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Deal On Marijuana Banking Bill Is ‘Close,’ GOP Senator Says

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The lead Republican sponsor of a congressional bill to expand marijuana banking services said on Tuesday that lawmakers are “close” to advancing the reform measure.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said that passing the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and allowing cannabis businesses to access financial services would improve overall industry transparency in California, Colorado and other legal cannabis states.

The measure made history this past September when it became the first standalone cannabis reform bill ever to be approved by the House, passing along largely bipartisan lines. But it’s been stalled in the Senate, where Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) has held it up and recommended changes that industry stakeholders view as untenable.

Even so, Gardner said lawmakers are “close to finding common ground to getting everyone signed off to move this forward.”

“We need to get this all-cash economy into the disinfectant of sunlight, out of the shadows and get some transparency so we can put it into our financial system,” the senator said during a speech at the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) annual governance meeting in Washington, D.C. “It’s a challenge we have to rise to meet. We can’t ignore it.”

Gardner’s proposed bill would protect federally regulated financial institutions from being punished for working with state-legal cannabis businesses. Current law forces many marijuana companies to operate in cash because most banks won’t let them open accounts, making them targets for robberies.

The senator said “sensible regulations for the financial services industry only work if we allow the financial services industry to touch the money in the first place” and that’s “why I believe we need the SAFE Banking Act—to bring the nearly $2 billion of cash from Colorado’s state-legal cannabis industry into the financial system.”

“Every day that Congress continues to ignore reality, unintended consequences pile up for legitimate businesses,” he said. “I sincerely appreciate CUNA’s support for the SAFE Banking Act and their work to pass this commonsense, states-rights approach to the legal cannabis question.”

Earlier this month, 12 Republican members of the House who voted against the bill in that chamber wrote to Crapo, thanking him for proposing a series of restrictive changes to the bill. The letter claims that even relatively low levels of THC can cause “IQ loss, increased risk of serious mental illness, and addiction.”

“We thank you again for your examination and consideration of these important public health topics,” the group wrote. “We remain opposed to liberalizing drug laws (including around banking), and we see these as some of our areas of greatest concern. We must protect our youth by preventing investment into companies that would prey upon them.”

Meanwhile a group of more than 1,300 cannabis industry representatives wrote to Crapo urging him to pass the legislation as written.

Gardner said that he, Crapo and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have “made great progress on the details of the SAFE Banking Act.”

“We are working through some of the objectives Sen. Crapo has in terms of safety, research, and guidance. We’re doing it in a way that respects state’s rights, that respects the voters of the states, that moves forward on this,” he said. “I believe that in a matter of months we can have a vote on a compromise version in the Senate that will have the support of 60-plus of my colleagues and of the House of Representatives.”

Last week, the American Bar Association (ABA) endorsed the expansion of banking services to the cannabis industry, passing a resolution that “urges Congress to enact legislation to clarify and ensure that it shall not constitute a federal crime for banking and financial institutions to provide services to businesses and individuals, including attorneys, who receive compensation from the sale of state-legalized cannabis or who provide services to cannabis-related legitimate business acting in accordance with state, territorial, and tribal laws.”

Gardner has emerged among Senate Republicans as a leading voice of cannabis reform. In April 2019, he and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) teamed up to file a landmark bill to exempt legal marijuana states from federal interference. He noted at the time that “95 percent of Americans are living in states with laws allowing some form of cannabis.”

Twelve GOP Lawmakers Thank Senate Chairman For Delaying Marijuana Banking Bill

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.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

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Wisconsin Republicans Announce Limited Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill

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More than a dozen Republican Wisconsin lawmakers announced on Wednesday that they are filing a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state.

Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R) and Rep. Patrick Snyder (R) are leading the bicameral effort, though advocates are already skeptical considering how the GOP-legislature has historically resisted and blocked cannabis reform. On Tuesday, for example, the Senate passed a bill to increase penalties for people who use butane to extract marijuana resin, and GOP members also shot down an amendment to the measure that would have legalized adult-use cannabis.

The Republican-led medical cannabis legislation is also fairly restrictive, as it prohibits smokable marijuana products and doesn’t allow patients to grow cannabis for personal use. Patients could only obtain cannabis preparations in the form of oils, pills, tinctures or topicals.

What it would do is allow doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations to patients with one of eight conditions, including cancer, seizure disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and multiple sclerosis.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has expressed support for medical cannabis reform, and the lead Senate sponsor said at Wednesday’s press conference that Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) is “more than willing” to hold a hearing on the proposal.

Under the bill, a medical marijuana regulatory commission would be established through the Department of Revenue to promulgate rules for the program in consultation with a medical cannabis advisory board. The commission could add more qualifying conditions.

Licensed processors would be taxed at a rate of 10 percent for “each wholesale sale in this state of medical marijuana to a licensed dispensary,” the text of the bill says. Revenue would go toward a medical marijuana fund to support drug prevention and treatment programs.


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.

It does not appear that the measure contains equity provisions like expungements that are favored by progressives.

“Currently 36 other states, including our neighbors Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota, have passed laws allowing patients with certain medical conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it,” a co-sponsorship memo that Felzkowski and Snyder sent to fellow legislators on Wednesday says. “Medicine is never one-size-fits-all, and it is time for Wisconsin to join the majority of the country in adding another option which may help patients find the relief they need.”

The memo also discusses how voters in multiple cities and counties across Wisconsin have strongly approved local, non-binding ballot referendums expressing support for marijuana reform in recent years.

“Wisconsinites who have discussed the positive benefits of using marijuana for medicinal purposes with their primary care physicians are currently forced to endure pain and physical agony, traffic drugs into Wisconsin and become criminals, or be held hostage by the FDA approved pain killers that may alleviate their pain, but come with a host of side effects that diminish quality of life,” a summary of the proposal says.

This isn’t the only cannabis bill that’s up for consideration in the Wisconsin legislature.

In November, a bipartisan pair of legislators introduced a bill to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession. In August, three senators separately filed legislation to legalize cannabis for adult use in the state.

As it stands, marijuana possession is punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail for a first offense. People convicted of a subsequent offense would face a felony charge punishable by a maximum $10,000 fine and up to three and a half years in prison.

Gov. Tony Evers (D) tried to legalize recreational and medical marijuana through his proposed state budget last year, but a GOP-led legislative committee stripped the cannabis language from the legislation. Democrats tried to add the provisions back through an amendment the next month, but Republicans blocked the move.

Other Republican lawmakers have filed bills to more modestly decriminalize marijuana possession in the state, but none of those proposals advanced during last year’s session.

Evers held a virtual town hall event last year where he discussed his cannabis proposal, emphasizing that polling demonstrates that Wisconsin residents back the policy change.

And in the interim as lawmakers pursue reform, the governor has issued more than 300 pardons during his years in office, primarily to people convicted of non-violent marijuana or other drug offenses.

Colorado Activists File Revised Ballot Initiatives To Legalize Psilocybin And Establish ‘Healing Centers’

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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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Delaware Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill In Committee Vote

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A bill to legalize marijuana in Delaware cleared its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday, advancing out of the House Health and Human Development Committee on a 10-4 vote.

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski (D), who introduced a similar proposal last year. The Health and Human Development Committee approved last year’s measure, too, but it ultimately stalled ahead of an expected floor vote due to disagreements over social equity provisions. At the time, Osienski pledged to bring a revised bill for the 2022 session that could earn broad enough support to pass.

Osienski said at the hearing that the proposal would “create good-paying jobs for Delawareans while striking a blow against the criminal element which profits from the thriving illegal market in our state.”

Rep. Paul Baumbach (D), a cosponsor of both the current and past versions of the legalization bill, thanked Osienski for his efforts to tweak and strengthen the bill over time.

“You’ve listened so much to so many concerns,” he said, “and you and the staff have incorporated so many of the best ideas there are for this matter.”

One of the few vocal opponents to the bill at Wednesday’s hearing was Rep. Charles S. Postles Jr. (R), who said he didn’t “believe in either extreme, that of legalization or of excessive punitiveness” and worried that legalization would send a message to kids that cannabis use is safe. “We’re talking about the government telling our young people, ‘This stuff is fine. Go do it.'”

The bill, HB 305, would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, including up to five grams of cannabis concentrates. Growing marijuana at home, as well as home delivery by licensed businesses, would be prohibited.

A marijuana commissioner under the state Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement would regulate the industry and oversee licensing of retailers, cultivators, manufacturers and laboratories. Licenses would be granted through a scored, competitive process, with advantages given to those who pay workers a living wage, provide health insurance or meet certain other benchmarks.


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.

Efforts at social equity are built into the licensing scheme. After 19 months of the bill’s enactment, for example, regulators would have to approve 30 retailer licenses, half of which would go to social equity applicants. Social equity applicants—defined as entities majority-owned by people with past cannabis convictions or who live in an area disproportionately impacted by the drug war—would also be allotted one-third of the planned 60 cultivation licenses, one-third of manufacturing licenses and two of five licenses for testing laboratories.

Equity applicants would also qualify for reduced application and licensing fees as well as technical assistance from the state.

Retail sales of cannabis would be subject to a 15 percent excise tax, which would not be applied to medical marijuana products.

Of the tax revenue, 7 percent would go to a new Justice Reinvestment Fund, which would support grants, services and other initiatives that focus on issues such as jail diversion, workforce development and technical assistance for people in communities that are economically disadvantaged and disproportionately impacted by the drug war. The money would also be used to help facilitate expungements, according to a summary from the advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

When Osienski’s earlier bill was being considered last year, a similar equity fund provision was included, and the sponsor said he was caught off guard when he was informed that its inclusion meant the bill would require 75 percent of legislators in the chamber to approve it.

Osienski attempted to address the problem through an amendment, but some members of the Black Caucus opposed the changes, and the measure failed.

The current bill will still require a supermajority threshold to pass, but a smaller one of 60 percent.

Osienski has worked with the Black Caucus in the ensuing months to build support and move toward more passable legislation. And a clear sign of the progress is that Reps. Rae Moore (D) and Nnamdi Chukwuocha (D) have already signed on as cosponsors to the new bill after pulling their support for the 2021 version over equity concerns.

Chukwoucha said at Wednesday’s hearing that he believed past versions of the bill fell short on addressing past injustice against people of color. The current version, he said, does better.

“We spoke about the harms in communities and [how] individuals who look like me are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses, but we didn’t really see redress in the bill,” Chukwoucha said. He thanked Osienski for working with stakeholders to address those concerns.

In 2019, Osienski was the chief sponsor of a legalization bill that cleared a House committee but did not advance through the full chamber. That bill would have allowed medical cannabis dispensaries to begin selling marijuana to adults 21 and older while the rest of the adult-use industry was still preparing to launch, a provision that was removed from later versions.

Four of the state’s six medical marijuana companies came out publicly against that change and testified in opposition to last year’s bill. In response, Delaware activists mounted a boycott against those operators.

During public testimony on Wednesday, a representative from a subsidiary of one multi-state dispensary operator, Columbia Care, said the group supports the bill.

Representatives from various state agencies, meanwhile, raised worries about some of the bill’s provisions and encouraged changes to the plan. The Department of Health and Social Services, for example, urged investment in substance use disorder treatment programs and public awareness campaigns about the risks of cannabis use. A Department of Agriculture representative called for outdoor cannabis cultivation to be forbidden, among other changes.

The Department of Finance, meanwhile, said that while the bill addressed some of the department’s past concerns, it would nevertheless create problems for administrators handling tax collection and other transactions, especially because much of the cannabis industry relies on cash.

Osienski said at the beginning of the hearing that he was expecting the agency pushback after Gov. John Carney’s (D) office sent him a list of concerns on Tuesday afternoon. “I want to reassure you that we have met in the past with these agencies,” he said, “and we will continue to meet with them to address these concerns.”

Advocates cheered the decision to advance the bill.

“The House Human Development committee’s approval of HB 305 today is the first step towards bringing equitable legalization to the state this year,” Olivia Naugle, senior policy analyst for Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday. “Delaware has the opportunity to join 18 other states and DC that have legalized cannabis for adults—including their neighbor, New Jersey. It is past time for the legislature to listen to their constituents and meet the moment.”

Several modest amendments that were filed when last year’s bill was being considered have been incorporated into the new measure. Those include provisions related to quality control standardization, accreditation for marijuana testing facilities and packaging and labeling requirements.

Portions of the bill on expungements were also removed, as they were made redundant by the enactment of separate legislation last year.

Individual municipalities would be able to establish their own regulations for marijuana business operating times and locations, and they would also be able to ban cannabis companies altogether from their jurisdiction.

As supportive lawmakers work to push the bill through the legislature, they also face the challenge of winning over Carney, one of the rare Democratic governors who remain opposed to legalization.

Despite his wariness about adult-use legalization, Carney did sign two pieces of marijuana expungement legislation in recent years. In 2017 and 2018, a state task force met to discuss issues related to legalization, and the governor hosted a series of roundtable meetings about cannabis.

A legalization bill previously received majority support on the House floor in 2018, but it failed to receive the supermajority needed to pass.

Carney’s predecessor approved a measure to decriminalize simple possession of cannabis in 2015.

An analysis from State Auditor Kathy McGuiness (D) released last year found that Delaware could generate upwards of $43 million annually in revenue from regulating marijuana and imposing a 20 percent excise tax. The legal market could also create more than 1,000 new jobs over five years if the policy is enacted, according to the report.

Amazon Endorses GOP-Led Bill To Federally Legalize Marijuana

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Colorado Activists File Revised Ballot Initiatives To Legalize Psilocybin And Establish ‘Healing Centers’

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Colorado activists have filed revised versions of a pair of 2022 ballot initiatives to legalize psilocybin and create licensed “healing centers” where people can use the psychedelic for therapeutic purposes. The move comes as state lawmakers have introduced a separate bill to require a study into the efficacy of plant-based psychedelics.

The ballot measures—filed by Kevin Matthews, the campaign manager behind Denver’s historic 2019 vote to locally decriminalize psilocybin and entrepreneur Veronica Perez—are similar to earlier versions the advocates filed with the secretary of state’s office last month, with a few key changes concerning the rollout of the reform, promoting equity and possession limits.

For the original initiatives, the campaign was considering two options: one would have legalized a wide range of entheogenic substances including DMT, ibogaine and mescaline, as well as establish a regulatory model for psychedelics therapy. The other would have initially enacted the reform for psilocybin and psilocin alone.

But recognizing that regulators would be faced with an onerous task to set up rules for multiple psychedelics, activists decided to take a different approach with the new measures. For both, there would be a two-tiered regulatory model, where only psilocybin would be legalized and regulated for therapeutic use until June 2026, after which point regulators could expand the policy change to include other psychedelics that are listed in the proposal.

“We really wanted to make sure that the administration had time to set up a proper regulatory structure—first for psilocybin and then for any further natural medicines,” Rick Ridder of RBI Strategies, a spokesperson for the campaign, told Marijuana Moment on Monday.

The decision to add additional psychedelics to the program would be made by the Department of Regulatory Agencies in consultation with a Natural Medicine Advisory Board that would be established. The board would be comprised of 15 members, including people who have experience with psychedelic medicine in a scientific and religious context.

Another major change from the prior versions is that the revised initiatives do not contain explicit “allowable” possession limits—a provision that had garnered pushback from certain Colorado activists when the original measures were filed.

And unlike the last two versions of the initiatives, these new measures also include specific provisions meant to “ensure the regulatory access program is equitable and inclusive and to promote the licensing of and the provision of natural medicine services” for people who have been disproportionately impacted by drug criminalization, who face challenges accessing health care, have “traditional or indigenous history with natural medicines” and military veterans.

Those rules could involve, but are not limited to, reduced licensing fees, reduced costs for low-income people and an annual review of “the effectiveness of such policies and programs.”

“I think what this is is a giant step forward for mental health treatment in the state of Colorado,” Ridder said. “As we’ve looked at the results of research throughout the world, we’re seeing very promising data related to particularly healthy people with PTSD, with suicidal tendencies and end-of-life. And this is just an opportunity to bring that kind of natural medicine and medicinal help to citizens here in Colorado.”

The two new initiatives are nearly identical to each other, except that one contains a component specifically authorizing people to petition courts for record sealing for past convictions that would be made legal under the proposal.

Under the proposals, the Department of Regulatory Agencies would be responsible for developing rules for a therapeutic psychedelics program where adults 21 and older could visit a licensed “healing center” to receive treatment under the guidance of a trained facilitator.

This latest filing comes more than two years after Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Various activists, including those involved in the 2019 campaign, have signaled interest in building upon the reform.

The initiatives must still be assigned an official ballot title and summary from the state before they’re approved to begin signature gathering. The measures are scheduled to receive a review and comment hearing on February 3. If approved by state officials, activists will choose one of the measures to pursue and will then need to collect 124,632 valid signatures from registered voters to achieve ballot access.

The Colorado ballot initiatives seek to accomplish something similar to what California activists are actively pursuing. California advocates are in the process of collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms in the state.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, Sen. Joann Ginal (D) and Rep. Alex Valdez (D) filed a modest bill last week to create a one-year plant-based medicine policy review panel that would be tasked with studying the “use of plant-based medicines to support mental health,” according to a summary. The ballot campaign is not affiliated with that legislative effort.


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.

“The policy review panel shall submit a report on its findings and policy recommendations to the House of Representatives Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, or any successor committees; the governor; and the Department of Human Services,” it says.

Meanwhile, legislative efforts to enact psychedelics reform are also underway in other states across the country.

For example, a bill to decriminalize a wide array of psychedelics in Virginia was taken up by a House of Delegates panel on Monday, only to be pushed off until 2023. But there’s still a separate but similar reform proposal that’s pending in the Senate.

Two Republican Oklahoma lawmakers recently filed bills meant to promote research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, and one of the measures would further decriminalize low-level possession of the psychedelic.

A GOP Utah lawmaker also introduced a bill last week that would set up a task force to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and possible regulations for their lawful use.

In Kansas, A lawmaker also recently filed a bill to legalize the low-level possession and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms.

A Republican Missouri lawmaker introduced a bill this month to give residents with serious illnesses legal access to a range of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, ibogaine and LSD  through an expanded version of the state’s existing right-to-try law.

California Sen. Scott Wiener (D) told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that his bill to legalize psychedelics possession stands a 50/50 chance of reaching the governor’s desk this year. It already cleared the full Senate and two Assembly committees during the first half of the two-year session.

In Michigan, a pair of state senators introduced a bill in September to legalize the possession, cultivation and delivery of various plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics like psilocybin and mescaline.

Washington State lawmakers also introduced legislation this month that would legalize what the bill calls “supported psilocybin experiences” by adults 21 and older.

In Vermont, a broad coalition of lawmakers representing nearly a third of the House introduced a bill to decriminalize drug possession.

New Hampshire lawmakers filed measures to decriminalize psilocybin and all drugs.

Last year, the governor of Connecticut signed legislation that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.

At the congressional level, bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) this month, urging that the agency allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.

Virginia House Committee Pushes Back Psychedelics Decriminalization Bill Until 2023, But Senate Proposal Still Pending

Photo courtesy of Dick Culbert.

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