SMART Bill Reintroduced in Congress

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1)

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1)

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01) has reintroduced the State Marijuana And Regulatory Tolerance (SMART) Enforcement Act (H.R. 3534). This bill prohibits state-sanctioned marijuana consumers and businesses from being prosecuted by the federal government.

By a margin of more than 6 to 1, Americans say that individual states should be able to make their own laws governing the use and sale of marijuana. The SMART Enforcement Act acknowledges this voter sentiment while also ensuring states are operating in a safe and responsible manner.

In a prepared statement, Congresswoman DelBene says that her legislation “will fix the conflict between state and federal law by giving states effectively regulating marijuana themselves, such as Washington, a waiver from the Controlled Substances Act. It also resolves the banking issues currently forcing dispensaries to operate on an unsafe, all-cash basis. These waivers will ensure people in states that have different laws than the federal government on marijuana are protected from prosecution, provided they meet certain requirements, as more and more states work to regulate marijuana within their own borders.”

Legislation similar to this is pending in California, Assembly Bill 1578, to try and limit potential federal interference in the state’s marijuana regulatory laws. As Congresswoman DelBene said, “People in these states should not live in fear of the unpredictable actions of the Attorney General and Department of Justice.”

Click HERE to urge your Representatives to support this legislation.

Closing medical marijuana dispensaries increases crime, according to new study

Contrary to popular belief, medical marijuana dispensaries (MMDs) reduce crime in their immediate areas, suggests a new report.

Study: Crimes Spike Following Closing of Dispensaries

3410000930_95fc2866fa_zThe closure of medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with an increase in larceny, property crimes, and other criminal activities, according to data published in the Journal of Urban Economics.

Researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Irvine assessed the impact of dispensary closures on neighborhood crimes rates in the city of Los Angeles. Investigators analyzed crime data in the days immediately prior to and then immediately after the city ordered several hundred operators to be closed. Authors reported an immediate increase in criminal activity – particularly property crime, larceny, and auto break ins – in the areas where dispensary operations were forced to close as compared to those neighborhoods were dispensaries remained open.

“[W]e find no evidence that closures decreased crime,” authors wrote. “Instead, we find a significant relative increase in crime around closed dispensaries.” Specifically, researchers estimated that “an open dispensary provides over $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented.”

They concluded, “Contrary to popular wisdom, we find an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open. The increase is specific to the type of crime most plausibly deterred by bystanders, and is correlated with neighborhood walkability. … A likely … mechanism is that ‘eyes upon the street’ deter some types of crime.”

The findings are consistent with those of prior studies determining that dispensary operations are not associated with ‘spillover effects’ in local communities, such as increased teen use or increased criminality.

An abstract of the study, “Going to pot? The impact of dispensary closures on crime,” appears online here.

Nevada: Licensed Adult Use Marijuana Sales Set To Begin Saturday

Nevada Legalized MarijuanaStarting on Saturday, July 1, specially licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in Nevada will have the opportunity to engage in the retail sale of marijuana to adults.

State tax regulators finalized temporary rules on Monday governing adult use sales. Regulators so far have issued over 80 licenses to business establishments seeking to engage in activities specific to the production, testing, or sale of cannabis to adults.

“Adults in Nevada will now be able to access cannabis in a safe, above ground, regulated environment,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “To their immense credit, lawmakers expeditiously to implement the will of their voters. Elected officials elsewhere would do well to follow Nevada’s example.”

Adult use sales are anticipated to be limited because of an ongoing legal dispute regarding who may legally transport cannabis to retail stores. Last week, a Carson City judge issued an injunction prohibiting any entity other than liquor distributors from engaging in retail marijuana transport. As a result, retailers will only be able to sell their existing inventory.

“While we applaud Nevada for moving to enact their voter approved legalization initiative in a timely fashion, interested parties must now move quickly and decisively to resolve the pending issues around distribution. If supply remains constrained in the state it will drive up prices and ultimately lead to most retail outlets being entirely out of sellable product for the recreational market.” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “This will only serve to continue to drive consumers to the black market, the very thing residents voted to demolish, and will deprive the state of needed tax revenue that will instead go to underground operators.”

A majority of voters decided in November in favor of the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act – a voter-initiated regulating the adult use marijuana market. In May, state regulated decided in favor of expediting the timeline for retail marijuana sales from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2017.

Seven additional states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington — no longer impose criminal penalties with regard to the adult possession or use of cannabis.

Businesses in the state still do not have protections from the Justice Department, led by militant prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recently stated marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin.

You can click here to easily send a message to your federal lawmakers in support of pending legislation, HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act by clicking HERE.

Legal cannabis laws impact teen use

A new study has found that adolescents living in medical marijuana states with a plethora of dispensaries are more likely to have tried new methods of cannabis use, such as edibles and vaping, at a younger age than those living in states with fewer dispensaries.

Nevada: Retail Marijuana Sales To Begin This July

thumbs_upNevada regulators have approved rules to allow for the expedited sales of cannabis to adults.

Members of the Nevada Tax Commission voted 6 to 1 on Monday to license select medical dispensaries to engage in retail sales of non-medical cannabis. Dispensaries in good standing with the state will be able to apply for “early start” licenses on May 15. Those facilities who are approved by state regulators will be able to engage in adult use marijuana sales on July 1.

A majority of voters decided last November in favor of The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, a voter-initiated measure regulating the commercial marijuana market. Provisions in the law eliminating criminal penalties regarding the personal possession of personal use quantities of cannabis took effect on January 1, 2017. Separate provisions in the measure regulating the commercial production and sales of cannabis were initially slated to take effect on January 1, 2018.

Regulators decision to expedite marijuana sales is in sharp contrast to the actions of lawmakers in several other states, including Maine and Massachusetts — both of which have taken steps to delay adult use marijuana sales by several months.

Last Chance To Protect Medical Marijuana Patients and Providers From Jeff Sessions

Medical marijuana

Update: Congress passed a one-week continuing resolution to maintain the current federal spending levels with the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment included, meaning state medical marijuana patients and businesses will remain protected from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice until May 5.

Today is the final day that Congress has to pass a short-term budget to fund the federal government and it’s up to us to make sure that lawmakers reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. This critical amendment stops Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice from targeting state-sanctioned medical marijuana patients, growers, caregivers, and providers.

Click here now to tell your member of Congress to Stop Sessions from going after marijuana.

94% of US voters support legal access to medical marijuana. Congress needs to understand that this is a mandate that is non-negotiable.

We cannot give one inch of our hard fought victories when we still have so far to go.

Take action today to protect our gains and to keep in place programs that millions of patients have come to rely upon. Tomorrow we continue our fight to legalize marijuana nationwide.

Click HERE now to make your voice heard!

Background:

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

In December, Congress re-authorized the amendment as part of a short term spending package, House Resolution 2028. This bill extends federal funding through April 28, 2017, at which time the measure — and the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment — will expire.

According to recently released nationwide survey data, the majority of Americans are on our side. A whopping 93 percent support the medical use of marijuana. Perhaps most importantly, 71 percent of voters — including strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.”

Again, please contact your member of Congress right now to protect legal state medical marijuana patients and businesses. 

 

West Virginia: Lawmakers Approve Amended Medical Marijuana Measure

oil_bottlesWest Virginia legislators on Thursday approved a significantly amended version of Senate Bill 386, which seeks to establish a state-regulated medical cannabis program. The measure now awaits action from Democrat Gov. Jim Justice, who has previously expressed support for permitting qualified patients access cannabis therapy.

If signed into law, West Virginia will become the 30th state to authorize by statute the physicians-recommended use of cannabis or cannabis-infused products.

Under the amended measure, qualified patients will be permitted to obtain cannabis-infused oils, pills, tinctures, or creams from a limited number of state-authorized dispensaries. Cannabis-based medications will be produced by state-licensed growers and processors. Patients will not be permitted to grow their own cannabis, nor will they be able to legally access or smoke herbal formulations of the plant. Similar restrictive programs are presently in place in Minnesota and New York and are awaiting implementation in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

To participate in the proposed program, both patients and physicians would need to be registered with the state. Government officials are not mandated under the legislation to begin issuing patient identification cards until July 1, 2019.

Massachusetts: Lawmakers Amend Voter-Initiated Marijuana Legalization Measure

MAWith little debate, House and Senate lawmakers voted today to significantly amend Massachusetts’ voter-initiated marijuana law.

The vote sets the stage to delay the establishment of state-licensed marijuana retail facilities from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018. Governor Charlie Baker, who campaigned against the initiative, must still sign off on the law change. [UPDATE: Gov. Baker signed the language into law on Friday, December 30.] Separate provisions in the law eliminating penalties for adults who privately possess or grow personal use quantities of cannabis took effect on December 15.

According to The Boston Globe, the “extraordinary move” by lawmakers took place in an “informal” legislative session with “just a half-dozen legislators present.”

NORML had been urging lawmakers to adopt the law swiftly as voters intended, and it continues to urge Massachusetts voters to take action.

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri called lawmakers’ decision a “slap in the face” to the nearly two million Massachusetts voters who decided in favor of Question 4 on Election Day.

“The arrogance and hubris lawmakers are showing toward voters is remarkable,” he said. “The voters have spoken and it is incumbent on legislators to carry out their will. Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to impose criminal penalties on marijuana – doing so in 1914. After more than a century of this failed policy, it is time to bring prohibition to an end in Massachusetts.”

The move by lawmakers to delay aspects of the law’s implementation is not altogether surprising, as politicians and bureaucrats had previously discussed restricting home cultivation as well as raising the proposed sales taxes rate on marijuana sales.

Arkansas Voters Legalize Medical Marijuana

pain_reliefAccording to the Associated Press, voters in Arkansas have approved Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. The AP’s final vote count is 53 to 47 percent.

“Thanks to the support of Arkansas voters, their state now joins the majority of states in this country in allowing for the medicinal use of marijuana. This will provide patients with access to a safe and effective medicine and apply further pressure on Congress and the incoming administration to bring federal policy in line with the overwhelming will of the American people.” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s new Executive Director.

Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, amends the state constitution to permit qualified patients who possess a physician’s recommendation may legally possess and obtain medical cannabis provided by state licensed dispensaries. The home cultivation of cannabis is not permitted under the law. Under the law, regulators will license up to 40 dispensary providers and up to eight marijuana cultivators.

The new law takes effect on November 9, 2016. Regulators have 120 days following the law’s enactment to develop rules overseeing the new medical marijuana program.

A summary of the Amendment is available here.

Congratulations Arkansas!

Colorado visitors using marijuana more likely to end up in emergency room

Out-of-towners using marijuana in Colorado — which has legally allowed sales of the drug in retail dispensaries since 2014 — are ending up in the emergency room for marijuana-related symptoms at an increasing rate, reports a new study. Visitors are unprepared for the adverse effects of marijuana use. The study shows the importance of educating the public about safe marijuana use.

California: Supreme Court Upholds Authority Of Cities To Prohibit Medical Marijuana Facilities

The California Supreme Court ruled today that municipalities possess the legal authority to prohibit the establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries.

The unanimous ruling upheld a 4th District Court of Appeals opinion (City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients’ Health and Wellness Center, Inc.) which held that local zoning measures banning the establishment of brick-and-mortar facilities that engage in the distribution of cannabis to state-authorized persons are not preempted by state law. Other lower courts had ruled against such local bans, arguing that cities can’t use zoning laws to bar activity legal under state law.

It is estimated that some 200 California cities presently impose moratoriums on medicinal cannabis facilities. At least 50 municipalities have enacted local regulations licensing dispensaries.

Opined the Court:

“We have consistently maintained that the CUA (the California Compassionate Use Act aka Proposition 215) and the MMP (the Medical Marijuana program Act) are but incremental steps toward freer access to medical marijuana, and the scope of these statutes is limited and circumscribed. They merely declare that the conduct they describe cannot lead to arrest or conviction, or be abated as a nuisance, as violations of enumerated provisions of the Health and Safety Code. Nothing in the CUA or the MMP expressly or impliedly limits the inherent authority of a local jurisdiction, by its own ordinances, to regulate the use of its land, including the authority to provide that facilities for the distribution of medical marijuana will not be permitted to operate within its borders.”

Although language included in Proposition 215 explicitly called for the state government “to implement a plan for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana,” to date, lawmakers have failed to enact any specific statewide regulations regarding the retail production and distribution of cannabis to those patients authorized to consume it.

Commenting on the ruling, California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer said, “The court essentially affirmed the status quo. Local governments may choose to allow or limit dispensaries as they please. The unfortunate result of this decision is to leave many needy patients without legal access to medical marijuana in their communities, thereby promoting illegal black market suppliers. It is time for the state and federal governments to step up to the plate and fulfill the mandate of Prop 215 to implement a system of ‘safe and affordable’ access for all patients in medical need.”

Legislation is presently pending in both the California Assembly (AB 473) and Senate (SB 439) to impose statewide regulations governing the dispensing of marijuana produced for medical purposes.

Full text of the California Supreme Court’s opinion is available online here.

‘Respect State Marijuana Laws Act’ Introduced In Congress

United States Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with a bipartisan coalition of three Republicans (Reps. Rohrabacher, Rep. Justin Amash [R-MI], and Don Young [R-AK]) and three Democrats (Reps. Earl Blumenauer [D-OR], Steve Cohen [D-TN] and Jared Polis [D-CO]) today introduced House Bill 1523: the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act.

The measure would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to exempt from federal prosecution individuals and businesses, including marijuana dispensaries and/or retail outlets, who comply with state marijuana laws.

“This bipartisan bill represents a common-sense approach that establishes federal government respect for all statesmarijuana laws,” Rohrabacher said in a news release. “It does so by keeping the federal government out of the business of criminalizing marijuana activities in states that don’t want it to be criminal.”

The proposal is one of several marijuana law reform bills now pending before the United States Congress, including 013, House Bill 689: the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, and 013.

Florida State Attorney Drops Charges Against Bob and Cathy Jordan

Today I share with you wonderful news from an all too conservative state, Florida, where the sun shines on everything but justice for cannabis users.

Just a few weeks ago, I announced that the ‘New NORML’ would have an active, working legal committeethat would make a difference for all of us.

Last month, State Senator Jeff Clemens in Tampa announced that he was introducing a medical marijuana bill in Florida, which would allow for the establishment of dispensaries in our state.

The bill was named the ‘Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act’, in honor of a woman who has beenopenly using cannabis as medicine for over a quarter century, championing our cause from her wheelchair while living with an incurable condition- ALS; Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Backed by her loving husband, Bob, who cultivates two-dozen plants on their farm for her personal use, Cathy has been a public advocate for cannabis law reform. Here she is:
http://medicalmarijuana411.com/mmj411_v3/?p=10558

One day after the state senator introduced the medical necessity legislation, publicizing her name and address, the DEA and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office paid her a not-too-polite visit, raiding her home, dressed in swat uniforms, armed with machine guns and wearing masks, seizing her cannabis and arresting her husband for cultivation. Her wheelchair was no defense.

One NORML lawyer from our NLC legal committee immediately stepped up to the plate to come to her defense. Florida CAN, the Cannabis Action Network, contacted Michael C. Minardi, of Stuart, Florida. He undertook the defense.

Michael had already prevailed on a medical necessity case on the west coast of Florida, and he at once met with Bob and Cathy Jordan. Both were adamant that they would take no pleas, but instead sought to fight for their right to use marijuana as medicine.

Based in South Florida, I volunteered with another NLC Committee member, my law office partner, Russell Cormican, and entered into a civil retainer agreement with Cathy Jordan, to prosecute a pro bono civil legal action seeking a declaratory judgment that Cathy’s possession of cannabis warranted a judicial order stating that such ownership was entirely medicinal and lawful.

I could not do it alone, so I contacted NLC Committee member Matt Kumin, who immediately agreed to join the cause on behalf of NORML, coming in as amicus curiae. “This is an impact case,” he concluded.

Together, we decided that we had a viable claim Cathy had a legal right to grow her medicine, and a court would conclude as much. Matt brought in two more NLC colleagues, Alan Silber and David Michael. These guys are already arguing tough cases in the Ninth Circuit. But we have a good plaintiff and a strong case.

This past Monday, the State Attorney dismissed all charges against Cathy and Bob Jordan. The decision by the State Attorney, explaining why he filed a ‘no information.” ratifies the defense of medical necessity for patients, and caregivers as well. The prosecutor’s determination goes beyond the customary and routine post of ‘case declined.’

The decision outlined by the chief prosecutor goes out of its way to acknowledge the legal basis of the medical necessity defense and the ‘progressive, neurodegenerative disease’ that Cathy Jordan deals with daily. The state attorney said he could not in ‘good faith’ proceed with a criminal prosecution against an individual with such a compelling medical reason to use marijuana. It was a courageous decision to see a prosecutor protect a pot patient.

The result came about in no small part to Bob Jordan, Cathy Jordan’s husband. He refused to accept a probationary plea offer. “If I could handle Vietnam,” he told me last week, “I can take whatever the State wants to try and hit me with. I am protecting my wife. No deals. No nothing. I want a trial. I want a jury to see my wife and try to convict her.”

Michael C. Minardi and his client even refused to cop a plea to a deferred prosecution. Matt. Kumin, who has never met Bob, called him, “my hero.” Armed with solid case law, a determined defendant, and a courageous lawyer- Michael Minardi- the good guys prevailed.

A talented team of NLC amicus curiae attorneys are now preparing to go to court and seek a judgment declaring that the use of cannabis by Cathy Jordan should continue as an exception to Florida drug statutes, based on her use being lawful, medically necessary, and legally protected. Hell, we might even get her pot back through a replevin action.

Unfortunately, Florida is a conservative state. I won’t mislead you. The Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Bill is already ‘stuck like chuck’ in a legislative committee.

However, also due to the efforts of NLC Committee member, Michael C. Minardi, the criminal prosecution of Cathy and Bob Jordan is dead in the water.

Remember the TV show, ‘The Naked City,’ that ‘there are 8 million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.’

My friends, there are thousands of Cathy Jordans across America who still need our help. There are hundreds of you capable of assisting so many of them. The spiritual rewards of engaging such tasks enrich your soul and make your practice so much more meaningful.

Please consider also asking a friend to help expand ranks by joining NORML today. In fact, this week we are promoting new memberships by offering up a NORML Hemp Baseball Cap. Wear it to the ballpark, and let everyone know that it is NORML to smoke pot. Cheer for your home team, but stand up for freedom.

Today, all of us throughout the country celebrate the victory of Cathy and Bob Jordan. We also thank the lawyer, Michael C. Minardi of Stuart, Florida, who stood up for them.

We are all cannabis warriors with stories of our own to tell, lives of our friends to illuminate. Never forget the cause you are fighting for is more than to torch up a joint. It is to light a torch for personal sovereignty and individual freedom.

Thank you.
Norm Kent
Chair, NORML Board of Directors

Record Level of Californians Support Regulating Marijuana

According to survey data released this week by The Field Poll, a record number of Californians now support legalizing and regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

The poll, conducted February 5-17 among 834 registered California voters, found that 54% support making the use of marijuana legal, with age and other controls like those that apply to alcohol, only 43% were opposed. This is the highest level of support for legalization since The Field Poll began asking the question. In their 2010 poll, only 50% of California voters supported legalization and 46% were opposed.

This survey also found that an overwhelming 72% of Californians support the state’s medical marijuana program and 52% favor allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to open in their town.

California narrowly rejected Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana in 2010, but clearly public opinion has continued to move in our favor since then. It is reasonable to expect that by 2016, when many believe there will be another voter initiative to legalize marijuana, support will have reached the critical mass required to approve of such a measure.

You can view the full poll results here.

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