Members of Congress have re-authorized a federal provision prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering in state-authorized medical cannabis programs. The provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, was included in short-term spending legislation, House Resolution 2028, and will expire on April 28, 2017.
Initially enacted by Congress in 2014, the amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” In August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the language bars the federal government from taking legal action against any individual involved in medical marijuana-related activity absent evidence that the defendant is in clear violation of state law.
Because the provision is included as part of a Congressional spending package and does not explicitly amend the US Controlled Substances Act, members must re-authorize the amendment annually. However, House leadership may prohibit federal lawmakers from revisiting the issue when they craft a longer-term funding bill this spring. Such a change in House rules would require members of the Senate to pass an equivalent version of the legislation, which would then need to be approved by House leaders in conference committee.
Looking ahead to 2017, marijuana law reforms face an uncertain future. Therefore, it is more important than ever that this federal protection remains in place to ensure that these patient programs and those who rely upon them are not subject to federal interference.
NORML released our updated and revised 2016 Congressional Scorecard this week in conjunction with National Voter Registration Day. The Scorecard is an all-encompassing database that assigns a letter grade ‘A’ through ‘F’ to members of Congress based on their marijuana-related comments and voting records.
With the 2016 presidential election drawing closer and statewide marijuana initiatives qualified for the ballot in nine states, we need YOU to make it out to the polls to support ending cannabis prohibition. Double-check your status as a voter and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Take a look at how we graded your members of Congress and bring that information with you to the polls on Election Day!
Federal: Members of Congress have approved a short-term spending bill that keeps in place existing provisions protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, maintains that federal funds can not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Federal lawmakers will revisit the FY 2017 spending appropriation after the Election.
California: On Tuesday, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, the nation’s largest state organization of nurses, announced that it has endorsed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.
Deborah Burger, President of the California Nurses Association/NNU said, “California Nurses believe strongly that the prohibition and criminalization of marijuana has ruined generations of lives, wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer of dollars and failed to protect the public health and safety. California needs a new approach and Proposition 64 is carefully crafted to strictly regulate adult-use marijuana while funding critical youth programs and safeguarding children, workers and local communities.”
Proposition 64 permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possess and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes. The initiative language specifies that it is not intended to “repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt … laws pertaining to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.”
The California Nurses Association joins the ACLU of California, the California Democratic Party, the California Medical Association, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California NAACP, the California League of Conservative Voters, Equality California, the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and NORML in its support for Proposition 64.
If enacted by voters in November, Question 1 would allow adults to legally possess up to two and one-half ounces of marijuana and to cultivate marijuana (up to six mature plants and the entire yields of said plants) for their own personal use. The measure would also establish licensing for the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis. Retail sales of cannabis would be subject to a ten percent sales tax. Non-commercial transactions and/or retail sales involving medical cannabis would not be subject to taxation.
Massachusetts: A new WBZ-TV/UMass Amherst poll finds that a majority of voters back Question 4: The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. The measure leads in the poll by a 53 percent to 40 percent margin.
If enacted, Question 4 allows adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their residences and up to 10 ounces of marijuana in an enclosed, locked space within their residences, which mimics the current in-residence allowance established by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for medical marijuana patients. It allows adults 21 years of age and older to grow up to six marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked space within their residences and possess the marijuana produced by those plants in the location where it was grown.
Tennessee: Members of the Memphis City Council are following in the footsteps of the Nashville Metro Council by approving a local ordinance to provide local police the discretion to issue $50 citations for those who possess up to a half-ounce of marijuana. Under state law, the possession of small amounts of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record. Council members approved the ordinance last week in it’s second reading, with the third and final reading taking place October 4th. If you live in Memphis, consider contacting your member of City Council to urge their support for this common sense measure.
Today is National Voter Registration Day and we are pleased to present this valuable voter education tool to the marijuana movement: NORML’s updated and revised 2016 Congressional Scorecard. The Scorecard is an all-encompassing database that assigns a letter grade of ‘A’ (the highest grade possible) to ‘F’ (the lowest grade possible) to members of Congress based on their comments and voting records on matters specific to marijuana policy.
Of the 535 members of the 114th Congress:
- 330 members (62%) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (270 Representatives and 60 Senators)
- Of these, 22 members (4%) received a grade of ‘A’ (20 Representatives and 2 Senators)
- 254 members (47%) received a ‘B’ grade (218 Representatives and 36 Senators)
- 54 members (10%) received a ‘C’ grade (32 Representatives and 22 Senators)
- 172 members (32%) received a ‘D’ grade (149 Representatives and 23 Senators)
- 32 members (6%) received a failing grade (16 Representatives and 16 Senators)
- 60 Senators (60%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (Two A’s, 36 B’s, and 22 C’s)
- 270 Representatives (62%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (20 A’s, 218 B’s, and 32 C’s)
- Of the 233 Democrats in Congress, 215 (92%) received a passing grade of a ‘C’ or higher
- Of the 302 Republicans in Congress, 113 members (37%) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher
This analysis affirms that voters’ views on marijuana policy are well ahead of many of their federally elected officials. While the majority of Americans support legalizing the use and sale of cannabis for adults, only four percent of Congressional members voice support for this position. Approximately half (51%) of federal lawmakers favor liberalizing medical cannabis policies. However, this percentage remains far below the level of support frequently expressed by voters in state and national polls.
Also evident is that Congressional support for marijuana law reform is largely a partisan issue. While more than nine out of ten Democrats express support for some level of reform, just over one-third of Republicans hold similar positions. This partisanship lies in contrast to voters’ sentiments, which tend to view the subject as a non-partisan issue. For example, recent polls from swing states show that super-majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents endorse medical marijuana legalization. Further, most Republican voters embrace principles of federalism with regard to cannabis policy. Nonetheless, Republican support for this position remains marginal among members of Congress.
HOW NORML’S CONGRESSIONAL SCORECARD IS CALCULATED
- An ‘A’ letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adults.
- A ‘B’ letter grade indicates that this member supports policies specific to the legalization of medical cannabis and/or the decriminalization of cannabis.
- A ‘C’ letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the ability of a state to move forward with cannabis law reform policies free from federal interference.
- A ‘D’ letter grade indicates that this member has expressed no support for any significant marijuana law reform
- An ‘F’ letter grade indicates that this member expresses significant and vocal opposition to marijuana law reform
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To find NORML’s grade for a specific member of Congress, please click here for the Senate scorecard and click here for the House scorecard. NORML’s full 2016 Congressional Scorecard and Executive Summary is available online here.
The DEA announced that they will amend their quotas for 2017 regarding the cultivation of research-grade marijuana and hemp legalization bills in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have been signed into law! We also have updates from Illinois, Florida, and Ohio. Keep reading to learn the latest in marijuana law reform news from around the country and to find out how you can #TakeAction!
In a notice published in the Federal Register, Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg proposed amending the amount of marijuana that may be produced under federal license in 2017 to approximately 1,041 pounds. The agency alleges that this quantity will be sufficient to provide for the “estimated medical, scientific, research and industrial needs of the United States.”
The US Drug Enforcement Administration is also preparing to respond to an administrative petition calling for the reclassification of marijuana as a schedule I prohibited substance. Their determination was originally expected in the first half of 2016 but it has yet to be released.
Florida: Next Tuesday, the state’s first state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary will open to the public. Trulieve, a licensed cannabis cultivator and distributor, will provide a high CBD, low THC strain of the plant to patients that are registered with the state. However, as of today not a single eligible patient is registered with the state to legally access the product. This is because Florida’s law, initially passed in 2014, is among the strictest in the country. Under the law, patients diagnosed with cancer, seizures, or intractable muscle spasms are eligible for CBD-dominant cannabis, while those diagnosed with a terminal illness are eligible for THC-dominant cannabis. To date, however, only 15 physicians in the state are participating in the program.
Illinois: Two months ago lawmakers voted in favor of Senate Bill 2228, legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But Governor Bruce Rauner has yet to sign the measure into law. The bill 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 $1,500. The bill also amends the state’s zero tolerance per se traffic safety law.
#TakeAction and contact Governor Rauner to urge him to sign this legislation into law.
Ohio: Governor John Kasich has signed legislation so that certain drug offenses are no longer punishable by a mandatory loss of one’s driver’s license. Under previous law, any drug conviction carried a mandatory driver’s license suspension of at least six months, even in cases where the possession offense did not take place in a vehicle. Senate Bill 204 makes such suspensions discretionary rather than mandatory. The law will take effect September 13th, 2016.
Pennsylvania: On Wednesday, July 20th, Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation, House Bill 967, to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp.” The new law took immediate effect. Twenty-eight states have now enacted similar legislation.
Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo has signed legislation, H8232, to establish rules for the commercial, licensed cultivation of hemp in the state. The legislation creates the “Hemp Growth Act” to treat hemp as an agricultural product that may be legally produced, possessed, distributed and commercially traded. The Department of Business Regulation will be responsible for establishing rules and regulations for the licensing and regulation of hemp growers and processors.
Members of Congress this week heard testimony on the state of marijuana research, and leading members of the U.S. Senate introduced legislation to potentially reclassify CBD. A medical marijuana initiative in Montana qualified for the November ballot and Governors in three states signed marijuana related bills into law. Keep reading below to get this week’s latest marijuana news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.
On Wednesday, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a hearing titled, “Researching Marijuana’s Potential Medical Benefits and Risks”. Testimony was provided by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who are co-sponsors of the CARERS Act, as well as by officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While several witnesses were asked by the committee whether or not they expected the DEA to reschedule cannabis, none provided a direct answer. An archive of the hearing is available online here.
Today, US Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Pat Leahy (D-VT), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced legislation, the “Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.” The Act requires the Attorney General to make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be reclassified under the Controlled Substances Act and would expand research on the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol and other marijuana components. You can voice your support for this measure, as well as other pending federal legislation, by clicking here.
Hawaii: On Tuesday, Governor David Ige signed legislation, House Bill 2707, to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.
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. Other language in the bill permits the transportation of medical marijuana across islands for the purposes of laboratory testing, but maintains existing prohibitions banning individual patients from engaging in inter-island travel with their medicine.
Full text of the bill is available here.
Missouri: Governor Jay Nixon signed legislation into law today making it easier for those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged.
The legislative measure expands the number of offenses eligible for expungement from roughly a half dozen to more than 100 non-violent and non-sexual crimes. It also allows people to expunge their records sooner, shortening the waiting period to three years for misdemeanors and to seven years following a felony offense. However, the law does not take effect until January 1, 2018.
Missouri’s NORML coordinator Dan Viets said, “This law will allow many thousands of people who have a marijuana conviction on their public records to escape the lifelong disabilities such a conviction has caused in the past.”
For more information, contact Missouri NORML here.
Montana: On Wednesday, a statewide initiative to expand and restore the state’s medical marijuana program qualified for the November ballot. The initiative is seeking to reverse several amendments to the program that were initially passed by lawmakers in 2011.
If approved by voters, I-182 allows a single treating physician to certify medical marijuana for a patient diagnosed with chronic pain and includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a “debilitating medical condition” for which a physician may certify medical marijuana, among other changes. You can read the initiative language here.
Pennsylvania: On Monday, legislation to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp” was sent to Governor Wolf for his signature.
This measures allows state-approved applicants to research and cultivate industrial hemp as part of an authorized pilot program. This proposal is compliant with Section 7606 of the omnibus federal farm bill, authorizing states to sponsor hemp cultivation pilot programs absent federal reclassification of the plant. More than two dozen states have enacted similar legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with this statute. #TakeAction
Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo signed legislation, House Bill 7142, this week to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. Members of both chambers previously overwhelmingly approved the measure. Full text of the bill is available here. The new law went into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.