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GOP Lawmakers Slam Marijuana Legalization Vote Planned In Congress This Week

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Numerous Republican members of Congress are blasting House Democrats over a planned vote on a bill to federally legalize marijuana this week, dismissing the significance of the issue and arguing that it’s an inappropriate time to take it up.

Specifically, most critics of the vote are saying that the House shouldn’t take action on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act until additional coronavirus relief is passed.

The seemingly coordinated messaging from GOP members is familiar, as minority party members issued the same criticism when House leadership announced their intention to vote on the MORE Act in December.

There was an earlier push to take action on the bill in September, but that plan was postponed following pushback from certain centrist Democrats who worried about the optics of advancing cannabis reform before passing another COVID-19 relief bill. It should also be noted that several of those same lawmakers ended up losing their seats on the same Election Day as voters in conservative states approved marijuana legalization ballot measures, calling into question their strategic thinking on the politics of cannabis.

In any case, House Democrats did pass coronavirus legislation—on two occasions—that included provisions to protect banks that service state-legal marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators. Republicans also sharply criticized that, asserting that it was not germane.

Advocates expressed frustration over the decision to delay the initially planned vote on the MORE Act, but leadership promised that it would be brought up before the year’s end. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced last month that the chamber would consider the bill in December, and it was included in the schedule for this week.

The House Rules Committee took up the MORE Act on Wednesday to prepare it for floor action. Debate will start on the bill on Thursday, with a vote expected on Friday.

But despite this movement—and the fact that a majority of Americans support marijuana legalization—several dozen Republican lawmakers and incoming members have attempted to shame Democrats for pursuing the reform at this time.

Here’s a roundup of what GOP lawmakers are saying about the planned cannabis vote:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

“They’re picking weed over the workers. They’re picking marijuana over the much-needed money we need to go forward, the small businesses that are closing.”

Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA)

House Republican Conference

“Not only is it wrong for Democrats to bring this to the floor instead of focusing on the health and economic crisis facing the nation, but it’s bad policy since it would, according to Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, ‘open the floodgates to marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sale in America—allowing bad actors and transnational criminal organizations to further exploit the nation’s addiction crisis.'”

House Judiciary Committee Minority

House Ways and Means Committee Minority

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

“The House of Representatives is spending this week on pressing issues like marijuana. You know, serious, important legislation benefiting the national crisis.”

Senate Republican Conference

Senate Republican Policy Committee Chair Sen. John Barrasso R-WY)

“I don’t know exactly what’s in that bill, but that is the priority of the House right now. I don’t know if it has to do with decriminalization, legalization of marijuana, making it easier for our kids to get marijuana in our neighborhoods. Whatever it is, that is today’s priority of the incredibly shrinking Nancy Pelosi-run House of Representatives.”

Republican National Committee

“Inhale this, now in December, Democrats are voting on pot instead of pandemic aid. Bottom Line: It strains credulity that Democrats are willing to go into the holidays with a straight face telling their constituents that they prioritized weed over pandemic relief.”

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA)

Sen. Todd Young (R-IN)

“It seems the House is focused on other priorities. We just heard that they are focused on something pertaining to marijuana and giving more consideration to marijuana policy. That can be debated, but the far left needs to sort of cool their jets right now.”

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ)

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)

Rep. Mark Green (R-TN)

Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC)

Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ)

Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR)

Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA)

“While I welcome the debate on federal criminal statutes governing marijuana use, possession, and distribution, I believe it is the wrong time for the House to utilize such precious time discussing a bill with no path forward rather than delivering results for the American people who continue to struggle during this pandemic.”

Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX)

Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA)

Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN)

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN)

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL)

Rep. David McKinley (R-VA)

“For months, Speaker Pelosi has repeatedly put her partisan agenda ahead of immediate targeted relief that would help so many Americans. All or nothing is not an acceptable approach. Too many Americans are counting on us for help. Rather than wasting the House’s time on marijuana and exotic animals, we should be focused on finding common ground for a solution.”

Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX)

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR)

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL)

Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY)

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA)

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI)

Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL)

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)

Rep. John Joyce (R-PA)

Rep. Fred Keller (R-PA)

Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA)

Rep. French Hill (R-AR)

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS)

Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL)

“We haven’t voted on a defense bill. We haven’t voted on coronavirus relief, another round of stimulus, paycheck protection, opening schools (or) helping with additional PPE. None of that can get voted on but this stuff can.”

Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-MN)

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC)

Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)

Rep. Greg Pence (R-IN)

Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC)

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA)

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)

Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA)

Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX)

Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN)

Rep. David Rouzer (R-N)

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI)

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX)

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA)

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL)

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC)

Rep. Billy Long (R-MO)

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN)

Rep.-elect Barry Moore (R-AL)

Rep.-elect Diana Harshbarger (R-TN)

Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert (R-CO)

Rep.-elect August Pfluger (R-TX)

For the record, the spattering of references to the Netflix documentary “Tiger King” are about a separate piece of legislation the House is set to vote on that would restrict private ownership of tigers and other big cats.

Conservative Groups Call For Marijuana Legalization Ahead Of House Vote

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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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Top Pennsylvania Official Restores Marijuana Flag After GOP Lawmakers Allegedly Got It Removed

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Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s (D) marijuana and LGBTQ flags are waving again at his Capitol office after state officials removed them Monday night, allegedly at the behest of certain GOP lawmakers who feel strongly about the activist decor.

The day after their removal, the lieutenant governor proudly announced on Twitter that he’d restored the flags—one rainbow-themed and the other displaying cannabis leaves.

“I really can’t emphasize this enough, my issue isn’t with the individuals that came to take them down. They’re kind of caught in the middle of it so it’s not them,” Fetterman told Marijuana Moment. “But the Pennsylvania GOP exerted enough pressure and made enough drama so they felt that they needed to do something and they took them down. When I realized that, I just put them back up.”

The flags have been an unusual source of controversy for some members of the legislature. In November, Republican lawmakers passed budget legislation that included a provision targeting his cannabis-themed office decor, making it so only the American flag, the Pennsylvania flag and those honoring missing soldiers could be displayed at the Capitol building.

“There’s one great way to get them down for good and we can end this,” the lieutenant governor said. And that’s by enacting legislative reform.

“It shouldn’t have to be this way. These are not controversial things. These are very fundamentally American things. It’s freedom-related. It’s individuality-related. It’s jobs. It’s revenue,” he said. “These are not controversial, but these flags are. For the party that thinks it’s A-OK to talk about how an election that was secure was rigged, they sure have a real thin skin when it comes to free speech.”

A spokesperson for the state Department of General Services confirmed to Marijuana Moment that it was tasked with removing the flags and did so “in order to comply with section 1724-E of the fiscal code.” Asked whether lawmakers from the legislature’s Republican majority influenced the recent action, the representative repeated: “All I can say is the Department of General Services removed the flag in order to comply with section 1724-E of the fiscal code.”

Marijuana Moment reached out to the offices of the Senate majority leader and House speaker for comment, but representatives did not respond by the time of publication.

Defying the flag order is par for the course for Fetterman, a longtime marijuana reform advocate who is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate. His enthusiastic embrace of the issue has often put him in the spotlight, and he said he’d take that advocacy to Congress if he ultimately decides to enter the race and is elected.

“I’m the only person that’s actually called out my own party for its failure to embrace it when it is appropriate,” he said, referring to his repeated criticism of the Democratic National Committee’s rejection of a pro-legalization platform. “There has never been—or would ever be—a more committed advocate to ending this awful superstition over a plant for the United States.”

On his campaign website, the lieutenant governor touts his role in leading a listening tour across the state to solicit public input on the policy change. He noted that, following his efforts, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) “announced his support for legalization for the first time.”

It remains to be seen when legalization will happen in Pennsylvania, however. Despite Fetterman and Wolf’s support for legalization and the pressure they’re applying on lawmakers, convincing Republican legislative leaders to go along with the plan remains a challenge.

Fetterman previously told Marijuana Moment that pursuing reform through the governor’s budget request is a possibility. But in the meantime the administration is exploring the constitutionality of issuing “wholesale pardons for certain marijuana convictions and charges.”

Since adopting a pro-legalization position in 2019, Wolf has repeatedly called on the legislature to enact the policy change. He’s stressed that stressed that marijuana reform could generate tax revenue to support the state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and that ending criminalization is necessary for social justice.

In September, he took a dig at the Republican-controlled legislature for failing to act on reform in the previous session. And in August, he suggested that the state itself could potentially control marijuana sales rather than just license private retailers as other legalized jurisdictions have done.

Fetterman previously said that farmers in his state can grow better marijuana than people in New Jersey—where voters approved a legalization referendum in November—and that’s one reason why Pennsylvania should expeditiously reform its cannabis laws.

He also hosted a virtual forum where he got advice on how to effectively implement a cannabis system from the lieutenant governors of Illinois and Michigan, which have enacted legalization.

Shortly after the governor announced that he was embracing the policy change, a lawmaker filed a bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.

A majority of Senate Democrats sent Wolf a letter in July arguing that legislators should pursue the policy change in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top New York Official Responds To Marijuana Advocates’ Criticism Of Governor’s Legalization Plan

Photo courtesy of Twitter/John Fetterman.

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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Hawaii Could Legalize Psychedelic Mushroom Therapy Under New Senate Bill

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Hawaii could legalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms for therapy under a newly filed bill in the state legislature.

The measure, if approved, would direct the state Department of Health to “establish designated treatment centers for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin and psilocyn,” two psychoactive substances produced by certain fungi.

It would also remove the two compounds from the state’s list of Schedule I controlled substances and create a seven-person psilocybin review panel to assess the impacts of the policy change.

Few other specifics are provided in the bill, SB 738, introduced in the state Senate on Friday. It doesn’t specify who would qualify for the therapy, for example, or how precisely the drugs—which remain federally illegal—would be administered. The legislation simply says the Department of Health “shall adopt rules” in accordance with state law.

The new legislation comes less than a year after Hawaii lawmakers introduced bills to begin studying the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms with the goal of eventually legalizing them, though those measures did not advance.

Entheogens—including other substances like ayahuasca and ibogaine—have emerged as a promising treatment for severe depression, anxiety and other conditions, although research remains ongoing.

In November, voters in Oregon approved a ballot measure to legalize psilocybin therapy that the state is now in the process of implementing.

The new Hawaii bill was introduced by Sens. Stanley Chang, Laura Clint Acasio, Les Ihara Jr. and Maile Shimabukuro, all Democrats. It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, according to the state legislature’s website.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 400 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 Hawaii proposal is one of a growing number of broader reform bills to have been introduced across the country this year as the debate on drug policy moves beyond marijuana. A measure introduced in New York earlier this month would remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of any controlled substance, instead imposing a $50 fine. Similar measures are expected to be introduced in California and Washington State this year.

A Florida lawmaker recently announced plans to introduce legislation to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes in the state.

Lawmakers in New Jersey last month sent a bill to Gov. Phil Murphy (D) that would reduce criminal charges for the possession of psilocybin, but so far Murphy hasn’t signed the measure.

Voters, meanwhile, have been broadly supportive of drug reform measures in recent years. In addition to the psilocybin. measure, Oregon voters in November also approved an initiative to decriminalize possession of all drugs. Washington, D.C. voters overwhelmingly enacted a proposal to decriminalize the possession of psychedelics.

Despite the growing discussion of drug reform at statehouses across the country, some high-profile advocates are setting their sights on the 2022 election. Dr. Bronner’s CEO David Bronner, a key financial backer of successful reform efforts in Oregon, told Marijuana Moment last month that he’s expecting both Washington state and Colorado voters will see decriminalization or psilocybin therapy on their 2022 ballots.

Meanwhile, a new advocacy group is pushing Congress to allocate $100 million to support research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

New Psychedelics Reform Group Sets Sights On Congress As Movement Builds

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman

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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Minnesota Governor Urges Lawmakers To Pursue Marijuana Legalization Amid Budget Talks

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The governor of Minnesota on Tuesday implored the legislature to look into legalizing marijuana as a means to boost the economy and promote racial justice.

During a briefing focused on his budget proposal for the 2022-23 biennium, Gov. Tim Walz (D) was asked whether he is open to allowing sports betting in the state to generate tax revenue. He replied he wasn’t closing the door on that proposal, but said he is more interested in seeing lawmakers “take a look at recreational cannabis.”

Not only would tax revenue from adult-use marijuana “dwarf” those collected through sports betting, he said, but legalization would also help address “the equity issue and, quite honestly, the racial impact of our cannabis laws.”

Watch the governor discuss marijuana legalization below: 

“I will say this, I will certainly leave open that possibility. Our neighboring states have done both of those things,” Walz said of legalizing sports gambling and cannabis. “I obviously recognize that that’s not a 100 percent slam dunk for people, and they realize that there’s cost associated with both. But my message would be is, I don’t think this is the time for me to say I’m shutting the door on anything.”

Walz did not include a request to legalize through his budget, however, as governors in some other states have.

The Minnesota governor did say in 2019, however, that he was directing state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of legalization passing.

Earlier this month, the House majority leader said he would again introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in the new session. And if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the reform, he said he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Heading into the 2020 election, Democrats believed they had a shot of taking control of the Senate, but that didn’t happen. The result appears to be partly due to the fact that candidates from marijuana-focused parties in the state earned a sizable share of votes that may have otherwise gone to Democrats, perhaps inadvertently hurting the chances of reform passing.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) said this month that “Senate Republicans remain the biggest obstacle to progress on this issue.”

“Minnesota’s current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good,” she told The Center Square. “By creating a regulatory framework we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care and criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R), for his part, said that while he would be “open to expanding medical use or hearing criminal justice reforms,” he doesn’t “believe fully legalized marijuana is right for the state.”

“Other states that have legalized marijuana are having issues with public safety,” he argued, “and we are concerned that we haven’t fully seen how this works with employment issues, education outcomes and mental health.”

Last month, the Minnesota House Select Committee On Racial Justice adopted a report that broadly details race-based disparities in criminal enforcement and recommends a series of policy changes, including marijuana decriminalization and expungements.

Another factor that might add pressure on lawmakers to enact the reform is the November vote in neighboring South Dakota to legalize adult-use cannabis.

Also next door, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is pushing lawmakers to enact marijuana reform and recently said that he is considering putting legalization in his upcoming budget request.

New Mexico Governor Pushes For Marijuana Legalization In State Of The State Address

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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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