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Citizen Lobbyists

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director April 28, 2017

    Medical marijuana

    Update: Congress passed a one-week continuing resolution to maintain the current federal spending levels with the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment included, meaning state medical marijuana patients and businesses will remain protected from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice until May 5.

    Today is the final day that Congress has to pass a short-term budget to fund the federal government and it’s up to us to make sure that lawmakers reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. This critical amendment stops Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice from targeting state-sanctioned medical marijuana patients, growers, caregivers, and providers.

    Click here now to tell your member of Congress to Stop Sessions from going after marijuana.

    94% of US voters support legal access to medical marijuana. Congress needs to understand that this is a mandate that is non-negotiable.

    We cannot give one inch of our hard fought victories when we still have so far to go.

    Take action today to protect our gains and to keep in place programs that millions of patients have come to rely upon. Tomorrow we continue our fight to legalize marijuana nationwide.

    Click HERE now to make your voice heard!

    Background:

    Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, maintains that federal funds can not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    In December, Congress re-authorized the amendment as part of a short term spending package, House Resolution 2028. This bill extends federal funding through April 28, 2017, at which time the measure — and the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment — will expire.

    According to recently released nationwide survey data, the majority of Americans are on our side. A whopping 93 percent support the medical use of marijuana. Perhaps most importantly, 71 percent of voters — including strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.”

    Again, please contact your member of Congress right now to protect legal state medical marijuana patients and businesses. 

     

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator April 24, 2017

    15134788_1361964283815279_7643241837130367190_nHundreds of marijuana law reform advocates from across Pennsylvania gathered last week at the state capitol to express their support for marijuana legalization and also to express concerns regarding the future of the state’s limited medical cannabis program. The event was coordinated by local reform groups Pittsburgh NORML, Philly NORML, and the Keystone Cannabis Coalition to raise awareness about marijuana laws in the Commonwealth.

    “On Wednesday dedicated activists from across the Commonwealth gathered in Harrisburg, our state capitol, to demand the end of criminal prohibition for cannabis possession,” said Patrick Nightingale, executive director of Pittsburgh NORML. “Speakers decried the waste of law enforcement resources while the Commonwealth is in the midst of a true opioid crisis.”

    Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale kicked of the event with a powerful speech that electrified the hundreds of pro-legalization activists who gathered in the capitol rotunda. In addition to highlighting the many failures of marijuana prohibition, AG DePasquale also encouraged state lawmakers to consider options for a statewide solution such as decriminalization or outright legalization.

    “We have a real and legitimate political voice in Harrisburg. Gone are the days of closed doors and whispered insults,” said Nightingale. “Now more and more of our elected leaders know that we are on the right side of history and that the ruinous and racist legacy of cannabis prohibition must end.”

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    While local governments in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg have each approved measures to reduce the penalty for personal possession of marijuana from jail time to a simple fine, state lawmakers have been more apprehensive on the issue. But advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances.

    “While PA’s conservative legislature may not be prepared to make the jump to full legalization, there is growing bipartisan support for statewide decriminalization with a Republican sponsored bill headed to Committee on Monday,” added Nightingale.

    TAKE ACTION: Contact Pennsylvania lawmakers and urge them to support House Bill 928 by clicking here!

    Read more here: http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news/auditor-general-speaks-at-harrisburg-marijuana-rally-in-support-of/article_a546ae06-2605-11e7-93c5-177c718a0193.html

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Pittsburgh NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    doctor_marijuanaSince 2014, the Department of Justice has been prohibited from using taxpayers’ funds to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states that regulate its medical use.

    But that could all change this week as Congress decides how to fund the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year. 

    At issue is a provision known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which maintains that federal funds can not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” In December, Congress re-authorized the amendment as part of a short term spending package through April 28, 2017, at which time the budget — and the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment — will expire.

    With anti-cannabis zealot Jeff Sessions now heading the Department of Justice, we can’t leave patients across the country and those who supply their medicine vulnerable to a federal crackdown on medical marijuana.

    We NEED you to send a message to your member of Congress RIGHT NOW to support medical marijuana patients! 

    Over 90% of all Americans support the legalization of medical marijuana, according to nationwide polling data published last week. Further, 73 percent of voters oppose federal interference in states that regulate its use. Let’s ensure that these programs and the millions of patients who rely upon them are protected. 

    Tell your member of Congress to get this right. Demand that they protect patients from Jeff Sessions and his Department of Justice. 

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director April 19, 2017

    NORML held a ‘Faces of Marijuana Prohibition’ event on Capitol Hill on April 19th, in cooperation with the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, where congressional staff heard first-hand from those most adversely impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. 

    Dozens of congressional staff attended, hearing from victims across the spectrum of marijuana criminalization. Perspectives included: a cancer survivor who consumed marijuana to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy, a federal staffer who lost his job as a result of a positive drug test, and those who received criminal charges and had their lives put on hold while they had to overcome the onerous penalties imposed by the state for a simple possession charge, among others. 

    NORML Political Director Justin StrekalThis was yet another effort in our ongoing quest to educate our legislators on the need to to end the prohibition-industrial-complex and respect the basic rights of those who choose to consume marijuana, a substance safer than currently legal products like alcohol or cigarettes.

    Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana users is out-of-step with the views of adults throughout America, 93% of whom support medical marijuana (Quinnipiac, 2017) and 60 percent of whom endorse the outright legalization of recreational marijuana (Gallup, 2016).

    On April 20th (4/20), long considered the unofficial marijuana holiday, marijuana consumers and advocates will gather around the world to show their support for ending marijuana prohibition. NORML for its part will hosting an online day of action, driving tens of thousands of constituent contacts to members of Congress in support of HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. 

    You can sign up for the 4/20 online day of action by clicking here. 

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director April 15, 2017

    revolutionbumperWelcome to this week’s edition of the NORML legislative roundup!

    First off – Happy Tax Day! (If you’re into that sort of thing)

    As we approach 4/20, a number of bills at the state level have seen significant movement, both good and ugly for progress.

    First, the downers: In Tennessee, the state legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill preventing cities within the state from decriminalizing marijuana. Apparently, the status quo of arresting people and sentencing otherwise law-abiding citizens to jail time is a good use of state resources. In TN, a simple possession charge can result in a #250 fine and up to one year in prison. Read more about the state laws here. Additionally, a special tax on medical marijuana is now at the Governor’s desk in Arkansas.

    On more positive notes: we have seen progress in a number of states with bills now before the the Governors of Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, and soon-to-be Indiana. Read about it below in the priority alerts section.

    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.

    Thanks for all you do and keep fighting,
    Justin

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    Join The Caucus: With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) earlier this year formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.

    Click here to email your Member of Congress to urge them to join the newly created Congressional Cannabis Caucus

    Florida
    On November 8th, more than 71 percent of Florida voters decided in favor of the constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, to allow for the licensed production, use, and dispensing of medical cannabis to patients with a doctor’s recommendation. However, state politicians are contemplating legislative efforts to amend the law in a manner that violates both its spirit and intent.

    House Bill 1397 and Senate Bill 406 have both been introduced to initially cap the number of available providers and dispensers, yet there are distinct differences between the two.

    Although neither of these bills truly satisfies the true intent of Amendment 2, Florida NORML contends that Senate Bill 406 is preferable to the House bill. With amendments to both bills expected, we urge Floridians to support the Senate implementation bill and to continue to advocate for further amendments to expand patients’ access.

    FL resident? Click here to contact your elected officials telling them to protect Amendment 2

    Georgia – (At Governor)
    SB 16, a bill to expand Georgia’s CBD-exemption law is awaiting action from Gov. Nathan Deal.

    The bill expands the qualifying pool of patients eligible to possess CBD extracts to include those with autism, epidermolysis bullosa, AIDS, Tourette’s Syndrome, and peripheral neuropathy. The bill also permits the possess of CBD-dominant oil to be used by anyone under hospice care.

    GA resident? Click here to tell Gov. Deal to sign this bill. 

    Hawaii – (At Governor)
    Legislation to expand Hawaii’s medical cannabis program has passed both legislative chambers.

    The bill, HB 1488, has passed both the House and Senate. Senate changes to the bill must now be approved by members of the House before it can be sent to the Governor.

    The bill expands the number of qualifying conditions eligible to receive cannabis therapy to include: lupus, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and autism. It also permits patients’ caregivers to engage in medical cannabis cultivation, among other changes.

    HI resident? Click here to tell the Governor to sign the bill. 

    Indiana – (At Governor)
    House and Senate lawmakers have approved separate versions of legislation (House Bill 1148 and Senate Bill 15) to exempt criminal penalties for the possession of CBD extracts by qualified patients.

    Both bills seek to exempt penalties for the use of CBD extracts by patients with treatment resistant epilepsy. The bills differ regarding whether or not the state ought to establish a patient registry and with regard to the percentage of CBD that must be present in order for the substance to qualify as exempt under state law.

    IN resident? Click here and email the Governor to sign the bill when it reaches their desk. 

    Iowa
    Senate Study Bill 1190, labeled The Compassionate Use of Cannabis Act, was approved Wednesday morning, April 12 on a 3-0 subcommittee vote and it cleared Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday afternoon. Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, said the bill could be approved by the full Senate as early as Monday, which would send the measure to the House for consideration.

    IA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers to support the Compassionate Use of Cannabis Act

    Maryland – (At Governor)
    Senate Bill 949 permit those who received a criminal marijuana possession conviction prior to October 1, 2014, to seek expungement of their records.

    Maryland law was amended on that date so that the possession of up to ten grams of cannabis is no longer a criminal offense.

    The Senate has passed enrolled SB 949 which means the bill was adopted with the House amendments. SB 949 has now been sent to the governor for approval.

    MD resident? Click here to send a message to Gov. Hogan to sign the bill. 

    New Hampshire
    New Hampshire is the only New England state that has not either decriminalized or legalized adult marijuana use.

    HB 640, sponsored by 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats, will amend criminal penalties for marijuana possession is pending in the House, where lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported such efforts for eight years in a row. However, legislators this year are hopeful that, for the first time, they also have sufficient votes to also clear the Senate, yet the Senate has yet to take a vote.

    NH resident? Click here to contact your lawmakers now and demand a vote. 

    Additionally in New Hampshire, multiple bills are pending before lawmakers to expand the pool of patients eligible to qualify for medical marijuana therapy.

    Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on April 13 passed both HB 157 and HB 160 out of Committee.

    In particular, these measures would permit patients with conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress to obtain legal access to marijuana.

    NH resident? Click here to contact you lawmakers to support these efforts. 

    North Dakota – (At Governor)
    Members of the House and Senate have reconciled SB 2344. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Doug Burgum, who intends to sign it into law. The measure allows only two state-licensed manufacturing facilities and up to eight dispensaries statewide (These facilities are anticipated to be operational within 12 to 18 months after law’s passage). It removes provisions in Measure 5 permitting patients who do not reside near a dispensary to cultivate their own cannabis. Amendments that sought to prohibit smoking herbal formulations of cannabis were not included in the final version of SB 2344, although qualified patients under the age of 19 will now be mandated only to consume cannabis in ways other than smoking.

    ND resident? Send a message to the Governor expressing your disapproval of the stripping of home grow rights for patients.

    Oregon – (At Governor)
    SB 863, to limit the federal government from acquiring data regarding adults and patients who legally purchase marijuana under state law.

    The emergency legislation, which would take immediate effect, mandates that retailers and dispensaries do not maintain customers’ purchase and/or personal identification records beyond 48 hours.

    Members of the House on 4/10 voted 53 to 5 in favor of SB 863. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Kate Brown.

    OR resident? Email Governor Brown now to sign this legislation right away.

    West Virginia – (At Governor)
    A coalition of Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation, SB 386, which seeks to establish the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act — a state-sponsored program that will permit qualified patients to obtain medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries.

    The House and Senate concurred on an amended version of SB 386 on April 6. A summary of the amended bill is online here. The measure now goes to the Governor, who indicates that he intends to sign it.

    WV resident? Email the Governor expressing support for this bill 

    Other Actions to Take

    Arkansas  – (At Governor)
    House Bill 1580 imposes a special eight percent statewide tax upon medical marijuana sales. This tax would be in addition to the imposition of existing state and local taxes.While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of fair and reasonable sales taxes on the commercial sales of cannabis for recreational purposes, we do not support such excessive taxation on medical sales. Most other states that regulate medical cannabis sales do not impose such taxes and Arkansas patients should not be forced to pay these excessive costs.AR resident? Click here to email the Governor urging a veto

    Colorado
    State officials in Colorado are considering legislation, SB 192, to protect the state’s adult use marijuana industry in case of a potential federal crackdown.

    The bill would permit adult use growers and sellers to instantly reclassify their recreational marijuana inventory as medical marijuana “based on a business need due to a change in local, state, or federal law or enforcement policy.” In recent weeks, officials from the Trump administration have indicated that they may consider taking action against recreational marijuana providers, but that they will not likely move against state-licensed medical marijuana providers.

    Update: SB 192 passed the Senate on April 12 and now awaits action from the House.

    CO resident? Click here to email your lawmakers to in support of this legislation. 

    Vermont
    Legislation is pending, H.170, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults.

    If passed, the measure would legalize the possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana, up to ten grams of hashish, and/or the cultivation of two marijuana plants in a private residence.

    Update: The House Committee on Human Services held another hearing for H 170 on Tuesday 4/11 yet still have not taken a vote.

    VT resident? Click here to email your lawmakers and demand a vote. 

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