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  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate July 15, 2016

    US_capitolMembers of Congress this week heard testimony on the state of marijuana research, and leading members of the U.S. Senate introduced legislation to potentially reclassify CBD. A medical marijuana initiative in Montana qualified for the November ballot and Governors in three states signed marijuana related bills into law. Keep reading below to get this week’s latest marijuana news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.

    Federal:
    On Wednesday, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a hearing titled, “Researching Marijuana’s Potential Medical Benefits and Risks”. Testimony was provided by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who are co-sponsors of the CARERS Act, as well as by officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While several witnesses were asked by the committee whether or not they expected the DEA to reschedule cannabis, none provided a direct answer. An archive of the hearing is available online here.

    Today, US Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Pat Leahy (D-VT), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced legislation, the “Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.” The Act requires the Attorney General to make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be reclassified under the Controlled Substances Act and would expand research on the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol and other marijuana components. You can voice your support for this measure, as well as other pending federal legislation, by clicking here.

    State:

    Hawaii: On Tuesday, Governor David Ige signed legislation, House Bill 2707, to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.

    The measure expands the pool of practitioners who may legally recommend cannabis therapy to include advanced nurse practitioners. Separate provisions in the bill remove the prohibition on Sunday dispensary sales and on the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia by qualified patients. Other language in the bill permits the transportation of medical marijuana across islands for the purposes of laboratory testing, but maintains existing prohibitions banning individual patients from engaging in inter-island travel with their medicine.

    Full text of the bill is available here.

    Missouri: Governor Jay Nixon signed legislation into law today making it easier for those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged.

    The legislative measure expands the number of offenses eligible for expungement from roughly a half dozen to more than 100 non-violent and non-sexual crimes. It also allows people to expunge their records sooner, shortening the waiting period to three years for misdemeanors and to seven years following a felony offense. However, the law does not take effect until January 1, 2018.

    Missouri’s NORML coordinator Dan Viets said, “This law will allow many thousands of people who have a marijuana conviction on their public records to escape the lifelong disabilities such a conviction has caused in the past.”

    For more information, contact Missouri NORML here.

    pills_v_potMontana: On Wednesday, a statewide initiative to expand and restore the state’s medical marijuana program qualified for the November ballot. The initiative is seeking to reverse several amendments to the program that were initially passed by lawmakers in 2011.

    If approved by voters, I-182 allows a single treating physician to certify medical marijuana for a patient diagnosed with chronic pain and includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a “debilitating medical condition” for which a physician may certify medical marijuana, among other changes. You can read the initiative language here.

    Pennsylvania: On Monday, legislation to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp” was sent to Governor Wolf for his signature.

    This measures allows state-approved applicants to research and cultivate industrial hemp as part of an authorized pilot program. This proposal is compliant with Section 7606 of the omnibus federal farm bill, authorizing states to sponsor hemp cultivation pilot programs absent federal reclassification of the plant. More than two dozen states have enacted similar legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with this statute. #TakeAction

    Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo signed legislation, House Bill 7142, this week to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. Members of both chambers previously overwhelmingly approved the measure. Full text of the bill is available here. The new law went into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 24, 2011

    Almost as if on cue from a movie director, the head of the Judiciary Committee in the US House of Representatives, ‘conservative’ Republican from Texas Lamar Smith, has provided both cannabis law reformers and the general public a typical up-close view of why the US Congress—the creator of Cannabis Prohibition laws in 1937 and later the Controlled Substances Act of 1970—rarely seems to work the way it was intended. One person, either ignorant or uninformed, can block consideration of a controversial political issue if he or she wishes to do so. And the ability to do this only increases with time, as the legislator gains seniority and become a committee or subcommittee chairperson.

    Rep. Smith, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, responded to press inquiries yesterday about the new federal legalization bill, that will be referred to his committee, saying he had no intention of considering the bill, or even giving it a public hearing. Unfortunately, under current Congressional rules, a committee chairman is given great discretion regarding what bills to consider, and which to ignore, and it is only when another member or members of that committee, or the general public, make a big deal out of it that sometimes one can overcome the stiff opposition of a committee chair.

    One promising fact is that the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers, JR, is a co-sponsor of HB 2306, and should serve as a counter-balance to the opposition of the chairman.

    Smith’s anti-cannabis salvo against the new legalization bill should inspire cannabis consumers and activists to redouble their efforts this year to get as many co-sponsors as possible for HR 2306, and to recruit and elect political candidates to Congress who no longer embrace reefer madness or favor continuing—possibly for another 74 years—the status quo of arresting another cannabis consumer every 35 seconds in America.

    NORML and our supporters decided to reach out to Representative Smith today, to let him know we considered HR 2306 sound public policy that deserved a hearing. Instead of addressing the concerns of the general public, Smith removed his page from Facebook and wiped it clean of any and all comments posted in support of the bill. Further commenting was also disabled on the page. Once one too many calls began coming into his congressional offices and the extension for the House Judiciary Committee, a prerecorded message was posted stating that his office was closed (it wasn’t, their operating hours on Friday are posted as until 6pm EST).

    Even President Barack Obama has stated he considers legalization a legitimate topic for debate, so why is Rep. Lamar Smith stonewalling the legislation?

    NORMLtv is now streaming a new PSA targeting Smith and his refusal to engage this issue in a productive and rational way, which you can view above. We encourage you to continue contacting the chairman through his contact information listed below.

    Rep. Lamar Smith
    DC Office: 202-225-4236 (8:30 am- 6:00 pm EST)
    TX Office: 210-821-5024 (8:00 am- 5:00 pm CT)
    Web: http://lamarsmith.house.gov/

    You can also use NORML’s Take Action Center by clicking here and easily message your elected officials to encourage their support of this important legislation. Over 3,000 of you already have, let’s keep the pressure on!

    We appreciate your support and especially want to thank those who have been helping us push this issue today with Chairman Smith. We will be back in touch soon to ask for your further help as we find new ways to push this new legislation forward.

    Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest marijuana news and further updates on HR2306.