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  • by Mary Kruger, Executive Director, Roc NORML; Director, NY NORML March 3, 2020

    MRTA: A-

    CRTA: C- 

    New York State is set to legalize and regulate cannabis for adult-use, and improve our existing medical marijuana and hemp programs by April 1st with the 2020-2021 NYS Budget. But our work isn’t over yet and we need to fight for SMART legalization now more than ever!

    The MRTA (Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act) was first introduced by Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Liz Krueger in 2013, and has been re-introduced every session since. The bill has gone through several versions to include improvements through the years, taking what we’ve learned from other states successes and failures, aiming to create the gold standard of marijuana legalization legislation. The bill currently has 22 co-sponsors in the Senate and 43 co-sponsors in the Assembly.

    The CRTA (Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act) was first introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo with the 2019-2020 budget proposal. It failed to pass with the budget in 2019 due to lack of support from the legislature, and a similar version of the bill was introduced again this year with the 2020-2021 NYS budget proposal. 

    Late February, a revised version of the 2020-2021 NYS budget proposal was introduced – but disappointingly, no changes were made to the section containing the CRTA.

    While neither bill is perfect, NY NORML chapters unanimously agree the MRTA is far superior to the CRTA, and revisions must be made to the CRTA before it is passed into law.

    Let’s take a look at some of the key differences between these bills, which have been used to grade each one, resulting in an A- for the MRTA and a C- for the CRTA:

    Tax revenue to reinvest into social programs for communities disproportionately harmed from the war on drugs

    YES MRTA= % of tax revenue from marijuana legalization is allocated specifically for a Community Reinvestment Grant program.

    NO CRTA = claims tax revenue could potentially be used for social programs but no specific money is allocated.

    Prevents further criminalization of cannabis consumers for possessing small amounts of illicit marijuana

    YES MRTA = possessing illicit marijuana (from an unlicensed source) is a violation with a fine, for up to 2 pounds of flower and 4.5 ounces of concentrate; any amount over these limits can be a misdemeanor, arrestable offense.

    NO CRTA = possessing any amount of illicit marijuana is a misdemeanor
    Important Note: The Decriminalization Bill passed by Governor Cuomo in 2019 made it so any amount of marijuana flower, up to 2 ounces, is a violation, but the CRTA proposes going backwards to any amount of marijuana from an unlicensed source being a misdemeanor, arrestable offense.

    Allows for home cultivation for personal use

    YES MRTA = allows up to 6 plants for adult-use, per adult per household, and any amount over that limit is a violation with a fine.

    NO CRTA = prohibits home cultivation for adult-use and classifies any amount of plants as at least a misdemeanor. Medical marijuana patients can register with the state to obtain a home cultivation permit, which allows the state to enter a patient’s house at any time for inspection. Medical patients are restricted to 4 plants total, per household. Medical patients are restricted from making any consumable or topical products for personal use from their marijuana plant. If any of these limits are broken, it is at least a misdemeanor, arrestable offense.

    Promotes and supports growth and sustainability of small businesses and building diversity and equity in the industry

    YES MRTA = creates a multi-tier licensing structure, modeled after the craft beer industry, restricting vertically integrated companies to prevent the creation of an oligopoly in the market. This licensing model allows for multiple points of entry into the system with affordable licensing fees.

    NO CRTA = few limitations around current vertically integrated companies in the medical marijuana industry getting licenses in the adult-use industry, which would cripple small businesses from having a chance to compete.

    Access to commonly found cannabis products in the regulated market

    YES MRTA = keeps commonly found cannabis products on the market legal, keeping current consumers patronizing the legal market.

    NO CRTA = aims to regulate potency and types of products available, which will inevitably drive consumers to the illicit market to find familiar products.

    Formation of Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the cannabis industry and regulations

    YES MRTA = all members are appointed by the Governor, pending legislative approval, providing checks and balances for the people being chosen to hold these positions.

    NO CRTA = all members are appointed solely by the Governor and the legislature has no control over the people chosen to hold these positions.

    Affordable tax rate



    Neither bill offers affordable tax rates. At the current proposed tax rate, which is the same in both bills, it is estimated an eighth of flower will cost anywhere from $60-$70. This is unacceptable and will destroy the chance of building small, craft cannabis businesses.

    Adequate improvements to the medical program



    Neither bill offers adequate improvements to the medical marijuana program. At the very least, improvements must include the addition of flower into the medical marijuana program, tax exempt medical marijauna products until insurance companies begin to cover the medicine, and reciprocity granted to patients certified in other jurisdictions.

    Legalization in NYS has 3 main goals:

    1. Address decades of harm caused by marijuana prohibition
    2. Create a regulated market so cannabis consumers have access to affordable, safe products
    3. Create a new source of tax revenue for the state

    When we look back at some of the key things we’ve learned from the states that have legalized before us is over-regulation and over taxation is what has been most damaging to this budding industry. 

    If NYS wants to accomplish any of the 3 goals that have been set, we need our leaders in Albany to learn from the mistakes made by other states, and revisions must be made to the CRTA before it can be passed into law.

    All month long, until March 31st, we need everyone to be calling, emailing, tweeting, and meeting with our leaders in Albany to urge them to make changes to the proposed legalization bill.

    1. Use this action alert to send an email to the Governor and Speakers of the Assembly and Senate
    2. Use this form to sign up for our March 24th state wide lobby day
    3. Use the phone numbers and script below to call them and help us ring their phones off the hook in response to the anti-legalization lobby day happening today:

    Governor Cuomo: 518-474-8390

    Speaker Heastie: 518-455-3791

    Leader Stewart-Cousins: 518-455-2585

    “My name is (your name), a constituent from (your city). I am a supporter of Start SMART NY and NORML, and I want to urge you to support legalization in the budget, but the bill as it stands today must have changes made. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (Senate Bill 1527/Assembly Bill 1617) is the bill to look at for guidance on changes that are needed to the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (the bill included in the Governor’s budget proposal). The most important changes needed to the CRTA include:

    1. Allocating a specific % of tax revenue to reinvest into social programs for communities disproportionately harmed from the war on drugs;
    2. Preventing further criminalization of consumers for possessing small amounts of illicit marijuana;
    3. Allowing for home cultivation of cannabis for personal, adult-use;
    4. Promoting and supporting the growth and sustainability of small businesses and building diversity and equity in the industry;
    5. Access to commonly found cannabis products in the regulated market with a goal of keeping current consumers patronizing the legal market;
    6. Formation of the Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the cannabis industry and regulations, with checks and balances provided through legislative approval;
    7. Affordable tax rate; and
    8. Adequate improvements to our medical program

    New Yorkers are tired of waiting for legalization but we won’t accept legalization at any means necessary. We urge you to listen to the recommendations being made by members of the Start SMART NY alliance and make these important changes to the CRTA before it is passed into law.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 3, 2020

    Activities involving the personal possession and/or cultivation of cannabis in private are no longer subject to either criminal or civil penalties in the Australian Capital Territory, in accordance with legislation that took effect last week.

    Under the new law, those age 18 or older may possess up to 50 grams of cannabis and cultivate up to four plants per household without penalty. The use of marijuana in public remains prohibited.

    The ACT’s policy conflicts with Australian federal law, which defines cannabis-related activities as criminal offenses. Between 2017 and 2018, Australian police made over 72,000 marijuana-related arrests – 92 percent of which were for personal possession.

    The ACT is the first Australian territory to eliminate penalties specific to marijuana possession.

    Additional information about the new policy is available online here.

  • by Delaware NORML January 27, 2020

    Delaware cannabis patients and advocates will gather in Dover on Wednesday to rally support for The Delaware Patient Right to Grow Act, House Bill 243. This change would allow registered patients and registered caregivers to grow medical cannabis at home. The bill will have a hearing in the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee where committee members accept public comment before voting to release the bill to the full House for consideration.

    Hearing details:
    Wednesday 1/29/20 @ 2:30PM
    House Minority Caucus Room 
    411 Legislative Avenue 
    Dover, DE 19901

    Patients are legally permitted to cultivate medical cannabis in about half of the states that regulate its use and distribution. In almost all cases, these provisions have led to few incidences of abuse or diversion. No state has repealed home cultivation, and there has never been a serious push to do so. 

    Allowing patients to grow their own cannabis at home could dramatically increase access.  Delaware has approximately 9000 medical cannabis patients who depend on cannabis as a medicine, but insurance does not cover the cost of cannabis.  For many patients, medical expenses and a reduced ability to work combine to make the price of store-bought cannabis out of reach. For some patients, proximity to a dispensary can often be a challenge as they must drive long distances to access medical cannabis. Securely cultivating cannabis at home alleviates these issues.  Most patients respond best to specific strains of cannabis. Allowing patients, the option to grow specific strains at home assures that they will have an uninterrupted and cost-effective supply of the medicine that is best suited to their own therapeutic needs.

    In addition, home cultivation would allow access to parts of the cannabis plant, such as leaves, roots, stalks and seeds, that are usually trimmed away by our current medical dispensaries before being sold.  Whole plant cannabis contains more than 100 distinct cannabinoids and numerous terpenes that also possess a variety of therapeutic effects.  Many scientists now believe that the combined administration of all these parts of the cannabis plant produce a synergistic effect that is necessary for patients to achieve maximum therapeutic benefit.

    Delaware patients have waited long enough for home cultivation, lawmakers must act promptly to ensure Delaware patients have the right to grow.

    Can’t make it to the hearing? Send a message to your lawmakers now in support of home cultivation rights for Delaware patients

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

    A proposed measure legalizing medical cannabis access in South Dakota has qualified for the 2020 ballot.

    The South Dakota Secretary of State’s Office acknowledged Thursday that petitioners had gathered a sufficient number of signatures to place Measure 26 on the ballot. The initiative permits qualified patients to possess and home-cultivate cannabis for medical purposes, and establishes a state-regulated retail system for medical marijuana sales.

    “For many years, we have asked the legislature to address the issue of medical marijuana,” said Melissa Mentele, director of New Approach South Dakota and sponsor of the medical marijuana ballot initiative. “Despite the fact that a strong majority of South Dakotans support allowing legal, regulated, and safe access to medical marijuana for patients with debilitating conditions, elected officials have failed to take action. Patients cannot afford to wait any longer, and this ballot initiative is our only recourse.”

    South Dakota is one of only three states that has not enacted any legislation providing some form of medical cannabis or CBD access.

    A separate ballot measure that seeks to regulate the use and sale of marijuana for all adults still awaits certification from the South Dakota Secretary of State. Earlier this week, New Jersey lawmakers decided to place an adult-use legalization question on the 2020 ballot.

    Additional information about the South Dakota initiatives is available from the website South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws.

  • by Jeff Riedy, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley NORML November 12, 2019

    Medical marijuanaLehigh Valley NORML, and medical cannabis patients from across Pennsylvania, will hold the second in a series of monthly protests at the Department of Health (PaDOH) headquarters on Forster St. “Patients First: Fixing Medical Marijuana in PA” will commence on Wednesday November 13, 2019 from 08:30 AM-5:00 PM.

    These events offer a voice to the large number of registered medical marijuana patients who are deeply dissatisfied with the current program. Key concerns: Expensive prices, product shortages and quality, few legal protections and the daily threat of a DUI charge.

    Their first rally, on October 23, saw a groundswell of support from the patient community, and  garnered significant media attention. The Nov. 13th protest again focuses on the struggles within Pennsylvania’s very restrictive medical marijuana program.

    While boasting an enrollment of around 200,000 patients, those registered continue to suffer under the extended growing pains of a stunted program. Employers and law enforcement are also playing catch up to the new laws. Patients have faced lost jobs and needless DUI charges.

    Meanwhile, those who hold the lucrative cultivation, processing, and dispensary licenses are finding new ways to profit, primarily by selling to out of state investors. Patients are stuck paying some of the most expensive cannabis product prices in the country: Average out-of-pocket expenses of over $1000 per month, with no relief from insurance.

    These protests will highlight the program’s shortcomings, and offer sensible solutions directly from the patient community. A Patients’ Bill of Rights for Medical Cannabis will be offered to legislators as a proposed Resolution.

    Lehigh Valley NORML Executive Director Jeff Riedy said, ”These protests were organized in response to the ongoing cries from registered patients. We fought to win this Medical Cannabis program in Pennsylvania, and we continue to support it. Now, we believe that the needs of our patients are being overlooked in favor of business enterprises. It’s time for our regulators and legislators to listen to our seriously ill residents once again.”

    According to longtime NORML organizer Chris Goldstein, “It’s time for the Department of Health to begin actively evolving this program. Prices need to come down significantly for working patients, and those living on a fixed income. Healthcare only works when people can afford it.”

    The next event will be on December 18, and will include a protest at the Capitol, along with a rally and brief press conference inside the Capitol Rotunda. Patients will engage in citizen lobbying efforts throughout the day.

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