We’ve got news from all levels of government this week! International, federal, state, and local law reform changes are all being considered. Keep reading below to see if any pending reforms would affect you or your community!
Tim Faron, leader of one of Great Britain’s main political parties, called for the legalization of cannabis for recreational use this week. He also announced that his party would be imminently releasing a report making the case for a legalized market for sales. The Liberal Democrats leader said: “I personally believe the war on drugs is over. We must move from making this a legal issue to one of health. The prime minister used to agree with me on the need for drug reform. It’s time he rediscovered his backbone and made the case again.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote a letter this week to the head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging the agency to research cannabis access as a potential mitigating factor in opioid abuse. Population data from states where medicinal cannabis is permitted report lower rates of opioid-abuse and mortality as compared to those states where the plant is prohibited. Clinical data and case reports also indicate that the adjunctive use of cannabis may wean patients from opiates while successfully managing their pain. Survey data of state qualified medical cannabis patients indicate that subjects with access to the plant often substitute it for opioids because they perceive it to possess fewer adverse side effects.
Also, Senate members this week introduced The Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act, or SUCCESS Act, which repeals language in the Higher Education Act that strips students of financial aid because of a past drug offense, and removes the drug conviction question from the FAFSA form. #TakeAction
California: The California Medical Association has officially endorsed the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, a pending statewide ballot initiative that seeks to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use and sales in the state. The California Medical Association represents more than 41,000 physician members statewide. Additionally, the NAACP California chapter has also endorsed the initiative.
Illinois: Legislation, HB 6199, is pending in the General Assembly to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the definition of ‘debilitating medical condition’ and to allow state-registered medical cannabis patients to retain gun ownership rights. #TakeAction
Mississippi: Senate legislation was introduced this week to permit qualified patients to legally possess and cultivate cannabis. Senate Bill 2358 permits patients with a “debilitating medical condition” to engage in marijuana therapy in accordance with a physician’s recommendation. The measure also reschedules marijuana under state law. #TakeAction
New Mexico: Legislation opposed by NORML, HB 195 has narrowly passed the House of Representatives. The bill would prohibit workers compensation insurers from reimbursing employees who qualify for medical cannabis access for injuries sustained on the job. The measure now awaits Senate action. Please contact your Senate member today and urge him or her to vote ‘no’ on HB 195 and/or its companion measure SB 245. #TakeAction
New Jersey: Legislation was introduced this week to end workplace discrimination against medical marijuana patients. Assembly Bill 2482, if enacted, would halt employers from taking adverse employment actions against authorized medical marijuana patients who engage in the plant’s use during their off-hours. #TakeAction
Pennsylvania: A local decriminalization ordinance is being considered by the Harrisburg City Council. The council’s public safety committee plans to hold a public hearing on the matter in the coming weeks. If you live in Harrisburg, contact your City Council member and urge their support for this measure! We’ll keep you updated as this measure moves forward.
Vermont: Members of the Senate are anticipated to decide imminently on legislation to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. Media reports indicate that the floor vote could come the week of February 16. The vote is expected to be a close one; therefore, we are urging supporters to contact their Senate members over the coming days and to urge them to vote ‘yes’ for Senate Bill 241. If approved by the Senate, the bill will face further debate in the House. #TakeAction
Virginia: Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, Senate Bill 327, to amend state law so that first time, minor marijuana offenders no longer face the loss of their driver’s license. Under existing law, marijuana possession offenses may be punishable by the loss of driving privileges, even in cases where the offense did not take place in a motor vehicle. Passage of SB 327 would end this practice. #TakeAction
Washington D.C.: Members of the D.C. Counsel this week approved a measure that would prohibit potential employers in the District from testing applicants for marijuana until after they’ve made a conditional job offer. Councilmember Vincent Orange, who sponsored the measure said, “District residents shouldn’t have to worry about lost job opportunities just because they’ve smoked pot, especially now that the city has voted to legalize marijuana possession.” The measure is still under congressional review.
LATEST NORML NEWS
State and Local:
Everyday NORML Affiliates and Chapters from around the country invest countless hours into contacting representatives, hosting events, and talking to voters, all with the hope of passing meaningful marijuana reforms on the local, state and federal level! In an effort to highlight their hard work and accomplishments, we will feature their stories on NORML.org and promote the content through our social media channels. To get involved in your area, please send an email to KevinM@NORML.org to get started today!
California NORML’s executive director questioned a recent report produced by an anti-tobacco organization that encouraged municipalities to ban the use of marijuana in public areas or in locations that must adhere to clean indoor air regulations.
“The report vastly inflates the health hazards of smoked marijuana, but concedes that it shouldn’t be criminalized. Rather, it calls for stigmatizing it as much as possible,”
As California gets closer to approving a legalization measure for this November’s ballot, some activists are raising concerns about the impact it will have on the state’s medical marijuana program.
“If you look at the ballot initiative that’s circulating right now, it doesn’t give a lot of incentives to the medical marijuana industry except that you can avoid some of the (proposed 15 percent excise and extra cultivation) taxes if you go to some trouble.”
“We are calling for locals to repeal the bans in favor of meaningful land regulations that will enact the statewide licensing standards … in order to protect public safety, the environment and patients’ rights,”
Last week, Denver NORML announced they will be leading a Responsible Use initiative that will allow the limited consumption of marijuana in the City of Denver. Details are still being worked out with NORML’s national office.
“We are willing to work with them on this issue — we just really want something to happen, we want action to take place,”
“Denver NORML announced that it would be filing its own initiative to put a limited social use of marijuana item on the ballot in 2016.”
Medical marijuana patients in Illinois experienced another setback after lawmakers rejected a proposal that would have expanded access to the state’s medical marijuana program.
“My concern is first and foremost for patients to have access to this medicine and if shops are closing then patients will have to go farther distances to get access to this medicine.”
“By having the Illinois Department of Public Health deny the eight conditions that the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board approved to be added to the list of debilitating conditions for the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, this administration has turned their back on veterans suffering from PTSD”
After a long court battle, Iowa State University NORML won a first amendment lawsuit against school administrators after an attempt to censor a marijuana leaf printed on a t-shirt.
“Members of ISU NORML weren’t keen on being censored. They felt the administration was discriminating against their group. So on July 1, 2014, they filed a lawsuit alleging that school administrators had violated their constitutional rights.”
NORML KC is working hard to push an initiative that would decriminalize the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana in Kansas City.
“Once you start talking to people about cannabis reform, you’d be surprised how many people are for it,” Kacz said. “It doesn’t have to be Democrats or liberals, it’s Republicans, it’s religious people, it’s elderly people.”
New Hampshire NORML urged lawmakers to support a bill that would add PTSD to the state’s list of ailments for medical marijuana.
“By stuffing opiates down people’s throats, it’s going to create a problem. You guys are going to have a heroin epidemic. You’re going to see it. And in the last two years, it is just out of control,”
With some of the stringent marijuana laws in the country, Virginia NORML continues to work with state lawmaker on a wide range of marijuana reform bills.
“We will continue to work educating lawmakers who wish to learn more about cannabis science and widely accepted medical applications, the successful decriminalization legislation in 21 states and successful medical legislation in 24 states.”
Washington NORML is encouraging lawmakers to support a bill that would permit the home cultivation of marijuana.
“NORML Washington is doing a great job leading this fight to grow your own marijuana. They have even made it possible for you to help the movement from your computer/tablet/phone. Here’s a letter they’ve put together for you to send to your representatives and urge their support for personal cultivation”
After going through a much needed reorganization, Wyoming NORML has assembled a strong team who are dedicated to passing the Peggy A. Kelley Wyoming Cannabis Act of 2016.
“We haven’t stopped on that from day one, but in the same process we just had to get things a little more organized and get a better structure in here.”
“NORML Wyoming spokeswoman Carrie Satterwhite said the group has the fewest number of volunteer petition circulators in the conservative northeast part of the state, but that region will be targeted in the upcoming months”
“Even though Wyoming NORML didn’t get enough signatures this year, members say if they have enough signatures for the 2018 ballot, medicinal marijuana could help Wyoming in the long run.”
NORML’s deputy director, Paul Armentano recently spoke to reporters about the need for a common sense approach to ending the prohibition of marijuana in America.
“This administration clearly recognizes that the present enforcement of marijuana prohibition and marijuana criminalization is out of step with both public opinion and common sense,”
NORML board member and passionate marijuana advocate will prove to be one of this year’s most effective weapon in the war against the prohibition marijuana.
“Steves has been on the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) for years and he has worked closely with Washington pot initiative author Alison Holcomb, who now heads the American Civil Liberties Union’s Campaign for Smart Justice”
During a recent interview, NORML’s deputy director, Paul Armentano shared his thoughts on a recent study about the health risks associated with marijuana use.
“Ultimately, this study’s findings are consistent with the notion that while cannabis is not altogether harmless, its potential risks to health relative to other substances — including legal substances like alcohol, tobacco and prescription medications — are not so great to warrant its continued criminalization,”
Following the decision by Colorado voters to legalize recreational marijuana in November of 2012, we’ve seen similar victories in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and even in our nation’s capitol. To many outside observers, these recent successes appear to have come over night. But this is not the case. These changes have been decades in the making and cannot be attributed to any one specific person or campaign.
For years, marijuana activists have worked tirelessly to lay the foundation for future legalization efforts in this country. From the early days of employing civil disobedience tactics such as public smoke-outs and regular protests, to a more modern approach of meeting with elected officials through citizen lobbying efforts, marijuana activists are the workhorses in the fight to end the prohibition of marijuana. They are the boots on the ground.
Of course this level of commitment eventually takes its toll. Being a marijuana activist can be extremely draining, both mentally and physically. In addition to the constant scrutiny from friends and family, we often risk losing our job, housing and in some cases, custody of our children. Regardless of the many risks we face, we continue to fight another day, even with no guarantee of what the outcome may be — essentially risking our freedom to challenge over 70 years of oppressive marijuana laws.
We wake up each day motivated by the hope of changing the unjust laws our country has embraced for so many years. We strive to bring justice to the thousands of Americans who have lost almost everything for a simple possession charge, and the families that have been ripped apart because a desperate mother tried to find her child some relief through medical marijuana.
Marijuana activists in every state dedicate countless hours to advocating for marijuana reforms on the local, state and federal level. They are constantly educating our communities, building coalitions and planning the next step. Like a game of Chess, every decision is calculated. With doubtful community leaders and skeptical politicians, the tiniest misstep can quickly become a roadblock for future conversations about marijuana reform.
Some of these activities may sound risky and not very glamorous. Nonetheless, marijuana activist will continue to be the driving force behind any success effort to reform our country’s marijuana laws. Whether through a citizen-led initiative or a legislative effort, marijuana activists are taking action into their own hands to end the senseless war against a plant and the American people. So to marijuana activists past, present and future, thank you for your sacrifices and continued dedication to ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.
If you’re interested in changing marijuana laws in your city and/or state, there are several ways you can get involved. From working with our national office to organize a new group of passionate reformers in your community, to using our online Action Center to engage your elected officials, NORML is here to assist you with your efforts. 2016 is already shaping up to be a historic year for marijuana reforms so make sure your voice is heard by joining NORML today!
Four states down, forty-six more to go!
With the Presidential election taking place this November, the majority of us are already being inundated with political propaganda from the political left and the right. In news cycle after news cycle, pundits can be heard offering their thoughts on the most recent poll numbers or political gaffes and rarely venture beyond hot button issues such as immigration or gun control. Some candidates have attempted to discuss drug policy reform, but most have avoided getting into any substantive discussions; ultimately offering a soundbite or two. In short, while most mainstream politicians acknowledge the problem, they by and large remain unwilling to address solutions. For those of us who have dedicated our lives to reforming America’s marijuana laws, this has been a bit frustrating to say the least.
Even with all the hoopla surrounding the upcoming election, it seem almost impossible to find a politician who is willing to have a meaningful conversation about reforming America’s archaic marijuana laws. Although the issue consistently holds the support of more than half of our country, most candidates continue to treat it as an afterthought. As we close in on the 80th year of marijuana prohibition in America, we can no longer wait for Washington to take action. The days of playing political hot potato with an issue that the majority of Americans support are over. Our time is now.
Change begins on the local level so be the catalyst for marijuana reform in your community. Start building relationships with city council members, county commissioners, judges and other elected officials. Explore opportunities to elevate the reform conversation through community forums and roundtable discussions. Even something as simple as writing a letter to your local paper will provide a chance to offer an enlightened perspective to a larger audience.
As marijuana activists, we must work hard to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward as we focus our attention on winning the hearts and minds of politicians and community leaders alike. With efforts to reform local and state marijuana laws ramping up across the country, NORML Affiliates and Chapters are committed to providing our members and activists with all the tools they need to work towards meaningful reforms. From developing helpful talking points and strategic messaging to working with our local organizations to create legislative scorecards, NORML’s national office is prepared to dedicate the necessary time and resources needed to ensure that 2016 is a historic year for marijuana reform.
If you haven’t already done so, please visit www.NORML.org to familiarize yourself with all of our available resources and other ways you can get involved. With over 160 Affiliates and Chapters worldwide, NORML will continue to be the leading voice for marijuana reform around the globe. For more information regarding NORML Affiliates and Chapters please email KevinM@NORML.org.
The new year marks a fresh slate and new beginnings for many and here at NORML it’s no different. The year 2016 is going to be monumental for marijuana law reform and we’re already starting to see an influx of marijuana law reform legislation being introduced around the country. In the coming days and weeks we’ll see a significant increase in the number of marijuana related activity so be sure to stay up to date on what YOU can do to help pass these reforms in your own communities.
This week we’ve seen bills introduced in Georgia, Indiana, and Virginia plus some exciting news in Massachusetts, Washington D.C., New York and Vermont. Keep reading below to find out what the latest is!
Georgia: Senate Bill 254 seeks to amend the state criminal code so that no marijuana possession offense may any longer be classified as a felony. Under current law, any marijuana possession offense involving more than one ounce of cannabis is classified as a felony offense, punishable by one year (mandatory) to up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Passage of SB 254 would reduce these offenses to misdemeanors. According to an analysis of arrest data by the ACLU, Georgia ranks sixth out of all US jurisdictions in total annual marijuana possession arrests and ninth in per capita possession arrests. To support SB 254, click here.
House bill 722 seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes.
Under a 2015 law, qualifying patients are permitted to possess 20 ounces of infused cannabis oils containing not more than 5 percent THC and a equal or greater amount of CBD. However, the law provides no legal supply source for these products and, as a result, has failed to meet the needs of patients. House bill 722 would rectify this situation and impose other improvements, such as patient protection from job discrimination. To learn more about this measure, click here.
The measure, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Karen Tallian, will permit qualified patients — including patients with arthritis, migraine, PTSD, and seizures — to engage in cannabis therapy. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Indiana patients deserve these same protections.
Massachusetts: Just a reminder that The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 will be the subject of a hearing NEXT Wednesday, January 13, before the Judiciary Committee. This is your chance to speak before your lawmakers in support of legalization!
The Act would regulate the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. It also permits the home cultivation.
For more information on next week’s legislative hearing, click here.
New York: Medical marijuana dispensaries opened Thursday in the Empire state. To date, only eight of out of the state’s allotted 20 dispensaries are operational; they’re located in Manhattan, Westchester County, Kingston, Albany, two in Buffalo and two in the Finger Lakes region.
Though the dispensaries are now be open to patients, due to the law’s unnecessary strict regulations only 51 patients in the state have qualified for access so far. Furthermore, the law only allows for non smokable forms of marijuana restricting access to capsules, liquids or oils — restrictions that NORML opposes and that unnecessarily limit patients choices..
So far, about 150 doctors in New York have registered to be part of the program.
Vermont: Governor Peter Shumlin made his annual state of the union speech yesterday and called upon lawmakers to pass pending legislation to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana by adults in the state.
The Governor said, “I will work with you to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably. I believe we have the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right the Vermont way. Let’s do it together.”
Vermont has long been considered a state that could be the first to legalize recreational marijuana legislatively.
To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization click here.
Virginia: Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) has reintroduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses.
Senate bill 104 eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses, replacing them with civil fine-only penalties — no arrest and no criminal record.
Presently, Virginia ranks among the top ten states in annual marijuana possession arrests. In fact, the number of Virginians arrested for violating the state’s marijuana possession laws increased 76 percent between the years 2003 and 2014, at a time when arrests for similar violations were falling nationwide. Clearly there is a need for reform in the Old Dominion state. To this end, the Virginia chapters of NORML will be holding their State Lobby day to lobby the General Assembly in Richmond on January 14th at 8:30 a.m. Advocates from around the state will meet with legislators in support of SB 104.
Washington DC: When marijuana possession was legalized in DC via voter initiative in 2014, Mayor Muriel Bowser quickly asked the City Council to bar marijuana smoking at nightclubs, private clubs and virtually any other businesses licensed by the city. But on Tuesday the subject was revisited when City Council voted to legalize the smoking of marijuana at certain rooftop bars and sidewalk cafes, where cigarette smoking is currently permitted, and in private clubs. However, 30 minutes later, reversed itself, extending the current ban for an additional 90 days.
The flip flop was again the result of Mayor Bowser’s influence. The City Council has to take permanent action on this soon so we’ll be meeting with the Mayor’s office in the coming weeks to ensure a public use provision is considered with accompanying regulations and provisions for responsible use.
Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!
** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!