• by NORML January 15, 2019

    In Senate testimony today, nominee for Attorney General William Barr committed to not use the limited resources of the Department of Justice to prosecute state-regulated and compliant marijuana businesses. His statements came response to questions from Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) — each of whom represent states where marijuana is legally regulated for either medical or recreational purposes.

    “It is encouraging that William Barr pledged not to enforce federal marijuana prohibition against the majority of US states that have reformed their laws. With this commitment, Congress has a clear mandate to take action and end the underlying policy of federal criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “In an era when 47 states have laws on the books that defy the Schedule 1 status of cannabis, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective to try to put this genie back in the bottle.”

    Supporters of reform efforts can easily contact their elected officials by visiting NORML’s Action Center.

    In January of 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded what is known as the Cole Memo, a 2013 Justice Department memorandum, authored by former US Deputy Attorney General James Cole to US attorneys in all 50 states. This memorandum directed prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and not to prosecute those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale — provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

    Thirty-three states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Moreover, an estimated 73 million Americans now reside in the ten states where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Additional states have passed laws specific to the possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for therapeutic purposes.

    Members of Congress in recent years have approved amendments protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” However, this amendment does not provide protections to state-regulated activity governing activities specific to the adult use of marijuana.

    Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.

    Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.

    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.

    Click here to contact your elected officials in support of pending reform efforts. 

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 9, 2019

    Today, the rollout of the new leadership team of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus was announced, with Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and David Joyce (R-OH) joining founding members Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Don Young (R-AK).

    First founded in 2017, the Caucus has been a pivotal element in our ability to build broad bipartisan support for legislation that would address every aspect of reform, from ending criminalization to research to veterans healthcare.

    “The Cannabis Caucus was the first of its kind to create a forum for elected officials to collaborate on ways to address our outdated federal marijuana laws,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “Congress is clearly out of step with the American people on cannabis when national support for federal marijuana legalization is at an all-time high and we saw several states move toward with legalization last November.”

    “Over the last decade, I’ve worked to build understanding and consensus on the need for reform and our movement is cresting. I’m looking forward to working alongside Reps. Lee, Joyce, and Young to build on the bipartisan work we’ve done to end the senseless federal prohibition on marijuana once and for all.”

    The addition of Rep. Lee brings much-needed diversity to the Caucus’s leadership, as she will become the first woman and first African-American to serve as co-chair. A longtime champion of reform efforts, Rep. Lee introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in the last Congress which received the highest number of cosponsorships of any legislation that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act in history.

    “For far too long, communities of color and women have been left out of the conversation on cannabis. I am committed to ensuring that marijuana reform goes hand-in-hand with criminal justice reform so we can repair some of the harm of the failed War on Drugs. We must also work to build an industry that is equitable and inclusive of the communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition,” said Rep. Lee.

    By joining, Rep. Joyce becomes the first leader in the Caucus to come from a state that has yet to pass an adult-use regulatory program. A longtime supporter of reform efforts himself, Rep. Joyce stepped up in the last Congress and introduced The States Act, legislation that would ease the tension between federal prohibition and state-legal programs, as well as was a cosponsor of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act entirely.

    “I’m proud to join my colleagues in leading the effort to implement responsible, commonsense cannabis policies,” said Rep. Joyce. “It is critical that we protect the rights of the states across the country, like Ohio, that have already done so at the state level. The federal government’s interference in this arena has stifled important medical research, interfered with doctors and patients making treatment decisions and harmed state-legal businesses. I look forward to working with Congressman Blumenauer, Congressman Young, and Congresswoman Lee to advance sensible cannabis reforms that will benefit our nation’s veterans, patients, and businesses across the country.”

    The continued efforts of the Caucus will lead to increased levels of support for reform at the federal level and fosters an all-around positive element to promote effective government solutions.

    “Since the initial launch of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus we’ve seen an exponential growth in interest, legislation, and membership many would not have expected”, said Young. “The idea of States’ Rights has been a central tenet of this movement and one that I believe will ultimately carry the day. I encourage all Members to join us in this debate and explore the varying issues.”

    In the 115th Congress, NORML hosted a number of events in cooperation with the Cannabis Caucus, including policy briefings with travel writer Rick Steves, former US Attorneys Barry Grissom and Bill Nettles, and victims of criminalization as part of “The Faces of Prohibition.”

    We look forward to continuing to work with the growing group of congressional allies who join the Cannabis Caucus to end federal marijuana criminalization once and for all.

    You can email your Representative now to tell them to join their colleagues in the Cannabis Caucus by clicking here.  

  • by NORML December 27, 2018

    2018 NORML's Top TenRead the ten biggest stories that shaped marijuana policy in 2018.

    #1: Public Support in Favor of Adult Use Legalization at Historic Highs
    More adults than ever before believe that marijuana use by adults ought to be legal. An October poll conducted by Gallup reported that 66 percent of adults – including majorities of Democrats, Independents, Republicans, and those over the age of 55 – back legalization. The percentage is the highest level of support ever reported by the polling firm. A 2018 Pew poll similarly reported greater public support for legalization than ever before, while a June poll by the Center for American Progress reported that 68 percent of voters nationwide endorse legalization – the highest level of national support ever recorded in a scientific survey.

    #2: Marijuana Initiatives Win at the Ballot Box
    Voters in four states – Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah – passed voter initiated measures in 2018 regulating the use of marijuana. Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah became the 31st, 32nd, and 33rd states to enact medical cannabis access laws, while Michigan became the tenth state to permit adult marijuana use. In January, Vermont legislatively enacted provisions permitting adults to grow and possess marijuana for their own personal use.

    #3: Congress Amends CSA to Lift Ban on Commercial Hemp Production
    Hemp-specific provisions included in the 2018 Farm Bill (aka The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) for the first time amend the federal classification of marijuana to distinguish between cannabis and hemp. Under the new law, which takes effect on January 1, 2019, hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance. The Act also broadens the definition of ‘hemp’ (Section 297A) to include “any part of the plant, including …. extracts [or] cannabinoids” that do not possess greater than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis. The Act also for the first time in decades permits for the licensed commercial cultivation of hemp under a partnership of state and federal regulations.

    #4 Canada Legalizes Adult Marijuana Use and Retail Sales
    Canadian lawmakers this summer approved federal legislation permitting the use of marijuana by those ages 18 and older, and regulating adult use cannabis production and sales. Retailers began selling cannabis in compliance with the new law in October. In November, justices for Mexico’s Supreme Court also struck down the nation’s marijuana ban – finding that laws criminalizing the private use and cultivation of cannabis by adults are unconstitutional.

    #5: Governors Campaign, Win On Marijuana Legalization Platforms
    Candidates for Governor in numerous state races campaigned and won in 2018 on a pledge to legalize and regulate the adult use of cannabis. Specifically, incoming governors in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Illinois explicitly pledged to enact legalization. Re-elected Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo has also pledged to enact adult use legalization in early 2019, as has New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

    #6: Incoming House Rules Chair to Allow Floor Votes on Marijuana-Related Measures
    Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern said in November that he will permit federal lawmakers to debate and vote on marijuana-related amendments when he assumes control of the House Rules Committee in 2019. Representative McGovern replaces outgoing Rules Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX), who lost his re-election bid. Representative Sessions used his position as Chairman of the House Rules Committee to block House floor members from voting on over three-dozen marijuana-related amendments during his leadership tenure. “Unlike my predecessor, I’m not going to block amendments for marijuana,” McGovern said. “Citizens are passing ballot initiatives, legislatures are passing laws, and we need to respect that. Federal laws and statutes are way behind.”

    #7: Legal Marijuana Access is Associated with Reduced Opioid Abuse
    Over a dozen peer-reviewed studies were published in 2018 finding that regulated marijuana access is associated with lower rates of opioid use, abuse, and mortality. Among patients enrolled in medical cannabis access programs, use of opioids frequently decreases or is eliminated altogether.

    #8: FBI: Marijuana Arrests Spike for Second Straight Year
    The total number of persons arrested in the United States for violating marijuana laws rose for the second consecutive year, according to data released in September by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police made 659,700 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2017. As in previous years, marijuana possession arrests were least likely to occur in the western region of the United States, where possessing the plant has largely been either legalized or decriminalized. By contrast, in Midwestern states, marijuana-related arrests comprised over 53 percent of all drug arrests.

    #9: FDA Approves First Ever Plant-Derived Cannabis Medicine
    Regulators at the US Food and Drug Administration in June for the first time granted market approval to a plant-derived cannabis medicine, Epidiolex. The medicine contains a standardized formulation of plant-derived cannabidiol for the explicit treatment of two rare forms of severe epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. In September, the US Drug Enforcement Administration classified Epidiolex to Schedule V — the lowest restriction categorization available under federal law.

    #10: States, Localities Move to Expunge Past Marijuana Convictions
    California became the first state to automatically review and expunge past marijuana-related convictions, under legislation enacted in October. Delaware enacted a similar law calling for the mandatory expungement of certain marijuana-related offenses, joining several other states that permit those with past records to petition to have those records sealed. Local officials in various cities in 2018, including Denver, Philadelphia, and Seattle, announced the facilitation of similar policies.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator December 21, 2018

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

    History has been made at the federal level this week! President Donald Trump signed The Farm Bill into law on Thursday that includes language lifting the United States’ decades-long prohibition on domestic, commercial hemp production. Specifically, the 2018 Act amends the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 so that hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

    On the other hand, Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) blocked lawmakers from considering an amendment on the floor of the U.S. Senate that sought to permanently remove the threat of federal intervention in states that regulate marijuana sales.

    At the state level, Vermont’s Marijuana Advisory Commission delivered its final report to Governor Scott, which outlines recommendations on how a legal adult use market should be implemented. Recommendations include a 26% tax on cannabis sales, and that a consistent way to test for impairment among drivers is needed before the state moves forward.

    At a more local level, Mayor DeBlasio of New York City officially announced his support for legalization; this came soon after Governor Cuomo also endorsed legalizing adult use marijuana. Also, prosecutors in Brooklyn, NY began to expunge records for minor marijuana offenses.

    Following are the bills 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. Another great way to stay up to date is Marijuana Moment’s daily newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.

    Your Highness,

    Priority Alerts


    Penalize States that Maintain Criminalization: The Marijuana Justice Act 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.

    Click here to email your federal lawmakers and urge them to support this important legislation


    Legislation has been pre-filed by Senator Tallian (D), Senate Bill 213, to allow adults to possess up to two ounces of marijuana.

    IN resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of depenalization

    State Senator Karen Tallian also plans to introduce a bill in 2019 that would allow qualified patients to use and possess physician-authorized medical marijuana.

    IN resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical marijuana access

    North Dakota

    Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (R) plans to introduce legislation during the 2019 legislative session to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

    The measure would impose a civil penalty of $200 for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as for the cultivation of up to two marijuana plants.

    ND resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of decriminalization

    South Carolina

    Legislation is pending, H. 3276, to decriminalize the possession of certain controlled substances, including marijuana.

    The measure would impose a civil penalty for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, resulting in a fine only, between $100-$200 for the first offense, and between $200-$1,000 for the second offense.

    SC resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of decriminalization

    Legislation has been pre-filed to permit physician-authorized access to medical marijuana for qualified patients.

    H. 3272: The Put Patients First Act allows registered patients to use, possess, and cultivate specified quantities of medical marijuana.

    A separate measure, H. 3081: The Medical Use of Marijuana Act, also seeks to regulate medical cannabis distribution and access, but does not permit patients to home-cultivate the plant.

    SC resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical marijuana access

    Other Actions to Take


    Two pieces of legislation are pending that would allow Missourians with certain prior cannabis convictions to get their records expunged.

    House Bill 292 requires the court to expunge the records for those previously convicted of the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana possession.

    House Bill 341 would allow registered medical marijuana patients to have their records expunged if they were convicted of a possession offense that occurred prior to their participation in the state’s cannabis access program.

    MO resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of expungement


    Legislation is pending, LC 2152, to protect responsible adult cannabis consumers from employment discrimination.

    The measure would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees who legally consume marijuana off-the-job in accordance with state law.

    OR resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of employment protections for consumers


    Legislation has been pre-filed, HB 33, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    MD resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of cannabis as an alternative to opioids


    Delegate Chris Hurst has filed HB 1720, which seeks to permit any student who is a registered Virginia medical cannabis patient to possess and use Virginia-allowed medical cannabis oil on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity.

    If passed, this bill would prohibit a school board from suspending or expelling from school attendance any such student who possesses or uses Virginia-allowed medical cannabis oil on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity.

    VA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of protections for student patients

    That’s all for this week, happy holidays everyone!

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

    While lawmakers in Albany continue to explore the intricacies of legalizing and regulating adult-use marijuana in New York, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced a plan to expunge low-level marijuana convictions from criminal records. In a recent interview with CBS New York, Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez had this to say. “I do not believe these cases keep us safer. They cause a lot of distrust in our justice system. We all here know there is a tremendous racial disparity in respect to how these cases have been enforced in the past.”

    Following the announcement from the District Attorney’s Office, David C.  Holland, Esq., Executive and Legal Director of Empire State NORML, weighed in on the DA’s decision. “Justice is being vindicated by District Attorney Gonzalez through his actions by openly acknowledging that cannabis was and is not the source of social ills or disruption. Rather, his actions continue to help the Empire State continue to move to responsible use legislation as communities and individuals most impacted by the misguided drug war may become innovators and leaders in this new green industrial era. ”

    For months, state legislators and officials with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office have been soliciting feedback from stakeholders and hosting roundtable meetings with the hope of drafting legislation for next year’s legislative session that’s scheduled to convene on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. In addition to discussions about tax revenues and health and public safety, many are urging lawmakers to include language that would allow for the expungement of past marijuana convictions and expansion of re-entry programs to those disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition.

    Most recently, Governor Cuomo outlined his agenda for 2019 which prioritizes the legalization of adult-use marijuana and establishment of a tax and regulate program. During his remarks, the Governor also expressed his full support for restorative justice provisions that would begin to address the many injustices of marijuana prohibition. With Democrats controlling both chambers of New York’s legislature, it’s likely Governor Cuomo will have the support he needs to deliver on his promise.

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Dispel the myths with the NORML Fact Sheets. For more information follow Empire State NORML on Facebook and Twitter and visit their website!

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