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Policy

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator January 18, 2019

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

    U.S. Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) this week introduced HR 493: The Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act, which would codify the protections that were outlined in the now-rescinded Cole Memo.

    Additionally, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. House lawmakers introduced The Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019 (HR 601), to facilitate federally-approved clinical trials involving cannabis.

    At the state level, patients in Ohio and Oklahoma now have access to medical cannabis, as sales began in both states this week.

    Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York and Governor Gina Raimondo (D) of Rhode Island both included plans for cannabis legalization as a part of their budget proposals in their respective states.

    A medical cannabis access bill was signed into law in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, a decriminalization bill was defeated in the Virginia House this week.

    At a more local level, Westchester County, New York’s district attorney will no longer prosecute low level cannabis possession cases; Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin approved two different advisory questions to appear on an April ballot; and Oklahoma City public schools will now allow students to be administered medical cannabis by a caregiver while at school.

    Following are the bills that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check NORML’s Action Center 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 U.S. Congress. Another great way to stay up to date is Marijuana Moment’s daily newsletter, which you can subscribe to HERE.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    Regulate Nationally: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2019 — (HR 420) seeks to deschedule cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.

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

    Connecticut

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 5595, to permit the use, possession, cultivation, and retail sale of marijuana for adults 21 and over.

    The measure allows adults to cultivate up to six cannabis plants in their own homes; provides for the expungement of prior cannabis possession convictions; and allows for home deliveries.

    CT resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of legalization

    West Virginia

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 2331, to legalize the use, possession, and retail sale of cannabis for adults.

    The measure would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use, but it would give localities the authority to restrict or ban the retail sale and production of cannabis through county referenda.

    WV resident? Click here to urge your lawmakers to amend this bill to benefit all consumers

    Washington, DC

    Legislation is pending, The Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act, to permit the retail sale of cannabis to adults in the District.

    The measure allows those 21 and over to legally purchase personal use quantities of cannabis from licensed retail outlets.

    DC resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of retail sales

    Indiana

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 1540, to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

    The measure would impose a class C infraction for the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, which translates to a civil penalty punishable by a fine between $100 and $200.

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

    Nebraska

    Senator Anna Wishart (D) has re-introduced legislation, LB 110, to allow qualifying patients with certain debilitating conditions to use and safely access medical cannabis.

    If passed, this bill provides registered patients with regulated access to medical cannabis via licensed providers.

    Update: LB 110 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Comittee at 1:30pm on 1/25/19 in the Warner Chamber.

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

    Washington

    Legislation is pending in the House and Senate, HB 1131 / SB 5155, “Allowing residential marijuana agriculture.”

    This bill allows adults to cultivate up to six marijuana plants in their home.

    Update: HB 1131 is scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Commerce & Gaming at 8:00am.

    WA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of home cultivation rights

    Kentucky

    State Sen. Jimmy Higdon introduced Senate Bill 82, to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

    The measure would impose a civil penalty for any “personal use quantity”of cannabis, punishable by a $100 fine.

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

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 136, to permit physicians to authorize access to medical cannabis for any patient whom they believe would benefit from its therapeutic use.

    The measure allows registered patients to use, possess, and cultivate specified quantities of medical marijuana.

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

    Iowa

    Legislation is pending, Senate File 1012, to amend marijuana possession penalties for first-time offenders.

    Senate File 1012 reducea criminal penalties for possession of 5 grams of marijuana or less from a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000, to a simple misdemeanor, punishable by no more than 30 days in jail and/or a $625 fine.

    Criminal penalties for all subsequent offenses would remain unchanged under these legislations.

    IA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of a first time penalty reduction

    Oklahoma

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 305, to protect registered medical cannabis patients from employment discrimination.

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

    OK resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of employment protections

    Legislation has been introduced in Oklahoma, Senate Bill 325, to restrict access to medical cannabis in the state.

    The measure would allow counties within Oklahoma to hold a referendum on whether or not to restrict or ban the production and sale of medical cannabis in their jurisdiction.

    OK resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in opposition to restricting medical access

    Alaska

    Senator Tom Begich has re-introduced legislation, Senate Bill 8, to seal the convictions of past marijuana possession offenders.

    The measure prohibits the release of past records for any marijuana offense that is no longer defined as a crime under state law.

    AK resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of record sealing

    Hawaii

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 37, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    HI resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of cannabis in place of opioids

    Florida

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 372, to re-legalize the inhalation of herbal cannabis formulations for medical purposes.

    FL resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical cannabis inhalation rights

    North Dakota

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 1417, to expand patients’ access to medical cannabis in North Dakota.

    The proposed changes:

    • Expands the pool of eligible patients by permitting providers to recommend medical cannabis to those diagnosed with neuropathy; opioid use disorder; opioid withdrawal; migraine; rheumatoid arthritis; and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome;
    • Allows physicians to explicitly authorize select patients to legally possess greater quantities of cannabis than are generally allowed under the law.

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

    Arkansas

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 1150, to expand the state’s nascent medical cannabis access law.

    The measure expands the pool of applicants eligible for medical cannabis by allowing physicians to recommend it to those with a wide array of conditions, including asthma, ADHD, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injury, among other diagnoses.

    AR resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical expansion

    Colorado

    Legislation is pending in Colorado that would expand the pool of individuals eligible for medical cannabis.

    Senate Bill 19-013 would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy for any condition for which an opiate would otherwise be prescribed.

    House Bill 19-1028 would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

    CO resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical expansion

    Other Actions to Take

    Connecticut

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 5442, to expand patients’ access to medical cannabis in Connecticut.

    The measure would expand the pool of individuals eligible for medical cannabis by allowing physicians to recommend it to those with generalized chronic pain.

    CT resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical expansion

    Arizona

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 2387, that would expand the pool of individuals eligible for medical cannabis.

    The measure would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

    AZ resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical expansion

    New York

    Legislation to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana for dogs, cats and other pets in New York State is pending in the Assembly (A. 970) Health Committee. The bill would allow veterinarians to recommend marijuana for our furry companion animals.

    NY resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of expanding medical access to pets

    Mississippi

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 625, to establish an industrial hemp pilot program to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    MS resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of hemp production

    Washington

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 5276, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    WA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of hemp production

    Wyoming

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 171, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    WY resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of hemp production

    Florida

    Legislation is pending, H. 333, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    FL resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of hemp production

    That’s all for this week!

  • by Norm Kent, NORML Board of Directors January 17, 2019

    I am delighted to report that more and more government officials are promoting sanity in pot laws. Cannabis crosses political parties and generational lines.

    Good weed gets you high whether you think the last attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was a Neanderthal or you think Beto O’Rourke should be the next Democratic presidential candidate, which I do.

    I was right 50 years ago when I said as a Hofstra University college student on Hempstead, Long Island in New York in 1969 that pot should be legal. A half century later,  I am still correct. Only the weed is a lot better.

    Over the years, I have learned that if a man stands his ground, and there abides, the whole world will eventually come around to him. Today, in 2019, 65 percent of America and apparently 84 percent of Wilton Manors agrees with me.

    The legitimate powers of government should reach no further than controlling acts which are injurious to others. Freedom means having the right to be stupid, whether your parents or partners approve or not.

    As Thomas Jefferson once said, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

    Pot never should have been criminalized. Outside of making North Dakota a state, locking people up for smoking weed was one of the dumbest things our government has ever done.

    In Florida, our new Commissioner of Agriculture is Nikki Fried, a Jewish woman and law graduate who will give new meaning to the High Holy Days. She supports the legalization of marijuana.

    Nikki has said she will be appointing a statewide Director of Cannabis to her agency. Man, I have held that position my whole life. Weed makes everything better, from sex to food to reading SFGN.

    More seriously, on the right side of the aisle, cannabis has found surprising supporters. Importantly, in Florida there are people like Congressman Matt Gaetz, a northwest Florida Republican who I would ordinarily have nothing in common with, outside of sports and fast cars.

    However, Gaetz is amongst a cadre of Republicans, like the former speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, who have actively promoted a new direction for federal marijuana policy. Damn, it’s about time.

    Congressman Gaetz has already partnered with newly elected and young Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York State, to revise the Neanderthal laws.

    Last year, when Attorney General Sessions called for a crackdown on cannabis, Gaetz stated it was a “cruel plan that harms some of our most vulnerable fellow Americans. I have seen children who have been helped by medical marijuana when all other treatments have failed. Some have gone from surgeries and seizures to baseball games and homecoming dances.” He’s right.

    Cathy Jordan has suffered from ALS since 1986. When I met her back then, she was given 3-5 years to live. Along with the power and love of her devoted husband, smoking medical marijuana has kept her alive.

    When Elvy Mussika was acquitted of growing pot in her Hollywood backyard in 1988, she was nearly going blind from glaucoma. The THC in cannabis reduced the intraocular pressures in her eyes, and thirty years later, she can still see.

    Right now, despite 32 states moving in an opposite direction, cannabis is still regulated as a “Schedule 1 drug.” This means that the regulated substance has “no medicinal value.” Come on, we all know better by now, especially all those bar and restaurant workers that hang out after work in the alleyway by the Alibi in the Manors.

    Encouragingly, the new nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, also stated in his confirmation hearings yesterday that he would support a continuation of the Obama Era regulatory guidelines.

    These rules allow those states that have invested in medicinal marijuana laws to continue to rely on the rules generated by previous attorney generals. This allows dispensaries operating in those states to continue to run their business without fear of being raided or shut down.

    Florida residents also passed a constitutional amendment to provide for medical marijuana two years ago. The regulatory system is flawed, and Florida’s new governor has said he will fix it. Now would be a good time.

    Unfortunately, the first week in office for Ron DeSantis presented no encouragement. His legal team went into the Court of Appeals and argued that the legislative ban on smoking marijuana be upheld.  His actions make his campaign promise hollow.

    A Leon County Circuit judge had previously struck down the smoking ban, but the decision was stayed after the State of Florida appealed. DeSantis could have made history by killing the appeal. He did not. He made the argument for maintaining it.

    During the oral arguments last week in Tallahassee, an appellate panel of judges interrogated Florida officials about whether the legislature had not usurped the will of our citizens by using its political veto power to override an amendment its citizens overwhelmingly supported.

    The Department of Health told the judges that since smoking causes cardiovascular and respiratory health problems, the Florida legislature could limit delivery methods to protect the public. I call BS on that.

    It does not matter what side of the political aisle you are on, Americans have learned that cannabis is a cure, not a cancer. Let’s hope Ron DeSantis learns that as well.

    Our citizens voted for smokable medical marijuana. A lawmaker in the state house should not make that choice. You should make the call, by yourself, with your partner, in your own house. Nothing less than your inalienable right to free choice is at stake.

    Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    A bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers has introduced The Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019 (HR 601), to facilitate federally-approved clinical trials involving cannabis.

    Click here to send a message to your Representative and urge them to support the measure. 

    The act ends the University of Mississippi’s existing monopoly on the growth of cannabis for clinical research purposes, by requiring the licensing of additional manufacturers.

    To date, the US National Institute on Drug Abuse designates the University of Mississippi to be the sole provider of marijuana for FDA-approved research. However, many of those familiar with their product have criticized its quality, opining that it possesses subpar potency, is often poorly manicured, and that it does not accurately reflect the wide variety of cannabis products and strains available to consumers.

    As the result of a lawsuit, DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner in 2007 ruled that expanding the pool of federally licensed providers would be “in the public interest.” The agency ultimately rejected her decision. More recently, in 2016, the DEA changed its position and amended regulations in a manner to permit additional applicants to apply to federal licensure to grow marijuana. However, the United State’s Attorney General’s office has thus far failed to take action on any pending applications.

    Other provisions in the measure explicitly permits VA physicians to provide information to patients regarding their eligibility in clinical trials, and provides a “safe harbor” for universities, clinicians, and patients participating in federally-approved trials from federal interference.

    Click here to send a message to your federal lawmaker and urge them to support the measure. 

    A similar version of this bill was passed in the House Judiciary Committee in 2018 yet was not taken up by the full chamber.

    At the time the bill passed committee, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano praised the effort, saying, “The federal hurdles in place that currently discourage clinicians from engaging in clinical cannabis research have long been onerous and irrational. It is high time that lawmakers recognize this problem and take action to amend it so that investigators may conduct the same sort of high-quality clinical research with cannabis that they do with other substances.”

  • 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 14, 2019

    Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) has introduced HR 493: The Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act, which would codify the protections that were outlined in the now-rescinded Cole Memo.

    The Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act essentially would give peace of mind to lawmakers, regulators, 149,000+ workers, and the millions of patients and consumers who are dependent on the normalization of lawful marijuana markets. The most essential component in creating a stable business environment to meet consumer demand is certainty, and that is what states and businesses would have with Congressman Correa’s legislation to protect state-lawful programs from potential rouge US Attorneys under a Department of Justice likely to be led by known drug warrior William Barr.

    Click here to send a message to your Representative and tell them to add their name in support!

    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.

    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.

    It is critical that federal officials protect our progress. Send a message in support of HR 493 now!

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