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ACTIVISM

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director December 18, 2015

    christmas-baubles-clipartWith the holidays around the corner, there is plenty to celebrate in regard to marijuana law reform successes! Congress unveiled their 2016 omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the government through next year which included several marijuana measures and we’ve seen a number of state and municipal measures take hold as well. Keep reading to see if your state is moving ahead in reforming their marijuana laws!

    Federal: In last week’s Legislative Round Up, we covered five distinct marijuana provisions that lawmakers sought to include in the final draft of the 2016 spending bill.

    We now know that two of these provisions have been included in the omnibus appropriations bill. One measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. The other measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs.

    Both measures were initially passed by Congress in 2015, but required reauthorization to extend into 2016.

    To read more about this legislation click here.

    State:

    Vermont: The sponsor has unveiled the bill that will be introduced in the state’s next legislative session to legalize and regulate the adult use, production and sale of cannabis. Once formally
    introduced, the bill will head to the Senate Judiciary committee for its first consideration.legalization_poll

    The 41 page bill allows for retail outlets, lounges, and personal cultivation. Taxes and fees are not
    included in the bill language and will be covered when the bill is considered in the Senate Finance Committee.

    You can read more about the legislation here and write your lawmakers, urging their support here.

    Kentucky: Legislation to legalize and regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana, The ‘Cannabis Freedom Act, has been pre-filed for the 2016 legislative session.

    The legislation allows adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, cultivate up to five cannabis plants, store excess cannabis lawfully grown for personal use at the location where it was cultivated; or transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another person age 21 or older without remuneration.

    In a prepared statement, the bill’s sponsor said: “Too many Kentuckians have had their lives stymied with criminal records as a result of nonviolent marijuana convictions. That is wrong. It is time to stop making criminals out of citizens due to outdated and ridiculous laws concerning cannabis.”

    Contact your lawmakers in Kentucky and encourage them to support this measure here!

    Delaware: Legislation signed into law last June decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses took effect at midnight this morning in the state of Delaware.

    House Bill 39 reclassifies the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by those age 21 and over from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a criminal record, to a
    thumbs_upcivil violation punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest, and no criminal record. (Those between the ages of 18 and 21 may face criminal charges, but only if it is their second or subsequent offense.)

    The new law also amends the personal possession of marijuana paraphernalia from a criminal to a civil violation. Public use of the substance, as well as marijuana possession while inside a vehicle, remain classified as misdemeanors.

    Municipal:

    Pittsburgh (PA): An ordinance, proposed by Councilman Daniel Lavelle,  which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana passed a preliminary vote in City Council on Wednesday.

    The measure would allow police to seize the drugs and issue a $100 fine as long as a person had less than 30 grams of marijuana — about an ounce. People could have about eight grams of hash.

    A final vote is scheduled for this upcoming Monday. You can contact your City Council district here to urge their support for this measure.

    Palm Beach County (FL): With a 4 to 1 vote Tuesday, Palm Beach County decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Law enforcement can now give offenders a $100 fine or the option of 10 hours of community service instead of arrest. The ordinance only covers offenders 18 and over, and an offender can receive a maximum of two citations.

    This vote comes after nearby cities West Palm Beach and Miami Beach also chose to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.


    takeactionban

    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 Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director December 16, 2015

    CongressMembers of Congress this morning unveiled the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill, legislation that is responsible for funding the federal government through the 2016 fiscal year.  While stand alone marijuana related bills rarely gain traction in Congress, the annual omnibus appropriations bill has become a tool for federal lawmakers to pass marijuana related language into annual spending guidelines.

    In last week’s Legislative Round Up, we covered five distinct marijuana provisions that lawmakers sought to include in the final draft of the 2016 spending bill.

    We now know that two of these provisions have been included in the omnibus appropriations bill. One measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. The other measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs. Both measures were initially passed by Congress in 2015, but required reauthorization to extend into 2016.

    Unfortunately, separate provisions permitting doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans, and to prevent the V.A. from denying services to veterans because they are state recognized medical marijuana patients were eliminated from the final bill. Senate-backed language seeking to authorize financial institutions to engage in relationships with state-licensed marijuana business was also rejected from the final bill.  

    Lastly, language prohibiting the District of Columbia from taxing and selling marijuana was included in the annual spending for the second year in the row. Current law allows for residents to grow, possess and share marijuana. But the sale and promotion will be prohibited for at least another year.

    While we see success in having kept in place protections for state sponsored medical marijuana and hemp programs, it is nonetheless disappointing that members of Congress continue to unnecessarily insert themselves into a doctor-patient relationship with our country’s veterans and continue to deny licensed businesses access to needed banking services.

    No ground has been lost, but Congress should know we’ll be back next year to gain more.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director December 14, 2015

    Contribute to the NORML PAC

    Do you know what your members of Congress think about marijuana legalization? Do you know how they have voted on pending federal marijuana measures? Being a member of the NORML network automatically puts you ahead of most in staying up-to-date on marijuana-related legislation and activism. But we could all use a little help staying on top of our elected officials when it comes to the causes we care about most, right?

    That is why we are eager and excited to announce that, for the past six months, NORML has been working on an extensive project with YOU in mind. Congress largely created the mess that is Marijuana Prohibition back in 1937, and all of these years later they’re singularly in the best position politically to actually fixing the problem for federal and state governments.

    When 2016 comes around, we want all of our members and supporters to know exactly where their Representatives and Senators stand on the issue of marijuana legalization.

    Knowing so will be easy with NORML’s Congressional Scorecard. This scorecard will be an all-encompassing database that assigns a letter grade A through F to every single member of Congress based on how proactive they have been at ending the federal prohibition of marijuana. The grade a member of Congress receives will be based on a number of different factors such as how they have voted on marijuana related legislation, the number of marijuana related bills they have introduced or sponsored, and any public comments they have made on the subject. Here’s an example:

    NORML Congressional Scorecard

    It’s time we focus on Congress and show them that we are paying attention to their actions! If your elected official receives a low grade then you know it’s time to kick the activism into gear and start making your voice heard!

    We want as many people as possible to know about this Scorecard and we especially want Congress to know that they are being graded based upon what they are (or are not) doing to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. But we need your help to do that! We are fundraising so we can advertise this scorecard in an outlet we otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Would you consider donating $50 or more to our PAC (Political Action Committee) so we can make this happen?*

    In return for your donation of $50 or more, we will send you a new custom designed just for NORML snapback from our friends over at California Grassroots!

    Contribute to the NORML PAC

    *The NORML PAC is a separate, segregated fund of NORML, and under federal law, we can only raise PAC funds from NORML members. Therefore, if you wish to contribute to the NORML PAC, and you are not currently a NORML member, the first $25 of your contribution will be applied to your membership dues.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director December 11, 2015

    map_leafState legislators are pre-filing numerous marijuana reform bills in preparation for the start of the 2016 legislative season. Additionally, members of Congress are negotiating on federal funding measures that could have dramatic effects on national marijuana policy. Keep reading to below to find out what new legislative reforms are taking place in your state and what the federal budget could mean for you!

    A full list and summary of pending state and federal legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.

    Federal: Congressional leadership is deciding on the inclusion of four marijuana-specific provisions in the FY 2016 spending bill. Passage of these measures will have an important effect on the role the federal government will play (or not) in 2016 federal marijuana policy. As previously reported on by Marijuana.com here they are:

    *Prevent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

    -Similar language was enacted last year and is current law for Fiscal Year 2015. On June 3, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 242-186 and on June 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted the amendment by a vote of 21-9.

    * Prevent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs.

    -Similar language was enacted last year and is current law for Fiscal Year 2015. On June 3, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 289-132 and on June 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment by a voice vote.

    * Allow doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans, and prevent the V.A. from denying services to veterans because they are medical marijuana patients in accordance with state law.

    -On April 30, the House narrowly rejected the amendment by a vote of 210-213 but on May 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment by a vote of 18-12, and its language was included in a bill passed by the full Senate on November 10.

    * Prevent the federal government from punishing banks for doing business with state-legal marijuana providers.

    -On July 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment to by a vote of 16-14

    Additionally, Congress will be weighing whether or not to include in the final spending package language that would bar Washington D.C. from implementing a recreational market for marijuana. Last year, Congress included language that prevented the district from taxing and selling marijuana, leading to the implementation of a grow and share program in the District.

    We are expecting to receive news of final budget negotiations next week so keep following the NORML blog for an update!

    Flag_of_Illinois.svgIllinois: House Bill 4357, legislation to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses in Illinois, is pending in the General Assembly.

    If approved, the legislation would make the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine only. Adults would no longer face criminal arrest or the threat of time in jail or a criminal record.

    Introduced by Representative Kelly Cassidy, this proposal largely mirrors legislation previously introduced in the spring of 2015 that was approved by members of both the House and Senate.

    320px-Flag_of_Missouri.svgMissouri: Senate Bill 762, which permits for the personal possession and retail sale of marijuana by those age 21 and over, has been prefiled for the 2016 legislative session. The measure permits adults to privately possess up to one ounce of cannabis without penalty. Senate Bill 762 also seeks to license the commercial production and to regulate the retail sale of marijuana for adults. To take action on this measure click here.

    House legislation has been prefiled —HB 1524 — to allow marijuana convictions to be expunged contingent upon the passage of a constitutional amendment or other statutory enactment legalizing marijuana. To take action on this measure click here.

    Senate Bill 761 has been prefiled in the Missouri legislature to exempt marijuana from certain forfeiture provisions relating to controlled substances.

    “Under current law, illegal controlled substances, anything of value exchanged for a controlled substance in violation of the law, money used to facilitate a violation of the controlled substances laws, money found in close proximity to an illegal controlled substance, and any other property used in relation to or derived from a violation of the controlled substances laws is subject to seizure and forfeiture.” This act exempts marijuana from these forfeiture provisions. To take action on this measure click here.

    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 December 7, 2015

    A couple of recent developments have focused attention on the newly legal marijuana industry in several states and the potential for those new businesses to have an enormous impact on the shape of legal marijuana as it is rolled out in several new states. There is a lot of money involved in the industry, and money always plays a role in politics.

    Money Has Always Been a Factor

    The importance of money in the legalization movement is not new. A handful of rich donors, led by billionaire philanthropists George Soros and the late Peter Lewis, have provided the bulk of the funding needed to gather the required number of signatures to qualify an initiative for the ballot, and the funding to run a professional campaign, in most of the successful marijuana voter initiatives since California first adopted medical marijuana in 1996.

    But those funders were motivated by their desire to end marijuana prohibition, and they were not trying to profit personally from those changes.

    In a bizarre way, these traditional funders served as a (self-appointed) filter for weeding-out proposals that were not well drafted, or which attempted more significant reforms than the public was ready to support. If the polling numbers did not register support in the high-50% range, the funders would generally not provide money to help those efforts, and the proposals fizzled.

    Industry Money

    In California in 2010, for the first time a statewide marijuana-related voter initiative (Prop. 19, a proposal to fully legalize marijuana), was almost totally funded by one successful marijuana businessman, Richard Lee, the owner at the time of the Bulldog Coffee Shop in Oakland, modeled after the coffee shops that sell marijuana in Amsterdam; and the head of Oaksterdam University, founded in 2007 to train those who were interested in learning the skills needed to succeed in this new industry.

    Lee personally donated the $1.4 million dollars required to gather the signatures to qualify Prop. 19 for the ballot, and, not surprisingly, he controlled the drafting of the language of the initiative as well. The proposal ended up losing, with 47% of the vote. Some felt the initiative could have won if it had included provisions offering the existing small growers and sellers a more significant role in the proposed new legal system.

    And then, just a few weeks ago, we saw Issue 3 in Ohio, a legalization measure funded by a small group of investors who blatantly wrote an initiative that would have established themselves as an oligopoly who totally controlled the (initial) ten commercial cultivation centers in the state. Issue 3 crashed and burned on election day, receiving only 36% of the vote!

    There were other factors that likely contributed to the defeat (the polling going into the vote only showed a bare 51% majority support), but the public outcry against the self-serving aspects of the initiative was clearly the reason the proposal did so poorly. Many of those voters who favored an end to marijuana prohibition apparently decided there were limits to price they were willing to pay to stop the arrests of smokers, and guaranteeing millions to these already rich investors was clearly not acceptable to them.

    But that is not likely the last time we will have to deal with legalization initiatives that seek a financial advantage for those providing the money to run the initiatives. As more and more states legalize marijuana, and more and more marijuana business owners become rich and successful, these business leaders with cash to burn will seek to shape legalization in new states.

    On one hand, this may be seen as a positive development because there are now more possible sources of funding available to help qualify a legalization initiative for the ballot, and to run a successful campaign; but on the other hand, we may well face more Ohio-style problems, where the language of the initiatives that qualify may be offensive to the very consumers legalization is intended to help.

    Is The Industry Taking Over the Legalization Movement?

    This fear of the industry influence over the legalization movement became a point of public debate recently when the chief federal lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Dan Riffle, quit his job, telling colleagues and the press that “the industry is taking over the legalization movement and I am not interested in (working for) the industry.” Riffle pointedly added, “ I felt for the last few months the industry was dominating the legalization movement’s work in general, and MPP’s specifically.”

    To some degree Riffle was simply reflecting the reality that the group with which he had been working has largely become a voice for the industry. Most of their funding now comes from marijuana businesses, and the head of MPP, Rob Kampia, is one of the founders and a board member of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), the principal national marijuana business lobby. Once Kampia lost his principal funder, Peter Lewis, due to a scandal involving inappropriate sexual conduct, he turned to the industry for funding to survive.

    But it was nonetheless a bit jolting to hear such a strong public statement of disapproval from an MPP insider. Riffle elected to leave his job, rather than work for the industry.

    NORML Remains a Consumer Lobby

    At NORML we have long argued that any organization must decide whether they wish to represent the interests of the consumer, or the interests of the industry, but they cannot have it both ways. When legalization was merely an idea, and prohibition was the law of the land, all of us who opposed prohibition were on the same side; we favored legalization. It was not then necessary to get down to the details of precisely what we meant when we said we supported legalization.

    But today, with legalization becoming a real possibility in several more states each election cycle, the details matter. And most business interests are principally interested in minimizing regulations and maximizing profits. We live in a free enterprise system, so there is nothing inappropriate about seeking to build a successful marijuana business.

    But consumers too must have a prominent place at the table when these decisions are made.

    What Consumers Want

    Marijuana consumers want what consumers in most other areas also want: we want a high quality product that is safe, convenient and affordable. We want to know that the marijuana we buy legally has been tested by a state-certified lab for molds and pesticides, and is accurately labeled as to the THC and CBD content. And we don’t expect to pay black market prices for legal pot, or to drive half-way across the state to find a legal retail outlet.

    And, we need the option of growing our own marijuana. Most consumers will not likely exercise this option, just as most beer drinkers do not make beer in their basement, although they are legally permitted to do so. By keeping the option of growing our own marijuana, and boycotting those retailers who sell an inferior product or over-charge for their product, we can assure the industry largely remains responsive to our needs.

    So let’s pay attention to the warnings of Riffle and others of the dangers of the legalization movement being taken-over by the industry. But let’s not assume that all industry involvement is bad for the consumer, or that everyone in the legalization movement has become an industry spokesperson.

    NORML has always been a consumer lobby, but we are not anti-business. We also have some successful marijuana businesspeople on our board, and we sometimes receive financial contributions from those in the industry. But when we do, we are transparent with our relationship with these business interests, and we take great care to make it clear to them, and to the public, that we will never mold or shape our political goals to accommodate business. We speak for the consumer, and always will.

    And I see no indication that other legalization groups, such as LEAP or SSDP or DPA, all of whom receive some marijuana industry funding, have changed their policies to accommodate those business interests.

    Most of us working to legalize marijuana are motivated by the goal of expanding personal freedom, not profiting from the new industry. Let’s keep it the way.

    _____________________________________________________6_8_NORMLK.StroupPortrait_z

    This column was published originally on Marijuana.com.

    http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2015/12/concern-about-the-industry-influence-in-the-legalization-movement/

     

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