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San Francisco Automatically Expunges 8,100 Marijuana Convictions Using Computer Program

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A novel approach to marijuana expungements has helped San Francisco identify more than 8,100 cannabis convictions dating back to 1975 that will soon be automatically cleared, the district attorney鈥檚 office announced on Monday.

That would make San Francisco, which is both a city and county, the first county in the United States to complete an automatic marijuana expungement process. The office had previously expunged the records of 1,230 residents, so the sum total of sealed convictions will be over 9,600.

District Attorney聽George Gasc贸n announced last year that his office would retroactively expunge prior cannabis convictions for individuals who qualify under the state’s cannabis legalization law that voters approved in 2016. That was significant because, as the law was written, the process to get records cleared is petition-based and burdensome.

To get the job done expeditiously,聽Gasc贸n’s office teamed up with the non-profit organization Code for America, which developed an algorithm designed to identify eligible cases and streamline expungements.

“Prosecutors should act to address the inherent unfairness of penalizing people for activity that is no longer illegal,”聽Gasc贸n said in a press release. “Using technology, we have been able to proactively bring greater racial equity and fairness to marijuana legalization in California. I am thrilled to see other counties and states following suit by offering similar relief in their communities. It鈥檚 the right thing to do.”

Fourteen counties across California have partnered with Code for America to utilize its Clear My Record technology, which takes the onus off individuals to submit petitions and requires minimal work from district attorneys offices that choose to adopt it.

“The Clear My Record technology can automatically and securely evaluate eligibility for convictions by reading and interpreting conviction data,” according to a press release from the group. “It can evaluate eligibility for thousands of convictions in just a few minutes.”

In the months since聽Gasc贸n announced that San Francisco would move to automatically expunge convictions for cannabis offenses made legal under state law, multiple municipalities across the country have followed its lead.聽Seattle,聽Oakland, Chicago, Denver, Baltimore and Washington State have all made similar commitments.

And marijuana policy reform advocates are increasingly demanding that expungement provisions be included in legalization legislation.

“Contact with the criminal justice system should not be a life sentence, so we’ve been working to reimagine the record clearance process,”聽Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive of Code for America, said in the press release. “Our work asks how we can make government work better for the people it serves, and we are honored to partner with DA Gasc贸n’s office to deliver relief to thousands who have been blocked from access to jobs, housing and other opportunities for so long.”

“This new approach, which is both innovative and common sense, changes the scale and speed of justice and has the potential to ignite change across the country,” she said.

Washington Governor Will Pardon People With Marijuana Possession Convictions, He Announces

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.

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White House Completes Review Of CBD Guidance From FDA

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The White House recently completed its review of pending Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance on marijuana and CBD research鈥攖hough it remains to be seen whether the draft document will ultimately be released to the public.

FDA submitted its proposed plan鈥攖itled 鈥淐annabis and Cannabis-Derived Compounds: Quality Considerations for Clinical Research鈥濃攖o the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in May. Few details are known about its contents, but an FDA spokesperson previously told Marijuana Moment that it could inform the agency’s approach to developing regulations for the marketing of CBD.

OMB finished its review last week, as first reported by InsideHealthPolicy. This comes days after a spending bill for FDA was released that includes a provision providing 鈥渇unding to develop a framework for regulating CBD products.鈥

Despite the review being finalized, however, an FDA representative told Marijuana Moment on Friday that the agency “cannot provide an update of when (or even if) this guidance will issue.”

“It will be announced via the Federal Register should it move to publication,” they said.

It鈥檚 not entirely clear why the guidance wouldn鈥檛 be published in the end, but it may take some time for FDA to implement any edits suggested by the White House over the past month, and it鈥檚 possible there are additional layers of review beyond OMB that could determine when and whether it will be finalized.

It also remains to be seen whether聽FDA plans to wait for this specific guidance to be finalized and for the resulting research to be completed before it gets around to issuing final rules for CBD products in general. Stakeholders have been eagerly awaiting those regulations so they can fully take advantage of the legalization of hemp and its derivatives.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in May that White House policies requiring OMB to review scientific documents in the first place represent an onerous step that鈥檚 delayed the issuance of guidance.

Beyond sending the draft research plan to the White House for review, FDA is also soliciting public input about the safety and efficacy of CBD聽in comment period it has decided to keep open indefinitely. The agency said in an update to Congress in March that it has聽several specific questions it wants answered聽before deciding whether the cannabidiol can be lawfully marketed. That includes questions about the impact of different methods of consumption and drug interactions.

This week, FDA submitted a report to Congress on the state of the CBD marketplace, and the document outlines studies the agency has performed on the contents and quality of cannabis-derived products that it has tested over the past six years.

In the meantime, FDA is maintaining enforcement discretion when it comes to action against companies that sell CBD products regardless of the lack of regulations and has said it is currently targeting sellers that make especially outlandish or unsanctioned claims about the therapeutic value of their products.

It聽sent a warning letter to a CBD company owned by a former NFL player聽after advertisements it displayed suggested its products could treat and prevent a coronavirus infection, for example.

FDA sent a letter warning to a company about its marketing of injectable CBD products that聽led to a voluntary recall in May.

The agency also聽publicized a voluntary recall of another CBD product聽from a different company, notifying consumers about potentially high levels of lead in a batch of tinctures.

FDA has previously聽issued warnings to other CBD companies聽that have made unsubstantiated claims about the therapeutic potential of their products.

Veterans Working In Marijuana Industry Aren’t Automatically Blocked From Home Loans, VA Says

Photo by Kimzy Nanney.

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Veterans Working In Marijuana Industry Aren’t Automatically Blocked From Home Loans, VA Says

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently clarified to Congress that it does not have a policy automatically barring veterans from receiving home loans solely because they work in the marijuana industry鈥攁nd now a key House committee is asking the department to better communicate that to lenders and would-be borrowers.

For the past year, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and other lawmakers have been pressing VA on difficulties some veterans have faced in securing the benefit, with at least one constituent telling Clark that they were denied a home loan because of their work in the state-legal cannabis market. That prompted the congresswoman to circulate a sign-on letter and introduce an amendment to resolve the problem.

However, in a report submitted to Congress last month that was obtained by Marijuana Moment, VA said there is no policy on the books that calls for home loan denials due to employment at a cannabis business. Instead, the department clarified that conflicting state and federal laws makes it “difficult to prove the stability and reliability of cannabis-derived income,” which are key factors in determining loan eligibility.

“VA is committed to working diligently to serve our Nation鈥檚 Veterans by providing eligible Veterans with home loan guaranty benefits,” VA said. “There is nothing in VA statutes or regulations that specifically prohibits a Veteran whose income is derived from state-legalized cannabis activities from obtaining a certificate of eligibility for VA home loan benefits. However, given the disparity between Federal and State laws on cannabis, determining whether such a Veteran is able to obtain a loan has become a complex issue.”

A person’s “reliance on [marijuana-derived] income may hinder a Veteran鈥檚 ability to obtain a VA-guaranteed home loan, a result that is consistent with other federal housing programs,” the report states. “VA also notes that many lenders have established their own income thresholds and policies on overlays, which are often more stringent than VA鈥檚 requirements, to ensure that the VA-guaranteed loan will be purchased by an investor in the secondary mortgage market.”

In other words, individual lending companies may be denying home loans to veterans because the cannabis industry-derived income they would use to pay back loans isn’t necessarily stable and reliable due to the fact that federal officials could shut down their employers at any time.

If that’s the case, then it doesn’t appear it would be necessary to pass legislation targeting the narrow issue in the way lawmakers did last year. Clark’s amendment to address the problem was approved by the House as part of a defense spending bill鈥攖hough leaders in the chamber agreed to scrap it after the Senate didn’t include it in its version of the legislation.

The House Appropriations Committee also approved report language last year attached to the bill that funds VA expressing concern that the department “has never publicly stated its position on this matter, hindering Veterans鈥 ability to fully understand and consider how employment decisions could affect future eligibility for earned benefits.”

The newly released explanation from VA is a result of that provision.

Now, for the next fiscal year, a new report attached to the latest Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies spending bill acknowledges VA’s recent policy clarification鈥攂ut lawmakers are asking the department to do more.

“The Committee understands that as directed by House Report 116鈥63, VA has clarified that nothing in VA statutes or regulations specifically prohibits a Veteran whose income is derived from state-legalized cannabis activities from obtaining a certificate of eligibility for VA home loan benefits,” the report states. “The Committee directs the VA to improve communication with eligible lending institutions to reduce confusion among lenders and borrowers on this matter.”

Clark told Marijuana Moment that 鈥渘o veteran should be denied benefits simply because they work within the legal cannabis industry.”

“This must be crystal clear in our laws and communicated directly to both borrowers and lenders,” the congresswoman said. “By including this language, we鈥檙e eliminating any doubt about the rights of our service members and protecting their ability to access what they鈥檝e rightfully earned.鈥

In other veterans and cannabis news this year, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis on a marijuana research bill for veterans and determined that it would have no fiscal impact. And a federal commission issued recommendations to promote research into the therapeutic potential of both cannabis and psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA.

Read VA’s report on its home loan policy for veterans working in the marijuana industry below:

VA Response On Home Loans F… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

FDA Updates Congress On CBD Product Labelling Accuracy

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Idaho Medical Marijuana Activists Ask State For Electronic Signature Gathering Option Following Court Ruling

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Idaho activists have formally requested that the state allow them to collect signatures electronically for a medical cannabis legalization initiative following a series of federal court rulings on the issue in a case filed by a separate campaign.

While the signature submission deadline passed in May, advocates for an education funding campaign filed a suit against the secretary of state, arguing that social distancing restrictions that were put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic meant the state should give them more time to digitally petition. The judge agreed and ordered the state to allow them to do so for 48 days starting Thursday.

The marijuana reform campaign feels that the same relief should be extended to them as well, and an attorney representing the group sent a letter to the secretary of state this week, asking that the Elections Division also provide cannabis activists with the digital petitioning and deadline extension concessions that the federal judge granted to the education funding group.

In one of the latest developments, the state’s request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to temporarily force the suspension of electronic signature gathering was denied on Thursday, though the appeal on the broader case is ongoing. That’s given the cannabis activists more hope as they pursue legal routes to have the lower court’s ruling apply to them.

Russ Belville, campaign spokesperson for the Idaho Cannabis Coalition, told Marijuana Moment that the group was “thrilled” to see the appeals court refuse to stay the electronic signature gathering decision.

“Our attorneys are working to convince the state to provide our Idaho Medical Marijuana Act petition the same electronic signature gathering relief, as we have suffered the same infringement of our petitioning rights,” he said. “It’s a shame it takes a pandemic to even consider allowing electronic signatures on petitions. Idaho should make every effort to make exercising our rights as easy as possible, especially for sick, disabled, elderly, infirm and rural folks without easy access to an in-person petitioner.”

In the new letter to Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, attorney Bradley Dixon said his client “has standing to pursue a remedy given the impact that the COVID-19 restrictions have had upon it.” The campaign “can show (1) they have suffered an injury in fact, which is both concrete and particularized, and actual or imminent; (2) their injury is fairly traceable; and (3) their injury will likely be redressed by a favorable outcome.”

“Moreover, just like Reclaim Idaho, as illustrated above, our client can show that it was diligent in collecting signatures and had adopted a thorough plan to achieve ballot success in advance of the unforeseeable coronavirus outbreak. Considering the merits of a possible case, our client鈥檚 First and Fourteenth Amendments rights have been harmed because the State of Idaho and its agents did not provide an alternative means to signature collection during the stay at home order, or during any of the phased reopening stages.”

The state’s stay-at-home order “made it impossible to retrieve all statutorily-required signatures because of both the reduction in time to collect such signatures, and the deadline date to obtain signatures falling on the same day as the end of the stay at home order,” the attorney said.

If the campaign is ultimately allowed to proceed with signature gathering, they will need 55,057 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Activists said they have about 45,000 unverified signatures on hand at this point, and they鈥檙e confident that can fill the gap if they get the deadline extension and electronic petitioning option.

The group has indicated it is prepared to seek relief directly from the courts if the secretary of state does not comply with their request to his office.

Under the proposed ballot measure, patients with qualifying conditions could receive medical cannabis recommendations from physicians and then possess up to four ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants.

Advocates say that passing medical cannabis in one of the remaining states without such policies on the books would be a significant victory for patients in its own right鈥攂ut it could also have outsized federal implications. A House-passed bill to protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators is currently pending action in a Senate committee聽chaired by a senator who represents the state.

Creating a medical marijuana program in Idaho, which is one of small handful of states that don鈥檛 yet even have limited CBD laws, could put additional pressure on Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) to move the financial services legislation in Congress.

Read the letter to the secretary state on allowing electronic signature gathering for medical marijuana below:

Idaho Secretary of State Re… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Oregon Voters Will Decide On Legalizing Psilocybin Therapy In November, State Announces

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