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NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate December 24, 2015

    happy-holidays-greeting-14470407458EyWhile many are already celebrating the holidays with family and loved ones, we didn’t want to miss the chance to spotlight some important marijuana law reforms that have taken place this past week. We have exciting news internationally, federally, and in several states! Keep reading below to find out more!

    International:

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has signed legislation into law regulating the licensed production and exportation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

    Under the new policy, those seeking to grow medicinal cannabis commercially or manufacturer cannabis-based medicinal products may apply with government agencies for licensure. Regulators will also grant permits to those seeking to export medicinal cannabis products out of the country.

    Santos said that the goal of the policy “is for patients to be able to access medications made in Colombia that are safe, high-quality and accessible. It is also an opportunity to promote scientific research in our country.”

    While existing law allows for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis, the plant’s commercial production, manufacture, and sale had not been permitted.

    You can read more about this new policy here.

    US_capitolFederal: Back in July, we wrote about a letter authored by Senator Elizabeth Warren and seven other Senators that demanded answers from the federal government in regards to the facilitation of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.

    While the DEA, ONDCP, and HHS responded to the letter in October, the Senators were not satisfied and have just recently written a second letter asking for those answers again after claiming the initial response, “failed to answer key substantive questions.”

    Of importance to the Senators were topics such as the rescheduling of marijuana in the Federal Controlled Substances Act, the current monopoly the University of Mississippi holds on cultivating cannabis for federal research purposes, interagency coordination as well as the coordination between the federal government and states, and surveillance and epidemiological studies on the use of medical marijuana in the U.S.

    This second letter once again signals to many that medical marijuana is becoming an even more important issue in the political sphere not only to voters but also to their elected officials.

    Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a press release this week stating that they would “ease some of the regulatory requirements imposed by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) for those who are conducting FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabidiol (CBD), an extract of the marijuana plant.”

    Current federal regulation requires researchers who wished to expand their CBD based studies to submit a written request for additional CBD. This would delay the research while the request went through the approval process. According to the press release, “Under these changes, a previously registered CBD clinical researcher who is granted a waiver can readily modify their protocol and continue their research seamlessly.  This waiver effectively removes a step from the approval process.

    Deputy Director for NORML, Paul Armentano comments, “It’s a minor change. The DEA has done nothing to speed the process for investigators who want to do clinical work with CBD. In order to do clinical work on a drug on the Schedule 1 list, an investigator still needs approval from the FDA, the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.”

    State:

    legalization_pollMassachusetts: H. 1561: The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 has been scheduled for a hearing before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, January 13th at 1PM.

    This legislation would permit the personal possession, cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults. The measure would also permit home cultivation of the plant for non-commercial purposes.

    Bring your written testimony and testify in front of the committee in support of The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016.

    If you can’t make the hearing, you can contact your lawmakers and urge their support here.

    New Hampshire: Legislation has been prefiled for the 2016 legislative session to allow persons 21 years of age or older to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and to cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants without penalty.

    Police in New Hampshire arrest some 2,900 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of New Hampshire adults, some 60 percent of whom now endorse legalizing and regulating the plant, according to an October 2014 WMUR Granite State Poll.

    Click here if you’re a resident of New Hampshire and want to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for this legislation!

    Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh City Council on Monday voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, falling in line with a growing number of municipalities that have taken similar actions in recent years, city officials said.

    Under the ordinance passed with a 7 to 2 vote, police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s second-largest city, will begin to issue fines of $25 for possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana and $100 for smoking it in a public space instead of citing for misdemeanors, the city clerk’s office said.

    The ordinance is subject to approval by Mayor Bill Peduto, who has voiced support.

    chapter_spotlightVirginia: Virginia NORML in Richmond, VA will be holding their state Lobby Day on January 14th!

    Virginia NORML members and supporters will convene at the General Assembly building to bring our message directly to our lawmakers. RSVP now — this is their #1 advocacy event of the year, and they need all hands on deck in Richmond!

    Participants will be teamed with other constituents and meet with their legislators face-to-face to discuss the marijuana policy reforms critical to the Commonwealth. Participants will be lobbying for decriminalization, and for eliminating the driver’s license suspension upon a conviction.

    For more information click here.

    Wyoming: House legislation (HB 3) to depenalize marijuana possession offenses has been pre-filed for the 2016 legislative session, which begins February 8. 

    Annually, state and local police make some 2,100 marijuana possession arrests. The state ranks sixth in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests. Under state law, first-time marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

    House Bill 3  replaces criminal sanctions involving the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of no more than $100 — no arrest and no criminal record.

    To take action and contact your House member to urge their support for this measure, click here.

    takeactionban

    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!

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

    1. TheOracle says:

      Thanks for mentioning Pennsylvania. There’s Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but the rest of the state might as well be Alabama. James Carville. Harrisburg in the South of the North. Argh! Politicians in Harrisburg have a budget crisis, yet are not regulating and taxing the adult recreational sector of the cannabis community. It won’t produce all the money the state needs, of course. Repubs are saying no new taxes because they don’t want a shale gas extraction tax. It’s sheer prohibitionist to transfer the no new taxes to the cannabis community because they want legalization and reasonable taxation in exchange for the witch hunt against the cannabis community to stop. Stopping that witch hunt includes legalizing medical marijuana and industrial hemp in the process.
      No budget into February and taxpayers will be in a situation where they’re paying off their holidays and are more likely to be willing to agree to legalization so that the cannabis community pays so they don’t have to.

      • KCRon says:

        Anyone noticing that all the pseudo-ending of prohibition continues to come with revenue generating devises for many companies, gov offices, & agencies? For example:
        *1 “Cannabis possession/consumption is no longer a criminal activity.” This is always followed by a statement & schedule of fines for possession and use.
        *2 “Banks will not accept $$ from the cannabis industry”. This has resulted in many bad outcomes one of which is a growing employment of past gov officials & law enforcement persons to join in the green rush, acting in roles as legal advisers & security firms.
        *3 Since the industry is forced to operate a cash environment, taxes paid are in cash while subject to IRS fees & fines for paying in cash.
        *4 Excessive taxation from various local & state levels.
        *5 Excessive litigation as a result of intentionally drafted vagrancies in the laws drafted.
        *6 For the grow and resale industry, many on the forefront of the fight for ending prohibition are now profiting from the high prices created by a limited supply & high demand model.
        *7 The state’s tourism industry- Facts are facts when polling now shows 50% of tourists visiting Colorado had some consideration for the legal cannabis in the destination state.
        There is profit in dragging out prohibition for those in the areas of law enforcement, legislation, tax revenue generation, and a host of other industries who have found a niche without being actually in the hands on business.
        Other profiteering is in the form of refusal to accept the change of public attitude & preference where law agencies are doubling down while apparently ignoring facts. Not actually ignoring now, but taking advantage of low hanging fruit while busting tax paying good citizens, grandmas, and juveniles in possession & then stealing assets whenever possible.
        Once someone figures out how to distract these leeches from their profiteering rackets, ending cannabis Prohibition may actually become a reality.

    2. Jim says:

      Has there been a time frame set on when Mayor Peduto will sign the bill? What the the legal status of the decriminalization in Pittsburgh before he signs it? What does it mean afterward?

    3. Julian says:

      What’s the deal with the FDA request to the DEA to reschedule marijuana? Is that not the pot calling the kettle black? The FDA operates under the Department of Health and Human Services, which ownes the US patent 6630507 on cannabinoids as neuroprotectants all while they take state custody of children whose parents even admit to consuming cannabis. I thought that under the CSAct the Secretary of the DHHS could just go straight to Congress to request rescheduling or even descheduling marijuana?

    4. Raven says:

      Also: The DOJ suspends the “Equitable Sharing Program” that effectively suspends a major part of Asset Forfeiture.

      The US Solicitor General issued it’s views in a brief to SCOTUS regarding the “Nebraska v Colorado” case. In it the SG basically pleads with SCOTUS to deny leave to file an origional action. Basically, the SG is asking SCOTUS to kick the case. While this View Brief only requests denial of leave on proceedural and precedent grounds, It’s still something. Cynthia Coffman expects a decision on leave on one of the conferrence dates scheduled for January.

      • Julian says:

        Looks like the month of January is going to be fairly interesting for court-cases involving marijuana policies. While Nebraska-Oklahoma v. Colorado decides whether to proceed or take heed, Ive been following the case of Shona Banda, the mother in Kansas who had her son taken from her after he confronted a police officer at a DARE meeting at school about marijuana, stating “marijuana is safe; my mother uses it to treat her Chrone’s disease.”
        Now, to add to the boy’s trauma, the Finney County DA prosecuting the case, Susan Richtmeir, tried to place the 11-year-old boy on the stand to testify against his own mother during a preliminary hearing.
        http://www.alternet.org/drugs/shona-banda-medical-marijuana-legal-nightmare-continues
        ‘ “It’s not our intent to terrorize children,” [Richtmeir] said. She also noted, with no apparent sense of irony, that the county offered “victim services,” such as counseling to the boy who was kidnapped from his mother.”
        “With prosecutors determined to proceed with the case, Sarah Swain [Shona’s attorney] said the fight would continue. She plans to file at least a dozen pre-trial motions and believes the state acted unconstitutionally by questioning the boy without his mother’s presence. “We believe this case will set a precedent nationwide,” Swain said.

        Banda isn’t just fighting back in the criminal courts. She has also filed a civil lawsuit against the Garden City police, the school district, the state of Kansas, and the Department of Children and Family Services alleging that her rights to use marijuana for medical reasons and to keep custody of her son have been violated.

        Banda will be back in court in January as the criminal case continues.”

    5. Mike says:

      So, I am a NY state resident who is living with MS. I am curious as to the merits of my ability to be able to sue for my medical right to smoke. Based on new data Pot helps the spasticity with which causes alot of my physical problems. As of the righting of this close to or more than 26 states has some form of medical pot law.Based on the passage in gay marriage, the court found that if more states than not has a law similiar to, they decared Majority rules, the law of the land. Based on that precedent, this potential case for a right to take medicine to possible help me back to work plausible. The said gay marriage was a right. Wouldnt fighting a disability with proper natural medicine still be a right? If anyone knows if that might be legal standing, please reply to this.

    6. Julian says:

      @Raven,
      From the very beginning of Nebraska and Oklahoma’s spiteful, shortsighted lawsuit against Colorado certain top Republicans were opposed and in alarm. I suspect that one of those is Senator Mitch McConnel who has his bets invested in some quasi-prohibition where hemp is legal and makes him a fortune while marijuana remains illegal (for as long as possible) and he can keep all his kickbacks from insurance, big pharma and the sherriff’s associations. Remember it was McConnel who took credit when Kentucky Ag. Commissioner James Comer successfully sued the DEA, Attorney General Eric Holder, the DOJ and any other complicit department after the DEA took hemp seeds intended for Kentucky’s pilot program under the hemp research amendment to the Farm Bill. How do you think Nebraska law enforcement will fair in a court battle over confiscating weed from a med patient with a med card from another state if Kentucky won a battle for its seeds confiscated in another state? All you have to do to win in court is sue the Attorney General, the DEA and the entire DOJ. Case dismissed.
      Another concern for prohibitionists of any kind is one of the real outcomes of this case being heard by the Supreme Court is that they could reexamine the entire CSAct right after state electorates pass the tipping point next year after elections. But NORML has lost faith in the courts to do the job of Congress, and Ive even read here that NORML doesn’t declare marijuana consumption as a “right” so much as a privileged, taxable commodity, which leaves legalization up to the states to decide, and the federal government to follow.
      The courts are at the mercy of state majority legislation, which is about to turn largely in the favor of legalization in less time than it takes for the Supreme Court to hear a case. The tactic of Big Pharma, sherriff’s associations and insurance is when fear fails delay legalization as long as possible. Well “long” is not that long of a time anymore.

    7. Scott says:

      Drug test excludes working man, so I must abstain & vote to continue prohibition. If I cant neither can you.

      [Editor’s note: Sure, let’s keep cannabis prohibition in place until private companies decide they don’t want to drug test anymore?? The legality of a drug is not the determining factor whether or not some companies want to screen on certain substances (numerous private companies and municipalities now ‘drug’ test for tobacco…).

      Rather than subject the vast majority of cannabis consumers to the employment policies where you choose to work, why don’t you find another job as 50% of large companies do not perform drug screens, or, form your own company?]

    8. conservative says:

      every smoker I know in Michigan opposses legal because they can smoke free by selling it. It is a selfish drug used by selfish people who feel they can
      get one over on everyone. Every summer there is a drought because nobody ever remembers to plant more. Imagine if that happened with food. we would all starve. California has not legalized for regular people, ONLY MEDICAL… For actors and rappers and the rich.NOT THE PEOPLE who would benefit. Donald Trump will fix “legal” weed.

    9. Ben says:

      Again, my thanks to Team NORML,
      for the efforts and results
      in bringing clear and qualified data
      about what is happening, and how we can be a part of it.

      Thank you.

      *

      To my fellow readers out there,
      if you are at risk of being negatively impacted
      because of the current laws regarding cannabis,
      or know someone whom you care about who is-
      I URGE YOU TO HELP.

      Please, support NORML, as
      they support ALL OF US!

    10. Galileo Galilei says:

      We need to get the DEA out of the hands of the cruel drug war zealots and into the hands of people with medical credentials

      To thwart the advance of medical science is a crime against us all.

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