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Anti-pot Republicans come up with new arguments

While 88% of Americans want at least medical cannabis legal

Good morning.

Sorry San Franciscans, 4/20 is canceled. At least on Hippie Hill. But our German friends will be celebrating 4/1 instead, it seems, as the new pseudo-legalization law is set to go into effect. 

In other news, we’ve got a great newsletter for you today where we nerd out on UN treaty obligations, take a look at new cannabis polling numbers, and much, much more. 

Let’s get it.

- Jeremy Berke & Jay Rosenthal

💡What’s the big deal?

The GOP is going on the offensive against cannabis reform

Driving the news: As top Democrats, including President Biden, continue to beat the drum for cannabis reform, Republicans are, naturally, taking the other side. 

Earlier this week, a report came out from the House Republican Policy Committee urging members to vote against the SAFER Banking Act, a cannabis banking bill, as we wrote

And big-name Republicans like former Trump attorney general Bill Barr have recently published op-eds in conservative media outlets pushing back against cannabis reform. 

What’s new: Now, three Republican Senators — including Mitt Romney, Pete Ricketts, and Jim Risch, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee — wrote a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration urging the agency to consider treaty obligations under the United Nations’ Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

That convention was agreed upon in 1961, which is perhaps the year where these Senate Republicans are still stuck. 

The DEA, as you all know, is considering whether to move cannabis from the most restrictive Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule III per the recommendation of the Department of Health and Human Services — and Biden’s 2020 campaign promise. 

Give me the context: Anti-legalization groups like Smart Approaches to Marijuana took a very public victory lap over the letter, though the UN doesn’t have any real enforcement mechanism. 

As well, a spokesperson for the group, Luke Niforatos, couldn’t answer very basic questions about the treaty obligations when I asked on X, and responded with a GIF instead

For what it’s worth, two other G7 economies, Canada and Germany, have plowed ahead with legalization without any serious pushback from the UN. 

Learn more: A group of lawyers and cannabis policy experts published an opinion earlier that moving cannabis to Schedule III wouldn’t actually violate these treaty obligations.

They write: “The international treaty system allows Parties to interpret and apply Treaty requirements in the manner they deem most appropriate, including by prioritizing reforms designed to promote public health, safety, and welfare.”

It’s also true, however, that the Controlled Substances Act forbids violating international treaties — so some think it may take an act of Congress to deschedule cannabis, though the jury is still out on whether that applies to Schedule III. 

What’s next: While the letter from three prominent senators may give the DEA pause — and remember, the DEA is an enforcement agency — it’s unlikely to be the argument that undermines progress toward cannabis reform. 

Our take: Relying on a 63-year-old UN treaty as the key mechanism to push back on cannabis reform is a weak argument. It’s about as close to scraping the bottom of the barrel as you can get. We’d have expected to see something a little stronger than this. 

And more: Consider this op-ed in the right-leaning Washington Examiner: Republicans need to turn against marijuana.


🗯️ Quotable

“‘Are you going to sign the legislation?’ and I’ve been talking about this for 60 days and I said, ‘Anybody who thinks I’m going to sign that legislation must be smoking something,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, told a local news outlet.

The state’s legalization bill passed both chambers of the legislature and was delivered to his desk on March 11. Youngkin has until April 8 to sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature. 

We’ll know on April 8.

Nearly 90% of Americans want either medical or recreational pot legalized

What happened: Eighty-eight percent of Americans say cannabis should be legalized for at least medical use, according to a new Pew poll. And 57% of Americans think recreational cannabis should be legalized. 

Support among young people is even higher than recent polls. Ninety-three percent of 18-29 year-olds say at least medical cannabis should be legalized, and 71 percent say recreational cannabis should be legalized.

Across divides: Support for cannabis also cuts across ideological divides, at least among young people: Fifty-seven percent of Republicans aged 18-29 say recreational cannabis should be legalized. 

That being said, only 42% of Republicans say cannabis should be legalized, compared to 72% of Democrats.

Other interesting results: Sixty-four percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents say recreational marijuana is good for local economies, and 58% say it makes the criminal justice system fairer.

Only 41% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say recreational marijuana is good for local economies, and 41% say it makes the criminal justice system fairer.

Why it matters: As more states have legalized cannabis in the past few years, support for legalization has grown slightly.

So when voters see legalization in their communities, they mostly like the results. And with poll results this strong, expect Democrats to continue to take up the mantle of cannabis reform.

Republicans who decide to do so, however, are going against the grain of their base. 

🥊 Quick hits

Germany’s pseudo-legalization bill was officially signed into law and will go into effect on Monday

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura is launching a cannabis brand, Jesse Ventura Farms. He says it’s the first time a former elected official has launched a cannabis brand based on their likeness. 

Ontario projects it will rake in C$600 million from cannabis wholesale profits and its portion of the federal excise tax next year, reports MJ Biz Daily. Ontario’s government also pledged to crack down on illicit online cannabis sellers. 

Arizonans bought $1.4 billion worth of cannabis last year, with the bulk coming from recreational sales, reports the Arizona Mirror

CBD products aren’t effective at easing pain — and are potentially a waste of money, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bath.

📈 Deals, launches, & partnerships

Canadian cannabis firm Organigram is investing $2 million as a convertible note, a form of short-term debt that converts to equity, in North Carolina cannabinoid producer Open Book Extracts as the company’s first foray into the US. Organigram is also raising a C$25 million through a share sale.

🗞️ What we’re reading

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