At a conference focusing on legislation in the next Congress on Tuesday, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton joked about the particular attention some attendees paid to a marijuana bill sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Warren described the bipartisan legislation—which would let states implement legal cannabis systems free from federal interference—as part of her talk about criminal justice reforms she hopes to enact. Marijuana prohibition disproportionately impacts black Americans, she pointed out, and this bill would represent “a step toward making a real difference.”
“We cannot give up on this.”
When Sharpton, who founded the conference’s hosting organization, National Action Network, came back to the podium to introduce the next lawmaker, he quipped:
“I know for all of you old weed smokers, y’all like that marijuana bill. I’m not calling no names, but I saw some of y’all kind of nodding off and your heads snapped up when she started talking about—when she got into that weed thing, some of y’all woke up.”
Sharpton has made repeated calls for federal cannabis reform, characterizing decriminalization as a “civil rights cause” in a 2017 op-ed for The Guardian.
Marijuana reform will likely be on the Trump administration’s agenda after the midterm elections, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said on Thursday.
In an interview with Fox Business, Rohrabacher said he’s been “talking to people inside the White House” and members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle about ending cannabis prohibition. The congressman said he’s been “reassured that the president intends on keeping his campaign promise” to protect local marijuana policies from federal interference.
Though Rohrabacher didn’t point to specific legislation that the president is reportedly interested in advancing, he said that details would likely begin to take shape after November 6.
“I would expect after the election we will sit down and we’ll start hammering out something that is specific and real.”
Trump has previously voiced support for a bipartisan bill, introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect states that legalize cannabis from federal interference. He also embraced medical cannabis during his presidential campaign, saying that he knows people who have benefited from using it.
Rohrabacher, in the new interview published Thursday, laid out a vague timeline for anticipated congressional action on marijuana reform.
“It could be as early as spring of 2019, but definitely in the next legislative session,” he said.
What remains to be seen is which party will ultimately take the lead on marijuana after the midterms. Though Democrats are generally more supportive of cannabis reform and multiple bills have been introduced to achieve that end, a top House Democrat recently conceded that the party hasn’t been actively discussing plans to pass marijuana legislation.
Asked last month whether Democrats would bring cannabis legislation to the floor if the party retakes the House in November, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) admitted “[w]e haven’t talked about that.”
And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is expected to seek the speakership again if Democrats win control of the chamber in the midterms, indicated that the prospects for marijuana legislation would depend on support from the president.
“I don’t know where the president is on any of this,” she said. “So any decision about how we go forward would have to reflect where we can get the result.”
Based on polling, either party stands to benefit from taking on a marijuana friendly agenda. Fewer Republican voters support full legalization, compared to Democrats, but when it comes to medical cannabis, there’s sizable majority support on both sides of the aisle.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Gardner said at the press conference that he spoke to President Trump about marijuana on Thursday morning and that he remains supportive of an approach that respects state laws.
“We can’t go backwards. We can only go forwards,” the president said, according to Gardner.
Warren told the Boston Globe that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “has pledged to allow a vote on the bill.”
She added that that it was Sessions’s move to rescind the Obama-era guidance that spurred lawmakers to work across the aisle to find a solution to enact statutory protections for local cannabis policies.
“Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development,” Warren said in a press release. “States like Massachusetts have put a lot of work into implementing common sense marijuana regulations – and they have the right to enforce their own marijuana policies. The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana.”
“In 2012, Coloradans legalized marijuana at the ballot box and the state created an apparatus to regulate the legal marijuana industry. But because of the one-size-fits-all federal prohibition, state decisions like this put Colorado and other states at odds with the federal government,” Gardner added. “The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted. The bipartisan STATES Act fixes this problem once and for all by taking a states’ rights approach to the legal marijuana question. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters – whether that is legalization or prohibition – and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry.”
Our bill does not legalize marijuana. Instead, it allows the principle of federalism to prevail as the founding fathers intended and leaves the marijuana question up to the states. Learn more here: https://t.co/gRckNUKSic
Companion legislation is also being filed in the House by Congressman David Joyce (R-OH) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with 14 other cosponsors.
“We should trust the people of the states, like Ohio, who have voted to implement responsible common-sense regulations and requirements for the use, production, and sale of cannabis,” Joyce said in a press release. “If the people of these states have decided to provide help for those veterans and others suffering from pain and other health issues, we should allow them access without government interference.”
We should trust the people of the states, like Ohio, who have voted to implement responsible common-sense regulations & requirements for the use, production, & sale of cannabis. Proud to introduce the STATES Act with Rep. Blumenauer @CoryGardner@SenWarrenhttps://t.co/t5eKgVuQzq
“For too long the senseless prohibition of marijuana has devastated communities, disproportionately impacting poor Americans and communities of color. Not to mention, it’s also wasted resources and stifled critical medical research,” Blumenauer argued. “It’s past time to put the power back in the hands of the people. Congress must right this wrong.”
For far too long, lives & resources have been wasted because of the failed War on Drugs. Congress must right this wrong & end marijuana prohibition. Proud to have been part of this effort. https://t.co/UDKI0piZp9
In a news advisory, Warren’s office said the legislation will “ensure that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders.” It also “extends these protections to Washington D.C., U.S. territories, and federally recognized tribes, and contains common-sense guardrails to ensure that states, territories, and tribes regulating marijuana do so safely.”
Earlier on Thursday, Warren and Gardner discussed their cannabis bill in an appearances on MSNBC and Fox News.
By outlawing marijuana, the federal government puts communities of color, small businesses, & public health & safety at risk. My new bill with @SenCoryGardner will let states, territories, & tribes decide for themselves how to regulate marijuana – without federal interference.
No veteran with chronic pain, child with a rare disease, or person struggling with a terminal illness should be denied the treatment they need. Millions of Americans currently access medical marijuana under state law. My new bill with @SenCoryGardner will help protect them.
No qualified scientist should have to struggle to conduct basic research on marijuana. Their findings could spur medical advances or counter the opioid epidemic. I'm introducing a new bill with @SenCoryGardner that could make it easier to study marijuana’s medical uses.
“Thanks to the leadership of Senators Gardner and Warren, the movement to end the federal government’s failed policy of cannabis criminalization has truly become a bipartisan effort,” Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, said in an interview. “Given that a majority of states now regulate marijuana use and six out of ten voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it is time that members of Congress take action to comport federal law with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions must be restrained from having the ability to infringe on the rights of states that have successfully implemented marijuana legalization, be it for medical or responsible adult use.”
It is unclear if or when the new legislation will be voted on, but the development adds to significant momentum for cannabis reform on Capitol Hill and in states in recent weeks.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed a bill to legalize industrial hempand fast-tracked it on the calendar, skipping the committee process, and said he intends to attach the language to the larger Farm Bill.
President Trump said on Friday that he “really” supports new marijuana legislation filed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).
“I really do. I support Senator Gardner,” he said when a reporter asked whether he backs the bill.
“I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it,” Trump said during an impromptu press conference on the White House lawn as he prepared to board Marine One to head to G-7 summit in Canada. “But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”
“It is a positive sign that President Trump’s first cannabis comment as the Commander in Chief was support for the STATES Act. The real question is how will Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell react,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment in an interview. “The burden is now on the congressional gatekeepers to pass the bill so we can finally end Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s legal ability to infringe upon the progress we have made in 46 states and unshackle state-lawmakers to end criminalization once and for all.”
Nine U.S. states have legalized marijuana for adults over 21 years of age. Many other states allow patients to use some form of medical cannabis.
In a tweet, Congressman David Joyce (R-OH), who is sponsoring a companion bill to the Warren-Gardner proposal in the House, said that Trump’s comments represented “big news for the rights of our state voters and those suffering.”
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
In order to combat the growing opioid epidemic in the United States, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research and consider “the use, uptake and effectiveness of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain treatment in states where it is legal.”
This marks the latest in a series of requests that Warren and her colleagues have made to various US agencies asking for stronger efforts towards reducing prescription painkiller abuse.
In her letter, Warren asks the CDC’s director Dr. Thomas Friedan,
“to explore every opportunity and tool available to work with states and other federal agencies on ways to tackle the opioid epidemic and collect information about alternative pain relief options.”
Data supporting marijuana as an alternative to opioids is promising. A 2014 study cites a significant reduction in opioid overdoses in states with medical marijuana policies. Steps taken by the Obama Administration have eased slightly the barriers to cannabis research, but federal prohibition and DEA drug scheduling still criminalizes marijuana, putting states that have medical cannabis laws in a legal limbo.
The response to Warren’s calls for reform have been a rehashing of current policies, maintaining the federal government’s stance that marijuana is highly addictive, of no medicinal value and therefore a Schedule I substance. It is worth noting that methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II substance, highlighting the inconsistencies behind the DEA’s drug classifications.
In the US, opioid abuse has skyrocketed over the last fifteen years. Drug overdoses have increased by 137 percent since 2000, according to the CDC. More than 47,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses, compared to 33,000 from auto accidents. Although Americans account for 5 percent of the world’s population, they consume 75 percent of the world’s supply of prescription drugs.
In addition, sales of prescription opioids rose by 300 percent since 1999, indicating a major trend in physicians prescribing the drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has taken note, going so far as to manufacture drugs that combat the common side effects of long-term opioid use. Warren alluded to the escalation by requesting the CDC clarify their physician guidelines for treating pain.
The War on Drugs treated drug addiction as a criminal offense instead of a disease, resulting in overcrowded prisons and an annual $39.9 billion-dollar burden to taxpayers. This failure, coupled with the opioid epidemic, has caused a shift in attitudes towards substance abuse. Warren herself previously opposed cannabis legalization in 2011, and politicians on both sides of the aisle have reevaluated their positions amidst growing criticism of U.S. drug policy.