‘Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Consumers’ Named by Nation’s Largest Marijuana Policy Organization
President Obama tops the list, followed by several 2016 presidential candidates — at least eight (and as many as 17) of the 23 major-party presidential hopefuls have consumed marijuana
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), released its annual list of the “Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Consumers” in the United States.
The list is available below and at https://www.mpp.org/Top50.
“About one out of every two Americans has used marijuana, including a whole lot of very successful people,” said Mason Tvert, MPP’s director of communications. “There are a lot more out there that we don’t know about because it is illegal. Marijuana is a less harmful substance than alcohol. Adults who use it responsibly should not have to choose between keeping it a secret or admitting to a crime.”
President Barack Obama is at the top of MPP’s list, followed by several 2016 presidential candidates. At least eight (and as many as 17) of the 23 major-party presidential hopefuls have said or strongly indicated that they have consumed marijuana: Jeb Bush, Lincoln Chafee, Ted Cruz, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Rick Santorum. Nine others do not appear to have said whether they have consumed marijuana, and they did not respond to inquiries from MPP: Joe Biden, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb. Only six candidates have said they never used marijuana: Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.
“In addition to potentially becoming our next president, these marijuana consumers are playing a major role in the national political dialogue,” Tvert said. “Win or lose, they are guiding the debate and influencing the positions of others both within and outside of their parties.
“Of the nearly two dozen major-party candidates running for president, fewer than one-third are willing and able to admit they never used marijuana,” Tvert said. “And one of them is married to the fourth most influential marijuana consumer in America. Times have changed, and so have public attitudes toward marijuana.”
The list is intended to identify individuals who have used marijuana and achieved high levels of success or influence. It was created using the same criteria employed by Out Magazine to produce its "Power 50” list of LGBT Americans, such as “power to influence cultural and social attitudes, political clout, individual wealth, and a person’s media profile.” To qualify for MPP’s list, individuals must (1) be alive, (2) be a U.S. citizen, and (3) have consumed marijuana at least once in their life according to either their own account or that of a legitimate source. They do not need to currently consume marijuana or support marijuana policy reform.
“We hope this list will make people question some of the anti-marijuana propaganda they’ve been hearing for so long,” Tvert said. “Millions of adults enjoy consuming marijuana for many of the same reasons that adults enjoy consuming alcohol. The only thing that makes marijuana consumers more likely to become ‘losers’ are the legal penalties they face just for using it.”
Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Consumers
1. Barack Obama
2. 2016 Presidential Hopefuls
3. Oprah Winfrey
4. Bill Clinton
5. John Kerry
6. Stephen Colbert
7. Clarence Thomas
8. Katy Perry
9. LeBron James
10. Jay Z
11. Bill Gates
12. George Soros
13. Jon Stewart
14. Bill Maher
15. Rush Limbaugh
16. Andrew Cuomo
17. Sanjay Gupta
18. George W. Bush
19. Seth MacFarlane
20. George Clooney
21. Lady Gaga
22. Ted Turner
23. Brad Pitt
25. Whoopi Goldberg
26. Morgan Freeman
27. Angelina Jolie
28. Conan O'Brien
29. Martha Stewart
30. Gov. John Hickenlooper (CO)
31. Gov. Charlie Baker (MA)
32. Tom Brokaw
33. Michael Bloomberg
34. Justin Timberlake
35. Aaron Sorkin
36. Glenn Beck
37. Al Gore
38. Matt Damon
39. Susan Sarandon
41. Robert Downey, Jr.
42. Phil Jackson
43. Rick Steves
44. Jennifer Lawrence
45. Miley Cyrus
46. Jennifer Aniston
47. Matthew McConaughey
48. Snoop Dogg
49. Hugh Hefner
50. Maureen Dowd
Gov. Rauner’s Amendatory Veto Sends Illinois Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Back to General Assembly for Final Approval
State lawmakers have 15 days from next session date to approve the amended measure, which would make Illinois the 21st state in the nation to remove the threat of jail for simple marijuana possession
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto Friday of a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amount of marijuana, sending it back to the General Assembly for final approval.
The General Assembly has 15 days from the next session date to approve the amended version of HB 218, which needs to receive a simple majority vote in the House and then the Senate to officially become law. The original version, introduced by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), was approved in the Senate (37-19) on May 21 and in the House (62-53) on April 23.
Gov. Rauner’s amended version of HB 218 would make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil law violation punishable by a fine of up to $200 with no possibility of jail time, and the civil offense would be automatically expunged in order to prevent a permanent criminal record. The original version applied to possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana and set the amount of the fine at up to $125.
Under current Illinois law, possession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana is a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500, and possession of more than 2.5 grams and up to 10 grams is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500. More than 100 localities in Illinois have adopted measures that reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession.
Illinois would be the 21st state to decriminalize marijuana possession or make it legal for adults. Twenty other states and the District of Columbia have adopted laws removing the threat of jail time for simple marijuana possession, four of which have made possession legal for adults 21 years of age and older.
HB 218 also establishes a per se limit at which drivers are automatically deemed to be impaired by marijuana based on the level of active THC in the blood. Gov. Rauner’s amended version lowers the limit from 15 ng/mL to five ng/mL. Illinois currently has a zero tolerance law that considers drivers to be impaired if they have any amount of THC in their bodies, including inactive THC metabolites that can be detectable for several weeks after consuming marijuana.
Statement from Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbied in support of the bill:
“We hope the General Assembly will approve the amended bill and replace Illinois’ needlessly draconian marijuana possession law with a more sensible policy. Nobody should face a lifelong criminal record and potential jail time for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol. Serious criminal penalties should be reserved for people who commit serious crimes, not low-level marijuana offenses.
“The governor’s version is not preferable to the original bill, but it is still commonsense legislation. It will still prevent countless citizens from having their lives turned upside down by an arrest for simple marijuana possession. This is a major victory for Rep. Cassidy and the Assembly, and it is an important step forward for Illinois.”
Resolution approved by state lawmakers from around the nation expresses support for amending the Controlled Substances Act and other federal laws ‘to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference;’ it also ‘urges the administration not to undermine state marijuana and hemp policies’
SEATTLE — The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) approved a resolution Thursday urging the federal government to allow states to determine their own marijuana policies. For a resolution to pass, it must be supported by a majority of participating legislators in each of 75% of the states represented at the conference’s general business meeting.
The preamble to the resolution, introduced by New Hampshire State Rep. Renny Cushing, notes that “states are increasingly serving as laboratories for democracy by adopting a variety of policies regarding marijuana and hemp,” and it highlights the fact that “the federal government cannot force a state to criminalize cultivating, possessing, or distributing marijuana or hemp — whether for medical, recreational, industrial, or other uses — because doing so would constitute unconstitutional commandeering.”
The resolution states:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures believes that federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference and urges the administration not to undermine state marijuana and hemp policies.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes that its members have differing views on how to treat marijuana and hemp in their states and believes that states and localities should be able to set whatever marijuana and hemp policies work best to improve the public safety, health, and economic development of their communities.
The full resolution can be found online at http://www.ncsl.org/documents/standcomm/sclaw/Marijuana_Policies_Federal_Interference.pdf.
“State lawmakers just sent a message to Congress that could not be any clearer,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, which tracks marijuana policy in all 50 states and lobbies in state legislatures throughout the country. “It’s time to end the federal prohibition of marijuana and let the states decide what policies work best for them.
“A majority of Americans support making marijuana legal for adults and even more think states should be able to establish their own marijuana laws without federal intrusion,” O’Keefe said. “This resolution is a strong indication that legislators throughout the nation are not just hearing from but listening to their constituents when it comes to marijuana policy.”
Twenty-three states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have adopted laws that allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it, and four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — have adopted laws that make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol. Marijuana possession, cultivation, and sales are illegal under federal law, but the Department of Justice has indicated that it will not allocate resources toward enforcing federal marijuana laws in cases involving individuals or businesses that are acting in compliance with state laws.
Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Measure Intended to Ensure Marijuana Businesses Have Access to Banking Services
Amendment to appropriations bill would prohibit the Treasury Department from using funds to punish banks that provide financial services to state-legal marijuana businesses
* Statement below from Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project *
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure Thursday (16-14) that is intended to ensure marijuana businesses have access to banking services.
The amendment, offered by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, would prohibit the Treasury Department and its enforcement arm, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network or FinCEN, from using federal funds to punish banks that provide financial services to marijuana businesses that are operating legally under state laws.
Many banks are currently unwilling to provide depository and other basic banking services to marijuana businesses because the substance is still illegal under federal law. Federal, state, and local law enforcement and other government officials say marijuana businesses need to have access to banking because operating entirely in cash raises significant public safety concerns.
The House is unlikely to consider its own Financial Services bill, so it is unclear whether the amendment will be included in any final compromise legislation that is sent to the president.
Earlier this month, Sen. Merkley introduced the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act, which would amend federal banking laws to prevent banks from being punished for providing services to state-legal marijuana businesses. The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Rand Paul (R-KY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Patty Murray (D-WA).
Statement from Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:
“Marijuana businesses in Colorado alone are on pace for nearly $1 billion dollars in revenue this year. Forcing these companies to store that much cash anywhere other than inside banks raises significant public safety concerns. Current federal laws are putting a bullseye on businesses that are operating legally under state laws, as well as their employees and customers. It’s almost as if some federal officials want to see marijuana businesses get robbed.
“Forcing these businesses to deal exclusively in cash makes it more challenging for states to collect taxes, monitor transactions, and enforce some regulations. Allowing these businesses to access basic banking services is a critical step toward letting states regulate marijuana as effectively and responsibly as possible. A strong majority of Americans think the federal government should stop interfering in state marijuana laws. It appears many, if not most, of the top 2016 presidential candidates agree.”
Law approved by more than 56% of voters in November 2014 takes effect Wednesday, July 1; voters in at least five states are expected to consider similar measures in November 2016
* Statement below from Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, which is supporting ballot initiative efforts around the country *
SALEM — Marijuana became legal for adults in Oregon on Wednesday when the ballot initiative approved by more than 56% of voters in November 2014 officially took effect.
The Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act, which appeared on the ballot as Measure 91 and was backed by New Approach Oregon, allows adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and grow up to four marijuana plants. State officials are in the process of establishing a regulated system of commercial marijuana cultivation and sales.
Possession of limited amounts of marijuana is legal for adults in three additional states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — and the District of Columbia. Colorado and Washington have established regulated marijuana markets for adults 21 years of age and older, and Alaska is in the process of establishing one.
Voters in at least five states are expected to consider similar ballot measures in November 2016. A voter initiative has officially qualified for the ballot in Nevada, petition drives are underway in support of initiatives in Arizona and Maine, and initiatives are in the process of being drafted in California and Massachusetts.
Statement from Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, which is supporting ballot initiative efforts in five states:
“Marijuana is less addictive than alcohol and it’s far less harmful to the body. Adults who prefer to use marijuana instead of alcohol should not be punished for making the safer choice. In Oregon, they no longer will be.
“As more and more Americans recognize that marijuana is safer than alcohol, more and more states will adopt laws that treat it that way. States like Oregon that have ended prohibition and are moving toward a system of regulated sales and cultivation are demonstrating that there is an alternative to prohibition. Regulating marijuana works. It is working in Colorado and Washington, it will work in Oregon and Alaska, and it won’t be long before other states follow suit.”
Bill sponsorship and strong support for states’ rights earn Rand Paul the top spot on the list of 22 presidential hopefuls graded by the Marijuana Policy Project; Chris Christie and Rick Santorum at the bottom with ‘F’s
MPP announces voter guide at news conference in Denver just blocks away from where several GOP candidates are scheduled to appear over the weekend during the Western Conservative Summit
DENVER — The nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, the Marijuana Policy Project, has launched a voter guide to the 2016 presidential race, detailing the candidates’ positions on marijuana policy and assigning them grades based on where they stand.
The voter guide can be viewed online at http://mpp.org/president.
“Most Americans recognize that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and they think it should be made legal for adults,” said MPP Communications Director Mason Tvert. “Voters should know which candidates support rolling back prohibition and which ones are fighting to maintain it. People are becoming increasingly wary of the federal government’s role in our nation’s marijuana policies.”
MPP graded the 22 most widely discussed presidential hopefuls based on actions they have taken and statements they have made that indicate their levels of support for ending marijuana prohibition, allowing legal access to medical marijuana, and defending states’ rights to adopt their own marijuana policies without interference from the federal government.
“Several states are likely to adopt new approaches to marijuana policy between now and when our next president takes office,” Tvert said. “She or he should be willing to work with Congress to ease the tension between state and federal marijuana laws.
“If states are to be our nation’s laboratories of democracy, our next president needs to respect their right to experiment,” Tvert said. “They should also be committed to basing marijuana laws on science and evidence instead of ideology and politics.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) received the highest grade, an “A-,” based largely on his sponsorship of a medical marijuana bill, his support for reducing marijuana-related penalties, and his strong support for allowing states to regulate marijuana for adult use. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) received “F”s because they oppose reform efforts and they are the most vocal supporters of enforcing federal prohibition laws in states that have made marijuana legal.
“Some of these guys who tout states’ rights, fiscal responsibility, and getting the government out of people’s private lives want to use federal tax dollars to punish adults for using marijuana in states that have made it legal,” Tvert said. “They say using marijuana is immoral or just too dangerous to allow, but serve alcohol, a more dangerous substance, at their fundraisers. The hypocrisy is astonishing.”
MPP announced the launch of the voter guide at a news conference in front of the Denver City-County Building, just blocks away from where at least seven Republican presidential candidates were scheduled to appear over the weekend during the Western Conservative Summit. Santorum, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina, and Dr. Ben Carson were confirmed to attend, according to the event’s website.
Committee votes in favor of bill that would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to use marijuana to treat their medical conditions
HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania State House Health Committee voted unanimously on Friday to approve SB 3, which would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to access medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors. The bill will now go to the House Rules Committee for further consideration.
The vote follows the filing of a discharge petition by Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Ridley Park) that would have removed SB 3 from the Health Committee where it had stalled and put it before the full House for a vote.
“While it is a relief that SB 3 is no longer stalled in the Health Committee, it is imperative that it promptly moves to the floor,” said Dr. Jeffrey Fogel, a retired pediatrician who has a debilitating neurologic condition causing bouts of extreme pain. “It’s been over eight months since the Senate first passed a medical cannabis bill. Pennsylvanians have needlessly suffered for far too long. We need relief now.”
"I want to be thrilled by Baker's shocking reversal to move this bill out of his committee today, but after such fierce opposition to this bill I have to wonder if this is just another stall tactic being used to prevent us from getting medicine to our loved ones," said Lolly Bentch, member of Campaign 4 Compassion, whose daughter has intractable epilepsy.
The Senate approved SB 3 by a vote of 40-7 on May 12. It would allow patients with serious medical conditions to obtain medical marijuana from a limited number of licensed, regulated dispensaries throughout the state. Smoking would not be permitted, but patients would be allowed to consume marijuana in edible form, and patients with certain conditions would be allowed to consume it through vaporization. To qualify, patients would need recommendations from their doctors. Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will sign a medical marijuana bill into law.
Nearly nine out of 10 Pennsylvania voters (88%) support medical marijuana, according to an April survey conducted by Quinnipiac University. Nine out of 10 Pennsylvania doctors would recommend medical marijuana to their patients, according to a 2013 survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have adopted effective medical marijuana laws.
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Campaign for Compassion is a group of seriously ill patients and their loved ones, medical practitioners, and advocates that works to educate the public about the benefits of medical cannabis and to enact a comprehensive medical cannabis law in Pennsylvania. For more information, visit http://www.campaign4compassion.com/.
FDA and NIDA officials express support for ending NIDA’s DEA-mandated monopoly on marijuana available for research purposes
WASHINGTON, D.C. — At a hearing Wednesday, Sens. Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand pressed federal officials to eliminate political barriers that are preventing research on the potential medical benefits of marijuana. The hearing, “Cannabidiol: Barriers to Research and Potential Medical Benefits,” was held by the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.
Officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) echoed the senators’ concerns and expressed support for removing barriers to research that have been created by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
NIDA has a DEA-mandated monopoly on the supply of marijuana available for research purposes, which is grown at the University of Mississippi. Researchers have repeatedly criticized the DEA for refusing to license additional marijuana producers, which they say is preventing the study of marijuana’s medical benefits and the development of marijuana-based medicines. They have also criticized the poor quality and low potency of the little marijuana that is currently available, which they say further hinders meaningful research. A DEA administrative law judge ruled that licensing additional producers would be in the public interest, but the DEA has refused to follow the non-binding ruling.
NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow indicated that she agrees the monopoly hinders research and that it should be ended so that additional suppliers can be licensed. The head of the DEA Office of Diversion Control, Deputy Assistant Administrator Joe Rannazzisi, gave no indication that the DEA agrees such a monopoly is a problem or has any plans to license additional producers.
Statement below from Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:
“The DEA is waging an irrational war on marijuana that is costing people their lives. They are standing in the way of research and the development of potentially life-saving medications. While the DEA is clinging to reefer madness, there are seriously ill people clinging to their lives who could be benefitting from medical marijuana. The DEA is preventing children with seizure disorders and people suffering from diseases like cancer and AIDS from accessing a medication that their doctors recommend and could dramatically improve the quality of their lives.
“When President Obama took office, he mandated that policymaking in his administration be guided by evidence and the scientific process rather than politics and ideology. Clearly, the DEA didn’t get the memo. It’s absurd that marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug with ‘no accepted medical use.’ Scientists need to be able to do the important work of developing marijuana-based medicines and putting them through the FDA’s approval process. Marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol, and like alcohol it should not be included in federal drug schedules.”
HARRISBURG — A group of medical doctors, local veterans, and their family members called on Pennsylvania state lawmakers Tuesday to support legislation that would allow seriously ill residents to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
Participants included Dr. Sue Sisley, a nationally recognized authority on treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with medical marijuana; Dr. Sanjay Gupta of Donnamarie Freedman of Cumberland County, the mother of Dane Freedman, a veteran who committed suicide after struggling with PTSD.
"I will fight until my last breath to legalize marijuana for medical use, as I saw first hand what it did and how much it helped our Dane,” said Freedman, according to a report by PennLive.com. “[T]he use of cannabis gave him a life.”
The Senate approved SB 3 40-7 on May 12, and the issue is awaiting consideration in the House. SB 3 would allow patients with serious medical conditions to obtain medical marijuana from a limited number of licensed, regulated dispensaries throughout the state. Smoking would not be permitted, but patients would be allowed to consume marijuana in edible form, and patients with certain conditions would be allowed to consume it through vaporization. To qualify, patients would need recommendations from their doctors. Gov. Tom Wolf has said he would sign a medical marijuana bill into law.
"The evidence is now overwhelming that medical marijuana relieves pain, nausea, vomiting and so many other symptoms associated with MS, cancer, AIDs, and it does it with remarkable safety,” said Dr. Sisley, according to PennLive.com. "Medical marijuana is far less toxic than many of the medications that we physicians prescribe to patients every day."
Nearly nine out of 10 Pennsylvania voters (88%) support allowing seriously patients to use medical marijuana, according to an April survey conducted by Quinnipiac University. Nine out of 10 Pennsylvania doctors would recommend medical marijuana to their patients, according to a survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have adopted effective medical marijuana laws.
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Campaign for Compassion is a group of seriously ill patients and their loved ones, medical practitioners, and advocates that works to educate the public about the benefits of medical cannabis and to enact a comprehensive medical cannabis law in Pennsylvania. For more information, visit http://www.campaign4compassion.com.
Delaware becomes 20th state in the nation to remove the threat of jail for simple marijuana possession
* Statement below from the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbied in support of the bill *
DOVER — Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill into law Thursday night that will remove criminal penalties and potential jail time for adult possession of a small amount of marijuana. The Delaware Senate approved the bill 12-9 earlier in the evening. The new law will take effect in six months.
HB 39, introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South) in the House and sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chair Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East) in the Senate, will replace criminal penalties for adult marijuana possession with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket. Under current Delaware law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a $575 fine and three months in jail.
Delaware is the 20th state to decriminalize marijuana possession or make it legal for adults. Nineteen other states and the District of Columbia have adopted laws removing the threat of jail time for simple marijuana possession, four of which also regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. The Illinois General Assembly approved a similar measure in May, which is now awaiting action from the governor.
Statement from Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:
“We commend Gov. Markell and the Delaware Legislature for moving the state forward and leaving its antiquated marijuana possession law behind. Adults in Delaware will no longer be branded as criminals simply for consuming a substance that is undeniably less harmful than alcohol. Law enforcement officials will be able to spend more time addressing serious crimes instead of arresting and prosecuting adults for simple marijuana possession.
“Marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered, not just in Delaware, but nationwide. States around the country are rolling back their outdated marijuana prohibition policies. We’re seeing rapid progress from coast to coast, and we do not expect it to slow down anytime soon.”