Legalization news: the latest headlines from the U.S. and Switzerland

Swiss lawmakers are working to approve a pilot program that would allow cultivation and sales of cannabis for adult use


In Switzerland, lawmakers are working to approve a pilot program that would allow temporary cultivation and sales of cannabis for adult use. PromesaArtStudio / iStock / Getty Images Plus


Here’s a quick look at some new developments on the cannabis legalization and decriminalization front from across the United States, plus news of a pilot program in Switzerland.

Sanders tells it like it is

During a speech on the Senate floor on June 17, Sen. Bernie Sanders called on Congress to legalize cannabis. Discussing a wide range of changes that he feels would move the country a step closer to policing reform and addressing racial inequality in the justice system, the former presidential candidate said:

Finally, and certainly not least importantly, we need to legalize marijuana. In the midst of the many crises we face as a country, it is absurd that, under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is at Schedule I, along with killer drugs like heroin.

State after state have moved to legalize marijuana, and it is time for the federal government to do the same. When we talk about police department reform, we must end police officers continuing to arrest, search or jail the people of our country, predominantly people of colour, for using marijuana.

KC mayor aims to end pot penalties

Mayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City filed an ordinance this week that would end all penalties for possession of cannabis under the city’s laws.

Possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana has been punishable under municipal code by a $25 fine, and more than 35 grams is punishable by a $500 fine.

“One of the ways we improve police-community relations is by eliminating laws that for too long have led to negative interactions, arrests, convictions, and disproportionate rates of incarceration of Black men and Black women,” Lucas said in a press release. “Reducing petty offenses—such as municipal marijuana offenses—reduce these negative interactions each day.”

Earlier this year, Lucas’s office launched a pardon program for minor municipal cannabis offenses.

Montana takes the initiative

A Montana group has announced that it will be submitting 52,000 signatures in support of a ballot initiative to create a regulated market for the legal sale of adult-use recreational cannabis in the state.

New Approach Montana’s ballot initiative includes provisions for the state’s revenue department to license and regulate the industry, with a 20 percent retail tax on all adult-use cannabis products.

The Helena-based organization will also submit signatures for a separate initiative that would set 21 as the legal minimum age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing cannabis.

NJ passes decriminalization bill

New Jersey residents will vote on cannabis legalization in a referendum this November, but legislators in the state are pushing to see reform on the issue even before then.

On June 18, the state assembly passed a decriminalization bill that proposes reduced fines for possession. It also provides for a “legal presumption” that possession of up to two ounces “is the authorized possession of medical cannabis or a medical cannabis product” under state law. Such possession would require a “preponderance of evidence” to be considered unlawful and warrant a civil penalty.

The Swiss experiment

The lower chamber of Switzerland’s Federal Assembly has approved a bill to create a five-year pilot program that would research the viability of cannabis legalization.

Under the program, Swiss citizens aged 18 and up will be able to enroll in the program, which would allow them to legally buy and use cannabis with a maximum of 20 percent THC. Participants would have to agree to have their employer (or school) notified that they are using cannabis, and they must agree to have their health monitored throughout the program.

To provide the weed, the program would also license a small number of growers, who would have to adhere to Switzerland’s standards for growing organic crops.

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