NORML members, supporters, and chapter leaders gathered in our nation’s capital this week, for NORML’s 2016 Conference and Lobby Day. The events were filled with education, activism, socializing, and plenty of marijuana smoking. For those who weren’t able to attend, keep reading below to find out what you missed and how you can get involved in next year’s events.
On Monday we held our educational conference at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs. On the top floor, surrounded with ceiling to floor windows, the meeting room provided attendees a view of some of the district’s most iconic sights while hearing from some of the reform movement’s brightest minds.
Highlights on Day 1 included a presentation by Deputy Director Paul Armentano entitled, “We Don’t Know Enough About Cannabis? Think Again,” where he acknowledged that there are now more scientific studies and papers available specific to cannabis than most other conventional therapeutics.
John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at The Brookings Institute discussed the successes we have seen from Colorado and the other pioneering states that have regulated marijuana for adult use.
Attendees also heard from Queens College professor Harry Levine and investigator Loren Siegel, who highlighted the continuing racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement — a disparity that continues to exist even in jurisdictions that have regulated cannabis-related activities. Their presentations were a stark reminder that even as we celebrate or successes, there is still plenty of work left to do.
A summary of many of the day’s presentations is online here.
Finally, in one of the more notable events of the day Eleanora Kennedy and Anna Kennedy Safir awarded longtime NORML Legal Committee member Gerald H. Goldstein with the first annual Michael John Kennedy Social Justice Award.
Events continued Monday night at the historic O St. Mansion where attendees gathered for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. NORML hosted our 2016 award ceremony, highlighting various attendees for their extraordinary activism, and political and cultural leadership in the field of marijuana and marijuana policy reform. Award recipients included:
- Outstanding Chapter Award to Norm Kent on behalf of Florida NORML
- Student Activist Award to Chris Thompson, Purdue NORML
- Lester Grinspoon Award to Harry Levine and Loren Siegel
- Hunter S. Thompson Award to Bruce Barcott, Leafly
- Pauline Sabin Award to Pam Novy, Virginia NORML
- Peter McWilliams Award to Ken Wolski, Coalition for Medical Marijuana – NJ
- Outstanding Cannabist Activist Award to Kevin Oliver, Washington NORML
On Tuesday attendees convened on Capitol Hill for a full day of lobbying. In the morning, attendees heard words of encouragement from five distinguished members of Congress: Reps. Sam Farr, Earl Blumenauer, Jared Polis, Suzan DelBene, and Dana Rohrabacher. Congressman Farr (D-CA), who is the co-sponsor of legislation protecting statewide medical marijuana programs from federal interference, will be retiring this year so it was a privilege for our lobby group to hear from him.
NORML awarded Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR) our 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for his continued leadership and focus on marijuana law reform throughout his career. Keith Stroup, NORML’s founder and legal counsel, spoke of the Congressman’s first days as a legislator in the Oregon State House of Representatives where he sponsored the state’s 1973 decriminalization law. Ever since then Congressman Blumenauer has continued to support our issue. Just last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment sponsored by the Congressman providing V.A. physicians the ability to discuss and recommend medical marijuana to U.S. veterans.
Congressman Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman DelBene (D-WA) encouraged attendees to continue their advocacy work. Congressman Polis is chief sponsor of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, legislation to to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. Congresswoman DelBene is chief sponsor of the SMART Enforcement Act, legislation to make the US federal Controlled Substances Act inapplicable with respect to states that have legalized and regulated marijuana in a manner that addresses key federal priorities.
Wrapping up the morning reception, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) made news when he acknowledged successfully using a topical marijuana treatment for his shoulder arthritis. His admission marked quite possibly the first time ever a sitting member of Congress has admitted using marijuana while serving in office! Congressman Rohrabacher is one of our most valuable leaders at the federal level and NORML wishes to thank him for not only addressing our group but for sharing with us his candid and personal testimony. You can listen to the archived audio from NORML’s Capitol Hill reception here.
Throughout the three day event, attendees were able to network with fellow activists, learn from leaders in the reform movement, and relax with some of best locally grown marijuana in Washington D.C. NORML would like to thank those of you who attended and contributed to this successful event and we look forward to seeing you all again next year.
Congressional Legislation Introduced to Get the Federal Government Out of the Marijuana Enforcement BusinessFebruary 23, 2015
House Resolution 1013, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, removes cannabis from the United States Controlled Substances Act. It also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matters concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.
Said the bill’s primary sponsor, Democrat Jared Polis of Colorado: “Over the past year, Colorado has demonstrated that regulating marijuana like alcohol takes money away from criminals and cartels, grows our economy, and keeps marijuana out of the hands of children. While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters in states like Colorado and 22 other jurisdictions to move forward, small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration – or this one—could reverse course and turn them into criminals. It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”
Separate legislation, House Resolution 1014: the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, introduced by Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, seeks to impose a federal excise tax on the retail sale of marijuana for non-medical purposes as well as apply an occupational tax for state-licensed marijuana businesses. Such commercial taxes would only be applicable if and when Congress has moved to defederalize marijuana prohibition.
“It’s time for the federal government to chart a new path forward for marijuana.” said Rep. Blumenauer. “Together these bills create a federal framework to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, much like we treat alcohol and tobacco. The federal prohibition of marijuana has been a failure, wasting tax dollars and ruining countless lives. As more states move to legalize marijuana as Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska have done, it’s imperative the federal government become a full partner in building a workable and safe framework.”
Similar versions of these measures were introduced in the previous Congress but failed to gain federal hearings.
To contact your US House member and urge him/her to support House Resolution 1013, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act and/or other pending federal marijuana law reform legislation, please visit NORML’s Take Action page here.
Today, Representatives Jared Polis and Earl Blumenauer introduced two legislative measures that would end the federal prohibition on marijuana and permit for the regulated production and retail sales of cannabis to adults in states that have legalized its consumption.
Representative Polis’ legislation, The Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, transfer the Drug Enforcement Administration’s authority to regulate marijuana to a newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms, require commercial marijuana producers to purchase a permit, and ensure federal law distinguishes between individuals who grow marijuana for personal use and those involved in commercial sale and distribution.
Speaking on the bill, Rep. Polis stated, “This legislation doesn’t force any state to legalize marijuana, but Colorado and the 18 other jurisdictions that have chosen to allow marijuana for medical or recreational use deserve the certainty of knowing that federal agents won’t raid state-legal businesses. Congress should simply allow states to regulate marijuana as they see fit and stop wasting federal tax dollars on the failed drug war.”
Representative Blumenauer’s legislation is aimed at creating a federal tax structure which would allow for the federal government to collect excise taxes on marijuana sales and businesses in states that have legalized its use. The Marijuana Tax Equity Act, would impose an excise tax on the first sale of marijuana, from the producer to the next stage of production, usually the processor. These regulations are similar to those that now exist for alcohol and tobacco. The bill will also require the IRS to produce a study of the industry after two years, and every five years after that, and to issue recommendations to Congress to continue improving the administration of the tax.
“We are in the process of a dramatic shift in the marijuana policy landscape,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “Public attitude, state law, and established practices are all creating irreconcilable difficulties for public officials at every level of government. We want the federal government to be a responsible partner with the rest of the universe of marijuana interests while we address what federal policy should be regarding drug taxation, classification, and legality.”
You can use NORML’s Take Action Center here to easily contact your elected officials and urge them to support these measures.
These two pieces of legislation are historic in their scope and forward looking nature and it is likely you have many unanswered questions. NORML has compiled the below FAQs to hopefully address many of these inquiries.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Would this make marijuana legal everywhere?
A: No, but it would allow states who wish to pursue legalization to do so without federal incursion. Currently, the federal government claims that state laws which have legalized medical and recreational marijuana use are in conflict with federal law. It is under this claim that they raid medical marijuana dispensaries, arrest consumers, etc. If these measures were to pass, marijuana law would be the domain of the states. If a state choses to legalize and regulate its use, it can do so in the way it would any other product and the federal government would issue permits to commercial growers and sellers and collect tax revenue. If a state choses to retain marijuana prohibition, they may as well, and the federal government would assist in stopping flow of marijuana into the state’s borders, as transporting marijuana from a legalized state into one retaining prohibition would still be illegal under this legislation.
Q: What does this mean for scheduling?
A: Marijuana would be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and be listed under Title 27 of the US Code, alongside the provisions for intoxicating beverages.
Q: What does this mean for Washington and Colorado?
A: Colorado and Washington would be empowered to continue moving forward with implementing their marijuana legalization laws and no longer have to worry about federal intervention. Once cultivators and retailers were operational in those states, Rep. Blumenauer’s bill would allow the federal government to collect excise tax from those commercial entities and issue them permits.
Q: What happens to the DEA?
A: The DEA would no longer oversee marijuana law enforcement in this country. Control of marijuana enforcement would move to the newly named Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, and Firearms and the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Bureau.
Q: What about home cultivation?
A: If you live in a state, like Colorado for example, that passes laws permitting citizens to grow for personal use you would be allowed to do so without running afoul of state or federal law. Federal permits and taxation apply to those engaged in commercial marijuana enterprises.
Members of Congress will introduce historic legislation today to permit for the regulated production and retail sales of cannabis to adults in states that have legalized its consumption.
Representative Jared Polis, (D-CO) is sponsoring legislation that seeks to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
Separate legislation to be introduced by Rep. Earl Bluemenauer (D-OR) seeks to establish a federal tax structure for retail cannabis production and sales.
Both Representatives, along with drug policy reform advocates, will discuss these measures at a teleconference this afternoon.
“When residents of Colorado and Washington voted to end their state’s prohibition on marijuana last November, it was a watershed moment for our nation’s move towards sane marijuana laws,” said NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, who will be speaking at today’s teleconference. “But there remains a lingering conflict between state and federal law. These historic measures seek to resolve this conflict and empower states to dictate their own marijuana policies, without fear of federal incursion. NORML would like to thank the Congressmen for taking this brave step forward and encourages their colleagues in Congress to join them in calling for sensible marijuana law reform.”
Both Representatives have also released a report today outlining the need for federal marijuana law reform, titled “A Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy.” The report states that “it is time for Congress to allow states and voters to decide how they want to treat marijuana. The current system is broken. It wastes resources and destroys individual lives, in turn damaging families and entire communities. It is past time to take action and stop this tragic waste in the future.”
Members of Congress will also call for the establishment of a Congressional Working Group on Sensible Drug Policy.
You can read the full text of that paper here.
Please check back the NORML website later this afternoon for further details regarding today’s press conference.
United States Representatives have introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress — House Bill 6606, The Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2012 — to amend the US Controlled Substances Act to provide that federal law shall not preempt state marijuana laws.
The measure is sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, and is co-sponsored by Reps. Blumenauer (OR), Coffman (CO), Cohen (TN), Farr (CA), Frank (MA), Grijalva (AZ), Lee (CA), Paul (TX), and Polis (CO). It has been referred to Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
“I am proud to join with colleagues from both sides of the aisle on the ‘Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act’ to protect states’ rights and immediately resolve any conflict with the federal government,” said Rep. DeGette in a prepared statement. “In Colorado we’ve witnessed the aggressive policies of the federal government in their treatment of legal medicinal marijuana providers. My constituents have spoken and I don’t want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens.”
Added Rep. Polis, “The people of Colorado and Washington voted in overwhelming numbers to regulate the sale of marijuana. Colorado officials and law enforcement are already working to implement the will of Colorado voters, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in Congress and officials in the administration to deliver clear guidance that ensures the will of the people is protected.”
House Bill 6606 states, “In the case of any State law that pertains to marihuana, no provision of this title shall be construed as indicating an intent on the part of the Congress to occupy the field in which that provision operates, including criminal penalties, to the exclusion of State law on the same subject matter, nor shall any provision of this title be construed as preempting any such State law.”
While it is unlikely that members of Congress will address this measure in the final days of the 112th session, it is anticipated that Representatives will reintroduce the measure in 2013.
Please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page for updates on contacting your members of Congress regarding The Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2012.
CLICK HERE TO WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TODAY!