Congress: New House Rules Chairman Pledges To Allow Floor Votes On Marijuana-Related Amendments

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern says that he will permit federal lawmakers to debate and vote on marijuana-related amendments when he assumes control of the House Rules Committee in 2019.

“Unlike my predecessor, I’m not going to block amendments for marijuana,” he said. “Citizens are passing ballot initiatives, legislatures are passing laws, and we need to respect that. Federal laws and statutes are way behind.”

Representative McGovern replaces outgoing Rules Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX), who lost his re-election bid to Democrat Colin Allred. Representative Sessions used his position as Chairman of the House Rules Committee to block House floor members from voting on over three-dozen marijuana-related amendments during his leadership tenure. His actions single-handedly killed a number of popular, bipartisan-led reforms — such as facilitating medical cannabis access to military veterans and amending federal banking laws so that licensed marijuana businesses are treated like other legal industries.

“Representative Pete Sessions was the single greatest impediment in the US House to the passage of common-sense, voter-supported marijuana law reform measures,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “His departure opens the door for the possibility of House lawmakers in 2019 enacting a number of significant, NORML-endorsed policy changes.”

Representative McGovern indicated that he would prioritize legislative measures to limit federal interference in legal marijuana states, to expand medical cannabis access for veterans, and to amend federal banking restrictions on the legal cannabis industry.

“This just seems like common-sense stuff,” McGovern said. “Especially on the issue of medical marijuana — people who are opposed to that are just on the wrong side of public opinion, overwhelmingly. It’d be nice if, every once in a while, Congress acted in a way that people wanted. I know that may seem like a radical idea, but come on.”

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Texas NORML: Midterm Elections and the 86th Texas Legislature

Prohibitionist Pete Sessions has been ousted from office by Collin Allred and a huge number of volunteers, voters and cannabis activists! Cannabis was a huge part of this race’s conversation. We are hopeful that this huge shake up will help marijuana bills move more expeditiously at the Federal level as Sessions has been a huge roadblock for change.

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“Texans has re-affirmed that they are no longer satisfied with the status quo for marijuana laws in Texas. Many advocates in North Texas and across Texas worked hard to remove Sessions, who has been an major impediment at the Federal level,” said Jax Finkle, Executive Director of Texas NORML. “Session’s stance was not based in science, constituent opinion, common sense policy making nor the Texas GOP platform. We are hopeful for the upcoming Legislative Session here in Texas and hope that we will see more movement at the Federal level as well.”

We also had some important changes in Texas. At the state level, we have 12 incumbents that have been replaced with Freshman in the House, 2 in the Senate and 2 at the Federal level. These are important changes before our legislative session that kicks off in January 2019.

Become a sustaining donor and support our work during the session!

The 86th Texas Legislature will convene on January 8th, 2019, but the pre-filing period began yesterday. Lawmakers have begun introducing legislation for consideration during the upcoming legislative session. (Learn more about preparing for the session here.)

Several marijuana related bills have been introduced:

HB 63 (Rep. Joe Moody) — Relating to the civil and criminal penalties for possession of certain small amounts of marihuana and an exception to prosecution for possession of associated drug paraphernalia; creating a criminal offense. Participate in our action alert!

SB 156 (Sen. Jose Roriguez) – Relating to the civil and criminal penalties for possession of certain small amounts of marihuana and an exception to prosecution for possession of associated drug paraphernalia; creating a criminal offense.

SB 90 (Sen. Jose Menendez) — Relating to authorizing the possession, use, cultivation, distribution, transportation, and delivery of medical cannabis for medical use by qualifying patients with certain debilitating medical conditions and the licensing of dispensing organizations and testing facilities; authorizing fees.

HB 186 (Rep. Terry Canales) — Relating to the determination of the weight of marihuana and other tetrahydrocannabinolsfor the purpose of the prosecution and punishment of the offense of possession of those substances.

HB 122 (Rep. Gina Hinojosa) — Relating to the medical use of marihuana; providing an affirmative defense to prosecutionfor possession of marihuana.

SB 116 (Sen. Jose Menendez) — Relating to industrial hemp; requiring an occupational license; authorizing fees.

HJR 21 (Rep. Ron Reynolds) — Proposing a constitutional amendment to authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis for medical use.

HB 209 (Rep. Ron Reynolds) — Relating to authorizing the possession, use, cultivation, distribution, transportation, and delivery of medical cannabis for medical use by qualifying patients with certain debilitating medical conditions and the licensing of dispensing organizations and testing facilities; authorizing fees.

Become a sustaining donor and support our work during the session!

For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in the Lone Star State, follow Texas NORML on Facebook  and Twitter and become a member today!

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Grateful and Determined this Veterans Day

This Veterans Day, you will likely read and hear many political leaders paying lip service to honor our nation’s veterans.

But as they list out their policy prescriptions, one that directly impacts nearly one-in-four veterans will be suspiciously absent: Marijuana.

Post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, and other medical issues can be a matter of life or death, and failure of VA policy to allow physicians to openly talk about cannabis or recommend it has a deleterious effect on the doctor-patient relationship and on the well-being of our veterans.

There are two pieces of legislation currently pending in Congress that would end this needless discrimination: the Veterans Equal Access Act in the House and The Veterans Medical Marijuana and Safe Harbor Act in the Senate.

Send a message to your federal lawmakers now about these bills.

According to survey data compiled by the American Legion, we now know that 22% of veterans self-report consuming marijuana to alleviate symptoms stemming from a physical or mental ailment.

These reforms are absolutely necessary given the alarming rates of opioid addiction and suicide by veterans. According to data released last year by the Department of Veterans Affairs, twenty former servicemen and women take their lives each day, while a 2011 report revealed that veterans are twice as likely to die from an opioid overdose compared to the civilian population.  Veterans acknowledge using marijuana at rates far higher than the general population, and nearly half of them describe their use as self-medicating, according to data published earlier this year in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

This Veterans Day, our federal lawmakers would be wise to end the criminalization of healthcare by veterans. Addressing the senseless federal prohibition of marijuana and allowing it’s therapeutic use to be legally accessed by the tens-thousands of veterans who are already consuming it for such purposes makes sense from a moral, compassionate, political, and fiscal perspective.

The fact is that these men and women put on the uniform to defend this nation’s freedoms and it is the height of hypocrisy that they return as civilians only to be criminals in the eyes of the state as they seek health care.

Join us in sending a message to Congress today.

Thank you for taking action today,

Your friends at NORML

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Weekly Legislative Roundup 11/9/18

Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

This week was a big week for marijuana with Michigan voters approving the legalization and retail sale for adults, and Utah and Missouri voting to allow medical marijuana access.

There were also 16 counties and two cities in Wisconsin that approved non-binding marijuana related ballot measures, as well as five cities in Ohio that voted to remove all criminal possession penalties. Read more here.

In other news unrelated to the election, Massachusetts regulators are saying that adult use retail sales will begin within days, after being delayed from the original start date on July 1.

The Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board, mainly made up of physicians, voted in favor of adding autism as a medical cannabis qualifying condition, but rejected PTSD, bipolar disorder and ADHD. They also voted to keep the THC cap at 3%. This recommendation now has to be approved by the Iowa Board of Medicine. Separately, the state’s first dispensary will begin selling low-THC medical cannabis products on December 1.

In light of Michigan’s new legalization and regulation policy, Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer (D) is considering options to expunge marijuana records.

Two Tennessee lawmakers are preparing to file medical cannabis legislation.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and lawmakers are still negotiating tax rates for marijuana legalization legislation. They had originally set a date for a vote on the measure for October 29.

New York’s Assembly speaker said “sealing low-level marijuana possession convictions” should be a priority for 2019.

At a more local level, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced that she plans to pursue legal marijuana sales in the nation’s capital in early 2019.

The Green Bay, Wisconsin City Council approved an ordinance to lower the penalties for marijuana possession and the Santa Fe, New Mexico City Council is considering a resolution calling for “legalization, decriminalization and/or regulation of cannabis and cannabis-related products for recreational use.”

Additionally, in huge non-U.S. news, a key Mexican senator who will be a member of the new presidential administration filed a bill to legalize marijuana production and sales. The move comes less than one week after the nation’s Supreme Court struck down the criminalization of cannabis.

Following are the bills 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

Penalize States that Maintain Criminalization: The Marijuana Justice Act 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 email your federal lawmakers and urge them to support this important legislation

New York

A11390 seeks to require public health insurance programs to cover medical marijuana related costs.

The measure amends state law so that publicly funded health programs, including the largely-publicly funded Essential Plan, would treat medical cannabis like any other legal prescription drug “for the purposes of coverage under medical assistance.”

Update: Companion legislation, S9189, was introduced on 11/2/18 and referred to the Senate Rules Committee.

NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical marijuana coverage

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Senate Majority Leader Guarantees End To Federal Hemp Ban

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) publicly reaffirmed today that provisions lifting the federal prohibition of hemp will be included in the finalized language of H.R. 2: The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the 2018 Farm Bill). The must-pass legislation is currently being debated by leadership in conference committee.

“If there’s a Farm Bill, it’ll be in there. I guarantee that,” McConnell told reporters in an exchange first reported by Marijuana Moment and The Hill. He added: “I don’t want to overstate this – I don’t know if it’s going to be the next tobacco or not – but I do think it has a lot of potential. And as all of you already know, in terms of food and medicine but also car parts. I mean, it’s an extraordinary plant.”

The hemp-specific provisions, which Sen. McConnell included in the Senate version of the bill, amend federal regulations to further expand and facilitate state-licensed hemp production, research, and commerce. The language also for the first time amends the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 so that industrial hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance. (See page 1182, Section 12608: ‘Conforming changes to controlled substances act.’)

Senator McConnell previously shepherded hemp-related language (Section 7606) in the 2014 version of the Farm Bill, which permits states to establish hemp research and cultivation programs absent federal approval. A majority of states have now enacted legislation to permit such programs.

Lawmakers are seeking to finalize and pass the 2018 farm legislation prior to year’s end.

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Voters Approve Proposition 2 Legalizing Medical Marijuana Access in Utah

With the approval of Proposition 2, Utah has become the 33rd state to regulate the licensed production and distribution of medical cannabis products to qualified patients. The vote comes ahead of a proposed special legislative session of the Utah legislature to address specific rules and regulations governing medical cannabis patient access.

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said, “It is our hope that Utah’s politicians will respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact The Utah Medical Cannabis Act in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law.”

Under legislation enacted by the legislature in 2018, only those patients who are terminally ill may potentially access cannabis-infused products. To date, however, such products are not yet legally available.

According to national polling compiled earlier this year by Quinnipiac University, 91 percent of voters nationwide support “allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes.”

 

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Election 2018: Voters In Ohio And Wisconsin Approve Municipal Reform Measures

Voters in Ohio and Wisconsin approved a series of binding and non-binding local marijuana reform initiatives on Election Day.

In Ohio, voters in five cities — including Dayton (population 140,000) — approved municipal ordinances seeking to either eliminate or significantly reduce local fines and penalties associated with marijuana-related offenses. Voters approved similar measures in the communities of Fremont (population 16,000), Norwood (population 20,000), Oregon (population 20,000), and Windham (population, 2,200).

Several other Ohio cities and towns — including Athens, Bellaire, Newark, Logan, Roseville, and Toledo — have previously enacted similar voter-initiated ordinances.

In Wisconsin, voters in sixteen separate counties — including Milwaukee County — approved non-binding ballot questions expressing support for the legalization of cannabis for either medical purposes or for adult use.

The results to these advisory questions bode well for the prospects of a potential statewide ballot measure in 2020. Such an effort would likely be endorsed by Governor-elect Tony Evers, who in the past has expressed support for such a vote, stating: “I’d support it (marijuana legalization), but I do believe there has to be a more thoughtful, rigorous conversation around it as a state. So I would love to have a statewide referendum on this.”

Sixty-four percent of registered Wisconsin voters say that marijuana should be “legalized for use by adults, … taxed, and regulated like alcohol,” according to a statewide October 2018 poll.

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Marijuana Reform Scores Big Wins In Midterms

Marijuana reformers enjoyed numerous federal, state, and local victories last night. Here are the highlights.

STATE BALLOT INITIATIVES

Florida: Sixty-three percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which amends the state constitution to restore voting privileges to those with non-violent felony convictions – including tens of thousands of those convicted of marijuana-related offenses. Passage of the amendment is anticipated to reinstate voting rights to some 1.4 million Floridians.

Michigan: Voters by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent approved Proposal 1, legalizing the adult use, cultivation, and retail marketing of marijuana. Michigan is the first Midwest state to legalize adult marijuana use and sales, and it is the tenth state overall to do so. Under the measure’s provisions, adults will be able to legally begin possessing cannabis ten days following the certification of the 2018 election results. An estimated 25 percent of the US population now resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use and possession of cannabis is legal.

Missouri: Sixty-six percent of Missourians approved Amendment 2, which amends the constitution to permits physicians to recommend medical marijuana at their sole discretion, and provides licensed dispensary access to qualifying patients. The measure beat out two competing ballot initiatives, neither of which received more than 50 percent support from voters.

North Dakota: Fifty-nine percent of North Dakota voters rejected Measure 3, a grassroots initiative that sought to strike marijuana from much of the criminal code and would have ended most marijuana-related arrests. Though the campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, NORML is proud to have worked closely with local organizers over the past months, and is looking forwarding to coordinating future statewide reform efforts under the North Dakota NORML banner here.

Utah: Fifty-three percent of Utah voters approved Proposition 2, which facilitates legal medical cannabis access to qualified patients. In the coming months, state lawmakers are anticipated to hold a special legislative session with regard to implementing the new law. NORML is calling on state politicians to “respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact The Utah Medical Cannabis Act in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law.” With yesterday’s passage of medical marijuana legalization in Missouri and Utah, 33 US states now recognize the therapeutic use of cannabis by statute.

KEY FEDERAL RACES

There were some major changes in the US House of Representatives that bode well for the prospects of future, federal marijuana law reform. Perhaps most importantly, Congress’ chief marijuana prohibitionist – Texas Republican Pete Sessions – lost his re-election bid. Representative Sessions used his position as Chairman of the House Rules Committee to block House floor members from voting on over three-dozen marijuana-related amendments during his leadership tenure. His actions single-handedly killed a number of popular, bipartisan-led reforms — such as facilitating medical cannabis access to military veterans and amending federal banking laws so that licensed marijuana businesses are treated like other legal industries.

But Rep. Sessions is not the only prohibitionist leaving Congress. Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte – who as House Judiciary Chair failed to schedule any significant marijuana bills for hearings – has retired and will no longer be in Congress following the conclusion of this term

With Sessions and Goodlatte out of power, it is likely that members of the House will once again weigh in on and pass a number of important legislative reforms in 2019.

In addition to these notable departures, a number of NORML-endorsed Congressional candidates and incumbents won their races – including leading reformers like: Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), David Joyce (R-OH), and Barbara Lee (D-CA). To see the outcomes for races involving all of NORML’s 2018 endorsed candidates, please visit here.

KEY STATE RACES

In four states — Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois — voters elected Governors who openly campaigned on a platform that included legalizing adult marijuana use. In two other states — California and Colorado — voters elected Governors who have a long-history of spearheading legalization reform efforts. And in Maine and in New Mexico, two of the nation’s most rabid marijuana prohibitionists, Paul LePage and Susana Martinez, have been replaced by Governors who are open to enacting common-sense cannabis reforms. For a complete run-down of gubernatorial races impacting marijuana policy, please visit the NORML blog here.

LOCAL BALLOT VICTORIES

Voters in Ohio and Wisconsin approved a series of binding and non-binding local marijuana reform initiatives on Election Day.

In Ohio, voters in five cities — including Dayton (population 140,000) — approved municipal ordinances seeking to either eliminate or significantly reduce local fines and penalties associated with marijuana-related offenses. Voters approved similar measures in the communities of Fremont (population 16,000), Norwood (population 20,000), Oregon (population 20,000), and Windham (population, 2,200). And in Wisconsin, voters in sixteen separate counties — including Milwaukee County — approved non-binding ballot questions expressing support for the legalization of cannabis for either medical purposes or for adult use.

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US Attorney General Jeff Sessions Resigns

Jeff Sessions is TERRIFYING!

Jeff Sessions is TERRIFYING!

United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced that he is resigning, effective immediately, from the office of the Department of Justice.

In both his tenure in Congress and as Attorney General, Sessions was a longstanding, vocal opponent of marijuana policy reform, who once opined, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” As Attorney General, his office rescinded the 2013 Cole memorandum which directed prosecutors not to interfere in state-sanctioned marijuana activity. However, that action encouraged numerous members from both parties to strongly criticize the office, and eventually led to the introduction of The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018 – bipartisan House and Senate legislation that seeks to protect jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana from federal intervention.

Commenting on his exit, NORML Director Erik Altieri said, “Attorney General Jefferson Sessions was a national disgrace. NORML hopes that he finds the time during his retirement to seek treatment for his affliction of 1950’s reefer madness.”

Commenting on the prospects for his replacement, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “With 33 states now recognizing the medical use of cannabis, and with 10 states having legalized the use and sales of marijuana for all adults, it is pivotal that the next US Attorney General be someone who recognizes that most Americans want cannabis to be legally regulated and that they oppose any actions from the Justice Department to interfere with these state-sanctioned efforts.”

Sessions’ chief of staff Matt Whitaker will serve as acting Attorney General until a permanent appointment is confirmed.

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Election Night: Gubernatorial Victories Bode Well For 2019 Statewide Reform Prospects

Voters on election day decided in favor of several gubernatorial candidates who campaigned on promises to either address or enact statewide marijuana law reforms as Governor.

NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano
said: “In four states — Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois — voters elected Governors who openly campaigned on a platform that included legalizing adult marijuana use. In two other states — California and Colorado — voters elected Governors who have a long-history of spearheading legalization reform efforts. And in Maine and in New Mexico, two of the nation’s most rabid marijuana prohibitionists, Paul LePage and Susana Martinez, have been replaced by Governors who are open to enacting common-sense cannabis reforms.”

He concluded, “In 2019, we anticipate unprecedented legislative activity at the state level in favor of marijuana law reform legislation, and we expect to see several significant legislative victories before the year’s end.”

Below is a summary of several key races:

CALIFORNIA: Voters elected Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to be California’s next Governor. Newsom received an A grade from NORML for his longstanding support for marijuana legalization, which includes empaneling the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy and campaigning on behalf of California’s 2016 adult use marijuana legalization law. He replaces Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown (B grade from NORML).

COLORADO: Voters elected Democratic Congressman and NORML-endorsed candidate Jared Polis to be Governor. As a member of the US House of Representatives, Polis spearheaded prominent legalization legislation, such as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, and was a founding member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. He replaces outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper (B grade from NORML).

CONNECTICUT: Democrat Ned Lamont replaces Dan Malloy (B- grade from NORML) as Connecticut’s next Governor. In contrast to Malloy, who said that legalizing marijuana was not the state’s “best interest,” Lamont acknowledged during the campaign, “The time has come for Connecticut to responsibly legalize marijuana.” According to the results of an August Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent percent of Connecticut voters support “allowing adults in Connecticut to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.”

ILLINOIS: Democratic candidate J.B. Pritizker defeated Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner (C+ rating from NORML). Pritzker was outspoken in his support for marijuana policy reform throughout the campaign, stating, “In the name of criminal justice reform, consumer safety, and increased state revenue, Illinois needs a governor who is ready to legalize marijuana.” He also campaigned in favor of commuting the sentences of those incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes. Sixty-six percent of Illinois voters support “the legalization of recreational marijuana if it is taxed and regulated like alcohol,” according to a 2018 Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll.

MAINE: Democrat Janet Mills will replace outgoing Gov. Paul LePage, who received a D- grade from NORML earlier this year. As Governor, LePage campaigned against the states’ 2016 adult use legalization initiative and later vetoed legislation that sought to fully implement it into law. By contrast, Mills acknowledges that “properly implemented, marijuana legalization has the potential to create thousands of jobs, grow the Maine economy, and end an outdated war on drugs.”

MICHIGAN: Democratic candidate Gretchen Whitmer defeated Republican candidate Bill Schuette in Michigan’s Governor’s race. Whitmer endorsed the state’s 2018 adult use legalization measure, Proposal 1, which was enacted by 56 percent of the state’s voters. By contrast, former Attorney General Schuette opposed Proposal 1, and formerly campaigned — unsuccessfully — against the passage of medical cannabis access in Michigan.

MINNESOTA: Democratic candidate Tim Walz has been elected to be the next Governor of Minnesota. During his gubernatorial campaign, Walz embraced marijuana legalization, pledging to “replace the current failed policy with one that creates tax revenue, grows jobs, builds opportunities for Minnesotans, protects Minnesota kids, and trusts adults to make personal decisions based on their personal freedoms.” Fifty-six percent of Minnesota adults support legalizing adult marijuana use, according to the results of an October Survey USA poll.

PENNSYLVANIA: Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf was re-elected as Governor of Pennsylvania. Wolf received B- grade from NORML and has been vocal in his support for amending the state’s marijuana laws so that minor marijuana possession offenses are no longer classified as criminal misdemeanors. NORML-endorsed candidate John Fetterman was successful in his bid to be elected Lt. Governor.

NEW MEXICO: Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham will replace Republican Susana Martinez. Grisham has said that she would be “inclined to sign” legislation regulating adult marijuana use. By contrast, Martinez vetoed numerous marijuana reform bills, including those expanding medical cannabis access and legalizing hemp. She received an F grade from NORML.

WISCONSIN: Democratic candidate Tony Evers defeated Republican incumbent Scott Walker to become Wisconsin’s next Governor. Walker opposed efforts to amend adult use marijuana law during his tenure as Governor – receiving a D+ grade on NORML’s gubernatorial scorecard. By contrast, Evers says he’s “not opposed to” legalization. “I’d support it, but I do believe there has to be a more thoughtful, rigorous conversation around it as a state. So I would love to have a statewide referendum on this.” Sixty-four percent of registered Wisconsin voters say that marijuana should be “legalized for use by adults, … taxed, and regulated like alcohol,” according to a statewide October 2018 poll.

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