Saturday July 3, 2021
By Paul Barach
Though the pacific northwest was melting under record heat at the end there, the rest of June showed off some pretty hot moves of its own in the field of cannabis. Two supreme courts weighed in on legality, two US states signed recreational into law, and a study on increased car accident rates in legalized states showed some mixed results. Let’s dive in.
Justice Clarence Thomas Says Prohibition No Longer Makes Sense
Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the most reliably right-wing judges on the court, has publicly stated that federal cannabis prohibition no longer makes sense in its current state. According to Justice Thomas:
"A prohibition on interstate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government's piecemeal approach...the...current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana.”
Given that this is coming from a far right-wing justice who has shown no support of cannabis legalization before, on a court that is 6-3 conservative, we’ll have to wait and see whether this represents a movement on the supreme court towards federal legalization, or whether Justice Thomas simply wishes for an updated federal prohibition law.
Mexico’s Supreme Court Decriminalizes Cannabis
In a move that should have already been done by one of Mexico’s northern neighbors (Hint: it’s not Canada), recreational cannabis was nationally decriminalized in Mexico. Surprisingly, the popularly supported decriminalization was done by Mexico’s supreme court. After the Mexican congress and senate failed three times to pass a bill, blowing past the supreme court-mandated deadline of April 30th without even an explanation, the judicial body ruled that prohibiting personal use of cannabis was unconstitutional.
As the law now stands, the government can issue permits for personal use of marijuana and for growing a small number of plants indoors to anyone over the age of 18 who applies. Previously Mexican citizens required a court injunction to be allowed to consume or grow. The sale and commercial growing of marijuana will remain illegal until the senate and congress can come to an agreement on federal legalization.
New Mexico’s First Month of Legal Cannabis
For the first time in this iconic southwest desert state, consumers will be buying something small, popular, and green that isn’t turquoise. New Mexico’s Cannabis Regulation Act officially went into effect on June 29th. While state regulators still have plenty of work ahead of them agreeing on regulations, permits, and other details, personal use is now fully legal and anyone carrying up to two ounces of marijuana on their person is just following the law.
Any more than that, up to eight ounces, sixteen grams of concentrate, or eight hundred milligrams of edibles, and you’re facing a misdemeanor. You can also grow up to a dozen plants for personal use and police are no longer able to stop and search you if they smell weed (as long as you’re not driving). Recreational sales are expected to begin on April 1st, 2022. Check out our New Mexico page for more information.
Connecticut Governor Signs Recreational Bill Into Law
That silent second “c” in Connecticut now stands for cannabis in this small northeastern state as Governor Ned Lamont made it the nineteenth US state to legalize recreational cannabis. Much like in New Mexico, starting July 1st cannabis consumers can legally light up or chow down without legal repercussions. The personal possession limit is 1.5oz of flower, but up to 5oz is allowed in your home or in your glove box as long as it's locked up.
There are also racial and social justice measures written into the law, which is a welcome standard for new legalization bills (that still doesn’t go far enough to address the harmful societal legacy of the drug war.) Half of all licenses will go to equity applicants, including those disproportionately impacted by police enforcement and high unemployment. Up to 75% of revenue is also earmarked towards equity efforts and community reinvestment. Recreational sales are expected to begin in the summer of 2022.
Legalization Shown to Increase Crash Rates, But Results Are Inconclusive
According to two new studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the affiliated Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), crash rates rose by about 6% in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington after those states legalized.
However, the details of this study paint a more complex picture. A separate study done by the IIHS also showed little difference in the car crash rates of drivers who consumed only marijuana and those that hadn’t. While there was a 5-6% increase in injuries from car crashes over states that had not legalized, another IIHS study of emergency room patients in legalized states showed that marijuana use only led to increased crash risk when combined with alcohol.
Other factors that may account for the increase are that more cannabis users may be driving longer distances to dispensaries, putting them at more risk of a crash the longer they are in the car.
Needless to say, more research needs to be done to discover whether this is correlation or causation. Also, needless to say, if you are intoxicated with any drug, please don’t drive. You’re not only putting yourself and your finances at risk but everyone else on the road as well.
The Wrap Up
Legalization seemed to be the story of June, as it will be until cannabis prohibition is federally repealed. One supreme court justice is pointing out that this system makes no sense and another country’s supreme court is tired of the slow walk to decriminalization. The citizens of two states can rejoice in the fact that while recreational shops won’t be open until 2022, the fear of unjust legal punishment over cannabis possession is gone. Finally, another study is out showing that just because marijuana is legal, it doesn’t mean you should give up your responsibility to everyone else out on the road. While driving under the influence of marijuana isn’t nearly as dangerous as driving while drunk, it’s still not worth the risk to everyone involved. Consume responsibly.
What were your favorite cannabis news stories from June? Share in the comments!