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West Virginia House Candidates Pledge To Bring ‘Nation’s Strongest Cannabis Bill’ If Elected

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Standing before a field of thigh-high hemp plants last week, a pair of candidates running for seats in the West Virginia House of Delegates previewed a marijuana legalization bill they plan to introduce if elected in November.

Rusty Williams and Chris Yeager, Democrats running in West Virginia House Districts 35 and 14, respectively, announced the planned legislation, titled “The Normalization of Cannabis Act,” in a video streamed Friday on Facebook from Yeager’s hemp farm in Mason County.

“I think that this bill is a great draft,” said Yeager, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and owner of Appalachian Cannabis Co., which makes products from CBD derived from his farm’s hemp. “It gives us a starting point.”

The proposal is being supported by WV Can’t Wait, a political advocacy group that asks candidates to sign a pledge to reject corporate campaign donations and sign on to an array of policy positions, including broadband internet for all, infrastructure investment, small-business support, a workers bill of rights and “full cannabis legalization.”

Williams, who became involved in medical marijuana legalization efforts after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, according to his campaign website, helped successfully advocate for the state’s medical cannabis bill, signed into law in 2017. He described his new proposal in Friday’s video as “the first piece of comprehensive cannabis legislation that we intend to introduce should we both be fortunate enough to win in November.”

A copy of the draft bill wasn’t immediately provided by WV Can’t Wait organizers, who instead pointed Marijuana Moment to a bulleted list of provisions, included in full at the end of this article.

“People hear the term ‘comprehensive cannabis’ and want to know what that means,” Williams said on the live stream. “What that means is this bill will decriminalize the cultivation, production and personal use of cannabis for all West Virginia adults over 21.”

Under the proposal, all adults 21 and over could grow up to 12 cannabis plants for personal use. While the bill would establish a “framework for taxation of commercial sales,” the candidates stressed that big business isn’t their goal. Instead, the proposal would allow so-called micro permits, which would license small, vertically integrated marijuana businesses.

“One of the major criticisms we’ve had with the Medical Cannabis Act is that the entire industry was going to be run by ten companies,” Williams said. “When we end prohibition, we have got to make sure that we clear a path for small businesses and small farmers to get into the game and participate in this industry, and that’s exactly what micro permitting will do.”

Permits would be discounted 50 percent to applicants convicted of past nonviolent cannabis crimes, Williams said, “as a means of restorative justice. I can’t stress it enough, here in West Virginia we have got a lot of wrongs to right when it comes to cannabis.”

The prospective bill would also expunge the records of nonviolent cannabis convictions dating back to 1937, when prohibition first began, Williams said.

“Not only will we release people from jail who are wrongfully incarcerated for possessing or using a plant, but this bill also provides for transitional services for people released, so we can help them with schooling, education, housing, anything that we can help them with to get them back into society, which is where they should be in the first place,” he said.

The bill would contain provisions to protect Second Amendment rights for cannabis consumers and guard against civil asset forfeiture, the campaigns said, though they didn’t go into details on how those measures would avoid likely conflicts with federal law.

A number of other proposals are included in the candidates’ plan. Among them are provisions that would remove cannabis from pre-employment drug screenings, raise the THC limit on industrial hemp to 3 percent—10 times the federal government’s limit—and allow medical marijuana patients and caregivers to cultivate small amounts of cannabis at home.

“With the medical cannabis program, we have a foundation in place,” Yeager said. “This allows us to build on that foundation and allows us to become in line with some of the country’s most progressive, I think, cannabis legislation.”

Yeager noted that West Virginia has “led the nation for the better part of a decade in prescription drug overdoses resulting in death,” adding that he lost two family members to overdoses. “Patient access, getting folks access to a nonaddictive, nonlethal alternative—that’s at the core of why I’m doing this,” he said.

Also speaking at the event was Hilary Turner, a Democrat trying to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV).

“I support full cannabis and hemp legalization across our nation and right here in West Virginia,” Turner said, emphasizing the economic benefits of legalization. Not only could tax revenue help fund education and infrastructure, she said, but the plan’s provisions to streamline state hemp regulations would also be a boon to small farmers.

“My family’s had a farm in Greenbrier County for six generations, and we would love to be able to grow industrial hemp,” Turner said, “but the current regulations are so burdensome that it makes it really hard for small family farms to just get started.”

Turner ended her proposal with an appeal to personal freedom.

“At the end of the day, no one should be arrested or put in jail because they chose to use or grow a plant that grows naturally out of the ground,” she said said. “I believe that that is oppressive and it goes against our American values of liberty.”

Read the summary of the West Virginia cannabis bill provided by the campaigns below:

The Normalization of Cannabis Act

This bill decriminalizes the cultivation, production, and personal use of cannabis in West Virginia for adults over the age of 21.

• Removes cannabis from schedule 1

• Expunges the records of all non-violent cannabis offenses dating back to 1937

• Provides for transitional services for persons released from incarceration for non-violent cannabis offenses

• Allows adults to cultivate 12 cannabis plants for personal use

• Establishes framework for taxation of commercial sales

• Creates micro permits for vertically integrated small businesses

• Allows a 50% reduction in micro permitting fees for folks who’ve been convicted of non-violent cannabis offenses

• Amends industrial hemp act by removing unfriendly business restrictions

• Removes the provision requiring WV farmers to submit to criminal background checks before growing hemp

• Changes hemp ‘licenses’ to ‘permits’

• Allows 36 plant cultivation of hemp for personal use or processing where no remuneration takes place

• Increases the allowable level of THC in industrial hemp to 3%

• Allows patients and caregivers to cultivate small amounts of medical cannabis

• Removes cannabis from pre-employment drug screenings

• Protects the 2nd amendment rights for WV cannabis consumers

• Addresses civil asset forfeiture

Joint Committee Of New Mexico Lawmakers Weighs Marijuana Legalization’s Economic Potential

Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak

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.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

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Former GOP House Speaker John Boehner Says He’s Open To Using Marijuana

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Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who joined the marijuana industry in a consulting capacity after leaving office, says he’s not yet a cannabis consumer himself—but he’s open to changing that.

In a new behind-the-scenes book that he released on Tuesday and in an interview with CBS, Boehner briefly discussed his own recreational drug preferences. He told the news station that “I drink red wine” but “if somebody wants to smoke a joint or eat a gummy, that’s really none of my business.”

The former congressional leader isn’t a marijuana consumer, however, despite joining the board of the major cannabis company Acreage Holdings in 2018. That move drew sharp criticism from reform advocates who quickly pointed out that Boehner declined to push for any sort of policy change while in power but is now profiting off the industry.

CBS News reporter John Dickerson asked Boehner if he did any “first-hand research” to inform his shift in thinking about the medical potential of cannabis.

“No, I’m not a cannabis user,” he said.

“But you’re not ruling it out for yourself?” Dickerson asked.

“Hey, tomorrow is tomorrow,” Boehner joked. “Who knows?”

Watch Boehner discuss marijuana policy, around 7:50 into the video below: 

The former speaker more seriously expressed openness to smoking cannabis in the new book, “On The House: A Washington Memoir.”

In a chapter entitled “Smoke-Filled Rooms,” Boehner first discusses his well-known cigarette habit and then writes about how he ended up finding himself “in a very different sector of the smoking community when I joined the board of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis company.”

“But now, some people don’t believe me when I tell them I’ve never smoked a joint,” he said. “But I haven’t. I’m not ruling it out though.”

The former speaker’s entrance into the marijuana industry hasn’t been without controversy. Advocates have complained about his inaction on the issue while in office and opponents of legalization have accused him of being an opportunist who represents a profit-minded side of the market.

In 2019, social equity-focused cannabis advocates protested a keynote speech Boehner delivered at the festival South by Southwest.

The Equity First Alliance, a group that promotes racial and social justice in the cannabis industry, said that Boehner’s appearances at the event was a reflection of an ongoing trend where mostly white men are profiting off a market while people of color continue to disproportionately face criminalization for marijuana offenses.

On the flip side, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson said last year that “John Boehner is like a marijuana lobbyist now” and he takes “a paycheck getting your kids to smoke more weed.” The controversial host called the former speaker “disgusting” for his work in the cannabis space.

Illinois Gets More Tax Revenue From Marijuana Than Alcohol, State Says

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

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Sixth Minnesota House Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill On Its Path To The Floor

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A bill to legalize marijuana in Minnesota is going through a thorough vetting process, with a sixth House committee on Wednesday giving the reform proposal a green light following a hearing.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D), Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) and other lawmakers filed the measure in 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.

Days after a separate panel approved the legislation with amendments, the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee passed it in a 9-7 vote.

“The purpose of House File 600 is to eliminate the harm that cannabis has in our society,” Winkler said of the bill at the hearing. “The primary harm that cannabis poses in Minnesota is the prohibition and criminal enforcement of cannabis.”

“The goal of House File 600 is to shift in a legal marketplace that is policed and over-policed disproportionately and instead to create a policy of repair, an opportunity for those most adversely affected by the war on drugs,” he said.

The House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee was the last body to approve the bill, on Monday, and members there adopted a number of changes to the proposal. For example, it now stipulates that members of a cannabis advisory council established under the bill could not serve as lobbyists while on the panel and for two years after they end their service.

Before that hearing, the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee, the Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee, the Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee and the Commerce Finance and Policy Committee each advanced the measure.

Its next stop is the State Government Finance and Elections Committee.

Winkler recently said that he expects the legislation to go through any remaining panels by the end of April, with a floor vote anticipated in May.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 900 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.

Still, even if the legislation does make it all the way through the House, it’s expected to face a significant challenge in the Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers have signaled that they’re more interested in revising the state’s existing medical cannabis program than enacting legalization of adult use.

After the New York legislature approved a recreational cannabis legalization bill—which the governor promptly signed into law—Winkler said that Minnesota is “falling behind a national movement towards progress.”

“MN has some of the worst criminal justice disparities in the country, and legalizing cannabis & expunging convictions is a first step towards fixing that,” he tweeted.

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.

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Moves Closer To Floor Vote With House Committee Action

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Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Moves Closer To Floor Vote With House Committee Action

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An Alabama House committee on Wednesday amended a medical marijuana legalization bill that already passed the Senate. Members also took public testimony in advance of an expected Thursday vote to send the revised legislation to the House floor.

This hearing of the House Health Committee comes one week after a separate panel in the body amended and cleared the bill.

Sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson (R), the legislation would allow people with qualifying conditions to access cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The full Senate approved the bill last month.

“I just want to take [cannabis] to the patients that need it. I want to see people get relief,” the senator said at the meeting. He also made the case that allowing legal access can mitigate opioid overdose deaths.

Melson is the same lawmaker who sponsored similar legislation that was approved by the full Senate last year but which later died without any House votes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

This latest proposal would establish an Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to implement regulations and oversee licensing.

To qualify for the program, patients would have to be diagnosed with one of about 20 conditions, including anxiety, sleep disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and intractable pain. Regulators would not be able to independently add additional conditions, leaving that decision up to lawmakers.

The House Judiciary Committee approved 10 amendments to the legislation during last week’s hearing. For example, members agreed to scrap provisions providing reciprocity for out-of-state patients and reducing the percentage of marijuana tax revenue that would go to cannabis research from 30 to 15 percent.

Those amendments were integrated into a new substitute version of the bill adopted by the Health panel, with additional revisions such as removing anxiety and adding depression and Parkinson’s disease as qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. The committee voted to accept the substitute version for consideration before going into testimony.

Time was evenly divided between supporters and opponents. By and large, the conversation revolved around personal anecdotes about the medical benefits and risks of marijuana.

More amendments were added following the testimony. One change would add an annual registration fee for physicians who recommend cannabis. Another would give the state attorney general’s office access to a patient registry database.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 900 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.

Members further approved an amendment to remove fibromyalgia and menopause from the list of qualifying conditions and another to expand the number of institutions that are eligible for grants to research marijuana. A revision to develop a uniform flavor for all cannabis products was also accepted.

Additionally, an amendment was approved to require dispensaries to have 24-hour security cameras operating in their facilities. These changes are all being added to a new substitute that the panel will take up and vote on Thursday.

Because the proposal has been amended, it would go back to the Senate for final consideration if it’s passed in the House before being sent to the governor’s desk.

Advocates say they’re encouraged that medical cannabis reform is advancing in Alabama, but they’ve raised concerns about a number of aspects of the bill.

One problematic provision, advocates say, is that patients with chronic or intractable pain could only be recommended medical marijuana in cases where “conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or has proved ineffective.”

The bill also prohibits raw cannabis, smoking, vaping and candy or baked good products. Patients would instead be allowed to purchase capsules, lozenges, oils, suppositories and topical patches.

Patients would be allowed to purchase and possess up to “70 daily dosages of medical cannabis.” Under an amendment approved on the Senate floor, the maximum daily dose was reduced from 75 to 50 milligrams. However, the amendment’s sponsor said it could be increased to 75 milligrams in some circumstances.

The revision also calls for a label on marijuana products to indicate that cannabis can cause drowsiness.

It also calls for a nine percent gross proceeds tax on medical marijuana sales.

Patients, caregivers and and medical cannabis businesses would receive legal protections under the proposal, preventing them from being penalized for activities authorized by the state.

For physicians to be able to recommend cannabis to patients, they would have to complete a four-hour continuing education course and pass an exam. The course would cost upwards of $500 and doctors would also be required to take refresher classes every two years.

Under the bill, regulators would be tasked with developing restrictions on advertising and setting quality control standards. Seed-to-sale tracking and laboratory testing would be mandated.

Other changes approved in the Senate would add language to stipulate that gelatinous cannabis products cannot be sugar coated and insert provisions promoting good manufacturing practices and tamper-evident packaging.

Applications for cannabis business licenses would have to be accepted starting September 1, 2022 and then proceeded within 60 days.

The commission would be required to approve at least four cultivators, up to four processors, up to four dispensaries for the first year of implementation (more could be approved after that point depending on demand) and as many as five vertically integrated operators.

This bill’s reintroduction has been greatly anticipated by advocates. The Senate approved a separate medical cannabis bill in 2019, but the House later severely compromised it. The legislation as enacted would not have legalized patient access; rather, it set up a study commission to explore the issue and make recommendations.

The commission came back with its report in December 2019, with members recommending that medical marijuana be legalized.

There could be additional pressure on the legislature to enact legalization given that voters in neighboring Mississippi approved a medical cannabis reform initiative during the November election.

Separately, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill last month to decriminalize possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, making it punishable by a $250 fine without the threat of jail time.

Majority Of Connecticut Residents Back Marijuana Legalization And Expungements, Poll Finds As Reform Bills Advance

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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