Rhode Island Lawmakers File Psilocybin And Broader Drug Decriminalization Bills While Legal Marijuana Momentum Increases – Marijuana Moment

Top GOP Wisconsin Lawmaker Says Marijuana Legalization Will Come ‘At Some Point’ Despite Republican Resistance
Rhode Island Lawmakers File Psilocybin And Broader Drug Decriminalization Bills While Legal Marijuana Momentum Increases
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Rhode Island lawmakers introduced a pair of drug decriminalization bills last week—including one focused on psilocybin and buprenorphine that would authorize doctors to prescribe the psychedelic mushroom. The new legislation comes as momentum to pass marijuana legalization legislation this year increases in the House and Senate.
The first of the bills, sponsored by Rep. Brandon Potter (D), would expand on the state’s existing decriminalization policy for marijuana by adding both psilocybin and buprenorphine to list controlled substances that do no carry criminal penalties. Buprenorphine is an opioid often used as a harm reduction tool to help people transition away from more addictive compounds.
Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in Rhode Island is punishable by a $150 fine, without the threat of jail time. It does not appear that psilocybin or buprenorphine possession would face a similar civil penalty.
Notably, the legislation also states that a medical professional “in good faith and in the course of his or her professional practice, may prescribe, and dispense psilocybin as a therapeutic.” In general, with federally illegal substances like marijuana, doctors have been limited to “recommending” cannabis to avoid potential licensing repercussions—so it’s not clear how the new psychedelic-focused measure would work in practice if it were to be enacted.

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The second bill filed last week is being sponsored by Rep. Jose Batista (D). It would broadly decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of any controlled substance, except fentanyl.
While the text of the proposed statutory change does list out various penalties for drug-related crimes, it ends with this provision: “Nothing contained in this section shall be construed as providing criminal penalties for any person in possession of one ounce (1 oz.) or less of any controlled substances classified in schedules I, II, III, IV, and V except for the drug fentanyl.”
Instead, possession of up to one ounce of the drugs would result in a civil violation, with a $100 fine for a first offense and up to $300 for subsequent offenses.
Both of the aforementioned bills have been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. But they’re far from the only drug policy reform proposals that have come before the legislature this session.
Last week, Rhode Island lawmakers from both chambers unveiled a much-anticipated bill to legalize marijuana in the Ocean State—a move that comes about a month after Gov. Dan McKee (D) included a proposal to end cannabis prohibition as part of his annual budget plan.
Sen. Joshua Miller (D) and Rep. Scott Slater (D) introduced the new legislation, which would create a system of licensed businesses to produce and sell cannabis while allowing adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to an ounce. They could also grow up to six plants at home, three of which could be mature.
Slater is also a cosponsor of the psilocybin and buprenorphine bill filed last week.
Meanwhile, Miller, who sponsored an earlier legalization proposal that was approved in the Senate last year, said in a press release last week that the “time for Rhode Island to move forward with cannabis legalization is now.”
The bill also provides an avenue for expungements for people with convictions of marijuana possession of up to two ounces. People with such convictions would need to submit a request to the courts, after which point the expungement would be automated.
Activists have rallied behind an agenda for reform that emphasizes the need for bold social equity provisions.
Under the new bill, there would be a two-year moratorium on licensing additional cultivators beyond those that are already operating for the medical cannabis market.
Miller previously said that negotiators had reached an agreement to place the temporary moratorium on approving additional cannabis cultivator licenses. Some have protested adding cultivators beyond the existing medical marijuana licensees because they say there’s already a sufficient supply to meet demand in the adult-use market.
Ruggerio has said he feels that the legalization bill that has already been approved in the Senate contained “very strong social justice provisions” and the its expedited expungements provisions are “as close to automatic as practical.”
He also said in July that he’s not disappointed the House hasn’t advanced legalization legislation yet and that “what we really wanted to do was send it over and have them take a look at it” when his chamber passed its cannabis reform measure.
A coalition of 10 civil rights and drug policy reform advocacy groups—including the Rhode Island chapters of the ACLU and NAACP—had demanded that lawmakers move ahead with enacting marijuana reform in the state before the end of 2021. But that did not pan out.
Lawmakers have noted that neighboring states like Connecticut and Massachusetts have enacted legalization, and that adds impetus for the legislature to pursue reform in the state.
In June, the House Finance Committee held a hearing on an earlier legalization measure that Slater introduced.
The governor previously told reporters that while he backs legalization it is “not like one of my highest priorities,” adding that “we’re not in a race with Connecticut or Massachusetts on this issue.”
“I think we need to get it right,” he said, pointing to ongoing discussions with the House and Senate.
The House Finance Committee discussed the governor’s proposal to end prohibition at an earlier hearing in April.
Both the governor and the leaders’ legalization plans are notably different than the proposal that former Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) had included in her budget in 2020. Prior to leaving office to join the Biden administration as commerce secretary, she called for legalization through a state-run model.
McKee gave initial insights into his perspective on the reform last January, saying that “it’s time that [legalization] happens” and that he’s “more leaning towards an entrepreneurial strategy there to let that roll that way.”
House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D), meanwhile, has said he’s “absolutely” open to the idea of cannabis legalization and also leans toward privatization.
In late 2020, the Senate Finance Committee began preliminary consideration of legalization in preparation for the 2021 session, with lawmakers generally accepting the reform as an inevitability. “I certainly do think we’ll act on the issue, whether it’s more private or more state,” Sen. Ryan Pearson (D), who now serves as the panel’s chairman, said at the time.
Meanwhile, the governor in July signed a historic bill to allow safe consumption sites where people could use illicit drugs under medical supervision and receive resources to enter treatment. Harm reduction advocates say this would prevent overdose deaths and help de-stigmatize substance misuse. Rhode Island is the first state to allow the facilities.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing last year on legislation that would end criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of drugs and replace them with a $100 fine.
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Top GOP Wisconsin Lawmaker Says Marijuana Legalization Will Come ‘At Some Point’ Despite Republican Resistance
Veterans Groups Call On Congress To Allow Medical Marijuana Access Through VA
Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment’s Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.
Top GOP Wisconsin Lawmaker Says Marijuana Legalization Will Come ‘At Some Point’ Despite Republican Resistance
Veterans Groups Call On Congress To Allow Medical Marijuana Access Through VA
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Wyoming Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Won’t Get A Vote This Session, Sponsor Says
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A top Wisconsin Assembly lawmaker says that marijuana legalization is essentially an inevitability in the state where the Republican-dominated legislature has routinely blocked reform—but that more limited medical cannabis legislation has a better shot of being enacted in the near term.
In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio on Monday, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R) was prompted with new polling showing that bipartisan majorities favor ending cannabis criminalization and asked whether the legislature might advance legalization.
“It’s an interesting question,” Steineke said. “Obviously other states throughout the country are moving in that direction. I think that’s likely the direction at some point, with the state of Wisconsin, goes.”
He caveated that he feels enacting medical cannabis legalization will be a “more likely” possibility as an initial step. But while adult-use legalization “has a much tougher path to get through the legislature actually [being] signed into law, I do think we’re heading in that direction.”
The challenge will be crafting the “right legislation that is tight enough to pass something,” he said, adding that he’s “always been a supporter” of that approach.
The leader also took a question from a caller who expressed frustration that medical marijuana has not been made available for her father, who she’s been caring for as he’s suffered from Parkinson’s disease. She wanted to know why lawmakers have failed to act.
Steineke said that the “real issue is really the the ability of the legislature to craft a medicinal marijuana bill in a way that doesn’t open up the door wide to recreational marijuana.”
“I think that’s the biggest concern amongst lawmakers and law enforcement general—that it doesn’t make a medicinal marijuana bill, doesn’t become a de facto recreational marijuana bill,” he said. “That’s one of the challenges that we’ve faced over the years in trying to craft something that would help people like your dad without making it basically a recreational marijuana bill.”
“We’ve had some challenges trying to write language that’s tightened up to keep it to the medicinal purposes,” he said.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 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.

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The poll referenced in the radio interview found that support for marijuana reform continues to grow in Wisconsin, with 61 percent of voters saying they favor legalization, compared to 31 percent who oppose the policy change.
But one of the most notable findings from the poll is that support for adult-use legalization among Republican voters has officially reached majority status, with 51 percent of those who identify as GOP backing the reform. That’s an eight percentage point increase since the university conducted the first survey in 2013.
Despite the rising, bipartisan embrace for legalization in Wisconsin, the GOP-controlled legislature has yet to meet the moment, consistently blocking reform from advancing as the Democratic governor and lawmakers from his party have pushed for it. But there are signs of movement, including among Republican lawmakers.
More than a dozen Republican Wisconsin lawmakers announced in January that they were filing a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, for example.
The Republican-led medical cannabis legislation is also fairly restrictive, as it prohibits smokable marijuana products and doesn’t allow patients to grow cannabis for personal use. Patients could only obtain cannabis preparations in the form of oils, pills, tinctures or topicals.
It does not appear that the measure, sponsored by Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R) and Rep. Patrick Snyder (R), contains equity provisions like expungements that are favored by progressives.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) has expressed support for medical cannabis reform, and the lead Senate sponsor said at a press conference in January that Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) is “more than willing” to hold a hearing on the proposal.
“Currently 36 other states, including our neighbors Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota, have passed laws allowing patients with certain medical conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it,” a co-sponsorship memo that Felzkowski and Snyder sent to fellow legislators says. “Medicine is never one-size-fits-all, and it is time for Wisconsin to join the majority of the country in adding another option which may help patients find the relief they need.”
The memo also discusses how voters in multiple cities and counties across Wisconsin have strongly approved local, non-binding ballot referendums expressing support for marijuana reform in recent years.
This isn’t the only cannabis bill that’s up for consideration in the Wisconsin legislature.
In November, a bipartisan pair of legislators introduced a bill to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession. In August, three senators separately filed legislation to legalize cannabis for adult use in the state.
As it stands, marijuana possession is punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail for a first offense. People convicted of a subsequent offense would face a felony charge punishable by a maximum $10,000 fine and up to three and a half years in prison.
Gov. Tony Evers (D) tried to legalize recreational and medical marijuana through his proposed state budget last year, but a GOP-led legislative committee stripped the cannabis language from the legislation. Democrats tried to add the provisions back through an amendment, but Republicans blocked the move.
The governor also recently vetoed a GOP-led bill that would have significantly ramped up criminal penalties for people who use butane or similar fuels to extract marijuana.
Other Republican lawmakers have filed bills to more modestly decriminalize marijuana possession in the state, but none of those proposals advanced during last year’s session.
Evers held a virtual town hall event last year where he discussed his cannabis proposal, emphasizing that polling demonstrates that Wisconsin residents back the policy change.
And in the interim as lawmakers pursue reform, the governor has issued more than 300 pardons during his years in office, primarily to people convicted of non-violent marijuana or other drug offenses.
Rhode Island Lawmakers File Psilocybin And Broader Drug Decriminalization Bills While Legal Marijuana Momentum Increases

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.
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House and Senate committees held joint hearings last week to hear from veterans service organizations (VSOs) about how Congress and the federal government can better serve their constituents, and several of the groups brought up the need to ease restrictions on marijuana.
Written testimony submitted ahead of the meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday echoes what the VSOs have repeatedly raised with lawmakers. The specifics range in scope between the various groups, but the overall message was made clear: military veterans uniquely stand to benefit from marijuana treatment and it’s time for Congress to do something about it.
Among other asks from the organizations are for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to expand research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis, for Congress to lift study barriers for Schedule I drugs that show medical promise and to end prohibition so that veterans can access marijuana recommendations through their VA doctors.
“Support for the use of medical cannabis to treat the wounds of war has been growing among the veteran population for years, and [Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America] members have repeatedly voiced their support,” IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler said. “Veterans consistently and passionately have communicated that cannabis offers effective help in tackling some of the most pressing injuries we face when returning from war.”
IAVA was one of three VSOs to mention cannabis in its written testimony to for the joint hearings of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees.
“Over the past few years, IAVA members have set out to change the national conversation around cannabis and underscore the need for bipartisan, evidence-based, common-sense solutions that can bring relief to millions, save taxpayers billions and create thousands of jobs for veterans nationwide,” Butler said. “In 2022, IAVA will continue our fight on behalf of veterans who want to use medicinal cannabis and we remain committed to the goal of VA conducting research into the efficacy of medical cannabis as a treatment for veterans with chronic pain, PTSD, and other conditions.”
While researchers have found ample evidence to support the idea that cannabis can effectively treat a wide range of conditions that commonly afflict the veteran community, “federal bureaucratic hurdles continue to halt the system and stymie good research,” he said.
“We will never get a definitive answer on the efficacy of cannabis as a treatment option while federal regulations that actively undermine solid research studies remain in place. The system is antiquated and must be adjusted to match state laws and research needs. For these reasons, in the 117th Congress IAVA will continue our work to remove these barriers to research and usage to those veterans where it is already legal by advocating to remove cannabis as a Schedule I drug.”
AMVETS National Commander Greg Heun made similar points in the group’s testimony. He emphasized, for example, that there’s research that suggests that “where medical and adult-use cannabis is accessible, there is a reduction in opioid prescribing, opioid use, and opioid-related overdose.”

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 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.

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“Cannabis is currently legal and regulated for adult and medicinal use in more than 35 states, representing more than half of the U.S. population, yet veterans have no way to access cannabis through the Department of Veterans Affairs and risk loss of employment or imprisonment for cannabis use in certain circumstances,” he said.
“We call upon the White House and Congress to fulfill their responsibilities to the nation’s veterans by recognizing the inappropriateness of cannabis’ current scheduling and removing it from the Controlled Substance Act, by removing the roadblocks to expanding approved cultivation and research and committing all necessary resources to understand the therapeutic potential of cannabis and bringing those derived medications to veterans as quickly as possible.”
Finally, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) put its stance plainly: It supports “VA research into the medical efficacy of cannabis for treatment of service-connected veterans.”
Another meeting of the House and Senate panels is scheduled for Tuesday, but cannabis isn’t mentioned in any of the written testimony for the groups set to appear.
In past hearings on veterans- and marijuana-related legislation, VA representatives have pushed back against VSOs by insisting that the department is already carrying out research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis. But advocates say the focus of that research is too often focused on the potential negative consequences of marijuana consumption.
Some advocates had held out hope that the department would back modest reform proposals this session after the sponsor of one key VA research bill, Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), said that he’d had a conversation with VA Secretary Denis McDonough about the issue of marijuana and veterans.
In December, a VA researcher acknowledged that people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who use marijuana experience fewer symptoms and recover more quickly compared to people who don’t use cannabis.
Another VA official said in September that the department is “very closely” following research into the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics like MDMA for military veterans with PTSD.
A federal commission tasked with developing recommendations to improve mental health treatment for military veterans determined in a report in 2020 that Congress and the executive branch should promote research into the therapeutic potential of marijuana and psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA.
Separately, a bipartisan coalition of congressional lawmakers said in a letter to McDonough that the department must urgently institute a policy change to ensure that military veterans can access cannabis for therapeutic use.
The letter came weeks after McDonough participated in a Veterans Day Q&A where he said that VA officials are “looking at” the possibility of an internal policy change and have discussed it with the White House and Department of Justice. The secretary also talked about being personally moved by stories from veterans who’ve found relief using medical marijuana.
Meanwhile, the Portland branch of the VA is now teaming up with an Oregon university on a new website that aims to provide resources to make healthcare providers “more comfortable” discussing marijuana treatment with patients.
More Than 50 Marijuana And Civil Rights Groups Demand Congress Lift Ban On D.C. Cannabis Sales

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More than 50 leading marijuana advocacy and civil rights organizations sent a letter to congressional leaders and appropriators on Friday, asking that they finally allow recreational cannabis sales to begin in Washington, D.C.—eight years after voters approved a local legalization ballot measure.
Specifically, the groups—led by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)—say they want to “maintain” the removal of the D.C. language in a spending bill approved by the House last year and circulated in draft form in the Senate. The District is currently prohibited from using its local tax dollars to implement a system of regulated marijuana sales due to the appropriations rider that’s been annually approved since 2014.
“It is imperative to both public health, public safety, and for Congress’ support of the District’s right to home rule that the removal of the Harris rider is maintained,” the letter says, referring to the anti-legalization sponsor of the rider Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD).
“Without the ability to regulate marijuana sales, the grey market for marijuana flourishes despite the need and want of the District leadership and residents alike to establish a regulatory model,” the groups wrote. “Such a model would free up law enforcement resources to focus on threats to public safety. It would also allow legitimate entrepreneurs to start businesses, create jobs and spur economic development in the District.”
“It is of utmost importance that the District of Columbia be granted the same capacity as states around the nation that have voted to regulate adult use of marijuana and deliver on the promises of Initiative 71,” the letter continues.

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Signatories of the letter include groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, AFL-CIO’s Washington Metropolitan Council, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Association of Social Workers, Competitive Enterprise Institute, NORML, BOWL PAC, Dr. Bronner’s, DC Vote, DC Marijuana Justice, R Street Institute and Weedmaps.
“It is time for Congress to support the District of Columbia’s right to self-determination and lift the rider prohibiting them from regulating marijuana,” the letter concludes.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) thanked the groups for advocating for the right of D.C. to enact cannabis commerce. She said in November that she is “closer than ever” to removing the blockade on cannabis commerce in her district.
Thank you to the 50+ national and DC groups, led by @DrugPolicyOrg, that sent a letter today calling on Congress to remove the rider that prohibits DC from using its local funds to commercialize recreational marijuana. #HandsOffDC
Full letter: https://t.co/09UzgGgrDH
— Eleanor #DCStatehood Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) March 4, 2022

While there appears to be shared interest among House and Senate Democrats in ending the D.C. ban as part of the fiscal year 2022 appropriations session, achieving that goal may be logistically complicated.
The leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee have reportedly reached an agreement on framework spending legislation after repeatedly extending government funding past last October’s original deadline through a series of short-term continuing resolutions. The latest deadline is March 11.
All four committee leaders handling appropriations reportedly agreed to continue negotiations about adding or removing existing riders in the future, raising doubts about the prospects of eliminating the D.C. language this round due to opposition from top Republicans.
Unhelpfully, from advocates’ perspective, President Joe Biden’s own budget proposal sought to continue the GOP-led ban.
“In one hand, Congress continues to make strides in advancing federal marijuana reform grounded in racial justice, while simultaneously being responsible for prohibiting the very jurisdiction that led the country in legalizing marijuana through this lens from being able to regulate it,” Queen Adesuyi, senior national policy manager for DPA, said in a press release. “This conflict and contradiction must end now.”
“Leadership passing on this historic chance to be on the right side of history—in standing for both marijuana reform and democracy—would be demoralizing, and a clear sign that there is a stronger commitment to use D.C. as a bargaining chip than on the values of marijuana justice and home rule,” she said. “We look forward to working with them to finally bring this injustice to a close and ensure D.C. residents’ voice and vote are respected.”
Several of the groups behind this new D.C. letter separately urged House leadership to put a bill to federally legalize marijuana—the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act—on the floor this month.
Meanwhile, back in D.C., lawmakers continue to gear up to enact legislation that would allow for marijuana sales, while also advancing other cannabis-related measures.
Lawmakers held a joint hearing in November on a pair of bills to authorize the legal sale of recreational marijuana and significantly expand the existing medical cannabis program in the nation’s capital.
A provision of the bill that could have led to a broad crackdown on the city’s unregulated market for recreational cannabis was removed, much to the relief of advocates who criticized the proposed measure over a component that would have punished businesses that “gift” marijuana in a manner that effectively circumvents the local prohibition on retail cannabis sales.
Marijuana possession and gifting is legal under a voter-approved 2014 initiative—but there currently isn’t a regulated market and people aren’t allowed to accept any form of renumeration for gifting.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said last April that local officials are prepared to move forward with implementing a legal system of recreational marijuana sales in the nation’s capital just as soon as they can get over the final “hurdle” of congressional interference.
Bowser introduced a cannabis commerce bill last February, though her measure was not on the agenda for November’s hearing alongside the cannabis legalization proposal put forward by Mendelson.
Local marijuana activists also proposed an amendment to Mendelson’s legalization bill that would allow small entrepreneurs to sell cannabis at farmers markets. It’s not clear when D.C. lawmakers will convene again to vote on proposed changes and the overall legislation.
Last March, a federal oversight agency determined that the congressional rider blocking marijuana sales in D.C. does not preclude local officials from taking procedural steps to prepare for the eventual reform, such as holding hearings, even if they cannot yet enact it with the blockade pending.
Last week, a D.C. Council committee unanimously approved a bill to ban most workplaces from subjecting job applicants to pre-employment marijuana testing. It would expand on previous legislation the D.C. Council approved to protect local government employees against workplace discrimination due to their use of medical cannabis.
Bowser also recently signed a bill into law that will expand access to the District’s medical marijuana program in a series of ways.
Now, senior citizens will be able to self-certify their own eligibility for cannabis without having to get a recommendation from a doctor. The law also further extends the registration renewal deadline for patients and creates a week-long medical marijuana tax relief “holiday” that coincides with the unofficial cannabis event known as 4/20.
That bill also generally expand on prior emergency legislation that the Council approved at the height of the coronavirus pandemic to extend registration eligibility for the medical cannabis program. Patients under 65 with registrations will continue to be validated through at least September 30.
In 2019, another D.C. lawmaker proposed a separate medical cannabis reform bill meant to ease the registration process for patients. Instead of having to wait several weeks for regulators to process their medical cannabis approvals, patients would simply fill out an application with the city health department and would then automatically qualify to legally purchase marijuana on a provisional basis.
The legislation’s author, at-large Councilmember David Grosso (I), introduced a similar bill in 2017, though that version allowed residents to self-certify as medical marijuana patients—without the need to involve a doctor—by signing an affidavit, and it didn’t have the stipulation that their qualifications could be later rejected.
Separately, another group of activists announced an effort to pressure local lawmakers enact broad drug decriminalization, with a focus on promoting harm reduction programs, in the nation’s capital. A poll released last year found that voters are strongly in favor of proposals.
Read the letter from activists’ on the D.C. marijuana commerce ban rider below: 

Illinois House Approves Workplace Protections For Cannabis Consumers

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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