Members of Congress have re-authorized a federal provision prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering in state-authorized medical cannabis programs. The provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, was included in short-term spending legislation, House Resolution 2028, and will expire on April 28, 2017.
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.” In 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.
Because the provision is included as part of a Congressional spending package and does not explicitly amend the US Controlled Substances Act, members must re-authorize the amendment annually. However, House leadership may prohibit federal lawmakers from revisiting the issue when they craft a longer-term funding bill this spring. Such a change in House rules would require members of the Senate to pass an equivalent version of the legislation, which would then need to be approved by House leaders in conference committee.
Looking ahead to 2017, marijuana law reforms face an uncertain future. Therefore, it is more important than ever that this federal protection remains in place to ensure that these patient programs and those who rely upon them are not subject to federal interference.
Petitioners seeking to decriminalize municipal penalties specific to the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana have gathered sufficient signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot, a representative from the Kansas City Clerk’s office confirmed today.
The proposal, spearheaded by Kansas City NORML, amends citywide penalties from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil fine, punishable by a $25 fine. Similar municipal measures are currently in place in St. Louis and in Columbia, Missouri.
Members of the city council have 60 days to either act on the measure or to place it before voters this spring in a special election.
Under state law, the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. On January 1, new sentencing provisions will take effect reclassifying the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana as a Class D misdemeanor, punishable by a fine but no jail.
Age restrictions in legal marijuana states are effectively keeping cannabis out of the hands of minors, according to newly published data in the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs.
A team of investigators from California, Colorado, and New Mexico assessed whether licensed retail cannabis facilities would sell to pseudo-underage buyers who failed to show proof of age.
Authors reported, “Compliance with laws restricting marijuana sales to individuals age 21 years or older with a valid ID was extremely high and possibly higher than compliance with restrictions on alcohol sales.”
They concluded, “The retail market at present may not be a direct source of marijuana for underage individuals.”
Similar assessments of facilities in other jurisdictions have also shown that the overwhelming majority of marijuana retailers refuse sales to apparent minors.
A pair of studies published earlier this week from Columbia University researchers reported that changes in marijuana’s legal status are “not associated with higher prevalence rates of marijuana use among adolescents.”
An abstract of the study, “Pseudo-Underage Assessment of Compliance With Identification Regulations at Retail Marijuana Outlets in Colorado,” appears here.
With the 2016 election only days away, NORML is pleased today to release of our first ever Gubernatorial Scorecard. Inspired by NORML’s Congressional Scorecard, this extensive database assigns a letter grade ‘A’ through ‘F’ to every state governor based upon his or her comments and voting records specific to matters of marijuana policy.
Public opinion in support of marijuana law reform is at an all-time high. Nonetheless, few federal lawmakers are espousing views on cannabis policy that comport with those of the majority of their constituents. As a result, most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy is taking place at the state level. America’s governors are our nation’s most powerful, state-elected officials and they therefore play a key role in this ongoing legislative debate. NORML’s new Scorecard provides voters in all 50 states with pertinent information regarding where their governor stands on issues surrounding cannabis policy.
- 28 US governors received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (17 Democrats and 11 Republicans)
- Of these, only two US governors, both Democrats, received an ‘A’ grade
- 17 governors received a ‘B’ grade (11 Democrats and 6 Republicans)
- Nine governors received a ‘C’ grade (5 Republicans and 4 Democrats)
- 13 governors received a ‘D’ grade (All Republicans)
- Seven governors received a failing ‘F’ grade (All Republicans)
- Two governors received no grade because of insufficient data
- Of the 31 Republican US governors currently in office, 11 of them received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (35 percent)
- Of the 18 Democratic US governors currently in office, 17 of them received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (94 percent)
Similar to the findings of NORML’s Congressional Scorecard, this gubernatorial analysis affirms that voters’ views on marijuana policy are typically more progressive than the views held by the highest elected officials in their states — 56 percent of whom received a passing grade from NORML. For example, while sixty percent of Americans support legalizing the use and sale of cannabis for adults, only four percent of state governors voice support for this position. Governors overall are also far less supportive of legislation to legalize the medical use of cannabis than are their constituents – approximately 80 percent of whom back these type of reform measures.
Also evident is that gubernatorial support for marijuana law reform falls primarily upon partisan lines. While over 94 percent of Democratic governors received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (one Democrat received no grade), fewer than 40 percent of Republican governors did so. Further, all of the governors who received either a ‘D’ or a failing grade from NORML are Republicans. Conversely, both of the governors who received a ‘A’ grade from NORML are Democrats. This partisanship lies largely in contrast to voters’ sentiments, as the public tends to view many aspects of marijuana law reform, such as the regulation of medicinal cannabis, as non-partisan issues.
Commenting on the report’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “It is apparent that voters’ views regarding marijuana policy have evolved significantly over the past decades. Yet, the positions of their governors have not progressed in a similar manner. Constituents ought to demand that their lawmakers legislate on behalf of policies that more closely reflect marijuana’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”
To read how NORML’s grades were calculated and to review the individual profiles for the governors of all 50 states, please visit: http://norml.org/us-governors.
With Election Day less than three weeks away we’re excited to share with you the latest polling information from states with pending marijuana related ballot initiatives, as well as breaking news from another state that may be setting the stage for full legalization next year. A summary of this year’s crop of marijuana-centric ballot initiatives is available online here.
NORML is also pleased to announce that next week we will be releasing our first ever, Governors Report Card. Inspired by our Congressional Scorecard, this report will provide a letter grade for the Governors of all 50 states. Which Governors have been supportive of reforms and which ones have stood in the way of progress? We’ll give your Governor a grade so you know exactly where your Governor stands. If you aren’t yet subscribed to our Newsletter, sign up today so you can be the first to receive the Governors Scorecard in your inbox!
Now, keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform!
Arizona: Half of Arizona voters intend to vote ‘yes’ in favor of Proposition 205: The Arizona Legalization and Regulation of Marijuana Act, according to an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll. Forty percent of voters oppose the initiative. The Act allows adults age 21 and older to possess and to privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana (up to one ounce of marijuana flower, up to five grams of marijuana concentrate, and/or the harvest from up to six plants) and provides regulations for a retail cannabis marketplace.
Delaware: A September poll by the University of Delaware shows that 61 percent of residents surveyed support marijuana legalization. The survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on Sept. 16-28, consisted of 900 phone interviews. Last year Delaware decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, reclassifying the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by those age 21 and over from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a criminal record, to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest, and no criminal record.
Last week, the state’s Senate majority whip said that she would propose a bill in January to legalize marijuana for adult use in the state. We’ll have an #ActionAlert out soon so you can #TakeAction in support of this legislation.
Florida: According to an October poll by the University of North Florida, 77 percent of respondents said they’ll vote for Amendment 2, which would expand medical marijuana access in the state. Passage of the amendment would permit qualified patients to possess and obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities. Under Florida law, 60 percent of voters must approve a constitutional amendment in order for it to become law. In November 2014, Floridians narrowly rejected a similar amendment, which received 58 percent of the vote.
Massachusetts: According to a WBUR poll released this week, support for marijuana legalization is rising. Fifty-five percent of likely voters now say they favor allowing adults to use recreational marijuana, an increase of five percentage points from a similar poll performed last month. Question 4 permits adults to possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis and to grow up to six plants for non-commercial purposes. The measure also establishes regulations overseeing the commercial production and sale of the plant.