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NORML Blog

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director April 15, 2017

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

    First off – Happy Tax Day! (If you’re into that sort of thing)

    As we approach 4/20, a number of bills at the state level have seen significant movement, both good and ugly for progress.

    First, the downers: In Tennessee, the state legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill preventing cities within the state from decriminalizing marijuana. Apparently, the status quo of arresting people and sentencing otherwise law-abiding citizens to jail time is a good use of state resources. In TN, a simple possession charge can result in a #250 fine and up to one year in prison. Read more about the state laws here. Additionally, a special tax on medical marijuana is now at the Governor’s desk in Arkansas.

    On more positive notes: we have seen progress in a number of states with bills now before the the Governors of Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, and soon-to-be Indiana. Read about it below in the priority alerts section.

    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

    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.

    House Bill 1397 and Senate Bill 406 have both been introduced to initially cap the number of available providers and dispensers, yet there are distinct differences between the two.

    Although neither of these bills truly satisfies the true intent of Amendment 2, Florida NORML contends that Senate Bill 406 is preferable to the House bill. With amendments to both bills expected, we urge Floridians to support the Senate implementation bill and to continue to advocate for further amendments to expand patients’ access.

    FL resident? Click here to contact your elected officials telling them to protect Amendment 2

    Georgia – (At Governor)
    SB 16, a bill to expand Georgia’s CBD-exemption law is awaiting action from Gov. Nathan Deal.

    The bill expands the qualifying pool of patients eligible to possess CBD extracts to include those with autism, epidermolysis bullosa, AIDS, Tourette’s Syndrome, and peripheral neuropathy. The bill also permits the possess of CBD-dominant oil to be used by anyone under hospice care.

    GA resident? Click here to tell Gov. Deal to sign this bill. 

    Hawaii – (At Governor)
    Legislation to expand Hawaii’s medical cannabis program has passed both legislative chambers.

    The bill, HB 1488, has passed both the House and Senate. Senate changes to the bill must now be approved by members of the House before it can be sent to the Governor.

    The bill expands the number of qualifying conditions eligible to receive cannabis therapy to include: lupus, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and autism. It also permits patients’ caregivers to engage in medical cannabis cultivation, among other changes.

    HI resident? Click here to tell the Governor to sign the bill. 

    Indiana – (At Governor)
    House and Senate lawmakers have approved separate versions of legislation (House Bill 1148 and Senate Bill 15) to exempt criminal penalties for the possession of CBD extracts by qualified patients.

    Both bills seek to exempt penalties for the use of CBD extracts by patients with treatment resistant epilepsy. The bills differ regarding whether or not the state ought to establish a patient registry and with regard to the percentage of CBD that must be present in order for the substance to qualify as exempt under state law.

    IN resident? Click here and email the Governor to sign the bill when it reaches their desk. 

    Iowa
    Senate Study Bill 1190, labeled The Compassionate Use of Cannabis Act, was approved Wednesday morning, April 12 on a 3-0 subcommittee vote and it cleared Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday afternoon. Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, said the bill could be approved by the full Senate as early as Monday, which would send the measure to the House for consideration.

    IA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers to support the Compassionate Use of Cannabis Act

    Maryland – (At Governor)
    Senate Bill 949 permit those who received a criminal marijuana possession conviction prior to October 1, 2014, to seek expungement of their records.

    Maryland law was amended on that date so that the possession of up to ten grams of cannabis is no longer a criminal offense.

    The Senate has passed enrolled SB 949 which means the bill was adopted with the House amendments. SB 949 has now been sent to the governor for approval.

    MD resident? Click here to send a message to Gov. Hogan to sign the bill. 

    New Hampshire
    New Hampshire is the only New England state that has not either decriminalized or legalized adult marijuana use.

    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, yet the Senate has yet to take a vote.

    NH resident? Click here to contact your lawmakers now and demand a vote. 

    Additionally in New Hampshire, multiple bills are pending before lawmakers to expand the pool of patients eligible to qualify for medical marijuana therapy.

    Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on April 13 passed both HB 157 and HB 160 out of Committee.

    In particular, these measures would permit patients with conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress to obtain legal access to marijuana.

    NH resident? Click here to contact you lawmakers to support these efforts. 

    North Dakota – (At Governor)
    Members of the House and Senate have reconciled SB 2344. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Doug Burgum, who intends to sign it into law. The measure allows only two state-licensed manufacturing facilities and up to eight dispensaries statewide (These facilities are anticipated to be operational within 12 to 18 months after law’s passage). It removes provisions in Measure 5 permitting patients who do not reside near a dispensary to cultivate their own cannabis. Amendments that sought to prohibit smoking herbal formulations of cannabis were not included in the final version of SB 2344, although qualified patients under the age of 19 will now be mandated only to consume cannabis in ways other than smoking.

    ND resident? Send a message to the Governor expressing your disapproval of the stripping of home grow rights for patients.

    Oregon – (At Governor)
    SB 863, to limit the federal government from acquiring data regarding adults and patients who legally purchase marijuana under state law.

    The emergency legislation, which would take immediate effect, mandates that retailers and dispensaries do not maintain customers’ purchase and/or personal identification records beyond 48 hours.

    Members of the House on 4/10 voted 53 to 5 in favor of SB 863. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Kate Brown.

    OR resident? Email Governor Brown now to sign this legislation right away.

    West Virginia – (At Governor)
    A coalition of Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation, SB 386, which seeks to establish the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act — a state-sponsored program that will permit qualified patients to obtain medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries.

    The House and Senate concurred on an amended version of SB 386 on April 6. A summary of the amended bill is online here. The measure now goes to the Governor, who indicates that he intends to sign it.

    WV resident? Email the Governor expressing support for this bill 

    Other Actions to Take

    Arkansas  – (At Governor)
    House Bill 1580 imposes a special eight percent statewide tax upon medical marijuana sales. This tax would be in addition to the imposition of existing state and local taxes.While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of fair and reasonable sales taxes on the commercial sales of cannabis for recreational purposes, we do not support such excessive taxation on medical sales. Most other states that regulate medical cannabis sales do not impose such taxes and Arkansas patients should not be forced to pay these excessive costs.AR resident? Click here to email the Governor urging a veto

    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: SB 192 passed the Senate on April 12 and now awaits action from the House.

    CO resident? Click here to email your lawmakers to in support of this legislation. 

    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.

    If passed, the measure would legalize the possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana, up to ten grams of hashish, and/or the cultivation of two marijuana plants in a private residence.

    Update: The House Committee on Human Services held another hearing for H 170 on Tuesday 4/11 yet still have not taken a vote.

    VT resident? Click here to email your lawmakers and demand a vote. 

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director April 14, 2017

    Trump_signing_Executive_Order_13780
    The Trump Administration is widely expected to pick Representative Tom Marino for Drug Czar.

    Representative Marino is a longtime, rabid drug warrior who has a consistent record of voting against marijuana law reform legislation — a position that runs counter to that of the majority of voters and his own constituents. His appointment to this office highlights the fact that this administration remains committed to the failed 1980s ‘war on drugs’ playbook.

    The Trump administration promised to eliminate bureaucratic waste. It should start by eliminating the office of the Drug Czar.

    The White House Drug Czar is required, by statute, “to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance that is listed in Schedule I” and to “ensure that no Federal funds … shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in Schedule I.” This narrow-minded, Flat Earth mentality refuses to acknowledge the reality that the majority of the country is now authorized to engage in the use of medical cannabis and it mandates that US drug policy be dictated by rhetoric and ideology rather than by science and evidence.

    NORML opposes Marino’s appointment to the position of Drug Czar and we further call for this anti-science agency to be abolished entirely.

    Click here to send a message to President Trump – End the charade of the Drug Czar by abolishing the position.

    The Drug Czar’s office is a remnant of a bygone era when US drug policy was framed as a ‘war’ fueled largely by rhetoric and ideology. In 2017 we can do better and we must. The majority of Americans view drug abuse as a public health issue, they favor regulating cannabis as opposed to criminalizing it, and they are demanding policy changes based on facts.

    Tell President Trump: There is no place for ‘Czars’ in today’s American government, particularly those like Marino who still cling to outdated and failed drug war policies that embody misplaced ideologies of the past.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director April 13, 2017

    legalizationToday, the federal Liberal government of Canada released a slate of proposed bills that would legalize and regulate the commercial sale and adult use of marijuana in the country. The legislation would establish 18 as the minimum legal age to purchase marijuana and would create a legal framework for production, sale, and distribution. The bills were introduced in the House of Commons by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Health Minister Jane Philpott and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freehand.

    You can read more details on the proposed legislation HERE.

    This sensible approach to marijuana stands in stark contrast to the direction and tone United States President Donald Trump and his administration have been taking on the issue. While the Canadian government is moving in the direction of legalization and regulation, the Trump Administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions seem more intent on reviving outdated and erroneous Drug War rhetoric than allowing science and facts to dictate public policy. The United States should follow Canada’s example and end our own costly and disastrous prohibition on marijuana.

    CLICK HERE TO EMAIL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TODAY AND URGE THEM TO END FEDERAL MARIJUANA PROHIBITION

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 10, 2017

    Marijuana and the LawAn Arizona appellate court has ruled that a 2012 state law prohibiting the use of medical cannabis on college campuses is unconstitutional. Lifetime NORML Legal Committee member Tom Dean represented the patient-defendant in the case pro bono.

    Arizona voters in 2010 narrowly approved a statewide initiative, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), permitting qualified patients to possess and use medicinal cannabis. The Court determined that the legislature’s decision to later amend the law in order to restrict medical marijuana use on college campuses does not “further the purpose” of the 2010 law and therefore must be struck down.

    “By enacting A.R.S. § 15-108(A), the Legislature modified the AMMA to re-criminalize cardholders’ marijuana possession on college and university campuses,” the Court opined. “The statute does not further the purposes of the AMMA; to the contrary, it eliminates some of its protections.”

    The Court argued that campuses and university possess the authority to enact their own individual policies restricting medical cannabis use, but that lawmakers can not do so.

    The decision overturned a medical-marijuana card holder’s 2015 felony conviction for the possession of a small quantity of cannabis while attending Arizona State University.

    The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has not yet publicly stated whether they intend to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    3410000930_95fc2866fa_zRepublican Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed legislation, House Bill 527, which would have greatly expanded the state’s decade-old medical cannabis program.

    For those keeping track, this is the third marijuana-related bill the Governor has vetoed this legislative session. In March, Gov. Martinez rejected without explanation a pair of measures that sought to license the cultivation of industrial hemp in compliance with Section 7606 of the Federal Farm Act. Governor Martinez previously received a ‘F’ grade on NORML’s 2016 Gubernatorial Report Card.

    In her veto statement of HB 527, the Governor opined that she did not favor adding new qualifying conditions by legislative action. She specifically expressed concerns regarding the use of cannabis for those suffering from opioid dependence, and for those patients registered in other states. Studies report that the use of cannabis is associated with a reduction in opioid use, abuse, mortality, and hospitalizations.

    Had HB 527 been signed into law, it would have permitted qualified patients to receive organ transplants, it would have expanded the list of qualifying illnesses for which medical cannabis may be recommended, and it would established reciprocity for non-residents, among other changes.

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