Archive for the ‘congress’ category

Two Thirds of Americans Want Congress to Exempt States from Federal Marijuana Enforcement

December 10th, 2014

A new study shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans want the federal government to stay out of state-level affairs associated with changes in marijuana law.

According to The Washington Post, that is one of the conclusions of a survey on legal marijuana recently commissioned by Third Way:

The survey found Americans split on the question of full legalization, with 50 percent supporting versus 47 percent opposed. However, the poll did find that six in ten respondents said that states, not the federal government, should decide whether to make marijuana legal. Moreover, 67 percent of Americans said Congress should go further and specifically carve out an exemption to federal marijuana laws for states that legalize, so long as they have a strong regulatory system in place.

How this would work for marijuana is detailed in an exhaustive forthcoming study in the UCLA Law Review. In short, Congress could allow states to opt out of the Controlled Substances Act provisions relating to marijuana, provided they comply with regulatory guidelines issued by the Department of Justice.

This is already the de-facto federal policy toward Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, although it cannot become a formal policy without an act of Congress. Third Way heartily endorses this approach, as it represents a “third way” between the current policy of outright prohibition, and the full legalization route favored by marijuana reform activists.

It is time for Congress to get out of the way and let states determine what marijuana policies work best for them.

Rider in Federal Omnibus Intends to Block DC Legalization Vote

December 9th, 2014

DC Initiative Measure 71A rider was included in the final version of the House omnibus appropriations bill with the intent blocking the implementation of Washington, DC’s 2014 marijuana legalization initiative.

As written, the rider seeks to restrict the District from utilizing federal or local funds to “to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.” A summary of the provision posted on the House Appropriations Committee website acknowledges that the language is intended to prevent any funds from being used to “implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District.”

Washington DC’s Initiative 71 was approved by over 70 percent of District voters in November. The initiative seeks to legalize the adult possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivation of three mature and three immature plants.

“This rider is an affront to the concept of democracy,” commented NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Seven out of ten voters in Washington, DC cast their ballot in favor of ending prohibition and legalizing the adult possession and limited cultivation of marijuana, this attempt by members of Congress to flout the will of the people is a gross injustice to these voters and to the democratic system.”

The House will vote on the final version of the omnibus bill in the next couple days and then it must be approved by the Senate. This rider has no impact on the District’s current decriminalization or medicinal marijuana policies. NORML will keep you updated as the situation develops and what precisely this means for legalization in the nation’s capital.

Further coverage regarding this rider and its potential impact on the District is available from the Washington Post, Roll Call, and CNN.

Federal Omnibus Includes Amendment to Prohibit DOJ/DEA From Interfering With State Medical Marijuana

December 9th, 2014

marijuana_seedlingThe final version of the House omnibus appropriations bill includes the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year. The amendment restricts the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from using taxpayer funds to interfere in state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs in the 20+ states that have enacted them.

NORML supporters have rallied in favor of this provision, with over 22,000 emails and countless direct calls being directed at federal lawmakers regarding the amendment this year.

“This amendment is an important step towards relieving the tension between federal and state policy when it comes to medical marijuana,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “By restricting these agencies in this manner, the nearly two dozen states that implemented medical marijuana programs can hopefully breathe easier knowing federal money won’t be spent to interfere with their progress. We hope this leads to further reforms at the federal level further enshrining this sentiment into law.”

The House is expect to hold a final vote on this bill in the next couple of days, with a Senate vote to follow. You can read the full bill here.

URGENT: Congress Attempting to Block DC Legalization

December 9th, 2014

takeactionban

Congress is finalizing their appropriations bills for the coming year, the final draft going around includes a provision blocking DC’s marijuana legalization measure from being implemented.

From The Washington Post:

Tucked in the massive spending bill needed to prevent a federal government shutdown may be a measure sought by conservative House Republicans to halt marijuana legalization in the nation’s capital, advocates for the measure say.

Seven in 10 D.C. voters backed an initiative last month to follow Colorado and Washington state in legalizing marijuana.

But three people who have been closely tracking the issue say budget negotiators in the Democratic-controlled Senate have agreed to curb the popular measure. Congress has the power to do so by restricting city spending.

Congressional Republicans have previously used the technique, known as a spending “rider,” to prevent the heavily Democratic city from spending money on abortion coverage for the poor. For 11 years, one was used to prevent D.C. from implementing a voter-backed measure to allow medical marijuana.”

SOURCE

Time is quickly expiring to change this, we NEED all of you to call House and Senate leadership and tell them this is an unacceptable flouting of the democratic process.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – (202) 224-2541
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – (202) 224-3542
House Majority Leader John Boehner – (202) 225-0600
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – (202) 225-4965

Suggested talking points: “I’m calling today to ask you to please stand up for the will of Washington, DC voters and the principles of democracy. Please reject efforts to overturn the voter approved DC marijuana legalization initiative. DC residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of this measure and it goes against the democratic spirit of our country to attempt to block this measure from going into place. Thank you.”

Do your part to help defend the will of DC voters and ensure that Initiative 71 is properly implemented. TAKE ACTION NOW.

It is Unlikely That Congress Will Block Making Marijuana Legal in Washington, D.C.

November 14th, 2014
Eleanor Holmes Norton

At a press conference yesterday, the District of Columbia’s congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, urged her colleagues to respect the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved making marijuana legal in the nation’s capital last week.

Norton was joined by three other congressmen, including Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), who said that attempting to block legal marijuana in D.C., as well as Alaska and Oregon, where voters also approved making marijuana legal last week, would disregard the “fundamental principles” that “Republicans have always talked about,” including “individual liberties,” “limited government,” and “states’ rights and the 10th Amendment.”

In theory, there are some ways that Congress could try to block the process of making marijuana legal in the nation’s capital from happening. It could pass a joint resolution disapproving the initiative. It could also bar the District from spending money to implement the measure. In actuality, however, neither of the two approaches to block Initiative 71 deem promising.

The initiative cannot take effect until after the D.C. Council Chairman, Phil Mendelson, submits it to Congress for review, which he is expected to do when the new Republican Congress is seated in January. Once the D.C. Council chairman submits the initiative, Congress has 30 legislative days to pass a resolution overriding the measure. If a resolution is not enacted by the end of the 30-day period, Initiative 71 automatically becomes law.

“I think a resolution of disapproval is unlikely,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Overturning a ballot measure passed by 70 percent of the voters doesn’t really look good for the incoming Republican Congress. If the council transmits [the initiative] in January, I think that pretty much reduces or eliminates the chance that Congress will overturn it outright. It just doesn’t fit with what they’re talking about doing, which is rebranding themselves as not being obstructionists.”

Nikolas Schiller, the communications director at the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, which supported Initiative 71, also agrees that the new Republican Congress will not be eager to nix it.

“We believe that a new Republican Congress will not interfere with something that deals solely with personal liberties,” he says.

NORML PAC Endorses Representative Grayson for Congress

October 31st, 2014

NORML PAC is endorsing Representative Alan Grayson in his campaign to be re-elected to the US Congress representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

“Representative Grayson is a proven leader with a track record of tenaciously advocating for causes he believes in and building the necessary coalitions required to see them approved,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “In 2015, Rep. Grayson wants to be a champion for marijuana law reform at the national level and we’d strongly encourage voters in his district to vote him in for another term.”

This year, Rep. Grayson joined many of his colleagues in the House in voting in favor of amendments that would have prevented the Department of Justice and DEA from expending funds interfering with state medical marijuana programs and help clear the way for marijuana businesses to have access to banking and credit card services.

You can learn more about his campaign, including how to donate and volunteer, on his website or Facebook page.

NORML PAC Endorses Bonnie Watson Coleman for US Congress

October 28th, 2014

vote_keyboardNORML PAC is endorsing Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman in her campaign to be elected to the United States Congress representing the 12th Congressional District in New Jersey.

“Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has been a proponent of reforming New Jersey’s marijuana laws during her time in Trenton. She voted in support of legalizing medical marijuana in New Jersey, co-sponsored legislation to decriminalize possession of marijuana in the garden state, and supports a move to the legalization and regulation of marijuana,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Voters in New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District should vote to send her to Congress where she will be a great asset in pursuing reform at the national level.”

Bonnie Watson Coleman was named by MSNBC as one of the 30 women candidates to watch in 2014 and was named one of the top five female pro-marijuana candidates in Freedom Leaf Magazine.

You can learn more about her campaign, including how to donate and volunteer, on her website her Facebook page.

House Approves Amendment to Help Marijuana Businesses

July 17th, 2014
Denny Heck
Representative Denny Heck (D-WA)

The House of Representatives approved an amendment Wednesday that will facilitate marijuana businesses in working with banking institutions, International Business Times reports. The Heck Amendment, named after its sponsor Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), was approved by a vote of 231-192. The amendment effectively blocks the SEC and Treasury Department from penalizing banks who lend money to legitimate marijuana businesses in areas where they can legally do business. The Heck Amendment was supported by both parties and represents growing bipartisan support of marijuana businesses, especially after the recent vote by Congress to defund the DEA’s ability to interfere with medical marijuana patients and businesses that are in compliance with state law. If the Heck Amendment is implemented, it will be a major victory in the effort to allow legitimate businesses to control the marijuana market.

In the past, many financial institutions have shied away from assisting marijuana businesses for fear that the federal government will go after them for it, forcing most to operate on a cash-only system. Because of this, they are required to transport thousands of dollars physically, making them targets for robberies and other crimes. Wednesday’s vote is the first step towards allowing legitimate marijuana businesses to utilize alternative forms of payment, such as credit cards and bank accounts, like all other businesses.

Marijuana Decriminalization Takes Effect In Nation’s Capital

July 17th, 2014
As of midnight Wednesday, D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law is officially in effect. The new law — approved by the D.C. Council, signed by Mayor Gray,

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Mayor Vincent Gray

and submitted to Congress for a 60-day review — replaces misdemeanor criminal charges for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil violation, costing the offender $25. Now D.C. has the third-least punitive marijuana laws in the country, behind Colorado and Washington State.

It is important to note that this is only a change in District law, not federal law. Marijuana possession on federal lands, including the National Mall, is still a criminal offense and violators may be arrested and prosecuted. Public use is still illegal as well. Please see our summary of this new law for more information.

Thank you so much to all the individuals and organizations that took part in reforming the previously outdated law. Further reform is still needed, however. If you are a District resident, please contact your council members and urge them to treat marijuana like alcohol.

 

House Approves Amendment to Allow Financial Institutions to Work With Marijuana Businesses

July 16th, 2014

This afternoon, the House of Representatives voted 231 to 192 in favor of the Heck-Perlmutter-Lee-Rohrabacher Amendment, which will restrict Treasury Department and SEC funds from being spent to penalize financial institutions for providing services to marijuana related business that operate according to state law. This proposal amends H.R. 5016, a spending bill for fiscal year 2015 that funds the Internal Revenue Service, Treasury Department, and Securities and Exchange Commission.

The amendment reads:

“None of the funds made available in this Act may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, or Wisconsin or the District of Columbia, to prohibit, penalize, or otherwise discourage a financial institution from providing financial services to an entity solely because the entity is a manufacturer, producer, or person that participates in any business or organized activity that involves handling marijuana or marijuana products and engages in such activity pursuant to a law established by a State or a unit of local government.”

This vote comes on the heels of another recent historic vote in the House of Representatives, that restricted Department of Justice and DEA funds from being used to interfere in state approved medical marijuana programs. That measure is still awaiting action in the US Senate. This measure, HR 5106, will now be sent to the Senate as well.

“The recent votes in the House of Representatives demonstrate bi-partisan support at the federal level to allow states to experiment with new marijuana policies, free from federal interference,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “If implemented, this amendment will help alter the current untenable status quo that forces otherwise law abiding businesses to operate on a cash only basis, making them a target for criminal actions and unduly burdening their operations.”