D.C. Council Approves Cannabis Bill To Promote Equity, Provide Tax Relief And Eliminate Medical Marijuana License Caps
On Tuesday, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., approved a bill that would significantly alter the city’s medical marijuana program. The bill would, among other things, remove licensing caps on cannabis businesses, reduce taxes for operators, increase efforts to promote social equity, and establish new categories of regulated businesses, such as on-site consumption facilities and cannabis cooking classes.
Additionally, it would allow current “gifting” operators, who sell non-cannabis items in exchange for “free” marijuana products, to transition into the permitted market while granting authorities the ability to crack down on those who continue to operate unlawfully.
The measure, which had been revised by the Committee of the Whole earlier in the day, was passed by the full D.C. Council by a vote of 7 to 4.
A second reading vote by the Council is still required before it can be sent to the mayor’s office.
Pro-reform lawmakers have voiced concerns that the bill’s most recent iteration may have unintended consequences for social fairness by granting preferential treatment to already established medical cannabis outlets.
Legally, adults would be able to selfcertify their medical marijuana use according to the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) introduced the legislation on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).
A note prepared for the hearing by the Committee of the Whole states that the most recent print “retains a majority of the adjustments and additions made by” the Committee on Business and Economic Development (CBED), which passed the measure last week.
It had progressed out of a different panel before.
Challenges Crushing the Dreams of American Hemp Farmers
With the word coming down the pike last year about the production of hemp to become legal again in the United States, the struggling American hemp farmers felt as if they just received a stay of execution.
This means that they will not have to nickel and dime themselves by dedicating their exclusive land to traditional crops like wheat and corn. They might also be able to stay in the agriculture field for longer without having to deal with pasture crops.
Cannabis supporters have been preaching from the past few decades about the potentials of industrial hemp in saving the economy of the country. Moreover, this depends on whether the country is willing to accept hemp as a sustainable alternative to substances like cotton, fossil fuels, and cotton.
Mitch McConnel, a Senate Majority leader, and a federal lawmaker, fought against legalizing cannabis since the 1980s and saw the hemp potential first hand while exploring various facilities involved with the pilot program in Kentucky, his home state. Noticing the benefits that hemp could provide the average American farmers and consumers, McConnel took charge of the pressing issue on Capitol Hill during the last year. McConnel was determined to ensure that industrial hemp would become one of the plows and pick collection for the farming community. And he got successful in his plan.
So, now that the production of hemp is legal under the 2018 Farm bill, more and more jurisdictions in the countries are accepting it. As of now, 34 states of the United States have made the production of hemp legal for the farmers since the legislation is signed into law by President Trump.
So, this means that the country is happily accepting the decision to hold down the prohibition of hemp production.
Although the hemp market is predicted to cross the $26 billion mark within the upcoming six years, farmers are not living the high life. There are many challenges and uncertainties in the agricultural sector that are to be sorted off before the crop could take off just like the supporters have predicted it to. However, one thing that is certain in the hemp industry is that only the strong or at least those with better resources will survive. Here are some of the most prevalent issues that hemp farmers have been facing since the crop was legalized.
Hemp Production Generates Poor First Year Yield
The farmers of industrial hemp have accepted this decision of legalizing hemp and regarded this as a sweet spot. But, the poor first-year yields of hemp production have made it difficult for the farmers to be profitable. Due to the delayed planting schedule and heavy rainfall, there is a situation where the initial harvesting of the hemp is looking to be miserable. And, this will certainly make a huge impact on the profits.
The Indiana hemp farmers stated that the plants didn’t grow much taller. Moreover, they never canopied the fields, and this has also led to weed problems for the crop.
Reports might have shown that the production of hemp may bring between $40,000 to $50,000 per acre, in comparison to corn, which is just generating $1000 per acre; the farmers still do not believe that the first harvest of the hemp will bring in any profit for them.
Hemp Farming is mostly done with Hands
Hemp farming may bring big money into the farming community, but for this, they will have to put a huge effort into it. Hemp farming is a laborious task, especially when the farmers are not equipped with the necessary equipment to complete the process from seeding to harvesting efficiently. Although some of the hemp farmers may have been able to use modern equipment and machinery to farm hemp, others may have to invest thousands of dollars to purchase new retrofits and equipment. Moreover, as only certain types of plants need to be seeded into the ground, a lot of work needs to be done with the hands by the farmers for the seedling. Someone will have to it do this work, however dirty it may be.
Back during the time of original Rockstar cropping in the United States, slaves used to work in the hemp fields only because no one, especially white men, wanted to do anything related to it. The book “A history if the Hemp Industry in Kentucky” clearly indicated that slavery only flourished in the Bluegrass State because of Hemp. Let’s hope that things go the other way around this time.
Seeds of Hemp being Sold for CBD rich Plants is a Rip-off
There is a shortage of hemp seeds that can be used for producing high CBD yield plants. Many of the hemp farmers who have just started hemp businesses are focusing on capitalizing on the emerging case of CBD. But, for this, any old hemp will not solve the purpose. Farmers interested in producing hemp for selling it to the CBD processors will require only female plants. Many of the hemp farmers are getting ripped off due to the fact that hemp seeds they purchased recently are male plants of hemp. For the farmers who are expecting to sell their plants for CBD, these plants are completely worthless. Now, they won’t be able to sell their crops to the CBD processors, resulting in huge losses.
However, analysts have predicted that by the year 2023, the industrial hemp market could be worth $22 billion.
Thieves are stealing Hemp mistaking it as Marijuana
As marijuana and hemp are similar in odor and appearance, thieves have been mistaking it into marijuana and sneaking into the hemp fields and stealing the crops with enthusiasm. Many farmers in New York have complained about the lost crop because the pot seeking thieves have been stealing it every night.
Apparently, thieves have been mistakenly stealing hemp plants, and the problem is worsening with time, as reported by the hemp farmers. The stealing of hemp started with 20 plants and then slowly escalated to 100 plants. Moreover, in the beginning, such incidents happened just once a week, but it has now escalated to every night. These plants are completely useless to them, and they can smoke as much as they can without getting the ‘high’ they are looking for.
The farmers also fear that this significant loss of crops even before reaching the harvesting time could badly cripple them before they even start. The problem of theft is forcing the farmers to either assemble an independent team or invest in increased security to keep a look at their crop.
A farmer in New York reported that he is in big problem as he is sleep deprived because of spending countless nights watching out for his property. He said his family had spent many nights for the same reason.
Along with this, the hemp farmers are facing challenges with crop insurance, banking, and a shortage of sufficient pesticides and herbicides. In other words, it will be some time before the hemp production can get back to normal in the United States, and the farmers can enjoy farming without any issues. Moreover, considering the duration for which the crop was out of circulation, the country may never see a rise in the hemp production like expected.
Black Unemployment Rate Stays Higher, African-Americans Get Less Jobs
In May 2020, the black unemployment rate stood at 16.8% compared to 12.4% among white Americans. While the economic recovery brought down the all-American average from Aprils’ record 14.7% to 13.3%, it ticked 0.1% for African Americans. The ongoing protests over George Floyd’s death due to police brutality, and high rate of joblessness for blacks highlights the glaring social and economic disparity in a country viewed as the torchbearer of the world’s democratic values.
Many blame the coronavirus pandemic for unemployment among blacks, who predominantly work in state and local sectors that have witnessed major layoffs. However, it is the disparate racial mindset that makes black Americans subject to economic and social injustice. While white Americans are mostly businessmen and white-collar workers, blacks struggle to get jobs.
The data on black unemployment rate understates the bigger problem of disfavoring in the United States. African Americans face inequalities in access to healthcare, education, housing and means of prosperity. Their wages, income, health status and economic condition continue to suffer due to persistent racial discrimination visible socially, economically and physically.
The Deep-Rooted Economic Disparity
Historically African Americans are at the receiving end of economic development in the United States. In August 2019, when joblessness was its lowest in the country in decades, the black unemployment rate was still 2% above the 3.4% whites without a job. Whenever a recession hits the US market, African Americans are more vulnerable due to the fragile economic safety net they rely on. As the economy rebounds, their recovery is again slower compared to the white population.
Much blame for the high black unemployment rate and their economic backwardness goes to racial discrimination that continues since the US came into existence. African Americans were enslaved, and brought to the country to work for the prosperity of white farmers. Despite their support in the War of Independence, their enslavement continues, and they were denied economic advancement. Black people were excluded from the political process, and forced to serve the white men.
The abolition of slavery in 1863 failed to restore their property rights completely and White Americans continued to enjoy privileges in job and commerce. The sustained racial segregation and discrimination of black people by whites led to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Though it resulted in social, economic, and political reforms in favor of African Americans contributing to Barack Obama’s elevation as the first black US President, blacks continue to face systemic injustices. The absence of equal opportunities, wages, and education keeps them disadvantaged and the black unemployment rate remains higher than that of white Americans.
Why the Black Unemployment Rate Stays Higher
The foremost reason for the high black employment rate in the United States is “historical and systemic educational and economic disadvantages” meted out to them. For centuries, white Americans are “patronized” to maintain a “disproportionate economic edge” at the workplace. African Americans struggle to get better and quality jobs as they have too many hurdles, including lower pay, higher job insecurity, reduced benefits and fewer opportunities, compared to white people.
Systemic barriers also put obstacles for black Americans. They are victims of occupational segregation making them vulnerable to wage discrimination at the workplace. Blacks are viewed as fit for lower-paid jobs, and employers prefer whites over them for stable, well-paying offers. Whether it is a slowdown or economic recovery, they are “last hired, first fired.” About 55% of them have private health insurance compared to 75% among white workers.
The lack of entrepreneurship and fewer African American-owned businesses also contribute to the higher black unemployment rate. They lack the wealth to support their education, start a business, or move to a particular place and access better jobs. They face monetary barriers preventing their education, and end up with higher debt than white Americans. However, this has more to do with racial profiling in jobs than the absence of qualification among black people. Their systemic economic exclusion is as old as the US history.
Even after slavery was abolished, the offices created to resettle formerly enslaved people encouraged them to enter into a contract with their former masters, and continue to do the same occupation. States, such as Carolina, made laws barring African Americans from doing any job other than farming or domestic servitude. White-dominated legislatures approved acts that prevented the relocation of blacks, or their hiring for distant job openings.
Unfavorable agriculture policies and Ku Klux Klan terror in the South drove African Americans to the North during the 20th century. However, the lack of good education and employment discrimination forced them to accept lower-wage domestic and service vocations. The trend continues despite technological advancements leading to high-paying jobs in the country.
Intentional government inactions are also to blame for the higher black unemployment rate. Federal and state statutes enforcing non-discrimination at the workplace are never strictly implemented. Many of the agencies, including the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, remain only largely symbolic, while social discrimination perpetuates economic inequality. This, in turn, has forced African American workers to endure lower-income, fewer jobs and exclusion from better opportunities.
Rhode Island Rakes In $1.6 Million in First Week of Recreational Pot Sales
Rhode Island’s new adult-use cannabis market opened for business earlier this month, and so far, business is good.
Local news station WPRI, citing the state’s Department of Business Regulation, reported this week that “Rhode Island’s six marijuana dispensaries — five of which are currently authorized to sell to recreational customers — collectively sold just over $1.63 million worth of marijuana from Dec. 1 to Dec. 7.”
“Less than half of those sales were for recreational marijuana, at about $786,000. The rest, about $845,400, were sales to medical marijuana patients,” the station reported. “For comparison, during the last week of October — the most recent full week available prior to recreational sales — the dispensaries collectively sold $1 million worth of medical marijuana.”
Rhode Island legalized recreational cannabis use in May, when Gov. Dan McKee signed a bill that was passed by lawmakers in the state General Assembly.
The law made it legal for adults aged 21 and older to cultivate and possess marijuana, while also establishing the regulatory framework for cannabis sales.
“This bill successfully incorporates our priorities of making sure cannabis legalization is equitable, controlled, and safe,” McKee, a Democrat, said in a statement at the time. “In addition, it creates a process for the automatic expungement of past cannabis convictions. My Administration’s original legalization plan also included such a provision and I am thrilled that the Assembly recognized the importance of this particular issue. The end result is a win for our state both socially and economically.”
Additionally, the law “will give courts until July 1, 2024, to automatically expunge past convictions, and those who want their expungement sooner may request it,” the governor’s office explained in a press release at the time.
Late last month, McKee and the state’s Department of Business Regulation’s Office of Cannabis Regulation announced that “five licensed medical marijuana compassion centers have received state approval to begin selling adult use marijuana on or after December 1.”
The five “compassion centers” that were given approval to begin adult-use sales are: Aura of Rhode Island (Central Falls); Thomas C. Slater Center (Providence); Mother Earth Wellness (Pawtucket); Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center (Portsmouth); and RISE Warwick (Warwick).
“This milestone is the result of a carefully executed process to ensure that our state’s entry into this emerging market was done in a safe, controlled and equitable manner,” McKee said last month. “It is also a win for our statewide economy and our strong, locally based cannabis supply chain, which consists of nearly 70 licensed cultivators, processors and manufacturers in addition to our licensed compassion centers. Finally, I thank the leadership of the General Assembly for passing this practical implementation framework in the Rhode Island Cannabis Act and I look forward to continuing our work together on this issue.”
Matt Santacroce, who is serving as interim deputy director of the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, said last month that the state was “pleased with the quality and comprehensiveness of the applications we received from the state’s compassion centers, and we are proud to launch adult use sales in Rhode Island just six months after the Cannabis Act was signed into law, marking the Northeast’s fastest implementation period.”
“We look forward to continuing to work with the state’s cannabis business community to ensure this critical economic sector scales in compliance with the rules and regulations put forward by state regulators,” Santacroce said.
The launch of recreational sales on December 1 was only one change to Rhode Island’s existing marijuana policy to arrive this month.
WPRI reported that, on the same day, “the state also stopped charging medical patients to obtain or renew their medical marijuana cards,” adding that “there is an expected revenue loss from the pending plan to expunge marijuana possession charges, which will eliminate court fees from those crimes.”
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