• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 27, 2018

    Gov LePage (R-Maine)

    State lawmakers are moving forward with a legislative proposal to significantly amend various provisions of the state’s 2016 voter-approved cannabis law: The Marijuana Legalization Act.

    Members of the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee have voted 16 to 1 in favor of overhauling the law, which has yet to be fully implemented. Lawmakers had initially voted last year to delay the enactment of provisions regulating the retail production and sale of cannabis. Then in November, Republican Gov. Paul LePage vetoed legislation that sought to license and regulate marijuana businesses and sales, stating: “Until I clearly understand how the federal government intends to treat states that seek to legalize marijuana, I cannot in good conscience support any scheme in state law to implement expansion of legal marijuana in Maine.” Lawmakers voted in favor of sustaining LePage’s veto.

    Now lawmakers are pushing a plan to amend and repeal numerous provisions of the law, including provisions that have already taken effect. Specifically, language in the new proposal would limit the quantity of mature marijuana plants that an adult may legally grow in a private residence from six to three. Legislators are advocating for this change despite the fact that no regulated, commercial market yet exists for cannabis — leaving adults reliant exclusively upon home cultivation operations. Further, no data has been presented indicating that the state’s existing plant quotas are either being abused or that home-cultivated marijuana is being diverted into the criminal market. NORML opposes this proposed amendment.

    “A majority of Maine voters decided in favor of legalizing and regulating the use of marijuana by adults,” NORML’s Political Director Justin Strekal said. “It is time for lawmakers to implement the will of the people, not undermine it.”

    Other language in the new proposal would repeal language permitting for the operation of state-licensed social use facilities, and would eliminate provisions redirecting portions of marijuana-related tax revenue to localities that explicitly permit such operations. Separate language in the bill seeks to impose a new 21.5 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana transactions. The bill also makes it easier for communities that wish to ban adult use operations to do so.

    If you reside in Maine, you can use NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ to contact your lawmakers here.

    A finalized version of the bill is anticipated to go before lawmakers in the House and Senate in late March. Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, the Implementation Committee’s House chairman, said that the so-called “compromises” in the plan are necessary because of the close nature of the 2016 vote and because the Governor has remained steadfastly opposed to the issue. Yet, even despite the proposed amendments, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette predicts that LePage will likely veto this committee bill too.

    In Massachusetts, where voters approved a similar 2016 initiative regulating the adult use and retail sale of cannabis, regulators this week also announced delays and changes to the voter-approved law. On Monday, following pressure from the Governor and other lawmakers, members of the Cannabis Control Commission voted for a limited rollout of retail marijuana sales in July — postponing licenses for home delivery services, marijuana lounges, and other distribution channels until early next year. Commercial marijuana production and sales were initially slated to begin on January 1, 2018, but lawmakers last year passed emergency legislation postponing the enactment of those regulatory provisions until this summer.

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

    Marijuana and the LawA federal district court judge in Manhattan today granted the government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that sought to challenge the constitutionality of cannabis’ prohibited status under federal law.

    [2/27/18 update: Plaintiffs have stated their intent to appeal the court’s ruling.]

    The 98-page complaint, filed in July 2017 by a legal team that includes New York attorney Michael Hiller, NORML Legal Committee member Joseph Bondy and Empire State NORML Director David Holland, contended that the federal government “does not believe, and upon information and belief never has believed” that cannabis meets the requirements for a Schedule I designation under the Controlled Substances Act. It further argued that current administrative mechanisms in place to allow for the reconsideration of cannabis Schedule I classification are “illusory.” Lawyers for the Justice Department argued for a dismissal of the suit, arguing: “There is no fundamental right to use marijuana, for medical purposes or otherwise.”

    Presiding Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein sided with the federal government, opining in a 20-page ruling: “No such fundamental right (to possess or use cannabis) exists. Every court to consider the specific, carefully framed right at issue here has held that there is no substantive due process right to use medical marijuana.” The judge further ruled that plaintiffs had not yet exhausted all of the potential administrative remedies available to them — such as filing an administrative petition to reschedule cannabis with the US Drug Enforcement Administration — and therefore, it was inappropriate for the court to intervene. “There can be no complaint of constitutional error when such a process is designed to provide a safety valve of this kind,” he opined. “Judicial economy is not served through a collateral proceeding of this kind that seeks to undercut the regulatory machinery on the Executive Branch and the process of judicial review in the Court of Appeals.”

    Judge Hellerstein also rejected plaintiffs’ claim that the federal law is unconstitutional because “it was passed with racial animus.” He held that plaintiffs lacked the standing to argue such a claim because they “have failed to demonstrate that a favorable decision is likely to redress plaintiffs’ alleged injuries,” such as a dismissal of their past criminal convictions.

    With regard to the question of whether the plaintiffs legitimately benefited from cannabis as a medicinal agent, the judge argued that the merits of this claim was beyond the scope of the court. “Plaintiffs’ amended complaint, which I must accept as true for the purpose of this motion, claims that the use of medical marijuana has, quite literally, saved their lives,” he wrote. “I highlight plaintiffs’ experience to emphasize that this decision should not be understood as a factual finding that marijuana lacks any medical use in the United States, for the authority to make that determination is vested in the administrative process.” He added, “Even if marijuana has current medical uses, I cannot say that Congress acted irrationally in placing marijuana in Schedule I.”

    Legal counsel for the plaintiffs have yet to publicly announce whether or not they intend to appeal Judge Hellerstein’s ruling.

    A judge for the Federal District Court in Sacramento considered similar arguments in a 2014 legal challenge, also spearheaded by members of the NORML Legal Committee, but ultimately rejected them — ruling that plaintiffs failed to show that Congress acted irrationally when classifying cannabis as a schedule I controlled substance. “At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional,” the judge determined. “But this is not the court and not the time.”

    Text of Judge Hellerstein’s decision in Washington et al. v. Sessions et al is online here.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate February 23, 2018

    Welcome to this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    First, I want to bring your attention to some of the state level lobbying efforts progressing around the country.

    Activists gathered in Denver, CO on Wednesday to try and change the conversation on employee drug testing and partner with local business. Several Denver board members and activists attended, building relationships and trust with legislators and other interest groups and lobbyists. Additionally, NORML of Florida chapters, along with Sensible Florida, Inc (the organization behind the constitutional initiative “To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol”) supporters met in Tallahassee on Tuesday to host press conferences and lobby state lawmakers in support of marijuana law reforms.

    Also at the state level, New Mexico’s state legislature has adjourned for this year, effectively killing a bill to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana, a decriminalization bill, and one to allow doctors to recommend cannabis in place of opioids. Three Arizona bills are also dead for this year after failing to be voted on before last Friday’s crossover deadline, including one that would have put legalization on the ballot, a decriminalization bill, and one to obtain sanctuary state status for marijuana operators.

    At a more local level, officials in various parts of the country are speaking out against the Trump administration’s crackdown on marijuana. The District Attorney for Alameda County in California has announced her intent to automatically vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions. And newly elected Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also announced that his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession offense violations. City officials in San Francisco recently announced plans to automatically expunge thousands of past marijuana possession convictions and Seattle officials have also announced a similar plan to dismiss past convictions.

    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,

    Priority Alerts


    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


    Introduced by state Senator Will Smith, SB 1039 would put an amendment to the Maryland Constitution on the ballot to be decided by voters to ensure that citizens have the right to possess, smoke, and cultivate marijuana. Delegate David Moon is sponsoring the House companion, HB 1264.

    Update: SB 1039 was debated on the Senate floor on Tuesday, and HB 1264 is scheduled to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on 3/13 at 1pm.

    MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of leaving it up to the voters


    Senate Bill 251 and House Bill 272 reduce penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $6,000 fine, to a non-criminal violation, punishable by a fine of no more than $250 — no arrest and no criminal record. However, provisions in the bills also reclassify offenses involving quantities of marijuana above one ounce as felonies.

    Update: Both bills were heard by the Judiciary Committees in their respective chambers on 2/21. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB 251 by a 6 to 4 vote, however, the House committee rejected HB 272 by a 7 to 5 vote. HB 272 is now dead for this session.

    AL resident? Click here to email your elected officials and urge them to amend SB 251 in a manner that benefits all marijuana possession offenders

    West Virginia

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 3035, to regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana. Senate Bill 593 is also pending and would allow adults over 21 years of age to possess up to four ounces of marijuana at home and two ounces in public. They could also grow four mature cannabis plants and four seedlings.

    Update: New, similar legislation was introduced, HB 4491 to also regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana.

    WV resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization, taxation, and regulation


    Earlier this year, Senator Sara Kyle (D) and Representative Larry Miller introduced legislation SB 2320 and HB 2391, seeking to place a ballot initiative before voters to let them decide on the legalization of medical marijuana.

    Update: SB 2320 was put on the final calendar for The Senate State & Local Government Committee, the date is TBD. HB 2391 was placed on the House Local Government subcommittee calendar for 2/21, but then deferred to a later date, TBD.

    TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of a medical marijuana ballot initiative


    New legislation is pending, HJR 86, to put the issue of depenalizing the adult use of marijuana before voters this November.

    If enacted by lawmakers, voters would decide upon the following question: “That the possession or consumption of marijuana by a person twenty-one years of age or older shall not be a criminal offense in this state.”

    MO resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of a depenalization ballot question


    SB 726 and HB 1251 are pending, seeking to expand the state’s limited medical CBD law. They both crossed over to the other chamber earlier this month.

    Update: HB 1251 was approved by the Senate 40 to zero on 2/19 and is now being transmitted to Governor Northam, who has indicated that he plans on signing the bill. Also, HB 1251 succeeded unanimously in an Adoption Emergency Vote, meaning it will go into effect immediately upon Gov. Northam’s signature.

    VA resident? Click here to email your Governor and tell him to sign HB 1251 into law

    New York

    A.8904 is pending, to permit practitioners’ discretion to recommend medical marijuana, without being limited by the existing list of qualifying conditions.

    Update: A Senate companion bill was introduced late last week, S.7755.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of removing the list of qualifying conditions


    Legislation is pending, SB 6, to establish an agricultural pilot program to permit the cultivation, production, and sale of industrial hemp by registered providers.

    Update: SB 6 was approved by both the House and Senate and now awaits action from Governor Walker.

    AK resident? Click here to email your Governor and urge him to sign this bill into law


    Legislation is pending, SB 263, to establish a state-licensed industrial hemp research program.

    Update: SB 263 was approved by the Senate by a 36-3 vote on 2/22, and it now awaits action from the House.

    KS resident? Click here to email your representatives in support of hemp research


    Additional Actions to Take


    Senate Bill 1420 seeks to enhance quality testing practices for medical marijuana products.

    If passed, the bill would improve product testing procedures and requirements. It would also lower the costs of medical marijuana registration cards from $150 to $50 for an initial application, and to $25 for subsequent annual renewals.

    Update: SB 1420 was approved by the Senate by a 27-3 vote on 2/22, and is now being transmitted to the House, where a vote is expected in the upcoming weeks.

    AZ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of better testing practices


    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 52, to legalize the possession, use, manufacture, and retail sale of cannabidiol products.

    The law defines products containing CBD and no more than 0.3 percent THC as legal to possess and sell. Indiana citizens would no longer need to be a part of a patient registry or to be diagnosed with a qualifying condition in order to legally possess or purchase CBD products. It also provides protections so that employers may not discriminate against anyone using CBD in compliance with the law.

    Separate legislation further clarifying the legal status of CBD products in the state of Indiana for specific patients, House Bill 1214, is also pending. Both bills have already crossed over to the other chamber.

    Update: SB 52 was heard by the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee on 2/21 and was then approved by a vote of 9 to zero. HB 1214 will be heard by the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee at 11am on 2/27 in Room 130.

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 1137 to authorize the Indiana State Department of Agriculture to establish an agricultural pilot program to study the growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp and industrial hemp products. It was already approved by the House unanimously last month.

    Update: HB 1137 was approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce on 2/19.

    IN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of greater CBD access, and click here to email them in support of hemp research.

    New Hampshire

    Legislation is pending, HB 1477, to permit those convicted of past marijuana convictions to seek expungement.

    If passed, HB 1477 would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting that the court annul any past marijuana violations involving the possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana.

    Update: HB 1477 was considered on the House floor on 2/22, and was then approved by the House by a 314-24 vote, and will now be transmitted to the Senate.

    NH resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expunging past records


    Legislation is pending, SB 336, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy as an alternative to opioid treatment.

    Update: SB 336 is scheduled to be considered by the full Senate on 2/27.

    IL resident? Click here to email your senators in support of this effort


    Legislation is pending, SB 547 and HB 2034, seeking to modify provisions relating to industrial hemp. SB 547 was approved by the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee last month.

    If passed, the bills would allow the Department of Agriculture to issue a registration or permit to growers and handlers of agricultural and industrial hemp. It would also create an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture to study the growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp.

    Update: HB 2034 was initially approved by the House on 2/20.

    MO resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of modifying industrial hemp provisions


    State Representative Jeremy Faison (R) and State Senator Steve Dickerson (R) have introduced legislation, SB 1710 and HB 1749 to establish a limited medical marijuana access program.

    The measures permit qualified patients to possess marijuana-infused oil products, as well as other non-herbal forms of cannabis, from state-licensed dispensaries. Both patients and physicians would be required to participate in a state registry.

    Update: Both SB 1710 and HB 1749 were placed on the Criminal Justice Subcommittee calendar in their respective chambers for 2/27.

    TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical marijuana extract access


    Republican State Representative Peter Lucido introduced House Bill 4606, seeking to amend the Michigan Penal Code by removing the crime of registered medical patients traveling with marijuana. HB 4606 was already approved by the House last year.

    If passed, the bill would repeal a 2012 law that makes it illegal to transport or possess marijuana unless it’s in a container secured in the trunk of a vehicle. If the vehicle does not have a trunk, the marijuana has to be in a case that is not readily accessible from the interior of the vehicle. Violators face up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

    Update: HB 4606 was approved by a Senate committee on 2/22.

    MI resident? Click here to email your senators in support of removing travel restrictions for patients

    Check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 22, 2018

    The enactment of statewide laws regulating the use and distribution of cannabis for medical purposes is not associated with increased marijuana use among young people, according to a review of relevant studies published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.

    Investigators from Columbia University, the RAND Corporation, the University of California at Davis, and the Boston School of Public Health reviewed 11 studies developed from four ongoing national surveys. The studies were published between the years 1991 and 2014. None of the studies identified any significant changes in youth use patterns that could be attributable to changes in marijuana’s legal status.

    Authors concluded: “[A]ll estimates of pre–post changes in past-month marijuana use within MML (medical marijuana law) states from these studies were non-significant. … In summary, current evidence does not support the hypothesis that MML passage is associated with increased marijuana use prevalence among adolescents in states that have passed such laws.”

    One of the study’s senior authors, Dr. Deborah Hasin, further stated in an accompanying press release, “For now, there appears to be no basis for the argument that legalizing medical marijuana has increased teens’ use of the drug.”

    The findings are consistent with those of numerous prior studies, including a federally funded 2015 study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry that assessed marijuana use patterns of over one-million adolescents in 48 states. That paper concluded, [C]oncerns that increased marijuana use is an unintended effect of state marijuana laws seem unfounded.”

    Separate studies report that teens’ use of marijuana and access to cannabis have declined significantly over the better part of the past two decades – during the same time that the majority of states enacted medical marijuana access programs. Data from states that regulate the adult use and sale of cannabis similarly fail to report any associated uptick in either youth use or marijuana access.

    Text of the study, “Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the United States: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” is not yet available online.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 20, 2018

    The District Attorney for Alameda County has announced her intent to automatically vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions. Alameda County, which includes Oakland, is the 7th-most populous county in California.

    According to the DA’s office, there are an estimated 6,000 marijuana convictions eligible for either a sentence reduction or a dismissal.

    “California is offering a second chance to people convicted of cannabis crimes, from felonies to small infractions, with the opportunity to have their criminal records cleared,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Mally said in a press statement. “We … intend to reverse decades of cannabis convictions that can be a barrier for people to gain meaningful employment.”

    The policy change comes weeks after the San Francisco District Attorney’s office announced that it will review, dismiss, and seal an estimated 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1975.

    Seattle officials have also announced a similar plan to dismiss past convictions, opining, “[T]his action is a necessary first step in righting the wrongs of the past and putting our progressive values into action.” Last week, newly elected Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also announced that his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession offense violations.

Page 4 of 498« First...23456...102030...Last »