Weekly Legislative Roundup, 2/3/2017
With over 800 bills being filed in state legislatures and at the federal level, marijuana policy is moving fast.
A big thanks to the over 3,000 people who have emailed their elected officials through our action alerts in the last 6 days alone! Remember, bookmark our Action Page (http://norml.org/act) and keep checking for new updates.
If you haven’t yet, read NORML’s Paul Armentano’s most recent op-ed in The Hill newspaper “Voters demanded pot policy changes, it’s time for lawmakers to listen.”
Below are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week.
Make sure 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,
Senate lawmakers are only days away from taking a vote that may have a drastic impact on the future of marijuana policy.
Sessions recently was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee and during his confirmation hearing, he failed to give a straight answer with regard to how the Justice Department should respond to states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use and left the door open for federal enforcement.
Senate legislation is pending, SB 238, to indefinitely halt the enactment of the state’s voter-initiated medical marijuana law.
Specifically, the measure states that Arkansas patients may not legally access medical marijuana until the substance has been federally legalized.
This arrogant piece of legislation is a direct attempt to undermine an election outcome. Fifty-three percent of voters decided in November in favor of Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. State lawmakers have responsibility to abide by the will of the people, to do so in a timely manner, and to not let patients needlessly suffer.
After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 may finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized.
HB640, sponsored by 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats, will amend criminal penalties for marijuana possession is pending in the House, where lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported such efforts for eight years in a row. However, legislators this year are hopeful that, for the first time, they also have sufficient votes to also clear the Senate.
A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers has reintroduced a marijuana legalization this legislative session.
The bill will allow adults 21 and older to possess cannabis and will establish a framework for businesses to cultivate and distribute marijuana. While the language is similar to that of previous bills that have failed to come to a vote, lawmakers this year believe that Rhode Island is ready to catch up to its northeast neighbors.
A majority of Rhode Island residents support legalization and Jared Moffat, Director of Regulate Rhode Island, believes: “It’s time for Rhode Island to look very seriously at this issue and pass a bill. Otherwise, we risk falling behind those other states.”
OTHER ACTIONS TO TAKE
Legislation is pending in the US House, HR 715, to amend the Controlled Substances Act so that marijuana is no longer classified as a Schedule I controlled substance and so that cannabidiol (CBD) is excluded from the federal definition of cannabis.
Cannabidiol is a non-mood altering constituent in the marijuana plant that possesses a variety of therapeutic effects, particularly anti-seizure properties. Over a dozen states recognize by statute that CBD is safe and therapeutically effective.
Further, the cannabis plant’s schedule I classification has long been inconsistent with the available evidence. Most recently, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a comprehensive report acknowledging that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions. This finding is incompatible with the plant’s Schedule I status, which opines that it possess “no accepted medical use in the United States.” Twenty-nine states now permit physicians to authorize marijuana therapy to qualified patients.
While simply rescheduling marijuana under federal law will not end federal prohibition, it will bring about some needed changes in law. At a minimum, it would bring an end to the federal government’s longstanding intellectual dishonesty that marijuana ‘lacks accepted medical use.’ It would also likely permit banks and other financial institutions to work with state-compliant marijuana-related businesses, and permit employers in the cannabis industry to take tax deductions similar to those enjoyed by other businesses. Rescheduling would also likely bring some level of relief to federal employees subject to random workplace drug testing for off-the-job cannabis consumption.
For these reasons, we urge your support for HR 715 while also recognizing that ultimately cannabis must be removed from the Controlled Substances Act altogether. Passage of HR 715 is a first step in this process.
Legislation is pending, HF 199, to establish a statewide medical marijuana program.
Under these proposals, qualified patients with intractable pain and other conditions would be able to obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities.
A more narrow version of this program is proposed by separate legislation, HF 198.
While the program proposed by the measures is a fairly narrow one, it is far superior to the state’s existing CBD-specific law, which only applies to patients with intractable epilepsy and fails to provide an in-state supply source for CBD-related medicine.
Legislation is making its way through the New Hampshire House, HB 656, to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use.
Members of the House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety heard testimony regarding the bill on Wednesday, February 2, at 2pm.
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, 62 percent of whom now endorse legalizing and regulating cannabis, according to a 2016 WMUR Granite State Poll.
Legislation is pending before lawmakers, The Kansas Safe Access Act, to establish regulations governing a comprehensive medical marijuana program.
The measure would permit qualified patients to grow their own medical marijuana or to obtain it from a licensed dispensary, while also educating physicians who seek to recommend cannabis therapy.
More than a dozen lawmakers are backing legislation, Senate Bill 129, to eradicate the state’s marijuana possession by ingestion law.
Under the law, one can be charged with a felony drug offense if their past use of a marijuana shows up on a blood or urine test. In the case of cannabis, byproducts of THC may be detectable for several weeks after one has ceased using it.
South Dakota is one of the only states that criminalizes the internal possession of marijuana or other controlled substances, and it is the only state that defines the activity as a felony offense.
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 fine-only offense.
Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine. Passage of these pending measures would reduce the penalty to a $50 fine and no possibility of jail time.
Simple marijuana possession would still remain classified as a misdemeanor.
Additionally, 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.
Legislation is pending in the House, 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.
The measure would also reduce existing penalties for those who possess greater quantities of cannabis.
Wyoming lawmakers are debating HJR 11, a joint resolution to legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21.
This resolution legalizes and regulates the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. Under this measure, adults would be able to legally possess up to three ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants in the privacy of their home.
Additionally, legislation, HB 197, to amend marijuana possession penalties has passed out of Committee and now faces action on the House floor.
Passage of the measure would reduce existing marijuana possession penalties from up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine to no more than 20 days in jail and a $200 fine for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders would face stricter penalties under the proposal.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee rejected a separate bill, HB 157, which NORML had endorsed that sought to decriminalize the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana.
February 3, 2017