• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 10, 2019

    Governors in two western states have signed legislation into law to facilitate the process of permitting those past criminal convictions to have their records expunged.

    In Utah, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed House Bill 431: The Clean Slate Act into law. The measure creates a process for the automatic expungement and deletion of certain criminal convictions, including misdemeanor convictions for the possession of a controlled substance.

    To be eligible for automatic expungement, one must have completed their sentence and possess no subsequent convictions for a period of five years. According to reporting by the Salt Lake City Tribune, Utah will become only the second state in the nation to enact such a broad automatic expungement policy.

    The new law takes effect on May 1, 2020.

    In New Mexico, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law House Bill 370, The Criminal Record Expungement Act. The Act permits those convicted of certain violations, misdemeanors, or felonies – following the completion of their sentence and payment of applicable fines – to petition the court for an order to expunge arrest records and public records related to that conviction. Those seeking to vacate misdemeanor convictions must wait two years following the completion of their sentence, and have no subsequent convictions, prior to seeking expungement. Those with felony convictions must wait six-years prior to petitioning the court.

    The new law takes effect on January 1, 2020.

    For information about additional pending legislation, visit NORML’s Action Center here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 3, 2018

    Marijuana medicine[Update: Governor Gary Herbert has signed the replacement measure into law.]

    Lawmakers voted in a special legislative session on Monday to replace the state’s voter-initiated medical cannabis access program. The former law, Proposition 2, was approved by 53 percent of voters on November 6.

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri criticized lawmakers’ decision. “Lawmakers should have respected the will of the voters and should have moved expeditiously to honor the spirit of the law — not undermine it,” he said. “Patients deserve the right to cultivate their own medicine, doctors should be empowered to decide what is best for their patients, and there should be no undue hurdles to licensing an adequate number of dispensaries to provide cannabis related products in a retail environment.”

    Legislators announced in October their intent to rewrite the legislation, prior to its passage, after meetings with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — who opposed the bill — and other groups, including some backers of the original bill. However, other proponents of Proposition 2, including the group TRUCE Utah (Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education), have announced their intent to file a lawsuit in response to lawmakers’ decision to amend the law.

    The replacement legislation, House Bill 3001, significantly differs from the language that was approved by the voters. It eliminates patients’ option to home cultivate cannabis, it largely discourages the dispensing of edible cannabis products, it narrows the list of qualifying conditions, and it significantly reduces the total number of permissible state-licensed dispensaries, among other changes.

    Members of the House voted 60 to 13 in favor of the new language. Members of the Senate voted 22 to 4. The bill required two-thirds support from both chambers in order to become law.

    The vote to rewrite the voter-initiated law broke down largely along party lines, with Republican lawmakers deciding in favor of the change and Democratic members largely voting ‘present.’ An alternative measure backed by members of the Democratic Caucus that sought to make only minor administrative changes to the initiative was defeated.

    Once signed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, the new law takes immediate effect.

  • by Pedro Padilla, Executive Director, NORML at the U of U October 29, 2018

    Members of the newly established NORML at the University of Utah hosted a panel discussion on the current state of marijuana law reform efforts in Utah, which included Proposition 2, as well as the negative impacts marijuana prohibition has had on Utahns. Panelists included Salt Lake County District Attorney, Sim Gill, as well as Alex Iorg who is the campaign manager for Utah Patients Coalition, the group sponsoring Proposition 2, and Tom Pasket, policy director for TRUCE (Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education), a well known medical cannabis advocacy group in Utah.

    Panelists discussed the potential fate of Proposition 2 and highlighted the compromise that was recently reached between proponents of Proposition 2, opposition groups, and the state legislature. Unfortunately the new compromise has many proponents on edge as some feel their vote will no longer matter if state lawmakers can simply adopt a more restrictive program using the legislative process. Throughout the discussion, Mr. Gill, who believes Proposition 2 is “an indictment of the failure of the Legislature to listen to its citizens,” stressed his support and even urged those in attendance to support the ballot proposal on November 6th. Others in attendance shared this sentiment and encouraged voters to hold Utah state lawmakers accountable by voting YES on Proposition 2.Panelists also explored some of the legal implications of the ongoing conflict between state-sanctioned marijuana programs and federal law. Some leading public officials in Utah have warned that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and that it is the job of law enforcement to make that clear. However, several panelists thoroughly unpacked the CJS amendment highlighting how federal law has actually been amended every year since 2014 to prevent the Department of Justice from going after state-sanctioned marijuana programs. When asked about the 6,000 marijuana arrests in Utah and how possession cases are handled, our panelists agreed that the criminal penalties for marijuana in Utah are too punitive and would like to see reform in that area as well.

    Our goal by hosting this panel discussion was to bring education to Utahns about the current state of marijuana reform efforts in Utah, as well as other avenues of reform such as decriminalization. In the future, we hope to host similar events in order to deconstruct the reefer madness rhetoric and advocate for the liberalization of marijuana laws in our state.

    To learn more about marijuana law reform efforts in Utah, follow NORML at the University of Utah on Facebook and visit our website today!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 29, 2018

    State regulators today certified a voter-initiated medical cannabis access measure for the 2018 ballot. Officials announced that proponents gathered nearly 154,000 validated initiative signatures from registered voters — far exceeding the total necessary to place the measure before a statewide vote.

    The Utah Medical Cannabis Act permits qualified patients to obtain either herbal cannabis or cannabis-infused products from a limited number state-licensed dispensaries.

    Both the Utah Medical Association and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert have publicly opined against the measure. Nonetheless, public support in favor of the initiative remains strong, with 77 percent of Utahns either “strongly” or “somewhat” endorsing the plan, according to a UtahPolicy.com poll.

    Voters in Oklahoma will also decide on a medical access initiative in a special election on Tuesday, June 26. By a margin of nearly 2 to 1, Oklahoma voters support the passage of State Question 788, according to polling data reported last week.

    Voters in two other states — Michigan and Missouri — are anticipated to decide on Election Day on statewide marijuana reform initiatives. Recent polling from those states finds majority public support for all three measures.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 3, 2018

    Proponents of a proposed 2018 medicalization initiative have gathered an estimated 160,000 signatures and appear poised to place the measure on the November ballot.

    Last week, a representative from the Lt. Governor’s Office said that officials have already validated 117,000 signatures from registered voters — more than than the 113,000 necessary to qualify for the state ballot. Proponents of the measure, the Utah Patients Coalition, still have approximately two more weeks to collect additional signatures.

    The Utah Medical Cannabis Act permits qualified patients to obtain either herbal cannabis or cannabis-infused products from a limited number state-licensed dispensaries.

    In recent days, both the Utah Medical Association and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert have publicly opined against the measure. Nonetheless, public support in favor of the initiative remains strong, with 77 percent of Utahns either “strongly” or “somewhat” endorsing the plan, according to a March UtahPolicy.com poll.

    In 2014, Utah became the first non-medical cannabis state to explicitly permit qualified patients to possess CBD-infused products. However, that law provided no legal in-state supply source or distribution for the products. This legislative session, lawmakers approved separate legislation permitting the Department of Agriculture and Food to contract with a third party to cultivate cannabis for the purpose of manufacturing marijuana-infused oils and other related products, but only for those patients who are terminally ill.

    Utah is one of at least four states where voters are anticipated to decide later this year on marijuana-related ballot proposals. Oklahoma voters will decide on June 26 whether or not to approve State Question 788 — a broad-based initiative that permits physicians to recommend medical cannabis to patients at their sole discretion. NORML endorsed State Question 788 in January. In Michigan, proponents of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act have turned in more than 360,000 signatures in an effort to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot. State officials must certify a total of 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters. According to a March 2018 EPIC-MRA poll, and commissioned by Michigan NORML, 61 percent of voters say that they would vote ‘yes’ on the measure “if the election were held today.” In Missouri, backers of a voter initiated effort to legalize and regulate the therapeutic use and distribution of cannabis statewide have surpassed well over 200,000 signatures. Advocates must collect a total of 160,000 qualified signatures in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts by May 6, 2018 in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 electoral ballot.

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