Marijuana in the time of the virus


Do bogart that joint, my friend. Don’t pass it over to me for the next 14 days.

Erik Altieri, director of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML), is urging stoners to stop the practice of sharing joints until the coronavirus runs its course.

“We all know a large part of what binds us together as cannabis consumers is community and sharing,” Altieri wrote in a post on the NORML website. “However, while we are living through the current pandemic we should all be more mindful of our day-to-day consumption practices, and how the choices we make impact not only ourselves, but also those we care about.”

NORML is also suggesting that people stop passing pipes, glassware and vape pens for the duration of the pandemic. And it said that 90% isopropyl alcohol is an effective way to clean pathogens off mouthpieces.

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Activists in South Dakota, where two separate marijuana legalization initiatives (one for medical and one for recreation pot) have been petitioned onto the state’s November ballot, are changing their strategies to push them across the finish line.

New Approach South Dakota, said it has shelved its plans to host events and do in-person outreach in support of the two initiatives instead focusing on the use of social media.

The group said it will host virtual town halls, broadcast guest speakers and produce more web content, among other things.

It also plans to focus on encouraging South Dakotans to consider absentee voting.

“We strongly urge everyone to sign up and go vote as soon as absentee voting opens up,” New Approach said in a post. “This process ensures democracy doesn’t fall by the wayside due to COVID-19.”

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana laws, a separate group that’s backing the recreational initiative, echoed the sentiment.

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A recreational pot legalization petition drive in Arizona, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, has gathered 270,000 names so far; it needs 237,000 valid voter signatures by July 2 to make the ballot. The group would probably like to get at least 50,000 more signatures to cover signature disqualifications, but the ability to do that might be compromised by the coronavirus outbreak. Even if petitioning isn’t suspended, voluntarily or involuntarily, people who are social distancing may avoid petitioners.

The Smart and Safe Arizona initiative got a boost earlier this month when the backers of a rival legalization plan threw in the towel and endorsed the Smart and Safe Arizona plan. The rival group, the Arizona Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, had tried to get the Arizona legislature to put its proposal on the ballot instead of trying to petition it on, but couldn’t find any support.

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The coronavirus pandemic is upsetting legalization efforts in at least three East Coast legislatures. In Vermont, the legislature has been working on a bill that would allow recreational pot sales in the state. The Vermont legislature legalized possession and use of marijuana a couple years ago, but sales remained illegal. Both houses of the state’s legislature have passed legalization bills but they differ on tax rates and other issues. A conference committee has been appointed to iron out the differences, but the legislature adjourned until March 24 due to the virus, which set everything back and moved epidemic-related measures to the top of the agenda.

A similar sort of upheaval has hit New York legalization efforts. Governor Andrew Cuomo had wanted recreational marijuana legalization legislation included in the state’s budget bill, which has to be passed by April 1. But some legislators are saying marijuana might be pushed aside for consideration of coronavirus-related measures.

In Connecticut, where a recreational marijuana legalization bill has the strong support of Governor Ned Lamont, the legislature is shut down until at least March 30 because of the virus. Even if there are no further delays, it’s unclear if a bill can clear both houses before the legislature adjourns on May 6.

A recent poll from the Hartford Courant and Sacred Heart University found 63% of Connecticut residents favor ending marijuana prohibition.

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On March 23, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued a stay-at-home order to fight the epidemic. The order exempted “essential” businesses like groceries from closure, but initially did not exempt liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries. But within hours, both were moved to the “essential” category. Sometimes the ruling class is a little slow to recognize human nature.