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  • by NORML June 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

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

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

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

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

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

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

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

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

    New York

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

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

    California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • by NORML

    KY NORML is passionate about education. And with the opioid epidemic consuming our state, we feel that it is our duty to share valuable information regarding the relationship between cannabis and opioids. Cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, traffic fatalities, drug treatment admissions, and overdose deaths. We strongly believe, based on research, first-hand accounts, and testimonials that cannabis is truly the answer to combating this crisis that is killing thousands of Kentuckians each year.

    According to a study by the Journal of Headache and Pain, “the most common prescription medications replaced by medicinal cannabis in this study were opiates/opioids in a large percentage within every pain group, up to 72.8% of patients in the chronic pain as primary illness group. … This is notable given the well-described “opioid-sparing effect” of cannabinoids and growing abundance of literature suggesting that cannabis may help in weaning from these medications and perhaps providing a means of combating the opioid epidemic.”

    Investigators assessed opioid use patterns in patients registered with Health Canada to access medical cannabis products. Among those patients who acknowledged using opioids upon enrollment in the trial, 51 percent reported ceasing their opiate use within six-months. “The high rate of cannabis use for the treatment of chronic pain — and subsequent substitution for opioids — suggests that cannabis may play a harm-reduction role in the ongoing opioid dependence and overdose crisis. While the cannabis substitution effect for prescription drugs has been identified and assessed via cross-sectional and population-level research, this study provides a granular individual-level perspective of cannabis substitution for prescription drugs and associated improvement in quality of life over time.”

    Cannabis access is associated with reductions in overall prescription drug spending. JAMA Internal Medicine “found that prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year when a state instituted any medical cannabis law. Prescriptions for all opioids decreased by 3.742 million daily doses per year when medical cannabis dispensaries opened. … Combined with previously published studies suggesting cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid mortality, these findings further strengthen arguments in favor of considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids.”

    The Mental Health Clinician  “investigated medical cannabis’ effectiveness in patients suffering from chronic pain associated with qualifying conditions for MC in New York State. … After 3 months treatment, MC improved quality of life, reduced pain and opioid use, and lead to cost savings. … These results are consistent with previous reports demonstrating MC’s effectiveness in neuropathic pain.”

    There are tons more information out there on this topic and the above research barely scratches the surface. We encourage you to see what’s out there for yourself. Knowledge is power and the better armed we are with that knowledge the more effective we can be in getting legislation passed. The opioid crisis that is plaguing our state has harmed so many of our citizens, and if cannabis is able to help, the legislators should get out the way and pass a comprehensive bill to deal with the problems our state is facing.

    High Regards,
    Matthew Bratcher
    Executive Director, KY NORML

    To support KY NORML you can DONATE HERE and follow us on Facebook and Twitter! Your donations help pay the bills and allow us to function and continue to make a difference in our state! Can you kick in $5, $10 or $20 to help us keep going?

  • by David Holland, Executive Director of Empire State NORML June 20, 2018

    Cannabis PenaltiesThe new Report by the New York City Police Department’s “Working Group” is more window dressing than an actual policy change. It appears to be an elaborate 20-page rationalization to continue the present enforcement protocol without any real progress on the policing front. As of today, the policy continues to leave it to the relatively unfettered discretion in the hands of each officer to decide whether to issue a summons or, subject to a variety of exceptions, affect a full-blown arrest for the public consumption of marijuana. The continuation of this policy certainly is better than the old days in that those issued a summons are not fingerprinted and face only a maximum $100 fine for a first offense. But, that is not the policy that the citizens of New York want or need.

    Historically, the Report cites a 66% decrease in marijuana-related arrests since changes of enforcement priority and practice dating back to 2014. The Report makes clear through statistics and graphs that despite the significant drop in arrests, those arrests continue to dramatically impact people of color who comprised 86.9% of all marijuana arrests and disproportionately continue to suffer the negative collateral consequences of such an arrest. It further cites other jurisdictions like Colorado and other legalized states that still have endemic racial disparity in arrest rates despite the law enforcement policy changes. Such statistical anomalies must be addressed since New York City’s change in enforcement priority dating back to 2014 officially recognized that the burning of marijuana in public view had a negligible impact on the safety and quality of life NYC denizens.

    But, the Report justifies the lack of any substantial policy change in 2018 on the fact that there is not a uniform consensus amongst the District Attorneys in each of the 5 boroughs of New York City regarding the prosecution of marijuana cases. The District Attorneys of Manhattan and Brooklyn have publicly announced that they will no longer prosecute low-level marijuana offenses, but similar pronouncements are lacking from the DAs in the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.  As such, the lack of uniformity within the 5 boroughs leaves the NYPD without a single policy because of the differing law enforcement priorities in different neighborhoods. Therefore, NYPD apparently believes that it cannot improve upon its dated 2014 policy.

    In reality, this rationalization is a cop-out.  NYPD officers have for years been given lots of discretion during civilian encounters involving public consumption and that has led to vastly reduced number of marijuana arrests.  The Police Department can and should revise and develop a more comprehensive set of internal guidelines to further guide and constrain the officer’s discretion to issue summonses which in turn cause a further decline in the number of marijuana arrests in New York City.  While the Report calls for limited exceptions to the policy to permit arrests where matters of public safety and quality of life issues are at stake (lack of identification, open warrants, history of violence, and being on probation or parole), all internal measures should be taken to ensure that police/civilian encounters are designed to achieve the desire and goal of both NYPD and New Yorkers to greatly reduce the arrests for the public burning of marijuana.

    You can read the full report here

    David C. Holland, Esq. is the Executive and Legal Director, Empire State NORML. You can follow Empire NORML on Facebook and Twitter, and visit their website at: https://esnorml.org/ 

  • by Jax Finkel, Texas NORML Executive Director June 19, 2018
    Texas GOP Platform Now Supports Decriminalization, Re-Scheduling, Hemp and an Inclusive Medical Program

    Republican Delegates at the State Convention in San Antonio succeeded in updating the Texas GOP platform to include planks that support making the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) more inclusive, removal of criminal penalty for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana, the re-scheduling of and growing industrial hemp in Texas. This took a powerful effort from the grassroots, delegates and Republicans in advance of the convention and during the long, multi-step process it takes to approve and adopt planks to the Republican Platform.

    Here is what happened over the week leading up to these planks adoption:

    • Monday night before the convention, the Criminal and Civil Justice Sub Committee passed a resolution to remove criminal penalties for possession of 1 ounce or less. The Health and Human Service Sub Committee passed a resolution to improve TCUP.
    • On Tuesday, the Legislative Priorities Committee (LPC) met to determine the top legislative priorities for the next session. The Committee took testimony from 15 people include sitting Representative Jason Issac.
    • When the Temporary Platform Committee (TPC) issued their report on Wednesday, it included both of the planks. Additionally, the LPC took an informal poll and medical cannabis was in the top ten. They would ultimately adopt 8 priorities and medical cannabis unfortunately did not make the cut.
    • Thursday the Permanent Platform Committee considered the TPC report. The final report the Permanent Platform Committee adopted included the following cannabis related planks, which were then voted on by the delegates on Saturday:
      • Penalty Reduction for Possession: We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time. (Passed 83%)
      • Expand Access to Medical Cannabis: We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to recommend to certified patients. (Passed 82%)
      • Call for Re-scheduling Cannabis: Congress should remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 and moved to Schedule 2. (Passed 90%)
      • Industrial Hemp: We recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity. We urge the Texas Legislature to pass legislation allowing cultivation, manufacture and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products. (Passed 83%)

    These types of changes are extremely important in advance of the 2019 Legislative Session. Pre-filing bills will start on November 12th, 2018 and the session will officially kick off on January 8th, 2019.

    You can help Texas NORML by becoming a member, a sustaining or onetime donor!

    If you are in the Fort Worth area or are a delegate to the Democratic Convention, join the Texas Cannabis Caucus on Friday, June 22nd, 2018 at 1pm.

     

    Jax Finkel is the Executive Director of Texas NORML, the state affliate of NORML. Follow their work on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Visit their website at www.texasnorml.org and make a contribution to support their work at www.texasnorml.org/donate/

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