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Congress hears testimony on ending fed’l marijuana ban

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marijuana laws, gay news, Washington Blade
The United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing on ‘Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform’ on July 10.

Congress hears testimony on ending fed’l marijuana ban

Members of the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security heard expert testimony challenging the federal government’s policy of cannabis prohibition. The hearing, entitled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform,” debated the merits of various alternative policy options – including abolishing cannabis’ longstanding Schedule I criminal status under federal law.

The hearing marked the first time in decades that members have entertained debate regarding the need to end the federal criminalization of cannabis and to de-schedule the plant from the Controlled Substances Act. Archived video of the proceedings is here:

Witnesses testifying at yesterday’s hearing were Dr. David Nathan of the group Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Marilyn Mosby, State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Dr. G. Malik Burnett (formerly of the Drug Policy Alliance), and Neal Levine, Chief Executive Officer of the Cannabis Trade Federation.

Their written testimony is available online.

Members of Congress in attendance at the hearing included: Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ben Cline (R-VA), Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Doug Collins (R-GA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), and Greg Stube (R-FL). Several members, including Reps. Cohen and Lieu, concurred with witnesses’ testimony that Congress should completely remove the cannabis plant from the federal Controlled Substances Act.

A coalition of social advocacy groups – including NORML, the ACLU, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, The Immigrants Legal Resource Center, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Center for American Progress – released a joint Statement of Principles to coincide with the hearing. The Principles, which were entered into the record, highlight legislative priorities and provide Congress with a roadmap for ending America’s ongoing policy of cannabis criminalization.

Commenting on the hearing, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said: “For the first time in a generation, members of Congress engaged in a candid conversation that acknowledged the failures of marijuana prohibition in the United States, how this policy has adversely impacted tens of millions of Americans, and how it must be reformed at the federal level.”

He added: “The ongoing classification under federal law of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance – a categorization that treats it in the same manner as heroin – is intellectually dishonest and has been scientifically debunked. It is high time that Congress address this Flat Earth policy and move forward with a plan that appropriately reflects marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural status in America.

Cannabis use associated with lower risk of liver disease

SANTANDER, Spain — Subjects with a history of cannabis use are less likely than abstainers to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to longitudinal data published in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.

A team of Spanish investigators assessed the relationship between cannabis use and liver steatosis over a three-year period. They determined that those subjects “who reported continuing cannabis use were at lower risk for developing NAFLD.”

They concluded: “Our results suggest that using cannabis could have a protective effect on liver steatosis. The beneficial effect of cannabis at the level of the development of steatosis seems to be secondary to its modulation effect on weight gain and the reduced development of obesity. … These results are in line with previous studies in the general population, in which cannabis showed significantly lower NAFLD prevalence compared to non-users.”

Delaware to expand expungement eligibility

DOVER, Del — Democratic Gov. John Carney has signed legislation into law permitting those with a broad range of non-violent misdemeanors to petition the state to have their criminal records expunged.

Senate Bill 37, which takes effect on December 27, 2019, permits those with criminal records for certain non-violent misdemeanor offenses to petition the State Bureau of Identification to have their history either sealed or expunged. The stated intent of the new law is to “protect persons from [the] unwarranted damage which may occur when the existence of a criminal history continues indefinitely.”

Separate legislation signed into law last year already provides “mandatory expungement eligibility to individuals who were convicted of the possession [of one ounce or less], use or consumption of marijuana prior to Delaware’s decriminalization of these offenses.”

State lawmakers in 2015 enacted legislation reducing the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis from a criminal act to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only – no arrest, and no criminal record.

Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.

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Cannabis Culture

New Mexico guv signs marijuana legalization

Retail sales would begin by April 2022

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decriminalizing possession, gay news, Washington Blade

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham earlier this month signed two separate measures into law amending the state’s marijuana policies. The first measure (House Bill 2) legalizes and regulates marijuana possession, production, and sales for adults. The second measure (Senate Bill 2) facilitates the automatic review and expungement of the records of those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses.

Lawmakers approved both bills during a special legislative session demanded by Gov. Lujan Grisham, who had been a vocal proponent of the reforms.

NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf said: “This is a day to celebrate! New Mexico will greatly benefit from this new revenue stream and the creation of thousands of jobs. Most notably though, legalization will spare thousands of otherwise law-abiding residents from arrest and a criminal record, and the state’s new expungement law will help provide relief to many who are suffering from the stigma and other collateral consequences associated with a prior marijuana conviction.”

The adult-use measure (House Bill 2) permits those ages 21 and older to legally purchase up to two ounces of marijuana and/or up to 16 grams of cannabis extract from licensed retailers. It also permits adults to home-cultivate up to six mature plants for their own personal use. Retail sales would begin by April 2022.

The expungement measure (Senate Bill 2) stipulates that those with past convictions for offenses made legal under this act are eligible for automatic expungement of their records. Those currently incarcerated for such offenses are eligible for a dismissal of their sentence. It’s estimated that over 150,000 New Mexico residents are eligible for automatic expungement under this measure, according to the Department of Public Safety.

 

Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. Visit norml.org for more information.

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Cannabis Culture

Delaware cannabis activists take on corporate marijuana

Criticism from medical marijuana operators claimed that HB150 offers too many cultivation and retail licenses

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cannabis regulation, gay news, Washington Blade

As the country moves forward with sweeping changes in cannabis policy reform, locals in Delaware are tangling with corporate, multi-state medical marijuana permit holders to pass a bill for full legalization.

Adult-use activists and registered medical patients were stunned to hear opposing testimony from Delaware’s medical marijuana operators. Patients already deal with limited access and costly products. Now, many see the established industry voicing opposition as simply obstructing the progress of adult-use legislation. In response, some patients are now staging a boycott of the regulated dispensaries.

During the first committee hearing for HB150, Delaware’s adult-use bill, four of the state’s six currently licensed, multi-million dollar medical cannabis facilities offered negative testimony.

Zoë Patchell, executive director of Delaware CAN responded: “This market belongs to the long-time consumers, patients, and activists. We create the demand, we’ve been the ones driving the reform efforts, and we pay the prices at dispensaries. Cannabis is more than a market – cannabis is a community. These companies cannot reasonably fathom that we are going to purchase cannabis from any entity that has proven to put profits over patients. And now they seem willing to put consumers’ lives and freedom at risk just to hold out for an unfair advantage in the industry.”

These included publicly traded Columbia Care, “Fresh Delaware” aka CCRI, CannTech Research Inc., and the owner of EZY Venture aka “The Farm.”

They all went on record condemning HB150, and pushing a false narrative about oversupply. The core demand from the permit cartel was some protection for their private business interests with guaranteed adult-use licenses.
Criticism from the medical marijuana operators claimed that HB150 offers too many new cultivation and retail licenses, underlined by deep yet unfounded fears that the new competition would put their companies out of business.

Patchell noted, “We are not going to sit back while multi-state corporate entities, that already monopolize East Coast medical markets, work to undermine our social equity and micro-license provisions.”

 

Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. Visit norml.org for more information.

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Cannabis Culture

Virginia marijuana legalization takes effect July 1

Adult possession of cannabis up to one ounce without penalty

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Adam Ebbin, gay news, Washington Blade

Following legislative approval of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s amendments to Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312, Virginia became the first southern state to legalize the possession and use of marijuana by adults.

Senate Bill 1406, introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) and Senate President Pro Tempore Senator Louise Lucas (D-18), and House Bill 2312, patroned by House Majority Leader Delegate Charniele Herring (D-46), establish a statutory timeline for the legalization of the commercial marijuana market in Virginia. The measure also permits for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis by those ages 21 or older.

Last week, Gov. Northam recommended changes to the legislation to permit the personal use provisions of the law to take effect on July 1, 2021 rather than on January 1, 2024, the enactment date initially approved by lawmakers. A majority of the legislature concurred with that change.

Therefore, beginning July 1, 2021, adults will be permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to cultivate up to four cannabis plants per household without penalty.
The timeline by which state regulators have to enact provisions licensing commercial cannabis production and sales remains July 1, 2024.

Commenting on final passage, NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as executive director of Virginia NORML, said: “This is an incredible victory for Virginia. Legalization will bring an end to the thousands of low-level marijuana infractions occurring annually in the Commonwealth — ending a discriminatory practice that far too often targets Virginians who are young, poor, and people of color.”

Majority Leader Charniele Herring added: “It is a huge day for equity in the Commonwealth. Virginia is now the first state in the South to legalize recreational marijuana use, and I am so proud to have been able to carry this monumental legislation.”

Sen. Ebbin said, “The passage of SB1406 caps off years of struggle to reform our broken and outdated marijuana laws and begins the deliberate steps to repeal the harms of the failed prohibition. I am thankful to NORML, the governor, and my colleagues for moving this 283 bill from inception to passage over the last four months, and look forward to continuing to partner with them to establish a regulated, equity focused, adult-use marketplace in the coming years.”

Newly released statewide polling data finds that 68 percent of registered voters in Virginia, including majorities of Democrats and Republicans, support legalizing marijuana for adults.

Additional amendments added by Gov. Northam will allow the sealing of records related to crimes involving the misdemeanor possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. Those records will begin to be sealed starting on July 1, 2021. Separate legislation enacted in 2020 previously sealed records related to misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Records specific to the simple possession of marijuana and/or misdemeanor possession with intent to distribute records will be automatically expunged no later than 2025. Those with records specific to crimes involving the felony possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute may begin to petition the courts for an expounging of their records in 2025.

The bill also allows for the re-sentencing of individuals currently incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. The measure permits those individuals to have a hearing before the court that originally sentenced them, with legal counsel provided for indigent individuals. However, this portion of the bill must be reenacted in 2022.

The legislation also establishes an independent agency, the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, to oversee the establishment of regulations that will govern the adult-use market. This agency is set to convene this summer. The remainder of the 300-page bill, which details the regulatory and market structure and social equity provisions, is subject to a second review and vote by the Assembly next year.

 

Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. Visit norml.org for more information.

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