Monthly Archives: February 2019

Trump’s Bush-League Choice for Attorney General Confirmed

President Trump reached back to the first Bush administration for his replacement for Jeff Sessions as the nation’s top law enforcement official. William Barr did that job for 18 months from 1991-1992. His reputation is that of a hardcore drug warrior.

Update: On Feb. 14, Barr was confirmed as the nation’s Attorney General by a 54-45 Senate vote.

A conservative, white-collar lawyer who also worked in the Reagan administration, as Attorney General, Barr favored longer prison sentences for drug offenders, mass drug testing in the workplace, civil forfeiture, pursuing cannabis cultivators as if they were public enemy No. 1 and rigorous use of military in drug law enforcement.

Barr was the federal quarterback leading the efforts at the Department of Justice to block any and all efforts to legalize medical access to cannabis, from appealing NORML vs. DEA out of the administrative courts to quashing the Compassionate Investigative New Drug Program, which, in the early ’90s, had a dozen patients receiving medical cannabis from the government’s pot farm in Mississippi.

City of Edmonton Hands Out More Violation Tickets for Tobacco Than Cannabis

It has been four months since cannabis became legal in Canada and, in that span of time, the City of Edmonton has only given out three bylaw violation tickets for cannabis smoking. Numbers from the city reveal there have been 33 warnings about cannabis smoking; the numbers pale when compared to the 73 tickets given out by the city for tobacco smoking and the 847 warnings handed out for tobacco smoking since Oct. 17, 2018,…


Weekly Legislative Roundup 2/15/18

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

This was a big week for marijuana in Congress. The House Financial Services subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions held a hearing Wednesday to address the lack of access to basic banking services by state-legal marijuana businesses.

Also this week Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced legislation, The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, to expand and facilitate medical cannabis access to military veterans suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other serious medical conditions.

At the state level, John Fetterman, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania began his listening tour in central Pennsylvania to get feedback from the public on marijuana legalization. You can submit your own feedback here.

The Arkansas House Rules Committee killed a bill that would have expanded the list of qualifying medical conditions eligible for medical cannabis. On the same day, the Department of Health, Surgeon General, and Drug Director issued a public health advisory regarding “the risks of harm associated with use of products derived from Cannabis, including marijuana and hemp, that claim to benefit health.”

At a more local level, the decriminalization policy in Dayton, Ohio went into effect this week. And Denver, Colorado’s mayor and district attorney launched a new program seeking to help those convicted of certain marijuana offenses expunge their records.

Following are the bills that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check NORML’s Action Center for legislation pending in …

Joy Inside My Tears: The Greening of Kamala Harris

Senate Judiciary Committee member Kamala Harris

During a February 11  appearance on New York City morning radio show, The Breakfast Club, Senator Kamala Harris admitted smoking marijuana in college and said that she supports its legalization.

Even these days, when a serving member of the U.S. Senate says something like that, it’s news. But Senator Harris’s announcement on January 21 that she’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2020 general election makes her statements all the more significant.

At the 34th minute of the interview (watch below), DJ Envy commented: “They say you opposed legalizing weed.”

“That’s not true,” Harris replied stiffly, then lightened up. “Half my family’s from Jamaica. Are you kidding me?”

Bill to Provide Greater Access for Virginia Medical Cannabis Patients Succeeds

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Virginia SB1719 passes the House of Delegates

Virginia SB1719 passes the House of Delegates

Originally posted on the Virginia NORML Blog

Richmond, Va — Virginia Senator David Marsden’s SB1719 has passed unanimously through both the House of Delegates and the Senate, and is headed to the governor’s desk for signature.

SB1719 allows “registered agents” for those patients physically unable to pick up or receive delivery of their medical cannabis, like those in hospice, assisted living facilities, and those who rely on home healthcare providers.

“This law will ensure that patients who may be physically incapable of picking up these life-changing medicines on their own will have access to them from throughout the Commonwealth,” said Senator Marsden, of Fairfax County.

Virginia NORML members with Senator Dave Marsden

Virginia NORML members meet with Senator Dave Marsden

It is patients like Tamara Lyn Netzel, a teacher from Alexandria who suffers from multiple sclerosis, who stand to benefit from this legislation.

“Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative disease with severe symptoms that come and go, so I’ve accepted at some point I may not be able to drive a car safely or leave my home,” said Netzel. “It is comforting to know I will still be able to send my husband to get the medicine I need.”

SB1719, which passed unanimously through both the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate, will also allow Virginia’s licensed pharmaceutical processors to transfer products between the five state-authorized facilities, ensuring that patients have access to a wider range of products. It will also prevent …

Congressional Hearing On Marijuana Banking Held

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The House Financial Services subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions held a hearing regarding the lack of access to basic banking services by state-legal marijuana businesses.

Currently, state-licensed marijuana businesses face a web of conflicting regulations and federal prohibitions largely prohibit these businesses from partnering with financial institutions, processing credit cards, and taking standard business deductions.

NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano submitted written congressional testimony, which you can read here.

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal published on op-ed on the topic in The Hill Newspaper, entitled Businesses need bank accounts — marijuana shops included.

You can share the op-ed on Facebook by clicking here and on Twitter by clicking here.

One of the best ways to speed up marijuana legalization is by allowing the existing companies access to basic banking services and it is encouraging to see Congress begin the conversation.

You can watch the hearing below.


Veterans Medical Marijuana Access Legislation Introduced In House and Senate

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Today, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced legislation, The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, to expand and facilitate medical cannabis access to military veterans suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other serious medical conditions.

Under existing regulations, VA doctors are not permitted to fill out the mandatory paperwork necessary to recommend cannabis therapy in those 33 states that regulate it. Passage of The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act ends this discrimination against veterans and prevents sanctions against VA doctors who wish to recommend medical cannabis treatment to their patients.

“The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would provide crucial medical and civil protections for the men and women who put their lives on the line to serve this country. It is unconscionable that these brave individuals who protect our nation’s freedoms would be treated as criminals when they return home just for treating their medical ailments with a safe and effective option,” said Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director. “We applaud and appreciate the leadership by Senator Schatz and Rep. Lee in putting forward this legislation.”

“Historically, veteran and military communities have long been at the forefront of American social change, catalyzing the widespread acceptance of evolving cultural norms and perceptions surrounding racial, gender, and sexual equality. The therapeutic use of cannabis by veterans follows this trend and members of Congress should follow their lead and pass the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act,”

Businesses Need Bank Accounts; Marijuana Shops Included

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Imagine operating a business without a bank account. Or having to pay each of your employees and vendors in cash. Imagine being forbidden from letting your customers pay for purchases with a credit card, or being able to ask a bank for a small business loan.

This is the reality of hundreds of small and medium-sized business owners throughout the country who are engaging in the emerging cannabis marketplace.

To date, nine states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington – permit retail sales of recreational marijuana to adults. Furthermore, a total of 33 states have enacted policies to establish a regulated medical cannabis program.

Currently, state-licensed marijuana businesses face a web of conflicting regulations. Specifically, federal prohibitions largely prohibit these businesses from partnering with financial institutions, processing credit cards, and taking standard business deductions.

No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to reliable banking solutions. While it is encouraging to see that a small but growing number of financial operators are beginning to provide necessary services to those engaged in state-compliant cannabis commerce, it is self-evident that this industry will remain severely hampered without better access to credit and financing.  

In 2017, then nominee for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was asked about these financial hurdles. Mnuchin stated, “I will work with Congress and the President to determine which provisions of the current tax code should be retained, revised or eliminated

Social Cannabis Consumption Taking Off in California and Colorado

Old-style volcano vaporizers are popular at Magnolia Wellness’ consumption lounge in Oakland.

Vape lounges and cannabis cafés are popping up everywhere in 2019. San Francisco has the largest concentration of licensed facilities, with a dozen dispensaries that feature tabletop vaporizers, edibles consumption and, at some, even marijuana smoking. It’s a major trend that will continue around the country in legal states this year.

The latest consumption room to open in San Francisco was Moe Green’s at 1256 Market St. Named after the notorious Las Vegas gangster, the store boasts “three lavish consumption lounges where you can chill, create, work and stop in for a quick smoke.” The Playground is “dedicated to vaping,” The Vault is “where concentrated cannabis extracts are consumed” and The High Roller “features five booths to roll up, light up and smoke.” Each room is stylized to attract a sophisticated tech-oriented crowd.

The other San Francisco lounge that opened in January, the Vapor Room at 79 9th St., was closed due to local regulations and federal harassment in 2012, but is thriving again as a neighborhood joint.

Prop 64 Allows for Social Use 

It makes no sense to legalize cannabis without creating places to use it. California’s state law baked the idea in right from the start, saying “a local jurisdiction may allow for the smoking, vaporizing and ingesting of cannabis or cannabis products on the premises of a retailer or microbusiness licensed under this division.” The …

How to Prevent Cannabis Surpluses and Shortages

The rollout of marijuana legalization has not been smooth. On one side, there’s a push for revenue; on the other, there’s a desire for tough regulations and enforcement. While businesses get caught in the middle, consumers go along for the ride and patients run the risk of being mowed over.

Greed Rules: The Case of Oregon

Legislators often see legal marijuana as a cash cow. If money is the motivation, authorities will push to issue as many licenses to as many businesses as possible, which can lead to overproduction and oversupply. Take the legal marijuana state of Oregon, for instance.

People in Oregon grow a lot of weed. The Beaver State has been a net marijuana exporter for decades. The state’s medical-marijuana program was approved by voter initiative in 1998, yet it wasn’t until 2013 that the state legislature passed a bill to license and regulate dispensaries. Voters approved a legalization measure in 2014 and adult-use sales started in 2015. Then, in 2016, the legislature repealed a residency requirement for marijuana businesses and opened up Oregon’s marijuana industry to out-of-state investment.

“We’ve created an oversupply problem,” says Anthony Taylor, co-founder and legislative liaison for the patient advocacy organization Compassionate Oregon. “Before we legalized cannabis for the adult-use population, we were already producing about five times what the state consumes, and when the Oregon Liquor Control Commission came in and threw all that infrastructure away in favor …

Weekly Legislative Roundup 2/8/19

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

This week, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden introduced legislation in the Senate — The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act — to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference.

A subcommittee of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on cannabis business banking issues next week.

At the state level, activists in Texas, Maryland, and Kentucky gathered in their state capitols alongside state and local NORML chapters to lobby for sensible marijuana policy reform legislation.

Activists in Mississippi have already collected thousands of signatures in hopes of qualifying a medical cannabis ballot initiative for the 2020 ballot.

A Georgia bill to reduce marijuana possession penalties was defeated in a senate committee this week. So was a Mississippi medical cannabis proposal.

At a more local level, efforts are underway in Ann Arbor, Michigan to put a cannabis social use question before voters on the 2020 ballot. Clark County, Nevada officials deferred consideration of a proposal to allow social cannabis lounges in the county.

Following are the bills that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check NORML’s Action Center 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 U.S. Congress. Another great way to stay up to date is …

Texas Marijuana Policy Lobby Day

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On Thursday, hundreds of Texans joined us at the Texas State Capitol to discuss marijuana policy with legislators! For this historic day, over 400 Texans registered to participate, covering all thirty-one senate districts and three-quarters of the house district. It was a beautiful representation of how important reform is for Texans.

We provided a training session for our participants that covered an overview of the legislative process, review of priority legislation, what to expect from their visits and Q&A. We provided training packets for them to use in preparation for their visits, including voting records to check where their legislators have historically stood on the issue. Participants then crafted a message to place on their postcards which they delivered to offices along with policy overviews and then requested their Senator and Representative co-sponsor important legislation. Pictures of the event can be found here. Livestream of the event can be found here.

The changes that I have seen over the last 14 years in Texas are stark. The first lobby day I ever participated in only had a few dozen dedicated Texans holding the torch for freedom. At that time, legislators had a harsh opinion of our work. But today, we have a record number of bills and have created a huge change in public opinion in the Capitol. The import of these drastic changes over the years are not lost and I am so thankful for all

S. 420 Introduced To End Federal Prohibition And Regulate Marijuana Nationwide

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Senator Ron Wyden has introduced legislation in the Senate — The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act — to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. In addition to removing marijuana from the United States Controlled Substances Act, this legislation also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matters concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.

Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of Senate Bill 420 now!

“Senate Bill 420 is another sign that the growing public support for ending our failed war on cannabis consumers nationwide is continuing to translate into political support amongst federal officials,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “If we are truly going to move our nation towards sensible marijuana policies, the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act is paramount. Annually, 650,000 Americans are arrested for nothing more than the possession of small amounts of marijuana and now is the time for Congress to once and for all end put an end to the national embarrassment that is cannabis prohibition. With marijuana legalization being supported by a supermajority of Americans while Congress’ approval rating hovers around 20 percent, ending our country’s disastrous prohibition against marijuana would not just be good policy, but good politics.”

Upon introduction, Senator Wyden said, “The federal prohibition of marijuana is wrong, plain

The State of Cannabis Reform in Indiana

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During the 2018 legislative session, state representative Jim Lucas (R-69) introduced his first medical cannabis bill, HB 1106, which quickly gained three co-authors after being assigned to the House Public Health committee. Fellow Republican Sean Eberhart (district 57) joined Lucas along with Democrats Sue Errington (district 34) and Chuck Moseley (district 10) on the bill, offering bipartisan for the reform.

Citing the short session and limited time for hearings, public health chairwoman Representative Cindy Kirchhofer (R-89) opted instead to hold a hearing for House Resolution 2, authored by Representative Math Lehman (R-79) along with co-authors including herself, Representative Chris Judy (R-83), and Representative Vanessa Summers (D-99), which called for the legislative council to assign the topic of medical marijuana to the interim Public Health committee as well as requesting that the federal government remove cannabis from the Schedule I category in the Controlled Substances Act. Lehman’s interest in advancing the conversation originates in part from his friendship with his mentor and former state representative Tom Knollman, who refuses opioids in the treatment of his multiple sclerosis and is an advocate for legalizing cannabis. Citing the diametric opinions involved in this topic, from individuals such as Knollman citing their personal experience of the benefit on one hand to law enforcement and other organizations warning against going down the route of legalization on the other, Lehman explained that he thought it was time for our state to begin looking into the evidence …

An Apology from Joe Biden for His Drug War Sins Would Be Nice

Sen. Joe Biden chaired the Justice Committee from 1987-1994. Sen. Ted Kennedy looks on. (Photo: Greg Gibson/AP)

I attended my first US Senate committee hearing about 30 years ago this year. It was the confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee of William Bennett to be the nation’s first Drug Czar. The hearing was chaired by Senator Joseph Biden, the Democrat from Delaware.

The post of Drug Czar – Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to give the job its proper name – as well as the Office of Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) itself was created by Joe Biden and his colleagues in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.

People need to be aware that Biden was one of the architects of our modern drug war. He made news recently when he admitted his support for harsh drug and crime policies was a “big mistake” and that he “may not have always gotten things right” when it comes to criminal justice policy.

It’s a prime example of much too little and very much too late. It’s also just the most recent attempt by Biden to excuse his past.

Cannabis Advocates to Rally in Kentucky

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The Kentucky chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (KY NORML) is assisting Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana (KY4MM) in its lobbying efforts Feb. 5 with constituents from across the state seeking cannabis reform.

“There are several meetings made for constituents to meet with their legislators on both days. KY4MM has been extremely important in helping to get all of our supporters to come together. It’s vital that we speak as one voice for a medical program.” said Matthew Bratcher, KY NORML executive director.

Patrick Dunegan, Executive Director for Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition (KCFC), “We should not be prisoners of an imaginary border for our health”, referring to Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois becoming emerging medical cannabis markets.

There are four bills pertaining to the legalization of cannabis during the 2019 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

State Rep. Jason Nemes, R-33, is sponsoring a medical cannabis bill (HB 136) that allows doctors to recommend cannabis therapy as part of patients’ treatment regimens. “It is time to allow doctors to have this option for their patients,” Nemes said Jan. 9 during a news conference.

Fairdale Republican state Sen. Dan Seum, R-38, has proposed SB80, which would allow responsible adult use of cannabis. Seum recently told lawmakers he “smoked a joint” instead of using potentially addictive opioids during colon cancer treatment. “And guess what? No nausea,”; Seum said last month.

Other cannabis bills on the 2019 legislative agenda …

NORML Chapter Newsletter

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Everyday NORML Chapters from around the country invest countless hours in advocating for meaningful marijuana law reforms on the local, state and federal level! Below is a brief rundown of some of their most recent accomplishments.

NORML Chapters Organized and Energized for State Legislative Sessions in 2019

“That’s why dozens of NORML chapters are organizing citizen lobby days to advocate for the end of marijuana prohibition and other reforms ranging from depenalization and expungement, to workplace drug testing and social consumption.”

Read more from!

Follow NORML on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and become a member today!

Chicago NORML Continues Push for Diversity in Cannabis Industry

“Recognizing the short window of time available to shape the cannabis industry in Illinois, Chicago NORML and BlackRoots Alliance plan to bring the issues of racial equity and restorative justice in the cannabis industry to the forefront of the public’s attention.”

Read more from In These Times!

Follow Chicago NORML on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and become a member today!

Mid-Missouri NORML Hosted Medical Marijuana Panel Discussion

“Because voters approved Amendment 2 in the November general election, the panel will discuss how medical marijuana will work in Missouri, along with what constitutional rights people have when dealing with police.”

Read more from the Missourian!

Follow Mid-Missouri NORML on Facebook and become a member today!

Texas NORML Hosted Advocacy Training for 2019 Legislative Session  

“The Texas

WHO Recommends Cannabis Rescheduling

This morning the World Health Organization (WHO) made an announcement that has the potential to change the status of medical cannabis globally. The WHO has determined that cannabis and cannabis resin should be removed from Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (which is different than the U.S. Controlled Substances Act scheduling) and divided into more specific categories in lower schedules. For, example compound pharmaceutical preparations containing THC  would be placed in Schedule III and CBD preparations would be removed from scheduling entirely.


Trump Administration’s First National Drug Control Strategy Emphasizes Opioid Crisis, Makes No Mention of State-Legal Cannabis Regimes

The Trump Administration’s White House Office of Drug Control Policy released its first National Drug Control Strategy on Thursday, January 31, 2019. The document outlines President Trump’s priorities regarding drug trafficking and drug use and provides strategic direction to federal agencies involved in preventing initiates to illicit drug use, treating those suffering from substance abuse disorder, and enforcing laws regarding illicit drug production, trafficking, and distribution.