unprescribed Adderall, the opinion says, as well as a roommate unaware the person they live with has hidden drugs in the common areas of the home.

鈥淎 person might pick up the wrong bag at the airport, the wrong jacket at the concert, or even the wrong briefcase at the courthouse,鈥 it continues. 鈥淥r a child might carry an adult鈥檚 backpack, not knowing that it contains the adult鈥檚 illegal drugs.鈥

The defendant in the case, Shannon Blake, was charged with felony drug possession after police in 2016 found a small bag of methamphetamine in the coin pocket of her jeans. Blake, however, said she didn鈥檛 use drugs and was given the secondhand jeans as a gift just two days earlier.

Because Washington鈥檚 drug law didn鈥檛 require that defendants knowingly had drugs on their person, Blake was charged and convicted.

In rendering its decision Thursday, the Supreme Court vacated Blake鈥檚 conviction.

The court’s prior interpretations of the law make the statute “criminalize innocent and passive possession, even by a defendant who does not know, and has no reason to know, that drugs lay hidden within something that they possess. The legislature鈥檚 police power goes far, but not that far,” the justices determined. “Accordingly, RCW 69.50.4013(1)鈥攖he portion of the simple drug possession statute creating this crime鈥攙iolates the due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions and is void.”

Not all justices agreed the decision needed to be so sweeping. Justice Debra L. Stephens said in a separate opinion, which concurred in part and dissented in part with the majority, that the court could break from its past holdings and simply reinterpret the law to require proof that defendants knowingly broke the law. She agreed Blake鈥檚 conviction should be thrown out but argued the possession law need not be scrapped in its entirety.

鈥淚 would overrule our erroneous precedent and, considering the main arguments actually briefed in this case, read an implied intent element into the drug possession statute,鈥 Stephens wrote. 鈥淣early every other state to have interpreted the model statute holds that it does [have such an element], and Blake urges us to embrace this interpretation.鈥

Three other justices signed a dissenting opinion, arguing that the court has interpreted Washington鈥檚 drug possession law for more than 60 years as not requiring an element of intent鈥攁nd moreover, that the court鈥檚 past decisions have respected the authority of lawmakers to 鈥渃riminalize conduct regardless of whether the actor intended wrongdoing.鈥

It鈥檚 not entirely clear how many past cases might be affected by Thursday鈥檚 ruling. Mark Middaugh, a lawyer who filed a friend-of-brief in the case on behalf of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense lawyers, told the Seattle Times that he believes the ruling could be applied retroactively, allowing anyone with a past conviction for simple drug possession to have that record thrown out.

A press release from the Washington Appellate Project, which represented Blake in the case, was comparatively understated. 鈥淲ashington joins 49 other states and the federal government,鈥 it said, 鈥渋n recognizing that the unknowing possession of drugs is not a crime.鈥

Richard Lechich, a Washington Appellate Project staff attorney who argued the case before the Supreme Court, said justices 鈥渃orrectly recognized the injustice of convicting people for innocent conduct.鈥

鈥淲hile the decision cannot rectify the harm this law caused to so many communities, particularly communities of color, it at least puts an end to it,鈥 he said.

Lechich, however, warned Washingtonians to not to take advantage of the situation. While the possession law is off the books, he said, and some in law enforcement seem to be halting arrests and prosecutions, it鈥檚 still a risk to openly acknowledge having drugs.

鈥淚 would be very careful about that,鈥 Lechich told Marijuana Moment. 鈥淐ertainly if you were my client, I wouldn鈥檛 advise you to do that.鈥

Washington Lawmakers Approve Drug Decriminalization Bill In Committee Vote

Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske

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Disagreements Threaten Virginia Marijuana Legalization Deal As Deadline Approaches



Conference committee members are divided over a proposed delay in regulatory decisions until next session, but have reportedly settled on delaying legalization of cannabis possession in any case.

By Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury

With a Saturday deadline approaching, state lawmakers in the House and Senate are still working to resolve differences over landmark legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana in Virginia.

As of Thursday evening, it was unclear whether the two chambers would be able to reach an agreement on the bill, which Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has made a priority in his final year in office.

At least one lawmaker privately doubted the legislation would pass. Others, however, remained optimistic even as they acknowledged negotiations had grown tense, suggesting a vote was possible as early as Friday.

According to five sources familiar with the talks, the primary point of contention is language sought by the Senate that would delay decisions about how the new market is regulated until next year. Members of the chamber said during hearings last month they felt the legislation was too expansive and complex to complete work on during the 45-day session.

Lawmakers in the House have resisted, arguing the delay is unnecessary, citing in-depth studies conducted by legislative analysts and Northam鈥檚 administration. House lawmakers have also expressed discomfort about voting to legalize the drug without finalizing plans for a legal marketplace, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations.

If a bill does emerge from the conference negotiations, it鈥檚 likely to disappoint civil rights advocates who have been pushing for an immediate end to criminal penalties related to the drug.

Both the House and Senate passed legalization bills that wouldn鈥檛 allow sales of recreational marijuana to begin until January 1, 2024鈥攖ime both sides agree they need to set up a new cannabis authority to regulate the industry.

But they have differed over whether criminal penalties related to the drug should stay in place until legal sales begin. The House advanced legislation that wouldn鈥檛 end prohibition until 2024 while the Senate proposed legalizing possession of an ounce or less of marijuana beginning July 1 of this year.

The House, whose members worried that repealing criminal penalties before legal sales are permitted would encourage the black market, appear to have won the debate, with Senate negotiators agreeing to maintain existing criminal penalties until 2024, according to the sources.

The approach stands in contrast to a legalization bill signed by New Jersey鈥檚 governor on Monday, which immediately ended criminal penalties for possession of up to six ounces even though retail sales aren鈥檛 expected to begin until 2022 at the earliest.

Advocates had called the Senate鈥檚 position the minimum the legislature could do to address criminal penalties before the retail marketplace opens. Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, who proposed it, said it didn鈥檛 make sense to continue prosecuting people for something lawmakers had voted to legalize.

鈥淲e can鈥檛 risk more people being caught in the system for acting in ways that will soon be legal,鈥 wrote a coalition of 25 advocacy organizations led by the ACLU of Virginia and the reform group Marijuana Justice.

Lawmakers skeptical of repealing criminal penalties before there are legal avenues to buy the drug have said they view the decriminalization legislation they passed last year, which reduced penalties for simple possession to a $25 civil fine, an adequate interim step.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, director of Marijuana Justice, countered that the approach unnecessarily allows the disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws against Black Virginians to continue for three years. She said court data obtained by advocates shows that even with reduced fines, Black people are four times more likely than White people to face citations despite using the drug at the same rate.

鈥淭he commonwealth鈥檚 鈥榙ecriminalization鈥 enforcement maintains Virginia鈥檚 racial disparities and goes against Governor Northam鈥檚 stated commitment to social equity, racial equity, and economic equity for marijuana legislation,鈥 she wrote in a statement.

The two chambers are continuing to debate another focus for advocacy groups: how to treat people under 21 caught with the drug. As drafted, the Senate鈥檚 version would dramatically increase penalties for underage users caught with the drug, increasing the civil penalty for possession from $25 to $250 for people ages 18 to 20. Minors would face a $200 civil penalty for a first offense.

Valerie Slater, the director of RISE for Youth, which advocates for reforming the state鈥檚 juvenile justice system, said she favors the House鈥檚 approach, which would also increase penalties for underage possession, but only on subsequent offenses.

But she pointed to New Jersey鈥檚 new law as a better alternative, which calls for a written warning for a first offense, a call to parents for a second offense and referral to community services for a third offense. Members of the state鈥檚 Black Legislative Caucus opposed fines, worrying 鈥減olice would continue to stop and fine minority youth more frequently than White people under 21,鈥 according to The Star-Ledger.

鈥淎t no point should this be a crime for kids,鈥 she said. 鈥淐an we just take New Jersey鈥檚 language and drop it into ours? It would be ideal.鈥

This story was first published by the Virginia Mercury.

Kansas Governor’s Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced As Lawmakers Take Up Separate Legalization Proposal

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Kansas Governor’s Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced As Lawmakers Take Up Separate Legalization Proposal



A bill championed by the governor of Kansas to legalize medical marijuana and use the resulting revenue to expand healthcare was officially introduced on Wednesday. The move comes as lawmakers held back-to-back hearings on separate reform legislation this week.

Gov. Laura Kelly (D) has pushed for legalizing medical cannabis and using that revenue to support Medicaid expansion, and now Rep. Brandon Woodard (D) has filed a measure to do just that. He introduced it in the House Federal & State Affairs Committee, where members heard testimony on the separate legalization bill on Wednesday and Thursday.

“By combining broadly popular, commonsense medical marijuana policy that will generate significant revenue with Medicaid expansion, all logical opposition to expansion is eliminated,” Kelly said at a press briefing on Wednesday. “This bill just makes sense.”

Watch the governor discuss the medical cannabis and Medicare expansion bill, starting around 6:16 in the video below:聽

“In the face of the worst public health crisis our country has seen in a century, I’m even more committed to delivering healthcare and jobs and support for our hospitals through Medicaid expansion,” she said. “I urge the legislature to take Representative Woodard’s proposal seriously and to also consider the implications if they should fail to pass expansion yet again.”

Under Woodard’s bill, a draft version of which was shared with Marijuana Moment, there would be 21 medical conditions that qualify patients for cannabis鈥攊ncluding cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic or intractable pain鈥攁nd regulators would be able to add additional conditions later.

The secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment would be responsible for developing regulations for the program by July 1, 2023. That includes setting a standard for a 90-day supply of cannabis that a registered patient could possess. It would then be tasked with issuing patient and caregiver registrations and identification cards.

The director of Alcoholic Beverage Control would have its own role in the program, issuing licenses for marijuana “cultivators, laboratories, processors, distributors and retail dispensaries.”

“For too long, the Kansas Legislature has ducked the topic of legalizing medical cannabis. An overwhelming, bipartisan majority of Kansans support medical marijuana, as well as Medicaid expansion,” Woodard told Marijuana Moment. “It’s time to expand healthcare coverage to more than 100,000 Kansans, while giving Kansans the opportunity to use a legal, compassionate therapy to treat a variety of conditions.”

“Whether Kansas chooses the path of legalization of medical, recreational, or something in between, I’m glad that the conversation is finally happening and the people of Kansas are watching,” he said.

While the representative’s bill would make it so Kansas would join the vast majority of states that have legal medical marijuana markets, it is restrictive as far as advocates are concerned. It would, for example, prohibit smoking or vaping cannabis. And it sets a 35 percent THC limit for marijuana flower. Home cultivation by patients would not be allowed.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 700 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The governor first announced a plan at the beginning of the month to enact medical marijuana legalization and use cannabis tax revenue to fund Medicaid expansion. And she said more recently that she wants voters to put pressure on their representatives to get the reform passed.

The Federal & State Affairs panel started debate this week on a separate medical marijuana legalization bill that’s been introduced this session, sponsored by the committee itself. Supporters and opponents of the reform testified on the proposal on Wednesday and Thursday, and advocates anticipate it will get a vote in the next 10 days before heading to the floor.

The first hearing consisted of those who favor the policy change, including a veteran, health care worker and former state lawmaker. The second involved testimony from neutral or opposing parties.

Former state Rep. Willie Dove (R) urged the committee not to “take this for granted.”

“We’re not talking about hippies from the 60s. You’re talking about individuals, law-abiding citizens, that really want to make something happened for their families,” he said. “And I would like to say that the revenue generated from this will be greatly appreciated in Kansas because it does help our bottom line.”

Like the Kelly bill, the committee-sponsored legislation lists 21 conditions that would qualify patients for the program, including chronic pain, HIV and post-traumatic stress disorder. Smoking and vaping products would be prohibited, however. It would also not provide for home growing.

鈥淰eterans of all ages and ideologies are in favor of medical cannabis more than any other demographic,鈥 George Hanna, codirector of Kansas NORML and a veteran, said. 鈥淓very veteran鈥檚 organization, representing every generation and political perspective, has overwhelmingly come out in support of safe access. I personally have had several physicians, within the VA itself, privately support medical cannabis.鈥

The opposing testimony on Thursday touched on a variety of talking points鈥攖hat the scope of the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana is too large, legalization would increase youth access to cannabis, THC concentration levels are too high and ingestion by pregnant women or adolescents is dangerous.

But industry stakeholders with the Kansas Cannabis Business Association (KCBA) told Marijuana Moment that the testimony, particularly from law enforcement representatives, was notably “negligent and dispassionate, with most of their concerns rebutted by [Chairman John Barker (R)] on the spot.”

“Essentially the message was, ‘if 30 other states have found solutions to those problems, you can too,” KCBA’s Erin Montroy said.

A separate medical cannabis legalization bill was introduced by the Senate Commerce Commerce this month, though it has not seen action.

The measure’s language largely reflects legislation that was introduced in the House last year. Patients would be eligible for medical cannabis with a doctor鈥檚 recommendation if they have a condition that significantly inhibits their ability to conduct daily activities or if the lack of treatment would pose serious physical or mental harm.

Registered patients would be聽allowed聽to grow and possess at least four ounces of marijuana. The bill would also establish a Kansas Medical Cannabis Agency to oversee the program.

Read the draft text of Woodard’s medical cannabis legalization bill that he’s carrying for the governor below:聽

Kansas medical cannabis leg… by Marijuana Moment

Missouri Bill Would Add MDMA, Psilocybin Mushrooms And LSD To Right-To-Try Law

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