Three Canadian Senate committees submitted reports detailing a series of proposed amendments to the government’s marijuana legalization bill this week, threatening to delay and dilute what advocates consider an historic development in cannabis politics.
Though the traditionally conservative Senate passed the bill as written 44-29 in a second reading on March 22, it must now vote on amendments recommended by committees. One such panel is specifically advising the Senate to delay the bill for “as much as a year.”
Here’s what you need to know about each committee report:
Senate Legal And Constitutional Affairs Committee
A majority of Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs members proposed several amendments to the bill, including increased penalties for organizations found to be illegally exporting cannabis, limitations on the amount of dried marijuana an individual may possess and a ban on home cultivation.
The committee also unanimously expressed concerns about the risks of implementing marijuana legalization for “vulnerable populations, including youth and people living with mental illness,” as well as “the intrusion of organized crime in the cannabis industry.”
Their report will be considered by the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, which is scheduled to submit its own report on May 29.
Senate Aboriginal Peoples Committee
The Committee on Aboriginal Peoples submitted a report that called for as long as a year delay on the bill, arguing that Indigenous communities were inadequately consulted about the legalization measure.
In its report, the committee proposed eight amendments. It’s seeking funding for “culturally specific education” about cannabis, the right for Indigenous communities to set their own cannabis taxes and penalties and excise tax revenue for public health and addiction treatment programs, among other things.
“Indigenous peoples are entitled to a say in how the government implements the legalization of cannabis,” Senator Lillian Eva Dyck, who chairs the committee, said in a press release. “They have expressed real concerns to us—the potential for increased harmful effects on indigenous communities on the one hand, and the possibility of losing out on economic opportunities on the other. We must address these issues.”
Senate National Security And Defence Committee
Finally, the Committee on National Security and Defence released a report that called on the government to continue talks and “negotiate an agreement” with the United States about possible consequences for Canadian travelers crossing the border after legalization.
The report cited witness testimony that Canadians may run the risk of facing longer interrogations at the border “and/or inadmissibility for life for a cannabis offense, or for simply admitting previous cannabis use to U.S. customs and border protection officers.”
The report comes about a month after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch prohibitionist, met with Conservative Canadian senators to discuss the possible ramifications of the country’s pending legalization of marijuana.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Guarded About Prospect of Legalization Delay
Asked about senators’ proposed delay on the implementation of marijuana legalization, Trudeau “left the door open,” The Canadian Press reported Wednesday.
Declining to comment specifically, Trudeau said simply that “legalization is not an event, it’s a process.”
If the Senate accepts any of the committees’ amendments, the bill would then go back to the House of Commons for another vote. Such a delay may impact when legalization would be implemented. And in the event that the House rejects any amendments approved by the Senate, another bicameral volley would again set back the timeline for implementation.
Trudeau’s governing Liberal party initially pushed for legalization to take effect in July.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Policarpio.
Senate Schedules Hearing On Marijuana Business Banking Access
In one of the clearest signs of marijuana reform’s growing momentum on Capitol Hill, a Republican-controlled Senate committee has scheduled a hearing for next week that will examine cannabis businesses’ lack of access to banking services.
The formal discussion in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on Tuesday comes as legislation aimed at resolving the marijuana industry’s financial services problems is gaining momentum. A House cannabis banking bill that cleared that chamber’s Financial Services Committee with a bipartisan vote in March now has 206 cosponsors—nearly half the body—while companion Senate legislation has 32 out of 100 senators signed on.
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Congressman Files Marijuana Bill After Leaving Republican Party
In one of his first legislative acts since leaving the Republican Party earlier this month amid a feud with the president, Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) filed a bill on Monday that would let states set their own marijuana policies without federal interference.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because bipartisan legislation that would accomplish the same goal has already been filed this Congress.
But unlike the nearly identical Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, Amash’s new bill excludes one provision that would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the effects of cannabis legalization on road safety and issue a report on its findings within a year of the law’s enactment.
That language states that the GAO must study “traffic crashes, fatalities, and injuries” in legal cannabis states, actions taken by those states to “address marihuana-impaired driving,” testing standards being used to detect impaired driving and federal initiatives “aiming to assist States that have legalized marihuana with traffic safety.”
Given Amash’s libertarian leanings, it stands to reason that he opposes spending government dollars to conduct the research and simply supports the broader states’ rights intent of the original legislation.
That would also put him at odds with social justice advocates who feel that the STATES Act itself doesn’t go far enough and are pushing for more comprehensive legislation that includes additional provisions addressing social equity and restorative justice for people harmed by drug law enforcement.
Members of the House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee heard that debate play out during a historic hearing on ending federal marijuana prohibition last week.
A newly formed coalition of civil rights and drug reform organizations, including the ACLU, is also insisting on passing wide-ranging legislation to deschedule cannabis entirely that also invests in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition.
Amash is a long-standing critic of the war on drugs and earlier this year signed on as a cosponsor of a separate bill that would federally deschedule marijuana. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, filed that legislation, which is also silent on social equity provisions.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 8, 2019
Gabbard also introduced a separate bill that would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies to study the impacts of legalization. True to form, Amash declined to add his name to that measure as well.
Read the text of Amash’s new cannabis bill below:
Photo courtesy of Kyle Jaeger.
Berkeley City Council Considers Decriminalizing Psychedelics This Week
A resolution to decriminalize psilocybin and other psychedelics will go before a Berkeley, California City Council committee on Wednesday.
Decriminalize Nature, the group behind the measure, also led the charge to successfully get a measure decriminalizing entheogenic plants and fungi approved by the City Council in neighboring Oakland last month.
In Berkeley, the Public Safety Committee will discuss the proposal and can either decide to hold it for a future meeting or advance it to the full Council. The public is able to attend Wednesday’s special meeting and share their perspective on the resolution, but Decriminalize Nature stressed in a tweet that this “is a small meeting, so you do NOT need to attend.”
Is it time for #DecriminalizeNature #Berkeley? Agenda 4 at the public safety meeting this Wed. July 17, with the Decriminalize Nature team! This is a small meeting, so you do NOT need to attend. But if you live in Berkeley, write your City Council! https://t.co/gMSDkegMPU
— Decriminalize Nature (@DecrimNature) July 15, 2019
However, city residents are being encouraged to write to their Council members and urge them to vote in favor of the measure, which would codify that “no department, agency, board, commission, officer or employee of the city, including without limitation, Berkeley Police Department personnel, shall use any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the use and possession of Entheogenic Plants by adults of at least 21 years of age.”
The resolution defines the covered substances as “plants and natural sources such as mushrooms, cacti, iboga containing plants and/or extracted combinations of plants similar to ayahuasca; and limited to those containing the following types of compounds: indoleamines, tryptamines, phenethylamines.”
Councilmembers Rigel Robinson and Cheryl Davila are sponsoring the resolution, which does not allow for commercial sales or manufacturing.
The lawmakers provided background information on the measure in a report to their colleagues and the mayor, describing the medical potential of various psychedelics as well as the success of decriminalization measures in Denver and Oakland.
“It is intended that this resolution empowers Berkeley residents to be able to grow their own entheogens, share them with their community, and choose the appropriate setting for their intentions instead of having to rely exclusively on the medical establishment, which is slow to adapt and difficult to navigate for many,” they wrote.
While efforts to eliminate criminal penalties associated with psilocybin and other psychedelics have so far centered in jurisdictions that have historically embraced marijuana legalization and broader drug reform, the conversation around decriminalizing psychedelics is spreading nationally.
Shortly after Oakland approved its measure, Decriminalize Nature received inquiries from activities in cities from across the country. The group has kept track of each city where organizers are pursuing decriminalization.
Nature lovers are organizing coast to coast (and Hawaii)! Is your city on the map? Connect to join with your local community, or if you have the motivation to propose a similar initiative in your city/town/county, let’s start growing! contact [email protected] #DNUSA pic.twitter.com/38UxLKK9RN
— Decriminalize Nature (@DecrimNature) July 2, 2019
On Monday, a conversation around changing laws governing psychedelics reared during a City Council meeting in Columbia, Missouri. One resident implored the body to take up a resolution to decriminalize the natural substances, pointing to their therapeutic benefits.
Councilmember Mike Trapp said that the student’s proposal should be considered and that a government advisory board on public health should provide input on the medical potential of psychedelics, describing it as “very promising.”