• by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 20, 2018

    Not much.

    Temporary medical cannabis patient protections that have been imposed by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment have now expired with the rest of government spending.

    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 would 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 have moved 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, if the government reopens under another CR, then the protections will go back into place and we will be 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 budget 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 we are already three and a half months in.

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

  • by NORML January 19, 2018

    Attorney General and Anti-Marijuana Crusader Jeff Sessions

    Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) held a bipartisan special order on Wednesday, January 17th to address the implications surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind the Cole Memo. Simply put, a special order is a practice in Congress where a member is able to speak on any topic they wish after the House of Representatives has been adjourned for the day.

    Rep. Gaetz was joined by Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Lou Correa (D-CA), and Mark Sanford (R-SC) to articulate the case on behalf of the beneficiaries of the Cole Memo. The memo was originally drafted by former U.S. Attorney General James Cole in 2013 and was issued to attorneys in states where medical or recreational marijuana was legal. The memo stipulates that as long as the states follow certain rules – i.e. the prevention of distributing marijuana to minors – the states are able to regulate marijuana with very little federal interference.

    The Cole Memo signaled a shift away from the use of federal funds to regulate marijuana, giving states a more laissez-faire, states rights approach to cannabis. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and is listed as a schedule one drug signaling to have no medical value and a high potential for abuse, both of which any follower of published research would know to not be true.

    In light of the increasing acceptance and legalization of both medical and adult use marijuana, AG Sessions’ decision puts the nascent cannabis industry in an increased state of anxiety and threatens medical marijuana users’ access to cannabis.

    Gaetz spoke on behalf of his constituents benefiting from medical marijuana and gave the floor to Curbelo, Correa, and Sanford who all unanimously pointed to the overwhelming advantages of the Cole Memo. The representatives remarked on Sessions’ decision as a move backwards for marijuana policy and medical marijuana recipients.

    Sessions defended his decision as a “return to the rule of law,” but the removal of the Cole Memo could result in increased profits for criminal enterprises in the illegal marijuana trade. Curbelo went so far as to say that the Attorney General “has actually done a great favor to those who operate outside the law and is punishing those who are actually trying to control this substance.”

    Sessions’ unprecedented move threatens the cannabis industry, legalization, and recipients of medical marijuana. The special order demonstrates a bilateral effort amongst Congress to preserve the rights and autonomy of states to regulate cannabis.

    Has your member of Congress spoken out yet? Click here to send them a message right now.

    Too often we don’t thank those who speak up on our behalf, so please also take the next step and call to thank the Representatives for taking to the floor of the House on behalf of protecting our progress by using this easy and short script:

    “Thank you for standing up and speaking on behalf of the states’ rights to regulate marijuana on January 17th.

    It’s encouraging to see your office take a leadership role in this debate and I encourage the Representative to continue to do so by co-sponsoring HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act to protect the rights of the people and state legislatures that have reformed their cannabis laws.”

    Below are the phone numbers of the Representatives who spoke up on the floor during the special order:

    Matt Gaetz (R, FL-01), 202-225-4136

    Carlos Curbelo (R, FL-26), 202-225-2778

    Lou Correa (D, CA-46), 202-225-2965

    Mark Sanford (R, SC-01), 202-225-3176

  • by NORML January 18, 2018

    Rep. Ted Lieu

    Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-CA) and Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) have reintroduced HR 4816: The Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act.

    The measure restricts civil asset forfeiture funds from being used for the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication / Suppression Program. The bill would prohibit the transfer of property that would be used for cannabis eradication from a federal or state/local agency and ensures precious federal resources are not wasted on marijuana eradication.

    With the Justice Department having rescinded Obama-era directives limiting the federal government’s involvement in marijuana states, and with the future of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment uncertain, it is essential that elected officials address this measure and halt officials from taking civil actions against state-compliant operators who have never even been convicted of a crime.

    Now that one in five Americans resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute, and the majority of citizens reside someplace where the medical use of cannabis is legally authorized, it’s more important than ever to defang the DEA.

    Click here to send a message to your Representative to encourage them to support this bill.

    Upon introduction, Rep. Lieu said:

    “The Federal Government has a responsibility to spend taxpayer money wisely. Instead, AG Jeff Sessions would rather waste federal dollars by attacking marijuana, which has been legalized either for medical or recreational use in the majority of states in the U.S. The DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program is a waste of time and money and runs contrary to the will of the people.”

    Upon introduction, Rep. Amash said:

    Civil asset forfeiture is an unconstitutional practice whereby the government takes people’s property without due process. The DEA’s use of proceeds acquired through civil asset forfeiture to expand marijuana enforcement—a state-level issue—makes the already unacceptable practice even worse. I’m pleased to introduce the Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act along with Rep. Lieu to end this program.

    Rep. Lieu additionally included a message from NORML Political Director Justin Strekal in his announcement of the bill:

    “Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition. With eight states and the District of Columbia now having legalized its personal use and 30 states having legalized medical marijuana, it is time that the DEA cease interfering with state-legal programs and stop wasting taxpayer dollars that would be better directed at going after the pill-mills contributing to the nations opioid crisis.”

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

    Today, Representative Barbara Lee of California along with over a dozen original co-sponsors have introduced the Marijuana Justice Act into the House of Representatives.

    “I’m proud to introduce the Marijuana Justice Act – bold, progressive legislation to address the legacy of racial bias in marijuana enforcement and to end the failed War on Drugs,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “Today, we are asking Congress to turn the page on decades of unjust marijuana prohibition and forge a new path forward. It’s past time that we take decisive action to right the wrongs from decades of misguided policies.”

    This marks the first time that companion legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

    This robust legislation not only removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, it also provides a path forward for the individuals and communities that have been most disproportionately targeted by our nation’s failed war on marijuana consumers. As you may be aware, throughout the country African Americans are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws at nearly four times the rates of whites, yet both ethnicities consume marijuana at roughly the same rates.

    Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of The Marijuana Justice Act now

    The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 would:

    • Remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances making it legal at the federal level;
    • Incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if marijuana in the state is illegal and it disproportionately arrests or incarcerates minority and poor people for marijuana-related offenses;
    • Automatically expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes;
    • Allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison to petition a court for a resentencing;
    • Create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs and allows the money to go towards the following programs:
      • Job training;
      • Reentry services;
      • Expenses related to the expungement of convictions;
      • Public libraries;
      • Community centers;
      • Programs and opportunities dedicated to youth; and
      • Health education programs.

    As you already know, the ongoing enforcement of cannabis 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. It is time for federal lawmakers to acknowledge this reality. 

    So click here and send a message to your federal lawmakers now in support of The Marijuana Justice Act.

    After you send your letter so it will stay in their official records, click HERE to find your Representative’s office number and then call their Washington, DC office.

  • by NORML January 16, 2018

    Allentown, PA – Residents of the Keystone State will gather in Harrisburg on January 23, 2018 to speak with legislators about legalizing marijuana in an event co-sponsored by local NORML chapters, the ACLU-PA and the Keystone Cannabis Coalition.

    A press conference is planned at 10:00 a.m. that will feature elected officials, advocates, medical marijuana patients and cannabis consumers.

    Lehigh Valley NORML is spearheading the event with NORML chapters from Pittsburgh, South Philly and Lancaster sending volunteers to supply education tables and make office visits.

    “Considering our current political climate, we have a unique opportunity to assemble the voices of cannabis advocacy from across this state to show legislators that we are united in our resolve for reform,” said Jeff Riedy of Lehigh Valley NORML, “We will arrive in Harrisburg determined to persuade our policymakers to follow the strong sentiment of Pennsylvania voters by ending our  prohibition on marijuana.”

    This will be the first of several planned marijuana rally days in Harrisburg with NORML chapters in 2018.  A demonstration of a typical cannabis home cultivation setup, with a small indoor garden and LED lights, will be on display.

    “With Delaware and New Jersey poised to legalize cannabis in 2018 we think Pennsylvania is ready to join the conversation,” said Chris Goldstein of South Philly NORML, “We can save more than 70 million tax dollars every year by stopping marijuana possession arrests alone, and we can see more than 300 million in new tax revenue for the commonwealth with retail cannabis.”

    The Vermont legislature recently passed a bill to legalize marijuana possession and home cultivation. This was the first time a cannabis reform bill for adult consumers passed through the legislature instead of the ballot process. According to current data, Pennsylvania police are arresting 49 people, every single day (more than 18,000 per year), for less than 30 grams of cannabis.

    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a change in posture at the Department of Justice towards regulated cannabis on January 4, 2018, the same week that Pa. medical cannabis providers were approved to begin growing. NORML chapters applaud the strong response from Gov. Wolf. state Sen. Mike Folmer, Auditor General Eugene Depasquale and middle district U.S. Attorney David Freed who stood up for our local laws.

    The following week Rep. Dwight Evans (D, PA-2) became the first member of Congress in the area to cosponsor HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. “First, I think I have different view because I served in the state legislature and I voted for the medical marijuana bill,” Evans told Philly.com, “ Second, I have long believed [marijuana] should be decriminalized because that is what Mayor Jim Kenney did in the city of Philadelphia, particularity because we were targeting African American males [for arrests]. Last, I think that the whole aspect of moving in the direction of recreational marijuana is something that we should do because there are many opportunities in that.”

    Rep. Mike Doyle (D, PA-14) and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D, PA-13) also signed on to a letter with 70 members of Congress rebuking Sessions for his new cannabis posture. Pennsylvania now joins just a handful of states with active marijuana reform at all levels with decriminalization ordinances underway in Erie and Easton, a thriving hemp program, a nascent medical cannabis program, and now members of our Congressional delegation involved with national efforts.

    While the January 23 Pennsylvania Marijuana Lobby Day was planned months ago, the new move by the Trump administration has added a new energy. By working on local reform, residents and advocates are sending a strong message to Washington DC that States are moving forward with cannabis.

    Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1718833171482975/

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