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Policy

  • 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.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director May 1, 2017

    3410000930_95fc2866fa_zWe welcome the extension and expansion of critical marijuana policy provisions through September 30 in the proposed fiscal year 2017 omnibus funding legislation.

    The decision to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment language illustrates both compassion and common sense when it comes to marijuana policy. Now, the majority of states and over 90 percent of the public approves of the use of marijuana as a medicine and Congress should not stand in the way of these reforms.

    Congress deciding to maintain protections for state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs in the era of a Department of Justice being led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions means that patients ailing from conditions that range from cancer to PTSD can breathe a temporary sigh of relief. Once approved, states will be able to continue to service and implement these programs without fear of federal incursion until September 30 of this year.

    Yet, this action is only a stopgap measure at best. Ultimately, Congress needs to amend federal law in a manner that comports with the available science, public opinion, and with America’s rapidly changing cultural and legal landscape. Such action includes removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act so that states possess the flexibility to engage in their own marijuana regulatory policies how best they see fit.

    The text in the omnibus funding legislation is:
    Page 230 – “SEC. 537. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, 25 Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director April 29, 2017

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

    At the federal level, it is important to highlight two key developments pertaining to established marijuana consumers, businesses, and regulatory structures.

    First, the protections for lawful medical marijuana patients and businesses from the Department of Justice provided by the Rohrabacher-Farr budget amendment was temporarily expended through May 5th and we are working of ensuring that that will be a part of any budget deal for the rest of the fiscal year. In the last week alone, NORML members sent over 24,000 messages to members of Congress and we plan to keep the pressure up. If you have not already, click here to send a message to your elected lawmakers. 

    Second, on April 27, Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), to provide access to banking services to end the practice of marijuana businesses being forced to pay their employees, rent, taxes, and other associated costs in cash. At the end of the day, no industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions.

    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
    Protect Patients: Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, 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.”

    On April 28, Congress re-authorized the amendment as part of a one week spending package, House Resolution 99. This bill extends federal funding through May 5 2017, at which time the measure — and the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment — will expire.

    Click here to message your members of Congress to protect state medical marijuana and their patients. 

    Banking Access: A bipartisan coalition of more than two dozen co-sponsors have introduced legislation in Congress, The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), HR 2215, to allow state-licensed marijuana-related businesses to engage freely in relationships with banks and other financial institutions.

    If enacted, banks would no longer face the threat of federal sanction for working with marijuana-related businesses and entrepreneurs.

    Click here to send a message to your member of Congress to support access to banking for state-compliant marijuana businesses.

    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 was looking like it would finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized. Yet, stagnation has descended upon the state Senate and now State Sen. Bradley is pushing for an amendment that would remove the decriminalization paragraph (and thus the whole point) from the bill.

    NH resident?  Click here to send a message to your state Senators and tell them to quit stalling and decriminalize marijuana now. 

    Florida

    On November 8th, more than 71 percent of Florida voters decided in favor of the constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, to allow for the licensed production, use, and dispensing of medical cannabis to patients with a doctor’s recommendation. However, state politicians are contemplating legislative efforts to amend the law in a manner that violates both its spirit and intent.

    Update: Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee approved SB 406 on April 25.

    FL resident? Send a message to your lawmakers telling them not to guy Amendment 2. 

    Pennsylvania 
    Under current law, possession of up to 30 grams is third-degree misdemeanor that carries up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine and a driver’s license suspension if convicted by a plea or trial.

    House Bill 928 amends state law so that first and second marijuana possession offenses (up to 30 grams) are reduced from misdemeanor offenses to a summary offense, punishable by a fine only, and had a hearing earlier this week.

    PA resident? Click here to send a message to your state lawmakers telling them it is time to decriminalize marijuana. 

    Texas
    HB 2107, which authorizes 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.

    A hearing is scheduled for this week on May 2.

    TX resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers now to support patients and medical marijuana in Texas. 

    Other Actions to Take

    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.”

    CA resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of this bill.

    Colorado
    Legislation is pending to prohibit public employees from assisting federal agents in “arresting a Colorado citizen for committing an act that is a Colorado constitutional right.” Such acts would include the production and sale of marijuana.

    Update: Members of the House voted 56 to 7 on April 26 in favor of the bill. It now awaits action from the Senate.

    CO resident? Click here to send a message to your state Senator to support this effort.

    Also, Legislation to make patients with post-traumatic stress eligible for medical cannabis therapy awaits action from Gov. John Hickenlooper.

    Members of the House approved the bill by a vote of 39 to 25. Senate members approved it by a vote of 32 to 2.

    CO resident? Click here to send a message to the Governor is support of this effort.

    Iowa
    In a last minute deal by Iowa state lawmakers, both chambers passed an amended version of HF 524 on the final day of the legislative session. 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. The bill now goes to Governor Terry Branstad (R) for his signature or veto.

    IA resident? Click here to send a message to Gov. Branstad to sign HF 524. 

    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, yet by a vote of 21-9, senators amended H 170 to include a full-scale system of taxed and regulated cannabis sales.

    VT resident in favor of legalization? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of this effort. 

    Additionally, legislation is pending, SB 16, to expand the pool of patients eligible for cannabis therapy.

    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 Human Services Committee voted 10-0 in favor of SB 16 on April 27.

    VT resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of this effort. 

    Washington
    House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, SB 5131, to expand medical cannabis access. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Jay Inslee.

    Senate Bill 5131 permits qualified patients and/or caregivers ages 18 and older to purchase immature cannabis plants, seeds, or clones from state-licensed dispensaries. Marijuana cooperatives may also purchase seeds from a licensed marijuana producer.

    WA resident? Click here to send a message to Gov. Inslee in support of SB 5131.

     

     

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