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  • by NORML May 11, 2017

    Fellow Texans,

    It is with a heavy heart that I write you. I must inform you that the deadline for a bill to be put on the House Agenda for the floor expired last night at 10pm. While HB 81 did make it on to the agenda before the deadline, HB 2107 did not.

    This was due to the paperwork not being completed for it’s enrollment in calendars with enough time, completed less than 3 hours before the deadline to be placed on the agenda. With no special Calendars meeting called to hear it’s addition, HB 2107 was not able to progress and is no longer a viable option in it’s form. However, it’s two main authors, Rep Lucio III and Rep Isaac, have promised to continue to look for avenues to codify protections for patients as this legislative session continues. You can also read this touching letter from them.Texas NORML will diligently support any attempts made to enact protections for patients in the upcoming weeks.

    Our thoughts are with the many patients, caregivers and practitioners in the state that are effected by this disappointment. Times like these are very difficult and we are all still working to process this.

    With that in mind, I would like to share some silver linings that have come from the historic actions taken to enact HB 2107 that I hope help soften the blow.

    Texas has never previously held a committee vote on a whole plant medical cannabis bill. We were able to hold our most powerful and effective hearing yet which ended in a 7-2 vote that we know have on the record for the first time. It is also remarkable to note that the Chair put the bill up for a vote out of turn and knowing he would vote against it. This is not a regular occurrence.

    A historic 70+ legislators signed up as coauthors on the bill in the 36 hour periodafter the hearing. 28 of those were Republicans. 4 of the 5 Doctors in the Houseare also included in the coauthor list. We have gone from a handful of legislative supporters to unprecedented numbers! Numbers that would have given HB 2107 the votes to pass. So we must diligently work to keep each one of these allies.

    With that many legislators vested, safe access to medical cannabis becomes a significant campaign talking point. It will be important the we check back in on the basics when the interim begins and prepare for the most important campaign season of medical cannabis’ history. We will of course have a new Texas NORML Marijuana Policy Voter Guide and Voting Appendix.

    It is important that we keep our lobbying efforts alive and sustain the work we are doing at the Capitol and across the state. There will be major opportunities in front of us that we must be ready to capitalize on.

    We learned a lot. We are carbon pressed to diamonds. We must continue to slice away at prohibition!

    Please take a moment to CALL or EMAIL your support for HB 81, so that we can work to remove the criminal penalty for possession of one ounce or less! It is imperative that we accomplish this by midnight on Thursday, the day the bill is scheduled.

    Jax Finkel

    Executive Director
    Texas NORML
    The problem is the law, not the plant.
    Re-legalize!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director May 6, 2017

    revolutionbumperWelcome to this week’s edition of the NORML legislative roundup!

    The biggest story this week in the marijuana world was the inclusion of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer language (Section 537) in the omnibus spending package to prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with lawful state-regulated medical marijuana consumers and businesses.

    In a signing statement by President Trump, expressed that he “will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed” when it comes to Section 537. The lack of clarity is disturbing and casts doubt on whether his administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions will honor the enforcement restrictions. In the past, the courts have upheld this tactic of Congress legislating through the appropriations process, however it will ultimately take a bill to end this tension between the federal and state laws, not just temporary spending riders.

    Marijuana Big Talks Speaker Lineup FINAL 5.3 copyAlso this week, Representative Jared Polis held an event in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building solely focused on marijuana policy. Speakers included Boulder County D.A. Stan Garnett and former Colorado NORML Executive Director Rachel Gillette.

    For the whole morning, the halls of Rayburn echoed with the words of cannabis reformers declaring the need for sensible policies on marijuana ranging from the need for 280E tax reform to an end to the delusional thought that a southern boarder wall will stop the drug trade.

    At the state level, this has been a very active week for marijuana reformers as additional states near the end of their legislative calendars. Progress has been made from Texas moving forward to establish a medical marijuana program to Vermont inching closer towards outright legalization. Yet with the end of the Florida legislative session, the House and Senate were unable to come to a compromise as how to implement Amendment 2 and now the rule making process will be left up to the Florida Department of Health.

    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,
    Justin

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    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.

    Click here to email your Member of Congress to urge them to join the newly created Congressional Cannabis Caucus

    New Hampshire

    After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 may finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized.

    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.

    Update: Governor Chris Sununu has reiterated his support for decriminalizing marijuana.

    NH resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers telling them to act on decriminalization this year. 

    Texas

    Legislation to authorize the possession, production, and distribution of medical marijuana and marijuana-infused products to qualified patients. Patients would receive cannabis through a network of private dispensaries and operators, similar to pharmacies, regulated under “strict guidelines” by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

    Update: HB 2107 had a hearing on May 2 and after powerful targeted testimony, the number of cosponsors for the bill jumped from 5 to 75. Later in the week, the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Public Health approved HR 2107 on May 5 by a vote of 7-2. The bill will now be considered by the Calendars Committee to determine the date of the full House vote.

    TX resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers and tell them to support the bill. 

    Vermont

    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.

    Update: The Senate has passed on May 5 an unrelated bill (S. 22) to include the provisions of H. 170. It maintains House approved language eliminating penalties for the possession and cultivation of personal use amounts of marijuana by July 2018, but also creates a new Marijuana Regulation Commission, to draft legislation by November 1, 2017 that “establishes a comprehensive regulatory and revenue system for an adult-use marijuana market that, when compared to the current illegal marijuana market, increases public safety and reduces harm to public health.” The commission’s bill would be ready for a vote by January 2018.

    VT resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers and urge them to take swift action to pass the bill. 

    Additional Actions to Take

    Colorado

    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: House members approved SB 192 on May 3 by a vote of 58 to 5. Because of House amendments, the bill returns to the Senate, which must either re-approve the measure or seek reconciliation.

    CO resident? Click here to contact your elected officials in support of this effort.

    Louisiana

    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.

    Specifically, it provides immunity from arrest for those enrolled in the program who engage in activities related to the purchase or transportation of medical marijuana related products or paraphernalia. It provides further legal protections for pharmacies, producers, and testing laboratories engaged in medical cannabis related activities.

    Update: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted without opposition to move SB 35 to the Senate floor.

    LA resident? Click here to contact your elected officials in support of this effort.

    Maine

    Legislation is pending to expedite the retail sale of marijuana products to those over the age of 21.

    LD 1448 and LD 1491 would permit licensed medical cannabis dispensaries the opportunity to “sell limited marijuana retail products to a person who is 21 years of age or older.”

    A majority of voters in November approved an initiated measure to permit the possession, production, and retail sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products. However, emergency legislation signed into law in January delays the implementation of regulations overseeing the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana until at least February 1, 2018.

    Passage of these measures would allow dispensaries to engage in marijuana sales ahead of this date.

    ME resident? Click here to contact your elected officials in support of this effort.

    New Hampshire

    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 May 4 passed HB 160 out of Committee.

    NH resident? Click here to contact your elected officials in support of this effort.

    New York

    Legislation is moving forward, A. 7006, to allow patients with post-traumatic stress eligible for medical cannabis therapy.

    New York is one of the only states with a medical marijuana program that does not allow patients with PTSD access to medical cannabis.

    Update: The New York Assembly passed A 7006 on May 2. The bill now awaits action by the Senate. Governor Andrew Cuomo says that he is open to expanding the state’s medical cannabis program to include patients with PTSD.

    NY resident? Click here to urge your lawmakers to support this effort.

    Vermont

    If approved, SB 16 would permit physicians for the first time to recommend medical marijuana to patients with post-traumatic stress, Crohn’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease. The measure also allows physicians to immediately issue medical cannabis recommendations for patients suffering from cancer, a terminal illness, or under hospice care supervision.

    Update: Members of the House gave preliminary approval SB 16 on May 1. Once a final vote is recorded, the measure will be transmitted to the Governor’s office.

    VT resident? Click here to urge the Governor to sign SB 16.

  • by NORML May 4, 2017

    By Jax Finkel
    Executive Director, Texas NORML

    Late in the evening on Tuesday, May 2nd, the House Public Health Committee held a hearing for HB 2107 which would make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive for patients with debilitating medical conditions. Many patients stayed late into the evening to provide powerful and emotional testimony. After a powerful hearing with targeted testimony, the authors for the bill jumped from 5 to 75! This is historic and unprecedented in Texas.

    Veterans demanded access for service related disabilities. Doctors spoke to the efficacy and safety profile of cannabis. 66 testimonies were offered in support. 187 registered in support. There was only one verbal opposition. It is TBD if there were more registered against not testifying as the full witness list has not been released yet.

     We are very happy to see that our coordination with the authors and committee members has paid of so well. We appreciated all the speakers that were invited to speak and came to share their story. Thank you to the authors, committee members, staffers, our team and coalition and to all who advocate!

    Please support the important work we are doing in Texas by becoming a sustaining donormaking a donation or becoming a Texas NORML member.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator May 1, 2017

    10253989_10152787252362360_1345699000664750724_nFor marijuana activists in Texas, the road to reforming marijuana laws has not been easy.

    With the state legislature only meeting every two years and no ballot initiative process or ability to reform marijuana laws on the local level, activists must put all their time and energy into lobbying state lawmakers in support meaningful reforms.

    Although there has been several minor victories this legislative session, some within the Texas state legislature are determined to derail or at the very least, stall any effort to provide ailing patients with access to medical marijuana. But activists like Jax Finkle, Executive Director of Texas NORML and Clif Deuvall, Executive Director of Waco NORML aren’t planning to allow these obstacles to slow their progress.

    “With Texas being restricted from using traditional ballot initiatives, it is so imperative that the citizens of Texas engage with the legislators. These connections matter even more when forged during the interim of the Legislative Session,” said Jax Finkle. “In fact, engagement over the two year cycle is so important that we hosted 16 trainings across Texas with curriculum that was targeted based on the part of the cycle it was to enable people to be force multipliers in their areas. As a result, we are seeing even stronger numbers of support in Texas, more action in the legislature and we will see more results unfold over the 85R Legislative Session.”

    Over the last three years, Jax has worked tirelessly with more than a dozen local NORML chapters to grow their annual lobby day from just a few dozen to more than 375 participants. From El Paso to Beaumont and Amarillo to McAllen, supporters of marijuana legalization from all over Texas continue to show they’re ready, willing, and able to fight for what they believe in.

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    “The advocacy and educational opportunities which arise give way to understanding of the issue and the legislative process,” said Clif Deuvall. “In Texas, I’ve seen Lobby Day attendance rise from a handful to several hundred in a few years. These individuals, encompassing a variety of demographics and locations across the state, have created a strong grassroots coalition.”

    With this new strategy of facilitating statewide trainings for grassroots volunteers, supporters of marijuana law reforms can be certain NORML members across Texas are fighting daily to end marijuana prohibition.

    “The message has become more cohesive in an effort to provide the clear understanding of the overall needs of Texas’ cannabis consumers,” added Deuvall. “It is through efforts, such as a lobby day, Texans have seen steady progress in cannabis reform across the state.”

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    Next up, members and volunteers with Texas NORML and affiliate chapters will be focusing their attention on HB-2107 which is scheduled to be heard by the Health Committee on Tuesday, May 2nd. If passed, HB 2107 would make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive for patients with debilitating medical conditions.

    TAKE ACTION: Contact Texas lawmakers to urge them to support House Bill 2107 by clicking here! Texan patients deserve safe and legal access to medical cannabis just as 30 other states currently provide.

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in the Lone Star State, follow Texas NORML by visiting their website, Facebook page, and Twitter!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator April 24, 2017

    15134788_1361964283815279_7643241837130367190_nHundreds 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.”

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    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.

    TAKE ACTION: Contact Pennsylvania lawmakers and urge them to support House Bill 928 by clicking here!

    Read more here: http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news/auditor-general-speaks-at-harrisburg-marijuana-rally-in-support-of/article_a546ae06-2605-11e7-93c5-177c718a0193.html

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Pittsburgh NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page!

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