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  • by NORML July 18, 2018

    [UPDATE: Governor Fallin has also now called for the Board to rescind its amended rules.]

    [UPDATE: The president of the state Board of Health has announced that the group will call a special meeting “as soon as possible” to consider the Attorney General’s recommendations.]

    Oklahoma’s Attorney General warns that members of the state Board of Health “acted in excess of their statutory authority” when they amended State Question 788 – the state’s voter-approved medical cannabis access law.

    In a letter issued on Wednesday to the Interim Commissioner of Health, Attorney General Mike Hunter states that the Board “overstepped its authority” by imposing new rules prohibiting the sale of herbal forms of cannabis, and mandating on-site pharmacists at licensed dispensaries.

    “This is a wise move by the Attorney General, both from a policy and a political standpoint,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “When the will of the people is to ensure that patients have the ability to have access to physician-recommended therapeutic treatments, the will of the people deserves to be honored. Absent a majority vote of the legislature, the decision of the voters in this matter ought to remain sacrosanct.”

    To date, two separate lawsuits have been filed against the state health department in response to the new rules, which Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law last week.

    “I have no doubt that the board in good faith sought to regulate marijuana in a manner it believed would best promote the health and safety of Oklahomans,” the AG said. “However, in so doing, the board made policy judgments not authorized by statute. Such policy decisions are the exclusive prerogative of the legislature and the people. … [T]he people of the state have spoken and I have a legal duty to honor the decision made by the electorate.”

    He concluded, “It is therefore my judgement that the Board reconvene to reconsider the rules … in a manner consistent with the advice of this letter.”

    Reform advocates in the state claim to be just several thousand signatures shy of those necessary to place a broader adult use initiative on the November ballot. However, Oklahoma’s Secretary of State has claimed that a vote on the issue will likely be delayed until 2020 even if activists meet the signature requirements.

  • by Matthew Bratcher, Executive Director, KY NORML July 16, 2018

    There are approximately 700,000 senior citizens in our state. The Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville found people age 65 have grown 23 percent since the 2010 census, while the number of people younger than 65 has declined and they account for over 15 percent of our population and growing.

    In the past few years researchers have been looking into how cannabis therapy is both safe and effective among elderly patients diagnosed with chronic pain, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, “[a]fter six months of treatment, 93.7% of the respondents reported improvement in their condition and the reported pain levelwas reduced from a median of 8 on a scale of 0-10 to a median of 4.”

    Investigators with the Alcohol Research Group assessed trends in marijuana use between the years 1984 and 2015. Authors reported that, compared with older Americans 30 years ago, older respondents today are some 20 times more likely to acknowledge using cannabis. This suggests the stigma of cannabis from drug war propaganda has been eroded and education is reaching seniors.

    “We found that rates of use among older groups increased quite significantly since the 1980s, especially for men in their fifties and sixties,” the study’s lead author stated in a press release. Their finding is consistent with those of other studies reporting upticks in cannabis use by seniors.

    Separate data presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society finds that as many as 65 percent of older adults reduce their use of prescription painkillers after initiating medical cannabis therapy – a finding that is consistent with those of numerous other studies assessing marijuana substitution patterns in various patient populations.

    Seniors, with the benefit of life experience, professional knowledge, and 20/20 hindsight, are potentially our strongest allies in the fight to end Marijuana prohibition. We urge our Commonwealth’s seniors and their loved ones to take action and contact their state representatives by calling 1-800-372-7181 and letting them know they support cannabis reform in Kentucky.

    High Regards,
    Matthew Bratcher
    Executive Director, KY NORML

    To support KY NORML you can DONATE HERE and follow us on Facebook and Twitter! Your donations help pay the bills and allow us to function and continue to make a difference in our state! Can you kick in $5, $10 or $20 to help us keep going?

  • by NORML July 13, 2018

    Legalize MarijuanaA state-commissioned study released today by the New York Department of Health recommends replacing cannabis criminalization with a policy of adult use legalization.

    The 74-page study, entitled “Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State,” acknowledges the following:

    “Regulating marijuana can reduce opioid use;”

    “Regulating marijuana may lead to a reduction in the use of synthetic cannabinoids;”

    “Legalizing marijuana will reduce disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of racial and ethnic minority communities;”

    “Regulating marijuana will create jobs;”

    “Marijuana regulation could generate long-term cost savings.”

    The study’s authors conclude: “A regulated marijuana program enjoys broad support and would have significant health, social justice, and economic benefits. … Regulating marijuana enables public health officials to minimize the potential risks of marijuana use through outreach, education, quantity limits at point of sale, quality control, and consumer protection. … The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

    Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The Department of Health ought to be praised for taking a sober look at the available evidence and issuing sensible policy recommendations. Criminalizing adults who use cannabis is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern — but it should not be a criminal justice matter.”

    He added: “Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, marijuana is here to stay. Our laws should reflect this reality, not deny it, and lawmakers should govern and regulate the marijuana market accordingly.”

    This announcement comes in the midst of an opioid and heroin overdose epidemic in the United States.  New York City experienced 937 overdose deaths in 2015, 1,374 in 2016, and approximately 1,000 in 2017, once all numbers are finalized and verified.  Statewide, New York saw 8,444 hospitalizations from all opioid overdoses in 2016, up from 2,185 in 2015.

    Legalization will also lessen the racial disparities in arrest among white people and people of color.  This change in policy will let those who self-medicate with marijuana to receive a medical card and will less their fear of being arrested for marijuana possession.  In the first three months of 2018, 89% of those arrested in New York City for marijuana possession were black or Hispanic, despite survey evidence that people of several races smoke cannabis at similar rates.  Over the last three years in New York City, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at a rate eight times that of white people.  In Manhattan, this ratio surges to fifteen.  Despite a similar number of calls to 911 and 311 (an NYC helpline), marijuana arrests are higher in those city precincts whose populations are predominantly people of color.

    The full text of the study is available online here. The executive summary is online here.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate

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

    A lot has happened at the state level this week, starting with Maine lawmakers overriding Gov. Paul LePage’s (R) veto of medical cannabis expansion legislation, by a vote of 119 to 23 in the House and 25 to 8 in the Senate. The measure will now become law later this fall.

    North Dakota activists submitted what they believe are enough signatures (nearly 19,000!) to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the November ballot. State officials must certify 13,452 signatures in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 ballot and are anticipated to take an estimated 35 days to verify proponents’ signatures.

    Directors at the Oklahoma Department of Health voted 5 to 4 to severely limit patients’ access to a wide range of cannabis products. Specifically, the new provisions: prohibit the sale of smokable herbal  cannabis at licensed dispensaries; require dispensaries to have a licensed pharmacist on staff; impose arbitrary THC potency thresholds on various cannabis-infused products; and mandate that dispensary managers obtain at least four hours of continuing education training each calendar year. Qualified patients will still be permitted to grow their own medical marijuana flowers.

    Oklahoma lawmakers formed a bipartisan working group to focus on seeing that medical cannabis is implemented in a way that “conforms to the will of the voters.” House Democrats are calling for a special legislative session to address the issue.

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed legislation into law permitting out-of-state patients to access medical cannabis while visiting Hawaii. The measure also permits licensed dispensaries to sell cartridges to patients containing cannabis extracts and oils. The law took effect upon passage. However, Gov. Ige vetoed legislation to allow medical cannabis as a substitute for opioids, and for substance use and withdrawal symptoms, stating that the responsibility of adding new qualifying conditions should be left up to the Health Department, not lawmakers.

    Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) signed a bill into law allowing those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged for crimes that were subsequently decriminalized, such as marijuana possession. Those with past convictions for crimes involving the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis can now petition the court to seek an order of expungement.

    And Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation into law to facilitate state-sponsored medical cannabis research.

    At a more local level, The Dane County, Wisconsin Board voted to place a marijuana legalization advisory question on the November ballot, a La Crosse County, Wisconsin Board committee advanced a marijuana legalization advisory measure for the November ballot, and unfortunately the Walworth County, Wisconsin Board killed a marijuana legalization advisory measure proposed for November’s ballot. But activists in Nelsonville, Ohio did turn in signatures to qualify a marijuana decriminalization measure for the November ballot.

    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 Cannabis Criminalization: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

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

    Delaware

    Senate Bill 197 seeks to permit those convicted of past marijuana possession convictions to seek expungement.

    The measure would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting the expungement of any past marijuana possession violations that are no longer defined as a crime under state law. State officials estimate the legislation could affect up to 1,300 people convicted of a single marijuana crime from 1977 to 2015.

    Update: SB 197 was sent to to Gov. John Carney’s desk. Legal advisers to the Governor are reviewing the bill, but he is expected to sign it into law.

    DE resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of expungement

    California

    Assembly Bill 1793 seeks “to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

    Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 8/6 at 10am in the John L. Burton Hearing Room.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expungement

    That’s all the legislative updates for this week!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director July 12, 2018

    In advance of NORML’s 2018 Conference and Lobby day that’s taking place July 22nd – 24th in Washington, DC, NORML chapters from around the country will be contacting their representatives to urge their support for marijuana-related bills introduced since the 115th Congress convened on January 3, 2017. For more than four decades, NORML Affiliates and Chapters have demonstrated their ability to mobilize thousands of marijuana advocates from around the country so we hope to create some additional excitement around pending marijuana law reform legislation, and in return, drive participation and engagement.

    We hope all of you will join us in making this a successful campaign!

    Project: NORML 2018 Congressional Letter Writing Campaign

    Who: NORML Chapters and Affiliates

    When: Thursday, July 12, 2018 through Wednesday, July 25, 2018

    Summary: Grassroots letter writing campaign targeting members of the House and Senate requesting their immediate support of pending marijuana-related legislation. We encourage the use of handwritten letters and emails.

    Target Legislation:

    S.1689 / H.R. 4815: The Marijuana Justice Act

    H.R. 1820: The Veterans Equal Access Act

    Why Letters?

    Legislators often tell us that the most effective method of communicating our position on issues is through letters. Letters can be mailed or easily faxed. Phone calls are necessary and helpful, but letters from constituents make the most difference. E-mails are also a great tool, but sometimes it may be difficult to verify that the sender is a constituent. Also, they normally will respond back to the letter sender.

    Must Be A Constituent!

    Know who you’re writing! Legislators disregard any letters not from their constituents, and their staff actually check names and addresses to ensure legitimacy. If you use our online tool or email, make sure to include your address and/or a sentence stating, “I live in your district” or “I am your constituent” to ensure that your letter/email is read.

    Sample Letters: If you decide to use the templates below, please make sure you research the name and address of your representatives. With 535 members of Congress, offices are spread across Capitol Hill in six different Senate and House office buildings.

    To find the correct address, simply type in your zip code and the “Find Your Representative” page will direct you a page with all the details to who your Congress member is and where there office is located. In regard to Senators, each state is represented by two United States Senators, so after you click the link, “Find Your Senator”, you will be directed to a page with a list of US Senators. Here, unlike using your zip code, you can simply select your state utilizing the drop down menu in the upper left hand corner of the website and it will display the names and addresses to your Senators.

    Letter Templates:

    S.1689: The Marijuana Justice Act

    H.R. 4815: The Marijuana Justice Act

    H.R. 1820: The Veterans Equal Access Act

    Social Media Templates: Please use the following templates to help promote our efforts via Facebook and Twitter. Simply cut and paste the information located within the text boxes below into your social media accounts. Also feel free to tag your representatives in your social media posts.

    Marijuana Justice Act – Facebook:

    Click below to support the Marijuana Justice Act!

    If passed by Congress, the Marijuana Justice Act will remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities, expunge federal convictions for marijuana possession, allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing, and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

    The ongoing enforcement of marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

    http://norml.org/action-center/item/support-the-marijuana-justice-act

    Marijuana Justice Act – Twitter:

    Federal: Urge your members of #Congress to support the #Marijuana Justice Act today! Click below to get started. https://bit.ly/2L5DZfm

    Veterans Equal Access Act – Facebook:

    Click below to support the Veterans Equal Access Act!

    If passed by Congress, the Veterans Equal Access Act will expand access to medical cannabis for eligible military veterans. Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of H.R. 1820 will lift this prohibition.

    Lawmakers must stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass the Veterans Equal Access Act!

    http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-house-bill-introduced-to-expand-veterans-access-to-medical-marijuana

    Veterans Equal Access Act – Twitter:

    Federal: Our Veterans deserve better! Contact your lawmakers and urge them to support the #Veterans Equal Access Act today. https://t.co/LPuM3aqTct

    Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please email chapters@norml.org for more information about starting a NORML chapter today!

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