Alabama: Governor Robert Bentley has signed legislation, House Bill 61, to protect qualified patients eligible for CBD therapy under a physician’s authorization from criminal prosecution. The measure, known as ‘Leni’s Law’, allows qualified patients to possess CBD preparations containing up to three percent THC. The new law takes effect June 1st, 2016.
Colorado: House and Senate lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved legislation, House Bill 1373, to permit qualified patients access to the use formulations of medical cannabis while on school grounds.The measure now awaits action by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who indicated that he would sign the measure into law. “My son, if he needed medical marijuana and he needed it during the day while he was in school, I’d want him to have that opportunity,” Hickenlooper said.
Connecticut: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation expanding patients’ access to the state’s medicinal cannabis program. House Bill 5450 permits qualifying patients under the age of 18 to possess and consume medical cannabis preparations and it also expands the list of qualifying illnesses eligible for cannabis therapy. Other provisions in the bill seek to establish a statewide clinical research program, and protect nurses from criminal, civil, or disciplinary sanction if they choose to administer marijuana to a qualifying patient in a hospital setting. The measure now awaits action by Governor Dannel Malloy. #TakeAction
Hawaii: Legislation is pending before Governor David Ige to expand medical cannabis access and dispensing. The measure expands the pool of practitioners who may legally recommend cannabis therapy to include advanced nurse practitioners. Separate provisions in the bill remove the prohibition on Sunday dispensary sales and on the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia by qualified patients.It also permits the transportation of medical marijuana across islands for the purposes of laboratory testing. #TakeAction
Kansas: House and Senate lawmakers have signed off on sentencing reform legislation, House Bill 2049, that reduces criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine) to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by no more than six months in jail and a $1,000 fine). Second convictions will no longer be classified as a felony offense. The bill now heads to Gov. Brownback’s desk, and will become law if he does not veto it within 10 days. #TakeAction
Louisiana: Senate legislation to fix and expand the state’s dormant medical marijuana law received a boost this week after a House Committee amended and passed the measure. Senate Bill 271 seeks to change the language of existing law so that physicians may ‘recommend’ rather than prescribe cannabis therapy. Under federal law, physicians cannot legally ‘prescribe’ cannabis or any schedule I substance. It also expands the pool of patients eligible to receive marijuana therapy. The legislation is scheduled to be heard by members of the House Health and Welfare Committee next week. #TakeAction
New Hampshire: Members of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 12 to 7 this week to amend Senate-backed sentencing reform legislation, Senate Bill 498, to also include provisions decriminalizing minor, first-time marijuana possession offenses. The amended language would make first-time offenses a civil violation rather than a criminal offense. The civil penalty would be limited to a fine only: no arrest, prosecution, or criminal record. Subsequent offenses would continue to be classified as misdemeanors. #TakeAction
Oklahoma: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, HB 2835, to expand the pool of patients eligible to possess cannabidiol under a physician’s authorization. As amended, House Bill 2835 would include legal protections to the following patient groups: those with “spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or due to paraplegia, intractable nausea and vomiting, appetite stimulation with chronic wasting diseases.” The measure also removes the age requirement limitation from existing law so that adults with various forms of epilepsy are eligible for CBD therapy. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Mary Fallin. #TakeAction
Pennsylvania: Representative Ed Gainey is seeking co-sponsors for soon-to-be introduced legislation that would amend minor marijuana possession offenses to a non-criminal offense. Despite both local and nationwide progress on the issue of cannabis prohibition, Pennsylvania continues to charge over 18,000 individuals each year with minor possessory offenses. Please urge your House member to sign on as a co-sponsor to this important legislation. #TakeAction
Rhode Island: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are scheduled to consider SB 2420, legislation to regulate the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to those over the age of 21, on Tuesday, May 10th. Adults would be permitted to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It also permits adults to cultivate up to two marijuana plants (no more than 1 mature) at home for non-commercial purposes. You can read the full text of this proposal here. #TakeAction
Tennessee: Two marijuana related measures became law recently in Tennessee. The first permits for the licensed cultivation of industrial hemp when “grown by an institution of higher education in this state that offers a baccalaureate or post-graduate level program of study in agricultural sciences.” The second, amends third-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, to a misdemeanor offense, punishable by no more than one year in jail. The new sentencing penalties take effect on July 1, 2016.
For a summary of all pending marijuana legislation, be sure to check out our full #TakeAction center!
And don’t forget to register to attend NORML’s 2016 Congressional Lobby Day in Washington D.C. May 23rd and 24th! We have just recently confirmedthree members of Congress’ ability to address our group on Capitol Hill so you won’t want to miss it!
A new CBS poll released on 4/20 is the first to show majority female support for marijuana legalization in the US. Though still trailing the 59% of men who are in favor of legalization, 54% of women now say they support it too.
Last year’s CBS poll found that only 43% of women were pro-legalization, versus 54% of men, an 11-point gap. This year’s poll narrows the gap to 5 points and represents an 11% jump in support from women in only one year’s time.
National polls in recent years have shown women’s support for legalization as high as 48%, but always trailing men’s approval by 8-13 points. Women are also around 15% less likely to admit that they have tried marijuana.
The same is true regionally: in Florida a 2015 Quinnipac poll found again 57% of men supported legalization and only 46% of women did. And if marijuana were to be legalized for recreational use in the state, 70 percent of women said they would ‘definitely not use’ it, compared to 59 percent of men.
Similarly in Ohio, there was a 12% differential between men at 59% support and women at 47%; and 71 percent of women, and only 57 percent of men, said they would ‘definitely not use’ legal marijuana.
But now perhaps we have reached a tipping point on women coming over to seeing the light of legalization. When I checked in January of this year, Cal NORML’s Twitter followers were 75% male, down from 85% a few months earlier; they’re now down to 66% male, a 20% drop in less than 6 months.
One reason for the shift, I think, is the increased number of female leaders at NORML chapters across the country, changing the perception of what a marijuana enthusiast looks like and giving women voters a greater comfort zone to voice their own support. A quick list of those leaders compiled by NORML Outreach Coordinator Kevin Mahmalji are:
- Eleanore Ahrens – Southeast Ohio NORML
- Vera Allen – Minnesota NORML
- Trish Bertrand – Springfield NORML
- Roseann Boffa – Los Angeles NORML
- Cara Bonin – Houston NORML
- Jes Bossems – Jefferson Area, Virginia NORML
- Monica Chavez – New Mexico NORML
- Cynthia Ferguson – Delaware NORML
- Jax Finkle – Texas NORML
- Karen Goldstein – Florida NORML
- Kandice Hawes – Orange County, California NORML
- Laura Judy – National Office
- Jamie Kacz – Kansas City NORML
- Danielle Keane – National Office
- Ellen Komp – California NORML
- Jessica Lee – Nacogdoches NORML
- Jenni Morgan – National Office
- Cher Neufer – Ohio NORML
- Theresa Nightingale – Pittsburgh NORML
- Danica Noble – NORML Women of Washington
- Pam Novy – Virginia NORML
- Jenn Michelle Pedini – Richmond NORML
- Jordan Person – Denver NORML
- Sharron Ravert – Peachtree, Georgia NORML
- Carrie Satterwhite – Wyoming NORML
- Mary Smith – Toledo NORML
- Jessica Struzik – Northern Wisconsin NORML
- Danielle Vitale – O’Brien – Miami Valley, Ohio NORML
- Destiny Young – San Antonio NORML
Women everywhere are getting the message. “It is not as harmful as alcohol … It also helps medical conditions as a more natural substitute to pharmaceuticals,” one 46-year-old woman told Pew pollsters in 2015. “I think crime would be lower if they legalized marijuana,” said another woman, aged 62. “It would put the drug dealers out of business.”
Campaigns directed at women in states with legalization measures seem to have had an effect. Only 49 percent of women polled in favor of Colorado’s 2012 legalization measure, but 53 percent of them voted for it. The majority of women voters in Washington State also voted in favor of that state’s measure to legalize.
Many people are aware that women helped bring about alcohol prohibition in 1919. What many don’t know is that women were also instrumental in repealing prohibition, notably Pauline Sabin, the Republican socialite for whom NORML’s award recognizing women’s leadership is named. It seems that women are now also key in bringing about marijuana legalization.
Members of the Vermont House spent over six hours today debating various amendments to reform marijuana policy, but ultimately decided against enacting any significant changes in law.
House lawmakers voted 121 to 28 to reject Senate-approved language that sought to regulate the adult use, commercial production, and retail sale of marijuana. Although Gov. Peter Shumlin and Attorney General William Sorrell publicly supported the effort, House members expressed little interest in seriously considering the measure.
House members also rejected an alternative measure that sought to expand the state’s existing decriminalization law to also include the personal cultivation of marijuana. Representatives voted 77 to 70 to reject the ammendment.
Representatives also debated whether or not to put forward the question, “Should Vermont legalize marijuana for recreational purposes?” before voters as a non-binding initiative during the upcoming August primary election. Lawmakers decided against the proposal by a vote of 97 to 51.
House lawmakers narrowly voted 77 to 68 in favor of provisions establishing an advisory commission to make recommendations to the legislature with regard to future marijuana policy. Specifically, the commission would be tasked with “propos[ing] a comprehensive regulatory and revenue structure that establishes controlled access to marijuana in a manner that, when compared to the current illegal marijuana market, increases public safety and reduces harm to public health.” Those recommendations would be due by December 15, 2016.
House and Senate lawmakers previously approved a study commission in 2014. That commission’s report summarized various alternative regulatory schemes but made no recommendations with regard to if and how lawmakers should ultimately amend state law.
The amended measure now awaits a concurrence vote by the Senate. [Update: The Senate failed to concur; therefore there will be no commission.]
In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Gov. Shumlin said, “It is incredibly disappointing … that a majority of the House has shown a remarkable disregard for the sentiment of most Vermonters who understand that we must pursue a smarter policy when it comes to marijuana in this state.”
As we continue the march towards ending marijuana prohibition and legalizing the responsible use of marijuana, there remains a moral imperative that we must confront head-on: we must not forget those whose lives have been destroyed by prohibition — the POWs of the war on marijuana.
I’m specifically talking about the thousands of state and federal prisoners who were convicted of non-violent marijuana offenses – frequently involving large-scale cultivation or smuggling efforts – and who were sentenced to long prison sentences, frequently longer sentences than those given to violent criminals, and the hundreds of thousands of individuals who are no longer incarcerated, but who bear the unfair burden of a criminal record for conduct that is now becoming legal in more and more states.
A Fresh Look at Smugglers, Dealers and Large Scale Cultivators
For decades, the anti-marijuana propaganda machine in this country demonized those who smuggled, grew or sold marijuana. They were not seen just as citizens willing to ignore the dominant social norms and attendant legal risks of providing a product that millions of Americans wanted, and were willing to pay a premium price to obtain. Rather they were portrayed as evil individuals whose purpose in life was to corrupt and addict our youth and undermine our nation’s strength.
After all, if marijuana caused otherwise ordinary citizens to become depraved animals, leading to unthinkable acts of brutality, and eventually ending with insanity, as was the official party line, then of course those who allowed this threat to continue, and who enabled it by their actions, were perceived as worse than those who committed acts of violence. And routinely they were given harsher sentences than those who were committing violent crimes.
Today, as the country has become more familiar with and accepting of marijuana smoking, those earlier assumptions about the dangers of marijuana seem absurd and fanciful, and it is difficult to imagine they were ever accepted as fact. But they were, and the result was more than 30 million marijuana arrests.
The Perspective of Those of Us Who Smoke
First, let me make the obvious point that if no one would have had the courage to risk arrest and jail for smuggling, growing or selling marijuana, we smokers would have had no marijuana to smoke for all these years.
But even more importantly, without a thriving underground marijuana market in America, there would have been no serious marijuana legalization movement, and we would not have four states and the District of Columbia with legal marijuana, and more to come in November.
Ending prohibition might never have occurred if this were simply a theoretical argument about the wisdom of criminalizing marijuana. It is occurring because there are tens of millions of Americans who very much enjoy their marijuana, regardless of its legal status, and who were passionate about the need to bring it above ground and end prohibition.
Without a reasonably steady supply of black-market marijuana, this topic would be of interest to political science and sociology professors, but it would not be an enormous social movement with the political power to change laws and policy for the better.
So instead of demonizing these brave adventurers who were willing to provide us with marijuana, despite the enormous personal risk, we should be recognizing their role in getting us to where we are today, and taking whatever steps we can to minimize the harm so many of them have suffered. That means those who remain in jail or prison should be released, if what they were convicted of is now being legalized; and those who remain unable to vote or are otherwise limited professionally because of a marijuana conviction should have their records expunged.
I know that some are even calling for those who have been victimized by prohibition to be paid reparations for the damages they suffered, just as people who are proven innocent after years of imprisonment are frequently reimbursed for their suffering. While I see the innate justice in that suggestion, I recognize that is simply not a politically realistic option, at least for now.
But we should, and must, do what we can to restore to health those many lives we have unfairly damaged and destroyed, and we need to begin the public debate now. Once one acknowledges that marijuana is far safer than alcohol or tobacco, and a large majority of Americans now understand this basic fact, then there is simply no rational basis to leave non-violent marijuana offenders in jail or prison, or to limit their ability to succeed and enjoy a full and rewarding life, because of a past non-violent marijuana conviction on their record. A failure to help those previously convicted under prohibition would leave a moral stain on the legalization movement.
The Gentlemen Smugglers
I was reminded of this aspect of ending marijuana prohibition by a visit recently with Barry Foy, an old marijuana smuggler who was featured in the Wall Street Journal best-selling book by Jason Ryan titled Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting That Launched the War on Drugs. This is a real-life adventure by a group of fun-loving southern gentlemen based in South Carolina who successfully smuggled tons of marijuana into the US during the Ronald Reagan years, before eventually being caught and serving substantial prison sentences. These were middle-class adventurers who eschewed violence but thoroughly enjoyed the excitement, glamor, and pleasures available to those willing to live on the edge — the lifestyle celebrated in many Jimmy Buffett ballads.
These smugglers eventually married and had families, and when they were not smuggling marijuana, were indistinguishable from their more-ordinary friends and neighbors. Following a 13-year run, they were eventually taken down, not on smuggling charges, but like Al Capone, on tax-evasion charges, with Barry receiving an 18-year sentence (he served 11) and his partner receiving a 25-year sentence (he served 17 years). Yet today, both former smugglers say they have no regrets and remain unrepentant.
I am fully aware that we have much work to accomplish before marijuana smokers are treated in a totally fair manner. I have written frequently about the need to fix the laws that currently permit smokers to lose their jobs for testing positive for THC, without any showing of impairment on the job; the morally offensive policy of assuming parents who smoke marijuana are unfit parents, who must fight to retain custody of their minor children; and the factually unfair policy of treating those with THC in their system as presumed guilty of a DUID offense, without any showing they were driving in an impaired condition. Each of these areas must be revisited to protect the rights of responsible marijuana smokers.
But even as we move more and more states into the legalization column, we must not forget the need to reach back and minimize the harm we have caused to tens of thousands of our fellow citizens by labeling them as criminals for smuggling, growing or selling marijuana to those of us who wanted it. Like marijuana smokers, they too are largely ordinary folks, perhaps with a flair for living an adventurous life, with families and friends who very much care about them, and they should never have been treated with such contempt simply for ignoring the dictates of a failed policy called marijuana prohibition.
This column originally ran in Marijuana.com
A legalization initiative has officially qualified the ballot this November and separate legislative measures around the country continue to advance. Keep reading below to learn the latest legislative developments.
Alabama: Members of both chambers approved legislation this week, House Bill 61, to protect qualified patients eligible for CBD therapy under a physician’s authorization from criminal prosecution. The measure, known as ‘Leni’s Law’, seeks to allow qualified patients to possess CBD preparations containing up to three percent THC. The measure passed in the Senate by a vote of 29 to 3 and in the House in a 95 to 4 vote. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Robert Bentley. #TakeAction
California: A prominent GOP Congressman has endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which seeks to regulate the adult use, production, and retail sale of cannabis. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) announced, “As a Republican who believes in individual freedom, limited government and states’ rights, I believe that it’s time for California to lead the nation and create a safe, legal system for the responsible adult use of marijuana.” He added: “I endorse the Adult Use of Marijuana Act for the November 2016 ballot. It is a necessary reform which will end the failed system of marijuana prohibition in our state, provide California law enforcement the resources it needs to redouble its focus on serious crimes while providing a policy blueprint for other states to follow.” You can learn more about the initiative here.
Florida: Another Florida municipality has given preliminary approval to a proposed ordinance permitting police to cite, rather than arrest, minor marijuana offenders. Members of St. Petersburg’s Public Safety and Infrastructure Committee voted in favor of the policy that would create a system of fines that would begin at $75 for those caught holding 20 grams or less of cannabis. Two versions of the plan, one that one that would mandate police issue a citation and another that gives the officer the option to do so, will head to the full city council for a final vote in early May. Under state law, possessing any amount of marijuana is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine.
Maine: Maine voters will decide on election day on a statewide ballot measure seeking to regulate the adult use, retail sale, and commercial production of cannabis. The Secretary of State determined this week that initiative proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, gathered a sufficient number of signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The office had previously attempted to invalidate a significant portion of proponents’ signatures, but that effort was rejected by the courts earlier this month.
If enacted by voters in November, the measure would allow adults to legally possess up to two and one-half ounces of marijuana and to cultivate marijuana (up to six mature plants and the entire yields of said plants) for their own personal use.
North Carolina: House legislation was introduced this week to permit the limited use of medical marijuana. House Bill 983 exempts patients engaging in the physicians-recommended use of cannabis to treat a chronic or terminal illness from criminal prosecution under state law. Qualifying patients must possess a tax stamp issued by the state department of Revenue, and may possess no more than three ounces of cannabis at any one time. The proposal does not permit patients to cultivate their own cannabis, nor does it establish a state-licensed supply source. #TakeAction
Don’t forget, NORML’s 2016 National Conference and Lobby Day is being held May 23rd and 24th! We’ll hold an informational seminar where activists from around the country hear from the leaders of the movement, we’ll keep the party going at the Mansion on O St. with our annual award ceremony and finally, we’ll conclude on the Hill where attendees w
ill hear from and meet leaders in Congress who are doing their best to reform our federal marijuana laws! You can register here.