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Policy

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director June 14, 2018

    Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced The “RESPECT Resolution: Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades” to elevate the importance of equity within the legal cannabis marketplace. The RESPECT Resolution seeks both economic and reparative justice, ensuring that disenfranchised communities will be able to benefit equally in the emerging legal and regulated industry.

    “There’s no question that there is growing momentum – both within Congress and nationwide – for cannabis legalization. However, as we move into this new era, we must learn from the failed War on Drugs and ensure that entrepreneurs of color are included in this expanding industry. Due to unequal criminalization rates and disparities in access to capital, people of color are being locked out of the new and thriving legal cannabis trade,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “We need to address the systemic exclusion and discrimination at play. Otherwise, we will be prolonging and encouraging the injustices of the past – where brown men spend their lives in prison for cannabis, while white communities get rich off the industry. I encourage my colleagues to support the RESPECT Resolution, the first bill in Congress focused on building equity in the cannabis industry.”

    As more and more states dial back the war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive criminalization are able to see previous harms remedied and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation.

    It is absolutely crucial that future legalization efforts include avenues to expunge prior criminal convictions for actions which are now 100% legal. We sincerely appreciate Congresswoman Lee’s vision to facilitate those expungements at no cost to the individual. Currently, a complicated bureaucracy and unnecessary fees often prevent drug war victims from obtaining expungements and being able to fully participate in many aspects of civil society.

    Send a message to your Representative now in support of The RESPECT Resolution.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    The House Appropriations Committee took up and defeated language known as the Safe Banking Amendment offered by Congressman Dave Joyce (R-OH) on Wednesday, June 13th.

    If adopted, regulators would not be authorized to use federal funds to threaten sanctions against banks working with marijuana-related businesses and entrepreneurs.

    The defeat of the Safe Banking Amendment was not a vote about marijuana, but rather it was about normalizing a nascent industry that serves hundreds-of-thousands of customers in the majority of US states where cannabis is currently regulated. Once these companies have an easier time conducting their day-to-day operations, then they should be willing to offer more consumer-friendly prices instead of inflating them at the point of sale to cover backend costs associated with operating as an all-cash business.

    Currently, hundreds of state-legal, licensed, and regulated businesses do not have access to the banking industry and are unable to accept credit cards, deposit revenues, or write checks to meet payroll or pay taxes. This situation is untenable. No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions. Congress must move to change federal policy so that these growing number of state-compliant businesses, and their consumers, may operate in a manner that is similar to other legal commercial entities.

    As an appropriations amendment, this funding restriction would have only been in place for one year.

    There is pending bicameral legislation introduced by Representative Perlmutter (D-CO) and Senator Jeff Merkley that the banking amendment was based, known similarly as the SAFE Banking Act. You can click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of that legislation. 

  • by NORML June 8, 2018

    Members of the Canadian Senate yesterday voted 56-30 in favor of Bill C-45 sweeping legislation amending the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act so that those over the age of 18 may legally possess, purchase, and grow personal use quantities of cannabis. Members of the Canadian House of Commons had overwhelmingly voted in November in favor of the measure, which also establishes licensing for the retail production and sale of marijuana.

    Once House members sign off on Senate changes to the bill, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who campaigned on a pledge to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana sales, is expected to move promptly to enact the historic legislation. Legal cannabis retailers, acting in compliance with the forthcoming law, are anticipated to be operational by late summer/early fall.

    “We applaud Canada for showing federal legislators in the United States what can be accomplished with true leadership and dedication to sound public policy. Our elected officials should follow in their footsteps and finally put an end to our own disastrous and discriminatory prohibition on cannabis,” stated NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri.

    Under the forthcoming law, those age 18 and older will be legally permitted to possess and purchase personal use amounts of marijuana. Households will also be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use, though provinces are empowered to establish alternative limits.. Those who possess greater amounts will face civil sanctions. Commercial marijuana production will be licensed by the federal government, while retail distribution of marijuana will be regulated by individual provinces. The new law will not amend Canada’s existing medical cannabis access regulations, which permit registered patients to grow or purchase cannabis from authorized licensed producers.

    Separate legislation, Bill C-46, to address traffic safety concerns remains pending.

    In 2016, a federal task force recommended that lawmakers move to legalize and regulate the use and sale of marijuana. The task force concluded that legalization “will maintain and improve the health of Canadians by minimizing the harms associated with cannabis use.”

    “Those wanting to see what a rational federal marijuana policy looks like need look no further than to our north. America’s leaders would be wise to learn from our neighbors, who are replacing their archaic and failed marijuana prohibition laws with a regulatory scheme that is largely evidence-based and that reflects cannabis rapidly changing cultural status,” said Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    The bill was amended so it will now return to the lower chamber for a final vote.

  • by NORML June 7, 2018

    [June 8, 2018 UPDATE: In the past 24 hours, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly pledged to permit a vote on the bill, while President Trump has publicly expressed his support for it.]

    Today, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced bipartisan legislation, The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales. A bipartisan House companion bill has been introduced by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

    This marks the first bicameral, bipartisan legislation to end the federal enforcement of prohibition in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.

    Send a letter to your elected officials NOW

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri commented:

    “President Trump made a commitment to Senator Gardner that he was willing to support a federalist approach to state marijuana laws. Now Congress must do its part and swiftly move forward on this bipartisan legislation that explicitly provides states with the authority and autonomy to set their own marijuana policies absent the fear of federal incursion from a Justice Department led by militant cannabis prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

    Specifically, this legislation:

    • Creates an exemption to the Controlled Substances Act for US states and territories that have reformed their laws with regard to marijuana policy, effectively restraining undue federal intervention
    • Maintains federal legislative provisions (aka “guardrails”) to deter:
      • The interstate trafficking of marijuana into prohibition states from legal states
      • The prevention of those under 18 from working in the cannabis industry
      • The prevention of those under 21 from purchasing marijuana (unless recommended by a state-qualified physician to treat a medical condition)
      • Unsafe production conditions
    • Provides greater flexibility for lawmakers in non-legal states to reform their laws in a manner that reflects the will of the of their constituents and regulates cannabis commerce
    • Provides the ability for cannabis businesses to obtain basic banking services
    • Removes industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:

    “With the announcement of The STATES Act by Senators Gardner and Warren, the movement to end the federal government’s failed policy of cannabis criminalization has truly become a bipartisan effort.”

    “The majority of states now regulate marijuana use and more than six out of ten voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, making it time for the federal government to no longer stand in the way of this progress at the state level.”

    Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of adults throughout America, 93% of whom support medical marijuana (Quinnipiac, 2017) and 64 percent of whom endorse the outright legalization of recreational cannabis (Gallup, 2017).

    The STATES Act is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). It is cosponsored in the House by Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Dianna DeGette (D-Colo.), Rob Blum (R-Iowa), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Matt Geatz (R-Fla.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Luis Correa (D-Calif.), Jason Lewis (R-Minn.), and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).

    “Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development,” said Senator Warren. “States like Massachusetts have put a lot of work into implementing common sense marijuana regulations – and they have the right to enforce their own marijuana policies. The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana.”

    “In 2012, Coloradans legalized marijuana at the ballot box and the state created an apparatus to regulate the legal marijuana industry. But because of the one-size-fits-all federal prohibition, state decisions like this put Colorado and other states at odds with the federal government,” said Senator Gardner. “The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted. The bipartisan STATES Act fixes this problem once and for all by taking a states’ rights approach to the legal marijuana question. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters – whether that is legalization or prohibition – and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry.”

    “We should trust the people of the states, like Ohio, who have voted to implement responsible common-sense regulations and requirements for the use, production, and sale of cannabis,” said Representative Joyce. “If the people of these states have decided to provide help for those veterans and others suffering from pain and other health issues, we should allow them access without government interference.”

    “For too long the senseless prohibition of marijuana has devastated communities, disproportionately impacting poor Americans and communities of color. Not to mention, it’s also wasted resources and stifled critical medical research,” said Representative Blumenauer. “It’s past time to put the power back in the hands of the people. Congress must right this wrong.”

    Thirty states, Washington, DC and the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis, while an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy changes. According to a 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, 63 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and 70 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy.

    NORML has released a letter with over 55 supportive organizations for The STATES Act.

    To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that over 149,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

    Send a message to your lawmakers in support of the States Act now!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    …for the second year in a row.

    The House Rules Committee, led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX), blocked multiple amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer either legal protections or expanded access to veterans who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

    Among the amendments offered, the most critical one is known as Veterans Equal Access, which would allow VA doctors to fill out the authorizing forms needed for veterans to obtain state-legal medical marijuana. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), author of the amendment and legislation by the same name, stated “For the second year, Pete Sessions has shown that he does not care about the health and well-being of our veterans—who are speaking out across the country. All they want is fair and equal treatment, and the ability to consult with their own physician on all treatment options. By blocking this vote, Chairman Sessions has turned his back on our wounded warriors, commonsense, and the will of the American people. He should be ashamed.”


    Another amendment pertaining to veterans who work for the Veterans Affairs Department would have provided protections to veterans consume marijuana legally under state statute from losing their job as a result of a positive suspicionless drug test. This amendment was authored by Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL).

    For context, last year the American Legion conducted a poll that found one in five veterans self-reported using marijuana to alleviate a medical or physical condition. It is cruel and unreasonable to have veterans live in fear of having to choose between their job and their medication.

    The Senate Appropriations Committee heard the Veterans Equal Access language introduced by Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) and passed as a voice vote. Unfortunately, it has a history of passing and then being stripped out of the final version over the last few years.

    You can send a message to your Representative in support of the Veterans Equal Access Act, HR 1820, by clicking here. 

    On July 22nd – 24th, NORML will hold it’s annual Conference and Lobby Day in DC and will focus on the need to not allow our progress to be rolled back – if you can join us in DC, click here to register.

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