This was a huge week for marijuana law reform. Congress voted for the first time to expand medical cannabis access to military veterans, and Governors in numerous states signed cannabis legalization and depenalization measures into law. Keeping reading to get the latest news and to learn what you can do to take action.
Members of the US House and Senate voted yesterday for the first time to expand military veterans’ access to medicinal cannabis in states that allow it. House members voted 233 to 189 last week in favor of the Veterans Equal Access Amendment. The amendment, offered by Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) to the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, prohibits the federal government from sanctioning V.A. physicians who wish to recommend cannabis therapy to their patients. Members of the US Senate Appropriations Committee previously voted in April in favor of a similar provision and the full Senate also signed off on their version of the bill yesterday. The House and Senate versions of FY 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations now await a concurrence vote prior to being sent to the President.
Colorado: House and Senate lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved legislation, House Bill 1373, to permit qualified patients access to the use formulations of medical cannabis while on school grounds. The measure now awaits action by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who indicated that he would sign the bill into law. Once enacted, a primary caregiver may administer non-inhalable formulations of medical cannabis to a qualifying patient while that patient is on the grounds of a pre-school, primary, or secondary school in which the student is enrolled. Medical marijuana patients may not be denied eligibility to attend school because of their cannabis use.
Connecticut: Democrat Gov. Dannel Malloy this week signed legislation expanding patients’ access to the state’s medicinal cannabis program. House Bill 5450 permits qualifying patients under the age of 18 to possess and consume medical cannabis preparations. The proposal also expands the list of qualifying illnesses eligible for cannabis therapy to include: ”uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder,” ”irreversible spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity,” “cerebral palsy,” “cystic fibrosis,” or “terminal illness requiring end-of-life care.” Other provisions in the bill seek to establish a statewide clinical research program, and protect nurses from criminal, civil, or disciplinary sanction if they choose to administer marijuana to a qualifying patient in a hospital setting. The new law takes effect on October 1, 2016.
Illinois: Members of the House voted 64 to 50 on Wednesday, May 18, in favor of Senate Bill 2228, legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Members of the Senate had previously voted 44 to 12 in favor of the measure, which makes the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100-$200 — no arrest and no criminal record.
Currently, those caught possessing that amount could face up to six months of jail time and fines of up to $1500. The bill also amends the state’s zero tolerance per se traffic safety law. Senate Bill 2228 now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner. Last year, the Governor issued an amendatory veto to a similar bill. However, this year’s language addresses the Governor’s past concerns.
Kansas: Governor Brownback recently signed House Bill 2462 into law to amend marijuana possession penalties. The law reduces criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine) to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by no more than six months in jail and a $1,000 fine). Second convictions will no longer be classified as a felony offense. You can read the full summary of the engrossed bill here. The sentencing changes take effect imminently.
Louisiana: Governor John Bel Edwards signed legislation yesterday amending the state’s dormant medical marijuana law. Senate Bill 271 permits physicians to ‘recommend’ rather than ‘prescribe’ medical cannabis therapy. The change allows doctors to authorize cannabis without running afoul of federal law, which prohibits the prescription of a schedule I controlled substance.
The measure also expands the pool of conditions eligible for cannabis therapy to include the following: “cancer, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy, or multiple sclerosis. Separate legislation, SB 180, which explicitly immunizes the program’s participants from state criminal prosecution, remains pending in the House and is anticipated to be voted on as early as next week.
Maine: Governor Paul LePage has signed legislation, LD 726, into law permitting qualified patients to use medical marijuana while admitted in Maine hospitals. This measure does not require hospital staff to administer medical marijuana to a patient and will only allow for patients to consume cannabis preparations in a smokeless form. The law also establishes licensing protocols for marijuana testing facilities and the labeling of medical cannabis products.
New Hampshire: Members of the Senate on Thursday, May 19, sent House-backed decriminalization provisions to conference committee rather than engage in an up/down vote of the bill. Members of the House previously voted 298 to 58 to amend Senate Bill 498 to make first-time offenses a civil violation rather than a criminal offense. The civil penalty would be limited to a fine only: no arrest, prosecution, or criminal record. Subsequent offenses would continue to be classified as misdemeanors. In past years, the Senate has been consistently hostile to any House efforts to decriminalize marijuana possession penalties.
The conference committee, consisting of members of the House and Senate, will now try to agree upon a finalized version of SB 498. It is important that Senate members hear from you and are urged to keep the House provisions in SB 498. #TakeAction
Oklahoma: Governor Mary Fallin signed legislation into law on Friday, May 13, to expand the pool of patients eligible to possess cannabidiol (CBD) under a physician’s authorization. House Bill 2835 extends existing legal protections to the following patients: those with “spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or due to paraplegia, intractable nausea and vomiting, appetite stimulation with chronic wasting diseases.” The measure also removes the age requirement limitation from existing law so that adults with various forms of epilepsy are eligible for CBD therapy. The expanded law takes effect on November 1, 2016.
Rhode Island: On Thursday, May 19th members of the Senate approved legislation, Senate Bill 2115, to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. The measure will now be sent to the House for consideration. #TakeAction
Alabama: Governor Robert Bentley has signed legislation, House Bill 61, to protect qualified patients eligible for CBD therapy under a physician’s authorization from criminal prosecution. The measure, known as ‘Leni’s Law’, allows qualified patients to possess CBD preparations containing up to three percent THC. The new law takes effect June 1st, 2016.
Colorado: House and Senate lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved legislation, House Bill 1373, to permit qualified patients access to the use formulations of medical cannabis while on school grounds.The measure now awaits action by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who indicated that he would sign the measure into law. “My son, if he needed medical marijuana and he needed it during the day while he was in school, I’d want him to have that opportunity,” Hickenlooper said.
Connecticut: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation expanding patients’ access to the state’s medicinal cannabis program. House Bill 5450 permits qualifying patients under the age of 18 to possess and consume medical cannabis preparations and it also expands the list of qualifying illnesses eligible for cannabis therapy. Other provisions in the bill seek to establish a statewide clinical research program, and protect nurses from criminal, civil, or disciplinary sanction if they choose to administer marijuana to a qualifying patient in a hospital setting. The measure now awaits action by Governor Dannel Malloy. #TakeAction
Hawaii: Legislation is pending before Governor David Ige to expand medical cannabis access and dispensing. The measure expands the pool of practitioners who may legally recommend cannabis therapy to include advanced nurse practitioners. Separate provisions in the bill remove the prohibition on Sunday dispensary sales and on the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia by qualified patients.It also permits the transportation of medical marijuana across islands for the purposes of laboratory testing. #TakeAction
Kansas: House and Senate lawmakers have signed off on sentencing reform legislation, House Bill 2049, that reduces criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine) to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by no more than six months in jail and a $1,000 fine). Second convictions will no longer be classified as a felony offense. The bill now heads to Gov. Brownback’s desk, and will become law if he does not veto it within 10 days. #TakeAction
Louisiana: Senate legislation to fix and expand the state’s dormant medical marijuana law received a boost this week after a House Committee amended and passed the measure. Senate Bill 271 seeks to change the language of existing law so that physicians may ‘recommend’ rather than prescribe cannabis therapy. Under federal law, physicians cannot legally ‘prescribe’ cannabis or any schedule I substance. It also expands the pool of patients eligible to receive marijuana therapy. The legislation is scheduled to be heard by members of the House Health and Welfare Committee next week. #TakeAction
New Hampshire: Members of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 12 to 7 this week to amend Senate-backed sentencing reform legislation, Senate Bill 498, to also include provisions decriminalizing minor, first-time marijuana possession offenses. The amended language would make first-time offenses a civil violation rather than a criminal offense. The civil penalty would be limited to a fine only: no arrest, prosecution, or criminal record. Subsequent offenses would continue to be classified as misdemeanors. #TakeAction
Oklahoma: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, HB 2835, to expand the pool of patients eligible to possess cannabidiol under a physician’s authorization. As amended, House Bill 2835 would include legal protections to the following patient groups: those with “spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or due to paraplegia, intractable nausea and vomiting, appetite stimulation with chronic wasting diseases.” The measure also removes the age requirement limitation from existing law so that adults with various forms of epilepsy are eligible for CBD therapy. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Mary Fallin. #TakeAction
Pennsylvania: Representative Ed Gainey is seeking co-sponsors for soon-to-be introduced legislation that would amend minor marijuana possession offenses to a non-criminal offense. Despite both local and nationwide progress on the issue of cannabis prohibition, Pennsylvania continues to charge over 18,000 individuals each year with minor possessory offenses. Please urge your House member to sign on as a co-sponsor to this important legislation. #TakeAction
Rhode Island: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are scheduled to consider SB 2420, legislation to regulate the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to those over the age of 21, on Tuesday, May 10th. Adults would be permitted to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It also permits adults to cultivate up to two marijuana plants (no more than 1 mature) at home for non-commercial purposes. You can read the full text of this proposal here. #TakeAction
Tennessee: Two marijuana related measures became law recently in Tennessee. The first permits for the licensed cultivation of industrial hemp when “grown by an institution of higher education in this state that offers a baccalaureate or post-graduate level program of study in agricultural sciences.” The second, amends third-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, to a misdemeanor offense, punishable by no more than one year in jail. The new sentencing penalties take effect on July 1, 2016.
For a summary of all pending marijuana legislation, be sure to check out our full #TakeAction center!
And don’t forget to register to attend NORML’s 2016 Congressional Lobby Day in Washington D.C. May 23rd and 24th! We have just recently confirmedthree members of Congress’ ability to address our group on Capitol Hill so you won’t want to miss it!
We are pleased to announce that Barry Grissom, who until last Friday was the US Attorney for Kansas, will be speaking at the 2016 NORML Aspen Legal Seminar this June in Aspen, CO. The seminar is scheduled for June 2, 3 and 4, 2016.
We have had many wonderful speakers at our various legal seminars over the years, including many former prosecutors, but I believe this is our first former US Attorney to appear on the program. Barry’s topic, on Friday afternoon, will be The Advantages to Ending Marijuana Prohibition from the Perspective of a US Attorney.
If you are a practicing attorney and are expecting to attend the Aspen legal seminar this year, please register soon so we know which states we need to apply for CLE approval. This seminar is also open to non-lawyers.
We have a great program again this year with outstanding speakers, including some new faces, and fascinating topics dealing with cutting edge issues facing criminal defense and marijuana business lawyers today. Whether you are from a state still looking forward to an end to marijuana prohibition, or from one of the states that have begun to experiment with different legalization models, you will leave this seminar with the knowledge that you are current both with the law and the politics of marijuana legalization in America.
And, of course, we guarantee everyone a lively social calendar as well, including an opening reception at the Gant on Thursday; a benefit dinner at the lovely Aspen home of Chris and Gerry Goldstein (catered by Cache Cache chef Chris Lanter) on Friday, and an afternoon cookout with live music at Owl Farm, the guests of Hunter Thompson’s widow, Anita Thompson, on Saturday.
Colorado: Denver NORML filed the Responsible Use initiative with the city of Denver. If passed by voters this November, it would legalize the establishment of private marijuana clubs for adults 21 and up. Passage of this ordinance would be a historic first step in moving toward normalizing the responsible, adult consumption of marijuana. The initiative would provide adults with a legally defined space where marijuana could be consumed and shared with other like-minded citizens — a simple, yet necessary accommodation for states that have passed some form of legalization. You can show support for the initiative by liking their page on Facebook.
Florida: On April 1st, the city of Tampa began implementing its new decriminalization law. Under the new ordinance, people caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana will now only face a civil citation rather than a arrest, criminal prosecution, and a criminal record.
Also, The Florida Democratic Party has endorsed Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment to permit the physician-authorized use and state-licensed distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The initiative has also received recent endorsements from the Tallahassee Democrat, the Miami Herald, and the Bradenton Herald. Presently, 16 states explicitly exempt the use of CBD by qualified patients. But, to date, no of these states provide a regulated, in-state supply source for the product.
Maine: A superior court judge today overturned the Secretary of State’s ruling that a citizen petition seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine was invalid. The ruling mandates the Secretary of State to review the disputed signatures to determine whether petitioners submitted enough valid ones to qualify for ballot placement this November.
Missouri: This week, regulators at the Missouri Department of Agriculture granted licenses to two applicants seeking to grow CBD-dominant cannabis. Their products are anticipated to be ready for distribution this fall to state-qualified patients.
Pennsylvania: State lawmakers have unanimously passed separate pieces of legislation to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp.” Members of the Senate voted 49 to zero in March in favor of SB 50. House lawmakers more recently voted 187 to zero in favor of the House companion bill, HB 967. House Bill 967 will now go to the Senate for concurrence with SB 50 and then to Gov. Tom Wolf, who has expressed support for the legislation. #TakeAction
Members of the Pittsburgh City Council have approved a new ordinance imposing more lenient penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses. Under this ordinance, marijuana-related offenses will now be classified as summary offenses, punishable by a fine of $100 for public smoking or $25 for the possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Virginia: Governor Terry McAuliff has signed legislation, Senate Bill 701, into law to establish regulations governing the in-state production of therapeutic oils high in cannabdiol and/or THC-A (THC acid). Senate Bill 701 requires the Board of Pharmacy to adopt regulations establishing health, safety, and security requirements for pharmaceutical processors of oils high in CBD and/or THC-A. The measure takes effect on July 1, 2016.
Don’t forget to join us in Washington D.C. May 23rd and 24th for our 2016 Congressional Lobby Day! Whether you are a longtime activist, a young college student, a medical marijuana patient, a social marijuana consumer, or just someone who opposes prohibition, this is an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals from across the country and get a glimpse into the Capitol Hill lawmaking process. It is an exhilarating experience for anyone who has taken the time to come to DC to lobby their members of Congress. Get your tickets today!
As Colorado approaches its fourth year of legal marijuana, consumers around the state are still struggling with the issue of acceptance. With local governments passing restrictive laws aimed at preventing the public consumption and/or display of marijuana, marijuana consumers are being forced to enjoy their legally purchased products behind closed doors. Take Denver for example. In 2013, City Council members passed an ordinance that established fines of up to $999 for those who are caught smoking in a public space. This left in state consumers with nowhere to consume their marijuana other than a private residence, and left out-of-state consumers with no legal place to consume at all.
After the new law was put into place, Denver police officers issued more than 650 tickets within the first year, compared to just over 117 for the previous year. This massive increase of 461 percent in citations speaks volumes to the obvious need for a more thoughtful approach. It just doesn’t make sense to provide a legal avenue for adults to purchase marijuana while simultaneously applying restrictions that severely limit the act of consuming it. It’s fairly simple, marijuana consumers deserve similar rights that our society typically affords to someone who enjoys a glass of wine at a local wine bar after an exhausting day.
Hopefully this situation will soon change. Last week Denver NORML filed the Responsible Use initiative with the city of Denver. If passed by voters this November, it would legalize the establishment of private marijuana clubs for adults 21 and up. Passage of this ordinance would be a historic first step in moving towards the ultimate goal of normalizing the consumption of marijuana in our country. The initiative would provide responsible adults a legally defined space where marijuana could be consumed and shared with other like-minded adults — a simple, yet necessary accommodation for states that have passed some form of legalization. It’s time for marijuana consumers to embrace the idea that just like any other consumer focused industry, we have rights.
We have our work ahead of us: gathering signatures, voter outreach and coalition building will be our top priorities over the next few weeks. Even in a progressive city such as Denver, where marijuana is fairly popular, we must work to earn the support non-consumers to ensure a victory on this issue. I believe we can accomplish this by offering a pragmatic initiative that will focus on the basics. There are plenty of places to grab a drink or a quick bite to eat, but we as marijuana consumers have no where to legally consume marijuana other than the privacy of someone’s home. If we focus on what is truly needed, I believe we can increase our chances of being successful this November.
To learn more about the Responsible Use Initiative or to get involved, please visit the campaign’s website by clicking, here!