George Rohrbacher: Trump Administration Plans To Ramp Up Government Regulation and Stifle New Marijuana BusinessesMarch 1, 2017
By George Rohrbacher,
Former Washington State Senator (R),
Former NORML board member
The Trump White House statement last week of plans for stricter enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states with newly voter-approved recreational marijuana laws signals Trump’s surprisingly pro-regulation, anti-business, anti-Liberty stance.
Cannabis prohibition is perhaps one of America’s most onerous forms of government regulation, regulation enforcement that comes with prison time and possible asset confiscation, regulation that has produced over 25,000,000 marijuana arrests. Think about that stunningly gigantic number for a moment. POT PROHIBITION IS GOVERNMENT REGULATION ON STEROIDS!
Marijuana legalization is the answer, and tens of millions of American voters have said so. They have repeatedly said, “YES”, to cannabis. This “culture war,” brewing for three or four generations, has finally been brought to a head by the voters themselves doing an end-run around the system. Even though we won 8 out of 9 cannabis legalization election efforts this past fall, the Trump Administration wants to turn back the clock.
As the American voter has taken their cannabis rights back state by state, a new, legal multi-billion dollar cannabis industry has sprung up- bigger, faster and more diversified than anyone expected. The Trump-Sessions Justice Department wants to kill it. Beyond just getting high, new unexpected markets are springing up everywhere, from upscale middle-aged women looking for a non-psychoactive sleep aid (CBD, etc.), to geriatric patients in nursing homes looking for a little more spring in their step, to a non-toxic substitute for prescription painkillers, drastically reducing opioid deaths and use. The markets this industry-in-the-making will service extend from getting-a-buzz-on, to optimum human health, and everything else in between. The Trump Administration has plans to stifle these burgeoning businesses!
The supposed lines of distinction between the categories of recreational and medical use of marijuana are not recognizable to this cannabis consumer with 48 years of experience. I’ve used pot daily for half-a-century because it makes me feel good. Farming for 40 of those years, my spine has received quite a beating and I’ve used cannabis for the pain of that too. The line between these two uses? Is there one? No, there are none.
Attorney General Sessions believes that while medical use might be okay sometimes, “recreational use is very, very different” (please cue up a showing of REEFER MADNESS). “Good people do not use marijuana,” Sessions believes. And those bad pot using people, like me, felons all by federal law, deserve to be arrested.
Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana is a Schedule I Drug. This gives our myopic, over-regulating federal government license to treat hemp like heroin. Schedule I Drugs, by their very definition, have no accepted medical use. While at this very same time, according to PubMed, the prohibited cannabis and its many surprisingly active cannabinoids show over 24,000 references in medical studies, half of them done within the last 10 years. This includes a VERY, VERY important clinical trial released just last month, done in England: a randomized, placebo-controlled study that showed cannabinoids effective in controlling blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetics. Being that 1 out of 8 American adults suffers from diabetes, a disease with devastating health, societal, and economic costs, one would think that the discovery of an all-natural, non-toxic new treatment option for this horrible disease would be met with a standing ovation from the White House, instead of promises of increased Draconian Government Regulation.
If President Trump wants to live up to his pre-election rhetoric and take real action on those promises to cut government regulation…. Well, try this: Earth to Trump! Earth to Trump! De-Schedule Marijuana, for God’s sake.
To maintain their fantasy that marijuana is a dangerous drug and has no medical use while 29 states have legal medical marijuana, the people at the Justice Department who really truly believe that cannabis should be listed as a Schedule I Drug must be smoking something far, far stronger and much more dangerous than pot.
I’ve worn many hats in my life, the most important: dad, granddad, and husband. Also cattle rancher and farmer, small businessman, state senator and board member of NORML. I’m an active citizen married 47 years to a cannabis-using former school superintendent. I’ve been involved in local and regional land use planning, community development, wildlife and historical preservation. And all these many years those many hats have been sitting on a good-for-nothing, unrepentant pot-head.
As a farmer, I am by my very definition conservative. I served in the legislature as a Republican, from a party that believes in reducing government regulation and freeing up business to serve America…. And being able to make a profit while doing it!
Americans across the nation are clamoring: “Tax me, tax me, just please stop arresting me!” Hundreds of millions of new tax dollars to build schools and fix our roads have been generated by legal recreational marijuana sales. The Trump Administration wants to kill this new tax-generating business. Why??? Is it to protect Trump’s buddies at Big Pharma, Big Booze and Big Tobacco who worry about cannabis potentially cutting into their profits? Or is this Trump’s effort to harken back to the Greatness of the Ideas, Beliefs and Failed Policies of Richard Millhouse Nixon?
In attempting to answer this question: Why? Just run down the list of tried-and-true one-line answers to that question. My favorite is: “BUT, BUT… WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN???”
Yes, a very good question, indeed. It is THE question. It is always, ultimately, about the children. Those 25,000,000 Americans arrested for pot that I mentioned earlier in this piece? Every single last one of them was someone’s child, someone’s grandchild. And many, many of them had children of their own. And the toll on children of color is many times that of whites. Millions of lives have been ruined, and countless families were destroyed by these arrests.
Yes. Absolutely. It is all about the children. Which is why it is time to end marijuana prohibition.
Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress to exclude marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act, thus providing states with the exclusive authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.
The “Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” removes the cannabis plant from the CSA so that it is no longer scheduled under federal law. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.
Individual states are “more than capable” of deciding their own cannabis policies, Rep. Garrett explained in a prepared statement.
According to polling data released last week by Quinnipiac University, 59 percent of Americans endorse legalizing the adult use of marijuana, and 71 percent of voters — including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, believe that state governments, not the federal government, should be the ultimate arbiters of marijuana policy.
With the recent confirmation of militant marijuana prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to the position of US Attorney General, and with comments from the Trump administration warning of a coming federal crackdown in adult use states, our best defense is a strong offense.
Speaking earlier today before the National Association of Attorney Generals, Session’s doubled-down on his reefer rhetoric — denying scientific facts that legalizing cannabis access is associated with lower rates of opioid abuse (“Give me a break,” he responded) and urging state AGs, “[W]e don’t need to be legalizing marijuana.”
If the Justice Department won’t listen to reason, then we must take this issue out of its hands. Act now to pass the “Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” to ensure that medical marijuana patients and others are protected from undue federal interference.
Speaking to the press this evening, Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubled down on his infamous reefer madness rhetoric. Sessions stated:
“We’re seeing real violence around that. Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”
Sessions’ latest comments describe a reality that only exists in the world of alternative facts. Marijuana legalization has not lead to increased crime or violence, but rather is associated with lowered youth use rates and access, increased tax revenue, and fewer arrests of otherwise law abiding American citizens. The truth is that legalization is working as voters have intended and that the new US Attorney General’s opinions are reckless, irresponsible, and outright false.
These statements are not only out of touch with reality and public sentiment, but they also go against President Trump’s promise on the campaign trail to leave marijuana policy to the states. If you support legalization now is not the time to be silent. Now is the time to stand up and fight back.
The only way to ensure our progress continues in light of this proposed push back is to pass federal legislation that makes certain that the Attorney General can’t intervene in states that have enacted adult use regulatory laws. We need to pass the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017. This legislation would prevent the federal government from attack state approved legalization and medical marijuana laws.
This is a true test of our movement. Stand with is against these threats because together we are unstoppable. Together we will legalize marijuana nationwide.
It has been a whirlwind since the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday indicated that the Trump administration may engage in “greater” efforts to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in jurisdictions that have legalized and regulated its adult use.
In the last four days, NORML has helped to generate over 20,000 emails to members of Congress in to support HR 975, The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which would prevent federal agencies from enforcing prohibition in states that have changed their marijuana laws. In addition, over 5,000 individuals for the first time have also emailed their state elected officials via our Act page in support of various statewide legislative reforms.
While neither the White House nor the Department of Justice have yet to act on their threats, this trial balloon could be a prelude to aggressive action in the not so distant future. In the context of recent actions by the Department of Justice in regard to immigration enforcement and private prisons, it is within the realm of possibility that a full scale assault on marijuana users could be coming shortly.
Even if the Department of Justice does little more than send letters to elected officials in legal states declaring its intention to act, this alone will have a serious chilling effect on the implementation of statewide legalization laws. These are exactly the sort of tactics that our opponents in states like Maine and Massachusetts have sought for in order to justify delaying implementing the will of their voters.
We must be vigilant and pressure Congress to protect adult use marijuana states from undue federal interference.
Trump Administration’s dubious claims about pot and opioids are dead wrong
…Proponents of marijuana prohibition have long alleged that experimentation with pot acts as a ‘gateway’ to the use and eventual abuse of other illicit substances. But the evidence does not support this claim.
In reality, permitting marijuana sales to be regulated by licensed, state-authorized distributors rather than by criminal entrepreneurs and pushers of various other illicit drugs results in fewer, not more, Americans abusing other, potentially more dangerous substances…
– Read more in The Hill
Trump’s Proposed Pot Crackdown Is Out Of Step With Voters, Including Many Republicans
…Rather than picking an unnecessary fight with the majority of American voters, including a significant portion of Trump’s own base, the administration should consider embracing common sense marijuana law reforms. Endorsing bipartisan legislation, HR 975: The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,” would be a good place to start. In accordance with the electorate’s wishes, passage of the act would prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals or businesses that are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.
Despite more than 70 years of federal marijuana prohibition, Americans’ consumption of and demand for cannabis is here to stay. It is time for politicians to acknowledge this reality and amend federal marijuana laws in a manner that comports with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status. The Trump administration has the opportunity to take the lead on this issue. It would be an enormous political misstep for them to do otherwise….
– Read more in The Daily Caller
“Today’s statement by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer regarding marijuana policy reaffirms the need for the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. Last November, eight more states passed measures to increase access to state-legal cannabis, and today more than 300 million Americans live in states with access to adult-use marijuana or some form medical cannabis. Among them are four additional states that have fully legalized the adult-use of marijuana. We hope today’s comments do not reflect the views of the President and his administration. As co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, we stand ready to educate this administration on the need for more sensible marijuana policies and share the many experiences states have had with the legalization of cannabis. Together, we will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to reform our failed marijuana policies and provide a voice for Americans who have overwhelmingly voted for a more sensible drug policy.”
It’s institutions like NORML, the Cannabis Caucus, and most importantly, your efforts as part of the democratic process that will prevent the rollback of progress in marijuana legalization. Don’t stop calling your members of Congress and getting involved locally. Do not accept this as a new normal. This is not normal. Smoking pot is NORML.
The elephant in the room is pretty simple. If you haven’t seen it yet, this week White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer opened the door to a federal crackdown in the states that have legalized adult-use marijuana. You can read more about it HERE.
To date, there have been 1,322 pieces of legislation introduced nationwide – this week’s action ranges from the elected officials in North Dakota seeking to overturn the will of their voters to officials in California seeking to turn themselves into a “Sanctuary State” when it comes to marijuana.
Below 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,
Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, has reintroduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.
HR 975 states, ‘‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.’’
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) have formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.
Legislation is pending in the House, HF 199, to establish a statewide medical marijuana program. Under HF 199, qualified patients with intractable pain and other conditions would be able to obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities. Similar legislation is also pending in the Senate, SF 205.
Senator Liz Krueger (D) has introduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which is making its way through the New York General Legislature.
The act legalizes possession and cultivation, and would establish a market for legal marijuana for adults 21 and older.
Update: The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, State Senate Bill S3040, has been referred to the Finance Committee.
Rep. John Autry has filed comprehensive legislation to legalize patients use of and access to medical marijuana.
HB 185, the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act, permits qualified patients to possess up to 24 ounces of cannabis or grow their own personal supply. Separate provisions in the Act license and regulate the dispensing of cannabis from state-licensed facilities.
Senate legislation is pending, Senate Bill 2344, to significantly rewrite the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act.
Sixty-four percent of voters approved the law on Election Day. Lawmakers should respect the public’s will and implement this law as initiated.
Update: SB 2344 passed the Senate by a vote of 40-6, exceeding the two-thirds majority needed for amending the ballot measure. The bill now awaits further action by the House.
Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 212 and House Bill 3521, to establish a program to provide qualified patients with legal access to medical marijuana products.
Under this program, patients would be permitted to obtain up to two ounces of cannabis and/or cannabis-infused products, such as extracts or edibles, from a state-licensed dispensing facility.
Update: Members of the House subcommittee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs voted 3-0 on February 21 to report HB 3521 for consideration before the full Committee
Two bills are pending in South Dakota that provide various protections for medical marijuana users in South Dakota. SB 95 and SB 157 do not establish a South Dakota program, but protect those individuals who are prescribed medical marijuana in another state.
SB 95 removes cannabidiol from schedule I and places it in schedule IV. Furthermore, it excludes cannabidiol entirely from the definition of marijuana.
SB 157 protects patients that possess marijuana while they have a valid medical card from another state. The measure “covers patients who have moved to Colorado… or another legal state and done their due diligence for being prescribed medical marijuana.”
Update: SB 95 passed in the Senate on February 21.
Legislation has been introduced for the 2017 legislative session to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
House Bill 81, filed by Representative Joe Moody and cosponsored by Representative Jason Isaac, seeks to amend state law so that possessing up to one ounce of marijuana is a civil violation, punishable by a fine – no arrest, no jail, and no criminal record. Under current state law, first-time marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
According to the ACLU, Texas arrests over 70,000 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses — the second highest total in the nation, at the cost of over 250 million dollars per year.
Update: House Bill 81 has been referred to the State Affairs Committee.
Additional Actions To Take
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.
Arizona Representative Mark Cardenas has introduced legislation, House Bill 2002, which is making its way through committee, to defelonize minor marijuana possession offenses.
Arizona’s penalties pertaining to the possession and/or sale of cannabis are among the toughest in the nation. Under present law, marijuana possession is classified as a felony, punishable by up to two years in jail. Annually, an estimated 20,000 Arizonans are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws.
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.”
Colorado State Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Dan Pabon have introduced legislation that is headed to the Senate Business, Labor and Technology committee on Tuesday, March 1, 2017. SB 184: The Private Marijuana Clubs and Public Use Bill, will provide Colorado municipalities with the regulatory framework needed to allow responsible adults the option to socially consume marijuana in a private club away from the general public.
Legislation is pending before lawmakers, SB 155, to establish regulations governing a comprehensive medical marijuana program.
SB 155 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.
Update: A hearing was held to debate and discuss SB 55 on February 20.
Legislation filed by Senator Perry Clark of Louisville, SB 57, seeks to establish a statewide, comprehensive medical marijuana program.
Senate Bill 57, The Cannabis Compassion Act, establishes regulations overseeing the establishment of state-licensed dispensaries to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients. It also permits patients to home cultivate their own supply of medical cannabis.
Update: SB 57 was referred to committee.
Legislation is pending in the state Senate, SB 233, that seeks to legalize and regulate the adult possession, use, and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana (up to three mature plants and the harvest yielded from them and/or one ounce).
The measure also would establish a commission to establish guidelines governing the eventual regulation of a commercial cannabis retail market.
Update: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee debated Senate Bill 233 on February 21.
Additionally, 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: The Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee voted to pass bills that would add chronic pain and PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The bills passed by 12-6 and 9-8 margins respectively.
Several pieces of legislation are pending to amend marijuana possession penalties.
HB 831 and SB 1116 seek to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.
Update: HB 831 and SB 1116 have both been referred to committees.
State Senators Adam Ebbin (D), Bill Stanley (R) and Delegate Les Adams (R) have introduced SB 1091 and HB 2051 respectively, legislation that would remove the mandatory driver’s license suspension currently imposed for those with a marijuana possession conviction.
Under current law, any drug conviction, regardless of whether or not a motor vehicle was involved, results in an automatic suspension of the individual’s driving privileges for 6 months.
Update: SB 1091 and HB 2051 have both passed the full Senate and the House of Delegates. It now awaits the Governor’s signature or veto.
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.
Passage of the bill establishes a commission tasked with developing “policies, procedures, guidelines, and regulations to implement programs to make medical cannabis available to qualifying patients in a safe and effective manner.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved HB 197, however the scope of the bill has been narrowed enough that NORML now opposes this legislation. HB 197 now only covers the possession of marijuana infused products weighing up to three grams. Due to the changes, Wyoming NORML has also withdrawn support of the bill. Frank Latta, Executive Director of WY NORML, stated, “A lot of us worked for several years to reach a compromise we could live with,” but that the Senate changes are too much to tolerate.