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 www.mpp.org/VapingReport

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: www.mpp.org/VapingReport

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 www.mpp.org/2019report

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: https://www.mpp.org/2019report

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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Major Congressional Subcommittee Holds Historic Hearing to Discuss Ending Cannabis Prohibition

Jul 10, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

* Statements below from Steve Hawkins and Don Murphy of the Marijuana Policy Project and Aaron Smith of the National Cannabis Industry Association *

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee held a hearing today to discuss various legislative proposals to allow states to set their own cannabis policies without fear of federal interference. Titled "Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform," the hearing was the first in congressional history to explore the prospect of ending federal cannabis prohibition.

"Two-thirds of all the states have now adopted legalization or medical cannabis policies, and it's time for Congress to finally address the conflicts between state and federal law," said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a political organization that has played a central role in enacting over half of these state-level policies. "This hearing, which recognizes the racist effects of prohibition, is a positive step forward, and we hope it serves as a starting point for real legislative action this year."

The hearing is expected to lay the groundwork for future legislative markups by the full House Judiciary Committee on legislation such as the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act), the Marijuana Justice Act, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, and the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.

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

"Not since the days of Harry Anslinger has cannabis been such a serious topic on Capitol Hill. With bipartisan support in both chambers, there is no good reason why Congress cannot address this issue before the 2020 election."

Statement from Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association:

"State cannabis programs are successfully replacing criminal markets with well regulated businesses across the country and public support for ending prohibition continues to rise. It's long past time for Congress to align federal policies with modern state marijuana laws and public opinion by removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act so that we can begin the process of developing federal policies that will not only respect state laws, but will defend public health and safety, protect small businesses, and help repair the damage prohibition policies have inflicted on communities of color."

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Signs Bill Legalizing Cannabis With a Focus on Fairness and Justice

Jun 25, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statements below from Steve Hawkins and Chris Lindsey of the Marijuana Policy Project

Chicago, Ill. — On Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (CRTA) into law, making Illinois the 11th state to legalize cannabis. Illinois will become the second state to legalize cannabis possession via the legislative process and the first to legalize retail sales legislatively.

The Marijuana Policy Project worked closely with legislators and the governor’s office to craft and pass the CRTA, which contains the most far-reaching social equity provisions ever included in a legalization law. It includes reinvestment in communities disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition, broad expungement provisions, and measures to ensure the industry includes communities that have been targeted by cannabis enforcement. A summary of the CRTA is available at https://bit.ly/2W2s86y, and a more detailed look at the social equity and criminal justice reforms included in the legislation is available at https://bit.ly/2Ws2355.

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

“We applaud the Illinois Legislature and Gov. Pritzker on this resounding victory for personal liberty, racial justice, and common sense. MPP was honored to work hand-in-hand with elected leaders to craft a law ending cannabis prohibition, in a way that begins to remedy the devastation of communities targeted by the war on drugs. Illinois’ focus on fairness and equity in legalization should be a model for other states.

“Illinois’ historic approach to clemency and expungement will clear up to 770,000 criminal records. Whereas the scarlet letter of a cannabis conviction has destroyed people’s futures, the CRTA provides new business and employment opportunities for those whose lives were derailed by prohibition.   

“Illinois is the first state to legislatively replace cannabis prohibition with thoughtful, equitable regulation, but it will not be the last. Elected officials nationwide are heeding the call of an overwhelming majority of voters who want to stop punishing adults for using a substance safer than alcohol. And just as we today look back at alcohol prohibition as a misguided failure, future generations will look back and shake their heads in disbelief that cannabis prohibition lasted so long.” 

Statement from Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Legalization can’t simply end criminal penalties or establish sales — legalization has to be part of the healing process as we recover from the failed war on cannabis. Illinois has taken giant steps toward reducing that harm and resetting the whole system for the better.” 

MPP has lobbied to reform cannabis policies in the Illinois state Legislature since 2004, previously leading the advocacy campaigns behind Illinois’ successful medical cannabis (2013) and decriminalization efforts (2016). MPP will continue working with allies to ensure smooth implementation of Illinois’ legalization law.

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U.S. House Votes to Block DOJ from Interfering With State Laws Regulating Marijuana for All Purposes, Including Adult Use

Jun 20, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

A similar amendment upheld since 2014 applies only to state laws allowing the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes

* Statement below from Steven Hawkins of the Marijuana Policy Project * 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure 267-165 on Thursday that is intended to prevent the federal government from interfering with state laws regulating marijuana for all purposes, including adult use.

“Today’s vote is the most significant step Congress has ever taken toward ending federal marijuana prohibition,” said Steven Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Congress is recognizing that the federal government must let the states decide on cannabis legalization — and not the other way around.”

The bipartisan amendment, offered by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) to the House version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, prohibits the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the use, possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana. The measure is broader than previous amendments, which applied only to medical marijuana laws. Since 2014, Congress has upheld a rule preventing federal interference in states' medical marijuana programs.

The Senate is expected to take up companion legislation in the coming weeks.

Statement from Steven Hawkins, executive director for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Poll after poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe states should be allowed to establish their own marijuana policies, and it appears most members of the House agree.

“Two in three Americans support legalizing marijuana, and more than 25% of the U.S. population lives in a jurisdiction where marijuana is legal for adults. We must protect these state laws and prevent federal arrests for people operating state-legal marijuana businesses.

“MPP has worked on this amendment since Rep. McClintock first introduced it in 2015, when it was narrowly defeated in the House (206-222). With more and more states legalizing cannabis, there clearly is no national consensus to warrant a federal ban on cannabis. It is time for Congress to step aside and let states serve as the laboratories of democracy as the Framers intended.”

 

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Illinois Legislature Passes Historic Bill to Legalize and Regulate Cannabis

May 31, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Illinois Legislature Passes Bill to Legalize and Regulate Cannabis; Historic Measure Now Heads to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Desk 

Bill Includes Comprehensive Criminal Justice, Social Equity, and Expungement Provisions

Statements below from MPP Executive Director Steve Hawkins and MPP Senior Legislative Counsel Chris Lindsey

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A bill that would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults in Illinois — The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) — has received final approval from state legislators and is now headed to the desk of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who is expected to sign it. With Gov. Pritzker's signature, Illinois will become the 11th state to legalize cannabis for adult use and the first state to legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis to adults via its legislative process.

MPP, the nation's leading cannabis policy reform organization, played a crucial role in drafting and advocating for passage of the CRTA. Previously, MPP led the advocacy campaigns behind Illinois' successful medical cannabis (2013) and decriminalization efforts (2016). MPP worked closely with bill sponsors, Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, to lay the groundwork needed to pass legalization. In addition to lobbying efforts, the campaign has included town halls throughout the state and a series of interim committee hearings.

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

"MPP is proud to have worked hand-in-hand with state lawmakers and Gov. Pritzker to develop this historic legislation. Illinois will become the first state in the nation to enact adult-use legalization and retail sales through the legislative process. The Illinois Legislature has set a standard of excellence with this bill that other states seeking to pass similar legislation should follow.

"Illinois has put in place a set of equity provisions that should serve as a national model for other state legislatures grappling with how to redress the harm caused to communities targeted in the drug war. The expungement remedy in the Illinois bill is truly historic. It will potentially clear the slate of over 750,000 cases, vastly exceeding any other state's remedy on expungement for cannabis convictions. Cannabis was at the heart of our nation's disastrous war on drugs. This is a measure that will improve people's lives on a level commensurate with the devastation wrought by prohibition.

"What this also shows, first with Michigan in 2018 and now with Illinois in 2019, is that the heartland states are clearly deciding that the time to end the prohibition on cannabis has come. No one would have predicted that they would be charting the course over states like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, all of which have stalled in their attempts this year.

"Illinois is on the brink of replacing a shameful, destructive policy with the most far-reaching cannabis law ever enacted. This bill is historic and a resounding victory for the values of personal liberty, racial justice, common sense, and good governance. We urge other states to follow suit."

Statement from Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project:

"This is a new chapter for residents who will no longer be treated like criminals for consuming cannabis and who can move beyond harmful criminal histories. It was a real honor working with so many Illinoisans to help end the state's destructive war on cannabis consumers."

The CRTA would end cannabis prohibition in Illinois and replace it with a system to tax and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and older. Starting January 1, 2020, adults could possess cannabis and purchase cannabis products in licensed stores. Possession would be limited to 30 grams of raw cannabis, cannabis-infused products containing no more than 500 mg of THC, and five grams of cannabis product in concentrated form.

In addition to legalizing cannabis for adult use, the CRTA would create robust measures to redress the harms caused to those communities targeted for cannabis arrests and convictions. The bill would: (1) clear the records of 770,000 cases, according to the Illinois State Policy Advisory Council, through unprecedented expungement provisions; (2) direct a significant amount of the tax revenue to communities hard hit by the drug war; and (3) include groundbreaking measures to ensure an inclusive, equitable industry. A summary of the bill is available at https://bit.ly/2W2s86y, and a more detailed look at the social and criminal justice reforms included in the legislation is available at https://bit.ly/2Ws2355.

Two-thirds (66%) of Illinoisans support legalization, according to a poll published in March by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Nationwide, Gallup reported 66% support for making cannabis legal for adults in October 2018.

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