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GOVERNMENT

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate May 11, 2018

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

    Let’s talk about Congress. Earlier this week, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) cosponsored the Marijuana Justice Act! Sen. Harris announced in a video message that she will be joining Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden in promoting this important legislation. This comes just a week and a half after California senior Senator Diane Feinstein (D) told reporters that she has dropped her opposition to ending the federal prohibition of marijuana. And U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he is cosponsoring Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) hemp legalization bill.

    Additionally, in a historical first, a Congressional committee has advanced marijuana law reform legislation; one that would encourage the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct more studies on cannabis’ medical benefits.

    At the state level, Michigan Senate Republicans are expected to discuss whether to enact marijuana legalization instead of allowing the question to appear on the November ballot, with the fear that a ballot question would turn out hundreds of thousands of democratic voters. The New Jersey Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee will hold a Saturday hearing on marijuana legalization, and county prosecutors across Vermont are looking at ways to expunge prior marijuana convictions.

    Also, Connecticut’s legislative leaders said marijuana legalization is off the table for this session. As more state legislatures are adjourning for this year, more and more bills are dying, and therefore there are not as many legislative updates as we’ve been seeing earlier in the year.

    At a more local level, The Allentown, Pennsylvania City Council gave initial approval to a proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance, and also adopted a resolution calling on state lawmakers to end cannabis criminalization. The Milwaukee County, Wisconsin County Board’s Judiciary Committee voted in favor of placing a nonbinding marijuana legalization on the November ballot, and Denver, Colorado is planning to use marijuana tax revenue to fund public housing.

    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 Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

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

    Louisiana

    House Bill 579 would expand the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis by permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, severe muscle spasms or glaucoma.

    Update: HB 579 was approved by the Senate 25-9 on 5/9. The bill now heads back to the House for review of Senate changes. A separate measure, HB 627, to permit patients with autism to be able to qualify for medical cannabis access, also passed the Senate and awaits reconsideration by the House.

    LA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical expansion

    California

    Assembly Bill 2069 seeks to strengthen employment rights for medical cannabis patients. The bill would explicitly bar employers from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

    Update: AB 2069 will be heard by the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee on 5/16 at 9am in State Capitol, Room 4202.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of employment rights for patients

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    Arizona

    Senate Bill 1098 seeks to establish an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program.

    The program is designed to research the “growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp” by licensed providers. Lawmakers acknowledge that “developing and using industrial hemp can improve the economy and agricultural vitality” of Arizona.

    Update: SB 1098 passed the Senate on 2/15 and passed the House on 5/3. It now awaits action from Governor Ducey.

    AZ resident? Click here to email Gov. Ducey in support of an industrial hemp pilot program

    Illinois

    Senate Bill 2298 seeks to expand the state’s hemp law.

    The bill provides for the ability of individuals to cultivate hemp with a state license even if they are not part of the state’s Agriculture Department pilot program. That program only permits hemp cultivation as part of a state-sponsored research program.

    Update: SB 2298 was heard by the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee, and then approved by the committee on 5/8.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of industrial hemp expansion

    California

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

    Update: SB 930 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 5/22.

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

    Taxes
    Assembly Bill 3157 seeks to temporarily reduce tax rates imposed on the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis.

    Update: AB 3157 was heard by the Assembly Committee on Business and Professions on 5/8, and then approved by the committee on 5/9. The bill will be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 5/16.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of temporarily lowering taxes

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

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director May 10, 2018

    Today, California’s junior Senator Kamala Harris announced in a video message that she will be joining Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden on the Marijuana Justice Act.

    This comes just a week and a half after California senior Senator Diane Feinstein told reporters that she has dropped her opposition to ending the federal prohibition of marijuana, however, did not elaborate on how to do so.

    The Marijuana Justice Act (S. 1689 and HR 4815) would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

    Senator Harris has come a long way on her position of this issue, most known for her response to a question in 2014 on legalizing marijuana when she laughed in the face of a reporter at the thought.

    Journalist Tom Angell noted last year that Senator Harris would oddly talk about the drug war in the past-tense when making public statements or on social media. By co-sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act, she is making it crystal clear that the Drug War rages on and that it is the responsibility of the Congress to do something about it.

    Have your federal officials co-sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act? Have you asked them to? Click here to send a message right now. 

  • by NORML May 2, 2018

    Maine lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to override Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of LD 1719; the enactment of the legislation establishes a framework for the retail sale of marijuana to adults, but also amends numerous provisions of the 2016 voter-approved measure — including those specific to home grow limits and taxation.

    Specifically, LD 1719 limits the number of mature plants an adult may cultivate at home from six to three. The measure also repeals language permitting the establishment of social-use facilities, and increases the excise tax rates on the sale of wholesale marijuana products. It also makes it easier for communities that wish to ban adult use operations to do so.

    However, the measure also permits state regulators for the first time to move forward with the establishment of rules permitting for the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Legislators anticipate that it will be until 2019 before these facilities are operational.

    Governor LePage, an ardent opponent of the 2016 initiative, vetoed LD 1719 last week, opining that he, “in good conscience cannot support a law that, on its face, violates federal law.” The Governor had previously vetoed a less conservative implementation bill last November. That bill did not amend home cultivation limits and did not outright ban social use establishments.

    NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano expressed mixed emotions about the law’s passage. “On the one hand, we are grateful that regulators can now — after months of undue delay — finally begin moving forward with the process of licensing adult use marijuana sales and regulating this retail market. On the other hand, it is unfortunate that lawmakers felt it necessary to amend and repeal other important provisions of Question 1, the Marijuana Legalization Act, in what ultimately was futile effort to curry favor with the Governor,” he said. “At the end of the day, this measure is far from consistent with the language that the majority of voters approved at the ballot box.”

  • by NORML May 1, 2018


    The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Political Action Committee (NORML PAC) has announced its endorsement of Beto O’Rourke for Senate in his race to unseat Senator Ted Cruz in Texas.

    “Beto has been a true champion for abolishing our disastrous prohibition on marijuana since the very beginning of his political career as a city council member in El Paso. We were pleased to support him in his previous campaign for the House of Representatives and excited to endorse him again in his race for the US Senate,” said NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri, “As Senator, O’Rourke will be an outspoken and indispensable ally in reforming our federal laws relating to marijuana and fight to finally end our failed prohibitionist policies that are currently tearing apart families, oppressing communities of color, squandering countless tax dollars, and filling the coffers of criminal cartels. The time has come for our nation to move towards the sensible policy of regulation and legalization, sending Beto to the Senate would bring us yet another step closer to that goal.”

    “We must end the federal prohibition on marijuana in this country,” said O’Rourke. “Texas should be leading the way by encouraging comprehensive reforms in drug control policies that have had a devastating effect on communities of color.”

    Recent polling on the Texas Senate race showed O’Rourke running neck and neck with Ted Cruz with Cruz claiming the support of 47% of state voters and 44% supporting O’Rourke.

    According to a 2017 poll by the University of Texas, 83 percent of Texans support legalizing marijuana for some use and 53 percent would go beyond legal medical marijuana to allow possession for any use.

    According to an April 2018 poll from Quinnipiac University, 63% of all Americans support the legalization of marijuana nationwide.

    “Texas ranks as one of the states with the highest arrests rates for simple possession of marijuana, at an estimated cost of 1.5 billion in taxpayer money annually,” said Jax Finkel, Executive Director of Texas NORML. “Beto O’Rourke understands that our federal prohibition is a failed policy and it is past time for Congress to end it and allow states like Texas the freedom to pursue new, sensible alternatives.”

  • by NORML April 26, 2018

    Legalize MarijuanaSixty-three percent of US voters believe that “marijuana should be made legal in the United States,” according to survey data released today by Quinnipiac University. The percentage is the highest support level ever reported in a nationwide Quinnipiac poll.

    The result is similar to those of other recent national polls, such as surveys by CBS News, Gallup, and Fox News.

    “Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long failed experiment with marijuana criminalization,” said Justin Strekal, NORML’s Political Director. “As this momentum and public pressure continue to build, now is the time for elected officials to find their way to a political evolution. We are ready to welcome them to the cause of justice, fairness, and individual liberty.”

    He added, “In 2018, NORML members and marijuana reform supporters will be attending town halls, knocking on doors, and making political contributions with every intention of defeating candidates who maintain their reefer madness hysteria as a justification to treat cannabis consumers as second-class citizens.”

    The poll’s results also revealed overwhelming support for medical marijuana and sweeping opposition to federal intervention in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.

    From Quinnipiac:

    Ninety-three percent of voters support the medical use of marijuana, as authorized by a doctor. This widespread support is in line with the results of prior polls.

    Voters oppose the enforcement of federal laws against marijuana in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana by a margin of 70 percent to 23 percent. Seventy-four percent of respondents say they support federal legislation to prohibit the federal government from intervening in states that have enacted marijuana regulatory laws.

    Twenty-two percent of respondents acknowledged that they reside in a state where the recreational, adult use of marijuana is legal, and 61 percent of Americans reject the claim that cannabis is a supposed “gateway drug.”

    Read the full results here.

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