Tax and Regulate

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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Tax and Regulate

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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Tax and Regulate

“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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Tax and Regulate

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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Tax and Regulate

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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Tax and Regulate

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||Tax and Regulate

South Dakota kicks off petition drive to legalize marijuana!

Exciting news! A newly formed political campaign, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, has launched an effort to pass two marijuana reform ballot initiatives in South Dakota next year.

Yes, you read that right: South Dakota.

The first ballot initiative, a proposed constitutional amendment, would legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older and direct the legislature to enact laws regulating the cultivation and sale of hemp. The second ballot initiative, a proposed statutory amendment, would establish a medical marijuana law for qualifying patients.

The 2020 campaign, supported by MPP, must collect 33,921 signatures from voters by November 3 of this year to qualify the constitutional initiative for the 2020 ballot. The statutory initiative will require 16,961 voter signatures to qualify. 


Leading politicians in the state have consistently opposed marijuana policy reform, and Gov. Kristi Noem even opposes the legalization of industrial hemp. This campaign will give the voters of South Dakota the opportunity to decide these issues at the ballot box.

We will keep you informed of major developments. You also can follow the campaign and support them by signing up for email alerts on their website.

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Tax and Regulate

Minn.: Join the “Be Heard on Cannabis” Conversation!​

Contact your lawmakers today and ask them to support legalizing, taxing, and regulating cannabis for adults 21 and older!

The conversation about legalizing cannabis is picking up in the North Star State! House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler will be sponsoring legislation to legalize cannabis for adults and aims for it to pass the House of Representatives in 2020.

Before crafting the legislation, Rep. Winkler will be leading "Be Heard on Cannabis," a listening tour throughout the state where Minnesotans can weigh in on the issue this fall. Don't miss this opportunity to voice your support for sensible cannabis policy and to make your priorities heard.

Here are the upcoming known tour dates so far:

Duluth

When: Saturday, September 21, 11:00 a.m.
Where: Teatro in the Zeitgeist Arts Building, 222 East Superior Street, Duluth, MN 5580
Who: Hosted by Rep. Winkler, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections Paul Schnell, Rep. Olson, and Rep. Schultz

Minneapolis

When: Wednesday, September 25, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Minneapolis Urban League, 2100 Plymouth Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55411
Who: Hosted by Rep. Winkler, Sen. Hayden, Sen. Champion, Sen. Dziedzic, Sen. Hawj, Rep. Dehn, and Rep. Lee with special guest Dr. Raj Sethuraju, Associate Professor at Metro State University

St. Cloud

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
Who: Hosted by Rep. Winkler, Sen. Hayden, and Rep. Wolgamott with special guest Jeremy Sankey, founder of Minnesota Veterans for Cannabis

You can also click here to take a survey to share your thoughts, sign up for updates, and learn more about "Be Heard on Cannabis."

In other encouraging news, Gov. Walz is asking his agencies to prepare for legalization. Still, the measure could face a hurdle in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said, "it's dead as far as I'm concerned in the Senate for next year." Even passing the House in 2020 would represent tremendous progress, moving Minnesota leaps and bounds closer to the end of cannabis prohibition.

It's important lawmakers hear from supporters like you. Please consider attending a listening session near you, and email your lawmakers today. Then, share this message with your friends and family in Minnesota.

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Prohibition

Delaware Gov. Carney signs decrim expansion bill!

On July 31, Gov. John Carney signed a bill into law that expands decriminalization for cannabis possession of one ounce or less to those under 21. The law became effective upon the governor's signature.

This important legislation will save young adults from life-altering criminal convictions, which can close the door on opportunities including jobs, housing, and higher education. For more information on Delaware's decriminalization law, check out our summary here.

In other news, the adult-use legalization bill, HB 110, will pick up where it left off in the House Appropriations Committee in 2020. You can read our summary of HB 110 here.

Please ask your representative to support HB 110 to end cannabis prohibition and replace it with a system where cannabis is regulated similarly to alcohol.

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