Members of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, lead by Senate Judiciary Chairman, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) gathered this morning for a hearing titled, “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?”
Invited participants at today’s hearing included an advisory board member for a national anti-marijuana organization and the Nebraska Attorney General who sought to overturn Colorado’s marijuana regulation laws by filing a lawsuit with the Supreme Court. Clearly, Senator Grassley and co-chair, Senator Feinstein (D-CA) did not gather lawmakers to discuss how to move marijuana policy reform forward, but backwards.
Senator Grassley’s hearing appeared, by and large, to be an effort to try and shame the Department of Justice into taking action to overturn the regulatory laws of states that are presently regulating marijuana production and sale. The panelists presented a laundry list of purported dangers that they claimed to be the result of changes in marijuana laws, such as supposed spikes in teenage use and traffic collisions.
There was, however, one highlight for marijuana reformers during today’s hearing. When witness Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of California, Sacramento, California was asked by Sen. Grassley as to why the Department of Justice isn’t challenging adult use marijuana state laws, he responded: “The decision to intervene would not be solely based on data. If we took out regulation of the market and just left decriminalization, it may leave a more chaotic system than it is now.”
By contrast, arguably the hearing’s lowlight came from Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who spoke longingly of about the decade of ‘Just Say No’ and claimed, “[G]ood people don’t smoke marijuana.”
The hearing’s tone, while predictable, is nonetheless disappointing. That is because the CARERS Act, bipartisan legislation to strengthen statewide medical marijuana protections, is pending before the US Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Grassley. To date, the senator has pledged not to hear the bill, despite the fact that medical marijuana legalization is supported by 80 percent of his own constituents and an estimated 78 percent of voters nationwide.
If you live in Iowa, you can contact Senator Grassley and urge him to hold hearings on the CARERS Act here. If you don’t live in Iowa, you can urge your own elected officials to support the CARERS Act here.
To view an archived video of today’s Congressional hearing, please visit: http://www.drugcaucus.senate.gov/hearings.
As Colorado approaches its fourth year of legal marijuana, consumers around the state are still struggling with the issue of acceptance. With local governments passing restrictive laws aimed at preventing the public consumption and/or display of marijuana, marijuana consumers are being forced to enjoy their legally purchased products behind closed doors. Take Denver for example. In 2013, City Council members passed an ordinance that established fines of up to $999 for those who are caught smoking in a public space. This left in state consumers with nowhere to consume their marijuana other than a private residence, and left out-of-state consumers with no legal place to consume at all.
After the new law was put into place, Denver police officers issued more than 650 tickets within the first year, compared to just over 117 for the previous year. This massive increase of 461 percent in citations speaks volumes to the obvious need for a more thoughtful approach. It just doesn’t make sense to provide a legal avenue for adults to purchase marijuana while simultaneously applying restrictions that severely limit the act of consuming it. It’s fairly simple, marijuana consumers deserve similar rights that our society typically affords to someone who enjoys a glass of wine at a local wine bar after an exhausting day.
Hopefully this situation will soon change. Last week Denver NORML filed the Responsible Use initiative with the city of Denver. If passed by voters this November, it would legalize the establishment of private marijuana clubs for adults 21 and up. Passage of this ordinance would be a historic first step in moving towards the ultimate goal of normalizing the consumption of marijuana in our country. The initiative would provide responsible adults a legally defined space where marijuana could be consumed and shared with other like-minded adults — a simple, yet necessary accommodation for states that have passed some form of legalization. It’s time for marijuana consumers to embrace the idea that just like any other consumer focused industry, we have rights.
We have our work ahead of us: gathering signatures, voter outreach and coalition building will be our top priorities over the next few weeks. Even in a progressive city such as Denver, where marijuana is fairly popular, we must work to earn the support non-consumers to ensure a victory on this issue. I believe we can accomplish this by offering a pragmatic initiative that will focus on the basics. There are plenty of places to grab a drink or a quick bite to eat, but we as marijuana consumers have no where to legally consume marijuana other than the privacy of someone’s home. If we focus on what is truly needed, I believe we can increase our chances of being successful this November.
To learn more about the Responsible Use Initiative or to get involved, please visit the campaign’s website by clicking, here!
If you are planning on attending this year’s Congressional Lobby Day in Washington D.C. this May 23rd and 24th and you like saving money, please take advantage of the early bird discount for pre-registering that is now available!
The schedule will be released soon but rest easy it will be a full two day itinerary focused around marijuana consumerism, the 114th Congress, post prohibition concerns, marijuana in the media and more! We’ll hold our informational conference on Monday at the GW University Elliot School of International Affairs (1957 E Street NW) with moderated discussions between some of the most influential thought leaders in the movement and then on Tuesday we’ll #TakeAction and gather on Capitol Hill to lobby our elected officials for common sense marijuana law reforms.
We’ll also be hosting a NORML Social at O St. Mansion on Monday night for a special award ceremony to honor our most valuable marijuana activists! If you wish to join the party don’t forget to purchase a separate ticket at checkout.
Thanks again for your dedicated support and help in reforming our country’s misguided cannabis laws.
Federal: Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced H.R. 4779, the CBD Oil Act of 2016 this week. This legislation would bar prosecution of individuals who use cannabidiol (CBD) oil for medical purposes as permitted by existing state law. Currently, 15 states have laws on the books to allow for the use of CBD products for medicinal purposes. Utah Governor Herbert has come out in support of the bill saying: “I support Rep. Chaffetz in his effort to alleviate the fear that many Utah families face over conflicting state and federal laws regarding cannabis oil. This legislation resolves that concern by respecting decisions made at the local level.”
This legislation joins five other pending bills on the federal level to to permit and/or protect patient access to CBD. You can find the other pending legislation here.
Alabama: Legislation is pending, House Bill 257, to amend state law so that first time offenders of one ounce or less of marijuana face a civil fine, no arrest and no criminal record. Current law defines the personal possession of marijuana as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up of to $6,000.
The legislation is currently pending before the House Judiciary Committee. #TakeAction
Florida: Members of the Tampa city council voted 5 to 1 to amend local laws so that the possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis within city limits is a non-arrestable, fine-only offense. First-time offenders face a $75 fine, while multiple offenders could face fines up to $450. By contrast, Florida law defines similar possession offenses as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Tampa’s pending law is similar to those recently enacted in a number of Florida counties, including Miami-Dade, West Palm Beach, and Volusia, as well as in several other metropolitan areas, such as Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
Georgia: House lawmakers have resurrected language to expand the state’s medical cannabis law. Provisions previously contained in House Bill 722 have been attached to separate legislation, which is expected to be decided upon by a floor vote imminently. House lawmakers previously approved the measure last month, but Senate lawmakers were unwilling to take up the issue.
As amended, the language expands the pool of patients eligible for certain medical marijuana products to include autism spectrum disorder, AIDS, a skin disease known as epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy, Tourette’s syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder, and protects patients against various discriminatory practices. #TakeAction
Louisiana: Members of the New Orleans city council voted 7 to zero in favor of legislation permitting police to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders (defined as those who possess 14 grams or less), including repeat offenders. First-time violators are subject to a $40 fine while subsequent offenders may face fines of up to $100. Under state law, first-time possession offenders are subject to arrest and criminal prosecution (punishable by up to 15 days in jail) while repeat offenders face up to eight years in prison.
Pennsylvania: After months of delay, House members approved legislation in a 149-3 vote on Wednesday to permit the production and use of medical marijuana products to qualified patients.The amended bill permits state officials to license marijuana cultivators and dispensaries to provide cannabis products to qualified patients who possess a recommendation from select physicians. The measure permits for the dispensing of herbal cannabis via vaporization, as well as the use of marijuana-infused extracts or oils.Because the House-amended legislation differs from the version initially approved by the Senate, the bill must be reapproved by the Senate or it will be negotiated in conference committee. #TakeAction
Tennessee: Legislation is pending, HB 2310 and SB2321, to place a referendum before voters this November that would provide local law enforcement the option of citing rather than arresting adults who are caught in possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. If the referendum is approved by voters, the option to arrest or cite minor offenders will be at the discretion of law enforcement.
An analysis of 2012 marijuana possession arrests reports that police annually arrest over 19,000 Tennesseans for minor marijuana possession offenses. This is the 15th highest statewide tally in the nation. House Bill 2310 has been scheduled to be heard by members of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on March 22nd. #TakeAction
Vermont: The House Judiciary Committee held it’s first walk-through this week related to S.241, the measure to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. Though the Senate has approved the measure, it’s expected to be a difficult road to win the House over. If you live in Vermont it’s important to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for this measure! #TakeAction
MERRY JANE, a premiere cannabis and pop culture media platform, is investigating cannabis globally in their new original series, “Wide World of Cannabis,” which premiered Wednesday. The first episode, “Uruguay Part 1” travels to South America to explore the first country in the world to completely legalize recreational and medical marijuana. This is just the start of MERRY JANE’s deep dive into cannabis use around the world.
MERRY JANE was recently launched by entertainment icon, Snoop Dogg, and media entrepreneur, Ted Chung. The website, including partners Seth Rogen, Guy Oseary and Miley Cyrus, features the latest news on cannabis, business and entertainment, as well as a location mapping service for dispensaries and an encyclopedia of all things cannabis.