80 Years Ago Today: President Signs First Federal Anti-Marijuana Law

norml_remember_prohibition2Eighty years ago today, on August 2, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt signed House Bill 6385: the Marihuana Tax Act into law. The Act for the first time imposed federal criminal penalties on activities specific to the possession, production, and sale of cannabis.

Congress’ decision followed the actions of 29 states, beginning with Massachusetts in 1914, that had previously passed laws criminalizing the plant over the prior decades. It also followed years of ‘Reefer Madness,’ during which time politicians, bureaucrats (led primarily by Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger), reporters, and science editors continually proclaimed that marijuana use irreparably damaged the brain. A 1933 editorial in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology largely summarized the sentiment of the time, “If continued, the inevitable result is insanity, which those familiar with it describe as absolutely incurable, and, without exception ending in death.”

On April 14, 1937, Rep. Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina introduced HR 6385, which sought to stamp out the recreational use of marijuana by imposing a prohibitive federal tax on all cannabis-related activities. Members of Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of the bill, which largely relied on the sensational testimony of Anslinger — who opined, ”This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.” Over objections from the American Medical Association, whose representatives opposed the proposed federal ban, members of the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure by voice votes.

President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed the legislation into law and on October 1, 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act officially took effect — thus setting in motion the federal prohibition that continues to this day.

0 years of failure. Click here to urge federal leadership to support The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 in the US Senate and click here to support The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 in the US House of Representatives.

Weekly Legislative Update 6/17/17

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

At the Federal level, the biggest news this week was two-fold. First, in a letter made public by Tom Angell of Marijuana Moment, it was revealed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote a private message to Congressional leadership requesting that they lift restrictions on the Department of Justice’s ability to prosecute medical marijuana in states that have legalized. This would overturn years of precedent and could result in the shutdown of lawful state medical programs, depriving patients of the ability to make healthcare decisions with their doctor. This revelation came the day before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before Congress and stated “The question of whether it’s legal under federal law is resolved because Congress has passed a law — it’s illegal. Scientists have found that there’s no accepted medical use for it.”

Which rolls us right into the second biggest Federal development: the reintroduction of the CARERS Act, which would codify protections for lawful state medical programs. Passage of CARERS 2017 would exempt from federal prosecution those who are engaged in the “production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, laboratory testing, recommending use, or delivery of medical marijuana” in instances where these activities comport with state law.

At the state level, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed HB 157 into law on June 16. The law adds “moderate to severe chronic pain” as a qualifying illness for medical cannabis. The new law takes effect in 60 days.

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 Congressional Cannabis Caucus

Protecting Patients: Legislation has been reintroduced in the Senate, The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act of 2017, to strengthen protections for those compliant with their state’s medical marijuana laws and to impose various changes to federal law.

Passage of CARERS 2017 exempts from federal prosecution those who are engaged in the “production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, laboratory testing, recommending use, or delivery of medical marijuana” in instances where these activities comport with state law. Separate provisions in Act exclude cannabdiol from the federal definition of marijuana, permit VA doctors to authorize medical cannabis access to qualified patients, and remove undue federal barriers to clinical trial research to better assess the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis.

Click here to send a message to your Senators urging them to support and possible co-sponsor the CARERS Act of 2017

Maine
Legislation (LD 764) is before Gov. Paul LePage that will prohibit medical cannabis patients from being denied organ transplants.

The measure “prohibits a transplant evaluator from determining a qualifying patient to be unsuitable to receive an anatomical gift solely because the qualifying patient uses medical marijuana.”

ME resident? Click here to send a message to Gov. LePage urging him to sign the bill. 

Massachusetts
Members of the House put forward amendments to The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. Among proposed changes to the law would more than double taxes on retail cannabis sales, from 12 percent to as much as 28 percent, strip local control away from municipal voters and unilaterally give local government officials the power to decide whether or not to ban marijuana facilities in their communities, and restrict the kinds of marijuana edibles products that may be sold and purchased by adults.

MA resident? Send a message to your lawmakers telling them to enact Question 4 as passed in a timely manner. 

 

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

Weekly Legislative Update 5/27/17

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

Republican Gov. Phil Scott rejected legislation earlier this week, Senate Bill 22, which sought to eliminate criminal and civil penalties for the adult use and possession of marijuana. The Governor said that he did not support the legislation as written, but remains open to working with lawmakers over the summer on ways to amend the state’s cannabis policies.

In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan has apparently chosen to not take action on legislation, House Bill 379 / Senate Bill 949 to permit those who received a criminal marijuana possession conviction prior to October 1, 2014, to seek expungement of their records, meaning the bills will go into effect.

Earlier this week, we sent out an update to our members pertaining the to status of cosponsorship to federal legislation. Click here to view it and take action. 

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 Congressional Cannabis Caucus

Colorado
SB 192, to protect the state’s adult use marijuana industry in case of a potential federal crackdown, 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: S. 192 passed the Senate on May 9 and was transmitted to Governor Hickenlooper on May 18. The bill now awaits his signature or veto.

CO resident? Click here to send a message to the Governor urging his signature. 

New Hampshire
Legislation is pending in New Hampshire, HB 215, to establish a commission to study the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.

Police in New Hampshire arrest some 2,900 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of New Hampshire adults, 62 percent of whom now endorse legalizing and regulating cannabis, according to a 2016 WMUR Granite State Poll.

Update: The bill received a favorable Senate committee report on May 25.

NH resident? Click here to send a message to your state Senator to support the bill. 

Minnesota
HF 2714, to amend the Minnesota Constitution to regulate the adult use, cultivation, production, and retail sale of marijuana was introduced May 20.

Earlier in the year, Deputy Minority Leader, State Rep. Jon Applebaum introduced additional legislation, HF 927, to permit the adult use, cultivation, production, and retail sale of marijuana has been introduced in the Minnesota House. Rep Applebaum said in support of his House bill, “The world is changing, and Minnesotans are rightfully developing different attitudes on marijuana. Other states’ successes, along with the failed prohibition attempts of others, have validated the need for a statewide conversation on legalizing the personal, recreational use of marijuana.”

MN resident? Click here to send your lawmakers a message in support of these efforts.

Texas
House Concurrent Resolution (HRC) 149 – Legislation proposed by Texas House Representative Eddie Lucio, III requests that the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House of Representatives create a joint interim committee to study the feasibility of medical cannabis in Texas. While an HRC is not required to hold an interim committee study, passing this Concurrent Resolution will ensure that the study takes place.

TX resident? Send a message to your lawmakers in support of HRC 149. 

 

Washington: Support For Marijuana Policy Reform Surges Post-Legalization

legalization_pollPublic support for marijuana legalization has surged in Washington state in the years following the enactment of legislation permitting the commercial production and retail sale of the plant, according to survey data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Fifty-five percent of voters approved the voter-initiated measure in 2012.

Investigators with the Public Health Institute in California assessed survey data from a geographically representative sample of those ages 18 and older. Survey data was collected every six months between January 2014 and April 2016 in order to assess support trends over time.

Authors reported that respondents’ support for legalization increased from 64 percent to 78 percent over this time period. Public support grew among those in every age group.

National polls similarly show an increase in public support for marijuana legalization following the enactment of such laws in various states.

016,” appears online here.

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.

The National District Attorneys Association Is Lying About Marijuana

Cannabis PenaltiesA recently released white paper published by the National District Attorneys Association is calling for the federal government to strictly enforce anti-cannabis laws in states that have regulated its production and distribution for either medical or recreational purposes.

The working group, which consists of D.A.s and prosecutors from more than a dozen states (including representatives from adult use states like California and Colorado), hopes to influence the Trump administration to set aside the 2013 Cole memorandum. That memorandum, authored by former US Deputy Attorney General James Cole, directs state prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

“To maintain respect for the rule of law, it is essential that federal drug enforcement policy regarding the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of marijuana be applied consistently across the nation,” the NDAA paper concludes.

Predictably, authors repeat numerous falsehoods about marijuana and marijuana policy in an effort to bolster their call for a federal crackdown. Specifically, authors allege that cannabis damages the brain to a far greater extent than alcohol and that statewide regulations have increased young people’s access to the plant. Both claims are demonstrably false.

The NDAA opines, “[Marijuana] is not like alcohol … because alcohol use does not cause the same type of permanent changes to teens’ ability to concentrate and learn.” Yet, well controlled studies dismiss the contention that cannabis exposure causes permanent structural damage to the brain.

Specifically, a 2015 study assessed brain morphology in both daily adult and adolescent cannabis users compared to non-users, with a particular focus on whether any differences were identifiable in the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus, and the cerebellum. Investigators reported “no statistically significant differences … between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest” after researchers controlled for potentially confounding variables. In contrast to marijuana, researchers acknowledged that alcohol “has been unequivocally associated with deleterious effects on brain morphology and cognition in both adults and adolescents.”

The NDAA further claims, “Legalization of marijuana for medical use and recreational use clearly sends a message to youth that marijuana is not dangerous and increases youth access to marijuana.”

But data from the US Centers for Disease control reports that young people’s access to marijuana has fallen by 13 percent since 2002. The agency further reports, “Since 2002, the prevalence of marijuana use and initiation among U.S. youth has declined” – a finding that is consistent with numerous prior studies.

Moreover, state-specific post-legalization data published in March by the Colorado Department of Public Health concludes: “[M]arijuana use, both among adults and among youth, does not appear to be increasing to date. No change was observed in past 30-day marijuana use among adults between 2014 (13.6 percent) and 2015 (13.4 percent). Similarly, there was no statistically significant change in 30-day or lifetime marijuana use among high school students between 2013 (lifetime: 36.9 percent, 30-day: 19.7 percent) and 2015 (lifetime: 38.0 percent, 30-day: 21.2 percent).” 2016 data compiled by Washington State Department of Social and Health Services similarly finds that “rates of teen marijuana use have remained steady” post legalization.

The National District Attorneys Association is the largest and oldest prosecutor organization in the country. Their mission is to be “the voice of America’s prosecutors and strives to support their efforts to protect the rights and safety of the people in their communities.”

The full text of the their paper, entitled “Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors’ Perspective,” is available online here.

Weekly Legislative Update 4/22/17

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

What a week it has been! With our 4/20 Online Day of Action, we have blown past the goals we had set and have now driven over 35,000 messages to Congress on HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017. If you have not yet, do so RIGHT NOW by clicking here. 

This last week, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (D) signed into law the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act — a state-sponsored program that will permit qualified patients to obtain medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries. With the addition of WV, the United States will soon have 30 medical marijuana programs throughout the country.

With the current Federal budget set to expire at the end of next week, it is imperative that Congress reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which protects those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. Send a message to your members of Congress now to protect patients.

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
Protect Patients: 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.

Click here to message your members of Congress to protect state medical marijuana and their patients. 

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

Florida
On November 8th, more than 71 percent of Florida voters decided in favor of the constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, to allow for the licensed production, use, and dispensing of medical cannabis to patients with a doctor’s recommendation. However, state politicians are contemplating legislative efforts to amend the law in a manner that violates both its spirit and intent.

FL resident? Click here to send a message to your elected officials and demand that they support medical marijuana in Florida

Iowa (at Governor)
In a last minute deal by Iowa state lawmakers, both chambers passed HF 524, which would expand the narrow access of CBD with up to 3% THC to patients who have been diagnosed by an Iowa-licensed physician with Parkinson’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures, AIDS and HIV, Crohn’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, as well as most terminal illnesses that have a life expectancy of less than one year and untreatable pain. The bill also sets up a framework for in-state production of the medicine. The bill now goes to Governor Terry Branstad (R) for his signature or veto.

IA resident? Click here to send a message to Gov. Branstad and urge him to sign HF 524

Texas
HB 2200, will provide an affirmative defense regarding medical cannabis that would protect patients, caregivers, and doctors, will be heard on April 24.

Affirmative defense establishes a basic set of facts surrounding marijuana possession cases. If someone with a qualifying medical condition is caught possessing marijuana, an affirmative defense for the individual would likely result in a more lenient punishment.

TX resident? Click here to send a message to your elected officials to support this common sense reform.

Vermont
Members of the Senate voted 21 to 9 on April 21 in favor of an unrelated House bill, H. 167, which Senators had amended to include language to legalize the recreational marijuana market. Other Senate amendments in the bill mimic language in H. 170, which eliminates criminal and civil penalties specific to the possession or cultivation of personal use quantities of cannabis. The amended version of H. 167 now returns to the House for further action.

VT resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers and support legalizing marijuana in Vermont.

Other Actions to Take

Arizona
Legislation is pending, SB 1337, to permit for the licensed production of industrial hemp.

Update: Members of the House Standing Committee and the House Appropriations Committee both passed SB 1337 by votes of 7 to 1 and 12 to 1 respectively.

AZ resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support hemp in Arizona.

California
Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 1578, to try and limit potential federal interference in the state’s marijuana regulatory laws.

The bill states, “This bill would prohibit a state or local agency, as defined, from taking certain actions without a court order signed by a judge, including using agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by law in the State of California and transferring an individual to federal law enforcement authorities for purposes of marijuana enforcement.”

Update: AB 1578 was passed by members of the Public Safety Committee on April 18 by a vote of 5-2.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support 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.

LA resident? Click here to support this common sense legislation. 

Nevada
Senate legislation is pending, SB 236, 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: SB 236 was amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee on 4/12 and it passed as amended.

NV resident? Click here to support marijuana social clubs in Nevada. 

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 April 20 passed HB 157 out of Committee.

NH resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers to support patients. 

Marijuana Legalization Bills Introduced in Canada

legalizationToday, the federal Liberal government of Canada released a slate of proposed bills that would legalize and regulate the commercial sale and adult use of marijuana in the country. The legislation would establish 18 as the minimum legal age to purchase marijuana and would create a legal framework for production, sale, and distribution. The bills were introduced in the House of Commons by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Health Minister Jane Philpott and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freehand.

You can read more details on the proposed legislation HERE.

This sensible approach to marijuana stands in stark contrast to the direction and tone United States President Donald Trump and his administration have been taking on the issue. While the Canadian government is moving in the direction of legalization and regulation, the Trump Administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions seem more intent on reviving outdated and erroneous Drug War rhetoric than allowing science and facts to dictate public policy. The United States should follow Canada’s example and end our own costly and disastrous prohibition on marijuana.

CLICK HERE TO EMAIL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TODAY AND URGE THEM TO END FEDERAL MARIJUANA PROHIBITION

Sessions’ DOJ Reviewing Marijuana Enforcement Policies, Governors Fight Back

arrestedUnited States Attorney General Jeff “Marijuana Consumers Aren’t Good People” Sessions has issued a formal memorandum calling on members of the Justice Department’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety to “undertake a review of existing policies,” including federal enforcement policies with regard to cannabis.

The memo was sent on April 5 to 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices and Department of Justice component heads.

The Attorney General has requested a report back from task force members by no later than July 27th. You can read the full memo here.

The release of this memorandum provides us with a general time frame during which to expect any formal announcements from the new administration with regard to addressing marijuana policy — specifically whether the Justice Department will respect state legalization laws.

In the interim, members of Congress can remove all of the bite from Jeff Sessions’ bark by approving the bipartisan Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which prevents the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

Speaking recently before Congress, Attorney General Sessions said that his job is to enforce federal law. Let’s change federal law to ensure that our reform victories remain in place, and so that we can build upon these victories in the future.

CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IN SUPPORT OF RESPECTING STATE MARIJUANA LAWS.

But while the Justice Department contemplates its next move, state politicians are taking action. In recent days, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the Obama Administration’s largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo.

“Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

Political and social change rarely comes from the top on down, it comes from the bottom up. That is why it is imperative for you to not only contact your federal officials in support of changing policy, but also to continue to push for change at the local and state level.

Click HERE to view pending federal and state legislation and easily contact your elected officials in support of them.

Click HERE to find a local NORML chapter in your area and get involved. NORML Kansas City this week successfully placed marijuana decriminalization on their municipal ballot and saw it pass with 71% support. This is the kind of positive change a group of committed volunteer citizens can bring to their communities.

A people united will never be defeated and together we WILL end marijuana prohibition nationwide.

Marijuana Treated Like Alcohol? Legislation Filed In Senate and House

Legalize marijuanaSenator Ron Wyden and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis have introduced legislation in the House and Senate — The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act — to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. In addition to removing marijuana from the United States Controlled Substances Act, this legislation also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matter concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.

Email your members of Congress now and urge them to support this effort.

“The first time introduction of this particular piece of legislation in the US Senate is another sign that the growing public support for ending our failed war on cannabis consumers nationwide is continuing to translate into political support amongst federal officials,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “With marijuana legalization being supported by 60% of all Americans while Congress’ approval rating is in the low teens, ending our country’s disastrous prohibition against marijuana would not just be good policy, but good politics.”

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for qualified patients, while eight states now regulate the production and sale of marijuana to all adults. An estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters support these policy changes. According to a 2017 Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and 71 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy

“If we are truly going to move our nation towards sensible marijuana policies, the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act is paramount. Annually, 600,000 Americans are arrested for nothing more than the possession of small amounts of marijuana and now is the time for Congress to once and for all end put an end to the national embarrassment that is cannabis prohibition,” said Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director. “Passing this legislation would end the current conflict between state and federal laws and allow the states to implement more sensible and humane marijuana policies, free from the threat of federal incursion.”

These statewide regulatory schemes are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

“The federal government must respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls and allow law-abiding marijuana businesses to go to the bank just like any other legal business.” Senator Ron Wyden said. “This three-step approach will spur job growth and boost our economy all while ensuring the industry is being held to a fair standard.”

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO)

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO)

“Colorado has proven that allowing responsible adults to legally purchase marijuana, gives money to classrooms, not cartels; creates jobs, not addicts; and boosts our economy, not our prison population,” Representative Jared Polis said. “Now, more than ever, it is time we end the federal prohibition on marijuana and remove barriers for states’ that have chosen to legalize marijuana.  This budding industry can’t afford to be stifled by the Trump administration and its mixed-messages about marijuana.  The cannabis industry, states’, and citizens deserve leadership when it comes to marijuana.”

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

“As more states follow Oregon’s leadership in legalizing and regulating marijuana, too many people are trapped between federal and state laws,” Representative Earl Blumenauer said. “It’s not right, and it’s not fair. We need change now – and this bill is the way to do it.”

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.

By contrast, regulating the adult use of marijuana stimulates economic growth, saves lives, and has the support of the majority of the majority of Americans. 

Send a message to your members of Congress urging them to support the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act

Canada: Trudeau Administration Seeking Marijuana Legalization By July 2018

flag_of_canadaThe Trudeau administration is anticipated to introduce legislation in early April to regulate the use, production, and sale of marijuana. In 2015, the Liberal Party pledged to “legalize and regulate” marijuana if Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister.

The forthcoming legislation will likely be modeled after recommendations issued by a federal task force in 2016. Members of the task force called on Parliament to permit those over 18 to possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana, and further recommended lawmakers regulate and tax the commercial cannabis market.

The pending legalization legislation is expected to be introduced the week of April 10, CBC News has reported. Proponents of the measure are seeking to achieve its implementation by July 1, 2018.

Until that time, however, Canadian police are continuing to enforce marijuana prohibition. In recent weeks, police in several Canadian cities – including Toronto and Vancouver – carried out raids of various storefront dispensaries, including those operated by longtime activists Marc and Jodie Emery.

Virginia: Local Focus, Nationwide Impact

By Daniel Rouleau, Communications Director of Virginia NORML

VANORMLIn the first quarter of 2017, the reform efforts of Virginia NORML laid a framework for exciting changes in the Commonwealth’s cannabis policies. As spring blooms, conversations are blossoming in municipalities across the state challenging the status quo of criminally prosecuting misdemeanor possession in favor of civil fines. And we’re leading the charge not only at home in Virginia, but in Congress as well. As Virginia NORML continues its mission to reform marijuana laws, our efforts must target all three fronts, federal, state and local.  

Federal Changes from Virginia Conservatives
Three bills have been introduced by Virginia congressmen that would significantly reform the current federal policy of prohibition. Rep. Griffin (R-VA) from the 9th district introduced the Legitimate Use of Medical Marijuana Act and the Compassionate Access Act. Both would reschedule marijuana from its current Schedule 1 classification, and include protections for state programs.

Rep. Garrett (R-VA) from the 5th district introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, and Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA) from the 2nd quickly cosponsored. This bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act altogether, allowing states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference. This legislation was carried by Sen. Sanders in the previous session, and now, conservative lawmakers from Virginia are marching down the same path. Make no mistake, that is because they were lobbied by Virginia families desperate for medical reform, both in our statehouse and DC.

VAreps

VA Reps Griffin, Garrett, and Taylor 

Emergence of a New Regulated Cannabis Industry
In a watershed moment, the Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed a bill to regulate the in-state growth, production, and distribution of cannabis oil. Virginia NORML is closely monitoring the licensing process to ensure the agreed upon regulations are implemented swiftly and with patient safety and access of primary concern. Currently, the regulations only allow access to patients with intractable epilepsy. We are already hard at work with legislators preparing for expansion legislation in 2018 that will #LetDoctorsDecide which of their patients they would recommend medical cannabis to, just as they already do with all other medications.

You can join our patient coalition at Cannabis Commonwealth if you’d like to stand with us in the fight for all Virginian’s rights to access safe, regulated medical cannabis.

Local Efforts for Decriminalization
Grassroots. This word is spoken often, on every channel, by both parties. Why? Because it works. An old cliché says “80% of success is showing up.” If you want to see decriminalization succeed in Virginia, you have to show up. Get to your City Council now. Prior to each General Assembly, councils prepare their legislative packages, policy wish lists that they draft based on community input. Any resident can sign up to speak before their council on issues important to them during the public comment period of any meeting. Ask your council to include a request for decriminalization and/or doctor-recommended medical cannabis in their 2018 package.

Virginia operates under the Dillon Rule, which means municipalities cannot decriminalize, but they can deprioritize. City councils can direct their police departments to place the lowest level of priority on arresting adults for simple possession. And, Commonwealth Attorneys, which like city council are elected positions, are already empowered to refuse prosecuting misdemeanor possession charges, leaving resources available to prosecute violent crimes and felonies. Showing up is the first step in achieving any of these reforms!

Spring Into Action
Ready to do more but don’t know where to start? Get involved with your local Virginia NORML chapter, or check to see if your area has a Decriminalize movement, like Decriminalize Norfolk or Decriminalize Virginia Beach. If there is no group in your area, please contact us for help kickstarting the conversation in your hometown. Speakers, training, data, and procedural assistance are available through Virginia NORML to power your community’s journey to safer marijuana policies.

Follow Virginia NORML on Facebook and Twitter. You can learn more at http://www.vanorml.org/ and support their work at vanorml.org/donate

Polling: Voters Support Marijuana Law Reform By Record Numbers

Record numbers of voters support regulating the marijuana market and oppose federal efforts to interfere or undermine state laws permitting the plant’s use or sale, according to nationwide polling data released today by Quinnipiac University.

Ninety-three percent of voters — including 96 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans — support “allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes,” the highest total ever reported in a national poll. Among those respondents older than 65 years of age, 92 percent endorsed legalizing medical marijuana.

Fifty-nine percent of voters similarly support making the adult use of marijuana legal in the United States. That total is in line with recent polling data compiled by Gallup in 2016 which reported that 60 percent of US adults support legalization — a historic high. Respondents who identified as Democrats (72 percent) were most likely to support legalization. Fifty-eight percent of Independents also expressed support, but only 35 percent of Republicans did so. Among the various age groups polled, only those over the age of 65 failed to express majority support for legalization.

Finally, 71 percent of respondents say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.” This percentage is the highest level of support ever reported with regard to limiting the federal government from interfering in statesmarijuana policies.

The rising support may provide a boost for pending federal legislation, HR 975: The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which prevents the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana. You can urge your members of Congress to support this act by clicking here.

The Quinnipiac University poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.

So We Have Attorney General Sessions – What’s Next For Marijuana?

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Despite historic opposition, members of the United States Senate voted 52 to 47 last week to approve the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for US Attorney General.

NORML thanks the tens of thousands of you who responded to our action alerts opposing this nomination and the thousands more who took time to make phone calls. While we are disappointed with this outcome, we are pleased that several members of Congress cited the senator’s opposition to marijuana policy reform as an impetus for rejecting his appointment.

We’ve previously told you why Jeff Sessions is the wrong man for the job, but today it is time to move forward, not backward.

So now what?

Well, during his testimony before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, Sen. Sessions said that it is not the responsibility of the Attorney General to pick and choose which federal laws to enforce. “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act,” he said. “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”

He’s right. It is time we demand Congress to change the rules once and for all.

arrestedJust hours prior to Sessions’ confirmation vote, US Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, introduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

HR 975 states, ‘‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.’’

Passage of this Act would halt US Attorney General Jeff Sessions or any other federal official from prosecuting individuals and businesses for violating the Controlled Substances Act in the 29 states that permit either the medical or adult use and distribution of marijuana. According to national polling, 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.

take_actionClick here to send your member of Congress a message urging them to support HR 975.

With the appointment of Sen. Sessions to the position of US Attorney General, passage of this Act is necessary to ensure that medical marijuana patients and others are protected from undue federal interference.

There will be a number of bills in the coming months that will build upon the progress that the movement to legalize marijuana will support. As we always have, NORML will keep you informed and provide you the tools needed to connect with your elected officials.

 

Please take action today to urge your federal lawmakers to support HR 975, the ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and when you have finished, please also take a moment to make a generous and much appreciated donation to NORML here so that we can continue to make progress in our federal and statewide efforts.

With NORML members throughout the country organizing lobby days and taking action over the coming days and weeks, the fight for cannabis freedom will continue with renewed energy.

NORML has resisted marijuana prohibition for 47 years – We’re not going to stop now; in fact, we’re just getting started. Are you in?

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