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Missouri Lawmaker’s New Bill Would Put Marijuana Legalization On 2022 Ballot

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Voters in Missouri could decide in 2022 whether to legalize marijuana under a plan prefiled this week in the state House of Representatives. The proposal would scrap the state’s existing medical cannabis law and replace it with a simpler system meant to serve both patients and adult consumers.

Republican Rep. Shamed Dogan introduced the joint resolution Tuesday, ahead of the new legislative session set to begin next week. Both the House and Senate would need to approve the legislation for the legalization question to go to voters.

“I believe in free markets,” Dogan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Tuesday, “and I want to regulate marijuana as closely as possible to the regulations we have on alcohol, tobacco and other products.”

The proposed constitutional amendment, HJR 30, or the Smarter and Safer Missouri Act, would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over and establish a commercial cannabis industry, taxing sales at 12 percent. Unlike legal marijuana programs in most other states, it would require no special licensing “beyond that which is applicable for the cultivating, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, packaging, distributing, transferring, displaying, or possession of any nontoxic food or food product,” according to language of the joint resolution.

Private marijuana cultivation for personal or medical use would also be allowed under the proposal, although the amendment provides no details on whether plant limits or other restrictions would apply.

Advocates attempted to qualify a citizen-initiated legalization measure for last November’s election, but the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled the signature-gathering effort. They’re widely expected to attempt to qualify a 2022 measure that could compete with Dogan’s plan.

Revenue from Dogan’s proposed system would go to a new state fund that would be split among the Missouri Veterans Commission, state infrastructure projects and drug treatment programs.

Courts in the state would be required to expunge all civil and criminal records of “non-violent, marijuana-only offenses that are no longer illegal” within 60 days of the amendment’s passage. Law enforcement would be directed to immediately release anyone incarcerated for such offenses.

There is no mention of social equity or minorities in the proposal, although Dogan, for years the only Black Republican in the state legislature, noted racial disparities in cannabis law enforcement in an opinion piece published last year. By contrast, some other states have directed revenue from legal cannabis to fund communities disproportionately affected by prohibition or designed licensing systems designed to give priority to people from those communities.

The Missouri proposal represents both an effort at criminal justice reform and a rejection of the state’s existing medical marijuana program, which voters approved in 2018. The opaque scoring process for awarding business licenses under the system has drawn lawsuits by applicants denied licenses and sparked controversy among lawmakers. Earlier this year, one Republican senator called the process “one of the biggest boondoggles I have seen in my business life.”

The first legal sales of medical marijuana began in October, and licensing is still in its early stages. As of state numbers released December 23, just 20 dispensaries have been approved to operate, despite the law allowing up to 196 dispensary licenses to be granted. As for manufacturers, only one company can currently produce cannabis-infused products legally in the state.

Critics have complained that the existing licensing caps and scoring process have unfairly limited competition, disadvantaged minority applicants, slowed the program’s rollout and led to higher prices for patients. They’ve also pointed out that millions of dollars in revenue from the fledgling program have gone to cover legal fees rather than programs for veterans, as the law intends. Regulators have countered that they’ve managed to meet constitutional deadlines despite numerous court challenges and procedural obstacles.

Dogan’s new plan would erase the language of the 2018 constitutional amendment in its entirety, including its licensing process and limits on the number of licenses available. In his comments to the Post-Dispatch, Dogan called the current system “too burdensome and too bureaucratic.”

“People might want to take the opportunity to have us take a leading role in this,” he said, “and to craft something that’s not going to be burdensome.”

Medical marijuana would remain legal under the proposed constitutional amendment, with little mention of how it would be regulated or distinguished from consumer products. A medical marijuana section in the amendment says the drug “shall be available to patients, who have a physician’s recommendation for its use” and that patients “shall be afforded the same rights and privileges afforded to any patient treated through conventional therapeutic means, regardless of whether the person is under the care of a physician.”

Marijuana sold for medical use would be taxed at four percent, the same rate as currently applies.

Other provisions in the proposal would prevent Missouri police agencies or state money from assisting with federal marijuana prohibition enforcement efforts, attempt to protect gun owners’ right to bear arms and ban civil asset forfeiture for marijuana offenses.

“This initiative will increase personal freedom, allow law enforcement to focus on violent crime instead of nonviolent marijuana users, and provide revenue for infrastructure, broadband, and drug treatment,” Dogan told Greenway. “I am confident Missouri voters will support these commonsense ideas when they have the opportunity to vote on adult use.”

Dogan’s proposed constitutional amendment is one of a handful of cannabis-related bills prefiled ahead of the coming legislative session. Other bills include proposals to criminalize the disclosure of medical marijuana patient information to unauthorized parties (HB 198, HB 501), expunge certain low-level cannabis offenses (HB 408, HB 546, SB 190), prevent adoption agencies from discriminating against patients who have medical marijuana recommendations or work in the industry (HB 485) and expand the ability of patients to consume cannabis in rental housing and other lodging (HB 486).

Two other proposed House measures would legalize marijuana through statute rather than via Dogan’s constitutional amendment approach: HB 263, sponsored by Rep. Peter Merideth (D), and HB 325, by Rep. Wiley Price IV (D).

Similar proposals were introduced in 2020 (HB 1978) and 2019 (HB 551).

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives defeated an amendment that would have required lawmakers consume a “substantial” amount of marijuana before voting on any legislation. Its sponsor told Marijuana Moment the plan was meant in jest to “get everyone to chill out and get a little chuckle.”

Wisconsin Governor Floats Marijuana Legalization In 2021 Budget To Boost Economy

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.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

Politics

Top Pennsylvania Official Restores Marijuana Flag After GOP Lawmakers Allegedly Got It Removed

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Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s (D) marijuana and LGBTQ flags are waving again at his Capitol office after state officials removed them Monday night, allegedly at the behest of certain GOP lawmakers who feel strongly about the activist decor.

The day after their removal, the lieutenant governor proudly announced on Twitter that he’d restored the flags—one rainbow-themed and the other displaying cannabis leaves.

“I really can’t emphasize this enough, my issue isn’t with the individuals that came to take them down. They’re kind of caught in the middle of it so it’s not them,” Fetterman told Marijuana Moment. “But the Pennsylvania GOP exerted enough pressure and made enough drama so they felt that they needed to do something and they took them down. When I realized that, I just put them back up.”

The flags have been an unusual source of controversy for some members of the legislature. In November, Republican lawmakers passed budget legislation that included a provision targeting his cannabis-themed office decor, making it so only the American flag, the Pennsylvania flag and those honoring missing soldiers could be displayed at the Capitol building.

“There’s one great way to get them down for good and we can end this,” the lieutenant governor said. And that’s by enacting legislative reform.

“It shouldn’t have to be this way. These are not controversial things. These are very fundamentally American things. It’s freedom-related. It’s individuality-related. It’s jobs. It’s revenue,” he said. “These are not controversial, but these flags are. For the party that thinks it’s A-OK to talk about how an election that was secure was rigged, they sure have a real thin skin when it comes to free speech.”

A spokesperson for the state Department of General Services confirmed to Marijuana Moment that it was tasked with removing the flags and did so “in order to comply with section 1724-E of the fiscal code.” Asked whether lawmakers from the legislature’s Republican majority influenced the recent action, the representative repeated: “All I can say is the Department of General Services removed the flag in order to comply with section 1724-E of the fiscal code.”

Marijuana Moment reached out to the offices of the Senate majority leader and House speaker for comment, but representatives did not respond by the time of publication.

Defying the flag order is par for the course for Fetterman, a longtime marijuana reform advocate who is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate. His enthusiastic embrace of the issue has often put him in the spotlight, and he said he’d take that advocacy to Congress if he ultimately decides to enter the race and is elected.

“I’m the only person that’s actually called out my own party for its failure to embrace it when it is appropriate,” he said, referring to his repeated criticism of the Democratic National Committee’s rejection of a pro-legalization platform. “There has never been—or would ever be—a more committed advocate to ending this awful superstition over a plant for the United States.”

On his campaign website, the lieutenant governor touts his role in leading a listening tour across the state to solicit public input on the policy change. He noted that, following his efforts, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) “announced his support for legalization for the first time.”

It remains to be seen when legalization will happen in Pennsylvania, however. Despite Fetterman and Wolf’s support for legalization and the pressure they’re applying on lawmakers, convincing Republican legislative leaders to go along with the plan remains a challenge.

Fetterman previously told Marijuana Moment that pursuing reform through the governor’s budget request is a possibility. But in the meantime the administration is exploring the constitutionality of issuing “wholesale pardons for certain marijuana convictions and charges.”

Since adopting a pro-legalization position in 2019, Wolf has repeatedly called on the legislature to enact the policy change. He’s stressed that stressed that marijuana reform could generate tax revenue to support the state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and that ending criminalization is necessary for social justice.

In September, he took a dig at the Republican-controlled legislature for failing to act on reform in the previous session. And in August, he suggested that the state itself could potentially control marijuana sales rather than just license private retailers as other legalized jurisdictions have done.

Fetterman previously said that farmers in his state can grow better marijuana than people in New Jersey—where voters approved a legalization referendum in November—and that’s one reason why Pennsylvania should expeditiously reform its cannabis laws.

He also hosted a virtual forum where he got advice on how to effectively implement a cannabis system from the lieutenant governors of Illinois and Michigan, which have enacted legalization.

Shortly after the governor announced that he was embracing the policy change, a lawmaker filed a bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.

A majority of Senate Democrats sent Wolf a letter in July arguing that legislators should pursue the policy change in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top New York Official Responds To Marijuana Advocates’ Criticism Of Governor’s Legalization Plan

Photo courtesy of Twitter/John Fetterman.

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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Hawaii Could Legalize Psychedelic Mushroom Therapy Under New Senate Bill

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Hawaii could legalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms for therapy under a newly filed bill in the state legislature.

The measure, if approved, would direct the state Department of Health to “establish designated treatment centers for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin and psilocyn,” two psychoactive substances produced by certain fungi.

It would also remove the two compounds from the state’s list of Schedule I controlled substances and create a seven-person psilocybin review panel to assess the impacts of the policy change.

Few other specifics are provided in the bill, SB 738, introduced in the state Senate on Friday. It doesn’t specify who would qualify for the therapy, for example, or how precisely the drugs—which remain federally illegal—would be administered. The legislation simply says the Department of Health “shall adopt rules” in accordance with state law.

The new legislation comes less than a year after Hawaii lawmakers introduced bills to begin studying the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms with the goal of eventually legalizing them, though those measures did not advance.

Entheogens—including other substances like ayahuasca and ibogaine—have emerged as a promising treatment for severe depression, anxiety and other conditions, although research remains ongoing.

In November, voters in Oregon approved a ballot measure to legalize psilocybin therapy that the state is now in the process of implementing.

The new Hawaii bill was introduced by Sens. Stanley Chang, Laura Clint Acasio, Les Ihara Jr. and Maile Shimabukuro, all Democrats. It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, according to the state legislature’s website.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 400 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 Hawaii proposal is one of a growing number of broader reform bills to have been introduced across the country this year as the debate on drug policy moves beyond marijuana. A measure introduced in New York earlier this month would remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of any controlled substance, instead imposing a $50 fine. Similar measures are expected to be introduced in California and Washington State this year.

A Florida lawmaker recently announced plans to introduce legislation to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes in the state.

Lawmakers in New Jersey last month sent a bill to Gov. Phil Murphy (D) that would reduce criminal charges for the possession of psilocybin, but so far Murphy hasn’t signed the measure.

Voters, meanwhile, have been broadly supportive of drug reform measures in recent years. In addition to the psilocybin. measure, Oregon voters in November also approved an initiative to decriminalize possession of all drugs. Washington, D.C. voters overwhelmingly enacted a proposal to decriminalize the possession of psychedelics.

Despite the growing discussion of drug reform at statehouses across the country, some high-profile advocates are setting their sights on the 2022 election. Dr. Bronner’s CEO David Bronner, a key financial backer of successful reform efforts in Oregon, told Marijuana Moment last month that he’s expecting both Washington state and Colorado voters will see decriminalization or psilocybin therapy on their 2022 ballots.

Meanwhile, a new advocacy group is pushing Congress to allocate $100 million to support research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

New Psychedelics Reform Group Sets Sights On Congress As Movement Builds

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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Minnesota Governor Urges Lawmakers To Pursue Marijuana Legalization Amid Budget Talks

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The governor of Minnesota on Tuesday implored the legislature to look into legalizing marijuana as a means to boost the economy and promote racial justice.

During a briefing focused on his budget proposal for the 2022-23 biennium, Gov. Tim Walz (D) was asked whether he is open to allowing sports betting in the state to generate tax revenue. He replied he wasn’t closing the door on that proposal, but said he is more interested in seeing lawmakers “take a look at recreational cannabis.”

Not only would tax revenue from adult-use marijuana “dwarf” those collected through sports betting, he said, but legalization would also help address “the equity issue and, quite honestly, the racial impact of our cannabis laws.”

Watch the governor discuss marijuana legalization below: 

“I will say this, I will certainly leave open that possibility. Our neighboring states have done both of those things,” Walz said of legalizing sports gambling and cannabis. “I obviously recognize that that’s not a 100 percent slam dunk for people, and they realize that there’s cost associated with both. But my message would be is, I don’t think this is the time for me to say I’m shutting the door on anything.”

Walz did not include a request to legalize through his budget, however, as governors in some other states have.

The Minnesota governor did say in 2019, however, that he was directing state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of legalization passing.

Earlier this month, the House majority leader said he would again introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in the new session. And if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the reform, he said he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Heading into the 2020 election, Democrats believed they had a shot of taking control of the Senate, but that didn’t happen. The result appears to be partly due to the fact that candidates from marijuana-focused parties in the state earned a sizable share of votes that may have otherwise gone to Democrats, perhaps inadvertently hurting the chances of reform passing.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) said this month that “Senate Republicans remain the biggest obstacle to progress on this issue.”

“Minnesota’s current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good,” she told The Center Square. “By creating a regulatory framework we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care and criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R), for his part, said that while he would be “open to expanding medical use or hearing criminal justice reforms,” he doesn’t “believe fully legalized marijuana is right for the state.”

“Other states that have legalized marijuana are having issues with public safety,” he argued, “and we are concerned that we haven’t fully seen how this works with employment issues, education outcomes and mental health.”

Last month, the Minnesota House Select Committee On Racial Justice adopted a report that broadly details race-based disparities in criminal enforcement and recommends a series of policy changes, including marijuana decriminalization and expungements.

Another factor that might add pressure on lawmakers to enact the reform is the November vote in neighboring South Dakota to legalize adult-use cannabis.

Also next door, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is pushing lawmakers to enact marijuana reform and recently said that he is considering putting legalization in his upcoming budget request.

New Mexico Governor Pushes For Marijuana Legalization In State Of The State Address

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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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