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Congressman Says His Marijuana Expungements Bills Could Be ‘Adjunct’ To Reform Package With Banking

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Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA) told Marijuana Moment in a new interview that he’s “happy to join the battle” to reform federal cannabis laws—and he’s optimistic that his new bill on expunging federal misdemeanor marijuana convictions could build on bipartisan progress that’s been made as congressional lawmakers work to craft a passable reform package that could include banking and other issues this session.

The congressman is sponsoring two recently filed marijuana bills, both with Republican cosponsors: the Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act and the Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses (CLIMB) Act, which would allow state-legal cannabis companies to to be listed on national stock exchanges and access key financial services.

Carter isn’t new to the issue. Before entering Congress, he served as a member of the Louisiana Senate Judiciary C Committee, where he was tasked with evaluating the state’s criminal code. The experience further solidified his “passion for justice,” he said in the Thursday interview.

Now that he’s on Capitol Hill, he sees new opportunity for bipartisan collaboration. While he’s a cosponsor of a wide-ranging cannabis legalization bill that cleared the House for the second time in April, the congressman is cognizant of the need to find common ground to get reform through both chambers and to the president’s desk, which will likely mean taking more incremental steps on the path to ending prohibition.

He applauded House and Senate colleagues for building the necessary infrastructure, saying that he’s eager to “lend my experience and expertise as a longtime legislator and longtime advocate in this area to be able to bring some additional light to the great work that’s been done.”

It’s possible that some of the most constructive work on marijuana policy this session is legislation that’s yet to be finalized, however. In the weeks since Senate leadership filed a much-anticipated legalization bill, the conversation has quickly shifted, with key lawmakers saying that there’s promising momentum behind a package of incremental reforms that’s still in the works. Expungements—along the lines of Carter’s new standalone bill—is said to be a key part of the talks, along with marijuana business banking access, among other issues.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), one of the three prime sponsors of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), said on Wednesday that the idea of a “SAFE Banking Plus” bill really is coming together. And despite his prior resistance to enacting modest reforms like a standalone cannabis banking fix before legalization is enacted, he’s at the table ready to compromise, so long as the final product contains equity provisions like expungements.

That’s where the Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act from Carter and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) could come into play. Carter said that he sees the legislation as potentially “adjunct” to the cannabis omnibus bill, as well as another bipartisan measure from Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Dave Joyce (R-OH) that would incentivize state-legal relief for those who have been criminalized over marijuana.

“What’s important to me is that none of my actions be viewed as competition to, or instead of—but in addition to, to assist with, the movement of work that started before I got to Congress,” Carter said.

Marijuana Moment spoke to Carter about a range of cannabis policy developments, from Louisiana to the federal level. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Marijuana Moment: Where do you see your legislation on expunging federal misdemeanor cannabis convictions fitting in with ongoing efforts to advance a passable reform package?

Rep. Troy Carter: I think it can serve as an adjunct. I think that what we’ve attempted to do—you know, we’ve seen these measures fly and flop five or six times, and the American people need action. And so we should endeavor to continue to go back to the drawing board each time to come up with ways to add value to the great work that Sen. Booker and Schumer and [Reps.] Joyce, Perlmutter and so many others that have stood before me, Barbara Lee and others, and I can go on and on, Chairman Nadler, all of these these great leaders that have put forth from misdemeanor expungements, to SAFE Banking or CLIMB.

What’s important to me is that none of my actions be viewed as competition to, or instead of—but in addition to, to assist with, the movement of works that started before I got to Congress while I was working in the [Louisiana legislature].

I’m just happy to join the battle, join the fight and lend my experience and expertise as a longtime legislator and longtime advocate in this area to be able to bring some additional light to the great work that’s been done. So I’m very careful when presenting these bills that, while I think we have some nuances that really give us an opportunity to be closer to the goalposts, because we talk about expungement, we talk about access to financing, we talk about expansion for [minority or women-owned] businesses, and these are all areas that, while we expand, we create opportunity for people of color, people that may not have otherwise had access to financing, to be able to get in the game, if you will.

That’s in addition to, you know, you’ve got 38 states where [cannabis is] legal, and somebody’s sitting there with a ding on their record, or God forbid someone’s sitting in a jail cell. That’s unconscionable. We’ve had good meetings with the White House. We’ve had good meetings with leadership. And we continue to press.

MM: Your bill focuses on federal cannabis convictions, whereas the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act from Reps. Joyce and Ocasio-Cortez seeks to tackle the expungement issue at the state level. Do you view the bills as complementary?

TC: I’m very happy about [the HOPE Act]. HOPE gives the opportunity to provide resources for states to do what I’m attempting to do with with my bill on the federal level. So I think they complement each other, and I’m hopeful that everyone will see it that way and that we will continue to use every tool in our toolbox to fix the problems that plague criminal justice reform, as well as the challenge that legal cannabis businesses have to access capital for expansion and or to start.

MM: Your other recently filed legislation, the CLIMB Act, addresses cannabis industry access to national stock exchanges and financial services. What can you tell me about the origin of the proposal and how it’s been received by your colleagues?

TC: It’s been received well. It gives us an opportunity to have a broad range of options for financing. We know that people that want to be banked in the cannabis business can’t, so we obviously know a person that wanted to start in the cannabis business couldn’t get along do so. It couldn’t go to [the Small Business Administration] or any of the other agencies that we might otherwise direct MBEs, WBEs or small business people period to go to access capital. This gives us an opportunity to open that—to, one, create an opportunity so people can be banked. But also the opportunity to be able to be recognized by NASDAQ and by the stock exchange as a legitimate business enterprise.

[Denying marijuana industry access banking access means tax losses] because we’re not accurately accounting for them because cash businesses are very elusive. These are tax dollars that could go into the coffers in providing for our communities, many of the issues that we so desperately [need to fund], whether it’s health care, education, nutrition, housing or what have you. It makes perfect sense that we should be properly taxing and allowing businesses to expand. CLIMB really zeroes in on that, and that’s what gave us the impetus and the energy to really go forward with it.

It’s a holistic approach to building from the work that so many others have done, and then taking my flavor from Louisiana and experience as a senator and former member of the House, to then kind of blend that together and use the resources of a lot of other big brains that have been at this table, mix it with some of my own Louisiana flavor, to come up with something that we hope will be a winning formula to get relief to the people.


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.

MM: Speaking of Louisiana, the state legislature has enacted a number of cannabis reforms in recent sessions, from possession decriminalization to banning police from using the odor of marijuana as probable cause for searches. How has that momentum in your home state informed your approach to the issue in Congress?

TC: Well, as a former member of the state Senate, I was very active in the entire criminal justice reform package of bills, serving on Judiciary C in the Senate is where many of the criminal justice bills were able to come through. And I have a passion for justice.

You know, Louisiana doesn’t always get it right. But it looks like here’s a case where we are, where we’re recognizing that the necessity of true criminal justice reform means people that have been arrested, convicted or cited for minor violations should not block the way for police officers doing more serious job at getting rapists and murderers and the like [prosecuted].

We’ve got 38 states that are legally providing sales of marijuana, yet we have people that have had their lives ruined for small amounts of marijuana, either through a misdemeanor or citation or conviction. Louisiana is on the right step of that, and I’m proud to pick up where I left off as a member of the Senate now in the U.S. Congress.

MM: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is a rare example of a Democratic governor who remains opposed to adult-use legalization. He’s said he feels the reform will come to Louisiana, but it’s unlikely to happen under his administration. Do you feel like the growing momentum we’re seeing might change that calculus?

TC: Yeah, I think so. And I think even though this governor may be reluctant, I don’t think that he would veto it and I don’t think that he would stop it. He’s been supportive of medicinal cannabis, and we know that the various people who have had medical issues that benefited as a result of cannabis use is something that is undeniable. So obviously, it would be great to to happen under this governor’s watch. We know he has about a year and a half, so there’s a session or two left in the barrel before he before he’s out of there. We’re hopeful that we’re starting to see more and more Republicans and Democrats see the value, and this is one of those issues that should in fact be bipartisan.

MM: Lastly, I want to ask about WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to more than nine years in Russian prison over a cannabis possession conviction on Thursday. Many advocates have said this is an injustice that underscores the need for domestic marijuana reform here. Do you share that sentiment? 

TC: Absolutely. I mean, this is playing out on the world stage for everyone to see. Brittney Griner, with a very small amount of cannabis oil for which she is legally prescribed caught in the switches of a political battle that she shouldn’t have been in—as many, many Americans have found themselves in similar situations. This gives us an opportunity to highlight the complexity, the hypocrisy and the urgency of, now, to level the field on these misdemeanors and on cannabis charges. Brittney Griner should not be in anyone’s jail. Brittney Griner certainly should not have been sentenced to nine and a half years.

I’m proud of the action that President Biden and the administration has taken. I wish we can do it all much faster. I wish it could have been done already. I wish she didn’t have to spend one single day in jail. But we should use this as a shining example of the things that are wrong in our world, in our country, and recognize that we have opportunities now to fix it. And I think that any of the measures, whether it is with my Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act or with HOPE or with SAFE or with CLIMB—we’ve got any number of tools or hybrids of all that can be incredible uses to move us in the right direction of real reform.

Advocates Demand Biden Take Marijuana Action After Brittney Griner Sentenced To Nine Years In Russian Prison For Vapes

 

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New Jersey Marijuana Regulators Approve Rules For Public Cannabis Consumption Areas

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New Jersey marijuana regulators approved rules for “public cannabis consumption areas” on Friday, bringing the state one step closer to providing the social use option to adults and patients.

Adult-use cannabis shops opened in April, but advocates have emphasized the need to implement regulations that give people additional spaces for where they can lawfully consume.

On Friday, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) moved closer to achieving that goal by approving requirements for the consumption sites and fees for businesses that operate them.

“Equitable access to cannabis means everyone who wishes to consume has some place they can do that—legally, safely, and responsibly,” CRC Chair Dianna Houenou said in a press release. “When regulated properly, cannabis consumption areas can strengthen the industry, while giving people more choices on where they consume.”

Food items could not be sold on-site under the draft rules, though people would be able to bring their own food or have it delivered. Alcohol and tobacco could not be sold or consumed at the cannabis consumption sites.

The proposed application fee and microbusiness and standard license fees for the facilities would be $1,000. They could operate indoors or outdoors, but the latter would need to be enclosed.

“I’m very excited that we’re pushing this forward because it is a safe space for consumers and patients,” one commissioner said ahead of the vote to approve the draft rules. “It’s definitely another stride for the commission, so I’m really excited that we were able to put this together on a timely manner.”

Before the rules are finalized, they will be posted in the New Jersey Register, after which point they will be subject to a 60-day public comment period.

CRC further approved 113 conditional cannabis licenses, eight annual licenses and six conversations from conditional to annual at their meeting on Friday.

The public consumption development in New Jersey comes just days after Nevada regulators announced the winners of the state’s first cannabis lounge licensees.

In 2019, Alaska became the first state to enact regulations that provide for the on-site use option at dispensaries.

Colorado followed suit with legislation approved that legalized cannabis “tasting rooms” and “marijuana hospitality establishments” where adults could freely use cannabis.

Social consumption sites are also provided for in New York’s recently enacted marijuana legalization law, though it’s not clear how long after the first retailers open that such activity will be authorized.


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.

In New Jersey, the governor also recently said that the state should “revisit” its current criminalization of homegrown marijuana for personal use—but he thinks that conversation should happen at a later point after the commercial market has matured.

In October, the New Jersey Assembly separately approved a bill that would allow licensed marijuana businesses to deduct certain expenses on their state tax returns, a partial remedy as the industry continues to be blocked from making federal deductions under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E.

While the adult-use market is still developing, it’s already proven profitable, with the state reporting about $80 million in marijuana sales in the first ten weeks after retailers opened shop in April.

A bill filed by Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D) over the summer would also authorize the governor to enter into agreements for interstate marijuana commerce with other states that have legalized cannabis. However, the agreements could only be forged if federal law changes, or if the Justice Department issues guidance permitting such activity.

The Senate president separately filed legislation to legalize psilocybin in New Jersey, and it includes provisions that would allow people to cultivate the psychedelic at home.

Biden Signs Marijuana Research Bill, A Historic First For Federal Cannabis Reform

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Biden Signs Marijuana Research Bill, A Historic First For Federal Cannabis Reform

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President Joe Biden has officially signed a marijuana research bill into law, making history by enacting the first piece of standalone federal cannabis reform legislation in U.S. history.

The bill cleared the House in April and the Senate last month, and a White House spokesperson confirmed to Marijuana Moment that the president intended to sign it. On Friday, he did just that.

The law gives the U.S. attorney general 60 days to either approve a given application or request supplemental information from the marijuana research applicant. It also creates a more efficient pathway for researchers who request larger quantities of cannabis.

The president remains opposed to federal cannabis legalization, but he campaigned on a number of more modest marijuana reforms, including promoting research, decriminalization and rescheduling cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Biden also issued a mass pardon for Americans who’ve committed federal marijuana possession cases in October and directed an administrative review into cannabis scheduling. The White House recently listed those actions among the “top accomplishments” for the president.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Andy Harris (R-MD) sponsored the House version of the research legislation, which is substantively identical to a Senate bill from Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that previously cleared that chamber.

“Thank you to Representatives Blumenauer, Harris, Griffith, Joyce, Mace, and Perlmutter, Delegate Norton, and Senators Feinstein, Grassley, Schatz, Durbin, Klobuchar, Tillis, Kaine, Ernst, Tester, and Murkowski for their leadership,” the president said on Friday.

Blumenauer and Harris previously championed a separate cannabis research bill that advanced through their chamber in April. Unlike that legislation, however, the newly approved bill notably does not include a provision that scientists had welcomed that would have allowed researchers to access cannabis from state-legal dispensaries to study.

The research legislation further encourages the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop cannabis-derived medicines. One way it proposes doing so is by allowing accredited medical and osteopathic schools, practitioners, research institutions, and manufacturers with a Schedule I registration to cultivate their own cannabis for research purposes.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is now mandated to approve applications to be manufacturers of marijuana-derived, FDA-approved drugs under the bill. Manufacturers will also be allowed to import cannabis materials to facilitate research into the plant’s therapeutic potential.

Another section requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to look at the health benefits and risks of marijuana as well as policies that are inhibiting research into cannabis that’s grown in legal states and provide recommendations on overcoming those barriers.

The bill further states that it “shall not be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) for a State-licensed physician to discuss” the risk and benefits of marijuana and cannabis-derived products with patients.

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis published in July found that the proposal would reduce direct spending by less than $500,000 and would have a “negligible net change in the deficit.”

There are only a few changes in this new bill compared to the original version the Senate passed earlier this year.

For example, the text now says that researchers won’t need to notify or receive a review from DEA if change study protocols, as long as they already have a Schedule I registration. The previous language said broadly that researchers wouldn’t need to reapply for approval. Also, the new version makes more explicit references to cannabis in the text, rather than “drug” generally.

Another revision deals with a section that mandates the attorney general to conduct an annual review of the supply of cannabis that’s available for research purposes. The new bill says DOJ must carry out that review in consultation with HHS, and says that the latter department will need to submit a report to Congress if it determines that the supply is inadequate.

Finally, a section of the original bill concerning the importation of CBD for research purposes was removed from the new measure.


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.

Both the House and Senate passed earlier versions of their separate but similar cannabis research bills in late 2020, but nothing ended up getting to then-President Donald Trump’s desk by the end of the last Congress.

Congressional researchers separately released a report in March that details the challenges posed by ongoing federal prohibition and the options that lawmakers have available to address them.

DEA has taken steps in recent years to approve new cultivators of marijuana to be used in studies, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently published a solicitation for applications from those authorized growers as it looks for new contractors to supply the agency with cannabis for research purposes.

Meanwhile, large-scale infrastructure legislation that was signed by Biden last year contains provisions aimed at allowing researchers to study the actual marijuana that consumers are purchasing from state-legal businesses instead of having to use only government-grown cannabis.

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) sought an update this week on the status of a federal report into research barriers that are inhibiting the development of a standardized test for marijuana impairment on the roads, as required under that infrastructure legislation.

NIDA Director Nora Volkow told Marijuana Moment last year that scientists have been unnecessarily limited in the source of cannabis they’re permitted to study—and it makes sense to enact a policy change that expands their access to products available in state-legal markets.

Also, last month, congressional lawmakers held a hearing to discuss federal marijuana legalization and state cannabis developments, hearing testimony from a panel of broadly pro-reform advocates.

The chairman of the subcommittee that held that hearing also said on Tuesday that he will soon be introducing a bill aimed at protecting federal workers from being denied security clearances over marijuana.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) filed a bill last month that would allow state-legal marijuana businesses to access certain federal Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and services that are available to companies in any other industry.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the 2024 president election last month.

In a speech announcing his candidacy, Trump signaled that drug policy will be a focal point of his campaign—but not by advocating for reform. He talked about waging “war on the cartels” and working with Congress to pass legislation to impose the death penalty on “drug dealers” who are “responsible for death, carnage and crime.”

Biden’s Health Secretary Gives Update On Marijuana Scheduling Review Directed By The President

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Biden’s Health Secretary Gives Update On Marijuana Scheduling Review Directed By The President

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The head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says that the Biden administration is committed to supporting evidence-based policies for marijuana as it works to complete a review of federal cannabis scheduling that was directed by the president.

That science-focused approach also applies to policy decisions on other drugs, he said.

At an event on overdose prevention on Friday, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra was asked about broad drug decriminalization efforts. And while he said that it isn’t within the department’s “jurisdiction” to make policy decisions like that, the government won’t be using “20th century modalities and ways of thinking to drive what we do if we have evidence that tells us we go a different direction.”

“We would not be the ones who would be proposing [decriminalization], but we certainly would weigh in on any issue involving decriminalization of any controlled substance,” he said before specifically addressing President Joe Biden’s marijuana scheduling directive.

“We’re going to take a look at what science tells us and what the evidence tells us,” Becerra, who has a considerable record supporting cannabis reform as a congressman and as California’s attorney general, said. “That will guide what we do—and we hope that will guide what the federal government does.”

Watch the discussion on marijuana and broader drug policy, starting around 27:40 into the video below:

 

Following the president’s cannabis pardons and scheduling announcement in October, the secretary said that the department would “work as quickly as we can” to carry out the scientific review. And he’s already discussed the issue with the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to that end.

More broadly on drug policy, the official said on Friday that, “at the end of the day, we should all be about keeping people alive and letting those people thrive.”

“At HHS, we took a turn with our new strategies on drug overdose and drug use, because we think at the end of the day, each one of our loved ones deserves a chance to, as I said, stay alive and thrive,” he said.

Becerra was joined at Friday’s event by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who also responded to the drug policy question.

The senator said that she’s “long supported decriminalization of marijuana,” going back to her time as a state lawmaker in Wisconsin. Her support is based on “a number of different reasons, including the ramifications when use and possession is criminalized,” she said.

“As a federal official now in the U.S. Senate, I am observing the fact that there is a lack of coordination as you have state after state that are reexamining their laws through referenda or through action in the state legislatures—that we have a conflict between federal law and state law,” Baldwin, who has cosponsored several marijuana reform bills over her tenure, including banking and legalization proposals, said.

Meanwhile, with respect to the president’s scheduling directive, the White House drug czar said recently that that the action was “historic,” adding that there are “clearly” medical benefits of cannabis.

Like HHS, DOJ has similarly committed to quickly carrying out the separate scheduling review the president directed, which could result in a recommendation to place cannabis in a lower schedule or remove it altogether, effectively legalizing the plant under federal law.

Separately, Biden recently cheered a move by Oregon’s governor to grant tens of thousands of marijuana pardons this week, which followed his own federal clemency action last month. And he says other states should “follow Oregon’s example.”

A White House spokesperson also told Marijuana Moment last month that the president intends to sign a bipartisan marijuana research bill that was recently passed by Congress.

A series of polls have shown that Americans strongly support the president’s pardon action, and they also don’t think that marijuana should be federally classified as a Schedule I drug.

DOJ Has Concerns About Marijuana Banking Bill, Newly Surfaced Memo Reveals, But Sources Say They’ve Been Resolved

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