Court Case Highlights Need For Continued Federal Protections

3410000930_95fc2866fa_zLast week, a US District Court blocked federal prosecutors from continuing a case against a medical marijuana cultivation company as a result of the current, albeit limited, congressional protections from the Department of Justice.

LA Weekly reported:

Humboldt County growers Anthony Pisarski and Sonny Moore had already pleaded guilty to federal allegations (conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute) but sought an evidentiary hearing based on legislation, first enacted in 2014, that prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice from cracking down on cannabis suspects who are otherwise following their state laws. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment is a budget rider, co-authored by SoCal U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, that prevents enforcement and prosecution in medical marijuana states by stripping funding for such endeavors.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg on Tuesday stayed the prosecution, so the case is closed unless the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment expires and fails to be re-enacted and federal prosecutors want to resume their case. The defendants’ Beverly Hills attorney, Ronald Richards, says: “This is the first time in my 23-year career I’ve had a case stopped because of an appropriations rider.

“What the court did in this case may be used as a blueprint for other cases,” he says. “It opens the door for people not to get scared.”

In response to this verdict, California NORML Executive Director Dale Gieringer said, “It’s significant that a federal court ruled that people targeted by feds and in compliance with California’s medical marijuana laws ruled in the defendants’ favor.”

The Judge’s verdict was predicated on a previous ruling, United States v. McIntosh, a Ninth Circuit decision last year that upheld a medical marijuana defense for those facing federal prosecution in lawful medical states.

“This is the first case I’m aware of where McIntosh was cited and used to full effect,” continued Gieringer.

On July 27, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee to maintain this protection for lawful medical marijuana programs from the Department of Justice.

You can send a message to your Representative to support this language in the House by clicking HERE. 

 

Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2017

mj_researchRepresentatives Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD-01), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19) introduced H.R. 3391: The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2017.

This Act amends the federal law to facilitate clinical investigations involving the use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products.

As you may know, there are many benefits to medical cannabis. Those suffering from PTSD, Tourette’s Syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, and many other debilitating conditions have found relief because of medical marijuana.  

But, despite the fact that over 200 million Americans now have legal access to some form of medical marijuana, present regulations make clinical investigations involving cannabis needlessly onerous. Passage of this measure would expedite federal reviews of clinical protocols, provide greater access to scientists who wish to study the drug, and mandate an FDA review of the relevant science.

Please click HERE to contact your Representative and urge him/her to support this important measure.

 

Opioid Commission To Trump: Declare Emergency, Ignore Science

Per The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s commission on the opioid crisis asked him Monday to declare a national emergency to deal with the epidemic.

The members of the bipartisan panel called the request their “first and most urgent recommendation.”

Mr. Trump created the commission in March, appointing Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to lead it. The panel held its first public meeting last month and was supposed to issue an interim report shortly afterward but delayed doing so until now. A final report is due in October.

The initial recommendations are completely silent to the fact that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, and opioid-related overdose deaths.

Chris Christie, sitting Governor of New Jersey until Jan. 17, 2018

Chris Christie, sitting Governor of New Jersey until Jan. 17, 2018

Over the last two months, over 8,000 voters contacted the Office of National Drug Control Policy commission, chaired by marijuana prohibitionist Chris Christie, with their personal stories and the relevant science to encourage the group to support medical marijuana as part of the approach to reduce the tragic effects of the opioid crisis. This effort was undertaken both by NORML and Marijuana Majority.

Governor Christie has zero percent credibility on drug policy, or any other policy, for that matter,” Erik Altieri, Executive Director of NORML said to Forbes of Christie at the time of his appointment to head the commission.

Nonetheless, this administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has continued to express skepticism with regard to the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana. Now, we now know that the President’s opioid commission is not interested in real solutions, but rather more empty rhetoric.

We have until October until the final report is to be issued.

Click here to send a message to the ONDCP commission to yet again tell them the facts and if you have one, please share your personal on how marijuana is a safer alternative to opioids. 

 

Missouri: Marijuana Medicalization Effort Reaches Signature Milestone

namlogoblueProponents of a Missouri voter initiative effort to legalize and regulate the therapeutic use and distribution of cannabis statewide have gathered over 50,000 signatures over the past several weeks. Advocates must collect a total of 160,000 signatures by May 6, 2018 in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 electoral ballot.

The initiative permits patients, at the discretion of a physician, to cultivate limited quantities of marijuana or to obtain cannabis and cannabis-infused products from licensed facilities.

The group behind the effort, New Approach Missouri, includes members of both national NORML as well as its state and local affiliates. To date, the signature gathering effort has largely consisted of volunteers.

Proponents sought to place a similar effort on the 2016 ballot. That effort failed after the courts upheld the decision of St. Louis-area election authorities to reject some 2,000 signatures in the state’s second Congressional district.

Marijuana law reform advocates are also presently gathering signatures for voter-initiated efforts in Michigan and Utah. A statewide initiative legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Oklahoma has already qualified for the 2018 electoral ballot.

Senate Committee Passes Amendment To Protect Medical Marijuana

Senator Patrick Leahy

Senator Patrick Leahy

Today, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee to protect lawful medical marijuana programs from the Department of Justice.

Initially enacted by Congress in 2014, the amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Last August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the language bars the federal government from taking legal action against any individual involved in medical marijuana-related activity absent evidence that the defendant is in clear violation of state law.

The decision to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment language by the Senate committee illustrates both compassion and common sense when it comes to marijuana policy. Now, the majority of states and over 90 percent of the public approves of the use of marijuana as a medicine and Congress should not stand in the way of these reforms.

Whether or not the House of Representatives will take a vote on the amendment is unclear. They did not include its language in the version of the 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill that passed the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month. Last year, the amendment passed on the floor of the House by a vote of 242-186.

Although the amendment was reauthorized by Congress in May as part of a short term spending package, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been aggressively lobbying leadership to ignore the provisions. President Trump also issued a signing statement objecting to the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer provision.

You can send a message to your Representative to support this language in the House by clicking HERE. 

 

Vote Expected Tomorrow On Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuanaTomorrow, the Senate Appropriations Committee will have to decide: Will they protect our nation’s 2 million lawful medical marijuana patients or subject them to the wrath of Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

The amendment they will be debating, known as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, simply prevents the United States Department of Justice from spending any of our tax dollars enforcing federal marijuana prohibition against the 30 states which have now, or are in the process of, implementing a medical cannabis system.

Tell your Senators to protect patients by supporting the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment

There is NO moral reason to punish qualified patients and veterans from accessing marijuana for its therapeutic effects. Recently released data has revealed that the enactment of medical cannabis access is associated with lower rates of opioid abuse and mortality, and does not negatively impact workplace safety, teen use rates, or motor vehicle safety.

Yet, in a letter to members of Congress on May 1, Sessions demanded the end of Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, citing: “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

This is the delusional leadership we have coming out of the Justice Department. A man who equates those suffering from PTSD, cancer, AIDS, and other dire medical conditions to members of violent drug cartels.

We cannot allow Jeff Sessions to be the only one communicating with Congress. SEND A MESSAGE TO YOUR SENATORS NOW.

House Committee Blocks Veterans Equal Access Amendments

3410000930_95fc2866fa_zTwo weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the Veterans Equal Access amendment, introduced by Senator Daines (R-MT) as part of the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which would expand much needed medical marijuana access to our nation’s veterans.

Yet House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) decided that he did not want the full House to be able to vote on this critical amendment.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the amendments lead sponsor, testified before the committee that it was “a critical area of literally life and death.”

Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction on a scale of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy. This is why, in recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups — AMVETS and the American Legion —  have resolved in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.

Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 MilCon-VA bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.

It is time that lawmakers stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass and enact this amendment. There is still the possibility of the Senate’s amendment making it through the conference committee so make your voice heard.

You can send a message to your elected officials in support of veterans having access to medical marijuana by clicking HERE.

WATCH: Marijuana in the Halls of Congress

Yesterday, NORML moderated a Facebook Congressional Conversation on marijuana law reform with Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Tom Garrett, Beto O’Rourke, and Justin Amash.

We discussed a wide range of issues including the needless burden of the federal driver’s license suspension mandate, access to medical marijuana, racial injustice, and pending bipartisan legislation to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

WATCH NOW:

Share on Facebook  |  Share on Twitter

The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color. Only when lawmakers speak honestly about the effects of prohibition and the senseless burdens it imposes on our communities will we be able to win substantial reform.

“At a time when 29 states and the District of Columbia have made the decision to regulate the sale and use of marijuana, we should rethink how the federal government approaches this drug. Our current approach to marijuana prevents legitimate medical use, fills our prisons with nonviolent offenders and continues to fuel drug violence,” said Representative Beto O’Rourke in a statement promoting the event.

In our continued effort to educate the lawmakers and the public, events like this will be able to open the eyes of those who have willfully ignored the issue.

NORML chapters throughout the country are working to advance legalization in state legislatures and, with your support, National NORML will continue to up the pressure in Washington, DC.

Click here to share the video through your networks and support efforts like this in the future. 

 

Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Patients’ Afforded Workplace Protections, High Court Rules

marijuana_gavelState-registered medical cannabis patients may sue a private employer for discrimination if they are fired for their off-the-job marijuana use, according to a first in the nation ruling issued today by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Opining for the court, Chief Justice Ralph Gants determined that it is “not facially unreasonable” for employers to make exceptions to their substance abuse policies in instances where employees are using cannabis at home to treat a debilitating condition. “The fact that the employee’s possession of medical marijuana is in violation of federal law does not make it per se unreasonable as an accommodation,” he wrote.

The defendant in the case was fired on her first day on the job for testing positive for carboxy-THC on a company drug test. The former employee possessed a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis to treat symptoms of Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Qualified patients may legally obtain cannabis in Massachusetts under a 2012 voter-initiated law.

The unanimous verdict reverses a lower court decision and is contrary to rulings in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. In each of those states, the supreme courts ruled that employees had no legal protections if they were fired without cause for their state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.

“Patients should never have to choose between their heath and their job and for the first time, a court has acknowledged that they shouldn’t have to do so,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions begin to apply this same rationale to patients as well as to all adults who are using cannabis responsibly off-the-job in compliance with the laws of their states.”

The case is Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing LLC.

Senate Committee Overwhelmingly Passes Veterans Equal Access Amendment

Marijuana medicineToday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the Veterans Equal Access amendment as part of the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which would expand much needed medical marijuana access to our nation’s veterans.

Presently, V.A. doctors in states where cannabis therapy is permitted are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a medical cannabis recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician.

Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction on a scale of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy. This is why, in recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups — AMVETS and the American Legion —  have resolved in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.

The amendment was introduced by Senator Daines, R-Montana for the second year in a row. Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.

The 24-7 roll call was an increase over last years 20-10 appropriations passage. The changes came from Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) all voting “aye” after having voted against the effort last year and both new members of the committee, Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) voting in favor.

Identical language is expected to receive a vote in the House later this year. Keep an eye on NORML’s Act page for that and other changes.

Tell the Senate to Expand Veterans’ Access to Medical Cannabis

Medical marijuana

 

Update: The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the amendment as part of the 2018 MilCon-VA bill. It is expected that an identical amendment will be introduced in the future in the House. 

This Wednesday, July 12th, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee will convene to discuss the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. This legislative debate provides lawmakers with the opportunity to expand much needed medical marijuana access to our nation’s veterans.

Presently, V.A. doctors in states where cannabis therapy is permitted are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a medical cannabis recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. This issue can be solved by the approval of the Veterans Access Amendment, which ends these cruel and unnecessary restrictions on V.A. doctors and their patients.

Send a message to your Senators NOW demanding equal access for veterans.

Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. We must not allow a similar outcome again this year.

Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction on a scale of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy. This is why, in recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups — AMVETS and the American Legion —  have resolved in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.

Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.

Write your Senator RIGHT NOW and urge them to support the Veterans Equal Access Amendment!

Thanks for all you do,
The NORML Team

P.S. Have you gotten your ticket for the 2017 NORML D.C. Conference and Lobby yet? Click here to register and come to Washington, DC September 10th-12th. 

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.

Setting The Record Straight

ReThink the LeafOne of NORML’s primary missions is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults. One of the ways we successfully achieve this goal is by debunking marijuana myths and half-truths via the publication of timely op-eds in online and print media. Since the mainstream media seldom casts a critical eye toward many of the more over-the-top claims about cannabis, we take it upon ourselves to set the record straight.

The majority of NORML’s rebuttals are penned by Deputy Director Paul Armentano. In the past few weeks, he has published numerous op-eds rebuking a litany of popular, but altogether specious claims about the cannabis plant.

Below are links to a sampling of his recent columns.:

“Cannabis mitigates opioid abuse — the science says so”
in Santa Fe New Mexican

“Is big alcohol taking a hit from legal weed?”
in Salon

“Can marijuana help mitigate America’s opioid crisis?”
in The Hill

“The Deputy Attorney General is ignorant to the science of medical marijuana”
in The Daily Caller

“The DEA says ‘marijuana is not medicine’ — reality says otherwise”
in The Hill

For a broader sampling of NORML-centric columns and media hits, please visit NORML’s ‘In the Media’ archive here.

If you see the importance of NORML’s educational and media outreach efforts, please feel free to show your support by making a contribution here.

Will the House of Representatives Let Jeff Sessions Shut Down Medical Marijuana?


Medical marijuana
This week, the House Appropriations Committee released its 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which determines the funding levels for numerous federal agencies, including the Department of Justice. Predictably, the bill does not include language — known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment — limiting the Justice Department from taking action against state-sanctioned medical cannabis producers, retailers, or consumers.

Although the amendment was reauthorized by Congress in May, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been aggressively lobbying leadership to ignore the provisions. President Trump also issued a signing statement objecting to the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer provision.

Nonetheless, support for the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer protection amendment has only grown in recent years. House members initially passed the amendment as a budgetary rider in 2014 by a vote of 219 to 189. By the following year, 242 House members voted in support of the language.

Yet even with bipartisan support, the text of this amendment has never been included in “the inline text” or “the base bill” of the CJS Appropriations bill. In every case of its passage, lawmakers have needed to add the language as a separate rider to the legislation and then vote on it on the floor of the House.  

This year is no exception. Our allies in Congress anticipate a similar process to take place this fall and they are confident that we will once again be victorious — despite the best efforts of our opponents.

Reps. Blumenauer and Rohrbacher last night in a statement:

“The policy championed by Representatives Blumenauer and Rohrabacher that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering in the ability of states to implement legal medical marijuana laws (previously known as “Rohrabacher-Farr”) has never been included in the base Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Subcommittee Appropriations bill. Rather, in previous years, Congress has amended the base CJS bill to include these protections.

We are exactly where we thought we would be in the legislative process and look forward to amending the underlying bill once again this year to make sure medical marijuana programs, and the patients who rely on them, are protected. Voters in states across the country have acted to legalize medical marijuana. Congress should not act against the will of the people who elected us.”

Thirty states now permit the doctor-authorized use of medical cannabis by statute, and an additional 16 states include statutory protections for the use of CBD. It is hard to imagine a scenario where a majority of lawmakers from these jurisdictions would vote against the best interests of their constituents, given the broad and bipartisan support that the amendment has received in the past.

It has been and will continue to be in politicians’ best interests to protect this progress and to protect voters’ freedoms from the encroachment of Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department.

Click here to send a message to your member urging them to support the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment.

017 which will codify these protections into law so that we no longer have to have these annual budget fights.

 

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