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Kansas City Mayor Talks Marijuana And Broader Drug Policy Reform After Local Decriminalization Vote

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The mayor of Kansas City scored a drug policy reform victory on Thursday after the City Council approved a resolution he introduced to remove all local criminal penalties for marijuana possession. And he’s not stopping there.

When Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) filed the proposal last month, he emphasized the need to stop taking a punitive approach to cannabis in order to mitigate unnecessary police interactions that primarily impact black Americans. But, unlike many pro-reform officials across the country who have drawn a line at marijuana, Lucas sees opportunities to take further steps to more comprehensively put an end to the war on drugs.

Missouri voters legalized medical cannabis in 2018, and there was a push from activists this year to put an adult-use legalization initiative on the November ballot—but that effort stalled out amid the coronavirus pandemic. Lucas said in an interview with Marijuana Moment that he would support such a measure, and revealed that he’s also been in touch with other mayors in the state about passing similar decriminalization ordinances in the meantime.

The mayor spoke in a phone interview on Friday about the City Council action, his broader drug policy reform plans and why he’s made the cannabis issue a main focus for his administration. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Marijuana Moment: Can I start by getting your reaction to the City Council vote in favor of your ordinance?

Quinton Lucas: I am elated. This is something that has been a goal of mine since I was first elected to office on the City Council back in 2015 and it was one of my platforms running for mayor. It was interesting because when I was running for mayor, a lot of people said, ‘boy, that seems really controversial.’ I had this recognition that when you look at marijuana law and policy—not just across the coasts of America, or more progressive places, but even in middle America—you were seeing significant change, including Missouri voting with a 66 percent ‘yes’ vote for medical marijuana.

So I was optimistic as it went through the process. I think most of my colleagues got it. To the extent they didn’t, it was almost exclusively old line arguments of the dangers of marijuana, that sort of thing and the sort of things we’ve been hearing since the 1980s to help prosecute a drug war that has locked up tens of thousands of black men in particular.

I’m excited about that. As this issue came up during this Black Lives Matter movement around our country, and I also think it is exceedingly relevant to the moment we’re in now. You cannot talk about reform of the criminal justice system without reforming laws that are incredibly unfair, that have disproportionate impact upon black and brown communities. And if you look at marijuana—particularly in usage rates versus incarceration and arrest rates—it has been a travesty how we have seen a black community largely criminalized in the hunt for marijuana, being overly police for it.

So I’m thrilled that we’re making that important change in Kansas City, particularly at this moment.

MM: Have you talked to mayors of other cities about pursuing this policy change? Do you think more local action might build pressure for statewide reform?

QL: That is much what our plan is. Now, usually at this point of the year, I’d be able to hit a conference or two to talk to some other mayors. There’s a group of black mayors I visit with somewhat regularly and I know a few have asked for our particular ordinance, and so that I think it’s a positive step and an exciting step for us. But in St. Louis, Missouri, of course, St. Louis would be the ones that are very similar to us. Their difference, of course, is that they elect their own prosecutor for the city of St. Louis. And I believe she has been fairly progressive on marijuana policies so they may not view themselves as having the same need.

That said, yeah, there are a lot of other cities in Missouri. Columbia is a college town. Springfield, I look to working with them to make sure we can really get sensible policy around the state—not unlike Colorado, and then other states making positive steps in marijuana policy. I think that’s the way we can get it done in a place like Missouri, but it’s still pretty conservative.

MM: Activists in Missouri were circulating a petition to put adult-use legalization on the state ballot earlier this year before they shut down. Did you happen to sign it? And if not, would you sign a similar measure for 2022?

QL: Oh I’d absolutely sign it. I haven’t yet. Part of it is just because I’ve been mayor for 11 months and the world’s been coming to an end for half that time. I’m just behind, in fairness. But no, I’d absolutely sign something like that because I think, you know, this is the way things should go and it’s going to be essential for us.

MM: You’ve recently talked about removing criminal penalties not just for marijuana but other currently illicit drugs. Can you talk to me about plans you have to advance broader decriminalization?

QL: I’m a a person who—this comes at me from living in my community. The drug war has been an abject failure. I live in a majority black community, was raised in a majority black community and proud to be from it. When I look at the problems on my streets—when I’m looking at what’s going on right now and people addicted to heroin, people addicted to any number of things—our drug laws aren’t helping. Our drug laws aren’t helping people find better treatment.

In fact, in some ways, they’re exacerbating problems by using an incarceration approach to what should instead be, frankly, a health-based approach—one that is not punitive, but one that’s trying to actually get people help and support. So I think it is probably time for our country to recognize that the way we’re prosecuting our drug war, the thought of throwing people away when really at some point there are substance abuse issues—or, frankly, when you look to recreational users with a number of narcotics, and users are being treated in a discriminatory manner, then I think it is time for us to say, ‘what are we doing?’

I’ll use just one example. Let’s take a look at cocaine. Everybody’s written a lot on crack versus powder cocaine disparities and sentencing, which is still amazing travesty, but I actually just came from a perspective of, when I went to school, I went to college at Washington University at St. Louis Law School at Cornell, and none of the casual-cocaine-using-now-lawyers-of-big-firms-in-New York City that I actually went to school with, faced any stiff penalties in any of the badges of impropriety that you see so many others do.

I think when you look at a system that is so terribly out of whack, and perhaps what we should say is, ‘well, what is it actually that we’re trying to solve?’ And what I believe—at least if you go back 30 years—what we’re trying to solve is actually a public health crisis, which we have failed to do. We really need to, I think, reform our laws more to actually more abolition, frankly, and looking at how can we find public health resources for anyone who is suffering from any dependency or something of that sort.

MM: What else can be done locally and legislatively to ramp down the drug war?

QL: I think that it’s primarily in the mental health space and substance misuse treatment. But I think, you know, even more than that, it is providing more social workers. That’s something we actually do out of our police budget, which is a little bit different. I think that’s been a big step for us. And, frankly, kind of changing the narrative of our crime problem—and we have a significant one, but moving it away from drugs really being the problem.

Actually, firearms being a problem. I mean, in Kansas City, we have a huge murder problem. We don’t, I think, have a drug problem beyond anyone else’s. But the problem is that the ready access to firearms has been our greatest concern. For me, it’s been kind of a shifting in both narrative and focus, and I think that we’ll continue to pay dividends for it over the years.

MM: There’s been some debate about whether decriminalization should be coupled with mandatory substance misuse treatment, as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has recommended. Reform advocates tend to disagree and say it should be voluntary. Where do you stand?

QL: I think it should be voluntary. I think mandatory systems of treatment are just another form of punishment and we’ve already called most prisons “departments of corrections.” So I think it’s still fair to say that’s not working. You need to try to find positive resources that meet people where they are. Most people that I’ve known who’ve suffered from drug and alcohol dependency, usually actually get to a point where they themselves find an opportunity to cure their problems and their addictions. Rare is it that there’s just a sentence that tells them, ‘alright, you need to do it.’

The other part of it is, by making it mandatory, compulsory, you are still frankly emboldening our prison industrial complex. If we’re actually being real about it, then you would probably see that a number of people who find themselves in incarceration now have either been through such programs that were wholly ineffective and underfunded. I think if we’re really making a difference, then yes, the solution is let’s go all towards a voluntary system where people are actually finding treatment and being able to build better lives long-term.

Top Canadian Police Association Says It’s Time To Decriminalize All Drugs

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.

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

Politics

Bill To Allow Medical Marijuana Use At Hotels And Airbnbs Filed In Missouri

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Hotels, Airbnbs and other lodging facilities in Missouri would be allowed to let medical marijuana patients consume cannabis on their properties under a recently filed bill.

The legislation, titled the “Reduction of Illegal Public Consumption by Allowing for Compassionate Access to Medical Marijuana Act,” would require the state Department of Health and Senior Services to create a new “medical marijuana lodging establishment” license for the facilities. They would have to submit an application and a $50 fee to the agency in order to obtain the new approval.

Once licensed, lodging facilities would have to follow certain rules such as confirming that guests are registered medical cannabis patients, posting signage that says marijuana can be consumed on the property and ensuring that consumption areas are at least 25 feet away from sections where its prohibited.

Places that knowingly permit cannabis to be used without a license would be subject to a $1,000 fine for a first offense, $2,000 for a second, $5,000 for a third and the suspension of their business license for a fourth.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Theoretically, if this bill is approved, it could promote tourism in the state, as it specifically allows hotels and other facilities to accept out-of-state medical cannabis certifications for guests.

There’s a similar policy on the books in Colorado, where a bill providing for social consumption site licenses was signed last year.

In a new related study, researchers took a look at the prevalence of Airbnbs allowing marijuana consumptions in Denver and found that it’s surprisingly common—much more so than for tobacco use.

“A substantial number of Airbnb listings in Denver, Colorado permit cannabis use and venues permitting cannabis use may be more likely to also permit tobacco smoking,” the abstract says.

About one-in-four facilities included details about their marijuana policy in the listing, and 76 percent of those permitted cannabis use while 31 percent let guests use tobacco.

The focus of the study, published this month in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, was to analyze indoor clear air issues related to marijuana at Airbnbs. It concluded that the facilities should “consider including cannabis use in house rules in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis to help guests identify spaces with clean air.”

Missouri’s marijuana laws might not be as progressive as Colorado’s, but a Republican lawmaker did file a joint resolution last month that calls for adult-use legalization to be placed before voters on the 2022 ballot.

Washington Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Homegrow Bill In Committee

Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.

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Washington Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Homegrow Bill In Committee

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A bill to allow marijuana homegrow in Washington State cleared its first legislative hurdle Friday morning, passing out of the House Commerce and Gaming Committee on a 7–2 vote with a “do pass” recommendation.

Washington voters approved a cannabis legalization initiative in 2012, and retail sales have been ongoing since mid-2014. Cultivating the plant for personal use, however, remains a felony.

“Washington was one of the first states to legalize, with understandable trepidation,” Rep. Shelley Kloba (D), the lead sponsor of HB 1019 and the chair of the House committee, said at Friday’s meeting. Homegrow, she said, “is one area where we’ve taken a more cautious approach and let other states test the waters.”

Of all other states that have begun legal cannabis sales in the years since Washington legalized, only one—Illinois—has outlawed homegrow. But in Illinois, advocates in Washington have pointed out, the offense is a civil infraction rather than felony crime.

Washington’s homegrow bill would allow adults to cultivate up to six cannabis plants at home and keep the marijuana those plants produce. Plants and containers of more than one ounce of cannabis would need to be labeled with the adult’s name, birthdate and address. Households with multiple adults could grow no more than 15 total plants.

While adults could give small amounts of homegrown cannabis to one another, unlicensed sales would remain illegal.

Plants would also need to be out of public view and unable to be “readily smelled” outside of the property. Growers who violate those limits would be subject to a civil infraction that carries a maximum $50 fine. Landlords, meanwhile, could decide whether or not to allow rental tenants to grow cannabis on the property.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The limits on plants being seen or readily smelled by the public, Kloba said, “protects both the grower and the neighbors” by avoiding both possible theft of plants—a concern some have raised about homegrow—as well as nuisance odor from nearby properties.

Opponents of the bill, including the Washington Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, have complained the homegrow limits would be difficult to enforce. A representative of the group noted at a hearing last week that the bill would prevent police from entering a property unless they first obtained a warrant.

Rep. Eric Robertson (R), one of two lawmakers who voted against the bill Friday, said he was concerned that HB 1019 leaves enforcement to police agencies rather than the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), which regulates licensed cannabis businesses in the state. He described that provision as a “fatal flaw in the bill because there won’t be any reasonable or informed way to investigate this stuff without a huge impact to our cities.”

Kloba replied that LCB has authority over the state’s commercial cannabis system, “and this is clearly outside of it.”

The bill has support from numerous advocacy groups, including state and local drug reform advocates and the Washington Build Back Black Alliance (WBBBA), a group of nonprofit and business leaders lobbying on behalf of the state’s Black communities.

In a letter to lawmakers sent this week, Paula Sardinas of WBBBA noted that 97 percent of the state’s legal cannabis industry remains white-owned. “Assuming an expansion into homegrown would produce more [illicit] activity represents both systematic prejudice and implicit bias,” Sardinas wrote. “This very good bill meets the basic tests of both equity and equality.”

Lawmakers made a single amendment to HB 1019 on Friday before advancing the bill, adding changes meant to harmonize the state’s existing civil forfeiture law with the bill’s proposed homegrow limits. Existing law, for example, allows forfeitures when someone engaged in illegal commercial cannabis activity possesses five or more marijuana plants. The amendment raises that cap to 16 plants and slightly increases the amount of harvested cannabis a person can possess.

Kloba said the amendment, which the committee adopted Friday without objection, is meant “so that we don’t inadvertently allow people to do homegrow and then they get in trouble for doing so.”

Homegrow also won a small victory in Virginia on Friday as a state Senate committee voted to advance a bill to legalize marijuana in that state. Before approving the bill, lawmakers defeated a proposed amendment that would have outlawed home cultivation.

Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, told Marijuana Moment the group “is pleased that cooler heads prevailed, defeating an absurd motion to remove personal cultivation from the bill.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, the House Commerce and Gaming committee also heard testimony Friday on a separate bill, HB 1210, that would update state law to replace references to “marijuana” with the word “cannabis.”

“The word ‘marijuana’ is a reminder of the history of racism and persecution,” argued the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Melanie Morgan (D), while “cannabis” comes from the plant’s scientific name. “I ask for this committee’s support in removing the racist stigma from communities of color.”

Chris Thompson, director of legislative relations for LCB, said the regulatory agency supports the legislation but would like to see a “friendly amendment” that would direct regulators to make the change on their side, too. Such direction would allow LCB to expedite agency rulemaking.

“If you were to make a very long bill just maybe one paragraph longer and direct our agency to do that with our rules,” Thompson told lawmakers, “then that would help us make this change across the board in one fell swoop.”

Illinois Awards $31.5 Million In Marijuana-Funded Grants To Repair Communities Harmed By Drug War

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Arizona Begins Recreational Marijuana Sales, Just Weeks After Voters Approve Legalization

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Arizona marijuana sales for the adult-use market officially began on Friday after state officials began notifying retail business license applicants that they’d been approved.

The launch comes just weeks after voters in the state overwhelmingly passed a cannabis legalization initiative during November’s election. This marks the fastest transition from voter-approval to sales implementation of any state that has legalized marijuana to date.

Under the measure, regulators were required to quickly develop rules for the market. Industry stakeholders say they’ve had productive conversations with the Department of Health Services to create those guidelines over the past few weeks.

The department released two draft versions of its proposed regulations and then, earlier this month, began accepting applications for recreational business licenses. This first round of approvals is for existing medical cannabis dispensaries that have already gone through the state’s prior licensing process.

“ADHS has received 79 applications since the application period began early Wednesday,” the department said in a press release on Friday. “Six of those applications remain under review,” meaning that 73 facilities can now begin adult-use cannabis sales. The full list of those stores is at the bottom of this story.

Those who aren’t currently operating a medical marijuana shops can still apply for an adult-use license during this first round if they plan to operate in a county with two or fewer existing dispensaries. Applications for those who aren’t eligible in this phase will be open soon and are expected to be approved starting in the spring.

Samuel Richard, executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association, told Marijuana Moment that the “dedicated focus and professionalism of our regulators have really played out here in an incredible way.”

“We had overwhelming support in November—a three to two margin, 60-40 percent. We got over the finish line,” he said. “It’s great to see that our regulators responded to that overwhelming support by working as fast as they can to get the infrastructure in place to allow the two million Arizonans that voted ‘yes’ for Prop 207 to start to enjoy the benefits of legal, adult-use cannabis.”

Legalization advocates are cheering the state for its expediency in getting the recreational marijuana market off the ground.

Matthew Schweich, deputy director at the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment that it is “encouraging to see Arizona move forward with implementation of the legalization policy approved by voters in November.”

“By avoiding unnecessary delays, Arizona will accelerate the timeline for job creation, business investment, and new tax revenue,” he said.

“I commend state officials for prioritizing the implementation of Prop. 207 and ensuring that Arizona adults have safe and convenient access to affordable marijuana in a timely manner,” NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf, told Marijuana Moment. “Voters were crystal clear on their mandate at the ballot box: end the failed policy of criminalization and replace it with a legal pragmatic regulatory framework as soon as possible.”

“It’s time to stop ceding control and revenue of the marijuana market to unregulated and untaxed enterprises in order to eliminate the risks associated with an illicit market,” she said.

The rules for the adult-use market took effect on January 15. They cover licensing fees, the timeline for approvals, the structure of the regulatory body, product labeling, public safety protocols and more. Many of the changes from prior draft regulations were technical, but there was one notable change concerning credentialing for cannabis workers.

Rather than being credentialed for one specific facility, the worker registration was expanded so that they could be certified to be employed at any cannabis operation in the industry.

While these rules are in place for the newly approved retailers, Richard said regulators have made clear their intent to continue to work with stakeholders and continue to build upon their rules to ensure the market’s success.

Under the state’s new legalization law, adults will be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a time and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

The measure also contains several provisions aimed at addressing the harms of prohibition such as allowing individuals with prior marijuana convictions to petition the courts for expungements and establishing a social equity ownership program.

Cannabis sales will be taxed at 16 percent. Tax revenue will cover implementation costs and then be divided among funds for community colleges, infrastructure, a justice reinvestment and public services such as police and firefighters.

That revenue could also help the Arizona’s economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic, Richard said.

“At the time where folks are still struggling to recover across the country in terms of state budgets, we look forward to being a critical piece” of that recovery, he said.

Arizona’s quick response to voter approval of the reform initiative stands in stark contrast to New Jersey, where voters also approved a legalization referendum in November.

While regulations have been developed and retail sales are launching in Arizona, enabling legislation has faced numerous delays in New Jersey as lawmakers and the governor continue to hash out differences in their preferred regulatory approach.

That said, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said during his State of the State address last week that “we are on the verge of passing an innovative and groundbreaking set of laws to reform our historically unjust approach to marijuana and cannabis.” But the exact timeline to pass an implementation bill is yet to be determined.

See the full list of medical cannabis dispensaries authorized to sell recreational marijuana below:

Facility Legal Name County City
Natural Relief Clinic Inc Cochise Bisbee
Desertview Wellness & Healing Solutions, LLC Coconino Flagstaff
Arizona Natures Wellness Coconino Sedona
Desert Medical Campus Gila Payson
High Desert Healing Llc Maricopa Avondale
Non Profit Patient Center Inc Maricopa Cave Creek
Azgm 3, Inc Maricopa Chandler
Border Health, Inc Maricopa Chandler
Total Health & Wellness Inc Maricopa Chandler
Total Health & Wellness Inc Maricopa Chandler
Arizona Cannabis Society Inc. Maricopa El Mirage
Fort Mountain Consulting, Llc Maricopa El Mirage
Absolute Health Care Inc Maricopa Gilbert
Ocotillo Vista, Inc. Maricopa Glendale
Pahana, Inc. Maricopa Glendale
Pp Wellness Center Maricopa Glendale
Whoa Qc Inc Maricopa Glendale
G.T.L. Llc Maricopa Guadalupe
Nature Med Inc Maricopa Guadalupe
4245 Investments Llc Maricopa Mesa
Arizona Wellness Collective 3, Inc Maricopa Mesa
Buds & Roses, Inc Maricopa Mesa
Jamestown Center Maricopa Mesa
Sea Of Green Llc Maricopa Mesa
The Giving Tree Wellness Center Of Mesa Inc Maricopa Mesa
The Healing Center Farmacy Llc Maricopa Mesa
Valley Healing Group Inc Maricopa Mesa
Vending Logistics Llc Maricopa Mesa
Pinal County Wellness Center Maricopa Peoria
Ad, Llc Maricopa Phoenix
Az Compassionate Care Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Catalina Hills Botanical Care Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Devine Desert Healing Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Fort Consulting, Llc Maricopa Phoenix
Greens Goddess Products, Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Healing Healthcare 3 Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Herbal Wellness Center Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Kwerles Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Mohave Valley Consulting, Llc Maricopa Phoenix
Natural Herbal Remedies Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Natural Relief Clinic Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Nature’s Healing Center Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Nature’s Healing Center Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Organica Patient Group Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Phytotherapeutics Of Tucson Maricopa Phoenix
Rjk Ventures, Inc. Maricopa Phoenix
The Giving Tree Wellness Center Of North Phoenix Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Zonacare Maricopa Phoenix
The Kind Relief Inc Maricopa Queen Creek
Byers Dispensary Maricopa Scottsdale
Csi Solutions Llc Maricopa Scottsdale
Eba Holdings Inc. Maricopa Scottsdale
All Greens Inc Maricopa Sun City
East Valley Patient Wellness Group Inc Maricopa Sun City
Holistic Patient Wellness Group Maricopa Tempe
Salubrious Wellness Clinic Inc Maricopa Tempe
Svaccha, Llc Maricopa Tempe
Kannaboost Technology Inc Maricopa Tempe
K Group Partners Llc Maricopa Youngtown
Sweet 5, Llc Maricopa Youngtown
Verde Dispensary Inc Mohave Kingman
Abedon Saiz Llc Mohave Lake Havasu City
Fwa Inc Mohave Lake Havasu City
Arizona Golden Leaf Wellness, Llc Pima Marana
Medmar Tanque Verde Llc Pima Tucson
Patient Care Center 301, Inc. Pima Tucson
Rainbow Collective Inc Pima Tucson
Nature’s Wonder Inc Pinal Apache Junction
Svaccha, Llc Pinal Apache Junction
Medical Pain Relief Inc Pinal Casa Grande
Sherri Dunn, Llc Yavapai Cottonwood
203 Organix, Llc Yavapai Prescott
Jamestown Center Yuma Yuma

Congressman Files First Federal Marijuana Reform Bill Of 2021

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