Weekly Legislative Roundup 2/23/18

Generic 24 February 2018 | 0 Comments

Welcome to this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

First, I want to bring your attention to some of the state level lobbying efforts progressing around the country.

Activists gathered in Denver, CO on Wednesday to try and change the conversation on employee drug testing and partner with local business. Several Denver board members and activists attended, building relationships and trust with legislators and other interest groups and lobbyists. Additionally, NORML of Florida chapters, along with Sensible Florida, Inc (the organization behind the constitutional initiative “To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol”) supporters met in Tallahassee on Tuesday to host press conferences and lobby state lawmakers in support of marijuana law reforms.

Also at the state level, New Mexico’s state legislature has adjourned for this year, effectively killing a bill to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana, a decriminalization bill, and one to allow doctors to recommend cannabis in place of opioids. Three Arizona bills are also dead for this year after failing to be voted on before last Friday’s crossover deadline, including one that would have put legalization on the ballot, a decriminalization bill, and one to obtain sanctuary state status for marijuana operators.

At a more local level, officials in various parts of the country are speaking out against the Trump administration’s crackdown on marijuana. The District Attorney for Alameda County in California has announced her intent to automatically vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions. And newly elected Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also announced that his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession offense violations. City officials in San Francisco recently announced plans to automatically expunge thousands of past marijuana possession convictions and Seattle officials have also announced a similar plan to dismiss past convictions.

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.

Your highness,
Carly

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 Federal 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 e-mail your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation

Maryland

Introduced by state Senator Will Smith, SB 1039 would put an amendment to the Maryland Constitution on the ballot to be decided by voters to ensure that citizens have the right to possess, smoke, and cultivate marijuana. Delegate David Moon is sponsoring the House companion, HB 1264.

Update: SB 1039 was debated on the Senate floor on Tuesday, and HB 1264 is scheduled to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on 3/13 at 1pm.

MD resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of leaving it up to the voters

Alabama

Senate Bill 251 and House Bill 272 reduce penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $6,000 fine, to a non-criminal violation, punishable by a fine of no more than $250 — no arrest and no criminal record. However, provisions in the bills also reclassify offenses involving quantities of marijuana above one ounce as felonies.

Update: Both bills were heard by the Judiciary Committees in their respective chambers on 2/21. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB 251 by a 6 to 4 vote, however, the House committee rejected HB 272 by a 7 to 5 vote. HB 272 is now dead for this session.

AL resident? Click here to email your elected officials and urge them to amend SB 251 in a manner that benefits all marijuana possession offenders

West Virginia

Legislation is pending, House Bill 3035, to regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana. Senate Bill 593 is also pending and would allow adults over 21 years of age to possess up to four ounces of marijuana at home and two ounces in public. They could also grow four mature cannabis plants and four seedlings.

Update: New, similar legislation was introduced, HB 4491 to also regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana.

WV resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization, taxation, and regulation

Tennessee

Earlier this year, Senator Sara Kyle (D) and Representative Larry Miller introduced legislation SB 2320 and HB 2391, seeking to place a ballot initiative before voters to let them decide on the legalization of medical marijuana.

Update: SB 2320 was put on the final calendar for The Senate State & Local Government Committee, the date is TBD. HB 2391 was placed on the House Local Government subcommittee calendar for 2/21, but then deferred to a later date, TBD.

TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of a medical marijuana ballot initiative

Missouri

New legislation is pending, HJR 86, to put the issue of depenalizing the adult use of marijuana before voters this November.

If enacted by lawmakers, voters would decide upon the following question: “That the possession or consumption of marijuana by a person twenty-one years of age or older shall not be a criminal offense in this state.”

MO resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of a depenalization ballot question

Virginia

SB 726 and HB 1251 are pending, seeking to expand the state’s limited medical CBD law. They both crossed over to the other chamber earlier this month.

Update: HB 1251 was approved by the Senate 40 to zero on 2/19 and is now being transmitted to Governor Northam, who has indicated that he plans on signing the bill. Also, HB 1251 succeeded unanimously in an Adoption Emergency Vote, meaning it will go into effect immediately upon Gov. Northam’s signature.

VA resident? Click here to email your Governor and tell him to sign HB 1251 into law

New York

A.8904 is pending, to permit practitioners’ discretion to recommend medical marijuana, without being limited by the existing list of qualifying conditions.

Update: A Senate companion bill was introduced late last week, S.7755.

NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of removing the list of qualifying conditions

Alaska

Legislation is pending, SB 6, to establish an agricultural pilot program to permit the cultivation, production, and sale of industrial hemp by registered providers.

Update: SB 6 was approved by both the House and Senate and now awaits action from Governor Walker.

AK resident? Click here to email your Governor and urge him to sign this bill into law

Kansas

Legislation is pending, SB 263, to establish a state-licensed industrial hemp research program.

Update: SB 263 was approved by the Senate by a 36-3 vote on 2/22, and it now awaits action from the House.

KS resident? Click here to email your representatives in support of hemp research

 

Additional Actions to Take

Arizona

Senate Bill 1420 seeks to enhance quality testing practices for medical marijuana products.

If passed, the bill would improve product testing procedures and requirements. It would also lower the costs of medical marijuana registration cards from $150 to $50 for an initial application, and to $25 for subsequent annual renewals.

Update: SB 1420 was approved by the Senate by a 27-3 vote on 2/22, and is now being transmitted to the House, where a vote is expected in the upcoming weeks.

AZ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of better testing practices

Indiana

CBD
Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 52, to legalize the possession, use, manufacture, and retail sale of cannabidiol products.

The law defines products containing CBD and no more than 0.3 percent THC as legal to possess and sell. Indiana citizens would no longer need to be a part of a patient registry or to be diagnosed with a qualifying condition in order to legally possess or purchase CBD products. It also provides protections so that employers may not discriminate against anyone using CBD in compliance with the law.

Separate legislation further clarifying the legal status of CBD products in the state of Indiana for specific patients, House Bill 1214, is also pending. Both bills have already crossed over to the other chamber.

Update: SB 52 was heard by the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee on 2/21 and was then approved by a vote of 9 to zero. HB 1214 will be heard by the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee at 11am on 2/27 in Room 130.

Hemp
Legislation is pending, House Bill 1137 to authorize the Indiana State Department of Agriculture to establish an agricultural pilot program to study the growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp and industrial hemp products. It was already approved by the House unanimously last month.

Update: HB 1137 was approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce on 2/19.

IN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of greater CBD access, and click here to email them in support of hemp research.

New Hampshire

Legislation is pending, HB 1477, to permit those convicted of past marijuana convictions to seek expungement.

If passed, HB 1477 would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting that the court annul any past marijuana violations involving the possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana.

Update: HB 1477 was considered on the House floor on 2/22, and was then approved by the House by a 314-24 vote, and will now be transmitted to the Senate.

NH resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expunging past records

Illinois

Legislation is pending, SB 336, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy as an alternative to opioid treatment.

Update: SB 336 is scheduled to be considered by the full Senate on 2/27.

IL resident? Click here to email your senators in support of this effort

Missouri

Legislation is pending, SB 547 and HB 2034, seeking to modify provisions relating to industrial hemp. SB 547 was approved by the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee last month.

If passed, the bills would allow the Department of Agriculture to issue a registration or permit to growers and handlers of agricultural and industrial hemp. It would also create an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture to study the growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp.

Update: HB 2034 was initially approved by the House on 2/20.

MO resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of modifying industrial hemp provisions

Tennessee

State Representative Jeremy Faison (R) and State Senator Steve Dickerson (R) have introduced legislation, SB 1710 and HB 1749 to establish a limited medical marijuana access program.

The measures permit qualified patients to possess marijuana-infused oil products, as well as other non-herbal forms of cannabis, from state-licensed dispensaries. Both patients and physicians would be required to participate in a state registry.

Update: Both SB 1710 and HB 1749 were placed on the Criminal Justice Subcommittee calendar in their respective chambers for 2/27.

TN resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical marijuana extract access

Michigan

Republican State Representative Peter Lucido introduced House Bill 4606, seeking to amend the Michigan Penal Code by removing the crime of registered medical patients traveling with marijuana. HB 4606 was already approved by the House last year.

If passed, the bill would repeal a 2012 law that makes it illegal to transport or possess marijuana unless it’s in a container secured in the trunk of a vehicle. If the vehicle does not have a trunk, the marijuana has to be in a case that is not readily accessible from the interior of the vehicle. Violators face up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Update: HB 4606 was approved by a Senate committee on 2/22.

MI resident? Click here to email your senators in support of removing travel restrictions for patients

Check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

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Meta-Analysis: Studies Refute Claims That Medical Cannabis Access Encourages Teen Use

Generic 22 February 2018 | 0 Comments

The enactment of statewide laws regulating the use and distribution of cannabis for medical purposes is not associated with increased marijuana use among young people, according to a review of relevant studies published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.

Investigators from Columbia University, the RAND Corporation, the University of California at Davis, and the Boston School of Public Health reviewed 11 studies developed from four ongoing national surveys. The studies were published between the years 1991 and 2014. None of the studies identified any significant changes in youth use patterns that could be attributable to changes in marijuana’s legal status.

Authors concluded: “[A]ll estimates of pre–post changes in past-month marijuana use within MML (medical marijuana law) states from these studies were non-significant. … In summary, current evidence does not support the hypothesis that MML passage is associated with increased marijuana use prevalence among adolescents in states that have passed such laws.”

One of the study’s senior authors, Dr. Deborah Hasin, further stated in an accompanying press release, “For now, there appears to be no basis for the argument that legalizing medical marijuana has increased teens’ use of the drug.”

The findings are consistent with those of numerous prior studies, including a federally funded 2015 study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry that assessed marijuana use patterns of over one-million adolescents in 48 states. That paper concluded, [C]oncerns that increased marijuana use is an unintended effect of state marijuana laws seem unfounded.”

Separate studies report that teens’ use of marijuana and access to cannabis have declined significantly over the better part of the past two decades – during the same time that the majority of states enacted medical marijuana access programs. Data from states that regulate the adult use and sale of cannabis similarly fail to report any associated uptick in either youth use or marijuana access.

Text of the study, “Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the United States: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” is not yet available online.

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Experts challenge claims about medical marijuana’s impact on teen recreational use and opioid deaths

Did you know that? 22 February 2018 | 0 Comments

Two papers published today look at the current evidence of the effects of medical marijuana laws and conclude there is little support that such laws increase recreational marijuana use among adolescents or reduce opioid overdose deaths.

California: Alameda County District Attorney To Vacate Thousands Of Past Marijuana Convictions

Generic 21 February 2018 | 0 Comments

The District Attorney for Alameda County has announced her intent to automatically vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions. Alameda County, which includes Oakland, is the 7th-most populous county in California.

According to the DA’s office, there are an estimated 6,000 marijuana convictions eligible for either a sentence reduction or a dismissal.

“California is offering a second chance to people convicted of cannabis crimes, from felonies to small infractions, with the opportunity to have their criminal records cleared,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Mally said in a press statement. “We … intend to reverse decades of cannabis convictions that can be a barrier for people to gain meaningful employment.”

The policy change comes weeks after the San Francisco District Attorney’s office announced that it will review, dismiss, and seal an estimated 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1975.

Seattle officials have also announced a similar plan to dismiss past convictions, opining, “[T]his action is a necessary first step in righting the wrongs of the past and putting our progressive values into action.” Last week, newly elected Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also announced that his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession offense violations.

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It Was A Big Week For Marijuana In America

Generic 18 February 2018 | 0 Comments

Valentines Day week 2018 saw a tremendous amount of activity when it came to addressing our nations failed policy of marijuana prohibition. From new federal legislation being introduced to two federal lawsuits having hearings, plus a number of members of Congress, old allies and new stepping up to demand the Trump Administration continue to allow the states that have reformed their laws be respected by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Rick “Not Pro-Pot But Pro-Civil Liberties” Steves Went To Washington: Bestselling guidebook author and travel host Rick Steves held two briefings to address marijuana prohibition to a gathering of members of Congress and their staff. Inspired by Europe’s pragmatic approach to drug policy, with success measured by harm reduction rather than incarceration, Steves said that he is motivated to speak in favor of legalization because of its impact on civil liberties.

“ There are so many reasons to end the prohibition on marijuana. Whether you’re concerned about the well-being of children, fairness for minority communities, redirecting money away from criminals and into state’s coffers, stemming the horrific bloodshed in Mexico, or civil liberties; it is clearly time for a new approach,” said Rick Steves. You can read more about his day at Capitol Hill here.

New Legislation: Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) has introduced the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act which would codify the protections that were outlined in the now-rescinded Cole Memo.

Upon the introduction, Rep. Correa said, “To date, eight states have legalized recreational cannabis, and twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, representing more than half of the American population, have enacted legislation to permit the use of cannabis. Attorney General Sessions’ decision to rescind the “Cole Memo” created great uncertainty for these states and legal cannabis businesses, and put citizens in jeopardy for following their state laws.

In my state of California, voters want legal cannabis. It boosts our economy and is a strong medical tool. By 2020, revenues from cannabis sales taxes could reach $1 billion annually for California. This bill will protect California and other states from federal overreach and ensure the will of the American voter is respected.”

Essentially, the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act would give peace of mind to lawmakers, regulators, 149,000 workers, and the millions of patients and consumers who are dependent on the normalization of lawful marijuana markets. The most essential component in creating a stable business environment to meet consumer demand is certainty and that is what states would have with Reps. Correa’s legislation to protect state-lawful programs from militant marijuana prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Click here to send a message to your Representative to urge them to co-sponsor the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act. 

Lawsuit Against Attorney General Jeff Sessions: On February 14th, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York heard oral arguments on the motion to dismiss Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al, a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Schedule I classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. The federal government argued to have the case dismissed. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York reserved the decision.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case are Michael Hiller and Lauren Rudick of Hiller, PC, and include NORML Legal Committee member Joseph Bondy and Empire State NORML Director David Holland.

Click here to read more.

HIA Against The DEA: A case brought forward by the Hemp Industries Association against the DEA regarding the classification of CBD had a hearing on Thursday. You can read more about that effort here.

Banking On Mnuchin: Congressman and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus Earl Blumenauer pressed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on the need for certainty for the banks that are currently providing services for legal, state-regulated marijuana businesses. You can watch the video by clicking HERE and send a message to your federal lawmakers to support the SAFE Banking Act.

Letter To Senate Appropriators: This week, a bipartisan group of 18 Senators signed a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the powerful Appropriations Committee to demand that in the process of directing funding for the Department of Justice, the lawmakers should restrict the DoJ from being able to interfere with lawful state-regulated programs.

The senators wrote that rescinding years of guidance has created “disruption, confusion, and uncertainty throughout the country. Citizens who have been acting in good faith based on federal and state assurances now feel exposed. This disruption may deny medications to the sick, push individuals back into illicit markets, and nullify the previously-effective regulations – all while thwarting the democratically-expressed will of the states.”

“It is our hope that the fiscal year 2018 appropriations will alleviate the turbulence the Attorney General’s abrupt decision has caused and that the appropriations will help preserve the strong regulatory frameworks the states have created,” the senators continued. “Doing so will provide the opportunity to pursue federal legislation that both protects the legitimate federal interests at stake and respects the will of the states – both those that have liberalized their marijuana laws and those that have not.”

The letter include U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-WV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maria Cantwell(D-WA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Edward Markey (D-MA).

Click here to read the letter and click here to send a message to your federal officials in support of pending legislation to deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. 

New Justice Supporter: This week, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York added her name as a cosponsor to The Marijuana Justice Act, making her the 3rd member of the Senate to be on the bill. Specifically S. 1689 and HR 4815 would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs. Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of the Marijuana Justice Act. 

Additionally, Senator Cory Booker added the language of the Marijuana Justice Act as an amendment to the criminal justice bill that is moving, however, that effort was unsuccessful.

DoJ Nominees Move Forward: Senator Gardner has backed down from his threat to the Department of Justice to block Senate-confirmable nominees after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the longstanding guidance memos including the 2013 Cole Memo.

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