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Advocacy

  • by NORML Canada October 15, 2019

    Legal Marijuana Sales Being in Canada

    NORML Canada launches official Post-Legalization platform to focus advocacy efforts on reforming Canada’s legal Cannabis system.

    In light of the first year of legalization, NORML Canada has monitored the Canadian cannabis landscape closely, to determine the next steps for crafting achievable and functional reform of cannabis regulations.

    The five key “pillars” established by NORML Canada are designed to help focus organizational resources to support our ongoing government and public outreach.

    1) Increased Access 
    Our goal is to ensure consumers have ease of access to legal cannabis products, access to medical dispensaries, access to world-class product options, as well as access to affordable legal options.

    2) Transitioning “Unregulated Market” into the legal framework
    Creating avenues for the current unlicensed market to be welcomed as part of the legal cannabis industry in order to achieve the government’s stated goal of disincentivizing the illicit market.

    3) Social discrimination protections
    Putting in place protective regulations that remove stigma barriers and consequences for consumers in the workplace, housing, and family.

    4) US relations – border & banking
    Ensuring international respect for Canada’s sovereign laws. Removal of any unnecessary international banking/travel barriers for legal business and cannabis entrepreneurs.

    5) Expungement, apologies, reparations & beyond
    Government must acknowledge the fact that cannabis laws were historically unjust and discriminatory in the first place.

    NORML Canada invites the public and press to join us at the historic Hotbox Lounge on Oct 17th, from 4-7pm to launch the new official platform, and to discuss the year-to-date. 

    NORML Canada proudly welcomes our sister chapter to the South – NORML Michigan, to share insights on Michigan’s newly passed legal recreational cannabis bill. Our combined goals are to understand how we can learn from and collaborate with one another.

    For additional information please contact Info@norml.ca

  • by David Holland, Executive Director of Empire State NORML October 9, 2019

    There has been some confusion and misinformation circulating about what New York’s latest expansion of marijuana decriminalization means and what impact it will have on criminal prosecutions going forward. 

     

    The Short Synopsis of the Offenses and Sentences 

    There are 2 provisions of New York’s Penal Law that relate marijuana-related offenses. Penal Law 220 relates to “controlled substances” offenses which include possession of “concentrated cannabis” which is defined as being more than 2 1/2% by volume of the total volume of cannabis seized. PL 220 then imposes escalating grades of punishment depending on the weight of concentrated cannabis. Simple possession of a very small amount of ‘concentrated cannabis’ is an A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. But, possession of just 1/4 ounce of concentrated cannabis is a D Felony and punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment. 

    Penal Law 221 is far more lenient as it specifically relates to cannabis flower penalizing possession based on the pure weight of the flower (minus root balls, stems, stalks, seeds, etc), not its chemical potency like PL 220 does. It too has escalating grades of punishment, but as of August 28, 2019, now permits much greater amounts to be possessed up to 2 ounces before a misdemeanor crime is actually committed. Possession of flower does not become a felony offense unless the defendant is in possession of more than 8 ounces with a corresponding maximum jail term of 4 years. 

    As of August 28, 2019, public consumption and possession of up to two ounces of cannabis flower is punishable as a marijuana possession violation (not a crime) and the sentence of that offense is a monetary fine up to $200 under Penal Law 221. However, possession or public consumption of wax, shatter, hashish, and/or cannabis oil which is more than 2 1/2% THC by volume, otherwise possessed in any amount, is still punishable as a “controlled substances” crime under Penal Law 220 which results in dramatically different consequences. 

    In addition to the potential length of incarceration, a significant difference between those two penal provisions under which marijuana-related offenses may be charge is that when charged under Penal Law 221, the criminal defendant may, over the objection of the prosecutor, request pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law 170.55 or 170.56 asking the court to adjourn the case in contemplation of dismissal (“ACD” or “MACD”). That means that if the person is not rearrested in a 6-12 month period, then the charges will automatically dismiss and all the records sealed as if the case never happened. 

    By contrast, a criminal defendant charged with a controlled substances offense for possession of “concentrated cannabis” (hash, oil, wax, shatter, etc) under Penal Law 220 cannot ask the Court to adjourn the charges in contemplation of dismissal and the court cannot do so without the consent of the Prosecutor. So, the criminal defendant is really at the mercy of the Assistant District Attorney who is handling the case. Worse, if convicted of the controlled substances misdemeanor under PL 220, in addition to the risk of incarceration, there are mandatory fines and surcharges as well as DNA fees and sample collections that can be imposed. Such convictions may not be subject to the newly enacted expungement provisions as they are “controlled substances” offenses and not “marijuana” offenses which were the sole targets for expungement under the new decriminalization law. 

     

    Legal Provisions

    New York Penal Law defines all of the violations and crimes that are punishable in New York State. Drug-related offenses fall under those provisions of the penal code that considered offenses against Public Health and Morals. Those controlled substances which constitute drug offenses are defined and identified in the Public Health Law. 

    Under the Public Health Law 3302(4) “Concentrated Cannabis” is defined as: 

    (a) The separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from a plant of the genus Cannabis; or 

    (b) a material, preparation, mixture, compound or other substance which contains more than two and one-half (2 1/2%) by weight of delta-9 THC… 

    Under PHL 3302(5) a “Controlled Substance” means any substance listed in section 3306 of the PHL. “Marihuana” is a Schedule I controlled substance under PHL 3306(d)(13). Under PHL 3302(21) “Marihuana” means all parts of the plant of the genus cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin. It does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks (except extracted resin therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination. 

    The distinguishing feature between “marihuana” and “concentrated cannabis” is greater than 2 1/2% concentration by volume requirement. Once that concentration threshold is exceeded, the arrestee may be charged with misdemeanor possession of either a controlled substance offense under PL 220 or the more lenient weight-based provisions of PL 221 that specifically pertain to marijuana. 

    The 2 1/2% potency threshold is by volume, so unlike other drugs, the medium in which it is contained, ie, the glass vial, pipe, etc., should not be weighed to raise the potential penalty since the inclusion of the weight of the medium may in fact reduce the potency determination as the wax, oil, etc, thereby reducing the concentration calculation. 

    While the Public Health Law 3306 and Penal Law 220 and 221 each address cannabis oil derived from the stalks and stems (but not the seeds), and resin, the determining feature is the 2 1/2% by volume threshold of demarcation to constitute a controlled substances offense. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, any oil or flower with less than 0.3 THC by volume , is now deemed to be legal and that determination will be binding on the states due to Congress’ ‘commerce clause’ and power to regulate interstate commerce. 

    That means that in New York State, personal possession of any flower or oil which falls between 0.3% THC and 2 1/2% THC by volume should be prosecutable only under the more lenient provisions of Penal Law 221. 

    The sentences for each provision of the Penal Law are found in Penal Law 70.00 et seq. 

  • by Josh Kasoff, Nevada NORML October 2, 2019

    Once again, Nevada NORML has remained hard at work, advocating for both patient access and rights as well as the criminal justice reform that this country desperately requires. However, this time, they’ve taken their advocacy to our nation’s capital for NORML’s National Conference to lobby for reform on the federal level and expanded access to medicinal cannabis, such as The MORE Act and the Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2019.

    During the previous months, Las Vegas NORML traversed the Battle Born State’s dispensaries, collecting signatures from medical patients and consumers alike in support of the surprising amount of monumental federal cannabis reform legislation, many of which would positively affect the lives of the consumers themselves. With every visit, we laid witness to the true strength and diversity of those who want cannabis reform. From Vietnam to Iraq war veterans to cancer survivors who swear by cannabis to those whose lives have been irreparably damaged from The War on Drugs, the Las Vegas chapter collected over 2000 signatures from constituents to hand deliver to their respective representatives, hopefully serving as a strong visual reminder of the support behind federal reform.   

    “The letter writing campaign was one of the most impactful ways that we showed legislators that their constituents want change.” said Tina Ulman, Communications Director.    

    “This was the third year that Nevada NORML members have been able to represent consumers at the federal level in DC,” said Nevada NORML director Madison Saglibene.  “Easily our most successful effort, we anticipate all of our federal representatives to cosponsor pending legislation that will work towards protections for veterans in the coming weeks.”

    Throughout the conference, Nevada NORML’s A-team of diverse volunteers met with representatives such as Congressman Steven Horsford to show their gratitude for his co-sponsorship of The MORE Act, as well as Nevada’s other members of Congress who may not be so open to cannabis reform such as Mark Amodei. They listened to informative and impactful speeches from notable individuals such as Hawaii Congresswoman and presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard, who most importantly sponsored the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2019.

    Along with Gabbard, NORML volunteers heard the current federal state of cannabis and possible reforms from longtime cannabis reform supporter and chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and bowtie connoisseur, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. 

    The impact of Nevada NORML’s trip to Washington DC created a ripple effect that will be felt for years down the road in our community and will certainly lead to further reforms in 2021, both within Nevada and on the federal level.

    Even with the glitz and glamour of Washington, Saglibene and the other Nevada NORML volunteers who attended are most grateful towards our community members, cannabusinesses and philanthropy groups that provided a generous donation to our efforts regardless of the size.

    “It is not without the support of our community members and state, that we were able to make this commitment. Thank you to everyone who contributed even just $1 because it truly made the difference.” said Saglibene. 

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate September 27, 2019

    On Wednesday, September 25th, 2019, NORML testified at the DC Council Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in support of B23-0309, the “Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Amendment Act of 2019”, which seeks to expand workplace protections for medical cannabis patients in the District of Columbia. 

    Dozens of District residents, medical cannabis patients, and advocates came to speak in favor of ending the practice of randomly testing public employees and/or those seeking employment for their off-the-job use of cannabis. DC Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners (ANCs) and unions also came out to speak on behalf of their constituencies and union members in support of the proposed legislation. The hearing lasted more than seven hours. 

    Councilmembers Elissa Silverman (Committee Chair and At-Large Councilmember), David Grosso (At-Large Councilmember), and Trayon White (Ward 8 Councilmember) interacted with witnesses in rounds of questioning to clarify points made in witness testimony. By the time NORML left the witness panel — after an hour of testimony and questioning — the science was made clear: Medical cannabis patients do not present any greater risk to workplace safety, and drug testing for cannabis metabolites does not provide any means of determining whether someone is impaired on the job. You can read more about NORML’s position on cannabis in the workplace here

    You can view the hearing by clicking here. NORML’s testimony begins at 32:00. You can also read NORML’s submitted written testimony here

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 25, 2019

    Members of the House of Representatives voted 321 to 103 in favor of HR 1595: The SAFE Banking Act, which amends federal law so that explicitly banks and other financial institutions may work directly with state-legal marijuana businesses. 

    Two-hundred and twenty-nine Democrats and 91 Republicans cast ‘yes’ votes in favor of the measure.

    This historic vote marks the first time ever that a chamber of Congress has ever held a successful floor vote on a stand-alone piece of marijuana reform legislation. 

    Today’s vote is a significant victory for the cannabis reform movement and here’s why: for the first time ever, a supermajority of the House voted affirmatively to recognize that the legalization and regulation of marijuana is a superior public policy to prohibition and criminalization. 

    Now we look to the Senate, where we are cautiously optimistic. Given the strong bipartisanship of the House vote, coupled with Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo’s recent pledge to hold a markup on this issue, we believe that Congress’ appetite to resolve this important issue has never been greater.

    But we are not done. In fact, we’re just getting started. 

    Why NORML Supports Passage of HR 1595: The Safe Banking Act:

    Federal law currently defines all marijuana-related endeavors as criminal enterprises, including those commercial activities that are licensed and legally regulated under state laws. Therefore, almost no state-licensed cannabis businesses can legally obtain a bank account, process credit cards, or provide loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs. 

    In this environment, the rapidly growing multi-billion dollar cannabis industry must operate largely on a cash-only basis, which makes businesses more susceptible to theft and more difficult to audit. This ongoing federal prohibition also places the safety and welfare of these businesses’ customers at risk, as they must carry significant amounts of cash on their persons in order to make legal purchases at retail facilities. For these reasons, NORML has long advocated that federal lawmakers vote “yes” on The SAFE Banking Act.

    What’s Next?

    Today’s vote is a significant first step, but it must not be the last. Much more action will still need to be taken by lawmakers. In the Senate, we demand that lawmakers in the Senate Banking Committee hold true to their commitment to move expeditiously in support of similar federal reforms. And in the House, we anticipate additional efforts to move forward and pass comprehensive reform legislation like The MORE Act — which is sponsored by the Chair of the House Judiciary — in order to ultimately comport federal law with the new political and cultural realities surrounding marijuana.

    Now Is the Time to Demand Congress Do MORE.

    Now that House members have overwhelmingly shown their support for HR 1595, it is time for them to address more comprehensive reform legislation, namely The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act.

    Introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the MORE Act is bipartisan legislation that removes the marijuana plant from the Controlled Substances Act, thereby descheduling the substance at the federal level and enabling states to set their own regulatory policies absent the threat of federal interference.

    But, perhaps most importantly, the MORE Act seeks to address many of the past wrongs of marijuana criminalization. Specifically, it would appropriate a portion of the federal taxes collected from the legal industry to pay for the expungement of past criminal records and to partially fund reentry services, job training, and community improvements in jurisdictions that have been most disproportionately impacted by war on marijuana. Furthermore, the MORE Act additional allocates a portion of the federal taxes collected to the Small Business Administration to support small businesses and entrepreneurs who seek to engage in the emerging legal marketplaces. 

    Strike while the iron is hot and send a message to your lawmakers in support of ending prohibition NOW!

    Take time today to tell your members of Congress that their work is far from over. Nearly one in four Americans now reside in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal and it is time for members of Congress to stand up for their rights and liberties. 

    Thank you again for your support for NORML and for being on the right side of history. We could never have gotten this far without you, and with your continued support we know that we can ultimately secure cannabis freedom in our time. 

     

    Our educational and advocacy efforts are supported by thousands of people throughout the country as we work to advance marijuana reform in all 50 states and the federal level. Can you kick in $5, $10 or $20 a month to help us keep going?

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