First off – HUGE CONGRATULATIONS TO KC NORML! If you didn’t already hear, on Tuesday the voters of Kansas City passed Question 5 to decriminalize possession of marijuana by over 70%. You can read more by clicking here.
Another bright spot to follow right now is the City of Atlanta, which is considering decriminalizing marijuana by reducing the fine to just $75 and eliminating the potential for jail time. You can read more about it from PeachTree NORML and support their efforts.
Below 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,
Veterans: Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with five co-sponsors, has reintroduced H.R. 1820, the Veterans Equal Access Act, which expands medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans.
Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of H.R. 1820 lifts this prohibition.
Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. Lawmakers must stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass H.R. 1820.
Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction CAPS (Clinician Administered Posttraumatic Scale) symptom scores following cannabis therapy.
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) have formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.
HB 640, 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.
In addition, new Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said during his campaign he would support decriminalizing marijuana.
New Hampshire is the only New England state that has not either decriminalized or legalized adult marijuana use.
Update: HB 640 has a hearing scheduled for 4/11.
Comprehensive legislation to legalize patients use of and access to medical marijuana has been filed by Representatives Kelly M. Alexander, Jr., Becky Carney, Pricey Harrison, and Rodney Moore. Co-sponsors include Representatives John Autry, John Ager, Mary Belk, Deb Butler, Carla Cunningham, Susan C. Fisher, Edward Hanes, Jr., Yvonne Lewis Holley, Howard J. Hunter, III, Philip Lehman, and Brian Turner.
HB 185, the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act, permits qualified patients to possess up to 24 ounces of cannabis or grow their own personal supply. Separate provisions in the Act license and regulate the dispensing of cannabis from state-licensed facilities.
Update: A Senate version of the bill has been introduced, SB 579, by Senators Senators Joel Ford and Erica Smith-Ingram on April 3 and identical bill, SB 648, by Senators Terry Van Duyn and Valerie Foushee on April 4.
Senate legislation is pending, Senate Bill 2344, to significantly rewrite the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act.
Sixty-four percent of voters approved the law on Election Day. Lawmakers should respect the public’s will and implement this law as initiated.
Unfortunately, SB 2344 makes several unacceptable changes to the Act. Specifically, it eliminates provisions permitting specific patients the option to cultivate their own medicine, and reduces the quantity of medicine that patients may legally obtain. It also caps the number of medical cannabis cultivators and dispensaries to no more than four and eight, respectively.
Update: SB 2344 cleared a House committee on April 3 with additional changes including the removal of the prohibition of herbal cannabis and a reduction of the annual patient application fee from $200 to $50. The bill will now go to a vote in the full House and requires a 2/3rds majority due to the fact that it changes a voter-passed initative. If passed in the House, the two versions of the bill will have to go through reconciliation.
Legislation has been introduced for the 2017 legislative session to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
House Bill 81, filed by Representative Joe Moody and cosponsored by Representative Jason Isaac, seeks to amend state law so that possessing up to one ounce of marijuana is a civil violation, punishable by a fine – no arrest, no jail, and no criminal record. Under current state law, first-time marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
According to the ACLU, Texas arrests over 70,000 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses — the second highest total in the nation, at the cost of over 250 million dollars per year.
Update: HB 81 cleared committee on a 4-2 bipartisan vote April 3 and now goes to the Calendars Committee in hopes of being scheduled for a floor vote. The Chair of the Calendars Committee is Rep. Todd Hunter, who voted for HB 81 when it was before the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this session. We hope that this will have a positive bearing on the rest of the Calendars Committee.
A coalition of Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation, SB 386, which seeks to establish the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act — a state-sponsored program that will permit qualified patients to obtain medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries. A House version of the bill, HB 2677, is also pending.
Update: SB 386 passed the House with an amendment by Delegate John Shott, (R-Mercer) that would prohibit herbal marijuana, ban home grown, and charge $50,000 annual fees for growers and processors. The House and Senate concurred on an amended version of SB 386 on April 6. The measure now goes to the Governor, who indicates that he intends to sign it.
Other Actions to Take
Legislation Pending To Cease Penalizing State-Compliant Marijuana Businesses Under the Federal Tax Code
The Small Business Tax Equity Act (SB 777 and HB 1810) is pending in the House and Senate to amend the federal tax code so that state-licensed, marijuana-related businesses are no longer unduly penalized by federal laws. NORML supports these legislative efforts.
Senate legislation is pending, SB 236, to regulate the social use of cannabis.
The measure allows select businesses to apply for licensing to permit adult marijuana use on their premises. It would also allow event organizers to seek permits to allow adult use at specific events.
Update: SB 236 was a heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee for 4/3.
Legislation is pending, 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.
Update: The House Committee on Human Services held a hearing Tuesday 4/4 on H 170.
National NORML recently asked Cara Bonin, executive director of Houston NORML, a few questions about their involvement with the recent decision by DA Ogg to decriminalize marijuana in Harris County. Her response became an interview worthy of a blog post in itself. Enjoy!NORML: What was Houston NORML’s involvement if any in the decision by DA Og to decriminalize marijuana in Harris County?Cara: Houston NORML has been backing Kim Ogg over the past two district attorney races. Incumbent Devon Anderson was appointed by Governor Rick Perry (R) on September 26, 2013, to succeed her husband, Mike Anderson, who died on August 31, 2013. She naturally became the incumbent in the 2014 race. Kim Ogg immediately made one of her campaign points to discuss marijuana policy reform in Texas. This was such a popular idea that it forced Devon Anderson to then campaign on a similar promise to change the way the county handled misdemeanor marijuana cases. Anderson won the election and implemented a the first chance program which was a very weak version of what Kim Ogg had campaigned on. The program had proven successful and data showed that it was getting results. Despite her loss, Ogg still stayed active in the Houston community, speaking at NORML events and even made it to Austin to testify in favor of decriminalization bills in the Texas house during the 2015 legislative session. Houston NORML supported the Kim Ogg campaign in 2016 and hosted a forum on live television showcasing Ogg’s plan for re-prioritizing marijuana cases in the county. https://www.youtube.
com/watch?v=ap-4ylqY9sMNORML: Has a decrease in marijuana arrests allowed Houston NORML to focus more on local and state legislation and activism and less on support and legal advice to people being arrested and prosecuted for possession?Cara: The program has barely been in place one month. It is a huge relief to know we no longer have to focus on our county. We have the best policy in state thanks to the cooperation of the Harris County sheriff, DA, Houston Police Chief and dozens of other local policing agencies. We are now focusing on getting bills passed in the Texas legislative session.NORML: What are some of the new goals and challenges of Houston NORML post decriminalization? What has changed? What hasn’t?Cara: We are currently funneling all resources on reforming laws at the state level. Since the program has only been in place one month there are not a lot of statistics to share. Many of the surrounding counties have already spoken out in opposition to Ogg’s program. I live in Katy which is a tri-county city. Waller and Ft Bend county officials wanted to make it clear that it is business as usual when it comes to their arresting policies. A spokesman for the Lt Governor’s office claimed that Houston will become a sanctuary city for drug dealers and illegal immigrants. The Montgomery County DA came out in opposition the day before Ogg even announced the details of her program. They proudly show off their ignorance with such arrogance. It is proof that we still have a lot of work to do locally and state wide to change the opinions of policy makers and enforcers. For more detailed information on the Harris County Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program please visit the following site: https://app.dao.hctx.net/ OurOffice/MMDP.aspx. I hope this helps.NORML: Yes it does. Thank you Cara and Houston NORML for a job well done! And a special thanks to Corpus Christi NORML for gaining cooperation with Rep. Todd Hunter R-Corpus Christi to support HB81 who chairs the Calendar Committee!Texans Take Action:
United States Attorney General Jeff “Marijuana Consumers Aren’t Good People” Sessions has issued a formal memorandum calling on members of the Justice Department’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety to “undertake a review of existing policies,” including federal enforcement policies with regard to cannabis.
The memo was sent on April 5 to 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices and Department of Justice component heads.
The Attorney General has requested a report back from task force members by no later than July 27th. You can read the full memo here.
The release of this memorandum provides us with a general time frame during which to expect any formal announcements from the new administration with regard to addressing marijuana policy — specifically whether the Justice Department will respect state legalization laws.
In the interim, members of Congress can remove all of the bite from Jeff Sessions’ bark by approving the bipartisan Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which prevents the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.
Speaking recently before Congress, Attorney General Sessions said that his job is to enforce federal law. Let’s change federal law to ensure that our reform victories remain in place, and so that we can build upon these victories in the future.
But while the Justice Department contemplates its next move, state politicians are taking action. In recent days, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the Obama Administration’s largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo.
“Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”
Political and social change rarely comes from the top on down, it comes from the bottom up. That is why it is imperative for you to not only contact your federal officials in support of changing policy, but also to continue to push for change at the local and state level.
Click HERE to view pending federal and state legislation and easily contact your elected officials in support of them.
Click HERE to find a local NORML chapter in your area and get involved. NORML Kansas City this week successfully placed marijuana decriminalization on their municipal ballot and saw it pass with 71% support. This is the kind of positive change a group of committed volunteer citizens can bring to their communities.
A people united will never be defeated and together we WILL end marijuana prohibition nationwide.
Ballot initiative run by local group passes 71 to 29 to end arrests for possession of marijuana
Kansas City, MO – In a blowout victory for sensible criminal justice policy, the voters of Kansas City, Missouri have decided to approve Question 5 and decriminalize marijuana to direct their law enforcement officers to no longer target citizens for possession of the plant and would replace current criminal penalties with just a civil fine.
The measure will amend local laws regarding the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and older from a criminal misdemeanor, previously punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, to a civil offense punishable by a $25 fine — with no arrest made or criminal record imposed.
“We could not be more excited about the positive impact passing Question 5 will bring to the communities of Kansas City. We fought long and hard for this result and could not have done it without the support of our volunteers,” said Jamie Kacz, Executive Director of KC NORML. “The era of reefer madness in Kansas City has come to an end and no longer will otherwise law abiding citizens be targeted or arrested for the mere possession of marijuana.”
This is yet another victory in the march to end the criminalization of marijuana in the United States.
“The passage of this initiative is not just a victory for the people of Kansas City, but for the democratic process,” said Erik Altieri National NORML’s Executive Director, “When concerned citizens stand up, stand together, and fight back against unjust laws, we will win. The overwhelming majority of Americans want to end our nation’s war on marijuana consumers and politicians across the country should take heed of the message voters sent in Missouri: if you don’t reform our marijuana laws through the legislature, we the people will do it for you.”
Nationally, more than 600,000 people a year are arrested for simple marijuana possession alone. These arrests are disproportionately targeted, the ACLU found that the racial disparity in marijuana charges were levied against people over color, by nearly 4 to 1.
“Kansas City now joins the ranks of dozens of cities and states throughout the country that have ended the practice of arresting marijuana consumers,” said Kevin Mahmalji, outreach coordinator for NORML. “We at NORML are incredibly proud of the efforts of Jamie Kacz and her team at KC NORML and thank the voters of Kansas City for bringing a new era of sanity their law enforcement priorities and the overarching movement to end the prohibition of marijuana.”
Kansas City now joins a growing list of cities around the country that have adopted a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level. Houston, Memphis, Nashville, Tampa, Orlando, Milwaukee, Monona, Toledo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and several others have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.
On Saturday, April 15th, during what many now refer to as “420 weekend,” Denver NORML is hosting a free educational event that will focus on the many aspects of home cultivation. The event will consist of two parts: a panel discussion with an exciting line up of speakers that will highlight safe and sustainable cultivation practices, and an expo where attendees can visit with representatives from various companies ranging from genetics and nutrients to soil and lighting.
As home cultivation laws in Colorado continue to evolve, we need education more than ever. Therefore, Denver NORML has partnered with some of the best names in the cultivation community. We have scheduled speakers covering the following areas of interest: energy consumption and savings, cultivation, pest control, lighting, genetics, plumbing, electricity and HVAC, home security, waste removal, curing and storage, and compliance. We will also provide an opportunity for medical marijuana patients to learn how to make their own RSO.
Our goal is to create a dialogue and provide as much education as possible. People continue to move to Colorado every single day, simply for the opportunity to legally grow their own marijuana. People arrive with little knowledge, but they’re excited grow so they typically buy a light, put it in a small closet or tent, and then immediately run into issues with ventilation, temperature and pests. The problem that we at Denver NORML kept seeing was the lack of education for those that wish to safely grow in the privacy of their homes.
At the Grow Safety Symposium we plan to educate attendees on how to safely and sustainably grow from beginning to end!