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!
If you are planning on attending this year’s Congressional Lobby Day in Washington D.C. this May 23rd and 24th and you like saving money, please take advantage of the early bird discount for pre-registering that is now available!
The schedule will be released soon but rest easy it will be a full two day itinerary focused around marijuana consumerism, the 114th Congress, post prohibition concerns, marijuana in the media and more! We’ll hold our informational conference on Monday at the GW University Elliot School of International Affairs (1957 E Street NW) with moderated discussions between some of the most influential thought leaders in the movement and then on Tuesday we’ll #TakeAction and gather on Capitol Hill to lobby our elected officials for common sense marijuana law reforms.
We’ll also be hosting a NORML Social at O St. Mansion on Monday night for a special award ceremony to honor our most valuable marijuana activists! If you wish to join the party don’t forget to purchase a separate ticket at checkout.
Thanks again for your dedicated support and help in reforming our country’s misguided cannabis laws.
Federal: Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced H.R. 4779, the CBD Oil Act of 2016 this week. This legislation would bar prosecution of individuals who use cannabidiol (CBD) oil for medical purposes as permitted by existing state law. Currently, 15 states have laws on the books to allow for the use of CBD products for medicinal purposes. Utah Governor Herbert has come out in support of the bill saying: “I support Rep. Chaffetz in his effort to alleviate the fear that many Utah families face over conflicting state and federal laws regarding cannabis oil. This legislation resolves that concern by respecting decisions made at the local level.”
This legislation joins five other pending bills on the federal level to to permit and/or protect patient access to CBD. You can find the other pending legislation here.
Alabama: Legislation is pending, House Bill 257, to amend state law so that first time offenders of one ounce or less of marijuana face a civil fine, no arrest and no criminal record. Current law defines the personal possession of marijuana as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up of to $6,000.
The legislation is currently pending before the House Judiciary Committee. #TakeAction
Florida: Members of the Tampa city council voted 5 to 1 to amend local laws so that the possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis within city limits is a non-arrestable, fine-only offense. First-time offenders face a $75 fine, while multiple offenders could face fines up to $450. By contrast, Florida law defines similar possession offenses as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Tampa’s pending law is similar to those recently enacted in a number of Florida counties, including Miami-Dade, West Palm Beach, and Volusia, as well as in several other metropolitan areas, such as Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
Georgia: House lawmakers have resurrected language to expand the state’s medical cannabis law. Provisions previously contained in House Bill 722 have been attached to separate legislation, which is expected to be decided upon by a floor vote imminently. House lawmakers previously approved the measure last month, but Senate lawmakers were unwilling to take up the issue.
As amended, the language expands the pool of patients eligible for certain medical marijuana products to include autism spectrum disorder, AIDS, a skin disease known as epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy, Tourette’s syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder, and protects patients against various discriminatory practices. #TakeAction
Louisiana: Members of the New Orleans city council voted 7 to zero in favor of legislation permitting police to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders (defined as those who possess 14 grams or less), including repeat offenders. First-time violators are subject to a $40 fine while subsequent offenders may face fines of up to $100. Under state law, first-time possession offenders are subject to arrest and criminal prosecution (punishable by up to 15 days in jail) while repeat offenders face up to eight years in prison.
Pennsylvania: After months of delay, House members approved legislation in a 149-3 vote on Wednesday to permit the production and use of medical marijuana products to qualified patients.The amended bill permits state officials to license marijuana cultivators and dispensaries to provide cannabis products to qualified patients who possess a recommendation from select physicians. The measure permits for the dispensing of herbal cannabis via vaporization, as well as the use of marijuana-infused extracts or oils.Because the House-amended legislation differs from the version initially approved by the Senate, the bill must be reapproved by the Senate or it will be negotiated in conference committee. #TakeAction
Tennessee: Legislation is pending, HB 2310 and SB2321, to place a referendum before voters this November that would provide local law enforcement the option of citing rather than arresting adults who are caught in possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. If the referendum is approved by voters, the option to arrest or cite minor offenders will be at the discretion of law enforcement.
An analysis of 2012 marijuana possession arrests reports that police annually arrest over 19,000 Tennesseans for minor marijuana possession offenses. This is the 15th highest statewide tally in the nation. House Bill 2310 has been scheduled to be heard by members of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on March 22nd. #TakeAction
Vermont: The House Judiciary Committee held it’s first walk-through this week related to S.241, the measure to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. Though the Senate has approved the measure, it’s expected to be a difficult road to win the House over. If you live in Vermont it’s important to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for this measure! #TakeAction
Smigiel, a former delegate in Maryland’s House of Delegates serving from 2003-2015, is challenging incumbent and anti-marijuana Congressman Andy Harris in the Republican primary. Congressman Harris became infamous for stepping between Washington D.C. and marijuana legalization when he attached a rider to an annual spending bill barring the district from implementing a recreational market following the District’s approval of Initiative 71.
Smigiel on the other hand is a strong marijuana advocate, having sponsored a bill in Maryland that passed in 2014 to decriminalize marijuana. He supports eliminating all criminal penalties for the responsible use of marijuana by adults and additionally, supports state’s rights to move forward with full legalization.
“Mike is an ardent supporter of marijuana law reform and has worked across party lines to implement real policy change in Maryland. NORML is proud to support his bid for Congress and we are looking forward to having another ally on Capitol Hill.” says NORML Political Director Danielle Keane.
Recent polling shows that 58% of the voters in the 1st District would not vote for Andy Harris if they knew he was opposed to the decriminalization of Marijuana. If Mike Smigiel can get that message out he can unseat Andy Harris. You can find out more about Mike and his campaign by visiting his website or Facebook and if you wish to join NORML in supporting his campaign click here.
For more information on the NORML PAC click here.
Connecticut: State regulators gave final approval this week to expand the state’s list of qualifying conditions for which a physician may recommend medical cannabis. The six new conditions are: ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), ulcerative colitis, sickle cell disease, severe psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis, complex regional pain syndrome, and post-laminectomy syndrome with chronic radiculopathy.
Florida: Members of Tampa City Council gave preliminary approval today in favor of a local ordinance decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses. Under the plan, municipal law would redefine marijuana possession of 20 grams or less as a civil matter, rather than a criminal offense. First-time violators will face a $75 for the first offense. Council members will hold a final vote on the measure onMarch 17th. You can contact your City Council members to urge their support for this measure here.
Volusia county joined nearby Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties this week by passing an ordinance providing police the discretion to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders. Those given citations will face a county court fine of $100. The new law applies only to people caught with marijuana on the beach and in unincorporated county areas. Cities will be allowed to adopt the same law.House members overwhelmingly voted on Thursday, March 3, in favor of legislation to permit medical marijuana access to people diagnosed with terminal illnesses. House Bill 307 permits the production and distribution of cannabis to terminally ill patients. Similar language is pending a Senate floor vote. Florida law already permits for the production of strains of cannabis high in CBD to be dispensed to qualified patients with cancer, muscle spasms, and intractable seizures. However, to date, this program has yet to be operational.
Maryland: On February 26th, HB 104, legislation to expand the pool of medical professionals who can provide written recommendations for marijuana to qualifying patients, was approved by the House in a 110-21 vote. The legislation would allow nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, among other medical professionals, who are in good standing with the state to provide written certifications to qualifying patients. The legislation will now be considered by members of the Senate. #TakeAction
New York: Next Tuesday, March 8th, members of the Buffalo Common Council will consider the Buffalo Cannabis Act, which decriminalizes the possession of up to two ounces and allows citizens to grow up to six plants in their homes.
Pennsylvania: After months of delay, House members are anticipated to finally begin debating medical marijuana legislation on the House floor later this month. It will mark the first time House members have taken any action since November when members of the House Rules Committee passed Senate Bill 3. If adopted by the House, Gov. Tom Wolf says he will sign the measure. #TakeAction
Washington: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, Senate Bill 6206, establishing regulations governing industrial hemp production. The measure “authorizes the growing of industrial hemp as a legal agricultural activity” in accordance with federal legislation permitting such activity as part of a state-authorized program. Presently, 25 states have enacted legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with this statute. The measure awaits action from Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign it into law.