Wisconsin City Removes Fines for Marijuana Possession and Consumption

Following a national trend, members of the Monona City Council passed an ordinance that removed all municipal fines for the private possession and consumption of marijuana. Under the new ordinance, adults 21-years and older will no longer be subjected to a fine for possessing marijuana in public or in private spaces. Marijuana use in a private residence would also be exempt from a fine, but a $200 fine will still be given to those caught smoking in public.

243428_10150183848971408_290803_oThis came as no surprise to Nate Petreman, executive director of Madison NORML. For almost two years, Mr. Petreman along with several members of Madison NORML worked to build a broad coalition of active community members who attended countless meetings and provided testimony in support of the measure.

“Private use and possession and possession in public are no longer local offenses in Monona, WI. The new ordinance in Monona only prohibits public use. We were denied at the city last year, in part due to the Police Chief advocating on city time, and came just shy of the necessary signatures to trigger a vote on direct legislation in summer 2016,” said Petreman. “To succeed in our recent efforts, nearly 20 people attended each meeting along the way, many who were residents. These efforts resulted in the best known local ordinance statewide.”

On the state level, lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would provide qualified patients with legal access to medical marijuana and establish a statewide medical marijuana program.

Read more here about the statewide effort by clicking here. 

 

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.

Weekly Legislative Roundup 3/25/17

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

As we prepare to for April and marijuana related attention that comes with 4/20, NORML has put up an action alert on the appointment process for new US Attorneys (If you didn’t know, Attorney Jeff Sessions fired the holdovers from Obama Administration). With so many issues swirling around in the political lexicon, it’s important that we not see a wave of Sessions-style prohibitions be installed throughout the country, so please email your Senators now and tell them to demand the the new US Attorney’s respect state marijuana laws.

Additionally, Representative Tulsi Gabbord went to the floor of the House of Representatives and spoke on behalf of her legislation entitled “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 – HR 1227. You can watch the video by clicking here.

A very special shout-out for me to make is the success of having Virginia Governor McAuliffe signed into law SB 1027, to regulate the instate production of cannabis oil. Congrats Virginia NORML and your whole team!

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

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

Click here to email your Congressional Representative to urge them to support this crucial legislation.

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) have formed the first-ever 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 formed Cannabis Caucus

US Attorneys: Members of the Senate will now be asked to consider new appointments. Please contact your Senator and urge him/her to consider those US Attorneys who will respect statewide marijuana laws.

With 29 states having established medical marijuana programs and eight states having enacted adult-use regulatory laws, it is vital that those appointed to this prestigious position respect the will of the electorate.

US Attorneys possess broad authority when both interpreting the laws and prioritizing their enforcement. Under the past administration, US Attorneys largely took a ‘hands off’ approach in jurisdictions that had legalized the use of marijuana, as directed by the 2013 “Cole Memo.” Incoming US Attorneys ought to take a similar approach.

Click here to email your Senators to defend the majority of voters who reside in legal cannabis states and to reject those nominees who will not support state marijuana laws.

Connecticut
Multiple pieces of legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate its commercial distribution is pending in both the state House and Senate.

According to a March 2015 Quinnipiac University poll of Connecticut voters, 63 percent favor permitting adults to legally possess personal use quantities of cannabis.

Update: SB 11 had a hearing on March 22.

CT Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Illinois
Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate the commercial cannabis market.

The measures permits adults to legally possess personal or grow use quantities of marijuana in private.  Additional provisions establish a regulated market for the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults.

IL Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Massachusetts
On Election Day, 54 percent of voters decided in favor of Question 4: The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act – permitting adults to legally grow and to possess marijuana for personal use, while also establishing regulations governing commercial cannabis cultivation and capping taxes on retail sales.

But it has become apparent that some powerful politicians and bureaucrats wish to ignore voters’ will and rewrite history.

Update: Hearings on implementation will be:
March 27th at 4 pm at the West Springfield High School auditorium,
April 3rd at 11 am at the Statehouse,
April 10th at 4 pm at the Shrewsbury High School.

MA Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to implement Question 4 in a timely manner as passed.

New York
Legislation (A. 2142 and S. 3809) is before the Assembly and Senate to seal the records of those who have previously been convicted of the possession of marijuana in public view.

New York has historically had the highest marijuana-related arrest rate in the nation largely because of questionable arrests made under the ‘public view’ exception.

Passage of A. 2142 and S. 3809 will make it so these hundreds of thousands of minor offenders are no longer stigmatized by their arrest record.

Update: NORML is joining multiple organizations, including Empire State NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance in calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to include the language from A. 2142 and S. 3809 in his budget.

NY Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Tennessee
Legislation is pending in the Tennessee House, HB 173, to nullify the enactment of citywide marijuana decriminalization ordinances and to prevent additional municipalities from enacting similar marijuana reform measures.

The intent of the bill is to override the passage of recent citywide measures in Nashville and Memphis — both of which passed local ordinances last year making minor marijuana possession offenses a non-arrestable citation.

By contrast, state law classifies marijuana possession as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.

Update: Members of the House have passed HB 173 by a vote of 65 to 28 March 23. The measure now awaits action from the Senate.

TN Resident? Click here and email your Senators to oppose this effort.

Additional Actions To Take

Nebraska
LB622 will allow patients with conditions such as Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, opioid addictions and some types of cancer to obtain marijuana. Qualified patients would not be permitted to grow cannabis and would have to obtain non-smoked, cannabis-infused formulations from state-licensed providers. A version of this legislation debated last year was narrowly defeated by lawmakers.

Update: LB 622 has advanced out of committee by a vote of 6 – 1.

NE Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

New Mexico
An amended version of House Bill 527 amends state law so that qualified patients may not be denied organ transplants. It also expands the pool of qualifying conditions for which a physician may legally recommend cannabis therapy, to include indications such as Crohn’s disease, chronic pain, hepatitis C, neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress, among other conditions. It also establishes reciprocity for non-residents.

Update: SB 177 was tabled in lieu of HB 527. An amended version of HB 527 is now before the Governor, having passed the House by a vote of 45 to 16 and the Senate by a vote of 28 to 9.

NM Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Nevada
Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 259, to vacate certain marijuana possession convictions that occurred prior to the plant’s legalization.

The measure would permit those with criminal convictions for offenses involving the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana prior to January 1, 2017 to have their convictions vacated.

NV Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Tennessee
Several pieces of legislation are pending to amend marijuana possession penalties.

HB 831 and SB 1116 seek to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.

Separate legislation is pending in the House and Senate — SB 265 and HB 297 — to reduce penalties associated with the possession of one-eighth of marijuana (3.544 grams) to a $50 fine-only offense. However, under these bills, simple possession would still remain classified as a misdemeanor.

Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine.

Update: SB 1116 has a hearing scheduled for March 28.

TN Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

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.

If passed, the measure would legalize the possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana, up to ten grams of hashish, and/or the cultivation of two marijuana plants in a private residence.

Update: Members of the House Judiciary Committee advanced H. 170 on March 22 in an 8 to 3 vote. It now awaits action on the House floor. A new statewide Public Policy poll finds that Vermont residents favor this legislation by a margin of 57 percent to 39 percent.

VT Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Federal Marijuana Sentences Plummet: Report

Cannabis PenaltiesThe number of federal offenders sentenced for violating marijuana laws has fallen significantly since 2012, according to data provided by the United States Sentencing Commission.

Just over 3,000 federal defendants were sentenced for marijuana violations in 2016, according to the Commission. That total is roughly half of the number of federal defendants that were sentenced in 2012. The total has fallen year-to-year since that time.

The 2016 total is nearly equal to the number of federal defendants sentenced for violating powder cocaine laws, and less than the number of federal defendants sentenced for heroin. Some 96 percent of federal marijuana defendants were sentenced for trafficking, with an average sentence of 28 months in prison.

Of those sentenced, 77 percent were Hispanic, 11 percent were Caucasian, and eight percent were African American. Fifty-six percent were categorized as non-US citizens.

In 2015, over 5,600 federal defendants were sentenced for violating marijuana laws, a total equal to some 25 percent of all federal drug sentences.

What Would A Federal Marijuana Crackdown Look Like?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Photo by Gage Skidmore

Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Ever since the 2016 election, marijuana legalization supporters have been wondering if President Trump will crack down on state-approved recreational and/or medical marijuana programs. The Heritage Foundation believes it knows the answer.

According to the conservative think tank, there are actions the government can take without needing to pass any new legislation or expend much political capital, such as reaffirming the federal government’s position as supporting marijuana’s illegality under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and reasserting support for the international treaties that require countries to enforce marijuana prohibition. These actions would make headlines, send a chill across the industry (particularly in states that have yet to formally launch their legal marijuana markets) and make clear the direction the White House has decided to go when dealing with legal marijuana businesses.

The Washington, D.C.-based group calls for rescinding the Obama Administration’s Cole memo, which gives leeway to the states to implement legalization and replace it with a memo that makes it clear that the DOJ “fully expects states to not permit commercialized marijuana production and sale.” With this memo in place, the DOJ could then select a number of marijuana businesses for prosecution of a violation of state and/or federal law, which would create “a real threat of prosecution.”

The right-wing policy shop recommends overturning previous guidance from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which opened the door to very limited banking for a handful of businesses in the marijuana industry. This would scare off the already minuscule number of financial institutions working, or considering working, with marijuana-related businesses. Using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the government could target investors.

With all of this in mind, the only option we truly have to ensure our victories are upheld and that we move forward with nationwide legalization is to change federal law. Amendments such as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer stem the bleeding a bit, but require a new political fight every year. Congress needs to pass The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which would prevent the federal government from interfering in state-approved adult use or medical programs. Even better, Congress should remove marijuana from the CSA entirely.

If you want to see the cannabis revolution continue, call your members of Congress today and tell them to support federal marijuana law reform. For more information on pending legislation and to easily email your elected officials, visit norml.org/act.

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

Hunter S. Thompson Scholarships for 2017 Aspen Legal Seminar

Keith Stroup and Hunter S. Thompson

Keith Stroup and Hunter S. Thompson

Every year Colorado NORML covers the costs of sending at least TWO attorneys, law students, patients, or advocates who could not otherwise attend to the NORML Aspen Legal Seminar. Covered costs will include lodging at the Gant Hotel, entrance to seminar events, and travel expenses.

To apply, please send a one page letter telling Colorado NORML how your participation at the seminar will advance marijuana law reform, policy or public opinion.

Submit applications by APRIL 21, 2017 to tiffany.kallash@gmlaw.com.

Link to Aspen Seminar: http://norml.org/about/events/aspen-legal-seminar

 

Weekly Legislative Roundup 3/17/2017

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

First and foremost, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Fun fact, marijuana is still safer than alcohol. You can read more about it in Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? co-authored by NORML’s own Paul Armentano.

This week we saw “legislative crossover” days dash the hopes of advancement in both Kentucky and Iowa. Additionally, the New Hampshire Senate defeated a legalization effort there, yet we are confident that this is the year when the Granite State finally decriminalizes marijuana.

If you missed it, our monthly national chapter call had updates from Colorado, Delaware, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Washington state on their recent lobbying efforts. You can read more in calls report by clicking here.

The Washington City Paper published a great piece entitled Pot: A Political History which does a wonderful job of giving context to the struggles that we face today after 80 years of marijuana prohibition.

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

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

Click here to email your Congressional Representative to urge them to support this crucial legislation.

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) have formed the first-ever 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 formed Cannabis Caucus

Colorado
Colorado State Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Dan Pabon have introduced legislation, SB 184, The Marijuana Membership Clubs and Public Use Bill, will provide Colorado municipalities with the regulatory framework needed to allow responsible adults the option to socially consume marijuana in a membership club away from the general public.

Update: SB 184 passed the full Senate on Thursday, March 9, by a vote of 25-10 and will now be sent to the House. Gov. Hickenlooper has threatened a veto, saying he opposes any expansion of indoor smoking.

CO Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Connecticut
Multiple pieces of legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate its commercial distribution is pending in both the state House and Senate.

Update: Lawmakers have scheduled a pair of hearings in March to debate these various legalization proposals. Members of the Public Health Committee heard testimony on Tuesday, March 7. Members of the Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on Wednesday, March 22.

CT Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

New Mexico
Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 258, to reduce penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses.

The measure eliminates criminal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one-half of one ounce of cannabis, reducing the offense to a $50 fine. Under present law, this offense is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 15 days in jail and criminal record.

Update: Members of the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee passed SB 258 on March 14. It must still pass through one additional committee prior to receiving a House floor vote.

NM Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Tennessee
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, are sponsoring the legislature’s most concerted effort to legalize medical use of marijuana.

Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine.

Update: SB 860 was placed on the calendar of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee for March 14 and HB 673 was deferred in Senate Judiciary Committee to March 28.

TN Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Additional Actions To Take

Kansas
Legislation is pending, House Bill 2152, to permit qualified patients access to marijuana or extracts containing CBD and low levels of THC.

The measure would permit patients with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder or a condition causing seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, to possess marijuana or extracts containing no more than three percent THC. The measure also seeks to establish rules governing the state-licensed cultivation of low-THC marijuana strains and the preparation of products derived from such strains.

Update: Members of the House Health and Human Services Committee heard the bill on Wednesday, Match 15 at 1:30pm, Room 546-S.

KS Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Maine
Legislation is pending, LD 1064, to require health insurance policies to cover expenses related to the physician authorized use of medical cannabis.

The measure states, “A carrier offering a health plan in this State shall provide coverage for marijuana for  medical use for an enrollee who has received certification for the medical use of marijuana from a medical provider.”

ME Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Maryland
House and Senate legislation is pending to allow those with past criminal marijuana convictions to have those records expunged.

House Bill 379 / Senate Bill 949 permit those who received a criminal marijuana possession conviction prior to October 1, 2014, to seek expungement of their records.

Update: Members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee passed SB 949 on March 9.

MD Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Massachusetts
Legislation is pending before the House, H 113, to prohibit employers from discriminating against patients who legally consume marijuana during non-work hours. Additional legislation, H 2385, would expand protections for medical marijuana patients so that they may not be discriminated against with regard to housing, higher education, and child custody issues.  

Changes in the legal status of marijuana has not been associated with any adverse changes in workplace safety. In fact, a pair of studies from 2016 find that legalization is associated with greater workforce participation and with fewer workplace absences. Most recently, the National Academies of Sciences just-released marijuana and health report found “insufficient evidence” to support an association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.

It is time to end this discriminatory policy.

MA Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Montana
House Bill 529 imposes a special six percent statewide tax upon medical marijuana sales. This tax would be in addition to the imposition of existing state and local taxes.

While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of fair and reasonable sales taxes on the commercial sales of cannabis for recreational purposes, we do not support such excessive taxation on medical sales. Most other states that regulate medical cannabis sales do not impose such taxes and Montana patients should not be forced to pay these excessive costs.

Update: Members of the House Taxation Committee heard testimony on the bill on March 15. Most witnesses testified against the bill.

MT Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to oppose this effort.

New Mexico
Governor Susana Martinez has vetoed House Bill 144, which sought to establish a hemp research program in compliance with provisions in the federal Farm Bill explicitly authorizing states to engage in licensed activity involving hemp absent federal reclassification of the plant. The Governor provided no public explanation for the veto.

The bill has previously passed the House and Senate by votes of 42 to 26 and 30 to 12 respectively.

Update: Lawmakers have introduced a third hemp research bill, House Bill 530. This bill was passed by the House on March 14 by a vote of 65 to 1, and now awaits senate action.

NM Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Oklahoma
Legislation has been introduced, Senate Bill 704, to provide for hemp cultivation and manufacturing.

The measure excludes industrial hemp from the state’s definition of marijuana and provides for its commercial cultivation and export.

The measure also expands the list of qualifying conditions eligible for CBD treatment under state law. Under this change, patients with chronic pain, post-traumatic stress, and anxiety would be eligible for medicinal cannabis products as long as those formulations are in liquid form and do not exceed 12 percent THC.

OK Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Tennessee
SB 1116 seeks to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.

Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine.

Update: SB 1116 has a hearing scheduled for March 28.

TN Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

West Virginia
Legislation by Delegate Hornbuckle of Cabell, House Bill 3035, to legalize and regulate the adult use, production, and sale of marijuana is before members of the House Health and human Resources Committee.

House Bill 3035, allows adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and to cultivate up to six cannabis plants for their own personal use. It also regulates the commercial marijuana market and allows for the production of industrial hemp.

WV Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Weekly Legislative Roundup 3/11/2017

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

At the federal level, aside from a few absurd comments by Attorney General Sessions and new cosponsors to HR 975 and HR 1227, things have been pretty quiet.

At the state level, it is quite a different story. We have continued to see a marked rise in the number of bills introduced pertaining to marijuana, crossing the 1,500 mark. From hearings on marijuana legalization in Maryland to social clubs passing the Senate in Colorado to hemp passing the both chambers in the New Mexico statehouse, at every level we are making progress.

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

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

Click here to email your Congressional Representative to urge them to support this crucial legislation.

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) have formed the first-ever 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 formed Cannabis Caucus

Colorado
Colorado State Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Dan Pabon have introduced legislation that is headed to the Senate Business, Labor and Technology committee on Tuesday, March 1, 2017. SB 184: The Marijuana Membership Clubs and Public Use Bill, will provide Colorado municipalities with the regulatory framework needed to allow responsible adults the option to socially consume marijuana in a membership club away from the general public.

Last November, voters In California and Maine approved public marijuana consumption through Proposition 64 and Question 1, but haven’t settled on rules. This means Colorado could be first out of the gate with statewide regulations for pot clubs.

Update: SB 184 passed the full Senate on Thursday, March 9, by a vote of 25-10 and will now be sent to the House. Gov. Hickenlooper has promised to veto the bill if passed in its current version.

CO Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

Connecticut
Multiple pieces of legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate its commercial distribution is pending in both the state House and Senate.

Update: Lawmakers have scheduled a pair of hearings in March to debate these various legalization proposals. Members of the Public Health Committee heard testimony on Tuesday, March 7. Members of the Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on Wednesday, March 22.

CT Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

Kansas
Legislation is pending, House Bill 2152, to permit qualified patients access to marijuana or extracts containing CBD and low levels of THC.

The measure would permit patients with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder or a condition causing seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, to possess marijuana or extracts containing no more than three percent THC. The measure also seeks to establish rules governing the state-licensed cultivation of low-THC marijuana strains and the preparation of products derived from such strains.

KS Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

Maryland
HB 1236 and it’s companion bill SB891 would amend the Maryland Constitution to ensure citizens have the right to possess, smoke, and cultivate marijuana.

The Amendment would also require the General Assembly to establish a regulatory structure for “the transfer of cannabis by purchase or sale.”

If enacted, the law would legalize the possession of up to two ounces and the cultivation of up to six plants.

Update: The House held a hearing about HB 1236 on March 3 at 1pm, and a hearing about SB 891 on March 2 at 1pm.

MD Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

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.

To date, private adult use of marijuana is permitted, but only in a private residence. Passage of SB 236 establishes a regulatory framework to permit adults the option to consume cannabis at specified public places or events.

NV Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

New Hampshire
Legislation is pending in the New Hampshire House, 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: HB 215 passed the House on Thursday, March 8 on a voice vote. It will now be referred to the Senate.

NH Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

Additionally, 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: Bills to add chronic pain (HB 157) and PTSD (HB 160) to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana have passed the House. They will now be referred to the Senate.

NH Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

New Mexico
Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 258, to reduce penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses.

The measure eliminates criminal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one-half of one ounce of cannabis, reducing the offense to a $50 fine. Under present law, this offense is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 15 days in jail and criminal record.

Update: A Senate substitute version of SB 258 was passed 33 to 9 by members of the Senate. The amended version of the bill now awaits action by the House.  

NM Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

Oregon
Legislation is pending in the Senate, SB 863, to limit the federal government from acquiring data regarding adults and patients who legally purchase marijuana under state law.

The emergency legislation, which would take immediate effect, mandates that retailers and dispensaries do not maintain customers’ purchase and/or personal identification records beyond 48 hours.

Sponsors of the bipartisan measure say the privacy protections are in response to recent statements by the Trump administration with regard to a possible enforcement crackdown in adult use marijuana states.

OR Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

Tennessee
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, are sponsoring the legislature’s most concerted effort to legalize medical use of marijuana.

Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine.

Update: SB 1119 and SB 673 were debated by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 7.

TN Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

Texas
Legislation has been introduced for the 2017 legislative session to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

House Bill 81, filed by Representative Joe Moody and cosponsored by Representative Jason Isaac, seeks to amend state law so that possessing up to one ounce of marijuana is a civil violation, punishable by a fine – no arrest, no jail, and no criminal record. Under current state law, first-time marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Update: HB 81 is scheduled for a hearing on Monday, March 13. Starting at 8am if you happen to be in the state capitol in Austin you can get within the capitol steps Wi-Fi in order to register your support of HB 81.

TX Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

Vermont
Rep. Samuel Young has introduced H. 490 to regulate the commercial and retail marijuana market.

H. 490 establishes a regulated system whereby adults may legally obtain marijuana from state-licensed retail providers and sellers.

Statewide polling reports that a majority of Vermont voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana. According to a RAND Corporation study, regulating the commercial sale of cannabis in Vermont would generate $20 million to $75 million annually in new tax revenue.

VT Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

West Virginia
A coalition of Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation, SB 386, which seeks to establish the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act — a state-sponsored program that will permit qualified patients to obtain medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries. A House version of the bill, HB 2677, is also pending.

Passage of the bill establishes a commission tasked with developing “policies, procedures, guidelines, and regulations to implement programs to make medical cannabis available to qualifying patients in a safe and effective manner.”

WV Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

Additional Actions To Take

Arkansas
House Bill 1580 imposes a special eight percent statewide tax upon medical marijuana sales. This tax would be in addition to the imposition of existing state and local taxes.

While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of fair and reasonable sales taxes on the commercial sales of cannabis for recreational purposes, we do not support such excessive taxation on medical sales. Most other states that regulate medical cannabis sales do not impose such taxes and Arkansas patients should not be forced to pay these excessive costs.

AR Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

District of Columbia
Councilman David Grosso has re-introduced the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act. First introduced in 2014, DC voters overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure.

The bill will legalize marijuana use for adults over the age of 21 and will allow the city to tax and regulate a commercial market. Due to DC’s unique charter in Congress, however, this provision of the law was gutted in 2014.

DC Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

New Hampshire
House legislation is pending, HB 472, to permit qualified patients to cultivate their own medicine.

Under present law, qualified patients must purchase cannabis from one of a handful of state-licensed dispensaries.

House Bill 472 allows patients to cultivate up to two mature plants and up to 12 seedlings at one time.

Update: Members of the House of Representatives have passed HB 472. It now awaits action by the Senate.

NH Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

New Mexico
Governor Susana Martinez has vetoed House Bill 144, which sought to establish a hemp research program in compliance with provisions in the federal Farm Bill explicitly authorizing states to engage in licensed activity involving hemp absent federal reclassification of the plant. The Governor provided no public explanation for he veto.

A similar provision, Senate Bill 6, now awaits action from the Governor. Members of the House and Senate have previously passed the measure by votes of 58 to 8 and 37 to 2.

NM Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

Washington
Legislation is before lawmakers, House Bill 2064, to amend state law so that industrial hemp is not longer classified under the state’s uniform controlled substances act.

If passed, hemp plants will no longer be regulated as a controlled substance.

Update: HB 2064 has unanimously passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.

WA Resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of this effort.

Jeff Sessions: Wrong on Opioids and Violence, Considers RICO Lawsuits

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Photo by Gage Skidmore

Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared with conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt to discuss a range of issues, including how the Trump administration intends to address marijuana law enforcement in states that are regulating its adult use.

During the interview, Hewitt repeatedly encourages Sessions to engage in federal prosecutions against state-licensed marijuana providers.

Hugh Hewitt (HH): Let’s talk about the rule of law. I have a piece coming out in the Washington Post about this on Sunday, Attorney General Sessions. One RICO prosecution against one marijuana retailer in one state that has so-called legalization ends this façade and this flaunting of the Supremacy Clause. Will you be bringing such a case?

Jeff Sessions (JS): We will — Um — Marijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws. So yes, we will enforce law in an appropriate way nationwide. It’s not possible for the federal government, of course, to take over everything the local police used to do in a state that’s legalized it. And I’m not in favor of legalization of marijuana. I think it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize. I don’t think we’re going to be a better community if marijuana is sold in every corner grocery store.

HH: No, but it would literally take one racketeering influence corrupt organization prosecution to take all the money from one retailer, and the message would be sent. I mean, if you want to send that message, you can send it. Do you think you’re going to send it?

JS: Well, we’ll be evaluating how we want to handle that. I think it’s a little more complicated than one RICO case, I’ve got to tell you. This, places like Colorado, it’s just sprung up a lot of different independent entities that are moving marijuana. And it’s also being moved interstate, not just in the home state.

HH: Yes.

JS: And neighbors are complaining, and filed lawsuits against them. So it’s a serious matter, in my opinion. And I just came from a big rally in New Hampshire yesterday, Hugh. This is, this opioid problem is just huge. There were 9,000 high school and junior high school students there. A mother I met who had lost a son three months before, a child, and she said there were 50 more mothers there who’d lost children speaking to those kids. We’ve had this huge opioid surge in America, 120 people a day die from drug overdose. And I do believe, and the President has issued an order to the Department of Justice to crack down on drugs and these international cartels that are moving this Fentanyl that’s so deadly into our country. And we’re going to step up that in a very vigorous way as I talk to United States Attorneys yesterday by conference call.

Predictably, Sessions’ responses — in particular his reaffirmation: “Marijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws. So yes, we will enforce law in an appropriate way nationwide.” — follows the path laid out by The Heritage Foundation’s Cully Stimson, who on February 27th, released an 11-point plan on how to “provide a targeted approach to [federal] marijuana enforcement.” The Heritage Foundation proposal specifically calls for the Department of Justice to use RICO laws to target state-licensed marijuana businesses:

  1. Prosecute those dealing in marijuana—which is illegal under federal law—using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Those who engage in a pattern of racketeering activity through a corporation or other enterprise are liable for three times the economic harm they cause. RICO gives federal courts the power to order racketeering enterprises and their co-conspirators to cease their unlawful operations.

The Attorney General also repeats two overt myths regarding cannabis, claiming that the enactment of marijuana regulatory schemes are somehow linked with violent crime and opioid abuse. As NORML recently points out in op-eds here and here, both of these claims are categorically untrue.

At the end of the day, when the Attorney General of the United States publicly contemplates the federal prosecution of those in the adult use marijuana industry, we should take these threats seriously.

That is why we need to continue to be proactive in pushing Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition and be ready to fight back at every level should Sessions follow through on his recent statements.

Click here to tell your member of Congress and urge them to support HR 1227, the Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017.

And click here to sign up as a NORML monthly supporter to make sure that we have the resources to support our chapters in the upcoming legal battles to protect the states that have legalized adult-use marijuana.

Thanks for all you do and stay vigilant.