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NORML Blog

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 15, 2018

    In testimony before Congress last week, by DEA acting administrator Robert Patterson opined that the medicalization of cannabis is exacerbating opioid abuse. But when prompted to provide evidence in support of the agency’s position, he acknowledged that he could not. Further, he denied being aware of any evidence — including recent, well-publicized studies by the US National Academy of Sciences and others — indicating that cannabis mitigates pain or that its legal access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related mortality.

    I summarize this mind-boggling exchange in my recent Hill op-ed, which is excerpted below

    Specifically, when asked by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz if the DEA was aware of the landmark 2017 National Academy of Sciences study finding, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis [is] effective for the treatment for chronic pain,” Patterson answered that he was not.

    He further acknowledged that he was unfamiliar with several state-specific, longitudinal studies, such as those from Minnesota and New Mexico, finding that chronic pain patients who register to partake in cannabis therapy dramatically decrease their use of opioids and other pain-relieving drugs. (Separate assessments of state-authorized medical cannabis patients in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and elsewhere affirm these conclusions).

    He further claimed ignorance with regard to the findings of a highly publicized study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finding that medical cannabis regulation is associated with year-over-year declines in overall opioid-related mortality, including heroin overdose deaths.

    Moreover, when pressed to provide evidence — any evidence — in support of the DEA’s questionable position, Patterson readily admitted that he knew of none. In fact, upon further questioning, he acknowledged that the DEA has, to date, never even so much as reviewed the issue. He further suggested that those patients seeking an alternative to opioid analgesics may wish to try “Tylenol.”

    The testimony concluded:

    Rep. Gaetz: “You’re the acting administrator of the DEA. You cannot cite a single study that indicates that medical marijuana creates a greater challenge with opioids, and you’re unaware of the studies, including studies from the National Academies of Sciences, that demonstrate that medical marijuana can be an acceptable alternative to opioids. Is that what I’m understanding?”

    Robert Patterson: “Yes.”

    To read the entire op-ed, please click the link here.

    To watch a video of this exchange, as archived by MarijuanaMoment.net, please click here.

  • by Matthew Maulding, Executive Director, NORML of Catawba Valley May 14, 2018

    North Carolina NORML along with several other pro-cannabis organizations recently organized the Tar Heel State’s largest pro-cannabis march in recent memory. There were people from across the state, and even some long time residents that had to move to a state that allows them to medicate the way they want, despite having a majority of their families here.

    On April 20th, we saw the biggest push for reform at a federal level ever by North Carolinians. North Carolina NORML along with veterans, people with disabilities, and folks from all walks of life were able to come together and march in solidarity with one another.

    The cannabis movement has been stagnant in North Carolina, at best. There is a great divide in supporters who are ready for any small step, even if that means giving up their right to grow their own or even to medicate with “flower” or bud. Other supporters within the state have a sense that if they settle for “extract only” laws or laws that restrict growing rights, that they will not be able to get those rights added in later.

    To see fractions of the movement come together for this event is enormously satisfying. Under new leadership, North Carolina NORML has began turning up the heat and focused on getting people involved. We understand that people need to be constantly involved otherwise they get bored and move on. We need to make sure everyone is engaged, and informed , and that is what we have done, and will continue to do.

    In addition to the 4/20 march which focused on an end to marijuana prohibition federally, we also took part in the Global Marijuana March on May 5th and have held monthly public meetings across the state to increase visibility and to give people an opportunity to start their own chapter. To continue the fight, North Carolina NORML is hosting its first Lobby Day next Tuesday, May 22, 2018, where members will be focused on inviting supporters of marijuana law reform efforts to educate lawmakers (RSVP HERE).

    If you are a North Carolina voter, look forward to a voter guide on NC NORML’s website to help you choose candidates in the general election who favor (or not) and will sponsor bills if elected. Incumbents also have a chance to show supporters’ what they have sponsored or co-sponsored in the past. Reform is coming for North Carolina, and we refuse to be the last state to do so.

    For more info, please call 828-455-8203 or email commdirector@ncnorml.org. You can also follow North Carolina NORML on FaceBook and Twitter!

  • by Jenn Michelle Pedini, NORML Development Director May 11, 2018

    NORML Aspen Legal Seminar

    We’re just a few weeks away from NORML’s annual Aspen Legal Seminar at the beautiful Gant Hotel. We hope you’ll join us there to enjoy a taste of freedom and connect with professionals committed to establishing industry best practices that are consumer-friendly and promote social justice. Network with leading criminal defense and cannabusiness attorneys who’ll share expert advice in federal and state marijuana laws. Indulge in a delicious meal by critically acclaimed chef Chris Lanter of Cache Cache restaurant at the NORML Benefit Dinner hosted by Chris and Gerry Goldstein.

    RESERVE YOUR SPACE TODAY

    If you haven’t already, please take a moment to share the event with your networks.

    Link to share: https://norml.org/about/events/aspen-legal-seminar

    Sample language for attendees:

    Join me in Colorado for NORML’s Aspen Legal Seminar. Get expert advice from the best and the brightest in cannabis law while enjoying the sweet taste of freedom. Attorneys earn CLEs. You don’t want to miss this!

    General sample language:

    NORML’s Aspen Legal Seminar is just a few weeks away. Get expert advice from the best and the brightest in cannabis law while enjoying the sweet taste of freedom. Attorneys earn CLEs. You don’t want to miss this!

    NORML Aspen Legal Semnar

    If you can’t join us this year, please consider a tax-deductible donation to the NORML Foundation in support of NORML’s work reforming marijuana laws. Click here to make a contribution.

    As always, thank you for your continued support and dedication to NORML’s mission. Looking forward to seeing you in Aspen!

    GET YOUR TICKETS HERE

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate

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

    Let’s talk about Congress. Earlier this week, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) cosponsored the Marijuana Justice Act! Sen. Harris announced in a video message that she will be joining Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden in promoting this important legislation. This comes just a week and a half after California senior Senator Diane Feinstein (D) told reporters that she has dropped her opposition to ending the federal prohibition of marijuana. And U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he is cosponsoring Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) hemp legalization bill.

    Additionally, in a historical first, a Congressional committee has advanced marijuana law reform legislation; one that would encourage the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct more studies on cannabis’ medical benefits.

    At the state level, Michigan Senate Republicans are expected to discuss whether to enact marijuana legalization instead of allowing the question to appear on the November ballot, with the fear that a ballot question would turn out hundreds of thousands of democratic voters. The New Jersey Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee will hold a Saturday hearing on marijuana legalization, and county prosecutors across Vermont are looking at ways to expunge prior marijuana convictions.

    Also, Connecticut’s legislative leaders said marijuana legalization is off the table for this session. As more state legislatures are adjourning for this year, more and more bills are dying, and therefore there are not as many legislative updates as we’ve been seeing earlier in the year.

    At a more local level, The Allentown, Pennsylvania City Council gave initial approval to a proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance, and also adopted a resolution calling on state lawmakers to end cannabis criminalization. The Milwaukee County, Wisconsin County Board’s Judiciary Committee voted in favor of placing a nonbinding marijuana legalization on the November ballot, and Denver, Colorado is planning to use marijuana tax revenue to fund public housing.

    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

    Louisiana

    House Bill 579 would expand the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis by permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, severe muscle spasms or glaucoma.

    Update: HB 579 was approved by the Senate 25-9 on 5/9. The bill now heads back to the House for review of Senate changes. A separate measure, HB 627, to permit patients with autism to be able to qualify for medical cannabis access, also passed the Senate and awaits reconsideration by the House.

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

    California

    Assembly Bill 2069 seeks 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.

    Update: AB 2069 will be heard by the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee on 5/16 at 9am in State Capitol, Room 4202.

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

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    Arizona

    Senate Bill 1098 seeks to establish an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program.

    The program is designed to research the “growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp” by licensed providers. Lawmakers acknowledge that “developing and using industrial hemp can improve the economy and agricultural vitality” of Arizona.

    Update: SB 1098 passed the Senate on 2/15 and passed the House on 5/3. It now awaits action from Governor Ducey.

    AZ resident? Click here to email Gov. Ducey in support of an industrial hemp pilot program

    Illinois

    Senate Bill 2298 seeks to expand the state’s hemp law.

    The bill provides for the ability of individuals to cultivate hemp with a state license even if they are not part of the state’s Agriculture Department pilot program. That program only permits hemp cultivation as part of a state-sponsored research program.

    Update: SB 2298 was heard by the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee, and then approved by the committee on 5/8.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of industrial hemp expansion

    California

    Banking
    Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.

    Update: SB 930 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 5/22.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of banking access for cannabis businesses

    Taxes
    Assembly Bill 3157 seeks to temporarily reduce tax rates imposed on the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis.

    Update: AB 3157 was heard by the Assembly Committee on Business and Professions on 5/8, and then approved by the committee on 5/9. The bill will be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 5/16.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of temporarily lowering taxes

    That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director May 10, 2018

    Today, California’s junior Senator Kamala Harris announced in a video message that she will be joining Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden on the Marijuana Justice Act.

    This comes just a week and a half after California senior Senator Diane Feinstein told reporters that she has dropped her opposition to ending the federal prohibition of marijuana, however, did not elaborate on how to do so.

    The Marijuana Justice Act (S. 1689 and HR 4815) would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

    Senator Harris has come a long way on her position of this issue, most known for her response to a question in 2014 on legalizing marijuana when she laughed in the face of a reporter at the thought.

    Journalist Tom Angell noted last year that Senator Harris would oddly talk about the drug war in the past-tense when making public statements or on social media. By co-sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act, she is making it crystal clear that the Drug War rages on and that it is the responsibility of the Congress to do something about it.

    Have your federal officials co-sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act? Have you asked them to? Click here to send a message right now. 

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