Congressional lawmakers have reached a compromise over a controversial provision of the Farm Bill that would ban people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry after the crop is legalized, CQ Now reported.
While the final text of the bill is not expected to be publicly released until next week, Rep. James Comer (R-KY) signaled that a scaled back version of the ban will be included—though he declined to get into specifics.
— CQ Now (@CQnow) December 4, 2018
Comer, a former Kentucky agriculture commissioner who unsuccessfully attempted to include hemp legalization in the House version of the Farm Bill this year, said there was “a lot of discussion” about the felony provision among members of the House-Senate conference committee that has been charged with reconciling the two chambers’ proposals over the past several months.
Whereas the Senate bill included hemp legalization provisions pushed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Republicans refused to allow a vote on Comer’s language. Congressional leaders confirmed last week that hemp legalization made it into the final bill that will be voted on and sent to President Trump’s desk.
The ban on people with felony drug convictions was inserted into the Senate version late in the legislative process and has been rigorously opposed by drug policy reform advocates.
“Neither side got what they wanted” in the new version of the provision, Comer told CQ Now.
Here’s the text of the ban as included in the Senate bill:
“(B) FELONY. — Any person convicted of a felony relating to a controlled substance under State or Federal law shall be ineligible —
(i) to participate in the program established under this section; and
(ii) to produce hemp under any regulations or guidelines issued under section 297D(a).”
“At a time when there is overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress for criminal justice reform, it’s unthinkable that this same Congress would take steps to ban returning citizens from benefitting from new job and economic opportunities that legalizing domestic hemp cultivation will open up,” Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment in an email. “A felony ban would also be imposed on states that are trying to create opportunities for formerly incarcerated people. The proposed ban would also undermine efforts to make hemp an agricultural commodity by reinforcing the idea that hemp needs to be treated differently than other crops.
“We are encouraged by reports that lawmakers made some changes to the ban during conference negotiations but it remains to be seen what the language looks like.”
Comer’s cryptic comment represents the extent of what is currently known about the nature of the reported deal. Marijuana Moment reached out to his office, as well as McConnell’s, but representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.
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.