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Bipartisan Lawmakers Tell DEA To Let Researchers Study Marijuana From Dispensaries

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 19:56

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from the House and Senate sent a letter to the Justice Department on Friday, requesting a policy change allowing researchers to access marijuana from state-legal dispensaries to improve studies on the plant’s benefits and risks.

The letter, led by Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), cites feedback from federal health agencies, which have said that existing restrictions on cannabis have inhibited research. One problem in particular is that there’s only one federally authorized manufacturer of research-grade marijuana.

While the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said that it is in the process of approving additional manufacturers, it’s been more than three years since they first announced that applications for more growers would be accepted and, more recently, the agency said it would have to develop alternative rules to approve proposals that have been submitted.

“At the same time, the status quo does not address a barrier to research raised by both [the National Institutes of Health] and [the Food and Drug Administration],” the lawmakers wrote in the new letter. That barrier is a ban on researchers being able to obtain marijuana from dispensaries.

“Both agencies recommended that researchers should be able to obtain cannabis from state-legal sources,” the letter states.

Today, @SenBrianSchatz and I sent a bipartisan letter to AG Barr, urging the DEA to amend current policies to improve research on cannabis.

It’s time to bring our drug research policies into the 21st century.

— Rep. Harley Rouda (@RepHarley) December 6, 2019

Further, the lawmakers said that there are “problems in industry development of licensed drugs with data from products obtained from third-parties, such as the University of Mississippi.”

“In many states, cannabis law and regulations already provide for licensing of industrial manufacturing activities, and products are available for medical use in those states, but not for research leading to FDA licensure,” they wrote.

“There is a need for a greater diversity of cannabis products so that research on benefits and risks reflects the realities of what consumers and patients are using. NIH and FDA have strongly recommended streamlining the process for conducting research and product development activities with cannabis and other Schedule I substances, and that the DEA take action to assure that interpretations of processes and policies are universally applied in local DEA jurisdictions.”

The lack of chemical diversity in the federal government’s cannabis supply has been repeatedly pointed out. One study found that the research-grade cannabis is more similar to hemp than marijuana in commercial markets.

To resolve the research issues, the coalition made two recommendations: 1) to amend internal policy “so as to allow researchers with Schedule I licenses to obtain cannabis-derived products from state authorized dispensaries for research purposes” and 2) issue guidance clarifying that hemp researchers do not need a DEA license to obtain and study hemp because it was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

The letter requests a response from DEA by December 20.

A total of 21 members of Congress signed the letter, including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA) Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Joe Kennedy (D-MA).

“Our nation’s cannabis research laws are archaic,” Rouda said in a press release. “Forty-seven states have legalized some form of cannabis consumption—we must ensure our federal agencies and other licensed institutions can comprehensively study the benefits and risks of cannabis products.”

“I thank Senator Schatz, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, for joining me to make this common-sense request,” he said. “It’s time to bring our drug research policies into the 21st century.”

Attorney General William Barr received a similar letter from lawmakers about the need to expand the number of federally authorized marijuana cultivators in April.

Read the lawmakers’ full letter on expanding marijuana research below:

FINAL Letter to DOJ Re. Can… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

People Are Skipping Sleep Aids In Favor of Marijuana, Study Reports

The post Bipartisan Lawmakers Tell DEA To Let Researchers Study Marijuana From Dispensaries appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Oregon Activists Begin Signature Gathering For 2020 Drug Decriminalization Initiative

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 16:37

Oregon activists have begun collecting signatures for a statewide initiative to decriminalize possession of all drugs.

Three months after petitioners quietly submitted the proposed ballot measure—titled the “Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act” (DATRA)—the signature gathering process has started, with organizers deployed to Portland to raise support.

A long road lies before the activists, who need to collect 112,020 valid signatures from voters in order to qualify for the 2020 ballot. Funding and polling will decide whether they mount a full push for the decriminalization measure in the months to come.

To that end, their efforts are being helped by David Bronner, CEO of the soap company Dr. Bronner’s, who told Marijuana Moment on Thursday that he will be investing $250,000 in the decriminalization campaign. An additional $500,000 will go to a separate Oregon initiative to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which backed Oregon’s successful marijuana legalization initiative in 2014, is also supporting this new effort to make low-level drug possession an infraction punishable by a $100 fine with no jail time, rather than a misdemeanor. It remains to be seen how involved in the campaign DPA will be, however.

Peter Zuckerman, a chief petitioner for the decriminalization initiative, told OregonLive on Thursday that it’s not guaranteed that the campaign will proceed and that much rides on how much money the group can raise, whether there’s public support for the reform move and how staff recruitment comes together.

He said the main thrust of the measure is to take a “health-based approach to drug addiction rather than a criminal justice-based approach.”

The proposal caught the attention of Oregon’s teachers’ union, which said that it supports decriminalizing drug possession but wrote in a comment submitted to the secretary of state in October that it was not taking an official position because it’s concerned about another provision that would shift cannabis tax revenue away from schools.

DATRA would make it so most of that revenue would be used to fund addiction treatment programs.

At the same time that activists are collecting signatures and weighing whether to move ahead with the broad decriminalization initiative, another advocacy group is pushing for a measure to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use, allowing individuals to receive treatment with the psychedelic fungus at licensed health facilities. The group launched its signature drive in September.

Advocates in Portland are also hoping to advance a local measure to decriminalize psilocybin and other psychedelics such as ayahuasca and ibogaine.

Bronner wrote in a blog post that the decriminalization and therapeutic psilocybin legalization campaigns are “already coordinating closely and conserving resources on the statewide signature drive.”

He told Marijuana Moment that “we see this as the perfect one two punch in Oregon, legalizing psilocybin therapy that has so much promise for treating drug addiction, at the same time Oregon shifts to a treatment not jail approach.”

“And 100 percent confident it’s coming together,” he said.

All of this comes amid a national movement to decriminalize psychedelics, with activists in almost 100 cities across the U.S. considering pushing for reduced penalties for substances such as psilocybin and ayahuasca. Decriminalize Nature, which is aiding in and tracking these efforts, is also receiving donations from Bronner, he said.

Decriminalization is also gaining traction on the national stage, with two presidential candidates—South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)—voicing support for the policy change. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, another candidate, recently said that he’s open to broad decriminalization, while entrepreneur Andrew Yang backs decriminalizing opioids.

Scientist Talks Benefits Of Psychedelics At Federal Health Agency Event

The post Oregon Activists Begin Signature Gathering For 2020 Drug Decriminalization Initiative appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

North Dakota Activists Submit Measure To Legalize Marijuana In 2020

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 13:27

North Dakota activists submitted a measure to legalize marijuana for adult use to state officials on Thursday, an organizer confirmed to Marijuana Moment.

Legalize ND, the group behind the proposed statutory initiative, delivered the measure to the secretary of state’s office. It’s expected to be validated within days, after which point petitions will be distributed to collect signatures in support of qualifying for the 2020 ballot.

It’s been about a year since organizers began working on the measure, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase cannabis for personal use. The proposal is more narrowly tailored than a legalization initiative from the same organization that voters rejected in 2018, however.

The previous version didn’t include any restrictions on cultivation or possession, and it didn’t involve a licensing scheme. By contrast, the new measure would prohibit home cultivation, limit possession to two ounces, impose a 10 percent excise tax and establish a regulatory body to approve licenses for marijuana businesses.

“One of the largest complaints from last time was the mantra of ‘poorly written,'” Legalize ND’s David Owen told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview. “They targeted the lack of legal experience from our team and they targeted a lack of ‘qualified lawyers’ to be drafting language that would go into the state’s statutory law.”

But he said he’s confident the campaign will be successful this time around, in part because they spent months drafting the language with the North Dakota Legislative Council.

Asked what he’d say to voters still on the fence about legalization, Owen replied that it would depend on what their initial concerns were:

“If it’s a concern over home grow, well it’s simple, we don’t have that anymore. If it’s a concern of people having too much, we have a reasonable possession limit now—in their eyes, I still think possession limits are fundamentally arbitrary, but they wanted a possession limit so we have that now. If people go, ‘well what about the quality of the language?’ I can point to how it’s literally written by Legislative Council, so either every attorney who works for the state of North Dakota is incompetent or this is well written.”

In order to qualify for next year’s ballot, the group must collect 13,452 valid signatures from voters before July 6, 2020.

“I think the most important thing isn’t what it would do, but what it would stop from happening,” Owen told local radio station KFGO on Wednesday. “We currently have a system where people are unable to find a job because of a criminal record, we have a system where people are continuing to get marijuana charges and lose their housing, we have families being separated because of parents losing custody over their children for marijuana charges. That all stops when this is legalized.”

Listen to Owen’s radio interview about the new marijuana ballot measure below:

Download (14.7 MB)

Internal polling that received outside funding, which Owen said cannot be publicly released because of the wishes of the donor, shows the initiative is “slightly ahead” among voters.

In an earlier interview with Marijuana Moment in February, Owen said that it’s “very probable that we can do it” this time around, but much of that depended on the extent to which opposition campaigns are involved and how much funding outside groups are able to offer.

Currently, North Dakota has a medical cannabis program, and the governor signed legislation in May decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession.

Marijuana Summit Will Give Virginia Governor ‘More Tools’ To Back Legalization, Attorney General Says

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

The post North Dakota Activists Submit Measure To Legalize Marijuana In 2020 appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Feds to consider hemp biz credit card clarification (Newsletter: December 6, 2019)

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 11:36

Study: Legal marijuana cuts sleep aid use; Castro cites alcohol ban repeal to push legalization; Willie Nelson’s son confirms continued cannabis use

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Your support makes Marijuana Moment possible…

There are now 1,298 cannabis-related bills moving through state legislatures and Congress for 2019 sessions.

Never let a marijuana bill catch you by surprise with exclusive access to Marijuana Moment’s custom-built cannabis legislation tracker for just $25/month.


Federal Deposit Insurance Commission Chairwoman Jelena McWilliams said she will look into offering further clarity on hemp businesses’ ability to process credit cards in response to questioning from Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) during a hearing.

Former Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julian Castro (D), a presidential candidate, said that Thursday’s anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition is a good time to get serious about legalizing marijuana.

  • “86 years later, it’s time we end the federal prohibition of Cannabis once and for all.”

A study found that people are purchasing far fewer sleep aids as legal marijuana access expands.

  • “The magnitude of the market share decline increases as more dispensaries enter a county and with higher county-level cannabis sales.”

Willie Nelson’s son clarified that while his dad may have quit smoking marijuana, he still consumes cannabis in other forms.

  • “Between vaping, edibles, gummies, drops, etc. I think it’s safe to say Willie will never stop enjoying Mary Jane!”


The head of the Department of Veterans Affairs’s Veterans Health Administration said it would be a “mistake” for the department to conduct studies on THC levels in medical cannabis.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health published a fact sheet on cannabis and cannabinoids.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will consider a bill on marijuana- and drug-impaired driving and transportation on Wednesday.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are asking the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate Attorney General Williaam Barr’s approval of a Drug Enforcement Administration surveillance program.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) applauded new federal hemp banking guidelines.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) discussed how “our criminal justice system and the failed war on drugs continue to disproportionately impact communities of color” in a House floor speech honoring  the legacy of activist Fred Hampton.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who is backing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for president, tweeted, “.@CoryBooker deserves to be in the debate. He led the fight in Congress on the Marijuana Justice Act & criminal justice reform. How is 21st century America going to become a truly multiracial, multiethnic democracy if strong voices of color are not making even the Democrat stage.” In response to criticism from a supporter, he added, “Booker is a strong voice on criminal justice and legalizing Marijuana and worked with Barbara Lee and me on it.”

Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) cited his cosponsorship of medical cannabis legislation in a flyer touting his work for military veterans.


Massachusetts health officials revealed that six people with “probable” cases of vaping-related lung injuries reported using marijuana products from state-licensed businesses, but they “declined to say which licensed producers, products and retailers were implicated.”

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) tweeted, “Hemp production is a perfect example of value-added agriculture, an essential component of growing & diversifying New Mexico’s economy – this year’s Hemp Manufacturing Act is already resulting in industry expansion & job creation across the state.” Meanwhile, the state’s Economic Development Department is investing $400,000 in a hemp manufacturing company.

Vermont’s attorney general hosted a panel on legalizing marijuana sales.

The Washington, D.C. Council Health Committee unanimously approved a bill to let students use medical cannabis in schools.

The sponsors of a proposed Florida marijuana legalization ballot initiative filed a brief with the state Supreme Court arguing that the measure is legally valid.

Maine regulators made applications for marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and retail business licenses available.

Missouri regulators announced they will issue medical cannabis dispensary licenses next month.

Rhode Island regulators will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to medical cannabis rules on Friday.

An Indiana lawmaker is planning to file bills to decriminalize marijuana and legalize medical cannabis.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 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.


Chicago, Illinois’s mayor and interim police superintendent said that “an individual using cannabis in their own backyard or balcony poses no direct threat to public safety, and no resident should be arrested or ticketed solely for such a scenario.”

Ankeny, Iowa police arrested the owner of a CBD business.


An Irish lawmaker pressed the government on its restrictive medical cannabis program.


A study found that “there was a statistically significant reduction in intense pain, sharp pain, cold and itchy sensations in the CBD group when compared to the placebo group,” concluding that  “transdermal application of CBD oil can achieve significant improvement in pain and other disturbing sensations in patients with peripheral neuropathy.”

A study comparing marijuana markets in Washington State and Oregon found that “Oregon’s relatively faster initial growth, quicker stabilization and current lower prices for concentrates could be related to more established pre-legalization medical markets, the state’s ‘soft opening’ approach, and lower tax rate.”

A study found that “young adults who were male and who reported more frequent marijuana use were at greater odds of acquiring a medical marijuana card.”

A study found that people who microdose psychedelics  are commonly doing so as a self-managed therapy for mental health, either as an alternative or adjunct to conventional treatments.”


A survey of U.S. voters that pitted issues against one another to determine not only individual support but also level of importance included questions on legalizing marijuana.

The Drug Policy Alliance brought on former Center for American Progress staffer Maritza Perez as its new director of national affairs.

The Baltimore Sun editorial board is urging Maryland lawmakers to take steps to prepare for marijuana legalization, including by making it easier to expunge records.


The publisher of High Times warned shareholders that there is “substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” Meanwhile, the website of MassRoots has gone dark, though its CEO said it will “be back online shortly.” (Disclosure: Marijuana Moment’s publisher is a former employee of and minority shareholder in MassRoots.)

Experian predicted that burgeoning industries such as cannabis retailers “will be targeted for cyberattacks as a result of online activism or ‘hacktivism.'”

Chanel and other “luxury” retailers are trying to prevent a marijuana dispensary from opening in San Francisco’s Union Square.

The Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce launched a voluntary industry certification standard for safety and purity in marijuana product testing.

Financial Times looks at marijuana businesses’ difficulties obtaining insurance.


Football player Antwaun Woods was arrested for marijuana possession.

Cannabis-themed names for dogs and cats, such as Budder, Dank, Doobie, Blaze and Kush are becoming more common, according to Rover.

Make sure to subscribe to get Marijuana Moment’s daily dispatch in your inbox.

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The post Feds to consider hemp biz credit card clarification (Newsletter: December 6, 2019) appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Anniversary Of Alcohol Prohibition’s End Is A Good Time To Legalize Marijuana, Presidential Candidate Castro Says

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 19:25

Former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro marked the 86th anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition in the U.S. on Thursday by calling for the legalization of marijuana.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate tweeted about Repeal Day, a commemoration of the ratification of the 21st Amendment, which ended federal prohibition of booze.

It’s #repealday, the day the United States ended the prohibition of alcohol.

86 years later, it’s time we end the federal prohibition of Cannabis once and for all.

Legalize it. Regulate it. Expunge the records of the victims of the war on drugs.

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) December 5, 2019

“86 years later, it’s time we end the federal prohibition of Cannabis once and for all,” he said. “Legalize it. Regulate it. Expunge the records of the victims of the war on drugs.”

Castro, who included proposals to legalize marijuana and expunge prior cannabis convictions in a criminal justice reform plan he released in October, isn’t the only one calling attention to the ongoing prohibition of the plant on Repeal Day. Several other Twitter users, including a congressional candidate, have made similar points.

In honor of #RepealDay, we should legalize marijuana and expunge criminal records.

It's wayyyyyyy overdue.

— Eva Putzova For Congress (@CongressEva) December 5, 2019

It's interesting that proponents of legalizing #cannabis are the folks most excited when #repealday day rolls around. #hope #aspiration #prohibition #wine #beer #spirits

— Tom Wark (@tomcwark) December 5, 2019

Prohibition is a radical, expensive, big government, nanny-State program. Repealing alcohol prohibition was the right policy shift. It’s time to do the same with cannabis. #repealday #endprohibition

— PA Republicans for Legalization (@PLegalization) December 5, 2019

Prohibition ended 86 years ago today, but our racist drug laws are still being used to disproportionately criminalize people of color. It’s beyond time we end the War on Drugs, legalize cannabis, and give back to our overpoliced communities.

— New York City DSA (@nycDSA) December 5, 2019

.#RepealDay today, consider the implications in the #Cannabis industry.

— Brian Allman (@BrianAllman) December 5, 2019

While Castro hasn’t been quite as vocal about marijuana reform in his campaign as some of the other candidates, he has recently expressed openness to even broader drug policy initiatives such as decriminalizing possession of all drugs.

During a forum hosted by the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition last month, Castro said “I do think though that it’s worth taking a look at that and understanding where are those opportunities, either to decriminalize or at least deemphasize enforcement so that we’re not penalizing individuals who should instead be getting the treatment that they need.”

He also said he supports communities establishing safe injection sites where individuals can consume illicit drugs under medical supervision to reduce the risk of overdose deaths and help people get into treatment.

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), rival presidential candidates, are in favor of drug decriminalization, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) back safe consumption facilities. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang says he would decriminalize opioids and invest federal resources into opening safe injection sites across the country.

Cory Booker’s Marijuana Agenda Highlighted In Three Super PAC Ads

Photo courtesy of YouTube/IHRC.

The post Anniversary Of Alcohol Prohibition’s End Is A Good Time To Legalize Marijuana, Presidential Candidate Castro Says appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

People Are Skipping Sleep Aids In Favor of Marijuana, Study Reports

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 18:29

The scientific community is still unclear on whether or not marijuana can actually help treat sleep disturbances such as insomnia. A new study, however, found that fewer people purchase over-the-counter (OTC) sleep medications when they have legal access to cannabis.

“Our results show that the market share growth for sleep aids shrank with the entry of recreational cannabis dispensaries by more than 200% relative to the mean market share growth in our sample, and the strength of the association increased with each subsequent dispensary,” the paper, published in the December edition of Complementary Therapies in Medicine, concludes. “In particular, cannabis appears to compete favorably with OTC sleep aids, especially those containing diphenhydramine and doxylamine, which constitute 87.4% of the market for OTC sleep aids.”

“Recreational cannabis dispensaries greatly increase the number of individuals able to legally treat sleep disorders using cannabis, particularly those with mild to moderate sleep disorders.”

Researchers at the University of New Mexico and California State Polytechnic University used retail scanner data collected by the Nielsen Company to help them understand how access to recreational marijuana affected the sales of OTC sleep medications purchased at local stores in Colorado.

In their analysis, they studied the market shares of overall sleep aids—including supplements such as melatonin and pharmaceuticals such as diphenhydramine—at 587 stores. They also used monthly data from the Colorado Department of Revenue to compare the number of recreational dispensaries in each county as well as local cannabis retail sales figures.

“The negative association between cannabis access and sleep aid sales suggests a consumer preference for cannabis.”

It became legal for Colorado residents to purchase cannabis for adult use on January 1, 2014, and the study period covered December 2013 through December 2014.

According to the results, the market share for sleep aids was neither rising nor declining prior to a dispensary opening in the same county. After one did, however, the market share declined with each month of its existence. A regression model showed that sleep aid market share growth decreased by 236 percent after a dispensary entered the market, and this negative association increased as the number of dispensaries grew.

“The magnitude of the market share decline increases as more dispensaries enter a county and with higher county-level cannabis sales.”

“For the first time, we show a statistically significant negative association between recreational access to cannabis and OTC sleep aid sales, suggesting that at least some recreational purchasers are using cannabis for therapeutic rather than recreational purposes,” the study’s authors write.

“Additionally, despite a lack of direct clinical evidence on the effectiveness of self-managed cannabis as a sleep aid, our results indicate that enough individuals are switching from OTC sleep aids to recreational cannabis that we can identify a statistically significant reduction in the market share growth of OTC sleep aids in conjunction with access to recreational cannabis using a statistically conservative county-month-level treatment variable and a quasi-experimental research design,” the paper concluded.

“Our results are consistent with evidence that legal access to medical cannabis is associated with reductions in Scheduled II-V prescription medications (e.g., opioids and sedatives), many of which may be used in part as sleep aids,” the authors wrote.

“These findings support survey evidence that many individuals use cannabis to treat insomnia, although sleep disturbances are not a specific qualifying condition under any U.S. state-level medical cannabis law.”

Study author Sarah Stith, an applied microeconomist at the University of New Mexico, explained in a statement: “From a public health perspective, the possible widespread use of cannabis for less severe medical conditions both highlights its therapeutic potential and raises concerns regarding the risk-benefit tradeoffs of substituting a substance associated with abuse and dependence for relatively ineffective OTC medications with typically low levels of abuse potential.”

“From an economic or business perspective, regardless of underlying mechanism, our documentation of changing purchase behaviors has implications for multimillion-dollar US markets with OTC sleep aids likely just one example,” she said. “It is important for the medical community to recognize that the lack of medical guidance does not necessarily lead to a lack of medical use. Dispensaries and online forums are stepping up to fill the information vacuum as individuals are forced to take treatment into their own hands, with statistically evident effects on treatment choices.”

A ‘Significant’ Number Of Patients Stopped Taking Benzodiazepines After Starting Medical Marijuana

Photo by Wesley Gibbs on Unsplash 

The post People Are Skipping Sleep Aids In Favor of Marijuana, Study Reports appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Hemp Businesses Need Clarity On Credit Card Processing, GOP Congressman Tells Federal Regulators

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 17:33

One day after federal financial regulators issued guidance relaxing requirements for banks doing business with hemp companies, Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) called for further input on how financial institutions can work with the industry—particularly when it comes to credit card processing.

“I have heard from Kentucky bankers about this. They welcome this guidance, and it will go a long way to help the hemp industry thrive,” Barr said on Wednesday at a House Financial Services Committee hearing.

But after thanking witnesses—including Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC) Chairwoman Jelena McWilliams and National Credit Union Association (NCUA) Chairman Rodney Hood—he reminded them that there is still much work to be done to give hemp businesses fair access to financial services.

Specifically, Barr called credit card processing services for Kentucky hemp companies “unreliable” and “unavailable” while pointing out that Tuesday’s hemp banking memo failed to clearly address the problem.

“I’ve read the guidance closely, as you can tell, and I didn’t see that in there,” Barr said. “That’s the financial service that has really been unreliable and spotty, so if you need to update that guidance to give more clarity to card processing businesses, that might be in order.”

It represents an understanding by our federal regulators that hemp is a LEGAL product.

— Rep. Andy Barr (@RepAndyBarr) December 4, 2019

McWilliams replied that her agency would “certainly take a look” at the issue and offered that “to the extent that we need to do additional explaining, we are more than happy to engage in that process.”

In response, Barr reminded her of the broader goals of congressional action to legalize hemp products under the 2018 Farm Bill.

“Congressional intent is not only that the regulators confirm the legality of industrial hemp and hemp related retailers under the Farm bill, but that those retailers and merchants can use card processing services to sell the product itself,” he said.

Watch Barr press federal regulators on hemp business credit card processing below:

This isn’t the first time Barr has raised the issued of hemp businesses’ ability to accept payments with cards.

“I’ve had constituent businesses tell me that their access to financial products, specifically card services, have actually deteriorated since we descheduled industrial hemp in the Farm Bill,” he said at an earlier hearing in May. “This obviously conflicts with congressional intent.”

The congressman’s questions and comments at the most recent hearing are emblematic of a larger bipartisan push to provide updated regulations to the hemp industry and banks that work with it.

Most notably, the House overwhelmingly approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in September. The legislation would protect banks and credit unions from being penalized by federal regulators for working with marijuana businesses, and Barr added an amendment clarifying that the protections also apply to hemp companies.

However, the vote came later than some observers expected, which may help explain why the growth in the number of financial institutions working with cannabis companies seems to have slowed down in the prior quarter of the fiscal year.

NCUA’s Hood, whose agency’s earlier hemp guidance released in August was among the first federal clarifications on the issue after the Farm Bill became law, testified on Wednesday about the steps NCUA is taking to open up access to financial services for companies in the industry.

“We are continuing to work with the industry to provide training to our examiners,” Hood said. “We will now be working with the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] and other related parties to ensure that we get it right. We will be hosting a series of roundtables to gain insights from entities around best practices.”

In submitted testimony, he wrote that NCUA expects “to continue updating the credit union community now that the USDA has published its interim final rule [for hemp]” and said the agency has “received interest from credit unions eager to know the rules of the road for serving hemp-related businesses in their communities, and we want to make sure those credit unions have what they need to make informed decisions in this area.”

Jospeh Otting, comptroller of the currency, also discussed the latest guidance from federal regulators in testimony he submitted to the panel, writing that the joint statement from federal regulators “provides clarity regarding the legal status of commercial growth and production of hemp and relevant requirements for banks.”

Also discussed at the hearing was NCUA’s recent regulatory action on employment at credit unions by people with criminal records. Initially proposed by the agency in July, the move to allow participation by people convicted of minor offenses like simple drug possession was officially enacted by this week.

Asked by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) “what are you doing, and what can Congress do” to assist in the advancement of the so-called “second chance” decision, Hood responded that NCUA “recognized that individuals who have committed nonviolent criminal offenses who have paid their debts to society should have opportunities to work in federal credit unions.”

SECOND CHANCE: I am glad my @theNCUA Board colleagues and I approved the final second chance rule today. This rule is more than just about regulatory relief. It is simply the right thing to do. See my full statement here:

— Rodney E. Hood (@Rodney_e_hood) November 21, 2019

McWilliams called the second chance decision an “important social justice issue” and said FDIC is currently seeking input on how best to move forward. “I personally believe we can go a long way to enabling those individuals to re-enter the workforce,” she said.

Watch lawmakers and regulators discuss financial services employment by people with prior convictions below:

Outside of the House Financial Services panel, several lawmakers on Capitol Hill have recently pushed to make business easier for hemp companies.

Last week, for example, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called on USDA to extend its public comment period for proposed hemp regulations. And in October, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sent a letter to USDA asking for five specific changes in the rules.

Federal Regulators Ease Hemp Banking Protocols Following Crop’s Legalization

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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Willie Nelson Will ‘Never Stop Enjoying’ Marijuana Despite Quitting Smoking, Son Says

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 16:09

Marijuana enthusiasts around the world have been shocked by the news that Willie Nelson no longer smokes cannabis. Cue the “Has hell frozen over?” jokes.

But the Grammy award-winning musician’s son, Lukas Nelson, has taken to social media to clear the air and provide a little cannabis clarity.

While the Country Music Hall of Famer recently told a local television station that he doesn’t smoke marijuana anymore for health reasons, his son clarified that he does still consume cannabis. Just not by smoking it.

On Tuesday, Lukas Nelson tweeted: “There is a lot of articles going around saying my father is no longer smoking weed. It’s almost 2020, how people ingest cannabis has changed.”

There is a lot of articles going around saying my father is no longer smoking weed. It’s almost 2020, how people ingest cannabis has changed. Between vaping, edibles, gummies, drops, etc. I think it’s safe to say Willie will never stop enjoying Mary Jane!

— Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real (@lukasnelson) December 4, 2019

“Between vaping, edibles, gummies, drops, etc. I think it’s safe to say Willie will never stop enjoying Mary Jane!” he said.

The comment behind the cannabis controversy happened late last month, when the elder Nelson told local San Antonio news station KSAT that breathing “is a little more difficult these days and I have to be careful” and that “I’ve abused my lungs quite a bit in the past” so he was putting down the joint.

Nelson has more at stake than just his famed stoner reputation.

His namesake cannabis brand, Willie’s Reserve, has been on shelves in legal cannabis markets since 2015. Today, the company’s products—including marijuana flower, chocolate edibles, fruit chew edibles and a line of vaporizers—are available in six states: California, Colorado, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The brand was compelled to send a tweet to clarify Nelson’s cannabis consumption on Wednesday, stating, “Willie’s still getting high!!”

No pigs in the sky, Willie’s still getting high!!

AT 86, Willie Nelson demonstrates there’s more than one way to get high.

— Willie's Reserve (@WilliesReserve) December 4, 2019

Nelson also sells a CBD-centric line of products in all 50 states called Willie’s Remedy, launched in 2019. Those offerings include infused whole bean coffee, tea and tinctures.

His spokeswoman, Elaine Shock, confirmed to The Associated Press that the musician has not, in fact, given up cannabis. She explained the different modes of consumption available today that don’t involve combustion.

“Willie does what he wants, when he wants, when it comes to smoking,” she said.

The musician’s reputation as a cannabis icon has long been an area of interest and frequently comes up in media interviews.

Two years ago, actor Woody Harrelson told Jimmy Kimmel he was afraid to admit to his longtime friend Nelson that he had quit smoking cannabis.

Nelson also told Stephen Colbert on his tour bus in 2018 he would be happy to smoke marijuana with Donald Trump, Melania Trump and Barack Obama.

“He needs one bad,” Nelson said of Trump. “That could be good for him.”

Snoop Dogg Has A Salaried Marijuana Blunt Roller On Staff

Photo courtesy of CBS.

The post Willie Nelson Will ‘Never Stop Enjoying’ Marijuana Despite Quitting Smoking, Son Says appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Bloomberg evolves to back cannabis decrim (Newsletter: December 5, 2019)

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 11:42

Yang: spend fed money on safe injection sites; Booker super PAC touts marijuana record; Virginia AG says summit might get gov to back legalization

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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D), a presidential candidate, endorsed marijuana decriminalization and letting states set their own laws without federal interference—marking a bit of an evolution from when he said earlier this year that legalizing marijuana is “perhaps the stupidest thing anybody has ever done.”

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said he supports investing federal money in safe consumption sites for illegal drugs as a harm reduction measure.

  • “I would not only decriminalize opiates for personal use but I would also invest in safe consumption sites around the country.”

A super PAC backing the presidential candidacy of Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) released several ads touting his support for legalizing marijuana, two of which call out former Vice President Joe Biden’s (D) opposition to ending cannabis prohibition.

Virginia’s attorney general said that a marijuana summit he is hosting this month will give decriminalization-backing Gov. Ralph Northam (D) more information to potentially come out in support of broader cannabis legalization.


The National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration hosted a meeting at which researchers told officials that current federal marijuana policy blocks them from effectively studying that cause of vaping-related lung injuries.

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is launching a database to track commercial drivers license holders who have violated federal drug and alcohol testing requirements.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture official spoke at a Kentucky hemp summit.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted, “The #marijuana of today is stronger and recent in access to #marijuana and in its potency, along with misperceptions of its safety endanger our most precious resource – our youth. #WednesdayWisdom”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) joked about his “Cocaine Mitch” nickname.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), a presidential candidate, cheered federal guidelines on hemp business banking access and cited a letter he sent to regulators earlier this year requesting the move.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) tweeted about federal hemp banking guidance, saying, “This is a good step forward and will help Colorado’s hemp industry and hemp businesses across the country.  Now we need to pass the #SAFEBankingAct to ensure greater access to the banking system for all marijuana, hemp and CBD businesses.”

Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), in a letter announcing his retirement from the House, cited his work on marijuana banking legislation as a highlight of his congressional service.

The House bill to deschedule marijuana got one new cosponsor for a total of 36.

The House bill to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to study medical cannabis got one new cosponsor for a total of 93.


Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a bill making tweaks to the state’s marijuana legalization law and tweeted about the importance of equity in the cannabis industry. Meanwhile, regulators approved another medical cannabis dispensary to conduct recreational sales.

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and other officials are working on a plan to let regulators seize illegal vaping products and issue emergency bans on specific additives.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said she didn’t include hemp regulation money in her budget proposal because it’s “not a priority,” though she seemed to recognize that lawmakers plan to pursue the issue again next session following her veto of a legalization bill this year.

Vermont’s attorney general will host a discussion on lessons learned from neighboring states’ marijuana legalization laws on Thursday.

Activists behind one proposed Florida marijuana legalization ballot measure say they’ve collected nearly 600,000 signatures, while a separate campaign is conceding it is unlikely to qualify.

A U.S. Virgin Islands senator suggested that lawmakers may not take up a marijuana legalization proposal from Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D) because there is already pending legislation on the topic in the Senate.

A Pennsylvania judge ruled that a worker terminated for medical cannabis use can pursue litigation.

Missouri regulators released information about how to apply for hemp licenses.

Maine regulators are pushing for changes to proposed federal hemp rules.

Rhode Island regulators are considering hiring an outside firm to handle medical cannabis business license awarding.

The Washington, D.C. Council Health Committee will consider legislation to allow students to use medical cannabis in schools on Thursday.

California regulators scheduled Cannabis Advisory Board meetings for next week.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 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.


The Chicago, Illinois City Council held a hearing on a proposal to delay recreational marijuana sales until July, but did not vote on it.

The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Water and Sewer Authority is being sued for firing a medical cannabis patient who tested positive for marijuana.


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she hasn’t taken a position on the 2020 marijuana legalization referendum. Meanwhile, a lawmaker held up a bag of oregano during a speech in Parliament outlining her concerns about the proposal.

Jamaica made its first cannabis export to Canada.

Singapore officials gave what is believed to be the country’s first approval to use cannabis-based medication to a young girl with epilepsy.


A study found that “street segments with recreational dispensaries experienced no changes in violent, disorder and drug crime but did experience an 18% increase in property crime” while medical dispensaries demonstrated no significant crime changes” and that a “cost-benefit analysis found the associated crime costs were largely offset by sales revenue.”

A study of marijuana use in Jamaica found that “decriminalization positively correlates with the likelihood of first time and general use for youths” but that “there is also some evidence that the legislation results in a substitution away from alcohol towards marijuana consumption for youths.”

A study found that “cancer survivors are increasingly interested in using medical cannabinoids for symptom relief and treatment-related side effects.”


Vicente Sederberg LLP is bringing on new partners from the firm Frontera Law Group.

New Frontier Data is moving forward with plans to acquire Civilized Worldwide Inc. and says it has “temporarily” laid off its staff to “allow an effective and successful restructuring.”

CB Therapeutics, Inc. announced it biosynthesized psilocybin, psilocin and related tryptamine-based compounds and has filed a patent for the production process.

Questions are being raised about how so many marijuana businesses working with the firm 4thMVMT were granted initial approvals in Los Angeles, California’s marijuana licensing process.


HBO released a teaser trailer for the new season of “High Maintenance.”

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The post Bloomberg evolves to back cannabis decrim (Newsletter: December 5, 2019) appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Cory Booker’s Marijuana Agenda Highlighted In Three Super PAC Ads

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 11:16

A super PAC working to get Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) elected president is putting a lot of emphasis on the candidate’s marijuana reform agenda, releasing multiple new advertisements highlighting his position on the issue.

United We Win, an organization that’s not formally associated with Booker’s presidential campaign but supports his candidacy, included cannabis reform in three separate spots over the past month. Two of those ads contrasted the senator’s stance with that of former Vice President Joe Biden, a rival contender for the Democratic nomination who opposes adult-use legalization.

“Joe Biden is wrong about weed,” one ad, released on Tuesday, states. “He called marijuana a ‘gateway drug,’ but science says he’s wrong. Cory Booker knows that legalizing marijuana is the sensible, humane thing to do.”

Another, posted last week, shows a clip of Booker at the most recent Democratic debate, where Booker called out Biden over the gateway drug comment that quickly became a source of controversy ahead of the event. Booker said at the time that he was shocked to hear Biden say he doesn’t support legalization because he thinks cannabis could lead to the use of more dangerous drugs.

About one week after the former vice president made the remarks, he reversed his stance and said evidence doesn’t support the gateway drug theory. This wasn’t the first time that the senator has blasted Biden over his cannabis record, as Booker said in July that his opponent’s drug reform plan was inadequate.

“Joe Biden had more than 40 years to get this right,” Booker said. “The proud architect of a failed system is not the right person to fix it.”

The other ad, released last weekend, pits Booker against South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is also competing for the Democratic nomination. United We Win included Booker’s plan to legalize marijuana in a list of policy proposals that they said make him a more fit candidate and also noted his role in advancing criminal justice reform legislation in a Republican-controlled Senate.

Buttigieg does support legalization, so the point of bringing that position up didn’t appear to be an attempt to contrast each candidate’s platform on that issue in particular.

The super PAC’s website also prominently spotlights Booker’s marijuana record, including the issue as one of six main menu links across its top banner—alongside “criminal justice,” “gun safety” and “defeating Trump.”

There’s also an article recapping the senator’s debate attack on Biden’s anti-legalization comments.

Booker has certainly taken pains to emphasize his advocacy for cannabis reform during the campaign, and he’s the sponsor of comprehensive legislation that would not only federally deschedule marijuana but also penalize states that continue to dole out cannabis enforcement in a discriminatory manner.

While United We Win isn’t affiliated with Booker’s team, and federal law prohibits the PAC and the campaign from coordinating with one another, the strong focus on his marijuana platform reflects a growing recognition that, especially among Democratic voters, legalization is an important issue that candidates and political operatives are seeking to leverage during this election.

Cory Booker’s Mom Scolds Him For Marijuana Joke At Joe Biden’s Expense

Photo courtesy of YouTube/United We Win.

The post Cory Booker’s Marijuana Agenda Highlighted In Three Super PAC Ads appeared first on Marijuana Moment.