Iowa Senator Quashes Floor Debate On Marijuana STATES Act

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) on Tuesday blocked lawmakers from considering an amendment on the floor of the US Senate that sought to permanently remove the threat of federal intervention in states that regulate marijuana sales.

The amendment, offered by Colorado Republican Cory Gardner, was largely identical to Senate Bill 3032: The STATES Act, which creates an exemption under federal law for those jurisdictions that legally regulate marijuana production and retail sales. Senator Gardner has stated that he has the votes to pass the measure on the floor, and that the President would sign the bill into law. To date, however, the measure has yet to receive either a debate or a vote by members of the Senate.

Senator Grassley, who has previously bottled S. 3032 in committee, quashed Sen. Gardner’s effort to attach the language to broader sentencing reform bill, The First Step Act. Senator Grassley called the amendment a “backdoor to legalization,” and said that its intent was “inappropriate to consider in the context of a criminal justice reform bill.”

Senate members eventually passed The First Step Act. House members followed suit on Thursday. The measure now awaits action from the President.

As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Grassley has refused to permit votes on any Senate bills pertaining to marijuana law reform. However, in November, he announced that he would be stepping down as Committee Chair.

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

The Wink In Weed: Why Seattle Hempfest Is Still Worth Supporting

By David Rheins

It’s been five years since Washington opened its legal cannabis marketplace, and today adult consumers in the Evergreen state have an abundance of high-quality, legal weed available in an impressive array of product configurations at affordable prices.

Seattle Hempfest, taking place this week along the gorgeous Puget Sound, is the nation’s oldest and largest “Protestival.”  It began as forum and platform for activists, patients and pot smokers to gather together to fight for their rights to toke in peace.  Back then, firing up a joint in public had real potential consequences — and could land you with a fine or even jail time.

My fellow Hempfest Volunteers in their Green T-Shirts

Hempfest Volunteers

Today, Washingtonians don’t have to go to the park to spark up. Pot smoking is legal, accepted and somewhat normalized in the Pacific Northwest. Leading some to ask what is the relevance of Seattle Hempfest?

While more of a party these days than a protestival, Seattle Hempfest is still a must-attend annual gathering of the cannabis tribes.  Our Green Revolution is a broad tent, with a diverse set of communities.  We are advocates, patients, farmers, business professionals, parents, teachers and caregivers, all united under the belief that Federal Prohibition, and the War on Drugs — and Drugs Users — must end. There is something powerful and undeniable about seeing a hundred thousand pot smokers gather together to celebrate community.

There is still much legal reform that needs to happen before cannabis consumption is fully normalized — and it is encouraging to see the momentum behind the STATES ACT and the Marijuana Justice Act as Congress has finally gotten the word that the American public — on both sides of the aisle — are through with prohibition.  The 2018 Farm Bill, with its Hemp Farming provision, will de-schedule industrial hemp and open the way for explosive growth in hemp-based products, including consumer goods, industrial materials, foods, fuels and medicines.

We are in a fight for the control of our legal cannabis industry.  Big Pharma, Big Alcohol, Big Tobacco, Big Agriculture and Big Government Regulators are all fighting to establish their places in our new mainstream marijuana marketplace. We must continue to stay involved now as the new regulations and standards of our emerging industry are crafted. I see Hempfest as a natural venue for showcasing the best and most innovative hemp products. Cannabis consumer rights need to be protected to ensure that the legal products are safe, tested and of the highest quality. Legal cannabis businesses have an opportunity to build an industry based on the highest standards of production, marketing and operations.  We need to be fair and equitable in our hiring and compensation practices, and we need to direct the windfall of new marijuana tax revenues towards improving the health and welfare of local communities, particularly those hit hard from the War On Drugs.

CurvedPapersHempfest512x440As our alternative culture takes centerstage, it is important that we stand together for our shared values.  We are witnessing and influencing the end of an era. The post-WWII, better living thru petrochemicals, conspicuous consumption society is unsustainable — and is quickly being replaced by a global, plant-based lifestyle, renewable energy zeitgeist.

MJBA is proud to once again participate as a media sponsor and exhibitor of Seattle Hempfest.  We’re thrilled to be sharing a booth with Curved Papers, with whom we’ve been touring the country on a Cannafest Destiny Tour.  We’ll be showing off our NORML 100% Hemp rolling papers, and showcasing our latest poster by Michael Guttsen, and doing social media blasts with MJBA Ambassador At Large Jake Dimmock.  Please join us at Booth #323 across from the Hemposium.

Michael O'Malley, David Hynes Michael O'Malley David Rheins

It has never been more important to stand up and be counted.  Please come out to Myrtle Edwards park this weekend, listen to the speakers, dance to the music and support the many food and merchandise vendors.  Be sure to drop a few bucks in the donation bucket:  Seattle Hempfest is an all-volunteer effort, and it depends on the support of its Vendors, Sponsors and Attendees to survive.



WinkInWeed: MJNN’s Exclusive Interview With WSWA EVP Dawson Hobbs

By David Rheins

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) founded in 1943, has nearly 400 member companies in 50 states and the District of Columbia. It’s members distribute more than 80 percent of all wines and spirits sold at wholesale in the United States.  The association made news this week by endorsing the Legalization of Cannabis for States that follow a “Regulate Cannabis as Alcohol approach.”

MJ News Network had the opportunity to speak with WSWA’s Acting EVP for External Affairs | Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Dawson Hobbs.  In his role, Hobbs regularly testifies before legislative and regulatory bodies in dozens of states, and has established extensive relationships with governors, attorneys general, alcohol regulators and industry officials around the country.  MJNN asked him what is behind the WSWA’s decision to back the legalization of cannabis, and what lessons the cannabis industry might learn from the nation’s approach to regulating alcohol.

wswa logo

MJNN: The WSWA has just endorsed Cannabis Legalization in States that follow an alcohol model. That’s a sea change for the alcohol industry, isn’t it?

HOBBS: Well, let me just have one little nuance of clarification. Our position is that the federal government should provide a path for States that choose to legalize. That right to legalize should be recognized as long as they follow an alcohol regulatory model,  and have appropriate regulations.  We’re not telling the individual state that they should or should not legalize, we’re simply saying there should be a path for them to choose to do so, and it should be accompanied with the appropriate regulations.

MJNN: Why the change and why now?

HOBBS: This has been a long, long discussion. We’ve had a lot of conversations, dating back to when Colorado took the step on adult use. What really has driven it is we know that it’s here to stay, and we know that more States are coming.  We think that there are 85 years’ worth of lessons of appropriate alcohol regulation that we can take to the cannabis industry, and those lessons are: It’s better off to start with a good regulatory framework rather than having to learn the lessons the hard way by trial and error.  And so, it’s more of a recognition that this is here to stay and that more states are coming, and we want to be part of the conversation about how effective state regulation works.

MJNN:  Tell me what that looks like in terms of advocacy, in terms of outreach to the cannabis community, and in terms of outreach to the general population. Those of us who have been in the industry for a number of years recognize our biggest challenge has been the normalization, the mainstreaming, of not just cannabis but of cannabis users. So, tell me, how does the WSWA advocacy take shape?

HOBBS: There’s a couple of questions there, right? So I’ll start with the first part which is we’re going to be talking and we have already started talking with members of Congress about what an appropriate regulatory framework would look like, so that they can have some comfort in allowing states to legalize.

We’re going to continue those conversations and we’re realistic about the fact that this is going to be a long conversation. We don’t think that because we took this position, Congress is going to act next week.  We know that we will be part of ongoing conversations.  We have an effective, and well-established federal advocacy team and that team will be engaged on this. And to your point, we do think that part of what we bring to the table is not only our regulatory knowledge and history and experience, but a mature advocacy organization [vis a vis] the cannabis industry.  And you know, we’re going to be having conversations like these with a number of cannabis organizations. We’re going to be reaching out to quite a few, but we also expect we’ll get some phone calls ourselves and we look forward to having those conversations.

You’ll notice that our position is not new in the cannabis world.  For a long time, many advocates have said let’s ‘Regulate Cannabis like Alcohol.’ We’re saying yes, but we’re also saying, let’s remember alcohol regulations. The reason alcohol is safe and effective is because it doesn’t just end at having to be 21, which is the thing most people think of.  There’s a host of regulations on product testing and labeling and licensing of producers and distributors and retailers — all with penalties for violations of the terms that have created a safe alcohol market. So, alcohol regulation is very effective. We agree, but we just want to make sure we talked about all the regulations.

MJNN:  Have you taken a position on either the States Act, which was just recently introduced or Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act?

HOBBS:  We think the State’s Act is really a step in the right direction. But, we want to apply a little bit more rigorous regulatory threshold that the states need to meet. It’s the right concept and States are the [best] pathway to legalization. But you know, one of the ways that normalization will occur is if a State chooses to legalize, the folks in the surrounding States need to feel confident that the product’s not going to be diverted to their State. The consumer needs to be confident that the product they’re getting is safe and has the amount of THC or CBD that it says it does.  For the people who choose not to consume, [they should be confident] the regulations surrounding the sale and production are going to make sure that there are no problems with diversion. And also that there aren’t problems with people getting a tainted product and possibly getting sick, and that there’s not overconsumption.

The normalization comes with people getting comfortable and, and confident. And we think that the regulatory model helps provide that.

MJNN:  One of the differences, however, is that in the legal cannabis world, we’ve got a real Balkanized approach. Meaning: every State has its own regulations, and there is a wide range of not just who can participate, but what products are sold, how they’re packaged and brought to market. What’s your take on that? You’re talking about standards. It’s kind of tough to have standards when you can’t sell it oil in Arizona, and you can’t sell flower in New York.

HOBBS:  I think some of those things will equalize over time. I think the lesson from the alcohol space is that every State does alcohol regulation differently, but they have a lot of commonalities. In certain states you can buy alcohol in a grocery store and other states you can’t. Those decisions are made by the state and they’re made for reasons that have to do with the culture of the state and citizens of the state.

As you know from cannabis, folks in New York and folks in Utah have different attitudes towards intoxicating products, and we should respect that because there’s cultural reasons that those differences exist when it comes to the types of products that can be sold. I think you’ve seen in the alcohol space over 85 years, there has been sort of a harmonization.  Spirits used to be much less available than other products, and now they’re becoming more equally available with wine and beer. We don’t have a position on whether that should be the case or not, but we do have a strong position that the state should be able to decide and I think you’ll see something similar. We see cannabis as in this experimental phase of folks at looking at what works for their community.

MJNN: Let’s talk a little bit about economic opportunity.  A senior executive at Molson recently advised investors that legal cannabis was cutting into their market share, and we’ve seen some pretty significant investments from spirits and alcohol marketers in Canada, Constellation Brands probably being the most visible. We’ve also seen the introduction of a number of cannabis-infused and CBD-infuised beverages, including beers and wine. Tell me, how much of your new position is based upon the realities that our industries are evolving or co-evolving together?

HOBBS: I think that evolution will continue, but I don’t think that’s unique to the alcohol industry. I’ve read quite a bit about folks from other non-alcoholic beverage industry’s looking at the cannabis space. I think some of the food manufacturers might look at being involved with the edibles space. Perhaps not the hugest, but I think some of the smaller ones, for sure.

It’s only natural that folks in [the wine and spirits] industry might look at the same thing, and you know, some of them will choose to get involved in that somehow. That really wasn’t the driving force of our decision. The driving force of our decision was that we have 85 years of experience in dealing with a regulated socially-sensitive product, and it would be silly not to bring that experience to this conversation and talk about appropriate regulation.

MJNN:  You talked about how spirits had been mainstreamed over the years. We’re now seeing whiskey ads on tv.  Ad restrictions certainly have been one area that’s been plaguing legal cannabis, in terms of our ability to do things like outdoor or for legal cannabis entities to market their product on TV. What’s your position there?

HOBBS: Well, we think that our industry has done a good job, and continues to improve, by making sure that we aren’t marketing products to those who should not have them, particularly those who are under age. Similarly, that our product is marketed in a responsible way that doesn’t make unsubstantiated either health claims or implied health claims that may or may not be true. We just think that there’s a good lesson there for the cannabis industry: to take similar steps to prevent ads from being marketed to those who are underage, or are very careful about —  and I understand the medical component, but in this early phase especially–  being careful about the health statements they make. That will go a long way to helping people be comfortable with the advertising by the cannabis industry.

You know, we all have to accept that, just like when alcohol ads appear in a new space, there’s a period of adjustment. Organizations in our industry have codes of advertising, ethics and standards, and I think a lot of those same standards can be applied to the cannabis industry pretty effectively.

MJNN: What other lessons do you have for entrepreneurs who are building the legal cannabis industry one grassroots market at a time?

HOBBS:  One of the biggest lessons that we’ve learned in our industry is that there’s a difference between effective regulation and excessive regulation.  And our alcohol space has lived in the world of effective regulation. So don’t be afraid of it. Don’t be afraid of effective regulation, because it will help your industry thrive the way ours has.  We have the safest alcohol industry in the world. It’s also the one that provides the most consumer choice and opportunity. So, we view that as a big success and one that can be copied for other products.

Executive Vice President for External Affairs | Senior Vice President, Government Affairs


President Trump Expresses Support For Bipartisan Marijuana Fix

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: President Donald Trump on Friday publicly expressed support for bi-partisan legislation that seeks to codify legal protections for state-sanctioned marijuana-related activities.

In response to a question from reporters, the President acknowledgedthat he “probably will end up supporting” The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, introduced last week by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO). Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also reportedly promised to permit a vote on the legislation.


The bill mandates that the federal Controlled Substances Act “shall not apply to any person acting in compliance” the marijuana legalization laws of their state. It also amends federal law to explicitly remove industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. A bipartisan House companion bill, sponsored by Reps. David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), is also pending in the House of Representatives.

In April, Sen. Gardner acknowledged that he had spoken with the President regarding the intent of his bill and that Trump “assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

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

Gardner, Warren, Joyce and Blumenauer Unveil Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation to Protect State Marijuana Policies

Forty-Six States, Washington D.C., Two Territories, and a Number of Tribes Have Legalized Marijuana in Some Form

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Representatives David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) today introduced the bicameral, bipartisan Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act) to ensure that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders. The bill also extends these protections to Washington D.C, U.S. territories, and federally recognized tribes, and contains common-sense guardrails to ensure that states, territories, and tribes regulating marijuana do so safely.

Forty-six states currently have laws permitting or decriminalizing marijuana or marijuana-based products – and Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and a number of tribes have similar laws. As states developed their own approaches to marijuana enforcement, the Department of Justice issued guidance to safeguard these state actions and ensure practical use of limited law enforcement resources. However, this guidance was withdrawn earlier this year, creating legal uncertainty, threatening public health and safety, and undermining state regulatory regimes.

“In 2012, Coloradans legalized marijuana at the ballot box and the state created an apparatus to regulate the legal marijuana industry.  But because of the one-size-fits-all federal prohibition, state decisions like this put Colorado and other states at odds with the federal government,” said Senator Gardner. “The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted.  The bipartisan STATES Act fixes this problem once and for all by taking a states’ rights approach to the legal marijuana question. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters – whether that is legalization or prohibition – and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry.”

“Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development,” said Senator Warren. “States like Massachusetts have put a lot of work into implementing common sense marijuana regulations – and they have the right to enforce their own marijuana policies. The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana.”

“We should trust the people of the states, like Ohio, who have voted to implement responsible common-sense regulations and requirements for the use, production, and sale of cannabis,”said Representative Joyce. “If the people of these states have decided to provide help for those veterans and others suffering from pain and other health issues, we should allow them access without government interference.”

“For too long the senseless prohibition of marijuana has devastated communities, disproportionately impacting poor Americans and communities of color. Not to mention, it’s also wasted resources and stifled critical medical research,” said Representative Blumenauer. “It’s past time to put the power back in the hands of the people. Congress must right this wrong.”

Ignoring the ability of states, territories, and tribes to determine for themselves what type of marijuana regulation works best comes with real costs. Legitimate businesses that comply with state laws are blocked from access to basic banking services. Illicit markets often spring up and local law enforcement must divert resources needed elsewhere. Thousands of people are prosecuted and locked up in our criminal justice system. Qualified scientists and state public health departments struggle to conduct basic and epidemiological research or spur medical advances, and the fundamental nature of state and tribal sovereignty is violated. As more states, territories, and tribes thoughtfully consider updates to marijuana regulations, often through voter-initiated referendums, it is critical that Congress take immediate steps to safeguard their right to do so by passing the STATES Act.

The legislation has been endorsed by organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Safe Access, Americans for Tax Reform, the Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign for Liberty, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cooperative Credit Union Association, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Institute for Liberty, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the Maine Credit Union League, the Mountain West Credit Union Association, the National Cannabis Bar Association, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the New Federalism Fund,NORML, the Northwest Credit Union Association, R Street, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.


  • Amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) so that – as long as states and tribes comply with a few basic protections – its provisions no longer apply to any person acting in compliance with State or tribal laws relating to marijuana activities.
  • Clearly states that compliant transactions are not trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction.
  • Removes industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances under the CSA.
  • The following federal criminal provisions under the CSA continue to apply:
    • Prohibits endangering human life while manufacturing marijuana.
    • Prohibits employment of persons under age 18 in drug operations.
  • Prohibits the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities such as rest areas and truck stops.
  • Prohibits the distribution or sale of marijuana to persons under the age of 21 other than for medical purposes.

A fact sheet about the legislation is available here, and the full bill text is available here.