New Republican-Led Bill Would Legalize Medical Cannabis In Kentucky
Anti-Drug GOP Senator Helps Psychedelic Church With Fight Against DEA And IRS
California Awards $100 Million To Support Local Marijuana Business Development
Mississippi Senator Brings Hemp To Governor’s Office To Demonstrate Medical Marijuana Bill Possession Limits
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Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is “still pretty irritated” that marijuana banking reform was omitted from a defense bill last week—apparently at the behest of Democratic Senate leadership. But he said in an interview with Marijuana Moment that the congressional debate that subsequently ensued has advanced the cause nonetheless.
Looking ahead, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act sponsor sees additional opportunities to pass the legislation as part of other large-scale bills if the Senate remains unwilling to adopt the standalone measure. He’s had conversations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to that end.
Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dave Joyce (R-OH) also told Marijuana Moment this week that they remain adamant about finding a path to passage in spite of the recent setback.
Blumenauer, who also released a memo reflecting on the year’s progress on marijuana reform and outlining priorities for 2022 on Thursday, said during a briefing with reporters that he’s “learned to be patient” when it comes to cannabis reform on Capitol Hill.
“We’re playing the long game here, and we are in the best position we’ve ever been with the Senate,” Blumenauer said. “I’m confident, when we get these aligned, that we’ll be able to move.”
The congressional debate over SAFE Banking this year has divided certain lawmakers and advocates. They share the ultimate goal of ending cannabis criminalization, but there’s tension between the pragmatic desire to pursue bipartisan legislation that’s more incremental but has the votes to pass now and the push for comprehensive reform that will take time to build support for.
But despite the lawmakers’ optimism, it doesn’t necessarily take the sting out of the latest failed attempt to secure protections for banks that choose to work with state-legal cannabis businesses. The House had passed the reform as part of its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), only to have it sidelined following bicameral negotiations.
“By adding it to NDAA, we brought it up several notches in terms of the attention that the Senate had to take to SAFE Banking,” Perlmutter told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Tuesday.
And while he remains frustrated over inaction on cannabis policy in the Senate, he said he’s “somewhat encouraged by the conversation that developed” after he filed an amendment in the House Rules Committee to reinsert the legislation into the defense bill—even if he ultimately decided not to force a vote and risk blowing up the overall NDAA deal that emerged out of bicameral negotiations.
But he and other House lawmakers have signaled that the days of playing nice with the Senate and hoping that the other body will get around to taking up cannabis banking at its own pace are over.
Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment on Thursday that “it’s very clear that this is the last time that we’re going to basically avoid the showdown” without blowing up larger bills, if it comes to that. Perlmutter made similar comments during the Rules meeting last week.
It was no secret that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) posed an obstacle to enacting marijuana banking reform through NDAA, as he’s repeatedly said that he believes comprehensive reform to end federal cannabis prohibition and put in place a regulatory scheme should come first. Perlmutter said it really was the leader’s final word that nailed the coffin on passing banking reform as part of the defense bill.
“Senator Schumer really weighed in on this. It was one of the last things eliminated from the NDAA—really at the Senate majority leader’s insistence,” he said.
The congressman is a cosponsor of a legalization bill—the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which passed the House last year and cleared the Judiciary Committee this session in September. He wants to see broad reform, too. But he’s not so confident that the proposal still has the votes to be approved in the full House again, with a narrower Democratic majority in place now than the last time it was brought up.
And that’s to say nothing of the Senate, where deep doubts remain about the prospects of getting 60 votes to advance federal descheduling.
“Right now, with SAFE Banking, we know clearly that has the votes in the House,” Perlmutter said, noting the strong bipartisan support his bill has received as it’s cleared the chamber five times in some form at this point.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,300 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.

“The bill that Senator Schumer and Senator Booker have talked about—they’ve got some basic outline of what they’d like to see that decriminalizes, has a criminal justice reform component in it, as well as a big taxation component in it,” he said, referring to their draft Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). “I don’t think they have the votes for that.”
“It isn’t like this is a subject that’s brand new. Where is it going?”
“I don’t have a problem with [broad legalization] personally,” he said. “I just want to pass something that breaks the ice so that the Senate starts taking this up in, you know, bigger chunks if they’re willing to do that.”
He also said that there are other potential legislative vehicles that he could attempt to put the banking language in, and which he has discussed with Pelosi, but “it’s premature to talk about” the specifics publicly.
Blumenauer, for his part, insisted that the Senate could easily pass SAFE Banking if it was brought to the floor as standalone legislation.
“We’ve given them a bill. It is clean. It has broad support in the Senate,” he said. “That’s the simplest effort, but there will be vehicles going back and forth. And you will see there will be strong support to make sure that we don’t come up short on this again.”
Joyce, the Ohio Republican congressman who on Thursday sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris criticizing the administration’s inaction on cannabis reform and who recently filed a new marijuana expungements bill, also recently spoke about the SAFE Banking Act and the thinking behind enacting that bipartisan policy change first.
At an event hosted by the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR), Joyce said that the MORE Act is “DOA” in the Senate, meaning dead on arrival. So “we’ve got to find a more palatable path forward.”
“Our idea was to consider this—if you wouldn’t mind the term—flooding the zone,” the congressman said in response to a question from Marijuana Moment about combining his expungements legislation with banking to assuage the Senate’s concerns. “You know, piecemeal things like the HOPE Act and [SAFE Banking Act] and STATES Act and putting those things out there in front of it instead of an all-inclusive one-size-fits-all” bill.
“We know we don’t do big well. And so bite-sized pieces may be better,” Joyce said. “If we can get the Senate to at least bite on some of these smaller ones, I think that we’ll get into position where” reform can advance.

Perlmutter is quick to argue against people who say that SAFE Banking is all about the industry—emphasizing that access to capital and “not getting shot” due to the inherent dangers of marijuana businesses being forced to operate on a largely cash basis are equity issues in and of themselves. But he’s also not against having the Senate take the legislation and add additional social justice components.
Asked for his thoughts on attaching the marijuana expungements bill that Joyce recently filed with Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to the SAFE Banking Act as a way to assuage equity concerns expressed by Schumer and others, the congressman deferred to the Senate, saying he’s fine with it “if they have the votes.”
The congressman also reacted to strong pushback from House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) against Schumer’s intervention against the banking provisions of the NDAA.
“I don’t really quite know what the hell his problem is,” the chairman said of Schumer at last week’s hearing.
“I’m glad” that the chairman was openly critical, Perlmutter told Marijuana Moment, “because mine would have been even harsher.”
GOP Lawmakers Blast Biden And Harris Over ‘Continued Silence’ On Marijuana And Urge Rescheduling

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment’s Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.
New Republican-Led Bill Would Legalize Medical Cannabis In Kentucky
Anti-Drug GOP Senator Helps Psychedelic Church With Fight Against DEA And IRS
California Awards $100 Million To Support Local Marijuana Business Development
Mississippi Senator Brings Hemp To Governor’s Office To Demonstrate Medical Marijuana Bill Possession Limits
NH House votes to legalize cannabis (Newsletter: January 7, 2022)
Psilocybin Services Would Be Legalized In Washington State Under New Bill
A new Republican-led bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky landed in the state legislature this week. The measure is an update to lead sponsor Rep. Jason Nemes’s (R) past legalization efforts and includes a number of conservative-minded adjustments aimed at wining broad support among lawmakers, including leaders of his own party who control the legislative agenda.
Nemes filed a medical legalization bill in 2020 that soundly passed the House but later died in the Senate without a vote amid the early part of the coronavirus pandemic. He reintroduced the legislation for the 2021 session, but it did not advance. In recent months, Nemes has working to build support for a new, scaled-back version of the bill for 2022 and in October said he was confident it could pass if only legislative leaders have the “courage” to allow a vote on it.
The latest version of the bill, HB 136, introduced Tuesday, would establish a comparatively restrictive program, prohibiting both the home cultivation of marijuana and the smoking of cannabis flower. Whole-plant products would be allowed under the bill, but patients would be required to vaporize them.
Regulators would set many of the program’s specific rules—for example qualifying conditions for medical cannabis and personal possession limits—during an implementation period later this year if the bill passes. At a minimum, the conditions will include any type of cancer, epilepsy and seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, nausea or vomiting and chronic, severe, intractable or debilitating pain.
“Overall it’s a pretty solid but conservative bill,” Kevin Caldwell, Southeast legislative manager for Marijuana Policy Project told Marijuana Moment.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 800 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.

The program would launch in early 2023 if the legislation is approved.
The narrow approach is designed to win support among GOP leaders in the state Senate, who’ve killed past versions of Nemes’s proposal. Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R), for example, steadfastly opposes the change, having warned that it’s a fast track to full legalization.
“I know my constituents are for it,” Thayer, who owns a whiskey distillery, said during a televised panel on Monday. “But this is a republic, and they elect us to go to Frankfort and make decisions on their behalf—and if they don’t like it, they can take it out on me in the next election.”
Others remain wary, such as House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade (R), who said at the event that he’s still “on the fence” about medical cannabis.
Democratic leaders from both chambers, meanwhile, said earlier this week that legalizing medical marijuana will be a top legislative priority for this year’s session, which kicked off on Tuesday.
Gov. Andy Beshear (D) also supports legalization, saying last month that “It’s time we joined so many other states in doing the right thing.” He added that Kentucky farmers would be well positioned to grow and sell cannabis to other states.
Among the more innovative parts of the new bill, said Caldwell at MPP, are provisions that would ban discrimination against cannabis patients in areas such as child custody matters and organ transplants. Students who use medical marijuana would be permitted to consume it on campus under the administration of a school nurse.
The legislation would also establish what it calls a “rating system” system to track at least 12 major terpenes within each cannabis strain available in the commonwealth.
Patients would be able to have a 10-day supply of marijuana products outside the home and up to a 30-day supply secured at their residence. Those amounts are still poorly defined, however, as the bill leaves it to regulators to determine what constitutes a day’s worth of cannabis.
Products would be subject to a 12 percent excise tax and taxes on gross receipts, with revenues split between state and local governments. Of all state revenue, 13.75 percent would go to local law enforcement to help enforce the new law.
Business licensing would be fairly flexible, with no caps on license numbers or rules about vertical integration, as some other states have implemented.
Caldwell at MPP said the group generally supports the bill, though there are things he’d like to change. He said the tax rate seems high for medical cannabis, which in many states is not taxed at all, and that he would prefer to see more qualifying conditions spelled out in bill’s text rather than left to regulators.
But he deferred to the bill’s sponsors, noting the precarious path the bill must travel on its way to passage. “These legislators are much more familiar with their own political landscape than necessarily we are,” he said, “and we know that there’s very serious opposition on the Senate side.”
Nemes, the bill’s lead sponsor, said in October that he believes lawmakers will vote for the measure if only legislative leaders give them a chance. “There’s no doubt about it—we have the votes for it in the House and Senate,” he told colleagues at a committee meeting. “It passed 65 to 30 in the House [in 2020] when we were told it wouldn’t pass. We need to have the courage to vote.”
While Beshear, the govenror, has said that his focus will be on getting medical cannabis enacted in the coming legislative session, he said he also supports legislation introduced by Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D) in November that would prevent people from being incarcerated over marijuana for any use, saying he’s in favor of that policy.
Kulkarni’s bill would legalize the possession and personal cultivation of cannabis, but it doesn’t provide a regulatory framework for commercial sales.
A poll released in 2020 found that nine out of 10 Kentucky residents support legalizing medical marijuana, and almost 60 percent say cannabis should be legal under “any circumstances.”
Mississippi Senator Brings Hemp To Governor’s Office To Demonstrate Medical Marijuana Bill Possession Limits

A Republican U.S. senator who’s known as staunchly anti-drug has apparently been helping an Iowa church that wants to incorporate the psychedelic brew ayahuasca into its ceremonies—even if he hasn’t changed his overall views about drug policy.
Specifically, Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) office has tried to help the church get answers about requests it filed with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The Iowaska Church of Healing has been trying without success to obtain a religious exemption from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which designates ayahuasca as illegal, and tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It’s currently litigating against IRS over its denials.
In a court filing in September, the church disclosed that Grassley has been lending a hand as it has fought for the exemptions.
For example, after being denied an IRS tax exemption and submitting an appeal, that request “languished with no response from Defendant until Plaintiff enlisted the assistance of United States Senator Charles Grassley’s office to expedite the appeals process and an appeals conference was held on April 1, 2021,” the filing says. The appeal was then rejected in June 2021.
Separately, in 2019 the Iowaska Church of Healing sent a petition to DEA inquiring about an exemption under CSA related to its ceremonial use of ayahuasca.
“Plaintiff has received no substantive response from the DEA with respect to the application despite repeated requests for a reply, including a follow up inquiry by United States Senator Charles Grassley’s office,” the complaint says.
Grassley’s step to help the constituent shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as an endorsement of the issue at hand, however, a spokesperson told Marijuana Moment.
“Regardless of whether Senator Grassley supports or agrees with a particular request or policy outcome, he believes that Iowans have every right to petition their government, and the government ought to be responsive,” Taylor Foy, communications director for the senator, said. “Sen. Grassley reads his mail and he’s always happy to help facilitate dialog between Iowans and the bureaucracy in Washington.”
IRS declined comment when local outlet KCCI-TV reached out.

The church says it has not incorporated the hallucinogen in its services since 2019 after IRS responded to an information request stating that the activity was considered illegal. It also has never conducted ceremonies at the church’s Iowa address and the sacramental ingredients have never been stored there, Bill Boatwright, an attorney representing Iowaska in the case, told Marijuana Moment.
“The primary purpose of Plaintiff is to operate a spiritual church in one or more fixed locations that conducts regular worship services using the Sacrament of Ayahuasca,” the filing says. “These services also involve prayers, smudging and spiritual music. Plaintiff will also operate various educational and mission groups, and conduct outreach designed to provide relief services to veterans of the United States Armed Services at no or reduced cost.”
Boatwright echoed that Grassley’s involvement in the church’s requests doesn’t necessarily signal that he’s supportive of the use of psychedelics in a religious context.
“Senator Grassley’s office took no position on the merits of the IRS or DEA applications, and only attempted to expedite both agencies’ review of them,” he said. “His office was not provided with either of the applications for review.”
But the senator’s willingness to intervene is notable on its own specifically because of his reputation as one of the Congress’s leading drug warriors for decades.
The former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman seems to have a particular interest in statutory exemptions related to controlled substances, however, even if he’s personally against the use of such drugs.
Last year, for example, a cannabis activist in his home state wrote to Grassley about the DEA’s denial of a request for statutory exemptions for Iowa’s medical cannabis program despite having made an exception for peyote when used in religious ceremonies of the Native American Church.
“Iowa needs an exemption for cannabis just like the one the DEA currently maintains for peyote,” the activist wrote to the senator.
Grassley’s office sent a response shortly thereafter, saying he will “follow-up with the DEA on your point about an exemption for marijuana under 21 C.F.R. § 1307.03 and seek further clarification for you.”
While the senator is an opponent of recreational cannabis legalization, he has also sponsored legislation meant to streamline the application process for researchers who want to study marijuana and to encourage the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop cannabis-derived medicines.
The Senate unanimously approved an earlier version of that bill in 2020, but it was not taken up by the House by the end of the session.
Read the church’s filing on the IRS religious exemption request below: 

Click to access iowaska.pdf

Click to access iowaska.pdf
Mississippi Senator Brings Hemp To Governor’s Office To Demonstrate Medical Marijuana Bill Possession Limits

Photo courtesy of Apollo/Flickr.
California officials announced on Wednesday that the state has awarded $100 million in funding to help develop local marijuana markets, in part by getting cannabis businesses fully licensed.
The state Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) distributed the funds to 17 cities and counties where there are a disproportionate number of provisional marijuana licenses, rather than full-year licenses. The department first announced that applications for the Local Jurisdiction Assistance Grant Program had opened in October.
Provisional licenses were allowed to be granted to business applicants as a way to more quickly stand up the adult-use market, and that temporary licensing category was set to expire on January 1 but was extended through the passage of legislation last year to give localities more time to complete the permitting process and meet environmental requirements.
Now the state is aiming to give those jurisdiction an added boost with the grant funding.
“The local jurisdictions receiving grants incorporated innovative approaches to meet the specific needs of their license communities, which is exactly what we were hoping for when developing this program,” DCC Director Nicole Elliott said. “Significant funding is being directed to process improvements and environmental assessments, both of which will help the state and local governments achieve short- and long-term goals.”
Several jurisdictions had expressed to regulators that they were experiencing significant backlogs in processing licenses, including one localities that said it would take up to four years to get through all of its pending applications without added support.
Additional funds are also being offered to places with social equity programs in place.
Here’s how regulators described the three main purposes of the funding
-Additional staffing to process substantial workloads associated with transitioning businesses into the regulated market
-IT systems to create streamlined license processing
-Completion of environmental assessments and new initiatives for water protection and renewable energy
DCC listed several examples of how localities have specifically proposed to use the funds, which will officially be made available after the municipalities sign off on the agreement.
Long Beach, for example, will use some of its funds to “hire staff and consultants to assist with streamlining local permitting processes and processing applications,” as well as support “website design, technology improvements, and training to assist applicants.”
Los Angeles proposed using the funding to “hire additional personnel to assist licensees with completing locally-administered processes to achieve annual licensure and administer [California Environmental Quality Act] processes, including document review and preparation of environmental documents.”
“The City and County of San Francisco proposed using grant funds to create new staff positions to process cannabis permits more quickly and efficiently, which both includes and will facilitate timely completion of local CEQA review processes,” DCC said.
Separately, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced last year that is awarding up to $35 million for a Cannabis Equity Grants Program for Local Jurisdictions that’s designed to “aid local equity program efforts to support equity applicants and equity licensees,” according to a description of the effort.
Public agencies and local jurisdictions are eligible for those dollars, funded through cannabis tax revenue as stipulated under the voter-approved 2016 legalization initiative. Cities and counties must demonstrate that they have a plan to create a social equity program, or have taken steps to adopt such programs, in order to qualify.
Also last year, GO-Biz said it was awarding about $29 million in grants to 58 nonprofit organizations, with the intent of righting the wrongs of the war on drugs. The funding is being provided through the California Community Reinvestment Grants (CalCRG) program.
Grants are being awarded to qualifying nonprofits to support programs aimed at providing job placement, mental health treatment, substance misuse treatment and legal services for disproportionately impacted communities. The program was first announced in April 2020, and applications for those grants were initially opened in September 2020.
Officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife also said last year that they were soliciting concept proposals for a cannabis tax-funded program aimed at helping small marijuana cultivators with environmental clean-up and restoration efforts.
Outside of California, the governor of New York announced on Wednesday that her administration is creating a $200 million public-private fund to specifically help promote social equity in the state’s burgeoning marijuana market.
Illinois officials announced last month that applications are opening for $45 million in new grants—funded by marijuana tax revenue—that will support programs meant to reinvest in communities most harmed by the drug war.
Psilocybin Services Would Be Legalized In Washington State Under New Bill

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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