Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took a shot at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday, criticizing recent comments she made defending marijuana provisions that were included in her chamber’s latest coronavirus relief legislation.
The majority leader, who has consistently railed against the inclusion of cannabis banking protections in the House COVID-19 bill, said on the Senate floor that Pelosi is “still agitating for strange, new special interest carve-outs for the marijuana industry and even claiming they are COVID-related.”
“She said that, with respect to this virus, marijuana is ‘a therapy that has proven successful.’ You can’t make this up,” he said.
“I hope she shares her breakthrough with Dr. Fauci,” McConnell wryly added, referring to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, who has been helping to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
McConnell is referring to remarks Pelosi made last week after she was asked about components of the House Democrats’ bill that Republicans have criticized as not germane, including specifically the marijuana language.
The speaker said she took issue with the suggestion that cannabis banking reform was not relevant amid the pandemic and said marijuana “is a therapy that has proven successful.” Prohibitionists have seized on that comment, interpreting it to mean that Pelosi believes cannabis can treat COVID-19.
Speaker Pelosi is still holding up this entire package over bizarre unrelated things like carveouts for the marijuana industry. She even claimed to the press that pot is a proven COVID-19 therapy!
I hope she’s shared this breakthrough with Dr. Fauci.
Can we get serious yet? https://t.co/CksSWrMKDN
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) August 4, 2020
That said, it wasn’t clear from the brief comment whether that was the case or if Pelosi was broadly referring to the therapeutic benefits of marijuana.
The Food and Drug Administration has made clear that there’s currently no solid evidence that cannabinoids can treat COVID-19 and it’s warned companies that make that claim.
Marijuana Moment previously exclusively reported that Pelosi—who said in 2018 that doctors should prescribe medical cannabis and yoga more often instead of prescription opioids—supported attaching the banking language to the House’s coronavirus package prior to the legislation’s introduction.
Senate leadership unveiled their latest round of coronavirus relief legislation last week, and it does not include the cannabis provisions. And given McConnell’s particular focus on those components, it seems likely that any attempt to get the language inserted in a bicameral conference will be met with resistance on the Senate side.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also recently slammed Pelosi’s latest cannabis comments on Twitter, saying “let’s focus on the pandemic. Not pot.”
Meanwhile, the standalone Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act has continued to sit in the Senate Banking Committee without action in the months since the House initially approved it.
Last month, a bipartisan coalition of state treasurers sent a letter to congressional leaders, asking that they include marijuana banking protections in the next piece of coronavirus relief legislation.
In May, a bipartisan coalition of 34 state attorneys general similarly wrote to Congress to urge the passage of COVD-19 legislation containing cannabis banking provisions.
McConnell’s latest comments also come a week after the House approved an amendment to protect state, territory and tribal marijuana laws from federal interference.
Photo courtesy of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Florida Regulators Blast Oregon Hemp Products And Encourage Consumers To Buy Local In New Alert
Florida regulators are calling out Oregon hemp businesses over products that they say contain rocks and sticks and have failed to meet regulatory guidelines on allowable THC content. Instead, consumers should buy local products made in Florida, officials say.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) recently released a consumer alert to warn Floridians about complaints it has received concerning poor quality hemp items from Oregon. Separate new guidance was issued on the cannabinoid delta-8 THC, a psychoactive compound that is increasingly being marketed and catching the attention of regulators.
“The department routinely finds violative products and conducts investigations based on consumer complaints,” FDACS said in the Oregon hemp warning. “Recently, the department has received several consumer complaints regarding shipments of hemp from Oregon.”
Those concerns are concentrated in three areas. The complaints have noted issues with Oregon hemp shipments for plants containing “rocks, sticks and other foreign material,” fraudulent certificates for laboratory analyses and items containing more than 0.3 percent THC, which is the allowable limit under federal statute.
“The department actively inspects for sanitary operating conditions and tests for label accuracy and contaminants unsafe for human consumption,” the notice states. “The department will continue to work with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture to contact firms in Oregon, notify consumers, and request remedial actions be taken.”
Regulators advised consumers to seek out products from businesses approved by USDA and to look for items that have a “Fresh From Florida” logo for quality assurance.
“Not only are you getting a product that is subject to Florida’s comprehensive seed to sale inspections, you’re also helping support Florida farmers,” the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) said.
Nikki Fried, who heads FDCAS as commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, has publicly stated that she’s a medical cannabis cardholder in the state—and she’s also running for governor. Prior to winning elected office, she previously lobbied on behalf of a plant farm that was later bought out by a major cannabis company.
Fried has made cannabis policy a priority throughout her tenure, and her agency has separately released new guidance on the marketing of delta-8 THC.
“The FDACS team is on the ground daily working to make sure the rules are being followed and that hemp extract products do not contain contaminants unsafe for human consumption,” it said. “Over the past year, the department has observed a growing interest in the sale of Delta-8-tetrahydrocannibinol (“Delta-8-THC”) and received numerous inquiries regarding its safety.”
It cautioned that the “until comprehensive, nationwide standards are adopted, consumers have no way of knowing what post-processing steps were taken to ensure the safety of these products” containing delta-8.
Colorado Governor Announces New Cannabis Business Office With Focus On Social Equity
Colorado officials on Wednesday announced the launch of a new office to provide economic support for the state’s marijuana industry.
The Cannabis Business Office (CBO) “shows our administration’s focus on growing this thriving industry that supports jobs and our economy,” Gov. Jared Polis (D) said in a press release.
The division, which was created as part of a bill signed into law in March, is being funded by cannabis tax revenue. It will focus on creating “new economic development opportunities, local job creation, and community growth for the diverse population across Colorado.”
Importantly, it will be prioritizing social equity, offering resources to people from communities most impacted by marijuana criminalization. That includes loans for equity businesses, grants to support job creation and technical assistance.
“This office will offer tools like technical help and improve access to money for businesses,” Polis said. “Where the federal government has fallen behind, Colorado will lead. Colorado is, and always has been, the best place to live, work, grow and sell cannabis.”
The governor had initially asked lawmakers back in January to create a new a new cannabis advancement program as part of his budget proposal.
CBO will fall under the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Tristan Watkins, the new Cannabis Program manager, said it will “provide novel and ambitious programming to provide more equitable opportunity in the cannabis industry.”
“As the office expands, we are confident it will further solidify Colorado as the leader in the nation’s cannabis industry,” he said.
Beyond this program, the state has worked to achieve equity and repair the harms of prohibition in other ways.
For example, Polis signed a bill in May to double the marijuana possession limit for adults in the state—and he directed state law enforcement to identify people with prior convictions for the new limit who he may be able to pardon.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 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.
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The governor signed an executive order last year that granted clemency to almost 3,000 people convicted of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana.
Funding for the new office is made possible by tax revenue from a booming cannabis market in the state. In the first three months of 2021 alone, the state saw more than half a billion dollars in marijuana sales.
The lack of access to federal financial support for marijuana businesses became a pronounced issue amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the Small Business Administration saying it’s unable to offer those companies its services, as well as those that provide ancillary services such as accounting and law firms.
Polis wrote a letter to a member of the Colorado congressional delegation last year seeking a policy change to give the industry the same resources that were made available to other legal markets.
Analysis: House Vote On AOC’s Psychedelics Research Amendment Shows Rising Support Despite Defeat
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday again defeated a spending bill amendment meant to promote research into the medical benefits of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA. But it picked up about 50 “yes” votes since it was last considered in 2019, signaling that Congress may be coming around on the issue as psychedelics reform advances at the state and local levels—similar to how support for marijuana law reform has increased over time.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) sponsored the amendment, with the hopes of attaching it to a wide-ranging appropriations bill. But it failed in a 140-285 vote. That’s a notably smaller margin compared to two years ago, when the proposal was rejected by a vote of 91-331.
Most Democrats supported the amendment this round, unlike in 2019 when a majority of Ocasio-Cortez’s party joined Republicans in quashing the reform.
The proposal, if adopted, would have removed a 1990s-era provision that’s long been part of spending legislation for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The rider bars use of funds for “any activity that promotes the legalization of any drug or other substance in Schedule I” of the Controlled Substances Act, language that reform supporters say can have a chilling effect on even researching the therapeutic potential of restricted drugs.
Despite the growth in Democratic support over the past two years, enough members of the party helped take the measure down during Tuesday’s vote. Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet that “we got a little closer to ending this outdated war-on-drugs-era policy last night” and pledged that she will “keep bringing it up until the times catch up.”
(The vote tallies cited in the following tweet are incorrect).
We got a little closer to ending this outdated war-on-drugs-era policy last night. Last Congress, we had 83 votes. This Congress, we had 139, including 7 Republicans. We'll keep bringing it up until the times catch up. We're undeterred! https://t.co/bS73jHRy6x
— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) July 28, 2021
A handful of Republicans did vote to pass the amendment, showing that the issue isn’t totally partisan. However, it was just seven GOP members who supported the effort, which is the same number as 2019. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) gave Ocasio-Cortez credit for “vastly increasing dem support here.”
BREAKING: Republicans voting YES on @aoc ecstasy/MDMA/psilocybin legislation (not enough, amendment fails)
Alex deserves a TON of credit for vastly increasing dem support here.
We will destigmatize this issue and win very soon based on the rate of growth of our support. pic.twitter.com/chme5TVDH2
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) July 28, 2021
- Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE)
- Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA)
- Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD)
- Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN)
- Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA)
- Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)
- Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA)
- Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA)
- Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN)
- Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT)
- Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO)
- Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS)
- Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA)
- Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)
- Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI)
- Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
- Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX)
- Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA)
- Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL)
- Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX)
- Rep. Al Green (D-TX)
- Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)
- Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL)
- Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-MI)
- Rep. John Larson (D-CT)
- Rep. Al Lawson Jr. (D-FL)
- Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY)
- Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA)
- Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
- Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ)
- Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL)
- Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
- Rep. Mary Scanlon (D-PA)
- Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
- Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA)
- Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ)
- Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA)
- Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-NY)
- Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY)
- Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA)
- Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA)
- Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
- Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)
- Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)
- Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
Burchett was the lone Republican flip from opposition to support. And while each member may have their own reason for moving to back the amendment, it stands to reason that the psychedelics reform movement that’s played out locally and in states over the past two years contributed to the sizable increase in support.
Larson, for example, told The News Station that his state legislature’s passage of a bill requiring Connecticut to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms, which the governor signed last month, influenced his vote.
“I think that was part of it,” he said, adding that Ocasio-Cortez also proved convincing in their conversations.
There were also a number of flips for other members representing states where psychedelics reform has been pursued of late.
Six lawmakers from the California delegation switched to “yes” this vote, as the state legislature has been actively considering a proposal to legalize possession of certain psychedelics and advocates continue to push for psilocybin legalization via a ballot measure.
There were also a handful of Texas flips. The state legislature recently enacted a bill to require the state to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Welch of Vermont decided to support the amendment this round after lawmakers in his state have pursued psychedelics decriminalization.
A Florida lawmaker introduced a bill this year to establish a legal psilocybin model for therapeutic use in the state, similar to an initiative that Oregon voters approved in November. Wilson, representing the state, changed her vote, too.
Last month, a New York lawmaker introduced a bill that would require the state to establish an institute to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. And four members of that state’s congressional delegation flipped to support the Ocasio-Cortez amendment from last time.
In contrast, there were just three members who flipped from “yes” to “no” since the 2019 vote:
- Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-GA)
- Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO)
- Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI)
There were some other newsworthy votes among congressional leadership. For example, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) all voted against the measure.
On the flip side, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)—who is sponsoring legislation to legalize marijuana federally—voted in favor of the proposal.
Separately on Tuesday, the House defeated a separate proposal from Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) to the HHS appropriations bill to eliminate a rider that’s currently in the legislation that “allows federal funding to go to institutions of higher education that are conducting research on marijuana.”
The amendment was rejected, with 147 votes in favor and 276 against. Every Democratic who voted opposed the proposal, and 60 Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in defeating it.
Meanwhile, Congress will again vote on a proposal to protect all state and tribal marijuana programs from federal interference, a key committee decided on Wednesday.
The House Rules Committee made in order a bipartisan amendment to spending legislation that would provide the protections, which expand upon an existing rider that currently prevents the Justice Department from interfering in the implementation of medical cannabis laws alone. That more limited protection has been annually renewed as part of federal law since 2014.
The panel also advanced a competing amendment from Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) that would eliminate the current medical marijuana provision—despite the fact that it shields the decades-old program of the sponsor’s own state.
Photo courtesy of Dick Culbert.