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  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate June 29, 2018

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

    The US Senate has been busy this week talking about marijuana policy. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Senators Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), just introduced legislation called the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

    The full Senate voted to legalize hemp as part of the Farm Bill by a 86-11 vote. The Senate also earlier this week approved a funding bill that contains a provision allowing Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical cannabis to military veterans.

    At the state level, Oklahoma became the 31st state to legalize medical marijuana, after voters decided to enact State Question 788, that permits doctors to use their discretion to recommend medical cannabis to any patients who will benefit from it. But Gov. Mary Fallin (R) issued a statement shortly after the result was called indicating that she plans to work with lawmakers to scale back the measure.

    A majority of the Delaware House of Representatives voted to approve a marijuana legalization bill, but it did not get the 60% supermajority support needed to advance the bill to the Senate, killing it for the year.

    Massachusetts regulators approved an equity plan to ensure participation in the marijuana industry by communities that have been targeted by the war on drugs. They also voted to prioritize consideration of cannabis testing lab license applications.

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) said he will veto a bill to allow medical cannabis to treat opioid addiction, substance use and withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed a bill approving a medical cannabis research program.

    At a more local level, Sacramento County, California’s district attorney has been moving to dismiss old marijuana convictions, Jacksonville, Arkansas police will no longer arrest people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and Las Vegas, Nevada officials are considering allowing marijuana consumption lounges.

    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

    End Cannabis Criminalization: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

    Click here to e-mail your senators and urge them to support this important legislation

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

    Senate Bill 20-62 seeks to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

    If passed, the bill would legalize the personal use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for adults age 21 or older, and establish a licensing scheme for its commercial production and retail sale. The tax revenue would be used to fund the implementation of the program and other government services.

    Update: The Board of Education wants SB 20-62 amended to ban cannabis on campuses and from public school system buildings and to exempt the agency from discriminating against employees who consume marijuana.

    CNMI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization and regulation

    New York

    A. 9016 and S. 7564 seek to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    Update: The Republican Caucus pushed A. 9016/S. 7564 off the table and merged it with A. 11011b / S. 8987a which passed both chambers of the legislature on 6/20. The bills now await action from Governor Cuomo.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of cannabis as an alternative to opioids

    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.

    Update: AB 1793 was heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee on 6/26, and then approved by a 5-1 vote. The bill now awaits action in the Appropriations Committee.

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

    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 Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation by a vote of 8-1, and was re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of helping needy patients

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

    Update: SB 1127 will be heard by the Judiciary Committee on 7/3.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of patient access to medical cannabis in schools

    That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • by NORML

    Vermont Legalizes MarijuanaAdults in Vermont will be able to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis legally under state law, beginning this Sunday, July 1.

    Vermont joins Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington in legalizing the adult possession and use of marijuana. It is the first state to enact legalization via an act of the legislature rather than by the passage of a voter initiative.

    “The majority of Vermonters, like the majority of the American public, desire to live in a community where responsible adults who choose to consume cannabis are no longer criminalized or stigmatized,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Vermont lawmakers and Gov. Scott are to be recognized for responding to the will of the voters, rather than choosing to ignore them.”

    He added: “Vermont is leading by example. Lawmakers in other states would be wise to follow.”

    The new law, which Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed in January, legalizes activities by adults specific to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, and with regard to the private cultivation of six marijuana plants (two mature and up to four immature). Those who cultivate marijuana for their own personal use may possess at home the total quantity of their harvest. The measure also imposes new civil penalties for consuming cannabis while driving, and imposes additional penalties for those who operate a motor vehicle impaired with a minor in the vehicle. (Read a summary of the new law here.)

    “This is a libertarian approach,” Gov. Scott said prior to signing the bill into law. “I know there are diverse opinions … as to whether we should move forward, but I still firmly believe that what you do in your own home should be your business, as long as it doesn’t affect someone else.”

    Over 20 percent of the US population now resides in jurisdictions where adult marijuana use is legal under state law. To date, the enactment of these policies has not been associated with any significant upticks in either crime, adolescent marijuana use, or motor vehicle accidents. Earlier this month, Canada’s Parliament passed legislation legalizing the use, cultivation, and retail sale of marijuana by those age 18 and older. That new law takes effect on October 17, 2018.

    According to nationwide polling data published last week, 68 percent of US voters – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – support legalizing and regulating the use of marijuana by adults. That percentage is the highest level of support ever reported in a nationwide scientific poll.

  • by NORML June 27, 2018

    Senator Chuck Schumer introduces the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with Senators Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine, and Tammy Duckworth, just introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.  

    Passage of descheduling legislation is necessary to resolve the existing and ever-growing state/federal divide over marijuana policy. Thirty-one states regulate medical marijuana use and nine states regulate the plant’s use, production, and sale for all adults.

    Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” and 73% support expunging the records of those previously convicted of marijuana-related offenses. according to national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress.

    Click here to send a message to your Senators and encourage their support for the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act. 

    Commenting on the bill’s introduction, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:

    “The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is comprehensive legislation that would end our nation’s failed 80-year prohibition of marijuana and allow states to implement reforms free from the threat of federal interference.”

    “The importance of this bill’s emphasis on facilitating the expungement the criminal records of individuals for marijuana possession cannot be overstated. Millions of individuals have suffered from the lifelong collateral consequences of criminal prohibition, making it harder for them to find a job, obtain housing, and access higher education.”

    “This bill is a welcomed shift of policy from Democratic party leadership. At a time when 68 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, including outright majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent), it is time for ending federal prohibition to become a truly bipartisan issue.”

    Senator Schumer said upon the bill’s introduction:

    “The time to decriminalize marijuana is now,” said Senator Schumer. “The new Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is about giving states the freedom to be the laboratories that they should be and giving Americans – especially women and minority business owners as well as those convicted of simple possession of marijuana intended for personal use- the opportunity to succeed in today’s economy. This legislation is simply the right thing to do and I am hopeful that the balanced approach it takes can earn bipartisan support in Congress and across the country.”

    Click here to send a message to your Senators and encourage their support for the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act. 

  • by NORML June 26, 2018

    Sooner state is the 31st state to legalize and regulate medical cannabis access

    A majority of Oklahomans today voted to enact State Question 788 a statewide voter-initiated measure that permits doctors to use their discretion to recommend medical cannabis to those patients who will benefit from it. Oklahoma is now the 31st state to legalize and regulate the use of medical cannabis under state law.

    “Public support for medical marijuana access is non-partisan,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Even in a predominantly ‘red’ state like Oklahoma, it is the will of the voters to enact common sense, yet significant marijuana law reforms.”

    He continued, “The ongoing expansion of compassionate medical marijuana in states like Oklahoma places additional pressure upon Congress to take action to end this existing state/federal conflict. It is time for members to move forward with legislation like The States Act or The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would allow states the flexibility and autonomy to regulate cannabis as best they see fit — free from the looming threat of undue federal intervention.”

    State Question 788 permits licensed medical marijuana patients to cultivate up to six mature plants and to possess personal use quantities of marijuana flowers, edibles, or infused concentrates. It also establishes a regulatory framework for the retail production and dispensing of medical cannabis at licensed facilities. The full text of SQ 788 is available online here.

    Oklahoma voters endorsed the plan despite organized opposition from law enforcement, political leaders, and other groups. Opponents of the measure spent an estimated $500,000 in the final week of the campaign on an advertising blitz that falsely claimed that “SQ 788 was not about medical marijuana,” a mischaracterization that was previously determined to be purposely misleading as by the state Supreme Court.

    “It is our hope that Oklahoma politicians will respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact SQ 788 in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law,” NORML’s Armentano said.

    Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, who publicly opposed SQ 788, said that she intends to call lawmakers back for a special session to address the passage of SQ 788. Proposed rules and regulation regarding the implementation of SQ 788, drafted by the Oklahoma Department of Health, appears online here.

    Under existing Oklahoma laws, the possession of any amount of cannabis is classified as a criminal offense — punishable by up to a year in prison. Engaging in cannabis cultivation or sales may be punishable by up to life in prison. According to a study released earlier this month, Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is 1,079 per 100,000 people — the highest rate in the United States.  

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate June 22, 2018

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

    At the federal level, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced a bill to protect state-lawful marijuana users from housing discrimination. And the US Senate Appropriations Committee voted to block an amendment that would have protected banks that work with marijuana businesses from being punished by federal regulators.

    Newly introduced legislation by Senators Warren (D-MA) and Gardner (R-CO), the STATES Act, is expected to face some tough hurdles in Congress, as Republican chairs of key committees in the House and Senate have no plans to schedule the bill for a hearing. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, currently has no intentions of considering the bill in committee, and neither does Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

    At the state level, the Republican Party of Texas approved new platform planks endorsing marijuana decriminalization, expanded medical cannabis access, industrial hemp and federal rescheduling. And New Jersey regulators reduced patient fees, added new qualifying conditions, removed strain limits and made other expansions to the state’s medical cannabis program.

    Next Tuesday, June 26, voters in Oklahoma will have the opportunity to decide in favor of providing much-needed medical marijuana access to patients with State Question 788, which will appear on the June 26 ballot. Under this plan, physicians — not lawmakers — will have the final say on making health care decisions involving the use of medical cannabis.

    At a more local level, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and NYPD officials announced that as of September 1, police will no longer arrest people for smoking marijuana publicly, with some exceptions. Brooklyn’s district attorney spoke in support and announced he will move to expunge past cannabis convictions. Manhattan’s district attorney is also on board. Also, The Bethlehem, Pennsylvania City Council approved a marijuana decriminalization ordinance.

     

    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

    Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced bipartisan legislation, The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales. A bipartisan House companion bill has been introduced by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

    This marks the first bicameral, bipartisan legislation to end the federal enforcement of prohibition in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.

    Click here to e-mail your federal lawmakers and urge them to support this important legislation

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

    Senate Bill 20-62, to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

    If passed, the bill would legalize the personal use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for adults age 21 or older, and establish a licensing scheme for its commercial production and retail sale. The tax revenue would be used to fund the implementation of the program and other government services. The bill was already approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: The House Judiciary & Government Operations Committee reconsidered SB 20-62 on 6/21 after it was supposed to get a full House vote, but was instead referred back to committee. The committee made several revisions to the bill that are expected to clear the path to passage.

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

    New York

    Legislation is pending in both chambers to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    Update: A separate version of similar legislation, S. 8987A, has been approved unanimously by the Senate. The bill awaits action from the Assembly. Also, The New York State Health Department publicly announced on June 18 that the agency would be updating its rules to permit patients to be eligible for medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids, making the bills somewhat moot.

    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 already approved by the Assembly last month.

    Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee on 6/26 at 8:30am in Room 3191.

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

    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: The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions approved SB 829 by a 13-1 vote on 6/19 after holding a hearing. The bill now awaits action from the Committee on Revenue and Taxation, where it will be heard on 6/25.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of tax-exempt compassionate care programs

    Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.

    Update: The Assembly’s Banking Committee approved SB 930 by a 10-0 vote on 6/18. The bill now goes to the Business and Professions Committee, where it will be heard on 6/26 at 9am.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of banking access

    That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

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