Biden Selects White House Drug Czar Who Helped Implement State Marijuana Program And Touted Medical Benefits

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Marijuana Moment 14 July, 2021 - 04:33am 9 views

Is marijuana legal in Tennessee?

Cannabis, for both medical and recreational uses, is not legal in Tennessee. However, there is an exception that allows the use of high-CBD, low-THC cannabis oil for seizure patients. Possession and cultivation both remain illegal. mpp.orgTennessee's medical cannabis bill passes first Senate committee, but fails in second committee

While the pandemic had travelers cooped up, a growing number of states legalized cannabis. Love it or hate it, you will probably encounter it on your next trip.

For Caitlyn Hunter’s 21st birthday trip to Las Vegas last month, her mother booked spots on a “Las Vegas Cannabis Tour,” a business started during the pandemic that guides tourists through marijuana dispensaries in that city. Ms. Hunter, of Houston, Texas, expected an educational afternoon where she, her mother and grandmother could smoke marijuana together, and her grandmother could learn about different marijuana strains that might help her with knee pain.

What they got instead, Ms. Hunter said, was a “crazy experience,” involving a guide in 4-inch pink stilettos cracking dirty jokes, a raucous van ride around the Las Vegas Strip (with a sober driver), the consumption of multiple cannabis products, a shopping bag full of decorative bongs to use as flower vases back home and, at one point, a grandmother unable to speak without bursting into uncontrollable laughter. In short, Ms. Hunter concluded, a perfect celebration.

Sharon Erick had a different experience in Vegas. Vacationing there from Atlanta in May, she and her small group of friends, all in their 30s, had to work to find outdoor dining where they weren’t overwhelmed by the odor of cannabis. “We had no idea weed had been legalized in Nevada,” she said. “We smelled it everywhere.”

So did Judi Durand, on a recent business trip in Arizona. She encountered the telltale aroma outside the Phoenix airport, on the shuttle bus to the rental car area and even when she checked in to her lodging. “I didn’t expect to be in a family-friendly hotel in Chandler, Ariz., and get a vague waft of marijuana in the room,” said Ms. Durand, who was visiting from her home in North Carolina (where the substance is not legal).“People are getting bolder with it,” she said. “It’s not very fair.”

During the year many people spent cooped up at home, cannabis legalization expanded dramatically across the United States, and some segment of the traveling public has embraced the changes. Whether you call it pot, weed, marijuana or cannabis, that can mean that these days travel can look, feel and definitely smell a bit different.

In November 2020, New Jersey, South Dakota and the big tourist states of Arizona and Montana approved legal recreational cannabis use. Mississippi approved medical use. In 2021, lawmakers in 31 states where cannabis remained illegal to use recreationally filed bills to legalize it. Of those, New York, Connecticut, New Mexico and Virginia have signed their bills into law. Others legalized medical cannabis (Alabama) and decriminalized marijuana possession (Louisiana).

The new states joined 11 others, plus Washington, D.C., that had already approved recreational marijuana use. Another 19 more allow its medical use.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented number of legalization bills being filed across the country,” said Tom Angell who tracks marijuana legislation for Marijuana Moment, a cannabis news site, “with more and more of them actually being prioritized by legislative leaders and signed into law by governors who are up for re-election.”

That doesn’t mean weed shops will be popping up immediately, Mr. Angell said, because it can take up to a few years for governments to grant operating licenses and establish retail sales rules.

In New York City, where recreational use of marijuana was legalized in April, some neighborhoods have embraced a post-pandemic party atmosphere — which often comes with a distinctive odor. Jared Hada Smith works at an upscale restaurant near Washington Square Park and said that the smell of cannabis periodically wafts into his workplace. “Every once in a while a big cloud will make its way into the dining room,” he said, “but it dissipates pretty quickly.”

In step with legalization: a robust growth in the business. Cannabis sales in the United States grew to $18.5 billion in 2020, up from $13.3 billion in 2019, and are expected to rise to $28 billion in 2022, according to the cannabis market research company Headset. Marijuana production and sales were also deemed “essential businesses” during the pandemic, with dispensaries remaining open in all states where the substance was legal.

Growth in cannabis-related tourism continues to expand. Brian Applegarth, the founder of the four-year-old Cannabis Travel Association International, said that the number and type of cannabis-related tourist activities are growing wherever recreational use has been approved. “There is an audience and an appetite out there,” Mr. Applegarth said. These include things like the cultivation tours at Huckleberry Hill Farm and Papa and Barkley Social, which offers a cannabis-themed spa, dispensary and consumption space, both in California’s Humboldt County, which had been known for growing cannabis long before the state legalized recreational use in 2016.

Another new industry focus is “cannabis pairing” Mr. Applegarth said, where tourists get advice on the strain of marijuana that might best enhance a hike or specific meal.

Tracey Smith, 51, a retired small business owner from Dayton, Ohio, said she enjoys city sightseeing to learn about history and try out new restaurants. She said she now only vacations to states like Michigan, Illinois and Nevada where recreational cannabis use is legal so she can make it part of her trip experience. Her home state of Ohio only allows medical use. “It makes food taste better to me,” she said, “and there’s less drama with people using weed than people using alcohol.”

People are relaxed when they use cannabis, Ms. Smith said. With alcohol, they are “more likely to go overboard and not realize it.”

Maxine Fensom, who organized Ms. Hunter’s birthday outing, created her cannabis-themed tour company in Las Vegas last year when her other sources of income dried up during the pandemic. The two-and-a-half-hour tours run daily and cost $150 per person. Private group tours that include a helicopter ride (“to get really high,” quips Ms. Fensom) cost $375 person and last about three and a half hours. All participants must be 21 or older. She said she has hosted more than 1,000 tourists already.

Las Vegas has the potential to become “the new Amsterdam,” she said, especially now that cannabis consumption lounges (like bars, but specifically for cannabis) are coming to the city.

Opinion among travelers is split. Among those who have traveled in the last six months, about 12 percent said cannabis legalization had a positive impact on their travel and about five percent said it had a negative impact on their travel, according to a survey of 8,400 of people by Branded Research, a market research firm.

Some cannabis companies are betting on future tourists. In Florida, which currently only allows medical marijuana use, the cannabis company Trulieve has already opened dispensaries two to three times the typical size near “key tourist attractions” in Orlando, Daytona and Key West, according to the company, in anticipation of future recreational use approval.

Cannabis consumption rules vary by state where the substance is legal, and those rules can be confusing. Smoking in public is generally prohibited. It is illegal to possess cannabis on federal land such as national parks, and it can’t be legally transported across state lines. Hotels and Airbnbs can fine and evict guests who break no-smoking rules. In Arizona, you can eat a cannabis-infused brownie in Phoenix but not in Grand Canyon National Park and you’ll have to buy it locally.

It is also illegal to bring cannabis onto an airplane. Transportation Security Administration agents and domestic inspection canines are looking for explosives rather than drugs, however, so while agents are supposed to report cannabis they find to local law enforcement, marijuana is generally ignored or at worst thrown in the trash, according to passengers who have experienced that sort of contraband discovery.

Kolbe Rose, the sales director at the Stoney Moose, a cannabis company in Ketchikan, Alaska, said she has flown several times with small amounts of cannabis and has “never been stopped or questioned about it.”

But even in states where cannabis has been legal for years, the rules on its consumption are still evolving. Alaska voters ushered in legal recreational marijuana use in 2014. Still, on the Alaska cruises restarting this summer, passengers can buy cannabis at ports of call but can’t bring it back to the ship because they sail in federal waters. They also can’t smoke it in town, or take it kayaking, fishing or on a hike onto federal land, said Ms. Rose, who added that she hoped consumption lounges would be allowed in the future because currently, “you tell people it’s legal to consume, but there’s nowhere to do it.”

Hotels generally have “no smoking” rules for all substances. But based on complaints about odors posted on the Trip Advisor review site, guests don’t always take them seriously. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas has multiple posts on the topic, including one that said, “Hotel hallways reeked of marijuana smoke 24/7. Not really a place for kids.” Brian Ahern, director of media relations at MGM Resorts International, said in an emailed statement that “marijuana is explicitly prohibited at all MGM Resorts properties, and this policy is clearly communicated to guests and visitors.” Violations can result in fines and eviction, he said.

Legal status of the substance doesn’t seem to matter in this case — there are complaints from all parts of the country, including states like Texas and South Carolina where smoking cannabis is illegal. A reviewer at a hotel in Garland, Texas, claimed that when they complained, staff tried to pass the smell off as incense, but “I know what pot smells like,” the guest wrote. A reviewer in Columbia, S. C., complained of their hotel: “It smells marijuana all over. I just don’t understand the management doesn’t do anything.”

As cannabis continues to gain acceptance, travelers may be more likely to incorporate into their vacation plans. Jesse Porquis, a 31-year-old-corporate software instructor from Denver, wasn’t specifically looking for lodging that allowed marijuana use when he embarked on a recent camping trip. But he decided to try out Camp Kush in southwest Colorado, after reading its description, which included an artist in residence as well as communal hang out spaces where guests could smoke weed.

On site he mingled with guests, including a couple in their 50s from South Carolina consuming legally for the first time. It was a comfortable and relaxed experience, he said, “that just happened to include marijuana and meeting interesting people.”

The attitude was, “hang out and leave the rest of the world behind,” Mr. Porquis said. And he’d like to do it again.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to receive expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places list for 2021.

Read full article at Marijuana Moment

Jay Lassiter's 2021 Insider 100: Cannabis Power List By Jay Lassiter

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Subscribe to receive Marijuana Moment’s newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning. It’s the best way to make sure you know which cannabis stories are shaping the day.

How US bullied world into sports cannabis ban (Newsletter: July 12, 2021)

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Subscribe to receive Marijuana Moment’s newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning. It’s the best way to make sure you know which cannabis stories are shaping the day.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) led a group of 10 senators—including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ)—in calling for an upcoming spending bill report to include a provision clarifying that marijuana businesses can access federal Small Business Administration loans and assistance.

Subscribe to receive Marijuana Moment’s newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning. It’s the best way to make sure you know which cannabis stories are shaping the day.

BREAKING: Journalism is often consumed for free, but costs money to produce! While this newsletter is proudly sent without cost to you, our ability to send it each day depends on the financial support of readers who can afford to give it. So if you’ve got a few dollars to spare each month and believe in the work we do, please consider joining us on Patreon today.

Subscribe to receive Marijuana Moment’s newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning. It’s the best way to make sure you know which cannabis stories are shaping the day.

Looking for more cannabis news and resources? If you support our reporting with a monthly donation of $25 or more, we’ll give you access to our Cannabis Bill Tracker, exclusive material from our interviews and more.

All the cannabis news you need, all in one place. Copyright © 2017-2021 Marijuana Moment LLC ® and Tom Angell

How do you market N.J. legal weed without enticing kids? It’s a top concern for regulators.

NJ.com 14 July, 2021 - 07:30am

New Jersey’s cannabis commission met Tuesday evening to hear public input on one of the flashpoint issues of marijuana legalization: how to package, label and advertise cannabis products without enticing children.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law in February that outlines the legal marijuana market. But the law tasks state Cannabis Regulatory Commission to establish rules and regulations that implement the legal weed law before new dispensaries can be licensed. They have until Aug. 21 to draft the rules.

The commission’s chair, Dianna Houenou, said the panel has “already put pen to paper” and is prioritizing rules on the “most critical aspects” of the legalization law ahead of the deadline. They will continue to build out the regulations in the following months as they attempt to write their final rules, she said.

Cannabis falling into the hands of kids has was repeated as a counter argument to legalization — whether it’s young children stumbling into enticing edibles that look like candy or teens who seek it out. Those in favor of legal weed have agreed it must be addressed. Consistent and clear labeling also sets products apart from those sold on the illegal market, and shows a customer how much THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that produces a high feeling, they will be consuming.

The cannabis legalization law gave the commission guidelines for establishing packaging regulations. Labels and ads should not promote overconsumption, depict children, toys or cartoon characters. They are banned from using false, deceptive or misleading information.

Dr. Diane Calello, the executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Center, said reports of children accidentally consuming cannabis edibles has increased by 600% in recent years. This figure shows the urgent need for child-resistant packaging, she said.

Dr. David Nathan, who founded the group Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, proposed New Jersey adopt a universal label he has developed. He said labels can include a QR code that could take customers to a website with detailed information about the product that does not fit onto a physical label.

Zach Katzen of the Atlantic City Arts Foundation cautioned against making rules for packaging and labeling too burdensome when compared to the alcohol industry. Tara Sargente, founder of the edibles company Blazin’ Bakery, also cautioned against over-regulating labeling and robbing entrepreneurs of the opportunity to make their products stand out and appeal to adult customers. Scheril Murray Powell, an attorney, called for the commission to also include sustainability guidelines for packaging.

As the commission works on its regulations, another deadline looms. Cities and towns must also decide by Aug. 21 if they will block or restrict legal cannabis businesses from their borders. While municipal concerns was not the focus of this meeting, many who spoke came with questions about how their towns were handling the process.

New Jersey’s medical cannabis industry continues to grow, but so do its patients. There are now 113,000 of them, said Jeff Brown, the commission’s executive director.

He said new medical licenses will be awarded soon. The Department of Health sought applications in 2019 to operate more than 20 new medical marijuana businesses, but a lawsuit stalled their review for more than a year. The commission has since taken control of the application process.

He said the applications will soon be scored, then go for an internal review. After that, they will be voted on at a public meeting.

Some of these potential entrepreneurs have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on real estate and legal assistance for their applications. They continue to foot the bills while their applications sit in limbo.

Travis Ally, an entrepreneur who applied for one of those licenses, criticized the commission for the amount of time it has taken to give out the licenses.

“I feel like a lot of these discussions are out of place,” he said. “We should be focused on that.”

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Subscribe to receive Marijuana Moment’s newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning. It’s the best way to make sure you know which cannabis stories are shaping the day.

Your good deed for the day: donate to an independent publisher like Marijuana Moment and ensure that as many voters as possible have access to the most in-depth cannabis reporting out there.

Schumer cannabis bill is here (finally) (Newsletter: July 13, 2021)

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Subscribe to receive Marijuana Moment’s newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning. It’s the best way to make sure you know which cannabis stories are shaping the day.

Subscribe to receive Marijuana Moment’s newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning. It’s the best way to make sure you know which cannabis stories are shaping the day.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) led a group of 10 senators—including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ)—in calling for an upcoming spending bill report to include a provision clarifying that marijuana businesses can access federal Small Business Administration loans and assistance.

Subscribe to receive Marijuana Moment’s newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning. It’s the best way to make sure you know which cannabis stories are shaping the day.

BREAKING: Journalism is often consumed for free, but costs money to produce! While this newsletter is proudly sent without cost to you, our ability to send it each day depends on the financial support of readers who can afford to give it. So if you’ve got a few dollars to spare each month and believe in the work we do, please consider joining us on Patreon today.

All the cannabis news you need, all in one place. Copyright © 2017-2021 Marijuana Moment LLC ® and Tom Angell

Marijuana that looks like candy? NJ panel urged to make sure kids are kept away from weed

Asbury Park Press 14 July, 2021 - 04:00am

Virtually every state with legal weed or medical marijuana has laws governing exactly how a cannabis product should be packaged  or labeled.

Such laws generally focus on cannabis edibles, ensuring that the products — such as chocolate, brownies, cookies or other food and drink items — aren't attractive to kids. Edibles are often required to be sold in plain, basic packaging, and bans are placed on using colorful images or cartoon characters.

She called on the commission to “optimize safety” in packaging, using child-resistant bags and sleeves that she said reduce 80% of poisoning cases when used on traditional medicine bottles.

Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in an interview that many of the issues with children consuming edibles involve black market products. 

"They should be making sure the packaging is very difficult for a child to get into, at the very least," he said.

Other packaging and labeling laws require that edibles clearly indicate the percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana — in a product and specify individual recommended doses, often 5 mg or 10 mg. 

Illegally purchased edible marijuana can be found in parody candy wrappers without any pertinent information. Fox suggested the commission issue rules that would make it easier to determine if a marijuana product was purchased legally or on the black market. 

New Jersey medical marijuana laws also prohibit marijuana from having any “resemblance to a trademarked, characteristic or product-specialized packaging of any commercially-available candy, snack, baked good or beverage,” or any artwork, design or insignia that might fool an unsuspecting consumer. The medical marijuana laws also bar any “cartoon, color scheme, image, graphic or feature … attractive to children.”

Nathan suggested placing a QR code, scannable with most smartphones, that would not only verify that a marijuana product was grown, processed and sold legally in New Jersey — but provide information about marijuana use and abuse.

Most states with legal weed have laws on the books dictating anything from where a marijuana company can advertise to what it can show in its advertisements.

Most regulations are focused on ensuring the ads don't attract children — specifically banning the use of cartoons or, in many states, prohibiting any billboards or street advertising near places that cater to children, such as schools and playgrounds.

"What it comes down to is that it's totally fine if you want to regulate advertising with regards to cannabis," Fox said. "But it should not be regulated any stricter than alcohol." 

In many states, marijuana advertisements aren't allowed on public transit — such as the sides of a bus — or shelters, like a bus stop.

Advertising on television and radio is an equally tricky proposition for marijuana businesses. Because marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, many broadcasters and networks are fearful of a crackdown by the Federal Communications Commission, Fox said.

Fox noted that broadcasters in legal weed states have even begun pushing for a more concrete decision by the FCC, similar to the Cole Memorandum, a President Barack Obama-era memo in which the Justice Department said it wouldn't take action against states who legalized marijuana.

SIU paper details cannabis economics, long-term health effects in Illinois

KTVI Fox 2 St. Louis 13 July, 2021 - 04:38pm

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Cannabis can have negative consequences on those who use it continuously, according to a Southern Illinois University paper.

The negative effects include periodontal disease, socioeconomic problems, and educational attainment, among others.

The Effects of Legalization of Recreational Cannabis In Illinois” also dives into the use rates among youth, women, and adults in the United States; the effectives of legalization of recreational cannabis among adolescents, college students, and pregnant women; and the decrease in the perception of cannabis harmfulness.

As states across the country are considering legalizing recreational marijuana, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act went into effect Jan. 1, 2020, in Illinois.

It allows adults, 21 and over, to legally purchase recreational marijuana. According to the study, Illinois had collected $100 million in tax revenue from cannabis sales in Oct. 2020.

For more information, read the full paper.

The paper was written by Stephanie Chambers-Baltz and it was published in The Simon Review.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

ST. LOUIS--U.S. News & World Report is out with the magazine's annual "Best Places" series, and there's good news for St. Louis.

The city was ranked 22nd in the magazine's list of Most Affordable (Cheapest) places to live in 2021-2022, one slot ahead of Kansas City.

Below are the 13 bills he signed into law this session:

The ACLU of Missouri and the MacArthur Justice Center sued Kansas City, Missouri, police commissioners last year challenging what they called an unconstitutional verbal banishment order.

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The New Jersey Judiciary on Monday announced that it has vacated or dismissed nearly 88,000 marijuana cases since July 1, when a decriminalization law took effect that mandated the relief for people who have been caught up in prohibition enforcement.

In a press release, the courts said these are just the first of about 360,000 cannabis cases that are eligible to be automatically vacated, dismissed and expunged. The expungement component of the process will happen “in the coming months.”

The action comes after Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner issued an order at the beginning of the month that also makes it so certain pending marijuana cases must be dismissed, and failure to appear warrants must be rescinded.

The New Jersey Judiciary has vacated or dismissed nearly 88,000 cases related to certain marijuana and hashish convictions or pending cases since July 1 when the Marijuana Decriminalization Law went into effect.https://t.co/q9c3pSWKjy pic.twitter.com/e5iUPdI6pr

— New Jersey Courts (@njcourts) July 12, 2021

The judiciary said in a press release that cannabis-related violations of probation or pretrial monitoring will also be vacated, and driver’s license suspensions or revocations for failure to appear for marijuana charges will be rescinded.

Further, a new electronic system will be created to allow judiciary staff to provide certification of expungements to members of the public who want to verify whether their records have been cleared.

This comes month after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed companion marijuana legalization and decriminalization bills. The legislature was required to pass the former measure after voters approved a reform referendum during the November 2020 election.

Eligible cases for expungements include the sale or possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, possessing drug paraphernalia and being under the influence of marijuana. People with such convictions who aren’t automatically identified by the court system can petition directly for relief.

New Jersey’s attorney general has separately been proactive about cannabis reform implementation since the legalization bill was enacted.

The day after Murphy signed the legalization legislation, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) directed prosecutors to drop cases for cannabis-related offenses and issued separate guidance for police on how to proceed under the updated laws.

The attorney general also encouraged prosecutorial discretion for marijuana cases in earlier memos prior to the bill’s signing.

At the same time, Grewal has taken steps to ensure that people aren’t exploiting provisions of the legalization law before retail sales launch.

Last month, he sent warning letters to companies that were effectively circumventing the state’s marijuana laws by “gifting” cannabis in exchange for non-marijuana-related purchases such as overpriced cookies, brownies and stickers.

Gifting is lawful between adults 21 and older under New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis law, but a number of businesses have allegedly taken advantage of that policy by giving away “free” cannabis products to those who purchase other items like snacks and baked goods.

No retail marijuana businesses have been licensed since the state enacted recreational legalization earlier this year. Licensing regulations still need to be developed before adult-use shops can open.

Biden Selects White House Drug Czar Who Helped Implement State Marijuana Program And Touted Medical Benefits

GOP South Carolina Lawmaker Defends Marijuana Stance Of Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate From Republican Attack

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Virginia Governor Too ‘Busy’ To Smoke Marijuana Following Legalization, He Says

Biden Remains Opposed To Marijuana Legalization, White House Says Minutes After Senators Unveil New Bill

Cory Booker Vows To Block Marijuana Banking Until Senate Passes Comprehensive Legalization

Senators Unveil Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill To Mixed Reviews, With White House Remaining Opposed

Full details of Schumer’s federal cannabis bill released (Newsletter: July 14, 2021)

Here Are The Full Details Of The New Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill From Chuck Schumer And Senate Colleagues

The governor of Virginia said on Tuesday that he has not consumed marijuana since the state’s legalization law took effect earlier this month.

“I have to ask you, have you smoked marijuana since it became legal?” Andy Fox of WAVY-TV asked the governor at a press conference.

“No, I haven’t,” Northam, who ceremonially signed legalization into law in April, said. “I’ve been very busy at my job making sure we’re the number one state in the country.”

After Northam pivoted to discussing the serious reasons for enacting legalization—including racial justice—the reporter made sure to point out that “serious people smoke marijuana, just for the record about that.”

As of July 1, public possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by adults over 21 is legal in Virginia, and personal cultivation of up to four plants at home is also allowed. Private sharing of up to an ounce of marijuana between adults is also legal, as long as no remuneration is involved.

Northam isn’t the only governor who’s expressed openness to indulging marijuana following a state-level policy change.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said last month that “time will tell” when asked by a reporter if people can “expect to see the governor smoking a joint” after legalization goes into effect in the state.

“Not right now, but we’ll see” Lamont said.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) raised some eyebrows in 2018 when he said in an interview that he grows cannabis himself. But then a spokesperson for his office denied that he actually personally cultivates marijuana.

These might be light comments from officials in power, but they also represent a significant departure from the norm. It’s hard to imagine even a few years ago that the top leaders of states would play coy with questions around personal cannabis use. But we’re also now in an era where the U.S. Senate majority leader has introduced legislation to federally legalize marijuana.

On another more serious note, a website launched by Virginia regulators last month states that “all records of misdemeanor possession with intent to distribute marijuana arrests, charges, and convictions will be automatically sealed from public view in the Virginia State Police’s systems” as well.

Regulators will soon be developing rules for adult-use retail establishments, which cannot open until January 1, 2024.

Most of the legal cannabis sales provisions of the law are subject to reenactment by the legislature under the final deal agreed to by lawmakers earlier this year, meaning that the timeline could end up shifting after the next legislative session.

Minutes after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and colleagues unveiled a much-anticipated draft marijuana legalization bill on Wednesday, the White House press secretary reiterated that President Joe Biden remains opposed to the reform. However, she notably said the president would be “encouraged” by efforts to advance more incremental reform such as decriminalizing possession, as he pledged to do on the campaign trail.

“Nothing has changed, and there’s no new endorsements of legislation to report today,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing after being asked about the new draft legalization bill.

Advocates have been waiting eagerly for the release of the cannabis legalization bill that Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have been working on for months. That finally happened on Wednesday, but the press secretary’s comments signal that even if the measure advances through Congress, it may face opposition from the president.

She said in response to another question that Biden remains supportive of more incremental cannabis decriminalization and would be “encouraged by steps to implement that, but I have not spoken with him in recent days about marijuana or legislation on this.”

Beyond ending the decades-long prohibition on cannabis, the new legislation contains a litany of other provisions to promote social equity, facilitate research and repair the harms of criminalization. The three senators formally unveiled the 163-page bill at a press conference on Wednesday, though they’ve also opened a public comment period to solicit feedback until September 1 to finalize the language.

The remarks from the press secretary come as a disappointment to advocates, but they’re far from unexpected given that Biden has maintained an opposition to adult-use legalization despite its popularity among the public, and particularly among Democrats.

During his presidential campaign last year, he ran on a pledge to enact modest reforms such as decriminalizing cannabis possession, expunging prior records and respecting the rights of states to set their own laws. Since taking office, however, his administration has not made progress on any of those promises and has instead fired its own White House staffers over marijuana and sought to extend a budget provision that has blocked Washington, D.C. from legalizing cannabis sales.

He took some by surprise by suggesting that international sports rules on marijuana may need to be reevaluated after a star U.S. runner was suspended following a positive cannabis test. But that’s a far cry from endorsing comprehensive reform.

Psaki, for her part, initially declined to condemn Olympics officials’ sanction on Richardson when asked about the issue at an earlier briefing with reporters. But she told CNN last week that the case highlights the need to “take another look” at the rules on cannabis.

In April, the press secretary said that Biden’s campaign pledge to release federal inmates with marijuana convictions will start with modestly rescheduling cannabis—a proposal that advocates say wouldn’t actually accomplish what she’s suggesting.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said on Wednesday that he “will lay myself down” to block any other senators who seek to pass marijuana banking legislation before the body approves comprehensive cannabis reform like the federal legalization bill he newly unveiled alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Over in the House, meanwhile, the lead sponsor of the cannabis banking bill says he agrees with the need for a broader policy change—but feels that Congress should still advance the more incremental reform as soon as possible for public safety reasons.

During a press conference on the long-anticipated Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, Schumer, Booker and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) were asked about whether the chamber should pursue a separate, House-passed bill that would simply protect banks that service state-legal marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators if the trio cannot get enough support to advance their legalization legislation.

Booker put the issue in no uncertain terms.

“I’m telling you right now, if somebody tries in the Senate to do just a banking bill,” Booker, said, it would only accomplish further enriching of people in a multi-billion industry without addressing the harms of the drug war.

Because of that, Booker said, he will block any bills from advancing that singularly address cannabis banking issues.

“To just do it so some people can get rich and not do something about the people who are languishing with criminal convictions—to not do something on restorative justice, not to make sure that the business opportunities that are created are given a fair playing field, where right now in many states, someone who has a criminal conviction for selling marijuana can’t get a license now” is unacceptable, the senator said.

“I don’t know about other members of the Senate, but I will lay myself down to do everything I can to stop an easy banking bill that’s going to allow all these corporations to make a lot more money off of this, as opposed to focusing on the restorative justice aspect,” he said.

When it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana, we can’t allow the creation of this massive, multibillion dollar industry unless the taxes from that industry get reinvested in the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) July 14, 2021

It was a forceful and direct response to a question that’s been asked of Senate and House lawmakers in the past.

But Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the lead sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act in the House, said there’s an urgent need to get the bipartisan financial services reform passed as soon as possible.

“I support comprehensive cannabis reform legislation and believe it is important to ensure true social and economic justice is achieved following the War on Drugs,” he said in a statement. “However, there is a serious public safety threat that exists in our communities which we cannot wait to address.”

Cannabis-related businesses are forced to operate as high-volume cash businesses, targeted by violent criminals & putting our communities at risk. The #SAFEBankingAct isn't about making corporations richer-it’s about protecting employees, patients & customers of small businesses.

— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) July 14, 2021

“Cannabis-related businesses—including small and minority-owned businesses—and their employees continue to be forced to operate as high-volume cash businesses that are being targeted by violent criminals and putting our communities and constituents at risk,” he said.

“The SAFE Banking Act is not about making corporations richer—it’s about protecting employees, patients, and customers of small businesses. The SAFE Banking Act also immediately removes barriers for small and minority-owned cannabis businesses to access capital. Passing the SAFE Banking Act is the first step of many federal cannabis reforms to create a safer and more equitable industry.”

…but I urge the Senate to take immediate action to pass the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act to reduce the significant public safety risk threatening our communities. https://t.co/twxMmKIiHX

— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) July 14, 2021

Last month, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT), sponsors of the Senate version of the SAFE Banking Act, urged a markup of legislation, arguing that it would help address an urgent public safety issue.

“This is not simply a matter of banking. The inability of these state-legal entities to bank their significant cash reserves is an issue of public safety,” they wrote, citing cases of robberies and armed burglaries at dispensaries in both of their home states.

But Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has made clear he’s not eager to advance the legislation, saying in April that “I think we need to look at a number of things,” and that the body is “not ready to move on it.”

One thing that Brown previously said he wanted to do was tie the cannabis banking legislation to sentencing reform, though he’s since indicated that he’s not necessarily married to that approach.

It should be noted that passing the Schumer, Wyden and Booker bill to end federal cannabis prohibition would automatically remove any penalties that financial institutions currently potentially face as a result of working with licensed cannabis businesses because those operations would no longer be federally illegal. That said, the legislation has far less bipartisan support than the narrower financial services measure does.

“I’ve always been of the view that while certainly we have to deal with the banking and financial issues that we should do them together with legalization because the [SAFE Banking Act] brings in some people who might not normally support legalization, and we want to get as broad a coalition as possible,” Schumer told Marijuana Moment in April.

Over in the U.S. House of Representatives, lawmakers already passed their version of the banking bill in April—marking the fourth time that the measure has cleared that chamber in some form.

As it stands, the banking legislation has 39 cosponsors in the Senate, in addition to lead sponsor Merkley, which means more than a third of the chamber is already formally signed on.

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

After it passed the House last Congress, advocates and stakeholders closely watched for any action to come out of the Senate Banking Committee, where it was referred after being transmitted to the chamber. But then-Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) did not hold a hearing on the proposal, despite talk of negotiations taking place regarding certain provisions.

Crapo said he opposed the reform proposal, but he signaled that he might be more amenable if it included certain provisions viewed as untenable to the industry, including a two percent THC potency limit on products in order for cannabis businesses to qualify to access financial services as well as blocking banking services for operators that sell high-potency vaping devices or edibles that could appeal to children.

When legislative leaders announced that the SAFE Banking Act was getting a House vote in 2019, there was pushback from some advocates who felt that Congress should have prioritized comprehensive reform to legalize marijuana and promote social equity, rather than start with a measure viewed as primarily friendly to industry interests.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and an original cosponsor of the bill, said in March that the plan was to pass the banking reform first this session because it “is a public safety crisis now,” and it’s “distinct—as we’ve heard from some of my colleagues—distinct from how they feel about comprehensive reform.”

All the cannabis news you need, all in one place. Copyright © 2017-2021 Marijuana Moment LLC ® and Tom Angell

NJ Courts Give Ax To 88,000 Marijuana Cases – More To Follow

Patch.com 13 July, 2021 - 09:45am

NEW JERSEY — More than 88,000 cases involving marijuana arrests in New Jersey have been dismissed in the past two weeks as the state continues its journey into cannabis legalization, officials announced Monday.

New Jersey voters approved recreational marijuana in November 2020. But it wasn't legal until Gov. Phil Murphy signed a package of bills into law on Feb. 22. That legal framework included "decriminalizing" cannabis, giving people facing low-level possession and distribution charges a pathway to clear their records.

It's a big deal for many people who have been busted for weed in the Garden State. The ACLU-New Jersey says that prior to the new laws, the collateral damage from a marijuana arrest had the potential to be life-changing:

But there's relief on the way for thousands of people across the state, court officials say.

Since July 1, the day New Jersey's decriminalization law became effective, the state judiciary has dismissed or vacated tens of thousands of cases involving marijuana or hashish. And it's just the tip of the iceberg. So far, court administrators throughout New Jersey have identified about 360,000 cases that are eligible to be vacated or dismissed. Once they are, the cases will be automatically "expunged" from a person's criminal record.

And that's not all, officials added:

Here's who qualifies, officials said (learn more here):

The new law also applies to cases which are pending sentencing or have completed sentencing. However, while most low-level offenses will be eligible for dismissal, some cases involving more serious charges won't be, officials said.

Court administrators said there are plans to create an online resource that will allow people to see if their case has been expunged – or get a certificate to prove it.

GOP South Carolina Lawmaker Defends Marijuana Stance Of Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate From Republican Attack

Marijuana Moment 13 July, 2021 - 08:17am

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A Republican South Carolina senator on Monday refuted his party’s position on marijuana, defending a Democratic gubernatorial candidate from GOP attacks over his support for reform.

After former U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) came out with a plan to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational purposes as part of his campaign for governor, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick voiced opposition and said the Democratic candidate wants to “play with fire” by embracing the policy change.

But state Rep. Tom Davis (R) said his own party’s stance, particularly as it concerns medical cannabis, is “an intellectually lazy position that doesn’t even try to present medical facts as they currently exist.”

Re: SCGOP’s statement on medical cannabis: an intellectually lazy position that doesn’t even try to present medical facts as they currently exist and that embarrassingly cribs @taylorswift13 lyrics in a desperate effort to sound cool/clever. Fail.

— Tom Davis (@senatortomdavis) July 12, 2021

This isn’t the first time that Davis has clashed with his party on marijuana. Case in point: he sponsored legislation this session to legalize medical cannabis—a bill cleared the Senate Medical Affairs Committee in March but has since been placed on hold. Davis went so far as to threaten to use his power to block other bills from advancing if his reform proposal was stopped. Leadership has since promised him that the measure will be the first bill taken up at the beginning of 2022.

Now the state has a Democratic gubernatorial candidate running on an even broader legalization platform, and Davis is breaking party lines to help ward off GOP attacks on the issue—though he’s not exactly endorsing Cunningham’s campaign to unseat incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster (R).

The marijuana laws we have on the books aren’t just outdated, they never made sense in the first place. And they are holding our state back and actively hurting our people.

It’s time to safely and responsibly end the prohibition of marijuana in South Carolina. https://t.co/G6kBWGXiTk

— Joe Cunningham (@JoeCunninghamSC) July 12, 2021

McKissick, the state Republican Party chair, argued in a statement that crime and health problems are exacerbated in states that have legalized cannabis. And he said that law enforcement and health professionals should have the final say over whether the plant should be permitted for medical use.

"If you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes, and Democrats like Joe Cunningham keep wanting to play with fire. Does Mia McLeod agree with his proposal?"

See below for Chairman @DrewMcKissick's full statement: https://t.co/mRcexBjI7k pic.twitter.com/FOl4deQDCm

— South Carolina Republican Party (@SCGOP) July 12, 2021

Cunningham, for his part, said at a press conference on Monday that “it’s time for elected officials to admit that what we are doing has not been working.”

“Although there are career politicians who would rather live in the past, I prefer that we, as South Carolinians, look to the future,” he said. “That is why I’m running for governor—to bring South Carolina out of the past and into the future. Our marijuana laws are stuck in the past. They aren’t practical, and they hurt more people than they help.”

The candidate said he “will be a governor who can admit when a policy fails, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that the prohibition of marijuana has done exactly that.”

“Our marijuana laws continue to have a disproportionate impact on communities of color,” Cunningham said. “A person of color is nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana though someone who’s white, even though they use marijuana at the same rate.”

The Democrat’s plan includes a plank to expunge prior cannabis records.

“This is going to be a game changer in South Carolina,” he told The Associated Press. “There are so many reasons why we need to do this, and the time is now.”

The war on marijuana was never based on science or data. It was based on fear, prejudice, and lies. And it’s hurt our state.

It’s time to tell the truth and safely end the prohibition of marijuana in South Carolina.

Check out my plan >> https://t.co/HKAniYvnio #LegalizeSC

— Joe Cunningham (@JoeCunninghamSC) July 12, 2021

“This is something the people want,” he said. “If our politicians aren’t reflecting the will of the people, then we have to change out the politicians, starting with Governor McMaster.”

Mia McLeod, who is running against Cunningham for the Democratic party nomination, agreed that “public perception about marijuana has changed and so must the laws that govern its use.”

.@JoeCunninghamSC's primary challenger SC Sen. @MiaforSC releases her own statement on his proposal to legalize marijuana, taking a shot at the former congressman. pic.twitter.com/2Z7TIsPLt1

— Maayan Schechter (@MaayanSchechter) July 12, 2021

But she took a hit at her opponent, saying that it’s “important to understand the difference between campaign promises and what we choose to fight for while in office.” She added that as a state lawmaker she has “actually sponsored legislation to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, unlike my Democratic opponent who had the chance to do so while in Congress…but did not.”

Cunningham did proactively cosponsor measures to remove barriers to marijuana research and allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to issue recommendations for medical cannabis, however.

He also voted in support of marijuana law reform on several occasions on the House floor, including for passage of standalone bills to federally legalize cannabis and allow businesses in the industry to access banking services. He also backed two separate amendments to prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state marijuana laws.

When I served in Congress, I helped pass the MORE Act which decriminalized marijuana on the federal level. But I was in DC long enough to know that we can’t wait on the feds to act. It’s up to us here in SC to lead on this issue. And when I’m Governor, I will. #LegalizeSC https://t.co/S3obq2pJuz

— Joe Cunningham (@JoeCunninghamSC) July 12, 2021

Cunningham did, however, oppose an amendment aimed at removing barriers to research on psychedelic drugs.

In any case, the former congressman is getting a helping hand from a somewhat unlikely source.

Davis described the South Carolina Republican Party’s response to Cunningham’s cannabis proposals as a “fail” and said the institution “embarrassingly cribs [singer Taylor Swift’s] lyrics in a desperate effort to sound cool/clever.”

In April, the senator said that federal prohibition was imposed under the Nixon administration in order to “punish” the president’s political enemies. That said, he stressed that he’s only interested in ending prohibition for medical cannabis and that his measure is not a “slippery slope” to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.

Davis’s legislation would allow patients with qualifying conditions to possess and purchase up to two ounces of cannabis every two weeks.

During the committee hearing in March, Davis repeatedly made the case that his bill “is the most conservative medical cannabis bill in the country.”

South Carolina is one of a select few states without an effective medical cannabis program, though it does have a limited CBD law on the books.

A poll released in February found that South Carolina voters support legalizing medical marijuana by a ratio of five to one. But the state does not have a citizen-led initiative process that has empowered voters in other states to get the policy change enacted.

Support for medical marijuana among South Carolina residents has been notably stable, as a 2018 Benchmark Research poll similarly found 72 percent support for the reform, including nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Republicans.

Also that year, 82 percent of voters in the state’s Democratic primary election voted in favor of medical cannabis legalization in a nonbinding ballot advisory vote. Lawmakers prefiled four marijuana measures for the 2019 session, but they did not advance.

Davis said earlier this year that if the legislature doesn’t advance the reform, he’d propose a bill to put the question of medical marijuana legalization to voters through a referendum.

A coalition of advocates for health care and criminal justice reform, as well as veterans groups, have recently stepped up their push to get medical cannabis legalized in South Carolina.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Virginia Governor Too ‘Busy’ To Smoke Marijuana Following Legalization, He Says

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The governor of Virginia said on Tuesday that he has not consumed marijuana since the state’s legalization law took effect earlier this month.

“I have to ask you, have you smoked marijuana since it became legal?” Andy Fox of WAVY-TV asked the governor at a press conference.

“No, I haven’t,” Northam, who ceremonially signed legalization into law in April, said. “I’ve been very busy at my job making sure we’re the number one state in the country.”

After Northam pivoted to discussing the serious reasons for enacting legalization—including racial justice—the reporter made sure to point out that “serious people smoke marijuana, just for the record about that.”

As of July 1, public possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by adults over 21 is legal in Virginia, and personal cultivation of up to four plants at home is also allowed. Private sharing of up to an ounce of marijuana between adults is also legal, as long as no remuneration is involved.

Northam isn’t the only governor who’s expressed openness to indulging marijuana following a state-level policy change.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said last month that “time will tell” when asked by a reporter if people can “expect to see the governor smoking a joint” after legalization goes into effect in the state.

“Not right now, but we’ll see” Lamont said.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) raised some eyebrows in 2018 when he said in an interview that he grows cannabis himself. But then a spokesperson for his office denied that he actually personally cultivates marijuana.

These might be light comments from officials in power, but they also represent a significant departure from the norm. It’s hard to imagine even a few years ago that the top leaders of states would play coy with questions around personal cannabis use. But we’re also now in an era where the U.S. Senate majority leader has introduced legislation to federally legalize marijuana.

On another more serious note, a website launched by Virginia regulators last month states that “all records of misdemeanor possession with intent to distribute marijuana arrests, charges, and convictions will be automatically sealed from public view in the Virginia State Police’s systems” as well.

Regulators will soon be developing rules for adult-use retail establishments, which cannot open until January 1, 2024.

Most of the legal cannabis sales provisions of the law are subject to reenactment by the legislature under the final deal agreed to by lawmakers earlier this year, meaning that the timeline could end up shifting after the next legislative session.

Minutes after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and colleagues unveiled a much-anticipated draft marijuana legalization bill on Wednesday, the White House press secretary reiterated that President Joe Biden remains opposed to the reform. However, she notably said the president would be “encouraged” by efforts to advance more incremental reform such as decriminalizing possession, as he pledged to do on the campaign trail.

“Nothing has changed, and there’s no new endorsements of legislation to report today,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing after being asked about the new draft legalization bill.

Advocates have been waiting eagerly for the release of the cannabis legalization bill that Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have been working on for months. That finally happened on Wednesday, but the press secretary’s comments signal that even if the measure advances through Congress, it may face opposition from the president.

She said in response to another question that Biden remains supportive of more incremental cannabis decriminalization and would be “encouraged by steps to implement that, but I have not spoken with him in recent days about marijuana or legislation on this.”

Beyond ending the decades-long prohibition on cannabis, the new legislation contains a litany of other provisions to promote social equity, facilitate research and repair the harms of criminalization. The three senators formally unveiled the 163-page bill at a press conference on Wednesday, though they’ve also opened a public comment period to solicit feedback until September 1 to finalize the language.

The remarks from the press secretary come as a disappointment to advocates, but they’re far from unexpected given that Biden has maintained an opposition to adult-use legalization despite its popularity among the public, and particularly among Democrats.

During his presidential campaign last year, he ran on a pledge to enact modest reforms such as decriminalizing cannabis possession, expunging prior records and respecting the rights of states to set their own laws. Since taking office, however, his administration has not made progress on any of those promises and has instead fired its own White House staffers over marijuana and sought to extend a budget provision that has blocked Washington, D.C. from legalizing cannabis sales.

He took some by surprise by suggesting that international sports rules on marijuana may need to be reevaluated after a star U.S. runner was suspended following a positive cannabis test. But that’s a far cry from endorsing comprehensive reform.

Psaki, for her part, initially declined to condemn Olympics officials’ sanction on Richardson when asked about the issue at an earlier briefing with reporters. But she told CNN last week that the case highlights the need to “take another look” at the rules on cannabis.

In April, the press secretary said that Biden’s campaign pledge to release federal inmates with marijuana convictions will start with modestly rescheduling cannabis—a proposal that advocates say wouldn’t actually accomplish what she’s suggesting.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said on Wednesday that he “will lay myself down” to block any other senators who seek to pass marijuana banking legislation before the body approves comprehensive cannabis reform like the federal legalization bill he newly unveiled alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Over in the House, meanwhile, the lead sponsor of the cannabis banking bill says he agrees with the need for a broader policy change—but feels that Congress should still advance the more incremental reform as soon as possible for public safety reasons.

During a press conference on the long-anticipated Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, Schumer, Booker and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) were asked about whether the chamber should pursue a separate, House-passed bill that would simply protect banks that service state-legal marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators if the trio cannot get enough support to advance their legalization legislation.

Booker put the issue in no uncertain terms.

“I’m telling you right now, if somebody tries in the Senate to do just a banking bill,” Booker, said, it would only accomplish further enriching of people in a multi-billion industry without addressing the harms of the drug war.

Because of that, Booker said, he will block any bills from advancing that singularly address cannabis banking issues.

“To just do it so some people can get rich and not do something about the people who are languishing with criminal convictions—to not do something on restorative justice, not to make sure that the business opportunities that are created are given a fair playing field, where right now in many states, someone who has a criminal conviction for selling marijuana can’t get a license now” is unacceptable, the senator said.

“I don’t know about other members of the Senate, but I will lay myself down to do everything I can to stop an easy banking bill that’s going to allow all these corporations to make a lot more money off of this, as opposed to focusing on the restorative justice aspect,” he said.

When it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana, we can’t allow the creation of this massive, multibillion dollar industry unless the taxes from that industry get reinvested in the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) July 14, 2021

It was a forceful and direct response to a question that’s been asked of Senate and House lawmakers in the past.

But Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the lead sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act in the House, said there’s an urgent need to get the bipartisan financial services reform passed as soon as possible.

“I support comprehensive cannabis reform legislation and believe it is important to ensure true social and economic justice is achieved following the War on Drugs,” he said in a statement. “However, there is a serious public safety threat that exists in our communities which we cannot wait to address.”

Cannabis-related businesses are forced to operate as high-volume cash businesses, targeted by violent criminals & putting our communities at risk. The #SAFEBankingAct isn't about making corporations richer-it’s about protecting employees, patients & customers of small businesses.

— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) July 14, 2021

“Cannabis-related businesses—including small and minority-owned businesses—and their employees continue to be forced to operate as high-volume cash businesses that are being targeted by violent criminals and putting our communities and constituents at risk,” he said.

“The SAFE Banking Act is not about making corporations richer—it’s about protecting employees, patients, and customers of small businesses. The SAFE Banking Act also immediately removes barriers for small and minority-owned cannabis businesses to access capital. Passing the SAFE Banking Act is the first step of many federal cannabis reforms to create a safer and more equitable industry.”

…but I urge the Senate to take immediate action to pass the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act to reduce the significant public safety risk threatening our communities. https://t.co/twxMmKIiHX

— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) July 14, 2021

Last month, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT), sponsors of the Senate version of the SAFE Banking Act, urged a markup of legislation, arguing that it would help address an urgent public safety issue.

“This is not simply a matter of banking. The inability of these state-legal entities to bank their significant cash reserves is an issue of public safety,” they wrote, citing cases of robberies and armed burglaries at dispensaries in both of their home states.

But Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has made clear he’s not eager to advance the legislation, saying in April that “I think we need to look at a number of things,” and that the body is “not ready to move on it.”

One thing that Brown previously said he wanted to do was tie the cannabis banking legislation to sentencing reform, though he’s since indicated that he’s not necessarily married to that approach.

It should be noted that passing the Schumer, Wyden and Booker bill to end federal cannabis prohibition would automatically remove any penalties that financial institutions currently potentially face as a result of working with licensed cannabis businesses because those operations would no longer be federally illegal. That said, the legislation has far less bipartisan support than the narrower financial services measure does.

“I’ve always been of the view that while certainly we have to deal with the banking and financial issues that we should do them together with legalization because the [SAFE Banking Act] brings in some people who might not normally support legalization, and we want to get as broad a coalition as possible,” Schumer told Marijuana Moment in April.

Over in the U.S. House of Representatives, lawmakers already passed their version of the banking bill in April—marking the fourth time that the measure has cleared that chamber in some form.

As it stands, the banking legislation has 39 cosponsors in the Senate, in addition to lead sponsor Merkley, which means more than a third of the chamber is already formally signed on.

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

After it passed the House last Congress, advocates and stakeholders closely watched for any action to come out of the Senate Banking Committee, where it was referred after being transmitted to the chamber. But then-Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) did not hold a hearing on the proposal, despite talk of negotiations taking place regarding certain provisions.

Crapo said he opposed the reform proposal, but he signaled that he might be more amenable if it included certain provisions viewed as untenable to the industry, including a two percent THC potency limit on products in order for cannabis businesses to qualify to access financial services as well as blocking banking services for operators that sell high-potency vaping devices or edibles that could appeal to children.

When legislative leaders announced that the SAFE Banking Act was getting a House vote in 2019, there was pushback from some advocates who felt that Congress should have prioritized comprehensive reform to legalize marijuana and promote social equity, rather than start with a measure viewed as primarily friendly to industry interests.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and an original cosponsor of the bill, said in March that the plan was to pass the banking reform first this session because it “is a public safety crisis now,” and it’s “distinct—as we’ve heard from some of my colleagues—distinct from how they feel about comprehensive reform.”

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