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Expungement

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 20, 2019

    A coalition of activist groups, including Arizona NORML, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the state chapter of the ACLU, have filed language with the Secretary of State seeking to legalize the adult use and dispensing of cannabis.

    The Smart and Safe Arizona Act, which was drafted with input from Arizona NORML State Director Michael Weisser, permits those age 21 and over to legally possess, purchase, and grow personal use amounts of cannabis and/or cannabis-infused products. The proposed measure also allows those with marijuana convictions to petition the court for an expungement of their records, among other legal and regulatory changes.

    “Since the failure of 2016 another 30,000 Arizonans have been arrested for cannabis possession,” Weisser acknowledged. “I committed myself and Arizona NORML to making ourselves as central as possible to any 2020 campaign to make sure our values were protected.”

    A 2016 statewide initiative effort in Arizona failed by a vote of 51 percent to 49 percent.

    Advocates must collect 237,645 valid signatures from voters by July 2, 2020 in order to place the Smart and Safe Arizona Act on the November 2020 ballot.

  • by NORML July 23, 2019

    Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (NY) introduced The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act. The Senate companion bill is carried by Senator Kamala Harris (CA). 

    “After nearly a century of prohibition, it is clear this policy has been an absolute failure and a national disgrace. All we have to show for the war we have waged on marijuana is the egregious harms it has wrought upon tens-of-millions of our fellow citizens. By passing the MORE Act, Congress can begin to remedy the pain caused by the criminalization of marijuana. This bill provides a real federal solution by fully descheduling of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and providing relief to those suffering under the collateral consequences of having a marijuana charge on their record by facilitating the process of expungements. The American public is overwhelmingly ready to legalize marijuana, their elected officials in Washington need to finally start representing the will of the people and advance this sensible legislation,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. 

    The MORE Act is the most comprehensive marijuana reform bill ever introduced in the US Congress and is backed by a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups. 

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

    “Never in American history has the Chairman of the Judiciary introduced a bill to end federal marijuana criminalization. At a time when the state you live in can determine whether cannabis can ruin your life or make you a millionaire, now more than ever we must end the national prohibition of marijuana. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act embodies the need to legalize cannabis and restore the rights of those who have suffered under the cruel and failed policy of criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. 

    If enacted, the bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus decriminalizing the substance at the federal level and enabling states to set their own policies. Descheduling will also allow the existing state-legal marijuana industry to no longer be barred from accessing financial services or standard tax treatment as every other legal business. Similarly, veterans will have better access to medical marijuana with VA doctors no longer risking federal prosecution for filling out state-legal medical recommendations.

    Given the restrictions the marijuana industry has had to abide by under section 280E of the IRS code, existing enterprises would have a significantly lower overall tax burden than under the current policy of prohibition. 

    The bill would tax marijuana products at a modest 5% to establish a Trust Fund to assist state and local governments in expunging criminal records and setting up regulatory structures for marijuana’s lawful production and distribution.

     The Trust Fund would have three functions:

    1. A fund administrated by a newly created Office of Cannabis Justice to issue grants to communities negatively impacted by the war on drugs for the development of expungement processes, employment programs, reentry guidance, youth resources and more. The Office of Cannabis would be one of the Justice Programs in the Department of Justice. This provision is modeled on the Marijuana Justice Act, by Senator Cory Booker (NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (CA).
    2. A fund administered by the Small Business Administration to encourage socially and economically disadvantaged people to enter the cannabis industry, similar to legislation introduced by Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (NY).
    3. A fund administered by the Small Business Administration to create equitable licensing programs in states and local governments that benefit communities most impacted by the prohibition.

    Currently, individuals with a marijuana conviction are saddled with collateral consequences, including a prohibition from obtaining federal benefits, student loans, or security clearances for government jobs due to marijuana’s criminalized status. To correct the historical injustices relating to prohibition, the MORE Act offers the opportunity to petition for resentencing and expungement. This will eliminate this discrimination and create new opportunities for individuals desperate to advance their careers, education, and quality of life. Immigrants will also benefit from the MORE Act because they will no longer be subject to deportation or citizenship denial solely based on a marijuana infraction. 

    Send a message in support of The MORE Act in less than 30 seconds now!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 15, 2019

    Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has signed legislation into law establishing procedures permitting those with prior, low-level marijuana convictions to petition the court to have their convictions annulled.

    House Bill 399 provides an opportunity for those convicted of offenses involving the possession of three-quarters of one ounce of cannabis or less to seek an annulment. If the prosecuting attorney does not object to the request within ten days, the petition will be granted.

    The new law takes effect on January 1, 2020.

    State lawmakers decriminalized low-level marijuana possession offenses in 2017.

    In June, the Governor signed separate legislation, House Bill 350, into law permitting physician assistants to make medical cannabis recommendations to qualified patients. House Bill 364, which seeks to allow state-registered patients to grow personal use quantities of cannabis at home, awaits action from the Governor.

    Separate legislation that sought to remove existing rules requiring patients to have at least a three-month relationship with a medical provider prior to seeking a medical cannabis recommendation was vetoed by Gov. Sununu.

    Additional information on pending legislation is available from NORML’s Take Action Center.

  • by Josh Kasoff, Nevada NORML July 8, 2019

    It’s been nothing short of an incredibly exciting and exhilarating month for Nevada NORML, our advocates and the rights of patients and consumers. While Nevadans will unfortunately have to wait another two years for the fate of public consumption lounges to be decided upon, monumental legislation passed in the 2019 legislative session regardless. 

    The Battle Born State made national history with the passing and the subsequent signing by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak of Assembly Bill 132, which would prohibit employers within the state from rejecting an applicant based solely on a positive result for cannabis in a drug test. The bill greatly increases the employment opportunities of both recreational consumers and patients alike, and is undoubtedly a step in the correct progressive direction.

    Speaking of the correct progressive direction, Assembly Bill 192 would authorize those who have received low-level, usually misdemeanor cannabis possession charges to apply for expungement. 

    Advocates also had the pleasure of attending a fundraiser at Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom’s residence in May, for New Jersey Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker, where Senator Booker discussed his very vocal plans to legalize cannabis federally and further amend the criminal justice system, which is more critically broken and flawed. 

    The pinnacle of Nevada NORML’s advocacy over the past month consisted of board members’ tour across Northern Nevada. Over the course of three days, advocates visited underserved areas of the state not oftentimes visited by cannabis/criminal justice reform advocates. 

    “We were able to visit folks in Tahoe, Reno and Fallon as well as smoke shops, dispensaries and Budtender Fight Club.” said Nevada NORML Director Madisen Saglibene. “We educated them on the policies we helped pass, what didn’t pass, statistics on cannabis, starting a chapter in Northern Nevada and highlighting Old Pal as not only the sponsor for the event, but as a company who supports cultural change.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 27, 2019

    State lawmakers late last week advanced legislation to the Governor’s desk amending marijuana possession penalties and establishing procedures for the automatic expungement of prior, low-level cannabis convictions.

    The legislation, Assembly Bill 8420-A, reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession violations (up to one ounce) to a $50 fine. It also amends penalties for offenses involving the possession of more than one ounce but less than two ounces of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-criminal violation punishable by a $200 fine – regardless of an offender’s prior criminal history. Under existing law, the possession of over 25 grams of marijuana is punishable by up to three months in jail.

    The measure further amends the classification of offenses involving the use or possession of marijuana in public from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, to a fine-only offense. In New York City alone, police typically made tens of thousands of marijuana arrests annually under the ‘public view’ exception. Over 87 percent of those charged with the crime were either Black or Latino.

    Finally, A. 8420-A establishes procedures to allow for the automatic expungement of criminal records specific to crimes involving the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana.

    While several lawmakers expressed disappointment that members failed to move forward a more expansive legalization proposal, they acknowledged that the changes proposed in Assembly Bill 8420-A are an important first step. “The drug laws that are currently on the books have devastated our communities by disproportionately targeting people of color, forcing them to live with a criminal record that makes it harder to get a job or find housing,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement. “Decriminalizing marijuana, paired with expunging records for these low-level offenses, will help undo some of these decades-long injustices, and allow for people to be productive and successful. This is not the final step, but it will lay the groundwork for full decriminalization and legalization in the future.”

    statement issued jointly by various New York NORML affiliates states that the proposed changes fail to either adequately address “the legacy of harm from prohibition and targeted enforcement” or provide “a pathway forward to a more equitable future. … Our legislators and Governor Cuomo have failed in that regard, and have sent a message to New Yorkers that racial and economic justice are not priorities for them.”

    The measure takes effect 30 days after it is signed into law by the Governor.

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