Friday, June 17, 2022
As it became more and more clear in recent months that there weren't the votes in the Senate needed to pass any of the major federal marijuana legalization bills, federal reform discussions started to grow a bit boring. Whether and how the SAFE Banking bill might get enacted seemed to be the only story afoot, though that still remains a lively and important matter. But just in the last few days, a lot of notable news from both inside and outside the Beltway has started to make the federal reform landscape a lot more interesting for a lot of different reasons. As always, Marijuana Moment has these stories well covered, and here are links to its coverage:
Developments Inside the Beltway
Developments Outside the Beltway
Friday, April 1, 2022
A little under 18 months ago, as noted here, the US House had a historic vote on the MORE Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and do a lot of other notable reforms. The bill passed in early December by a margin of 228 in favor, 164 against (largely along party lines with 222 Democrats, 5 Republicans and libertarian Rep. Justin Amash in support and 158 Republicans and 6 Democrats against). With much fanfare, the MORE Act was brought to the floor again, and Politico has this report on how this new vote went:
The House passed a far-reaching marijuana legalization bill on Friday by a 220-204 vote, largely along party lines and still with no real path to President Joe Biden’s desk.
It marks the second time in less than two years that the House passed legislation to decriminalize cannabis, scrap some old marijuana-related convictions and allow states to make their own decisions about whether to establish marijuana markets. But Democrats seem no closer to fulfilling a major campaign promise, passing a party-line bill that has little chance of getting the necessary Republican support to pass the Senate.
“I was a supporter of the War on Drugs — I’ve been here a long time,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on the House floor on Friday, pointing out that Black Americans are four times more likely than white people to be arrested for low level cannabis crimes. “This bill is a matter of justice and equal opportunity… so that Americans and America can become a better, stronger, more fair, and more just America.”
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to introduce his own cannabis bill soon, but does not currently have the Democrat votes to pass it, let alone the Republicans needed to overcome a filibuster. Today’s vote highlighted the growing rift between the parties — and even among Democrats — on how to address cannabis policy. Despite growing support among GOP lawmakers for legalization and polling that shows two-thirds of Americans back that stance, just three Republicans voted for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. That was fewer than the five GOP lawmakers who backed the bill in 2020 — two are no longer in Congress.
The MORE Act debate underlined a fundamental question that divides the parties: When changing the nation’s drug laws, should the federal government also take steps to provide financial incentives to individuals and communities who were most harshly impacted by the war on drugs?
Republicans say no. “You’re not going to be able to get Republicans on board… the way that the MORE Act is done,” said Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who introduced a bill last year that decriminalizes cannabis and expunges some records but does not create federal grant programs. The federal social equity efforts were a major reason for her “nay” vote on Friday. “You’ve got to have Republicans on board if we’re going to have any chance of getting it done in the Senate.”
For many Democrats, however, the equity grant programs are nonnegotiable. “This is a major criminal justice reform bill,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), one of the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “So negotiating that away — to leave [affected communities] behind — that to me is just immoral.”
In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday went so far as to frame the MORE Act as a criminal justice reform bill. In her weekly news conference, she touted the criminal justice and economic provisions of the bill, and explained that the lack of similar provisions in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was one reason that it failed in the upper chamber.
The Senate — where Schumer, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), are working on their own comprehensive cannabis bill — is even tougher ground for weed. Booker and Schumer have drawn a line in the sand on marijuana policy, refusing to even hold a hearing on a cannabis banking bill the House has approved six times because it does not address criminal justice reform.
But Democrats’ pursuit of their perfect bill worries some pro-cannabis lawmakers and advocates, who do not see a clear path forward for sweeping drug policy changes under Republican leadership in either chamber — especially the Senate. Given that Democrats may not control both houses of Congress come January, the window for federal cannabis policy change may not be open much longer.
“We need those social equity programs,” one moderate Democrat lawmaker said, granted anonymity to speak candidly about his leadership’s strategy. “Nonetheless, if I have to choose between nothing and something that, going forward, will not put our children, our neighbors or friends in jail — I’ll choose the latter.”
Conspicuously absent from the “ayes” on Friday were some of the most pro-cannabis Republican voices on Capitol Hill, including Mace and Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio, a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. Joyce’s office circulated a memo among Republicans earlier this week outlining his critiques of the MORE Act and why he intended to vote against it — and inviting discussion on Republican approaches to marijuana policy.
Joyce’s office said he reached out to Democrats to try and forge consensus on the best approach to overhauling federal cannabis laws. He sent a letter to Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chief sponsor of the MORE Act, in February — offering to work with him to create a bill that was more palatable to Republicans. Joyce’s office said they also had one meeting with Nadler’s staff to discuss their primary concerns with the bill, but were not invited back for any further discussion. Nadler’s office declined an interview request for this story. His office told POLITICO that the chair asked many Republican lawmakers to cosponsor the MORE Act, but did not answer questions about the letter from Joyce or requests from Republicans to change the bill.
It’s unclear how many additional Republican votes Mace and Joyce could bring to the legislation — between their two decriminalization bills they have four additional Republican cosponsors. But Joyce’s office said the bill, as it stands, is “too impractical and too flawed” to even start a conversation with GOP members who are interested in changing America’s drug laws.
Mace says her cannabis reform bill — the States Reform Act — polls better among Republican primary voters in her district than broad federal legalization, but she is also facing a tough primary in May and was recently targeted by Super PAC ads on her support for cannabis legalization.
Despite declining GOP support for the MORE Act, Democrats’ nerves on cannabis legislation have calmed. When a vote on the bill was scheduled in September 2020, moderate Democrats balked, worried that voting to legalize weed could hurt their reelection chances. But the politics around cannabis have changed so rapidly nationwide that those concerns appear to have evaporated.
In fact, six Democrats voted against the bill in 2020, but only two voted against the MORE Act on Friday. One of the lawmakers who previously voted against the bill — Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania — is in a tough primary race with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat. Fetterman has campaigned vocally on cannabis legalization, both for his state and federally. This time around, Lamb voted in favor of the bill.
Because I am very much on board with the let's do something "if I have to choose between nothing and something," I am deeply disappointed that the House leadership decided this symbolic vote was more important than trying to forge a federal reform bill that could have at least a small chance of moving forward. (As the headline of this post indicates, I think what really proved symbolic about this vote is that the MORE Act got less support in April 2022 than it did in December 2020.) If, as many expect, the GOP takes over Congress next year, it will be interesting to watch if any real compromise marijuana reform bills become more broadly discussed or if instead blanket marijuana prohibition continues to remain the law of the land at the federal level.
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
The quoted portion of the title of this post is the title of this exciting event taking place next month, on April 7, 2022 from noon-2:30 pm as a hybrid even in person in Saxbe Auditorium in Drinko Hall at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and also on Zoom. Folks can and should Learn More and Register at this link. Here are the basics about the event:
The year 2022 might see significant cannabis reforms in the state of Ohio, both to the existing medical marijuana regime as well as the proposed legalization of adult-use marijuana. Please join the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center for two expert panels that will put focus on these two possible routes to reform and the implications they may have for patients and Ohioans alike.
Medical Marijuana Reform panelnoon-1:10 p.m. EDT
After three years of operation, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program continues to grow and yet continues to be plagued by high levels of patient dissatisfaction due to access limits and high costs. The recent approval of dozens of new dispensary licenses comes as major reform bills have been introduced in the Ohio General Assembly with the aim of improving the Ohio MMCP's functionality for both patients and the cannabis industry. Please join our panel of experts as we discuss on-going and proposed reforms, why they are needed and how they could impact the various stakeholders.
Panelists:Ohio Senator Steven Huffman Andrew Makoski, Administrative Attorney, Ohio Department of Commerce Additional panelist TBA
Adult-Use Marijuana Reform panel1:20-2:30 p.m. EDT
The fall of 2021 was eventful when it comes to Ohio marijuana reform proposals. Two major bills were introduced in the Ohio General Assembly, and a voter-initiated statute campaign collected enough signatures to be sent to the General Assembly for considerations. Yet, despite polling suggesting public support for these kinds of reforms, the Ohio political leadership appears unlikely to advance adult-use legalization in 2022. Please join us for a panel of experts and policy advocates as they discuss the future of marijuana legalization in Ohio as a matter of politics and policy, including the arguments for and against reform and the possible consequences of action or inaction on the part of Ohio General Assembly.
Panelists:Ohio Representative Ron Ferguson Thomas Haren, Partner, Frantz Ward Jodi Salvo, Director of Substance Use Prevention Services, OhioGuidestone
March 16, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
The question in the title of this post is prompted by all the press buzz about the decision by Amazon to formally endorse Rep Nancy Mace's States Reform Act. This New York Post piece, headlined "Amazon endorses GOP bill that would legalize marijuana on federal level," provides some context:
Amazon has endorsed a Republican-backed bill in Congress on Tuesday that would legalize marijuana on a federal level, leaving states to decide whether to prohibit or regulate it. Rep. Nancy Mace’s (R-SC) States Reform Act would remove cannabis as a federal Schedule I substance and introduce a new 3% federal tax on the substance.... “Every state is different and every state should be able to dictate their cannabis laws,” Mace told The Post in an interview. “This bill would get the federal government out of the way.”...
Mace, a freshman Congresswoman who previously worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, told The Post that she was approached by Amazon representatives after she introduced the bill. She said the company was motivated to endorse her bill because legal issues around marijuana can make hiring difficult. “They’re looking at it from a workers perspective,” Mace said in an interview. “The prohibitions at the federal level really do affect their workforce.”
Amazon told Mace that it is not interested in selling marijuana on its website, according to the Congresswoman. “That is not their goal, not their intention,” Mace said of the prospect of Amazon pushing pot. “They said that right off the bat.” In June, Amazon stopped testing many job applicants for marijuana and said that it would support efforts to legalize the drug....
Mace expects Democrats, many of whom have supported weed legalization for years, to come out in support of her bill. She argued that Republicans are also likely to support her bill because it gives more power to states — and because weed legalization is extremely popular nationwide. “Even in my very red state of South Carolina, statewide, medical cannabis is at an approval rating of 70%,” she said. “If we’re going to do cannabis reform at the federal level, Republicans need to have a seat at the table.”
This lengthy new Forbes article, headlined "Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace Is On A Mission To Legalize Cannabis — And Amazon Just Got Behind Her," discusses further Rep Mace, the States Reform Act, and some of the current political realities as of early 2022. I recommend the full piece, and here are some excerpts:
The cannabis industry also adores Mace and her bill, which is pro-business. (She proposes a 3% federal excise tax—compared to Schumer’s 10% tax—which would generate an estimated $3 billion in annual tax revenue by 2030.) Still, her bill is unlikely to become law, and Mace is under no pot-addled delusion that its passage is a sure thing. Her broader goal is to get as many Republicans as possible on board with cannabis reform and show the GOP that legalization is a good campaign issue in 2022 and beyond....
Mace’s bill also attempts to heal some of the inequities of America’s war on drugs, which disproportionately affects people of color. She estimates that if her bill were to pass, and some 2,800 federal prisoners incarcerated for non-violent cannabis crimes were released and another 1,100 or so people who get put in prison for similar crimes each year are not incarcerated, the government would save nearly $600 million over five years....
Cannabis legalization has historically been a progressive issue, but Mace wants to make it a Republican talking point. Kim Rivers, the CEO of Florida-based Trulieve, which has 160 dispensaries across eight states, welcomes Mace’s approach. “Cannabis is not a red or blue issue,” says Rivers. “And cannabis reform has done well consistently in conservative states. It sends a significant message that cannabis is not partisan.”...
Despite all of this momentum, Mace knows the States Reform Act is unlikely to go forward before the midterm elections, but her goal is to show a “proof of concept” that there are enough votes on the Republican side to get meaningful reform across the finish line in Congress.
When asked what it means that cannabis is now more popular than President Trump in red states—74% of Mississippians, for example, voted for the state’s medical marijuana ballot initiative while nearly 58% of Mississippians voted for Trump—she says it’s a signal to Republicans that they need to get on board with legalization.
“It means that if you don't do it, you're full of shit,” Mace says. “There's no reason not to do this. And if you are anti-marijuana, this is not forcing you to do it. It's not forcing your state to legalize it. But if it is legal in your state, then we're going to tax it and regulate it.”
January 26, 2022 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, January 24, 2022
I have recently seen two good new press reviews of the essential politics of federal marijuana reform as of January 2022 and of a key practical issue that has been a concern since the start of modern state marijuana reforms. Here are full headlines, links and excerpts from these pieces:
From Politico, "Big Weed is on the brink of scoring big political wins. So where are they?: Competing agendas have stifled the effectiveness of the burgeoning industry on Capitol Hill."
Marijuana advocates are stuck in the weeds. Cannabis policy has never had a rosier outlook on Capitol Hill: Democrats control both Congress and the White House, seven new states just legalized recreational marijuana, and the cannabis industry has gained powerful new allies in companies like Amazon and conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity that are backing federal reform. The industry has even lured powerful advocates like former GOP House Speaker John Boehner and former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to help push its agenda.
But nearly one year into this Congress, not one piece of cannabis legislation has been sent to the president's desk. There is growing fear among advocates that the window to act is closing. Industry lobbyists and legalization advocates say the movement has been stymied by a lack of consensus on the legislative strategy. Liberal advocacy groups are pushing for a comprehensive overhaul of federal cannabis policies with the aim of helping people harmed by criminal enforcement, while industry groups are seeking any piecemeal policy victory that could provide momentum toward more sweeping changes.
“There are certain people who are willing to forgo any of it if they don’t get all of it,” said one marijuana lobbyist, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to candidly discuss the industry’s struggles. The lobbyist noted that such a viewpoint is not universally shared, causing a disagreement “that’s stunting the legalization effort.”
From Bloomberg, "U.S. Grapples With How to Gauge Just How High Cannabis Users Are"
“Everybody wants a cannabis breathalyzer — something like what we have for alcohol where you breathe into a device and it tells a THC level and whether that means you’re impaired or not,” said Jodi Gilman, an associate professor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the imaging study. “But that’s not how it works for cannabis, we need a new paradigm.”
Companies have been trying to crack the stoned-test for a while. Hound Labs, which makes a marijuana breathalyzer, said in September it had raised $20 million to scale its product. Cannabix Technologies Inc. recently reported it had made headway creating a more portable device, while Lifeloc Technologies Inc. said it was finalizing the platform for a rapid marijuana breathalyzer that could be used for roadside testing.
There are concerns, however, that tests based on THC levels may be unfair to those who have it in their system but aren’t actually impaired. This can be the case for some who consumed cannabis days ago, or with frequent users who’ve built up a tolerance — who may use it for medical reasons. “You wouldn't want to penalize that person,” Gilman told me. “What this technology will do is differentiate impaired from not-impaired, which is different than distinguishing cannabis from no-cannabis.”
January 24, 2022 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, January 18, 2022
Modern day Fiorello La Guardia?: US Senate candidate Gary Chambers smokes marijuana in new campaign ad protesting criminalization
As detailed in this piece, headlined "Fiorello La Guardia Protested Prohibition By Drinking a Beer…In Congress," some notable politicians have taken notable steps to protest foolhardy prohibitions. Here are the details from a century ago:
Fiorello La Guardia, best known as the mayor of New York City in the 1930s and ’40s, flaunted his illegal drinking by sipping homemade beer in his congressional office in Washington, D.C.
In 1926, La Guardia summoned 20 newspaper reporters and photographers into Room 150 of the House Office Building. With a straight face, he took “near beer” (the low-alcohol beer allowed under the Volstead Act) and mixed it with two-thirds of a bottle of malt tonic. Then he took a sip. He declared the alcoholic beverage legal, according to La Guardia’s New York Times obituary in 1947, and headlines the next day heralded his publicity stunt.
Notably, La Guardia was also not a fan of marijuana prohibition either:
He went on to become one of the most popular mayors in New York City history. As mayor, his activism against congressional policing of substances continued. La Guardia commissioned the La Guardia Committee Report on Marihuana in response to the start of the war on drugs in the late 1930s. In 1944, after five years of study, his report declared several groundbreaking statements:
“The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marihuana (sic) smoking. The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded. Marihuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes.”
The study was enough to make Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the federal Bureau of Narcotics, denounce La Guardia, his study, and his stance on drugs.
La Guardia’s anti-regulatory stance on cannabis wasn’t embraced by the public as much as his stance against Prohibition was. But one day, perhaps the U.S. will look back fondly on La Guardia’s prescience, just like people today look back on his homemade “beer” he drank while in the House of Representatives.
This notable bit of history came to mind when I saw this new ABC News story headlined "Democratic Senate candidate smokes marijuana in new ad highlighting disparity and reform." The ad is very much worth watching in full (so I have it embedded below), and here are the basics from the press piece:
Progressive activist and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Gary Chambers Jr. smokes marijuana in a field in New Orleans while talking about marijuana reform in his first campaign ad. On Jan. 1, smokeable medical marijuana became legal in Louisiana under certain conditions....
Chambers, who is Black, opens the new ad titled "37 Seconds" by lighting and smoking a joint as a stopwatch clicks in the background.
He says someone is arrested for possession of marijuana every 37 seconds. “Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana laws than white people. States waste $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year,” he goes on....
Chambers, who has never been arrested, ended the ad saying, “Most of the people police are arrested aren't dealers, but rather people with small amounts of pot, just like me.”
Monday, December 27, 2021
Looking back and forward suggests pessimism (with a hint of hope?) for federal marijuana reform in 2022
A couple of notable new commentaries on federal marijuana reform caught my eye recently. This first one is by Alex Shephard at The New Republic under this full headline: "Legalize It, Already!: Biden needs to ditch his old-fashioned ideas about marijuana and realize that legalization is a winning bipartisan issue — something he desperately needs in 2022." This piece is more about marijuana politics than policy, and here are a few passages with an emphasis on the White House:
“You would think that President Biden would embrace legalization, considering where his constituents are on this issue,” Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst at the Marijauna Policy Project, told me. Per a recent Pew survey, 60 percent of Americans favor full legalization, while 31 percent favor legalizing marijuana for medical use only, meaning that a whopping 91 percent of Americans are in favor. And while several states have relaxed laws or fully legalized weed, the federal government is trailing....
Given the general sense of inertia in Congress, there are other less far-reaching but still important things the Biden administration could do. The Cole memo, issued by Eric Holder in 2013 and revoked by Jeff Sessions five years later, instructed U.S. attorneys not to enforce federal marijuana laws. That memo could be reinstated and even expanded to other departments. Biden could offer clemency to people currently imprisoned for nonviolent cannabis-related offenses and pardons for them and those who have been released.
All of this would be better politically and morally, and in policy terms, than what Democrats are doing now. “You would think that President Biden would embrace legalization, considering where his constituents are on this issue,” Lindsey told me. “There’s really no question [about] the level of support that they have, and yet the president seems to be AWOL.” After a year ending with political and legislative inertia — and with Biden’s tanking poll numbers, particularly among young people — marijuana policy would be the perfect place to start.
This second one is by John Hudak at Brookings under the headline: "The numbers for drug reform in Congress don’t add up." This piece effectively details some political cross-currents thwarting reform progress in Congress. It should be read in full, and here are some highlights:
Often, in a legislative body, the issue is not whether a law should be reformed, but how that law should be reformed. And there’s the rub for federal legalization legislation. Liberals and progressives in the Democratic Party cannot agree with moderate and libertarian Republicans on what cannabis reform should look like, even if majorities agree that the law should be changed. And as pro-cannabis reform members from both sides dig their heels in on the importance of provisions that are close to their heart (and the heart of their base), it makes assembling that coalition impossible....
It is clear that as a legalization bill shifts away from a pro-business direction, the number of Republican supporters plummets. And while in a Democratic-controlled House, leadership can muster the votes to pass something like the MORE Act, the requirement to beat a filibuster in the Senate makes passage of more social equity and racial justice-oriented comprehensive legislation an impossibility. It is not clear if Democrats can even keep all 50 of their Democratic members in line for such a vote, and it is a certainty that they cannot attract the 10 or more Republicans necessary to clear the 60-vote hurdle. And more moderate legislation that could attract more Republicans will likely lose the more progressive members of the Senate Democratic Caucus....
Ultimately, cannabis reform supporters inside and outside of Congress need a reality check about the state of play of current cannabis reform proposals, and what additional complications the future may offer. Regardless of the chosen path forward, there will be naysayers, holdouts, resistance, and anger. There will be accusations of bloated government or not doing enough to reverse the effects of the drug war. That is standard for an interest group environment on a passionate issue in a deliberative body. However, in the end, Congress has a choice between doing nothing and letting prohibition win the day and allowing all of the consequences of that to remain. Or doing something short of perfect, that addresses some of the real harms that drug prohibition has created in this country.
Looking for a hint of hope in these stories, I am drawn to notion that, if the Biden team concludes that Congress is unlikely to get much (if anything) done on this front in 2022, it might look for "safe" executive action that serves as a political winner in this space. And, as I see it, a clemency initiative focused around certain marijuana offenders — maybe not one as robust as urged by many advocates, but still impactful — could be a huge political winner.
Frustratingly, I know I am projecting a vision of what I hope will happen soon, not an account of what seems likely in the short term (or even long term). But I really want to believe there are "safe" and smart and impactful ways for Prez Biden to start leaning in to this issue at least a bit more. And at some point he has to at least try in some way to deliver on his 2020 campaign promise to "Decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions."
UPDATE on 12/28: I see that the Wall Street Journal now has this new article in a similar vein discussing the challenges of federal marijuana reform under this full headline: "Cannabis Overhaul in Washington Is Only Getting Harder: Legalization agenda could be complicated by states that want to defend their nascent marijuana industries and associated tax revenues."
December 27, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, December 20, 2021
Initiated statute effort to legalize marijuana in Ohio advances with submission of signatures to prompt legislative consideration
As reported in this local article, headlined "The Just Like Alcohol campaign submits signatures to state, one step closer to getting recreational marijuana on Ohio ballot next year," a notable effort to advance marijuana reform in the Buckeye State advanced a bit today. Here are the basic details:
A group of Ohio medical marijuana businesses with a proposal placing recreational cannabis on the ballot said they submitted 206,943 signatures to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office Monday. The submission of signatures is just the latest step in the winding process to get the issue on the November 2022 ballot....
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol campaign needed 132,887 signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties by Dec. 27. The campaign’s spokesman, Cleveland attorney Tom Haren, said campaign workers also verified signatures as they came in. “The success of our petition drive shows just how eager Ohioans are to end prohibition and legalize the adult use of marijuana,” Haren said. “We look forward to receiving the results of the Secretary of State’s review, and are eager to begin working with legislators on this important issue.”
If county election officials verify the signatures, the proposal will go before the Ohio General Assembly, which gets to first stab at creating a law based on it. If the legislature fails, the proposal will go on the ballot as an initiated statute. Haren said the campaign would prefer if the legislature passed a law.
Under the proposed law, Ohioans ages 21 and older could buy and use marijuana. They could grow up to six plants per person and 12 plants per residence. It would create a Division of Cannabis Control under the Ohio Department of Commerce to license, regulate, investigate and penalize adult-use cannabis operators, testing laboratories and individuals who would be required to be licensed.
Existing Ohio medical marijuana growers could expand their cultivation areas once they receive an adult-use cultivator license, the proposal says. Nine months after the proposed law goes into effect, the state would have to issue recreational licenses for existing medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivators, processors and testing laboratories if they complied with other provisions of the proposed law....
People who buy recreational marijuana would be taxed 10% at the dispensaries, and have to pay any other state and local sales taxes at the time of the purchase. Of that, 36% of tax revenues would go to communities with recreational dispensaries; 36% to a social equity and jobs fund that would seek to “redress past and present effects of discrimination and economic disadvantage” for communities that have been disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition, such as the more severe criminal penalties for Black men in comparison to white men possessing the same levels of marijuana; 25% to substance abuse and addiction efforts; 3% to the Division of Cannabis Control to support the costs of regulation....
To head off the initiated statute, the legislature is considering a few bills to broaden marijuana access. Last week, the Ohio Senate passed and sent to the House a bill that would expand medical marijuana to anyone with a condition that would “reasonably be expected to be relieved” by the drug. It would increase cultivation areas and changes the medical marijuana regulation scheme, which currently is divided among three state agencies, to one under the Ohio Department of Commerce.
Those of us working at the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, which is based at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, have been closely following this initiative and all the other marijuana reform proposals being actively discussed in the Buckeye State. DEPC has created a set of materials to aid in understanding the Ohio initiative process as well as the substantive particulars of different legislative reform proposals. These Ohio materials are collected here under the heading "A Comparison of Marijuana Reform Proposals in Ohio." That page includes this link to the original graphic appearing above that we have created to follow the Ohio initiative process, and here is just a sampling of some of the original Ohio materials to be found at the page:
- Comparison of Recreational Marijuana Reform Proposals and Existing Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program as of December 2021
- Comparison of SB 261 Medical Marijuana Reform Proposal to Existing Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program as of December 2021
- The Ohio Initiated Statute Process for An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis
December 20, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, December 3, 2021
Ohio GOP and NY Dem representatives introduce federal HOPE Act to support state cannabis expungement efforts and study collateral consequences
I was pleased to see this news via Marijuana Moment about a new federal bill to support state marijuana expungement efforts. Here are the basics:
As congressional lawmakers work to advance federal marijuana legalization, a bipartisan duo on Thursday filed a bill that would incentivize states and local governments to expunge cannabis records in their jurisdictions. Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) are sponsoring the legislation, titled the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act.
It would encourage states to provide relief to people with non-violent marijuana convictions through federal grants — the State Expungement Opportunity Grant Program, run through the Department of Justice — that would help cover the administrative costs of identifying and clearing eligible cases. The bill proposes to appropriate $2 million in funding to support the program for each fiscal year starting in 2023 and ending in 2032.
Specifically, the grants could be used by states to purchase technology used to facilitate expungements at scale, automate the relief process, fund legal clinics to help people get their records cleared and support “innovative partnerships” to provide mass relief....
Under the bill, state governors and local governments “shall submit to the attorney general an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the attorney general may reasonably require” to qualify for the grants. Further, the legislation would require the attorney general to carry out a study on the impacts of cannabis convictions on individuals, as well as the financial costs for states that incarcerate people over non-violent marijuana offenses.
Officials in jurisdictions that receive the grants would be required to “publish on a publicly accessible website information about the availability and process of expunging convictions for cannabis offenses, including information for individuals living in a different jurisdiction who were convicted of a cannabis offense in that jurisdiction.” They would also need to “submit to the attorney general a report describing the uses of such funds, and how many convictions for cannabis offenses have been expunged using such funds.”
Longtime readers know that expungement policies and practices have long been of great interest to me, going back to my work years ago on an big early article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices." and more recently through work done in part by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (see here and here). So I am very excited to see this issue getting notable attention via this notable bill by two notable members of Congress.
That said, I must comment that the particulars of this short bill are a bit disappointing. For starters, allocating only $2 million per year to incentivize states to ramp up expungement seems woefully insufficient. From the state's perspective, a little money is better than nothing, but having a range of mandates tied to a very small revenue stream likely ensures this bill would have at most modest impact. Second, the issues that the US Attorney General is tasked to study in this bill are only a small portion of the issues raised by marijuana criminalization, and the bill seems only to look at the impact of past marijuana offenses that have been reformed rather than all marijuana prohibitions.
In the end, I presume this bill is highly unlikely to become law anytime soon, so the particulars may matter less than the useful discussion of the broader issues raised. Still, I hope that any future legislative proposals in this space are even bolder than this first notable effort.
December 3, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, November 21, 2021
"New GOP weed approach: Feds must ‘get out of the way’" ... which is an important historic drug policy theme
The first part of the title of this post is the headline of this notable new Politico piece, and the second part draws on this recent short book review that I recently authored for The Federalist Society blog. I was reviewing Judge Jeffrey Sutton’s majestic Who Decides, in which the judge richly develops and documents why “some matters should not be nationalized” while urging a “renewed appreciation for the virtues of localism.” In my (too brief) review, I stressed the importance of these localism themes for drug policy throughout US history, and I highlighted this fascinating 1921 Atlantic piece by journalist Louis Graves discussing how alcohol prohibition most effectively gained adherents from a “gradual building up of dry sentiment" at the local level until “Federal interference ... dealt a blow to the cause of real prohibition.”
With Judge Sutton's book and my own affinity for ever-evolving political realities, the long Politico piece by Natalie Fertig and Mona Zhang provides an effective accounting of some structural issues in play in the modern marijuana reform discourse. I recommend the article in full, and here are excerpts:
Republicans are warming to weed. Nearly half of Republican voters support federally decriminalizing cannabis, and GOP lawmakers are now beginning to reflect their constituents’ view by increasingly supporting broad legalization at the state and federal level.
“We need the federal government just to get out of the way,” said Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who introduced the first Republican bill in Congress to decriminalize marijuana this past week and pointed to more than 70 percent of Americans supporting the idea.
Stronger Republican involvement could hasten a snowball effect on Capitol Hill, where Democrats lead the charge on decriminalization but lack results. It could also chip away at Democrats’ ability to use cannabis legalization to excite progressives and younger voters as the midterms approach.
“When the culture becomes more accepting of something, even the most resistant groups get tugged along,” said Dan Judy, vice president of North Star Opinion Research, which focuses on Republican politics. “I don't want to directly conflate marijuana legalization with something like gay marriage, but I think there's a similar dynamic at play.”
Earlier this year, North Dakota’s GOP-dominated House passed a marijuana legalization bill introduced by two Republican lawmakers — the first adult-use legalization bill to pass in a Republican-dominated chamber. And Mace's bill marks the first time a Republican has proposed federal legislation to decriminalize cannabis, expunge certain cannabis convictions and tax and regulate the industry.
As Republicans wade into the weed group chat, they are bringing their principles, constituents and special interest groups. When Mace introduced her bill on a freezing day on the House triangle, she was surrounded at the podium not by Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, but by veterans groups, medical marijuana parents, cannabis industry lobbyists and Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity.
Many GOP proposals include lower taxes and a less regulatory approach than Democratic-led bills, while often maintaining elements popular among most voters, like the expungement of nonviolent cannabis convictions. “I tried to be very thoughtful about what I put in the bill that would appeal to Democrats and Republicans,” Mace said in an interview on Monday. “Which is why criminal justice reform is part of it. It's why the excise tax is low.”
The motivations bringing Republicans to the table are also changing. Former Capitol Hill cannabis advocates like Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) advocated primarily for their state legalization programs, but Mace comes from South Carolina — a state with no medical or recreational cannabis program. She joins other GOP lawmakers who are pushing for federal policy to move beyond their own states — they include Reps. Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast of Florida, where only medical marijuana is legal, and libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, which does not yet have a medical program....
Six in 10 younger GOP voters — what Pew described as the “Ambivalent Right” in a recent report — believe marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, but older, educated Republicans and Christian conservatives do not feel the same way....
Republicans who support legalization are viewing the issue through the prism of states' rights, personal freedom, job creation and tax revenue. Many libertarian-leaning Republicans are early supporters of cannabis policy reform, arguing that arresting people for using cannabis is a violation of personal liberties.
Some Republicans also cite the racial disparities in marijuana arrests as a reason to fix federal law — though Democrats focus more strongly on criminal justice reform on the whole. And, as is the case for Democrats, the shift is often generational: Texas Young Republicans announced they support marijuana decriminalization back in 2015.
The shift within the GOP at times is less about lawmakers’ own beliefs about marijuana and more about how much the public has shifted on the subject. Bill sponsors in North Dakota, for example, said they were personally opposed to marijuana, but introduced the bill anyways to head off the possibility of a ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana through the constitution — especially after South Dakota voters approved legalization in 2020.
November 21, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, November 18, 2021
Those who follow happenings inside the Beltway know that the primary roadblock to federal marijuana reform right now is the debate over whether to make smaller reforms (like the SAFE Banking bill) or to go for a more comprehensive approach to reform. This lengthy new Washington Post piece, headlined "Democratic divide puts congressional action on marijuana in doubt," effectively review the state of this debate as of mid-November 2021. I recommend the full piece, and here is how it gets started:
A split on Capitol Hill over marijuana policy has lawmakers confronting the possibility that they could again fail to pass any meaningful changes to the federal prohibition of cannabis this Congress, even as polls show vast majorities of Americans support at least partial legalization of the drug.
The clash, on one level, follows familiar contours for Washington policymaking: A narrower measure with significant bipartisan support — one that would make it easier for banks to do business with legitimate cannabis firms in states where marijuana is legal — is in limbo while a smaller group of lawmakers pushes for a much broader bill.
But it has also become infused with questions of racial equity and political competence that have pitted key Democrats against each other as they seek a way to roll back federal marijuana laws that have gone largely unchanged since the height of the War on Drugs in the 1980s and 1990s.
The conflict has come to a head in recent weeks after a push by Democratic and Republican lawmakers to attach the narrower banking legislation to the must-pass annual defense policy bill, which would ensure its passage in the coming months. The bill’s advocates say it would offer a substantial step toward legitimizing and rationalizing the cannabis industry in the 47 states that have moved to at least partially legalize marijuana — allowing businesses to move away from risky cash-only operations.
That push has hit a roadblock in the Senate, however, where Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has sided with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-N.J.), who are seeking to assemble a comprehensive bill that would federally decriminalize the drug, tax it and potentially expunge the criminal records of those previously convicted of having bought or sold it. Passing the narrower bill, they argue, would make passing their broader bill more difficult....
November 18, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, November 15, 2021
Today, Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) unveiled a new GOP-led bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level. The States Reform Act (available here), which runs 131 pages, is cosponsored by Representatives Tom McClintock (R-CA), Don Young (R-AK), Brian Mast (R-FL) and Peter Meijer (R-MI).
My initial sense is that this bill does not have a great chance of passage anytime soon, but it still ought to be considered a big moment in the broad modern story of marijuana reform. And it is understandably getting a lot of press. Here is a sample:
From the AP, "GOP Rep. Mace’s bill would federally decriminalize marijuana"
From Marijuana Moment, "Republican Lawmakers File Bill To Tax And Regulate Marijuana As Alternative To Democratic Proposals"
November 15, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, November 5, 2021
The title of this post is the title of this exciting event taking place online two weeks from today that I have the honor of moderating. As detailed at this registration page, the event will take place on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 from Noon - 1:30pm. Here are the basics with the list of confirmed speakers:
Join the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center and Natural Therapies Education Foundation for a virtual discussion featuring panelists representing current Ohio cannabis reform endeavors. The event will provide attendees with knowledge about pending initiatives and legislation, as well as a vision of what the future may hold for cannabis in Ohio.
Mary Jane Borden, co-founder and secretary of the board, Natural Therapies Education Foundation
Thomas Haren, partner, Frantz Ward
Shaleen Title, distinguished cannabis policy practitioner in residence, Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, The Ohio State University
Rep. Casey Weinstein, Ohio House of Representatives
Douglas A. Berman, Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law, executive director, Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University
November 5, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Notable new CRS report on ways a President could legalize or decriminalize marijuana at the federal level
I was intrigued to see this notable new five-page Congressional Research Service report titled "Does the President Have the Power to Legalize Marijuana?". Here is how it gets started:
The legal status of marijuana has been a topic of recurring interest in recent years, as states, federal legislators, and federal executive agencies consider how to regulate cannabis and its derivatives. What role can the President play in determining the legal status of a controlled substance such as marijuana? That question came to the forefront during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, with multiple candidates supporting legalization of marijuana and several pledging to legalize the substance nationwide if elected, either indirectly through administrative proceedings or directly by executive order. More recently, some commentators have called on President Biden to end criminal penalties for marijuana possession and use or grant clemency to federal marijuana offenders. Although the President cannot directly remove marijuana from control under federal controlled substances law, he might order executive agencies to consider either altering the scheduling of marijuana or changing their enforcement approach.
This Sidebar outlines the laws that apply to controlled substances like marijuana, then analyzes several approaches a president might take to change controlled substances law as written or as enforced. The Sidebar closes with a discussion of key considerations for Congress related to presidential power over controlled substances regulation.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Earlier this month, I received an email with links to the helpful work completed by the Drug Policy Alliance setting forth a vision for federal marijuana reforms. Here is the text and links from the email:
Today, the Drug Policy Alliance released new federal cannabis recommendations, that provide a framework for Congress to ensure that reparative justice, social and health equity, and community reinvestment are the central goals of federal regulation. Over the last year, as federal legalization has become more of a reality, we have seen the industry jockeying to regulate themselves, and there is a very real concern that — if not done right — legalization could end up replicating many of the same harms of prohibition, especially for communities of color.
These recommendations are the product of months of discussion and work from a working group we convened of cannabis state regulators, public health professionals, criminal justice reform advocates, civil rights attorneys, people working with directly impacted communities, re-entry advocates, academics and an expert involved in Canada’s cannabis regulation.
October 19, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, October 17, 2021
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Hill piece headlined "Crist says as Florida governor he would legalize marijuana, expunge criminal records." Here are excerpts:
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) on Thursday said that he would expunge criminal records of those facing certain marijuana-related charges and legalize the drug if he is elected the governor of Florida. “Let me be clear: If I’m elected governor, I will legalize marijuana in the Sunshine State,” Crist said in a video posted on his Twitter on Thursday. “This is the first part of the Crist contract with Florida.”
Crist, who is running for the Democratic nomination to take on Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in 2022, discussed different elements of his gubernatorial platform focused on racial equity in the state, including expunging criminal records for those who have received marijuana-related charges, specifically third-degree felonies and misdemeanors, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The former Florida governor and Senate hopeful also said that he was in favor of decentralizing the marijuana industry, allowing people to personally grow marijuana plants. He noted that money made through marijuana sales would fund things such as drug treatment programs and police agencies, according to the news outlet.
Crist, who was a Republican while he was in the governor's mansion from 2007 to 2011, acknowledged that his stance, among others, had changed on marijuana use. As governor, he had signed harsh anti-marijuana legislation, which included targeting growing the plant.
His comments were criticized over Twitter by Democratic opponent Nikki Fried, who is also running to take on DeSantis. The state Agriculture commissioner, who has been previously supportive of legalizing marijuana and was a former marijuana lobbyist, according to Tallahassee Reports, accused him of imitating her political stance.
“Imitation is flattery, but records are records. People went to jail because Republicans like @CharlieCrist supported and enforced racist marijuana crime bills. Glad he's changed his mind, but none of those people get those years back. Legalize marijuana. #SomethingNew,” Fried tweeted.
Crist last year voted to end marijuana from being prohibited and criminalized federally. “We know that people across racial and income levels use marijuana at the same rate. And yet, for decades, it's been poor, Black, and/or Hispanic folks targeted for prison on marijuana charges,” Crist said in a statement in December. “That tells me that marijuana has been legal now for a while if you had the right skin tone or the right paycheck.”
I surmise that all major Democratic candidates have finally figured out that marijuana reform is a popular position. It will be interesting to watch if this issue could become significant debate topic is red-leaning swing states like Florida and Ohio that have big 2022 elections. I am inclined to believe this topic still is more fringe than fundamental in broader political discourse, but even topics that only move the electorate a little bit could prove consequential sometimes.
October 17, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, September 30, 2021
House Judiciary Committee, by vote of 26-15, approves MORE Act to deschedule marijuana and thereby end federal prohibition
After what reportedly was quite an intriguing discussion, this afternoon the House Judiciary Committee approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, H.R. 3617, with 26 votes in favor (24 Democrats, 2 Republicans) and 15 votes (all Republicans) against. The MORE Act, as noted in this post from DEC 2020, received a full favorable vote from the House. But at that time, everyone knew there would be no time and likely little interest in Senate action before the Congress term ended. Now there is ample time for the Senate to pass MORE or another like bill, though I think there is considerable uncertainty about there being enough votes for reform.
In case you forgot, in addition to removing marijuana from the prohibitions created by the Controlled Substances Act, the MORE Act would expunge non-violent federal marijuana convictions and support state efforts to do the same, while also providing provide resources and support for minority owned marijuana businesses and creating other reinvestment programs for communities that have been adversely impacted by marijuana prohibitions. Here is a bit more from this Marijuana Moment piece:
Although most Republicans who spoke argued against the bill, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is a cosponsor of it, made the case for reform.
“I am a proud co-sponsor of the MORE Act because the federal government has screwed up marijuana policy in this country for a generation,” he said. “We lied to people about the effects of marijuana. And then we used marijuana as a cudgel to incarcerate just wide swaths of communities, and particularly in African-American communities.”
“We cannot honestly say that the war on drugs impacted suburban white communities in the same way it affected urban black communities. We can’t say that marijuana enforcement was happening the same way on the corner than it was happening in the fraternity house,” he said. “We have an opportunity to fix that problem. The war on drugs, much like many of our forever wars, has been a failure. If there’s been a war on drugs, drugs have won that war.”
However, he expressed certain concerns about provisions of the legislation such as the proposed federal excise tax on cannabis sales. While Gaetz also said that while he supports the MORE Act, he doesn’t feel it stands a chance in the Senate and recommended advancing more modest reform.
While the legislation has largely stayed intact compared to the prior version that passed the chamber last year in a historic vote, there were some modest revisions that were incorporated upon its reintroduction in May.
The panel on Thursday considered additional changes before moving the measure forward, although much of the time was spent debating unrelated issues such as COVID-19 vaccines, abortion policy and protests against police violence.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) sought to remove the bill’s tax provisions as well as grant funds it would create to help repair the harms of the war on drugs.
Friday, July 30, 2021
Perhaps because I live and work in Ohio, I still tend to consider the state a national bellwether politically. But, in recent elections (due in part to gerrymandering as well as to other factors), the state has been quite red politically with GOP candidates winning the vast majority of statewide and local elections. Whether now considered a bellwether or a deep red state, recent developments on the marijuana reform front strike me as quite interesting and worth watching in the months ahead. Here are the basics from two great Marijuana Moment articles:
Ohio lawmakers are preparing to file a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana in the state. This would mark the first time such a proposal to allow recreational cannabis commerce has been introduced in the legislature. Rep. Casey Weinstein (D) is sponsoring the legislation alongside Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D). While the text of the measure has not yet been released, the lawmakers circulated a co-sponsorship memo to colleagues on Thursday to shore up support for the effort in advance of its formal introduction....
The bill would legalize possession of up to five ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older and allow them to cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use. It will also include provisions to expunge prior convictions for possession and cultivation activities that are being made legal under the measure.
A 10 percent excise tax would be imposed on marijuana sales, with revenue first going toward the cost of implementation and then being divided among municipalities with at least one cannabis shop (15 percent), counties with at least one shop (15 percent), K-12 education (35 percent) and infrastructure (35 percent).
Ohio marijuana activists have a new plan to legalize cannabis in the state as lawmakers pursue separate reform legislation. Voters rejected a 2015 legalization initiative, and advocates suspended a campaign to place another measure on the 2020 ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic. But on Tuesday, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) launched a new effort to implore legislators to enact the policy change.
The group submitted the requisite 1,000 signatures to the Ohio attorney general’s office on Tuesday. Officials now have 10 days to review the summary and text to ensure that it is “fair and truthful” and approve it for circulation. Several existing medical cannabis businesses are backing the measure....
Unlike past efforts, the new measure is a statutory, rather that a constitutional, proposal. If supporters collect 132,887 valid signatures from registered voters, the legislature will then have four months to adopt the measure, reject it or adopt and amended version. If lawmakers do not pass the proposal, organizers will then need to collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the measure before voters on the ballot in 2022.
The start of an statutory initiative campaign, which gives the Ohio General Assembly a chance to act on proposed reforms before the proposal goes directly to the voters, strikes me as especially shrewd and interesting. This approach will likely keep the issue in the news in ways that ought to be helpful to reform proponents (e.g., they can discuss tax revenues and the need for Ohio to keep up with its reform neighbors); and this approach may require many state legislators to have to express a position on reform in a run-up to an off-year election in which a topic like marijuana reform could help turn out some extra voters. Interesting times.
July 30, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Some federal reform headlines a week after introduction of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act
My Google and Twitter feeds have not been buzzing about the release last week of the discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, and that has lead me to think nobody is too excited about its particulars. That said, it is still an important bill-in-development, and I thought it worthwhile to round up some of the reactions and commentary I have seen in response:
From The American Prospect, "High Hurdles for Commonsense Cannabis Reform: The plan unveiled by the Senate majority leader is doomed to languish despite massive public support for legalization."
From Bloomberg, "U.S. Pot Legalization Bill Gets a Frosty Reception"
From Daily Breeze (editorial), "Latest federal marijuana bill a total dud"
From Fox Business, "Democrats' marijuana legalization bill leaves Canopy Growth CEO optimistic"
From Politico, "Amazon endorsed legal weed. Will it now fight to make it happen?"
July 20, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Great early coverage of US Senate Leader Chuck Schumer's "discussion draft" of new Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act
Since nearly the start of this year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker , has been talking up the introduction in the US Senate of a new comprehensive federal marijuana reform bill. That talk has suggested that reform efforts from these Democratic Senators would be similar to, but still quite distinct from, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, that has moved forward in the House of Representatives in recent years.
Today, in mid July 2021, these Senators have scheduled a press conference to unveil what is being described as a "discussion draft" of a lengthy federal bill titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). The full text of this CAOA "discussion draft" is available here and it runs 163 pages(!). In other words, CAOA give marijuana reform advocates (and opponents) a whole lot to discuss. Helpfully, the cannabis press core is already doing great job covering the basic:
From Marijuana Moment, "Here Are The Full Details Of The New Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill From Chuck Schumer And Senate Colleagues." Excerpt:
Perhaps the most immediately consequential provision would be a requirement that the attorney general to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act within 60 days of the bill’s enactment. But it’s important to keep in mind that this legislation—like other federal legalization bills moving through Congress—would not make it so marijuana is legal in every state. The proposal specifically preserves the right of states to maintain prohibition if they way. It stipulates, for example, that shipping marijuana into a state where the plant is prohibited would still be federally illegal.
However, the measure would make it clear that states can’t stop businesses from transporting cannabis products across their borders to other states where the plant is permitted. FDA would be “recognized as the primary federal regulatory authority with respect to the manufacture and marketing of cannabis products, including requirements related to minimum national good manufacturing practice, product standards, registration and listing, and labeling information related to ingredients and directions for use,” according to the summary.
From Politico, "Schumer launches long-shot bid for legal weed." Excerpt:
The discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act includes provisions that cater to both “states rights” Republicans and progressive Democrats. While the proposal seeks to remove all federal penalties on weed, it would allow states to prohibit even the possession of cannabis — along with production and distribution — a nod to states’ rights. It would also establish funding for a wide range of federal research into everything from drugged driving to the impact cannabis has on the human brain. The measure aims to collect data about traffic deaths, violent crime and other public health concerns often voiced by Republican lawmakers.
On the flip side, the proposal also includes provisions that are crucial to progressives. That includes three grant programs designed to help socially or economically disadvantaged individuals, as well as those hurt by the war on drugs and expungements of federal non-violent cannabis offenses. States and cities also have to create an automatic expungement program for prior cannabis offenses to be eligible for any grant funding created by the bill.
A few of many prior recent related posts:
- Senate majority leader shrewdly emphasizing "freedom" in his push for federal marijuana reform
- Red state marijuana reforms not yet leading to GOP Senator support for federal reform
- Key Democratic Senators pledging to soon "release a unified discussion draft" to advance "comprehensive cannabis reform legislation in the 117th Congress"
- Cannabis Freedom Alliance releases "Recommendations for Federal Regulation of Legal Cannabis"
- Notable new GOP bill for ending federal marijuana prohibition
- Notable working group releases new "Principles for Federal Cannabis Regulations & Reform"
- US Senate caucus releases notable new report, "Cannabis Policy: Public Health and Safety Issues and Recommendations"
July 14, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)