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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.

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Congressional Bill Filed To Protect Marijuana Consumers From Losing Public Housing

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A congresswoman on Thursday reintroduced a bill that would allow people living in federally assisted housing to use marijuana in compliance with state law without fear of losing their homes.

As it stands, people living in public housing are prohibited from using controlled substances in those facilities regardless of state law, and landlords are able to evict such individuals. But the bill from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) would change that.

It would provide protections for people living in public housing or Section 8 housing from being displaced simply for using cannabis in states that have legalized it for medical or recreational purposes.

“Individuals living in federally assisted housing should not be denied admission, or fear eviction, for using a legal product,” Norton said on Thursday. “Adult use and/or medical marijuana is currently legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and over 90 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana.”

The legislation would also require the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to enact regulations that restrict smoking marijuana at these properties in the same way that tobacco is handled.

“HUD, like DOJ, should not be allowed to enforce federal marijuana laws where states have taken action to legalize marijuana,” the congresswoman said, referring to a congressionally approved rider that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical cannabis laws.

Norton filed earlier versions of the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act in 2018 and 2019, but they did not receive hearings or votes.

In 2018, a Trump administration official said that she was working to resolve conflicting federal and state marijuana laws as it applies to residency in federally-subsidized housing, but it’s not clear what came of that effort.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also raised the issue during a committee hearing in 2019, pressing former HUD Secretary Ben Carson on policies that cause public housing residents and their families to be evicted for committing low-level offenses such as marijuana possession.

She pointed to two specific HUD policies: the “one strike” rule, which allows property managers to evict people living in federally assisted housing if they engage in illicit drug use or other crimes, and the “no fault” rule, which stipulates that public housing residents can be evicted due to illicit drug use by other members of their household or guests—even if the resident was unaware of the activity.

Ocasio-Cortez and then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) also filed legislation that year that would protect people with low-level drug convictions from being denied access to or being evicted from public housing.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) also introduced an affordable housing bill last year that included a provision to prevent landlords from evicting people over manufacturing marijuana extracts if they have a license to do so.

Read the text of the marijuana housing legislation below: 

Norton cannabis housing bill by Marijuana Moment

Drug Possession Is Officially A Crime Again In Washington, But As A Misdemeanor Instead Of Felony

Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.

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FDA Clears Researchers To Study MDMA Use By Therapists Being Trained In Psychedelic Medicine

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already authorized clinical trials into the therapeutic potential of MDMA for patients with post-traumatic stress disorders—but now it’s given the green light to a psychedelics research institute to expand its studies by administering the substance to certain therapists.

Volunteer therapists who are being trained to treat people with PTSD will be able to participate in the Phase 1 trials to gain personal experience with the treatment option. This is a complementary research project that comes as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is in the process of conducting Phase 3 trials involving people with the disorder.

The development comes months after Canadian regulators announced that certain therapists would be allowed to take psilocybin in order to gain a better understanding of the psychedelic when treating patients.

MAPS sought permission to proceed with the therapist-specific trials in 2019, but FDA placed them on a 20-month hold because of concerns about the merits, risks and credentials of investigators. MAPS appealed that hold, providing evidence about the study’s scientific value and ability of its staff, and FDA cleared them on Tuesday.

The organization “chose to dispute” FDA’s hold not just because of the impact it had on the planned studies, “but in an attempt to resolve an ongoing issue with the FDA regarding investigator qualifications across studies,” it said in a press release on Wednesday.

“While the term ‘dispute’ may seem adversarial, this process can actually strengthen the relationship and trust between us and our review Division and ensures the Division has support on this project from the [FDA] Office of Neuroscience,” MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) CEO Amy Emerson said. “This decision demonstrates how our strategic, data-driven strategy in challenging the FDA rulings can be successful.”

Now MAPS is able to launch the Phase 1 clinical trials into MDMA-assisted therapy for therapists.

It will be designed to “measure development of self-compassion, professional quality of life, and professional burnout among clinicians delivering the treatment to patients,” the association said.

Getting personal experience with the substance “is widely considered to be an important element in preparation and training to deliver psychedelic-assisted therapies.”

This will “support the goals of the MDMA Therapy Training Program to provide comprehensive training to future providers,” and it “builds capacity to deliver quality, accessible care to patients, pending approval of MDMA-assisted therapy as a legal prescription treatment,” MAPS PBC Director and Head of Training and Supervision Shannon Carlin said.

FDA first granted MAPS’s request for an emergency use authorization for MDMA in PTSD in 2017. The organization expects to complete its Phase 3 trails in 2022.

The scientific expansion move also comes as the psychedelics decriminalization movement continues to build in the U.S.

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Missouri Regulators Derail Medical Marijuana Business Ownership Disclosure Effort With Veto Threat

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Missouri regulators say they feel requiring medical marijuana business license ownership disclosures under a House-approved amendment could be unconstitutional, and they may urge the governor to veto the legislation. 

By Jason Hancock, Missouri Independent

An effort by lawmakers to require disclosure of ownership information for businesses granted medical marijuana licenses was derailed on Thursday, when state regulators suggested a possible gubernatorial veto.

On Tuesday, the Missouri House voted to require the Department of Health and Senior Services provide legislative oversight committees with records regarding who owns the businesses licensed to grow, transport and sell medical marijuana.

The provision was added as an amendment to another bill pertaining to nonprofit organizations.

Its sponsor, Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said DHSS’s decision to deem ownership records confidential has caused problems in providing oversight of the program. He pointed to recent analysis by The Independent and The Missourian of the 192 dispensary licenses issued by the state that found several instances where a single entity was connected to more than five dispensary licenses.

The state constitution prohibits the state from issuing more than five dispensary licenses to any entity under substantially common control, ownership or management.

On Thursday, a conference committee met to work out differences in the underlying bill between the House and Senate.

Sen. Eric Burlison, a Republican from Battlefield and the bill’s sponsor, called the medical marijuana amendment an “awesome idea. I think it’s awesome.”

However, he said opposition from the department puts the entire bill in jeopardy.

“The department came to me,” he said, “and said they felt that this was unconstitutional.”

DHSS has justified withholding information from public disclosure by pointing to a portion of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2018 that says the department shall “maintain the confidentiality of reports or other information obtained from an applicant or licensee containing any individualized data, information, or records related to the licensee or its operation… .”

Alex Tuttle, a lobbyist for DHSS, said if the bill were to pass with the medical marijuana amendment still attached, the department may recommend Gov. Mike Parson veto it.

The threat of a veto proved persuasive, as several members of the conference committee expressed apprehension about the idea of the amendment sinking the entire bill.

Merideth said the department’s conclusion is incorrect. And besides, he said, the amendment is narrowly tailored so that the information wouldn’t be made public. It would only be turned over to legislative oversight committees.

Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, chairman of the special committee on government oversight, said the amendment is essential to ensure state regulators “are following the constitution, that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

The medical marijuana program has faced intense scrutiny in the two years since it was created by voters.

A House committee spent months looking into widespread reports of irregularities in how license applications were scored and allegations of conflicts of interest within DHSS and a private company hired to score applications.

In November 2019, DHSS received a grand jury subpoena, which was issued by the United States District Court for the Western District. It demanded the agency turn over all records pertaining to four medical marijuana license applications.

The copy of the subpoena that was made public redacted the identity of the four applicants at the request of the FBI. Lyndall Fraker, director of medical marijuana regulation, later said during a deposition that the subpoena wasn’t directed at the department but rather was connected to an FBI investigation center in Independence.

More recently, Parson faced criticism for a fundraiser with medical marijuana business owners for his political action committee, Uniting Missouri.

The group reported raising $45,000 in large donations from the fundraiser. More than half of that money came from a PAC connected to Steve Tilley, a lobbyist with numerous medical marijuana clients who has been under FBI scrutiny for more than a year.

This story was first published by Missouri Independent.

GOP Senator Who Trashed Marijuana Banking Amendment Years Ago Is Now Cosponsoring Reform Bill

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