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Local Officials From Across US Call For Federal Marijuana Rescheduling

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A major group representing over 19,000 cities, towns and villages across the United States is calling on the federal government to take action on marijuana reform and protect states where cannabis is legal.

The National League of Cities (NLC), an organization founded in 1924 to empower local governments, passed two far-reaching resolutions related to cannabis at its conference over the weekend, a representative confirmed to Marijuana Moment in an email.

The first resolution focuses on marijuana businesses’ access to financial services and implores the Trump administration and Congress to “resolve the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws” and “provide guidance to financial institutions that results in the cannabis market having access to the federally regulated banking system.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“Cannabis’ status as a Schedule I illicit substance on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and the CSA’s coupling with the Bank Secrecy Act have created a condition under which the cannabis industry has severely limited access to the federally-regulated banking industry, and this condition has led to a reliance on ‘cash only’ models that involve the transportation of large sums of paper money through cities, increase the risks of theft crimes and tax evasion, and deny large groups of business owners the capital needed to enter the market.”

The second, much lengthier, resolution calls for the removal of cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 drugs under the Controlled Substances Act and asks Congress to “pass legislation that would ensure states and local governments have the ability to establish laws and regulations on the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of medical and adult-use cannabis within the state.”

Rescheduling cannabis would “allow greater federal, state and local regulation of the industry to ensure the cannabis people are buying is not covered with mold, fungus, pesticides, or other harmful substances,” the resolution argues.

It would also “allow the federal, state and local governments to set rules and regulations that would restrict driving under the influence, set age restrictions on buyers and regulate the entire supply chain of cannabis, including growers, distributors, retailers, and testing laboratories.”

That second resolution also calls for the establishment of “federal regulations for the manufacturing, distribution and sale of legal medical and adult-use cannabis” by the Food and Drug Administration, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

In addition to considering policy resolutions like the marijuana ones, local officials attending the NLC City Summit in Los Angeles were able to attend two separate panels, including one that offered advice on how to navigate the legal cannabis market and another providing information for elected officials on how to get ahead of the curve when it comes to implementing and regulating marijuana programs in their jurisdictions.

Separately, attendees were invited on a behind-the-scenes tour of marijuana businesses to learn how cities of various sizes “handled implementing cannabis regulations from manufacturing to retail sale.

A continuing cannabis evolution for NLC.

NLC has adopted a number of less far-reaching cannabis resolutions over the past five years.

Last year, for example the group approved a measure that asked the federal government to resolve conflicting state and federal marijuana laws, but made no specific federal policy change recommendation, unlike this year’s rescheduling request.

“This is the first time we’ve explicitly called for the federal rescheduling of marijuana,” Tom Martin, NLC’s director of communications, said in an email. “For the past five years or so, we’ve been asking the federal government to resolve the conflict between state and federal laws in regards to the banking issue.”

The new resolution signals a growing consensus on the need for significant reform at the federal level.

NLC will be joining several other representatives coalitions that have made similar calls for action and clarification on marijuana policy. That list includes the National Association of Counties, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, all if which passed resolutions endorsing cannabis law reform this year.

A lot of ground was covered in new NLC resolutions. In its calls for federal marijuana reform, for example, the organization noted the economic benefits of legalization—in terms of job opportunities and tax revenue.

“The cannabis industry in the United States could exceed $24 billion in revenue by 2025 and for every $1 spent in the marijuana industry, between $2.13 and $2.40 in economic activity is generated,” one resolution states.

“The millions of dollars in tax revenues that have been collected in states that have legalized medical and adult-use cannabis provide funding to local police, drug treatment and mental health centers, housing programs, and school program.”

Marijuana Moment supporters on Patreon can read the full text of the new NLC marijuana positions below:

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Mayors From Across U.S. Call On Feds To Deschedule 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.

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

Politics

New York And Connecticut Governors Talk Marijuana Legalization On Fishing Trip

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The governors of New York and Connecticut went fishing and talked about marijuana legalization on Tuesday.

The conversation comes after lawmakers in both states were unable to pass legalization legislation before their respective sessions’ ends this year, despite having the support of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D).

“We talked about policy issues like the marijuana issue, which is obviously also relevant to contiguous states,” Cuomo said at a press conference following the fishing trip. “What Connecticut does on marijuana is relevant to New York, what New York does is relevant to Connecticut so we talked about that and a lot of issues. So we had fun.”

Watch Cuomo’s marijuana comments at about 5:00 into the video below:

Cuomo had described legalization as a top legislative priority for 2019 and included it in his state budget proposal. But after months of negotiations with lawmakers, the plan fell through, due in part to disagreements about how to allocate tax revenue and whether to allow individual jurisdictions to opt out of allowing cannabis businesses.

The governor did sign legislation in July that expands the state’s marijuana decriminalization policy and provides a pathway for expungements of past marijuana convictions.

Over in Connecticut, Lamont campaigned on legalization during his election bid last year and described it as one of his administration’s “priorities” after he took office. But as with neighboring New York, the legislature failed to advance a legalization bill beside multiple successful committee votes and hearings throughout the year.

The specifics of what the governors talked about during their fishing expedition on Lake Ontario aren’t clear, but both are presumably gearing up for another round of legislative efforts marijuana over the coming year and could take lessons from each other as reform talks continue.

Another East Coast state, New Jersey, has also struggled to move legalization legislation forward, with lawmakers saying that the issue should be taken up by voters in 2020 rather than pushed through the legislature, though there has been discussion lately about another try at moving a bill before year’s end. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) did sign a decriminalization and expungements bill in May, however.

Federal Data Shows Youth Marijuana Use Isn’t Increasing Under Legalization

Photo courtesy of CBS 6.

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GOP Congressman Will Meet Attorney General To Discuss Expanding Marijuana Research

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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said on Monday that he will soon be speaking with the U.S. attorney general about expanding marijuana research.

The congressman, a close ally of President Trump, is a vocal proponent of medical cannabis and has argued that the federal drug scheduling system is hampering research into the plant’s therapeutic potential.

“I will be meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr in the coming weeks to discuss the Department of Justice’s approach to unlocking more research grants so that we can have American innovation applied to our health care in a way that can get people off of some of these devastating opioids and painkillers, and on to a more natural product,” he said following a radio town hall event.

Even under the framework of prohibition, the Justice Department is able to promote research by, for example, approving additional marijuana manufacturers—something the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said it would do three years ago.

Barr has voiced support for expanding the number of federally authorized cannabis manufacturers.

“I think we’re going to move forward on it,” the attorney general said in April. “I think it’s very important to get those additional suppliers.”

Earlier this year, Gaetz joined congressional colleagues in leading a letter addressed to Barr and the head of DEA expressing frustration that the Justice Department has declined to take action despite its pledges. The lawmakers implored DEA to “do whatever you can to speed up and improve the research application process.

Gaetz also introduced legislation that would force DEA to approve additional facilities to produce research-grade cannabis. A version filed last year cleared the Judiciary Committee in a voice vote, and he reintroduced the bill in January but it has not yet been acted upon.

Listen to Gaetz’s new cannabis comments, about 1:20 into the audio below:

DEA is facing two lawsuits regarding its approach to marijuana, including one that concerns the lack of diversity of research-grade cannabis since only one manufacture is currently authorized. The agency was ordered to respond to the suit by August 28.

Separately, a group of patients and advocates sued DEA over marijuana’s Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act, with a federal court directing the agency to “promptly” consider reclassifying cannabis.

Gaetz also spoke about the need to more broadly reform cannabis laws during the Monday remarks.

“The federal government listing marijuana as a Schedule I drug impairs financial transactions, it impairs research and it stops us from being able to unlock cures for some of America’s most vulnerable people,” the congressman said, adding that he’s a cosponsor of legislation that would deschedule marijuana that was introduced by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY).

Gaetz, who is also a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he is requesting that the panel hold a hearing on cannabis legislation. That’d mark the second such meeting after a Judiciary subcommittee convened last month to discuss paths to ending federal prohibition.

The congressman’s staff wasn’t able to provide Marijuana Moment with additional details regarding the meeting with Barr.

Congressman Says Marijuana Could Be Legal Sooner If Trump Stops Tweeting

Photo courtesy of Meredith Geddings.

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Elizabeth Warren’s Criminal Justice Plan Involves Legalizing Marijuana And Safe Injection Sites

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Legalizing marijuana, granting clemency to people convicted of drug offenses and investing in harm reduction programs such as safe injection sites are part of a criminal justice reform plan that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) released on Tuesday.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate stressed that the war on drugs has been carried out in a racially discriminatory manner, writing that it’s unfair that “a kid with an ounce of pot can get thrown in jail, while a bank executive who launders money for a drug cartel can get a bonus. It’s long past time for us to reform our system.”

“This failure [of the drug war] has been particularly harmful for communities of color, and we need a new approach,” she said. “It starts with legalizing marijuana and erasing past convictions, and then eliminating the remaining disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing.”

What’s more, the drug war “has criminalized addiction, ripped apart families—and largely failed to curb drug use” when a more effective system would treat addiction as a public health issue.

That includes diverting people who’ve been convicted of non-violent drug offenses to treatment programs and providing evidence-based resources for people suffering from addiction. For example, Warren’s plan calls for safe injection sites where people can use illicit drugs under the supervision of medical professionals who can help prevent fatal overdoses and get people into treatment. She also said needle exchange programs and expanding access to buprenorphine would reduce the opioid crisis.

“Instead of locking up people for nonviolent marijuana crimes, I’ve proposed putting pharmaceutical executives on the hook to report suspicious orders for controlled substances that damage the lives of millions.”

She also called for the abolition of certain mandatory minimum sentences and said that “people who struggle with addiction should not be incarcerated because of their disease.”

“Mass incarceration has not reduced addiction rates or overdose deaths, because substance abuse disorder is a public health problem — and it’s long past time to treat it that way,” the plan says. “We know that diversion programs are both more humane and a better investment than incarceration — for every dollar we invest in treatment programs, we can save $12 in future crime and health care costs.”

“And rather than incarcerating individuals with substance abuse disorders, we should expand options that divert them into programs that provide real treatment.”

Like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Warren’s criminal justice reform proposal also mentions executive actions she could unilaterally take.

Specifically, she wrote that the Justice Department should not hold authority to make clemency recommendations and it should instead be left up to an independent clemency board so that those eligible for a pardons and commutations are more quickly identified.

“I’ll direct the board to identify broad classes of potentially-deserving individuals for review, including those who would have benefited from retroactivity under the First Step Act, individuals who are jailed under outdated or discriminatory drug laws, or those serving mandatory minimums that should be abolished,” she said.

The plan’s unveiling comes two days after Sanders released his criminal justice reform proposal, which also called for marijuana legalization and the implementation of harm reduction policies such as safe consumption facilities.

Buttigieg’s plan stands out from his fellow Democratic candidates in at least one regard: the mayor said drug possession should broadly be decriminalized.

Warren also released a separate plan for Indian tribes last week that involves protecting tribal cannabis programs from federal intervention.

Bernie Sanders Calls For Legalization Of Marijuana And Safe Injection Sites

Photo courtesy of Edward Kimmel.

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