For more than three decades, supporters of marijuana legalization have gathered in cities across the country on 4/20 to celebrate all things marijuana, and to protest the federal government’s failed War on Drugs. From what started as a loosely organized group of people protesting federal marijuana laws, has now grown into a nationally recognized movement, and now, a day of action.
To continue this tradition, members of Lehigh Valley NORML organized the 4/20 March on Easton; an effort to highlight the need for marijuana law reforms on the local and state level. With Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. and more than a hundred supporters on hand, Jeff Reidy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML and his colleagues provided educational materials to attendees and spoke about several marijuana bills being considered by state lawmakers.
“This year’s March was an announcement that we plan to press our policy-makers, offer up facts, and influence change in our community and across this state,” said Jeff Reidy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML. More than 100 attended the event, both young and old, meandering about Centre Square, holding signs and sharing the moment, while celebrating the leaf.”
With marijuana decriminalization measures adopted in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg and recent comments by Philadelphia’s Mayor Jim Kenney and Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to end marijuana prohibition in the Commonwealth, advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances in Eaton
“We are grateful for our community of supporters here in the Lehigh Valley, but know we need to grow that support and strengthen our voice, in order to effect change,” added Reidy. “The fight continues, but damn, this is one 4/20 I will long remember.”
Hundreds 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.”
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.
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.
This 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.
When Jeff Sessions was nominated Attorney General, NORML worked with all of you to send out a “Thunderclap,” a powerful social media tool that enabled us to reach more than 2 million people with our #JustSayNoToSessions campaign. While we were unable to stop Sessions from being confirmed, he did hear the message loud and clear. Just last week, he said:
“When they nominated me for Attorney General, you would have thought the biggest issue in America was when I said, ‘I don’t think America’s going to be a better place if they sell marijuana at every corner grocery store, (People) didn’t like that; I’m surprised they didn’t like that.”
Now, with the establishment of the Cannabis Caucus and the introduction of the Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, we must make every member of Congress feel the same pressure.
NORML has been in this fight for over 47 years because we believe that responsible adults who choose to consume marijuana should not be be persecuted or stigmatized. Despite our recent victories, the forces of the prohibition-industrial complex remain strong and the government’s marijuana misinformation campaign that has spanned from Reefer Madness to D.A.R.E. is still deeply entrenched. However, just as we have for decades, we will fight on and not be deterred.
We must continue to educate our legislators and neighbors alike. That is why on this 4/20 we are calling upon Americans to contact their members of Congress and say “Enough is Enough” to marijuana prohibition.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other Actions to TakeArkansas – (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
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.
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.