Excitement filled the air at this year’s Boston Freedom Rally as Massachusetts voters consider two initiatives aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and Bay State Repeal are both working to collect the signatures needed to qualify for next November’s ballot.
California NORML’s partnership with ReformCA will guarantee responsible marijuana consumers an opportunity to have their voices heard as stakeholders continue to weigh in on the various initiatives currently being proposed.
With legalization on this November’s ballot, Ohioans will have a chance to not just end the arrest of thousands of marijuana consumers, they’ll be able to bring relief to people seeking the medicinal benefits of marijuana to treat their ailments.
Since July, Florida NORML has seen a lot of success with marijuana decriminalization efforts. From Miami-Dade County, to municipalities such as Hallandale Beach and Miami Beach, local governments have embraced this current trend. Several other cities are looking to take action in the months ahead.
Dan Viets, executive director of Missouri NORML and member of NORML’s National Board of Directors, fought hard to bring justice to Jeff Mizanskey and his family. Mr. Mizanskey is scheduled to speak at Springfield NORML’s next meeting on Wednesday, October 7, 2015. Click here for more details!
Activists with Northwest Ohio NORML earned the support of each of Toledo’s 24 wards to pass an ordinance aimed at eliminating penalties for possessing up to 200 grams of marijuana. Lawmakers are currently meeting to discuss the implementation of the new law.
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, took a minute to share his thoughts on the peculiar progression of America’s marijuana laws. From the early acceptance of medical marijuana in the west and the legalization of recreational marijuana in four states, to a pending ballot initiative in Ohio, it’s obvious American’s are ready to end the the government’s senseless war against marijuana consumers.
In a recent interview, Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, commended the State of Oregon for their rollout of their new recreational marijuana program. He attributes the success to state regulators paying close attention to the implementation of similar laws in other states.
New Chapter Spotlight
Denver NORML recently held their first public meeting to discuss the need for consumer advocacy in a post-legalization environment. Close to twenty-five marijuana consumers packed the room to show their support and share a few concerns about pesticides, social use and high taxes.
Marijuana law reform is a growing topic of discussion at the state and federal level. Below is this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — a new post we’ll be sharing regularly where we spotlight pending marijuana law reform legislation from around the country.
To support the measures below, please use our #TakeAction Center to contact your state and federal elected officials! A full list and summary of pending legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.
New Federal Bills Introduced:
Congressmen Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI) have introduced HR 3518, to eliminate the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. The DEA program distributes funds to state and local law enforcement agencies for the purpose of locating and destroying marijuana cultivation sites. In 2014, the federal government spent an estimated $18 million on the program to destroy 4.3 million plants, mostly in California.
Congresswoman Diana Degette (D-CO) has reintroduced legislation, H.R. 3629, the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2015, to amend the Controlled Substances Act in a manner that allows marijuana-related businesses and consumers in states that have legalized marijuana to be safe from federal interference. Fifty-nine percent of Americans agree that the government “should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states that allow [its] use,” yet the federal government continues to prosecute businesses and individuals in states that regulate marijuana for medical and personal use.
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced the Fair Access to Education Act of 2015 to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to restore federal financial aid eligibility to minor marijuana offenders. This measure would “exclude marijuana-related offenses from the drug-related offenses that result in students being barred from receiving Federal educational loans, grants, and work assistance, and for other purposes.”
State Legislative Developments:
South Carolina: Members of the Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee have unanimously passed SB 672, the Medical Marijuana Program Act. Senators Tom Davis (R-46) and Brad Hutto (D-40) introduced SB 672, the Medical Marijuana Program Act, earlier this year after lawmakers tabled previous medical marijuana legislation. The Medical Marijuana Program Act allows the use of medical marijuana for an extensive list of conditions and “any other medical condition…that the department determines, upon the written request of a provider who furnishes a medical recommendation to the department, is severely debilitating or terminal.” SB 672 will be considered by the full Senate Medical Affairs committee early next year.
Florida: House Bill 4021 was introduced by Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda. This bill removes cannabis from the Florida state schedule of controlled substances and removes all state criminal and civil penalties associated with the substance. Such a change is supported by Florida voters, 55 percent of whom support allowing adults “to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use,” according to 2015 survey data published by Quinnipiac University. And in recent months, numerous cities and counties, like Miami-Dade County, have amended their local laws to stop arresting minor marijuana offenders.
Additional information for all of these measures and more can be found at our #TakeAction Center!
** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!
Regulations permitting state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries to also engage in retail sales to those ages 21 or older take effect on Thursday, October 1. An estimated 200 facilities are anticipated to begin providing cannabis to adults.
Customers will be permitted to purchase up to a quarter ounce of herbal cannabis daily, as well as up to four non-flowering plants, but they will not be allowed to obtain cannabis-infused products until early next year.
Legislation approved by voters in November and enacted on July 1 allows those over the age of 21 to legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis and/or to engage in the non-commercial cultivation of up to four marijuana plants (yielding up to eight ounces of marijuana). Separate provisions in the law license, regulate, and tax retail sales of cannabis beginning next year. However, separate legislation (Senate Bill 460) signed into law in August permits licensed medical dispensaries the option to engage in provisional, tax-free retail sales of cannabis until January 4, 2016.
Colorado and Washington presently permit retail sales of cannabis, while similar regulations are forthcoming in Alaska. (A voter-initiated law in the District of Columbia permits adults to possess and grow marijuana legally, but does not provide for a regulated commercial cannabis market.)
Investigators from the University of Victoria in British Columbia assessed the influence of medical marijuana access on other drug-taking behaviors in a cohort of 473 Canadian adults licensed to engage in cannabis therapy.
“Substituting cannabis for one or more of alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drugs was reported by 87 percent of respondents, with 80.3 percent reporting substitution for prescription drugs, 51.7 percent for alcohol, and 32.6 percent for illicit substances,” they reported.
Rates of substitution were highest among respondents between the ages of 18 and 40. Patients using cannabis for pain were most likely to use pot as a substitute for prescription drugs.
Authors concluded, “The finding that cannabis was substituted for alcohol and illicit substances suggests that the medical use of cannabis may play a harm reduction role in the context of use of these substances, and could have implications for substance use treatment approaches requiring abstinence from cannabis in the process of reducing the use of other substances.”
Evaluations of patients enrolled in state-specific medical marijuana programs, including those in Arizona, California, and Rhode Island, yield similar results — finding that patients are particularly likely substitute cannabis for opioids. According to a recently published National Bureau of Economic Research report, states that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths as compared to states that do not.
An abstract of the study, “Substituting cannabis for prescription drugs, alcohol and other substances among medical cannabis patients: The impact of contextual factors,” appears online here.
The total number of marijuana-related arrests nationwide rose in 2014, despite the implementation of legalization laws in two states, according to data released today by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to the 2014 Uniform Crime Report, police made 700,993 arrests for marijuana-related offenses, some 7,500 more arrests than were reported in 2013. Of those arrested, 619,808 (over 88 percent) were charged with possession only — a two percent increase since 2013.
Marijuana arrests comprised nearly half (45 percent) of all drug-related arrests nationwide, at a cost of nearly half a billion dollars.
In the two states (Colorado and Washington) that have legalized marijuana-related activities, cannabis-related arrests plummeted in 2014 — indicating that that other jurisdictions are prioritizing arrests at a time when the majority of the public is opposed to criminalization. (Recent changes in marijuana laws in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC are not reflected in the 2014 arrest data, but will be reflected in 2015 data.)
As in previous years, marijuana possession arrests were most likely to occur in the midwest and in the southeastern regions of the United States. Far fewer marijuana arrests were reported in the western region of the United States, where possessing the plant has largely been either legalized or decriminalized.
The total number of marijuana arrests for 2014 are some 20 percent lower than the totals for 2007, when police made an all-time high 872,721 cannabis-related arrests.