Members of Congress have re-authorized a federal provision prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering in state-authorized medical cannabis programs. The provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, was included in short-term spending legislation, House Resolution 2028, and will expire on April 28, 2017.
Initially enacted by Congress in 2014, the amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” In August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the language bars the federal government from taking legal action against any individual involved in medical marijuana-related activity absent evidence that the defendant is in clear violation of state law.
Because the provision is included as part of a Congressional spending package and does not explicitly amend the US Controlled Substances Act, members must re-authorize the amendment annually. However, House leadership may prohibit federal lawmakers from revisiting the issue when they craft a longer-term funding bill this spring. Such a change in House rules would require members of the Senate to pass an equivalent version of the legislation, which would then need to be approved by House leaders in conference committee.
Looking ahead to 2017, marijuana law reforms face an uncertain future. Therefore, it is more important than ever that this federal protection remains in place to ensure that these patient programs and those who rely upon them are not subject to federal interference.
According to the Associated Press, voters in Montana have approved Initiative 182, the Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative. The Associated Press’s final vote count is 58 to 42 percent.
“This decision restores the rights of patients and providers,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “Voters were clear in 2004 when they initially enacted the state’s medical law, and they remain resolved in their opinion that state lawmakers ought not to restrict patients access to medical cannabis.”
I-182 expands the state’s medical marijuana laws. It permits licensed medical marijuana providers to serve more than three patients at one time and allows for providers to hire employees to cultivate, dispense, and transport medical marijuana. I-182 repeals the requirement that physicians who provide certifications for 25 or more patients annually be referred to the board of medical examiners. It removes the authority of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities, and requires annual inspections by the state.
The new law takes effect on June 30, 2017. You can read the full text of the initiative here.
According to the Associated Press, voters in Arkansas have approved Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. The AP’s final vote count is 53 to 47 percent.
“Thanks to the support of Arkansas voters, their state now joins the majority of states in this country in allowing for the medicinal use of marijuana. This will provide patients with access to a safe and effective medicine and apply further pressure on Congress and the incoming administration to bring federal policy in line with the overwhelming will of the American people.” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s new Executive Director.
Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, amends the state constitution to permit qualified patients who possess a physician’s recommendation may legally possess and obtain medical cannabis provided by state licensed dispensaries. The home cultivation of cannabis is not permitted under the law. Under the law, regulators will license up to 40 dispensary providers and up to eight marijuana cultivators.
The new law takes effect on November 9, 2016. Regulators have 120 days following the law’s enactment to develop rules overseeing the new medical marijuana program.
A summary of the Amendment is available here.
According to the Associated Press, voters in Massachusetts have approved Question 4, legalizing the adult use of marijuana for adults. The AP’s final vote count is 54 to 46 percent.
“Massachusetts voters historically have embraced progressive marijuana policies, having previously voted twice to amend various elements of marijuana prohibition,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “It is hardly a surprise that they have done so again. Question 4 is a common sense alternative that comports with public and scientific consensus and that reflects marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural status.”
Question 4 permits adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program to legally grow (up to six plants, including all of the harvest from those plants) and to possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce and/or up to 5 grams of concentrate; in addition, adults may legally possess up to ten ounces of marijuana flower in their home) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The law imposes a 3.75 percent excise tax on commercial marijuana sales. Under the law, localities have the authority to regulate, limit, or prohibit the operation of marijuana businesses.
The new law takes effect on December 15, 2016. Regulators are scheduled to begin accepting applications from marijuana-related businesses on October 1, 2017. You can read the full text of Question 4 here.
“In the face of inaction from elected officials, voters in the Bay State sent a resounding message this evening that it is time to move away from our failed, racist policy of marijuana prohibition and towards a safer, regulated industry,” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s new Executive Director. “By legalizing the adult use of marijuana, Massachusetts will shrink the illicit black market, generate millions in tax revenue, end the arrest of otherwise law abiding citizens, and better enable society to keep marijuana out of the hands of children.”
According to the Associated Press, voters in California have approved Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The AP’s final vote count is 56 to 44 percent.
“What California voters did tonight was not just approve the legalization and regulation of marijuana in their state, they also delivered a near fatal body blow to federal prohibition. This victory in California ensures another 12% of the United States population will wake up tomorrow in a state with the legalized adult use of marijuana. Combined with our other recent victories, federal prohibition is truly on its last legs and it is just a matter of time before federal policy is reformed to accept this new reality.” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s new Executive Director.
Proposition 64, The Adult Use Marijuana Act, permits adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program to legally grow (up to six plants, including all of the harvest from those plants) and to possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrates) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. (Medical cannabis patients are not subject to these limits.) The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possess and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes. The initiative does not “repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt … laws pertaining to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.” Several other marijuana-related activities not legalized by the measure are reduced from felonies to misdemeanors. The law also provides for resentencing consideration for those found guilty of prior marijuana convictions.
“California has long been the largest domestic producer of marijuana in the United States, and cannabis commerce has long been a driver of the world’s sixth largest economy,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “Passage of Prop. 64 brings this massive underground market above ground for the first time so that these activities may be regulated and transparent, and will generate over a billion dollars of needed new tax revenue to state and local governments.”
The revised marijuana penalties take effect on November 9, 2016. Retail sales of marijuana by state-licensed establishments are scheduled to begin under the law on January 1, 2018. On site consumption is permitted under the law in establishments licensed for such activity. Large-scale corporate players are restricted from becoming involved until 2023.
You can read the full text of the initiative here. Congratulations California!