“Shenna Bellows has been at the forefront of the fight for marijuana legalization even before beginning this campaign,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “During her tenure leading the Maine ACLU, Shenna has demonstrated she has the skill and determination to fight for sensible reforms and has proven to be a vocal and articulate leader in calling for the end of marijuana prohibition. We believe she will be invaluable in the United States Senate to help move the country away from our failed war on marijuana and towards a new, smarter approach.”
“We need to end the war on drugs and reform our criminal justice system, and we cannot afford to wait. The United States incarcerates more people in total and more people per capita than any other country in the world, and the racial disparities are alarming,” Shenna Bellows wrote in a recent op-ed, “Even in my home state of Maine, which is the whitest state in the union, blacks are 2.1 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. Government spends billions of dollars each year enforcing counterproductive drug laws, which are truly the New Jim Crow. The economic and human rights costs are enormous.”
While we have long had support for marijuana law reform in the House of Representative, support in the Senate has long been harder to come by. In a recent interview with ThinkProgress, Ms. Bellows has made clear she looks to kickstart the movement for rational marijuana policy in the upper chamber of Congress.
“Right now on the Senate side, there doesn’t seem to be a leader who has the courage to move that forward,” Bellows said. “I would be that leader.”
You can donate to the NORML PAC to help elect pro-reform candidates nationwide here.
At a press conference this morning, New York Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and state Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) announced their intent to introduce legislation to legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis.
Speaking at the press conference, the Assembly bill’s sponsor Rep. Gottfried said, “We really need to move beyond our totally broken prohibition model to a sensible tax and regulate model. I think it’s widely recognized that marijuana is at most nowhere near as potentially harmful as alcohol and our law is dishonest.”
Added Sen. Krueger, “I don’t believe a drug that is proven to be less dangerous, from a health perspective, than alcohol or tobacco should be under laws that actually criminalize and ruin lives when alcohol or tobacco are regulated and taxed.”
The proposed Assembly and Senate measures would allow adults over the age of 18 to possess up to 2 ounces of dried marijuana, 1/4 ounce of marijuana concentrates, and to cultivate up to 6 plants. The legislation would also establish regulations for state-licensed retail cannabis outlets throughout the state. Retail sales would be limited to adults over the age of 21.
New York City Comptroller John Liu estimates that taxing the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults would yield an estimated $400 million annually, just in the city alone.
According to a 2013 ACLU report, no state arrests more of its citizens for marijuana possession than New York.
NEW YORK RESIDENTS: Click here to easily contact your elected officials and urge them to support this legislation.
This morning, the Maine Legislative Council voted 5-5 on whether or not to allow Rep. Diane Russell’s marijuana legalization to be introduced.
A tie vote means the motion has failed and the legislation will NOT be introduced this session. Included in the ranks of those voting “No” was Senate President Justin Alfond, who represents Portland…a city that just overwhelmingly voted to legalize marijuana.
Mainers, please take a moment of your time today to contact your lawmakers at the phone numbers below and tell them:
“I am extremely disappointed with the Legislative Council’s vote this morning on Rep. Diane Russell’s marijuana regulation bill. This issue isn’t just important to Rep. Russell, but to all of us who live in the state. This legislation would have fostered an important discussion on marijuana legalization and laid out a framework for regulation that benefited the people of Maine. The vote this morning is a disservice to the state and the residents these officials are supposed to be representing.”
Please call: Maine Senate President Justin Alfond: (207) 287-1500 and Maine Speaker of the House: (207) 287-1300 to voice your concerns.
The bill would have allowed anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana, cultivate up to 6 plants, and purchase marijuana from established retail outlets. It also contained key provisions in place that ensure individuals with several years residency in Maine and experience as a current medical marijuana dispensaries or caregiver are given priority on business licenses, explicitly leaves the current medical marijuana law in place for patients, and directs tax revenue to help low income patients be able to afford their medicine.
UPDATE: For unrelated reasons, the final House version of the FARRM bill was voted down this afternoon, we’ll keep you updated as this situation evolves.
This morning, the United States House of Representatives approved an amendment to H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (The FARRM Bill), that will allow for the cultivation of hemp for academic research at universities and colleges. This would only apply to states that have already passed legislation allowing for industrial hemp production.
The amendment, sponsored by Representatives Polis (D-CO), Blumenauer (D-OR) and Tom Massie (R-KY), was approved by a 225-200 vote, with over 60 Republicans supporting it.
“Industrial hemp is an important agricultural commodity, not a drug,” said Rep. Polis. “My bipartisan, common-sense amendment, which I’ve introduced with Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), would allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes in states where industrial hemp growth and cultivation is already legal. Many states, including Colorado, have demonstrated that they are fully capable of regulating industrial hemp. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. The first American flag was made of hemp. And today, U.S. retailers sell over $300 million worth of goods containing hemp—but all of that hemp is imported, since farmers can’t grow it here. The federal government should clarify that states should have the ability to regulate academic and agriculture research of industrial hemp without fear of federal interference. Hemp is not marijuana, and at the very least, we should allow our universities—the greatest in the world—to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural commodity.”
The House and the Senate must now conference to reconcile differences between the two versions of the bill. Please take a moment of your time to call your Senators and urge them to support this important amendment and keep it in the final version of the legislation. You can click here to easily find the email and phone number for your Senators.
NORML will keep you updated as this proposal moves forward.
Senator Ron Wyden has introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 3240, the Senate version of this year’s federal farm bill, that requires the federal government to respect state laws allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp. Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only trace (less than one percent) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis.
The amendment language mimics the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013,” which remains pending as stand-alone legislation in both the House and Senate but has yet to receive a legislative hearing. Senator Wyden’s provision to the Senate’s Farm Bill amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. The measure grants state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity.
“For me, what’s important is that people see, particularly in our state, there’s someone buying it at Costco in Oregon,” Senator Wyden previously stated in support of this Act, “I adopted what I think is a modest position, which is if you can buy it at a store in Oregon, our farmers ought to be able to make some money growing it.”
Eight states – Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia – have enacted statutory changes defining industrial hemp as distinct agricultural product and allowing for its regulated commercial production. Passage of this amendment would remove existing federal barriers and allow these states and others the authority to do so without running afoul of federal anti-drug laws.
Senator Wyden’s amendment is co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has also expressed his support for this proposal.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, “The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.”
Click here to quickly and easily contact your Senator in support of industrial hemp.