As we’ve repeatedly covered in this column, President Joe Biden has never been anything but an enemy of cannabis law reform. In many ways he’s one of the authors of the troubles we find ourselves in today. It’s been argued that the 1994 Crime Bill—written by Biden when he was a senator—helped cause the mass incarceration of black men in the ’90s, and many illegal marijuana dealers were given mandatory life sentences thanks to policies that he championed. But recent comments made by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki seem to signal the president’s willingness to slightly shift his position in response to pandemic necessities.
During a White House briefing earlier this month, Psaki was asked if the administration plans on sending prisoners who were temporarily put under house arrest during the pandemic back to prison, or if the president planned to offer them clemency.
“We are working hard every day to reform our justice system in order to strengthen families, boost our economy and give people a chance at a better future,” Psaki said. “As part of this, the president is deeply committed to reducing incarceration and helping people successfully reenter society. And he said too many people are incarcerated—too many are black and brown—and he’s therefore exploring multiple avenues to provide relief to certain nonviolent drug offenders, including through the use of his clemency power.”
She said she had no details to provide, but Biden was “looking at a range of avenues.”
During the 2019 Democratic debates, Biden said, “I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone—anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.” The administration has yet to make any moves in that direction, however.
Santa Fe Slow to Change
While municipalities across New Mexico are scrambling to set their cannabis policies ahead of a state deadline, leaders in Santa Fe have reportedly been taking their time.
Unlike Albuquerque, the city of Santa Fe has yet to set its cannabis zoning laws, leaving potential producers in a bind. Earlier this month members of the Policy Subcommittee of the Planning Commission made recommendations to the Santa Fe Planning Commission, but no actions were taken. The city council is expected to vote on the issue Aug. 25.
Santa Fe Planner Manager Noah Berke told the Albuquerque Journal that the city will likely adopt many of the same zoning rules for adult-use cannabis companies that are already in place for medical cannabis producers. “From what we have researched, and discussions with the state and other municipalities, Santa Fe is ahead of most other jurisdictions,” Berke told reporters. “We already have lots of provisions in our Zoning Code that regulate growing, manufacturing, apothecaries and retail uses.”
Berke said the city will see zoning code changes in October and will use existing medical cannabis rules until then.
In the meantime the Santa Fe Police Department has reportedly failed to update training to reflect the new cannabis laws and has no plans to do so. In an interview with Santa Fe Reporter, Police Chief Andrew Padilla said his administration had sent out department-wide emails about the changes in policy but was leaving it up to individual discussions between supervisors and officers during roll-call briefings.
Some advocates have voiced concerns that the lack of training could lead to increased cases of illegal search and seizure in the city since the odor or sight of cannabis is no longer a lawful cause to suspect criminal activity.
Grant County Wants to Stop Outdoor Grows
Grant County leaders are looking to introduce a law that will keep residents of county “villages” from growing cannabis outside.
According to Silver City Daily Press, Grant County District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne proposed an ordinance that will force residents living in unincorporated “villages” in the county to only grow personal pot plants “inside an enclosed and locked dwelling unit or an appropriate accessory structure.” The proposal would also require that those residents take precautions to deter burglars from stealing the plants.
Commercial cannabis producers operating in Grant County villages will also be forced to grow their plants indoors if the ordinance passes. Outdoor grows will be allowed in “rural transects,” however.
Smoking marijuana in any public areas other than those designated for cannabis consumption will also be banned, and consumption areas will have to be located in standalone buildings.
County commissioners removed portions of the original ordinance draft that would have banned sales and consumption area operations on Sunday mornings. They also removed a requirement for businesses to already have a cannabis producer license before moving into a space.
Commissioners are set to vote on the ordinance on Aug. 30.
There’s an App For That
The Apple App Store will now allow cannabis companies to do business on the platform, the company says. This is a big turnaround from its previous policy, which barred apps from participating in “the sale of controlled substances, marijuana or tobacco.” The new policy allows cannabis sales in states that have legalized medical or recreational dispensaries.
Last month the App Store featured the first app to ever allow cannabis consumers to purchase the drug and have it delivered to their homes with the launch of Eaze, a third-party app that facilitates sales and deliveries of cannabis from California dispensaries.
“Eaze has always been about using the latest developments in technology to make shopping for legal cannabis more accessible,” said Eaze CEO Rogelio Choy in a statement. “It’s hard to overstate how important this is to our company and the industry. It’s deeply gratifying to launch the Apple Store’s first fully-functional cannabis delivery app, making it even easier for our two million registered customers to legally consume.”
Since Eaze introduced its app last month, a number of other cannabis apps have been unveiled, including Beta, Caliva and Pineapple Express. But these apps will only be available to users in areas that have legalized marijuana, since all sales are “geo-restricted to the corresponding legal jurisdiction.”
App developers must also operate through a “legal entity that provides the services,” because they work in a regulated industry.
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