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GOVERNMENT

  • by NORML April 3, 2017

    Did you catch it? On Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver skewered our nation’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition addressing topics ranging from a potential crackdown from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the newly formed Cannabis Caucus, and the desperate need for federal marijuana law reform.

    “There is now a Cannabis Caucus in DC… and if even an 83 year old Republican from Alaska has come around on this issue, then it is probably time for our laws to catch up” Oliver said

    Since it’s launch in February, members of the Cannabis Caucus have lead the way in the fight for sensible marijuana policy by introducing a number of bills that would end federal prohibition and support states efforts to set up regulated markets for medical and responsible adult-use.

    Click here to tell your member of Congress to join the Cannabis Caucus and push for sensible marijuana policy.

    Now, more than ever, it is time for Congress to take action. Jeff Sessions recently said “I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana. States, they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.” 

    Well, Congress can change that. 

    Email your member of Congress to join the Cannabis Caucus. 

    Thanks in advance for taking the time to send your Representative a message. The only way that Congress will listen is if we speak up loudly and clearly.

    Together, we WILL legalize marijuana. 

    Thanks for all you do,

    The NORML Team

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director April 1, 2017

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

    Happy April Fools Day – unfortunately I have no light-hearted gag for you today as marijuana prohibition is still very much in effect with thousands of people a week arrested throughout the country for mere possession of the plant.

    Nationwide, we have topped 1,600+ bills being filed throughout the country pertaining to marijuana. From new efforts in the Senate to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to tax and regulate marijuana to tax reform that would treat marijuana businesses just like every other industry through 280E reform, a new found pressure is now felt for reform on Capitol Hill.

    At the state level, we have seen a range from legislative progress on social clubs in Colorado to the prohibitionists on the verge of a victory on rolling back local progress in Tennessee on decriminalization.

    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
    Regulate and Tax: Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis have introduced legislation in the House and Senate — The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act — (SB 776 and HB 1841 / HB 1823) to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. In addition to removing marijuana from the United States Controlled Substances Act, this legislation also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matter concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit. An additional excise tax would be levied on the sale of marijuana.  

    Click here to email your federal elected officials to support this effort.

    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

    Colorado
    Colorado State Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Dan Pabon have introduced legislation, SB 184, The Marijuana Membership 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 membership club away from the general public.

    Update: The House Second Reading for SB 184 was laid over to 4/03.

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

    Delaware
    Legislation, HB 110, has been officially filed and introduced to regulate the adult use and sale of marijuana on March 30.  

    Senator Henry, the author of the state’s medical marijuana legislation said at a recent Medical Marijuana Act Oversight Committee meeting, “Education is suffering. Revenue from legalizing marijuana could help struggling schools and seniors, among other causes and close major budget deficits in Delaware.” The legislation is expected to be introduced in January.

    According to recent polling data compiled by the University of Delaware, sixty-one percent of state voters favor legalizing marijuana.

    DE Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

    Rhode Island
    A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers has reintroduced marijuana legalization legislation in the House, H. 5555: The Adult Use of Cannabis Act

    The bill will allow adults 21 and older to possess cannabis and will establish a framework for businesses to cultivate and distribute marijuana. While the language is similar to that of previous bills that have failed to come to a vote, lawmakers this year believe that Rhode Island is ready to catch up to its northeast neighbors.

    Update: House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s office says it is unlikely that the legislations would get a floor vote in the House.

    RI Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

    Tennessee
    Legislation is before the Governor, HB 173, to nullify the enactment of citywide marijuana decriminalization ordinances and to prevent additional municipalities from enacting similar marijuana reform measures.

    The intent of the bill is to override the passage of recent citywide measures in Nashville and Memphis — both of which passed local ordinances last year making minor marijuana possession offenses a non-arrestable citation.

    By contrast, state law classifies marijuana possession as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.

    Update: Members of the Senate passed HB 173 on March 28. It now goes to the Governor.

    TN Resident? Click here to tell Governor Haslam to veto this measure.

    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. A House version of the bill, HB 2677, is also pending.

    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.”

    Update: SB 383 passed the senate by a vote of 28-6 and will now head to the House.

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

    Other Actions To Take

    Federal
    The Small Business Tax Equity Act (SB 777 and HB 1810) is pending in the House and Senate to amend the federal tax code so that state-licensed, marijuana-related businesses are no longer unduly penalized by federal laws. NORML supports these legislative efforts.

    These measures amend Section 280E of the Federal Income Tax Code so that state-compliant marijuana operators for the first time can take business deductions for standard expenses such as rent and employee compensation and benefits — just like other legally licensed business entities.

    According to a 2017 report, over 120,000 workers are now employed full time in the legal cannabis industry. Allowing deductions for rent and employee costs would help these businesses grow economically and would provide incentives for hiring additional employees.

    Click here to email your federal elected officials to support this effort.

    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.

    Update: HB 1580 was returned by the Senate committee, with recommendation that it Do Pass.

    AR Resident? Email your elected officials to oppose 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.”

    The majority of Californians desire a legally regulated marijuana market. Passage of this act will limit state or local agencies from working with the federal government to undermine these regulations.

    CA Resident? Email your elected officials to support this effort.

    Colorado
    State officials in Colorado are considering legislation, SB 192, to protect the state’s adult use marijuana industry in case of a potential federal crackdown.

    The bill would permit adult use growers and sellers to instantly reclassify their recreational marijuana inventory as medical marijuana “based on a business need due to a change in local, state, or federal law or enforcement policy.” In recent weeks, officials from the Trump administration have indicated that they may consider taking action against recreational marijuana providers, but that they will not likely move against state-licensed medical marijuana providers.

    Update: The bill passed 4-1 committee in the Republican Senate

    CO Resident? Email your elected officials to support this effort.

    New York
    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 1087, to expand the state’s medical marijuana law by removing the existing prohibition on herbal cannabis preparations.

    Under existing law, qualified patients are forbidden from obtaining whole-plant cannabis. Instead, they are required to access only cannabis-infused oral products such as oils, pills, or extracts prepared from the plant. “Smoking” or inhaling herbal cannabis is not defined as a “certified medical use.”

    These restrictions unnecessarily limit patients’ choices and deny them the ability to obtain rapid relief from whole-plant cannabis in a manner that has long proven to be relatively safe and effective.

    Senate Bill 1087 amends the law so that the possession and inhalation of herbal cannabis is no longer illegal.

    NY Resident? Email your elected officials to support this effort.

    Oregon
    Legislation is pending in the Senate, SB 863, to limit the federal government from acquiring data regarding adults and patients who legally purchase marijuana under state law.

    The emergency legislation, which would take immediate effect, mandates that retailers and dispensaries do not maintain customers’ purchase and/or personal identification records beyond 48 hours.

    Sponsors of the bipartisan measure say the privacy protections are in response to recent statements by the Trump administration with regard to a possible enforcement crackdown in adult use marijuana states.

    Update: SB 863 cleared the Senate and is now headed to the House.

    OR Resident? Email your elected officials to support this effort.

    Texas
    State Senator Jose Menendez has filed Senate Bill 269, currently making its way through committee, to protect qualified patients who consume cannabis and to provide for the state-licensed production and distribution of the plant.

    Update: A bipartisan House version of SB269 to legalize medical marijuana in the state of Texas has just been introduced by Representative Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, titled HB 2107.

    TX Resident? Click here to email your officials in support of this effort.

  • by NORML March 30, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaSenator Ron Wyden and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis have introduced legislation in the House and Senate — The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act — to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. In addition to removing marijuana from the United States Controlled Substances Act, this legislation also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matter concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.

    Email your members of Congress now and urge them to support this effort.

    “The first time introduction of this particular piece of legislation in the US Senate is another sign that the growing public support for ending our failed war on cannabis consumers nationwide is continuing to translate into political support amongst federal officials,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “With marijuana legalization being supported by 60% of all Americans while Congress’ approval rating is in the low teens, ending our country’s disastrous prohibition against marijuana would not just be good policy, but good politics.”

    Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for qualified patients, while eight states now regulate the production and sale of marijuana to all adults. An estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters support these policy changes. According to a 2017 Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and 71 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy. 

    “If we are truly going to move our nation towards sensible marijuana policies, the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act is paramount. Annually, 600,000 Americans are arrested for nothing more than the possession of small amounts of marijuana and now is the time for Congress to once and for all end put an end to the national embarrassment that is cannabis prohibition,” said Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director. “Passing this legislation would end the current conflict between state and federal laws and allow the states to implement more sensible and humane marijuana policies, free from the threat of federal incursion.”

    These statewide regulatory schemes are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

    Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

    Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

    “The federal government must respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls and allow law-abiding marijuana businesses to go to the bank just like any other legal business.” Senator Ron Wyden said. “This three-step approach will spur job growth and boost our economy all while ensuring the industry is being held to a fair standard.”

    Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO)

    Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO)

    “Colorado has proven that allowing responsible adults to legally purchase marijuana, gives money to classrooms, not cartels; creates jobs, not addicts; and boosts our economy, not our prison population,” Representative Jared Polis said. “Now, more than ever, it is time we end the federal prohibition on marijuana and remove barriers for states’ that have chosen to legalize marijuana.  This budding industry can’t afford to be stifled by the Trump administration and its mixed-messages about marijuana.  The cannabis industry, states’, and citizens deserve leadership when it comes to marijuana.”

    Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

    Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

    “As more states follow Oregon’s leadership in legalizing and regulating marijuana, too many people are trapped between federal and state laws,” Representative Earl Blumenauer said. “It’s not right, and it’s not fair. We need change now – and this bill is the way to do it.”

    The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

    By contrast, regulating the adult use of marijuana stimulates economic growth, saves lives, and has the support of the majority of the majority of Americans. 

    Send a message to your members of Congress urging them to support the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director March 25, 2017

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

    As we prepare to for April and marijuana related attention that comes with 4/20, NORML has put up an action alert on the appointment process for new US Attorneys (If you didn’t know, Attorney Jeff Sessions fired the holdovers from Obama Administration). With so many issues swirling around in the political lexicon, it’s important that we not see a wave of Sessions-style prohibitions be installed throughout the country, so please email your Senators now and tell them to demand the the new US Attorney’s respect state marijuana laws.

    Additionally, Representative Tulsi Gabbord went to the floor of the House of Representatives and spoke on behalf of her legislation entitled “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 – HR 1227. You can watch the video by clicking here.

    A very special shout-out for me to make is the success of having Virginia Governor McAuliffe signed into law SB 1027, to regulate the instate production of cannabis oil. Congrats Virginia NORML and your whole team!

    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
    End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    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

    US Attorneys: Members of the Senate will now be asked to consider new appointments. Please contact your Senator and urge him/her to consider those US Attorneys who will respect statewide marijuana laws.

    With 29 states having established medical marijuana programs and eight states having enacted adult-use regulatory laws, it is vital that those appointed to this prestigious position respect the will of the electorate.

    US Attorneys possess broad authority when both interpreting the laws and prioritizing their enforcement. Under the past administration, US Attorneys largely took a ‘hands off’ approach in jurisdictions that had legalized the use of marijuana, as directed by the 2013 “Cole Memo.” Incoming US Attorneys ought to take a similar approach.

    Click here to email your Senators to defend the majority of voters who reside in legal cannabis states and to reject those nominees who will not support state marijuana laws.

    Connecticut
    Multiple pieces of legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate its commercial distribution is pending in both the state House and Senate.

    According to a March 2015 Quinnipiac University poll of Connecticut voters, 63 percent favor permitting adults to legally possess personal use quantities of cannabis.

    Update: SB 11 had a hearing on March 22.

    CT Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

    Illinois
    Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate the commercial cannabis market.

    The measures permits adults to legally possess personal or grow use quantities of marijuana in private.  Additional provisions establish a regulated market for the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults.

    IL Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

    Massachusetts
    On Election Day, 54 percent of voters decided in favor of Question 4: The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act – permitting adults to legally grow and to possess marijuana for personal use, while also establishing regulations governing commercial cannabis cultivation and capping taxes on retail sales.

    But it has become apparent that some powerful politicians and bureaucrats wish to ignore voters’ will and rewrite history.

    Update: Hearings on implementation will be:
    March 27th at 4 pm at the West Springfield High School auditorium,
    April 3rd at 11 am at the Statehouse,
    April 10th at 4 pm at the Shrewsbury High School.

    MA Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to implement Question 4 in a timely manner as passed.

    New York
    Legislation (A. 2142 and S. 3809) is before the Assembly and Senate to seal the records of those who have previously been convicted of the possession of marijuana in public view.

    New York has historically had the highest marijuana-related arrest rate in the nation largely because of questionable arrests made under the ‘public view’ exception.

    Passage of A. 2142 and S. 3809 will make it so these hundreds of thousands of minor offenders are no longer stigmatized by their arrest record.

    Update: NORML is joining multiple organizations, including Empire State NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance in calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to include the language from A. 2142 and S. 3809 in his budget.

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

    Tennessee
    Legislation is pending in the Tennessee House, HB 173, to nullify the enactment of citywide marijuana decriminalization ordinances and to prevent additional municipalities from enacting similar marijuana reform measures.

    The intent of the bill is to override the passage of recent citywide measures in Nashville and Memphis — both of which passed local ordinances last year making minor marijuana possession offenses a non-arrestable citation.

    By contrast, state law classifies marijuana possession as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.

    Update: Members of the House have passed HB 173 by a vote of 65 to 28 March 23. The measure now awaits action from the Senate.

    TN Resident? Click here and email your Senators to oppose this effort.

    Additional Actions To Take

    Nebraska
    LB622 will allow patients with conditions such as Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, opioid addictions and some types of cancer to obtain marijuana. Qualified patients would not be permitted to grow cannabis and would have to obtain non-smoked, cannabis-infused formulations from state-licensed providers. A version of this legislation debated last year was narrowly defeated by lawmakers.

    Update: LB 622 has advanced out of committee by a vote of 6 – 1.

    NE Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

    New Mexico
    An amended version of House Bill 527 amends state law so that qualified patients may not be denied organ transplants. It also expands the pool of qualifying conditions for which a physician may legally recommend cannabis therapy, to include indications such as Crohn’s disease, chronic pain, hepatitis C, neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress, among other conditions. It also establishes reciprocity for non-residents.

    Update: SB 177 was tabled in lieu of HB 527. An amended version of HB 527 is now before the Governor, having passed the House by a vote of 45 to 16 and the Senate by a vote of 28 to 9.

    NM Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

    Nevada
    Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 259, to vacate certain marijuana possession convictions that occurred prior to the plant’s legalization.

    The measure would permit those with criminal convictions for offenses involving the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana prior to January 1, 2017 to have their convictions vacated.

    NV Resident? Click here to email 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.

    Separate legislation is pending in the House and Senate — SB 265 and HB 297 — to reduce penalties associated with the possession of one-eighth of marijuana (3.544 grams) to a $50 fine-only offense. However, under these bills, simple possession would still remain classified as a misdemeanor.

    Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine.

    Update: SB 1116 has a hearing scheduled for March 28.

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

    Vermont
    Legislation is pending, H.170, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults.

    If passed, the measure would legalize the possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana, up to ten grams of hashish, and/or the cultivation of two marijuana plants in a private residence.

    Update: Members of the House Judiciary Committee advanced H. 170 on March 22 in an 8 to 3 vote. It now awaits action on the House floor. A new statewide Public Policy poll finds that Vermont residents favor this legislation by a margin of 57 percent to 39 percent.

    VT Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 23, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesThe number of federal offenders sentenced for violating marijuana laws has fallen significantly since 2012, according to data provided by the United States Sentencing Commission.

    Just over 3,000 federal defendants were sentenced for marijuana violations in 2016, according to the Commission. That total is roughly half of the number of federal defendants that were sentenced in 2012. The total has fallen year-to-year since that time.

    The 2016 total is nearly equal to the number of federal defendants sentenced for violating powder cocaine laws, and less than the number of federal defendants sentenced for heroin. Some 96 percent of federal marijuana defendants were sentenced for trafficking, with an average sentence of 28 months in prison.

    Of those sentenced, 77 percent were Hispanic, 11 percent were Caucasian, and eight percent were African American. Fifty-six percent were categorized as non-US citizens.

    In 2015, over 5,600 federal defendants were sentenced for violating marijuana laws, a total equal to some 25 percent of all federal drug sentences.

    Click here to email your lawmakers on various pieces of legislation related to marijuana reform.

     

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