Representatives Blumenauer and Lee Urge President Biden to Pardon Federal Cannabis Offenses

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Today, U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, led 35 lawmakers in urging President Joe Biden to use executive clemency to pardon individuals convicted of federal cannabis offenses.

“Until the day that Congress sends you a marijuana reform bill to sign, you have a unique ability to lead on criminal justice reform and provide immediate relief to thousands of Americans,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent to the president. “We urge you to grant executive clemency for all non-violent cannabis offenders.”

The lawmakers stressed that discriminatory cannabis policies have perpetuated systemic racism in America for decades, citing a 2020 report issued by the ACLU that found that Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable usage rates.

“During your previous tenure at the White House, President Obama understood that decades of harsh and discriminatory federal drug laws unfairly trapped minority individuals and communities in cycles of despair. That is why he used the tools of justice to grant clemency for 1,927 individuals convicted of federal crimes,” the lawmakers continued. “Your Administration has the power to expand on end this legacy and issue a general pardon to all former federal, non-violent cannabis offenders in the U.S and trigger resentencing for all those who remain federally incarcerated on non-violent, cannabis-only offenses for activity now legal under state laws.”

In their letter to President Biden Thursday, the lawmakers also noted that their request is not a partisan issue. Every president since George H.W. Bush has exercised their pardoning power for cannabis offenses.

This push from lawmakers comes after Americans in five more states voted overwhelmingly to liberalize their cannabis policies during the November elections and the U.S. House of Representatives took the historic step of passing the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act in December.

“President Biden’s leadership on issuing pardons to nonviolent federal marijuana offenders would demonstrate a down payment on his campaign promise to prioritize criminal justice reform and similarly inspire similar justice-oriented actions in a non-partisan fashion around the country,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Shortly after President Biden’s election, the House of Representatives voted to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. Now in a new legislative session, President Biden should follow their lead and move to immediately provide relief to those who continue to suffer from a criminal record for a nonviolent federal marijuana offense. We are tremendously grateful for the leadership of the Cannabis Caucus, particularly Representatives Barbara Lee and Earl Blumenauer, as they tirelessly lead this ongoing but hopefully soon to be finished fight for marijuana justice nationwide.”

In addition to Blumenauer and Lee, the letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Reps. Nydia Velázquez, Adriano Espaillat, Bonnie Watson Coleman, James McGovern, Jan Schakowsky, Jesús “Chuy” García, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Rashida Tlaib, Danny K. Davis, Alan Lowenthal, Alcee Hastings, David Trone, Mark Pocan, Carolyn Maloney, Peter Welch, Dwight Evans, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Jared Huffman, Pramila Jayapal, Ed Perlmutter, Mondaire Jones, Zoe Lofgren, Ro Khanna, J. Luis Correa, Brenda Lawrence, Charlie Crist, Dean Phillips, Jamaal Bowman, Steven Horsford, Henry “Hank” Johnson, Jake Auchincloss, Raúl Grijalva, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

A PDF copy of the letter is available here.

Senators Booker, Wyden, Schumer Joint Statement on Cannabis Reform Legislation

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued the following joint statement regarding comprehensive cannabis reform legislation in the 117th Congress:

“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color. Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country. But that alone is not enough. As states continue to legalize marijuana, we must also enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.

“We are committed to working together to put forward and advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but also undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory policies. The Senate will make consideration of these reforms a priority.

“In the early part of this year, we will release a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations. Getting input from stakeholder groups will be an important part of developing this critical legislation.”

USDA Publishes Final Rule For The Domestic Production Of Hemp

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the final rule regulating the production of hemp in the United States. The final rule incorporates modifications to regulations established under the interim final rule (IFR) published in October 2019. The modifications are based on public comments following the publication of the IFR and lessons learned during the 2020 growing season. The final rule is available for viewing in the Federal Register and will be effective on March 22, 2021.

“With the publication of this final rule, USDA brings to a close a full and transparent rule-making process that started with a hemp listening session in March 2019,” said USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Greg Ibach. “USDA staff have taken the information you have provided through three comment periods and from your experiences over a growing season to develop regulations that meet Congressional intent while providing a fair, consistent, science-based process for states, tribes and individual producers. USDA staff will continue to conduct education and outreach to help industry achieve compliance with the requirements.”

Key provisions of the final rule include licensing requirements; recordkeeping requirements for maintaining information about the land where hemp is produced; procedures for testing the THC concentration levels for hemp; procedures for disposing of non-compliant plants; compliance provisions; and procedures for handling violations.

Background: 

On Oct. 31, 2019, USDA published the IFR that provided specific details on the process and criteria for review of plans USDA receives from states and Indian tribes regarding the production of hemp and established a plan to monitor and regulate the production of hemp in those states or Indian tribes that do not have an approved state or Tribal plan.

The IFR was effective immediately after publication in the Federal Register and provided a 60-day public comment period. On Dec. 17, 2019, USDA extended the comment period until Jan. 29, 2020, to allow stakeholders additional time to provide feedback. USDA re-opened the comment period for 30 days, from Sept. 8 to Oct. 8, 2020 seeking additional comments from all stakeholders, especially those who were subject to the regulatory requirements of the IFR during the 2020 production cycle. In all, USDA received about 5,900 comments.

On Feb. 27, 2020, USDA announced the delay of enforcement of the requirement for labs to be registered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the requirement that producers use a DEA-registered reverse distributor or law enforcement to dispose of non-compliant plants under certain circumstances until Oct. 31, 2021, or the final rule is published, whichever comes first. This delay has been further extended in the final rule to December 2022.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) directed USDA to issue regulations and guidance to implement a program for the commercial production of hemp in the United States. The authority for hemp production provided in the 2014 Farm Bill was extended until January 1, 2022, by the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021, and Other Extensions Act (Pub. L. 116-260) (2021 Continuing Appropriations Act) allowing states and institutions of higher education to continue to grow or cultivate industrial hemp at certified and registered locations within the state for research and education purposes under the authorities of the 2014 Farm Bill.

More information about the provisions of the final rule is available on the Hemp Production web page on the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website.

Over 200 Drug Policy, Harm Reduction, Health Care, and Community Groups Call on Biden Administration to Prioritize Public Health Solutions to Curb Overdose Crisis and Dismantle Drug War

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Over 200 drug policy, harm reduction, health care, and community based organizations from across the country today sent a letter to Rahul Gupta, Team Lead for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on President-Elect Biden’s Transition Team. The letter urges the Biden administration to implement proven, bold solutions to curb the overdose crisis and begin dismantling the drug war. Led by People’s ActionVOCAL-NY, the Drug Policy Alliance, and National Harm Reduction Coalition, the letter also makes clear the disproportionate consequences the drug war and overdose crisis have on Black, Brown, and low-income communities, which have contributed to the U.S. leading the world in mass incarceration and preventable overdose deaths.

“Like the President-elect, we too have watched the nation stigmatize our loved ones for substance use, and, instead of judging, we unconditionally love and support them. And, like the President-elect, we too have experienced the insurmountable grief brought on by the loss of family members,” the groups wrote. “It is our strong hope and belief that ending the drug war that has inflicted incredible harm in communities across this nation, and centering evidence-based solutions to address the overdose crisis, could be a great catalyst for a national transformation.”

In the letter, the groups outline immediate and longer-term policy recommendations based on to combat the overdose crisis and begin dismantling the drug war, such as:

  • Ground the ONDCP in evidence-based drug policies backed by science and public health approaches;
  • Commit the ONDCP to dismantling the drug war, advancing a national drug budget that prioritizes harm reduction, treatment and recovery and looks beyond enforcement and supply side strategies that only perpetuate mass incarceration, systemic racism and the failed drug war;
  • Include in FY22 budgets and future COVID relief packages dedicated funds to sustain harm reduction providers including syringe service programs;
  • Direct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withdraw litigation challenging the operation of overdose prevention centers (OPCs), refrain from filing new lawsuits against or from prosecuting organizations that operate OPCs, and work with Congress to revise federal laws to permit the operation of OPCs;
  • Permanently extend the SAMHSA/DEA COVID-19 accommodations for methadone and buprenorphine access (the gold standard for opioid use disorder treatment); and
  • Support policies that would eliminate requirements that inhibit practitioners to easily prescribe medication for opioid use disorder, prohibit state Medicaid programs from requiring prior authorization for medication-assisted treatment, and include people directly impacted by the crisis to help decide where resources would be best targeted locally.

The full text of the letter, which includes the 212 organizations that signed on, may be found here.

FDA Warns Companies Illegally Selling CBD Products

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued five warning letters to companies for selling products containing cannabidiol (CBD) in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). All five warning letters address the illegal marketing of unapproved CBD products claiming to treat medical conditions. The warning letters include CBD products that are especially concerning from a public health perspective due to the route of administration, including nasal, ophthalmic and inhalation. In addition, they address violations relating to the addition of CBD to food, and the impermissible marketing of CBD products as dietary supplements. Two of the letters also address CBD products illegally marketed for pets, including a product for use in the eye.

“The FDA’s first priority is to protect the health and safety of Americans. Many questions remain regarding the science, safety, effectiveness and quality of products containing CBD,” said FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy, M.D., Ph.D. “We remain focused on exploring potential pathways for CBD products to be lawfully marketed while also educating the public about these outstanding questions of CBD’s safety. Meanwhile, we will continue to monitor and take action, as needed, against companies that unlawfully market their products — prioritizing those that pose the greatest risk of harm to the public.”

The warning letters were issued to:

The FDA has previously sent warning letters to other companies illegally selling unapproved CBD products that claimed to prevent, diagnose, mitigate, treat or cure various diseases, in violation of the FD&C Act. In some cases, there were further violations because CBD was added to food, and some of the products were impermissibly marketed as “dietary supplements.”

The products that are the subject of the letters issued today have not gone through the FDA drug approval process and therefore are considered unapproved new drugs. It is not known whether they are effective for the uses claimed in labeling, what an appropriate dose might be, how they could interact with FDA-approved drugs or other products or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns. In addition, the manufacturing process of these unapproved CBD-containing drug products has not been subject to FDA review as part of the human or animal drug approval processes, so it is not known what the manufacturing conditions of, or contaminant levels in these products may be.

Under the FD&C Act, any product intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat or prevent a disease, and any product (other than a food) that is intended to affect the structure or function of the body of humans or animals, is a drug. New human and animal drugs must be approved by the FDA or conform to a “monograph” for a particular drug category, as established by FDA’s Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drug Review, before they can be legally marketed as drugs. CBD was not an ingredient considered under the OTC Drug Review.

The FDA has not approved any CBD products other than one prescription drug for the treatment of seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome (DS) in human patients. CBD has not been approved as a food additive and does not meet the statutory definition of a dietary supplement.

The FDA has requested responses from the companies within 15 working days stating how they will address these issues, or providing their reasoning and supporting information as to why they think the products are not in violation of the law. Failure to adequately address the violations promptly may result in legal action, including product seizure and/or injunction.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

FTC Announces Crackdown On Deceptively Marketed CBD Products

Companies made unsupported claims that their oils, balms, gummies, coffee, and other goods could treat serious diseases such as cancer and diabetes

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Federal Trade Commission today announced the first law enforcement crackdown on deceptive claims in the growing market for cannabidiol (CBD) products. The FTC is taking action against six sellers of CBD-containing products for allegedly making a wide range of scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, and others.

The FTC is requiring each of the companies, and individuals behind them, to stop making such unsupported health claims immediately, and several will pay monetary judgments to the agency. The orders settling the FTC’s complaints also bar the respondents from similar deceptive advertising in the future, and require that they have scientific evidence to support any health claims they make for CBD and other products.

“The six settlements announced today send a clear message to the burgeoning CBD industry: Don’t make spurious health claims that are unsupported by medical science,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Otherwise, don’t be surprised if you hear from the FTC.”

The crackdown, Operation CBDeceit, is part of the Commission’s ongoing effort to protect consumers from false, deceptive, and misleading health claims made in advertisements on websites and through social media companies such as Twitter.

Each case the FTC is announcing today is described below:

Bionatrol Health, LLC

According to the FTC’s complaint against Utah-based companies Bionatrol Health, LLC and Isle Revive, LLC, and two former managers and owners, since at least December 2019 the respondents sold a CBD oil to consumers on two websites. Among other things, the respondents allegedly claimed without substantiation that their CBD product is safe for all users, treats pain better than prescription medications like OxyContin, and prevents and treats age-related cognitive decline and chronic pain. The respondents also claimed, without scientific evidence, that CBD oil is “medically proven” to improve a variety of conditions, according to the FTC’s complaint. In addition, the FTC alleges the respondents deceived consumers who ordered one bottle of their CBD oil by changing the order to five bottles without consumers’ consent.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs without human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. It also requires competent and reliable scientific evidence for other health-related product claims, and prohibits the respondents from misrepresenting the cost of any good or service and from charging consumers without their express, informed consent. Finally, it requires the corporate respondents and individual respondent Marcello Torre to pay $20,000 to the FTC and to notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

Epichouse LLC (First Class Herbalist CBD)

According to the FTC’s complaint against Utah corporation Epichouse, LLC, which operated under several names, including First Class Herbalist, and the company’s founder and owner, John Le, since at least September 2019 the respondents sold several CBD products on their website, including oils, a pain-relief cream, coffee, and gummies.

Among other alleged unsupported claims, Epichouse and Le promoted CBD as safe for all users, able to treat pain better than prescription medications such as OxyContin, and able to prevent a wide range of serious conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. In their advertising, they also falsely claimed that CBD is scientifically proven to improve many serious health conditions—including chronic pain and hypertension—and provide neurological benefit—such as preventing age-related cognitive decline—according to the FTC’s complaint.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs, unless they have the human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. It requires them to have competent and reliable scientific evidence when making any other health-related product claims. Finally, the order requires the respondents to pay $30,000 to the FTC and notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

CBD Meds, Inc.

According to the FTC’s complaint against CBD Meds, Inc.; G2 Hemp, Inc.; and Lawrence Moses, a/k/a Lawrence D. Moses, Jr., individually and as an officer of the corporate entities, the two companies advertised CBD oil on their website and on YouTube. In their ads, the FTC contends, the Winchester, California-based firms made a number of false or unsubstantiated claims, including that CBD effectively treats, prevents, or mitigates serious diseases and conditions like artery blockage, cancer, glaucoma, autism, and schizophrenia, among many others. The respondents also falsely represented that some of the efficacy claims were scientifically proven or that the U.S. government has confirmed the health benefits of CBD.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs, unless they have the human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. More broadly, it requires them to have competent and reliable scientific evidence when making any other health-related product claims. Finally, the order requires the respondents to notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

HempmeCBD

According to the FTC’s complaint against EasyButter, LLC, also d/b/a HempmeCBD, and its owner and officer Michael Solomon, since at least January 2018, the respondents have sold CBD products on their website, including CBD-infused shea butter, gummies, lozenges, honey sticks, vape pens, and oils. The complaint alleges that HempmeCBD claimed its CBD products could treat or cure serious ailments like cancer-related symptoms, substance abuse, and AIDS. The complaint alleges HempmeCBD lacked the scientific substantiation for such health claims and falsely claimed to have studies showing CBD is effective at treating autism.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs, unless they have the human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. It also requires them to have competent and reliable scientific evidence when making any other health-related product claims. Finally, it requires the respondents to pay the FTC $36,254 and to notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

Reef Industries, Inc.

According to the FTC’s complaint against California-based Reef Industries, Inc.; Cannatera, Inc.; AndHemp, Ltd., and the companies’ three principals, the respondents have sold a variety of CBD products directly to consumers on their website and Twitter accounts since at least January 2019 and misrepresented the health benefits of CBD. The FTC alleges that the respondents made unsubstantiated claims that CBD can prevent, cure, mitigate, or treat diseases and serious health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, autoimmune disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. The complaint also alleges the respondents falsely claimed that studies or scientific research prove that CBD is effective at treating, curing, or mitigating these diseases and conditions.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs, unless they have the human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. More broadly, it requires them to have competent and reliable scientific evidence when making any other health-related product claims. Finally, it requires them to pay the FTC $85,000 and notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

Steves Distributing, LLC

According to the FTC’s complaint against Steves Distributing, LLC, d/b/a Steve’s Goods; and the company’s CEO Steven Taylor Schultheis, since beginning operations in 2018, the respondents have sold a variety of products containing both CBD and cannabigerol (CBG), which, like CBD, is a non-psychoactive compound derived from hemp. The company advertises its CBD and CBG products, including tinctures, gummies, capsules, topical balms, suppositories, bath balms, and coffee, on its website and through social media companies like Twitter.

The FTC alleges that the respondents claimed, without adequate substantiation, that their CBD and CBG products are effective alternatives to prescription medications and treat a wide range of diseases and serious health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and diabetes. The complaint also alleges the respondents falsely claimed that their CBD and CBG products have antibacterial properties, prevent or reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases, and that certain of these claims were supported by scientific evidence.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits the respondents from making certain prevention, treatment, or safety claims about dietary supplements, foods, and drugs, unless they have the human clinical testing to substantiate the claims. More broadly, it requires them to have competent and reliable scientific evidence when making any other health-related product claims. Finally, it requires the respondents to pay the FTC $75,000 and notify consumers of the Commission’s order.

The Commission votes approving each of the six administrative complaints and proposed consent orders were 5-0, with Commissioner Rohit Chopra and Commissioner Christine S. Wilson issuing separate, concurring statements. A complete list of respondents can be found in the complaint for each respective case.

The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register soon. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days after publication in the Federal Register after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Instructions for filing comments will appear in the published notice. Once processed, comments will be posted on Regulations.gov.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $43,280.

Dr. Rand Paul Introduces HEMP Act To Relieve Unnecessary Constraints On Hemp Industry, Provide Transparency And Certainty

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) continued his efforts to address Kentucky hemp farmers’ concerns with federal overreach and bring clarity, transparency, and certainty to regulation by introducing the Hemp Economic Mobilization Plan (HEMP) Act of 2020.

In response to concerns raised by Kentucky hemp farmers and processors, Dr. Paul’s HEMP Act would change the legal definition of hemp to raise the THC limit from 0.3% to 1%. Currently, any hemp crops testing above 0.3% have to be destroyed.

The legislation would require testing of the final hemp-derived product instead of the hemp flower or plant itself, as the 15-day window for testing the hemp flower or plant does not take potential testing backlogs, lack of personnel to collect samples, harvesting time, or environmental factors that farmers cannot control into account.

Dr. Paul’s HEMP Act would also protect legitimate hemp farmers, processors, and transporters by requiring hemp shipments to contain a copy of the seed certificate showing the hemp was grown from 1% THC seed, and it would address current uncertainty by defining a margin of error for testing THC levels. Neither current law nor the USDA’s interim final rule provide such a margin.

“For years, I’ve led the fight in Washington to restore one of Kentucky’s most historically vital crops by legalizing industrial hemp. We achieved a hard-won victory, but there is still work to do to prevent the federal government from weighing down our farmers with unnecessary bureaucratic micromanaging. My legislation will help this growing industry reach its full economic potential, and I am proud the bill has strong support all the way from local Kentucky farmers and activists to national groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation,” said Dr. Paul.

“The U.S. hemp industry has had its share of roadblocks, but we continue to push forward and make changes that will help hemp producers thrive. Senator Paul’s HEMP Act has the potential to improve upon the highest priority issues for hemp growers, processors, and labs, while making sure to keep our consumers safe as well. We are grateful for the continued support from our federal delegation and ask that folks at home call their Congressional representatives to ask for their support,” said Katie Moyer, Owner of Kentucky Hemp Works. 

“We are so excited to hear about Senator Paul’s H.E.M.P. Act, which will help farmers, processors and retailers in our young hemp industry. We believe that loosening up some important interstate business requirements are a much-needed step toward more prosperous times in the hemp economy,” said Kentucky Hemp Association President Tate Hall and Vice President Jana Groda. 

“We appreciate Sen. Paul’s leadership and support for hemp farmers in Kentucky and across the United States. The HEMP Act makes critical improvements that will better allow farmers to successfully grow and profit from hemp,” said Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra.

Dr. Paul has been a leading voice for removing government restrictions on hemp, and his past efforts, including championing legislation, testifying before the Kentucky legislature, and advocating for Kentucky farmers in Washington, have helped ensure Kentucky can rebuild its hemp industry and push forward to a prosperous future. You can find a video detailing his efforts HERE.

You can read Dr. Paul’s HEMP Act of 2020 HERE, and you can find background and further details in a one-pager HERE.

House Approves Blumenauer’s Medical Marijuana Research Act

Legislation removes barriers to much-needed research on health benefits of marijuana.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:Today (12/9/2020), the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Medical Marijuana Research Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Andy Harris (R-MD) to address burdensome impediments to legitimate medical research.

Although 99 percent of Americans now live in a state with some form of legalized marijuana, current federal law greatly limits researchers’ ability to study the health benefits of cannabis. Current barriers include the overly burdensome registration process, redundant protocol reviews, lack of adequate research material, and unnecessarily onerous security requirements.

“The cannabis laws in this country are broken, especially those that deal with research. It’s illegal everywhere in America to drive under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, or any other substance. But we do not have a good test for impairment because we can’t study it … This is insane and we need to change it,” Blumenauer said today on the House floor. “At a time when there are four million registered medical cannabis patients, and many more likely self-medicate, when there are 91 percent of Americans supporting medical cannabis, it’s time to change the system. Our bill will do precisely that.”

While the United States leads the world in biomedical research, research on cannabis lags far behind. A 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report found that “research on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids has been limited in the United States, leaving patients, health care professionals, and policy makers without the evidence they need to make sound decisions regarding the use of cannabis and cannabinoids.”

The Medical Marijuana Research Act will address these limitations by:

  • Providing a pathway for researchers to study the cannabis products consumers are using from state-legal programs.
  • Streamlining the burdensome and often duplicative license process for researchers seeking to conduct marijuana research, while still maintaining all necessary safeguards against misuse and abuse.
  • Addressing the woefully inadequate, both in quantity and quality, supply of medical-grade marijuana available for use in such research.
  • Requiring a report by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the status and results of new research on marijuana benefits.

This was the second vote held by the U.S. House of Representatives in the past week on Blumenauer’s federal cannabis reform priorities, following the passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act on Friday, December 4.

The full text of the Medical Marijuana Research Act can be found here.

Congressman Blumenauer Reacts To New Report Detailing Vast Economic Benefits To MORE Act

CBO projections show that cannabis reform will lead to huge growth in revenue, cuts to federal prison spending, and more.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Following a historic vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to end the federal prohibition on cannabis last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, released a new report today detailing vast economic benefits to the legislation.

Among other things, the agency found that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would increase revenues by about $13.7 billion, cut federal prison spending by $1 billion, and reduce time served in federal prison among existing and future inmates by 73,000 person-years.

U.S. Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and a key sponsor of the MORE Act, lauded these findings today on the House floor.

“It was sad that my Republican colleagues were unable to understand why we voted to reform our failed prohibition of cannabis. They don’t care about honoring the will of the people and they are unable to grasp the enormity of the racial injustice and damage by selective enforcement against young Black and Brown Americans,” Blumenauer said. “But the CBO score may have some other reasons for them. It shows that the MORE Act would reduce 73,000 person-years of prison time. It would increase revenues by $13.7 billion. It would provide $3 billion for job training and legal aid to people harmed by the war on drugs. While doing all of this, it would reduce the deficit by $7.344 billion.”

If the MORE Act becomes law, the CBO report also estimates that from 2021 – 2030, the U.S. Department of Justice would spend $3 billion from the MORE Act’s Opportunity Trust Fund to provide job training, legal aid, and other services to people harmed by the “War on Drugs.” During this same period, the legislation would lead to $2.7 billion in Small Business Association funding for state and local grants to make loans to cannabis businesses and help governments develop cannabis-licensing rules.

“Even if you don’t care about reducing the damage to Black and Brown Americans, or honoring the will of the people, the economics make it clear,” Blumenauer continued. “Once again, the people are right, and the people deserve strong Congressional support.”

The report released today by the CBO can be found here.

Full text of the MORE Act can be found here.

Chairman Nadler Statement In Support Of H.R. 3884, The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment And Expungement (MORE) Act Of 2020

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) issued the following statement in support of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2020:

“Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have introduced H.R. 3884, the ‘Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2020,’ or the ‘MORE Act of 2020.’

“This long overdue legislation would reverse the failed policy of criminalizing marijuana on the federal level and would take steps to address the heavy toll this policy has taken across the country, particularly on communities of color.

“The MORE Act would make three important changes to federal law:

(1) remove marijuana, or cannabis, from the list of federally controlled substances;

(2) authorize the provision of resources, funded by an excise tax on marijuana, to address the needs of communities that have been seriously impacted by the War on Drugs, including increasing the participation of communities of color in the burgeoning cannabis market; and

(3) provide for the expungement of Federal marijuana convictions and arrests.

“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health.  Whatever one’s views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution, and incarceration at the Federal level has proven unwise and unjust.

“This issue is not new to Congress.  There have been many Members who have introduced bills upon which provisions in this bill are based.  For instance, Representative Barbara Lee has sponsored bills that are the foundation of key provisions of the MORE Act, and I thank her for her longstanding leadership on this issue.  Representative Earl Blumenauer has also been an indefatigable advocate and has supported everything we have done to get to where we are today.  I thank him, as well.

“Federal action on this issue would follow the growing recognition in the states that the status quo is unacceptable.  Despite the federal government’s continuing criminalization of marijuana, 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis.  Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use.

“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake, with serious consequences, particularly for communities of color.

“Marijuana is one of the oldest agricultural commodities not grown for food, and it has been used medicinally all over the world since at least 2700 B.C., but its criminalization is a relatively recent phenomenon.

“The use of marijuana, which most likely originated in Asia, later spread to Europe, and made its way to the Americas when the Jamestown settlers brought it with them across the Atlantic.  The cannabis plant has been widely grown in the United States and was used as a component in fabrics during the middle of the 19th century.  During that time period, cannabis was also widely used as a treatment for a multitude of ailments, including muscle spasms, headaches, cramps, asthma, and diabetes.

“It was only in the early part of the 20th century that marijuana began to be criminalized in the United States—mainly because of misinformation and hysteria, based at least in part on racially-biased stereotypes connecting marijuana use and people of color, particularly African-Americans and Latinos.  In 1970, when President Nixon announced the War on Drugs and signed the Controlled Substances Act into law, the federal government placed marijuana on Schedule I, the most restrictive schedule that is attached to the most serious criminal penalties, where—unfairly and unjustifiably—it has remained ever since.

“As a consequence of this decision, thousands of individuals—overwhelmingly people of color—have been subjected, by the federal government, to unjust prison sentences for marijuana offenses.  It is time for this manifest injustice to end.  The MORE Act would remove marijuana from Schedule I and the Controlled Substances Act altogether, thereby decriminalizing it at the Federal level.

“This is only fair, particularly because the same racial animus motivating the enactment of marijuana laws also led to racially disproportionate enforcement of such laws, which has had a substantial, negative impact on communities of color.  In fact, nationwide, the communities that have been most harmed by marijuana enforcement are benefitting the least from the legal marijuana marketplace.

“The MORE Act would address some of these negative impacts, by establishing an Opportunity Trust Fund within the Department of Treasury to fund programs within the Department of Justice and the Small Business Administration to empower communities of color and those adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. These programs would provide services to individuals, including job training, reentry services and substance use disorder services; provide funds for loans to assist small businesses that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and provide resources for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.

“The collateral consequences of a conviction for marijuana possession—and even sometimes for a mere arrest—can be devastating.  For those saddled with a criminal conviction, it can be difficult or impossible to vote, to obtain educational loans, to get a job, to maintain a professional license, to secure housing, to receive government assistance, or even to adopt a child.

“These exclusions create an often-permanent second-class status for millions of Americans.  This is unacceptable and counterproductive, especially in light of the disproportionate impact that enforcement of marijuana laws has had on communities of color.  The MORE Act recognizes this injustice and addresses these harmful effects by expunging and sealing federal convictions and arrests for marijuana offenses.

“It is not surprising that over the past two decades, public support for legalizing marijuana has surged.  In the most recent Pew Research Center poll—which was released at the end of 2019—67 percent of Americans now back marijuana legalization, up from 62 percent in Pew’s 2018 poll.  And just this November, there were ballot measures pertaining to marijuana in several states; they were all approved by voters.  Indeed, the states have led the way—and continue to lead the way—on marijuana, but our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change.  We need to catch up because the public supports reform and because it is the right thing to do.

“In my view, applying criminal penalties, with their attendant collateral consequences for marijuana offenses is unjust and harmful to our society.  The MORE Act comprehensively addresses this injustice, and I urge all of my colleagues to support this bill today.”