Connect with us

Politics

House Measure Pushes For Equal Access To Marijuana Industry

Published

on

People of color have been disproportionately punished under decades of marijuana prohibition laws, but restrictive rules in many states largely block many communities that have been targeted by the war on drugs from participating in the legal cannabis industry.

A new resolution filed in Congress on Thursday seeks to change that.

“The communities that have been most harmed by cannabis prohibition are benefiting the least from the legal marijuana marketplace,” reads the measure, introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). “The House of Representatives encourages States and localities to adopt best practices and take bold steps…to address disparities in the cannabis marketplace participation and to address, reverse, and repair the most egregious effects of the war on drugs on communities of color, in particular to those who now hold criminal records for a substance that is now legal and regulated.”

The resolution highlights several areas where states with legal marijuana can do better, including by keeping licensing and application fees low, moving to automatically expunge cannabis convictions, eliminating restrictions on industry participation by people with marijuana arrest records and using tax revenue to fund community reinvestment, among others.

“There’s no question that there is growing momentum – both within Congress and nationwide – for cannabis legalization,” Lee said in a press release. “However, as we move into this new era, we must learn from the failed War on Drugs and ensure that entrepreneurs of color are included in this expanding industry. Due to unequal criminalization rates and disparities in access to capital, people of color are being locked out of the new and thriving legal cannabis trade.”

“We need to address the systemic exclusion and discrimination at play. Otherwise, we will be prolonging and encouraging the injustices of the past – where brown men spend their lives in prison for cannabis, while white communities get rich off the industry.”

The measure is titled the RESPECT Resolution, short for Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades.

“As more and more states dial back the war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive criminalization are able to see previous harms remedied and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation,” said Justin Strekal, political director for NORML. “It is absolutely crucial that future legalization efforts include avenues to expunge prior criminal convictions for actions which are now 100% legal.”

Earlier this week, a separate resolution demanding that Congress apologize for the failed and discriminatory war on drugs was filed.

New Resolution Demands Congress Apologize For Failed Drug War

“This is groundbreaking cannabis legislation that addresses the effects of the war on drugs and how to create a fair and equitable industry while others ignore the opportunity and say it cannot be done,” Shanita Penny, president of the Board of Directors of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, said of the Lee resolution. “We will continue our work to ensure that thoughtful resolutions to this issue are put forth and that cannabis legislation is holistic in solving past problems and preventing future travesties like the drug war and the exclusion of the communities most impacted by it as this industry continues to grow.”

The measure has at least 13 initial cosponsors.

“The systemic prejudice of the failed war on drugs is a stain on America’s history,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). “As these outdated and discriminatory policies come to an end, we must address the damage done to communities of color and ensure equal access to the growing cannabis economy.”

See a summary of the new resolution’s provisions below:

RESPECT Resolution

Background:

The “RESPECT Resolution: Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades” elevates the importance of equity within the legal cannabis marketplace. This resolution aims to address disparities and proactively addressing and repairing the most egregious effects of the War on Drugs on communities of color. The RESPECT Resolution seeks both economic and reparative justice, ensuring that disenfranchised communities will be able to benefit equally in the emerging legal and regulated industry.

Summary:

The “RESPECT Resolution” encourages States and localities to adopt best practices already in effect in localities around the country and take bold steps to address, reverse, and repair the most egregious effects of the War on Drugs on communities of color, in particular to those who maintain criminal records for a substance that is now legal and regulated.

Steps Encouraged by Resolution:

Establish licensing and application fees that are reasonable to cover only the costs of program implementation and necessary regulations

Create a system where licensing is to be obtained at the local level and avoids arbitrary caps on licenses, which allows the community to determine the type and number of and results in an industry more representative of the local marketplace

Eliminate broad felony restrictions for licensing and instead focus restrictions on entering the market to those with criminal convictions that are relevant to the owning and operating of a business to be made on a case-by-case basis

Establish a free and automatic process for the expungement and resentencing of penalties for persons previously convicted of cannabis-related crimes for which the criminal penalties have been reduced or removed.

Eliminate the penalizations for persons currently under parole, probation or other state supervision, or released on bail awaiting trial, for conduct otherwise allowed under state cannabis laws.

Combat the vestiges of the War on Drugs by utilizing tax revenue for small business and community reinvestment

Supporting Organizations:

Drug Policy Alliance, NORML, National Association of Social Workers, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, Minority Cannabis Business Association, Cannabis Cultural Association, Defending Rights & Dissent, District Growers, LLC., Protect Families First, StoptheDrugWar.org, San Francisco Drug Users Union, National Cannabis Festival & National Cannabis Policy Summit, Center for Living and Learning, A New PATH, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, National Cannabis Industry Association, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc., Denver Relief Consulting

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.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Politics

Marijuana Legalization Measure Advances One Step In South Dakota

Published

on

South Dakota’s attorney general filed an official explanation of a proposed ballot measure to legalize marijuana on Friday.

While separate organizations are working to get a medical cannabis-focused initiative on the state’s 2020 ballot, activists behind this measure are hoping to incorporate recreational legalization, medical marijuana reform and hemp into one package.

Adult-use legalization would be accomplished through a constitutional amendment under the initiative, which would separately require the legislature to pass legislation creating rules for medical cannabis and hemp.

“The constitutional amendment legalizes the possession, use, transport, and distribution of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia by people age 21 and older. Individuals may possess or distribute one ounce or less of marijuana,” Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) wrote. “Marijuana plants and marijuana produced from those plants may also be possessed under certain conditions.”

The South Dakota Department of Revenue would be responsible for issuing licenses for cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers. Individual jurisdictions would be able to opt out of allowing such facilities in their areas.

“The Department must enact rules to implement and enforce this amendment,” the explanation states. “The amendment requires the Legislature to pass laws regarding medical use of marijuana. The amendment does not legalize hemp; it requires the Legislature to pass laws regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp.”

The initiative calls for a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales. That revenue would be used to fund the Department of Revenue’s implementation and regulation of the legal cannabis system, with remaining tax dollars going toward public education and the state general fund.

Ravnsborg said that judicial clarification of the amendment “may be necessary” and notes that marijuana “remains illegal under Federal law.”

The attorney general issued a similar explanation of a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical cannabis earlier this month.

This latest move comes one day after advocacy organization New Approach South Dakota announced that their medical marijuana initiative was certified, enabling them to begin the signature gathering process.

Several other cannabis initiatives are in the process of being certified in the state, according to the attorney general’s website. In order to place constitutional amendments on the ballot, activists must collect 33,921 valid signatures from voters.

South Dakota is one of the last remaining states in the U.S. that has not legalized marijuana for any purposes.

GOP Senator Keeps Endorsing Medical Marijuana But Hasn’t Sponsored A Single Cannabis Bill

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.
Continue Reading

Politics

Elizabeth Warren’s Plan For Indian Tribes Includes Marijuana Legalization

Published

on

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) unveiled a plan on Friday that’s aimed at holding the federal government accountable for following through on its obligations to Native American tribes, and that includes ensuring that tribal marijuana programs are protected against federal intervention.

The plan emphasized Warren’s support for a bill she filed earlier this year that “would protect cannabis laws and policies that tribal nations adopted for themselves.”

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, who has faced criticism over claims of Native American heritage, pointed to federal reports showing that tribal programs generally have not received adequate funding and said it is imperative that legislation be enacted to “provide resources for housing, education, health care, self-determination, and public safety” for those communities.

To that end, Warren is planning to introduce a bill called the “Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act” alongside Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. Before filing, however, the lawmakers are soliciting input on how best to draft the legislation, and are accepting written testimony until September 30.

While the proposed legislation itself doesn’t currently include marijuana-specific provisions, a press release and blog post on the topic address the senator’s sponsorship of the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would allow tribal communities and states to set their own cannabis policies without Justice Department interference.

In order to provide economic opportunities to Native people, that “requires streamlining and removing unnecessary administrative barriers that impede economic growth on Tribal lands, respecting tribal jurisdiction over tribal businesses, and promoting forward-looking efforts to ensure full access to new and emerging economic opportunities.”

“For example, while not every tribe is interested in the economic opportunities associated with changing laws around marijuana, a number of Tribal Nations view cannabis as an important opportunity for economic development,” Warren’s campaign blog post states.

“I support full marijuana legalization, and have also introduced and worked on a bipartisan basis to advance the STATES Act, a proposal that would at a minimum safeguard the ability of states, territories, and Tribal Nations, to make their own marijuana policies,” she wrote.

A separate press release on Warren’s Senate website also touts her support for the STATES Act, saying she “worked hard to ensure” that it included tribal protections.

“It’s beyond time to make good on America’s responsibilities to Native peoples, and that is why I’m working with Congresswoman Haaland to draft legislation that will ensure the federal government lives up to its obligations and will empower tribal governments to address the needs of their citizens,” Warren said of the overall tribal plan. “We look forward to working closely with tribal nations to advance legislation that honors the United States’ promises to Native peoples.”

In an email blast to her campaign list, Warren included “a set of additional ideas to uphold the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations with Tribal Nations and to empower Native communities,” which includes her marijuana proposal:

“New economic opportunities: We also need to respect tribal jurisdiction over tribal businesses and promote forward-looking efforts to ensure full access to new economic opportunities. For example, a number of Tribal Nations view cannabis as an important economic opportunity. I support full marijuana legalization and have advanced the STATES Act, a proposal that would safeguard the ability of Tribal Nations to make their own marijuana policies.”

There’s increased interest in ensuring that Native populations receive the same benefits and protections as states as it concerns cannabis legislation.

In June, the House passed a spending bill that included a rider stipulating that Native American marijuana programs couldn’t be infringed upon by the Justice Department. And a GOP representative filed a bill in March that would provide similar protections.

GOP Senator Keeps Endorsing Medical Marijuana But Hasn’t Sponsored A Single Cannabis Bill

Photo elements courtesy of Pixabay and NorthEndWaterFront.com.

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.
Continue Reading

Politics

FBI Seeks Tips On Marijuana Industry Corruption

Published

on

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is actively seeking tips on public corruption related to the marijuana industry, it announced on Thursday.

“States require licenses to grow and sell the drug—opening the possibility for public officials to become susceptible to bribes in exchange for those licenses,” FBI Public Affairs Specialist Mollie Halpern said on a short podcast the bureau released. “The corruption is more prevalent in western states where the licensing is decentralized—meaning the level of corruption can span from the highest to the lowest level of public officials.”

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.)

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.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Stay Up To The Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!