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Seattle Becomes Largest U.S. City To Decriminalize Psychedelics

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Seattle’s City Council approved a resolution Monday to decriminalize noncommercial activity around a wide range of psychedelic substances, including the cultivation and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and non-peyote-derived mescaline.

The landmark measure extends what is already Seattle city policy not to arrest or prosecute people for personal drug possession to further protect the cultivation and sharing of psychedelic plants and fungi for ‚Äúreligious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices.‚ÄĚ

The legislation, passed by a unanimous vote, declares ‚Äúthat the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of anyone engaging in entheogen-related activities should be among The City of Seattle‚Äôs lowest enforcement priorities‚ÄĚ and requests the city’s police department ‚Äúmove toward the formal codification and adoption of that practice as departmental policy.‚ÄĚ

Further, it expresses the council’s intent ‚Äúto determine what changes would be necessary to protect from arrest or prosecution individuals who cultivate entheogens‚ÄĚ and to make those changes through a subsequent ordinance.

“These nonaddictive natural substances have real potential in clinical and therapeutic settings to make a really significant difference in people’s lives,” Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who introduced the resolution, said before the vote. “This resolution really sets the stage as the first significant action in the state of Washington to move this policy forward.”

“Entheogens, commonly known psychedelics, have been shown to benefit the well-being of individuals suffering from depression, severe anxiety, problematic substance use, post-traumatic stress, end-of-life anxiety, grief, and intergenerational trauma,” a press release from the councilman’s office said. “These and other physical and mental conditions are plaguing many communities, which have been further demonstrated to be exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19.”

The resolution was inspired in part by the City Council‚Äôs interest in reducing opioid-related deaths. Members in June formally asked a local task force studying the overdose crisis¬†to examine ‚Äúpublic policy governing psychedelic medicines.‚Ä̬†Three months later, the task force recommended the city decriminalize psychedelics and consider removing criminal penalties around all drugs.

Meanwhile, members of the advocacy group Decrim Nature Seattle has spent more than two years lobbying the council to end penalties for cultivating and sharing psychedelics. In May, the group submitted a draft ordinance to Lewis’s office at the councilmember’s request.

Decrim Nature Seattle (DNS) on Monday cheered the council’s adoption of the resolution, noting that Seattle is now the largest city in the country to have passed a decriminalization measure.

“We’re happy that our years of effort have paid off in making this a reality,” said Kody Zalewski, DNS co-director and chair of policy and research, who thanked volunteers for making the victory possible. “This is only the very beginning of conducting a much larger push to expand access to psychedelic medicine across Washington State, and codifying the intent of this resolution via citywide ordinance.”

“Public opinion is changing, and many people are waking up to the fact that the War on Drugs leads to unnecessary incarceration, impedes access to profoundly effectively medicine and impinges on both religious freedom and personal liberty,” Zalewski continued. “Social progress rarely happens through sweeping changes, but rather occurs from winning one small battle at a time.”

Tatiana Luz Quintana, the group’s co-director and co-chair of education and outreach, stressed the importance of crafting local and state policy around psychedelics that guarantees access for marginalized and oppressed groups, for example by including the right to grow and share psychedelic plants with other adults. Home cultivation of marijuana, by contrast, remains illegal in Washington State.

“While we have been following in the footsteps of cannabis decriminalization, we must reflect on the policies that fell short,” Quintana said. “Creating equitable access to psychedelics must be at the forefront of how we continue to move this legislation forward.”

Lewis, the councilmember who introduced the resolution, told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview¬†that he believes “we’re in a position where, I think, we could see movement pretty quickly from the state,” noting that he’s received very little blowback from constituents about his own proposal.

Last month, advocates announced a push to put a measure on Washington’s 2022 ballot that would decriminalize all drugs and invest state money in treatment and recovery.

During debate on the local measure on Monday, Councilmember Kshama Sawant questioned why the vehicle for the policy change was a resolution rather than a formal ordinance that would amend the city’s municipal code.

‚ÄúWe have not pushed for resolutions in place of ordinances when it is possible and realistic and necessary from a political and moral standpoint for the council to have an ordinance passed to decriminalize psychedelics,‚ÄĚ she said, adding that to decriminalize ‚Äúin fact, rather than just in rhetoric, would require an ordinance, and it is the City Council, not the police department that has the authority to pass such an ordinance.‚ÄĚ

The version of the Seattle resolution passed by the City Council includes some minor changes to an initial draft that was heard late last month by the council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee. Specifically, it removes a provision that would have requested the city’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations draft a decriminalization bill for legislators to introduce at the state level. It also replaces a reference to “Native Americans” with “Indigenous people of the American Southwest.”

The latter change is in reference to the historical use of peyote, a cactus endemic to Mexico and parts of the American Southwest, which would not be decriminalized under the council’s resolution. The measure specifically excludes peyote from its definition of entheogens, citing its vulnerable ecological status and unique cultural significance to certain Indigenous groups.

Peyote matures slowly and is currently categorized by conservationists as ‚Äúvulnerable‚ÄĚ after an uptick in¬†illicit harvesting. The cactus currently has no federal protection in the U.S., while in Mexico only Indigenous people can legally harvest it.

Groups such as the National Council of Native American Churches, which uses peyote ceremonially, have been urging activists and lawmakers not to include peyote on lists of allowed plants and fungi. The group argued in a letter last year that the cactus should be ‚Äúpreserved for utilization by and for Indigenous peoples.‚ÄĚ

In Santa Cruz, one of the first U.S. cities to decriminalize psychedelic plants and fungi, the City Council last month amended its policy to specifically exclude peyote as well as other cacti that contain mescaline.

The change was supported by leaders of Decriminalize Santa Cruz (DSC), which helped pass the original measure. In a statement, the group apologized ‚Äúfor our lack of cultural sensitivity surrounding the Peyote cacti (Lophophora williamsii) and discounting Indigenous consultation in the process of decriminalizing entheogenic plants and fungi.‚ÄĚ

How to reform drug laws while respecting Indigenous peoples’ centuries-old relationship with the threatened cactus has caused some controversy within the psychedelic advocacy community, however, and not all activists agree with the peyote carveout.

Carlos Plazola, the co-founder and chair of Decriminalize Nature National, opposed the change in Santa Cruz and spoke Monday during the Seattle City Council’s public comment period, arguing that prohibiting personal cultivation of peyote will put the cactus at further risk of extinction.

“For 100 years plus, we’ve had peyote criminalized, and it’s only led to its decline,” he told the council, though he said he nevertheless supported the council’s passage of the resolution.

The Seattle measure notes that “entheogens have been recognized as sacred to human cultures around the world for centuries, and continue to be revered and utilized to this day by venerable and sincere cultural and spiritual leaders and communities throughout the world and the United States.”

Lewis, for his part, said the issue of whether to include peyote is “certainly a conversation I’m willing to continue” if the policy is crafted into a formal city ordinance.

Like much of the rest of the country, Washington State is contemplating major changes in how it treats drug use. Earlier this year, state lawmakers considered legislation that would have removed all penalties for possession of relatively small, ‚Äúpersonal use‚ÄĚ amounts of drugs and instead invested in treatment and recovery services. While that bill died in committee, lawmakers from both parties acknowledged at the time that the state‚Äôs drug control apparatus was broken.

Shortly thereafter, the state Supreme Court overturned Washington‚Äôs felony law against drug possession completely, sending lawmakers scrambling to replace the law. Ultimately they approved a modest reform, reducing the state‚Äôs felony charge for drug possession to a misdemeanor¬†and earmarking more money for treatment. But the law’s criminal penalties will expire in 2023, an effort to encourage lawmakers to revisit the policy.

Jurisdictions across the country are increasingly removing or reducing penalties around drug possession and consumption, especially when it comes to psychedelics. Since Denver in 2019 became the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, a number of states and municipalities have made similar changes to dismantle the drug war.

Oregon voters passed a pair of initiatives last November to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs. On the local level, activists in Portland are mounting a push to have local lawmakers extend psychedelics decriminalization to include cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use.

Washington, D.C. voters also approved a ballot measure last year to deprioritize enforcement of laws criminalizing psychedelics.

In California, activists last month were cleared to begin collecting signatures for a historic initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms. The cities of Oakland and Santa Cruz have already enacted psychedelics decriminalization, and last year Oakland lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics.

Meanwhile, Denver activists have set their eyes on broader psilocybin reform, with plans to allow noncommercial gifting and communal use of the substance.

Detroit currently stands to become one of the next major cities to decriminalize psychedelics, with the reform proposal making the local ballot for this November.

Elsewhere in Michigan, the Ann Arbor City Council has already elected to make enforcement of laws prohibition psychedelics like psilocybin, ayahuasca and DMT among the city’s lowest priorities. And last week the City Council in Grand Rapids advanced its own decriminalization resolution, but it fell far short of what activists had hoped. Rather than making any formal changes to city policy, it merely expresses support for future reform.

Massachusetts cities that have enacted the policy change include Northampton, Somerville and Cambridge. In July, state lawmakers heard testimony about a bill to create a task force charged with studying the implications of legalizing psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca.

The governor of Connecticut recently signed legislation recently that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.

Texas also recently enacted a bill to require the state study the medical benefits of psychedelics for military veterans.

A New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.

The Maine House of Representatives passed a drug decriminalization bill this year, but it later died in the Senate.

At the federal level, congressional lawmakers in May filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.

In a setback for advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would have eased rules that currently limit research into Schedule I drugs, but it picked up considerably more votes this round than when the congresswoman first introduced it in 2019.

Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation identify a need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research, including into the potential therapeutic value of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also recently announced funding for a study into whether psilocybin can help people quit smoking cigarettes.

Elon Musk Says People Should Be ‘Open To Psychedelics’ And Predicts The Next Generation Of Politicians Will Normalize The Substances

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.

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Psychedelics Group Issues First Round Of Grants For Community-Based Entheogenic Education In DC

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A Washington, D.C.-based psychedelics organization has issued about $50,000 in its first round of grants for various community groups to support efforts to educate and organize people around plant medicine.

The Plant Medicine Coalition (PMC)‚ÄĒfounded by the head of the D.C. campaign that got psychedelics decriminalization passed locally in last November‚Äôs election‚ÄĒdolled out grants to about a dozen groups as part of its Community Grants Program. Funding for the grants was provided by Dr. Bronner’s, a wellness company that’s been involved in a number of marijuana and psychedelics reform efforts across the country.

This is just one part of PMC’s mission to promote psychedelics reform as the movement continues to spread at the local, state and federal levels.

Arts collectives, mental health organizations and entheogenic education groups are among the new grant recipients.

Melissa Lavasani,¬†PMC co-founder, told Marijuana Moment that the organization is hopeful about the impact of these grants‚ÄĒbut it’s also using this opportunity to explore how to most effectively provide funding in the years to come.

“I wanted to do something really impactful that had a quick turnaround,” Lavasani said. “There are a lot of things that our organization is working on right now that are really long term, especially on the federal level.”

“We’re trying to shift a really entrenched culture and government,” she added. “It just takes a lot of grinding‚ÄĒmeeting after meeting‚ÄĒand I wanted to do something important with these funds here locally because I do feel like there were a lot of loose ends” after D.C. decriminalized psychedelics.

Overall, the money from PMC will support a diversity of initiatives. There will be workshops on community building within the psychedelics movement, courses on cultivating entheogenic substances, lecture series on scientific developments related to the substances and more.

Here are some quotes from recipients on what they aim to do with the funding: 

The Madison House: “Founded by Master Life Coach H. Alejaibra Badu, The Madison House is a International Spiritual Health & Wellness Movement that stands to heal people from things that bind them mentally and emotionally. Finding freedom from the self-inflicted prison of the mind when it’s over consumed by thought. Freeing yourself from the voice inside your mind that promotes fear, self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety, stress, anger, and pain. Freeing yourself from the perceptions of others that leave you in bondage. Freeing your whole self and authentic being. The Madison House belief is that if you are able to be freed from the things that bind you mentally and emotionally, then you can live your life on purpose.”

Delicious Mushroom Growing: “Delicious Mushroom Growing is a project that educates DC residents about how to grow mushrooms from manure and compost substrates – Oyster, Cremini/Portabello/Button/Agaricus, and Shaggy Mane. It’s a way to teach people about how to grow fungi medicine and get themselves on a the path towards healing.”

Plant Medicine Lecture Series: “This lecture series will bring exciting speakers to D.C. to discuss the scientific, medical, and social aspects of psychedelics. The lectures will be offered in public venues, COVID permitting, and webcast as well. The events will also be excellent opportunities to meet other people in D.C. who are interested in psychedelics.”

There are additional recipients who requested not to be publicly listed but are providing “critical education of the community, integration services, as well as providing stewardship of ethical plant medicine community building,” Lavasani said.

Others are involved in “addressing abuse and predatory behaviors in plant medicine circles (a problem that‚Äôs become super prevalent lately) to provide a restorative process for healing,” she said.

While based in D.C., PMC is a national organization that hopes to build upon reform efforts that have already been accomplished and bring the issue to Capitol Hill, in part by pushing lawmakers to approve federal funding for research into the therapeutic potential of substances like psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca.

The group is also working to ensure the effective implementation of the city-level policy change while supporting other local activists as they push to change laws governing natural or synthetic psychedelics.

Both inside and outside of the nation’s capitol, activists are hard at work pushing for psychedelics reform.

Just last week, for example, lawmakers in a fourth Massachusetts city voted in favor of a resolution urging the decriminalization of certain entheogenic substances and other drugs.

The action comes months after the neighboring Northampton City Council passed a resolution stipulating that no government or police funds should be used to enforce laws criminalizing people for using or possessing entheogenic plants and fungi. Elsewhere in Massachusetts, Somerville and Cambridge have also moved to effectively decriminalize psychedelics.

The local measures also express support for two bills introduced in the Massachusetts state legislature this year. One would remove criminal penalties for possession of all currently illicit drugs and the other would establish a task force to study entheogenic substances with the eventual goal of legalizing and regulating the them.

Separately, Seattle’s City Council approved a resolution earlier this month to decriminalize noncommercial activity around a wide range of psychedelic substances, including the cultivation and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and non-peyote-derived mescaline.

In Michigan, the Grand Rapids City Council approved a resolution last month calling for decriminalization of a wide range of psychedelics.

Elsewhere in Michigan, the Ann Arbor City Council has already elected to make enforcement of laws prohibition psychedelics like psilocybin, ayahuasca and DMT¬†among the city‚Äôs lowest priorities‚ÄĒand lawmakers recently followed up by declaring September¬†Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Awareness Month.

After Ann Arbor legislators passed that decriminalization resolution last year, the Washtenaw County prosecutor announced¬†that his office will not be pursuing charges¬†over possessing entheogenic plants and fungi, ‚Äúregardless of the amount at issue.‚ÄĚ

A local proposal to decriminalize various psychedelics will also appear on Detroit’s November ballot.

At the same time that local activists are pursuing decriminalization, a pair of Michigan senators introduced a bill last month to legalize the possession, cultivation and delivery of an array of plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics like psilocybin and mescaline.


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 bill to legalize psychedelics in California advanced through the Senate and two Assembly committees this year before being pulled by the sponsor to buy more time to generate support among lawmakers. The plan is to take up the reform during next year’s second half of the legislative session, and the senator behind the measure says he’s confident it will pass.

California activists were separately cleared to begin collecting signatures for a historic initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms in the state. Oakland and Santa Cruz have already enacted psychedelics decriminalization.

The top Democrat in the Florida Senate filed a bill last month that would require the state to research the medical benefits of psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA.

Earlier this year, Texas enacted a law directing state officials to study psychedelics’ medical value.

The governor of Connecticut signed a bill in June that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.

Oregon voters passed a pair of initiatives last November to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs. On the local level, activists in Portland are mounting a push to have local lawmakers pass a resolution decriminalizing the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics.

A New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.

The Maine House of Representatives passed a drug decriminalization bill this year, but it later died in the Senate.

In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics. Activists in the city are also hoping to expand upon the local decriminalization ordinance by creating a community-based model through which people could legally purchase entheogenic substances from local producers.

Meanwhile, Denver activists who successfully led the 2019 campaign to make the city the first in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin possession have set their eyes on broader reform, with plans in the works to end the criminalization of noncommercial gifting and communal use of the psychedelic.

In a setback for advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would have removed a spending bill rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine. However, it picked up considerably more votes this round than when the congresswoman first introduced it in 2019.

Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged NIDA to support expanded marijuana studies, for example. It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.

There was an attempt by a Republican congressman to attach language into a defense spending bill that would promote research into psychedelics therapy for active duty military members, but it was not made in order in the House Rules Committee last month.

NIDA also recently announced it’s funding a study into whether psilocybin can help people quit smoking cigarettes.

An official with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also said at a recent congressional hearing that the agency is ‚Äúvery closely‚ÄĚ following research into the¬†potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics¬†like MDMA for military veterans.

For what it‚Äôs worth, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a longstanding champion of marijuana reform in Congress, said this month that he intends to¬†help bring the psychedelics reform movement to Capitol Hill¬†‚Äúthis year.‚ÄĚ

In May, lawmakers in Congress filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.

Top Federal Drug Agency Tells Congress About Marijuana Research Barriers Caused By Restrictive Scheduling

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Feds Must Legalize Marijuana, Top Nevada Lawmaker Says (Op-Ed)

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“In Nevada, we‚Äôve shown that it is possible to create an equitable and business friendly framework that benefits both cannabis business owners and consumers. With federal action, we can take this work to the next level.”

By Rep. Steve Yeager for Nevada Current

With gridlock at the federal level, states have truly become the laboratories of democracy‚ÄĒoften leading on legislative policy when Congress is unable. When it comes to cannabis, these laboratories of democracy operate at breakneck speed, with 18 U.S. states legalizing it for both medical and adult ‚Äúrecreational‚ÄĚ use and at least some legal use in 37 states and the District of Columbia. In a nation where even a small amount of the substance could and often did (and sometimes still does) lead to serious legal consequences, more than 100 million Americans now live in states with legalized, adult-use cannabis markets.

Nevada, of course, has been a trailblazer in legalizing cannabis and as a result, has reaped significant economic and social benefits. When the Legislature established the Cannabis Compliance Board in 2019 with a strong bipartisan majority, Nevada solidified its place as the gold standard for a well-regulated cannabis industry.

In 2021, the Legislature once again demonstrated its ability to create a more equitable and inclusive cannabis industry, securing a bipartisan 2/3 vote in each legislative chamber to pass a bill establishing cannabis consumption lounges. The lounges, set to open in 2022, will bring new jobs and enhanced tax revenue that will allow Nevada to invest more in K-12 education. In addition, Nevada’s tens of millions of tourists will finally have a place to legally consume cannabis. It is clear that Las Vegas is quickly becoming a global cannabis destination.

But despite these immense possibilities, state legalization‚ÄĒwithout change in federal law‚ÄĒstill presents serious challenges. For instance, the lack of contemporary cannabis legislation on the federal level has made any form of traditional banking for the industry next to impossible. Cannabis business owners cannot take advantage of favorable tax provisions that help other businesses keep more of the money they make, often leading to additional investment. Even if cannabis is legal in a particular state, carrying that cannabis on to federal property or on to an airplane opens a person to arrest and prosecution by federal authorities.

Furthermore, federal employees or state employees paid through federal funding cannot partake in cannabis, medical or otherwise. Nevadans who live in federally subsidized housing cannot consume in the comfort of their homes, a prohibition that undoubtedly disproportionately impacts vulnerable communities. And business owners in the industry can never feel completely comfortable because the federal government could choose to use its police power to crack down on state level cannabis businesses.

With polls showing that two-thirds of Americans support legalization of cannabis, it is time for the federal government to legalize it. Such action will pave the way for states that have been hesitant to step out on this issue and will eliminate the current conflicts between federal and state law. Federal legalization will enable more in-depth study of cannabis by both state and federal agencies to develop a scientific standard of impairment for driving and will enable the federal government to help states with efforts to curb youth cannabis use.

Nevada has also led the way in pardoning and sealing criminal records for those convicted of low-level cannabis crimes. Those with federal cannabis convictions have no similar remedy, often preventing them from entering the job market at a time when employees have never been in higher demand. Federal cannabis legalization would open the door to cleaning the slate for criminal convictions stemming from conduct the majority of Americans now agree should not have been illegal in the first place. For both moral and economic reasons, erasing records of low level cannabis convictions is simply the right thing to do. For that to happen, cannabis must be legalized on the federal level.

In Nevada, we’ve shown that it is possible to create an equitable and business friendly framework that benefits both cannabis business owners and consumers. With federal action, we can take this work to the next level.

Steve Yeager is a Democratic state assemblyman representing District 9 in Clark County, and speaker pro tempore of the Nevada State Assembly.

This op-ed was first published by Nevada Current.

Top Federal Drug Agency Tells Congress About Marijuana Research Barriers Caused By Restrictive Scheduling

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Texas Judge Upholds Delta-8 THC Ban In Initial Ruling, But The Fight Isn’t Over

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A Texas judge has ruled that the state’s ban on hemp products containing more than 0.3 percent delta-8 THC can remain in effect as a legal challenge moves through the process.

The cannabis company Hometown Hero filed a suit against the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) last week, arguing that it improperly revised its hemp policy this month to specifically prohibit products with more than trace amounts of forms of THC other than delta-9, the most commonly known psychoactive compound in cannabis.

In a ruling dated Friday and announced on Monday, the court decided against the plaintiffs’ request to have a temporary restraining order imposed on the state. Subsequently, the hemp business said it will halt sales of certain products as it prepares for a November 5 hearing on a more consequential temporary injunction against the state.

These are just the first steps in yet another legal battle over hemp in the state following the plant’s legalization.

Delta-8 THC has surged in popularity, particularly in states with more restrictive marijuana laws. It produces intoxicating effects similar to delta-9 THC, but it can be synthetically produced by converting CBD derived from hemp. The novelty of delta-8 products has left legal loopholes, which is likely why DSHS moved to broadly prohibit products with more than 0.3 percent of any type of THC.

DSHS appears to have responded to this increased market demand and questions from hemp businesses by updating its policy with the broader interpretation of THC. Here’s what the department’s site now says:

“Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 443 (HSC 443), established by House Bill 1325 (86th Legislature), allows Consumable Hemp Products in Texas that do not exceed 0.3% Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). All other forms of THC, including Delta-8 in any concentration and Delta-9 exceeding 0.3%, are considered Schedule I controlled substances.”

Hometown Hero had hoped to get a temporary restraining order against DSHS to prevent it from taking action against hemp businesses that sell delta-8 THC, but now it must wait to see what comes out of next month’s follow-up hearing.

“The DSHS stance flips the hemp definition on its head,” an attorney for the plaintiffs said in court on Friday, according to Texas Cannabis Collective.

The department, for its part, says it has not made any policy change and that delta-8 THC has been statutorily classified the same as delta-9 since hemp was legalized in 2019. A spokesperson said it simply “posted the clarification below on our website in response to recent requests from hemp growers who said that there was confusion in the industry about what was allowed in consumable hemp products.”

Activists have criticized DSHS for making hemp policy decisions without affording the public a real chance to participate.

“We expect the Department of State Health Services to always operate with full transparency,” Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told Marijuana Moment. “It has been made abundantly clear that, by posting meeting notices in obscure locations, DSHS denied the public an opportunity to weigh in on proposed changes to the Controlled Substances Act.”

At the federal level, delta-8 THC has also captured the attention of agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Regulators at those departments recently issued warnings about products containing the cannabinoid, saying they’ve seen a significant uptick in reported adverse health effects.

FDA also announced a plan this month to us ‚Äúnovel‚ÄĚ data sources like Reddit to gain a better understanding of public health issues surrounding use of delta-8 THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD.

Back in Texas, the hemp industry has become familiarized with the court system as businesses have navigated the new law.

In the same district court where this new delta-8 THC lawsuit has been filed, a judge ruled in August that Texas’s ban on the production and sale of smokable hemp products is unconstitutional.

Judge Lora Livingston ruled in favor of plaintiffs‚ÄĒa group of hemp businesses who sued the DSHS over a ban on the manufacturing and selling of smokable cannabis products it imposed after the crop was legalized.

An appeals court had previously modified a prior injunction and determined that regulators couldn’t enforce a ban on the sales component of the smokable hemp market. But following the August ruling, there’s a permanent injunction that bars the state from prohibiting the full range of hemp activity.

Meanwhile, Texas activists are working to enact local reforms on marijuana.

Advocates in San Marcos, Texas recently launched a campaign to put marijuana decriminalization on the local ballot in 2022.

Just to the north of San Marcos, a separate campaign attempted to put cannabis decriminalization on Austin’s ballot this November, but activists have since shifted their strategy toward putting the measure in front of voters on the May 2022 ballot. They will also target additional cities next November.

There is no statewide, citizen-led initiative process that would enable advocates to put an issue like decriminalization or legalization on the Texas ballot. But at the local level, there are limited cases where activists can leverage home rule laws that allow for policy changes.

A strong majority of Texans back even broader reform, according to recent polling. Sixty percent of voters in the state¬†support making cannabis legal ‚Äúfor any use,‚Ä̬†signaling that local initiatives for more modest proposals like decriminalization will likely prevail where they qualify for local ballots.

This year’s legislative session in Texas saw numerous drug policy proposals advance, with bills to expand the state’s medical cannabis program and require a study into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics for military veterans having been enacted.

Advocates remain disappointed, however, that lawmakers were¬†unable to pass more expansive cannabis bills‚ÄĒincluding a decriminalization proposal that cleared the House but saw no action in the Senate.

The House approved a cannabis decriminalization bill in 2019, but it did not advance in the Senate that session.

Top Federal Drug Agency Tells Congress About Marijuana Research Barriers Caused By Restrictive Scheduling

Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.

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