U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is shifting her decades-old stance in favor of federal marijuana prohibition, she said in an interview with McClatchy on Tuesday.
The California senator has consistently declined to endorse state ballot initiatives to reform marijuana laws—including the state’s historic medical cannabis proposition in 1996 and its 2016 recreational marijuana legalization bid. She has also voted against efforts in Congress to shield medical marijuana patients and providers from federal interference.
But in a surprise about face, Feinstein said that she now backs efforts to prevent federal intervention in California’s legal marijuana program.
“Federal law enforcement agents should not arrest Californians who are adhering to California law,” she told McClatchy, saying that her views shifted after meeting constituents who have benefited from medical cannabis.
To some, the timing of Feinstein’s reversal is suspect. The moderate Democrat, who has represented the state in the Senate since 1992, is facing reelection competition from a progressive challenger, Kevin de Leon, whose views on the issue are decidedly friendlier to cannabis reform. De Leon, a California state senator, condemned the Trump administration’s decision to rescind federal protections for states that passed marijuana laws in January, for example.
Feinstein’s shift on marijuana legalization “is not surprising,” Jonathan Underland, a spokesperson for de Leon, told Marijuana Moment. “It is good to see that Senator Feinstein is catching up to what voters knew 22 years ago, but values should transcend political quests to hold on to power.”
The move also comes shortly after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), himself a longtime proponent of the war on drugs, announced plans to introduce legislation to remove marijuana from the list of federally banned substances.
The time has come to decriminalize marijuana. My thinking – as well as the general population’s views – on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there’s no better time than the present to get this done. pic.twitter.com/EIHgsI8j6C
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 20, 2018
The recent paradigm shift in marijuana politics has taken various forms, including a bill introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to legalize marijuana at the federal level, which has been co-sponsored by prominent lawmakers such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
De Leon pledged to join Sanders as a co-sponsor of the legislation if he won his Senate bid.
.@CoryBooker's bill recognizes that legal cannabis is the law of the land in California and many other states. More importantly, it corrects deep-rooted racial disparities in our criminal justice system. I would join @SenSanders as a cosponsor in a heartbeat. https://t.co/YKvLTMm8u7
— Kevin de Leόn (@kdeleon) April 20, 2018
“[Booker’s] bill recognizes that legal cannabis is the law of the land in California and many other states,” he wrote. “More importantly, it corrects deep-rooted racial disparities in our criminal justice system. I would join [Sanders] as a cosponsor in a heartbeat.
Photo courtesy of Neon Tommy.
Hemp Legalization Is Officially Headed to President Trump’s Desk For Signature
The 2018 Farm Bill, which would legalize industrial hemp, is officially headed to President Donald Trump’s desk. The House passed the legislation on Wednesday, one day after the Senate approved it.
It’s been decades since the ban on hemp was imposed—a byproduct of the federal government’s war on marijuana and other drugs. The ban, it seems, will be lifted in a matter of days.
The House passed the bill, 369-47.
The votes come after months of debate over other aspects of the wide-ranging agriculture bill. But the hemp legalization provision, shepherded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has received bipartisan support at every step of the legislative process.
Hemp legalization made it through a conference committee where the Senate and House Agriculture Committees reconciled their respective versions of the bill. McConnell marked the occasion this week by signing the conference report with a hemp pen, which he said on Wednesday that the president was free to use to sign the bill into law.
The hemp provision would allow U.S. farmers to grow, process and sell the crop. The Justice Department would no longer have jurisdiction over hemp under the legislation; rather, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would lightly regulate it.
One element of the hemp language created tension between lawmakers and advocates. The original Senate-passed bill prohibited people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry, but a compromise was reached last week that limited that ban in the final version to 10 years after the last offense.
House Democrats in the Agriculture Committee listed hemp legalization as one of several reasons they were calling for a “yes” vote on the legislation.
The farm bill conference report legalizes industrial hemp. pic.twitter.com/2u5xxtKwaS
— House Agriculture Committee Democrats (@HouseAgDems) December 12, 2018
According to VoteHemp, if the president signs the bill before the year’s end, it will take effect on January 1, 2019.
Marijuana Industry Border Issues Would Be Solved Under New Congressional Bill
Marijuana can really mess up border and immigration issues for people who partake in consumption or participate in the industry, but that would change if a new bill being introduced in Congress this week is enacted.
Under current U.S. laws, people who admit to past cannabis use or who work for or invest in marijuana businesses can be barred from visiting the country under certain circumstances. And marijuana consumption, even if it is legal under state law, can lead to an immigrant being deported.
The new legislation, the Maintaining Appropriate Protections For Legal Entry Act, would provide exceptions for conduct that “was lawful in the State, Indian Tribe, or foreign country in which the conduct occurred” or that was “subsequently made lawful under the law or regulation of such jurisdiction,” according to a draft obtained by Marijuana Moment.
The bill, known as the MAPLE Act for short—surely a nod to the leaf on Canada’s flag—is being filed on Wednesday by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
U.S. border policies on entry by marijuana industry participants were slightly loosened just ahead of the launch of Canada’s legal marijuana market in October to clarify that people working for cannabis businesses are generally admissible to the U.S., with the caveat that “if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”
And that’s a key exception. Several Canadians traveling to a cannabis industry conference in Las Vegas last month were detained for hours, with one investor being given a lifetime ban from visiting the U.S.
While there is almost certainly not enough time for Blumenauer’s proposal to be considered and voted on by the end of the year, its language could easily be adopted into new legislation after the 116th Congress is seated in January.
In October, the congressman laid out a plan for a step-by-step approach to federally legalizing marijuana in 2019 in a memo to fellow House Democrats.
Marijuana Moment supporters on Patreon can read the full text of the new MAPLE Act below:
Chicago Mayor Wants Legal Marijuana Revenue To Fund Pensions
Tax revenue from legal marijuana sales should be earmarked to fund pension programs, the mayor of Chicago said on Wednesday.
“Illinois legislators will be taking a serious look next year at legalizing recreational marijuana,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said in a speech to the City Council. “Should they follow that course, a portion of that revenue could go toward strengthening our pension funds and securing the retirement of the workers who depend on them.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of Daniel X. O’Neil.