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Tennessee Introduces 2022 Cannabis Bill

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Tennessee just turned heads in the cannabis world by introducing a 2022 legalization bill

A lawmaker introduced this bill to the 2022 ballot. Representative Bruce Griffey, a Republican from District 75, is behind the bill, known as House Bill 1634. 

The bill will require county election commissions to each include three questions related to legalizing cannabis. The questions must be-non-binding and will appear on the November 2022 ballot. 

Then, the secretary of state will be required to compile the results of a public policy opinion poll conducted about cannabis and reveal the results to members of the general assembly. 

Tennessee and Medical Cannabis 

This is not the first major move the state has made this summer relating to cannabis. Tennessee’s medical cannabis bill recently passed its first Senate committee, but unfortunately failed in the second one. However, there was one small victory, as the legislature approved a study commission and expanded the local CBD law. 

Tennessee still does not have legal, medical cannabis, and is only one of 14 states that still does not have a medical system in place. Senate Bill 854 was sponsored by Senator Janice Bowling and would have legalized medical cannabis for certain patients and developed a Medical Cannabis Commission that would have regulated the production and sale of cannabis. While the Senate Government Operations Committee approved the bill back in March, it was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee later that month.

However, while the bill did not pass, Senate Bill 118, a bill that creates a study commission to look further into medical cannabis, is required to report to the legislature about legal cannabis by the end of the year. This bill also expands CBD in the state, allowing more medical conditions to be eligible for stronger CBD oil for treating pain and illness. 

Tennessee is also in the minority of states that still penalize simple possession of cannabis with jail time. Only 18 percent of states still do that, and in Tennessee, it’s unfortunately a reality that half an ounce of cannabis or less can result in almost a year in prison. 

Currently, 81 percent of voters in the state support allowing patients and doctors to make decisions about medical cannabis, so it seems that there will be progress made on the medical front, and it’s likely that at least a significant portion of voters will back legal cannabis if it is put on the 2022 ballot. 

Additionally, Tennessee voters seem to support cannabis across the board, but the state doesn’t have a voter initiative process. Since only elected officials can change state law, the ballot initiative for 2022 won’t directly make legalization happen, but it is a huge step forward for the conservative state. 

While cannabis does not have a legal program currently in Tennessee for medical or recreational product, there is an exception allowing for high-CBD, low-THC cannabis oil if patients suffer from seizures. Both possession and cultivation are illegal, and possession of any amount is a misdemeanor punishable with prison time. Cultivation of 10 plants or less is a felony and can lead to six years in prison, more if the person in question was growing more plants.

Finally, in 2016, the law was changed somewhat so that someone facing a third cannabis conviction no longer automatically leads to a felony charge and up to six years in prison. Now, that has been reduced to a misdemeanor so that folks who use cannabis won’t have a felony on their permanent records. 

Tennessee Cannabis Laws as they Stand

Additionally, the state is blocking efforts to further decriminalization. Memphis and Nashville have both passed ordinances that allow officers to charge folks with a civil infraction instead for small possession offenses. But then the governor at the time, Bill Haslam, signed a bill that specialties state law preempts local government when it comes to regulation of substances. 

For the sake of advocates in Tennessee, we hope change is on the horizon. 



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Georgia Medical Cannabis Program Finally Revamps and Expands

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Georgia’s medicinal cannabis program is about to undergo a significant expansion after the state’s regulatory board “chose six companies Saturday that will be allowed to sell the drug, a decision that will finally give registered patients a legal way to obtain medication first approved six years ago,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The decision means that thousands of patients in the Peach State will now finally be able to obtain medical marijuana oil, which has long been unavailable under the state’s medical marijuana law. This will be a significant and positive change for a state that has gone too long without a true medical program.

The move was greenlit by Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, which “voted unanimously to select the six companies from 69 that had applied for licenses,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “State law limits the number of medical marijuana producers to six. Each licensee will be authorized to open five dispensaries,” the newspaper reported. 

Those businesses are now permitted to sell medical marijuana oil, so long as it contains no more than five percent THC. 

For Georgia’s medical cannabis patients who prefer oil consumption, it has been a long time coming. In 2019, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed Georgia’s Hope Act, or HB 324, into law.

The legislation cleared the way for “the production, manufacturing, and dispensing of low THC oil in [the] state,” and provided for “an exception to possession of certain quantities of low THC oil.” 

Georgia’s Program Has Been Lagging

Overall, implementation of Georgia’s medical marijuana law has continued to lag. As the Marijuana Policy Project noted, the “Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission accepted applications for producers in late 2020,” but did not issue the six licenses until Saturday. 

The commission chose the six companies before a “packed room of about 200 people,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The newspaper said that those six companies “will have one year to begin operations after contracts are signed following potential protests from losing bidders, providing for patients suffering from conditions including seizures, terminal cancers and Parkinson’s disease.” Two companies “won licenses to cultivate medical marijuana oil on 100,000 square feet of indoor growing space,” while the other four “will be licensed to operate smaller production facilities with 50,000 square feet of growing room.”

Georgia lawmakers first passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in 2015, but the rollout has come at a glacial pace. By late 2019, the state still hadn’t appointed any members to the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that, before now, “patients have obtained low THC oil illegally, either through an informal network of patients or by traveling to other states to buy it.”

The law passed six years ago allows “patients to register to possess up to 20 fluid ounces of medical cannabis oil with up to 5 percent THC,” according to the Marijuana Policy Project. The Marijuana Policy Project has expressed disappointment at the five percent cap, saying that Georgia’s statute “does not meet MPP’s definition of an effective medical cannabis law.”

Around 15,000 patients have signed up for the medical marijuana program in the state, and on the heels of this weekend’s vote, they are one step closer to finally getting their hands on the medicine. Sales for medical marijuana have been expected to begin sometime this year.

Georgia officials have continued to expand the program even during the slow implementation period. In May, Kemp signed a bill into law that will allow as many as 30 state-licensed medical cannabis businesses to to sell high CBD-cannabis.

But the unanimous vote by the commission over the weekend means that the state will, at long last, “have a functioning marijuana program,” as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution put it.



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Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Proposes Psychedelic Amendment

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Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is well-known for making headlines, and her most recent action garnering attention is her support of more studies on psychedelic drugs.

Ocasio-Cortez introduced an amendment that would promote future studies on psychedelic substances such as MDMA, psilocybin and ibogaine. The “Amendment to Division A of Rules Committee Print 117-12” proposes serious consideration to the future of psychedelic substances in the U.S. “United States researchers to study and examine the potential impacts of several Schedule I drugs, such as MDMA, psilocybin, and or ibogaine, that have been shown to be effective in treating critical diseases,” the amendment states.

This isn’t the first time Ocasio-Cortez has tried to get Congress on board in considering the therapeutic properties of psychedelics. Two years ago, she submitted an amendment proposal to remove a provision that prevents scientists from freely conducting research on substances like psilocybin or MDMA.

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Representative Ocasio-Cortez on the War on Drugs

However, the House of Representatives rejected the proposal. “I’m a strong believer in evidence-based policymaking,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a floor debate on the topic in 2019. “And wherever there is evidence of good, we have a moral obligation to pursue and explore the parameters of that good. Even if it means challenging our past assumptions or admitting past wrongs.”

She also tried to appeal to both parties, explaining that sooner or later, this could be a part of our future in the medical world. “I understand that the politics of this bill may make it difficult for some to support right now,” she added. “But I propose this amendment and urge my colleagues to support it because politics isn’t always about winning today, but it is about fighting for what is right in the future and for future generations.”

Ocasio-Cortez has been a vocal supporter of psychedelic substances for treating certain medical conditions. She recently spoke out in favor of cannabis decriminalization when news broke that Sha’Carri Richardson would no longer be participating in the Tokyo Olympics after she tested positive for THC.

“The criminalization and banning of cannabis is an instrument of racist and colonial policy,” she Tweeted on July 2. In October 2020, she stated that it would take working members of both the Democratic and Republican parties in order to end the War on Drugs and legalize recreational cannabis for good. 

“There are different ways that we can go about legalizing cannabis in the United States, and you can go about it in a way that concentrates power in a [Big Agriculture] way that concentrates power in big banks and that cuts out small mom and pops,” she said in a digital meeting on YouTube. “And then, there’s another path towards legalization where everyday people and especially the Black and brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs can be at the front of the line of enjoying the economic benefits of legalization.” 

Ocasio-Cortex even hired former Marijuana Policy Project Director, Dan Riffle, onto her staff.

It’s going to take more than one staunch congressional advocate to bring about change when it comes to cannabis and psychedelics. Aside from Ocasio-Cortez’s most recent amendment proposal, there’s also a report that is attached to the fiscal year 2022 spending legislation that prompts interest in medical psychedelic treatment for military veterans.

However, there are just as many proposals in opposition to growth in these sectors. According to Marijuana Moment, Representative Debbie Lesko introduced a proposal that removes a recently implemented rider that “allows federal funding to go to institutions of higher education that are conducting research on marijuana.” 

All of these proposals, and many more, are set to be discussed by the House of Representatives on Monday, July 26.





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Colorado Releases Report on Impact of Cannabis Legalization

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Colorado just released a new report from the state’s Division of Criminal Justice that is shedding light on the impact of marijuana legalization in the state, nearly eight years after voters there passed an historic ballot measure to end prohibition on pot.

The report, released this month, provides a wide array of data points detailing how legalization has affected law enforcement and marijuana use among Colorado residents. For example, the report notes that between 2012, when Colorado voters passed the amendment legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana, and 2019, “marijuana-related court filings declined 55 percent between 2012 and 2019, from 9,925 to 4,489.” 

The report also found a notable spike in cannabis use among adults––perhaps not a surprise given the greater accessibility after the change in law. “In 2019, 19.0 percent of adults reported marijuana use in the past 30 days,” the report stated, “compared to 13.4 percent in 2014, a significant increase.”

That usage is particularly pronounced among men in Colorado: “Males have significantly higher past 30-day use (22.9 percent) than females (15.1 percent),” according to the report.

Colorado Breaks Down Usage

The highest 30-day use occurred among adults aged 26-34, nearly 30 percent of whom reported using marijuana in that span. That age group edged out adults aged 18-25 (28.8 percent) and those aged 35-64 (17.3 percent). Only about nine percent of adults aged 65 and older reported using marijuana in the last 30 days, though the report noted that group’s usage rate had more than tripled since 2014.

Moreover, the report provided insight into how Coloradans are consuming their weed. “Those reporting smoking marijuana flower decreased from 87.2 percent of users in 2016 to 76.1 percent in 2019. This compares to increases in eating/drinking (35.2 percent in 2016 to 43.0 percent in 2019), vaping (22.9 percent in 2016 to 32.0 percent in 2019), and dabbing (16.8 percent in 2016 to 19.6 percent in 2019),” according to the report.

The report pulled data from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey⁠—based on a sample size of 46,537 high school and 6,983 middle school students in 2019⁠—as well as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, based on a sample of 447 respondents in 2018-19, to analyze the impact on youth. The findings showed very little change.

“[Healthy Kids Colorado Survey] results indicate no significant change in past 30-day use of marijuana between 2013 (19.7 percent) and 2019 (20.6 percent),” the study stated. “Also, in 2019, the use rates were not different from the national 30-day use rates reported by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. In 2019, 20.6 percent of Colorado high school students reported using marijuana in the past 30 days compared to 21.7 percent of high school students nationally that reported this behavior.”

Juvenile arrests for marijuana decreased by 37 percent between 2012 and 2019, according to the report. The report also pointed to “a significant rate increase of marijuana-related emergency department visits during the era of medical commercialization, from 617.7 in 2011 to 1039.5 in 2014.”

Colorado voters made history in 2012 when they passed Amendment 64, which legalized recreational pot use in the state. The vote made Colorado the first state to embrace legalization, along with Washington, which passed its own legalization measure at the ballot the same year. Since then, a widening number of states and cities have followed suit, and there are signs that legalization is about to go national.

Earlier this month, Senate Democrats announced details of a bill that would regulate cannabis on the federal level.  

The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, which is under the state’s Department of Public Safety, did include a caveat in its report, saying the “information presented here should be interpreted with caution.”

“The majority of the data sources vary considerably in terms of what exists historically and the reliability of some sources has improved over time,” the report stated. “Consequently, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the potential effects of marijuana legalization and commercialization on public safety, public health or youth outcomes, and this may always be the case due to the lack of historical data. Furthermore, the measurement of available data elements can be affected by the very context of marijuana legalization.” 



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