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Congressional Cannabis Caucus Prods AG on Marijuana Policy Guidance, VA Governor Vetoes Legal Weed Commerce, More... (3/29/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on

Complementary psychedelic task force bills are moving in Maryland, the New Hampshire House approves a bill to help people clear the records of pot offenses, and more. 

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has vetoed legislation that would have allowed legal marijuana commerce in the state. (
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Cannabis Caucus Prods Attorney General to Issue Guidance on Marijuana Policy. The chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) sent a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland saying it is "unacceptable" that the Justice Department has not yet reissued marijuana enforcement guidance warning federal agencies that they cannot interfere in state-legal marijuana programs. 

The department's inaction leaves Americans in "legal limbo" and it should "correct this oversight and reissue a memo making clear DOJ’s limited resources will not be spent prosecuting those acting in accordance with state or Tribal law," the letter said. 

In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) rescinded Obama administration memos that generally directed federal prosecutors not to intervene in legal marijuana states, and while Attorney General Garland said more than a year ago that new guidance was coming, it has yet to arrive. 

 "While we appreciate the historic steps the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to pardon federal simple possession marijuana offenses and begin the formal review of marijuana’s schedule under the Controlled Substances Act, it is unacceptable that more than half of Americans living in jurisdictions with legal marijuana markets are left in limbo without public guidance to prevent unjust prosecution of those complying with their state’s or Tribe’s regulations," the lawmakers wrote.

"Law enforcement, state regulators, small businesses, patients, and everyday Americans are caught in the ambiguity of the federal-state gap, made worse by the delay in reissuing the Cole and Wilkinson Memoranda protections," they said.

The two lawmakers added that for years they have "urged DOJ to act on this commonsense protection," and they’ve been "consistently disappointed in meetings with agency leadership and DOJ prosecutors on existing policies."

New Hampshire House Approves Bill to Help People Cleanse Marijuana Records. The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved House Bill 1539, which would allow people to expedite the removal of marijuana possession arrests and convictions from their legal records. The bill passed on a vote of 283-80 and now goes to the Senate for further consideration. 

Under the bill, the state Department of Safety would search for records of marijuana violations or misdemeanors and begin an annulment process. People could also request an annulment, which would be granted barring a prosecutor's objection. If the case of a prosecutorial objection, a hearing would be held.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jonah Wheeler (D-Peterborough) said that while current law allows people to seek annulments, most people are not aware of it, and it costs $300 and possible attorney's fees. If the bill passes, people would not have to bear that financial burden, he said. He also noted that his fellow lawmakers are currently discussing a commercial marijuana legalization bill. 

"It’s a little hypocritical for us to be discussing the sale of cannabis at the same time as there are people who aren’t able to get a hearing because they cannot meet the $300 payment or they aren’t aware of the eligibility of the process now," Wheeler said.

Virginia Governor Vetoes Legal Marijuana Sales Bill. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has vetoed bills that would have created a legal marijuana market in the Old Dominion, House Bill 698 and Senate Bill 448

Lawmakers approved marijuana legalization in 2021, but deferred legal marijuana commerce, calling instead on the legislature to authorize it by January 2024. But Republicans took control of the House in 2022, blocking progress until Democrats regained the House last year. Youngkin had long marked out a position opposing commercial legalization. 

In his veto message, Youngkin said: "The proposed legalization of retail marijuana in the Commonwealth endangers Virginians’ health and safety. States following this path have seen adverse effects on children’s and adolescent’s health and safety, increased gang activity and violent crime, significant deterioration in mental health, decreased road safety, and significant costs associated with retail marijuana that far exceed tax revenue. It also does not eliminate the illegal black-market sale of cannabis, nor guarantee product safety. Addressing the inconsistencies in enforcement and regulation in Virginia’s current laws does not justify expanding access to cannabis, following the failed paths of other states and endangering Virginians’ health and safety."

But activists were not buying it. As NORML Development Director and Virginia NORML Executive Director JM Pedini noted: "Governor Youngkin has just shown Virginians exactly how out of touch he is with the widely-accepted science and policy research on cannabis in the US. Virginians deserve better than this head-in-the-sand approach to lawmaking from their elected officials. The only protection Youngkin’s veto provides is to the illicit market that has ballooned during his time office."


Maryland Legislative Committees Approve Psychedelic Task Force Bills Already Passed by Opposite Chambers. A pair of bills to create a psychedelics task force that have already passed their respective chambers, Senate Bill 1009 and House Bill 548, are now moving in the opposite chambers.

The Senate bill was approved Wednesday by the House Health and Government Operations Committee, while the House bill advanced through the Senate Finance Committee. 

The bills would create a "Task Force on Responsible Use of Natural Psychedelic Substances" that would be overseen by the Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA). It would be charged specifically with ensuring "broad, equitable and affordable access to psychedelic substances" in the state.

Both bills now await floor votes in the opposite chamber. 

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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