Nevada Lawmakers Introduce Psilocybin, MDMA Research Bill

A pair of Democratic state senators in Nevada introduced a bill last week to allow for research into psilocybin, or psychedelic mushrooms, as well as MDMA, drawing inspiration from states like Oregon and Colorado where such substances have been legalized.

The proposal, per the measure’s official legislative summary, would establish “procedures for a research facility to obtain the approval of the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct certain studies involving certain controlled substances; decriminalizing certain conduct by persons who are 18 years of age or older involving psilocybin and MDMA if conducted in connection with and within the scope of an approved study; decriminalizing certain conduct by persons who are 18 years of age or older involving 4 ounces or less of fungi that produces psilocybin or psilocin; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

In more plain English, per the Las Vegas Sun, it would “decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms and MDMA for the purpose of studying their effects on an array of behavioral health disorders” and “allow the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services to begin accepting applications from research institutions to use the drugs to treat conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and addiction.”

The bill was introduced by Democratic state Sens. Rochelle Nguyen and Fabian Donate, both of whom represent Las Vegas. 

The bill also has two co-sponsors in the state House of Representatives: Max Carter and Elaine Marzola, also both Democrats. 

Las Vegas Weekly reported last fall that Nguyen had “filed a draft request for the 2023 Legislative Session for a bill that ‘revises provisions governing controlled substances’ and deals with matters of decriminalization, regulation and research on psychedelics,” and she said at the time “that it could potentially help with the growing mental health crisis.”

Psychedelics like mushrooms and MDMA have emerged as a new focal point for drug reform advocates, with scientists and medical professionals increasingly drawn to their potential therapeutic benefits. 

Las Vegas Weekly reported that Nguyen specifically highlighted the example of Oregon, which legalized psilocybin in 2020. 

Late last year, the Oregon Health Authority finalized rules for the new psilocybin law, with special consideration for access, affordability, and public safety.

“The final rules on duration of administrative sessions have been revised to create a new tier for subperceptual doses. These doses are defined as products containing less than 2.5 mg of psilocybin analyte. After a client’s initial session, the minimum duration for a subperceptual dose of 2.5 mg of psilocybin analyte or less is 30 minutes,” the Oregon Health Authority said at the time.

Last year, voters in Colorado approved a measure legalizing psilocybin. 

That might have sparked a trend in the mountain west region. In addition to last week’s proposal in Nevada, activists in Utah have likewise mounted an effort to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medical purposes. 

Luz Escamilla, the Democratic leader in the Utah state senate, introduced a bill last month that would allow individuals aged 21 and older with qualifying conditions such as depression or anxiety access to a psilocybin-assisted treatment directly from a psilocybin therapy provider. 

“Cannabis has given us a really good opportunity to understand that we can use other natural things … to help us. Now, we have to be careful, and I think we have really good safeguards,” Escamilla said.

“This is not a free-for-all,” Escamilla added. “This is not for everyone, but if it’s for someone that is desperate (for help) with their anxiety, depression and PTSD—that’s pushing many, unfortunately, to suicide, I want them to have access in a way that’s safe, that we can regulate.”

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Top New York Democrats Seek To Change Cannabis Tax

A pair of influential New York lawmakers are seeking to overhaul the state’s tax structure for adult-use cannabis sales, which they say is currently too complicated.

Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the majority leader of the state assembly, and state Sen. Jeremy Cooney, both Democrats, announced a proposal on Monday that would make major changes to how the Empire State taxes recreational cannabis sales. 

As reported by NY1, under the proposed legislation, “the current tax which levies based on potency would be replaced with an increase in the current excise tax.” The outlet noted that it was “not immediately clear what the fiscal implications of the change would be if granted final approval.”

“After careful consideration, it became clear that we need to simplify the tax structure of adult-use cannabis,” People-Stokes said, as quoted by NY1. “As the state continues to build out licensed cannabis operations, a simpler tax structure will be better for businesses and consumers. It is imperative to establish the licensed cannabis marketplace as the best option for consumers and stamp out the illicit cannabis operations popping up all over the state. This new tax approach will ultimately lead to thriving cannabis businesses at all levels of the supply chain. We will see higher tax revenues, which will result in more funds being reinvested in communities and invested in education and other important programs.”

Cooney echoed that, saying that if New York is to meet its “goal of building the most diverse and inclusive cannabis market in the nation, we must create an environment where small businesses can thrive.”

“Replacing the potency tax with an increase in the excise tax will allow licensed operators, including social equity operators, to sell competitively-priced products and be less susceptible to undercutting by illicit market prices without sacrificing revenues to be reinvested and used for valuable community programming,” Cooney said.

According to an official legislative summary of the bill, the measure increases “the tax from nine to sixteen percent of the amount charged for the sale or transfer of adult-use cannabis products to a retail customer; removes requirements that records reflect the total amount of THC content of the adult-use cannabis products sold to or produced by persons who sell such products; makes related provisions.”

Peoples-Stokes was heavily involved in the effort to legalize marijuana in New York, which officially ended the prohibition on recreational pot use in 2021.

Last year, after the state approved the first 52 cultivation licenses for the new recreational cannabis program, Peoples-Stokes said that the state was on its “way towards realizing our goal of creating a viable and inclusive path for minorities and small farmers to have the opportunity to create generational wealth for their families and communities.”

Her new tax proposal comes at a time when the state is looking to expand the nascent cannabis program.

Last week, regulators in New York announced they are doubling the number of cannabis retailer licenses, going from an original plan of 150 to 300.

“With this expansion, more entrepreneurs will be able to participate in the first wave of this industry, allowing them to capitalize on the growing demand for cannabis products,” Tremaine Wright, chair of the New York Cannabis Control Board, said at the time. “As more businesses enter this market, the innovation and competition will increase, leading to better quality experiences for consumers. The expansion of New York’s cannabis market will benefit everyone involved in this exciting industry.” 

According to NY1, the new tax measure from Peoples-Stokes and Cooney is “being proposed as New York lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul are negotiating a broader $227 billion budget plan that is expected to pass by April 1, the start of New York’s fiscal year.”

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Iowa Democrats Introduce Bill To Legalize Pot

Democratic lawmakers in Iowa on Tuesday introduced legislation that would legalize adult-use marijuana in the state and pave the way for a regulated cannabis market. 

“We’ve listened to Iowans and heard from people of all parties in all corners of the state who strongly believe it’s time to legalize marijuana. This common-sense bill we’re introducing today isn’t about politics, it’s about people,” said Jennifer Konfrst, the Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives, as quoted by local news station KCRG. “Our bill is an opportunity this session to put partisanship aside and work together to get something done that a majority of Iowans want.”

The bill, according to KCRG, would also expand Iowa’s existing medical cannabis program.

It would also “seek to decrease penalties for marijuana possession and expunge records for non-violent marijuana convictions,” according to the station. 

“It is across party lines. It is across the place where you live in the state: rural, urban and suburban. And it is time to do this,” Konfrst said, as quoted by The Gazette

There is polling data to back Konfrst’s assertion. 

A Des Moines Register poll in 2021 found that 54% of adults in Iowa supported legalizing cannabis for recreational use, while 39% said they were opposed. 

Another poll from the Des Moines Register released the year prior showed virtually the same numbers.

But the new bill still faces long odds in Iowa’s General Assembly, where both the state Senate and House are controlled by Republicans who have signaled they’re in no mood for legalization.

“I have been clear in the past that I do not believe marijuana legalization is the right path forward for Iowa,” said Republicans state House Steve Holt, as quoted by The Gazette. “This is not an issue that has received much support from the judiciary committee in my time as chair, and I do not expect this session to be different. Iowans have expressed a very different set of priorities to me and my Republican colleagues.”

The Gazette noted that Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, has also “opposed any efforts to legalize marijuana in Iowa.”

In 2019, Reynolds vetoed a measure that “sought [to] amend and expand the state’s low-THC/high CBD access program,” and “would have expanded the pool of health professionals eligible to recommend medical cannabis products and it would have opened the program up to those with severe or chronic pain. It also would have removed the three percent THC cap on medical cannabis products,” according to NORML.

“Ultimately, I believe Iowa must proceed cautiously to ensure that any expansion of our medical CBD program is thoughtful and deliberate,” Reynolds said in her veto statement at the time, as quoted by NORML.

The bill introduced this week by Democrats would allow “Iowans 21 and older to purchase weed for recreational use from a licensed store, and includes a 10% excise tax and 1% surcharge,” and would “would funnel money towards schools, mental health, and local public safety departments,” according to local news station KWWL.

“Imagine that kind of revenue to Iowa schools, mental health services and local public safety,” said Democratic state House Rep. Lindsay James, a co-sponsor of the proposal, as quoted by The Gazette.

James pointed to the success of Colorado’s recreational cannabis program.

“I will say this: in 2021 alone Colorado’s marijuana industry generated $423 million in tax revenue,” James said, as quoted by Radio Iowa.

According to Radio Iowa, the proposal would also clear the way for referendums to “determine if a marijuana business could be established in a county.”

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Delaware Lawmakers Renew Effort To Legalize Pot

Democratic lawmakers in Delaware last week performed what has become an annual legislative ritual by introducing measures that would legalize recreational marijuana.

And, as per recent tradition, their biggest obstacle remains the most senior member of their own state party. 

The Delaware News Journal reports that members of the state House of Representatives introduced a pair of bills on Friday “to legalize and create a recreational marijuana industry in Delaware, setting up a likely fight within the Democratic Party this legislative session.” 

The anticipated intra-party feud centers around Democratic Gov. John Carney, who has long been opposed to marijuana legalization and has stymied efforts by Democrats in the legislature to end the prohibition on pot. 

Last year, Carney vetoed a bill that would have legalized recreational pot in the state. 

Despite holding a majority in each chamber of the state General Assembly, Democratic lawmakers were unable to override Carney’s veto.

“[The legalization bill] would, among other things, remove all penalties for possession by a person 21 years of age or older of one ounce or less of marijuana and ensure that there are no criminal or civil penalties for transfers without remuneration of one ounce or less of marijuana between persons who are 21 years of age or older,” Carney said in a statement following his veto.

“I recognize the positive effect marijuana can have for people with certain health conditions, and for that reason, I continue to support the medical marijuana industry in Delaware,” he continued. “I supported decriminalization of marijuana because I agree that individuals should not be imprisoned solely for the possession and private use of a small amount of marijuana—and today, thanks to Delaware’s decriminalization law, they are not.”

“That said, I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people,” Carney added. “Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”

Democrats who are backing the two bills introduced in the state House last week are hopeful that Carney will eventually come around.

“My hope is that with continued open dialogue with the governor’s office, that will help alleviate a veto,” Democratic state House Rep. Ed Osienski, one of the sponsors of the legislation, told the Delaware News Journal. “I have more support from my members … for a veto override, but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.”

According to the outlet, a “Carney spokeswoman said Friday that the governor’s views on marijuana have not changed.”

According to the Delaware News Journal, the bill dedicated to removing all penalties for possession would “require a simple majority or 21 votes.”

The other bill “would create a framework to regulate the growth, sale and possession of weed,” essentially treating pot like alcohol, and would require “a three-fifths vote because it deals with revenue and taxation,” the Delaware News Journal reports.

The measures also include social equity provisions aimed at enhancing opportunities in the new marijuana industry to individuals from communities who have been historically targeted by anti-drug policies.

The News Journal has more details on the two proposals:

“Delawareans would buy marijuana from a licensed retail marijuana store. The bill would allow for up to 30 retail licenses to be distributed within 16 months of the legislation going into effect. The process will be competitive, with prospective retailers being rewarded for providing good salaries and benefits and hiring a diverse workforce.”

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Cory Booker Says Mitch McConnell Is Blocking Cannabis Bills

Democratic U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey says that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is opposed to marijuana policy reform and is blocking cannabis bills from being approved by his Republican colleagues. Booker said that McConnell’s opposition is preventing the passage of marijuana legislation in the upper chamber of Congress before the end of the year, after which control of the House of Representatives will switch to the GOP. 

Cannabis policy reform advocates had hoped to be able to pass meaningful reforms during the current lame-duck session of Congress before control of the House Representatives passes to the Republican Party. But Booker said that McConnell’s opposition to reforms including restorative justice for those harmed by decades of marijuana prohibition and a bill that would allow the legal cannabis industry access to banking services is influencing the stand taken by other GOP senators.

“They’re dead set on anything in marijuana,” Booker told NJ Advance Media. “That to me is the obstacle.”

The Republican party will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the new session of Congress next year after gaining a slight majority in last month’s midterm elections. Cannabis policy reform is not likely to be a legislative priority for GOP leaders, who have been less enthusiastic about marijuana legalization than their Democratic counterparts. If cannabis policy reform advocates do not pass a bill before the end of the year, the change in House leadership makes progress on the issue a long shot for at least the next two years.

Republican Representative Brian Mast of Florida, the co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said that cannabis policy reform is consistent with traditional Republican values, but McConnell has failed to take a leadership role on the issue.

“It’s not something that he’s historically been interested in moving or seems to be interested in moving right now,” said Mast. “He should. Just as much as Republicans have been out there arguing states’ rights over Roe v. Wade for the last several months, this is just as much of an issue.”

Hopes For Reform Hinge On SAFE Banking Act

Cannabis policy reform is currently largely focused on the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would ease access to traditional financial services for regulated marijuana businesses. Provisions of the bill have been passed by the House of Representatives seven times since 2019, but the measure has failed to gain the approval of the Senate. Most recently, language from the SAFE Banking Act was included in the House version of an annual defense spending bill, but the cannabis provisions were left out of the version released last week.

For the Republicans, bipartisan negotiations on cannabis policy reform are being led by Senator Steve Daines, with the goal of drafting a bill that includes restorative justice provisions championed by Booker while gaining the support of enough GOP senators to be approved in the Senate, where 60 votes from the nearly evenly split body of 100 lawmakers are needed to advance most legislation. 

“The senator is doing everything he can to get this bipartisan bill across the finish line this year for the sake of public safety,” said Rachel Dumke, a spokeswoman for Daines’ office.

But Booker thinks that opposition to marijuana policy reform from McConnell, who has been a leader in hemp legalization, is making his fellow Republicans hesitant to support the SAFE Banking Act or a comprehensive legalization bill.

“The caucus is clearly divided but the people in power in their caucus are clearly against doing anything on marijuana,” Booker said.

Cannabis advocate Justin Strekal, the founder of the marijuana policy reform political action committee BOWL PAC, said that he is hopeful that provisions of the SAFE Banking Act can be attached to an upcoming must-pass omnibus spending bill currently being negotiated in Congress. If the cannabis policy reform measures are part of a larger bill, which would fund the federal government through September of next year, Republican senators could vote for the bill without being forced to openly “defy Mitch McConnell in front of him,” Strekal said. 

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Texas Poll Shows Majority Support Legalizing Recreational Weed

A majority of registered voters in Texas are in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis, according to the results of a statewide poll released this week. The Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler Poll found that 55% of Texans said that they either support or strongly support legalizing adult-use cannabis. The percentage of voters who favor the legalization of medical marijuana was even stronger, with 72% saying that they support or strongly support the legalization of cannabis for medicinal use.

Overall, 34% of the poll’s respondents said they strongly support legalizing marijuana for adult use, while 21% said they support the move. Just over a third were against legalizing recreational weed, with 14% saying they are opposed and 21% reporting they are strongly opposed, while 9% said they neither support nor oppose legalization.

Support for legalizing adult-use cannabis varied by political affiliation. Among Democrats, 38% said they strongly support legalizing marijuana and 27% said they support the policy change. Independent voters’ support for recreational cannabis was also strong, with 42% saying they strongly support legalization and 21% saying they support it. Support for legalizing recreational pot was weakest among Republicans, with 26% and 17% saying they strongly support or support legalization, respectively.

Laurie Richardson, a Democrat in Frisco, Texas who responded to the poll, said that she has never smoked cannabis. But she added that she knows cannabis has medical benefits, and when it comes to personal use, “prohibition doesn’t work.”

“We tried to prohibit alcohol, and then you have all these people trying to create their own alcohol and people getting alcohol poisoning — I feel the same way with marijuana,” Richardson said. “I just don’t think you’re gonna be able to stop people from accessing it if they want it. I think it needs to be treated almost like alcohol.”

Nearly Half of Republicans Oppose Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization

Nearly half of Republicans surveyed in the poll said they oppose adult-use cannabis legalization. While 16% said they were opposed, 32% said they were strongly opposed.

“If they legalized it, you’re gonna have a dispensary pop up on every corner in our town, and that’s not really something that I look forward to seeing every day,” said Tyler, Texas resident Edwin Kirby, a Republican and one of the poll’s respondents. “With the drug problems we have now with young kids, that’s just gonna add fuel to the fire.”

Legalizing recreational cannabis is even less popular with Republican leaders in Texas. While Governor Greg Abbot has said he is in favor of reducing charges for pot possession to a misdemeanor instead of a felony, he is opposed to broader cannabis policy reforms. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has been an active prohibitionist by blocking cannabis reform legislation from being discussed in the Texas Senate. And at the Texas GOP convention in June, Republicans approved a party platform that opposes the legalization of recreational pot.

Even Stronger Support for Medical Cannabis in Texas

Support for legalizing medical marijuana was even stronger among Texas voters. State lawmakers passed strictly limited legislation to allow for the medicinal use of cannabis oil with less than 0.5% THC for the treatment of epilepsy in 2015, and some reforms have been made to broaden the program since. Earlier this year, the legislature approved an expansion to include patients with cancer and PTSD, but the medical cannabis program in Texas remains one of the nation’s strictest.

Overall, the poll found that 72% of respondents are in favor of legalizing cannabis for medicinal use, including 44% who said they strongly support the move and 28% who said they support it. Among Democrats, three-quarters are in favor of legalizing medical cannabis, with 49% saying they strongly support legalization and 26% saying they support it. Support was stronger among independents, with 51% saying they strongly support medicinal legalization and 26% saying they support the change. Two-thirds of Republicans favor legalizing medical pot, with 35% saying they strongly support the move and 32% saying they support it.

“I’ve got a son that was in the Marine Corps, and he uses it for medicinal purposes,” said Paula Miller, a Republican in Diboll, Texas who responded to the poll. “If anything, they need to make alcohol illegal,” she added after noting that a family member died in a traffic collision caused by a drunk driver.

The new poll, which was released on Monday, showed a dip in support for weed legalization compared to earlier this year. The Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler Poll released in May showed that 83% supported legalizing medical marijuana and 60% supported legalizing cannabis for use by adults.

The new Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler Poll was conducted from August 1 through August 7, interviewing a representative sample of 1,358 registered voters via telephone on a variety of subjects of interest to Texans. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

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Bill Maher Thinks Republicans Will ‘Steal’ Pot Legalization

Time is ticking, and political commentators are starting to wonder about the president’s inaction on cannabis reform—an issue with high support among Democrats. And since Democrats are currently in control of the White House and Congress, it’s on them to push a bill to the finish line.

During a June 3 “Overtime” segment on YouTube, the Real Time with Bill Maher host read an audience-submitted  question to his guest, former Attorney General Eric Holder, about why President Joe Biden hasn’t pushed for the federal legalization of pot. After all, decriminalization of cannabis at the federal level was one of President Biden’s promises on the election trail.

Maher—who denies alignment with any party—said that dealing with the issue would be “dealing with reality,” and it would also bring political benefit. But if Democrats continue to fail to legalize cannabis at the federal level, Maher thinks Republicans will take up the slack.

“Republicans are gonna steal the issue. I think eventually,” Maher told Holder. “I mean, someone like John Boehner works for a marijuana company now. I mean, it could be one of those freedom issues. And, of course, Republicans smoke lots of pot too.”

“Not enough,” Holder said to instant laughter in the audience. “They need to mellow out just a little more.”

Some Republicans have used cannabis as a freedom issue. Politico reported on leaders who are joining the fold, viewing cannabis “through the prism of states’ rights, personal freedom, job creation and tax revenue.”

In a survey, conducted by Pew Research Center from April 5-11, 2021, the majority—72%—of Democrats said cannabis should be legal for medical and recreational purposes versus 47% of Republicans. Only among “conservative” Republicans, the majority of people surveyed said they aren’t in favor of legalizing cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. While it’s less popular among Republicans, there are some leaders launching their own bills such as Congresswoman Nancy Mace, with her States Reform Act.

Maher pointed out the recent push for social equity measures transforming the industry slowly, but it is an issue Republicans aren’t onboard with. It’s the social equity provisions that are one of the few dividing points when it comes to cannabis bills. On the other hand, leaders like Senator Cory Booker believe social equity provisions are critical for any cannabis reform bill.

“Now I understand the impetus to want to, like, for example, if you’re gonna have new businesses that are legal in the marijuana field, yeah, they probably should go to the people who suffered the most during the drug war,” Maher said. “Republicans, of course, are saying this is a deal-breaker.”

Maher acknowledged that leaders are not aligning with certain details on the issue, but didn’t exactly provide a full solution.

“What do you want, half a loaf? If they said okay, no equity, is it better to have the law passed or changed or is it better to hold out for equity?” Maher asked.

“It’s better to have the law changed,” Holder responded. “And as I said, deal with the societal reality that we have and, you know, and try to make it as equitable as you possibly can, but I wouldn’t want to stop the movement that I think makes sense for the sake of equity.”

Maher serves on the advisory board with NORML and is a longtime known advocate for cannabis, and is known for slamming religion and political correctness in general. Maher was in the same room as High Times this past May, when the political talk show host made an appearance at Woody Harrelson’s grand opening of The Woods in West Hollywood.

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Illinois Proposal to Bar Employers from Firing Workers Over Pot Advances

The legislation passed in the Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday and arrived in the state Senate the following day. Democrats control both chambers of the general assembly.

Under the proposal, “an employer may not refuse to hire an individual or discipline an employee because results of an individual’s drug test indicate the presence of THC on the part of that individual,” nor may the employer fire or impose a discipline against an employee for such conduct. 

It does, however, permit an employer “to enforce a pre-employment drug testing policy, zero-tolerance drug testing policy, random drug testing policy, or a drug-free workplace policy or disciplining an employee for violating such policy, but provides than an employer may not take adverse action against an employee solely because of a positive drug test for cannabis unless the test result exceeds limits set forth in certain DUI provisions of the Illinois Vehicle Code.”

Moreover, the bill establishes “conditions under which an employer may discipline an employee for impairment,” and provides “that there is not a cause of action for any person against an employer for disciplining or terminating the employment of an individual when enforcing a compliant policy.”

According to local television station WGEM, the bill “does not exclude teachers, although schools have to follow zero-tolerance policies due to federal agreements.”

If the bill were to become law, it would serve as an important addendum to the state’s recreational cannabis program. The state legalized marijuana for adults aged 21 and older in 2019, when Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law. 

In addition to establishing a regulated cannabis market, the law also sought to redress previous convictions that occurred during the era of prohibition. Pritzker has pardoned thousands of low-level cannabis convictions.

“We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” Pritzker said in 2020. “We are restoring rights to tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core.”

Last year, the state raked in $1,379,088,278.61 in recreational cannabis sales, which was more than double what the program generated in its inaugural year of 2020.

But in spite of that, some employees in Illinois continue to face the risk of being sacked over a legal activity. 

“If we’re going to legalize the substance, you should talk about individual liberties and what people want to do on their weekends. We should allow people to make good choices and not be discriminated against in the workplace because of those choices as long as it’s not affecting the workplace,” said Democratic State House Rep. Bob Morgan, one of the sponsors of the bill, as quoted by WGEM.

The station reported that Morgan argues “people with trace amounts of cannabis in their system should not be at risk of losing their job unless they fall into one of those specific categories,” and that Illinois “should treat cannabis the same as it treats alcohol and other legal substances.”

But some Republican lawmakers in Illinois objected to the proposal.

“You may not be able to tell if someone is impaired or not until that accident happens or there’s a problem at the workplace,” said GOP state House Rep. Dan Ugaste, as quoted by WGEM. “I think we’re overstepping a little too quickly just to make certain someone can enjoy themselves on the weekend.”

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Democrats Call on Congress to Tackle Cannabis Reform in 2022

Congressional Democrats are targeting next year for a major overhaul of the nation’s cannabis laws.

In a memo sent last week, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, urged colleagues to build on the successes of 2021 hailed as a “a transformative year for cannabis reform, in which five new states—New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, Connecticut—legalized adult-use cannabis, and Alabama became the 37th state to legalize medical cannabis.”

“A wealth of policy ideas targeted at ending cannabis prohibition on the federal level have also been introduced on Capitol Hill,” they wrote in the memo, sent on Thursday of last week. “This growing bipartisan momentum for cannabis reform shows Congress is primed for progress in 2022, and we are closer than ever to bringing our cannabis policies and laws in line with the American people.”

Blumenauer and Lee outlined a series of policy priorities for the party to tackle in 2022, including a bill to legalize pot on the federal level. 

The bill, known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, is one of several marijuana proposals offered up by Democrats that has yet to gain passage on Capitol Hill.

Described by Blumenauer and Lee as “the most comprehensive cannabis reform bill to be developed and considered by Congress to date,” the MORE Act would “decriminalize and deschedule cannabis, to provide for reinvestment in certain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, to provide for expungement of certain cannabis offenses and for other purposes.”

The bill, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), was most recently reported out of the Judiciary Committee in September, and the memo said that Blumenauer and Lee “are vigorously working to see that it gets a vote in the House soon.”

Blumenauer and Lee also highlighted the SAFE Banking Act, which would eliminate legal barriers that prevent the cannabis industry from accessing certain financial services.

The bill has passed the House of Representatives several times, most recently in April, and the memo from Blumenauer and Lee described it as a way to address “the pressing public safety need caused as result of cannabis businesses being forced to operate in all cash, would allow state and tribal legal cannabis-related businesses to access financial services.”

They noted that “polls show bipartisan public support for rationalizing drug policy is at an all-time high, with Gallup now reporting 68 percent of Americans, and a majority of Republicans, support legalizing marijuana.”

Democrats will be under considerable pressure to get something meaningful done on cannabis reform next year, with the 2022 midterms on the horizon and Republicans in prime position to win back the majority.

The memo from Blumenauer and Lee made it clear that the clock is ticking for a party that appeared eager to embrace legalization after the 2020 election.

As we enter another election year, it’s more important than ever to seize the moment and heed the calls of the American public,” the memo said. “We are poised to take bold action to end the failed War on Drugs once and for all.”

On the other side of the capitol, Senate Democrats appear ready, as well. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an interview earlier this year the party “will move forward” on legalization, pointing to the wave of pot-related reforms implemented at the state level.

“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, “Well what changed?” Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states—Oregon and Colorado—wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer said. 

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Indiana Democrats Announce Full Support of Recreational Cannabis

Highlighting robust public support and the potential for an economic boon to the state, Democrats in Indiana said Monday that they will pursue marijuana legalization in the forthcoming legislative session.

The Indiana Democratic Party used the announcement to broadcast “its full support for the effort to legalize recreational cannabis across the state,” and to put pressure on Hoosier State Republicans, namely Governor Eric Holcomb, to get on board with the reform effort.

The Democrats also pointed to a recent survey showing that eight out of 10 Indiana adults back marijuana legalization.

“Legalizing marijuana in some form is supported by about 80-percent of Hoosiers and would provide the opportunity to create an additional revenue stream for the state, create good-paying jobs, develop a long-term cash crop for Indiana’s ag and business communities, provide medicinal opportunities for people like the state’s veterans and seniors, and could start the process of expunging records for simple possession across the state,” the Indiana Democratic Party said in the release. 

Monday’s announcement from the Democrats came on the eve of Organization Day, the ceremonial launch of the legislative calendar when lawmakers are sworn in and make preparations with their colleagues for the upcoming session, which will begin in January. 

Mike Schmuhl, Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, said in the announcement that Indiana constituents have looked to their neighbors to recognize the merits of legalization, with fellow midwestern states Illinois and Michigan both ending prohibition on pot inside their respective borders.

Democrats said that Indiana residents are currently contributing “millions of dollars to Michigan and Illinois economies—where cannabis is legalized.” Legalizing marijuana in Indiana, the Democrats said, would ensure that the state economy “would have a guaranteed cash crop in the long-term for the state’s businesses and farming communities, creating a revenue stream for the General Assembly to use in future sessions.”

“Hoosiers have seen the impact that recreational and medicinal cannabis use has made on the states around us, and not only are they contributing to neighboring states’ economies, Indiana is now on the verge of losing out altogether. The Republican supermajority at the statehouse is losing its economic common sense if they do not join Democrats this session in making this opportunity a winner for the Hoosier State,” Schmuhl said.

“Marijuana is a really popular issue, and a large majority of Hoosiers want to see this get done. Democrats are ready to take the lead on this effort because it’s a win-win for Indiana, and it’ll fulfill the Party’s consistent promise of creating a better future for Hoosier families. It’s time to legalize recreational cannabis across Indiana.”

Legalization would mark a massive change for law enforcement in Indiana, where, under current law, “possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year of incarceration and a fine of up to $5,000,” according to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

MPP said that Indiana is “now one of only 14 states with no effective medical cannabis law, and one of only 19 that still imposes jail time for simple possession of cannabis.”

The state Democratic Party said that, along with broad public approval, there is also some bipartisan support for legalization, with some GOP lawmakers eager to take the step.

But Holcomb, currently serving his second term as governor, has voiced opposition to legalization in the past. In 2019, Holcomb acknowledged that he smoked weed when he was in college, but that he could not get behind legalization until the federal government acted first.

“If the law changed, we would look at all the positive or adverse impacts it would have,” the governor said at the time. “I’m not convinced other states have made a wise decision.”

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