Letters + Opinion » The Week in Weed

Bern One Down

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Just days before the Iowa caucus, Sen. Bernie Sanders doubled down on his promise to legalize cannabis if elected president.

"On my first day in office, through executive order, we will legalize marijuana in every state in this country," he told a packed rally of supporters. The cannabis world promptly lost its mind and many media outlets followed suit with headlines like, "Bernie Sanders Pledges Legal Marijuana in All 50 States on Day One" (

Forbes).

That's all well and good, but before cannabis enthusiasts jump on the Bernie train to start planning the national Bern Out on Jan. 20, 2021, let's all take a deep breath. Even if Sanders is sworn into office that day and follows through with the executive order, it would not immediately free the weed and allow everyone to buy, sell and smoke with abandon.

As the Brookings Institute's John Hudak and Grace Wallack wrote in a detailed analysis posted to the nonprofit's website explaining "how a drug becomes a legally-defined less dangerous drug," there are two paths to changing cannabis' Schedule 1 status: a vote by Congress or through administrative action. As it turns out, the executive order path is actually the more complicated one, though it would sidestep the human pile of obstruction in the Senate commonly known as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ("New Laws and Greening the Senate," Jan. 2).

Essentially, as the Brookings folks explain it, an executive order to reschedule or de-schedule cannabis would direct the U.S. attorney general to forward a request to the Health and Human Services secretary asking for a scientific and medical evaluation and recommendation from the Food and Drug Administration, which would have to do an assessment. That recommendation would then go through the Drug Enforcement Administration, which would "conduct its own concurrent and independent review of the evidence" before weighing in with its own recommendation to the attorney general. If convinced cannabis' status should be changed, the attorney general would then "initiate the first stages of a standard rulemaking process, consistent the Administrative Procedures Act ... ."

Still awake? Good.

From there, the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs would conduct a regulatory review of the proposed rule before it can go into effect.

So, yeah, even if you're feeling the Bern, you might not want to plan on holding while crossing state lines until at least late 2021, at the earliest. So in reality, Sanders' stance on the issue isn't much different than his fellow Democratic candidates, all of whom have pledged to take steps to legalize or decriminalize weed federally. But saying, "On day one, I promise to start a months-long bureaucratic process" isn't going to grab you many headlines heading into the first contest of the 2020 primary season, so here we are.

Some big news dropped in the local cannabis industry this week with the announcement that Driven Deliveries, the nation's first publicly traded cannabis delivery service, intends to purchase Humboldt Heritage Inc., its subsidiary (Humboldt Sun Growers Guild) and its brand (True Humboldt).

The deal gives Driven and its "Ganjarunner" delivery service exclusive access to a host of local brands, including Lost Creek, Rambling Rose, Humboldt Edge Farms, Sunrise Mountain Farms and Juniper. In a press release, the company projects the acquisition will bring an additional $20 million into its 2020 revenue forecast.

"Humboldt County arguably produces some of the best cannabis in the world and Driven is honored and humbled that the Humboldt Sun Growers Guild chose to partner with our company," said Driven President Brian Hayek in a press release. "We intend to uphold its time-honored legacy to do right by all of our family farmers, as we welcome them to the extended family of Driven and Ganjarunner."

Thadeus Greenson is the Journal's news editor and prefers he/him pronouns. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or thad@northcoastjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.

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