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LEGISLATION

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate June 15, 2018

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

    A lot has happened in Congress this week. US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) succeeded in inserting hemp legalization language into the wide-ranging Farm Bill – must-pass legislation that is approved by Congress every five years. The bill was then approved by the US Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

    The US Senate Appropriations Committee, for the first time ever, included protections for state medical marijuana laws in base Justice Department funding legislation. On the other hand, the US House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment to protect banks that work with marijuana businesses from being punished by federal authorities.

    Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced The “RESPECT Resolution: Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades” to elevate the importance of equity within the legal cannabis marketplace.

    To all of our surprise, President Donald Trump expressed verbal support for recently introduced, bi-partisan legislation that seeks to codify legal protections for state-sanctioned marijuana-related activities. Similarly, members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently announced their support for marijuana law reforms to keep the federal government out of the business of prohibition and related law enforcement of marijuana.

    At the state level, South Carolina voters approved a medical marijuana advisory question on the Democratic primary ballot by a margin of 81% – 19%. And The Maine Supreme Court ruled that employers don’t need to pay for medical cannabis under the state workers’ compensation system.

    At a more local level, the St. Louis, Missouri circuit attorney will no longer pursue cases for marijuana in the amount of less than 100 grams. And Denver, Colorado is using marijuana tax revenue to fund after-school and summer programs.

    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

    New Jersey

    Senate President Stephen Sweeney, along with Sen. Nicholas Scutari, introduced legislation, S2703, to legalize adult marijuana sales and further expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.

    The legislation permits those age 21 and older to legally possess and/or purchase up to one ounce of cannabis. It also permits the licensing of 218 retail dispensaries — 120 of which would provide marijuana to adults while 98 would provide marijuana to authorized patients. At present, one half-a-dozen medical dispensaries are operating in the state.

    Other provisions in the measure seek to protect adults who consume cannabis from employer and/or housing discrimination, and permits certain retailers to establish on-site consumption areas.

    NJ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization and medical expansion

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

    SB 20-62 seeks 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.

    Update: SB 20-62 was on the House’s agenda for a vote on 6/12, but was instead was referred back to the Committee on Judiciary & Government Operations.

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

    Delaware

    Legalization
    House Bill 110 seeks to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use.

    Update: An amendment to HB 110 was filed on 6/11. The wide-ranging amendment addresses packaging and labeling, safe cultivation, tracking of sales, random testing and safeguards for the consumer. Employer protections are clarified as well.

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

    Expungement
    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.

    Update: SB 197 was unanimously passed by the Senate on 6/12.

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

    Medical
    House Bill 374 seeks to expand the state’s medical cannabis access program.

    The measure would expand the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis by permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from: chronic debilitating migraines, pediatric autism spectrum disorder, and pediatric sensory processing disorder.

    Update: HB 374 was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Children & Social Services Committee on 6/6.

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

    New York

    A. 9016 and S. 7564 seek to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    Update: A. 9016 came out of the Health Committee without a vote and was referred to the Rules Committee.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of cannabis as an alternative to opioids

    California

    Expungement
    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 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

    Student Protections
    Senate Bill 1127 will help students with severe medical disabilities attend school by allowing a parent or guardian to come on campus to administer medical cannabis to them in non-smoking and non-vaping forms. The bill was approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: SB 1127 was heard on 6/13 in the Assembly Education Committee, and then approved by the Committee. The bill will be heard by the Judiciary Committee on 7/4.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of administering medical cannabis to students at school

    Compassionate Care Programs
    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. The bill was approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions is holding a hearing on SB 829 on 6/19.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of these tax exemptions

    Banking
    Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses. The bill was approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: The Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee is holding a hearing on SB 930 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 Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director June 14, 2018

    Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced The “RESPECT Resolution: Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades” to elevate the importance of equity within the legal cannabis marketplace. The RESPECT Resolution seeks both economic and reparative justice, ensuring that disenfranchised communities will be able to benefit equally in the emerging legal and regulated industry.

    “There’s no question that there is growing momentum – both within Congress and nationwide – for cannabis legalization. However, as we move into this new era, we must learn from the failed War on Drugs and ensure that entrepreneurs of color are included in this expanding industry. Due to unequal criminalization rates and disparities in access to capital, people of color are being locked out of the new and thriving legal cannabis trade,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “We need to address the systemic exclusion and discrimination at play. Otherwise, we will be prolonging and encouraging the injustices of the past – where brown men spend their lives in prison for cannabis, while white communities get rich off the industry. I encourage my colleagues to support the RESPECT Resolution, the first bill in Congress focused on building equity in the cannabis industry.”

    As more and more states dial back the war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive criminalization are able to see previous harms remedied and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation.

    It is absolutely crucial that future legalization efforts include avenues to expunge prior criminal convictions for actions which are now 100% legal. We sincerely appreciate Congresswoman Lee’s vision to facilitate those expungements at no cost to the individual. Currently, a complicated bureaucracy and unnecessary fees often prevent drug war victims from obtaining expungements and being able to fully participate in many aspects of civil society.

    Send a message to your Representative now in support of The RESPECT Resolution.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 8, 2018

    United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today announced that he has secured provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill to further expand and facilitate state-regulated hemp production.

    In a press release, McConnell acknowledged that provisions in S. 2667: The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 have now been incorporated into the Senate’s version of The Farm Bill (aka The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) — must-pass legislation that is approved by Congress every five years. Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee will consider the legislation on Wednesday, June 13.

    Senate Bill 2667 expands upon provisions (Section 7606) in the 2014 version of the Farm Bill that permit states to establish hemp research and cultivation programs absent federal approval. A majority of states have now enacted legislation to permit such programs.

    In 2017, state-licensed producers grew over 39,000 acres of hemp, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    “Securing the Hemp Farming Act as part of the 2018 Farm Bill has been a top priority of mine,” said Senator McConnell. “I look forward to continuing to work with my Senate colleagues on this and many other issues important to Kentucky agriculture as we move towards consideration of the Farm Bill.

    He added: “As a result of the hemp pilot program, which I secured in the 2014 Farm Bill, Kentucky’s farmers, processors, and manufacturers have begun to show the potential for this versatile crop. Today’s announcement will build upon that progress to help the Commonwealth enhance its standing at the forefront of hemp’s return to American agriculture. I look forward to continuing to work with my Senate colleagues and my partners in Kentucky … to grow hemp’s bright future.”

    Senate Bill 2667 provides states and/or Indian tribes with “primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp.”

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate

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

    There were some key developments this week at the federal level, including a new bill introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), 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 was introduced by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly pledged to permit a vote on the bill, while President Trump has publicly expressed his support for it.

    Also in Congress, the US House Rules Committee, led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX), blocked multiple amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer either legal protections or expanded access to veterans who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

    By contrast, members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar amendment to allow military veterans to get medical cannabis recommendations from Department of Veterans Affairs doctors and to protect them from being denied VA services because of their participation in state medical marijuana programs.

    In a press release issued by Senator Mitch McConnell’s office, he announced that he had secured the language of S. 2667 in the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee will officially consider the legislation on Wednesday, June 13.

    At the state level, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) vetoed legislation to allow marijuana “tasting rooms,” as well as legislation to permit autism as a qualifying condition, but signed a bill into law to allow school personnel to administer medical cannabis to patients at schools. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed legislation into law permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, severe muscle spasms, autism or glaucoma. And Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signed a bill modifying provisions relating to industrial hemp.

    New Jersey Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a new bill that would bring adult use marijuana to the state while also expanding the medical marijuana program. And Michigan Republican lawmakers failed to get enough legislative support to amend and enact marijuana legalization by Tuesday’s deadline, meaning that the measure will appear on the November ballot.

    At a more local level, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania City Council voted unanimously to approve a marijuana decriminalization ordinance, Minneapolis, Minnesota is ending low-level marijuana stings after it was revealed that nearly all people targeted by such actions are black, Savannah, Georgia police are preparing to implement a marijuana decriminalization ordinance starting on July 1, and Fulton County, Georgia commissioners voted to decriminalize marijuana in unincorporated areas.

    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

    Delaware

    Lawmakers in Delaware are once again considering House Bill 110 to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use.

    The legislation in 2017 was voted out of Committee, but then stalled as lawmakers elected to approve a resolution establishing a marijuana legalization task force. This group, which includes representatives from Delaware NORML, is anticipated to make recommendations to the legislature early this year.

    Update: It is anticipated that House Bill 110 will get a vote in the House in the next couple weeks, as well as in the Senate before the end of the legislative session in late June.

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

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

    SB 20-62 seeks 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.

    Update: The House Committee on Judiciary & Government Operations held a hearing on marijuana legalization on 6/5.

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

    New York

    Legislation is pending in both chambers, A. 9016 and S. 7564 to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    Update: A. 9016 was approved by the Assembly on 6/6, and now awaits action in the Senate Health Committee.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of cannabis as an alternative to opioids

    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 was approved by the full Assembly on 5/31, and now awaits action in the Senate Rules Committee.

    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: SB 829 was approved by the Rules Committee unanimously, and now awaits action from the Committee on Business and Professions.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of exempting compassionate care programs from paying taxes

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

  • by NORML June 7, 2018

    [June 8, 2018 UPDATE: In the past 24 hours, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly pledged to permit a vote on the bill, while President Trump has publicly expressed his support for it.]

    Today, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) 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.

    Send a letter to your elected officials NOW

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri commented:

    “President Trump made a commitment to Senator Gardner that he was willing to support a federalist approach to state marijuana laws. Now Congress must do its part and swiftly move forward on this bipartisan legislation that explicitly provides states with the authority and autonomy to set their own marijuana policies absent the fear of federal incursion from a Justice Department led by militant cannabis prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

    Specifically, this legislation:

    • Creates an exemption to the Controlled Substances Act for US states and territories that have reformed their laws with regard to marijuana policy, effectively restraining undue federal intervention
    • Maintains federal legislative provisions (aka “guardrails”) to deter:
      • The interstate trafficking of marijuana into prohibition states from legal states
      • The prevention of those under 18 from working in the cannabis industry
      • The prevention of those under 21 from purchasing marijuana (unless recommended by a state-qualified physician to treat a medical condition)
      • Unsafe production conditions
    • Provides greater flexibility for lawmakers in non-legal states to reform their laws in a manner that reflects the will of the of their constituents and regulates cannabis commerce
    • Provides the ability for cannabis businesses to obtain basic banking services
    • Removes industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:

    “With the announcement of The STATES Act by Senators Gardner and Warren, the movement to end the federal government’s failed policy of cannabis criminalization has truly become a bipartisan effort.”

    “The majority of states now regulate marijuana use and more than six out of ten voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, making it time for the federal government to no longer stand in the way of this progress at the state level.”

    Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of adults throughout America, 93% of whom support medical marijuana (Quinnipiac, 2017) and 64 percent of whom endorse the outright legalization of recreational cannabis (Gallup, 2017).

    The STATES Act is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). It is cosponsored in the House by Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Dianna DeGette (D-Colo.), Rob Blum (R-Iowa), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Matt Geatz (R-Fla.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Luis Correa (D-Calif.), Jason Lewis (R-Minn.), and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).

    “Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development,” said Senator Warren. “States like Massachusetts have put a lot of work into implementing common sense marijuana regulations – and they have the right to enforce their own marijuana policies. The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana.”

    “In 2012, Coloradans legalized marijuana at the ballot box and the state created an apparatus to regulate the legal marijuana industry. But because of the one-size-fits-all federal prohibition, state decisions like this put Colorado and other states at odds with the federal government,” said Senator Gardner. “The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted. The bipartisan STATES Act fixes this problem once and for all by taking a states’ rights approach to the legal marijuana question. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters – whether that is legalization or prohibition – and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry.”

    “We should trust the people of the states, like Ohio, who have voted to implement responsible common-sense regulations and requirements for the use, production, and sale of cannabis,” said Representative Joyce. “If the people of these states have decided to provide help for those veterans and others suffering from pain and other health issues, we should allow them access without government interference.”

    “For too long the senseless prohibition of marijuana has devastated communities, disproportionately impacting poor Americans and communities of color. Not to mention, it’s also wasted resources and stifled critical medical research,” said Representative Blumenauer. “It’s past time to put the power back in the hands of the people. Congress must right this wrong.”

    Thirty states, Washington, DC and the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis, while an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy changes. According to a 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, 63 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and 70 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy.

    NORML has released a letter with over 55 supportive organizations for The STATES Act.

    To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that over 149,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

    Send a message to your lawmakers in support of the States Act now!

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