Colorado Activists Say It’s ‘Very Unlikely’ Second Psychedelics Legalization Initiative Will Make Ballot As Alternative To State-Certified Measure | Big Indy News
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Colorado Activists Say It’s ‘Very Unlikely’ Second Psychedelics Legalization Initiative Will Make Ballot As Alternative To State-Certified Measure

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About a month after Colorado officials certified a historic psychedelics legalization measure for the statewide 2022 ballot, activists with a separate campaign conceded on Monday that “it is very unlikely” that they will qualify their alternative entheogen reform initiative.

While the Decriminalize Nature Colorado campaign still plans to turn in signatures they have collected to the secretary of state’s office, activists said that the prospects of ballot qualification are dim. Instead, they will be turning their attention to a new campaign meant to help organize advocacy for “legacy communities” that they say could be impacted by the other campaign’s already-certified measure.

Nicole Foerster, co-proponent of Initiative 61 and founder of Decriminalize Nature Boulder County, said at a press conference on that the campaign does “not have an official count” for the signatures that they’ve collected. “We are officially announcing right now that it is very unlikely that we will make it onto the ballot in 2022,” they said.

The measure would have simply removed criminal penalties for the possession, cultivation, gifting and delivery of entheogens such as psilocybin, ibogaine, mescaline and DMT by adults 21 and older.

Further, the initiative would have made it lawful to conduct psychedelics services for guidance, therapy and harm reduction and spiritual purposes with or without accepting payment. It would not have been legal to sell any of the psychedelics, however.

The fact that the campaign is unlikely to qualify “is disappointing—but, you know, I think we’re all fine with it,” Foerster said.

Organizers needed to submit at least 124,632 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

At the press conference outside of the Colorado State Capitol, activists emphasized that they felt a need to pursue a separate psychedelics initiative as an alternative to the New Approach PAC-backed Natural Medicine Health Act, in part because they feel it imposes undue regulations for entheogenic substances.

“We didn’t intend to even campaign this year,” Foerster said. “We campaigned in reaction to [the certified measure] that we do not support.”

Foerster asserted that “a lot of people were left out of the conversation” during early discussions about possible campaign collaboration—and “a lot of really powerful policy decisions were made without sufficient input from communities who will be impacted.”

“We drafted Initiative 61 to contrast the polling that was done statewide, mainly towards the general public and, as Initiative 58 calls them, the psychedelic naive general public,” Foerster said. “Their policy was crafted to appeal to people who know nothing about this topic, without the full inclusion of people who are going to be affected by the Act if it passes.”

Concerns about the possible corporatization of the psychedelics market also drove their decision to pursue the alternative initiative.


Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 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.

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“I hope by now we’re as loud [as we can be] that if we’re creating any new industries, we ensure that it’s going to be equitable, with social equity and health equity, and that the community has a voice in this,” Melanie Rose Rodgers, co-proponent of Initiative 61 who also served as a main organizer for a first-of-its-kind local psilocybin decriminalization initiative that Denver voters approved in 2019, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Monday. It shouldn’t be “just a few people making the rules for everybody.”

At this point, it’s all but certain that Colorado voters will only have one psychedelics reform measure to decide on this November. That “Natural Medicine Health Act” would legalize certain psychedelics and also create licensed psilocybin “healing centers” where people could use the substance for therapeutic purposes.

The Natural Medicine Colorado campaign, which did have sizable financial backing and a professional petitioning resources, had submitted about 100,000 more signatures than required for ballot access, a sizable buffer that was the result of just about three months of petitioning.

One of the co-proponents of Initiative 58, Kevin Matthews, also served as campaign manager for the earlier Denver psilocybin measure. It was a policy development that helped ignite a national movement that has reached cities across the U.S., as well as a growing number of state legislatures and Congress.

The new statewide measure Matthews is working on would legalize possession of certain psychedelics, establish a therapeutic model for supervised psilocybin treatment and provide a pathway for record sealing for prior convictions.

Meanwhile, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) was recently asked about the prospects of enacting psychedelics reform in the state, and he acknowledged that advocates are working to accomplish that policy change at the ballot and also said he supports the idea of decriminalizing the substances.

In June, Polis signed a bill to align state statute to legalize MDMA prescriptions if and when the federal government ultimately permits such use.

He also issued an executive order last month to provide broad professional licensing protections for workers who use marijuana in compliance with state law. The move further prevents state agencies from assisting in any out-of-state investigations related to lawful cannabis conduct that could result in employment penalties.

With respect of psychedelics, Colorado is far from the only state where reform is advancing.

A California bill to legalize psychedelics possession that already passed the Senate and two Assembly committees is teed up for a final committee vote before potentially heading to the floor. Because it’s been amended, it would still need to return to the Senate for concurrence before potentially moving to the governor’s desk.

The leader of the New Jersey Senate filed a bill in June that would legalize the possession, home cultivation and gifting of psilocybin mushrooms for adults 21 and older—with provisions that give adults even more freedoms for the psychedelic than are afforded under the state’s current marijuana laws.

The governor of Connecticut signed a large-scale budget bill in May that includes provisions to set the state up to provide certain patients with access to psychedelic-assisted treatment using substances like MDMA and psilocybin.

Maryland’s governor recently allowed a bill to go into law without his signature to create a state fund to provide “cost-free” access to psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury.

A Massachusetts-based campaign, Bay Staters for National Medicine (BSNM), is also supporting a statewide reform push to force state lawmakers to file legislation to both legalize entheogenic substances for therapeutic use and otherwise decriminalize certain psychedelics.

The Maine Senate approved a bill in April to to create a medical psilocybin program in the state, but the House of Representatives refused to go along.

Also that month, Georgia lawmakers advanced a bipartisan resolution that calls for the formation of a House study committee to investigate the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and make recommendations for reforms.

The governor of Utah signed a bill in March to create a task force to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and possible regulations for their lawful use.

A Missouri House committee also held a hearing that month on a GOP-led bill to legalize a wide range of psychedelics for therapeutic use at designated care facilities while further decriminalizing low-level possession in general.

The Washington State legislature recently sent a budget bill to the governor’s desk that includes a proposal to direct $200,000 in funding to support a new workgroup to study the possibility of legalizing psilocybin services in the state, including the idea of using current marijuana regulatory systems to track psychedelic mushrooms.

In March, the Hawaii Senate approved a bill to set up a state working group to study the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin mushrooms and develop a “long-term” plan to ensure that the psychedelic is accessible for medical use for adults 21 and older.

Also that month, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill to decriminalize low-level possession of psilocybin and promote research into the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic.

Rhode Island lawmakers introduced a pair of drug decriminalization bills in March—including one focused on psilocybin and buprenorphine that would authorize doctors to prescribe the psychedelic mushroom.

Washington State lawmakers also introduced legislation in January that would legalize what the bill calls “supported psilocybin experiences” by adults 21 and older.

New Hampshire lawmakers filed measures to decriminalize psilocybin and all drugs.

Legislation was also enacted by the Texas legislature last year requiring the state to study the medical risks and benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and a military-focused medical center.

Congressional lawmakers and federal agencies have also started to take serious interest in psychedelics policy.

For example, top federal health agency says it is actively “exploring” the possibility of creating a task force to investigate the therapeutic of certain psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA in anticipation of federal approval of the substances for prescription use.

In January, bipartisan House lawmakers sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that implored the agency to allow terminally ill patients to access psilocybin as an investigational drug, pursuant to federal “Right to Try” statute enacted under the Trump administration.

DEA is now facing another lawsuit for refusing to allow a Seattle-based doctor to obtain psilocybin for his oncology patients. Plaintiffs say that the agency is unlawfully failing to abide by federal law by denying such access under the circumstances.

Bipartisan House and Senate lawmakers filed companion bills last month that seeks to clarify the intent and application of the “Right to Try” law at the center of the case. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY), along with Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Nancy Mace (R-SC), are the lead sponsors of the legislation.

In May, Booker and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) separately pushed top federal officials to provide an update on research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, arguing that ongoing federal prohibition has stymied studies.

Federal health officials recently recognized that federal prohibition makes it harder to study the benefits of psychedelics, requiring researchers to jump through additional regulatory hoops.

Activists including one of the plaintiffs in the Right to Try case, Erinn Baldeschwiler, staged a demonstration outside of DEA headquarters in Virginia in May, demanding that the agency allow terminally ill patients to access psilocybin therapy.

DEA is separately being sued over repeated delays in processing requests for public records related to psychedelics and marijuana.

Following significant pushback from the research and advocacy communities, the agency recently rescinded its proposal to ban five psychedelic compounds that scientists say could hold significant therapeutic potential. DEA also cancelled a hearing it previously scheduled on the proposal.

Separately, the agency has separately increased production quotas for the production of certain psychedelics like psilocybin in an effort to promote research, but its scheduling decisions have continued to represent obstacles for scientists.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved a large-scale defense bill that includes amendments directing the Department of Defense (DOD) to carry out a study into the medical potential of psilocybin and MDMA, as well as marijuana, for military veterans with certain conditions.

New Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed For 2024 Ballot, With Backing Of State’s Largest Medical Cannabis Company

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Young Americans Are Twice As Likely To Smoke Marijuana Than Cigarettes, New Gallup Data Shows

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Young people are now more than twice as likely to report smoking marijuana compared to cigarettes, according to a new analysis of survey data from Gallup.

Past-week cigarette smoking by adults 18-29 declined from 15 percent in 2016-2018 to a new low of 12 percent in 2019-2022.

Meanwhile, 26 percent of adults in that age group now say that they smoke cannabis, compared to 21 percent in the earlier survey period.

Overall, the 2019-2022 data shows that 27 percent of Americans smoke cigarettes, marijuana or e-cigarettes. Gallup found that seven percent smoke cannabis alone, nine percent smoke cigarettes alone and three percent smoke e-cigarettes alone.

But it’s the youngest generation that is most strongly opting for cannabis over cigarettes—a trend that could be attributed to any number of factors, including public education campaigns about the dangers of tobacco and the decreased public perception of harm around marijuana.

It’s also possible that people generally feel more willing to openly report smoking cannabis amid the state-level legalization movement and congressional efforts to end prohibition, aside from the amount of actual change in use patterns.

People in the 18-29 age category are the most likely to smoke or vape something, at 40 percent. But almost four times as many young people smoke only marijuana (11 percent) as they do only cigarettes (three percent).

In contrast, people in the 30-49 age group were slightly more likely to say they exclusively smoked cigarettes in the past week (11 percent) than those who only smoked cannabis (eight percent).

Gallup separately released a data analysis in August that found, for the first time, that more Americans openly admitted to smoking marijuana or eating cannabis-infused edibles than those who said they’ve smoked cigarettes in the past week.

While that survey didn’t include an age-based demographic breakdown, Gallup did release data in 2019 that showed young people were more likely to smoke marijuana than cigarettes. And compared to the new poll, the gap in the use of those substances among young people has increased.

“Public health officials would be encouraged by the steep decline in cigarette smoking over the past two decades, a trend driven largely by plummeting smoking rates among young adults,” Gallup said. “But young adults are increasingly smoking marijuana, perhaps because it is now legal to use in a growing number of states, and vaping. Both vaping and marijuana are more common activities for young adults than traditional cigarette smoking.”

“Still, fewer young adults smoke or vape today than smoked cigarettes two decades ago, before e-cigarettes became widely available. And although many health researchers believe vaping is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes, they do not believe e-cigarettes are safe in general. Further, the long-term health effects of vaping are not as well-known, and the Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to try to limit marketing of vaping to minors.”

It should be pointed out that the individual language of Gallup’s questions about cigarettes, e-cigarettes and marijuana are distinct in that the cigarette question asks about “past-week” usage, whereas the cannabis question is more general, without a timeline.

Additionally, respondents were asked about “smoking” marijuana, which would potentially exclude a significant portion of the cannabis-consuming population that uses edibles, vapes or other non-combustible products.

This dataset—which involved interviews with 3,545 adults for the 2019-2022 results, with a margin of error ranging from 4-5 percentage points—was released on the heels of Gallup’s broader annual survey that includes questions about drug consumption trends.

That poll found that seven in 10 Americans say that marijuana should be legalized—including majorities of all political parties and age demographics.

The findings and demographic trends from the survey are generally consistent with recent polling on the issue, including one that showed just one in ten Americans say that marijuana should remain completely illegal.

Another recent survey that was commissioned by Fox News and the Associated Press and conducted in the lead-up to the election found 63 percent support for legalization nationwide.

Interestingly, that survey also found majority support for ending prohibition among voters in two states that rejected legalization initiatives last week, signaling that the measures might have failed in part because of disagreements about specific provisions rather than the basic concept of legalization.

A poll released last month also shows that a majority of Americans are in favor of President Joe Biden’s decision to grant pardons to people who’ve committed federal marijuana possession offenses, and most also want to see their own governors follow suit with state-level cannabis relief.

Meanwhile, the same young adults who are most likely to report smoking marijuana compared to cigarettes are also the most likely to say that the plant should be legalized, indicating that the trend will continue.

In August, Gallup separately released data showing that more than twice as many Americans think that cannabis has a positive impact on its consumers and society at large than say the same about alcohol.

That’s generally consistent with the results of a separate poll released in March that found more Americans think it’d be good if people switched to cannabis and drank less alcohol compared to those who think the substance substitution would be bad.

Interestingly, a 2020 Gallup survey separately showed that 86 percent of Americans view alcohol use as morally acceptable, compared to 70 percent who said the same about marijuana consumption.

Texas Activists Fight Back After Local Lawmakers Undermine Voter-Approved Marijuana Decriminalization Measures



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Texas Activists Fight Back After Local Lawmakers Undermine Voter-Approved Marijuana Decriminalization Measures

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Texas officials in several cities have moved to overturn or undercut local marijuana decriminalization ordinances that voters overwhelmingly approved at the ballot this month—but activists aren’t going down without a fight.

Five cities passed the decriminalization ballot measures with strong margins on November 8, but city councils and officials in at least three of those localities are facing criticism from advocates over their attempts to undermine the reforms. In Harker Heights, for example, the city council voted last week to repeal the ordinance altogether.

Ground Game Texas, the campaign that spearheaded the decriminalization ordinances, says it is planning to collect signatures for another local referendum to go before voters during Harker Heights’s next election that would effectively repeal the repeal.

In Denton, meanwhile, local officials haven’t pursued an outright repeal of the reform measure that voters approved there, but they have challenged key provisions, saying that the city isn’t authorized to direct police to make the prescribed policy changes. However, the mayor and city manager have said that low-level cannabis offenses will continue to be treated as low law enforcement priorities.

The Killeen City Council decided to press pause on implementing the local voter-approved decriminalization ordinance, arguing that there are legal concerns that lawmakers need to sort through before potentially giving it their approval.

One councilmember, Jose Segarra, said that he took particular issue with provision of the reform measure preventing police from using the odor of marijuana alone as the basis for a search, and he suggested that the local government could amend the ordinance to eliminate that language.

So far, the two other Texas cities that passed decriminalization measures this month—Elgin and San Marcos—have not raised legislative or legal objections. But advocates aren’t planning to cede any of the victories.

Since the Harker Heights City Council has already approved a resolution to repeal the ordinance, there’s particular urgency for advocates to take responsive action, which is shaping up to look like a secondary referendum for the May 2023 ballot.

“Everything is in city charter,” Louie Minor, a Bell County commissioner-elect who worked on the Harker Heights and Killeen cannabis decriminalization campaigns, told The Killeen Daily Journal. “A referendum would mean going out and getting signatures. We have a very short time period, though. The citizens would vote on repealing the ordinance that repealed Proposition A.”

In Denton, when local officials first suggested earlier this month that they weren’t comfortable fully implementing the voter-approved cannabis decriminalization measure, Ground Game Texas pushed back by issuing a legal memo.

“The voters of Denton have spoken. By an overwhelming margin, they passed an initiative to prioritize scarce public safety initiatives for important needs that serve Denton, rather than wasteful enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses,” Mike Siegel, a co-founder of the group, said. “City staff do not have the authority to disregard election results and usurp the will of the voters. We hope and expect that officials in positions of public trust will fulfill the will of the voters they serve and ensure that Proposition B is duly enforced immediately.”

The Denton City Council has since voted 6-0 to accept the results of the election.

The reform measures might be new to the cities where lawmakers are raising concerns, but they’re not without precedent in the Lone Star state. Austin voters, for example, strongly approved a marijuana decriminalization measure this past May—and it doesn’t appear that the city has grappled with any major legal battles over the modest policy change.

Meanwhile, San Antonio, the second largest Texas city by population, could get the chance to locally decriminalize marijuana in May 2023 after activists announced last month that they were launching a signature drive for ballot placement.

While there’s been a surge of local action on marijuana issues under home rule laws in Texas over recent years, statewide reform has generally stalled in the conservative legislature.

The House approved a cannabis decriminalization bill in 2019, but it did not advance in the Senate that session Lawmakers have since been unable to pass additional expansive cannabis bills in recent sessions.

For his part, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said that he doesn’t believe people should be incarcerated over low-level marijuana possession. However, the governor incorrectly suggested that lawmakers have already adopted the policy statewide.

A poll released last year found that a strong majority of Texans—including most Republicans—support even broader reform to legalize marijuana for adult use. Another survey found that 60 percent of voters in the state support making cannabis legal “for any use” and about nine in ten voters think marijuana should be legalized for some purpose.

Additionally, a poll released in June found that cannabis legalization is more popular in Texas than the state’s top elected officials and President Joe Biden.

House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) said in September that he will work to enact criminal justice reform in the 2023 session, and he again expressed support for lowering penalties for marijuana possession.


Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 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.

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), who was the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Texas this year, has long advocated for an end to marijuana prohibition and included the reform as a tenet of his campaign. But he ultimately lost the race to Abbott.

There were some drug policy reforms that did advance in the legislature during last year’s session, but not necessarily at the pace that advocates had hoped to see.

A bill to expand the state’s medical cannabis program and another to require a study into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics for military veterans were enacted.

The Texas Republican Party adopted a platform plank endorsing decriminalization of marijuana possession in 2018, but that was later rescinded.

Separately, the state Supreme Court heard testimony in March in a case concerning the state’s ban on manufacturing smokable hemp products—the latest development in a drawn-out legal battle on the policy first proposed and challenged in 2020.

In San Antonio, activists will need to collect at least 20,000 valid signatures from registered voters by early January to qualify for the May 2023 ballot. The groups said they plan to submit a minimum of 35,000 signatures.

Colombian And Mexican Presidents Announce International Effort To Reshape Drug Policy, Condemning ‘Failure’ Of Prohibition



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Colombian And Mexican Presidents Announce International Effort To Reshape Drug Policy, Condemning ‘Failure’ Of Prohibition

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The presidents of Colombia and Mexico announced that they will be bringing together other Latin American leaders for an international conference focused on on “redesigning and rethinking drug policy” given the “failure” of prohibition.

As lawmakers in both countries work to advance marijuana legalization, Colombian President Gustavo Petro and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in a joint statement on Friday that they recently met to discuss “geopolitical, commercial, cultural and development cooperation” in their bilateral relationship.

Part of that effort will involve collaborating with the broader international community to forge a new path on the drug policy front—a topic that Petro has frequently discussed since taking office earlier this year.

“Recognizing the failure of the fight against drugs and the vulnerability of our peoples in the face of this problem, Mexico and Colombia will convene an International Conference of Latin American leaders with the objective of redesigning and rethinking drug policy,” the counties announced in a joint statement following Petro’s visit to Mexico last week, according to a translation.

It is one of more than a dozen priorities for the “bilateral agenda” outlined by the presidents.

While the statement is light on specifics, the reference to the “failure” of the drug war—as well as both presidents’ past comments on the need for reform—signals that the international discussions will largely center on moving away from a criminalization model for drugs.

 

Petro said that the international cooperation on a way forward from the war on drugs is important, “given the levels of violence that the current policy has unleashed, especially in the American continent.”

“We are killing each other,” the Colombian president said in a statement ahead of his meetings with López Obrador. “And it is the product of prohibition.”

Petro has been especially outspoken about the issue since winning the presidency. For example, he delivered a speech at a meeting of the United Nations (UN) in September, urging member nations to fundamentally change their approaches to drug policy and disband with prohibition.

He also recently talked about the prospects of legalizing marijuana in Colombia as one means of reducing the influence of the illicit market. And he signaled that the policy change should be followed by releasing people who are currently in prison over cannabis.

To that end, Colombian senators approved a cannabis legalization bill in committee last week, following its advancement in the country’s Chamber of Representatives.

Prior to the Senate action, Colombian Justice Minister Néstor Osuna said at a public hearing that the country has been the victim of “a failed war that was designed 50 years ago and, due to absurd prohibitionism, has brought us a lot of blood, armed conflict, mafias and crime.”

Meanwhile, a U.S. congressional delegation returned from a visit to Colombia last month, and a congressman who was part of the trip told Marijuana Moment that one theme of his discussions with officials in the country was that the world has “lost the war on drugs.”

In Mexico, a top Senate official recently said that she’s heard from a colleague who visited leaders in several Latin American countries, and they’re consistently asking about the status of Mexico’s efforts to legislatively end prohibition and set up a regulated marijuana market.

Separately, Mexican Sen. Patricia Mercado noted the new joint drug reform commitment made by her country’s president and the president of Colombia, saying that policy can be transformed, including by legalizing cannabis, “if there is political will.”

The country’s Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the prohibition on cannabis possession and cultivation for personal use is unconstitutional.

Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal, an advocate for reform, said in August that enacting regulations for cannabis will (again) be among the top legislative priorities of Congress in the new session.

It’s been about four years since the nation’s highest court deemed prohibition unconstitutional, leaving it up to Congress to follow up with a policy change, accordingly. But lawmakers have so far been unable to reach a consensus on legislation to put in place regulations for a cannabis program.

At the request of legislators, the court agreed to extend its deadline for Congress to formally end prohibition on multiple occasions. But because of the repeated failed attempts to meet those deadlines< , justices  ultimately voted to end criminalization on their own last year.

Mexico’s president said in late 2020 that a vote on legalization legislation was delayed due to minor “mistakes” in the proposal.

While the new joint statement from both country leaders talked about convening a conference for Latin American nations, it’s likely that the conversation will also take into account developments in the U.S., where President Joe Biden recently issued a mass marijuana pardon and directed a scheduling review.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) cheered the official swearing in of Petro in August, saying that he looks forward to “working together to…rethink drug policy, and much more.”

A top Mexican senator separately said last year that “there is no longer room for the prohibitionist policy. ” And she also said that the influence of the U.S .is to blame for failed marijuana criminalization laws  in her country.

Where The New Republican And Democratic Congressional Leaders Stand On Marijuana

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