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Republican Lawmakers File Bill To Tax And Regulate Marijuana As Alternative To Democratic Proposals

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Several Republican members of Congress introduced a bill on Monday to federally legalize and tax marijuana as an alternative to pending far-reaching Democratic-led reform proposals and scaled-down GOP cannabis descheduling legislation.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) is sponsoring the bill—titled the States Reform Act—along with a handful of initial Republican cosponsors. It would end federal marijuana prohibition while taking specific steps to ensure that businesses in existing state markets can continue to operate unencumbered by changing federal rules.

Unlike more modest measures previously championed by some of Mace’s GOP colleagues, this legislation—an updated draft version of which was obtained by Marijuana Moment over the weekend—represents an attempt to bridge a partisan divide. It does that by incorporating certain equity provisions such as expungements for people with non-violent cannabis convictions and imposing an excise tax, revenue from which would support community reinvestment, law enforcement and Small Business Administration (SBA) activities.

“This bill supports veterans, law enforcement, farmers, businesses, those with serious illnesses, and it is good for criminal justice reform,” Mace said in a statement on Monday. “The States Reform Act takes special care to keep Americans and their children safe while ending federal interference with state cannabis laws.”

“Washington needs to provide a framework which allows states to make their own decisions on cannabis moving forward,” the congresswoman said. “This bill does that.”

Along with Mace, the bill is cosponsored by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Don Young (R-AK), Brian Mast (R-FL) and Peter Meijer (R-MI). Rep. Ken Buck’s (R-CO) name was listed on an earlier version of the bill that Marijuana Moment reviewed, but he appears to have removed himself prior to introduction.

“We’re getting a lot of great feedback from Republicans and Democrats on this bill,” Mace said at a press conference. “My main goal is to get as much Republican support as I can initially, and we’re hearing great feedback from both chambers, both sides of the aisle on this piece of legislation.”

Watch the press conference announcing the new legalization bill in the video below: 

Marijuana Moment first reported on an earlier draft version of the bill earlier this month, and it quickly became apparent that industry stakeholders see an opportunity in the Republican-led effort.

The reason for that response largely comes down to the fact that there’s skepticism that Democratic-led legalization bills will be able to pass without GOP buy-in. While Democrats hold majorities in both chambers, in addition to controlling the White House, the margins for passage are slim.

A Democratic-led bill to end prohibition and promote social equity did clear the House Judiciary Committee in September. And Senate leadership is preparing to file a separate legalization proposal after unveiling a draft version in July.

Weldon Angelos, an advocate who’s worked with Mace’s office on the legislation alongside partners at the Cannabis Freedom Alliance (CFA), told Marijuana Moment that a main objective of the bill is to facilitate a bipartisan conversation about what legalization should look like. And while there’s more he’d like to see done, particularly in the way of social equity provisions, the advocate feels this is a strong starting point.

“The whole idea behind the Cannabis Freedom Alliance wasn’t to have the Republicans steal this [issue] from the Democrats. Just so we’re clear, that’s not the reason behind this bill,” Angelos, who was pardoned by former President Donald Trump for a federal marijuana conviction, said. “The people behind the scenes, like my organization, just want to make this a reality. And we can’t get there without this step, which is this bill that’s been introduced by Congresswoman Nancy Mace.”

Under the new Mace legalization bill, which is primarily aimed at having the federal government treat marijuana in a similar manner to alcohol, cannabis would be removed from the Controlled Substances Act, with retroactive effects for people previously punished.

Prior federal cannabis convictions would need to be expunged within one year. People affiliated with cartels or who have been convicted of driving under the influence would not be eligible for the relief, however. Mace’s office estimates that about 2,600 people will be released from federal incarceration under the provision.

Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment that if the congresswoman and her allies follow through, “then we will have truly shifted the debate from a partisan ‘Do we legalize’ framework to a bipartisan ‘We will legalize marijuana and erase the criminal records of those who have suffered under criminalization.'”

There would be a 3 percent federal excise tax on cannabis under the bill. That’s somewhat less than the 3.75 percent included in an initial draft of Mace’s bill that Marijuana Moment reported on earlier this month, and is significantly lower than tax rates in Democrat-led marijuana bills.

The Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)—renamed as the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Cannabis Tax and Trade Bureau—would be the chief regulator for marijuana with respect to interstate commerce and international trade. The agency would create a track and trace system for cannabis, and federal officials would be authorized to issue packaging and labelling requirements for products.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be limited in its regulatory authority, with the intent being that it would have no more control over cannabis than it does for alcohol except when it comes to medical cannabis. The agency could prescribe serving sizes, certify designated state medical cannabis products and approve and regulate pharmaceuticals derived from marijuana, but could not ban the use of cannabis or its derivates in non-drug applications, like in designated state medical cannabis products, dietary supplements, foods, beverages, non-drug topicals or cosmetics.

Enforcement authority would be transferred from the Drug Enforcement Administration to a newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis, Firearms and Explosives.

Raw cannabis would be considered an agricultural commodity regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The plant would be treated like the “component crops of alcohol beverages” such as barely, hops and grain, a summary from Mace’s office explains.


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.

A federal permit would be required to operate a cannabis business, and certain past marijuana convictions could render someone ineligible to obtain it.

The legislation would grandfather existing state-licensed cannabis operators into the federal scheme to ensure continued patient access and incentivize participation in the legal market.

As federal agencies work to promulgate rules, there would be safe harbor provisions to protect patients and marijuana businesses acting in compliance with existing state laws.

Revenue from federal marijuana taxes would go to a newly created Law Enforcement Retraining and Successful Second Chances Fund, and distributed to programs under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring program, a new Successful Second Chances program under the Small Business Administration (SBA), veterans mental health programs, state programs to combat opioid addiction and efforts to prevent youth cannabis use.

A national age limit of 21 would be set for legal recreational marijuana products, which would be enforced by withholding funds from any state that seeks to lower that age. The limit would not apply to medical cannabis. Advertisements targeting minors or that are misleading would be banned.

The Treasury Department would be required to conduct periodic studies on the characteristics of the cannabis industry and issue recommendations for improving regulations and tax administration. The Bureau of Labor Statistics would also be directed to regularly report data on marijuana industry ownership and employment.

Military veterans could not be discriminated against in hiring for federal positions due to cannabis consumption, and doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs would be allowed to issue medical marijuana recommendations. People who left the military with other than honorable, bad conduct or dishonorable discharges solely for cannabis offenses would be entitled to an upgrade to a general discharge.

Federal agencies could continue drug testing employees for marijuana.

Cannabis business would become eligible for SBA loans and other relief.

The U.S. Trade Representative would be directed to send trade missions to other countries that have legalized cannabis imports and exports.

All references to “marijuana” or “marihuana” in federal laws and regulations would be changed to “cannabis.”

The bill is receiving early praise from across the political spectrum.

“The States Reform Act represents an opportunity for leaders in Congress to create stability and security for the American people,” Brent Gardner, chief government affairs officer for the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, said in a press release. “The failures of the War on Drugs are well-known and well-documented, and it is past time to move on from this misbegotten effort. Meanwhile, the developing cannabis industry cannot truly develop into an engine of entrepreneurship and second chances until cannabis sheds its uncertain federal legal status. This bill is a common-sense policy change that will create a free and fair regulatory system and ensure law enforcement is focused on preventing and solving serious crime.”

Lt. Diane Goldstein (Ret.), executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), told Marijuana Moment that “the States Reform Act is a terrific example of the federal bureaucracy finally catching up to what states are doing right.”

“It’s by no means a cure all, but it is a signal that our policy makers are taking a new, bipartisan, approach when it comes to setting drug policy for the country by following the science,” she said.

Randal John Meyer, executive director of the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce (GACC), said that the bill’s introduction “is a historic moment for the cannabis industry, with major legislation now being introduced by members of both political parties.”

“The States Reform Act stands with the MORE Act and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act as one of the truly comprehensive cannabis reform bills introduced in this Congress, and GACC is proud to support all three,” he said, referring to Democratic-led reform bills advancing in the House and Senate.

Strekal of NORML said “Representative Mace, along with multiple other Republicans, has put forward comprehensive and sensible legislation to repeal marijuana criminalization and this effort deserves serious consideration.”

“Between the previously passed MORE Act, the recent Senate proposal by Leader Schumer, and this new bill, it is truly a race to the top for the best ideas and smartest approaches to responsible reform,” he said.

Some advocates have pointed out areas where they would like to see the legislation amended.

“The States Reform Act should remove the disqualifying offenses based on cannabis consumption and sales and instead disqualify applicants who have engaged in corporate crimes or fraud,” Parabola Center’s Shaleen Title, a former Massachusetts cannabis regulator, told Marijuana Moment of the provisions concerning who can qualify for a federal marijuana permit.

Some Republicans have led, or joined their Democratic colleagues, on other marijuana bills, but they’ve generally been far more scaled back measures—simply protecting states that choose to legalize or descheduling cannabis without touching social equity issues or creating a federal tax on sales.

In any case, polling shows that the public is ready for an end to prohibition. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. adults said they back legalizing cannabis in a Gallup poll released this month—and that includes majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Yet, despite that support, President Joe Biden continues to oppose adult-use legalization. Instead, he’s supportive of more modest proposals to federally decriminalize cannabis, legalize the plant for medical use and let states set their own policies.

Whether he’d sign any Democratic- or Republican-led legalization bill is an open question.

While the president is personally against comprehensively ending prohibition, the Congressional Research Service released a report this month explaining steps he and his administration could take to repair the harms of cannabis criminalization.

Read the text of the Mace legalization bill below: 

Click to access statesreformact.pdf

Biden’s FDA Pick Prescribed Cannabinoid Medicine And Recognized Marijuana’s Therapeutic Potential

Image element courtesy of Tim Evanson.

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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Credit Unions Urge Congress To Pass Marijuana Banking Reform Through Defense Bill

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Major associations representing U.S. credit unions are calling on Congress to pass marijuana banking reform through must-pass defense legislation.

It’s the latest in a series of requests from lawmakers, stakeholders and advocates to advance legislation to protect financial institutions that work with state-legal cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators.

Specifically, they want to see the Senate follow the House’s lead in attaching language from the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“We take no position on legalizing or decriminalizing medicinal or recreational cannabis at either the state or federal level,” the associations said in a letter to key committee leadership. “However, credit unions operating in states where it is legal have members and member businesses involved in the cannabis market who need access to traditional depository and lending services, the absence of which creates a significant public safety issue.”

The Credit Union National Association, Defense Credit Union Council and National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions signed the letter, which also touches on non-cannabis issues.

The groups, which wrote that they “strongly support” attaching SAFE Banking to NDAA, also stressed that “financial institutions that choose not to bank the cannabis industry still risk unknowingly serving those businesses in states where cannabis is legal.”

“Indirect connections are often difficult to identify and avoid because like any other industry, those offering cannabis-related services work with vendors and suppliers,” the letter continues. “Under the existing status quo, a credit union that does business with any one of these indirectly affiliated entities could unknowingly risk violating federal law.”

“Inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act puts in place necessary protections to bring revenue from state-sanctioned cannabis businesses into the financial services mainstream and, as a result, keeping communities safe,” it concludes.

While the Senate has yet to independently add the banking reform language to its version of NDAA, supporters want to see the provisions adopted by negotiators in conference for the final legislation sent to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Bipartisan members of the Senate Armed Services Committee recently sent their own letter urging leaders to include the SAFE Banking Act in the final NDAA. Shortly thereafter, U.S. senators representing Colorado made the same request in a separate letter.

The SAFE Banking Act has been approved in some form in the House five times now, but it’s so far languished in the Senate. Stakeholders have held out hope that the chamber would advance the legislation with a Democratic majority, but some key players like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have insisted on passing comprehensive legalization—like a reform bill he’s finalizing—first.

That said, Schumer has signaled that he’s open to enacting banking reform through NDAA if it contained social equity provisions.

Earlier this month, a bipartisan coalition of two dozen governors implored congressional leaders to finally enact marijuana banking reform through the large-scale defense legislation.

A group of small marijuana business owners also recently made the case that the incremental banking policy change could actually help support social equity efforts.

Rodney Hood, a board member of the National Credit Union Administration, wrote in a Marijuana Moment op-ed last month that legalization is an inevitability—and it makes the most sense for government agencies to get ahead of the policy change to resolve banking complications now.

Meanwhile, an official with the Internal Revenue Service said last month that the agency would like to “get paid,” and it’d help if the marijuana industry had access to banks like companies in other legal markets so they could more easily comply with tax laws.

Federal data shows that many financial institutions remain hesitant to take on cannabis companies as clients, however, which is likely due to the fact that the plant is a strictly controlled substance under federal law.

Read the letter from the credit union associations on marijuana banking below: 

Click to access 110421_ndaa_joint-trade.pdf

 

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Marijuana Had ‘Unprecedented’ Success In State Legislatures In 2021, NORML Report Shows

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Lawmakers across the U.S. proved again in 2021 that marijuana reform will continue to advance on the state level despite the recalcitrance of Congress to end federal prohibition.

As more eyes turn to 2022 legislative sessions, a report from NORML that was released on Monday details advocates’ progress on the cannabis front this year in more than 25 states, where over 50 pieces of marijuana reform legislation were enacted.

Most notably, legislatures and governors in five states enacted recreational legalization—a notable trend given that the reform has historically been decided by voters as ballot initiatives. But 2021 has also seen more modest policy changes related to medical cannabis, decriminalization and social equity.

“State lawmakers took unprecedented steps this year to repeal marijuana prohibition laws and to provide relief to those millions of Americans who have suffered as a result of them,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a press release.

Of course, one of the primary objectives of reform advocates is to comprehensively end prohibition. To that end, the legislatures of Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Virginia each legalized marijuana for adult use this year. (New Jersey’s action came months after voters approved a referendum on the issue during last November’s election.)

In Rhode Island, the Senate approved a marijuana legalization bill in June. While legislative leaders discussed holding a special session to send a final measure to the governor’s desk, it now appears more likely that the issue will be taken up again in 2022.

North Dakota’s House also passed a recreational legalization bill, but it was later rejected in the Senate.

Louisiana lawmakers, meanwhile, passed legislation this year that decriminalizes possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis.

With respect to expungements for prior marijuana convictions, reform measures meant to help provide people with relief were approved in Colorado, Delaware, New Mexico and Virginia, NORML reported.

As an example, the governor of Colorado signed a bill in May to double the marijuana possession limit for adults in the state—and he also directed state law enforcement to identify people with prior convictions for the new limit who he may be able to pardon.

Separately, Alabama’s governor signed legislation that same month to legalize medical cannabis in the state.


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.

At least 15 states took steps to expand existing medical marijuana programs. They range from California, where hospitals will now be required to permit medical cannabis use by certain patients, to Texas, where patients can now qualify for low-THC marijuana products if they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or cancer.

As state markets have continued to evolve, some lawmakers have turned their attention to enhancing social equity in the industry. And to that end, five state legislatures advanced reform this year.

For example, Illinois passed a bill to create additional marijuana licensing lotteries to expand business opportunities. And in Michigan, the governor signed a bill this month that makes it so people with cannabis-related felony or misdemeanor convictions on their record are no longer disqualified from obtaining a medical cannabis business license.

NORML also documented other reform bills related to the business industry, driving/DUI policies, juvenile justice and more. One miscellaneous measure that was enacted in California, for example, makes it so non-intoxicating cannabinoids, including CBD, can be sold as dietary supplements and as ingredients in food and beverages.

“As we approach the 2022 legislative session and the elections next November, it is important for lawmakers of all political persuasions to recognize that advocating for marijuana policy reforms is a political opportunity, not a political liability,” NORML’s Armentano said. “These policies are popular among voters, regardless of political party.”

Activists and lawmakers have made clear that the cannabis reform momentum will continue through the new year.

On Monday, for instance, a Kentucky lawmaker announced that she is pre-filing bills to legalize possession, limited sales and home cultivation of marijuana in the state for the 2022 session.

In the South Dakota legislature, a cannabis reform bill has been formally recommended by a leadership panel for the upcoming session. And activists will also continue collecting signatures for a 2022 ballot initiative—though they hope to work with lawmakers to advance reform legislatively ahead of next year’s election.

The Indiana Democratic party is mounting a push for marijuana legalization and calling on state lawmakers to enact the reform in 2022.

Arkansas activists are also hoping to place marijuana legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot.

Last month, Oklahoma activists filed a pair of 2022 ballot initiatives to legalize adult-use marijuana and remodel the state’s existing medical cannabis program.

In Nebraska, advocates unveiled the language of a pair of initiatives to legalize medical marijuana in the state last month.

This summer, New Hampshire lawmakers discussed 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.

Wyoming activists, meanwhile, are working to collect signatures for 2022 ballot initiatives to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize cannabis possession.

A Maryland House working group has been tasked with studying marijuana and preparing a legalization referendum that the speaker wants to put on next year’s ballot.

Just months ago, Ohio activists were cleared to begin collecting signatures for a 2022 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the state. And the campaign says it expects to have enough valid signatures by the end of this month.

Idaho advocates are also pursuing a 2022 cannabis legalization ballot initiative as well as a separate proposal focused on medical marijuana.

Kentucky Lawmaker Pre-Files Marijuana Legalization Bills For 2022 Session

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Kentucky Lawmaker Pre-Files Marijuana Legalization Bills For 2022 Session

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A Kentucky lawmaker announced on Monday that she is pre-filing bills to legalize possession, limited sales and home cultivation of marijuana in the state for the 2022 session, with endorsements from several leading advocacy groups.

Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D) is taking a dual-track approach to the reform, with one bill to have the legislature adopt the policy as a statutory measure and another to enact legalization through a constitutional amendment that would go before voters.

Generally speaking, the measures would accomplish the same central objective of ending prohibition, but Kulkarni said they’re meant to complement each other by giving lawmakers an opportunity to pass legalization in the short-term while allowing voters to constitutionally enact the reform as a “more permanent fix that gives cannabis use the constitutional protection it deserves.”

“I am sponsoring these bills for several reasons, any one of which should be enough for them to become law,” the sponsor said in a press release.

“First, current cannabis statutes have needlessly and tragically ruined many lives, especially people of color who have suffered because of unequal enforcement,” she said. “Second, thousands of citizens, from cancer patients to veterans suffering from PTSD, should have the right to use something that gives them the mental and physical relief they deserve without relying on stronger, potentially addictive medicine. Third, cannabis decriminalization would give the state a much-needed source of reliable revenue without raising current taxes a single cent.”

Kulkarni further noted that polls “have repeatedly shown a majority of Kentuckians backs decriminalization and allowing cannabis to be used responsibly by adults.”

Under one of the lawmaker’s pre-filed bills, a constitutional amendment would be placed on the ballot if three-fifths of the House and Senate approve it during next year’s legislative session. If passed by voters, adults 21 and older would be able to possess, purchase and sell up to one ounce of cannabis. They could also grow up to five plants for personal use.

The measure would task the General Assembly with coming up with regulations on matters such as licensing and taxes.

The separate statutory proposal would similarly remove criminal penalties for low-level possession, cultivation and sale of cannabis. It would also amend state statute so that marijuana paraphernalia would no longer be criminalized and create a pathway for people to have their cannabis convictions expunged.

Neither measure creates a regulatory structure for commercial marijuana sales, something that would be subject to separate legislation.


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.

“Because of outdated and ill-enforced laws, thousands of Kentuckians have lost time and opportunities due to criminal convictions, and thousands more have suffered needlessly because Kentucky blocks cannabis’ medicinal use,” ACLU of Kentucky said. “It is past time for the commonwealth to join the 36 other states that have removed most if not all of these barriers, which is why we are proud to add our name to those supporting Rep. Nima Kulkarni’s legislation.”

While Kentucky is well-known for its hemp industry, broader reform has consistently stalled.

The Republican sponsor of a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky said last month that he made multiple revisions to the legislation to scale it back and add restrictions to garner more support from colleagues—and he said he’s confident it would pass if legislative leaders had the “courage” to simply allow a vote on it.

Rep. Jason Nemes (R) filed a medical legalization bill that soundly passed the House last year but later died in the Senate without a vote amid the early part of the coronavirus pandemic. He reintroduced the legislation in January for the 2021 session but it did not advance this year. Now he’s working to build support for a new version for 2022.

Gov. Andy Beshear (D) is in favor of medical marijuana legalization and called on lawmakers to pass the reform during a State of the Commonwealth address in January.

Passing an adult-use marijuana legalization bill would presumably be a much larger challenge in the conservative legislature, but the proposal has the backing of several prominent groups.

Mike Conway, state director for Americans for Prosperity-Kentucky, said the pre-filed bills “would move Kentucky away from the harmful policies that have criminalized the use and possession of marijuana.”

“Criminal enforcement of marijuana possession has unnecessarily brought thousands of Kentuckians into the criminal justice system while diverting law enforcement resources away from public safety priorities such as violent crime reduction,” he said.

Matthew Bratcher, executive director for Kentucky NORML, said the group “commends Representative Kulkarni in her efforts to reform the cannabis possession laws in our commonwealth, and we encourage other legislators from both sides of the aisle to join her in making a difference in the lives of many of Kentuckians.”

“We’re at the precipice of the opening of the cannabis industry here in Kentucky,” C.J. Carter, Kentucky state director for Minorities for Medical Marijuana, said. “This is indeed a dangerous moment in time for Black and Brown people. There’s a new multi-billion dollar industry that will soon open on both the Federal and State level while simultaneously, people who look like me remain criminalized behind bars and are once again being left out of the conversation.”

“We now have the opportunity to write a different narrative in Kentucky that would benefit us first and foremost,” he said. “The State of Kentucky and its history as it relates to cannabis owes a tremendous debt to the Black Community and that starts with this legislation that is being introduced by Rep. Kulkarni.”

Read the text of the pre-filed Kentucky marijuana legalization bills below: 

Click to access kentucky-cannabis-bills.pdf

Florida Lawmaker Files Bill To Decriminalize All Currently Illicit Drugs

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