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Biden health pick could boost cannabis reform efforts (Newsletter: December 9, 2020)



Congress sends marijuana penalty directive to military; Canada OKs therapists to psilocybin; SD gov slams voters’ cannabis decision; Expungements poll

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Xavier Becerra, who President-elect Joe Biden selected to serve as health and human services secretary, supports legalizing marijuana and voted in Congress to protect state laws from federal intervention. If confirmed by the Senate, he would play a key role in cannabis rescheduling decisions.

  • “Just as we allow alcohol to be sold, we’ve come into the 21st century and announced that it’s better to regulate marijuana than criminalize it. The federal government has to catch up and get into the 21st century.”

The House of Representatives approved that final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a marijuana penalty directive urging the Pentagon to “ensure the military departments are not excluding talent from the pool of eligible individuals who volunteer to serve.”

  • That said, in NDAA negotiations with the Senate, Democratic leaders agreed to give up House-passed provisions to clarify that service members can’t be punished for using hemp and CBD products and formally allowing reenlistment waivers for those who’ve used cannabis. A Senate vote on the conference report is expected soon.

Canada’s health minister announced that she granted exemptions for mental health care professionals to legally dose themselves with psychedelic mushrooms in order to better understand and treat patients who are undergoing psilocybin therapy.

  • “The doctors that prescribe this therapy wanted to understand what it would feel like and how to best use it to help their patients that are struggling.”

In her budget speech, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) again criticized voters’ decision to approve marijuana legalization and medical cannabis ballot measures, saying that she is nonetheless including plans to implement both in her fiscal proposal to the legislature even as a lawsuit her administration is funding seeks to overturn the election result.

  • “I do want to call out one budget provision related to the disappointing votes on marijuana at the ballot box this year. There are significant safety and regulatory costs associated with both the medical marijuana measure and the recreational one. Given the latter is currently facing constitutional challenges, we’re going to have to present two courses of action. A path forward with both recreational and medical. And a second with just medical.” 

A new poll that seven in ten U.S. adults support expunging marijuana conviction records, including majority backing among Democrats, Republicans, independents, all age groups and every other demographic in the survey.


A former Department of Defense contractor has been charged with allegedly leaking classified documents, apparently in retaliation for his losing a security clearance over medical cannabis use.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), in a Senate floor speech, criticized Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) for voting for a marijuana legalization bill while “blocking” legislation on child sex abuse.

House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) will continue to “work to ensure financial technology is used responsibly and fairly, and expand access to banking services for all Americans, including those operating legitimate cannabis businesses.”

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) contextualized his support for cannabis law reform in general and his vote against a federal marijuana legalization bill in a newsletter.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) gave a floor speech about the fiscal benefits of a House-passed federal marijuana legalization bill.

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) explained why she was one of only sixe Democrats to vote against a federal marijuana legalization bill.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) tweeted, “For far too long, the criminalization of marijuana has led to disproportionate sentencing for communities of color. On Friday the House passed the MORE Act, landmark legislation that would take a step forward in delivering justice to these communities.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) tweeted, “Legalizing cannabis is a racial & economic justice issue. The MORE Act brings us one step closer to ending the failed war on drugs, but our work isn’t done. The BIPOC communities who have been criminalized/over-policed must reap the financial rewards of the expanding industry.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) tweeted, “To heal the devastation of the failed #WarOnDrugs, nonviolent #marijuana charges should be commuted. In 1977, #Carter pardoned all #VietnamWar resisters, using the presidential #PardonPower for the good of the country. Pardons should be based on merit and justice.”


New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) deflected a question about whether he is planning to issue clemency to people convicted of marijuana offenses.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) said that neighboring South Dakota approved marijuana legalization because of “misinformation” that “somehow [cannabis] is benign.”

Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor authored a Washington Post op-ed on the need to legalize marijuana.

Florida’s agriculture commissioner released an economic forecast for the hemp market.

The South Dakota legislature’s Rules Review Committee approved the state’s hemp rules.

California’s former top marijuana regulator is joining the California Craft Brewers Association as executive director.

Delaware regulators sent a reminder to hemp growers to complete their annual registrations.

Missouri regulators published statistics on medical cannabis facility commencement inspections.

The Oregon Cannabis Commission’s Health Equity Subcommittee will meet on Wednesday.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,500 cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.


Denver, Colorado officials released draft marijuana delivery, social use and equity legislation and will hold stakeholder meetings on the proposals next Tuesday and Thursday.

The Aurora, Colorado City Council gave initial approval to a plan to allow marijuana delivery services.

Oakland, California officials held a meeting about the city’s cannabis equity loan and grant program.


Thai government officials are planning a nationwide tour to raise awareness about medical cannabis.


A study found that “about three times as many individuals reported harassment, vandalism, or family problems attributed to someone’s alcohol use compared to those harms attributed to someone’s marijuana use, with a smaller ratio seen for financial trouble and a wider ratio for physical harm” and that “harms attributed to other’s marijuana use in Washington were found to be substantial, but lower than harms from others’ drinking.”


The Drug Policy Alliance is hosting a day-long webinar on locally based drug policies on Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union tweeted about the National Basketball Association suspending marijuana testing for next year, saying, “Good. But workplace drug testing should not be the norm, even outside of a pandemic. Drug testing is intrusive, often inaccurate, and exacerbates the flawed logic behind the racist war on drugs.”

The heads of the National Safety Council and American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine coauthored an op-ed about safety concerns with marijuana legalization.

The Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association announced its formation.


Canopy Growth Corporation announced that The Vitamin Shoppe is carrying its Martha Stewart-branded CBD products.

Brother David’s launched its nonprofit marijuana products in the Oregon market.

Maine’s most valuable crop is now marijuana.


A Florida man who was the nation’s longest-serving marijuana prisoner has been released.

Actress Nicole Kidman became a brand ambassador for CBD products by CURE Pharmaceutical Holdings’s SeraLabs, Inc.

Mixed martial arts fighter Jamahal Hill said that marijuana-related suspensions are “goofy shit.”

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.


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