As we prepare to for April and marijuana related attention that comes with 4/20, NORML has put up an action alert on the appointment process for new US Attorneys (If you didn’t know, Attorney Jeff Sessions fired the holdovers from Obama Administration). With so many issues swirling around in the political lexicon, it’s important that we not see a wave of Sessions-style prohibitions be installed throughout the country, so please email your Senators now and tell them to demand the the new US Attorney’s respect state marijuana laws.
Additionally, Representative Tulsi Gabbord went to the floor of the House of Representatives and spoke on behalf of her legislation entitled “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 – HR 1227. You can watch the video by clicking here.
A very special shout-out for me to make is the success of having Virginia Governor McAuliffe signed into law SB 1027, to regulate the instate production of cannabis oil. Congrats Virginia NORML and your whole team!
Below 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.
Thanks for all you do and keep fighting,
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 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.
Join The Caucus: With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) have formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.
US Attorneys: Members of the Senate will now be asked to consider new appointments. Please contact your Senator and urge him/her to consider those US Attorneys who will respect statewide marijuana laws.
With 29 states having established medical marijuana programs and eight states having enacted adult-use regulatory laws, it is vital that those appointed to this prestigious position respect the will of the electorate.
US Attorneys possess broad authority when both interpreting the laws and prioritizing their enforcement. Under the past administration, US Attorneys largely took a ‘hands off’ approach in jurisdictions that had legalized the use of marijuana, as directed by the 2013 “Cole Memo.” Incoming US Attorneys ought to take a similar approach.
Multiple pieces of legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate its commercial distribution is pending in both the state House and Senate.
According to a March 2015 Quinnipiac University poll of Connecticut voters, 63 percent favor permitting adults to legally possess personal use quantities of cannabis.
Update: SB 11 had a hearing on March 22.
Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate the commercial cannabis market.
The measures permits adults to legally possess personal or grow use quantities of marijuana in private. Additional provisions establish a regulated market for the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults.
On Election Day, 54 percent of voters decided in favor of Question 4: The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act – permitting adults to legally grow and to possess marijuana for personal use, while also establishing regulations governing commercial cannabis cultivation and capping taxes on retail sales.
But it has become apparent that some powerful politicians and bureaucrats wish to ignore voters’ will and rewrite history.
Update: Hearings on implementation will be:
March 27th at 4 pm at the West Springfield High School auditorium,
April 3rd at 11 am at the Statehouse,
April 10th at 4 pm at the Shrewsbury High School.
Legislation (A. 2142 and S. 3809) is before the Assembly and Senate to seal the records of those who have previously been convicted of the possession of marijuana in public view.
New York has historically had the highest marijuana-related arrest rate in the nation largely because of questionable arrests made under the ‘public view’ exception.
Passage of A. 2142 and S. 3809 will make it so these hundreds of thousands of minor offenders are no longer stigmatized by their arrest record.
Update: NORML is joining multiple organizations, including Empire State NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance in calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to include the language from A. 2142 and S. 3809 in his budget.
Legislation is pending in the Tennessee House, HB 173, to nullify the enactment of citywide marijuana decriminalization ordinances and to prevent additional municipalities from enacting similar marijuana reform measures.
The intent of the bill is to override the passage of recent citywide measures in Nashville and Memphis — both of which passed local ordinances last year making minor marijuana possession offenses a non-arrestable citation.
By contrast, state law classifies marijuana possession as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.
Update: Members of the House have passed HB 173 by a vote of 65 to 28 March 23. The measure now awaits action from the Senate.
Additional Actions To Take
LB622 will allow patients with conditions such as Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, opioid addictions and some types of cancer to obtain marijuana. Qualified patients would not be permitted to grow cannabis and would have to obtain non-smoked, cannabis-infused formulations from state-licensed providers. A version of this legislation debated last year was narrowly defeated by lawmakers.
Update: LB 622 has advanced out of committee by a vote of 6 – 1.
An amended version of House Bill 527 amends state law so that qualified patients may not be denied organ transplants. It also expands the pool of qualifying conditions for which a physician may legally recommend cannabis therapy, to include indications such as Crohn’s disease, chronic pain, hepatitis C, neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress, among other conditions. It also establishes reciprocity for non-residents.
Update: SB 177 was tabled in lieu of HB 527. An amended version of HB 527 is now before the Governor, having passed the House by a vote of 45 to 16 and the Senate by a vote of 28 to 9.
Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 259, to vacate certain marijuana possession convictions that occurred prior to the plant’s legalization.
The measure would permit those with criminal convictions for offenses involving the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana prior to January 1, 2017 to have their convictions vacated.
Several pieces of legislation are pending to amend marijuana possession penalties.
HB 831 and SB 1116 seek to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.
Separate legislation is pending in the House and Senate — SB 265 and HB 297 — to reduce penalties associated with the possession of one-eighth of marijuana (3.544 grams) to a $50 fine-only offense. However, under these bills, simple possession would still remain classified as a misdemeanor.
Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine.
Update: SB 1116 has a hearing scheduled for March 28.
Legislation is pending, H.170, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults.
If passed, the measure would legalize the possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana, up to ten grams of hashish, and/or the cultivation of two marijuana plants in a private residence.
Update: Members of the House Judiciary Committee advanced H. 170 on March 22 in an 8 to 3 vote. It now awaits action on the House floor. A new statewide Public Policy poll finds that Vermont residents favor this legislation by a margin of 57 percent to 39 percent.
Just over 3,000 federal defendants were sentenced for marijuana violations in 2016, according to the Commission. That total is roughly half of the number of federal defendants that were sentenced in 2012. The total has fallen year-to-year since that time.
The 2016 total is nearly equal to the number of federal defendants sentenced for violating powder cocaine laws, and less than the number of federal defendants sentenced for heroin. Some 96 percent of federal marijuana defendants were sentenced for trafficking, with an average sentence of 28 months in prison.
In 2015, over 5,600 federal defendants were sentenced for violating marijuana laws, a total equal to some 25 percent of all federal drug sentences.
Ever since the 2016 election, marijuana legalization supporters have been wondering if President Trump will crack down on state-approved recreational and/or medical marijuana programs. The Heritage Foundation believes it knows the answer.
According to the conservative think tank, there are actions the government can take without needing to pass any new legislation or expend much political capital, such as reaffirming the federal government’s position as supporting marijuana’s illegality under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and reasserting support for the international treaties that require countries to enforce marijuana prohibition. These actions would make headlines, send a chill across the industry (particularly in states that have yet to formally launch their legal marijuana markets) and make clear the direction the White House has decided to go when dealing with legal marijuana businesses.
The Washington, D.C.-based group calls for rescinding the Obama Administration’s Cole memo, which gives leeway to the states to implement legalization and replace it with a memo that makes it clear that the DOJ “fully expects states to not permit commercialized marijuana production and sale.” With this memo in place, the DOJ could then select a number of marijuana businesses for prosecution of a violation of state and/or federal law, which would create “a real threat of prosecution.”
The right-wing policy shop recommends overturning previous guidance from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which opened the door to very limited banking for a handful of businesses in the marijuana industry. This would scare off the already minuscule number of financial institutions working, or considering working, with marijuana-related businesses. Using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the government could target investors.
With all of this in mind, the only option we truly have to ensure our victories are upheld and that we move forward with nationwide legalization is to change federal law. Amendments such as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer stem the bleeding a bit, but require a new political fight every year. Congress needs to pass The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which would prevent the federal government from interfering in state-approved adult use or medical programs. Even better, Congress should remove marijuana from the CSA entirely.
If you want to see the cannabis revolution continue, call your members of Congress today and tell them to support federal marijuana law reform. For more information on pending legislation and to easily email your elected officials, visit norml.org/act.
By Daniel Rouleau, Communications Director of Virginia NORML
In the first quarter of 2017, the reform efforts of Virginia NORML laid a framework for exciting changes in the Commonwealth’s cannabis policies. As spring blooms, conversations are blossoming in municipalities across the state challenging the status quo of criminally prosecuting misdemeanor possession in favor of civil fines. And we’re leading the charge not only at home in Virginia, but in Congress as well. As Virginia NORML continues its mission to reform marijuana laws, our efforts must target all three fronts, federal, state and local.
Federal Changes from Virginia Conservatives
Three bills have been introduced by Virginia congressmen that would significantly reform the current federal policy of prohibition. Rep. Griffin (R-VA) from the 9th district introduced the Legitimate Use of Medical Marijuana Act and the Compassionate Access Act. Both would reschedule marijuana from its current Schedule 1 classification, and include protections for state programs.
Rep. Garrett (R-VA) from the 5th district introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, and Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA) from the 2nd quickly cosponsored. This bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act altogether, allowing states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference. This legislation was carried by Sen. Sanders in the previous session, and now, conservative lawmakers from Virginia are marching down the same path. Make no mistake, that is because they were lobbied by Virginia families desperate for medical reform, both in our statehouse and DC.
Emergence of a New Regulated Cannabis Industry
In a watershed moment, the Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed a bill to regulate the in-state growth, production, and distribution of cannabis oil. Virginia NORML is closely monitoring the licensing process to ensure the agreed upon regulations are implemented swiftly and with patient safety and access of primary concern. Currently, the regulations only allow access to patients with intractable epilepsy. We are already hard at work with legislators preparing for expansion legislation in 2018 that will #LetDoctorsDecide which of their patients they would recommend medical cannabis to, just as they already do with all other medications.
You can join our patient coalition at Cannabis Commonwealth if you’d like to stand with us in the fight for all Virginian’s rights to access safe, regulated medical cannabis.
Local Efforts for Decriminalization
Grassroots. This word is spoken often, on every channel, by both parties. Why? Because it works. An old cliché says “80% of success is showing up.” If you want to see decriminalization succeed in Virginia, you have to show up. Get to your City Council now. Prior to each General Assembly, councils prepare their legislative packages, policy wish lists that they draft based on community input. Any resident can sign up to speak before their council on issues important to them during the public comment period of any meeting. Ask your council to include a request for decriminalization and/or doctor-recommended medical cannabis in their 2018 package.
Virginia operates under the Dillon Rule, which means municipalities cannot decriminalize, but they can deprioritize. City councils can direct their police departments to place the lowest level of priority on arresting adults for simple possession. And, Commonwealth Attorneys, which like city council are elected positions, are already empowered to refuse prosecuting misdemeanor possession charges, leaving resources available to prosecute violent crimes and felonies. Showing up is the first step in achieving any of these reforms!
Spring Into Action
Ready to do more but don’t know where to start? Get involved with your local Virginia NORML chapter, or check to see if your area has a Decriminalize movement, like Decriminalize Norfolk or Decriminalize Virginia Beach. If there is no group in your area, please contact us for help kickstarting the conversation in your hometown. Speakers, training, data, and procedural assistance are available through Virginia NORML to power your community’s journey to safer marijuana policies.
Every year Colorado NORML covers the costs of sending at least TWO attorneys, law students, patients, or advocates who could not otherwise attend to the NORML Aspen Legal Seminar. Covered costs will include lodging at the Gant Hotel, entrance to seminar events, and travel expenses.
To apply, please send a one page letter telling Colorado NORML how your participation at the seminar will advance marijuana law reform, policy or public opinion.
Submit applications by APRIL 21, 2017 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Link to Aspen Seminar: http://norml.org/about/events/aspen-legal-seminar