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ACTIVISM

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director January 8, 2016

    map_leafThe new year marks a fresh slate and new beginnings for many and here at NORML it’s no different. The year 2016 is going to be monumental for marijuana law reform and we’re already starting to see an influx of marijuana law reform legislation being introduced around the country. In the coming days and weeks we’ll see a significant increase in the number of marijuana related activity so be sure to stay up to date on what YOU can do to help pass these reforms in your own communities.

    This week we’ve seen bills introduced in Georgia, Indiana, and Virginia plus some exciting news in Massachusetts, Washington D.C., New York and Vermont. Keep reading below to find out what the latest is!

    State:

    Georgia:  Senate Bill 254 seeks to amend the state criminal code so that no marijuana possession offense may any longer be classified as a felony. Under current law, any marijuana possession offense involving more than one ounce of cannabis is classified as a felony offense, punishable by one year (mandatory) to up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Passage of SB 254 would reduce these offenses to misdemeanors. According to an analysis of arrest data by the ACLU, Georgia ranks sixth out of all US jurisdictions in total annual marijuana possession arrests and ninth in per capita possession arrests. To support SB 254, click here.

    House bill 722 seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes.

    Under a 2015 law, qualifying patients are permitted to possess 20 ounces of infused cannabis oils containing not more than 5 percent THC and a equal or greater amount of CBD. However, the law provides no legal supply source for these products and, as a result, has failed to meet the needs of patients. House bill 722 would rectify this situation and impose other improvements, such as patient protection from job discrimination. To learn more about this measure, click here.

    Indiana: A Senate lawmaker has introduced legislation, SB 209, to protect qualified patients who consume cannabis under a physician’s written authorization.

    The measure, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Karen Tallian, will permit qualified patients — including patients with arthritis, migraine, PTSD, and seizures — to engage in cannabis therapy. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Indiana patients deserve these same protections.

    For more information, please contact Indiana NORML here or visit their Facebook page here. To contact your lawmakers in Indiana to urge their support, click here.

    Massachusetts: Just a reminder that The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 will be the subject of a hearing NEXT Wednesday, January 13, before the Judiciary Committee. This is your chance to speak before your lawmakers in support of legalization!legalization_poll

    The Act would regulate the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. It also permits the home cultivation.

    For more information on next week’s legislative hearing, click here.

    New York: Medical marijuana dispensaries opened Thursday in the Empire state. To date, only eight of out of the state’s allotted 20 dispensaries are operational; they’re located in Manhattan, Westchester County, Kingston, Albany, two in Buffalo and two in the Finger Lakes region.

    Though the dispensaries are now be open to patients, due to the law’s unnecessary strict regulations only 51 patients in the state have qualified for access so far. Furthermore, the law only allows for non smokable forms of marijuana restricting access to capsules, liquids or oils — restrictions that NORML opposes and that unnecessarily limit patients choices..

    So far, about 150 doctors in New York have registered to be part of the program.

    Vermont: Governor Peter Shumlin made his annual state of the union speech yesterday and called upon lawmakers to pass pending legislation to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana by adults in the state.

    The Governor said, “I will work with you to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably. I believe we have the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right the Vermont way. Let’s do it together.”

    Vermont has long been considered a state that could be the first to legalize recreational marijuana legislatively.

    To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization click here.

    Virginia: Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) has reintroduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses.

    Senate bill 104  eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses, replacing them with civil fine-only penalties — no arrest and no criminal record.thumbs_up

    Presently, Virginia ranks among the top ten states in annual marijuana possession arrests. In fact, the number of Virginians arrested for violating the state’s marijuana possession laws increased 76 percent between the years 2003 and 2014, at a time when arrests for similar violations were falling nationwide. Clearly there is a need for reform in the Old Dominion state. To this end, the Virginia chapters of NORML will be holding their State Lobby day to lobby the General Assembly in Richmond on January 14th at 8:30 a.m. Advocates from around the state will meet with legislators in support of SB 104.

    To find out more information about this legislation click here and for info on the upcoming lobby day you can contact Virginia NORML here or visit their Facebook page here.

    Washington DC: When marijuana possession was legalized in DC via voter initiative in 2014, Mayor Muriel Bowser quickly asked the City Council to bar marijuana smoking at nightclubs, private clubs and virtually any other businesses licensed by the city. But on Tuesday the subject was revisited when City Council voted to legalize the smoking of marijuana at certain rooftop bars and sidewalk cafes, where cigarette smoking is currently permitted, and in private clubs. However, 30 minutes later, reversed itself, extending the current ban for an additional 90 days.

    The flip flop was again the result of Mayor Bowser’s influence. The City Council has to take permanent action on this soon so we’ll be meeting with the Mayor’s office in the coming weeks to ensure a public use provision is considered with accompanying regulations and provisions for responsible use.

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    Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!

    ** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

     

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel January 2, 2016

    C1_8734_r_xAs we begin this new year, which looks wonderfully promising for the adoption of marijuana legalization by more and more states, we need to begin to focus on some of the more subtle areas of legalization policy. We must insist that these new laws do more than stop the arrest of smokers; we must insist that they treat marijuana smokers fairly.

    Here are my resolutions for the New Year.

    1. We must double-back to those states that have legalized marijuana, to fix the child custody and employment issues. This is essential as we continue to move towards a public policy that treats responsible marijuana smokers fairly.

    No parent should be presumed to be an unfit parent simply because he/she smokes marijuana. Before challenging the parents’ right to maintain custody of their minor children, the state child welfare agency must be required to have evidence of actual child abuse or neglect, not the mere us of marijuana, regardless of marijuana’s legal status in a state.

    These child custody cases continue to arise far too frequently, and in most states today, the child welfare agency unfairly treats all marijuana-smoking parents as if their use of marijuana were presumptive evidence they are unfit parents. If a nosy neighbor complains about the smell of marijuana smoke, for example, the parents are required to have a humiliating home inspection (the presumption being that marijuana smokers are likely to have a filthy house, unfit for children); and to take (and pay for) essentially useless parenting and drug education courses; and to promise never to smoke marijuana in front of the minor children.

    It is past time for the child welfare agencies throughout the country to ignore the use of marijuana by parents of minor children, unless there is evidence of abuse or neglect.

    And the same is true for an individual marijuana smoker’s employment rights. No employer should be allowed to fire an employee for testing positive for THC, without a showing that the individual came to work in an impaired condition.

    Marijuana smoking causes a degree of impairment for approximately 90-minutes after use, but today an employee can be fired for having THC in their system, even if they smoked the marijuana days earlier. And it happens to thousands of marijuana smokers each year, people who are good, hard-working, talented workers, who would never show-up for work in an impaired condition.

    This is clearly unfair job discrimination against those who smoke marijuana, by any rational definition of discrimination. It’s time for legislation to fix this problem in all states, but especially in those that have legalized medical or recreational use.

    2. Let’s find a way to legalize marijuana lounges in the states that have legalized marijuana smoking. Marijuana smoking is a social activity, and there is absolutely no valid reason to deny marijuana smokers the right to congregate and enjoy their favorite herb in a social setting. We should not be limited only to smoking in our homes.

    During 2015, an effort to license certain bars in Denver, CO, to permit marijuana smoking in areas where tobacco smoking is permitted, was circulated as a municipal voter initiative, before being mysteriously withdrawn by the sponsors only a day before it was to be certified for the ballot. No public explanation was ever provided for the strange turn of events, but it is now time for supporters to renew the effort for marijuana lounges, in Denver and in the other states that have legalized marijuana.

    Only Alaska has begun to move in the direction of allowing marijuana smoking in venues outside the home. In late 2015, Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board changed the definition of the term “in public” to allow marijuana use at certain marijuana retail stores (which are not yet up and running, but should be shortly). The board also voted to table a proposal to ban marijuana clubs in the state, and if this initial step to allow smoking in retail marijuana stores works as intended, marijuana lounges would seem like the next logical step.

    As this trend moves forward, we need to decide whether we prefer marijuana-only lounges, or marijuana smoking to be permitted at selected bars. It would be instructive if different jurisdictions tried different models, providing us some guidance as we move forward.

    3. Let’s win full legalization this year in states that are NOT on the west coast, including the possibility of Maine, MA, and MI.

    Marijuana legalization is a policy that makes sense for smokers and non-smokers alike, and it should not be limited only to specific sections of the country. But the reality is most progressive trends in this country start on the west coast, then surface on the east coast, before being accepted in the Midwest, and finally in the south.

    True to form, to date, our full-legalization victories have all come in west coast states. Now it is time to make our mark in the east. The Midwest and the south are important, but legal change in those states will generally take longer. They are next, and will benefit from any victories we achieve this year on the east coast.

    Winning legalization in at least a couple of east coast states by voter initiative in 2016 must be a high priority.

    4. Let’s find a way to pass a full legalization bill through a state legislature; it’s important in the 26 states that do not offer a voter initiative. The first state is always the most difficult, and a legislative win would embolden supportive state legislators all across the country.

    We all understand that most elected officials are cautious when it comes to supporting potentially controversial issues, fearing taking a stand might cost them votes at the next election. That is why the marijuana legalization movement has initially focused on moving forward in states that offer a voter initiative to get around a balky state legislature.

    But only 24 states offer that option, which means we are unable to move legalization forward in half the country, until we can gather majority support in a state’s legislature.

    We are getting closer; eight states considered full legalization via their legislatures during 2015, but none have yet succeeded. Let’s make a special effort to win in one of these states during 2016, opening up the possibility of full legalization in the rest of the country.

    5. Let’s encourage more mainstream, middle-class marijuana smokers to come out of the closet, to overcome the remaining negative stereotypes many of our friends and neighbors still hold.

    I am frequently reminded that many non-smoking Americans (approximately 86% of the population) continue to have a negative impression of recreational marijuana smokers, the result of decades of “reefer madness” propaganda from the federal government. In a 2015 national poll by Third Way, a DC think-tank, while a majority of the respondents nationwide supported full marijuana legalization, when asked whether they had a favorable or unfavorable impression of recreational marijuana smokers, only 36% viewed smokers favorably; 54% held an unfavorable impression of smokers.

    Apparently the “stoner stupid” stereotype, which we smokers have largely learned to laugh at, has nonetheless had an impact on the attitudes of far too many non-smokers.

    The best and quickest way to overcome that negative impression is for more mainstream marijuana smokers to come out of the closet and demonstrate that responsible marijuana smokers are just ordinary Americans, who work hard, raise families, pay taxes, and contribute to their communities in a positive fashion; but who prefer to smoke a joint when they relax at the end of the day, just as tens of millions of Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day. So if you are a marijuana smoker, and you are still in the closet, it’s time to consider “coming out” to your friends and neighbors and co-workers.

    We must overcome those remaining stereotypes if we are serious about treating responsible marijuana smokers fairly in this country.

    6. And finally, let’s get the banking and 280E issues fixed under federal law, so legal marijuana businesses can operate as other legal businesses do.

    Currently provisions in federal law intended to criminalize money laundering and other nefarious activities make it impossible for state-compliant legal marijuana businesses to operate in a responsible manner. They cannot have a bank account; cannot accept credit cards; and cannot deduct many business-related expenses from their income, when reporting their federal income taxes.

    No one with a wit of intelligence believes we should be requiring (or allowing) the multi-billion dollar legal marijuana industry to operate as a cash-only business. It encourages crime, corruption, underreporting of income, and is simply unfair to those businesses trying in good faith to operate in full compliance with relevant state laws and regulations.

    There are bills pending in Congress that would fix these problems, and it’s time those proposals were enacted into law by Congress. NORML is a consumer lobby, and we will leave to the industry lobby the principal burden of moving these proposals forward. But it is in the best interests of consumers, as well as the industry, that the legal marijuana industry be regulated fairly, like other legal businesses.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 29, 2015

    2015: The Year In Review - NORML's Top 10 Events That Shaped Marijuana Policy

    NORML reviews the top news stories of 2015.

    #1 Congress Reauthorizes Medical Marijuana Protections
    Members of Congress approved language in the fiscal year 2016 omnibus spending bill that continues to limit the federal government from taking punitive action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states. The provisions reauthorize Section 538 of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, which states, "None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."

    #2 Federal Judge Upholds Marijuana’s Schedule I Status
    A federal judge in April rejected a motion challenging the constitutionality of cannabis’ classification as a Schedule I prohibited substance. "At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional," Judge Kimberly Mueller said from the bench. "But this is not the court and not the time." Judge Meuller had presided over five days of hearings in October 2014 in a challenge brought by members of the NORML Legal Committee.

    #3 Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Less Opioid Abuse
    States that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths, according to a study published in July by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-partisan think-tank. The findings mirror those published in 2014 in The Journal of the American Medical Association concluding, "States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws."

    #4 DC Depenalizes Marijuana; Arrests Plummet
    Despite threats from members of Congress, District officials implemented voter-approved legislation earlier this year eliminating penalties associated with the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults. Following the law’s implementation, marijuana-related arrests in the nation’s capital fell 99 percent.

    #5 Marijuana Law Changes Don’t Change Youth Use, Attitudes
    Rates of youth marijuana use are unaffected by changing laws, according to data published in July in The American Journal of drug and Alcohol Abuse. Investigators evaluated trends in young people’s attitudes toward cannabis and their use of the substance during the years 2002 to 2013 – a time period where 14 states enacted laws legalizing the medical use of the plant, and two states approved its recreational use by adults. "Our results may suggest that recent changes in public policy, including the decriminalization, medicalization, and legalization of marijuana in cities and states across the country, have not resulted in more use or greater approval of marijuana use among younger adolescents," researchers reported.

    #6 Gallup Poll: More Americans Than Ever Say Marijuana Should Be Legal
    Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe that "the use of marijuana should be made legal," according to nationwide survey data released in October by Gallup pollsters. The percentage ties the highest level of support ever reported by Gallup, which has been measuring Americans’ attitudes toward cannabis since the late 1960s. The percentage is more than twice the level of support reported in the mid-1990s.

    #7 Study: Marijuana Use Not Associated With Changes In Brain Morphology
    Marijuana use is not associated with structural changes in the brain, according to imaging data published in January in The Journal of Neuroscience. Investigators assessed brain morphology in both daily adult and adolescent cannabis users compared to non-users. They found "no statistically significant differences … between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest" after researchers controlled for participants’ use of alcohol. "[T]he results indicate that, when carefully controlling for alcohol use, gender, age, and other variables, there is no association between marijuana use and standard volumetric or shape measurements of subcortical structures," researchers reported.

    #8 Marijuana Consumers Less Likely To Be Obese, Suffer Diabetes Risk
    Those who consume cannabis are 50 percent less likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome as compared to those who do not, according to findings published in November in The American Journal of Medicine. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat, which are linked to increased risk of heart disease and adult onset diabetes, among other serious health consequences. The findings are similar to those of previous studies reporting that those who use cannabis are less likely to be obese or suffer from diabetes.

    #9 NHTSA: THC-Positive Drivers Don’t Possesses Elevated Crash Risk
    Drivers who test positive for the presence of THC in their blood are no more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes than are drug-free drivers, according to a case-control study released in February by the United States National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration. Authors reported that drivers who tested positive for the presence of THC possessed an unadjusted, elevated risk of accident of 25 percent (Odds Ratio=1.25) compared to controls (drivers who tested negative for any drug or alcohol). However, this elevated risk became insignificant (OR=1.05) after investigators adjusted for demographic variables, such as the drivers’ age and gender. The study is the largest of its kind ever conducted in the United States.

    #10 Legal Marijuana States Collect Over $200 Million In New Tax Revenue
    Taxes on the legal production and sale of cannabis in the states of Colorado and Washington have yielded over $200 million in new revenue since going into effect in 2014, according to calculations reported by The Huffington Post in September. Colorado collected more than $117 million dollars from marijuana sales while Washington collected over $83 million. Cannabis sales commenced in Oregon in on October 1, 2015 and have yet to begin in Alaska.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel December 28, 2015

    The end of the year is a natural time to review our progress advancing legalization over the past 12 months, and to look ahead to what we hope to achieve in the coming year.

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    Compared to our recent dramatic electoral victories in 2012 and again in 2014, 2015 was a slow year. We made some modest gains, but nothing dramatic.

    During the current phase of legalization, when our victories primarily come by way of voter initiatives, we have become accustomed to expecting more progress in election years, especially presidential election years when the youth vote is highest, than in non-election years. Those basic rules still apply.

    But even with that caveat, 2015 moved us forward and positioned us well for 2016.

    Public Support Remains Strong

    We are legalizing marijuana because we finally enjoy the support of a majority of the American public, both smokers and non-smokers alike. And that majority support, which first began to register in the national polls three years ago, is holding firm.

    National polling in the past year by Gallup (58% support), PEW (53%), CBS (53%), Morning Consult (55%), Fox (51%), General Social Survey (52%) and Beyond The Beltway (61%) have all demonstrated marijuana legalization continues to have the support of a majority of the nation.

    As the authors of the latest Gallup Poll concluded: “These trends suggest that state and local governments may come under increasing pressure to ease restrictions on marijuana use, if not go even further like the states of Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska in making recreational marijuana use completely legal.”

    So the foundation for continued progress remains in place, and appears to be growing: most Americans have concluded that marijuana prohibition is a failed public policy.

    Some Statewide Progress

    The one most significant statewide victory during 2015 came in Delaware, where the state legislature decriminalized minor marijuana offenses ($100 civil fine for possession of up to one ounce), the 19th state in the country to stop arresting marijuana smokers. The new law became effective on Dec. 18th.

    And in Oregon, where the state legalized marijuana in 2014, the legislature became the first of the legalized states to take steps to minimize the impact of prior marijuana convictions, imposed under the old law. Democrat Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation in June allowing those with past marijuana possession convictions to have their criminal records expunged, if those offenses are no longer illegal. That’s an area that each legalization state needs to revisit and address.

    In a somewhat unexpected development, the state of Louisiana, traditionally one of the harshest states in the country for marijuana offenses, took significant steps to mitigate penalties for repeat marijuana offenders—defendants who, in the past, faced up to two decades in prison. Under the new law, second-time possession offenders face a maximum sentence of six months in jail (reduced from five years); and third-time offenders see their potential maximum sentences reduced from 20 years to no more than two. The new law also permits these possession offenders to have their records expunged if they remain arrest-free for two years. It is surely only incremental change, but in Louisiana, it represents real progress.

    Municipal Ordinances

    Much of the progress made in 2015 came at the municipal level. In East Lansing, MI 65% of the voters approved a local ordinance eliminating penalties for the possession or transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana on private property. Lansing is the seventeenth Michigan city to approve an initiative de-penalizing minor offenses.

    In Milwaukee, WI, members of the City Council reduced penalties for marijuana possession (up to 25 grams) to a fine of no more than $50.00. Nine of the state’s 10 largest cities have now adopted decriminalization ordinances.

    And in Miami-Dade County, FL, Commissioners in Florida’s largest county approved an ordinance that permits police to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders (up to 20 grams), with a civil fine of $100. Previously misdemeanor marijuana arrests accounted for 10 percent of all cases filed in the Miami-Dade County criminal court system.

    Marijuana Arrests Drop in Several Major Cities

    And marijuana possession arrests dropped dramatically in several big cities during 2015. In the District of Columbia, marijuana arrests fell roughly 99%, from nearly 900 arrests in 2014 to less than 10 arrests in 2015.

    In Philadelphia, where marijuana was decriminalized by municipal ordinance in 2014, marijuana arrests for simple possession dropped from 3,700 in 2014 to just over 1,000 in 2015, a drop of 73%.

    And in New York City, where more than 30,000 New Yorkers were arrested on marijuana charges in 2014, marijuana arrests fell 40%, to less than 19,000 in 2015. Still far too many, but a substantial step in the right direction.

    The Bad News in 2015

    The most obvious political disappointment in 2015 was the ill-fated legalization initiative (Issue 3) in Ohio. Brought in a non-election year (assuring a low youth vote turnout) and drafted to enrich the investors who put-up the $23 million spent in the campaign, Issue 3 was met with widespread opposition, even among many who support the legalization of marijuana. The proposal won the approval of only 35% of the voters, making it likely that Ohioans will continue to face arrest and jail for several more years.

    Another disappointment was the failure of the legislature in IL to override the veto by Governor Bruce Rauner of a decriminalization bill approved by the legislature earlier in the year. The proposal would have reduced penalties for possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana to a $125 civil fine. Police in IL arrest some 50,000 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession. In Chicago, 95% of those arrested for marijuana possession are either Black or Hispanic.

    Nationwide, decriminalization proposals were introduced, but failed to be approved by the legislatures, in HI, KY, NE, NH, SC, TX and VA.

    Full legalization proposals were introduced, but failed to be approved by the legislatures, in CT, FL, HI, MD, ME, MO, NM, RI and VT.

    Looking Forward to 2016

    As we look ahead to 2016, the best news for those who support marijuana legalization is the agreement reached by most of the major players in the nation-state of California to coalesce behind one legalization initiative. California is the big prize, and a win there will add significant momentum to the legalization movement nationwide.

    Most of us presumed California would be the first state to fully legalize marijuana, as it has historically been the breeding ground for progressive marijuana policy. But in the recent past, the sheer size of the state has resulted in several competing proposals being advanced, with marijuana remaining illegal in the Golden State. The same possibility loomed large for 2016 as well, with several differing versions of legalization being circulated by different interest groups, and no assurance that anyone would be willing to compromise.

    With crucial leadership provided by current Democratic Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a consensus has now formed around a single proposal, the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, and it now appears California voters will likely approve legalization in November of 2016.

    Other states that appear poised to approve full legalization via voter initiatives in 2016 include Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada. Needless to say, were all five states to approve full legalization, 2016 would truly be a break-out year, and would set the stage for several additional states to adopt legalization in 2018. But even if we fail to win them all, it promises to be a banner year for legalization around the country.

    And it is possible that 2016 may give us our first state legislative approval of full legalization. A breakthrough in this area would be especially important for those 26 states that do not offer a voter initiative option. The states that appear most likely to take this step in 2016 include the three northeastern states of Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

    So as we look forward to the new year, those of us who smoke marijuana, and all who support marijuana legalization, can anticipate a string of victories that should catapult the movement well past the political tipping point in America. Our momentum continues to grow with each election cycle

    We are finally winning this long fight to stop the senseless arrest of responsible marijuana smokers, and establish a legally regulated market where consumers can obtain their marijuana. As we prepare for 2016, the smell of personal freedom is in the air.

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    This column first appeared on Marijuana.com.

    http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2015/12/a-look-back-at-2015-and-ahead-to-2016/

     

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director December 24, 2015

    happy-holidays-greeting-14470407458EyWhile many are already celebrating the holidays with family and loved ones, we didn’t want to miss the chance to spotlight some important marijuana law reforms that have taken place this past week. We have exciting news internationally, federally, and in several states! Keep reading below to find out more!

    International:

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has signed legislation into law regulating the licensed production and exportation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

    Under the new policy, those seeking to grow medicinal cannabis commercially or manufacturer cannabis-based medicinal products may apply with government agencies for licensure. Regulators will also grant permits to those seeking to export medicinal cannabis products out of the country.

    Santos said that the goal of the policy “is for patients to be able to access medications made in Colombia that are safe, high-quality and accessible. It is also an opportunity to promote scientific research in our country.”

    While existing law allows for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis, the plant’s commercial production, manufacture, and sale had not been permitted.

    You can read more about this new policy here.

    US_capitolFederal: Back in July, we wrote about a letter authored by Senator Elizabeth Warren and seven other Senators that demanded answers from the federal government in regards to the facilitation of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.

    While the DEA, ONDCP, and HHS responded to the letter in October, the Senators were not satisfied and have just recently written a second letter asking for those answers again after claiming the initial response, “failed to answer key substantive questions.”

    Of importance to the Senators were topics such as the rescheduling of marijuana in the Federal Controlled Substances Act, the current monopoly the University of Mississippi holds on cultivating cannabis for federal research purposes, interagency coordination as well as the coordination between the federal government and states, and surveillance and epidemiological studies on the use of medical marijuana in the U.S.

    This second letter once again signals to many that medical marijuana is becoming an even more important issue in the political sphere not only to voters but also to their elected officials.

    Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a press release this week stating that they would “ease some of the regulatory requirements imposed by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) for those who are conducting FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabidiol (CBD), an extract of the marijuana plant.”

    Current federal regulation requires researchers who wished to expand their CBD based studies to submit a written request for additional CBD. This would delay the research while the request went through the approval process. According to the press release, “Under these changes, a previously registered CBD clinical researcher who is granted a waiver can readily modify their protocol and continue their research seamlessly.  This waiver effectively removes a step from the approval process.

    Deputy Director for NORML, Paul Armentano comments, “It’s a minor change. The DEA has done nothing to speed the process for investigators who want to do clinical work with CBD. In order to do clinical work on a drug on the Schedule 1 list, an investigator still needs approval from the FDA, the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.”

    State:

    legalization_pollMassachusetts: H. 1561: The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 has been scheduled for a hearing before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, January 13th at 1PM.

    This legislation would permit the personal possession, cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults. The measure would also permit home cultivation of the plant for non-commercial purposes.

    Bring your written testimony and testify in front of the committee in support of The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016.

    If you can’t make the hearing, you can contact your lawmakers and urge their support here.

    New Hampshire: Legislation has been prefiled for the 2016 legislative session to allow persons 21 years of age or older to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and to cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants without penalty.

    Police in New Hampshire arrest some 2,900 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of New Hampshire adults, some 60 percent of whom now endorse legalizing and regulating the plant, according to an October 2014 WMUR Granite State Poll.

    Click here if you’re a resident of New Hampshire and want to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for this legislation!

    Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh City Council on Monday voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, falling in line with a growing number of municipalities that have taken similar actions in recent years, city officials said.

    Under the ordinance passed with a 7 to 2 vote, police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s second-largest city, will begin to issue fines of $25 for possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana and $100 for smoking it in a public space instead of citing for misdemeanors, the city clerk’s office said.

    The ordinance is subject to approval by Mayor Bill Peduto, who has voiced support.

    chapter_spotlightVirginia: Virginia NORML in Richmond, VA will be holding their state Lobby Day on January 14th!

    Virginia NORML members and supporters will convene at the General Assembly building to bring our message directly to our lawmakers. RSVP now — this is their #1 advocacy event of the year, and they need all hands on deck in Richmond!

    Participants will be teamed with other constituents and meet with their legislators face-to-face to discuss the marijuana policy reforms critical to the Commonwealth. Participants will be lobbying for decriminalization, and for eliminating the driver’s license suspension upon a conviction.

    For more information click here.

    Wyoming: House legislation (HB 3) to depenalize marijuana possession offenses has been pre-filed for the 2016 legislative session, which begins February 8. 

    Annually, state and local police make some 2,100 marijuana possession arrests. The state ranks sixth in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests. Under state law, first-time marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

    House Bill 3  replaces criminal sanctions involving the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of no more than $100 — no arrest and no criminal record.

    To take action and contact your House member to urge their support for this measure, click here.

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    Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!

    ** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

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