Organizations affiliated with black and hispanic members of Congress both featured panels covering marijuana issues at conferences they hosted this week.
On Wednesday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute held a panel exploring the criminal justice, economic and public health aspects of cannabis legalization, which featured Reps. Lou Correa (D-CA) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA). Experts discussed “marijuana policies, entrepreneurial opportunities, public health risks, and more,” according to the event’s website.
Madeline Martinez, executive director of NORML Oregon, spoke at the session and wrote in a Facebook post that it “was an amazing honor to be included.”
“As an activist who has been at the forefront of the reform movement for 20 years, it was a privilege to join my fellow Latinos at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute to strategize solutions to towards solving the moral and economic failures of the war on drugs and crafting solutions that put minorities and those most affected by the war in the front of the line to reap the benefits of legalization,” Martinez told Marijuana Moment.
Interestingly, the panel was sponsored by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsible, an organization supported by several major alcohol corporations that’s working to prevent drunk driving.
The following day, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation kicked off its own marijuana panel: “The Black Experience In Cannabis,” which focused on civic engagement and community outreach issues.
On Friday, a separate CBC Foundation panel hosted by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) will tackle racial and social equity in the marijuana industry.
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) September 14, 2018
Taken together, the caucuses’ panels reflect a growing interest in ensuring that the voices of people of color are heard as more states opt to legalize cannabis—a subject that the CBC in particular has put significant energy toward.
For example, in July, the CBC emphasized that ending the federal prohibition of marijuana was one of ten “must-do policies” for the government in order to “address issues hurting both communities of color and rural communities.”
Beyond ending marijuana prohibition, the caucus has also previously called for the decriminalization of cannabis possession and use, automatic expungements for individuals convicted of misdemeanor marijuana offenses and an “easy path to expungement for those previously convicted of felonies for marijuana-related offense.”
And in May, CBC members introduced a bill that would remove marijuana from the list of federally banned substances.
If passed, the legislation would increase the upward social mobility of Black families, and help ensure equal protection under the law. pic.twitter.com/7uuywa5JUX
— Black Caucus (@OfficialCBC) May 10, 2018
Members argue that these legislative steps would right some of the wrongs perpetuated by the war on drugs. Prohibitionist policies have historically targeted communities of color, especially in terms of racially disproportionate marijuana enforcement.
As we work to address the legacy the #WarOnDrugs, we must ensure that restorative justice is at the forefront of our #cannabis policies. @CoryBooker & I are leading the fight in Congress to build racial equity in the cannabis industry & reinvest in communities of color. #ALC2018 pic.twitter.com/PkygAEvXp5
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) September 14, 2018
Both the CHC and CBC events also incorporated discussion about issues that have evolved in states post-legalization—namely, how racially discriminatory marijuana enforcement efforts have had residual effects on individuals previously convicted of a cannabis-related offense. Reform advocates have pushed for inclusive marijuana policies that empower those most impacted by the drug war to be represented in the legal industry.
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.”