This week, we cover Ohio’s new chance at legalization, cannabis decriminalization in Virginia, Illinois’ efforts to repair damage done by the War on Drugs, and Joe Biden’s continued failure to toe the party line on federal cannabis legalization.

Virginia Becomes 27th State To Eliminate Jail Time For Low-Level Cannabis Possession

On Thursday, Gov. Northam signed two bills into law, effectively decriminalizing cannabis possession in the state.

Previous to the signing, the bills had reached Northam’s desk in March. However, Northam chose to recommend a series of amendments and sent the bills back for further revision and consideration.

Of the 12 amendments Northam recommended, 10 were adopted into the final drafts of the bill. One of the two that didn’t make the cut sought to delay a required cannabis legalization impact study.

Although Northam has not yet commented on the two new bills, he praised the accomplishments of the General Assembly session that produced them. 

Northam originally promised the decriminalization of cannabis during his gubernatorial campaign in 2017. After that, he remained consistent in pushing for cannabis reform in the state.

With the new legislation, possession of up to one ounce of cannabis will garner nothing more than a $25 fine. Also, citations for possession will have zero threat of jail time and will not appear on a criminal record. 

Ohio Activists Win Court Decision Allowing Cannabis Campaigns To Electronically Collect Signatures

On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered the state of Ohio to allow the electronic collection of signatures for legislation set to appear on the upcoming November ballots. Further, the judge ordered that the deadline for signature submission be extended by an entire month. 

This decision will give Ohio activists a fighting chance to make up for lost campaigning time amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. 

In many states, the social distancing measures related to Coronavirus have killed any hope for a vote on cannabis legislation.

In Montana, a similar bid for electronic signature gathering was denied, effectively ending the campaigns of local cannabis activists. 

The order, given by Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. of the U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio, also applies to campaigns unrelated to cannabis reform. 

Judge Sargus Jr. claimed in-person signature gathering “likely pose[s] a danger to the health of circulators and signers.”

However, Sargus Jr. was quick to note that his decision was not a criticism of the state’s public emergency declarations. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that “the continued risk of close interactions cannot be ignored.”

The process of digital signature gathering in the state remains unclear. Judge Sargus Jr.’s order mandated the state “select its own adjustments.”

Illinois Assigns $31 Million In Cannabis-Funded Grants To Communities Impacted By The War On Drugs

Since legalizing adult-use cannabis in early 2020, Illinois has set the bar for cannabis tax revenue. In fact, from their first month of legalization, Illinois managed to outpace states with existing programs. 

In two months, the state saw $75 million in tax revenue, a monumental windfall for the Prairie State.

Under the new legalization laws, the state initiated the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program. The program’s function is to channel funds coming from cannabis sales into communities most affected by the War on Drugs.

Accordingly, the new cannabis legislation dictated that 25% of all cannabis tax revenue go to the R3 program. 

Now, with revenue streaming in, Illinois is making good on its promise.

On Tuesday, state officials announced that $31.5 million in restorative justice grants will be available to these communities.

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, one of the first to make a legal cannabis purchase in the state, praises the program. 

“The R3 program is a critical step towards repairing the harms caused by the failed war on drugs,” Stratton said. “Equity is one of the administration’s core values, and we are ensuring that state funding reaches organizations doing critical work in neighborhoods most impacted by the war on drugs.”

Joe Biden Continues Questionable Cannabis Rhetoric During Breakfast Club Interview

Cannabis legalization is an issue that continues to wreak havoc on the viability of Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy. 

During his campaign, Biden has made a number of blunders regarding his stance on cannabis.

Early in his campaign, Biden referred to cannabis as a “gateway” drug. Supporting this antiquated and scientifically unsupported view resulted in a great deal of backlash. Biden eventually walked back those comments, but he has not wavered in his rejection of federal legalization.

Despite 80% of democrats supporting such legislation, Biden has made it clear that he refuses to budge. The reason he falls back on consistently is a claim that the scientific research supporting cannabis legalization is lacking. 

However, this rationale has fallen on deaf ears, especially with cannabis’ current legal status playing a pivotal role in preventing research. 

On Friday, Biden added a new cannabis faux pas to his steadily increasing collection. During a disastrous interview with Charlamagne Tha God, Biden struggled to defend his stance on cannabis. 

When Charlamagne Tha God pressed Biden on why he supported decriminalization, but not legalization, Biden reverted to his Reagan-era talking points. 

“They’re trying to find out whether or not there is any impact on the use of marijuana,” Biden said. “Does it affect long-term development of the brain? We should wait until the studies are done.”

Charlamagne Tha God retorted that the American populace as a whole has decades of experience with cannabis. To this, Biden agreed and proclaimed that he “know[s] a lot of weed smokers.” 

This exchange seems to imply that Biden believes his stance on cannabis legalization stems not only from a lack of scientific research, but what he believes to be an abundant amount of experience with actual cannabis users. 

Coronavirus Updates In the United States

As COVID-19 continues its spread throughout the US, we will provide you with updates to keep you up to speed. We will continue to include these updates at the end of This Week In Weed until further notice. 

Confirmed COVID-19 CASES In United States (As Of May 24, 2020): 1,681,677

Confirmed COVID-19 DEATHS In United States (As Of May 24, 2020): 99,200

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