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USDA Releases Video Explainer On Its Draft Rules For Hemp

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a recorded webinar on Tuesday to help guide individuals through its proposed regulations on hemp.

One week after USDA released its interim final rule for the crop, which was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, the department posted the video providing a basic overview of the regulations. The slide show presentation goes over elements of the rule, including a timeline for implementation and information about testing requirements.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture has posted a webinar to provide an overview of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program, which was established to create a consistent regulatory framework around hemp production throughout the United States,” USDA wrote in a bulletin. “The webinar discusses the differences between hemp-related provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill and the 2018 Farm Bill, and provides details of the requirements included in the interim final rule published on Oct. 31, 2019.”

As USDA explained in a notice published in the Federal Register last week, the video noted that there is an ongoing public comment period, where anyone can weigh in on the draft rule electronically or through mail. More than 200 people have submitted comments so far, and the window to weigh in will last until December 30.

Marijuana Moment spoke to one industry stakeholder based in Kentucky about what kind of changes he’d like to see following the conclusion of the comment period. Jim Higdon of Cornbread Hemp said that there were areas he hoped USDA would have offered clarification, including regulations related to smokeable hemp products.

The video also touches on the licensing process for hemp businesses. After the comment period ends, USDA will begin to approve regulatory plans submitted by states and tribes. For those who operate in states that do not submit plans—but where hemp cultivation is not expressly prohibited—USDA will release general guidelines for the crop that producers can use.

USDA also reiterated that states or tribes cannot prohibit interstate transport of hemp products, regardless of whether hemp is banned in those jurisdictions.

The draft regulations are set to sunset two years after the effective date, and that period will serve as “a chance to test drive the interim rule to help guide any adjustments that are made in the final rule,” USDA said.

While the industry has eagerly awaited USDA action since the 2018 Farm Bill was enacted, stakeholders still have questions about the specifics. To that end, the law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP and the advocacy organization Vote Hemp released a separate video Monday that offers a step-by-step guide to the proposed regulations.

The video answers three main questions about the rule: “1) What you need to know for your business to remain compliant; 2) What you need to know to position your business for success; and 3) How to engage with the USDA to address areas of improvement to the interim final rule, which is effective October 1, 2019 through November 1, 2021,” a description states.

“While these rules are not perfect, they are undoubtedly progress and an important milestone for the hemp industry,” Vicente Sederberg LLP said. “We look forward to hearing your concerns and potential solutions as we continue to analyze these rules and their practical implications.”

Meanwhile, the hemp industry is still waiting for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take steps to regulate CBD products. The agency has solicited public input on its rulemaking process, but former Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said that it may take years to FDA to release regulations unless Congress addresses the issue legislatively.

USDA Is Now Accepting Public Comments On Hemp Regulations

This story was updated to note the correct deadline for submitting comments on USDA’s proposed hemp regulations.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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Politics

Trump Says Marijuana Makes People “Lose IQ Points” In Secret Recording

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President Trump could be heard saying that using marijuana makes people “lose IQ points” in a secretly recorded conversation released on Saturday.

“In Colorado they have more accidents,” the president said in the clip captured by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal that led to the president’s impeachment. “It does cause an IQ problem.”

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo courtesy of YouTube/White House.

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Austin Police Chief Says Marijuana Arrests Will Continue Despite City Council Vote

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Chief Brian Manley said he would continue to enforce marijuana laws the day after the city council unanimously approved stopping arrests and tickets for low-level cases.

By , The Texas Tribune

The day after the Austin City Council approved a resolution to stop arresting or ticketing people for most low-level marijuana possession offenses, the police chief made clear he had no plans to do so.

“[Marijuana] is still illegal, and we will still enforce marijuana law if we come across people smoking in the community,” Chief Brian Manley said during a news conference Friday afternoon.

Though cracking down on those in possession of small amounts of marijuana has never been a priority for the department, he said, police will continue to either issue tickets under the city’s “cite-and-release” policy or arrest people if officers “come across it.”

The difference, according to City Council member and resolution sponsor Greg Casar, is that the council’s move now guarantees those actions will come with no penalty. Tickets will be meaningless pieces of paper and any arrests will result in a quick release with no charges accepted from prosecutors, he told The Texas Tribune after the news conference.

“What has changed since yesterday is that enforcement, almost in virtually all cases, is now handing someone a piece of paper with no penalty or no court date,” Casar said.

The move by the City Council came as a direct result from Texas’ new hemp law which complicated marijuana prosecution across the state. Last summer, when lawmakers legalized hemp, they also changed the definition of marijuana from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant.

Many prosecutors, including those in Austin’s Travis County, now won’t accept pot cases based on look and smell alone, requiring lab testing to determine THC levels before accepting a case. Such testing is not yet available in public crime labs, though some counties and cities have spent money to obtain test results from private labs.

The council’s resolution prohibited using city funds or personnel to conduct such testing in non-felony marijuana cases. It also directed the elimination, to the furthest extent possible, of arrests or citations for cannabis possession. As Manley also noted, the resolution clarifies it can’t technically decriminalize marijuana, since that is state law.

The resolution gave the city manager until May 1 to report back to the council on how police were trained in this new resolution, and Casar said he hopes Manley reviews his policies before then.

Manley said in the news conference that he would continue to review the resolution, as well as police policies.

But, he assured, “a City Council does not have the authority to tell a police department not to enforce a state law.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Austin City Council Approves Measure To End Most Marijuana Arrests

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Andrew Yang Wants To Legalize Psychedelic Mushrooms For Military Veterans

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Andrew Yang says he wants to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans to help them combat mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

During a town hall event at an Iowa college on Thursday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he would take initiative and allow veterans to access medical marijuana if elected. Yang replied he “will be so excited to be that commander-in-chief” that he would not only end federal cannabis prohibition but would go one step further by legalizing the psychedelic fungus for veterans as well.

“We need to get marijuana off of the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level, make it freely available,” he said. “I say this because I’ve talked to hundreds of veterans and other Americans who benefit from marijuana as a pain relief treatment, and it’s much less deadly than the opiates that many, many people are using for the same conditions.”

“I’ve talked to veterans who’ve also benefited from psilocybin mushrooms,” he added. “They said it was the only thing that actually has helped combat their PTSD. I’m for legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for veterans as well. Pretty much if it’s going to help a veteran, we should make it easier, not harder, for them to get access to it.”

Yang’s drug policy reform platform is unique in that respect. While the majority of Democratic candidates support marijuana legalization, he’s pushed unique proposals such as decriminalizing possession of opioids and making psilocybin mushrooms “more freely available” for therapeutic purposes. The candidate also wants to invest federal funds in safe injection facilities where individuals can use prohibited drugs in a medically supervised environment and receive help getting into treatment.

He hasn’t gone so far as embracing the decriminalization of all drugs, as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has, however.

That said, Yang did signal that he’s open to legalizing and regulating “certain drugs” beyond cannabis, which he argued would disrupt international drug cartels. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) recently said she backs “legalizing and regulating” currently illegal controlled substances to protect public safety and combat the illicit market.

At the Iowa town hall, Yang went on to say that he’s particularly interested in legalizing marijuana, and he again pledged to “pardon everyone who’s in jail for a non-violent marijuana-related offense because they shouldn’t be in jail for something that’s frankly legal in other parts of the country.”

“And I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, high-five them on the way out of jail and be like, ‘things got a lot better in the last year,'” he said, referencing the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.

Tom Steyer Calls For Marijuana Legalization And Opioid Decriminalization

Photo element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andrew_Yang_(48571382196).jpg

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