Read the letter here: MI Federal Legislator Letter 2017
By: Matthew Abel
Today, on the occasion of President’s Day, and in the spirit of the President’s heralded as “leaders of the free world”, the Michigan Affiliate of NORML participated in a national campaign to contact our members of Congress by mailing them each a letter. This letter is our third in a series of letters in 2017 that has included Vice President Mike Pence and the 109 members of the Michigan House of Representatives. Direct mail is an effective and powerful way to be seen by the Representatives themselves or their Chiefs of Staff and to communicate a message.
First we introduced ourselves and provided information about who we are and what we have done in Michigan. We communicated some concerns and and made some policy suggestions. We specifically asked each of them to support The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, HR 975, and to become members of the newly-formed Cannabis Caucus. We reminded them of the damage caused by prohibition and urge them to change federal law. It is a friendly letter, but very direct and specific.
Sending a letter to 14 out of 435 Representatives may not seem very effective, but when the fourteen members of the Michigan Delegation read our message, and legislators from other states receive and read letters from other NORML state affiliates echoing th e same message, collectively, NORML affiliates will have reached hundreds of Members of Congress with a clear, strong and unified message!
Engaging elected officials is a primary function of NORML and all its affiliates. As the Michigan Affiliate of NORML, we are pleased to participate in this and other NORML nationally-coordinated campaigns that reach out to federal representatives in a collaborative way that reinforces the strength of support for cannabis reforms.
Today we recognize and celebrate the 45 Presidents who have led this great nation. Michigan NORML appreciates what these leaders have done and their significance in history, and it is in that spirit that we ask the fourteen men and women of the Michigan Delegation to take the lead, and help shape the policies that will regulate the emerging cannabis industry.
So here is a first: their is a Federal Cannabis Caucus!
In case you missed it, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis(D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) have formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to promote sensible cannabis policy reform and to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws on Thursday, 2/16.
Our priority call to action at the federal level is for people to contact their Representatives and urge them to join the Caucus – so CLICK HERE to send a message right now!
Nationwide, the number of bills relating to marijuana now tops 1,200, ranging from technical tweaks to codes to a Rep in Washington actually trying to reinstate prohibition! (You’ll see that below, if you are a WA resident, we give you the option of sending him a message directly to voice your opposition to his ludicrous effort)
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,
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.
Additionally, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, has reintroduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent 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.
HR 975 states, ‘‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.’’
Legislation is pending in the Senate, SB 105, to reduce minor marijuana possession offenses.
The bill reduces penalties for the possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana from a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine to no more than a $300 fine.
Senate Bill 177 amends state law so that qualified patients may not be denied organ transplants. It also expands the pool of qualifying conditions for which a physician may legally recommend cannabis therapy, to include indications such as arthritis, neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress. It also extends the validity of a physicians’ recommendation beyond one year, and fast-tracks the patient registration process, among other important changes.
Update: SB 177 has passed the Senate by a vote of 29-11 and now is in the House for consideration.
Legislation (A. 2142 and S. 3809) is before the Assembly and Senate to seal the records of those who have previously been convicted of the possession of marijuana in public view.
New York has historically had the highest marijuana-related arrest rate in the nation largely because of questionable arrests made under the ‘public view’ exception. These arrests primarily target African Americans and Hispanics, and have been roundly criticized by leading politicians and civil rights advocates.
Update: A. 2142 has passed the state Assembly by a vote of 95 to 38. The Senate has yet to take action on its companion bill, S. 3809.
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: Members of the Senate Human Services Committee have recommended passage of Senate Bill 2344. In response to voters’ concerns, they have amended the language so that the definition of ‘usable marijuana’ includes herbal forms of the plant. However, there are still many other provisions that NORML finds troubling and that undermine voters’ intent. The North Dakota Democratic Party has also raised various concerns regarding SB 2344
Legislation is pending before the Senate, SB 301, to prohibit employers from discriminating against adults who legally consume marijuana during non-work hours.
Senate Bill 301 states, “It is an unlawful employment practice for any employer to require, as a condition of employment, that any employee or prospective employee refrain from using a substance that is lawful to use under the laws of this state during nonworking hours.”
Passage of this act would not prohibit employers from sanctioning employees who are under the influence at work.
Update: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are scheduled to debate SB 301 on Tuesday, February 21.
A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers has reintroduced marijuana legalization legislation in the House, H. 5555: The Adult Use of Cannabis Act
The bill will allow adults 21 and older to possess cannabis and will establish a framework for businesses to cultivate and distribute marijuana. While the language is similar to that of previous bills that have failed to come to a vote, lawmakers this year believe that Rhode Island is ready to catch up to its northeast neighbors.
Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 212 and House Bill 3521, to establish a program to provide qualified patients with legal access to medical marijuana products.
Under this program, patients would be permitted to obtain up to two ounces of cannabis and/or cannabis-infused products, such as extracts or edibles, from a state-licensed dispensing facility.
Update: Testimony was taken on S. 212 before the Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee on February 16. Among those testifying in favor of the bill included former US Attorney for the District of South Carolina Bill Nettles. Members of the subcommittee have yet to vote on the bill.
Additionally, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMasters says he opposes legalizing marijuana, calling it a “bad idea.”
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, are sponsoring the legislature’s most concerted effort to legalize medical use of marijuana.
Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine.
Washington state Representative Sherry Appleton has introduced legislation that is currently in committee, HB 1092: The Adult Home Grow & Criminal Reduction Bill, to allow adults the option to legally cultivate personal use amounts of marijuana in a private residence.
Update: Members of the House Committee on Commerce and Gamine have passed a substitute version of HB 1212 to permit the cultivation of up to six plants and/or 24 ounces of usable marijuana harvested from those plants. The bill is now before the House Committee on Rules and the House Committee on Finance.
Additional Actions To Take
Legislation is pending before lawmakers, SB 155, to establish regulations governing a comprehensive medical marijuana program.
SB 155 would permit qualified patients to grow their own medical marijuana or to obtain it from a licensed dispensary, while also educating physicians who seek to recommend cannabis therapy.
Update: SB 155 has a hearing scheduled for 10:30am on Monday, February 20.
HB 1185 and SB 928 are pending in the Maryland House and Senate. These measures seek to legalize and regulate the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for adults over the age of 21.
Under these proposals, adults would be permitted to possess and grow limited quantities of cannabis. The measures would also regulate and license a commercial and retail marijuana market.
Update: Committee members in the Senate will hear testimony on March 2nd at 1pm. Committee members in the House will hear testimony on March 7th at 1pm.
Additionally, Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 974, that prohibits individuals from operating a motor vehicle if they have any “detectable level” of THC or its inert metabolite THC-COOH present in their blood. Members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will hear testimony on this bill on March 2nd at 1pm.
HF 927, to permit the adult use, cultivation, production, and retail sale of marijuana has been introduced in the Minnesota legislature.
Deputy Minority Leader, State Rep. Jon Applebaum has announced his intent to sponsor the measure in a press release. The bill would allow those age 21 or older to legally possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use and establish regulations governing its commercial production and retail sale.
More than a dozen lawmakers are backing legislation, Senate Bill 129, to eradicate the state’s marijuana possession by ingestion law.
Under the law, one can be charged with a felony drug offense if their past use of a marijuana shows up on a blood or urine test. In the case of cannabis, byproducts of THC may be detectable for several weeks after one has ceased using it.
Update: Members of the Senate Judiciary will hear testimony on SB 129 on Tuesday, February 21.
Senator David Marsden has introduced a bill to re-approve a previously passed act that will regulate the instate production of cannabis oil for the treatment of intractable epilepsy.
SB 1027 ensures that patients suffering from the debilitating condition will not have to break federal law to import cannabis oil from out of state.
Update: SB1027 has been passed unanimously by both the House (99-0) and Senate (38-0) and now heads to the Governor to be signed into law or vetoed. WSLS reports “It’s unclear if the governor will sign the bill into law.”
Legislation is pending, House Bill 2096, that seeks to repeal “all laws legalizing the use, possession, sale, or production of marijuana and marijuana-related products.”
While we do not anticipate this measure gaining traction, please let your lawmakers — and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brad Klippert — know that you oppose this effort.
Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) introduced a pair of bills seeking to provide qualified patients with legal access to medical cannabis. The first bill establishes a statewide medical marijuana program, while the second bill would poll voters’ attitudes on the issue in the form of a nonbinding statewide referendum.
As passed by the House by a 56 to 2 vote, HB 197 reduces existing marijuana possession penalties from up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine to no more than 20 days in jail and a $200 fine for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders would face stricter penalties under the proposal.
But proposed changes by the Senate would eliminate these penalty reductions.
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 promote sensible cannabis policy reform and to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.
The official establishment of a Congressional Cannabis Caucus represents yet another step forward toward ultimately reforming cannabis policy at the federal level. The creation of this caucus is yet another manifestation that our political power is growing — even inside the beltway.
NORML has been in this fight for over 47 years, representing the position that responsible adults who choose to consume marijuana should not be be persecuted or stigmatized. Throughout the country, our chapters are organizing to advocate for state level reforms. NORML represents a growing community of individuals who are coming together and working toward the mutual goals of building a more just and verdant society.
The end of marijuana prohibition will not come overnight. In fact, the forces of prohibition remain strong and the misinformation campaign that has spanned from Reefer Madness to D.A.R.E. is deeply entrenched in the psyches of lawmakers and voters alike. But just as we have for decades, we will not be deterred.
In order for our state and federal laws to be more reflective of the cold truths of reality and science rather than hysteria and racism, we must continue to educate our legislators and neighbors alike. Having a coalition of lawmakers in Washington, DC who will go on the record in support of advocating for cannabis freedom is something we haven’t had before, but it is an event that is long overdue.
So let’s keep building.
The fact that 190 million Americans now live in states where marijuana has been legalized to some degree is raising a number of questions and issues about how to integrate the American workforce and marijuana consumers rights in regards to drug testing. With medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and recreational marijuana for adult use in 8 states and Washington DC, millions of responsible and otherwise law-abiding adults remain at risk of being excluded from the workforce due to a positive drug test — even where the use does not affect an individual’s job performance or has taken place days or weeks prior to the test.
NORML believes that this practice is discriminatory and defies common sense. As a result, a growing coalition of NORML Chapters in California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington have come together to advocate for necessary legislative and workplace reforms to protect responsible marijuana consumers.
NORML’s Workplace Drug Testing Coalition’s efforts will focus on these four areas:
- Reform workplace drug testing policies
- Expand employment opportunities for marijuana consumers
- Clarify the difference between detection technology and performance testing
- Highlight off-duty state law legal protections for employees
“Even though marijuana is legal and readily available in several states, consumers are being unfairly forced to choose between their job and consuming off the clock as a result of out-of-date employment practices,” said Kevin Mahmalji, National Outreach Coordinator for NORML. “That is why many NORML chapters active in legal states are now shifting their attention to protecting honest, hardworking marijuana consumers from these sort of antiquated, discriminatory workplace drug-testing practices, in particular the use of random suspicionless urine testing.”
Employer testing of applicants or employees for trace metabolites (inert waste-products) of past use of a legal substance makes no sense in the 21st century. This activity is particularly discriminatory in the case of marijuana where such metabolites may be detectable for weeks or even months after the consumer has ceased use.
With the 2017 Legislative Session underway, this issue is finally getting the attention it deserves. Legislation has already been introduced in Oregon and Washington, and is gaining traction in those states.
“Random suspicionless drug testing of applicants or employees for past marijuana use is not just unfair and discriminatory, it’s bad for business,” said attorney Judd Golden of Boulder, Colorado, a long-time NORML activist and Coalition spokesperson. The modern workforce includes countless qualified people like Brandon Coats of Colorado, a paraplegic medical marijuana patient who never was impaired on the job and had an unblemished work record. Brandon was fired from a Fortune 500 company after a random drug test, and lost his case in the Colorado Supreme Court in 2015. The Court unfortunately found Colorado’s lawful off-duty activities law that protects employees for legal activities on their own time didn’t apply to marijuana use.
California NORML is also expecting legislation to be introduced this session to address this issue. Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML said, “One of the most frequently asked questions we have been getting since Prop. 64 passed legalizing adult marijuana use in California last November is, ‘Am I now protected against drug testing on my job?’ Sadly in our state, not even medical marijuana patients are protected against job discrimination, and it’s a priority of Cal NORML to change that. We are hoping to get a bill introduced at the state level and are working with legislators, unions, and other reform groups to make that happen.”
NORML Chapters across the country are advocating on behalf of the rights of responsible marijuana consumers against discrimination in the workplace. “Our coalition was formed with the intention of not only educating legislators, but also with businesses in mind. It is important they know testing for marijuana is not mandatory, and that employers have testing options,” said Jordan Person, executive director for Denver NORML. The Denver chapter is currently working with companies that offer performance impairment testing of workers suspected of on-the-job impairment or use rather than unreliable bodily fluid testing to help provide options for employers.
For decades drug testing companies and others have pushed their agenda through a campaign of misinformation. Until now there has never been an organized effort to challenge the profit- driven ideology of those who seek to benefit from intrusive drug screening. Mounting evidence continues to prove there is no logical reason why adult marijuana consumers should be treated with any less respect, restricted more severely, and denied the same privileges we extend to responsible adults who enjoy a casual cocktail after a long day at the office.
For legal questions, please contact Coalition spokesperson Judd Golden at firstname.lastname@example.org. For other marijuana related questions or an interview, please contact Kevin Mahmalji at email@example.com.
The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of NORML ISU right to use a marijuana leaf and the logo of the school on their promotional items.
Here is the background as written in the Washington Post by Eugene Volokh:
NORML ISU at first got permission from the Trademark Office to use a T-shirt “that had ‘NORML ISU’ on the front with the ‘O’ represented by Cy the Cardinal,” with “Freedom is NORML at ISU” and a cannabis leaf depicted on the back. But after a Des Moines Register article mentioned the T-shirt, a state legislator and someone at the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy heard about this and objected, and the University barred NORML ISU from printing further T-shirts with the design. After that, the University’s Trademark Guidelines were changed to ban “designs that suggest promotion of the below listed items … dangerous, illegal or unhealthy products, actions or behaviors; … [or] drugs and drug paraphernalia that are illegal or unhealthful.”
The court disagreed.
“NORML ISU’s use of the cannabis leaf does not violate ISU’s trademark policies because the organization advocates for reform to marijuana laws, not the illegal use of marijuana,”
The circuit court decided that students’ “attempts to obtain approval to use ISU’s trademarks on NORML ISU’s merchandise amounted to constitutionally protected speech.”
Basically, ISU violated the students’ first amendment rights and discriminated against them on the basis of their viewpoint.
The suit was overseen by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, FIRE’s director of litigation, released a statement saying “We are so pleased to see Paul and Erin’s victory unanimously affirmed by the Eighth Circuit today. Paul and Erin had the courage to stand up for their First Amendment rights, and thousands of students in seven states will now benefit from their commitment.”
This can only come as a reminder to us to stand up and fight back against those looking to suppress advocates for marijuana legalization (and fashionable people everywhere). We as a constituency have the unalienable right of freedom of speech, so make your voice heard and get involved with a NORML chapter near you.