Empire State NORML in Albany with the Start SMART Campaign

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Lobby Day
The Drug Policy Alliance, along with other campaign pillar groups Empire State NORML, VOCAL-NY, Cannabis Cultural Association, LatinoJustice and the Immigrant Defense Project, held a press conference and lobby day to announce the Start Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade (Start SMART) campaign to advocate for the substantially amended version of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) this past Monday, June 12th.

Dozens of activists from all around the state took buses, drove cars and rode trains to Albany to join the campaign in launching and lobbying for the legalization bill. After the excellent citizen lobby day training provided by the Drug Policy Alliance, the group split up to divide and conquer before the press conference hitting as many offices as they could as well as attending scheduled meetings.

In the afternoon the press conference was held in front of the Senate Chambers. Joining advocates at the press conference were the MRTA’s prime sponsors in both houses, Senator Liz Krueger (D-New York) and Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), as well as key MRTA sponsors including: Assemblymember Dick Gottfried (D-New York), Senator Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), Senator Jesse Hamilton (IDC-Brooklyn), Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), Assemblymember Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblymember Michael Blake (D-Bronx). We also heard from representatives of Start SMART pillar groups, Drug Policy Alliance (Kassandra Frederique), Empire State NORML (Doug Greene), LatinoJustice (Juan Cartagena), VOCAL-NY (Nick Malinowski), Immigrant Defense Project (Mizue Aizeki) and Cannabis Cultural Association (Nelson Guerrero and Jacob Plowden).

Afterwards the group of dedicated activists went back to work. Some went to the Senate and Assembly chambers to pull their members off the floor to seek their support of the new bill, while others continued dropping off materials at the offices of legislators who have voted for further decriminalization but haven’t supported taxation and regulation of marijuana.

The Start SMART campaign

The substantially amended MRTA would reestablish a legal market for marijuana in New York and create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol and the craft brewery industry, for adults over the age of 21. Over the past twenty years, nearly 800,000 people have been negatively affected by the harms of prohibition. With people of color accounting for nearly 85% of those arrested annually for possession, the collateral consequences are felt most in these communities. Because of the racial injustice caused by prohibition, the bill is not only an end to prohibition in New York, but also a win in the ongoing fight for racial equality. Significant steps are taken to ensure that those most negatively affected by prohibition will benefit from its repeal.

The reworked Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) includes substantial racial justice and small business-friendly amendments, including:

  • Creating a micro-license structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, that allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.
  • Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.
  • Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses

Start SMART NY is a campaign to end marijuana prohibition and repair the harms to communities convened by the Drug Policy Alliance in partnership with groups dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition, including Empire State NORML.

NY resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of the bill. 

Make sure to visit Empire State NORML’s website by clicking here and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Click here to see the press release from earlier in the week. and click here to go to the Start SMART NY website

Las Vegas NORML Ramps up Advocacy Efforts

1294bbf7-8ed0-450d-9f98-5f7fd0090ae4With state lawmakers in Nevada quickly approaching their fast-tracked deadline of July 1st to implement the state’s new adult-use marijuana program, NORML is focused on ramping up our activism efforts in Las Vegas!

Over the past two months, we’ve been busy planning, attending legislative hearings, tabling at events, doing community outreach, volunteering at our local community garden, and more to get the word out about our new chapter, and post-legalization activism in Las Vegas.

So far during the 2017 legislative session, there have been several key pieces of legislation introduced. One of the most important bills that we’re currently pushing is Senator Tick Segerblom’s SB 329, which would safeguard many protections for marijuana patients and the legal marijuana industry. These protections include re-establishing patient grow rights, allowing medical marijuana research facilities, allowing marijuana establishments to be organized as a corporation, and adds PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.

Another important piece of legislation that we’re watching closely is SB 236; if adopted by lawmakers, this legislation would permit social use marijuana clubs across Nevada. With the issue of social marijuana consumption quickly becoming a main issue for marijuana advocates in post-legalization states, Las Vegas NORML believes this legislation would be the first step in providing marijuana consumers with a safe and legally defined space to responsibly consume their legally purchased marijuana.

To learn more, join us for our next meeting on Tuesday, May 23rd where we’ll discuss the various pieces of marijuana-related legislation in Nevada! Get involved and invite your friends!

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Creating a Space for Marijuana Activism

We’re at a crucial time in the legislative session, so we need our members and supporters to speak-up for Nevada marijuana consumers by urging their representatives to support marijuana-related legislation. To help facilitate this, Las Vegas NORML has organized a postcard writing party! This will give everyone a chance to share their personal stories and reasons why they support marijuana legislation with their lawmakers.

We also have two guest speakers from Nevada’s marijuana industry that will be joining us: DB Labs and Sahara Wellness. DB Labs will be educating our members on marijuana testing in Nevada, and Sahara Wellness will be sharing their story of helping patients in the community. Plus we’ll have event sign-ups, membership packages, legislative updates, and even FREE SNACKS! Who can say no to that?

Be sure to RSVP using our Facebook Event Page, and invite all of your friends in Las Vegas!

For more information on Las Vegas NORML, please find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or email us at LasVegasNORMLchapter@gmail.com.

Weekly Legislative Update 5/20/17

revolutionbumperWelcome to this week’s edition of the NORML legislative roundup!

This year, it seems that multiple states are vying for the honor of becoming the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislative process and four of them had movement this week. Ranked most-to-least likely, here is the action we saw in the last 7 days:

Vermont: S. 22, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults has been transmitted to Governor Phil Scott.

If signed or simply ignored, (aka not vetoed by the Governor), the measure will legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, and the cultivation of two mature marijuana and four immature plants in a private residence beginning July 1, 2018. The Act will become law in lieu of action by the Governor Wednesday due to the procedural processes of the Vermont.

Connecticut (tied for 2nd): Senate and House Democrats are lobbying for provisions to permit the retail sale of marijuana to adults as a way to address the state’s estimated $5 billion budget gap. The proposal would initially permit state-licensed dispensaries to sell cannabis to non-patients, and then establish regulations to oversee the establishment of commercial producers and retailers.

The proposed plan is estimated to yield about $60 million in additional revenue for the state next fiscal year, and $180 million by 2018-19.

Rhode Island (tied for 2nd): Members of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced H. 5551 to create a study commission on May 17, but failed to call H. 5555 The Adult Use of Cannabis Act for a vote. The study bill now awaits action on the House floor while H. 5555 is likely dead for this session. Yet several lawmakers are now working on a compromise approach which would enact several provisions of legalization similar to Vermont this year and then let decisions on issues like edibles, product testing, business licensing and local opt-out be triggered by a study commission’s recommendations.

New Jersey (distant 4th): Legislation has been introduced by State Sen. Nicholas Scutari to legalize and regulate the adult use, production, and retail sale of marijuana. Yet in his last year as Governor, Chris Christie has made it clear that he will not sign such legislation, however it does position the Garden State well to pass legalization next year as Gov. Christie is term-limited out.

At the Federal level, in the House, Representatives  Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) have introduced The Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017, HR 2528, which would protect states that have ended prohibition at the state level from federal interference. This bill is substantially similar to that of HR 965, the bipartisan Respect State Marijuana Laws Act introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Additionally, the bipartisan Senate version of the SAFE Banking Act was introduced to allow marijuana businesses access to basic banking services.

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.

Thanks for all you do and keep fighting,
Justin

Priority Alerts

Federal
Respect State Marijuana Laws: On May 18, Representatives Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Diane DeGette (D-CO) introduced HR 2528, The Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017.

Click here to send your member of Congress a message to support the bill. 

Bank Safely: Currently, banks face the threat of federal sanction for working with marijuana-related businesses and entrepreneurs. The SAFE Banking Act (Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act) would extend protections to banks from the federal government, thus allowing responsible businesses access to basic banking services.

Click here to send both your Senators and Representative a message to support these measures.

Join The Caucus: With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) earlier this year formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.

Click here to email your Member of Congress to urge them to join the Congressional Cannabis Caucus

Connecticut
Senate and House Democrats are lobbying for provisions to permit the retail sale of marijuana to adults as a way to address the state’s estimated $5 billion budget gap.

CT resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of legalization.

Nevada
Senate legislation is pending, SB 236, introduced by Sen. Tick Segerblom to regulate the social use of cannabis.

The measure allows select businesses to apply for licensing to permit adult marijuana use on their premises. It would also allow event organizers to seek permits to allow adult use at specific events.

Update: SB236 passed out of the Assembly Government Operations Committee on May 16.

NV resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of marijuana social clubs.

New Jersey
Legislation has been introduced by State Sen. Nicholas Scutari to legalize and regulate the adult use, production, and retail sale of marijuana.

According to a 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton poll, nearly six in ten New Jersey adults support “legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over.” Similar percentages of voters through the country also endorse legalization.

NJ resident? Click here in support of legalization in the Garden State

Rhode Island
Several lawmakers are now working on a compromise approach which would enact several provisions of legalization similar to Vermont this year and then let decisions on issues like edibles, product testing, business licensing and local opt-out be triggered by a study commission’s recommendations.

RI resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of legalization

Vermont
S. 22, to completely depenalize marijuana, was transmitted to the Governor on May 18. Governor Phil Scott has until the end of Wednesday May 24 to either sign or veto the legislation, and should he not act, the bill will go into effect by default.

VT resident? Click here to send a message to Governor Scott in support of legalization

Other Actions to Take

Delaware
Senate Bill 24 has been introduced by Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry to make it easier for those suffering from PTSD to obtain their medicine.

 

DE resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of those with PTSD

New York
A pair of bills are pending in the Senate to expand patients’ access to medical cannabis.

Senate Bill 6092 expands the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis access to include those with Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and a number of other debilitating diseases. It also removes arbitrary caps imposed on the amount of THC permitted in oral products.

Senate Bill 6308 allows for additional cannabis providers to operate in the state in order to improve patients’ access.

NY resident? Click here to express your support for these measures to your lawmakers.

 

 

 

 

Social Consumption of Marijuana off to a Slow Start in Colorado

14963351_1825384024368232_2740677872685265191_nCurrently marijuana is legal to purchase, possess and consume in the state of Colorado, but the question is: Where can it be legally consumed? Well, if you happen to be in the city of Denver (or most anywhere else in Colorado) the answer is very simple: marijuana can only be legally consumed in a private residence. But what if your landlord won’t allow it or you are one of the thousands of tourists who regularly visits our great city? It appears that we’ll have to continue to wait for state lawmakers to answer that question.

Denver Moves Forward with Social Consumption

Last November, Denver voters passed I-300; a social use initiative that approved the commingling of marijuana and alcohol in bars and restaurants across Denver. Obviously a much different approach when compared to Denver NORML’s Responsible Use Campaign and something the State of Colorado disagreed with. In response, the State of Colorado adopted language making it clear that liquor licenses would not be allowed to permit the consumption of marijuana on their premises. According to the Denver Post, this change went into effect on January 1st of this year and vastly changed the intent of I-300.

“We all want adult consumption everywhere, but this is reality,” said Judd Golden, Legal Counsel for Denver NORML. The news of removing language that allowed the commingling of alcohol and marijuana frustrated proponents of I-300 so a lawsuit was filed against the State of Colorado to push the issue.

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Kevin Mahmalji, outreach director for NORML shared his thoughts on combining the two substances. “As it currently stands, we can easily make the argument that marijuana is safer than alcohol, because the two are separated. If we allow the two to be mixed, any incident fueled by alcohol could potentially be blamed on marijuana. That’s why I believe responsible adults deserve their own space to consume marijuana similar to those who enjoy craft beer or cigars.”

In addition to the state’s decision to prevent the commingling of marijuana and alcohol, the City of Denver created the Social Consumption Advisory Committee that consisted of 22 influential decision makers – ranging from city officials to marijuana business owners – to go over the language line by line. The group met six times over several months and offered countless suggestions to improve the original language of I-300. Including a recommendation that would require patrons to sign a waiver before entering consumption areas. Essentially providing a layer of protections against unwanted exposure by non-consumers and those under 21 years of age. A recommendation that Denver NORML fully supports.

The 12 page document lists pages and pages of suggestions to make the law work effectively for the city of Denver. Last week the draft rules were finally posted.

Push for Social Consumption Statewide: SB-184

In addition to our work on the local level, members of Denver NORML spent a lot of time at the state Capitol educating lawmakers on social consumption and the need for a legislative solution. The result? SB-184, which would have empowered local governments to permit private marijuana clubs and better defined what “open and public” means to marijuana consumers. Once the bill was introduced, Denver NORML organized two citizen lobby days with more than 45 participants followed by months of face to face meetings with state lawmakers in support of a statewide solution.

Unfortunately during the final weeks of Colorado’s legislative session, many things with the bill began to change. Most notably, the bill’s sponsors tried to include language that would have criminalized marijuana consumption on the front porch of a private residence and aimed to exclude a newly established cannabis church from operating as a marijuana club. Thankfully the Senate and the House could not come to a consensus and the bill died in committee on the last day of the 2017 legislative session.

Until state lawmakers are willing to pass legislation that will provide a set of rules and protections for business owners and marijuana consumers to responsibly consume marijuana, Colorado municipalities will continue to struggle with this issue.

With the Denver’s Social Consumption Advisory Committee wrapping up its final meeting and Colorado’s legislative session coming to an end, there are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the social consumption of marijuana in Colorado.

Denver NORML will apply the lessons learned this year and with their allies, continue to push for statewide reform in the next legislative session.

For more updates on local reform efforts, follow Denver NORML by visiting their website and on Facebook and Twitter!

Atlanta City Council Considers Decriminalization of Marijuana

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**Update: Peachtree NORML has just informed us that the vote has been postponed. We will keep you posted as developments unfold. 

On Monday, May 15, 2017, the City Council of Atlanta, Georgia will vote on an ordinance that would decriminalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana within Atlanta’s City Limits. Under Georgia law, the possession of one ounce or less is an arrestable offense that could result in up to a $1000 fine and 12 months in jail. This ordinance would allow for the issuance of a citation which carries a $75.00 fine. The ordinance would only apply to the Atlanta Police Department. Other agencies operating within the City, such as the State Patrol and Fulton County Sheriff, would still be able to arrest for the offense.

While it may not seem like much protection, the passage of this ordinance would be a giant step in Georgia. The small town of Clarkston passed a similar ordinance in July 2016. While that stirred up some news, the Capital of Georgia passing it would have a major ripple effect. One mayoral candidate, Vincent Fort, who is a current member of Georgia’s Senate, has made decriminalization the major plank in his campaign platform. It is a hot topic in Georgia.

Peachtree NORML, in association with Georgia C.A.R.E. Project, has begun a City-by- City campaign which is beginning to have some success. By providing fact-based data to municipal governments wishing to consider such measures, we hope to begin reducing the harm caused by an arrest for small amounts of marijuana in Georgia.

If approved by Council, Atlanta will join a growing list of cities around the country that have adopted a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level. Kansas City, Houston, Memphis, Nashville, Tampa, Orlando, Milwaukee, Monona, Toledo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and several others have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Sharon Ravert, the Founder of Peachtree NORML is fond of saying, “When we are talking, we are winning.” Hopefully the City of Atlanta will prove her right next Monday.

Contact your council representatives today and urge them to vote “Yes” on a fiscally sensible proposal that will enable police, prosecutors, and the courts to reallocate their existing resources toward activities that will better serve the public.

Click the link below to get started!

TAKE ACTION: http://act.norml.org/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=20611

For more updates on local reform efforts, follow Peachtree NORML by visiting their website, Facebook and Twitter! To make a donation to Peachtree NORML, please click here.

Michigan NORML Joins Fight to Legalize Marijuana in 2018

11926482_725769350861687_111475490193713040_oMarijuana activists across Michigan are gearing up for a renewed effort to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and up. Last week the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol took the first steps to qualify their new proposal for the 2018 ballot by formally submitting language to the State of Michigan for review.

If passed by voters, adults 21 and up will be able to legally possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants in their residence. For retail sales, a 10 percent tax will be applied. Tax revenues are expected to be used for schools, roads, enforcement costs and a unique study that will examine the use of medical marijuana to prevent veteran suicides.

If you’ve been following legalization efforts in Michigan, you’re probably aware that advocates pushed for a similar initiative in 2016. However after collecting more than 350,000 signatures – more than enough to qualify for the ballot – Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that disqualified the measure from the ballot, a decision the state appellate courts let stand.

This changed everything. Organizers of the effort quickly went from having more than enough signatures to needing over 100,000 to make the ballot. However, refusing to accept defeat, many involved in the campaign quickly regrouped and shifted their focus to the 2018 ballot.

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With the backing of Michigan NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, MI legalize, Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition and several others, campaign organizers and volunteers are confident they now have the resources and support needed to be successful.

Michigan NORML is pleased to have been included in negotiations over the language filed in Michigan by the Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. The initiative includes best practices from around the country,” said Matthew Able, executive director of Michigan NORML. “We expect to collect the necessary 253,000 signatures over the next six months, and look forward to approval by the Board of Canvassers so that we may begin the petitioning process.”

If approved, Michigan will become the ninth state to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and up following Colorado, Alaska, California, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Washington.

TAKE ACTION: Contact federal lawmakers to demand an end to the federal prohibition of marijuana by supporting HR 1227.

Click here to get started!

For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in the Wolverine State, follow Michigan NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page! To make a donation or to join Michigan NORML, please click here!

New Hampshire: Decriminalization Passes Senate, Soon Heads To Governor To Sign

arrestedNew Hampshire is the only New England state that has not either decriminalized or legalized adult marijuana use but that is soon to change.

Today, the state Senate passed an amended version of House Bill 640, which eliminates the threat of jail time for a possession conviction of less than 3/4 of an ounce and reduces the fine from $350 to $100.

HB 640 is a long overdue, fiscally sensible proposals that is supported by the voters, and that will enable police, prosecutors, and the courts to reallocate their existing resources toward activities that will better serve the public.

Governor Chris Sununu (R) has indicated that he will sign the bill.

Sixty-eight percent of New Hampshire adults support “legalizing [the] possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal recreational use,” and seventy-four percent of respondents endorse marijuana being sold at state-licensed outlets and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.

After years of stonewalling by former leadership, we commend lawmakers for finally correcting this injustice. Once law, Granite state residents will be one step closer to being able to truly ‘Live Free’ and not just ‘live free, but potentially be incarcerated.

Texas: HB 2107 Stalls at the Deadline – A Letter from Texas NORML Executive Director

Fellow Texans,

It is with a heavy heart that I write you. I must inform you that the deadline for a bill to be put on the House Agenda for the floor expired last night at 10pm. While HB 81 did make it on to the agenda before the deadline, HB 2107 did not.

This was due to the paperwork not being completed for it’s enrollment in calendars with enough time, completed less than 3 hours before the deadline to be placed on the agenda. With no special Calendars meeting called to hear it’s addition, HB 2107 was not able to progress and is no longer a viable option in it’s form. However, it’s two main authors, Rep Lucio III and Rep Isaac, have promised to continue to look for avenues to codify protections for patients as this legislative session continues. You can also read this touching letter from them.Texas NORML will diligently support any attempts made to enact protections for patients in the upcoming weeks.

Our thoughts are with the many patients, caregivers and practitioners in the state that are effected by this disappointment. Times like these are very difficult and we are all still working to process this.

With that in mind, I would like to share some silver linings that have come from the historic actions taken to enact HB 2107 that I hope help soften the blow.

Texas has never previously held a committee vote on a whole plant medical cannabis bill. We were able to hold our most powerful and effective hearing yet which ended in a 7-2 vote that we know have on the record for the first time. It is also remarkable to note that the Chair put the bill up for a vote out of turn and knowing he would vote against it. This is not a regular occurrence.

A historic 70+ legislators signed up as coauthors on the bill in the 36 hour periodafter the hearing. 28 of those were Republicans. 4 of the 5 Doctors in the Houseare also included in the coauthor list. We have gone from a handful of legislative supporters to unprecedented numbers! Numbers that would have given HB 2107 the votes to pass. So we must diligently work to keep each one of these allies.

With that many legislators vested, safe access to medical cannabis becomes a significant campaign talking point. It will be important the we check back in on the basics when the interim begins and prepare for the most important campaign season of medical cannabis’ history. We will of course have a new Texas NORML Marijuana Policy Voter Guide and Voting Appendix.

It is important that we keep our lobbying efforts alive and sustain the work we are doing at the Capitol and across the state. There will be major opportunities in front of us that we must be ready to capitalize on.

We learned a lot. We are carbon pressed to diamonds. We must continue to slice away at prohibition!

Please take a moment to CALL or EMAIL your support for HB 81, so that we can work to remove the criminal penalty for possession of one ounce or less! It is imperative that we accomplish this by midnight on Thursday, the day the bill is scheduled.

Jax Finkel

Executive Director
Texas NORML
The problem is the law, not the plant.
Re-legalize!

Weekly Legislative Update 5/6/17

revolutionbumperWelcome to this week’s edition of the NORML legislative roundup!

The biggest story this week in the marijuana world was the inclusion of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer language (Section 537) in the omnibus spending package to prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with lawful state-regulated medical marijuana consumers and businesses.

In a signing statement by President Trump, expressed that he “will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed” when it comes to Section 537. The lack of clarity is disturbing and casts doubt on whether his administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions will honor the enforcement restrictions. In the past, the courts have upheld this tactic of Congress legislating through the appropriations process, however it will ultimately take a bill to end this tension between the federal and state laws, not just temporary spending riders.

Marijuana Big Talks Speaker Lineup FINAL 5.3 copyAlso this week, Representative Jared Polis held an event in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building solely focused on marijuana policy. Speakers included Boulder County D.A. Stan Garnett and former Colorado NORML Executive Director Rachel Gillette.

For the whole morning, the halls of Rayburn echoed with the words of cannabis reformers declaring the need for sensible policies on marijuana ranging from the need for 280E tax reform to an end to the delusional thought that a southern boarder wall will stop the drug trade.

At the state level, this has been a very active week for marijuana reformers as additional states near the end of their legislative calendars. Progress has been made from Texas moving forward to establish a medical marijuana program to Vermont inching closer towards outright legalization. Yet with the end of the Florida legislative session, the House and Senate were unable to come to a compromise as how to implement Amendment 2 and now the rule making process will be left up to the Florida Department of Health.

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.

Thanks for all you do and keep fighting,
Justin

Priority Alerts

Federal

Join The Caucus: With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) earlier this year formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.

Click here to email your Member of Congress to urge them to join the newly created Congressional Cannabis Caucus

New Hampshire

After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 may finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized.

HB 640, sponsored by 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats, will amend criminal penalties for marijuana possession is pending in the House, where lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported such efforts for eight years in a row. However, legislators this year are hopeful that, for the first time, they also have sufficient votes to also clear the Senate.

Update: Governor Chris Sununu has reiterated his support for decriminalizing marijuana.

NH resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers telling them to act on decriminalization this year. 

Texas

Legislation to authorize the possession, production, and distribution of medical marijuana and marijuana-infused products to qualified patients. Patients would receive cannabis through a network of private dispensaries and operators, similar to pharmacies, regulated under “strict guidelines” by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Update: HB 2107 had a hearing on May 2 and after powerful targeted testimony, the number of cosponsors for the bill jumped from 5 to 75. Later in the week, the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Public Health approved HR 2107 on May 5 by a vote of 7-2. The bill will now be considered by the Calendars Committee to determine the date of the full House vote.

TX resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers and tell them to support the bill. 

Vermont

Legislation is pending, H.170, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults.

Update: The Senate has passed on May 5 an unrelated bill (S. 22) to include the provisions of H. 170. It maintains House approved language eliminating penalties for the possession and cultivation of personal use amounts of marijuana by July 2018, but also creates a new Marijuana Regulation Commission, to draft legislation by November 1, 2017 that “establishes a comprehensive regulatory and revenue system for an adult-use marijuana market that, when compared to the current illegal marijuana market, increases public safety and reduces harm to public health.” The commission’s bill would be ready for a vote by January 2018.

VT resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers and urge them to take swift action to pass the bill. 

Additional Actions to Take

Colorado

State officials in Colorado are considering legislation, SB 192, to protect the state’s adult use marijuana industry in case of a potential federal crackdown.

The bill would permit adult use growers and sellers to instantly reclassify their recreational marijuana inventory as medical marijuana “based on a business need due to a change in local, state, or federal law or enforcement policy.” In recent weeks, officials from the Trump administration have indicated that they may consider taking action against recreational marijuana providers, but that they will not likely move against state-licensed medical marijuana providers.

Update: House members approved SB 192 on May 3 by a vote of 58 to 5. Because of House amendments, the bill returns to the Senate, which must either re-approve the measure or seek reconciliation.

CO resident? Click here to contact your elected officials in support of this effort.

Louisiana

SB 35, introduced by Sen. Yvonne Colomb, provides explicit exemptions from arrest and prosecution for persons lawfully in possession of medical marijuana.

Presently, state regulators are finalizing rules and regulations governing its nascent medical cannabis program, which seeks to permit the production, dispensing, and use of non-herbal preparations of cannabis for qualified patients. Passage of SB 36 amends various criminal statutes to assure that those involved in the program are not inadvertently subject to criminal liability.

Specifically, it provides immunity from arrest for those enrolled in the program who engage in activities related to the purchase or transportation of medical marijuana related products or paraphernalia. It provides further legal protections for pharmacies, producers, and testing laboratories engaged in medical cannabis related activities.

Update: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted without opposition to move SB 35 to the Senate floor.

LA resident? Click here to contact your elected officials in support of this effort.

Maine

Legislation is pending to expedite the retail sale of marijuana products to those over the age of 21.

LD 1448 and LD 1491 would permit licensed medical cannabis dispensaries the opportunity to “sell limited marijuana retail products to a person who is 21 years of age or older.”

A majority of voters in November approved an initiated measure to permit the possession, production, and retail sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products. However, emergency legislation signed into law in January delays the implementation of regulations overseeing the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana until at least February 1, 2018.

Passage of these measures would allow dispensaries to engage in marijuana sales ahead of this date.

ME resident? Click here to contact your elected officials in support of this effort.

New Hampshire

Multiple bills are pending before lawmakers to expand the pool of patients eligible to qualify for medical marijuana therapy.

In particular, these measures would permit patients with conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress to obtain legal access to marijuana.

Update: Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on May 4 passed HB 160 out of Committee.

NH resident? Click here to contact your elected officials in support of this effort.

New York

Legislation is moving forward, A. 7006, to allow patients with post-traumatic stress eligible for medical cannabis therapy.

New York is one of the only states with a medical marijuana program that does not allow patients with PTSD access to medical cannabis.

Update: The New York Assembly passed A 7006 on May 2. The bill now awaits action by the Senate. Governor Andrew Cuomo says that he is open to expanding the state’s medical cannabis program to include patients with PTSD.

NY resident? Click here to urge your lawmakers to support this effort.

Vermont

If approved, SB 16 would permit physicians for the first time to recommend medical marijuana to patients with post-traumatic stress, Crohn’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease. The measure also allows physicians to immediately issue medical cannabis recommendations for patients suffering from cancer, a terminal illness, or under hospice care supervision.

Update: Members of the House gave preliminary approval SB 16 on May 1. Once a final vote is recorded, the measure will be transmitted to the Governor’s office.

VT resident? Click here to urge the Governor to sign SB 16.

Impactful and Heartfelt Hearing Creates Historic Support for Texas Medical Cannabis Bill

By Jax Finkel
Executive Director, Texas NORML

Late in the evening on Tuesday, May 2nd, the House Public Health Committee held a hearing for HB 2107 which would make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive for patients with debilitating medical conditions. Many patients stayed late into the evening to provide powerful and emotional testimony. After a powerful hearing with targeted testimony, the authors for the bill jumped from 5 to 75! This is historic and unprecedented in Texas.

TX resident? Please participate in this action to encourage Chairman Price to hold a vote on HB 2107!

Veterans demanded access for service related disabilities. Doctors spoke to the efficacy and safety profile of cannabis. 66 testimonies were offered in support. 187 registered in support. There was only one verbal opposition. It is TBD if there were more registered against not testifying as the full witness list has not been released yet.

Continue to support Texas NORML’s work at the Capitol!

 We are very happy to see that our coordination with the authors and committee members has paid of so well. We appreciated all the speakers that were invited to speak and came to share their story. Thank you to the authors, committee members, staffers, our team and coalition and to all who advocate!

Watch the hearing, which starts at 2:33:44.

Watch Kara’s story which inspired Rep Lucio III to carry the bill.

Please support the important work we are doing in Texas by becoming a sustaining donormaking a donation or becoming a Texas NORML member.

Grassroots Activism Fuels Marijuana Law Reforms in the Lone Star State

10253989_10152787252362360_1345699000664750724_nFor marijuana activists in Texas, the road to reforming marijuana laws has not been easy.

With the state legislature only meeting every two years and no ballot initiative process or ability to reform marijuana laws on the local level, activists must put all their time and energy into lobbying state lawmakers in support meaningful reforms.

Although there has been several minor victories this legislative session, some within the Texas state legislature are determined to derail or at the very least, stall any effort to provide ailing patients with access to medical marijuana. But activists like Jax Finkle, Executive Director of Texas NORML and Clif Deuvall, Executive Director of Waco NORML aren’t planning to allow these obstacles to slow their progress.

“With Texas being restricted from using traditional ballot initiatives, it is so imperative that the citizens of Texas engage with the legislators. These connections matter even more when forged during the interim of the Legislative Session,” said Jax Finkle. “In fact, engagement over the two year cycle is so important that we hosted 16 trainings across Texas with curriculum that was targeted based on the part of the cycle it was to enable people to be force multipliers in their areas. As a result, we are seeing even stronger numbers of support in Texas, more action in the legislature and we will see more results unfold over the 85R Legislative Session.”

Over the last three years, Jax has worked tirelessly with more than a dozen local NORML chapters to grow their annual lobby day from just a few dozen to more than 375 participants. From El Paso to Beaumont and Amarillo to McAllen, supporters of marijuana legalization from all over Texas continue to show they’re ready, willing, and able to fight for what they believe in.

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“The advocacy and educational opportunities which arise give way to understanding of the issue and the legislative process,” said Clif Deuvall. “In Texas, I’ve seen Lobby Day attendance rise from a handful to several hundred in a few years. These individuals, encompassing a variety of demographics and locations across the state, have created a strong grassroots coalition.”

With this new strategy of facilitating statewide trainings for grassroots volunteers, supporters of marijuana law reforms can be certain NORML members across Texas are fighting daily to end marijuana prohibition.

“The message has become more cohesive in an effort to provide the clear understanding of the overall needs of Texascannabis consumers,” added Deuvall. “It is through efforts, such as a lobby day, Texans have seen steady progress in cannabis reform across the state.”

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Next up, members and volunteers with Texas NORML and affiliate chapters will be focusing their attention on HB-2107 which is scheduled to be heard by the Health Committee on Tuesday, May 2nd. If passed, HB 2107 would make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive for patients with debilitating medical conditions.

TAKE ACTION: Contact Texas lawmakers to urge them to support House Bill 2107 by clicking here! Texan patients deserve safe and legal access to medical cannabis just as 30 other states currently provide.

For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in the Lone Star State, follow Texas NORML by visiting their website, Facebook page, and Twitter!

Supporters of Marijuana Legalization Rally in Easton’s Centre Square

10917798_556577754478075_8539327547197949760_oFor more than three decades, supporters of marijuana legalization have gathered in cities across the country on 4/20 to celebrate all things marijuana, and to protest the federal government’s failed War on Drugs. From what started as a loosely organized group of people protesting federal marijuana laws, has now grown into a nationally recognized movement, and now, a day of action.

To continue this tradition, members of Lehigh Valley NORML organized the 4/20 March on Easton; an effort to highlight the need for marijuana law reforms on the local and state level. With Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. and more than a hundred supporters on hand, Jeff Reidy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML and his colleagues provided educational materials to attendees and spoke about several marijuana bills being considered by state lawmakers.

“This year’s March was an announcement that we plan to press our policy-makers, offer up facts, and influence change in our community and across this state,” said Jeff Reidy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML. More than 100 attended the event, both young and old, meandering about Centre Square, holding signs and sharing the moment, while celebrating the leaf.”

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With marijuana decriminalization measures adopted in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg and recent comments by Philadelphia’s Mayor Jim Kenney and Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to end marijuana prohibition in the Commonwealth, advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances in Eaton

“We are grateful for our community of supporters here in the Lehigh Valley, but know we need to grow that support and strengthen our voice, in order to effect change,” added Reidy. “The fight continues, but damn, this is one 4/20 I will long remember.”

TAKE ACTION: Contact Pennsylvania lawmakers and urge them to support House Bill 928 by clicking here!

Read more here: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/easton/index.ssf/2017/04/420_rally_in_easton_keeps_it_l.html

For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Lehigh Valley NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page!

Pennsylvania Marijuana Activists Continue to Push the Issue

15134788_1361964283815279_7643241837130367190_nHundreds of marijuana law reform advocates from across Pennsylvania gathered last week at the state capitol to express their support for marijuana legalization and also to express concerns regarding the future of the state’s limited medical cannabis program. The event was coordinated by local reform groups Pittsburgh NORML, Philly NORML, and the Keystone Cannabis Coalition to raise awareness about marijuana laws in the Commonwealth.

“On Wednesday dedicated activists from across the Commonwealth gathered in Harrisburg, our state capitol, to demand the end of criminal prohibition for cannabis possession,” said Patrick Nightingale, executive director of Pittsburgh NORML. “Speakers decried the waste of law enforcement resources while the Commonwealth is in the midst of a true opioid crisis.”

Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale kicked of the event with a powerful speech that electrified the hundreds of pro-legalization activists who gathered in the capitol rotunda. In addition to highlighting the many failures of marijuana prohibition, AG DePasquale also encouraged state lawmakers to consider options for a statewide solution such as decriminalization or outright legalization.

“We have a real and legitimate political voice in Harrisburg. Gone are the days of closed doors and whispered insults,” said Nightingale. “Now more and more of our elected leaders know that we are on the right side of history and that the ruinous and racist legacy of cannabis prohibition must end.”

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While local governments in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg have each approved measures to reduce the penalty for personal possession of marijuana from jail time to a simple fine, state lawmakers have been more apprehensive on the issue. But advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances.

“While PA’s conservative legislature may not be prepared to make the jump to full legalization, there is growing bipartisan support for statewide decriminalization with a Republican sponsored bill headed to Committee on Monday,” added Nightingale.

TAKE ACTION: Contact Pennsylvania lawmakers and urge them to support House Bill 928 by clicking here!

Read more here: http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news/auditor-general-speaks-at-harrisburg-marijuana-rally-in-support-of/article_a546ae06-2605-11e7-93c5-177c718a0193.html

For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Pittsburgh NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page!

This 4/20, Demand To End Prohibition, Again.

image420actionIt’s that time of the year again. Long recognized as the national marijuana holiday, April 20th presents us with an opportunity to make our voices heard: 

Click here to sign up for the Online Day of Action

When Jeff Sessions was nominated Attorney General, NORML worked with all of you to send out a “Thunderclap,” a powerful social media tool that enabled us to reach more than 2 million people with our #JustSayNoToSessions campaign. While we were unable to stop Sessions from being confirmed, he did hear the message loud and clear. Just last week, he said:

“When they nominated me for Attorney General, you would have thought the biggest issue in America was when I said, ‘I don’t think America’s going to be a better place if they sell marijuana at every corner grocery store, (People) didn’t like that; I’m surprised they didn’t like that.

Now, with the establishment of the Cannabis Caucus and the introduction of the Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, we must make every member of Congress feel the same pressure.

NORML has been in this fight for over 47 years because we believe that responsible adults who choose to consume marijuana should not be be persecuted or stigmatized. Despite our recent victories, the forces of the prohibition-industrial complex remain strong and the government’s marijuana misinformation campaign that has spanned from Reefer Madness to D.A.R.E. is still deeply entrenched. However, just as we have for decades, we will fight on and not be deterred.

We must continue to educate our legislators and neighbors alike. That is why on this 4/20 we are calling upon Americans to contact their members of Congress and say “Enough is Enough” to marijuana prohibition

Q&A with Houston NORML

10457838_1496853423881548_3582533077732459054_nNational NORML recently asked Cara Bonin, executive director of Houston NORML, a few questions about their involvement with the recent decision by DA Ogg to decriminalize marijuana in Harris County. Her response became an interview worthy of a blog post in itself. Enjoy!

NORML: What was Houston NORML’s involvement  if any in the decision by DA Og to decriminalize marijuana in Harris County?
Cara: Houston NORML has been backing Kim Ogg over the past two district attorney races. Incumbent Devon Anderson was appointed by Governor Rick Perry (R) on September 26, 2013, to succeed her husband, Mike Anderson, who died on August 31, 2013. She naturally became the incumbent in the 2014 race. Kim Ogg immediately made one of her campaign points to discuss marijuana policy reform in Texas. This was such a popular idea that it forced Devon Anderson to then campaign on a similar promise to change the way the county handled misdemeanor marijuana cases. Anderson won the election and implemented a the first chance program which was a very weak version of what Kim Ogg had campaigned on. The program had proven successful and data showed that it was getting results. Despite her loss, Ogg still stayed active in the Houston community, speaking at NORML events and even made it to Austin to testify in favor of decriminalization bills in the Texas house during the 2015 legislative session. Houston NORML supported the Kim Ogg campaign in 2016 and hosted a forum on live television showcasing Ogg’s plan for re-prioritizing marijuana cases in the county. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ap-4ylqY9sM
NORML: Has a decrease in marijuana arrests allowed Houston NORML to focus more on local and state legislation and activism and less on support and legal advice to people being arrested and prosecuted for possession?
Cara: The program has barely been in place one month. It is a huge relief to know we no longer have to focus on our county. We have the best policy in state thanks to the cooperation of the Harris County sheriff, DA, Houston Police Chief and dozens of other local policing agencies. We are now focusing on getting bills passed in the Texas legislative session.
NORML: What are some of the new goals and challenges of Houston NORML post decriminalization? What has changed? What hasn’t?
Cara: We are currently funneling all resources on reforming laws at the state level. Since the program has only been in place one month there are not a lot of statistics to share. Many of the surrounding counties have already spoken out in opposition to Ogg’s program. I live in Katy which is a tri-county city. Waller and Ft Bend county officials wanted to make it clear that it is business as usual when it comes to their arresting policies. A spokesman for the Lt Governor’s office claimed that Houston will become a sanctuary city for drug dealers and illegal immigrants. The Montgomery County DA came out in opposition the day before Ogg even announced the details of her program. They proudly show off their ignorance with such arrogance. It is proof that we still have a lot of work to do locally and state wide to change the opinions of policy makers and enforcers. For more detailed information on the Harris County Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program please visit the following site: https://app.dao.hctx.net/OurOffice/MMDP.aspx. I hope this helps.
NORML: Yes it does. Thank you Cara and Houston NORML for a job well done! And a special thanks to Corpus Christi NORML for gaining cooperation with Rep. Todd Hunter R-Corpus Christi to support HB81 who chairs the Calendar Committee!
Texans Take Action:
https://ballotpedia.org/Calendars_Committee,_Texas_House_of_Representatives
http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=19633

For more updates on local reform efforts, follow Houston NORML by visiting their website and on Facebook and Twitter!

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