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NORML Blog

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 3, 2017

    revolutionbumperWelcome to this week’s edition of the legislative roundup!

    With over 800 bills being filed in state legislatures and at the federal level, marijuana policy is moving fast.

    A big thanks to the over 3,000 people who have emailed their elected officials through our action alerts in the last 6 days alone! Remember, bookmark our Action Page (http://norml.org/act) and keep checking for new updates.

    If you haven’t yet, read NORML’s Paul Armentano’s most recent op-ed in The Hill newspaper “Voters demanded pot policy changes, it’s time for lawmakers to listen.”

    Below are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week.

    Make sure 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,

    Justin

    PRIORITY ALERTS

    Federal

    Senate lawmakers are only days away from taking a vote that may have a drastic impact on the future of marijuana policy.

    Sessions recently was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee and during his confirmation hearing, he failed to give a straight answer with regard to how the Justice Department should respond to states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use and left the door open for federal enforcement.

    Click here to email your Senators and tell them to oppose Jeff Sessions

    Arkansas

    Senate legislation is pending, SB 238, to indefinitely halt the enactment of the state’s voter-initiated medical marijuana law.

    Specifically, the measure states that Arkansas patients may not legally access medical marijuana until the substance has been federally legalized.

    This arrogant piece of legislation is a direct attempt to undermine an election outcome. Fifty-three percent of voters decided in November in favor of Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. State lawmakers have responsibility to abide by the will of the people, to do so in a timely manner, and to not let patients needlessly suffer.

    AR Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    New Hampshire

    After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 may finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized.

    HB640, sponsored by 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats, will amend criminal penalties for marijuana possession is pending in the House, where lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported such efforts for eight years in a row. However, legislators this year are hopeful that, for the first time, they also have sufficient votes to also clear the Senate.

    NH Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Rhode Island

    A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers has reintroduced a marijuana legalization this legislative session.  

    The bill will allow adults 21 and older to possess cannabis and will establish a framework for businesses to cultivate and distribute marijuana. While the language is similar to that of previous bills that have failed to come to a vote, lawmakers this year believe that Rhode Island is ready to catch up to its northeast neighbors.

    A majority of Rhode Island residents support legalization and Jared Moffat, Director of Regulate Rhode Island, believes: “It’s time for Rhode Island to look very seriously at this issue and pass a bill. Otherwise, we risk falling behind those other states.”

    RI Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    OTHER ACTIONS TO TAKE

    Federal

    Legislation is pending in the US House, HR 715, to amend the Controlled Substances Act so that marijuana is no longer classified as a Schedule I controlled substance and so that cannabidiol (CBD) is excluded from the federal definition of cannabis.

    Cannabidiol is a non-mood altering constituent in the marijuana plant that possesses a variety of therapeutic effects, particularly anti-seizure properties. Over a dozen states recognize by statute that CBD is safe and therapeutically effective.

    Further, the cannabis plant’s schedule I classification has long been inconsistent with the available evidence. Most recently, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a comprehensive report acknowledging that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions. This finding is incompatible with the plant’s Schedule I status, which opines that it possess “no accepted medical use in the United States.” Twenty-nine states now permit physicians to authorize marijuana therapy to qualified patients.

    While simply rescheduling marijuana under federal law will not end federal prohibition, it will bring about some needed changes in law. At a minimum, it would bring an end to the federal government’s longstanding intellectual dishonesty that marijuana ‘lacks accepted medical use.’ It would also likely permit banks and other financial institutions to work with state-compliant marijuana-related businesses, and permit employers in the cannabis industry to take tax deductions similar to those enjoyed by other businesses. Rescheduling would also likely bring some level of relief to federal employees subject to random workplace drug testing for off-the-job cannabis consumption.

    For these reasons, we urge your support for HR 715 while also recognizing that ultimately cannabis must be removed from the Controlled Substances Act altogether. Passage of HR 715 is a first step in this process.

    Click here to email your Congressional Representative now.

    Iowa

    Legislation is pending, HF 199, to establish a statewide medical marijuana program.

    Under these proposals, qualified patients with intractable pain and other conditions would be able to obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities.

    A more narrow version of this program is proposed by separate legislation, HF 198.

    While the program proposed by the measures is a fairly narrow one, it is far superior to the state’s existing CBD-specific law, which only applies to patients with intractable epilepsy and fails to provide an in-state supply source for CBD-related medicine.

    IA Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    New Hampshire

    Legislation is making its way through the New Hampshire House, HB 656, to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use.

    Members of the House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety heard testimony regarding the bill on Wednesday, February 2, at 2pm.

    Police in New Hampshire arrest some 2,900 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of New Hampshire adults, 62 percent of whom now endorse legalizing and regulating cannabis, according to a 2016 WMUR Granite State Poll.

    NH Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Kansas

    Legislation is pending before lawmakers, The Kansas Safe Access Act, to establish regulations governing a comprehensive medical marijuana program.

    The measure 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.

    KS Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    South Dakota

    More than a dozen lawmakers are backing legislation, Senate Bill 129, to eradicate the state’s marijuana possession by ingestion law.

    Under the law, one can be charged with a felony drug offense if their past use of a marijuana shows up on a blood or urine test. In the case of cannabis, byproducts of THC may be detectable for several weeks after one has ceased using it.

    South Dakota is one of the only states that criminalizes the internal possession of marijuana or other controlled substances, and it is the only state that defines the activity as a felony offense.

    SD Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Tennessee

    Legislation is pending in the House and Senate — SB 265 and HB 297 — to reduce penalties associated with the possession of one-eighth of marijuana (3.544 grams) to a fine-only offense.

    Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine. Passage of these pending measures would reduce the penalty to a $50 fine and no possibility of jail time.

    Simple marijuana possession would still remain classified as a misdemeanor.

    TN Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Additionally, legislation is pending in the Tennessee House, HB 173, to nullify the enactment of citywide marijuana decriminalization ordinances and to prevent additional municipalities from enacting similar marijuana reform measures.

    The intent of the bill is to override the passage of recent citywide measures in Nashville and Memphis — both of which passed local ordinances last year making minor marijuana possession offenses a non-arrestable citation.

    By contrast, state law classifies marijuana possession as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.

    TN Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Vermont

    Legislation is pending in the House, H. 170, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults.

    If passed, the measure would legalize the possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana, up to ten grams of hashish, and/or the cultivation of two marijuana plants in a private residence.

    The measure would also reduce existing penalties for those who possess greater quantities of cannabis.

    VT Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Wyoming

    Wyoming lawmakers are debating HJR 11, a joint resolution to legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21.

    This resolution legalizes and regulates the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. Under this measure, adults would be able to legally possess up to three ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants in the privacy of their home.

    WY Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

    Additionally, legislation, HB 197, to amend marijuana possession penalties has passed out of Committee and now faces action on the House floor.

    Passage of the measure would reduce existing marijuana possession penalties from up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine to no more than 20 days in jail and a $200 fine for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders would face stricter penalties under the proposal.

    Members of the House Judiciary Committee rejected a separate bill, HB 157, which NORML had endorsed that sought to decriminalize the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana.

    WY Resident? Click here to email your elected officials now.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 1, 2017

    sessfb2Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the confirmation of Jeff Sessions to be the next US Attorney General on a party line vote of 11 to 9.

    There a numerous groups in the criminal justice advocacy space, ranging from the NAACP to the ACLU who are opposed Senator Sessions becoming the nation’s top law enforcement officer for various reasons, ranging from his positions on voting rights, capital punishment, and sentencing reform.

    Sessions has a storied history of supporting marijuana prohibition, as NORML has well documented. This includes previously declaring that “good people do not smoke marijuana” and  supporting legislation that would have allowed defendants to receive the death penalty if they had received multiple convictions for marijuana distribution.

    His confirmation by the full Senate is not certainty, but should the chamber vote along party lines as the committee has, Sessions will likely be confirmed.

    Click here to email your Senators TODAY.

    The work of NORML to protect the fragile progress that states have made on marijuana policies will be more crucial than ever and we will continue to stand up for marijuana consumers. We still have time to make our concerns about Senator Sessions known and ask our Senators to further question him on the topic when he appears for questioning on the Senate floor.

    Whether he gets confirmed or not, it is imperative that we raise our voices loud at this crucial time. Our Senators need to know that not only do we have concerns over Sessions’ record on this issue, but are willing to stand up for our shared beliefs and defend our marijuana reform victories.

    Take one minute and email your Senators NOW.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 31, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaVoters in eight states decided on Election Day to radically amend their longstanding marijuana policies. But many lawmakers in these states still aren’t getting the message.

    Despite these voter mandates, many lawmakers remain reluctant to move forward with the legal reforms that the public has demanded. In some cases, legislators and regulators are outright defying voters’ will by proposing measures to undermine the election’s outcomes altogether.

    THIS WILL NOT STAND, WE NEED TO FIGHT BACK! CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT NORML’S FIGHT AGAINST THESE SENSELESS DELAYS

    For example, in Massachusetts, a handful of political leaders pushed through emergency legislation during an informal legislative session to delay marijuana sales until July 1, 2018. The Boston Globe summarized the event this way, “The extraordinary move, made in informal sessions with just a half-dozen legislators present, … unravel a significant part of the legalization measure passed by 1.8 million voters.” Additional measures before lawmakers seek to further derail several other aspects of the law, including adults’ ability to grow marijuana in their private residence.

    In Maine, lawmakers have similarly passed legislation to delay the enactment of voter-initiated provisions governing the retail production and sale of marijuana until the spring of 2018. The emergency measure also rolls back specific initiative provisions that permitted on site consumption in specially licensed establishments, as well as the possession of marijuana-infused edible products.

    In Florida, where 71 percent of voters endorsed a constitutional amendment providing doctors with the discretion to recommend medical marijuana to patients for whom they believed the benefits “would likely outweigh the potential health risks,” regulators are trying to strip medical marijuana access to those with chronic pain.

    In Arkansas, one lawmaker has proposed legislation to postpone the enactment of the state’s new medical cannabis program indefinitely.

    Even in California, where 56 percent of voters decided in favor of legalizing the adult marijuana market, some lawmakers are warning citizens to expect delays before the new law takes full effect.

    NORML believes that these delays and proposed legislative changes are unacceptable, and we are working hard to assure that the will of the voters is upheld.

    CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT OUR WORK AND HELP US FIGHT BACK AGAINST THESE EFFORTS TO DERAIL LEGALIZATION. WE MUST ENSURE OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS UPHOLD THE WILL OF THE VOTERS!

    Voters like you made their opinions on marijuana policy clear at the ballot box in November. Lawmakers in these jurisdictions have a responsibility to abide by the will of the people and to do so in a timely manner. Americans have lived with the failings of marijuana prohibition for far too long. The people’s will should not be compromised, second-guessed, or held hostage by politicians who are unwilling to recognize that they are on the wrong side of history.

    In Solidarity,
    Erik Altieri
    Executive Director
    NORML

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 30, 2017

    Maine Yes on 1Maine has become the eighth state to eliminate criminal penalties specific to the adult possession and personal use of cannabis.

    Language in Question 1: the Marijuana Legalization Act, specific to the private possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults took effect today. It permits adults who are not participating in the state’s existing medical cannabis program to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and/or the harvest of up to six mature plants.

    Public use of marijuana is a civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine.

    Maine voters narrowly passed Question 1 on Election Day.

    In response to Question 1, Maine lawmakers passed separate legislation, LD 88, permitting adults to possess up to five grams of marijuana concentrates. However, other provisions in the measure delay the implementation of retail marijuana sales until at least February 1, 2018. It also prohibits the possession of “edible retail marijuana products” until this date.

    Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington have previously adopted voter-initiated laws legalizing the private consumption and/or sale of cannabis by adults. The District of Columbia also permits adults to legally possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana in private residences.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 28, 2017

    blogstickerWelcome to this week’s edition of the legislative roundup. With prohibitionists fighting nationwide, from Massachusetts to deny the will of the voters with the implementation of legalization to Hawaii where the state is seeking to impose increased monitoring of drivers who may be under the influence of marijuana, NORML is constantly working to fight the rising tide of anti-science legislation cropping up.

    On the proactive “Team Rationality” side, NORML chapters are advancing efforts from reducing criminal penalties in Virginia to expanding worker protections for cannabis consumers in Washington state.

    Below are the priority bills that we’ve tracked this week, with more being posted on our http://norml.org/act page every day.

    If you have not yet, make sure 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,

    Justin

     

    Arkansas

    Legislative efforts are pending to amend the state’s voter-initiated medical marijuana law in a manner that would restrict qualified patients from smoking herbal preparations of the plant. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson indicates that he favors the plan.

    NORML opposes this effort to fundamentally change the law for the following reasons.

    The inhalation of herbal cannabis is associated with the rapid onset of drug effect while the oral consumption of other preparations, such as oils, extracts, or pills, is associated with significantly delayed onset. For patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms, such as those suffering from severe nausea, seizures, or spasms, inhaling herbal cannabis is the fastest and most effective route of administration. Inhaling cannabis also permits patients to better regulate their dose.

    Further, the effects of orally ingested cannabis are far less predictable in comparison to inhaled cannabis. This is because there exists far greater variability in the ways that marijuana is metabolized when it is consumed orally — meaning that patients may experience disparate and even dysphoric effects from dose to dose, even in instances where the dose is standardized.

    AR Resident? Click here to email your representatives to oppose this effort.

    Additionally, SB 130 prohibits individuals from operating a motor vehicle if they have 5 or more nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood. NORML opposes  this proposal.

    It should not be presumed that the detection of THC is predictive of psychomotor impairment and such a presumption should not be codified in Arkansas traffic safety statutes. The imposition and enforcement of this measure risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations.

    AR Resident? Click here to email your representatives to oppose this effort.

    Hawaii

    Legislation is pending, SB 548, to legalize the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for those over the age of 21.

    According to 2014 statewide poll, 66 percent of Hawaii voters support the taxation and regulation of marijuana.

    HI Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Additionally, Legislation is pending, SB 17, that seeks to establish a per se limit of “five nanograms or more per milliliter of active tetrahydrocannabinol” for anyone driving a motor vehicle.

    NORML opposes this proposal.

    It should not be presumed that the detection of THC is predictive of psychomotor impairment and such a presumption should not be codified in Hawaii traffic safety statutes. The imposition and enforcement of this measure risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations.

    HI Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Massachusetts

    On Wednesday, December 28, a handful of lawmakers met in a special session and voted to delay the roll out of retail marijuana providers from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018. As summarized by The Boston Globe, “The extraordinary move, made in informal sessions with just a half-dozen legislators present, would unravel a significant part of the legalization measure passed by 1.8 million voters just last month.” Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill into law just two days later.

    But this was only the beginning.

    Now, Senator Jason M. Lewis is proposing bills that would reduce the amount of marijuana that an individual can possess, restrict the number of plants that a person can grow, and ban various forms of THC infused products including edibles.

    The arrogance and hubris lawmakers are showing toward voters is shocking, and is typified by the comments of Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg who, only hours after the vote, pronounced: “I believe that when voters vote on most ballot questions, they are voting in principle. They are not voting on the fine detail that is contained within the proposal.”

    It’s time for you to send another clear message to your lawmakers: Abide by voters’ decision or suffer the consequences.

    MA Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Nebraska

    State Senator Anna Wishart has introduced comprehensive medical marijuana legislation, LB622.

    Senator Wishart’s bill is similar to legislation that was introduced in 2016 and narrowly defeated. LB622 will allow patients with conditions such as Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, opioid addictions and some types of cancer to obtain marijuana. Additionally it would permit patients to grow up to 12 plants and/or possess up to six ounces of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Last year’s bill was narrowly defeated by lawmakers.

    Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Nebraska patients deserve these same protections.

    NE Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    New Hampshire

    After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 may finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized.

    HB640, sponsored by 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats, will amend criminal penalties for marijuana possession is pending in the House, where lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported such efforts for eight years in a row. However, legislators this year are hopeful that, for the first time, they also have sufficient votes to also clear the Senate.

    NH Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    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.

    Most recently, an exhaustive report released by the National Academies of Sciences determined that there is “conclusive” evidence that cannabis is “effective for the treatment of chronic pain.” Authors concluded, “In adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids (constituents found organically in the marijuana plant) are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction of pain symptoms.”

    NH Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    New York

    Senator Liz Krueger (D) has introduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in the New York General Legislature.

    The act legalizes possession and cultivation, and would establish a market for legal marijuana for adults 21 and older.

    NY Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    North Dakota

    Legislation is pending, HB 1340, in the statehouse to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and marijuana-related paraphernalia.

    Under existing law, marijuana possession of one ounce or less is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, while the possession of greater amounts are classified as a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison. Possessing marijuana-related paraphernalia is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

    ND Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Virginia

    UPDATE: SB1091 has passed the full Senate by a vote of 38-2 and HB 2051 has passed it’s first committee vote in the House of Delegates.

    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.

    VA Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Additionally, SB 1298 has cleared the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on a 9-4 vote as it seeks to establish affirmative defense for possession of cannabidiol if an individual has written certification that they require the substance due to an approved medical condition.

    Affirmative defense establishes a basic set of facts surrounding cannabidiol possession cases. If someone with a qualifying medical condition is caught possessing marijuana, an affirmative defense for the individual would likely result in a more lenient punishment.

    VA Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Washington

    UPDATE: HB 1212 has passed committee, making it the first piece of legislation for home cultivation in Washington state history.

    Legislation is pending before the House, HB 1094 and HB 1212, to prohibit employers from discriminating against patients who legally consume marijuana during non-work hours.

    The bill amends existing law so that: “An employer  may not refuse to hire a qualifying patient, discharge or bar a qualifying patient from employment, or discriminate against a qualifying patient in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of the qualifying patient’s: (i) Status as a qualifying patient; or (ii) Positive drug test for marijuana components or metabolites.”

    Changes in the legal status of marijuana has not been associated with any adverse changes in workplace safety. In fact, a pair of studies from 2016 find that legalization is associated with greater workforce participation and with fewer workplace absences. Most recently, the National Academies of Sciences just-released marijuana and health report found “insufficient evidence” to support an association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.

    WA Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

     

     

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