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NORML Blog

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 8, 2017
    Jeff_Sessions_(29299022521)

    Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Despite historic opposition to a nominee for Attorney General, today Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (R-AL) was confirmed to assume the role of our nation’s top law enforcement official.

    What happens next in regards to marijuana policy is unclear. We can engage in speculation as much as we’d like, but ultimately theorizing on whether or not Sessions will leverage the resources of the Department of Justice to enforce the federal prohibition of marijuana will be discovered soon enough.

    For now, we must reflect on the achievements that we have made as a movement which now must be protected and continue to pursue further progress, be it at the state or federal level.

    Currently, states that have implemented medical marijuana programs are technically protected from the Department of Justice under the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, however that is set to expire on April 27th unless renewed as a part of the appropriations process.

    Jeff Sessions’ history in regards to marijuana policy, including making statements like “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.” and “[Marijuana] cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana” are a serious reason for concern and highlight the need to remain vigilant.  

    During his confirmation process, marijuana legalization supporters with NORML made thousands of phone calls and sent tens of thousands of emails regarding Sessions plans for marijuana policy. While we lost the battle, we continue to win the war.

    Our Senators, now more than ever, know this is an issue at the forefront of the minds of American voters and that we are willing and able to mobilize for it. In fact, four Senators referenced Sessions’ position on marijuana as a reason to oppose his nomination during an all night “talk-a-thon” to delay todays vote.

    We will never stop fighting for further reforms at the state level and needed federal policy changes. With NORML members throughout the country organizing lobby days and taking direct action, the fight for cannabis freedom will continue with renewed energy.

    NORML has resisted marijuana prohibition for 47 years – We’re not going to stop now.

    Please consider signing up to be a monthly contributor to ensure that we have the resources we need to stand up to Jeff Sessions and to fight back against our nation’s failed war on marijuana consumers.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    3410000930_95fc2866fa_zMore than 70 percent of Floridians voted on Election Day in favor of Amendment 2 to regulate patients’ access to medical marijuana. However, newly proposed rules by the Department of Health seek to significantly amend this measure in a manner that undermines the law’s intent and is contrary to patients’ needs.

    This week, town hall meetings are being held throughout Florida to discuss proposed rule changes and so far, turnout to these meetings have been so large that WTSP in Tampa Bay reported “The meeting was so full that there wasn’t even enough room for people to stand.”

    For example, the rules arbitrarily limit those patients who may qualify for cannabis therapy only to those diagnosed with one of ten specific conditions. This change contradicts the explicit language of Amendment 2, which provides physicians the discretion to recommend medical marijuana in any instance where they believe that its use “would likely outweigh the potential health risks.”

    NORML has submitted official comments to the state’s Dept. of Health addressing the need to address the following issues:

    • Physicians Must Be Permitted To Recommend Cannabis Therapy For Chronic Pain
    • Patients Should Have The Legal Option To Obtain Whole-Plant Cannabis
    • Market Demand Requires More Licensed Dispensaries
    • Do Not Mandate Multiple Patient Visits In A Single Calendar Year

    It is unfortunate that after the passage of Amendment 2, so many attempts would be made to weaken the ability for patients to be able to obtain access to medical marijuana. If regulators truly intend to implement Amendment 2 in a manner that is in the best interest of Florida’s patient community, then they must revise these rules in ways that focus on serving the sick, not promoting political expediency.

    There is still time to submit comments to the FL Department of Health online. For more information and to find out how, click here.

     

    Join NORML of Florida on Facebook and visit their website at http://www.normlfl.org/

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 3, 2017

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

    With over 800 bills being filed in state legislatures and at the federal level, marijuana policy is moving fast.

    A big thanks to the over 3,000 people who have emailed their elected officials through our action alerts in the last 6 days alone! Remember, bookmark our Action Page (http://norml.org/act) and keep checking for new updates.

    If you haven’t yet, read NORML’s Paul Armentano’s most recent op-ed in The Hill newspaper “Voters demanded pot policy changes, it’s time for lawmakers to listen.”

    Below are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week.

    Make sure 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

    Senate lawmakers are only days away from taking a vote that may have a drastic impact on the future of marijuana policy.

    Sessions recently was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee and during his confirmation hearing, he failed to give a straight answer with regard to how the Justice Department should respond to states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use and left the door open for federal enforcement.

    Click here to email your Senators and tell them to oppose Jeff Sessions

    Arkansas

    Senate legislation is pending, SB 238, to indefinitely halt the enactment of the state’s voter-initiated medical marijuana law.

    Specifically, the measure states that Arkansas patients may not legally access medical marijuana until the substance has been federally legalized.

    This arrogant piece of legislation is a direct attempt to undermine an election outcome. Fifty-three percent of voters decided in November in favor of Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. State lawmakers have responsibility to abide by the will of the people, to do so in a timely manner, and to not let patients needlessly suffer.

    AR Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    New Hampshire

    After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 may finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized.

    HB640, 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.

    NH Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Rhode Island

    A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers has reintroduced a marijuana legalization this legislative session.  

    The bill will allow adults 21 and older to possess cannabis and will establish a framework for businesses to cultivate and distribute marijuana. While the language is similar to that of previous bills that have failed to come to a vote, lawmakers this year believe that Rhode Island is ready to catch up to its northeast neighbors.

    A majority of Rhode Island residents support legalization and Jared Moffat, Director of Regulate Rhode Island, believes: “It’s time for Rhode Island to look very seriously at this issue and pass a bill. Otherwise, we risk falling behind those other states.”

    RI Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    OTHER ACTIONS TO TAKE

    Federal

    Legislation is pending in the US House, HR 715, to amend the Controlled Substances Act so that marijuana is no longer classified as a Schedule I controlled substance and so that cannabidiol (CBD) is excluded from the federal definition of cannabis.

    Cannabidiol is a non-mood altering constituent in the marijuana plant that possesses a variety of therapeutic effects, particularly anti-seizure properties. Over a dozen states recognize by statute that CBD is safe and therapeutically effective.

    Further, the cannabis plant’s schedule I classification has long been inconsistent with the available evidence. Most recently, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a comprehensive report acknowledging that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions. This finding is incompatible with the plant’s Schedule I status, which opines that it possess “no accepted medical use in the United States.” Twenty-nine states now permit physicians to authorize marijuana therapy to qualified patients.

    While simply rescheduling marijuana under federal law will not end federal prohibition, it will bring about some needed changes in law. At a minimum, it would bring an end to the federal government’s longstanding intellectual dishonesty that marijuana ‘lacks accepted medical use.’ It would also likely permit banks and other financial institutions to work with state-compliant marijuana-related businesses, and permit employers in the cannabis industry to take tax deductions similar to those enjoyed by other businesses. Rescheduling would also likely bring some level of relief to federal employees subject to random workplace drug testing for off-the-job cannabis consumption.

    For these reasons, we urge your support for HR 715 while also recognizing that ultimately cannabis must be removed from the Controlled Substances Act altogether. Passage of HR 715 is a first step in this process.

    Click here to email your Congressional Representative now.

    Iowa

    Legislation is pending, HF 199, to establish a statewide medical marijuana program.

    Under these proposals, qualified patients with intractable pain and other conditions would be able to obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities.

    A more narrow version of this program is proposed by separate legislation, HF 198.

    While the program proposed by the measures is a fairly narrow one, it is far superior to the state’s existing CBD-specific law, which only applies to patients with intractable epilepsy and fails to provide an in-state supply source for CBD-related medicine.

    IA Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    New Hampshire

    Legislation is making its way through the New Hampshire House, HB 656, to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use.

    Members of the House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety heard testimony regarding the bill on Wednesday, February 2, at 2pm.

    Police in New Hampshire arrest some 2,900 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of New Hampshire adults, 62 percent of whom now endorse legalizing and regulating cannabis, according to a 2016 WMUR Granite State Poll.

    NH Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Kansas

    Legislation is pending before lawmakers, The Kansas Safe Access Act, to establish regulations governing a comprehensive medical marijuana program.

    The measure would permit qualified patients to grow their own medical marijuana or to obtain it from a licensed dispensary, while also educating physicians who seek to recommend cannabis therapy.

    KS Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    South Dakota

    More than a dozen lawmakers are backing legislation, Senate Bill 129, to eradicate the state’s marijuana possession by ingestion law.

    Under the law, one can be charged with a felony drug offense if their past use of a marijuana shows up on a blood or urine test. In the case of cannabis, byproducts of THC may be detectable for several weeks after one has ceased using it.

    South Dakota is one of the only states that criminalizes the internal possession of marijuana or other controlled substances, and it is the only state that defines the activity as a felony offense.

    SD Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Tennessee

    Legislation is pending in the House and Senate — SB 265 and HB 297 — to reduce penalties associated with the possession of one-eighth of marijuana (3.544 grams) to a fine-only offense.

    Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine. Passage of these pending measures would reduce the penalty to a $50 fine and no possibility of jail time.

    Simple marijuana possession would still remain classified as a misdemeanor.

    TN Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Additionally, legislation is pending in the Tennessee House, HB 173, to nullify the enactment of citywide marijuana decriminalization ordinances and to prevent additional municipalities from enacting similar marijuana reform measures.

    The intent of the bill is to override the passage of recent citywide measures in Nashville and Memphis — both of which passed local ordinances last year making minor marijuana possession offenses a non-arrestable citation.

    By contrast, state law classifies marijuana possession as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.

    TN Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Vermont

    Legislation is pending in the House, 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.

    The measure would also reduce existing penalties for those who possess greater quantities of cannabis.

    VT Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Wyoming

    Wyoming lawmakers are debating HJR 11, a joint resolution to legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21.

    This resolution legalizes and regulates the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. Under this measure, adults would be able to legally possess up to three ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants in the privacy of their home.

    WY Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Additionally, legislation, HB 197, to amend marijuana possession penalties has passed out of Committee and now faces action on the House floor.

    Passage of the measure would reduce existing marijuana possession penalties from up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine to no more than 20 days in jail and a $200 fine for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders would face stricter penalties under the proposal.

    Members of the House Judiciary Committee rejected a separate bill, HB 157, which NORML had endorsed that sought to decriminalize the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana.

    WY Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

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

    sessfb2Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the confirmation of Jeff Sessions to be the next US Attorney General on a party line vote of 11 to 9.

    There a numerous groups in the criminal justice advocacy space, ranging from the NAACP to the ACLU who are opposed Senator Sessions becoming the nation’s top law enforcement officer for various reasons, ranging from his positions on voting rights, capital punishment, and sentencing reform.

    Sessions has a storied history of supporting marijuana prohibition, as NORML has well documented. This includes previously declaring that “good people do not smoke marijuana” and  supporting legislation that would have allowed defendants to receive the death penalty if they had received multiple convictions for marijuana distribution.

    His confirmation by the full Senate is not certainty, but should the chamber vote along party lines as the committee has, Sessions will likely be confirmed.

    Click here to email your Senators TODAY.

    The work of NORML to protect the fragile progress that states have made on marijuana policies will be more crucial than ever and we will continue to stand up for marijuana consumers. We still have time to make our concerns about Senator Sessions known and ask our Senators to further question him on the topic when he appears for questioning on the Senate floor.

    Whether he gets confirmed or not, it is imperative that we raise our voices loud at this crucial time. Our Senators need to know that not only do we have concerns over Sessions’ record on this issue, but are willing to stand up for our shared beliefs and defend our marijuana reform victories.

    Take one minute and email your Senators NOW.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 31, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaVoters in eight states decided on Election Day to radically amend their longstanding marijuana policies. But many lawmakers in these states still aren’t getting the message.

    Despite these voter mandates, many lawmakers remain reluctant to move forward with the legal reforms that the public has demanded. In some cases, legislators and regulators are outright defying voters’ will by proposing measures to undermine the election’s outcomes altogether.

    THIS WILL NOT STAND, WE NEED TO FIGHT BACK! CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT NORML’S FIGHT AGAINST THESE SENSELESS DELAYS

    For example, in Massachusetts, a handful of political leaders pushed through emergency legislation during an informal legislative session to delay marijuana sales until July 1, 2018. The Boston Globe summarized the event this way, “The extraordinary move, made in informal sessions with just a half-dozen legislators present, … unravel a significant part of the legalization measure passed by 1.8 million voters.” Additional measures before lawmakers seek to further derail several other aspects of the law, including adults’ ability to grow marijuana in their private residence.

    In Maine, lawmakers have similarly passed legislation to delay the enactment of voter-initiated provisions governing the retail production and sale of marijuana until the spring of 2018. The emergency measure also rolls back specific initiative provisions that permitted on site consumption in specially licensed establishments, as well as the possession of marijuana-infused edible products.

    In Florida, where 71 percent of voters endorsed a constitutional amendment providing doctors with the discretion to recommend medical marijuana to patients for whom they believed the benefits “would likely outweigh the potential health risks,” regulators are trying to strip medical marijuana access to those with chronic pain.

    In Arkansas, one lawmaker has proposed legislation to postpone the enactment of the state’s new medical cannabis program indefinitely.

    Even in California, where 56 percent of voters decided in favor of legalizing the adult marijuana market, some lawmakers are warning citizens to expect delays before the new law takes full effect.

    NORML believes that these delays and proposed legislative changes are unacceptable, and we are working hard to assure that the will of the voters is upheld.

    CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT OUR WORK AND HELP US FIGHT BACK AGAINST THESE EFFORTS TO DERAIL LEGALIZATION. WE MUST ENSURE OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS UPHOLD THE WILL OF THE VOTERS!

    Voters like you made their opinions on marijuana policy clear at the ballot box in November. Lawmakers in these jurisdictions have a responsibility to abide by the will of the people and to do so in a timely manner. Americans have lived with the failings of marijuana prohibition for far too long. The people’s will should not be compromised, second-guessed, or held hostage by politicians who are unwilling to recognize that they are on the wrong side of history.

    In Solidarity,
    Erik Altieri
    Executive Director
    NORML

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