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AOC And Kamala Harris File Bill Protecting Drug Offenders From Losing Public Housing

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced companion bills on Tuesday that would protect people with low-level drug convictions from being denied access to or being evicted from public housing.

The Fair Chance at Housing Act would also prohibit the use of drug and alcohol testing as a condition of being admitted into government-supported housing.

The legislation isn’t solely drug-related, as it also limits the authority of federally assisted housing owners to turn away individuals convicted of other low-level crimes. Providers would be “limited to considering only criminal activity that may be more likely to have an impact on the applicant’s success as a tenant such as felonies” and other crimes that pose a threat to public safety, according to a fact sheet on the bill.

Text of the legislation states that individuals with a “conviction for a drug offense for which the individual served a sentence of less than ten years” would be exempted from a policy that allows public housing providers to deny certain applicants.

Further, federally assisted housing operators “may not require drug or alcohol testing of any applicant for admission” or “require drug or alcohol testing of any tenant of federally assisted housing or member of a tenant’s household as a condition of tenancy in such housing or continued receipt of such assistance.”

A separate provision prohibits housing providers from requiring applicants to consent to allow substance abuse treatment facilities to disclose information about whether they are “currently engaging in the illegal use of a controlled substance” or about “the applicant’s progress in rehabilitation.”

Ocasio-Cortez raised this issue of the drug war’s intersection with housing access during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in May.

Addressing U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, the congresswoman discussed the “rippling effect” that the war on drugs has had on communities of color that has been “codified in our housing system.”

She voiced opposition to HUD’s one-strike policy, which allows public housing owners to evict tenants for engaging in illicit drug use or other crimes. That policy would be repealed under her legislation.

Another HUD rule that would be scaled back by the bill is the “no fault” policy, empowering property owners to evict occupants due to the drug-related criminal activity of a guest even if the tenant wasn’t aware of it.

“For decades, the War on Drugs has done far more harm than good, wreaking havoc on American families through mass incarceration while having a very limited impact on rehabilitation,” a press release about the new legislation says. “Moreover, these efforts have had profoundly disproportionate effects on minorities, who have historically been the primary target of harsh anti-drug policies. The consequences of these now-debunked policies reach much farther than the doors of our prisons. A criminal background can have lifelong implications for a person’s ability to obtain housing, employment, education and to otherwise rebuild their lives. Access to stable housing in particular is one of the most important first steps to rehabilitation, but federal laws continue to pose unnecessary and punitive barriers to federal housing assistance for those with criminal records.”

In a statement, Ocasio-Cortez said the bill “is one of many steps that need to be taken to repair our broken criminal justice system.”

“The denial of basic necessities to formerly incarcerated people does not make our communities safer,” she said. “Denying housing to those that have been formerly incarcerated increases recidivism. Today we are taking a step to make our communities safer.”

Harris, who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, added that “too many people become involved in our criminal justice system and serve their time only to return home to face additional barriers to employment, education and housing.”

“By requiring a higher standard of evidence and a more holistic review process, we are taking a significant step toward giving Americans a fair chance to succeed,” she said.

Read text of Ocasio-Cortez and Harris’s housing legislation below:

Fair Chance at Housing Bill… by on Scribd

Tulsi Gabbard Files Bill To Study Hemp’s Uses For Just About Everything

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Mitch McConnell Presses FDA Nominee On CBD And Hemp

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) met with the nominee to become the next Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner on Wednesday and discussed the need for a regulatory framework for CBD products.

While there are few specific details available about their conversation, McConnell said he emphasized the importance of hemp legalization for Kentucky farmers and pointed out that those producers are also facing challenges given the lack of FDA regulations concerning CBD.

“I look forward to working closely with Dr. Hahn on several important issues for Kentucky,” McConnell said in a press release. “Like many Kentuckians who are taking advantage of hemp’s legalization, I am eager for FDA’s plans to create certainty for CBD products.”

The majority leader has previously pressed FDA to issue enforcement discretion guidance that prioritizes action against only CBD companies making especially unfounded medical claims about their products while allowing responsible businesses to continue to market their products as the agency continues to develop rules.

McConnell similarly raised his concerns about the importance of expediting CBD regulations during a separate meeting with Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless in June.

Stephen Hahn, the FDA nominee, was also pressed on CBD issues during a confirmation hearing on Wednesday. Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) noted that there’s wide consumer interest in the cannabis products but stressed that more research is needed, barriers to research should be lifted and public health interests should be balanced with policies that support the industry.

Hahn replied that he believed there’s untapped therapeutic potential in the cannabis compound, but he also agreed that there are “unanswered questions that need to be filled in by data and science and research.”

In related developments, several consumer groups have recently expressed concerns about the current status of the CBD market.

Three groups—National Consumers League, Consumer Federation of America and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America—announced on Tuesday that they are launching an initiative called “Consumers for Safe CBD” that is designed to “warn the public of the potential risks related to CBD products.”

According to a press release, the coalition will also encourage FDA “to use its existing authority to protect consumers, provide guidance to manufacturers, and encourage further research for FDA-approved CBD treatments.”

Another group, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), launched a citizen petition to FDA last week that implores the agency to quickly develop rules for CBD so that the products can be lawfully marketed as dietary supplements.

“Intense consumer demand and commercial interest has resulted in a flood of CBD products of uncertain quality and unapproved claims already in the marketplace, and this scenario has created an urgent need for FDA action,” CHPA President Scott Melville said in a press release.

“The request in our petition seeks to have FDA utilize the authority it already has to establish a lawful regulatory pathway for manufacturers to bring dietary supplements containing CBD to market,” he said. “Only then will consumers be able to purchase CBD-containing dietary supplements in a manner that ensures product quality, safety, and a level-playing field for enforcement.”

Senators Push USDA To Adopt Five Changes To Proposed Hemp Regulations

Photo courtesy of Twitter/Senate Majority Leader.

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Senators Push USDA To Adopt Five Changes To Proposed Hemp Regulations

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Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Wednesday, requesting a series of changes to draft rules for hemp that the department released last month.

The senators said they appreciate that USDA issued the proposed regulations, which is a “necessary step to establish a domestic federal hemp production program.” However, they wanted to highlight “several concerns about the unintended and potentially harmful effects this interim final rule would have on hemp production in Oregon and across the country.”

In the letter to Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue, they listed five issues with the regulations and suggested potential fixes. Many of the concerns echoed those that stakeholders have submitted to USDA as part of a public comment period the department launched on October 31. Here’s what the senators highlighted:

—As written, the draft rules call for hemp to be tested within 15 days before harvest. Farmers have argued that’s far too little time, and the senators said it presents an “impossible obstacle for growers to overcome.” Oregon regulations require testing within 28 days, so they said USDA should adopt a similar timeline.

—USDA said that testing must be completed at a laboratory registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration. The senators said that will produce a bottleneck and delays for hemp producers, and that independent laboratories such as those operating in Oregon should be allowed to conduct the tests.

—The senators said that USDA should allow for forms of THC concentration testing that do not involve post-decarboxylation and also argued that the congressional intent of hemp legalization was not to require testing of all THC compounds but rather just delta-9 THC in particular.

—USDA requires that testing samples come from the top one-third of the flower portion of the plant. Instead, the senators said, samples should follow established protocol in states like Oregon, which stipulates that samples should be taken from the flowering tops when they’re present and be eight inches long.

—While the Farm Bill defines hemp as cannabis containing no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis, USDA gave slight margin of error and considers any plants with more than 0.5 percent THC to be in violation of the regulations. Farmers have called that limitation arbitrary and the senators said it would be more reasonable to set the negligence threshold at 1 percent, if there must be a THC restriction at all.

“Farmers in Oregon and across the country are on the precipice of an agricultural boom that, with the right regulatory framework, stands to boost rural economies in every corner of the country,” they wrote.

Wyden and Merkley have been some of the most vocal proponents of developing USDA regulations that bolster the hemp industry since the passage of the Farm Bill, through which they worked to legalize the crop in the first place. As early as February, Wyden and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were knocking at USDA’s door, urging the department to expedite the rulemaking process.

Read the full senators’ letter to USDA on hemp regulations below: 

Wyden Merkley USDA Hemp Rul… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

GOP Senator Says He Tried CBD And Jokes About Its Hair Regrowth Potential

Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.

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Virginia Attorney General Hosts ‘Cannabis Summit’ To Advance Reform In New Democratic Legislature

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Virginia’s attorney general is inviting state lawmakers to a “Cannabis Summit” next month as talk about advancing marijuana decriminalization and other reforms during the 2020 legislative session picks up.

Officials from other states that have legalized or decriminalized cannabis will speak at the event, as will academics who study the issue.

“This upcoming General Assembly Session policymakers will be considering legislation related to cannabis use in the Commonwealth,” an invitation states. “This summit is designed to better inform those discussions and offer perspectives from states that have implemented similar changes at the state level.”

“The summit will consist of 4 panels of experts from around the country to speak on the following topics related to cannabis policy: decriminalization of marijuana, social equity, regulating CBD & Hemp products, pathways towards legalization through legislative efforts and other topics that will better inform the upcoming legislative work,” reads the invitation sent out by the attorney general’s office, which was first reported by The Virginia Mercury.

Attorney General Mark Herring (D) said last month that the legislature will first move to pass a cannabis decriminalization bill—something that Gov. Ralph Northam (D) had campaigned on and talked about in his State of the State address.

Lawmakers will then “get to work on a larger study about how and when we could move toward legal and regulated adult use,” Herring said.

“Criminalizing marijuana possession is not working. It is needlessly creating criminals, saddling people with convictions and costing taxpayers millions each year,” the attorney general wrote in an op-ed for the Virginian-Pilot this week. “The social and human costs are tremendous, and the weight of the system falls disproportionately on African Americans and people of color. There are smarter, better ways we can handle cannabis and that begins with decriminalizing simple possession of small amounts, addressing past convictions and moving towards legal, regulated adult use.”

The chances of getting cannabis reform policies through the General Assembly significantly increased after this month’s election, which saw Democrats reclaim control of both chambers for the first time in decades.

Accordingly, a lawmaker prefiled a cannabis decriminalization bill this week that would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a maximum $50 civil penalty.

The announcement of the Cannabis Summit, which will take place in Richmond on December 11, is another signal that political support for reforming Virginia’s marijuana laws is strong. And while Northam has not endorsed adult-use legalization, the inclusion of that issue in panel discussions indicates that decriminalization is just the beginning of the conversation. Advocates are also pushing the state to expand its limited medical cannabis program.

“The attorney general’s public support for advancing evidence-based cannabis policy, coupled with the recent formation of the Virginia Cannabis Caucus, set the stage for a robust and unprecedented exploration of real-world experiences with decriminalization, legalization and regulation in other states,” Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, told The Virginia Mercury.

NORML honored Herring with its “Vanguard Award” as part of its national conference in September.

Rhode Island Governor Will Pursue Legal Marijuana In 2020

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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