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  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director January 29, 2016

    map_leafExciting news from across the country with NEW legislation being introduced and promising legislation moving forward! This week we highlight Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, New
    Mexico, New Orleans, and Vermont. Plus our lawmakers in Congress and lawmakers in Puerto Rico took action this week too! Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform.

    International: 

    Puerto Rico: Health Department officials have signed off on regulations overseeing the licensed production and distribution of medical cannabis within the US territory. The new program is anticipated to be operational by year’s end.

    Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro J. Garcia Padilla signed an executive order in May calling on health officials to adopt regulations permitting medical cannabis production and access. Under the new plan, patients who possess a physician’s authorization will be able to obtain cannabis-infused products, such as oils and pills, from state-licensed facilities.

    Patients will not be permitted to cultivate their own marijuana and herbal formulations of medical cannabis will not be permitted.

    Federal: On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers signed on to a letter addressed to the Veteran’s Administration (VA) requesting a policy change be made to allow veterans to access medical marijuana.

    Current law prevents VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana to patients, even in states where it is legal for qualified patients to possess it. Senators Gillibrand (D-NY), Daines (R-MT), Merkley (D-OR), and Reps. Blumenauer (D-OR), Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Titus (D-NV) are leading the efforts in reforming this nonsensical policy. If these Senators and Representatives are from your state, consider giving their office a call and thanking them for their work on medical marijuana! You can find your lawmakers contact info here.

    State:

    Arizona: After a Republican lawmaker this week received hundreds of complaints, he withdrew his bill that aimed to restrict access to medical marijuana in the state.

    The bill would have denied physicians practicing alternative medicine such as naturopathy and homeopathy the ability to recommend cannabis therapy.

    California: Legislation that seeks to dissuade California cities and counties from enacting municipal restrictions on the cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana has been approved lawmakers and awaits the Governor’s signature. Once signed into law, the bill will take immediate effect.

    Assembly Bill 21 amends a drafting error in the The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act by removing an apparent March 1, 2016 deadline for localities to establish their own cultivation regulations or else forfeit that authority to the state. It also removes objectionable language authorizing local governments to prohibit patients from cultivating, storing, donating or processing marijuana for their own personal use.

    In recent months, numerous California cities and counties have hastily enacted provisional bans on medical marijuana-related activities out of fear that the state would become to sole authority on the issue following the March 1 deadline. Passage of AB 21 states that localities retain the ability to regulate medical marijuana production and commerce in the manner that they see best. The hope is that localities will halt efforts to impose restrictions, and will reconsider existing moratoriums, now that it is clear that local lawmakers will continue to possess the authority to legislate the issue beyond March 1, 2016.

    Further information on both pending and enacted local ordinances, as well as talking points to best address them, is available from California NORML here.

    Florida: Floridians will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment this November that seeks to permit the physician-authorized use and distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

    Proponents of the measure, United for Care, collected more than the 683,000 signatures required to place the measure on the November ballot, the Florida Division of Elections confirmed this week.

    Passage of the amendment would permit qualified patients to possess and obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities.In November 2014, Floridians narrowly rejected a similar amendment, which received 58 percent of the vote.marijuana_grower

    Hawaii: Legalization, decriminalization, and hemp measures are all pending in the Hawaii state legislature.

    Senate Bill 873 amends the criminal code to remove criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use by those age 21 or older. The measure is presently pending before the House Judiciary Committee.

    Senate Bill 596 SD 1 reclassifies possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine to a civil violation, punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest and no criminal record.

    Senate Bill 2787 encourages the state Department of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp for “research and development purposes.”

    To find more information on all of these measures, check out our #TakeAction Center here.

    Kansas: Members of the Senate will take a floor vote on legislation, HB 2049, to amend various penalties and regulations specific to marijuana possession and use.

    House Bill 2049 seeks to a) establish a statewide research program to oversee the production of industrial hemp, b) authorize the limited use of cannabidiol for therapeutic purposes, and c) reduce 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. Members of the House approved the measure last year.

    Maryland: Legislation NORML opposes is pending in the Maryland General Assembly. House Bill 183 and House Bill 334 both seek to recriminalize offenses involving the public use of small amounts of marijuana. While NORML is generally supportive of efforts to dissuade the use of marijuana in public or in a vehicle, these measures are both unnecessary and overly punitive.

    Under present law, it is not permissible to consume marijuana in public view. Those who do so are subject to a civil violation punishable by a fine of up to $500.00.

    Both measures will be heard in the Judiciary Committee on February 9th at 1:00PM. To #TakeAction and contact your lawmakers to urge they not support this legislation click here.

    New Mexico: New Mexico has both legalization and hemp measures pending.

    House Bill 75 regulates and controls the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. You can read the full text of this proposal here. Senate Joint Resolution 5 is pending action by the Senate Rules Committee.

    SB 3 and HB 148, seek to permit the state Department of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp for “research and development purposes.”

    For more information on these measures or to take action and contact your lawmakers urging their support for these measures click here.legalization_poll

    Vermont: Members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary voted 4 to 1 on Friday, January 29, in favor of pending legislation to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. NORML wishes to thank those of you who contacted the Committee and urged their support for this important and historic legislation.

    Senate Bill 241 now goes before the Senate Committee on Finance for further action.

    Senate Bill 241 makes it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and regulates its commercial production and retail sale.

    Local:

    New Orleans: City Councilwoman Susan Guidry has proposed an ordinance change to treat minor marijuana possession offenses the same as  minor traffic infractions. Under the proposal, officers would have the option of issuing verbal and written warnings before any penalties kick in. Subsequent offenses would be dealt with through fines that would be capped at $100.

    At this time of the year it’s hard to keep up with all of the newly introduced and pending marijuana related bills. Even this week, it was impossible to include every piece of legislation that moved so if you think there was action in your state, be sure to visit our #TakeAction Center to see an update.

     

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director January 14, 2016

    map_leafThe 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!

    International:

    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.

    State:

    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.medical_dispensary

    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.legalization_poll

    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!

    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 18, 2015

    christmas-baubles-clipartWith the holidays around the corner, there is plenty to celebrate in regard to marijuana law reform successes! Congress unveiled their 2016 omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the government through next year which included several marijuana measures and we’ve seen a number of state and municipal measures take hold as well. Keep reading to see if your state is moving ahead in reforming their marijuana laws!

    Federal: In last week’s Legislative Round Up, we covered five distinct marijuana provisions that lawmakers sought to include in the final draft of the 2016 spending bill.

    We now know that two of these provisions have been included in the omnibus appropriations bill. One measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. The other measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs.

    Both measures were initially passed by Congress in 2015, but required reauthorization to extend into 2016.

    To read more about this legislation click here.

    State:

    Vermont: The sponsor has unveiled the bill that will be introduced in the state’s next legislative session to legalize and regulate the adult use, production and sale of cannabis. Once formally
    introduced, the bill will head to the Senate Judiciary committee for its first consideration.legalization_poll

    The 41 page bill allows for retail outlets, lounges, and personal cultivation. Taxes and fees are not
    included in the bill language and will be covered when the bill is considered in the Senate Finance Committee.

    You can read more about the legislation here and write your lawmakers, urging their support here.

    Kentucky: Legislation to legalize and regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana, The ‘Cannabis Freedom Act, has been pre-filed for the 2016 legislative session.

    The legislation allows adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, cultivate up to five cannabis plants, store excess cannabis lawfully grown for personal use at the location where it was cultivated; or transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another person age 21 or older without remuneration.

    In a prepared statement, the bill’s sponsor said: “Too many Kentuckians have had their lives stymied with criminal records as a result of nonviolent marijuana convictions. That is wrong. It is time to stop making criminals out of citizens due to outdated and ridiculous laws concerning cannabis.”

    Contact your lawmakers in Kentucky and encourage them to support this measure here!

    Delaware: Legislation signed into law last June decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses took effect at midnight this morning in the state of Delaware.

    House Bill 39 reclassifies the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by those age 21 and over from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a criminal record, to a
    thumbs_upcivil violation punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest, and no criminal record. (Those between the ages of 18 and 21 may face criminal charges, but only if it is their second or subsequent offense.)

    The new law also amends the personal possession of marijuana paraphernalia from a criminal to a civil violation. Public use of the substance, as well as marijuana possession while inside a vehicle, remain classified as misdemeanors.

    Municipal:

    Pittsburgh (PA): An ordinance, proposed by Councilman Daniel Lavelle,  which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana passed a preliminary vote in City Council on Wednesday.

    The measure would allow police to seize the drugs and issue a $100 fine as long as a person had less than 30 grams of marijuana — about an ounce. People could have about eight grams of hash.

    A final vote is scheduled for this upcoming Monday. You can contact your City Council district here to urge their support for this measure.

    Palm Beach County (FL): With a 4 to 1 vote Tuesday, Palm Beach County decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Law enforcement can now give offenders a $100 fine or the option of 10 hours of community service instead of arrest. The ordinance only covers offenders 18 and over, and an offender can receive a maximum of two citations.

    This vote comes after nearby cities West Palm Beach and Miami Beach also chose to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.


    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 November 13, 2015

    thumbs_upWith many state legislative sessions coming to an end and the federal government beginning final budget negotiations, we’ve seen plenty of marijuana legislation move forward this week. Keep reading below to catch up on this week’s legislative action!

    A full list and summary of pending state and federal legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.

    Federal:

    On the eve of Veterans Day members of the US Senate adopted language to permit Veterans access to medical marijuana in states that allow for its use. Senate members passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs APpropriations Bill, which for the first time includes language to allow Veteran’s Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. You can read more about this measure here.

    State:

    New Jersey: Governor Chris Christie signed legislation into law on Monday, November 9, that allows for the administration of edible forms of cannabis for children attending school.

    A4587 and S3049 “require facilities providing services to persons with developmental disabilities and schools to adopt policies permitting administration of medical marijuana to qualifying patients.”

    Additionally, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Monday, November 16th at 1:00PM in Committee Room 4 of the state capitol to discuss the merits of legalizing and regulating marijuana in New Jersey. The informational hearing comes ahead of the anticipated introduction next session of legislation to legalize the plant’s production, sale, and use. To express your support for legalization in New Jersey, click here.

    Vermont: Members of the Senate Government Operations Committee are discussing how best to implement a regulated marijuana industry in Vermont. Statewide polling reports that 57 percent of Vermont voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana production and sales. State lawmakers acknowledge that 2016 is the “time” to regulate cannabis in Vermont and they need to hear from their constituents that legalization is a priority. To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization, click here.

    North Carolina: Senate Bill 313, an act to establish a pilot program for hemp cultivation in North Carolina, has become law absent the Governor’s signature. The legislation declares, “The General Assembly finds and declares that it is in the best interest of the citizens of North Carolina to promote and encourage the development of an industrial hemp industry in the State in order to expand employment, promote economic activity, and provide opportunities to small farmers for an environmentally sustainable and profitable use of crop lands that might otherwise be lost to agricultural production.”

    New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that seeks to accelerate medical marijuana access to patients who are suffering from critical conditions and are in urgent need for medical cannabis. Assembly Bill 7060 & Senate Bill 5086 require the Commissioner of Health to establish emergency access to medical cannabis access for patients with conditions for whom a delay would pose a serious risk to the patient’s life or health.

    Florida: The Broward County Commission approved a marijuana ordinance on Tuesday, that will give police officers the option of issuing a $150 civil citation to someone caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana instead of filing a misdemeanor criminal charge against that person. Similar ordinances have been passed in Miami-Dade County and Key West.

    Palm Beach County will be voting on a similar measure, December 15th. Contact your County Commissioner today and urge their support for the option of issuing a civil citation for the nonviolent possession of marijuana! You can find out who your County Commissioner is here.

    Texas: In Houston, District Attorney Devon Anderson announced last Thursday that starting January 1st, those who are caught with less than two ounces of marijuana will be offered a diversion program and released rather than receiving a criminal charge. The suspect must complete the program to avoid facing charges.

    Anderson said, “It frees up space in jail. It minimizes the administrative burden that officers face when filing charges. It reduces the cost for prosecution and court proceedings. And of course, it gives the offender an opportunity to have a completely clean record,” she said. “When we don’t offer it until after the offender is charged, we lose a lot of the best benefits of the program.”

    Illinois: More than two years after lawmakers initially approved medical cannabis legislation in the state, patients are finally getting relief. This week, several of the state’s licensed dispensaries began serving patients for the first time. About 3,300 patients with Illinois-issued ID cards were able to purchase medical cannabis at one of five dispensaries opening Monday. Besides Canton, retail shops in Addison, Marion, Mundelein and Quincy were among the first to open. An estimated 25 facilities are anticipated to be operational by the end of the year.

    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!

    takeactionban

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director September 2, 2015

    News reports out of Vermont indicate that a major political shift has just occurred that well positions the state legislature to become the first in the nation to end cannabis prohibition and replace with tax-n-regulate policies.

    The four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) that have chucked cannabis prohibition have done so by popular vote on binding ballot initiatives passed by citizens, not legislators. Historically, circa 1996, most all substantive cannabis law reforms at the state level have happened because of ballot initiatives, not legislation.Vote marijuana

    With national surveys and the vote totals in favor of legalizing cannabis in the four vanguard states equaling similar levels of support–54%–some elected officials have finally ‘got it’ about the need to end cannabis prohibition, if only because it is no longer politically popular.

    A state legislature voting in the majority for cannabis legalization, with a supportive governor awaiting passed legislation to sign, has yet to happen in America. Arguably, once a state legislature passes cannabis legalization legislation, this action more so than voter initiatives placed on the ballot by stakeholders in reform (be them civil justice groups or business interests) will likely spark a ‘reefer revolution’ among states that want the revenue and public policy controls that the long-failed federal prohibition does not provide them.

    With a largely supportive and anti-prohibtion legislature and governor (in Democrat Peter Shumlin) already in place in the Green Mountain state, the only political impediment was the Speaker of the House Shap Smith, who, in his run up to try to become the state’s next governor, has reversed his public stance on cannabis legalization from undecided to publicly endorsing Vermont legalizing cannabis:

    “It’s clear to me in my discussions with Vermonters that in general, the people in this state probably favor legalization. And I certainly believe that we can legalize marijuana if we do it right.” – House Speaker Shap Smith

    Will the Vermont legislature be the first one to officially legalize cannabis?

    Yesterday’s policy reversal from Speaker Smith almost certainly places Vermont in the lead to do so.

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