NORML’s Legislative Round Up January 8th, 2016

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director January 8, 2016

    map_leafThe new year marks a fresh slate and new beginnings for many and here at NORML it’s no different. The year 2016 is going to be monumental for marijuana law reform and we’re already starting to see an influx of marijuana law reform legislation being introduced around the country. In the coming days and weeks we’ll see a significant increase in the number of marijuana related activity so be sure to stay up to date on what YOU can do to help pass these reforms in your own communities.

    This week we’ve seen bills introduced in Georgia, Indiana, and Virginia plus some exciting news in Massachusetts, Washington D.C., New York and Vermont. Keep reading below to find out what the latest is!


    Georgia:  Senate Bill 254 seeks to amend the state criminal code so that no marijuana possession offense may any longer be classified as a felony. Under current law, any marijuana possession offense involving more than one ounce of cannabis is classified as a felony offense, punishable by one year (mandatory) to up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Passage of SB 254 would reduce these offenses to misdemeanors. According to an analysis of arrest data by the ACLU, Georgia ranks sixth out of all US jurisdictions in total annual marijuana possession arrests and ninth in per capita possession arrests. To support SB 254, click here.

    House bill 722 seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes.

    Under a 2015 law, qualifying patients are permitted to possess 20 ounces of infused cannabis oils containing not more than 5 percent THC and a equal or greater amount of CBD. However, the law provides no legal supply source for these products and, as a result, has failed to meet the needs of patients. House bill 722 would rectify this situation and impose other improvements, such as patient protection from job discrimination. To learn more about this measure, click here.

    Indiana: A Senate lawmaker has introduced legislation, SB 209, to protect qualified patients who consume cannabis under a physician’s written authorization.

    The measure, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Karen Tallian, will permit qualified patients — including patients with arthritis, migraine, PTSD, and seizures — to engage in cannabis therapy. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Indiana patients deserve these same protections.

    For more information, please contact Indiana NORML here or visit their Facebook page here. To contact your lawmakers in Indiana to urge their support, click here.

    Massachusetts: Just a reminder that The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 will be the subject of a hearing NEXT Wednesday, January 13, before the Judiciary Committee. This is your chance to speak before your lawmakers in support of legalization!legalization_poll

    The Act would regulate the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. It also permits the home cultivation.

    For more information on next week’s legislative hearing, click here.

    New York: Medical marijuana dispensaries opened Thursday in the Empire state. To date, only eight of out of the state’s allotted 20 dispensaries are operational; they’re located in Manhattan, Westchester County, Kingston, Albany, two in Buffalo and two in the Finger Lakes region.

    Though the dispensaries are now be open to patients, due to the law’s unnecessary strict regulations only 51 patients in the state have qualified for access so far. Furthermore, the law only allows for non smokable forms of marijuana restricting access to capsules, liquids or oils — restrictions that NORML opposes and that unnecessarily limit patients choices..

    So far, about 150 doctors in New York have registered to be part of the program.

    Vermont: Governor Peter Shumlin made his annual state of the union speech yesterday and called upon lawmakers to pass pending legislation to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana by adults in the state.

    The Governor said, “I will work with you to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably. I believe we have the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right the Vermont way. Let’s do it together.”

    Vermont has long been considered a state that could be the first to legalize recreational marijuana legislatively.

    To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization click here.

    Virginia: Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) has reintroduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses.

    Senate bill 104  eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses, replacing them with civil fine-only penalties — no arrest and no criminal record.thumbs_up

    Presently, Virginia ranks among the top ten states in annual marijuana possession arrests. In fact, the number of Virginians arrested for violating the state’s marijuana possession laws increased 76 percent between the years 2003 and 2014, at a time when arrests for similar violations were falling nationwide. Clearly there is a need for reform in the Old Dominion state. To this end, the Virginia chapters of NORML will be holding their State Lobby day to lobby the General Assembly in Richmond on January 14th at 8:30 a.m. Advocates from around the state will meet with legislators in support of SB 104.

    To find out more information about this legislation click here and for info on the upcoming lobby day you can contact Virginia NORML here or visit their Facebook page here.

    Washington DC: When marijuana possession was legalized in DC via voter initiative in 2014, Mayor Muriel Bowser quickly asked the City Council to bar marijuana smoking at nightclubs, private clubs and virtually any other businesses licensed by the city. But on Tuesday the subject was revisited when City Council voted to legalize the smoking of marijuana at certain rooftop bars and sidewalk cafes, where cigarette smoking is currently permitted, and in private clubs. However, 30 minutes later, reversed itself, extending the current ban for an additional 90 days.

    The flip flop was again the result of Mayor Bowser’s influence. The City Council has to take permanent action on this soon so we’ll be meeting with the Mayor’s office in the coming weeks to ensure a public use provision is considered with accompanying regulations and provisions for responsible use.


    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!


    22 Responses to “NORML’s Legislative Round Up January 8th, 2016”

    1. Tinman says:

      And in the meantime, here in Texas it’s the usual BS, still no bills to be voted on. They would rather fill the overcrowded prisons with more people.
      I’m a disabled vet with nerve damage in my lower back. I was on narcotics for over 5 years before a nurse friend in another (legalized) state told me I should dump the narcotics in favor of cannabis. I did, and my pain management doctor had a tizzy, because of the state law. Recently, due to two emergency surgeries within 6 days, they put me on an extended action and a fast acting morphine pills. On my trip to the pain management doctor yesterday I was told that if I wanted to continue on the morphine I would have to pass urinalysis. I told the practitioner that our wonderful Texas government would rather me take a powerful and highly addicted drug, that I would surely develop a tolerance to, than to take a safe alternative. My nurse totally agreed, but said that because of the laws, I couldn’t have THC in my system and continue to have a prescription for morphine.
      Needless to say, I told them to keep the morphine and I would stick to the safer, but illegal alternative. I no longer have any reason to continue seeing a pain management doctor, which should make my insurance company a whole lot happier…

      • mexweed says:

        Concerned that Insurance industry don’t see advantage in legalizing CANNABIS, reducing alcohol and tobacco morbidity/mortality, otherwise why don’t they speak up for us? Will @Tinman’s company cancel him if a Test detects cannabinoids?

    2. Kevin says:

      At this moment in time I feel the push for legalization is at some kind of stand-still. You used to see it every day on yahoo.com. News about marijuana efforts were all over the website, sometimes multiple articles down the page. It seems like we’ve quit and given up, thrown in the towel and tucked our tail between our legs and gave in to judicial injustice for all Americans! What happened? Who’s paying to keep Marijuana off yahoo.com? And why aren’t we paying to keep it on there?

      • Yahoo sucks says:

        Yahoo will not even allow you to use the word- Cannabis-if you are writing in their blogs.If you try, it will show up as something like..%&$#2%* Best thing to do is modify the word into Cannabliss or something else creative.And besides, 90% of the comments are usually pro- pot anyways.Must be some powerful “special interest” behind the scenes that have invested money into that company.

    3. Steve says:

      Cities in Texas; Houston, Dallas and El Paso are a few majors, moving to reduce the penalties for possession, while Texas legislature has a similar bill being drafted.

    4. TheOracle says:

      History is premiering a new series The Marijuana Revolution beginning on Monday, January 11, 2016 at 9 p.m. eastern time.

      I’m looking forward to seeing a legislative update of sorts such as the one NORML has here.


    5. TheOracle says:

      Some day soon I’d like to see Pennsylvania in the legislative update. Here’s an article out of the American Automobile Association’s magazine AAANow! for Central Pennsylvania that I found strangely written. I’d like NORML’s counsel and the folks here to have at it, and hopefully someone will mail them a version of what the article should look like according to NORML folks and responsible cannabis users.

      Here goes:

      Drugs and Driving – A Hazardous Mix

      Twenty-three states have legalized cannabis. This seems to have had the unintended consequence of leading many young people to believe that recreational cannabis use must be “okay,” and involves little, if any risk.
      The fact is, after alcohol, cannabis is the drug most often associated with fatal auto accidents, and young drivers need to know that if cannabis becomes legal in Pennsylvania it will still be illegal to drive while under the influence.
      State DUI laws historically focused on preventing and prosecuting alcohol-impaired driving. More recently, these laws have been modified to address drugged driving, including the use of cannabis and other controlled substances.

      • Fireweed says:

        they are patently inaccurate and as a result people end up getting convicted for arbitrary evidence to the effect of drugged driving. Some statistic fanatic should crunch the numbers and show that use of cannabis does not increase safety risks but may even reduce risks. We’ve had decriminalization and medical marijuana for decades now, and you could easily line up the states year by year and compare them according to their marijuana status. I once picked a few samples of states that with harsh marijuana laws and those more permissive, and there seemed to be an inverse relationship=per capita-of marijuana use and traffic accidents and deaths. I think there’d show a high inverse correlation if someone in fact plotted it all out.

    6. TheOracle says:

      Because of the daffy limit of characters, here’s the next section.

      According to JustDrivePA.org, Pennsylvania law enforcement officers are working to identify drugged drivers who are impaired by illegal substances such as cannabis, cocaine or heroin, as well as prescription medications such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Demerol. From 2013 to 2014 there was nearly a 10% increase in the number of charges filed against drugged drivers.
      Young teens are particularly vulnerable to the side effects of cannabis. The developments of neural receptors in the teenage brain can be impeded by regular drug use. This causes problems with learning and memory, even a drop in IQ that may last a lifetime. Cannabis has also been linked with increased depression and anxiety in teenagers.
      Even occasional use can compromise a person’s ability to concentrate, judge distances and react to external stimuli, putting the user of that substance, other motorists and pedestrians at substantial risk of serious injury or death.
      Due to their lack of experience, drivers aged 16 to 19 are at much greater risk of being involved in an accident than other age groups. Combining that risk with the cognitive and physical impairments resulting from drug and alcohol consumption makes the situation even more critical.
      If you happen to be among those who use cannabis in some form, or if you’re taking a prescription medication that contains a warning against operating heavy machinery, please consider this information before getting behind the wheel.

      Rick Ramsay
      Regional Manager, AAA Central Penn

      The above article is from the January/February 2016 AAA Now! It’s from AAA’s Central Pennsylvania edition.

      • chris hansen says:

        I am so frustarted as many others are about all of this. Customers come into my store, here in NC, and we some times get into a conversation on the whole matter. Those that hide behind the kids/youth argument…simple answer: Put your damn phones down and be better parents. As for the argument for more research…there is already decades of research by reputable, Nobel winning scientists. Enough is enough! One statement I often leave with in regards to my life and marijuana…I grew up with alcoholics, heavy drug users, and marijuana smokers…who do I like the best and feel safe around…(not the sober ones) The persons who smoke marijuana. They were not neglectful, not abusive! I am still fighting this cause and so should each and everyone of you!

    7. TheOracle says:

      And, here’s the last bit belonging to the article. Comments appreciated.

      AAA Now! Is published four times a year by AAA Central Penn, 2301 Paxton Church Road, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9688. Editorial control is retained by the editorial staff of AAA Central Penn. Editor: Michael Towsen AAA Central Penn, 2301 Paxton Church Road, Harrisburg, PA 17110. Managing Editor: Judie Karhan, 25061 Avenue Stanford, Unit 10, Valencia, CA, 91355.

    8. TheOracle says:

      I was thinking of booking a summer vacation to Alaska because they’re likely to allow tourists to consume in shops. That was until I read that it only applies to infused edibles. Vaporizing and smoking would still NOT be allowed.

      Here from Leafly:

      One important distinction is that the proposal as it currently stands will allow only cannabis-infused edibles to be consumed on site. The Alaska Marijuana Board, which will have ultimate authority over the cafés, is still debating whether the establishments will be able actually to sell cannabis edibles or whether consumers will have to bring their own.


      • mexweed says:

        Need a lobbying effort to make them take issue with the lumping together of $moking and Vaping as if identical. 12 years after a guy named Hon Lik invented the first marketed portable vaporizer alias e-$igarette, despite much growth, an ignoramus majority out there still doesn’t know the difference– including many legislators that need urgent educating.

    9. Fumario Ortega says:

      I had the exact same problem albeit the surgeries. For over 2 years I was on Kadian (extended release Morphine), Lyrica, Oxycodone, Gabepentin, and other shit I can’t even remember, due to herniated disks. My life, libido, and demeanor were shit for the duration. I’m another vet who is not sure how he survived. Suicidal thoughts, depression, crying jags, in other words, misery. I finally said fuck it and tried some pot to see what it would do. Well, I found the answer to my problem. Naturally on a subsequent visit to my pain mgt. physician (who really is a great doctor) I popped hot for pot and got read the riot act. I discussed my research on weed regarding pain and he listened very intently and even agreed, but said I could not receive my meds while I was using weed. He did indicate he could give me injections if things got really bad though. Well, nearly 4 years later I haven’t been back to see him, still have a crate of meds in the cabinet which I haven’t used, and have no symptoms or problems with my back. Weed worked for me along with some careful stretches and hot tub therapy. I’m over 50 yrs. old to boot. Haven’t touched weed in several months now but it’s there if I need it. It is not legal in any form in my state; but I will still use it if necessary. My wife, who was very anti-pot all her life, is now a believer in it’s benefits even though her position won’t allow her to indulge. I urge all my fellow vets out there suffering to put down the pills and pick up the pipe if at all possible. You may save your own life! God Bless You All and thank you for your service!

      • chris hansen says:

        Bravo ! Sir… Bravo!

      • Tinman says:

        Unfortunately my lower spine is still in withdrawals from having Dilaudid pumped into it for over 15 years. (Yes, that happens, and is very painful) This morning I could barely walk and was experiencing a lot of pain and had to take both of my morphine doses (fast acting and extended). Another 40 minutes pass and I’m still in bad pain, so I got into the cannabis. I think it did more for me in the long run than the morphine did in the short term.
        What really gets me is there is THC based drugs on the market that the doctor could have prescribed that would have taken care of all this from the start, like Marinol. But the VA doctors will be quick to tell you those drugs are only for cancer patients, which is more BS and why I dropped them and started seeing civilian doctors, but that’s another long story…. Viagra was made for blood pressure, and yet it got marketed for boners. This is why they say “and for other uses” in most drug descriptions.

    10. New England Matt says:

      We in Connecticut and Massachsetts want marijuana.We are waiting for Rhode Island.

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