Month: March 2021

New York Legalizes Cannabis! Over a Third of Americans Now Live in Legal States.

The cannabis legalization movement just notched one of the biggest wins in the global fight for freedom and equality with New York officially becoming the 15th U.S. state to end prohibition with its borders. Cannabis is also legal in Washington, D.C., (which could become a state soon) and Virginia will be legal soon and New Mexico seems poised to join the growing number of states that are sweeping Reefer Madness prohibition into the dustbin of history where it belongs. The Empire State will be the second largest market in the United States and the third largest in the world, behind just California and Canada (although Mexico, with over 127 million people, may just leapfrog everyone soon). By adding its 19-plus million residents, over a third of Americans now live in states with legal cannabis. A financial, cultural, and media powerhouse, New York State brings an enormous amount of political capital to the legalization debate, which should help pass the SAFE Banking Act, and eventually, repeal federal cannabis prohibition in the coming years.

Adults can possess up to three ounces or 24 grams of cannabis concentrates under the new law, and as The New York Times reported, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) is a progressive legalization law:

New Yorkers are permitted to smoke cannabis in public wherever smoking tobacco is allowed, though localities and a new state agency could create regulations to more strictly control smoking cannabis in public. Smoking cannabis, however, is not permitted in schools, workplaces or inside a car.

Other changes will go into effect in the coming months when officials create the regulatory framework that will govern every aspect of a brand new, highly regulated market.

People, for example, will eventually be able to have cannabis delivered to their homes, consume cannabis products at lounge-like “consumption sites” and cultivate up to six plants at home for personal use. Dispensaries won’t open until more than a year from now, and localities could opt out of allowing such businesses.

This expansive law will also expunge old convictions, invest in communities disproportionately harmed by the Drug War. Kassandra Frederique, current Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who previously led the New York legalization campaign, issued the following statement:

“This day is certainly a long time coming. When we started working toward marijuana reform 11 years ago, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Because of the sheer extent of harm that had been inflicted on Black and Brown communities over the years, any marijuana reform that was brought forth had to be equally comprehensive to begin repairing the damage. 
 
And I can confidently say, the result–thanks to the tireless work of DPA, our legislative partners and other advocates–is something truly reimaginitive. We went from New York City being the marijuana arrest capital of the country to today New York State coming through as a beacon of hope, showing the rest of the country what comprehensive marijuana reform–centered in equity, justice and reinvestment–looks like.

A sincere thanks to DPA and everyone that has put in decades of work in New York. I know firsthand how hard and smart DPA works and will forever be thankful in their efforts assisting advocates legalize cannabis and eliminate harmful drug possession arrests here in Oregon. This victory in New York will resonate across our nation, through the halls of Congress, in the White House, and around the globe. Step by step, state by state, freedom and common sense are on the march and today is a good day.

Shattering Stereotypes: Cannabis Consumers Exercise As Much, If Not More

There have been many harmful stereotypes of cannabis consumers and connoisseurs perpetrated over the years. We’ve seen dumb stoners plastered all over media, as well as the lazy, sedentary stoners. As a child of DARE propaganda throughout my elementary, junior high, and high school years, I was kind of shocked when I got to college. I met cannabis users that were the smartest, most active people that I knew. People were getting great grades, working out, dominating at pickup basketball games, and utilizing cannabis. My mind was blown and I wondered what other Drug War lies I was being fed over the years. Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to be acquainted with former NBA All-Star and Sixth Man of the Year, the late Clifford Robinson, and he shared a ton of stories about world-class athletes using cannabis and how many were contacting him and thanking him for his activism. A recent study published in the medical journal Preventive Medicine has just demonstrated what many of us have known for years: that the caricature of the lazy, inactive stoner is a huge myth. From the authors of the study:

“Results show that, particularly for fixed-effects models, marijuana use is not significantly related to exercise, counter to conventional wisdom that marijuana users are less likely to be active. Indeed, the only significant estimates suggest a positive relationship, even among heavier users during the past 30 days. These findings are at odds with much of the existing literature, which generally shows a negative relationship between marijuana use and exercise. As additional states legalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, perhaps its impact on exercise, one of the leading social determinants of health, is not necessarily a primary concern.”

The research published in Preventive Medicine backs up a previous study published in the Frontiers in Public Health Journal, which found:

“In summary, these data suggest that many cannabis users in states with legal cannabis access use in conjunction with exercise, and that most who do so believe it increases enjoyment of, recovery from, and to some extent the motivation to engage in exercise. As these factors positively correlate with exercise behavior, using cannabis with exercise may play a beneficial role in the health of cannabis users.”

In fairness, both of the studies I’ve cited in this blog note that more research is needed. However, among those that know cannabis consumers, I imagine that these findings match what you have found. Do you know anyone that plays disc golf, for instance? If you poll disc golfers, hikers, and other active folks in your life, there’s a decent chance that they utilize cannabis. Don’t be fooled by the propaganda. Cannabis doesn’t hold anyone back from achieving the lifestyle or goals that you want to achieve. Now, getting arrested and convicted for cannabis, that’s the real harm. Keep shattering those stereotypes, cannabis community. Step by step, freedom and common sense are on the march.

The weather is warming up. When you are being active across beautiful, majestic Oregon, be sure to stop into Kind Leaf, the best craft cannabis boutique in the Great Northwest.

The Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board’s First Meeting is March 31st

While I found them extremely frustrating at times (okay, a lot of the time), it was an honor to participate on Oregon’s state advisory boards that made recommendations for both the medical dispensary and adult-use cannabis programs. It is a difficult task to educate state bureaucrats and policymakers when they lack experience or may even harbor ill-feelings toward the very subject at hand. On cannabis, the committees included prohibitionists who didn’t want cannabis legalized at all, making it hard to reach a consensus. And while legalization and regulation is certainly a better policy than prohibition, it’s hard not to lament how things could have been structured better, especially to benefit local small businesses and mom-and-pops. It’s a testament to a lot of hard work that a few craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf have managed to survive and thrive.

From my experience, I don’t envy the members of the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board, who will help the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) develop rules for medical psilocybin mushrooms over the next two years. At least with cannabis, the OHA already had a registration system established for patients, caregivers, and growers. While not super supportive to say the least, OHA at least had some experience with cannabis since voters passed the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act back in 1998. Now, the state is starting from scratch with the first medical mushroom system in the nation, as The Portland Mercury reported:

That’s where the Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board comes in. Made up of 17 Oregonians who are OHA officials, medical and legal professionals, academics, and advocates, the board is tasked with advising the OHA on how to regulate therapeutic psilocybin use. Its first meeting is Wednesday, March 31.

“The immediate first step [for the board] required by Measure 109 will be to compile all academic research on psilocybin therapy,” said Sam Chapman, Measure 109’s campaign manager. “This research will act as the foundation for the board’s work over the next two years.”

Chapman recently founded the Healing Advocacy Fund, a nonprofit that Chapman said aims to “ensure the measure’s implemented in ways that remain true to the measure that passed in November.” He said that on top of logistical concerns—regulating and labeling the actual substance, and setting safety standards for building codes—the main focus of both the advisory board and his organization will likely be figuring out how to make psilocybin therapy accessible for all Oregonians, “regardless of where they live or their ability to pay.”

If the establishment of the cannabis industry is any guide, one of the biggest challenges will be keeping licensing fees affordable and regulations limited so that smaller entities can compete and psilocybin can be available to patients battling poverty. While Oregon has the most affordable cannabis and cannabis products in the nation, and retailers like Kind Leaf provide discounts for registered OMMP patients, too many patients can be left behind, especially those on fixed incomes that can’t afford their complete medicine supply, especially if they need modalities such as full extract cannabis oil. If you are interested in keeping up on progress and helping keep psilocybin from being over regulated, so it can be accessible to the masses, I urge you to support the efforts of the Healing Advocacy Fund.

The OHA’s bulletin announcing the first meeting:

Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board meets March 31

What: A public meeting of the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board.

Agenda: Opening remarks, purpose of board, update on the OHA Psilocybin Services Program and board tasks and assignments.

When: Wednesday, March 31, 1—4 p.m. No public comment period available.

Where: Via Zoom meeting: https://www.zoomgov.com/j/16051729334, meeting ID 160 5172 9334.

Established by Ballot Measure 109 (2020), the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board makes recommendations to OHA on available scientific studies and research on the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in treating mental health conditions, and makes recommendations on the requirements, specifications and guidelines for providing psilocybin services in Oregon.

The Board will also develop a long-term strategic plan for ensuring that psilocybin services will become and remain a safe, accessible and affordable therapeutic option for all persons 21 years of age and older in this state for whom psilocybin may be appropriate; and monitor and study federal laws, regulations and policies regarding psilocybin.

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Bipartisan Congressional Pushback Against White House Firing Staffers for Cannabis

For good reason, many (all?) drug policy reformers were wary of Joe Biden as a presidential candidate as he had a long history of out-of-touch pro-Drug War policy positions throughout his political career, namely the disastrous 1994 Crime Bill that helped usher in an era of mass incarceration. However, Biden seemed to evolve on the campaign trail and, while not nearly good enough, his stance on cannabis was a step in the right direction from previous presidents. With 2/3 of the entire electorate supporting legalization and a supermajority of more than 80% of his own party on board, yes, there’s no reason that President Biden shouldn’t be in favor of legislation to repeal cannabis prohibition, but Reefer Madness can be difficult for some to fully shake. Then-candidate Joe Biden tweeted, “There is a lot of talk out there on where I stand when it comes to our marijuana laws,” including this graphic laying out his “evolved” positions:

Again, there’s really no excuse to oppose ending federal cannabis prohibition, but Biden’s positions do mark an improvement from previous presidents. As advocates, we must always strive towards our ultimate goal, but we can still make note of the positive baby steps along the way. While the Biden White House’s stance on cannabis for government employees is actually an improvement from previous administrations, a bipartisan group of legislators are rightfully demanding that he do better, highlighted by Oregon’s own Earl Blumenauer penning a letter to President Biden signed by 30 members of Congress that stated:

“While we work to deschedule cannabis legislatively, your administration should act within its power to stop legitimizing unfair cannabis laws. You have previously expressed your commitment to decriminalizing cannabis in acknowledgement that a cannabis conviction or even the stigma of cannabis use can ruin lives and prevent people from voting, gaining employment, and contributing to society. You can meet this moment and help end our failed punitive policy of cannabis prohibition.”

The lawmakers added, “The existing policies have been applied in inconsistent and unfair ways. Those in the upper ranks of your administration won’t face consequences for their cannabis use, and nor should they, but the same standard should be applied across the administration. Repercussions for cannabis use have always been unequal and those with the most power have always faced the fewest consequences. We ask that you don’t allow that pattern to continue within your administration.”

Republican David Joyce from Ohio, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, sent his own letter to President Biden, stating:

I respectfully request that your administration discontinue punishment of staff for being honest about their prior cannabis use and reinstate otherwise qualified individuals to their posts. Moving forward, I encourage your administration to focus its efforts within cannabis on establishing an effective federal regulatory framework which recognizes that continued cannabis prohibition is neither tenable nor the will of the American electorate. I stand ready and willing to work with you in this regard.

While it often seems like the cannabis community takes a step back each time we take a couple of steps forward, we are definitely making progress and even setbacks provide opportunities to build upon our success. Whether it’s President Biden’s out-of-touch staffer cannabis policy or the ridiculous Reefer Madness nonsense spouted by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, we are presented with opportunities to point out defects with current law and make important steps forward towards true freedom and equality.

New York Making Progress on Cannabis! Psilocybin Mushrooms Next?

As cannabis legalization for medical purposes and adult-use have advanced state by state across the nation, a familiar pattern has emerged: states with the initiative process are the earliest pioneers while those depending upon legislators lag behind and end up passing more restrictive laws. While New York may lag behind 15 other states (and Washington DC), the Empire State seems to be on the verge of passing a rather progressive legalization law, as The New York Times reports:

The deal would allow delivery of the drug and permit club-like lounges or “consumption sites” where marijuana, but not alcohol, could be consumed, according to details obtained by The New York Times. It would also allow a person to cultivate up to six marijuana plants at home, indoors or outdoors, for personal use.

If approved, the first sales of legal marijuana are likely more than a year away: Officials must first face the daunting task of writing the complex rules that will control a highly regulated market, from the regulation of wholesalers and dispensaries, to the allocation of cultivating and retail licenses, to the creation of new taxes and a five-member control board that would oversee the industry.

The deal was crafted with an intense focus on making amends in communities impacted by the decades-long war on drugs. Millions of dollars in tax revenue from cannabis sales would be reinvested in minority communities each year, and a sizable portion of business licenses would be reserved for minority business owners.

If The Times is correct, New York’s legalization law will likely reverberate across the nation and even the world since the state is an international media and financial powerhouse. Other states, especially those sharing a border, will certainly be influenced to move towards ending prohibition more quickly, and even Oregon advocates, looking to pass the Cannabis Equity Act, a bill that includes licensed cannabis cafes and social equity provisions, could receive a boost as well.

Additionally, the race to be the next mayor of the Big Apple could add to the growing drug decriminalization movement, especially regarding psilocybin mushrooms, as New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang recently stated, “I’m for legalization of psilocybin mushrooms, and I’m open to the public policy impact of legalizing other substances.”

Regardless of whether Yang wins, a serious New York City mayoral candidate with a positive position on drug policy is great for our movement to end the failed and harmful Drug War. Of course, Oregon has helped move the national debate on psilocybin and other drugs, something that Beaver State voters can be proud of. As we have seen with cannabis, success begets success, and advancements across the nation, both at the state and local level, help advocates build upon victories as we chip away at the War on Drugs.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act

With over 100 robberies of Portland, Oregon-area dispensaries alone within the past year, it’s more evident than ever that the cannabis industry needs normal banking and financial services. One armed robbery lead to the tragic murder of an employee. Our nation shouldn’t let Reefer Madness prohibition lead to more unnecessary death and destruction anywhere, but especially in states that have legalized within their borders. Thankfully, a bipartisan group of legislators have introduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to end the ridiculous two-tiered system of allowing state-regulated cannabis businesses to operate free from federal law enforcement intervention while still treating these companies as criminals unworthy of access to regular bank accounts. Allowing cannabis customers to use their debit and credit cards at dispensaries will end the cash-only policies that make these retailers prime targets of violent criminals. The SAFE Banking Act goes beyond cannabis, this is a public safety issue that demands immediate attention.

This common-sense proposal was introduced in the US House of Representatives last week and yesterday a Senate version was officially introduced. One of the lead sponsors is Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley who stated in a press release: “No one working in a store or behind a register should have to worry about experiencing a traumatic robbery at any moment. That means we can’t keep forcing legal cannabis businesses to operate entirely in cash—a nonsensical rule that is an open invitation to robbery and money laundering. Let’s make 2021 the year that we get this bill signed into law so we can ensure that all legal cannabis businesses have access to the financial services they need to help keep their employees safe.”

Every reasonable person should want state-licensed cannabis businesses to conduct transactions the same as any other business. If the safety of dispensary employees doesn’t sway someone, then try to appeal to their sense of fairness towards non-cannabis businesses that have to deal with dispensaries. Utility companies and state tax collectors didn’t necessarily choose to legalize cannabis and dealing with cash complicates their work and, especially for those tasked with taking in record-breaking tax revenue, puts them in physical danger as well. And finally, even if you don’t support legalization, don’t you want the industry to pay their taxes? Cash-only transactions entices money laundering and tax evasion.

Cannabis legalization is here to stay. No state has repealed a cannabis legalization law. With supermajority support among voters, it doesn’t seem likely that any state will go back to prohibition. It’s time to face reality and save lives by passing the SAFE Banking Act. Please contact your legislators and spread the word and encourage friends to do the same.

Full press release from Senator Jeff Merkley:

Merkley, Daines Lead Senate Introduction of Bipartisan Legislation to Ensure that Legal Cannabis Businesses Aren’t Shut Out of Critical Financial Services

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) today introduced the bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would ensure that legal cannabis businesses have access to critical banking services.

Most state legal medicinal or recreational cannabis businesses are denied access to the banking system because banks fear they may be prosecuted under federal law given the ongoing federal restrictions on cannabis. The lack of access to bank accounts, credit cards, and checks have forced state legal cannabis businesses to operate in cash, opening the door to tax evasion and to a dangerous pattern of robberies, including one that resulted in the murder of a store clerk in Portland earlier this month.

Giving state legal cannabis businesses access to banking services would not only improve community safety, but also make it easier for Americans of color—who have long been disproportionately impacted by America’s racist ‘War on Drugs’ policies and generations of asset-stripping policies and practices—to access the capital necessary to participate in the merging cannabis industry.

“No one working in a store or behind a register should have to worry about experiencing a traumatic robbery at any moment,” said Merkley. “That means we can’t keep forcing legal cannabis businesses to operate entirely in cash—a nonsensical rule that is an open invitation to robbery and money laundering. Let’s make 2021 the year that we get this bill signed into law so we can ensure that all legal cannabis businesses have access to the financial services they need to help keep their employees safe.”

“Montana businesses shouldn’t have to operate in all cash—they should have a safe way to conduct business,” Daines said. “My bipartisan bill will provide needed certainty for legal Montana cannabis businesses and give them the ability to freely use banks, credit unions and other financial institutions without the fear of punishment. This in turn will help increase public safety, reduce crime, support Montana small businesses, create jobs and boost local economies. A win-win for all.”

To address the safety concerns resulting from these state legal businesses being shut out of banking services, the SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal banking regulators from:

  • Prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated cannabis business, or an associated business (such as an lawyer or landlord providing services to a legal cannabis business);
  • Terminating or limiting a bank’s federal deposit insurance solely because the bank is providing services to a state-sanctioned cannabis business or associated business;
  • Recommending or incentivizing a bank to halt or downgrade providing any kind of banking services to these businesses; or
  • Taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a cannabis-related business.

The bill also creates a safe harbor from criminal prosecution and liability and asset forfeiture for banks and their officers and employees who provide financial services to legitimate, state-sanctioned cannabis businesses, while maintaining banks’ right to choose not to offer those services. The bill also provides protections for hemp and hemp-derived CBD related businesses.

The bill would require banks to comply with current Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance, while at the same time allowing FinCEN guidance to be streamlined over time as states and the federal government adapt to legalized medicinal and recreational cannabis policies.

Momentum around the SAFE Banking Act reached new heights in the 116th Congress, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation, and included it in the HEROES Act.

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Rand Paul (R-KY), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).

Last week, the legislation was introduced by Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-7), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-07), Steve Stivers (R-OH-15), and Warren Davidson (R-OH-08) and over 100 of their colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives. Full text of the legislation is available here.

Oregon House Bill 3112, the Cannabis Equity Act, Is a Great Step Forward

You know that the cannabis community, and our nation, has made great strides against Reefer Madness prohibition when the discussion changes from “whether to legalize” to “how to legalize.” I may prefer some proposals over others, but I tend to end up supporting any measure that improves upon the status quo and will keep more nonviolent people who aren’t hurting anyone else, from being arrested and jailed. In 2014, Oregon made great strides when it was the third state to vote to legalize, but the law wasn’t perfect. We made more progress in 2015 by further reducing criminal penalties and adding expungement provisions through legislation. One of the highlights of my activism career was reading about a man with “tears of joy” because he could finally clear his record of an old marijuana felony conviction. Still, there’s more work to be done in Oregon, and House Bill 3112, known as the Cannabis Equity Act, is an attempt at taking another great step forward in righting the wrongs of the racist and failed Drug War.

To each their own, but my personal favorite provision of the Cannabis Equity Act is the automatic expungement of old cannabis offenses. Our criminal justice system has too many injustices, and one of its major failings is the disparate treatment people get based upon how much money they have. Of course, people understand that having money allows you to hire top lawyers, or even a Dream Team of attorneys, but a lack of funds can detrimentally impact your criminal justice proceedings long after your trial. One example of that is the ability to clear your criminal record. As I previously mentioned, I loved reading about the man who had tears of joy after his expungement. However, too many don’t have the money to hire an attorney or pay the required court fees needed to expunge their records. There are great people and organizations that assist people with expungement, but you have to know about them and the events they host and be able to get there. Clearing your record of an offense shouldn’t depend upon how much money you have; House Bill 3112 fixes that injustice.

The Cannabis Equity Act has several other great provisions, such as reducing the fees on Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) patient cards and setting aside funds to invest in communities disproportionately impacted by over-policing and cannabis criminalization. Oregon has made great progress combatting Reefer Madness prohibition and the greater Drug War in recent years and HB 3112 is just another great step in the right direction. Oregonians, please contact the House Judiciary Committee and your own legislators and let them know that you support House Bill 3112 because it will improve the lives of thousands of people wrongly harmed by outdated marijuana laws. A sincere thanks to the Cannabis Equity PAC for working hard to pass this important legislation.

Kind Leaf supports efforts to improve our cannabis laws and always provides 15% off for OMMP patients.

While Still Misguided, New White House Cannabis Policy Demonstrates Progress

It made news when the Biden White House issued a new federal policy stating that cannabis use wouldn’t automatically disqualify staffers from employment opportunities within the administration. The federal policy change was announced by a memo from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that the have changed as, “Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have removed criminal prohibitions on medical and recreational marijuana use by adults age 21 or older, and an additional 33 states permit medical use of marijuana or of the cannabis-derived compound cannabidiol (CBD).” However, some media outlets ran with headlines like “OPM Memo States Marijuana is Not a Disqualifier for Federal Employment” that were too broad, making many think that cannabis would no longer be an issue for ANYONE working for the new administration.

The actual OPM memo just stated that cannabis use would not be an automatic disqualifier for government positions, detailing a set of criteria to consider such decisions on a case-by-case basis. From the OPM memo “Assessing the Suitability/Fitness of Applicants or Appointees on the Basis of Marijuana Use; Maintaining a Drug-Free Workplace”:

In each instance, the agency must consider the following additional considerations of the individual’s conduct to the extent deemed pertinent to the individual case:
• The nature of the position for which the person is applying or in which the person is employed;
• The nature and seriousness of the conduct;
• The circumstances surrounding the conduct;
• The recency of the conduct;
• The age of the person at the time of the conduct;
• Contributing societal conditions;
• The absence or presence of rehabilitation or efforts toward rehabilitation.

After The Daily Beast reported that some White House staffers had been fired or otherwise sanctioned for their cannabis use, the Biden administration was forced to respond. Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated on on Twitter that the White House had updated Uncle Sam’s hiring policy, “And as a result, more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use. The bottom line is this: of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy.

Well, the cannabis community has been making so much progress on a number of political fronts and will continue racking up wins, but there are gonna be setbacks along the way. While Joe Biden firing 5 staffers and punishing others for their cannabis is certainly out-of-touch and not want the voters want, the entire ordeal actually demonstrates the progress that we’ve made. The fact that cannabis use wasn’t used to automatically fire people was a small step in the right direction and the White House being forced to respond to political pressure shows how far we have come on the issue. In the past, people wouldn’t have been hired in the first place or would be hired and the powers that be wouldn’t bat an eye. Now, ending cannabis prohibition is such a popular policy, most of the discussion in the media centers around how wrong it is to punish people for a substance less addictive and dangerous than alcohol. Two steps forward, one step back, but we are moving closer and closer to true freedom and equality.

Featured photo credit: Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

Oregon’s Psilocybin Mushroom Program Is Set to Show Our Nation a Promising Way to Heal

I’ll never forget the first time that I met Tom and Sheri Eckert for lunch at Cheryl’s on 12th in downtown Portland. The therapist couple was seeking some insight into starting a ballot initiative campaign to legalize medicinal psilocybin mushroom therapy in Oregon.

As chief petitioner for the Measure 91 cannabis legalization effort, I did my best to provide them a lay of the land and helped introduce them to a few folks that could help. One of the first things that I noticed, and this observation held steady, the Eckert’s were true believers in the healing power of psilocybin. They weren’t promoting a legal change to generate a new revenue stream for themselves, as their proposed initiative wasn’t going to make them and their fellow therapists any type of gatekeeper, and they wanted to do all that they could to keep Big Pharma from controlling the system.

I couldn’t be more proud of how Tom and Sheri handled the bright spotlight that statewide political races put you under. As Ezra Klein writes in a landmark piece in The New York Times, Oregon, thanks to the Eckert’s and the campaign team that they ultimately put together, is pioneering a medicinal psilocybin program that can show the United States a new, promising way to heal mental trauma:

Measure 109, the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act, approved as a ballot measure in November, is the brainchild of Tom and Sheri Eckert, who shared a therapy practice in Portland. In 2015, the Eckerts read a piece by Michael Pollan in The New Yorker titled “The Trip Treatment.” The article described the emerging research around using psychedelics as a therapeutic tool and unearthed the largely forgotten pre-Timothy Leary period in which psychedelics were widely used by psychiatrists. The government funded more than a hundred studies, and as Pollan recounts in “How to Change Your Mind,” his subsequent book, Anaïs Nin, Jack Nicholson and Cary Grant all underwent LSD-assisted therapy. Bill Wilson, a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, who’d given up drinking with the aid of a hallucinogenic plant called belladonna, considered bringing LSD-assisted therapy into AA in the 1950s, but was met with disapproval from his board.

This was a very different model of psychedelic use: There was a trained mental health professional in the room and subsequent therapy to help turn the insights into action. The early results were promising, though the studies were poorly designed. At times, the fear was the compounds were too powerful and left people too malleable to the suggestions of their guide. One early practitioner worried that on psychedelics, “the fondest theories of the therapist are confirmed by his patient,” and that even though the healing was real, the pathway was “nihilistic,” bordering on something like hypnosis. This era of study ended before these questions could be resolved, when psychedelics slipped into the counterculture, where they were used without therapeutic safeguards, and the Nixon administration targeted them as part of its culture war. A remnant of healers who used psychedelics in their work remained, but they were driven underground.

Maybe the most important aspect of Klein’s piece is where the prominent columnist writes about his own experience with psychedelics:

I avoided psychedelics when I was younger, fearful of the loss of control, and tried them later, desperately, when there was more darkness in my mind than light. It was not an easy time for me, and these were not easy experiences. They kicked down doors around my anxiety, my marriage, my work, my family, my resentments, my attachments, my self. Those rooms were often unpleasant to enter. There was ecstasy and beauty, yes, but also fear and, often, so often, intense nausea. Things I’d fought to ignore resurfaced. Disparate parts of my life and beliefs and personality connected, and I became more legible to myself. I am not cleansed of anxiety, but I am more aware that my outlook, at any given moment, is just a dance of brain chemistry and experience, and far from the only state possible. That a few micrograms of chemical was all it took to upend my confident grip on reality shook me in ways I’m grateful for. I hold my judgments and worldviews more lightly, and I am friendlier to mystery and strangeness.

Sadly, Sheri Eckert, someone so full of light and positive energy, passed away last December. As Klein wrote, “An idea could be like a child,” Sheri beautifully told Tom before they embarked on their historic, pioneering initiative campaign. Their idea not only lives on, but it will undoubtedly have children of its own as other states follow Oregon’s example and legalizes psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.

As Oregonians, we can be proud that we are helping lead the way on drug policy and have taken a huge sledgehammer to the racist and failed War on Drugs by passing both Measure 109 and Measure 110 last November. I imagine that we are going to see more positive drug policy reforms, especially as science unlocks the medicinal benefits of other psychedelic drugs, and sees that the “sky doesn’t fall” when you decriminalize drug possession. All of us drug policy reformers stand upon the shoulders of giants and Tom and Sheri Eckert will always be two giants that helped pave the way for more people to heal and I, for one, will always be so thankful.

Bipartisan Cannabis SAFE Banking Act Introduced Again in the U.S. House

It is honestly hard to understate how important it is that Congress pass the SAFE Banking Act to finally allow cannabis businesses access to regular banking and financial services. While there are some banks that do business with state-regulated cannabis companies, that simply isn’t good enough. These banks charge significant fees for this privilege and the businesses must still remain cash-only as no credit or debit cards can be utilized at dispensaries. The bureaucratic headaches aren’t just limited to the cannabis industry either as everyone the industry does business with, from their landlords to the state and federal agencies collecting record-breaking tax revenue, are then forced to accept cash as well. While the lack of financial services is a huge impediment to doing business, especially for locally-owned craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf, the biggest issue is the current threat to public safety. The more than 100 robberies in the Portland-area over the past year alone are troubling, but thieves are taking advantage all across the nation. Tragically, one Portland budtender was murdered in an armed robbery and more needless suffering will occur if the cannabis industry is forced to be cash-only. Thankfully, as Marijuana Moment reported, the SAFE Banking Act has been reintroduced in the United States House by Representative Ed Perlmutter with bipartisan support:

The bill as introduced has 102 initial cosponsors, with Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Warren Davidson (R-OH) taking the lead alongside Perlmutter. By the end of the 116th Congress, the prior version of the bill garnered 206 cosponsors. The current bill includes support from 13 Republicans.

A new companion Senate version of the bill is expected to be filed next week.

The SAFE Banking Act would ensure that financial institutions could take on cannabis business clients without facing federal penalties. Fear of sanctions has kept many banks and credit unions from working with the industry, forcing marijuana firms to operate on a cash basis that makes them targets of crime and creates complications for financial regulators.

The bill has been slightly revised this session to expand banking protections to explicitly include hemp and CBD businesses, and some technical changes were made to clarify language around insurance and safe harbor provisions. A separate bill to address insurance issues in the cannabis market was also introduced in the Senate on Thursday.

With a supermajority of voters understanding that it’s time to end cannabis prohibition altogether, passing the SAFE Banking Act should be a no-brainer. I certainly expect the bill to pass the House, but the real question will be if the common-sense banking legislation will survive the 50-50 Senate and its rather archaic filibuster rules. It’s imperative to spread the word and help everyone understand how important this policy change is. This goes beyond cannabis. Even if you don’t support legalization, you should support this bill. This is a public safety issue. If you don’t support the SAFE Banking Act, then you don’t support public safety. Step by step, let’s save and improve lives and the SAFE Banking Act is one crucial step towards ending the failed, racist, and harmful war on cannabis. Let’s get to work. Contact your elected officials and get them on board.