Legalization Amendment To Be Added to Missouri Constitution

Missouri’s state constitution will have a new entry this week, with the voter-approved recreational cannabis amendment slated to be added on Thursday. 

The Springfield News-Leader reports that while Amendment 3, which was approved by Missouri voters in last month’s election, will be added to the state constitution this week, “Missourians won’t be impacted by the majority of its legislation until next year.”

“At the earliest, recreational marijuana will be available for purchase in February. And though some non-violent marijuana offenses will be automatically expunged this week, this isn’t the case for all,” according to the News-Leader.

Voters in Missouri approved Amendment 3 last month by a vote of 53% to 47%. 

The leadup to the vote was shrouded in uncertainty for supporters of the amendment. It wasn’t until August that Missouri’s secretary of state confirmed that Amendment 3 had qualified for the ballot. 

There were questions in the summer surrounding the petitions submitted by Legal Missouri 2022, the group behind the amendment. 

State law requires a petition to include signatures from 8% of registered voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts.

The state’s secretary of state, Jay Ashcroft, confirmed in August that Legal Missouri had easily cleared the signature threshold. 

“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit,” John Payne, campaign manager of Legal Missouri 2022, said in a statement at the time. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference. We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

But even after the amendment qualified, it appeared far from a sure thing that it would pass in November. Polls in the weeks leading up to Election Day painted a messy picture. One survey conducted in September found 48% of voters in Missouri supported Amendment 3, while 35% of voters in the state were opposed, and another 17% were unsure.

But another poll conducted around the same period showed that 43% of respondents were in support of Amendment 3, while 47% were opposed, and 10% were unsure.

In the end, however, the amendment prevailed, and now Missouri is slated to become the latest in a growing number of states to legalize recreational pot use for adults and establish a regulated retail market.

The Springfield News-Leader provided a rundown of what the amendment will accomplish: “Remove state prohibitions on purchasing, possessing, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing and selling marijuana for personal use for adults over 21; Require a registration card for personal cultivation with prescribed limits; Allow persons with certain marijuana-related non-violent offenses to petition for release from incarceration or parole and probation and have records cleared; Establish a lottery selection process to award licenses and certificates; Issue equally distributed licenses to each congressional district; and Impose a 6% tax on the retail price of marijuana to benefit various programs.”

The newspaper said that the “earliest recreational marijuana will be available to Missourians who are 21 and up is February 2023.”

“Pre-established medical marijuana facilities will have the opportunity to convert their licenses to comprehensive marijuana facility licenses, meaning they can cultivate or sell both medical and recreational marijuana. The Department of Health and Senior Services must begin awarding these license conversions by Feb. 6, 2023,” the News-Leader reported. “Aside from medical marijuana facilities that are converted to comprehensive marijuana facilities, DHSS must license at least two comprehensive marijuana dispensaries in each of the state’s eight congressional districts, initially. These dispensaries will begin receiving licenses to sell recreational marijuana on Sept. 4, 2023.”

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Senator Files Bill To Prep for Federal Cannabis Legalization

Democratic Senator John Hickenlooper of Colorado on Thursday introduced legislation designed to prepare the country for national cannabis legalization, laying the groundwork for drafting regulations to govern legal marijuana at the federal level. The bill, the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment (PREPARE) Act, directs the U.S. attorney general to develop a regulatory framework to be in place for the eventual federal legalization of cannabis by Congress, which is likely inevitable as the popularity of cannabis policy reform continues to grow.

Hickenlooper was the governor of Colorado when voters legalized recreational marijuana with the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012. A month later, he convened the Amendment 64 Task Force to provide recommendations for the establishment of regulations that set the stage for Colorado’s successful legal cannabis industry. Last month, 10 years after Amendment 64 was approved by Colorado voters, Hickenlooper revealed that he planned to introduce the bipartisan PREPARE Act to create a similar commission at the federal level. 

“A decade after Colorado pioneered marijuana legalization, Americans overwhelmingly support the same at the federal level,” Hickenlooper said in a statement from the senator’s office. “This bipartisan, bicameral framework, based on Colorado’s Amendment 64 Task Force, will replicate our success nationally.”

Companion Measure To House Bill

Hickenlooper’s legislation is a companion bill to a House version of the measure sponsored by Representative Dave Joyce, a Republican from Ohio.

“I’m thrilled that the PREPARE Act has been introduced in the Senate, making it not only further bipartisan, but bicameral, and bringing it one step closer to becoming law,” said Joyce. “This legislation gives lawmakers on both sides of the aisle the answers they need to effectively engage on cannabis reform, safely and effectively regulate it, and remedy the harms caused by the failed war on cannabis.” 

“With those answers, Congress can develop a much-needed federal regulatory framework that not only respects the unique needs, rights, and laws of each state, but also ensures a responsible end to prohibition and a safer future for our communities,” he continued. “I was proud to lead the introduction of this commonsense bill in the House and thank Senator Hickenlooper for advancing it in the Senate.”

The bill directs the attorney general to establish a “Commission on the Federal Regulation of Cannabis” to advise on the development of a regulatory framework, which would be modeled after existing federal and state regulations for alcohol. The 24-member commission would consist of representatives from relevant government agencies and offices, individuals nominated by Senate and House leadership and individuals nominated by other government agencies.

The legislation requires the plan developed by the commission to account for the unique needs, rights and laws of each state, and directs the commission to present the plan to Congress within one year of enactment of the PREPARE Act. The commission would not have rulemaking authority. The panel’s only role would be to develop proposals and make policy recommendations.

The regulatory framework developed by the commission would be required to include “ways to remedy the disproportionate impact cannabis prohibition has had on minority, low-income and veteran communities; encourage research and training access by medical professionals; encourage economic opportunity for individuals and small businesses; and develop protections for the hemp industry,” according to Hickenlooper’s office.

Growing Support For Cannabis Policy Reform

Hickenlooper’s bill highlights the growing support for cannabis policy reform in the United States. In October, President Joseph Biden announced he would pardon all federal convictions for simple marijuana possession, and last week a new Pew Research poll found that 90% of Americans favor legalizing cannabis in some form.

“President Biden recently—and correctly—declared the federal government’s categorical criminal ban on cannabis a failure and urged executive leadership at the state and federal levels to take concrete steps to bring about rational reform,” Shane Pennington, an attorney with the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, wrote in an email to High Times. “The PREPARE Act seeks to ready the federal government for the far broader reforms, which are now imminent. Undoing decades of inane cannabis laws and regulations will require a coordinated and concerted effort at every level of government and among countless federal agencies. The PREPARE Act would lay the necessary groundwork to ensure that the federal government carries out legalization in a fair, efficient, and effective manner.”

Khadijah Tribble, the CEO of the trade group the US Cannabis Council, said the “Biden administration’s review of cannabis scheduling, midterm ballot measures, and polling on cannabis decriminalization all signal that the end of cannabis prohibition isn’t just inevitable — it’s imminent. The PREPARE Act would help ensure that the federal government has a plan in place to ensure a smooth and responsible transition to legal cannabis.” 

“We commend Sen. Hickenlooper and his counterparts in the House for the forethought and attention reflected in the PREPARE Act’s robust legislative framework, which wisely aims to also address the unjust consequences of the War on Drugs by developing recommendations on social equity and policies that create economic opportunity for minority entrepreneurs who want to operate in the legal marketplace,” she continued. “The US Cannabis Council will continue to work with Congress to help the nation get ready for the day legal cannabis is the law of the land.” 

The PREPARE ACT is supported by a range of stakeholders and cannabis policy reform advocates including the US Cannabis Council (USCC), the City of Denver, the National Hispanic Cannabis Council, Black Cannabis Equity Initiative, VS Strategies, Vicente Sederberg LLP, Metric, National Cannabis Industry Association, and Better Organizing to Win Legalization.

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900 Mississippians Approved for Medical Cannabis as Program Takes Shape

Mississippi’s fledgling medical cannabis program is slowly but surely coming together, with state officials targeting early next year for the opening of the first dispensaries. 

Local news station WLBT reports that “900 Mississippians have already applied and been certified for their medical marijuana cards,” and that there is hope for the first dispensaries to open their doors early next year.

The state began accepting applications for medical cannabis cards in June.

Mississippi legalized a medical cannabis program earlier this year after the state’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, signed a bill into law.

“The ‘medical marijuana bill’ has consumed an enormous amount of space on the front pages of the legacy media outlets across Mississippi over the last three-plus years,” Reeves said in a statement following the bill signing. “There is no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do significantly better if they had access to medically prescribed doses of cannabis. There are also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could lead to more people smoking and less people working, with all of the societal and family ills that that brings.”

The governor’s signature marked the culmination of a multi-year legislative process after voters in the state approved a ballot measure in 2020 to legalize medical marijuana treatment there. 

The state Supreme Court struck down the voter-approved measure, deeming it unconstitutional on a technicality, prompting lawmakers in Mississippi to draft their own medical cannabis proposal. 

Reeves, who was opposed to the 2020 ballot measure, engaged with the legislature on the bill, at one point insisting that lawmakers impose a limit for patients to receive 2.7 grams per day.

The legislation that arrived on his desk earlier this year, however, allowed patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams as many as six times per week. It passed the legislature with a veto-proof majority.

“I have made it clear that the bill on my desk is not the one that I would have written,” Reeves said in his statement at the time. “But it is a fact that the legislators who wrote the final version of the bill (the 45th or 46th draft) made significant improvements to get us towards accomplishing the ultimate goal.”

The governor did, however, applaud a number of provisions in the new law.

“1. Reduces the total amount that any one individual can receive to 3 oz. per month. This one change will reduce the total amount by 40 percent from the original version (I asked for 50 percent). Said differently, there will be hundreds of millions of fewer joints on the streets because of this improvement,” Reeves said at the time. “2. The medical professional can only prescribe within the scope of his/her practice. And they have to have a relationship with the patient. And it requires an in-person visit by the patient to the medical professional. 3. Only an MD or DO can prescribe for kids under 18 and only with the consent of a parent/legal guardian. 4. An MD or DO must prescribe for young adults between the ages of 18-25. 5. The MSDH will promulgate rules regarding packaging and advertising, and I have confidence they will do so in a way that limits the impact on our young people. 6. Prohibits any incentives for the Industry from the Mississippi Development Authority. 7. Protects our churches and schools from having a marijuana dispensary within fewer than 1,000 feet of their location.”

Reeves thanked the lawmakers for their efforts, and expressed hope that “we can put this issue behind us and move on to other pressing matters facing our state.”

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Vets in South Carolina Push for Medical Pot

A number of military veterans in South Carolina are pushing lawmakers in the state to legalize medical marijuana. 

Local news station WACH reports this week on the group of vets, who “say it needs to be a top priority for lawmakers when they return to the state house in January after several proposals were stopped in their tracks earlier this year.”

“No one has died from an overdose with cannabis ever,” Cody Callarman, a former member of the Marine corps, told the news station. “For me, I can say, it definitely helps me to go to sleep and stay sleep and alleviate a lot of nightmares.”

“I say this is the land of the free, and the home of the brave, and we were the brave ones. We should have our choice of medical treatment,” Callarman added.

Another veteran named Robert Leheup told the station that the “idea of us not allowing veterans to have access to these tools is something that we need to remedy immediately.”

“It’s definitely one of those things that if you use it, along with counseling for example, it has the potential to have profound impacts,” Leheup told the station. 

Lawmakers in South Carolina considered a medical cannabis bill earlier this year. The legislation won approval in the state Senate, but in May, it was voted down in the state House of Representatives

The sponsor of the bill, Republican state Sen. Tom Davis, has been in the vanguard of the effort to legalize medical cannabis treatment in the state for years. 

“If you pound at the door long enough. If you make your case. If the public is asking for something, the state Senate owes a debate,” Davis said in January. “The people of South Carolina deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue.”

After the legislation was approved in the state Senate in February, Davis commended his colleagues. 

“Even those that were opposed to the bill, I mean, they could’ve just been opposed. They could’ve ranted against it, they could’ve tried to delay things. They didn’t. They expressed their concerns, but what they then did is dug in and tried to make the bill better. And so, what you saw over the last three weeks is what’s supposed to happen in a representative democracy,” Davis said at the time.

But in May, Davis’s bill was rejected by his counterparts in the state House of Representatives by a vote of 59-55.

“We suffered a setback procedurally in the House today,” Davis said at the time. “I can’t cry about it. I can’t pout about it. I can’t come back and lash out and try to hurt other people’s bills. That’s not productive. I just need to find out a way to get this thing on the merits up or down in the House and that’s what I’m going to be working on.”

Should lawmakers take up the proposal in the upcoming session, there will be opposition.

Local news station WACH quoted state House Rep. Vic Dabney, a veteran himself, who said he intends to oppose the next legislation.

“I know a lot of veterans that are not sitting down eating gummy bears laced with cannabis,” Dabney told the station. “We’ve got enough drugged up people in America as it is.”

“It was going to be another government program and a huge boondoggle where you’d have more than 400 dispensaries across the state,” Dabney added. “That was further reasons for me to vote against it.”

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Congressional Panel Holds Key Cannabis Legalization Hearing

A US House of Representatives subcommittee last week held a hearing to explore the legalization of marijuana with testimony from a slate of witnesses who support ending the federal prohibition on cannabis. The congressional cannabis hearing, which included discussion on topics including the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, was held by the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on November 15. Subcommittee chair Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, began the hearing with a bold statement on the path he believes the nation should take to reform cannabis policy.

“Cannabis must be decriminalized at the federal level as a matter of basic justice in the country and, I would say, to vindicate the anti-prohibition principle that’s in our Constitution,” Raskin said in his opening statement. “We tried prohibition of liquor, and all it did was lead to the growth of organized crime in the country. The war against marijuana has ruined so many lives in our country. We can do a lot better by treating all of these as public health questions and regulatory questions rather than questions of crime and putting people behind bars.”

Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, the ranking Republican member of the subcommittee, is the sponsor of the States Reform Act, a bill that would legalize and tax marijuana at the federal level. At last week’s hearing, she shared her personal experience with the therapeutic benefits of cannabis in an address to the panel. 

“It cut my anxiety,” the congresswoman said, as quoted by Marijuana Moment. “I was able to sleep better. And I stayed alive. If I can make it, anybody can, and this plant literally saved my life. I don’t know where I’d be today had I not had that kind of experience that I can share with millions of Americans today. The only place that cannabis is really controversial today is here on the Capitol.”

An 11-page memo published before the congressional cannabis hearing noted that the meeting would be a bipartisan examination of the potential benefits of federal cannabis decriminalization, including criminal justice reform, access to therapeutic cannabis for military veterans and increased access to the banking industry for regulated cannabis businesses.

Hearing Witnesses Call For Cannabis Legalization

The hearing, dubbed “Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level,” included testimony from a group of witnesses who support ending marijuana prohibition, including politicians, cannabis policy reform activists and cannabis industry representatives. Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), called on Congress to respect the will of the people as expressed through the legalization of cannabis at the state level.

“Our nation’s federalist principles demand that the federal government respects voters’ decisions to legalize cannabis,” Armentano testified to the committee. “At a time of record public support for legalization and when the majority of states regulate cannabis use, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal or cultural perspective for Congress to try to put this genie back in the bottle or to continue to place its collective head in the sand. It’s time for the federal government to end its nearly century-long experiment with cannabis prohibition.”

Shane Pennington, an attorney with the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, said that the hearing is evidence that the movement to reform cannabis policy is making progress at the federal level.

“It’s encouraging to know that many lawmakers appreciate the absurdity and manifest injustice of federal cannabis prohibition,” Pennington wrote in an email to Cannabis Now. “Even better, they appear to understand that establishing a fair and effective cannabis regulatory regime at the federal level will require them to listen and learn from state regulators who are running effective regimes already and the communities who have suffered most from the War on Drugs.” 

The recent congressional cannabis hearing marks a new step in the efforts to kickstart the nation’s cannabis policy reform in the House of Representatives, which has taken the lead on ending marijuana prohibition in the US Congress. The House has passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to give regulated cannabis businesses access to the banking system six times, either as standalone legislation or as part of a broader bill. The chamber has also twice passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, legislation to remove cannabis from the nation’s list of controlled substances, most recently in April 2022, but the Senate has failed to act on the measures. However, cannabis policy reform is likely to become less of a priority next year when Republicans take control of the House after winning a slight majority of the chamber in the recent midterm elections.

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Idaho Plans for Medical Cannabis Legalization on the Ballot in 2024

A non-profit organization called Kind Idaho, which was originally founded in 2021, recently announced that it would be pushing for an initiative to legalize medical cannabis in 2024.

Kind Idaho has between now and April 2024 to collect enough signatures (at least 74,000) to qualify its Idaho Medical Marijuana Act for the ballot. According to Kind Idaho Treasurer Joe Evans, advocates are ready to make medical cannabis legalization a reality. “One of the things that we’re looking at is making sure that those are available and legal, without necessarily presenting the opportunity for abuse,” Evans told KTVB7. “So it’s a combination of education on what the potential uses are, and responsible use.”

Idaho is one of 12 states that have not yet legalized medical cannabis. Evans cites the success and safety of medical cannabis as a treatment option in comparison to opioids. “When it comes to patient advocacy seeing medical marijuana, which is a successful, nonlethal pain management program that is nearly impossible to overdose on, is one of those options that many are looking for simply because they don’t want to have to carry around the significant number of prescriptions, pain management, oxycodone, you know, opiates,” Evans said.

More importantly, Evans points out that legal access is paramount. “We want the opportunity for Idaho residents to succeed on their own terms. And for many of those people on their own terms, the best solution is medical marijuana,” Evans stated.

Starting Dec. 1, Kind Idaho will start attending events to promote education about medical cannabis, bolster a social media presence, and begin the signature collecting process. 

A recent poll from the Idaho Statesman shows that 68% of residents show support for medical cannabis legalization. However, advocates in Idaho have been attempting to make medical cannabis legalization a reality for the past 10 years without success.

The state saw its first official ballot initiative for medical cannabis in 2012, but it failed to get enough signatures to make it onto the ballot. In 2013, the Idaho legislature passed a resolution against cannabis in any form. That same year, advocates began collecting signatures for the 2014 ballot, but they were unable to collect enough signatures. New Approach Idaho collected signatures in 2015 which would have established a medical cannabis program and decriminalize small amounts, but the following year it withdrew the petition due to wording issues. Later in 2016, another ballot initiative surfaced. Even this year, a legalization effort began but was cut short due to lack of signatures.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little did sign House Bill 1265 in April 2021, which made Idaho the 50th state to legalize industrial hemp. In September 2022, the Idaho Department of Agriculture announced that hemp and CBD products are not recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and therefore not allowed to be sold legally as feed for animals. “As such, these products are not approved feed ingredients and cannot lawfully be added to or incorporated into commercial feed. This includes feeds, treats and remedies intended for pets, livestock, or any other animal,” the Idaho Department of Agriculture said. This restriction took effect on Nov. 1.

Organizations such as the National Animal Group have spoken up about the restriction, urging legislators to lift the ban. “This decision will likely harm animals whose owners will no longer be able to access the products their pets rely on for a variety of health and wellness reasons,” stated a petition. “It will also have a serious economic impact on Idaho businesses that manufacture and sell these products.”

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Cannabis Legalization in Ireland?

Ireland is the latest European country to take a step closer to cannabis legalization. Introduced by a People Before Profit Party member, the bill would legalize cannabis possession for adults over 18. However, the bill doesn’t include cannabis sales or cultivation. It is more decriminalization than the commercialization of the industry. The bill says possessing up to seven grams “shall be lawful,” despite no commercial market. A top government official is skeptical that the bill will become law. Right now, […]

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Irish Lawmaker Files Cannabis Legalization Bill

An Irish lawmaker last week introduced a bill to legalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. The legislation was introduced on Thursday by Gino Kenny, a lawmaker known as a Teachta Dála (TD) and a member of Ireland’s People Before Profit political party. If passed, the bill would legalize the possession of up to seven grams of cannabis and 2.5 grams of cannabis resin for personal use.

Kenny’s bill would amend Ireland’s Misuse of Drugs Act, which has been in force since the 1970s, and apply to adults aged 18 and older. Kenny said that he expects further debate on the proposed legislation to occur next year.

“The Bill is quite moderate. It amends existing legislation that dates back 42 years,” Kenny said during a recent debate in the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament. “Forty-two years is a very long time. I believe the existing legislation is out of date and out of time. We need a different narrative around drug reform.”

“I hope the Government can support this legislation,” he continued. “It is timely. Different parts of the world are looking at different models which do not criminalize people and which take a harm-reduction approach. I look forward to the debate.”

Lawmaker Says Criminalization Doesn’t Work

In an op-ed explaining the legislation published on November 24, Kenny said that “the present laws on criminalization do not work” and noted that many countries in Europe and beyond have reformed their cannabis policy or are in the process of doing so. 

Although the text of the bill states that possession of up to seven grams of cannabis use by adults aged 18 and older “shall be lawful,” Kenny referred to the legislation as a decriminalization measure. The lawmaker said the legislation would amend Ireland’s unsuccessful policy of total cannabis prohibition.

“[E]ven though it is illegal in Ireland, we can see that the use of cannabis has increased. Ireland has one of the highest usage rates of cannabis in the EU,” Kenny wrote. “Almost 30% of adults between the age of 15-64 in Ireland have said that they have used cannabis at least one in their lifetime, whilst 17% of the adult population has used cannabis in the last 12 months – over double the European average of 7%.”

The lawmaker noted that under the proposal, the criminal penalties for low-level cannabis possession would be eliminated but the plant would remain illegal. Cultivation and sales of marijuana would continue to be prohibited, meaning the illicit market will continue to be the source of cannabis for most consumers.

Although Kenny’s bill will likely jumpstart the conversation surrounding cannabis reform in Ireland, whether or not it will succeed is another matter. In an interview with the Irish Independent, the head of the Irish government, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, warned against the prospect of the proposed legislation making cannabis more desirable.

“I think we have to be careful that we don’t glamorize cannabis either because there are real concerns within the health community and the medical community about what cannabis can do to young people,” he said, adding that he would support a more healthcare-based approach to addiction and warned about the potential harms posed by cannabis.

“I would prefer a system that decriminalizes in the sense that it were there to help people with challenges with harmful substances such as cannabis,” said Martin. “Cannabis can do real harm too, to young people, and many people in the medical world have said that to me. That’s just a concern I have. I’ve been a strong advocate for the facilitation of medical cannabis for people.”

Medical cannabis is legal in Ireland, although each patient must obtain authorization from the national health ministry. Kenny said that his proposal would end the prohibition of cannabis for all users, a position that is supported by his party.

“People Before Profit are totally opposed to the criminalization of cannabis users,” he wrote in his op-ed. “We believe that prohibition should come to an end, and that proper research should be undertaken by agencies that are independent of corporate influence into the benefits of regulation.”

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