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Maine Marijuana Sales Can Finally Begin, Officials Announce Four Years After Voters Legalized It

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 19:31

Marijuana businesses in Maine can begin recreational sales on October 9, the state’s cannabis regulatory body announced on Friday.

This comes nearly four years after voters approved a legalization ballot measure—a significant delay in implementation compared to California, Massachusetts and Nevada, which also legalized for adult-use on the same day in 2016.

The first round of cannabis business licenses will be issued on September 8, giving licensees about a month to begin harvesting, processing and ensuring quality control for their marijuana products. It’s not clear how many licenses will be initially approved.

Retail sales of adult use marijuana to consumers 21 years of age or older will be permitted starting on Friday, October 9, 2020.

View our full press release: https://t.co/vwpNPh2KhB

— Maine Office of Marijuana Policy (@MaineOMP) August 14, 2020

The state’s Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) said it had planned to launch retail sales in April, but that timeline was pushed back due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The public’s health and safety are at the forefront of every decision we make,” OMP Director Erik Gundersen said in a press release. “While we were poised to launch this new industry earlier this year, we were unwilling to sacrifice the high standards we have set for this program by launching during an emerging public health pandemic and in the absence of a testing facility.”

“With the support of the public health community, municipalities across the state, and the industry we regulate, we have used the last few months to ensure this new industry is introduced to Maine consumers in a manner that is as responsible as possible,” he said.

Marijuana businesses will have to impose social distancing and other public safety requirements in order to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today’s announcement is a major milestone in honoring the will of Maine voters and a significant step toward launching a new industry in the state,” Gundersen said. “Many of the business owners we have spoken with during the application process are ready and eager to commence operations.”

The nearly four-year delay in implementation in Maine is partly the product of interference by then-Gov. Paul LePage (R), a vocal opponent to cannabis reform, and other legislators.

Gov. Janet Mills (D), who signed legislation to set the framework for legal marijuana sales last year, has taken a different tone on the issue.

Montana Will Vote On Two Marijuana Legalization Measures In November, State Confirms

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

The post Maine Marijuana Sales Can Finally Begin, Officials Announce Four Years After Voters Legalized It appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

DNC Rejecting Legal Marijuana In Platform Is ‘Shameful,’ Soon-To-Be Congressman Says

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 17:58

A Democratic congressional nominee who is all but certain to be elected to the House this November said on Thursday that it is “shameful” the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) platform committee recently rejected an amendment to make marijuana legalization a 2020 party plank.

Mondaire Jones, a progressive attorney who won his party’s primary in New York’s strongly Democratic 17th congressional district last month, put DNC officials on notice during a virtual Netroots Nation event, calling them out for not advancing bold policies such as comprehensive cannabis reform and universal health care.

“It is shameful to me that the Democratic platform…rejected the legalization of marijuana—something that really should not be controversial anymore, especially given what we’ve seen in our so-called criminal justice system, which I call the criminal legal system,” he said. “The incarceration of so many black and brown people, deliberately, intentionally a relic of Jim Crow.”

"We're living in a time when majority of the American people support Medicare for All. It's shameful to me that the democratic platform does not include that,[and it]rejected the legalization of marijuana. That's something should not be controversial anymore" @MondaireJones #NN20 pic.twitter.com/Nk7AmxZxpn

— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) August 13, 2020

He added that voters shouldn’t necessarily rely on presidential nominees to pursue progressive policies that they are demanding and should instead expect to see leadership from Congress.

“We can’t take for granted the fact that our nominees are going to govern in a way that we will want them to and it’s why it’s so important that we exercise, we’re in Congress, our Article One authorities,” Jones said. “One thing that we’ve gotten away from in recent years is the fact that Congress really should be the most powerful aspect of our federal government.”

“It’s why the framers put it in Article One because they thought the Congress should be most powerful—but instead we’ve have an executive that has way too much power. As a soon-to-be progressive in Congress, we need to be acting as a bloc. That means everybody in the Congressional Progressive Caucus needs to get their act together and withhold their support from legislation that should be better for the American people. It means that folks who are self-described as progressives in Congress have to start legislating like that. And if not, then grassroots organizers need to hold them accountable.”

Watch Jones ‘s full comments on marijuana and the Democratic Party, starting around 20:50 into the video below:

While Jones didn’t explicitly criticize presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, his ongoing opposition to marijuana legalization is precisely an example of what he’s talking about. Despite supermajority support for the policy change among Democrats, he’s refused to adopt a pro-legalization position, instead drawing the line at possession decriminalization, medical cannabis legalization, modest rescheduling and expungements.

There are some advocates who suspect it’s because Biden’s agenda omits legalization that DNC’s platform committee soundly rejected the amendment. Even a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and sponsor of a legalization bill, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), voted against the measure, taking activists by surprise.

Meanwhile, Biden’s pick for a vice presidential running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), has evolved on marijuana policy. Though she coauthored an official voter guide argument opposing a California cannabis legalization measure as a prosecutor in 2010 and laughed in the face of a reporter who asked her about the issue in 2014, she went on to sponsor legislation to federally deschedule marijuana in 2019.

Even so, she’s indicated she doesn’t plan to push the former vice president to support legalization.

A key committee chairman’s staffer and several advocates told Marijuana Moment earlier this month that there are plans in the works to get the House version of Harris’s marijuana legalization bill to the chamber’s floor in September, though nothing has yet been publicly confirmed by leadership.

Jones, in his new comments, made clear that the executive branch shouldn’t have the final word on this and Congress should move to advance cannabis legalization regardless of the president’s position.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), the incumbent being challenged by formerly anti-marijuana Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), made a similar point last month, saying that a Democratic Congress would advance legal cannabis legislation in 2021 despite opposition from a President Joe Biden.

ACLU, NAACP And Other Groups Push Congress To Pass Marijuana Legalization Bill By Next Month

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

The post DNC Rejecting Legal Marijuana In Platform Is ‘Shameful,’ Soon-To-Be Congressman Says appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Local Marijuana Bans In California Keep Illicit Market Alive And Block Revenue, Study Shows

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 15:17

Local bans on marijuana businesses in California are helping the illicit market to thrive and are depriving the state and municipalities of tax revenue that could help offset economic losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study.

The report analyzes the financial impact from the 75 percent of cities and counties that have implemented cannabis market bans despite the 2016 statewide vote to legalize the plant for adult use.

“Inconsistencies between different jurisdictions, particularly with tax rates, licensing procedures, and land use regulations” have created a situation in which “the illegal market continues to make up a large majority of the cannabis sales in California,” it concludes.

The analysis shows that while there’s strong demand and potential for revenue, California is far behind other legal states because of the widespread localized prohibitions.

“In benchmarking California’s legal cannabis sales performance against other states that have legalized recreational cannabis sales, the state generally does not fare well,” it says, noting that “California’s per capita taxable cannabis sales of $51.77 in 2019 is less than half the per capita sales in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado.”

Via ADE.

The analysis—which was conducted by the financial consulting firm Applied Development Economics and commissioned by the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and Weedmaps (which, by way of full disclosure, is a longtime sponsor of Marijuana Moment)—used three jurisdictions with varying marijuana regulations to underscore the potential for local tax revenue that comes with allowing cannabis businesses. Those areas are Stockton, San Bruno, and unincorporated Sacramento County.

Stockton, which just last year developed a licensing system and established a five percent local tax on marijuana sales, could net anywhere from $824,500 to $3.9 million annually in revenue once it approves enough retailers meet demand.

Via ADE.

San Bruno is “an untapped cannabis market with no existing cannabis retailers operating within the city limits,” the report notes. While the City Council approved a measure to put a proposed 10 percent sales tax on cannabis on the November ballot, it has yet to implement licensing regulations.

Via ADE.

The analysis estimates that, if voters approve the Council-passed initiative and businesses are allowed to operate in the city, “local tax potential for the City of San Bruno ranges from about $235,300 to $1.1 million.”

The unincorporated areas of Sacramento County provide the most restrictive example in the report. While some local jurisdictions, including the city of Sacramento, allow cannabis businesses and impose local taxes, the county itself does not and doesn’t have any plans in the works to establish a licensing system.

Via ADE.

Given the estimated range for demand, analysts said that if the county adopted Sacramento’s four percent tax rate, it stands to generate anywhere from $1.2 million to $5.8 million annually.

“Based on our independent and objective analysis, cannabis businesses show significant market potential for additional legal sales throughout California,” the report concludes. “This would result in substantial increases in tax receipts for state and local governments if the number of retail cannabis establishments expands to meet local demand in those communities that do not currently have legal retail cannabis sales.”

“Because of the state’s underperforming retail cannabis market, the range of potential market support has significant upside. The market demand already exists, with most of the demand currently met through illicit sales channels that generate no tax revenues. As local governments struggle with meeting their budget needs and providing essential services to their residents, legal cannabis sales represent a source of revenue that has remained untapped by most California jurisdictions.”

Julian Canete, CEO of California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, said in a press release that local bans on marijuana businesses “have hampered opportunities for cannabis entrepreneurs for almost four years since California voters passed Prop 64.”

“In the wake of COVID-19, there’s never been a better time for local governments to embrace the potential for more tax revenue that fund critical services, and we hope this study encourages many to rethink their opposition,” he said.

Read the full study on California’s cannabis market below: 

ADE Cannabis Report by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

New Initiative To Legalize Marijuana Sales Filed In D.C.

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

The post Local Marijuana Bans In California Keep Illicit Market Alive And Block Revenue, Study Shows appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

ACLU, NAACP And Other Groups Push Congress To Pass Marijuana Legalization Bill By Next Month

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 13:37

A coalition of major drug policy and civil rights organization is urging congressional leadership to hold a House floor vote on a comprehensive marijuana legalization bill by the end of next month.

In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), more than 120 groups—including the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, Human Rights Watch, Drug Policy Alliance and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—said it’s imperative to hold the vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.

They said leadership should “swiftly advance this comprehensive marijuana justice policy that addresses criminal justice reform, racial justice, and equity” and noted that the Judiciary Committee approved the legislation last year. The bill currently has 83 cosponsors, including two who signed on this week.

BREAKING: We urge @SpeakerPelosi and @LeaderHoyer to schedule a September floor vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which addresses criminal justice reform, racial justice & equity.

Read our letter from 120+ groups: https://t.co/d7KGD34bUv pic.twitter.com/8k5iOnVeCh

— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) August 13, 2020

“In the face of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and a growing national dialogue on unjust law enforcement practices, marijuana reform as a modest first step at chipping away at the War on Drugs is more relevant and more pressing than ever before,” the groups, which also include the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Association of Social Workers and National Organization for Women, wrote. “The MORE Act remains the most effective and equitable way forward.”

“We strongly urge House leadership to support the passage of this bill this Congress and schedule the bill for a vote in September,” they said.

A key committee chairman’s staffer and several advocates told Marijuana Moment earlier this month that there are indeed plans in the works to get the bill to the floor in September, though nothing has yet been publicly confirmed by leadership.

“Mass criminalization, racially biased policing, and over-enforcement of drug law violations have devastated the social and economic fabrics of communities of color, while also tearing apart the lives of millions of individuals and families. The continued enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws results in over 600,000 arrests annually, disproportionately impacting people of color. This results in family separation when a jail or prison sentence is involved. This also means that these individuals will be marked with a drug conviction record that will affect their ability to work, find housing, and otherwise provide for their families. Further, marijuana criminalization continues to be a driver of family separation in the immigration system.”

The letter—which was also signed by the Center for Disability Rights, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Matthew Shepard Foundation and several chapters of NORML and Students for Sensible Drug Policy—says the MORE Act “addresses the collateral consequences of federal marijuana criminalization and takes steps to ensure the legal marketplace is diverse and inclusive of individuals most adversely impacted by prohibition.”

The MORE Act would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge the records of those with prior marijuana convictions and impose a federal five percent tax on sales, revenue from which would be reinvested in communities most impacted by the drug war.

It would also create a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated for marijuana offenses, as well as protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances due to its use.

“The MORE Act is needed now more than ever before. It can help alleviate public health challenges caused by COVID-19 in jails and prisons by reducing the number of people who are incarcerated,” the groups wrote to Pelosi and Hoyer. “Passage of the bill will also help ameliorate economic hardship caused by COVID-19 as the bill will minimize barriers to employment resulting from prior criminal history and will help generate hundreds of thousands of new jobs.”

“Additionally, ending the federal criminalization of marijuana will allow state marijuana regulatory programs to flourish, generating crucial new revenue for states and localities,” the letter states.

Read the letter from advocacy groups asking for a vote on the marijuana bill below: 

Groups Call On Congress To … by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Top Trump Aides Conway And Giuliani Call Out Marijuana Record Of Kamala Harris

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

The post ACLU, NAACP And Other Groups Push Congress To Pass Marijuana Legalization Bill By Next Month appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

The FDA Is Hiring A Contractor To Study Thousands Of CBD Products

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 12:57

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking to award a contract to help study CBD as the agency develops regulations for products containing the non-intoxicating cannabinoid.

In a notice published on Thursday, FDA said the chosen company will provide support with “collecting samples and assessing the quantities of CBD and related cannabinoids, as well as potential associated contaminants such as toxic elements, pesticides, industrial chemicals, processing solvents and microbial contaminants, in foods and cosmetics through surveys of these commodities.”

FDA said that the results of the studies “will not only be reported to Congress, but will also be used to guide the development of future policy” and will help to “develop a better understanding of the quantities of CBD and associated cannabinoids and their distribution.”

“The goal will be to collect and analyze a statistically relevant number of samples, between 1000-3000. The reliability of the results will be supported by specified quality assurance/quality control processes within the study. The types of samples to be collected for these studies will include food and cosmetic products from across the United States, mainly including CBD-containing packaged and processed foods such as beverages, water, candy, baked goods, oils and tinctures that can be added to human or animal foods, including pills, capsules, gel caps, gummies and other forms.”

This announcement comes one month after FDA submitted a report to Congress on the state of the CBD marketplace, outlining studies the agency has performed on the contents and quality of cannabis-derived products that it has tested over the past six years.

The report, which was responsive to a mandate attached to congressional appropriations legislation last year, showed significant inconsistencies between cannabinoids concentrations that are listed on labels and what the products actually contain. At the same time, it found negligible evidence that dangerous metals and minerals are added to these products.

In the new notice on the General Services Administration’s business opportunities site, FDA laid out specific goals for the contractor it seeks to hire.

They will be charged with obtaining 1,000-3,000 samples of CBD-infused baked goods, chocolates, candy, oils, concentrates, tinctures, capsules, beverages, cosmetics and other products for both human and pet use from a variety of regions across the country.

Those preparations will be analyzed for CBD, CBDA, THC, THCA and other cannabinoid content using specified methodologies such as liquid and gas chromatography. The contractor will also be tasked with assessing toxic elements, pesticides, residual solvents and microbiological contaminants such as salmonella.

“In addition, this task order will be used to collect cosmetic samples for shipment to a third party for analysis. The purpose of these studies will be to develop a better understanding of the quantities of CBD and associated cannabinoids and their distribution. The goal will be to collect and analyze a statistically relevant number of samples. The reliability of the results will be supported by specified quality assurance/quality control processes within the study.”

Applications to become FDA’s contractor for CBD research are due by August 31.

FDA has been hard at work developing regulations for CBD since hemp and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

Last month, for example, it submitted draft CBD enforcement guidance to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

The agency was mandated under appropriations legislation passed late last year to provide an update on its regulatory approach to CBD, and it did so in March. The update stated that “FDA is currently evaluating issuance of a risk-based enforcement policy that would provide greater transparency and clarity regarding factors FDA intends to take into account in prioritizing enforcement decisions.”

FDA released separate guidance last month on conducting research into cannabis for drug development purposes. That document also went through the process of being reviewed by the White House before it could be published.

The agency has continued to issue warnings to cannabis businesses in certain cases—such as instances in which companies claimed CBD could treat or cure coronavirus—and provide public notices about recalls.

Also last month, a spending bill for FDA was released that includes a provision providing “funding to develop a framework for regulating CBD products.”

Trump, Asked About Harris’s Marijuana Record, Says ‘She Lied’

Photo by Kimzy Nanney.

The post The FDA Is Hiring A Contractor To Study Thousands Of CBD Products appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Montana certifies two cannabis ballot measures (Newsletter: August 14, 2020)

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 10:26

Trump aides bash Harris’s marijuana record; NM gov sends legalization survey to raise funds; Four OH cities to vote on cannabis decrim

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Check out the perks of being a sponsor on our Patreon page.

  • Jay: “I have been receiving your newsletter for maybe a year now and felt it was time to get on board and donate. The compilation of information is vast and without a doubt requires extensive research and editing to bring it to print. The efforts of MM have kept me in the know, educating me and other readers on all current topics on the Hill and in the states when it comes to cannabis and hemp.”

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

Montana’s secretary of state certified that activists collected enough signatures to put two marijuana legalization measures on the November ballot.

Top Trump aides Kellyanne Conway and Rudy Giuliani tore into Kamala Harris’s cannabis record.

  • “She put people away for marijuana use. And then she gave plea deals to defendants who have done far worse than marijuana use.”

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D) reelection campaign is soliciting feedback and raising money with a survey on marijuana issues.

  • “Legalizing cannabis would be a net benefit to New Mexico and transform the lives of so many people in this state.”

Four more Ohio cities will vote on local marijuana decriminalization proposals this November, potentially joining 18 other municipalities across the state that have already enacted similar cannabis reforms.

/ FEDERAL

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Drug Testing Advisory Board will discuss marijuana and other issues on September 1.

A federal judge granted a stay in a case against CBD maker Global Widget until Food and Drug Administration rules allowing the compound to be marketed are finalized.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) tweeted, “Two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization — including 78% of Democrats. How many people need to pay fines or go to jail for use before we finally end prohibition? The DNC platform should include the federal legalization of cannabis.”

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) wrote in his newsletter about a staffer’s visit to a hemp cultivation business.

/ STATES

California Gov. Gavin Newson (D) and Los Angeles’s mayor are being sued for allegedly discriminating against churches in coronavirus social distancing orders while allowing marijuana businesses to continue operating.

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus included marijuana decriminalization in its policy agenda.

Colorado regulators proposed marijuana tax rules.

Washington State regulators are surveying marijuana industry participants.

Arkansas regulators announced that the suspension of expiration dates on medical cannabis cards enacted amid the coronavirus pandemic will end September 30, but that recommendations via telemedicine will still be allowed until further notice.

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

The Illinois State Police posted a marijuana law quiz on Instagram.


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

The Doraville, Georgia City Council approved a marijuana decriminalization proposal.

/ INTERNATIONAL

The UK’s home secretary wants to clarify that amyl nitrites, or “poppers,” are legal.

The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana was extended for another year.

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A study suggested that “CBD, as an add-on drug for [treatment-resistant epilepsy] in a pediatric sample, does not appear to cause adverse effects involving cognition or adaptive function over one year of treatment.”

Researchers developed a method to “predict the relationship between the chemical composition, including phytocannabinoids, of cannabis extracts and cannabinoid receptor responses.”

/ BUSINESS

Schwazze reported $5.4 million in quarterly revenue and a net loss of $6.6 million.

Zoned Properties, Inc. reported $299,824 in quarterly revenue and a net loss of $18,927.

Payment processor Stripe said it could no longer do business with a customer because it sells a product containing CBD.

/ CULTURE

Travel writer Rick Steves tweeted, “Amsterdam is a progressive city with a persistent spirit of tolerance. I enjoy visiting “coffeeshops” (pubs selling marijuana) and thinking about how challenging societal norms leads to progress. Where have you traveled that has broadened your perspective? #TravelDreaming”

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The post Montana certifies two cannabis ballot measures (Newsletter: August 14, 2020) appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Montana Will Vote On Two Marijuana Legalization Measures In November, State Confirms

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 19:25

Montana’s secretary of state announced on Thursday that marijuana activists collected more than enough signatures to qualify two legalization measures for the November ballot.

One initiative, a statutory change, would create a system of legal cannabis access for adult-use. A separate constitutional amendment would ensure only those 21 and older can participate in the market.

If the statutory measure is approved by voters, possessing up to an ounce of cannabis would be allowed, and people could cultivate up to four plants and four seedlings at home.

The Montana Department of Revenue would be in charge of regulating the legal industry and would issue business licenses by January 1, 2022. Existing medical cannabis businesses would be first in line to enter the adult-use market.

There would be a 20 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana, while the tax on medical cannabis products would be reduced from two to one percent. Revenue from legal sales would go toward land, water and wildlife conservation programs, veteran services, substance misuse treatment, health care, local governments that allow cannabis businesses and the state general fund.

A fiscal note from the Governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning estimates that legal cannabis retail taxes will generate $38.5 million a year by Fiscal Year 2025.

“Our research has always shown that a majority of Montanans support legalization, and now voters will have the opportunity to enact that policy, which will create jobs and generate new revenue for our state,” Pepper Petersen, a spokesperson for New Approach Montana, which organized the effort, said. “It also means that law enforcement will stop wasting time and resources arresting adults for personal marijuana possession, and instead focus on real crime.”

Under the separate amendment that also qualified for the ballot, the state constitution would be amended to clarify that a “person 18 years of age or older is an adult for all purposes, except that the legislature or the people by initiative may establish the legal age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing alcoholic beverages and marijuana.

Montana voters approved a medical cannabis legalization initiative in 2004 and later passed a 2016 expansion measure.

For the current cycle, New Approach Montana submitted their petitions for the cannabis measures in June. Last month, the group announced that data from county officials indicated they would make the ballot.

The secretary of state made that official on Thursday by updating the status of both submitted initiatives on its tracking page to say they have been “certified to appear on the November 3, 2020 General Election Ballot.”

The statutory measure required 25,468 valid signatures to qualify, while the constitutional amendment needed 50,936 valid signatures.

Activists navigated a difficult path to the ballot amid the coronavirus pandemic. After stay-at-home mandates made petitioning virtually impossible, they unsuccessfully sued for the right to collect signatures electronically and to extend the deadline for submissions. The campaign later relaunched physical canvassing efforts effort in May with social distancing protocols in place.

“This is great news for Montana voters who will now have the opportunity to enact a marijuana legalization policy that will create jobs, generate revenue and allow law enforcement to focus on real crime,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which helped with the signature drive, said. “New Approach Montana’s signature drive was one of the most innovative ever seen, and its success is a testament to the strong existing support among Montana voters for marijuana policy reform.”

The Montana Democratic Party adopted a platform plank endorsing marijuana legalization in June.

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

A marijuana legalization measure in Arizona qualified for the November ballot this week after activists submitted 420,000 signatures.

The Washington, D.C. Board of Elections certified last week that activists submitted enough valid signatures to place a measure to decriminalize plant- and fungi-based psychedelics in the nation’s capital.

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

Organizers in Nebraska last 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 were hoping to 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. But following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the other group last week, hopes are dashed.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and stay-at-home mandates, separate 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.

Read the Montana marijuana ballot initiatives below:

Montana Marijuana Ballot Measures by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative Officially Qualifies For November Ballot

The post Montana Will Vote On Two Marijuana Legalization Measures In November, State Confirms appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Four More Ohio Cities Will Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization This November

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 17:22

Four more Ohio cities will be voting on local measures to decriminalize marijuana this November, activists say.

While they faced signature gathering challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic, advocates announced on Wednesday that they successfully collected enough valid signatures and turned them in ahead of the deadline to qualify for municipal ballots.

Voters in Adena, Glouster, Jacksonville, and Trimble will each see the reform measures on their ballots after local boards of elections certified the petitions. If approved, they’ll join 18 other Ohio cities in that have already enacted measures to lower penalties for misdemeanor cannabis possession in recent years.

NORML Appalachia and the Sensible Movement Coalition worked together on this latest round of proposals. Initially, they aimed to add 14 more municipalities to the list of places voting on decriminalization in 2020, but the COVID-19 outbreak derailed that plan.

The group sued the state, asking that they be allowed to gather signatures electronically. But while a federal court sided with them in a May ruling, the decision was overturned by an appeals court the next month.

Don Keeney, executive director of NORML Appalachia, told Marijuana Moment that the activists consolidated their efforts, targeting the four jurisdictions strategically because they’re located near each other, which allowed petitioners to make the most of their time.

“Everywhere we go, the reception has been good,” he said. “We’ve still got a few naysayers, but even they were polite about it.”

While local boards of elections have certified the signatures and approved them for the ballot, the secretary of state’s office must still either approve the specific proposed ballot language or revise it. Officials can’t prevent the measures from appearing on the local ballots, however.

The 18 jurisdictions where the activists have had past successes include major cities like Dayton, Toledo, Athens, Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland—some of which passed voter-approved ballot measures, while others took action via city councils. The most recent passed happened in Plymouth, where the city council voted in favor of decriminalization last month.

The full list of places that were initially being targeted for 2020 was Adena, Akron, Baltimore, Cadiz, Chagrin Falls, Glouster, Jacksonville, Maumee, McArthur, New Lexington, Rutland, Syracuse, Trimble and Zanesville.

Keeney said they did attempt to collect signatures in McArthur, but ran out of time. Activists ultimately did not pursue the other municipalities.

The local reforms are endorsed by the National Organization for Women, ACLU, NAACP, the Green Party, and the Libertarian Party, according to a press release from NORML Appalachia of Ohio.

Activists had also hoped to place a marijuana legalization initiative on the statewide ballot this year, but that effort also stalled as the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting social distancing measures made signature gathering all but impossible.

Meanwhile, the Ohio senate recently approved legislation to double the amount of marijuana that is currently decriminalized in the state and reduce criminal penalties for several other drug crimes.

New Mexico Governor’s Campaign Asks For Marijuana Feedback From Supporters

The post Four More Ohio Cities Will Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization This November appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

New Mexico Governor’s Campaign Asks For Marijuana Feedback From Supporters

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 15:23

The governor of New Mexico is highlighting her work to advance marijuana legalization and is soliciting feedback on the issue from supporters as part of a reelection campaign fundraising effort.

In an email blast on Tuesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) discussed how she established a working group to get public input on the reform move and urged the legislature to enact legalization.

While lawmakers were unable to reach an agreement by the end of session this year, she said “the economic impact would have created thousands of new jobs and sustainable state revenue sources to invest in New Mexico’s future.” She made a similar point in May, stating that taxing and regulating cannabis could help offset economic losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I didn’t make this decision lightly. I’ve listened to deep concerns for people whose lives have been turned upside down by the inequitable effects of minor marijuana convictions along with an undeniable call for increased public safety, especially for New Mexico children,” the governor wrote in the new email. “But one thing has become clear through all these efforts: Legalizing cannabis would be a net benefit to New Mexico and transform the lives of so many people in this state.”

“That’s why I’m turning to you—because I’m always looking to the future to see what new and innovative policy idea New Mexico should pursue to help transform our state. I’m meeting my team tomorrow to chat through some big ideas, but I need your input before then, so please, let me know.”

The email, which was first reported by The Santa Fe New Mexican, links to a survey with four questions for respondents. It notes that legalization could offset costs for medical cannabis patients and asks supporters whether they feel it’s “important to protect and expand access to medical cannabis.”

The governor’s campaign also discussed public safety considerations for a legal marijuana model, stating that she’s committed to “shutting down illegal markets and keeping recreational cannabis out of the hands of children.”

“How important is it to you that New Mexico protect public safety as it pursues legalized cannabis?” it asks, with options ranging from “extremely important” to “not important at all.”

The survey also requests input on the importance of stimulating local economies through legalization and promoting “forward-thinking” policies like cannabis reform.

At the end of the survey, Lujan Grisham says the “COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the need for strong Democratic leadership in our nation—including right here in New Mexico.”

“That’s why it’s so urgent that we elect strong Democrats up and down the ballot who will roll up their sleeves and get right to work for New Mexico’s families—and take up cannabis legalization,” it states. “But Donald Trump has made New Mexico a top target, and I need your help to fight back.”

After people complete the questionnaire they are then prompted to donate to the Lujan Grisham’s campaign committee.

A bill to legalize cannabis did advance through one Senate committee in January, but it was rejected by another with just days left in the legislative session. Lujan Grisham said that when lawmakers reconvene in 2021,  it’s possible the legislature will pursue the reform move through a constitutional amendment that would be referred to voters at the ballot box.

The prospects of passing legalization in New Mexico were strengthened after the June primary, which saw the ouster of several key senators who have helped to block reform legislation.

Read the full email on marijuana legalization from the governor’s reelection campaign below: 

“Friends –

Last year, after listening to thousands of New Mexicans, I convened a bipartisan working group to study recreational cannabis legalization, examine the effects of legalized cannabis in other states and make recommendations about whether or not New Mexico should pursue legalization.

As Governor, I look for any chance to make transformative investments to build a better New Mexico – including infrastructure, education, tourism, and most of all, the economy.

After seeing New Mexico’s medical cannabis program change the lives of so many patients, I knew it was important to protect medical cannabis access to ensure patients get their medicine while we pursue new opportunities to help communities create robust local economies.

That’s why I put cannabis legalization on the State Legislature’s agenda this year. Unfortunately, the Legislature couldn’t come to an agreement, even though the economic impact would have created thousands of new jobs and sustainable state revenue sources to invest in New Mexico’s future.

I didn’t make this decision lightly. I’ve listened to deep concerns for people whose lives have been turned upside down by the inequitable effects of minor marijuana convictions along with an undeniable call for increased public safety, especially for New Mexico children.

But one thing has become clear through all these efforts: Legalizing cannabis would be a net benefit to New Mexico and transform the lives of so many people in this state.

That’s why I’m turning to you – because I’m always looking to the future to see what new and innovative policy idea New Mexico should pursue to help transform our state. I’m meeting my team tomorrow to chat through some big ideas, but I need your input before then, so please, let me know:

Should New Mexico legalize cannabis?

YES NO

We can create a huge economic opportunity for New Mexico communities – but I want to make sure we get this right, which is why I’m turning to you for advice.

I know how important it is to keep cannabis away from children, commit to shutting down illegal markets, expand economic opportunity for everyone and protect medical cannabis in New Mexico.

Thanks for fighting with me to build a better New Mexico, friends.

Michelle Lujan Grisham”

New Initiative To Legalize Marijuana Sales Filed In D.C.

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

The post New Mexico Governor’s Campaign Asks For Marijuana Feedback From Supporters appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Top Trump Aides Conway And Giuliani Call Out Marijuana Record Of Kamala Harris

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 13:26

Two top aides to President Trump are leveling criticisms at Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) over her record of overseeing prosecutions of people for marijuana.

The day after Joe Biden named Harris as his vice presidential running mate, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway made repeated references to the senator’s time as a prosecutor in California, emphasizing that many liberal voters take issue with her having overseen the convictions of about 1,500 people for cannabis offenses.

“It looks like she left nobody happy. She is seen by those on the far left, many speaking up last night, as not sufficiently for criminal justice reform. She locked up over 1,500 people or so on marijuana charges,” Conway said. “And by others who are for public safety and law and order, she is seen as somebody who was soft on some of those criminals. I think she has a very mixed record there that people will dig into.”

Watch Conway discuss Harris’s cannabis record in the video below:Watch the latest video at foxnews.com

Trump’s personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, similarly slammed Harris’s cannabis record.

“She’s one of the worst prosecutors I’ve ever seen. Her record is virtually schizophrenic. You could take half of her record and say she was very, very tough—too tough,” he said. “1,500 people in jail for marijuana—small, little amounts of marijuana. I spent 16 years as a prosecutor, did many more important cases than she did. I never prosecuted a use marijuana case. She has 1,500 of them in jail.”

Giuliani, who actually oversaw a skyrocketing of marijuana arrests in New York City during his tenure as mayor, then contrasted Harris’s cannabis record with what he said was her light treatment of politically connected defendants, and he called out Biden’s role in authoring punitive criminal justice legislation during his time as a senator.

Harris “helped produce the population that Donald Trump had to save with prison reform,” he said, referring to modest sentencing reform legislation the president signed.

Watch Giuliani discuss Harris’s marijuana record in the vide below:

The attorney seemed to misstate the racially discriminatory impact of drug laws, saying that Biden’s legislation “provides for mass incarceration of mostly blacks for minor crimes, and disproportionally for the crimes that they commit, not that whites commit.” In fact, when it comes to drugs, black people and white people consume them at virtually identical rates, though criminalization laws are disproportionately enforced against people of color.

Conway laid into Harris’s marijuana record again in a question-and-answer session with reporters, saying the senator “called herself the top cop.”

“She put people away for marijuana use. And then she gave plea deals to defendants who have done far worse than marijuana use,” Conway said. “She is going to be expected to answer for that record.”

Kellyanne on Kamala: "She put people away for marijuana use and then she gave plea deals to defendants who had done far worse than marijuana use. She is going to be expected to answer for that." pic.twitter.com/aRddRdVbbd

— The Recount (@therecount) August 12, 2020

Trump himself weighed in on Harris’s marijuana record on Tuesday, calling her a liar in reference to past comments she’s made about her cannabis consumption in college.

Of course, while it seems Trump allies are being quick to seize on dissatisfaction over Harris’s prosecutorial record on cannabis among a faction of Democratic voters, it’s also the case that the senator has since evolved notably on drug policy and is the chief Senate sponsor of a bill to federally deschedule marijuana.

That said, while Harris has backed reform legislation and made cannabis policy change a major component of her criminal justice platform when she unsuccessfully ran in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, she’s been less vocal about the issue since dropping out in December 2019.

As she joins the Biden campaign, activists are closely watching to see if she will continue to advocate for marijuana reform and try to convince the former vice president to ditch his opposition to legalization.

The senator indicated in July that she doesn’t plan to push the presumptive presidential nominee on the issue, however.

Meanwhile, Trump’s reelection campaign is emphasizing Biden’s role in advancing punitive anti-drug laws during his time in the Senate and is attempting to cast the president as the criminal justice reform candidate despite the fact that his administration has taken a number of hostile actions on the marijuana front.

Where Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Stands On Marijuana

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

The post Top Trump Aides Conway And Giuliani Call Out Marijuana Record Of Kamala Harris appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

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.”

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/ 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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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.

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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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