California Governor Gavin Newsom Vetoes Cannabis Billboard Bill

On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 1302, which would have allowed cannabis billboard advertisements on most California highways and interstates, and issued a veto message explaining his reasoning. The governor explained that California’s adult-use cannabis bill had built-in protections to prevent youth from being exposed to cannabis-related advertising, and that he didn’t want to change that.

“When the voters passed Proposition 64, they enacted robust protections shielding youth from exposure to cannabis and cannabis advertising,” Newsom wrote. “Among other things, voters completely prohibited billboard-based cannabis advertising on all Interstate Highways, and on all State Highways that cross the California border. Allowing advertising on these high-traffic thoroughfares could expose young passengers to cannabis advertising.”

The governor went on to explain that allowing billboards visible to drivers and underage passengers would not align with the original intentions behind Proposition 64.

“AB 1302 would weaken the protections passed in Proposition 64. California can refine and advance its regulation of cannabis while also remaining faithful to the will of the voters, and I will continue to work with the author to strike this balance. For these reasons, I am returning AB 1302 without my signature.” 

Assemblyman Bill Quirk, who represents Union City, said the bill was needed to help the state’s legal cannabis industry that is burdened by high taxes and bans on cannabis shops in many California cities.

“We have not done enough to help the legal cannabis industry thrive,” Quirk said, as reported by the Associated Press. “The legal cannabis industry has a very limited and narrow set of marketing avenues available to them. Removing their ability to promote their legitimate business along hundreds of miles of roadway does nothing but help the illicit market.”

California’s Battle Over Cannabis Billboards

The battle over cannabis-related billboards has been in a state of flux since the beginning of the year—concerning how close billboards can be to state highways or interstates. Lawmakers clarified rules in 2019 to identify where cannabis billboards are allowed, banning them within a 15-mile radius of California’s borders.

On January 11, 2021, in the case of Farmer v. Bureau of Cannabis Control (Bureau) & Lori Ajax, the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court ruled that Section 5040(b)(3) of the Bureau of Cannabis Controls’s regulations is invalid, saying that the legislation didn’t have the authority to do so. 

Section 5040(b)(3), which only prohibited billboard advertising within a 15-mile radius of the California border on an interstate or state highway that crosses the California border, was overturned by the January ruling. Since then, a licensee may not place advertising or marketing on a billboard, or similar advertising device, anywhere on an interstate or state highway that crosses the California border, according to Business and Professions Code section 26152(d).

This comes after Governor Newsom approved a bill that expands the hemp industry in California by legalizing smokable hemp and hemp-infused products. He also approved a bill that requires hospitals and other health care facilities to allow terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana.

Other states have taken various approaches to controlling cannabis billboards, in some cases, banning images or banning them from certain areas.

A bill that would ban cannabis ads on billboards within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, public parks and churches failed to be approved in Arizona. In that case, lawmakers were concerned about passing a bill that would give an indirect advantage to the alcohol industry.

In Michigan, cannabis billboards go through strict regulations and must be approved by the Marijuana Regulatory Agency. 

Back in 2018, a billboard in Utah urged voters to approve medical marijuana by quoting Mormon scripture, appealing to some voters in the state.

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Wisconsin Lawmakers Amplify Punishments for Cannabis Extraction

Wisconsin representatives upped the ante on punishments for cannabis extraction, comparing dangerous manufacturing practices to the meth-making process. In some Wisconsin lawmakers’ eyes, extracts are entirely different from cannabis flower, and the use and manufacturing of them should be punished accordingly.

Wisconsin Examiner reports that on September 30 Wisconsin’s Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention held a hearing on a bill, Assembly Bill 440,  that would enhance felony penalties surrounding butane hash oil and related products. 

Hash oil—a concentrated THC extract that has been around for generations—was cited as one of the concerning forms of concentrates. Other popular forms of concentrates that have gained considerable popularity over the past few decades include wax, shatter, live resin, rosin, and the list goes on. But forms of butane hash oil (BHO) is what they’re really after.

Representative Jesse James (R- Altoona) testified on the bill’s particular focus on butane extracts but the measure also covers several facets of the manufacturing process. James emphasized throughout his testimony that certain methods of manufacturing extracts using butane can cause a risk of a chemical reaction and explosion. James cited “the open-loop system,”—a cheap, risky way of making concentrate. 

“Growing marijuana in your home is not going to cause an explosion,” James said. “It could cause a fire if you don’t properly take care of your lamps and everything like that. But this process in and of itself, it’s almost similar to a meth lab.”

Under current law, cannabis manufacturing, distribution, delivery and possession charges can result in felony charges that range in severity, depending on the amount of material involved. 

“Under this bill, the penalty increases to a Class E felony, regardless of the amount marijuana involved, if the person uses butane extraction in the manufacturing of the marijuana and in separating the plant resin from a marijuana plant,” the bill reads. The bill also raises penalties for people with past cannabis-related charges when they face new charges for THC extracts or resin.

The West Central Drug Task Force specifically requested the enhanced felony charges.

Representative Kristina Shelton (D- Green Bay) wondered if the law would conflict with future regulations—causing unintended problems. “My concern is if and when we—and I will say when because I believe that we will eventually legalize marijuana, I know not everyone agrees with me but I’m going to say when. …When we legalize marijuana, if we were to pass this bill… would this bill prohibit a closed-loop system that would be considered safe by professionals, using professional-grade equipment?” 

James conceded, “I would suspect that there would be a conflict there, statutorily.” While Shelton acknowledged the dangers of manufacturing extracts without the proper supervision, she believed the law could cause problems.

Governor Tony Evers proposed a $165 million regulated cannabis market that could fuel a $80 million community reinvestment fund, but it was shot down by GOP lawmakers. 

Wisconsin Senator Melissa Agard supported legislation to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin. In August, she introduced legislation in an attempt to make it a reality. Agard announced the legislation outside of South Beloit’s marijuana dispensary. It’s located right on the state line between Illinois and Wisconsin, and served as the frontlines for the fight to end cannabis prohibition in the area. 

Wisconsin remains an “island of prohibition” without adult use nor medical cannabis sales. Over 60 percent of Wisconsin citizens support legalizing cannabis for adult use, while over 80 percent support legalizing medical cannabis.

In the meantime, however, local areas such as Milwaukee and Appleton, have all but legalized cannabis by passing local ordinances that drop fines for possession to no more than $1. In the city of Madison, cannabis possession has been decriminalized.

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U.S. House Approves SAFE Banking Act as Part of Military Spending Bill in Historic Vote

The U.S. House approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act on Thursday in a bipartisan 316-113 vote as part of the latest National Defense Authorization Act, a military spending bill. It’s the fifth time the legislation has been approved in the House as a standalone bill or an amendment as part of larger legislation.

Since statewide cannabis reform has been enacted over the past four decades, cannabis businesses still are not fully tolerated, most evidently in federal restrictions, such as the way banking is restricted.

Representative Ed Perlmutter re-introduced the bill, as promised, saying that it would allow cannabis businesses to access the banking system—like any other industry—and would bring more money into the economy and offer the opportunity to create good-paying jobs. 

On September 21, the House Rules Committee approved the SAFE Banking Act as they sifted through over 800 amendments filed for the $778 billion FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to determine which ones will get a floor vote. As Representative Perlmutter sits in the Rules Committee, the move suggests he has influence.

Currently, The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Guidance from the Department of the Treasury provides informal guidance on banking with cannabis businesses, but still nothing to immunize a financial institution from federal prosecution—only an act of Congress can do that.

Bloomberg reported that the SAFE Banking Act would be a boon for cannabis companies—which up until now have been forced to do business in cash thanks to federal banking restrictions. Cannabis-adjacent companies that provide financial services agreed.

“Passage of the SAFE Banking Act is a historic, significant step forward for the cannabis industry, which deserves more legitimacy and access to banking, insurance and other services just like any other mainstream industry. This legislation will open up much-needed access to financial institutions and loans for cannabis industry entrepreneurs,” said Ryan Hale, Chief Sales Officer of Operational Security Solutions (OSS). “Meanwhile, as the sheep dogs for the industry in security, we know that many compliance issues will remain as long as cannabis is still considered a Schedule I drug and passage of the SAFE Banking Act will only mean more regulation for the industry.”

The bill would protect banks that cater to state-licensed cannabis business from facing punishment from federal regulators. As of December 2020, the U.S. Treasury found that 515 banks and 169 credit unions already provide such services.

NORML sent leaders in Congress a letter in support of its inclusion as part of the NDAA. NORML Political Director Justin Strekal applauded the legislation cautiously:

“It is critical to balance the need to accomplish comprehensive reform at the federal level and make every effort possible in the immediate term to support the successful state-level programs to ensure safe and efficient consumer access to quality cannabis that is cost-competitive with the unregulated market,” Strekal said. “For those reasons, we support the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in any piece of legislation that is going to be enacted into law.”

Advocates speculated that the SAFE Banking Act might have a better chance of success than a standalone bill, because of its bipartisan support and because Senators don’t want any minor bill holding up the “must-pass” NDAA.

Leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Cory Booker have been somewhat hesitant to support the bill without seeking broader reform. Both see more comprehensive cannabis reform such as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA).

“As someone who has been working inside the banking industry for most of my career, I’ve seen firsthand the many challenges banks face when trying to serve cannabis businesses,” said Andrew Montgomery, Founder and CEO of HD Compliance. Montgomery is a seasoned banking professional with more than 25 years as a senior executive in the industry. 

He continued, “Though this is not the first time that lawmakers have added a seemingly unrelated bill to a broader bill that is likely to pass without increased scrutiny, we must remember that the SAFE Banking Act has already been passed four times in the House, two of them were associated with COVID-19 economic relief bills. The Senate failed to act on each of those bills. However, burying it in the Defense Authorization Act may give cover to GOP senators that want to support SAFE Banking and allow Senator Cory Booker to oppose the bill. This very well could be a back door way of passing this needed legislation.”

While some leaders argued about the appropriateness of including the SAFE Banking Act in a military spending bill, veteran support for cannabis is high. NORML, for instance, clarified that the spending bill was indeed an “appropriate vehicle” for cannabis reform. According to the American Legion, nearly one in four veterans currently consumes cannabis for medical reasons.

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California Bill to Allow Medical Cannabis in Hospitals Heads to Governor’s Desk

The Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act or Ryan’s Law would allow patients in California with serious conditions to use non-smokable medical cannabis inside of hospitals. After receiving approval in California’s Assembly and Senate, Ryan’s Law and a bill regulating smokable hemp products both headed to the governor’s desk, amid a recall election.

If and when it’s signed by the governor, Senate Bill 311 or Ryan’s Law would allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis in healthcare facilities. The proposal prohibits patients, however, from inhaling or vaping herbal cannabis products. It also restricts the use of any forms of cannabis in emergency rooms.

Members of the California Assembly and Senate approved legislation and sent a bill to the Governor’s desk to allow the use of medical cannabis products within hospitals and other eligible health care facilities. 

The California State Assembly voted 57-1 to approve the bill on September 9, and the Senate approved the other chamber’s amendments in a 36-1 vote the next day.

The bill was pushed by State Senator Ben Hueso, who has fought to allow cannabis use in medical facilities for terminally ill patients repeatedly. In July, Hueso sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, asking them to provide clarification on whether hospitals in legal cannabis states can allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis without jeopardizing federal funding.

The bill “would require specified types of health care facilities to allow a terminally ill patient’s use of medicinal cannabis within the health care facility, subject to certain restrictions,” it reads. “The bill would require a patient to provide the health care facility with a copy of their medical marijuana card or written documentation that the use of medicinal cannabis is recommended by a physician. The bill would require a health care facility to reasonably restrict the manner in which a patient stores and uses medicinal cannabis to ensure the safety of other patients, guests, and employees of the health care facility, compliance with other state laws, and the safe operations of the health care facility.”

Lawmakers approved a similar bill in 2019, but it was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom who expressed concerns that it create a conflict between federal and state law. 

Representatives from both HHS and the governor’s office have recently reached out to Hueso to say they’re continuing to look into the matter.

The senator’s legislation was partly inspired by the experience of a father whose son died from cancer and was initially denied access to cannabis at a California hospital. Jim Bartell did eventually find a facility that agreed to allow the treatment, and he has said his son’s quality of life improved dramatically in those last days.

The U.S. Hemp Roundtable claims that they’ve reached an agreement and expect Governor Newsom to sign the hemp-derived CBD bill. “We’re excited to report that a final deal has been reached with Governor Gavin Newsom to move to final passage of AB 45, our long term effort to explicitly permit the retail sale of hemp-derived extracts such as CBD in California,” a U.S Hemp Roundtable release reads. However, it’s unclear if the governor will sign Ryan’s Law, as he vetoed similar legislation earlier due to confusion about federal implications.

AB 45 would allow the sale of hemp-derived CBD extracts outside of licensed cannabis dispensaries. The Senate in a 29-2 vote on Wednesday. The Assembly concurred with amendments and gave final passage to the bill in a 56-3 vote on Thursday.

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Surge of Advocacy Groups Weigh In on Federal Cannabis Reform Bill

Yesterday was the deadline for the comment period on the draft version of the federal cannabis reform bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), and cannabis advocacy groups did not disappoint—with an avalanche of commentary rolling in before the time was up.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) signed on as lead sponsors for a sweeping bill to end the prohibition of cannabis at the federal level.

The draft version of the measure was released in July, which led to an open public comment period giving people time to weigh in on what will be the revised measure.

Several well-known cannabis advocacy organizations such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and the Marijuana Policy Project (MMP) released their comments.

The Marijuana Justice Coalition opted to send a joint letter on the legalization proposal. The Marijuana Justice Coalition is made up of members including the ACLU, Center for American Progress, Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch, Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, MoveOn, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

In a 30-page comment document, NORML called for strengthening civic protections to provide justice to those previously wronged by federal marijuana criminalization and revising outdated employment policies. The organization also called for ensuring that small and local businesses can compete both with larger corporations and the illicit market by reducing regulatory and tax burdens. NORML also asked to narrow the scope of the proposed excise tax to exempt medical cannabis consumer markets and balance the roles of the FDA, TTB, ATF and antitrust regulators.

“We appreciate the leadership by Senators Schumer, Booker, and Wyden in their efforts to end America’s failed, unjust, and racially biased experiment with cannabis prohibition. The CAOA draft represents a thoughtful path forward toward ending federal marijuana criminalization. We are confident that similar language, once finalized and formally introduced in the US Senate, will possess bipartisan appeal — as we know that voters of all political parties strongly support repealing the federal government’s failed marijuana policies,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. 

The summary of NORML’s discussion draft can be read here.

MPP also stressed the importance of easing restrictions on medical cannabis patients. MPP outlined two major areas of concern: the possible upending of state licensing and regulatory systems, which does nothing but drive sales underground, and the impact on medical cannabis access, including for those under the age of 21.

“We are grateful for the leadership of Sens. Booker, Schumer, and Wyden to end an eight-decades long policy failure and appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback as the sponsoring offices refine the bill,” said Karen O’Keefe, state policies director at MPP. Federal prohibition urgently needs to end. It has wasted billions of dollars while upending tens of thousands of lives—disproportionately those of Black and Brown Americans—over a plant that is safer than alcohol.

The NCIA stated that the CAOA presents a “thoughtful foundation for comprehensive cannabis policy reform that clearly illustrates the authors’ engagement with stakeholders during the drafting process.” Read the NCIA’s full draft of recommendations here.

“Ending nearly a century of disastrous prohibition policies is a monumental effort and one which should not be taken lightly,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of NCIA. “We appreciate Senate leadership for taking a big step toward that goal which a significant majority of Americans support. There is a lot of work left to be done and it is vital to include those most impacted by both prohibition and the proposed legislation in this process.”

The wave of commentary represents the importance of the bill and how the industry hinges upon those fine details.

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Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Ready by Late October, Senator Says

The Senate leader of Mexico’s ruling party said that the lawmakers will vote on a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use by the end of October 2019.

There are numerous pieces of legalization legislation already on the table, but Sen. Ricardo Monreal of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA)  said his chamber is nearly done crafting a new reform bill that will be the product of weeks of public forums and open-session debates. Members of the other half of Mexico’s legislature, the Chamber of Deputies, will be invited to weigh in on the bill.

“We’re thinking that we’ll bring the law out, approve it, at the end of October,” Monreal said. “That’s the schedule we have.”

That would mean that lawmakers are expecting to meet a Supreme Court deadline to end federal cannabis prohibition. In 2018, the court ruled that the country’s ban on personal possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana was unconstitutional and said the government must formally legalize those activities by October 2019. Many key lawmakers have said the country should go even further by legally regulating cannabis sales and production as well.

The Senate held a series of events in recent weeks meant to solicit public input on legalization proposals and hear from experts on the issue in order to inform their bill. During one panel, a former White House drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, spoke about the need for “robust regulations” in a legal cannabis market.

(Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)
Mexico’s lawmakers are working against a deadline set by the Supreme Court for legalizing adult-use marijuana. In 2018, the justices ruled that the nation’s ban on the plant was unconstitutional and gave lawmakers until the end of October 2019 to formally legalize cannabis.

The chamber held another forum on the international marijuana market on Oct. 7, 2019.

Mario Delgado Carrillo, the coordinator of MORENA’s bench in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Mexico’s Congress, filed legislation to legalize and regulate cannabis, but he proposed having the government run the market to prevent large marijuana firms from monopolizing the industry.

Neither Monreal nor President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is in favor of having a state-controlled cannabis program, however, according to newspaper El Universal. And Delgado Carrillo later clarified that his bill was designed to reflect a personal preference. Monreal said that he’s willing to incorporate certain ideas from the lawmaker’s proposal, however.

Another piece of legalization legislation that will be considered by the Senate was introduced by a member of the MORENA party, Sen. Julio Menchaca Salazar, in September 2019.

“The idea is to try to make the best law possible,” Monreal said. “We’ve spent hours and hours debating this issue in the Senate and we’re going to respectfully invite [deputies] so that they join us in the next debates.”

Feature image: Adult-use marijuana legalization is on the agenda of Mexico’s Congress. A senator for the ruling National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party says the upper house of Congress is set to release a bill by the end of October 2019. (Anthony Brown/Weedmaps)


This article has been republished from Marijuana Moment under a content-sharing agreement. Read the original article here

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House Approves Bill to Allow Cannabis Industry to Access Banks

The House of Representatives passed a standalone marijuana reform bill for the first time in history on Sept. 25, 2019.

The chamber advanced the legislation — which would protect banks that service the cannabis industry from being penalized by federal regulators in a vote of 321-103.

For six years, lawmakers have been pushing for the modest reform, which is seen as necessary to increase financial transparency and mitigate risks associated with operating on a largely cash-only basis — something many marijuana businesses must do because banks currently fear federal reprisal for taking them on as clients.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado. It cleared the House Financial Services Committee in March 2019 and was officially scheduled for a floor vote in late September. The vote was held through a process known as suspension of the rules, meaning it required two-thirds of the chamber — 290 members if all were present — to approve it for passage.

While the House has approved historic cannabis amendments in the past, including one this summer that would protect all state marijuana programs from federal intervention, those have had to be renewed annually. This is the first time a stand-alone reform bill was approved in the chamber, and the policy will be permanently codified into law if the Senate follows suit and President Donald Trump signs it.

“If someone wants to oppose the legalization of marijuana, that’s their prerogative, but American voters have spoken and continue to speak and the fact is you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Prohibition is over,” Perlmutter said in a floor debate prior to the vote. “Our bill is focused solely on taking cash off the streets and making our communities safe and only congress can take these steps to provide this certainty for businesses, employees and financial institutions across the country.”

Democratic Rep. Denny Heck of Washington made an impassioned case for the bill, sharing an anecdote about a security guard who worked for a cannabis shop who was killed on the job, and emphasizing that the legislation would mitigate the risks of violent crime at these businesses.

“You can be agnostic on the underlying policy of whether or not cannabis should be legal for either adult recreational use or to treat seizures, but you cannot be agnostic on the need to improve safety in this area,” he said.

“This bill is not only timely, but extremely necessary,” Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California said. “Right now the cannabis industry needs access to safe and effective banking immediately.”

Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, raised concerns about the legislation and suggested that the bill would provide drug cartels with access to financial services. He was one of just three lawmakers who rose in opposition to the bill, with the remaining time allocated for opposition having been yielded to GOP supporters of the legislation.

The proposal hasn’t been without controversy, even among pro-reform advocates. After Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland announced his intent to put the bill on the floor by the end of the month, several leading advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Drug Policy Alliance, and Center for American Progress wrote a letter asking leadership to delay the vote until comprehensive legalization legislation passed.

The groups have expressed concerns to the Democratic Financial Services Committee Chair, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, that approving the banking bill first could jeopardize the chances of achieving more wide-ranging reform that addressed social equity issues such as legislation introduced by the Democratic Judiciary Committee Chair, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. They said they were caught off guard when Hoyer announced the vote.

But as the vote approached, advocates and lawmakers wasted no time emphasizing the need to go further than the banking bill.

“I have long fought for criminal justice reform and deeply understand the need to fully address the historical racial and social inequities related to the criminalization of marijuana,” Waters said in a press release on Sept. 24. “I support legislation that deschedules marijuana federally, requires courts to expunge convictions for marijuana-related offenses, and provides assistance such as job training and reentry services for those who have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.”

She reiterated that point during debate on the floor, stating that the banking legislation “is but one important piece of what should be a comprehensive series of cannabis reform bills.”

Nadler also released a statement stating that while he would vote yes on the SAFE Banking Act, he is “committed to marking up [his legalization bill] and look[s] forward to working with reform advocates and my colleagues in this important effort going forward.”

Hoyer also weighed in on the need for broader reform in a statement on Wednesday.

“I am proud to bring this legislation to the Floor, but I believe it does not go far enough,” he said. 

“This must be a first step toward the decriminalization and de-scheduling of marijuana, which has led to the prosecution and incarceration of far too many of our fellow Americans for possession.”

Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee applauded the Judiciary Committee for announcing that it will hold a markup of comprehensive cannabis legalization following this vote.

Justin Strekal, Political Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), noted that much remains to be done in Congress.

“Today’s vote is a significant first step, but it must not be the last. Much more action will still need to be taken by lawmakers,” Strekal told Marijuana Moment. “In the Senate, we demand that lawmakers in the Senate Banking Committee hold true to their commitment to move expeditiously in support of similar federal reforms. And in the House, we anticipate additional efforts to move forward and pass comprehensive reform legislation like The MORE Act — which is sponsored by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee — in order to ultimately comport federal law with the new political and cultural realities surrounding marijuana.”

Steve Hawkins, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said the “cannabis industry can no longer proceed without the same access to financial services that other legal companies are granted.”

“This decision is an indication that Congress is more willing than ever to support and take action on sensible cannabis policies,” Hawkins said. “The passage of the SAFE Banking Act improves the likelihood that other cannabis legislation will advance at the federal level. It is important to recognize that the SAFE Banking Act, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president, would strengthen efforts to increase the diversity of the cannabis industry.”

An advocate for the cannabis industry expressed his optimism for the banking reform bill to have benefits federally as well as locally.

“We applaud the House for approving this bipartisan solution to the cannabis banking problem, and we hope the Senate will move quickly to do the same,” Neal Levine, CEO of the Cannabis Trade Federation, said. “This vital legislation will have an immediate and positive impact, not only on the state-legal cannabis industry, but also on the many communities across the nation that have opted to embrace the regulation of cannabis.”

“Allowing lawful cannabis companies to access commercial banking services and end their reliance on cash will greatly improve public safety, increase transparency, and promote regulatory compliance,” he said.

Ahead of the vote, Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado said that “only Congress can provide the certainty financial institutions need to start banking cannabis-related legitimate businesses” and he’s “proud to support the SAFE Banking Act today to support hard-working Coloradans and their families.”

Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, said in a floor speech Sept. 25 that current law is “endangering communities as well as inhibiting small businesses from growing.”

“This industry is bringing revenue to our state, creating small businesses and helping those suffer with physical illness to relieve their ailments,” she said. “The SAFE Banking Act supports this growing Oklahoma industry, our banks and works to keep Oklahomans that work in and around this industry safe.”

“Access to safe banking is a big deal for the businesses and employees in New Mexico who work in the cannabis industry. It’s why I’m a co-sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act and will be voting for it today,” said Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico.

Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota said that conflict “between state and federal law means legal, legitimate marijuana businesses are forced to operate on a cash-only basis, creating serious risks for employees, business owners, and communities. The SAFE Banking Act will fix this problem and I’m proud to support it.”

Many have viewed the banking proposal as the first step on the pathway to ending federal cannabis prohibition, and it’s consistent with an agenda outlined by Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon in 2018 through which he suggested that committees advance incremental marijuana reforms under their respective jurisdictions, leading up to the eventual passage of a full legalization bill.

“We’re in this fix today because Congress has refused to provide the partnership and the leadership that the states demand,” Blumenauer said on the floor. ”The states aren’t waiting for us.”

“This is an important foundation, but it’s not the last step,” he said. We have important legislation that’s keyed up and ready to go. This approval today will provide momentum that we need for further reform that we all want and will make America safer and stronger.”

That said, while the vote signals that the House has a clear appetite for reform, it remains to be seen if the Republican-controlled Senate will approve the banking bill. Apparently anticipating that conservative lawmakers might not support the legislation as it passed out of committee, Perlmutter moved to add amendments in late September 2019 that were designed to broaden its GOP appeal.

Those provisions include clarifying that hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) businesses would also be protected and stipulating that federal regulators couldn’t target certain industries such as firearms dealers as a higher risk of fraud without valid reasoning.

That’s likely to endear Republican Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo of Idaho to the SAFE Banking Act. His panel held a hearing on the issue in July 2019, and the senator said he wants to have a vote on cannabis financial services legislation by the end of 2019, but also suggested at the time that it might not be a copy of Perlmutter’s bill.

The hemp-focused provisions are also intended to appeal to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who championed hemp’s federal legalization through the 2018 Farm Bill but has said he doesn’t support its “illicit cousin” marijuana.

The legislation might also face pushback from some Senate Democrats who share concerns expressed by advocacy groups that it’s important to move on comprehensive reform before tackling banking. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, and Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, along with independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, each recently indicated that their votes could possibly be contingent on advancing a justice-focused legalization bill.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York suggested in late September that she also might withhold her vote for the same reasons, but she ultimately supported its passage.

Tough work still lies ahead for lawmakers and advocates if they hope to enact the banking bill into law this Congress but, for the moment, there’s an air of celebration as the House made history by voting to pass a standalone cannabis reform bill for the first time.

“Having worked alongside congressional leaders to resolve the cannabis industry’s banking access issues for over six years, it’s incredibly gratifying to see this strong bipartisan showing of support in today’s House vote,” Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said. “Now, it’s time for the Senate to take swift action to approve the SAFE Banking Act so that this commonsense legislation can make its way to the President’s desk.”

“This bipartisan legislation is vital to protecting public safety, fostering transparency, and leveling the playing field for small businesses in the growing number of states with successful cannabis programs,” he said.

Feature Image: By a 321-103 vote, the House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act on Sept. 25, 2019. While the law had support in the Democratic Party-led House, the legislation moves to the Republican-led Senate. (Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)


This article was republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here

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Federal Marijuana Legalization, Expungement Bills Introduced in Congress

Bills that would legalize and tax marijuana at the national level, and provide opportunities for people convicted of federal pot crimes to clear their records, were introduced July 23, 2019, in Congress.

The companion legislation in the House and Senate were introduced by Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California and U.S. Rep. Jarrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee.

“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” said Harris, who is running for president. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives.”


Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime.
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The tax revenue from legalization would support job training, substance abuse treatment, literacy programs, and other services for individuals and communities hit hard by the war on drugs. Some of the revenue would also support programs designed to help “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” start their own marijuana businesses.

Passage Isn’t Assured

While support for marijuana legalization has gained traction in Congress, it’s still a longshot that a bill will pass this session. Still, Nadler’s introduction means the issue is very likely to get a hearing before his committee.

Supporters of legalization hailed Nadler’s involvement as a clear sign of momentum.

“Never in American history has the chairman of the Judiciary introduced a bill to end federal marijuana criminalization,” said Justin Strekal, political director of the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“At a time when the state you live in can determine whether cannabis can ruin your life or make you a millionaire, now more than ever we must end the national prohibition of marijuana,” he said.


At a time when the state you live in can determine whether cannabis can ruin your life or make you a millionaire, now more than ever we must end the national prohibition of marijuana.
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The tax revenue from bills proposed in the U.S. House and Senate to legalize marijuana federally would go in part to assist communities bearing the brunt of the war on drugs to get established in the marijuana industry. (Gina Coleman/Weedmaps News)

Eleven states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana since 2012 for so-called recreational use by people 21 and older. Illinois joined the list in June 2019 when Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation removing criminal penalties and allowing for expungement of past low-level marijuana convictions.

Legalization efforts in New York and New Jersey stalled, however, despite strong support in their legislatures. Proponents believe legalization is only a matter of time in those states. New Jersey will allow voters to determine whether to legalize marijuana in November 2020. Meanwhile, two-thirds of the states have some form of legal medical marijuana, which also is banned at the federal level.

Also, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing July 23 to discuss banking reform efforts for the cannabis industry. A bill in Congress dubbed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Act would allow financial institutions to work with cannabis-related businesses without the threat of federal punishment.


Featured Image: Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps News

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New Jersey Increases Medical Marijuana Supply Limits, Eligible Ailments

New Jersey expanded its medical marijuana program, including increasing the number of illnesses eligible for cannabis use, under a broad new law signed by the governor July 2, 2019.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act at a tavern in Freehold known for holding charitable fundraisers. He was with the parents and sister of the bill’s namesake.

The law is named after a 7-year-old who died in early 2018 after battling brain cancer. His parents, Mike and Janet Honig, have fought for easier access to cannabis to ease pain during illnesses.

Processing supervisor Paige Dellafave-DeRosa, sorts buds at Compassionate Care Foundation, a medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey on March 22, 2019. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill July 2, 2019, that raises the amount of marijuana dispensaries can distribute to patients, expands the qualifying medical conditions eligible for marijuana, and permits home deliveries. (Associated Press file photo/Julio Cortez)

The measure makes a number of changes. It increases the limit that can be dispensed from 2 ounces to 3 ounces, or from 57 to 85 grams, or 18 months after the law goes into effect, with a commission that the measure establishes setting the limit afterward.

It boosts a patient’s supply from 90 days to one year and allows for home delivery to patients.

The law lowers the threshold from debilitating illnesses to qualifying illnesses in order to make it easier for health-care practitioners to prescribe the drug. The illnesses include seizure disorder, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), glaucoma, cancer, as well as chronic pain and opioid use disorder. Other illnesses could be added as well.

It permits physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to authorize medical cannabis. Previously, only doctors could prescribe it.

The law also sets up three new categories of licenses, including cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries. Currently, only a single permit allows alternative treatment centers (ATCs) that cover all three categories.

Compassionate Care Foundation employee Heather Randazzo trims leaves at the Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, medical marijuana dispensary. The bill Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed July 2, 2019, also creates new licensing categories for cannabis producers and doubles the number of alternative treatment centers (ATCs), which encompass cultivation, manufacturing, and retail, from six to 12. (Associated Press file photo/Julio Cortez)

The law calls for expanding the number of cultivators to 28. Currently, the state is in the process of increasing the number of ATCs from six to 12.

The measure also sets up a five-member commission to regulate cannabis, taking oversight of the program from the Health Department, and phases out the 6.625% sales tax over three years.

Before Murphy signed the legislation, Mike Honig told an emotional story about Jake enjoying waffle fries and a milkshake while on medical cannabis. Mike Honig said the morphine and opioids doctors had described had terrible side effects for Jake, including taking away his appetite and making him high. Medical cannabis, instead, helped his son feel like himself.

“Medical cannabis allowed Jake’s personality to shine through cancer,” Mike Honig said.

Murphy and the Democratic-led Legislature turned their attention to expanding medical marijuana after lawmakers failed in March to pass legalized adult-use cannabis.

New Jersey’s program began roughly a decade ago under Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine. 

Republican Gov. Chris Christie, an ardent marijuana opponent, implemented the program slowly over his two terms.

The program currently has more than 49,000 patients, up from about 15,000 when Christie left office in early 2018.

Thirty-four states and Washington, D.C., have medical marijuana programs.


Feature image: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that expands the types of medical professional who can prescribe a now-larger amount of medical marijuana for a larger list of qualifying conditions.

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Illinois Senate Passes Recreational Marijuana Bill

State House will now vote on bill that would allow state residents 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis. The Illinois Senate approved a bill legalizing marijuana on Wednesday — a major step toward becoming the 11th U.S. state allowing recreational pot use. The measure, which passed in a 38-to-17 vote, now needs House approval by the Friday deadline before heading to the desk of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who helped…