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Will the SAFE Marijuana Banking Act Break Through to the Senate? [FEATURE]

For the second time in as many years, the House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1996) on Monday. The bill is designed to allow state-legal marijuana businesses access to banking and financial services. The bill would bar federal regulators from imposing civil or even criminal penalties on financial institutions that serve those businesses.

In an indication of broad political support for normalizing marijuana, the bill was approved on a bipartisan vote of a 321 to 101, with 91 Republicans and one Independent joining with the Democratic majority. It is not at all clear, however, whether any Republicans in the Senate can be persuaded to follow the lead of their House colleagues when they are presented with a chance to vote on companion legislation, S. 910, in the evenly-divided Senate.

Still, the measure is endorsed by a wide variety of groups, including the National Association of State Treasurers and governors from 21 states and territories.

The bill was authoredby US Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), who has been introducing it since 2013, sponsored by Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Warren Davidson (R-OH), and cosponsored by 180 members.

"After years of bringing up this issue, I'm thrilled to see overwhelming support for this bipartisan, commonsense legislation in the US House once again. I feel optimistic about the path forward for the SAFE Banking Act and, more broadly, reforms to our federal cannabis laws," said Perlmutter in a statement after the vote.

"Congress needs to act in order to catch up with the will of the majority of voters across this county and to ensure we are reducing the public safety risk for our constituents and communities," he continued. "I look forward to working with [Senate cosponsors] Senators Merkley and Daines to get the SAFE Banking Act passed in the Senate and signed into law."

For years, state-legal marijuana businesses have been hampered by the lack of access to such business necessities as checking accounts, payroll accounts, and lines of credit because of the financial services industry's fear of running afoul of federal law enforcement. That has required a multi-billion-dollar industry to operate in cash, which poses obvious security problems, as well as depriving banks and other lending institutions access to that capital to invest it productively.

"This bill would finally allow business in states that have legalized cannabis to access to the banking system, just as any other business currently enjoy," said Velasquez. "Doing so will help create jobs in communities throughout America, while stimulating the economy as we recover from the fallout of the pandemic."

"This bill is not about being for or against marijuana, but rather being for the safety and wellbeing of our communities," said Stivers.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) was pleased with the vote.

"This vote marks a meaningful first step in establishing a more equitable cannabis industry and improves the likelihood that other cannabis legislation will advance at the federal level," MPP executive director Steve Hawkins said in a statement.

"Restricting cannabis businesses from accessing financial services creates an unnecessary burden for the industry and limits economic growth," Hawkins added. "If enacted into law, the SAFE Banking Act would strengthen efforts to increase the diversity of the cannabis industry by providing resources for those with limited access to capital and increasing the chances of success for state-level social equity initiatives. Further, it would protect the 321,000 employees directly affected by the cannabis industry's lack of access to financial services."

Now it is up to the Senate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is working with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) on a full marijuana legalization bill, and there are indications he is concerned that passing more modest reforms before that could undermine that push. But there is also considerable pressure to move on the SAFE Banking Act. Stay tuned.

CA Marijuana Arrests Decline But Disparities Persist, AR MedMJ Growers Sue to Block Competition, More... (7/17/20)

California marijuana felonies are at the lowest level since 1954, Argentina moves to make its medical marijuana program more patient-friendly, and more.

Black and Hispanic Californians are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Felony Marijuana Arrests Decline After Legalization, But Racial Disparities Persist. Felony marijuana arrests continued to decline in the wake of legalization, dropping from 1,617 in 2018, the first year of broad legalization, to 1,181 last year, a decline of 27%. But minorities remained subject to disproportionate arrests, with Hispanics accounting for 42%, Blacks for 22%, and whites at 21%. The percentage of Black and Hispanic arrests "is troubling, especially now that we've legalized it," said Ellen Komp, deputy director of the California arm of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "It's legal if you have the venture capital to open up on Main Street." The number of felony arrests last year marked the lowest figure since 1954, NORML said.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Growers Sue to Keep Out Competition. Five companies with medical marijuana cultivation permits are suing to stop three more cultivation licenses from being issued. The growers argue that the new licenses issued in June violated state law because the law requires they only be issued if the original permit holders couldn't meet patient demand.

International

Argentina to Allow Home Cultivation, Pharmacy Sales for Medical Marijuana. The Health Ministry on Wednesday met with stakeholders Wednesday to finalize details on draft regulations for medical marijuana cultivation and sales. The draft regs will allow for home cultivation by patients and the sale of oils and topicals by local pharmacies. The regs also guarantee access to medical marijuana for all patients free of charge. The new regulations are aimed at addressing deficiencies in the country's 2017 law that legalized medical marijuana, but failed to adequately cover patient needs.

House Includes Marijuana Banking in COVID Bill, Mexico Soldiers to Stay on Streets, More... (5/12/20)

A Mexican cartel leader is struck down by the coronavirus, the House leadership is including help for state-legal marijuana businesses in the latest coronavirus relief bill, and more.

The House leadership has included relief for state-legal marijuana businesses in the new COVID bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House COVID Package Includes Cannabis Banking Relief, But Not Small Business Support. The House leadership has included banking relief for the state-legal marijuana industry in its latest coronavirus relief package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. It has done so by incorporating HR 1595, the SAFE Banking Act, within it. That bill amends federal law so that banks and other financial institutions may work directly with state-legal marijuana businesses. The House already approved the SAFE Banking Act back in September. Still, language to amend eligibility for Small Business Administration loans for small businesses was not included.

Maine's Long, Long Road to Legal Marijuana Sales. Nearly four years ago, the state approved a marijuana legalization initiative, but it has yet to see a legal marijuana retailer open. Then Tea Party Republican Gov. Paul LePage threw up obstacles until he left office, and nearly a year ago, the state adopted rules for adult-use marijuana businesses, and the hope was to launch retail this spring, but then coronavirus appeared. This is as the state is waiting for approval from state and local government, including Portland, the state's largest city. The city council there could vote on a local ordinance later this month, but the state says it still can't provide a timeline for the launch of legal sales. Any year now...

International

Mexican President Renews Orders Keeping Military on Streets to Curb Rising Violence. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has ordered the military to take on organized crime and violence for another four years, extending a policy he had previously criticized. He ordered the military to participate "in an extraordinary, regulated, and complementary manner with the National Guard" in public security tasks. Lopez Obrador won office in 2018 with a plan to reduce crime and violence by focusing on the root causes of crime, but the violence has only continued, with a record 35,000 people killed in 2019. "His security strategy is not working and that is why he has had to order with this decree for the Armed Forces to support public security," security specialist Juan Ibarrola told the Milenio newspaper.

Mexican Los Zetas Leader Killed by Coronavirus in Jalisco Prison. Moises Escamilla May, a Los Zetas leader imprisoned for beheading 12 people in Cancun has died of coronavirus at the Puente Grande Federal Prison in Jalisco. He was 45 years old. Security analysts have warned that the impact of the virus on the leadership of criminal organizations, which tend to be older males, could be destabilizing as more experienced leaders who have developed negotiating skills are killed off by the bug, only to be replaced by less experienced and more violent mid-level commanders.

With Psychedelic Legalization on the Horizon, How Should We Get There from Here? [FEATURE]

At this point, it's almost a commonplace to say that a psychedelic renaissance is underway. Microdosing has been a thing for years now, scientists around the world are reporting exciting spiritual and therapeutic research results, and venture capitalists are beginning to edge their way into what they hope is the next lucrative drug commodity market.

magic mushrooms (Creative Commons)
But also bubbling up is a social and political movement to free psychedelics (and their users) from the fetters of drug prohibition. Beginning with Denver, a handful of cities across the country have passed what are in effect municipal decriminalization ordinances, with the Decriminalize Nature campaign promoting similar efforts in dozens more.

This year, Oregon and the District of Columbia have psychedelic reform initiatives still in the signature-gathering phase. While hobbled by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, both could still make the ballot this year. (A similar campaign in California recently bit the dust, citing said pandemic.)

The late April Psychedelic Liberty Summit sponsored by the Chacruna Institute for Plant Medicines, was yet another manifestation of the rising interest in psychedelics. "We provide public education and cultural understanding about psychedelic plant medicines and promote a bridge between the ceremonial use of sacred plants and psychedelic science," the institute says in its mission statement. It envisions "a world where plant medicines and other psychedelics are preserved, protected, and valued as part of our cultural identity and integrated into our social, legal and health care systems."

Originally set for San Francisco, the two-day series of wide-ranging panels and presentations instead went virtual in the face of pandemic social distancing requirements. "Attendees" viewed remotely as panelists covered topics ranging from "Sacred Peyote Conservation" to "Psychedelic Medicalization: Unpacking the Landscape of Drug Development and Commercialization" to " How Can We Ensure Respectful, Safe, Ethical, Inclusive and Sustainable Sourcing for Psychedelic Plants and Materials?" and beyond.

Numerous panels were devoted to advancing the cause of ending psychedelic prohibition, and weighing heavily on those involved were questions about just how to proceed. Should reform initiatives target a single psychedelic, as the Oregon therapeutic psilocybin initiative does, should they target all psychedelics or only natural ones (sorry LSD and MDMA), or should the target be broader drug decriminalization?

Similarly, what role should private investment capital play? Are there lessons to be learned from the commodification of cannabis under state-level legalization? And just how should legal or decriminalized psychedelics be made available to the public? Attempts to answer these questions were a central theme of the summit, and what was clear was that although reform thinkers share a common general goal, there's a breadth of opinion about the details.

For Dale Gieringer, long-time head of California NORML and one of the authors of the groundbreaking 1996 Prop 215 campaign that legalized medical marijuana in the state with bare-bones language, psychedelics are a different ball game.

"I don't think marijuana and psychedelics should be legalized on the same model," said Gieringer. "Marijuana is pretty safe even for novices, but psychedelics need to be treated with more respect. This is not something that should just be sold over the counter to adults from the very get go; first time users should be informed of certain cautions, and we need a new paradigm for distributing psychedelics, maybe something more like drug user clubs, with nonprofit organizations -- not commercial operations -- in charge of manufacturing, distributing, and educating users on the use of psychedelic drugs, as well as being responsible for any harmful effects of the drugs."

Gieringer pointed back to Prop 215 and the reefer revolution it unleashed as he urged initiative campaigns to keep it simple.

"I advise the movement to be cautious about overprescribing elaborate regulatory regimes. We didn't do that with marijuana; we just had a set of principles that people shouldn't be arrested for using or cultivating for personal use. We did that deliberately; we knew it was going to be very complicated in a federal system and we left it to government to fill in the details," he said.

"Prop 215 was a very short initiative," Gieringer reminded. "The Oregon initiative has 71 pages and you still can't have psilocybin mushrooms in your house or use them outside one of these organizations that gets set up under the initiative."

That's the wrong approach, he suggested: "We should go back to a broad initiative that embraces the notion that people should be able to use psychedelics for spiritual, medical, and personal illumination in general, and leave it to the state and federal government to fill in the details."

And not just do it one hallucinogen at a time.

"We ought to approach this more broadly and not just do one drug at a time," he argued. "If we do psilocybin, what about peyote? What about ayahuasca? What about everything else? I favor a broader approach making psychedelics available to people want them on a private use basis. Let's think globally and act locally and wait for our eggs to hatch here. Let's go for simple initiatives that give people direct access to psychedelics."

Any such movement for psychedelic legalization or decriminalization -- as opposed to broader drug legalization or decriminalization -- will need to be self-generating and self-supporting, argued Sean McAllister, a Denver-based attorney who was chairman of the board for Sensible Colorado when that group led the nation's first successful marijuana legalization initiative in 2012 and a consultant for Decriminalize Denver, the group behind the city's 2019 psilocybin initiative.

"Unlike cannabis, psilocybin has only been used by an estimated two to five percent of the population, and only one tenth of one percent are current psychedelic users," he noted. "That's a much smaller pool, and any drug reform initiative requires the support of those who do not use. We're asking the majority to protect our rights, so we have to convince the majority our movement makes sense and won't endanger the public safety or health."

By including reporting requirements for psilocybin-related law enforcement encounters and other public safety and public health impacts via the mayor's psilocybin review panel, on which McAllister sits, the Denver initiative was helping lay the educational groundwork for doing that convincing, he argued.

"We'll write a report at the end of the year assessing the impacts of the initiative, but really nothing has changed," McAllister reported. "Law enforcement was concerned people would be dealing psilocybin on the streets and getting high on the streets, but our community is pretty self-regulating. There's been no explosion or public health or public safety problems. We hope that our report will be of great value to other cities looking to decriminalize psilocybin and to the movement as we attempt to change laws across the country."

But that movement won't be able to count on the largesse of traditional drug reform funders, McAllister warned, noting that statewide initiative campaigns cost millions of dollars.

"There is just not that much interest in psychedelics only," he said. "The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) believes in legalizing all drugs; it doesn't believe in drug exceptionalism. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is primarily focused on MDMA and PTSD. We don't have tens or hundreds of thousands of people in prison, so we don't have the same social justice issues around psychedelics. The ACLU isn't going to lead our movement. We have to step up and build our own organizations and come together as a movement."

"There are a lot of benefits to decriminalizing psychedelics that we need to study further, and it's fascinating to see all these movements for decriminalization popping up around the country, but at the same time I'm ambivalent about it because there's also simultaneously a movement to just decriminalize all drugs," said Jag Davies, who has long stints as a communications specialist for the DPA and MAPS under his belt.

"And I don't think drug decriminalization is as big a deal and as revolutionary as it's made out to be," Davies continued. "Right now, we have a national poll showing 55 percent support for decriminalizing all drugs."

Even though the argument that "marijuana is safer" was used to great benefit in the Colorado marijuana legalization campaign, Davies warned of its hazards.

"One of the mistakes made with marijuana reform messaging is framing it as a safe or safer drug," he argued. "All drugs are the same in that criminalization isn't an effective policy and is counterproductive to public health, but at the same time there will be some difference in how we think about policies. We need to think about who is benefitting and who is left behind. The benefits of decriminalizing more dangerous drugs are much greater," he added, pointing out that the other Oregon initiative would do just that.

In any case, psychedelic warriors should be part of a greater effort, Davies said.

"Drug decriminalization is perhaps a more effective strategy to reduce the harm in the long term," he said. "Even if you're a psychedelic exceptionalist, it's beneficial to join forces with the broader drug reform movement and the criminal justice movements and get the buy-in from those communities before you make your move."

David Bronner, the Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner's natural soaps, straddles both worlds. He has long supported broad drug reform efforts and this year is putting a million dollars into the Oregon therapeutic psilocybin initiative.

"Having a well-structured therapeutic model makes it accessible to the average person who is not familiar with psychedelics," Bronner said. "The Oregon model is very much about accessing therapy and likewise making sure there is only minimal taxation -- enough to cover the cost of the program -- but keeping it limited in size and scope, so you can make a good livelihood but not have a hundred chain clinics."

"These are preventative measures so we don't see what happened with cannabis and with there being some kind of controls," he added. "The polling says people aren't familiar with mushrooms and want to see strict controls on access, that it can't be accessed outside the therapeutic model."

What Bronner was alluding to -- the undesirability of turning something ineffable like marijuana or psychedelics into just another capitalist commodity -- Steve DeAngelo addressed head on. And he's particularly well-positioned to: A long-time marijuana movement activist, he founded one of the first dispensaries in the nation, Harborside in Oakland, but also the Arcview Group, the first dedicated marijuana investment network, creating a Faustian bargain with profit-seeking capital.

"With Arcview, we hit on the energy of free enterprise to power the social change we wanted, and a lot of the progress we made is because we did invite the investor class in, but it came at a cost, a significant cost," he said. "Prior to Arcview inviting the investor class in, the movement was driven by people who loved cannabis, but we attracted a lot of people whose motivation was not love of cannabis but love of making money."

"I expected the energy to come but was a little taken aback at the urgency and ferocity of it," DeAngelo continued. "Cannabis lovers took investment money and then ceded control to investors. I saw a lot of people who had spent their lives representing the plant start to lose power, their livelihoods, and their influence over how to explain cannabis to the rest of the world. I fear we could see a lot of the same thing with psychedelics. If that happens, the way these substances are taught to the world is going to change. We could see a model for psychedelics more geared to return for investors than toward a meaningful experience for an individual or for positive social change."

"Psychedelics have always been part of my path and one lesson I learned is that intention drives result," DeAngelo said. The consciousness with which we approach something will have a profound influence on what happens. On a psychic level, on a cosmic level, a different vibration is created when psychedelics are evangelized for the aim of making more money than with a motive of love and sharing and bringing about social change. I'm much more comfortable with a message from people who love psychedelics than people who love money."

And so it goes as the nascent psychedelic liberation movement emerges. There is great debate over tactics and strategies, but a commonality of purpose linked to human liberation and social justice. The path forward is uncertain, but it is one we will make as we walk it.

US Virgin Islands Governor Urges Passage of Legalization Bill, Call for Pandemic Relief for Marijuana Businesses, More... (4/28/20)

The clamor grows for including state-legal marijuana businesses in coronavirus pandemic in federal economic relief packages, Arkansas medical marijuana patients are heading to Oklahoma for cheaper prices and easier access, and more.

Will state-legal marijuana businesses ever get any coronavirus pandemic relief money? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

US Virgin Islands Governor Revises Marijuana Legalization Bill, Urges Quick Passage. Territorial Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D) is pushing the legislature to move quickly to approve a revised marijuana legalization bill, saying the action could help generate needed tax revenues from marijuana sales during the coronavirus pandemic. "We have taken the time to gather further public input as well as address the concerns of the individual legislators," the governor said during a COVID-19 update on Monday. As the economic disaster, the last few weeks has affected the [Government Employees Retirement System] greatly, it is our hope that we can have a greater sense of exigency in implementing all the things that can help us regain solvency."

Marijuana Associations and Credit Unions Call for Federal Coronavirus Relief for Marijuana Businesses. Some 30 marijuana trade organizations and credit unions sent a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday urging them to work to provide marijuana businesses with access to federal relief funds related to the coronavirus pandemic. Because marijuana remains federally illegal, such businesses are specifically excluded from relief program under already approved relief packages. The coalition argues that Congress should either issue pandemic relief block grants for the states to decide on their own how to allocate funds or change current relief aid eligibility requirements to allow marijuana businesses access to those funds.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Patients Cross into Oklahoma for Cheaper, More Accessible Medicine. Medical marijuana patients in the state are heading across the state line to Oklahoma to get their medicine, according to local media reports. They can buy equivalent products for half the cost in Oklahoma, and that state does not have a limited list of qualifying conditions. Instead, it only requires a doctor's recommendation.

Michigan Supreme Court Says Medical Marijuana Law Does Not Overrule Local Zoning Ordinances. Breaking with previous Court of Appeals ruling, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state's medical marijuana law doesn't override local zoning ordinances. The township of Byron had barred registered caregivers from growing on a commercial property, and the high court upheld its ability to do so.

Chronicle AM: NM Governor Says Legalize This Year, KY Justice Reform Push, More... (1/16/20)

New Mexico could legalize marijuana next month, Virginia activists says marijuana decriminalization is not enough, Kentucky prepares to go to work on criminal justice reforms, and more.

The Virginia state capitol in Richmond. Activists and legislators are jousting over marijuana reforms. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Bill to Protect Marijuana Financial Services Providers Advances. The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions unanimously approved Assembly Bill 1525 on Tuesday. The measure would protect financial institutions and accountants serving the legal marijuana industry by clarifying that they aren't committing crimes under state law. The measure now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

New Mexico Governor Calls for Marijuana Legalization In 2020. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has made marijuana legalization part of her formal agenda for the year. In the agenda she sent to legislators Wednesday, she said she wants a bill "legalizing the use of recreational cannabis in New Mexico and establishing a regulatory framework for its use, including public safety considerations, public health safeguards, and the protection of the state's existing medical cannabis program." A similar effort came up short in the legislature last year, and Grisham created a working group to come up with recommendations in the interim. The legislature comes back for a 30-day session next week, so if all goes well, the state could be the next to free the weed.

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances, Even as Protestors Demand More. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday sent a marijuana decriminalization bill, Senate Bill 2, to a subcommittee to be amended and then returned to Judiciary for further consideration. But the action came amid protests led by the state ACLU, which is calling for full legalization, and says decrim alone doesn't do enough to protect the state's minority communities.

Asset Forfeiture

Kentucky Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. Rep. Reginald Meeks (D-Louisville) has filed House Bill 250, which would require law enforcement agencies to reveal more details about cash and property seized through asset forfeiture or face financial penalties. The bill does not seek to end civil asset forfeiture but would impose stiffer reporting requirements than currently exist. Under current law, agencies are required to make annual reports on asset forfeitures, but only 11% have actually done so.

Criminal Justice

Kentucky Governor and Legislators Make Criminal Justice Reform a Priority. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and the legislature have committed to advancing criminal justice reform this year and have several proposals for reducing the state's prison population to consider. Among them: defelonization of simple drug possession, increasing the threshold for moving a theft from a misdemeanor to a felony from $300 to $500, and probation and parole reform.

Chronicle AM: Lawrence, KS Ends Marijuana Prosecutions, El Chapo's Gunmen Free His Son in Firefight, More... (10/18/19)

The head of the Senate Banking Committee wants some changes made to the SAFE Banking Act, Kansas' Douglas County ends marijuana prosecutions, the Sinaloa Cartel battles Mexican soldiers and police to free El Chapo's son, and more.

The Mexican police and military were no match for the Sinaloa Cartel in Culicacan on Thursday. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Key GOP Senate Chairman Outlines Changes He Wants for Marijuana Banking Bill. Sen Mike Crapo (R-ID), head of the Senate Banking Committee, wants to see some changes in the SAFE Banking Act passed last month by the House. "The things we're looking at are, first of all, to make sure we improve and clarify the interstate banking application of all of this," Crapo said. "Secondly, money laundering issues with regard to legacy cash to make sure how that is managed properly. [Financial Crimes Enforcement Network] issues and other related issues. And then finally the health and safety issues about what is going to be banked."

Florida Marijuana Legalization Would Create 100,000 Jobs, Report Finds. A study from New Frontier Data finds that legalization would be a job booster for the state, creating more than 100,000 jobs by 2025. "Assuming full federal legalization, New Frontier Data estimates cannabis jobs could reach 128,587 by 2025," says John Kagia, chief knowledge officer at the DC-based research group. That's up dramatically from the state's current number of cannabis jobs, which Kagia says is at 16,792.

Kansas County Home to University of Kansas Ends Marijuana Possession Prosecutions. Douglas County, with a county seat of Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas, will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases, District Attorney Charles Branson said Thursday. Branson cited changing attitudes, law enforcement priorities, and noted that pot prosecutions have "a disproportional impact upon people of color and the poor." The decision takes effect immediately.

Drug Testing

Louisiana Supreme Court Rules Unconfirmed Drug Test Can't Be Used to Deny Workers' Comp Claim. The state's highest court has ruled that an unconfirmed or unverified drug test is not sufficient to prove intoxication or fraud as a means of denying workers' compensation claims for injured workers. The court noted that state law requires verification or confirmation of any testing before disqualifying any claims.

International

Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel "Unarrests" El Chapo's Son as Security Forces Retreat. Mexican security forces captured one of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's sons in the cartel heartland city of Culiacan on Thursday, but were forced to release him after cartel gunmen surrounded the house where he was being held, triggered gun battles with authorities, and organized a prison break. Police said Ovidio Guzman was one of four people in a house where militarized police came under attack, but when they arrested him, cartel gunmen quickly outmatched them, and Guzman was released to prevent lives being lost, security officials said. As Guzman was being held, fighters emerged throughout the city, fighting police and soldiers in broad daylight, used burning buses as barricades, and left at least one gas station ablaze. At least two people were killed, though some reports mentioned seeing three bodies at one location.

Chronicle AM: MA Will Get Cannabis Cafes, Australia's Capital City Legalizes Weed, More... (9/25/19)

Massachusetts regulators approve cannabis cafes and home delivery, a key congressman pledges continuing support for broad marijuana reforms, Australia's capital city legalizes pot possession, and more.

Cannabis cafes are coming to Boston. (RegulateMass)
Marijuana Policy

Judiciary Committee Chairman Pledges Broader Marijuana Reform After Banking Vote. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that a vote set for Wednesday on the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1595) would only be the first step in a broader push toward marijuana policy reform. "The House is expected to consider the SAFE Banking Act on the floor tomorrow and I will vote for it," Nadler said. "This bill will address one of the many serious problems that results from the criminalization of marijuana at the federal level. "As the sponsor of the MORE Act (HR 3884), I also strongly support additional marijuana reform -- to deschedule marijuana federally and to provide critical assistance and relief to individuals and communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the racially biased war on drugs," Nadler said. "I am therefore committed to marking up this bill and look forward to working with reform advocates and my colleagues in this important effort going forward." The statement comes amid division among reform advocates over whether to seek broader reforms before passing the SAFE Act.

Arizona Legalization Initiative Gets Updated, Begins Signature Gathering. The Smart and Safe Arizona Act marijuana legalization initiative has been amended to allow more people to expunge past pot convictions and to allow for 26 retail licenses to be issued to "individuals from communities disproportionately impacted" by marijuana prohibition. Now, signature gathering gets underway. Organizers have one year to come up with some 237,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Massachusetts Regulators Approve Cannabis Cafes, Home Delivery. The state Cannabis Control Commission on Tuesday voted to approve regulations that will allow for cannabis cafes where people can eat, vape, or smoke marijuana legally and for marijuana home delivery services. "We feel like we have got a good balance between trying to meet the will of the voters but recognizing that there are concerns from a public health and a public safety standpoint," said Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman. Both new types of licenses will be reserved for the first two years for social equity and economic empowerment applicants, which are categories of businesses owned by minorities, people with drug convictions and people who have lived and worked in communities disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition.

New York Governor Seeks Cooperation with Neighboring States on Vaping and Marijuana Legalization.Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Tuesday he will travel to Connecticut and New Jersey to try to create regional coordination on marijuana legalization. "For one state to do it, it makes no sense if the neighboring state has a different policy because then you just incentivize people to drive over the border and buy it there," he said. "When you start to discuss how to legalize marijuana it moves into the vaping space because a lot of the marijuana products can be vaped" Cuomo said. "When you start saying I want to outlaw flavored cigarettes well how about gummy bear marijuana products?"

International

Australian Capital City Legalizes Marijuana. Canberra, the national capital, has become the first ciaty in Australia to legalize marijuana. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory voted Tuesday to approve a bill allowing people 18 and over to possess and grow marijuana for personal use. The new law will go into effect on January 31, 2020. People will be able to legally possess up to 50 grams (just under two ounces) and grow up to two plants per person, or four per household. The new law, however, conflicts with national marijuana prohibition laws and could be overridden.

Canada's Trudeau Says Liberals Not Looking to Decriminalize Drugs. As he campaigns to keep his job, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the Liberal Party is not going to decriminalize drugs. "We're not looking at full decriminalization at all right now," Trudeau said. "There are other things that we are doing that (are) having a big impact and we're going to make decisions based on science," Trudeau said, pointing to the Liberal government's actions on safe injection sites and other harm reduction methods. Trudeau's stance contrasts with that of the national Liberal caucus, which approved a resolution last year to "re-classify low-level drug possession and consumption as administrative violations" rather than criminal ones.

Chronicle AM: House MJ Banking Bill Vote Next Week, Guatemala Now a Cocaine Producer, More... (9/20/19)

The House prepares to vote on a marijuana banking bill, New Hampshire lawmakers override a veto to ensure patients can grow their own, Guatemala concedes it is now a cocaine-producing nation, and more.

Cocaine -- it's not just from South America anymore. (US CBP)
Marijuana Policy

House Will Vote on Marijuana Banking Bill Next Week. The House leadership confirmed Friday that the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (HR 1595) will get a House floor vote next week. The move comes with support from financial institutions, but over the objections of advocacy groups who want to see broader marijuana reforms advance before those catering to the industry alone.

Senate Funding Bill Would Again Block DC Marijuana Legalization. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Financial Services and General Government funding bill for FY 2020 and again included a provision that blocks Washington, DC, from using its own money to implement a legal marijuana sales regime.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Legislature Overrides Veto on Patient Home Grows. The state Senate joined the House Thursday in overriding Gov. Chris Sununu's (R) veto of HB 364, which would allow qualified patients to grow up to three mature plants and 12 seedlings.

Wisconsin Lawmakers Announce Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Bill. Sens. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) have announced a bipartisan bill to introduce legalized medical cannabis in Wisconsin. The bill "recognizes that people should not have to engage in a criminal act to access medicine for debilitating conditions," they said.

International

Guatemala Joins Ranks of Cocaine Producers. Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart conceded Thursday that the country is now a full-fledged cocaine producer after security forces there uncovered several coca plantations and processing laboratories. Guatemala has long been a major transit country for cocaine, and traffickers have exercised influence over political parties and in some cases territorial control. The country has made little progress fighting the drug war. "Following the discovery of these narco-laboratories and the different fields with the coca plants, Guatemala now becomes a cocaine producer and that puts Guatemala in a totally different situation with respect to regional security," Degenhart said.

Chronicle AM: Coalition Urges Delay in House Pot Banking Vote, Chicago Mayor: No Pot Shops Downtown, More... (9/18/19)

Civil rights and drug policy groups fearing a loss of momentum in ending federal pot prohibition are urging a delay in a marijuana banking bill vote, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot doesn't want pot shops downtown, and more.

Should Congress move on marijuana banking or end federal prohibition first? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Civil Rights Groups Urge Congress to Delay Marijuana Banking Vote. A broad coalition of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and Drug Policy Alliance is calling on Democratic congressional Democratic leaders to postpone a planned vote on a marijuana banking bill next week until farther-reaching legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition advances first. "We are concerned that if the House approves this bill, it will undermine broader and more inclusive efforts to reform our country's marijuana laws," the groups wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) in a letter on Tuesday.

Chicago Mayor Wants No Pot Shops Downtown. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) rolled out a proposal Tuesday for how legal marijuana would work in the city. Under her plan, use of marijuana would be banned in public places and no pot shops would be allowed to operate in the Central Business District. That's generating some pushback from some city council members. The proposal would also prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana within 500 feet of schools and within 1,500 feet of other dispensaries. A vote on the proposal is expected next month.

International

Colombia Bill to Legalize, Regulate Marijuana Filed. Leftist opposition Sen. Gustavo Bolivar has filed a bill to legalize and regulate the production and consumption of marijuana. The bill is part of a package of drug policy bills aimed at ending the repressive policies of President Ivan Duque. The bill is reportedly backed by former President Juan Manuel Santos, but it is the votes of the Liberal Party that will determine whether the bill advances.

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