Members of the US House of Representatives voted today for the first time to expand military veterans’ access to medicinal cannabis in states that allow it.
Members voted 233 to 189 in favor of the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, offered by Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) to the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, that prohibits the federal government from sanctioning V.A. physicians who wish to recommend cannabis therapy to their patients.
“We should not be limiting the treatment options available to our veterans,” Rep. Blumenauer opined on the House floor.
Under the provision, military veterans who reside in states with active medical marijuana programs would be able to obtain a recommendation from their V.A. physician rather than having to seek out a private doctor.
The vote is a marked change from last year, when House members defeated a similar amendment 213 to 210.
The House and Senate versions of FY 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill will now await a concurrence vote prior to being sent to the President.
This week we’ll give you updates on legislation in Florida, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Ohio. Plus we have exciting ballot initiative news out of California and Missouri! Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform this week.
California: Proponents of the marijuana legalization ballot initiative, the AUMA (Adult Use of Marijuana Act), announced announced at a press conference that they have gathered more than 600,000 signatures from registered voters. This total is far more than the required number of 365,880 signatures needed in order to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. The Board of Directors of NORML has endorsed the measure, which 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.
Florida: Members of the Orlando City Council voted 4 to 3 this week in favor of a new municipal ordinance giving police the option to cite, rather than arrest, minor marijuana possession offenders. Under the ordinance, which takes effect on October 1, 2016, first-time and second-time possession offenses involving up to 20 grams of cannabis may be punished by a fine of no more than $200 – no arrest and no criminal record. Under state law, similar offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Similar local measures have been recently approved in several other Florida cities and counties, including Tampa, Miami-Dade county, Palm Beach county, and Volusia county.
Louisiana: Members of the House of Representatives have approved senate legislation, Senate Bill 271, to fix and expand the state’s dormant medical marijuana law. Existing law only permits for the patients’ use of medical marijuana in instances where the plant is ‘prescribed.’ However, under federal law, physicians cannot legally ‘prescribe’ cannabis or any schedule I substance. Senate Bill 271 seeks to change the language of existing law so that physicians may ‘recommend’ rather than prescribe cannabis therapy. The measure also expands the pool of conditions eligible for cannabis therapy to include Crohn’s disease, HIV, multiple sclerosis, and other disorders. The bill will now return to the Senate for concurrence. Governor John Bel Edwards has expressed support for the medical marijuana expansion measure, stating that he wants a ‘meaningful’ bill that will ‘actually work.’ #TakeAction
Missouri: Representatives of New Approach Missouri, the group pushing for a statewide medical marijuana ballot question this November, announced earlier this week they have turned in just under 250,000 signatures to the state for certification — well over the 167,000 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. The measure, which NORML has endorsed, would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to patients at their discretion, and would also permit qualified patients to cultivate marijuana or obtain it from licensed dispensaries.
New Hampshire: Members of the House approved an amended, Senate-backed sentencing reform bill, Senate Bill 498, in a 298-58 vote on Wednesday, May 11th. The amended language would make first-time marijuana possession offenses a civil violation rather than a criminal offense. The civil penalty would be limited to a fine only: no arrest, prosecution, or criminal record. Subsequent offenses would continue to be classified as misdemeanors. The legislation now returns to the Senate for concurrence. Members of the Senate have previously rejected decriminalization for several years running. #TakeAction
Ohio: House lawmakers approved revised legislation, House bill 523, to establish guidelines for those who may qualify to use medical marijuana and how it may legally be consumed, in a 71-26 vote on May 10th. The revisions outline 20 ailments for which cannabis may be recommended, including epilepsy, AIDS, and intractable pain. However, the revised language prohibits the consumption of medicinal cannabis via smoking. Such restrictions exist in three other states: Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania. The measure will now be considered by members of the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday, May 17th. #TakeAction
A separate, more comprehensive medical marijuana measure is likely to appear on the 2016 ballot initiative. Proponents of the initiative, the Marijuana Policy Project, must collect 305,591 valid signatures of Ohio voters by early July to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. The MPP-backed measure would permit qualified patients to cultivate their own medicine and/or obtain cannabis from licensed dispensaries. You can read a summary of the measure here.
We are ten days out from NORML’s 2016 Conference and Congressional Lobby Day and we are excited to share with you the full itinerary! Have you registered to attend? We have some fun events planned and it would be a shame for you to miss out!
Alabama: Governor Robert Bentley has signed legislation, House Bill 61, to protect qualified patients eligible for CBD therapy under a physician’s authorization from criminal prosecution. The measure, known as ‘Leni’s Law’, allows qualified patients to possess CBD preparations containing up to three percent THC. The new law takes effect June 1st, 2016.
Colorado: House and Senate lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved legislation, House Bill 1373, to permit qualified patients access to the use formulations of medical cannabis while on school grounds.The measure now awaits action by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who indicated that he would sign the measure into law. “My son, if he needed medical marijuana and he needed it during the day while he was in school, I’d want him to have that opportunity,” Hickenlooper said.
Connecticut: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation expanding patients’ access to the state’s medicinal cannabis program. House Bill 5450 permits qualifying patients under the age of 18 to possess and consume medical cannabis preparations and it also expands the list of qualifying illnesses eligible for cannabis therapy. Other provisions in the bill seek to establish a statewide clinical research program, and protect nurses from criminal, civil, or disciplinary sanction if they choose to administer marijuana to a qualifying patient in a hospital setting. The measure now awaits action by Governor Dannel Malloy. #TakeAction
Hawaii: Legislation is pending before Governor David Ige to expand medical cannabis access and dispensing. 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.It also permits the transportation of medical marijuana across islands for the purposes of laboratory testing. #TakeAction
Kansas: House and Senate lawmakers have signed off on sentencing reform legislation, House Bill 2049, that reduces criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine) to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by no more than six months in jail and a $1,000 fine). Second convictions will no longer be classified as a felony offense. The bill now heads to Gov. Brownback’s desk, and will become law if he does not veto it within 10 days. #TakeAction
Louisiana: Senate legislation to fix and expand the state’s dormant medical marijuana law received a boost this week after a House Committee amended and passed the measure. Senate Bill 271 seeks to change the language of existing law so that physicians may ‘recommend’ rather than prescribe cannabis therapy. Under federal law, physicians cannot legally ‘prescribe’ cannabis or any schedule I substance. It also expands the pool of patients eligible to receive marijuana therapy. The legislation is scheduled to be heard by members of the House Health and Welfare Committee next week. #TakeAction
New Hampshire: Members of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 12 to 7 this week to amend Senate-backed sentencing reform legislation, Senate Bill 498, to also include provisions decriminalizing minor, first-time marijuana possession offenses. The amended language would make first-time offenses a civil violation rather than a criminal offense. The civil penalty would be limited to a fine only: no arrest, prosecution, or criminal record. Subsequent offenses would continue to be classified as misdemeanors. #TakeAction
Oklahoma: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, HB 2835, to expand the pool of patients eligible to possess cannabidiol under a physician’s authorization. As amended, House Bill 2835 would include legal protections to the following patient groups: those with “spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or due to paraplegia, intractable nausea and vomiting, appetite stimulation with chronic wasting diseases.” The measure also removes the age requirement limitation from existing law so that adults with various forms of epilepsy are eligible for CBD therapy. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Mary Fallin. #TakeAction
Pennsylvania: Representative Ed Gainey is seeking co-sponsors for soon-to-be introduced legislation that would amend minor marijuana possession offenses to a non-criminal offense. Despite both local and nationwide progress on the issue of cannabis prohibition, Pennsylvania continues to charge over 18,000 individuals each year with minor possessory offenses. Please urge your House member to sign on as a co-sponsor to this important legislation. #TakeAction
Rhode Island: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are scheduled to consider SB 2420, legislation to regulate the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to those over the age of 21, on Tuesday, May 10th. Adults would be permitted to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It also permits adults to cultivate up to two marijuana plants (no more than 1 mature) at home for non-commercial purposes. You can read the full text of this proposal here. #TakeAction
Tennessee: Two marijuana related measures became law recently in Tennessee. The first permits for the licensed cultivation of industrial hemp when “grown by an institution of higher education in this state that offers a baccalaureate or post-graduate level program of study in agricultural sciences.” The second, amends third-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, to a misdemeanor offense, punishable by no more than one year in jail. The new sentencing penalties take effect on July 1, 2016.
For a summary of all pending marijuana legislation, be sure to check out our full #TakeAction center!
And don’t forget to register to attend NORML’s 2016 Congressional Lobby Day in Washington D.C. May 23rd and 24th! We have just recently confirmedthree members of Congress’ ability to address our group on Capitol Hill so you won’t want to miss it!
There is long awaited news from Pennsylvania, as the Keystone State is poised to become the 24th state to permit medical cannabis access and separate legislative efforts continue to move forward around the country. Keep reading below to get this week’s latest in marijuana law reform!
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment today, for the second year in a row, to expand medical marijuana access to United States veterans.
The amendment, sponsored by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) from spending money to enforce a policy that prohibits the department’s physicians from filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal. It will be attached to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.
The bipartisan vote was 20 to 10, marking a slight improvement from last year’s 18-12 vote. Though a majority of the Senate passed the amendment in 2015, it was ultimately defeated in conference with the House.
Alabama: Legislation to protect qualified patients eligible for CBD therapy is gaining traction in the legislature. Both the House and Senate are considering similar proposals to expand patient access. While existing state law permits qualified patients to use CBD if they are part of state-sponsored clinical trial, these proposed measures would legally protect qualified patients who possess the substance outside of a clinical trial environment. #TakeAction
Florida: Another municipality in Florida is considering decriminalizing offenses involving the possession of small amounts of marijuana. On Monday, Orlando’s City Council will review an ordinance to make possession of 20 grams (about two-thirds of an ounce) or less a violation of city code, punishable by a fine of $50 for first-time offenders. Tampa and Volusia County both approved similar ordinances last month. NORML first reported this trend of Florida cities and counties adopting decriminalization policies last August.
If you live in Orlando, you can contact your City Council member to urge their support for this measure here.
Louisiana: House and Senate legislation is pending to fix and expand the state’s dormant medical marijuana law. Existing law only permits for the patients’ use of medical marijuana in instances where the plant is ‘prescribed.’ However, under federal law, physicians cannot legally ‘prescribe’ cannabis or any schedule I substance. House Bill 1112 addresses these problems by: permitting physicians to recommend rather than ‘prescribe’ cannabis therapy; by licensing facilities to produce and dispense the product; and by expanding the pool of eligible patients to include ailments like cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and intractable pain. Law enforcement groups have voiced disapproval of the proposed change, so it is important that lawmakers hear from you. #TakeAction
Maryland: Governor Larry Hogan has signed legislation to permit the Department of Agriculture to authorize institutions of higher education to cultivate industrial hemp for academic research purposes. Members of the Senate voted 45 to zero in favor of the bill. House members voted 136 to zero in favor of the measure. Maryland is the 26th state to enact legislation recognizing hemp as a agricultural commodity.
State lawmakers have also approved legislation to expand the pool of medical professionals who can provide written recommendations for marijuana to qualifying patients. Under the proposal, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, among other medical professionals, who are in good standing with the state will be permitted to provide written certifications to qualifying patients. The legislation awaits action from Governor Larry Hogan. #TakeAction
Oregon: Governor Kate Brown has signed legislation into law that seeks to encourage financial institutions to engage in financial relationships with state-compliant marijuana businesses. The emergency legislation, House Bill 4094, “exempts financial institutions that provide financial services to marijuana related businesses, researchers and laboratories from any criminal law of this state.” The law took effect upon signing.
Pennsylvania: House and Senate lawmakers have given final approval to legislation, Senate Bill 3, to permit the production and use of medical marijuana products to qualified patients. Members of the Senate initially approved the measure in 2015. House leadership delayed acting on the bill for several months until finally passing an amended version of SB 3 in March. Senate and House members voted this week in favor of a concurrent version of the proposal. Once signed into law, Pennsylvania will become the 24th state to permit the use of physician-recommended cannabis.
South Carolina: Members of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee have defeated SB 672, the Medical Marijuana Program Act. However, identical legislation, H. 4037, remains pending in the House. The legislation would allow the use of medical marijuana for debilitating medical conditions; it also permits a registered patient or caregiver to possess up to, “two one-ounce packages of marijuana in leaf form, one ounce of cannabis oil concentrate, or eight ounces of diluted cannabis oil.” #TakeAction
Vermont: Members of the House Judiciary moved away from Senate-backed legislation, S. 241, to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. On Friday, April 8, members of the Committee voted 6 to 5 on an amended version of S. 241 to establish a study commission to evaluate the matter of legalization. The vote came after members of the committee narrowly rejected an effort to amend the bill in a manner that would expand the state’s existing decriminalization laws.
Members of the Senate previously voted 17 to 12 in favor of the legislation in its original form, and it continues to be backed by Gov. Shumlin, state Attorney General William Sorrell, and a majority of Vermonters. It is vital that members of both the House and Senate continue hear from you in support of S. 241 so that lawmakers will be persuaded to once again amend this bill in a manner that seeks to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. #TakeAction
Members of the Senate initially approved the measure in 2015. House leadership delayed acting on the bill for several months until finally passing an amended version of SB 3 in March.
Senate and House members voted this week in favor of a concurrent version of the proposal. The measure now goes before Gov. Tom Wolf, who supports patients’ access to medical cannabis and has pledged to sign the bill into law.
Senate Bill 3 permits regulators to license up to 25 marijuana cultivators and processors, and up to 150 dispensary locations to provide cannabis products to qualified patients who possess a recommendation from select physicians. Qualifying conditions eligible to receive cannabis therapy include intractable pain, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, seizure disorders, and autism, among others. The measure permits for the dispensing of herbal cannabis via vaporization, as well as the use of marijuana-infused extracts or oils, but it does not permit smoking. (To date, only two other states — Minnesota and New York — impose similar restrictions regarding patients’ use of herbal cannabis.)
Once signed into law, Pennsylvania will become the 24th state to permit the use of physician-recommended cannabis.