Help us support local, independent news.


100% of reader donations support our local journalists.

For less than a subscription to the Journal for one reader, you can keep our news free for everyone in ABQ.

Promises to Decriminalize Cannabis Fizzle

With the ink still wet on the Associated Press’ call for the election, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have already failed to come through on their promise to decriminalize cannabis and expunge the records of low-level marijuana offenders.

Last week Biden’s transition team put forward its plans to address racial equity on the Biden-Harris Transition website. The plan mentioned a number of justice reforms including banning chokeholds, stopping the transfer of “weapons of war” to police forces, modeling a use-of-force standard and creating a national police oversight commission.

The document is deafeningly silent on cannabis reform—even though Harris promised on numerous occasions while campaigning that if Biden was elected, cannabis would be decriminalized and certain imprisoned marijuana offenders would be freed and their records would be expunged.

A mere month ago—on Oct. 9—Harris drove cannabis stocks through the roof after she once again reiterated that promise. “We will decriminalize marijuana and we will expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana,” said the future vice president during her debate with Mike Pence.

Kyle Jaeger at Marijuana Moment was quick to point out that an earlier version of Biden’s racial equity plan was still live on the team’s campaign website, and it was clear about its intent to decriminalize cannabis.

“Biden will work with Congress to reform federal sentencing and provide incentives to state and local systems to do the same,” the campaign promised. “He will end, once and for all, the federal crack and powder cocaine disparity, decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions.”

Jaeger spoke to a Biden transition team member who seemed quick to dismiss fears that the administration would fail to keep its promises. “Nothing has changed,” he reportedly said.

One aspect of the original plan could use a change, though: Biden’s insistence on substituting drug treatment plans instead of prison time for drug offenders. While that might sound like a good idea on paper, the reality is that it will be a continuation of drug policies that were included in the much-criticized 1994 Crime Bill that incentivized the systemic targeting and demonization of drug users—policies that Biden helped write and still defends.

Well, they did promise a return to normalcy. And a president that didn’t reneg on their campaign promises would be truly abnormal.

Raids Near Shiprock Halt Illegal Operations

The months-long public investigation into illegal hemp farms on Navajo Nation lands seems to have come to an end.

Searchlight New Mexico reports that 20 federal, state and tribal law enforcement agencies worked together to shut down the farms after struggling to enforce tribal restrictions on the cultivation of hemp and marijuana.

Police reportedly confiscated and destroyed thousands of illegal cannabis plants from a group of farms leased by tribal member Dineh Benally. The farms were alleged to have illegally employed more than 1,000 Chinese immigrants who were reportedly under the impression that they were working at legal cannabis farms. The farms also employed a number of Navajo workers—some allegedly as young as 10 years old.

In September the Navajo Nation issued a temporary restraining order that instructed the farms to halt operations, and leaders went as far as redefining the term “marijuana” in the law to include hemp. But many of the farms reportedly continued to produce hemp and cannabis anyway. Tribal members staged numerous protests against the farms and even set fire to a greenhouse on one occasion.

The FBI has not released any specifics on the operation yet.

NORML Presses for Pro-Weed AG

Cannabis advocate group NORML is asking Americans to sign a letter that demands Biden appoint a pro-cannabis Attorney General.

If readers can still remember back to the distant ages before 2020, they might recollect a certain Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assertion that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” It was a clear indication that the Trump administration had no plans of reforming cannabis laws.

NORML is trying like mad to keep that from happening again. They are asking for cannabis supporters to sign a letter that will be sent to Biden that attempts to impress upon him his constituents’ desire to see less cannabis law enforcement.

The letter highlights the bipartisan demand for drug law reform and the number of states that have moved forward with progressive cannabis laws in spite of the federal ban. The letter asks that Biden appoint an attorney general who will continue to allow states to exercise their own marijuana policies.

“Americans deserve and demand an attorney general who will respect the will of the people and who will let states determine their own marijuana policies,” reads the letter.

Lawmakers Receive New Weed Revenue Estimates

During a committee hearing last week, Ultra Health CEO Duke Rodriguez told lawmakers that legalizing recreational cannabis could generate up to $800 million a year in revenue.

Rodriguez told reporters that New Mexico has the potential to be an industry leader for the entire world. “I think we will be a powerhouse, not only within the state, but we have the potential of being a powerhouse not only in this country, but you’d be surprised, we have the ability to also compete internationally,” he said.

It’s unclear how the recent legalization of cannabis in five more states—including New Mexico’s neighbor Arizona—will affect those estimates. [ ]