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LAW ENFORCEMENT

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director March 11, 2017

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

    At the federal level, aside from a few absurd comments by Attorney General Sessions and new cosponsors to HR 975 and HR 1227, things have been pretty quiet.

    At the state level, it is quite a different story. We have continued to see a marked rise in the number of bills introduced pertaining to marijuana, crossing the 1,500 mark. From hearings on marijuana legalization in Maryland to social clubs passing the Senate in Colorado to hemp passing the both chambers in the New Mexico statehouse, at every level we are making progress.

    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

    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 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.

    Last November, voters In California and Maine approved public marijuana consumption through Proposition 64 and Question 1, but haven’t settled on rules. This means Colorado could be first out of the gate with statewide regulations for pot clubs.

    Update: SB 184 passed the full Senate on Thursday, March 9, by a vote of 25-10 and will now be sent to the House. Gov. Hickenlooper has promised to veto the bill if passed in its current version.

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

    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.

    Update: Lawmakers have scheduled a pair of hearings in March to debate these various legalization proposals. Members of the Public Health Committee heard testimony on Tuesday, March 7. Members of the Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on Wednesday, March 22.

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

    Kansas
    Legislation is pending, House Bill 2152, to permit qualified patients access to marijuana or extracts containing CBD and low levels of THC.

    The measure would permit patients with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder or a condition causing seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, to possess marijuana or extracts containing no more than three percent THC. The measure also seeks to establish rules governing the state-licensed cultivation of low-THC marijuana strains and the preparation of products derived from such strains.

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

    Maryland
    HB 1236 and it’s companion bill SB891 would amend the Maryland Constitution to ensure citizens have the right to possess, smoke, and cultivate marijuana.

    The Amendment would also require the General Assembly to establish a regulatory structure for “the transfer of cannabis by purchase or sale.”

    If enacted, the law would legalize the possession of up to two ounces and the cultivation of up to six plants.

    Update: The House held a hearing about HB 1236 on March 3 at 1pm, and a hearing about SB 891 on March 2 at 1pm.

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

    Nevada
    Senate legislation is pending, SB 236, to regulate the social use of cannabis.

    The measure allows select businesses to apply for licensing to permit adult marijuana use on their premises. It would also allow event organizers to seek permits to allow adult use at specific events.

    To date, private adult use of marijuana is permitted, but only in a private residence. Passage of SB 236 establishes a regulatory framework to permit adults the option to consume cannabis at specified public places or events.

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

    New Hampshire
    Legislation is pending in the New Hampshire House, HB 215, to establish a commission to study the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.

    Police in New Hampshire arrest some 2,900 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of New Hampshire adults, 62 percent of whom now endorse legalizing and regulating cannabis, according to a 2016 WMUR Granite State Poll.

    Update: HB 215 passed the House on Thursday, March 8 on a voice vote. It will now be referred to the Senate.

    NH Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of 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: Bills to add chronic pain (HB 157) and PTSD (HB 160) to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana have passed the House. They will now be referred to the Senate.

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

    New Mexico
    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 258, to reduce penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses.

    The measure eliminates criminal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one-half of one ounce of cannabis, reducing the offense to a $50 fine. Under present law, this offense is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 15 days in jail and criminal record.

    Update: A Senate substitute version of SB 258 was passed 33 to 9 by members of the Senate. The amended version of the bill now awaits action by the House.  

    NM Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of 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.

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

    Tennessee
    Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, are sponsoring the legislature’s most concerted effort to legalize medical use of marijuana.

    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 1119 and SB 673 were debated by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 7.

    TN Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of 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.

    Update: HB 81 is scheduled for a hearing on Monday, March 13. Starting at 8am if you happen to be in the state capitol in Austin you can get within the capitol steps Wi-Fi in order to register your support of HB 81.

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

    Vermont
    Rep. Samuel Young has introduced H. 490 to regulate the commercial and retail marijuana market.

    H. 490 establishes a regulated system whereby adults may legally obtain marijuana from state-licensed retail providers and sellers.

    Statewide polling reports that a majority of Vermont voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana. According to a RAND Corporation study, regulating the commercial sale of cannabis in Vermont would generate $20 million to $75 million annually in new tax revenue.

    VT Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of 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. 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.”

    WV Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of 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.

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

    District of Columbia
    Councilman David Grosso has re-introduced the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act. First introduced in 2014, DC voters overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure.

    The bill will legalize marijuana use for adults over the age of 21 and will allow the city to tax and regulate a commercial market. Due to DC’s unique charter in Congress, however, this provision of the law was gutted in 2014.

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

    New Hampshire
    House legislation is pending, HB 472, to permit qualified patients to cultivate their own medicine.

    Under present law, qualified patients must purchase cannabis from one of a handful of state-licensed dispensaries.

    House Bill 472 allows patients to cultivate up to two mature plants and up to 12 seedlings at one time.

    Update: Members of the House of Representatives have passed HB 472. It now awaits action by the Senate.

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

    New Mexico
    Governor Susana Martinez has vetoed House Bill 144, which sought to establish a hemp research program in compliance with provisions in the federal Farm Bill explicitly authorizing states to engage in licensed activity involving hemp absent federal reclassification of the plant. The Governor provided no public explanation for he veto.

    A similar provision, Senate Bill 6, now awaits action from the Governor. Members of the House and Senate have previously passed the measure by votes of 58 to 8 and 37 to 2.

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

    Washington
    Legislation is before lawmakers, House Bill 2064, to amend state law so that industrial hemp is not longer classified under the state’s uniform controlled substances act.

    If passed, hemp plants will no longer be regulated as a controlled substance.

    Update: HB 2064 has unanimously passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.

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

  • 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 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 Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 23, 2017

    CongressWhite House Press Secretary Sean Spicer today said that the Trump administration may engage in “greater” efforts to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in jurisdictions that have legalized and regulated its adult use.

    In response to a question regarding how the administration intends to address statewide marijuana legalization laws, Spicer indicated that the administration views the regulation of marijuana for medical purposes as distinct from laws governing its adult use.

    He said: “I’ve said before that the President understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing, especially, terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them.” He then added, But “there’s a big difference between that and recreational marijuana. I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.”

    On the latter topic, he concluded, “I do believe you will see greater enforcement” of anti-marijuana laws from the Department of Justice.

    While campaigning, President Trump voiced support for the authority of individual states to impose regulatory policies specific to the use and dispensing of medical cannabis, but was somewhat less clear with regard to whether he believed that state lawmakers ought to be able to regulate the adult use of cannabis absent federal interference. For instance, he stated that changes in the law in Colorado — one of eight states to legalize the adult use of marijuana — had led to “some big problems.”

    Senator Jeff Sessions, now US Attorney General, has been historically critical of marijuana policy reforms, stating: “[M]arijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized. … [I]t’s in fact a very real danger.” He also opined, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and previously endorsed legislation to execute marijuana traffickers.

    During his testimony before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, Sessions indicated that as US Attorney General he may take a more aggressive approach than did the Obama administration with regard to states that have enacted recreational use laws.

    Commenting on Spicer’s comments, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The press secretary’s comments are hardly surprising and they are similar to comments made by the new US Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his vetting process when he made clear that any use of marijuana remains against federal law and that ‘it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.’

    “Ultimately, those who reside in jurisdictions that have legalized and regulated cannabis under state law will only truly be safe from the threat of federal prosecution when and if members of Congress elect to amend federal marijuana laws in a manner that comports with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status. Certainly, Congressional passage of HR 975, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and/or re-authorization of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment would be steps in the right direction to protect patients and others in legal states from undue federal interference.

    “If federal politicians were truly listening to the will of the electorate, they would move forward to enact these federal changes, which are strongly in line with voters’ sentiments. According to national polling data released today, 71 percent of voters — including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans — say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.” In short, undermining voters’ wishes and state laws in this regard not only defies common sense, it is also bad politics — particularly for an administration that is defining itself as populist in nature.”

    TAKE ACTION:
    Click here to email your member of Congress and urge them to support The Respect States’ Marijuana Laws Act.
    Click here to email your member of Congress to insist that they join the newly formed Cannabis Caucus.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 11, 2017
    Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Despite historic opposition, members of the United States Senate voted 52 to 47 last week to approve the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for US Attorney General.

    NORML thanks the tens of thousands of you who responded to our action alerts opposing this nomination and the thousands more who took time to make phone calls. While we are disappointed with this outcome, we are pleased that several members of Congress cited the senator’s opposition to marijuana policy reform as an impetus for rejecting his appointment.

    We’ve previously told you why Jeff Sessions is the wrong man for the job, but today it is time to move forward, not backward.

    So now what?

    Well, during his testimony before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, Sen. Sessions said that it is not the responsibility of the Attorney General to pick and choose which federal laws to enforce. “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act,” he said. “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”

    He’s right. It is time we demand Congress to change the rules once and for all.

    arrestedJust hours prior to Sessions’ confirmation vote, US Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, introduced 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.’’

    Passage of this Act would halt US Attorney General Jeff Sessions or any other federal official from prosecuting individuals and businesses for violating the Controlled Substances Act in the 29 states that permit either the medical or adult use and distribution of marijuana. According to national polling, 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.

    take_actionClick here to send your member of Congress a message urging them to support HR 975.

    With the appointment of Sen. Sessions to the position of US Attorney General, passage of this Act is necessary to ensure that medical marijuana patients and others are protected from undue federal interference.

    There will be a number of bills in the coming months that will build upon the progress that the movement to legalize marijuana will support. As we always have, NORML will keep you informed and provide you the tools needed to connect with your elected officials.

     

    Please take action today to urge your federal lawmakers to support HR 975, the ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and when you have finished, please also take a moment to make a generous and much appreciated donation to NORML here so that we can continue to make progress in our federal and statewide efforts.

    With NORML members throughout the country organizing lobby days and taking action over the coming days and weeks, the fight for cannabis freedom will continue with renewed energy.

    NORML has resisted marijuana prohibition for 47 years – We’re not going to stop now; in fact, we’re just getting started. Are you in?

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