Members of Congress this week heard testimony on the state of marijuana research, and leading members of the U.S. Senate introduced legislation to potentially reclassify CBD. A medical marijuana initiative in Montana qualified for the November ballot and Governors in three states signed marijuana related bills into law. Keep reading below to get this week’s latest marijuana news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.
On Wednesday, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a hearing titled, “Researching Marijuana’s Potential Medical Benefits and Risks”. Testimony was provided by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who are co-sponsors of the CARERS Act, as well as by officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While several witnesses were asked by the committee whether or not they expected the DEA to reschedule cannabis, none provided a direct answer. An archive of the hearing is available online here.
Today, US Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Pat Leahy (D-VT), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced legislation, the “Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.” The Act requires the Attorney General to make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be reclassified under the Controlled Substances Act and would expand research on the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol and other marijuana components. You can voice your support for this measure, as well as other pending federal legislation, by clicking here.
Hawaii: On Tuesday, Governor David Ige signed legislation, House Bill 2707, to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.
The measure expands the pool of practitioners who may legally recommend cannabis therapy to include advanced nurse practitioners. Separate provisions in the bill remove the prohibition on Sunday dispensary sales and on the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia by qualified patients. Other language in the bill permits the transportation of medical marijuana across islands for the purposes of laboratory testing, but maintains existing prohibitions banning individual patients from engaging in inter-island travel with their medicine.
Full text of the bill is available here.
Missouri: Governor Jay Nixon signed legislation into law today making it easier for those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged.
The legislative measure expands the number of offenses eligible for expungement from roughly a half dozen to more than 100 non-violent and non-sexual crimes. It also allows people to expunge their records sooner, shortening the waiting period to three years for misdemeanors and to seven years following a felony offense. However, the law does not take effect until January 1, 2018.
Missouri’s NORML coordinator Dan Viets said, “This law will allow many thousands of people who have a marijuana conviction on their public records to escape the lifelong disabilities such a conviction has caused in the past.”
For more information, contact Missouri NORML here.
Montana: On Wednesday, a statewide initiative to expand and restore the state’s medical marijuana program qualified for the November ballot. The initiative is seeking to reverse several amendments to the program that were initially passed by lawmakers in 2011.
If approved by voters, I-182 allows a single treating physician to certify medical marijuana for a patient diagnosed with chronic pain and includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a “debilitating medical condition” for which a physician may certify medical marijuana, among other changes. You can read the initiative language here.
Pennsylvania: On Monday, legislation to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp” was sent to Governor Wolf for his signature.
This measures allows state-approved applicants to research and cultivate industrial hemp as part of an authorized pilot program. This proposal is compliant with Section 7606 of the omnibus federal farm bill, authorizing states to sponsor hemp cultivation pilot programs absent federal reclassification of the plant. More than two dozen states have enacted similar legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with this statute. #TakeAction
Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo signed legislation, House Bill 7142, this week to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. Members of both chambers previously overwhelmingly approved the measure. Full text of the bill is available here. The new law went into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.
Over the weekend the Democratic National Committee voted to endorse a “reasoned pathway to future legalization” of marijuana and called on the federal government to downgrade marijuana from it’s current Schedule 1 of the United States Controlled Substances Act.
In an 81-80 vote, the following language was added as part of the Democratic party’s official 2016 platform:
“Because of conflicting laws concerning marijuana, both on the federal and state levels, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from its list as a Class 1 Federal Controlled Substance, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization.”
Previously, a 15-person panel of the Democratic National Committee voted to include the following language which will also be included in the party platform:
“We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites, despite similar usage rates.”
While the language that was originally approved by the panel sufficiently addressed marijuana law reform as a party priority, the additional amendment which nods towards future legalization, bodes well with advocates all around. This is surely a large step in the right direction by one of our country’s main political parties.
As the Democrats worked to finalize what faction of marijuana law reform they would like to endorse, the Republicans had a different debate on the subject.
On Monday, the Republican party voted not to endorse medical marijuana in their 2016 platform. And throughout the debate some of oldest marijuana myths were spouted as fact. Delegates contested that marijuana is linked to mental health issues, that mass murderers are all smoking pot, and that the heroin epidemic is a result of teenagers smoking weed. While there were some pro-medical marijuana delegates present and who attempted to push back at the theories, it was not enough to result in a medical marijuana endorsement by the party.
The Republican party missed their opportunity to endorse any language related to marijuana law reform which could have ranged from medical marijuana to simply endorsing the conservative principle of limited government, allowing states to move forward with their reforms free from federal interference.
It’s a wonder how one political party has come so far in acknowledging scientific fact and public opinion, which puts voter approval for medical marijuana at 78 percent and voter approval for adult marijuana use at 61 percent, while another political party seems so far from that same point.
Adult use legalization initiatives in Arizona, California and Massachusetts are moving forward and Illinois has expanded its medical marijuana program. Keep reading to get the latest news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.
On Wednesday, July 13th the US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism is holding a hearing titled, “Researching the Potential Medical Benefits and Risks of Marijuana.” The Congressional hearing follows the recent introduction of House Bill 5549 and Senate Bill 3077 – which would expedite the federal review process for clinical protocols involving cannabis. Contact your federal lawmakers today to encourage them to support this common sense legislation. #TakeAction
Arkansas: The Secretary of State’s office affirmed on Thursday that proponents, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, submitted sufficient signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act establishes a statewide program for the licensed production, analytic testing, and distribution of medicinal cannabis. Under the program, patients diagnosed by a physician with one of over 50 qualifying conditions may obtain cannabis from one of up to 38 licensed non-profit care centers. Qualified patients who do not have a center operating in their vicinity will be permitted to obtain a ‘hardship certificate’ in order to cultivate their own medicine at home. A similar initiative narrowly failed in the state in 2012, garnering over 48 percent of the vote.
California: It was announced this week that the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) initiative will appear on the ballot as Proposition 64. This pending proposal, if approved by the voters, will permit adults to legally cultivate up to six marijuana plants and to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or eight grams of marijuana concentrates; and it will license the commercial cultivation and retail sales of marijuana products to adults. The measure prohibits localities from preventing responsible adults from possessing and cultivating cannabis for non-commercial purposes in the privacy of their own homes. The initiative language specifies that it is not intended to “repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt … laws pertaining to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.” You can read more about the proposal here.
Georgia: Members of the Clarkston City Council voted this week in to approve an ordinance reducing the penalties for simple possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. The amendment makes simple possession a citable rather than an arrestable offense, punishable by a $75 fine. Mario Williams, Public Safety Committee chairman said, “It is a proven fact that arresting people … for simple possession of an ounce or less of marijuana has damaging effects long-term and short-term on their lives and that’s why we took a step forward and mitigated those effects today.”
Illinois: Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation to expand and extend the state’s medical marijuana program to 2020. Legislation initiating the program was set to expire in 2018. Other changes to the program include adding post-traumatic stress and any terminal illness as qualifying medical conditions; extending the lifespan of state-issued registry cards from one year to three years in duration; and amending the requirement that physicians must explicitly recommend cannabis therapy. Instead, physicians will only be required to certify that there exists a bona fide doctor-patient relationship and that the patient possesses a qualifying, debilitating medical condition.
These new changes in law took effect upon the Governor’s signature.
Massachusetts: Proponents of a statewide marijuana legalization initiative effort moved one step closer this week to qualifying for the ballot in November. On Tuesday the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol turned in more than 25,000 additional signatures from registered voters to the Secretary of State’s office. The state required an additional 10,792 signatures. Proponents this week also gained a legal victory from the state’s Supreme Court, which rejected a challenge that sought to remove the language from the state’s ballot.
Pennsylvania: Members of the Harrisburg City Council this week voted unanimously in favor of a municipal ordinance to reduce penalties associated with the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The measure reclassifies cannabis possession as a summary offense punishable by a $5 fine. Pennsylvania’s capital city now joins Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in treating minor marijuana possession offenses similar to a traffic citation.
Federal lawmakers requested action this week on restoring medical marijuana access to veterans, while proponents in Arizona came one step closer to qualifying to the November ballot. Keep reading to get the latest news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.
A bipartisan group of 11 lawmakers wrote a letter this week to Congressional leadership urging them to reconsider the Veterans Equal Access Amendment. Majorities in both the US House and Senate voted in May to include the provision as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee decided last week to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. The latest version of the Appropriations bill now awaits action by the Senate.
A separate coalition of US Senators and representatives also drafted a letter this week to DEA officials calling on the agency to move swiftly to reclassify marijuana under federal law, and to allow private producers to cultivate cannabis for clinical research purposes. “We request that you take immediate action to remove ‘cannabis’ and ‘tetrahydrocannabinols’ from Schedule I. We also ask that you issue a public statement informing the research community that the DEA, in compliance with international obligations, will accept new applications to bulk manufacture cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, to be approved on merit-based criteria,” lawmakers requested. In April, DEA officials pledged to issue guidance on the scheduling of cannabis within the first half of this year, a promise they recent walked back.
Arizona: The campaign to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Arizona yesterday turned in more than 200,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. The campaign needs at least 150,000 of those signatures to be certified in order to qualify for this November’s ballot. Under the proposed initiative, those age 21 and older are permitted to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes. The measure would also establish a licensing system for the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis.
Louisiana: Last week the city of New Orleans began implementing the new ordinance lowering the penalties associated with the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The ordinance was originally approved by City Council back in March in hopes of diverting police resources from minor crimes and keeping low-level offenders out of jail. The ordinance reclassifies minor marijuana possession offenses as non-criminal violations punishable by a fine-only: $40 for a first offense, $60 for a second, $80 for a third, and $100 for a fourth and beyond. Under state law, second and/or third convictions are punishable by between 6 months and 2 years in prison.
In statewide news, decision-makers at Louisiana State University and Southern University have agreed to apply for cultivation permits to supply medical cannabis. Under state law, qualified patients are permitted marijuana-infused products under a doctor’s recommendation. The state’s nascent medical cannabis program is anticipated to be up and running by 2018.
Pennsylvania: Members of the Harrisburg City Council are considering a measure to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana within the city limits. In recent days, members of the City Council amended the language to reduce the fines for possession, increase the fines for smoking marijuana in public and expand the effort to include possession of marijuana paraphernalia. The members are scheduled to vote on the measure on July 5th. If you live in Harrisburg you can find the contact information for City Council here.
Washington D.C.: The D.C. Health Department issued a report this week recommending the District legalize the retail sale of marijuana. Specifically, they recommend D.C. to “impose state taxes on production, distribution, and sales along with a licensed market participation, age restriction, and prohibitions on advertising and marketing to minors,” and ““use current regulatory models for tobacco and alcohol to base legislation to enact effective marijuana controls.”
Residents of Washington D.C. voted in 2014 to legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana. However Congressional leaders have prohibited the district from implementing a recreational market through annual budget riders. With this new report from the district’s health department and willingness from the Mayor and City Council to create a regulated market, it’s questionable how long Congress will continue to block the will of the people.
The NORML PAC is proud to announce its endorsement of Tim Canova, democratic primary challenger to US House member and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for Florida’s 23rd congressional district race.
Mr. Canova, a law school professor and political activist, is the first Democratic challenger to Representative Wasserman-Schultz since she’s held the office and NORML is excited to support his Congressional campaign.
In Florida, I supported the 2014 medical marijuana referendum that garnered about 58 percent of the vote state-wide, falling just short of the required 60 percent mark. My opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is a drug warrior who opposed the medical marijuana referendum. Calling marijuana a “gateway” drug, she refuses to allow her constituents in South Florida, in consultation with their doctors, to decide for themselves whether to utilize this plant-based medicine to alleviate pain and other symptoms of various illnesses and the side effects of other medications.
Certain industries have a special interest in keeping marijuana illegal – for example, the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries, both of which view recreational and medicinal use of marijuana as a competitive threat; and the private prison industry, which profits from warehousing people in jails, including for marijuana possession. Not surprisingly, having taken in lots of campaign donations from the alcohol, pharmaceutical, and private prison industries and their political action committees (PACs), Debbie Wasserman Schultz opposes medical marijuana and supports privatized prisons and mass incarceration. Unlike my opponent, I do not take any contributions from these special interests, or from any corporate interests at all.
In addition to Florida’s medical marijuana referendum, I also support the recent reforms by Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to decriminalize marijuana for personal use, and I call on the federal government to “de-schedule” marijuana from the list of controlled and dangerous substances.
In many of the states that have moved in the direction of legalization and regulation of marijuana for personal use, entire new industries are flourishing, adding jobs and increasing tax revenues, and crime rates are falling. While I support state efforts to allow individuals to make their own decisions, I also recognize the need to provide young people — and people of all ages — with many more job and educational opportunities in a time of decriminalization and legalization.
Earlier this year NORML released our 2016 Congressional Scorecard, an all-encompassing database of information related to marijuana law reform that graded members of Congress on their willingness to reform our country’s archaic marijuana laws. Representative Wasserman-Schultz was one of 37 congressional members to receive an “F” grade, a grade reserved for members who have spoken out against and actively opposed marijuana reforms.
NORML would like to commend Mr. Canova for his commitment toward amending America’s antiquated and overly punitive marijuana policies.
Please consider donating to Mr. Canova’s campaign here. Additionally, you can also volunteer for his campaign from the comfort of your own home! All you need is a phone, computer, and internet connection. This call tool on his website allows anyone to call into his district to contact voters to urge their support for Mr. Canova.