• by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director November 6, 2015

    ballot_box_leafThis week was a busy one for marijuana law reform around the country. There were several election day measures and a new bill was introduced in the Senate. Let’s take a closer look at this week’s marijuana happenings:

    The controversial ResponsibleOhio measure failed to garner enough support in Ohio to become law. You can read more on what was learned from the campaign here. The measure was defeated 65 to 35 percent so it’s clear the initiative had some qualities that were less than desirable by Ohio residents. Those living in the city of Logan, OH also had the chance to vote on a local depenalization measure but voters rejected that measure 57 to 43 percent.

    On the successful end of things, residents in two Michigan cities approved local measures to reduce the penalties associated with the possession, use, transfer and transportation of small amounts of marijuana.

    Following election day, Vermont Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders introduced legislation, S 2237, to remove marijuana from the US Federal Controlled Substances Act. The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 would deschedule cannabis from the CSA, as is alcohol and tobacco. This legislation provides states the power to establish their own marijuana policies and banking policies free from federal interference.

    What’s notable about this legislation is that it is the first ever bill introduced in the Senate that has called for the end of marijuana prohibition at the federal level. And it’s only the fourth marijuana law reform bill to have ever been introduced in the Senate. You can take action on this legislation, here.

    While not necessarily legislative news, a couple other important events took place this week:

    Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in a 4-1 decision that the prohibition of marijuana is unconstitutional. The ruling declares that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use.

    While this is definitely a step in the right direction for a country that is almost crippled with drug cartel problems, what happens next remains to be seen. The ruling does not strike down current drug laws and it only applies to the four plaintiffs involved in the case. It could however, pave the way for more substantive policy changes to be made later on.

    Disappointingly, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chief, Chuck Rosenberg said this week he doesn’t believe smoking marijuana is actually medicinal and called the entire premise a “joke”.

    He said, “What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not. We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine. That is a joke.”

    “There are pieces of marijuana — extracts or constituents or component parts — that have great promise” medicinally,” he said. “But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana, which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana, it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”

    To have a top official, largely responsible for our country’s drug policy, refuse to acknowledge the therapeutic effects of the whole marijuana plant is disappointing and very misleading. To learn more about medical marijuana and it’s scientifically proven medical efficacy, click here.

    Thanks for catching up on what happened in marijuana law reform this week and keep following our blog for more updates as they happen!

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director October 30, 2015

    Election day is around the corner but some legislators aren’t waiting for that to work towards reforming their marijuana laws. Keep reading to find out what happened this week in marijuana law reform.

    To support the measures below, please use our #TakeAction Center to contact your state and federal elected officials! A full list and summary of pending state and federal legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.

    Federal Bill Highlights:letter_writing_campaign

    NORML is currently in the midst of a week long Congressional Letter Writing Campaign Contest! To enter, contact at least two of your three representatives using NORML’s #TakeAction Center by clicking one of the five bills listed below. You can also use of our templates that can be found here. Then take a picture of your letter and post it to your Facebook or Twitter page using the #ActNORML hashtag so we know you’re participating in the campaign! Once the campaign comes to an end at 7PM MST on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, a random winner will be selected from Facebook and Twitter.

    We’re excited to announce that we have partnered with High Times to offer a pair of Cannabis Cup tickets to two lucky winners who participate in our campaign!

    CARERS Act: The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, is pending in the US Senate to strengthen statewide medical marijuana protections and impose various changes to federal law.

    Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act: This act removes cannabis from the United States Controlled Substances Act. It also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matter concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.

    Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act: The DEA program distributes funds to state and local law enforcement agencies for the purpose of locating and destroying marijuana cultivation sites. HR 3518 reads, “[B]eginning in fiscal year 2015, and for each fiscal year thereafter, no amounts in the Fund may be used for the Domestic Cannabis Suppression/Eradication Program of the Drug Enforcement Administration, or any substantially similar program.”

    Fair Access to Education Act: Presently, the Higher Education Act prohibits those convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana possession crime while enrolled in secondary education from being eligible to receive financial aid. This ignores the fact that using and possessing marijuana is legal in at least four states and the District of Columbia. This bill would “exclude marijuana-related offenses from the drug-related offenses that result in students being barred from receiving Federal educational loans, grants, and work assistance, and for other purposes.”

    State Marijuana and Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act: Under this proposal, the US federal Controlled Substances Act would be inapplicable with respect to states that have legalized and regulated marijuana in a manner that addresses key federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, violence or use of firearms in cultivation and distribution of marijuana, and drugged driving.

    State Legislative Highlights:

    Illinois: The Illinois General Assembly did not take action following Governor Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of House Bill 218. The bill is dead for the 2015 session, though reformers are hopeful that similar legislation will soon be pre-filed for 2016.

    As originally approved by the legislature, HB 218 reduced penalties for the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana to a civil violation punishable by a fine of $125. The measure also sought to amend the state’s zero tolerance law for those who operate a motor vehicle with trace levels of marijuana metabolites in their system.

    takeactionbanPennsylvania: Members of the Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee have unanimously passed SB 50 to make industrial hemp a legal cash crop in the state of Pennsylvania. This bill is the companion legislation to HB 967, which members of the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee unanimously passed a few weeks earlier. Both bills will now be voted on by the full House and Senate.

    Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!

    ** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 26, 2015

    vote_keyboard Ohioans will decide next Tuesday on Issue 3, the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, and recent polls indicate that voters are evenly divided on the issue.

    Bowling Green State University polling data released late last week finds 44 percent of respondents supporting the measure and 43 percent opposing it. Thirteen percent of respondents are undecided.

    By contrast, the Bowling Green poll reports that 56 percent of respondents favor Issue 2, a counter-measure placed on the ballot by state lawmakers to prohibit state regulators from permitting the limited production of “any Schedule I controlled substance.”

    A separate poll, conducted by the University of Akron, also reports that voters are split on Issue 3, with 46 percent of respondents favoring the measure and 46 percent opposing it. The poll reports that voters are far more informed about Issue 3 than other ballot issues, including Issue 2, which voters back by a margin of 40 percent to 28 percent (with 32 percent undecided).

    The latest polling data differs from survey data released earlier this month by WKYC/Kent State Polling, which reported that 56 percent of voters backed Issue 3.

    If both competing measures (Issue 3 and Issue 2) are passed by voters, it will likely be up to the courts to decide which initiative takes precedence.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator October 24, 2015

    Beginning on Monday, October 26, 2015, NORML Affiliates and Chapters from across the country will begin contacting their representatives to urge them to support one of the seventeen marijuana-related bills introduced since the 114th Congress convened on January 3, 2015.

    NORML Letter Writing Campaign and ContestOver the past few months, NORML Affiliates and Chapters have demonstrated their ability to mobilize thousands of marijuana advocates from around the country so we hope all of you will join us in making this a successful campaign!

    Project: NORML Congressional Letter Writing Campaign and Contest

    Who: NORML Affiliates and Chapters

    When: Monday, October 26, 2015 through Tuesday, November 3, 2015

    Summary: Letter campaign targeting members of the House and Senate requesting their immediate support of pending marijuana-related legislation. We encourage the use of handwritten letters and emails.

    Target Legislation:

    CARERS Act

    Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act

    Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act

    Fair Access to Education Act

    State Marijuana and Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act

    Contest: We’re excited to announce that we have partnered with High Times to offer a pair of Cannabis Cup tickets to two lucky winners who participate in our campaign! By offering a contest, we hope to create some additional excitement around our 2015 Congressional Letter Writing Campaign, and in return, drive participation and engagement.

    To enter, contact at least two of your three representatives using NORML’s Action Center by clicking one of the five bills listed above or simply use one of our templates that can be found here. Then, take a picture of your letter and post it to your Facebook or Twitter page using the #ActNORML hashtag so we know you’re participating in the campaign! Once the campaign comes to an end at 7PM MST on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, a random winner will be selected from Facebook and Twitter.

    For more details about the contest, please click here for our Official Contest Rules!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 21, 2015

    Budgetary provisions enacted by Congress in 2014 forbid the Justice Department from taking action against medical marijuana providers who are operating in compliance with state law, a federal judge for the northern district of California determined earlier this week.

    The ruling, issued by US District Court Judge Charles Breyer, rejects the Justice Department’s ‘tortured’ interpretation of the statute (Section 538 of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015) and affirms that the “plain reading” of the law prohibits the federal government from spending funds in a manner that interferes with a state’s ability to authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana. Consequently, the statute forbids the federal government from taking actions that would result in the closure of state-compliant medical cannabis facilities, the Court opined.

    Breyer ruled: “It defies language and logic for the Government to argue that it does not ‘prevent’ California from ‘implementing’ its medical marijuana laws by shutting down these … dispensaries, whether one shuts down one, some, or all. … [C]ontrary to the Government’s representation, the record here does support a finding that Californian’s access to medical marijuana has been substantially impeded by the closing of dispensaries.”

    He added: “[T]he legislative history of Section 538 points in only direction: away from the counter-intuitive and opportunistic meaning the DOJ seeks to ascribe to it now. … [T]he statutory language … is plain on its face [and] the Court must enforce it according to its terms.”

    Breyer’s ruling removes an injunction that had forbidden the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana from operating. The injunction had been in effect since federal officials took action to close down the facility in 2011 as part of a statewide crackdown against dispensary operators.

    Although Section 538 was included as part of a fiscal year 2015 spending bill, the language is expected to be renewed by Congress later this year as part of a FY 2016 appropriations measure.

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