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Weekly Legislative Roundup 6/22/18

NORML Blog - Fri, 06/22/2018 - 12:08

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

At the federal level, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced a bill to protect state-lawful marijuana users from housing discrimination. And the US Senate Appropriations Committee voted to block an amendment that would have protected banks that work with marijuana businesses from being punished by federal regulators.

Newly introduced legislation by Senators Warren (D-MA) and Gardner (R-CO), the STATES Act, is expected to face some tough hurdles in Congress, as Republican chairs of key committees in the House and Senate have no plans to schedule the bill for a hearing. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, currently has no intentions of considering the bill in committee, and neither does Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

At the state level, the Republican Party of Texas approved new platform planks endorsing marijuana decriminalization, expanded medical cannabis access, industrial hemp and federal rescheduling. And New Jersey regulators reduced patient fees, added new qualifying conditions, removed strain limits and made other expansions to the state’s medical cannabis program.

Next Tuesday, June 26, voters in Oklahoma will have the opportunity to decide in favor of providing much-needed medical marijuana access to patients with State Question 788, which will appear on the June 26 ballot. Under this plan, physicians — not lawmakers — will have the final say on making health care decisions involving the use of medical cannabis.

At a more local level, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and NYPD officials announced that as of September 1, police will no longer arrest people for smoking marijuana publicly, with some exceptions. Brooklyn’s district attorney spoke in support and announced he will move to expunge past cannabis convictions. Manhattan’s district attorney is also on board. Also, The Bethlehem, Pennsylvania City Council approved a marijuana decriminalization ordinance.

 

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

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced bipartisan legislation, The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales. A bipartisan House companion bill has been introduced by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

This marks the first bicameral, bipartisan legislation to end the federal enforcement of prohibition in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.

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

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Senate Bill 20-62, to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

If passed, the bill would legalize the personal use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for adults age 21 or older, and establish a licensing scheme for its commercial production and retail sale. The tax revenue would be used to fund the implementation of the program and other government services. The bill was already approved by the Senate last month.

Update: The House Judiciary & Government Operations Committee reconsidered SB 20-62 on 6/21 after it was supposed to get a full House vote, but was instead referred back to committee. The committee made several revisions to the bill that are expected to clear the path to passage.

CNMI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization

New York

Legislation is pending in both chambers to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

Update: A separate version of similar legislation, S. 8987A, has been approved unanimously by the Senate. The bill awaits action from the Assembly. Also, The New York State Health Department publicly announced on June 18 that the agency would be updating its rules to permit patients to be eligible for medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids, making the bills somewhat moot.

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. The bill was already approved by the Assembly last month.

Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee on 6/26 at 8:30am in Room 3191.

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

Senate Bill 829 would exempt compassionate care programs from paying state cannabis taxes when they are providing free medical cannabis to financially disadvantaged people living with serious health conditions.

Update: The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions approved SB 829 by a 13-1 vote on 6/19 after holding a hearing. The bill now awaits action from the Committee on Revenue and Taxation, where it will be heard on 6/25.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of tax-exempt compassionate care programs

Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.

Update: The Assembly’s Banking Committee approved SB 930 by a 10-0 vote on 6/18. The bill now goes to the Business and Professions Committee, where it will be heard on 6/26 at 9am.

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

That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

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Kentucky NORML: Cannabis Access Associated with Reduced Rates of Opioid Use and Abuse

NORML Blog - Fri, 06/22/2018 - 11:13

KY NORML is passionate about education. And with the opioid epidemic consuming our state, we feel that it is our duty to share valuable information regarding the relationship between cannabis and opioids. Cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, traffic fatalities, drug treatment admissions, and overdose deaths. We strongly believe, based on research, first-hand accounts, and testimonials that cannabis is truly the answer to combating this crisis that is killing thousands of Kentuckians each year.

According to a study by the Journal of Headache and Pain, “the most common prescription medications replaced by medicinal cannabis in this study were opiates/opioids in a large percentage within every pain group, up to 72.8% of patients in the chronic pain as primary illness group. … This is notable given the well-described “opioid-sparing effect” of cannabinoids and growing abundance of literature suggesting that cannabis may help in weaning from these medications and perhaps providing a means of combating the opioid epidemic.”

Investigators assessed opioid use patterns in patients registered with Health Canada to access medical cannabis products. Among those patients who acknowledged using opioids upon enrollment in the trial, 51 percent reported ceasing their opiate use within six-months. “The high rate of cannabis use for the treatment of chronic pain — and subsequent substitution for opioids — suggests that cannabis may play a harm-reduction role in the ongoing opioid dependence and overdose crisis. While the cannabis substitution effect for prescription drugs has been identified and assessed via cross-sectional and population-level research, this study provides a granular individual-level perspective of cannabis substitution for prescription drugs and associated improvement in quality of life over time.”

Cannabis access is associated with reductions in overall prescription drug spending. JAMA Internal Medicine “found that prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year when a state instituted any medical cannabis law. Prescriptions for all opioids decreased by 3.742 million daily doses per year when medical cannabis dispensaries opened. … Combined with previously published studies suggesting cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid mortality, these findings further strengthen arguments in favor of considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids.”

The Mental Health Clinician  “investigated medical cannabis’ effectiveness in patients suffering from chronic pain associated with qualifying conditions for MC in New York State. … After 3 months treatment, MC improved quality of life, reduced pain and opioid use, and lead to cost savings. … These results are consistent with previous reports demonstrating MC’s effectiveness in neuropathic pain.”

There are tons more information out there on this topic and the above research barely scratches the surface. We encourage you to see what’s out there for yourself. Knowledge is power and the better armed we are with that knowledge the more effective we can be in getting legislation passed. The opioid crisis that is plaguing our state has harmed so many of our citizens, and if cannabis is able to help, the legislators should get out the way and pass a comprehensive bill to deal with the problems our state is facing.

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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N.J. lawmakers include marijuana tax revenue in their budget bills

MPP Blog - Thu, 06/21/2018 - 11:06

New Jersey lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy agree that the state needs revenue to fund important priorities, such as improving the transit system, but disagree on how to get it. One thing leaders do agree on, however, is taxing the sale of cannabis: The Assembly and Senate budgets contain $69 million from marijuana taxes. That figure is more than could realistically be earned from medical cannabis sales tax alone, but is a small amount compared to what the state will eventually earn from taxing and regulating marijuana. However, this conservative projection makes sense given the time it will take to get adult-use sales up and running after the bill is passed.

It’s great that more and more lawmakers recognize that marijuana prohibition has failed, and that the state can benefit from taxing and regulating it. However, we want to urge lawmakers to ensure that the harms of prohibition are addressed in the legalization bill.

Asw. Annette Quijano, Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, recently held a hearing (at which MPP testified) on her bill to help do just that, by ensuring that people with a marijuana offense on their record will have meaningful access to expungement if New Jersey legalizes cannabis. Unfortunately, the current legalization bills do not go far enough.

If you are a New Jersey resident, please ask your lawmakers to support legalization and to ensure that New Jersey gives people an opportunity to benefit from legalization instead of continuing to be burdened with the collateral consequences of a criminal record.

The post N.J. lawmakers include marijuana tax revenue in their budget bills appeared first on MPP Blog.

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NORML Releases Comprehensive Report Summarizing Local Decriminalization Laws

NORML Blog - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 08:16

Even though recreational marijuana remains criminalized in a majority of US states, more and more municipalities are moving ahead with local laws decriminalizing the possession of cannabis within city limits. For the first time, NORML has released a comprehensive breakdown of these citywide and countywide decriminalization policies.

Efforts to liberalize municipal marijuana possession penalties in states where cannabis remains criminalized have become increasingly popular in recent years. Since 2012, over 50 localities, such as Albuquerque, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and St. Louis in a dozen states — including Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have enacted municipal laws or resolutions either fully or partially decriminalizing minor cannabis possession offenses. Today, over 10.5 million Americans reside in these localities. (Please note: This total does not include cities or counties in states that have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana statewide).

Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri: “Local politicians see firsthand the punitive and disproportionately adverse effects that statewide marijuana criminalization has on their communities and upon their constituents. That is why they are exercising their local legislative powers to protect citizens in their community when state politicians are either unwilling or lack the political courage to do so.”

DECRIMINALIZATION EXPLAINED

Under full decriminalization, minor offenses are defined by statute as either non-criminal violations or infractions. Violators are not subject to arrest. Instead, they are cited and mandated to pay a small fine. Violators are not subject to a court appearance nor are they saddled with a criminal conviction or record.  Under partial decriminalization policies, minor marijuana offenses may remain classified as misdemeanor offenses. However, violators are issued a summons in lieu of a criminal arrest.

Beginning with Oregon in 1973, 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. (Eight of these states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Vermont — have since replaced their decriminalization statutes with statewide adult use legalization legislation.)

Today, nine states — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island — have fully decriminalized activities specific to the private possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults. Four additional states — Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio — have partially decriminalized marijuana possession offenses. In these latter jurisdictions, cannabis remains classified as a misdemeanor under state law, but the offense does not carry the penalty of jail time. In New York, marijuana possession ‘in public view’ remains punishable as a criminal misdemeanor.

Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal: “As public support in favor of marijuana law reform has grown, so too have local efforts by legislators and voters to address the issue at the municipal level. In many regions of the country, local lawmakers are moving to shield their local citizens from state prohibitions — one city at a time.”

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Canada legalizes marijuana!

MPP Blog - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 07:47

Marijuana prohibition is history in Canada. Last night, after months of negotiations, Parliament approved a bill to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults. After one formality — Royal Assent — Canada will become the second nation to end marijuana prohibition and the first G7 country to do so.

Regulations vary by province, but most set age limits at 18 or 19 to match the legal age for alcohol and tobacco in Canada. Once the law takes effect, adults can possess up to 30 grams and grow up to four plants in their homes. Read more about this historic legislation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is expected to move quickly to implement the new policy, and retail marijuana stores will soon be opening just north of our border.

And that is all the more reason for our Congress to enact the STATES Act, which would allow American states to decide their own marijuana laws without federal interference.

This is an important day to acknowledge. After decades of harm caused by marijuana prohibition laws, nations around the world are beginning to come to their senses. Canadians should be proud that their country is leading the way among major governments.

Let’s not fall too far behind — call your members of Congress today. And please consider donating to MPP to support our efforts.

The post Canada legalizes marijuana! appeared first on MPP Blog.

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NY Health Dept. will expand medical program; looks favorably toward adult use

MPP Blog - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 07:32

The Health Commissioner of New York, Howard Zucker, recently announced that a long-awaited study by the Cuomo administration will recommend the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adult use. The study is believed to be at least partly in response to gubernatorial primary candidate Cynthia Nixon’s strong support of marijuana legalization.

Mr. Zucker also announced that the Health Department will issue regulations to allow patients who have been prescribed opioids to qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program. Not all patients can qualify under the existing chronic pain provision, since opioids may also be prescribed for severe but short-term pain, such as after surgery. The New York Senate also passed a bill to do the same, as well as to allow patients with opioid use disorder to qualify.

While the state’s legislative session is ending soon, New York is moving closer to ending marijuana prohibition!

In other news, New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio, under increasing pressure to address the racial disparity in low-level marijuana arrests, announced a new policy designed to reduce arrests and give more tickets instead. Unfortunately, the policy, which will take effect September 1, has so many exceptions its impact may be limited.

The post NY Health Dept. will expand medical program; looks favorably toward adult use appeared first on MPP Blog.

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New Report By New York City Police Department On Marijuana Criminalization

NORML Blog - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 07:06

The new Report by the New York City Police Department’s “Working Group” is more window dressing than an actual policy change. It appears to be an elaborate 20-page rationalization to continue the present enforcement protocol without any real progress on the policing front. As of today, the policy continues to leave it to the relatively unfettered discretion in the hands of each officer to decide whether to issue a summons or, subject to a variety of exceptions, affect a full-blown arrest for the public consumption of marijuana. The continuation of this policy certainly is better than the old days in that those issued a summons are not fingerprinted and face only a maximum $100 fine for a first offense. But, that is not the policy that the citizens of New York want or need.

Historically, the Report cites a 66% decrease in marijuana-related arrests since changes of enforcement priority and practice dating back to 2014. The Report makes clear through statistics and graphs that despite the significant drop in arrests, those arrests continue to dramatically impact people of color who comprised 86.9% of all marijuana arrests and disproportionately continue to suffer the negative collateral consequences of such an arrest. It further cites other jurisdictions like Colorado and other legalized states that still have endemic racial disparity in arrest rates despite the law enforcement policy changes. Such statistical anomalies must be addressed since New York City’s change in enforcement priority dating back to 2014 officially recognized that the burning of marijuana in public view had a negligible impact on the safety and quality of life NYC denizens.

But, the Report justifies the lack of any substantial policy change in 2018 on the fact that there is not a uniform consensus amongst the District Attorneys in each of the 5 boroughs of New York City regarding the prosecution of marijuana cases. The District Attorneys of Manhattan and Brooklyn have publicly announced that they will no longer prosecute low-level marijuana offenses, but similar pronouncements are lacking from the DAs in the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.  As such, the lack of uniformity within the 5 boroughs leaves the NYPD without a single policy because of the differing law enforcement priorities in different neighborhoods. Therefore, NYPD apparently believes that it cannot improve upon its dated 2014 policy.

In reality, this rationalization is a cop-out.  NYPD officers have for years been given lots of discretion during civilian encounters involving public consumption and that has led to vastly reduced number of marijuana arrests.  The Police Department can and should revise and develop a more comprehensive set of internal guidelines to further guide and constrain the officer’s discretion to issue summonses which in turn cause a further decline in the number of marijuana arrests in New York City.  While the Report calls for limited exceptions to the policy to permit arrests where matters of public safety and quality of life issues are at stake (lack of identification, open warrants, history of violence, and being on probation or parole), all internal measures should be taken to ensure that police/civilian encounters are designed to achieve the desire and goal of both NYPD and New Yorkers to greatly reduce the arrests for the public burning of marijuana.

You can read the full report here

David C. Holland, Esq. is the Executive and Legal Director, Empire State NORML. You can follow Empire NORML on Facebook and Twitter, and visit their website at: https://esnorml.org/ 

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Poll: Record Percentage Of Americans Support Legalizing Marijuana

NORML Blog - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 04:22

Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.

Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.

Seventy-three percent of respondents also expressed support for sealing the records of those previously convicted of marijuana-related offenses.

In an era of increasing partisanship, public support for ending cannabis criminalization is an issue that crosses party lines. More and more, elected officials – and those who wish to be elected – must acknowledge that advocating in favor of marijuana policy reform is a political opportunity, not a political liability.

You can read more details about this poll HERE.

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Texas GOP Platform Now Contains for Cannabis Related Planks

NORML Blog - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 20:45
Texas GOP Platform Now Supports Decriminalization, Re-Scheduling, Hemp and an Inclusive Medical Program

Republican Delegates at the State Convention in San Antonio succeeded in updating the Texas GOP platform to include planks that support making the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) more inclusive, removal of criminal penalty for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana, the re-scheduling of and growing industrial hemp in Texas. This took a powerful effort from the grassroots, delegates and Republicans in advance of the convention and during the long, multi-step process it takes to approve and adopt planks to the Republican Platform.

Here is what happened over the week leading up to these planks adoption:

  • Monday night before the convention, the Criminal and Civil Justice Sub Committee passed a resolution to remove criminal penalties for possession of 1 ounce or less. The Health and Human Service Sub Committee passed a resolution to improve TCUP.
  • On Tuesday, the Legislative Priorities Committee (LPC) met to determine the top legislative priorities for the next session. The Committee took testimony from 15 people include sitting Representative Jason Issac.
  • When the Temporary Platform Committee (TPC) issued their report on Wednesday, it included both of the planks. Additionally, the LPC took an informal poll and medical cannabis was in the top ten. They would ultimately adopt 8 priorities and medical cannabis unfortunately did not make the cut.
  • Thursday the Permanent Platform Committee considered the TPC report. The final report the Permanent Platform Committee adopted included the following cannabis related planks, which were then voted on by the delegates on Saturday:
    • Penalty Reduction for Possession: We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time. (Passed 83%)
    • Expand Access to Medical Cannabis: We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to recommend to certified patients. (Passed 82%)
    • Call for Re-scheduling Cannabis: Congress should remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 and moved to Schedule 2. (Passed 90%)
    • Industrial Hemp: We recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity. We urge the Texas Legislature to pass legislation allowing cultivation, manufacture and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products. (Passed 83%)

These types of changes are extremely important in advance of the 2019 Legislative Session. Pre-filing bills will start on November 12th, 2018 and the session will officially kick off on January 8th, 2019.

You can help Texas NORML by becoming a member, a sustaining or onetime donor!

If you are in the Fort Worth area or are a delegate to the Democratic Convention, join the Texas Cannabis Caucus on Friday, June 22nd, 2018 at 1pm.

 

Jax Finkel is the Executive Director of Texas NORML, the state affliate of NORML. Follow their work on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Visit their website at www.texasnorml.org and make a contribution to support their work at www.texasnorml.org/donate/

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Canada: Lawmakers Reconcile and Pass Historic Marijuana Legalization Legislation

NORML Blog - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:41

[UPDATE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the new law will officially go into effect on October 17, 2018.]

Members of the Canadian House and Senate have reconciled and given final approval to C-45, sweeping legislation amending the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act so that those over the age of 18 may legally possess, purchase, and grow personal use quantities of cannabis.

Majorities of both chambers had previously approved slightly different versions of the measure. Today, Senate lawmakers voted 52-29 to concur with the House’s final version of the bill. According to the BBC, “the bill will likely receive Royal Assent this week, and the government will then choose an official date when the law will come into force.” The new law is anticipated to take effect by mid-September, at which time licensed cannabis retailers are expected to be operational.

The Act permits those age 18 and older to legally possess and purchase personal use amounts of marijuana or marijuana-infused products from licensed sellers. Households will also be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use. Commercial marijuana production will be licensed by the federal government, while retail distribution of marijuana will be regulated by individual provinces. A Senate amendment that sought to allow provinces to limit or prohibit personal cultivation was ultimately rejected by members of the House. The new law will not amend Canada’s existing medical cannabis access regulations, which permit registered patients to grow or purchase cannabis from authorized licensed producers.

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri praised the vote. “We applaud Canada for showing federal legislators in the United States what can be accomplished with true leadership and dedication to sound public policy,” he said. “America’s leaders would be wise to learn from our neighbors, and similarly replace our archaic and failed marijuana prohibition laws with a regulatory scheme that is largely evidence-based and that reflects cannabis rapidly changing cultural status.”

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California: Donated medical cannabis shouldn’t be taxed

MPP Blog - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:03

A bill that could restore the ability to provide free, untaxed cannabis to low- or no-income patients is now being considered in the California State Assembly. SB 829 would allow taxes to be waived for medical cannabis that is donated, free of charge, for medical cannabis patients. This is a welcome improvement for patients with limited means.

It is no surprise that seriously ill patients can be faced with little or no income. Combine that with the fact that medical insurance providers don’t cover medical cannabis, and it can create a serious financial burden on medical marijuana patients. Today in California, even cannabis that is donated free of charge must be taxed an excise tax. This is unfair to those in need. SB 829 aims to provide relief. For a look at the latest bill text, click here.

Under the bill, both cultivators and retail dispensaries would be excused from the tax burden on cannabis that is donated to those who qualify. It’s a simple change but an important one.

If you are a California resident and agree patients need additional relief, please take a moment to ask your Assemblymembers to vote yes on SB 829 when it is before them for a vote. It’s a common-sense step for some of California’s most vulnerable residents.

The post California: Donated medical cannabis shouldn’t be taxed appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Vote Is One Week Away

NORML Blog - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 11:25

In just seven days, voters in Oklahoma will have the opportunity to decide in favor of providing much-needed medical marijuana access to patients.

State Question 788 will appear on the June 26 ballot. Under this plan, physicians — not lawmakers — will have the final say on making health care decisions involving the use of medical cannabis.

Oklahoma Resident? Commit to vote now!

Specifically,

* State Question 788 permits doctors to use their discretion to decide which patients are best treated by medical cannabis;

* It also empowers patients by permitting them to grow their own personal use quantities of medical cannabis;

* Those patients who do not not wish to grow their own medicine may obtain cannabis flower, or other types of cannabis-infused products, at licensed dispensaries.

In January, NORML wholeheartedly endorsed the passage of SQ 788. That is because this measure is one of the broadest, most patient-centric medical marijuana initiatives ever placed on a statewide ballot.

But passage of SQ 788 is not assured. In recent days, opponents have purchased nearly a half-million dollars in misleading television advertisements to persuade voters to reject SQ 788.

Voters like you must stand up to their fear-mongering and false claims. In truth, the passage of SQ 788 will provide needed relief to tens of thousands of Oklahomans in a manner similar to the laws of 30 other states.

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Under existing Oklahoma laws, the possession of any amount of cannabis is classified as a criminal offense — punishable by up to a year in prison. Engaging in cannabis cultivation or sales may be punishable by up to life in prison. According to a study released this month, Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is 1,079 per 100,000 people — the highest rate in the United States. Seriously ill patients, whose health and welfare relies on the use of this plant, must no longer face these draconian penalties for simply managing their health.

Oklahoma residents: on Tuesday, June 26, please go to the polls and vote ‘yes’ on State Question 788.

 

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Legislation To Protect Legal Consumption In Federal Housing Introduced

NORML Blog - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 10:51

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has introduced legislation to protect state-lawful marijuana users from housing discrimination.

Entitled the “Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act of 2018,”  the legislation includes protections for consumers in both medical and adult use states. It states, “A public housing agency or an owner of federally assisted housing may not establish standards prohibiting admission to the program or federally assisted housing to any household with a member who engages in the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marihuana… in compliance with the law of the State in which such use, distribution, possession, or cultivation takes place.”

Under the current federal policy, those who consume any controlled substance defined as illegal under federal law, including medical marijuana, are prohibited from being admitted to federally assisted housing. Federal law also allows landlords to evict current residents based on their use of marijuana for any purposes, including the use of medical cannabis by state-qualified patients.

You can contact your Representative and urge their support for this measure by clicking here. 

 

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New York: State-Commissioned Report Will Recommend Legalizing Marijuana

NORML Blog - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 13:54

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Help Oklahoma become the next state to legalize medical marijuana

MPP Blog - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:49

Later in June, Oklahomans will head to the polls and decide whether patients with serious health conditions should be allowed to safely access medical marijuana. If you know anyone living in Oklahoma who supports sensible marijuana policies, make sure they go vote on June 26.

The grassroots group backing the initiative, Yes on 788, is doing an excellent job with a limited budget, and polls look encouraging. Roughly 60% of Oklahomans say they favor the initiative. But opponents are misleading voters about what the initiative would do, and this could be a close one.

If you’re able to make a contribution to help Oklahoma patients access medical marijuana, please do so.

Tens of thousands of patients in Oklahoma would see their lives and well-being improve if voters pass State Question 788. No family should have to watch a loved one suffer from a debilitating medical condition while a safe and effective treatment is available.

There’s a lot at stake. Let’s cheer on Oklahoma and support their effort to provide compassion and relief to patients who need it.

The post Help Oklahoma become the next state to legalize medical marijuana appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Endorses Medical Marijuana Initiative

NORML Blog - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 09:23

Former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice and former Dean of the St. Louis University Law School, Michael A. Wolff, will speak in support of the New Approach Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative at a marijuana law reform conference which will take place at the St. Charles Opera House, 311 N. Main Street, in St. Charles this Saturday, June 16. Judge Wolff is a professor emeritus of law at St. Louis University and a highly respected legal scholar.

Preceding his remarks at 4:00 p.m., there will be a full day of fascinating speakers. Mr. Paul Armentano, national Deputy Director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) will speak at 3:00 p.m. Mr. Armentano is one of the nation’s most knowledgeable and articulate experts on the science of medical marijuana. He will speak about how the legalization of medical marijuana in 29 other states has dramatically reduced opioid overdose and provided relief from suffering to thousands of Americans.

At 2:00 p.m., the leader of the St. Louis NAACP, Mr. Adolphus Pruitt, will speak, followed by Mr. Tom Mundell at 2:20 p.m. Mr. Mundell is the former commander of the Missouri Association of Veterans’ Organizations (MAVO). He is a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran.

At 2:40 p.m., Mr. Jeff Mizanskey will speak. Jeff was sentenced to serve life without possibility of parole for minor marijuana offenses. He has no other criminal convictions. After serving more than 21 years in prison, his sentence was commuted by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon following a nationwide campaign urging the Governor to do so.

At 1:00 p.m., a panel of health experts and patients will discuss how medical marijuana is helpful to people with a wide variety of injuries and illnesses. At 11:30 a.m., St. Louis Alderperson Megan Green will speak about her efforts to reform local marijuana laws through the St. Louis Board of Alderpeople and through the initiative process. Earlier speakers will review the status of the New Approach Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative campaign and other state, national and local marijuana law reform efforts.

For more information, contact Dan Viets via email at danviets@gmail.com.

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Weekly Legislative Roundup 6/15/18

NORML Blog - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 08:43

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

A lot has happened in Congress this week. US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) succeeded in inserting hemp legalization language into the wide-ranging Farm Bill – must-pass legislation that is approved by Congress every five years. The bill was then approved by the US Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

The US Senate Appropriations Committee, for the first time ever, included protections for state medical marijuana laws in base Justice Department funding legislation. On the other hand, the US House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment to protect banks that work with marijuana businesses from being punished by federal authorities.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced The “RESPECT Resolution: Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades” to elevate the importance of equity within the legal cannabis marketplace.

To all of our surprise, President Donald Trump expressed verbal support for recently introduced, bi-partisan legislation that seeks to codify legal protections for state-sanctioned marijuana-related activities. Similarly, members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently announced their support for marijuana law reforms to keep the federal government out of the business of prohibition and related law enforcement of marijuana.

At the state level, South Carolina voters approved a medical marijuana advisory question on the Democratic primary ballot by a margin of 81% – 19%. And The Maine Supreme Court ruled that employers don’t need to pay for medical cannabis under the state workers’ compensation system.

At a more local level, the St. Louis, Missouri circuit attorney will no longer pursue cases for marijuana in the amount of less than 100 grams. And Denver, Colorado is using marijuana tax revenue to fund after-school and summer programs.

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

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced bipartisan legislation, The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales. A bipartisan House companion bill has been introduced by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

This marks the first bicameral, bipartisan legislation to end the federal enforcement of prohibition in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.

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

New Jersey

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, along with Sen. Nicholas Scutari, introduced legislation, S2703, to legalize adult marijuana sales and further expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.

The legislation permits those age 21 and older to legally possess and/or purchase up to one ounce of cannabis. It also permits the licensing of 218 retail dispensaries — 120 of which would provide marijuana to adults while 98 would provide marijuana to authorized patients. At present, one half-a-dozen medical dispensaries are operating in the state.

Other provisions in the measure seek to protect adults who consume cannabis from employer and/or housing discrimination, and permits certain retailers to establish on-site consumption areas.

NJ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization and medical expansion

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

SB 20-62 seeks to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

If passed, the bill would legalize the personal use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for adults age 21 or older, and establish a licensing scheme for its commercial production and retail sale. The tax revenue would be used to fund the implementation of the program and other government services.

Update: SB 20-62 was on the House’s agenda for a vote on 6/12, but was instead was referred back to the Committee on Judiciary & Government Operations.

CMNI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization

Delaware

Legalization
House Bill 110 seeks to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use.

Update: An amendment to HB 110 was filed on 6/11. The wide-ranging amendment addresses packaging and labeling, safe cultivation, tracking of sales, random testing and safeguards for the consumer. Employer protections are clarified as well.

DE resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization

Expungement
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.

Update: SB 197 was unanimously passed by the Senate on 6/12.

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

Medical
House Bill 374 seeks to expand the state’s medical cannabis access program.

The measure would expand the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis by permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from: chronic debilitating migraines, pediatric autism spectrum disorder, and pediatric sensory processing disorder.

Update: HB 374 was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Children & Social Services Committee on 6/6.

DE resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical expansion

New York

A. 9016 and S. 7564 seek to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

Update: A. 9016 came out of the Health Committee without a vote and was referred to the Rules Committee.

NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of cannabis as an alternative to opioids

California

Expungement
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. The bill was approved by the Assembly last month.

Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee on 6/26 at 8:30am in Room 3191.

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

Student Protections
Senate Bill 1127 will help students with severe medical disabilities attend school by allowing a parent or guardian to come on campus to administer medical cannabis to them in non-smoking and non-vaping forms. The bill was approved by the Senate last month.

Update: SB 1127 was heard on 6/13 in the Assembly Education Committee, and then approved by the Committee. The bill will be heard by the Judiciary Committee on 7/4.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of administering medical cannabis to students at school

Compassionate Care Programs
Senate Bill 829 would exempt compassionate care programs from paying state cannabis taxes when they are providing free medical cannabis to financially disadvantaged people living with serious health conditions. The bill was approved by the Senate last month.

Update: The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions is holding a hearing on SB 829 on 6/19.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of these tax exemptions

Banking
Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses. The bill was approved by the Senate last month.

Update: The Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee is holding a hearing on SB 930 on 6/26 at 9am.

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

That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

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The RESPECT Resolution Seeks Restorative Justice

NORML Blog - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 11:00

Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced The “RESPECT Resolution: Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades” to elevate the importance of equity within the legal cannabis marketplace. The RESPECT Resolution seeks both economic and reparative justice, ensuring that disenfranchised communities will be able to benefit equally in the emerging legal and regulated industry.

“There’s no question that there is growing momentum – both within Congress and nationwide – for cannabis legalization. However, as we move into this new era, we must learn from the failed War on Drugs and ensure that entrepreneurs of color are included in this expanding industry. Due to unequal criminalization rates and disparities in access to capital, people of color are being locked out of the new and thriving legal cannabis trade,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “We need to address the systemic exclusion and discrimination at play. Otherwise, we will be prolonging and encouraging the injustices of the past – where brown men spend their lives in prison for cannabis, while white communities get rich off the industry. I encourage my colleagues to support the RESPECT Resolution, the first bill in Congress focused on building equity in the cannabis industry.”

As more and more states dial back the war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive criminalization are able to see previous harms remedied and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation.

It is absolutely crucial that future legalization efforts include avenues to expunge prior criminal convictions for actions which are now 100% legal. We sincerely appreciate Congresswoman Lee’s vision to facilitate those expungements at no cost to the individual. Currently, a complicated bureaucracy and unnecessary fees often prevent drug war victims from obtaining expungements and being able to fully participate in many aspects of civil society.

Send a message to your Representative now in support of The RESPECT Resolution.

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House Appropriations Committee Blocks Cannabis Banking Amendment

NORML Blog - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 07:27

The House Appropriations Committee took up and defeated language known as the Safe Banking Amendment offered by Congressman Dave Joyce (R-OH) on Wednesday, June 13th.

If adopted, regulators would not be authorized to use federal funds to threaten sanctions against banks working with marijuana-related businesses and entrepreneurs.

The defeat of the Safe Banking Amendment was not a vote about marijuana, but rather it was about normalizing a nascent industry that serves hundreds-of-thousands of customers in the majority of US states where cannabis is currently regulated. Once these companies have an easier time conducting their day-to-day operations, then they should be willing to offer more consumer-friendly prices instead of inflating them at the point of sale to cover backend costs associated with operating as an all-cash business.

Currently, hundreds of state-legal, licensed, and regulated businesses do not have access to the banking industry and are unable to accept credit cards, deposit revenues, or write checks to meet payroll or pay taxes. This situation is untenable. No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions. Congress must move to change federal policy so that these growing number of state-compliant businesses, and their consumers, may operate in a manner that is similar to other legal commercial entities.

As an appropriations amendment, this funding restriction would have only been in place for one year.

There is pending bicameral legislation introduced by Representative Perlmutter (D-CO) and Senator Jeff Merkley that the banking amendment was based, known similarly as the SAFE Banking Act. You can click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of that legislation. 

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Call your members of Congress about the STATES Act

MPP Blog - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 10:14

In case you missed it, last week Sens. Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren introduced bipartisan legislation to end the federal war on marijuana and protect states that establish their own marijuana laws. There’s huge momentum behind this important bill.

Give your senators and representative in Congress a call right now and urge them to back the STATES Act.

Leaving marijuana policy to the states is a popular position among both Republicans and Democrats. But we have to put pressure on Congress to act.

Share this with other supporters of sensible marijuana policy and ask them to call their members of Congress, too.

Passage of the STATES Act would be a game changer. Let’s light up those phone lines.

The post Call your members of Congress about the STATES Act appeared first on MPP Blog.

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