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Where Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Stands On Marijuana

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a member of Congress since 2013 and previously a Hawaii state legislator and Honolulu city councilmember, announced she was seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on January 11, 2019 and dropped out of the race on March 19, 2020.

In her formal campaign launch speech, she criticized a criminal justice system that “puts people in prison for smoking marijuana while allowing corporations like Purdue Pharma, who are responsible for the opioid-related deaths of thousands of people, to walk away scot-free with their coffers full.”

Here’s a broader look at where the congresswoman, who received a B+ grade from NORML as well as an earlier endorsement from the advocacy group, stands on marijuana reform.

This piece was last updated on March 19, 2020 to include the candidate’s statements and policy actions on marijuana since joining the race. It will continue to be updated on a rolling basis.

Legislation And Policy Actions

Gabbard has cosponsored a large number of cannabis-related bills during her time in Congress, and she was the lead sponsor of a measure to require the federal government to study the impact of state marijuana legalization, which she reintroduced in April 2019.

Also that month, the congresswoman introduced legislation that’s designed to end prohibition by federally descheduling marijuana.

“This is affecting those dealing with opioid addiction, this is affecting farmers, this is affecting small business owners, this affecting our veterans and those who are locked up in our broken criminal justice system because of this prohibition,” Gabbard said in an interview while discussing her bill. “That’s what my bill seeks to do: end prohibition very simply.”

Gabbard signed onto far-reaching legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and withhold federal funds from states that disproportionately enforce cannabis laws in 2018 and 2019.

She also cosponsored a bill filed by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chair of the Judiciary Committee, that would similarly deschedule marijuana but would also institute a federal tax on cannabis sales with some funds being directed toward programs to repair the harms of the war on drugs.

“Millions of Americans have fallen victim to the failed War on Drugs, tearing families apart, disproportionately harming minority communities, and overcrowding an already strained prison system. Marijuana use is a personal choice and should not be a criminal act,” she said in a press release about the legislation. “For many years I have worked to end the marijuana prohibition and am proud to push this legislation forward that will begin to right the wrongs of the past, and invest in communities who have been most harmed.”

In July 2019, Gabbard introduced a wide-ranging hemp bill that calls on multiple federal agencies to issue guidelines and encourage federal research into the crop’s many potential uses, including to clean up nuclear contamination, treat conditions that commonly afflict veterans such as post-traumatic stress disorder and incorporate it into public school lunches.

“The hemp industry is poised to grow rapidly, having a billion dollar impact on the U.S. economy and creating thousands of jobs,” she said in a press release. “Hemp-based materials have the potential to transform industries from health care to domestic manufacturing to affordable, sustainable housing construction, and more.”

Other bills she’s backed would shield medical and recreational marijuana states from federal interference, legalize industrial hemp, protect banks that service cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators, provide tax fairness for the cannabis industry, address various aspects of the federal-state marijuana policy gap, remove roadblocks to research and exempt CBD from the CSA.

She was the lead Democratic cosponsor of another measure to federally deschedule marijuana.

Gabbard, who served in a medical unit in the Hawaii Army National Guard, has also cosponsored several pieces of legislation aimed at expanding access to medical cannabis for veterans. That includes one bill that would block the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from denying benefits to patients who use marijuana, another that would require the VA to survey patients and caregivers on cannabis use and a bill that would require VA to conduct clinical trials on the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis for veterans.

She signed onto a House resolution meant to express the chamber’s sentiment that the drug war has failed and apologize to “individuals and communities that were victimized by this policy.” She also cosponsored a separate resolution calling on states to “address disparities in the cannabis marketplace participation and to address, reverse, and repair the most egregious effects of the war on drugs on communities of color, in particular to those who now hold criminal records for a substance that is now legal and regulated.”

Gabbard has also consistently voted to support marijuana amendments on the House floor. For example, she supported two measures to protect state medical cannabis laws from federal interference as well as a broader proposal to shield all state marijuana laws, including those allowing recreational use. She voted yes on three separate amendments to allow military veterans to get medical cannabis recommendations from their Department of Veterans Affairs doctors. A measure to protect banks from being punished for working with marijuana businesses from businesses also got an aye from Gabbard. And she supported a proposal to shield people complying with state CBD medical cannabis laws from federal enforcement, as well as four separate amendments to protect state industrial hemp programs from interference.

On The Campaign Trail

“The fact that marijuana’s still a Schedule I drug is unacceptable in the harm that it is causing to the people of our country and to taxpayers as well,” Gabbard told Marijuana Moment in a March 2019 interview.

“Regardless of who [the Democratic presidential nominee] is, this is a major issue I’m putting at the forefront of my campaign and continuing the work that I’ve been doing in Congress to bring about this change,” she said. “It’s something I’ve continued to bring up in bigger cities as well as small towns in New Hampshire and Iowa and other states, and it’s an issue that is very exciting to voters who believe, as I do, that we’ve got to make this happen.”

The candidate touted legislation she introduced to deschedule cannabis, directing supporters to contribute to her campaign.

In January 2020, Gabbard suggested that legalizing and regulating currently illicit drugs would help people suffering from addiction get into treatment and would be a superior policy compared to criminalizing these individuals.

“I think we need to look at the model in Portugal where there has been decriminalization and in some cases legalization and regulation so we treat substance abuse and addiction as a health care issue,” she said in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity the next month.

This came months after Gabbard first indicated she’s supportive of decriminalizing possession of currently illegal substances like heroin and cocaine.

During a campaign stop in Iowa, she said, “Stop throwing people in prison for smoking a joint and instead go after those like Purdue Pharma who are proliferating their opioids on our streets and taking people’s lives.”

“Our archaic marijuana policies—based on stigma and outdated myths—have been used to wage a failed war on drugs,” she said in an interview with Cannabis Now. “The so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has exhausted our law enforcement resources, burdened our criminal justice system, decimated communities, fractured families, and turned everyday Americans into criminals. Over-criminalization and mass incarceration have become the new norm.”

During a televised town hall event, Gabbard declined to rule out pushing for broader decriminalization legislation to extend to drugs besides marijuana.

“The drug pushers at Big Pharma have enough crooked politicians in their pocket to maintain the appearance of legality – that’s the only difference between them & every other global drug cartel,” the congresswoman said in a tweet in March 2019. “I’m for legalizing marijuana & holding Big Pharma accountable.”

She also discussed hemp, writing that the crop “played a vital role in the American economy through the early 1900’s until it was replaced w/ fossil fuel products.”

“Versatile & environmentally friendly, it represents great opportunity for small farmers,” she said. “It’s time to bring it back!”

Gabbard sought donations with a marijuana-themed campaign email blast on the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20. Supporters were given options to contribute $4.20, $14.20, $42.00 and $420.00.

“The recent arrest of a grandmother at the Dallas Fort Worth airport for possession of CBD oil—a resin from the cannabis plant used to treat arthritis and other ailments—underscores the absurdity and hypocrisy of federal laws related to marijuana,” she said in a tweet that included an accompanying video.

Gabbard said her legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition would protect veterans from being “penalized or risk losing their VA benefits for working in the state-legalized cannabis industry.”

“As president I’ll end the failed war on drugs, legalize marijuana, end cash bail, and ban private prisons and bring about real criminal justice reform,” Gabbard said.

During a Democratic presidential debate in July 2019, Gabbard took a hit at fellow contender Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) over her record as a prosecutor who enforced marijana prohibition and once opposed legalization while later joking about her own cannabis consumption.

Gabbard said during a post-debate interview that she is “deeply concerned about this record,” referring to the senator’s prosecutorial history. “There are too many examples to cite, but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”

At another debate, the candidate said it’s “important that we set the record straight and correct the racial injustices that exist in a very institutional way in our country, beginning with things that have to do with our criminal justice system—predominantly, the failed war on drugs that has been continuing to be waged in this country, has disproportionately impacted people of color and people in poverty.

“Marijuana use is a personal choice, not a criminal act,” the congresswoman said in a campaign video.

At the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention in September 2019, Gabbard also discussed her plan to end the drug war and legalize marijuana. She also talked about these policies at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and New England Council’s Politics and Eggs breakfast.

Ahead of NORML’s congressional lobbying day event that month, Gabbard spoke to advocates about the need for reform.

“More than half the states across America have legalized/decriminalized marijuana in some form,” she said. “It’s time for Congress to catch up.”

She also participated in a “Rethinking Marijuana Roundtable” in New Hampshire in February 2020.

At another event in the state that month, the candidate spoke about the failure and harms of the war on drugs.

Gabbard also said she supports allowing interstate commerce for cannabis and social consumption sites.

Previous Quotes And Social Media Posts

There’s no deficit of marijuana-related posts on Gabbard’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, and her office has released numerous statements and press releases about the issue.

After then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era Justice Department guidance on cannabis enforcement priorities in early 2018, she posted an extensive thread about why the move “will exacerbate an inhumane, ineffective system that tears families apart.

Later in the year, she turned her attention on Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) after he vetoed legislation that would have made opioid misuse a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. Gabbard has repeatedly touted research demonstrating that legal access to cannabis can reduce opioid overdoses and prescriptions, potentially mitigating a national drug crisis.

“With such a stark increase in prescription opioid use and dependence, heroin and synthetic drug overdose, and emergency room visits over the last decade, we must allow legal access to medical marijuana to help prevent opioid addiction and opioid-related deaths,” Gabbard said in a press release. “Understanding that people’s lives are at stake, I urge Governor Ige to reconsider and sign this legislation into law now.”

She also talked about the relationship between marijuana laws and opioid overdoses on Joe Rogan’s podcast.

“There are states that have legalized, whether it’s just medical or full legalization, there has proven to be a direct correlation to a drastic reduction in opioid-related deaths in those states where people have access,” she said. “If we know this, and every one of the leaders in this country are so concerned about this opioid epidemic, why hasn’t this been brought forward?”

In a 2017 interview with SFGate, the congresswoman discussed legislation she cosponsored to remove marijuana from the CSA, saying that current federal cannabis policies “have turned everyday Americans into criminals, torn families apart, and wasted huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people for nonviolent marijuana charges.”

“The reality is, whether or not any individual chooses to consume cannabis is irrelevant. The important question is, should we really be sending people to jail and turning them into criminals for using a substance that is far less dangerous and harmful than alcohol? The answer is no. The fiscal and social impacts of our current policy, are having devastating effects on individuals and our communities and are only perpetuating the problem.”

Touting her Marijuana Data Collection Act on the House floor, Gabbard said “federal policies should be based on actual science and fact, not misplaced stigma and outdated myths.”

“For decades, bad data and misinformation have fueled the failed War on Drugs that’s wasted billions of taxpayer dollars incarcerating Americans for non-violent marijuana charges,” she said. “Our outdated marijuana policies have turned everyday Americans into criminals, strained our criminal justice system, cost taxpayers tremendously, and torn families apart—all for a substance that’s proven to be far less harmful and dangerous than alcohol.”

Prior to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized industrial hemp, the congresswoman spoke out in support of allowing farmers to cultivate the crop.

“Our nation should empower our local farmers by allowing them to grow, cultivate and research industrial hemp that will create opportunity and strengthen our economy,” she said in a press release. “The DEA must honor and uphold the Congressional intent of federal legislation that allows states, like Hawai‘i, to establish programs to research the benefits, cultivation, and market of industrial hemp.”

She also tweeted that one answer to plastic trash pollution of the ocean is to use more “biodegradable materials like hemp.”

Personal Experience With Marijuana

Gabbard told Marijuana Moment in an interview that she has not personally tried marijuana.

“I don’t smoke marijuana. I never have,” she said. “But I believe firmly in every person’s freedom to make their own choices, and that people should not be thrown in jail and incarcerated or made into criminals for choosing to smoke marijuana whether it be for medicinal and non-medicinal purposes.”

In January 2020, she again said “I’ve never done drugs in my life, and I don’t drink.”

“That’s my choice, but I don’t believe that if someone else makes different choices in their lives that they should be penalized and punished and made a criminal of,” the congresswoman said.

Marijuana Under A Gabbard Presidency

Gabbard’s cosponsorship of a long list of cannabis reform bills and continual focus on the issue in public statements and social media posts indicate she would be an especially marijuana-friendly president if she were to earn the Democratic nomination and win the 2020 election.

Where Presidential Candidate Kirsten Gillibrand Stands On Marijuana

Photo element courtesy of Lorie Shaull.

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Washington Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Homegrow Bill In Committee

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A bill to allow marijuana homegrow in Washington State cleared its first legislative hurdle Friday morning, passing out of the House Commerce and Gaming Committee on a 7–2 vote with a “do pass” recommendation.

Washington voters approved a cannabis legalization initiative in 2012, and retail sales have been ongoing since mid-2014. Cultivating the plant for personal use, however, remains a felony.

“Washington was one of the first states to legalize, with understandable trepidation,” Rep. Shelly Kloba (D), the lead sponsor of HB 1019 and the chair of the House committee, said at Friday’s meeting. Homegrow, she said, “is one area where we’ve taken a more cautious approach and let other states test the waters.”

Of all other states that have begun legal cannabis sales in the years since Washington legalized, only one—Illinois—has outlawed homegrow. But in Illinois, advocates in Washington have pointed out, the offense is a civil infraction rather than felony crime.

Washington’s homegrow bill would allow adults to cultivate up to six cannabis plants at home and keep the marijuana those plants produce. Plants and containers of more than one ounce of cannabis would need to be labeled with the adult’s name, birthdate and address. Households with multiple adults could grow no more than 15 total plants.

While adults could give small amounts of homegrown cannabis to one another, unlicensed sales would remain illegal.

Plants would also need to be out of public view and unable to be “readily smelled” outside of the property. Growers who violate those limits would be subject to a civil infraction that carries a maximum $50 fine. Landlords, meanwhile, could decide whether or not to allow rental tenants to grow cannabis on the property.

The limits on plants being seen or readily smelled by the public, Kloba said, “protects both the grower and the neighbors” by avoiding both possible theft of plants—a concern some have raised about homegrow—as well as nuisance odor from nearby properties.

Opponents of the bill, including the Washington Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, have complained the homegrow limits would be difficult to enforce. A representative of the group noted at a hearing last week that the bill would prevent police from entering a property unless they first obtained a warrant.

Rep. Eric Robertson (R), one of two lawmakers who voted against the bill Friday, said he was concerned that HB 1019 leaves enforcement to police agencies rather than the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), which regulates licensed cannabis businesses in the state. He described that provision as a “fatal flaw in the bill because there won’t be any reasonable or informed way to investigate this stuff without a huge impact to our cities.”

Kloba replied that LCB has authority over the state’s commercial cannabis system, “and this is clearly outside of it.”

The bill has support from numerous advocacy groups, including state and local drug reform advocates and the Washington Build Back Black Alliance (WBBBA), a group of nonprofit and business leaders lobbying on behalf of the state’s Black communities.

In a letter to lawmakers sent this week, Paula Sardinas of WBBBA noted that 97 percent of the state’s legal cannabis industry remains white-owned. “Assuming an expansion into homegrown would produce more [illicit] activity represents both systematic prejudice and implicit bias,” Sardinas wrote. “This very good bill meets the basic tests of both equity and equality.”

Lawmakers made a single amendment to HB 1019 on Friday before advancing the bill, adding changes meant to harmonize the state’s existing civil forfeiture law with the bill’s proposed homegrow limits. Existing law, for example, allows forfeitures when someone engaged in illegal commercial cannabis activity possesses five or more marijuana plants. The amendment raises that cap to 16 plants and slightly increases the amount of harvested cannabis a person can possess.

Kloba said the amendment, which the committee adopted Friday without objection, is meant “so that we don’t inadvertently allow people to do homegrow and then they get in trouble for doing so.”

Homegrow also won a small victory in Virginia on Friday as a state Senate committee voted to advance a bill to legalize marijuana in that state. Before approving the bill, lawmakers defeated a proposed amendment that would have outlawed home cultivation.

Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, told Marijuana Moment the group “is pleased that cooler heads prevailed, defeating an absurd motion to remove personal cultivation from the bill.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, the House Commerce and Gaming committee also heard testimony Friday on a separate bill, HB 1210, that would update state law to replace references to “marijuana” with the word “cannabis.”

“The word ‘marijuana’ is a reminder of the history of racism and persecution,” argued the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Melanie Morgan (D), while “cannabis” comes from the plant’s scientific name. “I ask for this committee’s support in removing the racist stigma from communities of color.”

Chris Thompson, director of legislative relations for LCB, said the regulatory agency supports the legislation but would like to see a “friendly amendment” that would direct regulators to make the change on their side, too. Such direction would allow LCB to expedite agency rulemaking.

“If you were to make a very long bill just maybe one paragraph longer and direct our agency to do that with our rules,” Thompson told lawmakers, “then that would help us make this change across the board in one fell swoop.”

Illinois Awards $31.5 Million In Marijuana-Funded Grants To Repair Communities Harmed By Drug War

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Arizona Begins Recreational Marijuana Sales, Just Weeks After Voters Approve Legalization

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Arizona marijuana sales for the adult-use market officially began on Friday after state officials began notifying retail business license applicants that they’d been approved.

The launch comes just weeks after voters in the state overwhelmingly passed a cannabis legalization initiative during November’s election. This marks the fastest transition from voter-approval to sales implementation of any state that has legalized marijuana to date.

Under the measure, regulators were required to quickly develop rules for the market. Industry stakeholders say they’ve had productive conversations with the Department of Health Services to create those guidelines over the past few weeks.

The department released two draft versions of its proposed regulations and then, earlier this month, began accepting applications for recreational business licenses. This first round of approvals is for existing medical cannabis dispensaries that have already gone through the state’s prior licensing process.

“ADHS has received 79 applications since the application period began early Wednesday,” the department said in a press release on Friday. “Six of those applications remain under review,” meaning that 73 facilities can now begin adult-use cannabis sales. The full list of those stores is at the bottom of this story.

Those who aren’t currently operating a medical marijuana shops can still apply for an adult-use license during this first round if they plan to operate in a county with two or fewer existing dispensaries. Applications for those who aren’t eligible in this phase will be open soon and are expected to be approved starting in the spring.

Samuel Richard, executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association, told Marijuana Moment that the “dedicated focus and professionalism of our regulators have really played out here in an incredible way.”

“We had overwhelming support in November—a three to two margin, 60-40 percent. We got over the finish line,” he said. “It’s great to see that our regulators responded to that overwhelming support by working as fast as they can to get the infrastructure in place to allow the two million Arizonans that voted ‘yes’ for Prop 207 to start to enjoy the benefits of legal, adult-use cannabis.”

Legalization advocates are cheering the state for its expediency in getting the recreational marijuana market off the ground.

Matthew Schweich, deputy director at the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment that it is “encouraging to see Arizona move forward with implementation of the legalization policy approved by voters in November.”

“By avoiding unnecessary delays, Arizona will accelerate the timeline for job creation, business investment, and new tax revenue,” he said.

“I commend state officials for prioritizing the implementation of Prop. 207 and ensuring that Arizona adults have safe and convenient access to affordable marijuana in a timely manner,” NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf, told Marijuana Moment. “Voters were crystal clear on their mandate at the ballot box: end the failed policy of criminalization and replace it with a legal pragmatic regulatory framework as soon as possible.”

“It’s time to stop ceding control and revenue of the marijuana market to unregulated and untaxed enterprises in order to eliminate the risks associated with an illicit market,” she said.

The rules for the adult-use market took effect on January 15. They cover licensing fees, the timeline for approvals, the structure of the regulatory body, product labeling, public safety protocols and more. Many of the changes from prior draft regulations were technical, but there was one notable change concerning credentialing for cannabis workers.

Rather than being credentialed for one specific facility, the worker registration was expanded so that they could be certified to be employed at any cannabis operation in the industry.

While these rules are in place for the newly approved retailers, Richard said regulators have made clear their intent to continue to work with stakeholders and continue to build upon their rules to ensure the market’s success.

Under the state’s new legalization law, adults will be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a time and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

The measure also contains several provisions aimed at addressing the harms of prohibition such as allowing individuals with prior marijuana convictions to petition the courts for expungements and establishing a social equity ownership program.

Cannabis sales will be taxed at 16 percent. Tax revenue will cover implementation costs and then be divided among funds for community colleges, infrastructure, a justice reinvestment and public services such as police and firefighters.

That revenue could also help the Arizona’s economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic, Richard said.

“At the time where folks are still struggling to recover across the country in terms of state budgets, we look forward to being a critical piece” of that recovery, he said.

Arizona’s quick response to voter approval of the reform initiative stands in stark contrast to New Jersey, where voters also approved a legalization referendum in November.

While regulations have been developed and retail sales are launching in Arizona, enabling legislation has faced numerous delays in New Jersey as lawmakers and the governor continue to hash out differences in their preferred regulatory approach.

That said, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said during his State of the State address last week that “we are on the verge of passing an innovative and groundbreaking set of laws to reform our historically unjust approach to marijuana and cannabis.” But the exact timeline to pass an implementation bill is yet to be determined.

See the full list of medical cannabis dispensaries authorized to sell recreational marijuana below:

Facility Legal Name County City
Natural Relief Clinic Inc Cochise Bisbee
Desertview Wellness & Healing Solutions, LLC Coconino Flagstaff
Arizona Natures Wellness Coconino Sedona
Desert Medical Campus Gila Payson
High Desert Healing Llc Maricopa Avondale
Non Profit Patient Center Inc Maricopa Cave Creek
Azgm 3, Inc Maricopa Chandler
Border Health, Inc Maricopa Chandler
Total Health & Wellness Inc Maricopa Chandler
Total Health & Wellness Inc Maricopa Chandler
Arizona Cannabis Society Inc. Maricopa El Mirage
Fort Mountain Consulting, Llc Maricopa El Mirage
Absolute Health Care Inc Maricopa Gilbert
Ocotillo Vista, Inc. Maricopa Glendale
Pahana, Inc. Maricopa Glendale
Pp Wellness Center Maricopa Glendale
Whoa Qc Inc Maricopa Glendale
G.T.L. Llc Maricopa Guadalupe
Nature Med Inc Maricopa Guadalupe
4245 Investments Llc Maricopa Mesa
Arizona Wellness Collective 3, Inc Maricopa Mesa
Buds & Roses, Inc Maricopa Mesa
Jamestown Center Maricopa Mesa
Sea Of Green Llc Maricopa Mesa
The Giving Tree Wellness Center Of Mesa Inc Maricopa Mesa
The Healing Center Farmacy Llc Maricopa Mesa
Valley Healing Group Inc Maricopa Mesa
Vending Logistics Llc Maricopa Mesa
Pinal County Wellness Center Maricopa Peoria
Ad, Llc Maricopa Phoenix
Az Compassionate Care Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Catalina Hills Botanical Care Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Devine Desert Healing Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Fort Consulting, Llc Maricopa Phoenix
Greens Goddess Products, Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Healing Healthcare 3 Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Herbal Wellness Center Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Kwerles Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Mohave Valley Consulting, Llc Maricopa Phoenix
Natural Herbal Remedies Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Natural Relief Clinic Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Nature’s Healing Center Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Nature’s Healing Center Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Organica Patient Group Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Phytotherapeutics Of Tucson Maricopa Phoenix
Rjk Ventures, Inc. Maricopa Phoenix
The Giving Tree Wellness Center Of North Phoenix Inc Maricopa Phoenix
Zonacare Maricopa Phoenix
The Kind Relief Inc Maricopa Queen Creek
Byers Dispensary Maricopa Scottsdale
Csi Solutions Llc Maricopa Scottsdale
Eba Holdings Inc. Maricopa Scottsdale
All Greens Inc Maricopa Sun City
East Valley Patient Wellness Group Inc Maricopa Sun City
Holistic Patient Wellness Group Maricopa Tempe
Salubrious Wellness Clinic Inc Maricopa Tempe
Svaccha, Llc Maricopa Tempe
Kannaboost Technology Inc Maricopa Tempe
K Group Partners Llc Maricopa Youngtown
Sweet 5, Llc Maricopa Youngtown
Verde Dispensary Inc Mohave Kingman
Abedon Saiz Llc Mohave Lake Havasu City
Fwa Inc Mohave Lake Havasu City
Arizona Golden Leaf Wellness, Llc Pima Marana
Medmar Tanque Verde Llc Pima Tucson
Patient Care Center 301, Inc. Pima Tucson
Rainbow Collective Inc Pima Tucson
Nature’s Wonder Inc Pinal Apache Junction
Svaccha, Llc Pinal Apache Junction
Medical Pain Relief Inc Pinal Casa Grande
Sherri Dunn, Llc Yavapai Cottonwood
203 Organix, Llc Yavapai Prescott
Jamestown Center Yuma Yuma

Congressman Files First Federal Marijuana Reform Bill Of 2021

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Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bill Approved By Senate Committee, With Home Cultivation Provisions Intact

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A Virginia Senate committee on Friday approved a bill to legalize marijuana in the Commonwealth, bringing the proposal one step closer to a full floor vote. Before advancing the legislation to another panel, lawmakers defeated a proposal to remove home cultivation rights for cannabis.

The Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee approved the legislation in a 8-7 vote. Members also accepted a series of recommended amendments from a newly formed subcommittee that’s singularly focused on marijuana policy and that held two hearings on the bill earlier this week.

The legislation, which was unveiled by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) last week and is being carried by top Senate and House leaders, would create a system of regulated and taxed marijuana sales and production, and allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to four plants for personal use, two of which could be mature.

During Friday’s hearing, the panel discussed and approved the subcommittee proposals. That includes an amendment to establish an independent agency to regulate the marijuana market, rather than have the state’s existing alcohol division handle it as would be the case under the governor’s original proposal. Because of the time it will take to set up that agency, the implementation timeline will be pushed back to 2024 instead of 2023 unless the General Assembly moves to expedite the process in the meantime.

Members also agreed to keep a home grow option for adult consumers, a significant win for reform advocates who argue it will provide a needed access point, particularly to low-income people.

There were two votes on a proposal to remove the personal cultivation provisions; the first was narrowly defeated 8-7 and the second was more soundly rejected 10-5.

“NORML is pleased that cooler heads prevailed, defeating an absurd motion to remove personal cultivation from the bill. Virginians have been very outspoken in their support for this priority, whether it be for medical or adult-use, and the legislature should heed the demands of their constituents,” Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “Without the ability to cultivate for personal use, many Virginians will be left without any reasonable measure of access to safe cannabis products in their area.”

The panel also added safety awareness and best practices guidance provisions for homegrow.

“We applaud the subcommittee for smartly including language to promulgate safety awareness and best practices for personal cultivation, and to require that reasonable steps be taken to secure plants from underage access,” Pedini, who also serves as NORML’s national development director, said.

Lawmakers also voted in favor of an amendment to revise the legislation so that local jurisdictions would have to opt out of allowing cannabis businesses to operate in their areas, instead of opt in as it was initially drafted.

The rationale for that decision came down to a recent policy change in Virginia that no longer allows for “dry” counties and instead requires jurisdictions to opt out of allowing alcohol businesses via referendum.

The full committee further accepted a change to tighten eligibility requirements in social equity licensing policy. The original bill stipulated that a business must have 50 percent ownership by disadvantaged people, but members approved an amendment upping that to 66 percent.

Members further accepted proposals to strengthen public education campaigns on substance misuse and to allow for the integration of medical cannabis, adult-use marijuana and hemp businesses, rather than require them to operate separately.

Sen. Jeremey McPike (D), chair of the panel’s marijuana subcommittee, said in closing remarks that he appreciates the how members collaborated on this proposal, saying “even though there were folks that oppose the overall idea, I think in a bipartisan way, members of the subcommittee really looked to try to improve the various components and parts in a very collaborative manner.”

“This still is going to go through several committees and several more opportunities to better refine this down” he said.

With this vote, the legislation now heads to the Judiciary Committee, which, in its jurisdiction, will take on provisions related to crimes and penalties. After that, the Finance Committee will look at components such as the proposed tax policy before the bill heads to the full Senate floor.

Meanwhile, the House of Delegates is expected to soon take up a companion version of the legislation.

At least one senator took issue with the expediency of this legislative process, complaining about the time he received to review the newly revised lengthy bill ahead of Friday’s meeting.

The legislation’s provisions as introduced have been informed by two official state studies on legalization that were recently conducted by a legislative commission and a separate working group comprised of four Virginia cabinet secretaries and other officials, both of which looked at how to effectively implement legalization and submitted recommendations to the governor’s office late last year.

Those studies were required under a marijuana decriminalization bill that was approved last year.

Many of those recommendations have been incorporated into the new legislation, including provisions to promote social equity in the cannabis market. Notably, it would also apportion almost half of the tax revenue the state collects from marijuana sales to funding pre-kindergarten education—a policy championed by First Lady Pamela Northam.

A new 21 percent tax would be imposed on cannabis sales, and local jurisdictions that allow marijuana businesses to operate could levy an additional three percent tax. Existing state sales taxes would also apply on purchases, for a total potential 30 percent tax rate.

Revenue from the new state tax would go toward funding pre-k education (40 percent), a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund (30 percent), substance misuse and treatment programs (25 percent) and public health initiatives (five percent).

Advocates have broadly welcomed the legislature’s quick move to enact legalization, though some have expressed frustration about the limited scope of its social equity provisions.

This introduction of the bill came one month after the governor included provisions to lay the groundwork for cannabis legalization in a budget proposal that also calls for millions of dollars to support expungements. Northam had campaigned on merely decriminalizing possession, but he publicly backed broader legalization of marijuana for adult use in November.

Northam said during his State of the Commonwealth address last week that cannabis prohibition was deliberately enacted as a means to discriminate against people of color.

Separate legislation to legalize cannabis for adult use was filed by Del. Steve Heretick (D) earlier this month. A companion version of that bill, sponsored by Sen. Joe Morrisey (D), was also up for consideration by the Senate panel on Friday, but that was formally incorporated into the governor’s proposal and he was added as a chief sponsor.

Meanwhile, legislation to stop police from searching people or seizing property based solely on the smell of marijuana in Virginia is set to take effect after lawmakers adopted recommended changes from the governor in October.

Also during the recently concluded special session, Northam signed another bill that will allow people issued summonses for cannabis offenses under the state’s new decriminalization law to prepay their civil penalty rather than having show up in court.

Read the amended marijuana legalization bill below: 

Virginia marijuana legaliza… by Marijuana Moment

 

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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