21 July 2022 |

Senate files federal legalization bill, Another American in a Russian prison for cannabis looked at, House says yes to canna-ads on radio & tv.

By Kaitlin Domangue

Sen. Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden, and Cory Booker formally filed the long-awaited federal legalization and social equity bill – The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). 

*Cue mainstream media talking about the downsides of cannabis legalization even though cannabis legalization isn’t even here*

Talks of this bill’s impending release started swirling last week. It was set to be introduced before Congress’ August recess after Sen. Schumer delayed its original filing in April. 

Now that it’s been officially introduced, the bill must move through the legislative process before it becomes law. ⚖️

The CAOA is hundreds of pages long. It’s filled with information; I couldn’t begin to cover it all here. 

Here are the major points you need to know about this bill: 

Cannabis must be removed from the Controlled Substances Act within 180 days of the bill passing 

People with low-level federal cannabis convictions will have their records expunged within one year of the CAOA going into effect. Those currently in prison for cannabis will be allowed to petition the courts for relief

Small to mid-sized cannabis producers would be taxed a 5% excise tax – but this number would slowly increase to 12.5% after five years. Large businesses would start at 10% and increase to a maximum of 25%. (Heavily taxing cannabis producers doesn’t stop after federal legalization, apparently.)

It would create a regulatory framework, one in which the FDA, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) are heavily involved.

This bill would, overnight, change everything we know about the cannabis industry.

But, states would still be allowed to opt-in or out of cannabis sales. They can’t stop the transportation of cannabis products from passing through their jurisdiction, but those caught distributing cannabis in an illegal state can still face federal penalties. 

The Department of Transportation would also be responsible for determining a THC-impaired driving standard within three years of the bill becoming law. States would be required to adopt this unless it’s determined that the department is unable to set this standard from a scientific perspective. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would collect data on impaired driving and promote awareness of its dangers.

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

THC stays in your system for up to 30 days, sometimes even longer depending on several circumstances. 

I don’t think there will be a scientific method to determine if a cannabis consumer is impaired or not. But, removing federal restrictions gives scientists a real chance to study the data. 

I believe in the separation of federal and state powers, so I don’t see anything wrong with states being allowed to choose cannabis or not. 38 states and D.C. have legalized cannabis at some level. More than 68% of Americans support legalizing cannabis. 

I predict that in 10-12 years, every state will have at least a medical cannabis program because the American people desire it. 

As for the bill itself – I don’t foresee it passing the House and Senate any time soon. Federally legal cannabis is still a long game. 

Congress has been deliberating on this issue for years. There’s also no guarantee that President Biden would approve the measure, which is the final step before a bill becomes law. 

The U.S. examines another American jailed for cannabis in Russia

In 2021, an American teacher who teaches English in Moscow, Marc Fogel, was arrested at a Moscow airport for possessing about 17 grams of cannabis in his luggage. Marc was sentenced to 14 years in a Russian prison. 

As Brittney Griner’s case continues to make headlines, some are wondering if cases like Marc’s have been forgotten. The White House says that’s not the case. 

A White House official said the administration has been “looking at [Fogel’s case] for a while now. I spent a few hours on the Fogel case just last week trying to get more information on it. So it’s ongoing and active; we’re looking at it. But I’d rather not go into any more details on specific cases,” he said at a briefing on Monday.

Marc is a medical cannabis patient in the United States, but the Russian government doesn’t acknowledge U.S. cannabis laws on their soil. Griner is also a registered medical cannabis patient in the state of Arizona. 

Marc hasn’t been classified by the United States as a “wrongfully detained” person like Brittney Griner has. Some people are attributing that to Brittney’s status as a WNBA player, but we also have to take the amount of cannabis into consideration. 

The vape cartridges only had 0.7 grams of cannabis oil compared to Marc’s 17 grams of whole cannabis flower. Marc’s charge was categorized as “large-scale possession” by the Russian government.

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

In my opinion, the problem isn’t Russia. 🤷‍♀️

It’s the United States government.

I don’t think any American citizen should feel comfortable bringing cannabis overseas. Medical cannabis patient or not. You’re at the mercy of international governments and there’s no guarantee the U.S. government can quickly bring you home. We can’t blame Russia for applying Russian laws. 

But, it does raise questions about people imprisoned for cannabis in the U.S. Why is Brittney’s case labeled wrongful detention by the American government when Americans are still being arrested for cannabis in the United States? 

The federal government has taken no action on expunging cannabis records for Americans arrested at home. Earlier this week, Biden did say they are working on a crime bill, but it’s unclear what that will look like. 

In Marc Fogel’s case, though his and Griner’s possession amounts vastly differed, he was still within his personal patient allotment in the United States.

House votes to allow cannabis ads on TV & the radio

If you’ve been part of The Green Paper community for at least a month, you might remember when The House Appropriations Committee approved the 2023 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill at the end of June. 

This bill included a provision that would block the Federal Communications Commission from penalizing broadcasters that air cannabis advertisements. The bill’s next step was to clear the House, and that happened yesterday. 

As of now, most TV and radio broadcasters can’t air cannabis ads because they operate under FCC licenses and federal law. Our fave thorn in our side *stabs us* once again: the outdated federal law conflicting with the will of the people in legal cannabis states. 

“The provision makes clear that the law of the state in which a station is licensed should determine whether a station can accept cannabis advertising if they so choose. … We look forward to working with the U.S. Senate and the FCC to help restore parity between local broadcasters and other media outlets,” said David Donovan, president of the New York State Broadcasters Association. 

If this bill clears the Senate, it will need to be renewed every year. But, the FCC or Congress could make this a permanent solution if it passes and does well. 

Broadcasters also don’t have to accept cannabis ads, this just makes it available to them. 

The Washington Examiner upholds a strange stance on children having a positive view of cannabis from viewing advertisements. Like it’s a bad thing. It’s a huge reason why cannabis ads still aren’t allowed on TV and radio. 

According to them, cannabis isn’t harmless. So children shouldn’t view it in a positive light. 

But, neither are the prescription drugs we see marketed on TV. Cannabis ads need to be focused on wellness and responsible consumption, not as a party drug like the mainstream media loves to depict it as. 

In fact, research shows teen cannabis use has reduced in states where cannabis is legal. 

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

Children viewing cannabis as a “positive thing” isn’t wrong. 

Millions of Americans consume medical cannabis to help manage chronic illness. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “not talking about alcohol and other drugs still sends kids a message.”

It’s always interesting to see people advocating for the innocence of children, yet 53% of children own a smartphone by the time they’re 11 years old. Children can access any material they want on a smartphone. Yet responsibly-designed cannabis ads are the problem…. Make it make sense.

It’s up to the Senate to pass this bill or not. I predict that it won’t pass through the Senate with ease, but hopefully, we’re all surprised.