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Congressional Memo Touts Marijuana Momentum In 2021 And Lays Out 2022 Reform Priorities

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With several new states having legalized marijuana in 2021—in addition to some modest congressional developments—reform advocates put some wins on the board this year. Now a congressional memo is laying out priorities to build upon those successes for 2022.

Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), longstanding champions of reform, authored the memo. It lists the numerous pieces of marijuana legislation that have been filed on Capitol Hill this session, including some that did advance, and then explains what to watch for next year.

While the lawmakers’ memo—which was shared exclusively with Marijuana Moment ahead of its release—highlights momentum that has developed behind cannabis reform in the House this year, it also notes that the Senate still has a lot of work to do.

“I think the stage is set for [federal legalization] to happen next year,” Blumenauer said during a briefing with reporters on Thursday. “We have Senate leadership—they’re dealing with how to assemble a package. They all want comprehensive reform, and they have made that clear. Once we get that alignment and can move it in the Senate, I think things can happen very quickly.”

In the meantime, arguably the most consequential reforms of 2021 did not take place in Congress. Instead, as the new report acknowledges, it was the record number of states that legalized marijuana for adult use, as well as Alabama legalizing medical cannabis.

“This growing bipartisan momentum for cannabis reform shows Congress is primed for progress in 2022, and we are closer than ever to bringing our cannabis policies and laws in line with the American people,” the memo says. “While much work remains to be done, there have been substantive developments over the course of the year that have set the table for further action.”

Lee said in a press release that “it’s time for the federal government to catch up to the rest of the country and start leading on cannabis reform.”

“It’s far past time Congress move to finally get this across the finish line,” she said. “Ending the war on drugs is an issue of racial equity and a moral imperative.”

Blumenauer said “the table is set and the time is right for comprehensive cannabis reform, which will make a huge difference for people around the country.”

“We’ve watched this issue gain more momentum than ever with the American people—almost 70 percent of whom, including a majority of Republicans, want to see federal reform,” he said. Let’s get it done.”

Blumenauer will also be hosting a briefing with reporters on next steps for marijuana reform later on Thursday.

A bill to federally legalize marijuana and promote social equity cleared the House Judiciary Committee. Legislation to protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses passed the House for the fifth time. A bipartisan measure was introduced to incentivize the expungement of prior marijuana records. And lawmakers kept pressure on President Joe Biden to grant relief to people with cannabis convictions.

There’s even a recently filed bill led by Republicans to end federal marijuana prohibition—though Blumenauer said on Thursday that he felt “that’s not going anywhere in the House.”

Unfortunately for advocates, none of these bills have been enacted. And the president has yet to act on their calls for executive clemency. But the memo stresses that this momentum serves as the foundation for reform heading into 2022.

There was one piece of cannabis legislation that was enacted as an amendment to a large-scale infrastructure bill. It recommends that researchers be permitted to access marijuana from dispensaries for study purposes, rather than depend on cannabis grown at the only federally authorized source at the University of Mississippi.

The memo also points to another victory: the exclusion of a spending bill rider prohibiting Washington, D.C. from using its local tax dollars to implement a marijuana market—though the new version of the legislation has not yet been enacted and the blockade remains for now. Still, this is likely to set the stage for implementation legislation to bring cannabis sales aboveground in the nation’s capital.

A slew of veterans-specific marijuana bills were also filed this year. That includes one measure that passed the House Veterans Affairs Committee last month to require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct clinical trials into the therapeutic potential of cannabis for military veterans.

But while lawmakers, advocates and stakeholders put in significant work to achieve these incremental successes, the memo emphasizes that the work isn’t over. And it specifically lists five priorities for marijuana reform next year.

At the top of the list: descheduling marijuana.

“We are getting closer to passing the MORE Act, the most comprehensive cannabis reform bill to be developed and considered by Congress to date, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act,” the lawmakers wrote.

Legalization must be coupled with equity, they said. That means enacting policies that provide relief to those caught up in the drug war.

It’s also “imperative that the Biden administration utilize power available to the executive to pardon and commute sentences for individuals with cannabis-related offenses, while Congress continues to work to enact comprehensive sentencing reform,” the memo states.

As more state markets come online, the legislators also said that steps must be taken to ensure that the industry is equitable. Part of that means making sure that people from communities most impacted by prohibition have opportunities and resources to participate in the market.

Another priority: promoting marijuana research.

“We are well positioned to dramatically increase the scope and quality of our cannabis research, which will help inform future federal regulation and help us understand the full breadth of cannabis’ therapeutic benefits, especially for our veterans and those living with chronic conditions, like epilepsy,” the memo says.

Finally, the document emphasizes that the federal government should not be in the business of interfering with state marijuana programs. It specifically stresses non-interference by the Justice Department at least until marijuana banking reform passes the Senate.

“The House of Representatives has worked to enact cannabis reform, to set the stage for comprehensive reform. We will work with the Senate on a parallel strategy,” the memo concludes. “The Congressional Cannabis Caucus has brought together a broad coalition of members from across the country, with all their various policies, who all agree: it’s time for Congress to finally reform federal cannabis policy.”

“As we enter another election year, it’s more important than ever to seize the moment and heed the calls of the American public,” it says. “We are poised to take bold action to end the failed war on drugs once and for all.”

Read the memo on marijuana victories and 2022 priorities below: 

Click to access cannabis-year-end-memo_final.pdf

Image element courtesy of Tim Evanson.

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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Bipartisan Pennsylvania Senators File Bill To Let Medical Marijuana Patients Grow Their Own Plants

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A bipartisan group of Pennsylvania senators introduced a bill on Thursday that would allow medical marijuana patients to cultivate their own plants for personal use.

Sens. Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) first announced their intent to file the legislation in November, arguing that it is a necessary reform to ensure patient access by giving people a less costly alternative to buying from dispensaries.

Registered patients who are 21 and older, and who have been residents of the state for at least 30 days, could grow up to six plants in an “enclosed and locked space” at their residence, according to the text of the bill. They would be allowed to buy cannabis seeds from licensed dispensaries

 

In an earlier cosponsorship memo for the new home grow bill, the lawmakers said that letting patients cultivate their own medicine would “help ease the cost and accessibility burdens for this important medicine.”

The new legislation has three other initial cosponsors in addition to Street and Laughlin.

Street had attempted to get the reform enacted as an amendment to an omnibus bill this summer, but it did not advance.

The senators argue that patients in particular are deserving of a home grow option, as some must currently travel hours to visit a licensed dispensary and there are financial burdens that could be alleviated if patients could grow their own plants for medicine.

Late last year, Laughlin and Street also unveiled a separate adult-use legalization proposal that faces significant challenges in the GOP-controlled legislature. And Street is behind another recent cannabis measure to provide state-level protections to banks and insurers that work with cannabis businesses.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy 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.

In the interim, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), who is running for U.S. Senate this year, said one of his key goals in his final year in office is to ensure that as many eligible people as possible submit applications to have the courts remove their cannabis records and restore opportunities to things like housing, student financial aid and employment through an expedited petition program.

Pennsylvania lawmakers could also take up more modest marijuana reform proposals like a bill filed late last year to expand the number of medical marijuana cultivators in the state, prioritizing small farms to break up what she characterized as a monopoly or large corporations that’s created supply problems.

Rep. Amen Brown (D) separately announced his intent to file a legalization bill that he’ll be working on with Sen. Mike Regan (R), who expressed his support for the policy change a day earlier.

Additionally, another pair of state lawmakers—Reps. Jake Wheatley (D) and Dan Frankel (D)—formally unveiled a legalization bill they’re proposing last year.

Philadelphia voters also approved a referendum on marijuana legalization in November that adds a section to the city charter saying that “the citizens of Philadelphia call upon the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Governor to pass legislation that will decriminalize, regulate, and tax the use, and sale to adults aged 21 years or older, of cannabis for non-medical purposes.”

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said last year that marijuana legalization was a priority as he negotiated the annual budget with lawmakers. However, his formal spending request didn’t contain legislative language to actually accomplish the cannabis policy change.

The governor, who signed a medical cannabis expansion bill in June, has repeatedly called for legalization and pressured the Republican-controlled legislature to pursue the reform since coming out in favor of the policy in 2019. Shortly after he did that, a lawmaker filed a separate bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.

A survey from Franklin & Marshall College released last year found that 60 percent of Pennsylvania voters back adult-use legalization. That’s the highest level of support for the issue since the firm started polling people about it in 2006.

An attempt to provide protections for Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients from being charged with driving under the influence was derailed in the legislature last year, apparently due to pushback by the state police association.

Nebraska Activists Say New GOP Medical Marijuana Bill Is A ‘Poison Pill’ Meant To Detract From Ballot Efforts

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Minnesota Democratic Leaders Preview Marijuana Legalization Plan For 2022

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Minnesota Democratic leaders are preparing for another push to legalize marijuana this session, with the sponsor of the House-passed reform bill saying he will be reworking the legislation in an effort to build further support—though it continues to face an uphill climb in the GOP-controlled Senate.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) and Senate Minority Leader Melisa Franzen (D) discussed the legislative strategy during a roundtable event hosted by the Minnesota Hemp Growers Cooperative on Wednesday.

Winkler said that his bill, which moved through 12 committees before being approved on the House floor last year, is the “product of hundreds of hours of work involving thousands of people’s input, countless hearings and public listening sessions—but it is not a perfect bill.”

“As we look ahead to this session…our goal is to go back and reexamine provisions of the bill,” he said. Licensing structures, public safety and substance misuse concerns are among the issues that lawmakers will be looking at to improve upon the legislation.

“We will be working with our colleagues in the Minnesota Senate,” Winkler added. “We’re interested in pursuing legalization to make sure that the bill represents senators’ priorities for legalization as well.”

The leader said that “any effort this year that would be successful would require Republican support as well.”

But while advocates are encouraged to hear that the House may again vote to pass the legalization legislation, the Senate minority leader tempered expectations about the bill’s prospects in her Republican-run chamber.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a path to legalization this year in the Minnesota Senate,” Franzen said. “It’s controlled by the Republican party, and they have there’s a few members who are really adamantly opposed to legalization.”

Gov. Tim Walz (D) is supportive of cannabis legalization, and while the broad reform didn’t advance last session, he did sign a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, in part by allowing patients to access smokable cannabis products.

Winkler said on Wednesday that “it was because of the work done” by advocates on legalization that put pressure on Senate Republicans to advance that legislation.

Another cannabis issue playing out in Minnesota concerns CBD. The state agriculture department and pharmacy board have increased enforcement against the sale of the non-intoxicating cannabinoid in recent months, prompting calls for legislative reform.

Winkler said that the political dynamics around legalization that led to the expansion of the state’s medical cannabis program will be “a template for how we will address challenges with CBD this year.”

“My staff is working very closely with advocates, working with senators, working with other House members to get in a repair for the CBD industry, and I have every confidence that we will be able to do that with your help,” he said.

A poll conducted by Minnesota lawmakers that was released last year found that 58 percent of residents are in favor of legalization. That’s a modest increase compared to the chamber’s 2019 survey, which showed 56 percent support.

Winkler said in 2020 that if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the policy change legislatively, he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization And Expungements In Budget Request

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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Nebraska Activists Say New GOP Medical Marijuana Bill Is A ‘Poison Pill’ Meant To Detract From Ballot Efforts

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A Republican Nebraska senator introduced a bill on Thursday that ostensibly seeks to legalize medical marijuana in the state—but activists have raised concerns that the restrictive measure may be an attempt to subvert an effort to pass even broader patient protections on the 2022 ballot.

Sen. Mike Groene (R) filed the legislation, which would allow certain patients to buy and possess cannabis oils, pills and up to two and a half ounces of flower at a limited number of dispensaries. Smoking or inhaling marijuana would be banned, however, as would making edibles—so it’s not clear how patients would consume the flower they could possess.

But the main problem is, the bill would maintain that cultivating marijuana in Nebraska for commercial or personal use is illegal, meaning dispensaries wouldn’t even have a legal means of obtaining cannabis products for patients.

The bill is also severely restrictive in terms of who would qualify for cannabis. It would only permit access to people with stage IV cancer, uncontrolled seizures, severe muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy or a terminal illness with less than a one year probable life expectancy.

It’s being backed by the Nebraska chapter of the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), leading some advocates to suspect that the lack of cultivation provisions is designed to be a “poison pill” while misleading voters into thinking that there is a good faith effort to legalize medical cannabis legislatively.

“This appears to be a political stunt,” Jared Moffat, state campaigns manager at the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “Opponents of medical cannabis know there is a viable campaign to put medical cannabis on the ballot, and they know Nebraskans will overwhelmingly support that effort.”

“This is an attempt to take our focus away from that,” he said. “But it won’t succeed because it’s clear that this proposal is not a good faith effort to find some middle ground on the issue.”

The bill comes as Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) continues to work to collect signatures for a pair of medical cannabis legalization initiatives that advocates hope to place on the November ballot. They have until July to collect 87,000 valid signatures to qualify each of their complementary measures.

Activists with the group collected enough signatures to qualify a medical marijuana legalization measure for the 2020 ballot, but the state Supreme Court invalidated it, finding that the proposal violated the single-subject rule for citizen initiatives.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy 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.

Now this legislation from Groene is entering the mix for the 2022 session. And SAM Nebraska co-chair John Kuehn told The Lincoln Journal-Star that it’s “a good faith effort and we are willing to look at this as an acceptable alternative to creating a marijuana industry in the state of Nebraska.”

While advocates aren’t necessarily buying that argument given that it would authorize dispensaries without providing the ability to cultivate marijuana products, some like NMM co-chair Sen. Anna Wishart (D) are willing to work with the senator to get the bill into a more acceptable shape for patients.

“It would be the status quo,” Wishart said. “I want a safe system, but there are practical realities patients are living with every day. No one wants a system that doesn’t work.”

Notably, Groene did support a procedural motion to advance Wishart’s more expansive medical cannabis bill last session.

Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democrats, pounced on the restrictive nature of Groene’s bill and said it makes it “not easy or feasible for most” to obtain a medical cannabis recommendation from a doctor.

Shari Lawlor, a member of Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis, said that the group is “grateful that Sen. Groene recognizes the importance of medical cannabis,” but as drafted, “this is a medical cannabis bill with no cannabis.”

“It envisions a system with dispensaries but no farmers or cultivators who actually produce the medical cannabis that patients need,” she said. “And since patients are not allowed to cultivate medical cannabis themselves under this proposal, there is effectively no way for patients to get the relief they need.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) is no fan of legalization. He partnered with SAM Nebraska on a recent ad urging residents to oppose cannabis reform in the state. Given the organization’s support for this new GOP proposal, there’s some suspicion that he might back it to give the appearance that the administration isn’t deaf to calls for reform by voters.

Advocates aren’t going to be deterred by the bill’s introduction. They will be moving forward with the complementary medical cannabis initiatives in hopes to getting the issue to voters.

The campaign deliberately chose to take a bifurcated approach because of the state Supreme Court invalidation over the single-subject rule.

One of the statutory initiatives would establish legal protections for patients and doctors around cannabis, while the other would allow private companies to produce and sell medical marijuana products.

Lawmakers attempted to advance medical cannabis reform legislatively last year, but while the unicameral legislature debated a bill to legalize medical marijuana in May, it failed to advance past a filibuster because the body didn’t have enough votes to overcome it.

Wishart and NMM co-chair Sen. Adam Morfeld (D) announced in late 2020 that they would also work to put the question of legalizing marijuana for adult use before voters in 2022. But for now their focus appears to be on the medical cannabis effort.

For what it’s worth, Nebraska’s attorney general argued in an opinion in 2019 that efforts to legalize medical marijuana legislatively in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would be, therefore, unconstitutional.”

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization And Expungements In Budget Request

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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