Welcome to this week’s edition of the legislative roundup. With prohibitionists fighting nationwide, from Massachusetts to deny the will of the voters with the implementation of legalization to Hawaii where the state is seeking to impose increased monitoring of drivers who may be under the influence of marijuana, NORML is constantly working to fight the rising tide of anti-science legislation cropping up.
Below are the priority bills that we’ve tracked this week, with more being posted on our http://norml.org/act page every day.
If you have not yet, 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,
Legislative efforts are pending to amend the state’s voter-initiated medical marijuana law in a manner that would restrict qualified patients from smoking herbal preparations of the plant. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson indicates that he favors the plan.
NORML opposes this effort to fundamentally change the law for the following reasons.
The inhalation of herbal cannabis is associated with the rapid onset of drug effect while the oral consumption of other preparations, such as oils, extracts, or pills, is associated with significantly delayed onset. For patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms, such as those suffering from severe nausea, seizures, or spasms, inhaling herbal cannabis is the fastest and most effective route of administration. Inhaling cannabis also permits patients to better regulate their dose.
Further, the effects of orally ingested cannabis are far less predictable in comparison to inhaled cannabis. This is because there exists far greater variability in the ways that marijuana is metabolized when it is consumed orally — meaning that patients may experience disparate and even dysphoric effects from dose to dose, even in instances where the dose is standardized.
Additionally, SB 130 prohibits individuals from operating a motor vehicle if they have 5 or more nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood. NORML opposes this proposal.
It should not be presumed that the detection of THC is predictive of psychomotor impairment and such a presumption should not be codified in Arkansas traffic safety statutes. The imposition and enforcement of this measure risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations.
Legislation is pending, SB 548, to legalize the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for those over the age of 21.
According to 2014 statewide poll, 66 percent of Hawaii voters support the taxation and regulation of marijuana.
Additionally, Legislation is pending, SB 17, that seeks to establish a per se limit of “five nanograms or more per milliliter of active tetrahydrocannabinol” for anyone driving a motor vehicle.
NORML opposes this proposal.
It should not be presumed that the detection of THC is predictive of psychomotor impairment and such a presumption should not be codified in Hawaii traffic safety statutes. The imposition and enforcement of this measure risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations.
On Wednesday, December 28, a handful of lawmakers met in a special session and voted to delay the roll out of retail marijuana providers from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018. As summarized by The Boston Globe, “The extraordinary move, made in informal sessions with just a half-dozen legislators present, would unravel a significant part of the legalization measure passed by 1.8 million voters just last month.” Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill into law just two days later.
But this was only the beginning.
Now, Senator Jason M. Lewis is proposing bills that would reduce the amount of marijuana that an individual can possess, restrict the number of plants that a person can grow, and ban various forms of THC infused products including edibles.
The arrogance and hubris lawmakers are showing toward voters is shocking, and is typified by the comments of Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg who, only hours after the vote, pronounced: “I believe that when voters vote on most ballot questions, they are voting in principle. They are not voting on the fine detail that is contained within the proposal.”
It’s time for you to send another clear message to your lawmakers: Abide by voters’ decision or suffer the consequences.
State Senator Anna Wishart has introduced comprehensive medical marijuana legislation, LB622.
Senator Wishart’s bill is similar to legislation that was introduced in 2016 and narrowly defeated. LB622 will allow patients with conditions such as Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, opioid addictions and some types of cancer to obtain marijuana. Additionally it would permit patients to grow up to 12 plants and/or possess up to six ounces of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Last year’s bill was narrowly defeated by lawmakers.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Nebraska patients deserve these same protections.
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.
Additionally, Multiple bills are pending before lawmakers to expand the pool of patients eligible to qualify for medical marijuana therapy.
In particular, these measures would permit patients with conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress to obtain legal access to marijuana.
Most recently, an exhaustive report released by the National Academies of Sciences determined that there is “conclusive” evidence that cannabis is “effective for the treatment of chronic pain.” Authors concluded, “In adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids (constituents found organically in the marijuana plant) are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction of pain symptoms.”
Senator Liz Krueger (D) has introduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in the New York General Legislature.
The act legalizes possession and cultivation, and would establish a market for legal marijuana for adults 21 and older.
Legislation is pending, HB 1340, in the statehouse to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and marijuana-related paraphernalia.
Under existing law, marijuana possession of one ounce or less is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, while the possession of greater amounts are classified as a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison. Possessing marijuana-related paraphernalia is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
UPDATE: SB1091 has passed the full Senate by a vote of 38-2 and HB 2051 has passed it’s first committee vote in the House of Delegates.
State Senators Adam Ebbin (D), Bill Stanley (R) and Delegate Les Adams (R) have introduced SB 1091 and HB 2051 respectively, legislation that would remove the mandatory driver’s license suspension currently imposed for those with a marijuana possession conviction.
Under current law, any drug conviction, regardless of whether or not a motor vehicle was involved, results in an automatic suspension of the individual’s driving privileges for 6 months.
Additionally, SB 1298 has cleared the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on a 9-4 vote as it seeks to establish affirmative defense for possession of cannabidiol if an individual has written certification that they require the substance due to an approved medical condition.
Affirmative defense establishes a basic set of facts surrounding cannabidiol possession cases. If someone with a qualifying medical condition is caught possessing marijuana, an affirmative defense for the individual would likely result in a more lenient punishment.
UPDATE: HB 1212 has passed committee, making it the first piece of legislation for home cultivation in Washington state history.
Legislation is pending before the House, HB 1094 and HB 1212, to prohibit employers from discriminating against patients who legally consume marijuana during non-work hours.
The bill amends existing law so that: “An employer may not refuse to hire a qualifying patient, discharge or bar a qualifying patient from employment, or discriminate against a qualifying patient in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of the qualifying patient’s: (i) Status as a qualifying patient; or (ii) Positive drug test for marijuana components or metabolites.”
Changes in the legal status of marijuana has not been associated with any adverse changes in workplace safety. In fact, a pair of studies from 2016 find that legalization is associated with greater workforce participation and with fewer workplace absences. Most recently, the National Academies of Sciences just-released marijuana and health report found “insufficient evidence” to support an association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.
The election of Donald Trump coincided with a whirlwind of activity surrounding marijuana policy, as voters in eight states decided in favor of initiatives regulating the distribution of cannabis for either medical or non-medical purposes.
Yet despite this statewide progress, the specter of marijuana prohibitionists such as Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions being appointed to federal offices in the new administration has justifiably left advocates, including NORML, uneasy.
But this week, Trump nominee for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, bucked this trend — indicated that he is open to the idea of working with financial regulatory agencies to level the playing field for local marijuana businesses.
Currently, state-licensed marijuana business face a web of conflicting regulations. Specifically, federal prohibitions largely prohibit these businesses from working with financial institutions, processing credit cards, and taking standard business deductions. When asked about these financial hurdles, Mnuchin stated, “I will work with Congress and the President to determine which provisions of the current tax code should be retained, revised or eliminated to ensure that all individuals and businesses compete on a level playing field.”
No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to reliable banking solutions. While it is encouraging to see that a small but growing number financial operators are beginning to provide necessary services to those engaged in state-compliant cannabis commerce, it is self-evident that this industry will remain severely hampered without better access to credit and financing.
But while Mnuchin’s statements may indicate a step in the right direction, ultimately, the responsibility is upon Congress — not upon the US Treasury Department or upon state lawmakers — to change federal policy so that these growing number of state-compliant businesses, and their consumers, may operate in a manner that is similar to other legal commercial entities.
There will be a number of pieces of legislation introduced in Congress to address these federal banking issues in the near future, and NORML will notify you as further developments unfold.
Please make sure to join our email list to receive our action alerts.
As the nation’s largest and oldest consumer rights group, NORML is committed to supporting efforts that provide a safe, convenient, aboveground market for cannabis consumers, and that allow local entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace free from undue federal interference.
On the heels of the 2016 election – where four states voted to approve adult-use marijuana initiatives, and four more voted to approve medical marijuana initiatives – NORML Chapters across the country are lobbying their state legislators for additional reforms. In the coming weeks, NORML Chapters around the country, such as California NORML, Connecticut NORML, Wyoming NORML, and Virginia NORML, will be focusing their time and energy in support of dozens of statewide reform bills seeking to amend various aspects of their state’s marijuana policies.
To help increase the likelihood of success for these volunteer-led lobbying efforts, NORML has created a citizen lobby guide. This comprehensive booklet will assist activists in planning and execution of a successful lobby day. It also provides organizational checklists and a legislative questionnaire so that marijuana activists, regardless of the state they’re located in, will be fully prepared to meet with state lawmakers to discuss meaningful marijuana law reforms and to most effectively communicate NORML’s message of ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.
Citizen Lobby Guide: http://norml.org/pdf_files/NORML_CitizenLobbyGuide.pdf
In addition to offering support through NORML’s Citizen Lobby Guide, we have created more than 30 action alerts targeting state lawmakers across the country urging their support for marijuana legislation being considered in their state. Simply click on the link below and enter your information to join the fight!
Take Action: http://norml.org/act
We hope that with these tools, along with the direct support of NORML staff, marijuana activists will have the resources needed to effectively lobby state lawmakers in support of marijuana law reforms.
Here’s a list of scheduled NORML Chapter Lobby Days below:
- Virginia NORML – Jan 30
- Arizona NORML – Feb 2
- Texas NORML – Feb 8
- Houston NORML – Feb 8
- DFW NORML – Feb 8
- Waco NORML – Feb 8
- New Mexico – Feb 21
- Missouri NORML – Feb 28
- Kansas City NORML – Feb 28
- Greater St. Louis NORML – Feb 28
- Mid-Missouri NORML – Feb 28
- Springfield NORML – Feb 28
- University of Missouri NORML – Feb 28
- North Carolina NORML – Mar 1
- Charlotte NORML – Mar 1
- Denver NORML – Mar 7
- Colorado NORML – Mar 7
- Monterey County NORML – Mar 7
- NORML Women of Washington – Mar 7
- Washington NORML – Mar 7
- Portland NORML – Mar 7
- Michigan NORML – March 30
- Illinois NORML – May 17
- California NORML – June 5
To get involved or to find out more information about a lobby day in your state, please email: KevinM@NORML.org.
Since its founding, NORML has advocated that statewide legalization efforts – whether through a ballot initiative or using the legislative process – should ideally include provisions that permit and protect the act of home cultivation by marijuana consumers. This advocacy has resulted in more than 16 states now allowing home cultivation, including in six of the eight voter-initiated measures passed in 2016.
But although there has been a tremendous amount of progress on this issue, it appears that home cultivation is now at risk in several municipalities across Colorado and California. Local and state lawmakers in both jurisdictions are revisiting the issue and are moving toward unnecessarily limiting adult’s home cultivation rights.
Most recently, representatives with Denver’s Office of Marijuana Policy revealed a plan to, “limit unlicensed recreational and medical grows in private residences,” throughout the city of Denver. This decision came after months of closed-door meetings between regulators and leading marijuana industry interests such as the Marijuana Industry Group (MIG); which together, form what’s being called the, “Non-Licensed Marijuana Grows Inspection Team.”
Although there has been little to no mention of specific details regarding this proposed program, many are anticipating the new regulations to resemble those that have come under fire in Indian Wells, California. In that city, lawmakers are pushing for regulations mandating that anyone who wishes to cultivate marijuana in their home must purchase an annual permit and must also allow inspectors into their residence. This amounts to an absolutely unnecessary burden for responsible, law-abiding citizens.
In recent days, Denver NORML became inundated with emails, messages and comments on social media demanding a response to what many believe is a blatant overreach by city government officials. In response, members of Denver NORML, led by Executive Director, Jordan Person, began mobilizing volunteers to contact members of the Denver City Council with the goal of defending the rights and privacy of marijuana consumers in the city of Denver.
“With all of the uncertainty we are expecting in 2017 at both the local and state level our goal at Denver NORML is to help maintain our rights as residents of Colorado to grow in our homes,” said Person. “We will keep our members and supporters informed and part of the conversation as it happens.”
While it’s obvious that there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into regulating Colorado’s legal marijuana industry, most marijuana consumers would never support any effort that would attempt to bring similar regulations into the privacy of their homes. Not to mention the fact that the creation of a task force or any other bureaucratic process to approve and/or oversee the cultivation of marijuana in a private residence amounts to a severe misuse of tax dollars and violation of privacy when those limited resources could be dedicated to combating actual problems in our communities.
Without providing any data points related to the correlation between home cultivation and out-of-state diversion, those advocating for tighter regulations deserve to fail in their attempt to convince marijuana consumers that allowing regular visits from government officials in their homes is a good idea. Adults who brew their own beer are not subject to inspections by the state and neither should those who choose to grow personal use quantities of marijuana. Furthermore, criminalizing the personal cultivation of marijuana is an arbitrary prohibition that has absolutely no basis in public safety. Therefore NORML will continue to support the right of individuals to grow their own marijuana as an alternative to purchasing it from licensed commercial producers.
To join the fight to protect home cultivation, check out NORML’s action page by visiting http://norml.org/act or for more information, please email Chapters@NORML.org.
As an American citizen, it is easy to become cynical about citizen participation in democracy. Even the most basic form of participation, voting, can be difficult in the United States. Unlike most nations, who hold elections on a holiday or have mandatory voting requirements, the US holds elections on Tuesdays. When many people cannot vote, whether for time reasons or restrictive state laws, it is a struggle, for those of us enthused about participating in democracy, to watch less than 60 percent of the electorate turnout for a presidential election. One of the proposed reasons for the problem is a lack of voter efficacy. Voters don’t feel as if their voice is being heard. But stories of voters successfully influencing lawmakers are common, if not always reported.
Recently, House Republicans revealed a plan to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The new body proposed by the GOP would have been a blow to anyone in support of governmental transparency. Unable to report its findings to the public, the proposed Office of Congressional Complaint Review would have even further clouded general understanding of what occurs behind closed doors in the legislative branch. However, congressional offices were subsequently flooded with calls and messages from angry constituents. Less than 24 hours later, the GOP changed course and backpedaled. After tremendous public pressure, the government radically changed its course in a short span of time.
Simply making a phone call, sending an email or Facebook message to a representative, or retweeting a congress member’s phone number (which occurred thousands of times because of the ethics committee plan) can make a difference on the national level. However, many success stories about citizen participation can be found among the lower levels of the federal system. State and local governments are, at least in theory, designed to be more supportive of and responsive to individual citizens. Examples to support this theory is strong. States are known as “laboratories of democracy” and are often ahead of the federal government in terms of cutting edge policy.
One only has to look at success stories like gay marriage or marijuana legislation in several states to see the effect of citizen participation on policy outcomes. We can see with both cases that state policy often follows national public opinion trends. When the tipping point came in regards to gay marriage, it was state judges and lawmakers that first instituted protections for the LGBTQ community. Organizations like Freedom to Marry and the American Civil Liberties Union penned action alerts to their members day after day pleading with them to contact their state representatives. And when the people spoke, politicians listened, and change happened.
Marijuana legislation is following a similar path with organizations including NORML are creating a similar avalanche effect of states legalizing that will ultimately culminate in national legalization if sustained.
To speed up the process one only has to get involved. It is easy to sit back and watch while progress occurs, but it is rewarding to be a part of such a movement. Emailing, calling, and having meetings with your representatives in a constructive way is simple and effective to push change.
If the government is doing something that we as a citizenry do not approve of, we have the right to be heard. Although the mechanisms of government are far from perfect, it our duty as a dedicated and informed public is to try the best we can, in every way we can.
Sign up for our email list to get our action alerts, keep checking the NORML action page for federal legislation and in your home state at http://norml.org/act, talk to your friends and neighbors about getting involved, join a NORML chapter or start your own at http://norml.org/chapters, and never, ever, stop fighting.