House Committee to Vote on Bill to End Federal Cannabis Prohibition

Nov 20, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

The bill is expected to advance out of committee and onto the House floor

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Today at 10 a.m., the U.S. House Judiciary Committee will hold a vote on a comprehensive cannabis legalization bill, marking the first-ever vote to completely end federal prohibition. You can watch it here.

Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act is the most robust cannabis reform bill ever introduced in the U.S. Congress. In addition to federally decriminalizing and descheduling cannabis, the MORE Act contains strong social equity provisions with an emphasis on restorative justice for communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition. 

If signed into law, the MORE Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act; require federal courts to expunge prior cannabis-related convictions and provide for resentencing; provide grants and funding to communities most harmed by the war on cannabis; lift barriers to licensing and employment in the cannabis industry; block federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances due to cannabis use; protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis; and allow VA physicians to recommend medical cannabis to veterans.

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project:

“This vote is an encouraging indication that federal lawmakers are listening to the majority of Americans who support cannabis legalization. Prohibition brings devastating and unjustifiable human and economic costs, and it is time for Congress to take action. We are hopeful that the House of Representatives and the Senate will cooperate to pass legislation to finally end the failed policy of prohibition.”

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South Dakota Groups Submit Petitions to Qualify Marijuana Reform Ballot Initiatives for Next Year's Election

Nov 04, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

PIERRE, S.D. — Today, marijuana reform groups submitted petitions containing over 80,000 signatures to the South Dakota Secretary of State in order to qualify two separate marijuana reform ballot initiatives for next year’s election. One initiative would establish a medical marijuana program for qualified patients with debilitating health conditions, while the other would legalize marijuana for adults aged 21 and older and require the state legislature to enact a hemp cultivation law.

“We are proud to have submitted petitions on behalf of over 80,000 South Dakotans who believe that voters should decide our state’s marijuana and hemp laws,” said Brendan Johnson, a former United States Attorney who is the sponsor of the legalization ballot initiative.

New Approach South Dakota submitted over 30,000 signatures for a statutory ballot initiative that would enact a medical marijuana law for patients with debilitating medical conditions. 

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws submitted over 50,000 signatures for a constitutional ballot initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults aged 21 and older and would also require the legislature to enact laws regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp.

The minimum number of signatures required for ballot qualification is 16,961 for a statutory initiative and 33,921 for a constitutional initiative. Today was the deadline for submitting signatures, and the South Dakota Secretary of State will now begin verifying the validity of the signatures.

“For many years, we have asked the legislature to address the issue of medical marijuana,” said Melissa Mentele, director of New Approach South Dakota and sponsor of the medical marijuana ballot initiative. “Despite the fact that a strong majority of South Dakotans support allowing legal, regulated, and safe access to medical marijuana for patients with debilitating conditions, elected officials have failed to take action. Patients cannot afford to wait any longer, and this ballot initiative is our only recourse.”

Two of the leading national marijuana policy reform organizations, the Marijuana Policy Project and New Approach PAC, are supporting the South Dakota campaigns.

“Right now, there are South Dakotans with serious health conditions who are forced to break the law in order to access effective medical treatments that allow them to live healthier and more productive lives, and that is unacceptable,” said Marijuana Policy Project Deputy Director Matthew Schweich, who has worked on successful marijuana reform ballot initiative campaigns in Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Utah.

Eleven states have legalized marijuana for adults, and another 22 states have enacted medical marijuana laws. South Dakota would be the first state to enact both policies on a single ballot.

“Across the country, voters are recognizing that it makes no sense to waste law enforcement resources on arresting adults for marijuana possession, and that it also makes no sense to force marijuana sales into an unregulated illicit market,” said Schweich. “Simply put, legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana is the policy decision that best serves the interests of public health and public safety.”

Visit the South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws website for more information about the ballot initiatives, including the complete initiative texts


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Marijuana Policy Project Appoints New Member to Board of Directors

Oct 22, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Jeff Brown, Vice President of Public Policy for PAX Labs, joins MPP’s Board of Directors

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The nation’s largest cannabis policy reform group, the Marijuana Policy Project, announced on Tuesday the election of Jeff Brown to MPP’s board of directors. Brown is the Vice President of Public Policy for PAX Labs, an award-winning technology company with the goal of creating safe, predictable and enjoyable cannabis experiences. Brown joins MPP’s board of directors bringing years of public policy and public relations experience and a commitment to cannabis legalization, social justice, and corporate social responsibility. 

Prior to PAX, Jeff Brown held positions as Senior Vice President at GoPro, Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs at Electronic Arts, and Director of Global Public Relations for Pepsi-Cola. Brown serves on two charitable boards: Community Gatepath and The League to Save Lake Tahoe (Keep Tahoe Blue).

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project:

“We are excited for the addition of Jeff Brown to MPP’s board of directors. His commitment to the movement and social justice is commendable. I’m confident that Jeff will be a valuable resource to MPP and the ongoing efforts to achieve our mission — ending prohibition across the United States.”

Statement from Jeff Brown, newly appointed board member at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“I am pleased to join MPP's board of directors. It is a pivotal time for marijuana policy reform and unprecedented progress has been achieved through MPP’s dedication. I look forward to helping this team develop resources and to contributing to their advocacy for sensible and just cannabis policies.”

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Marijuana Policy Project Appoints Revolution CEO Mark de Souza to Board of Directors

Oct 17, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the nation’s leading cannabis policy reform group, announced the election of Revolution Global CEO Mark de Souza to its board of directors. Revolution is a Chicago-based multi-state cannabis company and Mr. de Souza brings experience in business development, finance and capital restructuring, corporate management, and lobbying to MPP’s board.

Mr. de Souza was introduced to MPP through his involvement in shaping Illinois’s adult-use legalization bill. He also served on Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s agriculture transition committee, advising on issues related to the state’s agriculture industry, including cannabis and CBD. Mr. de Souza previously lobbied through his work with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).

Revolution supports efforts to increase social equity within the cannabis industry, including through helping minority entrepreneurs apply for licenses and set up their business. Additionally, Mr. de Souza is regarded for his philanthropic contributions in his hometown of Chicago. Over the years he has assisted with fundraising efforts for Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the Lynn Sage Foundation, and the Gastro-Intestinal Research Foundation.

MPP’s board now includes ten members and will continue to grow as the cannabis reform movement builds momentum.

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director at MPP:

“We are pleased to welcome Mark de Souza to MPP’s board of directors,” Hawkins said. “Mr. de Souza brings a diverse and solid understanding of corporate finance and management and has a strong sense of leadership and innovation. His contributions as a board member will undoubtedly be an asset to our organization as we continue our progress.”

Statement from Mark de Souza, newly appointed board member at MPP:

“I am thrilled to join MPP’s board of directors during this critical time of change and progress in the cannabis industry,” de Souza said. “I have long admired MPP’s work and accomplishments. Revolution and I look forward to helping to lead and support MPP’s push for policies and laws that champion strict regulation and advance social equity and justice in cannabis.”

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Marijuana Policy Project Welcomes Akerna to MPP Policy Council

Oct 17, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statements below from Akerna CEO Jessica Billingsley and MPP Executive Director Steven Hawkins

Washington, D.C. — The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the nation’s largest cannabis policy reform organization, is pleased to welcome Akerna as the newest member of the MPP Policy Council. As the convening member of the council, MPP works with cannabis business leaders who share MPP’s mission to create successful regulatory cannabis programs in the U.S.

Akerna incorporates emerging technology to create transparent and efficient seed-to-sale tracking for governments and businesses and is the first cannabis technology company to be listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. “At Akerna, we believe in giving back to the advocacy organizations that made this industry possible. We have MPP to thank for spearheading cannabis legalization efforts across many U.S. states,” said Jessica Billingsley, Akerna CEO. “We are delighted to join the MPP Policy Council and support its mission to drive more states to enact legal, regulated cannabis programs — a safer, more transparent solution for giving the public access to cannabis medicine.”

“We are excited to welcome Akerna to the MPP Policy Council,” said MPP Executive Director Steven Hawkins. “As one of the leading track-and-trace companies in the U.S., we value the expertise and perspective Akerna brings to the table.” 

The MPP Policy Council consists of leaders in the cannabis industry who share MPP’s vision and dedicate themselves to ending harmful prohibition policies. Members invest in the long-term success of adult-use legalization and medical cannabis programs, find ways to improve them, and help ensure MPP continues its work. Akerna joins eight other policy council members, including Acreage Holdings, Cresco Labs, Eaze, 4Front Holdings, Greenlane Ventures, Hawthorne Gardening Supply, PAX Labs, and Vicente Sederberg.

MPP is the leading organization in the country dedicated to ending cannabis prohibition and harmful cannabis policies. Its mission is to replace cannabis prohibition with a system that will benefit all — including adults, patients, businesses, and the communities in which they live and work. 

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Nation’s Largest Marijuana Policy Reform Group Releases Report on Cannabis Vaping Regulations

Oct 02, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Read MPP’s report, which includes recommendations for regulating cannabis vaping products, at

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the recent wake of vaping-related illnesses and fatalities, the Marijuana Policy Project has released a report, titled Regulating Cannabis Oil Vaporizers, that examines the issue and provides recommendations for policymakers who wish to respond. While the uprise in these incidents is largely attributed to unregulated and untested cannabis oil vaping products obtained through the illicit market, they raise serious concerns that must be addressed. 

MPP’s report discusses current state-level regulatory controls on vaping products and provides short-, medium-, and long-term recommendations that policymakers can implement to further protect cannabis consumers. The conclusion of the report calls on the federal government to take a comprehensive approach to product safety testing that can come with legalization at the federal level.

Read the full report here:

Importantly, the Marijuana Policy Project believes that banning regulated and tested products is a short-sighted and harmful approach that will drive a significant number of consumers to illicit products, where the health concerns actually originate. 

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“The recent issues associated with vaping cannabis oil raise serious concern for consumers and emphasize why it is increasingly important to legalize and regulate cannabis. Unregulated markets are producing unregulated products, which are proving to be detrimental to public health. Consumers who choose to responsibly consume cannabis deserve to know that the products they are using are tested and safe. This is only possible through legal and regulated markets.”

Statement from Chris Lindsey, director of government relations at the Marijuana Policy Project:

“A regulatory approach to cannabis use is good policy, and we now have a framework for controlling cannabis products in many parts of the country. These illnesses are a tragedy, but they are also a chance for cannabis programs to increase their effectiveness even more. The recommendations we offer are aimed at doing just that.” 


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BREAKING: The U.S. House of Representatives Approves the SAFE Banking Act

Sep 25, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Lawmakers voted 321-103 in favor of cannabis banking legislation

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1595) in a floor vote of 321-103. This legislation would prevent federal financial regulators from punishing financial institutions that provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses. Currently, most banks are unwilling to work with the cannabis industry because they fear federal prosecution.

The SAFE Banking Act is the first standalone cannabis bill to receive a full vote in the House. 

A version of this legislation has been introduced in the Senate (S. 1200) and currently has 33 cosponsors.

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project: 

“We applaud House lawmakers for voting in favor of the SAFE Banking Act. The cannabis industry can no longer proceed without the same access to financial services that other legal companies are granted. This decision is an indication that Congress is more willing than ever to support and take action on sensible cannabis policies. The passage of the SAFE Banking Act improves the likelihood that other cannabis legislation will advance at the federal level.

“It is important to recognize that the SAFE Banking Act, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, would strengthen efforts to increase the diversity of the cannabis industry. Many states that have legalized cannabis for adults have launched efforts to ensure that there are economic opportunities for communities of color that have been most severely impacted by marijuana prohibition. Access to capital remains an obstacle to this goal, and the SAFE Banking Act would help to address this problem.”

Statement from Don Murphy, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project: 

“Passing the SAFE Banking Act is a significant win and a critical step forward for cannabis policy reform. It is clear that lawmakers understand the public health and public safety benefits of allowing cannabis businesses to access financial services. Access to banking would allow for broader patient access, help with business transparency and compliance, and reduce safety risks associated with cash-only operations.”

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U.S. House of Representatives to Vote on Cannabis Banking Legislation

Sep 24, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from Steve Hawkins of the Marijuana Policy Project 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a floor vote on the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1595), which would prevent federal financial regulators from punishing financial institutions that provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses. The SAFE Banking Act cleared the House Financial Services Committee in March and currently has over 200 cosponsors. Cannabis banking legislation in the Senate currently has a total of 33 cosponsors. 

Statement from MPP Executive Director Steve Hawkins:

“It is time for members of Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act. The cannabis industry should have the same access to banking services as every other legal industry in the United States. Restricting cannabis businesses from accessing financial services forces companies to rely on cash-only operations, creating an unnecessary burden for the industry and limiting economic growth.

“Denying access to banking is making it harder to increase the diversity of the cannabis industry. Passing this legislation would provide resources for those with limited access to capital and increase the chances of success for state-level social equity initiatives. The SAFE Banking Act is a positive step in the right direction for cannabis policy reform in the United States, and its passage will improve the likelihood that other cannabis legislation will advance in Congress.” 

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U.S. Senate Committee to Hold Hearing on Cannabis Industry's Banking Challenges

Jul 23, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from Steve Hawkins of the Marijuana Policy Project

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs will hold a hearing to discuss the various financial challenges facing the legal cannabis industry. The hearing, titled “Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives,” reflects the increasing pressure on Congress to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would prevent federal financial regulators from punishing financial institutions that provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses.  

“Access to banking is a persistent obstacle for cannabis businesses. We should allow this growing industry to operate with the same financial services available to every other industry in this country,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's leading cannabis policy reform group. “Restricted access to banking limits economic growth and becomes a public safety issue by forcing companies to rely on cash to conduct their business. Congress must take legislative action to solve this problem."

This hearing comes just two weeks after the first-ever congressional hearing that discussed ending federal cannabis prohibition and serves as a clear indicator that cannabis policy reform continues to gain bipartisan support.


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Nation's Largest Marijuana Policy Reform Group Publishes Report on Legislative Progress in 2019

Jul 22, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Read MPP's report, which includes the top 10 wins of the year, at

Washington, D.C. — With its recent legalization victory in Illinois topping the list, the Marijuana Policy Project has released a new report detailing cannabis policy reform efforts in 2019. Highlighting unprecedented progress at both the state and federal levels, the authors write that 2019 has been a "historic year for marijuana policy and the movement."

In addition to Illinois, MPP lists the U.S. House of Representatives' recent approval of a federal spending bill with protections for state marijuana laws, medical cannabis expansion in Georgia, and the elimination of jail time for marijuana possession in Hawaii, New Mexico, and North Dakota among its top 10 wins this year. The report notes that "27 state legislatures considered bills to legalize cannabis for adults in 2019."

Read the full document here:

The report includes an in-depth look at the MPP-led adult use legalization effort in Illinois, which became the first state to legalize marijuana sales through the legislature in June. It also provides a 2019 policy update for every U.S. state and Washington, D.C., along with major developments from U.S. territories. South Dakota is named the "most stagnant" state for marijuana policy reform progress.

Statement from Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies at MPP and lead author of the report:

"Virtually every legislature in the country is taking a close look at its marijuana policies, and many have adopted significant reforms in 2019. Not a single legislature moved to repeal or roll back a medical cannabis or legalization law. Particularly with the first-of-its-kind legalization victory in Illinois, 2019 has been a milestone year for MPP and our movement."

Statement from Don Murphy, director of federal policies at MPP and contributor to the report:

"Our strategy of building pressure on Congress is working, and we've seen historic progress in 2019. Leaders in both parties are talking about the need for reform and giving this issue the attention it deserves. The House's decision to protect states' legalization policies is a very encouraging sign. It's possible that we'll see the end of federal prohibition before the 2020 election."

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