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Advocacy

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 17, 2018

    Valentines Day week 2018 saw a tremendous amount of activity when it came to addressing our nations failed policy of marijuana prohibition. From new federal legislation being introduced to two federal lawsuits having hearings, plus a number of members of Congress, old allies and new stepping up to demand the Trump Administration continue to allow the states that have reformed their laws be respected by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Rick “Not Pro-Pot But Pro-Civil Liberties” Steves Went To Washington: Bestselling guidebook author and travel host Rick Steves held two briefings to address marijuana prohibition to a gathering of members of Congress and their staff. Inspired by Europe’s pragmatic approach to drug policy, with success measured by harm reduction rather than incarceration, Steves said that he is motivated to speak in favor of legalization because of its impact on civil liberties.

    “ There are so many reasons to end the prohibition on marijuana. Whether you’re concerned about the well-being of children, fairness for minority communities, redirecting money away from criminals and into state’s coffers, stemming the horrific bloodshed in Mexico, or civil liberties; it is clearly time for a new approach,” said Rick Steves. You can read more about his day at Capitol Hill here.

    New Legislation: Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) has introduced the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act which would codify the protections that were outlined in the now-rescinded Cole Memo.

    Upon the introduction, Rep. Correa said, “To date, eight states have legalized recreational cannabis, and twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, representing more than half of the American population, have enacted legislation to permit the use of cannabis. Attorney General Sessions’ decision to rescind the “Cole Memo” created great uncertainty for these states and legal cannabis businesses, and put citizens in jeopardy for following their state laws.

    In my state of California, voters want legal cannabis. It boosts our economy and is a strong medical tool. By 2020, revenues from cannabis sales taxes could reach $1 billion annually for California. This bill will protect California and other states from federal overreach and ensure the will of the American voter is respected.”

    Essentially, the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act would give peace of mind to lawmakers, regulators, 149,000 workers, and the millions of patients and consumers who are dependent on the normalization of lawful marijuana markets. The most essential component in creating a stable business environment to meet consumer demand is certainty and that is what states would have with Reps. Correa’s legislation to protect state-lawful programs from militant marijuana prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Click here to send a message to your Representative to urge them to co-sponsor the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act. 

    Lawsuit Against Attorney General Jeff Sessions: On February 14th, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York heard oral arguments on the motion to dismiss Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al, a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Schedule I classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. The federal government argued to have the case dismissed. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York reserved the decision.

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case are Michael Hiller and Lauren Rudick of Hiller, PC, and include NORML Legal Committee member Joseph Bondy and Empire State NORML Director David Holland.

    Click here to read more.

    HIA Against The DEA: A case brought forward by the Hemp Industries Association against the DEA regarding the classification of CBD had a hearing on Thursday. You can read more about that effort here.

    Banking On Mnuchin: Congressman and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus Earl Blumenauer pressed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on the need for certainty for the banks that are currently providing services for legal, state-regulated marijuana businesses. You can watch the video by clicking HERE and send a message to your federal lawmakers to support the SAFE Banking Act.

    Letter To Senate Appropriators: This week, a bipartisan group of 18 Senators signed a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the powerful Appropriations Committee to demand that in the process of directing funding for the Department of Justice, the lawmakers should restrict the DoJ from being able to interfere with lawful state-regulated programs.

    The senators wrote that rescinding years of guidance has created “disruption, confusion, and uncertainty throughout the country. Citizens who have been acting in good faith based on federal and state assurances now feel exposed. This disruption may deny medications to the sick, push individuals back into illicit markets, and nullify the previously-effective regulations – all while thwarting the democratically-expressed will of the states.”

    “It is our hope that the fiscal year 2018 appropriations will alleviate the turbulence the Attorney General’s abrupt decision has caused and that the appropriations will help preserve the strong regulatory frameworks the states have created,” the senators continued. “Doing so will provide the opportunity to pursue federal legislation that both protects the legitimate federal interests at stake and respects the will of the states – both those that have liberalized their marijuana laws and those that have not.”

    The letter include U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-WV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maria Cantwell(D-WA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Edward Markey (D-MA).

    Click here to read the letter and click here to send a message to your federal officials in support of pending legislation to deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. 

    New Justice Supporter: This week, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York added her name as a cosponsor to The Marijuana Justice Act, making her the 3rd member of the Senate to be on the bill. Specifically S. 1689 and HR 4815 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 send a message to your lawmakers in support of the Marijuana Justice Act. 

    Additionally, Senator Cory Booker added the language of the Marijuana Justice Act as an amendment to the criminal justice bill that is moving, however, that effort was unsuccessful.

    DoJ Nominees Move Forward: Senator Gardner has backed down from his threat to the Department of Justice to block Senate-confirmable nominees after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the longstanding guidance memos including the 2013 Cole Memo.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate February 16, 2018

    Welcome to this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    First, I’d like to highlight a key development at the federal level pertaining to established marijuana businesses and consumers.

    Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) has introduced the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act which would basically codify the protections that were outlined in the now-rescinded Cole Memo. Essentially, the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act would give peace of mind to lawmakers, regulators, 149,000 workers, and the millions of patients and consumers who are dependent on the normalization of lawful marijuana markets. The most essential component in creating a stable business environment to meet consumer demand is certainty and that is what states would have with Rep. Correa’s legislation to protect state-lawful programs from militant marijuana prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Click here to send a message to your Representative in support of the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act. 

    Also, earlier this week, bestselling guidebook author and travel host Rick Steves held two briefings on Capitol Hill to address marijuana prohibition to a gathering of members of Congress and their staff. Steves serves as a member of the board of NORML and has advocated extensively in support of the successful legalization efforts in Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and his home state of Washington.

    At the state level, the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee voted unanimously to pass HB 1251, to expand the state’s medical CBD law, amended to include a new emergency enactment clause requested by Governor Ralph Northam, and will now go into effect immediately upon his signature. Enactment of this historic legislation would make Virginia the first state with a hyper-restrictive program to adopt such a broad expansion.

    Also, Pennsylvania medical cannabis sales began on Thursday as the state’s first dispensary opened its doors.

    Following are the bills from around the country 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

    End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Click here to e-mail your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation

    Connecticut

    Democratic Representative James Albis, along with over 20 co-sponsors, has introduced legislation — HB 5112 and HB 5111 — to regulate and tax the retail sale of marijuana to adults.

    The tax revenue raised by commercial retail sales would be used to fund substance abuse treatment, prevention, education and awareness programs.

    CT resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization

    West Virginia

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 3035, to regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana.

    The bill states that “In the interest of allowing law-enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes, generating revenue for education and other public purposes, and individual freedom, the Legislature of the State of West Virginia finds that the use of marijuana should be legal for a person twenty-one years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.”

    Update: Similar legislation has also been introduced to regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana, House Bill 4491.

    WV resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization

    New Mexico

    Legislation is pending, HM 67 and SM 55, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy as an alternative to opioid treatment.

    Update: HM 67 was approved unanimously by the House, and SM 55 was approved by the Senate with a 36-1 vote.

    NM resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort

    Arizona

    Legislation is pending, HCR2037, to put the issue of legalizing the adult use of marijuana before voters this November.

    The resolution seeks to place a question on the 2018 ballot regarding the adult use, possession, and retail sale of cannabis.

    AZ resident? Click here to email your elected officials and tell them to leave it up to the voters

    Maryland

    Legislation is pending, HB 268 and SB 181, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    Update: A hearing was held on February 15 on SB 181.

    MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort

    Hawaii

    Legislation is pending, HB 1893, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    Update: HB 1893 was heard by the Health and Human Services Committee on February 15.

    HI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort

    Additional Actions to Take

    New Hampshire

    Legislation is pending, HB 1477, to permit those convicted of past marijuana convictions to seek expungement.

    If passed, HB 1477 would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting that the court annul any past marijuana violations involving the possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana.

    Update: HB 1477 was approved by The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee by a vote of 14-4.

    NH resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expunging past marijuana convictions

    Colorado

    Newly proposed legislation, The Marijuana Consumer Employment Discrimination Protection Bill, seeks to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination.

    This bill would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test. It would also require employers to provide objective evidence that an employee is unable to perform their job adequately because of marijuana use prior to taking any punitive action.

    CO resident?  Click here to email your elected officials in support of employment protections for patients

    Alaska

    Senator Tom Begich has introduced legislation, SB 184, to seal the convictions of past marijuana possession offenders.

    Senate Bill 184 prohibits the release of past records for any marijuana offense that is no longer defined as a crime under state law. The bill’s intent is to reduce barriers to employment for people who have been convicted of low-level marijuana possession crimes that would be legal under today’s laws, and to make it more likely that people convicted of only low-level crimes will become contributing members of society.

    AK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of sealing past marijuana convictions

    Maryland

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 698 to expand the state’s nascent industrial hemp pilot program.

    The bill seeks to “authorize and facilitate the research of industrial hemp and any aspect of growing, cultivating, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, transporting, marketing, or selling industrial hemp for agricultural, industrial, or commercial purposes.”

    Update: A hearing was held for HB 698 on February 14.

    MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expanding the industrial hemp program

    Utah

    Legislation is pending, HB 197, “to ensure the cultivation and processing of cannabis in the state for academic or medical research purposes.”

    If passed, this bill mandates the Department of Agriculture to engage in the cultivation, processing, and distribution of marijuana for the purposes of engaging in academic or medical research.

    Update: HB197 was passed by the House by a vote of 38-32 on February 13, after it died on a narrow vote last week and was resurrected on Tuesday. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

    UT resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort

    Check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 15, 2018

    Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) has introduced the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act which would essentially codify the protections that were outlined in the now-rescinded Cole Memo.

    Upon the introduction, Rep. Correa said, “To date, eight states have legalized recreational cannabis, and twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, representing more than half of the American population, have enacted legislation to permit the use of cannabis. Attorney General Sessions’ decision to rescind the “Cole Memo” created great uncertainty for these states and legal cannabis businesses, and put citizens in jeopardy for following their state laws.

    In my state of California, voters want legal cannabis. It boosts our economy and is a strong medical tool. By 2020, revenues from cannabis sales taxes could reach $1 billion annually for California. This bill will protect California and other states from federal overreach and ensure the will of the American voter is respected.”

    Essentially, the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act would give peace of mind to lawmakers, regulators, 149,000 workers, and the millions of patients and consumers who are dependent on the normalization of lawful marijuana markets. The most essential component in creating a stable business environment to meet consumer demand is certainty and that is what states would have with Reps. Correa’s legislation to protect state-lawful programs from militant marijuana prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Click here to send a message to your Representative in support of the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act. 

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 14, 2018

    Steves House Briefing

    Yesterday on Capitol Hill, bestselling guidebook author and travel host Rick Steves held two briefings to address marijuana prohibition to a gathering of members of Congress and their staff. Inspired by Europe’s pragmatic approach to drug policy, with success measured by harm reduction rather than incarceration, Steves said that he is motivated to speak in favor of legalization because of its impact on civil liberties.

    “ There are so many reasons to end the prohibition on marijuana. Whether you’re concerned about the well-being of children, fairness for minority communities, redirecting money away from criminals and into state’s coffers, stemming the horrific bloodshed in Mexico, or civil liberties; it is clearly time for a new approach,” said Rick Steves.

    The discussion on marijuana policy covered the current issues stemming from the current tension between federal prohibition and the ever-evolving patchwork of marijuana law reforms at the state level.

    “It’s not 2010, we have years of data that is showing from my home state of Washington that regulation works,” said Steves.

    Steves Senate Briefing

    One of the nation’s leading voices to end the prohibition of marijuana, Rick Steves serves as a member of the board of NORML and has advocated extensively in support of the successful legalization efforts in Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and his home state of Washington.

    The events were organized by NORML in cooperation with the recently formed bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus. The Cannabis Caucus bills itself as “to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.”

    “Rick Steves has worked for decades to shine a light on the impact of our outdated marijuana laws. He has been a tireless advocate to end cannabis prohibition,” said Rep. Blumenauer, co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus. “We are thrilled to welcome him to Capitol Hill as we continue to educate Members and their staff about the importance of addressing this issue now.”

     

    Click here to send a message to your federal officials and demand that they reform our nations marijuana laws.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 9, 2018

    Marijuana medicineAfter a brief government shutdown, congressional leadership voted to enact a six-week continuing resolution that maintains present federal spending levels and priorities through March 23, 2018. The resolution extends medical cannabis patient protections imposed by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment until that date.

    The amendment, which has been in place since 2014, maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    Without these protections, medical cannabis cultivators and dispensaries exist with a greater threat than normal of federal enforcement of national prohibition, yet the certainty that these protections will be honored have been in doubt throughout the entire Trump administration.

    When President Trump signed the first Continuing Resolution in 2017, he issued a signing statement regarding the amendment:

    “Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

    Essentially stating that his administration believes they can ignore these protections if they do not view them to be Constitutional.

    Under this mentality, Attorney General Jeff Sessions could move in to shut down medical marijuana facilities at any point. Should Sessions crackdown, we are confident that we would win a court challenge, given previous rulings on this very question. However, it would be a reactive exercise after an enforcement action, and during that process, the patients who relied on a supply chain to get them their medication would not have a lawful means to do so.

    So now, the government reopens under another CR, the protections are back in place, and we are right back where we were; in an uneasy détente. The threat of Sessions on one side and medical patients in a state-lawful system trying to alleviate their suffering.

    Further, Congressional leadership must reauthorize this language as part of the forthcoming appropriations in order for the provisions to stay in effect in any new spending deal. Last July, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) offered identical language before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which approved it. However, House Rules Committee Chair Peter Sessions (R-TX) has refused to allow House members to vote on similar language. The provision will now be considered by House and Senate leadership when the two chambers’ appropriations bills are reconciled, should Congress ever set a FY18 budget, of which is already over a third of the way behind us.

    Click here to send a message to your lawmakers and tell them to retain these protections.

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