The momentum for marijuana law reform continues this week with new legislation introduced in Illinois and Virginia, updates on pending legislation in Alaska, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, and an exciting update from abroad! Keep reading below to find out about the latest legislative developments and what actions YOU can take to move forward in ending prohibition!
Germany introduced legislation this week to legalize medical marijuana use. The bill titled, “Cannabis as Medicine” permits doctor to prescribe cannabis for patients in a manner similar to other prescription medications.Additionally, under the proposed law, the cost of the medicine in certain cases would be covered by health insurance. Cannabis would be cultivated under a federal license and be dispensed in pharmacies.
Alaska: Lawmakers are setting a national precedent by regulating the adult use of cannabis in licensed, public facilities. No other state to date permits public cannabis consumption, which will remain subject to both state and local approval.
Illinois: Companion legislation to House bill 4357 is pending in the Senate to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses in Illinois. This proposal largely mirrors legislation previously introduced in the spring of 2015 that was approved by members of both the House and Senate, but was ultimately vetoed by the Governor.
To contact your lawmakers in support of this legislation click here.
Patients and advocates in the state are also increasing pressure on state health officials to expand the list of qualifying conditions permitted under the state’s medical marijuana program.
Late last year, the state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board recommended letting people suffering from PTSD, chronic pain and autism, among other conditions, legally use medical cannabis. But the state Department of Public Health still must decide on whether or not to add any additional qualifying conditions.
Click here to sign a petition urging them to expand access to medical marijuana in the state!
Maryland: Maryland NORML and their associates in the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland need your help to override Governor Hogan’s veto of 2015 legislation (SB517) that sought to decriminalize the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Under this measure, the possession of paraphernalia specific to the use of marijuana would have no longer been classified as a criminal offense. Click here to email your Representatives and urge them to override the Governor’s veto on this important legislation.
Pennsylvania: Governor Tom Wolf again encouraged lawmakers to pass medical cannabis legislation. His staff has stated, “It was a top priority in 2015 for the governor and remains a top priority for 2016. We should not be denying a doctor recommended, scientifically proven treatment.”
Legislation is currently pending in the state to allow patients, including those with intractable pain, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, and other qualifying conditions, access to certain cannabis-infused products, such as oils or pills.
Senators previously approved the legislation, but House members have continued to oppose it, adding more than 100 amendments to the bill — most of which seek to make it completely ineffective.
To learn more, click here.
Vermont: Senate Bill 241, sponsored by Senator Jeannette White and Senate Bill 95 , sponsored by Senator David Zuckerman, will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, January 19th. Both bills seek to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana by adults.
Statewide polling reports that 57 percent of Vermont voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana production and sales.
Democratic Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has expressed support for regulating cannabis, having stated , “My bias on legalization is toward legalization. Let’s remember, we have this conversation and we pretend that you can’t get marijuana now. In the real world, folks, if you want to get marijuana in Vermont, we’re in Lala Land if we’re pretending you can’t. The question is how do we move to a smarter approach that doesn’t promote addiction, that doesn’t promote abuse and really accepts the reality.”
Click here to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization in Vermont!
Virginia: Two additional decriminalization bills were introduced this week in the Virginia General Assembly. House bill 997, introduced by Delegate Mark Levine and House bill 1074, introduced by Delegate Steve Heretick. Both measures seek to decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana.
This makes a total of three bills filed so far this legislative session that seek to eliminate criminal penalties for the simple possession of marijuana.
Click here to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for these common sense reforms!
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!
US House Votes to Prohibit DOJ From Interfering With State Medical Marijuana or Industrial Hemp ProgramsMay 30, 2014
After a long debate that had the US House of Representatives in session until after midnight, the lower chamber of Congress cast a historic 219 to 189 vote to restrict the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from using taxpayer funds to interfere in state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs in the 20+ states that have enacted them.
This measure was co-sponsored by Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Reps. Rohrabacher (R-Calf.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Steve Stockman (R-Texas), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). You can read the full text of the amendment here.
“It would be hard to overstate the importance of tonight’s vote,” said NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Approval of this amendment is a resounding victory for basic compassion and common sense.”
Added NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, “This vote marks one of the first times since the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 that a majority of the members of a chamber Congress have acted in a manner that significantly alters federal marijuana policy.”
“The conflicting nature of state and federal marijuana laws has created an untenable situation,” co-sponsor Rep. Blumenauer said just before the House debate. “It’s time we take the federal government out of the equation so medical marijuana business owners operating under state law aren’t living in constant fear of having their doors kicked down in the middle of the night.”
The House also approved amendments that prohibit the DOJ and DEA from using funds to interfere with state sanctioned industrial hemp cultivation.
In February, members of Congress approved language (Section 7606) in the omnibus federal farm bill authorizing states to sponsor hemp research absent federal reclassification of the plant. Since then, five states — Hawaii, Indiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Utah — have enacted legislation authorizing state-sponsored hemp cultivation. (Similar legislation is pending in Illinois and South Carolina.) In total, more than a dozen states have enacted legislation redefining hemp as an agricultural commodity and allowing for state-sponsored research and/or cultivation of the crop
These amendments were made to the 2015 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, which now must be approved by the Senate and then signed by President Obama.
NORML will keep you updated on this evolving situation.
In another sign of the changing times, this past week two new polls have been released demonstrating majority support for allowing the medical use of marijuana in two southern states, a region historically less supportive of cannabis law reforms.
A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling revealed that most North Carolinians believe that a doctor should possess the legal option to authorize marijuana for patients. Support for legalizing medical marijuana is at 58% overall, with 33% opposed and 9% undecided. A majority of every age group under age 65 supports allowing for the medical use of marijuana. The poll surveyed 608 North Carolina voters between January 10 and January 13, 2013.
Another Public Policy Polling survey had the majority of West Virginians supporting the medical use of cannabis, 53% in favor to 40% opposed. Further, when asked which is a safer treatment for debilitating pain: the medical use of marijuana or Oxycontin, 63% responded medical marijuana. You can view more data from this poll here.
Legislation to allow for the medical use of cannabis is expected to be introduced in both states this year. If you live in North Carolina, you can currently use NORML’s Take Action Center to write your elected officials and tell them to support this legislation by clicking here.
These recent polls are indicative of the attitude shift towards cannabis that is occurring across the country. Check NORML’s Take Action Center to see if marijuana related legislation has been filed in your state and use our form to easily contact your elected officials in support of these important measures. Check back often, as new legislation is being introduced constantly.
At 8am on the morning of September 29, 2011, the Butte Interagency Narcotic Task Force (BINTF) forced entry into the home of Daisy Bram and her husband Jayme Walsh. Law enforcement officers arrested the couple and working jointly with Child Protective Services, seized their children — including their 3-week-old suckling newborn, Zeus, who was violently ripped from his mother’s arms. He and his 15-month-old brother, Thor, were snatched and placed in a stranger’s home. Neither of these nursing babies had ever been away from their parents.
Three weeks prior, on September 7, 2011, after a summer of watching sheriff’s helicopters fly over the area, two Butte County Sheriff’s deputies trespassed onto a clearly marked private road, maneuvered around a locked/gated driveway, and onto the property of Daisy and Jayme’s remote home on a mountain in Concow, California. They were there for a “compliance check”.
[A “compliance check” is a convenient excuse created by local county law enforcement used solely for the purpose of unlawfully obtaining access to private homes to investigate legal medicinal cannabis gardens for potential arrest and prosecution.]
During this “compliance check” police assured Daisy’s husband that “…everything looks okay… good luck with the baby.” The necessary and appropriate valid medical paperwork was and is in order.
The couple has since been charged with eight class A felonies, six relating to cannabis and two charges of child abuse). After a preliminary hearing, at which Jayme Walsh represented himself and Bram, they had the good fortune of retaining attorneys Michael Levinsohn and Jen Reeder. The child related charges, and one cannabis related charge were dismissed, leaving five remaining criminal cannabis charges. One of the most disturbing factors in this nightmare is that there has never been any attempt by prosecutors to verify the validity of their status as qualified patients in the state of California. Both Walsh and Bram have legal state-recognized recommendations for medical marijuana.
UPDATE [3/13/12] – Butte County Assistant District Attorney, Jeff Greeson, re-filed felony child abuse and misdemeanor child endangerment charges, against Daisy Bram (www.freemybabies.org). Daisy and her husband Jayme Walsh are medical cannabis patients in Butte County. Their 3 week old and 15 month-old children were taken and held by Butte County CPS for more than four months, following the parents arrest for cannabis.
Tamara Lujan, NORML Women’s Alliance Community Leader for Butte County issued the following statement:
“Considering the felony and misdemeanor charges were dropped, and are now being re-filed after public outcry and the filing for a Grand Jury Investigation, we can come to no other conclusion except this is a retaliatory measure, from the Butte County DA’s office.”
The outrage over this incident has driven several local residents to come forward with similar complaints regarding the misconduct of the BINTF and Child Services Division of Butte County (which leads all of California’s large counties in the percentage rate of permanent removal of children from parents). As a result, the NORML Women’s Alliance has filed an official request for an investigation by the Grand Jury in Butte County (including a financial audit). On Friday March 9th, the NWA, along with Butte County residents, put forward a complaint to the Grand Jury of Butte requesting an investigation into the County Children Services Division for the agency’s perceived and widespread misconduct. The findings in the people’s request include numerous testimonials from directly affected persons, submitted herein via the GRAND JURY COMPLAINT FORMS, which specify various and detailed claims of CSD misdeeds.
To see the full press click here.
“We thank the Grand Jury for its time, consideration and diligence in pursing our request. Only when government agencies have proper oversight can we as a community rest assured that corruption, abuse and other misdeeds are kept in check and deterred. Together We the People of Butte County and the Grand Jury can make these necessary strides of investigation and oversight to ensure all Butte families are truly served well, and are safe and secure at home.” – Tamara Lujan (NWA Butte County Community Leader)
Over the past several months, the Federal government escalated its war against medical marijuana to previously unseen heights. The Drug War machine kicked into high gear starting in October when the IRS began applying an obscure part of the US tax code, meant to target drug cartels, against medical dispensaries in attempts to shut them down. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms joined in the fight when it issued a heavy handed one page memo to every gun and ammunition dealer nationwide informing them that they must, by law, deny sales to lawful medical cannabis patients.
The hammer really fell when the US Attorneys for the four federal districts in California formally announced a crackdown on medical marijuana dispensing operations and began issuing memos threatening operators and landlords of these properties. Threats were even waged against news publications who ran advertisements for medical marijuana businesses. All of this in an environment where over 70% of Americans support medical use of cannabis, the country’s largest physicians group endorsed full legalization, and at least four governors are petitioning the DEA to reclassify marijuana based on overwhelming evidence of its medicinal value. Unfortunately, It doesn’t appear an end is in sight as new threats of intervention are looming in Colorado.
That is why today, in cooperation with other reform organizations, NORML is encouraging you to contact President Obama and tell him to end his administrations war on cannabis patients. Click here to use NORML’s Take Action Center to directly email the below letter to the White House and tell President Obama to stand by his promise to not interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
Dear President Obama:
I urge you to end your war on medical marijuana patients. More than 70 percent of Americans are in favor of legal medical marijuana. 16 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana legislation.
At least four governors are petitioning the DEA to reclassify marijuana based on overwhelming evidence that it has medicinal value. While this reclassification is pending, your Administration should respect — not attack –state medical marijuana laws that provide patients with safe and reliable access to this medicine.
Given the fiscal crisis our country finds itself in, it doesn’t make sense to waste federal tax dollars and law enforcement resources interfering with state medical marijuana laws.