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LEGISLATION

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 5, 2018

    Minor marijuana possession arrests have plunged in the city of New Orleans following the adoption of a municipal ordinance one year ago that called for fining rather than arresting low-level offenders.

    According to data made available last week, just one percent of encounters between police and someone accused of possessing marijuana resulted in an arrest between June 2016 and May 2017. In prior years, over 70 percent of such encounters resulted in an arrest. In those cases, some 75 percent of those arrested were African Americans.

    Under Louisiana state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are punishable by a term of incarceration of up to eight years, depending on whether the person convicted is a repeat offender.

    In March of last year, members of the New Orleans city council voted 7 to 0 in favor of legislation permitting police to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders (defined as those who possess 14 grams or less), including repeat offenders. First-time violators are subject to a $40 fine while subsequent offenders may face fines of up to $100. In recent years, nearly 60 municipalities in states where cannabis remains criminalized have enacted local ordinances either partially or fully decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.

    According to a study published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the enactment of recent statewide decriminalization laws has similarly resulted in a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests while having no adverse impact on youth use patterns.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate March 30, 2018

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

    I first want to bring your attention to a key development at the federal level. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that he will introduce a bill to legalize industrial hemp next month. The legislation will not only change hemp’s status under the law but will also set aside federal funds to support its cultivation.

    At the state level, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has made dramatic changes to the state’s regulatory program. Changes include: reduced cost of the medical marijuana registry for patients by 50%; reduced cost for veterans, seniors, and those on disability by 90%; expanded the qualifying conditions list to include Tourette syndrome, chronic pain, and other conditions; and other much needed technical fixes.

    Also at the state level, Iowa regulators offered medical cannabis dispensary licenses to five businesses, and North Dakota activists say they’ve collected more than half the signatures they need to qualify a marijuana legalization ballot measure.

    At a more local level, New Orleans, Louisiana marijuana arrests are dramatically down following the enactment of an ordinance that allows police to issues summonses for low-level possession.

    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

    Connecticut

    The Connecticut Legislature is considering several bills to to regulate and tax the retail sale of marijuana to adults. HB 5111 and HB 5112 are still pending in the Joint Committee on General Law, and HB 5458 died in a House committee last week.

    Update: The General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee held a hearing on 3/28 on another proposal, HB 5394, to develop a plan to legalize and regulate the retail sale of marijuana in the state and to provide for substance abuse treatment, prevention, education and awareness programs and measures.

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

    South Carolina

    Legislation is pending, H 3521 and S 212: The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, to allow for the physician-authorized use of marijuana for patients with specific debilitating medical conditions. If passed, the bill would provide patients with regulated access to medical cannabis via licensed providers.

    Update: The Senate Medical Affairs Committee approved S 212 on 3/29 on an 8-6 vote, after it was approved by the subcommittee on a 3-2 vote last week. H3521 was tabled after the House Medical, Military, and Public and Municipal Affairs Committee held a hearing, but the Chairman didn’t put the bill on the agenda.

    SC resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical marijuana access

    Tennessee

    Medical Extracts
    State Representative Jeremy Faison (R) and State Senator Steve Dickerson (R) have introduced legislation, SB 1710 and HB 1749 to establish a limited medical marijuana access program in Tennessee.
    The measure permits qualified patients to possess marijuana-infused oil products, as well as other non-herbal forms of cannabis, from state-licensed dispensaries. Both patients and physicians would be required to participate in a state registry.

    Update: HB 1749/SB 1710 was significantly amended at the request of the sponsor. As amended, the measure depenalizes the possession of CBD extracts by qualified patients, and also provides protections to those from out of state. It does not provide an in-state regulated supply system for CBD products. Members of the House Criminal Justice Committee approved the amended bill on 3/28.

    HB 1749 will be heard by the Health Committee on 4/3, and SB 1710 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee also on 4/3.

    TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of CBD extracts

    Medical Cannabis
    Legislation is pending, HB 830 and SB 1119, to establish a medical marijuana access program.

    The bill would provide qualified patients with access to cannabis therapy through licensed dispensaries or pharmacies, under the supervision of a certified practitioner. The bill would also prohibit employers from discriminating against individuals solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient.

    TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical cannabis access

    New Jersey

    Legislation is pending, S2426 and A3740, to further expand the state’s medical marijuana law.

    The measures provide doctors the discretion to recommend medical marijuana to any patient for whom they believe it will provide a benefit.

    NJ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical expansion

    New Hampshire

    Legislation is pending, SB 388, to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.

    The bill would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a second dispensary location in the geographic area that includes Carroll, Coos, and Grafton counties for therapeutic cannabis. Currently there are only four licensed dispensaries operating across the state to serve an estimated 3,500 patients.

    Update: SB 388 passed the Senate on 3/22, and now awaits action in the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.

    NH resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical expansion

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    California

    Legislation has been introduced by Sen. Bob Hertzberg [D], SB 930, to assist financial institutions to safely conduct transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.

    Update: SB 930 will be heard by the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee on 4/18 at 1:30pm in Room 112.

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

    Hawaii

    Legislation is pending, HB 2729, to allow for out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders to access medical cannabis while visiting Hawaii. It already passed the House earlier this month.

    Other provisions in the bill prohibit employers from either discriminating against or taking punitive actions against employees solely based on their medical cannabis use or patient status.

    Update: HB 2729 will be heard by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday 3/29 at 10:50am in Conference room 211.

    HI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of reciprocity

    Oklahoma

    HB 2913 is pending: The Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program. If passed, this bill would allow universities to cultivate hemp for research and development purposes. It already passed the House unanimously earlier this month.

    Update: HB 2913 was approved by the Senate Agriculture and Wildlife Committee on 3/27, and is now awaiting action from the Appropriations Committee.

    OK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of a hemp pilot program

    Kansas

    Legislation is pending, SB 263, to establish a state-licensed industrial hemp research program. It was already approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: SB 263 was approved by the House on 3/28 by a 123-1 vote. It now awaits action from the Governor.

    KS resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of hemp research

    That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • by NORML March 27, 2018

    CongressNORML is pleased to formally announce the dates for our 2018 National NORML Conference and Lobby Day. The conference will run from July 22nd – 24th in Washington, DC at the Capital Hilton. This year, we are excited to add an additional day of activities in addition to our traditional programming. Click here to register now!

    July 22nd: NORML Activist Strategy Summit

    For 2018, we’ve going to do a deep dive into grassroots organizing with the NORML Activist Strategy Summit. Attendees will be able to choose from a number of important areas of interest and engage in free-flowing, peer to peer strategizing on issues including running an effective chapter, communications strategy, social media and online activism, and more. Each topic area will be moderated by outstanding NORML activists from across the country paired with a member of the National staff and provide an outlet for individuals to share stories based on their advocacy experiences, exchange tips for best practices, and come up with new concepts to put into play to help push us closer to the end of prohibition.

    Topics include: Organizing political candidate forums, “big organizing” for lobby days, personal narrative development, and more.

    July 23rd: NORML Conference & Benefit Party

    On Monday, July 23rd we will host our formal conference programming. There will be panels, debates, and individual speakers covering a wide range of topics including: marijuana and its impact on the opioid crisis, how to engage in local reform efforts, NORML’s role in the 2018 midterms, marijuana reform as a social justice issue, and updates current 2018 ballot initiative efforts.

    In the evening, attendees will gather for a NORML benefit party to enjoy live entertainment and networking.

    July 24th: Congressional Lobby Day

    For the final day, NORML supporters will once again descend upon Congress to advocate for federal reforms. The reason we chose to hold the conference and lobby day at this point in the calendar was because this week represents the final week of legislative session before lawmakers go home for the August recess when they will be explaining to voters why they should be reelected.

    Last year, we had activists from 24 different states attend over 150 scheduled meetings with Congressional offices and we aim to exceed that this year, with your help!

    REGISTER NOW TO RESERVE YOUR PLACE AT THIS IMPORTANT EVENT

    We are at a critical time for our nationwide movement to end marijuana prohibition. Join citizens from all across the country to learn new strategies, hear about the latest scientific and political advancements in the reform movement, and meet in person with your elected officials and their offices to advocate for legalization. With over 60 percent of the American people in support of ending prohibition and three-quarters of voters supporting the states that have done so, the time to act is now.

    Can’t wait to see all of you this summer!

    The NORML Team

    P.S. Can’t make it in July? Our efforts are supported by thousands of people throughout the country as we work to advance marijuana reform in all 50 states and the federal level. Can you kick in $5, $10, or $20 a month to help us keep going?

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate March 23, 2018

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

    I first want to bring your attention to a key development at the federal level. As a part of the newly proposed appropriations package known as an omnibus bill, a spending restriction upon the Department of Justice from prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana programs will remain in place through the end of September. Known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, it explicitly states 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.”

    At the state level, lawmakers in Colorado have formed the first-ever statewide Cannabis Caucus to address issues such as social consumption, product testing, and the use of medical cannabis on public campuses. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R) signed a bill legalizing CBD sales into law. And Ohio regulators started accepting applications from physicians who want to be certified to recommend medical cannabis. Sales are expected to begin this fall.

    Also at the state level, legalization bills died in committees in Connecticut and New Hampshire, as did a Maryland bill to let the voters decide on legalization.

    At a more local level, voters in Cook County, Illinois — the nation’s second-most-populous county — overwhelmingly approved a marijuana legalization ballot measure. And Denver, Colorado is spending $1.2 million in marijuana tax revenue to repave roads.

    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

    Maryland

    SB 127 would expand the state’s decriminalization law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is classified as a civil rather than a criminal offense. Under current law, the possession of more than ten grams of marijuana is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

    Update: SB 127 was approved by the Senate on 3/19 by a 36-11 vote. Amendments approved by the Senate includes a provision “prohibiting a driver of a motor vehicle from smoking or consuming marijuana in the passenger area of a motor vehicle on a highway; prohibiting an occupant of a motor vehicle from smoking marijuana in the passenger area of the motor vehicle on a highway.”

    SB 127 will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on 4/3 at 1pm.

    MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of an expanded decriminalization law

    Tennessee

    Medical Marijuana
    Senator Sara Kyle (D) and Representative Larry Miller have introduced legislation SB 2320 and HB 2391 seeking to place a ballot initiative before voters with regard to the legalization of medical marijuana.

    If passed, these bills would place the following advisory question on the November 2018 ballot: Should the Tennessee legislature approve the use of medical marijuana?

    Update: SB 2320 was put on the calendar for The Senate State & Local Government Committee for 3/27/18, and HB 2391 was put on the Local Government subcommittee calendar for 3/28/18.

    TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of letting the voters decide

    Medical Marijuana Extracts
    State Representative Jeremy Faison (R) and State Senator Steve Dickerson (R) have introduced legislation, SB 1710 and HB 1749 to permit qualified patients to possess marijuana-infused oil products, as well as other non-herbal forms of cannabis, from state-licensed dispensaries. Both patients and physicians would be required to participate in a state registry.

    Update: HB 1749 is on the Criminal Justice Committee’s calendar for 3/28. The committee has amended the bill significantly to require patients seeking to use medical cannabis to obtain a prescription from a doctor. Because marijuana is categorized as a schedule I controlled substance, it remains unlikely that many physicians would ‘prescribe’ it, even if this legislation was signed into law. Therefore, the proposal’s language ought to be amended to read ‘recommend’ rather than prescribe.

    TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of amending this bill

    Arizona

    Legislation is pending, HB 2064, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence. It already passed the House earlier this month.

    The bill was originally intended only to ban dispensaries from selling edibles in packaging that could be appealing to children, but an amendment to the bill would also add opioid use disorder to the list of medical conditions that can legally be treated with medical marijuana.

    Update: HB 2064 was approved by the Senate Commerce and Public Safety Committee on 3/13, and now awaits action from the Rules Committee.

    AZ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of adding opioid abuse to the qualifying conditions list

    Kansas

    Legislation is pending, SB 282, to allow for the possession and retail sale of cannabidiol (CBD) products containing zero percent THC. It was already approved by the Senate unanimously last month.

    While such products are often used in other states for therapeutic purposes, under this proposed legislation, Kansas citizens would not need to be a part of a patient registry or be diagnosed with a certain qualifying condition in order to legally possess or purchase CBD products.

    Update: SB 282 was approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee on 3/16.

    KS resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of CBD access

    New Hampshire

    Legislation is pending, HB 1477, to permit those convicted of past marijuana convictions to seek expungement. It was already approved by the House last month.

    If passed, HB 1477 would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting that the court annul any past marijuana violations involving the possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana.

    Update: HB 1477 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/27 at 9:45am in SH room 100.

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

    Alaska

    Senator Tom Begich has introduced legislation, SB 184, to seal the convictions of past marijuana possession offenders.

    Senate Bill 184 prohibits the release of past records for any marijuana offense that is no longer defined as a crime under state law. The bill’s intent is to reduce barriers to employment for people who have been convicted of low-level marijuana possession crimes that would be legal under today’s laws, and to make it more likely that people convicted of only low-level crimes will become contributing members of society.

    Update: SB 184 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/28 at 1:30 pm in BELTZ 105 (TS Bldg).

    AK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of sealing past convictions

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    Arizona

    Republican State Senator Sonny Borrelli has introduced Senate Bill 1420, which seeks to enhance quality testing practices for medical marijuana products. If passed, this bill would improve product testing procedures and requirements, leading to an increase in product quality for patients. After passing the Senate last month, it was heard and passed by the House Military, Veterans and Regulatory Affairs Committee last week.

    Update: SB 1420 was heard and then approved by the House Appropriations Committee on 3/21.

    AZ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of better testing practices

    Kansas

    Legislation is pending, SB 263, to establish a state-licensed industrial hemp research program. It was already passed by the Senate last month, and heard by the House Committee on Agriculture last week.

    Update: SB 263 was approved by the House Committee on Agriculture on 3/20. A vote by the full House is expected in the upcoming weeks.

    KS resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of industrial hemp research

    Oklahoma

    Democratic Representative Mickey Dollens has introduced HB 2913: The Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program. If passed, this bill would allow universities to cultivate hemp for research and development purposes.

    Update: HB 2913 passed the House by a 92-0 vote on earlier this month, and now awaits action in the Senate Appropriations committee.

    OK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of an industrial hemp pilot program

    That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

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

    Marijuana medicineUpdate: The omnibus passed the House of Representatives on Thursday.

    Update #2: The omnibus passed the Senate and was signed into law on Friday, 3/23/18.

    As part of the newly proposed appropriations package known as an omnibus bill, a spending restriction upon the Department of Justice from prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana programs will remain in place through the end of September.

    Known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, it explicitly states 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.”

    The amendment has been in place since 2014, as part of annual spending bills. Because the provision was initially approved as a budgetary amendment, it must be explicitly re-authorized by Congress as part of either a continuing resolution or a new fiscal year appropriations bill in order to maintain in effect.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants nothing more than to see these protections go away. In a letter he sent to Congressional leadership last year, he wrote: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

    In the past month, NORML has worked with Representatives Rohrabacher and Blumenauer in recruiting 60 additional members of Congress to co-sign a letter of their own to Congressional leadership, which states, “We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws. We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people.”

    Last year, the language was initially included as part of a Senate appropriations bill thanks to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) yet was absent from the House’s funding proposal because House Rules Committee Chair Peter Sessions (R-TX) refused to allow House members to vote on it. As a result, it was left to House and Senate leadership to ultimately decide on the amendment’s fate when the two chambers’ appropriations bills were reconciled.

    In the past two days as the negotiations reached their peak, over 10,000 members of NORML contacted their federal officials to urge them to maintain these protections.

    Additional language was stripped from the Senate version of the bill, known as the Veterans Equal Access amendment. Originally passed last year in the Senate appropriations committee by a vote of 24-7, Republican Congressional leadership thought it prudent to deny American military veterans the ability to participate in state-lawful medical marijuana programs through their VA doctors.

    Rep. Earl Blumenauer, namesake on the amendment and the co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus said “While I’m glad that our medical marijuana protections are included, there is nothing to celebrate since Congress only maintained the status quo. These protections have been law since 2014. This matter should be settled once and for all. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans, across every party, strongly favor the right to use medical marijuana.”

    He continued, “Instead, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doubling down on the failed War on Drugs and Republican leadership in Congress—led by Chairman Pete Sessions—is stonewalling. They’re ignoring the will of the American people by blocking protections for state adult-use laws and cannabis banking. They even refused our veterans access to lifesaving medicine.

    The fate of this spending bill has yet to be made clear but is deemed a “must pass” piece of legislation as the federal government is set to shut down on March 23rd at midnight if action is not taken.

    We will keep you posted as this story develops.

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