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Marijuana In The Governor’s Mansion: Record Number Of Candidates Say Legalize It

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As polls continue to show that a growing majority of voters support legalizing marijuana, more and more politicians are beginning to embrace the issue, and this year’s midterm elections provide the latest datapoint in the ongoing evolution of cannabis into a mainstream political issue.

At least 21 major party gubernatorial nominees on U.S. ballots this year support legalizing cannabis, a new Marijuana Moment analysis finds. That’s far more than have embraced marijuana law reform than in any previous election cycle.

Some of the candidates listed below support legalization more forcefully than others. While some have made cannabis reform a centerpiece of their campaigns, others seemed to embrace ending prohibition only reluctantly or when pressed on the issue.

Beyond those would-be governors who are calling for a complete end to marijuana prohibition, a large number of additional contenders support reforms like decriminalization or medical marijuana, and others say they are open to legalization at some point.

While the two sitting governors listed below who have actually signed marijuana legalization bills into law are Republicans, this review found that Democratic contenders are much more likely to support cannabis reform than are GOP candidates, perhaps a reflection of the fact that while a bare majority of Republican voters now support ending prohibition, registered Democrats have been more strongly in favor for a longer period of time, according to polls.

This analysis focuses on major party candidates who have made their positions on marijuana clear over the course of their primary and general election campaigns, and doesn’t include a comprehensive look at the records of every single contender in each of the 39 gubernatorial races in states and U.S. territories this year.

Gubernatorial Candidates Who Support Legalizing Marijuana

California – Gavin Newsom (D)

As the state’s lieutenant governor, Newsom became one of the first prominent mainstream Democrats to endorse legalization when he told the New York Times in 2012 that “these laws just don’t make sense anymore” and “it’s time for politicians to come out of the closet on this.”

He later empaneled a blue ribbon commission on cannabis whose report informed the drafting of the state’s successful 2016 legalization ballot measure, for which Newsom actively campaigned.

He has since taken a forceful stance in response to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s rescission of Obama-era protections for state marijuana laws, signaling that he would vigorously fight any federal move to interfere with California’s legalization policies.


Colorado – Jared Polis (D)

As a congressman since 2009, Polis has consistently been one of the most active cannabis reform supporters on Capitol Hill, sponsoring or cosponsoring dozens of marijuana-related bills and amendments concerning issues like banking access, fair taxation, hemp and military veterans’ access to medical cannabis.

While he did not publicly campaign for the state’s marijuana legalization measure prior to its passage in 2012, he has since embraced it wholeheartedly.

During the course of his gubernatorial campaign, he has toured several marijuana and hemp businesses.


Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands – Ralph Torres (R)

Torres, the incumbent governor, signed a marijuana legalization bill into law in September.

“Today, our people made history,” he said at the time. “We took a stand to legalize marijuana in the CNMI for recreational, medical, and commercial use.”


Connecticut – Ned Lamont (D)

A businessman and previous U.S. Senate candidate, Lamont says legalizing marijuana is “an idea whose time has come.”

He also said that cannabis is “not a gateway drug compared to opioids” and that he’d use tax revenue from legal sales to fund drug treatment programs.


Florida – Andrew Gillum (D)

The Tallahassee mayor said during his successful primary campaign that he was “proud to be the first candidate in this race to support legalizing marijuana.”

Gillum sent a blast to his email list proposing to fund teacher salary raises with legal marijuana tax revenue.

“We could raise anywhere from $900 million to $1 billion in new annual revenue — and that doesn’t include new economic activity from people no longer incarcerated for simple possession crimes, or low-level marijuana offenses,” he wrote in a separate blog post.

One of his campaign ads flashed the words “legalize marijuana” on screen along with other policy proposals.


Georgia – Stacey Abrams (D)

The former minority leader of the state House of Representatives confirmed in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session that she’s a “yes” on legalizing marijuana, adding that “this includes building a statewide network of mental health and substance abuse treatment centers.”

Abrams also backs decriminalizing marijuana possession.

And she wants to expand the state’s limited medical cannabis program.


Idaho – Paulette Jordan (D)

While Jordan, a former state legislator and tribal council member, has focused more on decriminalization and medical cannabis during her campaign, she does support full marijuana legalization.

During a Democratic primary debate, she said there’s “nothing wrong” with legalization

Addressing legalization in a Facebook Live interview with the Idaho Statesman (roughly 10 minutes into the video below), she said, “the numbers that have been very beneficial to other states when it comes down to resources for education.”


Illinois – J.B. Pritzker (D)

A billionaire venture capitalist, Pritzker made supporting marijuana legalization a centerpiece of his gubernatorial primary campaign and has since continued to focus on the issue amidst his general election battle with incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner (R).

“We can begin by immediately removing one area of racial injustice in our criminal justice system,” he said during his primary night victory speech. “Let’s legalize, tax and regulate marijuana.”

Earlier this year he held a press conference outside of a medical cannabis dispensary to push back on anti-marijuana signals coming from the Trump administration.

“I also support legalizing and taxing recreational use of marijuana, which is estimated to generate as much as $700 million a year for the state,” he wrote in a candidate questionnaire. “No more studies are needed to show it’s time for Illinois to safely move forward and legalize marijuana. As governor, I will modernize drug laws and move Illinois towards a criminal justice system that gives all Illinoisans a chance to reach their full potential.”

Pritzker has also highlighted racial disparities in cannabis enforcement.

“Criminalizing marijuana hasn’t made our communities safer, but has disproportionately impacted black and brown communities,” he said. “The criminalization of cannabis never has been and never will be enforced fairly, and it’s time to bring that to an end. To right past wrongs, we also have to commute sentences of people in prison who are there for marijuana offenses.”


Maine – Janet Mills (D)

Currently the state attorney general, Mills said that “properly implemented, marijuana legalization has the potential to create thousands of jobs, grow the Maine economy, and end an outdated war on drugs.”

In light of the fact that Maine voters already approved legal cannabis in 2016, she has joined officials from other states in “calling on Congress to allow banks and credit unions to serve state-licensed marijuana businesses without penalty, ending the cash-based shadow economy that still haunts states who have legalized marijuana,” she said.


Maryland – Ben Jealous (D)

The former NAACP president and CEO says comedian Dave Chappelle, a childhood friend, first convinced him to support ending marijuana prohibition.

If elected, Jealous plans to use legal cannabis tax revenue to fund universal pre-kindergarten.

“It’s a great win-win,” he said in an interview with Marijuana Moment. “And it’s rare in politics, but it’s also urgently needed. We know that we have to end mass incarceration—and yet go further. We have to really get back to opening up the gates of opportunity for all of our children. And by legalizing cannabis, we get to make progress on both fronts.”


Massachusetts – Jay Gonzalez (D)

The former state secretary of administration and finance says that the “people have spoken and we have an obligation as a state to implement the [legal marijuana] law as passed by the voters,” adding that it should be done “quickly” but in a way that keeps “public safety at the forefront.”

Calling federal interference with state marijuana policies “a problem,” he said that “our governor should be standing up vociferously and advocating against” any intervention with the commonwealth’s cannabis laws.

He also supports requiring insurance programs to cover medical cannabis.


Michigan – Gretchen Whitmer (D)

The former state lawmaker says she will vote “yes” on the marijuana legalization measure on Michigan’s November ballot.

Whitmer says that she also supported the state’s medical cannabis ballot measure in 2008 and that it can be used an an “exit drug” away from opioids.


Minnesota – Tim Walz (D)

The sitting congressman wants to “replace the current failed policy with one that creates tax revenue, grows jobs, builds opportunities for Minnesotans, protects Minnesota kids, and trusts adults to make personal decisions based on their personal freedoms.”

He even tweeted his support for legalization on April 20, the unofficial cannabis holiday.

A Walz proposal to encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the benefits of medical cannabis for  military veterans became the first-ever standalone marijuana bill to be approved by a congressional committee earlier this year.

He has also pushed back against potential federal intervention in state marijuana laws.


Nevada – Steve Sisolak (D)

The Clark County commissioner has pledged to continue implementing the state’s voter-approved legal marijuana law, with a special emphasis on steering tax revenues toward education.

“It’s done a lot for our economy, both in terms of jobs and in tax revenue,” he said in a podcast appearance.

“The reality is, this is the future,” he said in another interview. “Let’s not be ashamed of it.”

Sisolak has also spoken at a number of cannabis events and even appeared at the grand opening of a marijuana dispensary.


New Hampshire – Molly Kelly (D)

“It’s also time for New Hampshire to join other New England states in legalizing, regulating and generating revenue from marijuana,” the former state senator says on her campaign website.

During a debate with incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who signed marijuana decriminalization into law but opposes broader legalization, Kelly argued that cannabis is not a gateway drug.

“I do support legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana,” she said. “It is not a gateway to other drugs. In fact, I believe that legalizing and regulating marijuana will bring it out of the dark and away from drug dealers.”


New Mexico – Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)

The current congresswoman has spoken in support of legalization during debates and elsewhere on the campaign trial, arguing that cannabis is “not a gateway drug.”

Arguing during one debate that legalization would bring “hundreds of millions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy,” Lujan Grisham said she would be “inclined to sign” a bill as long as it effectively regulates edibles, fosters workplace safety, limits underage consumption and protects the current medical cannabis program.

“The states that have gone to recreational marijuana have been very clear that it’s an economic boost for their states,” she said.

She has also focused on medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids.

In Congress, Lujan Grisham voted several times for amendments to shield state medical marijuana programs from federal interference, as well as a broader proposal to protect recreational laws.

And she proudly touted an endorsement from the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance.


New York – Andrew Cuomo (D)

The incumbent governor, who was calling marijuana a “gateway drug” as recently as last year, changed his mind about legalization in a big way over the course of 2018.

Facing a vigorous primary election challenge from the pro-legalization actor Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo revised his approach—whether as a result of political necessity or genuine personal evolution on the topic.

Early in the year, noting that neighboring states are moving to end prohibition, the governor directed the New York Health Department to undergo a study of legalization, the result of which was a report that concluded the “positive effects” of ending cannabis prohibition “outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

More recently, Cuomo’s administration held a series of listening sessions on marijuana throughout the state to receive feedback from the public. And more consequentially, the governor appointed a working group to draft cannabis legalization legislation for lawmakers to consider in 2019

It’s true that Cuomo hasn’t yet explicitly stated, “I support legalizing marijuana,” but his evolution on the issue is clear, and his moves as governor this year—in particular his directive for a panel to actually write a legalization bill to be voted in the next legislative session—have carved a path for the state to be among the next to end prohibition.


Ohio – Richard Cordray (D)

While the former state attorney general and head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been reluctant to embrace marijuana reform for most of the campaign, he did finally say he’d personally vote for a legalization measure when pressed during a debate.

“When it goes to the ballot, I will cast my vote yes to legalize it,” he said.

Cordray previously had spoken about improving implementation of the state’s medical cannabis law and said that he would implement the will of voters if they approved legalization on the ballot. But he also distanced himself from a failed 2015 measure that was opposed even by many legalization advocates who were concerned with its provisions granting control of cultivation to the same investors who paid to put it on the ballot.

“As Governor, Rich Cordray will fix the botched implementation of Ohio’s medical marijuana program to ensure that patients have access to the medicine they need in a safe and affordable manner,” a campaign spokesperson told Marijuana Moment in an interview earlier this year. “He also thinks that the last marijuana ballot referendum failed partly because it was a flawed proposal. He supports voters’ right to propose a new referendum and will follow the will of the voters if it comes to a vote.”

Cordray has also talked about medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids.


Oregon – Kate Brown (D)

The incumbent governor has pushed back against federal threats to interfere with the legalization law that her state’s voters approved in 2014, saying that it has created a “thriving economy.”

“We are implementing the will of the voters here in a way that is successful for the economy,” she said in a press conference earlier this year. “The priority of the policy is to keep our children safe and to make sure that we keep marijuana off the black markets. It’s been successful here. We want to continue that path.”

“This is a job creator for Oregon,” she added.


Vermont – Christine Hallquist (D)

The former CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative wants to expand the state’s existing noncommercial legalization of marijuana to allow for regulated and taxed sales.

“We don’t know where our marijuana is coming from, what it’s been grown with, or what it’s been sprayed with,” she said during a debate with incumbent Gov. Phil Scott (R), who signed the limited legalization bill into law but is wary of adding commercial cannabis sales. “Worse yet, you could see situations like New York, where it’s cut with other things of addictive and dangerous properties.”

In an interview with Heady Vermont, Hallquist pledged to “work with the legislature to ensure that a tax and regulate system was passed into law in my first term.”

Hallquist said she wants to use legal cannabis tax revenue to pay for water quality programs.


Vermont – Phil Scott (R)

The incumbent governor isn’t exactly a marijuana policy reform enthusiast, but he did sign a bill into law earlier this year that allows Vermonters to legally grow, possess and use small amounts of cannabis.

For now, Scott opposes going further by adding legal sales, and seemed to only reluctantly sign the noncommercial legalization bill after previously vetoing an earlier version.

Still, he gets pro-legalization credit for being the first governor in the nation’s history to put his name on a bill to end cannabis prohibition; all other states that have legalized so far have done so via ballot measures that didn’t require gubernatorial action.


Other Candidates Who Don’t Support Full Legalization Still Back Some Cannabis Reforms

A number of other major-party nominees who aren’t ready to endorse legalization have said that they have an open mind on the issue or are already in support of simple marijuana decriminalization or allowing medical cannabis.

In Alabama, Democrat Walt Maddox is in favor of medical cannabis and wants to study the effects of marijuana legalization in other states. “There’s going to be a lot of data over the next years that’s going to be collected so that if and we can potentially move forward with this, we do so in a thoughtful, strategic way,” he said.

Maddox also backs decriminalizing marijuana.

Georgia Republican candidate Brian Kemp opposes legalization but is “open and supportive” of expanding the state’s limited medical cannabis program.

In Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly supports medical cannabis.

Nebraska Democratic candidate Bob Krist said that legalizing medical cannabis is “is right on top of my list.”

Drew Edmondson, the Democratic candidate in Oklahoma, says he voted for the state’s successful medical cannabis ballot measure but that he doesn’t believe the state is ready for full legalization.

In Pennsylvania, incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf (D) says the state isn’t quite ready to legalize, but he signed medical cannabis into law and supports decriminalizing marijuana possession.

In Rhode Island, incumbent Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and Republican challenger Allan Fung say they are both open to legalization, even if they don’t currently endorse it. Fung said he would put the question on the ballot for voters to decide.

South Carolina Democratic contender James Smith supports legalizing medical cannabis and has sponsored legislation to do so as a state representative.

Karl Dean, the Democratic candidate in Tennessee, said he would sign medical marijuana into law.

In Texas, incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott (R) expressed support for some form of marijuana decriminalization during a recent debate with Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez, who backs medical cannabis expansion as well as putting a referendum on full marijuana legalization before voters.

Wisconsin Democratic nominee Tony Evers says he’s “not opposed to” legalization. “I’d support it,” he said, “but I do believe there has to be a more thoughtful, rigorous conversation around it as a state. So I would love to have a statewide referendum on this.”

During a debate with incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R), who opposes cannabis reform, Evers noted the fact that nearly half the state’s residents will vote on nonbinding marijuana advisory questions this year and said he is “willing to take a look at that, the results of those referenda and possibly support legalization.” In the meantime, he supports decriminalization and his website says he “would support and sign medical marijuana legalization legislation.”

Wyoming Democratic candidate Mary Throne voted for marijuana decriminalization as a state lawmaker and also supports medical cannabis.


What Does It Mean? Marijuana Is Mainstream

It is a near certainty that America will have more pro-legalization governors when new state legislative sessions convene next year. That means that legislators will be more likely to invest time into drafting, hearing and voting on marijuana bills to send to governors’ desks.

While a growing number of Republican voters—and as a consequence, GOP politicians—are beginning to embrace cannabis reform, it is now clear that supporting full marijuana legalization is a mainstream consensus position in the Democratic Party. And that will have implications as the 2020 presidential race heats up in earnest immediately following the midterms.

In the meantime, several states will consider far-reaching cannabis ballot measures on Election Day, the political effects of which are likely to spill over into neighboring states and embolden once-skittish lawmakers to tackle marijuana legislation.

This piece was first published by Forbes.

Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.

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.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Culture

Lots Of Politicians And Companies Are Tweeting About Marijuana On 4/20

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It’s 4/20 again, and that means another slew of tweets from politicians and mainstream brands looking to use the marijuana holiday as a hook to get their message out.

Here’s a roundup of some of the best, funniest, most important or otherwise notable cannabis-related tweets of the day…

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a presidential candidate:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a presidential candidate:

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a presidential candidate:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a presidential candidate:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a presidential candidate:

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a presidential candidate:

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), a presidential candidate:

Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK), a presidential candidate:

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D), a presidential candidate:

Former San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julián Castro (D), a presidential candidate:

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang:

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY):

House Committee on Small Business:

Congressional Black Caucus:

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV):

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR):

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN):

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA):

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA):

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL):

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN):

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM):

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D):

Los Angeles, California City Council President Herb Wesson (D):

Cook County, Illinois State’s Attorney Kim Foxx (D):

The American Civil Liberties Union:

Ben & Jerry’s:

Denny’s:

Hidden Valley Ranch:

Carl’s Jr.:

Boston Market:

George Washington’s Mount Vernon:

Bill Maher:

Miley Cyrus:

311:

The Onion:

Ben & Jerry’s Stands Out From Companies Just Trying To Make Money From 4/20

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State-Legal Marijuana Use Makes Immigrants Morally Unfit for Citizenship, Trump Administration Warns

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A federal immigration agency clarified on Friday that using marijuana or engaging in cannabis-related “activities” such as working for a dispensary—even in states where it’s legal—is an immoral offense that makes immigrants ineligible for citizenship.

When applying for naturalization, the process of gaining citizenship, individuals must have established “good moral character” in the five years preceding the application. Good moral character is a vague requirement that has been criticized by scholars and civil rights advocates, as assessing morality is arguably subjective.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), state-legal marijuana consumption renders individuals morally unfit for citizenship. The new policy clarification reflects a sentiment once expressed by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

The USCIS memo says that “violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, established by a conviction or admission, is generally a bar to establishing [good moral character] for naturalization even where the conduct would not be a violation of state law.”

Further, an applicant “who is involved in certain marijuana related activities may lack GMC if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity is not unlawful under applicable state or foreign laws,” the document says. The policy also applies to individuals who worked in the state-legal cannabis industry.

There have already been reports of people being denied citizenship due to their proximity to state-legal marijuana businesses. Earlier this month, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock hosted a group of immigrants who said their work in the state’s cannabis industry was being used as justification by federal officials to deny them citizenship.

“In Colorado, cannabis has been legal for 5 years. For work in a legal industry to be used against an individual trying to gain citizenship is a prime example of why we need to harmonize our state and federal laws to ensure that states like Colorado that have moved to legalize cannabis can act in our own authority to expand and regulate our cannabis industry,” Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), told Marijuana Moment in reaction to the Trump administration memo.

Legalization activists also criticized the move.

“The cruel treatment of immigrants for offenses related to something as minor as marijuana is illustrative of the way this administration has used the war on drugs to pursue communities of color,” Michael Collins, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment. “It also shows that pursuing a state by state approach to federal policy doesn’t work for these communities. Federal descheduling is essential.”

While the federal policy deeming marijuana use a violation of “good moral character” standards for immigration purposes was already on the books, it seems the spread of state-level cannabis legalization has prompted the agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, to issue the clarification.

“A number of states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) have enacted laws permitting ‘medical’ or ‘recreational’ use of marijuana. Marijuana, however, remains classified as a ‘Schedule I’ controlled substance under the federal CSA,” the updated USCIS policy manual now reads. “Schedule I substances have no accepted medical use pursuant to the CSA. Classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law means that certain conduct involving marijuana, which is in violation of the CSA, continues to constitute a conditional bar to GMC for naturalization eligibility, even where such activity is not a criminal offense under state law.”

“Such an offense under federal law may include, but is not limited to, possession, manufacture or production, or distribution or dispensing of marijuana. For example, possession of marijuana for recreational or medical purposes or employment in the marijuana industry may constitute conduct that violates federal controlled substance laws. Depending on the specific facts of the case, these activities, whether established by a conviction or an admission by the applicant, may preclude a finding of GMC for the applicant during the statutory period. An admission must meet the long held requirements for a valid ‘admission’ of an offense. Note that even if an applicant does not have a conviction or make a valid admission to a marijuana-related offense, he or she may be unable to meet the burden of proof to show that he or she has not committed such an offense.”

The underlying policy does provide an exception for “a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.”

An additional update to the policy manual stipulates that the exception “is also applicable to paraphernalia offenses involving controlled substances as long as the paraphernalia offense is ‘related to’ simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.”

That detail wasn’t included in an earlier 2014 version of the USCIS policy manual.

The policy alert is similar to an update the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued in 2017 when the federal gun purchase application form was revised to include a warning that the “use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside” and therefore disqualifies applicants.

But the USCIS clarification also reflects a recent ratcheting up of anti-immigration policy moves under the Trump administration.

Jason Ortiz, vice president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, told Marijuana Moment that the new memo reflects a “callous and irrational decision” by the administration and “is a reminder that without comprehensive cannabis reform our communities of color will continue to be prosecuted and subject to deportation for activity that is legal for affluent communities around the country.”

“Proposals such as the STATES act which seek to simply ease the risk on business do not address these deeper issues related to federal prohibition,” he said. “Considering the devastating effects our war on drugs had on Latin America, immigration reform must be a necessary component of any comprehensive cannabis legalization policy.”

People Could Use Marijuana In Public Housing Under New Congressional Bill

This story has been updated to include comment from Neguse.

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.
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USDA Clarifies That Farmers Can Import Hemp Seeds From Other Countries

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) clarified on Friday that hemp seeds can be imported into the U.S., and that the Justice Department no longer has a role in that process.

While USDA is still developing regulations for hemp cultivation under the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized the crop and its derivatives, farmers can still obtain seeds in the meantime.

The agriculture legislation “removed hemp and hemp seeds from DEA authority for products containing THC levels not greater than 0.3 percent” and “DEA no longer has authority to require hemp seed permits for import purposes.”

“U.S. producers and hemp seed exporters have requested assistance from USDA to provide an avenue for hemp seed exports to the United States,” the department wrote in a bulletin. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates the importation of all seeds for planting to ensure safe agricultural trade. Under this authority, USDA is providing an alternative way for the safe importation of hemp seeds into the United States.”

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) is among those who’ve requested assistance related to hemp importations. Earlier this month, he told Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that the DEA was blocking Montana farmers from importing hemp seeds.

Perdue said during the hearing that the matter was “news to me” and explained that farmers can import and cultivate hemp under the research-focused provisions in the prior 2014 version of the legislation while the USDA worked to enact new regulations.

In a letter sent to the acting administrator of Customs and Border Protect (CBP) on Tuesday, Tester and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) raised the concern again, imploring CBP to update its policy to reflect that hemp seeds can be lawfully imported. The letter was obtained by the industry advocacy group Vote Hemp.

The USDA bulletin specified how the process works for imports from Canada and other countries.

Importation of Hemp Seed from Canada

“Hemp seeds can be imported into the United States from Canada if accompanied by either: 1) a phytosanitary certification from Canada’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm that no plant pests are detected; or 2) a Federal Seed Analysis Certificate (SAC, PPQ Form 925) for hemp seeds grown in Canada.”

Importation of Hemp Seed from Countries other than Canada

“Hemp seeds may be imported into the United States from countries other than Canada if accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate from the exporting country’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm that no plant pests are detected.

Hemp seed shipments may be inspected upon arrival at the first port of entry by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to ensure USDA regulations are met, including certification and freedom from plant pests.”

The rulemaking process for hemp may take some time, as Perdue said the department would not expedite the regulations and will be “taking this slow.” Once the USDA has a regulatory framework in place, it will begin approving state plans, and those states will be the primary regulators.

For the time being, however, there’s nothing stopping farmers from collecting certified hemp seeds. Not even the DEA.

Trump Agriculture Secretary Accepts Invitation To Tour Hemp Farms

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.
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