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  • by NORML August 28, 2018

    Today, Berks County District Attorney John Adams announced findings of an investigation into Gregory Longenecker’s death, which occurred as a result of being run over by a bulldozer, and the circumstances leading up to it.

    The bulldozer was carrying a Pennsylvania state trooper in pursuit of Mr. Longenecker, who was suspected to have been cultivating ten marijuana plants in Penn Township, PA. A police helicopter was also used in the search.

    The DA said, “On August 24, 2018, The Berks County Deputy Coroner issued the final death certificate, ruling the death an accidental death. I recognize the sanctity of life above all values. It is very unfortunate that a life was lost and our condolences go out to the Longenecker family. However, I support the actions of the Pennsylvania state police. Their efforts were reasonable and conducted in a safe manner in this situation.”

    NORML questioned law enforcements’ decision to pursue the suspect in such an extreme manner, especially over such a minor offense. You can read NORML’s original statement here.

    In response to today’s announcement, NORML leaders in Pennsylvania said:

    Patrick Nightingale, Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML said, “We are very disappointed in the findings by the District Attorney’s Office in this matter.  Under no circumstances whatsoever can the actions of law enforcement be justified.  This man and his companion were allegedly growing a handful of plants that posed absolutely no risk to anyone.  There were no ‘exigent circumstances’ requiring aggressive law enforcement tactics to protect the public from dangerous fugitives.  These heavy-handed tactics resulted in the death of a man, who likely would have received probation upon conviction.  This sad tragedy demonstrates the need for legalization because wherever cannabis is criminally prohibited some members of law enforcement will find an excuse to run a man over with construction equipment.”

    Lehigh Valley NORML Executive Director Jeff Reidy said, “Today’s disappointing ruling exemplifies once again that some within the criminal justice system still view marijuana as the enemy, and that the power of the badge can be blinding to others. A man is dead because law enforcement made some unnecessary choices in the heat of the moment, when a frightened man fled. There were other means available to track down this man. They had his friend in custody. And was he really a danger to anybody for growing ten marijuana plants? Until we reform our outdated laws, there will be more Greg Longeneckers being chased by law enforcement, over a handful of harmless plants growing in a field or forest. We can end such senseless acts by legalizing cannabis, and allowing homegrows across our state. No one should die for growing a plant that can do so much good!”

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate August 24, 2018

    Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    In Congress this week, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and six cosponsors introduced a bill that would remove the penalty that strips college financial aid from students with drug convictions. Also, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) filed an amendment that would require the federal government to study the monetary and health impacts of state marijuana legalization. A Senate floor vote could occur in the coming days.

    At the state level, Oklahoma’s secretary of state determined that activists failed to collect enough signatures to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the ballot, and the legislature’s medical marijuana working group took public testimony on Wednesday.  And state Rep. Jake Wheatley of Pennsylvania launched an online petition to build support for a marijuana legalization bill he plans to introduce.

    New Jersey’s Senate president said he has the votes to pass marijuana legalization and medical cannabis expansion bills next month. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said he hopes lawmakers will pass a marijuana legalization bill this year. Separately, New Jersey’s attorney general does not plan to extend a moratorium on marijuana prosecutions when it expires next month and will instead issue a memo telling prosecutors that they can use their own discretion not to pursue cannabis cases.

    The California Senate approved a bill to allow safe consumption sites for illegal drugs, and the Assembly defeated a bill to allow medical cannabis administration at schools and one to allow financial institutions to work with the cannabis industry.

    There are also still a few bills pending before Governors around the country, including two bills in Delaware concerning medical marijuana program expansion and expunging past records, and two bills in Illinois awaiting action from the Governor concerning industrial hemp expansion and allowing cannabis as an alternative to opioids. It’s TBD on if/when these bills will be signed into law.

    At a more local level, Activists in Norwood, Ohio collected enough signatures to place a marijuana depenalization measure on the November ballot, but local police said they will continue charging people under state law even if voters approve the initiative.

    The Eau Claire County, Wisconsin Board voted to put a marijuana advisory question before voters. The Kenosha County, Wisconsin Board placed a medical cannabis advisory question on the November ballot. So did the Forest County, Wisconsin Board. But the Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin Board killed a proposed marijuana advisory ballot question.

    Following 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.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    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 Federal 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 e-mail your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation

    California

    Assembly Bill 1793 seeks to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

    Update: AB 1793 was approved by the Senate with a 28-10 vote and now awaits action from Governor Brown.

    CA resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of expungement

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director August 21, 2018

    Just a few weeks after Delaware NORML made the trek down to Washington DC, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) cosponsored The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act (S. 3174), far-reaching legislation that would end the federal prohibition of marijuana and provide resources to expunge the criminal records of those who suffer the collateral consequences of a possession charge.

    Send a message to your Senators now and tell them to cosponsor the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act NOW! 

    Given the public support for outright legalization in Delaware has regularly polled with over 60% support in the First State and across the country, public support is in the low to mid 60 percent range, Senator Carper’s new-found commitment to reform represents another important mile-marker on the highway to victory.

    As states continue moving forward with ending their war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive prohibition are able to see previous harms remedied, and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation. Crucial aspects of the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act include funding to provide record expungements, funding for small entrepreneurs through the Small Business Administration paid for by the taxes on the existing industry, and other provisions.

    With the addition of Senator Carper, there are now 10 Senators on the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act and 13 out of 100 Senators are declared in support of descheduling legislation (including the Marijuana Justice Act). An additional 7 Senators support of the States Act, which would create an exemption in the Controlled Substances Act to protect states that have reformed.

    This is in contrast to the last congressional session when there was only one bill to deschedule marijuana from the CSA, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders which none of his colleagues had the foresight to cosponsor.

    Send a message to your Senators now and tell them to cosponsor the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act NOW! 

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate August 17, 2018

    Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    At the state level, North Dakota’s secretary of state’s office determined that activists collected enough signatures to qualify a far-reaching marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot. The campaign behind one Missouri medical cannabis initiative filed lawsuits seeking to block two other measures from appearing on the ballot.The measure sets no limits on possession amounts or plant counts.

    New Jersey’s Senate president said lawmakers are close to agreeing on a final draft of a marijuana legalization bill and that a vote could happen next month. The Oklahoma legislature’s medical marijuana working group heard concerns from law enforcement at a meeting and Utah lawmakers met in an interim committee to discuss medical cannabis issues.

    At a more local level, activists in Nelsonville, Ohio are submitting new petitions for a proposed marijuana depenalization ballot measure after errors were identified with their first attempt and activists in Fremont, Ohio qualified a marijuana depenalization measure for the November ballot. The Sacramento, California City Council approved an equity plan intended to let people impacted by the war on drugs participate in the legal cannabis industry.

    Following 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.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    End Cannabis Criminalization: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

    Click here to e-mail your senators and urge them to support this important legislation

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

    House Bill 20-178 seeks to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and would also allow medical marijuana and industrial hemp. HB 20-178 was re-introduced by Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) after amending SB 20-62 by Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) since the latter’s bill had revenue-generating sections that led to procedural issues. The bill was already approved by the House earlier this month.

    Update: The bill is expected to unanimously pass and could be on Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ desk before the year ends.

    CNMI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization

    California

    Assembly Bill 1793 seeks to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence. The bill was already approved by the Assembly earlier this year.

    Update: AB 1793 was heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee again on 8/16, and approved by the committee with a 5-2 vote.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expungement

    Senate Bill 829 would exempt compassionate care programs from paying state cannabis taxes when they are providing free medical cannabis to financially disadvantaged people living with serious health conditions. The bill was already approved by the Senate earlier this year.

    Update: SB 829 was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee with a 12-0 vote on 8/16.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of helping needy patients

    Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.

    Update: SB 930 was heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 8/16, and then tabled by the committee, killing the bill for this year.

    That’s all for this week!

  • by NORML August 8, 2018

    Today, Congressman Charlie Crist held a press conference to announce the introduction of the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act, HR 6589.

    The bipartisan bill would explicitly bar federal agencies from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a cannabis consumer, or due to testing positive for marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

    Send a message to your Representative in support of this bill now!

    “Medical marijuana is an issue of compassion, and in the veterans’ community, access is even more important as more and more veterans are turning to cannabis to address chronic pain and PTSD. At the same time, the federal government is the largest employer of veterans; however, private cannabis use even in states that have legalized medical marijuana is prohibited in these positions,” said Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL). “Our bipartisan bill would protect federal employment for those in compliance with their state’s cannabis laws. Because our veterans shouldn’t have to choose between treatment options or job opportunities.”

    “The time for the federal government to end the practice of arbitrarily discriminating against current and potential workers for marijuana consumption is now,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “With 47 states having reformed their cannabis laws to be in direct conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act, individuals acting in compliance with state law should not be denied the opportunity to serve their country as public servants.”

    Enacted in 1986, the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program made it a condition for employment that all civilian employees at executive branch agencies be prohibited from using federally illegal substances on or off duty. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 31 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, and 46 states have some form of medical marijuana law; however, it remains illegal under federal law. Therefore, federal employees can be denied employment or terminated due to testing positive for marijuana metabolites, even if their use is in compliance with state law. This conflict between state and federal laws limits treatment options and federal employment opportunities, particularly impacting veterans who comprise approximately one-third of the federal workforce and whose medical cannabis use to treat chronic pain and PTSD has been found to be double the rate of the general public. A recent American Legion poll found that one in five veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition.

    Changes in the legal status of marijuana at the state level have not negatively impacted workplace safety. In fact, a pair of studies from 2016 find that the legalization of medical marijuana access 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.

    In 2018, legislative efforts to reform employment laws were either attempted or successful in California, Florida, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, among others.

    Send a message to your Congressperson now and urge them to cosponsor the bill!

    Bill Overview:

    •   The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act prohibits marijuana metabolite testing from being used as the sole factor to deny or terminate federal employment for civilian positions at executive branch agencies if the individual is in compliance with the marijuana laws in their state of residence.
    •   The bill only extends to an individual’s past, private use of cannabis, and does not prohibit probable cause testing if an individual is believed to be impaired at work.
    •   The bill does not apply to individuals occupying or seeking a position requiring a top-secret clearance.
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