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The tide is apparently turning for the cannabis black market. Cannabis legalization advocates have long argued that ending the prohibition of marijuana would do damage to the illegal market maintained by drug cartels in Mexico, and supportive evidence for the theory has arrived in a most ironic fashion. Drug dealers are now reportedly smuggling cannabis across the border into Mexico from the U.S. at an increasing rate.

According to The Washington Post Mexico customs officials say that seizure of illegal cannabis coming into the country from the U.S. has been increasing as states legalize the drug and establish professional production operations. Earlier this month customs agents reportedly confiscated hundreds of cannabis oil cartridges that were headed into the country.

Cannabis has been decriminalized in Mexico, and medical marijuana has been legalized, but purchasing or selling the drug for recreational use remains illegal. As in the U.S., this has only driven up demand for pot.

“Mexicans want to try what they see in music video, in movies, in media, and that’s usually American,” an anonymous Mexico City dealer told reporters. “We still have this idea that the best products come from the U.S.”

Authorities say that most of the contraband cannabis is purchased at California dispensaries and resold at marked-up prices. Top-shelf strains can reportedly be sold for around $500 an ounce in Mexico City.

Top Drug Official Speaks Against Drug War

Stigmas against drug use seem to be melting away. The head of the nation’s drug abuse agency recently spoke against drug criminalization in the U.S.

Last week Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Nora Volkow wrote an opinion piece for STAT that argued that stigmatizing drug use and treating it as antisocial behavior rather than mental illness only perpetuates the problem.

“Societal norms surrounding drug use and addiction continue to be informed by myths and misconceptions,” she wrote. “Among the most harmful of these is the scientifically unfounded belief that compulsive drug-taking by individuals with addiction reflects ongoing deliberate antisocial or deviant choices. This belief contributes to the continued criminalization of drug use and addiction.”

The director points out that one of the leading reasons those suffering from drug abuse disorders refuse to seek out treatment is the fear that neighbors will find out and negatively judge them. Another concern that keeps many from seeking treatment is the fear of reprisal from law enforcement.

“Many people intersect with the criminal justice system as a direct or indirect result of their substance use disorders, and the experience may worsen their addiction and their physical and mental health,” writes Volkow.

The article is surprising in many ways, considering NIDA’s role in enforcing harmful drug policies. But Volkow has criticized the criminalization of drugs in the past, though she’s shied away from openly supporting decriminalization.

Last month the director told members of Congress that the drug war has had especially detrimental effects for Black communities and communities of color. “Abundant data show that Black people and other communities of color have been disproportionately harmed by decades of addressing drug use as a crime rather than as a matter of public health,” she said.

Advisory Committee Members Chosen

The Cannabis Control Division has made the highly-anticipated announcement that the members of the Cannabis Regulatory Advisory Committee have been chosen.

The Cannabis Regulation Act required that the state Regulation and Licensing Department (RLD) set up the committee to advise on policy. The committee is made up of experts in numerous fields as well as representatives of law enforcement and medical cannabis advocacy groups. It will advise on rules, promoting equity and protecting public health, among other things. The committee held their first meeting last week.

According to state law, the RLD must begin issuing producer licenses for adult-use cannabis sales by Sept. 1.

Pot Sales Skyrocketed During Pandemic

According to a new study, sales of both recreational and medical cannabis spiked dramatically during the pandemic in four states.

The study was published in the International Journal of Drug Policy and featured work from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and a number of health officials from different states. The researchers analyzed pre-tax sales data from Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington and determined that pot sales reached a three-year peak in in these states between May and July 2020.

These were also the peak months of COVID lockdowns. “Stay-at-home orders may also have resulted in individuals who previously purchased cannabis on the illicit market moving to legal sources of cannabis,” the researchers said, “which would result in an increase in sales that may not correspond to changes in use but rather in the source of purchase.” The authors also suggest that individuals might have been seeking out cannabis as a medication substitute while pandemic restrictions cut off many from health care.

The researchers did not attempt to determine the cause of the spike. Instead, they encouraged further study into patterns of use during that time.

Senate Approves Dispensary Pot For Research

Last week the U.S. Senate approved an infrastructure bill that included provisions that would allow cannabis researchers to gain access to legally produced flower from commercial and non-profit marijuana dispensaries.

If approved, the transportation secretary would be required to produce a report on giving researchers access to retail pot for studying impaired driving and the steps needed to create a national collection of marijuana strains that are available to consumers for study. Scientists from states where cannabis is illegal will even be given access to the collection.

States where cannabis is legal will also be required under the bill to create education programs to inform cannabis users of the dangers of driving while impaired.

The Senate approved the infrastructure bill containing the provisions on a 69 to 30 vote. The bill must now return to the House for approval before it can move onto President Joe Biden’s desk to await his signature.

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