Welcome to this week’s edition of the legislative roundup. With prohibitionists fighting nationwide, from Massachusetts to deny the will of the voters with the implementation of legalization to Hawaii where the state is seeking to impose increased monitoring of drivers who may be under the influence of marijuana, NORML is constantly working to fight the rising tide of anti-science legislation cropping up.
Below are the priority bills that we’ve tracked this week, with more being posted on our http://norml.org/act page every day.
If you have not yet, make sure 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.
Thanks for all you do,
Legislative efforts are pending to amend the state’s voter-initiated medical marijuana law in a manner that would restrict qualified patients from smoking herbal preparations of the plant. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson indicates that he favors the plan.
NORML opposes this effort to fundamentally change the law for the following reasons.
The inhalation of herbal cannabis is associated with the rapid onset of drug effect while the oral consumption of other preparations, such as oils, extracts, or pills, is associated with significantly delayed onset. For patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms, such as those suffering from severe nausea, seizures, or spasms, inhaling herbal cannabis is the fastest and most effective route of administration. Inhaling cannabis also permits patients to better regulate their dose.
Further, the effects of orally ingested cannabis are far less predictable in comparison to inhaled cannabis. This is because there exists far greater variability in the ways that marijuana is metabolized when it is consumed orally — meaning that patients may experience disparate and even dysphoric effects from dose to dose, even in instances where the dose is standardized.
Additionally, SB 130 prohibits individuals from operating a motor vehicle if they have 5 or more nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood. NORML opposes this proposal.
It should not be presumed that the detection of THC is predictive of psychomotor impairment and such a presumption should not be codified in Arkansas traffic safety statutes. The imposition and enforcement of this measure risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations.
Legislation is pending, SB 548, to legalize the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for those over the age of 21.
According to 2014 statewide poll, 66 percent of Hawaii voters support the taxation and regulation of marijuana.
Additionally, Legislation is pending, SB 17, that seeks to establish a per se limit of “five nanograms or more per milliliter of active tetrahydrocannabinol” for anyone driving a motor vehicle.
NORML opposes this proposal.
It should not be presumed that the detection of THC is predictive of psychomotor impairment and such a presumption should not be codified in Hawaii traffic safety statutes. The imposition and enforcement of this measure risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations.
On Wednesday, December 28, a handful of lawmakers met in a special session and voted to delay the roll out of retail marijuana providers from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018. As summarized by The Boston Globe, “The extraordinary move, made in informal sessions with just a half-dozen legislators present, would unravel a significant part of the legalization measure passed by 1.8 million voters just last month.” Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill into law just two days later.
But this was only the beginning.
Now, Senator Jason M. Lewis is proposing bills that would reduce the amount of marijuana that an individual can possess, restrict the number of plants that a person can grow, and ban various forms of THC infused products including edibles.
The arrogance and hubris lawmakers are showing toward voters is shocking, and is typified by the comments of Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg who, only hours after the vote, pronounced: “I believe that when voters vote on most ballot questions, they are voting in principle. They are not voting on the fine detail that is contained within the proposal.”
It’s time for you to send another clear message to your lawmakers: Abide by voters’ decision or suffer the consequences.
State Senator Anna Wishart has introduced comprehensive medical marijuana legislation, LB622.
Senator Wishart’s bill is similar to legislation that was introduced in 2016 and narrowly defeated. LB622 will allow patients with conditions such as Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, opioid addictions and some types of cancer to obtain marijuana. Additionally it would permit patients to grow up to 12 plants and/or possess up to six ounces of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Last year’s bill was narrowly defeated by lawmakers.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Nebraska patients deserve these same protections.
After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 may finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized.
HB640, sponsored by 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats, will amend criminal penalties for marijuana possession is pending in the House, where lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported such efforts for eight years in a row. However, legislators this year are hopeful that, for the first time, they also have sufficient votes to also clear the Senate.
Additionally, Multiple bills are pending before lawmakers to expand the pool of patients eligible to qualify for medical marijuana therapy.
In particular, these measures would permit patients with conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress to obtain legal access to marijuana.
Most recently, an exhaustive report released by the National Academies of Sciences determined that there is “conclusive” evidence that cannabis is “effective for the treatment of chronic pain.” Authors concluded, “In adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids (constituents found organically in the marijuana plant) are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction of pain symptoms.”
Senator Liz Krueger (D) has introduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in the New York General Legislature.
The act legalizes possession and cultivation, and would establish a market for legal marijuana for adults 21 and older.
Legislation is pending, HB 1340, in the statehouse to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and marijuana-related paraphernalia.
Under existing law, marijuana possession of one ounce or less is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, while the possession of greater amounts are classified as a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison. Possessing marijuana-related paraphernalia is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
UPDATE: SB1091 has passed the full Senate by a vote of 38-2 and HB 2051 has passed it’s first committee vote in the House of Delegates.
State Senators Adam Ebbin (D), Bill Stanley (R) and Delegate Les Adams (R) have introduced SB 1091 and HB 2051 respectively, legislation that would remove the mandatory driver’s license suspension currently imposed for those with a marijuana possession conviction.
Under current law, any drug conviction, regardless of whether or not a motor vehicle was involved, results in an automatic suspension of the individual’s driving privileges for 6 months.
Additionally, SB 1298 has cleared the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on a 9-4 vote as it seeks to establish affirmative defense for possession of cannabidiol if an individual has written certification that they require the substance due to an approved medical condition.
Affirmative defense establishes a basic set of facts surrounding cannabidiol possession cases. If someone with a qualifying medical condition is caught possessing marijuana, an affirmative defense for the individual would likely result in a more lenient punishment.
UPDATE: HB 1212 has passed committee, making it the first piece of legislation for home cultivation in Washington state history.
Legislation is pending before the House, HB 1094 and HB 1212, to prohibit employers from discriminating against patients who legally consume marijuana during non-work hours.
The bill amends existing law so that: “An employer may not refuse to hire a qualifying patient, discharge or bar a qualifying patient from employment, or discriminate against a qualifying patient in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of the qualifying patient’s: (i) Status as a qualifying patient; or (ii) Positive drug test for marijuana components or metabolites.”
Changes in the legal status of marijuana has not been associated with any adverse changes in workplace safety. In fact, a pair of studies from 2016 find that legalization is associated with greater workforce participation and with fewer workplace absences. Most recently, the National Academies of Sciences just-released marijuana and health report found “insufficient evidence” to support an association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.
As an American citizen, it is easy to become cynical about citizen participation in democracy. Even the most basic form of participation, voting, can be difficult in the United States. Unlike most nations, who hold elections on a holiday or have mandatory voting requirements, the US holds elections on Tuesdays. When many people cannot vote, whether for time reasons or restrictive state laws, it is a struggle, for those of us enthused about participating in democracy, to watch less than 60 percent of the electorate turnout for a presidential election. One of the proposed reasons for the problem is a lack of voter efficacy. Voters don’t feel as if their voice is being heard. But stories of voters successfully influencing lawmakers are common, if not always reported.
Recently, House Republicans revealed a plan to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The new body proposed by the GOP would have been a blow to anyone in support of governmental transparency. Unable to report its findings to the public, the proposed Office of Congressional Complaint Review would have even further clouded general understanding of what occurs behind closed doors in the legislative branch. However, congressional offices were subsequently flooded with calls and messages from angry constituents. Less than 24 hours later, the GOP changed course and backpedaled. After tremendous public pressure, the government radically changed its course in a short span of time.
Simply making a phone call, sending an email or Facebook message to a representative, or retweeting a congress member’s phone number (which occurred thousands of times because of the ethics committee plan) can make a difference on the national level. However, many success stories about citizen participation can be found among the lower levels of the federal system. State and local governments are, at least in theory, designed to be more supportive of and responsive to individual citizens. Examples to support this theory is strong. States are known as “laboratories of democracy” and are often ahead of the federal government in terms of cutting edge policy.
One only has to look at success stories like gay marriage or marijuana legislation in several states to see the effect of citizen participation on policy outcomes. We can see with both cases that state policy often follows national public opinion trends. When the tipping point came in regards to gay marriage, it was state judges and lawmakers that first instituted protections for the LGBTQ community. Organizations like Freedom to Marry and the American Civil Liberties Union penned action alerts to their members day after day pleading with them to contact their state representatives. And when the people spoke, politicians listened, and change happened.
Marijuana legislation is following a similar path with organizations including NORML are creating a similar avalanche effect of states legalizing that will ultimately culminate in national legalization if sustained.
To speed up the process one only has to get involved. It is easy to sit back and watch while progress occurs, but it is rewarding to be a part of such a movement. Emailing, calling, and having meetings with your representatives in a constructive way is simple and effective to push change.
If the government is doing something that we as a citizenry do not approve of, we have the right to be heard. Although the mechanisms of government are far from perfect, it our duty as a dedicated and informed public is to try the best we can, in every way we can.
Sign up for our email list to get our action alerts, keep checking the NORML action page for federal legislation and in your home state at http://norml.org/act, talk to your friends and neighbors about getting involved, join a NORML chapter or start your own at http://norml.org/chapters, and never, ever, stop fighting.
JUST IN: Sessions Evades Firm Answer on State Marijuana Laws, Leaves Door Open for Federal EnforcementJanuary 10, 2017
During his confirmation for the position of Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions failed to give a straight answer with regard to how the Justice Department should respond to states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.
The Alabama Senator was questioned by both Sens. Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT) with respect to whether the principles of federalism ought to apply to state marijuana laws.
Senator Leahy: “Would you use our federal resources to investigate and prosecute sick people using marijuana in accordance with state law even though it might violate federal law?”
Senator Sessions: “I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law, Senator Leahy, but absolutely it is a problem of resources for the federal government. The Department of Justice under Lynch and Holder set forth some policies that they thought were appropriate to define what cases should be prosecuted in states that have legalized, at least in some fashion marijuana, some parts of marijuana.”
Senator Leahy: “Do you agree with those guidelines?”
Senator Sessions: “I think some of them are truly valuable in evaluating cases, but fundamentally the criticism I think that is legitimate is that they may not have been followed. Using good judgment on how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine I know it wont be an easy decision but i will try to do my duty in a fair and just way.”
Senator Leahy: “The reason I mention this, is because you have some very strong views, you even mandated the death penalty for second offense on drug trafficking, including marijuana, even though mandatory death penalties are of course unconstitutional.”
Senator Sessions: “Well I’m not sure under what circumstances i said that, but I don’t think…”
Senator Leahy: “Would you say it‘s not your view today?”
Senator Sessions: “(laughs) It is not my view today.”
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) followed up with questions regarding how marijuana policy factors into federalism and asked if the way the Obama Administration has handled marijuana laws created any issues with separation of powers and states rights. Sessions replied that, “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer Congress should pass a law to change the rule, it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”
So, after finally being put on the spot and questioned on the issue, we are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday. If anything, his comments are a cause for concern and can be interpreted as leaving the door open for enforcing federal law in legalized states. If Sessions wants to be an Attorney General for ALL Americans, he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population and support allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention.
Clearly, the battle is just beginning to protect state legalization and medical marijuana laws. Can you contribute today to help us keep up our federal political actions and advance our efforts for state-level law reform?
Now that 29 states have legalized medical marijuana, eight have legalized adult-use, and several others are considering legislation to legalize either adult-use or medical marijuana during the 2017 legislative session, it’s obvious that the end of marijuana prohibition is near. But that doesn’t mean the ongoing conflict between local, state and federal laws has become any less confusing.
Unfortunately for Ted Hicks and Ryan Mears, two marijuana farmers from Sacramento, California, this confusion lead to a military style raid and both men being charged with illegally cultivating marijuana, a misdemeanor, and conspiracy for planning “to commit sales of marijuana,” a felony.
“I told my 2-year-old son to stay upstairs,” said Mears, 35. “When I opened the security door, there were 15 cops with assault rifles drawn, pointed, with their fingers on the trigger, in vests, ski masks. They grabbed me and pulled me out front, put me in handcuffs. There were 20 to 30 officers. My son walked downstairs and my wife had to grab him. They had guns pulled on them. It was real painful.”
Regardless of spending several months working with local regulators to establish what they thought was the legal framework for their business, Big Red Farms, and being considered “shinning stars” for their diligence related to local licensing, Hicks and Mears found themselves at the business end of automatic weapons. A clear sign that they had become victims of the patchwork of marijuana laws adopted by local and state officials across California prior to the passage of Proposition 64.
If found guilty, both men could face up to one year in jail, and pay thousands of dollars in fines and court costs.
GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin have a track record of opposing efforts to reform marijuana laws in the Badger State, but a recent comment from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has some marijuana advocates hopeful for progress during the 2017 legislative session.
“If you get a prescription to use an opiate or you get a prescription to use marijuana, to me I think that’s the same thing,” Vos said, a surprising position after years of GOP opposition to legalizing any form of marijuana. “I would be open to that.”
Of course this came as a surprise to many, especially after Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Governor Scott Walker have both repeatedly stated that they will continue to oppose any effort to advance the issue in the state of Wisconsin. Regardless of the lack of support from GOP leadership, Sen. Van Wanggaard is expected to sponsor legislation that would make it legal to possess cannibidiol (CBD) – the marijuana extract known for treating seizures associated with epilepsy – during the upcoming legislative session.