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Mexican Supreme Court Again Extends Marijuana Legalization Deadline

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The Mexican Supreme Court granted a request to again extend the deadline for the nation’s Congress to legalize marijuana on Friday.

Ever since the court declared in 2018 that the prohibition on personal possession and cultivation of cannabis is unconstitutional, lawmakers have been working to enact a policy change, accordingly. But while bills have been introduced to accomplish that, negotiations have taken longer than expected.

An initial deadline for legalization was set for October 2019, but Senate leaders requested an extension amid disagreements about legislation that was heading toward a vote. The court approved that request and said Congress had until the end of this month to reform the country’s marijuana policy.

But as the coronavirus pandemic forced lawmakers to put most legislative activities on hold, another extension was requested.

The new deadline for lawmakers to end prohibition is December 15鈥攖he end of the next legislative session. Politco.mx first reported the development.

Sen. M贸nica Fern谩ndez, president of the Senate’s Board of Directors, thanked the court for approving the extension.

Although lawmakers conceded they would not be able to meet this month’s deadline, substantial progress has been made nonetheless on the cannabis legislation.

During a joint meeting of the Justice, Health, Legislative Studies and Public Safety Committees last month, members approved a聽revised marijuana reform bill that had been circulated.

The proposal as introduced would聽allow adults 18 and older to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. Individuals could grow up to 20 registered plants as long as the total yield doesn鈥檛 exceed 480 grams per year. Medical patients could apply to cultivate more than 20 plants, however.

Personal possession would be capped at 28 grams, but possession of up to 200 grams would be decriminalized.

The Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis, a decentralized body established under the measure, would be established and responsible for regulating the market and issuing licenses for marijuana businesses.

The bill proposes a 12 percent tax on cannabis sales, with some revenue going toward a substance misuse treatment fund.

Public consumption would be permissible, except in spaces designated as 100 percent smoke-free. Hemp and CBD would be exempt from regulations that apply to THC products.

An earlier version of the legislation was approved by Senate committees last year ahead of the court鈥檚 October deadline.

Advocates have expressed frustration over the more recently revised version, noting that it hadn鈥檛 been changed to address their concerns.

They would like to enhance social equity provisions, provide protections for cannabis consumers and ensure that market empowers domestic farmers, especially those most impacted under the drug war鈥攁nd they hope that lawmakers will the new deadline extension to carefully consider their concerns and work them into an amended version of the legislation.

“We hope that this will give them the time to take up this issue again in the fall and that they will be able to integrate the changes that we have recommended, including taking away the very high and expensive sanctions for certain activities such as smoking in public,” Zara Snapp, a legalization activist with the Instituto RIA and the coalition #RegulacionPorLaPaz, told Marijuana Moment. “We also hope that this will provide them with the opportunity to integrate social justice into every aspect of the bill.”

“We believe that this bill is urgent for Mexico, particularly once we get past the pandemic and are ale to restart the economy. Regulating cannabis will be a key measure that could be used to generate formal jobs and provide a more just wage for people who are involved in this entire production chain,” she said.

Lawmakers Want Business Owners With Marijuana Convictions To Be Eligible For Coronavirus Relief

This story was updated to include comment from Snapp.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

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

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Pennsylvania Senators Will Consider DUI Protections For Medical Marijuana Patients At Hearing

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A Pennsylvania Senate committee is set to take up a bill next week that would protect medical marijuana patients from being prosecuted under the state’s “zero tolerance” DUI laws.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R), would amend state statute to require proof of active impairment before a registered patient can be prosecuted for driving under the influence. The current lack of specific protections for the state’s roughly 368,000 patients puts them in legal jeopardy when on the road, supporters say.

Members of the Senate Transportation Committee will explore the issue at a hearing on Tuesday.

Bartolotta first introduced an earlier version of the bill in June 2020. She said at the time that the state needs to “ensure that the legal use of this medicine does not give rise to a criminal conviction.”

Months after the standalone reform legislation was introduced, the Pennsylvania House approved a separate amendment that would enact the policy change.

Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016, with the first dispensaries in the state opening in 2018. But the state鈥檚 zero-tolerance DUI law still doesn鈥檛 reflect those changes. Because it criminalizes the presence of any THC or its metabolites in a driver鈥檚 blood鈥攚hich can be detected for weeks after a person鈥檚 last use鈥攖he law puts virtually all medical marijuana patients at risk, even if it鈥檚 been days since their last use and they show no signs of impairment.

Bartolotta鈥檚 bill would require officers to prove a registered patient was actually impaired on the road.


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.

“Unimpaired patients currently face the risk of being arrested, prosecuted and convicted for using medicinal marijuana that has no bearing on their ability to drive a vehicle,” the senator wrote in a cosponsorship memo late last year. “Given the very serious consequences of a DUI conviction, my legislation will provide critical protections for medicinal cannabis patients by ensuring responsible use of their legal medicine does not give rise to a criminal conviction.”

Several legal cannabis states have enacted per se THC limits in blood, similar to blood alcohol requirements. However, evidence isn鈥檛 clear on the relationship between THC concentrations in blood and impairment.

A study published in 2019, for example, concluded that those who drive at the legal THC limit鈥攚hich is typically between two to five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood鈥were not statistically more likely to be involved in an accident聽compared to people who haven鈥檛 used marijuana.

Separately, the聽Congressional Research Service in 2019 determined聽that while 鈥渕arijuana consumption can affect a person鈥檚 response times and motor performance鈥 studies of the impact of marijuana consumption on a driver鈥檚 risk of being involved in a crash have produced conflicting results, with some studies finding little or no increased risk of a crash from marijuana usage.鈥

Outside of this bill, Pennsylvania lawmakers have continued to pursue adult-use legalization in the state. Earlier this year, two legislators circulated a memo to build support for a comprehensive reform bill they plan to introduce, for example.

A bipartisan Senate duo is also in the process of crafting legislation to legalize cannabis across the commonwealth. They announced some details of the proposal earlier this year, but the bill has yet to be formally introduced.

Outside the legislature, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said earlier this year that marijuana legalization was a priority聽as he negotiated the annual budget with lawmakers. However, his formal spending request didn鈥檛 contain legislative language to actually accomplish the cannabis policy change.

Wolf, who signed a medical cannabis expansion bill in June, has repeatedly called for legalization and pressured the Republican-controlled legislature to pursue the reform聽since聽coming out in favor of the policy in 2019. Shortly after he did that, a lawmaker filed a separate bill to聽legalize marijuana through a state-run model.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D),聽who is running for U.S. Senate, previously led a聽listening tour across the state聽to solicit public input on legalization. He鈥檚 credited that effort with helping to move the governor toward embracing comprehensive reform. The lieutenant governor even聽festooned his Capitol office聽with marijuana-themed decor in contravention of a state law passed by the GOP-led legislature.

Fetterman has also been actively involved in encouraging the governor to exercise his clemency power for cannabis cases while the legislature moves to advance reform.

In May, Wolf pardoned a doctor聽who was arrested, prosecuted and jailed for growing marijuana that he used to provide relief for his dying wife. That marks his聽96th pardon for people with cannabis convictions聽through the Expedited Review Program for Non-Violent Marijuana-Related Offenses that鈥檚 being run by the Board of Pardons.

Overall, legalization is popular among Pennsylvania voters, with 58 percent of residents saying聽they favor ending cannabis prohibition聽in a survey released in April.

Another poll released in May found that a majority of voters in the state also support decriminalizing all currently illicit drugs.

80 Top Law Enforcement Officials, Including A Biden Nominee, Urge SCOTUS To Hear Safe Injection Drug Case

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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80 Top Law Enforcement Officials, Including A Biden Nominee, Urge SCOTUS To Hear Safe Injection Drug Case

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A coalition of 80 current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials鈥攊ncluding one who is President Joe Biden’s pick for U.S. attorney of Massachusetts鈥攈ave filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to take up a case on the legality of establishing a safe injection facility where people can use illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment.

The nonprofit organization Safehouse was set to launch a safe consumption site in Philadelphia before being blocked by a legal challenge from the Trump administration, and it filed a petition with the nation’s highest court last month to hear the case. Now the group of law enforcement officials associated with Fair and Just Prosecution are calling on the Supreme Court to act in an amicus brief.

“Amici have an interest in this litigation because overdose prevention sites (OPSs) are among the harm reduction and public health interventions that have proven effective in preventing fatal overdoses and diverting people from unnecessary and counterproductive interactions with the justice system,” they wrote. “Amici, many of whom are currently or were previously responsible for enforcing the nation鈥檚 drug laws, also believe that the Controlled Substances Act cannot be construed to prohibit operation of a facility designed to address the most acute aspects of this public health emergency.”

If the court agrees to hear the dispute, advocates will be looking toward the Biden Justice Department and whether it will continue the federal government鈥檚 opposition to allowing supervised injection facilities. It would be a precedent-setting case that could steer policy for years to come, meaning Safehouse is taking a significant risk by pursuing the appeal of its loss in a lower court before the majority of conservative justices.

“Failing to address the loss of life resulting from drug overdoses鈥攁nd criminalizing a community-based public health organization working to save lives鈥攚ill further erode trust in the justice system,” the new brief states. “If there were ever a time to demonstrate that our government values the dignity of human life, that time is now.”

While President Joe Biden hasn鈥檛 weighed in directly on safe consumption sites, there鈥檚 been a theme within his administration of embracing the general concept of harm reduction for drugs. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), for example, said that 鈥減romoting harm-reduction efforts鈥 is a first-year priority. In an聽overview聽of its objectives, the office said it intends to expand 鈥渁ccess to evidence-based treatment,鈥 enhance 鈥渆vidence-based harm reduction efforts鈥 and promote 鈥渁ccess to recovery support services.鈥

These goals theoretically align with those of Safehouse, which wants to give people with substance use disorders a facility where medical professionals can intervene in the event of an overdose and provide people with the resources to seek recovery.

Among the signatories on the amicus brief are a former deputy assistant attorney general under Obama, district attorneys of Baltimore, Cook County, Dallas County, Los Angeles County, Manhattan, Philadelphia, San Francisco County and Seattle and the former attorneys general of Ohio, Vermont and Virginia.

But one signatory who especially stands out is Rachael Rollins, the district attorney of Suffolk County, Massachusetts who is Biden’s nominee for U.S. attorney of Massachusetts.

鈥淎s an elected prosecutor, I have a responsibility to protect every member of my community, which requires moving away from criminal justice responses to substance use disorder,鈥 Rollins said in a press release. 鈥淚nstead, we must embrace proven public health strategies as potential solutions. Lives depend on it.鈥

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said the drug war “has taken too many lives already, and criminalization has only exacerbated this devastating toll.” He added: “We need a new way forward that allows communities to address the overdose crisis with harm reduction approaches proven to save lives and improve community safety.”

Fair and Justice Prosecution, the group that coordinated the amicus brief, also organized a tour of Portugal for 20 top prosecutors in 2019 so they could learn about the successful implementation of the country鈥檚 drug decriminalization law.

Safehouse won a battle in a federal district court in 2019 to proceed with the facilities. But in January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned the decision, ruling that permitting such facilities would violate a 1980s-era federal statute that bars organizations from running operations 鈥渇or the purpose of unlawfully鈥 using controlled substances.鈥 That law was passed while Biden served in the Senate and helped push punitive drug policies that have had lasting consequences.

“As current and former criminal justice leaders, amici have seen first-hand how the classic ‘war on drugs’ approach to drug control鈥攚ith its almost exclusive focus on aggressive criminal law enforcement鈥攈as exacerbated the overdose epidemic,” the pro-reform prosecutors and cops wrote in the new brief. “This experience confirms that no jurisdiction can arrest its way out of this public health problem. Fatal overdoses are a symptom of substance use disorder, a medical condition requiring a medical response.”

“Distorting federal drug laws to prohibit an [overdose prevention site] or to prosecute its sponsors would further undermine trust in the justice system and faith in the fair and sensible application of our drug laws. Interpreting federal criminal law to bar empirically validated harm reduction measures would make no one safer; it would only impede cooperation between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

In its original petition to the Supreme Court in the current safe injection site case, Safehouse argued that the justices should 鈥済rant review to determine whether鈥 federal statute really does prohibit 鈥渘on-commercial, non-profit social service agencies鈥rom establishing an overdose-prevention site that includes medically supervised consumption.鈥

鈥淭his question is a matter of life or death for thousands of Philadelphians and many thousands more throughout the country,鈥 it said. 鈥淭ragically, while respondents have been pursuing this declaratory judgment against Safehouse, more than 3,200 people died in Philadelphia of drug overdoses鈥攎any of which could have been prevented if medical care had been immediately available through supervised consumption services.鈥

Safehouse also pointed out that Xavier Bacerra, the Biden administration鈥檚 secretary of health and human services, was among eight top state law enforcement officials who聽filed an earlier amicus brief in support of the organization鈥檚 safe injection site plan聽when he served as California鈥檚 attorney general.

The organization put the gravity of the case in no uncertain terms, painting a picture of how its proposed facility can save lives.

鈥淲hen breathing stops, even a brief delay while waiting for medical help to arrive may result in an otherwise preventable overdose death or irreversible injury,鈥 the petition says. 鈥淎s a result, every second counts when responding to an opioid overdose; as more time elapses, the greater the risk of serious injury and death. Ensuring proximity to medical care and opioid reversal agents like the drug Naloxone at the time of consumption is therefore a critical component of efforts to prevent fatal opioid overdose.鈥

鈥淚ntervention by this Court is warranted to make clear that the federal law does not criminalize this essential public health and medical intervention designed to save lives from preventable overdose death,鈥 it continues.

Safehouse argued that the appeals court鈥檚 interpretation of the law 鈥渆viscerates the intended boundaries of the statute and would criminalize the operation of legitimate businesses, charities, families, and good Samaritans that serve and reside with those suffering from addiction.鈥

If the Supreme Court were to take up the case and rule in favor of Safehouse, it could embolden advocates and lawmakers across the country to pursue the harm reduction policy.

The governor of Rhode Island signed a bill in July to establish a safe consumption site pilot program聽where people could test and use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment. It became the first state in the country to legalize the harm reduction centers. It鈥檚 not clear whether the Department of Justice will seek to intervene to prevent the opening of such facilities in that state.

Massachusetts lawmakers聽advanced similar legislation last year, but it was not ultimately enacted.

A similar harm reduction bill in California, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), was approved in the state Senate in April, but further action has been delayed until 2022.

At the same time that Safehouse is turning to the Supreme Court, it also announced recently that it will be returning the the federal district court that gave it an initial 2019 victory in support of establishing a safe injection facility before it was overturned in the appeals court.

The organization is making the unique argument that the federal government鈥檚 decision to block it from providing the service violates religious freedom by subjecting participants 鈥渢o criminal penalties for exercising their sincerely held religious beliefs that they have an obligation to do everything possible to preserve life and to provide shelter and care to the vulnerable, including those suffering from addiction.鈥

In 2018, a congressional subcommittee approved legislation to specifically prohibit Washington D.C. from using local tax dollars聽to help open safe consumption facilities. But that provision was not enacted and has not been reintroduced since.

A 2020 study found that people 鈥渨ho reported using supervised injection facilities on an at least weekly basis聽had a reduced risk of dying聽compared to those who reported less than weekly or no use of this health service.鈥

Read the amicus brief from the prosecutors on the Safehouse safe injection site case below:聽

Safehouse Amicus Sept 2021 by Marijuana Moment

Former GOP Congressman Who Actually Supported Marijuana Reform Enters The Cannabis Industry

Photo courtesy of Jernej Furman.

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Former GOP Congressman Who Actually Supported Marijuana Reform Enters The Cannabis Industry

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Lately it’s come to seem as if most of the former politicians who’ve entered the marijuana industry were unhelpful or downright hostile to legalization when they were in office. But on Friday, a cannabis company announced an addition to its board who disrupts that narrative: a former Republican congressman who has a consistent legislative record of cosponsoring and voting for marijuana reform measures.

The multi-state cannabis businesses Red White & Bloom Brands Inc. (RWB) is bringing on former Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) to help it navigate the complicated regulatory space, drawing on his experience in Congress as the company works to expand.

Costello certainly isn’t the only Republican lawmaker who’s made the transition from Capitol Hill to the cannabis market. But he is a rare example of a politician who actually embraced enacting marijuana policy changes while he was in power before standing to profit from the industry. The congressman cosponsored a variety of bills鈥攊ncluding ones to shield states that legalize cannabis from federal interference鈥攁nd supported several reform amendments.

鈥淚鈥檓 looking forward to utilizing my 15+ years of service in government, the legal profession, and my familiarity with cannabis policy to be a strategic resource for RWB as it positions itself as a true market leading house of brands in the permitted U.S. marketplace,” Costello said in a press release.

This breaks with a trend that has increasingly frustrated advocates, where it seems the people most inclined to benefit from legalization are those who stood in the way in Congress. The best-known example of that is former GOP House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who’s faced criticism from activists over his anti-legalization record while in office before joining the board of marijuana company Acreage Holdings.

While Costello left Congress in 2019 prior to the historic House vote on a standalone bill to federally deschedule cannabis, there are plenty of examples of him supporting more modest reform proposals during his congressional tenure.

He was a cosponsor of legislation to protect state marijuana markets from federal intervention, promote cannabis research, support military veterans’ access to medical marijuana, protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses and legalize industrial hemp.

The congressman also voted in favor of floor amendments to shield all state marijuana programs from Justice Department intervention, allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical cannabis and end hemp prohibition.

In that respect, he was a rare GOP lawmaker. While the issue is increasingly bipartisan among the public, that hasn’t been reflected in Congress. And now Costello is in a position to leverage his legislative experience to advance a marijuana business’s interests.

It’s an exception to the trend.

For example, Tom Price, the former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) head under President Donald Trump, is serving as a member of the board of directors for a medical marijuana business in Georgia after he refused to take action to reclassify cannabis under federal law when he had the power to do so. Price consistently voted against marijuana reform measures while serving in Congress.

Former Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), who also has a long track record of opposing marijuana legalization efforts, joined a Canadian cannabis company’s board in 2019.

Earlier this month, a New York-based lobbying firm that鈥檚 headed by a former Republican U.S. senator announced that it is launching a practice focused on serving cannabis businesses. That former senator, Alfonse D鈥橝mato, racked up a record of supporting the war on drugs while in office.

There is at least one other former GOP congressman who entered the cannabis space with a legislative record supporting marijuana reform. Former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who championed cannabis reform while in Congress, became an advisory board member for a marijuana company after being voted out of office in 2018.

Separately, President Joe Biden鈥檚 pick to head up federal drug policy聽worked for a major marijuana business聽last year, according to his financial disclosure reports.

California Activists Cleared To Collect Signatures For Psilocybin Legalization Ballot Initiative

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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