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New York Marijuana Legalization Effort About To Get A Big Boost

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New York’s Democratic Party is set to announce its full backing of marijuana legalization—news that broke on the same day that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters an official state study on the impacts of cannabis legalization that he ordered in January will be released “within days.”

The New York Post first reported on Monday that the state Democratic Party intends to adopt marijuana legalization as a central part of its platform. A planning document the Post obtained for a May 23-24 meeting shows the party will formally endorse legalization, emphasizing on the page: “WANT TO HIGHLIGHT THIS.”

“Cuomo is OK with it if it’s the party agenda for approval,” a Democratic source told the Post.

Hours later, Cuomo, speaking to reporters at his Manhattan office at a press conference on other matters, said that his requested report on legalization—which is meant to cover the health, criminal justice, economic and education impacts of reform—will be completed “shortly” and “within days.”

Cuomo is the de facto head of the New York Democratic Party, and so the organization’s expected move is significant, as is the fact that it will be timed closely with the state Department of Health’s official legalization analysis.

It is unlikely that Cuomo would sign off on a party legalization endorsement to be made official just days after a state agency declares ending cannabis prohibition a public health and safety disaster, suggesting that the report may leave supporters of marijuana law reform happy.

The governor’s position on cannabis has shifted over time. He previously described marijuana as a “gateway drug” and rejected the idea that New York was out of step with legalization efforts underway across the U.S.

On Monday, he seemed to say that legalization in nearby states means New York has to adapt.

“To say well, it won’t be in New York I think is to avoid reality at that point,” Cuomo said. “The facts changed on this issue and the facts changed quickly.”

And with polling indicating strong support for reform—63 percent of New Yorkers want to end prohibition, while 32 percent support keeping the status quo, according to a recent Quinnipiac University survey—the governor’s shift isn’t a political shocker. As Marijuana Moment has previously reported, calls for cannabis reform have expanded, particularly among Democrats, as more lawmakers recognize its popularity with voters.

Also of note is the fact that actor Cynthia Nixon, who announced her plan to challenge Cuomo in the Democratic primary race, has put legalization front and center on her platform.

“It’s time for New York to follow the lead of 8 other states & DC and legalize the recreational use of marijuana,” she tweeted last month. “For me, what it comes down to is this: we have to stop putting people of color in prison for something that white people do with impunity.”

71 percent of New York Democrats are on board with legalization, according to the Quinnipiac poll.

New York Voters Strongly Support Legalizing Marijuana, Poll Shows

Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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 Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Hemp Legalization Is Officially Headed to President Trump’s Desk For Signature

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The 2018 Farm Bill, which would legalize industrial hemp, is officially headed to President Donald Trump’s desk. The House passed the legislation on Wednesday, one day after the Senate approved it.

It’s been decades since the ban on hemp was imposed—a byproduct of the federal government’s war on marijuana and other drugs. The ban, it seems, will be lifted in a matter of days.

The House passed the bill, 369-47.

The votes come after months of debate over other aspects of the wide-ranging agriculture bill. But the hemp legalization provision, shepherded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has received bipartisan support at every step of the legislative process.

Hemp legalization made it through a conference committee where the Senate and House Agriculture Committees reconciled their respective versions of the bill. McConnell marked the occasion this week by signing the conference report with a hemp pen, which he said on Wednesday that the president was free to use to sign the bill into law.

The hemp provision would allow U.S. farmers to grow, process and sell the crop. The Justice Department would no longer have jurisdiction over hemp under the legislation; rather, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would lightly regulate it.

One element of the hemp language created tension between lawmakers and advocates. The original Senate-passed bill prohibited people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry, but a compromise was reached last week that limited that ban in the final version to 10 years after the last offense.

House Democrats in the Agriculture Committee listed hemp legalization as one of several reasons they were calling for a “yes” vote on the legislation.

According to VoteHemp, if the president signs the bill before the year’s end, it will take effect on January 1, 2019.

Mitch McConnell Says Trump Can Borrow His Hemp Pen To Sign Farm Bill Into Law

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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Politics

Marijuana Industry Border Issues Would Be Solved Under New Congressional Bill

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Marijuana can really mess up border and immigration issues for people who partake in consumption or participate in the industry, but that would change if a new bill being introduced in Congress this week is enacted.

Under current U.S. laws, people who admit to past cannabis use or who work for or invest in marijuana businesses can be barred from visiting the country under certain circumstances. And marijuana consumption, even if it is legal under state law, can lead to an immigrant being deported.

The new legislation, the Maintaining Appropriate Protections For Legal Entry Act, would provide exceptions for conduct that “was lawful in the State, Indian Tribe, or foreign country in which the conduct occurred” or that was “subsequently made lawful under the law or regulation of such jurisdiction,” according to a draft obtained by Marijuana Moment.

The bill, known as the MAPLE Act for short—surely a nod to the leaf on Canada’s flag—is being filed on Wednesday by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

U.S. border policies on entry by marijuana industry participants were slightly loosened just ahead of the launch of Canada’s legal marijuana market in October to clarify that people working for cannabis businesses are generally admissible to the U.S., with the caveat that “if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”

And that’s a key exception. Several Canadians traveling to a cannabis industry conference in Las Vegas last month were detained for hours, with one investor being given a lifetime ban from visiting the U.S.

While there is almost certainly not enough time for Blumenauer’s proposal to be considered and voted on by the end of the year, its language could easily be adopted into new legislation after the 116th Congress is seated in January.

In October, the congressman laid out a plan for a step-by-step approach to federally legalizing marijuana in 2019 in a memo to fellow House Democrats.

Marijuana Moment supporters on Patreon can read the full text of the new MAPLE Act below:

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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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Politics

Chicago Mayor Wants Legal Marijuana Revenue To Fund Pensions

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Tax revenue from legal marijuana sales should be earmarked to fund pension programs, the mayor of Chicago said on Wednesday.

“Illinois legislators will be taking a serious look next year at legalizing recreational marijuana,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said in a speech to the City Council. “Should they follow that course, a portion of that revenue could go toward strengthening our pension funds and securing the retirement of the workers who depend on them.”

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo courtesy of Daniel X. O’Neil.

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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