Last week a group of senators wrote a letter to President Joe Biden, encouraging him to grant a mass pardon for cannabis prisoners. Biden promised cannabis decriminalization when he was on the campaign trail for president, but so far he’s failed to follow through.
“America’s cannabis policies have punished Black and Brown communities for far too long,” wrote the senators. “Today, despite legalization efforts across the country and roughly equal cannabis usage rates, Black Americans are still nearly four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession as white Americans.”
The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), pointed out that the president could enact sweeping reforms immediately. “Our country’s cannabis policies must be completely overhauled, but you have the power to act now: You can and should issue a blanket pardon for all non-violent federal cannabis offenses, fulfilling your promises to the American people and transforming the lives of tens of thousands Americans.”
In October 2020, while debating Vice President Mike Pence, then-Sen. Kamala Harris told voters that, if elected, Joe Biden would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level and expunge criminal marijuana records. “We will decriminalize marijuana, and we will expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana,” she said.
Since winning she has only said that the administration is too busy with the pandemic to follow through on the promise.
The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners plans to vote on a zoning ordinance change that would require marijuana businesses to mitigate plant odors and ban outdoor cannabis consumption areas.
Last week at a board meeting, Bernalillo County Zoning Administrator Nicholas Hamm presented the proposed changes to unanimous approval. Hamm said the proposed changes would keep smoke away from the general public while ensuring that the county does not outright ban consumption areas altogether.
“What we don’t want to say is that adults can’t consume as part of a business, but we also don’t want to place an undue burden on the public as they navigate through public spaces,” Hamm said.
Outdoor cannabis consumption area are allowed by the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act, but the law also gives local governments the ability to set their own zoning policies within certain limits.
The proposal was unanimously approved for publication by the county commissioners. The public has 30 days to submit comments.
Last week the Alamogordo City Commission updated its cannabis ordinance to include language that made it align better with state laws. It also added a $500 fee for all budding adult-use cannabis manufacturers seeking a license to operate within the city.
According to Alamogordo Daily News, most of the changes made to the ordinance were simple updates like adding definitions of terms and removing outdated language. The city also removed a requirement to hold public hearings for each cannabis license, since the state’s Cannabis Control Division doesn’t have that requirement.
The $500 fee for manufacturer licensees in addition to the city business license may be unique in New Mexico, although the law does not specifically ban the practice. The city also added $250 fees for producer and retailer licensees. Alamogordo City Attorney Petria Bengoechea said the fees would help offset the impacts of the cannabis industry on city infrastructure.
The ordinance changes were approved unanimously by the commission.
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