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

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

    A lot has happened in Congress this week. US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) succeeded in inserting hemp legalization language into the wide-ranging Farm Bill – must-pass legislation that is approved by Congress every five years. The bill was then approved by the US Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

    The US Senate Appropriations Committee, for the first time ever, included protections for state medical marijuana laws in base Justice Department funding legislation. On the other hand, the US House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment to protect banks that work with marijuana businesses from being punished by federal authorities.

    Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced The “RESPECT Resolution: Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades” to elevate the importance of equity within the legal cannabis marketplace.

    To all of our surprise, President Donald Trump expressed verbal support for recently introduced, bi-partisan legislation that seeks to codify legal protections for state-sanctioned marijuana-related activities. Similarly, members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently announced their support for marijuana law reforms to keep the federal government out of the business of prohibition and related law enforcement of marijuana.

    At the state level, South Carolina voters approved a medical marijuana advisory question on the Democratic primary ballot by a margin of 81% – 19%. And The Maine Supreme Court ruled that employers don’t need to pay for medical cannabis under the state workers’ compensation system.

    At a more local level, the St. Louis, Missouri circuit attorney will no longer pursue cases for marijuana in the amount of less than 100 grams. And Denver, Colorado is using marijuana tax revenue to fund after-school and summer programs.

    Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

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

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

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

    New Jersey

    Senate President Stephen Sweeney, along with Sen. Nicholas Scutari, introduced legislation, S2703, to legalize adult marijuana sales and further expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.

    The legislation permits those age 21 and older to legally possess and/or purchase up to one ounce of cannabis. It also permits the licensing of 218 retail dispensaries — 120 of which would provide marijuana to adults while 98 would provide marijuana to authorized patients. At present, one half-a-dozen medical dispensaries are operating in the state.

    Other provisions in the measure seek to protect adults who consume cannabis from employer and/or housing discrimination, and permits certain retailers to establish on-site consumption areas.

    NJ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization and medical expansion

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

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

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

    Update: SB 20-62 was on the House’s agenda for a vote on 6/12, but was instead was referred back to the Committee on Judiciary & Government Operations.

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

    Delaware

    Legalization
    House Bill 110 seeks to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use.

    Update: An amendment to HB 110 was filed on 6/11. The wide-ranging amendment addresses packaging and labeling, safe cultivation, tracking of sales, random testing and safeguards for the consumer. Employer protections are clarified as well.

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

    Expungement
    Senate Bill 197 seeks to permit those convicted of past marijuana possession convictions to seek expungement.

    The measure would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting the expungement of any past marijuana possession violations that are no longer defined as a crime under state law.

    Update: SB 197 was unanimously passed by the Senate on 6/12.

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

    Medical
    House Bill 374 seeks to expand the state’s medical cannabis access program.

    The measure would expand the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis by permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from: chronic debilitating migraines, pediatric autism spectrum disorder, and pediatric sensory processing disorder.

    Update: HB 374 was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Children & Social Services Committee on 6/6.

    DE resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical expansion

    New York

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

    Update: A. 9016 came out of the Health Committee without a vote and was referred to the Rules Committee.

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

    California

    Expungement
    Assembly Bill 1793 seeks “to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence. The bill was approved by the Assembly last month.

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

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

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

    Update: SB 1127 was heard on 6/13 in the Assembly Education Committee, and then approved by the Committee. The bill will be heard by the Judiciary Committee on 7/4.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of administering medical cannabis to students at school

    Compassionate Care Programs
    Senate Bill 829 would exempt compassionate care programs from paying state cannabis taxes when they are providing free medical cannabis to financially disadvantaged people living with serious health conditions. The bill was approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions is holding a hearing on SB 829 on 6/19.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of these tax exemptions

    Banking
    Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses. The bill was approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: The Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee is holding a hearing on SB 930 on 6/26 at 9am.

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

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

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director June 14, 2018

    Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced The “RESPECT Resolution: Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades” to elevate the importance of equity within the legal cannabis marketplace. The RESPECT Resolution seeks both economic and reparative justice, ensuring that disenfranchised communities will be able to benefit equally in the emerging legal and regulated industry.

    “There’s no question that there is growing momentum – both within Congress and nationwide – for cannabis legalization. However, as we move into this new era, we must learn from the failed War on Drugs and ensure that entrepreneurs of color are included in this expanding industry. Due to unequal criminalization rates and disparities in access to capital, people of color are being locked out of the new and thriving legal cannabis trade,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “We need to address the systemic exclusion and discrimination at play. Otherwise, we will be prolonging and encouraging the injustices of the past – where brown men spend their lives in prison for cannabis, while white communities get rich off the industry. I encourage my colleagues to support the RESPECT Resolution, the first bill in Congress focused on building equity in the cannabis industry.”

    As more and more states dial back the war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive criminalization are able to see previous harms remedied and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation.

    It is absolutely crucial that future legalization efforts include avenues to expunge prior criminal convictions for actions which are now 100% legal. We sincerely appreciate Congresswoman Lee’s vision to facilitate those expungements at no cost to the individual. Currently, a complicated bureaucracy and unnecessary fees often prevent drug war victims from obtaining expungements and being able to fully participate in many aspects of civil society.

    Send a message to your Representative now in support of The RESPECT Resolution.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate June 8, 2018

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

    There were some key developments this week at the federal level, including a new bill introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales. A bipartisan House companion bill was introduced by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly pledged to permit a vote on the bill, while President Trump has publicly expressed his support for it.

    Also in Congress, the US House Rules Committee, led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX), blocked multiple amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer either legal protections or expanded access to veterans who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

    By contrast, members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar amendment to allow military veterans to get medical cannabis recommendations from Department of Veterans Affairs doctors and to protect them from being denied VA services because of their participation in state medical marijuana programs.

    In a press release issued by Senator Mitch McConnell’s office, he announced that he had secured the language of S. 2667 in the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee will officially consider the legislation on Wednesday, June 13.

    At the state level, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) vetoed legislation to allow marijuana “tasting rooms,” as well as legislation to permit autism as a qualifying condition, but signed a bill into law to allow school personnel to administer medical cannabis to patients at schools. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed legislation into law permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, severe muscle spasms, autism or glaucoma. And Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signed a bill modifying provisions relating to industrial hemp.

    New Jersey Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a new bill that would bring adult use marijuana to the state while also expanding the medical marijuana program. And Michigan Republican lawmakers failed to get enough legislative support to amend and enact marijuana legalization by Tuesday’s deadline, meaning that the measure will appear on the November ballot.

    At a more local level, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania City Council voted unanimously to approve a marijuana decriminalization ordinance, Minneapolis, Minnesota is ending low-level marijuana stings after it was revealed that nearly all people targeted by such actions are black, Savannah, Georgia police are preparing to implement a marijuana decriminalization ordinance starting on July 1, and Fulton County, Georgia commissioners voted to decriminalize marijuana in unincorporated areas.

    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

    Delaware

    Lawmakers in Delaware are once again considering House Bill 110 to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use.

    The legislation in 2017 was voted out of Committee, but then stalled as lawmakers elected to approve a resolution establishing a marijuana legalization task force. This group, which includes representatives from Delaware NORML, is anticipated to make recommendations to the legislature early this year.

    Update: It is anticipated that House Bill 110 will get a vote in the House in the next couple weeks, as well as in the Senate before the end of the legislative session in late June.

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

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

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

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

    Update: The House Committee on Judiciary & Government Operations held a hearing on marijuana legalization on 6/5.

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

    New York

    Legislation is pending in both chambers, A. 9016 and S. 7564 to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    Update: A. 9016 was approved by the Assembly on 6/6, and now awaits action in the Senate Health Committee.

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

    California

    Assembly Bill 1793 seeks “to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

    Update: AB 1793 was approved by the full Assembly on 5/31, and now awaits action in the Senate Rules Committee.

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

    Senate Bill 829 would exempt compassionate care programs from paying state cannabis taxes when they are providing free medical cannabis to financially disadvantaged people living with serious health conditions

    Update: SB 829 was approved by the Rules Committee unanimously, and now awaits action from the Committee on Business and Professions.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of exempting compassionate care programs from paying taxes

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

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 6, 2018

    Marijuana-related arrests increased over 20 percent between the years 2016 and 2017, according to crime data compiled by the Virginia State Police.

    Law enforcement officials made 27,852 arrests for marijuana violations, according to the report – up from 21,637 in 2016. At that time, Virginia ranked sixth in the nation for total marijuana arrests (trailing behind Texas, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Missouri), and fifteenth overall in per capita marijuana arrests.

    Overall, some 70 percent of all drug arrests in Virginia in 2017 were marijuana related.
    Under state law, the possession of any amount of cannabis is defined as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a criminal record. A bill introduced during the 2018 legislative session that sought to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses was defeated in committee in January on a party line vote, with all Republicans voting against the bill.

    Eight out of ten Virginians support decriminalization, fines not crimes, for possession of small amounts of marijuana,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML. “This drastic increase in arrests is completely out of step with public opinion. Law enforcement resources would be better directed towards preventing and solving violent crimes with the passage of a decriminalization bill.”

    Polling data compiled by Quinnipiac University finds that 59 percent of Virginians support allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

    According to the findings of a 2017 Virginia Commonwealth University report, African Americans in Virginia are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws at a rate that is more than three times the rate of whites.

    Archived state-by-state marijuana arrest data is available online from NORML here.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate June 1, 2018

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

    At the federal level, the U.S. House Rules Committee, and potentially the full House of Representatives, will consider four marijuana amendments next week, covering issues ranging from veterans’ access to medical cannabis to water rights for hemp growers.

    This week, it was big victory for patients as a Florida Circuit Court judge ruled that a legislatively enacted ban on the smoking of medical cannabis in private by qualified patients is unconstitutional.

    Additionally at the state level, state regulators in Utah certified a voter-initiated medical cannabis access measure for the 2018 ballot. Officials announced that proponents gathered nearly 154,000 validated initiative signatures from registered voters — far exceeding the total necessary to place the measure before a statewide vote.

    California NORML teamed up with Americans For Safe Access to host a Citizens Lobby Day in Sacramento on June 4, and Gov. Chris Sununu (R) of New Hampshire signed a bill allowing additional medical cannabis dispensary locations.

    At a more local level, Allentown, Pennsylvania’s mayor signed a marijuana decriminalization ordinance into law, but the police say they will continue enforcing state criminalization.

    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

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

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

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

    Update: SB 20-62 was approved unanimously by the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations (JGO). The next step will be a full House vote.

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

    North Carolina

    House Bill 994 would amend state law so that possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana carries no penalty, rather than a felony conviction. Under current state law, the possession of more than 1.5 ounces of marijuana is classified as a felony punishable by no more than 8 months in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000.

    Update: Senate companion bill SB 791 was introduced on 5/31 and awaits action in the Committee on Rules and Regulations.

    NC resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of decriminalization expansion

    Illinois

    Medical
    SB 336 seeks to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy as an alternative to opioid treatment.

    Update: SB 336 was approved by both houses on 5/31 and now awaits action from Governor Bruce Rauner.

    IL resident? Click here to email Gov. Rauner in support of cannabis as an alternative to opioids

    Hemp
    Senate Bill 2298 provides for the ability for individuals to cultivate hemp with a state license even if they are not part of the state’s Agriculture Department pilot program. That program only permits hemp cultivation as part of a state-sponsored research program. The bill was approved by the House last week, with amendments.

    Update: The Senate concurred on 5/30 and SB 2298 now awaits action from Governor Bruce Rauner.

    IL resident? Click here to email Gov. Rauner in support of industrial hemp

    California

    Expungement

    Assembly Bill 1793 would “allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

    Update: The Assembly Appropriations Committee amended AB 1793 and voted to pass it on 5/25. AB 1793 is expected to be heard by the full floor before the 6/1 deadline.

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

    Employment Protections

    Assembly Bill 2069 would explicitly bar employers from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

    Update: AB 2069 was held under submission in committee, effectively killing it for this year.

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    California

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

    Update: SB 930 was amended and passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 5/25. The bill was then approved by the Senate by a 29-6 vote on 5/30.

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

    Taxes
    AB 3157, to temporarily reduce tax rates imposed on the retail sale and commercial 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.

    Update: AB 3157 was heard by the Assembly Appropriations committee on 5/25 and is now dead for this year after the committee decided to hold the bill under submission.

     

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

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