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Legalization

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 6, 2018

    More than six in ten Michigan voters endorse a proposed statewide ballot initiative legalizing the adult use and sale of cannabis.

    According to polling data compiled by the EPIC-MRA polling research firm and commissioned by Michigan NORML, 61 percent of voters say that they would vote yes on the measure “if the election were held today.” That percentage is up four percentage points from last year, and is an increase of 11 percent since 2014.

    Commenting on the statewide polling, MINORML Board member Brad Forrester said: “I’m not surprised. These results are the product of Michigan NORML’s effective advocacy for the past several years.”

    Michigan NORML is a member of The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is backing the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. The initiative permits those over the age of 21 to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to the commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales.

    In November, proponents turned in more than 360,000 signatures in an effort to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot. State officials must certify a total of 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters in order to place the initiative on the November 2018 ballot.

    Marijuana law reform advocates are continuing to gather signatures for voter-initiated efforts in Missouri and Utah. Proponents of a medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota have turned in their signatures and are awaiting a review by the Secretary of State’s office.

    In Oklahoma, voters will decide on June 26 whether or not to approve State Question 788 — a broad-based initiative that permits physicians to recommend medical cannabis to patients at their sole discretion. NORML endorsed State Question 788 in January.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 27, 2018

    Gov LePage (R-Maine)

    State lawmakers are moving forward with a legislative proposal to significantly amend various provisions of the state’s 2016 voter-approved cannabis law: The Marijuana Legalization Act.

    Members of the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee have voted 16 to 1 in favor of overhauling the law, which has yet to be fully implemented. Lawmakers had initially voted last year to delay the enactment of provisions regulating the retail production and sale of cannabis. Then in November, Republican Gov. Paul LePage vetoed legislation that sought to license and regulate marijuana businesses and sales, stating: “Until I clearly understand how the federal government intends to treat states that seek to legalize marijuana, I cannot in good conscience support any scheme in state law to implement expansion of legal marijuana in Maine.” Lawmakers voted in favor of sustaining LePage’s veto.

    Now lawmakers are pushing a plan to amend and repeal numerous provisions of the law, including provisions that have already taken effect. Specifically, language in the new proposal would limit the quantity of mature marijuana plants that an adult may legally grow in a private residence from six to three. Legislators are advocating for this change despite the fact that no regulated, commercial market yet exists for cannabis — leaving adults reliant exclusively upon home cultivation operations. Further, no data has been presented indicating that the state’s existing plant quotas are either being abused or that home-cultivated marijuana is being diverted into the criminal market. NORML opposes this proposed amendment.

    “A majority of Maine voters decided in favor of legalizing and regulating the use of marijuana by adults,” NORML’s Political Director Justin Strekal said. “It is time for lawmakers to implement the will of the people, not undermine it.”

    Other language in the new proposal would repeal language permitting for the operation of state-licensed social use facilities, and would eliminate provisions redirecting portions of marijuana-related tax revenue to localities that explicitly permit such operations. Separate language in the bill seeks to impose a new 21.5 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana transactions. The bill also makes it easier for communities that wish to ban adult use operations to do so.

    If you reside in Maine, you can use NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ to contact your lawmakers here.

    A finalized version of the bill is anticipated to go before lawmakers in the House and Senate in late March. Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, the Implementation Committee’s House chairman, said that the so-called “compromises” in the plan are necessary because of the close nature of the 2016 vote and because the Governor has remained steadfastly opposed to the issue. Yet, even despite the proposed amendments, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette predicts that LePage will likely veto this committee bill too.

    In Massachusetts, where voters approved a similar 2016 initiative regulating the adult use and retail sale of cannabis, regulators this week also announced delays and changes to the voter-approved law. On Monday, following pressure from the Governor and other lawmakers, members of the Cannabis Control Commission voted for a limited rollout of retail marijuana sales in July — postponing licenses for home delivery services, marijuana lounges, and other distribution channels until early next year. Commercial marijuana production and sales were initially slated to begin on January 1, 2018, but lawmakers last year passed emergency legislation postponing the enactment of those regulatory provisions until this summer.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 22, 2018

    The enactment of statewide laws regulating the use and distribution of cannabis for medical purposes is not associated with increased marijuana use among young people, according to a review of relevant studies published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.

    Investigators from Columbia University, the RAND Corporation, the University of California at Davis, and the Boston School of Public Health reviewed 11 studies developed from four ongoing national surveys. The studies were published between the years 1991 and 2014. None of the studies identified any significant changes in youth use patterns that could be attributable to changes in marijuana’s legal status.

    Authors concluded: “[A]ll estimates of pre–post changes in past-month marijuana use within MML (medical marijuana law) states from these studies were non-significant. … In summary, current evidence does not support the hypothesis that MML passage is associated with increased marijuana use prevalence among adolescents in states that have passed such laws.”

    One of the study’s senior authors, Dr. Deborah Hasin, further stated in an accompanying press release, “For now, there appears to be no basis for the argument that legalizing medical marijuana has increased teens’ use of the drug.”

    The findings are consistent with those of numerous prior studies, including a federally funded 2015 study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry that assessed marijuana use patterns of over one-million adolescents in 48 states. That paper concluded, [C]oncerns that increased marijuana use is an unintended effect of state marijuana laws seem unfounded.”

    Separate studies report that teens’ use of marijuana and access to cannabis have declined significantly over the better part of the past two decades – during the same time that the majority of states enacted medical marijuana access programs. Data from states that regulate the adult use and sale of cannabis similarly fail to report any associated uptick in either youth use or marijuana access.

    Text of the study, “Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the United States: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” is not yet available online.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 20, 2018

    The District Attorney for Alameda County has announced her intent to automatically vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions. Alameda County, which includes Oakland, is the 7th-most populous county in California.

    According to the DA’s office, there are an estimated 6,000 marijuana convictions eligible for either a sentence reduction or a dismissal.

    “California is offering a second chance to people convicted of cannabis crimes, from felonies to small infractions, with the opportunity to have their criminal records cleared,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Mally said in a press statement. “We … intend to reverse decades of cannabis convictions that can be a barrier for people to gain meaningful employment.”

    The policy change comes weeks after the San Francisco District Attorney’s office announced that it will review, dismiss, and seal an estimated 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1975.

    Seattle officials have also announced a similar plan to dismiss past convictions, opining, “[T]his action is a necessary first step in righting the wrongs of the past and putting our progressive values into action.” Last week, newly elected Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also announced that his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession offense violations.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 17, 2018

    Valentines Day week 2018 saw a tremendous amount of activity when it came to addressing our nations failed policy of marijuana prohibition. From new federal legislation being introduced to two federal lawsuits having hearings, plus a number of members of Congress, old allies and new stepping up to demand the Trump Administration continue to allow the states that have reformed their laws be respected by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Rick “Not Pro-Pot But Pro-Civil Liberties” Steves Went To Washington: Bestselling guidebook author and travel host Rick Steves held two briefings to address marijuana prohibition to a gathering of members of Congress and their staff. Inspired by Europe’s pragmatic approach to drug policy, with success measured by harm reduction rather than incarceration, Steves said that he is motivated to speak in favor of legalization because of its impact on civil liberties.

    “ There are so many reasons to end the prohibition on marijuana. Whether you’re concerned about the well-being of children, fairness for minority communities, redirecting money away from criminals and into state’s coffers, stemming the horrific bloodshed in Mexico, or civil liberties; it is clearly time for a new approach,” said Rick Steves. You can read more about his day at Capitol Hill here.

    New Legislation: Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) has introduced the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act which would codify the protections that were outlined in the now-rescinded Cole Memo.

    Upon the introduction, Rep. Correa said, “To date, eight states have legalized recreational cannabis, and twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, representing more than half of the American population, have enacted legislation to permit the use of cannabis. Attorney General Sessions’ decision to rescind the “Cole Memo” created great uncertainty for these states and legal cannabis businesses, and put citizens in jeopardy for following their state laws.

    In my state of California, voters want legal cannabis. It boosts our economy and is a strong medical tool. By 2020, revenues from cannabis sales taxes could reach $1 billion annually for California. This bill will protect California and other states from federal overreach and ensure the will of the American voter is respected.”

    Essentially, the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act would give peace of mind to lawmakers, regulators, 149,000 workers, and the millions of patients and consumers who are dependent on the normalization of lawful marijuana markets. The most essential component in creating a stable business environment to meet consumer demand is certainty and that is what states would have with Reps. Correa’s legislation to protect state-lawful programs from militant marijuana prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Click here to send a message to your Representative to urge them to co-sponsor the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act. 

    Lawsuit Against Attorney General Jeff Sessions: On February 14th, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York heard oral arguments on the motion to dismiss Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al, a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Schedule I classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. The federal government argued to have the case dismissed. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York reserved the decision.

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case are Michael Hiller and Lauren Rudick of Hiller, PC, and include NORML Legal Committee member Joseph Bondy and Empire State NORML Director David Holland.

    Click here to read more.

    HIA Against The DEA: A case brought forward by the Hemp Industries Association against the DEA regarding the classification of CBD had a hearing on Thursday. You can read more about that effort here.

    Banking On Mnuchin: Congressman and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus Earl Blumenauer pressed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on the need for certainty for the banks that are currently providing services for legal, state-regulated marijuana businesses. You can watch the video by clicking HERE and send a message to your federal lawmakers to support the SAFE Banking Act.

    Letter To Senate Appropriators: This week, a bipartisan group of 18 Senators signed a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the powerful Appropriations Committee to demand that in the process of directing funding for the Department of Justice, the lawmakers should restrict the DoJ from being able to interfere with lawful state-regulated programs.

    The senators wrote that rescinding years of guidance has created “disruption, confusion, and uncertainty throughout the country. Citizens who have been acting in good faith based on federal and state assurances now feel exposed. This disruption may deny medications to the sick, push individuals back into illicit markets, and nullify the previously-effective regulations – all while thwarting the democratically-expressed will of the states.”

    “It is our hope that the fiscal year 2018 appropriations will alleviate the turbulence the Attorney General’s abrupt decision has caused and that the appropriations will help preserve the strong regulatory frameworks the states have created,” the senators continued. “Doing so will provide the opportunity to pursue federal legislation that both protects the legitimate federal interests at stake and respects the will of the states – both those that have liberalized their marijuana laws and those that have not.”

    The letter include U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-WV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maria Cantwell(D-WA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Edward Markey (D-MA).

    Click here to read the letter and click here to send a message to your federal officials in support of pending legislation to deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. 

    New Justice Supporter: This week, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York added her name as a cosponsor to The Marijuana Justice Act, making her the 3rd member of the Senate to be on the bill. Specifically S. 1689 and HR 4815 would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs. Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of the Marijuana Justice Act. 

    Additionally, Senator Cory Booker added the language of the Marijuana Justice Act as an amendment to the criminal justice bill that is moving, however, that effort was unsuccessful.

    DoJ Nominees Move Forward: Senator Gardner has backed down from his threat to the Department of Justice to block Senate-confirmable nominees after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the longstanding guidance memos including the 2013 Cole Memo.

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