Is banning menthol cigarettes a gateway to legalizing marijuana? One Republican lawmaker recently took to the Senate floor to express his “fears” that could be the case.
In a speech on Thursday, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) complained about Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to prohibit the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes, which the agency claims will deter youth cigarette use. The senator, who represents the largest tobacco producing state in the country, characterized the policy as government overreach and potentially a “bait-and-switch” move preceding the end of cannabis prohibition.
What if, like, it’s all a conspiracy…man?
“This is eerily similar to Canada a few years ago when they banned menthol products,” Burr said. “How did they follow that up? This year, they legalized cannabis. Maybe that is the route we are on.”
While stressing that he’s not necessarily “accusing the administration of having that pathway” the senator noted that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s actions to date do “raise suspicion.”
“It is not the administration of reduced regulation and onerous government when you see what the FDA is proposing to a legal consumer product,” he said of the moves to further restrict tobacco. That stands in contrast, the North Carolina senator said, with recent FDA statements on marijuana-related products.
“I will state that the commissioner announced not long ago that they were beginning to review products that were derived from cannabis—oils and other things that they thought they could safely approve for use in the United States,” he said.
“Well, Mr. Commissioner, you are only fueling my fears that you are following the roadmap Canada followed—that this is all a bait-and-switch situation.”
Watch the first part of Burr’s cannabis comments below:
“We put up with it with states that have legalized it,” Burr said, adding that he’s “not sure it is a good move for adults, and I am not sure it is a good move for our youth.”
Cannabis has “the same combustable concerns we have with tobacco products,” he claimed, the only difference being that one is federally legal and the other is not. “We have agreed that if you are over 18, you can choose to use it—with an extensive educational campaign to tell everybody why it is harmful to their health.”
Gottlieb is taking a restrictive stance on tobacco to “prove” that he “can overreach and not be slapped,” the GOP lawmaker postulated.
“Somewhere down the road you may come to the same conclusion Canada did: Rather than enforce cannabis and illegal drugs, let’s just approve them,” he said. “Let’s make them legal.”
“Boy, that is a sad day. It is shocking to me as one who has been engaged in this debate for now 25 years.”
Watch the second part of Burr’s cannabis comments below:
In an email to Marijuana Moment, an FDA spokesperson declined to comment on the senator’s remarks.
During the lengthy floor speech, Burr went on to argue that marijuana is more lightly regulated than cigarettes, which in some respects is effectively true because the federal government doesn’t provide guidelines to the cannabis industry since its product is still prohibited.
“There are no filters on it,” he said. “There are no regulations on the paper that is used, even though it is legal in some states.”
“As a matter of fact, we have less research on cannabis in this country than any legal product that exists, including bandaids.”
Issuing a stark warning to Gottlieb over “the insane world you have created,” Burr said the FDA commissioner should “expect Congress to weigh in.”
“Understand that if you begin to loosen up the legal use of cannabis,” he cautioned, “then we are going to hold you to the same standards you display for everyone else—everything that you hold a drug manufacturer to, that you hold a drug device manufacturer to, and, quite honestly, that you hold the tobacco industry to.”
“Don’t think you are going to slide this by and there are not going to be regulations or that we are going to adopt a Canada model or we are going to continue letting states do what they are doing,” Burr threatened.
This isn’t the first time the tobacco state senator has raised the cannabis-menthol conspiracy. He made similar remarks on the floor last month.
In the latest oratory, Burr pledged to continue calling attention to his concerns through even longer speeches moving forward.
Trump Says Marijuana Makes People “Lose IQ Points” In Secret Recording
President Trump could be heard saying that using marijuana makes people “lose IQ points” in a secretly recorded conversation released on Saturday.
“In Colorado they have more accidents,” the president said in the clip captured by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal that led to the president’s impeachment. “It does cause an IQ problem.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of YouTube/White House.
Austin Police Chief Says Marijuana Arrests Will Continue Despite City Council Vote
Chief Brian Manley said he would continue to enforce marijuana laws the day after the city council unanimously approved stopping arrests and tickets for low-level cases.
The day after the Austin City Council approved a resolution to stop arresting or ticketing people for most low-level marijuana possession offenses, the police chief made clear he had no plans to do so.
“[Marijuana] is still illegal, and we will still enforce marijuana law if we come across people smoking in the community,” Chief Brian Manley said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
Though cracking down on those in possession of small amounts of marijuana has never been a priority for the department, he said, police will continue to either issue tickets under the city’s “cite-and-release” policy or arrest people if officers “come across it.”
The difference, according to City Council member and resolution sponsor Greg Casar, is that the council’s move now guarantees those actions will come with no penalty. Tickets will be meaningless pieces of paper and any arrests will result in a quick release with no charges accepted from prosecutors, he told The Texas Tribune after the news conference.
“What has changed since yesterday is that enforcement, almost in virtually all cases, is now handing someone a piece of paper with no penalty or no court date,” Casar said.
The move by the City Council came as a direct result from Texas’ new hemp law which complicated marijuana prosecution across the state. Last summer, when lawmakers legalized hemp, they also changed the definition of marijuana from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant.
Many prosecutors, including those in Austin’s Travis County, now won’t accept pot cases based on look and smell alone, requiring lab testing to determine THC levels before accepting a case. Such testing is not yet available in public crime labs, though some counties and cities have spent money to obtain test results from private labs.
The council’s resolution prohibited using city funds or personnel to conduct such testing in non-felony marijuana cases. It also directed the elimination, to the furthest extent possible, of arrests or citations for cannabis possession. As Manley also noted, the resolution clarifies it can’t technically decriminalize marijuana, since that is state law.
The resolution gave the city manager until May 1 to report back to the council on how police were trained in this new resolution, and Casar said he hopes Manley reviews his policies before then.
Manley said in the news conference that he would continue to review the resolution, as well as police policies.
But, he assured, “a City Council does not have the authority to tell a police department not to enforce a state law.”
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Andrew Yang Wants To Legalize Psychedelic Mushrooms For Military Veterans
Andrew Yang says he wants to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans to help them combat mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
During a town hall event at an Iowa college on Thursday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he would take initiative and allow veterans to access medical marijuana if elected. Yang replied he “will be so excited to be that commander-in-chief” that he would not only end federal cannabis prohibition but would go one step further by legalizing the psychedelic fungus for veterans as well.
“We need to get marijuana off of the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level, make it freely available,” he said. “I say this because I’ve talked to hundreds of veterans and other Americans who benefit from marijuana as a pain relief treatment, and it’s much less deadly than the opiates that many, many people are using for the same conditions.”
“I’ve talked to veterans who’ve also benefited from psilocybin mushrooms,” he added. “They said it was the only thing that actually has helped combat their PTSD. I’m for legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for veterans as well. Pretty much if it’s going to help a veteran, we should make it easier, not harder, for them to get access to it.”
Yang’s drug policy reform platform is unique in that respect. While the majority of Democratic candidates support marijuana legalization, he’s pushed unique proposals such as decriminalizing possession of opioids and making psilocybin mushrooms “more freely available” for therapeutic purposes. The candidate also wants to invest federal funds in safe injection facilities where individuals can use prohibited drugs in a medically supervised environment and receive help getting into treatment.
He hasn’t gone so far as embracing the decriminalization of all drugs, as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has, however.
That said, Yang did signal that he’s open to legalizing and regulating “certain drugs” beyond cannabis, which he argued would disrupt international drug cartels. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) recently said she backs “legalizing and regulating” currently illegal controlled substances to protect public safety and combat the illicit market.
At the Iowa town hall, Yang went on to say that he’s particularly interested in legalizing marijuana, and he again pledged to “pardon everyone who’s in jail for a non-violent marijuana-related offense because they shouldn’t be in jail for something that’s frankly legal in other parts of the country.”
“And I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, high-five them on the way out of jail and be like, ‘things got a lot better in the last year,'” he said, referencing the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.
Photo element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.