Eight members of Congress are hoping to bolster their reelection campaigns by circulating an online petition that calls for broad federal cannabis reform.
The petition is titled “It’s Past Time: End the Federal Prohibition of Marijuana” and it prompts supporters to add their name “to support the legalization of marijuana at the federal level!”
Election campaigns for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) authorized and contributed to the effort.
“Marijuana criminalization has sent hundreds of thousands of nonviolent offenders to prison, ruining lives and shattering families,” the petition states.
“It’s denied patients access to crucial medication,” it argues. “It’s allowed the Trump administration to threaten a pointless federal crackdown in the states that have already legalized marijuana. It’s wasted billions of dollars in an ill-conceived war on drugs, while forgoing billions more in potential revenue.”
The vast majority of Americans “support ending the prohibition of marijuana,” the petition says. “It’s wasteful, it’s destructive, and it’s simply wrong.”
Though it’s not especially surprising that Democratic lawmakers would leverage their support for legalization—something 75 percent of Democratic voters favor, according to an October 2018 Gallup poll—the number of campaigns teaming up to back the petition is notable.
Typically, such petitions are used to build email lists so that the sponsoring campaigns can contact prospective voters—for turnout and fundraising—as election season draws closer. It’s not exactly clear how the eight campaigns plan to share and utilize data from this petition, though it says, “By signing, you may receive emails from these sponsors updating you on the progress of this campaign and other important projects.”
Marijuana Moment contacted six of the eight sponsoring lawmakers’ teams, but did not receive a response by time of publication.
Huffman’s campaign seems to have taken the lead on the petition. He wrote on Twitter that “criminalizing marijuana simply isn’t working” and that legalization “is good for public health, our economy, and the environment.”
Our national policy of criminalizing marijuana simply isn't working. Legalizing cannabis is good for public health, our economy, and the environment. Join me in supporting an end to federal cannabis prohibition by adding your name now. https://t.co/4NjwskVrj2
— Rep. Jared Huffman (@JaredHuffman) June 26, 2019
“I support an end to cannabis prohibition,” he said in a second tweet linking to the petition. “The Democratic House voted this month to keep Trump from interfering with state cannabis laws but we need to go further. Add your name in support.”
I support an end to cannabis prohibition. The Democratic House voted this month to keep Trump from interfering with state cannabis laws but we need to go further. Add your name in support. https://t.co/4NjwskVrj2
— Rep. Jared Huffman (@JaredHuffman) June 26, 2019
The conversation around ending federal cannabis prohibition is coming to a head in the 116th Congress, with a House Judiciary subcommittee scheduling a hearing on the issue on Wednesday.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
Marijuana Legalization Measure Advances One Step In South Dakota
South Dakota’s attorney general filed an official explanation of a proposed ballot measure to legalize marijuana on Friday.
While separate organizations are working to get a medical cannabis-focused initiative on the state’s 2020 ballot, activists behind this measure are hoping to incorporate recreational legalization, medical marijuana reform and hemp into one package.
Adult-use legalization would be accomplished through a constitutional amendment under the initiative, which would separately require the legislature to pass legislation creating rules for medical cannabis and hemp.
South Dakota Attorney General releases explanation on proposed constitutional amendment to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana; to require passage of laws regarding hemp as well as laws regarding marijuana for medical use. Read it here: https://t.co/k33buSKjIJ pic.twitter.com/pEG0RxbDj9
— SD Attorney General (@SDAttorneyGen) August 16, 2019
“The constitutional amendment legalizes the possession, use, transport, and distribution of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia by people age 21 and older. Individuals may possess or distribute one ounce or less of marijuana,” Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) wrote. “Marijuana plants and marijuana produced from those plants may also be possessed under certain conditions.”
The South Dakota Department of Revenue would be responsible for issuing licenses for cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers. Individual jurisdictions would be able to opt out of allowing such facilities in their areas.
“The Department must enact rules to implement and enforce this amendment,” the explanation states. “The amendment requires the Legislature to pass laws regarding medical use of marijuana. The amendment does not legalize hemp; it requires the Legislature to pass laws regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp.”
The initiative calls for a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales. That revenue would be used to fund the Department of Revenue’s implementation and regulation of the legal cannabis system, with remaining tax dollars going toward public education and the state general fund.
Ravnsborg said that judicial clarification of the amendment “may be necessary” and notes that marijuana “remains illegal under Federal law.”
The attorney general issued a similar explanation of a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical cannabis earlier this month.
This latest move comes one day after advocacy organization New Approach South Dakota announced that their medical marijuana initiative was certified, enabling them to begin the signature gathering process.
Several other cannabis initiatives are in the process of being certified in the state, according to the attorney general’s website. In order to place constitutional amendments on the ballot, activists must collect 33,921 valid signatures from voters.
South Dakota is one of the last remaining states in the U.S. that has not legalized marijuana for any purposes.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
Elizabeth Warren’s Plan For Indian Tribes Includes Marijuana Legalization
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) unveiled a plan on Friday that’s aimed at holding the federal government accountable for following through on its obligations to Native American tribes, and that includes ensuring that tribal marijuana programs are protected against federal intervention.
The plan emphasized Warren’s support for a bill she filed earlier this year that “would protect cannabis laws and policies that tribal nations adopted for themselves.”
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, who has faced criticism over claims of Native American heritage, pointed to federal reports showing that tribal programs generally have not received adequate funding and said it is imperative that legislation be enacted to “provide resources for housing, education, health care, self-determination, and public safety” for those communities.
To that end, Warren is planning to introduce a bill called the “Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act” alongside Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. Before filing, however, the lawmakers are soliciting input on how best to draft the legislation, and are accepting written testimony until September 30.
While the proposed legislation itself doesn’t currently include marijuana-specific provisions, a press release and blog post on the topic address the senator’s sponsorship of the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would allow tribal communities and states to set their own cannabis policies without Justice Department interference.
In order to provide economic opportunities to Native people, that “requires streamlining and removing unnecessary administrative barriers that impede economic growth on Tribal lands, respecting tribal jurisdiction over tribal businesses, and promoting forward-looking efforts to ensure full access to new and emerging economic opportunities.”
“For example, while not every tribe is interested in the economic opportunities associated with changing laws around marijuana, a number of Tribal Nations view cannabis as an important opportunity for economic development,” Warren’s campaign blog post states.
“I support full marijuana legalization, and have also introduced and worked on a bipartisan basis to advance the STATES Act, a proposal that would at a minimum safeguard the ability of states, territories, and Tribal Nations, to make their own marijuana policies,” she wrote.
.@RepDebHaaland & I invite feedback about this proposal & look forward to working closely with tribal nations & citizens, experts, & other stakeholders to advance legislation in Congress that honors the United States’ promises to Native peoples. https://t.co/qc1fkBGb3I
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) August 16, 2019
A separate press release on Warren’s Senate website also touts her support for the STATES Act, saying she “worked hard to ensure” that it included tribal protections.
“It’s beyond time to make good on America’s responsibilities to Native peoples, and that is why I’m working with Congresswoman Haaland to draft legislation that will ensure the federal government lives up to its obligations and will empower tribal governments to address the needs of their citizens,” Warren said of the overall tribal plan. “We look forward to working closely with tribal nations to advance legislation that honors the United States’ promises to Native peoples.”
In an email blast to her campaign list, Warren included “a set of additional ideas to uphold the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations with Tribal Nations and to empower Native communities,” which includes her marijuana proposal:
“New economic opportunities: We also need to respect tribal jurisdiction over tribal businesses and promote forward-looking efforts to ensure full access to new economic opportunities. For example, a number of Tribal Nations view cannabis as an important economic opportunity. I support full marijuana legalization and have advanced the STATES Act, a proposal that would safeguard the ability of Tribal Nations to make their own marijuana policies.”
There’s increased interest in ensuring that Native populations receive the same benefits and protections as states as it concerns cannabis legislation.
In June, the House passed a spending bill that included a rider stipulating that Native American marijuana programs couldn’t be infringed upon by the Justice Department. And a GOP representative filed a bill in March that would provide similar protections.
FBI Seeks Tips On Marijuana Industry Corruption
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is actively seeking tips on public corruption related to the marijuana industry, it announced on Thursday.
“States require licenses to grow and sell the drug—opening the possibility for public officials to become susceptible to bribes in exchange for those licenses,” FBI Public Affairs Specialist Mollie Halpern said on a short podcast the bureau released. “The corruption is more prevalent in western states where the licensing is decentralized—meaning the level of corruption can span from the highest to the lowest level of public officials.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)