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  • by NORML July 13, 2018

    Legalize MarijuanaA state-commissioned study released today by the New York Department of Health recommends replacing cannabis criminalization with a policy of adult use legalization.

    The 74-page study, entitled “Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State,” acknowledges the following:

    “Regulating marijuana can reduce opioid use;”

    “Regulating marijuana may lead to a reduction in the use of synthetic cannabinoids;”

    “Legalizing marijuana will reduce disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of racial and ethnic minority communities;”

    “Regulating marijuana will create jobs;”

    “Marijuana regulation could generate long-term cost savings.”

    The study’s authors conclude: “A regulated marijuana program enjoys broad support and would have significant health, social justice, and economic benefits. … Regulating marijuana enables public health officials to minimize the potential risks of marijuana use through outreach, education, quantity limits at point of sale, quality control, and consumer protection. … The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

    Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The Department of Health ought to be praised for taking a sober look at the available evidence and issuing sensible policy recommendations. Criminalizing adults who use cannabis 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.”

    He added: “Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, marijuana is here to stay. Our laws should reflect this reality, not deny it, and lawmakers should govern and regulate the marijuana market accordingly.”

    This announcement comes in the midst of an opioid and heroin overdose epidemic in the United States.  New York City experienced 937 overdose deaths in 2015, 1,374 in 2016, and approximately 1,000 in 2017, once all numbers are finalized and verified.  Statewide, New York saw 8,444 hospitalizations from all opioid overdoses in 2016, up from 2,185 in 2015.

    Legalization will also lessen the racial disparities in arrest among white people and people of color.  This change in policy will let those who self-medicate with marijuana to receive a medical card and will less their fear of being arrested for marijuana possession.  In the first three months of 2018, 89% of those arrested in New York City for marijuana possession were black or Hispanic, despite survey evidence that people of several races smoke cannabis at similar rates.  Over the last three years in New York City, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at a rate eight times that of white people.  In Manhattan, this ratio surges to fifteen.  Despite a similar number of calls to 911 and 311 (an NYC helpline), marijuana arrests are higher in those city precincts whose populations are predominantly people of color.

    The full text of the study is available online here. The executive summary is online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 18, 2018

    Legalize MarijuanaA forthcoming report commissioned by the Governor’s office is set to recommend that lawmakers legalize and regulate the possession and sale of marijuana by adults.

    According to statements made today by New York State health commissioner Howard Zucker, the report’s authors have concluded that “a regulated, legal marijuana program [ought to] be available to adults in the state.”

    “We looked at the pros, we looked at the cons, and when were done, we realized that the pros outweighed the cons,” Mr. Zucker said, adding, “We have new facts.”

    A finalized version of the Health Department study is anticipated to be released imminently.

    The health commissioner’s statements come just weeks after an analysis prepared by the New York City Comptroller’s office concluded that the state of New York would gain an estimated $434 million annually in new tax revenue under a regulated adult use marijuana market.

    Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo, in the past, has been reticent to publicly support calls to regulate the adult marijuana use market in New York state — stating that he is “unconvinced” that legalizing is a preferable public policy to criminalization.

    During today’s remarks, health commissioner Zucker also indicated that the Department is moving to expand medical cannabis access to those using opioids. Under the new regulations, those with chronic pain wishing to use cannabis as a substitute for opiates will be able to do so. “[T]hat means if an individual is taking prescription opioids, they could take medical marijuana as part of the program that we are pushing forward to hopefully come off prescription opioids as well,” he said.

    According to data published in May, patients enrolled in New York state’s medical cannabis program reduce their use of opioids and spend less money on prescription medications. The study’s findings are similar to those reported among enrollees in other states’ medical cannabis programs, including the experiences of patients in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and elsewhere.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 15, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesAfrican Americans in the city of Buffalo (population 257,000) are disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana possession offenses, according to an analysis of arrest data by the advocacy group Partnership for the Public Good.

    Researchers evaluated marijuana arrest data for Erie County, New York for the years 2012 to 2016. Countywide, blacks comprised 71 percent of all low-level marijuana offenders, despite comprising only 13.5 percent of the population. In the city of Buffalo, 86 percent of those arrested for minor marijuana possession violations were either African American (80 percent) or Hispanic (six percent). Blacks and Hispanic represent fewer than 50 percent of the city’s population.

    “[T]he disparities in the number of marijuana possession arrests cannot be explained by a higher use among black or Hispanic people,” authors concluded. “Legalizing marijuana would reduce low-level drug arrests by ten percent, and help reduce racial disparities in overall arrest numbers.”

    Recent analyses from other states, such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, have similarly identified racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests. Nationwide, African Americans are approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, despite members of both ethnicities using the substance at similar rates.

    Full text of the report, “Advancing Racial Equity and Public Health: Smarter Marijuana Laws in Western New York,” appears online here.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate June 24, 2016

    ballot_box_leafThis has been an exceptionally busy week at the state and federal level for marijuana law reform. Keep reading to get the latest news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.

    Federal:

    A bipartisan coalition of House and Senate lawmakers have proposed legislation, the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016, to expedite clinical investigations into the safety and efficacy of cannabis. Passage of the measures — House Bill 5549 and Senate Bill 3077 — would expedite federal reviews of clinical protocols involving cannabis, provide greater access to scientists who wish to study the drug, and mandate an FDA review of the relevant science. #TakeAction

    State:

    Arkansas: Representatives of the group Arkansas for Compassionate Care turned in over 100,000 signatures from registered voters this week in hopes of qualifying the 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act for the November ballot. The proposed initiative establishes a statewide program for the licensed production, analytic testing, and distribution of medicinal cannabis. Under the program, patients diagnosed by a physician with one of over 50 qualifying conditions – including ADHD, intractable pain, migraine, or post-traumatic stress – may obtain cannabis from one of up to 38 licensed non-profit care centers. Qualified patients who do not have a center operating in their vicinity will be permitted to cultivate their own medicine at home.

    In 2012, 51 percent of voters narrowly rejected a similar statewide initiative, known as Measure 5. However, recent polling shows that support has increased dramatically since then, with 84 percent of registered Arkansas voters agreeing that “adults should be legally allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes.”

    For more information on the campaign, please visit Arkansans for Compassionate Care.

    California: Both the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the California Democratic Party have publicly endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The initiative, which is expected to appear on the November ballot, permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possession and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes.

    oil_bottlesDelaware: House lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved legislation, SB 181, to permit designated caregivers to possess and administer non-smoked medical marijuana formulations (e.g. oils/extracts) to qualifying patients “in a school bus and on the grounds or property of the preschool, or primary or secondary school in which a minor qualifying patient is enrolled.” Senate lawmakers previously approved the bill on June 9th.

    Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, is expected to sign the legislation into law. The measure will take effect upon the Governor’s signature. To date, two other states — Colorado and New Jersey — impose similar legislation.

    Florida: Elected officials of yet another Florida county have voted to provide local law enforcement with the option to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana possession offenders. Osceola County commissioners passed the ordinance on Tuesday. The new ordinance is similar to those recently passed in Orlando, Tampa, Volusia County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, West Palm Beach, Key West, Hallandale, Miami Beach and Miami-Dade county.

    New Jersey: Legislation to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions eligible for medical marijuana is moving forward through state legislature.

    Members of the Assembly approved the legislation in a 56 to 13 vote on June 16th. On the same day, members of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved an identical measure, Senate Bill 2345, in a 6 to 3 vote. Thirteen states already allow PTSD patients to access medical marijuana including Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
    The measure now awaits a vote by the full Senate. #TakeAction

    New York: Legislation has been approved to facilitate the processing and sale of hemp and locally produced hemp products. The measures, A 9310 and S 6960, expand upon New York’s existing hemp research program to permit for the sale, distribution, transportation and processing of industrial hemp and products derived from such hemp. Under existing law, licensed farmers are only permitted to engage in the cultivation of hemp for research purposes as part of an academic program.

    Both chambers have approved the legislation so now it awaits a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo.#TakeAction

    Rhode Island: House and Senate lawmakers approved House Bill 7142, legislation to permit post-traumatic stress patients to be eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. Members of both chambers overwhelmingly approved the measure. It now heads to the desk of Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo.#TakeAction

    House and Senate lawmakers also approved legislation to create the “Hemp Growth Act “. This measure will classify hemp as an agricultural product that may be legally produced, possessed, and commercially distributed. The Department of Business Regulation will be responsible for establishing rules and regulations for the licensing and regulation of hemp growers and processors. The Department is also authorized to certify any higher educational institution in Rhode Island to grow or handle or assist in growing or handling industrial hemp for the purpose of agricultural or academic research. The legislation now awaits action from Governor Gina Raimondo. If signed, the law will take effect January 1, 2017.#TakeAction

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate June 10, 2016

    More Governors signed marijuana related legislation into law this week, and once again members of the US Senate have said ‘yes’ to marijuana law reform. Keep reading to get the latest news and to learn what you can do to take action.

    Federal:

    substitutionMembers of the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee took action this week, approving 18 to 11, an amendment to further protect doctors and patients who use medical cannabis in accordance with state laws.

    The amendment reads, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this title shall be used in a manner that would interfere with the ability of a provider to recommend medicinal marijuana in accordance with State law, or of a patient to participate in a medicinal marijuana program consistent with such State law.”

    This vote marks the third time in recent weeks that members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee have approved marijuana related amendments. Members also recently voted to expand military veterans’ access to medical cannabis and to bar the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

    State:

    California: Legislation NORML opposes is moving forward in the state legislature and we need you to #TakeAction to prevent it from becoming law. Members of the state Assembly voted 60 to 12 on June 2nd in favor of Assembly Bill 2243, legislation seeking to impose a new $9.75/ounce tax on the cultivation of medical-only marijuana. Similarly, members of the state Senate voted 27 to 10 on June 1st in favor of Senate Bill 987, legislation seeking to impose a special 15 percent statewide tax upon medical marijuana sales. This tax would be in addition to the imposition of existing state and local taxes.

    Assembly Bill 2243 will now be considered by members of the Senate and Senate Bill 987 will now be considered by members of the Assembly.

    While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of fair and reasonable sales taxes on the commercial sales of cannabis for recreational purposes, we do not support such excessive taxation on medical sales. #TakeAction

    Colorado: On Monday, June 6th, Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1373 into law. This legislation permits qualified patients access to medical cannabis formulations while on school grounds. Under the measure, a primary caregiver may administer non-inhalable formulations of medical cannabis to a qualifying patient while that patient is on the grounds of a pre-school, primary, or secondary school in which the student is enrolled. Medical marijuana patients may not be denied eligibility to attend school because of their cannabis use. The measure took effect upon the Governor’s signature.

    pills_v_potNew York: Advocates are making a final push to pass legislation to significantly expand the state’s current medical marijuana program before the legislative ends on June 16th. New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014, however the law is one of the most restrictive in the country. Currently, 11 separate bills are pending before the legislature to improve and expand the state’s nascent program. #TakeAction

    Ohio: Governor John Kasich signed legislation into law this week establishing regulations for the licensed production and dispensing of medical cannabis formulations to qualified patients. House Bill 523 authorizes the use of various forms of cannabis preparations for the physician-authorized treatment of a number of qualifying conditions. For a full list, click here. Ohio is the 26th state to enact statutory language permitting the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana.

    Maryland: Governor Larry Hogan has signed legislation, House Bill 104, expanding the pool of medical professionals who can provide written recommendations for marijuana to qualifying patients. Passage of this legislation allows nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, among other medical professionals, who are in good standing with the state to provide written certifications to qualifying patients. The legislation takes effect June 1st, 2017.

    Michigan: House-backed legislation to expand Michigan’s existing medical marijuana law is expected to be voted on imminently by members of the Senate Judiciary committee. House Bill 4209 would license and regulate above-ground, safe access facilities for state-qualified patients seeking medical marijuana. House Bill 4210 would provide qualified patients legal protections for their use of non-smoked cannabis derived topicals and edibles, as well as cannabis-based extract products. Lawmakers also passed a third bill, HB 4827, which seeks to establish regulations tracking the production and sale of medical marijuana products. Tell the Senate that it is high time to act upon these common sense measures! #TakeAction

    Vermont: Governor Peter Shumlin has signed legislation into law expanding the state’s medical cannabis program.

    Senate Bill 14 includes various patient-friendly provisions: It permits patients with glaucoma and ‘chronic pain’ and/or those in hospice care to be eligible for cannabis therapy; it eliminates the requirement that patients must have previously tried other conventional treatments “without success” prior to being eligible for medical cannabis; it amends existing doctor/patient relationship requirements in a manner that expedites certain patients eligibility to receive cannabis treatment; and it authorizes naturopaths to make medicinal cannabis recommendations.

    The changes impacting patients’ eligibility took effect upon signing. Other changes in the law take effect on July 1, 2016. Full text of the new law is online here.

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