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NORML Blog

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate March 15, 2018

    I’m Carly, and I’ve been a Political Associate with NORML in Washington, DC for about 7 months now. I recently testified (for my first time ever!) before the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee in favor of House Bill 1264 – a constitutional amendment that would put a question on this November’s ballot to let the voters decide on the issue of marijuana legalization and retail sales.

    When I first found out I was going to testify, I was excited. I knew this was a unique opportunity that not everyone would have in their lives, and a chance to make my own voice heard before a committee of legislators in a state I felt a deep connection to – being a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, I spent some of the best years of my life living in College Park, MD.

    What was I going to say? How was I going to say it? Were they going to take me seriously, being so young? Is 2 minutes enough to communicate the extremely important message I was trying to convey? There was only one thing I knew for sure – I was really nervous.

    I arrived at the Maryland State House around noon that day, and was instantly greeted by my colleagues from Maryland NORML. Everyone brought positive vibes and good energy, which I needed. The hearing began at 1pm, and I thought it would only be a couple hours, at most, before they called our bill. Little did I know, this was all just a waiting game.

    Then came 5pm, 6pm, 7pm… and still no mention of HB 1264. By that time, I was losing energy and hope, wondering if the committee would even end up getting to our bill that day. Luckily, I was surrounded by an optimistic, upbeat group of activists that kept my spirits high. By the time 10pm rolled around, it was finally our turn.

    I entered the committee room, and Delegate Moon (the bill’s sponsor) had the microphone, explaining different provisions of the bill and answering a boatload of questions from the committee members, with a representative from the Marijuana Policy Project, and a former law enforcement officer joining him on the panel.

    My nerves were surprisingly eased as I sat in that room waiting for my turn to testify. The committee members were cracking light-hearted jokes – one of them even joked about Delegate Moon providing samples to the committee. This made me feel a lot more comfortable speaking in front of them. After all, they are just regular people, and concerned residents of MD like I once was.

    I was on the next panel, with Luke Jones, Director of Maryland NORML, and attorney Eric Sterling beside me. We each had our 2 minutes, and that was that. I felt confident in my testimony, focusing on the right to home cultivate and how perceived youth access to cannabis has declined in the states that have legalized.

    The other panels testifying in favor included victims of the current laws who were arrested for simple possession and a medical patient who had to revert to the black market because of high costs and poor accessibility.

    Then came the opposition panel. It consisted of two AAA representatives (as expected), along with another representative from the organization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana. They brought up concerns of impaired driving and youth access, which we had previously addressed. We left the committee room around 11:30pm feeling cautiously optimistic and eager to see how this would all play out.

    All in all, besides the anticipation of waiting for 10 hours, I had an incredibly positive experience testifying at the Maryland State House. I felt empowered, like I was making a difference. If there’s ever a hearing for a bill on an issue that you care about – go. Testify. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to do so, and as a result, Maryland is one step closer to ending the prohibition of marijuana.

    If you live in MD, tell your lawmakers to support HB 1264

  • by NORML March 13, 2018

    Legalize marijuanaDuring a budget address on Tuesday, March 13th, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy doubled down on his commitment to legalize marijuana in the Garden State this year.

    A budget overview document released in tandem with his address states that “this Administration plans to legalize adult-use marijuana by January 1, 2019. The State will also move forward with expanding access to medical marijuana to alleviate patient suffering. Governor Murphy is ready to end the cycle of non-violent, low-level drug offenses holding individuals back.”

    Governor Murphy campaigned heavily on a pledge to legalize marijuana and today’s address makes clear he continues to push forward on his promise. Recently, some legalization opponents have begun to push for a watered down version of decriminalization as a way to derail the fight for full legalization and regulation. Governor Murphy was having none of it.

    “Decriminalization alone will not put the corner dealer out of business, it will not help us protect our kids, and it will not end the racial disparities we see. If these are our goals – as they must be – then the only sensible option is the careful legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales to adults,” stated Murphy during his budget address.

    In addition to advocating for full legalization, Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy has already began a process to expand the state’s struggling medical marijuana program. In January, he signed an executive order calling on regulators to review the state’s eight-year-old medical cannabis access program and to recommend ways to increase participation from patients and physicians.

    “Our goal is to modernize the program in New Jersey, bring it up to current standards, and put patients first,” he said.

    IF YOU LIVE IN NEW JERSEY, CLICK HERE TO QUICKLY AND EASILY WRITE YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS IN SUPPORT OF LEGALIZATION.

  • by Bennett Sondeno, Treasurer, WY NORML

    Wyoming as a whole is staunchly conservative.  Sometimes one wonders why a legislator would even try to run with a “D” behind their name on the ballot.  That is not to say we have lacked excellent Democratic leaders, but the blood of the state runs very red.  This is a state dominated by energy production, a sense of uniquely independent national pride, and respect for nature and the dance with her that is the agricultural relationship.  The extreme end of this conservative bent is seated in law enforcement.  Too often Wyoming NORML hears from residents whose lives have been turned upside down by aggressive enforcement of laws designed to control a natural plant that the vast majority of people here support having access to.

    Despite our doggedly conservative character, we are a caring, pragmatic, and individualistic cast.  At last polling, the University of Wyoming determined that over 80% of Wyomingites support medical cannabis, and over 70% support decriminalization.  The breakdown between the people and the policies seems to stem in part from these complementary but potentially deleterious qualities.  While the violent treatment of cannabis consumers by the hard-right in law enforcement is well known, the “live and let live” attitude of the populace combines with fear of such force and judgmental retribution by the ultra-conservatives to keep most people from speaking up or outwardly supporting reform efforts in spite of personal convictions.  Many are concerned that voicing their political opinions may yield employment conflicts.  On top of much public silence, one of the loudest, hardest to ignore, and most well-funded law enforcement groups (WASCOP – Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police) actively lobbies against change at every legislative session, committee meeting, and in between.  While their lobbyist is paid over $85,000 annually from their publicly funded coffer of over $2.5M to wine and dine elected officials, our board members crossed the state on their own dime to speak at the capitol about this issue that is so dear to them personally.  This is the atmosphere in which Wyoming NORML seeks to raise up volunteers and alter bad laws, and neither is an easy task.  For the second year in a row our focus was to prevent felony edible limits of cannabis products from being written into state law.  The state attorneys group and WASCOP have been fighting hard to establish a felony punishment at the level of a 3oz edible, and they have friends in the Judiciary Committee.

    We touted our lobby day for months.  We encouraged every one of our supporters to volunteer on the date, to donate to our cause, and to interact with their legislators concerning marijuana law reform.  We set up easy to use mailing forms to effortlessly send messages to the Judiciary Committee that would first take up the bill we had targeted for defeat.  We used money donated by board members to buy hemp paper and printed off flyers personalized to each legislator expressing why the bill needed to be put to death.  We also had a ream of high quality hemp paper donated to the cause which we gave to a Wyoming printer to create nice little hemp paper scratch pads with the Wyoming NORML name and logo for our volunteers to hand out as they would speak with their representatives and senators.  We were ready.

    Then came the horse apples in the road.  Our recruited printer had a family emergency and had to leave town before completing the job.  As is customary in Wyoming when travel is necessary for any pre-planned wintertime event weather interfered with roads across the state.  When our board members gathered on the morning of the lobby day at the beginning of the legislative session only one loyal volunteer showed up to help; we were planning on having close to twelve.  Instead of tossing the bill the committee accepted it and sent it to the Senate.  Some Senators said that they had never even heard from their constituents on the topic.  Then our board members had to return home.  We were very discouraged.  But…

    At the eleventh hour a second printer in the same small Wyoming town was able to take on the task, complete it, and have the materials shipped overnight to Cheyenne where they were picked up by the one volunteer who brought them to the lobby day.  In spite of the weather three of our board members were able to attend the lobby day, and one returned with support to be present for each hearing of the bill as it moved through the legislative houses.  Both the Senate and House discussed the bill, and testimony was given of a legislator’s family member who illegally uses cannabis products for better health.  Another stated that he had moved from a position of supporting the felony bill to one of opposition after hearing from just a single voter about the desire they had for cannabis health products.  Though passed by the Senate, the bill was buried by the House and killed through neglect.  For two years running a small grassroots effort and a handful of volunteers have succeeded in defeating bad bills being pushed by powerful moneyed interests.

    Let this encourage you.  Though few in open numbers and lacking much financial support we have been able to urge people and legislators sufficiently so as to move cannabis policy in the right direction in this religiously “Right” state each year since we have been organized as a focused group.  We are picking up members and interest is growing because people are seeing that change can be made and that speaking up without serious reprisal is possible.  People are influencing the minds of their legislators for the good of the movement and the health of our society.  This shows why interaction between voters and elected officials is so important as to be incapable of being understated.  We will see sensible cannabis policy in Wyoming, and with work from motivated citizens your state can as well.

    Bennett Sondeno is the Treasurer of WY NORML

    Follow WY NORML on Facebook, visit their website at http://www.wyomingnorml.org/ and make a contribution to support their work by clicking here.

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

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

    First, I want to bring your attention to the dedicated activists lobbying in conjunction with Delaware NORML! Activists in Delaware lobbied state lawmakers in the capital on Thursday 3/8 in favor of a bill that would legalize the use, possession, and retail sale of adult use marijuana.

    Also at the state level, voter support is growing for a proposed adult use ballot initiative in Michigan, as a recent poll found that 61 percent of voters say they would vote yes on the measure “if the election were held today.” Marijuana law reform advocates are continuing to gather signatures for voter-initiated efforts in Missouri and Utah. Proponents of a medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota have turned in their signatures and are awaiting a review by the Secretary of State’s office.

    Additionally, New Jersey legislators heard testimony on legalization on Monday. And, Massachusetts marijuana regulators took another step towards the opening of retail cannabis shops, as they approved draft marijuana rules governing the industry and will begin accepting applications for retail outlets on April 1. It is still their intent to open adult use dispensary doors this summer.

    Several marijuana related legislation died this week after failing to be voted on before crossover deadlines, including legalization and decriminalization bills in Hawaii. Florida and Washington state legislatures adjourned for this year, effectively killing FL decriminalization and patient protection efforts, and a WA bill to provide financial services to marijuana businesses.

    At a more local level, the District Attorney’s Office for Sonoma County, California is directing staff to review and vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions. County officials estimate that approximately 3,000 cases are eligible for either a sentencing reduction or expungement. And, police in Juneau, Alaska announced that marijuana businesses can now transport product by airplane.

    Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

    Your highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Click here to e-mail your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation

    Rhode Island

    Rep. Scott Slater (D) has introduced legislation, HB 7883, to place a non-binding marijuana legalization question on the state’s November ballot.

    The proposal question would read: “Do you support the legalization of possession and use of marijuana by persons who are at least 21 years of age, subject to regulation and taxation that is similar to the regulation and taxation of tobacco and alcohol?”

    RI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of letting the voters weigh in

    Illinois

    Legislation is pending, SB 2275, to place a non-binding marijuana legalization question on the state’s November ballot.

    The question posed to voters would read: “Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”

    Update: SB 2275 passed the Senate by a 37-13 vote on 3/1, and now awaits action from the House.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials and tell them to let the people have a say

    Maine

    Legislation is pending, LD 1539, to greatly expand patients’ access to medical cannabis, as well as expand the pool of patients who are eligible.

    Among changes proposed by the bill: Physicians would be able, at their sole discretion, to recommend cannabis therapy to any patient for whom they think it would benefit; Caregivers would be able to manage more than five patients at one time; Regulators would increase the total number of licensed dispensaries from eight to 14.

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

    Kentucky

    House Bill 166 was introduced by Rep. John Sims Jr. [D] to allow for the physician-authorized use of marijuana for patients with specific debilitating medical conditions. Additional legislation, Senate Bill 118, is also pending to allow medical marijuana use in the Commonwealth.

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

    Update: The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HB 166 on 3/6, and then decided to  table the bill for this session as a result of strong opposition from law enforcement. SB 118 is still awaiting action from the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs, & Public Protection Committee.

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

    Tennessee

    Senator Sara Kyle (D) 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?”

    Update: HB 2391 was placed on the Local Government subcommittee calendar for 3/14/18. SB 2320 was put on the final calendar for The Senate State & Local Government Committee, date TBD.

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

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

    The measure permits 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: HB 1749 is on the Criminal Justice Committee’s calendar for 3/14. SB 1710 is still awaiting action from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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

    New York

    Legislation is pending, A 9945, to expand veterans’ access to medical marijuana.

    The measure waives administrative fees for patients who are veterans and/or who have been ‘honorably discharged’ from military service.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of better access for veterans

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    New Jersey

    Legislation is pending, A3535, that would limit certain employers from discriminating against employees based solely upon their testing positive for marijuana on a drug test.

    The bill “prohibits businesses receiving financial assistance from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority from taking any adverse employment action against an employee or prospective employee based upon a finding that the employee or prospective employee has used or tested positive for the use of marijuana” off the job.

    NJ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of employment protections for consumers

    Rhode Island

    Legislation is pending, H 7899, to protect state-registered medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination.

    The measure reads: “It shall be unlawful for any employer to refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against a person with respect to any terms, conditions or privileges of employment, or any other matter directly or indirectly related to employment because of their status as a cardholder, including because of a positive drug test for marijuana components or metabolites, unless the patient cardholder possessed marijuana or was impaired on the premises of the place of employment or during the hours of employment.”

    RI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of employment protections for patients

    Indiana

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

    Update: HB 1214 was passed by the Senate by a 37-12 vote with amendments on 3/6, and now will be sent back to the House for approval. The House dissented from the Senate’s amendments on HB 1214 on 3/7, meaning they do not agree with the Senate’s proposed changes. A conference committee of two members from each house were appointed to work out a version of the bill that will be satisfactory to both houses.

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

    Idaho

    Legislation is pending, HB 410, to provide “for the lawful use and possession of Cannabidiol Oil (CBD), if prescribed by a (licensed) practitioner.” Similar legislation, HB 577, is also pending, and already passed the House last month.

    Update: Members of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee approved a motion to hold HB 577 in committee on 3/5 — a legislative procedure essentially halting the bill from moving forward. They then voted on 3/6 to vacate the decision to halt HB 577 from moving forward because the motion violated procedure.

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

    Oklahoma

    Democratic Representative Mickey Dollens has introduced HB 2913: The Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program. If passed, this bill would allow universities to cultivate hemp for research and development purposes.

    Update: HB 2913 passed the House by a 92-0 vote on 3/5, and now awaits action in the Senate.

    OK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of an industrial hemp pilot program

    Kansas

    Legislation is pending, SB 263, to establish a state-licensed industrial hemp research program. It already passed the Senate last month.

    Update: The House Committee on Agriculture is holding a hearing on SB 263 on Wednesday, 3/14 at 3:30pm in Room 582-N.

    KS resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of an industrial hemp pilot program

    Indiana

    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.

    Update: Senate lawmakers decided on a voice vote on 3/2 to significantly amend HB 1137. As amended, farmers would no longer have the opportunity to grow hemp. Instead, lawmakers have suggested a summer study session to consider the prospect of moving forward with a hemp research program. The changes came after Gov. Eric Holcolm voiced his opposition to the bill.

    Then, the bill was passed by the Senate 43 to 6, and was sent back to the House to approve the amendments. The House filed a motion to dissent on 3/7, meaning they do not agree with the Senate’s amendments to HB 1137. Now, a conference committee of two members from each house were appointed to work out a version of the bill that will be satisfactory to both houses.

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

    Missouri

    Legislation is pending, SB 547 and HB 2034, seeking to modify provisions relating to industrial hemp.

    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: The Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee approved SB 547 on 3/6, and is scheduled to be considered before the full Senate on 3/12.

    MO resident? Click here to email your Senators in support of industrial hemp modifications

    Check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 6, 2018

    The District Attorney’s Office for Sonoma County, California (population 502,000) is directing staff to review and vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions.

    County officials estimate that an estimated 3,000 cases are eligible for either a sentencing reduction or expungement.

    The Sonoma County D.A.’s actions follow those of district attorneys for Alameda County, San Diego County, and San Francisco — each of which have moved to pro-actively review and dismiss thousands of past marijuana-related convictions.

    Provisions in the state’s 2016 voter-approved marijuana law allow those with past marijuana convictions to petition the court for expungement. Legislation is pending in the California Assembly, AB 1793, to make this process automatic for anyone with an eligible past cannabis conviction.

    Last month, Seattle city officials publicly announced plans to similarly review and vacate past cannabis convictions. Days later, newly elected Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner announced that his office would cease prosecuting marijuana possession offense violations.

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