Read the letter here: MI Federal Legislator Letter 2017
By: Matthew Abel
Today, on the occasion of President’s Day, and in the spirit of the President’s heralded as “leaders of the free world”, the Michigan Affiliate of NORML participated in a national campaign to contact our members of Congress by mailing them each a letter. This letter is our third in a series of letters in 2017 that has included Vice President Mike Pence and the 109 members of the Michigan House of Representatives. Direct mail is an effective and powerful way to be seen by the Representatives themselves or their Chiefs of Staff and to communicate a message.
First we introduced ourselves and provided information about who we are and what we have done in Michigan. We communicated some concerns and and made some policy suggestions. We specifically asked each of them to support The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, HR 975, and to become members of the newly-formed Cannabis Caucus. We reminded them of the damage caused by prohibition and urge them to change federal law. It is a friendly letter, but very direct and specific.
Sending a letter to 14 out of 435 Representatives may not seem very effective, but when the fourteen members of the Michigan Delegation read our message, and legislators from other states receive and read letters from other NORML state affiliates echoing th e same message, collectively, NORML affiliates will have reached hundreds of Members of Congress with a clear, strong and unified message!
Engaging elected officials is a primary function of NORML and all its affiliates. As the Michigan Affiliate of NORML, we are pleased to participate in this and other NORML nationally-coordinated campaigns that reach out to federal representatives in a collaborative way that reinforces the strength of support for cannabis reforms.
Today we recognize and celebrate the 45 Presidents who have led this great nation. Michigan NORML appreciates what these leaders have done and their significance in history, and it is in that spirit that we ask the fourteen men and women of the Michigan Delegation to take the lead, and help shape the policies that will regulate the emerging cannabis industry.
The fact that 190 million Americans now live in states where marijuana has been legalized to some degree is raising a number of questions and issues about how to integrate the American workforce and marijuana consumers rights in regards to drug testing. With medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and recreational marijuana for adult use in 8 states and Washington DC, millions of responsible and otherwise law-abiding adults remain at risk of being excluded from the workforce due to a positive drug test — even where the use does not affect an individual’s job performance or has taken place days or weeks prior to the test.
NORML believes that this practice is discriminatory and defies common sense. As a result, a growing coalition of NORML Chapters in California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington have come together to advocate for necessary legislative and workplace reforms to protect responsible marijuana consumers.
NORML’s Workplace Drug Testing Coalition’s efforts will focus on these four areas:
- Reform workplace drug testing policies
- Expand employment opportunities for marijuana consumers
- Clarify the difference between detection technology and performance testing
- Highlight off-duty state law legal protections for employees
“Even though marijuana is legal and readily available in several states, consumers are being unfairly forced to choose between their job and consuming off the clock as a result of out-of-date employment practices,” said Kevin Mahmalji, National Outreach Coordinator for NORML. “That is why many NORML chapters active in legal states are now shifting their attention to protecting honest, hardworking marijuana consumers from these sort of antiquated, discriminatory workplace drug-testing practices, in particular the use of random suspicionless urine testing.”
Employer testing of applicants or employees for trace metabolites (inert waste-products) of past use of a legal substance makes no sense in the 21st century. This activity is particularly discriminatory in the case of marijuana where such metabolites may be detectable for weeks or even months after the consumer has ceased use.
With the 2017 Legislative Session underway, this issue is finally getting the attention it deserves. Legislation has already been introduced in Oregon and Washington, and is gaining traction in those states.
“Random suspicionless drug testing of applicants or employees for past marijuana use is not just unfair and discriminatory, it’s bad for business,” said attorney Judd Golden of Boulder, Colorado, a long-time NORML activist and Coalition spokesperson. The modern workforce includes countless qualified people like Brandon Coats of Colorado, a paraplegic medical marijuana patient who never was impaired on the job and had an unblemished work record. Brandon was fired from a Fortune 500 company after a random drug test, and lost his case in the Colorado Supreme Court in 2015. The Court unfortunately found Colorado’s lawful off-duty activities law that protects employees for legal activities on their own time didn’t apply to marijuana use.
California NORML is also expecting legislation to be introduced this session to address this issue. Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML said, “One of the most frequently asked questions we have been getting since Prop. 64 passed legalizing adult marijuana use in California last November is, ‘Am I now protected against drug testing on my job?’ Sadly in our state, not even medical marijuana patients are protected against job discrimination, and it’s a priority of Cal NORML to change that. We are hoping to get a bill introduced at the state level and are working with legislators, unions, and other reform groups to make that happen.”
NORML Chapters across the country are advocating on behalf of the rights of responsible marijuana consumers against discrimination in the workplace. “Our coalition was formed with the intention of not only educating legislators, but also with businesses in mind. It is important they know testing for marijuana is not mandatory, and that employers have testing options,” said Jordan Person, executive director for Denver NORML. The Denver chapter is currently working with companies that offer performance impairment testing of workers suspected of on-the-job impairment or use rather than unreliable bodily fluid testing to help provide options for employers.
For decades drug testing companies and others have pushed their agenda through a campaign of misinformation. Until now there has never been an organized effort to challenge the profit- driven ideology of those who seek to benefit from intrusive drug screening. Mounting evidence continues to prove there is no logical reason why adult marijuana consumers should be treated with any less respect, restricted more severely, and denied the same privileges we extend to responsible adults who enjoy a casual cocktail after a long day at the office.
For legal questions, please contact Coalition spokesperson Judd Golden at email@example.com. For other marijuana related questions or an interview, please contact Kevin Mahmalji at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite historic opposition, members of the United States Senate voted 52 to 47 last week to approve the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for US Attorney General.
NORML thanks the tens of thousands of you who responded to our action alerts opposing this nomination and the thousands more who took time to make phone calls. While we are disappointed with this outcome, we are pleased that several members of Congress cited the senator’s opposition to marijuana policy reform as an impetus for rejecting his appointment.
We’ve previously told you why Jeff Sessions is the wrong man for the job, but today it is time to move forward, not backward.
So now what?
Well, during his testimony before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, Sen. Sessions said that it is not the responsibility of the Attorney General to pick and choose which federal laws to enforce. “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act,” he said. “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”
Just hours prior to Sessions’ confirmation vote, US Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, introduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.
HR 975 states, ‘‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.’’
Passage of this Act would halt US Attorney General Jeff Sessions or any other federal official from prosecuting individuals and businesses for violating the Controlled Substances Act in the 29 states that permit either the medical or adult use and distribution of marijuana. According to national polling, 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.
With the appointment of Sen. Sessions to the position of US Attorney General, passage of this Act is necessary to ensure that medical marijuana patients and others are protected from undue federal interference.
There will be a number of bills in the coming months that will build upon the progress that the movement to legalize marijuana will support. As we always have, NORML will keep you informed and provide you the tools needed to connect with your elected officials.
Please take action today to urge your federal lawmakers to support HR 975, the ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and when you have finished, please also take a moment to make a generous and much appreciated donation to NORML here so that we can continue to make progress in our federal and statewide efforts.
With NORML members throughout the country organizing lobby days and taking action over the coming days and weeks, the fight for cannabis freedom will continue with renewed energy.
NORML has resisted marijuana prohibition for 47 years – We’re not going to stop now; in fact, we’re just getting started. Are you in?
Welcome to this week’s edition of the legislative roundup. With prohibitionists fighting nationwide, from Massachusetts to deny the will of the voters with the implementation of legalization to Hawaii where the state is seeking to impose increased monitoring of drivers who may be under the influence of marijuana, NORML is constantly working to fight the rising tide of anti-science legislation cropping up.
Below are the priority bills that we’ve tracked this week, with more being posted on our http://norml.org/act page every day.
If you have not yet, make sure 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,
Legislative efforts are pending to amend the state’s voter-initiated medical marijuana law in a manner that would restrict qualified patients from smoking herbal preparations of the plant. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson indicates that he favors the plan.
NORML opposes this effort to fundamentally change the law for the following reasons.
The inhalation of herbal cannabis is associated with the rapid onset of drug effect while the oral consumption of other preparations, such as oils, extracts, or pills, is associated with significantly delayed onset. For patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms, such as those suffering from severe nausea, seizures, or spasms, inhaling herbal cannabis is the fastest and most effective route of administration. Inhaling cannabis also permits patients to better regulate their dose.
Further, the effects of orally ingested cannabis are far less predictable in comparison to inhaled cannabis. This is because there exists far greater variability in the ways that marijuana is metabolized when it is consumed orally — meaning that patients may experience disparate and even dysphoric effects from dose to dose, even in instances where the dose is standardized.
Additionally, SB 130 prohibits individuals from operating a motor vehicle if they have 5 or more nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood. NORML opposes this proposal.
It should not be presumed that the detection of THC is predictive of psychomotor impairment and such a presumption should not be codified in Arkansas traffic safety statutes. The imposition and enforcement of this measure risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations.
Legislation is pending, SB 548, to legalize the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for those over the age of 21.
According to 2014 statewide poll, 66 percent of Hawaii voters support the taxation and regulation of marijuana.
Additionally, Legislation is pending, SB 17, that seeks to establish a per se limit of “five nanograms or more per milliliter of active tetrahydrocannabinol” for anyone driving a motor vehicle.
NORML opposes this proposal.
It should not be presumed that the detection of THC is predictive of psychomotor impairment and such a presumption should not be codified in Hawaii traffic safety statutes. The imposition and enforcement of this measure risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations.
On Wednesday, December 28, a handful of lawmakers met in a special session and voted to delay the roll out of retail marijuana providers from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018. As summarized by The Boston Globe, “The extraordinary move, made in informal sessions with just a half-dozen legislators present, would unravel a significant part of the legalization measure passed by 1.8 million voters just last month.” Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill into law just two days later.
But this was only the beginning.
Now, Senator Jason M. Lewis is proposing bills that would reduce the amount of marijuana that an individual can possess, restrict the number of plants that a person can grow, and ban various forms of THC infused products including edibles.
The arrogance and hubris lawmakers are showing toward voters is shocking, and is typified by the comments of Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg who, only hours after the vote, pronounced: “I believe that when voters vote on most ballot questions, they are voting in principle. They are not voting on the fine detail that is contained within the proposal.”
It’s time for you to send another clear message to your lawmakers: Abide by voters’ decision or suffer the consequences.
State Senator Anna Wishart has introduced comprehensive medical marijuana legislation, LB622.
Senator Wishart’s bill is similar to legislation that was introduced in 2016 and narrowly defeated. LB622 will allow patients with conditions such as Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, opioid addictions and some types of cancer to obtain marijuana. Additionally it would permit patients to grow up to 12 plants and/or possess up to six ounces of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Last year’s bill was narrowly defeated by lawmakers.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Nebraska patients deserve these same protections.
After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 may finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized.
HB640, 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.
Additionally, Multiple bills are pending before lawmakers to expand the pool of patients eligible to qualify for medical marijuana therapy.
In particular, these measures would permit patients with conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress to obtain legal access to marijuana.
Most recently, an exhaustive report released by the National Academies of Sciences determined that there is “conclusive” evidence that cannabis is “effective for the treatment of chronic pain.” Authors concluded, “In adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids (constituents found organically in the marijuana plant) are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction of pain symptoms.”
Senator Liz Krueger (D) has introduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in the New York General Legislature.
The act legalizes possession and cultivation, and would establish a market for legal marijuana for adults 21 and older.
Legislation is pending, HB 1340, in the statehouse to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and marijuana-related paraphernalia.
Under existing law, marijuana possession of one ounce or less is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, while the possession of greater amounts are classified as a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison. Possessing marijuana-related paraphernalia is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
UPDATE: SB1091 has passed the full Senate by a vote of 38-2 and HB 2051 has passed it’s first committee vote in the House of Delegates.
State Senators Adam Ebbin (D), Bill Stanley (R) and Delegate Les Adams (R) have introduced SB 1091 and HB 2051 respectively, legislation that would remove the mandatory driver’s license suspension currently imposed for those with a marijuana possession conviction.
Under current law, any drug conviction, regardless of whether or not a motor vehicle was involved, results in an automatic suspension of the individual’s driving privileges for 6 months.
Additionally, SB 1298 has cleared the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on a 9-4 vote as it seeks to establish affirmative defense for possession of cannabidiol if an individual has written certification that they require the substance due to an approved medical condition.
Affirmative defense establishes a basic set of facts surrounding cannabidiol possession cases. If someone with a qualifying medical condition is caught possessing marijuana, an affirmative defense for the individual would likely result in a more lenient punishment.
UPDATE: HB 1212 has passed committee, making it the first piece of legislation for home cultivation in Washington state history.
Legislation is pending before the House, HB 1094 and HB 1212, to prohibit employers from discriminating against patients who legally consume marijuana during non-work hours.
The bill amends existing law so that: “An employer may not refuse to hire a qualifying patient, discharge or bar a qualifying patient from employment, or discriminate against a qualifying patient in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of the qualifying patient’s: (i) Status as a qualifying patient; or (ii) Positive drug test for marijuana components or metabolites.”
Changes in the legal status of marijuana has not been associated with any adverse changes in workplace safety. In fact, a pair of studies from 2016 find that legalization is associated with greater workforce participation and with fewer workplace absences. Most recently, the National Academies of Sciences just-released marijuana and health report found “insufficient evidence” to support an association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.
On the heels of the 2016 election – where four states voted to approve adult-use marijuana initiatives, and four more voted to approve medical marijuana initiatives – NORML Chapters across the country are lobbying their state legislators for additional reforms. In the coming weeks, NORML Chapters around the country, such as California NORML, Connecticut NORML, Wyoming NORML, and Virginia NORML, will be focusing their time and energy in support of dozens of statewide reform bills seeking to amend various aspects of their state’s marijuana policies.
To help increase the likelihood of success for these volunteer-led lobbying efforts, NORML has created a citizen lobby guide. This comprehensive booklet will assist activists in planning and execution of a successful lobby day. It also provides organizational checklists and a legislative questionnaire so that marijuana activists, regardless of the state they’re located in, will be fully prepared to meet with state lawmakers to discuss meaningful marijuana law reforms and to most effectively communicate NORML’s message of ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.
Citizen Lobby Guide: http://norml.org/pdf_files/NORML_CitizenLobbyGuide.pdf
In addition to offering support through NORML’s Citizen Lobby Guide, we have created more than 30 action alerts targeting state lawmakers across the country urging their support for marijuana legislation being considered in their state. Simply click on the link below and enter your information to join the fight!
Take Action: http://norml.org/act
We hope that with these tools, along with the direct support of NORML staff, marijuana activists will have the resources needed to effectively lobby state lawmakers in support of marijuana law reforms.
Here’s a list of scheduled NORML Chapter Lobby Days below:
- Virginia NORML – Jan 30
- Arizona NORML – Feb 2
- Texas NORML – Feb 8
- Houston NORML – Feb 8
- DFW NORML – Feb 8
- Waco NORML – Feb 8
- New Mexico – Feb 21
- Missouri NORML – Feb 28
- Kansas City NORML – Feb 28
- Greater St. Louis NORML – Feb 28
- Mid-Missouri NORML – Feb 28
- Springfield NORML – Feb 28
- University of Missouri NORML – Feb 28
- North Carolina NORML – Mar 1
- Charlotte NORML – Mar 1
- Denver NORML – Mar 7
- Colorado NORML – Mar 7
- Monterey County NORML – Mar 7
- NORML Women of Washington – Mar 7
- Washington NORML – Mar 7
- Portland NORML – Mar 7
- Michigan NORML – March 30
- Illinois NORML – May 17
To get involved or to find out more information about a lobby day in your state, please email: KevinM@NORML.org.