Amid Primary Challenge, Democrat Senator Now Supports Marijuana Bill

Amid Primary Challenge, Democrat Senator Now Supports Marijuana Bill

Over the course of his more than 17 years in the U.S. Senate, Delaware Democrat Tom Carper has never before cosponsored a marijuana reform bill. Nor did he add his name to any piece of cannabis legislation during the 10 years he served in the U.S. House.

But that changed on Monday, when Carper became a co-sponsor of a far-reaching bill to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act so that states can implement legalization without federal interference.

What’s new this year? Aside from marijuana reform’s general political ascendancy—more states are deleting their prohibition laws and a growing majority of voters now support legalization—Carper is facing an unexpectedly tough primary challenge from a progressive insurgent candidate.

That contender, Kerri Evelyn Harris, has praised Canada’s legalization of marijuana and said that Delaware should make similar moves to deal with its prison overcrowding issues.

The criminal justice reform platform on her website includes a bullet point on “taxing and regulating marijuana.”

A recent Washington Post profile of the race featured this vignette in which Harris spoke about her support for legalization to a pair of voters who were smoking a joint:

“During a Friday night canvass in Wilmington, Harris spent 30 minutes talking to two men who had been passing a joint between them and were intrigued by her support for legal marijuana. By the end of the talk, one had agreed to come to her office to learn about volunteering.”

Carper currently has an F grade in NORML’s congressional scorecard.

“We welcome Senator Carper’s support for the federal descheduling of cannabis and cosponsorship of the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment. “It has been a long time coming, but given the public support for outright legalization in Delaware and across the country, the senator’s support for policies like expungement and reparative justice is another important mile-marker on the road to victory.”

The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, which Carper is now supporting, was introduced in late June by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other Democrats.

While the only poll in the race to date, conducted in July, showed Carper leading Harris by a wide margin of 51 percent to 19 percent, political observers have flagged the race as one to watch in the wake of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset Democratic primary victory over New York Congressman Joe Crowley in June.

Carper’s move to sponsor cannabis legislation amid a fierce primary is similar to how Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a longtime vocal legalization opponent, evolved earlier this year during the course of her own renomination effort. The senator now says she supports the right of Californians to comply with the state’s marijuana laws without being sent to federal prison. That announcement came as state Senator Kevin de León (D) continually highlighted his own support for legalization as a contrast to incumbent Feinstein. The two Democrats will face off in November’s general election since they both advance under the state’s top-two primary system.

The Delaware primary between Carper and Harris will be held on September 6.

In June, a majority of members of Delaware’s House of Representatives voted to approve a marijuana legalization bill, but it did not receive the supermajority support needed to advance under the chamber’s rules.

A 2016 poll found that Delaware adults support legalizing cannabis by a margin of 61 percent to 35 percent.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Amid Primary Challenge, Democrat Senator Now Supports Marijuana Bill

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Rep. Jared Polis Criticizes Colorado Governor’s Marijuana Vetoes

Rep. Jared Polis Criticizes Colorado Governor’s Marijuana Vetoes

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who is running to be Colorado’s next governor, is calling out the incumbent over his decision to veto three pieces of marijuana legislation, including one bill that would have extended cannabis access to individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) struck down two other bills this week: one that would have allowed for increased investment in the state’s marijuana industry and another that would’ve allowed consumers to sample cannabis products at licensed dispensaries.

Because the legislative session ended last month, the Colorado General Assembly can’t override the vetoes. So it’ll be up to the next governor to bring the legislation back to life.

Polis, who is running for the seat and received an endorsement from NORML last month, hopes to do just that.

“If I have the opportunity to be governor of Colorado, I would sign this bill increasing access for medical marijuana to those on the autism spectrum, enabling investments in legal cannabis businesses that help reduce costs for consumers and create jobs,” Polis told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview.

“I think it’s commonsense.”

The congressman said that, beyond supporting state-level legislative efforts to improve Colorado’s marijuana program, he’d also resist the federal government should it attempt to interfere in the state’s legal system.

“I would make sure that we would not cooperate from the state-level and that state law enforcement resources were not used and information was not shared with any federal agent going after a legal, constitutionally protected Colorado activity.”

President Donald Trump reportedly voiced his support for federal legislation to protect states that legalize cannabis from federal interference in a conversation with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) on Thursday.

But when it comes to the 2020 election, Polis said he hoped “we would have a forward-looking candidate for president that supports what the overwhelming majority of Colorado voters and American voters support, which is regulating marijuana more like alcohol, rather than continuing the failed drug war against marijuana.”

Following backlash from marijuana reform advocates over his veto of the autism medical marijuana bill, Hickenlooper directed his lieutenant governor to sign an executive order that called for research into the “safety and efficacy of medical marijuana for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders in children,” according to a press release.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Rep. Jared Polis Criticizes Colorado Governor’s Marijuana Vetoes

Trump Says He “Really” Supports Senate Marijuana Legislation

Trump Says He “Really” Supports Senate Marijuana Legislation

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.”

Watch Trump speak about the marijuana bill:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=695&v=UlSz1QENfZw

The bill, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Entrusting States (STATES) Act, would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to exempt state-legal marijuana activity from its provisions.

It would also protect banks that work with legal cannabis businesses and legalize industrial hemp.

The bill was introduced on Thursday after Gardner cut a deal with Trump to support such legislation in exchange for the senator ending a blockade on Justice Department nominees he began in protest of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision earlier this year to rescind Obama-era guidance generally protecting state cannabis laws.

“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:

Trump Says He “Really” Supports Senate Marijuana Legislation

Trump To Support Major Marijuana Legislation

Trump To Support Major Marijuana Legislation

President Trump is preparing to support far-reaching legislation to reform federal marijuana prohibition so that states can enact their own cannabis laws without interference.

“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said in a statement. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

In a briefing with reporters on Friday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the development, calling Gardner’s statement “accurate.”

“We’re always consulting Congress about issues including states’ rights, of which the president is a firm believer,” she said.

Sanders revealed that Trump and Gardner spoke about the issue several times in recent days, including on Friday.

The news of the legislative deal, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes after Gardner placed a hold on Justice Department nominees in protest of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s rescinding of Obama-era guidance that has generally allowed states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference.

Now, things have changed.

“Because of these commitments [to support marijuana legislation], I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees,” Gardner said. “My colleagues and I are continuing to work diligently on a bipartisan legislative solution that can pass Congress and head to the President’s desk to deliver on his campaign position.”

A source close to the discussions, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told Marijuana Moment that Sessions was not a party to the new deal between the White House and Gardner.

Details of the legislation are yet to be announced, but in a Facebook Live interview with KDVR-TV in Denver, Gardner said it would be a “universal fix” for federal issues faced by cannabis businesses, including access to banks.

https://www.facebook.com/fox31denver/videos/10156458792086600/

In an interview with The Cannabist, Gardner added that he “would envision this legislation taking care of” tax issues as well.

The Colorado senator also said that he and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) are close to finalizing a draft bill, which will be “hopefully moving soon.”

Neal Levine of the New Federalism Fund called the news a “game changer,” saying in an interview that “if we’re going to have legislation that ends prohibition on the federal level in any state that’s opted out of prohibition in some form, those issues [like banking] are all going to be resolved.”

Trump repeatedly pledged during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would respect state marijuana laws, a promise called into question when Sessions rescinded the Obama Justice Department’s memo in January.

A timetable hasn’t been set for the new marijuana legislation, though it will be crafted by a bipartisan working group of senators.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), one of the House’s leading champions for marijuana law reform, praised the news but urged caution.

“This is another head spinning moment. We should hope for the best, but not take anything for granted. Trump changes his mind constantly, and Republican leadership is still in our way,” he said in a statement. “Momentum is clearly building in the states and here in DC. The tide is changing. Now is the time to redouble our efforts.”

Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) also expressed some level of skepticism about the development.

While confirming that Trump “does respect Colorado’s right to decide for themselves how to best approach this issue,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short also told the Washington Post that the White House is frustrated with Gardner’s tactic of blocking presidential nominees.

“Clearly, we’ve expressed our frustration with the delay with a lot of our nominees and feel that too often, senators hijack a nominee for a policy solution,” he said. “So we’re reluctant to reward that sort of behavior. But at the same time, we’re anxious to get our team at the Department of Justice.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Trump To Support Major Marijuana Legislation

Montana May Lift Medical Marijuana Restrictions

Montana May Lift Medical Marijuana Restrictions

A pro-medical marijuana group in Montana is asking that the public be allowed to vote to alter existing provisions that make it difficult to grow and dispense the product within state lines.

The Montana Cannabis Information Center, an organization that advocates for the use of marijuana exclusively for medicinal purposes, recently submitted the 2016 ballot measure to the Secretary of State. The group’s hope is that the effort will lift current legislative restrictions on medical marijuana, which Montanans voted to legalize back in 2004.

Montana Cannabis Information Center President Mort Reid, in reference to Senate Bill 423, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, said:

“In 2011, the Legislature overturned it in a devious way by going after doctors and growers,”

Under SB 243, Montana doctors who prescribe medical marijuana to more than 25 patients in a calendar year are automatically flagged for review by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners. Furthermore, the bill also set restrictions regarding cultivation and supplying medical marijuana, making it a crime for growers to provide medical cannabis to more than three patients and for growers to charge for the product in the first place.

Reid argues that these strict provisions essentially kill any hope for the industry to thrive and for patients to receive adequate care. Based on patient registration numbers, that may be the case. After the passage of SB 243, the number of registered medical marijuana patients in Montana fell from roughly 30,000 to about 8,000. Currently, the state has 12,017 registered medical marijuana patient. Reid said,

“People still have the option to grow their own but how does an 80-year-old with cancer have that ability to grow marijuana?”

One Montana district court judge already ruled against the provisions set by SB 243, but members of the Montana Cannabis Information Center are not hopeful about an upcoming appeal.

The newly submitted ballot measure now lies in the hands of the Secretary of State. After review, backers can then begin to gather the almost 50,000 signatures required to land it on the 2016 ballot. The new measure joins two other marijuana-related measures that have already been submitted for review. One would ban its use completely as long as it remains federally prohibited, while the other would legalize it for state residents over the age of 21.

A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that a small but notable majority of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization.

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