A group of Missouri marijuana activists recently filed four separate initiatives to put marijuana reform on the state’s 2022 ballot, a move that comes as other advocacy groups are preparing separate efforts to collect signatures for cannabis ballot petitions of their own. Meanwhile, still other activists are focusing on getting the legislature to pass a resolution to place the question of legalization before voters next year.
One group, Fair Access Missouri, is exploring multiple citizen initiatives with the hopes of getting at least one on the ballot next year. Three of the four would create a system of legalized cannabis sales for adults 21 and older, while another would simply amend the state’s existing medical marijuana program.
“We’ve seen across the country that smart rules and an open market are the way to go when legalizing cannabis, and that’s what we’ll be bringing to Missouri,” the organization said in a statement last week.
While the group is pushing four separate measures, there’s overlap among their provisions and it’s likely that advocates at this stage are putting out feelers to see which may have the greatest potential to pass if put to a vote.
Aside from recreational marijuana legalization, three of the new initiatives would amend the state’s medical cannabis program. Among other changes, they would remove licensing caps, repeal the application scoring system, reduce patient fees, allow patients to access a one-year supply instead of 90 days, allow nurses and psychologists to make medical marijuana recommendations, eliminate some restrictions on market participation eligibility for people with prior cannabis convictions, increase the number of patients that a given caregiver can serve and revise the definition of hemp.
The purpose of the measures is to “permit the safe and legal use of cannabis by adults over the age of 21 and to responsibly regulate the cultivation, processing, manufacturing, and distribution of cannabis,” the text states. “The people of Missouri have a right to enjoy the benefits of their labor free from unreasonable regulation.”
Today we filed petitions to continue our fight for an adult-use open market with — low taxes and low barriers for entrepreneurs. Find out more and join us >> https://t.co/oINC2GJjkU #FairAccess pic.twitter.com/J6vlpr66iT
— FairAccessMO (@FairAccessMO) July 12, 2021
Free Access Missouri, which has ties to the Missouri Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA), does seem to be living up to its name based on the measures, which contain provisions that appear to specifically promote industry participation by proposing a system without licensing limits.
With respect to the adult-use legalization measures, differences between them largely come down to brevity and cannabis tax revenue allocation.
Shared provisions include allowing adults to possess up to eight ounces of cannabis and cultivate “up to 25 square feet of flowering canopy of cannabis.”
Regulators would have to promulgate rules to issue cannabis licenses by June 30, 2023, otherwise the industry rules would default to being the same as those for alcohol manufacturing and sales.
There would be no local-opt out provision to fully ban marijuana businesses from operating in a given area in two of the measures. However, local governments would be able to pass ordinances governing time of operation and locations.
One of the initiatives, which is far shorter than the others and doesn’t contain the medical cannabis amendments language that’s in the other three measures, leaves the issue of local control more open, stipulating that jurisdictions must simply “develop and adopt ordinances and policies related to cannabis licensees no later than June 30, 2023.”
Local ordinances could not “create an undue burden on access to consumers,” however. Presumably a blanket ban on retailers could fit the definition of an “undue burden,” but the text of the short measure doesn’t explicitly prohibit that action.
People with marijuana convictions—except for certain felonies or distribution to a person under 17—could petition for a “release from custody and expungement of their criminal record.” These petitions would need to be expedited and granted unless the individual has additional crimes.
Among the two lengthy recreational measures, one would split cannabis tax revenue between the general fund and nonprofits that help people expunge past records, while the other would earmark the funds for a broader range of services, including expanding internet access, improving roads, repairing utilities, substance misuse prevention and treatment, marijuana research, job training for formerly incarcerated people and small business loans and grants for marginalized people.
Eric McSwain, president of Fair Access Missouri, told MO Greenway that a primary goal of the group’s push is to “actually make the medical program better.”
“We’ve seen that mistake in other states where adult use comes around and all of a sudden the medical program suffers or is made to suffer by additional policies,” he said. “We want to avoid that.”
“We want to create a more open market. Where our normal market forces can sort of blend in and do their work in order to set prices, supply, demand, all those sorts of things,” he continued. “We think that’s to the benefit of consumers, patients first, and also adult use consumers—because they’re going to see that competition is going to force higher quality at lower prices.”
Some activists feel that the group’s initiatives don’t quite meet the mark, particularly as it concerns restrictions embedded in the language.
The pro-legalization Crossing Paths PAC, for example, said the limits on personal possession and home cultivation in Fair Access Missouri’s measures would actually create a burden for law enforcement. The group said “continuing to mandate personal possession or homegrow limits would waste law enforcement resources, as police would still have to make a determination of what lawful possession is.”
Further, it expressed concerns about the lack of a distinction between different forms of THC. “We’d welcome the chance to engage with Fair Access or any other group that is unhappy with the significant problems stemming from” the current medical cannabis system, it said.
Fair Access Missouri’s initiatives are also a focus of a MCIA ballot initiative workshop that’s taking place this weekend.
This group isn’t alone in working to put legalization on the 2022 ballot. New Approach Missouri, which successfully got a medical cannabis initiative passed by voters in 2018, is also planning to file a broader reform initiative in the coming days through its campaign committee Legal Missouri 2022,. Details of the proposal have yet to be released, however.
“Our coalition looks forward to putting a cannabis legalization and expungement initiative on the 2022 ballot,” John Payne, campaign director of New Approach Missouri, told Marijuana Moment on Friday. “We are fortunate to live in a state where the citizens have the right to change our laws through the initiative petition process.”
“But that process is an arduous one, which is why of the hundreds of petitions filed every election cycle, only a handful typically reach the ballot, and even fewer are passed into law,” he said. “Our coalition of activists, entrepreneurs, and criminal justice reform advocates looks forward to placing this important issue before voters in 2022 and winning their support, much like we were able to do in 2018 with medical marijuana. We wish others luck as well.”
The organization tried to place the issue of legalization before voters last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed that effort.
Despite the health crisis, activists managed to collect 80,000 raw signatures within months, though they needed 160,199 valid signatures to qualify.
For 2022, proposals to amend the state Constitution will need 171,592 valid signatures from registered voters.
Meanwhile, some advocates want the legislature to take the lead on reform. And Rep. Shamed Dogan (R), who filed a resolution last year to ask voters about legalization on the ballot and compel lawmakers to develop a legal system if approved, is expected to make another push for similar legislation early next year after the prior effort failed to advance this session.
It should be noted that there’s yet another group pushing to put a marijuana initiative on the ballot next year—but one that doesn’t currently having the backing of major trade or advocacy groups. It would similarly legalize cannabis for adult use.
Missouri is just one state where activists are working to qualify marijuana reform for 2022 ballots around the country.
Nebraska marijuana activists have announced plans for a “mass scale” campaign to put medical cannabis legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot.
Two measures were submitted in Wyoming last month to place medical cannabis legalization and adult-use decriminalization measures before voters in 2022.
This month, Idaho activists filed a revised measure to legalize marijuana possession for adults that they hope to place before voters on the 2022 ballot. That’s in addition to a separate medical cannabis effort in the state.
In South Dakota, activists this month filed four separate cannabis ballot measures for 2022.
North Dakota activists are formulating plans for a marijuana legalization measure after lawmakers failed to enact the reform this session.
Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court has blocked two cannabis legalization initiatives for which activists had already collected thousands of signatures.
Locally, a newly established Texas progressive group unveiled a campaign last month to put an initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession and ban no-knock warrants on this November’s ballot in Austin.
Ohio activists also recently qualified a measure to decriminalize cannabis to appear on a local 2021 ballot—the first of dozens of reform proposals that could go before voters this year as signature gathering efforts continue across the state. The group is also working to put marijuana initiatives on local ballots in South Carolina and West Virginia.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
New York Marijuana Regulatory Board Is Officially Completed With Governor’s Final Appointments
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Wednesday announced her final two appointees to regulate the state’s adult-use marijuana market—a key step toward implementing the legalization law signed by her predecessor.
Hochul named two additional Cannabis Control Board members weeks after the Senate confirmed previous appointees earlier this month. The newly named regulators—Reuben McDaniel III of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York and Jessica García of the UFCW labor union—do not require confirmation by lawmakers.
“New York’s cannabis industry has stalled for far too long—I am making important appointments to set the Office of Cannabis Management up for success so they can hit the ground running,” the governor said in a press release. “I am confident Mr. McDaniel and Ms. Garcia will serve the board with professionalism and experience as we lead our state forward in this new industry.”
Hochul (D), who replaced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) last month after he resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, has been supportive of the legislature’s passage of the adult-use legalization bill this year. And while her predecessor faced criticism as negotiations with legislators on potential appointments stalled, Hochul has now taken the helm and is working with leaders on how to move the process forward.
Under New York’s legalization law, the independent Office of Cannabis Management within the New York State Liquor Authority was established and will be responsible for regulating the recreational cannabis market as well as the existing medical marijuana and hemp programs. It will be overseen by a five-member Cannabis Control Board.
Three members have now been appointed by the governor, and the Senate and Assembly have also appointed one member each.
As it stands, adults 21 and older can possess up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrates in New York—and they can also smoke marijuana in public anywhere tobacco can be smoked—but there aren’t any shops open for business yet.
The first recreational marijuana retailers in New York may actually be located on Indian territory, with one tribe officially opening applications for prospective licensees earlier this month.
In July, a New York senator filed a bill to create a provisional marijuana licensing category so that farmers could begin cultivating and selling cannabis ahead of the formal rollout of the adult-use program. The bill has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
Because the implementation process has been drawn out, however, one GOP senator wants to give local jurisdictions another year to decide whether they will opt out of allowing marijuana businesses to operate in their area—a proposal that advocates say is unnecessary and would create undue complications for the industry.
Under the law as enacted, municipalities must determine whether they will opt out of permitting marijuana retailers or social consumption sites by December 31, 2021. Sen. George Borrello (R) introduced legislation late last week that would push that deadline back one year.
Legalization activists aren’t buying the argument, however.
Adding pressure to get the market up and running is the fact that regulators in neighboring New Jersey recently released rules for its adult-use marijuana program, which is being implemented after voters approved a legalization referendum last year.
For the first year of cannabis sales, the state is expected to see just $20 million in tax and fee collections. That will be part of an estimated $26.7 billion in new revenues that New York is expected to generate in fiscal year 2021-2022 under a budget that the legislature passed in April.
Meanwhile, a New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.
USDA Wants To Help Hemp Farmers Weed Out Weeds (But Not The Marijuana Kind)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is teaming up with university researchers to figure out the best ways to keep weeds out of hemp.
To clarify, they want to develop strategies to stop invasive weeds from disrupting hemp cultivation. Not the marijuana kind of weed, but actual weeds.
USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has granted Cornell University $325,000 to support the weed management study for hemp, which was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.
It will be a three-year, “multi-institution, multistate” initiative designed to “provide growers with evidence-based, location-specific recommendations to suppress weeds and maximize yields,” according to a press release.
.@Cornell AgriTech researcher aim to cultivate new methods for managing #weeds to benefit organic #apple and #grape growers, and #hemp producers in New York state and around the country. @USDA_NIFA funded. Read more: https://t.co/kTUrLrAP6A pic.twitter.com/tdpp8MpRWs
— NIFA (@USDA_NIFA) September 22, 2021
Lynn Sosnoskie, assistant professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell, will lead the research project.
“The prohibitions on hemp production meant prohibitions on hemp research,” she said. “I get a lot of questions about weed control in hemp, and we don’t have a lot of answers other than generalities. What we’re hoping to do is fill in those details.”
Researchers will investigate potential factors related weed infestations such as planting different varieties, growing the crop at different times and weather impacts. As it stands, farmers have largely relied on trial and error for weed management, Dan Dolgin, co-owner of New York’s first licensed hemp production business, said.
“We’ve kind of been our own R&D,” Dolgin said. “Our big challenge as an organic grower is how to prevent weeds. That’s where we need more experience with growing hemp.”
Virginia Tech, Southern Illinois University, North Dakota State University and Clemson University will also be involved in the hemp study.
USDA also announced last month that it is moving forward with a large-scale survey to gain insight into the hemp market.
After requesting permission from the White House earlier this year to conduct the survey of about 20,000 hemp farmers, the agency’s National Agricultural Statistics Service recently said that the forms are being finalized to be filled out via mail or online.
USDA is asking questions about plans for outdoor hemp production, acreage for operations, primary and secondary uses for the crop and what kinds of prices producers are able to bring in. The questionnaire lists preparations such as smokeable hemp, extracts like CBD, grain for human consumption, fiber and seeds as areas the department is interested in learning about.
Last year, USDA announced plans to distribute a separate national survey to gain insights from thousands of hemp businesses that could inform its approach to regulating the industry.
That survey is being completed in partnership with National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky. The department said it wanted to learn about “current production costs, production practices, and marketing practices” for hemp.
There’s still much to learn about the burgeoning market, even as USDA continues to approve state regulatory plans for the crop. Most recently, the agency approved a hemp plan submitted by Colorado, where officials have consistently insisted that the state intends to be a leader in the space.
While USDA’s final rule for hemp took effect on March 22, the agency is evidently still interested in gathering information to further inform its regulatory approach going forward. Industry stakeholders say the release of the final rule is a positive step forward that will provide businesses with needed guidance, but they’ve also pointed to a number of policies that they hope to revise as the market matures such as USDA’s hemp testing requirements.
The federal Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy expressed a similar sentiment in a blog post in February, writing that it is “pleased with some of the changes that [USDA] has made to the rule, as they offer more certainty and are less burdensome to small farmers,” but “some concerns remained unaddressed in the final rule.”
USDA announced in April that it is teaming up with a chemical manufacturing company on a two-year project that could significantly expand the hemp-based cosmetics market.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced last month that it is sponsoring a project to develop hemp fiber insulation that’s designed to be better for the environment and public health than conventional preparations are.
Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.
Oklahoma Activists Finalize Language For Two 2022 Marijuana Ballot Initiatives
Oklahoma marijuana activists have finalized the language of initiatives to legalize adult-use marijuana and remodel the state’s existing medical cannabis program that they hope to place on the 2022 ballot.
Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action (ORCA) released draft versions of the proposals earlier this summer, and the group has been soliciting feedback on how best to refine the measures. The group announced on Tuesday that after taking that input into account, they’ve arrived at final text.
Under the recreational legalization measure, adults 21 and older would be able to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana that they purchase from retailers, as well as whatever cannabis they yield from growing up to 12 plants for personal use.
Marijuana sales would be subject to a 15 percent excise tax, and the initiative outlines a number of programs that would receive partial revenue from those taxes. The money would first cover implementation costs and then would be divided to support water-related infrastructure, people with disabilities, substance misuse treatment, law enforcement training, cannabis research and more.
The measure also lays out pathways for resentencing and expungements for those with marijuana convictions.
Oklahoma voters approved medical cannabis legalization at the ballot in 2018. Unlike many state medical marijuana programs, it does not require patients have any specific qualifying conditions; doctors can recommend cannabis for any condition they see fit.
Activists with ORCA want to revamp the program, however. The separate initiative would establish the Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission (OSCC) to oversee all areas of the medical marijuana system. It would also set a seven percent excise tax on medical cannabis sales, with revenue supporting marijuana research, rural impact and urban waste remediation, agriculture development, mental health response programs, substance misuse treatment and more.
But while the measures would appear separately on the ballot if they qualify, activists view them as complementary.
A key example of that is how the adult-use measure calls for a gradual decrease of medical marijuana tax, which would reach zero percent within one year of its enactment. Also, within 60 days of enactment, the state’s existing medical cannabis dispensaries would be permitted to sell to the recreational market.
Oklahoma activists had previously attempted to qualify a legalization measure for the 2020 ballot. They filed a petition to legalize cannabis for adult use in December 2019, but signature gathering fell short due in part to procedural delays and the coronavirus pandemic.
Both of the newly finalized initiatives would be constitutional amendments, meaning activists will need to collect at least 177,958 valid signatures from registered voters on each to qualify them for the ballot.
Oklahoma is one of a growing number of states where activists are working to place drug policy reform before voters next year.
Florida marijuana activists are making another push to place adult-use legalization before voters in 2022, recently filing a new petition with the state after previous versions of the reform were rejected by the state Supreme Court earlier this year.
South Dakota cannabis advocates are now ramping up for a signature gathering effort to put legalization on the 2022 ballot as the state Supreme Court continues to consider a case on the fate of the legal cannabis measure that voters approved last year.
New Hampshire lawmakers are pursuing a new strategy to legalize marijuana in the state that involves putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters to decide on in 2022.
Lawmakers in Maryland are also crafting legislation to place a marijuana legalization referendum on the 2022 ballot after the House speaker called for the move.
Nebraska marijuana activists announced recently that they have turned in a pair of complementary initiatives to legalize medical cannabis that they hope to place on the state’s 2022 ballot.
Ohio activists recently cleared a final hurdle to begin collecting signatures for a 2022 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the state.
Missouri voters may see a multiple marijuana initiatives on the state’s ballot next year, with a new group filing an adult-use legalization proposal that could compete with separate reform measures that are already in the works.
Arkansas advocates are collecting signatures to place adult-use marijuana legalization on the ballot.
Activists in Idaho are working to advance separate measures to legalize possession of recreational marijuana and to create a system of legal medical cannabis sales. State officials recently cleared activists to begin collecting signatures for a revised initiative to legalize possession of marijuana that they hope to place before voters on the 2022 ballot. Meanwhile, a separate campaign to legalize medical cannabis in the state is also underway, with advocates actively collecting signatures to qualify that measure for next year’s ballot.
After a House-passed bill to legalize marijuana in North Dakota was rejected by the Senate in March, some senators hatched a plan to advance the issue by referring it to voters on the 2022 ballot. While their resolution advanced through a key committee, the full Senate blocked it. However, activists with the group North Dakota Cannabis Caucus are collecting signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis for the 2022 ballot.
Wyoming’s attorney general recently issued ballot summaries for proposed initiatives to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize cannabis possession, freeing up activists to collect signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot.
And it’s not just marijuana measures that reform activists are seeking to qualify for state ballots next year. A California campaign was recently cleared to begin collecting signatures for an initiative to legalize psilocybin. And advocates in Washington State have announced plans to put a proposal to decriminalize all drug before voters.
Read the text of the Oklahoma adult-use and medical marijuana initiatives below:
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.