At our board meeting in Boson held this past Friday, in conjunction with the Boston Freedom Rally, the board voted to endorse the 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, sponsored by the Arkansans for Compassionate Care. This initiative would establish 38 non-profit medical cannabis centers across the state, and would function like most of the standard medical use laws in effect across the country, requiring a patient to receive a written recommendation for an Arkansas licensed physician and obtain a medical use card from the state permitting them to purchase marijuana from one of the licensed dispensaries for a wide range of ailments and conditions. Or if a patient lives more than 5 miles from a licensed dispensary they would be permitted to cultivate up to six plants in a secured facility.
The attorney representing the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act is long-time NORML Legal Committee member, John Wesley Hall from Little Rock.
A second proposed medical use initiative has also qualified for the November ballot, proposing a Constitutional amendment permitting the medical use of marijuana (The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment). This second proposal is far more restrictive than the first in terms of the list of conditions for which marijuana could be recommended, and does not permit personal cultivation. It is not clear why the sponsors wished to propose this as a Constitutional amendment, as a simple act would require a 2/3 vote by the legislature to reverse it, and our opponents do not have the support in the state legislature to accomplish that.
As a result, the NORML board felt the Aransas Medical Cannabis Act is a more consumer-friendly proposal and elected to endorse it.
Strange Suit Filed By Misguided Attorney
Also, one misguided defense attorney, apparently acting as a surrogate for the sponsors of the Constitutional amendment, has filed suit against the Act that had previously qualified, challenging their signatures. The misguided individual alleged in her law suit that she is a NORML Legal Committee Life Member (although she did not allege that NORML has joined or supported her suit), but she does not attempt to explain why she would oppose a well-drafted medical use initiative that appears to have a good chance to be approved by the voters.
The NORML board of directors wanted to make it clear that NORML is not involved in this suit, nor do we think it is a helpful strategy.
In this week’s Legislative Round Up you’ll learn about a national call to action to renew federal legislation protecting hundreds of thousands of patients and providers. In other news, the marijuana movement received support from two leading national veterans groups and several important bills were signed into law at the state level. Keep reading for the latest news in marijuana law reform.
A federal provision limiting the Justice Department from prosecuting state-authorized medical marijuana patients and providers is set to expire at the end of this month. The provision, 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.” Please visit our #TakeAction Center to contact your federally elected officials and urge them to move quickly to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment and to keep these important patient protections in place.
In other news of national significance, members of the American Legion passed a resolution to promote research on marijuana’s potential use for treating post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Additionally, the group called for marijuana to be removed from it’s current Schedule I classification within the Controlled Substances Act. A second veterans group, The American Veterans (AMVETS), also recently resolved that marijuana should be made available to veterans within the VA healthcare system in every state where it is legal.
Delaware: Governor Jack Markell has signed legislation, SB 181, into law permitting designated caregivers to possess and administer non-smoked medical marijuana formulations (e.g. oils/extracts) to qualifying patients “in a school bus and on the ground or property of the preschool, or primary, or secondary school in which a minor qualifying patient is enrolled.”
The measure takes immediate effect. To date, two other states — Colorado and New Jersey — impose similar legislation.
Florida: Another local municipality, New Port Richey, has approved marijuana decriminalization legislation. In a 3-2 vote, the council approved an ordinance providing police the discretion to issue a $155 civil citation in lieu of making a criminal arrest in cases involving less than 20 grams of marijuana. The New Port Richey vote mimics those of nearby municipalities Orlando and Tampa, which passed similar ordinances earlier this year and a wave of South Florida municipalities that passed similar ordinances last year. Under state law, simple marijuana possession is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Michigan: Lawmakers gave final approval this week to a package of bills, HB 4209/4210, HB 4827, SB 141, and SB 1014, to regulate the retail sale of medical cannabis and cannabis-infused products. The legislation licenses and regulates above-ground, safe access facilities where state-qualified patients may legally obtain medical marijuana, provides qualified patients for the first time with legal protections for their possession and use of non-smoked cannabis derived topicals and edibles, as well as cannabis-based extract products, and establishes regulations tracking the production and sale of medical marijuana products. The measures, which lawmakers had debated for the past two years, now await action by the Governor. #TakeAction
New Jersey: On September 14th, Governor Chris Christie signed legislation, A 457, into law that adds PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions eligible for medical marijuana therapy. More than a dozen states permit medical marijuana access for PTSD treatment. A retrospective review of PTSD patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction CAPS (Clinician Administered Posttraumatic Scale) symptom scores following cannabis therapy.
The new law took immediate effect.
Tennessee: Last week the Nashville Metro Council advanced legislation providing police the option to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders. Those cited would face only a $50 fine (or ten hours of community service.) Under state law, such offenses are punishable by up to one-year in prison. A final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for September 20. If you live in Nashville, consider contacting your member of the Metro Council and voicing your support for this common sense reform.
Congressional leaders have moved in recent days to quash a number of proposed marijuana law reforms.
Specifically, provisions previously voted on by Congress to expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans were removed by leadership during the conference committee process. Members have yet to speak publicly as to why the language was removed. Both the Senate and the House versions of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill contained the marijuana-friendly provisions prior to the reconciliation process.
The move follows a decision earlier this week by Republican leaders on the House Rules Committee to deny members the opportunity to vote on a Democrat-sponsored amendment that sought to permit banks and other financial institutions to engage in relationships with state-compliant marijuana businesses. Senate Appropriations Committee members had approved a similar amendment last week by a vote of 16 to 14. That amendment, which is now included in the Senate’s version of the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, awaits further action on the Senate floor. If approved, the Senate bill will ultimately need to be reconciled in conference committee with House leadership.
In April, NORML released a Congressional Scorecard assigning letter grades ‘A’ through ‘F’ to every member of the US House and Senate based on their marijuana-related comments and voting records. To see what grades your Congressional members received, please click here.
After a narrow defeat in 2014, Florida voters will have another opportunity to legalize medical marijuana this November by voting YES on Amendment 2, but not before being inundated with misinformation from some of Florida’s most notorious marijuana prohibitionists. With more than $10 million dollars committed to defeating the measure, Floridians can expect a salvo of refer madness unlike anything we’ve seen in the past. Even in states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana – Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska – anti-marijuana groups spent roughly $800k between all four states fighting legalization efforts.
In an effort to level the playing field, Central Florida Chapter of the National Organization of the Reform of Marijuana Laws (CFL NORML) led by executive director, Christopher Cano, recently launched a grassroots fundraising campaign with a goal of $250,000 to combat the continuous flow of fear mongering and attacks expected this fall. Indiegogo, the crowdfunding platform being utilized by the organization features a video produced by CFL NORML, pictures of past events, and of course a donation page where contributions can be made.
“We are appalled at the gross amount of funds the opposition plans to spend in order to continue the unjust policy of marijuana prohibition in Florida,” Cano said. “The Medical Marijuana Movement should be about one thing and one thing only, the patients. Mel Sembler and his No On 2 allies are willing to spend obscene amounts of money to hurt veterans and sick patients, and we simply are not going to take that laying down”.
To show your support, please donate by clicking the link below or volunteer by contacting CFL NORML using the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marijuana is legal to purchase, possess and to consume in the state of Colorado, but where? Well, if you happen to be in the city of Denver (or most anywhere else in Colorado) the answer is very simple, you can only legally consume cannabis in a private residence. But what if your landlord won’t allow it, or if you are one of the thousands of tourists that visits our great city on a daily basis. Then where do all of those people go? This question is one Denver NORML hopes to help answer this November.
The local chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws spent several months working with various stakeholders to develop a regulatory framework to create a space where responsible adults can consume their legally purchased marijuana products. Denver NORML is currently collecting signatures for the Responsible Use Denver initiative. The initiative will provide a license for the establishment and operation of private, 21-and-over members-only facilities where adults and bring their own cannabis and peacefully consume it in a relaxed, legal public setting.
The initiative language was written to provide the city with what it is lacking, a set of rules and standards to open a business and maintain a license for a place for adults to responsibly consume marijuana. There are several businesses right now in the city of Denver operating in a grey area. Currently these businesses have no laws to follow or to protect them. This grey area needs definition. Those same businesses could now open marijuana clubs with their namesake or these businesses could now apply for special event permits where marijuana will be permitted.
Once passed, the Responsible Use Denver initiative will not only provide private marijuana clubs it will also allow for any individual or entity to apply for 24 event permits per year. The private invitation only events would be 21 and up, allow no onsite distribution and allow guests to bring their own marijuana products to consume. What does a marijuana event look like? These events could be catered and be as creative as any party planner could dream up. They could be intimate occasions or it could allow for an entrepreneur to create a large event venue for occasions such as the Cannabis Cup to return to Denver.
The Responsible Use Denver initiative is the answer to an ongoing issue that is not going away. As other states continue to legalize marijuana across the country, we are going to continue to see this as a post prohibition concern in more and more jurisdictions. If we had 200 places to purchase alcohol but no place to drink it, where would people drink? Most likely on sidewalks, loitering in front of businesses, in parks, in their cars and anywhere else they could. This is what marijuana consumers are dealing with. It is time for change and it is time for a solution.