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Advocacy

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate August 31, 2018

    Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    This week, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester introduced the Clean Slate Act, HR 6669, along with 22 original cosponsors, to seal the records for marijuana charges one year after the sentence is completed.

    At the state level, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed an industrial hemp bill into law, and he also signed legislation allowing people prescribed opioids to use medical cannabis instead. Similarly, Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) signed legislation to expunge some marijuana convictions, as well as a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program.

    New Jersey lawmakers agreed on key details for a pending marijuana legalization bill that could be voted on next month, with more provisions yet to be determined. Separately, the NJ attorney general released guidance to municipal prosecutors saying that while they may not adopt categorical marijuana decriminalization policies, they may use their discretion about whether or not to pursue individual cannabis cases.

    The Connecticut legislature’s Regulations Review Committee unanimously voted to add intractable headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy and other disorders as medical cannabis qualifying conditions.

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced a series of 15 “listening sessions” on marijuana legalization that will be held across the state. The first one will take place on Wednesday, September 5 in Albany, NY. Find a session near you and register to attend here. Separately, New York City police will implement a relaxed marijuana enforcement policy starting this Saturday.

    A coalition of Oregon activists is preparing a 2019 push to allow marijuana social use areas in the state. They will support a bill in the legislature and will also pursue a ballot measure if lawmakers don’t act.

    At a more local level, Denver, Colorado regulators granted the city’s second marijuana social use area license to a vaping bar and lounge set to open this fall. The City Council also approved a plan to use increased marijuana taxes to fund affordable housing.

    The Louisville, Kentucky Metro Council is considering a proposal to make marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority in Jefferson County. The Dayton, Ohio City Commission voted to place an advisory question on the November ballot asking voters if they support decriminalizing marijuana. The Ashland, Wisconsin City Council approved a resolution calling on state lawmakers to legalize marijuana and medical cannabis. A Racine, Wisconsin City Council committee discussed, but deferred action on, a proposal to order police to issue citations for first-time marijuana offenses instead of applying state charges.

    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.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    In honor of International Overdose Awareness Day today, please join us as NORML chapters around the country take action in highlighting the positive role that marijuana legalization can play in combating America’s opioid crisis.

    Send an email to your members of Congress urging them to acknowledge the role of cannabis in combating the prescription drug overdose epidemic.

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

    House Bill 20-178 would end cannabis prohibition for adults over 21 and create a system of taxed and regulated sales. It would also allow medical marijuana and industrial hemp. The bill was already approved by the House earlier this month.

    Update: On 8/30, HB 20-178 was unanimously passed by the Senate. The bill now awaits action from Governor Ralph Torres (R).

    CNMI resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of legalization

    California

    Assembly Bill 1793 seeks to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence. The bill was approved by the Senate last week.

    Update: AB 1793 awaits action from Governor Brown.

    CA resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of expungement

    Senate Bill 1127 would help students with severe medical disabilities attend school by allowing a parent or guardian to come on school grounds to administer medical cannabis to them in non-smoking and non-vaping forms. The bill was already approved by the Senate earlier this year.

    Update: After failing to gain enough votes for passage in the Assembly on 8/23, a motion to reconsider was granted and on 8/27, SB 1127 was approved by the Assembly with a 42-29 vote. The bill now awaits action from Governor Brown.

    CA resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of allowing students’ medical marijuana at school

    Senate Bill 829 would exempt compassionate care programs from paying state cannabis taxes when they are providing free medical cannabis to financially disadvantaged people living with serious health conditions.

    Update: SB 829 was approved by the full Assembly with a 65-2 vote on 8/29. The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence since it was amended in the Assembly. SB 829 is being heard by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on Friday 8/31, and then will go to the Senate floor for a vote.

    CA resident? Email your senators in support of supporting compassionate care programs

    That’s all for this week!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director

    In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day, NORML chapters around the country are taking action to highlight the positive that marijuana legalization can play in combating America’s opioid crisis. Many NORML leaders are hosting community forums to highlight the growing evidence that regulated marijuana access is positively associated with decrease in opioid overdose fatalities, hospitalizations, dependency and use.

    To amplify these efforts, NORML has created action alerts targeting local, state, and federal opioid task forces and committees — urging them to make marijuana regulation a part of their discussions and strategies.

    Please take just two minutes to use our prewritten letters and send a message to each target.

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy: Contact the ONDCP Commission: Medical Marijuana as an Alternative to Opioids

    Federal lawmakers: Urge your members of Congress to acknowledge the role of cannabis in combating the prescription drug overdose epidemic

    State lawmakers: Urge your state lawmakers to acknowledge the role of cannabis in combating the prescription drug overdose epidemic

    Opioid-involved overdose deaths have increased five-fold since 1999 and were involved in over 40,000 deaths in 2016. Deaths involving benzodiazepines, a family of anti-anxiety drugs, have increased eight-fold during this same time period.

    Several observational studies — such as those here, here, and here — find that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many chronic pain subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

    The available data is consistent and clear. For many patients, cannabis offers a viable alternative to opioids. It is time for lawmakers to stop placing political ideology above the health and safety of the American public, and to acknowledge the safety and efficacy of marijuana as an alternative medical treatment.

    You can review many more published studies on the NORML factsheet Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.

    Help us raise awareness by using our Social Media Tools below:

    Click here to share on Facebook
    Click here to share on Twitter
    Click here to share on Instagram

    Is there an active opioid commission or task force in your community? Email me at KevinM@NORML.org and we’ll create an action alert to engage and educate your elected officials about the role access to marijuana can play in reducing opioid-related deaths, hospitalizations, and total number of opioids prescribed.

     

     

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director August 30, 2018

    This week, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Congressman Rod Blum (R-IA) announced the Clean Slate Act, HR 6669, along with 22 original cosponsors, to seal the records for marijuana charges one year after the sentence is completed.

    The Clean Slate Act is important legislation that would ease the burden felt by those unjustly suffering the collateral consequences resulting from cannabis prohibition.

    Individuals saddled with a marijuana possession conviction are disproportionately either people of color or at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, and it is essential that they are not held back from being able to obtain employment, housing, access to higher education, and all of the other necessities of being an active participant in their community. Having been arrested for mere marijuana possession does not make one a bad person, but rather a victim of a cruel public policy.

    Click here to send a message to your Representative and encourage them to cosponsor the bill. 

    “One of our roles in reforming our criminal justice system is to reduce recidivism and ensure that citizens re-entering society can lead productive lives and contribute to our economy. Yet, too often, sentences place a scarlet letter on those that have served their time – keeping people and their families trapped in a cycle of lifelong poverty.  For millions of Americans, an arrest or minor record can permanently put owning a home, getting an education, or earning a good-paying job just out of reach,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “The Clean Slate Act would ensure that anyone who has paid their debts and earned a second shot has the opportunity to create a better life and future for themselves. This bill will also help employers fill the over 6.7 million unfilled jobs in our country – a win for our economy and society.”

    “Our criminal justice system is in need of reform. Of the 2.3 million estimated people who are incarcerated in the U.S., over 1.4 million are serving sentences for non-violent offenses. Data shows that over 76% of released inmates have found it difficult or near impossible to find work after serving their sentence,” said Congressman Rod Blum. “The issue is cyclical- if we do not remove barriers and create opportunities for these individuals to re-enter society, we are setting them up to fail. Statistically, these individuals are more likely to fall into habitual crime and end up incarcerated once again without jobs and a support system.”

    Click here to send a message to your Representative and encourage them to cosponsor the bill. 

  • by NORML August 29, 2018

    Shadowy ‘Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee’ Seeks To Derail Past, Future Legislative Reforms

    In reporting made public today by Buzzfeed News:

    “The White House has secretly amassed a committee of federal agencies from across the government to combat public support for marijuana and cast state legalization measures in a negative light, while attempting to portray the drug as a national threat.”

    In response to this revelation, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:

    “These are the death rattles of marijuana prohibition. Those who seek to maintain the oppressive policies of cannabis criminalization are grasping at straws in their effort to undo the public policy progresses that have now been enacted in a majority of states, and that are widely supported by voters of both major political parties.”

    “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a lifelong advocate for the failed policies of the ‘Just Say No’ era — which has resulted in the arrests of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens who possessed personal use amounts of marijuana.”

    “If these bureaucrats possessed any sincerity whatsoever, they would be clamoring to support the recently introduced, bipartisan ‘Marijuana Data Collection Act’, which tasks the National Academy of Sciences to compile an unbiased, comprehensive federal report on the effects of various state experiments with medical and retail marijuana regulation.”

    “In an era where 31 states now regulate marijuana sales and where more six out of ten voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective to try to put this genie back in the bottle. It is high time that members of Congress take action to deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and comport federal law with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”

    — Background and Data —

    We maintain and regularly update our factsheets that address the most common myths and arguments against reform: http://norml.org/marijuana/fact-sheets

    The most commonly used ones are:

    Marijuana and the ‘Gateway Theory’, Marijuana and Psychomotor Impairment, Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrests, Marijuana Regulation and Crime Rates, Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids, Marijuana Regulation: Impact on Health, Safety, Economy, and Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.

    Thirty-one states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Moreover, an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in the nine states where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally.

    Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.

    Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.

    To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue.

    Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that over 149,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

  • by NORML August 28, 2018

    Today, Berks County District Attorney John Adams announced findings of an investigation into Gregory Longenecker’s death, which occurred as a result of being run over by a bulldozer, and the circumstances leading up to it.

    The bulldozer was carrying a Pennsylvania state trooper in pursuit of Mr. Longenecker, who was suspected to have been cultivating ten marijuana plants in Penn Township, PA. A police helicopter was also used in the search.

    The DA said, “On August 24, 2018, The Berks County Deputy Coroner issued the final death certificate, ruling the death an accidental death. I recognize the sanctity of life above all values. It is very unfortunate that a life was lost and our condolences go out to the Longenecker family. However, I support the actions of the Pennsylvania state police. Their efforts were reasonable and conducted in a safe manner in this situation.”

    NORML questioned law enforcements’ decision to pursue the suspect in such an extreme manner, especially over such a minor offense. You can read NORML’s original statement here.

    In response to today’s announcement, NORML leaders in Pennsylvania said:

    Patrick Nightingale, Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML said, “We are very disappointed in the findings by the District Attorney’s Office in this matter.  Under no circumstances whatsoever can the actions of law enforcement be justified.  This man and his companion were allegedly growing a handful of plants that posed absolutely no risk to anyone.  There were no ‘exigent circumstances’ requiring aggressive law enforcement tactics to protect the public from dangerous fugitives.  These heavy-handed tactics resulted in the death of a man, who likely would have received probation upon conviction.  This sad tragedy demonstrates the need for legalization because wherever cannabis is criminally prohibited some members of law enforcement will find an excuse to run a man over with construction equipment.”

    Lehigh Valley NORML Executive Director Jeff Reidy said, “Today’s disappointing ruling exemplifies once again that some within the criminal justice system still view marijuana as the enemy, and that the power of the badge can be blinding to others. A man is dead because law enforcement made some unnecessary choices in the heat of the moment, when a frightened man fled. There were other means available to track down this man. They had his friend in custody. And was he really a danger to anybody for growing ten marijuana plants? Until we reform our outdated laws, there will be more Greg Longeneckers being chased by law enforcement, over a handful of harmless plants growing in a field or forest. We can end such senseless acts by legalizing cannabis, and allowing homegrows across our state. No one should die for growing a plant that can do so much good!”

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