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Denver Mayor Ignores Science in Opioid Response Strategic Plan

NORML Blog - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 13:53

During Denver’s State of the City Address, Mayor Michael Hancock addressed many of the biggest issues facing residents of the Mile High City — including his plan to respond to the city’s opioid epidemic. With Denver’s Office of the Medical Examiner reporting 110 overdose fatalities involving opioids in 2017 and data from Denver Needs Assessment on Opioid Use, Mayor Hancock’s response is not a moment too soon.

In the plan’s welcome letter, Mayor Hancock proudly states, “I present to you the Opioid Response Strategic Plan, the result of a collaborative effort among more than 100 government agencies and community organizations to address the opioid crisis in Denver. The work here represents a truly united effort by the Collective Impact Group, which was formed to combat opioid and other substance (mis)use in the city.”

If you’re in Denver, click here to urge Mayor Hancock to acknowledge the role that marijuana can play in combating Denver’s opioid epidemic

While we appreciate Mayor Hancock’s leadership, his decision to not highlight the role that  marijuana access can play as an alternative to opioids is concerning. Several observational studies – such as those here, here, and here – find that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many chronic pain subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

Mayor Hancock should not ignore the reality that access to marijuana can play a role in mitigating the opioid abuse crisis. Click below to urge Mayor Hancock to acknowledge the role that marijuana access can play in combating the prescription drug overdose epidemic, and promoting greater public health and safety.

If you’re in Denver, click here to urge Mayor Hancock to acknowledge the role that marijuana can play in combating Denver’s opioid epidemic

Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please reach out to chapters@norml.org for help starting your own!

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Harris Poll: Majority Of Americans Want Marijuana Legalized

NORML Blog - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 11:21

Eighty-five percent of Americans believe that marijuana “should be legalized for medical use,” and 57 percent of respondents endorse regulating it for anyone over the age of 21, according to national survey data compiled Harris Insight & Analytics.

Among younger respondents (those ages 18 to 44), 68 percent agree that cannabis should be legal. Most respondents (57 percent) say that legalizing the plant would “help alleviate the opioid crisis.”

Data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs reports that chronic pain subjects frequently reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

“Voters believe that ending America’s failed marijuana prohibition laws is a common-sense issue, not a partisan one,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano told HealthDay, which commissioned the poll. “It’s time for their elected officials to take a similar posture, and to move expeditiously to amend federal law in a manner that comports with public and scientific consensus, as well as with marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural and legal status.”

Reasons provided by those who opposed legalization included fear of diversion and concerns that legalization could negatively impact traffic safety.

The Harris polling data is largely consistent with those of prior surveys finding that a majority of Americans back adult use legalization and that a super-majority of voters support medicinal cannabis access.

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Oklahoma medical cannabis law takes effect; revisions to problematic regs proposed

MPP Blog - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 13:18

Yesterday, the penalty-reduction piece of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana initiative became operational. Individuals possessing up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis face a reduced penalty — a misdemeanor fine of up to $400 — if they “can state a medical condition.”

Meanwhile, regulators made application materials available online for patients and caregivers, along with information for businesses and physicians. It will begin accepting applications on August 25.

In another encouraging development, regulators released proposed revisions to many of the problematic final regulations. The Board of Health will meet on August 1 at 3:00 p.m. to consider them.

Draft revisions (summarized here) would make several welcome changes, including:

• Removing the ban on selling smokeable cannabis and edibles;
• Removing the THC cap;
• Removing the requirement that pharmacists dispense cannabis;
• Making the physician registration optional;
• Removing the requirement that doctors subject all “females of childbearing age” to a pregnancy test before recommending cannabis; and
• Removing the limitation on hours of operation, which banned Sunday sales.

However, we still have some concerns, including that:

• Patients who are tenants must obtain their landlords’ written permission to cultivate. Given federal law, even landlords who are open to cultivation may be unwilling to assent in writing.
• Physicians must to “ascertain” if a female is pregnant or likely to become pregnant before recommending cannabis. This strong language may essentially require pregnancy tests for many women, which is patronizing and invasive and drives up costs.
• Physicians must provide an in-person medical exam within 30 days of the certification. Oklahoma allows telemedicine for most medications.

Comments can be submitted to omma@ok.gov.

These proposed revisions follow a lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma ACLU on behalf of advocates, and advice from Attorney General Mike Hunter that some regulations exceeded the department’s authority.

If you live in Oklahoma, please speak out and spread the word. Congratulations again to everyone who worked to pass SQ 788!

The post Oklahoma medical cannabis law takes effect; revisions to problematic regs proposed appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Oklahoma: Health Officials Reversing Course Regarding Medical Marijuana Rules

NORML Blog - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 11:52

Oklahoma health officials on Wednesday will discuss a series of revised rules and regulations to govern the state’s voter-approved medical cannabis access program. The newly proposed changes eliminate several restrictive amendments enacted by the Department earlier this month. The proposed changes come just days after the state’s Attorney General warned health officials that they “acted in excess of their statutory authority” when they amended State Question 788.

Specifically, the newly proposed rules — which are available online here — remove the ban on the retail sale of herbal cannabis, eliminate the requirement that dispensaries hire state-licensed pharmacists, and no longer mandate that women of childbearing age undergo a pregnancy test prior to receiving a medical cannabis recommendation. No such restrictions initially appeared in State Question 788.

Other proposed changes would remove arbitrary limits on the THC content of medical cannabis products, and permit dispensaries to sell cannabis plants and seedlings to qualified patients.

Fifty-seven percent of voters approved State Question 788 on June 28.

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Weekly Legislative Roundup 7/27/18

NORML Blog - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 08:16

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

We’ve got a new piece of legislation at the federal level. In conjunction with NORML’s 2018 Lobby Day, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-02) and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26) introduced The Marijuana Data Collection Act. The act calls upon the National Academy of Sciences to collect and synthesize relevant data and to generate a formal report to Congress quantifying the impact of statewide marijuana legalization on matters specific to public health, safety, the economy, and criminal justice, among other issues. The report would also outline best practices for state-led data collection, as well as recommendations to overcome any barriers preventing data collection and gaps in data. Watch the press conference.

Earlier in the week, the US House Rules Committee led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked two amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer protections from the DOJ when it comes to cannabis. The amendments included allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales program, originally passed by voters in 2014, and protections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses.

At the state level, New Jersey’s state Attorney General has called on county and municipal prosecutors to suspend all marijuana-related prosecutions until early September. Also, a fiscal report issued by Pennsylvania’s Auditor General estimates that taxing Pennsylvania’s existing retail cannabis market would yield $581 million in new annual revenue. The report estimates that just under 800,000 Pennsylvanians are currently using cannabis. On that note, Pennsylvania dispensaries are set to begin selling medical cannabis in flower form this week.

Oklahoma’s secretary of state said that proposed marijuana legalization and medical cannabis expansion initiatives are unlikely to appear on the November ballot even if they do collect enough signatures. But regulators will meet on August 1 to revisit widely criticized restrictive medical cannabis rules. The newly proposed changes eliminate several restrictive amendments enacted by the Department earlier this month, including removing the ban on the retail sale of herbal cannabis, eliminating the requirement that dispensaries hire state-licensed pharmacists, and no longer mandating that women of childbearing age undergo a pregnancy test prior to receiving a medical cannabis recommendation. No such restrictions initially appeared in the voter approved State Question 788. Meanwhile, it seems unlikely that lawmakers will go into special session to deal with medical marijuana implementation.

At a more local level, the Marathon County, Wisconsin Board voted to place a medical cannabis advisory question on the November ballot. The Ostego County, Michigan Board of Commissioners voted to oppose the state’s marijuana legalization ballot measure, and the Grand Rapids, Michigan City Commission voted to allow medical cannabis businesses in its jurisdiction.

Following are the bills from around the country 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

End Cannabis Criminalization: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

Click here to e-mail your senators and urge them to support this important legislation

California

Assembly Bill 1793 seeks “to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 8/6 at 10am in the John L. Burton Hearing Room.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expungement

Kentucky

House Bill 166 seeks to allow for the physician-authorized use of marijuana for patients with specific debilitating medical conditions.

Update: Rep. Jason Nemes, one of the bill’s cosponsors, announced on Twitter that the bill will be heard in the House Judiciary Committee on 9/7.

KY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical cannabis access

That’s all for this week!

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Vermont: Primary election voter guide published

MPP Blog - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 08:11

Early voting is already underway for the Vermont state primary election, which is scheduled for Tuesday, August 14.

This year, we sent candidates a survey consisting of only one question: “Do you support regulating and taxing the production and sale of cannabis in Vermont for use by adults 21 and older?”

Our voter guides include responses from candidates for state representative, state senator, and governor, in addition to public statements and incumbent legislators’ votes on the legalization bill. If a candidate in your district has not responded to the survey, we encourage you to reach out to them directly and ask their position!

For information on where and how to vote in Vermont, click here.

If you are a Vermont resident, please take time to read our voter guide for state legislative races and our gubernatorial voter guide before you vote in the August 14 primary. Then, please share the voter guides with your family and friends!

The post Vermont: Primary election voter guide published appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Attorney General Sessions Reiterates His Threats To Legalization

NORML Blog - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 10:59

During a press conference in Boston earlier today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated his hostility to marijuana reform and doubled down yet again on his tired, fear-mongering talking point regarding it being sold at every street corner.

“Personally my view is that the American republic will not be better if there are marijuana sales on every street corner,” said Sessions.

He seems to tiptoe the line in a response to a reporter’s question, saying, “but states have a right to set their own laws and will do so,” but concluded his comments by stating “but we’ll follow the federal law,” – meaning complete prohibition and criminalization.

Send a message to your member of Congress and tell them to stop Jeff Sessions. 

Earlier this year, Sessions had rescinded an Obama-era guidance policy, known as The Cole Memo, which directed the Department of Justice’s hands-off policy towards state-legal cannabis regulatory programs, licensed businesses, and their consumers.

During a Q and A with reporters in Richmond, VA in March of 2017, Jeff Sessions said, “The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,”

Additionally in 2017, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo. “Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

Currently, medical marijuana protections are still in effect, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. This amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

At a time when the majority of states now are regulating marijuana use in some form, and when over two-thirds of voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or moral perspective for Attorney General Sessions to take this step. It is time that members of Congress take action to comport federal law with majority public opinion and to end the needless criminalization of marijuana — a policy failure that encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Send a message to your member of Congress and tell them to stop Jeff Sessions. 

If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels, while forcing consumers to go back to the black market.

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Maine Legislature overrides Gov. LePage on medical marijuana reform

MPP Blog - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 07:42

Earlier this month, the Maine Legislature overrode Gov. LePage’s vetoes of LD 238 and LD 1539, bills to improve Maine’s medical marijuana program. LD 238 allows for third-party extraction of medical marijuana. LD 1539 is the culmination of the Health and Human Services Committee’s session-long work reforming the medical marijuana program.

The bipartisan omnibus reform bill:

  • removes the qualifying condition list so that any Mainer can use medical marijuana so long as their doctor thinks it would be helpful for them;
  • eliminates the requirement that a patient must designate a caregiver or dispensary as their sole provider, allowing for more patient choice;
  • adds two more dispensaries to the existing eight dispensaries and removes the cap on the dispensaries after January 1, 2021;
  • allows for caregivers to open storefronts, if the town approves; and
  • much more…you can read a summary of the changes here.

These reforms are a win for the patients and the industry, and a hearty “Congratulations!” is in order for everyone that worked hard to make this happen.

The post Maine Legislature overrides Gov. LePage on medical marijuana reform appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Kentucky: Cannabis Activists Schedule Educational Forum in Henderson

NORML Blog - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 05:42

There will be an educational forum on the benefits that medicinal cannabis has to offer to Kentucky and its citizens. Featuring support from state cannabis activists including members from Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition (KCFC), Kentucky affiliate for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (KY NORML), Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana (KY4MM), the Alliance for Innovative Medicine (AIM), as well as Industry Expert, Ashly Taylor, and Matthew Daley, State Director for the Office of Secretary of State.

This will be a good opportunity for members of the community to come out and learn more about cannabis, how cannabis affects our bodies, how a regulated industry would look like in Kentucky, and how cannabis affects our communities.

What: Community Cannabis Educational Forum
Where: The Preston Art Center, 2660 South Green Street, Henderson, KY 42420
When: July 31st, 2018 7 pm – 9 pm. Doors Open at 6:30 pm

Discover More on the Facebook Event Page!

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! 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?

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N.J. hits pause on low-level marijuana prosecutions

MPP Blog - Wed, 07/25/2018 - 09:06

It was a confusing news cycle, with Jersey City’s municipal prosecutor, Jake Hudnut, releasing a memo effectively decriminalizing marijuana locally and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal declaring that action invalid. Now, AG Grewal has told all prosecutors to “adjourn” (postpone) marijuana prosecutions in municipal court until at least September 4, when his office will issue new guidance.

Hopefully, the state will legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana prior to that, and people with pending cases will never be prosecuted. If you are a New Jersey resident, your lawmakers need to hear from you! Please click here to ask them to end New Jersey’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition today, before one more person is branded with a criminal conviction for choosing to use a substance safer than alcohol.

In other good news, Asm. Jamel Holley announced plans to propose amendments to improve upon Sen. Nick Scutari’s bill to tax and regulate marijuana, such as making it easier to expunge prior marijuana convictions. We hope the final bill will also include small business opportunities and provisions that ensure that people harmed by prohibition have an opportunity to participate in all aspects of the industry.

The post N.J. hits pause on low-level marijuana prosecutions appeared first on MPP Blog.

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New Federal Legislation To Quantify The Health and Economic Impacts Of Regulated Marijuana

NORML Blog - Wed, 07/25/2018 - 08:04

Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) led a group of bipartisan lawmakers in introducing The Marijuana Data Collection Act. The act calls upon the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to collect and synthesize relevant data and to generate a formal report to Congress quantifying the impact of statewide marijuana legalization on matters specific to public health, safety, the economy, and criminal justice, among other issues.

Numerous published peer-reviewed studies have assessed the impact of state-regulated marijuana legalization on these issues, but despite the publication of these reports, a lack of consensus and acceptance of this data continue, particularly amongst members of Congress and the Department of Justice.

Speaking about the new bill on the House floor, Congresswoman Gabbard stated, “For decades, bad data and misinformation have fueled the failed war on drugs that’s wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, incarcerating Americans for nonviolent marijuana charges. Our outdated marijuana policies have turned  everyday Americans into criminals, strained our criminal justice system, cost taxpayers tremendously and torn families apart.”

You can watch the press conference announcing the legislation featuring the bill’s lead GOP cosponsor Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), lead Democrat cosponsor Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), we well as former U.S. Attorneys Barry Grissom (KS) and Bill Nettles (SC) below:

Commenting on the legislation, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said, “This report will ensure that federal discussions and policies specific to this issue are based upon the best and most reliable evidence available. The data collected and compiled by the National Academy of Sciences will help to guide future marijuana legislation at federal, state, and local levels. This is not a marijuana bill, it is an information bill. No member of Congress can intellectually justify opposition to this legislation. Our public policy needs to be based on sound data and science, not gut feelings or fear-mongering. Approving the Marijuana Data Collection Act would provide legislators with reliable and fact-based information to help them decide what direction is most beneficial to society when it comes to marijuana policy.”

This bill requires data collection and study with regard to the impact of state-regulated marijuana legalization on public health, safety, the economy, and criminal justice, among other issues. Specifically, this bill requires the Secretary of HHS to coordinate with the DOJ, DOL, and States (to the greatest extent possible) and direct the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to publish a biannual study on the health, safety, and economic effects of state legalized marijuana programs. The report would also outline best practices for state-led data collection, as well as recommendations to overcome any barriers preventing data collection and gaps in data.

Thirty-one states, Washington, DC and the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis, while an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy changes. According to a 2018 CAP poll, 68 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and according to Quinnipiac University, 71 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy.

To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safetycrime ratestraffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abusehospitalizations, and mortality.

CLICK HERE TO QUICKLY AND EASILY WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IN FAVOR OF THIS IMPORTANT LEGISLATION.

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Pennsylvania: Auditor’s Report Says Marijuana Legalization Would Yield Over $500 Million In New Annual Revenue

NORML Blog - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 10:34

A fiscal report issued by the state’s Auditor General estimates that taxing Pennsylvania’s existing retail cannabis market would yield $581 million in new annual revenue.

The report estimates that just under 800,000 Pennsylvanians are currently using cannabis. Statewide polling finds that a majority of voters endorse legalizing and regulating its use by adults.

“The benefits of regulating and taxing marijuana are undeniable,” the report concludes. “As its neighbors weigh the issue, Pennsylvania must act to create its own marijuana market. Otherwise, it runs the risk of losing the revenue from potential customers to other states. It is time for Pennsylvania to stop imagining the benefits of marijuana and realize them.”

Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has previously spoken in support of statewide legalization. Governor Tom Wolfe has expressed support for decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses, but has been reluctant to endorse legalizing the marijuana market.

Full text of the report, “Regulating & Taxing Marijuana: A Special Report on the Potential Revenue & Financial Benefits for Pennsylvania,” appears online here.

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Oklahoma: Attorney General Warns Regulators Acted Improperly When Amending Voter-Initiated Marijuana Measure

NORML Blog - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 11:02

[UPDATE: Governor Fallin has also now called for the Board to rescind its amended rules.]

[UPDATE: The president of the state Board of Health has announced that the group will call a special meeting “as soon as possible” to consider the Attorney General’s recommendations.]

Oklahoma’s Attorney General warns that members of the state Board of Health “acted in excess of their statutory authority” when they amended State Question 788 – the state’s voter-approved medical cannabis access law.

In a letter issued on Wednesday to the Interim Commissioner of Health, Attorney General Mike Hunter states that the Board “overstepped its authority” by imposing new rules prohibiting the sale of herbal forms of cannabis, and mandating on-site pharmacists at licensed dispensaries.

“This is a wise move by the Attorney General, both from a policy and a political standpoint,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “When the will of the people is to ensure that patients have the ability to have access to physician-recommended therapeutic treatments, the will of the people deserves to be honored. Absent a majority vote of the legislature, the decision of the voters in this matter ought to remain sacrosanct.”

To date, two separate lawsuits have been filed against the state health department in response to the new rules, which Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law last week.

“I have no doubt that the board in good faith sought to regulate marijuana in a manner it believed would best promote the health and safety of Oklahomans,” the AG said. “However, in so doing, the board made policy judgments not authorized by statute. Such policy decisions are the exclusive prerogative of the legislature and the people. … [T]he people of the state have spoken and I have a legal duty to honor the decision made by the electorate.”

He concluded, “It is therefore my judgement that the Board reconvene to reconsider the rules … in a manner consistent with the advice of this letter.”

Reform advocates in the state claim to be just several thousand signatures shy of those necessary to place a broader adult use initiative on the November ballot. However, Oklahoma’s Secretary of State has claimed that a vote on the issue will likely be delayed until 2020 even if activists meet the signature requirements.

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House Rules Committee Blocks FY19 Marijuana Amendments

NORML Blog - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 19:42

Late Monday night, the House Rules Committee led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked two amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer protections from Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it comes to cannabis.

The amendments included allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales program, originally passed by voters in 2014, and protections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses.

In a release sent out earlier today containing the testimony by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the Congresswoman stated:

My first amendment, cosponsored by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Barbara Lee and Earl Blumenauer, strikes the rider that prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds to commercialize recreational marijuana.  Nine states have legalized recreational marijuana, and eight of those states have approved commercialization.

In February 2015, D.C. legalized the possession of marijuana for recreational use, after two independent studies found dramatic racial disparities in marijuana arrests in D.C.  A rider to block recreational use failed due to faulty drafting, and possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for recreational use is legal in D.C., but Congress has prohibited D.C. from spending its local funds to tax and regulate recreational marijuana.  This rider has unintentionally benefited violent drug gangs.  For that reason, some refer to it as the “Drug Dealer Protection Act.”  As one marijuana dealer told the Washington Post, the rider is “a license for me to print money.”  Regulating marijuana like alcohol would allow D.C., instead of drug dealers, to control production, distribution, sales and revenues.

 

The banking amendment was introduced by Rep Denny Heck (D-WA), who Marijuana Moment first reported as testifying:

“Our federal laws are outdated. The people in this country want the law to treat marijuana as we do alcohol. These large sums of cash make dispensaries an obvious target for robberies.”

 

Earlier in the year, the Senate included existing protections for medical marijuana programs from the Department of Justice for the FY19 Appropriations Bill to restrict federal funds from being used for enforcement actions. The House Appropriations Committee passed identical language offered by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) meaning that maintaining these protections will be considered in the annual conference committee and likely stay in effect.

This was not the first time the Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, who is known to steer the Rules Committee with an iron fist, blocked marijuana-related amendments.

He is currently being challenged by attorney, former NFL player, and former Special Assistant in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of General Counsel Colin Allred. You can find out more about Allred’s campaign here.

Send a message to your federally elected officials in support of comprehensive reform legislation in our Action Center: http://norml.org/act

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New Jersey announces it’s doubling the number of medical marijuana businesses

MPP Blog - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 15:13

Good news! Today, the New Jersey Department of Health announced that it will begin accepting applications for six additional businesses that can grow, process, and sell medical cannabis in the state. The winning businesses are supposed to be announced on November 1. Unfortunately, there is no provision yet for equity applicants, although applicants may be awarded up to 50 (out of 1,000) points for diversity.

With the tiny number of existing businesses, patients have experienced supply shortages and high prices due to a lack of competition. Today’s expansion should help begin to address these problems, although more will need to be done. Separating the licenses for growing, processing, and selling cannabis will help make many more types of products available to patients, and the health department plans to consider additional applications for these licenses beginning in the fall.

In other news, while the June 30 budget deadline came and went without legislative action on any of the pending marijuana bills, Senate President Steve Sweeny has said he believes there could be a vote on legalizing and regulating this summer.

If you are a New Jersey resident, click here to ask for your lawmakers’ support.

The post New Jersey announces it’s doubling the number of medical marijuana businesses appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Kentucky NORML: Seniors and Cannabis

NORML Blog - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 09:11

There are approximately 700,000 senior citizens in our state. The Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville found people age 65 have grown 23 percent since the 2010 census, while the number of people younger than 65 has declined and they account for over 15 percent of our population and growing.

In the past few years researchers have been looking into how cannabis therapy is both safe and effective among elderly patients diagnosed with chronic pain, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, “[a]fter six months of treatment, 93.7% of the respondents reported improvement in their condition and the reported pain levelwas reduced from a median of 8 on a scale of 0-10 to a median of 4.”

Investigators with the Alcohol Research Group assessed trends in marijuana use between the years 1984 and 2015. Authors reported that, compared with older Americans 30 years ago, older respondents today are some 20 times more likely to acknowledge using cannabis. This suggests the stigma of cannabis from drug war propaganda has been eroded and education is reaching seniors.

“We found that rates of use among older groups increased quite significantly since the 1980s, especially for men in their fifties and sixties,” the study’s lead author stated in a press release. Their finding is consistent with those of other studies reporting upticks in cannabis use by seniors.

Separate data presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society finds that as many as 65 percent of older adults reduce their use of prescription painkillers after initiating medical cannabis therapy – a finding that is consistent with those of numerous other studies assessing marijuana substitution patterns in various patient populations.

Seniors, with the benefit of life experience, professional knowledge, and 20/20 hindsight, are potentially our strongest allies in the fight to end Marijuana prohibition. We urge our Commonwealth’s seniors and their loved ones to take action and contact their state representatives by calling 1-800-372-7181 and letting them know they support cannabis reform in Kentucky.

High Regards,
Matthew Bratcher
Executive Director, KY NORML

To support KY NORML you can DONATE HERE and follow us on Facebook and Twitter! 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?

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New York: State-Commissioned Study Calls For Legalizing Adult Marijuana Use

NORML Blog - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 10:22

A 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.

Categories: Blog Feeds

Weekly Legislative Roundup 7/13/18

NORML Blog - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 09:26

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

A lot has happened at the state level this week, starting with Maine lawmakers overriding Gov. Paul LePage’s (R) veto of medical cannabis expansion legislation, by a vote of 119 to 23 in the House and 25 to 8 in the Senate. The measure will now become law later this fall.

North Dakota activists submitted what they believe are enough signatures (nearly 19,000!) to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the November ballot. State officials must certify 13,452 signatures in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 ballot and are anticipated to take an estimated 35 days to verify proponents’ signatures.

Directors at the Oklahoma Department of Health voted 5 to 4 to severely limit patients’ access to a wide range of cannabis products. Specifically, the new provisions: prohibit the sale of smokable herbal  cannabis at licensed dispensaries; require dispensaries to have a licensed pharmacist on staff; impose arbitrary THC potency thresholds on various cannabis-infused products; and mandate that dispensary managers obtain at least four hours of continuing education training each calendar year. Qualified patients will still be permitted to grow their own medical marijuana flowers.

Oklahoma lawmakers formed a bipartisan working group to focus on seeing that medical cannabis is implemented in a way that “conforms to the will of the voters.” House Democrats are calling for a special legislative session to address the issue.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed legislation into law permitting out-of-state patients to access medical cannabis while visiting Hawaii. The measure also permits licensed dispensaries to sell cartridges to patients containing cannabis extracts and oils. The law took effect upon passage. However, Gov. Ige vetoed legislation to allow medical cannabis as a substitute for opioids, and for substance use and withdrawal symptoms, stating that the responsibility of adding new qualifying conditions should be left up to the Health Department, not lawmakers.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) signed a bill into law allowing those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged for crimes that were subsequently decriminalized, such as marijuana possession. Those with past convictions for crimes involving the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis can now petition the court to seek an order of expungement.

And Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation into law to facilitate state-sponsored medical cannabis research.

At a more local level, The Dane County, Wisconsin Board voted to place a marijuana legalization advisory question on the November ballot, a La Crosse County, Wisconsin Board committee advanced a marijuana legalization advisory measure for the November ballot, and unfortunately the Walworth County, Wisconsin Board killed a marijuana legalization advisory measure proposed for November’s ballot. But activists in Nelsonville, Ohio did turn in signatures to qualify a marijuana decriminalization measure for the November ballot.

Following are the bills from around the country 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

End Cannabis Criminalization: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

Click here to e-mail your senators and urge them to support this important legislation

Delaware

Senate Bill 197 seeks to permit those convicted of past marijuana possession convictions to seek expungement.

The measure would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting the expungement of any past marijuana possession violations that are no longer defined as a crime under state law. State officials estimate the legislation could affect up to 1,300 people convicted of a single marijuana crime from 1977 to 2015.

Update: SB 197 was sent to to Gov. John Carney’s desk. Legal advisers to the Governor are reviewing the bill, but he is expected to sign it into law.

DE resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of expungement

California

Assembly Bill 1793 seeks “to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 8/6 at 10am in the John L. Burton Hearing Room.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expungement

That’s all the legislative updates for this week!

Categories: Blog Feeds

2018 Congressional Letter Writing Campaign

NORML Blog - Thu, 07/12/2018 - 10:48

In advance of NORML’s 2018 Conference and Lobby day that’s taking place July 22nd – 24th in Washington, DC, NORML chapters from around the country will be contacting their representatives to urge their support for marijuana-related bills introduced since the 115th Congress convened on January 3, 2017. For more than four decades, NORML Affiliates and Chapters have demonstrated their ability to mobilize thousands of marijuana advocates from around the country so we hope to create some additional excitement around pending marijuana law reform legislation, and in return, drive participation and engagement.

We hope all of you will join us in making this a successful campaign!

Project: NORML 2018 Congressional Letter Writing Campaign

Who: NORML Chapters and Affiliates

When: Thursday, July 12, 2018 through Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summary: Grassroots letter writing campaign targeting members of the House and Senate requesting their immediate support of pending marijuana-related legislation. We encourage the use of handwritten letters and emails.

Target Legislation:

S.1689 / H.R. 4815: The Marijuana Justice Act

H.R. 1820: The Veterans Equal Access Act

Why Letters?

Legislators often tell us that the most effective method of communicating our position on issues is through letters. Letters can be mailed or easily faxed. Phone calls are necessary and helpful, but letters from constituents make the most difference. E-mails are also a great tool, but sometimes it may be difficult to verify that the sender is a constituent. Also, they normally will respond back to the letter sender.

Must Be A Constituent!

Know who you’re writing! Legislators disregard any letters not from their constituents, and their staff actually check names and addresses to ensure legitimacy. If you use our online tool or email, make sure to include your address and/or a sentence stating, “I live in your district” or “I am your constituent” to ensure that your letter/email is read.

Sample Letters: If you decide to use the templates below, please make sure you research the name and address of your representatives. With 535 members of Congress, offices are spread across Capitol Hill in six different Senate and House office buildings.

To find the correct address, simply type in your zip code and the “Find Your Representative” page will direct you a page with all the details to who your Congress member is and where there office is located. In regard to Senators, each state is represented by two United States Senators, so after you click the link, “Find Your Senator”, you will be directed to a page with a list of US Senators. Here, unlike using your zip code, you can simply select your state utilizing the drop down menu in the upper left hand corner of the website and it will display the names and addresses to your Senators.

Letter Templates:

S.1689: The Marijuana Justice Act

H.R. 4815: The Marijuana Justice Act

H.R. 1820: The Veterans Equal Access Act

Social Media Templates: Please use the following templates to help promote our efforts via Facebook and Twitter. Simply cut and paste the information located within the text boxes below into your social media accounts. Also feel free to tag your representatives in your social media posts.

Marijuana Justice Act – Facebook:

Click below to support the Marijuana Justice Act!

If passed by Congress, the Marijuana Justice Act will remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities, expunge federal convictions for marijuana possession, allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing, and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

The ongoing enforcement of marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

http://norml.org/action-center/item/support-the-marijuana-justice-act

Marijuana Justice Act – Twitter:

Federal: Urge your members of #Congress to support the #Marijuana Justice Act today! Click below to get started. https://bit.ly/2L5DZfm

Veterans Equal Access Act – Facebook:

Click below to support the Veterans Equal Access Act!

If passed by Congress, the Veterans Equal Access Act will expand access to medical cannabis for eligible military veterans. Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of H.R. 1820 will lift this prohibition.

Lawmakers must stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass the Veterans Equal Access Act!

http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-house-bill-introduced-to-expand-veterans-access-to-medical-marijuana

Veterans Equal Access Act – Twitter:

Federal: Our Veterans deserve better! Contact your lawmakers and urge them to support the #Veterans Equal Access Act today. https://t.co/LPuM3aqTct

Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please email chapters@norml.org for more information about starting a NORML chapter today!

Categories: Blog Feeds