It’s been a wild year for news from all quarters, but cannabis news has been especially exciting in 2022. The conversation around cannabis has heated up on the national level, and things have changed drastically in New Mexico. Read on for our review of the biggest cannabis stories over the last year:
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spear-headed the development of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), a cannabis legalization bill that promised to expunge marijuana records and leave regulation up to individual states.
Cannabis advocates waited on pins and needles for the bill to finally be introduced, but when it was unveiled in July, it quickly became clear that there just wasn’t enough support for the bill to see it through.
Leading up to its introduction, sponsors of the bill threatened to halt the progress of the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act if it threatened the success of the CAOA, claiming that incremental reform would make the need for broader reform seem less urgent to lawmakers on the fence.
The SAFE Banking Act has passed in the House in a number of different forms over the years. This bipartisan piece of legislation would allow banks and credit unions to work with state-legal cannabis companies without fear of federal prosecution.
In March, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) said he wanted to see SAFE Banking passed this Congress since he’d be retiring. “I will continue to be a real pest, and persistent in getting this done,” he said.
Unfortunately, it’s become clear that the bill will not become law this year.
But following the introduction of the CAOA, that bill’s sponsors walked back some of their rhetoric about blocking SAFE Banking’s progress and instead began discussing “SAFE Plus,” a package that would include banking protections as well as expunging previous minor cannabis crimes.
SAFE Plus may represent the most comprehensive cannabis reform in the history of the U.S., but lawmakers are running out of time to introduce it before the new Congress convenes.
New Mexico Opens Adult-Use
The biggest local cannabis news this year was the opening of New Mexico’s adult-use cannabis market. Since April, New Mexicans have been enjoying legal weed purchased at local dispensaries and grown by local farmers.
Cannabis sales rose throughout the year, finally dipping in November. The state is expecting to see over $22 million in revenue for the first year.
The trial of WNBA star Brittney Griner over allegations that she smuggled cannabis into Russia has brought U.S. marijuana laws into question.
Russian officials allegedly found THC cartridges in Griner’s luggage as she entered the country at a Moscow airport. The basketball star pleaded guilty but claimed that it was unintentional. The court eventually charged her with the crime and sentenced her to nine years working in a Russian penal colony.
The Biden administration has repeatedly said that Griner was “wrongfully detained” and should have been released by the Russian government. But cannabis advocates have pointed out that the U.S. has similar laws in place that prevent people from traveling with marijuana in America, and the State Department’s response seems hypocritical.
Griner is now back in the States.
Passage of Research Bill
Just last week, President Joe Biden made the historic step of signing the nation’s first cannabis reform bill.
The Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act will streamline the application process for cannabis research, encourage the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals and require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to produce a report for Congress on the potential benefits and harms of of the drug.
Picuris Pueblo Bust
In September, a Picuris Pueblo resident sued the Department of Interior (DOI) over a 2021 Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) cannabis bust on tribal lands.
Charles Farden was reportedly raided by BIA agents for growing cannabis in his garden. According to tribal leaders, Farden was allowed to grow the plants under Picuris law. Farden was also enrolled in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program.
The state has never apologized for the raid or offered anything in the way of recompense. Farden’s suit seeks $3.5 million in damages for destroying his medication.
Intergovernmental Pueblo Deal
In March, the Picuris and Pojoaque Pueblos signed an intergovernmental agreement with New Mexico, allowing them to set up their own cannabis markets with their own regulations.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has said that the agreement should help legitimize tribal sovereignty over cannabis policies in the eyes of the federal government. “We’re actively working on getting them to reinstate their memos, which is basically guidance telling the DOJ that the sovereign nations’ independence on these issues, related to state law, should prevail,” she said.
Biden Releases No Prisoners
Ahead of the midterms, the Biden administration made the shocking announcement that it would be following through on the president’s campaign promise to release all low-level cannabis offenders currently locked in federal prisons for “simple possession of marijuana.”
Advocates cheered the president on until it was revealed that there are currently no prisoners in federal prison for “simple possession” because “simple possession” isn’t a federal crime.
Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, raised some eyebrows when she sued the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for blocking cannabis patients from owning firearms.
Fried said the suit wasn’t a reflection on her views concerning gun control. She said allowing cannabis patients to have access to firearms was a matter of civil rights.
When filling out federal forms required to purchase firearms, applicants are asked if they use illegal drugs. Cannabis is specifically noted as illegal—no matter what state laws are in place. If they answer “yes,” the application is denied.
The suit was dismissed by a federal judge in November.