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Citizen Lobbyists

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate September 21, 2018

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

    This week, reports circulated that  the US Customs and Border Protection Agency will enforce a federal policy denying entry into the United States any individual involved in Canada’s burgeoning marijuana market. Under the policy, US officials are to bar entry to Canadians who acknowledge having consumed marijuana at any time in their past, as well as those who are either employed or invested in legal cannabis enterprises. NORML responded here.

    The U.S. Senate’s VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 got one more cosponsor, for a total of five. And The U.S. House’s Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act got two new cosponsors, for a total of three.

    At the state level, the New Jersey Department of Health removed the ban that prohibited licensed medical cannabis dispensaries from selling concentrates to patients. Separately, details arose about New Jersey’s soon-to-be-filed marijuana legalization bill, which includes what would be the lowest tax rate in the country, home delivery, social consumption sites, and provisions benefiting small and minority owned businesses, but nothing about home cultivation. Nothing is final yet.

    Several New York Assembly committees have scheduled the first of what will be four joint hearings this fall on the prospect of legalizing marijuana in the Empire State. This comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is holding a series of separate listening sessions across the state to gather public input on cannabis legalization.

    Mississippi activists kicked off their signature gathering effort for a 2020 medical cannabis ballot initiative. Massachusetts recreational marijuana stores are unlikely to open until late October at the earliest after regulators failed to issue any final licenses at its Thursday meeting. Kentucky lawmakers held an interim hearing on medical cannabis, and the West Virginia Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health met to discuss banking access issues for medical cannabis businesses.

    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres (R) signed a marijuana legalization bill into law, making the territory the first place in the U.S. to end prohibition without first having a medical cannabis program.

    California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed two bills into law this week,  one preventing marijuana businesses from sharing consumers’ information for commercial purposes, and another clarifying that marijuana distributors can transport products to other distributors and that labs can test home-grown cannabis. Brown also vetoed a bill that would have allowed marijuana businesses to deduct business expenses under the state’s personal income tax law.

    At a more local level, the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma City Council adopted ordinances regulating medical cannabis businesses.

    Following are the bills we’ve tracked this week pending before California Governor Jerry Brown, 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

    Decriminalize Cannabis: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is sponsoring the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

    Click here to email your senators in support of this important legislation

    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 approved by the Senate last week.

    Update: AB 1793 awaits action from Governor Brown.

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

    Senate Bill 1127 would help students with severe medical disabilities attend school by allowing a parent or guardian to come on school grounds to administer medical cannabis to them in non-smoking and non-vaping forms. The bill was already approved by the Senate earlier this year.

    Update: After failing to gain enough votes for passage in the Assembly on 8/23, a motion to reconsider was granted and on 8/27, SB 1127 was approved by the Assembly with a 42-29 vote. The bill now awaits action from Governor Brown.

    CA resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of allowing students’ medical marijuana at school

    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 full Assembly with a 65-2 vote on 8/29. The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence since it was amended in the Assembly. SB 829 is being heard by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on Friday 8/31, and then will go to the Senate floor for a vote.

    CA resident? Email your senators in support of supporting compassionate care programs

    That’s all for this week!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director September 20, 2018

    With a state legislative session spanning almost an entire calendar year, supporters of marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania are working overtime to make sure their voices are heard. That’s why members of Lehigh Valley NORML, Pittsburgh NORML, Lancaster NORML and Philly NORML are teaming up with the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and ACLU of Pennsylvania for rally and lobby day next week in the state’s capital of Harrisburg.

    Click Here to RSVP Today!

    “Marijuana activists in Pennsylvania are poised to introduce an aggressive agenda for reform in 2019 when they fill the Capitol Rotunda at 10am on Monday, September 24,” said Jeff Riedy, Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML. “With cannabis arrest counts rising across the state and neighboring states threatening legalization, the time is right for this discussion in Pennsylvania.”

    But activists in the Keystone State have come a very long way in just a short amount of time.

    Local Victories

    In late 2014 Philadelphia’s city council decriminalized simple possession of marijuana. Little did they know, their decision would trigger a wave of municipalities across the Commonwealth to adopt similar measures. In the years following, local lawmakers in Pittsburgh, State College, Harrisburg, York, Erie, and most recently, Bethlehem followed suit.

    These local victories were celebrated not just by advocates, but also the Commonwealth’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who shared the following statement:

    “Decriminalization saves millions of dollars spent yearly on marijuana prosecutions. Decriminalization also has human benefits by reducing the loss of income and other social, personal and emotional impacts on those arrested for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana.”

    Full statement here: https://bit.ly/2NvfopR

    Statewide Victories

    Following the flurry of local marijuana law reform victories across the Commonwealth, lawmakers in Harrisburg passed SB 3: The Medical Marijuana Act in 2015 which was later signed into law by Governor Wolf in early 2016. Passage of the law established rules and regulations for the state’s medical marijuana program which permits registered patients to access cannabis oils, pills and tinctures, but due to a restriction against smoking, the availability of marijuana flower was delayed.

    After months of pressure from patients and advocacy groups, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana advisory board recommended several updates to the state’s program. One of which, was allowing the sale of marijuana flower. The catch? It must be consumed using a vaporizer. This means no smoking. Regardless of a few hiccups, dispensaries began serving patients earlier this year.

    Looking ahead, advocates are hoping to educate state lawmakers about the benefits of ending the criminalization and harassment of honest, hardworking Pennsylvanians for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana.

    “New legislation will be introduced at the rally, as 2019 will mark the first time that PA will have partner bills for decriminalization and legalization in both House and Senate. If Pennsylvanians could vote on cannabis legalization in November, I am confident that we would win,” added Riedy.

    Midterm Election

    Considering Pennsylvania is one of several states that lacks a ballot initiative process, all marijuana law reform efforts must be pursued through the state legislature. This means, in order to be successful, advocates must educate those who are willing to listen or elect new, more supportive lawmakers to represent them in Harrisburg. So make no mistake, the outcome of this November’s election will certainly have an impact on the future of marijuana in the Keystone State.  

    Register To Vote Today!

    That’s why we’re encouraging voters in Pennsylvania to support Jon Fetterman, an outspoken supporter of legalizing marijuana, who is running for Lieutenant Governor. Mr. Fetterman was the very first candidate endorsed by NORML PAC for the 2018 midterm elections.

    Read more about our endorsement here: https://bit.ly/2OMBjoM

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Lehigh Valley NORML on Twitter and Facebook!

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate September 14, 2018

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

    The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved legislation (HR 5634: The Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018) to facilitate federally-approved clinical trials assessing the efficacy of whole-plant cannabis. The vote marks the first time that lawmakers have ever decided in favor of easing existing federal restrictions which limit investigators ability to clinically study marijuana in a manner similar to other controlled substances.

    On the other hand, a congressional conference committee opted not to include a Senate-passed provision in a bill to fund the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The measure is known as the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which sought to facilitate veterans’ access to medical cannabis in jurisdictions that regulate it.

    Also, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), one of Congress’s more ardent drug warriors—signed on as a cosponsor of the STATES Act, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales.

    At the state level, New Mexico’s health secretary approved adding obstructive sleep apnea as a medical cannabis qualifying condition, but rejected adding opioid addiction, muscular dystrophy, Tourette’s syndrome, eczema and psoriasis. Separately, regulators are holding a series of public meeting next month to receive feedback on proposed hemp rules.

    Vermont’s marijuana legalization study committee held a meeting. And California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill prohibiting the marketing of cannabis products on websites used by minors.

    At a more local level, Brooklyn, New York’s district attorney is moving to expunge thousands of marijuana convictions. And Manhattan’s district attorney is moving to vacate misdemeanor marijuana warrants. He appeared in court to move to dismiss 3,000 marijuana cases dating back to 1978.

    The Lancaster, Pennsylvania City Council amended a proposed marijuana penalty reduction ordinance, with a final vote expected later this month. The Green Bay, Wisconsin Common Council is considering lowering fines for marijuana possession. And Oklahoma City, Oklahoma’s City Council heard testimony on a proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance.

    Following are the bills we’ve tracked this week pending before California Governor Jerry Brown, 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

    Decriminalize Cannabis: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is sponsoring the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

    Click here to email your senators in support of this important legislation

    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 approved by the Senate last week.

    Update: AB 1793 awaits action from Governor Brown.

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

    Senate Bill 1127 would help students with severe medical disabilities attend school by allowing a parent or guardian to come on school grounds to administer medical cannabis to them in non-smoking and non-vaping forms. The bill was already approved by the Senate earlier this year.

    Update: After failing to gain enough votes for passage in the Assembly on 8/23, a motion to reconsider was granted and on 8/27, SB 1127 was approved by the Assembly with a 42-29 vote. The bill now awaits action from Governor Brown.

    CA resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of allowing students’ medical marijuana at school

    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 full Assembly with a 65-2 vote on 8/29. The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence since it was amended in the Assembly. SB 829 is being heard by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on Friday 8/31, and then will go to the Senate floor for a vote.

    CA resident? Email your senators in support of supporting compassionate care programs

    That’s all for this week!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director September 12, 2018

    As the summer months come to a close and as political campaigns around the country ramp up outreach efforts, NORML chapters are working to make sure that supporters of marijuana law reform efforts are registered to vote. Through our partnership with Rock the Vote, we’ve made it quick and easy for our members and supporters to make sure their voices are heard this November. This is especially important in states like Missouri, Michigan, North Dakota and Utah — where marijuana law reform initiatives will appear on ballot this November.

    Register to Vote Today!

    Share our Voter Registration Tool on Facebook

    Share our Voter Registration Tool on Twitter

    From hosting voter registration drives, and voting parties, to providing education about voting laws and the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition, NORML Chapters will be busy engaging voters and mobilizing supporters in advance of this November’s election.

    “With Missouri’s voter registration deadline quickly approaching, it’s important for supporters of Amendment 2 to make sure they’re registered to vote. Historically, marijuana ballot initiatives perform better when younger people vote. Voter turnout will absolutely be a factor in the outcome of this November’s election,” said Jamie Kacz, Secretary of Missouri NORML.

    Also, to help educate our members and supporters about candidates who are supportive of marijuana law reform efforts, NORML is working with “Smoke the Vote” to create state-level and congressional scorecards, similar to our Governor Scorecard, that outlines each candidate’s marijuana policy positions. Furthermore, several NORML chapters, like Arizona NORML and Texas NORML, have created their own regional voter guides for the 2018 midterm elections!

    “Texans rely on elected officials to change marijuana laws,” added Jax Finkle, executive director of Texas NORML. “This is why registering to vote and getting to the ballot box is so important. With several key races polling only points apart, it is integral you know where legislators stand on the issue. Stay tuned for our General Election Voter Guide coming out at the beginning of October.”

    Below are a few more resources that should come in handy over the next couple of months.

    Resources and Tools for Voter Registration:

    Additional Resources:

    Register to Vote Today!

    Share our Voter Registration Tool on Facebook

    Share our Voter Registration Tool on Twitter

    For over 45 years NORML chapters have been leading marijuana law reform conversations and continue to be the driving force behind policy decisions on the local and state level. Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please reach out to KevinM@NORML.org for help starting your own!

    Ready to start a NORML chapter in your hometown? Click here to find out how!

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate September 7, 2018

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

    U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced legislation this week, The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, to expand and facilitate medical cannabis access to military veterans suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other serious medical conditions. The measure would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to issue recommendations and require the VA to research the benefits of marijuana. Click here to send a message to your federal lawmakers in support of the new bill. 

    Four U.S. House bills got new cosponsors this week, including the Marijuana Justice Act, bringing the total to 40 cosponsors, the Veterans Equal Access Act for a total of 28, the States Act, bringing the total to 29, and the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act for a total of 11.

    U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pushed for hemp legalization during the first Farm Bill conference committee meeting. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) also spoke in support.

    At the state level, Mississippi activists will begin collecting signatures next week for a proposed 2020 medical cannabis ballot measure. California lawmakers approved legislation to create a grant program to support municipal marijuana industry equity programs, to allow tax-free donations of medical cannabis to patients and to allow provisional licensing for marijuana businesses.

    At a more local level, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania City Council is considering a marijuana decriminalization proposal. So was the Gary, Indiana Common Council before the measure was narrowly defeated. A Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin committee approved a marijuana legalization advisory question for the Spring 2019 ballot. And the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Council will consider a proposal to lower marijuana penalties next week that is also supported by the police chief.

    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

    Decriminalize Cannabis: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is sponsoring the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

    Click here to email your senators in support of this important legislation

    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 approved by the Senate last week.

    Update: AB 1793 awaits action from Governor Brown.

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

    Senate Bill 1127 would help students with severe medical disabilities attend school by allowing a parent or guardian to come on school grounds to administer medical cannabis to them in non-smoking and non-vaping forms. The bill was already approved by the Senate earlier this year.

    Update: After failing to gain enough votes for passage in the Assembly on 8/23, a motion to reconsider was granted and on 8/27, SB 1127 was approved by the Assembly with a 42-29 vote. The bill now awaits action from Governor Brown.

    CA resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of allowing students’ medical marijuana at school

    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 full Assembly with a 65-2 vote on 8/29. The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence since it was amended in the Assembly. SB 829 is being heard by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on Friday 8/31, and then will go to the Senate floor for a vote.

    CA resident? Email your senators in support of supporting compassionate care programs

    That’s all for this week!

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