Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) falsely claimed in a new interview that she endorsed a 2016 ballot initiative to fully legalize marijuana in Massachusetts.
Here’s the key exchange with Rolling Stone reporter Matt Laslo:
Back in 2016 you never endorsed the ballot initiative in Massachusetts?
Yes I did.
You endorsed it?
Oh, I did.
Warren, who then said she personally voted for the measure, made a similar claim during a segment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in June.
“I supported legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts.”
To be sure, Warren has become one of the most vocal proponents of cannabis reform on Capitol Hill, introducing and cosponsoring several bills to amend federal marijuana laws and championing legalization on social media.
The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana. States should make their own decisions about enforcing marijuana laws.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) April 20, 2018
But the reality of her background on legalization in Massachusetts doesn’t match up with her recent remarks.
In the lead up to the November 2016 vote, she declined to formally endorse the measure.
“I’m open to [recreational legalization],” she told The Boston Globe in September 2015. “I think we’ve learned more.”
The following year, Warren again said she was open to the possibility—but stopped short of endorsing Question 4, Massachusetts’s adult-use marijuana legalization initiative that passed by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent in November 2016.
“Massachusetts is in a very difficult position, because we have decriminalized marijuana, but that means it’s fairly widely available. But there’s no real regulation of it. And I think what we really need is to have some regulation of it, and that means I would be open to the possibility of legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts.”
She demurred when a reporter asked in a follow-up question whether that meant she would be voting for the ballot initiative.
Reform advocates who led the Massachusetts legalization campaign told Marijuana Moment they had no record of Warren publicly endorsing the measure before Election Day 2016 but that they’re appreciative of her subsequent efforts to change federal marijuana policy.
“To me, the way that Senator Warren has sincerely listened, evaluated the facts, and evolved to become a leader on this issue in Congress makes her a role model for public officials,” Shaleen Title, a commissioner at the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, said in an email, stressing that she was responding in her personal capacity and not on behalf of the regulatory body on which she serves. “In this coming cycle, I hope more senators will endorse marijuana legalization ballot measures prior to election day.”
Title, a longtime cannabis and drug policy activist, helped to draft and campaign for the Bay State’s legalization initiative prior to becoming one of five regulators responsible for implementing it.
Jim Borghesani, who served as communications director for the pro-legalization Yes On 4 campaign and now helps run cannabis consulting firm Tudestr, also appreciates the senator’s current support for legalization.
“I’m a fan of Sen. Warren, and her 2016 statement that she was ‘open’ to legalization was helpful to the campaign, particularly because the vast majority of Massachusetts elected officials were flat-out opposed,” Borghesani said. “Clearly, we would have loved an unqualified ‘yes’ from her at the time.”
“My hope is that her thinking on this issue now will convince other elected officials that categorical support for legalization measures comes with no political blowback.”
Warren has distinguished herself as an authoritative, congressional voice on legalization—further ahead of the curve than many of her colleagues on both sides of the aisle—but her comments on her support for the Massachusetts measure read like revisionist history.
After all, what good is a personal, voting-booth-only endorsement that no one knows about until years after Election Day?
A representative from Warren’s office declined to comment on the record for this story.
Photo courtesy of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Senate Schedules Hearing On Marijuana Business Banking Access
In one of the clearest signs of marijuana reform’s growing momentum on Capitol Hill, a Republican-controlled Senate committee has scheduled a hearing for next week that will examine cannabis businesses’ lack of access to banking services.
The formal discussion in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on Tuesday comes as legislation aimed at resolving the marijuana industry’s financial services problems is gaining momentum. A House cannabis banking bill that cleared that chamber’s Financial Services Committee with a bipartisan vote in March now has 206 cosponsors—nearly half the body—while companion Senate legislation has 32 out of 100 senators signed on.
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Congressman Files Marijuana Bill After Leaving Republican Party
In one of his first legislative acts since leaving the Republican Party earlier this month amid a feud with the president, Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) filed a bill on Monday that would let states set their own marijuana policies without federal interference.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because bipartisan legislation that would accomplish the same goal has already been filed this Congress.
But unlike the nearly identical Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, Amash’s new bill excludes one provision that would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the effects of cannabis legalization on road safety and issue a report on its findings within a year of the law’s enactment.
That language states that the GAO must study “traffic crashes, fatalities, and injuries” in legal cannabis states, actions taken by those states to “address marihuana-impaired driving,” testing standards being used to detect impaired driving and federal initiatives “aiming to assist States that have legalized marihuana with traffic safety.”
Given Amash’s libertarian leanings, it stands to reason that he opposes spending government dollars to conduct the research and simply supports the broader states’ rights intent of the original legislation.
That would also put him at odds with social justice advocates who feel that the STATES Act itself doesn’t go far enough and are pushing for more comprehensive legislation that includes additional provisions addressing social equity and restorative justice for people harmed by drug law enforcement.
Members of the House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee heard that debate play out during a historic hearing on ending federal marijuana prohibition last week.
A newly formed coalition of civil rights and drug reform organizations, including the ACLU, is also insisting on passing wide-ranging legislation to deschedule cannabis entirely that also invests in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition.
Amash is a long-standing critic of the war on drugs and earlier this year signed on as a cosponsor of a separate bill that would federally deschedule marijuana. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, filed that legislation, which is also silent on social equity provisions.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 8, 2019
Gabbard also introduced a separate bill that would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies to study the impacts of legalization. True to form, Amash declined to add his name to that measure as well.
Read the text of Amash’s new cannabis bill below:
Photo courtesy of Kyle Jaeger.
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.”