Connect with us

Politics

Hundreds Of Companies Sign Letter Calling For Marijuana Descheduling To Prevent Vaping Injuries

Published

on

More than 800 cannabis industry leaders have signed onto a letter urging Congress to deschedule marijuana to mitigate the risks associated with vaping products obtained on the illicit market.

Led by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), the letter being delivered to House and Senate leadership on Thursday argues that the recent spate of vaping-related lung injuries and deaths demonstrates the need for robust federal regulations that aren’t available because marijuana remains a federally controlled substance. It notes that a majority of these medical issues appear to be the result of using adulterated, unregulated products.

“Make no mistake, the legal state-regulated cannabis industry knows that any death is one death too many,” the letter states. “Fortunately, we have policy tools that can be employed to help limit the illicit market, implement uniform good manufacturing practices and prevent future harms.”

NCIA and its co-signers—including representatives of firms such as Berkeley Patients Group, Leafly, Weedmaps, 4Front Ventures, SPARC, Foria and Vicente Sederberg LLP—argued that the public “needs accurate and actionable information from the government, particularly about illegal, untested, and dangerous illicit market consumer products.”

Aaron Smith, NCIA’s executive director, told Marijuana Moment that “it is absolutely vital for members of Congress to understand that this vaping illness outbreak is directly tied to failed prohibition policies that support the unregulated underground market.”

“There is a reason there are no illness outbreaks related to tainted alcohol in this country: the substance is regulated at the federal and state levels, and licensed producers have almost entirely replaced bootleggers,” he said. “Descheduling cannabis products and regulating them effectively is essential to improving on successful state regulatory systems, allowing more comprehensive research, and displacing the illicit market.”

The letter lays out five policy recommendations to ensure that people aren’t exposed to dangerous and untested products.

“—Congress is urged to immediately remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and begin to sensibly regulate this substance in a manner similar to alcohol and other consumables, and to make funds immediately available to state medical authorities to investigate these cases.

“—Licensed vape cartridge producers are encouraged to halt the use, if any, of additive thickening agents until more data is available.

“—Given the preliminary reported association of some illness cases with Vitamin E acetate, any licensed producer that has included this additive in recent vape product batches is strongly encouraged to issue a voluntary recall of those products.

“—Licensed cannabis retailers are encouraged to take steps to ensure none of their available vape cartridge inventories have been sourced from a producer that uses Vitamin E acetate.

“—Cannabis vape cartridge consumers are urged to immediately cease the use of any product obtained from the illicit market and to limit any future purchases of vape cartridges and other cannabis products to state-licensed, regulated businesses.”

“Descheduling is the only way to truly reform federal cannabis policy in a sensible manner so that state regulatory programs can most successfully ensure consumer safety and to pave the way for appropriate federal regulations,” the letter argues.

Currently, marijuana remains within the purview of the Drug Enforcement Administration, rather than agencies responsible for enforcing quality control standards such as the Food and Drug Administration.

The other problem is that federal restrictions inhibits state-legal marijuana businesses from effectively competing with the illicit market, NCIA said. Removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act would “ensure that unethical actors are increasingly disrupted by legitimate, responsible businesses.”

“The legal cannabis industry is extremely concerned about these reported illnesses and deaths. It is clear that the American public wants quality-controlled cannabis products made available for adults and patients. The recent news is, unfortunately, yet another reminder that there is no time to waste. Our industry wants to provide the products voters demand with a tireless focus on improving consumer safety. We are at the ready to work collaboratively with federal lawmakers, the same way we have at the state level for over a decade. Please let us know how we can help move the ball forward on descheduling legislation. Lives are literally at stake.”

NCIA, as well as the Cannabis Trade Federation, made a similar call for regulations in response to vaping issues last month, urging congressional action because existing policy prevents “federal regulatory agencies from establishing safety guidelines, discourage states from regulating cannabis, and make it more difficult for state-legal cannabis businesses to displace the illicit market.”

Smith said that the marijuana industry “is committed to ensuring the safety of cannabis consumers, and NCIA stands ready to help lawmakers and regulators do just that.”

Read the full letter from cannabis industry representatives to Congress below:

Majority Of Americans Support Decriminalizing All Drugs, Poll Finds

Image by Lindsay Fox from Pixabay.

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

Top Connecticut Lawmakers Announce They’re Prioritizing Marijuana Legalization In 2020

Published

on

Top Connecticut lawmakers said on Thursday that legalizing marijuana will be a legislative priority this year, with an emphasis on promoting social equity in a regulated market.

During a press conference outlining their agenda for the new session, Senate Democrats said that while progress has been made by decriminalizing simple possession of cannabis, Connecticut must catch up with public opinion and pursue adult-use legalization.

Senate President Pro-Tem Martin Looney (D) said “we believe it needs to come to resolution so that Connecticut can join its neighbors in recognizing a reality that we should have dealt with already but need to deal with now, and that is the issue of the legalization and regulation of cannabis in our state.”

While removing the threat of jail time for possession “addressed part of the problem,” the “fundamental question of legalization and regulation still persists,” he said. “I think it’s time that we caught up to what the public attitude and public will is on this subject and move forward with it this year.”

Watch Connecticut senators’ marijuana comments, around 9:25 into the video below:

“The time has come. We know that there are very large numbers of Connecticut residents already traveling regulatory to Massachusetts to buy this product and bring it home with them. New York is considering it this year. Other states around us have,” Looney said. “I don’t think we want to put our heads in the sand and be in a position equivalent to a state that refused to recognize that prohibition of alcohol…was a failure and try to maintain prohibition after the national law changed.”

“I think the time has come. We need to recognize it. There’s broad based public support for it.”

Sen. Douglas McCrory (D), the deputy president pro-tem who serves on several committees that have had jurisdiction over cannabis issues, stressed the need to tackle what he described as the “three E’s,” which are “equity, expungement and economic opportunity.”

“It’s ironic right now that we’re thinking about passing legislation to sell and legalize cannabis to pay our bills when we had a number of people who have risked their lives to do the same thing to pay their bills,” he said. “If we’re going to be fair about this and have a conversation about this as we move forward, these things must be addressed.”

“If they’re not addressed, I don’t think we have a snowball’s chance to get this legislation passed,” McCrory added. “There are things that we can do in Connecticut right now this legislative session around those three E’s that can demonstrate to those people throughout Connecticut that we’re serious about addressing unjust laws that took place.”

Jason Ortiz, the Connecticut-based president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, told Marijuana Moment that “communities of color across Connecticut are lucky to have champions like Senator Doug McCrory and Senator Martin Looney, who are putting our communities first in line for economic opportunities in the cannabis industry.”

“This commitment to equity will ensure the program is successful by ensuring all of Connecticut’s communities will share in the wealth creation of this growing industry,” he said. “Now we just need House leadership to show the same courage and we’ll get this done in 2020.”

During the press conference, Looney also described three pieces of marijuana legislation that advanced in several committees last year, dealing with finance, restorative justice and regulations. He said that taken together, the bills “give us an excellent framework for moving forward on this issue.”

Cannabis legalization was one of eight proposals included in the lawmakers’ “A Smart & Responsible Connecticut” agenda, which is the third of four such plans they’re rolling out for the 2020 legislative session.

“The prohibition of the possession and sale of cannabis has failed in its intent to stop the sale or use of cannabis,” the document states. “The ‘war on drugs’ is a similar failure and has led to a staggering racial disparity when it comes to enforcement of laws criminalizing cannabis.”

“In 2020, the Senate Democratic Caucus will take action to legalize, tax and regulate the retail sale, personal growth and recreational use of cannabis by individuals over twenty-one years old,” it says.

Earlier this month, key committee leaders met to discuss a path forward for legalization legislation, and Looney and others have previously made similar comments predicting that reform will be prioritized and achievable this year. While bills to legalize cannabis for adult use cleared several panels during the 2019 session, disagreements about certain provisions such as how to allocate revenue ultimately derailed those efforts.

Gov. Ned Lamont (D), who’s been having ongoing conversations with the governors of neighboring states about coordinating a regional legalization model, is supportive of passing legalization legislation during the three-month session.

“I think the idea that we’d be isolated by ourselves and the idea that you hand this over to the black market is dangerous,” the governor said in a recent TV appearance. “You have no idea what they’re doing. You want a carefully regulated market.”

Marijuana reform is expected to be a hot topic throughout the Northeast in 2020.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) renewed his call for reform in his State of the State address and included legalization language in a budget proposal to lawmakers this week. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) included a proposal to legalize though a state-run model in her budget plan. New Hampshire lawmakers will pursue legislation for non-commercial cannabis legalization. New Jersey voters will decide on the issue in November’s election. And Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) seems more open to adding a regulated sales component to his state’s noncommercial legal marijuana law.

Wisconsin Governor Blasts Lawmakers For Not Legalizing Medical Marijuana Despite Public Support

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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

Bernie Sanders’s Marijuana Plan Is More Than Legalization, It’s A Matter Of Justice (Op-Ed)

Published

on

Bernie’s marijuana plan goes beyond legalizing marijuana to address the shortcomings of our historically racist criminal justice system.

By Tick Segerblom

When it comes to smart marijuana policy, Nevadans are ahead of the curve—voting to legalize medical marijuana in 1998 and 2000 and recreational marijuana in 2016. What has followed is an industry that has generated thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state. Marijuana sales produced nearly $70 million in tax revenue in the first year of legal sales alone, providing new funding sources for educational and social programs. There is no doubt that legalizing marijuana has been a smart economic move for our state.

However, legalizing marijuana isn’t only about generating more revenue for our communities, it’s also about correcting a system that unjustly targets disadvantaged communities, particularly communities of color. The War on Drugs has accelerated the effects of institutional racism that have long pervaded our criminal justice system, and it’s past time we start to address and undo that damage.

Once considered radical, the legalization of marijuana is now wildly popular with the American public. In 2015, Bernie Sanders became the first major presidential candidate to support the federal legalization of marijuana. In October, Senator Sanders unveiled his marijuana reform plan, putting forward the most comprehensive proposal to legalize marijuana, expunge past convictions and ensure those impacted the most are not overlooked by the growing marijuana industry.

Despite marijuana use being roughly equal across racial and ethnic groups nationally, African Americans are four times more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for possessing marijuana than white Americans. Criminalization has had disastrous consequences, particularly for communities of color, and Bernie will take federal action to right those wrongs. Bernie’s plan will expunge all past convictions and remove barriers to accessing public benefits and services for those who were previously convicted.

But it’s not enough to simply right the wrongs in our legal system. Nevada’s booming marijuana industry has created many lucrative business opportunities, and historically disadvantaged communities deserve to see their share of the economic rewards. Nevada has had some success creating new marijuana business opportunities for our tribal communities, but out of Nevada’s 58 dispensaries open in 2018, only one was Black-owned.

Overall, communities ravaged by marijuana criminalization have not enjoyed equal access to the economic opportunities that Nevada voters created. Bernie’s marijuana policy recognizes this injustice by investing $50 billion in revenue from marijuana back into the communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs. This will create new opportunities for Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American entrepreneurs and will generate new jobs and new wealth for those communities.

I’ve worked throughout my career to legalize marijuana and reform our criminal justice system, and I am proudly supporting Bernie Sanders for president because he shares that commitment to social and economic justice. Bernie’s marijuana plan goes beyond legalizing marijuana to address the shortcomings of our historically racist criminal justice system. Bernie has set the gold standard for federal marijuana policy, and Nevadans should remember that when they participate in the Democratic presidential caucuses this February.

Tick Segerblom is a County Commissioner for Clark County, Nevada and a Nevada Campaign Co-Chair for Bernie 2020.

Congressman Visits Marijuana Dispensary On Behalf Of Bernie Sanders’s Presidential Campaign

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

Wisconsin Governor Blasts Lawmakers For Not Legalizing Medical Marijuana Despite Public Support

Published

on

The governor of Wisconsin called out state lawmakers on Wednesday for declining to pass legislation legalizing medical marijuana despite widespread public support for the policy.

“When more than 80 percent of our state supports medical marijuana…and elected officials can ignore those numbers without consequence, folks, something’s wrong,” Gov. Tony Evers (D) said during his annual State of the State address.

Watch Evers’s comments about public support for medical cannabis below:

He also cited contrasting public support support and lack of legislative action on issues such as expanding Medicaid and universal background checks for gun purchases.

While Evers had included both marijuana decriminalization and medical cannabis legalization in his budget proposal last year, Republican leaders stripped those policies from the plan. It’s not clear if he’ll attempt to pursue the policies through the budget again this year, or if lawmakers would be more inclined to support reform than the last round.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D) recently said she hopes that the legislature came come together around certain bipartisan issues such as medical marijuana. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said last month that there’s no such legislation he’s be willing to get behind.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) didn’t seem to close the door on the possibility of approving legalization legislation, however, but tempered expectations about when or how it would be achieved.

“It’s going to take a while,” he said last month. “It’s not like it’s a panacea that everybody thinks, ‘Oh, jeez this is an easy slam dunk.’ It’s a complicated issue that we want to get right.”

He also previously suggested that he’d only support a significantly limited program that would allow patients to access cannabis in pill form, raising doubts about whether Democratic lawmakers would be willing to advance such a reform.

While decriminalization didn’t come up in the governor’s speech, lawmakers did file a bill last year to remove criminal penalties for possession of up 28 grams of marijuana.

Not only is there broad public support for medical cannabis legalization based on polling, but local elections have also demonstrated that the people are ready for change. Three jurisdictions in the state voted in favor of non-binding resolutions expressing support for the legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes last year. That followed the approval of other cannabis ballot measures in 16 counties in 2018.

Evers reflected on the progress the state has made in the past year in a tweet sent during his speech, citing improvements to its hemp program as an example of the “many bipartisan successes” that have been achieved.

Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D) weighed in on the State of the State speech as well, echoing Evers’s point about 80 percent support for medical cannabis.

“Why does the majority ignore these issues?” she asked. “Partisan gerrymandering.”

Evers joined a growing list of governors who’ve discussed cannabis reform priorities for 2020.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) included legalization in his budget plan this week. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) called for a state-run cannabis model in her budget plan. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said it’s “high time” to legalize in her State of the State address and put ending prohibition on the agenda for the short 2020 session. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said he wants to decriminalize cannabis possession and create a pathway for expungements in his annual address. And U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D) pushed lawmakers to legalize cannabis to raise revenue to support a government employees retirement fund in his State of the Territory address.

New Mexico Governor Says It’s ‘High Time’ To Legalize Marijuana

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.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

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!