Joshua Lee is a news and science reporter. He has been one of the leading cannabis reporters in New Mexico for the last five years, and his work has appeared in Weekly Alibi, Right Where You Are Sitting Now and the Disinformation Company.


Letter Presses President

Now that President Donald Trump has finally announced he will start the transition process—albeit begrudgingly—cannabis stocks are popping, and the industry is abuzz with optimism. Now advocates are asking the lame duck president to use this opportunity to do something truly amazing and free prisoners of the War On Some Drugs.

Last week a group of celebrities, Republicans and cannabis advocates joined together to sign a letter that pressed Trump to grant clemency to marijuana prisoners. The letter’s authors say that, although there are proposals to legalize cannabis at the federal level being introduced, “They tend to lack any real avenue of relief for those who are serving time for selling cannabis.” The letter goes on to ask Trump to use his power to free these people while he can. “Given the timidity of this proposed legislation, the gridlock in Congress and the imperative of freedom, clemency is the right tool to fix this problem.”

An earlier draft of the letter was delivered to Trump’s senior adviser, Jared Kushner, by Weldon Angelos, an advocate who garnered national attention after he was arrested for selling black market cannabis to a police informant. The story became a legend when the conservative judge who handed Angelos a 55-year sentence due to minimum sentencing laws, Paul Cassell, resigned from a life-time appointment to the federal bench to advocate for Angelos’ release along with a number of A-list celebrities from the music industry. Angelos was released in 2016 after a scorched-earth campaign backed by celebrities, lawmakers and every big news organization in the nation demanded it.

Kushner’s office reportedly told Angelos to take the letter back and attach a list of people who are currently in prison on cannabis offenses and should be granted clemency. The new letter includes the names of two dozen people incarcerated right now. Many of them are serving life sentences.

The new letter was signed by over 50 people, including a number of Hollywood actors and producers, musicians, a former NBA star, Republican state lawmakers from Kansas, Maine and Missouri, a former U.S. attorney, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, as well as representatives from Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, #cut50, Marijuana Policy Project and Law Enforcement Action Partnership. The letter was also signed by Alice Johnson, whose story was featured in Trump campaign ads after the president commuted her drug sentence.

The letter’s authors reportedly expect Trump to follow their advice and release all 24 prisoners. Angelos said he expects the president to begin announcing pardons soon. “I firmly believe President Trump will strongly consider fixing some of the most egregious sentences that we have brought to his attention,” he said. “He’s the first president in modern history to commute a number of sentences in his first few years in office. Traditionally, pardons and commutations happen at the end of a presidency, and so this pattern gives us some comfort that we will get justice for some of them.”

Pot Stocks Up

Last week President Trump announced that General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy and her team would begin the “initial protocols” to transfer power to the Biden administration. This followed weeks of hemming and hawing and conspiracy theorizing from the president and was accompanied by the promise that he’d “keep up the good fight.”

Nevertheless, the signal was a sign to many that the “good fight” had gone out of him, and we could get back to a semblance of normalcy. In the cannabis industry, the news meant potential marijuana law reform in the U.S. and the opening of a national market.

Despite the recent omission of a policy to decriminalize cannabis in the administration’s transition website, many industry heads are counting on promises made by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on the campaign trail to decriminalize cannabis and release low-level marijuana offenders from prison.

The market is clearly optimistic about the shift in power, as evidenced by significant bumps seen last week for Canadian leaders Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB), Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY) and Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC).

While it might seem strange that Canadian companies would see their stocks rally in response to American politics, these companies are prepared and gearing up to enter the U.S. market when it inevitably opens. This news means that the market itself is expecting some actual policy gains over the next four years.

New Mexico’s Black Market Bustling

New Mexico state police and U.S. Border Patrol have been busy this month. According to police reports, hundreds of pounds of illegally produced cannabis has been confiscated in New Mexico this month.

According to Las Cruces Sun, U.S. Border Patrol agents discovered around 139 pounds of black market marijuana in burlap sacks hidden in the mountains of southwest New Mexico on Nov. 20. The agents were alerted to the illegal entry to the U.S. by sensor technology.

And a day earlier, the New Mexico State Police seized 204 pounds of cannabis from a commercial motor vehicle at the Gallup Port of Entry. The Deming Headlight reports that the massive stash was found when officers conducted a safety inspection on the suspect’s haul. The driver came from California.

Combined with the recent arrests on Navajo Nation land linked to large-scale illegal marijuana farms, these new cases indicate that there is an increasing problem with illegally distributed black market marijuana in New Mexico. Advocates have been highlighting the escalation as a reason for lawmakers to move forward with legalization next year. [ ]