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GOVERNMENT

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate June 22, 2018

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

    At the federal level, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced a bill to protect state-lawful marijuana users from housing discrimination. And the US Senate Appropriations Committee voted to block an amendment that would have protected banks that work with marijuana businesses from being punished by federal regulators.

    Newly introduced legislation by Senators Warren (D-MA) and Gardner (R-CO), the STATES Act, is expected to face some tough hurdles in Congress, as Republican chairs of key committees in the House and Senate have no plans to schedule the bill for a hearing. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, currently has no intentions of considering the bill in committee, and neither does Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

    At the state level, the Republican Party of Texas approved new platform planks endorsing marijuana decriminalization, expanded medical cannabis access, industrial hemp and federal rescheduling. And New Jersey regulators reduced patient fees, added new qualifying conditions, removed strain limits and made other expansions to the state’s medical cannabis program.

    Next Tuesday, June 26, voters in Oklahoma will have the opportunity to decide in favor of providing much-needed medical marijuana access to patients with State Question 788, which will appear on the June 26 ballot. Under this plan, physicians — not lawmakers — will have the final say on making health care decisions involving the use of medical cannabis.

    At a more local level, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and NYPD officials announced that as of September 1, police will no longer arrest people for smoking marijuana publicly, with some exceptions. Brooklyn’s district attorney spoke in support and announced he will move to expunge past cannabis convictions. Manhattan’s district attorney is also on board. Also, The Bethlehem, Pennsylvania City Council approved a marijuana decriminalization ordinance.

     

    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

    Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced bipartisan legislation, The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales. A bipartisan House companion bill has been introduced by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

    This marks the first bicameral, bipartisan legislation to end the federal enforcement of prohibition in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.

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

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

    Senate Bill 20-62, to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

    If passed, the bill would legalize the personal use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for adults age 21 or older, and establish a licensing scheme for its commercial production and retail sale. The tax revenue would be used to fund the implementation of the program and other government services. The bill was already approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: The House Judiciary & Government Operations Committee reconsidered SB 20-62 on 6/21 after it was supposed to get a full House vote, but was instead referred back to committee. The committee made several revisions to the bill that are expected to clear the path to passage.

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

    New York

    Legislation is pending in both chambers to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    Update: A separate version of similar legislation, S. 8987A, has been approved unanimously by the Senate. The bill awaits action from the Assembly. Also, The New York State Health Department publicly announced on June 18 that the agency would be updating its rules to permit patients to be eligible for medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids, making the bills somewhat moot.

    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. The bill was already approved by the Assembly last month.

    Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee on 6/26 at 8:30am in Room 3191.

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

    Senate Bill 829 would exempt compassionate care programs from paying state cannabis taxes when they are providing free medical cannabis to financially disadvantaged people living with serious health conditions.

    Update: The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions approved SB 829 by a 13-1 vote on 6/19 after holding a hearing. The bill now awaits action from the Committee on Revenue and Taxation, where it will be heard on 6/25.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of tax-exempt compassionate care programs

    Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.

    Update: The Assembly’s Banking Committee approved SB 930 by a 10-0 vote on 6/18. The bill now goes to the Business and Professions Committee, where it will be heard on 6/26 at 9am.

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

    That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • by NORML June 20, 2018

    Local Marijuana DecriminalizationEven though recreational marijuana remains criminalized in a majority of US states, more and more municipalities are moving ahead with local laws decriminalizing the possession of cannabis within city limits. For the first time, NORML has released a comprehensive breakdown of these citywide and countywide decriminalization policies.

    Efforts to liberalize municipal marijuana possession penalties in states where cannabis remains criminalized have become increasingly popular in recent years. Since 2012, over 50 localities, such as Albuquerque, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and St. Louis in a dozen states — including Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have enacted municipal laws or resolutions either fully or partially decriminalizing minor cannabis possession offenses. Today, over 10.5 million Americans reside in these localities. (Please note: This total does not include cities or counties in states that have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana statewide).

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri: “Local politicians see firsthand the punitive and disproportionately adverse effects that statewide marijuana criminalization has on their communities and upon their constituents. That is why they are exercising their local legislative powers to protect citizens in their community when state politicians are either unwilling or lack the political courage to do so.”

    DECRIMINALIZATION EXPLAINED

    Under full decriminalization, minor offenses are defined by statute as either non-criminal violations or infractions. Violators are not subject to arrest. Instead, they are cited and mandated to pay a small fine. Violators are not subject to a court appearance nor are they saddled with a criminal conviction or record.  Under partial decriminalization policies, minor marijuana offenses may remain classified as misdemeanor offenses. However, violators are issued a summons in lieu of a criminal arrest.

    Beginning with Oregon in 1973, 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. (Eight of these states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Vermont — have since replaced their decriminalization statutes with statewide adult use legalization legislation.)

    Today, nine states — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island — have fully decriminalized activities specific to the private possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults. Four additional states — Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio — have partially decriminalized marijuana possession offenses. In these latter jurisdictions, cannabis remains classified as a misdemeanor under state law, but the offense does not carry the penalty of jail time. In New York, marijuana possession ‘in public view’ remains punishable as a criminal misdemeanor.

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal: “As public support in favor of marijuana law reform has grown, so too have local efforts by legislators and voters to address the issue at the municipal level. In many regions of the country, local lawmakers are moving to shield their local citizens from state prohibitions — one city at a time.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 19, 2018

    [UPDATE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the new law will officially go into effect on October 17, 2018.]

    Members of the Canadian House and Senate have reconciled and given final approval to C-45, sweeping legislation amending the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act so that those over the age of 18 may legally possess, purchase, and grow personal use quantities of cannabis.

    Majorities of both chambers had previously approved slightly different versions of the measure. Today, Senate lawmakers voted 52-29 to concur with the House’s final version of the bill. According to the BBC, “the bill will likely receive Royal Assent this week, and the government will then choose an official date when the law will come into force.” The new law is anticipated to take effect by mid-September, at which time licensed cannabis retailers are expected to be operational.

    The Act permits those age 18 and older to legally possess and purchase personal use amounts of marijuana or marijuana-infused products from licensed sellers. Households will also be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use. Commercial marijuana production will be licensed by the federal government, while retail distribution of marijuana will be regulated by individual provinces. A Senate amendment that sought to allow provinces to limit or prohibit personal cultivation was ultimately rejected by members of the House. The new law will not amend Canada’s existing medical cannabis access regulations, which permit registered patients to grow or purchase cannabis from authorized licensed producers.

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri praised the vote. “We applaud Canada for showing federal legislators in the United States what can be accomplished with true leadership and dedication to sound public policy,” he said. “America’s leaders would be wise to learn from our neighbors, and similarly replace our archaic and failed marijuana prohibition laws with a regulatory scheme that is largely evidence-based and that reflects cannabis rapidly changing cultural status.”

  • by NORML

    In just seven days, voters in Oklahoma will have the opportunity to decide in favor of providing much-needed medical marijuana access to patients.

    State Question 788 will appear on the June 26 ballot. Under this plan, physicians — not lawmakers — will have the final say on making health care decisions involving the use of medical cannabis.

    Specifically,

    * State Question 788 permits doctors to use their discretion to decide which patients are best treated by medical cannabis;

    * It also empowers patients by permitting them to grow their own personal use quantities of medical cannabis;

    * Those patients who do not not wish to grow their own medicine may obtain cannabis flower, or other types of cannabis-infused products, at licensed dispensaries.

    In January, NORML wholeheartedly endorsed the passage of SQ 788. That is because this measure is one of the broadest, most patient-centric medical marijuana initiatives ever placed on a statewide ballot.

    But passage of SQ 788 is not assured. In recent days, opponents have purchased nearly a half-million dollars in misleading television advertisements to persuade voters to reject SQ 788.

    Voters like you must stand up to their fear-mongering and false claims. In truth, the passage of SQ 788 will provide needed relief to tens of thousands of Oklahomans in a manner similar to the laws of 30 other states.

     

    Under existing Oklahoma laws, the possession of any amount of cannabis is classified as a criminal offense — punishable by up to a year in prison. Engaging in cannabis cultivation or sales may be punishable by up to life in prison. According to a study released this month, Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is 1,079 per 100,000 people — the highest rate in the United States. Seriously ill patients, whose health and welfare relies on the use of this plant, must no longer face these draconian penalties for simply managing their health.

    Oklahoma residents: on Tuesday, June 26, please go to the polls and vote ‘yes’ on State Question 788.

     

  • by NORML

    Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has introduced legislation to protect state-lawful marijuana users from housing discrimination.

    Entitled the “Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act of 2018,”  the legislation includes protections for consumers in both medical and adult use states. It states, “A public housing agency or an owner of federally assisted housing may not establish standards prohibiting admission to the program or federally assisted housing to any household with a member who engages in the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marihuana… in compliance with the law of the State in which such use, distribution, possession, or cultivation takes place.”

    Under the current federal policy, those who consume any controlled substance defined as illegal under federal law, including medical marijuana, are prohibited from being admitted to federally assisted housing. Federal law also allows landlords to evict current residents based on their use of marijuana for any purposes, including the use of medical cannabis by state-qualified patients.

    You can contact your Representative and urge their support for this measure by clicking here. 

     

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