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NORML Blog

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate June 22, 2018

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

    At the federal level, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced a bill to protect state-lawful marijuana users from housing discrimination. And the US Senate Appropriations Committee voted to block an amendment that would have protected banks that work with marijuana businesses from being punished by federal regulators.

    Newly introduced legislation by Senators Warren (D-MA) and Gardner (R-CO), the STATES Act, is expected to face some tough hurdles in Congress, as Republican chairs of key committees in the House and Senate have no plans to schedule the bill for a hearing. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, currently has no intentions of considering the bill in committee, and neither does Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

    At the state level, the Republican Party of Texas approved new platform planks endorsing marijuana decriminalization, expanded medical cannabis access, industrial hemp and federal rescheduling. And New Jersey regulators reduced patient fees, added new qualifying conditions, removed strain limits and made other expansions to the state’s medical cannabis program.

    Next Tuesday, June 26, voters in Oklahoma will have the opportunity to decide in favor of providing much-needed medical marijuana access to patients with State Question 788, which will appear on the June 26 ballot. Under this plan, physicians — not lawmakers — will have the final say on making health care decisions involving the use of medical cannabis.

    At a more local level, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and NYPD officials announced that as of September 1, police will no longer arrest people for smoking marijuana publicly, with some exceptions. Brooklyn’s district attorney spoke in support and announced he will move to expunge past cannabis convictions. Manhattan’s district attorney is also on board. Also, The Bethlehem, Pennsylvania City Council approved a marijuana decriminalization ordinance.

     

    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

    Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced bipartisan legislation, The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales. A bipartisan House companion bill has been introduced by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

    This marks the first bicameral, bipartisan legislation to end the federal enforcement of prohibition in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.

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

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

    Senate Bill 20-62, to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

    If passed, the bill would legalize the personal use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for adults age 21 or older, and establish a licensing scheme for its commercial production and retail sale. The tax revenue would be used to fund the implementation of the program and other government services. The bill was already approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: The House Judiciary & Government Operations Committee reconsidered SB 20-62 on 6/21 after it was supposed to get a full House vote, but was instead referred back to committee. The committee made several revisions to the bill that are expected to clear the path to passage.

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

    New York

    Legislation is pending in both chambers to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    Update: A separate version of similar legislation, S. 8987A, has been approved unanimously by the Senate. The bill awaits action from the Assembly. Also, The New York State Health Department publicly announced on June 18 that the agency would be updating its rules to permit patients to be eligible for medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids, making the bills somewhat moot.

    California

    Assembly Bill 1793 seeks “to 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. The bill was already approved by the Assembly last month.

    Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee on 6/26 at 8:30am in Room 3191.

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

    Senate Bill 829 would exempt compassionate care programs from paying state cannabis taxes when they are providing free medical cannabis to financially disadvantaged people living with serious health conditions.

    Update: The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions approved SB 829 by a 13-1 vote on 6/19 after holding a hearing. The bill now awaits action from the Committee on Revenue and Taxation, where it will be heard on 6/25.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of tax-exempt compassionate care programs

    Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.

    Update: The Assembly’s Banking Committee approved SB 930 by a 10-0 vote on 6/18. The bill now goes to the Business and Professions Committee, where it will be heard on 6/26 at 9am.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of banking access

    That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • by NORML

    KY NORML is passionate about education. And with the opioid epidemic consuming our state, we feel that it is our duty to share valuable information regarding the relationship between cannabis and opioids. Cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, traffic fatalities, drug treatment admissions, and overdose deaths. We strongly believe, based on research, first-hand accounts, and testimonials that cannabis is truly the answer to combating this crisis that is killing thousands of Kentuckians each year.

    According to a study by the Journal of Headache and Pain, “the most common prescription medications replaced by medicinal cannabis in this study were opiates/opioids in a large percentage within every pain group, up to 72.8% of patients in the chronic pain as primary illness group. … This is notable given the well-described “opioid-sparing effect” of cannabinoids and growing abundance of literature suggesting that cannabis may help in weaning from these medications and perhaps providing a means of combating the opioid epidemic.”

    Investigators assessed opioid use patterns in patients registered with Health Canada to access medical cannabis products. Among those patients who acknowledged using opioids upon enrollment in the trial, 51 percent reported ceasing their opiate use within six-months. “The high rate of cannabis use for the treatment of chronic pain — and subsequent substitution for opioids — suggests that cannabis may play a harm-reduction role in the ongoing opioid dependence and overdose crisis. While the cannabis substitution effect for prescription drugs has been identified and assessed via cross-sectional and population-level research, this study provides a granular individual-level perspective of cannabis substitution for prescription drugs and associated improvement in quality of life over time.”

    Cannabis access is associated with reductions in overall prescription drug spending. JAMA Internal Medicine “found that prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year when a state instituted any medical cannabis law. Prescriptions for all opioids decreased by 3.742 million daily doses per year when medical cannabis dispensaries opened. … Combined with previously published studies suggesting cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid mortality, these findings further strengthen arguments in favor of considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids.”

    The Mental Health Clinician  “investigated medical cannabis’ effectiveness in patients suffering from chronic pain associated with qualifying conditions for MC in New York State. … After 3 months treatment, MC improved quality of life, reduced pain and opioid use, and lead to cost savings. … These results are consistent with previous reports demonstrating MC’s effectiveness in neuropathic pain.”

    There are tons more information out there on this topic and the above research barely scratches the surface. We encourage you to see what’s out there for yourself. Knowledge is power and the better armed we are with that knowledge the more effective we can be in getting legislation passed. The opioid crisis that is plaguing our state has harmed so many of our citizens, and if cannabis is able to help, the legislators should get out the way and pass a comprehensive bill to deal with the problems our state is facing.

    High Regards,
    Matthew Bratcher
    Executive Director, KY NORML

    To support KY NORML you can DONATE HERE and follow us on Facebook and Twitter! Your donations help pay the bills and allow us to function and continue to make a difference in our state! Can you kick in $5, $10 or $20 to help us keep going?

  • by NORML June 20, 2018

    Local Marijuana DecriminalizationEven though recreational marijuana remains criminalized in a majority of US states, more and more municipalities are moving ahead with local laws decriminalizing the possession of cannabis within city limits. For the first time, NORML has released a comprehensive breakdown of these citywide and countywide decriminalization policies.

    Efforts to liberalize municipal marijuana possession penalties in states where cannabis remains criminalized have become increasingly popular in recent years. Since 2012, over 50 localities, such as Albuquerque, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and St. Louis in a dozen states — including Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have enacted municipal laws or resolutions either fully or partially decriminalizing minor cannabis possession offenses. Today, over 10.5 million Americans reside in these localities. (Please note: This total does not include cities or counties in states that have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana statewide).

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri: “Local politicians see firsthand the punitive and disproportionately adverse effects that statewide marijuana criminalization has on their communities and upon their constituents. That is why they are exercising their local legislative powers to protect citizens in their community when state politicians are either unwilling or lack the political courage to do so.”

    DECRIMINALIZATION EXPLAINED

    Under full decriminalization, minor offenses are defined by statute as either non-criminal violations or infractions. Violators are not subject to arrest. Instead, they are cited and mandated to pay a small fine. Violators are not subject to a court appearance nor are they saddled with a criminal conviction or record.  Under partial decriminalization policies, minor marijuana offenses may remain classified as misdemeanor offenses. However, violators are issued a summons in lieu of a criminal arrest.

    Beginning with Oregon in 1973, 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. (Eight of these states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Vermont — have since replaced their decriminalization statutes with statewide adult use legalization legislation.)

    Today, nine states — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island — have fully decriminalized activities specific to the private possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults. Four additional states — Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio — have partially decriminalized marijuana possession offenses. In these latter jurisdictions, cannabis remains classified as a misdemeanor under state law, but the offense does not carry the penalty of jail time. In New York, marijuana possession ‘in public view’ remains punishable as a criminal misdemeanor.

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal: “As public support in favor of marijuana law reform has grown, so too have local efforts by legislators and voters to address the issue at the municipal level. In many regions of the country, local lawmakers are moving to shield their local citizens from state prohibitions — one city at a time.”

  • by David Holland, Executive Director of Empire State NORML

    Cannabis PenaltiesThe new Report by the New York City Police Department’s “Working Group” is more window dressing than an actual policy change. It appears to be an elaborate 20-page rationalization to continue the present enforcement protocol without any real progress on the policing front. As of today, the policy continues to leave it to the relatively unfettered discretion in the hands of each officer to decide whether to issue a summons or, subject to a variety of exceptions, affect a full-blown arrest for the public consumption of marijuana. The continuation of this policy certainly is better than the old days in that those issued a summons are not fingerprinted and face only a maximum $100 fine for a first offense. But, that is not the policy that the citizens of New York want or need.

    Historically, the Report cites a 66% decrease in marijuana-related arrests since changes of enforcement priority and practice dating back to 2014. The Report makes clear through statistics and graphs that despite the significant drop in arrests, those arrests continue to dramatically impact people of color who comprised 86.9% of all marijuana arrests and disproportionately continue to suffer the negative collateral consequences of such an arrest. It further cites other jurisdictions like Colorado and other legalized states that still have endemic racial disparity in arrest rates despite the law enforcement policy changes. Such statistical anomalies must be addressed since New York City’s change in enforcement priority dating back to 2014 officially recognized that the burning of marijuana in public view had a negligible impact on the safety and quality of life NYC denizens.

    But, the Report justifies the lack of any substantial policy change in 2018 on the fact that there is not a uniform consensus amongst the District Attorneys in each of the 5 boroughs of New York City regarding the prosecution of marijuana cases. The District Attorneys of Manhattan and Brooklyn have publicly announced that they will no longer prosecute low-level marijuana offenses, but similar pronouncements are lacking from the DAs in the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.  As such, the lack of uniformity within the 5 boroughs leaves the NYPD without a single policy because of the differing law enforcement priorities in different neighborhoods. Therefore, NYPD apparently believes that it cannot improve upon its dated 2014 policy.

    In reality, this rationalization is a cop-out.  NYPD officers have for years been given lots of discretion during civilian encounters involving public consumption and that has led to vastly reduced number of marijuana arrests.  The Police Department can and should revise and develop a more comprehensive set of internal guidelines to further guide and constrain the officer’s discretion to issue summonses which in turn cause a further decline in the number of marijuana arrests in New York City.  While the Report calls for limited exceptions to the policy to permit arrests where matters of public safety and quality of life issues are at stake (lack of identification, open warrants, history of violence, and being on probation or parole), all internal measures should be taken to ensure that police/civilian encounters are designed to achieve the desire and goal of both NYPD and New Yorkers to greatly reduce the arrests for the public burning of marijuana.

    You can read the full report here

    David C. Holland, Esq. is the Executive and Legal Director, Empire State NORML. You can follow Empire NORML on Facebook and Twitter, and visit their website at: https://esnorml.org/ 

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director

    Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.

    Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.

    Seventy-three percent of respondents also expressed support for sealing the records of those previously convicted of marijuana-related offenses.

    In an era of increasing partisanship, public support for ending cannabis criminalization is an issue that crosses party lines. More and more, elected officials – and those who wish to be elected – must acknowledge that advocating in favor of marijuana policy reform is a political opportunity, not a political liability.

    You can read more details about this poll HERE.

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