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  • by Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator April 23, 2020

    As we all learn to cope with our new socially distant realities amidst a global pandemic, its difficult to think of any aspect of society that hasn’t been affected by COVID-19. Unfortunately for marijuana reform, what began with at least a dozen states optimistically working to qualify state level ballot initiatives in advance of the November 2020 election, has slowly dwindled to a number that can be counted on one hand.

    Activists have been working for months registering new voters, collecting signatures, and educating the public, in hopes of giving voters in their state the opportunity to make their voices heard and cast their vote for marijuana. But social distancing guidelines have made this work virtually impossible.

    Below is an overview of key 2020 ballot initiative efforts and where they stand now.

    New Jersey

    Issue: Adult use marijuana
    Status: Qualified
    The question:

    Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called “cannabis”?

    Only adults at least 21 years of age could use cannabis. The State commission created to oversee the State’s medical cannabis program would also oversee the new, personal use cannabis market.

    Cannabis products would be subject to the State sales tax. If authorized by the Legislature, a municipality may pass a local ordinance to charge a local tax on cannabis products.

    Members of the New Jersey state legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment in December 2019 by a three-fifths majority, firmly placing a question to allow regulated cannabis sales on the November 2020 ballot. According to a recent Monmouth University survey, 61 percent of respondents said they would vote in support of the proposal, while 34 percent said they’d vote against it.

    Mississippi

    Issue: Medical marijuana
    Status: Two competing measures have both qualified
    The questions:

    Initiative 65 (citizen initiated):

    Should Mississippi allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions, as certified by Mississippi licensed physicians, to use medical marijuana?

    A citizen driven campaign, spearheaded by Mississippians for Compassionate Care, turned in over 200,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot in January to allow patients to access up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis per 14-day time period.

    HC 39 (legislature approved):

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, That the following amendment to the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 is proposed to the qualified electors of the state at the November 2020 election, as an alternative to the amendment proposed by Initiative Measure No. 65:

    Article 16, Section 290, Mississippi Constitution of 1890, is created to read as follows: “Section 290. There is established a program in the State of Mississippi to allow the medical use of marijuana products by qualified persons. The program shall be structured to include, at a minimum, the following conditions and requirements:

    Members of the Mississippi state legislature approved an alternative ballot measure in March that will appear alongside Initiative 65 on the November ballot. Activists view this less clear, more restrictive initiative as an effort by lawmakers to undermine the will of the people and confuse voters at the polls. Under this proposal, patients would be prohibited from smoking whole-plant marijuana.

    South Dakota

    Issue: Medical & adult use marijuana
    Status: Two separate measures have both qualified
    The questions:

    Constitutional Amendment A (adult use):

    Title – An amendment to the South Dakota Constitution to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana; and to require the Legislature to pass laws regarding hemp as well as laws ensuring access to marijuana for medical use.

    If approved, the constitutional amendment would allow adults to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to three plants for personal use. The initiative is backed by a former federal prosecutor as well as the Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy organization.

    Initiative 26 (medical):

    Title – An initiated measure on legalizing marijuana for medical use.

    If approved, the statutory initiative would allow registered patients, with a physician’s approval, to purchase and possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to three plants for therapeutic use.

    Arizona

    Issue: Adult use marijuana
    Status: Minimum # of signatures collected
    The proposal: Initiative 23: Smart and Safe Arizona, the campaign behind the ballot initiative, is confident that they have enough signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. With about 320,000 signatures already collected, they say they have about 80,000 signatures more than the 237,645 needed to qualify. The campaign is asking the state supreme court to allow electronic signature gathering due to COVID-19. If approved, the statutory measure would allow adults to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants for personal use. It also includes expungement and social equity provisions.

    Missouri

    Issue: Adult use marijuana
    Status: Campaign suspended
    The proposal: After launching the campaign early this year, Missourians for a New Approach, the group backing the initiative, most recently announced that they are suspending their campaign due to COVID-19 restrictions severely limiting their ability to collect in-person signatures. They had already collected about 80,000 signatures out of the needed 160,199 to qualify. The initiative would have allowed adults to purchase and possess marijuana from licensed retail outlets and grow up to three plants for personal use.

    Montana

    Issue: Adult use marijuana
    Status: Signature gathering suspended
    The proposal: A proposal to legalize marijuana for adults was submitted to the Secretary of State back in January by New Approach Montana, clearing the group to begin collecting the 25,468 signatures required to officially qualify for the November ballot. Most recently, activists sued the state, arguing that preventing electronic signature gathering is unconstitutional.

    North Dakota

    Issue: Adult use marijuana
    Status: Campaign suspended
    The proposal: Legalize ND, the group behind the failed 2018 legalization initiative, submitted another proposal to legalize marijuana for adults in the state late last year in hopes of qualifying for the November 2020 ballot. Most recently, the campaign announced its suspension due to the inability for the group to collect signatures in-person due to COVID-19. They needed 13,452 signatures before July 6 in order to qualify. The measure would have allowed adults to purchase and possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use.

    Oklahoma

    Issue: Adult use marijuana
    Status: Signature gathering suspended
    The proposal: SQ 807 would allow adults to legally purchase and possess marijuana for personal use. Advocates in the state say it is unlikely that collecting enough signatures would be feasible.

    Arkansas

    Issue: Adult use marijuana
    Status: Unclear
    The proposal: Arkansans for Cannabis Reform, the group behind the initiative, has already collected 15,000 signatures out of the required 89,151 to qualify an adult use legalization initiative. It is unclear whether the campaign will continue collecting signatures before the July 1 deadline.

    Nebraska

    Issue: Medical marijuana
    Status: Signature gathering suspended
    The proposal: Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the campaign behind the initiative, announced that they are temporarily suspending signature gathering after being cleared to start collecting signatures over a year ago. They must collect about 130,000 signatures by July 8 in order to qualify. The constitutional amendment would have allowed qualifying patients, with a physician’s approval, to access medical marijuana and “discreetly” grow marijuana for therapeutic use.

    Idaho

    Issue: Medical marijuana
    Status: Signature gathering suspended
    The proposal: The Idaho Cannabis Coalition, the group backing the initiative, most recently announced that in-person signature gathering would be suspended due to COVID-19. They need to collect 55,057 signatures by May 1 in order to qualify, which is unlikely. They already collected about 40,000.

    California

    Issue: Marijuana and hemp regulations
    Status: Electronic signature gathering requested
    The proposal: The California Cannabis Hemp Heritage Act would make changes to the state’s licensing and taxation rules in an effort to expand access to marijuana. Most recently, celebrities Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith asked state officials to allow electronic signature gathering due to COVID-19.

  • by Jay Selthofner, Northern Wisconsin NORML Executive Director April 1, 2020

    Northern Wisconsin NORML is pleased to announce the release of our 2020 Candidate Scorecard. This extensive database assigns a letter grade ‘A’ through ‘F’ to the state’s elected officials based upon their comments, authored/co-authored/sponsored/co-sponsored legislation, voting records, interaction with NORML supporters in 2019 and the past that are specific to matters of marijuana policy.

    America’s Governors and legislative bodies are our nation’s most powerful state-elected officials and they often play a key role in this ongoing legislative debate. Here is where our Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate Stand on the issues surrounding cannabis policy.

    See a brief synopsis below, and read the full Executive Summary prepared by Northern Wisconsin NORML.

    Public opinion in support of marijuana law reform, including adult-use legalization, is at an all-time high. Nonetheless, few federal lawmakers are espousing views on cannabis policy that comport with those of the majority of their constituents. As a result, most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy takes place at the state level. America’s Governors and legislative bodies are our nation’s most powerful state-elected officials and they often play a key role in this ongoing legislative debate. Here is where our Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate Stand on the issues surrounding cannabis policy.

    Key Findings

    Below are the key findings from Northern Wisconsin NORML’s 2019-20 Legislative Scorecard. Among the 132 members of the Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate:

    • 132 members total and 67 members or (51%) received a passing grade of ‘C-’ or higher (99 Representatives and 33 Senators)
    • Of the total members of 132:
    • 33 members (25%) received a grade of ‘A’ (26 Representatives and 7 Senators)
    • 21 members (16%) received a ‘B’ grade (14 Representatives and 7 Senators)
    • 13 members (10%) received a ‘C’ grade (12 Representatives and 1 Senator)
    • 16 members (12%) received a ‘D’ grade (12 Representatives and 4 Senators)
    • 49 members (37%) received a failing grade (35 Representatives and 14 Senators)

    Now digest the Senate and Assembly with no party affiliation:

    • 15 out of 33 Senators from both parties (45%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (7 A’s,7 B’s, and 1 C). 18 Senators Failed.
    • 51 out of 99 Assembly Representatives from both parties (51%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (25 A’s, 14 B’s, and 12 C’s). 48 Assembly Representatives Failed.

    Now digest the party affiliation:

    • Of the 50 Democrats in both houses, 42 members (84%) received a passing grade of a ‘C’ or higher.
    • Of the 82 Republicans in both houses, 25 members (30%) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher.

    Now address the November 2020 Election and who is left:

    • 16 of the 33 Senate Seats are up for election in November 2020.  Of those 16 seats 7 (44%) are currently held by a Republican who received a Failing Grade; 2 of those Failing Incumbent Republicans will not be on the ballot in 2020. (Olsen retired and Tiffany is seeking the 7th Congressional Seat.  Also 3 Democrat Incumbents with high grades will be absent as Miller, Taylor and Hanson all leave the Senate.
    • Of the remaining 17 Senators (11 Republicans + 6 Democrats) not up for re-election in 2020: 11 Republicans with only 1 ‘A’ / passing grade and the remaining 10 Senators receiving ‘F’ Failing grades; and of the 6 Democrats remaining 5 received passing grades (2 ‘A’ and 3 ‘B’ and 1 ‘D’).

    The Takeaway

    Political support among Wisconsin state elected officials for marijuana policy reform continues to grow. However, this support is more partisan than ever before. No Republicans are on record in support of adult-use legalization and not enough are in favor of regulating medical cannabis access. By contrast, a large percentage of Democrats are supportive of both issues. This partisan divide is not similarly reflected among the general public. According to national polling data compiled by Gallup in October 2019, 66 percent of the public — including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — favor adult-use legalization. Bipartisan support among the public for medical marijuana legalization is even stronger. Until this public support is similarly reflected among lawmakers, many cannabis-specific legislative reforms – in particular adult-use legalization proposals – will continue to meet resistance at the state level.

  • by Josh Kasoff, Nevada NORML January 29, 2020

    Although we’re only one month into the Roaring 20’s, Nevada NORML has already hit the cannabis advocacy ground running at full sprint. Following a wild and groundbreakingly successful 2019 with several memorable events across both The Battle Born State and the nation as a whole, Nevada NORML wanted to ensure that their operations in 2020 surpassed even that of the previous year. After coming down from the high of coordinating all the panels for the CBD.io convention and hosting a festive Happy Holidays party at Nuwu’s historic cannabis consumption lounge, taking it to an even higher level in 2020 was absolutely vital.      

    Starting within the first few days of the year, Las Vegas NORML hosted their monthly meeting with a very special guest and a representative who’s become a huge legislative champion for cannabis, Assemblyman Steve Yeager. During the meeting, Yeager spoke about the new pieces of cannabis legislation signed by Governor Sisolak from the 2019 legislative session that Nevada NORML was instrumental in the passing of, such as Assembly Bill 132 and 192. As usual, Acres Underground was packed to capacity with passionate volunteers who span from across the cannabis community and those new faces eager to learn about cannabis advocacy.

    On January 22nd in the state-of-the-art Cannabis Business Den in the heart of Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada NORML then hosted the first meeting of their extensive campaign for the countless elections occurring throughout all branches of government in November, lovingly called Smoke The Vote. During the meeting, Madisen, Executive Direcor, and Tina, Communications Director, spoke about how to register, the various strategies throughout Nevada that NORML and the many volunteers will be using for mass voter registration and awareness for further cannabis reform within the state and desperately needed reforms on the federal level.

    “Smoke the Vote has been a strong national campaign by NORML for years, and we here in Nevada are proud to do our part to contribute to it.” says Nevada NORML Director Madisen Saglibene. “By building bridges between consumers, industry, and government officials, we anticipate extremely high participation in the 2020 election cycle and beyond.”

    The innovative ways in which Nevada NORML will be finding consumers and turning them into new voters and volunteers will be vast far reaching across the state. 

    “Through partnerships with local dispensaries along with other supporters, we will be popping up at various locations to spread the word about the voter registration process. As we get closer to November, we will be providing voters with a scorecard based on candidates positions on cannabis reform. We look forward to working with candidates and consumers alike to work towards sensible solutions within marijuana policy.” describes Saglibene. 

    And just this past weekend, Las Vegas NORML ventured to visit friends up north, Reno NORML, and assist in their defining activities over the weekend. While there, Nevada NORML exhibited its true strength for providing the unique blend of cannabis culture and cannabis advocacy at Hookava hookah bar. And to their credit, Reno NORML hosted an inaugural fundraiser/party this past Saturday with a turnout and an exhilarating energy that could easily match any party at a hookah bar in Vegas. 

    “The amount of people that came together for our very first fundraiser to support responsible cannabis use was unbelievable.” described Reno NORML Treasurer, Heather Carona. “It was a great kickoff event for NORML officially coming to Northern Nevada and was an opportunity to share what we are about. So many vendors and people were willing to offer their time, and products for raffles or sponsorships. It was very inspiring.”

    To document, a couple of Reno NORML volunteers put together a video of the event, perfectly detailing the success of the fundraiser. 

    “NORML is tat he core of legal cannabis and we are at the forefront. Our first fundraiser’s success shows how hungry the community is for cannabis law reformation. History is being made.” said Reno NORML Communications Director, Conchita Maberry. 

    With events focusing on everything from the next steps in the Smoke The Vote campaign to Black History Month and the racial injustices that have come with cannabis prohibition, February is guaranteed to be one to remember and especially one to become involved in.

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate December 6, 2019

    Trenton, NJ – Garden State NORML and cannabis consumers across New Jersey are calling on legislators to find an immediate solution to stop arresting nearly 100 people every day for possessing small amounts of marijuana. 

    “Taxpayers are spending millions to put handcuffs on marijuana consumers, the same people who are expected to come out to the polls and vote for a constitutional amendment,” said Garden State NORML Executive Director Charlana McKeithen. “With another delay for full legalization, we hope elected officials will explore every option to stop these needless arrests.”

    In addition to supporting full legalization, Garden State NORML supports decriminalizing marijuana – utilizing civil fines – for all ages. The decrim process requires no arrest, no handcuffs, no custody, no court, no jail, no supervision, no treatment, and no permanent record. Fines are usually between $25-$100. Twenty-one states and over one hundred cities have enacted such provisions. 

    For regional context, Philadelphia decriminalized marijuana in 2014, and 20 additional cities in Pennsylvania followed suit. New York took the first step towards decriminalization at the state level in 1977, and further expanded on their decriminalization policies this year.

    “Unfortunately, lawmakers in Trenton have elected to kick the can further down the road and allow tens of thousands more New Jersey residents to be saddled with criminal records for marijuana offenses due to their lack of action,” said Erik Altieri, Executive Director of NORML and a New Jersey native, “While we are confident the voters in New Jersey will send them an unambiguous message in 2020 in favor of legalization, state legislators must decriminalize marijuana possession in the interim to prevent even more lives from being ruined due to draconic prohibition policies.” 

    “New Jersey’s continued criminalization of cannabis is done at the expense of its most vulnerable population, namely its black and brown residents,” said Tyler McFadden, Northeast Political Associate at NORML. “Enough is enough. If New Jersey legislators are sincere about their work to make their state a better place for all its residents, they need to start by decriminalizing cannabis possession for all ages.”

    Meanwhile, under the antiquated policy of absolute criminal prohibition, New Jersey is seeing a record number of citizens arrested for cannabis. According to recent data released by ACLU-NJ, marijuana possession arrests have risen 35% in just four years. Racial disparities in these arrests are striking in many urban communities. Some towns see black and brown residents enduring 11 times the arrest rate for marijuana than their white counterparts. 

    Longtime NORML organizer and NJ resident Chris Goldstein noted that local governments are also important for progress. 

    “New Jersey’s municipal police departments and prosecutors can stop this needless enforcement against marijuana consumers by passing local decriminalization ordinances at any time,” said Goldstein. “Towns and cities also have a key role in legalization by helping grow a new small business sector with cannabis.” 

    New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) is now promising to offer voters a chance to weigh in on the issue. A constitutional amendment is being considered for 2020. This will require two votes by both chambers of the NJ Legislature and voter approval in the general election. 

    After three years of lively debate and several bills, a voter referendum will extend the process into 2021. 

    ”Marijuana consumers deserve justice right now. People are being arrested for low-level marijuana possession every twenty-two seconds in New Jersey, and that is completely unacceptable,” said McKeithen.

    Garden State NORML will be working to form new coalitions to surge voter turnout in 2020. The proposed ballot question, ACR840/SCR183, will be debated in committee on December 12, 2019, at 10AM. The bill text can be found here

     

    Garden State NORML is the NJ division of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a non-profit organization fighting to reform cannabis laws nationwide. Our efforts include education, community outreach, and working with lawmakers. Visit Garden State NORML’s Facebook page to stay up-to-date.

  • by NORML April 2, 2019

    The 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary is already heating up and we wanted to reach out to our supporters to take an early straw poll of who they think voters who prioritize marijuana law reform should support in that primary. We will be taking many more in-depth looks at the 2020 race as it progresses, including potential primary challengers on the Republican side, but first we wanted to provide an overview of all the currently announced Democratic candidates, along with their record and policy statements when it comes to marijuana legalization. Please review the information below and then cast a vote in our 2020 Democratic Primary Straw Poll!

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    The Senators

    Amy Klobuchar

    Current Office: Senator from Minnesota
    2018 NORML Congressional Scorecard Grade: B
    Co-Sponsored Legislation: STATES Act (2017-2018)

    Summary: During her tenure in Congress, Senator Klobuchar did not sponsor her own marijuana law reform legislation and did not seem to make changing marijuana laws a priority. Senator Klobuchar did sponsor both the STATES Act and the MEDS Act in the last Congress, but has yet to sponsor any legislation that would deschedule marijuana at the federal level. She remained generally opposed to legalization, while supporting states having the right to reform their own policies, until she clarified her stance as being in support of it after announcing her 2020 presidential campaign.

    Quote: “I support the legalization of marijuana and believe that states should have the right to determine the best approach to marijuana within their borders.” – 02/22/19

    Bernie Sanders

    Current Office: Senator from Vermont
    2018 NORML Congressional Scorecard Grade: A+
    Sponsored Legislation: Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act (2015-2016)
    Co-Sponsored Legislation: Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 (2017-2020), Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act (2017-2018)

    Summary: Senator Sanders has a long history of supporting reforming our nation’s drug policy. While serving as mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the 1980’s, he called for decriminalizing drug possession and treating substance abuse as a public health issue. When elected to Congress in the 1990s, he co-sponsored legislation that would have allowed for access to medical marijuana. In recent years, he has campaigned heavily on ending federal prohibition and expunging past marijuana convictions while campaigning for president in both 2016 and 2020. Senator Sanders was also the lead sponsor on the Senate version of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act in 2015 and is a co-sponsor of numerous marijuana-related bills including the Marijuana Justice Act. NORML endorsed his campaign for re-election to the Senate in 2018.

    Quote: “Prohibition doesn’t work. Studies show over half of Americans smoke marijuana. It is insane to be arresting some 600,000 people a year for using marijuana. States are moving forward on decriminalization and legalization. The time is now to say that we are not going to punish people for smoking marijuana, states want to go forward and legalize it. That is their right…The issue that really hits me here, is you have thousands and thousands of people whose lives are wrecked for possession of marijuana.” – All In With Chris Hayes, 04/20/18

    Cory Booker

    Current Office: Senator from New Jersey
    2018 NORML Congressional Scorecard Grade: A+
    Sponsored Legislation: Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 (2017-2020)
    Co-Sponsored Legislation: STATES Act (2017-2018)

    Summary: Senator Booker has prioritized marijuana law reform since his time serving as mayor of Newark, New Jersey. He has made ending federal prohibition a central plank in his current presidential campaign and has prioritized the issue during his Senate career, serving as lead sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act and the CARERS Act. NORML endorsed his campaign for New Jersey’s Senate seat in 2010.

    Quote: “Descheduling marijuana and applying that change retroactively to people currently serving time for marijuana offenses is a necessary step in correcting this unjust system. States have so far led the way in reforming our criminal justice system and it’s about time the federal government catches up and begins to assert leadership.” – Announcing the introduction of the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017, 08/01/2017

    Elizabeth Warren

    Current Office: Senator from Massachusetts
    2018 NORML Congressional Scorecard Grade: A
    Sponsored Legislation: STATES Act (2017-2018)
    Co-Sponsored Legislation: Marijuana Justice Act of 2019 (2017-2020), Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act (2017-2018)

    Summary: Earlier in her career, Senator Warren was cautious on issues surrounding cannabis descheduling and legalization. In recent years, she has embraced the issue and is one of the lead sponsors of the STATES Act, that would create an exemption from federal incursion for states that have legalized marijuana for adult or medical use, and is a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act. She has highlighted issues of the inequities caused by marijuana prohibition while on the trail for her 2020 presidential campaign. NORML endorsed her campaign for re-election to the Senate in 2018.

    Quote: “Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development. States like Massachusetts have put a lot of work into implementing common sense marijuana regulations – and they have the right to enforce their own marijuana policies. The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana.” – Press Release Announcing the STATES Act of 2017, 06/07/18

    Kamala Harris

    Current Office: Senator from California
    2018 NORML Congressional Scorecard Grade: A
    Co-Sponsored Legislation: Marijuana Justice Act (2017-2020)

    Summary: Kamala Harris has a complicated history with marijuana law reform. While serving as district attorney in San Francisco and as US Attorney in California, she enforced laws that saw many go to jail for marijuana offenses and oversaw a period where raids on medical marijuana dispensaries spiked. During her campaign for District Attorney in 2016, she laughed off the question when asked about support for legalization. However, she began to embrace legalization more around 2016 and upon entering the 2020 presidential race, she has become a more vocal advocate and often discusses legalization as a criminal justice reform issue. She said she believes marijuana is a thing that “brings people joy” and supports ending federal prohibition to combat mass incarceration. She was an initial co-sponsor on the Marijuana Justice Act of 2019.

    Quote: “We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it. And we need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of the millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives.” Sen. Harris wrote in her book The Truths We Hold.

    Kirsten Gillibrand

    Current Office: Senator from New York
    NORML 2018 Congressional Scorecard Grade: A
    Co-Sponsored Legislation: Marijuana Justice Act (2017-2020)
    Summary: Kirsten Gillibrand did not initially support legalization when serving in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, she became a vocal supporter and signed on as a co-sponsor of numerous pieces of marijuana related legislation. On the campaign trail she has often spoken vigorously against our failed war on drugs and the harms caused by marijuana prohibition. She was an initial co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act of 2019. NORML endorsed her reelection to the Senate in 2018.

    Quote: “Millions of Americans’ lives have been devastated because of our broken marijuana policies, especially in communities of color and low-income communities. Just one minor possession conviction could take away a lifetime of opportunities for jobs, education, and housing, tear families apart, and make people more vulnerable to serving time in jail or prison down the road. The reality that my 14-year-old son would likely be treated very differently from one of his Black or Latino peers if he was caught with marijuana is shameful. Legalizing marijuana is a social justice issue and a moral issue that Congress needs to address, and I’m proud to work with Senator Booker on this legislation to help fix decades of injustice caused by our nation’s failed drug policies.” in a press release on 2/14/2018

    The Representatives

    Tulsi Gabbard

    Current Office: Representative for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District
    NORML 2018 Congressional Scorecard Grade: A+
    Sponsored Legislation: Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act (2017-2020)
    Co-Sponsored Legislation: The RESPECT Resolution (2017-2020), Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 (2017-2020), Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act (2017-2018), Marijuana Justice Act (2017-2020)

    Summary: Tulsi Gabbard has largely been a vocal supporter of ending federal marijuana prohibition for her full tenure in the House of Representatives. She has twice been the lead sponsor of the End Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act and continues to discuss the need for reform while campaigning. This has been a major part of her political platform, in addition to serving as the lead sponsor on End Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, she is a co-sponsor on numerous other pieces of marijuana-related legislation. NORML endorsed her campaign for re-election to the House of Representatives in 2018.

    Quote: “We must pass The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act to ensure that marijuana consumers and state-licensed marijuana businesses are protected from undue federal interference. It will help reduce the strain on our criminal justice system, amend federal law to agree with cannabis’ changing cultural status, recognize the plant’s therapeutic benefits, and reduce contradictions and confusion between federal and state marijuana laws.” in a message to NORML supporters on 03/07/2019

    Beto O’Rourke

    Current Office: None
    Previous Office: Representative for Texas’ 16th Congressional District
    NORML 2018 Congressional Scorecard Grade: A
    Sponsored Legislation: The Better Drive Act (2017-2018)
    Co-Sponsored Legislation: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act (2017-2018)

    Summary: Beto O’Rourke has been a long-time supporter of abolishing the federal prohibition on marijuana since the start of his political career as a city council member in El Paso. While serving in the US House of Representatives, he co-sponsored several bills including; The Veterans Equal Access Act, The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, The CARERS Act, and The Industrial Hemp Farming Act. In his bid for President, he has called for ending the federal prohibition of cannabis and creating a legal, regulated market. He also supports expunging criminal records of those already convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses. NORML endorsed his reelection campaign to the House of Representatives in 2014 and his campaign for Senate in 2018.

    Quote: “We should end the federal prohibition on marijuana and expunge the records of those who were locked away for possessing it, ensuring that they can get work, finish their education, contribute to the greatness of this country,” O’Rourke wrote in an email to his supporters. March 2019

    John Delaney

    Current Office: None
    Previous Office: Representative for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District
    NORML 2016 Congressional Scorecard Grade: B
    Co-Sponsored Legislation: N/A

    Summary: John Delaney does not have a long record of supporting marijuana law reform. When he served in the House, he did co-sponsor a very limited medical marijuana access bill and a piece of legislation that would give marijuana businesses the ability to utilize financial services.

    The Governors

    Jay Inslee

    Current Office: Governor of Washington State
    NORML 2018 Gubernatorial Scorecard Grade: A+

    Enacted Legislation: In January 2019, Gov. Inslee announced his intent to provide an expedited process for granting clemency to those with past marijuana-related convictions. Under the proposed plan, those convicted of a marijuana misdemeanor after January 1, 1998, will have their record vacated. It is estimated that 3,500 individuals will be eligible for expungement. (1/4/19), SB 5131: Amends the state’s medical cannabis law so that qualified medical marijuana patients and designated providers can purchase immature plants, clones, or seeds from a licensed producer. (2017), House Bill 2064: Amends state law so that industrial hemp is no longer classified as a controlled substance under the state’s uniform controlled substances act. (2017). SB 6206: Authorizes “the growing of industrial hemp as a legal agricultural activity” in accordance with federal legislation permitting such activity as part of a state-authorized program. (2016), HB 1276: Defines any consumption of marijuana while in a moving vehicle as a traffic violation. The statute further requires that any cannabis possessed in a moving vehicle must be located in a sealed container in either the trunk, glove compartment, or some other area that is inaccessible to the driver or passengers. (2015), SB 5052: Imposed the establishment of a voluntary registration system for qualified patients, reduced the number of plants that patients may legally cultivate and possess, and imposed new regulations of physicians who authorize medical cannabis. (2015)

    Summary: Under the leadership of Governor Jay Inslee, Washington state has acted as a progressive beacon for the rest of the nation in many important areas, including marijuana policy. Washington state historically became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, less than a year before Governor Inslee took office. Although his support for legalization was uncertain prior to the passing Initiative 502 in the 2012 general ballot, he has since vehemently protected his state’s program, defending it against the threat of federal interference. Inslee has assured voters that he will support legalization efforts as president, voicing his belief that it’s time the United States legalizes marijuana federally.

    Quotes: “Our federal marijuana laws are broken—and we need to ensure this Justice Department does not interfere with Washington state’s thriving, well-regulated marijuana market.” 6/8/2018

    John Hickenlooper

    Current Office: None
    Previous Office: Governor of Colorado
    NORML 2016 Gubernatorial Scorecard Grade: B-

    Enacted Legislation: House Bill 1267: Permits qualified patients to access medical marijuana while on probation or parole. Colorado is one of the first states to permit medical marijuana use to parolees by statute. (2015), House Bill 1373: Permits qualified patients access to medical cannabis formulations while on school grounds. (2016)

    Summary: Governor John Hickenlooper has displayed lukewarm support for progressive marijuana policies and has often left voters unsure of his exact stance on cannabis-related issues. He demonstrated outspoken opposition to his state’s decision to legalize in 2014, citing that it would inspire people “to do more of what is not a healthy thing.” Hickenlooper has since admitted that his fears have not materialized. Although he still does not endorse legalization, he believes in a federal reclassification of cannabis and has voiced support for federal banking reforms.

    Quote: “I would not ask the federal government to legalize it for everyone, but I think that in states that do legalize marijuana, with the voters or through their general assembly, the federal government should get out of the way, and allow them to be able to get banking… allow them to look at systems by which you can have this experiment go on successfully.” 3/20/2019

    New Contenders

    Julian Castro

    Current Office: None
    Former Office: Secretary of HUD, Mayor of San Antonio

    Summary: Julian Castro has come out in support of legalization during his campaign for president. He has not held legislative office, so there is no record available for bill sponsorship or votes. While serving as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Obama he issued a memo reiterating the ban on marijuana in public housing.

    Quote: “The White House may crack down on recreational marijuana use–even in states where voters have approved it. That’s a mistake. The federal government should focus its resources on more serious crimes. Not only that, growing evidence from Colorado and other states suggests we can sensibly legalize marijuana use with reasonable controls in place. State voters should have that power.” 02/26/17

    Andrew Yang

    Current Office: None
    Employment: Former Tech Executive, Nonprofit Founder

    Summary: Yang supports ending federal marijuana prohibition and moving towards legalization – in addition to calling for the expungement of those with existing criminal records. While he supports legalization, he also believes that there should be limits on advertising and THC levels.

    Quote: “I don’t love marijuana. I’d rather people not use it heavily. But it’s vastly safer than people becoming addicted to opiates like heroin. And our criminalization of it seems stupid and racist, particularly now that it’s legal in some states. We should proceed with full legalization of marijuana and pardon those in jail for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. It’s a safer, less addictive means to manage pain for many Americans.” – Yang2020.com

    Pete Buttigieg

    Current Office: Mayor of South Bend, Indiana

    Summary: Mayor Buttigieg has talked about cannabis reform significantly less than his 2020 competitors. He has never signed legislation directly related to marijuana, and his home state of Indiana lacks even a comprehensive medical program. However, he has voiced strong opposition to the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders and has related his own experience with a police officer who caught him with a joint while he was in college. While Buttigieg wouldn’t obstruct efforts to change federal cannabis laws, it would likely not be a priority of his administration.

    Quote: “The safe, regulated, and legal sale of marijuana is an idea whose time has come for the United States, as evidenced by voters demanding legalization in states across the country.” 2/26/2019

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