• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 5, 2018

    The legalization and regulation of marijuana for adults is associated with a drastic reduction in overall arrests, increased tax revenue, and is not adversely impacting public health or safety, according to a comprehensive report issued by the Drug Policy Alliance.

    Among the report’s highlights:

    Marijuana arrests are down. Arrests for marijuana in all legal marijuana states and Washington, D.C. have plummeted, saving states hundreds of millions of dollars and sparing thousands of people from being branded with lifelong criminal records.

    Youth marijuana use is stable. Youth marijuana use rates have remained stable in states that have legalized marijuana for adults age 21 and older.

    Marijuana legalization is linked to lower rates of opioid-related harm. Increased access to legal marijuana has been associated with reductions in some of the most troubling harms associated with opioids, including opioid overdose deaths and untreated opioid use disorders.

    Calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency departments for marijuana exposure remain relatively uncommon.

    Legalization has not made the roads less safe. DUI arrests are down in Colorado and Washington. The total number of arrests for driving under the influence, of alcohol and other drugs, has declined in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to regulate marijuana for adult use. There is no correlation between marijuana legalization and crash rates. The crash rates in both states are statistically similar to comparable states without legal marijuana laws.

    Marijuana tax revenues are exceeding initial estimates.

    The marijuana industry is creating jobs. Preliminary estimates suggest that the legal marijuana industry employs between 165,000 to 230,000 full and part-time workers across the country.

    The full DPA report is available online here. Their findings are similar to prior reviews of the impact of adult use regulatory schemes on health and safety, such as this 2016 CATO Institute report.

    NORML has similarly compiled fact-sheets of the most relevant peer-reviewed data addressing the impact of legalization on health, safety, and the economy here.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate February 2, 2018

    Welcome to the first NORML Legislative Roundup of 2018!

    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 February 8th 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, NJ  Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order calling on state regulators to review the state’s eight-year-old medical cannabis access program, and a Virginia House bill to expand the state’s limited medical cannabis law was unanimously approved by the House floor.

    Additionally, at the state level, several marijuana-related bills are already dead for this session. These include two Virginia bills to decriminalize marijuana possession, as well as four Mississippi bills- one to decriminalize possession, two related to medical marijuana, and the last to license and regulate adult use marijuana.

    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.

    Thanks for all you do and together we will win,

    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

    New Mexico

    Democratic state Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino pre-filed legislation, SJR 4, to legalize, tax, and regulate adult use marijuana in New Mexico.

    Update: The Senate Rules Committee voted four to three to approve SJR 4 today. If approved by lawmakers, voters would then be asked whether they want the state to legalize marijuana on this year’s November ballot.

    NM resident? Click here to email your elected officials telling them it’s time to legalize marijuana


    Legislation is pending in the House and Senate, HF 927 and SF 1320, to legalize the personal use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for those 21 and older, and establish a licensing scheme for its commercial production and retail sale.

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


    Legislation is pending, SB 1027, to expand the state’s marijuana decriminalization law.

    If passed, SB 1027 would amend penalties so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is classified as a civil rather than a criminal offense. Under current law, the possession of more than ten grams of marijuana is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

    MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expanding the decriminalization law


    Senator Siobhan S. Dunnavant (R-12) introduced SB 726 to expand the state’s limited medical cannabis law. Delegate Benjamin Cline (R-24) has introduced companion bill, HB 1251.

    The measures would permit doctors to recommend CBD and THC-A oils to any patient they believe would benefit. Under present law, only a neurologist may recommend cannabis oils, and only for patients with intractable epilepsy.

    Update: SB 726 has reported out of committee and is awaiting a floor vote. House Bill 1251 was approved by the House today with a vote of 98 to zero.

    VA resident? Click here to email your elected officials and tell them to leave it up to the medical professionals


    Legislation is pending, SF 280 and SF 432, to amend marijuana possession penalties for first-time offenders.

    Senate File 280 and SF 432 reduce criminal penalties for possession of 5 grams of marijuana or less from a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000, to a simple misdemeanor, punishable by no more than 30 days in jail and/or a $625 fine.

    Update: SF 432 was approved on a voice vote by the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee and now awaits action on the Senate floor, and SF 280 has cleared a Republican-led subcommittee in the Senate.

    IA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of reducing possession penalties for first time offenders

    Additional Actions to Take

    New York

    Legislation is pending in both chambers, A. 9016 and S. 7564 to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expanding the state’s medical marijuana program


    Legislation is pending, HB 1893, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    Update: HB 1893 was heard by HHS yesterday in the House.

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


    Democratic state Senator Anthony Williams has introduced Senate Resolution 258 to amend the Controlled Substances Act so that marijuana is no longer classified as a Schedule I controlled substance.

    If passed, this resolution would urge Congress to take action to amend federal law so that states could regulate cannabis absent undue federal interference.

    Update: A state Senate committee has unanimously approved the resolution to urge Congress to reevaluate marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I controlled substance and recognize marijuana’s medical purposes.

    PA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of descheduling marijuana from the CSA


    Legislation is pending, House Bill 2144, to make Arizona a so-called ‘sanctuary state’ for licensed marijuana operators.

    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.

    If passed, this bill would prevent the state from providing federal agents with the names, addresses and/or other related information pertaining to businesses that have been issued permits to grow, distribute and sell marijuana.

    AZ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical marijuana protections

    Check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 1, 2018

    Maine Yes on 1Emergency legislation enacted in January 2017 to delay the implementation of several provisions of Question 1: The Marijuana Legalization Act expired today. Proposed legislation in Maine’s House of Representatives to extend the moratorium until May 1, 2018 failed by a vote of 81 to 65.

    Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who opposed Question 1, had demanded lawmakers seek a nearly one-year additional extension to the existing moratorium. In November, Gov. LePage vetoed legislation that sought to implement provisions in the Act regulating the production and retail sales of cannabis to adults.

    Absent the passage of explicit legislation governing the licensed production and retail sale of marijuana, there still remains no legal way for businesses in Maine to legally grow or sell cannabis commercially. Provisions in Question 1 permitting the establishment of state-licensed social clubs for adult marijuana users also remain indefinitely on hold.

    By contrast, language in the Act prohibiting employers from taking punitive action against personnel for their off-the-job use of cannabis is anticipated to now go into effect. Specifically, the initiative states, “A school, employer or landlord may not refuse to enroll or employ or lease to or otherwise penalize a person 21 years of age or older solely for that person’s consuming marijuana outside of the school’s, employer’s or landlord’s property.” While the language does not mandate employers to in any way accommodate employees’ marijuana use while on the job, nor does it permit employees to be at work while under the influence, it does limit the ability for an employer to discriminate against those who test positive on either a workplace or a pre-employment drug test. In preparation for this law change, the Maine Department of Labor has removed marijuana from the list of drugs for which an employer may test in its “model” applicant drug-testing policy, according to a January 30 report on the legal website Lexology.com.

    Separate provisions permitting adults to possess and grow limited quantities of cannabis took effect early last year after action taken by the legislature.

  • by NORML

    Cannabis PenaltiesSan Francisco city officials announced plans yesterday to begin reviewing and automatically expunging thousands of past marijuana possession convictions.

    The District Attorney’s office says that it will review, dismiss, and seal an estimated 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1975. The office also intends to review and resentence many past felony convictions.

    Provisions in the state’s 2016 voter-approved marijuana law allow those with past marijuana convictions to petition the court for expungement. However, because this process that is often time consuming and can cost hundreds of dollars in legal fees, San Francisco’s D.A. George Gascón says that his office will instead “wipe out convictions en masse.”

    Commenting on the policy change, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement, “This example, one of many across our state, underscores the true promise of Proposition 64 – providing new hope and opportunities to Californians, primarily people of color, whose lives were long ago derailed by a costly, broken and racially discriminatory system of marijuana criminalization.”

    NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano concurred, telling reporters: “The stigma associated with a marijuana arrest and criminal conviction is lifelong, and can directly lead to numerous lost opportunities later in life. The San Francisco District Attorney’s office is to be commended for proactively rectifying this situation — one that has disproportionately burdened far too many young people and people of color. Let’s hope other jurisdictions follow San Francisco’s lead in righting the wrongs of cannabis criminalization.”

    Perhaps even more importantly, legislation now pending in the California Assembly, AB 1793, seeks to expand this automatic expungement process statewide. If you reside in California, please click here to use NORML’s Action Alert to urge your lawmakers to support this critical legislative effort.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 30, 2018

    Long-term exposure to cannabis smoke is not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function, according to clinical data published in the journal Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases.

    A team of investigators led by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health assessed the relationship between marijuana use and respiratory function and symptoms in a cohort of 2,300 subjects ages 40 to 80, many of whom also smoked tobacco.

    Authors reported, “Neither current nor former marijuana use was associated with increased risk of cough, wheeze, or chronic bronchitis when compared to never marijuana users after adjusting for covariates. … Current and former marijuana smokers had significantly higher FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) … when compared to never users. … Both current and former marijuana use was associated with significantly less quantitative emphysema … when compared to never users, even after adjusting for age, … current tobacco smoking pack years, and BMI. … In agreement with other published studies, we also did not find that marijuana use was associated with more obstructive lung disease.”

    The long-term combined use of tobacco and cannabis also was not found to be associated with any additive adverse effects on the lungs. Authors concluded, “Among older adults with a history of tobacco use, marijuana use does not appear to increase risk for adverse lung function. … There may be no to little increased risk of marijuana use for a further increase in respiratory symptoms or adverse effects on lung function among those with a history of concomitant tobacco use.”

    Prior longitudinal studies assessing the effects of long-term cannabis smoke exposure on lung function have similarly reported that subjects’ marijuana use history is not positively associated with increased incidences of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, or with other significant detrimental effects on pulmonary function.

    Full text of the study, “Marijuana use associations with pulmonary symptoms and function in tobacco smokers enrolled in the subpopulations and intermediate outcome measures in COPD Study (SPIROMICS),” appears online here.

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