Legislators in a number of states are pushing forward measures to delay the enactment of several voter-initiated marijuana laws.
In Arkansas, House lawmakers are moving forward with legislation, House Bill 1026, to postpone the deadline for establishing the state’s new medical marijuana program by 60 days. Fifty-three percent of voters approved Issue 6 on Election Day, which called on lawmakers to regulate the production and dispensing of medical cannabis within 120 days.
In Maine, leading House and Senate lawmakers have endorsed emergency legislation, LD 88, to delay retail marijuana sales by at least three months. Under the voter-initiated law, rules regulating the commercial marijuana market are supposed to be operational by January 1, 2018. (By contrast, separate provisions permitting adults to possess and grow specific quantities of cannabis take effect on January 30, 2017.)
In North Dakota, Senate lawmakers unanimously passed emergency legislation, Senate Bill 2154, to postpone the deadline for the enactment of the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act. Sixty-four percent of voters backed the measure, which gave lawmakers a 90-day window to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana.
Massachusetts’ lawmakers previously enacted legislation imposing a six-month delay on the licensed production and retail sales of marijuana. Legislators are also debating making additional changes to the law, including raising the proposed retail sales tax and limiting the number of plants an adult may grow at home.
In Florida, health regulators are also calling for significant changes to Amendment 2, which passed with 71 percent of the vote.
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri strongly criticized the proposed changes and delays, calling them “an affront to the democratic process.” He added: “Voters have lived with the failings of marijuana prohibition for far too long already. Lawmakers have a responsibility to abide by the will of the voters and to do so in a timely manner.”
As an American citizen, it is easy to become cynical about citizen participation in democracy. Even the most basic form of participation, voting, can be difficult in the United States. Unlike most nations, who hold elections on a holiday or have mandatory voting requirements, the US holds elections on Tuesdays. When many people cannot vote, whether for time reasons or restrictive state laws, it is a struggle, for those of us enthused about participating in democracy, to watch less than 60 percent of the electorate turnout for a presidential election. One of the proposed reasons for the problem is a lack of voter efficacy. Voters don’t feel as if their voice is being heard. But stories of voters successfully influencing lawmakers are common, if not always reported.
Recently, House Republicans revealed a plan to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The new body proposed by the GOP would have been a blow to anyone in support of governmental transparency. Unable to report its findings to the public, the proposed Office of Congressional Complaint Review would have even further clouded general understanding of what occurs behind closed doors in the legislative branch. However, congressional offices were subsequently flooded with calls and messages from angry constituents. Less than 24 hours later, the GOP changed course and backpedaled. After tremendous public pressure, the government radically changed its course in a short span of time.
Simply making a phone call, sending an email or Facebook message to a representative, or retweeting a congress member’s phone number (which occurred thousands of times because of the ethics committee plan) can make a difference on the national level. However, many success stories about citizen participation can be found among the lower levels of the federal system. State and local governments are, at least in theory, designed to be more supportive of and responsive to individual citizens. Examples to support this theory is strong. States are known as “laboratories of democracy” and are often ahead of the federal government in terms of cutting edge policy.
One only has to look at success stories like gay marriage or marijuana legislation in several states to see the effect of citizen participation on policy outcomes. We can see with both cases that state policy often follows national public opinion trends. When the tipping point came in regards to gay marriage, it was state judges and lawmakers that first instituted protections for the LGBTQ community. Organizations like Freedom to Marry and the American Civil Liberties Union penned action alerts to their members day after day pleading with them to contact their state representatives. And when the people spoke, politicians listened, and change happened.
Marijuana legislation is following a similar path with organizations including NORML are creating a similar avalanche effect of states legalizing that will ultimately culminate in national legalization if sustained.
To speed up the process one only has to get involved. It is easy to sit back and watch while progress occurs, but it is rewarding to be a part of such a movement. Emailing, calling, and having meetings with your representatives in a constructive way is simple and effective to push change.
If the government is doing something that we as a citizenry do not approve of, we have the right to be heard. Although the mechanisms of government are far from perfect, it our duty as a dedicated and informed public is to try the best we can, in every way we can.
Sign up for our email list to get our action alerts, keep checking the NORML action page for federal legislation and in your home state at http://norml.org/act, talk to your friends and neighbors about getting involved, join a NORML chapter or start your own at http://norml.org/chapters, and never, ever, stop fighting.
For marijuana activists in states with legal marijuana, the strategy quickly moves from legalization to normalization, but for some communities like Ferndale, California, the stigma remains. For months, organizers of the Humboldt County Cup and the Ferndale Police Department have gone back and forth over the decision to host their event at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds. Citing past complaints from the community and concerns about the reggae music that was to be played during the event, local law enforcement never specified what laws, if any, would be violated.
“Smith-Caggiano — who is the executive director of the Humboldt County chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — said the Ferndale Police Department never cited any legal codes to back up their concerns despite requests for them to do so.”
Regardless of receiving approval from the Humboldt County Fair Association, Mr. Smith-Caggiano was ultimately forced by the Ferndale Police Department to move the event location to the Mateel Community Center, located at 59 Rusk Lane, Redway, California 95560.
Welcome to this week’s edition of the legislative roundup. With a majority of states now full swing into their legislative sessions, over 400 bills nationwide have been submitted that in some way, shape, or form address marijuana policies. Ranging from ending the criminal prohibition of marijuana to tweaking established legal medical marijuana programs in order to better serve patients; clearly, inch by inch, we are winning.
Below are the priority bills that we are tracking so far, 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,
– Protecting the sanctity of property rights for those targeted for marijuana related offenses
Legislation is pending before Congress, HR 331, to halt the federal government from taking civil forfeiture action against properties involved in state-sanctioned, medical marijuana-related conduct.
If approved, it would “amend the Controlled Substances Act … to exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by state law.”
In the past, federal officials have sought to close dispensaries by threatening property owners with civil forfeiture proceedings. Under these proceedings, property may be seized if there exist evidence that it was involved in activities that violate federal law, regardless of whether those activities are licit under state law.
Presently, the Justice Department is barred from taking such actions because of the passage of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. However, that protection will expire on April 28, 2017 unless renewed by Congress.
– A change in the guard at the head of the US Department of Justice
Alabama Senator Jefferson “Jeff” Sessions began the confirmation process to become the next Attorney General of the United States.
Senator Sessions is a militant opponent of any efforts to reform marijuana policy who once notoriously remarked that the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.” He is a staunch proponent of the long-discredited ‘gateway theory,’ and has called on federal officials to return to the ‘Just Say No’ rhetoric of the 1980s. In fact, he was one of only 16 US Senators to receive a failing grade from NORML in our 2016 Congressional Report Card because of statements like these:
“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”
“[Marijuana] cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
NORML opposes his confirmation unless he will clarify that he does not intend to use the resources of the United States Justice Department against marijuana consumers and businesses that are operating in accordance with state laws in regards to medicinal or recreational marijuana.
Legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate its commercial commerce is pending now in both the House and Senate.
SB 11 by state Senator Martin Looney (D) and HB 5314 by Rep. Melissa Ziobron (R) have been filed to regulate the personal use and retail sale of marijuana by adults.
A similar legislative effort led by Juan Candelaria (D) and over a dozen co-sponsors, HB 5539, is also pending in the House. The House Speaker has previously acknowledged that he expects these bills to receive full hearings this session, so it is vital that your lawmakers hear consistent support for these measures from voters like you.
A Senate lawmaker has reintroduced legislation, SB 255, to regulate marijuana access to qualified patients.
The measure, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Karen Tallian, establishes a statewide medical marijuana program to permit qualified patients — including patients with arthritis, migraine, PTSD, and seizures — to legally obtain cannabis products and to engage in cannabis therapy.
Legislation filed by Senator Perry Clark of Louisville, SB 57, seeks to establish a statewide, comprehensive medical marijuana program.
Senate Bill 57, The Cannabis Compassion Act, establishes regulations overseeing the establishment of state-licensed dispensaries to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients. It also permits patients to home cultivate their own supply of medical cannabis.
Senator Clark said: “Too many Kentuckians have had their lives stymied with criminal records as a result of nonviolent marijuana convictions. That is wrong. It is time to stop making criminals out of citizens due to outdated and ridiculous laws concerning cannabis.”
Additionally, Legislation has also filed by Senator Perry Clark of Louisville, Senate Bill 76, seeks to legalize the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for those over the age of 21.
Maine Senate President Mike Thibodeau and House Speaker Sara Gideon have struck a deal to introduce emergency resolution LD 88 to impose a moratorium on the enactment of many of the key provisions in Question 1, the voter-initiated Marijuana Legalization Act.
While the resolution maintains the January 30th, 2017 repeal of penalties for personal possession and home cultivation of marijuana, it delays provisions specific to the retail production or sale of marijuana, the social use of marijuana, and the consumption or possession of marijuana-infused products. If passed, this legislation would no longer mandate lawmakers to enact these provisions by January 1, 2018 — as is presently required by law — and opens the door indefinitely maintaining the black market’s monopoly on the marijuana market.
Mainers have lived with the failings of marijuana prohibition for far too long already. Any further delay is unnecessary and is an affront to the will of the majority of Maine voters who passed Question 1 on Election Day.
Legislation is pending, House Bill 179, to establish a pilot program to provide qualified patients with legal access to medical marijuana products.
Under this program, patients would be permitted to obtain up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and/or cannabis-infused products, such as extracts or edibles, from a state-licensed dispensing facility. Regulators must begin accepting initial applications from dispensaries and testing facilities by January 1, 2018.
After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 may finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized.
Forthcoming legislation to 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.
In addition, new Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said during his campaign he would support decriminalizing marijuana.
New Hampshire is the only New England state that has not either decriminalized or legalized adult marijuana use.
Additionally, Legislation is pending in the New Hampshire House, HB 215, to establish a commission to study the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.
Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 8, to amend the state’s medical cannabis program in a manner that would better serve patients’ needs. A number of basic fixes are included in the legislation, including expanding the amount of cannabis a patient can possess at a time and expedite the processing of medical marijuana state-issued identification cards.
Additionally, State Representative Bill McCamley has announced intentions to propose legislation to regulate the cultivation and retail sale of marijuana in the state.
”It is either going to happen sooner or it is going to happen later and if it happens sooner we can realize the economic benefits now.” McCamley said.
Legislation has been filed for the 2017 legislative session to eliminate the ‘public view’ loophole exception in New York state’s marijuana law. Abuse of this provision has led to hundreds of thousands of needless marijuana arrests in recent years, primarily in New York City, despite the possession of the plant being decriminalized in the state since 1977.
Under current law, private possession of marijuana is punishable by nothing more than a simple citation and fine. By contrast, the possession of small amounts of marijuana in a manner that is “open to public view” is classified as a criminal misdemeanor. This loophole has often been used to continue arresting a disproportionate number of minorities, largely as a result of ‘stop and frisk’ policies. Promises from law enforcement in recent years to correct this abuse have not come to fruition.
Additionally, legislation is pending, Senate Bill 1087, to expand the state’s medical marijuana law by removing the existing prohibition on herbal cannabis preparations. This is a simple expansion of patient’s rights to access whole plant cannabis for medical purposes.
Legislation is pending before the Senate, SB 301, to prohibit employers from discriminating against adults who legally consume marijuana during non-work hours.
Senate Bill 301 states, “It is an unlawful employment practice for any employer to require, as a condition of employment, that any employee or prospective employee refrain from using a substance that is lawful to use under the laws of this state during nonworking hours.”
Passage of this act would not prohibit employers from sanctioning employees who are under the influence at work.
Portland NORML‘s Legislative Committee, in conjunction with the Oregon Chapter of the Employment Lawyers of America, worked on the drafting and filing of this important legislation.
Legislation has now been introduced in both chambers of the Statehouse to end the practice of suspending drivers licenses for those convicted of marijuana possession. Virginia is one of the few remaining states that implore this archaic policy and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers have stepped up to reverse it.
Washington state Representative Sherry Appleton has introduced legislation, HB 1092: The Adult Home Grow & Criminal Reduction Bill, to allow adults the option to legally cultivate personal use amounts of marijuana in a private residence.
Presently, eight states permit adults to obtain marijuana via retail sales. All of these states except Washington also permit adults the option to cultivate cannabis.
NORML believes that criminalizing the personal cultivation of cannabis is an arbitrary prohibition that has absolutely no basis in public safety.
This Legislative Roundup is a weekly update by National NORML, cataloging the movements of legislation nationwide in order to give you, the citizen, a more effective voice in government.
Sign up with your local NORML Chapter at http://norml.org/chapters
The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a comprehensive report today acknowledging that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain, and sharply criticized longstanding federal regulatory barriers to marijuana research – in particular “the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance” under federal law.
Authors of the report also addressed various aspects of marijuana’s effect on health and safety, acknowledging that the substance may pose certain potential risks for adolescents, pregnant women, and for those who may be driving shortly after ingesting cannabis. In each of these cases, these risks may be mitigated via marijuana regulation and the imposition of age restrictions in the marketplace.
Commenting on the report, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said:
“The National Academy of Science’s conclusions that marijuana possesses established therapeutic utility for certain patients and that it possesses an acceptable safety profile when compared to those of other medications or recreational intoxicants are not surprising. This evidence has been available for some time, yet for decades marijuana policy in this country has largely been driven by rhetoric and emotion, not science and evidence.
“A search on PubMed, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term ‘marijuana’ yields over 24,000 scientific papers referencing the plant or its biologically active constituents — a far greater body of literature than exists for commonly consumed conventional drugs like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or hydrocodone. Further, unlike modern pharmaceuticals, cannabis possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy.
“Today, 29 states and Washington, DC permit physicians to recommend marijuana therapy. Some of these state-sanctioned programs have now been in place for nearly two decades. Eight states also permit the regulated use and sale of cannabis by adults. At a minimum, we know enough about cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to regulate its consumption by adults, end its longstanding criminalization, and to remove it from its Schedule I prohibitive under federal law.”
The report marks the first time since 1999 that the National Academy of Sciences has addressed issues surrounding marijuana and health. Authors reviewed over 10,000 scientific abstracts in their preparation of the new report.
You can read the full report here.