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NORML Blog

  • by NORML May 1, 2018


    The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Political Action Committee (NORML PAC) has announced its endorsement of Beto O’Rourke for Senate in his race to unseat Senator Ted Cruz in Texas.

    “Beto has been a true champion for abolishing our disastrous prohibition on marijuana since the very beginning of his political career as a city council member in El Paso. We were pleased to support him in his previous campaign for the House of Representatives and excited to endorse him again in his race for the US Senate,” said NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri, “As Senator, O’Rourke will be an outspoken and indispensable ally in reforming our federal laws relating to marijuana and fight to finally end our failed prohibitionist policies that are currently tearing apart families, oppressing communities of color, squandering countless tax dollars, and filling the coffers of criminal cartels. The time has come for our nation to move towards the sensible policy of regulation and legalization, sending Beto to the Senate would bring us yet another step closer to that goal.”

    “We must end the federal prohibition on marijuana in this country,” said O’Rourke. “Texas should be leading the way by encouraging comprehensive reforms in drug control policies that have had a devastating effect on communities of color.”

    Recent polling on the Texas Senate race showed O’Rourke running neck and neck with Ted Cruz with Cruz claiming the support of 47% of state voters and 44% supporting O’Rourke.

    According to a 2017 poll by the University of Texas, 83 percent of Texans support legalizing marijuana for some use and 53 percent would go beyond legal medical marijuana to allow possession for any use.

    According to an April 2018 poll from Quinnipiac University, 63% of all Americans support the legalization of marijuana nationwide.

    “Texas ranks as one of the states with the highest arrests rates for simple possession of marijuana, at an estimated cost of 1.5 billion in taxpayer money annually,” said Jax Finkel, Executive Director of Texas NORML. “Beto O’Rourke understands that our federal prohibition is a failed policy and it is past time for Congress to end it and allow states like Texas the freedom to pursue new, sensible alternatives.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 30, 2018

    Marijuana researchThe frequent use of cannabis is not associated with changes in brain structure, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.

    An international team of scientists from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States assessed the relationship between habitual cannabis exposure and grey matter volumes in seven regions of the brain – including the thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, and the nucleus accumbens – in two large population-based twin samples.

    Researchers reported, “[N]ormal variation in cannabis use is statistically unrelated to individual differences in brain morphology as measured by subcortical volume.”

    By contrast, the repeated use of nicotine was positively associated with significantly smaller thalamus volumes in middle-aged males.

    Authors concluded: “This is the largest exploratory analysis integrating brain imaging with self-report cannabis and comorbid substance use data. After correcting for multiple testing, there was no effect of cannabis use on the volume at any subcortical region of interest in young adults or middle-aged males. … In the context of expanding medicalization and decriminalization and the concerns surrounding the consequences of increased cannabis availability, our findings suggest that normal variation in cannabis use is statistically unrelated to brain morphology as measured by subcortical volumes in non-clinical samples.”

    The findings are consistent with those of prior brain imaging studies reporting that cannabis exposure appears to have little to no significant adverse impact upon brain morphology — particularly when compared to the dramatic effects associated with the alcohol exposure.

    The study’s findings fail to replicate those of a well-publicized 2014 paper which alleged that even casual marijuana exposure may be linked to brain abnormalities, particularly in the amygdala.

    Last week, a meta-analysis of 69 separate studies reported that cannabis exposure in adolescents and young adults is not associated with any significant, residual detrimental effects on cognitive performance. The results from a pair of recently published longitudinal twin studies similarly report that cannabis use is not independently associated with any residual change in intelligence quotient or executive function.

    An abstract of the study, “Testing associations between cannabis use and subcortical volumes in two large population-based samples,” appears online here.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate April 27, 2018

    Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    A lot of action was taken in Congress this week.  A bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers has introduced legislation, the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018, to facilitate federally-approved clinical trials involving cannabis. The act ends the University of Mississippi’s existing monopoly on the growth of cannabis for clinical research purposes, by requiring the licensing of additional manufacturers. And Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has publicly announced her intention of filing legislation to protect lawful medical marijuana users from housing discrimination. The forthcoming measure explicitly permits qualified patients to consume marijuana in federally-assisted housing, including public housing and the Section 8 housing program.

    Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced his intention to include the language of the Hemp Farming Act as an amendment to the 2018 version of the federal Farm Bill, which Congress is expected to take action upon in May. Sen McConnell also placed the bill on the Senate calendar using a procedural move that permits the issue to be voted on the Senate floor without going through the committee process first.

    At the state level, Michigan election officials have confirmed that proponents of a statewide ballot measure, The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, have gathered enough signatures from registered voters to place it on the ballot this November. The initiative permits those over the age of 21 to grow and possess personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to the commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales.

    Also, Governor Jeff Colyer of Kansas, Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, and Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska have all recently signed legislation into law to establish industrial hemp pilot programs in their state. On a similar note, the New Mexico Supreme Court has allowed two bills to become law that were previously vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez, clearing the way for farmers to obtain licenses from the Deptartment of Agriculture to grow hemp for research and development purposes.

    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

    Vermont

    H. 167, which regulates the retail supply and sale of cannabis to adults, passed the Senate last year prior to stalling in the House. Lawmakers have placed H. 167 on the calendar for action for 4/17. Separate legislation, H. 490, to also regulate the retail production and sale of cannabis to adults, is still awaiting action from the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs.

    VT resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of regulating the retail sale of cannabis

    Pennsylvania

    Senate Resolution 258 seeks to amend the Controlled Substances Act so that marijuana is no longer classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. If passed, the resolution would urge Congress to take action to amend federal law so that states could regulate cannabis absent undue federal interference.

    Update: SR 258 was unanimously approved by the Senate on 4/25.

    PA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of descheduling cannabis

    Illinois

    Medical
    Senate Bill 336 would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy as an alternative to opioid treatment.

    Update: SB 336 was approved by the Senate 44-6 on 4/26. It now awaits action from the House.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of cannabis as an alternative to opioids

    Expungement
    House Bill 2367 provides for the automatic expungement of past marijuana possession or paraphernalia violations.

    The measure mandates the automatic expungement of any citation for a civil law violation of either: subsection (a) of Section 4 of the Cannabis Control Act, or subsection (c) Section 3.5 of the Drug Paraphernalia Control Act. It also would allow those with certain past criminal marijuana convictions — those that occurred prior to the decriminalization of such offenses — to ask a judge to have the conviction expunged.

    Update: HB 2367 was approved by the Restorative Justice Committee on 4/24 by an 8-2 vote. It is expected to be considered by the full House on 4/27.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expungement

    California

    Assembly Bill 2069 would explicitly bar employers from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

    Update: The Assembly’s Labor And Employment Committee held a hearing on AB 2069 on 4/25, and then approved the bill. It now heads to the Appropriations Committee.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of patient employment protections

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    New Hampshire

    House Bill 1476 seeks to permit qualifying patients to cultivate small quantities of cannabis for their own therapeutic use. The bill already passed the House last month.

    Update: The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 3-2 on 4/25 to recommend that HB 1476 be sent to ‘interim study,’ but the bill is still expected to receive a vote in the full Senate sometime in the next few weeks.

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

    Iowa

    Senate File 2372 seeks to expand the state’s medical cannabidiol (CBD) law. The measure will remove the arbitrary 3 percent cap on THC content, and would allow doctors to recommend CBD to those suffering from chronic pain as well as to any other patient for whom they believe it would benefit.

    Update: The Iowa State Senate Ways and Means Committee voted 13 to 3 to approve the bill on 4/23.

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

    Illinois

    Senate Bill 2298 would expand the state’s industrial hemp law by allowing individuals to cultivate hemp with a state license even if they are not part of the state’s Agriculture Department pilot program. That program only permits hemp cultivation as part of a state-sponsored research program.

    Update: SB 2298 was unanimously approved by the Senate on 4/24.

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

    California

    Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.

    Update: SB 930 was heard by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on 4/25, and was then approved by the committee. The bill now heads to the Appropriations Committee.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of banking access

    That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    A bipartisan coalition of over two-dozen federal lawmakers, including House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), are backing newly introduced legislation — The Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018 — to facilitate federally-approved clinical trials involving cannabis.

    Passage of this act would end the University of Mississippi’s existing monopoly on the growth of cannabis for clinical research purposes by requiring the licensing of additional manufacturers.

    Currently, the US National Institute on Drug Abuse designates the University of Mississippi to be the sole provider of marijuana for FDA-approved research. However, many of those familiar with their product have criticized its quality, opining that it possesses subpar potency, is often poorly manicured, and that it does not accurately reflect the wide variety of cannabis products and strains available to consumers.

    Previous efforts to break this monopoly have so far been unsuccessful. In 2007, DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner determined that expanding the pool of federally licensed providers would be “in the public interest.” The agency ultimately rejected her decision. More recently, in 2016, the DEA changed its position and amended regulations in a manner to permit additional applicants to apply to federal licensure to grow marijuana. However, the Justice Department and the US Attorney General have thus far failed to take action on any pending applications.

    Under this measure, the Justice Department is mandated to act on any application it receives within one calendar year.

    Other provisions in the measure explicitly permits VA physicians to provide information to patients regarding their eligibility in clinical trials, and provides a “safe harbor” for universities, clinicians, and patients participating in federally-approved trials from federal interference.

    Please click here to urge your federal lawmakers to support The Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 26, 2018

    Legalize MarijuanaElection officials today confirmed that proponents of a statewide ballot measure, The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, have gathered a sufficient number of signatures from registered voters to place it on the electoral ballot this November.

    Proponents of the voter-initiated measure, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, submitted more than 360,000 signatures to qualify it for the November 2018 ballot. The initiative permits those over the age of 21 to grow and possess personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to the commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales.

    According to statewide polling commissioned by Michigan NORML, which is a leading member of the Coalition, 61 percent of voters say that they intend to vote yes on the measure.

    Voters in other states will also be deciding on marijuana-related ballot questions later this year. Oklahomans will decide in June on State Question 788, which permits qualified patients to access and cultivate marijuana for therapeutic purposes. Utah voters are also expected to decide on a narrower medicalization measure in November, though officials have yet to officially certify that measure for the ballot. Proponents of a medical marijuana measure in Missouri have surpassed the number of signatures required to place it on the November ballot, well ahead of the state’s May 6 deadline. In South Dakota, officials have confirmed that proponents of a 2018 medical use initiative failed to gather the necessary number of signatures to qualify for November’s ballot.

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