Medical Marijuana

Iowa: PTSD patients needed to weigh in at Nov. 1 board meeting!

Ask your lawmakers to support a comprehensive medical marijuana program!

The Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board, which is charged with adding qualifying medical conditions to Iowa's low-THC medical cannabis program, will be meeting Friday, November 1.

If you are a patient suffering from PTSD, please consider attending the meeting to voice your support for adding PTSD as a qualifying condition.

When: Friday, November 1, 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Where: Iowa Laboratory Facility – 2240 DMACC Blvd, Ankeny, IA 50023

Patients, don't miss this opportunity to have your voices heard. You can find more information on PTSD and medical-cannabis programs here. Supportive medical professionals are also encouraged to attend.

Please also write your lawmakers and ask them to support a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Unfortunately, by limiting patients to low-THC cannabis, Iowa's current program is leaving the vast majority of those who could benefit from medical cannabis behind.

Together, we can help Iowa patients access the medicine they deserve.

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Pa. Gov. Wolf comes out in support of legalizing cannabis!

Great news! Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf now supports legalizing cannabis for adults.

Gov. Wolf’s announcement comes on the heels of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s statewide listening tour to all 67 counties, where Fetterman found Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support legalization. You can read the tour report here.

Unfortunately, there’s also bad news: The Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Republican leaders derided Gov. Wolf’s support for legalization.

But now is not time to despair. The public at large is rapidly evolving on marijuana legalization, and so are legislators. Take a few minutes to email your state lawmakers. Our free software and editable draft letters make it a quick, simple process to make your voice heard.

Patients and their loved ones didn’t give up when House Speaker Mike Turzai (R) tried to slam the door shut on medical cannabis, and we can’t give up now because of his disdain for cannabis policy reform. If legislators don’t evolve by 2020, voters will have a chance to change who represents them in Harrisburg. 

Please raise your voice. Then, spread the word to other Pennsylvanians so that they, too, can help bring humane cannabis policies to the Keystone State.

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General

Room for Improvement on the Soap Box

If attendees at the Iowa State Fair were looking for a candidate to end the federal government’s failed war on drugs, they would have few choices judging from the speeches at the Des Moines Register’s Political Soap Box. 

Every four years, candidates for president flock to this quadrennial staple of the Iowa Caucuses for their 20 minutes before fairgoers for what is essentially presidential speed dating. One after the other over a few days, would-be nominees climb the stage and offer up their best opening statement to the Democratic base followed by questions during the balance of their 20 minutes before getting the hook. Everyone follows the same rules and faces a politically savvy crowd. Unlike debates, the Soap Box may be the only opportunity for voters to hear the candidates in succession — live, unfiltered, and without interruption — talk about what they feel are the most pressing issues facing the country.  

As expected, voters heard about each candidate’s position on health care, climate change, gun control, abortion, and education/student debt, which were largely just echoes of the previous candidate’s position on those same issues. Stunningly, for drug policy reform advocates, a large majority of candidates failed to mention the harms associated with the drug war. 

How is it members of Congress talk about the ‘opioid crisis’ on Capitol Hill, yet they fail to bring it up in Iowa? How is it that every candidate who is a member of Congress is either a sponsor or original cosponsor of a bill to end the federal prohibition of cannabis, yet all but one failed to mention it?

That one was Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Gabbard has been a vocal champion and bill sponsor of marijuana policy reform and used her opening statement to talk about her efforts in Congress. Gabbard received the only ‘A’ from the Marijuana Policy Project among congressional incumbents for her opening statement and distinguished herself from the field. If fairgoers were looking for someone who will make ending reefer madness a priority, Gabbard likely won their vote. 

Only two other top-tier candidates used their opening statements to talk about the drug war: former HUD Secretary Juan Castro and former Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Both devoted considerable time to the issue of ending the federal prohibition on marijuana specifically and received top marks along with Gabbard.

A surprising bright spot was former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who failed to mention his home state’s first-in-the-nation cannabis legalization law (led by MPP) during his opening remarks, but who received an ‘A’ on the Q&A portion for turning a minimum wage question into a full-throated endorsement of Colorado’s adult-use status, a law he originally opposed. 

Pete Buttigieg received a ‘B’ for his brief mention of marijuana legalization during his response to a question on criminal justice reform, but like other candidates got a failing grade for his opening statement. 

MPP continues to be disappointed that this life and death issue fails to be a question asked in the debates. And as much as we would like candidates to raise the issue during their opening or closing statements, that’s difficult to do in a minute. But as Hickenlooper proved, you don’t need a drug policy question to give a drug policy answer. Given 20 minutes of unfiltered, uninterrupted time before Democratic voters, it is hard to understand how issues like the opioid crisis, which claims a hundred lives each day, and the war on marijuana, which still results in over a half million arrests every year, fail to get a mention.

The field is getting narrowed down, and our most vocal supporters are dropping out of the race or are unlikely to qualify for future debates.

There will be other debates, but nothing like the Soap Box. (Sadly, the September debate failed to feature any substantive marijuana policy questions.) For the remaining candidates, there will be plenty of room on the stage, and as far as this drug policy reformer is concerned, there is plenty of room for improvement.

 

Don Murphy, Director of Federal Policies, Marijuana Policy Project, Washington, D.C. 

 

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N.J.: Let’s legalize marijuana in the lame duck session!​

New Jersey legislators tabled the state's legalization bill in March, believing it lacked the votes needed to pass the Senate. But Senate President Stephen Sweeney recently gave the effort new hope when he expressed a willingness to try to pass legislation during the "lame duck" session in late 2019.

Securing the votes needed to pass the Senate will require all hands on deck — several lawmakers who are on the fence will need to come around. Please do your part. You can send your state legislators an email using our free software. Our pre-written, editable letters make it a quick and easy process.

We also encourage you to schedule a meeting with your state senator to discuss the issue in person. You can look up your state senator's phone number here. (Your state senator is your "upper chamber" member.) Let us know if you secure a meeting, and we can help prepare you.

Please also let us know if you have a special connection to the issue that could be influential. Are you a medical professional, clergy member, former or current law enforcement, or someone who was hurt by marijuana prohibition? Let us know.

And don't forget to reach out to your state senator, and to spread the word to other New Jerseyans. Together, we can end the disastrous policy of cannabis prohibition in the Garden State.

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“Be Heard on Cannabis” visiting St. Paul, St. Cloud, Eden Prairie, and Eagan

This fall, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler is leading "Be Heard on Cannabis" community conversations across Minnesota to explore how to replace cannabis prohibition with sensible regulation. At the end of the process, Rep. Winkler plans to introduce a bill to legalize and regulate cannabis in Minnesota and shepherd it through the House.

Mark your calendars for these upcoming dates, to take part and add your voice to the conversation on how to move forward.

St. Paul "Be Heard on Cannabis" Community Conversation
When: Thursday, October 10, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, 270 Kent Street, Saint Paul, MN 55102

St. Cloud "Be Heard on Cannabis" Community Conversation
When: Saturday, October 12, 1:30 p.m.
Where: St. Cloud Public Library Mississippi Community Room, 1300 W. St. Germain Street, St. Cloud, MN 56301

Eden Prairie "Be Heard on Cannabis" Community Conversation
When: Monday, November 18, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Eden Prairie Community Center, Cambria Room, 16700 Valley View Road, Eden Prairie, MN 55346

Eagan "Be Heard on Cannabis" Community Conversation
When: Tuesday, November 19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Eagan Community Center, South Oaks Meeting Room, 1501 Central Parkway, Eagan, MN 55121

For a list of the hosts and panelists who will lead each community conversation, along with other cities "Be Heard on Cannabis" will visit, check out Rep. Winkler's Be Heard on Cannabis webpage.

Don't miss your chance to let your elected officials know it's time to stop punishing Minnesotans for a substance that's safer than alcohol. You may want to consider making a pitch for an inclusive, diverse industry, for allowing home cultivation, and for expunging past convictions.

Even if you're not able to make it, you can still make your voice heard. Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman has an online survey you can complete here. Finally, please spread the word by email or social media to help grow the chorus for reform.

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Ct.: Gov. Lamont says he will ask legislature to legalize in 2020

The House and Senate will need to work together to get this done — please contact your representatives and senators today!

Last week, Gov. Ned Lamont held a press conference with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the two governors announced that they would work together with other governors in the region to end marijuana prohibition. Gov. Lamont said he would ask the Connecticut Legislature to pass a bill legalizing and regulating cannabis when it convenes in January.

This is a promising development, but we know that Gov. Lamont can't make it happen by himself — the House and Senate will have to cooperate to make legalization a reality. Please email your elected officials right now and urge them to support ending marijuana prohibition in 2020!

In other positive news, the Medical Marijuana Program Board of Physicians recommended that chronic pain and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome be added as qualifying conditions for patients 18 and older. Unfortunately, it could take up to a year before the additions are enacted, and the recommended requirements for a chronic pain diagnosis are far more restrictive than in most other states: doctors would have to document a chronic pain period of six months or more, an underlying condition causing the pain, and that other treatments have failed.

If the legislature does its job next year, adult-use legalization could be a reality by the time these conditions are added. After you write your legislators, please "like" our coalition on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and share this message with your family and friends!

Effective advocacy costs money, so please also consider supporting our efforts with a donation.

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General

Artful Dodgers: How the Candidates and Moderators Failed to Address Cannabis Policy at Another Debate

After a dozen hours of Democratic presidential candidate debates, there has been virtually no discussion about cannabis policy reform, leaving advocates sincerely disappointed. At a time when several pieces of cannabis legislation are pending in Congress, the absence of any cannabis-focused discussion is even more frustrating. Any list of issues important to Democratic primary voters would have to include not only the broad topic of criminal justice reform, but also the more narrow issue of cannabis policy.

Debate moderators have the opportunity and the responsibility to question the candidates on the issues facing the United States and its people. Federal cannabis prohibition happens to be one of these issues — yet there has not been one direct question focused on this. A recent poll found that legalizing cannabis is more popular than free college tuition, a $15 minimum wage, gun control, or a universal basic income. But you wouldn’t know it based on the questions posed to candidates during the debates.

Is it out of ignorance that debate moderators fail to ask about cannabis policy reform, or is it something worse? Do they think the topic is just not serious enough to ask about? Regardless,  the drug war is an issue many viewers care about, evidenced by the fact that on the rare occasion when the topic is broached, it almost always comes from one of the network’s social media partners. Yet, there’s apparently time to question Cory Booker about his vegan diet. Is veganism resulting in more than half a million arrests per year? Are there currently bills in Congress to end a failed policy on vegan prohibition? How about a policy question that’s at the forefront of people’s minds — one related to the  fact that hundreds of thousands of individuals are still being criminalized for using a substance that is safer than alcohol?

Not only have the moderators let us down by leaving cannabis out of the discussion, the candidates have too. Rarely has a candidate taken the opportunity to inject the issue of cannabis reform into a tangential topic such as criminal justice reform or racism. While the candidates may sound good discussing what they will do if elected president, many are having problems squaring the future with their past. During the last debate, the two biggest dodgers were Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Harris was questioned about her current support for legalization despite having prosecuted cannabis offenses during her time as California attorney general. She refused to directly answer the question, and the moderators, in turn, failed to dig deeper.

The most pressing question the Marijuana Policy Project wants an answer to and wants the public to hear is, “what role are you playing in the marijuana policy reform debate in your state and/or at the federal level, and how has your position evolved over time?” Harris had the opportunity to respond to just that but gave us nothing. Harris’ lack of response is unsatisfying, but it’s not too surprising considering Harris has also refused to answer questions regarding her vote on California’s Prop 64, the successful legalization initiative coordinated by a coalition of groups, including MPP.

Similar to MPP’s question for the candidates, a question from the Drug Policy Alliance focuses specifically on one candidate, asking, “what would you do differently as Biden in the 90s?” While Vice President Biden is the only candidate who mentioned the word “marijuana” during the most recent debate, his position showed that he is still not aligned with the majority of Americans who support legalization. Instead, he suggested that cannabis offenses should be classified as misdemeanors, many of which carry hefty fines and jail time. This was a perfect opportunity for the other candidates to step up and voice their support and reasoning for legalizing cannabis, but all we heard was silence. While many others on the stage have called for both ending federal prohibition and broader criminal justice reform, they failed to vocalize it, thereby missing a big opportunity.

There is no excuse for the lack of cannabis-focused discussion on the debate stage during the 2020 presidential race. It’s a bipartisan issue with nearly 70% support from the American public. It’s an issue that the president and Congress have the power to solve. It’s an issue that a majority of Americans want resolved. And most crucially, it’s an issue that is still causing harm to many of our citizens. We expect more questions, and the American people deserve more answers. 

Don Murphy, Marijuana Policy Project, Director of Federal Policies

 

 

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U.S. House of Representatives passes SAFE Banking Act!

We have big news to share: Just now, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1595) in a 321-103 floor vote! Today’s vote was historic, as the SAFE Banking Act is the first standalone cannabis bill to ever receive a full vote in Congress.

This legislation would prevent federal financial regulators from punishing financial institutions that provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses. Currently, most banks are unwilling to work with the cannabis industry because they fear federal prosecution. A version of this legislation has been introduced in the Senate (S. 1200) and currently has 33 cosponsors.

As more states implement and expand cannabis-related programs, Congressional action is urgently needed to provide clear banking policies, which would reduce the illicit market, promote public health and safety, increase consumer safety standards, ensure broader patient access, help with business transparency and compliance, and reduce safety risks associated with running high-volume, cash-only businesses. 

It is also important to recognize that the SAFE Banking Act, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, would strengthen efforts to increase the diversity of the cannabis industry. Many states that have legalized cannabis for adults have launched efforts to ensure that there are economic opportunities for communities of color that have been most severely impacted by marijuana prohibition. Access to capital remains an obstacle to this goal, and the SAFE Banking Act would help to address this problem.

MPP is proud to support this legislation, and we’d like to thank all of our allies who worked so hard to get this bill to a House floor vote. We’d also like to thank you, our supporters, for reaching out to your representatives on behalf of the SAFE Banking Act.

Onward to the Senate!

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How the SAFE Banking Act Means Equity

The emerging cannabis industry — with $17 billion in sales this year — is currently troubled by a lack of racial diversity within its ranks. It is impossible to ignore the fact that members of the African American community and other racial minorities have paid a particularly high price in the war on cannabis. When the business community that follows legalization leaves behind people of color, there is cause for concern. 

Recently, equity in the cannabis industry has moved to the forefront of many legalization discussions around the United States. It became the most significant issue in passage of Illinois’ recent legalization bill, and equity remains central in the discussions in New Jersey and New York. It can include many facets — from additional points on license applications for minority-owned businesses to incubator programs that help businesses get off the ground.

Yet, the single biggest advancement in equity in the near term will come from an unlikely and perhaps even unremarkable source — access to regulated financial services. 

African Americans have access to far less wealth than their white counterparts. As a result, it has been difficult for black entrepreneurs to enter into the cannabis industry, which has relied on private equity to seed business opportunity. Opening banking services to the cannabis industry helps not only existing companies, but also minorities seeking access to that industry. 

For example, many of the specific equity policies that states are putting in place require banking services to be meaningful. In Illinois, the state’s new landmark law to legalize and regulate cannabis establishes a fund to provide tens of millions of dollars in grants and loans to social equity applicants. Yet it remains to be seen if the financial institutions that serve the state will be willing to provide the banking services necessary to implement that portion of the law. The SAFE Banking Act would create a “safe harbor” for banks that provide small business loans, which could help level the playing field and increase opportunities for diverse representation within the cannabis industry.

Additionally, the SAFE Banking Act would establish important reporting requirements that do not exist today. It would mandate an annual report to Congress on access to financial services for minority- and women-owned cannabis businesses and recommendations to expand access for them. It would also require the Comptroller General to study barriers to marketplace entry for minority- and women-owned cannabis businesses and report to Congress on recommendations.

Members of Congress should allow banks to provide financial services to cannabis businesses. This creates access to resources for minority and women entrepreneurs and increases the chances for success in state equity initiatives. The SAFE Act is the best next step toward establishing a more equitable cannabis industry in the U.S.


Steven Hawkins, Executive Director, Marijuana Policy Project

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Medical Marijuana

N.H.: Senate votes to maintain felony penalties for home cultivation

Send a quick message to your legislators to say thanks or express your disappointment.

Yesterday was an incredibly frustrating day at the N.H. State House for patients and advocates, as the effort to override Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto on the home cultivation bill fell three votes short of success. The vote was 13-11, and 16 votes would have been necessary in order to pass HB 364 into law.

A few senators told us yesterday morning that they were leaning in favor of voting for the override, but when it came time for the vote yesterday afternoon, we actually lost one senator who had voted in favor of the bill on May 2: Senator Kevin Cavanaugh (D-Manchester).

Please take a moment to find out how your representatives and senators voted this week and send a quick follow-up message!

In positive news, the House and Senate both voted to override the governor’s veto on SB 88, a bill that will eliminate the required three-month waiting period before a medical provider can certify a new patient for the therapeutic cannabis program. This bill will become law in 60 days. This article in the Union Leader covers both the success of SB 88 and the failure of HB 364.

After you follow up with your elected officials about HB 364, please share this sad news with your family and friends.

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