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NORML Blog

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director November 20, 2018

    Citizens of the Bay State have much to be thankful for this week.

    On November 20th, just two days before Thanksgiving, adults over the age of 21 were able to legally purchase marijuana in the state of Massachusetts for the first time in over a century.

    Massachusetts was the first state to enact marijuana prohibition — doing so on April 29th, 1911. Voters decided in favor of repealing the ban in November 2016.

    “This signal to open retail marijuana establishments marks a major milestone for voters who approved legal, adult-use cannabis in our state,” Commission Chairman Steven J. Hoffman told Cannabis Now. “To get here, licensees underwent thorough background checks, passed multiple inspections and had their products tested, all to ensure public health and safety as this new industry gets up and running. As patrons look forward to visiting Massachusetts stores, we hope they will do their part by first familiarizing themselves with the law and understanding what is required of responsible consumers.”

    On the very same day, Representative Joe Kennedy III — who had historically been one of Congress’ leading marijuana prohibitionist — published an op-ed documenting his evolution of thinking when it comes to cannabis and announcing his new position of supporting reform.

    Kennedy writes, “Given the rapid pace of state-level legalization and liberalization, I believe we must implement strong, clear, and fair federal guidelines. To do that requires us to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and legalize it at the federal level.”

  • by NORML November 19, 2018

    We have much to be thankful for this year. Lawmakers in 22 states have passed legislation to advance cannabis reform, Vermont became the first state to end marijuana prohibition legislatively, the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth became the first US territory to pass a regulated marijuana marketplace, and four states approved voter-initiated ballot measures that legalized adult use (Michigan) and medical marijuana (Oklahoma, Utah, and Missouri).

    Additionally, polling data continues to show improved gains in public support for legalization nationwide, with most recent polls revealing that majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents support ending our failed prohibition.

    This progress did not come out of nowhere, nor did it come overnight. Our successes are a result of years of diligent organizing and difficult conversations with our fellow citizens about the role of government, law enforcement, and civil liberties in our daily lives.

    We need to make sure that we take every opportunity available to further advance the cannabis conversation. The upcoming holidays provide an ideal venue for these conversations.

    Look, we know that political arguments are going to happen at the Thanksgiving dinner table, so why not make it about marijuana? While many Americans disagree about other key issues facing our country, there is so much common ground between those who identify as conservatives, liberals, independents, and everyone in-between when it comes to marijuana policy.

    So use us as a resource – NORML.org has Factsheets, Talking Points, and you can even pass your phone or computer around the table to have your friends and family contact their lawmakers right then and there to support reform in our Action Center.

    Having these conversations about the scope of the government’s right to stop, search, and incarcerate individuals for possessing a plant that is objectively safer than alcohol and tobacco can be tough, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun than hearing the same story for the millionth time from your cousin or the ranting of your whacky uncle (you know who we’re talking about, but he probably wants to legalize cannabis too).

    Since our founding in 1970, NORML has worked to provide a voice in the public policy debate for those Americans who oppose marijuana prohibition and favor an end to the practice of arresting marijuana consumers. We rely on thousands of individuals to fund our movement to continue our critical work. Sign up to be a sustaining supporter or make a one-time Thanksgiving gift to continue our march to progress.

    Together, we’re going to make 2019 the best year yet for reform. To make that a reality, we need you to use your voice at the dinner table this week.

    Gratefully,

    The NORML Family

  • by Dan Viets, Executive Director, Missouri NORML November 17, 2018

     

    Two years after suing to keep medical marijuana off the ballot, on Tuesday, Jean Peters Baker, the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney, announced that her office will stop prosecuting most marijuana possession cases. In June of this year, the St. Louis City Prosecuting Attorney, Kim Gardner, took similar action on simple possession cases of up to 100 grams.

    This development follows the November 6 landslide victory of Amendment 2, a state Constitutional amendment, which legalized access to medical marijuana for Missouri patients in a form similar to laws already passed in 31 other states. Missouri voters supported this measure by 66% statewide. Amendment 2 received more yes votes than any of the other issues on that ballot and any candidates on that ballot.

    Approximately 75% of the voters in Jackson County endorsed Amendment 2. In April of 2017, Kansas City voters overwhelmingly approved passage of a city ordinance reducing punishment for possession of marijuana to a $25 fine. That initiative, placed on the ballot by members of NORML KC, also received support from 75% of the voters, despite the campaign having almost no money and being opposed by The Kansas City Star and at least one former prosecuting attorney on the Kansas City Council.

    The decision by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker to cease prosecuting most marijuana possession cases is all the more interesting when one considers the fact that only two years ago, Ms. Peters Baker joined with a handful of other Missouri prosecuting attorneys to sue the Missouri Secretary of State to keep medical marijuana off the ballot! That lawsuit did not succeed in keeping the measure off the ballot, but it did create an additional hurdle and a distraction for the campaign. The 2016 effort ultimately failed because it fell short of the number of petition signatures required in one of Missouri’s eight Congressional districts.

    Smart politicians around the state will surely soon recognize that a solid majority of Missouri voters favor progressive marijuana law reforms. NORML hopes to see this fact reflected in the actions of the Missouri General Assembly. Pre-filing of bills in the legislature begins December 1. The legislature convenes its 2019 session the first week of January. NORML calls on other Missouri Prosecutors to follow the example of the St. Louis City and Jackson County Prosecutors.

    For More Information Contact Dan Viets, 573-819-2669 or DanViets@gmail.com

    Keep up-to-date with marijuana law reform efforts in Missouri by following Missouri NORML on Facebook and become a member today!

  • by NORML November 16, 2018

    One of the US Senate’s leading marijuana prohibitionists, Iowa Republican Charles Grassley, will no longer be heading the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 116th Congress.

    Representative Grassley announced today that he is stepping down as Chair of the Committee. As Chair, Grassley refused to hold any hearings or votes on marijuana-related legislation, including bipartisan legislative efforts like the STATES Act. Virtually all Senate legislation specific to marijuana policy must pass through the Judiciary Committee.

    Representative Grassley received a D- grade on NORML’s 2018 Congressional Scorecard.

    Next in line to Chair the Committee is Republican Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who received a C grade from NORML.

    “As the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham will have to make a choice when it comes to marijuana,” NORML’s Political Director Justin Strekal said. “Will he continue to perpetuate the failed policy of federal criminalization which resulted in over 659,000 Americans being handcuffed in 2017 alone, or will he be open to reform in a way that reflects the rapidly evolving nature of cannabis policy in the majority of states?”

    Representative Grassley’s decision to step down follows the retirement of House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and the failed re-election bid of House Rules Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX) – both of whom similarly used their powers as Chair to stifle any legislative debate on marijuana policy.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate

    Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a “guarantee” that hemp legalization will be in the finalized Farm Bill. “If there’s a Farm Bill, it’ll be in there, I guarantee that,” he told reporters.

    Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA) has introduced a series of bills aimed at addressing the therapeutic use of marijuana among veterans.

    Incoming U.S. House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (D-MA) says he will allow floor debates and votes on marijuana amendments, “unlike his predecessors.”

    At the state level, Utah lawmakers are expected to consider a compromise medical cannabis bill during a special session beginning December 3.

    New Jersey’s Assembly speaker and Senate president said they expect committee votes on legalizing marijuana by the end of this month. The Republican Assembly leader said legalization is “inevitable.” And a key state senator who was once opposed to ending prohibition is now expressing support.

    A spokesperson for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said the governor plans to “introduce a formal comprehensive [marijuana legalization] proposal during the 2019 legislative session.” A New York senator said she believes Cuomo and lawmakers will legalize marijuana in the state via the 2019 budget.

    It’s possible that Massachusetts recreational marijuana sales could begin on Sunday. The state’s top regulator said sales will likely start in “a week plus or minus maybe a couple of days longer than that.”

    The Vermont marijuana legalization study committee’s taxation and regulation subcommittee plans to recommend a 26% or 27% tax rate on sales.

    An Indiana state senator plans to file several marijuana reform bills, including decriminalization and medical marijuana legislation. A North Dakota representative plans to file a marijuana decriminalization bill. A Wisconsin state senator also plans to introduce a bill in 2019 to legalize marijuana for adults.

    Minnesota Gov.-elect Tim Walz (D) and the incoming House speaker said that the state will consider legalizing marijuana in 2019.

    At a more local level, the Jackson County, Missouri prosecutor said she will stop pursuing most marijuana possession cases. Similarly, Albany County, New York’s district attorney said that starting on December 1, he will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases.

    Muskegon County, Michigan’s prosecutor is dropping some pending marijuana charges in light of legalization and is considering expunging past convictions. Separately, some Michigan municipalities are already moving to opt out of allowing legal marijuana sales, at least temporarily.

    Following are the bills that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    Penalize States that Maintain Criminalization: The Marijuana Justice Act would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

    Click here to email your federal lawmakers and urge them to support this important legislation

    Texas

    House Bill 63 has been pre-filed by Rep. Joe Moody that seeks to replace current criminal sanctions for marijuana possession with a civil penalty, punishable by a fine only with no jail or criminal record.

    TX resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of decriminalization

    Senate Bill 90 has been pre-filed by Sen. Jose Menendez that seeks to expand the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) and make it more inclusive and compassionate for patients.

    TX resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical cannabis expansion

    Virginia

    Senator Adam Ebbin filed Senate Bill 997, seeking to decriminalize personal possession of marijuana in Virginia.

    If passed, the bill would provide a civil penalty of no more than $50 for a first violation, $100 for a second violation, and $250 for a third or subsequent violation. The bill also requires that the suspended sentence substance abuse screening provisions and driver’s license suspension provisions apply only to criminal violations or to civil violations by a juvenile.

    VA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of decriminalization

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