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  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate March 23, 2018

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

    I first want to bring your attention to a key development at the federal level. As a part of the newly proposed appropriations package known as an omnibus bill, a spending restriction upon the Department of Justice from prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana programs will remain in place through the end of September. Known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, it explicitly states that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    At the state level, lawmakers in Colorado have formed the first-ever statewide Cannabis Caucus to address issues such as social consumption, product testing, and the use of medical cannabis on public campuses. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R) signed a bill legalizing CBD sales into law. And Ohio regulators started accepting applications from physicians who want to be certified to recommend medical cannabis. Sales are expected to begin this fall.

    Also at the state level, legalization bills died in committees in Connecticut and New Hampshire, as did a Maryland bill to let the voters decide on legalization.

    At a more local level, voters in Cook County, Illinois — the nation’s second-most-populous county — overwhelmingly approved a marijuana legalization ballot measure. And Denver, Colorado is spending $1.2 million in marijuana tax revenue to repave roads.

    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 Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

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

    Maryland

    SB 127 would expand the state’s decriminalization law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is classified as a civil rather than a criminal offense. Under current law, the possession of more than ten grams of marijuana is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

    Update: SB 127 was approved by the Senate on 3/19 by a 36-11 vote. Amendments approved by the Senate includes a provision “prohibiting a driver of a motor vehicle from smoking or consuming marijuana in the passenger area of a motor vehicle on a highway; prohibiting an occupant of a motor vehicle from smoking marijuana in the passenger area of the motor vehicle on a highway.”

    SB 127 will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on 4/3 at 1pm.

    MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of an expanded decriminalization law

    Tennessee

    Medical Marijuana
    Senator Sara Kyle (D) and Representative Larry Miller have introduced legislation SB 2320 and HB 2391 seeking to place a ballot initiative before voters with regard to the legalization of medical marijuana.

    If passed, these bills would place the following advisory question on the November 2018 ballot: Should the Tennessee legislature approve the use of medical marijuana?

    Update: SB 2320 was put on the calendar for The Senate State & Local Government Committee for 3/27/18, and HB 2391 was put on the Local Government subcommittee calendar for 3/28/18.

    TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of letting the voters decide

    Medical Marijuana Extracts
    State Representative Jeremy Faison (R) and State Senator Steve Dickerson (R) have introduced legislation, SB 1710 and HB 1749 to permit qualified patients to possess marijuana-infused oil products, as well as other non-herbal forms of cannabis, from state-licensed dispensaries. Both patients and physicians would be required to participate in a state registry.

    Update: HB 1749 is on the Criminal Justice Committee’s calendar for 3/28. The committee has amended the bill significantly to require patients seeking to use medical cannabis to obtain a prescription from a doctor. Because marijuana is categorized as a schedule I controlled substance, it remains unlikely that many physicians would ‘prescribe’ it, even if this legislation was signed into law. Therefore, the proposal’s language ought to be amended to read ‘recommend’ rather than prescribe.

    TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of amending this bill

    Arizona

    Legislation is pending, HB 2064, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence. It already passed the House earlier this month.

    The bill was originally intended only to ban dispensaries from selling edibles in packaging that could be appealing to children, but an amendment to the bill would also add opioid use disorder to the list of medical conditions that can legally be treated with medical marijuana.

    Update: HB 2064 was approved by the Senate Commerce and Public Safety Committee on 3/13, and now awaits action from the Rules Committee.

    AZ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of adding opioid abuse to the qualifying conditions list

    Kansas

    Legislation is pending, SB 282, to allow for the possession and retail sale of cannabidiol (CBD) products containing zero percent THC. It was already approved by the Senate unanimously last month.

    While such products are often used in other states for therapeutic purposes, under this proposed legislation, Kansas citizens would not need to be a part of a patient registry or be diagnosed with a certain qualifying condition in order to legally possess or purchase CBD products.

    Update: SB 282 was approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee on 3/16.

    KS resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of CBD access

    New Hampshire

    Legislation is pending, HB 1477, to permit those convicted of past marijuana convictions to seek expungement. It was already approved by the House last month.

    If passed, HB 1477 would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting that the court annul any past marijuana violations involving the possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana.

    Update: HB 1477 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/27 at 9:45am in SH room 100.

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

    Alaska

    Senator Tom Begich has introduced legislation, SB 184, to seal the convictions of past marijuana possession offenders.

    Senate Bill 184 prohibits the release of past records for any marijuana offense that is no longer defined as a crime under state law. The bill’s intent is to reduce barriers to employment for people who have been convicted of low-level marijuana possession crimes that would be legal under today’s laws, and to make it more likely that people convicted of only low-level crimes will become contributing members of society.

    Update: SB 184 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/28 at 1:30 pm in BELTZ 105 (TS Bldg).

    AK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of sealing past convictions

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    Arizona

    Republican State Senator Sonny Borrelli has introduced Senate Bill 1420, which seeks to enhance quality testing practices for medical marijuana products. If passed, this bill would improve product testing procedures and requirements, leading to an increase in product quality for patients. After passing the Senate last month, it was heard and passed by the House Military, Veterans and Regulatory Affairs Committee last week.

    Update: SB 1420 was heard and then approved by the House Appropriations Committee on 3/21.

    AZ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of better testing practices

    Kansas

    Legislation is pending, SB 263, to establish a state-licensed industrial hemp research program. It was already passed by the Senate last month, and heard by the House Committee on Agriculture last week.

    Update: SB 263 was approved by the House Committee on Agriculture on 3/20. A vote by the full House is expected in the upcoming weeks.

    KS resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of industrial hemp research

    Oklahoma

    Democratic Representative Mickey Dollens has introduced HB 2913: The Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program. If passed, this bill would allow universities to cultivate hemp for research and development purposes.

    Update: HB 2913 passed the House by a 92-0 vote on earlier this month, and now awaits action in the Senate Appropriations committee.

    OK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of an industrial hemp pilot program

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

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director March 21, 2018

    Marijuana medicineUpdate: The omnibus passed the House of Representatives on Thursday.

    Update #2: The omnibus passed the Senate and was signed into law on Friday, 3/23/18.

    As part of the newly proposed appropriations package known as an omnibus bill, a spending restriction upon the Department of Justice from prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana programs will remain in place through the end of September.

    Known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, it explicitly states that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    The amendment has been in place since 2014, as part of annual spending bills. Because the provision was initially approved as a budgetary amendment, it must be explicitly re-authorized by Congress as part of either a continuing resolution or a new fiscal year appropriations bill in order to maintain in effect.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants nothing more than to see these protections go away. In a letter he sent to Congressional leadership last year, he wrote: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

    In the past month, NORML has worked with Representatives Rohrabacher and Blumenauer in recruiting 60 additional members of Congress to co-sign a letter of their own to Congressional leadership, which states, “We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws. We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people.”

    Last year, the language was initially included as part of a Senate appropriations bill thanks to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) yet was absent from the House’s funding proposal because House Rules Committee Chair Peter Sessions (R-TX) refused to allow House members to vote on it. As a result, it was left to House and Senate leadership to ultimately decide on the amendment’s fate when the two chambers’ appropriations bills were reconciled.

    In the past two days as the negotiations reached their peak, over 10,000 members of NORML contacted their federal officials to urge them to maintain these protections.

    Additional language was stripped from the Senate version of the bill, known as the Veterans Equal Access amendment. Originally passed last year in the Senate appropriations committee by a vote of 24-7, Republican Congressional leadership thought it prudent to deny American military veterans the ability to participate in state-lawful medical marijuana programs through their VA doctors.

    Rep. Earl Blumenauer, namesake on the amendment and the co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus said “While I’m glad that our medical marijuana protections are included, there is nothing to celebrate since Congress only maintained the status quo. These protections have been law since 2014. This matter should be settled once and for all. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans, across every party, strongly favor the right to use medical marijuana.”

    He continued, “Instead, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doubling down on the failed War on Drugs and Republican leadership in Congress—led by Chairman Pete Sessions—is stonewalling. They’re ignoring the will of the American people by blocking protections for state adult-use laws and cannabis banking. They even refused our veterans access to lifesaving medicine.

    The fate of this spending bill has yet to be made clear but is deemed a “must pass” piece of legislation as the federal government is set to shut down on March 23rd at midnight if action is not taken.

    We will keep you posted as this story develops.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director March 20, 2018

    One development in our federal government that got a bit lost in the flurry of other headlines this week is that House and Senate leaders are putting the last minute touches on an omnibus appropriations package that would fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year.

    Something that many in the marijuana policy space have grown to take for granted is the continuation of a rider that was part of last year’s package known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which strips away funding from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the rest of the Department of Justice to prosecute state-lawful medical marijuana programs.

    Tell your federal officials to maintain this common sense protection for the 30 state medical marijuana programs and the 2,000,000 plus registered patients nationwide.

    AG Sessions wants nothing more than to see these protections go away. In a letter he sent to Congressional leadership last year, he wrote: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

    In the past month, NORML has worked with Representatives Rohrabacher and Blumenauer in recruiting 60 additional members of Congress to cosign a letter of their own to Congressional leadership, which states, “We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws. We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people.”

    Given the immense dysfunction in Washington, it is absolutely crucial that Congress not give AG Sessions another inch in his powers to roll back our progress. Further, with ballot initiatives expected in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah later this year, we cannot give our opponents another reason to sow doubt. Send a message now to maintain these protections this week in order to ensure that we’re well positioned to win further victories in the days and weeks to come.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate March 16, 2018

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

    I first want to highlight some key developments happening at the state level.

    During a budget address on Tuesday 3/13, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy reiterated his commitment to legalize marijuana in the Garden State this year. A budget overview document indicated that his Administration plans to legalize adult-use marijuana by January 1, 2019. Also, efforts in Wyoming to set felony penalties for edible and drinkable cannabis products failed.

    Several marijuana related legislation died this week after failing to be voted on before crossover deadlines, including legalization bills in Kentucky and Missouri. The Indiana state legislature failed to agree on amendments to a hemp pilot program bill before the end of the legislative session; the bill will go to an interim study commission this summer. And an Arizona bill to enhance quality testing practices was defeated in the House Appropriations Committee.

    At the local level, advocates in Los Angeles, California are holding events to help people with prior marijuana convictions get their records expunged.

    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 Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

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

    Connecticut

    House Bill 5458 is pending to regulate and tax the retail sale of marijuana to adults. The tax revenue raised by commercial retail sales would be used to fund substance abuse treatment, prevention, education and awareness programs.

    Update: The General Law Committee held a public hearing on HB 5458 on Thursday 3/15. The committee will vote on the bill by Tuesday.

    CT resident? Click here to email your elected officials in favor of legalization, regulation, and taxation

    Maryland

    Legalization
    House Bill 1264 would put an amendment to the Maryland Constitution on the ballot to be decided by voters to ensure that citizens have the right to possess, smoke, and cultivate marijuana.

    Update: The House Judiciary committee held a hearing on HB 1264 on Tuesday 3/13 (I was there to testify!).

    MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of letting the voters decide

    Decriminalization
    Legislation is pending, SB 127, to expand the state’s marijuana decriminalization law.

    If passed, SB 127 would amend penalties so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is classified as a civil rather than a criminal offense. Under current law, the possession of more than ten grams of marijuana is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

    Update: SB 127 was approved by the Judicial Proceedings Committee on 3/15.

    MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expanding the decriminalization law

    Louisiana

    Legislation is pending in the House, House Bill 611, to decriminalize offenses involving the possession of marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia.

    The measure amends criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis to a civil violation punishable by a fine only — no arrest and no criminal record. Possessing paraphernalia items would be treated similarly.

    Update: Another, more favorable proposal was introduced on 3/12, HB 274, which seeks to entirely decriminalize the possession and distribution of marijuana, contingent on the creation of a sales tax system that would regulate the retail sale of marijuana.

    LA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of complete decriminalization

    Washington, DC

    Legislation is pending, B22-446, to expand patients’ access to medical marijuana under District law.

    This measure seeks to increase access among qualified patients by: establishing same-day registration, permitting home delivery, establishing safe-treatment facilities, establishing reciprocity with other jurisdictions, allowing existing dispensaries to expand their operations, and capping taxes, among other changes. These changes will assure that District patients — as well as those visiting from other jurisdictions that have similar programs in place — will have safe, consistent and reliable access to affordable medicine.

    DC resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of improved medical marijuana access

    New Jersey

    New Jersey lawmakers are set to consider legalizing marijuana this legislative session. Sen. Scutari, as expected, re-introduced his marijuana legalization bill from last session for 2018, S830 and companion bill A1348. Both were referred to committee.

    Update: Another proposal to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis was introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, A3581.

    NJ resident? Click here to email your elected officials and tell them that it’s time to legalize marijuana

    Tennessee

    SB 1710 and HB 1749 permit qualified patients to possess marijuana-infused oil products, as well as other non-herbal forms of cannabis, from state-licensed dispensaries. Both patients and physicians would be required to participate in a state registry.

    Update: HB 1749 was originally on the Criminal Justice Committee’s calendar for 3/14, but got deferred until 3/21. SB 1710 is awaiting action in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of access to medical marijuana extracts

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    Missouri

    Legislation is pending, SB 547 and HB 2034, seeking to modify provisions relating to industrial hemp.

    If passed, the bills would allow the Department of Agriculture to issue a registration or permit to growers and handlers of agricultural and industrial hemp. It would also create an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture to study the growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp.

    Update: SB 547 passed the Senate on 3/15 by a 29-3 vote, and now awaits action in the House. HB 2034 passed the House last month, and is currently pending in the Senate Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources Committee.

    MO resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of an industrial hemp pilot program

    Indiana

    Senate Bill 52 seeks to legalize the possession, use, manufacture, and retail sale of cannabidiol products, as well as to provide protections so that employers may not discriminate against anyone using CBD in compliance with the law.

    Update: After a conference committee was appointed due to failure of both houses to agree on amendments, the conference committee report was approved by both the Senate (36-11 vote) and House (97-0 vote) on 3/14, and now awaits action from the Governor. Gov. Eric Holcomb has indicated that he will sign the bill.

    IN resident? Click here to email your Governor and urge him to sign this bill into law

    Alaska

    Senate Bill 184 prohibits the release of past records for any marijuana offense that is no longer defined as a crime under state law. The bill’s intent is to reduce barriers to employment for people who have been convicted of low-level marijuana possession crimes that would be legal under today’s laws, and to make it more likely that people convicted of only low-level crimes will become contributing members of society.

    Update: SB 184 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, March 21, at 1:30 pm in BELTZ 105 (TS Bldg)

    AK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of sealing past marijuana convictions

    California

    Legislation is pending, AB 3157, to temporarily reduce tax rates imposed on the retail sale and cultivation of cannabis.

    State and local taxes currently imposed upon retail cannabis sales can total in upwards of 40 percent. This excessive taxation places an undue financial burden, particularly on patients, many of whom are now unable to consistently afford their medicine.

    Further, these tax rates make it exceedingly difficult for retail providers to compete with those in the underground market. One of the primary goals of Proposition 64 was to bring the black market above ground and to make this market transparent. In order to do so, it is necessary to reduce existing tax rates. Otherwise, compliant businesses are at a significant disadvantage due to their inability to compete with illicit actors who do not pay similar taxes.

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

    Oklahoma

    Senate Bill 1120 seeks to preemptively challenge provisions in State Question 788.

    Voters will decide on June 26 in favor of State Question 788, which permits physicians to recommend medical cannabis therapy to qualified patients at their discretion. Under this plan, patients would be authorized to possess up to eights ounces of herbal cannabis in private and grow up to six mature plants.

    NORML endorses State Question 788 and opposes SB 1120.

    Update: Senate Bill 1120 was brought back for reconsideration after it failed to secure the necessary number of votes on the Senate floor on 3/12, and Senator Yen held it on a procedural motion to reconsider. SB 1120 then passed by the Senate on 3/15 by a 26 to 11 vote and awaits action from the House.

    OK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in OPPOSITION to this effort

    Check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

     

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate March 15, 2018

    I’m Carly, and I’ve been a Political Associate with NORML in Washington, DC for about 7 months now. I recently testified (for my first time ever!) before the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee in favor of House Bill 1264 – a constitutional amendment that would put a question on this November’s ballot to let the voters decide on the issue of marijuana legalization and retail sales.

    When I first found out I was going to testify, I was excited. I knew this was a unique opportunity that not everyone would have in their lives, and a chance to make my own voice heard before a committee of legislators in a state I felt a deep connection to – being a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, I spent some of the best years of my life living in College Park, MD.

    What was I going to say? How was I going to say it? Were they going to take me seriously, being so young? Is 2 minutes enough to communicate the extremely important message I was trying to convey? There was only one thing I knew for sure – I was really nervous.

    I arrived at the Maryland State House around noon that day, and was instantly greeted by my colleagues from Maryland NORML. Everyone brought positive vibes and good energy, which I needed. The hearing began at 1pm, and I thought it would only be a couple hours, at most, before they called our bill. Little did I know, this was all just a waiting game.

    Then came 5pm, 6pm, 7pm… and still no mention of HB 1264. By that time, I was losing energy and hope, wondering if the committee would even end up getting to our bill that day. Luckily, I was surrounded by an optimistic, upbeat group of activists that kept my spirits high. By the time 10pm rolled around, it was finally our turn.

    I entered the committee room, and Delegate Moon (the bill’s sponsor) had the microphone, explaining different provisions of the bill and answering a boatload of questions from the committee members, with a representative from the Marijuana Policy Project, and a former law enforcement officer joining him on the panel.

    My nerves were surprisingly eased as I sat in that room waiting for my turn to testify. The committee members were cracking light-hearted jokes – one of them even joked about Delegate Moon providing samples to the committee. This made me feel a lot more comfortable speaking in front of them. After all, they are just regular people, and concerned residents of MD like I once was.

    I was on the next panel, with Luke Jones, Director of Maryland NORML, and attorney Eric Sterling beside me. We each had our 2 minutes, and that was that. I felt confident in my testimony, focusing on the right to home cultivate and how perceived youth access to cannabis has declined in the states that have legalized.

    The other panels testifying in favor included victims of the current laws who were arrested for simple possession and a medical patient who had to revert to the black market because of high costs and poor accessibility.

    Then came the opposition panel. It consisted of two AAA representatives (as expected), along with another representative from the organization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana. They brought up concerns of impaired driving and youth access, which we had previously addressed. We left the committee room around 11:30pm feeling cautiously optimistic and eager to see how this would all play out.

    All in all, besides the anticipation of waiting for 10 hours, I had an incredibly positive experience testifying at the Maryland State House. I felt empowered, like I was making a difference. If there’s ever a hearing for a bill on an issue that you care about – go. Testify. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to do so, and as a result, Maryland is one step closer to ending the prohibition of marijuana.

    If you live in MD, tell your lawmakers to support HB 1264

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