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Policy

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate October 19, 2018

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

    Some news from across the border to start off, this week Canada became the second nation to explicitly legalize the social use, possession, cultivation, and retail production and sale of cannabis. The new law will also include pardons of all criminal possession charges of less than 30 grams.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is seeking public comments specific to whether changes ought to be recommended regarding the international classification of cannabis as a controlled substance. Members of the public have until October 31, 2018 to submit their comments to the FDA for consideration. They’ve already gotten at least 2,000 submissions. Click here to submit your own comments quickly and easily now.

    In Congress this week, the Senate bill to encourage the Department of Veterans affairs to study medical cannabis (VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act) got one new cosponsor, for a total of six.

    The House bill to increase military veterans’ access to medical cannabis (Veterans Equal Access Act) got one new cosponsor, for a total of 29.

    At the state level, four New York Assembly committees held a joint hearing in Manhattan on marijuana legalization proposals.

    Utah Democratic lawmakers will hold a town hall meeting on medical cannabis next Wednesday 10/24. They’ll discuss the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, Proposition 2, and the medical cannabis landscape more broadly.

    Rhode Island regulators added autism spectrum disorders as medical cannabis qualifying conditions, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed legislation into law prohibiting marijuana-infused alcoholic beverages.

    At a more local level, the mayor of Ocean Springs, Mississippi is helping to collect signatures for the state’s proposed 2020 medical cannabis ballot measure.

    A draft Seattle, Washington 2019 legislative agenda says the city supports state legislation to allow marijuana delivery services and cannabis vaping lounges, as well as expunging misdemeanor convictions.

    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.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    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

    New Jersey

    A4510 seeks to create a state bank to provide financial services to licensed marijuana business operating in accordance with state law.

    The measure would permit the bank to make loans to, and accept deposits from, any marijuana-related business. Currently, many financial institutions are discouraged from interacting with the cannabis industry because of the plant’s illegal federal status.

    NJ resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of expanded banking access

    That’s all for this week!

  • by NORML October 17, 2018

    Today, Canada becomes the second nation to explicitly legalize the social use, possession, cultivation, and retail production and sale of cannabis. The new law marks the culmination of an effort led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised in 2015, shortly after taking office, to legalize and regulate the marijuana market.

    Further, the new law will include expungements of all possession criminal charges of less than 30 grams.

    Trudeau was not always in favor of legalization. In fact, for many years he opposed it. That was until he met face-to-face with NORML Canada advocates Kelly Coulter and Andrea Matrosovs in 2012. They presented Trudeau with pro-legalization arguments that he’s still using today as prime minister.

    According to the Toronto Star:

    Coulter told Trudeau flatly that decriminalization would not keep gangs and organized crime out of the marijuana business. “Al Capone would have loved it if alcohol had only been decriminalized,” she said — a line she often used when talking to politicians.

    “I saw the light go on in his eyes,” Coulter said. “He was seeing this as a politician, realizing ‘I can sell this,’ ” she recalled.

    Speaking with the Huffington Post in 2013, Trudeau acknowledged that he reversed his position after speaking with NORML members admitting their “line of argument did a long way towards convincing me.” Their conversation persuaded Trudeau that legalizing marijuana use for adults would be the best way for the government to regulate sales, provide consumer safety, and keep it out of the hands of kids.

    The Act, Bill C-45, permits those age 18 and older to legally possess (up to 30 grams) and grow cannabis (up to four plants of any size per household). Individual provinces possess the authority to enact additional regulations with respect to distribution, such as raising the legal age limit to purchase cannabis or by restricting home grow operations.

    The Act also federally licenses commercial producers of cannabis and certain cannabis-infused products, while permitting provinces to regulate retail sales in public (government operated) and private stores, subject to local rules. Online cannabis sales will also be permitted in certain provinces.

    While fewer than 200 total retailers are anticipated to be operational on day one of the new law, additional facilities are anticipated to be operational in the near future. Cannabis-infused edible products are anticipated to be regulated and available at retail stores early next summer. The new social use regulations do not amend Canada’s existing medical marijuana access laws, which have been in place since 2001.

    In anticipation of the law change, the US Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection Agency published a memorandum in September affirming that those Canadians either involved or invested in the legal cannabis industry may be barred admission into the United States. The agency later updated their policy directive on October 9, 2018, acknowledging: “A Canadian citizen working in … the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the US for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the United States. However, if a traveler is found to be coming to the US for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”

    But what about America? We still have a long way to go to achieve the kind of freedom Canadians are celebrating today.

    NORML is hard at work making sure Americans have the information they need when they head to the polls on November 6 to elect the most pro-reform candidates in history with our Smoke the Vote voter guide to legalizing marijuana. We’re arming advocates around the country with the persuasive arguments and undisputed facts necessary to have conversations like the one that changed Trudeau’s mind. We aren’t stopping until responsible marijuana consumers are no longer subject to arrest anywhere in America. We need your help to make this goal a reality.

    Make a pledge today of $25, $50 or $100 to make sure NORML has the resources to legalize marijuana in the US!

    Together, we can legalize marijuana in America, end the arrest of responsible consumers, and make sure there is access to safe, quality products at affordable prices. Together, we’ll keep fighting for our freedom.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 16, 2018

    The US Food and Drug Administration is seeking public comments specific to whether changes ought to be recommended regarding the international classification of cannabis as a controlled substance. Members of the public have until October 31, 2018 to submit their comments to the FDA for consideration.

    The FDA says that the comments “will be considered in preparing a response from the United States to the World Health Organization regarding the abuse liability and diversion” of marijuana and certain other substances.

    In April, in response to a similar FDA request, NORML collected and hand-delivered over 10,000 comments to the agency calling on it to recommend a lifting of international restrictions criminalizing the plant. In total, comments from NORML members totaled over 60% of the public comments submitted nationwide. 

    Click here to submit a public comment NOW

    In NORML’s latest comments to the FDA, it opined that “cannabis be removed from the international drug conventions so that nations that wish to do so may further expand their regulations governing cannabis’ use, possession, production, and dispensing for either recreational or medical use.”

    Let’s continue to dominate the debate. Click here to submit your own public comment now.

    Then take the next step:

    Share our Action Alert on Twitter

    Share our Action Alert on Facebook

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML October 15, 2018

    One Year Anniversary

    October 2nd, 2018 marked the one year anniversary of the unanimous passage of Atlanta City Ordinance 17-O-1152, which reduced the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana within the city limits of Atlanta to $75.00 and no jail time.  While this ordinance isn’t a true “decrim” bill, because those arrested are still being fingerprinted, it was a great step toward sensible marijuana legislation here in Georgia.

    Curiosity

    I wanted to know just what effect 17-O-1152 had on “simple possession” arrests in Atlanta.  After all, the ordinance didn’t make it “legal”, it just reduced the penalties.  It didn’t really even “decrim”.  APD officers are still free to arrest offenders and take them to jail.  The question burned in my mind; “Did they, or did they use 17-O-1152 as a justification to act on a moral conviction?“.  I knew where to find at least a clue to the answer.

    ACDC — No, Not the Band

    I have to hand it to the folks in the Records Department of the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC).  I’ve asked them for data several times and they are always quick to respond.  It seems I even have a nickname with them.  More on that later …. maybe.

    So last week I asked them to provide me with the following data, which they promptly did.  I’ve added their response in blue:

    a) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2016, and Oct 2, 2017, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is an included charge:  2136

    b) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2016, and Oct 2, 2017, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is the ONLY charge:  952

    c) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2017, and Oct 2, 2018, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is an included charge:  683

    d) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2017, and Oct 2, 2018, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is the ONLY charge:  252

    The Inference

    To sum it up, personal-use possession arrests fell from 3088 to 935 the first year after implementation of this ordinance.  When you do the math, that’s a 69.8% reduction.  So consider these factors:

    • 17-O-1152 was not directed to the Atlanta Police Department, rather to the Municipal Court.
    • APD officers can still arrest
    • Folks in the Metro live it like it’s legal anyway

    I searched through APD’s Standard Operating Procedures and didn’t find a mention of reducing the emphasis on simple possession arrests, so that doesn’t seem to be a factor.  Chief Shields may have issued an internal memo to that effect, but I’ve found no evidence of it, and I’m fairly certain that would have made its way into print somewhere.  She did say publicly during the hearings associated with 17-O-1152 that possession of small amounts was not high on the APD’s priority list, and that certainly has to be taken into consideration.

    So what can we deduce from this information?  I think it’s simply this; Nearly 70% of cops in Atlanta really don’t have a problem with NOT arresting marijuana users and now that they have an opportunity to exercise their moral discretion, they are doing so.  I think that’s significant.

    Too Optimistic?

    I’m optimistic by nature.  I’m always looking to what’s around the corner, to what the positive, rather than the negative outcome of a situation can be.  When this ordinance was passed many of you in the marijuana movement in Georgia cast aspersions on it.  You felt like it was a hollow gesture, with no substance, and that it wouldn’t make a difference.  Well, apparently you were wrong.  ‘Nuff said.

    So now I’m excited to see how this pans out in Savannah, South Fulton, Fulton County, Forest Park, and Kingsland as they reach the anniversary dates of their “decrim” ordinances.  We already know that Clarkston’s City Council and Mayor Ted Terry were the first to enact such an ordinance, and their program is working well.

    I’m also interested, as we all should be, in whether or not our State Legislators are listening …. or rather, who they are listening to.  This is The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association’s (GSA) position on marijuana  posted boldly on the front page of their website:

    “The position of the GSA concerning marijuana and medical cannabis is as follows:

    • OPPOSE the legalization of marijuana for all social, recreational or industrial purposes.
    • OPPOSE the cultivation of marijuana for all purposes.
    • SUPPORT the use of chemicals derived from cannabis for medical use for certain well defined serious health conditions.
    • OPPOSE the medical delivery or application of chemicals derived from cannabis plants through smoking.
    • OPPOSE legislative proposals where appropriate controls and security measures do not exist and where strict civil and criminal penalties are absent.

    The Executive Vice President of the GSA is a paid lobbyist.  Sheriffs and other law enforcement execs are always telling us, “We don’t make the laws, we just enforce them” and “If you don’t want us enforcing the law, get it changed.”  How are we supposed to do that when phrases like “Danger, danger” and “slippery slope” and “gateway drug” are constantly being whispered in our law-makers’ ears by a paid lobbyist?  Get out of our way and we WILL change the law.  We’re going to change it anyway.  It’s now a matter of when not if.  Your Rank and File support it.  I know.  I talk to them.

    I also find it telling that the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police doesn’t even mention it on their website.

    Tom McCain is the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, fighting for the rights of Georgian cannabis consumers. You can visit their website at www.peachtreenorml.org, follow their work on Facebook and Twitter, and please make a contribution to support their work by clicking here. 

  • by Mary Kruger, Executive Director, Roc NORML October 9, 2018

    A listening session was held Thursday evening in Rochester, New York to get feedback about what the community wants to see in the legislation currently being drafted to legalize cannabis for adult use in NY. See the full list of listening sessions happening state-wide here.

    The legislation being drafted is set to pass next April with the budget, and there were many issues from both sides brought up during the session. Overall, the consensus in the room seemed in line with the polling of the state; most people in the room were in favor of legalizing for adult use, while a considerable amount of people are still opposed to the topic due to a mere lack of education.

    Mary Kruger, Executive Director of Roc NORML, the Rochester, NY chapter of the National Organization of the Reform of Marijuana Laws, shown in this interview, testified during the session to advocate that restorative justice be on the forefront of the legislation, including: sealing of records and resentencing for low-level marijuana possession related offenses, developing a diverse and inclusive industry with priority licensing that promotes small business growth, and community reinvestment grants.

    The police chief shown in the interview also testified during the session, on behalf of the Monroe County Association Chiefs of Police, in which they indicated their opposition to legalizing cannabis for adult use because “we don’t need another drug on the street.”

    The work group drafting the legislation is taking public comments on this initiative until the end of October at the email address listed below. In your email, make sure to include the following before your testimony:

    Session Location: Rochester

    Organization: As applicable and/or Roc NORML

    Your Name, Address, Phone Number, and Email

    Send emails to rmls@health.ny.gov with the subject line “NYS Regulated Marijuana Listening Session Comment”, or  click here to fill out your contact information and send testimony instantly.

    Roc NORML will also be holding their October Monthly Meeting at which a summary of the session will be provided and volunteers will be available to help the community submit their own testimonies. Keep an eye on your inbox for more details coming soon, or click here to sign up for Roc NORML’s mailing list.

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