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First Draft Of U.S. Senate Cannabis Decriminalization Bill Presented For Public Comment

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Cannabis News Update July 15, 2021

** R: First up: Since July 1, when a cannabis decriminalization statute went into effect mandating justice for anyone involved in prohibition policing, the New Jersey state Judiciary stated that approximately 88,000 cannabis charges have been canceled or dropped.

The courts noted in a press statement that these are just the first of around 360,000 cannabis charges that would be immediately annulled, withdrawn, and erased. “In the coming months,” the expungement portion of the procedure will take place.

Cannabis-related infractions of probation or pretrial monitoring will also be dismissed, according to the judiciary, as would driver’s license suspensions or terminations for failing to show up for cannabis charges. In addition, a new electronic system will be developed to enable judges to issue certifications of expungements to citizens who want to check if their records have been cleansed.

This comes months following Gov. Phil Murphy (D) approving measures legalizing and decriminalizing cannabis. After voters approved a reformation initiative during the November 2020 election, the legislature was mandated to approve the previous bill.

** D: Next up: U.S. President Joe Biden has nominated a drug czar for the White House, who formerly oversaw the development and growth of a state medical cannabis system. Rahul Gupta, the former leader of the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board and the head of drug policy for President Biden’s presidential transition team, has been named to oversee the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Gupta is presently awaiting Senate confirmation, and they have openly acknowledged the therapeutic and economical promise of cannabis reforms.

It’s unusual for a White House to have a drug czar that has multiple times praised the medicinal value of cannabis, saying, for instance, that it can “help citizens suffering from debilitating diseases like cancer.” Gupta has also worked to establish a state-authorized cannabis system that allows individuals to engage in actions that are illegal under federal statute. The director of the ONDCP, also known as the “drug czar,” is mandated by federal statute to resist initiatives to legalize presently illicit substances.

The Biden administration emphasized Gupta’s medical background, claiming that as a physician, they are particularly qualified to help spearhead the country’s drug policy initiatives in the face of an overdose epidemic.

** R: Last up: The initial draft of a long-awaited U.S. Senate proposal to federally legalize cannabis has been introduced, and its authors are seeking community feedback to enhance the proposal before it is officially filed.

The proposal, called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, was presented by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

The bill’s principal characteristics are much in line with what activists had hoped for. It would deschedule cannabis on a federal level, expunge previous convictions, permit individuals to request resentencing, keep states’ ability to make their own cannabis regulations, and erase collateral consequences such as immigration penalties for those who have been charged with cannabis possession.

The proposal would also levy a federal tax on cannabis goods, with some of the proceeds going to grant programs to help individuals from regions most disadvantaged by prohibition to get involved in the sector. Provisions in the proposal were added that would further social equity for those who have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs, and the Equitable Licensing Grant Program would “provide funding to eligible states and localities to implement cannabis licensing programs that minimize barriers for individuals adversely affected…”

Individuals would not be refused federal benefits because they consume or possess cannabis, or because they have been convicted of a cannabis crime. This includes protecting federal staffers’ security clearances from being revoked.

But, one provision of the current proposal that activists have criticized and that has been added in past reformation bills would allow authorities to “continue to include cannabis for the purposes of drug testing of Federal employees.”

The bill also transfers cannabis regulation power from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

Furthermore, the bill would allow doctors working for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prescribe medical cannabis to veterans.

This is not the final version of the proposal. The public feedback session is underway through September 1.

** D: For more cannabis news and insights from industry professionals, and a place to discuss these stories, visit TRICHOMES.com

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