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Presidential Candidate Gillibrand Unveils Wide-Ranging Marijuana Legalization Plan

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 15:34

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) unveiled a comprehensive marijuana reform plan on Wednesday that involves legalizing the drug nationwide, expunging non-violent convictions and requiring that private and federal health insurers to cover medical cannabis.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate also said she would immediately deschedule marijuana, allow cannabis businesses to access financial services and impose an excise tax on legal sales that would fund programs designed to help communities that have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition.

In a Medium post, the senator walked through the details of her proposal, emphasizing the importance of social equity and creating a regulatory system that protects patients, boosts the economy and normalizes the industry. She said ending federal marijuana prohibition “will be a top priority of my presidency.”

Marijuana legalization is a criminal justice issue, a health care issue, and an economic issue. It's past time to make this happen at the federal level.

Here's my plan to do it:

— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) June 5, 2019

“As president, I will immediately deschedule marijuana as a controlled substance, and start working to not only heal the damage done by racist drug laws, but tap into the medical and economic opportunity that legal marijuana offers,” Gillibrand wrote.

One of the more novel elements of her proposal concerns health coverage for medical cannabis. Gillibrand has repeatedly stated that marijuana can serve as an alternative to addictive opioid painkillers, and she said mandating coverage for all private insurers as well as the federal programs Medicare and Medicaid will help suffering patients.

Another prominent feature of the plan centers on social equity for communities ravaged by the war on drugs. Besides providing for the expungement of non-violent marijuana convictions, Gillibrand is also proposing using tax revenue from cannabis sales to fund programs such as job training and education for disadvantaged communities.

Under my plan, we'll decriminalize marijuana and expunge all non-violent marijuana charges, expand access to medical marijuana, nationally legalize and tax recreational marijuana, and create economic equity and justice through marijuana-driven programs.

It's 2019. It's time.

— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) June 5, 2019

She also wants to give small businesses—particularly those owned by women and minorities—access to capital and “technical assistance” so that they can more easily participate in the legal industry.

Gillibrand’s plan earned early praise from Wanda James, the first black woman to own a dispensary in Colorado who penned an editorial in Blavity on Wednesday.

James said that the senator’s plan “goes far and beyond any proposal I’ve seen from a presidential candidate” and that her “agenda was built with economic equity in mind.”

“[L]et’s get really real: Kirsten Gillibrand is a white woman who hasn’t experienced the same type of discrimination as my brother or me,” James wrote. “But she’s doing everything she can to understand and to try to make up for the generations of injustice — and she’s a fighter who’s brave enough to lead on the issues where others won’t.”

Gillibrand made a similar point in her Medium post.

“Nothing proposed today can ever undo the devastating harm done to generations of communities and families of color by the War on Drugs,” she wrote. “But it’s long past time to start making this right. With this plan, we can begin to dismantle the institutional racism in our criminal justice system, open up important new medical and economic horizons, and lift up communities who need and deserve a fair shot at opportunity.”

Gillibrand said that the country should end prohibition for some of the same reasons that it ended alcohol prohibition:

“Fundamentally, whether adults use marijuana is a matter of privacy, and we should treat marijuana as a major economic opportunity and revenue source.”

Via Team Gillibrand.

She further argued that while state-level legalization efforts have had “positive benefits,” establishing a federal regulatory framework is necessary because “a state-by-state patchwork is not enough to tackle the deeply rooted racial, social, and economic injustices within our marijuana laws, or to fully unleash the economic equity and opportunity of marijuana legalization.”

It’s not clear whether Gillibrand plans to introduce legislation containing any of these proposals during the current Congress or if she’s just outlining her cannabis agenda if elected president. The plan’s reveal comes weeks after the senator met with advocates and discussed how marijuana reform fits within her campaign.

What is clear is that the wide-ranging proposal is yet another sign that Democratic presidential candidates are taking the issue of marijuana reform seriously. For many voters, it’s no longer enough for politicians to simply voice support for reform; candidates are now essentially competing to produce the most forward-thinking cannabis plans to stand out in an overwhelmingly pro-legalization crowd.

“It’s 2019. It’s time to legalize marijuana nationwide,” Gillibrand wrote. “As president, I’ll get it done.”

Presidential Candidate Touts Marijuana Legalization Measure He Opposed To Raise Money On Instagram

Photo element courtesy of Gillibrand 2010

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West Virginia Voters Reject Marijuana Decriminalization Measure

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 15:04

Residents of Salem, West Virginia, voted to reject a local marijuana decriminalization measure during a city election on Tuesday.

The defeat, in a vote of 114 to 45, follows a brief legal battle that ensued after city officials removed the measure from the ballot in March, citing concerns that it would conflict with state laws prohibiting cannabis. In response, organizers filed a lawsuit stating that they collected sufficient signatures before the deadline and that the ordinance’s removal constituted a violation of free speech.

A federal judge sided with activists from Sensible Salem WV and ordered the city to put the measure back on the ballot, but he also required the proposal’s backers to pay a $500 cash bond to cover the reprinting costs.

If approved, the measure would have made it so that possession of any amount of cannabis would not carry any fines or jail time as long as the person’s was within city limits. It would still have been considered a misdemeanor, but the ordinance sought to suspend the punishment and also any court fees associated with the charge.

The defeat is not what advocates were hoping for, but they say that it won’t slow their plans to pursue cannabis reform elsewhere.

“We are very disappointed with the results, obviously, however the war is not won or lost in a single battle,” Chad Thompson, executive director of the Sensible Movement Coalition, which is coordinating similar measures across the country, told Marijuana Moment. “The positive here is that we were able to even have this conversation with West Virginians. Clearly that conversation needed to be started. Just like with the rest of America, it will only take time until ignorance is replaced with knowledge and this is where that starts.”

“We are excited to be doing positive education here which will lead to many future victories,” he said. “We currently are working with local activists in four states that are working to organically build grassroots movements and enact policy that stops harm to regular marijuana users.”

If the Salem measure had been approved it likely would have been challenged further in courts, as some argue that individual jurisdictions cannot supersede state law.

The West Virginia Secretary of State signaled that that was the case in a March memorandum, which advocates suspect was the source of the measure’s removal from the ballot. The office determined that “it is likely that an ordinance which otherwise removes penalties for such possession would violate the [West Virginia] Constitution.”

Attorneys representing the campaign said during their court case that the conflict “presents a difficult question under West Virginia law.”

“Plaintiffs do not pretend to know the answer,” they wrote. “Even West Virginia’s secretary of state is uncertain. He is only willing to tentatively say it ‘likely’ does not have that power.”

“What is certain, however, [is] that local elections officials cannot constitutionally and conclusively solve this ‘riddle that even the state’s top lawyers struggle to solve’ before the matter is put to a vote. That is an unconstitutional prior restraint. And it is just as unconstitutional in a non-public form as in a public forum.”

But that memorandum was not legally binding and instead represented an informed prediction about what would happen if a city sought to change local laws that run counter to state law.

Efforts to change marijuana policy locally have been successful elsewhere in the country. The Sensible Movement Coalition has made gains in Ohio, for example, and it’s also targeting South Carolina and Missouri for future measures.

Five Ohio cities voted to decriminalize possession during the November 2018 election, despite the state’s law treating possession a misdemeanor offense.

“The Sensible Movement Coalition originally wrote the no fine, no time language for Toledo,” Thompson said. “It passed over 70 percent. There had not been a ticket written in Toledo for up to seven ounce possession in three-and-a half years.”

“That is why we are spreading across the country, because we are enacting language that is effective,” he said. “We are only enacting ordinances that must be followed by the local law enforcement.”

Read the full text of the defeated Salem, West Virginia marijuana measure below:

Salem WV Ordinance Initiative by on Scribd

Rhode Island Seeks Blockchain Tech To Help Government Track Medical Marijuana

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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12 governors call on Congress to pass cannabis legislation (Newsletter: June 5, 2019)

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 10:32

Oakland approves psychedelics decrim; Congressional researchers question marijuana-impaired driving; Senate Dem: medical cannabis a “laughing matter”

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The governors of 12 states—including Republicans from Utah and Vermont, and Democrats from California and Colorado—teamed up to send a letter urging congressional leaders to pass legislation to respect state marijuana laws.

The Oakland, California City Council gave unanimous final approval to a measure decriminalizing psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, mescaline, ayahuasca and ibogaine. Officials told Marijuana Moment that the path is now open to consider legalizing sales next.

The Congressional Research Service issued a report calling into question claims that legal cannabis means more dangerous roads.

  • “Research studies have been unable to consistently correlate levels of marijuana consumption, or THC in a person’s body, and levels of impairment.”
  • “Relatively few epidemiological studies of marijuana usage and crash risk have been conducted, and the few that have been conducted have generally found low or no increased risk of crashes from marijuana use.”
  • “Considering the length of time that marijuana is detectable in the body after usage, and the uncertainty about the impairing effect of marijuana on driving performance, Congress and other federal policymakers may elect to reexamine the rationale for testing all safety-sensitive transportation workers for marijuana usage.”

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) the body’s second-top-ranking Democrat called claims about marijuana’s medical value “a laughing matter” during a hearing, but he also criticized the roadblocks to research created by cannabis’s Schedule I status.


The House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act, which contains provisions shielding immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from losing protections as a result of low-level marijuana offenses or engaging in state-legal activities such as working in the cannabis industry.

The House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation held a hearing on drug interdiction efforts.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted, “Relief for marijuana businesses is important—but we need decriminalization at the federal level, #CJreform, opportunity for minority & women-owned small businesses. That’s what my bill with @RepJeffries does. Congress should not enact banking reforms alone & think the job is done.”

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) tweeted, “cannabis farmers and businesses are legal under CA law, but fed law says they can’t use banks. I support the #SAFEBankingAct to allow access to the banking system & to protect public safety.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) tweeted about discussing marijuana policy with constituents at town hall meetings.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) spoke about his involvement in the marijuana industry.

The Senate marijuana banking bill got one new cosponsor, for a total of 30.

The House bill to require the federal government to study state marijuana laws got one new cosponsor, for a total of 28.

The House bill to force the Department of Justice to license more cultivators of marijuana for research got one new cosponsor, for a total of 10.

The House comprehensive medical cannabis bill got one new cosponsor, for a total of 10.


Oregon lawmakers sent Gov. Kate Brown (D) a bill to make it easier for people to expunge past marijuana convictions.

A Washington State appeals court said that prosecutors’ references to the “war on drugs” during a criminal trial were”problematic” and “imprudent, but ultimately fell short of misconduct” as claimed by the defendant in the case. Separately, regulators announced a delay in updating marijuana tracking software.

The Washington, D.C. Council discussed a proposal to provide employment protections for medical cannabis patients who work for government agencies, but did not take a vote on the issue.

The Connecticut Medical Marijuana Program’s Board of Physicians recommended adding new medical cannabis qualifying conditions.

Nebraska activists said they collected nearly 1,400 signatures last weekend in support of a proposed medical cannabis ballot measure.

A Michigan medical cannabis patient is suing the state over the lack of availability of the drug.

Missouri regulators released application forms for medical cannabis patients and caregivers.

Alaska regulators released proposed hemp rules.

Tennessee regulators are loosening restrictions on hemp growing. Meanwhile, lawmakers said they’ll try again to legalize medical cannabis next year.

A major at the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council gave a presentation about requirements for police who want to use medical cannabis.

Advocates are concerned about Pennsylvania medical cannabis business ownership consolidation.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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


Las Vegas, Nevada’s mayor said she supports allowing marijuana consumption lounges.

The Rolla, Missouri City Council is considering decriminalizing marijuana.


Americans for Safe Access released a publication titled the “Patient’s Guide to CBD.”

Missouri cannabis lobbyist and activist Eapen Thampy has been charged by federal prosecutors with allegedly participating in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana. According to the indictment, one co-defendant used proceeds to donate $1,000 to the cannabis-focused political action committee Better Way Missouri.


A study found that “individuals with [personality disorders] who used cannabis were at increased odds for developing substance use disorders (including opioid use disorder), but not other comorbid psychiatric disorders” and that “no significant interaction effects were generally found between cannabis use and [personality disorder],” suggesting that “aside from specific substance use disorders, individuals with [personality disorders] are not at an increased risk for developing other psychiatric disorders following cannabis use.

A study found that “KandyPens markets its products as aromatherapy devices; however, Instagram posts related to these products rarely mentioned their purported purpose” and that “about 32.43 % of posts referenced cannabis-related solutions, 2.98 % of the posts mentioned nicotine-related solutions and 0.11 % of the posts mentioned aromatherapy.”

A study of hemp plants looked at “key genes, for which natural genetic variation may lead to desired flowering behavior, including examples of pleiotropic effects on yield quality and on carbon partitioning.”


Simplifya hired a former official with the Departments of Justice and Treasury as its chief compliance officer and general counsel.

RE/MAX tweeted, “Do marijuana dispensaries drive up home values? At least one study says yes.”


Former basketball players Al Harrington and JR Smith are lobbying New York lawmakers to legalize marijuana.

Model Paris Jackson, responding to a critical tweet about her marijuana consumption, said, “because an organic medicinal plant from mother earth with dozens of healing properties that is legal where i live and used to help suffering people around the world = meth. instead of taking poisonous addictive pharmaceuticals, this incredible medicine from the earth has been prescribed to me to help with my depression, anxiety, ptsd, and insomnia.”

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Oakland Officials Decriminalize Psychedelics And Say They’ll Work To Legalize Sales Next

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 10:08

Oakland, California may become the first city in the United States to legalize the distribution and sale of psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca, in a way similar to how the city was the first to normalize commercial medical marijuana sales.

Much has to happen before that broader drug policy reform becomes a reality, but the Oakland City Council took a decisive first step on Tuesday when it voted 6 to 0 to approve a measure decriminalizing the possession of “entheogenic” plant- and fungi-based substances, also including mescaline and ibogaine.

Such plants have therapeutic potential in treating mental health conditions like addiction, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a slowly but steadily growing chorus of researchers and experts, but access to patients remains risky illegal behavior under current federal and state laws prohibiting them.

Under the terms of the unanimously approved Oakland resolution, “entheogenic plant practices,” including ayahuasca ceremonies and the consumption of mushrooms, are now “amongst the lowest priority” for law enforcement, and “any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties” for adult use and possession is restricted.

In the immediate term, Decriminalize Nature Oakland, which led the charge to build support for the measure, will run similar campaigns in other California cities. The first will be next door in Berkeley, said Larry Norris, a cofounder of Decriminalize Nature.

“People see this, they can see we brought a community out, we made a resolution happen,” he told Marijuana Moment.

Lawmakers heard more than an hour of very personal, often emotional testimony from dozens of advocates who claimed the plants in questions solved addiction and other life-threatening conditions.

“I was homeless. I was hopeless. I hated myself,” said Christopher Laurance, who said “one experience” with ibogaine helped him overcome an addiction to heroin.

Similar “lowest priority ordinances” singularly focused on marijuana have preceded the establishment of licensed cannabis cultivation and sales in Oakland and other cities.

And last month, voters in Denver narrowly approved a ballot initiative that also decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms, but not the other naturally derived substances included in the Oakland plan.

Now that local lawmakers have made the initial move of decriminalizing psychedelics, the way is clear for advocates to begin building toward the next step: legal and reliable access.

Councilmember Noel Gallo, the sponsor of the decriminalization measure approved on Tuesday, told Marijuana Moment in an interview that lawmakers can now “establish a process” similar to what occurred with cannabis.

That would possibly require action via the statewide ballot.

Last year, proponents of a California legalization initiative that sought to legalize hallucinogenic mushrooms for adults 21 and over failed to collect enough signatures to qualify the measure for a vote.

But other advocates are already working to place a psilocybin decriminalization initiative on the California statewide ballot in 2020, and now they’ll be working with the momentum picked up from Oakland’s successful vote.

Gallo voiced support for such an effort on Tuesday. But for now, at the municipal level, what was likely to have been the chief obstacle—resistance from law enforcement—seems mostly sorted, Gallo said.

“The police have agreed” in principle to the far-reaching moves, Gallo said before Tuesday’s City Council meeting, with some caveats.

It didn’t hurt that law enforcement reported only a handful of arrests for possessing hallucinogenic plants over the past decade, according to testimony given before a successful first decriminalization vote at a Public Safety Committee hearing last week—and it’s also helpful that there does not appear to be a violence-inducing, for-profit illicit trade in the substances.

The lone voice of caution at last week’s hearing, Councilmember Loren Taylor, introduced a series of amendments intended to “mitigate” any negative impacts. Among them: A disclaimer that entheogenic plants “are not for everyone”—particularly people with personal or family histories of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder—and exceptions to the lowest-priority ordinance for anyone driving while under the influence of the plants, possessing them in schools or “causing a public disturbance.”

Still, not all is completely copacetic. “There are some plants that the police say are way out there” and not appropriate for decriminalization, Gallo said, without specifying which species they have in mind.

“Now,” he added, “we have to agree on what’s being regulated and identify a pathway for distribution and sales. Like with marijuana, we have to establish a process.”

The details will require more legislating but, if cannabis is any precedent, it would look something like this: With possession decriminalized, psychedelic plants will become generally easier to obtain. The permissive atmosphere might allow for private “clubs,” like the storefronts that sold recreational cannabis under Measure Z, a lowest-priority law for marijuana that Oakland voters approved in 2004.

Once those sorts of operations are up and running, the path towards some kind of regulated commercial retail sales of psychedelic plants is at least visible, if not open.

“Oakland was the first city in the nation to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis sales,” City Council President Rebecca Kaplan, who was also that measure’s author, told Marijuana Moment. Thus, doing something similar with entheogenic plants at least has precedent.

In addition to the local and statewide efforts in California, Oregon activists are currently collecting signatures to place a 2020 measure to legalize the medical use of psilocybin and otherwise lower penalties for the substance before voters. And in Iowa, a Republican state lawmaker has introduced a mushroom-related bill in the state legislature.

Congressional Lawmakers Have Little To Say About Decriminalizing Psychedelics Following Denver Victory

This story has been updated to reflect that the vote tally was 6 to 0 and not 8 to 0 as initially reported. Two Council members were not present for the vote.

Photo elements courtesy of carlosemmaskype and Apollo.

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Congressional Report Raises Questions About Whether Marijuana Impairs Driving

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 19:02

Concerns expressed by lawmakers that marijuana legalization will make the roads more dangerous might not be totally founded, a congressional research body said in a recent report. In fact, the experts tasked by the House and Senate with looking into the issue found that evidence about cannabis’s ability to impair driving is currently inconclusive.

While law enforcement has well-established tools to identify impaired driving from alcohol, developing technology to do the same for cannabis has proved difficult. Not only is the technology lacking, but questions remain as to how THC affects driving skills in the first place and what levels of THC should be considered safe.

“Although laboratory studies have shown that marijuana consumption can affect a person’s response times and motor performance, studies of the impact of marijuana consumption on a driver’s risk of being involved in a crash have produced conflicting results, with some studies finding little or no increased risk of a crash from marijuana usage,” the Congressional Research Service (CRS) wrote.

What’s more, “studies have been unable to consistently correlate levels of marijuana consumption, or THC in a person’s body, and levels of impairment.”

Both advocates and opponents of marijuana reform strongly support finding a resolution to the impaired driving detection issue. But experts aren’t so confident that researchers will be able to develop something akin to an alcohol breathalyzer, as the most promising attempts have only been able to determine whether a person has smoked within recent hours.

What’s striking about the report from Congress’s official research arm is that it repeatedly states it’s not clear that cannabis consumption is associated with an increased risk of traffic accidents. In general, the issue has been treated as something of a given in congressional hearings, with some lawmakers arguing that loosening federal cannabis laws would lead to a spike in traffic deaths.

That argument was echoed in a separate House Appropriations Committee report that was released on Monday. A section of the document described ongoing concerns about drugged driving “due to the increase in States legalizing marijuana use” and designated funds to help law enforcement identify impaired driving from cannabis.

The CRS report, which was published last month, signals that the problem isn’t quite as cut and dry as lawmakers might think.

Researchers have found on several occasions that traffic fatalities do not increase after a state legalizes marijuana.

Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that both opponents and supporters of legalization generally caution against driving under the influence.

“Cannabis inhalation in a dose-response manner may influence certain aspects of psychomotor performance, particularly in those who are more naive to its effect,” Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “But this influence is typically short-lived and is far less acute than the psychomotor effects associate with alcohol.”

“By contrast, THC’s unique absorption profile and prolonged detection window in blood makes it so that—unlike as is the case with alcohol—the detection of THC in blood is not necessarily indicative of either recency of use or behavioral impairment,” he said.

The congressional report discusses the limitations of technology in detecting active impairment from cannabis and details previous studies on traffic trends in states that have reformed their cannabis laws. It also lays out legislative options for Congress to “aid policymaking around the issue of marijuana and impairment.”

As it stands, states have generally enforced impaired driving laws through one of two processes. Some states “require that the state prove that a driver’s impairment was caused by the substance or behavior at issue” while others have per se laws asserting that “a driver is automatically guilty of driving while impaired if specified levels of a potentially impairing substance are found in his or her body.”

But it’s significantly easier to prove impairment for alcohol however you cut it, the report explains.

“Detecting impairment due to use of marijuana is more difficult. The body metabolizes marijuana differently from alcohol,” the authors wrote. “The level of THC (the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana) in the body drops quickly within an hour after usage, yet traces of THC (nonpsychoactive metabolites) can still be found in the body weeks after usage of marijuana.”

Further there is “as yet no scientifically demonstrated correlation between levels of THC and degrees of impairment of driver performance, and epidemiological studies disagree as to whether marijuana use by a driver results in increased crash risk.”

Detecting impairment from cannabis is additionally complicated by another extraneous circumstance: variation in THC potency. The THC concentration conundrum is exacerbated by the fact that the only source of federal, research-grade cannabis “is considered by some researchers to be low quality,” the report stated, referring to studies showing that the government’s marijuana supply does not chemically reflect what’s available in state-legal commercial markets.

CRS also looked at the “inconsistent” results of studies examining the effects of cannabis use on traffic incidents. While some have indicated that consumption poses an increased risk on the road, the report argues that some may be conflating correlation and causation.

“Relatively few epidemiological studies of marijuana usage and crash risk have been conducted, and the few that have been conducted have generally found low or no increased risk of crashes from marijuana use,” CRS wrote.

After going through several other related issues, CRS laid out a couple of choices for Congress when it comes to dealing with the impaired driving issue. Those options include “continued research into whether a quantitative standard can be established that correlates the level of THC in a person’s body and the level of impairment” and compiling “better data on the prevalence of marijuana use by drivers, especially among drivers involved in crashes and drivers arrested for impaired driving.”

One of the last elements the report specifically focused on was federally mandated drug testing for individuals in “safety sensitive” jobs in the transportation sector. Interestingly, CRS seemed to suggest that, given the issues they outlined with respect to difficulties identifying active impairment from THC, the government should reevaluate whether suspensions for testing positive should be permanent.

“CRS could not identify any data on how many safety-sensitive transportation employees have lost their jobs as a result of positive tests for marijuana use,” the report states. “Considering the length of time that marijuana is detectable in the body after usage, and the uncertainty about the impairing effect of marijuana on driving performance, Congress and other federal policymakers may elect to reexamine the rationale for testing all safety-sensitive transportation workers for marijuana usage.”

“Alternatively, Congress and federal policymakers may opt to maintain the status quo until more research results become available,” the report advised.

Armentano, of NORML, said that legislators should be way of enacting policies focused on levels of THC or metabolites in drivers.

“As more states consider amending their cannabis consumption laws, lawmakers would best served to avoid amending traffic safety laws in a manner that relies solely on the presence of THC or its metabolites as determinants of driving impairment,” he said. “Otherwise, the imposition of traffic safety laws may inadvertently become a criminal mechanism for law enforcement and prosecutors to punish those who have engage in legally protected behavior and who have not posed any actionable traffic safety threat.”

Marijuana Legalization Not Linked To Increased Traffic Deaths, Study Finds


The post Congressional Report Raises Questions About Whether Marijuana Impairs Driving appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Top Democratic Senator Calls Medical Marijuana A ‘Laughing Matter’

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 17:12

A top-ranking Democratic senator called into question the therapeutic value of marijuana on Tuesday while also making a broader point about how the federal drug classification system inhibits medical research.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) made the comments during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the opioid epidemic and federal moves to restrict powerful fentanyl analogues.

Before getting into his views on the potential consequences of permanently placing those opioids in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Durbin, the Senate Democratic whip, took a hit at medical cannabis.

“My state just decided in the last few days to make marijuana legal in my state for recreational purposes, starting January 1,” he said, referencing the passage of a cannabis legalization bill through the Illinois legislature last week. “We’ve had medical marijuana. I’ve been to one of those clinics. It was almost a laughing matter.”

“The medical claims they make about marijuana go way beyond anything that’s been proven,” he said. “There are no clinical trials going on.”

Watch Durbin’s medical cannabis comments around 1:00:00 into the video below:


Durbin’s views on medical cannabis and marijuana reform in general are at odds with those expressed by many of his Democratic colleagues—not to mention a majority of voters. He said earlier this year that he opposed criminalizing cannabis use, but he cautioned against the other “extreme” of legalizing the plant.

Legalization advocates took issue with Durbin’s characterization of medical cannabis.

“Senator Durbin’s comments surrounding the efficacy and therapeutic benefits of cannabis are ignorant at best and cruel at worst,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “There are over 30,000 peer-reviewed studies hosted on on the effects of cannabis, including many showing declines in cases of opioid abuse and overdose fatalities.”

“If Mr. Durbin is serious about addressing the opioid crisis, then he ought not to disparage the role or lives saved that legal marijuana can play,” Stekal said.

Michael Liszewski, principal of The Enact Group, a lobbying and consulting firm that focuses on cannabis, told Marijuana Moment he agrees that the “Schedule I status has prevented more robust medical cannabis research,” but that “it’s disappointing that Senator Durbin is characterizing it as a ‘laughing matter.'”

“To imply that patients need to look sick enough in order to obtain relief from medical cannabis ignores at least two points: First, many ailments that are treated by medical cannabis are not readily visible to observers, such as Crohn’s, lupus, and PTSD (all of which are qualifying conditions in Illinois). And second, it ignores the very real possibility that these individuals look healthy because their medical cannabis therapy is providing them with benefit.”

David Mangone, director of government affairs and counsel at Americans for Safe Access, also criticized the lawmaker’s remarks.

“Senator Durbin’s comments about the medical cannabis program in Illinois are an insult to the thousands of people in his state’s program who use cannabis as a life-saving medicine,” he told Marijuana moment.

“Ignoring the fact that there are nearly 400 [National Institutes of Health] supervised clinical trials on cannabis either underway or recruiting participants, and comparing cannabis to fentanyl analogues, is disingenuous, ill-informed, and dangerous for public policy,” Mangone said.

While the senator was dismissive of medical cannabis at the hearing, arguing that we “are not establishing whether marijuana is in fact medically appropriate in so many circumstances where they claim they are,” he also said that the Schedule I status of cannabis is the reason, in his view, that evidence about its therapeutic benefits of cannabis is insufficient.

“Why don’t they [research cannabis]? Because we’ve moved marijuana to Schedule I—the same place we’re about to move all fentanyl analogues,” he said.

“Under a blanket Schedule I framework, which is being asked for today, we could imperil research into more powerful naloxone—a stronger and better treatment to save lives of those who have used fentanyl analogues,” he added. “Is that what we want to do? I don’t think so.”

Liszewski said there “simply was no need for the senator to slander medical cannabis therapy while making his valid point about how Schedule I status harms medical research.”

Durbin later questioned the Drug Enforcement Administration’s opioid production quota, stating that there’s no need to manufacture such a high volume of prescription painkillers. In one of his closing remarks, he made a play on a Reagan-era anti-drug message.

It’s time to say no,” he said. “Just say no—to pharma when they want that kind of production.”

Though the senator made his thoughts on the scheduling system clear, he’s so far declined to sign on to legislation that would amend the issue, by rescheduling or descheduling cannabis. In fact, Durbin has only cosponsored two marijuana-focused bills over the course of his 36 years in Congress to date.

One would have required the DEA to conduct clinical trials on cannabidiol (CBD) and later determine whether the compound should be a controlled substance. The other would have allowed defendants in federal court cases to introduce evidence showing that any marijuana activity was in compliance with a state medical cannabis law.

Notably, during his time in the House, Durbin cosponsored the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which included provisions that expanded the criminalization of drugs as well as a section tied to the problem he complained about at Tuesday’s hearing. That provision amended the CSA “to provide that controlled substance analogues shall be treated as a schedule I substance.”

“I appreciate Senator Durbin’s comments about limiting federal research,” Don Murphy, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “I’d feel even better about it if he channeled that energy and interest by putting his name on legislation to fix the problem”

Congressional Funding Bill Protects Cannabis Banking And Lets DC Legalize Marijuana Sales

Photo courtesy of Senate Judiciary Committee.

The post Top Democratic Senator Calls Medical Marijuana A ‘Laughing Matter’ appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Bipartisan Governors Team Up To Demand Federal Marijuana Reform

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 15:11

The governors of twelve states sent a letter to congressional leaders on Monday, urging them to pass bipartisan legislation that would let states legalize and regulate marijuana without fear of federal intervention.

In the letter, the Republican and Democratic governors said that a majority of states have already moved to allow cannabis for medical or recreational purposes and mentioned that “state legislators across the country have filed hundreds of bills to legalize and regulate this emerging industry, provide protections for consumers, promote public safety and eliminate illegal sales.”

While states have received some assurances that their legal marijuana programs would be protected—through congressional riders blocking the use of Justice Department funds to crack down on state-legal activity as well as statements from the attorney general—the policy needs to be codified, they wrote.

Specifically, the governors called on Congress to approve the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act.

“The STATES Act is a logical step for Congress because it honors state action by codifying protection at the federal level for those businesses and consumers operating in accordance with state law,” they wrote. “The STATES Act is not about whether marijuana should be legal or illegal; it is about respecting the authority of states to act, lead and respond to the evolving needs and attitudes of their citizens.”

“Whether a state maintains its prohibition of cannabis or chooses a different path, the STATES Act ensures that the federal government is a partner rather than an impediment—an objective the federal government should always strive to achieve,” they added.

One promising development the governors cited was congressional action on a bipartisan banking bill that would protect financial institutions that service marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators.

The letter was signed by the governors of California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington State and Vermont.

Governors sent a similar letter in support of the STATES Act last year. That version didn’t include the governors of Utah or Vermont as signees, but it did include Alaska and New Jersey, which do not appear on the latest version.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and David Joyce (R-OH) and Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA filed companion versions of the STATES Act in April.

“Our states have acted with deliberation and care to implement programs through thoughtful legislation and regulations,” the governors wrote. “Our citizens have spoken, we have responded. We ask that Congress recognize and respect our states’ efforts by supporting and passing the STATES Act.”

You can read the letter below:

STATES 2019 Governors to Hill by on Scribd

U.S. Attorney General Says He Prefers Marijuana Reform Bill To Current Federal Law

The post Bipartisan Governors Team Up To Demand Federal Marijuana Reform appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Cannabis banking backers float GOP-friendly amendments (Newsletter: June 4, 2019)

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 10:39

House reports address impaired driving, CBD & hemp; RI floats blockchain to track marijuana; Lawmakers push VA on home loan denial to cannabis workers

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There are now 1,119 cannabis-related bills moving through state legislatures and Congress for 2019 sessions.

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  • Charlie Howe: “The insanity that is federal and state cannabis prohibition has and is destroying our country. The cost to taxpayers, the lives of people and families destroyed, because of a personal choice. It must end now!”


In addition to backing a new appropriations rider on marijuana business banking access, supporters are looking at amending a bipartisan standalone bill to add hemp- and gun-related provisions aimed at garnering stronger Republican support.

Two new reports issued by the House Appropriations Committee address marijuana-impaired driving, CBD regulations and the legalization of hemp.

A group of 21 members of Congress sent a letter criticizing a Department of Veterans Affairs policy that denies home loans to military veterans who work in the marijuana industry.

The Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation wants blockchain companies to submit proposals on how their technology can help the state track medical cannabis, among other things.


President Trump tweeted, “As a sign of good faith, Mexico should immediately stop the flow of people and drugs through their country and to our Southern Border. They can do it if they want!”

The House of Representatives approved a Senate-passed disaster aid funding bill that includes provisions to ensure that hemp farmers are eligible for crop insurance.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government gave initial approval to a spending bill containing protections for marijuana banking and removing a longstanding rider blocking Washington, D.C. from using its own money to legalize cannabis sales.

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), a presidential candidate, spoke about his past marijuana use in the context of racial disparities in the criminal justice system. He also said that people currently incarcerated for cannabis should be released and that their records should be expunged.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a presidential candidate, voiced support for decriminalizing marijuana and expunging cannabis convictions.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), a presidential candidate, met with state legislative leaders to press for the passage of marijuana legalization this session but said that he wants “to see it done in a way that doesn’t create a new monster corporate class.” He also tweeted a video of himself talking about the issue.

Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D), a presidential candidate, tweeted, “Our punitive, militaristic approach to drugs has destabilized Latin America, criminalized our own neighborhoods, and enabled the police to grossly abuse their power. It has done nothing but harm to our communities. The War on Drugs must end immediately.”

Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) spoke about states’ rights as it relates to hemp and marijuana.

Rep. Blaine Luetkeyemer (R-MO) expressed concerns about allowing marijuana businesses to access banks prior to cannabis being descheduled.

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) tweeted, “Now that IL has legalized recreational #marijuana, it’s time for Congress to pass the #SAFEBankingAct to ensure that cannabis businesses have the same access to banking as any other legitimate business.”

Former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) tweeted a video of a recent talk he gave at a cannabis conference.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he doesn’t think the state Senate has the votes to pass a marijuana legalization bill and suggested that he is not planning to push hard on the issue.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced that regulators are moving to license up to 108 new medical cannabis businesses. The Senate president and Assembly speaker criticized the move.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said that her personal struggles with alcohol factored into her decision to veto a bill to expand the state’s limited CBD medical cannabis program.

Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor spoke in support of legalizing marijuana and joked that it would make Thanksgiving dinners more enjoyable.

Oregon lawmakers sent Gov. Kate Brown (D) a bill to bar landlords from denying housing to prospective tenants for medical cannabis use or past low-level marijuana convictions.

Louisiana lawmakers sent Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) a bill to legalize hemp and provide a regulatory framework for CBD products. Separately, the Senate approved a bill to let patients inhale medical cannabis that it had initially rejected over the weekend.

Nevada lawmakers sent Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) a bill to create a Cannabis Compliance Board.

The Florida House of Representatives is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the state’s medical cannabis regulations.

The California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday in a case examining whether local zoning ordinances allowing medical cannabis dispensaries to operate could cause reasonably foreseeable indirect environmental changes.

The Pennsylvania House Health and Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on marijuana use and gun rights.

A Washington, D.C. councilmember said he will move emergency legislation on Tuesday to protect employment rights for medical cannabis patients who work for city agencies.

Missouri regulators will make medical cannabis patient applications available on Tuesday.

Washington State regulators proposed marijuana packaging and labeling rules. They also sent a bulletin on required warnings on text message advertising. Meanwhile, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy published an analysis on how to more effectively measure youth cannabis use.

Massachusetts regulators held a training session for marijuana social equity program participants.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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


Chicago, Illinois’s mayor cheered the passage of a bill to legalize marijuana in the state.

A Sullivan County, New York undersheriff said that follow-up testing undercuts his department’s previous claims of seizing fentanyl-laced marijuana.


Paraguay’s government is moving to phase in marijuana legalization.

Ireland’s Cabinet is set to consider potentially far-reaching drug policy reform measures.


The incoming chairman of the New York Republican Party said he doesn’t “have the same hostility toward the legalization of marijuana as maybe my predecessors did.”

A Tax Foundation executive vice president said he thinks federal marijuana legalization is not far off.


A study laid “groundwork for developing a better understanding of the complex chemistry and biochemistry underlying resin accumulation across commercial cannabis strains.”

A survey found that people who are intimidated by the life insurance application process are three times more likely to use cannabis on a daily basis than those who aren’t.


A poll of Connecticut residents found that 59% support legalizing marijuana, 69% back expunging low-level cannabis records and 57% favor directing the majority of legalization revenue to areas that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board cheered Illinois’s approach to legalizing marijuana.


KushCo Holdings Inc.’s directors and officers are being accused in a lawsuit of misleading investors about accounting errors.

The CEO of Brinks said that the marijuana market is a “beautiful opportunity.”


Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell said that the first time they ever smelled marijuana was when Coolio smoked it backstage at at “All That.”

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The post Cannabis banking backers float GOP-friendly amendments (Newsletter: June 4, 2019) appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Rhode Island Seeks Blockchain Tech To Help Government Track Medical Marijuana

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 23:33

Rhode Island is hoping that blockchain technology can enhance the state’s efforts to track the medical marijuana industry and identify bad actors, according to a notice published on Monday.

In a request for proposals, the state asked blockchain companies to submit concepts that would help Rhode Island leverage blockchain—a system that records cryptocurrency transactions—for various ventures, including its medical cannabis program.

“Rhode Island aims to be a leader in government efficiency and innovation and we believe exploring the possibilities of blockchain technology is a step toward modernization in government,” Liz Tanner, director of the Department of Business Regulation, said in a press release. “This will encourage blockchain businesses to demonstrate their value to government entities, and I encourage blockchain-based businesses to consider Rhode Island to test blockchain technology within government.”

The notice stipulated that the state is interested in developing technology that could help it increase “visibility into the Medical Marijuana industry from seed to sale, reducing potential fraud and abuse.”

Additionally, blockchain could assist various governmental agencies in “crafting an authoritative record of chain-of-custody for criminal investigative evidence” when it comes to cannabis enforcement, the notice states.

“This is really the first step to see what’s out there and if blockchain technology can help improve government processes in the future,” state CIO Bijay Kumar said. “I am excited to see the possibilities and to learn more about how this new technology is helping other public and private entities reach new levels of innovation in business, security and other areas.”

Developing technologies to track state-legal marijuana markets has become especially important considering that financial institutions have been reluctant to service such businesses out of fear of being penalized by federal regulators.

While there are congressional efforts underway to ameliorate the issue, uncertainty abounds. A House subcommittee included language to safeguard marijuana businesses from federal punishment in an appropriations bill on Sunday.

“It’s good to see the state exploring ways to make the medical marijuana program more efficient,” Jared Moffat, Rhode Island political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “Legal marijuana is a rapidly evolving terrain, and we need government regulators looking at new technologies and innovative solutions.”

The request for proposals doesn’t specifically address the banking issue, but it does seem to be related. Blockchain could offer the government an alternative pathway to monitor transactions in the cannabis market through an encryption-based program.

In a related recent development, the payment processor service Square said that it has launched a pilot program designed to give CBD businesses access to credit card processing services—something that has created headaches for companies marketing products that were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

Lawmakers Work New Angles To Pass Marijuana Banking Legislation

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

The post Rhode Island Seeks Blockchain Tech To Help Government Track Medical Marijuana appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Lawmakers Press VA On Home Loans Denials To Veterans Working In Marijuana Industry

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 20:17

A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) last month, criticizing its policy of denying veterans VA-backed home loans due to their involvement in state-legal marijuana businesses.

The letter, which was led by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), states that the cannabis industry employs more than 200,000 Americans, and that the number of veterans participating in the market is likely to grow as more states opt to legalize marijuana.

“A substantial number of veterans earn their livelihoods in this industry, and in coming years, that number is likely to further rise,” the lawmakers wrote. “The VA must acknowledge this reality and ensure veterans who work in this sector are able to clearly understand and can equitably access the benefits they’ve earned.”

Marijuana Moment first reported that the letter was being circulated for signatures last month, and Roll Call obtained and shared the letter on Monday.

In total, 21 members of Congress put their names on the missive, calling on the department to clarify its policies on how employment in the state-legal cannabis market affects VA loan qualifications. Signees include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Don Young (R-AK), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Lou Correa (D-CA).

“The ambiguity under which the cannabis industry operates is unique, and we fully understand the VA’s resulting aversion to legal and financial risk,” the group wrote. “Denying veterans the benefits they’ve earned, however, is contrary to the intent Congress separately demonstrated in its creation of VA benefit programs.”

“In recent years the Department of Justice has substantially narrowed its prosecutorial priorities in this area, Congress has taken action to prevent federal interference with the implementation of state cannabis laws, and legislation has been introduced providing ‘safe harbor’ to private financial institutions operating in this space. Yet, the VA has not issued any policies or guidance on this topic, leaving veterans with no way to clearly and readily understand whether their choice of legal employment in this industry could result in the denial of benefits they’ve earned.”

The lawmakers are asking for a response within 30 days.

“The VA needs to catch up with the times and recognize the growing role of the cannabis economy, which employs over 200,000 Americans,” Clark said in a press release. “Our veterans shouldn’t be penalized or denied the benefits they have earned because they are working in a budding industry.”

The House Appropriations Committee expressed similar concerns in a report on VA spending that was released last month. The panel gave the VA a longer timeline to provide guidance on the home loan policy, urging the department to submit clarification within 180 days after the report was issued.

The VA policy of denying home loan applications wasn’t widely reported before a constituent of Clark brought the matter to her attention. It doesn’t appear to be a rule that’s explicitly on the books, as opposed to better-known administrative policies addressing whether VA doctors can talk about or recommend cannabis to veterans living in states where it’s legal for medical purposes.

But it’s now one of several veterans and cannabis issues that have been raised during the 116th Congress. The chair of a House committee said the panel will hold a hearing on three pieces of marijuana-related legislation that concerns veterans in coming months.

Those bills includes one to allow VA doctors to recommend cannabis to veterans living in legal states, one that would codify a VA policy protecting benefits for veterans who use marijuana in compliance with state law and another that would require the VA to conduct clinical trials on the potential benefits of cannabis for medical conditions that commonly afflict veterans.

You can read the full letter below. 

5.24.19 Signed Cannabis Veterans by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Trump Administration Opposes Bills On Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans

The post Lawmakers Press VA On Home Loans Denials To Veterans Working In Marijuana Industry appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Texas Senate Committee Approves House-Passed Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 19:03

By Alex Samuels, The Texas Tribune

Even as the Senate stonewalls a handful of bills aimed at lessening criminal penalties for possession of marijuana, an upper chamber committee on Friday advanced legislation that aims to vastly expand who has access to medical cannabis in the state.

As filed, state Rep. Stephanie Klick’s House Bill 3703 would add multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spasticity to the list of debilitating medical conditions that qualify for cannabis oil. The progress on her bill comes four years after Klick authored legislation that narrowly opened up the state to the sale of the medicine.

The bill requires approval by the full Senate chamber before it can return to the Texas House, where lawmakers have already approved two bills to drastically expand the Compassionate Use Program, which currently only allows the sale of cannabis oil to people with intractable epilepsy who meet certain requirements. But according to the Senate sponsor of the bill, the legislation is likely to pass the upper chamber — despite leadership once expressing aversion to relaxing the existing state program.

Several who testified before the Senate committee pleaded with the panel to advance the bill, sharing personal stories of how using cannabis oil has helped them treat a bevy of medical ailments. Lawmakers from both parties were receptive to the emotional testimony and, after more than an hour of discussion, voted unanimously to send the legislation to the full Senate.

When laying out the bill in front of the Senate committee Friday, state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, introduced a reworked version of the measure which further expanded which Texans have access to the medicine. In addition to the conditions already outlined by Klick, those with other illnesses like seizure disorders, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, terminal cancer and autism would also be eligible to obtain the medicine. The version of the bill Campbell laid out also eliminated what she called an “onerous requirement” that those wanting access to the medicine get the approval of two licensed neurologists.

Under Campbell’s version of the bill, the Texas Department on Public Safety would still have oversight of the Compassionate Use Program. Her revised bill also keeps intact the 0.5% cap on the amount of the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC that medical cannabis products are legally allowed to contain.

“For many patients in the [Compassionate Use Program], participation in the program has been life altering,” Campbell said. “These people are our friends, our family, our neighbors. Members of our churches and in our communities have benefitted from this.”

Multiple Texans who either currently use the medicine, or felt they could benefit from access to it, spoke before the Senate committee.

“Before CBD, I had 200 seizures a day lasting 15 to 30 seconds,” said Brenham resident Julia Patterson. “It affected my grades and my social life. I couldn’t play sports. I couldn’t go to sleepovers. … After CBD oil, I’m now one year seizure free. I have my driver’s license and I’m finishing the school year with A’s.”

Still, there was a small show of opposition from a handful of parents and veterans who said they wished the legislation was more broad and included conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

State Sen. José Menéndez, a San Antonio Democrat who filed a medical expansion bill this legislative session that never got hearing, raised questions about the potential shortfalls of Klick’s bill.

“What happens if the Legislature does not address PTSD in this bill? What do you think is going to be the impact?” Menéndez asked Keith Crook, a retired Air Force veteran who testified on the bill.

“I’m going to bury more of my friends because this medicine saved my life,” Crook responded. “And there are people who don’t have the ability to access it or will be refused access to it because of a law.

“I’m a criminal. I use everyday. But I’m just trying to stay alive and do the right thing.”

Nearing the end of the testimony, Campbell implied that it would take more than one legislative session before Texas further expanded the number of conditions who qualify for the medicine in order to prevent “unintended consequences.”

“Anybody who watches a football game is going to root for their team and be happy when they at least get a first down,” Campbell said. “We would like to be able to include so many more diagnoses. This is more certainly a more expanded list and we will keep working with this.”

The bill still faces several more hurdles before it can be signed into law. The bill will need approval from the full Senate and then the House will have to accept the Senate’s changes — or both chambers will need to reconcile their differences on the bill’s language in conference committee.

Its chances of passage look sunny in the upper chamber, however, though Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick previously said he was “wary of the various medicinal use proposals that could become a vehicle for expanding access to this drug.” During Friday’s hearing, Campbell said Patrick “helped craft” the reworked version of the legislation. House Speaker Dennis Bonnen also told Spectrum News this week he thinks the Senate will take concepts from both medical cannabis bills passed by the House earlier — one from Klick and the other from Democratic state Rep. Eddie Lucio III of Brownsville — and “put them into one.”

Expanding the Compassionate Use Act has drawn the support of some politically powerful players since the last legislative session. In March, a new group lobbying for medical marijuana, Texans for Expanded Access to Medical Marijuana, emerged and has players with some serious clout in the Capitol — including Allen Blakemore, a top political consultant for Patrick.

The Republican Party of Texas also approved a plank last year asking the Legislature to “improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

The post Texas Senate Committee Approves House-Passed Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Presidential Candidate Jokes About Why Denver Decriminalized Psychedelic Mushrooms

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 17:05

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) joked on Thursday that Denver voters approved a measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms because they thought the state of Colorado was running low on marijuana.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate made the remark during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. The host asked Bennet if it was “true that magic mushrooms are going to be legal in Colorado.”

(The measure actually simply decriminalizes psilocybin mushrooms for adults, and only in the city of Denver.)

Bennet slapped his knee and quipped, “I think that our voters just voted to get Denver to do that, and I think they might’ve thought that we were out of marijuana all of a sudden.”

“And by the way, we’re not out of marijuana in Colorado,” he said.

“That’s what it says on the state flag now, right?” Meyers said.

“Yeah, exactly,” Bennet replied.

The senator, who previously served as the superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, has cosponsored several wide-ranging cannabis bills in Congress, including legislation to federally deschedule marijuana and penalize states that enforce cannabis laws in a discriminatory way.

But before his state voted to legalize marijuana in 2012, Bennet stood opposed.

It’s not clear how he voted on Denver’s historic psilocybin initiative.

At least Bennet is aware of the measure and was willing to joke about it, though. Several of his colleagues who have worked on cannabis issues declined to weigh in on decriminalizing psychedelics when asked by Marijuana Moment recently.

Congressional Lawmakers Have Little To Say About Decriminalizing Psychedelics Following Denver Victory

Photo courtesy of YouTube/Late Night with Seth Meyers.

The post Presidential Candidate Jokes About Why Denver Decriminalized Psychedelic Mushrooms appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

GOP Congressman Pushes For New Guidance On Hemp And CBD Businesses’ Credit Access

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 16:13

Hemp might have been federally legalized, but businesses that market the crop and its derivatives are still struggling to maintain access to credit at financial institutions, Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) said on Thursday.

At a House Financial Services Committee hearing, Barr told the country’s top financial regulators that credit card providers have “stopped offering payment services to businesses designated as CBD and hemp-derived product merchants.”

I will continue to work with @senatemajldr and @KYAgCommish Ryan Quarles to push regulators to provide the banks with the clarity they need to continue to offer their services to the legal hemp businesses in Kentucky.

— Rep. Andy Barr (@RepAndyBarr) May 16, 2019

There has been particular outcry from hemp businesses this week after the US Bank subsidiary Elavon moved to shut down accounts for CBD companies. The payment processor had given the businesses a 45-day grace period to find new lines of credit, to expire at midnight on Wednesday; it has since extended the deadline to the end of this month.

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

Jelena McWilliams, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), told the congressman that there’s “a lot of uncertainty in this space,” but added that financial examiners are going through “extensive examiner training to make sure that they’re appropriately regulating these banks and making sure that our examiners are not putting undue pressure and understand what’s legal where.”

In general, FDIC encourages regulators to look to Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance when it comes to marijuana or hemp businesses, and McWilliams said financial institutions should file suspicious activity reports when they’re uncertain about the legitimacy of a particular business or transaction.

“But in reality, they should be also making sure that legitimate businesses, local businesses, have access to credit,” she added.

Barr told the panel that it would be useful to have further guidance, such as having the heads of federal financial regulatory bodies sign on to a letter stating that hemp and its derivatives are distinct from marijuana and that businesses marketing them should therefore be treated as legitimate and eligible for credit services.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) made a similar request in a letter last month, imploring the regulators to issue guidance on hemp to “ease any concerns financial institutions may have with providing services to legal hemp businesses.”

Mitch McConnell Pushes For Hemp Crop Insurance Provision In Disaster Relief Funding Bill

Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.

The post GOP Congressman Pushes For New Guidance On Hemp And CBD Businesses’ Credit Access appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Biden begins to shift longtime cannabis opposition (Newsletter: May 17, 2019)

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:32

Oakland City Council psychedelics decrim hearing; Dems’ DOJ bill has medical marijuana rider; Decrim states see less severe domestic violence injuries

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  • Martin Kamerman: “I’m a member of the cannabis committee of the Westchester County Bar Association. I am joining with other professionals who want to make sure that marijuana laws mean fairness for all the communities that make up our great country. Supporting Marijuana Moment helps get the word out.”


Former Vice President Joe Biden (D), a presidential candidate, now supports decriminalizing marijuana, moving it to Schedule II and letting states set their own laws—but he is not endorsing cannabis legalization like most other 2020 contenders have.

The Oakland, California City Council has scheduled a hearing on a measure supporting the decriminalization of psychedelic drugs like mescaline cacti, ayahuasca and ibogaine—going much further than the psilocybin-focused initiative that Denver voters approved last week.

A 2020 Department of Justice spending bill released by a House subcommittee includes state medical cannabis protections but not a broader rider shielding adult-use marijuana laws from federal interference.

Sens.  Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), both presidential candidates, joined with other senators to file a bill to repeal the law that strips federal financial aid from college students with drug convictions.

A study found that states see significant reductions in the severity of injuries stemming from domestic violence after the enactment of marijuana decriminalization, although there is not a drop in overall domestic violence incidents.


Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) and former San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julián Castro (D), all presidential candidates, contributed essays to a publication on ending mass incarceration—several of which mention marijuana law reform.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted, “Instead of pardoning billionaires I’d pardon non-violent marijuana and opiate offenders.”

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) spoke about his opposition to legalizing marijuana.

The House bill to respect state marijuana laws got four new cosponsors, for a total of 47.

The House bill to seal past marijuana records got two new cosponsors, for a total of three.


Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said he supports legalizing hemp. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives rejected a bill to impose a tax on hemp and CBD products. And the House Judiciary Committee reported a marijuana legalization bill without action, recommending that it be sent to a different committee.

New York’s Assembly majority leader said she thinks it’s “very likely” lawmakers will approve marijuana legalization by the end of the session.

Massachusetts regulators voted to approve a social marijuana consumption pilot program.

The California Senate Appropriations Committee approved a hemp bill. Meanwhile, the Assembly Appropriations Committee rejected legislation to temporarily lower marijuana taxes.

New Jersey Assembly committees will hear medical cannabis expansion and marijuana expungement bills on Monday.

Delaware lawmakers filed a marijuana legalization bill.

A Nebraska senator, reacting to his colleagues’ failure to vote on a medical cannabis bill, tweeted, “The Legislature has had their chance, it’s time to go to the ballot!”

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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


Denver, Colorado officials certified the results of last week’s election in which a measure to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms was approved.

The Bexar County, California district attorney said his office will reject low-level marijuana and drug cases.

A Jacksonville, Florida City Council member hosted a meeting to tout a proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance.


Israel’s health ministry is removing marijuana from the country’s list of dangerous drugs, which will allow its sales in pharmacies.

Brazil’s Senate approved legislation to increase penalties for selling drugs and force consumers to enter treatment.

Mexico’s interior secretary said the country “has marijuana of the highest quality” and “our ancestors used it in their rituals.”


The Cannabis Trade Federation launched a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force that includes, among others, NAACP’s president and CEO, National Urban League’s CEO,  former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and a former director of the ACLU’s Washington, D.C. office.


A study found a “negative, yet insignificant relationship between” marijuana legalization and alcohol consumption.

A review concluded that “oromucosal nabiximols and THC have no effect on pain, sleep problems and opioid consumption in patients with cancer pain with insufficient pain relief from opioids.”


The Tulsa World editorial board is calling on Congress to pass marijuana banking legislation.

Author Michael Pollan said that he basically approves of Denver’s psilocybin decriminalization measure despite a general concern he has about using ballot initiatives to advance the issue.


Comedian Seth Meyers joked about CBD.

The latest episode of American Dad featured a Wonka-style marijuana factory, with Snoop Dogg voicing a character name Tommie Tokes.

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The post Biden begins to shift longtime cannabis opposition (Newsletter: May 17, 2019) appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Joe Biden Endorses Marijuana Decriminalization And Rescheduling—But Not Legalization

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 20:05

Former Vice President Joe Biden remains opposed to legalizing marijuana but said through a spokesperson on Thursday that he supports decriminalizing cannabis, expunging the records of individuals with prior possession convictions and letting states set their own policies.

He also would move to reclassify marijuana under federal law to Schedule II—a slightly less restrictive designation than its current Schedule I status—a move that would remove some roadblocks to research on the drug.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate has taken heat from drug policy reform advocates over his long-standing opposition to modernizing the country’s marijuana laws and for his role in championing legislation to ratchet up the war on drugs.

As recently as April, Biden applauded a professor who dismissed the idea that cannabis can be used as an alternative to opioid painkillers.

But in a new statement to CNN, a spokesperson for the former vice president said that he now “supports decriminalizing marijuana and automatically expunging prior criminal records for marijuana possession, so those affected don’t have to figure out how to petition for it or pay for a lawyer.”

“He would allow states to continue to make their own choices regarding legalization and would seek to make it easier to conduct research on marijuana’s positive and negative health impacts by rescheduling it as a schedule 2 drug,” the representative said.

This marks a somewhat significant development for Biden, who helped craft some of the most consequential anti-drug laws during his time as a senator and who declined to pursue decriminalization or rescheduling while serving as the de facto criminal justice portfolio manager for the Obama White House.

That said, the evolution still places Biden far behind his Democratic primary opponents, most of whom have fully embraced marijuana legalization at this point. Many fellow contenders have sponsored or cosponsored legislation to completely deschedule and remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act—a far more significant step than Biden’s proposal to slightly downgrade its scheduling status.

“It’s not enough to casually support marijuana decriminalization. That’s a 2008 position,” Michael Collins, director of national affairs for Drug Policy Action, told Marijuana Moment. “Biden should recognize that marijuana must be legalized through the lens of social justice, with expungement and industry diversity as the key planks of any position. That’s what most of the other candidates support and it’s what the base wants so there’s no excuse.”

Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, agreed, telling Marijuana Moment that it would only be a “half measure” to move cannabis to Schedule II.

“While Biden’s latest comments on marijuana represent an evolution away from the stronger prohibitionist comments he made in the past, they are far too timid to truly address the issue at hand and still leave him lagging far behind his fellow primary competitors, many of whom are true leaders on ending our nation’s failed prohibition,” he said.

“Democratic primary voters in particular have demonstrated they want someone who will provide a progressive and bold vision for attacking the problem of mass incarceration being driven in no small part by the over 600,000 marijuana arrests made annually,” he continued. “Biden’s new comments illustrate a lack of vision and seriousness of approach that would be more at home a decade ago than in 2019. Joe: Do better.”

Biden first voiced his support for decriminalization at a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Tuesday.

“Nobody should be in jail, in my view, nobody should be in jail for a crime that’s not a crime of violence,” he said. “Nobody should be in jail for smoking marijuana. That’s why I set up the drug courts…to divert, and we put a lot of money in there for rehabilitation.”

See Biden defend his criminal justice record and discuss marijuana about 20:50 into the video below:

Prior to endorsing the policy change, the closest Biden got to backing decriminalization was saying that the government shouldn’t prioritize using its resources to prosecute low-level marijuana offenders, which became policy under the Obama administration when the Justice Department released a memo outlining its enforcement priorities with respect to state legalization laws.

Biden hasn’t come out in support of any particular legislative efforts to achieve decriminalization, but his comments raise questions about whether something resembling legislation from Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) or Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who are seeking to deschedule marijuana entirely, would make it past his desk if he was president.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who released a congressional “blueprint” to ending federal cannabis prohibition in 2019, told Marijuana Moment in an earlier interview that he doesn’t think “there will ever be another president who will be anti-cannabis.

When asked specifically about Biden, the congressman reiterated that “[n]obody is going to survive the nominating process who doesn’t have a reasonable position on cannabis.”

Where Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Stands On Marijuana

The post Joe Biden Endorses Marijuana Decriminalization And Rescheduling—But Not Legalization appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Lawmakers Schedule Psychedelic Decriminalization Hearing In Oakland

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 19:39

Just days after the approval of the nation’s first successful measure to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in Denver, a major city in California is moving to consider a measure that goes even further by calling for an end to arrests and prosecutions of people for possessing additional psychedelic drugs such as mescaline cacti, ayahuasca and ibogaine.

The resolution, which would seek to bar police and other city officials from using “any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the use and possession” of the plant- and fungi-based substances, has been scheduled for a hearing before the Oakland City Council’s Public Safety Committee on May 28.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

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Democratic Congressional Bill Protects Medical Cannabis But Not Broader State Marijuana Laws

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 18:26

Medical marijuana states and industrial hemp programs would continue to be protected from federal interference under a wide-ranging congressional spending bill that was released by a House subcommittee on Thursday.

This marks the first time that the medical cannabis rider has been included in a base House appropriations bill as introduced, signaling that the chamber’s new Democratic majority is paying closer attention to the issue as standalone marijuana legislation separately makes its way through Congress. Last year, the rider, which has been federal law since 2014, was added during a full Appropriations Committee hearing. Prior to that it had been inserted through floor amendments.

But while the procedural development is encouraging to advocates, the legislation as it’s currently drafted does not afford states that have more broadly legalized marijuana for adult use the same protections.

The medical marijuana-focused rider attached to the spending bill—which appropriates funds for the Department of Justice for Fiscal Year 2020—stipulates that none of the money may be used to prevent states and certain U.S. territories “from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

“I’m proud that the critical language I offered as an amendment last year to protect states that have legalized medical cannabis is now included in the base text of this year’s appropriations bill,” Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), told Marijuana Moment. “This progress is a testament to my colleagues’ and my commitment to protecting the will of the states and ensuring decisions about medical cannabis are between a patient and their doctor.”

The bill lists all of the states and territories that have medical cannabis laws—including comprehensive programs as well as more limited CBD-focused policies—that the rider would apply to. But the U.S. Virgin Islands, which legalized medical cannabis in January, was not included. However, that likely wasn’t intentional, as past versions of the legislation have also inadvertently omitted newer medical marijuana states like North Dakota and Indiana.

On the Senate side of the appropriations process, the medical cannabis protection rider appeared in that chamber’s base bill for the first time last year. It had previously been adopted there via full Appropriations Committee votes.

Missing from the new House spending legislation is another rider that’s been previously proposed to prevent the Justice Department from using funds to intervene in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.

If it’s put forth as an amendment later in the process, advocates are optimistic that it would pass. The last time it came up for consideration on the House floor, in 2015, it fell just nine flipped votes short of being approved. The number of states that have legalized cannabis for adult use has since more than doubled.

California alone, which legalized in 2016, has 53 representatives in the House.

“House Democrats have a real opportunity to demonstrate that they ‘get it,'” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment. “There are still opportunities to call for amendments and they should be seized.”

Lawmakers who back cannabis policy reform also say they hope the protections will be expanded.

“While I wish this provision went further, it is a good first step,” Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) told Marijuana Moment of the current medical cannabis rider.

“With more than half of Americans living in a jurisdiction with some kind of legal cannabis, hopefully the Senate will see that protecting recreational programs isn’t a radical idea anymore,” he said. “Total legalization will be a process and those of us on the frontlines are ready to get to it. It’s time to make the change.”

Joyce said he “look[s] forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance commonsense federal cannabis policies that respect responsible decisions made by our states.”

A spokesperson for Rep. Don Young (R-AK) said that the congressman “was pleased to see the medical cannabis provision included and is supportive of expanding those protections to adult-use states like Alaska.”

“He continues to review the broader appropriations package and is engaged in ongoing discussions with his fellow co-chairs on possible amendments,” the spokesperson said.

A separate provision of the House appropriations bill as introduced concerns industrial hemp pilot programs authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill. As with medical marijuana, the Justice Department would be barred from interfering in such programs.

But because the 2018 version of the large-scale agriculture legislation legalized hemp and its derivatives, and shifted regulatory responsibility for the crop from the Justice Department to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, its inclusion going forward may no longer be necessary.

The spending bill that the cannabis provisions are attached to is set to be considered on Friday by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. After that, it will head to the full House Appropriations Committee and then to the floor. The Senate will also soon begin work on its own version of the legislation.

New Congressional Bill Aims To Resolve Marijuana Industry Border Issues

This story was updated to include comment from Joyce, Young and NORML.

The post Democratic Congressional Bill Protects Medical Cannabis But Not Broader State Marijuana Laws appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Serious Injuries From Domestic Violence Dropped After Marijuana Decriminalization, Study Finds

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 15:13

States that reduced penalties for simple possession of marijuana saw a notable decline in cases where domestic violence victims suffered serious injuries, a new study reports.

Despite a pervasive misconception stemming from the “Reefer Madness” days that cannabis use causes violent behavior, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that domestic assaults resulting in broken bones, laceration and other severe physical trauma dropped after marijuana was decriminalized.

Interestingly, while the research shows a reduction in serious injuries, overall incidents of domestic violence did not decline.

“When we considered assaults at all levels of seriousness, our results showed that the policy intervention had no effect on violence,” the study’s authors wrote. “However, this masked more striking and significant results concerning the most serious types of violence—decriminalization of marijuana reduced domestic assaults involving serious injury by some 20%.”

Cannabis decriminalization was also linked to a 40.7 percent reduction in severe domestic violence incidents where alcohol was a factor, as well as a 23.1 percent reduction in incidents involving a weapon.

“Within incidents with a serious injury, the number of incidents where the offender was under the influence of alcohol or used a weapon also declined significantly,” the researchers wrote.

The results “contrast with previous literature showing null effects of marijuana usage on violence or aggression,” the study says.

The research takes a closer look at how domestic violence, an issue that touches millions of Americans each year, may be impacted by changes in marijuana laws across the country. Past studies have shown alcohol to be a contributing factor in violence. As it stands to reason that marijuana might serve as a substitute for alcohol if easily accessible, the current study’s authors hypothesized that “marijuana liberalization will have the unintended effect of reducing domestic violence.”

For a “more meaningful measure of violence,” they focused on quantifying “victim injury seriousness” rather than the total number of domestic violence incidents.

Researchers looked at a number of data sets to inform their work, including what states had approved medical cannabis and marijuana decriminalization up to 2016. They also analyzed federal crime data to see how many cases of violence involving romantic partners occur each year, and pulled out certain characteristics, including the extent of injuries and whether alcohol or a weapon was involved. Ultimately, their analysis covered domestic assaults in 25 states between 2005 to 2016.

According to the study, which is listed as “preliminary” and has not been peer reviewed or published in a journal, states with legal medical access to marijuana did not see a similar decline in the severity of domestic assaults. The authors speculate it may be because access remains restricted to certain people.

Decriminalization, however, was associated with “a significant effect”—in fact, domestic violence incidents that resulted in serious injury fell by 22.5 percent after states passed laws removing the threat of jail as a punishment for cannabis possession. The total number of assaults did not significantly change; they just appeared to be less severe.

But what’s behind that drop in serious injuries?

“Despite the longstanding debate over whether marijuana contributes to violence, the medical literature suggests that marijuana is effective as a short-term sleep aid and may contribute to excessive daytime sleepiness,” the study’s authors wrote. “By making would-be assailants sleepier, marijuana consumption may make the nature of assaults less serious and injuries less severe. This is likely the simplest explanation and is certainly incomplete.”

“This substance-based mechanism is behavioral in nature, and is premised on marijuana decriminalization increasing consumption to the extent that assailants are more likely to be under the influence of marijuana at the time of assault,” the researchers wrote.

However, they added, it’s impossible to test their theory with the crime data set they used because it does not differentiate the use of marijuana from other drugs.

While the study calls for more research on the effect cannabis use has on violence, the authors do point out that “[d]omestic assaults are less likely to inflict serious injury on the victim if a weapon is not used.”

In other words, marijuana decriminalization could potentially save the lives of countless people: Every month in the U.S., 50 women are shot and killed by intimate partners.

Leading U.S. Prosecutors Visit Portugal To Learn About Drug Decriminalization

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

The post Serious Injuries From Domestic Violence Dropped After Marijuana Decriminalization, Study Finds appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Booker Bill Would Protect Students With Drug Convictions From Losing Federal College Aid

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 13:55

A congressional bill designed to streamline the student federal financial aid application process—which would also remove a question about prior drug convictions from the form—was filed in the Senate on Wednesday with the support of two presidential candidates.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)—who are running for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination—along with Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced the legislation. The bulk of the bill is designed to help disadvantaged students get the most out of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but it also includes provisions to remove questions that are “duplicative and irrelevant.”

One of those questions concerns past drug convictions. The application asks “Have you been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, work-study, or loans)?”


Answering “yes” could cause financial aid to be denied or suspended, and affected students are required to complete drug rehabilitation programs, pass two drug tests or wait specified periods of time to have their grants or loans reinstated.

“The complexity of a financial aid form should not limit the opportunities available to our country’s young people,” Booker said in a press release. “Yet, that is sadly the reality for many low-income students and students of color. Our future depends on how we educate the next generation—it’s time we start lowering the barriers to entry and begin including more students.”

The drug conviction question has penalized tens of thousands of students since the requirement was added in a 1998 reform of the Higher Education Act. Despite attempts to revise to question so there isn’t an automatic loss of all federal financial aid for a self-reported conviction, even partial losses can impact students, particularly those who are low-income.

Beyond simply removing the drug question from the FAFSA form, the new legislation would also repeal the underlying penalty that strips aid from students with convictions for marijuana or other controlled substances.

“Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) supports Senator Booker’s new bill because it would lift or ease many of the barriers to higher education that currently exist today,” Betty Aldworth, executive director of SSDP, told Marijuana Moment. “SSDP has been seeking the removal of the Aid Elimination Penalty since it was first signed into law and this bill would finally repeal the harmful penalty that continues to derail the lives of thousands of students every year—for too long, another compounding harm of our broken and dangerous drug policy borne primarily by people of color or low income who are most often targeted by police.”

“No student should lose access to higher education simply for a drug conviction and this bill would finally have the law catch up to common sense on this issue,” she said.

Booker introduced an earlier version of the legislation last year. Before that, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) called for the elimination of the drug conviction eligibility question on the FAFSA in 2017.

Booker, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has been a champion of several wide-ranging marijuana reform bills, including the Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances and punish states that continue to enforce marijuana prohibition in a discriminatory way.

Gillibrand is also running for her party’s presidential nomination and has been active on marijuana reform legislation.

At the same time that the senators are looking out for students with non-violent drug offenses on their records, other lawmakers in Congress are pushing to ensure that universities that study marijuana do not have their federal grants withheld.

Lawmakers Want Legal Protections For Universities That Research Marijuana

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

The post Booker Bill Would Protect Students With Drug Convictions From Losing Federal College Aid appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

Oregon Senate votes to legalize cannabis imports & exports (Newsletter: May 16, 2019)

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:38

Legal marijuana expected for 2020 NJ ballot; Treasury sec.: No tax credit for cannabis biz; Texas Senate OKs hemp; No CBD for horses; Border bill

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New Jersey’s Senate president announced that lawmakers are ditching the idea of trying to pass marijuana legalization legislation and will instead put the issue on the 2020 ballot for voters to decide. In the meantime, the legislature will proceed with medical cannabis expansion and expungement proposals.

The Oregon Senate voted to legalize interstate marijuana imports and exports. A change in federal policy is required for the legislation’s provisions to take effect, but the vote itself is a first for any state.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said during a Senate hearing that marijuana businesses should not be able to qualify for federal “opportunity zone” tax credits aimed at encouraging investments in distressed low-income communities.

The Texas Senate unanimously approved a House-passed hemp legalization bill, but not before making some changes—meaning that a conference committee to reconcile the two chambers’ versions will be necessary before the legislation is sent to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reintroduced a bill aimed at solving border issues faced by marijuana industry participants, and to prevent immigrants from being deported over state-legal cannabis use.

The U.S. Equestrian Federation, which regulates most equestrian sports, has ruled that competition horses are not allowed to use CBD.


White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Jim Carroll argued that increased border security would “save lives.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), in a Senate floor speech,  included marijuana in a list of drugs that have “flooded our streets” and are contributing to “despair.”

Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) is reportedly looking into working on gun access issues for medical cannabis patients.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) tweeted that he’s “proud” to work on “legislation to expand access to medical cannabis for our veterans!”

The Senate marijuana banking bill got two new cosponsors, for a total of 27.

The House marijuana banking bill got two new cosponsors, for a total of 180.


Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced that regulators launched an online licensing portal for hemp producers and processors.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) made a number of jokes about drugs during a speech at the opening of a new hotel at JFK airport. Meanwhile, the Senate majority leader said that marijuana legalization discussions are still ongoing.

Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial candidates debated marijuana policy.

In a shift, Connecticut’s House speaker said that marijuana legalization could get a vote during the regular session instead of in a later special session.

The Nebraska Senate held a floor debate on a medical cannabis bill, but is not likely to vote on the proposal.

The Illinois Senate Executive Committee held a hearing on a marijuana legalization bill.

An Oregon bill to legalize marijuana social use areas is reportedly dead.

The Rhode Island Senate Labor Committee held a hearing on a bill to expand employment protections for medical cannabis patients.

The Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services will hear a House-passed medical cannabis expansion bill on Friday.

Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Board rejected a proposal to remove opioid use disorder as a medical cannabis qualifying condition, and the health secretary said she needs more time to decide whether to add anxiety and Tourette syndrome. The body also rejected recommending adding nausea as a result of irritable bowel syndrome to the list.

Utah regulators gave an update on medical cannabis implementation, CBD product registration and tracking software, and said that physicians will not be punished for using medical marijuana.

Michigan regulators released a bulletin on homogeneity testing of marijuana products.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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


The Cincinnati, Ohio City Council postponed a vote on a marijuana decriminalization proposal. A councilmember said he will launch a ballot measure on the issue if his colleagues don’t approve the measure.

New York City’s police commissioner expressed concerns about marijuana legalization during a City Council hearing.


The Ukrainian Parliament’s Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations Committee filed a medical cannabis bill in response to a citizen petition.


The South Dakota Democratic Party tweeted, “States across the country (including our neighbors) are taking steps so that their farmers can take advantage of the economic opportunities of industrial hemp. Thanks to Gov. Noem, though, our farmers can’t, and SD is falling further and further behind.”


A study concluded that “recreational cannabis legalisation is associated with neutral effects on healthcare utilisation” and “is linked to an increase in motor vehicle accidents, alcohol abuse, overdose injuries and a decrease in chronic pain admissions.”

A study found that “black males had a 2.2% point decrease in the relative probability of college enrollment after the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.”


A survey found that 82% of banking executives want the federal government to allow financial services providers to do business with the marijuana industry.


Jeopardy had yet another marijuana question, one of several in recent weeks.

Musician Tom Morello tweeted in support of legalizing marijuana in New York.

Musician Roger Daltrey chastised audience members for smoking marijuana at a recent concert.

The New York Times Magazine has a cover story on CBD.

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The post Oregon Senate votes to legalize cannabis imports & exports (Newsletter: May 16, 2019) appeared first on Marijuana Moment.