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NORML Chapter

  • by Jax Finkel, Texas NORML Executive Director February 8, 2019

    On Thursday, hundreds of Texans joined us at the Texas State Capitol to discuss marijuana policy with legislators! For this historic day, over 400 Texans registered to participate, covering all thirty-one senate districts and three-quarters of the house district. It was a beautiful representation of how important reform is for Texans.

    We provided a training session for our participants that covered an overview of the legislative process, review of priority legislation, what to expect from their visits and Q&A. We provided training packets for them to use in preparation for their visits, including voting records to check where their legislators have historically stood on the issue. Participants then crafted a message to place on their postcards which they delivered to offices along with policy overviews and then requested their Senator and Representative co-sponsor important legislation. Pictures of the event can be found here. Livestream of the event can be found here.

    The changes that I have seen over the last 14 years in Texas are stark. The first lobby day I ever participated in only had a few dozen dedicated Texans holding the torch for freedom. At that time, legislators had a harsh opinion of our work. But today, we have a record number of bills and have created a huge change in public opinion in the Capitol. The import of these drastic changes over the years are not lost and I am so thankful for all of the work that Texans have done to destigmatize marijuana.

    We want to thank our coalition, Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, for helping to continue to elevate and expand these lobby days. We are so appreciative of all of our volunteers who made this event possible. Additionally, RAMP and DFW NORML made it possible for more Texans to participate by arranging buses to bring them to Austin.

    Lastly, we still have a lot of work to do this session. Brush up on our advocacy training. Catch up on the bills and participate in our action alerts! Stay tuned to us via social media and our newsletter to track how the bills are progressing and know when new action alerts are put out.

    Please support our work during this session by becoming a member, making a one-time donation or becoming a sustaining donor.

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Help dispel the myths with NORML’s Fact Sheets! For more information follow Texas NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website!

     

  • by Justin See, Board Member, Indiana NORML

    During the 2018 legislative session, state representative Jim Lucas (R-69) introduced his first medical cannabis bill, HB 1106, which quickly gained three co-authors after being assigned to the House Public Health committee. Fellow Republican Sean Eberhart (district 57) joined Lucas along with Democrats Sue Errington (district 34) and Chuck Moseley (district 10) on the bill, offering bipartisan for the reform.

    Citing the short session and limited time for hearings, public health chairwoman Representative Cindy Kirchhofer (R-89) opted instead to hold a hearing for House Resolution 2, authored by Representative Math Lehman (R-79) along with co-authors including herself, Representative Chris Judy (R-83), and Representative Vanessa Summers (D-99), which called for the legislative council to assign the topic of medical marijuana to the interim Public Health committee as well as requesting that the federal government remove cannabis from the Schedule I category in the Controlled Substances Act. Lehman’s interest in advancing the conversation originates in part from his friendship with his mentor and former state representative Tom Knollman, who refuses opioids in the treatment of his multiple sclerosis and is an advocate for legalizing cannabis. Citing the diametric opinions involved in this topic, from individuals such as Knollman citing their personal experience of the benefit on one hand to law enforcement and other organizations warning against going down the route of legalization on the other, Lehman explained that he thought it was time for our state to begin looking into the evidence as well as the experiences of other states and the overall impact on society.

    HR 2 passed out of committee and was adopted by the House in a unanimous 94-0 vote, leading to the interim Public Health hearing that took place on October 18th of 2018. Numerous individuals testified in favor, including I.U. oncologist Dr. Alan Greenspan, Illinois state representative Tim Butler, as well as Marshall county prosecutor Nelson Chipman, who testified in a break from the official stance of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney Council (IPAC), an organization that has maintained a persistent presence at hearings involving any potential legalization of cannabis including agricultural hemp and low-THC hemp extracts.

    During the discussion following testimony, state senator Mark Stoops (D-40) proposed a recommendation to create a state regulatory agency or commission to asses the impact and effectiveness of various regulatory schemes for a medical cannabis program, given the evidence and potential of cannabis for a variety of conditions and the number of states that have already instituted medical cannabis programs. His original language was amended to only specifically mention conditions for which there is a high level of evidence, based on a list of evidence levels provided by lay committee member Dr. Richard Feldman, although this motion was voted down by committee members and instead a statement claiming that the committee failed to reach a consensus and recommended further study was agreed upon by the committee.

    There were varying reasons for opposition to Stoops’ motion, from wanting to hear from constituents before voting in favor (Senator Vaneta Becker), to concerns about creating a new commission to evaluate regulatory options. “I am opposed to creating another government bureaucratic agency and believe that it is not taxpayer friendly,” explained state representative Steven Davvisson (R-73) to constituents in the Facebook group Concerned Taxpayers of Washington County, defending his vote against Senator Stoops’ proposed recommendation to constituents. “It doesn’t matter what the committee recommends because a bill still must be brought forward in the General Assembly and I’m sure there will be many bills addressing this topic.” True to his prediction, a record number of cannabis bills have been introduced for consideration during the 2019 session, including a total of 13 that pertain to either medical or decriminalization.

    “I understand many people have concerns about this issue,” Representative Davisson added, “but ultimately any recommendation from the committee would have only been exactly that, a recommendation. It could have been accepted by the General Assembly or ignored. By not reaching a consensus on the topic neither positive or negative, it will still be open for discussion in the General Assembly.”

    With what amounted to a neutral recommendation and a call for further legislative discussion, one might have thought that when the House Public Health committee convened in January for the start of the 2019 session that they might have heeded that call by scheduling a hearing for one of the several medical cannabis bills assigned to the committee. While a hearing might not lead to the passage of a bill, it would have at minimum provided the opportunity for the type of detailed discussion requested by some interim committee members.

    Senator John Ruckelshaus (R-30), who served on the interim Public Health committee and is the ranking member of the Senate Health and Provider Services committee, commented on the summer study process at a Hamilton County town hall on January 26th. “I must admit that that committee was not a robust committee. It was not a committee where we really got (I’m not going to say ‘into the weeds’) into the true depth of the issue because one of the things we really didn’t get into was to study about the other states, whose doing this right, whose doing it safe. I want say from my heart with this issue that I am open to this issue because some of you know the story about my son, who is a quadriplegic. I know how families suffer, I have seen families suffer, I have seen individuals suffer, so this is very important to me and I know this is sweeping the country right now.”

    While Senator Ruckelshaus was not satisfied with the breadth of the testimony at the interim hearing, the summer study process was originally billed as a comprehensive look at the issue. “Study committees are a great tool for the legislature to fully review issues. While the federal government has yet to recognize the use of medical cannabis, we plan to fully review the issue,” Representative Cindy Kirchhoffer claimed in the lead-up to the hearing. “There is no guarantee that legislation or policy changes will come from study committee, however this is a great chance for citizens to actively engage in the legislative process and share their thoughts on this complex topic.”

    With the number of speakers both supportive and opposed scheduled into a several hour hearing, many speakers rushed through their presentations in order to allow time for everyone to speak. In a phone conversation, Senator Ruckelshaus explained that the type of discussion he would like to see on this issue would involve several days of hearings where legislators can really dive into the details of how other states are implementing medical programs and which ones have the best practices that could be implemented in Indiana.

    “In Indiana we must do it right, we must do it safe,” Ruckelshaus stated in his final comments at the Hamilton County town hall. “So again, I am open to this concept, but we need to have more discussion.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there will be any further discussion at all this session, at least not in a manner which allows public participation or the possibility, however faint, of advancing legislation. Representative Kirchhoffer explained that in lieu of hearing any of the medical cannabis bills assigned to her committee, she wants the Senate to take up the issue this year because the Senate Democrats made medical cannabis part of their 2019 legislative priorities. The Democrats, being the minority political party, do not hold any committee chair positions and therefore do not have any further ability to advance this conversation beyond the bills they have introduced.

    The fate of non-hemp cannabis in the Senate rests in the hands of two individuals: Senator Ed Charbonneau (R-5) and Senator Mike Young (R-35). Senator Charbonneau is the chair of the Health and Provider Services committee, which was assigned two cannabis bills: S 357, Karen Tallian’s bill establishing a medical cannabis program, and S 287, introduced by Senator Mark Stoops, which would create a defense-to-possession for those whose doctors certify in writing that they have a terminal illness or serious untreatable disease. Karen Tallian also filed a decriminalization bill, S 213, which was assigned to Senator Mike Young’s Corrections & Criminal Law committee.

    In a recent interview with Fox59, Senator Charbonneau told reporters that he was unwilling to consider allowing use while it is still illegal under federal law, offering little hope for a hearing in his committee this year. While Tallian’s bill would offer a more complete medical program, Stoops’ bill stops short of legalizing use per se or even setting up a legal or regulated supply chain, instead merely offering a defense to possession for those with terminal or untreatable conditions. This reform would circumvent any perceived or real concerns with state legalization in spite of federal law, although Senator Charbonneau has not yet responded to any queries asking if he would consider hearing this bill.

    Senator Mike Young, who authored the 2018 bill legalizing low-THC hemp extract, would not commit to a hearing for the decriminalization bill assigned to his committee, however he did make the following statement on the Indiana NORML Facebook page in response to a question about whether or not he would be willing to comment on the possibility of hearing S 213 in his committee: “Only to say that I have 70 or so bills assigned to my committee. I have only 7 possible hearing dates available and have already had three meeting totaling 13 bills heard with one carryover. Which means I only have four dates left where I can hear 12 bills of the 57 that remain.”

    “He has said that he will hear certain bills as time allows,” his legislative aide, Andrianna Hji-Avgouti, stated in an email. “As of right now, he has them prioritized and that is how he chooses what to hear in committee.” It is unclear how far down the list of bills assigned to his committee that S 213 is prioritized, although this offers the slight possibility that Senator Young has at least not completely ruled out the possibility of giving it a hearing.

    Meanwhile in the House, several bills offering different iterations of cannabis decriminalization have been assigned to the Corrections and Criminal Law committee chaired by Representative Wendy McNamara (R-76). Bills assigned  were introduced by both Republicans and Democrats, including Jim Lucas (HB 1283), John Young (HB 1460), Heath VanNetter and Mara Reardon (HB 1658), Ragen Hatcher (HB 1540) and Dan Forestal (HB 1658).  When Representative McNamara’s press secretary was asked if McNamara would be willing to provide a quote for this article on whether or not she planned to schedule any of these bills for a hearing, the request was responded to with a simple, “Rep. McNamara is unavailable for an interview”. While full legalization and even the implementation of a medical access program are still the source of contention in the Statehouse, considering some form of decriminalization is not completely anathema to legislators. Representative Lehman, while stating up front that he will likely never support full legalization in Indiana, said that the topic of decriminalization in some form has merit and is worth reviewing.

    From outside the Statehouse, it can seem as though the issue is in a gridlock that might never be broken until it is too late for some Hoosier to access the therapeutic uses of cannabis or to avoid the criminal consequences of possession, but legislators familiar with Indiana politics behind the scenes are noting an increasing willingness to see this as a serious rather than fringe issue. “I think that there is momentum building, just not as fast as some of us would like,” Representative Shane Lindauer (R-63) told us. Lindauer is Vice Chair of the Public Health committee and co-author of Representative Lucas’ medical bill, HB 1384. “Please continue to encourage members to contact their state Representatives and Senators,” he said, offering advice on how to continue to move this issue forward. “I understand that sometimes it feels like that doesn’t get us anywhere, but I can assure you that if done respectfully, it will register.”

    While the decision not to hear bills exists in a political environment that includes lack of support from Governor Holcomb, the current state of cannabis reform in Indiana and the potential progress that could be made this session rests largely on the shoulders of a few committee chairs, none of whom have thus far opted to schedule hearings for the cannabis bills assigned to their committee. 2019 might not be the year of measurable progress (although it is certainly not out of the question), but it is absolutely the year that the General Assembly becomes aware of the fact that this issue can’t be shuffled around forever without adequately addressing it.

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Dispel the myths with the NORML Fact Sheets. Follow Indiana NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

     

     

  • by Matthew Bratcher, Executive Director, KY NORML February 5, 2019

    The Kentucky chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (KY NORML) is assisting Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana (KY4MM) in its lobbying efforts Feb. 5 with constituents from across the state seeking cannabis reform.

    “There are several meetings made for constituents to meet with their legislators on both days. KY4MM has been extremely important in helping to get all of our supporters to come together. It’s vital that we speak as one voice for a medical program.” said Matthew Bratcher, KY NORML executive director.

    Patrick Dunegan, Executive Director for Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition (KCFC), “We should not be prisoners of an imaginary border for our health”, referring to Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois becoming emerging medical cannabis markets.

    There are four bills pertaining to the legalization of cannabis during the 2019 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

    State Rep. Jason Nemes, R-33, is sponsoring a medical cannabis bill (HB 136) that allows doctors to recommend cannabis therapy as part of patients’ treatment regimens. “It is time to allow doctors to have this option for their patients,” Nemes said Jan. 9 during a news conference.

    Fairdale Republican state Sen. Dan Seum, R-38, has proposed SB80, which would allow responsible adult use of cannabis. Seum recently told lawmakers he “smoked a joint” instead of using potentially addictive opioids during colon cancer treatment. “And guess what? No nausea,”; Seum said last month.

    Other cannabis bills on the 2019 legislative agenda include a Cannabis Possession Decriminalization bill (SB 82) sponsored by State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, which would decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use; and Democratic state Sen. Perry Clark’s “Shauna’s Law”; (SB83) which provides workplace protections for public employees who fail a drug test related to use of a legal industrial product, such as CBD.

    Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia are among states bordering Kentucky that have approved legislation pertaining to medicinal marijuana.

    Following Tuesday’s lobbying session, KY NORML is hosting a Cannabis Community Forum at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at The Plantory, 501 W. Sixth St., Suite 250, Lexington, on the second floor of the West Sixth Complex. The forum includes an educational seminar on cannabis, a review of House Bill 136 (HB136) and an expert question and answer session.

    The following day, KY NORML returns to the capitol with KY4MM, and Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition (KCFC) to continue lobbying efforts, culminating with a Rally from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda. Scheduled speakers include Rep. Jason Nemes (R-33), Rep. Diane St. Onge (R-63), Sen. Dan Seum (R-38) among others.

    For more information regarding the Feb. 5 and 6 lobbying sessions or Tuesday’s Lexington forum, contact Matthew Bratcher at matthew.bratcher@kynorml.com or Jaime Montalvo at ky4mm2014@gmail.com

    KY NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to influence legislators for the expansion of our hemp industry, implementation of medicinal cannabis, and laying the foundation for responsible adult use.

    To support KY NORML you can DONATE HERE or purchase some of our apparel below! Your donations help pay the bills and allow us to function and continue to make a difference in our state! Can you kick in $5, $10 or $20 to help us keep going

    Looking to help in a more direct way? We are always looking for people to help out with any number of tasks! CONTACT US and tell us about yourself and what your talents are!

  • by NORML January 24, 2019

    Three medical cannabis bills cleared the Senate Committee on Education and Health this morning and are headed to the Senate floor.

    Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s SB1557 would clarify last year’s landmark Let Doctors Decide medical cannabis legislation. It seeks to redefine allowed dosage limitations and formulations, and expand patient access and reduce patient cost by adding nurse practitioners and physician assistants to the list of those authorized to issue written certifications to patients. Currently, only physicians may register with the Department of Health Professions to issue certifications.

    “Last year we passed unanimously the historic Let Doctors Decide bill that expanded patient access to our medical cannabis program,” said Senator Dunnavant, a medical doctor from Henrico. “We got a lot of things right, but there are some screws that can be tightened so the law better benefits the health and well-being of all Virginians.”

    The bill would also allow Virginia’s licensed pharmaceutical processors to dispense medical cannabis preparations beyond the current definition of “oil” and in doses proven effective for the variety of disease processes for which doctors will recommend these therapies. Pharmacists at these facilities would be allowed to compound creams, sprays, capsules, suppositories, lozenges, and other preparations typically dispensed at compounding pharmacies.

    Senator Glen Sturtevant’s (R-10) SB1632 seeks to allow medical cannabis administration on school property and at school events.

    “Virginia students and their families depend on new, safely produced and regulated cannabidiol and THCA oils to treat a host of potentially debilitating conditions. However, current laws cause significant burdens for families who need to provide these medications to their children, and cause serious disruptions every single day at school for students” said Senator Glen Sturtevant.

    ”This bill would authorize the Department of Health Professions and school boards to adopt the necessary policies for school nurses to administer these medications just like other medications administered to students, like antibiotics and Advil. This streamlined approach will keep kids in school and reduce classroom disruptions so that students can focus on their academic success.”

    Colorado, Illinois, and Florida allow school nurses to administer medical cannabis to students. Delaware, Maine and New Jersey allow medical cannabis use at school, Washington allow schools to create their own policies, and West Virginia directed education officials to create rules for use at school.

    Delegate Chris Hurst’s (D-12) companion legislation, HB1720, is before the House Courts of Justice Committee, which will decide the fate of the bill Friday afternoon.

    Senator Dave Marsden’s SB1719 would allow “registered agents” for those patients physically unable to pick up or receive delivery of their medical cannabis, like those in hospice, assisted living facilities and those who rely on home healthcare providers.

    “Patient access is critical to the success of Virginia’s medical cannabis program,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML. “These bills help ensure that all patients are able to obtain and use the necessary therapeutic doses of their cannabis medicines regardless of location or physical ability.”

    Track these bills and all marijuana-related legislation in the 2019 General Assembly here.

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Dispel the myths with the NORML Fact Sheets. Follow Virginia NORML on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and become a member today!

     

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director January 8, 2019

    Since the passage of Proposition 1, officially known as the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, which legalized the sale, possession, consumption and cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and up last November, members of Michigan NORML have encountered a new challenge: municipal opt-out. Similar to other states that have legalized adult-use marijuana like Colorado, California and Oregon, it’s up to municipal governments in Michigan to decide if legal marijuana businesses can operate within their communities.

    To date, more than 80 municipalities in Michigan have imposed moratoriums or outright bans on the sale of adult-use marijuana. In some cases, like with the city of Troy where residents opposed Proposition 1, it’s due to a lack of support for legal marijuana. In other cities, municipal governments are simply waiting until they have a better understanding of how the new law will be implemented by state lawmakers before exploring rules and regulations for local licensing.

    “I’m confident that many municipalities will opt-in after the State promulgates administrative rules and sample ordinance amendments are made available to municipal attorneys,” said Brad Forrester, Board Member of Michigan NORML. “Some of the municipal officials I’ve spoken with have expressed an interest, but they don’t really understand exactly how the process works and they said they’re awaiting guidance from State officials.”

    Considering many who supported Proposition 1 believed passage of the new law was going to eliminate underground marijuana sales by providing access to a legal and regulated alternative, the decision by municipal governments to opt-out of the sale of adult-use marijuana appears to undermine the intent of the initiative and expectations of voters. We’re at a tipping point in America with regard to public support for ending marijuana prohibition, but there’s still plenty of work to do, especially at the local level.

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Help dispel the myths and misinformation with NORML’s Fact Sheets! Follow Michigan NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

     

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