What a week it has been! With our 4/20 Online Day of Action, we have blown past the goals we had set and have now driven over 35,000 messages to Congress on HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017. If you have not yet, do so RIGHT NOW by clicking here.
This last week, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (D) signed into law the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act — a state-sponsored program that will permit qualified patients to obtain medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries. With the addition of WV, the United States will soon have 30 medical marijuana programs throughout the country.
With the current Federal budget set to expire at the end of next week, it is imperative that Congress reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which protects those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. Send a message to your members of Congress now to protect patients.
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,
Protect Patients: 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.
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.
Iowa (at Governor)
In a last minute deal by Iowa state lawmakers, both chambers passed HF 524, which would expand the narrow access of CBD with up to 3% THC to patients who have been diagnosed by an Iowa-licensed physician with Parkinson’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures, AIDS and HIV, Crohn’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, as well as most terminal illnesses that have a life expectancy of less than one year and untreatable pain. The bill also sets up a framework for in-state production of the medicine. The bill now goes to Governor Terry Branstad (R) for his signature or veto.
HB 2200, will provide an affirmative defense regarding medical cannabis that would protect patients, caregivers, and doctors, will be heard on April 24.
Affirmative defense establishes a basic set of facts surrounding marijuana 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.
Members of the Senate voted 21 to 9 on April 21 in favor of an unrelated House bill, H. 167, which Senators had amended to include language to legalize the recreational marijuana market. Other Senate amendments in the bill mimic language in H. 170, which eliminates criminal and civil penalties specific to the possession or cultivation of personal use quantities of cannabis. The amended version of H. 167 now returns to the House for further action.
Other Actions to Take
Legislation is pending, SB 1337, to permit for the licensed production of industrial hemp.
Update: Members of the House Standing Committee and the House Appropriations Committee both passed SB 1337 by votes of 7 to 1 and 12 to 1 respectively.
Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 1578, to try and limit potential federal interference in the state’s marijuana regulatory laws.
The bill states, “This bill would prohibit a state or local agency, as defined, from taking certain actions without a court order signed by a judge, including using agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by law in the State of California and transferring an individual to federal law enforcement authorities for purposes of marijuana enforcement.”
Update: AB 1578 was passed by members of the Public Safety Committee on April 18 by a vote of 5-2.
SB 35, introduced by Sen. Yvonne Colomb, provides explicit exemptions from arrest and prosecution for persons lawfully in possession of medical marijuana.
Presently, state regulators are finalizing rules and regulations governing its nascent medical cannabis program, which seeks to permit the production, dispensing, and use of non-herbal preparations of cannabis for qualified patients. Passage of SB 36 amends various criminal statutes to assure that those involved in the program are not inadvertently subject to criminal liability.
Senate legislation is pending, SB 236, to regulate the social use of cannabis.
The measure allows select businesses to apply for licensing to permit adult marijuana use on their premises. It would also allow event organizers to seek permits to allow adult use at specific events.
Update: SB 236 was amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee on 4/12 and it passed as amended.
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.
Update: Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on April 20 passed HB 157 out of Committee.
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.
The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of NORML ISU right to use a marijuana leaf and the logo of the school on their promotional items.
Here is the background as written in the Washington Post by Eugene Volokh:
NORML ISU at first got permission from the Trademark Office to use a T-shirt “that had ‘NORML ISU’ on the front with the ‘O’ represented by Cy the Cardinal,” with “Freedom is NORML at ISU” and a cannabis leaf depicted on the back. But after a Des Moines Register article mentioned the T-shirt, a state legislator and someone at the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy heard about this and objected, and the University barred NORML ISU from printing further T-shirts with the design. After that, the University’s Trademark Guidelines were changed to ban “designs that suggest promotion of the below listed items … dangerous, illegal or unhealthy products, actions or behaviors; … [or] drugs and drug paraphernalia that are illegal or unhealthful.”
The court disagreed.
“NORML ISU’s use of the cannabis leaf does not violate ISU’s trademark policies because the organization advocates for reform to marijuana laws, not the illegal use of marijuana,”
The circuit court decided that students’ “attempts to obtain approval to use ISU’s trademarks on NORML ISU’s merchandise amounted to constitutionally protected speech.”
Basically, ISU violated the students’ first amendment rights and discriminated against them on the basis of their viewpoint.
The suit was overseen by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, FIRE’s director of litigation, released a statement saying “We are so pleased to see Paul and Erin’s victory unanimously affirmed by the Eighth Circuit today. Paul and Erin had the courage to stand up for their First Amendment rights, and thousands of students in seven states will now benefit from their commitment.”
This can only come as a reminder to us to stand up and fight back against those looking to suppress advocates for marijuana legalization (and fashionable people everywhere). We as a constituency have the unalienable right of freedom of speech, so make your voice heard and get involved with a NORML chapter near you.
As an American citizen, it is easy to become cynical about citizen participation in democracy. Even the most basic form of participation, voting, can be difficult in the United States. Unlike most nations, who hold elections on a holiday or have mandatory voting requirements, the US holds elections on Tuesdays. When many people cannot vote, whether for time reasons or restrictive state laws, it is a struggle, for those of us enthused about participating in democracy, to watch less than 60 percent of the electorate turnout for a presidential election. One of the proposed reasons for the problem is a lack of voter efficacy. Voters don’t feel as if their voice is being heard. But stories of voters successfully influencing lawmakers are common, if not always reported.
Recently, House Republicans revealed a plan to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The new body proposed by the GOP would have been a blow to anyone in support of governmental transparency. Unable to report its findings to the public, the proposed Office of Congressional Complaint Review would have even further clouded general understanding of what occurs behind closed doors in the legislative branch. However, congressional offices were subsequently flooded with calls and messages from angry constituents. Less than 24 hours later, the GOP changed course and backpedaled. After tremendous public pressure, the government radically changed its course in a short span of time.
Simply making a phone call, sending an email or Facebook message to a representative, or retweeting a congress member’s phone number (which occurred thousands of times because of the ethics committee plan) can make a difference on the national level. However, many success stories about citizen participation can be found among the lower levels of the federal system. State and local governments are, at least in theory, designed to be more supportive of and responsive to individual citizens. Examples to support this theory is strong. States are known as “laboratories of democracy” and are often ahead of the federal government in terms of cutting edge policy.
One only has to look at success stories like gay marriage or marijuana legislation in several states to see the effect of citizen participation on policy outcomes. We can see with both cases that state policy often follows national public opinion trends. When the tipping point came in regards to gay marriage, it was state judges and lawmakers that first instituted protections for the LGBTQ community. Organizations like Freedom to Marry and the American Civil Liberties Union penned action alerts to their members day after day pleading with them to contact their state representatives. And when the people spoke, politicians listened, and change happened.
Marijuana legislation is following a similar path with organizations including NORML are creating a similar avalanche effect of states legalizing that will ultimately culminate in national legalization if sustained.
To speed up the process one only has to get involved. It is easy to sit back and watch while progress occurs, but it is rewarding to be a part of such a movement. Emailing, calling, and having meetings with your representatives in a constructive way is simple and effective to push change.
If the government is doing something that we as a citizenry do not approve of, we have the right to be heard. Although the mechanisms of government are far from perfect, it our duty as a dedicated and informed public is to try the best we can, in every way we can.
Sign up for our email list to get our action alerts, keep checking the NORML action page for federal legislation and in your home state at http://norml.org/act, talk to your friends and neighbors about getting involved, join a NORML chapter or start your own at http://norml.org/chapters, and never, ever, stop fighting.
GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin have a track record of opposing efforts to reform marijuana laws in the Badger State, but a recent comment from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has some marijuana advocates hopeful for progress during the 2017 legislative session.
“If you get a prescription to use an opiate or you get a prescription to use marijuana, to me I think that’s the same thing,” Vos said, a surprising position after years of GOP opposition to legalizing any form of marijuana. “I would be open to that.”
Of course this came as a surprise to many, especially after Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Governor Scott Walker have both repeatedly stated that they will continue to oppose any effort to advance the issue in the state of Wisconsin. Regardless of the lack of support from GOP leadership, Sen. Van Wanggaard is expected to sponsor legislation that would make it legal to possess cannibidiol (CBD) – the marijuana extract known for treating seizures associated with epilepsy – during the upcoming legislative session.