Tag: Marijuana Moment

Former Prosecutor Introduces Bill to End Federal Cannabis Prohibition

In a sign of the times, a former prosecutor has joined forces with a Republican colleague to file a federal bill to end federal cannabis prohibition. Representative David Joyce a former Geauga County prosecutor in Ohio and Rep. Don Young, both co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus, seek to remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances. Their bill would end the federal war on the cannabis community while also allowing the industry access to banking and other financial services. This proposal would be a huge step in the right direction, but is not as progressive as the MORE Act that passed last year, as Marijuana Moment reported:

The main crux of the legislation is to federally deschedule cannabis—and it’s similar to past bipartisan proposals—but this one goes a few steps further with language on legal protections and mandates for federal studies into medical cannabis. It does not contain social justice provisions to repair the past harms of the war on drugs, however.

“With more than 40 states taking action on this issue, it’s past time for Congress to recognize that continued cannabis prohibition is neither tenable nor the will of the American electorate,” Joyce, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus (CCC), said in a press release.

Under the proposal, marijuana would be removed from the Controlled Substances Act, clearing states to enact legalization. Cannabis could be imported and exported across states, though transporting marijuana to states where such activity is unlawful would remain federally prohibited.

This proposal, known as the Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Medical Professionals Act, could set up a serious debate within the drug policy reform community as legalizing cannabis the right way has become a mantra. There is certainly a lot of movement behind lobbying efforts to implement equity provisions that help right the wrongs of the Drug War, as we’ve seen with legislation passed in New York, and new legislation introduced in Oregon and other states. Personally, I tend to support all bills that improve upon the status quo, especially when they will keep people out of prison and save lives. However, I also support passing the best bills possible. No matter how the debate shakes out, it’s great that we’re having this debate and seeing support for ending prohibition in such a bipartisan manner; even led by a former prosecutor that used to enforce Reefer Madness prohibition.

Cannabis Sanity Momentum Continues as Alabama Legislature Passes Medical

I’m old enough to remember November 4th, 1996, when no state had passed a medical cannabis law. California voters passed Prop 215 the following day, and the medical cannabis revolution was put on hyperspeed as Washington and Oregon completed completed the West Coast and now 36 states have enacted medical laws, while 17 states, two territories, and our nation’s capital have legalized for all adults over 21. If you would have told me a few years ago that the Alabama Legislature (ALABAMA!) would pass a medical cannabis law in 2021, I would have been rather shocked, to be perfectly honest, but when you have hardworking advocates armed with the truth and common sense on their side, victories that were once long-shot dreams, can become a reality. Marijuana Moment reported on the historic victory in the Deep South:

“After clearing two House committees last month, the measure passed the full chamber by a vote of 68-34 on Thursday. The Senate, which had previously approved an earlier version of the legislation in March, then signed off on the other body’s changes in a 20-9 vote.

“The win came after opponents staged a lengthy filibuster on the House floor earlier this week, drawing out the process by making a series of speeches and asking questions until the end of the day’s session at midnight approached. Those stalling tactics did not continue on Thursday, however.

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“To qualify for the program, patients would have to be diagnosed with one of about 20 conditions, including anxiety, sleep disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and intractable pain. Regulators would not be able to independently add additional conditions, leaving that decision up to lawmakers in future sessions.”

The bill now heads to Republican Governor Kay Ivey’s desk and her office emailed Marijuana Moment: “As with any piece of legislation that reaches the governor’s desk, we look forward to thoroughly reviewing it. We appreciate the debate from the Legislature on the topic. This is certainly an emotional issue. We are sensitive to that and will give it the diligence it deserves.”

Hopefully, Gov. Ivey does the right thing and improves the lives of thousands upon thousands of Alabama patients battling severe and debilitating medical conditions. Medical cannabis’ passage in conservative Alabama continues the momentum for the cannabis sanity movement that has turned the tide against Reefer Madness with voters, but the most important thing is that patients’ quality of life will ameliorate. Step by step, state by state, cannabis sanity is winning the day. A sincere thanks to advocates everywhere, especially those working in legislatures which have long held extreme anti-cannabis views.

Kind Leaf is proud to always offer discounts to Oregon Medical Marijuana Program patients, military veterans, and all senior citizens.

Featured photo credit: Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance

Texas Cannabis and Psychedelics Legislation Advancing Along

Step by step, state by state, we are making progress against Reefer Madness prohibition and the failed Drug War overall. While West Coast states and others with the initiative process have led the way in positive reforms, it’s imperative that we continue to make progress all across the nation and in states where legislatures are the only recourse to improving our laws. As more people become educated about the benefits of cannabis legalization and other drug policy reforms, it’s only a matter of time before dedicated, hardworking advocates win important victories across our nation. Each state just adds more ammunition to our battle of ideas in the halls of Congress, as well as more political allies willing to cast important votes, such as implementing the SAFE Banking Act and ending federal prohibition altogether. Everything is bigger in Texas, so any positive reforms secured in the Lone Star State will reverberate throughout the land. As Marijuana Moment reported, there are some important developments taking place:

The Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill to reduce penalties for possession of marijuana concentrates—and lawmakers separately advanced legislation to require studies on the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics for military veterans.

The cannabis concentrates measure would make it so possession of up to two ounces of those products would be downgraded to a class B misdemeanor. The bill cleared the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee earlier this month, and now it’s been approved on second reading in the full chamber, with a final vote to send it to the Senate expected as early as Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, the psychedelics research legislation from Rep. Alex Dominguez (D) passed in the House Public Health Committee on Monday. The panel approved amendment that includes changes limiting the scope of the state-funded study to focus on military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), rather than a broader list of conditions attached to the initial bill.

Reducing criminal penalties associated with cannabis possession is obviously a step in the right direction while the  psychedelics legislation could be a real game changer. The Texas psychedelics proposal require the state to study the medical risks and benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for veterans while mandating a clinical trial into psilocybin for veterans battling post-traumatic stress. Helping veterans that have sacrificed so much for our nation is the least that we can do and demonstrating success treating PTSD will surely open the doors for further research and important policy changes throughout the United States.

Psychedelic Scientists Decry Drug War Obstacles at Psilocybin Research Event

The War on Drugs causes so much unnecessary heartache and pain, from unnecessary arrests to exorbitant taxes that prevent hardworking mom-and-pop entrepreneurs from achieving their American Dream. The unnecessary obstacles stifling medical research is one of the many ills of the Drug War, preventing people from saving and improving their lives with safe medical options. The cannabis community knows all too well the ridiculous barriers put in place whenever researchers attempt to study federal Schedule I substances. Now, with psychedelic research following in the footsteps of cannabis, scientists are facing similar nonsensical hurdles that needlessly delay the ability to find safe medicines just waiting to be unlocked. As Marijuana Moment reported, prominent scientists decried these outdated Drug War obstacles at the inaugural Psilocybin Research Speaker Series event hosted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), under the National Institutes of Health (NIH), on April 22nd:

A federal health agency kicked off a speaker series on Thursday that’s dedicated to recapping science on the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms. And the experts who spoke at the first event said in response to Marijuana Moment’s questions that federal drug laws are out of step with voters and undermine the research objectives of the scientific community.

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Asked by Marijuana Moment about whether the scheduling status of psilocybin under federal law inhibits research into the compound’s risk and benefits, Dr. Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University said that the “Schedule I status is anathema to research because it makes research much more difficult—and that’s both clinical research and even preclinical research.”

“Even a preclinical neurological researcher, if they want to work with a Schedule I compound, they still have to jump through all the hurdles and create a [Drug Enforcement Administration] license and track their substance in a way that’s really quite discouraging of research,” he said. “I wish there were an easier workaround for Schedule I compounds and research generally, but as the laws are currently written, there isn’t a workaround.”

The National Cancer Institute has this to say about psilocybin and the current status of federal law and ongoing research:

“Psilocybin is the natural active compound found in more than 200 species of fungi, more commonly referred to as ‘magic mushrooms.’ Psilocybin is converted by the body to psilocin, which has hallucinogenic mind-altering properties. These naturally occurring mushrooms have been used anthropologically worldwide by indigenous cultures for centuries in the context of religious or spiritual healing ceremonies. Psilocybin is currently a Schedule I substance under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Schedule 1 classification defines chemicals or substances that, currently, have no accepted medical use and have a high potential for abuse. Advances in clinical trials, however, are researching psilocybin to treat cancer related depression, for example, and moreover for its potential medicinal application in treating a range of severe psychiatric disorders, such as: major depressive disorder, treatment resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders, as well as anorexia. To date, FDA granted two breakthrough therapy designations for psilocybin, one for treatment resistant depression in 2018, and a second for major depressive disorder in 2019.”

This is a fascinating time for drug policy activism, from legalizing cannabis to harnessing the healing properties of natural substances that have been wrongly criminalized. It’s great to seen Oregon, with the passage of Measure 109, helping lead the way.

If we can safely help people we should explore those avenues and let science be the guide, not decades of propaganda and misinformation. Too many of our citizens are suffering, whether they are veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress or everyday Americans combating PTSD or depression themselves. It’s great to see our nation take steps towards a sane drug policy and this federally-funded Psilocybin Research Speaker Series is a nice step in the right direction. There are more panels on May 27th and June 4th, 7th, and 10th covering a variety of topics including microdosing, group therapy, psychotherapy for cancer-related psychiatric distress, and more. You can see the full agenda and register here.

Even though 4/20 is behind us, there are still plenty of great deals at Kind Leaf to help uplift your mood. As always, senior citizens, military veterans, and OMMP patients qualify for discounts. Free online ordering through Leafly pickup for convenience or come on into Eastern Oregon’s premier craft cannabis boutique.

Minnesota, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island Could All Legalize Cannabis This Year

This year has already been a historic one for the cannabis community with New York, Virginia, and New Mexico passing bills to end prohibition. A decade ago, there were no states that had legalized and now over 40% of our nation lives in a state that has voted to end prohibition. From an industry standpoint, New York is a huge get as the state will become one of the biggest markets in the world and its status as a financial and media hub should help create the momentum to pass the SAFE Banking Act to finally allow regulated cannabis businesses to access normal financial services. The criminal justice and social equity reforms passed in the Empire State should also resonate and help convince states to legalize right, even those that were earlier pioneers. Culturally, Virginia being the first state in the former Confederacy to sweep Reefer Madness prohibition into the dustbin of history is a landmark development that will bring more key support. New Mexico’s biggest impact outside of its border could be its influence on Texas as voters, legislators, and policymakers will start to notice that they are missing out on jobs and revenue for no reason as residents of the Lonestar State take advantage of legal stores in the Land of Enchantment.

More history could still be made as Minnesota, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island still have the potential to join the growing number of states that have legalized more freedom, jobs, and revenue, as Marijuana Moment reported:

From Delaware to Minnesota, lawmakers are still working to end prohibition by the year’s end. While there’s no guarantee that they’ll be successful, there’s growing momentum for legalization with top lawmakers and governors on board, and each state that enacts the policy change adds pressure on those around them to follow suit.

If two more states get legal marijuana bills signed this session, 2021 would set a record for the highest number of new legalization laws enacted in a single year. And if just one more state were to adopt legalization this session, 2021 would tie 2016 and 2020 as a year with the most number of states to legalize cannabis—quite remarkable given that no states are putting the issue directly to voters on the ballot this year.

Marijuana Moment provides a great breakdown of where the bills currently stand in these states. In addition to these four northern states, it should be noted that Louisiana could be the next southern state to join Virginia. A legalization bill was introduced last week and 2/3 of voters now support ending prohibition. The work of moving state by state is a ton of work, forged by advocates over years, if not decades, but it’s necessary to end harmful arrests and convictions while creating much needed jobs and revenue. Sooner, rather than later, this gains at the state level will create a tipping point to where Congress and the White House will no longer be able to deny the will of the voters and we can finally cure Uncle Sam’s Reefer Madness once and for all.

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.

People’s Justice Guarantee Includes Legalizing Cannabis and Expungement

After decades upon decades of doubling down on the insanity of the Drug War, it is so great to see our nation making progress at the local, state, and federal levels. Of course, the cannabis community really led the way with medical and adult use legislation putting together a rather impressive winning record at the ballot box since 1996, followed by legislative success in states that don’t have the initiative process. With a few localities like Denver and Washington, D.C., decriminalizing some plant psychedelic drugs and Oregon taking a real sledgehammer to the War on Drugs by decriminalizing all personal possession with Measure 110 last year, we are even seeing some positive movement at the federal level. Fresh off the U.S. House passing the historic MORE Act to end federal cannabis prohibition last year, the newly introduced People’s Justice Guarantee, includes legalizing cannabis and expunging old drug convictions, as Marijuana Moment reported:

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) is leading the measure, which calls for a series of policy changes that are meant to reduce mass incarceration and broadly reform the country’s criminal justice system. She introduced an initial version of resolution last Congress as well with the same drug-related language, but it did not advance.

Drug policy isn’t at the center of the broad proposal, which currently 17 initial cosponsors, but it is one component of a comprehensive call to action from the coalition of Democratic lawmakers. Pressley titled the resolution the “People’s Justice Guarantee,” and it aims to establish a “framework for a fair, equitable and just legal system.”

In order to reduce the incarcerated population, Congress should pursue “decriminalizing addiction, homelessness, poverty, HIV status, and disabilities, including mental health diagnosis, by legalizing marijuana and overdose prevention sites, declining to criminally prosecute low-level offenses such as loitering and theft of necessity goods, and expunging the records of individuals for all drug-related offenses,” the resolution states.

As Marijuana Moment notes, drug policy reform isn’t the sole mission of the People’s Justice Guarantee, but that’s actually a good thing in my opinion. Cannabis legalization and other progressive drug law fixes should be a part of the foundation towards justice, equality, and equity, putting ending the War on Drugs into a proper context. Too often, the debate around the Drug War focuses on drugs when the focus should be on the people. What do you want for your loved ones that use drugs? Do you want arrest, prison sentences, and a lack of educational and employment opportunities or do you want to provide treatment if they need it and preserve their chance of achieving the American Dream? A sincere thanks to Ayanna Pressley, Oregon’s own Earl Blumenauer, and everyone working to move this important legislation.

More than Just a Promise for Votes and Money: Congress Needs to to Deliver on Cannabis

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been saying all of the right things on cannabis ever since he first introduced a bill to end federal prohibition on April 20th, 2018. Legalization has proven to be a very popular policy with supermajority support. Cannabis reform was touted widely by Schumer, newly-elected Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, and other Democrats as they gained control of the Senate for the first time in a decade, and now is the time to deliver. I’m not politically naive to believe that ending the failed and racist war on cannabis will be at the top of any politician’s list, but Schumer has stated that reforms are a part of the party’s economic and criminal justice platforms. As Marijuana Moment reported, Sen. Schumer recently sent out a fundraising email touting cannabis policy changes after climate change and economic inequality:

“Next is criminal justice reform—and voters agree,” he wrote. “Voters in four more states this election voted to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana, and that proves once again it’s past time to work to undo the harm done by misplaced priorities, particularly in Black and brown communities. It’s time to decriminalize marijuana nationally.”

Last month, the majority leader pledged that he, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) would release a draft bill to end federal marijuana prohibition “in the early part of this year.” The three senators followed that up by holding a meeting with cannabis reform groups to discuss the plan.

While it’s not clear what the draft Senate marijuana reform proposal will entail, or when it will be released, Schumer said lawmakers are in the process of merging various pieces of existing legislation.

Politicians make a lot of promises and no one can expect that they will keep them all, but you can’t blame voters for being disillusioned when you make a promise, tout that promise, fundraise off of that promise, and then don’t deliver when you are given the power and opportunity to do so. With the Senate split 50-50 and a Democrat or two potentially being squishy on legalization, Schumer may need to reach across the aisle to Rand Paul, who has been libertarian-minded on cannabis policy (maybe not as good as his father Ron, but still) or a Republican like Lisa Murkowski who represents a state with legal cannabis to get things done. He better try. And if legalization is too big of a political lift, we best see cannabis banking services allowed via the SAFE Banking Act or put an end to the 280e IRS tax code that punished state-regulated cannabis businesses, especially small craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf. With the House expected to pass a version of the MORE Act again, the Senate will be put on the spot and if Senator Schumer’s promises turn out to be smoke and mirrors, well, his term as Senate Majority Leader will likely be a short one.

IRS Commissioner Agrees that Cannabis Businesses Need Banking Services

The lack of banking services for cannabis businesses is a national embarrassment at this point. The cannabis industry has been deemed essential during the COVID pandemic, supporting jobs and generating record-breaking tax revenues each and every quarter. Billions upon billions of dollars are flowing into retailers’ cash registers, but all too often, state-regulated companies are without bank accounts or are forced to jump through unnecessary regulatory hurdles and pay arbitrary fees just for the “privilege” of keeping an account.

The cannabis companies’ inability to maintain bank accounts impacts all of the other vendors and businesses that the industry must interact with, creating inefficiencies that shouldn’t exist. People associated with the cannabis industry, such as lawyers, consultants, and property managers have lost bank accounts as well. On top of the burdens and extra costs, the prohibition on banking creates a danger, including for state and federal workers who have to handle the ever-increasing mounds of cash that are used to pay local, state, and federal taxes.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig testified before the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, detailing how his agency would prefer that state-legal cannabis businesses had access to banking services that would allow electronic deposits, as Marijuana Moment reported:

Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), who serves as a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said that barring marijuana companies from traditional financial services is “inefficient for business and the IRS alike, obviously, not to mention ample opportunity for fraud and abuse it creates, as well as potential for criminal acts as far as robbing and stealing from those.”

Rettig replied that “the IRS would prefer direct deposits moreso than receiving actual cash payments.”

“It’s a security issue for the IRS. It’s a security issue for our employees in our taxpayer assistance centers, [which] is actually where we receive these payments,” he said. “We created special facilities in the tax to receive the payments. Then we similarly have to transport the payments themselves.”

Reefer Madness prohibition policies have hurt too many people for far too long, even years after states have passed legalization laws and 2/3 of Americans support ending cannabis prohibition. Prohibitionists that claim they support public safety and health are actually endangering more people. Our nation claims to support entrepreneurship and small businesses, but federal prohibition is stifling hard-working Americans and strangling mom-and-pops while multinational corporations with deep pockets can ride out these regulatory obstacles while buying up the little guys. It’s a small miracle that locally-owned craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf are able to survive and even thrive under these circumstances. It’s past time that Uncle Sam legalize cannabis, but let’s at least get the SAFE Banking Act signed into law on our march towards freedom and equality.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden Lays Out Cannabis Legalization Strategy

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised to pursue cannabis legalization if voters replaced Mitch McConnell, and it looks like he is going to attempt to follow through. Schumer announced that cannabis reform would be a piece of his economic and racial justice agenda and then stated that he would co-sponsor legalization legislation with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Oregon’s own Ron Wyden. Wyden, as Marijuana Moment reported, layed out the plan to have his Senate Finance Committee handle the cannabis reform agenda on The Source Weekly’s Bend Don’t Break podcast:

“This is a framework that I’ve championed, and I’ll be championing it as chairman,” he told The Source Weekly’s podcast Bend Don’t Break. “You do that and you take care of the banking question, you take care of the tax question, you take care of the research issue and this whole array of issues that have been gridlocked because the federal government on cannabis has been tethered to yesteryear. That has been the central problem.”

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While Wyden didn’t point to any specific bills in the podcast interview, there are numerous pieces of legislation that could fall within his committee’s jurisdiction. That includes comprehensive proposals to federally legalize cannabis that would involve imposing excise taxes on marijuana sales, for example. The Senate version of a House-passed bill to deschedule marijuana and fund programs to repair the harms of the drug war was referred to Finance last session but died without a hearing or a vote under Republican leadership.

The new chairman said that “it’s not enough in my view to just end cannabis prohibition, I think we need to restore the lives of people who’ve been hurt most by the failed war on drugs and especially black Americans.”

If the United States Senate was a purely democratic institution, where a simple majority can always move legislation (I know, crazy), federal cannabis prohibition would end within the next two years. Unfortunately, the Senate’s quirky filibuster rule, which allows one senator to force 60 votes to pass a bill, could derail legalization and the will of the American people. With over 2/3 of Americans now wanting to end the war on cannabis, it’s time for Uncle Sam to act accordingly.