A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has reintroduced legislation to give legal cannabis companies improved access to banking services routinely used by other businesses across the nation. The bill, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2023, was refiled in the Senate late last month by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana. Republican Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio and Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer filed a companion bill in the House of Representatives, where previous versions of the legislation have passed seven times.
Because of the continued illegality of marijuana at the federal level, cannabis companies operating legally under state or tribal law often have difficulties obtaining traditional banking services such as payroll accounts and credit card transaction processing. Banks and credit unions that choose to do business with cannabis companies must follow strict regulations and take the risk of facing prosecution under drug and money laundering laws for noncompliance. As a result, the regulated cannabis economy is conducted largely in cash, leaving businesses, employees and customers vulnerable to crimes including armed robberies. The sponsors of the legislation also note that businesses operating in an all-cash economy pose a greater risk of tax evasion.
“This legislation will save lives and livelihoods. It’s past time that Congress addresses the irrational, unfair and unsafe prohibition of basic banking services to state-legal cannabis businesses,” Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said in a statement on April 26. “The House has passed the SAFE Banking Act on a bipartisan basis seven times. I’m delighted that the Senate is joining us in making it a priority.”
Bill Protects Banks That Serve the Cannabis Industry
If passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden, the SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal banking regulators from prohibiting or restricting a bank from providing services to a regulated cannabis business operating legally under state law. The same protections would also apply to banks that serve other businesses associated with the regulated cannabis industry, such as attorneys and the owners of commercial rental properties. Federal banking regulators would also be barred from terminating or limiting a bank’s federal deposit insurance primarily because the bank is providing services to a state-sanctioned cannabis business or associated business.
“As it stands, the federal government has denied state-legal cannabis companies the same access to financial services as every other legal business across the Buckeye State and our country,” Joyce said, who also serves as co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “Not only does this distort the market in a growing industry, but it also forces businesses to operate in all cash, making them and their employees sitting ducks for violent robberies. The bipartisan SAFE Banking Act will allow cannabis businesses to operate legally without fear of punishment by federal regulators, making our communities safer.”
Additionally, the SAFE Banking Act prevents regulators from taking any action against a loan to the owner or operator of a cannabis business and from recommending or providing incentives to banks to halt or downgrade services to legal cannabis businesses. The legislation also creates a safe harbor from criminal prosecution, liability and asset forfeiture for banks and their officers and employees who provide financial services to legitimate, state-sanctioned cannabis businesses, and the right not to provide such services would be maintained. The latest version of the bill, which has been revised slightly compared to previous iterations, also extends the safe harbor protections to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) that make commercial loans to minority-owned businesses, according to a report.
Legislation Approved Seven Times in the House
Previous versions of the SAFE Banking Act have been approved by the House of Representatives seven times, but the Senate has failed to bring the bill up for a vote under both Republican and Democratic leadership. Last year, Democratic leaders offered an enhanced version of the legislation known as SAFE Banking Plus that also contained provisions to expunge past federal convictions for marijuana-related offenses, but that bill also failed to advance. Democratic leaders hope the version introduced last month without the expungement provisions will gain a hearing in the Senate Banking Committee before advancing to the floor.
“Forcing legal businesses to operate in all-cash is dangerous for our communities; it’s an open invitation to robbery, money laundering, and organized crime—and it’s way past time to fix it,” said Merkley. “For the first time, we have a path for SAFE Banking to move through the Senate Banking Committee and get a vote on the floor of the Senate. Let’s make 2023 the year that we get this bill signed into law so we can ensure that all legal cannabis businesses have access to the financial services they need to help keep their employees, their businesses, and their communities safe.”
The SAFE Banking Act of 2023 has broad support in both chambers of Congress. In addition to the primary sponsors, the legislation has the support of 38 additional co-sponsors in the Senate, including five Republicans. In the House, the bill has eight additional co-sponsors, evenly split among Democrats and Republicans. The bill has been referred to the Senate Banking Committee for consideration, as well as three committees in the House.
In a paradox, New York authorities are finally unleashing the long-anticipated crackdown on the state’s legion and proliferating unlicensed cannabis retailers—while the licensing program continues to be slowed by obstacles, including legal challenges.
The free-for-all in the cannabis market that has ensued since legalization in New York State two years ago has been dubbed the “Wild East.” But with authorities long threatening a crackdown, there has been a sense of waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. Now, that boot is starting to come down.
The official statement on the April 27 deal included this bullet point: “Expanding the enforcement powers of the Office of Cannabis Management and Department of Taxation and Finance to further grow the legal marketplace for cannabis, including levying fines on illegal retail operations and closing those shops down.” Hochul’s plan jacks up the fines for retail outlet violations—$10,000 per day for illegal sales, and up to $200,000 if unlicensed cannabis is found in a store’s inventory. A crackdown had already been underway at the local level—especially in New York City, where upwards of 1,400 unlicensed outlets are said to be operating.
At a press conference back on December 15, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the creation of a Cannabis NYC Interagency Enforcement Taskforce—bringing together the New York City Sheriff’s Office, the NY Police Department and the state Office of Cannabis Management. At a January 18 City Council hearing on the matter, NYC Sheriff Anthony Miranda testified that “teams will be dispatched to all five boroughs on different days of the week. We’re conducting long-term and short-term investigations.” In February, Adams’ administration announced a related effort in partnership with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. In a first action, Bragg sent letters to more than 400 landlords warning them to evict unlicensed cannabis outlets before marshals were sent in to do so.
Raids Across Five Boroughs
And there have indeed been results on the ground. The most recent shortly followed the unofficial international day of cannabis celebration, April 20—which saw joyous crowds happily and openly toking in the iconic Greenwich Village park, Washington Square, a de facto HQ for marijuana lovers. Four days later, the “Happy 420” balloons were still on display in the front window of the Myrtle Smoke Shop in Ridgewood, Queens, as investigators from the Task Force and cops from the 104th Precinct swooped in for a raid. Two store clerks were arrested, and the outlet was slapped with 63 violations, totaling some $45,000 in fines.
March 28 saw a major raid on Staten Island, with authorities reporting the seizure of nearly 100 pounds of cannabis, as well as 69 “magic mushroom candy bars.” Staten Island’s conservative District Attorney Michael E. McMahon apparently acted with local cops independent of the Task Force and took the opportunity to opine in a statement: “No one is naïve enough to believe that these establishments are financially thriving exclusively from snacks and soda alone. Yet, with NYPD manpower at historic lows not seen in a generation and a toothless Office of Cannabis Management designed by idealistic and unrealistic legislators, a black market has been allowed to balloon across the five boroughs posing a threat not just to our children but to legitimate customers as well.” He added on Twitter, with photos of the haul: “Unlicensed shops selling illegal drugs & THC products are a stain on our communities & undercut law abiding businesses.”
On January 5, the Task Force raided several smoke shops on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, seizing more than $200,000 worth of “unregulated THC vapes, edibles, untaxed cigarettes and flavored vapes.” Some $16,000 in fines were issued to the offending outlets. City Council member (and former Manhattan borough president) Gale Brewer boasted that she “rode along” for the raids.
A December 14 raid on a mobile dispensary dubbed Beach Boyz Budz in the Queens neighborhood of Rockaway Beach similarly became a politician platform. Councilmember Joann Ariola was on hand as the two men operating the van were arrested—charged with criminal sale of cannabis in the second and third degrees, and criminal possession in the third degree. “Crime doesn’t pay in District 32,” said Ariola. “The owners of this unlicensed operation were thumbing their nose at local law enforcement for months as they peddled their goods.” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz added: “Stores, trucks and other outlets currently selling recreational marijuana are doing so illegally.”
This was just as the Task Force was beginning its work, and over the past two weeks, the Sheriff’s Office had announced more than 600 pounds of cannabis confiscated in raids on unlicensed outlets across the city’s five boroughs. Gov. Hochul has also unveiled a “Why Buy Legal New York” media campaign to encourage New Yorkers to only purchase from licensed dispensaries—emphasizing “the potential health risks associated with purchasing cannabis products from unlicensed businesses and why regulated cannabis products are safer.”
Is The Crackdown Itself Illegal?
However, there was a little glitch to the well-publicized crackdown, which unfortunately won little media coverage. The New York City Deputy Sheriff’s Benevolent Association on February 2 wrote a letter to Corporation Counsel, the mayor’s legal office, demanding clarity on how the Sheriff’s Office has authority to carry out cannabis raids. “We’ve been unable to find any legislation related to the inspection of unlicensed retail locations, or any cannabis legislation mentioning the Sheriff as an enforcement officer,” the letter stated.
The Sheriff’s Office, an arm of the city’s Department of Finance, is officially authorized to inspect stores that sell cigarettes or tobacco, to ensure compliance with tax and licensing requirements. The city regulations establishing its powers haven’t been updated to include cannabis.
There may be a much more fundamental legal catch at work, however. While official press releases treat “unlicensed” and “illegal” as basically synonymous, many of the unlicensed dispensaries maintain that they’re actually operating within the law—parsing the meaning of the word “sale.” If no profit is made on the cannabis transfer, and the real money is made on club membership fees, it’s not a “sale” under New York state law. Outlets operating on this model haven’t been touched by the crackdown. The most prominent, Empire Cannabis Clubs, still operates three locations around the city—openly. A bill by Liz Kreuger, the same Manhattan state senator who shepherded through legalization in 2021, would close this “loophole” (a word rejected by the cannabis clubs). But it hasn’t passed yet. Empire Cannabis also pledges that all its products are lab-tested, and that standards are being developed for the unlicensed sector’s self-regulation.
Not Just Cops, But Also Robbers
In addition to the pressure from law enforcement, New York’s unlicensed cannabis operators face another challenge—they’re apparently being targeted by the city’s increasingly audacious criminal element.
On January 18, a worker was shot in the leg in an attempted robbery of the Smoke City store on Ninth Ave. in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. Media reports were unclear on whether the establishment was selling cannabis or just pipes, papers and such. But it was only the most recent of three such incidents that month. On January 4, an employee was shot in the lower back and gravely injured during an attempted robbery of Exotic Convenience smoke shop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The shop was apparently selling bud and edibles as well as paraphernalia and is located on Clinton Street, a neighborhood hub for unlicensed cannabis sales. And on January 11, the Rainbow Smoke Shop on Sixth Ave in Greenwich Village was the scene of stick-up by two robbers, one brandishing a handgun. Nobody was hurt, but the duo got away with an estimated $1,800 in cannabis candy, and some $600 in cash.
Is Gov. Hochul Keeping Her Equity Pledge?
Meanwhile, the unfolding of the still very limited licensed market has also met with various controversies that are slowing things down. On one hand, advocates are accusing Gov. Hochul of betraying her promises on social equity in the licensed market. A little more than a year ago, Hochul announced that those who had been impacted by a past cannabis-related criminal conviction in New York State would be the first to get retail licenses. Yet the state’s first licensed dispensary which opened December 29, at a primo location on Broadway and Astor Place in the East Village, is run by a nonprofit organization, Housing Works. It does indeed do good work, advocating for housing and healthcare for people living with HIV-AIDS. However, 28 holders of licenses slated for entrepreneurs with past pot convictions were still stuck in what The City news site called a “bureaucratic holding pattern.” Specifically, the Office of Cannabis Management was tweaking its regulations on what kind of storefronts they could lease—and applicants complained about lack of communication and clarity.
At the same time, plans to open a first dispensary in Harlem are being held up by a legal challenge brought by a neighborhood business alliance. The 125th Street Business District Management Association brought suit in state court on April 26, seeking to block the opening of an outlet on West 125th Street, across from the historic Apollo Theatre—Harlem’s cultural heart. The challenge argues that the process regulators use to choose dispensary locations is improperly opaque.
“This is a naked, intentional and bold attempt to avoid community opposition,” the lawsuit charges. It argues that the 125th Street location is “irredeemable,” saying it would add to the crime, congestion and “open drug use” already upsetting merchants in the area.
Brooklyn Back in The Game—For Now
In some good news for would-be entrepreneurs, the federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan on March 28 narrowed a temporary restraining order that had blocked licensed dispensaries from certain designated areas of New York state. The appeals court ruling allows dispensaries to finally open in Brooklyn, as well as the Mid-Hudson region, Central New York and Western New York (including the state’s second city, Buffalo). The Finger Lakes region remains barred, for the moment. This means 108 dispensary licenses in those administrative regions no longer under the injunction may finally start to move ahead. But 18 licenses in the Finger Lakes remain in legal limbo.
The case was brought by a would-be entrepreneur with a past cannabis conviction in Michigan, who argued that New York’s equity measures favoring those only with in-state convictions violate the US Constitution’s interstate commerce clause. However, many smelled a ploy by out-of-state money to break into the Empire State’s lucrative market—even if it means undermining the state’s equity program.
And while this case remains pending, there are other legal challenges in the works. A group called the Coalition for Regulated & Safe Access to Cannabis brought suit in state court on March 16 against the Office of Cannabis Management. The coalition represents large outfits already licensed in New York under the medical marijuana program and now seeking to enter the adult-use market. The complaint charges that the equity program is unconstitutional and contributes to “neglect of the medical program.” The coalition is calling on the state to immediately open licenses to the public at large—with no priority for those impacted by past prohibition—and to crack down on unlicensed operators.
As of now, there are only nine licensed dispensaries operating statewide—five in New York City (four in Manhattan and one in Queens), and one each in Albany, Schenectady, Binghamton and Ithaca. So, crackdown notwithstanding, the licensed sector still has a very long way to go to catch up with the unlicensed guerilla capitalists—and the obstacles still abound.
Lawmakers in Congress last week reintroduced bipartisan legislation that would allow military veterans to use medical marijuana and require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to study the medical potential of cannabis. The legislation, known as the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, was introduced in the Senate last week by Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii and in the House by California Democratic Representative Barbara Lee with co-sponsorship from Republican Representative Dave Joyce of Ohio, Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and nearly a dozen additional lawmakers. Schatz’s Senate version is co-sponsored by seven Democratic senators and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.
“In 41 states and territories and Washington, DC, doctors and their patients can use medical marijuana to manage pain or treat a wide range of diseases and disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder—unless those doctors work for the VA and their patients are veterans,” Schatz said in a press release. “Our bill will protect veteran patients in these jurisdictions, give VA doctors the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans and shed light on how medical marijuana can help address the nation’s opioid epidemic.”
VA Doctors Can’t Formally Recommend Medical Cannabis
Currently, VA doctors are permitted to discuss the medical benefits of cannabis with their patients, but they aren’t allowed to recommend the treatment or complete the paperwork necessary to authorize its use, even in states that have legalized medical marijuana. As a result, veterans who wish to use cannabis medicinally are required to obtain a recommendation at their own expense, source their medicine from the illicit market or buy legal recreational cannabis, often at significantly higher tax rates than the medical market.
“Veterans in Oregon and nationwide are unfairly and unacceptably stuck in a legal gray zone when discussing medical cannabis with their doctor,” Wyden said in a statement. “Veterans deserve the opportunity to explore various treatments with their doctor without fear of prosecution or employment ramifications. The Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would protect veterans who use medical cannabis while also directing the VA to research how medical cannabis could help veterans manage their health and well-being. I’ll fight tooth and nail to get this bill over the finish line and help get veterans the care they deserve and earned with their service.”
The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act (H.R. 2682) creates a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for vets who use medical marijuana and allows VA doctors to discuss and potentially recommend cannabis as a treatment for their ailments. The bill would also authorize the VA to study the potential of cannabis to treat chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Previous versions of the bill were introduced during the last three Congresses, but lawmakers failed to approve the measures.
Supporters of the legislation note that veterans are twice as likely to die from an opioid overdose compared to non-veterans. Joyce said that “there’s a growing body of evidence about the beneficial uses of medical cannabis as treatment for PTSD and chronic pain, two terrible conditions that plague many of our veterans.”
“If a state has made it legal, like Ohio has, the federal government shouldn’t be preventing a VA doctor from recommending medical cannabis if they believe that treatment is right for their patient,” Joyce added. “As the son of a World War II veteran who was wounded on the battlefield, I’ve seen firsthand the many challenges our nation’s heroes face when they return home. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important bill and will continue to do everything in my power to ensure we are providing our veterans with the care they need to overcome the wounds of war.”
Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act Supported By Veterans Groups
The legislation drew support and quick praise from veterans groups and organizations working to reform the nation’s cannabis policy, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), AMVETS, VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Cannabis Project, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the National Cannabis Roundtable, US Pain Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, Veteran’s Initiative 22, National Cannabis Industry Association, Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation, Americans for Safe Access and the Hawaiʻi Cannabis Industry Association.
“We strongly support the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act and are thrilled to see it reintroduced in the current Congress by Senator Schatz today. To have such strong bipartisan support from policymakers in both the Senate and House, including from Congressman Joyce and Congresswoman Lee, is encouraging to veterans and advocates who far too often see their issues get lost in the federal shuffle,” the Veterans Cannabis Project wrote in an April 19 statement. “The reforms proposed by this legislation couldn’t be more straightforward or necessary. Almost everywhere in the country doctors and patients are permitted to prescribe and consider medical marijuana for treatment. Veterans who seek medical care from the VA are unfairly excluded from this process. As a nonprofit organization with thousands of veteran supporters, we strongly believe that vets should be able to safely explore medical cannabis with their VA doctors.”
Government leadership in the Czech Republic has approved a new national drugs strategy that, if approved by the nation’s parliament and signed into law by its president, would allow for adult-use cannabis commerce to some degree. The plan, which was first announced by the Prime Minister of Czechia, Petr Fiala, would reportedly serve as the foundation for the nation’s approach to drug policy through the end of 2025.
Currently, cannabis that contains less than 1% THC (“cannabis light”) is permitted in the Czech Republic, and possession of up to ten grams of higher-THC cannabis and the cultivation of up to five plants is decriminalized. It’s estimated that roughly 20,000 Czechs are fined under the nation’s cannabis decriminalization law every year. However, if the new proposal becomes law, such activity will be completely legal rather than result in a fine.
National Anti-Drug Coordinator Promotes Legalization
Typically, when someone has a title like “national anti-drug coordinator” they are more likely to be leading the charge against adult-use cannabis legalization, and not leading the charge in support of legalization. However, that’s exactly the case in the Czech Republic where Jindřich Vobořil, that nation’s anti-drug coordinator, is pushing hard for legalization under the premise that it’s better for public health outcomes compared to prohibition.
“At the moment, there’s a political consensus for me to create this proposal for the regulation of cannabis, a substance which is illegal. We want to regulate it with the help of the market, and we believe that this regulation will be more effective than the current ban.” Vobořil said at a press briefing back in October 2022.
Later in the fall of 2022, after Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach made a presentation to his country’s federal cabinet in which he promoted cannabis legalization as a better alternative to prohibition, Jindřich Vobořil weighed in via social media and indicated that the Czech Republic would legalize in tandem with Germany.
“Germany and the Czech Republic go to a regulated market at the same time,” Jindřich Vobořil stated on his Facebook page last fall.
“Today, Germany announced through the mouth of its Minister of Health that it is launching the legislative process. It won’t be quite the free market, as some would expect. For example, colleagues from Germany talk about the allowed amount, they do not have cannabis clubs that we are supposed to. I’m pretty sure I want to hold on to cannabis clubs until my last breath. I find this model very useful, at least for the first years.” Vobořil went on to write in his post.
A Continental Movement
Lauterbach and Vobořil are both making a similar point in support of adult-use cannabis legalization, basing their arguments on public health outcomes under prohibition versus regulation. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, roughly 30% of Czech adults have tried cannabis at least once in their lifetime, and between 8% and 9% report using it regularly.
What’s being proposed in the Czech Republic doesn’t include many details as of now. As the nation’s top drug policy leader indicated last fall, the country’s legalization model will likely be built around cannabis clubs. It’s a model that was already approved in Malta in late 2021 and is likely to be implemented in Germany to some degree soon. Ultimately, per the recently announced plan by Czechia’s government, a group of experts will craft something in the coming weeks/months, with the goal of providing it to lawmakers for consideration and approval.
In the meantime, people are going to consume cannabis whether it’s legal to purchase it in Czechia or not, and under a cannabis prohibition model, 0% of cannabis sales involve regulated products. How many of the products are tainted with pesticides, fungicides, heavy metals and other harmful substances is anyone’s guess considering products aren’t tested and production facilities aren’t inspected under prohibition.
It’s undeniably better from an overall public health outcome perspective to have consumers purchasing tested cannabis products from regulated outlets rather than forcing them to unregulated sources. Obviously, there is a lot that goes into standing up and maintaining a regulatory system for an industry as popular as the cannabis industry. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same is true for adult-use cannabis regulation in the Czech Republic. Fortunately, the European country is trending in the right direction and meaningful steps are being taken by the nation’s government to make legalization a reality.
It wasn’t supposed to happen in Vermont—a bastion of green social-libertarianism that became the first state to legalize cannabis by vote of the legislature in 2018, and which has had a medical marijuana program in place since 2004.
But on January 9, Ivo Skoric from the town of Rutland was dismissed from his job at the local transportation district for testing positive for cannabis—despite the fact that he’s a registered medical user. And despite the fact that his job was to clean the buses, not to drive them.
“My job is in the garage,” Skoric tells Cannabis Now. “Bus maintenance. I clean them, wash them, fuel them, park them for tomorrow.”
Skoric is now fighting to get his unemployment claim recognized, but he says he won’t be content with that. He wants his job back—and the DoT regulations to be brought into conformity with his rights under state law.
Fighting the Bureaucracy
An immigrant from Croatia, Skoric fled his native land just ahead of the wars that rocked ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s. He settled in Vermont partially because of his love of the outdoors—spending time hiking, rock climbing and snowboarding. But osteoarthritic injuries contribute to Skoric’s chronic pain that is relieved by cannabis. He’s been enrolled in the state medical marijuana program for some 10 years. And he pledges to rouse every level of state and federal power in defense of his right to medicate and still keep his job.
First, Skoric wrote US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, urging that the text of the relevant DoT regulations “needs to change.”
The relevant text of DoT Rule 49 reads: “There can be a legitimate medical explanation only with respect to a substance that has a legitimate medical use. Use of a drug of abuse (e.g., heroin, PCP, marijuana) or any other substance…that cannot be viewed as having a legitimate medical use can never be the basis for a legitimate medical explanation, even if the substance is obtained legally in a foreign country.”
In Skoric’s letter to Buttigieg, he states the following: “I obtain the ‘substance’ legally in…my state, and I find offensive the contentious statement that it is a ‘drug of abuse’ and that it ‘cannot be viewed as having a legitimate medical use.’ I believe it is nonsense rooted in racist prejudice and decades of political demonization with no basis in science…
“In my 42 years of smoking it responsibly and within therapeutic doses, I can report that it only lifts me up. I am a 58-year-old male with an artificial knee, artificial hip, partially torn Achilles, reconstructed shoulder, fused cervical vertebrae, chronic osteoarthritic pain and bipolar depression, who with a little help from cannabis, can miraculously do push-ups and pull-ups, snowboard, rock climb or mop and scrub 20 city buses [in one] night.”
He added that if he had tested positive for pharmaceuticals such as Lamictal, Latuda or oxcarbazepine—all of which he had been prescribed by doctors, to no avail—it wouldn’t have been an issue. Both his medical marijuana card and commercial driver’s license were issued by the state of Vermont—but holding the latter means submitting to a urine test for cannabis under federal law.
Files of Complaint
The law in question is the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991, which mandates urine testing for all holders of commercial driver’s licenses. This expanded on the Drug-free Workplace Act of 1988, which mandates such testing for institutional employees receiving substantial federal grants or contracts. The relevant federal agencies have promulgated regulations to implement these laws.
Skoric also filed a complaint of employment discrimination with the DoT, which states: “I am discriminated against by the DoT because of the medication I use responsibly. I am a Medical Marijuana patient in the State of Vermont, which, like 36 other states (more than three-quarters of the union), recognizes the medical value in marijuana. In a functional federation I would be protected by the federal law. I am neither impaired nor lacking in performance. And my employer clearly stated that they would not terminate me, if they were not forced by the DoT rules.”
In verbiage perhaps too frank for bureaucratic purposes, Skoric added: “It used to be that people in the US were valued for hard work. Now they are valued for their piss.”
He received a reply saying the complaint falls “outside the scope of this feedback center.”
Skoric wrote to Vermont’s two Senators, Peter Welch (D) and Bernie Sanders (D) to garner their support for his plight. Welch, who sits on the Senate Transportation Committee, replied with a hand-written letter saying that “I have long supported medical marijuana. That should also include not being penalized by testing requirements that undercut its medical use.”
Sanders replied, stating that while cannabis remains a Schedule I substance under federal law, he has called upon the Biden administration “to re-evaluate marijuana’s scheduling.” Sanders added, “I hope that this process will result in the descheduling of marijuana, as it has no place on the same schedule as a drug like heroin.”
Skoric also filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but the case was rejected summarily. He received an email from EEOC’s Boston office stating: “Because marijuana is considered illegal under Federal law, an employer would not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act for discharging an employee who tests positive for marijuana, even if it was lawfully prescribed under state law. You should continue to pursue your complaint with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, who will make a determination as to whether your employer violated Vermont State Law.”
Yet when he did so, a representative of the State Attorney General’s Office wrote back saying: “As you likely know, the federal law you don’t agree with is not something that we have jurisdiction over. Our office would not have jurisdiction to investigate a complaint due to the federal law in place.”
“Nobody has the jurisdiction, neither the state nor the feds,” Skoric complains wryly to Cannabis Now. “Should I write next to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights?”
Unemployment Claim Pending
Skoric is also fighting the bureaucracy over his claim for unemployment insurance. On March 22, after 10 weeks of deliberation, the state Department of Labor disqualified his claim on the grounds that he had been dismissed for “misconduct.”
Skoric is aghast at this. “I say there was no misconduct,” he insists. “Why do we even have medical marijuana cards in that case? I am disabled and I take medication legally prescribed in this state.”
His appeal is currently pending before an administrative law judge. Skoric is considering a class action suit against the Labor Department if the disqualification is not overturned.
Approximately 10 years ago, Skoric also applied for disability insurance with the federal Social Security Administration. He relates: “They just put it on hold because my SGA [substantial gainful activity] was too high. Well, now it won’t be! The irony, of course, is that I am perfectly capable of doing my job, and my employer knows and accepts that, but they are forced to terminate me because they are subject to federal DoT rules. I see this as a violation of state rights, and discrimination against me as a disabled individual.”
He’s also considering launching a suit against the Vermont Cannabis Control Board. “If the state gave me the right to use cannabis medically, they have a responsibility not to make me unemployable by that decision,” Skoric says.
Challenging the Stigma
Although he has for many years led a quiet life in Vermont, working a proletarian job and raising a son, Skoric is no stranger to political activism. In his youth, he was a cyber-punk dissident under Yugoslavia’s old communist regime, opposing nuclear power and the like. Faced with persecution for these activities, he left for the US in 1989. Still on the outs with the ethno-nationalist regime that came to power in independent Croatia in 1991 (with many of the old communist apparatchiks merely putting on new hats), Skoric filed an asylum claim that year. He won asylum status in 1997 and moved from New York City to Rutland in 2005.
Skoric has already formed an advocacy group called RACCOON (Rational Acceptance of Curative Cannabis in Occupational Obligations Now) to fight for his new cause on the national level.
While acknowledging that cannabis affects everyone differently, Skoric rejects the assumptions at the root of federal policy. “I simply don’t understand where these myths are coming from that weed is impairing,” he says. “I snowboard high. How is that possible? I get energized by its relaxing and mellowing effect. And I am extremely experienced at micro-dosing. That’s why they prescribed it to me. I have true medical benefits from it that doctors couldn’t achieve with pills, without causing more impairing side effects.”
Skoric accuses the media of complicity in perpetuating this misconception that pills are healthier and more effective than cannabis. For instance, an October 2016 crash by a motorist driving the wrong way on Interstate 89 through Vermont left five teens dead. The driver, Steven Bourgoin, ultimately got 30 years to life in prison. But the headlines emphasized that he had tested positive for THC. It fell to local alternative media outlet VT Digger to point out that he had also been on fentanyl and prescription sedatives.
“That was a joke here for some time,” Skoric recalls. “It’s quite clear THC was not the main cause of his impairment.”
Skoric sees this double standard as a holdover from the ugly origins of cannabis prohibition.
“Cannabis was used as a medicine until the vicious demonization of weed started during the jazz and Reefer Madness era, primarily driven by racial prejudice,” he says. “The federal law is still in the thrall of the stigma that Hoover used to terrorize the counter-culture movements of the 1960s. And despite it now being legal in 21 states, on the federal level, it gets only worse with time. We didn’t have drug testing until the 1980s and the Drug-Free Workplace Act. And in the 21st century, we got the almighty Clearinghouse to prevent job hopping.”
Clearinghouse is an online FMCSA database “that gives employers and government agencies real-time access to information about CDL [commercial drivers license] driver drug and alcohol program violations.”
“Such a law harms the livelihoods of perfectly well-performing employees,” Skoric asserts. “It’s essentially just a relic of a racist past. Cannabis should get off Schedule I and the DoT drug testing assay just as fast as the Robert E. Lee statues got off their pedestals.”
A Misunderstood Question
There are signs that Skoric’s campaign may not be that quixotic.
After years of upholding employee firings for use of cannabis even under state medical marijuana programs, the courts are finally starting to turn around on the question. In 2018, Connecticut healthcare worker Katelin Noffsinger won a federal discrimination suit against a rehab center that withdrew a job offer after she tested positive for THC, despite being an enrolled medical user.
In 2019, Arizona Walmart employee and card-holding medical marijuana patient Carol Whitmire fired after testing positive for cannabis, won a wrongful termination suit in federal court.
Now, fifteen states have passed laws making it illegal for an employer to discriminate against either an employee or job applicant who uses medical marijuana as permitted by state law. Alas, Vermont is not among them.
Meanwhile, Ivo Skoric, living off dwindling savings, is determined to become a test case in challenging what he sees as an outdated dogma still present in many states.
“I vow not to let my personal tragedy go to waste,” he says. “I am not going to rest until I see that law gone.”
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Amanita Muscaria Mushroom Powder – The Legal Psychedelic Alternative
Are you looking for a legal, easy-to-use, and accessible way to experience the benefits of spiritual and psychedelic substances? Look no further than Amanita Muscaria mushroom powder. This traditional product is derived from Amanita Muscaria extract, a completely legal magic mushroom that offers a convenient and affordable way for individuals to experience spirituality and to explore the world of psychedelics.
The Amanita Muscaria mushroom, AKA the Fly Agaric, has a long and fascinating history, dating back thousands of years. This distinctive red-and-white spotted mushroom has been used for various purposes across different cultures, including spiritual, medicinal, and recreational applications. Amanita Muscaria has played a significant role in the shamanic practices of indigenous Siberian tribes, and in Norse and Celtic mythology, this mushroom was believed to possess magical properties and was associated with deities and supernatural beings.
Amanita mushroom powder offers an easy and customizable way to experience the benefits of this mushroom. Each gram of powder contains a potent amount of the active ingredient Muscimol (4.5 mg), derived from 100% fruiting bodies only. The powder has been refined and sifted to remove any unwanted by-products, ensuring the highest quality product for your consumption.
The Effects of Using Amanita Muscaria
As shown above, Amanita mushrooms offer potential medical, spiritual, and recreational benefits to the users. Medically, this powder has shown potential in helping alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Spiritually, it can facilitate introspection and self-exploration, allowing users to gain insights into their inner selves. Recreationally, this powder offers a unique and enjoyable experience, with psychedelic effects that can lead to vivid visuals, enhanced sensory perception, and a sense of euphoria.
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In conclusion, Amanita Muscaria mushroom powder provides a legal, affordable, and user-friendly means to experience the benefits of psychedelic substances. Its versatility, high-quality ingredients, and appealing price make this product a top choice for those curious about the potential of this unique mushroom. Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to stock up on a legal psychedelic alternative that has only recently gained recognition in the US.
It’s crucial to recognize that the legality of Amanita Muscaria mushrooms is what makes this powder a lawful and accessible choice. Unlike psilocybin mushrooms, Amanita Muscaria is not subject to the same stringent regulations in numerous countries, which permits the production and sale of this powder.
While Amanita Muscaria mushrooms are legal in the majority of states in the United States, except for Louisiana, it’s essential to be aware that regulations concerning the legality of these mushrooms may continue to change in the future. Nonetheless, at present, it is generally safe to order Amanita products in most regions globally, including the United States, for those curious about exploring the advantages of psychedelic substances.
What Can You Do With Amanita Muscaria Mushroom Powder
Purchasing any product, particularly Amanita Muscaria in its raw powder form, offers users the flexibility to compound and consume this fungi based on their specific requirements. The possibilities are endless, whether you’re making capsules, crafting tinctures, or incorporating it into food.
Here are some suggested ways to utilize the powder:
Capsules: Create your own custom dosage by filling empty capsules with the powder. This approach allows for convenient, discreet, and consistent dosing.
Tinctures: Make a tincture by dissolving the powder in high-proof alcohol. Tinctures have a longer shelf life and can be taken sublingually for quick absorption.
Infused food: Incorporate the powder into your favorite recipes, such as smoothies, baked treats, or savory dishes. This method provides a more enjoyable consumption experience and can help disguise the taste of the powder.
Tea: Prepare a comforting cup of hot tea by combining the powder with hot water. This technique can offer a soothing and relaxing experience.
Salt Low and Grow Slow: Please note that Amanita Muscaria has a unique psychoactive profile compared to other psychedelic mushrooms, such as those containing psilocybin. It is essential to start with a low dose and gradually increase it as needed, paying close attention to your body’s response.
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The United Nations agency tasked with monitoring drug enforcement said in a recent report that non-medical (adult-use) cannabis legalization in some US states is a violation of international drug treaties established more than 60 years ago. In its 2022 annual report, the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) wrote that America’s federal government isn’t complying with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs by passively allowing states to legalize adult-use marijuana within their borders.
The INCB has regularly criticized countries that have allowed territories within their borders to legalize cannabis because of the obligations of member states under the 1961 Single Convention, according to a report from Marijuana Moment. But in its 2022 annual report released earlier this month, the independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations’ international drug control conventions appeared to take aim at cannabis policy reforms at the state level in the US.
“In States with a federal structure, a special issue may arise with respect to whether the Federal Government may be held accountable if a federated entity implements legalization, which violates the conventions, while the Federal Government does not have the power to compel the federated entity to fulfill the treaty obligations,” the INCB wrote.
The INCB added that member states are required under the 1961 treaty to “give effect to and carry out the provisions of this Convention within their own territories,” even in nations with a federal system of government such as the United States. The convention states that “unless a different intention appears from the treaty or is otherwise established, a treaty is binding upon each party in respect of its entire territory.”
“The internal distribution of powers between the different levels of a State cannot be invoked as a justification for the failure to perform a treaty,” the INCB maintains.
INCB Offers Reasons to Maintain Prohibition
The agency offered several reasons for continuing the prohibition of cannabis under the 1961 convention, including the treaty’s view that cannabis is a highly addictive drug that is subject to abuse. The report also notes that legalizing the use of adult-use cannabis lessens the perception of risk and leads to higher rates of consumption.
“The most concerning effect of cannabis legalization is the likelihood of increased use, particularly among young people, according to estimated data,” the UN wrote in a statement about the INCB report. “In the United States, it has been shown that adolescents and young adults consume significantly more cannabis in federal states where cannabis has been legalized compared to other states where recreational use remains illegal. There is also evidence that general availability of legalized cannabis products lowers the perception of risk and of the negative consequences involved in using them.”
The report adds that policy reforms have failed to meet the objectives of states that have legalized adult-use cannabis, including the desire to reduce criminal activity and protect public safety. The agency noted the persistence of illicit markets in jurisdictions that have legalized adult-use cannabis, including Canada, Uruguay and parts of the US.
“Evidence suggests that cannabis legalization has not been successful in dissuading young people from using cannabis, and illicit markets persist,” said INCB president Jagjit Pavadia.
Jason Adelstone, an associate attorney at the cannabis law firm Vicente LLP, wrote in an article about the INCB report that the evidence cited by the agency doesn’t support its conclusions on the success of cannabis legalization, including data that show a significant reduction in the illicit market in jurisdictions that have ended the prohibition of adult-use marijuana. He also notes that the report is calling on member nations with jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis to prioritize INCB policy over their own laws.
“Basically, INCB is saying that no matter what the federal government’s constitutional limitations are, signatories with strong federalist systems, such as the US, must violate their constitution in favor of drug treaty requirements to ensure local jurisdiction comply with the drug treaties,” Adelstone wrote in an email to Cannabis Now.
Adelstone says the agency’s narrow interpretation of the 1961 convention requires member states that don’t have the authority to force their territories to comply with the requirements of the treaty to nonetheless take such action.
“This position is unworkable, incompatible with law and practicality and dangerous,” Adelstone continued. “If a signatory’s constitution prohibits the federal government from enforcing requirements on local jurisdictions, or its citizens, then the federal government will not, and should not, enforce such requirements. Pushing any other narrative is dangerous, risking the stability of constitutional governments.”
Despite the International Narcotics Control Board’s continued criticism of member states that have allowed adult-use cannabis legalization measures to take effect, the agency hasn’t assessed any penalties against nations that have allowed policies contrary to the 1961 convention.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said last week that he’d seek changes to the state’s medical marijuana program, which leads the nation in the number of dispensaries among all states with regulated cannabis sales. Stitt made his comments following the failure of a ballot measure to legalize adult-use marijuana in Oklahoma that was rejected by 61% of voters in a special election on March 7.
Voters in Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana with the passage of State Question 788 in 2018, making it the 30th state in the nation to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis. With low barriers to entry including license fees for cannabis businesses of only $2,500, a fraction of the amount charged by most states, and no limit on the number of cannabis dispensaries, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry quickly grew to become what’s arguably the most robust in the nation. The ballot measure also had few restrictions to qualify for a medical marijuana card, and the number of registered patients now equals nearly 10% of the state’s population. As of November 2022, Oklahoma had more than 2,300 medical marijuana dispensaries, a figure that eclipses the number of gas stations in the state, according to a report from local media.
Medical Marijuana Backlash
But many residents of Oklahoma believe that the fast pace of growth of the medical marijuana industry has outpaced the state’s ability to regulate it. Additionally, the lack of oversight has led to the development of a lucrative illicit industry of cannabis growers who ship their crops to jurisdictions that haven’t yet ended cannabis prohibition.
“There’s enough marijuana, I’ve been told, grown in Oklahoma to supply the entire United States. That’s not what this was supposed to be,” Stitt said last week. “This was supposed to be about medical use in the state of Oklahoma, and it’s gotten way out of control.”
State lawmakers responded last year by passing a bill that put a two-year moratorium on the issuing of new licenses for medical marijuana cultivators, processors and retailers. The state has also put new regulations in place, including a requirement for a seed-to-sale tracking system to monitor the production and movement of cannabis throughout the state. Other new rules include a requirement for cannabis producers to submit water and electricity usage data to state regulators in an attempt to identify businesses that are producing more cannabis than they’re reporting.
Stitt says that the backlash against Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry was largely responsible for the failure of State Question 820, an initiative that would’ve legalized adult-use cannabis. After being denied a slot on the ballot for the November general election by procedural delays and a state Supreme Court ruling, Stitt announced in October that a special election to decide State Question 820 would be held on March 7.
“As I was traveling the state, I knew Oklahomans didn’t want it,” Stitt said. “They were so tired of a dispensary on every single corner.”
State Question 820 was opposed by law enforcement organizations and many of the state’s Republican leaders, including Stitt. Representatives of the state’s agricultural industry and many residents of the state’s rural areas also expressed opposition to the ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis in Oklahoma.
“We’ve seen the negative impact the rapid growth of the unregulated medical marijuana industry has had on Oklahoma agriculture and the rural communities,” said Scott Blubaugh, president of American Farmers and Ranchers. “We’ve seen a rise in farming challenges, and we’ve seen a strain on our rural electric and our rural water utilities.”
Voters Reject State Question 820
State Question 820 failed at the polls in last week’s special election, with 61% of the electorate voting against the measure. The governor attributed the loss to the state of Oklahoma’s existing medical marijuana industry.
“I think Oklahomans had a lot of fatigue around marijuana,” Stitt said. “They clearly do not want recreational marijuana.”
With the fate of SQ 820 now sealed, Stitt and state lawmakers have said that they’ll work to tighten control over Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program. But he acknowledged that they must be careful not to infringe on the will of voters who passed the medical marijuana legalization measure.
“Oklahomans have a big heart: that if it’s [cannabis] going to help someone medically, we want that to happen,” Stitt said. “But we don’t believe everyone with a hangnail should be able to get a medical card.”
So far, dozens of cannabis-related bills have been introduced for the 2023 legislative session, including several bills designed to tighten regulations on the state’s medical marijuana industry. Among them is SB 116, which prohibits commercial medical marijuana growers from being located within 1,000 feet of a place of worship. SB 133 excludes marijuana production from agriculture sales tax exemptions, likely raising the tax liability for cannabis cultivators. Another bill, SB 801, rolls back restrictions on local control of cannabis businesses by allowing municipalities to modify their planning or zoning procedures to forbid medical cannabis businesses to locate in certain areas.
The bills will be considered during the 2023 legislative session that ends on May 26.
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Made from 375mg of Amanita Muscaria extract, a completely legal magic mushroom, Boomers Mushroom Gummies offer a safe and accessible option for those interested in exploring the world of psychedelics. These gummies come in a 10-pack, 5 pouch display, a bulk bag of 100 gummies, or, for high-rollers, a 20 box case with everything you and your friends will ever need…
The gummies comes in a variety of delicious flavors including Apple Astronaut, Tropical Trip, Magic Mango, Booming Berry, Cosmic Cherry, and Sour Grapezilla.
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Unlike psilocybin mushrooms, Amanita Muscaria is legal almost everywhere in the world, including the United States (with the exception of Louisiana), making these psychedelic gummies easily accessible to anyone interested in trying them. With their long history of use in medicinal and spiritual practices, Amanita mushrooms have finally arrived in the US, and now people all over the world can benefit from their medicinal and recreational benefits.
Boomers Mushroom Gummies prioritize the quality of their products. Each gummy contains active ingredients such as Muscimol, Ibotenic Acid, and Muscarine, which are lab-tested to ensure their potency and safety for consumption. These gummies come in convenient packaging, making them easy to transport and consume on-the-go.
In conclusion, Boomers Mushroom Gummies offer a legal, affordable and safe way to experience the benefits of psychedelic substances. With their delicious flavors, quality ingredients, and attractive price point, these new edibles are an excellent choice for anyone interested in exploring the inner self, take a journey of self-discovery or just have a unique and enjoyable experience.
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Potential Medical, Spiritual and Recreational Benefits
Boomers Mushroom Gummies, as featuring Amanita Muscaria extract may provide a range of medical, spiritual, and recreational benefits to users.
Medically, these gummies have shown promise in helping alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The active ingredients in Amanita Muscaria mushrooms, such as Muscimol, Ibotenic Acid, and Muscarine, may contribute to a sense of well-being and emotional balance, making them an appealing option for those seeking alternative treatment options.
Spiritually, Boomers Mushroom Gummies can facilitate introspection and self-exploration, allowing users to gain insights into their inner selves. Many people have reported experiencing a heightened sense of connection with the world around them and a deepened appreciation for the present moment. These gummies can serve as a tool for personal growth and self-discovery, promoting a greater understanding of one’s purpose and place in the universe.
Recreationally, these gummies offer a unique and enjoyable experience. The gummies’ psychedelic effects can lead to vivid visuals, enhanced sensory perception, and a sense of euphoria, providing a fun and engaging way to relax and unwind. With their delicious flavors and legal status, these gummies make for an exciting and accessible option for those interested in exploring the world of psychedelics.
Why the products are legal?
Boomers Mushroom Gummies are made from Amanita Muscaria, a type of magic mushroom that is legal in many parts of the world. Unlike psilocybin mushrooms, which are classified as a controlled substance in several countries, Amanita Muscaria is not subject to the same strict regulations, making these gummies a legal and accessible option for those interested in exploring the benefits of psychedelic substances.
In the United States, Amanita Muscaria mushrooms are legal in most states, with the exception of Louisiana. This means that consumers can purchase and enjoy Boomers Mushroom Gummies without worrying about the legal repercussions associated with other types of psychedelic substances. It is important, however, for individuals to familiarize themselves with the specific laws and regulations in their region before acquiring these gummies to ensure compliance with local legislation.
As the legal landscape around psychedelic substances continues to evolve, Boomers Mushroom Gummies offer a safe and convenient way for individuals to explore the benefits of these substances without running afoul of the law. By using Amanita Muscaria as the primary ingredient, these gummies provide an opportunity for users to experience the medical, spiritual, and recreational advantages of psychedelics in a legal and accessible format.
The histrory of the Amanita Muscaria mushroom
The Amanita Muscaria mushroom has a long and fascinating history, dating back thousands of years. This distinctive red-and-white spotted mushroom has been used for various purposes across different cultures, including spiritual, medicinal, and recreational applications.
Amanita Muscaria has played a significant role in the shamanic practices of indigenous Siberian tribes, where it was consumed as an entheogen to induce altered states of consciousness and facilitate communication with the spirit world. In other parts of Europe, particularly in Norse and Celtic mythology, this mushroom was believed to possess magical properties and was associated with deities and supernatural beings.
Throughout history, Amanita Muscaria has been used for its psychoactive effects, often in religious and spiritual ceremonies. Despite its widespread use across various cultures and traditions, it was only in the 20th century that the active compounds responsible for its psychedelic effects, such as Muscimol, Ibotenic Acid, and Muscarine, were identified and studied.
Today, the Amanita Muscaria mushroom continues to intrigue researchers and enthusiasts alike. As a legal alternative to psilocybin mushrooms, it is increasingly being used in the form of gummies and other edibles, allowing individuals to experience the benefits of this ancient and culturally significant mushroom in a modern and accessible way.
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The Biden Administration announced last week that it’s launching a system that will allow individuals pardoned for federal cannabis possession convictions in 2022 to obtain written documentation of the pardon. In a March 3 statement, the Department of Justice wrote that a new application is available to request written documentation of the pardons, which were issued en masse by President Joseph Biden on October 6, 2022. The announcement was hailed as a step forward by advocates for cannabis policy reform, including Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
“This is another small, but critical step with the Biden Administration coming to terms with the new cannabis realities, and taking another step in the right direction,” Blumenauer said in a statement on Friday.
While campaigning for office before the 2020 elections, Biden pledged to end incarceration for federal cannabis possession convictions. The president acted on the promise late last year, announcing that he was issuing an executive order to pardon all convictions for simple marijuana possession prosecuted under federal law or Washington, D.C.’s municipal code. In a statement, the president said the move would help address the collateral damage of a federal drug conviction.
“As I often said during my campaign for president, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in a statement from the White House on October 6, 2022. “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
When he announced the federal pardons in October, Biden called on governors to take similar action at the state level. The president also directed the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department to review the continued classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. According to the statute, the Schedule 1 classification is supposed to be reserved for drugs with no medical value and a high propensity for abuse.
Application Available Online
The new application form for documentation of a federal cannabis pardon requests information about the qualifying offense and demographic data about the applicant. The application can be completed online, or a hard copy can be mailed to the Justice Department, which has “committed to carefully and expeditiously reviewing the applications and issuing certificates to those pardoned under the proclamation.”
“Those who were pardoned on Oct. 6, 2022, are eligible for a certificate of pardon,” the Department of Justice wrote in a statement on March 3. “Consistent with the proclamation, to be eligible for a certificate, an applicant must have been charged or convicted of simple possession of marijuana in either a federal court or D.C. Superior Court, and the applicant must have been lawfully within the United States at the time of the offense. Similarly, an individual must have been a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident on Oct. 6, 2022.”
Natalie Papillion, chief operating officer at the cannabis justice group Last Prisoner Project, said the new pardon documentation process will ease the burden of a federal cannabis conviction. But she also noted that completing the application isn’t required to receive a pardon under the president’s executive order.
“We’re really heartened to learn that the Department of Justice has officially launched the federal cannabis pardon certification process. Having physical proof of their pardons will undoubtedly help pardon recipients as they navigate a world that’s unduly hostile to those with cannabis offenses on their criminal records,” Papillon says. “That said, it would be irresponsible not to clear up a major misconception about these pardons. President Biden’s marijuana pardons were self-effectuating, meaning eligible individuals received them on October 6, 2022—the date of President Biden’s proclamation. This recently launched application process is aimed at helping pardon recipients receive physical proof of their pardon, which may prove helpful when recipients apply for jobs, housing, educational opportunities, etc.”
Between 6,000 and 20,000 Americans will be able to apply for written proof that their federal convictions have been pardoned, according to information from the US Sentencing Commission and the Office of the Pardon Attorney cited by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Biden’s pardons mark the first time that an American president has ever used the power of the executive to provide legal relief to the cannabis community, according to a statement from the cannabis policy reform group.