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Policy

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 18, 2017

    blogstickerWelcome to this week’s edition of the marijuana legislative roundup!

    So here is a first: their is a Federal Cannabis Caucus!

    In case you missed it, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis(D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) have formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to promote sensible cannabis policy reform and to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws on Thursday, 2/16.

    Our priority call to action at the federal level is for people to contact their Representatives and urge them to join the Caucus – so CLICK HERE to send a message right now!

    Nationwide, the number of bills relating to marijuana now tops 1,200, ranging from technical tweaks to codes to a Rep in Washington actually trying to reinstate prohibition! (You’ll see that below, if you are a WA resident, we give you the option of sending him a message directly to voice your opposition to his ludicrous effort)

    Below 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) have formed the first-ever 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 formed Cannabis Caucus

    Additionally, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, has reintroduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

    HR 975 states, ‘‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.’’

    Click here to email your Congressional Representative to urge them to support this crucial legislation.

    Georgia
    Legislation is pending in the Senate, SB 105, to reduce minor marijuana possession offenses.

    The bill reduces penalties for the possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana from a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine to no more than a $300 fine.

    GA Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    New Mexico
    Senate Bill 177 amends state law so that qualified patients may not be denied organ transplants. It also expands the pool of qualifying conditions for which a physician may legally recommend cannabis therapy, to include indications such as arthritis, neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress. It also extends the validity of a physicians’ recommendation beyond one year, and fast-tracks the patient registration process, among other important changes.

    Update: SB 177 has passed the Senate by a vote of 29-11 and now is in the House for consideration.

    NM Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    New York
    Legislation (A. 2142 and S. 3809) is before the Assembly and Senate to seal the records of those who have previously been convicted of the possession of marijuana in public view.

    New York has historically had the highest marijuana-related arrest rate in the nation largely because of questionable arrests made under the ‘public view’ exception. These arrests primarily target African Americans and Hispanics, and have been roundly criticized by leading politicians and civil rights advocates.

    Update: A. 2142 has passed the state Assembly by a vote of 95 to 38. The Senate has yet to take action on its companion bill, S. 3809.

    NY Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    North Dakota
    Senate legislation is pending, Senate Bill 2344, to significantly rewrite the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act.

    Sixty-four percent of voters approved the law on Election Day. Lawmakers should respect the public’s will and implement this law as initiated.

    Unfortunately, SB 2344 makes several unacceptable changes to the Act. Specifically, it eliminates provisions permitting specific patients the option to cultivate their own medicine, and reduces the quantity of medicine that patients may legally obtain. It also caps the number of medical cannabis cultivators and dispensaries to no more than four and eight, respectively.

    Update: Members of the Senate Human Services Committee have recommended passage of Senate Bill 2344. In response to voters’ concerns, they have amended the language so that the definition of ‘usable marijuana’ includes herbal forms of the plant. However, there are still many other provisions that NORML finds troubling and that undermine voters’ intent. The North Dakota Democratic Party has also raised various concerns regarding SB 2344

    ND Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to oppose this effort.

    Oregon
    Legislation is pending before the Senate, SB 301, to prohibit employers from discriminating against adults who legally consume marijuana during non-work hours.

    Senate Bill 301 states, “It is an unlawful employment practice for any employer to require, as a  condition of employment, that any employee or prospective employee refrain from using a substance that is lawful to use under the laws of this state during nonworking hours.”

    Passage of this act would not prohibit employers from sanctioning employees who are under the influence at work.

    Update: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are scheduled to debate SB 301 on Tuesday, February 21.

    OR Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Rhode Island
    A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers has reintroduced marijuana legalization legislation in the House, H. 5555: The Adult Use of Cannabis Act

    The bill will allow adults 21 and older to possess cannabis and will establish a framework for businesses to cultivate and distribute marijuana. While the language is similar to that of previous bills that have failed to come to a vote, lawmakers this year believe that Rhode Island is ready to catch up to its northeast neighbors.

    RI Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    South Carolina
    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 212 and House Bill 3521, to establish a program to provide qualified patients with legal access to medical marijuana products.

    Under this program, patients would be permitted to obtain up to two ounces of cannabis and/or cannabis-infused products, such as extracts or edibles, from a state-licensed dispensing facility.

    Update: Testimony was taken on S. 212 before the Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee on February 16. Among those testifying in favor of the bill included former US Attorney for the District of South Carolina Bill Nettles. Members of the subcommittee have yet to vote on the bill.

    Additionally, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMasters says he opposes legalizing marijuana, calling it a “bad idea.”

    SC Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Tennessee
    Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, are sponsoring the legislature’s most concerted effort to legalize medical use of marijuana.

    Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine.

    TN Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Washington
    Washington state Representative Sherry Appleton has introduced legislation that is currently in committee, HB 1092: The Adult Home Grow & Criminal Reduction Bill, to allow adults the option to legally cultivate personal use amounts of marijuana in a private residence.

    Update: Members of the House Committee on Commerce and Gamine have passed a substitute version of HB 1212 to permit the cultivation of up to six plants and/or 24 ounces of usable marijuana harvested from those plants. The bill is now before the House Committee on Rules and the House Committee on Finance.

    WA Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Additional Actions To Take

    Kansas
    Legislation is pending before lawmakers, SB 155, to establish regulations governing a comprehensive medical marijuana program.

    SB 155 would permit qualified patients to grow their own medical marijuana or to obtain it from a licensed dispensary, while also educating physicians who seek to recommend cannabis therapy.

    Update: SB 155 has a hearing scheduled for 10:30am on Monday, February 20.

    KS Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Maryland
    HB 1185 and SB 928 are pending in the Maryland House and Senate. These measures seek to legalize and regulate the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for adults over the age of 21.

    Under these proposals, adults would be permitted to possess and grow limited quantities of cannabis. The measures would also regulate and license a commercial and retail marijuana market.

    Update: Committee members in the Senate will hear testimony on March 2nd at 1pm. Committee members in the House will hear testimony on March 7th at 1pm.

    MD Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Additionally, Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 974, that prohibits individuals from operating a motor vehicle if they have any “detectable level” of THC or its inert metabolite THC-COOH present in their blood. Members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will hear testimony on this bill on March 2nd at 1pm.

    MD Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to oppose this effort.

    Minnesota
    HF 927, to permit the adult use, cultivation, production, and retail sale of marijuana has been introduced in the Minnesota legislature.

    Deputy Minority Leader, State Rep. Jon Applebaum has announced his intent to sponsor the measure in a press release. The bill would allow those age 21 or older to legally possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use and establish regulations governing its commercial production and retail sale.

    MN Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    South Dakota
    More than a dozen lawmakers are backing legislation, Senate Bill 129, to eradicate the state’s marijuana possession by ingestion law.

    Under the law, one can be charged with a felony drug offense if their past use of a marijuana shows up on a blood or urine test. In the case of cannabis, byproducts of THC may be detectable for several weeks after one has ceased using it.

    Update: Members of the Senate Judiciary will hear testimony on SB 129 on Tuesday, February 21.

    SD Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Virginia
    Senator David Marsden has introduced a bill to re-approve a previously passed act that will regulate the instate production of cannabis oil for the treatment of intractable epilepsy.

    SB 1027 ensures that patients suffering from the debilitating condition will not have to break federal law to import cannabis oil from out of state.

    Update: SB1027 has been passed unanimously by both the House (99-0) and Senate (38-0) and now heads to the Governor to be signed into law or vetoed. WSLS reports “It’s unclear if the governor will sign the bill into law.”

    VA Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Washington
    Legislation is pending, House Bill 2096, that seeks to repeal “all laws legalizing the use, possession, sale, or production of marijuana and marijuana-related products.”

    While we do not anticipate this measure gaining traction, please let your lawmakers — and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brad Klippert — know that you oppose this effort.

    WA Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to oppose this effort.

    Wisconsin
    Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) introduced a pair of bills seeking to provide qualified patients with legal access to medical cannabis. The first bill establishes a statewide medical marijuana program, while the second bill would poll voters’ attitudes on the issue in the form of a nonbinding statewide referendum.

    WI Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support this effort.

    Wyoming
    As passed by the House by a 56 to 2 vote, HB 197 reduces existing marijuana possession penalties from up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine to no more than 20 days in jail and a $200 fine for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders would face stricter penalties under the proposal.

    But proposed changes by the Senate would eliminate these penalty reductions.

    WY Resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to support reducing penalties.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator February 14, 2017

    mj_salesThe fact that 190 million Americans now live in states where marijuana has been legalized to some degree is raising a number of questions and issues about how to integrate the American workforce and marijuana consumers rights in regards to drug testing. With medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and recreational marijuana for adult use in 8 states and Washington DC, millions of responsible and otherwise law-abiding adults remain at risk of being excluded from the workforce due to a positive drug test — even where the use does not affect an individual’s job performance or has taken place days or weeks prior to the test.

    NORML believes that this practice is discriminatory and defies common sense. As a result, a growing coalition of NORML Chapters in California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington have come together to advocate for necessary legislative and workplace reforms to protect responsible marijuana consumers.

    NORML’s Workplace Drug Testing Coalition’s efforts will focus on these four areas:

    1. Reform workplace drug testing policies
    2. Expand employment opportunities for marijuana consumers
    3. Clarify the difference between detection technology and performance testing
    4. Highlight off-duty state law legal protections for employees

    “Even though marijuana is legal and readily available in several states, consumers are being unfairly forced to choose between their job and consuming off the clock as a result of out-of-date employment practices,” said Kevin Mahmalji, National Outreach Coordinator for NORML. “That is why many NORML chapters active in legal states are now shifting their attention to protecting honest, hardworking marijuana consumers from these sort of antiquated, discriminatory workplace drug-testing practices, in particular the use of random suspicionless urine testing.”

    Employer testing of applicants or employees for trace metabolites (inert waste-products) of past use of a legal substance makes no sense in the 21st century.  This activity is particularly discriminatory in the case of marijuana where such metabolites may be detectable for weeks or even months after the consumer has ceased use.

    With the 2017 Legislative Session underway, this issue is finally getting the attention it deserves. Legislation has already been introduced in Oregon and Washington, and is gaining traction in those states.

    “Random suspicionless drug testing of applicants or employees for past marijuana use is not just unfair and discriminatory, it’s bad for business,” said attorney Judd Golden of Boulder, Colorado, a long-time NORML activist and Coalition spokesperson. The modern workforce includes countless qualified people like Brandon Coats of Colorado, a paraplegic medical marijuana patient who never was impaired on the job and had an unblemished work record. Brandon was fired from a Fortune 500 company after a random drug test, and lost his case in the Colorado Supreme Court in 2015. The Court unfortunately found Colorado’s lawful off-duty activities law that protects employees for legal activities on their own time didn’t apply to marijuana use.

    California NORML is also expecting legislation to be introduced this session to address this issue. Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML said, “One of the most frequently asked questions we have been getting since Prop. 64 passed legalizing adult marijuana use in California last November is, ‘Am I now protected against drug testing on my job?’ Sadly in our state, not even medical marijuana patients are protected against job discrimination, and it’s a priority of Cal NORML to change that. We are hoping to get a bill introduced at the state level and are working with legislators, unions, and other reform groups to make that happen.”

    NORML Chapters across the country are advocating on behalf of the rights of responsible marijuana consumers against discrimination in the workplace. “Our coalition was formed with the intention of not only educating legislators, but also with businesses in mind.  It is important they know testing for marijuana is not mandatory, and that employers have testing options,” said Jordan Person, executive director for Denver NORML. The Denver chapter is currently working with companies that offer performance impairment testing of workers suspected of on-the-job impairment or use rather than unreliable bodily fluid testing to help provide options for employers.

    thumbs_upFor decades drug testing companies and others have pushed their agenda through a campaign of misinformation. Until now there has never been an organized effort to challenge the profit- driven ideology of those who seek to benefit from intrusive drug screening. Mounting evidence continues to prove there is no logical reason why adult marijuana consumers should be treated with any less respect, restricted more severely, and denied the same privileges we extend to responsible adults who enjoy a casual cocktail after a long day at the office.

    For legal questions, please contact Coalition spokesperson Judd Golden at juddgolden@outlook.com. For other marijuana related questions or an interview, please contact Kevin Mahmalji at kevinm@norml.org.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator January 25, 2017

    chapter_spotlightOn the heels of the 2016 election – where four states voted to approve adult-use marijuana initiatives, and four more voted to approve medical marijuana initiatives – NORML Chapters across the country are lobbying their state legislators for additional reforms. In the coming weeks, NORML Chapters around the country, such as California NORML, Connecticut NORML, Wyoming NORML, and Virginia NORML, will be focusing their time and energy in support of dozens of statewide reform bills seeking to amend various aspects of their state’s marijuana policies.

    To help increase the likelihood of success for these volunteer-led lobbying efforts, NORML has created a citizen lobby guide. This comprehensive booklet will assist activists in planning and execution of a successful lobby day. It also provides organizational checklists and a legislative questionnaire so that marijuana activists, regardless of the state they’re located in, will be fully prepared to meet with state lawmakers to discuss meaningful marijuana law reforms and to most effectively communicate NORML’s message of ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.

    Citizen Lobby Guide: http://norml.org/pdf_files/NORML_CitizenLobbyGuide.pdf

    In addition to offering support through NORML’s Citizen Lobby Guide, we have created more than 30 action alerts targeting state lawmakers across the country urging their support for marijuana legislation being considered in their state. Simply click on the link below and enter your information to join the fight!

    take_actionTake Action: http://norml.org/act

    We hope that with these tools, along with the direct support of NORML staff, marijuana activists will have the resources needed to effectively lobby state lawmakers in support of marijuana law reforms.

     

    Here’s a list of scheduled NORML Chapter Lobby Days below:

    • Virginia NORML – Jan 30
    • Arizona NORML – Feb 2
    • Texas NORML – Feb 8
    • Houston NORML – Feb 8
    • DFW NORML – Feb 8
    • Waco NORML – Feb 8
    • New Mexico – Feb 21
    • Missouri NORML – Feb 28
    • Kansas City NORML – Feb 28
    • Greater St. Louis NORML – Feb 28
    • Mid-Missouri NORML – Feb 28
    • Springfield NORML – Feb 28
    • University of Missouri NORML – Feb 28
    • North Carolina NORML – Mar 1
    • Charlotte NORML – Mar 1
    • Denver NORML – Mar 7
    • Colorado NORML – Mar 7
    • Monterey County NORML – Mar 7
    • NORML Women of Washington – Mar 7
    • Washington NORML – Mar 7
    • Portland NORML – Mar 7
    • Michigan NORML – March 30
    • Illinois NORML – May 17

    To get involved or to find out more information about a lobby day in your state, please email: KevinM@NORML.org.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator January 8, 2017

    Marijuana medicineGOP 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.

    Read more here: http://m.startribune.com/in-wisconsin-signs-of-gop-softening-on-medical-marijuana/410016665/

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator January 5, 2017

    thumbs_upOfficials in the Village of Oswego, Illinois recently passed an ordinance that allows local law enforcement to issue tickets and fines to anyone found with small amounts of marijuana or certain drug paraphernalia. For example, if a person is in possession of drug paraphernalia and is convicted of possessing 10 grams or less of marijuana, the charge for the paraphernalia is now considered a civil law violation, punishable by a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum fine of $200.

    Marijuana-related offenses became civil violations after the Illinois state legislature voted to amended the Cannabis Control Act in 2016, but it is up to local governments to amend their local marijuana laws to reflect the change at the state level.

    “Oswego’s fines will begin at $100 for the first offense and $150 and $250 for second and third offenses. There is a maximum $750 penalty for repeat violators,” said Oswego Police Chief Jeff Burgner.

    The City of Yorkville adopted a similar ordinance in October.

    Read more here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/aurora-beacon-news/news/ct-abn-oswego-marijuana-st-0105-20170104-story.html

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