The news on cannabis developments is coming fast and furious these days. Frankly, we can't keep up with everything, so we offer a weekly roundup of issues and events that should be on your radar, with links to stories that cover the issues in greater depth.
1. New York City marijuana busts are down
In November 2014, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called on cops in the Big Apple to stop arresting people carrying small amounts of cannabis. Instead of being cuffed, people caught with 25 grams or less would be ticketed. The police are listening. According to The New York Post, the recent number of arrests has plummeted while the number of tickets has risen (as hoped). Arrests still outnumber the total amount of tickets issued, but the mayor's plan to unclog the courts in New York appears to be working.
2. Florida okays limited use of medical marijuana
After several frustrating delays, select Florida patients will finally gain access to medicinal cannabis. In 2014, the Sunshine State approved the limited use of medicinal cannabis to treat severe epilepsy and advanced cancer. This week, the Department of Health approved five sites for growing and cultivating a specific strain that is low in THC but high in therapeutic cannabidiol. The prospective growers now have to jump through a gauntlet of bureaucratic hoops before they can begin business by June 2016.
3. Ohio vote 'statistically impossible'
Ron Baiman - a professor of economics and statistics at Benedictine University: "The results are not only impossible but unfathomable," he told the Columbus Free Press. Prior to the vote on Issue 3, which would have legalized medical and recreational cannabis use statewide, polls showed the yeas and nays were in a dead heat. But on election day, the legalization initiative lost by nearly a 2:1 margin. According to Baiman, the odds of that happening are "one in a trillion."
4. Business as Usual in Nanaimo, British Columbia...For Now
On Nov. 12, Nanaimo RCMP warned local "gray market" dispensaries that they must close their illegal businesses in seven days or face arrest for violating Canada's cannabis laws. The deadline has passed, and the stores are still open. According to the Nanaimo Bulletin, the delay is giving the Nanaimo Cannabis Coalition hope that police are backing away while they continue working on a resolution with city council. But Mayor Bill McKay isn't confident that an agreement will protect the dispensary owners, employees and clients from prosecution:
"People seem to believe that if the city simply licensed them and regulates them from a land-use perspective that all of their problems will go away. Nothing could be further from the truth," he told the Bulletin.
Meanwhile, RCMP Superintendent Mark Fisher warned that police action could take place at any moment: "We said we are giving you ample opportunity to make a decision and we're letting you know we do view this as illegal activity and after the seven days you may very well be subject to some sort of enforcement action. That's exactly what the message said and that's still the way it stands."
5. The largest legalization gathering of the year
Cannabis conferences are becoming more and more common. But the Drug Policy Alliance's biennial Reform Conference remains one of the biggest events for the industry, bringing over a thousand attendees from over 30 countries.
On Nov. 18, activists, entrepreneurs, investors and others gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss topics ranging from the history of cannabis prohibition, the future of the industry, legalization in Canada, and ways to make amends for the many victims of the War on Drugs - especially for the many communities negatively impacted by the racial disparities in American law enforcement.