Tag: Marijuana Moment

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.

Senate Majority Leader Says Cannabis Reform is a Top Priority

When New York Senator Chuck Schumer, then Senate Minority Leader, started touting cannabis legalization by introducing a descheduling bill on 4/20 back in 2018, it could simultaneously be seen as a great step forward for the cannabis community and a political ploy to gain votes. It can be easy for members of the minority party to tout popular policies to earn votes, it’s another thing to actually fight for those policies when you are in the majority and have the power to bring legislation to the floor. Now that Sen. Schumer is officially majority leader, it’s time for him to put up and on us to force him to follow through with his promise. While you can’t take anything for granted in politics, it’s a good sign that the Senate Majority Leader mentioned cannabis when discussing his top priorities on the Rachel Maddow Show.

Marijuana Moment reported:

In his first public comments on cannabis policy since Democrats reclaimed the majority and put him in the top leadership position, Schumer said federal marijuana reform will be part of a racial justice agenda that lawmakers will pursue in the 117th Congress. It’s a signal to advocates that the senator’s pre-election commitments to advancing legalization were not simply political bluster.

Schumer said that when it comes to marijuana reform, the issue intersects with both racial and economic justice.

“A young man is arrested with a small amount of marijuana in his pocket. He has a criminal record the rest of his life, can’t become a productive citizen—this one won’t hire him, that won’t hire him. Change that,” he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “There’s lots to do, and we have to succeed.”

Removing cannabis from the list of controlled substances, as Sen. Schumer has introduced in the past, is the best path forward for the cannabis community and industry, much better than rescheduling. Congress obviously has a lot of important issues to tackle as our nation tries to emerge from the consequences of a raging pandemic, but ending cannabis prohibition should be a priority as it intersects a lot of issues. As Schumer noted to Rachel Maddow, the war on cannabis harms both racial and economic equality. Ending arrests and imprisonments while also generating jobs and revenue is a serious win-win-win for the United States of America. It’s time for our elected officials to catch up with the will of the people.

Florida Republican Files First Federal Cannabis Bill of 2021

It’s the dawn of a new day in Washington, DC, and the cannabis community has a reason to be optimistic about making progress towards ending federal prohibition. Fresh off of the momentum of passing the historic MORE Act last year, there is hope that the US House will not only pass another legalization bill, but will actually improve upon the MORE Act, which contained some restrictive language on licensing. The very first cannabis reform bill of the 2021 legislative session is by Representative Greg Steube (R-FL), an identical bill to one he sponsored last year. Steube’s proposal would move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Marijuana Moment got a sneak peak at the bill. While Rep. Steube’s bill won’t end federal prohibition it would still have several positive effects:

It would, for example, protect federal employees who use marijuana from a Reagan-era executive order that defines illegal drugs as Schedule I or II substances.

And only drugs under Schedules I and II are affected by the tax provision known as “280E” that blocks cannabis companies from deducting businesses expenses from their taxes.

Reclassification would also make scientific research easier, since cannabis’s current Schedule I status creates additional hurdles for studies.

Ending the 280E IRS code that arbitrarily and unfairly taxes state licensed cannabis companies at 70% or, would be huge for the industry, especially for the small craft boutiques like Kind Leaf, that are working hard to survive the competition from multinational corporations. Coupled with a provision that normalizes banking services for cannabis companies, Rep. Steube’s bill would be a huge step forward. As Marijuana Moment notes, removing cannabis from the CSA’s schedule is preferred and there could be regulatory concerns about rescheduling, so other bills are certainly better, this proposal is a great step in the right direction, even though rescheduling isn’t the right policy change. Just to reiterate and make crystal clear: Schedule III for cannabis is not a good idea and this bill should not pass as-is, but it’s benefits, such as repealing 280e and removing restrictions regarding scientific research should be enacted.

Our political system isn’t fixed by one election and we can’t be complacent. Let’s continue to work hard to ensure that more and more elected officials represent the will of the people on cannabis, criminal justice reform, and drug policy in the years to come.

Voters Find Cannabis Legalization Both Nonpartisan and Inevitable

I sometimes cringe when I hear people, especially non-activists, proclaim cannabis legalization as “inevitable.” On one hand, it is good for our political fight to ending prohibition as most voters don’t want to ruin lives and waste taxpayer dollars to perpetuate a failed and harmful policy that is going to end in the near future. However, the feeling of inevitability can discount the tons of work that people have put into the fight for freedom and make some people think that they don’t have to put in any work to help end the war on cannabis. While I do believe that it’s true that legalization is inevitable, it is only inevitable because so many people are working extremely hard every single day to spread the truth about cannabis and explaining the many reasons that prohibition should be repealed to voters, legislators, and policymakers.

A poll surveying voters in the four states that legalized cannabis last month (Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota) did indeed find that voters find legalization as inevitable, and most promising, non-partisan, as Marijuana Moment reported:

Three in four respondents said that, beyond their individual states, they view federal legalization as “inevitable.” And while Congress has been relatively slow to act to that end, their belief is bolstered by the fact that they view cannabis as an increasingly bipartisan issue.

Almost two-thirds of voters in these four states—which include a mix of red, blue and purple states—agreed that legalization is a policy that “both liberal and conservative voters can get behind.”

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“In sum, public opinion in the four states that legalized marijuana this fall shows a pattern of shifting opinions that bodes well for marijuana policy reform across the country,” FM3 Research and Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, which conducted the poll on behalf of the pro-legalization New Approach PAC, wrote in a memo. “Support for legalization in principle has become broad, strong, and bipartisan—reflecting a steady positive shift in perceptions of voters of all parties over the last few years.”

According to the New Approach PAC poll, a whopping 76% of these voters feel that legalization is inevitable, compared to 19% who don’t. Very promising, 65% of all voters, including 53% of Republicans, found that legalization is a non-partisan issue. I have long argued that cannabis law reformers needed to make the case to all voters about the progressive and conservative values at the core of the legalization debate, especially where the two sides meet: the need to remove government interference from the lives of otherwise law-abiding citizens that aren’t harming anyone else. Virtually every poll on cannabis is good news these days, but never forget that polls aren’t votes and that we cannot get complacent. The polling looks good because people are putting in the work. Let’s keep it up.

A Supermajority of Americans Support Expunging Cannabis Convictions

I’ve seen past internal campaign polling showing that a lot of voters weren’t too high on expunging old cannabis convictions, even though a strong majority supported legalization. The dichotomy always seemed really strange to me and it didn’t make sense. I’ve also been proud to work on successfully passing bipartisan expungement legislation in Oregon, without many voters expressing outrage or punishing the politicians leading the legislative work. Now, just after Gallup’s poll showing that an all-time record of 68% of American voters support ending cannabis prohibition, a supermajority now favor expunging old, outdated and harmful convictions, as Marijuana Moment reported:

The YouGov survey, which was released on Tuesday and involved 7,141 participants, asked whether U.S. adults “support or oppose expunging marijuana-related convictions for non-violent offenders?”

Seventy percent of respondents said they favor the policy, with 46 percent strongly supporting it. There was majority back among every demographic surveyed, including political ideologies, regions of the U.S., age, gender and income level.

Eighty-one percent of Democrats back expungements, compared to 57 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of independents.

It is great to see voters coming around on expunging old cannabis convictions with supermajority support. Ending the Drug War includes doing what we can to eliminate past harms. Getting rid of a scarlet letter that prevents job and housing opportunities while increasing unneeded stigma, is one step in our journey towards true freedom.

New Poll: Voters Prefer Candidates that Support Cannabis Legalization

The passage of the MORE Act, the historic bill that would end federal cannabis prohibition, was a major milestone for the cannabis community, and it fulfilled a campaign promise by United States House of Representatives leadership. However, a new poll out finds that House leaders made a mistake of postponing a vote on the measure until after the November general election. While political opponents have criticized MORE Act supporters for passing the bill while the nation faces so many serious issues related to the COVID pandemic, polling shows that, SURPRISE, voters prefer candidates that support issues with strong majority support, such as cannabis legalization.

Marijuana Moment reported on the poll commissioned by Data For Progress, Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement and New Deal Strategies. The survey questioned 1,375 likely voters in 13 congressional swing districts:

Asked whether they support legalizing cannabis for adult use, 57 percent of respondents in the swing districts said they did. That includes 71 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of independents and 38 percent of Republicans.

What’s more, “marijuana legalization—a major progressive proposal—appears to additionally be a popular persuasion policy for independent voters” whose support could make or break tight races. And while only just over one-third of Republican voters said they favor the policy change in this survey, that is still an important figure, the groups said.

“This significant and growing support for marijuana legalization across party lines demonstrates clear potential for the Democratic Party to capitalize on the popularity of marijuana legalization as a key part of their policy agenda,” they wrote said.

Let this be a lesson to politicians. Cannabis legalization is a winning issue. Do not be afraid of supporting a policy that has strong majority support across our nation. The upcoming Georgia special election determining control of the U.S. Senate will be a decent test of this theory with Democrats Reverend Ralph Warnock and Joel Ossoff supporting legalization while Republican Kelly Loeffler has criticized the the MORE Act and her fellow Republican Senator David Perdue hasn’t supported legalization either. With the GOP’s Mitch McConnell blocking cannabis legalization legislation as Senate President, based upon polling the Democrats would be wise to highlight the need to end prohibition, while the Georgia Republican Senators should rethink their support of the failed, harmful, and unpopular policy of prohibition.

The Cannabis Community Is on Fire: United States House Passes Cannabis Research Legislation

The hits keep coming for the cannabis community as our hot streak continues in the political realm. Fresh off the heels of the passage of the historic MORE Act to end federal prohibition, the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a research bill today on a voice vote.  House Resolution 3797: The Marijuana Research Act, facilitates research by establishing a process so that allows scientists to access cannabis flower and other products manufactured in accordance with state-regulated programs.

As Marijuana Moment reported, the research bill had the backing of cannabis law reform leader Earl Blumenauer and prohibitionist Andy Harris:

“The cannabis laws in this country are broken, especially those that deal with research,” Blumenauer said on the House floor prior to the vote. “It’s a narrow bill that fixes one of many broken cannabis laws. And I want to hasten to add that this in no way negates the need to move forward with other areas of legalization… But this is sort of a foundational question. No matter where you are, there’s no reason the federal government should impede this critical research.”

Harris, for his part, pointed out that he and Blumenauer probably disagree more vigorously with one another about marijuana legalization than any two other members of Congress. But “we agree 100 percent that we need to do this research,” he said.

“Now, unfortunately, because of the public policy we’ve had in place with marijuana and its scheduling, [research] simply couldn’t be done,” Harris, who is a medical doctor, said. “You can’t do it under the current scheduling… This is on us. It shouldn’t have taken so long to get to this point.”

As NORML’s Paul Armentano wrote previously in The Hill, the DEA has stifled research on a number of fronts:

It’s been nearly three years since the Drug Enforcement Administration formally announced plans to facilitate FDA-approved marijuana-related research in the United States. Unfortunately, in the 36 months since then, the agency has woefully failed to follow through on their pledge.

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Moreover, U-Miss’s “research-grade” marijuana is only available to scientists in the form in rolled cigarettes. Marijuana-infused oils, edibles and capsules — items that are now commonplace in both medical and adult-use states — are not available to investigators absent explicit permission from the DEA to import such products from countries outside of the United States.

Scientists wishing to better study the effects cannabis plant in controlled human trials have long been aware of these onerous hurdles, which often discourage many investigators from engaging in such activities.

Like the MORE Act, this research bill faces an uncertain future with the Mitch McConnell-led Senate. However, unlike the MORE Act, this legislation was passed in a bipartisan manner, elevating hopes that McConnell will allow it to proceed. Whether HR 3797 ultimately passes this year or not, its future, and the future of the cannabis community is certainly very bright. Let’s keep the fire going.

Thank You, Clifford Robinson! The NBA Great Paved the Way on Cannabis Policy

The cannabis community is on a hot streak. On fire. En fuego. Since November 3rd, Montana, Arizona, New Jersey and South Dakota voted to legalize, Mississippi and South Dakota passed medical measures, support for legalization hit an all-time high, the United Nations moved to reschedule cannabis and the United States House of Representatives passed the MORE Act to end federal cannabis prohibition. In addition to the political victories, the National Basketball Association announced that it would not be testing its players for cannabis during the next 2020-2021 season, a move that might be permanent. In every major political and cultural victory, we stand upon the shoulders of giants. With the NBA’s recent policy change, today’s ballers stand upon the shoulders of a literal giant, the 6′ 10″ Clifford Robinson, the late, great “Original Stretch Four” who had his best seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers.

“Due to the unusual circumstances in conjunction with the pandemic, we have agreed with the NBPA to suspend random testing for marijuana for the 2020-21 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse,” NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement.

Marijuana Moment noted that there is a lot of movement around making the cannabis testing policy permanent:

Michele Roberts, the head of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) who also joined the board of the major cannabis company Cresco Labs this year, predicted in a recent interview that the formal change could come as early as “next season.”

“We’re not going to expose our players to unnecessary risks,” she told Dowsett in a piece for GQ. “And it is not necessary to know whether our players are positive for marijuana.”

Robinson, known affectionately as Uncle Cliffy during his playing days or Uncle Spliffy during his cannabis activism day, paid the price of the war on cannabis, suffering through unfair arrests and prosecutions, hurting his playing career and corresponding financial opportunities. Better late than never, Cliffy lived long enough to receive a public apology this year from Portland’s mayor for the SWAT-like raid launched against him over a decriminalized, personal amount of cannabis back in 1997.

In recent years, Robinson made it his mission to end cannabis prohibition, doing a lot of work behind the scenes to encourage former athletes to join him in using their platforms to promote positive change. Unfortunately, the former Blazer great passed away from lymphoma before he could see the NBA announce its policy change, but Uncle Cliffy’s legacy lives on. Wherever he is, I know that the Big Fella is flashing that big smile. Please help his legacy live on by fighting for freedom and equality for the cannabis community and if you are able, make a donation in Robinson’s honor to help the fight against cancer.