Welcome to this week’s edition of the NORML legislative roundup!
At the federal level, it is important to highlight two key developments pertaining to established marijuana consumers, businesses, and regulatory structures.
First, the protections for lawful medical marijuana patients and businesses from the Department of Justice provided by the Rohrabacher-Farr budget amendment was temporarily expended through May 5th and we are working of ensuring that that will be a part of any budget deal for the rest of the fiscal year. In the last week alone, NORML members sent over 24,000 messages to members of Congress and we plan to keep the pressure up. If you have not already, click here to send a message to your elected lawmakers.
Second, on April 27, Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), to provide access to banking services to end the practice of marijuana businesses being forced to pay their employees, rent, taxes, and other associated costs in cash. At the end of the day, no industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions.
Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.
Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.
Thanks for all you do and keep fighting,
Protect Patients: Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, maintains that federal funds can not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
On April 28, Congress re-authorized the amendment as part of a one week spending package, House Resolution 99. This bill extends federal funding through May 5 2017, at which time the measure — and the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment — will expire.
Banking Access: A bipartisan coalition of more than two dozen co-sponsors have introduced legislation in Congress, The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), HR 2215, to allow state-licensed marijuana-related businesses to engage freely in relationships with banks and other financial institutions.
If enacted, banks would no longer face the threat of federal sanction for working with marijuana-related businesses and entrepreneurs.
Join The Caucus: With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) earlier this year formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.
After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 was looking like it would finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized. Yet, stagnation has descended upon the state Senate and now State Sen. Bradley is pushing for an amendment that would remove the decriminalization paragraph (and thus the whole point) from the bill.
On November 8th, more than 71 percent of Florida voters decided in favor of the constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, to allow for the licensed production, use, and dispensing of medical cannabis to patients with a doctor’s recommendation. However, state politicians are contemplating legislative efforts to amend the law in a manner that violates both its spirit and intent.
Update: Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee approved SB 406 on April 25.
Under current law, possession of up to 30 grams is third-degree misdemeanor that carries up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine and a driver’s license suspension if convicted by a plea or trial.
House Bill 928 amends state law so that first and second marijuana possession offenses (up to 30 grams) are reduced from misdemeanor offenses to a summary offense, punishable by a fine only, and had a hearing earlier this week.
HB 2107, which authorizes the possession, production, and distribution of medical marijuana and marijuana-infused products to qualified patients. Patients would receive cannabis through a network of private dispensaries and operators, similar to pharmacies, regulated under “strict guidelines” by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
A hearing is scheduled for this week on May 2.
Other Actions to Take
Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 1578, to try and limit potential federal interference in the state’s marijuana regulatory laws.
The bill states, “This bill would prohibit a state or local agency, as defined, from taking certain actions without a court order signed by a judge, including using agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by law in the State of California and transferring an individual to federal law enforcement authorities for purposes of marijuana enforcement.”
Legislation is pending to prohibit public employees from assisting federal agents in “arresting a Colorado citizen for committing an act that is a Colorado constitutional right.” Such acts would include the production and sale of marijuana.
Update: Members of the House voted 56 to 7 on April 26 in favor of the bill. It now awaits action from the Senate.
Also, Legislation to make patients with post-traumatic stress eligible for medical cannabis therapy awaits action from Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Members of the House approved the bill by a vote of 39 to 25. Senate members approved it by a vote of 32 to 2.
In a last minute deal by Iowa state lawmakers, both chambers passed an amended version of HF 524 on the final day of the legislative session. The measure expands the state’s existing CBD exemption law, which was set to sunset this year, and expands it. Specifically, HF 524 permits patients with various qualifying conditions, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures, AIDS and HIV, Crohn’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, to possess CBD with up to 3% THC. The bill also seeks to establish regulations for the manufacturing and dispensing of CBD products within the state. The bill now goes to Governor Terry Branstad (R) for his signature or veto.
Legislation is pending, H.170, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults, yet by a vote of 21-9, senators amended H 170 to include a full-scale system of taxed and regulated cannabis sales.
Additionally, legislation is pending, SB 16, to expand the pool of patients eligible for cannabis therapy.
If approved, SB 16 would permit physicians for the first time to recommend medical marijuana to patients with post-traumatic stress, Crohn’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease. The measure also allows physicians to immediately issue medical cannabis recommendations for patients suffering from cancer, a terminal illness, or under hospice care supervision.
Update: Members of the House Human Services Committee voted 10-0 in favor of SB 16 on April 27.
House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, SB 5131, to expand medical cannabis access. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Jay Inslee.
Senate Bill 5131 permits qualified patients and/or caregivers ages 18 and older to purchase immature cannabis plants, seeds, or clones from state-licensed dispensaries. Marijuana cooperatives may also purchase seeds from a licensed marijuana producer.