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Congress

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director February 12, 2014

    Earlier today, 18 members of Congress signed onto a letter that was delivered to President Barack Obama calling for him to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

    “We request that you take action to help alleviate the harms to society caused by the federal Schedule I classification of marijuana. Lives and resources are wasted on enforcing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws,” the letter reads, “Nearly two-thirds of a million people every year are arrested for marijuana possession. We spend billions every year enforcing marijuana laws, which disproportionately impact minorities. According to the ACLU, black Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable usage rates.”

    The letter was signed by Representatives Blumenauer (OR), Cohen (TN), Farr (CA), Grijalva (AZ), Honda (CA), Huffman (CA), Lee (CA), Lofgren (CA), Lowenthal (CA), McGovern (MA), Moran (VA), O’Rourke (TX), Polis (CO), Quigley (IL), Rohrabacher (CA), Schakowsky (IL), Swalwell (CA), and Welch (VT).

    “Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana,” the letter continued, “A Schedule I or II classification also means that marijuana businesses in states where adult or medical use are legal cannot deduct business expenses from their taxes or take tax credits due to Section 280E of the federal tax code. We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.”

    You can read the full text of the letter here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 15, 2014

    Residents of the District of Columbia strongly favor legalizing marijuana consumption for adults, according to the findings of a Washington Post poll, released today

    Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they favor “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.”

    Since 2010, the last time residents were polled on the question, Washingtonians of every age, race and ethnicity — black and white, teenage and elderly — have registered double-digit increases in support for legalization, The Washington Post reported.

    Thirty-four percent of respondents said that they opposed legalization. However, among those respondents, nearly half (16 percent) acknowledged support for reducing the criminal penalties for marijuana offenses.

    Earlier today, Members of the DC Committee on Public Safety voted unanimously in favor of legislation amending local marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a non-arrestable civil infraction (punishable by a $25 fine for possession and a $100 fine for public consumption). The full City Council is expected to act on the measure within the coming weeks.

    Any legislation approved by the DC City Council may be overridden by an act of Congress.

    A 2012 report published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland reported that DC possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director October 29, 2013

    Reported this week in the Daily Herald:

    Community banks and credit unions are ready and willing to provide financial services to entrepreneurs in the state’s new legal pot industry. But they aren’t able to, at least not yet.

    Marijuana businesses, even ones that will soon be legally licensed in this state, are considered criminal enterprises under federal law, which makes handling their money a crime in the eyes of the Department of Justice.

    Until the agency changes its outlook or Congress changes the law — and efforts are under way to do both — those getting into the pot business can’t open a bank account, secure a line of credit or obtain a loan from a federally insured financial institution in their neighborhood.

    Full Article

    Fortunately, there is already a bill Congress could act upon to resolve this issue. Earlier this year, Representatives Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) and Denny Heck (WA – 10), along with a bipartisan group of 16 other Republicans and Democrats, introduced legislation that would reform federal banking laws relating to marijuana businesses. HR 2652: The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013 updates federal banking rules to resolve conflicts between federal and state laws and would allow marijuana businesses acting in compliance with state law to access banking services.

    Under current federal banking laws, many legal, regulated legitimate marijuana businesses that follow state law are prevented from opening bank accounts and operating as any other businesses would, which could ultimately lead to crime such as robbery and tax evasion in addition to the already onerous burden of setting up a legitimate small business.

    Please take a minute of your time today to utilize NORML’s Take Action Center to contact your elected officials and urge them to support this important legislation. You can do so by clicking here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director June 20, 2013

    UPDATE: For unrelated reasons, the final House version of the FARRM bill was voted down this afternoon, we’ll keep you updated as this situation evolves.

    This morning, the United States House of Representatives approved an amendment to H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (The FARRM Bill), that will allow for the cultivation of hemp for academic research at universities and colleges. This would only apply to states that have already passed legislation allowing for industrial hemp production.

    The amendment, sponsored by Representatives Polis (D-CO), Blumenauer (D-OR) and Tom Massie (R-KY), was approved by a 225-200 vote, with over 60 Republicans supporting it.

    “Industrial hemp is an important agricultural commodity, not a drug,” said Rep. Polis. “My bipartisan, common-sense amendment, which I’ve introduced with Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), would allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes in states where industrial hemp growth and cultivation is already legal. Many states, including Colorado, have demonstrated that they are fully capable of regulating industrial hemp. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. The first American flag was made of hemp. And today, U.S. retailers sell over $300 million worth of goods containing hemp—but all of that hemp is imported, since farmers can’t grow it here. The federal government should clarify that states should have the ability to regulate academic and agriculture research of industrial hemp without fear of federal interference. Hemp is not marijuana, and at the very least, we should allow our universities—the greatest in the world—to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural commodity.”

    The House and the Senate must now conference to reconcile differences between the two versions of the bill. Please take a moment of your time to call your Senators and urge them to support this important amendment and keep it in the final version of the legislation. You can click here to easily find the email and phone number for your Senators.

    NORML will keep you updated as this proposal moves forward.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director June 5, 2013


    It is possible that, for the first time ever, the United States Senate will vote to approve industrial hemp cultivation in the coming days. Please take a moment of your time to encourage your Senator to support this measure. You can easily do so by clicking here.

    Senator Ron Wyden has introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 954, the Senate version of this year’s federal farm bill, that requires the federal government to respect state laws allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp. Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only trace (less than one percent) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis.

    The amendment language mimics the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013,” which remains pending as stand-alone legislation in both the House and Senate but has yet to receive a legislative hearing. Senator Wyden’s provision to the Senate’s Farm Bill amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. The measure grants state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity.

    “For me, what’s important is that people see, particularly in our state, there’s someone buying it at Costco in Oregon,” Senator Wyden previously stated in support of this Act, “I adopted what I think is a modest position, which is if you can buy it at a store in Oregon, our farmers ought to be able to make some money growing it.”

    Eight states – Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia – have enacted statutory changes defining industrial hemp as distinct agricultural product and allowing for its regulated commercial production. Passage of this amendment would remove existing federal barriers and allow these states and others the authority to do so without running afoul of federal anti-drug laws.

    Senator Wyden’s amendment is co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has also expressed his support for this proposal.

    According to a Congressional Research Service report, “The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.”

    It is likely that the Senate will vote on the hemp amendment in the coming days, so it is imperative that you contact your Senator and urge them to stand with Senator Wyden and support this important proposal. You can click here to easily contact your Senator and urge him or her to stand with America’s farmers and legalize industrial hemp.

    [6/7/13 UPDATE: UNFORTUNATELY, SENATORS ULTIMATELY REJECTED INCLUDING THIS LANGUAGE IN THE SENATE FARM BILL. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS HAS THE STORY HERE: http://www.courierpress.com/news/2013/jun/07/kentuckys-senators-blocked-effort-legalize-hemp/.]

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