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NORML Blog

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 9, 2018

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) publicly reaffirmed today that provisions lifting the federal prohibition of hemp will be included in the finalized language of H.R. 2: The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the 2018 Farm Bill). The must-pass legislation is currently being debated by leadership in conference committee.

    “If there’s a Farm Bill, it’ll be in there. I guarantee that,” McConnell told reporters in an exchange first reported by Marijuana Moment and The Hill. He added: “I don’t want to overstate this – I don’t know if it’s going to be the next tobacco or not – but I do think it has a lot of potential. And as all of you already know, in terms of food and medicine but also car parts. I mean, it’s an extraordinary plant.”

    The hemp-specific provisions, which Sen. McConnell included in the Senate version of the bill, amend federal regulations to further expand and facilitate state-licensed hemp production, research, and commerce. The language also for the first time amends the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 so that industrial hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance. (See page 1182, Section 12608: ‘Conforming changes to controlled substances act.’)

    Senator McConnell previously shepherded hemp-related language (Section 7606) in the 2014 version of the Farm Bill, which permits states to establish hemp research and cultivation programs absent federal approval. A majority of states have now enacted legislation to permit such programs.

    Lawmakers are seeking to finalize and pass the 2018 farm legislation prior to year’s end.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate

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

    This week was a big week for marijuana with Michigan voters approving a measure to regulate the retail sale of marijuana for adults, and Utah and Missouri voting to allow medical marijuana access.

    There were also 16 counties and two cities in Wisconsin that approved non-binding marijuana ballot measures, as well as five cities in Ohio that voted to decriminalize marijuana possession. Read more here.

    Massachusetts adult use retail sales could begin within days, after being delayed from the original start date of July 1.

    Iowa added autism as a medical marijuana qualifying condition, but rejected PTSD, bipolar disorder and ADHD. They also voted to keep the THC cap at 3%. This recommendation now has to be approved by the Iowa Board of Medicine. Also, the state’s first dispensary will begin selling low-THC medical cannabis products on December 1.

    Gretchen Whitmer (D), Michigan’s soon to be governor, is considering options to expunge prior marijuana convictions since voters in the state approved a marijuana regulation measure.

    A medical cannabis bill is expected to be filed in Tennessee.

    Governor Phil Murphy (D) of New Jersey is still negotiating with lawmakers on tax rates for marijuana legalization legislation. They had originally set a date for a vote on the measure for October 29.

    A New York state lawmakers wants sealing prior marijuana possession convictions to be a priority for the 2019 legislative session.

    At a more local level, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) of Washington, DC stated that she plans to pursue retail marijuana sales in the city in 2019.

    The city council of Green Bay, Wisconsin approved a measure to lower the penalties for marijuana possession and the Santa Fe, New Mexico City Council is debating a resolution calling for “legalization, decriminalization and/or regulation of cannabis and cannabis-related products for recreational use.”

    Additionally, a key Mexican senator who will be a member of the new presidential administration filed a bill to tax and regulate marijuana. The move comes less than a week after the country’s Supreme Court struck down the prohibition of cannabis.

    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 York

    A11390 seeks to require public health insurance programs to cover medical marijuana related costs.

    The measure amends state law so that publicly funded health programs, including the largely-publicly funded Essential Plan, would treat medical cannabis like any other legal prescription drug “for the purposes of coverage under medical assistance.”

    Update: Companion legislation, S9189, was introduced on 11/2/18 and referred to the Senate Rules Committee.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical marijuana coverage

  • by NORML November 7, 2018
    Jeff Sessions is TERRIFYING!

    Jeff Sessions is TERRIFYING!

    United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced that he is resigning, effective immediately, from the office of the Department of Justice.

    In both his tenure in Congress and as Attorney General, Sessions was a longstanding, vocal opponent of marijuana policy reform, who once opined, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” As Attorney General, his office rescinded the 2013 Cole memorandum which directed prosecutors not to interfere in state-sanctioned marijuana activity. However, that action encouraged numerous members from both parties to strongly criticize the office, and eventually led to the introduction of The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018 – bipartisan House and Senate legislation that seeks to protect jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana from federal intervention.

    Commenting on his exit, NORML Director Erik Altieri said, “Attorney General Jefferson Sessions was a national disgrace. NORML hopes that he finds the time during his retirement to seek treatment for his affliction of 1950’s reefer madness.”

    Commenting on the prospects for his replacement, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “With 33 states now recognizing the medical use of cannabis, and with 10 states having legalized the use and sales of marijuana for all adults, it is pivotal that the next US Attorney General be someone who recognizes that most Americans want cannabis to be legally regulated and that they oppose any actions from the Justice Department to interfere with these state-sanctioned efforts.”

    Sessions’ chief of staff Matt Whitaker will serve as acting Attorney General until a permanent appointment is confirmed.

  • by NORML

    Marijuana reformers enjoyed numerous federal, state, and local victories last night. Here are the highlights.

    STATE BALLOT INITIATIVES

    Florida: Sixty-three percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which amends the state constitution to restore voting privileges to those with non-violent felony convictions – including tens of thousands of those convicted of marijuana-related offenses. Passage of the amendment is anticipated to reinstate voting rights to some 1.4 million Floridians.

    Michigan: Voters by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent approved Proposal 1, legalizing the adult use, cultivation, and retail marketing of marijuana. Michigan is the first Midwest state to legalize adult marijuana use and sales, and it is the tenth state overall to do so. Under the measure’s provisions, adults will be able to legally begin possessing cannabis ten days following the certification of the 2018 election results. An estimated 25 percent of the US population now resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use and possession of cannabis is legal.

    Missouri: Sixty-six percent of Missourians approved Amendment 2, which amends the constitution to permits physicians to recommend medical marijuana at their sole discretion, and provides licensed dispensary access to qualifying patients. The measure beat out two competing ballot initiatives, neither of which received more than 50 percent support from voters.

    North Dakota: Fifty-nine percent of North Dakota voters rejected Measure 3, a grassroots initiative that sought to strike marijuana from much of the criminal code and would have ended most marijuana-related arrests. Though the campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, NORML is proud to have worked closely with local organizers over the past months, and is looking forwarding to coordinating future statewide reform efforts under the North Dakota NORML banner here.

    Utah: Fifty-three percent of Utah voters approved Proposition 2, which facilitates legal medical cannabis access to qualified patients. In the coming months, state lawmakers are anticipated to hold a special legislative session with regard to implementing the new law. NORML is calling on state politicians to “respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact The Utah Medical Cannabis Act in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law.” With yesterday’s passage of medical marijuana legalization in Missouri and Utah, 33 US states now recognize the therapeutic use of cannabis by statute.

    KEY FEDERAL RACES

    There were some major changes in the US House of Representatives that bode well for the prospects of future, federal marijuana law reform. Perhaps most importantly, Congress’ chief marijuana prohibitionist – Texas Republican Pete Sessions – lost his re-election bid. Representative Sessions used his position as Chairman of the House Rules Committee to block House floor members from voting on over three-dozen marijuana-related amendments during his leadership tenure. His actions single-handedly killed a number of popular, bipartisan-led reforms — such as facilitating medical cannabis access to military veterans and amending federal banking laws so that licensed marijuana businesses are treated like other legal industries.

    But Rep. Sessions is not the only prohibitionist leaving Congress. Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte – who as House Judiciary Chair failed to schedule any significant marijuana bills for hearings – has retired and will no longer be in Congress following the conclusion of this term

    With Sessions and Goodlatte out of power, it is likely that members of the House will once again weigh in on and pass a number of important legislative reforms in 2019.

    In addition to these notable departures, a number of NORML-endorsed Congressional candidates and incumbents won their races – including leading reformers like: Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), David Joyce (R-OH), and Barbara Lee (D-CA). To see the outcomes for races involving all of NORML’s 2018 endorsed candidates, please visit here.

    KEY STATE RACES

    In four states — Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois — voters elected Governors who openly campaigned on a platform that included legalizing adult marijuana use. In two other states — California and Colorado — voters elected Governors who have a long-history of spearheading legalization reform efforts. And in Maine and in New Mexico, two of the nation’s most rabid marijuana prohibitionists, Paul LePage and Susana Martinez, have been replaced by Governors who are open to enacting common-sense cannabis reforms. For a complete run-down of gubernatorial races impacting marijuana policy, please visit the NORML blog here.

    LOCAL BALLOT VICTORIES

    Voters in Ohio and Wisconsin approved a series of binding and non-binding local marijuana reform initiatives on Election Day.

    In Ohio, voters in five cities — including Dayton (population 140,000) — approved municipal ordinances seeking to either eliminate or significantly reduce local fines and penalties associated with marijuana-related offenses. Voters approved similar measures in the communities of Fremont (population 16,000), Norwood (population 20,000), Oregon (population 20,000), and Windham (population, 2,200). And in Wisconsin, voters in sixteen separate counties — including Milwaukee County — approved non-binding ballot questions expressing support for the legalization of cannabis for either medical purposes or for adult use.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    Voters in Ohio and Wisconsin approved a series of binding and non-binding local marijuana reform initiatives on Election Day.

    In Ohio, voters in five cities — including Dayton (population 140,000) — approved municipal ordinances seeking to either eliminate or significantly reduce local fines and penalties associated with marijuana-related offenses. Voters approved similar measures in the communities of Fremont (population 16,000), Norwood (population 20,000), Oregon (population 20,000), and Windham (population, 2,200).

    Several other Ohio cities and towns — including Athens, Bellaire, Newark, Logan, Roseville, and Toledo — have previously enacted similar voter-initiated ordinances.

    In Wisconsin, voters in sixteen separate counties — including Milwaukee County — approved non-binding ballot questions expressing support for the legalization of cannabis for either medical purposes or for adult use.

    The results to these advisory questions bode well for the prospects of a potential statewide ballot measure in 2020. Such an effort would likely be endorsed by Governor-elect Tony Evers, who in the past has expressed support for such a vote, stating: “I’d support it (marijuana legalization), but I do believe there has to be a more thoughtful, rigorous conversation around it as a state. So I would love to have a statewide referendum on this.”

    Sixty-four percent of registered Wisconsin voters say that marijuana should be “legalized for use by adults, … taxed, and regulated like alcohol,” according to a statewide October 2018 poll.

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