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  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director December 11, 2015

    map_leafState legislators are pre-filing numerous marijuana reform bills in preparation for the start of the 2016 legislative season. Additionally, members of Congress are negotiating on federal funding measures that could have dramatic effects on national marijuana policy. Keep reading to below to find out what new legislative reforms are taking place in your state and what the federal budget could mean for you!

    A full list and summary of pending state and federal legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.

    Federal: Congressional leadership is deciding on the inclusion of four marijuana-specific provisions in the FY 2016 spending bill. Passage of these measures will have an important effect on the role the federal government will play (or not) in 2016 federal marijuana policy. As previously reported on by Marijuana.com here they are:

    *Prevent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

    -Similar language was enacted last year and is current law for Fiscal Year 2015. On June 3, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 242-186 and on June 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted the amendment by a vote of 21-9.

    * Prevent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs.

    -Similar language was enacted last year and is current law for Fiscal Year 2015. On June 3, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 289-132 and on June 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment by a voice vote.

    * Allow doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans, and prevent the V.A. from denying services to veterans because they are medical marijuana patients in accordance with state law.

    -On April 30, the House narrowly rejected the amendment by a vote of 210-213 but on May 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment by a vote of 18-12, and its language was included in a bill passed by the full Senate on November 10.

    * Prevent the federal government from punishing banks for doing business with state-legal marijuana providers.

    -On July 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment to by a vote of 16-14

    Additionally, Congress will be weighing whether or not to include in the final spending package language that would bar Washington D.C. from implementing a recreational market for marijuana. Last year, Congress included language that prevented the district from taxing and selling marijuana, leading to the implementation of a grow and share program in the District.

    We are expecting to receive news of final budget negotiations next week so keep following the NORML blog for an update!

    Flag_of_Illinois.svgIllinois: House Bill 4357, legislation to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses in Illinois, is pending in the General Assembly.

    If approved, the legislation would make the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine only. Adults would no longer face criminal arrest or the threat of time in jail or a criminal record.

    Introduced by Representative Kelly Cassidy, this proposal largely mirrors legislation previously introduced in the spring of 2015 that was approved by members of both the House and Senate.

    320px-Flag_of_Missouri.svgMissouri: Senate Bill 762, which permits for the personal possession and retail sale of marijuana by those age 21 and over, has been prefiled for the 2016 legislative session. The measure permits adults to privately possess up to one ounce of cannabis without penalty. Senate Bill 762 also seeks to license the commercial production and to regulate the retail sale of marijuana for adults. To take action on this measure click here.

    House legislation has been prefiled —HB 1524 — to allow marijuana convictions to be expunged contingent upon the passage of a constitutional amendment or other statutory enactment legalizing marijuana. To take action on this measure click here.

    Senate Bill 761 has been prefiled in the Missouri legislature to exempt marijuana from certain forfeiture provisions relating to controlled substances.

    “Under current law, illegal controlled substances, anything of value exchanged for a controlled substance in violation of the law, money used to facilitate a violation of the controlled substances laws, money found in close proximity to an illegal controlled substance, and any other property used in relation to or derived from a violation of the controlled substances laws is subject to seizure and forfeiture.” This act exempts marijuana from these forfeiture provisions. To take action on this measure click here.

    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!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 10, 2015

    arrested

    Over twelve percent of federal drug prisoners are incarcerated for marijuana-related violations, according to data compiled by US Bureau of Prisons and the United State’s Sentencing Commission and published by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics

    Of the 94,678 federal inmates incarcerated for a drug violation as their most serious offense, 12.4 percent (11,533 persons) are serving time for violating marijuana laws. Most marijuana offenders are imprisoned for trafficking violations. The average length of prison time for those incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses is 88 months.

    Nearly half (44.3 percent) of federal marijuana inmates are offenders with minimal criminal histories who have not previously served time in prison. Eight-five percent of marijuana offenders did not possess a firearm.

    Over a third (36.5 percent) of federal marijuana prisoners are age 40 or older. Thirty-five percent of federal marijuana prisoners are not US citizens.

    The percentage of marijuana-related federal prisoners has remained virtually unchanged over the past decade.

    Full text of the BJS report, “Drug offenders in federal prison: Estimates of characteristics based on linked data, is online here.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director October 16, 2015

    map_leafWhile the Presidential candidates clarify their marijuana-centric positions and voters in one state (Ohio) prepare to decide on legalizing the plant, state and federal lawmakers continue to move forward with legislative reforms. Here’s a look at some recent, pending legislative developments.

    To support the measures below, please use our #TakeAction Center to contact your state and federal elected officials! A full list and summary of pending state and federal legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.

    New Federal Bill Introduced:

    Washington Congresswoman Suzan DelBene is sponsoring H.R. 3746, the State Marijuana and Regulatory Tolerance (SMART) Enforcement Act, to protect medical patients, recreational consumers, and licensed businesses in states that regulate marijuana. Under this proposal, the US federal Controlled Substances Act would no longer be inapplicable in states that have legalized and regulated marijuana in a manner that addresses key federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors and drug-induced impaired driving.

    State Legislative Developments:

    California:  Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a legislative package of bills that seek to provide statewide regulations for California’s medical cannabis industry.

    The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which consists of three separate bills (Assembly Bill 266, Assembly Bill 243, and Senate Bill 643), creates a new state agency within the Department of Consumer Affairs to develop rules and licensing procedures for authorized medical cannabis dispensaries. Dispensaries must be compliant with local guidelines prior to receiving a state license. State-licensed dispensaries will be permitted to operate on a ‘for profit’ basis. However, the new regulations will not override existing municipal moratoriums, nor will they prohibit the collection of local sales taxes on marijuana purchases in communities that presently impose them.

    Separate language in the Act seeks to regulate the licensed production of cannabis and imposes rules in regard to growing, testing, and labeling cannabis like other agricultural products. The Act also seeks to provide additional oversight to physicians who recommend cannabis therapy. However, it does not limit physicians from recommending cannabis at their own discretion – activity that is codified under Proposition 215/the Compassionate Use Act.

    The new law takes effect on January 1, 2016. However, regulations imposed by the new law are not expected until early 2017.State licensing is anticipated to begin in early 2018.

    Illinois: House members are considering House Bill 4276, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, to permit those over the age of 21 to legally possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and/or to engage in the home cultivation of marijuana for non-commercial purposes (up to eight plants at any one time.) Adults would be permitted to possess the full harvest from their plants and would not be subject to any taxation or commercial fees for engaging in home cultivation. Existing criminal penalties involving the possession or cultivation of marijuana above these limits would also be significantly reduced under this measure.

    Michigan: House members recently amended and passed legislation to expand Michigan’s existing medical marijuana law.

    House Bill 4209 would license and regulate above-ground, safe access facilities for state-qualified patients seeking medical marijuana. Previously, lawmakers wanted to impose a special 8 percent excise tax on dispensary-related income; however, following the objections of advocates who argued that the imposition of additional fees would drive many patients to the black market, this proposed tax now been lowered to 3 percent.

    House Bill 4210  would provide qualified patients legal protections for their use of non-smoked cannabis derived topicals and edibles, as well as cannabis-based extract products. Lawmakers also passed a third bill, HB 4827, which seeks to establish regulations tracking the production and sale of medical marijuana products.

    This package of bills now goes before the Senate Judiciary committee for consideration.

    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!

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director May 13, 2015

    2015 NORML Legislative Fly-In

    The NORML Legislative Fly-In in Washington, DC is one week away. Please join NORML in this call to action.*

    If you’ve not pre-registered for the May 20th cannabis lobbying training and messaging day, please do ASAP by going here. The conference schedule and speaker list are online.

    NORML activist and leadership awards, a silent auction and social on Thursday night are all on tap (so to speak…).

    Marijuana is becoming legal in our lifetimes. Please join us at the nation’s capitol and help hasten these long-needed public policy reforms by lobbying your elected policy makers.

    *There are over 40 million cannabis consumers in the United States (according to government data) and NORML knows that 99.99999% of these direct stakeholders are not going to come to Washington to lobby on cannabis law reforms next week, but, that does not mean they can’t be active on May 21st–NORML Lobby Day–contacting their federal policymakers (one congressperson and two senators)

    If you and your cannabis tolerant friends and family can’t join us in Washington, D.C. next week, please consider, for the day, being a ‘virtual lobbyist’ for cannabis law reform. To do so, please visit NORML’s Take Action Center

    Thanks in advance and hope to see you next week in Washington (where the possession and use of cannabis by adults over 21 years of age is legal).

    Allen St. Pierre
    Executive Director
    NORML / NORML Foundation

    p.s. The NORML social has separate ticket necessary for attendance @ $25/per person.

  • by NORML December 10, 2014

    DC Initiative Measure 71A rider was included in the final version of the House omnibus appropriations bill with the intent blocking the implementation of Washington, DC’s 2014 marijuana legalization initiative.

    As written, the rider seeks to restrict the District from utilizing federal or local funds to “to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.” A summary of the provision posted on the House Appropriations Committee website acknowledges that the language is intended to prevent any funds from being used to “implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District.”

    Washington DC’s Initiative 71 was approved by over 70 percent of District voters in November. The initiative seeks to legalize the adult possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivation of three mature and three immature plants.

    “This rider is an affront to the concept of democracy,” commented NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Seven out of ten voters in Washington, DC cast their ballot in favor of ending prohibition and legalizing the adult possession and limited cultivation of marijuana, this attempt by members of Congress to flout the will of the people is a gross injustice to these voters and to the democratic system.”

    The House will vote on the final version of the omnibus bill in the next couple days and then it must be approved by the Senate. This rider has no impact on the District’s current decriminalization or medicinal marijuana policies. NORML will keep you updated as the situation develops and what precisely this means for legalization in the nation’s capital.

    Further coverage regarding this rider and its potential impact on the District is available from the Washington Post, Roll Call, and CNN.

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