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Policy

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director September 27, 2016

    FBScorecardToday is National Voter Registration Day and we are pleased to present this valuable voter education tool to the marijuana movement: NORML’s updated and revised 2016 Congressional Scorecard. The Scorecard is an all-encompassing database that assigns a letter grade of ‘A’ (the highest grade possible) to ‘F’ (the lowest grade possible) to members of Congress based on their comments and voting records on matters specific to marijuana policy.

    KEY FINDINGS

    Of the 535 members of the 114th Congress:

    • 330 members (62%) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (270 Representatives and 60 Senators)
    • Of these, 22 members (4%) received a grade of ‘A’ (20 Representatives and 2 Senators)
    • 254 members (47%) received a ‘B’ grade (218 Representatives and 36 Senators)
    • 54 members (10%) received a ‘C’ grade (32 Representatives and 22 Senators)
    • 172 members (32%) received a ‘D’ grade (149 Representatives and 23 Senators)
    • 32 members (6%) received a failing grade (16 Representatives and 16 Senators)
    • 60 Senators (60%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (Two A’s, 36 B’s, and 22 C’s)
    • 270 Representatives (62%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (20 A’s, 218 B’s, and 32 C’s)
    • Of the 233 Democrats in Congress, 215 (92%) received a passing grade of a ‘C’ or higher
    • Of the 302 Republicans in Congress, 113 members (37%) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher

    This analysis affirms that voters’ views on marijuana policy are well ahead of many of their federally elected officials. While the majority of Americans support legalizing the use and sale of cannabis for adults, only four percent of Congressional members voice support for this position. Approximately half (51%) of federal lawmakers favor liberalizing medical cannabis policies. However, this percentage remains far below the level of support frequently expressed by voters in state and national polls.

    Also evident is that Congressional support for marijuana law reform is largely a partisan issue. While more than nine out of ten Democrats express support for some level of reform, just over one-third of Republicans hold similar positions. This partisanship lies in contrast to voters’ sentiments, which tend to view the subject as a non-partisan issue. For example, recent polls from swing states show that super-majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents endorse medical marijuana legalization. Further, most Republican voters embrace principles of federalism with regard to cannabis policy. Nonetheless, Republican support for this position remains marginal among members of Congress.

    HOW NORML’S CONGRESSIONAL SCORECARD IS CALCULATED

    • An ‘A’ letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adults.
    • A ‘B’ letter grade indicates that this member supports policies specific to the legalization of medical cannabis and/or the decriminalization of cannabis.
    • A ‘C’ letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the ability of a state to move forward with cannabis law reform policies free from federal interference.
    • A ‘D’ letter grade indicates that this member has expressed no support for any significant marijuana law reform
    • An ‘F’ letter grade indicates that this member expresses significant and vocal opposition to marijuana law reform

    FOR MORE INFORMATION

    To find NORML’s grade for a specific member of Congress, please click here for the Senate scorecard and click here for the House scorecard. NORML’s full 2016 Congressional Scorecard and Executive Summary is available online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 26, 2016

    Cannabis PenaltiesMarijuana-related arrests in the United States have fallen to their lowest levels since the mid-1990s, according to data released today by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police made 643,122 arrests for marijuana-related offenses in 2015. Of those arrested, 574,641 (89 percent of all drug-related arrests) were charged with marijuana possession only, not cultivation or trafficking.

    The annual arrest total represents more than a 25 percent decline since 2007, when police arrested a record 872,721 Americans for violating marijuana laws.

    Since 2012, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the adult use and possession of personal quantities of cannabis, leading to a dramatic decline in marijuana-related arrests in those jurisdictions.

    As in previous years, marijuana possession arrests were least likely to occur in the western region of the United States, where possessing the plant has largely been either legalized or decriminalized.

    According to 2016 nationwide survey data compiled by the Associated Press, some six out of ten Americans now say that the adult use of marijuana should be legally regulated.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director September 23, 2016

    thumbs_upNext Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day and NORML will be releasing an updated and revised 2016 Congressional Scorecard. The Scorecard is an all-encompassing database that assigns a letter grade ‘A’ through ‘F’ to members of Congress based on their marijuana-related comments and voting records.

    With the 2016 presidential election drawing closer and statewide marijuana initiatives qualified for the ballot in nine states, we need YOU to make it out to the polls to support ending cannabis prohibition. Join us in celebrating National Voter Registration Day next Tuesday by double-checking your status as a voter and encouraging your friends and family to do the same. Take a look at how we graded your members of Congress and bring that information with you to the polls on Election Day!

    State:

    California: Sixty percent of likely voters say they would vote for Proposition 64: the Adult Use of Marijuana Act according to the latest poll out of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). Only 36 percent of voters said they are against the pending ballot initiative.

    A just-released California Field poll similarly finds that likely voters back Prop. 64 by a margin of 60 percent to 31 percent.

    Proposition 64 permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possess and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes. The initiative language specifies that it is not intended to “repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt … laws pertaining to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.”

    The ballot measure is endorsed by the ACLU of California, the California Democratic Party, the California Medical Association, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California NAACP, the California League of Conservative Voters, Equality California, the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and NORML.

    pills_v_potMichigan: Governor Rick Snyder has signed a package of legislation into law regulating the retail sale of medical cannabis and cannabis-infused products. The measures are ordered to take immediate effect.

    The measures seek to clarify and expand various aspects of the state’s 2008 medical cannabis law. Specifically, the new law provides qualified patients for the first time with legal protections regarding the possession and use of non-smoked cannabis derived topical products and edibles, as well as cannabis-based extract products. The law also licenses and regulates facilities where state-qualified patients may legally obtain medical marijuana.

    Michigan was one of the only medical marijuana states in the country that had yet to regulate the dispensing of medicinal cannabis. About 210,000 residents are now registered in the state’s medical program.

    Missouri: Voters will not have the opportunity this November to decide on a proposed statewide proposition to permit the physician-supervised use of marijuana.

    A Cole County Circuit Judge this week upheld a decision by St. Louis election officials to disqualify thousands of petition signatures because voters had mistakenly signed forms indicating that they resided in a county other than where they lived.

    The measure, sponsored by New Approach Missouri, sought to authorize qualified patients to possess, cultivate, and/or obtain cannabis through a licensed system of dispensaries. Polling indicated that over 60 percent of voters backed the proposal. On Thursday, Secretary of State Jason Kander called on lawmakers to move swiftly to enact similar legislation.

    Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota will vote on medical use measures on Election Day. Voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will also vote this November on initiatives legalizing the adult use of marijuana. A summary of 2016 ballot measures and their status is online here.

    Legalize marijuanaNew Jersey: New legislation has been introduced for the 2016/2017 legislative session that seeks to regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana.

    Assembly Bill 4193 permits marijuana to be sold at convenience stores to adults aged 19 and older in unlimited amounts. The legislation also seeks to expunge the criminal records of past marijuana offenders. Says the bill’s sponsor, Assembly member Michael Patrick Carroll: “To me it’s just not a big deal. It’s already ubiquitous. Anybody who thinks this is somehow going to increase the availability of marijuana has never been 19. If that’s the case, then what’s the big deal about having it available at the local 7-Eleven?”

    Separate legislation to legalize adult marijuana possession, A 2068, is also pending before the legislature. #TakeAction

    Tennessee: Members of the Nashville Metro Council have given final approval to municipal legislation providing police the discretion to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders.

    Council members voted 35 to 3 in favor of the new ordinance. It provides police the option of issuing $50 citations for those who possess up to a half-ounce of marijuana. Under state law, the possession of small amounts of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.

    The legislation now awaits action from the city’s mayor, who has pledged to sign the bill into law. A similar measure is awaiting a final city council vote in Memphis, Tennessee.

    Washington D.C.: District Mayor Muriel Bowser announced this week that she will propose amending the city’s medical cannabis law so that qualified patients may obtain up to four ounces of cannabis per month. Under existing law, patients are limited to no more than two ounces per month. The Washington D.C. currently has about 4,000 registered medical marijuana patients.

    Looking for updated information on all of the pending statewide marijuana related ballot measures? Check out our 2016 Election page!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 19, 2016

    oil_bottlesThe implementation of medical marijuana programs is associated with a decrease in the prevalence of opioids detected among fatally injured drivers, according to data published in the American Journal of Public Health.

    Researchers at Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Davis performed a between-state comparison of opioid positivity rates in fatal car accidents in 18 states. Authors reported that drivers between the ages of 21 and 40 who resided in states that permitted medical marijuana use were approximately half as likely to test positive for opioids as were similar drivers in jurisdictions that did not such programs in place.

    They concluded, “Operational MMLs (medical marijuana laws) are associated with reductions in opioid positivity among 21- to 40-year-old fatally injured drivers and may reduce opioid use and overdose.”

    Prior comparisons have determined that medical cannabis access is associated with lower rates of opioid use, abuse, and mortality. Most recently, a 2016 study published in the journal Health Affairs reported a significant decrease in the use of prescription medications following the implementation of medical marijuana programs.

    An abstract of the study, “State medical marijuana laws and the prevalence of opioids detected among fatally injured drivers,” appears online here.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director September 16, 2016

    In this week’s Legislative Round Up you’ll learn about a national call to action to renew federal legislation protecting hundreds of thousands of patients and providers. In other news, the marijuana movement received support from two leading national veterans groups and several important bills were signed into law at the state level. Keep reading for the latest news in marijuana law reform.

    Federal:

    take_actionA federal provision limiting the Justice Department from prosecuting state-authorized medical marijuana patients and providers is set to expire at the end of this month. The provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, maintains that federal funds can not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Please visit our #TakeAction Center to contact your federally elected officials and urge them to move quickly to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment and to keep these important patient protections in place.

    In other news of national significance, members of the American Legion passed a resolution to promote research on marijuana’s potential use for treating post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Additionally, the group called for marijuana to be removed from it’s current Schedule I classification within the Controlled Substances Act. A second veterans group, The American Veterans (AMVETS), also recently resolved that marijuana should be made available to veterans within the VA healthcare system in every state where it is legal.

    State:

    Delaware: Governor Jack Markell has signed legislation, SB 181, into law permitting designated caregivers to possess and administer non-smoked medical marijuana formulations (e.g. oils/extracts) to qualifying patients “in a school bus and on the ground or property of the preschool, or primary, or secondary school in which a minor qualifying patient is enrolled.”

    The measure takes immediate effect. To date, two other states — Colorado and New Jersey — impose similar legislation.

    Florida: Another local municipality, New Port Richey, has approved marijuana decriminalization legislation. In a 3-2 vote, the council approved an ordinance providing police the discretion to issue a $155 civil citation in lieu of making a criminal arrest in cases involving less than 20 grams of marijuana. The New Port Richey vote mimics those of nearby municipalities Orlando and Tampa, which passed similar ordinances earlier this year and a wave of South Florida municipalities that passed similar ordinances last year. Under state law, simple marijuana possession is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

    thumbs_upMichigan: Lawmakers gave final approval this week to a package of bills, HB 4209/4210, HB 4827, SB 141, and SB 1014, to regulate the retail sale of medical cannabis and cannabis-infused products. The legislation licenses and regulates above-ground, safe access facilities where state-qualified patients may legally obtain medical marijuana, provides qualified patients for the first time with legal protections for their possession and use of non-smoked cannabis derived topicals and edibles, as well as cannabis-based extract products, and establishes regulations tracking the production and sale of medical marijuana products. The measures, which lawmakers had debated for the past two years, now await action by the Governor. #TakeAction

    New Jersey: On September 14th, Governor Chris Christie signed legislation, A 457, into law that adds PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions eligible for medical marijuana therapy. More than a dozen states permit medical marijuana access for PTSD treatment. A retrospective review of PTSD patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction CAPS (Clinician Administered Posttraumatic Scale) symptom scores following cannabis therapy.

    The new law took immediate effect.

    Tennessee: Last week the Nashville Metro Council advanced legislation providing police the option to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders. Those cited would face only a $50 fine (or ten hours of community service.) Under state law, such offenses are punishable by up to one-year in prison. A final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for September 20. If you live in Nashville, consider contacting your member of the Metro Council and voicing your support for this common sense reform.

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