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The Marijuana Election Has Already Started: Here’s What You Need To Know About Early Voting And Registration Deadlines

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The marijuana election has already started. While Election Day on November 3 is still weeks away, several states where cannabis and drug policy reform measures are on the ballot have options to vote early, either in-person or by mail.

This year will be especially interesting, as legalizing cannabis for recreational or medical use isn’t the only drug reform topic that voters will decide on.

In a historic first, Oregon will get the chance to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes and decriminalize all currently illicit drugs. Washington, D.C. voters have a chance to decriminalize certain psychedelics in the nation’s capital. And five more states could legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

The coronavirus pandemic has cast a spotlight on mail-in and early in-person voting, as more voters may be weary of standing in lines and potentially risking exposure. For those interested in taking advantage of these alternative options, here’s a guide with the key dates to remember, including deadlines for voter registration:

Arizona

What’s on the ballot? An initiative to legalize marijuana for adult use. Under the measure, adults could possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a time and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

A poll released earlier this month showed a slim majority of Arizonans (51 percent) favor the proposal.

When does in-person early voting start? October 7

When are mail-in ballots sent out? October 7-10

What’s the voter registration deadline? October 5

Mississippi

What’s on the ballot? Two measures to legalize medical cannabis. But voting for this isn’t quite so simple.

After the activist-led initiative qualified, the legislature approved an alternative proposal that will appear alongside it. Advocates say this was a deliberate attempt to confuse people, split the vote and prevent the state from implementing a medical marijuana system.

The ballot is decidedly confusing, but polling shows when presented with the options, more voters favor the activists’ initiative.

When does in-person early voting start? Mississippi doesn’t provide for early in-person voting

When are mail-in ballots sent out? September 24

What’s the voter registration deadline? October 5

Montana

What’s on the ballot? A statutory measure to legalize marijuana for adult use and a separate constitutional amendment stipulating that only those 21 and older could access the market. If approved by voters, adults would be able to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to four plants and four seedlings at home.

When does in-person early voting start? October 5 (in select counties)

When are mail-in ballots sent out? October 9

What’s the voter registration deadline? November 3

New Jersey

What’s on the ballot? A referendum to legalize recreational cannabis. When the legislature failed to advance legalization legislation, they opted to place the issue before voters. If the measure is approved on Election Day, lawmakers will then have to pass implementing legislation containing details for how the legal cannabis market will work.

A poll released last month showed that 66 percent of likely voters in New Jersey support the measure.

When does in-person early voting start? September 19 (in select counties)

When are mail-in ballots sent out? September 19

What’s the voter registration deadline? October 13

Ohio

What’s on the ballot? Four local initiatives to decriminalize marijuana possession. Voters in Adena, Glouster, Jacksonville and Trimble will each see the reform measures on their ballots. If approved, they’ll join 18 other Ohio municipalities that have already enacted measures to lower penalties for misdemeanor cannabis possession in recent years.

When does in-person early voting start? October 6

When are mail-in ballots sent out? October 6

What’s the voter registration deadline? October 5

Oregon

What’s on the ballot? A measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes and a separate initiative to decriminalize possession of all currently illicit drugs while investing in substance misuse treatment.

Under the psilocybin measure, adults would be able to access the psychedelic in a medically supervised environment. There aren’t any limitations on the types of conditions that would make a patient eligible for the treatment.

The decriminalization initiative would remove criminal penalties for low-level drug possession offenses. It would also use existing tax revenue from marijuana sales, which voters legalized in 2014, to fund expanded substance misuse treatment programs.

When does in-person early voting start? Oregon does not provide for early in-person voting

When are mail-in ballots sent out? October 14

What’s the voter registration deadline? October 13

South Dakota

What’s on the ballot? A proposal legalize marijuana for adult use and a separate measure to legalize medical cannabis. If approved by voters, the constitutional adult-use amendment would allow people 21 and older to possess and distribute up to one ounce of marijuana, and they would also be allowed to cultivate up to three plants.

The statutory medical cannabis measure would allow patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions to possess and purchase up to three ounces of marijuana from a licensed dispensary.

According to a poll recently released by opponents of the policy change, about 60 percent of voters support the broader reform proposal and more than 70 percent back the narrower medical-focused initiative.

When does in-person early voting start? September 18

When are mail-in ballots sent out? September 18

What’s the voter registration deadline? October 19

Washington, D.C.

What’s on the ballot? An initiative to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin, ayahuasca and ibogaine. It would make enforcement of laws against entheogenic substances among the lowest local law enforcement priorities in the nation’s capital city.

According to a recent poll, three-in-five voters in the district favor the measure.

When does in-person early voting start? October 27

When are mail-in ballots sent out? It’s not clear when D.C. will mail out ballots.

What’s the voter registration deadline? November 3

Drug policy reform advocates faced unprecedented challenges qualifying these measures for the ballot amid the coronavirus pandemic, with multiple other campaigns throwing in the towel due to complications resulting from social distancing and shelter-in-place requirements. Their message to voters where reform made the cut is clear: pay attention to deadlines, read ballot instructions carefully and take advantage of the opportunity to choose from multiple voting options.

“We’re seeing a range of responses from supporters of marijuana reform,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “Some voters are relieved that they can securely vote using an absentee ballot or by voting early, while others are excited to go to the polls on Election Day.”

“The campaigns are working to accommodate all preferences. We’re answering questions from voters and assisting with navigating the absentee and early voting processes in each state,” he said. “Now more than ever, informing voters about the election process is crucial.”

Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment that “if you care about legalization, then you have to vote, period.”

“Whether or not a marijuana initiative is on the ballot, the legislatures are,” he said. “You can find where your candidates stand at vote.norml.org.”

Oregon Democratic Party Endorses Legal Psilocybin Therapy And Drug Decriminalization Ballot Measures

Photo courtesy of Democracy Chronicles.

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.

Politics

Mississippi Supreme Court Overturns Medical Marijuana Legalization Ballot That Voters Approved

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A voter-approved initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi has been overturned by the state Supreme Court.

On Friday, the court ruled in favor of a Mississippi mayor who filed a legal challenge against the 2020 measure, nullifying its certification by the Secretary of State. The lawsuit was unrelated to the reform proposal itself, but plaintiffs argued that the constitutional amendment violated procedural rules in place.

While the court acknowledged that a “strong, if not overwhelming, majority of voters of Mississippi approved Initiative 65” to legalize medical cannabis in the state, Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler’s (R) petition was valid for statutory reasons.

Madison’s challenge cites a state law stipulating that “signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot.” But that policy went into effect when Mississippi had five congressional districts, and that’s since been reduced to four, making it mathematically impossible to adhere to.

The state pushed back against the lawsuit and argued that a plain reading of the state Constitution makes it clear that the intention of the district-based requirement was to ensure that signatures were collected in a geographically dispersed manner—and the result of the campaign met that standard.

But in the court’s ruling released on Friday, the justices said that their hands were tied. The legislature or administration might be able to fix the procedural ballot issue, but it had to follow the letter of the law.

“We find ourselves presented with the question squarely before us and nowhere to turn but to its answer,” the decision states. “Remaining mindful of both the November 3, 2020 election results and the clear language in section 273 seeking to preserve the right of the people to enact changes to their Constitution, we nonetheless must hold that the text of section 273 fails to account for the possibility that has become reality in Mississippi.”

In sum, a Census-driven change in the number of congressional districts in Mississippi “did, indeed, break section 273 so that, absent amendment, it no longer functions,” meaning there’s no legal way to pass a constitutional ballot initiative in the state.

“Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress. To work in today’s reality, it will need amending—something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”

“We grant the petition, reverse the Secretary of State’s certification of Initiative 65, and hold that any subsequent proceedings on it are void,” the court ruled.

One justice who dissented said that the district-based requirement is arbitrary as it concerns Mississippi elections. While the federal government defines the state as having five congressional districts, the state Constitution “lays out the five districts,” and “there have been zero changes to the five districts” as far as the state’s laws are concerned.

In any case, this marks a major defeat for cannabis reform activists in the state who collected more than 214,000 signatures for their measure and saw 68 percent of voters approve it last year.

Under the voter-approved initiative, patients with debilitating medical issues would have been allowed to legally obtain marijuana after getting a doctor’s recommendation. The proposal included 22 qualifying conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and patients would have been able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana per 14-day period.

There was an attempt in the legislature to pass a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the event that the court overruled the voter-approved initiative, but it failed to be enacted by the session’s end.

This is the latest state Supreme Court setback to affect cannabis reform efforts.

Last month, the Florida Supreme Court dealt a critical blow to marijuana activists working to legalize marijuana in the state—killing an initiative that hundreds of thousands of voters have already signed and forcing them to start all over again if they want to make the 2022 ballot.

While a Nebraska campaign collected enough signatures to qualify a reform initiative in 2020, the state Supreme Court shut it down following a legal challenge. It determined that the measure violated the state’s single-subject rule, much to the disappointment of advocates.

Read the Mississippi Supreme Court ruling on the medical cannabis initiative below: 

Mississippi Supreme Court m… by Marijuana Moment

Congressional Bill Filed To Protect Marijuana Consumers From Losing Public Housing

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Congressional Bill Filed To Protect Marijuana Consumers From Losing Public Housing

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A congresswoman on Thursday reintroduced a bill that would allow people living in federally assisted housing to use marijuana in compliance with state law without fear of losing their homes.

As it stands, people living in public housing are prohibited from using controlled substances in those facilities regardless of state law, and landlords are able to evict such individuals. But the bill from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) would change that.

It would provide protections for people living in public housing or Section 8 housing from being displaced simply for using cannabis in states that have legalized it for medical or recreational purposes.

“Individuals living in federally assisted housing should not be denied admission, or fear eviction, for using a legal product,” Norton said on Thursday. “Adult use and/or medical marijuana is currently legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and over 90 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana.”

The legislation would also require the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to enact regulations that restrict smoking marijuana at these properties in the same way that tobacco is handled.

“HUD, like DOJ, should not be allowed to enforce federal marijuana laws where states have taken action to legalize marijuana,” the congresswoman said, referring to a congressionally approved rider that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical cannabis laws.

Norton filed earlier versions of the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act in 2018 and 2019, but they did not receive hearings or votes.

In 2018, a Trump administration official said that she was working to resolve conflicting federal and state marijuana laws as it applies to residency in federally-subsidized housing, but it’s not clear what came of that effort.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also raised the issue during a committee hearing in 2019, pressing former HUD Secretary Ben Carson on policies that cause public housing residents and their families to be evicted for committing low-level offenses such as marijuana possession.

She pointed to two specific HUD policies: the “one strike” rule, which allows property managers to evict people living in federally assisted housing if they engage in illicit drug use or other crimes, and the “no fault” rule, which stipulates that public housing residents can be evicted due to illicit drug use by other members of their household or guests—even if the resident was unaware of the activity.

Ocasio-Cortez and then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) also filed legislation that year that would protect people with low-level drug convictions from being denied access to or being evicted from public housing.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) also introduced an affordable housing bill last year that included a provision to prevent landlords from evicting people over manufacturing marijuana extracts if they have a license to do so.

Read the text of the marijuana housing legislation below: 

Norton cannabis housing bill by Marijuana Moment

Drug Possession Is Officially A Crime Again In Washington, But As A Misdemeanor Instead Of Felony

Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.

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FDA Clears Researchers To Study MDMA Use By Therapists Being Trained In Psychedelic Medicine

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already authorized clinical trials into the therapeutic potential of MDMA for patients with post-traumatic stress disorders—but now it’s given the green light to a psychedelics research institute to expand its studies by administering the substance to certain therapists.

Volunteer therapists who are being trained to treat people with PTSD will be able to participate in the Phase 1 trials to gain personal experience with the treatment option. This is a complementary research project that comes as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is in the process of conducting Phase 3 trials involving people with the disorder.

The development comes months after Canadian regulators announced that certain therapists would be allowed to take psilocybin in order to gain a better understanding of the psychedelic when treating patients.

MAPS sought permission to proceed with the therapist-specific trials in 2019, but FDA placed them on a 20-month hold because of concerns about the merits, risks and credentials of investigators. MAPS appealed that hold, providing evidence about the study’s scientific value and ability of its staff, and FDA cleared them on Tuesday.

The organization “chose to dispute” FDA’s hold not just because of the impact it had on the planned studies, “but in an attempt to resolve an ongoing issue with the FDA regarding investigator qualifications across studies,” it said in a press release on Wednesday.

“While the term ‘dispute’ may seem adversarial, this process can actually strengthen the relationship and trust between us and our review Division and ensures the Division has support on this project from the [FDA] Office of Neuroscience,” MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) CEO Amy Emerson said. “This decision demonstrates how our strategic, data-driven strategy in challenging the FDA rulings can be successful.”

Now MAPS is able to launch the Phase 1 clinical trials into MDMA-assisted therapy for therapists.

It will be designed to “measure development of self-compassion, professional quality of life, and professional burnout among clinicians delivering the treatment to patients,” the association said.

Getting personal experience with the substance “is widely considered to be an important element in preparation and training to deliver psychedelic-assisted therapies.”

This will “support the goals of the MDMA Therapy Training Program to provide comprehensive training to future providers,” and it “builds capacity to deliver quality, accessible care to patients, pending approval of MDMA-assisted therapy as a legal prescription treatment,” MAPS PBC Director and Head of Training and Supervision Shannon Carlin said.

FDA first granted MAPS’s request for an emergency use authorization for MDMA in PTSD in 2017. The organization expects to complete its Phase 3 trails in 2022.

The scientific expansion move also comes as the psychedelics decriminalization movement continues to build in the U.S.

Nebraska Activists Relaunch Medical Marijuana Ballot Campaign After Legislative Filibuster Blocks Bill

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