The majority of the US Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday cast votes in favor of expanding medical cannabis access to United States veterans. The committee vote marks the first time that a majority of any body of the US Senate has ever decided in favor of increased cannabis access.
Committee members voted 18 to 12 in favor of The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. It was added in committee to a must-pass military construction and veterans affairs spending bill (the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act). The bill is “certain” to pass on the Senate floor, according to a Drug Policy Alliance press release.
Weeks ago, House members narrowly killed a similar amendment in the House version of the Appropriations Act by a floor vote of 210 to 213. Once the Senate version of the act is passed by the Senate floor, House and Senate leaders will need to reconcile the two versions.
The Daines/Merkley amendment permits physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use. Under current federal law, VA doctors are not permitted to fill out written documentation forms authorizing their patients to participate in state-sanctioned medical cannabis programs.
Stand-alone legislation (HR 667) to permit VA physicians to recommend cannabis therapy is pending in the US House of Representatives, Committee on Veterans Affairs: Health Subcommittee. A similar provision is also included in Senate Bill 683/HR 1538, The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act.
NORML coordinated its 2015 legislative ‘fly-in’ and lobby day in Washington, DC this past week, where many attendees visited with US Senators and urged them to vote for the Daines/Merkley amendment, among other pending reform legislation. Archived presentations from the conference are online here.
To learn and/or to contact your elected officials in regard to other pending marijuana law reform legislation, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
It is hardly a secret to any long observing advocate for cannabis law reform to recognize early on in their efforts to end cannabis prohibition that if it were not for government–federal, state and local governments–spending, there would be relatively few examples of private money being employed in the last forty-five years to try to maintain the status quo of cannabis prohibition.
The tens of billions spent annually to keep the Reefer Madness going in America largely is taxpayer-funded bureaucracies such as the so-called drug czar’s office, DEA, NIDA, SAMHSA, DARE, PDFA…blah–blah–blah.
Even in the face of this tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars annually, still, a majority of the US public rejects the policy of cannabis prohibition.
Unbelievably, the drug czar’s office actually mandates that the office must use tax funding to publicly oppose cannabis legalization efforts–even though such is no longer a popularly supported public policy.
Add one more prime example of cannabis prohibitionists in government not yielding to the will of voters, and worse, rather than pool their own private funding to advance their no-longer-popular-views, they want the taxpayers to pick up the bill of their anti-cannabis advocacy.
Arizona voters approved a medical cannabis initiative in 2010. Many in the law enforcement community in the state, including prosecutors, have consistently opposed implementing the change of policies and/or still harass medical cannabis producers or patients.
They’re sore losers.
Now, consistent with large swaths of the country, Arizona voters are organizing once again in the state to place a full cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot for 2016.
What is the reaction from some in the law enforcement community in Arizona to the prospects of citizens again instructing their workers what public policies they want them to enforce?
Sure, law enforcement personnel are citizens too, and their opinions are as meaningful as any other citizens’, however, law enforcement personnel who oppose the public’s will on changes of public policy should never employ taxpayer funding to try to sway the populace or propagandize–on matters ranging from police wearing body cameras, to forfeiture reform to cannabis legalization.
Well that is not at all happening currently in Yavapai County Arizona, where the local prosecutor Shelia Polk thinks it wise and prudent to steer forfeiture money derived from the criminal justice system (with most of the proceeds coming to law enforcement from currently illegal drug profits seized in previous criminal filings) to propagandize to voters that they should not vote to end cannabis prohibition in the state.
Ever hear law enforcement roll out the tired ol’ line of “we don’t make the laws, we only enforce them?”
It’s largely a lie (I mean…prevarication).
Police and prosecutors (aided and abetted by fellow pot prohibitionists wearing white coats at NIDA, for example) regularly, using taxpayers’ money, actively seek to influence the outcome of public policy legislation, court cases and voter initiatives that seek to reform cannabis laws.
It is pretty simple at this point in the now five-decade-old public effort to end cannabis prohibition, if police and prosecutors want to defend the status quo of a failed and unpopular public policy, then, if they really cared about the issue, they’d put their own skin in the game by organizing as private citizens.
If prosecutors, cops, narcs, sheriffs and chiefs of police want to pony up their own money to try to stave off cannabis prohibition ending in their lifetimes–go for it.
Reformers will more than match them dollar-for-dollar and are always spoiling for a good debate about wisdom for rationale continuing cannabis prohibition…and we’ve got the public on our side, they no longer do.
What can not and should not happen anymore in the modern public policy debate about whether America should or should not continue another nearly eighty-years with cannabis prohibition enforcement are government officials and law enforcement personnel using their power of the purse and bully pulpit to try to persuade voters on ANY matters of public policy–let alone on policies where conflicts of interest are as obvious as prosecutors using government money to oppose the will of local voters who’re seeking to reform unpopular laws.
Cannabis law reformers can and will win a fair fight on cannabis legalization, but, the impending political victory will be delayed if government officials are permitted to continue to use taxpayer funding to oppose the very will of the voters.
Government for and by the people? Not when government officials are sore losers and want to use government funding to try to tip the scales of public opinion.
When government stops spending taxpayer dollars to keep cannabis prohibition going, the unpopular policy will die an ignominious and swift death.
Editor’s note: Thankfully, late yesterday AZ’s Attorney General came to reconsider this blundering policy of allowing government funding to be used to campaign against cannabis legalization efforts in the state.
The 2015 state legislative session has been the busiest on record.
State lawmakers have debated nearly 100 different marijuana law reform bills this session and some 60 bills remain pending.
NORML’s Take Action Center here provides you with the ability to track pending legislation in your state and to contact your elected officials and urge them to support marijuana law reform.
So far this legislative session, some 65,000 letters have been sent by NORML members to their elected officials in support of pending legislation. These efforts are paying dividends.
Below are some examples of pending legislation that need your support:
Delaware: Legislation to decriminalize minor marijuana offenses has passed committee and awaits a House floor vote. Take action here.
Hawaii: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation permitting medical cannabis production facilities and dispensaries. The measure now awaits the Governor’s signature. Take action here.
Illinois: Marijuana decriminalization legislation passed the House and now awaits action on the Senate floor. Take action here.
Minnesota: Legislation to legalize hemp farming has passed the House and now awaits action from the Senate. Take action here.
Missouri: Legislation establishing a licensed hemp cultivation program has been passed by the House and now awaits a vote on the Senate floor. Take action here.
New Hampshire: House lawmakers voted 3 to 1 to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses. The bill now awaits Senate action. Take action here.
Texas: Legislation to remove marijuana-related offenses from the Texas criminal code has passed out of committee and now awaits action from the House of Representatives. Take action here. Separate legislation decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses has also passed out of committee and awaits further House action. Take action here.
Additional legislation seeking to legalize the adult use and retail sale of cannabis remains pending in over a dozen states, while decriminalization and medical marijuana measures are pending in nearly 20 others. For a full listing of pending legislation and approved legislation, visit NORML’s Take Action Center here.
A new report by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) adds considerable information to the base knowledge accumulating at the state level on new changes in laws and custom regarding cannabis legalization circa 2013, starting in the states of Colorado and Washington after citizens voted to end cannabis prohibition via binding ballot initiatives.
ITEP’s principle donors are found here.
Our friends at High Times have launched a new campaign to call national attention to the next logical step in the country’s progression towards marijuana legalization: Freeing America’s Pot Prisoners
While the federal government has relaxed its stance on marijuana, allowing states to implement their own laws and no longer prosecuting businesses running in accordance with these laws, the status of those persecuted under old laws remains ignored. High Times’ petition calls for a rectification between the United States’ past marijuana laws and the current situation.
“President Obama recently commuted 20-odd prisoners serving life for a first time drug offense,” says CEO of Trans High Corporation and volunteer lawyer for “Lifers for Pot” Michael Kennedy. “Nineteen of them were convicted of coke and meth crimes… clearly much more serious misdeeds than pot dealing, but the big O only commuted one marijuana lifer. While we at High Times totally support these commutations, we have to press the President to look more closely at our Lifers For Pot and free them forthwith!”
The petition urges Attorney General Holder, as well as the Attorney General Designate, to recommend for the immediate release of all non-violent marijuana offenders and to provide new sentencing guidelines to give law enforcement other options besides imprisoning non-violent offenders. In 2013, 693,482 people were arrested for a marijuana law violation and of those, 609,423 (88 percent) were charged only with possession.
Even in California, where marijuana prisoners are beginning to be released, 482 non-violent marijuana offenders remain in prison, which is not only a high human cost but a huge cost to taxpayers. For this reason, High Times is soliciting Attorney General Kamala Harris to act as an example for the other 49 states by immediately releasing these prisoners and recommending alternatives to incarceration for the use, sale, and cultivation of marijuana.
Some non-violent marijuana prisoners, such as Antonio Bascaró and Jeff Mizanskey, have been imprisoned for non-violent offenses for much of their lives. Both fear perishing in prison without seeing a country swept with marijuana reform. High Times hopes this petition can change the fates of these two men and the others still imprisoned for non-violent marijuana crimes.
Recreational marijuana is now legal in four states and the District of Columbia, medical use is legal in 24 others and 58 percent of Americans are in favor of legalized, regulated marijuana. This change in American perspective on marijuana, High Times argues, is the exact reason why non-violent offenders should be released.
High Times’ petition is found at http://bit.ly/420Freedom.
Signers are asked to spread word of the petition using #FreePotPrisoners across social media.