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Updated: 4 hours 49 min ago

Congress Approves Measure Allowing CBD Use By Military Service Members

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 23:11

The House of Representatives approved an amendment on Monday to allow military service members to use products containing hemp and its derivatives—including CBD.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), stipulates that the “Secretary of Defense may not prohibit, on the basis of a product containing hemp or any ingredient derived from hemp, the possession, use, or consumption of such product by a member of the Armed Forces” as long as the crop meets the federal definition of hemp and that “such possession, use, or consumption is in compliance with applicable Federal, State, and local law.”

It passed by a vote of 336-71 in an en bloc package including dozens of other non-cannabis amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill also features a measure approved in committee earlier this month that allow heads of military branches to issue reenlistment waivers for those who admit to using marijuana, or were convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana offense, once.

Gabbard, a military veteran and former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, also filed a bill last year aimed at modernizing the hemp industry, including by encouraging federal research into a wide-range of potential applications for the crop.

That standalone bill, the “Hemp for Victory Act,” would mandate studies into everything from the use of hemp food products for public school lunches to the potential therapeutic value of the crop’s extracts for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to even its ability to clear contaminants from nuclear sites.

The congresswoman’s latest amendment would address a CBD policy conflict that’s emerged in recent months, with various military branches issuing statements precluding service members from using the non-intoxicating cannabis compound regardless of its federal legalization under the 2018 Farm Bill.

In February, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced a policy barring all active and reserve service members from using hemp products, including CBD. The memo acknowledges that hemp was legalized, but it said the risk of exposure to products potentially containing excess THC is too great.

The document codifies what seems to have been an informal policy that led to a series of updates from various military branches on hemp and CBD policy.

DOD reaffirmed that CBD is off limits to service members, regardless of the federal legalization of hemp and its derivatives, in earlier notices published at the beginning of the year.

Both DOD and the Air Force have previously weighed in on the issue, stipulating that members are prohibited from using hemp-derived CBD.

Last year, the Navy reminded their ranks that they’re barred from using CBD no matter its legality. The Coast Guard said that sailors can’t use marijuana or visit state-legal dispensaries. And NASA, which is not part of the military, warned that CBD products could contain unauthorized THC concentrations that could cost employees their jobs if they fail a drug test.

Another factor that could have influenced these policy updates is that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released guidance to federal agency drug program coordinators last year that outlined concerns about THC turning up in CBD products and causing failed drug tests.

While Gabbard’s amendment has been attached to the House version of the NDAA, it remains to be seen whether any cannabis policy reform provisions will make it into the Senate version. That said, a bipartisan group of senators is trying to attach marijuana and CBD research language into the defense spending bill.

Read the text of the CBD amendment for military service members below: 

Gabbard hemp military amend… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

USDA Appoints Hemp Industry Executive To Federal Trade Advisory Panel

The post Congress Approves Measure Allowing CBD Use By Military Service Members appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Kanye West Says He Smoked Marijuana On Eve Of His First Presidential Campaign Rally

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 19:20

Rapper Kanye West said during his first presidential campaign rally on Sunday that he smoked marijuana the day before the event and that, if elected, he would free black Americans charged with cannabis offenses.

During the free-wheeling speech in South Carolina, West hit on a number of policy positions such as abortion and international trade, criticized Harriet Tubman and, near the end, was prompted by the crowd to back marijuana legalization.

“I must tell you at my first rally that I did smoke a little bit last night,” West, who first announced his candidacy on July 4, said. “Every black man on trial for marijuana will be freed.”

While some initial reports indicated that West voiced explicit support for cannabis legalization during the appearance or that he promised to make marijuana available for free, it seems there was some miscommunication about his actual comments at the raucous event, where the rapper did not use a mic.

It’s not clear how serious West is about mounting a real campaign for the White House. Monday’s deadline to turn in signatures for November ballot access in South Carolina, where he held the debut rally, passed without him submitting any petitions.

Even if West were elected president, however, he wouldn’t be able to unilaterally accomplish his marijuana pledge as stated. He could issue acts of clemency for federal cannabis offenses, but he wouldn’t be able to grant relief to people facing state charges who represent the vast majority of those on trial for marijuana.

Meanwhile, though West’s overall marijuana policy plan might be light on specifics so far, his admission of recent cannabis consumption does set him apart from other candidates in another respect.

Neither presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden or President Trump have said they’ve used marijuana in the past, let alone in the midst of a campaign. However, Biden has at least put forward a detailed reform proposal that stops short of calling for adult-use legalization.

The former vice president, who during his decades as a senator championed punitive drug legislation, has is backing decriminalizing cannabis possession, federal rescheduling, medical marijuana legalization, expungements and allowing states to set their own policies.

For his part, Trump has voiced tentative support for legislation to allow states to set their own cannabis policies without federal interference and also backs medical cannabis.

That said, while the president’s reelection campaign has been working to frame him as the criminal justice reform candidate, he hasn’t proactively championed cannabis reform, has made several anti-marijuana administration hires and issued signing statements stipulating that he reserves the right to ignore long-standing congressional riders that prohibit the Justice Department from using its funds to interfere with state-legal medical marijuana programs.

The presidential nominees for the Libertarian and Green Party both support bolder reform proposals, including marijuana legalization and broader drug decriminalization.

Third Party Presidential Candidates Push For Marijuana Legalization And Drug Decriminalization

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Marcus Linder.

The post Kanye West Says He Smoked Marijuana On Eve Of His First Presidential Campaign Rally appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Massachusetts Bill To Use Marijuana Tax Revenue For Police Training Draws Criticism

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 18:32

A new large-scale policing reform bill proposed by a Massachusetts House committee would use marijuana tax revenue to fund law enforcement training programs—and at least one of the state’s cannabis regulators is questioning whether that’s the most appropriate use of the money.

Following the Senate’s approval of law enforcement legislation last week, the House Ways and Means Committee attached the marijuana-funded police training measure as part of an amendment released on Sunday. Tucked inside the panel’s 93-page proposal is a provision stipulating that a Police Training Fund will be partially supported by “funds transferred from the Marijuana Regulation Fund.”

While the state’s cannabis laws already say that marijuana tax revenue can go to “municipal police training” after covering the costs of implementation, advocates are frustrated that legislators seem to be using this reform bill to prioritize appropriating funds to law enforcement at this time when they feel it should be used to support restorative justice programs for communities most impacted by the drug war.

“Where are the funds for communities of color promised in this law?” Shaleen Title, who serves as a commissioner on the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), told Marijuana Moment.

The Massachusetts police reform bill that was just released (House version) directs cannabis tax revenue to the police pic.twitter.com/Bq6uNd1JfD

— Shaleen Title (@shaleentitle) July 20, 2020

“California has awarded $40 million in cannabis equity grant funding in the past year. Illinois is investing a full 25 percent of its cannabis tax revenue into grants for disproportionately harmed communities,” she said. “I invite Massachusetts legislators to collaborate with regulators and communities to ensure funding flows as promised under our law.”

Tens of millions of dollars in marijuana excise tax revenue have gone undistributed to the various programs they were supposed to support, a Boston Globe analysis found in February. That includes funding for police training as well as services for “economically-disadvantaged persons in communities disproportionately impacted by high rates of arrest and incarceration for marijuana offenses,” as is specified in the law.

Title and CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman wrote an op-ed last week that’s critical of the fact that while 70 marijuana establishment licenses have been issued to social equity applicants, only three such businesses have been able to open at this point. They’re calling for the approval of a separate Senate bill that would create a social equity loan fund to promote participation in the industry by those from disadvantaged communities.

“We must work together to fully enact our landmark cannabis economic opportunity law in Massachusetts,” they wrote. “We invite all of our colleagues to take ownership of the progress that is possible if we close the gaps holding equity back.”

Adding to the frustration over the new amendment is the current national reckoning over police brutality and killings of unarmed black Americans, which has led to calls to defund law enforcement.

“Wild how reparations are perceived as unworkable when cartoonishly regressive redistribution like this is just written in without fanfare,” ACLU of Massachusetts staffer Mark Sheridan tweeted.

Wild how reparations are perceived as unworkable when cartoonishly regressive redistribution like this is just written in without fanfare. https://t.co/UsPoNsMeif

— Mark Sheridan (@Mark_Sheridan) July 20, 2020

No money for equity or social justice from our cannabis taxes as it was voted on by the people but let’s give that money to the police? Hell no! https://t.co/EPSGSShaWS

— The Young Jurks (@TheYoungJurks) July 20, 2020

This is hell https://t.co/EKb0JtDQkX

— Kumar Rao (@KumarRaoNYC) July 20, 2020

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Aaron Michlewitz (D) said in a tweet that there is “misinformation” circulating that the legislation “changes the marijuana revenue structure or creates a new fund for police training.”

Subject to annual apporiation, the Cannabis law that went into effect in 2018, always included funding for behavioral health, admistative costs for @MA_Cannabis & police training. This bill does not change that. It only references it since we are amending the training. (4/4)

— Aaron Michlewitz (@RepMichlewitz) July 20, 2020

‘The cannabis law that went into effect in 2018, always included funding for behavioral health, admistative [sic] costs for @MA_Cannabis & police training,” he said. “This bill does not change that. It only references it since we are amending the training.”

The House is expected to hold a vote on the revised policing reform bill on Thursday.

In contrast to the Massachusetts move, the Portland, Oregon City Council approved a law enforcement budget bill last month that divests marijuana tax revenue funds from the city’s police department.

In other marijuana equity moves outside of policing reform, Colorado regulators are soliciting feedback on a proposal to create a franchise cannabis business model to promote participation in the industry by people from communities harmed by the war on drugs.

Read the text of the marijuana tax revenue provision of the House committee amendment below: 

H4860 by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

This story was updated to include comment from Michlewitz.

The post Massachusetts Bill To Use Marijuana Tax Revenue For Police Training Draws Criticism appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Third Party Presidential Candidates Push For Marijuana Legalization And Drug Decriminalization

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 15:58

The presidential nominees for the Libertarian and Green Parties both support bolder drug policy proposals, including marijuana legalization, than presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden or President Trump.

Libertarian pick Jo Jorgensen and Green nominee Howie Hawkins recently discussed their views on the issue and backed legalizing cannabis for adult use and more broadly ending the criminalization of other currently illicit substances.

“The biggest problem we have right now is not the drugs, it’s the drug prohibition,” Jorgensen said during an interview with C-SPAN this month. “Now, do drugs and alcohol cause problems? Of course they do. However, they’d be much more manageable if it were legal.”

“What’s the difference between me drinking bourbon in my home and somebody else smoking marijuana in their own home?” she said. “If there is no victim, there is no crime.”

Ending the failed drug war would be a top priority if elected. It has led to the highest incarceration rate in the world. On day 1, I would pardon ALL nonviolent, victimless offenders in federal prisons. If there is no victim, there is no crime pic.twitter.com/bwtnw5VUja

— Jo Jorgensen (@Jorgensen4POTUS) April 16, 2020

The US prison population jumped from 350k to 2.3mil in just 30 years.
The overall crime rate went down, however.
How is this possible?
Draconian sentence lengths, mandatory minimums, and an increase in the number of drug laws which creates more “crimes”#WarOnDrugs

— Jo Jorgensen (@Jorgensen4POTUS) June 11, 2020

The Libertarian candidate later described the drug war as an example of how “racial injustice” is “built into our our laws.”

Hawkins also recently talked about drug policy reform as a tool to combat mass incarceration during a remotely delivered speech for the Green Party National Convention.

“We’ve got to treat drug abuse as a health problem. You should legalize marijuana and decriminalize the hard drugs like Portugal,” he said. “Instead of just throwing people in prison and building the biggest prison industrial system in the world—which Joe Biden had a lot to do [with], he wrote the legislative architecture for that as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee—we should be treating drug addiction as a health problem, not a criminal problem.”

The war on marijuana has caused tremendous damage and Joe Biden has been a major force in waging it. When we end the marijuana war we need to do so not only to create a policy that will work for the future but one that corrects the mistakes of the past. https://t.co/CaibkAPOqq pic.twitter.com/eJjWZvBdYz

— Howie Hawkins (@HowieHawkins) April 20, 2020

The candidate also argued in a separate interview with C-SPAN that removing criminal penalties for illicit drugs can “can reduce opioid overdoses” by ending stigmas attached to seeking treatment.

“We want to decriminalize all drugs, except marijuana—we just want to legalize it like alcohol and tobacco,” he said. “It’s not as dangerous as those two drugs and it should be taxed and regulated. For other illicit drugs, we want to do like they did in Portugal about 20 years ago.”

One of the central changes to policing is to end the war on drugs. 20% of incarcerated people in the US are locked up due to a drug offense. We need to legalize marijuana, decriminalize other drugs, and make treatment readily available like Portugal did.https://t.co/tBvCm4m2Jh pic.twitter.com/yPaOniowr1

— Howie Hawkins (@HowieHawkins) June 25, 2020

It's time we reverse the devastating impact the War on Drugs has on our communities, as one of the basic sources of mass incarceration. We need to legalize marijuana, decriminalize personal use of other drugs, and expunge the records of those imprisoned.https://t.co/jmjPTpbZwB pic.twitter.com/HOgqaCo5vQ

— Howie Hawkins (@HowieHawkins) April 20, 2020

Both third-party nominees are going further on drug policy than either Biden or Trump, neither of whom support legalizing marijuana.

Biden, who during his decades as a senator championed punitive drug legislation, has so far drawn the line at decriminalizing cannabis possession, federal rescheduling, medical marijuana legalization, expungements and allowing states to set their own policies.

For his part, Trump has voiced tentative support for legislation to allow states to set their own cannabis policies without federal interference and also backs medical cannabis.

That said, while the president’s reelection campaign has been working to frame him as the criminal justice reform candidate, he hasn’t proactively championed cannabis reform, has made several anti-marijuana administration hires and issued signing statements stipulating that he reserves the right to ignore long-standing congressional riders that prohibit the Justice Department from using its funds to interfere with state-legal medical marijuana programs.

Also, despite his pledged support for medical cannabis and states’ rights, Trump evidently holds some negative views toward marijuana consumption, as evidenced in a recording from 2018 that was leaked two years later. In that recording, the president said that using cannabis makes people “lose IQ points.”

Biden Doesn’t Need To Back Marijuana Legalization, Potential VP Pick Says

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

The post Third Party Presidential Candidates Push For Marijuana Legalization And Drug Decriminalization appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

USDA Appoints Hemp Industry Executive To Federal Trade Advisory Panel

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 13:02

An executive at a hemp advocacy group has been appointed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to a federal advisory committee on trade issues, officials announced on Friday.

Kevin Latner, vice president of marketing for the National Industrial Hemp Council (NIHC), will serve as a member of a panel focused on trade in processed foods alongside representatives from major well-known brands and organizations. This appears to be the first time a hemp market advisor has been appointed to formally guide federal policy since the crop was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

The panel is “an important avenue to support export marketing by providing input into government policies on trade agreements and foreign import standards,” Latner told Marijuana Moment.

“Because U.S. exports of industrial hemp and hemp products are relatively new, it is critical to insert hemp into existing agreements and incorporate it into ongoing negotiations,” he said. “I am honored to be able to represent farmers, producers and product manufacturers through my service on” the committee.

Latner and other members newly appointed to this and other panels focused on additional categories of goods will serve until 2024, USDA and USTR said in notices.

Besides Latner, other advisors on the proceeded foods trade committee include representatives from the Kraft Heinz Company, Brewers Association, Wine Institute, PepsiCo., Campbell’s and National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

USDA and USTR created the group to “advise, consult with, and make recommendations…on matters that are of concern to the United States and to its consumers, producers, processors, and traders of processed foods in connection with the trade policy activities undertaken by the United States” and to “provide advice and information regarding trade issues that affect both domestic and foreign production and trade concerning processed foods.”

The committee is expected to generate “advisory opinions and reports regarding trade policy as requested by” federal officials.

“NIHC is honored to have been chosen to have a voice at the table to represent the interests of hemp farmers and the hemp industry,” NIHC Board Chairman Patrick Atagi said in a press release. “It’s critical to defend U.S. leadership in industrial hemp production by having regulations focused on trade that expand market access.”

We are pleased to announce NIHC Senior Vice President for Marketing Kevin Latner has been appointed to serve as the lone voice for hemp on the USDA/USTR Ag Policy Committee.

Read More: https://t.co/JkAmfIz455#hemp #industrialhemp #USDA #USTR pic.twitter.com/REeDnArXH2

— National Industrial Hemp Council (@NatHempCouncil) July 17, 2020

“NIHC participation on the [Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees for Trade] reflects our commitment to support farmers and producer trade interests and we look forward to the good work Kevin will deliver on behalf of hemp farmers across the country,” he said.

Under a trade deal signed earlier this year, China will be required to buy a lot more hemp from the U.S.

Latner’s appointment represents another step toward normalizing the industry since the non-intoxicating cannabis crop’s legalization through the 2018 Farm Bill. USDA has been actively engaged in rulemaking for the industry, adjusting its programs to accommodate hemp farmers and approving state, tribal and territory hemp regulatory plans.

USDA clarified in guidance last year that hemp plants and seeds are able to be imported from other countries.

Montana County Officials Say Marijuana Legalization Measures Will Qualify For State Ballot, Campaign Confirms

The post USDA Appoints Hemp Industry Executive To Federal Trade Advisory Panel appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

DOJ is ‘protecting consumers’ access to cannabis’ (Newsletter: July 20, 2020)

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 10:26

VP contender: Biden need not back legal marijuana; MT cannabis campaign has enough ballot signatures; ID officials reject e-petition request

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  • Kenny Golson: “Marijuana Moment has provided me with valuable information as I try to keep track of Pennsylvania legislation on the use of cannabis. It is an aspiration of mine to grow and sell in Pennsylvania. Tom and Marijuana Moment allow me to stay up to date as I try to enter the industry.”

https://www.patreon.com/marijuanamoment

/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Makan Delrahim wrote in a little-noticed letter that controversial investigations of marijuana industry mergers are “consistent with protecting consumers’ access to cannabis products, not with animosity toward the industry.”

  • “In particular, the Division was forced to consider whether the antitrust laws could or should be applied to protect and promote lower prices and increased output of a substance that is facially illegal under federal law. Ultimately, the Division determined, in consultation with others in the Department, that it should analyze proposed transactions in that industry to determine whether ‘the effect of such acquisition may be substantially to lessen competition,’ as required under” federal law.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), who is being considered as a potential vice presidential pick, said presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden doesn’t need to back legalizing marijuana even though a majority of voters support it.

  • “I think you can have problems with marijuana and I don’t like the way it is just put out there as though there’s no problems at all… I think that part of the legalization movement is selling something that I don’t believe is accurate to communities of color, that the reason why we need to legalize it is to address the disproportionate arrest and incarceration rate.”

Montana marijuana activists say official data from county elections officials shows they collected enough signatures to qualify two legalization measures for the state’s November ballot. The secretary of state must formally certify the initiatives by August 20.

Idaho’s secretary of state rejected a medical cannabis campaign’s request to collect electronic signatures for their ballot measure. They’re now considering suing to get the same relief a federal judge has already granted to a separate education funding effort.

/ FEDERAL

A federal judge delayed the trial of a former Fall River, Massachusetts mayor who is accused of extorting marijuana businesses.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn spoke about the agency’s efforts to formulate CBD regulations.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is seeking public input on its 2021-2025 strategic plan.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) sent a press release cheering the inclusion of language protecting state medical cannabis laws in Justice Department funding legislation.

The House bill to require the Food and Drug Administration to allow CBD as a dietary supplement got one new cosponsor for a total of 12.

/ STATES

Missouri’s secretary of state ordered Cannabis Plus Missouri LLC and its executives to pay penalties and restitution for unregistered securities it sold.

One North Dakota campaign says it is “pretty close” to getting the required number of signatures to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the ballot.

Massachusetts regulators released draft revised marijuana rules.

California regulators submitted a report to lawmakers on local jurisdictions awarded marijuana equity grant funds. Separately, the state Department of Justice reported that cannabis arrests are down but that racial disparities in enforcement persist.

Rhode Island regulators are accepting applications for additional medical cannabis dispensary licenses.

Wisconsin regulators will hold a public hearing on proposed hemp rules on Thursday.

West Virginia’s top medical cannabis regulator said the program should launch in the spring.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,500 cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

/ LOCAL

Portland, Maine activists filed a proposed ballot measure to repeal the cap on the number of marijuana dispensaries.

/ INTERNATIONAL

The UK’s National Health Service is planning to manufacture its own medical cannabis oil.

Bermuda’s attorney general filed a bill to expunge marijuana convictions.

British Columbia, Canada’s premier said he misspoke by calling drug addiction a choice, and said he would back decriminalization efforts.

Two Guernsey deputy ministers submitted a proposal to direct a committee to develop a  marijuana legalization plan.

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A study of people with sickle cell disease found that “inhaled cannabis was safe” and “was more effective than inhaled placebo in interference in mood, but there was no statistically significant difference in pain rating between cannabis and placebo.”

Researchers developed a method that “can detect 48 individual terpenes and terpenoids and was validated for selectivity, linearity, LOD/LOQ, precision, intermediate precision, and accuracy (recovery) for 22 terpenes and terpenoids.”

/ ADVOCACY, OPINION & ANALYSIS

A poll found that New Zealanders support a marijuana legalization referendum, 43%-39%.

Several organizations are hosting a Drug Policy Reform Seminar on August 15 ahead of the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

/ BUSINESS

Canopy Growth Corp. did another round of layoffs.

Woodstock Ventures LC, which owns the rights to the Woodstock music festival, asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to uphold a lower court’s ruling allowing it to sell marijuana products under that name despite protestations from Woodstock Roots LLC.

Arkansas medical cannabis dispensaries have sold $109 million worth of products since the program launched in May 2019.

/ CULTURE

TV host Pat Robertson said, “All this drug addiction, can you imagine somebody made in the image of God is a slave to a bunch of weeds? I mean, you know, they’re plants and vegetables. Cocaine, marijuana, all these things are vegetables, and we’re supposed to be in charge. He said, ‘I’m going to give you dominion over the whole earth,’ and yet we’re slaves to vegetables. I mean, this is so humiliating.”

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The post DOJ is ‘protecting consumers’ access to cannabis’ (Newsletter: July 20, 2020) appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Montana County Officials Say Marijuana Legalization Measures Will Qualify For State Ballot, Campaign Confirms

Fri, 07/17/2020 - 20:29

Montana marijuana activists said on Friday that official county-level data shows they’ve collected enough valid signatures to qualify two legalization measures for the November ballot.

Despite signature gathering setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic, New Approach Montana says its revised petitioning strategy paid off and they managed to amass enough valid submissions for both their statutory cannabis legalization measure and a separate constitutional amendment that would make a technical change stipulating that only those 21 and older could participate in the market.

That’s based on both county-level signature validation data the campaign reviewed as well as their own verification process.

The statutory measure to establish a regulated cannabis market for adult use in the state required about 25,000 signatures in order to qualify, and the group said 33,000 have been verified.

The separate constitutional amendment the group backed required 51,000 valid signatures—and the campaign said they have 52,860 verified.

Pepper Petersen, spokesperson for New Approach Montana, told Marijuana Moment that the campaign is “really excited that we’ve seen such a broad support for the policies in Montana for this change.”

“Every single legislative district submitted signatures for this drive, all 56 counties, every little small town, people contributed signatures to this in Montana. We think that shows a huge level of support out here, and we’re excited going forward,” he said. “We’re confident that people are going to support this at the ballot as much as they did in the signature gathering process.”

While social distancing and shelter-in-place orders forced the campaign to temporarily suspend their activities, they resumed in May with new safety protocols in place.

Petersen said that it was a combination of both the commitment of volunteers and the widespread interest in the policy change among voters that led to their success.

“I think that that the success is, of course, our volunteers and our staff were really hard workers and our supporters contributed to that,” he said. “But it was just the excitement for Montanans. Montanans want this change and they think it’s well past time for it.”

While organizers say the official county-level data and the campaign’s independent analysis indicates the initiatives will make the ballot, the secretary of state must still confirm their qualification. The office has until August 20 to verify the measures to the governor.

Marijuana Moment reached out to the secretary of state’s office for comment, but a representative did not immediately respond.

Next steps for the campaign will involve “meeting with community leaders and going out encouraging folks to digest the legislation and see the positive that it’s going to bring to the state and just make sure we talk to as many folks in the state as possible about that,” Petersen said.

The campaign is also seeking donations to support its work in the weeks ahead, it said in an email blast on Friday.

“The good news is that, as of today, the official county numbers show that our campaign collected enough valid signatures to qualify both of our initiatives for the ballot. That’s an incredible achievement, and we’re grateful to everyone who supported that effort,” organizers wrote to supporters. “But here’s the bad news: this is going to be a tough fight, and due to the challenges we faced in the signature drive, we were forced to spend far more than we planned. And now, we’re behind our fundraising goals.”

Here’s a status update on other 2020 drug policy reform campaigns across the country: 

Oregon’s secretary of state confirmed this month that separate measures to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs while expanding treatment services will appear on the November ballot.

Washington, D.C. activists turned in what they believe are more than enough signatures to put a broad psychedelics decriminalization measure on the November ballot this month.

In Arizona, the organizers of a legalization effort turned in 420,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot this month.

Organizers in Nebraska this month submitted 182,000 signatures in an attempt to put a medical marijuana measure on November’s ballot.

Idaho activists behind a medical marijuana legalization initiative could get a second wind after a federal judge said recently that the state must make accommodations for a separate ballot campaign due to signature gathering complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The cannabis campaign is now considering a lawsuit seeking the same relief.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and stay-at-home mandates, measures to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes qualified for South Dakota’s November ballot.

The New Jersey legislature approved putting a cannabis legalization referendum before voters as well.

And in Mississippi, activists gathered enough signatures to qualify a medical cannabis legalization initiative for the ballot—though lawmakers also approved a competing (and from advocates’ standpoint, less desirable) medical marijuana proposal that will appear alongside the campaign-backed initiative.

A campaign to legalize cannabis in Missouri officially gave up its effort for 2020 due to signature collection being virtually impossible in the face of social distancing measures.

North Dakota marijuana legalization activists are shifting focus and will seek qualification for the 2022 ballot.

Washington state activists had planned to pursue a drug decriminalization and treatment measure through the ballot, but citing concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak, they announced last month that they will be targeting the legislature instead.

Top Idaho Official Dismisses Medical Marijuana Campaign Request For Signature Gathering Relief

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

The post Montana County Officials Say Marijuana Legalization Measures Will Qualify For State Ballot, Campaign Confirms appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Top Idaho Official Dismisses Medical Marijuana Campaign Request For Signature Gathering Relief

Fri, 07/17/2020 - 18:13

The Idaho secretary of state sent a dismissive response to a group of medical marijuana advocates that requested the ability to collect signatures for their proposed ballot initiative electronically, as is being permitted under a federal judge’s order for a separate campaign.

The Idaho Cannabis Coalition wrote to the office on two separate occasions in recent days, laying out the argument that they have been disadvantaged in signature gathering due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic and threatening litigation if relief isn’t offered. A federal judge agreed last month that those restrictions necessitated accommodations for the separate, education funding-focused initiative.

The marijuana activists said they hoped to avoid litigation with the state and asked officials to proactively lengthen the signature gathering period and let them conduct digital petitioning efforts. But in a letter sent to the campaign on Thursday, Deputy Secretary of State Jason Hancock argued that it would be illegal for the state to allow e-signatures and extend the deadline, and advised them to instead take up their complaints with the legislature.

“What your client is requesting would violate a myriad of Idaho laws relating to initiatives,” the letter, which was obtained by Marijuana Moment, states. “The Secretary of State lacks the constitutional or statutory authority to repeal or modify these laws on initiatives, and therefore has no authority to grant what your client seeks.”

“Since the Idaho Constitution vests the Idaho Legislature with the authority to establish the laws under which initiatives are qualified for the ballot, your client should request that the Legislature change these laws,” Hancock wrote. “If it is critical that your client’s initiative be placed on the November 2020 general election ballot, as opposed to the November 2022 general election ballot, they should also request that the Governor call a special session of the Legislature immediately, in order to pass these law changes with an emergency clause, enabling them to be effective for the November 2020 general election.”

This response isn’t especially surprising given that officials are appealing the federal ruling concerning the other campaign. An appeals court rejected the state’s request for a stay of the order, but the overall case is ongoing while the education funding advocates begin collecting electronic signatures.

“We are not surprised that the secretary of state would dismiss our request for the same relief given Reclaim Idaho. They are offering the same sort of response they gave Reclaim Idaho, the same flimsy reasoning that the courts have already rejected,” Russ Belville, campaign spokesperson for the Idaho Cannabis Coalition, told Marijuana Moment. “We always knew protecting patients in America’s most pot-hating state would require a great deal of effort. Now it appears it will require a lawsuit. We will be coordinating with our donors and legal team this weekend to determine if and how we can make that happen.”

Tamar Todd, legal director for the New Approach PAC, which is lending support to the state cannabis effort, told Marijuana Moment that the letter “did not address the court’s decision in his response or the fact that the coalition is similarly situated to Reclaim Idaho and entitled to the same relief.”

If the cannabis campaign is ultimately allowed to proceed with signature gathering, they will need 55,057 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Activists said they have about 45,000 unverified signatures on hand at this point, and they’re confident that can fill the gap if they get the deadline extension and electronic petitioning option.

Under the proposed ballot measure, patients with qualifying conditions could receive medical cannabis recommendations from physicians and then possess up to four ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants.

Advocates say that passing medical cannabis in one of the remaining states without such policies on the books would be a significant victory for patients in its own right—but it could also have outsized federal implications. A House-passed bill to protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators is currently pending action in a Senate committee chaired by a senator who represents the state.

Creating a medical marijuana program in Idaho, which is one of small handful of states that don’t yet even have limited CBD laws, could put additional pressure on Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) to move the financial services legislation in Congress.

Read the text of the deputy secretary of state’s letter to the medical marijuana campaign below:

Mr. Dixon,

Thank you for the letters we received from you on July 9 and July 15, relating to your client’s desire to place an initiative dealing with marijuana on Idaho’s November 2020 general election ballot. What your client is requesting would violate a myriad of Idaho laws relating to initiatives. The Secretary of State lacks the constitutional or statutory authority to repeal or modify these laws on initiatives, and therefore has no authority to grant what your client seeks.

Since the Idaho Constitution vests the Idaho Legislature with the authority to establish the laws under which initiatives are qualified for the ballot, your client should request that the Legislature change these laws. If it is critical that your client’s initiative be placed on the November 2020 general election ballot, as opposed to the November 2022 general election ballot, they should also request that the Governor call a special session of the Legislature immediately, in order to pass these law changes with an emergency clause, enabling them to be effective for the November 2020 general election.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Jason Hancock

This story was updated to include comment from Belville.

Biden Doesn’t Need To Back Marijuana Legalization, Potential VP Pick Says

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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Biden Doesn’t Need To Back Marijuana Legalization, Potential VP Pick Says

Fri, 07/17/2020 - 17:14

A congresswoman who’s reportedly being considered as a vice presidential pick for Joe Biden said on Thursday that she doesn’t feel the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee needs to back marijuana legalization despite widespread calls from advocates and majority support among voters.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), who herself has cosponsored federal legalization legislation and other reform bills, was asked about Biden’s position during an interview with members of the Sacramento Press Club. She responded that “I don’t necessarily think that he should” embrace adult-use legalization, though she personally feels that certain federal cannabis policies should change.

“What I do think the federal government should do is stay out of the states,” she said. “In other words, where states have legalized it, I don’t think the federal government should supersede that a couple.”

Watch Bass discuss Biden and marijuana policy, starting around 5:50 into the video below: 

The congresswoman also stressed that Congress should approve legislation protecting banks that service state-legal marijuana businesses and also promote research into cannabis, which she argued is not “a panacea.”

“I think you can have problems with marijuana and I don’t like the way it is just put out there as though there’s no problems at all,” she said, adding that racial disparities in cannabis arrests persist in states after they legalize—an argument commonly raised by proponents of maintaining prohibition.

“I think that part of the legalization movement is selling something that I don’t believe is accurate to communities of color, that the reason why we need to legalize it is to address the disproportionate arrest and incarceration rate,” Bass said. “Now I’m happy to say I’m wrong—within a few years, if data proves me wrong—but I’m suspicious of that.”

Recent data from the ACLU does seem to contradict the sentiment that the legalization movement is being misleading with racial justice arguments. While a study of police data by the group found that some racial disparities remain in legal states, arrests in those jurisdictions are sharply down overall and disparate enforcement is significantly more intense in states that have only decriminalized possession or where cannabis remains illegal compared to those that have enacted full legalization.

While the comments from the Democratic congresswoman might seem surprising given that Bass has signed on to a legislation to federally deschedule cannabis and a resolution condemning the racial injustice of the broader drug war, she hasn’t been historically consistent on the issue. For example, she previously voted against an amendment to protect all legal marijuana states from Justice Department interference before switching to a “yes” vote last year.

Curiously, after voting in favor of a more modest amendment to protect only medical cannabis states from federal interference in 2012, she voted against the same measure in subsequent votes in 2014 and 2015.

That said, she also chaired a historic Judiciary subcommittee hearing last year on ending federal marijuana prohibition, stating at the time that the “war on drugs was racially biased from its inception and has been carried out in a discriminatory fashion with disastrous consequences for hundreds of thousands of people of color and their communities.”

In any case, if Bass is ultimately selected as Biden’s running mate, it appears clear she likely won’t be pushing for him to adopt a pro-legalization stance. Advocates hoped a criminal justice reform task force organized by Biden and former primary campaign rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would recommend the broad policy change, but that didn’t pan out.

As it stands, Biden, who during his decades as a senator championed punitive drug legislation, has so far drawn the line at decriminalizing cannabis possession, federal rescheduling, medical marijuana legalization, expungements and allowing states to set their own policies.

NORML circulated a petition this week that calls on Biden and President Trump to support legalization and several other social equity proposals ahead of the November election.

Justice Department Investigations Are ‘Protecting Consumers’ Access’ To Marijuana, Top Official Says

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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Justice Department Investigations Are ‘Protecting Consumers’ Access’ To Marijuana, Top Official Says

Fri, 07/17/2020 - 15:45

Although a Justice Department whistleblower told Congress that resources were improperly expended investigating marijuana industry mergers due to the attorney general’s bias against legalization, a top department official says that those actions are better understood as helping to ensure consumers have affordable access to products in a competitive cannabis market—a curious position for the federal government to take.

The dispute was the subject of a contentious hearing before the House Judiciary Committee last month at which Democratic lawmakers slammed Attorney General William Barr over the allegations that he inappropriately directed DOJ’s Antitrust Division to scrutinize 10 proposed marijuana business transactions because he opposes the industry.

But in a little-noticed letter to lawmakers earlier this month, Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division, said that the investigations were actually “consistent with protecting consumers’ access to cannabis products, not with animosity toward the industry.”

“As the Division was deciding whether to open an investigation, it faced significant matters of first impression regarding the role of antitrust in this industry,” he wrote. “Effective antitrust enforcement seeks to preserve market conditions that will lead to lower prices and higher output, quality, and innovation.”

Delrahim pointed out that the division had “no prior experience—let alone subject matter expertise” in the marijuana industry, and so a proposed transaction involving MedMen and PharmaCann presented a unique opportunity to look at the cannabis market.

“In particular, the Division was forced to consider whether the antitrust laws could or should be applied to protect and promote lower prices and increased output of a substance that is facially illegal under federal law,” he said in the letter, which was first reported by Politico. “Ultimately, the Division determined, in consultation with others in the Department, that it should analyze proposed transactions in that industry to determine whether ‘the effect of such acquisition may be substantially to lessen competition,’ as required under” federal law.

At the House Judiciary Committee hearing, the whistleblower, John Elias, argued that there wasn’t an appropriate basis for the probes, which at one point accounted for one-third of the Antitrust Division’s cases and caused cannabis companies to submit at least 5,965,000 documents for potential review by officials. Career staff had recommended against scrutinizing the transactions, only to be overruled by political appointees.

Delrahim argued in his letter that Elias’s testimony is “misleading and lacks critical facts,” and stated that he “did not work on, oversee, or otherwise have any first-hand involvement in the matters about which he testified.”

The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, to which Elias’s complaint was referred, ultimately concluded that no rules had been violated in ordering the investigations, regardless of the allegation about Barr’s prejudice against the cannabis industry. That said, the matter is also separately being looked into by the inspector general, according to a June memo.

Delrahim explained in his letter that the probes took up so much time and resources because the division had to “build out an understanding of the industry from scratch.”

“Moreover, the sale of cannabis is subject to unique, state-specific regulatory and legal structures; because it cannot be transported across state lines, learning about the industry in one state reveals nothing about likely competitive effects of a transaction in another,” he wrote.

Three dozen House Democrats filed a resolution last month calling for an impeachment inquiry into Barr’s conduct, with the measure saying he “abused the power of his office to initiate pretextual antitrust investigations into ‘unpopular’ American corporations in the cannabis, automobile, and technology industries.”

Read the full letter defending DOJ’s marijuana industry investigations below:

DOJ Defends Marijuana Indus… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Lawmaker Revises Misleading Comments On Marijuana Protections In Congressional Report

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GOP Congressman Withdraws Amendment To Block D.C. Psychedelics Decriminalization

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 20:15

A GOP congressman filed an amendment to a spending bill on Wednesday, seeking to undermine a local Washington, D.C. ballot initiative to deprioritize enforcement of laws against a broad class of psychedelics.

But while Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) made the case that his proposed measure represented a reasonable compromise—making it so only psilocybin mushrooms would be low police priorities and only if a doctor recommended them for medical reasons—he ultimately withdrew the amendment rather than force a vote.

“This amendment deals with Initiative 81…which would make the use of hallucinogenic drugs a low priority for enforcement in the District of Columbia,” Harris said in his opening remarks before the House Appropriations Committee.

The congressman added that he’s particularly concerned about the scope of the ballot measure, acknowledging that “there is limited data that psilocybin may be useful in some circumstances” but asserting that the same can’t be said of the other entheogenic substances such as mescaline that would be covered under the activist-driven initiative.

Watch the debate over Harris’s D.C. psychedelics amendment below: 

It should be noted that while activists behind the initiative submitted their signatures last week and believe they have more than enough to qualify for the November ballot in the nation’s capital, the Board of Elections has yet to certify them. Harris acknowledged that but said “I suspect it might be [qualified for the ballot] by the time” the spending bill goes to a bicameral House and Senate conference committee that will finalize the Fiscal Year 2021 Financial Services and General Government bill for delivery to the president’s desk later this year.

It’s not clear if he was signaling that he planned to reintroduce his amendment, which also stipulates that driving under the influence of psychedelics would be prosecutable, on the House floor or if he plans to work to get a senator to tack it onto that chamber’s version of the legislation, which deals with funding for D.C.

“I think the District of Columbia is different from other cities because we have people coming in from all over the country—and we certainly, I would hope, don’t want to be known as the drug capital of the world,” he said.

There was some debate on the measure by the panel. House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee Chairman Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) voiced opposition while the subcommittee ranking member, Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) spoke in favor of the proposal.

“If the district residents want to make mushrooms a lower priority and focus limited law enforcement resources on other issues, that is their prerogative,” Quigley said. “Congress has allowed jurisdictions in California and Colorado to exercise their sovereign right to set policy on mushrooms, the District of Columbia too should be allowed to use their local funds to support their local needs and their priorities.”

Graves argued that “we all can agree that policies that increase the availability of psychedelic drugs in our nation’s capital, that’s dangerous.”

“As the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia, it should be a place where Americans come to see their government at work, for history, maybe go to a Braves-Nats game—it shouldn’t be a destination for illegal drugs,” he said.

McCollum said the amendment serves as another example of Congress attempting to impose excess regulations on D.C. and argued in favor of statehood for the district.

“Now we’re not even allowing the District of Columbia to move forward and decide whether or not this is a good idea,” she said. “I oppose the amendment.”

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) celebrated the amendment’s withdrawal with a taunt on Twitter, saying, “Regular #homerule offender @RepAndyHarrisMD tried to bar DC from using its own funds to enact a proposed ballot initiative on entheogenic plants + fungi or any similar law, but then withdrew it before the committee could defeat it.”

That prompted Harris to reply that the “process of educating Congress about how dangerous this initiative is has begun. DC has enough of a drug abuse problem without becoming the drug capital of the country.”

The process of educating Congress about how dangerous this initiative is has begun. DC has enough of a drug abuse problem without becoming the drug capital of the country. "Warrioronthehill" should be fighting AGAINST drug use, not FOR it.

— Rep. Andy Harris, MD (@RepAndyHarrisMD) July 15, 2020

Harris’s office didn’t respond to Marijuana Moment’s request for comment about whether he withdrew the amendment because he sensed he didn’t have the votes to pass it in committee.

In his closing remarks at the markup, the congressman said that his measure “is more than just mushrooms. That’s my whole point.”

“Mushrooms is psilocybin—that has a medical use. This includes mescaline, peyote, three other substances [that] have no medical use at all,” he said.

Melissa Lavasani, who proposed the D.C. ballot measure and is part of the Decriminalize Nature D.C. group working to pass it, said in a press release that “our campaign is about helping D.C. residents by enacting common sense reforms to police priorities that ensure that those using healing plant and fungi medicines are not law enforcement targets.”

This isn’t Harris’s first go at pushing for legislation that leverages Congress’s control over the D.C. budget to interfere in local drug policy issues.

Harris has been a consistent opponent of cannabis reform, repeatedly backing a long-standing congressional rider that bars D.C. from using its tax dollars to implement a legal marijuana marketplace. Last year, however, it was not included in the annual spending bill as introduced by House Democratic leaders and the congressmen didn’t attempt to introduce an amendment to reinsert it. It was included in the Senate version and was included in the final enacted bill following conference committee negotiations, however.

The Drug Policy Alliance sent a letter to committee leadership in advance of Wednesday’s hearing, urging them to oppose any attempts to interfere in D.C.’s ability to vote on the psychedelics reform initiative.

Colorado Marijuana Regulators Propose ‘Franchise’ Business Model For Equity Applicants

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.

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Colorado Marijuana Regulators Propose ‘Franchise’ Business Model For Equity Applicants

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 17:24

Colorado marijuana regulators are looking for feedback on a proposal to create a franchise cannabis business model to promote equitable participation in the industry by people from communities harmed by the war on drugs.

When legislators initially approved a bill to create an accelerator program for marijuana businesses, it was only designed to give eligible entrepreneurs an opportunity to share a cannabis facility with an existing company. But following stakeholder meetings, regulators laid out a proposal to let those entrepreneurs functionally serve as franchises of current larger marijuana businesses, operating out of separate facilities but sharing branding, advertising and intellectual property under certain conditions.

“The Division contemplates certain components of this alternative ‘separate premises’ model will be similar to a franchisor-franchisee business relationship,” the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division said in a notice last month.

In order to participate under the new model, the division said it would require a series of disclosures, including initial investments from both parties, terms of any financial arrangements and obligations for the licensee such as non-compete requirements.

Additional requirements could still be developed. For example, the department is considering whether franchisees should be offered reduced or waived rent to use facilities owned by existing businesses that agree to be “endorsement holders.” Regulators are also contemplating limitations for the amount of money a franchise can charge an accelerator licensee as a fee for use of their facilities, as well as liability rules.

“Available incentives for accelerator-endorsed licensees to support the ‘separate premises’ model may also include fee reductions resulting from increased financial assistance and no-cost rent arrangements, and reduced accelerator-endorsed licensee liability,” the division said.

Beyond potentially collecting fees from licensees, the benefit of becoming an endorsement holder under this separate premises model seems to be that they get to indirectly expand their business and exposure while supporting entrepreneurs who might not have the immediate resources to break into the industry.

That said, some advocates are weary of the proposed based on past experience.

“While accelerator programs sound good on paper, they so often create terrible long term power dynamics for smaller businesses that we can not endorse this approach,” Jason Ortiz, president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, told Marijuana Moment.

“Any relationship that puts a small business owner at the whim of a larger conglomerate makes us concerned that the power dynamic there does not favor the smaller business, who will now have their operation tied to the success of the larger entity,” he said. “We instead encourage any business to invest in grant based programs that allow for smaller businesses to operate on their own premises and to run their business how they see fit.”

At the same time, Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told Marijuana Moment that the proposal “looks like it could create a lot of opportunities for people to get into the industry without having large amounts of capital and could generally lower the barriers of entry significantly.”

“Judging from the comments in the feedback solicitation, it appears that the possibility of predatory or unfair franchise relationships is at the front of the Marijuana Enforcement Division’s priorities and it intends to make it very difficult for endorsement licensees to exploit accelerator licensees,” he said. “However, we’ve learned from the shortcomings and abuses in other equity programs around the country that it is important to continually monitor and assess these programs to ensure their effectiveness.”

Stakeholders can fill out an online form to submit input on the proposal. A hearing to finalize the rulemaking is tentatively set for July 30.

At the same time, the division is also working on the implementation of a bill that defines who qualifies as a social equity cannabis business applicant for the accelerator program. Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed that legislation, which also gives him authority to streamline pardons for prior marijuana convictions, last month.

The division is scheduled to hold a separate hearing on implementing the new bill on July 28.

Illinois Collects $52 Million In Marijuana Tax Revenue In First Six Months Of Legal Sales

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Lawson.

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Psychedelic Therapists Petition Government For Permission To Dose Themselves In Order To Better Treat Patients

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 14:26

As a group of terminally ill patients in Canada awaits word from the minister of health on whether they can legally access psychedelic mushrooms for end-of-life care, their team of clinicians has tacked on an additional request: The therapists want to be able to dose themselves, too.

The group behind the request, Victoria, B.C.–based TheraPsil, a nonprofit that aims to expand access to psilocybin-based psychotherapy in Canada, says the additional step of providing safe access for therapists will ensure they gain firsthand experience into the psilocybin’s effects and its applications to psychotherapy.

“The fundamental reason to expose therapists to their own experiences with psychedelics is that, unless you have visited these realms, you are unlikely to understand their importance.”

“Part of ensuring a very high-quality psychedelic treatment for patients is to ensure high-quality training for therapists,” Spencer Hawkswell, TheraPsil’s executive director, told Marijuana Moment in an interview. “It’s greatly beneficial if therapists have had psychedelic therapy themselves.”

Few people, he offered by analogy, “would advise going to a sex therapist who’s never had sex before.”

TheraPsil, founded by clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Bruce Tobin, has been fighting for expanded access to psilocybin end-of-life care for years. In 2017, the group first filed a petition to exempt patients with certain terminal conditions from Canada’s ban on psilocybin. It was reportedly the first time a therapist had asked the Canadian government for such an exemption.

It wasn’t until this past January that TheraPsil finally heard back, Hawkswell said. “After three years of back-and-forth, they got back to us and said, ‘We’re going to be rejecting this application.’” The agency said there was no obvious medical necessity for the psychedelics.

TheraPsil was undaunted. “They say there’s no necessity,” Hawkswell said. “Maybe it’s because they haven’t met that person yet.”

In April, the group helped four more people with terminal illnesses file petitions with Health Canada and Health Minister Patty Hajdu seeking exemptions that will allow them to access psilocybin. In an interview with Marijuana Moment, Hawkswell said patients had gone months so far without a word from Hajdu, who with a stroke of a pen could allow the patients to access the drug.

“What we are working on right now is ramping up our messaging,” Hawkswell said. “We are going to try everything we can to get to the minister to make sure she sees these patients and responds to them.”

Dear @PattyHajdu, today marks the 75th day that palliative Canadians have been waiting on a reply from YOU re: their section 56 exemptions for compassionate access to #psilocybin. In the words of Dr. Bruce Tobin, TheraPsil's founder: "Please, do not make them wait any longer" pic.twitter.com/JRITGwtcMR

— TheraPsil (@TheraPsil) July 6, 2020

Efforts to allow TheraPsil’s clinicians to use psilocybin themselves are more recent. Dr. Sean O’Sullivan, an emergency room physician and psychotherapist who serves on TheraPsil’s board of directors, said the exemptions are necessary so that therapists can be better trained and more familiar with how psychedelics work in a therapeutic setting.

“The fundamental reason to expose therapists to their own experiences with psychedelics is that, unless you have visited these realms, you are unlikely to understand their importance,” O’Sullivan told Marijuana Moment. “The point is to allow therapists to understand the field they’re plowing in.”

Therapists need to be alert and able to recognize how psychedelic experiences manifest themselves in therapy, O’Sullivan said. Patients might bring up material having to do with their own birth, a traumatic experience or interactions with otherworldly beings. “If you’re not attuned to this possibility, not aware of this possibility, then it’s just going to slide by you,” he said. 

“It’s a bit like describing Beethoven’s Fifth,” O’Sullivan added. “You can describe it all you like, but at some point you have to play the music.”

As psychedelic therapy is more widely sought by patients, O’Sullivan said, demand for qualified therapists is likely to go up. “We are expecting that as we get more permission for patients to access psilocybin at the end of life,” he said, “that there will be an increase in demand for therapists that have had that psychedelic experience.”

Public opinion in Canada generally supports allowing access to psilocybin therapy for the terminally ill, TheraPsil says. A poll released by the group last month found that 59 percent of Canadians support legal access. Including respondents who said they were “ambivalent,” TheraPsil said, acceptance increased to 78 percent.

“What’s unreasonable is the political decision” to deny patients access to psilocybin, Hawkswell argued. “It’s not a scientific one, it’s not a democratic one. It’s political.”

Patients facing their imminent death often experience feelings and fears that psychedelics can help to ease, he said. Among them are demoralization, anxiety and depression. Existing treatment includes pharmaceuticals, talk therapy and occasionally inpatient treatment.

Psychedelics play a role in treatment by inducing what Hawkswell and others refer to as a “mystical experience”—a collection of psychoactive and sometimes spiritual events that accompany a psychedelic journey. The experience can reorient a person’s way of thinking, dissolving barriers between an individual and the world around them. For end-of-life patients, he explained, it can help them embrace that death “is natural—just as natural as being born.”

Practitioners note that psychedelic therapy doesn’t work the same way as many other pharmaceutical drugs, such as antidepressants or even medical marijuana. Patients usually take those substances under their own supervision and allow them to work in the background. With therapeutic use of psilocybin and other psychedelics, patients typically take the drug and undergo guided psychotherapy. Psychedelics’ unusual, sometimes disorienting effects are believed to allow patients to better approach and engage obstacles, then emerge with a fresh perspective.

Another psychedelic therapy group, Field Trip, which uses ketamine in therapy, describes the treatment on their website as a way “to press reset on your mental health.”

The emerging promise of psychedelics in recent years have caught the attention of academics, public policy reformers and even the U.S. government. Last month, the University of North Carolina (UNC) announced a $27 million project funded by the department of defense to research and develop psychedelics-inspired drugs.

That project’s researchers seem to believe they can separate psychedelics from what they describe as “disorienting” side effects, despite what Hawkswell and others say about the importance of a “mystical experience.”

“Although drugs like ketamine and potentially psilocybin have rapid antidepressant actions, their hallucinogenic, addictive, and disorienting side effects make their clinical use limited,” said Bryan L. Roth, a professor of pharmacology at UNC School of Medicine and the research team’s leader. The government partnership, UNC said, “aims to create new medications to effectively and rapidly treat depression, anxiety, and substance abuse without major side effects.”

In September of last year, Johns Hopkins University announced the launch of the nation’s first-ever psychedelic research center, a $17-million project to study the use of psychedelics to treat conditions such as opioid use disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Meanwhile, activists in the United States have advocated for state- and local-level reforms to research, decriminalize and in some cases even legalize psychedelics themselves.

At the municipal level, Denver became the first U.S. city to enact such a reform, with voters in May 2019 approving a measure to effectively decriminalize possession of psilocybin mushrooms. Soon after, officials in Oakland, California, decriminalized possession of all plant- and fungi-based psychedelics. In January of this year, Oakland activists unveiled plans to allow go further and legalize the commercial sale of natural entheogenic substances. That same month in nearby Santa Cruz, the City Council effectively decriminalized psychedelics by voting to make the enforcement of laws against them among the city’s lowest enforcement priorities.

Reformers are now pushing for similar changes in other jurisdictions. In Washington, D.C. this month, Decriminalize Nature D.C. submitted signatures to qualify a measure for November’s ballot that would decriminalize all natural psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin, ayahuasca and ibogaine.

Other reform efforts are ongoing in Oregon, where voters later this year will decide whether to legalize psilocybin therapy—the very therapy TheraPsil’s patients are pushing Canadian Health Minister Hajdu to allow. Oregon voters will also see a separate measure to decriminalize the possession of all drugs and expand access to treatment for problem use on their November ballot.

Lawmakers in Hawaii earlier this year approved a plan to study psilocybin mushrooms’ medical applications with the goal of eventually legalizing access.

In Canada, for now, psilocybin remains illegal. Hawkswell of TheraPsil, however, believes a constellation of other national policies—including medical marijuana, safe injection sites, and physician-assisted dying—support extending psilocybin access to patients in palliative care. And Canada already permits certain religious groups to use ayahuasca as religious sacrament, Hawkswell noted.

“At this point psilocybin is a reasonable medical choice for these individuals,” he told Marijuana Moment. “This is about the minister being compassionate and using her ministerial abilities to help give patients access to something that’s going to help them.”

Patients waiting to hear back from Hajdu’s office, he said, don’t have time to wait for lengthy, bureaucratic processes. “We’re not just going to keep waiting,” he told Marijuana Moment. “We do have a legal team prepared, but that’s all I’ll say.”

Psychedelics Decrim Activists Mark First Anniversary Of Denver’s Historic Psilocybin Mushroom Vote

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman

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USDA Approves Hemp Plan For Minnesota, Tennessee and Puerto Rico

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 13:01

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved hemp regulatory plans from Minnesota, Tennessee and Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

This latest development brings the total number of approved plans across states, territories and Indian tribes to 53.

“We thank USDA for their work on this new federal hemp program, and we are grateful they have approved Minnesota’s plan,” Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said. “While this is a major step forward, there are still concerns over some the regulations imposed on states and tribal governments, such as testing requirements. We look forward to continuing our dialog with USDA so we can ensure Minnesota’s hemp growers and processors are successful in this fledging industry.”

The @USDA approved Minnesota's #hemp plan today. Read a statement from Commissioner @ThommyPetersen on the announcement: https://t.co/bgKW1s02Il #MNAg #agtwitter pic.twitter.com/SeZkZtTwPg

— MN Agriculture Dept (@MNagriculture) July 14, 2020

Puerto Rico is the second territory approval since the crop was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. In May, USDA accepted the U.S. Virgin Islands’s proposed regulations.

.@USDA aprobó el plan de #PuertoRico para la producción del cáñamo o hemp bajo el Programa de Producción de Cáñamo Doméstico de los Estados Unidos.

El plan aprobado se publicará más adelante en la siguiente página: https://t.co/YbQqKbFD8C pic.twitter.com/LYTNBne63J

— Jenniffer González (@RepJenniffer) July 14, 2020

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón (R), who represents the territory in Congress, discussed her advocacy for other cannabis reform legislation—including preventing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from denying home loan benefits to veterans solely due to employment in a state-legal marijuana market—in a press release.

USDA has been signing off on hemp proposals on a rolling basis over the past year.

“USDA continues to receive and review hemp production plans from states and Indian tribes,” the department said in a notice.

While the agency released an interim final rule for a domestic hemp production program last year, industry stakeholders and lawmakers have expressed concerns about certain policies it views as excessively restrictive.

USDA announced in February that it will temporarily lift two provisions that the industry viewed as problematic. Those policies primarily concern testing and disposal requirements. The department declined to revise the THC limit, however, arguing that it’s a statutory matter that can’t be dealt with administratively.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said on several occasions that the Drug Enforcement Administration influenced certain rules, adding that the narcotics agency wasn’t pleased with the overall legalization of hemp.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still in the process of developing regulations for CBD. It sent an update on its progress to Congress in March, explaining that the agency is actively exploring pathways to allow for the marketing of the cannabis compound as a dietary supplement and is developing enforcement discretion guidance.

An FDA public comment period was reopened indefinitely for individuals to submit feedback on CBD regulations.

This month, the White House finalized a review of FDA CBD and cannabis research protocols, but it’s unclear when or if the document will be released to the public.

Also this month, FDA submitted a report to Congress on the state of the CBD marketplace, and the document outlines studies the agency has performed on the contents and quality of cannabis-derived products that it has tested over the past six years.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, hemp industry associations pushed for farmers to be able to access to certain COVID-19 relief loans—a request that Congress granted in the most recent round of coronavirus legislation.

However, USDA has previously said that hemp farmers are specifically ineligible for its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. While the department initially said it would not reevaluate the crop’s eligibility based on new evidence, it removed that language shortly after Marijuana Moment reported on the exclusion.

Two members of Congress representing New York also wrote a letter to Perdue last month, asking that the agency extend access to that program to hemp farmers.

Hemp farmers approved to produce the crop do stand to benefit from other federal loan programs, however. The department recently released guidelines for processing loans for the industry.

New Jersey Governor Says Legalizing Marijuana A ‘No-Brainer’ For Coronavirus Economic Recovery

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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Congress pushes fed employee cannabis protections (Newsletter: July 15, 2020)

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 10:12

NJ gov: Legal marijuana would help COVID recovery; ID medical cannabis activists threaten lawsuit; IL announces legalization tax haul

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  • Rob from Michigan: “I pledged to help Tom and Marijuana Moment in hopes that the silence about cannabis from Republican legislators will be broken. Republican House and Senate members need to be publicly questioned, recorded and forced to stop ignoring all matters related to removing marijuana from the Schedule I list of the Controlled Substances Act. If this happens, we may just get Trump to finally submit his clear stance on the matter. So we need journalists out there to ask these questions.”

https://www.patreon.com/marijuanamoment

/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

The House Appropriations Committee is directing the Office of Personnel Management to reconsider the current practice of firing federal employees for state-legal marijuana use. Other new directives attached to annual spending bills include expanding cannabis research and funding hemp and CBD regulations.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said legalizing marijuana should be a “no-brainer” part of the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

  • “It’s a job creator, it’s a tax revenue raiser, it checks a lot of boxes.”

Idaho medical cannabis activists are threatening to sue the state if officials don’t give them an electronic signature gathering option for their ballot measure by Thursday. A federal judge already granted that relief to a separate education campaign.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced that the state brought in $52 million in marijuana tax revenue in the first six months of legal sales.

  • “Since January, over $239 million has been spent on recreational cannabis in Illinois translating to $52 million in tax revenue, and a portion of every dollar spent will be reinvested in communities that have suffered from decades of disinvestment.”

The Drug Policy Alliance is urging the House Appropriations Committee to reject a possible amendment on Wednesday that would block Washington, D.C. from decriminalizing psychedelics through a measure likely to appear on the November ballot.

/ FEDERAL

The Department of Transportation’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee heard a presentation on the impact of hemp legalization on road safety.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration enacted a final rule making changes to regulations on the confidentiality of substance use disorder patient records.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that licensed hemp businesses are eligible for the Delta Health Care Services grant program.

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) tweeted about the case of a military veteran sentenced to five years in prison for marijuana possession, saying, “Folks, there is a lot to unpack here, but first and foremost we cannot allow our veterans to be treated this way. Second, we have to find a way for medical marijuana to be allowed in all 50 states.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) tweeted, “Communities of color are still being targeted as a result of discriminatory cannabis policies. We need to focus on restorative justice, which includes ensuring those most impacted by the failed war on drugs have equal access to this industry. We need to pass the MORE Act.”

Florida Democratic congressional candidate Jen Perelman tweeted, “I support marijuana legalization. My opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, does not.”

/ STATES

The Florida Supreme Court ordered a second round of oral arguments in a case challenging the state’s medical cannabis business vertical integration requirements.

Missouri marijuana activists are looking ahead to working to place a legalization measure on the 2022 ballot.

Maryland regulators proposed hemp rules.

Nebraska regulators certified the state’s first hemp testing lab.

Michigan regulators published an updated coronavirus-related advisory bulletin for marijuana businesses.

Utah regulators are now accepting applications from retailers that want to sell hemp products.

Massachusetts regulators sent a reminder that Wednesday is the deadline to submit public comments about quarantined marijuana vaping products.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,500 cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

/ INTERNATIONAL

The attorney general of the Bahamas said a draft marijuana legalization bill will be presented to the Cabinet “in very short order.”

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A study concluded that “medicinal cannabis is an effective and well-tolerated treatment for a number of [spinal cord injury]-related symptoms.”

A study found that “cannabis use decreased among patients with opioid use disorder” and “increased…in patients with chronic regional pain syndrome, trauma, spondylosis, and failed back surgery syndrome.”

/ ADVOCACY, OPINION & ANALYSIS

A poll of U.S. voters found that 65% support banning no-knock warrants in drug cases.

Prohibitionist organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana circulated a sign-on letter thanking presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for refusing to support cannabis legalization.

Code for America’s senior program director authored an op-ed on the organization’s efforts to help people clear their past records.

/ BUSINESS

Aphria Inc. and Aurora Cannabis Inc. reportedly held ultimately unsuccessful talks about a potential merger.

4Front Ventures Corp. announced quarterly revenue of $17 million and an adjusted loss of $2.8 million.

Innovative Industrial Properties, Inc. closed on a Blue Harbor, New Jersey property and reached a lease agreement to rent it to a subsidiary of Curaleaf Holdings, Inc.

Trulieve Cannabis Corp. announced that since more than 50% of its issued and outstanding subordinate voting shares are owned by U.S. shareholders, it will receive domestic issuer status.

NC3 Systems, which does business as Caliva is facing a lawsuit over allegations that its website is not Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant.

Metrc LLC is asking a Missouri appellate court to overturn a judge’s decision blocking it from charging fees to medical cannabis businesses for RFID tags.

/ CULTURE

Mike Tyson’s The Ranch Companies is printing CBD-infused cups that can be filled with water to create cannabis beverages.

Jane Fonda appears in an ad campaign for Uncle Bud’s hemp and CBD products.

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Illinois Collects $52 Million In Marijuana Tax Revenue In First Six Months Of Legal Sales

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 21:00

Illinois generated $52 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales in the first six months since implementation, the governor announced on Tuesday.

In total, the past half-year saw more than $239 million in cannabis sales. The state emphasized that 25 percent of the tax revenue will go toward a community reinvestment program designed to support communities most impacted by the drug war.

“Illinois has done more to put justice and equity at the forefront of this industry than any other state in the nation, and we’re ensuring that communities that have been hurt by the war on drugs have the opportunity to participate,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), who pardoned more than 11,000 people with prior marijuana convictions ahead of the program’s implementation, said in a press release.

The Illinois Department of Revenue took in about $35 million in revenue from excise taxes as well as $18 million in sales taxes that are being shared with local jurisdictions. The administration estimates that about $26 million will go to the state’s general fund.

“I’m proud to work with Governor Pritzker in creating equity in the cannabis industry in a way that no other state has done,” Toi Hutchinson, the state’s cannabis czar, said. “By expunging hundreds of thousands of cannabis-related records, reinvesting the money spent on adult-use cannabis in Illinois into communities that are suffering, and making equity a central focus of the cannabis licensure process, the administration is ensuring that no community is left out or left behind.”

Last week, Illinois released its figures for marijuana sales for June, showing a record-breaking $47.6 million in total sales over the month. That includes $12.4 million in purchases by people visiting from out of state.

Pritzker predicted during his State of the State address in January that cannabis tourism would bolster the state’s coffers.

This latest notice also mentions that the state’s reinvestment program is offering $31.5 million in grants for “historically underserved communities across Illinois.

“In addition to providing financial support to organizations offering services in disproportionately impacted communities, the administration offered lower application fees, low-interest loans, and informational workshops on cannabis-related licenses to social equity applicants,” it states. “Governor Pritzker is also working with State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, the Prisoner Review Board, and state’s attorneys across Illinois to expunge the records of non-violent offenders with a cannabis related conviction.”

New Jersey Governor Says Legalizing Marijuana A ‘No-Brainer’ For Coronavirus Economic Recovery

The post Illinois Collects $52 Million In Marijuana Tax Revenue In First Six Months Of Legal Sales appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Congress Should Let D.C. Decriminalize Psychedelics, Advocates Say

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 19:00

Drug policy reform advocates are asking a key congressional committee to reject a Republican lawmaker’s attempt to block Washington, D.C. from enacting an initiative to decriminalize certain psychedelics.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)—who has also championed provisions preventing D.C. from implementing legal marijuana sales after local voters passed a cannabis initiative in 2014—signaled last week that he’s planning to introduce an amendment to a spending bill during a committee meeting on Wednesday that would restrict the District from allowing the psychedelics measure to be implemented even if it is approved by voters in November.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is in favor of the proposal and, on Tuesday, it sent a letter to leadership in the House Appropriations Committee asking members to oppose Harris’s amendment and any other effort to restrict the democratic process for D.C. residents.

The measure, which hasn’t formally qualified for the ballot yet but received significantly more signatures than required when activists submitted them last week, would make a wide range of entheogenic substances including psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca among the jurisdiction’s lowest law enforcement priorities. However, it wouldn’t technically change local statute.

“We urge the Committee to vote against any proposed amendment that would impede the District of Columbia’s effort to decriminalize the use of psychedelics in the District via Ballot Initiative 81,” Queen Adesuyi, policy manager of national affairs for DPA, wrote. “This ballot initiative represents an important step towards ending the racist and failed War on Drugs that disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color.”

“We understand there are intentions to block this effort from happening, and urge the Committee to vote against any amendment that would undo the will of the people of the District of Columbia,” the letter states. “We urge the Appropriations Committee to vote against an effort that would prohibit the 700,000 residents of D.C. to carry out their own democratic process and include Initiative 81, a measure that chips away at the failed drug war, on the ballot in November.”

Language of the potential Harris amendment has not been released. Marijuana Moment reached out to his office, but a representative did not immediately respond.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said in a press release last week that she would defeat the congressman’s measure, asserting that he’s “been a chronic abuser of home rule” and this is “the latest example.”

“We will continue to fight any and all attempts to overturn D.C. laws, regardless of the policy, as D.C. has a right to self-government,” she said.

Harris has been a consistent opponent of cannabis reform, repeatedly backing a long-standing congressional rider that bars D.C. from using its tax dollars to implement a legal marketplace. Last year, however, it was not included in the spending bill as introduced by House Democratic leaders and the congressmen didn’t attempt to introduce an amendment to reinsert it. He acknowledged that his party is “not in charge anymore” in the chamber. That said, the Senate did include the measure in its version of the D.C. spending bill, and it made it into the final legislation signed by the president.

But while Harris seems to have set aside efforts to push cannabis rider in the House for now, he feels more confident that some Democrats will share his views on psychedelics.

“I think there’s probably a lot of Democrats who draw a very distinct line between potent hallucinogens and marijuana,” he told The New York Post. “And whereas the majority may support recreational use of marijuana, I doubt the majority supports the broad use of these potent hallucinogens.”

Read the letter DPA sent to the House Appropriations Committee on the psychedelics initiative below: 

DPA Letter House Approps Vo… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

New Jersey Governor Says Legalizing Marijuana A ‘No-Brainer’ For Coronavirus Economic Recovery

Photo elements courtesy of carlosemmaskype and Apollo.

The post Congress Should Let D.C. Decriminalize Psychedelics, Advocates Say appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

New Jersey Governor Says Legalizing Marijuana A ‘No-Brainer’ For Coronavirus Economic Recovery

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 17:17

The governor of New Jersey said on Tuesday that legalizing marijuana could simultaneously help the state recover economically from the coronavirus pandemic while also promoting racial justice.

During an interview on the radio program Jim Kerr Anytime, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) recognized that the state is going to need to be innovative to generate revenue amid the health crisis. A co-host said cannabis could be part of the solution and the governor agreed.

“As you probably know, I’ve been on that from day one. The legislature hasn’t been able to get there yet, but absolutely. That’s, to me, an incredibly smart thing to do,” Murphy said. “We’re not inventing marijuana. It exists.”

“It’s got a huge social justice piece for me. The overwhelming percentage of persons nailed in our criminal justice system are persons of color. It’s a no-brainer in that respect,” he said. “It’s a job creator, it’s a tax revenue raiser, it checks a lot of boxes. I hope we’ll get there sooner than later.”

Listen to the governor discuss cannabis reform, starting around 8:10 into the audio below:

While the legislature has been unable to pass a marijuana legalization bill, they did approve legislation to put a referendum on the issue before voters on the November ballot. In the meantime, the state Assembly passed a cannabis decriminalization bill last month that would make possession of up to two ounces a civil penalty without the threat of jail time.

Separately, the state’s health department recently announced that it will allow medical cannabis dispensaries to deliver products to patients.

In neighboring Pennsylvania, the majority of Democratic senators sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders last week, similarly arguing that lawmakers should pursue adult-use legalization in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was asked in May about whether marijuana legalization could serve as a tool for economic recovery and he expressed support for the proposal, stating that while the legislature hasn’t yet accomplished the policy change, “I believe we will” down the line.

Idaho Medical Marijuana Activists Threaten Lawsuit After State Ignores Signature Gathering Request

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Idaho Medical Marijuana Activists Threaten Lawsuit After State Ignores Signature Gathering Request

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 16:11

A campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Idaho is threatening legal action against the state if officials continue to refuse activists an opportunity to collect signatures electronically after the coronavirus pandemic upended in-person petitioning efforts.

The same relief being requested by the cannabis advocates has already been granted to a separate campaign behind an education funding initiative after a federal judge ruled that the state’s shelter-in-place and social distancing orders inhibited them from gathering signatures. The Idaho Cannabis Coalition says it should also be entitled to the benefit.

A law firm representing the campaign sent a letter to the secretary of state on Monday, expressing disappointment that the office did not respond to an earlier inquiry seeking permission to collect signatures digitally like the other campaign. While the cannabis effort “has no interest in litigation,” the letter makes clear that the campaign will pursue that route if they don’t hear back by Thursday.

“As detailed in my earlier correspondence, the Coalition was well on its way to successfully collecting the statutorily required signatures needed to get the Act on the 2020 ballot when the March 13, 2020 state of emergency was declared,” the firm said. “As a result, the Coalition’s ability to collect signatures was destroyed. Consistent with Judge Winmill’s ruling, this had the effect of impacting the constitutional rights of groups like the Coalition.”

“Unfortunately, there is not much time to remedy this unintentional infringement,” it continues. “If the Secretary of State is unwilling to pursue a cooperative remedy for the Coalition, there simply is not time to wait given the amount of time needed to collect signatures and the impending November election.”

Tamar Todd, legal director for the New Approach PAC, which is lending support to the state cannabis effort, reiterated in an email to Marijuana Moment that the goal of the letter is “to avoid unnecessary litigation by asking the Secretary of State to allow the Coalition to collect signatures in the same manner as Reclaim Idaho.”

“The Coalition is similarly situated to Reclaim and is entitled to the same relief. But for COVID-19 and the disruption caused to signature collection, the medical marijuana petition could have qualified for the ballot,” she said.

After a federal judge ruled that the education-focused campaign could collect signatures electronically for 48 days, the state appealed. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied their request for a temporary stay of the order, but the case in ongoing. In the meantime, Reclaim Idaho has launched a site where registered voters can sign their ballot petition online through a DocuSign form.

If the cannabis campaign is ultimately allowed to proceed with signature gathering, they will need 55,057 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Activists said they have about 45,000 unverified signatures on hand at this point, and they’re confident that can fill the gap if they get the deadline extension and electronic petitioning option.

Under the proposed ballot measure, patients with qualifying conditions could receive medical cannabis recommendations from physicians and then possess up to four ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants.

Advocates say that passing medical cannabis in one of the remaining states without such policies on the books would be a significant victory for patients in its own right—but it could also have outsized federal implications. A House-passed bill to protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators is currently pending action in a Senate committee chaired by a senator who represents the state.

Creating a medical marijuana program in Idaho, which is one of small handful of states that don’t yet even have limited CBD laws, could put additional pressure on Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) to move the financial services legislation in Congress.

Read the letter to Idaho’s secretary of state on electronic signature gathering for the cannabis initiative below:

Cannabis campaign letter to… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Reconsider Firing Workers For Marijuana, Congress Tells Federal Agencies

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

The post Idaho Medical Marijuana Activists Threaten Lawsuit After State Ignores Signature Gathering Request appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Reconsider Firing Workers For Marijuana, Congress Tells Federal Agencies

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 13:53

A key House committee has released a series reports for spending bills that include a wide range of marijuana-related provisions.

In directing federal agencies to reconsider firing federal workers for state-legal consumption, promote research into cannabis and fund CBD regulations, the reports make clear that marijuana has become a mainstream issue that congressional leadership is becoming more comfortable addressing in high-profile legislative documents.

The House Appropriations Committee directives are attached to spending bills that also contain legislative reform provisions, including previously reported proposals to protect state medical marijuana laws from federal interference and shield banks from being punished for working with cannabis businesses.

Here’s a look at the new report language that’s attached to appropriations legislation:

Marijuana use by federal employees

The Financial Services and General Government spending bill report directs the Office of Personnel Management to “review its policies and guidelines regarding hiring and firing of individuals who use marijuana in States” where cannabis is legal.

“Hiring Guidelines.—The Committee encourages OPM to review its policies and guidelines regarding hiring and firing of individuals who use marijuana in States where that individual’s private use of marijuana is not prohibited under the law of the State. These policies should reflect changes to the law on marijuana usage and clearly state the impact of marijuana usage on Federal employment.”

Marijuana research

The report attached to the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding bill features a number of marijuana research provisions, including calling on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop “a multipronged strategy wherein basic and clinical scientists and public health specialists work together to address the opportunities and challenges of cannabis in a comprehensive manner.”

“Cannabis Research.—NIH currently supports a diverse portfolio of research on cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system, yet this research support typically relies on narrowly tailored program announcements and grants rather than a multipronged strategy wherein basic and clinical scientists and public health specialists work together to address the opportunities and challenges of cannabis in a comprehensive manner. The Committee encourages NIDA to continue supporting a full range of research on the health effects of marijuana and its components, including research to understand how marijuana policies affect public health, to help inform marijuana policymaking in States.”

Members also made a recommendation to provide protections for universities that conduct research into cannabis, noting the significant public interest in such studies.

“Protecting Scientific Research on Marihuana.—Through scientific research, institutions of higher education advance our understanding and knowledge of various aspects of our world. Moreover, when in the public interest, such institutions should be able to conduct such research without fear of reprisal or loss of Federal funding. This includes research on cannabis, a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. As more States and localities move to legalize cannabis, many institutions of higher education are expanding the knowledge-base on this controlled substance. As a result, the Committee notes that such research is in the public interest, and the recommendation includes new bill language prohibiting the Department from penalizing institutions of higher education that conduct scientific research on marihuana.”

The committee directed that $1 million should be appropriated for research into natural alternatives to opioids such as kratom and CBD, noting that the “wide availability and increased use of these substances” makes it “imperative to know more about potential risks or benefits, and whether or not they can have a role in finding new and effective non-opioid methods to treat pain.”

“Kratom.—The Committee notes that little research has been done to date on natural products that are used by many to treat pain in place of opioids. These natural plants and substances include kratom and cannabidiol (CBD). Given the wide availability and increased use of these substances, it is imperative to know more about potential risks or benefits, and whether or not they can have a role in finding new and effective non-opioid methods to treat pain. The Committee recommends $1,000,000 for this research, an increase of $500,000 above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level, and encourages AHRQ to make center-based grants to address research which will lead to clinical trials in geographic regions which are among the hardest hit by the opioid crisis.”

In a section concerning opioid overdose prevention, legislators wrote that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should continue its work while also investigating misuse of other substances, including stimulants and cannabis.

“Opioid Abuse and Overdose Prevention.—The Committee commends CDC for its leadership on combating opioid drug overdoses. The Committee encourages the Director to continue to implement these activities based on population-adjusted burden of disease criteria, including mortality data (age adjusted rate), as significant criteria when distributing funds for overdose prevention activities. The Committee recognizes that the substance misuse epidemic is shifting, with an increase in overdoses resulting from stimulants and other substances. The Committee urges for CDC to monitor, prevent, and reduce harms associated with drug use, misuse, and overdose, including opioids, stimulants, cannabis, and other emerging risks. The Committee appreciates efforts by CDC to ensure that funding for opioid abuse and overdose prevention reaches local communities to advance local understanding of the opioid overdose epidemic and to scale-up prevention and response activities as intended by Congress.”

Military veterans and cannabis issues

Like last year, the panel noted in a report attached to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies spending bill that veterans have been denied home loan benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) due to their work in the state-legal marijuana market. However, the department told Congress last month that it does not have a policy on the books stipulating that such employment renders veterans ineligible on its own; rather, it blamed conflicting state and federal laws for creating risk that makes it less likely for those in the industry to be eligible under the rules of private lenders.

The committee said it now wants VA to “improve communication with eligible lending institutions to reduce confusion among lenders and borrowers on this matter.”

“Home Loan Income Verification.—The Committee is aware of the Department’s denial of home loan guarantees to Veterans solely on the basis of the Veteran’s documented income being derived from state-legalized cannabis activities, and has previously expressed concern that confusion on this issue hinders Veterans’ ability to fully understand and consider how employment decisions could affect future eligibility for earned benefits. The Committee understands that as directed by House Report 116–63, VA has clarified that nothing in VA statutes or regulations specifically prohibits a Veteran whose income is derived from state-legalized cannabis activities from obtaining a certificate of eligibility for VA home loan benefits. The Committee directs the VA to improve communication with eligible lending institutions to reduce confusion among lenders and borrowers on this matter.”

The spending bill report also requests an update on a congressionally mandated marijuana research project.

“Cannabis Research.—The Committee requests an update on the status of the study on cannabis research, as described in House Report 116–63.”

Hemp research and regulations

In the report attached to the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies spending bill, the committee said it’s aware of difficulties hemp farmers face in ensuring their crops do not contain excess concentrations of THC and recognizes “that these challenges are exacerbated by lack of information, best practices, and tools to control the hemp content of THC.” To that end, it directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issues report to Congress with data on crops having to be destroyed due to excess potency.

“Hemp.—The Committee is aware of the difficulty farmers face in trying to control the legal tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of their hemp. The Committee recognizes that these challenges are exacerbated by lack of information, best practices, and tools to control the hemp content of THC. The Committee directs USDA to report to Congress on the number of acres of hemp, by state that have been required to be destroyed because the crop exceeds the limit 0.3 percent THC content; the number of producers, by state, who are found to have a negligent violation of the 0.3 percent limit; and the total number, by state, of producers whose hemp has been tested for THC.”

Another provision of the report states that USDA should conduct “genomics and bioinformatics” studies into hemp in order to identify “the genetic control of key production and product quality traits” of the crop. 

“Hemp Whole-Genome Bioinformatics.—The Committee encourages ARS to conduct genomics and bioinformatics research in collaboration with capable institutions to elucidate the genetic control of key production and product quality traits of the hemp plant. In addition, the Committee also encourages ARS to partner with institutions already engaged in such research to conduct hemp genetic improvement research and breeding with new breeding and editing techniques.”

Due to the increasing demand for hemp products, members called for $1.5 million in additional funding “to maintain the hemp germplasm repository.” They’re also seeking to appropriate about $41 million for a variety of initiatives including one concerning cannabis and cannabinoids.

“Industrial Hemp Germplasm.—The Committee recognizes the increasing demand for industrial hemp for a variety of uses and its growing importance as a crop for U.S. farmers. The Committee provides an additional $1,500,000 above the fiscal year 2020 level to maintain the hemp germplasm repository.”

“The Committee recommendation includes a net increase of $40,828,000, including increases for the following programs or initiatives: Strengthening Response Capabilities for Foodborne Outbreaks; Cannabis and Cannabis Derivatives; Artificial Intelligence and Other Emerging Technologies; Transform Medical Device Safety, Cybersecurity, Review, and Innovation; Compounding; and Modernizing Influenza Vaccines.”

Further, the report stipulates that USDA should adhere to the intent of Congress and make sure that hemp businesses are eligible for all competitive grant programs that are available to farmers and producers of other crops.

“Industrial Hemp.—The intent of Congress in Public Law 115–334 was for industrial hemp to be eligible for all USDA programs, including Rural Development. Industrial hemp can significantly benefit struggling rural economies. The Committee encourages Rural Development to ensure that industrial hemp is eligible for all competitive grant programs.”

And finally, the panel said that another $5 million should be made available to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for CBD enforcement and to develop regulations to permit the substance’s lawful marketing in the food supply or as a dietary supplement.

“Cannabidiol Enforcement.—The Committee provides an increase of $5,000,000 for enforcing the law to protect patients and the public while also providing a potential regulatory pathway for cannabis and cannabis derived products. The Committee maintains its concern about the proliferation of foods and dietary supplements marketed in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), including products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived ingredients. Non-FFDCA-compliant products continue to pose potential health and safety risks to consumers through unsubstantiated and misleading claims such as treating a wide-range of life-threatening diseases and conditions. The Committee expects the FDA to continue to prioritize consumer-safety through application of the law.”

Curbing illegal marijuana grows on public land

Lawmakers again emphasized in the report for the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill that they’re aware of illegal marijuana cultivation on public lands in California and said that these “activities harmfully impact the public, water, soil, and wildlife.”

“MARIJUANA ON PUBLIC LANDS – The Committee is aware that trespassers illegally grow marijuana on public lands in California. These unlawful activities harmfully impact the public, water, soil, and wildlife. The Committee supports Forest Service efforts to develop tools to detect and eradicate grow sites. The Committee directs the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to continue to cooperate with state, local and tribal governments on survey, reclamation, and prevention efforts to the maximum extent possible.”

Addressing marijuana-impaired driving

The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies report alleges that instances of impaired driving have “spiked” in states that have legalized marijuana and says it wants the Justice Department to “assist states in identifying detection technologies that show promise in identifying drivers impaired by marijuana.”

“Marijuana-Impaired Drivers.—With the proliferation of state laws legalizing recreational and medical marijuana, the incidence rate of impaired driving has spiked. The Committee encourages the Department to assist states in identifying detection technologies that show promise in identifying drivers impaired by marijuana.”

In the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill report, the committee also addresses impaired driving issues, saying it remains “concerned with the growing problem of people driving under the influence of one or multiple substances, including marijuana and opioids” and urges federal coordination to develop technologies that can detect active impairment from cannabis. The panel recognizes that doing so will likely not be achievable in the short-term, and so it mandates continued support for drug recognition expert training in the interim.

“Drug-impaired driving.—The Committee remains concerned with the growing problem of people driving under the influence of one or multiple substances, including marijuana and opioids. The Committee supports the goal of developing a reliable standard for all types of impaired driving and urges NHTSA to coordinate research efforts with states and other partners. At the same time, the Committee recognizes that developing a standard measurement of marijuana impairment, similar to blood alcohol concentration (BAC), remains unlikely in the near term. The Committee directs NHTSA to continue to robustly support Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) and Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) training and to prioritize the study and development of a standardized field sobriety test (SFST) to detect marijuana impairment.

“The Committee directs NHTSA to work with the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Commerce to ensure that state highway safety offices and state law enforcement have the most up-to-date information from the Federal government on detecting impaired driving including an inventory of available technologies to detect recent drug use such as oral fluid technologies. In order to increase the safety of the transportation network by reducing drug-impaired driving, the Committee directs NHTSA to work with states to determine their toxicology testing and funding needs and to provide states with flexibility in how they use impaired driving countermeasures grants, including, but not limited to, assistance with state toxicology labs.”

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