We’ve got news from all levels of government this week! International, federal, state, and local law reform changes are all being considered. Keep reading below to see if any pending reforms would affect you or your community!
Tim Faron, leader of one of Great Britain’s main political parties, called for the legalization of cannabis for recreational use this week. He also announced that his party would be imminently releasing a report making the case for a legalized market for sales. The Liberal Democrats leader said: “I personally believe the war on drugs is over. We must move from making this a legal issue to one of health. The prime minister used to agree with me on the need for drug reform. It’s time he rediscovered his backbone and made the case again.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote a letter this week to the head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging the agency to research cannabis access as a potential mitigating factor in opioid abuse. Population data from states where medicinal cannabis is permitted report lower rates of opioid-abuse and mortality as compared to those states where the plant is prohibited. Clinical data and case reports also indicate that the adjunctive use of cannabis may wean patients from opiates while successfully managing their pain. Survey data of state qualified medical cannabis patients indicate that subjects with access to the plant often substitute it for opioids because they perceive it to possess fewer adverse side effects.
Also, Senate members this week introduced The Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act, or SUCCESS Act, which repeals language in the Higher Education Act that strips students of financial aid because of a past drug offense, and removes the drug conviction question from the FAFSA form. #TakeAction
California: The California Medical Association has officially endorsed the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, a pending statewide ballot initiative that seeks to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use and sales in the state. The California Medical Association represents more than 41,000 physician members statewide. Additionally, the NAACP California chapter has also endorsed the initiative.
Illinois: Legislation, HB 6199, is pending in the General Assembly to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the definition of ‘debilitating medical condition’ and to allow state-registered medical cannabis patients to retain gun ownership rights. #TakeAction
Mississippi: Senate legislation was introduced this week to permit qualified patients to legally possess and cultivate cannabis. Senate Bill 2358 permits patients with a “debilitating medical condition” to engage in marijuana therapy in accordance with a physician’s recommendation. The measure also reschedules marijuana under state law. #TakeAction
New Mexico: Legislation opposed by NORML, HB 195 has narrowly passed the House of Representatives. The bill would prohibit workers compensation insurers from reimbursing employees who qualify for medical cannabis access for injuries sustained on the job. The measure now awaits Senate action. Please contact your Senate member today and urge him or her to vote ‘no’ on HB 195 and/or its companion measure SB 245. #TakeAction
New Jersey: Legislation was introduced this week to end workplace discrimination against medical marijuana patients. Assembly Bill 2482, if enacted, would halt employers from taking adverse employment actions against authorized medical marijuana patients who engage in the plant’s use during their off-hours. #TakeAction
Pennsylvania: A local decriminalization ordinance is being considered by the Harrisburg City Council. The council’s public safety committee plans to hold a public hearing on the matter in the coming weeks. If you live in Harrisburg, contact your City Council member and urge their support for this measure! We’ll keep you updated as this measure moves forward.
Vermont: Members of the Senate are anticipated to decide imminently on legislation to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. Media reports indicate that the floor vote could come the week of February 16. The vote is expected to be a close one; therefore, we are urging supporters to contact their Senate members over the coming days and to urge them to vote ‘yes’ for Senate Bill 241. If approved by the Senate, the bill will face further debate in the House. #TakeAction
Virginia: Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, Senate Bill 327, to amend state law so that first time, minor marijuana offenders no longer face the loss of their driver’s license. Under existing law, marijuana possession offenses may be punishable by the loss of driving privileges, even in cases where the offense did not take place in a motor vehicle. Passage of SB 327 would end this practice. #TakeAction
Washington D.C.: Members of the D.C. Counsel this week approved a measure that would prohibit potential employers in the District from testing applicants for marijuana until after they’ve made a conditional job offer. Councilmember Vincent Orange, who sponsored the measure said, “District residents shouldn’t have to worry about lost job opportunities just because they’ve smoked pot, especially now that the city has voted to legalize marijuana possession.” The measure is still under congressional review.
This week we have an array of legislative updates ranging from more bills being introduced, other bills stalling, and everything in between. We have news out of Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia, Utah and Washington D.C.! Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform this week.
The Marijuana Advertising in Legal States (MAILS) Act was introduced this week by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici. This legislation would “reverse the outdated declaration by the U.S. Postal Service in December 2015 that prohibited the mailing of newspapers with ads offering to buy or sell marijuana, even if the marijuana-related ad complies with state law.” Senator Wyden says, “Our bill updates the federal approach to marijuana, ending the threat to news publications that choose to accept advertising from legal marijuana businesses in Oregon and other states where voters also have freely decided to legalize marijuana.”
Democrat Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made comments this week in response to a question at a town hall meeting from a medical marijuana patient who asked what she would do to decriminalize the drug. Clinton responded boldly saying, “She would do a lot.” She reiterated her support for states to decide the issue and reaffirmed that, if elected President, she would reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act to a Schedule II substance. She stated, “I have no doubt there are very real benefits to people.”
Democrat Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also made comments this week related to marijuana policy when he addressed the question, “If elected, how would your administration address the current tension between state and federal marijuana laws?” Sanders responded, “As President, I would direct HHS and DOJ to immediately review if marijuana should be rescheduled or descheduled under the Controlled Substances Act, and I would instruct DOJ not to interfere with states who have legalized or decriminalized marijuana.”
Arizona: House Bill 2007, was introduced to defelonize minor marijuana possession offenses.Under present law, marijuana possession is classified as a felony, punishable by up to two years in jail. House Bill 2007 reclassifies minor marijuana possession offenses from a felony to a civil offense, punishable by a fine only — no arrest, no criminal prosecution, and no criminal record. #TakeAction
California: Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that seeks to dissuade California cities and counties from enacting municipal restrictions on the cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana by amending a drafting error in the The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. It also removes objectionable language authorizing local governments to prohibit patients from cultivating, storing, donating, or processing marijuana for their own personal use, and by doing so, reaffirms that qualified patients have the right under state law to engage in personal cultivation absent a city or state license.
Florida: House legislation, House Bill 271, redefines industrial hemp as an agricultural crop and establishes licensing regulations to allow for the plant’s cultivation. A committee substitute version of the bill was unanimously approved by members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Tuesday, February 2nd. We’ll keep you updated as this legislation moves forward. #TakeAction
Hawaii: Objectionable legislation is pending in the House to eliminate patients’ longstanding rights to cultivate medical marijuana. House Bill 1680 repeals patients’ legal authority to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis. Criminalizing the personal cultivation of cannabis is an arbitrary prohibition that has absolutely no basis in public safety. For sixteen years, thousands of Hawaii patients have possessed the ability to cultivate personal use qualities of medicinal marijuana. There exists no evidence that this law has led to any sort of widespread abuse or public safety threat.. #TakeAction
Illinois: Legislation is pending in the Senate to expand Illinois’ hemp law to promote hemp-related commerce. The act seeks to establish regulations for the Department of Agriculture to license persons “desiring to grow, process, cultivate, harvest, process, possess, sell, or purchase industrial hemp or industrial hemp related products.” #TakeAction
In separate news, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner this week rejected a recommendation from the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to expand the state’s medical marijuana program by adding eight additional qualifying conditions. For more information on organizing patients’ efforts in Illinois, please contact Illinois NORML.
Kansas: Members of the Senate voted 38 to 1 on Wednesday, February 3, in favor of a Committee substitute version of HB 2049 to reduce criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine) to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by no more than six months in jail and a $1,000 fine). Second convictions will no longer be classified as a felony offense. The amended language now returns to the House for a concurrence vote. #TakeAction
Maine: Marijuana legalization advocates turned in more than 100,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office this week in hopes of meeting the 60,000 requirement to qualify for the 2016 ballot. Read more about this campaign here.
Maryland: House Bill 443 is pending in the General Assembly to permit the Department of Agriculture to authorize institutions of higher education to cultivate industrial hemp for academic research purposes.This legislation is scheduled to be heard Wednesday, February 10th by members of the Environment and Transportation Committee at 1:00PM. #TakeAction
Separate legislation, House Bill 665, seeks to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2016 ballot to regulate adult marijuana use. If approved by lawmakers, the bill would allow voters to decide if they wish to regulate the commercial cultivation, processing, and retail of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. You can read the full text of this proposal here. #TakeAction
New Jersey: Assembly Bill 2050, legislation to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses in New Jersey, is pending in the General Assembly. If approved, the legislation would remove criminal penalties for those who possess 15 grams of marijuana or less. New Jersey’s 24,765 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2013 was the state’s highest number in 20 years. #TakeAction
Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo has proposed that a new tax be imposed upon state qualified patients who choose to cultivate their own cannabis. The proposed taxes range from $150 per plant for an individual patient up to $350 per plant for growers with cultivator licenses. The proposed tax is rightfully drawing fire, from patients and other concerned citizens. For more information on efforts to oppose this change, please visit the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.
Utah: On Thursday, February 4th, members of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee moved SB 73, the Medical Cannabis Act, to the Senate floor. The legislation seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis, including strains with higher THC content, for the manufacturing of medicinal products and/or herbal preparations. We’ll keep you updated as this measure continues to move forward. #TakeAction
Virginia: House and Senate lawmakers set aside legislation that sought to eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses. On February 3rd, Senate Bill 104, was passed by indefinitely by the Courts of Justice Committee in an 11-4 vote. This action stalls any legislative progress for now, but allows for the committee to reconsider legislation at a later meeting. It is apparent by these actions that Virginia lawmakers need to hear from constituents that marijuana law reform ought to be a legislative priority. #TakeActionWashington D.C.: A bill aimed at permanently banning private marijuana clubs in the District was pulled on Tuesday and instead Council members passed an amendment to create a seven member taskforce to look into the issue more closely. The taskforce will be made up of two members from the D.C. Council, one from the Office of the D.C. Attorney General and five from city agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Health Department, who will be appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Exciting news from across the country with NEW legislation being introduced and promising legislation moving forward! This week we highlight Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, New
Mexico, New Orleans, and Vermont. Plus our lawmakers in Congress and lawmakers in Puerto Rico took action this week too! Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform.
Puerto Rico: Health Department officials have signed off on regulations overseeing the licensed production and distribution of medical cannabis within the US territory. The new program is anticipated to be operational by year’s end.
Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro J. Garcia Padilla signed an executive order in May calling on health officials to adopt regulations permitting medical cannabis production and access. Under the new plan, patients who possess a physician’s authorization will be able to obtain cannabis-infused products, such as oils and pills, from state-licensed facilities.
Patients will not be permitted to cultivate their own marijuana and herbal formulations of medical cannabis will not be permitted.
Federal: On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers signed on to a letter addressed to the Veteran’s Administration (VA) requesting a policy change be made to allow veterans to access medical marijuana.
Current law prevents VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana to patients, even in states where it is legal for qualified patients to possess it. Senators Gillibrand (D-NY), Daines (R-MT), Merkley (D-OR), and Reps. Blumenauer (D-OR), Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Titus (D-NV) are leading the efforts in reforming this nonsensical policy. If these Senators and Representatives are from your state, consider giving their office a call and thanking them for their work on medical marijuana! You can find your lawmakers contact info here.
Arizona: After a Republican lawmaker this week received hundreds of complaints, he withdrew his bill that aimed to restrict access to medical marijuana in the state.
The bill would have denied physicians practicing alternative medicine such as naturopathy and homeopathy the ability to recommend cannabis therapy.
California: Legislation that seeks to dissuade California cities and counties from enacting municipal restrictions on the cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana has been approved lawmakers and awaits the Governor’s signature. Once signed into law, the bill will take immediate effect.
Assembly Bill 21 amends a drafting error in the The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act by removing an apparent March 1, 2016 deadline for localities to establish their own cultivation regulations or else forfeit that authority to the state. It also removes objectionable language authorizing local governments to prohibit patients from cultivating, storing, donating or processing marijuana for their own personal use.
In recent months, numerous California cities and counties have hastily enacted provisional bans on medical marijuana-related activities out of fear that the state would become to sole authority on the issue following the March 1 deadline. Passage of AB 21 states that localities retain the ability to regulate medical marijuana production and commerce in the manner that they see best. The hope is that localities will halt efforts to impose restrictions, and will reconsider existing moratoriums, now that it is clear that local lawmakers will continue to possess the authority to legislate the issue beyond March 1, 2016.
Further information on both pending and enacted local ordinances, as well as talking points to best address them, is available from California NORML here.
Florida: Floridians will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment this November that seeks to permit the physician-authorized use and distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.
Passage of the amendment would permit qualified patients to possess and obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities.In November 2014, Floridians narrowly rejected a similar amendment, which received 58 percent of the vote.
Hawaii: Legalization, decriminalization, and hemp measures are all pending in the Hawaii state legislature.
Senate Bill 873 amends the criminal code to remove criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use by those age 21 or older. The measure is presently pending before the House Judiciary Committee.
Senate Bill 596 SD 1 reclassifies possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine to a civil violation, punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest and no criminal record.
Senate Bill 2787 encourages the state Department of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp for “research and development purposes.”
To find more information on all of these measures, check out our #TakeAction Center here.
Kansas: Members of the Senate will take a floor vote on legislation, HB 2049, to amend various penalties and regulations specific to marijuana possession and use.
House Bill 2049 seeks to a) establish a statewide research program to oversee the production of industrial hemp, b) authorize the limited use of cannabidiol for therapeutic purposes, and c) reduce criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class A misdemeanor(punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine) to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by no more than six months in jail and a $1,000 fine). Second convictions will no longer be classified as a felony offense. Members of the House approved the measure last year.
Maryland: Legislation NORML opposes is pending in the Maryland General Assembly. House Bill 183 and House Bill 334 both seek to recriminalize offenses involving the public use of small amounts of marijuana. While NORML is generally supportive of efforts to dissuade the use of marijuana in public or in a vehicle, these measures are both unnecessary and overly punitive.
Under present law, it is not permissible to consume marijuana in public view. Those who do so are subject to a civil violation punishable by a fine of up to $500.00.
New Mexico: New Mexico has both legalization and hemp measures pending.
House Bill 75 regulates and controls the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. You can read the full text of this proposal here. Senate Joint Resolution 5 is pending action by the Senate Rules Committee.
For more information on these measures or to take action and contact your lawmakers urging their support for these measures click here.
Vermont: Members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary voted 4 to 1 on Friday, January 29, in favor of pending legislation to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. NORML wishes to thank those of you who contacted the Committee and urged their support for this important and historic legislation.
Senate Bill 241 makes it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and regulates its commercial production and retail sale.
New Orleans: City Councilwoman Susan Guidry has proposed an ordinance change to treat minor marijuana possession offenses the same as minor traffic infractions. Under the proposal, officers would have the option of issuing verbal and written warnings before any penalties kick in. Subsequent offenses would be dealt with through fines that would be capped at $100.
At this time of the year it’s hard to keep up with all of the newly introduced and pending marijuana related bills. Even this week, it was impossible to include every piece of legislation that moved so if you think there was action in your state, be sure to visit our #TakeAction Center to see an update.
Floridians will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment this November that seeks to permit the physician-authorized use and distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.
Proponents of the measure, United for Care, collected more than the 683,000 signatures required to place the measure on the November ballot, the Florida Division of Elections has confirmed.
The ballot measure, entitled the “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Conditions,” will appear before voters as Amendment 2.
Passage of the amendment would permit qualified patients to possess and obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities. According to a November poll, 62 percent of Florida voters say that they support the passage of the amendment.
According to 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.
Plenty of marijuana law reform legislation was introduced in state legislatures across the country this week! We have news out of Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, New Hampshire, Utah and Washington. Plus some news from abroad! Keep reading below to get the latest news in marijuana law reform from this week.
Chile: A medical marijuana farm in the country was officially “inaugurated” this week, signifying a growing approval of medical marijuana use in the region. The farm is the largest medical marijuana plantation in Latin America and will provide medicine to about 4,000 patients in the country.
Israel: The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee held a joint session with the Anti-Drug and Alcohol Committee to discuss reform of the country’s medical marijuana regulations. Currently only a small number of doctors can prescribe the medicine and there is a shortage of supply so officials are looking to expand physician privileges to prescribe cannabis.
“People are dying and suffering [from lack of the drug],” they said. “We have heard grandiose promises, but so far there are no answers. There is plenty of bureaucracy that doesn’t know how to deal with individual cases.
Mexico: After a series of public debates and bipartisan support, a bill to allow the importation of medical marijuana products is expected to pass by May.
“The bill, proposed by Institutional Revolutionary Party Senator Cristina Diaz, aims to change Mexican laws to allow the import of medical marijuana products to help the roughly 5,000 medical patients currently without access to such drugs.”
Georgia: A newly introduced Senate Resolution seeks to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2016 ballot to regulate adult marijuana use.
SR6 would allow voters to decide if they wish to regulate the commercial cultivation, processing, and retail of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. You can read the full text of this proposal here. To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for the measure, click here.
Kansas: Senate lawmakers are considering legislation, HB 2049, to amend various penalties and regulations specific to marijuana possession and use.
House Bill 2049 seeks to a) establish a statewide research program to oversee the production of industrial hemp, b) authorize the limited use of cannabidiol for therapeutic purposes, and c) reduce criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine) to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by no more than six months in jail and a $1,000 fine).
Click here to learn more and urge your lawmakers to support this legislation.
Maryland: January 21, members of the Maryland House and Senate voted to override a 2015 veto and to decriminalize the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
Senate Bill 517 amends existing criminal penalties regarding the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia from a misdemeanor, punishable by possible jail time, to a civil violation. However, amended language also includes a provision establishing a civil fine of up to $500 for offenses involving the use of marijuana in public. NORML and our affiliates will be working in the future to amend this penalty.
On January 27th, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will be voting on the three separate bills that would legalize various amounts of marijuana.
For more information or to urge your lawmakers to support legalization in New Hampshire, click here.
House bill 1631, legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, is also pending in the House of Representatives.
Utah: SB 73, the Medical Cannabis Act, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, was introduced this week and seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis, including strains with higher THC content, for the manufacturing of medicinal products and/or herbal preparations.
Under a 2014 law, qualifying patients are permitted to possess cannabis extracts that contain more than 15 percent CBD and no more than 0.3 percent THC. However, the law provides no legal supply source for these products and, as a result, it has largely failed to meet the needs of patients.
Competing legislation seeks to only permit the use of CBD in pill or oil form and prohibits any form of THC.
Click here to contact your lawmakers and urge them to support SB 73!
Washington: Newly introduced legislation, HB 2629, The Adult Home Grow & Criminal Reduction Bill would permit adults to grow a limited number of marijuana plants for personal use.
Click here to urge your lawmakers in Washington to support these measures.
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!