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LEGISLATION

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 7, 2017

    FBScorecardLate Wednesday night, the House Rules Committee led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked multiple amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer protections from Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it comes to cannabis.

    Amendments included: ending the federal incentive to revoke drivers licenses from those charged with marijuana offenses; protections for states that have implemented hemp programs; a reduction in funding for the DEA’s cannabis eradication program; expanded access to researchersprotections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses; allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales, and expanded protections to the eight states that have outright legalized marijuana.

    Most notably, the amendment offered by Representatives Dana RohrabacherEarl Blumenauer, and other allies in the House had again offered the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment to continue to protect lawful state medical marijuana programs from the federal government. Specifically, the language maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    Representatives Blumenauer and Rohrabacher released the following statement in response:

    “By blocking our amendment, Committee leadership is putting at risk the millions of patients who rely on medical marijuana for treatment, as well as the clinics and businesses that support them. This decision goes against the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws. These critical protections are supported by a majority of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. There’s no question: If a vote were allowed, our amendment would pass on the House floor, as it has several times before.

    “Our fight to protect medical marijuana patients is far from over. The marijuana reform movement is large and growing. This bad decision by the House Rules Committee is an affront to the 46 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized use and distribution of some form of medical marijuana. These programs serve millions of Americans. This setback, however, is not the final word. As House and Senate leadership negotiate a long-term funding bill, we will fight to maintain current protections.”

    Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer language, protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice.

    Most recently, the amendment was reauthorized by Congress in May as part of a short term spending package, in spite of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions aggressively lobbying Congressional leadership to ignore the provisions. At the time of the signing of the bill, President Trump issued a signing statement objecting to the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer provision.

    Without these maintained protections, it is difficult to assess how much business confidence and investment will continue to pour into the nascent industry, which currently serves over 3 million

    However as the Congressmen indicated in their statement, the fight is not over. In July, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee, meaning that the language will be considered in a conference committee despite the fact that the House was denied the opportunity to express it’s support for the 30 states which have legalized medical marijuana and 16 states that have authorized CBD oil access.

    We will continue to advocate for the members who will be in the conference committee to maintain the language from the Senate version in order to continue to serve the millions of men, women, and children who depend on their medication. On Monday and Tuesday, September 11th and 12th, NORML will hold it’s annual Conference and Lobby Day in DC and will focus on the need to not allow our progress to be rolled back – if you can join us in DC, click here to register.

    Keep fighting with us – send a message to your federal elected officials now. 

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 2, 2017

    norml_remember_prohibition2Eighty years ago today, on August 2, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt signed House Bill 6385: the Marihuana Tax Act into law. The Act for the first time imposed federal criminal penalties on activities specific to the possession, production, and sale of cannabis.

    Congress’ decision followed the actions of 29 states, beginning with Massachusetts in 1914, that had previously passed laws criminalizing the plant over the prior decades. It also followed years of ‘Reefer Madness,’ during which time politicians, bureaucrats (led primarily by Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger), reporters, and science editors continually proclaimed that marijuana use irreparably damaged the brain. A 1933 editorial in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology largely summarized the sentiment of the time, “If continued, the inevitable result is insanity, which those familiar with it describe as absolutely incurable, and, without exception ending in death.”

    On April 14, 1937, Rep. Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina introduced HR 6385, which sought to stamp out the recreational use of marijuana by imposing a prohibitive federal tax on all cannabis-related activities. Members of Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of the bill, which largely relied on the sensational testimony of Anslinger — who opined, ”This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.” Over objections from the American Medical Association, whose representatives opposed the proposed federal ban, members of the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure by voice votes.

    President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed the legislation into law and on October 1, 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act officially took effect — thus setting in motion the federal prohibition that continues to this day.

    Tell Congress to end 80 years of failure. Click here to urge federal leadership to support The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 in the US Senate and click here to support The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 in the US House of Representatives.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director July 27, 2017
    Senator Patrick Leahy

    Senator Patrick Leahy

    Today, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee to protect lawful medical marijuana programs from the Department of Justice.

    Initially enacted by Congress in 2014, the amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Last August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the language bars the federal government from taking legal action against any individual involved in medical marijuana-related activity absent evidence that the defendant is in clear violation of state law.

    The decision to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment language by the Senate committee illustrates both compassion and common sense when it comes to marijuana policy. Now, the majority of states and over 90 percent of the public approves of the use of marijuana as a medicine and Congress should not stand in the way of these reforms.

    Whether or not the House of Representatives will take a vote on the amendment is unclear. They did not include its language in the version of the 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill that passed the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month. Last year, the amendment passed on the floor of the House by a vote of 242-186.

    Although the amendment was reauthorized by Congress in May as part of a short term spending package, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been aggressively lobbying leadership to ignore the provisions. President Trump also issued a signing statement objecting to the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer provision.

    You can send a message to your Representative to support this language in the House by clicking HERE. 

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director July 26, 2017

    Medical marijuanaTomorrow, the Senate Appropriations Committee will have to decide: Will they protect our nation’s 2 million lawful medical marijuana patients or subject them to the wrath of Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

    The amendment they will be debating, known as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, simply prevents the United States Department of Justice from spending any of our tax dollars enforcing federal marijuana prohibition against the 30 states which have now, or are in the process of, implementing a medical cannabis system.

    Tell your Senators to protect patients by supporting the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment

    There is NO moral reason to punish qualified patients and veterans from accessing marijuana for its therapeutic effects. Recently released data has revealed that the enactment of medical cannabis access is associated with lower rates of opioid abuse and mortality, and does not negatively impact workplace safety, teen use rates, or motor vehicle safety.

    Yet, in a letter to members of Congress on May 1, Sessions demanded the end of Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, citing: “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

    This is the delusional leadership we have coming out of the Justice Department. A man who equates those suffering from PTSD, cancer, AIDS, and other dire medical conditions to members of violent drug cartels.

    We cannot allow Jeff Sessions to be the only one communicating with Congress. SEND A MESSAGE TO YOUR SENATORS NOW.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 18, 2017

    thumbs_upRepublican Gov. Chris Sununu signed legislation today decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.

    House Bill 640, which takes effect in 60 days, eliminates criminal penalties for the possession of up to 3/4 of an ounce of cannabis and/or up to five grams of hashish for those age 18 or older. Under the new law, first time offenders will receive a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine.

    Presently, first-time marijuana possession is punishable by up to one year in prison, a potential $2,000 fine, and a criminal record.

    “New Hampshire will soon join the chorus of states that recognize the baseline level of dignity for it’s citizens and tourists who choose to consume marijuana,” said Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director. “Soon, throughout New England, individuals will be able to freely travel without the threat of jail time for possession of marijuana.”

    New Hampshire is the only New England state that presently treats minor possession offenses as a criminal offense.

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