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Policy

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director March 27, 2018

    In his ongoing effort to expand the Garden State’s medical marijuana program to be more patient-oriented, Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) has made dramatic changes to the state’s regulatory program.

    Changes include: reduced cost of the medical marijuana registry for patients by 50%; reduced cost for veterans, seniors, and those on disability by 90%; expanded the qualifying conditions list to include Tourette syndrome, chronic pain, and other conditions; and other much needed technical fixes.

    These changes have been long advocated for by advocates in New Jersey, including South Jersey NORML leader, Temple University Professor, and Philly.com contributor Chris Goldstein.

    Click here to tweet at Gov. Murphy and thank him for his efforts.

    New Jersey resident? Visit http://www.normlnj.org/ and get plugged into the Facebook organizing group by clicking here.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director March 21, 2018

    Marijuana medicineUpdate: The omnibus passed the House of Representatives on Thursday.

    Update #2: The omnibus passed the Senate and was signed into law on Friday, 3/23/18.

    As part of the newly proposed appropriations package known as an omnibus bill, a spending restriction upon the Department of Justice from prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana programs will remain in place through the end of September.

    Known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, it explicitly states 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.”

    The amendment has been in place since 2014, as part of annual spending bills. Because the provision was initially approved as a budgetary amendment, it must be explicitly re-authorized by Congress as part of either a continuing resolution or a new fiscal year appropriations bill in order to maintain in effect.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants nothing more than to see these protections go away. In a letter he sent to Congressional leadership last year, he wrote: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

    In the past month, NORML has worked with Representatives Rohrabacher and Blumenauer in recruiting 60 additional members of Congress to co-sign a letter of their own to Congressional leadership, which states, “We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws. We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people.”

    Last year, the language was initially included as part of a Senate appropriations bill thanks to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) yet was absent from the House’s funding proposal because House Rules Committee Chair Peter Sessions (R-TX) refused to allow House members to vote on it. As a result, it was left to House and Senate leadership to ultimately decide on the amendment’s fate when the two chambers’ appropriations bills were reconciled.

    In the past two days as the negotiations reached their peak, over 10,000 members of NORML contacted their federal officials to urge them to maintain these protections.

    Additional language was stripped from the Senate version of the bill, known as the Veterans Equal Access amendment. Originally passed last year in the Senate appropriations committee by a vote of 24-7, Republican Congressional leadership thought it prudent to deny American military veterans the ability to participate in state-lawful medical marijuana programs through their VA doctors.

    Rep. Earl Blumenauer, namesake on the amendment and the co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus said “While I’m glad that our medical marijuana protections are included, there is nothing to celebrate since Congress only maintained the status quo. These protections have been law since 2014. This matter should be settled once and for all. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans, across every party, strongly favor the right to use medical marijuana.”

    He continued, “Instead, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doubling down on the failed War on Drugs and Republican leadership in Congress—led by Chairman Pete Sessions—is stonewalling. They’re ignoring the will of the American people by blocking protections for state adult-use laws and cannabis banking. They even refused our veterans access to lifesaving medicine.

    The fate of this spending bill has yet to be made clear but is deemed a “must pass” piece of legislation as the federal government is set to shut down on March 23rd at midnight if action is not taken.

    We will keep you posted as this story develops.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    The enactment of adult use marijuana regulation in Colorado and Washington is not independently linked to an increase in traffic fatalities, according to a study published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Investigators at the University of Oregon compared traffic accident outcomes in Colorado and Washington following legalization to other states with similar pre-legalization economic and traffic trends. They reported, “We find that states that legalized marijuana have not experienced significantly different rates of marijuana- or alcohol-related traffic fatalities relative to their synthetic controls.”

    Authors concluded, “In summary, the similar trajectory of traffic fatalities in Washington and Colorado relative to their synthetic control counterparts yield little evidence that the total rate of traffic fatalities has increased significantly as a consequence of recreational marijuana legalization.”

    The study’s findings are similar to those of a 2017 study published in The American Journal of Public Health which reported, “Three years after recreational marijuana legalization, changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization.”

    A 2016 study reported that the enactment of medical cannabis legislation is associated with an immediate decline in traffic fatalities among younger drivers.

    Full text of the study, “Early evidence on recreational marijuana legalization and traffic fatalities” is available from the National Bureau of Economic Research. NORML’s fact-sheets on cannabis, psychomotor performance, and accident risk is online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 6, 2018

    The District Attorney’s Office for Sonoma County, California (population 502,000) is directing staff to review and vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions.

    County officials estimate that an estimated 3,000 cases are eligible for either a sentencing reduction or expungement.

    The Sonoma County D.A.’s actions follow those of district attorneys for Alameda County, San Diego County, and San Francisco — each of which have moved to pro-actively review and dismiss thousands of past marijuana-related convictions.

    Provisions in the state’s 2016 voter-approved marijuana law allow those with past marijuana convictions to petition the court for expungement. Legislation is pending in the California Assembly, AB 1793, to make this process automatic for anyone with an eligible past cannabis conviction.

    Last month, Seattle city officials publicly announced plans to similarly review and vacate past cannabis convictions. Days later, newly elected Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner announced that his office would cease prosecuting marijuana possession offense violations.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate March 2, 2018

    Welcome to the March 2nd edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    First, I want to bring your attention to the dedicated activists lobbying in conjunction with Arizona NORML! Activists in Arizona lobbied state lawmakers in the capital on Monday 2/26 in favor of a bill that would require testing for potency and health and safety as well as certifications for independent testing labs.

    Also at the state level, Massachusetts regulators agreed to delay considering proposed rules allowing marijuana social use areas and delivery services until a later date after receiving intense pressure over those license categories from state officials. But they also decided that when the Cannabis Control Commission does authorize the services, initial licenses will only be available to people with past drug convictions or who live in neighborhoods with high drug arrest rates. The commission also agreed to place caps on marijuana farmers and determined a threshold for how much marijuana product they have to sell.

    New Jersey lawmakers are set to begin holding hearings on marijuana legalization this month, with the first one scheduled for this Monday March 5th at noon by the Assembly Oversight Committee. On the other hand, several NJ lawmakers are still skeptical about legalization. A survey of lawmakers suggests that marijuana legalization legislation would be defeated if a vote were held now.

    On a brighter note, Arkansas regulators announced the winners of medical cannabis cultivation licenses, and Alaska raked in its biggest monthly haul in marijuana taxes, with just over $1 million collected in January. Proponents of a Missouri ballot initiative effort to legalize and regulate medical cannabis statewide reached a milestone by surpassing over 200,000 signatures, although they only needed 160,000.

    Several marijuana related legislation died this week after failing to be voted on before crossover deadlines. These include legalization and medical expansion measures in Arizona, Georgia, West Virginia, and Kansas.

    At a more local level, Denver, CO approved its first social use marijuana license, allowing vaping and edibles in a Lincoln Park coffee shop. Additionally, The Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution supporting a state Senate bill that seeks to create a state-chartered bank that could be used by the marijuana industry.

    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.

    Your highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Click here to e-mail your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation

    New Hampshire

    The Legislature is considering HB 656, which would legalize and regulate the personal use of marijuana by those 21 and older.

    The bill also allows the cultivation, possession, and use of hemp, and calls for retail sales and generation of state revenues through taxation, as well as authorizes the licensing of marijuana wholesale, retail, cultivation, and testing facilities.

    Update: The House Ways and Means Committee may kill HB 656 even though it already passed the full chamber, and despite A February 2018 UNH Granite State poll finding that 56 percent of adults support the amended version of this bill. They’re having a full committee work session on 3/12 at 1pm.

    NH resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization

    Maine

    Lawmakers are moving forward with a proposal to amend a key provision of the state’s voter-initiated adult use marijuana law.

    Under existing law, adults may legally cultivate as many as six mature marijuana plants on their property. Lawmakers are suggesting halving this amount. NORML opposes this law change.

    To date, legislators have refused to enact provisions in the 2016 law permitting for the licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis. As a result, adults may only obtain marijuana via home cultivation. Further, no data has been presented indicating that this provision is either being abused or that home-cultivated marijuana is being diverted into the criminal market.

    Other changes recommended by lawmakers include: banning any social use establishments and significantly increasing the proposed excise tax on wholesale marijuana products.

    ME resident? Click here to email your elected officials and tell them to oppose this effort and implement the will of the people

    Tennessee

    State Representative Jeremy Faison (R) and State Senator Steve Dickerson (R) have introduced legislation, SB 1710 and HB 1749 to establish a limited medical marijuana access program in Tennessee.

    The measure permits qualified patients to possess marijuana-infused oil products, as well as other non-herbal forms of cannabis, from state-licensed dispensaries. Both patients and physicians would be required to participate in a state registry.

    Update: Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Chairman of the House Health Subcommittee Dr. Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) signed on as co-sponsors to the Medical Cannabis Only Act on 2/26. The following day, the House Criminal Justice subcommittee voted 4-3 to approve HB 1749, with House Speaker Harwell casting the tie-breaking vote. HB 1749 is on the Criminal Justice Committee’s calendar for 3/7/18. SB 1710 is still posted in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical cannabis access

    Georgia

    House Bill 764 seeks to expand Georgia’s limited medical cannabidiol (CBD) law.

    The measure would permit for the first time patients with post traumatic stress disorder and intractable pain the option to engage in CBD therapy.

    Update: HB 764 passed the House by a 145-17 vote, and now awaits action in the Senate.

    GA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical CBD expansion

    Idaho

    HB 410 is pending to provide “for the lawful use and possession of Cannabidiol Oil (CBD), if prescribed by a (licensed) practitioner.” Similar legislation, HB 577 is also pending.

    Update: HB 577  passed the House by a 59-11 vote on 2/28, and now awaits action in the Senate. HB 410 is still posted in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

    ID resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of CBD access

    Hawaii

    HB 1893 is pending, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence. HB 1893 was heard by the House Health and Human Services Committee on 2/15, and then approved with amendments, and passed on to the Judiciary Committee.

    Update: HB 1893 was heard by the House Judiciary committee on Thursday, and then was approved unanimously 8 to zero.

    HI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort

    Indiana

    House Bill 1214 is pending, further clarifying the legal status of CBD products in the state of Indiana for specific patients.

    Despite the passage last year of limited language permitting certain patients to possess CBD, law enforcement has continued to take punitive action against those providing CBD products, and some officials have continued to questioned their legality. Passage of these measures will eliminate this legal confusion and greatly expand CBD access.

    Update: HB 1214 was approved by the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee after it was heard on 2/27.

    IN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in favor of greater CBD access

    Maryland

    House Bill 698 seeks to expand the state’s nascent industrial hemp pilot program.

    The bill would “authorize and facilitate the research of industrial hemp and any aspect of growing, cultivating, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, transporting, marketing, or selling industrial hemp for agricultural, industrial, or commercial purposes.”

    Update: HB 698 was approved by the House Environment and Transportation Committee with amendments on 2/26. The amendments were adopted and it passed the third reading by a 136-1 vote on 3/1.

    MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of industrial hemp

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    New Hampshire

    House Bill 1476 is pending,  to permit qualifying patients to cultivate small quantities of cannabis for their own therapeutic use.

    Under the state’s existing medical marijuana program, patients are mandated to obtain cannabis from only a limited number of state-licensed dispensaries. Those who cultivate for themselves may be guilty of a felony offense.

    Update: The Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee approved HB 1476 by a 13-8 vote on 2/23.

    NH resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of home cultivation

    Virginia

    SB 726 and HB 1251, both introduced by Republican lawmakers, would permit doctors to recommend CBD and THC-A oils to any patient they believe would benefit.

    Under present law, only a neurologist may recommend cannabis oils, and only for patients with intractable epilepsy.

    Update: HB 1251 is already on Governor Northam’s desk awaiting his signature. SB 726 passed the House 96-0 on 2/28.

    VA resident? Click here to email Gov. Northam urging him to sign these bills into law

    Alaska

    House Bill 376 was recently introduced, to establish a state bank that will help assist in financial matters related to marijuana businesses. It’s currently pending in the Labor and Commerce Committee.

    Activities of the bank would include helping “marijuana-related businesses make deposits and to help other financial institutions receive deposits from marijuana-related businesses.”

    AK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of banking options for cannabis businesses

    Check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

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