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Dear Pot Lawyer,

Federal prohibition can’t go on forever... can it?

No, of course not. Most people that I’ve talked to in the industry think that federal prohibition will end in 2021, or shortly thereafter. But this prediction is based on the hope that the Democrats will retake control in 2018 and 2020. One thing seems certain: Republicans have no intention of fixing outdated policies.

As we mentioned last week, although Attorney General Jeff Sessions may be “beleaguered,” that hasn’t slowed down his irrational campaign against cannabis.

Are there signs of hope? Yes! For example, Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) recently introduced one of the most progressive cannabis reform bills in recent memory. Certainly, there is zero chance of Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 passing in today’s political climate, but the mere fact that an up-and-coming Democratic senator is willing to take such a progressive stance is heartening. Remember that Booker’s name is often floated as a possible candidate in 2020. This is a sure sign that the Democratic establishment is willing to listen to public opinion on recreational cannabis.

Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act is remarkable in its scope. Not only would it remove marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) from Schedule I classification, it would remove the federal criminal prohibition on the import and export of cannabis. It would also withhold federal money for the construction of prisons or jails from any state that has discriminatory (race or income) arrest and incarceration rates for cannabis offenses. Such states would also see up to a 10 percent reduction in federal funding for a broad array of crime fighting efforts. These funds would instead be directed into a community reinvestment fund that would go towards communities devastated by the drug war.

Finally, and perhaps most ambitiously, it would expunge all old cannabis convictions, and anyone currently imprisoned on federal cannabis charges would have the right to a new sentencing hearing. The hearing judge would have authority to impose a modified sentence as if the Marijuana Justice Act was in effect on the date of the crime.

The fundamental positive change that would take place in our society if this bill became law cannot be overstated, and the fact a likely Democratic presidential primary contender submitted it is a fantastic sign for everyone in the industry. Let’s all hope that 2018 and 2020 usher in a more enlightened cannabis policy.


Got a question? Email us at potlawyer@portlandmercury.com. And remember that if you have a legal problem, contact a lawyer! Our educational musings cannot be relied upon as specific legal advice.