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GOVERNMENT

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director March 10, 2017
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
    Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared with conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt to discuss a range of issues, including how the Trump administration intends to address marijuana law enforcement in states that are regulating its adult use.

    During the interview, Hewitt repeatedly encourages Sessions to engage in federal prosecutions against state-licensed marijuana providers.

    Hugh Hewitt (HH): Let’s talk about the rule of law. I have a piece coming out in the Washington Post about this on Sunday, Attorney General Sessions. One RICO prosecution against one marijuana retailer in one state that has so-called legalization ends this façade and this flaunting of the Supremacy Clause. Will you be bringing such a case?

    Jeff Sessions (JS): We will — Um — Marijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws. So yes, we will enforce law in an appropriate way nationwide. It’s not possible for the federal government, of course, to take over everything the local police used to do in a state that’s legalized it. And I’m not in favor of legalization of marijuana. I think it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize. I don’t think we’re going to be a better community if marijuana is sold in every corner grocery store.

    HH: No, but it would literally take one racketeering influence corrupt organization prosecution to take all the money from one retailer, and the message would be sent. I mean, if you want to send that message, you can send it. Do you think you’re going to send it?

    JS: Well, we’ll be evaluating how we want to handle that. I think it’s a little more complicated than one RICO case, I’ve got to tell you. This, places like Colorado, it’s just sprung up a lot of different independent entities that are moving marijuana. And it’s also being moved interstate, not just in the home state.

    HH: Yes.

    JS: And neighbors are complaining, and filed lawsuits against them. So it’s a serious matter, in my opinion. And I just came from a big rally in New Hampshire yesterday, Hugh. This is, this opioid problem is just huge. There were 9,000 high school and junior high school students there. A mother I met who had lost a son three months before, a child, and she said there were 50 more mothers there who’d lost children speaking to those kids. We’ve had this huge opioid surge in America, 120 people a day die from drug overdose. And I do believe, and the President has issued an order to the Department of Justice to crack down on drugs and these international cartels that are moving this Fentanyl that’s so deadly into our country. And we’re going to step up that in a very vigorous way as I talk to United States Attorneys yesterday by conference call.

    Predictably, Sessions’ responses — in particular his reaffirmation: “Marijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws. So yes, we will enforce law in an appropriate way nationwide.” — follows the path laid out by The Heritage Foundation’s Cully Stimson, who on February 27th, released an 11-point plan on how to “provide a targeted approach to [federal] marijuana enforcement.” The Heritage Foundation proposal specifically calls for the Department of Justice to use RICO laws to target state-licensed marijuana businesses:

    1. Prosecute those dealing in marijuana—which is illegal under federal law—using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Those who engage in a pattern of racketeering activity through a corporation or other enterprise are liable for three times the economic harm they cause. RICO gives federal courts the power to order racketeering enterprises and their co-conspirators to cease their unlawful operations.

    The Attorney General also repeats two overt myths regarding cannabis, claiming that the enactment of marijuana regulatory schemes are somehow linked with violent crime and opioid abuse. As NORML recently points out in op-eds here and here, both of these claims are categorically untrue.

    At the end of the day, when the Attorney General of the United States publicly contemplates the federal prosecution of those in the adult use marijuana industry, we should take these threats seriously.

    That is why we need to continue to be proactive in pushing Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition and be ready to fight back at every level should Sessions follow through on his recent statements.

    Click here to tell your member of Congress and urge them to support HR 1227, the Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017.

    And click here to sign up as a NORML monthly supporter to make sure that we have the resources to support our chapters in the upcoming legal battles to protect the states that have legalized adult-use marijuana.

    Thanks for all you do and stay vigilant.

  • by NORML March 1, 2017

    By George Rohrbacher,
    Former Washington State Senator (R),
    Former NORML board member

    George Rohrbacher

    George Rohrbacher

    The Trump White House statement last week of plans for stricter enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states with newly voter-approved recreational marijuana laws signals Trump’s surprisingly pro-regulation, anti-business, anti-Liberty stance.

    Cannabis prohibition is perhaps one of America’s most onerous forms of government regulation, regulation enforcement that comes with prison time and possible asset confiscation, regulation that has produced over 25,000,000 marijuana arrests. Think about that stunningly gigantic number for a moment. POT PROHIBITION IS GOVERNMENT REGULATION ON STEROIDS!

    Marijuana legalization is the answer, and tens of millions of American voters have said so. They have repeatedly said, “YES”, to cannabis. This “culture war,” brewing for three or four generations, has finally been brought to a head by the voters themselves doing an end-run around the system. Even though we won 8 out of 9 cannabis legalization election efforts this past fall, the Trump Administration wants to turn back the clock.

    As the American voter has taken their cannabis rights back state by state, a new, legal multi-billion dollar cannabis industry has sprung up- bigger, faster and more diversified than anyone expected. The Trump-Sessions Justice Department wants to kill it. Beyond just getting high, new unexpected markets are springing up everywhere, from upscale middle-aged women looking for a non-psychoactive sleep aid (CBD, etc.), to geriatric patients in nursing homes looking for a little more spring in their step, to a non-toxic substitute for prescription painkillers, drastically reducing opioid deaths and use. The markets this industry-in-the-making will service extend from getting-a-buzz-on, to optimum human health, and everything else in between. The Trump Administration has plans to stifle these burgeoning businesses!

    The supposed lines of distinction between the categories of recreational and medical use of marijuana are not recognizable to this cannabis consumer with 48 years of experience. I’ve used pot daily for half-a-century because it makes me feel good. Farming for 40 of those years, my spine has received quite a beating and I’ve used cannabis for the pain of that too. The line between these two uses? Is there one? No, there are none.

    Attorney General Sessions believes that while medical use might be okay sometimes, “recreational use is very, very different” (please cue up a showing of REEFER MADNESS). “Good people do not use marijuana,” Sessions believes. And those bad pot using people, like me, felons all by federal law, deserve to be arrested.

    Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana is a Schedule I Drug. This gives our myopic, over-regulating federal government license to treat hemp like heroin. Schedule I Drugs, by their very definition, have no accepted medical use. While at this very same time, according to PubMed, the prohibited cannabis and its many surprisingly active cannabinoids show over 24,000 references in medical studies, half of them done within the last 10 years. This includes a VERY, VERY important clinical trial released just last month, done in England: a randomized, placebo-controlled study that showed cannabinoids effective in controlling blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetics. Being that 1 out of 8 American adults suffers from diabetes, a disease with devastating health, societal, and economic costs, one would think that the discovery of an all-natural, non-toxic new treatment option for this horrible disease would be met with a standing ovation from the White House, instead of promises of increased Draconian Government Regulation.

    If President Trump wants to live up to his pre-election rhetoric and take real action on those promises to cut government regulation…. Well, try this: Earth to Trump! Earth to Trump! De-Schedule Marijuana, for God’s sake.

    To maintain their fantasy that marijuana is a dangerous drug and has no medical use while 29 states have legal medical marijuana, the people at the Justice Department who really truly believe that cannabis should be listed as a Schedule I Drug must be smoking something far, far stronger and much more dangerous than pot.

    I’ve worn many hats in my life, the most important: dad, granddad, and husband. Also cattle rancher and farmer, small businessman, state senator and board member of NORML. I’m an active citizen married 47 years to a cannabis-using former school superintendent. I’ve been involved in local and regional land use planning, community development, wildlife and historical preservation. And all these many years those many hats have been sitting on a good-for-nothing, unrepentant pot-head.

    As a farmer, I am by my very definition conservative. I served in the legislature as a Republican, from a party that believes in reducing government regulation and freeing up business to serve America…. And being able to make a profit while doing it!

    Americans across the nation are clamoring: “Tax me, tax me, just please stop arresting me!” Hundreds of millions of new tax dollars to build schools and fix our roads have been generated by legal recreational marijuana sales. The Trump Administration wants to kill this new tax-generating business. Why??? Is it to protect Trump’s buddies at Big Pharma, Big Booze and Big Tobacco who worry about cannabis potentially cutting into their profits? Or is this Trump’s effort to harken back to the Greatness of the Ideas, Beliefs and Failed Policies of Richard Millhouse Nixon?

    In attempting to answer this question: Why? Just run down the list of tried-and-true one-line answers to that question. My favorite is: “BUT, BUT… WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN???”

    Yes, a very good question, indeed. It is THE question. It is always, ultimately, about the children. Those 25,000,000 Americans arrested for pot that I mentioned earlier in this piece? Every single last one of them was someone’s child, someone’s grandchild. And many, many of them had children of their own. And the toll on children of color is many times that of whites. Millions of lives have been ruined, and countless families were destroyed by these arrests.

    Yes. Absolutely. It is all about the children. Which is why it is time to end marijuana prohibition.

    Click here to join me in calling upon our members of Congress to join the newly formed Congressional Cannabis Caucus and finally re-legalize marijuana.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director February 27, 2017
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
    Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Speaking to the press this evening, Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubled down on his infamous reefer madness rhetoric. Sessions stated:

    “We’re seeing real violence around that. Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”

    Sessions’ latest comments describe a reality that only exists in the world of alternative facts. Marijuana legalization has not lead to increased crime or violence, but rather is associated with lowered youth use rates and access, increased tax revenue, and fewer arrests of otherwise law abiding American citizens. The truth is that legalization is working as voters have intended and that the new US Attorney General’s opinions are reckless, irresponsible, and outright false.

    These statements are not only out of touch with reality and public sentiment, but they also go against President Trump’s promise on the campaign trail to leave marijuana policy to the states. If you support legalization now is not the time to be silent. Now is the time to stand up and fight back.

    The only way to ensure our progress continues in light of this proposed push back is to pass federal legislation that makes certain that the Attorney General can’t intervene in states that have enacted adult use regulatory laws. We need to pass the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017. This legislation would prevent the federal government from attack state approved legalization and medical marijuana laws.

    Click here to write your elected officials in support of this legislation

    This is a true test of our movement. Stand with is against these threats because together we are unstoppable. Together we will legalize marijuana nationwide.

    Are you with us?

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 24, 2017

    blogstickerWelcome to this week’s edition of the NORML legislative roundup!

    The elephant in the room is pretty simple. If you haven’t seen it yet, this week White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer opened the door to a federal crackdown in the states that have legalized adult-use marijuana. You can read more about it HERE.

    To date, there have been 1,322 pieces of legislation introduced nationwide – this week’s action ranges from the elected officials in North Dakota seeking to overturn the will of their voters to officials in California seeking to turn themselves into a “Sanctuary State” when it comes to marijuana.

    Below 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.

    Thanks for all you do and keep fighting,

    Justin

    Priority Alerts

    Federal
    Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, has reintroduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

    HR 975 states, ‘‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.’’

    Click here to email your Congressional Representative to urge them to support this crucial legislation.

    Join The Caucus: With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) have formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.

    Click here to email your Member of Congress to urge them to join the newly formed Cannabis Caucus

    Iowa
    Legislation is pending in the House, HF 199, to establish a statewide medical marijuana program. Under HF 199, qualified patients with intractable pain and other conditions would be able to obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities. Similar legislation is also pending in the Senate, SF 205.

    IA Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    New York
    Senator Liz Krueger (D) has introduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which is making its way through the New York General Legislature.

    The act legalizes possession and cultivation, and would establish a market for legal marijuana for adults 21 and older.

    Update: The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, State Senate Bill S3040, has been referred to the Finance Committee.

    NY Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    North Carolina
    Rep. John Autry has filed comprehensive legislation to legalize patients use of and access to medical marijuana.

    HB 185, the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act, permits qualified patients to possess up to 24 ounces of cannabis or grow their own personal supply. Separate provisions in the Act license and regulate the dispensing of cannabis from state-licensed facilities.

    NC Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    North Dakota
    Senate legislation is pending, Senate Bill 2344, to significantly rewrite the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act.

    Sixty-four percent of voters approved the law on Election Day. Lawmakers should respect the public’s will and implement this law as initiated.

    Update: SB 2344 passed the Senate by a vote of 40-6, exceeding the two-thirds majority needed for amending the ballot measure. The bill now awaits further action by the House.

    NC Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to oppose this effort.

    South Carolina
    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 212 and House Bill 3521, to establish a program to provide qualified patients with legal access to medical marijuana products.

    Under this program, patients would be permitted to obtain up to two ounces of cannabis and/or cannabis-infused products, such as extracts or edibles, from a state-licensed dispensing facility.

    Update: Members of the House subcommittee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs voted 3-0 on February 21 to report HB 3521 for consideration before the full Committee

    SC Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    South Dakota
    Two bills are pending in South Dakota that provide various protections for medical marijuana users in South Dakota. SB 95 and SB 157 do not establish a South Dakota program, but protect those individuals who are prescribed medical marijuana in another state.

    SB 95 removes cannabidiol from schedule I and places it in schedule IV. Furthermore, it excludes cannabidiol entirely from the definition of marijuana.

    SB 157 protects patients that possess marijuana while they have a valid medical card from another state. The measure “covers patients who have moved to Colorado… or another legal state and done their due diligence for being prescribed medical marijuana.”

    Update: SB 95 passed in the Senate on February 21.

    SD Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Texas
    Legislation has been introduced for the 2017 legislative session to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

    House Bill 81, filed by Representative Joe Moody and cosponsored by Representative Jason Isaac, seeks to amend state law so that possessing up to one ounce of marijuana is a civil violation, punishable by a fine – no arrest, no jail, and no criminal record. Under current state law, first-time marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

    According to the ACLU, Texas arrests over 70,000 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses — the second highest total in the nation, at the cost of over 250 million dollars per year.

    Update: House Bill 81 has been referred to the State Affairs Committee.

    TX Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Additional Actions To Take

    Arkansas
    House Bill 1580 imposes a special eight percent statewide tax upon medical marijuana sales. This tax would be in addition to the imposition of existing state and local taxes.

    While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of fair and reasonable sales taxes on the commercial sales of cannabis for recreational purposes, we do not support such excessive taxation on medical sales. Most other states that regulate medical cannabis sales do not impose such taxes and Arkansas patients should not be forced to pay these excessive costs.

    AK Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Arizona
    Arizona Representative Mark Cardenas has introduced legislation, House Bill 2002, which is making its way through committee, to defelonize minor marijuana possession offenses.

    Arizona’s penalties pertaining to the possession and/or sale of cannabis are among the toughest in the nation. Under present law, marijuana possession is classified as a felony, punishable by up to two years in jail. Annually, an estimated 20,000 Arizonans are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws.

    AZ Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    California
    Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 1578, to try and limit potential federal interference in the state’s marijuana regulatory laws.

    The bill states, “This bill would prohibit a state or local agency, as defined, from taking certain actions without a court order signed by a judge, including using agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by law in the State of California and transferring an individual to federal law enforcement authorities for purposes of marijuana enforcement.”

    CA Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Colorado
    Colorado State Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Dan Pabon have introduced legislation that is headed to the Senate Business, Labor and Technology committee on Tuesday, March 1, 2017. SB 184: The Private Marijuana Clubs and Public Use Bill, will provide Colorado municipalities with the regulatory framework needed to allow responsible adults the option to socially consume marijuana in a private club away from the general public.

    CO Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Kansas
    Legislation is pending before lawmakers, SB 155, to establish regulations governing a comprehensive medical marijuana program.

    SB 155 would permit qualified patients to grow their own medical marijuana or to obtain it from a licensed dispensary, while also educating physicians who seek to recommend cannabis therapy.

    Update: A hearing was held to debate and discuss SB 55 on February 20.

    KS Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Kentucky  
    Legislation filed by Senator Perry Clark of Louisville, SB 57, seeks to establish a statewide, comprehensive medical marijuana program.

    Senate Bill 57, The Cannabis Compassion Act, establishes regulations overseeing the establishment of state-licensed dispensaries to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients. It also permits patients to home cultivate their own supply of medical cannabis.

    Update: SB 57 was referred to committee.

    KY Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    New Hampshire
    Legislation is pending in the state Senate, SB 233, that seeks to legalize and regulate the adult possession, use, and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana (up to three mature plants and the harvest yielded from them and/or one ounce).

    The measure also would establish a commission to establish guidelines governing the eventual regulation of a commercial cannabis retail market.

    Update: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee debated Senate Bill 233 on February 21.

    NH Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    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.

    Update: The Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee voted to pass bills that would add chronic pain and PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.  The bills passed by 12-6 and 9-8 margins respectively.

    NH Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Tennessee
    Several pieces of legislation are pending to amend marijuana possession penalties.

    HB 831 and SB 1116 seek to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.

    Update: HB 831 and SB 1116 have both been referred to committees.

    TN Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Virginia
    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.

    Update: SB 1091 and HB 2051 have both passed the full Senate and the House of Delegates. It now awaits the Governor’s signature or veto.  

    VA Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    West Virginia
    A coalition of Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation, SB 386, which seeks to establish the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act — a state-sponsored program that will permit qualified patients to obtain medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries.

    Passage of the bill establishes a commission tasked with developing “policies, procedures, guidelines, and regulations to implement programs to make medical cannabis available to qualifying patients in a safe and effective manner.”

    WV Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Wyoming
    The Senate Judiciary Committee approved HB 197, however the scope of the bill has been narrowed enough that NORML now opposes this legislation. HB 197 now only covers the possession of marijuana infused products weighing up to three grams. Due to the changes, Wyoming NORML has also withdrawn support of the bill.  Frank Latta, Executive Director of WY NORML, stated, “A lot of us worked for several years to reach a compromise we could live with,” but that the Senate changes are too much to tolerate.

    WY Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to oppose this effort.

  • by NORML February 20, 2017

    michigan-marijuana-legalization-milegalize

    Read the letter here: MI Federal Legislator Letter 2017

    By: Matthew Abel
    Executive Director
    Michigan NORML

    Today, on the occasion of President’s Day, and in the spirit of the President’s heralded as “leaders of the free world”, the Michigan Affiliate of NORML participated in a national campaign to contact our members of Congress by mailing them each a letter. This letter is our third in a series of letters in 2017 that has included Vice President Mike Pence and the 109 members of the Michigan House of Representatives. Direct mail is an effective and powerful way to be seen by the Representatives themselves or their Chiefs of Staff and to communicate a message.

    First we introduced ourselves and provided information about who we are and what we have done in Michigan. We communicated some concerns and and made some policy suggestions. We specifically asked each of them to support The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, HR 975, and to become members of the newly-formed Cannabis Caucus. We reminded them of the damage caused by prohibition and urge them to change federal law. It is a friendly letter, but very direct and specific.

    Sending a letter to 14 out of 435 Representatives may not seem very effective, but when the fourteen members of the Michigan Delegation read our message, and legislators from other states receive and read letters from other NORML state affiliates echoing th e same message, collectively, NORML affiliates will have reached hundreds of Members of Congress with a clear, strong and unified message!

    Engaging elected officials is a primary function of NORML and all its affiliates. As the Michigan Affiliate of NORML, we are pleased to participate in this and other NORML nationally-coordinated campaigns that reach out to federal representatives in a collaborative way that reinforces the strength of support for cannabis reforms.

    Today we recognize and celebrate the 45 Presidents who have led this great nation. Michigan NORML appreciates what these leaders have done and their significance in history, and it is in that spirit that we ask the fourteen men and women of the Michigan Delegation to take the lead, and help shape the policies that will regulate the emerging cannabis industry.

    Follow Michigan NORML on Facebook and sign up at www.minorml.org.  

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