“Christmas Miracles” for Cannabis Equity Businesses and Federal Inmates on Home Confinement

christmas cannabis miracle

If Christmas is the time of year for good news and miracles then good news is  around the corner for cannabis social equity businesses and federal inmates released to home confinement during the pandemic. Let’s take a look. 

A Christmas gift in the form of fee waivers are being offered to cannabis equity businesses. The Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) will begin to process those fee waiver requests on January 1, 2022. Cannabis business entrepreneurs who were negatively affected by the War on Drugs can have their license or renewal fee waived “following the approval of emergency regulations issued by the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC)”. Thirty million dollars has been set aside to fund these fee waivers

These regulations implement Senate Bill (SB) 166, signed into law on September 23, 2021, which outlined broad criteria for the waivers and mandated that DCC have a fee waiver program in place by January 1, 2022.

The cannabis industry has been hard hit by the harsh taxation policy and although licenses are unrelated to taxes the whole cannabis industry is hurting and a robust illicit market is there for the asking. 

“Some relief is helpful, but we still have major issues,” California Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Lindsay Robinson said, listing access to banking services as yet another for cannabis equity operators.  Late last week, a letter signed by more than 400 industry leaders petitioned the state legislature and the governor for tax relief saying taxes, lower product prices and an illegal market were threatening the future of the cannabis business in the state.

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On December 21 The Justice Department donned a Santa suit and said that thousands of federal prisoners released to home confinement to reduce the spread of Covid will not be required to return to prison “once the Biden administration lifts the pandemic-related state of emergency”. If the Biden administration is Santa issuing a new opinion then the Trump administration was Scrooge as this reverses the Trump-era memo that “criminal justice advocates and Democratic lawmakers had pressured the Biden administration to revoke”. 

DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel determined, in a 15-page memo , that federal law “does not require that prisoners in extended home confinement be returned en masse to correctional facilities when the emergency period ends.”

The text to the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel 15-page memo can be found here.

The DOJ made its determination based on review of the CARES act, “a law passed in response to the pandemic that allowed for the release of federal inmates into home confinement”. 

In its reconsideration of the Trump-era opinion, the Justice Department found that the CARES Act gave the federal prison system “discretion to permit prisoners in extended home confinement to remain there.”

The DOJ took a humane approach in this consideration giving nod to the fact that inmates have bonded with families and community: an integral part of the reintegration process back into society. About 36,000 prisoners were released to home confinement during the pandemic and many have finished serving their sentences.

“Thousands of people on home confinement have reconnected with their families, have found gainful employment, and have followed the rules,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland, in a prepared statement.  “We will exercise our authority so that those who have made rehabilitative progress and complied with the conditions of home confinement, and who in the interests of justice should be given an opportunity to continue transitioning back to society, are not unnecessarily returned to prison,” he added.

All in all for both cannabis social equity businesses who are individuals impacted by the War on Drugs and inmates who have been given an opportunity to successfully integrate back into society because of the CARES Act home confinement program this is a win-win and a hopeful Merry Christmas.

Author: Sherri Margolin (Dark Matters)

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