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GOVERNMENT

  • by NORML April 22, 2020

    Ten members of the Senate, led by Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and 34 members of the House, led by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Tom McClintock (R-CA), have recently issued letters requesting Small Business Administration funding programs be expanded so that they may be accessed by state-licensed cannabis businesses. 

    “With the majority of regulated states designating medical cannabis facilities as ‘essential’ to the health and welfare of the community during this time of crisis, it is critical that Congress authorizes the Small Business Association to similarly recognize their importance and to allow the agency to provide these small businesses with economic assistance to ensure public health, patient access, and continuity of care,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Many of these establishments are small-to-medium size operators, with their employees keeping their doors open without access to the support systems in place for other businesses, thus depriving them of potentially lifesaving protections.”

    Members of the Senate wrote:

    “Given the nature of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that every American small business has the capacity to protect the health and economic wellbeing of their community and workforce. Therefore, we ask Senate Leadership to include in any future relief package provisions to allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and the small businesses who work with this industry to access the critical SBA support they need during these challenging and unprecedented times.”

    You can find the full Senate letter here

    Members of the House wrote:

    “The COVID-19 outbreak is no time to permit federal policy to stand in the way of the reality that millions of Americans in states across the country face daily—that state-legal cannabis businesses are sources of economic growth and financial stability for thousands of workers and families, and need our support. Given the nature of the epidemic, we must ensure that everyone has the capacity to carry out the recommended public health and worker-focused measures. Without doing that, we risk undercutting the public health efforts nationwide.”

    You can find the full House letter here

    The state-licensed cannabis industry employs more than 240,000 American workers, over four times the number of American workers as does the coal industry. The majority of these businesses are small-to-medium in size.

    In the majority of jurisdictions that regulate cannabis marketplaces, lawmakers in recent weeks have designated these operations to be ‘essential’ to the health and well-being of the patient community. In others, regulators have either relaxed protocols or moved forward with new, emergency rules to facilitate expanded access – such as permitting patients to seek telemedicine appointments and allowing dispensaries to permit curbside pick-up and home delivery.

    A representative from the Small Business Administration previously acknowledged, “With the exception of businesses that produce or sell hemp and hemp-derived products (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-334), marijuana-related businesses are not eligible for SBA-funded services.”

    NORML has consistently been working with its Congressional allies to move forward several pieces of legislation, such as HR 3540: The Ensuring Safe Capital Access for All Small Businesses Act, and HR 3884/S 2227: The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act – which “prohibit the Small Business Administration from declining to provide certain small business loans to an eligible entity solely because it is a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.”

    You can send a message to your lawmakers in support of this effort by clicking here. 

  • by NORML April 14, 2020

    Federal law enforcement agents and their partners made fewer marijuana-related arrests in 2019, but seized a far greater number of plants than they did the year before, according to annual data compiled by US Drug Enforcement Administration.

    According to figures published in the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, the agency and its law enforcement partners confiscated an estimated four million marijuana plants in 2019 – up from 2.8 million in 2018.

    By contrast, marijuana-related marijuana arrests compiled by the DEA fell to 4,718 in 2019 – a decrease of 16 percent from 2018’s totals. It was the second-lowest number of arrests reported by the DEA in the past decade. In 2011, for instance, the DEA seized over 8.7 million marijuana plants and made over 8,500 annual arrests as part of its nationwide Eradication/Suppression activities.

    Commenting on the longer-term trends, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Following the enactment of statewide adult-use cannabis legalization laws, both DEA-related marijuana arrests and seizures have fallen dramatically. That said, these totals affirm that targeting marijuana-related growing operations still remains a DEA priority, even at a time when most Americans have made it clear that they want cannabis policies to head in a very different direction.”

    Much of the spike in plant seizures in 2019 was attributable to an increase in activity in California. In 2019, law enforcement eradicated 1,344 outdoor grow sites statewide — up from 889 in 2018, and seized nearly 3.2 million plants, nearly twice the previous year’s total.

    In 2018, the same year that California began permitting licensed adult-use sales of cannabis, marijuana plant seizures fell nearly 30 percent from the prior year. In February 2019 however, the Governor announced the deployment of national guard troops to track down on illicit marijuana grow operations, an effort which may have played a role in the sudden uptick in seizures in 2019.

    According to the DEA, “The DCE/SP began funding eradication programs in Hawaii and California in 1979. The program rapidly expanded to include programs in 25 states by 1982. By 1985, all 50 states were participating in the DCE/SP. … In 2020, the DEA continued its nation-wide cannabis eradication efforts, providing resources to support the 127 state and local law enforcement agencies that actively participate in the program.”

    DEA data for 2019 is online here.

  • by NORML April 8, 2020

    The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has formally submitted comments to the US Federal Register opposing the Drug Enforcement Administration’s proposed rule changes governing the federal production and distribution of cannabis for clinical research purposes.

    Under existing regulations, the agency only licenses one facility — the University of Mississippi — to cultivate cannabis for use in FDA-approved clinical trials. Researchers have consistently criticized the poor quality of these plants, which they say fail to accurately reflect the varieties of marijuana commercially available in the United States. As a result, the DEA has been encouraged for over a decade to expand the pool of federally licensed cannabis producers — a move that the agency has largely resisted.

    In 2016, the agency appeared to reconsider its longstanding policy, and publicly stated for the first time that it would consider additional applicants. To date, however, the DEA has failed to either affirm or reject any of the more than 30 applications it has received. Under the proposed rules issued by the DEA on March 23, the agency continues to maintain sole discretion to decide which applicants, if any, will be permitted to grow cannabis for research purposes, and it provides no timeline under which the DEA must act on the numerous applications already before it.

    In its response to the DEA’s proposed changes, NORML writes: “While NORML has long supported facilitating and expanding domestic clinical research efforts, we do not believe that these proposed rules, if enacted, will achieve this outcome. Rather, we believe that the adoption of these rules may further stonewall efforts to advance our scientific understanding of cannabis by unduly expanding the DEA’s authority and control over decisions that ought to be left up to health experts and scientists.”

    Specifically, the newly proposed rules expand the DEA’s authority by declaring it to be the only entity legally permitted to purchase, warehouse, and dispense any cannabis grown under a federal license.

    NORML’s response concludes: “Rather than compelling scientists to access marijuana products of questionable quality manufactured by a limited number of federally licensed producers, NORML believes that federal regulators should allow investigators to access the cannabis that is currently being produced by the multitude of state-sanctioned growers and retailers throughout the country. … Doing so would not only facilitate and expedite clinical cannabis research in the United States, but it would also bring about a long overdue end to decades of DEA stonewalling and interference with respect to the advancement of our scientific understanding of the cannabis plant.”

    An abbreviated version of NORML’s comments appears here.

    ON BACKGROUND: The DEA has consistently discouraged the scientific investigation of cannabis, particularly with respect to its therapeutic properties.

    * In 1988 the agency’s own administrative law judge concluded marijuana to be “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man,” and demanded the DEA reclassify the plant so that doctors could prescribe it. The agency set aside the decision and refused to act upon the judge’s order.

    * In 2007, the agency lost yet another lawsuit. In this case, the judge ruled that there existed an “inadequate supply of marijuana available for research purposes,” and therefore determined that permitting the privately licensed production of cannabis for research purposes would be “in the public interest.” Once again, the agency set aside the decision and refused to abide by the judge’s ruling.

    * in 2016, the agency enacted a revised set of rules explicitly designed to expand the pool of applicants eligible to cultivate cannabis for use in FDA-approved clinical protocols. Following the issuance of these new rules, dozens of proprietors — including branches of the University of California and the University of Massachusetts — applied to the agency seeking licensure. But to date, the agency has neither accepted nor denied a single applicant.

  • by Delaware NORML April 3, 2020

    Medical marijuana

    In case anyone has been living under a particularly heavy and sound-proof rock, medical cannabis is essential. While we commend our state officials for declaring that centers will remain open during the state of emergency, we need to ensure our patients have uninterrupted access to their life saving medicine. This is especially important during these uncertain times. Delaware NORML sparked up the community for a call to action, urging Governor Carney to offer delivery options to adequately serve medical cannabis patients in this time of crisis.

    We are thrilled to pass on this joint effort. Delaware officials, lawmakers and compassion center owners are working together to quickly roll out delivery options for cannabis patients.  We offer our highest appreciation to everyone who helped make this happen!

    With the recommended guidelines, many patients have been left without an option to obtain their medicine. Some patients may not drive and many do not have an authorized caregiver. Ordering online with pick up options isn’t enough when a vast majority of patients are now homebound with little resources to facilitate those services. Medical patients are the most at risk and we should be doing everything we can to ensure their safety. Hopefully these new updates to our medical cannabis program will be implemented quickly.

    Columbia Care will be the first center to offer this option, hopefully in the coming weeks. They are working quickly but must ensure they can safely implement delivery services. Please note this is a brand new service, being launched for this first time during an active crisis. Columbia Care will unfortunately be unable to service all patients, especially at first. Once the other two centers are also set up for delivery services, the process will improve.

    Please have patience with the centers’ staff during this process. We are all trying to do the best we can with what we have.  Please be mindful that for many patients this will literally be their only option. If you can facilitate the online ordering with pick up option safely, please continue to do so and save this service for those who need it most.

    Please visit the centers’ websites for updates and more information to be posted soon.

    DE Medical Cannabis Centers:

    Help us continue to cultivate our cannabis community and join us on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter (@denorml) to find out how you can help us spark up reform.

  • by Jay Selthofner, Northern Wisconsin NORML Executive Director April 1, 2020

    Northern Wisconsin NORML is pleased to announce the release of our 2020 Candidate Scorecard. This extensive database assigns a letter grade ‘A’ through ‘F’ to the state’s elected officials based upon their comments, authored/co-authored/sponsored/co-sponsored legislation, voting records, interaction with NORML supporters in 2019 and the past that are specific to matters of marijuana policy.

    America’s Governors and legislative bodies are our nation’s most powerful state-elected officials and they often play a key role in this ongoing legislative debate. Here is where our Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate Stand on the issues surrounding cannabis policy.

    See a brief synopsis below, and read the full Executive Summary prepared by Northern Wisconsin NORML.

    Public opinion in support of marijuana law reform, including adult-use legalization, is at an all-time high. Nonetheless, few federal lawmakers are espousing views on cannabis policy that comport with those of the majority of their constituents. As a result, most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy takes place at the state level. America’s Governors and legislative bodies are our nation’s most powerful state-elected officials and they often play a key role in this ongoing legislative debate. Here is where our Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate Stand on the issues surrounding cannabis policy.

    Key Findings

    Below are the key findings from Northern Wisconsin NORML’s 2019-20 Legislative Scorecard. Among the 132 members of the Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate:

    • 132 members total and 67 members or (51%) received a passing grade of ‘C-’ or higher (99 Representatives and 33 Senators)
    • Of the total members of 132:
    • 33 members (25%) received a grade of ‘A’ (26 Representatives and 7 Senators)
    • 21 members (16%) received a ‘B’ grade (14 Representatives and 7 Senators)
    • 13 members (10%) received a ‘C’ grade (12 Representatives and 1 Senator)
    • 16 members (12%) received a ‘D’ grade (12 Representatives and 4 Senators)
    • 49 members (37%) received a failing grade (35 Representatives and 14 Senators)

    Now digest the Senate and Assembly with no party affiliation:

    • 15 out of 33 Senators from both parties (45%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (7 A’s,7 B’s, and 1 C). 18 Senators Failed.
    • 51 out of 99 Assembly Representatives from both parties (51%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (25 A’s, 14 B’s, and 12 C’s). 48 Assembly Representatives Failed.

    Now digest the party affiliation:

    • Of the 50 Democrats in both houses, 42 members (84%) received a passing grade of a ‘C’ or higher.
    • Of the 82 Republicans in both houses, 25 members (30%) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher.

    Now address the November 2020 Election and who is left:

    • 16 of the 33 Senate Seats are up for election in November 2020.  Of those 16 seats 7 (44%) are currently held by a Republican who received a Failing Grade; 2 of those Failing Incumbent Republicans will not be on the ballot in 2020. (Olsen retired and Tiffany is seeking the 7th Congressional Seat.  Also 3 Democrat Incumbents with high grades will be absent as Miller, Taylor and Hanson all leave the Senate.
    • Of the remaining 17 Senators (11 Republicans + 6 Democrats) not up for re-election in 2020: 11 Republicans with only 1 ‘A’ / passing grade and the remaining 10 Senators receiving ‘F’ Failing grades; and of the 6 Democrats remaining 5 received passing grades (2 ‘A’ and 3 ‘B’ and 1 ‘D’).

    The Takeaway

    Political support among Wisconsin state elected officials for marijuana policy reform continues to grow. However, this support is more partisan than ever before. No Republicans are on record in support of adult-use legalization and not enough are in favor of regulating medical cannabis access. By contrast, a large percentage of Democrats are supportive of both issues. This partisan divide is not similarly reflected among the general public. According to national polling data compiled by Gallup in October 2019, 66 percent of the public — including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — favor adult-use legalization. Bipartisan support among the public for medical marijuana legalization is even stronger. Until this public support is similarly reflected among lawmakers, many cannabis-specific legislative reforms – in particular adult-use legalization proposals – will continue to meet resistance at the state level.

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