Earlier this month, the House Judiciary Committee voted 24 to 10 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, introduced by presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, of New York. The bill would remove cannabis from the federal list of scheduled substances, allow prior marijuana offenders to request a review of their case with the possibility of expungement, address banking concerns for marijuana businesses and allow cannabis entrepreneurs to apply for federal Small Business Administration loans. The bill would also establish a â€śCannabis Justice Officeâ€ťthat would reinvest funds taken from cannabis sales into communities that were negatively affected by the War on Drugs. The initiative would provide job training, legal assistance and treatment for substance abuse in these communities.
This might all sound well and good for some, but the glaring flaws in this proposed bill are making many cannabis advocates nervous.
To fund the Cannabis Justice Office, the MORE Act proposes imposing a five percent federal tax on all cannabis sales on top of whatever state or municipality tax is already there. As The Motley Fool rightly points out, this could potentially raise the total taxes on marijuana sales in some parts of the country up to 80 percent. Over-taxation in California has led to incredible losses in revenue since the state legalized recreational cannabis in 2018. The state reportedly only made $2.5 billion in total cannabis sales last yearâ€”including both recreational and medical salesâ€”a cool $500 million less than the year beforeâ€”when only medical cannabis was legal. Consumption hasn’t dropped by any means, of course. Consumers are just giving their dollars to black market drug dealers instead of buying cannabis legally. That means states actually make less money when they hike up the taxes.
But what’s really insidious about this bill is the fact that it gives everybody what they want without actually legalizing cannabis. A true â€śdecriminalizationâ€ť bill would only deschedule marijuana and expunge offenders’ records. By adding banking regulation and taxation to the bill, Harris and Nadler are trying to give the government the opportunity to get in on the cannabis market without explicitly legalizing anything. If something like this were to pass into law, it would guarantee another decade of prohibition. After all, why would we need to talk about legalizing marijuana anymore? People won’t be going to jail, and the feds will be getting a piece of the action, too.
And who knows? Maybe they’re right.
It’s unclear what the future holds for the MORE Act as it moves toward a Republican-controlled Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, has a history of stomping all over any pro-cannabis bill he comes across, and if it reaches him, the current bill will likely only amount to a philosophical debate with no real consequence.
The New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program held a public meeting for comments on some proposed rule changes, but had to cut it short due to snow and icy weather. The proceedings began with an announcement that an additional meeting would be scheduled to compensate residents who couldn’t make it out due to the inclement weather.
According to NM Political Report, some of the topics that were meant to be discussedâ€”like patient reciprocity, producer fee structures and public consumption areasâ€”were postponed until the next meeting could be scheduled.
What was discussed during the hour-long meeting was new testing standards. Some producers and representatives of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce voiced concerns over newly proposed microbiological, heavy metal and pesticide testing and labeling standards. NMCCC Executive Director Ben Lewinger reportedly called the new labeling requirements â€śunrealistic.â€ť
The proposed new rule would require producers to affix a label to all cannabis products that displays the name of the producer, the name of the lab that tested it, the product’s expiration date, the number of units of â€śusable cannabis or concentrated cannabis-derived product,â€ť the total of THC, THCA, CBD, and CBDAâ€”expressed by weight in milligramsâ€”total product weight or volume, name of strain, nutritional facts, a statement that the product is not for resale, a statement that it is only intended for medical patients, allergy warnings, a sales barcode and the New Mexico THC warning label.
But we’re not finished yet! Warnings for use should also be affixed to the package includingâ€”at a minimumâ€”the statements, â€śConsumption of THC when pregnant, or by a mother who is breastfeeding, may adversely impact an infantâ€™s development,â€ť â€śDo not drive a vehicle or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of this product,â€ť and â€śKeep out of reach of children.â€ť
The labels are required to use non-italicized font no smaller than 8-point type. Some producers say there’s no physical way to attach such a large label to some of their products, and anyone who’s bought a single gram of bud can probably attest to this.
Producers also said that the required sample sizes for testing were too large. The new rules require 20 grams of product just to test for salmonella, E. coli and the total aerobic microbial count. That doesn’t include what’s needed to test for cannabinoid, mold and mycotoxin content, among other things. For smaller producers, this can potentially be a major blow to their inventory.
The DOH says the next meeting will happen in January, but an exact date has yet to be set. Hopefully, we’ll get to hear about patient reciprocity and consumption areasâ€”two very exciting developments in our weird local marijuana scene. Keep your eyes here for future developments.