Congresswoman Barbara Lee Applauds Passage of Amendment to Protect State, Territory, and Tribal Cannabis Programs

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, today applauded the passage of the Blumenauer, McClintock, Holmes Norton, Lee amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Department funding bill. The measure, which would prevent the Department of Justice from using its funds to impede the implementation of cannabis programs in states, territories, and tribes, passed in a 254-163 vote. 

“For far too long, our federal cannabis policies have been rooted in our discriminatory past and have continued inflicting harm on communities of color. As the public’s views toward cannabis have evolved, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that our policies follow suit and move toward restorative justice,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “I’m proud to have worked alongside Reps. Blumenauer, McClintock, and Holmes Norton on this crucial amendment to protect the progress states, tribes, and territories have made toward ending the discriminatory war on drugs.”

“The American people are demanding a change to our outdated cannabis laws and I am glad to see my colleagues heeding their calls,” said Rep. Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “As we work to ultimately end the senseless prohibition of cannabis and the failed war on drugs, these amendments will help ensure the protection of legal state, territory and tribal cannabis programs.”

Booker Marijuana Provisions Pass House Judiciary Committee

2017 Booker bill provided framework for MORE Act

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Three key marijuana provisions designed to reverse decades of failed drug policy and first introduced by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) passed the House Judiciary Committee today: record expungement, reinvestment in the communities most harmed by the War on Drugs, and removing marijuana from the list of deportable offenses.

Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, originally introduced in 2017, was the first congressional bill to incorporate record expungement and community reinvestment with marijuana legalization. This legislation along with a Booker provision to remove marijuana from list of deportable offenses provided the framework for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (MORE) passed by the House today.

“This is a significant tipping point. The Committee passage of this bill is an important step towards reversing decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income individuals. These draconian laws have sacrificed critical resources, violated our values, destroyed families and communities, and failed to make us safer,” Senator Booker said.This legislation continues us down the path towards justice and I’m excited to see momentum growing around the movement to fix our nation’s broken drug laws.”

Background on Booker’s leadership on issues of marijuana and criminal justice:

Booker has seen the effects of our broken marijuana laws first-hand, dating back to his time as a tenant lawyer, City Council member, and Mayor of Newark, where he created the city’s first office of prisoner re-entry to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-integrate into their communities. He is the author of the landmark Marijuana Justice Act, which would end the federal prohibition on marijuana, automatically expunge the records of those convicted of federal marijuana use and possession crimes, and reinvest resources into the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs through a community fund. Since introducing the bill in 2017, Booker has garnered support from Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Ed Markey (D-MA).

In the Senate, Booker was an outspoken critic of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ effort to revive the failed War on Drugs. More recently, he pressed Attorney General William Barr on his stance on marijuana legalization and the rescission of the Cole memo, winning a commitment from Barr to leave states alone that have  legalized marijuana.

In addition to the Marijuana Justice Act, Booker is the co-author of the bipartisan CARERS Act, which would allow patients to access medical marijuana in states where it’s legal without fear of federal prosecution, and the bipartisan REDEEM Act, which would allow nonviolent drug offenders to petition a court to seal and expunge their drug offenses, while automatically sealing, and in some cases expunging, the nonviolent records of juveniles. These reforms would reduce a major barrier that formerly incarcerated individuals face when attempting to rejoin society. He is also a cosponsor of the Fair Chance Act, which prohibits the federal government and federal contractors from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to a conditional offer of employment. Earlier this year, the Fair Chance Act passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight and Government and Reform Committee. In June, Booker introduced legislation to remove marijuana from list of deportable offenses.

Chairman Nadler Statement For The Markup Of H.R. 3884, The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment And Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks during the markup of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019:

“H.R. 3884, the ‘Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019,’ or the ‘MORE Act of 2019.’ This bill would make three important changes to federal law. It would:

(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 products, to address the needs of communities that have been most seriously impacted by the War on Drugs, including increasing the participation of minority communities in the burgeoning cannabis market; and

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

“These steps are long overdue. For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one’s views on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating users at the federal level is 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. 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.

“Federal action on this issue would follow growing recognition in the states that the status quo is unacceptable. Despite the federal government’s continuing criminalization of marijuana, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis. Eleven 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 minority communities.

“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 listed in the United States Pharmacopeia 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 minorities, 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, where—unfairly and unjustifiably—it has remained ever since.

“As a consequence, thousands of individuals—overwhelmingly people of color—have been subjected, by the federal government, to unjust prison sentences for marijuana offenses. This needs to stop.That is why we are taking action today.

“The MORE Act would remove marijuana from Schedule I and, as a result, would decriminalize it at the federal level, leaving it to states to regulate marijuana as they may choose. Removing marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances is especially just because the same racial animus motivating the enactment of marijuana laws also led to racially disparate enforcement of such laws, which has had a substantial, negative impact on minority communities. In fact, nationwide, the communities that have been most harmed by marijuana enforcement benefit 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 the Treasury to fund programs within the Department of Justice and the Small Business Administration to empower communities of color and those most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.

“These programs would provide services to individuals—including job training, reentry services and substance use treatment—would provide funds for loans to assist small businesses that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and would provide resources for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for individuals most 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 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 just last week—67 percent of Americans now back marijuana legalization, up from 62 percent in Pew’s 2018 poll.

“States have led the way—and continue to lead the way—but our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change. We need to catch up because of public support 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.”

U.S. Federal Cannabis Legalization Could Be Worth $128.8 Billion In Taxes And 1.6 Million Jobs

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: New Frontier Data, the authority in data, analytics and business intelligence for the global cannabis industry, releases its new study Cannabis In the U.S. Economy: Jobs, Growth and Tax Revenue, 2019 Edition. The report looks at the current state of legal cannabis jobs and tax revenues and projects the impact that full federal legalization would have on the U.S. economy, especially tax revenue generation and job creation. New Frontier Data forecasts that under full federal legalization the cannabis industry could produce nearly $130 billion in additional tax revenues and over 1 million jobs nationwide.

“With so much speculation about economic slowdown, the potential for federally legal cannabis to create up to a million new jobs and close to $130 billion in tax revenue is likely going to be of interest to regulators and presidential candidates in 2020,” said New Frontier Data Founder and CEO Giadha Aguirre de Carcer. “Cannabis is already being considered as an investment option for forward-looking portfolio and fund managers as a possible hedge against economic downturn impacting more traditional investments.”

Some of the report findings include that:

  • 2018-2019 YOY job growth in the cannabis industry generated nearly 82,000 jobs.
  • If full legalization occurred in all 50 states today, there would be in excess of 1.46 million jobs, increasing to 1.63 million jobs by 2025.
  • Full legalization would result in more legal businesses participating in the market, more consumers participating in the legal market, and more employees on official payrolls, resulting in $8.4 billion in payroll taxes. By 2025, payroll deductions would increase to $9.5 billion.
  • Assuming a 15% federal sales tax, total revenues from 2018–2025 would reach $73.7 billion. This amount would be entirely new revenue to the U.S. Treasury, as there are currently no federal sales or excise taxes.
  • The total combined taxes under full federal legalization would reach $175.8 billion between 2018–2025 based on business tax revenues, the payroll withholdings based on the estimated employment, and the 15% retail sales taxes.
  • The difference between the current structure and the theoretical model is a $128.8 billion increase in federal tax revenues.

A free Download of Cannabis In the U.S. Economy: Jobs, Growth and Tax Revenue, 2019 Edition is available at: https://newfrontierdata.com/jobs2019

Farm Bill Provisions Lifting Federal Hemp Ban Become Law

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: President Donald Trump today signed legislation into law that includes language lifting the United States’ decades-long prohibition on domestic, commercial hemp production. The provisions were included within The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka ‘The Farm Bill’), which takes effect on January 1, 2019.

“The significance of this law change should not be underemphasized,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “This law marks the first change in the federal classification of the cannabis plant since it was initially classified as a schedule I controlled substance by Congress in 1970, and paves the way for the first federally-sanctioned commercial hemp grows since World War II.”

Language included in the 2014 version of the Farm Bill (Sec. 7606) permitted states to license farmers to cultivate hemp as part of a university-sanction pilot program, but did not allow for the commercialization of the crop.

The hemp-specific provisions of the 2018 Act amend the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 so that hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

The Act also broadens the definition of ‘hemp’ (Section 297A) to include “any part of the plant, including … extracts [or] cannabinoids” that do not possess greater than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis. To date, various commercial products – such as some CBD oils – are advertised as being derived from hemp, although some experts in the field dispute the notion that such plants are an efficient source for cannabinoids.

The Act (Section 297B) permits those US states that wish to possess “primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp” to submit a plan to the US Secretary of Agriculture. The agency has 60 days to approve, disapprove, or amend the plan. In instances where a state-proposed plan is not approved, “it shall be unlawful to produce hemp in that state … without a license.” Federal grant opportunities will be available to licensed commercial farmers, as will the ability for farmers to obtain crop insurance. The Act does not federally recognize non-licensed, non-commercial hemp cultivation activities.

Nothing in the new language (Section 297D) shall “affect or modify” the existing regulatory powers of the US Food and Drug Administration or other agencies with regard to the enforcement of the US Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act or the Public Health Service Act. The FDA has previously acknowledged that it will “take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with unproven medical claims. We’re especially concerned when these products are marketed for serious or life-threatening diseases, where the illegal promotion of an unproven compound could discourage a patient from seeking other therapies that have proven benefits.”

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said: “These changes represent a significant and long overdue shift in US policy. Nonetheless, future regulatory efforts will likely still be required to address emerging consumer issues when it comes to the commercial sale and marketing of certain hemp-derived products, particularly so-called hemp-derived CBD extracts. For years, many of the producers of these products have navigated in a grey area of the law — manufacturing products of variable and sometimes questionable quality and safety. Now it is time for lawmakers to craft consistent benchmark safety and quality standards for hemp-derived CBD in order to increase consumer satisfaction and confidence as this nascent industry transitions into a legal marketplace.”


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

 

Incoming House Rules Chairman Pledges To Allow Floor Votes On Marijuana-Related Amendments

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Representative. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) says that he will permit federal lawmakers to debate and vote on marijuana-related amendments when he assumes control of the House Rules Committee in 2019.

Clean Slate Act To Seal Records Introduced To Congress

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Congressman Rod Blum (R-IA) announced the Clean Slate Act, HR 6669, along with 22 original cosponsors, to seal the records for marijuana charges one year after the sentence is completed.

The Clean Slate Act is important legislation that would ease the burden felt by those unjustly suffering the collateral consequences resulting from cannabis prohibition.

Individuals saddled with a marijuana possession conviction are disproportionately either people of color or at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, and it is essential that they are not held back from being able to obtain employment, housing, access to higher education, and all of the other necessities of being an active participant in their community. Having been arrested for mere marijuana possession does not make one a bad person, but rather a victim of a cruel public policy.

Click here to send a message to your member of Congress in support of the Clean Slate Act.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

NORML PAC Endorses Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Blumenauer And Young

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Political Action Committee (NORML-PAC) has announced their endorsements of Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Don Young (R-AK) in their reelection campaigns. Blumenauer and Young serve as lead co-chairs of the Cannabis Caucus in the House of Representatives.

“Representative Earl Blumenauer has been supporting sensible marijuana law reform longer than anyone currently serving in the House of Representatives. He cast a vote in favor of decriminalization in Oregon in the 1970’s as a member of the state legislator and has been one of the leading champions for ending our failed prohibition on marijuana at the federal level since he was first elected to Congress,” commented NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri, “It is our honor to support his reelection in 2018 and supporters of marijuana law reform couldn’t ask for a better ally to have in the arena.”

young-blumenauer-pac

“Representative Don Young has shown how truly bipartisan marijuana law reform efforts can be by his leadership as a co-chair of the House Congressional Cannabis Caucus,” said NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri, “Alaska voters should send him to Congress for another term so he can continue to advocate for federal reform and help convince more of his colleagues in the Republican Party to join the fight against the outdated and failed policy of prohibition.”

The Congressional Cannabis Caucus was formed in 2017 to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.


For more information, contact NORML PAC at (202) 483-5500.

Washington: Felony Marijuana Convictions Fall Nearly 90 Percent

WASHINGTON:  The number of cannabis-related felony sentences in Washington fell an estimated 90 percent in the 18-months immediately following the opening of adult use marijuana retail stores, according to an analysis by the Washington Caseload Forecast Council.

Investigators identified only 147 marijuana-related crimes resulting in felony sentences in this period of time, compared to 1,312 felony offenses in the years prior to legalization.

Other jurisdictions have reported similar declines in marijuana-related arrests post-legalization. In California, felony-related marijuana arrests fell 74 percent between 2016 and 2017, following the enactment of adult use legalization.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

PA Representative Wheatley To Introduce Legislation To Legalize Marijuana

PENNSYLVANIA:  Pointing to the success similar programs are having in other states, Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, said he plans to introduce legislation which would legalize the sale of marijuana in Pennsylvania.

“States from coast to coast have embraced legalization and those states are reaping the economic and criminal justice benefits,” Wheatley said. “It is time Pennsylvania joins with those states in leaving behind the ugly stigma of marijuana.”

A recent report by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale estimated that legalizing marijuana could generate more than $580 million in annual tax revenue for Pennsylvania. Nine other states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana for adult use, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue while reducing spending and criminal justice costs.

“This is why it comes as no surprise that recent polling shows that a majority of Pennsylvanians support legalization,” Wheatley said. “This is an idea whose time has come.”

Wheatley’s legislation would further establish a retail market for marijuana and expunge criminal records for any marijuana-related conviction that would be considered lawful under the act.

Wheatley said marijuana legalization is the natural path forward given Pennsylvania’s successful medical marijuana program, for which more than 52,000 patients have registered. Passed in 2016, the state’s medical marijuana law provides for the use of marijuana to treat serious medical conditions such as seizures, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease, among others.

“I am pleased to see that many of our most in-need residents are able to improve their health, but I believe we can do more,” Wheatley said. “The time has come for Pennsylvania to move forward with full legalization.”#MJNews