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NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director October 30, 2015

    Election day is around the corner but some legislators aren’t waiting for that to work towards reforming their marijuana laws. Keep reading to find out what happened this week in marijuana law reform.

    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 state and federal legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.

    Federal Bill Highlights:letter_writing_campaign

    NORML is currently in the midst of a week long Congressional Letter Writing Campaign Contest! To enter, contact at least two of your three representatives using NORML’s #TakeAction Center by clicking one of the five bills listed below. You can also use of our templates that can be found here. Then take a picture of your letter and post it to your Facebook or Twitter page using the #ActNORML hashtag so we know you’re participating in the campaign! Once the campaign comes to an end at 7PM MST on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, a random winner will be selected from Facebook and Twitter.

    We’re excited to announce that we have partnered with High Times to offer a pair of Cannabis Cup tickets to two lucky winners who participate in our campaign!

    CARERS Act: The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, is pending in the US Senate to strengthen statewide medical marijuana protections and impose various changes to federal law.

    Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act: This act removes cannabis from the United States Controlled Substances Act. It also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matter concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.

    Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act: The DEA program distributes funds to state and local law enforcement agencies for the purpose of locating and destroying marijuana cultivation sites. HR 3518 reads, “[B]eginning in fiscal year 2015, and for each fiscal year thereafter, no amounts in the Fund may be used for the Domestic Cannabis Suppression/Eradication Program of the Drug Enforcement Administration, or any substantially similar program.”

    Fair Access to Education Act: Presently, the Higher Education Act prohibits those convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana possession crime while enrolled in secondary education from being eligible to receive financial aid. This ignores the fact that using and possessing marijuana is legal in at least four states and the District of Columbia. This bill 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 Marijuana and Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act: Under this proposal, the US federal Controlled Substances Act would be inapplicable with respect to states that have legalized and regulated marijuana in a manner that addresses key federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, violence or use of firearms in cultivation and distribution of marijuana, and drugged driving.

    State Legislative Highlights:

    Illinois: The Illinois General Assembly did not take action following Governor Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of House Bill 218. The bill is dead for the 2015 session, though reformers are hopeful that similar legislation will soon be pre-filed for 2016.

    As originally approved by the legislature, HB 218 reduced penalties for the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana to a civil violation punishable by a fine of $125. The measure also sought to amend the state’s zero tolerance law for those who operate a motor vehicle with trace levels of marijuana metabolites in their system.

    takeactionbanPennsylvania: Members of the Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee have unanimously passed SB 50 to make industrial hemp a legal cash crop in the state of Pennsylvania. This bill is the companion legislation to HB 967, which members of the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee unanimously passed a few weeks earlier. Both bills will now be voted on by the full House and Senate.

    Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may 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!

    7 Responses to “NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up”

    1. Julian says:

      Here is a skirted response to ending civil asset forfeitures from Senator Cornyn R-TX. Whike endibg mandatory minimums is a grest step forward, he doesn’t address the bill in question. At keast Senator Cruz responded by saying civil asset forfeitures are “wrong” but neither says outright they will cosponsor a Senate version to HB3517. These two Texas Senators represent a strong hand in the way bad federal grants are managed to imprison and rob nonviolent citizens in posession of marijuana.

      “Dear Julian,

      Thank you for contacting me regarding the criminal justice system. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this matter.

      We are a compassionate nation, but it is the duty of those in public office to protect the safety and security of our citizens. For this reason, tough prison sentences are appropriate for violent and high-risk offenders—keeping them off the street and under the guard of law enforcement officials. However, prisoners should also be treated humanely while incarcerated, and we must make a coordinated effort to rehabilitate them where possible.

      In response to nationwide calls for reform of the criminal justice system, I joined Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123) to reform criminal sentencing and improve the operations of our prisons. This legislation re-targets certain mandatory minimum sentences to provide courts with greater flexibility in the sentencing of low-level and non-violent drug offenders. This legislation would also expand the application of certain existing mandatory minimums to ensure that law enforcement has the necessary tools to aggressively target violent offenders and career criminals. By focusing on the most dangerous criminals and providing additional flexibility in the sentencing of lower-risk offenders, this legislation will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our criminal justice system.

      I am also proud that this legislation contains the Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Eliminating Costs for Taxpayers in Our National System Act (S. 467; CORRECTIONS Act), which I introduced earlier this year. The CORRECTIONS Act builds on Texas’s successful criminal justice reform efforts to focus on rehabilitation and public safety in our prisons. My legislation would require all federal prisoners to participate in programs that are proven to reduce their risk of reoffending. The bill would also allow lower-risk federal prisoners to earn up to 25 percent of their remaining sentence in home confinement or in a halfway house if they successfully complete such programming throughout their term of incarceration. Because the vast majority of federal prisoners will re-enter society, it is imperative that we require these prisoners to participate in programs that break the cycle of crime, such as drug treatment, education, job training, prison work programs, and faith-based training, in order to protect public safety. Furthermore, by allowing fully rehabilitated prisoners to serve a portion of their sentence in a less restrictive form of custody, this legislation helps prisoners reintegrate into their communities and saves taxpayer dollars. The CORRECTIONS Act is an important reform that will strengthen public safety, reduce costs, and give certain prisoners a second chance to improve their lives.

      On October 22, 2015, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 2123 by a vote of 15-5. This legislation has been reported to the Senate floor where it awaits further action by the full chamber. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives to ensure that this legislation passes both chambers of Congress and is enacted into law.

      Thank you for sharing your views regarding criminal justice reform. This is an important issue that affects the lives of every American and their community. You may be certain that I will keep your comments in mind as Congress considers the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.

      Sincerely,

      JOHN CORNYN
      United States Senator

    2. gweedo says:

      It seems like the roots of prohibition are being ripped out now so that sprouting legalization can finally flourish.

    3. Edward J. Benn III says:

      When is Missouri going to stop fighting the inevitable fact that marijuana is and will always be an unavoidable part of the everyday lives of our generation and those of the future.

      [Editor’s note: Next weekend is the MO Marijuana Law Reform Conference, more info via MO NORML and ShowMeCannabis.]

    4. pgaudio says:

      sad they still burn witches

    5. John P says:

      Has norml ever considered how to pressure legislators to create laws that would allow for ballot initiatives in states that don’t have them? To me it is much more valuable to have the ballot initiative process, than to have marijuana legislation reform.

      [Editor’s note: With more than half the states not having binding state ballot initiatives, the expense and effort to add this new tier of advocacy to NORML’s narrow mission is unlikely. There are already a number of non-profit organizations working on expanding the use of voter initiatives to create or modify public policies, like Citizens in Charge.]

    6. vickia52 says:

      Like Ohio, when it’s, (hopefully legal soon), #3 initiative is passed in a few days, it’s like dominoes, the rest will fall one by one! Let Ohio pass #3, so we can be a beacon to the rest of our people. We can show the Ohioans that didn’t want it that we can be responsible partakers. VOTE,VOTE!!!

    7. Evening Bud says:

      @ Julian,

      Good job! Calling out our Reps and Sens on their positions inevitably helps our cause, even if they are in opposition. Most of them prefer to remain in the shadows, unless, of course, their position helps their cause. In this case, with the majority of Americans preferring legalization, they must think twice before publicly endorsing prohibition.

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