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GOP Senator Floats FDA Marijuana Legalization Conspiracy Theory

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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.”

looking the big lebowski GIF

“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.

Federal Marijuana Action Is An ‘Inevitability,’ Trump FDA Chief Says

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.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Cory Booker Endorses Bill To Legalize Marijuana In New Jersey

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Efforts to legalize marijuana in New Jersey received a high-profile endorsement on Friday, with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) voicing support for the bill in a statement.

The senator, who is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and also sponsored congressional legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition, is the latest in a growing list of political leaders who’ve advocated for the bill, which was approved by state Senate and Assembly committees earlier this week and is expected to receive floor votes in both chambers on Monday.

“New Jersey is the first state in the country to couple decriminalizing marijuana with strong criminal justice reform measures to redress the decades of immense harm inflicted by an unfair system,” Booker said. “All too often, communities of color and low-income individuals are unjustly impacted by our broken drug policies, but by including measures to expunge records and reinvest in the communities most impacted, our state has the opportunity to lead in prioritizing social justice.”

The bill’s focus on social equity provisions has been critical in shoring up support as the legislature gets closer to a vote. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has been putting out calls to advocates and lawmakers to get the legislation advanced, which would fulfill a campaign promise of his.

“With this bill, New Jersey legislators can send a strong message to the country that marijuana legalization and social justice must be inextricably linked,” Booker said. “I’m hopeful our state will succeed in setting this example.”

It’s been a complicated process to form a coalition united around passing legalization in New Jersey. Disagreements between the governor and lawmakers about certain aspects of the bill such as tax rates and regulatory structures were finally resolved earlier this month when a compromise was reached. And amendments to expand expungement provisions gave the mayors of the state’s two largest cities proper assurance to back the legislation.

That said, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka (D) and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (D) continue to push for automatic expungements, as opposed to virtual expungements. Murphy said that automatic expungements is not a feasible policy.

“Now more than ever, we must work together,” the mayors said in a statement on Friday. “Again, we stand in unison in support of this legislation that could potentially become New Jersey’s law. We should aim to become a model state from which other states can clearly follow. We should address these issues in a manner that protects our communities and the people that live here.”

On Thursday, the governor’s office also released a list of quotes from lawmakers, activists and spiritual leaders voicing support for the legalization legislation.

“If we have learned anything at all, it is that the status quo has been disproportionately unfair to minority communities,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) said. “This bill is a step in the right direction to correct that inequality.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) agreed, saying the legalization bill will “advance social justice, legal justice and economic justice in meaningful ways.”

“This is an opportunity for continued progress as we strive for a society that respects the rights of everyone,” he said.

Whether the legislation will be approved is yet to be seen. NJ.com is keeping track of where lawmakers currently stand on the bill, and as of Friday afternoon their online whip count shows that a majority in the Senate plan to vote against it, while votes allocated so far in the Assembly are roughly even.

New Jersey Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill

Photo courtesy of Jamelle Bouie.

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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Connecticut Lawmakers Hold Two Simultaneous Hearings On Marijuana Legalization Bills

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Two Connecticut committees held hearings on bills to legalize marijuana and expand the state’s medical cannabis program on Friday.

The proposed legislation would permit adults 21 and older to possess, purchase and consume certain amounts of marijuana for personal use. The House bill also includes a number of social equity provisions that are meant to encourage people from communities that were disproportionately impacted by prohibition to participate in the legal industry.

While reform advocates generally support the bills, they’ve also made a series of recommendation to increase the focus on restorative justice and to include policies such as allowing home cultivation.

In the legislature’s General Law Committee, witnesses including a commissioner for the state’s medical cannabis program and social equity advocates testified about HB 7371. That bill would establish a governor-appointed commission to regulate the industry, give licensing priority to individuals from communities most impacted by the drug war and require the commission to conduct a study on permitting a home grow option and microbusinesses.

“The time has come to move this forward. We think this is a fantastic start [and] there is definitely some amazing language in here,” Jason Ortiz, president of Connecticut United for Reform and Equity (CURE), said at the hearing. “There’s just some other pieces that we think undermine the really good parts that we can strike out and maybe amend and move the basic ideas forward.”

Advocates want to change the legislation so that home cultivation and microbusinesses are allowed from the outset, for example.

“Marijuana prohibition was borne of misinformation and racism and it continues to be enforced unequally to this day,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), testified.

Over in the Judiciary Committee, experts dedicated significant time to testimony about the public health and safety impacts of cannabis legalization. Lawmakers pressed the witnesses on issues such as labeling requirements, what kinds of edibles should be allowed, impaired driving and the mental health affects of consuming high-THC marijuana varieties.

The bill before that panel, SB 1085, would also legalize cannabis for adult use. But the legislation has a focus on expungements for individuals with prior marijuana convictions for possession of 1.5 ounces or less.

As with the House bill, advocates are supportive of the spirit of the legislation but feel certain provisions fall short. For example, MPP said that expungements should apply to convictions for any kind of cannabis conviction. The organization also called for a home grow option, which is not included in either legalization bill under consideration.

Two other pieces of cannabis legislation were discussed at the Judiciary committee hearing. One would create a misdemeanor penalty for driving while consuming marijuana and provide $500,000 in funding for law enforcement to train officers as drug recognition experts. The other bill specifies that employers don’t have to provide special accommodations for employees who use cannabis while working.

As one of the states considered most likely to legalize cannabis in 2019, the hearings offer another example of how the conversation around reform has shifted from “should it be legal” to “how should it be legal,” with the hearings largely concentrated on defining and promoting social equity provisions.

If either bill makes it through the legislature, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) is expected to sign.

He’s called the issue one of his “priorities” for the current legislative session and spoke about the issue during a budget speech last month.

Committee votes are expected on Monday.

Military Veterans Organizations Press Congress On Medical Marijuana Research

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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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GOP Lawmakers Want Marijuana Banking Vote Delayed In Congress

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A key congressional committee is scheduled to vote on far-reaching legislation that would expand marijuana businesses’ ability to store their profits in banks on Tuesday.

But key Republican lawmakers on the panel are now asking Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) to delay the vote.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Read the full letter seeking a delay in the marijuana banking vote below:

GOP seeks delay on marijuan… by on Scribd

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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