Pro-Pot Votes on Capitol Hill ... and Other Legal News You May Have Missed

By Richard Dahl on April 05, 2022

On April 1, the U.S. House passed a bill to end the federal ban on marijuana. But it's probably not time just yet to pop a Champagne cork or fire up a fatty.

Despite the House passage and despite a recent Gallup poll showing that more than two-thirds of Americans favor legalization, the U.S. Senate appears poised to just say no.

The House voted 220-204 to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and eliminate criminal penalties for individuals who possess, grow, or distribute it.

This is the second time the House voted to decriminalize pot. They did it in 2020, only to have the Senate not hold a vote on it. The MORE Act will need 60 votes in the evenly divided Senate to advance to President Biden's desk, an outcome seen as unlikely. It appears — whether they vote to reject it or simply don't bring the bill up — that senators seem likely to kill the bill again this year.

Still, the expanding legalization of marijuana around the country — 37 states allow medical use and 15 allow recreational use — is making it increasingly difficult for Republicans to oppose it.

A pot industry is booming in deeply red Oklahoma, and strongly Republican Kansas appears poised to pass a medical marijuana bill this session.

Marijuana sales hit $20 billion in 2020 and are projected to reach $46 billion by 2025. As those numbers escalate, look for partisan opposition to melt away.

Judge Rules Against Boardroom Diversity Law

A California law requiring public companies headquartered in that state to diversity their boards of directors has been struck down.

On April 1, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Terry Green ruled in favor of Judicial Watch, a conservative group, finding that the law violates the state constitution.

The law, Assembly 979, required companies to have board members from underrepresented groups including people of several races and ethnic groups and people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

The law went into effect in 2020, and Judicial Watch sued, saying it was unconstitutional because it mandated quotas.

Judge Green agreed. "If demographically homogeneous boards are a problem, then heterogeneous boards are the immediate and obvious solution," he wrote. "But that doesn't mean the Legislature can skip directly to mandating heterogenous boards."

It isn't clear whether California will appeal.

Law School Announces Stand-Alone Animal Law Program

A new partnership between George Washington University Law School and the Animal Legal Defense Fund aims to advance animal law from a niche specialty to a stand-alone legal discipline that is the first of its kind.

The law school said the Animal Legal Education Initiative will develop courses, clinics, and fellowships in the growing field of animal law. The partnership has already raised enough money to hire a director and hopes to have the program running this fall.

Several other schools offer animal law courses, usually taught by adjunct professors, but GW Law is claiming a more comprehensive program.

Stacey Gordon Sterling, the director of animal law at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said the law school aims to increase fellowship and law professorships in animal law.

Meanwhile, let's turn away from galloping inflation and the war in Ukraine to consider a few important developments on the food-and-beverage front:

  • A Salem, Massachusetts, law firm reached a settlement with the maker of Guinness Extra Stout Beer over claims the beermaker made on its packaging. The lawsuit alleged that consumers were led to believe the beer was brewed at the historic St. James Gate brewery in Dublin, Ireland, when it really came from New Brunswick, Canada.
  • A class-action lawsuit in south Florida accuses Burger King of "false and misleading advertising" in its depictions of the size of menu items. The lawsuit asks for damages for anyone deceived by the depictions and also asks that Burger King change the pictures.
  • A federal judge in New York dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Kellogg misrepresented the amount of fruit in its strawberry Pop-Tarts.
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