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NORML Blog

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator March 15, 2019

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

    U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has reintroduced H.R. 1647, the Veterans Equal Access Act, which expands medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans. Additionally, Representatives Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act to explicitly bar federal agencies from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a cannabis consumer, or due to testing positive for marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture held a hemp listening session this week as regulators work to establish rules and regulations for production.

    At the state level, activists in Idaho have begun efforts to qualify a medical cannabis and hemp ballot initiative for the 2020 ballot.

    Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) signed legislation into law that would strengthen and clarify medical cannabis patient protections.

    After months of negotiation, Governor Murphy of New Jersey and state legislators have reached a deal on what will be included in upcoming legislation to legalize the adult-use and retail sale of marijuana in the state of New Jersey. Some highlights include expedited expungement for past misdemeanor marijuana convictions, a three-percent tax to be collected by or paid to municipalities wherever retail stores exist, and provisions to incentivize socio-economic, racial, and gender equity in the state’s cannabis industry.

    Alaska became the first state to permit on-site adult use cannabis consumption, as Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer (R) signed off on the final regulations this week.

    The proposed budget plan in both the New York state Senate and Assembly include marijuana legalization and regulation.

    Members of Minnesota’s Senate Judiciary Committee defeated a legalization bill this week.

    At a more local level, the Cocoa Beach, Florida city council voted 3-2 in favor of a proposal to decriminalize up to 20 grams of cannabis possession. And the prosecutor for Hennepin County, Minnesota announced that he will no longer charge individuals for selling or possessing up to 100 grams of cannabis (about 3.5 ounces).

    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

    Actions to Take

    Federal

    End Prohibition: 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.

    Send a message to your federal lawmakers in support of this important legislation

    Arkansas

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 1518, to remove hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the state’s list of controlled substances.

    Update: HB 1518 was approved by the Senate on 3/13 by a 32-2 vote. The bill will now be transmitted to the governor.

    AR resident? Click here to email your governor in support of removing hemp-derived CBD as a controlled substance

    California

    Senate Bill 34 would exempt compassionate care programs from paying state cannabis taxes when they are providing free medical cannabis to financially disadvantaged people living with serious health conditions.

    Update: SB 34 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on 3/20 at 9:30am in room 112.

    CA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of compassionate care programs

    Colorado

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 19-1234, to allow licensed marijuana businesses to deliver both medical and adult use marijuana to private residences.

    The measure would establish a licensing system for such delivery services and also require training for delivery permit holders.

    CO resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of cannabis delivery services

    Connecticut

    Lawmakers in Connecticut have introduced a package of bills specific to legalizing and regulating the use and sale of marijuana by adults, and facilitating equity in the industry.

    Senate Bill 1085 permits those age 21 and over to purchase and possess up to one and one half ounces of marijuana. The measure would also allow those with past marijuana possession convictions to petition the court to have their record expunged.

    Separately, House Bill 7371 would establish a regulatory framework for the licensed retail sale of adult use marijuana.

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

    Florida

    Senate Bill 182 would re-legalize the inhalation of herbal cannabis formulations for medical purposes.

    Update: SB 182 was approved by the House of Representatives on 3/13 by a 101-11 vote. The bill will now be transmitted to the governor.

    FL resident? Click here to email your governor in support of repealing the ban on smoking

    Hawaii

    Senate Bill 1353 seeks to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    Update: SB 1352 was heard and unanimously approved by the House Committee on Agriculture on 3/13.

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

    Louisiana

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 59, to reduce marijuana possession penalties for first time offenders.

    The measure removes the threat of jail time for first-time offenders who possess no more than 14 grams of marijuana (about half an ounce).

    LA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of penalty reductions

    Maryland

    Legislation is pending, HB 33 / SB 893, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    Update: SB 893 was approved by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on 3/13.

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

    Minnesota

    Legislation is pending, HF 766 / SF 1070, to expand access to medical cannabis in the state.

    The measure would:

    • Authorize each dispensary to open four additional locations in specified areas throughout the state
    • Allow specific formulations of medical cannabis to be administered to qualified patients on school grounds

    Update: HF 766 was heard by the House Commerce Committee on 3/12.

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

    Missouri

    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.

    Update: HB 341 was approved by the House of Representatives on 3/13 by a voice vote, and will now be transmitted to the Senate.

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

    Montana

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 176, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    Update: SB 176 is scheduled for a hearing in the House Agriculture Committee on 3/21 at 3:00pm in room 137.

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

    North Carolina

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 168, to expand the state’s medical CBD exemption law.

    The measure expands the pool of individuals eligible for a medical CBD exemption to include those diagnosed with autism, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and Mitochondrial disease.

    Update: S168 was heard and approved by the Healthcare Committee on 3/13.

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

    Nevada

    Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 192, to allow individuals to get their records vacated for offenses that are no longer a crime in Nevada.

    Update: AB 192 is scheduled for a hearing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on 3/19 at 8:00am.

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

    New Hampshire

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 481, to allow for the use, possession, and retail sale of marijuana by adults.

    The pending measure permits adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and/or up to five grams of concentrate, and to grow up to six marijuana plants.

    Update: HB 481 was heard by the House Ways and Means Committee on 3/14 at 11am. The committee will hold a work session on the bill on 3/18 at 1:00pm in Legislative Office Building 202.

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

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 175, to expand access to medical cannabis in the state.

    The measure would give doctors the discretion to recommend medical cannabis to any patient for whom they believe from its therapeutic use.

    Update: SB 175 was heard by the Health and Human Services Committee on 3/12.

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

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 459, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    Update: HB 459 was unanimously approved by the House Environment and Agriculture Committee on 3/11.

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

    New Jersey

    Senate Bill 2703 and Assembly Bill 4497: The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act would regulate adult use marijuana sales and also provide for the expungement of certain past records.

    Update: S. 2703 will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/18, and A. 4497 will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 3/18.

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

    S. 3205 / A. 4498, would make more crimes eligible for expungement — including offenses involving controlled dangerous substances — and cut the wait time down to five years. It also includes a “clean slate” process that will wipe away all offenses at once for anyone who has a clean record for 10 years after their last offense. Many more serious crimes would not be eligible.

    Update: S. 3205 will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/18, and A. 4498 will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 3/18.

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

    Senate Bill 10 and Assembly Bill 10 seek to expand patients’ access to medical cannabis.

    The measure facilitates the expansion of additional medical cannabis growers and providers, while also expanding the amount of cannabis a patient may legally purchase and possess. It further expands the pool of licensed health professional who may recommend medical cannabis, and shields registered patients from employment discrimination and the loss of child custody. It also phases out retail sales taxes on medical cannabis, amongst other changes.

    Update: A. 10 will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 3/18.

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

    New Mexico

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 356, to permit the use, possession, and retail sale of cannabis for adults 21 and over.

    A separate proposal is also pending to permit adult use marijuana sales, Senate Bill 577, with retail stores being regulated and operated by the state government as opposed to being privately operated.

    Update: HB 356 was approved by the Senate Public Affairs Committee on 3/9 by a 5-2 vote.

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

    Senate Bill 406:

    • Allows medical practitioners to recommend medical cannabis for several new conditions, including PTSD, Parkinson’s, and severe chronic pain;
    • Prohibits employers from taking adverse action on an employee due to a positive drug test result or their status as a patient
    • Allows primary caregivers to obtain a license to grow medical cannabis;
    • Removes medical cannabis use as a violation of probation or parole;
    • Protects patients who require organ transplants

    Update: SB 406 is scheduled for a hearing in the House State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee on 3/11.

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

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 204, to allow medical cannabis to be administered to patients at school.

    Update: SB 204 was heard and approved by the House Education Committee on 3/9. The bill was then unanimously approved by the House of Representatives on 3/11, and now heads to the governor’s desk.

    NM resident? Click here to email your governor in support of allowing medical cannabis for patients at school

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 477, to protect the rights of parents and guardians who participate in the state’s medical cannabis access program.

    The measure states that an individual’s status as a medical cannabis patient “shall not in itself constitute grounds for intervention, removal or placement into state custody of a child in that individual’s care.”

    Update: SB 477 was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/11.

    NM resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of parental protections

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 581, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    Update: HB 581 was unanimously approved by the Senate on 3/10, and will now be transmitted to the governor.

    NM resident? Click here to email your governor in support of industrial hemp production

    North Dakota

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 1349, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with new federal hemp regulations.

    Update: HB 1349 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee on 3/22 at 8:30am.

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

    Oklahoma

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 2614, to amend the possession penalties for individuals who use cannabis for a qualifying condition, but are not in possession of a medical marijuana identification card.

    The measure would reduce the penalty for this offense from a criminal misdemeanor to a citation, punishable by a maximum fine of $400.

    Update: HB 2614 was approved by the House of Representatives on 3/12, and now heads to the Senate.

    OK resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of amending medical marijuana possession penalties

    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.

    Update: SB 305 was approved by the Senate by a 35-12 vote on 3/14, and will now be transmitted to the House.

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

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 868 / House Bill 2628, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    Update: HB 2628 was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives on 3/12, and will now be transmitted to the Senate.

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

    South Carolina

    H. 3660 / S. 366: The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act would regulate medical cannabis distribution and access, but it prohibits the inhalation or smoking of herbal medical cannabis.

    Update: S. 366 was heard in a Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee on 3/13, and is scheduled for another hearing in the subcommittee on 3/20 at 9:30am in Gressette Room 207.

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

    Tennessee

    Legislation is pending, SB 357 / HB 844, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    Update: HB 844 was approved by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on 3/13.

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

    Utah

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 431, to allow those with certain misdemeanor cannabis convictions to have their records automatically expunged.

    Update: HB 431 was heard and approved by the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee on 3/11. The bill was then approved by the Senate and will now be transmitted to the governor.

    UT resident? Click here to email your governor in support of expungement

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 161, that would strengthen protections for medical cannabis patients, and make other technical changes to the state’s nascent medical cannabis access program.

    The proposed changes:

    • Provide certain employment protection for a state or political subdivision employee who declines to participate in a job duty required by the state’s medical cannabis laws;
    • Repeal a provision allowing courts to discriminate against a parent based solely upon their lawful use of medical cannabis during a custody proceeding; and
    • Amend the decriminalization provision to include protections for parents and legal guardians of certain minor patients.

    Update: SB 161 was approved by the House of Representatives on 3/12, and will now be transmitted to the governor.

    UT resident? Click here to email your governor in support of expanded medical patient protections

    Vermont

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 58, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    Update: S. 58 was heard by the Senate Committee on Finance on 3/13, but no action was taken on the bill yet.

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

    Washington

    Legislation is pending, SB 5605 / HB 1500, to allow individuals with prior misdemeanor cannabis convictions to apply to the sentencing court to have their record vacated.

    Update: SB 5605 was approved by the Senate on 3/11 by a 29-19 vote. The bill will now be transmitted to the House.

    WA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of vacating past records

    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.

    Update: SB 5276 was approved by the Senate on 3/12, and now heads to the House.

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

  • by NORML

    Minor marijuana possession offenders will no longer be criminally prosecuted in Hennepin County, Minnesota, according to a new policy announced Thursday by County Attorney Mike Freeman. An estimated 1.2 million people live in the County, which includes the city of Minneapolis.

    Commenting on the new policy, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The Hennepin County Attorney is to be commended for taking this proactive stance. Branding individuals — many of whom are at an age when they are just beginning their professional careers — as lifelong criminals, and in some cases felons, for minor marijuana possession offenses results in a litany of lost opportunities including the potential loss of employment, housing, professional licensing, and student aid, and serves no legitimate societal purpose. This change is a recognition that marijuana criminalization is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern. But it should not be a criminal justice matter.”

    Under the policy, prosecutors will not criminally charge anyone for marijuana offenses involving the possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis. Rather, defendants will be ordered to complete a diversion program or partake in community service. Under state law, marijuana possession offenses involving over 42.5 grams are classified as felony offenses – punishable by up to a five-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.

    Under special circumstances, such as if the defendant possessed a firearm or is a habitual offender, prosecutors may still file criminal charges.

    Freeman said the policy change was necessary because he believes that the state law is overly punitive and produces racial disparities in incarceration rates. “My job is to determine if people are charged and how to spend my resources,” Freeman said. “Spending resources on these cases is just wrong.”

    The County Attorney for Ramsey County (population 500,000), which includes the city of St. Paul, enacted a similar policy earlier this year.

    Similar actions have been taken in recent months by prosecutors in Baltimore, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Norfolk, among other metropolitan areas.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    Marijuana HempRepublican Gov. Ken Stitt signed legislation yesterday, HB 2612, clarifying regulations and patient protections specific to the medical use of cannabis. A majority of voters last June approved a statewide initiative authorizing the plant’s use, cultivation, and dispensing.

    The new legislation codifies a new regulatory bureau, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, within the State Department of Health, establishes a registry for qualified patients and their caregivers, and establishes a revolving fund to address oversight matters.

    It strengthens patient protections by explicitly stipulating that registered cannabis consumers may not be denied public assistance, access to firearms, or employment solely based on their patient status. It further states, “No employer may refuse to hire, discipline, discharge or otherwise penalize an applicant or employee solely on the basis of a positive test for marijuana components or metabolites.”

    The bill seeks facilitate standards for banks who wish to partner with medical cannabis businesses, and prohibits local governments enacting “guidelines which restrict or interfere with the rights of a licensed patient or caregiver to possess, purchase, cultivate or transport medical marijuana.”

    Members of the House voted 93 to 5 in favor of the legislation. Senate members voted in favor of the bill by a margin of 43 to 5.

    An estimated 55,000 Oklahomans are registered with the state to access medical cannabis.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director March 14, 2019

    In the House, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a founder and co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, has reintroduced H.R. 1647, the Veterans Equal Access Act, which expands medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans.

    Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of this bill would lift this prohibition.

    At the time of introduction, Rep. Blumenauer said, “For too long, our veterans have been denied access to highly effective medical marijuana treatment for conditions like chronic pain and PTSD. Medical marijuana has shown proven benefits for treating these conditions denying our veterans access to them is shameful. This simple bill would align veterans VA treatment with their very popular state laws, usually approved by the voters. This legislation would guarantee our veterans fair and equal treatment, along with the ability to consult with their own physician on all treatment options. It’s past time we provide them with the care they need and deserve.”

    Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of the Veterans Equal Access Act

    In the 114th Congress, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.

    Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction CAPS (Clinician Administered Post-traumatic Scale) symptom scores following cannabis therapy.

    A recently released poll conducted by The American Legion showed that nearly 1 in 4 veterans self-reported using marijuana to alleviate a medical or physical condition.

    Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.

    Send a message now to your lawmakers

  • by NORML

    The US Food and Drug Administration sought public comments specific to whether changes ought to be recommended regarding imposing international manufacturing and distributing restrictions, under international treaties, on certain drug substances.

    Per the FDA: FDA, on behalf of the Secretary of HHS, invites interested persons to submit comments on the notifications from the United Nations concerning these drug substances. FDA, in cooperation with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, will consider the comments on behalf of HHS in evaluating the WHO scheduling recommendations. 

    Below is submission filed by Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML.

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