Joe Biden Reverses Previous Stance That Marijuana Is A ‘Gateway Drug’

Former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s views on cannabis appear to be evolving. During a conference call with reporters Monday, Biden reversed his previous stance that marijuana is a “gateway drug.” Biden told reporters that he hasn’t seen evidence to support the gateway drug theory about cannabis. But only a week prior, during a Las Vegas town hall, Biden said the exact opposite. In front of the town hall crowd, Biden said there was not enough evidence to know whether or not marijuana is a gateway drug. Now, in the face of public blowback and criticism of his remarks, Biden said he was only telling the audience what “some say” about cannabis.

Despite New Stance, Joe Biden Isn’t Revising His Cannabis Platform

Among the crowded field of Democratic candidates, Biden’s views on cannabis reform have been among the most conservative. While front-runners like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders have called for nationwide adult-use legalization as part of a plan to dismantle the war on drugs, decarcerate people for drug-related offenses and expunge prior criminal records, Biden has situated his campaign’s platform at the back of the pack.

Still, Biden does support some major cannabis policy shifts. He has said he believes the federal government should decriminalize cannabis use and simple possession. And he has backed a plan to expunge criminal records of minor cannabis offenses. These policies would make a major difference for many people whose lives have been disrupted by an encounter with the justice system over weed. But they fall far short of more progressive policies like federal legalization and amnesty for those currently behind bars for marijuana-related convictions.

Despite Biden’s support for decriminalization and expungement, however, Biden’s public statements aren’t making voters confident that he’s the right person to lead a major national policy shift on cannabis. And his recent “gateway drug” comments are a case in point.

When asked why he doesn’t support broader measures like full legalization, Biden routinely resorts to the argument that there isn’t enough evidence or research to support such a move. But the candidate’s retrograde comments on cannabis reveal that he’s not very familiar with the latest evidence and research supporting legalization.

Out of date on the science and apparently out of touch with contemporary public views on cannabis, Biden has faced a week of criticism after his “gateway drug” statements at a Las Vegas town hall. Now, Biden is trying to control the damage from those statements by attributing them to an anonymous “some say.”

Can Joe Biden Overcome His Terrible Record on Drugs?

Even if Joe Biden reversed course on his gateway drug comments, his new stance isn’t going to revise the former vice president’s campaign platform. Biden still won’t support federal legalization. But his closest rivals for the 2020 Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, do.

And it’s not just Biden’s current out-of-step statements about cannabis that voters should worry about. As a Senator, Biden was one of the principal architects of the policies that have fueled mass incarceration and racial disparities across the criminal legal spectrum. For decades, Biden stood sharply opposed to decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana. As former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden bears the brunt of the responsibility for passing a packet of drug laws that kick-started the modern war on drugs. He once even tried to pass a bill that would have criminalized raves, called the Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act.

And despite today’s growing public consensus and mounting evidence that federal legalization makes sense from a social justice perspective, an economic perspective, a criminal legal perspective, and a medical perspective, Biden still claims there isn’t enough evidence to support broad, ambitious marijuana policy.

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How to Protect Your Business from the Emerging Vaping Crisis

The year 2020 may become a pivotal year for cannabis operators and service providers, including increased access to financial services, and increased exposure to product liability lawsuits. On a positive note, if enacted, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (SAFE Banking Act) promises to enable cannabis businesses to gain access to financial services previously unavailable to them, including banking and insurance services. The House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act of 2019 on September 25th, 2019. Skopos Labs, an automated predictive intelligence service, predicts there is a 52% chance of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019 becoming law. A recent discovery that vitamin E acetate is likely the culprit in the vaping-related illness epidemic may increase the exposure to costly litigation that cannabis businesses face.

An uptick in litigation like that currently affecting the vaping industry may soon affect cannabis businesses. More litigation affecting the vaping industry is due in large part to the growing number of lung injuries and deaths linked to vaping. As of November 13th, 2019, the CDC reported 2,172 cases of lung injury, and 42 deaths linked to vaping. The cases of lung injury and death have predictably resulted in an increase in litigation facing the vaping industry. Most of the plaintiffs in these cases allege they became addicted to vaping but at least two lawsuits go further. In one, a Connecticut man alleges that he suffered a massive, debilitating stroke as a result of vaping, while in another the parents of a teenage girl allege in a proposed class action suit that their daughter has suffered seizures linked to vaping. On November 14th, 2019, the CDC identified vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern among people with vaping use associated lung injury. Vitamin E acetate is an additive commonly used as a cutting agent in vape cartridges. About 86% of individuals who have either vaping-related lung injuries, or died due to vaping had used a product containing THC.

The increase in perceived exposure cannabis businesses face has increased their interest in obtaining insurance, but unfortunately insurers are not always interested in insuring them. There are at least two reasons that getting insurance can be difficult for cannabis businesses: (1) insurance industry appetite for cannabis risk is very low due to its status under federal law and (2) express coverage exclusions or limitations of cannabis exposures from standard-form coverage are becoming more common. However, even if cannabis businesses are able to obtain insurance, their insurance may cover them for far less than they believe.

The product liability coverage (which is increasingly crucial for both growers and manufacturers given the mounting litigation facing the vaping industry) may cover far less than it at first appears. The interplay of exclusions and limited coverages in many cannabis-specific policies may leave a cannabis business uninsured.

It is vital now more than ever to ensure you are properly protected against loss.Crucial for cannabis businesses to appreciate is the distinction between “occurrence” and “claims-made” coverage triggers as it relates to both the premises on which cannabis businesses operate their business, and the products they sell.

Many cannabis businesses have an occurrence-based general liability insurance that might actually exclude: (1) product-liability risks; (2) any tobacco-related risks; and (3) any risk associated with governmental investigation or enforcement. These exclusions oftentimes concern cannabis businesses because there is a high likelihood one of these risks could manifest itself as an uninsured loss. Still, the costs of eliminating these exclusions in an occurrence-based general liability insurance policy is often large, assuming an insurer is willing to eliminate the exclusions on an occurrence basis at all. Therefore, cannabis businesses often pair their general liability insurance policy with a “claims-made” coverage trigger for products liability. Navigating the waters of managing the differences between “occurrence” and “claims-made” forms are best left to a qualified and experienced insurance professional.

Consult a local insurance professional that understands how to help your business become properly protected in what would be considered a tumultuous market for this burgeoning industry.

It is vital now more than ever to ensure you are properly protected against loss. As a first step, you must determine what your current insurance policy does and does not cover. After a loss, it is too late to change policies. Rely upon someone that knows the market of insuring this industry and has deep experience in managing both occurrence and claims-made policies.

The post How to Protect Your Business from the Emerging Vaping Crisis appeared first on Cannabis Industry Journal.