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Where Presidential Candidate Tim Ryan Stands On Marijuana

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Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) announced that he was running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on April 4, 2019 and dropped out on October 24. The congressman supports marijuana legalization and has cosponsored a number of wide-ranging cannabis reform bills in recent years.

Ryan earned an “A” grade from NORML. Here’s a closer look at his record on the issue.

This piece was last updated on October 24, 2019 to include the candidate’s statements and policy actions on marijuana since joining the race.

Legislation And Policy Actions

Since he started his tenure in Congress in 2003, Ryan has supported various marijuana and hemp-related amendments on the House floor, but most of his proactive bill cosponsorships have taken place more recently, in the 115th and 116th Congresses.

He cosponsored of the Marijuana Justice Act, a bold legislative proposal to federally deschedule cannabis and punish states that enforce marijuana in racially or socioeconomically disproportionate ways, in 2018 and 2019. He also backed a bipartisan bill that secures banking access for marijuana businesses. He cosponsored an earlier version of the bill in 2017 as well.

Additionally, the congressman put his name on legislation to shield legal cannabis states from federal intervention in the 116th and the 115th Congresses. This time around he was an original cosponsor.

Ryan cosponsored legislation to federally regulate marijuana like alcohol and another bill to provide tax fairness for the cannabis industry.

Before he got behind marijuana-specific bills, the congressman backed legislation to remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act on two occasions.

But while he might not have as many cosponsorships on record as compared to some of his Democratic colleagues, Ryan has been consistent in his support for amendments protecting states that have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational purposes. He voted in favor of measures protecting medical marijuana states from 2003 to 2015. He did the same for amendments covering adult-use and CBD-only states in 2015.

He also voted for measures that would allow doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend cannabis for medical purposes in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Ryan supported amendments to protect states that have legalized industrial hemp from in 2014 and 2015, and he also voted in favor of an amendment to secure banking access for marijuana businesses in 2014.

Quotes And Social Media Posts

Ryan hasn’t talked frequently about marijuana policy on social media—at least compared to some of the other 2020 Democratic candidates. His first tweets on the issue were shared shortly after the congressman signed on to the Marijuana Justice Act, sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

After then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance that laid out federal priorities for marijuana enforcement, Ryan wrote on Facebook that the move represented a “betrayal” by President Donald Trump, who pledged to let states set their own cannabis laws.

“During the campaign, President Donald J. Trump thought this issue should be left up to the states,” he wrote. “What changed?”

Some of Ryan’s most comprehensive comments on cannabis policy came from a 2018 op-ed he wrote for CNN. In the piece, the congressman outlined his evolution on the issue, explaining that while he’d been reluctant to embrace the policy position as co-chair of the House Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, he’d witnessed the long-term, racially disproportionate harms of prohibition.

“But after meeting with countless Ohio families and youth whose lives have been irreparably harmed by a marijuana arrest, I find the social and economic injustices of our marijuana policy too big to ignore,” he wrote. “I firmly believe no person should be sentenced to a lifetime of hardship because of a marijuana arrest. It is morally wrong and economically nonsensical.” 

“The War on Drugs failed the American people. It is time for us to take the necessary steps to right our nation’s wrongs. We cannot afford to leave people behind and money on the table. If we are truly a nation that believes in second chances, our federal marijuana laws must change. America is speaking. Congress must act.”

In an interview with TIME, Ryan said the country is “wasting a lot of money we’re currently spending to put people in jail” and that legalization “would also give us more tax revenue to take care of the opioid addiction.”

Ryan toured an Ohio medical cannabis cultivation facility in January 2019 after the company was awarded the state’s first provisional license.

“This is just an amazing opportunity for us in Ohio to be leaders in the field of medical cannabis,” he said at a news conference. “I’m really excited to be here and excited about the job opportunities that are going to be created in the city of Akron.”

“Akron’s first medical marijuana harvest is a huge step for Ohio as it continues to roll out legal medical marijuana,” he added. “There are thousands of patients looking for relief, and this harvest will help in providing access to safe, quality medicine to those who need it.”

Ryan defended his support for legalization during a debate with his reelection opponent in 2018.

“I didn’t come to this lightly,” he said. “But if you have a dollar and you’re spending 50 cents on the drug that’s killing people and 50 cents on the drugs that aren’t killing anybody at all, to me it makes sense to spend the whole dollar on the people who are dying and trying to prevent it.”

Personal Experience With Marijuana

Ryan has not publicly commented about any personal experience with cannabis.

Marijuana Under A Ryan Presidency

While Ryan is not the lead sponsor of any marijuana legislation, he has increasingly stepped up his involvement with the issue over time to the point that he called for cannabis to be legal in all 50 states. Perhaps a more important indication of how he feels is the fact that whenever he has been required to vote on cannabis amendments on the House floor, he has consistently supported reform.

All of that indicates Ryan would probably not direct a crackdown on state-legal marijuana activities and, more likely, would support efforts to push bold reform like the Marijuana Justice Act. That said, his limited commentary on the issue to date indicates that it might not be a top priority for his administration.

Where Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg Stands On Marijuana

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

DEA Seeks Contractor Capable Of Burning Four Tons of Marijuana Per Day

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently reached out for help burning “at least” 1,000 pounds of marijuana per hour for eight hours straight.

Every year, DEA seizes millions of marijuana plants and literal tons of raw cannabis, which eventually end up being destroyed. The successful contractor in Arizona would be responsible for burning marijuana and other controlled substances seized as evidence in drug cases “to a point where there are no detectable levels, as measured by standard analytical methods, of byproduct from the destruction process.”

“DEA shall inspect the incinerator to ensure no drug residue remains,” the agency said.

DEA posted the work description earlier this month in what’s called a “sources sought notice,” an initial step before a formal request for proposals is sent.

“This is not a request for proposals and does not obligate the Government to award a contract,” the post says. “The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is conducting market research, and is encouraging all businesses, including small businesses, to respond to this notice.”

An accompanying statement of work gives a behind-the-scenes look at the DEA’s process of destroying seized drugs. Typical boxes weigh between 40 and 60 pounds, for example, but can weigh up to 200 pounds. Contraband might come in on “semi-trucks, tractor trailers, cargo vans, fork lifts, etc.,” the work description says.

“The drugs are usually tightly compressed ‘bricks’ or ‘bales,’” it continues, and are packaged in all sorts of materials: cardboard, wrapping paper, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, packing tape, “duct tape and derivatives,” plastic evidence bags, “grease/oil” and others. Contractors will be expected to burn that stuff, too.

To avoid potential contact highs, there must be ”proper ventilation” and “no smoke buildup” will be allowed. Other mandates include closed-circuit cameras that capture the entire process, which DEA reserves the right to access, as well as background checks and regular drug tests of all personnel.

Armed DEA agents and contractors will be present during scheduled burns.

The work is also very hush-hush, so whoever gets the job shouldn’t expect to regale friends with stories of the latest large-scale federal weed burning sesh.

“The contractor and its personnel shall hold all information obtained under the DEA contract in the strictest confidence,” the work description says. “All information obtained shall be used only for performing this contract and shall not be divulged nor made known in any manner except as necessary to perform this contract.”

The work would start January 1 of next year and the contract would expire in 2026 unless terminated sooner. The deadline to send information for would-be contractors was Friday.

DEA Seized More Marijuana Plants In 2019, But Arrests Fell

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images

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Harris Will Give Biden ‘Honest’ Input On Legalizing Marijuana And Other Issues As Part Of ‘Deal’

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Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris says she has a “deal” with Joe Biden to candidly share her perspective on a range of progressive policies he currently opposes, including legalizing marijuana. Separately, she also recently discussed cannabis reform in a private meeting with rapper Killer Mike.

During an interview on 60 Minutes that aired on Sunday, the senator was pressed on marijuana and numerous other issues where she and Biden disagree. In response, while she didn’t specifically commit to proactively advocating for comprehensive cannabis reform, she pledged in general that she would always share her views with the would-be president if the pair are elected next week.

“What I will do—and I promise you this and this is what Joe wants me to do, this was part of our deal—I will always share with him my lived experience as it relates to any issue that we confront,” she said after the interviewer listed cannabis legalization among a handful of issues on which she and Biden depart. “I promised Joe that I will give him that perspective and always be honest with him.”

Asked whether that perspective will be “socialist” and “progressive,” Harris laughed and said “no.”

“It is the perspective of a woman who grew up a black child in America, who was also a prosecutor, who also has a mother who arrived here at the age of 19 from India, who also, you know, likes hip hop,” she said.

The senator’s taste in music also came up during her own 2020 presidential bid, when she said in an interview that she listened to Snoop Dogg and Tupac while smoking marijuana during college despite graduating before those artists released their debut albums.

Music culture has played a key role in this election cycle, and one of the strongest voices for criminal justice reform in the industry is Killer Mike, who worked as a surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. The artist said he met with Harris on Friday and the two discussed cannabis business opportunities for communities of color.

As she’s done repeatedly since joining Biden’s campaign, Harris also reiterated at a rally in Pontiac, Michigan on Sunday that the administration would pursue marijuana decriminalization and expunging prior cannabis convictions.

She made similar comments during a campaign event in Atlanta last week, stating that the “war on drugs was, by every measure, a failure, and black men were hit the hardest.” That said, while the senator has come to embrace broad cannabis reform, she’s faced criticism over her past opposition to legalization and role in prosecuting people for marijuana offenses as a California prosecutor.

In another interview released last week, Harris said she and Biden “have a commitment to decriminalizing marijuana and expunging the records of people who have been convicted of marijuana offenses.”

“When you look at the awful war on drugs and the disproportionate impact it had on black men and creating then criminal records that have deprived people of access to jobs and housing and basic benefits,” she said.

There’s been some frustration among cannabis reform advocates that Harris has scaled back her reform push since joining the Democratic ticket as Biden’s running mate. During her own run for the presidential nomination, she called for comprehensive marijuana legalization but has in recent weeks focused her comments on the more modest reforms of decriminalization and expungement.

Harris, who is the lead Senate sponsor of a bill to federally deschedule marijuana, said last month that a Biden administration would not be “half-steppin’” cannabis reform or pursuing “incrementalism,” but that’s exactly how advocates would define simple decriminalization.

In any case, the senator has repeatedly discussed cannabis decriminalization on the trail. She similarly said during a vice presidential debate earlier this month that she and Biden “will decriminalize marijuana and we will expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana.”

In addition to those policies, Biden backs modestly rescheduling the drug under federal law, letting states set their own policies and legalizing medical cannabis.

Musician John Legend Endorses Drug Decriminalization Ballot Measure In Oregon

Photo element courtesy of California Attorney General’s Office.

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GOP Tennessee Senator Calls For Medical Marijuana Legalization In New Campaign Ad

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A Tennessee senator touted his support for legalizing medical marijuana in a campaign ad released on Friday.

In the 30-second spot, which has notably high production value for this kind of local race, state Sen. Steve Dickerson (R) talks about both the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and the consequences of broader marijuana criminalization.

“As your state senator, I’ve led the fight to legalize medical marijuana so our veterans and sickest Tennesseans can deal with chronic pain,” he said. “But this same life-saving plant has led to mass incarceration, with nonviolent marijuana possession resulting in lengthy prison sentences.”

“I think that’s wrong. That’s why I’ve been pushing for criminal justice reform,” the senator added.

Dickerson, who sponsored a medical cannabis legalization bill that cleared a Senate committee in March, said in a Q&A published earlier this month that the policy change would be among his top three legislative priorities if he’s reelected.

His Democratic opponent, former Oak Hill Mayor Heidi Campbell, is in favor of “fully legalizing marijuana,” with her campaign site stating that cannabis crimes “disproportionately impact people of color and it’s time to end marijuana prohibition.”

But while Dickerson has earned a reputation as a moderate Republican given his positions on issues like cannabis reform, he’s faced backlash after declining to denounce an independent ad taken out on his behalf that some, including the LGBTQ rights organization Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), called racist.

The ad, which was paid for by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s (R) political action committee MCPAC, hits Campbell over her support for a nonprofit organization that is designed to keep young people out of prison, and it frames the group as “radical” and “extremist.” TEP rescinded their endorsement of Dickerson over his refusal to condemn the ad.

In the Tennessee legislature, marijuana reform has yet to pass—but there’s growing recognition that voters are in favor of the policy change. For example, former House Speaker Glen Casada (R) released the results of a constituent survey last year that showed 73 percent of those in his district back medical cannabis legalization.

Another former GOP House speaker, Beth Harwell, highlighted her support for the reform proposal during her unsuccessful bid for governor in 2018, and she referenced President Trump’s stated support for medical marijuana on the campaign trail.

In other Tennessee drug policy politics, a lawmaker in June blocked a resolution to honor murdered teen Ashanti Posey because she was allegedly involved in a low-level cannabis sale the day she was killed.

New York Will Legalize Marijuana ‘Soon’ To Aid Economic Recovery From COVID, Governor Cuomo Says

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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