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Massachusetts Wants People Harmed By The Drug War To Sell Legal Marijuana. How’s It Going So Far?

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Massachusetts is leading a groundbreaking effort to ensure that people from communities that have historically been disproportionately targeted for enforcement under the “war on drugs” are able to participate in the newly legal marijuana industry.

The Bay State’s so-called “social equity program” is available to cannabis business license applicants who meet certain criteria for having been harmed by drug enforcement, and is meant to ease entry into a competitive industry that in other states has mostly been available to relatively privileged people with access to large amounts of capital.

The effort is the brainchild of Shaleen Title, a longtime drug policy reform activist who last year found herself named by the governor and other statewide elected officials as one of just five state regulatory commissioners responsible for implementing the cannabis legalization measure that Massachusetts voters approved in 2016.

Title’s appointment to the commission marked the first time an advocate who campaigned to enact legalization was made responsible for implementing it.

Since being formed less than a year ago, the Cannabis Control Commission on which she serves has begun issuing recreational marijuana cultivation and dispensary licenses, and is soon preparing to assume oversight of the state’s existing medical cannabis industry.

The voter-approved ballot measure that ended cannabis prohibition in the state contained unique language mandating that officials take steps to “promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.”

Title, who helped to craft that language, is now responsible for making good on it.

Participation in the social equity program is available to people who have a past drug conviction or are married to or the child of a person with a drug conviction. It is also open to residents of “areas of disproportionate impact” under the drug war and whose income is sufficiently low. Those who qualify can receive training and technical assistance in employee recruitment and management, accounting, tax compliance, raising capital and other areas.

Regulators also launched a separate economic empowerment program that gave priority application review status to businesses that met criteria such as majority ownership of people of color or a majority of whose employees have drug convictions.

At a recent meeting of the commission, Title laid into municipalities that, in her view, are requiring marijuana business license seekers to pay excessive fees, a situation which she says creates “obstacles to the commission’s mission statement, which is to safely, equitably and productively implement the law.”

“And we already know that when barriers to entry are too high at the local level we end up with a market that is slow to start up and has a striking lack of diversity,” she said.

This week, Title rejected an invitation to speak at the upcoming Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo, an event she helped to boycott last year after it invited Trump ally Roger Stone as a keynote speaker.

In this interview, which has been lightly edited for clarity and length, Title talks about why she turned down the chance to give conference organizers a piece of her mind on stage and shares her broader thoughts about how the effort to implement legalization equitably is going.

(Full disclosure: Title is a friend of the author, and the two co-founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority.)

Tom Angell: Why was it so important for you to make sure the equity program was a key part of the legalization launch in Massachusetts?

Shaleen Title: It’s clear from looking at the rollout of other states – many of which I was involved in – you can’t just hope for fairness and inclusion and have it happen. Combined with keeping small entrepreneurs in mind with all of our decision-making, creating a formal equity program was a way to intentionally connect employees and business owners from disproportionately harmed communities with the resources they need to thrive.

Angell: Were there any challenges in convincing your fellow commissioners or other stakeholders to adopt the equity program?

Title: All of my fellow commissioners are as committed to equity as I am, so I don’t recall needing to convincing anyone; however, the main challenge has been to structure the program so that it has a real impact rather than being lip service. That entails careful data collection and evaluation, flexible decision-making and deliberate outreach. It’s also important to pay special attention to funding for restorative justice as well as fairness at the local level, both of which are already addressed in the law.

Angell: Were you inspired by similar efforts in other states or municipalities? What lessons from those other programs did you incorporate in designing the Bay State’s effort?

Title: We looked at all the other efforts to prioritize equity in other jurisdictions and took various elements.

The approach of designating geographic areas based on arrest rates and specifying a range of years to account for gentrification was inspired by Oakland. The required diversity plan and community impact plan for all applicants were inspired by Pennsylvania. Other elements, like the economic empowerment priority and the strict accountability for collecting and reporting data, were required by the legislature.

Finally, we adopted certain elements based on our own discussions among the commissioners, including focusing primarily on technical assistance and directly including people with drug convictions and people whose parents or spouses have drug convictions. Utilizing public comment opportunities, outreach events, and the talented staff we’ve hired, we took input directly from the communities we aim to benefit and used it as the basis for those decisions.

Angell: How will you measure whether the equity program is living up to the goals you set out? And what does the initial data show so far?

Title: We are very specific about measuring the impact of all of our programs, but particularly the social equity program given that leaders from other states are watching it closely. In addition to the number and percentage of licenses issued to Economic Empowerment applicants and Social Equity Program participants, we are measuring how many licenses are issued to people of color, women, veterans, farmers and people with drug convictions, and how many jobs in the adult-use cannabis industry are held by those groups. We’re also tracking how many jobs are being created in geographic areas of disproportionate impact and how many people are being trained through the Social Equity Program.

So far, only three economic empowerment applicants out of 123 have submitted all four packets of the application. The preliminary data from a recent survey shows that the reasons they have not applied, in order, are difficulty raising funds or capital, business concepts and plans still in development and difficulty obtaining approval from a city or town.

So we are seeking to address these challenges.

Angell: Some people might feel that they are left out of an early boost to getting a license because they don’t have a criminal record or aren’t from communities where the drug war has been heavily waged. How would you respond to those people?

Title: In every decision we make, we have prioritized the inclusion of people from all backgrounds and businesses of all sizes. I would encourage them to submit an application and note that all applications are evaluated on their own merits as suitable or not suitable, rather than having different applicants compete against each other for a limited number of licenses. There are no quotas here.

Angell: There have been concerns raised recently, by the commission and some state lawmakers, that municipalities are breaking state law by requiring excessive payments from businesses seeking marijuana licenses. Beyond the simple question about whether these arrangements violate current policy, do you see them as an impediment to ensuring equity in the industry for entrepreneurs who aren’t extremely well capitalized?

Title: Absolutely. Although some municipalities are ignoring it, the law puts limitations in place on how much money it can accept from an applicant. It makes it crystal clear that municipalities may not sell their approval to the highest bidder. If such unlawful arrangements are permitted, that is an invitation to big marijuana companies to come in to a city or town and knock the smaller competition out through a payoff. At that point, only that big company would have the required local approval and the smaller companies wouldn’t even have the chance to apply at the state level. That’s not okay. It’s a direct obstacle to our overall goal of a fair industry.

At our next meeting, the Commission will be discussing whether to review these agreements and ensure they are compliant with the law before issuing a license—a policy I support.

Meanwhile, other states should be watching Massachusetts closely to see if the system ends up protecting the municipalities who accept excessive payments and the marijuana businesses who offer such payments in exchange for licensure, even when the law clearly prohibits it.

Angell: What are some upcoming milestones that people who are interested in following the roll-out of the equity program should be watching for?

Title: The Commission is seeking trainers who are able to provide training to equity applicants. The training is divided into four tracks: entrepreneurial, entry-level or reentry-level, core (management) and ancillary. If your organization or business is qualified to provide such training, you must respond to our RFQ by September 7. The executive director of the Commission and I recently held a Facebook Live chat explaining the process. I personally hope to see a combination of applicants who are experienced at working with state governments and applicants who have never responded to a state RFP or RFQ before.

After that, the next step will be to open our applications to people eligible for the program. People who are interested in receiving updates about the social equity program can learn more and sign up for our email list.

We will also be rolling out opportunities for women, people of color, veterans, and farmers to ensure they are included. I encourage people to follow the Commission and me personally on Twitter.

Angell: Shifting gears, last year you helped lead a pushback against a cannabis conference that invited Trump ally Roger Stone as a keynote speaker, which ultimately led to him being dis-invited from the event following initial resistance from the organizers. This year, they invited you to be a keynote speaker, but you turned them down. Why was it important to organize around the Stone invitation last year, and why did you reject the invite for you to speak this year?

Title: I mean, it’s a nonstarter for me to support a conference that somehow thought it was a good idea to honor a person who openly referred to black colleagues as “stupid Negroes” and female colleagues as “c*nts.” Isn’t that common sense? That would go for any conference, but last year many of us felt it was particularly important to organize against this one in particular because this is a conference about cannabis, whose legal status has until recently been used as a tool of oppression.

Even worse than their invitation was their mewling, reflexive defense of their decision after we raised concerns. Eventually, they dropped him when enough sponsors threatened to withdraw, but given that the company never took any responsibility and dismissed the entire conversation as a “distraction,” I had zero interest in letting them use my name to promote their conference this year.

Angell: Did you consider accepting the speaking invitation and giving the organizers a piece of your mind on stage instead of turning them down?

Title: Well, I’m trying to get the marijuana businesses open in Massachusetts, so my time is limited. I made some suggestions to the conference as to steps they might take if they are sincere about moving forward constructively; that’s all the time I had. I’m grateful for opportunities to participate in events to help keep the public informed, and I want to devote my time and support to those events that promote diversity and put in the work in terms of giving back and community outreach.

This piece was first published by Forbes.

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 20-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.)

Politics

Florida Would Study Psychedelics’ Medical Benefits Under Top Senate Democrat’s New Bill

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The top Democrat in the Florida Senate filed a bill on Friday that would require the state to research the medical benefits of psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA.

If enacted, the state Department of Health would be directed to “conduct a study evaluating the therapeutic efficacy of alternative therapies” such as those substances, as well as ketamine, “in treating mental health and other medical conditions,” including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, chronic pain and migraines.

The proposal, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D) is modeled on legislation enacted into law in Texas earlier this year that similarly instructs officials in that state to research the therapeutic value of certain psychedelics, although that bill had a narrower focus on helping military veterans with PTSD.

A companion version of the Florida measure is being carried in the House by Rep. Michael Grieco (D).

“This is one of the rare times it would be ok to Texas our Florida, since the Lone Star State is one of many who embrace the FDA’s breakthrough designation for alternate mental health therapies such as psilocybin,” Grieco told Marijuana Moment. “This bill will send our state in the right direction, especially amongst our veterans, for patients who are resistant to traditional mental health therapies.”

Book said in a press release that the legislation “provides a natural pathway to wellness for patients with debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder and treatment-resistant depression.”

“Psilocybin treatment is a safe alternative for those who have exhausted all other avenues for mental health and wellbeing, and I am proud to sponsor legislation to ensure Floridians have medical access to this life-saving natural treatment,” she said.

Grieco added in the release that “Florida does not have to be the last state to catch up with science every time.”

“Between medical marijuana and climate change, our state seems to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” he said. “The science regarding psilocybin is real, cannot be ignored, and soon will be a universally-accepted form of treatment in the U.S. Veterans and veterans organizations should be watching closely on behalf of folks suffering from addiction, PTSD and depression.”


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 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 governor of Connecticut signed a bill in June that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.

Under the Florida legislation—SB 348 and HB 193—officials would have to submit a report and recommendations to the governor and top lawmakers by September 1, 2023.

Earlier this year, Grieco filed a more far-reaching bill that would have created a broader program of legal access to psilocybin for therapeutic use, similar to the ballot measure approved by Oregon voters last year. That legislation failed to advance through committee, however.

“After authoring a very ambitious 59-page bill last year, one that started a broader conversation,” Grieco said, “I am ready to work with both my Republican and Democratic colleagues to create a framework designed to help those patients who need it.”

Last week, Florida activists filed a marijuana legalization initiative they hope to place on the 2022 ballot. The move comes after the state Supreme Court invalidated two prior measures the justices deemed to be “misleading.”

Meanwhile, Florida isn’t the only state where psychedelics policy moves are being made.

Jurisdictions across the country are increasingly removing or reducing penalties around drug possession and consumption, especially when it comes to psychedelics. Since Denver in 2019 became the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, a number of states and municipalities have made similar changes to dismantle the drug war.

Oregon voters passed a pair of initiatives last November to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs. On the local level, activists in Portland are mounting a push to have local lawmakers pass a resolution decriminalizing the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics.

Washington, D.C. voters also approved a ballot measure last year to deprioritize enforcement of laws criminalizing psychedelics.

In California this month, activists were cleared to begin collecting signatures for a historic initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms in the state. Oakland and Santa Cruz have already enacted psychedelics decriminalization.

Detroit currently stands to become one of the next major cities to decriminalize psychedelics, with the reform proposal making the local ballot for this November.

Elsewhere in Michigan, the Ann Arbor City Council has already elected to make enforcement of laws prohibition psychedelics like psilocybin, ayahuasca and DMT among the city’s lowest priorities—and lawmakers recently followed up by declaring September Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Awareness Month. Advocates have also introduced a reform resolution to the Grand Rapids City Council.

Massachusetts cities that have enacted the policy change include Northampton, Somerville and Cambridge. In July, state lawmakers heard testimony about a bill to create a task force charged with studying the implications of legalizing psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca.

In Seattle, the City Council is considering a resolution to decriminalize psychedelics.

A New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.

The Maine House of Representatives passed a drug decriminalization bill this year, but it later died in the Senate.

In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics.

Meanwhile, Denver activists who successfully led the 2019 campaign to make the city the first in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin possession have set their eyes on broader reform, with plans in the works to end the criminalization of noncommercial gifting and communal use of the psychedelic.

In a setback for advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would have removed a spending bill rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine. However, it picked up considerably more votes this round than when the congresswoman first introduced it in 2019.

Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged NIDA to support expanded marijuana studies, for example. It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.

There was an attempt by a Republican congressman to attach language into a defense spending bill that would promote research into psychedelics therapy for active duty military members, but it was not made in order in the House Rules Committee this week.

Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged NIDA to support expanded marijuana studies, for example. It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.

NIDA also recently announced it’s funding a study into whether psilocybin can help people quit smoking cigarettes.

There was an attempt by a Republican congressman to attach language into a defense spending bill that would promote research into psychedelics therapy for active duty military members, but it was not made in order in the House Rules Committee this week.

In May, lawmakers in Congress filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.

Seattle City Council Takes First Step Toward Decriminalizing Psychedelic Plants And Fungi

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman.

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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Seattle City Council Takes First Step Toward Decriminalizing Psychedelic Plants And Fungi

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A Seattle City Council committee considered a resolution on Friday that would decriminalize a wide range of activities around psychedelic drugs, including cultivation and sharing with others, by declaring those activities among the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities.

The council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee heard comments from the proposal’s supporters, including Councilmember Andrew Lewis and the advocacy group Decrim Nature Seattle. While the panel did not vote on the draft resolution, Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the committee, said the full City Council will likely take up the measure in coming weeks.

“Hopefully the city—as tends to be the case on many impactful progressive issues in the state of Washington—can lead the way on setting the table for an important conversation many communities around the country are having,” Lewis, who introduced the measure, said at the meeting.

As introduced, the proposed resolution expresses the City Council’s support for what it calls “full decriminalization” around psychedelics used “in religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices.” It would apply to plants or fungi that contain substances “including, but not limited to” psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, igoba and mescaline, though it would not include the peyote cactus.

If adopted, the resolution would declare “that the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of anyone engaging in entheogen-related activities…should be among The City of Seattle’s lowest enforcement priorities” and request that the Seattle Police Department “move towards the formal codification and adoption of that practice as departmental policy.”

It would further express the council’s intent to analyze the city’s municipal “to determine what changes would be necessary to protect from arrest or prosecution individuals who cultivate entheogens.” Those changes would be made through a subsequent city ordinance.

It’s already city policy neither to detain nor arrest individuals caught with psychedelics, nor to confiscate those substances, the resolution says—the result of a state Supreme Court decision earlier this year. But other activity, including cultivation and distribution, remain punishable by arrest and incarceration.

Supporters say there are compelling reasons to expand decriminalization beyond simple possession: The resolution points to the disproportionate impact of the drug war on people of color and low-income communities, calling decriminalization “an effort to begin to correcting the irreparable harm.” It also acknowledges the emerging potential of psychedelics, in conjunction with therapy, to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), end-of-life anxiety, substance use-disorder and others.

The resolution was inspired in part by the City Council’s interest in reducing opioid-related deaths. In June, Lewis Herbold formally asked a task force to examine “public policy governing psychedelic medicines” as a way to combat the overdose epidemic. Late last month, the task force came back with recommendations that the city decriminalize psychedelics and consider removing criminal penalties around all drugs.

At the same time, the advocacy group Decrim Nature Seattle (DNS) has been lobbying the council to make the policy change around plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics. The group began its work two years ago, and in May it submitted a draft ordinance to Lewis’s office at the councilmember’s request. Members have also appeared regularly at council meetings to urge the policy change.

Lewis told Marijuana Moment this month that it’s his “personal goal” to introduce an ordinance to decriminalize psychedelics by the end of this year. “And frankly, if there’s sort of a consensus and there’s lightning in a bottle, I don’t think it’s inconceivable that an ordinance could be passed this year,” he said. “I think it’s actually pretty reasonable.”

In an email to Marijuana Moment ahead of Friday’s committee meeting, Tatiana Luz Quintana, DNS’s co-director and co-chair of education and outreach, said the group expects the resolution “will prepare the council to spend time creating a work plan to address full decriminalization, meaning possession, cultivation, social sharing (non-monetary exchange) and community-based healing and ceremony.”

“The implications of this policy change would be long lasting,” Quintana said. “Within Seattle, after these reforms, many people who operate in the underground will be more free to advertise their services. Decriminalization will also promote a consciousness shift in the public, increasing exposure to conversations around psychedelics, helping to break the ice and break down stigmas, and create an environment ripe for integrating these substances into our culture.”

DNS said the change will allow Seattle to establish best practices, including around education and community-based healing. Advocates also presented to the City Council committee a sign-on letter in support of decriminalization signed by more than 40 area healthcare professionals.

The policy change would not apply to peyote, which is excluded from its definition of entheogens due to the cactus’s special cultural significance to certain Native American peoples and the ongoing effort to protect the plant. Peyote matures slowly and is currently categorized by conservationists as “vulnerable” after an uptick in illicit harvesting. The cactus, native to Mexico and parts of the American Southwest, has no federal protection in the U.S., while in Mexico it can be harvested legally only by Indigenous groups.

Both the city resolution and the opioid task force recommendations also call for psychedelics reform at the state level. The resolution says the city’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations add to its agenda for the 2022 legislative session “support for full decriminalization of entheogens at the state level, including the drafting of legislation that could be sponsored by a state legislative representative.”

Like much of the rest of the country, Washington State is contemplating major changes in how it treats drug use. Earlier this year, lawmakers considered legislation that would have removed all penalties for possession of relatively small, “personal use” amounts of drugs and instead invested in treatment and recovery services. While that bill died in committee, lawmakers from both parties acknowledged at the time that the state’s drug control apparatus was broken.

Shortly thereafter, the state Supreme Court overturned Washington’s felony law against drug possession completely, sending lawmakers scrambling to replace the law. Ultimately they approved a modest reform, reducing the state’s felony charge for drug possession to a misdemeanor and earmarking more money for treatment.

Earlier this month, advocates announced a push to put a measure on Washington’s 2022 ballot that would decriminalize all drugs and invest state money in treatment and recovery.

Jurisdictions across the country are increasingly removing or reducing penalties around drug possession and consumption, especially when it comes to psychedelics. Since Denver in 2019 became the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, a number of states and municipalities have made similar changes to dismantle the drug war.

Oregon voters passed a pair of initiatives last November to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs. On the local level, activists in Portland are mounting a push to have local lawmakers pass a resolution decriminalizing the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics.

Washington, D.C. voters also approved a ballot measure last year to deprioritize enforcement of laws criminalizing psychedelics.

In California last week, activists were cleared to begin collecting signatures for a historic initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms in the state. Oakland and Santa Cruz have already enacted psychedelics decriminalization.

Detroit currently stands to become one of the next major cities to decriminalize psychedelics, with the reform proposal making the local ballot for this November.

Elsewhere in Michigan, the Ann Arbor City Council has already elected to make enforcement of laws prohibition psychedelics like psilocybin, ayahuasca and DMT among the city’s lowest priorities—and lawmakers recently followed up by declaring September Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Awareness Month. Advocates have also introduced a reform resolution to the Grand Rapids City Council.

Massachusetts cities that have enacted the policy change include Northampton, Somerville and Cambridge. In July, state lawmakers heard testimony about a bill to create a task force charged with studying the implications of legalizing psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca.

The governor of Connecticut recently signed legislation recently that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.

Texas also recently enacted a bill to require the state study the medical benefits of psychedelics for military veterans.

A New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.

The Maine House of Representatives passed a drug decriminalization bill this year, but it later died in the Senate.

In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics.

Meanwhile, Denver activists who successfully led the 2019 campaign to make the city the first in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin possession have set their eyes on broader reform, with plans in the works to end the criminalization of noncommercial gifting and communal use of the psychedelic.

In a setback for advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would have removed a spending bill rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine. However, it picked up considerably more votes this round than when the congresswoman first introduced it in 2019.

Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged NIDA to support expanded marijuana studies, for example. It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.

There was an attempt by a Republican congressman to attach language into a defense spending bill that would promote research into psychedelics therapy for active duty military members, but it was not made in order in the House Rules Committee this week.

Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged NIDA to support expanded marijuana studies, for example. It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.

NIDA also recently announced it’s funding a study into whether psilocybin can help people quit smoking cigarettes.

There was an attempt by a Republican congressman to attach language into a defense spending bill that would promote research into psychedelics therapy for active duty military members, but it was not made in order in the House Rules Committee this week.

In May, lawmakers in Congress filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.

Read the full Seattle psychedelics decriminalization resolution below:

Click to access seattle-pychedelics-decriminalization-resolution.pdf

House Committee Will Vote On Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Next Week, Days After Banking Reform Advances

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mädi.

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House Committee Will Vote On Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Next Week, Days After Banking Reform Advances

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A bill to federally legalize marijuana will be voted on by the House Judiciary Committee next week, the panel announced on Friday.

The development comes one day after the House voted in favor of a defense spending bill that includes an amendment that would protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s (D-NY) Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act will receive a markup on Wednesday. The panel will consider a dozen pieces of legislation during the meeting, according to a press release. That includes his bill to “decriminalize marijuana federally and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs,” Nadler said.

“Many of these bills were reported out of the committee and passed by the full House of Representatives last Congress, and I look forward to working with all my colleagues once again to get these bills through Congress and on to the president’s desk,” the chairman said.

Nadler’s cannabis legislation passed the House last year but did not advance in the Senate under GOP control. This time around, advocates are optimistic that something like the chairman’s bill could be enacted now that Democrats run both chambers and the White House, and as more states are moving to enact legalization.

The legislation would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), allow people with cannabis convictions to have their records expunged and create a federal tax on marijuana with the revenue going to support community reinvestment and other programs.

It also contains language to create a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated for cannabis offenses, protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over marijuana and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearance due to its use.

“We are excited to see Chairman Nadler and House leadership move forward once again with passing the MORE Act,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, said. “Public support and state-policy demand for repealing federal marijuana criminalization has never been higher and Congressional action on this legislation is long overdue. The days of federal marijuana prohibition are numbered.”

There’s been some contention between advocates and stakeholders on which reform should come first: the bipartisan banking legislation that’s cleared the House in some form five times now or the comprehensive legalization bill that passed the chamber for the first time late last year.

Legalization advocates do want to see legislation from Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) become enacted, as there are public safety problems caused by all-cash businesses and it would take an important step toward normalizing the growing industry. But social equity-minded activists argue that advancing the incremental reform first would mainly benefit large marijuana businesses without addressing the harms of cannabis criminalization.

The fate of the banking proposal will likely be decided in conference with the Senate, which has not included the policy change in its National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and where key lawmakers have insisted that they will push for broader reform before allowing the incremental change to be enacted.

Separately, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (R-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are also leading the charge on a legalization bill in their chamber. But weeks after a public comment period on a draft version of the proposal closed, finalized text has yet to be formally filed—and it’s far from certain that Schumer will be able to find enough votes to advance the comprehensive reform through his chamber.

It should be noted that President Joe Biden remains firmly opposed to adult-use marijuana legalization. While he supports more modest reforms such as decriminalizing cannabis, expunging prior records and letting states set their own marijuana policies, there’s an open question about whether he would be moved to sign a broad bill like the MORE Act or the Senate legalization legislation should such a proposal reach his desk.

With respect to the MORE Act, the latest version does not include language that was added just before last year’s House floor vote that would have prevented people with previous cannabis convictions from obtaining federal permits to operate marijuana businesses. That was a contentious provision that appeared at the last minute and which advocates strongly opposed.

And whereas the the prior version of the legislation contained language to help economically disadvantaged people enter the legal marijuana market, that language was revised to extend Small Business Administration (SBA) aid—such as loans, financial literacy programs and job training—to help people who have been harmed by the war on drugs pursue business opportunities in any industry, not just cannabis.

Advocates are encouraged by the new revisions to the bill, but there are still additional components they hope to see changed as it goes through the legislative process. For example, they also took issue with provisions added to the MORE Act prior to last year’s vote that would have stipulated that cannabis can still be included in drug testing programs for federal workers.

The current version of the MORE Act has 66 cosponsors, including seven lawmakers that signed on this week. All are Democrats.

Separately, a proposal to federally deschedule marijuana that does not include social equity components was filed by a pair of Republican congressmen in May.

Feds Fund Study Into Whether Psilocybin Can Help People Quit Smoking Cigarettes

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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