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Utah Lawmakers To Debate Medical Marijuana In Monday Special Session

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Utah lawmakers will convene in a special session on Monday to discuss a medical marijuana “compromise” bill after voters approved a separate measure that faced opposition from the Mormon church, Utah Medical Association and political insiders.

Gov. Gary Herbert (R) made the announcement on Friday.

The compromise bill includes several changes, such as limiting who can register to become a caregiver and reducing employment protections so that they only apply to state and local government workers. A series of smaller changes were also inserted into the legislation.

Not everyone is on board.

A lawyer representing a group of patients and advocates has floated a potential lawsuit against the church for allegedly undermining the will of voters and forcing the hands of lawmakers to agree to a compromise.

And on Friday, Utah Sen. Jim Dabakis (D) announced that he would be introducing two substitute bills at the special session. One would make “legislative staff-suggested changes” to the voter-approved measure and another that would effectively decriminalize cannabis for patients who obtain medical marijuana cards.

“Just days after an election, after the people have spoken, to allow a clique of unelected, self-appointed, unrepresentative lobbyists who sat in a backroom somewhere and ‘compromised’ among themselves to extinguishing the will of the voters, shows a paternalistic contempt for Utah voters,” Dabakis said in a press release.

“For the Legislature and Governor to outsource this important responsibility, rubber stamping the narrow view of this group makes Utah appear to have more in common with a banana republic than the proud republic we purport to be.”

Dabakis shared the text of the draft legislation with Marijuana Moment, which you can read here:

Utah Medical Cannabis Substitute Bills by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

“The first bill takes Prop 2 and makes technical changes needed to better implement Prop 2. There are no changes of substance to what the people passed,” Dabakis told Marijuana Moment in an email. “The second bill calls for a medical card but cuts out the bureaucracy and millions of dollars in expenses. It simply decriminalizes cannabis for anyone who has a medical card allowing them to use current distribution schemes.”

It’s not clear what kind of support the compromise bill has in the Utah Legislature at this point. House Speaker Greg Hughes (R), who convened meetings to reach a compromise, defended the action, though.

“This isn’t an effort to undermine the will of the people,” Hughes said. “This is actually an initiative process where what the initiative was seeing to do was agreed upon, and we have been working ever since to make sure it has that structurally, even more importantly, political strength to carry the day and actually provide patient access.”

Meanwhile, legislative leaders late on Friday released an updated version of their proposed compromise bill, which unlike prior drafts would allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants and some social workers to recommend medical cannabis.

And several other lawmakers have filed alternative substitutes for the voter-approved ballot measure.

Mormon Church Faces Potential Lawsuit Over Medical Marijuana Opposition

This story has been updated to include comment from Dabakis and to include his legislation as well as information about the updated compromise proposal.

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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

Trump’s New White House Chief Of Staff Supports Marijuana Reform

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President Trump announced on Friday that Mick Mulvaney will serve as his acting White House chief of staff, a move that could bode extremely well for federal marijuana reform efforts in 2019.

Mulvaney, who currently serves as director of the Office of Management and Budget and acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was previously a member of the U.S. House, where he consistently voted to support marijuana reform amendments and cosponsored cannabis bills.

In 2015, for example, he voted for a floor amendment that would have barred the Justice Department from spending money to interfere with state marijuana laws. The proposal, which came just nine flipped votes short of passage, would have expanded on existing protections for state medical cannabis programs by covering recreational laws as well.

Mulvaney also voted for the medical marijuana rider three years in a row.

In 2014, 2015 and 2016, he supported amendments to allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans.

Mulvaney backed a 2014 amendment to prevent the Treasury Department from punishing banks that work with marijuana businesses.

The South Carolina congressman he also voted for an amendment to protect limited cannabidiol (CBD) medical cannabis laws as well as a number of proposals concerning industrial hemp.

He also signed his name on as a cosponsor of several pieces of standalone marijuana legislation, including a comprehensive bill to reschedule cannabis and protect state medical-use laws, a measure to allow banking access for marijuana businesses, a hemp legalization bill and two separate CBD proposals.

“Mulvaney’s history of opposing wasteful government spending and support for states’ rights, specifically when it comes to marijuana, makes him our strongest ally in the White House,” Don Murphy, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment.

Pointing to how the Office of Management and Budget under Mulvaney on several occasions has floated severe funding cuts for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly known as the drug czar’s office, Murphy said that the new acting chief of staff “delivers our ‘more liberty/less spending’ position directly into the Oval Office on a daily basis, where it could bring the federal war on marijuana to an end by 2020.”

It is unclear how long Mulvaney will serve as acting chief of staff, or how frequently marijuana issues will come across his desk, but the fact that he—and not an ardent legalization opponent like Chris Christie, who was also under consideration for the job—will sit a door away from the Oval Office is likely to be seen as a positive development for cannabis reform supporters.

In his new capacity, Mulvaney will be party to conversations about which congressional legislation the president should back as well as discussions about potential marijuana enforcement policy changes at the Department of Justice under a new attorney general.

Congressman Issues ‘Blueprint To Legalize Marijuana’ For Democratic House In 2019

This story has been updated to include comment from MPP.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

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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Politics

New York Governor Will Outline Plan To Legalize Marijuana On Monday

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will lay out his agenda for the upcoming legislative session in a speech on Monday, and that will include details on his plan to get an adult-use marijuana legalization bill through the state legislature in 2019.

In an interview with radio station 1010 WINS on Friday, the governor confirmed that a proposal to end cannabis prohibition would be one of 15 pieces of legislation he’ll discuss in the speech. He said the current “political atmosphere” is “unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” and the timing is ripe to promote a bold agenda.

Listen to Cuomo confirm plans to reveal marijuana legalization details on Monday, about 5:00 into the clip below:

(In the exchange, the host mistakenly asks about “medical” marijuana, which is already legal in New York.)

In a separate interview on WCNY’s Capitol Pressroom, Cuomo said the Monday speech “is going to get to the meat of the specific legislative issues. This is not going to be a lot of rhetoric and retrospective.”

“We have an incoming [Democratic majority] legislature and I wanted to say, ‘these are the 15 things I’m trying to get done this year, and these are the 15 bills you’re going to see.'”

While reforming marijuana laws hasn’t always been a top priority for the governor, who as recently as a year ago called cannabis a “gateway drug,” 2018 has seen Cuomo’s position on the issue evolve dramatically. In August, he formed a working group to draft a legalization bill after the state Department of Health released a report finding that the benefits of legal cannabis outweigh the consequences.

Cuomo is also rumored to be considering putting cannabis legalization in his 2019 budget, which is set to come out next month. If he did so, New York could have a “fiscal framework for the program” by April, according to Crain’s.

It remains to be seen whether Cuomo will talk about a proposal to use revenue from legal marijuana sales to improve New York City’s subway system—a notion that’s put some lawmakers and advocates at odds—or if he will address details such as cannabis businesses licensing structures or whether he believes home cultivation should be allowed.

New York Cannabis Clash: Should Marijuana Taxes Fund Subways Or Social Justice?

Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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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Politics

Missouri Lawmaker Moves To Block Feds From Getting Medical Marijuana Patient Info

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Missouri officials would be prohibited from sharing information about registered medical marijuana patients with the federal government under a new bill pre-filed by a state lawmaker on Thursday.

Voters in the state approved one of three competing medical cannabis initiatives during November’s midterm elections. So if the new legislation passes, patients enrolled in the program wouldn’t have to worry about the state outing them to the feds, who still regard cannabis as a strictly controlled illegal substance.

Any state official who did share medical marijuana patient info with a federal agency would be committing a felony under the proposal.

Missouri Rep. Nick Schroer (R) is sponsoring the bill, which states:

“1. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no state agency shall disclose to the federal government the statewide list of persons who have obtained a medical marijuana card.

2. Any violation of this section is a class E felony.”

Federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients or providers is rare—the Justice Department is barred from using federal dollars to enforce prohibition in medical cannabis states—but not entirely unheard of.

“It’s very, very unlikely that there’s going to be [federal] targeting of individual customers,” Tamar Todd, legal director for the Drug Policy Alliance, told PolitiFact earlier this year. “Many, many other targets would come first.”

Still, Schroer’s bill would at least provide a safeguard in the event that the government radically shifts its drug enforcement policy. And it sends a strong message that state officials want the feds to respect their rights to enact their own marijuana laws without any kind of interference.


Marijuana Moment is currently tracking more than 900 cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress. 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 new Missouri bill is one of several that have been pre-filed for 2019 in states from Nevada to Texas.

Marijuana Bills Are Already Being Pre-Filed For 2019 Legislative Sessions

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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