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Vermont Becomes First State to Make Marijuana Legal Through Its Legislature

MPP Blog - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 13:44

Until today, all eight of the states that have made marijuana legal for adults did so through ballot initiatives. Over the past three elections in 2012, 2014, and 2016, voters in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada (and Washington, D.C.) approved ballot questions to legalize marijuana.

Today, we reached an important milestone in Vermont: a state legislature has enacted a law, signed by the governor, that legalizes possession and home cultivation of marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. H. 511 eliminates Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana and removes penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants for people 21 and older, beginning on July 1.

“After more than 15 years of hard work by MPP and our allies in the state, adults in Vermont no longer need to fear being fined or criminalized for low-level marijuana possession and cultivation,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a press release. “This is a great step forward for the state and the whole region. Responsible adults will soon have the freedom to enjoy a safer option legally, and law enforcement will be free to concentrate on serious crimes with actual victims. We are looking forward to working with lawmakers and state leaders to continue improving marijuana laws in the Green Mountain State.”

Our coalition’s goal, this year or next, is to enact a law that regulates marijuana and allows for its legal sale (the newly enacted law only allows possession and home cultivation).

 

The post Vermont Becomes First State to Make Marijuana Legal Through Its Legislature appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Vermont Becomes the Ninth State to Legalize Adult Marijuana Possession and Personal Cultivation

NORML Blog - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:12

Republican Gov. Phil Scott has signed legislation (H. 511) into law legalizing the use and cultivation of marijuana by adults. Vermont is the ninth state to statutorily permit adults to possess marijuana for personal use, and it is the first state to enact these reforms via legislative action rather than by the passage of a voter-initiated ballot measure.

“The majority of Vermonters, like the majority of the American public, desire to live in a community where responsible adults who choose to consume cannabis are no longer criminalized or stigmatized,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “Governor Scott should be recognized for helping to provide Vermonters with a path forward at a time when many elected officials elsewhere are clinging to the failed policies of the past.”

The forthcoming law, which takes effect on July 1 of this year, eliminates civil penalties specific to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, and also removes criminal penalties with regard to the private cultivation of six marijuana plants (two mature and up to four immature). Those who cultivate marijuana for their own personal use may possess at home the total quantity of their harvest.

The measure also imposes new civil penalties for consuming cannabis while driving, and imposes additional penalties for those who operate a motor vehicle impaired with a minor in the vehicle.

The Governor vetoed similar legislation in 2017, but had consistently indicated since then that he was willing to reconsider his position.

Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia have also legalized marijuana use by adults.

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What The Government Shutdown Means For Marijuana

NORML Blog - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 07:17

Not much.

Temporary medical cannabis patient protections that have been imposed by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment have now expired with the rest of government spending.

The amendment, which has been in place since 2014, 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.”

Without these protections, medical cannabis cultivators and dispensaries exist with a greater threat than normal of federal enforcement of national prohibition, yet the certainty that these protections would be honored have been in doubt throughout the entire Trump administration.

When President Trump signed the first Continuing Resolution in 2017, he issued a signing statement regarding the amendment:

“Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

Essentially stating that his administration believes they can ignore these protections if they do not view them to be Constitutional.

Under this mentality, Attorney General Jeff Sessions could have moved in to shut down medical marijuana facilities at any point. Should Sessions crackdown, we are confident that we would win a court challenge, given previous rulings on this very question. However, it would be a reactive exercise after an enforcement action, and during that process, the patients who relied on a supply chain to get them their medication would not have a lawful means to do so.

So now, if the government reopens under another CR, then the protections will go back into place and we will be right back where we were in an uneasy détente. The threat of Sessions on one side and medical patients in a state-lawful system trying to alleviate their suffering.

Further, Congressional leadership must reauthorize this language as part of the forthcoming budget in order for the provisions to stay in effect in any new spending deal. Last July, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) offered identical language before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which approved it. However, House Rules Committee Chair Peter Sessions (R-TX) has refused to allow House members to vote on similar language. The provision will now be considered by House and Senate leadership when the two chambers’ appropriations bills are reconciled, should Congress ever set a FY18 budget, of which we are already three and a half months in.

Click here to send a message to your lawmakers and tell them to retain these protections.

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Bipartisan Members Of Congress Speak Out Against AG Sessions

NORML Blog - Fri, 01/19/2018 - 11:53

Attorney General and Anti-Marijuana Crusader Jeff Sessions

Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) held a bipartisan special order on Wednesday, January 17th to address the implications surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind the Cole Memo. Simply put, a special order is a practice in Congress where a member is able to speak on any topic they wish after the House of Representatives has been adjourned for the day.

Rep. Gaetz was joined by Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Lou Correa (D-CA), and Mark Sanford (R-SC) to articulate the case on behalf of the beneficiaries of the Cole Memo. The memo was originally drafted by former U.S. Attorney General James Cole in 2013 and was issued to attorneys in states where medical or recreational marijuana was legal. The memo stipulates that as long as the states follow certain rules – i.e. the prevention of distributing marijuana to minors – the states are able to regulate marijuana with very little federal interference.

The Cole Memo signaled a shift away from the use of federal funds to regulate marijuana, giving states a more laissez-faire, states rights approach to cannabis. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and is listed as a schedule one drug signaling to have no medical value and a high potential for abuse, both of which any follower of published research would know to not be true.

In light of the increasing acceptance and legalization of both medical and adult use marijuana, AG Sessions’ decision puts the nascent cannabis industry in an increased state of anxiety and threatens medical marijuana users’ access to cannabis.

Gaetz spoke on behalf of his constituents benefiting from medical marijuana and gave the floor to Curbelo, Correa, and Sanford who all unanimously pointed to the overwhelming advantages of the Cole Memo. The representatives remarked on Sessions’ decision as a move backwards for marijuana policy and medical marijuana recipients.

Sessions defended his decision as a “return to the rule of law,” but the removal of the Cole Memo could result in increased profits for criminal enterprises in the illegal marijuana trade. Curbelo went so far as to say that the Attorney General “has actually done a great favor to those who operate outside the law and is punishing those who are actually trying to control this substance.”

Sessions’ unprecedented move threatens the cannabis industry, legalization, and recipients of medical marijuana. The special order demonstrates a bilateral effort amongst Congress to preserve the rights and autonomy of states to regulate cannabis.

Has your member of Congress spoken out yet? Click here to send them a message right now.

Too often we don’t thank those who speak up on our behalf, so please also take the next step and call to thank the Representatives for taking to the floor of the House on behalf of protecting our progress by using this easy and short script:

“Thank you for standing up and speaking on behalf of the states’ rights to regulate marijuana on January 17th.

It’s encouraging to see your office take a leadership role in this debate and I encourage the Representative to continue to do so by co-sponsoring HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act to protect the rights of the people and state legislatures that have reformed their cannabis laws.”

Below are the phone numbers of the Representatives who spoke up on the floor during the special order:

Matt Gaetz (R, FL-01), 202-225-4136

Carlos Curbelo (R, FL-26), 202-225-2778

Lou Correa (D, CA-46), 202-225-2965

Mark Sanford (R, SC-01), 202-225-3176

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Medical Marijuana Constitutional Amendment Possible in Nebraska

MPP Blog - Fri, 01/19/2018 - 10:52

Yesterday, Nebraska Sen. Anna Wishart introduced Legislative Resolution 293CA. If the  Legislature passes this resolution, Nebraskans will finally have the chance to vote on medical marijuana. “Tens of thousands of Nebraskans are needlessly suffering because they don’t have access to medical cannabis, including veterans, children and the terminally ill,” Sen. Wishart said. “Nebraska leaders have failed to act and provide these Nebraskans and their doctors the freedom to make decisions for their patients, without fear.”

Sen. Wishart has been a stalwart ally to patients in Nebraska, having been the primary sponsor of last year’s medical marijuana bill. The legislature failed to act on this important issue in last year’s session, but with this year’s resolution, the legislature could let the people of Nebraska make the right choice to give patients access to medicine they desperately need.

A February 2017 poll showed that 83% of Nebraskans support medical marijuana conceptually, and 77% support the ballot initiative.

If you are a Nebraska resident, please tell your senator to give you and your fellow Cornhuskers the chance to vote on medical marijuana.

The post Medical Marijuana Constitutional Amendment Possible in Nebraska appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Tennessee

MPP Blog - Fri, 01/19/2018 - 10:22

Yesterday, Sen. Steve Dickerson and Rep. Jeremy Faison introduced the Medical Cannabis Only Act of 2018, a bill that would allow Tennessee patients with certain health conditions to access safe, regulated marijuana. Nearly 80 percent of registered Tennessee voters support allowing patients the freedom to access medical marijuana.

If you are a Tennessee resident, please tell your legislators to support the Medical Cannabis Only Act!

Many patients who find relief from marijuana do not respond to prescription medications, and prescription drugs, like opiates, often come with far more serious side effects than marijuana. The majority of states recognize the medical value of marijuana, and it’s time for Tennessee to do the same.

The post Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Tennessee appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Representatives Lieu and Amash Introduce Legislation Ending Funding For Marijuana Suppression

NORML Blog - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 14:32

Rep. Ted Lieu

Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-CA) and Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) have reintroduced HR 4816: The Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act.

The measure restricts civil asset forfeiture funds from being used for the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication / Suppression Program. The bill would prohibit the transfer of property that would be used for cannabis eradication from a federal or state/local agency and ensures precious federal resources are not wasted on marijuana eradication.

With the Justice Department having rescinded Obama-era directives limiting the federal government’s involvement in marijuana states, and with the future of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment uncertain, it is essential that elected officials address this measure and halt officials from taking civil actions against state-compliant operators who have never even been convicted of a crime.

Now that one in five Americans resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute, and the majority of citizens reside someplace where the medical use of cannabis is legally authorized, it’s more important than ever to defang the DEA.

Click here to send a message to your Representative to encourage them to support this bill.

Upon introduction, Rep. Lieu said:

“The Federal Government has a responsibility to spend taxpayer money wisely. Instead, AG Jeff Sessions would rather waste federal dollars by attacking marijuana, which has been legalized either for medical or recreational use in the majority of states in the U.S. The DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program is a waste of time and money and runs contrary to the will of the people.”

Upon introduction, Rep. Amash said:

Civil asset forfeiture is an unconstitutional practice whereby the government takes people’s property without due process. The DEA’s use of proceeds acquired through civil asset forfeiture to expand marijuana enforcement—a state-level issue—makes the already unacceptable practice even worse. I’m pleased to introduce the Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act along with Rep. Lieu to end this program.

Rep. Lieu additionally included a message from NORML Political Director Justin Strekal in his announcement of the bill:

“Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition. With eight states and the District of Columbia now having legalized its personal use and 30 states having legalized medical marijuana, it is time that the DEA cease interfering with state-legal programs and stop wasting taxpayer dollars that would be better directed at going after the pill-mills contributing to the nations opioid crisis.”

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Kentucky Legislature Considering Marijuana Policy Reform

MPP Blog - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 10:39

The Kentucky Legislature began its 2018 session last week, and marijuana policy reforms are already among the top issues being discussed in Frankfort. A medical cannabis bill, HB 166, has already been introduced in the House.

But that’s not all. Sen. Dan Seum, chairman of the Republican Senate Caucus, held a press conference to announce that he is introducing a bill, SB 80, that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis for adults 21 and older.

If you are a Kentucky resident, please send your representatives and senators a message and urge them to support reforming marijuana laws in 2018.

The post Kentucky Legislature Considering Marijuana Policy Reform appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Penalty Reduction Bills Slated for Virginia Legislative Session

MPP Blog - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 08:48

The Virginia General Assembly convened last week, and marijuana law reform is on the docket! After a disappointing conclusion to last year’s session, the General Assembly appears ready to tackle decriminalization of marijuana.

Late last year, the Virginia State Crime Commission looked at the benefits of marijuana decriminalization in Virginia, and the majority leader of the Senate, Sen. Tommy Norment (R), expressed his intent to introduce a bill to decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. Sen. Norment’s bill has not yet been introduced, but he has indicated it will make the first offense a misdemeanor rather than making it a civil offense; we don’t expect the penalty for subsequent offenses to be reduced.

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), on the other hand, has introduced SB 111, which would reduce the penalty for simple possession to a civil penalty: $50 for the first violation, $100 for the second violation, and $250 for the third and subsequent violations. This bill is a huge step forward for Virginia, and Sen. Norment should stick to his promise of real decriminalization and support SB 111.

Considering Gov. Ralph Northam’s pro-decriminalization position during his campaign and the new makeup of the House of Delegates, 2018 could be the year the commonwealth stops arresting Virginians for simple possession.

If you are a Virginia resident, please contact your Senators today and tell them to support decriminalizing marijuana.

The post Penalty Reduction Bills Slated for Virginia Legislative Session appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Kansas

MPP Blog - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 08:36

Kansas lawmakers began their 2018 legislative session last week with several marijuana bills before them, including SB 187 / HB 2348, the Kansas Safe Access Act. This bill would create an effective medical marijuana program in Kansas.

These bills were introduced in 2017 (the legislative session carries over from 2017 to 2018), yet never even received a hearing. And, Kansas is one of only two states in the entire U.S. that does not even have a limited low-THC medical cannabis law. Seriously ill Kansans deserve better.

If you are a Kansas resident, please ask your representatives to show compassion and allow patients access to treatments that can help alleviate the suffering associated with serious conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. Medical marijuana can also help reduce patients’ use of dangerous opiates.

The post Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Kansas appeared first on MPP Blog.

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New York Governor Calls for Legalization Study

MPP Blog - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 08:32

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in announcing his budget proposal, included a call for a study of the impact on New York of legalizing the adult use of marijuana.

This proposal is a change from the governor’s past views on the topic; he previously said he was opposed to legalization, citing the now-debunked “gateway theory” as the reason. In fact, marijuana is simply a gateway to the criminal justice system and the lifetime of collateral consequences that come with a conviction.

While this is encouraging news, a study commission is only as good as the experts who serve on it. Please help us ensure that the commission includes experts in public health, marijuana policy, and criminal justice reform as well as the law enforcement officers Gov. Cuomo mentioned would be on it.

The post New York Governor Calls for Legalization Study appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Just Introduced: The Marijuana Justice Act is in the House

NORML Blog - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 13:22

Today, Representative Barbara Lee of California along with over a dozen original co-sponsors have introduced the Marijuana Justice Act into the House of Representatives.

“I’m proud to introduce the Marijuana Justice Act – bold, progressive legislation to address the legacy of racial bias in marijuana enforcement and to end the failed War on Drugs,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “Today, we are asking Congress to turn the page on decades of unjust marijuana prohibition and forge a new path forward. It’s past time that we take decisive action to right the wrongs from decades of misguided policies.”

This marks the first time that companion legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

This robust legislation not only removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, it also provides a path forward for the individuals and communities that have been most disproportionately targeted by our nation’s failed war on marijuana consumers. As you may be aware, throughout the country African Americans are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws at nearly four times the rates of whites, yet both ethnicities consume marijuana at roughly the same rates.

Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of The Marijuana Justice Act now

The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 would:

  • Remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances making it legal at the federal level;
  • Incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if marijuana in the state is illegal and it disproportionately arrests or incarcerates minority and poor people for marijuana-related offenses;
  • Automatically expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes;
  • Allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison to petition a court for a resentencing;
  • Create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs and allows the money to go towards the following programs:
    • Job training;
    • Reentry services;
    • Expenses related to the expungement of convictions;
    • Public libraries;
    • Community centers;
    • Programs and opportunities dedicated to youth; and
    • Health education programs.

As you already know, the ongoing enforcement of cannabis 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. It is time for federal lawmakers to acknowledge this reality. 

So click here and send a message to your federal lawmakers now in support of The Marijuana Justice Act.

After you send your letter so it will stay in their official records, click HERE to find your Representative’s office number and then call their Washington, DC office.

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Delaware Legislative Session Begins as Task Force Explores Marijuana Regulation

MPP Blog - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 14:06

The Delaware Legislature is back in session, and your lawmakers need to hear from you! Let them know you want this to be the year that Delaware stops the cruel and counterproductive policy of prohibiting marijuana.

A legislature-created task force is already exploring taxing and regulating cannabis and will present its findings to the legislature and governor by February 28, 2018. Sen. Margaret Rose Henry and Rep. Helene Keeley — who sponsor the Delaware Marijauna Control Act — co-chair the committee, which includes agency heads, lawmakers, advocates, and opponents. The task force has considered important issues like consumer safety, taxation, public safety, and packaging and labeling.

After the task force issues its report, there may be changes made to the bill before it is considered by the legislature.

In states that have already legalized it, regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol is creating good jobs and revenue, while undercutting the illicit market. The New Hampshire House and Vermont Legislature have already voted this year for limited legalization bills. Considering a majority of Delaware voters support making marijauna legal, there is no reason for delay.

If you live in Delaware, please contact your lawmakers and ask them to support cannabis regulation.

The post Delaware Legislative Session Begins as Task Force Explores Marijuana Regulation appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Massachusetts Governor Vows to Uphold Legal Marijuana Laws

MPP Blog - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 10:48

On Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker reinforced that Massachusetts will respect the will of Massachusetts voters. In response to Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind Obama-era rules that protected state-legal marijuana markets, state and local law enforcement officials vowed that they would not raid retail marijuana establishments that were operating in compliance with state law.

Shortly thereafter, Gov. Baker echoed those sentiments, stating, “We have two laws in Massachusetts: One that was passed by voters several years ago around the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries, which are regulated and overseen by the commonwealth, and another law that was passed by the voters in 2016 that requires the state to create a legal infrastructure for recreational marijuana. Those are the laws that state and local law enforcement officials are bound to uphold and that’s what they’re going to do.”

Baker’s statement is important because it represents a sharp break from Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling who said in a statement he couldn’t guarantee that medical marijuana dispensaries, recreational pot shops, cultivators, and customers would be immune from federal prosecution. We applaud Gov. Baker’s statement and his principled stance against Lelling’s regressive direction on legal cannabis that attempts to flout the will of the voters.

The post Massachusetts Governor Vows to Uphold Legal Marijuana Laws appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Pennsylvania Residents And NORML To Rally In Harrisburg For Marijuana Legalization

NORML Blog - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 08:04

Allentown, PA – Residents of the Keystone State will gather in Harrisburg on January 23, 2018 to speak with legislators about legalizing marijuana in an event co-sponsored by local NORML chapters, the ACLU-PA and the Keystone Cannabis Coalition.

A press conference is planned at 10:00 a.m. that will feature elected officials, advocates, medical marijuana patients and cannabis consumers.

Lehigh Valley NORML is spearheading the event with NORML chapters from Pittsburgh, South Philly and Lancaster sending volunteers to supply education tables and make office visits.

“Considering our current political climate, we have a unique opportunity to assemble the voices of cannabis advocacy from across this state to show legislators that we are united in our resolve for reform,” said Jeff Riedy of Lehigh Valley NORML, “We will arrive in Harrisburg determined to persuade our policymakers to follow the strong sentiment of Pennsylvania voters by ending our  prohibition on marijuana.”

This will be the first of several planned marijuana rally days in Harrisburg with NORML chapters in 2018.  A demonstration of a typical cannabis home cultivation setup, with a small indoor garden and LED lights, will be on display.

“With Delaware and New Jersey poised to legalize cannabis in 2018 we think Pennsylvania is ready to join the conversation,” said Chris Goldstein of South Philly NORML, “We can save more than 70 million tax dollars every year by stopping marijuana possession arrests alone, and we can see more than 300 million in new tax revenue for the commonwealth with retail cannabis.”

The Vermont legislature recently passed a bill to legalize marijuana possession and home cultivation. This was the first time a cannabis reform bill for adult consumers passed through the legislature instead of the ballot process. According to current data, Pennsylvania police are arresting 49 people, every single day (more than 18,000 per year), for less than 30 grams of cannabis.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a change in posture at the Department of Justice towards regulated cannabis on January 4, 2018, the same week that Pa. medical cannabis providers were approved to begin growing. NORML chapters applaud the strong response from Gov. Wolf. state Sen. Mike Folmer, Auditor General Eugene Depasquale and middle district U.S. Attorney David Freed who stood up for our local laws.

The following week Rep. Dwight Evans (D, PA-2) became the first member of Congress in the area to cosponsor HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. “First, I think I have different view because I served in the state legislature and I voted for the medical marijuana bill,” Evans told Philly.com, “ Second, I have long believed [marijuana] should be decriminalized because that is what Mayor Jim Kenney did in the city of Philadelphia, particularity because we were targeting African American males [for arrests]. Last, I think that the whole aspect of moving in the direction of recreational marijuana is something that we should do because there are many opportunities in that.”

Rep. Mike Doyle (D, PA-14) and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D, PA-13) also signed on to a letter with 70 members of Congress rebuking Sessions for his new cannabis posture. Pennsylvania now joins just a handful of states with active marijuana reform at all levels with decriminalization ordinances underway in Erie and Easton, a thriving hemp program, a nascent medical cannabis program, and now members of our Congressional delegation involved with national efforts.

While the January 23 Pennsylvania Marijuana Lobby Day was planned months ago, the new move by the Trump administration has added a new energy. By working on local reform, residents and advocates are sending a strong message to Washington DC that States are moving forward with cannabis.

Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1718833171482975/

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Marijuana Law Reform Efforts Advance in States Despite a Hostile Attorney General

NORML Blog - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 06:19

As tensions between AG Sessions and federal lawmakers continues to grow, proponents of marijuana legalization are finding new allies in state legislatures around the country. Despite the recent move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the Cole Memo, a 2013 DOJ memorandum that allowed state sanctioned marijuana business to thrive despite the quagmire between state and federal laws, lawmakers in several states are advancing marijuana reform legislation.

Reject AG Sessions’ Efforts to Revert to the Failed Criminal Policies of the ‘Just Say No’ Era.

Within hours of the rollout of the DOJ’s new policy, lawmakers in Vermont passed a depenalization bill out of the House and Senate with overwhelming support and it’s now headed to Governor’s office. With Governor Scott already promising to sign the measure into law, it’s safe to say that Vermont will surely be the newest thorn in the side of an already agitated Sessions. As if the news from Vermont isn’t frustrating enough for the Attorney General, House lawmakers in New Hampshire also passed legislation that would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and up. And Thursday, members of the New York State Assembly heard hours of testimony in support of adult use regulation.

In addition to the advancement of marijuana law reform legislation in Vermont and New Hampshire, a number of other states such as Kentucky, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Delaware, New Hampshire, Virginia, Missouri and New Mexico will also be debating several marijuana-related bills during their 2018 legislative sessions. To support these legislative efforts, members of Virginia NORML, NORML KC, NORML of Florida, Lehigh Valley NORML, NORML Women of Washington, Pittsburgh NORML, Ohio NORML, Missouri NORML, Illinois NORML, Delaware NORML, Kentucky NORML, Maryland NORML, New Mexico NORML, Wyoming NORML, Springfield NORML and Greater St. Louis NORML will be meeting with their state representatives to encourage support for marijuana reform legislation

With the help of NORML chapters, 2018 could prove to be a very successful year for marijuana law reform efforts.

Virginia NORML

Taking a more conservative approach than lawmakers in Vermont and New Hampshire, lawmakers in the Commonwealth of Virginia are considering both medical marijuana and decriminalization bills this session. While there hasn’t been any notable criticisms of the DOJ’s new policy from the state legislature, Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA) recently introduced HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act which would gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML had this to say about the current political climate.

“Attorney General Sessions isn’t stopping Virginia from moving forward in the 2018 legislative session with both medical cannabis expansion and decriminalization. We have strong, bipartisan representatives working on marijuana policy in Congress, Reps. Beyer, Garrett, Griffith and Taylor, and the same holds true in our State House. Republicans and Democrats are united on advancing these common sense reforms demanded by the overwhelming majority of Virginians.”

Las Vegas NORML

In Nevada, where state lawmakers approved a measure to fast track rules and regulations for the state’s adult-use marijuana program in 2017, the news of the DOJ’s new policy prompted partisan reactions from Carson City. While Republican lawmakers refrained from publicly criticizing AG Sessions, Democratic Senator Tick Segerblom wasted no time. Speaking to a group of legalization advocates at a rally outside of a marijuana dispensary In Las Vegas, Senator Segerblom had this to say:

“Contact your legislators in Washington DC and tell them to tell Trump to back off until we get this thing resolved. This is a great industry for Nevada. The people have spoken…this is a state’s rights issue.”

After hearing the news about the shift in federal policy, Chris Thompson, executive director of Las Vegas NORML quickly shifted his focus from state-level lobbying efforts to mobilizing pro-marijuana advocates and scheduling meetings with Congressional leaders.

“It’s definitely a precarious situation right now, but thankfully Las Vegas NORML is working with our representatives at the state and federal level to prevent Sessions from trampling over states’ rights and prosecuting legal cannabis,” said Thompson.

With virtually no federal lawmakers expressing support the Sessions’ reversal, as reported by Politico, and state lawmakers seemingly unphased by this shift in the administration’s tone, it appears that AG Sessions severely underestimated the political juggernaut the issue of marijuana legalization has become.

For more information about a NORML’s 2018 lobbying efforts, email Chapters@NORML.org or visit http://norml.org/about/chapter-calendar for list of upcoming chapter lobby days and meetings. If you’re unable to attend a NORML lobby day in your state, please take a few minutes to contact your representatives using NORML’s Action center http://norml.org/act

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Sixty-nine Members Of Congress Sign Letter To Congressional Leadership

NORML Blog - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 15:06

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. The amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer 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.”

In the wake of Attorney General Jeff Sessions recent actions, it is time to expand similar protections to states that have also legalized the use and sale of marijuana to all adults now that one in five Americans resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute.

Known as the McClintock-Polis amendment, after Representatives Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO), the amendment would simply remove the word medical from the current Rohrabacher-Blumenauer language.

The fix would literally be that simple to give breathing room to state-lawful programs.

In a letter to Congressional leadership authors by McClintock and Polis, co-signed by 67 other Representatives from both political parties, the members call for the amendment to be included in any future spending bill.

In the one day that the letter was going around the hill, NORML members and supporters drove in nearly 5,000 messages to Congress and countless phone calls in support of their Representative signing on.

“For several years, I have introduced a bipartisan amendment with Rep. McClintock, which would prohibit the Dept. of Justice from using federal resources to interfere with legal medical and recreational marijuana activities. Now with Attorney General Sessions’ shortsighted announcement, I am thrilled to welcome nearly 70 members who are asking for the amendment to be attached to the government-funding bill,” said Rep. Polis. “It would be a temporary, but urgent and necessary fix, as I continue to push for passage of my Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would finally lift the federal prohibition on marijuana.”

Last year, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws. You can tell your member to join them by clicking HERE.

Pressure is building. Sign up to our email list to get the latest news: https://norml.org/subscribe

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MPP Releases 2018 Strategic Plan

MPP Blog - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 11:49

MPP is excited to be moving into 2018 at a time when marijuana policy reform has unprecedented momentum. While there are sure to be challenges ahead, MPP is confident that we will make great strides this year.

You can find the strategic plan here.

In a great sign of things to come, one of our goals is already on the verge of success. On Thursday, the Vermont legislature passed a bill that would make possession and limited home cultivation legal in the Green Mountain State! The bill is expected to be signed into law in the coming weeks.

The post MPP Releases 2018 Strategic Plan appeared first on MPP Blog.

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New House Legislation To Stop AG Jeff Sessions From Cracking Down

NORML Blog - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 11:33

Representative Barbara Lee

Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Don Young (R-AK today filed a resolution, HR 4779, known as The RE.F.E.R. Act, prohibiting the federal government from taking punitive action against those operating in states where the use and distribution of marijuana is legal.

NORML is pleased to have worked with Rep. Lee’s office in drafting the language of HR 4779, which “protects individuals in states that have laws which permit the use of cannabis” for either medical or recreational purposes. Specifically, HR 4779 bars federal funding for any efforts that seek to “detain, prosecute, sentence, or initiate civil proceedings against an individual, business or property that is involved in the cultivation, distribution, possession, dispensation, or the use of cannabis in accordance with the law or regulation of the state or unit of local government in which the individual is located.”

“The federal government should respect the will of the voters in states that have voted to decriminalize cannabis. It’s time to stop wasting taxpayer money on the failed War on Drugs,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “I’m proud to introduce the REFER Act, which would prevent the Attorney General and others in the Trump Administration from stifling the budding cannabis industry. If the federal government chooses to interfere in these state matters, it’s up to Congress to prevent this harmful overreach.”

It also prohibits the federal government from taking any punitive action against a financial institution “solely because the institution provides financial services to an entity” that is involved in state-sanctioned marijuana-related activities.

Take action today to tell Congress to support HR 4779!

With the Justice Department having rescinded Obama-era directives limiting the federal government’s involvement in marijuana states, and with the future of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment uncertain, it is pivotal that you urge your elected officials to act on HR 4779.

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Vermont: Governor Announces He Will Sign Marijuana Depenalization Measure

NORML Blog - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 09:56

Republican Gov. Phil Scott publicly announced at a news conference that he intends to sign legislation into law legalizing the use and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults. The Governor vetoed similar legislation last year.

House Bill 511 eliminates existing civil penalties specific to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, and also removes criminal penalties with regard to the private cultivation of six marijuana plants (two mature and up to four immature). Those who cultivate marijuana for their own personal use may possess at home the total quantity of their harvest.

The measure also imposes new civil penalties for consuming cannabis while driving, and imposes additional penalties for those who operate a motor vehicle impaired with a minor in the vehicle.

“We’ll take a look at it to make sure it’s technically correct, and then I’ll sign the bill,” Scott said during a Statehouse press conference yesterday. “This is a libertarian approach. I’ve said I’m not philosophically opposed to it. I know there are diverse opinions … as to whether we should move forward, but I still firmly believe that what you do in your own home should be your business, as long as it doesn’t affect someone else.”

Vermont will be the first state to legislatively act to eliminate both criminal and civil penalties for personal marijuana possession and growing.

Once signed, the new law will take effect July 1, 2018.

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