The majority of the US Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday cast votes in favor of expanding medical cannabis access to United States veterans. The committee vote marks the first time that a majority of any body of the US Senate has ever decided in favor of increased cannabis access.
Committee members voted 18 to 12 in favor of The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. It was added in committee to a must-pass military construction and veterans affairs spending bill (the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act). The bill is “certain” to pass on the Senate floor, according to a Drug Policy Alliance press release.
Weeks ago, House members narrowly killed a similar amendment in the House version of the Appropriations Act by a floor vote of 210 to 213. Once the Senate version of the act is passed by the Senate floor, House and Senate leaders will need to reconcile the two versions.
The Daines/Merkley amendment permits physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use. Under current federal law, VA doctors are not permitted to fill out written documentation forms authorizing their patients to participate in state-sanctioned medical cannabis programs.
Stand-alone legislation (HR 667) to permit VA physicians to recommend cannabis therapy is pending in the US House of Representatives, Committee on Veterans Affairs: Health Subcommittee. A similar provision is also included in Senate Bill 683/HR 1538, The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act.
NORML coordinated its 2015 legislative ‘fly-in’ and lobby day in Washington, DC this past week, where many attendees visited with US Senators and urged them to vote for the Daines/Merkley amendment, among other pending reform legislation. Archived presentations from the conference are online here.
To learn and/or to contact your elected officials in regard to other pending marijuana law reform legislation, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
For those not able to attend NORML’s Legislative Fly-in, I have put together a list of marijuana-related bills currently pending in Congress as well as the names and Twitter accounts associated with members of specific committees that we plan to target during our social media campaign. By using social media, we will be able to add another layer to our lobbying efforts and will also provide each and every one of our members a chance to have their voice heard on these issues. I encourage all of you to start promoting our Twitter campaign to your networks as soon as possible.
Apply pressure on members of the House Subcommittee on Health, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations by engaging them through a coordinated social media campaign using specific messaging and hash tags to track our activity. Using the #NORML hash tag gives us the power to bring attention to and mobilize a larger and more diverse coalition of social media activists to support and/or join our efforts. Also, it’s important that we stay on message so please avoid altering the language provided. By maintaining a consistent message, we will be able to present a coordinated and disciplined effort.
Simply cut and paste the Twitter handle and language provided below into your Twitter account and hit send. Please make sure that you use the directory so that you contact each representative directly. I’ve provided an example of what each tweet should look like for each bill. I recommend coordinating specific times with your organization and its membership to maximize our efforts.
H.R. 1013: “[Insert Twitter Handle] I urge you to support House Resolution 1013, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. It’s time for a new approach! #NORML”
S.683: “[Insert Twitter Handle] I urge you to support the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act. America is ready! #NORML”
H.R. 667: “[Insert Twitter Handle] I urge you to support House Resolution 667, the Veterans Equal Access Act. America’s veterans deserve better! #NORML
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations
Members & Twitter Accounts:
- Chairman – Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (@JimPressOffice) – WI
- Rep. Steve Chabot (@RepSteveChabot) – OH
- Rep. Randy Forbes (@Randy_Forbes) – VA
- Rep. Ted Poe (@JudgeTedPoe) – TX
- Rep. Jason E Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) – UT
- Rep. Trey Gowdy (@TGowdySC) – SC
- Rep. Raúl Labrador (@Raul_Labrador) – ID
- Rep. Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) – CO
- Rep. Rob” Bishop (@RepRobBishop) – UT
- Rep. Rep. Jackson Lee (@JacksonLeeTX18) – TX
- Rep. Pedro Pierluisi (@pedropierluisi) – PR
- Rep. Judy Chu (@RepJudyChu) – CA
- Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (@RepGutierrez) – IL
- Rep. Karen Bass (@RepKarenBass) – CA
- Rep. Cedric Richmond (@RepRichmond) – LA
Committee on the Judiciary
Members & Twitter Accounts:
- Chairman – Chuck Grassley (@ChuckGrassley) – IA
- Senator Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) – VT
- Senator Orrin G. Hatch (@OrrinHatch) – UT
- Senator Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) – CA
- Senator Jeff Sessions (@SenatorSessions) – AL
- Senator Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) – SC
- Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) – TX
- Senator Michael S. Lee (@SenMikeLee) – UT
- Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) – TX
- Senator Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) – AZ
- Senator David Vitter (@DavidVitter) – LA
- Senator David Perdue (@Perduesenate) – GA
- Senator Thom Tillis (@ThomTillis) – NC
- Senator Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) – CT
- Senator Christopher A. Coons (@ChrisCoons) – DE
- Senator Al Franken (@alfranken) -MN
- Senator Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) – MN
- Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) – RI
- Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) – IL
- Senator Charles Schumer (@SenSchumer) – NY
Subcommittee on Health
Members & Twitter Accounts:
- Chairman – Rep. Dan Benishek (@CongressmanDan) – MI
- Rep. Gus Bilirakis (@RepGusBilirakis) – FL
- Rep. Phil Roe (@DrPhilRoe) – TN
- Rep. Tim Huelskamp (@CongHuelskamp) – KS
- Rep. Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman) – CO
- Rep. Beto O’Rourke (@RepBetoORourke) – TX
- Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (@RepAnnieKuster) – NH
- Rep. Raul Ruiz (@CongressmanRuiz) – CA
- Rep. Brad Wenstrup (@RepBradWenstrup) – OH
- Rep. Ralph Abraham (@RepAbraham) – LA
- Rep. Mark Takano (@RepMarkTakano) – CA
- Rep. Julia Brownley (@JuliaBrownley26) – CA
NORML activist and leadership awards, a silent auction and social on Thursday night are all on tap (so to speak…).
Marijuana is becoming legal in our lifetimes. Please join us at the nation’s capitol and help hasten these long-needed public policy reforms by lobbying your elected policy makers.
*There are over 40 million cannabis consumers in the United States (according to government data) and NORML knows that 99.99999% of these direct stakeholders are not going to come to Washington to lobby on cannabis law reforms next week, but, that does not mean they can’t be active on May 21st–NORML Lobby Day–contacting their federal policymakers (one congressperson and two senators)
If you and your cannabis tolerant friends and family can’t join us in Washington, D.C. next week, please consider, for the day, being a ‘virtual lobbyist’ for cannabis law reform. To do so, please visit NORML’s Take Action Center
Thanks in advance and hope to see you next week in Washington (where the possession and use of cannabis by adults over 21 years of age is legal).
Allen St. Pierre
NORML / NORML Foundation
p.s. The NORML social has separate ticket necessary for attendance @ $25/per person.
The 2015 state legislative session has been the busiest on record.
State lawmakers have debated nearly 100 different marijuana law reform bills this session and some 60 bills remain pending.
NORML’s Take Action Center here provides you with the ability to track pending legislation in your state and to contact your elected officials and urge them to support marijuana law reform.
So far this legislative session, some 65,000 letters have been sent by NORML members to their elected officials in support of pending legislation. These efforts are paying dividends.
Below are some examples of pending legislation that need your support:
Delaware: Legislation to decriminalize minor marijuana offenses has passed committee and awaits a House floor vote. Take action here.
Hawaii: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation permitting medical cannabis production facilities and dispensaries. The measure now awaits the Governor’s signature. Take action here.
Illinois: Marijuana decriminalization legislation passed the House and now awaits action on the Senate floor. Take action here.
Minnesota: Legislation to legalize hemp farming has passed the House and now awaits action from the Senate. Take action here.
Missouri: Legislation establishing a licensed hemp cultivation program has been passed by the House and now awaits a vote on the Senate floor. Take action here.
New Hampshire: House lawmakers voted 3 to 1 to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses. The bill now awaits Senate action. Take action here.
Texas: Legislation to remove marijuana-related offenses from the Texas criminal code has passed out of committee and now awaits action from the House of Representatives. Take action here. Separate legislation decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses has also passed out of committee and awaits further House action. Take action here.
Additional legislation seeking to legalize the adult use and retail sale of cannabis remains pending in over a dozen states, while decriminalization and medical marijuana measures are pending in nearly 20 others. For a full listing of pending legislation and approved legislation, visit NORML’s Take Action Center here.
East Lansing voters on Tuesday approved a municipal ballot measure removing criminal and civil penalties for minor marijuana offenses.
Over 65 percent of voters decided in favor of the measure, which amends local law to eliminate penalties for activities involving the possession or transfer of up to one ounce of cannabis on private property.
East Lansing is the seventeenth Michigan city to approve a municipal ballot initiative depenalizing marijuana related activities. Voters in Saginaw (population 51,000) and Port Huron (30,000) approved similar measures in November.
“Time and time again we keep winning elections,” said Jeff Hank, who spearheaded the campaign. “The message is clear, the legislature and the governor has to start this conversation.”
Statewide legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses is pending, but has yet to be heard in the 2015 Michigan legislature.