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Updated: 16 hours 25 min ago

NORML Releases Comprehensive Report Summarizing Local Decriminalization Laws

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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Poll: Record Percentage Of Americans Support Legalizing Marijuana

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

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

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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Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Vote Is One Week Away

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.

Click here to share information on Facebook Click here to share information on Twitter

 

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

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

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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Former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Endorses Medical Marijuana Initiative

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

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

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

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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Congressional Black Caucus Announces Support for Marijuana Law Reforms

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 07:24

Last Friday, the Congressional Black Caucus announced its position on various marijuana law reforms.

“Some of the same folks who told African Americans ‘three strikes and you’re out’ when it came to marijuana use and distribution, are now in support of decriminalizing the drug and making a profit off of it,” CBC Chairman Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-02) said. “The Congressional Black Caucus supports decriminalizing marijuana and investing in communities that were destroyed by the War on Drugs – which, in addition to be a failed war, was a war on black and brown communities. We also support expunging the records of those previously convicted of misdemeanors for marijuana-related offenses.”

The position was supported by an overwhelming majority of the 48-member caucus.

Read more here: https://cbc.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=903

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Oklahomans To Decide In Two Weeks On Providing Medical Marijuana Access

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 10:39

Oklahoma voters will decide on Tuesday, June 26, on State Question 788 — a statewide voter-initiated measure that permits doctors to use their discretion to recommend medical cannabis to patients.

Under the proposed plan, licensed medical marijuana patients may cultivate up to six mature plants, and may possess personal use quantities of marijuana flower, edibles, or infused concentrates.

According to polling data released in May, Oklahoma voters support the passage of State Question 788 by a margin of nearly 2 to 1. Public support for the measure has largely held steady, even in the face of growing, organized opposition from members of law enforcement and certain business leaders. State lawmakers also attempted to preempt the initiative by passing legislation to significantly limit its scope and purpose, but that effort was eventually tabled in April.

Under state law, the possession of any amount of cannabis is classified as a criminal offense — punishable by up to a year in prison. Engaging in cannabis sales is punishable by up to life in prison. According to a study released earlier this week, Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is 1,079 per 100,000 people — the highest rate in the United States.

If Oklahoma voters pass SQ 788 in two weeks, it will become the 31st state to legalize the possession and use of cannabis by authorized patients.

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President Trump Expresses Support For Bipartisan Marijuana Fix

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 14:36

President Donald Trump on Friday expressed verbal support for recently introduced, bi-partisan legislation that seeks to codify legal protections for state-sanctioned marijuana-related activities.

In response to a question from reporters, the President acknowledged that he “probably will end up supporting” The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Corey Gardner (R-CO). Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also reportedly promised to permit a vote on the legislation.

The bill mandates that the federal Controlled Substances Act “shall not apply to any person acting in compliance” the marijuana legalization laws of their state. It also amends federal law to explicitly remove industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. A bipartisan House companion bill, sponsored by Reps. David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), is pending in the House of Representatives.

Also today, Governors from 12 states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging passage of the STATES Act.

In April, Sen. Gardner acknowledged that he had spoken with the President regarding the intent of his bill and that Trump “assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of the States Act. 

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Senate Majority Leader Announces Progress On Hemp Reform Legislation

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 12:01

United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today announced that he has secured provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill to further expand and facilitate state-regulated hemp production.

In a press release, McConnell acknowledged that provisions in S. 2667: The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 have now been incorporated into the Senate’s version of The Farm Bill (aka The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) — must-pass legislation that is approved by Congress every five years. Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee will consider the legislation on Wednesday, June 13.

Senate Bill 2667 expands upon provisions (Section 7606) in the 2014 version of the Farm Bill that permit states to establish hemp research and cultivation programs absent federal approval. A majority of states have now enacted legislation to permit such programs.

In 2017, state-licensed producers grew over 39,000 acres of hemp, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Securing the Hemp Farming Act as part of the 2018 Farm Bill has been a top priority of mine,” said Senator McConnell. “I look forward to continuing to work with my Senate colleagues on this and many other issues important to Kentucky agriculture as we move towards consideration of the Farm Bill.

He added: “As a result of the hemp pilot program, which I secured in the 2014 Farm Bill, Kentucky’s farmers, processors, and manufacturers have begun to show the potential for this versatile crop. Today’s announcement will build upon that progress to help the Commonwealth enhance its standing at the forefront of hemp’s return to American agriculture. I look forward to continuing to work with my Senate colleagues and my partners in Kentucky … to grow hemp’s bright future.”

Senate Bill 2667 provides states and/or Indian tribes with “primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp.”

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Weekly Legislative Roundup 6/8/18

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 10:34

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

There were some key developments this week at the federal level, including a new bill introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), 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 was introduced by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly pledged to permit a vote on the bill, while President Trump has publicly expressed his support for it.

Also in Congress, the US House Rules Committee, led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX), blocked multiple amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer either legal protections or expanded access to veterans who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

By contrast, members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar amendment to allow military veterans to get medical cannabis recommendations from Department of Veterans Affairs doctors and to protect them from being denied VA services because of their participation in state medical marijuana programs.

In a press release issued by Senator Mitch McConnell’s office, he announced that he had secured the language of S. 2667 in the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee will officially consider the legislation on Wednesday, June 13.

At the state level, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) vetoed legislation to allow marijuana “tasting rooms,” as well as legislation to permit autism as a qualifying condition, but signed a bill into law to allow school personnel to administer medical cannabis to patients at schools. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed legislation into law permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, severe muscle spasms, autism or glaucoma. And Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signed a bill modifying provisions relating to industrial hemp.

New Jersey Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a new bill that would bring adult use marijuana to the state while also expanding the medical marijuana program. And Michigan Republican lawmakers failed to get enough legislative support to amend and enact marijuana legalization by Tuesday’s deadline, meaning that the measure will appear on the November ballot.

At a more local level, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania City Council voted unanimously to approve a marijuana decriminalization ordinance, Minneapolis, Minnesota is ending low-level marijuana stings after it was revealed that nearly all people targeted by such actions are black, Savannah, Georgia police are preparing to implement a marijuana decriminalization ordinance starting on July 1, and Fulton County, Georgia commissioners voted to decriminalize marijuana in unincorporated areas.

Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

Your Highness,
Carly

Priority Alerts

Federal

End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

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

Delaware

Lawmakers in Delaware are once again considering House Bill 110 to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use.

The legislation in 2017 was voted out of Committee, but then stalled as lawmakers elected to approve a resolution establishing a marijuana legalization task force. This group, which includes representatives from Delaware NORML, is anticipated to make recommendations to the legislature early this year.

Update: It is anticipated that House Bill 110 will get a vote in the House in the next couple weeks, as well as in the Senate before the end of the legislative session in late June.

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

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: The House Committee on Judiciary & Government Operations held a hearing on marijuana legalization on 6/5.

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

New York

Legislation is pending in both chambers, A. 9016 and S. 7564 to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

Update: A. 9016 was approved by the Assembly on 6/6, and now awaits action in the Senate Health Committee.

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

California

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

Update: AB 1793 was approved by the full Assembly on 5/31, and now awaits action in the Senate Rules Committee.

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: SB 829 was approved by the Rules Committee unanimously, and now awaits action from the Committee on Business and Professions.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of exempting compassionate care programs from paying taxes

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

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Canadian Senate Signs Off On Historic Cannabis Regulation Measure

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 08:32

Members of the Canadian Senate yesterday voted 56-30 in favor of Bill 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. Members of the Canadian House of Commons had overwhelmingly voted in November in favor of the measure, which also establishes licensing for the retail production and sale of marijuana.

Once House members sign off on Senate changes to the bill, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who campaigned on a pledge to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana sales, is expected to move promptly to enact the historic legislation. Legal cannabis retailers, acting in compliance with the forthcoming law, are anticipated to be operational by late summer/early fall.

“We applaud Canada for showing federal legislators in the United States what can be accomplished with true leadership and dedication to sound public policy. Our elected officials should follow in their footsteps and finally put an end to our own disastrous and discriminatory prohibition on cannabis,” stated NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri.

Under the forthcoming law, those age 18 and older will be legally permitted to possess and purchase personal use amounts of marijuana. Households will also be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use, though provinces are empowered to establish alternative limits.. Those who possess greater amounts will face civil sanctions. Commercial marijuana production will be licensed by the federal government, while retail distribution of marijuana will be regulated by individual provinces. 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.

Separate legislation, Bill C-46, to address traffic safety concerns remains pending.

In 2016, a federal task force recommended that lawmakers move to legalize and regulate the use and sale of marijuana. The task force concluded that legalization “will maintain and improve the health of Canadians by minimizing the harms associated with cannabis use.”

“Those wanting to see what a rational federal marijuana policy looks like need look no further than to our north. America’s leaders would be wise to learn from our neighbors, who are replacing their archaic and failed marijuana prohibition laws with a regulatory scheme that is largely evidence-based and that reflects cannabis rapidly changing cultural status,” said Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

The bill was amended so it will now return to the lower chamber for a final vote.

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Bipartisan Legislation Introduced To Protect States That Have Legalized Marijuana

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 07:47

[June 8, 2018 UPDATE: In the past 24 hours, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly pledged to permit a vote on the bill, while President Trump has publicly expressed his support for it.]

Today, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) 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.

Send a letter to your elected officials NOW

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri commented:

“President Trump made a commitment to Senator Gardner that he was willing to support a federalist approach to state marijuana laws. Now Congress must do its part and swiftly move forward on this bipartisan legislation that explicitly provides states with the authority and autonomy to set their own marijuana policies absent the fear of federal incursion from a Justice Department led by militant cannabis prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

Specifically, this legislation:

  • Creates an exemption to the Controlled Substances Act for US states and territories that have reformed their laws with regard to marijuana policy, effectively restraining undue federal intervention
  • Maintains federal legislative provisions (aka “guardrails”) to deter:
    • The interstate trafficking of marijuana into prohibition states from legal states
    • The prevention of those under 18 from working in the cannabis industry
    • The prevention of those under 21 from purchasing marijuana (unless recommended by a state-qualified physician to treat a medical condition)
    • Unsafe production conditions
  • Provides greater flexibility for lawmakers in non-legal states to reform their laws in a manner that reflects the will of the of their constituents and regulates cannabis commerce
  • Provides the ability for cannabis businesses to obtain basic banking services
  • Removes industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:

“With the announcement of The STATES Act by Senators Gardner and Warren, the movement to end the federal government’s failed policy of cannabis criminalization has truly become a bipartisan effort.”

“The majority of states now regulate marijuana use and more than six out of ten voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, making it time for the federal government to no longer stand in the way of this progress at the state level.”

Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of adults throughout America, 93% of whom support medical marijuana (Quinnipiac, 2017) and 64 percent of whom endorse the outright legalization of recreational cannabis (Gallup, 2017).

The STATES Act is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). It is cosponsored in the House by Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Dianna DeGette (D-Colo.), Rob Blum (R-Iowa), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Matt Geatz (R-Fla.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Luis Correa (D-Calif.), Jason Lewis (R-Minn.), and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).

“Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development,” said Senator Warren. “States like Massachusetts have put a lot of work into implementing common sense marijuana regulations – and they have the right to enforce their own marijuana policies. The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana.”

“In 2012, Coloradans legalized marijuana at the ballot box and the state created an apparatus to regulate the legal marijuana industry. But because of the one-size-fits-all federal prohibition, state decisions like this put Colorado and other states at odds with the federal government,” said Senator Gardner. “The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted. The bipartisan STATES Act fixes this problem once and for all by taking a states’ rights approach to the legal marijuana question. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters – whether that is legalization or prohibition – and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry.”

“We should trust the people of the states, like Ohio, who have voted to implement responsible common-sense regulations and requirements for the use, production, and sale of cannabis,” said Representative Joyce. “If the people of these states have decided to provide help for those veterans and others suffering from pain and other health issues, we should allow them access without government interference.”

“For too long the senseless prohibition of marijuana has devastated communities, disproportionately impacting poor Americans and communities of color. Not to mention, it’s also wasted resources and stifled critical medical research,” said Representative Blumenauer. “It’s past time to put the power back in the hands of the people. Congress must right this wrong.”

Thirty states, Washington, DC and the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis, while an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy changes. According to a 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, 63 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and 70 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy.

NORML has released a letter with over 55 supportive organizations for The STATES Act.

To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that over 149,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

Send a message to your lawmakers in support of the States Act now!

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Republican Rules Committee Blocks Veterans Medical Cannabis Amendments

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 06:36

…for the second year in a row.

The House Rules Committee, led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX), blocked multiple amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer either legal protections or expanded access to veterans who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

Among the amendments offered, the most critical one is known as Veterans Equal Access, which would allow VA doctors to fill out the authorizing forms needed for veterans to obtain state-legal medical marijuana. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), author of the amendment and legislation by the same name, stated “For the second year, Pete Sessions has shown that he does not care about the health and well-being of our veterans—who are speaking out across the country. All they want is fair and equal treatment, and the ability to consult with their own physician on all treatment options. By blocking this vote, Chairman Sessions has turned his back on our wounded warriors, commonsense, and the will of the American people. He should be ashamed.”

Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions turns his back on our wounded warriors, commonsense & will of Americans. He blocked my amendment AGAIN that would ensure our veterans have safe & equal access to medical marijuana.

— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) June 6, 2018


Another amendment pertaining to veterans who work for the Veterans Affairs Department would have provided protections to veterans consume marijuana legally under state statute from losing their job as a result of a positive suspicionless drug test. This amendment was authored by Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL).

For context, last year the American Legion conducted a poll that found one in five veterans self-reported using marijuana to alleviate a medical or physical condition. It is cruel and unreasonable to have veterans live in fear of having to choose between their job and their medication.

The Senate Appropriations Committee heard the Veterans Equal Access language introduced by Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) and passed as a voice vote. Unfortunately, it has a history of passing and then being stripped out of the final version over the last few years.

You can send a message to your Representative in support of the Veterans Equal Access Act, HR 1820, by clicking here. 

On July 22nd – 24th, NORML will hold it’s annual Conference and Lobby Day in DC and will focus on the need to not allow our progress to be rolled back – if you can join us in DC, click here to register.

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Virginia: Crime Data Shows Surge In Marijuana Arrests

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 10:01

Marijuana-related arrests increased over 20 percent between the years 2016 and 2017, according to crime data compiled by the Virginia State Police.

Law enforcement officials made 27,852 arrests for marijuana violations, according to the report – up from 21,637 in 2016. At that time, Virginia ranked sixth in the nation for total marijuana arrests (trailing behind Texas, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Missouri), and fifteenth overall in per capita marijuana arrests.

Overall, some 70 percent of all drug arrests in Virginia in 2017 were marijuana related.
Under state law, the possession of any amount of cannabis is defined as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a criminal record. A bill introduced during the 2018 legislative session that sought to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses was defeated in committee in January on a party line vote, with all Republicans voting against the bill.

Eight out of ten Virginians support decriminalization, fines not crimes, for possession of small amounts of marijuana,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML. “This drastic increase in arrests is completely out of step with public opinion. Law enforcement resources would be better directed towards preventing and solving violent crimes with the passage of a decriminalization bill.”

Polling data compiled by Quinnipiac University finds that 59 percent of Virginians support allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

According to the findings of a 2017 Virginia Commonwealth University report, African Americans in Virginia are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws at a rate that is more than three times the rate of whites.

Archived state-by-state marijuana arrest data is available online from NORML here.

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