Republican Legislators Call on DEA To Reject Recommendation To Reschedule Cannabis

A group of Republican legislators recently sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) asking for the agency to reject the recent recommendation to reschedule cannabis, which was suggested by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Aug. 29.

The list included lead authors Sen. James Lankford (Oklahoma) and Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas), along with signatures from Sen. M. Michael Rounds (South Dakota), Sen. James E. Risch (Idaho), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee), Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho), Sen. Ted Budd (North Carolina), Sen. Markwayne Mullin (Oklahoma), Sen. Tom Cotton (Arkansas), Rep. Chuck Edwards (North Carolina), Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (Alabama), Rep. Hal Rogers (Kentucky), Rep. Earl L. Carter (Georgia), and Rep. Andy Biggs (Arizona).

“The recommendation to remove marijuana from the DEA’s list of dangerous Schedule I drugs is not based on science—it’s based on an irresponsible pro-pot agenda,” Lankford wrote on social media and sharing the letter.

We write to urge the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reject any petition or request to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Any effort to reschedule marijuana should be based on proven facts and science—not popular opinion, changes in state laws, or the preferred policy of an Administration,” the letter states.

One of the letter’s arguments against rescheduling cannabis cites the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), stating that “30% of marijuana users have marijuana use disorder, who are severely addicted to the drug.” The authors mention the rise in THC in products today compared to 25 years ago. “These facts indicate that marijuana has a high potential for abuse and that the risk is only increasing,” they added. Last month, NIDA reportedly signed off on the HHS recommendation.

The letter authors also make claims that cannabis “does not have a currently accepted medical use.” While it mentions the single Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved cannabis-derived drug (Epidiolex), and three synthetic cannabis drugs (Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet), the letter states that substances only have medical value if they are approved by the FDA. The authors also added that previously in 2016, the DEA rejected two petitions for cannabis rescheduling, and the HHS agreed. “The rejection letter stated, ‘At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy,’” the letter stated. “We believe this analysis is still true today. In fact, HHS recommended at the time that DEA reject these petitions and that marijuana remain in Schedule I.”

The signatories state that nothing has changed over the past seven years, and believe that “the situation has gotten worse,” citing an increase in child hospitalizations due to accidental cannabis consumption, and the negative effects of cannabis on youth teenagers.

“It is irresponsible for HHS to recommend that marijuana be removed from Schedule I,” they concluded. “It would also be irresponsible for DEA to act on this recommendation. Our country relies on DEA to enforce our nation’s drug laws. We ask you to uphold your mission by rejecting any effort to remove marijuana from Schedule I.”

The letter fails to mention the evidence of cannabis’ medical benefits for countless conditions, or its part in the War on Drugs and countless people affected by its Schedule I status.

Now that the HHS has provided the details of its recommendation to move cannabis from a Schedule I to Schedule III substance, the DEA will also conduct a scientific review.

These Republican legislators believe that cannabis should remain a Schedule I substance, which labels it as having no medical value, high potential for abuse, and places it among other substances including heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and more. Legislators who have continued to support cannabis in congress, such as Rep. Earl Blumenauer, believe that this is just the beginning. “This is a step in the right direction but it is not sufficient. I hope it is followed by more significant reforms. This is long overdue,” he said in a statement.

NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano published an article explaining why rescheduling cannabis isn’t enough. “While some entities, particularly those involved in the commercial cannabis industry, have lauded the proposed change as a ‘giant’ step forward, others—like myself—have been far more restrained,” Armentano stated. “First, reclassifying cannabis to a lower schedule within the CSA continues to misrepresent the plant’s safety relative to other controlled substances such as anabolic steroids and ketamine (Schedule III), benzodiazepines (Schedule IV), or even alcohol, which is unscheduled.”

NORML has previously called for cannabis to be completely descheduled, and Armentano wrote that this is still the case. After the HHS recommendation news was published, Armentano discussed the topic with outlets such as The Associated Press, The Washington Post, and more. “Tobacco and alcohol are not in the Controlled Substances Act,” he told CNN. “Those substances are well recognized to pose far greater hazards to health than cannabis. We should treat marijuana [under the federal scheduling system] equally.”

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Ron DeSantis Confirms He Would Not Legalize Adult Use if Elected President, Warns of Fentanyl-Laced Pot

On Saturday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he would not legalize adult-use cannabis if elected president, confirming what he said in June, and warned about the danger of fentanyl-laced pot at the Never Back Down Super PAC in Iowa.

Florida Politics reports that the presidential hopeful is gearing up for the 2024 presidential election, and taking a harder stance against adult-use cannabis.

“Yeah, I would not legalize,” DeSantis said at Never Back Down. “I think what’s happened is this stuff is very potent now. I think it’s a real, real problem and I think it’s a lot different than stuff that people were using 30 or 40 years ago. And I think when kids get on that, I think it causes a lot of problems. And then, of course, you know, they can throw fentanyl in any of this stuff now.”

DeSantis launched a bus tour scheduled last month to hit Chariton, Osceola, and Oskaloosa in Iowa. The Des Moines Register reports that it’s part of his plan to “barnstorm” small towns in Iowa, an early voting state, as he ramps up his campaign to tackle GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. Polling averages by FiveThirtyEight show DeSantis with about 18% of Republican voter support while Trump carries over 50%.

“The drugs are killing this country,” DeSantis added, though cannabis itself cannot cause a fatal overdose. “While a fatal overdose caused solely by marijuana is unlikely, marijuana is not harmless,” the CDC says cautiously. Fentanyl, of course, is another story: drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids—primarily fentanyl—continued to rise with 70,601 overdose deaths reported in 2021.

“We have medical in our Constitution, we have medical marijuana, we enforce that, you know, we abide by it, but to take action now to make it even more available, I would not do that,” DeSantis said, adding that Colorado adult use just led to black market sales. DeSantis, however, supported smokable medical cannabis early in his first term, citing people with Lou Gehrig’s disease and other conditions, when it’s unknown which delivery method works best. 

But in 2022 he went hard against cannabis: “What I don’t like about it is if you go to some of these places that have done it, the stench when you’re out there, I mean, it smells so putrid,” he said. “I could not believe the pungent odor that you would see in some of these places. I don’t want to see that here. I want people to be able to breathe freely.”

On the campaign trail in North Augusta, South Carolina in June, DeSantis was asked by a man claiming to be speaking on behalf of military veterans living with sickness and injury after serving their country, whether he would decriminalize cannabis if elected president.

DeSantis said he would not, saying that it would impact employee performance. “I think that we have too many people using drugs in this country right now,” the Florida governor said. “I think it hurts our workforce readiness. I think it hurts people’s ability to prosper and, just in my experience in growing up in the Tampa Bay area in Florida, the kids in high school who got involved in that that I went with, you know, all suffered. All their activities, all their grades, and everything like that.”

By Sunday, DeSantis was back in Tallahassee.

Fentanyl and Cannabis Are Very Different

Headlines about fentanyl-laced pot cause alarm, yet frequently fall apart: The Brattleboro Police Department (BPD) in Vermont told the media they revived a patient using CPR and several doses of Narcan after cannabis the person smoked reportedly tested positive for fentanyl, and found more in a second incident. Then they had to retract their statement:

“The seized marijuana in both incidents was submitted to a forensic laboratory where testing was conducted,” the Brattleboro Police Department said in a statement. “BPD was notified no fentanyl was found in the marijuana in either case.”

The same thing happened in 2020 in New York when officials said they found the drug in cannabis, and then a week or so later determined it wasn’t. “Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl has not been found mixed into cannabis in New York City,” the city health department clarified. The New York State Department of Health also clarified “it is unlikely to be in weed.” 

But is smoking fentanyl-laced pot even feasible considering how it burns? It’s a topic High Times has explored many times. “It’s unclear if you can consume fentanyl in that way—by smoking,” Peter Grinspoon, M.D., an Internist and medical cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Instructor at Harvard Medical School told High Times in 2021. “Some drugs you can smoke, like cocaine, freebased as crack. But fentanyl tends to disintegrate starting at about 500 degrees [F], and it fully disintegrates at about 1000 degrees. When you smoke—you’re talking about 2,000 degrees.” 

While it could have happened some place, it would make little sense for drug dealers to lace pot with fentanyl if it’s smoked considering how much could be wasted.

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AOC ‘Concerned’ Biden’s Conservative Pot Views Could Ruin Bipartisan Push To Study Psychedelics

AOC is doing what we love her best for: calling out the old-guard Democrats. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Representative from New York, says she’s worried that President Joe Biden may derail bipartisan efforts to address psychedelics due to his past conservative comments about cannabis usage, Business Insider reports

“I believe the president has displayed a regressiveness for cannabis policy,” she said, making it clear that she has concerns about Biden’s approach to cannabis and psychedelics. “And if there’s a regressiveness toward cannabis policy, it’s likely to be worse on anything else,” AOC added. 

Cannabis and “classical” psychedelics, such as LSD and psilocybin, have been gaining the American people’s public acceptance. In June, a study found that Americans say cannabis is much less dangerous than opioids, alcohol, and cigarettes. 

Recently, during an interview with The Michael Smerconish Program on SiriusXM Wednesday, the president’s brother, Frank Biden, shared that the president might be down with psychedelics. “He is very open-minded,” Frank Biden responded when asked by Smerconish about discussions with his presidential brother about the medical benefits of psychedelics.” 

In 2022, Biden announced that he will pardon people with federal convictions for simple possession of cannabis. The president also announced that he will direct the U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to begin the process of reviewing the classification of cannabis at the federal level.

And, in late June, the FDA issued the first-ever guidance for psychedelic clinical studies. They filed the 14-page document following Congress-introduced bipartisan legislation led by Texas Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw, directing the issuance of clinical trial guidelines. 

However, this hasn’t convinced AOC that President Biden, the leader of the federal government, is committed to honoring the public’s changing viewpoints based on how he has talked about marijuana in the past. “I am concerned about the president,” Ocasio-Cortez of New York told The Washington Post

And she’s not wrong to question his flip-flopping policy. Back during the 2020 election, Leafly pointed out that Biden was the only Democratic presidential candidate that was against federal legalization. Only a few years ago, in 2019, Biden said cannabis could be a “gateway drug,” one of the foulest expressions in the English language to the cannabis connoisseur. 

“The truth of the matter is, there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug,” the then-presidential hopeful said during a town hall event. “It’s a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”

However, once Biden realized it was only him and Donald Trump against federal legalization, he quickly changed his tune. Since entering office, he has kept a safe distance from drug policy but, as mentioned, has stated that federal legalization is in the future. However, Ocasio-Cortez says other lawmakers’ reactions regarding pro-psychedelic legislation tells another story. 

According to AOC, when she first introduced the legislation, an unnamed senior member of her party laughed at her. “Oh, is this your little ‘shrooms bill?’” Ocasio-Cortez said the lawmaker told her. She and Crenshaw added amendments that would increase access to psychedelic treatments for veterans and active-duty service members with mental health conditions, which were tacked on to the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, who recently proposed ending drug testing for the military, says the congressional “gerontocracy” is why lawmakers of both parties (the psychedelic movement is a surprisingly bipartisan effort), in line with AOC’s observation that politicians like Biden, are stuck in regressive viewpoints. 

However, even if Biden came off as anti-cannabis just four years ago, and even if that’s how he feels, given recent activity, it’s clear that he’s realized that if the president wants to stay in the game, he must embrace cannabis and psychedelics as valid medicines. Most folks in the movement would take federal deregulation, even if it comes from lawmakers’ efforts to look cool rather than what lives in their hearts. 

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Matt Gaetz Proposes Ending Cannabis Testing for Military Members

A proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act by Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida would cease cannabis testing for military members, Politico reports.

Should the amendment make it into the National Defense Authorization Act, it would further relax rules regarding cannabis testing within the military. As marijuana legalization sweeps the nation, more and more recruits seek out the benefits of cannabis, whether for recreational use, medical benefits, or both, especially in legal states. According to The New York Times, nearly 33% more recruits tested positive in 2022 than in 2020. At the time of reporting, medical marijuana is legal in 38 states and Washington, D.C., and adult-use cannabis is legal in 22 states and D.C.

Recently, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill that includes an amendment allowing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to recommend medical cannabis for their patients in legal states. It will go into effect as part of the approved legislation that funds the VA for the 2024 Fiscal Year. The amendment, sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, passed via a voice vote in June. It will yield the same results a standalone bill refiled in the House seeks to obtain, with bipartisan backing by Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, and Florida Republican Representative Brian Mast, who lost both legs while serving in the Army in Afghanistan. Blumenauer and Mast are the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

Gaetz’s proposed amendment follows other changes regarding the Federal government’s stance on cannabis use. In May, reports showed that over the past five years, the military gave 3,400 recruits who failed a drug test on their first day a “grace period to try again.” The Army waived over 3,300 recruits who failed a drug test or admitted past drug use between 2018 and 2022. Historically, the Army is considered the most relaxed (although describing the Army as “relaxed” feels like an oxymoron) compared to other military branches. The Navy traditionally has a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who fails their entry drug test. Still, even they recently started giving recruits another chance to take another drug test after 90 days if they failed the first one, as are the Air Force and the Marine Corps.

Now is a good time to point out that piss tests are basically just cannabis tests. For example, while both cocaine and heroin show up in urine for three to four days after use, cannabis lingers for roughly 30 days and sometimes even longer. So, unless one administers the drug screening shortly after taking anything other than cannabis (although remember, under Federal law, cocaine is only Schedule II, while cannabis is Schedule I), the infamous piss test only really screws over stoners, which seems rather contradictory and unfair, although in line with most conservative’s regressive attitudes about marijuana. 

However, considering recent bipartisan support for cannabis reform, even that could be changing. Gaetz, a man associated with the far-right, who once voted to give Donald Trump the Nobel Peace Prize, wishes to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, is virulently against abortion rights, and once voiced support for Kyle Rittenhouse, is an unlikely stoner ally. However, he is generally pro-cannabis, once stating that the federal government has “lied to the American people for a generation” about the medical benefits of marijuana. 

Gaetz’s desire to end cannabis testing for military members is tied to his desire for America to have thriving armed forces. “Our military is facing a recruitment and retainment crisis unlike any other time in American history. I do not believe that prior use of cannabis should exclude Americans from enlisting in the armed forces. We should embrace them for stepping up to serve our country,” Gaetz said in a statement.

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New Hampshire Rep. Goes from Republican to Independent Due to Rejection of Pot Legalization Bill

New Hampshire Representative Dan Hynes announced on Facebook that he is officially switching parties from Republican to Independent due to his belief that the Republican party no longer values priorities such as the defense of the Constitution or individual freedom.

In his post, he explained that there were three examples that led to his decision. This included his disappointment that legislators could not protect both the rights of parents as well as children, and also the recent passage of a budget with spending of approximately 20%, explaining that it was rushed and people didn’t have enough time to read it thoroughly.

Another matter that influenced his decision involved Republicans voting against cannabis legalization in a near-unanimous vote. “It is clear they are out of touch with the overwhelming majority of their constituents, and that they do not respect or advocate for personal freedom,” Hynes explained. “I hope Republicans can get back to advocating for a smaller government. Until that happens, I will continue fighting for a smaller government that protects the constitutional rights of everyone as an independent.”

The bill that Hynes mentioned refers to House Bill 639, which was rejected on May 11 and would have legalized recreational cannabis, established a regulatory framework, established a 12.5% tax on cannabis products, implemented movement for cannabis revenue to fund research, education, and substance abuse programs, and more.

In May, Sen. William Gannon expressed his opposition for HB-639, claiming that legalization would “sell out the future of New Hampshire youth for money, as Judas sold out Jesus for a few shining coins.”

Following the bill’s rejection, Sen. Becky Whitley and Sen. Shannon Chandley released their personal statements on the issue. “Today’s failure to pass HB-639 means New Hampshire will continue to miss out on significant revenues, as our residents purchase their cannabis products in neighboring states, and will result in the continuation of significant harms caused by marijuana prohibition,” Whitley stated. “Granite Starters have already waited long enough for cannabis legalization in our state, and the Senate majority intends to make our citizens wait even longer.”

Earlier in January, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s office shared that a bipartisan approach to cannabis legalization would never reach Sununu’s desk. “It’s failed in the Senate repeatedly, in both Republican-held years and Democrat-held years,” the office stated. “With teen drug use and overdoses on the rise, it is not anticipated that the legislature will see this as a time to ignore the data and move it forward.”

However in May, Sununu released another statement about his support for cannabis legalization that focuses on harm reduction. “NH is the only state in New England where recreational use is not legal. Knowing that a majority of our residents support legalization, it is reasonable to assume change is inevitable. To ignore this reality would be shortsighted and harmful,” Sununu stated. “That is why, with the right policy and framework in place, I stand ready to sign a legalization bill that puts the State of NH in the driver’s seat, focusing on harm reduction—not profits.”

Sununu ended his statement with a firm outlook on what kind of cannabis legislation he will and won’t veto. “I am supportive of legalizing marijuana in the right way —with this legislature —rather than risk a poorly thought out framework that inevitably could pass under future governors or legislatures. Should the legislature pass future legalization bills without these provisions in place, they will be vetoed,” Sununu stated. “This is the best path forward for our state, and I stand ready and willing to work with the legislature so that we can deliver a legalization bill that is smart, sustainable, and retains the fabric and culture of our state.”

A poll published by the University of New Hampshire in March 2022 found that 74% of residents approve of cannabis legalization.

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South Dakota Anti-Pot Lawmaker Gets Medical Weed Card to Test System

Longtime pot opponent South Dakota State Representative Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) repeatedly worked hard to narrow the state’s medical cannabis system as much as possible, and now aims to test the system after getting a card himself. 

Who is this guy? Deutsch urged his fellow representatives to vote against a bill adding several qualifying conditions to the state’s medical cannabis program, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fought against other provisions like popup clinics. Deutsch claimed that studies show cannabis leads to an uptick in suicide.

After a few past attempts to limit the state’s program failed, the representative wants to test the state medical cannabis system to see if he can find any flaws. Deutsch told The Dakota Scout that he obtained a South Dakota medical cannabis card, but not to buy cannabis.

KOTA reports that in an earlier interview, the Tea Party Republican expressed some of his concerns over the details of the state’s medical cannabis system.

“States are called the laboratories of democracy,” Deutsch said. So, each laboratory we can see the kinds of outcomes they’ve attained from the laws they’ve written.”

He continued, “Doctors can make a hell of a lot of money just opening up their ‘Doc in a Box Shop,’ and that concerns me. That should concern everybody. I mean, come on. If we’re talking about medical marijuana, we should allow people that really need it to have access to it, and we should prevent people that don’t need it from getting access to it as well.”

Deustch also said that he aims to eliminate home growing altogether and only allow dispensaries to distribute, where cannabis can be tested and approved, to ensure that the black market is kept under control.

The vast majority of dispensaries—medical and adult-use—are checking patrons for ID. Data published in the journal Addictive Behaviors that adult-use retailers across five U.S. cities were in strict compliance with laws requiring patrons to show identification and proof of legal age.

South Dakota’s Road to Medical Cannabis

South Dakota stands out among other states’ because its adult-use cannabis law was approved and then overturned. South Dakota legalized cannabis for medical use in 2021, but cannabis can only be purchased by patients with medical cannabis cards.

Despite voting to approve a challenged adult-use cannabis bill two years earlier, for the second time, in 2022, voters in South Dakota rejected a measure to legalize adult-use cannabis.

“The voters said yes to establishing a medical marijuana system, and they said no to establishing a recreational marijuana system,” Deutsch said at the time.

In 2020, the South Dakota voters approved Initiated Measure 26 and approved medical cannabis with 69% of voters in favor of the measure. A majority of voters in South Dakota also approved a ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis. Constitutional Amendment A was approved with 54% of the vote, according to election records. However, a lawsuit filed last year by Gov. Kristi Noem and two highway patrol officers prevented the bill approved by voters from ever seeing the light of day. The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled on Nov 24, 2021, that the measure couldn’t be implemented because it violated a requirement that constitutional amendments deal with just one subject.

Since then, Deutsch has been working to narrow the scope of the state’s medical cannabis program.

Deutsch was prime sponsor of four medical cannabis bills seeking to add regulations and personally led the fight against popup clinics. But last February, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee rejected HB1129 and HB1172.

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Wisconsin GOP Leaders Kill 500+ Proposals from Governor, Including Legal Cannabis

Wisconsin Republicans killed more than 500 proposals from Gov. Tony Evers (D) on Tuesday, including a proposal to legalize cannabis, among others that would pay for Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium renovations, create a paid family leave program and more, AP News reports.

Evers called the move “foolish.” He had proposed using the state’s record-high $7 billion budget surplus to fund a number of state spending priorities, which Wisconsin Republican leaders ultimately rejected. Members voted 12-4 to eliminate Evers’s provisions in the budget request.

“With a historic $7 billion surplus, we have a historic responsibility and opportunity to invest in needs that have long been neglected and build the future we want for our state,” Evers said on Twitter, before listing a number of the 540 priorities that were rejected in a thread. 

“These aren’t fringe ideas, controversial concepts, or Republican or Democratic priorities—they’re about doing the right thing. With a historic surplus comes historic responsibility, and today, when we can afford to do more, this vote is foolish and a wasted opportunity,” he added.

It’s not necessarily a shocking move, in regard to cannabis at least, since the Republican-controlled legislature has previously removed cannabis reform language from past budget proposals. Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin also previously warned that they would not allow an adult-use cannabis legalization proposal to progress.

The cannabis plan would have allowed adults over the age of 21 to purchase and possess up to two ounces of cannabis for personal use and grow up to six plants. The Department of Revenue would have been responsible for regulating the new cannabis market and issuing business licenses to prospective professionals in the cannabis space.

Evers’s office also estimated that the state would generate $44.4 million in “segregated tax revenue” from legal cannabis and a $10.2 million increase in state general fund tax revenue in fiscal year 2025, if the reform were to be enacted. 

The governor is already known for his continuous pardons, mostly involving low-level offenses and including cannabis offenses. As of April 2023, Evers has hit 933 pardons in just over four years in office.

“It is one of the most rewarding parts of my job as governor to have the opportunity to grant a fresh start to folks who’ve made efforts to learn and grow from their past mistakes,” Evers said

The onslaught of rejected proposals may be a case of déjà vu for Evers as well, as the governor also included recreational and medical cannabis legalization in his 2021 budget and decriminalization and medical cannabis in his 2019 proposal. The reforms were all blocked by the Republican legislature.

Last month, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the Associated Press that Republican lawmakers in the state were working to privately build support for a medical cannabis program aimed to gain bipartisan support, potentially to be enacted into law later this year. Vos also voiced that he is opposed to legalizing recreational cannabis and does not want to create a medical program to act as a precursor to the adult-use market.

However, it looks like Wisconsin voters are already setting their sights on broader horizons. An August 2022 Marquette Law School poll of 811 voters in the state showed bipartisan support for legal cannabis, with 51% of Republicans, 75% of independents and 81% of Democrats backing legalization. A total of 69% registered voters believed cannabis should be legal.

Additionally, continuing to stall on cannabis legalization is likely taking away potential state revenue. A report published earlier this year found that 50% of Wisconsinites 21 and older live within 75 minutes of an out-of-state cannabis retailer, likely to increase as Minnesota inches closer to legalization.

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Montana GOP Lawmaker Wants To Eliminate Recreational Dispensaries

More than two years after voters approved a measure legalizing recreational cannabis, and more than a year after the launch of the state’s regulated marijuana market, a Montana lawmaker wants to undo all of that. 

Last week, Republican state Sen. Keith Regier introduced a bill that includes a slate of reforms to Montana’s cannabis policy, most notably “eliminating adult-use dispensaries.” 

According to Montana Free Press, the bill “additionally raises the state tax on medical marijuana from 4% to 20% and puts significant limits on medical marijuana potency and allowable amounts for possession,” and although it would once again prohibit recreational cannabis, it would not “re-criminalize marijuana possession for adults.”

Regier’s bill states plainly its objective: “reduce the demand for marijuana sales.”

Montana Free Press has more background on the proposal:

“If passed into law, the bill would drastically reduce the potential consumer base for existing marijuana businesses and eliminate a significant source of revenue for state coffers. Since adult-use sales began in January 2022, Montana has generated $54 million in tax revenue from the industry. Less than one-tenth of that revenue came from medical marijuana taxes. Currently, recreational customers pay a 20% tax to the state; some counties add an additional 3% local tax.

The outlet reported that the bill will be the subject of a hearing on Wednesday in the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee.

Nearly 57% of Montana voters approved Initiative 190 in 2020, which legalized marijuana for adults aged 21 and older, and also laid the groundwork for cannabis sales to be taxed. 

Recreational cannabis sales launched last year, bringing in more than $200 million to the state in 2022.

According to the state, recreational marijuana sales amounted to $202,947,328 in 2022, while medical cannabis sales totaled $93,616,551. (Voters in Montana legalized medical marijuana treatment in 2004.)

The two combined to generate a grand total of $303,563,879 in marijuana sales last year. 

Montana generated $41,989,466 in tax revenue off recreational pot sales, according to the Department of Revenue, and $3,744,662 in taxes from medical cannabis sales. Combined, the state pulled in $45,734,128 in tax revenue from marijuana sales in 2022.

Marijuana reform has been a hot topic in Montana’s legislative session this year. 

Earlier this month, the Business and Labor Committee “heard testimony on two marijuana-related bills,” according to local news station KTVH –– one of which “would prohibit marijuana businesses in Montana from promoting their business or brand in print, over TV and radio or using a billboard,” while the other “would revise the required warning labels that marijuana businesses must put on their products, to say that marijuana use during pregnancy could result in ‘congenital anomalies, and inherited cancers developed by a child later in life.’”

The station reported that the proposed ban on advertising “drew opposition from marijuana businesses and from the Montana Newspaper Association,” with opponents saying that “most people in the industry have gone to great lengths to make sure their advertising follows the current rules, and most of the issues people are concerned about have come from a few bad actors.”

There have been debates over other cannabis bills, too, including one that “would require marijuana growers and manufacturers of marijuana products to install air filtration systems to address concerns about odor,” according to KTVH, as well as several proposed bills to change how the state distributes the marijuana tax revenue.

“In particular, they propose removing a section in state law that directs a percentage of taxes from marijuana sales toward Habitat Montana – a program that uses state funds for wildlife habitat conservation projects. Gov. Greg Gianforte has said the program has more than enough funding and no longer needs the marijuana revenue,” the station reported.

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Republican Congressman Reintroduces Bill To Move Cannabis to Schedule III

As many advocates are pushing for decriminalization and completely descheduling cannabis at the federal level, one Republican congressman is pushing to simply downgrade cannabis from schedule I to schedule III, which would allow for research to move forward at a faster pace and provide several other perks.

Rep. Greg Steube (R-Florida) reintroduced a bill as H.R. 610 or the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act on Jan. 27, about four years after filing a similar bill previously, along with seven other bills, according to a press release

The bill would direct the Attorney General of the United States to amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to move cannabis from schedule I to schedule III of the Act—within 60 days of the bill’s enactment.

The bill doesn’t go as far as others that would end the federal prohibition of cannabis via decriminalization or other routes. However, the bill would protect federal employees who consume cannabis, as only Schedule I or II substances are prohibited. It would also free cannabis businesses affected by Tax Code 280E, and make research a lot more feasible.

Rep. Steube filed a similar bill on Sept. 12, 2019, the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act of 2019, which would also downgrade cannabis from schedule 1 to allow for more possibilities in research.

“As marijuana is legalized for medical and recreational use across the United States, it is important that we study the effects of the substance and the potential impacts it can have on various populations,” Congressman Steube said in 2019. “By rescheduling marijuana from a schedule I controlled substance to a schedule III controlled substance, the opportunities for research and study are drastically expanded. With this rescheduling, researchers can now access federal funds to research this substance and determine its medical value.”

The congressman acknowledged that research on cannabis is currently hampered under current conditions.

“We hear every day about the positive health benefits of marijuana. Whether it’s young children with seizure disorders, or veterans suffering from chronic pain, it is clear that there are medical benefits to marijuana and I think it’s time we remove the bureaucratic red tape that prevents us from thoroughly studying this substance,” continued Steube.

The discordant nature of state cannabis laws versus federal law makes such a bill a step, albeit rather small, in the right direction.

President Joe Biden directed an administrative review into the possibilities of rescheduling cannabis under the CSA. 

Rep. Steube’s other bills which were announced at the same time as the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act include one that would strip Disney of copyright protections and specifically target what he calls “big tech” and “woke” organizations, per the announcement. 

“The Republican majority in the 118th Congress is working to make our government accountable to the people,” said Rep. Steube. “I am reintroducing eight bills that will remove special privileges for Big Tech and woke organizations, cut taxes for Americans and prevent their money from being spent on cruel dog testing, and hold our government accountable while improving efficiency!” 

Rep. Streube also takes a controversial stance on other matters such as transgender rights, and pushed to allow guns in airports and add mandatory-minimum sentences for drug trafficking. His 2017 bill would have pushed for stricter sentences for the sale, manufacture, and delivery of cannabis and other drugs. 

On Jan. 27 the bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be determined by the Speaker.

The post Republican Congressman Reintroduces Bill To Move Cannabis to Schedule III appeared first on High Times.

GOP Lawmaker in Indiana Pushes Legalization Proposals

A Republican lawmaker in Indiana is putting his weight behind a pair of bills that would bring legal marijuana to the Hoosier State.

GOP state Sen. Jon Ford “recently signed on to support two bills this legislative session related to cannabis and its possible future use in the state,” according to local news station WTWO/WAWV, with the legislator saying “he wants to begin to have these discussions … due to the area he represents being on the border with Illinois, where recreational marijuana is legal.”

Ford indicated that he was driven to support the measures after conversations with members of law enforcement, who said that the discrepancy between Indiana and other bordering states has led to confusion.

“It’s hard for law enforcement to understand where we are on the issue, so I really wanted to support the bill so we can have that discussion,” Ford told WTWO/WAWV.

Ford authored the two bills with a pair of Democratic lawmakers.

Senate Bill 336 would establish “a procedure for the lawful production and sale of cannabis in Indiana.”

Senate Bill 377, meanwhile, would establish the following: 

“Permits the use of cannabis by: (1) a person at least 21 years of age; and (2) a person with a serious medical condition as determined by the person’s physician. Establishes the adult use cannabis excise tax, and requires a retailer to transfer the tax to the department of state revenue for deposit in the state general fund. Exempts veterans from payment of the sales tax on medical or adult use cannabis. Establishes a cannabis program to permit the cultivation, processing, testing, transportation, and sale of cannabis by holders of a valid permit. Establishes the Indiana Cannabis Commission (ICC) as a state agency to oversee, implement, and enforce the program, and establishes the ICC advisory committee to review the effectiveness of the program. Requires that permit holders take steps to prevent diversion of cannabis to unauthorized persons. Requires that cannabis and cannabis products be properly labeled, placed in child resistant packaging, and tested by an independent testing laboratory before being made available for purchase. Prohibits packaging cannabis in a manner that is appealing to children. Authorizes research on cannabis in accordance with rules set forth by the ICC. Establishes a procedure for the expungement of a cannabis related conviction if the act constituting the conviction becomes legal. Makes conforming amendments.”

It is probably a long-shot for either bill to become law this year, however. 

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, has said previously that he isn’t keen on the state legalizing marijuana before the federal government. 

“The law that needs to change is the federal law,” Holcomb said in 2021. “It is illegal right now for recreational use, for medicinal use. There are states that have ignored that law. I will not ignore any law whether I agree with it or disagree with it or disagree with it so that’s the law that needs to change.”

But last year, after President Joe Biden announced that he would issue pardons to all individuals with federal cannabis convictions, Holcomb said that Indiana would not be following the White House’s lead.

“The president should work with Congress, not around them, to discuss changes to the law federally, especially if he is requesting governors to overturn the work local prosecutors have done by simply enforcing the law,” Holcomb said at the time. “Until these federal law changes occur, I can’t in good conscience consider issuing blanket pardons for all such offenders.”

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