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NORML Blog

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 25, 2018

    A Florida Circuit Court judge ruled today that a legislatively enacted ban on the smoking of medical cannabis in private by qualified patients is unconstitutional.

    Lawmakers in 2017 passed Senate Bill 8A — which sought to amend provisions in Amendment 2, a voter initiated constitutional amendment permitting the use and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. Specifically, SB 8A prohibited the possession of marijuana “in a form for smoking” and barred the use of herbal cannabis except in instances where it is contained “in a sealed tamper-proof receptacle for vaping.” Seventy-one percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 2 in November 2016.

    Backers of Amendment 2, including the group Florida for Care and longtime medical activist Cathy Jordan, challenged the ‘no smoking’ ban — arguing that lawmakers improperly sought to overrule the will of the electorate. Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers today ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

    “Section 381.986, Florida Statutes (2017) unconstitutionally restricts rights that are protected in the Constitution, and so the statutory prohibition against the use of smokeable marijuana permitted by [a] qualifying patient is declared invalid and unenforceable,” the judge ruled. “Qualifying patients have the right to use the form of medical marijuana for [the] treatment of their debilitating medical condition as recommended by their certified physicians, including the use of smokable marijuana in private places.”

    NORML has long argued against regulations that limit or restrict patients’ access to whole plant herbal cannabis. Many patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms do not benefit from cannabis-infused pills, tinctures, or edibles because they possess delayed onset compared to inhaled cannabis and are far more variable in their effects.

    “This ruling is a victory for Florida voters and, in particular, Florida’s patient community,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “These legislatively enacted restrictions arbitrarily sought to limit patients’ choices in a manner that violated the spirit of the law, and cynically sought to deny patients the ability to obtain rapid relief from whole-plant cannabis in a manner that has long proven to be relatively safe and effective.”

    The Court’s opinion in the case: People United for Medical Marijuana et al v. Florida department of Health et al., appears online here.

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML

    What’s A Straw Poll?

    For those that don’t know, a straw poll is an unofficial ballot conducted as a test of opinion.  On 5/22/2018 the question above appeared as the first local question on the Democratic ballot for Forsyth County, Georgia.  “Should Georgia amend the state Constitution to legalize the use of cannabis/marijuana for those 21 years old and older, allow a retail dispensary base, tax said products, and allocate revenue received equally to state education and transportation infrastructure?”

    The results are non-binding.  It was just a question to “test the opinion” of the voters.  Well, the voters spoke, and the results are pretty amazing, though not all that surprising.

    4996 (a whopping 77%) answered YES
    Only 1471 answered NO

    Did I mention that a whopping 77% answered YES?

    Marijuana On An Official Ballot in Georgia?

    How’d that happen?  I reached out to Melissa Clink, who currently chairs the Forsyth Democratic Party and asked that question.  She told me, “Our election board officials asked about a month ahead of elections if we wanted questions on our ballot. These questions take the temperature of voters and in my opinion alert elected officials how their constituents want them to vote on such matters.  I believed marijuana legalization was a high priority question in Georgia”.

    Clink said that there was some initial resistance from within the party, although support for medical usage was unequivocal.  As is the case with many citizens in Georgia, some believed Georgia had a viable medical marijuana program and were unaware of some of the hypocrisy in that program.  Clink explained that Georgia has a non-functioning medical use law that does not include in-state growth or access to medicine and that “we need to know how voters feel about outright legalization so that our elected officials can legislate according to the will of the people”.  The question was added to the ballot.

    Did I Mention That A Whopping 77% Answered YES?

    I bring that up because according to the latest Quinnipiac poll 63% of the Nation favors legalization.  The folks in Forsyth County, Georgia obviously favor it more than that.  Even the Republican Party there is saying they wish they’d asked that, and other, questions.

    Catherine Bernard, a liberty-loving criminal defense attorney said: “[this] matches up with my jury selection experience in Forsyth where almost everyone raised their hand when the prosecutor asked who thought it shouldn’t be against the law to have MJ!”

    The Heroin Triangle and Education

    Forsyth County is in Georgia’s “Heroin Triangle”, and this may have some bearing on why this county ranges 14% higher than the national percentage.  I’m sure they’ve been paying close attention to the growing evidence that marijuana is an exit from opiates, not the gateway.

    While the percentage of folks that want marijuana legalized in other Georgia counties may not be quite as high, we know that the majority of citizens want this.  We knew it in 2014 when we had a telephone poll done and over 50% of those polled were for full legalization.  That percentage has grown immensely over the past 4 years.

    Why Georgia, Why?

    So the questions become, “Why aren’t Georgia Legislators listening? Why aren’t more of them vocally supporting in-State cultivation for medical purposes?  Why aren’t they getting on board with decriminalizing possession of one ounce or less?  Why is it necessary to arrest more than 24,000 people a year for possession?”

    Take Action!!

    Contact your legislators during this recess.  Reach out to them on their home turf.  Call, write, email.  Express your support for more rational marijuana laws.

    Contact your Republican and Democratic Party Chairs.  Discuss a straw poll with them.

    “When we are talking, we are winning”.  Sooner now, than later, they will have to listen to us.  The tide is turning in Georgia.

    Tom McCain is the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, fighting for the rights of Georgian cannabis consumers. You can visit their website at www.peachtreenorml.org, follow their work on Facebook and Twitter, and please make a contribution to support their work by clicking here. 

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    By a margin of nearly 2 to 1, Oklahoma voters support the passage of State Question 788 — a voter-initiated measure to permit patients access to marijuana for therapeutic purposes. Oklahomans will decide on the measure in a special election on Tuesday, June 26.

    According to polling data compiled by SoonerPoll.com and released today, 58 percent of likely voters endorse the measure, while 30 percent oppose it. Public support for the patient-centric initiative — which empowers physicians to use their discretion when determining cannabis therapy — has largely held steady, even in the face of growing, organized opposition from members of law enforcement and certain business leaders.

    Under the plan, licensed medical marijuana patients may cultivate up to six mature plants, and obtain personal use quantities of marijuana flower, edibles, or infused concentrates from regulated dispensaries. NORML formally endorsed the measure in January.

    Initiative proponents gathered sufficient signatures to place the issue before voters in 2016. However, the vote was postponed because when the state attorney general attempted to reword the initiative’s ballot title in a misleading manner. Initiative proponents sued to restore the title’s original wording. This year, proponents fought back legislation which sought to preemptively amend the initiative in a manner that would have curtailed the rights of both patients and their physicians.

    Voters in three other states — Michigan, Missouri, and Utah — are anticipated to decide on Election Day on statewide marijuana reform initiatives. Recent polling from those states finds majority public support for all three measures.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate

    Legalize marijuanaWelcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    Federally, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today became the fourth Senator to cosponsor the Marijuana Justice Act, joining the bill’s author, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and cosponsors Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

    At the state level, NORML PAC announced the endorsement of Jared Polis for Governor of Colorado. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that a state law banning medical cannabis on college campuses violates the state Constitution. And Nevada retailers sold more than $41 million worth of recreational marijuana in March, a new monthly record.

    At a more local level, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is directing the NYPD to stop arresting people smoking marijuana in public, and is moving to draft a plan to prepare the city for eventual legalization. The Los Angeles County, California Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution supporting state legislation to expunge marijuana convictions, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania City Council’s Public Safety Committee gave unanimous initial approval to a proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance, and The Milwaukee County, Wisconsin County Board voted to place an advisory marijuana legalization question on the November ballot.

    Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Click here to e-mail your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation

    Minnesota

    HF 927 and SF 1320 are pending to regulate adult use marijuana possession and provide for retail sales. HF 927 has been awaiting action from the House Health and Human Services Committee since February and so has SF 1320 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Update: A third measure, HF 4541, was introduced on 5/20 to also regulate adult use marijuana possession and provide for retail sales.

    MN resident? Click here to email you elected officials in support of regulating adult use marijuana sales

    Commonwealth of the Nothern Mariana Islands

    SB 20-62 seeks to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The bill already passed the full Senate earlier this month.

    Update: The House Committee on Judiciary & Government Operations will hold a hearing on marijuana legalization on 5/29.

    CMNI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization

    Pennsylvania

    House Bill 928, which was carried over from last year, seeks to reduce minor marijuana possession penalties. The bill amends state law so that first and second marijuana possession offenses (up to 30 grams) are reduced from misdemeanor offenses to a summary offense, punishable by a fine only.

    Update: Representative Ron Marsico has offered a June vote before the House Judiciary Committee, with hopes of a full House, and then Senate vote by the end of the summer.

    PA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of decriminalization

    California

    Expungement
    AB 1793 would “allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

    Update: The Assembly’s Appropriations Committee is holding a hearing on AB 1793 on 5/25 at 9am.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expunging past records

    Employment Protections
    AB 2069 would explicitly bar employers from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

    Update: AB 2069 is scheduled for a vote in Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday, May 25. The bill must pass the full Assembly floor by June 1.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of employment protections for patients

    New York

    Record Sealing
    A. 2142 and S. 3809 would seal the records of those who have previously been convicted of certain marijuana misdemeanors.

    New York has historically had one of the highest marijuana arrest rates in the nation largely because of arrests made under the public view and public smoking exceptions to New York’s decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of sealing past records

    Medical
    S 8191 has been introduced in the State Senate to explicitly permit children and developmentally disabled individuals with serious conditions for which medical marijuana has been recommended to have their medicine administered at schools and other facilities, and require school districts and facilities to create policies for medical marijuana administration.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of allowing medical marijuana in schools

    Opioids
    A. 9016 and S. 7564 would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence. Both bills have been stagnant in their respective chambers since January.

    Update: A third measure, S. 8820, was introduced on 5/22, to include opioid use as a condition that permits the use of medical cannabis.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of adding opioid use to the qualifying conditions list

    Illinois

    SB 336 would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy as an alternative to opioid treatment. It was already approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: The House Executive committee voted 8-3 to approve SB 336 on 5/24.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of cannabis as an alternative to opioids

    New Jersey

    A3971 was recently introduced and would establish reciprocity with other states’ medical marijuana program.The measure would allow for out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders to access medical cannabis while visiting New Jersey, in accordance with state law.

    NJ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of reciprocity

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    Illinois

    Senate Bill 2298 provides for the ability for individuals to cultivate hemp with a state license even if they are not part of the state’s Agriculture Department pilot program. That program only permits hemp cultivation as part of a state-sponsored research program. The bill was already approved by the full Senate last month.

    Update: SB 2298 was approved by the House on 5/23. It will now go back to the Senate for concurrence.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of hemp law expansion

    New York

    Legislation to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana for dogs, cats and other pets in New York State is pending in the Senate (S. 8772) and Assembly (A. 10104) Health Committees. The bill would allow veterinarians to recommend medical marijuana for our pets. Most non-human animals have an endocannabinoid system like we do, which means they can also benefit from the therapeutic effects of marijuana.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical marijuana for our furry friends

    California

    AB 3157 would temporarily reduce tax rates imposed on the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis.

    Update: AB 3157 was supposed to be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 5/16, but the hearing was postponed until 5/25 at 9am.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of lowering taxes

    That’s all for this week, folks!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 23, 2018

    In a ruling issued today by the Arizona Supreme Court, justices upheld an appellate court decision striking down a 2012 law that sought to forbid medical cannabis access on college campuses.

    Lifetime NORML Legal Committee member Tom Dean represented the patient-defendant in the case pro bono, and called the decision a “victory for democracy.”

    Justices opined that the 2012 law was unconstitutional because it impermissibly sought to amend the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which voters passed in 2010. State law limits the legislature’s ability to amend, repeal, or supersede voter-initiated laws.

    “Because the AMMA sets forth a list of locations where the legislature may impose ‘civil, criminal or other penalties’ when a person possesses or uses marijuana, § 36-2802, and because that list does not include college and university campuses (unlike pre-, primary-, and secondary-school grounds), we assume that the voters did not intend to criminalize AMMA-compliant possession or use of marijuana on public college and university campuses,” the court ruled. It further rejected the state’s claim that a campus-wide ban was necessary in order to preserve universities’ federal funding.

    “If the State had prevailed, they could then have tampered with any and all ballot initiatives, past, present, and future,” said Dean. “This is a victory for all Arizona voters and especially for medical marijuana patients.”

    The ruling sets aside the felony conviction of defendant Andrew Lee Maestas, who was initially charged and found guilty of the possession of 0.4 grams of marijuana despite his status as a state-registered medical cannabis patient.

    The case is Arizona v Maestas, No. CR-17-0193-PR.

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