• by Analise Pruni, Staff Writer, Wisconsin NORML July 23, 2019

    With our neighboring Midwestern states surrounding Wisconsin with cannabis policy reforms, a majority public opinion favoring some form of legalization and with the governor’s support, why would Wisconsin NORML need a lobby day at the capital in Madison? The truth is, there is much more work to be done! 

    After a long day of meetings and presentations, what republican policymakers seemed to be continuously asking for was evidence, proof, more information and testimony about the efficacy of cannabis for medicinal purposes in particular. 

    Norah Lowe has Rhett’s syndrome which makes it difficult for her to control her movements or speak. Despite this, she has given several testimonies to county boards about the value of medicinal cannabis for her condition and on lobby day, she addressed republican Rep. Joe Sanfelippo. Norah is 10 years old. Her parents Megan and Josh say to those in opposition of medical cannabis, “Here is your evidence.”

    “I hear you, I understand you, I am smart,” Norah says to Sanfelippo through her digital device. Before beginning treatment with CBD oil, she was on six prescription medications. Now she is down to just one. 

    Megan and Josh live in Sauk County in his family’s sixth generation farm house. They don’t understand why their only option to get treatment for their daughter may be to move away from the place they have lived all of their lives and they are not the only family going through this crisis. Norah’s friends with Rhett’s out of state have said that THC has immensely helped their symptoms, particularly with seizures. Norah’s parents are desperate for the opportunity to try these treatments without risk of criminal prosecution, driving out of state or leaving their home altogether. The current cost of CBD oil in Wisconsin has also driven the Lowe’s to grow their own hemp to produce the oil themselves. They will leave WI if they have to though, to get the best possible care for Norah. 

    Sanfelippo listened through their story and said he sympathized with them and their situation, however insisted that he was listening to the professionals about the ill effects of cannabis. He cited the American Psychiatric Society as deeming cannabis “as dangerous to children as lead.” 

    The path to legalization starts with dispelling the stigma and disinformation surrounding cannabis. Stories and testimonies are needed; from professionals, doctors, parents with children who have benefitted from cannabis treatments and veterans who use it to ease their anxiety, PTSD and injuries. This strategy includes educating representatives on the needs and will of their constituents and bringing all of the pro-cannabis community into the conversation.

    “As always we really want to educate these lawmakers; that’s our goal every time we come here,” said Alan Robinson, executive director of Wisconsin NORML. “We want to impress upon them that their constituents matter, their constituents want cannabis.”

    There are successful models of cannabis policy in other states that need to be looked as WI gears up for the introduction of several cannabis bills in the fall. It needs to be made clear to policymakers that a restrictive medical bill that grants access only to a small portion of “qualified” patients is not enough for the residents of WI who across every county in majority voted yes last fall for some form of legalization in the non-binding referendum.

    Executive Director Eric Marsch of Southeastern WI NORML knows that a restrictive medical bill, while a step in the right direction, isn’t pushing the needle far enough. 

    “We want to make sure that patients are allowed to grow their own, so that they’re able to control costs and guarantee access to a strain that works best for them,” Marsch said. There are around 113 cannabinoids in the plant in which different strains help alleviate different symptoms and disorders in varied forms such as edibles, tinctures, whole plants and oils. 

    “We want doctors to be able to choose what conditions a patient is qualified to get medical cannabis for rather than just having a narrow list that restricts who is able to have access to it,” Marsch added.

    For families like Norah’s and countless other pro-cannabis supporters, their question to policymakers is this: 

    “How do we start that conversation; how do we work together on this?” Norah’s dad Josh asked Sanfellipo. 

    Presenting a united front of advocacy, education and reform must be a priority of all WI constituents who voted yes for cannabis and have had their voices ignored by those who would claim to represent them.

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Dispel the myths with the NORML Fact Sheets. For more information follow Wisconsin NORML on Facebook and visit their website!


  • by NORML

    Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (NY) introduced The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act. The Senate companion bill is carried by Senator Kamala Harris (CA). 

    “After nearly a century of prohibition, it is clear this policy has been an absolute failure and a national disgrace. All we have to show for the war we have waged on marijuana is the egregious harms it has wrought upon tens-of-millions of our fellow citizens. By passing the MORE Act, Congress can begin to remedy the pain caused by the criminalization of marijuana. This bill provides a real federal solution by fully descheduling of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and providing relief to those suffering under the collateral consequences of having a marijuana charge on their record by facilitating the process of expungements. The American public is overwhelmingly ready to legalize marijuana, their elected officials in Washington need to finally start representing the will of the people and advance this sensible legislation,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. 

    The MORE Act is the most comprehensive marijuana reform bill ever introduced in the US Congress and is backed by a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups. 

    Send a message to your lawmakers in support of the bill now! 

    “Never in American history has the Chairman of the Judiciary introduced a bill to end federal marijuana criminalization. At a time when the state you live in can determine whether cannabis can ruin your life or make you a millionaire, now more than ever we must end the national prohibition of marijuana. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act embodies the need to legalize cannabis and restore the rights of those who have suffered under the cruel and failed policy of criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. 

    If enacted, the bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus decriminalizing the substance at the federal level and enabling states to set their own policies. Descheduling will also allow the existing state-legal marijuana industry to no longer be barred from accessing financial services or standard tax treatment as every other legal business. Similarly, veterans will have better access to medical marijuana with VA doctors no longer risking federal prosecution for filling out state-legal medical recommendations.

    Given the restrictions the marijuana industry has had to abide by under section 280E of the IRS code, existing enterprises would have a significantly lower overall tax burden than under the current policy of prohibition. 

    The bill would tax marijuana products at a modest 5% to establish a Trust Fund to assist state and local governments in expunging criminal records and setting up regulatory structures for marijuana’s lawful production and distribution.

     The Trust Fund would have three functions:

    1. A fund administrated by a newly created Office of Cannabis Justice to issue grants to communities negatively impacted by the war on drugs for the development of expungement processes, employment programs, reentry guidance, youth resources and more. The Office of Cannabis would be one of the Justice Programs in the Department of Justice. This provision is modeled on the Marijuana Justice Act, by Senator Cory Booker (NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (CA).
    2. A fund administered by the Small Business Administration to encourage socially and economically disadvantaged people to enter the cannabis industry, similar to legislation introduced by Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (NY).
    3. A fund administered by the Small Business Administration to create equitable licensing programs in states and local governments that benefit communities most impacted by the prohibition.

    Currently, individuals with a marijuana conviction are saddled with collateral consequences, including a prohibition from obtaining federal benefits, student loans, or security clearances for government jobs due to marijuana’s criminalized status. To correct the historical injustices relating to prohibition, the MORE Act offers the opportunity to petition for resentencing and expungement. This will eliminate this discrimination and create new opportunities for individuals desperate to advance their careers, education, and quality of life. Immigrants will also benefit from the MORE Act because they will no longer be subject to deportation or citizenship denial solely based on a marijuana infraction. 

    Send a message in support of The MORE Act in less than 30 seconds now!

  • by NORML

    Earlier today, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow financial institutions to engage in activities with state-legal cannabis businesses. 

    The hearing was entitled, “Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives.” Witnesses included Senators Cory Gardner (CO) and Jeff Merkley (OR) as well as the Chief Risk Officer of Maps Credit Union Rachel Pross, President and CEO of Citywide Banks  Joanne Sherwood (representing the American Bankers Association),  marijuana prohibitionist Garth Van Meter, and John Lord, the owner of a cannabis company.

    “Forcing businesses to operate in cash is an invitation to crime, money laundering, and robbery,” said U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, the lead sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act. “Whether you’re for or against legal cannabis, we all agree that we want our communities to be safe from fraud and crime. That’s why this legislation has significant bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. I’m pleased to see the momentum for this legislation continue to grow, and I’m going to keep fighting to get this legislation over the finish line in this Congress.”

    Testifying before the Committee, Senator Merkely thanked NORML for its work and assistance in his office compiling a list of over 100 personal stories that he submitted about how the banking prohibition has impacted them. 

    Commenting on the hearing, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said, “We duly recognize that better access to banking is necessary in order for the legal marijuana market to become more transparent and more convenient for customers.” 

    “No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions and it is self-evident that this industry, and the consumers that are served by it, will remain severely hindered without better access to credit, financing, banking, and payment processing,” Strekal continued. “Ultimately, Congress must amend federal policy so that the growing number of state-compliant businesses, and the millions of Americans who patronize them, are no longer subject to policies that needlessly place them in harm’s way. Cannabis businesses ought to be held to the same standards as any other commercial enterprises.”


  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 18, 2019

    Members of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry will hear expert testimony next week regarding the production of industrial hemp and hemp-derived products.

    The Senate hearing, titled “Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill,” is scheduled to take place on Thursday, July 25, at 9:30am est.

    Representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture, the US Food & Drug Administration, and the National Hemp Association are among those who will testify at next week’s hearing.

    In December, Congress enacted legislation removing industrial hemp (defined as cannabis containing less than 0.3 percent THC) and products containing cannabinoids derived from hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Under the law, states that wish to license commercial hemp cultivation must submit their plan to the USDA. Last month, the agency filed a notice in the Federal Register indicating its intention to finalize regulations governing the licensed production of industrial hemp by late August.

    Separately, the US FDA is discussing options regarding the regulation of hemp-derived CBD products, which it currently states may not legally be marketed as either nutritional supplements or food additives. In May, NORML provided written testimony to the FDA calling on the agency to clarify confusion among both consumers and regulators with regard to the legality of certain CBD products. NORML further recommended that the FDA move expeditiously to provide regulatory guidelines governing the products’ manufacturing, standardization, and quality.

  • by NORML July 17, 2019

    Members of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs are scheduled to hear testimony next week regarding the need to provide greater access to financial services for state-licensed marijuana-related businesses.

    The Senate hearing, titled “Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives,” will take place on Tuesday, July 23, at 10am est. It marks the first time that members of the Senate have explicitly discussed the need for marijuana-related banking reform.

    Federal law and regulations currently discourage banks and other financial institutions from working directly with state-licensed cannabis businesses. According to recently published data from the US Treasury Department, fewer than 500 financial institutions nationwide currently provide services to cannabis-specific establishments.

    Members of the House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Consumer Protections and Financial Institutions previously heard testimony on the issue in February. NORML submitted written testimony to Congress at that time opining: “For an industry seeking legitimacy and requiring transparency, the inability to obtain banking and credit access remains a primary but unnecessary roadblock. In order to truly bring the marijuana industry out of the shadows, actions need to be taken by Congress to amend these outdated and discriminatory practices.” (Read NORML’s full testimony here.)

    Legislation (HR 1595 | S 1200 – The SAFE Banking Act) is pending in both chambers to create new federal protections for financial operators who work with state-compliant marijuana businesses. The House version of the Act, which was passed out of Committee earlier this year, has over 200 Congressional co-sponsors while the Senate version has 31 cosponsors.

    Speaking in support of the pending legislation, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “Federal lawmakers are mandating that this billion-dollar industry operate largely on a cash-only basis – an environment that makes businesses more susceptible to theft and more difficult to audit.” He added: “No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions and it is self-evident that this industry, and those consumers that are served by it, will remain severely hampered without better access to credit and financing. Ultimately, Congress must amend federal policy so that these growing numbers of state-compliant businesses, and those millions of Americans who patronize them, are no longer subject to policies that needlessly place them in harms way.”

    Additional information on The SAFE (The Secure and Fair Enforcement) Banking Act is available online here.

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