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TX gov backs cannabis decrim (Newsletter: January 12, 2022)

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KY medical cannabis bill filed; MS senator brings hemp to marijuana meeting with gov; CA spends $100M on marijuana cannabis grants for cities

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW



Anti-drug Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) has been helping an Iowa church that wants to incorporate the psychedelic brew ayahuasca into its ceremonies—the Iowaska Church of Healing—with legal fights against the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.



A Kentucky Republican representative filed a medical marijuana bill that’s been revised from past versions in an attempt to win support—or at least remove hostile opposition—from legislative leaders so that it can pass this year.



A Mississippi senator brought hemp to a meeting with Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to help assuage the governor’s concerns about medical marijuana possession limits.

  • “I took samples to show him what an ounce actually looks like—what 3.5 grams actually looks like.”

California regulators awarded $100 million in funding to help local governments develop the legal marijuana market by processing business licenses.



/ FEDERAL



A federal judge dismissed a Washington State marijuana dispensary’s racial discrimination lawsuit against state and federal officials.



Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) criticized Democratic leaders for not advancing cannabis reform legislation.



Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) authored a Wall Street Journal letter to the editor about her marijuana legalization bill.



Florida Democratic Senate candidate Allen Ellison tweeted, “Not only should we legalize cannabis across the country, we should tax the sale of it and pay for higher education.”



Kentucky Democratic congressional candidate William Compton tweeted, “Along with the revenue we can generate by legalizing Marijuana, we should not have someone go to jail for Marijuana. In congress, I will fight to legalize Marijuana nationwide.”



/ STATES



Rhode Island’s House speaker said a new marijuana legalization bill should be released in the next 30-45 days.



New Jersey’s Senate president said he doesn’t think home cultivation of marijuana will be legalized “any time soon.”



South Carolina’s Senate majority leader indicated a medical cannabis bill will be considered soon, saying, “I don’t know where the votes will be, but we all agree it’s time to have a debate and move on.” And another senator said he expects the legislation to be one of the first brought up in the new session.



The Wisconsin House State Affairs Committee approved a kratom regulation bill.



Mississippi lawmakers are expected to consider a medical cannabis bill this week. One senator wants pharmacists to be involved in distributing marijuana.



The Virginia legislature’s Cannabis Oversight Commission will meet on Monday.



Kansas House Democrats tweeted, “House Democrats want Kansans like YOU to decide if Kansas should expand Medicaid and legalize marijuana. Contact your #ksleg-legislator TODAY and tell them you want to vote on issues that affect your life and your health.”



A Florida senator filed a marijuana legalization bill and companion tax legislation.



An Indiana representative filed a medical cannabis bill.



A Maryland senator tweeted, “Legalizing marijuana is not about easing access to personal indulgence, it’s about creating equality.”



The Illinois Supreme Court is being asked by a marijuana business to let regulators name the winners of new craft grower licenses.



New York regulators filed proposed cannabinoid hemp rules. Separately, the Department of Agriculture and Markets is seeking certified hemp sampling agents.



The Utah Peace Officer Standards & Training Council voted to make it so cadets applying to be emergency dispatchers will not have to undergo a waiting period if they’ve used marijuana in a place where it’s legal.



Ohio regulators received nine petitions to add new medical cannabis qualifying conditions.



Oregon regulators are conducting a survey on interest in accessing psilocybin services and related issues.



Vermont regulators will consider marijuana issues on Monday.



The Washington State Cannabis Science Task Force will meet on Monday.





Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 900 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.



Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.


/ LOCAL



The Kent, Ohio City Council is moving to place a marijuana decriminalization measure on the November ballot.



Long Beach, California’s mayor tweeted, “In Long Beach we legalized cannabis before the state. We created a regulatory framework and taxed products and production. It’s time to legalize weed across the country.”



Oakland, California officials will discuss loan and grant programs for cannabis equity businesses on Tuesday.



/ INTERNATIONAL



Appointments for first-dose COVID vaccinations in Quebec, Canada spiked after the government announced the shots would be required to enter marijuana dispensaries and liquor stores.



The Australian government is funding clinical trials on psilocybin, CBD, DMT and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat debilitating mental illness.



/ SCIENCE & HEALTH



A study found that “t​​wo years after legalization in Canada, the price of dried flower from legal sources decreased, along with a greater percentage of consumers purchasing from legal sources than after one year.”



A study suggested that “MDMA/ecstasy and psilocybin use is associated with lower risk of depression.”



/ ADVOCACY, OPINION & ANALYSIS



The American Medical Association said expanding medical marijuana research will be a topic of discussion at its conference next month.



The Kentucky Democratic Party tweeted, “Democrats are heading to work every day this session committed to fighting for you. Health care, voting rights, universal pre-K, medical marijuana and much more: @GovAndyBeshear, @KYSenateDems and @KYHouseDems are prioritizing the issues Kentuckians care about.”



/ BUSINESS



Columbia Care Inc. is commencing a solicitation of consents from noteholders.



Ayr Wellness sent an update on its stock repurchase program.



Swade Cannabis workers in St Louis, Missouri are seeking to organize a union.



/ CULTURE



Filmmaker Kevin Smith posted about running into his daughter at a marijuana dispensary.

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South Dakota Governor Demands Cannabis Advocates Cover Legal Costs

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Not content with triumphing in court, conservative South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem wants cannabis advocates to pick up the tab, too. 

A spokesperson for Noem said last week that organizers behind the nullified amendment to legalize cannabis in the Mount Rushmore State should have to cover the expenses stemming from the governor’s own legal challenge against the law.

In 2020, 54 percent of voters in South Dakota approved Amendment A, which would have legalized cannabis for adults ages 21 and older. However, things got very complicated very quickly. 

Noem was a vocal opponent of the amendment throughout the campaign and maintained her objections even after its passage. 

Two law enforcement officials brought a lawsuit on Noem’s behalf, challenging the constitutionality of Amendment A. In February of last year, a circuit court judge in South Dakota agreed, striking down the amendment.

The state Supreme Court took up the case in April and, in late November, upheld the lower court’s ruling, saying that Amendment A, which dealt with both medicinal and recreational pot, violated South Dakota’s “one subject” requirement for constitutional amendments.

Noem, widely seen as a potential 2022 Republican presidential contender, celebrated the ruling.

“South Dakota is a place where the rule of law and our Constitution matter, and that’s what today’s decision is about,” the governor said in a statement at the time. “We do things right—and how we do things matters just as much as what we are doing. We are still governed by the rule of law. This decision does not affect my Administration’s implementation of the medical cannabis program voters approved in 2020. That program was launched earlier this month, and the first cards have already gone out to eligible South Dakotans.” 

A poll last month found that more than 50 percent of South Dakotans disapprove of Noem’s handling, the only policy area in which she received low marks. (The same poll found that her overall approval rating stands at 61 percent.)

An attorneys group in Sioux Falls, South Dakota “received $142,000 in December for successfully arguing that Amendment A violated the state Constitution,” according to the Argus Leader newspaper.

Ian Fury, a spokesman for Noem’s office, said that expense should be paid by the individuals who brought Amendment A to the ballot.

“The proponents of Amendment A submitted an unconstitutional amendment and should reimburse South Dakota taxpayers for the costs associated with their drafting errors,” Fury told the Argus Leader.

The group behind the amendment, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, said simply, “That will not happen.”

“South Dakota cannabis reform advocates have no obligation to pay for Governor Noem’s political crusade to overturn the will of the people. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous,” said Matthew Schweich, the campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws. 

“Amendment A was a sensible and well-drafted initiative approved by a majority of South Dakota voters at the ballot box, and it was only repealed due to a deeply flawed court ruling that relied on a far-fetched legal theory lacking evidentiary support. Driven by her desire to deprive South Dakotans of personal freedom on cannabis, Governor Noem went out of her way to create an unnecessary legal battle over Amendment A and used taxpayer money to do it. As a result of her actions, South Dakotans paid to have their own votes reversed.”

South Dakota voters approved a separate measure at the ballot in 2020 that specifically legalized medical cannabis and, in November, qualifying patients there began applying for cards.

Meanwhile, lawmakers there have prepared dozens of bills aimed at reforming the state’s marijuana laws during this year’s legislative session.

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Organization Launches NFT Collaboration for Cannabis Industry Reform

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Non-fungible tokens (NFT) take the stage again, this time with a cannabis-related collaboration featuring unique music and art.

Burn1, a blockchain company that provides “financial rocket fuel for cannabis reform” announced its partnership with both The Black Comics Collective and The Weldon Project on January 19 to create an NFT project aimed at collecting funds for cannabis.

The NFT project will raise funds both for reform and advocacy efforts through original art created by artist John Jennings, as well as an unreleased songs written by Snoop Dogg. The 4,200-piece Semi-Generative NFT collection is set to launch on February 5.

One of the project’s inclusions is an unreleased musical track called “Smokin’,” which is produced by Weldon Angelos, who was an up-and-coming hip-hop record label owner prior to spending 13 years in prison for selling less than $1,000 in cannabis. Since being pardoned, he’s worked to create The Weldon Project to bring awareness to the need for justice in the cannabis industry. “I began The Weldon Project and launched the MISSION [GREEN] initiative to raise the bar for awareness, social justice, and social equity around cannabis and provide relief to those who have been negatively impacted by unjust drug laws. This NFT project with the Black Comics Collective and Burn1 is exciting because it allows me to further our mission while creating an exciting new blend of art, music, and activism,” Angelos said.

Burn1 is working to connect the cannabis industry with blockchain technology. Three percent of every transaction is donated to those affected by cannabis-related issues. Burn1 Co-founder, Louis Hall, is proud of the partnership with Angelos and the work he’s accomplished in the industry.

“Our hope at Burn1 is that this project will not only raise money for cannabis reform and justice, but also bring as much attention as possible to Weldon’s work,” said Hall in a press release. “It is humbling to work on this NFT project with two giants in their fields. Weldon is a force for change—from influencing federal legislation to supporting people both in and out of the prison system. John, as a visual storyteller, will capture the hope that those affected by this country’s racist drug laws can rise again and build something better. His stunning and progressive style will no doubt give a fierce edge to this project.”

Jennings is a New York Times best-selling artist, as well as publisher of Megascope and a Professor of Media Studies at the University of California, Riverside. “It’s such an honor to have my work associated with this cause and also with such an amazingly gifted collection of cultural activists and creators,” said Jennings. “We are in a renaissance regarding the fusion of art and technology.”

According to Burn1’s “tokenomics” data on the company’s website that is updated daily, the company is eight months old, has 8,300 “Burn1holders” and has so far donated $19,000 to charity efforts. The aforementioned three percent “charity wallet” denotes Burn1’s donations to cannabis communities is the highest percentage of service fees. “Being able to dedicate a considerable amount of our trading volume towards real, impactful charities is what will help us to make a significant difference,” Burn1 describes on its website. “We’re in the process of partnering with several charities and will keep the Burn1 community in the loop to know exactly where it’s going.” This is followed by two percent spent on marketing, reflection and liquidity, and one percent on the “community wallet” and Burn itself.

In the near future, Burn1 plans to present four more NFT artworks by Jennings that will be released between now and at the end of Spring 2022.

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Missouri Lawmaker Files Bill To Decriminalize Low-Level Drug Possession

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Thursday marks the end of President Joe Biden’s first year in office—and, by and large, his campaign promises on marijuana policy have so far gone unfilled. And while certain federal agencies have taken some positive reform steps, the administration managed to stir controversy over some outwardly hostile actions with respect to cannabis policy.

Contrary to Biden’s campaign pledges, cannabis has not been federally decriminalized, people remain in federal prison over non-violent marijuana offenses and the plant has yet to be rescheduled under the Controlled Substances Act. Of the cannabis promises that Biden made while running for president, just one has been met so far: the government has continued to let states implement marijuana reform mostly without federal intervention, though ongoing lack of clarity from the administration has caused continuing complications for the industry and consumers.

In one of the more notable positive developments to come out of the Oval Office, however, Biden did sign an infrastructure bill last year that contains language meant to help promote marijuana research.

While there were numerous successes on the reform front in 2021 those mostly came at the state level, and advocates feel disappointed by the overall White House inaction—especially considering that it was promised to voters ahead of the 2020 election.

It’s not just that there were no meaningful reform actions in Biden’s first year, either. It’s that some of the few actions he did take on marijuana—proposing in his budget to keep blocking Washington, D.C. from legalizing cannabis sales and punishing White House staff who were honest about past marijuana use—were setbacks in the movement.

Biden himself hasn’t made a substantive public comment about cannabis policy since entering the Oval Office, beside making a quick, dismissive comment to a reporter who asked about clemency for current prisoners. Vice President Kamala Harris, for her part, said last year that the Biden administration isn’t focused on following through on its marijuana reform pledges because it’s too overwhelmed with responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Biden Administration’s failure to live up to campaign statements and, in the case of including a rider preventing D.C. from regulating cannabis in his budget proposal, even backsliding on cannabis is extremely disappointing,” Morgan Fox, the newly installed political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “This inaction on modest cannabis policy reforms over the past year is inexcusable and is a betrayal of the people that put the president in office.”

“The president has an opportunity with cannabis to show initiative and leadership on an issue that enjoys broad bipartisan support,” he said. “Continued inaction on this issue will have negative consequences for his party this year and in 2024.”

Here’s a rundown of what has happened with marijuana and broader drug policy under the Biden administration in its first year: 

Promise Made, Promises Not Kept

When he was running for president, Biden frustrated advocates by declining to embrace broad marijuana legalization like most of his Democratic primary opponents did at the time. But they were at least encouraged that he voiced support for more modest reforms like federal decriminalization, legalizing medical cannabis, rescheduling and expungements.

“We should decriminalize marijuana,” he said during a town hall event in October 2020, adding, “I don’t believe anybody should be going to jail for drug use.”

He reiterated the pledge in numerous interviews, debates and tweets, as well as in a campaign ad.

But despite having the authority to unilaterally issue a mass pardon for people with federal cannabis convictions—as advocates and lawmakers have repeatedly pressed him to do—Biden has only ceremonially pardoned turkeys around Thanksgiving since taking office.

Following that ceremony, The New York Post’s Steven Nelson pressed the president on cannabis clemency, asking him if there were plans to pardon “any people in addition to turkeys.” Biden jokingly replied, “you need a pardon?” and didn’t respond to a follow-up question about marijuana prisoners.

The White House has been asked about the issue several times now, but while Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently said that the president has “every intention of using his clemency power” and is “looking at” relief for non-violent drug offenders, no meaningful action has been taken.

While on the campaign trail, Biden also came out in favor of moving marijuana from Schedule I to II under the federal Controlled Substances Act—an incremental move that wouldn’t legalize the plant but could make it easier for researchers to study its risks and benefits.

Psaki said in April that Biden’s clemency promise for people with federal marijuana convictions and said that process would start with modestly rescheduling cannabis. But even if rescheduling could help people with cannabis records (experts say it would not), the administration has so far taken no real steps to accomplish that reform.

While experts say it may not be possible for a president to unilaterally remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, he could encourage agencies like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice Department to initiate the rescheduling process.

The lack of clemency action is especially disappointing to advocates who have been lobbying the White House to do something on this issue.

Biden has received about a dozen letters from lawmakers, advocates, celebrities and people impacted by criminalization to do something about the people who remain behind federal bars over cannabis. After months of inaction, some members of Congress like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have even sent follow-up letters demanding a response.

A recently published Congressional Research Service (CRS) report affirmed that the president has it within his power to grant mass pardons for cannabis offenses. It also said that the administration can move to federally legalize cannabis without waiting for lawmakers to act.

To his credit, Biden has so far kept his campaign pledge to continue to let states legalize and regulate marijuana without federal intervention. But advocates had hoped that he would at least push for the reinstatement of Obama-era Justice Department guidance to prosecutors that generally urged them not to interfere with state laws but which President Donald Trump’s first attorney general rescinded.

Without that guidance or any other concrete reform steps, banking challenges and risks remain in the cannabis industry, marijuana businesses are unable to receive tax credits like other legal industries and other hardships resulting from the federal-state policy conflict remain intact for consumers and patients. In effect, Biden has maintained the status quo of uncertainty that has been in place during the Trump administration and last half of the Obama administration.

Reform Setbacks

Early in 2021, the Biden administration came under fire after it was reported that it had terminated or otherwise punished dozens of staffers who admitted to prior marijuana use as part of their background check process.

Psaki previously attempted to minimize the fallout, without much success, and her office also stressed that nobody was fired for “marijuana usage from years ago,” nor has anyone been terminated “due to casual or infrequent use during the prior 12 months.”  However, she’s consistently declined to speak to the extent to which staff have been suspended or placed in a remote work program because they were honest about their history with marijuana on the federal background check form.

As part of his fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, Biden included a rider that would continue to block Washington, D.C. from using its own tax dollars to legalize adult-use marijuana sales, declining to recommend that existing language barring such activity be eliminated. Democratic lawmakers have moved forward with removing that rider anyways

After receiving a letter from a congresswoman concerning executive discretion for cannabis consumers, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said it is required to continue denying federally assisted housing to people who use marijuana, even if they’re acting in compliance with state law.

The federal government has generally taken a hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement in states that have chosen to legalize the plant, but it was reported late last year that a federal agency raided a small, home cannabis garden of a medical cannabis patient living on Indian territory in New Mexico. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) raid occurred in September.

Biden’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said last year that it continues to oppose a bill that would require it to conduct clinical trials into the therapeutic potential of marijuana for military veterans. A House committee advanced the legislation in any case. A VA representative told lawmakers that the department is “already dedicating resources and research expertise to study the effects of cannabis on conditions affecting veterans.”

“President Biden has made little progress in supporting drug reform laws at the federal level and in some instances, has even taken us further back,” Maritza Perez, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment.

On broader drug issues, she added that the administration backed a broad scheduling policy for fentanyl-related substances that “will have a devastating impact on the criminal legal system and set a horrific precedent for drug scheduling moving forward.”

“Moreover, President Biden has failed to embrace marijuana legalization even though he claims to support decriminalization of the substance,” Perez said. “As long as marijuana remains on the CSA, people will continue to be policed, arrested, and imprisoned for marijuana activity. This is deeply problematic particularly because this president made bold promises around criminal justice reform and racial justice for which he has not delivered.”

Federal Actions On Marijuana

There were some positive developments in drug policy reform that came out of federal agencies and the White House last year.

Biden signed a massive infrastructure bill in November that includes provisions aimed at allowing researchers to study the actual marijuana that consumers are purchasing from state-legal dispensaries instead of having to use only government-grown cannabis. The legislation also encourages states that have enacted legalization laws to educate people about impaired driving.

In his 2022 budget, Biden proposed continuing a spending bill provision that’s been annually renewed by Congress since 2014 to prevent the use of Justice Department funds to interfere in state medical cannabis programs. That was the first time a president has moved to keep that rider.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under Biden has also moved on several occasions to greatly increase legal production quotas for illegal Schedule I drugs like psilocybin, MDMA and DMT.

And several years after first announcing that it would take steps to break the federal marijuana manufacturing monopoly for research, it has finally issued new licenses outside of the University of Mississippi.

Meanwhile, DEA has given hemp businesses that sell delta-8 THC products a boost, with representatives making comments recently signaling that, at the federal level at least, it’s not a controlled substance at this time.

Employment policies related to marijuana have also been shifting within federal agencies under Biden, despite the controversy of his administration’s cannabis-related firings.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) said in a memo distributed to agencies last year that admitting to past marijuana use should not automatically disqualify people from being employed in the federal government.

More recently, the director of national intelligence (DNI) said federal employers shouldn’t outright reject security clearance applicants over past use and should use discretion when it comes to those with cannabis investments in their stock portfolios.

FBI quietly updated its hiring policies last year to make it so candidates are only automatically disqualified from joining the agency if they admit to having used marijuana within one year of applying. However, it later revised the policy again to add a stipulation that applicants are ineligible if they’ve used cannabis more than 24 times after turning 18.

In September, The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) proposed a change to the federal drug scheduling system that it hopes will streamline research into Schedule I controlled substances including marijuana and psychedelics such as psilocybin. DEA and NIDA later said that they supports the plan.

While the Biden administration has yet to take a position on policy proposals to authorize safe consumption facilities and a related court challenge against them that are carried over from the Trump administration, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) put out a pair of requests for applications last month for an effort that will provide funding for efforts to investigate how that and other harm reduction policies could help address the drug crisis.

After requesting permission from the White House to conduct the survey of about 20,000 hemp farmers, The U.S.Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service announced in August that the forms are being finalized to be filled out via mail or online.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meanwhile, still hasn’t gotten around to issuing regulations for hemp-derived cannabidiol products, but it announced last year that it plans to use Reddit and other “novel” data sources to gain a better understanding of public health issues surrounding use of CBD and other “emerging” cannabis derivatives like delta-8 THC.

Federal, state and local officials convened for a national conference this month where members discussed and advanced proposals to establish standards for marijuana products that could later be formally adopted into a federal handbook overseen by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

While Biden hasn’t granted mass clemency for people with marijuana convictions, his administration did take a first step toward granting presidential relief to hundreds of people on home confinement for federal drug convictions last year, with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) asking eligible individuals to get the process started by filing out clemency applications.

Biden Nominees On Drug Policy

Several of Biden’s pick to lead key agencies have unique drug policy backgrounds. And some of those choices who’ve since been confirmed have been applauded by advocates.

Activists initially weren’t sure what to make of Attorney General Merrick Garland when he was nominated because of his limited record, but they were relieved during his confirmation proceedings to hear that he wasn’t preparing a crackdown on legal cannabis states.

While he’s yet to reinstitute the Obama era guidance offering some level of protection for states that have legalized, he has said on several occasions that DOJ resources shouldn’t be spent going after people operating in compliance with state cannabis laws.

He also hasn’t acted on calls from lawmakers to use his own authority to swiftly end federal cannabis prohibition.

ONDCP Director Rahul Gupta worked as a consultant to Holistic Industries, a multi-state cannabis operator, for nine months in 2020. Prior to his confirmation, Gupta had already caught the attention of reform advocates given his record overseeing the implementation of West Virginia’s medical marijuana program as state health commissioner and chair of a key advisory board. He’s also publicly recognized both the therapeutic and economic potential of cannabis reform.

It was another relief to advocates that the president didn’t pick former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), a cofounder of anti-legalization organization Smart Approaches To Marijuana (SAM), for the drug czar job, even after he personally lobbied for the nomination.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta (no relation to Rahul) was also repeatedly pressed on her drug policy views during her confirmation process, particularly where she stands on broad decriminalization. Advocates expressed frustration that she denied having endorsed decriminalization during the hearings despite having done so in past roles at reform organizations.

Former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was picked to lead HHS, and it was welcome news for advocates because he has a considerable record supporting cannabis reform and working to protect California’s legal program from federal interference.

For example, Becerra was one of 21 state attorneys general who sent a letter to congressional leaders in 2019 expressing support for a bipartisan bill to protect state-legal cannabis programs against federal intervention.

In October, Becerra also signaled that the administration would not block the establishment safe injection sites where people could use illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment as a means of curtailing the overdose epidemic—but it will ultimately be up to the Justice Department to follow through.

As California’s attorney general, Becerra joined counterparts from other states in signing onto an amicus brief supporting a group’s case to set up a harm reduction center. After making supportive remarks about the facilities as HHS secretary, however, a department spokesperson clarified that “HHS does not have a position on supervised consumption sites.”

Biden’s nominee for FDA commissioner has acknowledged the potential medical benefits of marijuana. Robert Califf, who previously served a short stint as the FDA head under the Obama administration, also said that he actually prescribed a cannabinoid drug as a doctor. He’s yet to be confirmed, however.

Tom Vilsack, Biden’s nominee to run USDA who has since been confirmed, gave final approval to a federal rule laying out regulations for the hemp industry in March 2021. He’s widely considered an ally of the hemp industry.

The head of DEA who Biden selected previously described a New Jersey medical marijuana bill as “workable” while serving at the state’s attorney general. Although the former top state prosecutor, Anne Milgram, doesn’t appear to have publicly detailed her personal views on cannabis reform, the limited comments she made over a decade ago signal that, at the very least, she’s open to allowing states to enact their own marijuana policies despite federal prohibition.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently said that that freeing up banks to work with state-legal marijuana businesses would “of course” make the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) job of collecting taxes easier. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) said this month that he’s confident that Biden would support his cannabis banking bill if it arrived on his desk in part because of the conversations he’s had with Yellen about the issue.

Adewale Adeyemo, who Biden picked for the role of Treasury deputy secretary, said in February 2021 that he would look into the possibility of updating 2014 Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance on marijuana banking.

Isabel Guzman, who was picked and confirmed to lead the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), told senators last year that she would examine marijuana businesses’ inability to receive aid that is available to companies in other industries. She also promised last year to “explore” ways the agency could change its policy on prohibiting people with certain criminal convictions—including over marijuana—from accessing federal business loans and other services.

It’s also worth noting that the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Nora Volkow, has repeatedly made comments on the need for a drug decriminalization model while Biden has been in office, though her tenure predates this presidency.

What To Expect From Biden In 2022

Advocates aren’t necessarily holding their breath for a 2022 marijuana reform push from the White House, but they certainly plan to continue to put pressure on the Biden administration in the new year and see opportunities for at least incremental reform.

With respect to federal agencies and their various heads, it seems the infrastructure is in place to continue to advance incremental policy changes that are less punitive and more science-centered with respect to cannabis, psychedelics and broader drug reform.

Toi Hutchinson, former senior advisor on cannabis to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and current CEO and president of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment that it is unfortunate that states have so far lacked “guidance or participation from the federal government” on the cannabis reform front.

“States are left to develop and impose their own testing, health and safety rules. Banks are afraid of violating criminal law by serving licensed operators,” she said. “Individuals in one state compete for state licenses to produce and sell cannabis on an industrial scale, where they face arrest, prosecution, and jail in a neighboring state to even possess a single gram of the same substance.”

“Democrats, including President Biden when he was on the campaign trail, have been clear in their support for cannabis reform, and voters listened,” she said. “Whether it’s full legalization in 2022, or simply the ability for cannabis businesses to get a bank or get tax relief, we expect to see cannabis reform because that is exactly what we were told.”

New York Will Generate More Than $1.25 Billion In Marijuana Revenue Over Next Six Years, Governor’s Budget Estimates

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