Legislation around the country continues to move forward and more measures are being introduced every day! We have updates from , Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, and Rhode Island. Keep reading below to see what the latest in marijuana law reform is this week.
Florida: On Thursday, Tampa City Council voted to draft a marijuana decriminalization ordinance. The ordinance would treat small marijuana infractions as a citation, fine-only offense, similar to a traffic ticket or an open container offense. Similar municipal measures have recently been enacted in Miami Dade county and in West Palm Beach county. Under state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1000 fine.You can contact Tampa City Council members and urge their support for this common sense policy, here.
Hawaii: House lawmakers took no action on legislation that sought to eliminate patients’ longstanding rights to cultivate medical marijuana. House Bill 1680 sought to repeal patients’ legal authority to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis. The legislation was not heard in time for the filing deadline and therefore will no longer be considered by lawmakers during this legislative session. NORML would like to thank everyone who contacted their lawmakers and urged them to reject HB 1680.
Kansas: After Members of the Senate voted 38 to 1 on Wednesday, February 3, in favor of a Committee substitute version of HB 2049, the amended language was sent to the House for a concurrence vote. Because the House did not concur with all of the Senate changes, the bill will now be sent to a Conference Committee to reconcile the differences. The amended language reduces 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). #TakeAction
Maine: Senator Thomas Saviello has introduced legislation (LD 726) to permit qualified patients to use medical marijuana in Maine hospitals. Members of the Health and Human Services Committee approved this legislation on Wednesday, February 10th. As this measure continues to move forward it’s important to contact your Senator and urge their support! #TakeAction
Maryland: A new bill has been introduced to 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, this new measure is unnecessary and overly punitive. House Bill 1304 is scheduled to be heard by members of the House Judiciary Committee, March 1st at 1PM. #TakeAction
A related measure, House Bill 183, was amended by the House so that all provisions seeking to criminalize public use were removed. As amended, the measure explicitly prohibits cannabis inhalation by a driver or passengers in a moving motor vehicle. Engaging in such behavior will be a citable offense, punishable by a fine only. Following these amendments, NORML has dropped our formal opposition to this bill, which will now be debated by members of the Senate.
Missouri: Legislation to permit qualified patients to consume cannabis with a physician’s written authorization is pending in the 2016 legislative session. House Bill 2213, the Missouri Compassionate Care Act, permits qualified patients to engage in cannabis therapy and establishes a licensed system for cannabis production and distribution. #TakeAction
New Mexico: Members of the Senate unfortunately voted down Senate Joint Resolution 5 which sought to put legalization before a public vote this November. Although 17 Senators stood in favor of the measure, 24 voted against it. However, the vote marks the first time that such a measure has ever been debated on the floor of either chamber of the New Mexico legislature.
After extremely compelling testimony from injured workers in earlier committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to schedule a hearing for House Bill 195, which sought to prohibit workers compensation insurers from reimbursing employees who qualify for medical cannabis access for injuries sustained on the job. This means that the measure, which had been narrowly approved by members of the House of Representatives, is now dead for 2016. NORML thanks those of you who took time to contact your elected officials and encouraged them to reject this legislation.
Rhode Island: A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers, including a majority of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have introduced legislation, Senate Bill 2420, to permit the personal cultivation and commercial retail sale of marijuana. The Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, would regulate the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to those over the age of 21. Adults would be permitted to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It also permits adults to cultivate up to two marijuana plants (no more than 1 mature) at home for non-commercial purposes. #TakeAction
Legislation, SB 2115 and HB 7142, is pending to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. The Senate version of the bill is pending before members of the Senate Health and Human Services committee. The House version of the bill is before members of the Judiciary Committee. #TakeAction
Vermont: Members of the Senate are anticipated to decide on legislation to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. 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
Don’t forget to take a look at our #TakeAction Center for up to date information on all pending marijuana law reform legislation.
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.
LATEST NORML NEWS
State and Local:
Everyday NORML Affiliates and Chapters from around the country invest countless hours into contacting representatives, hosting events, and talking to voters, all with the hope of passing meaningful marijuana reforms on the local, state and federal level! In an effort to highlight their hard work and accomplishments, we will feature their stories on NORML.org and promote the content through our social media channels. To get involved in your area, please send an email to KevinM@NORML.org to get started today!
California NORML’s executive director questioned a recent report produced by an anti-tobacco organization that encouraged municipalities to ban the use of marijuana in public areas or in locations that must adhere to clean indoor air regulations.
“The report vastly inflates the health hazards of smoked marijuana, but concedes that it shouldn’t be criminalized. Rather, it calls for stigmatizing it as much as possible,”
As California gets closer to approving a legalization measure for this November’s ballot, some activists are raising concerns about the impact it will have on the state’s medical marijuana program.
“If you look at the ballot initiative that’s circulating right now, it doesn’t give a lot of incentives to the medical marijuana industry except that you can avoid some of the (proposed 15 percent excise and extra cultivation) taxes if you go to some trouble.”
“We are calling for locals to repeal the bans in favor of meaningful land regulations that will enact the statewide licensing standards … in order to protect public safety, the environment and patients’ rights,”
Last week, Denver NORML announced they will be leading a Responsible Use initiative that will allow the limited consumption of marijuana in the City of Denver. Details are still being worked out with NORML’s national office.
“We are willing to work with them on this issue — we just really want something to happen, we want action to take place,”
“Denver NORML announced that it would be filing its own initiative to put a limited social use of marijuana item on the ballot in 2016.”
Medical marijuana patients in Illinois experienced another setback after lawmakers rejected a proposal that would have expanded access to the state’s medical marijuana program.
“My concern is first and foremost for patients to have access to this medicine and if shops are closing then patients will have to go farther distances to get access to this medicine.”
“By having the Illinois Department of Public Health deny the eight conditions that the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board approved to be added to the list of debilitating conditions for the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, this administration has turned their back on veterans suffering from PTSD”
After a long court battle, Iowa State University NORML won a first amendment lawsuit against school administrators after an attempt to censor a marijuana leaf printed on a t-shirt.
“Members of ISU NORML weren’t keen on being censored. They felt the administration was discriminating against their group. So on July 1, 2014, they filed a lawsuit alleging that school administrators had violated their constitutional rights.”
NORML KC is working hard to push an initiative that would decriminalize the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana in Kansas City.
“Once you start talking to people about cannabis reform, you’d be surprised how many people are for it,” Kacz said. “It doesn’t have to be Democrats or liberals, it’s Republicans, it’s religious people, it’s elderly people.”
New Hampshire NORML urged lawmakers to support a bill that would add PTSD to the state’s list of ailments for medical marijuana.
“By stuffing opiates down people’s throats, it’s going to create a problem. You guys are going to have a heroin epidemic. You’re going to see it. And in the last two years, it is just out of control,”
With some of the stringent marijuana laws in the country, Virginia NORML continues to work with state lawmaker on a wide range of marijuana reform bills.
“We will continue to work educating lawmakers who wish to learn more about cannabis science and widely accepted medical applications, the successful decriminalization legislation in 21 states and successful medical legislation in 24 states.”
Washington NORML is encouraging lawmakers to support a bill that would permit the home cultivation of marijuana.
“NORML Washington is doing a great job leading this fight to grow your own marijuana. They have even made it possible for you to help the movement from your computer/tablet/phone. Here’s a letter they’ve put together for you to send to your representatives and urge their support for personal cultivation”
After going through a much needed reorganization, Wyoming NORML has assembled a strong team who are dedicated to passing the Peggy A. Kelley Wyoming Cannabis Act of 2016.
“We haven’t stopped on that from day one, but in the same process we just had to get things a little more organized and get a better structure in here.”
“NORML Wyoming spokeswoman Carrie Satterwhite said the group has the fewest number of volunteer petition circulators in the conservative northeast part of the state, but that region will be targeted in the upcoming months”
“Even though Wyoming NORML didn’t get enough signatures this year, members say if they have enough signatures for the 2018 ballot, medicinal marijuana could help Wyoming in the long run.”
NORML’s deputy director, Paul Armentano recently spoke to reporters about the need for a common sense approach to ending the prohibition of marijuana in America.
“This administration clearly recognizes that the present enforcement of marijuana prohibition and marijuana criminalization is out of step with both public opinion and common sense,”
NORML board member and passionate marijuana advocate will prove to be one of this year’s most effective weapon in the war against the prohibition marijuana.
“Steves has been on the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) for years and he has worked closely with Washington pot initiative author Alison Holcomb, who now heads the American Civil Liberties Union’s Campaign for Smart Justice”
During a recent interview, NORML’s deputy director, Paul Armentano shared his thoughts on a recent study about the health risks associated with marijuana use.
“Ultimately, this study’s findings are consistent with the notion that while cannabis is not altogether harmless, its potential risks to health relative to other substances — including legal substances like alcohol, tobacco and prescription medications — are not so great to warrant its continued criminalization,”
NORML’s 2016 Congressional Lobby Day at the United States Capitol is scheduled for May 23rd and 24th. Hundreds of marijuana consumers, activists, patients and business owners are expected to attend a day-long training and informational conference on Monday and re-convene on The Hill Tuesday to personally lobby their elected members of the House of Representatives and Senate.
Whether you’re a longtime activist, young college student, medical marijuana patient or simply just a marijuana consumer and NORML supporter, consider taking the next step and travelling to Washington D.C. to directly lobby Congress in support of common sense marijuana law reform. You’ll meet like minded activists from across the country and you’ll get a glimpse into the Capitol Hill lawmaking process!
Scheduling and registration information will soon be posted to norml.org, and promoted as well across NORML’s network via listservs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Please save the dates and participate in this historic lobbying effort in our nation’s capital at this crucial time in the law reform effort as cannabis prohibition increasingly gives way to legalization!
For planning purposes you can look up hotel information. Our day-long training and informational conference on Monday will be held at 1957 E Street if you wish to look for something close to the planned activities. Last year, participants also benefited from booking with AirBnb.
Following the decision by Colorado voters to legalize recreational marijuana in November of 2012, we’ve seen similar victories in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and even in our nation’s capitol. To many outside observers, these recent successes appear to have come over night. But this is not the case. These changes have been decades in the making and cannot be attributed to any one specific person or campaign.
For years, marijuana activists have worked tirelessly to lay the foundation for future legalization efforts in this country. From the early days of employing civil disobedience tactics such as public smoke-outs and regular protests, to a more modern approach of meeting with elected officials through citizen lobbying efforts, marijuana activists are the workhorses in the fight to end the prohibition of marijuana. They are the boots on the ground.
Of course this level of commitment eventually takes its toll. Being a marijuana activist can be extremely draining, both mentally and physically. In addition to the constant scrutiny from friends and family, we often risk losing our job, housing and in some cases, custody of our children. Regardless of the many risks we face, we continue to fight another day, even with no guarantee of what the outcome may be — essentially risking our freedom to challenge over 70 years of oppressive marijuana laws.
We wake up each day motivated by the hope of changing the unjust laws our country has embraced for so many years. We strive to bring justice to the thousands of Americans who have lost almost everything for a simple possession charge, and the families that have been ripped apart because a desperate mother tried to find her child some relief through medical marijuana.
Marijuana activists in every state dedicate countless hours to advocating for marijuana reforms on the local, state and federal level. They are constantly educating our communities, building coalitions and planning the next step. Like a game of Chess, every decision is calculated. With doubtful community leaders and skeptical politicians, the tiniest misstep can quickly become a roadblock for future conversations about marijuana reform.
Some of these activities may sound risky and not very glamorous. Nonetheless, marijuana activist will continue to be the driving force behind any success effort to reform our country’s marijuana laws. Whether through a citizen-led initiative or a legislative effort, marijuana activists are taking action into their own hands to end the senseless war against a plant and the American people. So to marijuana activists past, present and future, thank you for your sacrifices and continued dedication to ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.
If you’re interested in changing marijuana laws in your city and/or state, there are several ways you can get involved. From working with our national office to organize a new group of passionate reformers in your community, to using our online Action Center to engage your elected officials, NORML is here to assist you with your efforts. 2016 is already shaping up to be a historic year for marijuana reforms so make sure your voice is heard by joining NORML today!
Four states down, forty-six more to go!