• by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 14, 2018

    Steves House Briefing

    Yesterday on Capitol Hill, bestselling guidebook author and travel host Rick Steves held two briefings to address marijuana prohibition to a gathering of members of Congress and their staff. Inspired by Europe’s pragmatic approach to drug policy, with success measured by harm reduction rather than incarceration, Steves said that he is motivated to speak in favor of legalization because of its impact on civil liberties.

    “ There are so many reasons to end the prohibition on marijuana. Whether you’re concerned about the well-being of children, fairness for minority communities, redirecting money away from criminals and into state’s coffers, stemming the horrific bloodshed in Mexico, or civil liberties; it is clearly time for a new approach,” said Rick Steves.

    The discussion on marijuana policy covered the current issues stemming from the current tension between federal prohibition and the ever-evolving patchwork of marijuana law reforms at the state level.

    “It’s not 2010, we have years of data that is showing from my home state of Washington that regulation works,” said Steves.

    Steves Senate Briefing

    One of the nation’s leading voices to end the prohibition of marijuana, Rick Steves serves as a member of the board of NORML and has advocated extensively in support of the successful legalization efforts in Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and his home state of Washington.

    The events were organized by NORML in cooperation with the recently formed bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus. The Cannabis Caucus bills itself as “to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.”

    “Rick Steves has worked for decades to shine a light on the impact of our outdated marijuana laws. He has been a tireless advocate to end cannabis prohibition,” said Rep. Blumenauer, co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus. “We are thrilled to welcome him to Capitol Hill as we continue to educate Members and their staff about the importance of addressing this issue now.”


    Click here to send a message to your federal officials and demand that they reform our nations marijuana laws.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 13, 2018

    Marijuana and the LawA judge for the Federal District Court in Manhattan will hear arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of federal cannabis prohibition. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case include NORML Legal Committee member Joseph Bondy and Empire State NORML Director David Holland.

    The 98-page complaint contends 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 argues that current administrative mechanisms in place to allow for the reconsideration of cannabis Schedule I classification are “illusory.”

    A judge for the Federal District Court in Sacramento heard similar arguments in a 2014 legal challenge, also spearheaded by members of the NORML Legal Committee, but ultimately rejected them – opining: “At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional. But this is not the court and not the time.”

    Plaintiffs in the current lawsuit include a former NFL football player, a disabled military veterans, two children with severe movement disorders, and the non-profit group, the Cannabis Cultural Association. Plaintiffs argue that federal prohibition violates their civil and constitutional liberties, including their right to freely travel within the United States. They also argue that the federal prohibition of cannabis is “grounded in discrimination and [is] applied in a discriminatory manner.”

    Lawyers for the Justice Department are arguing for a dismissal of the suit, opining: “There is no fundamental right to use marijuana, for medical purposes or otherwise. Because such a right is not ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ or ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history,’ the Court should reject such a claim.”

    Full text of the complaint, Washington et al. v. Sessions et al., is available online here.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate February 9, 2018

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

    First, I’d like to highlight a key development at the federal level pertaining to established medical marijuana businesses and consumers.

    The protections for lawful medical marijuana patients and businesses from the Department of Justice provided by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer budget amendment was temporarily extended through March 23rd and we are working to ensure that it will be a part of any budget deal for the rest of the fiscal year. In the last week alone, NORML members sent thousands of messages to members of Congress and we plan to keep the pressure up. If you have not already, send a letter to your elected officials in support of extending these important protections.

    At the state level, New Jersey lawmakers are set to begin holding hearings on marijuana legalization next month, with the first one scheduled for March 5th, and activists in Maryland lobbied state lawmakers in the capital to support legislation that would put legalization on this year’s November ballot.

    Additionally, at the state level, an Indiana medical marijuana bill is dead for this session.

    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

    West Virginia

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 3035, to regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana.

    The bill states that  “In the interest of allowing law-enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes, generating revenue for education and other public purposes, and individual freedom, the Legislature of the State of West Virginia finds that the use of marijuana should be legal for a person twenty-one years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.”

    WV resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization

    New Jersey

    Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 1557 to legalize adult use marijuana possession and to provide for record expungement for certain past marijuana offenses.

    The bill would legalize marijuana by removing all criminal liability associated with marijuana from the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. With respect to criminal or disorderly persons offense convictions pre-dating marijuana legalization that relate to marijuana possession, use or being under the influence of marijuana, or failure to make lawful disposition of marijuana, these convictions would be expunged in an expedited process.

    Unlike Assembly Bill 1348 and Senate Bill 830, this measure does not establish a regulated commercial market governing the production and retail sale of marijuana.


    New Hampshire

    The New Hampshire Legislature is considering HB 656, a bill which would legalize and regulate the personal use of marijuana by persons 21 years or older.

    The bill also allows the cultivation, possession, and use of hemp, and calls for retail sales and generation of state revenues through taxation, as well as authorizes the licensing of marijuana wholesale, retail, cultivation, and testing facilities.

    Update: a public hearing is happening on 2/13 at 10:00AM in Legislative Office Building 210-211.

    NH resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalizing marijuana


    Senator Wishart has introduced a constitutional amendment, LR293CA, to put this issue of medical marijuana legalization to a direct vote on this year’s November ballot.

    Update: LR293CA was heard by the Judiciary Committee on 2/8/18.

    NE resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of letting the voters decide


    Representative Mark Cardenas (D) has introduced legislation, House Bill 2014, to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses.

    House Bill 2014 reclassifies minor marijuana possession offenses from a felony to a civil offense, punishable by a maximum $100 fine only — no arrest, no criminal prosecution, and no criminal record.

    AZ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of decriminalization


    Senator Sara Kyle and Representative Larry Miller have introduced legislation SB 2320 and HB 2391, seeking to place a ballot initiative before voters with regard to the legalization of medical marijuana.

    If passed, these bills would place the following advisory question on the November 2018 ballot:

    Should the Tennessee legislature approve the use of medical marijuana?

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


    Republican State Senator Dick Brewbaker has introduced Senate Bill 251, which seeks to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. By contrast, the measure also enhances penalties for offenses involving the possession of marijuana over one ounce.

    Senate Bill 251 reduces 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 and punishable by a fine of no more than $250 — no arrest and no criminal record.

    However, provisions in the bill also reclassify offenses involving quantities of marijuana above one ounce as felonies.

    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

    South Carolina

    Legislation is pending, H 3521: The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, to allow for the physician-authorized use of marijuana for patients with specific debilitating medical conditions.

    If passed, the bill would provide patients with regulated access to medical cannabis via licensed providers.

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


    Legislation is pending to provide “for the lawful use and possession of Cannabidiol Oil (CBD), if prescribed by a (licensed) practitioner.”

    Similar legislation seeking to provide qualified patients with CBD access was vetoed by Gov. Otter in 2015.

    Update: The bill, RS25862, was approved for consideration by the Idaho House Health & Welfare Committee.

    ID resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of CBD access

    Additional Actions to Take


    Legislation is pending, H.865, to permit those convicted of past marijuana convictions to seek expungement.

    If passed, H.865 would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting expungement for any past marijuana violation that is no longer defined as a crime under state law.

    VT resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expunging past marijuana convictions


    Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) has introduced legislation, AB 2069, to strengthen employment rights for medical cannabis patients.

    The bill 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.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of employment rights for patients


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

    Federal law explicitly authorizes states to engage in the state-authorized cultivation of hemp for research purposes. Over two dozen states have enacted legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with federal law.

    KS resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of industrial hemp research


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

    Update: SB 336 passed the Senate Executive Committee on February 7 by a vote of 16-1.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials and tell them to put opioid dependence on the list of qualifying conditions


    Legislation is pending, HB 300, to make Alaska a so-called ‘sanctuary state’ for licensed marijuana operators, prohibiting “the expenditure of state or municipal assets to enforce federal marijuana laws.”

    With US Attorney General Jeff Sessions having recently rescinded federal guidance memos protecting state-licensed, marijuana-related activity, passage of this legislation is more crucial than ever.

    AK resident? Click here to tell your elected officials to make Alaska a sanctuary state


    Democratic State Representative John Mizuno has introduced legislation, HB 2740, to allow for out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders to access medical cannabis while visiting Hawaii.

    Other provisions in the bill prohibit employers from either discriminating against or taking punitive actions against employees solely based on their medical cannabis use or patient status.

    HI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of reciprocity.


    Republican Brad Draw has introduced legislation, HB 197, “to ensure the cultivation and processing of cannabis in the state for academic or medical research purposes.”

    If passed, this bill mandates the Department of Agriculture to engage in the cultivation, processing, and distribution of marijuana for the purposes of engaging in academic or medical research.

    UT resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical marijuana research

    Check back next week for more legislative updates!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    Marijuana medicineAfter a brief government shutdown, congressional leadership voted to enact a six-week continuing resolution that maintains present federal spending levels and priorities through March 23, 2018. The resolution extends medical cannabis patient protections imposed by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment until that date.

    The amendment, which has been in place since 2014, maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    Without these protections, medical cannabis cultivators and dispensaries exist with a greater threat than normal of federal enforcement of national prohibition, yet the certainty that these protections will be honored have been in doubt throughout the entire Trump administration.

    When President Trump signed the first Continuing Resolution in 2017, he issued a signing statement regarding the amendment:

    “Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

    Essentially stating that his administration believes they can ignore these protections if they do not view them to be Constitutional.

    Under this mentality, Attorney General Jeff Sessions could move in to shut down medical marijuana facilities at any point. Should Sessions crackdown, we are confident that we would win a court challenge, given previous rulings on this very question. However, it would be a reactive exercise after an enforcement action, and during that process, the patients who relied on a supply chain to get them their medication would not have a lawful means to do so.

    So now, the government reopens under another CR, the protections are back in place, and we are right back where we were; in an uneasy détente. The threat of Sessions on one side and medical patients in a state-lawful system trying to alleviate their suffering.

    Further, Congressional leadership must reauthorize this language as part of the forthcoming appropriations in order for the provisions to stay in effect in any new spending deal. Last July, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) offered identical language before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which approved it. However, House Rules Committee Chair Peter Sessions (R-TX) has refused to allow House members to vote on similar language. The provision will now be considered by House and Senate leadership when the two chambers’ appropriations bills are reconciled, should Congress ever set a FY18 budget, of which is already over a third of the way behind us.

    Click here to send a message to your lawmakers and tell them to retain these protections.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 8, 2018

    Following in the footsteps of San Francisco, Seattle city officials announced today that they will be vacating the criminal convictions of former marijuana offenders.

    Seattle’s mayor and city attorney plan to ask the courts to vacate all misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions that were prosecuted before the plant was legalized in Washington state in 2012.

    Between the years 1986 and 2010, police in Washington made an estimated 240,000 marijuana possession arrests.

    Stated Mayor Jenny Durkan: “[T]his action is a necessary first step in righting the wrongs of the past and putting our progressive values into action. … Our action will affect people who had been convicted of offenses for conduct that is now legal under state law. People won’t have to take any actions like hiring a lawyer or going to a court hearing. … I hope these actions we’re taking here in Seattle can lay the foundation for other cities, counties and states to act, too.”

    Last week, 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. Legislation to enact a similar automatic expungement policy statewide is pending in the California Assembly.

    Legislation is also pending in Vermont to make it easier for those with past criminal marijuana convictions to petition the court for expungement. In Pennsylvania, legislation is anticipated to be introduced shortly to vacate previous marijuana convictions for patients who have enrolled in the state medical marijuana program.

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