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GOVERNMENT

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director July 16, 2018

    Late Monday night, the House Rules Committee led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked two 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 protections from Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it comes to cannabis.

    The amendments included allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales program, originally passed by voters in 2014, and protections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses.

    In a release sent out earlier today containing the testimony by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the Congresswoman stated:

    My first amendment, cosponsored by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Barbara Lee and Earl Blumenauer, strikes the rider that prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds to commercialize recreational marijuana.  Nine states have legalized recreational marijuana, and eight of those states have approved commercialization.

    In February 2015, D.C. legalized the possession of marijuana for recreational use, after two independent studies found dramatic racial disparities in marijuana arrests in D.C.  A rider to block recreational use failed due to faulty drafting, and possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for recreational use is legal in D.C., but Congress has prohibited D.C. from spending its local funds to tax and regulate recreational marijuana.  This rider has unintentionally benefited violent drug gangs.  For that reason, some refer to it as the “Drug Dealer Protection Act.”  As one marijuana dealer told the Washington Post, the rider is “a license for me to print money.”  Regulating marijuana like alcohol would allow D.C., instead of drug dealers, to control production, distribution, sales and revenues.

     

    The banking amendment was introduced by Rep Denny Heck (D-WA), who Marijuana Moment first reported as testifying:

    “Our federal laws are outdated. The people in this country want the law to treat marijuana as we do alcohol. These large sums of cash make dispensaries an obvious target for robberies.”

     

    Earlier in the year, the Senate included existing protections for medical marijuana programs from the Department of Justice for the FY19 Appropriations Bill to restrict federal funds from being used for enforcement actions. The House Appropriations Committee passed identical language offered by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) meaning that maintaining these protections will be considered in the annual conference committee and likely stay in effect.

    This was not the first time the Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, who is known to steer the Rules Committee with an iron fist, blocked marijuana-related amendments.

    He is currently being challenged by attorney, former NFL player, and former Special Assistant in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of General Counsel Colin Allred. You can find out more about Allred’s campaign here.

    Send a message to your federally elected officials in support of comprehensive reform legislation in our Action Center: http://norml.org/act

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate July 13, 2018

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

    A lot has happened at the state level this week, starting with Maine lawmakers overriding Gov. Paul LePage’s (R) veto of medical cannabis expansion legislation, by a vote of 119 to 23 in the House and 25 to 8 in the Senate. The measure will now become law later this fall.

    North Dakota activists submitted what they believe are enough signatures (nearly 19,000!) to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the November ballot. State officials must certify 13,452 signatures in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 ballot and are anticipated to take an estimated 35 days to verify proponents’ signatures.

    Directors at the Oklahoma Department of Health voted 5 to 4 to severely limit patients’ access to a wide range of cannabis products. Specifically, the new provisions: prohibit the sale of smokable herbal  cannabis at licensed dispensaries; require dispensaries to have a licensed pharmacist on staff; impose arbitrary THC potency thresholds on various cannabis-infused products; and mandate that dispensary managers obtain at least four hours of continuing education training each calendar year. Qualified patients will still be permitted to grow their own medical marijuana flowers.

    Oklahoma lawmakers formed a bipartisan working group to focus on seeing that medical cannabis is implemented in a way that “conforms to the will of the voters.” House Democrats are calling for a special legislative session to address the issue.

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed legislation into law permitting out-of-state patients to access medical cannabis while visiting Hawaii. The measure also permits licensed dispensaries to sell cartridges to patients containing cannabis extracts and oils. The law took effect upon passage. However, Gov. Ige vetoed legislation to allow medical cannabis as a substitute for opioids, and for substance use and withdrawal symptoms, stating that the responsibility of adding new qualifying conditions should be left up to the Health Department, not lawmakers.

    Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) signed a bill into law allowing those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged for crimes that were subsequently decriminalized, such as marijuana possession. Those with past convictions for crimes involving the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis can now petition the court to seek an order of expungement.

    And Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation into law to facilitate state-sponsored medical cannabis research.

    At a more local level, The Dane County, Wisconsin Board voted to place a marijuana legalization advisory question on the November ballot, a La Crosse County, Wisconsin Board committee advanced a marijuana legalization advisory measure for the November ballot, and unfortunately the Walworth County, Wisconsin Board killed a marijuana legalization advisory measure proposed for November’s ballot. But activists in Nelsonville, Ohio did turn in signatures to qualify a marijuana decriminalization measure for the November ballot.

    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 Cannabis Criminalization: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

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

    Delaware

    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. State officials estimate the legislation could affect up to 1,300 people convicted of a single marijuana crime from 1977 to 2015.

    Update: SB 197 was sent to to Gov. John Carney’s desk. Legal advisers to the Governor are reviewing the bill, but he is expected to sign it into law.

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

    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 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 8/6 at 10am in the John L. Burton Hearing Room.

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

    That’s all the legislative updates for this week!

  • by NORML July 11, 2018

    The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) questions the excessive use of force used by Pennsylvania law enforcement, whose pursuit of a man suspected of growing a small amount of marijuana outdoors ultimately led to his death.

    The body of a suspect in the case, Pennsylvania resident Gregory A. Longenecker, was found earlier this week under a bulldozer operated by a Pennsylvania Game Commission worker. The bulldozer was carrying a Pennsylvania state trooper in pursuit of Mr. Longenecker, who was suspected to have been cultivating ten marijuana plants in Penn Township, PA. A police helicopter was also used in the search.

    NORML questions law enforcements’ decision to pursue the suspect in such an extreme manner, especially over such a minor offense..  “As a former prosecutor and practicing criminal defense attorney, it is inconceivable to me that a man lost his life during an investigation of a very small grow,” said Patrick Nightengale, Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML. “Had he been arrested, prosecuted and convicted Pennsylvania’s sentencing guidelines would have provided for a sentence of probation. The heavy-handed tactics employed cannot be justified by the seizure of ten plants. I do not understand why law enforcement couldn’t simply wait. A vehicle was on scene and another individual was taken into custody. Rip the plants, run the plate and ask the arrestee what his friend’s name is. How difficult is that?”

    “This awful event could have and should have been prevented,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. ”This tragedy is a direct result of our nation’s draconic and failed criminalization of marijuana. Not only was the use of resources in this matter excessive and the tactics highly questionable, but more importantly a man lost his life over the act of growing a plant that is now legally regulated in a majority of US states. No matter your opinion on marijuana legalization, the penalty for growing cannabis should never be an extrajudicial death sentence.”

    The commercial cultivation and dispensing of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 31 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam; The regulation of marijuana for adults is permitted in nine states and Washington, DC. Recent national polls have revealed that over 60% of all Americans support the legalization of marijuana for adults.

    “As an activist and cannabis lobbyist in Pennsylvania, I always use decorum and process to my advantage. There would seem to have been a total lack of both by law enforcement this past Monday outside of Bernville. By all accounts the death of an illicit marijuana grower being chased by a state bulldozer, under the direction of Pennsylvania State Troopers, was an unnecessary and reckless use of resources,” says Jeff Riedy, Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML. “These horrible events only fuel the need for marijuana reform, including the right for personal use and home cultivation in our state, and across this country. Endless pursuit at all costs, leading to the death of a suspect, over a few marijuana plants is excessive, to say the least.”

    Connect with Lehigh Valley NORML

    Connect with Pittsburgh NORML

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate July 6, 2018

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

    At the state level, Vermont’s law legalizing marijuana possession and home cultivation took effect on July 1, and so did Georgia’s law allowing low-THC medical cannabis preparations for PTSD and intractable pain. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said that although marijuana legalization didn’t make it into the state’s budget deal, there is agreement from lawmakers to get it done “sooner rather than later.” The Senate president said that legislators are “committed” to passing marijuana legalization this summer.

    At a more local level, the Rock County, Wisconsin Board voted to place a marijuana legalization advisory question on the November ballot. The Forest Park, Georgia City Council voted 3-2 for decriminalization and a Savannah, Georgia law allowing police to avoid low-level marijuana arrests took effect on Sunday.

    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 Cannabis Criminalization: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

    Click here to e-mail your senators 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: The House Judiciary & Government Operations Committee recommended the passage of SB 20-62 on 7/2.

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

    Delaware

    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. The bill was already passed by the Senate last month.

    Update: on 7/2, SB 197 was unanimously approved by the House. The bill now awaits action from Governor John Carney (D).

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

    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 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 8/6 at 10am in the John L. Burton Hearing Room.

    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: On 7/2, SB 829 was approved by the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation by a vote of 8-1, and was re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of helping needy patients

    Senate Bill 1127 would 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.

    Update: SB 1127 was heard by the Judiciary Committee on 7/3, and then approved by the Committee by a 7-3 vote.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expanded access to medical cannabis in schools

    That’s all the legislative updates for this week!

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate June 29, 2018

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

    The US Senate has been busy this week talking about marijuana policy. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Senators Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), just introduced legislation called the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

    The full Senate voted to legalize hemp as part of the Farm Bill by a 86-11 vote. The Senate also earlier this week approved a funding bill that contains a provision allowing Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical cannabis to military veterans.

    At the state level, Oklahoma became the 31st state to legalize medical marijuana, after voters decided to enact State Question 788, that permits doctors to use their discretion to recommend medical cannabis to any patients who will benefit from it. But Gov. Mary Fallin (R) issued a statement shortly after the result was called indicating that she plans to work with lawmakers to scale back the measure.

    A majority of the Delaware House of Representatives voted to approve a marijuana legalization bill, but it did not get the 60% supermajority support needed to advance the bill to the Senate, killing it for the year.

    Massachusetts regulators approved an equity plan to ensure participation in the marijuana industry by communities that have been targeted by the war on drugs. They also voted to prioritize consideration of cannabis testing lab license applications.

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) said he will veto a bill to allow medical cannabis to treat opioid addiction, substance use and withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed a bill approving a medical cannabis research program.

    At a more local level, Sacramento County, California’s district attorney has been moving to dismiss old marijuana convictions, Jacksonville, Arkansas police will no longer arrest people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and Las Vegas, Nevada officials are considering allowing marijuana consumption lounges.

    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 Cannabis Criminalization: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

    Click here to e-mail your senators 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: The Board of Education wants SB 20-62 amended to ban cannabis on campuses and from public school system buildings and to exempt the agency from discriminating against employees who consume marijuana.

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

    New York

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

    Update: The Republican Caucus pushed A. 9016/S. 7564 off the table and merged it with A. 11011b / S. 8987a which passed both chambers of the legislature on 6/20. The bills now await action from Governor Cuomo.

    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 heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee on 6/26, and then approved by a 5-1 vote. The bill now awaits action in the Appropriations 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 Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation by a vote of 8-1, and was re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of helping needy patients

    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 already approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: SB 1127 will be heard by the Judiciary Committee on 7/3.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of patient access to medical cannabis in schools

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

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