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Trump Police Commission Slams Marijuana Legalization And Drug Decriminalization In New Report

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A commission established by President Donald Trump recently released a report on law enforcement issues that is critical of local efforts to legalize marijuana or otherwise decriminalize drugs.

The 300-page document from the Presidential Commission On Law Enforcement covers a lot of ground, but it focuses on cannabis and drug policy in a number of sections.

For example, it discusses the need to address issues such as substance misuse and homelessness but says they must be balanced with “enforcing the law and maintaining public safety.”

The report notes that “localities across this country have decriminalized or reduced sanctions for drug use, such as in the case of marijuana, or ‘quality of life’ crimes—actions that are often a result of homelessness—such as public urination.”

The panel argued that drug policy reforms “merely raise the bar for law enforcement arrests,” but “do not account for the reality that law enforcement officers still must address the complaints about these individuals from community members, respond to the noncriminal results of untreated substance use problems (e.g., overdoses), or interact with large homeless populations.”

The commission recommends that “the Department of Justice should examine how local laws and policies that decriminalize or reduce sanctions for drug use or activities related to homelessness impact law enforcement and public safety.”

The commission, which was established by Trump through a 2019 executive order, argued that enacting decriminalization policies counterintuitively “often results in an increase in the number of people in need who intersect with law enforcement, while the mechanisms to sanction these behaviors and shepherd people into court-mandated treatment programs are removed.”

“This may have a greater cost to the community, including escalation and long-term drug use,” the report says, concluding that the Justice Department and state and local governments should weigh the “impact and side effects that the laws and policies of local and jurisdictions have on the safety of their community and effectiveness of their criminal justice system.”

The document also quotes the Vermont U.S. attorney saying that decriminalization “takes a tool away from law enforcement, signals that the behavior is OK and will not have consequences, and logically will lead to more of the undesirable behavior.”

The panel’s 18 members primarily have backgrounds in law enforcement. One member is the chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, for example, and another is a Federal Bureau of Investigation deputy director. The attorney general of Florida is also a member, as are several local sheriffs.

The commission’s report also pushes back against reformers’ argument that punitive anti-drug laws are a main contributor to mass incarceration, asserting that non-violent drug offenders represent a small fraction of the overall federal prison population.

That said, it does acknowledge that law enforcement alone “cannot be expected to remedy the scourge of drug addiction.”

“Law enforcement is part of a government architecture of social welfare and public safety systems that collaboratively function to keep communities safe,” the report states. “Nevertheless, in many communities, law enforcement still bears the primary responsibility of managing the social ills that motivate crime—be it mental illness, drug addiction, or homelessness.”

“As law enforcement has assumed the duties of both public safety and social caretaking, finite resources within their agencies have been diverted from traditional police work to the domain of social provider—where law enforcement often lacks the relevant resources, expertise, or authority,” it continues.

The commission held 15 hearings to take testimony in preparation for putting the report together, and cannabis policy was raised at several of those meetings.

In one of the more interesting exchanges, the Orange County, California sheriff testified that the federal government should “advocate for removing [marijuana] as a Schedule I narcotic” to promote public safety because it could help facilitate the creation of a cannabis impairment test.

That said, he claimed that high-THC products cause psychosis and expressed frustration over the broader reform movement, stating that California’s push to reduce the prison population is “being done at the expense of our residents, families [and] kids.”

A federal prosecutor from California was asked about how he navigates the federal-state cannabis policy conflict and told the panel that his office focuses “on what we consider to be the classic federal marijuana cases and that largely is interstate trafficking of marijuana.”

Testimony from McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, informed a section of the final report concerning prosecutorial discretion.

“A threat to the rule of law, and the ability of law enforcement to uphold it, has recently come from self-identified ‘progressive’ or ‘social reform’ prosecutors who purport to share the distrust and cynicism for law enforcement that some in their communities have,” the report states.

“Despite their election to a position to enforce the law, these prosecutors view the very laws they enforce as unjust and illegitimate, and therefore seek to undermine that system by unilaterally deciding not to enforce certain laws,” it says. “Unlike standard prosecutorial discretion, in which a prosecutor assesses whether to pursue charges after a case-by-case examination of the individual circumstances, non-enforcement policies remove that discretion entirely by prescribing that certain laws will be categorically unenforced.”

An Obama-era Justice Department memo did provide prosecutors with guidance on the type of discretion they should use when it comes to pursuing cannabis cases amid the state-level legalization movement, but that was rescinded under Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

The Trump administration’s approach to marijuana has been difficult to define. On the one hand, the president has appointed numerous officials with hostile attitudes toward cannabis reform; on the other hand, there’s been no federal crackdown on legal marijuana states.

In a sense, the commission’s report reflects that dichotomy. While critical of cannabis legalization and broader drug decriminalization, members stopped short of suggesting that the federal government should ramp up prosecutions in the growing, state-legal market.

What remains to be seen is how cannabis will be handled under President-elect Joe Biden’s Justice Department.

He’s in favor of medical marijuana legalization, modest rescheduling, decriminalization, expungements for low-level convictions and allowing states to enact their own policies without fear of federal intervention. However, he’s yet to name an attorney general who could fill the guidance gap for federal prosecutors—and his ongoing opposition to adult-use legalization is keeping advocates on their toes.

Illinois Sold More Than $1 Billion Worth Of Legal Marijuana In 2020, New State Data Shows

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

Top Pennsylvania Official Restores Marijuana Flag After GOP Lawmakers Allegedly Got It Removed

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Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s (D) marijuana and LGBTQ flags are waving again at his Capitol office after state officials removed them Monday night, allegedly at the behest of certain GOP lawmakers who feel strongly about the activist decor.

The day after their removal, the lieutenant governor proudly announced on Twitter that he’d restored the flags—one rainbow-themed and the other displaying cannabis leaves.

“I really can’t emphasize this enough, my issue isn’t with the individuals that came to take them down. They’re kind of caught in the middle of it so it’s not them,” Fetterman told Marijuana Moment. “But the Pennsylvania GOP exerted enough pressure and made enough drama so they felt that they needed to do something and they took them down. When I realized that, I just put them back up.”

The flags have been an unusual source of controversy for some members of the legislature. In November, Republican lawmakers passed budget legislation that included a provision targeting his cannabis-themed office decor, making it so only the American flag, the Pennsylvania flag and those honoring missing soldiers could be displayed at the Capitol building.

“There’s one great way to get them down for good and we can end this,” the lieutenant governor said. And that’s by enacting legislative reform.

“It shouldn’t have to be this way. These are not controversial things. These are very fundamentally American things. It’s freedom-related. It’s individuality-related. It’s jobs. It’s revenue,” he said. “These are not controversial, but these flags are. For the party that thinks it’s A-OK to talk about how an election that was secure was rigged, they sure have a real thin skin when it comes to free speech.”

A spokesperson for the state Department of General Services confirmed to Marijuana Moment that it was tasked with removing the flags and did so “in order to comply with section 1724-E of the fiscal code.” Asked whether lawmakers from the legislature’s Republican majority influenced the recent action, the representative repeated: “All I can say is the Department of General Services removed the flag in order to comply with section 1724-E of the fiscal code.”

Marijuana Moment reached out to the offices of the Senate majority leader and House speaker for comment, but representatives did not respond by the time of publication.

Defying the flag order is par for the course for Fetterman, a longtime marijuana reform advocate who is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate. His enthusiastic embrace of the issue has often put him in the spotlight, and he said he’d take that advocacy to Congress if he ultimately decides to enter the race and is elected.

“I’m the only person that’s actually called out my own party for its failure to embrace it when it is appropriate,” he said, referring to his repeated criticism of the Democratic National Committee’s rejection of a pro-legalization platform. “There has never been—or would ever be—a more committed advocate to ending this awful superstition over a plant for the United States.”

On his campaign website, the lieutenant governor touts his role in leading a listening tour across the state to solicit public input on the policy change. He noted that, following his efforts, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) “announced his support for legalization for the first time.”

It remains to be seen when legalization will happen in Pennsylvania, however. Despite Fetterman and Wolf’s support for legalization and the pressure they’re applying on lawmakers, convincing Republican legislative leaders to go along with the plan remains a challenge.

Fetterman previously told Marijuana Moment that pursuing reform through the governor’s budget request is a possibility. But in the meantime the administration is exploring the constitutionality of issuing “wholesale pardons for certain marijuana convictions and charges.”

Since adopting a pro-legalization position in 2019, Wolf has repeatedly called on the legislature to enact the policy change. He’s stressed that stressed that marijuana reform could generate tax revenue to support the state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and that ending criminalization is necessary for social justice.

In September, he took a dig at the Republican-controlled legislature for failing to act on reform in the previous session. And in August, he suggested that the state itself could potentially control marijuana sales rather than just license private retailers as other legalized jurisdictions have done.

Fetterman previously said that farmers in his state can grow better marijuana than people in New Jersey—where voters approved a legalization referendum in November—and that’s one reason why Pennsylvania should expeditiously reform its cannabis laws.

He also hosted a virtual forum where he got advice on how to effectively implement a cannabis system from the lieutenant governors of Illinois and Michigan, which have enacted legalization.

Shortly after the governor announced that he was embracing the policy change, a lawmaker filed a bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.

A majority of Senate Democrats sent Wolf a letter in July arguing that legislators should pursue the policy change in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top New York Official Responds To Marijuana Advocates’ Criticism Of Governor’s Legalization Plan

Photo courtesy of Twitter/John Fetterman.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Hawaii Could Legalize Psychedelic Mushroom Therapy Under New Senate Bill

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Hawaii could legalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms for therapy under a newly filed bill in the state legislature.

The measure, if approved, would direct the state Department of Health to “establish designated treatment centers for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin and psilocyn,” two psychoactive substances produced by certain fungi.

It would also remove the two compounds from the state’s list of Schedule I controlled substances and create a seven-person psilocybin review panel to assess the impacts of the policy change.

Few other specifics are provided in the bill, SB 738, introduced in the state Senate on Friday. It doesn’t specify who would qualify for the therapy, for example, or how precisely the drugs—which remain federally illegal—would be administered. The legislation simply says the Department of Health “shall adopt rules” in accordance with state law.

The new legislation comes less than a year after Hawaii lawmakers introduced bills to begin studying the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms with the goal of eventually legalizing them, though those measures did not advance.

Entheogens—including other substances like ayahuasca and ibogaine—have emerged as a promising treatment for severe depression, anxiety and other conditions, although research remains ongoing.

In November, voters in Oregon approved a ballot measure to legalize psilocybin therapy that the state is now in the process of implementing.

The new Hawaii bill was introduced by Sens. Stanley Chang, Laura Clint Acasio, Les Ihara Jr. and Maile Shimabukuro, all Democrats. It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, according to the state legislature’s website.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 400 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.

The Hawaii proposal is one of a growing number of broader reform bills to have been introduced across the country this year as the debate on drug policy moves beyond marijuana. A measure introduced in New York earlier this month would remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of any controlled substance, instead imposing a $50 fine. Similar measures are expected to be introduced in California and Washington State this year.

A Florida lawmaker recently announced plans to introduce legislation to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes in the state.

Lawmakers in New Jersey last month sent a bill to Gov. Phil Murphy (D) that would reduce criminal charges for the possession of psilocybin, but so far Murphy hasn’t signed the measure.

Voters, meanwhile, have been broadly supportive of drug reform measures in recent years. In addition to the psilocybin. measure, Oregon voters in November also approved an initiative to decriminalize possession of all drugs. Washington, D.C. voters overwhelmingly enacted a proposal to decriminalize the possession of psychedelics.

Despite the growing discussion of drug reform at statehouses across the country, some high-profile advocates are setting their sights on the 2022 election. Dr. Bronner’s CEO David Bronner, a key financial backer of successful reform efforts in Oregon, told Marijuana Moment last month that he’s expecting both Washington state and Colorado voters will see decriminalization or psilocybin therapy on their 2022 ballots.

Meanwhile, a new advocacy group is pushing Congress to allocate $100 million to support research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

New Psychedelics Reform Group Sets Sights On Congress As Movement Builds

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Minnesota Governor Urges Lawmakers To Pursue Marijuana Legalization Amid Budget Talks

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The governor of Minnesota on Tuesday implored the legislature to look into legalizing marijuana as a means to boost the economy and promote racial justice.

During a briefing focused on his budget proposal for the 2022-23 biennium, Gov. Tim Walz (D) was asked whether he is open to allowing sports betting in the state to generate tax revenue. He replied he wasn’t closing the door on that proposal, but said he is more interested in seeing lawmakers “take a look at recreational cannabis.”

Not only would tax revenue from adult-use marijuana “dwarf” those collected through sports betting, he said, but legalization would also help address “the equity issue and, quite honestly, the racial impact of our cannabis laws.”

Watch the governor discuss marijuana legalization below: 

“I will say this, I will certainly leave open that possibility. Our neighboring states have done both of those things,” Walz said of legalizing sports gambling and cannabis. “I obviously recognize that that’s not a 100 percent slam dunk for people, and they realize that there’s cost associated with both. But my message would be is, I don’t think this is the time for me to say I’m shutting the door on anything.”

Walz did not include a request to legalize through his budget, however, as governors in some other states have.

The Minnesota governor did say in 2019, however, that he was directing state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of legalization passing.

Earlier this month, the House majority leader said he would again introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in the new session. And if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the reform, 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.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) said this month that “Senate Republicans remain the biggest obstacle to progress on this issue.”

“Minnesota’s current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good,” she told The Center Square. “By creating a regulatory framework we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care and criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R), for his part, said that while he would be “open to expanding medical use or hearing criminal justice reforms,” he doesn’t “believe fully legalized marijuana is right for the state.”

“Other states that have legalized marijuana are having issues with public safety,” he argued, “and we are concerned that we haven’t fully seen how this works with employment issues, education outcomes and mental health.”

Last month, 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.

Another factor that might add pressure on lawmakers to enact the reform is the November vote in neighboring South Dakota to legalize adult-use cannabis.

Also next door, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is pushing lawmakers to enact marijuana reform and recently said that he is considering putting legalization in his upcoming budget request.

New Mexico Governor Pushes For Marijuana Legalization In State Of The State Address

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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