• by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 9, 2018

    Marijuana medicineAfter a brief government shutdown, congressional leadership voted to enact a six-week continuing resolution that maintains present federal spending levels and priorities through March 23, 2018. The resolution extends medical cannabis patient protections imposed by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment until that date.

    The amendment, which has been in place since 2014, maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    Without these protections, medical cannabis cultivators and dispensaries exist with a greater threat than normal of federal enforcement of national prohibition, yet the certainty that these protections will be honored have been in doubt throughout the entire Trump administration.

    When President Trump signed the first Continuing Resolution in 2017, he issued a signing statement regarding the amendment:

    “Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

    Essentially stating that his administration believes they can ignore these protections if they do not view them to be Constitutional.

    Under this mentality, Attorney General Jeff Sessions could move in to shut down medical marijuana facilities at any point. Should Sessions crackdown, we are confident that we would win a court challenge, given previous rulings on this very question. However, it would be a reactive exercise after an enforcement action, and during that process, the patients who relied on a supply chain to get them their medication would not have a lawful means to do so.

    So now, the government reopens under another CR, the protections are back in place, and we are right back where we were; in an uneasy détente. The threat of Sessions on one side and medical patients in a state-lawful system trying to alleviate their suffering.

    Further, Congressional leadership must reauthorize this language as part of the forthcoming appropriations in order for the provisions to stay in effect in any new spending deal. Last July, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) offered identical language before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which approved it. However, House Rules Committee Chair Peter Sessions (R-TX) has refused to allow House members to vote on similar language. The provision will now be considered by House and Senate leadership when the two chambers’ appropriations bills are reconciled, should Congress ever set a FY18 budget, of which is already over a third of the way behind us.

    Click here to send a message to your lawmakers and tell them to retain these protections.

  • by Jenn Michelle Pedini, Executive Director, Virginia NORML February 8, 2018

    Virginia NORML has been focused on securing access and protection from prosecution for all patients since 2016. This session, our efforts paid off with unanimous passage of our Let Doctors Decide legislation, supported by the Joint Commission on Healthcare, in both the House and Senate.

    Patients like Nikki Narduzzi, who is now our coalition director at Cannabis Commonwealth, will now have the same rights that were initially granted in 2015 to only intractable epilepsy patients. I have spent hundreds of hours with Nikki in the halls of the General Assembly, in Committee rooms, in district offices, in coffee shops talking to Virginia legislators about this groundbreaking expansion legislation.

    “Little did I know, in 2015 when I attended my first local Virginia NORML chapter meeting, that patient advocacy would become such a large part of my life,” said Nikki. “For the past three years, I have been supported and mentored by courageous advocates like Virginia NORML’s Executive Director, Jenn Michelle Pedini who has worked tirelessly in the trenches to bring medical cannabis access to ALL Virginia patients.”

    Virginia will be the first state to expand a hyper-restrictive single qualifying disorder program to include any diagnosed condition. This didn’t happen because of industry dollars or high powered lobbyists, it happened because two moms wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. We were pushed aside by other organizations interested in working for only small patient groups. We were railroaded by partisan antics more than once. We stood our ground, we pushed forward, and we prevailed.

    Read more here: http://www.suffolknewsherald.com/2018/02/06/advocates-cheer-bills-passage/

    To get involved or to stay up-to-date on the latest marijuana-related news in Virginia, make sure to visit our website at http://www.vanorml.org/ and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

  • by Madisen Saglibene, Executive Director of Las Vegas NORML

    For decades, Las Vegas has been a place known to play fast and loose – and this is even becoming evident in our emerging Marijuana Industry. On January 16, 2018, hundreds of citizens, business owners, and marijuana consumers met to provide public comment on the proposed set of permanent regulations issued by the Nevada Department of Taxation at a public hearing. Taxation in Nevada certifies, audits, coordinates and educates hundreds of state-certified marijuana establishments such as dispensaries, cultivation facilities, production facilities and independent testing laboratories. In 2016, over 600,000 Nevadan’s voted to legalize marijuana, giving the Department of Taxation the authority to regulate the operation of Marijuana Establishments, award and limit licensing, and carry-out other provisions of ballot measure 2. However, due to lack of transparency in the scoring process outlined in the proposed regulations for how these licenses are awarded, dozens went on the record to speak out to the Commision in opposition.

    There were many areas of concern, but because there is little clarity on how the applications for licenses are granted, it would appear there is instead, favors being given to Insiders. Multiple licenses of varying types are being awarded to the same small group of millionaires, allowing for extremely monopolistic practices. When an entity is able to cultivate, produce and dispense all of their own product, there is little incentive to vertically integrate other brands. Cultivators of great brands without a dispensing license are unable to sell their own product, leaving the success of their business in the hands of Dispensaries. In addition, license holders are able to resell licenses, and due to a cap on how many will be issued, the current value of a license is approximately $10 million. This bears significance on who is able to establish themselves in this surfacing industry and is shutting potential small businesses and minorities out. This over-burdened cost to obtain a license dramatically impacts the price tag on products available in the marketplace. Including the marijuana tax, ? of cannabis in Las Vegas is on average $65! Patients and locals have not only been faced with extreme costs but competition with tourists, resulting in limited availability.

    After nearly 3 hours of public comment, the Taxation Commision still made a motion to move forward with the proposal after ZERO deliberation. Because it’s not too late, we are asking Nevadans to urge the Legislation to insist the Department of Taxation extend their deadline of March 1st in order to revisit the verbiage, paying close attention to what the Department can and cannot do according to Question 2. With other States looking at Nevada as a model for a successful program, it is vital the regulations be revisited to ensure fairness and inclusion instead of monopolies and reverting back to old Las Vegas ways.

    Frank Sinatra once said, “Las Vegas is the only place I know where money really talks–it says, “Goodbye,”.”

    Madisen Saglibene is the Executive Director of Las Vegas NORML. 

    Visit their website at http://lvnorml.org/ and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

  • by Nicole Powell, NORML Intern January 30, 2018

    On Sunday, January 21st & Monday the 22nd, NORML members along with non-member cannabis-reform-supporters gathered at the general assembly in Virginia for a Lobby Day. I [Nicole] was among the participants in this specific effort to advocate for marijuana legislative reform. Having lived in Virginia my whole life and being a current constituent of Representative Tim Hugo [R] and Senator David Marsden [D], this definitely felt like my call-to-action. This was my first time lobbying, and I am grateful my introductory experience was in support of sensible cannabis reform, something I so vehemently endorse on a personal level.

    Our purpose in gathering was in order to influence, and essentially demand, lawmaker support for HB 1251, and SB 111. These legislative works would legalize medical cannabis oil under physician recommendation [to include all diagnoses, not just intractable epilepsy] as well as decriminalize simple possession charges, respectively.

    If you have ever considered joining the marijuana movement, but don’t think you know enough to contribute effectively or even where to begin, never fear! On Sunday I was among numerous fellow supporters in attendance of a conference orchestrated by Virginia NORML’s Executive Director, Jenn Michelle Pedini. There, keynote speakers covered marijuana policy, how to effectively persuade with facts and knowledge regarding marijuana, and went on to take an in-depth look at how prohibition has negatively affected citizens and society. This abundantly informative and motivational colloquium couldn’t have prepared me more to speak with lawmakers and provided great relief to an otherwise intimidating situation. Let’s say hypothetically you have absolutely no interest in lobbying for marijuana reform. Attending the conference portion is still extremely enlightening, and I would recommend it to supporters and prohibitionists alike. A little extra knowledge never hurt anyone, right?

    While at the capitol building, I had great conversations with both Rep. Tim Hugo and Sen. David Marsden. Although it was still a bit nerve-racking to be in front of these prestigious figures; I am confident that I was able to effectively communicate the message of necessary marijuana reform in conjunction with the legislation denoted above [greatly due in part to the preparation I received at the conference], and have gained their support on these issues. This has been an experience I will never forget, and I will be sure to seize the chance at every opportunity to do it again in the future. NORML lobby day in any state is the opportunity to affect change and be part of history. Please join us, and we can make it happen together!

    Nicole Powell is a current intern at the National NORML office, as well as a current collegiate-level honors student. She has been “saved from a life of opioid drug abuse & dependence due to medical cannabis therapy” [to which she became at serious risk of after a major vehicular accident], in addition to the various other drastic medical benefits cannabis has provided to her after this accident.

    Follow Virginia NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website: http://www.vanorml.org/

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 25, 2018

    On Wednesday, January 24th, fifty-four members of Congress representing both political parties sent a letter to President Trump denouncing the recent rescinding of the Cole Memo by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Led by Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Senate side and Representative Jared Polis in the House, the signers stated:

    “These new policies have helped eliminate the black market sale of marijuana and allowed law enforcement to focus on real threats to public health and safety. This action by the Department of Justice has the potential to unravel efforts to build sensible drug policies that encourage economic development as we finally move away from antiquated practices that have hurt disadvantaged communities.”

    The Cole Memo was a Justice Department memorandum, authored by former US Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013 to US attorneys in all 50 states, directs prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

    The signers further pointed out the during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump declared that “we should leave (marijuana) up to the states.” You can read the full letter by clicking here.

    At a time when the majority of states now are regulating marijuana use in some form, and when nearly two-thirds of voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or moral perspective for Attorney General Sessions to take this step.

    It is great to see leaders like Senator Warren and Representatives Polis, Blumenauer, and others step up to demand action to comport federal law with majority public opinion and to end the needless criminalization of marijuana — a policy failure that encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.”

    Should the Trump administration go through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels.

    Send a message to your elected officials to speak out against AG Sessions. 

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