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Top Pro-Trump Lawmaker: Congress Will Ignore President’s Push To End Medical Marijuana Protections

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Congress will ignore President Trump’s budget request to end a current policy protecting medical marijuana states from federal interference, a Republican lawmaker said on Tuesday.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is a key White House ally on Capitol Hill, was asked by Marijuana Moment on Twitter whether he feels concerned about the president’s proposal to eliminate the long-standing rider, which prohibits the Justice Department from using its funds to interfere wite the implementation of state and tribal medical cannabis programs.

“No,” he said. “We have the votes to continue the current policy through the appropriations process.”

Gaetz, who proudly said last year that he’s had conversations with Trump where the president has been “very supportive” of medical cannabis, did not respond to a follow up question about whether the budget request could be politically damaging to the president.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who has been a leading sponsor of the medical cannabis protections amendment, also reacted to Trump’s proposal in a statement to Marijuana Moment.

“Trump’s latest budget is an attack on 8 years of progress at all levels. Luckily, Congress has fought back and defeated most of Trump’s misguided budget priorities,” he said. “I will continue to lead the effort to protect state legal medical cannabis programs and seek to get new protections for adult-use and tribal programs. These are critical as we continue our fight to reform hopelessly outdated federal cannabis policies.”

Gaetz’s Twitter response came amid a thread where the congressman fired back at his state’s Republican attorney general, who filed a court brief arguing that a proposed ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Florida should not be allowed to proceed. The campaign behind the measure recently suspended its efforts to place the issue before voters in 2020 , but it is continuing to collect signatures for a 2022 push.

“Oh sure you can,” Gaetz said in response to the attorney general’s argument that states cannot allow use of a substance that is banned under federal law.

“Our federalist system contemplates the several states as laboratories of democracy—especially in cases where the federal government has failed so miserably,” he said. “Federal cannabis policy is an indefensible joke. States should give it no reverence.”

To that end, the medical cannabis protection language that the president is seeking to delete for fiscal year 2021 has given states a sense of autonomy over their marijuana policies.

Trump has omitted the rider in past requests—and President Obama similarly asked for the policy to be stricken—but Congress has consistently upheld it since its initial enactment in 2014.

The House approved an additional amendment to spending legislation last year that would have extended protections to state and tribal marijuana programs that allow recreational use and sales, but the Senate didn’t include a similar provision in its version and it was ultimately left out of the final bill that Trump signed.

The president approved the large-scale 2020 spending legislation that included a renewal of the medical cannabis rider, but he also included a statement stipulating that he is entitled to ignore the congressionally approved protections and that his administration “will treat this provision consistent with the President’s constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.”

Trump’s latest budget request also includes a provision continuing to bar Washington, D.C. from using its local tax dollars to implement a regulated marijuana market.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said in a press release that she is “disappointed, but not surprised” that the president wants to continue the cannabis block on her city.

That said, while the medical marijuana rider and Trump’s request to end it have received the most attention, there are at least two other funding proposals that the cannabis industry is pleased with. One provides funding to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue implementing the hemp’s legalization and regulation. The other allocates money to the Food and Drug Administration to develop rules for CBD.

Trump Again Applauds Death Penalty For Drug Offenses

Photo courtesy of Meredith Geddings.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Local Colorado Lawmakers Say Psychedelics Reform Needs To Be Handled At State Or Federal Level

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The Aspen, Colorado City Council on Monday discussed the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and proposals to decriminalize such substances. But members said, as it stands, enacting a reform would be more better handled at the state level while entheogens remain strictly federally controlled.

While numerous cities across the U.S. have adopted measures to deprioritize enforcement of laws against entheogenic plants and fungi—and Oregon voted to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medical use—the local legislators did not take action beyond talking about psychedelics research and outlining the various policy challenges associated with state and federal prohibition.

“We’re heading in this direction—it’s just research needs to be done and the groundwork needs to be laid,” one member said at the work session, which was first reported by Aspen Daily News.

Watch the Aspen lawmakers discuss psychedelics policy, starting around 14:25 into the video below: 

There was considerable discussion during the meeting about Denver’s historic move to decriminalize psilocybin in 2019. But while one member said the council “could take similar actions,” another member pointed out that there is no municipal law prohibiting the substance as it stands, and so it would require a state law change to actually decriminalize.

Also, if Aspen moved to loosen restrictions on psychedelics on its own, some members worried that could make them targets of federal enforcement.

So instead of moving to independently enact a policy change, members could “informally” express support for “research to see what the benefits of these drugs are and how they can be used in therapy.” They could do that “by resolution or not,” the member said.

But in the end, there was no direction for council staff to write up a resolution. Several members said it would put too much of a workload on staff, and others said that formally promoting decriminalization could create complications for law enforcement.

Last year, the Colorado Springs City Council also talked about decriminalizing psychedelics—with the body’s president sharing a personal anecdote about psilocybin treatment for a relative who had cancer—but no action was taken at that meeting either.

While the Aspen City Council might not be ready to unilaterally advance reform, numerous other local governments have moved to stop criminalizing people over entheogens since Denver became the first city in the nation to decriminalize psilocybin via voter initiative.

The Northampton, Massachusetts City Council is the latest example, with members unanimously adopting a resolution last month to deprioritize enforcement of laws against the possession, use and distribution of a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca.

Two other Massachusetts cities—Somerville and Cambridge—have also moved to effectively decriminalize psychedelics. Outside of that state, four other cities—Oakland, Santa Cruz, Ann Arbor and Washington, D.C.—have also decriminalized possession of plant-and fungi-based psychedelics.

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.

After Ann Arbor legislators passed a decriminalization resolution last year, a county prosecutor recently announced that his office will not be pursuing charges over possessing entheogenic plants and fungi—“regardless of the amount at issue.”

At the state level, the Texas House of Representatives approved to a bill last week that would require the state to conduct a study into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA.

Meanwhile, two Senate committees in California have recently approved a bill to legalize possession of a wide range of psychedelics and create a working group to study broader reform.

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Could ‘Absolutely’ Pass Full Legislature If GOP Senate Allows A Vote, Sponsor Says

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CBD Company’s Appeal Could Let Marijuana And Psychedelics Companies Trademark Businesses Pre-Legalization

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As it stands, you can’t trademark a product that’s not currently legal under federal law—like marijuana or psychedelics. But a CBD beverage company is appealing that rule, and it could have wide-ranging implications for burgeoning industries surrounding potentially soon-to-be-legal substances.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says that companies cannot secure trademarks for products that aren’t lawful for commerce, even if they’re simply submitting “intent to use” applications that could take years to process while a pending policy change works its way through Congress or federal agencies.

“While applicant may be anticipating that CBD-based beverages will be made lawful at the federal level within the time frame for filing an allegation of use, that anticipation does not make this application registrable,” USPTO wrote in explaining its decision to deny a registration to Joy Tea, which markets hemp-derived CBD drinks. “The lawfulness of the goods is determined at the time the application is filed and not what may or may not be lawful at the federal level years from now.”

Joy Tea is appealing the rejection with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

While hemp and its derivatives like CBD were legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, USPTO denied its trademark request because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently have regulations in place that allow for the lawful marketing of cannabinoids in food items or dietary supplements.

While the federal food regulator has said it’s working on rules to allow for the marketing of CBD-infused products, USPTO says that for now, “FDA intentions, public opinion in favor of legalization of cannabis, and anticipation of change in the current law have no bearing on the prosecution of a trademark application.”

But Larry Sandell, an intellectual property attorney at Mei & Mark LLP who is representing Joy Tea, told Marijuana Moment that it’s improper to deny his client a trademark registration in the meantime.

“The general idea as to why [companies submit intent to use applications]—outside the cannabis space—is if you’re marketing a new product, and you’re starting to lay the groundwork, it would be terrible if somebody could just swoop it up and beat you to the trademark office and steal it out from under you,” he said.

Traditional pharmaceutical companies that are interested in selling products that aren’t currently approved by FDA have this option—but CBD businesses are barred.

“There’s no real logical basis for the split,” Sandell said.

But USPTO said the comparison is “misleading because pharmaceuticals are not per se unlawful.”

Joy Tea “has not argued or demonstrated that it is seeking or has sought FDA approval for the sale of its CBD-based beverages,” the agency said. “Applicant’s goods are not merely ‘unapproved’ but are actually ‘unlawful.'”

To resolve the issue, Joy Tea, is seeking an appeal.

“At base, this Appeal seeks to overturn, or at least narrow, this per se rule,” the company’s filing states. “No statute or applicable regulation supports disqualifying an applicant’s bona fide intent that stems from a belief—especially an objectively reasonable belief—that its intended future commerce will be legal future commerce,”

It further argues that “market movement in cannabis-related stocks evinces that—notwithstanding the current law—many people anticipate changes in federal law toward cannabis legalization in the immediate future and have been willing to invest in this belief.”

If the appeal succeeds and companies are prospectively able to trademark products that aren’t currently legal under federal law, that would have a significant impact on businesses entering the space.

If it fails, however, that would mean that the status quote prevails, putting these companies “in a terrible spot,” Sandell said.

It would mean, for example, that a company could preempt another company that plans to sell a cannabis product by taking their business name and using it for a legal, unrelated purpose.

Should Joy Tea’s current effort fail, Sandell said they will appeal to a federal circuit court. They’re expecting a response to the initial briefing by mid-summer.

Read the text of the appeal on the CBD trademark below: 

CBD Tea Trademark Appeal by Marijuana Moment

Head Of Top Federal Drug Agency Says It’s Time To Consider Decriminalization

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Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Could ‘Absolutely’ Pass Full Legislature If GOP Senate Allows A Vote, Sponsor Says

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A bill to legalize marijuana in Minnesota is set for a House floor vote this week, and the sponsor of the legislation is optimistic that it could pass the full legislature—if only the GOP-controlled Senate would just allow a vote on it.

This measure—filed by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D), Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) and other lawmakers—has moved through a dozen committees since February. It would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and cultivate up to eight plants, four of which could be mature.

Despite being advanced through 12 House panels, there have been lingering doubts about its prospects in the Senate. But Winkler said in an interview on Sunday that, if Republican leadership in the chamber give it a vote, “it absolutely could pass.”

“Support for legalizing cannabis for recreational or personal use, making sure that we have a safe, regulated marketplace, that we are expunging criminal records for people who’ve been unfairly targeted for law enforcement reasons for cannabis in the past, making sure that we’re creating a marketplace that reflects Minnesota’s values—all those things are our priorities in this bill, and they are priorities for Minnesotans of all political persuasions,” Winkler said.

Pressed on whether the legislation could advance through the Republican-led Senate if it advances through the House, the leader said it “absolutely could pass,” citing public polling on the issue and the fact that South Dakota voters approved a legalization initiative last year.

“It cuts across both parties,” Winkler said. “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t pass both houses if the vote can come up in the Senate.”

But one provision of the legalization bill that the leader isn’t willing to cede on concerns expungements for people with prior cannabis convictions.

He said in a tweet on Monday that “expunging existing cannabis offenses is a non-negotiable piece of our legalization bill,” and that “is an economic and criminal justice issue.”

While Republican support remains an open question in either chamber, it is the case that the proposal has earned the support of several GOP members as its moved through an extensive committee process.

That’s despite the fact that Republicans have generally signaled that they’re more interested in revising the state’s existing medical cannabis program than enacting legalization of adult use.

But a GOP member of the House Taxes Committee, which approved the broader legalization bill last week, indicated that he felt an amendment he introduced and that was adopted could bolster Republican support.

That revision from Rep. Pat Garofolo (R) directs remaining cannabis revenue to a tax relief account after implementation costs are covered and substance misuse treatment and prevention programs are funded.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 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.

Before the Taxes Committee, the bill passed the Health Finance and Policy Committee, Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee, Education Finance Committee, State Government Finance and Elections Committee, Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee, Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee, Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee, Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee, Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee and Commerce Finance and Policy Committee.

The litany of committees the bill has gone through makes it perhaps the most thoroughly vetted legalization measure to move through a state legislature—and it means that a solid portion of the House has already had the chance to review, propose amendments to and vote on the legislation it as it advances to the floor, presumably increasing its chances of passage in the chamber.

The majority leader’s bill as introduced was identical to a proposal he filed last year, with some minor technical changes. Winkler, who led a statewide listening to gather public input ahead of the measure’s introduction, called it the “best legalization bill in the country” at the time. It did not advance in that session, however.

Under the legislation, social equity would be prioritized, in part by ensuring diverse licensing and preventing the market from being monopolized by corporate players. Prior marijuana records would also be automatically expunged.

On-site consumption and cannabis delivery services would be permitted under the bill. And unlike in many legal states, local municipalities would be banned from prohibiting marijuana businesses from operating in their areas.

Retail cannabis sales would be taxed at 10 percent. Part of that revenue would fund a grant program designed to promote economic development and community stability.

The bill calls for the establishment of a seven-person Cannabis Management Board, which would be responsible for regulating the market and issuing cannabis business licenses. It was amended in committee month to add members to that board who have a social justice background.

People living in low-income neighborhoods and military veterans who lost honorable status due to a cannabis-related offense would be considered social equity applicants eligible for priority licensing.

Cannabis retails sales would launch on December 31, 2022.

Gov. Tim Walz (D) is also in favor of ending marijuana prohibition, and in January he called on lawmakers to pursue the reform as a means to boost the economy and promote racial justice. He did not include a request to legalize through his budget proposal, however.

Walz did say in 2019 that he was directing state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of legalization passing.

Winkler, meanwhile, said in December that if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the policy change legislatively, he said he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Heading into the 2020 election, Democrats believed they had a shot of taking control of the Senate, but that didn’t happen. The result appears to be partly due to the fact that candidates from marijuana-focused parties in the state earned a sizable share of votes that may have otherwise gone to Democrats, perhaps inadvertently hurting the chances of reform passing.

In December, the Minnesota House Select Committee On Racial Justice adopted a report that broadly details race-based disparities in criminal enforcement and recommends a series of policy changes, including marijuana decriminalization and expungements.

Head Of Top Federal Drug Agency Says It’s Time To Consider Decriminalization

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