• by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director March 20, 2018

    One development in our federal government that got a bit lost in the flurry of other headlines this week is that House and Senate leaders are putting the last minute touches on an omnibus appropriations package that would fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year.

    Something that many in the marijuana policy space have grown to take for granted is the continuation of a rider that was part of last year’s package known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which strips away funding from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the rest of the Department of Justice to prosecute state-lawful medical marijuana programs.

    Tell your federal officials to maintain this common sense protection for the 30 state medical marijuana programs and the 2,000,000 plus registered patients nationwide.

    AG Sessions wants nothing more than to see these protections go away. In a letter he sent to Congressional leadership last year, he wrote: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

    In the past month, NORML has worked with Representatives Rohrabacher and Blumenauer in recruiting 60 additional members of Congress to cosign a letter of their own to Congressional leadership, which states, “We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws. We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people.”

    Given the immense dysfunction in Washington, it is absolutely crucial that Congress not give AG Sessions another inch in his powers to roll back our progress. Further, with ballot initiatives expected in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah later this year, we cannot give our opponents another reason to sow doubt. Send a message now to maintain these protections this week in order to ensure that we’re well positioned to win further victories in the days and weeks to come.

  • by NORML March 19, 2018

    With Colorado lawmakers well into their fifth legislative session since the retail sale of adult-use marijuana was enacted, the need to coordinate the various policy discussions around the issue has never been greater. Since Colorado voters approved the law change in 2012, there have been ongoing debates surrounding various aspects of the law and its impact — such as how best to address the question of social consumption, product testing, and the use of medical cannabis on public campuses. To best address these issues, state lawmakers have formed the first-ever statewide Cannabis Caucus.

    “With the end of marijuana prohibition and the implementation of a robust tax and regulate program in Colorado, you have to consider the various areas of public policy that have been impacted. From business, and law enforcement, to education and health care, Colorado’s newly formed Cannabis Caucus will be a way to facilitate discussions among lawmakers regarding how to best to address these important matters,” said NORML Outreach Director Kevin Mahmalji.

    NORML’s national office has been exploring the idea of state-level cannabis caucuses since the Congressional Cannabis Caucus was established in early 2017. Since then, NORML’s Outreach Director Kevin Mahmalji has floated the idea to several Colorado lawmakers, but it wasn’t until he met with State Representative Dan Pabon’s office that things started to take shape. While Representative Pabon’s staff facilitated internal conversations with lawmakers about the possibility of establishing new caucus, NORML’s Kevin Mahmalji focused his time on recruiting new members and providing educational material.

    “This kind of caucus is something we at the national level have been looking at for quite some time,” says NORML Outreach Director Kevin Mahmalji, who’s based in Denver. “Since the formation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, it just made sense to have something similar at the state level.”

    Read more here: http://www.westword.com/news/colorado-cannabis-caucus-launching-march-16-2018-10094659

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 16, 2018

    Legalization in DCSenate lawmakers this week passed legislation, Senate Bill 1120, that seeks to preemptively quash many of the provisions of State Question 788 — an expansive voter initiative that provides physicians the discretion to recommend medical marijuana to those patients for whom they believe it will therapeutically benefit. Oklahomans will be voting on the measure, which NORML has endorsed, during a special election on June 26.

    But state politicians who oppose the plan do not want to wait until June for the results of a statewide vote. Instead, they are trying to kill the measure now.

    The language of Senate Bill 1120 guts State Question 788. It limits the pool of eligible patients only to those diagnosed with four distinct ailments. It arbitrarily caps the total number of licensed cannabis producers at no more than five providers. It limits the quantity of medical cannabis patients may possess, and also places undue limits on the formulations of marijuana products. It bars patients from smoking herbal cannabis and arbitrarily caps the potency of marijuana-infused products to no more than 10mgs of THC. Finally, it removes the right of patients and their caregivers to cultivate their own medicine.

    Although SB 1120 initially failed to gain the number of votes needed for Senate passage, lawmakers reconsidered the legislation on Thursday and passed it by a vote of 26 to 11. The bill now awaits action in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

    If you reside in Oklahoma, please take action here to urge your representatives to oppose this undemocratic piece of legislation. Oklahoma voters, not a handful of politicians, ought to be the ultimate arbiters of State Question 788.

    Unfortunately, as prohibitionist politicians become more desperate in their opposition to marijuana law reform, we are seeing more frequent attempts to undermine the voters’ will. In Maine, lawmakers have yet to fully implement key parts of a 2016 voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative, and are now pushing to either kill or amend many of its core provisions. In Massachusetts, lawmakers have also enacted numerous delays in the rollout of its 2016 voter-approved adult use law. In Tennessee, legislators last year passed legislation nullifying the enactment of citywide marijuana decriminalization ordinances in Nashville and Memphis, and prohibited municipalities from enacting similar marijuana reform measures in the future.

    That is why it is more important than ever that the electorate remain engaged and vigilant. Please utilize NORML’s Take Action Center to stay abreast of pending federal and state legislation, register to vote, access NORML’s 2018 Candidate Packet, and review NORML’s Congressional and Gubernatorial Scorecards to know who is standing with use — and who is acting against us.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate

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

    I first want to highlight some key developments happening at the state level.

    During a budget address on Tuesday 3/13, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy reiterated his commitment to legalize marijuana in the Garden State this year. A budget overview document indicated that his Administration plans to legalize adult-use marijuana by January 1, 2019. Also, efforts in Wyoming to set felony penalties for edible and drinkable cannabis products failed.

    Several marijuana related legislation died this week after failing to be voted on before crossover deadlines, including legalization bills in Kentucky and Missouri. The Indiana state legislature failed to agree on amendments to a hemp pilot program bill before the end of the legislative session; the bill will go to an interim study commission this summer. And an Arizona bill to enhance quality testing practices was defeated in the House Appropriations Committee.

    At the local level, advocates in Los Angeles, California are holding events to help people with prior marijuana convictions get their records expunged.

    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,

    Priority Alerts


    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


    House Bill 5458 is pending to regulate and tax the retail sale of marijuana to adults. The tax revenue raised by commercial retail sales would be used to fund substance abuse treatment, prevention, education and awareness programs.

    Update: The General Law Committee held a public hearing on HB 5458 on Thursday 3/15. The committee will vote on the bill by Tuesday.

    CT resident? Click here to email your elected officials in favor of legalization, regulation, and taxation


    House Bill 1264 would put an amendment to the Maryland Constitution on the ballot to be decided by voters to ensure that citizens have the right to possess, smoke, and cultivate marijuana.

    Update: The House Judiciary committee held a hearing on HB 1264 on Tuesday 3/13 (I was there to testify!).

    MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of letting the voters decide

    Legislation is pending, SB 127, to expand the state’s marijuana decriminalization law.

    If passed, SB 127 would amend penalties so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is classified as a civil rather than a criminal offense. Under current law, the possession of more than ten grams of marijuana is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

    Update: SB 127 was approved by the Judicial Proceedings Committee on 3/15.

    MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expanding the decriminalization law


    Legislation is pending in the House, House Bill 611, to decriminalize offenses involving the possession of marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia.

    The measure amends criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis to a civil violation punishable by a fine only — no arrest and no criminal record. Possessing paraphernalia items would be treated similarly.

    Update: Another, more favorable proposal was introduced on 3/12, HB 274, which seeks to entirely decriminalize the possession and distribution of marijuana, contingent on the creation of a sales tax system that would regulate the retail sale of marijuana.

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

    Washington, DC

    Legislation is pending, B22-446, to expand patients’ access to medical marijuana under District law.

    This measure seeks to increase access among qualified patients by: establishing same-day registration, permitting home delivery, establishing safe-treatment facilities, establishing reciprocity with other jurisdictions, allowing existing dispensaries to expand their operations, and capping taxes, among other changes. These changes will assure that District patients — as well as those visiting from other jurisdictions that have similar programs in place — will have safe, consistent and reliable access to affordable medicine.

    DC resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of improved medical marijuana access

    New Jersey

    New Jersey lawmakers are set to consider legalizing marijuana this legislative session. Sen. Scutari, as expected, re-introduced his marijuana legalization bill from last session for 2018, S830 and companion bill A1348. Both were referred to committee.

    Update: Another proposal to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis was introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, A3581.

    NJ resident? Click here to email your elected officials and tell them that it’s time to legalize marijuana


    SB 1710 and HB 1749 permit qualified patients to possess marijuana-infused oil products, as well as other non-herbal forms of cannabis, from state-licensed dispensaries. Both patients and physicians would be required to participate in a state registry.

    Update: HB 1749 was originally on the Criminal Justice Committee’s calendar for 3/14, but got deferred until 3/21. SB 1710 is awaiting action in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of access to medical marijuana extracts


    Additional Actions to Take


    Legislation is pending, SB 547 and HB 2034, seeking to modify provisions relating to industrial hemp.

    If passed, the bills would allow the Department of Agriculture to issue a registration or permit to growers and handlers of agricultural and industrial hemp. It would also create an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture to study the growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp.

    Update: SB 547 passed the Senate on 3/15 by a 29-3 vote, and now awaits action in the House. HB 2034 passed the House last month, and is currently pending in the Senate Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources Committee.

    MO resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of an industrial hemp pilot program


    Senate Bill 52 seeks to legalize the possession, use, manufacture, and retail sale of cannabidiol products, as well as to provide protections so that employers may not discriminate against anyone using CBD in compliance with the law.

    Update: After a conference committee was appointed due to failure of both houses to agree on amendments, the conference committee report was approved by both the Senate (36-11 vote) and House (97-0 vote) on 3/14, and now awaits action from the Governor. Gov. Eric Holcomb has indicated that he will sign the bill.

    IN resident? Click here to email your Governor and urge him to sign this bill into law


    Senate Bill 184 prohibits the release of past records for any marijuana offense that is no longer defined as a crime under state law. The bill’s intent is to reduce barriers to employment for people who have been convicted of low-level marijuana possession crimes that would be legal under today’s laws, and to make it more likely that people convicted of only low-level crimes will become contributing members of society.

    Update: SB 184 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, March 21, at 1:30 pm in BELTZ 105 (TS Bldg)

    AK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of sealing past marijuana convictions


    Legislation is pending, AB 3157, to temporarily reduce tax rates imposed on the retail sale and cultivation of cannabis.

    State and local taxes currently imposed upon retail cannabis sales can total in upwards of 40 percent. This excessive taxation places an undue financial burden, particularly on patients, many of whom are now unable to consistently afford their medicine.

    Further, these tax rates make it exceedingly difficult for retail providers to compete with those in the underground market. One of the primary goals of Proposition 64 was to bring the black market above ground and to make this market transparent. In order to do so, it is necessary to reduce existing tax rates. Otherwise, compliant businesses are at a significant disadvantage due to their inability to compete with illicit actors who do not pay similar taxes.

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


    Senate Bill 1120 seeks to preemptively challenge provisions in State Question 788.

    Voters will decide on June 26 in favor of State Question 788, which permits physicians to recommend medical cannabis therapy to qualified patients at their discretion. Under this plan, patients would be authorized to possess up to eights ounces of herbal cannabis in private and grow up to six mature plants.

    NORML endorses State Question 788 and opposes SB 1120.

    Update: Senate Bill 1120 was brought back for reconsideration after it failed to secure the necessary number of votes on the Senate floor on 3/12, and Senator Yen held it on a procedural motion to reconsider. SB 1120 then passed by the Senate on 3/15 by a 26 to 11 vote and awaits action from the House.

    OK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in OPPOSITION to this effort

    Check back next Friday for more legislative updates!


  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 15, 2018

    State laws reducing minor marijuana possession offenses from criminal to civil violations (aka decriminalization) are associated with dramatic reductions in drug-related arrests, and are not linked to any uptick in youth cannabis use, according to data published by researchers at Washington University and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Investigators examined the associations between cannabis decriminalization and both arrests and youth cannabis use in five states that passed decriminalization measures between the years 2008 and 2014: Massachusetts (decriminalized in 2008), Connecticut (2011), Rhode Island (2013), Vermont (2013), and Maryland (2014). Data on cannabis use were obtained from state Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) surveys; arrest data were obtained from federal crime statistics.

    Authors reported: “Decriminalization of cannabis in five states between the years 2009 and 2014 was associated with large and immediate decreases in drug-related arrests for both youth and adults. … The sharp drop in arrest rates suggests that implementation of these policies likely changed police behavior as intended.”

    They further reported: “Decriminalization was not associated with increased cannabis use either in aggregate or in any of the five states analyzed separately, nor did we see any delayed effects in a lag analysis, which allowed for the possibility of a two-year (one period) delay in policy impact. In fact, the lag analysis suggested a potential protective effect of decriminalization.” In two of the five states assessed, Rhode Island and Vermont, researchers determined that the prevalence of youth cannabis use declined following the enactment of decriminalization.

    Investigators concluded: “[I]mplementation of cannabis decriminalization likely leads to a large decrease in the number of arrests among youth (as well as adults) and we see no evidence of increases in youth cannabis use. On the contrary, cannabis use rates declined after decriminalization, though further study is needed to determine if these associations are causal. These findings are consistent with the interpretation that decriminalization policies likely succeed with respect to their intended effects and that their short-term unintended consequences are minimal.”

    Thirteen states currently impose either partial or full decriminalization. Nine additional states have subsequently moved to fully legalize the use of marijuana by adults.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabis decriminalization: A study of recent policy change in five states,” is available online here. Additional fact-sheets regarding the societal impacts of decriminalization policies are available from the NORML website here.

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