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Advocacy

  • by NORML June 30, 2017

    Nevada Legalized MarijuanaStarting on Saturday, July 1, specially licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in Nevada will have the opportunity to engage in the retail sale of marijuana to adults.

    State tax regulators finalized temporary rules on Monday governing adult use sales. Regulators so far have issued over 80 licenses to business establishments seeking to engage in activities specific to the production, testing, or sale of cannabis to adults.

    “Adults in Nevada will now be able to access cannabis in a safe, above ground, regulated environment,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “To their immense credit, lawmakers expeditiously to implement the will of their voters. Elected officials elsewhere would do well to follow Nevada’s example.”

    Adult use sales are anticipated to be limited because of an ongoing legal dispute regarding who may legally transport cannabis to retail stores. Last week, a Carson City judge issued an injunction prohibiting any entity other than liquor distributors from engaging in retail marijuana transport. As a result, retailers will only be able to sell their existing inventory.

    “While we applaud Nevada for moving to enact their voter approved legalization initiative in a timely fashion, interested parties must now move quickly and decisively to resolve the pending issues around distribution. If supply remains constrained in the state it will drive up prices and ultimately lead to most retail outlets being entirely out of sellable product for the recreational market.” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “This will only serve to continue to drive consumers to the black market, the very thing residents voted to demolish, and will deprive the state of needed tax revenue that will instead go to underground operators.”

    A majority of voters decided in November in favor of the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act – a voter-initiated regulating the adult use marijuana market. In May, state regulated decided in favor of expediting the timeline for retail marijuana sales from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2017.

    Seven additional states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington — no longer impose criminal penalties with regard to the adult possession or use of cannabis.

    Businesses in the state still do not have protections from the Justice Department, led by militant prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recently stated marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin.

    You can click here to easily send a message to your federal lawmakers in support of pending legislation, HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act by clicking HERE.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director June 29, 2017


    Medical marijuana
    This week, the House Appropriations Committee released its 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which determines the funding levels for numerous federal agencies, including the Department of Justice. Predictably, the bill does not include language — known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment — limiting the Justice Department from taking action against state-sanctioned medical cannabis producers, retailers, or consumers.

    Although the amendment was reauthorized by Congress in May, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been aggressively lobbying leadership to ignore the provisions. President Trump also issued a signing statement objecting to the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer provision.

    Nonetheless, support for the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer protection amendment has only grown in recent years. House members initially passed the amendment as a budgetary rider in 2014 by a vote of 219 to 189. By the following year, 242 House members voted in support of the language.

    Yet even with bipartisan support, the text of this amendment has never been included in “the inline text” or “the base bill” of the CJS Appropriations bill. In every case of its passage, lawmakers have needed to add the language as a separate rider to the legislation and then vote on it on the floor of the House.  

    This year is no exception. Our allies in Congress anticipate a similar process to take place this fall and they are confident that we will once again be victorious — despite the best efforts of our opponents.

    Reps. Blumenauer and Rohrbacher last night in a statement:

    “The policy championed by Representatives Blumenauer and Rohrabacher that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering in the ability of states to implement legal medical marijuana laws (previously known as “Rohrabacher-Farr”) has never been included in the base Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Subcommittee Appropriations bill. Rather, in previous years, Congress has amended the base CJS bill to include these protections.

    We are exactly where we thought we would be in the legislative process and look forward to amending the underlying bill once again this year to make sure medical marijuana programs, and the patients who rely on them, are protected. Voters in states across the country have acted to legalize medical marijuana. Congress should not act against the will of the people who elected us.”

    Thirty states now permit the doctor-authorized use of medical cannabis by statute, and an additional 16 states include statutory protections for the use of CBD. It is hard to imagine a scenario where a majority of lawmakers from these jurisdictions would vote against the best interests of their constituents, given the broad and bipartisan support that the amendment has received in the past.

    It has been and will continue to be in politicians’ best interests to protect this progress and to protect voters’ freedoms from the encroachment of Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department.

    Click here to send a message to your member urging them to support the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment.

    Then click here to tell them to go one step further by urging them to support the newly introduced CARERS Act of 2017 which will codify these protections into law so that we no longer have to have these annual budget fights.

     

  • by Dan Viets, Executive Director, Missouri NORML June 20, 2017
    Dan Viets speaking at a NORML conference

    Dan Viets speaking at a NORML conference

    Federal courts have recently rejected the actions of university and college administrators who sought to inflict suspicionless drug tests on students at a public college and to restrict the First Amendment rights of marijuana law reformers at a public university.  Both decisions have important national implications.

    Linn Tech Student Drug Testing Case

    In 2011, Linn State Technical College administrators declared that they intended to drug test every student who applied for admission to the small, state-funded college located in Osage County, Missouri, a short distance east of Jefferson City.  No other public college or university in America had pursued such a program.  It seemed clear to those who follow such matters that college and university students have the same rights as other adults to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  While private institutions are not bound by the restraints of the Fourth Amendment, public tax-supported institutions are.  Nonetheless, Linn Tech seemed determined to pursue inflicting random, suspicionless drug testing on their students.

    Tony Rothert, the Legal Director of the ACLU of Missouri, filed suit against Linn Tech.  I filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, working with Alex Kreit, a law professor from San Diego.

    U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey, sitting in Jefferson City, subsequently issued a decision prohibiting such testing, with a few narrowly-drawn exceptions for those participating in training programs involving heavy machinery or high-voltage electricity.

    Linn Tech appealed that decision to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.  Legal scholars were shocked when a three-judge panel of that Court later sided with Linn Tech.  In a decision which many believed ignored legal precedent and logic, two of three judges on the panel which initially heard the case sided with Linn Tech.

    Mr. Rothert then filed for a rehearing of the case by the full 11-judge Court.  Such hearings are rarely granted, but in this case, the Motion was granted.  Following that rehearing, all but two of the judges on the full Court sided with the students and the ACLU, overturning the decision of the three-judge panel.

    Still not satisfied, Linn Tech squandered more public tax money pursuing a Petition for Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.  Civil libertarians were concerned that the current high Court might indeed overturn the Eighth Circuit if it had accepted that Petition for review.  However, on June 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court denied further review in this matter.  Therefore, the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court is now the final decision in this matter.  Linn Tech administrators have reluctantly acknowledged that they must now follow the Constitution and abandon their effort to impose suspicionless drug testing on their students.

    Iowa State University NORML Censorship Case

    In another important case closely watched by many across the nation, members of the NORML Chapter at Iowa State University in 2012 applied for approval to print t-shirts which contained the name of the university-recognized organization and included an image of the school’s mascot, “Cy, the Cyclone”.  University administrators first approved those t-shirts, but when the ISU NORML Chapter asked to reprint them, the university caved in to pressure from legislative staff people who had complained that it appeared the university was supporting marijuana legalization.

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) filed suit on behalf of the officers of the Iowa State University NORML Chapter, alleging content and viewpoint discrimination.  The lawsuit sought to prevent university administrators from treating the NORML Chapter differently from other university-recognized student organizations.  The federal district court in Iowa sided with the students and against the university.  The university appealed to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, which issued a decision in February of this year upholding the federal district judge’s ruling.

    Iowa State University administrators then asked the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court to reconsider its decision.  The Court did so, which caused many to fear that they might change their minds.

    However, on June 13, 2017, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court reaffirmed its earlier decision and went even further, holding that university administrators who prevented the ISU NORML Chapter from using the university’s trademarked images were individually liable for their actions and could, therefore, be ordered to pay damages from their own pockets!

    Administrators at the University of Missouri in Columbia have taken similar actions in regard to the MU NORML Chapter.  It is hoped that the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit will encourage MU administrators to reconsider their position.

    The federal appellate court sent a loud and clear message to university administrators that they are required to respect the Constitutional rights of students, including those who advocate for reform of the marijuana laws.

    While Iowa State could do as Linn Tech administrators did and continue to squander more public tax money pursuing an ill-considered position, it is not at all likely the U.S. Supreme Court would grant further review in this matter.

    Administrators at the University of Missouri in Columbia have taken similar actions in regard to the MU NORML Chapter.  It is hoped that the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit will encourage MU administrators to reconsider their position.

    These two decisions have reaffirmed the rights of college and university students to be free from random, suspicionless drug testing and to speak out for drug law reform without censorship by administrators..

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director June 17, 2017

    revolutionbumperWelcome to this week’s edition of the NORML legislative roundup!

    At the Federal level, the biggest news this week was two-fold. First, in a letter made public by Tom Angell of Marijuana Moment, it was revealed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote a private message to Congressional leadership requesting that they lift restrictions on the Department of Justice’s ability to prosecute medical marijuana in states that have legalized. This would overturn years of precedent and could result in the shutdown of lawful state medical programs, depriving patients of the ability to make healthcare decisions with their doctor. This revelation came the day before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before Congress and stated “The question of whether it’s legal under federal law is resolved because Congress has passed a law — it’s illegal. Scientists have found that there’s no accepted medical use for it.”

    Which rolls us right into the second biggest Federal development: the reintroduction of the CARERS Act, which would codify protections for lawful state medical programs. Passage of CARERS 2017 would exempt from federal prosecution those who are engaged in the “production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, laboratory testing, recommending use, or delivery of medical marijuana” in instances where these activities comport with state law.

    At the state level, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed HB 157 into law on June 16. The law adds “moderate to severe chronic pain” as a qualifying illness for medical cannabis. The new law takes effect in 60 days.

    Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget 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,
    Justin

    Priority Alerts

    Federal
    Join The Caucus: With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) earlier this year formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.

    Click here to email your Member of Congress to urge them to join the Congressional Cannabis Caucus

    Protecting Patients: Legislation has been reintroduced in the Senate, The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act of 2017, to strengthen protections for those compliant with their state’s medical marijuana laws and to impose various changes to federal law.

    Passage of CARERS 2017 exempts from federal prosecution those who are engaged in the “production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, laboratory testing, recommending use, or delivery of medical marijuana” in instances where these activities comport with state law. Separate provisions in Act exclude cannabdiol from the federal definition of marijuana, permit VA doctors to authorize medical cannabis access to qualified patients, and remove undue federal barriers to clinical trial research to better assess the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis.

    Click here to send a message to your Senators urging them to support and possible co-sponsor the CARERS Act of 2017

    Maine
    Legislation (LD 764) is before Gov. Paul LePage that will prohibit medical cannabis patients from being denied organ transplants.

    The measure “prohibits a transplant evaluator from determining a qualifying patient to be unsuitable to receive an anatomical gift solely because the qualifying patient uses medical marijuana.”

    ME resident? Click here to send a message to Gov. LePage urging him to sign the bill. 

    Massachusetts
    Members of the House put forward amendments to The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. Among proposed changes to the law would more than double taxes on retail cannabis sales, from 12 percent to as much as 28 percent, strip local control away from municipal voters and unilaterally give local government officials the power to decide whether or not to ban marijuana facilities in their communities, and restrict the kinds of marijuana edibles products that may be sold and purchased by adults.

    MA resident? Send a message to your lawmakers telling them to enact Question 4 as passed in a timely manner. 

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director June 16, 2017

    Marijuana medicineToday, the Office of National Drug Control Policy convened its first meeting of President Trump’s “Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.”

    The Commission is tasked with making recommendations for improving the Federal response to opioid misuse and abuse.

    Best evidence informs us that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Nonetheless, this administration continues to express skepticism with regard to the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana.

    Today in The Hill newspaper, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano writes:

    With opioid overdose deaths having risen four-fold since 1999, it is imperative that lawmakers and public health experts approach this issue with an open mind and remain willing to entertain all potential alternatives.

    For many patients, cannabis provides a safe and effective substitute for the use of opioids and other potentially harmful substances. Committee members should set their political ideologies aside and give strong consideration to this rapidly growing body of scientific evidence.

    You can read the full piece in The Hill by clicking here.

    It is crucial that our government hear from us. Click here to send a message to the Commission urging them to include medical marijuana as part of any national response to the opioid crisis.

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