UN human rights report highlights reforms • The politics of SAFER • Colorado preps for rescheduling • Minn. picks top cannabis regulator • & more …

Fri, Sep 22
Key Points
  • A new United Nations human rights report recommends a shift towards a public health approach to the "world drug problem."
  • The report highlights positive developments, such as the lifting of the ban on medical cannabis in Switzerland and discussions on cannabis decriminalization in Lithuania.
  • The introduction of the SAFER Act has garnered support from lawmakers, with Democrats emphasizing restorative justice provisions and Republicans focusing on protections for energy companies and gun manufacturers.
  • The Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division encourages licensees to continue complying with state regulations amidst the potential rescheduling of cannabis, citing the opportunity to showcase the effectiveness of the state's regulated system.

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A new United Nations human rights report on the “world drug problem” today urges a move away from a punitive approach and toward public health.  

Interestingly, under the heading “positive developments,” the report highlighted the following: 

“Some States have established regulatory approaches for some drugs, particularly cannabis. In Switzerland, in 2022, Parliament lifted a ban on medical cannabis, and a legislative amendment allowed pilot trials of non-medical cannabis use in adults. Mexico has also worked on legal reform for the responsible use of cannabis, and Lithuania is discussing decriminalizing illegal possession of small amounts of cannabis.” 

The introduction of SAFER, which Cannabis Wire covered this week, has been followed by the expected flurry of chatter. Some of it came from financial groups, like CUNA and AFSA, expressing support. Or, from lawmakers touting their involvement. 

But, digging deeper, how these lawmakers positioned their support for SAFER speaks volumes about how fraught it has been to get a draft that Democrats and Republicans can agree on, and what challenges may be ahead when it comes to pushing it through Congress.

Lead sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, focused on the “restorative justice provisions.”

“I’m pleased that this bill maintains a safe harbor for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDI) to ensure they can also serve cannabis businesses,” he said in a statement.

“As we adjust cannabis policy to reflect the reality that the majority of the country lives in, it is imperative that we also undo the harms perpetuated by the War of Drugs and criminalization of cannabis on communities of color.”

Sens. Cynthia Lummis and Steve Daines, both Republicans, who also sponsored the bill, positioned it as “historic protections for energy companies and gun manufacturers in an effort to stop many of the Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) initiatives threatening the industries” as a result of “the Left’s wokeness.”

Their statement also made it clear that they oppose and will continue to oppose “making cannabis legal federally” and “believe it is an issue that should be decided at the state level.” 

Further, they said, in the coming days they “will be introducing legislation to ensure marijuana cannot be legalized federally by the FDA without Congressional approval.”

The state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division sent out a bulletin this week to industry stakeholders about the recommendation earlier this month from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that cannabis be moved from Schedule I to Schedule III. The recommendation is now in the hands of the DEA, as Cannabis Wire reported at the time.

The most noteworthy part of the bulletin is the division’s response to the question: “What does this mean for Colorado Licensees?”

Licensees across legal states are wondering the same thing, since any change in the scheduling of cannabis would be uncharted territory. 

The division’s response is, in short: let’s prove how great our regulated system is and perhaps no one will want to mess with it. 

“The announcement of HHS’ recommendation should not alter how Colorado Regulated Marijuana licensees conduct their daily operations, and licensees should remain diligent in complying with the state’s Regulated Marijuana Code and Rules. This is yet another opportunity for the licensed community in Colorado to demonstrate the effectiveness and value of the commercial regulated system we have worked together to establish and once again show Colorado to be the worldwide market leader,” they wrote. 

They continued, “This also means we must continue to prioritize compliance efforts and enforcement actions as necessary to promote public safety and offer a blueprint for responsible regulation at a federal level. The Division will continue to track, in coordination with the Governor’s Office and our state agency partners, the progress and process of our federal colleagues with an eye towards sharing information, insights, and perspectives as we learn more information about what rescheduling may look like for states with well-established regulatory markets, like Colorado.”

Governor Tim Walz announced yesterday that Erin DuPree, founder of Loonacy Cannabis Co., will be the first director of the state’s new Office of Cannabis Management, which will oversee adult use cannabis in the state. (Walz signed it into law in May.)

“DuPree is a proven and effective leader, who will be successful in standing up Minnesota’s new adult-use cannabis market and helping Minnesotans succeed in the industry,” Gov. Walz said in the announcement.