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Policy

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director May 20, 2017

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

    This year, it seems that multiple states are vying for the honor of becoming the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislative process and four of them had movement this week. Ranked most-to-least likely, here is the action we saw in the last 7 days:

    Vermont: S. 22, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults has been transmitted to Governor Phil Scott.

    If signed or simply ignored, (aka not vetoed by the Governor), the measure will legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, and the cultivation of two mature marijuana and four immature plants in a private residence beginning July 1, 2018. The Act will become law in lieu of action by the Governor Wednesday due to the procedural processes of the Vermont.

    Connecticut (tied for 2nd): Senate and House Democrats are lobbying for provisions to permit the retail sale of marijuana to adults as a way to address the state’s estimated $5 billion budget gap. The proposal would initially permit state-licensed dispensaries to sell cannabis to non-patients, and then establish regulations to oversee the establishment of commercial producers and retailers.

    The proposed plan is estimated to yield about $60 million in additional revenue for the state next fiscal year, and $180 million by 2018-19.

    Rhode Island (tied for 2nd): Members of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced H. 5551 to create a study commission on May 17, but failed to call H. 5555 The Adult Use of Cannabis Act for a vote. The study bill now awaits action on the House floor while H. 5555 is likely dead for this session. Yet several lawmakers are now working on a compromise approach which would enact several provisions of legalization similar to Vermont this year and then let decisions on issues like edibles, product testing, business licensing and local opt-out be triggered by a study commission’s recommendations.

    New Jersey (distant 4th): Legislation has been introduced by State Sen. Nicholas Scutari to legalize and regulate the adult use, production, and retail sale of marijuana. Yet in his last year as Governor, Chris Christie has made it clear that he will not sign such legislation, however it does position the Garden State well to pass legalization next year as Gov. Christie is term-limited out.

    At the Federal level, in the House, Representatives  Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) have introduced The Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017, HR 2528, which would protect states that have ended prohibition at the state level from federal interference. This bill is substantially similar to that of HR 965, the bipartisan Respect State Marijuana Laws Act introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

    Additionally, the bipartisan Senate version of the SAFE Banking Act was introduced to allow marijuana businesses access to basic banking services.

    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
    Respect State Marijuana Laws: On May 18, Representatives Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Diane DeGette (D-CO) introduced HR 2528, The Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017.

    Click here to send your member of Congress a message to support the bill. 

    Bank Safely: Currently, banks face the threat of federal sanction for working with marijuana-related businesses and entrepreneurs. The SAFE Banking Act (Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act) would extend protections to banks from the federal government, thus allowing responsible businesses access to basic banking services.

    Click here to send both your Senators and Representative a message to support these measures.

    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 Congressional Cannabis Caucus

    Connecticut
    Senate and House Democrats are lobbying for provisions to permit the retail sale of marijuana to adults as a way to address the state’s estimated $5 billion budget gap.

    CT resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of legalization.

    Nevada
    Senate legislation is pending, SB 236, introduced by Sen. Tick Segerblom 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: SB236 passed out of the Assembly Government Operations Committee on May 16.

    NV resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of marijuana social clubs.

    New Jersey
    Legislation has been introduced by State Sen. Nicholas Scutari to legalize and regulate the adult use, production, and retail sale of marijuana.

    According to a 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton poll, nearly six in ten New Jersey adults support “legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over.” Similar percentages of voters through the country also endorse legalization.

    NJ resident? Click here in support of legalization in the Garden State

    Rhode Island
    Several lawmakers are now working on a compromise approach which would enact several provisions of legalization similar to Vermont this year and then let decisions on issues like edibles, product testing, business licensing and local opt-out be triggered by a study commission’s recommendations.

    RI resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of legalization

    Vermont
    S. 22, to completely depenalize marijuana, was transmitted to the Governor on May 18. Governor Phil Scott has until the end of Wednesday May 24 to either sign or veto the legislation, and should he not act, the bill will go into effect by default.

    VT resident? Click here to send a message to Governor Scott in support of legalization

    Other Actions to Take

    Delaware
    Senate Bill 24 has been introduced by Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry to make it easier for those suffering from PTSD to obtain their medicine.

     

    DE resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of those with PTSD

    New York
    A pair of bills are pending in the Senate to expand patients’ access to medical cannabis.

    Senate Bill 6092 expands the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis access to include those with Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and a number of other debilitating diseases. It also removes arbitrary caps imposed on the amount of THC permitted in oral products.

    Senate Bill 6308 allows for additional cannabis providers to operate in the state in order to improve patients’ access.

    NY resident? Click here to express your support for these measures to your lawmakers.

     

     

     

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director May 13, 2017

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

    So much to talk about this week, so let’s start with our favorite villain, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This week, Sessions superseded the 2010 Holder Memo, regarding DOJ’s policy on charging and sentencing decisions – establishing what I like to now refer to as The Sessions Doctrine, in which he directed the the thousands of assistant U.S. attorneys to pursue “the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.”

    NPR reports:

    Holder had asked prosecutors to avoid slapping nonviolent drug offenders with crimes that carried mandatory minimum sentences, practices that, as NPR’s Tamara Keith explains, “give judges and prosecutors little discretion over the length of a prison term if a suspect is convicted.” Holder’s recommendation had been aimed partly at helping reduce burgeoning prison populations in the U.S.

    Now, if prosecutors wish to pursue lesser charges for these low-level crimes, they will need to obtain approval for the exception from a U.S. attorney, assistant attorney general or another supervisor.

     

    This is yet another clear example of the Trump administrations escalation the failed War on Drugs.

    On a much brighter note, things moved quite a bit at the state level in 3 key battles.

    Delaware: Members of the House Revenue and Finance Committee voted 7 to 2 on May 10 to move HB 110 to the House floor. Because the measure seeks to amend criminal penalties, it requires a two-thirds majority from House members to move to the Senate for further consideration. The vote marks the first time the “1st State” that lawmakers have ever approved legislation seeking to legalize and regulate the adult use marijuana market.

    Iowa: In a last minute deal by Iowa state lawmakers and signed by the Govenor, an amended version of HF 524 is now the law of the land. The measure expands the state’s existing CBD exemption law, which was set to sunset this year, and expands it. Specifically, HF 524 permits patients with various qualifying conditions, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures, AIDS and HIV, Crohn’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, to possess CBD with up to 3% THC. The bill also seeks to establish regulations for the manufacturing and dispensing of CBD products within the state.

    New Hampshire: Members of the Senate on May 11 voted 17 to 6 in favor of HB 640, to decriminalize marijuana in “The Granite State.” Because the Senate amended the bill’s language, it must return to the House for a concurrence vote, where it is expected to easily pass. Once reconciled, the bill goes to Governor Sununu, who has time and again affirmed his support for decriminalization.

    Vermont: S. 22, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults has been passed by the Vermont legislature.

    If not vetoed by the Governor, the measure would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, and the cultivation of two mature marijuana and four immature plants in a private residence.

    Vermont would become the first state to completely depenalize the simple possession and cultivation of marijuana by the legislative process, thus breaking a stigma for legislators throughout the country.

    Unfortunately, in Texas, while we saw historic process to both establish a medical marijuana program and decriminalize the plant in the state, our efforts came up short this year as the deadline for floor votes came and past on Thursday.

    Texas NORML organized in a heroic fashion and I must give a special shoutout to their Executive Director Jax Finkel for all of her hard work and diligence. Never has the Lone Star state been so close on moving sane marijuana reform policy forward and we will now must build upon the tremendous momentum generated this year to achieve victories in the next legislative session. You can support Texas NORML’s work by clicking here. 

    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

    Delaware
    House floor vote pending for marijuana legalization legislation, HB 110. The measure establishes a regulated commercial market for cannabis cultivation and retail sales, but does not permit unlicensed, home cultivation.

    DE resident? Click here to send a message to your elected officials to support legalization!

    New Hampshire
    Decriminalization legislation is on its way to the Governor.

    NH resident? Send him a note thanking him for his support. 

    Vermont
    Legislation to eliminate adult use marijuana penalties and study legalization sent to Governor.

    VT resident? Send a message to Gov. Scott now and call his office at (802) 828-3333

    Other Actions to Take

    Alaska
    State officials in Alaska are considering legislation, HJR 21, to urge the federal government to restrain from interfering in state marijuana laws.

    HJR 21 urges the current Administration to respect previous federal arrangements in regard to state laws and to continue a policy of allowing legalized states autonomy.

    The bill points to several reasons that Alaska would be harmed by a federal crackdown, ranging from economic ramifications to the confusion of law enforcement officers; federal enforcement would ultimately have negative results.

    AK resident? Click here to urge your lawmakers to stand up for Alaskans.

    California
    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.”

    The majority of Californians desire a legally regulated marijuana market. Passage of this act will limit state or local agencies from working with the federal government to undermine these regulations.

    Update: Read third time and amended on May 8. Ordered to third reading.

    CA resident? Click here to urge your lawmakers to protect legal marijuana in your state. 

    Hawaii
    Legislation to expand Hawaii’s medical cannabis program has passed both legislative chambers.

    The bill expands the number of qualifying conditions eligible to receive cannabis therapy to include: lupus, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and autism. It also permits patients’ caregivers to engage in medical cannabis cultivation, among other changes.

    HI resident? Click here to send a message to the Governor urging them to sign the legislation. 

    New Jersey
    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently made public statements calling the notion of regulating adult marijuana use “beyond stupidity.”

    Yet, according to a 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton poll, nearly six in ten New Jersey adults support “legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over.” Similar percentages of voters through the country also endorse legalization.

    NJ resident? Click here to help us educate the Governor and his staff to the facts on marijuana.

  • 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.

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