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Trump administration ends Obama cannabis policy (Newsletter: Jan. 5, 2018)

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VT House approves legalization bill; OK medical cannabis vote date set; Lawmakers push back on Sessions

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era Cole memo that has generally allowed states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference.

The move represents a clear violation of President Trump’s repeated campaign promises to respect state cannabis laws.

A large number of members of Congress and state officials across party lines pushed back against the decision.

Vermont’s House of Representatives approved a marijuana legalization bill, setting up a final Senate vote next week.

/ FEDERAL

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, asked about the federal marijuana move, said, “The president believes in enforcing federal law…that is regardless of what the topic is, whether it’s marijuana or it’s immigration.”

A U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson wasn’t willing to predict whether the marijuana change would lead to more prosecutions. The official also said there are no current plans to begin sending threat letters to state-legal cannabis businesses. However, an official also wouldn’t rule out medical cannabis prosecutions.

Colorado’s U.S. attorney suggested that the disappearance of the Cole memo wouldn’t change his marijuana enforcement strategy.

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio implied that the Sessions move wouldn’t change much.

Vermont’s U.S. attorney also indicated she’s not about to launch a cannabis crackdown.

The same goes for the Western District of Washington’s U.S. attorney.

Oregon’s U.S. attorney suggested he would continue to use Cole memo priorities in determining enforcement actions.

Alaska’s U.S. attorney said he will “continue to use the long-established principles of federal prosecution to determine what cases to charge.”T

he U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia said the office will “utilize long-established principles of prosecutorial discretion in pursuing cases.”

Pennsylvania’s U.S. attorney said his office will continue going after “criminal organizations which traffic in all illegal controlled substances, including marijuana.”

The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas said he will “continue to exercise our prosecutorial discretion and evaluate criminal cases on an individual basis.”

Rhode Island’s U.S. attorney said he would “evaluate each matter based upon its specific facts, and then rely upon the well-established principals that govern all federal prosecutions when deciding which cases to pursue.”

The Massachusetts U.S attorney said his office would “prosecute bulk cultivation and trafficking cases, and those who use the federal banking system illegally.”

The U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of California said the office will “evaluate violations of those laws in accordance with our district’s federal law enforcement priorities and resources.”

Former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration head Chuck Rosenberg suggested the removal of the Cole memo wouldn’t change much.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is responding to the federal marijuana change by pushing for even broader state protections in federal spending legislation than just the existing medical cannabis rider.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) seems to want to extend budget protections to cover state recreational laws as well.

Congressman Earl Blumenaeur (D-OR) congratulated Vermont on its marijuana legalization vote.

The U.S. Senate bill to respect state medical cannabis laws got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to eight.

/ STATES

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) placed a medical cannabis measure on the state’s June 26 primary election ballot.

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said the state won’t amend its marijuana laws in response to federal enforcement policy changes.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced that regulators have approved that state’s first medical cannabis dispensary to begin serving patients.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) says he wants the federal government to distinguish between medical and recreational marijuana.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said the state will move ahead with legal marijuana sales.

California’s top marijuana regulator and attorney general said the state will move ahead with legalization. And an assemblyman will file legislation to prevent state and local police from assisting federal agents in any cannabis crackdowns.

Massachusetts regulators are moving ahead with marijuana legalization implementation.

Ohio regulators said they would continue implementing the medical cannabis program despite federal changes.

Minnesota regulators said their medical cannabis program would continue as well.

The chair of Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board, who is a police chief, resigned in response to the federal move.

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidates JB Pritzker and Daniel Biss slammed the federal marijuana change.

Louisiana’s attorney general said he supports the move to scale back state marijuana protections.

Indiana’s attorney general also seemed pleased with the change.

New Jersey’s Senate president slammed the federal cannabis move.

A Maine legislative committee hearing on marijuana legalization implementation scheduled for Friday has been canceled.

/ LOCAL

Seattle, Washington Mayor Jenny Durkan (D), a former U.S. attorney, said local police will not assist federal agents in any marijuana crackdowns.

Denver, Colorado Mayor Michael Hancock (D) expressed “severe disappointment” about federal marijuana changes.

The Los Angeles, California City Council president said the city would move ahead with legal marijuana sales.

San Francisco, California’s marijuana permitting will proceed as well.

/ INTERNATIONAL

New Canadian data shows an increasing number of patients and doctors participating in the country’s medical cannabis program.

/ ADVOCACY

The Fraternal Order of Police applauded the Department of Justice’s move to rescind state marijuana law protections.

The National Sheriffs’ Association is also happy.

Prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana could barely contain itself over the federal news.

Freedom Partners, an advocacy group funded by the Koch Brothers, slammed the federal cannabis change.

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A study found that “current blunt smokers had 1.4 times the odds of purchasing cannabis relative to the cannabis users who had never smoked a blunt” and  “current blunt smokers had greater odds of purchasing cannabis frequently and making the purchases in outdoor settings,” suggesting  that “current blunt smokers compared to other cannabis users are at greater risk of the dangers associated with illegal drug transactions.”

/ OPINION & ANALYSIS

Some Democratic analysts think that the party stands to benefit politically from the Trump administration’s anti-marijuana move.

/ BUSINESS

Marijuana stocks slid following news that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was rescinding guidance on state cannabis laws.

Monsanto tweeted to shoot down rumors it is working on GMO marijuana.

/ CULTURE     

Actor George Takei tweeted, “AG Sessions’s move to override the will of local voters and legislatures when it comes to marijuana laws is just the latest example of conservatives’ using federal power to impose red state values on the whole country. So much for that whole smaller government thing, I guess, eh?”

Actor Richard Schiff tweeted, “The war on drugs was a monumental mistake on so many levels. Militarizing gangs and police forces; mass incarceration; crowning kingpins of trafficking in Mexico, Columbia et al; endangering and handcuffing law enforcement and costing taxpayers over a trillion dollars.”

Late night TV hosts bashed Sessions’s marijuana move.

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.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Newsletter

Alabama lawmakers vote to legalize medical cannabis (Newsletter: February 20, 2020)

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Trump campaign spox: keep marijuana illegal; VA decrim moves toward gov’s desk; DC psychedelics decrim language approved; USDA: hemp market growing

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

The director of strategic communications for President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign said in an interview that marijuana needs to be “kept illegal.”

  • “I know many states have taken a different path… That is the federal policy.”

The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to legalize medical cannabis.

Virginia House and Senate committees amended and approved versions of marijuana decriminalization legislation passed by the other chamber. Some differences have been resolved in an effort to avoid having to send the legislation to a bicameral conference committee prior to it arriving on the desk of supportive Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

The Washington, D.C. Board of Elections unanimously approved ballot language for a measure to decriminalize psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca. Next comes a public challenge period prior to final approval and signature gathering.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture published a report that highlights the significant growth of the hemp industry but says some challenges remain.

  • “Global production was small and relatively stable until the recent worldwide interest in CBD oil.”

/ FEDERAL

The U.S. Department of Agriculture published a report looking at hemp policy in the Philippines.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Deputy Director David Shurtleff tweeted, “Our Center is interested in supporting research grant applications to study minor cannabinoids and terpenes in the cannabis plant as they relate to pain and nociception.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a presidential candidate, tweeted, “Donald Trump has no problem pardoning white collar criminals. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Black and Brown Americans are sitting in jail because of marijuana convictions or because they can’t afford bail. That injustice is what we’re going to end.”

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) filed a bill that include provisions to remediate lands damaged by illegal marijuana cultivation.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tweeted about efforts to expunge cannabis records, saying, “Imagine if we did this for everyone with low-level, marijuana-related convictions. Imagine if the Black and brown people our criminal justice system disproportionately punishes weren’t forced to live with these convictions.”

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) tweeted about discussing “obstacles local farmers have been facing while growing hemp” with an economic development group.

Texas Democratic Senate candidates discussed marijuana legalization during a debate.

Illinois Democratic congressional candidate Sarah Gad wants to “establish a dispensary tax used towards reparations/restitution for persons convicted of and imprisoned for marijuana-related offenses.”

/ STATES

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said that legalizing marijuana is a “top priority” for him and that he will “give it my all to get it done in the budget.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) spoke about marijuana legalization in his budget address, saying, “Here’s another responsible step we’re taking together: Last year we worked on a bipartisan basis to pass a new source of general funds revenue and create tens of thousands of jobs with the legalization of adult-use cannabis. With a successful first month of sales under our belt, I can conservatively project that adult-use cannabis sales will generate at least $46 million in revenue for our general fund in the coming fiscal year, of which $10 million will go directly to pay down our bill backlog.” He also proposed using marijuana revenue to fund mental health care and addiction treatment.

Michigan’s lieutenant governor signed bills on marijuana packaging warning labels and information pamphlets. Separately, the state’s medical cannabis patient database malfunctioned, halting sales. Also, regulators are facing a likely lawsuit aimed at forcing Detroit to allow recreational marijuana businesses.

The Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee and House Public Safety Committee approved legislation to increase potency limits in the state’s limited medical cannabis program.

The West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to add new forms of acceptable medical cannabis and expand the number of dispensaries. Separately, regulators received 285 medical marijuana business license applications.

The Colorado House Business Affairs and Labor Committee defeated a bill to shield workers from being punished for using marijuana in their personal time.

The South Carolina House Health and Environmental Affairs Subcommittee held a hearing on medical cannabis legislation.

The Kansas House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee held a hearing on a bill to defelonize marijuana possession.

The Missouri House Special Committee on Government Oversight continued to press regulators about their medical cannabis business licensing process in another hearing.

North Dakota’s top medical cannabis regulators said patient registration counts have grown much faster than anticipated.

Oregon regulators will consider marijuana violation stipulated settlement agreements on Thursday.

Arizona representatives filed a bill to limit medical cannabis products to 2% THC content.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis 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.

/ LOCAL

Hillsborough County, Florida commissioners unanimously approved a marijuana decriminalization proposal.

/ INTERNATIONAL

Bermuda Premier David Burt tweeted that he was surprised no one asked him a marijuana question at a public forum.

A majority of German lawmakers in Parliament now represent parties that support marijuana reform.

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A case study showed that “upon treatment with CBD and cessation of the antidepressant medication, the patient improved regarding depressive as well as anxiety symptoms including simple phobias and symptoms of paranoia and dissociation” and that “the patient quit abusing illegal drugs including THC without showing withdrawal symptoms.”

A study found that “dronabinol reduces opioid consumption following traumatic injury” and that “the opioid-sparing effect of dronabinol may be greater in patients who are marijuana users.”

/ ADVOCACY, OPINION & ANALYSIS

A Boston Globe reporter dropped out of a panel he was scheduled to speak on at a National Cannabis Industry Association conference in protest of the group holding a summit with current and former federal officials that was closed to the press. Another reporter, from the Boston Business Journal, was kicked out of the summit.

The Detroit News editorial board is calling on Michigan officials to stop making rules for marijuana businesses so complicated.

/ BUSINESS

Clarity Cannabis budtenders voted to join UFCW 1518, becoming the first marijuana workers at a private dispensary to unionize in Canada.

The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists is hosting a cannabis conference in April.

/ CULTURE

Mixed martial arts fighter Elias Theodorou was granted a therapeutic use exemption to use medical cannabis.

Football player Greg Robinson was reportedly arrested with 157 pounds of marijuana at a Border Patrol checkpoint.

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Newsletter

Bloomberg puts cannabis decrim in new plan (Newsletter: February 19, 2020)

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Feds won’t CBD test workers; MN House leader to file legal marijuana bill soon; Poll: VT legal sales support; CO cannabis funds for roads & safety

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There are now 1,304 cannabis-related bills moving through state legislatures and Congress for 2020 sessions.

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D), a presidential candidate, released a criminal justice plan that includes decriminalizing marijuana, commuting sentences and expunging records—but does not include legalizing cannabis. It says that decisions on cannabis laws should be left to states “for the moment” and that “further scientific study is required to assess the health effects of marijuana.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a memo saying that workers in safety-sensitive jobs like pilots and bus drivers won’t be tested for CBD but that they should still be wary about consuming such products due to potentially positive drug tests for marijuana.

Minnesota’s House majority leader announced at a rally also attended by the state attorney general that he will be filing a marijuana legalization bill within the next two weeks.

A poll found that 76% of Vermont residents support legalizing marijuana sales. Several House committees have approved a cannabis commercialization bill in recent weeks, and a floor vote is expected in the coming days.

Colorado marijuana business profits and the tax revenue they generate are helping to fund efforts to reduce bullying in schools and clean up highways.

/ FEDERAL

President Trump commuted the sentences of several people, including a woman who has spent the past 12 years in prison for involvement with a marijuana smuggling operation.

The Bureau of Land Management sent a press release celebrating agents who did “outstanding work to end marijuana cultivation on America’s public lands.”

Former Office of National Drug Control Policy Deputy Director Bertha Madras tweeted, “At Logan airport Boston. CNN is showing pro-marijuana infomercial (“Weeds”) with airport filled with children on holiday travel. Shame on producer of daytime programming.”

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) sent a press release in which the Family Research Council praises him for voting to “reject the increasing acceptance of marijuana use,” among other things.

Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) tweeted, “While Democrats like @MikeBloomberg talk down to farmers and blue-collar workers, the original entrepreneurs of this country, I’ve been a champion for #VA05 farmers. I’ve worked hard to promote hemp production in Virginia and pushed to pass the #USMCA, which is a win for America!”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) tweeted, “Almost 66,000 marijuana convictions will be dismissed in Los Angeles — the largest effort in California’s history. Imagine the positive change we could create in people’s lives by ending marijuana prohibition and expunging prior offenses nationwide.”

New York Democratic congressional candidate Melquiades Gagarin tweeted, “I support ending the war on drugs because I saw first hand the communities struggling through the opioid crisis left to fend for themselves.”

/ STATES

A Rhode Island judge ruled that the state’s Good Samaritan law shields from criminal charges not only the person who calls for help in a potential drug overdose situation, but also the person who is experiencing the medical emergency.

The Georgia House Agriculture Committee approved a bill to make it a crime to transport hemp without accompanying paperwork showing it was legally produced in accordance with a license.

The Utah Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill to revise medical cannabis regulations.

The Oklahoma House Rules Committee advanced several marijuana regulatory reform bills, including one that would allow delivery services.

The Connecticut House Progressive Caucus included marijuana legalization in its 2020 priorities.

The Maine legislature’s Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill to let people expunge records for certain minor non-violent crimes including marijuana possession.

The Colorado House Business Affairs and Labor Committee will hold a Wednesday hearing on a bill to prevent employees from being fired for using state-legal marijuana outside of work.

Florida regulators issued complaints against two doctors for allegedly improperly issuing medical cannabis recommendations.

Michigan regulators published an advisory bulletin about participation by marijuana businesses in temporary events.

A Pennsylvania representative held a press conference to tout his new marijuana legalization bill.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis 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.

/ LOCAL

Kansas City, Missouri’s mayor began accepting applications from people requesting pardons for past marijuana possession convictions.

The Hillsborough, Florida County Commission is expected to vote on a marijuana decriminalization proposal on Wednesday.

Denver, Colorado officials are extending the window to participate in a survey on cannabis business and employment opportunity.

/ INTERNATIONAL

A top Mexican senator spoke about how lawmakers are working to achieve consensus on marijuana legalization legislation.

The prices of marijuana extracts vary wildly between Canadian provinces.

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A study concluded that “THC and CBD inhibited the proliferation and expression of [endothelial growth factor receptor] in the lung cancer cells studied.”

A review concluded that “in addition to potential cannabis-related dermal exposures, ergonomic stressors, and psychosocial issues, the studies found employees in cultivation, harvesting, and processing facilities could potentially be exposed to allergens and respiratory hazards through inhalation of organic dusts (including fungus, bacteria, and endotoxin) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione” and that “these hazards were most evident during the decarboxylation and grinding of dried cannabis material, where elevated job-specific concentrations of VOCs and endotoxin were generated.”

/ ADVOCACY, OPINION & ANALYSIS

A poll found that New Zealanders oppose a marijuana legalization referendum, 39%-48%.

A poll found that Canadian adults oppose decriminalizing drug possession, 53%-47%, and oppose decriminalizing drug use, 64%-36%.

A group of Connecticut clergy held a press conference to build support for marijuana legalization.

/ BUSINESS

Colorado retailers sold $1.75 billion worth of recreational and medical marijuana products in 2019.

/ CULTURE

Former wrestler Kevin Nash joined CBD company No Borders Naturals as a brand ambassador and spokesman.

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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Treasury secretary talks cannabis biz tax incentives (Newsletter: February 18, 2020)

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NFL weighs marijuana penalty reduction; Study: Medical cannabis reduces ADHD drug use; ABA approves marijuana banking & lawyers resolutions

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was pressed again during a recent Senate hearing on whether marijuana businesses should be able to qualify for Opportunity Zone tax benefits.

National Football League penalties for players who use marijuana would be “dramatically reduced” under a draft collective bargaining agreement that’s now circulating, and the drug testing window would reportedly shrink from four months to just two weeks.

The American Bar Association approved resolutions calling on Congress to pass a marijuana banking bill and clarify that lawyers can advise cannabis business clients without violating federal law.

A study found that “higher-dose consumption of [medical cannabis] components (phyto-cannabinoids and terpenes) is associated with ADHD medication reduction.”

/ FEDERAL

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will hear arguments next month in a case on whether a police officer in a state that has decriminalized marijuana can justify a search of a car based on probable cause to believe that still-federally-illegal cannabis is inside.

The U.S.Forest Service touted marijuana eradication efforts in documents justifying its Fiscal Year 2021 budget request.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tweeted about the controversial marijuana enforcement comments of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D), a presidential candidate.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) discussed his work on marijuana legislation in a speech to the National Congress of American Indians.

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) tweeted, “We have the chance to work towards providing citizens with the chance to solve major health problems without the use of prescription drugs. Support for marijuana legalization in New Mexico has increased steadily in recent years.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) tweeted, “Support for legalizing marijuana over time: ➡️ 1989: 16% ➡️ 1999: 31% ➡️ 2019: 67% All of those who join me in fighting for an end to the federal prohibition of cannabis are on the right side of history.”

Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), who recently ended his presidential campaign, asked his Twitter followers to watch his daughter’s CNN story about flower growers switching to the marijuana industry.

/ STATES

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said she needs to spend more time working with lawmakers to build support for marijuana legalization. Separately, the legislature sent her a bill to limit the medical cannabis program to in-state residents.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said it’s a “priority” to legalize marijuana this year.

Alabama’s House speaker said he is in “wait and see mode” on medical cannabis legislation.

The Washington State House of Representatives approved a bill to prioritize marijuana business license applicants from communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

Michigan regulators issued a technical bulletin about potency variance in marijuana packaging.

Arkansas regulators will consider alleged rules violations by a medical cannabis company on February 26.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis 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.

/ LOCAL

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s district attorney tweeted, “Criminalization of cannabis disproportionately harmed black and low-income people. The benefits of decriminalization, including profit, must be offered in a way that is proportional to prior damage done.”

/ INTERNATIONAL

The Philippine Dangerous Drugs Board approved “in principle” a resolution to allow the use of CBD to treat severe forms of epilepsy. The Senate president said that lawmakers now have less of a need to take up medical cannabis legislation in light of regulators’ move.

Candidates for leader of the UK Labour Party discussed marijuana decriminalization during a debate.

Scotland’s first medical cannabis clinic is set to open.

Colombian and Brazilian officials met to discuss marijuana policy.

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A review “identified studies demonstrating an inhibitory effect of cannabinoids on skin inflammation, proliferation, fibrosis, pain, and itch—biological mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of many dermatologic conditions” and concluded that “cannabinoids have the potential to expand the therapeutic repertoire of a wide spectrum of skin disorders.”

/ ADVOCACY, OPINION & ANALYSIS

The New York Daily News editorial board is calling on lawmakers to legalize marijuana this session.

Major Republican donor Miriam Adelson spoke about how she believes “cannabis is indeed a gateway drug to potentially deadly opioids.”

Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy released a voter guide for upcoming primary elections.

/ BUSINESS

Michigan retailers sold $9.8 million worth of recreational marijuana products in January.

/ CULTURE

The Onion quipped that Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is polling “poorly among African American men who were between 16 and 25 years old when they were arrested for possession of marijuana during his tenure as mayor of New York.”

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