New York Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon is making marijuana legalization a centerpiece of her campaign.
“It’s time for New York to follow the lead of 8 other states & DC and legalize the recreational use of marijuana,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “For me, what it comes down to is this: we have to stop putting people of color in prison for something that white people do with impunity.”
For me, what it comes down to is this: we have to stop putting people of color in prison for something that white people do with impunity.
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) April 11, 2018
The issue has political potency in her primary challenge against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who opposes legalization despite the fact that a majority of the state’s Democratic voters support it.
A Siena College poll in February found that 66% of New York Democrats back ending cannabis prohibition. Only 30% agree with Cuomo that marijuana should remain illegal.
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) April 11, 2018
Cuomo, who pressured lawmakers to significantly scale back medical cannabis legislation before he signed it into law in 2014, wants the state to conduct an official study of the implications of broader legalization before joining the nine other states that have already ended prohibition for adults over 21.
But the legislature did not include the governor’s proposed study language in a budget agreement adopted last month.
Although lawmakers didn’t specifically earmark funds for the legalization study, the state Department of Health said it will proceed with the review anyway.
In response to questioning from reporters on Wednesday, Cuomo rejected the idea that New York is lagging behind other states on marijuana.
“I think we’re actually ahead on it,” he said. “We announced months ago that we were going to study the legalization issue precisely for that reason. You have Massachusetts, you have New Jersey talking about it — that would be a fundamentally different situation for the state of New York. On this issue there are many opinions, there are many cultural opinions, there’s a lot of division in the legislature and what we said is, let’s get the facts and let’s make the decision on the facts. I’m trying to depoliticize the issue. There’s widespread division. It’s not about signing the bill, it’s about passing the bill… To pass it you have to have consensus and I think the best way to forge consensus is on facts rather than on opinions, stereotypes, past experiences.”
Joel Giambra, a former Republican Erie County executive who is mounting an independent bid to challenge Cuomo’s reelection this year, agrees with Nixon that marijuana should immediately be legalized. His campaign commissioned its own report, which concluded that the move would generate $500 million in new annual tax revenue.
“There’s no more need to study this,” he said. “It’s time to be aggressive. It’s time to be proactive.”
In a series of tweets and a YouTube video on Wednesday, Nixon pointed to the racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement as an important reason to legalize the drug.
“80% of New Yorkers arrested for marijuana are black or Latino,” she said. “The reality is that for white people, marijuana has effectively been legal for years. It’s time to legalize it for everyone else.”
The actress also pointed to the economic benefits of ending cannabis prohibition.
Legalizing marijuana can generate millions of dollars in tax revenue to improve the lives of all New Yorkers. pic.twitter.com/hhDDbhxULS
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) April 11, 2018
Her campaign launched an online petition about the issue through which she can collect email addresses and raise funds to support her bid against Cuomo.
“Governor Cuomo says we need a study on this issue, but I believe that we need action,” Nixon said in an email blast about the petition.
Now that public opinion has shifted on marijuana, rich white men like Boehner and companies like Monsanto are trying to cash in. We can’t let them rake in profits while thousands of people, mostly people of color, continue to sit in jail for possession and use.
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) April 12, 2018
As Governor, I'll make sure that it's not just rich white men who make billions off a product that sends thousands of black people to jail. We're going to create jobs and opportunity in the communities most devastated by the racist War on Drugs. https://t.co/Q04tCa96eH
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) April 12, 2018
Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
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.”
Colorado Governor And USDA Official To Discuss CBD At Hemp Event
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) and a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) official will speak at a hemp conference next month to discuss policy and regulations concerning hemp-derived dietary supplements.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) announced the lineup of their first-ever hemp and CBD conference last week. The two-day event is meant to “provide critical information for companies navigating the rapidly evolving legal, regulatory and financial landscapes to manufacture and market dietary supplement products with hemp or hemp-derived ingredients including cannabidiol (CBD).”
Following the legalization of hemp and its derivatives under the 2018 Farm Bill, lawmakers and stakeholders have been quick to highlight the industry’s potential and to call for an expedited rulemaking process so that CBD can be lawfully marketed in food items and dietary supplements.
This conference will focus on dietary supplements in particular, with presentations on the current regulatory landscape for such products, compliance issues for hemp businesses and market analysis.
Polis has been a vocal advocate for marijuana reform and pledged in his State of the State address in January that he would make “good on the promise of industrial hemp in Colorado.”
Longtime hemp industry supporter, former U.S. Congressman and current Colorado Governor Jared Polis to present at AHPA Hemp-CBD Supplement Congress — https://t.co/2wPOcvdkHr — #supplement #cbd #hemp #hempindustry @GovofCO pic.twitter.com/tYhqj8HFlx
— AHPA (@AHPAssociation) July 10, 2019
“With our world class universities like Colorado State and Adams State, which are at the forefront of hemp innovation with the leading hemp manufacturers and cultivators already here, we want to seize on this opportunity under the most recent national Farm Bill to help make Colorado the national leader in industrial hemp production,” Polis said at the time.
AHPA’s two-day event will also feature USDA Senior Marketing Specialist William Richmond, who will brief attendees with an update on the department’s progress developing regulations for CBD. The department said last month that it is aiming to release an interim final rule on hemp in August.
But while USDA has regulatory authority over hemp, businesses will also have to await guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on marketing consumable CBD products. FDA said last week that it is “expediting” its rulemaking process and will release a report on its progress by early fall.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that because CBD exists as an FDA-approved drug and hasn’t previously been added to the food supply or in dietary supplements, the agency will have to create an alternative regulatory pathway for the compounds, which could take years without congressional action.
In the meantime, it appears that both federal agencies are taking steps to increase transparency around their regulatory progress. Two days before the USDA official is set to appear at the AHPA conference, an FDA representative is scheduled to keynote a separate hemp industry summit to discuss related issues.
Marijuana Legalization Could Be On The Horizon For British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) could soon have a bill to legalize marijuana before the legislature, according to a government official.
Details are sparse, but Agriculture Minister Natalio Wheatley said on Saturday that the draft legislation under consideration would address concerns about youth consumption and impaired driving while ensuring that adults no longer face jail time for simple possession.
“We certainly know that marijuana, which contains THC, has an impact on your disposition. It has an impact on you being able to complete certain tasks,” he said, according to BVI News. “We don’t want to fool everyone into thinking that we think persons should be up and down smoking marijuana through the streets without any sort of regulation.”
He added that he hoped the legislation would make BVI a global model for legalization.
“We certainly support having a well-regulated industry, and the fact that we’re coming in late into this whole discussion of marijuana means that we don’t have to repeat the mistakes that some of our brothers and sisters made in other places,” he said.
The draft bill being circulated reportedly originated under the previous administration and is being improved upon. Wheatley said that residents, who he believes support legalization, should expect community meetings to be scheduled to discuss the proposal.
“Persons will no longer be incarcerated for the possession and consumption of something that is recognized to be a lot less detrimental to your health,” he said. “In fact, we’re speaking about the medicinal value of it than something like alcohol. It’s proven that alcohol is much more damaging to your health than marijuana.”
BVI’s cousin, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), hasn’t taken the step to allow adult use of marijuana, but the territory’s governor did sign a bill legalizing medical cannabis in January.
The sponsor of the USVI legislation, former senator and current Agriculture Commissioner Terrance “Positive” Nelson, said that he plans to continue to pursue broader reform, and he commended BVI for moving toward a commercial cannabis model.
“I told you already it is not easy to stand up for cannabis. I still have some scars on my back relative to the push in [USVI],” he said. “Here in the British Virgin Islands, you are talking about legalization and I want for local leaders here to continue to be brave enough to move forward.”
“Yes, there is going to be pushbacks. But the truth in the matter is this: the truth is on your side,” he said. “The truth is on our side.”
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.