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Past Pot Use OK For Some White House Jobs Under New Policy

The Biden administration announced a new policy on Friday that will allow some appointees to be hired for White House jobs in spite of previous recreational marijuana use. The new guidelines for political appointees were put in place in response to challenges faced filling White House positions for the new administration, according to a report from NBC News.
Under the new policy, the White House will be able to waive a requirement that potential appointees to positions in the Executive Office of the President (EOP) be eligible to receive a “Top Secret” security clearance. Waivers would only be granted on a limited basis for candidates being considered for positions that do not actually require a security clearance. 
Because of the continued illegality of cannabis at the federal level, those who acknowledge past recreational marijuana use are routinely denied “Top Secret” security clearances. As the Biden administration began the task of filling White House positions following the November election, the transition team realized the requirement for eligibility for a “Top Secret” clearance was eliminating otherwise qualified candidates solely for marijuana use.
“President Biden is committed to bringing the best people into government — especially the young people whose commitment to public service can deepen in these positions and who can play leadership roles in our country for decades to come,” a White House official told NBC News. “The White House’s policy will maintain the absolute highest standards for service in government that the President expects from his administration, while acknowledging the reality that state and local marijuana laws have changed significantly across the country in recent years.”

The new policy applies only to marijuana and candidates who admit to extensive use would not qualify for a waiver. Appointees granted waivers would be required to agree to end their cannabis use while employed by the government and to submit to random drug testing. A White House official said that the new guidelines would “effectively protect our national security while modernizing policies to ensure that talented and otherwise well-qualified applicants with limited marijuana use will not be barred from serving the American people.”
Policy For Other Federal Jobs Also Updated
Only days before the administration policy was announced, Kathleen McGettigan, the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, sent a memo to executive branch officials to outline criteria for evaluating candidates for employment in federal government jobs.
“It would be inconsistent with suitability regulations to implement a policy of finding an individual unfit or unsuitable for federal service solely on the basis of recency of marijuana use,” McGettigan wrote. “The nature and seriousness of the use and the nature of the specific position …. are also likely to be important considerations.”
Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a statement about McGettigan’s memo that the federal government’s prohibition of cannabis “continues to have ripple effects.”
“Placing civil service employees and others in the workforce under undue scrutiny because of their past use of cannabis,” Armentano said, “and imposing disciplinary action for those employees who consume cannabis while off-the-job in accordance with the laws of their states, are among the many negative consequences facing Americans as a result of the federal government’s ‘Flat Earth’ policy toward cannabis and those who consume it.”

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Morocco Expected To Pass Cannabis Legalization Soon

After failing at previous efforts, Morocco is set to open the door for the production of medical cannabis. 
The stage is set after “the co-ruling PJD party, the largest in parliament, dropped its opposition,” according to Reuters.
The PJD shifted its position following a decision by the United Nations in December to remove marijuana from the list of the world’s most dangerous drugs.
The U.N. Commission for Narcotic Drugs reclassified cannabis under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, under which it was categorized as a Schedule IV drug, the same classification as heroin and other more dangerous substances.

The move was backed by the United States and European member states, while countries such as Russia, China, Egypt, Nigeria, and Pakistan opposed the change in classification. Morocco voted in favor of the change. It passed narrowly, by a vote of 27-25. 
While the change in classification did not impose any direct changes on the respective cannabis laws in U.N. member states, experts did predict that the move would in December – which came after 53 member states convened in Vienna – would embolden countries to take the type of action seen in Morocco this week.
The Bill Could Pass Next Week
According to Reuters, the Moroccan bill is expected to pass next week and will aim “to improve farmers’ incomes, protect them from drug traffickers who now control the trade in cannabis and gain access to the booming legal international market for the drug.”
Reuters, which reviewed the draft law, said that the bill “envisages a national agency to monitor production, transportation and sales.”
It will still require approval from the PJD, but Reuters notes that cannabis has “long been tolerated” in Morocco, which “is among the top global producers.”
Reuters reported that Morocco’s interior ministry said that the country “reduced the amount of land where cannabis is cultivated from 134,000 hectares in 2003 to 47,000 hectares six years ago.” Despite that, recreational pot will remain illegal in Morocco.
The move by the Moroccan government comes nearly a year after Lebanon became the first Arab country to legalize marijuana.
The country’s parliament took up the matter last March, citing marijuana as a means to turn around its sluggish economy.
As in Morocco, marijuana had long been cultivated in Lebanon despite its illegal status, and its hashish exports are ubiquitous throughout Europe.
In April of last year, it became official, with Lebanon’s parliament eschewing opposition from Islamist groups and passing a proposal that made cannabis farming legal.
While Morocco was spurred to act after a policy change by the United Nations, Lebanon’s motivation came from an elite consulting group. In 2018, McKinsey & Company prepared a report for the Lebanese government on a number of actions it could take to restore the country’s troubled economy, including an assessment of “the economic impact of shifting Lebanon’s illicit market to a regulated market for medicinal use.”
McKinsey didn’t explicitly recommend legalization, though it did – as Business Insider reported at the time – ”detail the positive economic benefits.”

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Recreational Cannabis Bill Heads to New Mexico House Floor

New Mexico just passed a recreational cannabis bill through committee in the House, and the next step is the House floor for debate. House Bill 12 passed through the House Taxation and Revenue Committee at an 8-4 margin. The bill is sponsored by Javier Martínez and Andrea Romero, both Democrats. 
The bill now features some concessions from those who voted on it in committee. Instead of specifying that cannabis taxes would go specifically to medical cannabis patients and communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, it doesn’t specify where the tax money will go. Those supporting the bills want to support those communities, but they also want fewer specifics set in stone. The provisions also changed the date that adult-use sales would start, and made it easier for employers to enforce anti-drug rules. 
Protecting Medical Marijuana and Moving Towards Equity
Martínez emphasizes that the key, important issues this bill takes care of are protecting the state’s medical program, focusing on equity for the future industry, and establishing the ground rules for the new industry. It is important to the bill’s sponsors that New Mexico cannabis truly offers equal opportunities. 
“Of course, the most important component as to why this is the best way to do it, is because of how we’re trying to reduce the harm in our communities and really soundly address the social justice and access to justice components of this, while we’re trying to create a brand new industry,” Romero explained. 

For the most part, the bill was supported after the provisions were made, but a few Republicans are concerned. Jason Harper, an opposing representative, feels that legalization is not the right move. 
“I do believe that 10 years from now, we’ll look back at the impact this has had on New Mexico and I just really believe, deeply, that we will all regret doing this,” Harper said. 
He also remembered a talk with a Colorado politician regarding legalization. 
“I can’t remember what political party she was, so I’m not even going to guess. But she did say that she was hoping that we would legalize marijuana so that her homeless camps would all move to New Mexico where it’s warmer,” Harper said. “So just something, something to think about.”
Another concern is that cannabis would lead to vice spending from the community, causing people to neglect more important things. However, Martínez thinks that is unfair. 
“There’s a host of other things that we make decisions on, and I don’t think that would be any different,” Martínez said. “This is a new industry and I think people will make decisions based on their income and based on their priorities.”
Now, the bill will get debated, and if it survives the floor, it will move through the Senate. If the bill is able to clear both those hurdles, Governor Lujan Grisham is expected to sign it, as she has pushed several times for legal cannabis. 
If New Mexico legalizes cannabis, many can look forward to increased economic prosperity and more social equity. However, the proposal will have to make it through several hurdles first. 

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Alabama Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill

The Alabama state Senate approved a bill to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana on Wednesday, after spending only about 15 minutes to debate the measure. The bill, SB46, was approved by a vote of 21 to 10. The legislation must also be passed by the Alabama House of Representatives and signed by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey to become law.
Under the measure, physicians would be permitted to recommend cannabis for their patients with one of more than a dozen serious medical conditions including seizures; spasticity associated with certain diseases or spinal cord injuries; anxiety or panic disorder; and terminal illnesses. Qualifying patients with a doctor’s recommendation would receive a medical marijuana identification card from the state.
The bill would also establish a state Medical Cannabis Commission, which would be tasked with issuing licenses for the cultivation, processing, distribution, transporting, lab testing, and dispensing of medical marijuana. The commission would also maintain a seed-to-sale tracking system to monitor the production, distribution, and sale of regulated cannabis products.
Smoking Weed Not Allowed
The medical marijuana products permitted by the measure are tightly controlled. Oral tablets and tinctures, topicals, transdermal patches, gummy cubes, lozenges, liquids for inhalers, and suppositories are specifically allowed. Herbal or smokable forms of cannabis and edibles such as baked goods and candies are not authorized by the act.

The Compassion Act, as SB46 is also known, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tim Melson, a Republican who is also a medical researcher and anesthesiologist. He believes that existing evidence supports giving the residents of Alabama the right to choose medical marijuana products, particularly when more traditional treatments have not been successful.
“I was skeptical five years ago,” Melson said. “I started listening to patients instead of the biased people, and this is where we’re at today.”
Wednesday’s passage of the Compassion Act marks the third time the Senate has approved legislation legalizing the medical use of cannabis. The bill passed in March 2020, also introduced by Melson, is essentially the same as this year’s measure.
Opposition In The Alabama House Expected
Despite the repeated success of medical marijuana legalization bills in the Alabama Senate, members of the state’s House of Representatives have failed to approve the measures. But Melson believes things may be different this time around, even with expected opposition. Polling shows strong support for medical marijuana in Alabama, and the personal experiences of some lawmakers may help change minds.
“They had that family member that needs it,” Melson said. “Or they realize they have a friend or neighbor that needs it.”
Although the bill prevailed in the Senate, the vote was not unanimous. Another physician in the body, Republican Sen. Larry Stutts, voted against the Compassion Act. He said that cannabis products should not be considered “medical.”
“First, there’s no such thing as medical marijuana. It’s just marijuana,” Stutts said. “From a medical aspect, it’s just marijuana. And we have a process for products, for drugs, for medications to be approved, and we’re bypassing that entire process.”
Stutts added that the list of qualifying conditions, which includes maladies such as chronic pain and sleep disorders, is too broad and general.
“Anybody that wanted marijuana could get a cannabis card and can qualify for one of these medical conditions and get it,” he said. “So, it’s a backdoor way of saying we’re going to increase the availability of marijuana.”
But Melson said that is not the intent of the bill.
“I’m not a recreational marijuana person,” Melson said. “I don’t want that in this state. I just want the patients who need it to have it.”

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Red White & Bloom Announces Florida Acquisition

Multi-state cannabis operator Red White & Bloom (CSE: RWB) (OTC: RWBYF) announced on Thursday that it had acquired the Florida operations of fellow industry powerhouse Acreage Holdings in a deal worth $60 million in cash, stock, and other cash considerations. The transaction continues Red White & Bloom’s bid to become one of the top three cannabis multi-state operators in the country.
Under the deal, Red White & Bloom (RWB) will acquire licensed medical marijuana manufacturer and retailer Acreage Florida, an entity owned by a subsidiary of Acreage Holdings. The acquisition includes eight leased store locations and ownership of a 113,000 square foot facility for cultivation and processing situated on 15 acres of land in Sanderson, Florida.
In a statement from the company, RWB noted that it planned to immediately introduce its award-winning Platinum Vape products to the Florida market, as well as a line of offerings sold under the High Times Brand name in accordance with a previously announced licensing agreement.
“Our core strategy has always been to focus on a limited number of markets within which to operate at scale, and Florida has always been one of those targeted markets,” said RWB CEO Brad Rogers. “Today we have our path to entry into the third-largest market by revenue in the US and are excited with what we can do with the brands we have amassed as well as the skill to execute on our vision.”

Earlier this month, RWB announced that it had arranged the financing to secure assets in Illinois under a previously announced deal, including a “super license” to operate a cultivation facility of up to 220,000 square feet.
“Surpassing US $1 Billion of adult-use sales in only its first year, Illinois has quickly developed into one of the most robust revenue markets in the United States,” Rogers said in a press release at the time. “With the financing now secured, we are thrilled to be one step closer to bringing Red White & Bloom’s nationally-recognized brands to this market. The renewed optimism around the state permitting an additional 75 retail locations further highlights the enormous opportunity Illinois offers.”
RWB Lineup Includes High Times Branded Products
Late last year, RWB announced that it was launching a new line of products in Michigan to be sold under the High Times brand name. The lineup of premium cannabis flower, vapes, gummies, and pre-rolls continues RWB’s drive to assemble the best portfolio of brands for Michigan consumers.
“There is no cannabis brand in the world like High Times,” Rogers said in December. “As the most well-known brand in the community, High Times helped light the way before many of us had even thought about the space. We are on the cusp of a new beginning for both our brands. One that will define RWB and High Times as the best-in-class for generations to come. We are very excited to bring this important goal to fruition and have plans for many other instantly recognizable High Times initiatives. With the rights to High Times and Platinum Vape, RWB has the most recognizable cannabis brands in the market  today.”

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NFL Finally Exploring Cannabis and CBD as Pain Management

After years of drug testing and letting players go for cannabis use, the National Football League and NFL Players Association are looking into how THC-containing cannabis and CBD can work as pain medicine alternatives, as well as how cannabis impacts athletic performance. 
Specifically, the proposed study looks into “the potential therapeutic role of medications and non-pharmacological interventions that are considered adjunctive to routine post-surgical orthopedic pain management in NFL football players.”
Changes In NFL Policy
The NFL made changes to their drug-testing policy last year, now penalizing all drugs equally and not singling out cannabis, but they still weren’t taking cannabis seriously as a possible alternative remedy. Now, all that might change. The decision shows that rather than penalize drug users, they want to take a more proactive approach, acknowledging when a substance is being used to treat pain, and recommending users to treatment and rehab instead of punishing them. 
The official statement released by the NFL claims that their goal is “to identify investigators who have the current capability to carry out studies aimed at supplementing the NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee’s (‘PMC’) knowledge about pain management and athletic performance in NFL players.”

When evaluating this new, potential treatment, the NFL’s areas of interest include how cannabis can work as an alternative to opiate pain medication, which has proven to be dangerous and addictive, and then whether using CBD or THC-containing cannabis would have any impact on athletic performance. They also want to see how cannabis can help with post-surgical pain management. 
Last year, the NFL-NFLPA committee held informational forums on CBD to learn more about the science behind the medicine. They now want more information on the specifics of how CBD can help, and they are finally ready to branch out and also look at how THC-containing cannabis can have an impact. 
“CBD is a promising compound, but the level of its use in the United States outpaces the level of research at this point,” the committee claimed. “Most of the hype about CBD is based upon results from animal studies.”
However, at this time, the NFL won’t be funding any specific studies. In general, they want to seek out qualified scientists who can assist with research projects in the future. They are giving scientists who may want to work with the NFL until March 31 to submit information. 
Currently in the NFL, those who test positive for substances face salary loss, but no suspension. This is similar to moves made by other sports organizations. The MLB no longer lists cannabis as  a banned substance, and cannabis can be consumed as long as it is not during game play. The NBA has not been doing any random drug testing during COVID, and have stated they don’t see a problem with casual cannabis use and want to help those with substance abuse problems. 
The NFL is not entirely revising their views on cannabis, but they are opening their minds to new concepts about how THC, CBD, and other cannabis compounds can help heal or those in pain. 

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Connecticut Governor Makes Plan To Legalize Cannabis

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont would like to see legal cannabis in his state, both because he would like to bring more money into Connecticut, and because he hopes legalization will help end racial disparity in arrests in the state. To make this a reality, he has introduced a bill to the legislature. 
While Lamont realizes that this plan may take some extra convincing, since Republicans are likely to fight back throughout the legislative process, and Democrats would like to see an even more liberal bill, he feels good about being able to come up with a solution. 
“This is the beginning of a discussion, not the end of a discussion,” he said regarding the proposal. “This has been a long time coming. We have been talking about this for ages,” Lamont said. “I think now is the time for legalized adult-use recreational marijuana in a carefully regulated way with an emphasis on equity and justice.”
The bill focuses on decriminalization, regulation, and generating revenue when it comes to the proposed, legal industry. This Friday, the state will hold a public hearing about the proposal. 

If legalization passes, sales could begin in May of 2022. Projections reveal that Connecticut could raise as much as $33.6 million for the 2023 budget, and $97 million by 2026. 
In order to ensure equity in the legal industry, the plan is to pivot police, prosecutors, and judges to focus only on dangerous criminal activity and forgo persecuting cannabis possession. Just last year, 7,500 people were arrested in Connecticut just for cannabis possession, which made up almost 10 percent of the total number of arrests.
Additionally, the new legislation would set up a method for clearing prior cannabis possessions from records, so that folks whose only crime was possessing cannabis can have equal opportunity in the job market. 
Criticism Regarding Legalizaton
However, not everyone is on board with legalization. Rep. Holly Cheeseman, a Republican, supports the idea of being more lax on those whose only crime is expunging convictions, and she wants to see prior convictions cleared. However, she also worries about statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that claim one of 10 cannabis users will become addicted. For that reason, she is not in favor of full legalization. 
“Let’s look at ways to increase economic opportunity and create jobs that don’t destroy lives,” Cheeseman said.
Still others are undecided about whether Connecticut is ready for adult-use legalization. Sen. Heather Summers, another Republican, is concerned about the implications for military contracts if the state becomes legal. She is concerned that there could be negative impacts to Connecticut acting as a home base for the design and manufacture of nuclear submarines. 
“We have to weigh one of the largest employers in Connecticut vs. the revenue Connecticut would get,” said Somers, whose Senate district includes Electric Boat. “It puts us at a disadvantage when competing for Navy contracts,” she said.
If Connecticut does decide to legalize, it looks like there is more work to do to pass the proposal, but there are lots of possibilities for revenue if the state pulls the trigger. 

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After Two Years, American Hemp Experts Applaud USDA Rules While Waiting On Further Clarity

After two years of deliberating and listening to the public, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its final rule on hemp production on January 19, 2021. The rules, which take effect on March 22, 2021, replace the regulations set in place after the 2018 Farm Bill passage. Much of the industry appears behind the ruling, signaling that American hemp is moving in the right direction. 
That said, one step forward does not equate to a completed process. The USDA’s rules are significant but remain just one piece to a more extensive regulatory puzzle for the billion-dollar industry. 
Several Significant Rule Changes Announced
The USDA’s announcement will soon establish a concrete framework for the hemp market, removing the state-by-state model in place today while leaving states the right to make alterations on specific facets of the law. 
The USDA listened to thousands of public comments, ranging from politicians to advocates to hemp owners. The National Law Review highlighted six key areas the USDA revised: 

While hemp products remain capped at .3% THC, producers received an increase in the negligent threshold. Under the new rules, hemp containing more than .3% THC but less than 1% won’t be labeled as negligent, though remediation or disposal is still required. 
Noncompliant hemp used to require its disposal or remediation be conducted by a government official from an agency like the DEA. Under the new rules, producers are allowed several other means, including composting, burial, and burning. 
Hemp must be tested at DEA-registered laboratories, as previous rules state. However, a lack of sites continues to cause producers’ pain, leading the DEA to delay enforcement of this rule until December 31, 2022. 
Samples are now to be collected by authorities 30 days before harvest. Previously rules called for collection 15 days prior to harvest. 
Producers are now allowed to adopt a performance-based sampling approach, which sets an objective for operators to reach. The National Law Review said the rule enables states and tribes “considerable freedom” with their sampling and which part of the plant is used to achieve the stated objective. 
Tribes are granted the right to invoke their jurisdiction and authority on their territory.
However, the rules could be subject to change, as the Biden administration instituted a regulatory freeze on regulations published before his inauguration. That said, The National Law Review saw the potential as an opportunity for the industry to work with the incoming Biden administration on additional aspects of the rules.
Support For The Final Rule Comes With Several Concerns
Most in the industry seem to support the ruling, saying it provides clarity for cultivators, allowing farmers to operate with clearer rules and regulations. That said, opinions differed on certain rules as well as the two-year window needed to reach the determination. 
“It’s about time that the USDA released rules for the hemp space,” said AJ Payack, president of hemp extraction lab and CBD brand Vermont Organic Science. Payack said it was nice to see “actual rules” that eliminate the guessing in the market. 
“I have had people in the past contact me about what to do with hot hemp or other growing questions, and I really couldn’t lead them in the right direction,” said Payack, adding, “But now I can.” 
J Mitchell, president of hemp producer NuSachi, supports the decision, calling it “extremely critical” for industry guidelines. “The rules are not perfect, but they represent a solid foundation on which to grow the industry,” added Mitchell. 
Mitchell commended regulations focused on delta-9 THC thresholds but called the .3% an extreme limit for hemp genetics and cultivators, positing that the rule will limit innovation and plant research. He also worried that guidelines could encourage operators’ bad behavior in a bid to earn a passing certificate of authenticity. 
Did The USDA Need Two Years To Make Its Determination?
Opinion split over the decision timeline, with some supporting the two-year window and others saying it hampered the industry. 
Michelle Donovan, senior counsel at law firm Clark Hill, supported the timeline. “It’s a process, like anything else, to legalize a new market while making sure all foreseeable hiccups are addressed at the onset of a harvest,” said Donovan. 
Brenda Verghese, vice president of research and development for Colorado cannabis brand Stratos, supported the timeline as well. She said, “Two years was likely necessary in order to fairly assess all of the information provided by the public.”
Operators like Payack disagree, saying the window allowed bad actors into the market. “This industry has really been the wild west, and it is good that there is some regulation now,” he said. 
Roger Brown, CEO and president of ACS Laboratory, considers the wait unfair and unjustified. He said the result left states to make their hemp programs. “Some brave souls moved forward, with the help of a gang of lawyers, but many had to put plans on hold for two years,” said Brown of operators in less defined state marketplaces. 
What’s Next For American Hemp?
The primary focus appears to now be on securing clarity from other influential regulatory bodies. However, concerns over the impact of regulations have some worried that the market may not be long for capital-light companies. 
Verghese said next steps need to include addressing extraction and manufacturing of finished goods. Naturopathic Doctor and CEO of HempFusion, Jason Mitchell, agrees, saying U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clarity is now needed. 
“Farming is the tip of the iceberg,” stated Mitchell. He added, “Farmers now need to be able to sell their crops to processors for use in many different products including Dietary Supplements, Foods and Beverages.”
Brown sees the industry moving towards good manufacturing practices (GMP) standards, which cite the FDA’s guidance on production aspects, including quality and consistency. 
He sees an influx of competition in the market, with more biomass produced. “We’re going to see companies innovating faster and creating ancillary hemp products that utilize the entire plant–not just the cannabinoid-rich flower,” said Brown. 
For his part, Payack highlighted worries over the evolving market and the future of the “little guy,” and the belief that CBD is increasingly considered a supplement. 
“There will be extreme testing that needs to be done on CBD products for GMP compliance,” said Payack. While he supports high testing standards, the capital needed could be too immense for smaller operations. He said, “While I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing companies are going to need a lot of capital for GMP compliance.”

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Pennsylvania State Senators Introduce Bipartisan Cannabis Legalization Bill

Two Pennsylvania state senators announced on Wednesday the introduction of a bipartisan measure to legalize cannabis for use by adults. The legislation from Democratic Sen. Sharif Street of Philadelphia and Sen. Dan Laughlin, a Republican from Erie, “prioritizes safety, community reinvestment, social and economic equity, agriculture, and creates vital tax revenue streams for the Commonwealth,” according to a statement from Street’s office.
“While my colleague Senator Street and I come from different political parties, we see a bipartisan way forward on marijuana legalization that is premised on safety and social equity,” said Laughlin. 
“As the marijuana movement reaches Pennsylvania, legalization must be done the right way,” he added. “This bill ensures a legalized market in the Commonwealth is implemented safely and responsibly, with a thoughtful approach that provides opportunities to medical and recreational consumers, farmers, and small, medium and minority-owned businesses.”
If the bill is passed by the Pennsylvania legislature and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, cannabis possession would be decriminalized for adults, and convictions for some nonviolent marijuana convictions would be expunged. The measure would also create a regulated and taxed adult-use marijuana economy. The bill also creates social and economic equity licenses for marijuana businesses and mandates that a majority of new licenses be granted to social and economic equity applicants.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the legislature and with the administration to build support for this critical legislation that aims to make Pennsylvania’s cannabis market the most diverse and inclusive in the country while enabling those who have been harmed by prohibition to seal their records and rebuild their lives,” said Street.
The measure also protects the state’s existing medical marijuana industry by allowing licensees to help meet the demand for recreational cannabis on an expedited timetable. Registered medical marijuana patients would be permitted to grow up to five cannabis plants at home under another provision of the legislation.
Pennsylvania Governor Supports Cannabis Policy Reform
Earlier this year, Wolf called on state lawmakers to prioritize the legalization of adult-use cannabis during the new legislative session, noting that neighboring states have already acted on the issue.
“In 2017, Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana through bipartisan legislation,” Wolf’s office wrote in an announcement of his 2021 agenda. “Now as our neighbors move toward legalizing recreational marijuana, Pennsylvania cannot afford to be left behind. Legalizing adult-use cannabis has strong bipartisan support among Pennsylvanians.”
The governor added that social and economic change could be advanced with the tax revenue raised by cannabis reform.
“The revenue generated from legalization will be used to support historically disadvantaged small businesses through grant funding and provide them the assistance they need to build back from the economic crisis and strengthen our economy,” the announcement continued. 
“Additionally, a portion of the revenue will support restorative justice programs to help the individuals and communities that have been adversely harmed by the criminalization of marijuana.”
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, another Democrat, has also been an ardent advocate for marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania, even flying a pot leaf flag from his Capitol office balcony in violation of state law. In an interview with a local television station last year, he noted that public opinion about cannabis has evolved over time.
“Marijuana prohibition is a truly minority viewpoint in Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said. “A significant majority of Pennsylvania are for legalization and I would just ask anyone who’s not – it’s like, well, you sure don’t want to pay more in taxes.”

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Virginia Lawmakers Pass Bills Allowing Herbal Forms Of Medical Marijuana

The Virginia legislature has passed bills to modify the state’s medical marijuana program to allow for the production and sale of herbal forms of cannabis. The measures, House Bill 2218 and Senate Bill 1333, were approved this week with overwhelming majorities in both the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate.
The legalization of medical marijuana in Virginia began with a strictly limited 2015 law that allowed for CBD and THC-A oils to be used by patients with severe epilepsy. The regulations have been loosened since, and medical marijuana dispensaries selling products with up to 10 milligrams of THC per dose opened in the state last year.
Under Virginia’s current laws, the state medical marijuana program only allows processed forms of cannabis, such as tinctures, edibles, and oils. Herbal forms of cannabis including smokable marijuana are not permitted. With the new change, regulated medical marijuana producers will be permitted to offer products made from “cannabis oil or botanical cannabis,” according to the text of the legislation.
The medical marijuana industry and advocates lobbied for the addition of herbal forms of cannabis to the roster of legal products as a way to improve affordability for patients. The change is expected to greatly increase the number of patients with physician recommendations for medical cannabis, which now totals about 10,000.

Activists Laud The Change
Jenn Michelle Pedini, the executive director of the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a press release that the change will make patients’ medicine accessible in the form many prefer.
“Botanical cannabis remains the most popular formulation among consumers and among older consumers in particular. Limiting patients’ options to extracted oral formulations is not in their best interests,” Pedini said. “Botanical cannabis contains more than 100 distinct cannabinoids, many of which act synergistically with one another, producing an effect many scientists believe is necessary in order for patients to achieve maximum therapeutic benefit.”
The bills legalizing herbal forms of medical marijuana now head to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, a vocal advocate of cannabis policy reform. If he signs the bills as expected, the change is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, with smokable forms of marijuana hitting dispensary shelves as soon as September.
The Virginia legislature is also considering other amendments to the state’s medical marijuana program, including a measure that would make it easier for patients in assisted living facilities to obtain medical marijuana products and doctors who write recommendations for medicinal cannabis to conduct telehealth visits. Additionally, the Senate is considering a House bill that would prevent employers from firing registered patients for failing a drug test as long as the worker was not impaired on the job.
Adult-Use Legalization Also In The Works
Virginia lawmakers are also in the process of legalizing marijuana for adults and establishing a regulated cannabis economy, a move also supported by Northam. The House of Delegates and the Senate have approved separate bills, which are now being considered by a conference committee. 
Both bills would legalize the production and sale of recreational marijuana by 2024. The Senate version would legalize personal possession in June, while the House bill would delay legal possession until other provisions of the measure go into effect in 2024.

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