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  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director January 8, 2016

    map_leafThe new year marks a fresh slate and new beginnings for many and here at NORML it’s no different. The year 2016 is going to be monumental for marijuana law reform and we’re already starting to see an influx of marijuana law reform legislation being introduced around the country. In the coming days and weeks we’ll see a significant increase in the number of marijuana related activity so be sure to stay up to date on what YOU can do to help pass these reforms in your own communities.

    This week we’ve seen bills introduced in Georgia, Indiana, and Virginia plus some exciting news in Massachusetts, Washington D.C., New York and Vermont. Keep reading below to find out what the latest is!

    State:

    Georgia:  Senate Bill 254 seeks to amend the state criminal code so that no marijuana possession offense may any longer be classified as a felony. Under current law, any marijuana possession offense involving more than one ounce of cannabis is classified as a felony offense, punishable by one year (mandatory) to up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Passage of SB 254 would reduce these offenses to misdemeanors. According to an analysis of arrest data by the ACLU, Georgia ranks sixth out of all US jurisdictions in total annual marijuana possession arrests and ninth in per capita possession arrests. To support SB 254, click here.

    House bill 722 seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes.

    Under a 2015 law, qualifying patients are permitted to possess 20 ounces of infused cannabis oils containing not more than 5 percent THC and a equal or greater amount of CBD. However, the law provides no legal supply source for these products and, as a result, has failed to meet the needs of patients. House bill 722 would rectify this situation and impose other improvements, such as patient protection from job discrimination. To learn more about this measure, click here.

    Indiana: A Senate lawmaker has introduced legislation, SB 209, to protect qualified patients who consume cannabis under a physician’s written authorization.

    The measure, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Karen Tallian, will permit qualified patients — including patients with arthritis, migraine, PTSD, and seizures — to engage in cannabis therapy. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Indiana patients deserve these same protections.

    For more information, please contact Indiana NORML here or visit their Facebook page here. To contact your lawmakers in Indiana to urge their support, click here.

    Massachusetts: Just a reminder that The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 will be the subject of a hearing NEXT Wednesday, January 13, before the Judiciary Committee. This is your chance to speak before your lawmakers in support of legalization!legalization_poll

    The Act would regulate the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. It also permits the home cultivation.

    For more information on next week’s legislative hearing, click here.

    New York: Medical marijuana dispensaries opened Thursday in the Empire state. To date, only eight of out of the state’s allotted 20 dispensaries are operational; they’re located in Manhattan, Westchester County, Kingston, Albany, two in Buffalo and two in the Finger Lakes region.

    Though the dispensaries are now be open to patients, due to the law’s unnecessary strict regulations only 51 patients in the state have qualified for access so far. Furthermore, the law only allows for non smokable forms of marijuana restricting access to capsules, liquids or oils — restrictions that NORML opposes and that unnecessarily limit patients choices..

    So far, about 150 doctors in New York have registered to be part of the program.

    Vermont: Governor Peter Shumlin made his annual state of the union speech yesterday and called upon lawmakers to pass pending legislation to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana by adults in the state.

    The Governor said, “I will work with you to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably. I believe we have the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right the Vermont way. Let’s do it together.”

    Vermont has long been considered a state that could be the first to legalize recreational marijuana legislatively.

    To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization click here.

    Virginia: Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) has reintroduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses.

    Senate bill 104  eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses, replacing them with civil fine-only penalties — no arrest and no criminal record.thumbs_up

    Presently, Virginia ranks among the top ten states in annual marijuana possession arrests. In fact, the number of Virginians arrested for violating the state’s marijuana possession laws increased 76 percent between the years 2003 and 2014, at a time when arrests for similar violations were falling nationwide. Clearly there is a need for reform in the Old Dominion state. To this end, the Virginia chapters of NORML will be holding their State Lobby day to lobby the General Assembly in Richmond on January 14th at 8:30 a.m. Advocates from around the state will meet with legislators in support of SB 104.

    To find out more information about this legislation click here and for info on the upcoming lobby day you can contact Virginia NORML here or visit their Facebook page here.

    Washington DC: When marijuana possession was legalized in DC via voter initiative in 2014, Mayor Muriel Bowser quickly asked the City Council to bar marijuana smoking at nightclubs, private clubs and virtually any other businesses licensed by the city. But on Tuesday the subject was revisited when City Council voted to legalize the smoking of marijuana at certain rooftop bars and sidewalk cafes, where cigarette smoking is currently permitted, and in private clubs. However, 30 minutes later, reversed itself, extending the current ban for an additional 90 days.

    The flip flop was again the result of Mayor Bowser’s influence. The City Council has to take permanent action on this soon so we’ll be meeting with the Mayor’s office in the coming weeks to ensure a public use provision is considered with accompanying regulations and provisions for responsible use.

    takeactionban

    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 Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director December 24, 2015

    happy-holidays-greeting-14470407458EyWhile many are already celebrating the holidays with family and loved ones, we didn’t want to miss the chance to spotlight some important marijuana law reforms that have taken place this past week. We have exciting news internationally, federally, and in several states! Keep reading below to find out more!

    International:

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has signed legislation into law regulating the licensed production and exportation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

    Under the new policy, those seeking to grow medicinal cannabis commercially or manufacturer cannabis-based medicinal products may apply with government agencies for licensure. Regulators will also grant permits to those seeking to export medicinal cannabis products out of the country.

    Santos said that the goal of the policy “is for patients to be able to access medications made in Colombia that are safe, high-quality and accessible. It is also an opportunity to promote scientific research in our country.”

    While existing law allows for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis, the plant’s commercial production, manufacture, and sale had not been permitted.

    You can read more about this new policy here.

    US_capitolFederal: Back in July, we wrote about a letter authored by Senator Elizabeth Warren and seven other Senators that demanded answers from the federal government in regards to the facilitation of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.

    While the DEA, ONDCP, and HHS responded to the letter in October, the Senators were not satisfied and have just recently written a second letter asking for those answers again after claiming the initial response, “failed to answer key substantive questions.”

    Of importance to the Senators were topics such as the rescheduling of marijuana in the Federal Controlled Substances Act, the current monopoly the University of Mississippi holds on cultivating cannabis for federal research purposes, interagency coordination as well as the coordination between the federal government and states, and surveillance and epidemiological studies on the use of medical marijuana in the U.S.

    This second letter once again signals to many that medical marijuana is becoming an even more important issue in the political sphere not only to voters but also to their elected officials.

    Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a press release this week stating that they would “ease some of the regulatory requirements imposed by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) for those who are conducting FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabidiol (CBD), an extract of the marijuana plant.”

    Current federal regulation requires researchers who wished to expand their CBD based studies to submit a written request for additional CBD. This would delay the research while the request went through the approval process. According to the press release, “Under these changes, a previously registered CBD clinical researcher who is granted a waiver can readily modify their protocol and continue their research seamlessly.  This waiver effectively removes a step from the approval process.

    Deputy Director for NORML, Paul Armentano comments, “It’s a minor change. The DEA has done nothing to speed the process for investigators who want to do clinical work with CBD. In order to do clinical work on a drug on the Schedule 1 list, an investigator still needs approval from the FDA, the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.”

    State:

    legalization_pollMassachusetts: H. 1561: The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 has been scheduled for a hearing before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, January 13th at 1PM.

    This legislation would permit the personal possession, cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults. The measure would also permit home cultivation of the plant for non-commercial purposes.

    Bring your written testimony and testify in front of the committee in support of The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016.

    If you can’t make the hearing, you can contact your lawmakers and urge their support here.

    New Hampshire: Legislation has been prefiled for the 2016 legislative session to allow persons 21 years of age or older to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and to cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants without penalty.

    Police in New Hampshire arrest some 2,900 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of New Hampshire adults, some 60 percent of whom now endorse legalizing and regulating the plant, according to an October 2014 WMUR Granite State Poll.

    Click here if you’re a resident of New Hampshire and want to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for this legislation!

    Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh City Council on Monday voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, falling in line with a growing number of municipalities that have taken similar actions in recent years, city officials said.

    Under the ordinance passed with a 7 to 2 vote, police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s second-largest city, will begin to issue fines of $25 for possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana and $100 for smoking it in a public space instead of citing for misdemeanors, the city clerk’s office said.

    The ordinance is subject to approval by Mayor Bill Peduto, who has voiced support.

    chapter_spotlightVirginia: Virginia NORML in Richmond, VA will be holding their state Lobby Day on January 14th!

    Virginia NORML members and supporters will convene at the General Assembly building to bring our message directly to our lawmakers. RSVP now — this is their #1 advocacy event of the year, and they need all hands on deck in Richmond!

    Participants will be teamed with other constituents and meet with their legislators face-to-face to discuss the marijuana policy reforms critical to the Commonwealth. Participants will be lobbying for decriminalization, and for eliminating the driver’s license suspension upon a conviction.

    For more information click here.

    Wyoming: House legislation (HB 3) to depenalize marijuana possession offenses has been pre-filed for the 2016 legislative session, which begins February 8. 

    Annually, state and local police make some 2,100 marijuana possession arrests. The state ranks sixth in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests. Under state law, first-time marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

    House Bill 3  replaces criminal sanctions involving the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of no more than $100 — no arrest and no criminal record.

    To take action and contact your House member to urge their support for this measure, click here.

    takeactionban

    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 February 4, 2014

    A majority of likely Massachusetts voters support legalizing marijuana, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll released today.

    Fifty-three percent of respondents said that they “favor … the legalization of marijuana.” Thirty-seven percent of respondents opposed legalization. Ten percent were undecided.

    In previous elections, Massachusetts voters have overwhelmingly approved statewide ballot measures decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses and legalizing the dispensing of the plant for therapeutic purposes.

    Local activists have already begun plans for a possible 2016 ballot initiative drive on the question of full legalization.

    The Suffolk poll possesses a margin or error of +/- 4 percent.

    Over the past few months, separate statewide polls in Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Texas have all shown majority support for legalizing the adult consumption of cannabis.

    Recent national polls by Gallup (58 percent), CNN (55 percent), CBS (51 percent), and NBC (55 percent) have also shown majority support for legalizing cannabis.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director November 25, 2013

    NORML filed an “amicus curiae” brief with the state supreme appellate court on Friday, November 22, urging the court to enforce the limits on police searches set by 2008’s voter-initiative state decriminalization law, which eliminating police searches and arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Attorneys Michael Cutler of Northampton and Steven Epstein of Georgetown authored the brief.norml_remember_prohibition_

    In this case a Boston judge initially ruled a 2011 police search — based entirely on the smell of unburnt marijuana — violated the “decriminalization” law which made possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction subject only to a fine, thereby ending police authority to search or arrest the possessor. The state appealed.

    Earlier in 2011 the state supreme court ruled, in a case in which NORML also filed an amicus brief, that police searches based only on the odor of burnt marijuana were now illegal. The court reasoned that smell alone did not establish probable cause to believe a criminal amount (more than an ounce) was present, so police had no power to search or arrest.

    NORML asks the court to reject the Boston prosecutor’s claim that federal prohibition — which allows arrest and imprisonment for any amount of cannabis under federal law — trumps the state decriminalization law and allows police to ignore state law and use evidence from smell-based searches in state courts.

    NORML argues that state prosecutors and police must obey state law and state appellate court rulings under the state constitution’s separation of powers doctrine, requiring the executive branch to obey the legislative branch’s laws and the judicial branch’s limits on police conduct under state law and the state’s constitution.

    Finally, NORML argues that the state prosecutor’s position violates fundamental principles of Federalism, which limit federal “preemption” of state law only where state law “positively conflicts” with federal law. Since the August 2013 federal Justice Department Guidance memo to  federal prosecutors nationwide, recommending no interference with state laws legalizing marijuana in a responsible manner, no such conflict exists between federal and state authority.

    Oral argument in the case of Commonwealth v. Craan is scheduled for early February, with a decision possible by June 2014.

     

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director March 19, 2013

    WinslowAt a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in South Boston this past weekend, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) took a jab at pro-legalization Republican State Representative Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk), who is currently vying for the Republican nomination for Senate in Massachusetts’s upcoming special election.

    Addressing the crowd, Senator Warren said, “I advise everyone to pay very close attention to Dan Winslow’s platform. He has a 100 percent ranking from the gun lobby and he’s for the legalization of marijuana. He wants us armed and stoned.”

    According to statements received by VoteSmart, Rep. Dan Winslow’s stance on marijuana policy is as follows:

    I disfavor decriminalization of marijuana because it increases demand from illicit sources. Instead, I think we need to legalize marijuana (likely starting with medicinal marijuana in view of the current federal prohibition) and then regulate it and tax it. Only be lawful production of marijuana will the cartels, crooks and drug dealers be put out of business in the US. – State Representative Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk)

    Representative Winslow is currently engaged in a primary for the GOP nomination, if he were to receive it he would face either Democratic Congressmen Stephen Lynch or Edward Markey in the June 25 special election.

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