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Major Trucking Industry Group Urges Feds To Lift Marijuana Research Roadblocks

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The American Trucking Associations (ATA) endorsed a set of marijuana-related policies on Tuesday, and that includes lifting federal restrictions on cannabis research.

A working group that studied the impact of state-level legalization efforts developed a series of recommendations aimed at improving safety on the roads and preventing impaired driving by truckers.

Among the stances that ATA’s Board of Directors approved is a position in support of increasing marijuana research, specifically when it comes to studies on impairment and drug testing technology. To encourage such investigations, the group said that it supports “lifting federal restrictions on marijuana research,” according to a copy of the recommendations that was shared with Marijuana Moment.

It’s not clear what ATA is specifically advocating for in order to lift those research barriers, but there’s general agreement that rescheduling cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act represents one essential tool to accomplish that. A representative for the organization did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on its position regarding cannabis scheduling.

“Research on marijuana should include the effects of mixed-use (alcohol and marijuana) and polydrug use (marijuana and other controlled substances)” as well as “the use of oral fluid testing in developing impairment standards,” ATA, which represents more than 37,000 members, said.

Other recommendations from the organization’s Controlled Substances and Driver Health and Wellness Working Group include developing a policy that ensures employers can drug test drivers for marijuana, pursuing regulatory and legislation changes to permit drug testing “alternative specimens” such as hair and saliva. As it stands, the U.S. Department of Transportation only permits testing of urine samples.

ATA also supports the creation of a “marijuana victim’s compensation fund” that would be funded by cannabis dispensaries, growers and manufacturers. The policy doesn’t lay out who would be eligible for compensation or exactly how the funding would be sourced from industry participants.

Another recommendation that could be viewed as particularly controversial endorses the adoption of state and federal legislation that would “require that each time marijuana is dispensed to an individual, it is reported to the state” prescription drug monitoring program.

“ATA has long been an advocate for reducing impaired driving—in all its forms—so it only makes sense that we would call upon state and federal governments to consider the impact of increased use of marijuana on our roadways,” ATA President Chris Spear said in a press release. “As an industry that operates in all 50 states and across national borders, we need all levels of government to help us keep our roads and drivers drug-free.”

“This policy allows us to, while recognizing that the modern world is changing, advocate for strong, safety-oriented policies backed by sound science and data,” he added.

The list goes on to recommend support for impaired driving laws that allow law enforcement to prosecute drivers who are under the influence, increasing federal funding for drug recognition experts and facilities to test samples for evidence of drug use, creating a frequently asked questions guide to help the industry keep up with federal and state regulations, promoting the working group’s recommendations through congressional lobbying and public affairs channels and creating education programs in partnership with allies.

Working group members “are confident implementation of the Working Group’s recommendations is the first step to help mitigate the impacts of marijuana legalization on highway safety or the trucking industry’s ability to recruit and hire qualified individuals,” the document states.

Marijuana was a topic of conversation during a session at ATA’s conference this week.

Spear also briefly discussed cannabis policy during a keynote speech at the event, offering a window into the organization’s rationale behind establishing the working group.

“Eleven states, D.C. and Canada have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana, all while our federal government turns a blind eye,” he said. “And guess who gets caught in the middle?”

“You can just see the trial lawyers, sitting on the edge of their high, wing-back leather chairs, drooling over the thought of more legal ambiguity. We can’t just sit back and hand them yet another opportunity to litigate our industry,” he said. “To change direction, we need a member-led policy platform that helps lawmakers, regulators and courts make informed decisions about the impact substance abuse is having on safety and interstate commerce.”

Read ATA’s marijuana recommendations below:

ATA CSDHW WG Recommendation… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Leading Civil Rights Group Calls On Lawmakers To Support Comprehensive Marijuana Legalization Bill

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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.

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Legal Marijuana States Have Generated Nearly $8 Billion In Tax Revenue Since Recreational Sales Launched, Report Finds

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States that have legalized marijuana for adult use have collectively generated nearly $8 billion in tax revenue from cannabis since legal sales first began in 2014, according to a new report from the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

The analysis examined the tax structure and revenue streams of all 18 states that have legalized recreational cannabis, though sales have not launched yet in seven of those states. Overall, it shows that establishing regulated marijuana markets gives states a steady and generally growing source of revenue that can support various programs and services.

Last year alone, the adult-use states collected $2.7 billion in taxes from cannabis sales. And as more markets come online and others mature, that’s expected to continue to grow.

For example, California took in more than $1 billion in tax revenue from recreational marijuana in 2020—a 62 percent increase from 2019.

Illinois has consistently been breaking monthly cannabis sales records since its program started in January 2020, and if the trend keeps up, it could create upwards of $1 billion in tax revenue this year. For the first time, marijuana taxes outpaced those derived from alcohol in the state last quarter.

The report does not factor in local tax revenue that individual municipalities may impose on cannabis sales, like in Denver where residents pay an additional 5.5 percent tax that has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for the city.

“Legalizing cannabis for adults has proven to be a wise investment,” Jared Moffat, state campaigns manager at MPP, said in a press release. “Not only are states seeing the benefits of a regulated market and far fewer cannabis-related arrests—they’re benefitting in a direct, economic way, too.”

MPP also broke down different ways that adult-use states are using those tax dollars.

In Colorado, $404.5 million in marijuana tax revenue has supported the state’s public school system. Oregon invests 40 percent of its cannabis revenue to public education, as well as 25 percent to fund mental health and treatment programs. And in California, $100 million in cannabis tax dollars have gone to community groups to help people most impacted by punitive drug laws.

“Before legalization, money from cannabis sales flowed through an underground market that endangered public safety and disrupted communities. But now, we see all across the country that revenue from the legal cannabis industry is supporting schools, health care, and a range of other beneficial public programs,” Moffat said. “It’s no wonder that residents in legalization states overwhelmingly see legalization as a success.”

Reform advocates aren’t the only ones interested in seeing how states are approaching the tax side of marijuana legalization. The U.S. Census Bureau also has plans to begin collecting and compiling data on revenue that states generate from legal cannabis.

Delaware’s Democratic Governor Reaffirms Opposition To Legalizing Marijuana, Which He Says Can Be A ‘Gateway’ Drug

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Illinois Will ‘Blow Past’ $1 Billion In Legal Marijuana Sales In 2021, Chamber Of Commerce President Says

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“Are we going to get to a billion dollars? I think we’re going to blow past the billion dollars based on the experience in smaller states,” the Chamber leader said.

By Elyse Kelly, The Center Square

Illinois’s cannabis industry is growing up fast, with adult-use recreational cannabis sales expected to hit $1 billion by year-end.

In March alone, Illinoisans spent $110 million on recreational marijuana.

Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said one factor contributing to Illinois’ explosive growth is that most neighboring states haven’t legalized marijuana yet.

“What we saw early on in states like Washington and Colorado is they did have demand come in from surrounding states, which frankly benefits our industry and benefits the taxes collected,” Maisch said.

Cannabis sales have already surpassed alcohol’s tax revenues for the state, and Maisch said he thinks $1 billion estimates are conservative.

“Are we going to get to a billion dollars? I think we’re going to blow past the billion dollars based on the experience in smaller states,” Maisch said.

There are only a couple of things that could stop Illinois’ explosive cannabis market growth, Maisch said. He said that policymakers could ruin things by pushing taxes too high as evidenced by the tobacco market.

“As taxes have gone up and up and up, they’ve pushed people all the way into the black market or they’ve created this grey market in which people are ostensibly paying some of the taxes, but they’re still getting sources of tobacco products that avoid much of the tax,” Maisch said.

The other thing that could head off continued growth is other states opening up recreational-use markets.

“So if you start to see surrounding states go to recreational, that’s definitely going to flatten the curve because we’re not going to be pulling in demand from other states,” Maisch said.

Maisch points out some concerns that accompany the explosion of Illinois’s recreational cannabis market including workforce preparedness.

“All of those individuals who are deciding to go ahead and consume this product are really taking themselves out of a lot of job opportunities that they would otherwise be qualified, so there’s a real upside and a downside,” Maisch said.

While it’s easy to track the revenues this industry brings into state coffers, he points out, it will be harder to track the lack of productivity and qualified individuals to operate heavy machinery and other jobs that require employees to pass a drug test.

This story was first published by The Center Square.

DEA Finally Ready To End Federal Marijuana Research Monopoly, Agency Notifies Grower Applicants

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Missouri Regulators Derail Medical Marijuana Business Ownership Disclosure Effort With Veto Threat

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Missouri regulators say they feel requiring medical marijuana business license ownership disclosures under a House-approved amendment could be unconstitutional, and they may urge the governor to veto the legislation. 

By Jason Hancock, Missouri Independent

An effort by lawmakers to require disclosure of ownership information for businesses granted medical marijuana licenses was derailed on Thursday, when state regulators suggested a possible gubernatorial veto.

On Tuesday, the Missouri House voted to require the Department of Health and Senior Services provide legislative oversight committees with records regarding who owns the businesses licensed to grow, transport and sell medical marijuana.

The provision was added as an amendment to another bill pertaining to nonprofit organizations.

Its sponsor, Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said DHSS’s decision to deem ownership records confidential has caused problems in providing oversight of the program. He pointed to recent analysis by The Independent and The Missourian of the 192 dispensary licenses issued by the state that found several instances where a single entity was connected to more than five dispensary licenses.

The state constitution prohibits the state from issuing more than five dispensary licenses to any entity under substantially common control, ownership or management.

On Thursday, a conference committee met to work out differences in the underlying bill between the House and Senate.

Sen. Eric Burlison, a Republican from Battlefield and the bill’s sponsor, called the medical marijuana amendment an “awesome idea. I think it’s awesome.”

However, he said opposition from the department puts the entire bill in jeopardy.

“The department came to me,” he said, “and said they felt that this was unconstitutional.”

DHSS has justified withholding information from public disclosure by pointing to a portion of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2018 that says the department shall “maintain the confidentiality of reports or other information obtained from an applicant or licensee containing any individualized data, information, or records related to the licensee or its operation… .”

Alex Tuttle, a lobbyist for DHSS, said if the bill were to pass with the medical marijuana amendment still attached, the department may recommend Gov. Mike Parson veto it.

The threat of a veto proved persuasive, as several members of the conference committee expressed apprehension about the idea of the amendment sinking the entire bill.

Merideth said the department’s conclusion is incorrect. And besides, he said, the amendment is narrowly tailored so that the information wouldn’t be made public. It would only be turned over to legislative oversight committees.

Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, chairman of the special committee on government oversight, said the amendment is essential to ensure state regulators “are following the constitution, that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

The medical marijuana program has faced intense scrutiny in the two years since it was created by voters.

A House committee spent months looking into widespread reports of irregularities in how license applications were scored and allegations of conflicts of interest within DHSS and a private company hired to score applications.

In November 2019, DHSS received a grand jury subpoena, which was issued by the United States District Court for the Western District. It demanded the agency turn over all records pertaining to four medical marijuana license applications.

The copy of the subpoena that was made public redacted the identity of the four applicants at the request of the FBI. Lyndall Fraker, director of medical marijuana regulation, later said during a deposition that the subpoena wasn’t directed at the department but rather was connected to an FBI investigation center in Independence.

More recently, Parson faced criticism for a fundraiser with medical marijuana business owners for his political action committee, Uniting Missouri.

The group reported raising $45,000 in large donations from the fundraiser. More than half of that money came from a PAC connected to Steve Tilley, a lobbyist with numerous medical marijuana clients who has been under FBI scrutiny for more than a year.

This story was first published by Missouri Independent.

GOP Senator Who Trashed Marijuana Banking Amendment Years Ago Is Now Cosponsoring Reform Bill

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