Last Week in Weed
In this issue of Last Week in Weed, a strong performance for cannabis stocks in the US and Canada, a Police officer in Northern Ireland being disciplined for not reporting a woman for cannabis possession, and a UK man was fined £167 for possession of less than 0.29g of cannabis in Norfolk.
Cannabis stocks rally in the US and Canada
The main news from last week comes in the form of rallying cannabis stocks in the US and Canada. As we eluded to in the previous issue of Last Week in Weed a new Republican-led bill to federally ‘legalise’ cannabis in the US was leaked.
A few weeks ago ‘Marijuana Moment’ announced news of a leaked draft bill titled ‘The states Reform Act’ from the Republican Senator from South Carolina, Nancy Mace. The bill is being framed as a compromise between Democrats’ bureaucratic, restrictive, and overly regulated ‘legalisation’ models and other Republicans’ desire to deschedule and ‘decriminalise’ cannabis.
The draft bill that has quietly been circulating amongst stakeholders and policymakers would see cannabis regulated more like alcohol and tobacco is expected to be finalised later this month. The South Carolina Republican representative who authored the bill hopes the 116-page draft will garner support amongst her colleagues in the GOP by appealing to their conservative sensibilities and vested financial interests.
The details are still a little spotty but it would federally end cannabis prohibition and allow anyone over the age of 21 to purchase and consume cannabis. As well as ‘grandfather’ in excising state-licensed cannabis companies, medical patient programs, and include some form of low-level non-violent federal expungement program.
The bill would place a relatively low excise tax of 3.75% that would in part fund federal and local law enforcement, small business loans, and community re-entry programs. It would unfortunately still allow federal agencies to continue to drug test for cannabis and restrict advertising and marketing.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would have a limited role in the federal regulation of cannabis. It would retain authority over so-called ‘medical cannabis’ and pharmaceutical drugs derived from or based on cannabis. However, it would have no more control over adult consumption than it currently does over alcohol or tobacco.
The bill would see raw cannabis classified as an agricultural commodity regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) become the primary regulator of interstate commerce.
Although the current US president has been hesitant to support ‘full legalisation’ in the past. Joe Biden has nevertheless expressed interest in the federal ‘decriminalisation’ of adult consumption, the federal ‘legalisation’ of ‘medical cannabis’, and allowing states to determine their own adult consumption laws.
While this final draft hasn’t yet been completed it does signal a turning point in US cannabis law reform. This is the first major Republican bill aimed at ending federal cannabis prohibition. This has caused a great deal of speculative investing and larger funds to hedge their bets on what could be America’s and the world’s largest single industry.
There has also been fresh speculation of various mergers and acquisitions in the cannabis industry that has sparked renewed interest in the sector. One such rumour is that global tobacco giant Altria may soon purchase the remaining shares of Cronos Group that it doesn’t already own. After the company paid $1.9 billion for a 45% stake in the international production and distribution conglomerate back in 2019.
These events coupled with an ever-increasing acceptance and awareness of cannabis in general around the world have once again kick-started speculation that the US could soon federally end cannabis prohibition.
These revelations resulted in the stock price of various cannabis companies from both the US and Canada gaining some serious ground last week. It was a far cry from the inflated prices caused by Reddit and retail investors in February. However, it still saw Canopy Growth Corp, Aurora Cannabis, Tilray, Cronos Group, Curaleaf Holdings, and more increase its share price by several percentage points day on day.
PSNI officer disciplined for not reporting cannabis
A PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) officer has been disciplined after a review of body-camera footage caught them finding ‘what appeared to be cannabis’ without reporting it. The incident happened while the officer was attending a call to a suicidal woman who was clearly in crisis at the time.
Last week the Police Ombudsman Service released its report on the incident that happened back in January 2019. The review was conducted into the use of force by the PSNI against the distressed and suicidal woman. The woman was injured by falling backward against a door frame after being tased by the officer to prevent her from cutting herself with a knife she had in her hand.
During its review of the body cam footage from the incident, the officer in question was observed to open a kitchen draw while searching for a tea towel to stop the woman’s bleeding wound. The video allegedly shows the office opening a kitchen draw and discovering what appears to be “two clear plastic sandwich bags containing what appeared to be cannabis.”
The office is observed to handle the bags before placing them back in the draw and attending to the woman’s wounds. According to the ombudsman’s report, the officer subsequently made no mention of the suspected cannabis in their report or their police-issued notebook. The officers claimed during the Ombudsman’s investigation to have simply forgotten and stated that the woman’s welfare was his main concern. Something I agree with entirely here.
“He had several opportunities after the incident to record the suspected drugs find and report it – particularly when completing his police issue notebook entry, which is intended as an aide-memoire. The evidence is that he failed to do so” – Ombudsman Marie Anderson
It doesn’t appear as though there was a welfare follow up from the service, however according to the ombudsman’s report; “A subsequent police search of the woman’s home found cannabis leaves in a kitchen drawer, as well as a heat lamp in an upstairs bedroom. She was interviewed on suspicion of possessing and cultivating cannabis and admitted the offence.” Unfortunately, I cannot find any information about whether she was charged and prosecuted with the cultivation offence.
The Ombudsman did however submit a file to the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS), as is required when these types of infractions are suspected, however, the PPS declined to prosecute the case. The Ombudsman also recommended that the PSNI should take disciplinary action against the officer, which it has accepted and commenced.
Ultimately the ombudsman service found that the PSNI’s use of force “had been necessary and proportionate given that there had been an immediate threat to life” and that its officers had treated the woman “with courtesy and compassion”. I agree that at least one of them acted with compassion and they have been duly rewarded with disciplinary action the first mark against their professional name. So sadly I doubt they’ll ever act so compassionately again towards cannabis consumers.
Man fined £167 for less than £1 worth of cannabis
The final story that we’ll look at this week would be comical if it weren’t so truly tragic. On Thursday a self-employed car valeter from Scunthorpe appeared before King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court to plead guilty to possession of less than £1 worth of cannabis.
The police attended the man’s then home on the South Creake caravan park in Norfolk on October 4th after he reported a disturbance that resulted in him sustaining “quite a nasty injury.” The man was subsequently searched and found to be in possession of just 0.29 grams of cannabis flower, a pitifully small amount, yet they still decided to arrest and charge him.
Although the Crown Prosecution Services representative Anna Crayford conceded that “The cannabis was worth less than £1” she still attempted to justify his arrest and subsequent prosecution by stating that the “defendant had previously been in court for a drug offence in October 2020.”
When responding to the CPS charges and providing mitigation the man’s solicitor Andrew Cogan said; “It would have cost the state a great deal more than £105 [to bring the case to court] for £1 worth of cannabis. “Nevertheless, he is here and the reason is because he shouldn’t have been in possession of it.”
This quote highlights an absurdity within the UK ‘justice’ system. Magistrates courts only deal with minor offences with strict liability. Defendants hire or are appointed solicitors who are sworn to the bar, not their clients. This means they’ll always push their client to go guilty for drug offences and not challenge the validity, legality, and efficacy of the charges levied against them. Worse still the limited power and scope of Magistrates courts means they cannot rule against the law, even if they wanted to.
In this case, the CPS made a claim for £105 to cover its costs, despite the fact they will have been far higher. The court initially handed the man a total bill of £167, possibly making it one of the most expensive bong hits in UK history. However, they were reduced to £83 given his low income.
Just think for a minute how much money was pissed away to bring this man to ‘justice’ for his crimes against the crown. This case is just another in a long, long list of prosecutions that proves that cannabis prohibition and its enforcement does little but hemorrhage money from the country’s coffers.
In the grand scheme of things, what good does it do to prosecute people for possessing such pathetically low amounts of cannabis? It does nothing to deter consumption or affect supply. However, there are very real harms caused when you prosecute and criminalise individuals for possessing an amount that a lot of consumers would simply brush off the table after rolling up. So now ask yourself honestly, who are the real criminals here?
Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com