While Thanksgiving is cutting the work week short for many, there is no shortage of legislative news in marijuana law reform. Keep reading below to find out what new developments have taken place in the past week related to marijuana!
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was in the spotlight this past week for a couple reasons.
First, organizers of a Change.org petition calling for President Obama to fire the agency’s acting administrator, Chuck Rosenberg personally delivered over 100,000 printed signatures to DEA headquarters last Friday. The petition is still garnering support so make sure to sign it if you haven’t already!
Second, a group of Democratic lawmakers led by Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) wrote a letter to House leadership this week urging them to include language in the final spending package for FY 2016, that would remove a significant portion of funding from the DEA that is currently being used to eradicate marijuana plants across the country and instead direct it to more worthy causes. The language is from an amendment that Lieu sponsored and was passed by the House in June.
The letter reads, “The Cannabis Eradication Program’s sole mission is to eradicate marijuana plants and arrest growers. However, historical data indicates that the vast majority of plants seized under this program are wild plants descendant from industrial hemp. They are not intentionally grown, and they are not suitable for recreational or medical use. Therefore, the seizure of these plants has served neither an economic nor public-safety nor a health related purpose. Its sole impact has been to expend limited federal resources that are better spent elsewhere.”
Other members that signed the letter are Reps. Jared Polis (CO), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Steve Cohen (TN), Eric Swalwell (CA), Mark Pocan (WI), Mike Honda (CA), Barbara Lee (CA), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Raúl Grijalva (AZ), Beto O’Rourke (TX) and Sam Farr (CA).
Alaska: Last Friday, Alaska became the first state to allow residents age 21 or older to consume cannabis in retail facilities that sell it . Members of the Marijuana Control Board voted 3 to 2 in favor of permitting limited public use of cannabis. This lack of public use facilities has proven to be an obstacle elsewhere, most notably among tourists who wish to indulge while on vacation in states that regulate the plant’s social use.
Florida: On Monday, following over a year of legal battles, state regulators finally approved five nurseries to cultivate high-CBD strains of marijuana. This decision marks the first real step forward in the implementation of a 2014 law to allow the use of CBD extracts by qualified patients with intractable epilepsy, muscle spasms and advanced forms of cancer. To qualify for the low-THC-based cannabis treatment, patients must obtain permission from a qualified doctor and be added to the state’s Compassionate Use Registry. The law establishes a number of steep requirements in order for nurseries to qualify for licensure. Applicants must have been in business for at least 30 years and possesses the ability to grow at least 400,000 plants. The selected applicants must post a $5 million performance bond before receiving a license from the state.
Washington: Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor held a hearing on Friday in regards to SB 6083, legislation to allow adults to legally cultivate personal use amounts of marijuana in private. “This bill is about consistency, congruency and especially, freedom” said Rep. Brian Blake, who is sponsoring the measure in the House. “Adults in our state can brew their own beer and make their own wine for personal consumption. Just like alcohol, marijuana can be used safely and responsibly, so it makes sense to allow adults to home grow their own if they want to.”
You can contact your lawmakers in Washington to urge their support for this legislation here.
Pennsylvania: On Wednesday, November 18, members of the House Rules Committee passed Senate Bill 3, to allow for the production and distribution of non-herbal marijuana products to qualified patients. The bill will now awaits a floor vote by House lawmakers.
While this measure is a step forward for Pennsylvania patients, SB 3, as presently written, contains several provisions opposed by NORML, specifically its restrictions on smoking and vaporization. House lawmakers are expected to amend the measure further when debating it on the floor.
Please ask your House members to consider changes that would further expand patients’ access and choices by clicking here.
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!
The results are in from Washington, D.C. one year after 70% of the voters chose to end cannabis prohibition: A nearly 100% reduction in marijuana-related arrests!
According to the Washington City Paper, the number of annual arrests for marijuana dropped from 895 in 2014 to 7 so far in 2015 (a 99.4% reduction in arrests; an even greater percentage drop in marijuana-related arrests occurred between 2013 and now, when there were 1,215 arrests).
This dramatic reduction in marijuana arrests is consistent with the prior experience in the other states where voters have cast off unpopular cannabis prohibition laws. Post prohibition, arrest rates for marijuana-related offenses in Colorado and Washington State dropped from nearly 12,ooo annually to <200.
Washington, D.C.’s huge reduction in arrest rates is not a result of legalized marijuana (where such a policy allows for the legal cultivation and selling of marijuana, and that government regulates and taxes the production and sale of marijuana products). Instead, in the nation’s capital cannabis has been fully de-penalized where adults can cultivate a personal amount of marijuana and possess up to two ounces, but, there is no legal source to purchase marijuana and the government derives no taxes or fees (however, Washington, D.C. does have medical marijuana laws, where approximately 8,000 registered medical patients who’re qualified can legally purchase marijuana products at up to four retail locations).
State taxes specific to the production and retail sale of marijuana totaled some $70 million in Colorado over the past year — nearly twice the amount collected for alcohol during this same period.
Financial data released this week by the Colorado Department of Revenue reports that state regulators collected $69,898,059 from marijuana-specific taxes from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. This total includes the collection of $43,938,721 from the imposition of a 10 percent special sales tax on retail sales to adults, and $25,959,338 collected from the imposition of a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale transfers of marijuana intended for commercial sales. In comparison, the state raised just under $41,837,647 from alcohol-specific taxes during this same period, including $27,309,606 from excise taxes collected on spirited liquors, $8,881,349 from excise taxes on beer, and $5,646,692 from excise taxes collected on vinous liquors.
Additional revenue attributable to the imposition of state sales taxes (2.9 percent) on retail sales of cannabis and/or booze were not included in the Department’s calculations. The majority of Colorado voters approved the imposition of cannabis-specific taxes (Proposition AA) in November 2013.
In Washington state, where retail cannabis sales began last summer, data released today estimates that marijuana-specific tax revenues have generated $90 million in the past 15 months.
Changes in marijuana laws are not associated with increased use of the substance by teens, according to data compiled by Washington’ Healthy Youth Survey and published by the Washington State Institute of Public Policy.
State survey results from the years 2002 to 2014 show little change in cannabis consumption by Washington teens despite the passage of laws permitting and expanding the use of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes during this time.
Self-reported marijuana use fell slightly among 8th graders, 10th graders, and 12th graders during this period. Young people’ self-reported access to cannabis also remained largely unchanged during this time period, although more 8th graders now report that marijuana is “hard to get.”
The passage of voter-initiated legislation legalizing the adult use of cannabis in 2012 is also not to associated with any increase in consumption by youth. Between 2012 and 2014, self-reported lifetime marijuana use and/or use within the past 30 days either stayed stable or fell among all of the age groups surveyed.
The report concluded, “[C]annabis use and access among students in 6th through 12th grades have changed little from 2002 through the most recent survey in 2014.”
The findings are consistent with those of previous assessments acknowledging that liberalizing state marijuana laws does not stimulate increased use among young people.
NORML reviews the top news stories of 2014.
#1 Marijuana Legalization Measures Win Big On Election Day
Voters in Oregon and Alaska decided on Election Day in favor of statewide initiatives legalizing the commercial production and sale of marijuana for adults, while voters in the nation’s capitol and in numerous other cities nationwide similarly decided on local measures to eliminate marijuana possession penalties.
#2 Colorado And Washington Begin Regulating Retail Marijuana Sales
Two states, Colorado and Washington, initiated retail marijuana sales in 2014. Colorado’s program began on January 1. In Washington, state-licensed retail outlets began legally selling cannabis to adults in July.
#3 Congress Enacts Measure Protecting State-Sponsored Medi-Pot Programs
President Barack Obama signed spending legislation into law in December that included a provision limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states. The amendment states, “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
#4 Congress Moves To Permit State-Sanctioned Hemp Cultivation
Federal lawmakers approved legislation in February permitting state-sponsored hemp cultivation to move forward despite the plant’s federal status as a Schedule I prohibited substance.
#5 Federal Judge Hears Challenge To Cannabis’ Schedule I Status
United States District Judge Kimberly Mueller heard five days of testimony in October in regard to the constitutionality of marijuana’s Schedule I status under federal law. Defense counsel and their experts argued that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s present categorization. Judge Mueller is expected to make her ruling in early 2015.
#6 JAMA: Fewer Opiate-Related Deaths In Medical Marijuana States
The enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, according to data published in August in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”
#7 President Acknowledges That Booze Is More Harmful Than Marijuana
Consuming cannabis is less harmful to the individual than is drinking alcohol, President Barack Obama acknowledged in January in an interview with The New Yorker. “I don’t think it (marijuana) is more dangerous than alcohol,” he stated. He added, [W]e should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time.”
#8 Study: Medical Marijuana States Have Fewer Violent Crimes
Medicinal cannabis laws are not associated with any rise in statewide criminal activity, according to data published in April in the journal PLoS ONE. “Medical marijuana laws were not found to have a crime exacerbating effect on any of the seven crime types. On the contrary, our findings indicated that MML precedes a reduction in homicide and assault,” authors concluded. “In sum, these findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.”
#9 NYT Editors Opine In Favor Of Legalizing Cannabis
The New York Times editorial board in July called upon federal lawmakers to end the criminalization of cannabis for those over the age of 21. The paper’s editors opined: “The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. … Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. … [W]e believe that on every level, … the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization.”
#10 Americans Say Marijuana Is Less Harmful To Health Than Sugar
Americans believe that consuming cannabis poses less harm to health than does the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, or sugar, according to the findings of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in March. Respondents were asked which of the four substances they believed to be “most harmful to a person’s overall health.” Most respondents said tobacco (49 percent), followed by alcohol (24 percent) and sugar (15 percent).