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Denver Voters Approve Measure To Decriminalize Psychedelic Mushrooms

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Voters in Denver, Colorado made their city the first in the U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms by approving a ballot measure on the issue on Tuesday.

The measure, which was behind in early returns on election night but edged closer with each new batch of ballots counted, ended up pulling ahead with a 51 percent to 49 percent margin in the final unofficial results posted on Wednesday afternoon.

Its provisions prohibit the city government from using any resources to impose criminal penalties against adults over 21 years of age for personal use and possession of psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called “magic mushrooms.”

Initiative 301 also specifies that going after people for the mushrooms is the city’s “lowest law enforcement priority” and establishes a review panel to assess and report on the effects of the change by early 2021.

The eventual victory came after several local news organizations projected the measure’s failure.

The new ordinance—written by an advocacy group called Decriminalize Denver—is just one example of how drug policy reform activists are increasingly setting their sights beyond marijuana, which has been legalized in a growing number of states despite its ongoing federal prohibition.

In Oakland, California, for example, advocates said last month that they’ve secured a City Council sponsor for a measure to decriminalize not only magic mushrooms but also plant-based psychedelics such as mescaline cacti, ayahuasca and ibogaine. The resolution could be voted on as soon as this month.

Also in California, activists took an initial step last week toward drafting a ballot measure to decriminalize psilocybin statewide. Once their language is finalized, they will need to collect signatures from more than 600,000 voters in order to qualify it for the 2020 ballot.

In Oregon, advocates are collecting signatures in support of a proposed ballot initiative to legalize the medical use of psilocybin and otherwise lower penalties for using, growing or delivering it.

Researchers are increasingly studying whether psilocybin can help people suffering from conditions like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder and alcohol dependence, among others, with some positive results to date.

Talk of psychedelics and broader drug reform is starting to make its way into the 2020 presidential race, in which nearly every Democratic candidate—with a notable exception in former Vice President Joe Bidensupports legalizing marijuana.

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D), for example, said in an interview last month that he is open to decriminalizing psilocybin. He opposed marijuana legalization prior to the voters of his state enacting it via a 2012 ballot measure.

And Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who was also against his own state’s legal cannabis measure that passed the same year, said in March that “criminalizing drug use has not worked” and that the federal government should not block states from ending the prohibition on additional drugs.

While Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and District Attorney Beth McCann said they did not support the new psilocybin initiative, there was no organized opposition to the campaign—nor was there a “cons” section arguing against the measure in the city’s official voter guide.

It was unclear leading up to Election Day whether voters would embrace the issue. Polling ahead of the vote was limited, with just one known survey from last year showing 45 percent of Denver voters in favor of psilocybin decriminalization and 35 percent against.

The measure’s passage is likely to put potential drug policy reforms beyond marijuana legalization on the radar of more policymakers and politicians, similar to how the approval of cannabis-related ballot initiatives by voters spurred lawmakers who had long shied away from the issue to feel more emboldened to embrace it.

It remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will weigh in on the new Denver mushroom policy or the psychedelics measures that are being proposed elsewhere, and what the members of Congress who represent those areas will do to defend them from potential federal interference.

This piece was first published by Forbes.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Alan Rockefeller.

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.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

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U.S. House Approves Marijuana Banking Reform As Part Of Defense Spending Bill

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The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved an amendment to protect banks that service state-legal marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators. It passed on a voice vote, and no member requested a roll call. The measure is now attached to large-scale defense spending legislation.

This action comes hours after the House Rules Committee made in order the amendment from Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) for floor consideration. It was one of numerous drug policy proposals that lawmakers had hoped to attach to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

This marks the fifth time in recent years that the the House has passed the cannabis banking reform, which has enjoyed broad support both as standalone legislation and while being tucked in as provisions of broader legislation. But while advocates support the proposal, some have made clear that they want to see more comprehensive changes to marijuana laws advance first, complicating the process.

Some lawmakers—particularly on the Senate side where a legalization bill from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is being finalized—have insisted the banking issue should be tackled by holistically ending marijuana prohibition. They argue that it is inappropriate to pass what is seen as an industry-focused reform that helps businesses and investors while leaving unaddressed the harms of decades of racially disparate prohibition enforcement that should be addressed with equity-focused legalization.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who is helping Schumer alongside Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) to produce a final legalization bill has said he would proactively work to block any senators who attempt to get marijuana banking reform passed before enacting social justice-focused legalization legislation.

Additionally, Schumer argued in an interview with Marijuana Moment that passing the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act first could jeopardize support for broader reform. The thinking is that Republicans and moderate Democrats who are on the fence about a bolder policy change might be less inclined to vote for it if they have an opportunity to pass the more modest financial services fix instead.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 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.

Meanwhile, although the cannabis banking legislation is not directly connected to defense-related issues, it’s likely Perlmutter and other supporters see the must-pass NDAA as a potential vehicle for the reform that could make its way through the Senate, whereas all prior House-passed cannabis banking legislation has stalled to date.

At an initial meeting of the Rules Committee about NDAA on Monday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), who is managing the bill, acknowledged that while some members might consider certain amendments “superfluous” to defense spending matters, the annual legislation has been used as a vehicle to advance non-germane legislation in the past. He added, though, that doing so has historically required the issues at hand to have broad bipartisan support in order to survive the House-Senate conference committee process.

He didn’t specifically cite the cannabis banking proposal, but Perlmutter himself said earlier in the hearing that “whether something is superfluous is always in the eyes of the beholder,” signaling that he feels his measure’s germaneness in this context is up for interpretation.

Smith said that “whatever superfluous items the Rules Committee decides to put in order and get attached to this bill, we go to conference, and in conference, we work in a bipartisan fashion.”

“We’re not going to pull one over on anybody here. We’re going to have to work with committees of jurisdiction—not just the chairs, but the ranking members as well—to come to some agreement on those before we go forward,” he said. “So if you see an item that you consider to be superfluous being added to the bill, don’t freak out.”

The chair’s comments about needing support from leaders of committees of jurisdiction raise questions about whether the amendment stands a chance in conference with the Senate following House approval. Not only did House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-SC) vote against the standalone SAFE Banking Act this year and in 2019, but on the Senate side, even Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has been generally unenthusiastic about advancing the reform.

On the flip side, House Finance Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) is a supporter of the banking reform and brought it through her panel last Congress. Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-PA), for his part, has previously voiced support for advancing the SAFE Banking Act.

It’s been four months since the House last approved the bipartisan marijuana banking bill—but because companion legislation has stalled in the Senate, Perlmutter is getting impatient.

The congressman said that he appreciates that Senate leadership is pushing for a more comprehensive end to federal marijuana prohibition—and he agrees with Booker that promoting social equity is an important objective—but he feels the SAFE Banking Act is urgently needed to address public safety issues resulting from the industry’s lack of access to traditional financial institutions.

Some of the strongest proponents for broad reform like Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) voted in favor of the SAFE Banking Act in April despite the body yet having taken up a legalization measure this session.

California State Fair Will Host Marijuana Competition For The First Time At 2022 Event, Officials Announce

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California State Fair Will Host Marijuana Competition For The First Time At 2022 Event, Officials Announce

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California marijuana vendors will be able to take part in a first-of-its-kind, state-sanctioned cannabis competition at the State Fair next year, officials announced on Tuesday.

While marijuana companies have been participating in various, private competitions like the High Times Cannabis Cup for years, this marks the first time that a state government agency will be hosting such an event.

This announcement comes about five years after California voters approved an initiative to legalize marijuana for adult use. Marijuana competitors who attend the 2022 State Fair will be treated the same way as wine, beer and cheese vendors—a strong sign of the normalization of the cannabis industry.

“We are pleased to celebrate California’s legal and licensed cannabis industry as part of the CA State Fair in 2022,” California Exposition & State Fair Board of Director Jess Durfee said in a press release. “For the past 166 years, the CA State Fair has always been a first mover, leading the State Fair circuit with innovative programming and large-scale competitions that celebrate the best the state has to offer, making the addition of cannabis cultivation a natural new category.”

The California Exhibition & State Fair, which is an independent state agency established by law under California’s food and agriculture code, will be working with the marijuana marketing and events agency Cultivar Brands to give out awards for the event.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is an ex-officio member of the fair’s board of directors, as are several state lawmakers.

“The launch of state-sanctioned awards will showcase the California farmer, large and small, and the incredible cannabis flower that the state has to offer,” Cultivar Brands CEO Brian Applegarth said. “We will also educate, demystify the plant and challenge the stereotypes.”

Unlike many other private cannabis competitions, this one will not be judged based on the subjective assessments of marijuana enthusiasts. Rather, winners will be decided based on “science-based analysis performed and certified by SC Labs,” a cannabis testing operation.

The competition is open to all licensed marijuana cultivators in California, and entrants will be classified under separate groups for indoor-grown cannabis, outdoor and mixed light. A total of 77 medals will be awarded including the a “Golden Bear” trophy for “Best of California.”

The submission window for participants will last from November 1 of this year through March 30, 2022.

“SC Labs will provide all entrants with the required Certificates of Analysis (COAs), as well as a PhytoFacts® chemometric report that will identify all the unique compounds of the submission to determine the award winners,” the press release says.

“I’m really excited to be involved with the state fair because it is the traditional place where the agricultural community comes to show off their best work,” SC Labs President Josh Wurzer said. “This further validates cannabis as part of that community.”

On the other side of the country in New York, officials announced ahead of this year’s State Fair that, since cannabis was legalized in the state earlier this year, adults could consume marijuana in any place where tobacco use is permitted.

Although the California event will host the cannabis competition, officials clarified that “there will be NO sales or consumption of cannabis products containing THC at the CA State Fair in 2022.”

House Will Vote On Marijuana Banking Reform As Part Of Defense Bill

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Lawson.

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House Will Vote On Marijuana Banking Reform As Part Of Defense Bill

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The full U.S. House of Representative will vote on an amendment to protect banks that service cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators, a key committee decided on Tuesday.

The House Rules Committee made in order the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022, clearing it for floor consideration, which is expected later this week. Advocates are disappointed, however, that other cannabis and psychedelics reform measures were blocked by the panel.

One stalled amendment would have promoted research into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA for active duty military members. Another would have codified that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) couldn’t deny home loan benefits to veterans just because they work in the cannabis industry.

Last week, Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) had filed a separate amendment to require VA to conduct a clinical trial into the therapeutic benefits of marijuana for veterans with chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the congressman withdrew it from consideration prior to an initial committee meeting on the defense legislation on Monday.

Here’s an overview of the drug policy measures that the House will consider:

Marijuana banking

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and a bipartisan list of cosponsors successfully fought to get a floor vote on adding language to NDAA that would prevent financial regulators from penalizing banks or credit unions that work with state-legal marijuana businesses. The congressman is the sponsor of the standalone Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which has passed the House in various forms four times so far and is identical to the new amendment.

While the legislation is not directly connected to defense-related issues, it’s likely Perlmutter sees the must-pass NDAA as a potential vehicle for the reform that could make its way through the Senate, whereas all prior House-passed cannabis banking legislation has stalled to date.

At Monday’s Rules meeting, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), who is managing the NDAA bill, acknowledged that while some members might consider certain amendments “superfluous” to defense spending matters, the annual legislation has been used as a vehicle to advance non-germane legislation in the past. He added, though, that doing so has historically required the issues at hand to have broad bipartisan support in order to survive the House-Senate conference committee process.

He didn’t specifically cite the cannabis banking proposal, but Perlmutter himself said earlier in the hearing that “whether something is superfluous is always in the eyes of the beholder,” signaling that he feels his measure’s germaneness in this context is up for interpretation.

Smith said that “whatever superfluous items the Rules Committee decides to put in order and get attached to this bill, we go to conference, and in conference, we work in a bipartisan fashion.”

“We’re not going to pull one over on anybody here. We’re going to have to work with committees of jurisdiction—not just the chairs, but the ranking members as well—to come to some agreement on those before we go forward,” he said. “So if you see an item that you consider to be superfluous being added to the bill, don’t freak out.”

The chair’s comments about needing support from leaders of committees of jurisdiction raise questions about whether the amendment stands a chance in conference with the Senate if it is approved by the House this week. Not only did House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-SC) vote against the standalone SAFE Banking Act this year and in 2019, but on the Senate side, even Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has been generally unenthusiastic about advancing the reform.

On the flip side, House Finance Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) is a supporter of the banking reform and brought it through her panel last Congress. Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-PA), for his part, has previously voiced support for advancing the SAFE Banking Act.

At the Rules Committee hearing on Monday, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) spoke in favor of adding marijuana banking to the defense bill, arguing that there’s a “national security issue” related to illicit drug trafficking that the SAFE Banking Act could help to address.

Rules Committee Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) agreed. He said that NDAA “may not be the most elegant vehicle” for cannabis banking reform, but he does think “there’s a security issue here, and I think that’s a very legitimate point [Davidson] made.”

Advocates who support broader cannabis reform said the banking measure is a good first step.

“It is critical to balance the need to accomplish comprehensive reform at the federal level and make every effort possible in the immediate term to support the successful state-level programs to ensure safe and efficient consumer access to quality cannabis that is cost-competitive with the unregulated market,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment. “For those reasons, we support the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in any piece of legislation that is going to be enacted into law”

Withhold funds for fumigation of drug crops in Colombia

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) filed an amendment approved to prohibit the use of funds for aerial fumigation on drug crops in Colombia, a practice widely criticized by reform and human rights advocates. It will get a vote when NDAA hits the floor. The House approved the language last year but receded to the Senate, which did not agree.

These proposed measures, meanwhile, were not made in order in the Rules Committee: 

Psychedelics for active duty military

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a veteran himself who recently moderated a conversation with a top psychedelics reform advocate, proposed a measure that would have allowed the secretary of defense to approve grants for research into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics such as MDMA, psilocybin, ibogaine and 5–MeO–DMT for active duty military members with PTSD. The Rules Committee blocked it from floor consideration, however.

The grants could have been awarded to federal or state agencies, academic institutions or non-profit organizations. Researchers would have needed to “conduct one or more phase two clinical trials for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder” involving either individual or group therapy. The grant money could also have been used to support training practitioners to treat eligible military members with psychedelics.

Until now, Crenshaw has consistently voted against marijuana and drug policy reform measures in Congress, including two prior amendments that were aimed at removing barriers to research on the benefits of psychedelics. His home state of Texas recently enacted a law to require officials to study the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 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.

VA home loans for veterans in the cannabis industry

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) again pushed to stop VA from being able to deny home loans to veterans who work in the state-legal marijuana industry, but her amendment on the issue was not made in order for a floor vote.

“In the case of a person with documented income that is derived, in whole or in part, from working in the marijuana industry in compliance with the law of the State in which the work takes place, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs may not use the fact that such documented income is derived, in whole or in part, from working in the marijuana industry as a factor in determining whether to guarantee, issue, or make a housing loan under chapter 37 of title 38, United States Code,” the text of the amendment said.

In June, the Appropriations Committee approved a bill that includes a report acknowledging that VA has clarified that veterans are eligible for home loan benefits even if they work in a state-legal marijuana industry. However, it expressed disappointment that the agency hasn’t taken further action to communicate this policy to lenders and borrowers.

That spending bill report also directed VA to improve that communication and report back to Congress on its progress within 180 days of the enactment of the legislation.

A prior Clark amendment to address the problem was approved by the full House as part of a previous defense policy bill—though leaders in the chamber agreed to scrap it after the Senate didn’t include it in its version of the legislation.

A separate measure on racially discriminatory drug testing in the military was previously attached to NDAA in an earlier committee.

As approved in the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month, NDAA already includes report language voicing concern about racial disparities in military drug testing practices and ordering the Pentagon to conduct a review of the issue.

Unlike in past sessions, however, lawmakers did not file an amendment requiring the secretary of defense to issue regulations clarifying that military branches can grant reenlistment waivers to service members who have committed a single low-level marijuana offense.

It’s not clear why Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), who has consistently championed that cannabis measure, declined to introduce it this year.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate, the Appropriations Committee passed a measure last month that’s meant to promote military veterans’ access to medical marijuana by allowing VA doctors to issue cannabis recommendations in legal states. It would further prohibit VA from interfering with, or denying services to, veterans who participate in a state-legal medical cannabis program.

Reps. Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) filed a bill—titled the Fully Informed Veteran Act—in May that would simply allow VA doctors to provide basic information and resources about state-legal cannabis programs to veterans.

Last year, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved legislation to expand medical cannabis research for veterans, as well as a separate proposal to allow VA doctors to issue medical marijuana recommendations to their patients in states where it’s legal.

Also in April, a bipartisan coalition of congressional lawmakers reintroduced legislation that would federally legalize medical marijuana for military veterans.

Rhode Island Lawmakers Are ‘Very Close’ On Marijuana Legalization Deal Ahead Of Possible Special Session, Top Senator Says

Image element courtesy of Tim Evanson.

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