Archive for the ‘government’ category

Washington, DC: District Officials Move Forward To Enact Municipal Depenalization Initiative

January 15th, 2015

District of Columbia city officials this week moved forward with their intentions to implement a voter-approved municipal initiative depenalizing marijuana possession and cultivation offenses.

On Tuesday, city officials confirmed that Initiative 71 was transmitted to Congress for review. Under federal law, all District laws are subject to a 30-day review process by Congress, during which time members may take action to halt the law’s implementation.

Speaking to Roll Call this week, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said that language previously adopted by Congress in a December 2014 spending bill already prohibits DC officials from implementing I-71 and, thus, no further action by Congress is necessary. However, several District officials – including DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson – said that the federal provision in question in no way blocks city officials from enacting the new law.

“The District’s examination agrees with our analysis that the initiative was enacted when voters approved it and will take effect at the end of the 30-day congressional review period,” Del. Norton said in a statement.

Chairman Mendelson agreed, saying, “I happen to believe that the initiative was enacted so I think there’s no question that after the 30-day review it will be law.”

The District of Columbia Attorney General’s office has not yet commented in regard to how the District will respond if Congress does not address the initiative during the review process, Roll Call reported.

In November, 70 percent of District voters approved I-71, which removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants.

Separate DC municipal legislation – ‘The Marijuana Legalization and regulation Act’ – which seeks to regulate commercial cannabis production and retail sales, is also pending before the Council. If enacted, this legislation would also go before lawmakers for Congressional review and likely would force a federal challenge.

POLL: 60% of Virginia Voters Support Marijuana Decriminalization

January 6th, 2015

vabillboardA poll conducted by the firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) revealed that 60% of Virginia voters would support decriminalizing the adult possession of small amounts of marijuana, indicating strong support for state Senator Adam Ebbin’s marijuana decriminalization measure, Senate Bill 686. Decriminalization had majority support from every age, racial, and gender demographic.

The survey also had support for legalization and regulation of marijuana in the Commonwealth at a record high of 49% support to 44% opposed.

With the legislative session kicking off in Virginia, expect to hear much more about this pending legislation in the coming weeks. If you are a Virginia resident, please CLICK HERE to quickly and easily contact your state Senator and urge their support for SB 686. It is time that our state officials pursued a policy on marijuana that was “Smart on crime and smart for Virginia.”

We strongly encourage you also attend Virginia NORML‘s lobby day in Richmond on January 16th to help put the pressure on state legislators in person. You can click here for more information on lobby day.

If you find yourself traveling in the Richmond area, keep your eyes peeled for Virginia NORML’s billboard in support of SB 686, which should be going on display very soon on Route 360 as you drive over the James River (the billboard image is featured at the top of this post).

This poll was commissioned by MPP and conducted by Public Policy Polling. You can read the full results here.

TAKE ACTION VIRGINIA – CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR STATE SENATOR IN SUPPORT OF SB 686

2014: The Year In Review — NORML’s Top 10 Events That Shaped Marijuana Policy

December 30th, 2014

2014: The Year In Review - NORML's Top 10 Events That Shaped Marijuana PolicyNORML reviews the top news stories of 2014.

#1 Marijuana Legalization Measures Win Big On Election Day
Voters in Oregon and Alaska decided on Election Day in favor of statewide initiatives legalizing the commercial production and sale of marijuana for adults, while voters in the nation’s capitol and in numerous other cities nationwide similarly decided on local measures to eliminate marijuana possession penalties.

#2 Colorado And Washington Begin Regulating Retail Marijuana Sales
Two states, Colorado and Washington, initiated retail marijuana sales in 2014. Colorado’s program began on January 1. In Washington, state-licensed retail outlets began legally selling cannabis to adults in July.

#3 Congress Enacts Measure Protecting State-Sponsored Medi-Pot Programs
President Barack Obama signed spending legislation into law in December that included a provision limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states. The amendment states, “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

#4 Congress Moves To Permit State-Sanctioned Hemp Cultivation
Federal lawmakers approved legislation in February permitting state-sponsored hemp cultivation to move forward despite the plant’s federal status as a Schedule I prohibited substance.

#5 Federal Judge Hears Challenge To Cannabis’ Schedule I Status
United States District Judge Kimberly Mueller heard five days of testimony in October in regard to the constitutionality of marijuana’s Schedule I status under federal law. Defense counsel and their experts argued that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s present categorization. Judge Mueller is expected to make her ruling in early 2015.

#6 JAMA: Fewer Opiate-Related Deaths In Medical Marijuana States
The enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, according to data published in August in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

#7 President Acknowledges That Booze Is More Harmful Than Marijuana
Consuming cannabis is less harmful to the individual than is drinking alcohol, President Barack Obama acknowledged in January in an interview with The New Yorker. “I don’t think it (marijuana) is more dangerous than alcohol,” he stated. He added, [W]e should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time.”

#8 Study: Medical Marijuana States Have Fewer Violent Crimes
Medicinal cannabis laws are not associated with any rise in statewide criminal activity, according to data published in April in the journal PLoS ONE. “Medical marijuana laws were not found to have a crime exacerbating effect on any of the seven crime types. On the contrary, our findings indicated that MML precedes a reduction in homicide and assault,” authors concluded. “In sum, these findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.”

#9 NYT Editors Opine In Favor Of Legalizing Cannabis
The New York Times editorial board in July called upon federal lawmakers to end the criminalization of cannabis for those over the age of 21. The paper’s editors opined: “The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. … Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. … [W]e believe that on every level, … the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization.”

#10 Americans Say Marijuana Is Less Harmful To Health Than Sugar
Americans believe that consuming cannabis poses less harm to health than does the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, or sugar, according to the findings of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in March. Respondents were asked which of the four substances they believed to be “most harmful to a person’s overall health.” Most respondents said tobacco (49 percent), followed by alcohol (24 percent) and sugar (15 percent).

Pot Possession Decriminalized In US Virgin Islands

December 22nd, 2014

Legislation decriminalizing the possession of one ounce or less of cannabis in the United States Virgin Islands became law this weekend.

On Friday, Senate lawmakers voted to override Gov. John P. DeJongh’s line-item veto of the decriminalization provision, which had been included in territory’s 2015 fiscal year budget.

The depenalization measure eliminates jail time for minor marijuana offenses. Under the new law, cannabis possession for those age 18 and older is classified as a civil offense, punishable by a fine between $100 and $200. Those under the age of 18 will also be required to complete a drug awareness program.

(Under the previous law, minor marijuana possession offenses were punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.)

The enactment of the new law “will go a long way in easing cost on the judicial system and judicial process,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Terrance Nelson. Senators voted 14-0 to override the President’s veto.

President Signs Federal Spending Bill Protecting State Sanctioned Medical Marijuana Programs

December 15th, 2014

President Barack Obama signed spending legislation into law on Tuesday that includes provisions limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states.

Specifically, an amendment sponsored by California Reps. Dana Rohrbacher and Sam Farr to the $1.1 trillion spending bill states, “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Said Farr following Congress’ passage of the legislation: “The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws. This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.”

Similar language prohibiting the Justice Department from undermining state-sanctioned hemp cultivation programs was also included in the bill.

Also contained in the appropriations measure is a rider sponsored by Maryland Republican Andy Harris that seeks to limit DC officials’ ability to fully implement a November 2014 municipal initiative depenalizing the personal adult possession and cultivation of cannabis. At this time however, it remains unclear whether the enacted language is written in a manner that can actually do so. On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson “plans to ignore the provision” and that he will “send a bill implementing Initiative 71 to Congress in January for a 30-day review, during which federal lawmakers can veto it or let it stand.” Such a review is necessary before any DC initiative can become law.

Washington DC’s Initiative 71, which was approved by 70 percent of District voters, removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants.

Obama to Native Americans: Marijuana Legalization Is A-OK

December 12th, 2014

In a completely unexpected move by the Obama Administration, the US Department of Justice released a memo on October 28 indicating to Native American tribes that they can engage in cannabis commerce–cultivation, processing and retail sales–as long as they comport with the existing eight rules put forward in a previous August 2013 Obama Administration memo allowing states the autonomy to develop cannabis-based businesses in states where voters have passed binding ballot initiatives or elected policymakers have passed reform legislation.

  • Distribution of marijuana to minors
  • Revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels
  • Diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it remains illegal
  • State-authorized marijuana activity being used as a cover for trafficking other illegal drugs or activity
  • Violence or the use of firearms as part of cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • Drugged driving or the exacerbation of other negative health consequences associated with marijuana use
  • Growing marijuana on public lands
  • Marijuana possession or use on federal property

It's NORML to smoke pot

US News writes that “there are 326 federally recognized American Indian reservations, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Many reservations are in states that don’t allow marijuana for medical or recreational use, such as Oklahoma, Utah and the Dakotas. Others are located near major East Coast cities and far from legal pot stores in the West.

“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” U.S. attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon, chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues, told the Times.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said U.S. attorneys will review tribal marijuana policies on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors retain the right to enforce federal law.

“Each U.S. attorney will assess the threats and circumstances in his or her district, and consult closely with tribal partners and the Justice Department when significant issues or enforcement decisions arise in this area,” the statement says. 

Read the DOJ memo allowing Native American tribes to regulate cannabis-related businesses here.

A detailed map of Native American tribes is found here.

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.

Poll: 60 Percent Of Americans Say States, Not Feds, Ought To Decide Marijuana Question

December 9th, 2014

Six out of ten voters believe that states, not the federal government, should authorize and enforce marijuana policy, according to national polling data reported this week by the Washington, DC think-tank Third Way.

When presented with the option, 60 percent of respondents said that state officials ought to possess the authority to “control and decide whether to legalize marijuana.” Only 34 percent of those polled said that the federal government ought to enforce marijuana laws.

Similarly, a super-majority of voters (67 percent) agreed, “Congress should pass a bill giving states that have legalized marijuana a safe haven from federal marijuana laws, so long as they have a strong regulatory system.”

Overall, 50 percent of voters said that they support legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes while 47 percent opposed the notion. However, among those opposed to legalization, 21 percent endorsed the idea of Congress providing a “safe haven” from federal prohibition in those states that have chosen to legalize the plant’s use and sale.

“The fact that state legalization of marijuana violates federal law and creates an untenable policy situation was clear – and the voters we polled responded not with ideological proclamations but by supporting a middle-ground, pragmatic policy which would ease that conflict as the legal landscape continues to quickly shift,” representatives for the think-tank stated in a media release. “This means marijuana is not an issue of absolutes for many Americans – rather, it requires a nuanced balancing of values and interests.”

Nationwide, voter support for cannabis legalization was highest among Democrats (64 percent), Millennials (61 percent), and non-white/Hispanic voters (61 percent). A majority of women voters and self-identified Republicans opposed legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. By contrast, majority support (78 percent) for the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes extended throughout all demographics.

Among respondents, 54 percent expressed a favorable view of those who used cannabis therapeutically, while only 36 percent said that they possessed a favorable view of social consumers.

When it came to the issue of how to most effectively influence voters’ opinions on marijuana law reform, authors reported that neither negative nor positive messaging “moved voters substantially in either direction.” Specifically, authors’ reported that many respondents failed to sympathize with the idea that the drug war was overly punitive or that the federal government might once again begin cracking down on state-compliant cannabis consumers and providers.

Authors concluded, “As opponents lean heavily into values-based arguments regarding teenage marijuana use and highway safety, more research still needs to be done to identify a compelling value for legalizing recreational marijuana – the way that compassion underlies support for medical marijuana.”

Researchers collected opinion data over the course of several months in two separate waves – first with a late summer focus group and then with an October poll of 856 registered voters, conducted online.

Full text of the Third Way report is online at here.

Colorado: Health Officials Recommend $7.5 Million In Grant Funding For Clinical Cannabis Trials

November 26th, 2014

State Public Health Department officials have recommended over $7 million dollars in grant funding to pay for a series of state-sponsored clinical trials to assess the safety and efficacy of cannabis and cannabinoids.

The proposed studies include a pair of clinical trials to evaluate the use of cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychotropic plant cannabinoid, for patients with pediatric epilepsy. Two additional trials will assess the use of cannabis for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress. Other studies will assess the efficacy of either cannabis or CBD in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, ulcerative colitis, and pain management. (More specific summaries of all eight proposed studies are available online here.)

Grant funding for the proposed studies requires final approval by the state Board of Health in December.

Following funding approval, researchers will still be required to gain additional federal approval in order to obtain access to research-grade cannabis or CBD.

The state of California previously sponsored a similar series of clinical trials assessing the safety and efficacy of marijuana. Those studies evaluated the use of whole-plant cannabis in patients with neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune deficiencies. A summary of those trials, published in 2012, concluded, “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

Congressional Research Service: Report On Federal Government Taxing Marijuana

November 20th, 2014

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a comprehensive thirty five-page report last week examining the federal government establishing a wholesale excise tax on the production and sale of cannabis-related products.
majority_support

In what is one of the most comprehensive policy and fiscal reviews to date of how cannabis can be taxed and regulated numerous areas of consideration were reviewed including enforcement, discouraging youth use, choosing the base to tax (i.e., weight, potency and price), restrictions, labeling, measurement, special tax rates, home production and medical cannabis. Members of Congress initiate these reports to CRS.

CRS’ economic analysis indicates that cannabis prices are likely to fall from today’s prohibition-influenced prices of $200-$300 an ounce to as low $5-$18 ounce. Economic modeling based on a $40 billion annual cannabis market in the United States tests a $50 per ounce federal excise tax price point (generating nearly $7 billion in federal excise taxes).

When making the logical comparison of alcohol and cannabis’ ‘external costs’ (i.e., taxation to equate with external costs of the drug use to society), researchers peg alcohol’s external costs to the nation at $30 billion annually; cannabis, at $0.5 – $1.6 billion.

NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre commenting on the new CRS paper: “This CRS report on the prospects of the federal government taxing and regulating cannabis is another clear indication of the political saliency and fiscal appeal of ending cannabis prohibition at the state, and increasingly at the federal level (replacing the nearly eighty-year old failed federal policy with tax-n-regulate policies that are similar to alcohol and tobacco products).

With fours states and the District of Columbia since 2012 opting for legalizing cannabis, dozens of members of Congress from both major political parties—from states with legalization and those that pine for it—are getting serious about making sure the federal government does not lose out on hundreds of millions annually in tax revenue from the ever-growing cannabis industry in the United States.”