Saturday, May 8, 2021

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Philadelphia: Mayor Signs Law Prohibiting Pre-Employment Drug Screening for Cannabis

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has signed municipal legislation into law prohibiting certain citywide employers from requiring prospective hires to pass a pre-employment drug screen. The measure, Bill No. 200625, “prohibits employers from requiring prospective employees to undergo testing for the presence of marijuana as a condition of employment, under certain terms and conditions.” Employees in certain safety sensitive positions, such as police officers and/or those who supervise children or medical patients, will be exempt from the policy, as will those mandated to be drug tested under federal drug testing guidelines. Members of the Philadelphia City Council had previously decided 15 to 1 in favor of the legislation. Testifying in support of the measure, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano told members of the Council, “There’s no evidence to support the claim that those who consume cannabis in the privacy of their own home away from the job pose a unique workforce safety threat or risk.” Democratic Mayor Kenney signed the bill into law late last week. It takes effect on January 1, 2022. Philadelphia’s measure is similar to other municipal laws that have recently been enacted in the cities of Atlanta, New York, and Washington, DC limiting employers’ abilities to drug test certain employees for off-the-job marijuana exposure. Armentano said: “Suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace, such as pre-employment drug screening, is not now, nor has it ever been, an evidence-based policy. Rather, this discriminatory practice is a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs.’ But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.” A study published in November in the journal Occupational Medicine of 136,000 employees in various occupations identified “no association between past-year cannabis use and work-related injury” for employees in any occupation, including those who worked in high injury risk occupations. Authors concluded: “To the best of our knowledge, this was the largest population-based cross-sectional study examining the association between past-year cannabis use and work-related injuries. … We found that workers reporting using cannabis more than once in the past year were no more likely to report having experienced a work-related injury over the same time period in a large cohort of the … working population Additional information on marijuana and workplace drug testing policies is available from NORML here.

Dozens of Congressional Leaders Sign Letter To Restrict DOJ Enforcement Of Prohibition

Today, a bipartisan group of 44 representatives sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee calling for the upcoming FY 2022 spending package to build upon existing policy for state-legal medical marijuana programs and expand protections to include adult-use marijuana marketplaces now in effect in 17 states.  The letter opens: “As you prepare the fiscal year (FY) 2022 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state or tribal marijuana laws.”  The letter was led by Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-Chairs Earl Blumenauer and Barbara Lee, along with Tom McClintock and Eleanor Holmes Norton.  The letter continues: “To date, 48 states have enacted laws that, to varying degrees, relax their prohibitions against the use of marijuana or its components, such as CBD oil. Of those, 36 states have medical marijuana programs, and 17 of those have adult-use programs. Most of these laws were decided by ballot initiatives. We believe that the federal government should not interfere with these programs and the will of the citizens of these states.” The letter goes on to point out how the Blumenauer-McClintock-Norton-Lee amendment has already passed in bipartisan floor votes in 2019 and 2020, but was unfortunately excluded by the Republican Senate Appropriations Committee led by then-Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama. It is worth noting that Alabama is in the minority of states that do not allow its citizens access to safe and legal therapeutic cannabis.  Signatories of the letter include Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jefferies; Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler; Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney; Small Business Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez; Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva; Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal; Dean of the House Don Young; among others. You can read the full letter and download it here. “The importance of this bipartisan amendment cannot be overstated as nearly half of all Americans reside in a jurisdiction where the adult-use of cannabis is legal under state statute, with programs supporting over 321,000 full time jobs. It is time for Congress to acknowledge this reality and ensure these protections are in the final spending bill,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. You can read NORML’s memo about cannabis policy reform and the appropriations process here.  NORML has created an action alert for supporters of marijuana policy reform to contact their lawmakers in support of this amendment and already ten-of-thousands of messages have been sent to Congress by voters. 

South Dakota Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Litigation Challenging State’s Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Justices on the South Dakota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a legal challenge to the state’s voter-initiated marijuana legalization measure: Constitutional Amendment A. Fifty-four percent of voters decided in favor of the ballot measure on Election Day 2020. Nonetheless, litigation filed on behalf of Republican Gov. Kristi Noem shortly following the election has sought to nullify the vote. In February, Judge Christina Klinger of the state’s Sixth Judicial Circuit Court ruled in favor of the litigation — opining that the measure violates state requirements that ballot measures not encompass more than one topic. The judge also ruled that the measure revises rather than amends the state’s Constitution, and therefore should not be permitted to move forward. Proponents of Amendment A, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, have appealed the ruling to the state’s Supreme Court. Commenting on the litigation, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Legalization opponents cannot succeed in the court of public opinion or at the ballot box. Thus, they are now seeking to overturn election results after the fact. Whether or not one supports marijuana legalization, Americans should be outraged at these overtly undemocratic tactics.” Legalization proponents also backed another successful ballot initiative in November, Measure 26, legalizing medical marijuana access to qualified South Dakota patients. The results of that vote have not been legally challenged and the court’s ruling does not impact that law’s implementation.  Gov. Noem publicly opposed both Amendment A as well as Measure 26.

Philadelphia: City Council Votes to Prohibit Pre-Employment Drug Screening for Cannabis

Members of the Philadelphia City Council have voted overwhelmingly in favor of municipal legislation prohibiting certain employers from requiring prospective hires to pass a pre-employment drug screen. Council members decided 15 to 1 in favor of the measure, Bill No. 200625, which “prohibits employers from requiring prospective employees to undergo testing for the presence of marijuana as a condition of employment, under certain terms and conditions.” Employees in certain safety sensitive positions, such as police officers and/or those who supervise children or medical patients, will be exempt from the policy, as will those mandated to be drug tested under federal drug testing guidelines. City Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to sign the bill into law. It would take effect on January 1, 2022. NORML’s Deputy Director testified in favor of the bill at an April hearing before the council. “There’s no evidence to support the claim that those who consume cannabis in the privacy of their own home away from the job pose a unique workforce safety threat or risk,” he said. He added: “Suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace, such as pre-employment drug screening, is not now, nor has it ever been, an evidence-based policy. Rather, these discriminatory practices are a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs.’ But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.” The municipal measure is similar to other laws that have recently been enacted in the cities of Atlanta, New York, and Washington, DC limiting employers’ abilities to drug test certain employees for off-the-job marijuana exposure. A study published in November in the journal Occupational Medicine of 136,000 employees in various occupations identified “no association between past-year cannabis use and work-related injury” for employees in any occupation, including those who worked in high injury risk occupations. Authors concluded: “To the best of our knowledge, this was the largest population-based cross-sectional study examining the association between past-year cannabis use and work-related injuries. … We found that workers reporting using cannabis more than once in the past year were no more likely to report having experienced a work-related injury over the same time period in a large cohort of the … working population Additional information on marijuana and workplace drug testing policies is available from NORML here.

Virginia: Governor Northam Signs Adult Use Marijuana Legalization Legislation

Democratic Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation into law today legalizing adult-use marijuana possession and establishing an enactment date for commercial marijuana production and retail sales.  Virginia NORML Executive Director Jenn Michelle Pedini spoke alongside the Governor at the ceremonial bill signing. “Today, together, we celebrate an extraordinary victory for cannabis justice in the Commonwealth.” Pedini, who also serves as NORML’s Development Director, said. “Still, we have so much more work ahead, and NORML remains committed to continuing our efforts on behalf of Virginians, with the legislature, with the administration, and with the new Cannabis Control Authority to make sure we do get this right.” Senate Bill 1406, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin (D-30) and Senate President Pro Tempore Senator Louise Lucas (D-18), and House Bill 2312, patroned by House Majority Leader Delegate Charniele Herring (D-46), establishes a statutory timeline for the legalization of the commercial marijuana market in Virginia. The measure also permits for the personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and personal cultivation of up to four cannabis plants per household. The provisions permitting personal marijuana possession take effect on July 1, 2021.  The timeline by which state regulators must enact provisions licensing commercial cannabis production and sales is July 1, 2024. Watch Governor Northam’s bill signing ceremony:

White House Marijuana Comments Are Out of Step with Public Opinion

NORML criticized statements made today by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who reiterated the President’s position that cannabis should be rescheduled under federal law (to Schedule II) rather than descheduled (removed) from the Controlled Substances in a manner similar to tobacco and alcohol. “It is impractical at best and disingenuous at worst for the Biden campaign to claim that rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II – the same category as cocaine– would in any way address the existing inconsistencies between state and federal marijuana laws,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “Rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act would continue to make the federal government the primary dictator of cannabis policy and would do little if anything to address its criminal status under federal law. Under such a policy, the majority of states that have legalized cannabis for either medical or adult-use purposes would continue to remain in conflict with federal law.” The Press Secretary also failed to provide explicit answers to direct questions regarding whether the President would sign legislation into law descheduling cannabis or permitting banks to work with state-licensed marijuana businesses. Yesterday, members the House of Representative passed for the fourth time legislation to explicitly permit financial institutions to partner with licensed cannabis enterprises. On the political implications:  The majority of Americans want marijuana to be legally regulated for adults, as is indicated by the following national polls: Quinnipiac University, April 2021 Do you think that the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States, or not? Overall: 69% Yes – 25% No Democrats / 78% YesRepublicans / 62% YesIndependents / 67% Yes Pew Research Center, April 2021 Percentage who say marijuana should be legal For medical and recreational use: 60%For medical use only: 31% For other national and polls, click here.  On the policy implications:  NORML believes that rescheduling cannabis under federal law is impractical and counterproductive. Most Americans want cannabis treated in a manner similar to alcohol, which is unscheduled under federal law; they do not desire to have cannabis regulated like either cocaine or oxycodone, both of which are currently classified as Schedule II controlled substances.  Furthermore, rescheduling cannabis to Schedule II would continue to maintain the ongoing conflict between state and federal laws, as all state-specific legalization schemes are currently incompatible with those mandated for Schedule II substances – all of which are dispenses solely in pharmacies and are illegal to possess absent a physician’s written prescription.  By contrast, Congress has recently descheduled low-THC cannabis plants. In December 2018, Congress enacted legislation removing low-THC (below 0.3 percent) cannabis crops from the jurisdiction of the Controlled Substances Act. This change in policy established dual regulatory authority over the regulation of hemp to both the federal government (e.g., the United States Department of Agriculture) and the individual states. Descheduling cannabis altogether would be consistent with this existing policy and many of the state/federal regulations already established by this policy change. To read NORML’s memo on the practical functionality of the Controlled Substances Act, which lays out the need to remove marijuana from the CSA all together, click here. 

US House Passes Bill To Normalize Adult-Use Cannabis Commerce

The SAFE Banking Act would improve the safety of legal marijuana marketplaces and foster more entrepreneurship in the emerging legal industry Members of the House of Representatives voted today in favor of a stand-alone piece of legislation, The SAFE Banking Act, to remedy the ongoing inconsistencies between state and federal marijuana laws. In a vote of 321-101, House members approved HR 1996, The SAFE Banking Act, which would create a legal safe harbor for financial institutions to engage in business relationships with state-licensed and regulated cannabis companies.  “For the first time since Joe Biden assumed the presidency, a supermajority of the House has voted affirmatively to recognize that the legalization and regulation of marijuana is a superior public policy to prohibition and criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “However, the SAFE Banking Act is only a first step at making sure that these state-legal markets operate safely and efficiently. The sad reality is that those who own or patronize the unbanked businesses are themselves criminals in the eyes of the federal government, which can only be addressed by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances.” To date, over 40 percent of Americans reside in a jurisdiction where transactions involving the sale of cannabis have been approved under state law, and the majority of Americans live in a state where medical cannabis sales are permitted. Why NORML Supports Passage of HR 1996: The Safe Banking Act: Federal law currently defines all marijuana-related endeavors as criminal enterprises, including those commercial activities that are licensed and legally regulated under state laws. Therefore, virtually no state-licensed cannabis businesses can legally obtain a bank account, process credit cards, or provide loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs.  In this environment, the rapidly growing multi-billion dollar cannabis industry must operate largely on a cash-only basis, which makes businesses more susceptible to theft and more difficult to audit. This ongoing federal prohibition also places the safety and welfare of these businesses’ customers at risk, as they must carry significant amounts of cash on their persons in order to make legal purchases at retail facilities. For these reasons, NORML has long advocated that federal lawmakers vote “yes” on The SAFE Banking Act. A version of this bill first passed the House of Representatives on September 25th, 2019. Subsequently, it was included multiple times in various COVID relief packages that the House approved in the previous Congress. Ultimately, however, the language was not included in any of the enacted COVID stimulus bills.  What’s Next? Commenting on the next steps, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said: “Today’s vote is another important mile marker on the road to repealing federal prohibition, yet much more action must still be taken by lawmakers in both chambers. In the Senate, we are still waiting on a comprehensive proposal promised by Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden and in the House, we anticipate additional efforts to move forward and pass comprehensive reform legislation like The MORE Act — which was approved in the previous Congress — in order to ultimately comport federal law with the new political and cultural realities surrounding marijuana.”

Help us “Finish the Fight” for Legalization on 4/20

In the first four months of 2021, four states — New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, and Virginia — have legalized the adult-use marijuana market. Over 40 percent of all Americans now reside in a state where possessing marijuana is legal and seven in ten voters now say that it should be legal nationwide. Nonetheless, federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I illicit substance — in the same legal category as heroin. That is why NORML is calling on activists this 4/20 to “finish the fight” at the state and federal level. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE TOOLKIT “While April 20th has been synonymous with celebrating marijuana’s cultural status, this year we wish to emphasize the need for advocates to engage with their elected officials — particularly those in Congress — and urge them to ‘finish the fight’ and repeal federal prohibition. said NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altier. “While we have undoubtedly made immense progress in recent years, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are still arrested each year for simple possession of a plant. That is why we are calling on all legalization supporters to take time out of their 4/20 celebrations this year to help us finish the fight, both at the federal level and in those states that still are living under the dark ages of prohibition. We have an overwhelming mandate from the people and we intend to make sure that elected officials abide by it.” To facilitate this day of advocacy, NORML will be releasing a “Finish the Fight” digital toolkit, both to its chapter and affiliate network and to the general public, to assist them in contacting their lawmakers in support of important reform efforts and to encourage their friends and family to join them.  You can view the toolkit by visiting norml.org/toolkit

Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act Reintroduced

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), along with Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dave Joyce (R-OH), have once again introduced The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act (S. 1183 / HR 2588), bipartisan legislation to expand and facilitate medical cannabis access to military veterans suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other serious medical conditions. Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of either of these bills would lift this prohibition. In previous sessions of Congress, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction CAPS (Clinician Administered Posttraumatic Scale) symptom scores following cannabis therapy. A poll conducted by The American Legion showed that nearly 1 in 4 veterans self-reported using marijuana to alleviate a medical or physical condition and four-in-ten say that they “know a veteran” who is using cannabis medicinally. Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace. Send a message to your federal lawmakers in support of the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.

Indiana: Governor Signs Legislation Amending State’s Zero-Tolerance Per Se Driving Law

Republican Governor Eric Holcomb has signed legislation into law to provide a legal defense for those motorists charged with violating the state’s marijuana per se traffic safety law.  The legislation provides an affirmative defense for those motorists who test positive for the presence of either THC or its metabolite, but who are not responsible for a traffic accident and who show no evidence of intoxication. The new law takes effect on July 1, 2021. Under the state’s existing traffic safety laws, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with any detectable level of either THC or THC metabolites in one’s blood or urine, even absent any further evidence of psychomotor impairment. NORML has consistently opposed the imposition of THC per se limits, opining that such thresholds are not evidence-based and that they may lead to the criminal prosecution of people who consumed cannabis several days previously but are no longer under its influence. NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano recently testified in favor of legislation, Assembly Bill 400, repealing per se limits in Nevada. Last month, a California-appointed task force consisting of representatives from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the California Highway Patrol, the California Office of Traffic Safety, the American Automobile Association (AAA), and California NORML issued recommendations to the state legislature opposing the imposition of per se limits for cannabinoids. Six states – Illinois, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington – impose various per se limits for the detection of specific amounts of THC in blood while ten states (Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin) impose zero tolerant per se standards. In these states, it is a criminal violation of the traffic safety laws to operate a motor vehicle with detectable levels of THC in blood – even absent any demonstrable evidence of psychomotor impairment.  Additional information on cannabis, driving performance, and traffic safety is available from NORML here.

Nationwide Poll: More Americans Than Ever Before Say That Marijuana Should Be Legal

Some seven-in-ten Americans believe that “the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States,” according to national polling data compiled by Quinnipiac University. That percentage is the highest level of support ever reported in a nationwide poll. Sixty-nine percent of respondents expressed support for legalizing marijuana. That percentage rises to 70 percent when only registered voters are included. That is an increase of 19 percentage points since 2012, when Quinnipiac first began polling on the issue. “There is no buyer’s remorse on the part of the American people. In the era of state-level legalization, voters’ support for this issue has grown rapidly — an indication that these policy changes have been successful and are comporting with voters’ desires and expectations.” NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “Today, voters of every age and in virtually every region of the country agree that marijuana should be legal. We have a mandate from the American people and we intend to make sure that elected officials abide by it.” Notably, support for legalization among the public is non-partisan. Strong majorities of Republicans (62 percent), Independents (67 percent), and Democrats (78 percent) back legalization. By contrast, elected officials continue to view the issue through a largely partisan lens, with Democrats primarily supporting the issue and Republicans typically voting against it. Recently enacted legislation legalizing the adult-use marijuana markets in New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia were spearheaded by Democrats and were passed with virtually no Republican support. The Quinnipiac poll also found that Americans of all ages support legalization. Among those ages 65 and older, 51 percent endorse legalization. This percentage of support is significantly higher among younger and middle-age voters, with 78 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 49 backing legalization and 72 percent of those ages 50 to 64 doing so. Other national polls similarly show majority support among Americans of all ages and political ideologies. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 2.8 percentage points.

Mississippi: Supreme Court Hear Oral Arguments in Challenge to Medical Marijuana Vote

The Mississippi Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in a legal challenge that seeks to nullify a November vote legalizing the production and dispensing of medical cannabis to qualified patients. On Election Day, 73 percent of Mississippi voters decided in favor of Measure 65, which establishes a system of state-licensed dispensaries to engage in the retail dispensing of cannabis and cannabis products to patients who possess a doctor’s authorization. Just prior to the vote, officials representing the city of Madison – including the town’s Mayor – filed suit arguing that the legislature’s failure to update guidelines for petitioners with should invalidate the initiative vote. Specifically, state statutes call for petitioners to gather an equal percentage of signatures from five congressional districts.  However, following redistricting in 2000, there are only four congressional districts in the state. Lawmakers since that time have failed to update the statute. NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf criticized the legal challenge and urged justices to uphold the initiative vote. “Legalization opponents have shown time and time again that they cannot succeed in either the court of public opinion or at the ballot box. Thus, they are now asking judges to set aside the votes of over a million Americans in a desperate effort to override undisputed election outcomes. Whether or not one supports marijuana legalization, Americans should be outraged at these overtly undemocratic tactics, and the Court should reject them.” If the vote is affirmed by the Court, Mississippi: will be the 36th state to legalize medical cannabis access. The case is Mary Hawkins Butler v. Michael Watson, Miss., 2020-IA-01199-SCT.

NORML Remembers Steve Fox

NORML regrets the passing of Steve Fox, a longtime marijuana policy advocate and strategist. Steve Fox spent the better part of the past two decades leading both statewide and federal policy reform efforts during his tenure at various organizations, including the Marijuana Policy Project, SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation) – a group he cofounded in 2005 – and Vincente Sederberg LLP. In 2009, Fox co-authored the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (Chlesea Green Press), along with NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert. Later, he was the key drafter and proponent behind the historic Amendment 64 initiative campaign in Colorado, which legalized the adult-use marijuana market in 2012 and ushered in the wave of statewide legalization efforts that continues to this day. “Steve’s vision helped to transform the mainstream narrative surrounding cannabis,” said NORML’s Paul Armentano. “That transformation played a major role in the policy successes we enjoy today, and it will continue to pay dividends going forward. His efforts and his prescience will be sorely missed.” In a statement issued by VS Strategies and Vincente Sederberg LLP, his colleagues said: “Steve was always thinking step ahead of the rest. Long before cannabis was legalized, he envisioned a legal, organized, and responsible cannabis industry. He played leading roles in conceptualizing and establishing several of the nation’s largest and most influential cannabis trade organizations, including the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Cannabis Trade Federation, and the U.S. Cannabis Council.” They added: “Steve’s role in cannabis community cannot be overstated. He was a trailblazer in the movement to end prohibition, and he was an architect and caretaker of the legal industry that is quickly replacing it. He beat the path, built the shelter, and worked tirelessly to make it as welcoming, accessible and beneficial as possible. He always put the mission—the wellbeing of others and the betterment of society—ahead of himself.” NORML offers its condolences to the family and friends of Steve Fox.

NORML Comments on Biden’s Pick for DEA Administrator

The Biden Administration has announced its intention to nominate Anne Milgram, who formerly served as New Jersey Attorney General, to the position of DEA Administrator. If confirmed, Milgram will be the first DEA Administrator to have been confirmed by the Senate since the presidency of Barack Obama. Former President Donald Trump previously relied on administrators who were serving in an acting capacity. “America has begun to fully rethink our ongoing failed practices of over-policing and incarceration that have categorized our racist War on Drugs for decades and our nation needs the next administrator of the DEA to be someone who acknowledges the need for reform, including the legalization of marijuana,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. During her tenure as the Garden State’s Attorney General under then-Governor Jon Corzine, Milgram offered cautioned support for the state’s medical-marijuana program when legislation to approve it was passed in 2010. “During her career, Anne Milgram has demonstrated a priority for data-based decision making and an openness to making important changes to our broken criminal justice system,” added NORML’s Altieri, “If she wants to take over the DEA and its multi-billion dollar budget, the American people deserve to know if she will continue the agency’s hostility to legalization, something that 70% of our citizens support and that is already a legal reality for over 40% of the population.” Senate confirmation hearings for Milgram are expected in the coming weeks.

New Mexico: Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization, Automatic Expungement Measures into Law

Earlier today, Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed two separate measures into law amending the state’s marijuana policies. The first measure (House Bill 2) legalizes and regulates marijuana possession, production, and sales for adults. The second measure (Senate Bill 2) facilitates the automatic review and expungement of the records of those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses. Lawmakers approved both bills during a special legislative session demanded by Gov. Lujan Grisham, who had been a vocal proponent of the reforms. NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf said: “This is a day to celebrate! New Mexico will greatly benefit from this new revenue stream and the creation of thousands of jobs. Most notably though, legalization will spare thousands of otherwise law-abiding residents from arrest and a criminal record, and the state’s new expungement law will help provide relief to many who are suffering from the stigma and other collateral consequences associated with a prior marijuana conviction.” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri added: “New Mexico joins an ever-growing list of states that have realized the failures of marijuana prohibition and the harms it brings to their communities and citizens. The American people are demanding an end to prohibitionist policies that have wreaked havoc on communities of color, squandered countless millions in taxpayer dollars, and wasted limited judicial and law enforcement resources on criminalizing otherwise law-abiding individuals for possession of a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.” The adult-use measure (House Bill 2) permits those ages 21 and older to legally purchase up to two ounces of marijuana and/or up to 16 grams of cannabis extract from licensed retailers. It also permits adults to home-cultivate up to six mature plants for their own personal use. Retail sales would begin by April 2022. Possession is depenalized on June 29, 2021, when the new law takes effect. The expungement measure (Senate Bill 2) stipulates that those with past convictions for offenses made legal under this act are eligible for automatic expungement of their records. Those currently incarcerated for such offenses are eligible for a dismissal of their sentence. It’s estimated that over 150,000 New Mexico residents are eligible for automatic expungement under this measure, according to the Department of Public Safety.

California: Study Finds 100% of Marijuana Retailers Compliant with State’s Minimum Age Laws

Licensed cannabis retailers in California are vigorously enforcing rules prohibiting young people’s entry into their facilities if they fail to show proof of age, according to a study commissioned by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Chicago. Researchers assessed whether retail cannabis facilities would service pseudo-underage buyers who failed to show proof of age. All 47 of the randomly selected retailers denied the patrons entry. Authors concluded: “At 100 percent of the recreational marijuana outlets visited, the pseudo-underage patrons were required to show age identification to enter. It appears that California recreational marijuana outlets avoid selling to underage customers.” The results are similar to those documented in other states, like Colorado and Oregon, where inspections have similarly found that nearly all retailers are compliant with age-restriction requirements. Commenting on the study’s results, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Regulation works. Illicit marijuana providers don’t ask for or check for ID, but licensed businesses most certainly do.” An abstract of the study, “An examination of the legal marijuana use age and its enforcement in California, a state where recreational marijuana is legal,” is available online here. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, “Societal Impacts of Cannabis Dispensaries/Retailers.”

New Mexico: Lawmakers Send Marijuana Legalization Measures to Governor’s Desk

Members of the New Mexico House and Senate gave their final approval today to two separate measures amending the state’s marijuana laws. The first legalizes and regulates marijuana possession, production, and sales for adults. The second facilitates the automatic review and expungement of the records of those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses. Lawmakers advanced both measures during a special legislative session demanded by Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has been a vocal proponent of the reforms. Commenting on the bills’ passage, NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf said: “This is a historic day for New Mexico! These important policy changes will ensure that consumers going forward will no longer suffer criminal arrest and prosecution, while also remedying past injustices caused by the drug war. I commend lawmakers for working together to craft legislation that prioritizes social justice and inclusion. Passage of this legislation will ensure that minor marijuana possession offenders, many of them young people, are no longer saddled with a criminal record and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it.” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri added: “New Mexico joins an ever growing list of states that have realized the failures of marijuana prohibition and the harms it brings to their communities and citizens. They are the third state so far this year that has approved legalization via the legislative process and we expect several more will follow suit in a short period of time. The American people are demanding an end to prohibitionist policies that have wreaked havoc on communities of color, squandered countless millions in taxpayer dollars, and wasted limited judicial and law enforcement resources on criminalizing otherwise law abiding individuals for possession of a product that is objectively less harmful than currently legal alcohol and tobacco. Thankfully lawmakers at the state level are finally implementing the will of their constituents and, by doing so, they are applying further pressure on the federal government to finally deschedule marijuana nationally and end this ongoing tension between state and federal policies.” The adult-use measure (House Bill 2) permits those ages 21 and older to legally purchase up to two ounces of marijuana and/or up to 16 grams of cannabis extract from licensed retailers. It also permits adults to home-cultivate up to six mature plants for their own personal use. The expungement measure (Senate Bill 2) stipulates that those with past convictions for offenses made legal under this act are eligible for automatic expungement of their records. Those currently incarcerated for such offenses are eligible for a dismissal of their sentence. Both bills now await action from the Governor, who is anticipated to sign both measures into law imminently. Earlier this week, she signed legislation into law eliminating fines for the possession of cannabis by a minor and modifying the requirement for community service to a maximum of 48 hours.

BREAKING: New York Legislature Approves Marijuana Legalization

New York State lawmakers today advanced The Marijuana Revenue and Taxation Act (MRTA), which legalizes and regulates an adult-use commercial marijuana market in New York State, and also permits those over the age of 21 to cultivate personal-use quantities of cannabis in their own homes. Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill imminently. “These votes are historic because they signal the beginning of the end of the racially discriminatory policies that have long made the Empire State the marijuana arrest capital of the United States, if not the world,” stated NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “Once enacted, this measure will end the practice of annually arresting tens-of-thousands of New Yorkers for low-level marijuana offenses, the majority of whom are overwhelmingly young, poor, and people of color.” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano added, “The passage of legislation legalizing the adult-use marijuana market in New York State will not only have serious economic and social justice ramifications for its nearly 20 million residents, but it no doubt will have ripple effects across the nation and arguably also within the halls of Congress — providing further pressure on federal lawmakers to amend federal law in a manner that eliminates the existing inconsistencies between state and federal cannabis policies.” Six percent of US House members represent New York State, and seven percent of all Congressional House Committee and Subcommittee Chairs are from New York. Empire State NORML Deputy Director Troy Smit said, “We stand on the shoulders of giants. It’s taken a great amount of work and perseverance by activists, patients, and consumers, to go from being the cannabis arrest capital of the world, to lead the world with a legalized market dedicated to equity, diversity, and inclusion. This might not be the perfect piece of legislation, but today, cannabis consumers can hold their heads high and smell the flowers. Senator Krueger and Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes have laid the groundwork for marijuana justice and a consumer-centric industry. Now, it’s time for the Office of Cannabis Management to take up their torch and implement regulations that protect patient and consumer rights. In the words of our late Director, Doug Greene – Cannabis Excelsior!” The Act allows adults to obtain marijuana from state-licensed retailers or grow their own (up to three mature plants at one time). The measure also facilitates the automatic review and expungement of past convictions for offenses made legal under the MRTA. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers will receive legal relief under this provision.  Regulators would license commercial producers and sellers of cannabis, as well as issue licenses for delivery services and on-site consumption facilities. Retail sales will be taxed at nine percent, plus up to a four percent local tax, as well as an additional tax based upon THC content. Forty percent of tax revenue will be directed toward communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition. Provisions in the MRTA seek to award half of all business licenses to social equity applicants. New York: Quinnipiac University Poll (March 2021): Voters say by a more than 2 to 1 margin (64 – 29 percent) that they support allowing adults in New York State to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Law enforcement in New York has historically arrested its citizens for marijuana at astonishing rates. According to a 2020 report published by the American Civil Liberties Union, in 2018, almost 60,000 New Yorkers were arrested for marijuana law violations. Of those arrested, 95 percent of defendants were charged with possession only. Arrests for the possession of marijuana in the state made up over half of all drug arrests in 2018. Three New York counties (Columbia, Greene, Washington) fell within the top 20 in the nation for the most marijuana possession arrests per capita. More recent data, issued weeks ago by The Legal Aid Society, found that in the five boroughs in New York City for the year 2020, Black and Hispanics comprised over 93 percent of those arrested for marijuana violations. 

Study: “No Evidence” That Medical Cannabis Access Laws Encourage Youth Marijuana Use

Neither the enactment of medical cannabis legalization nor the establishment of dispensaries are associated with any upticks in young people’s use of marijuana, according to data published in the journal Substance Abuse. A team of investigators affiliated with John Hopkins University in Baltimore, as well as with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission reviewed cannabis use trends in more than one-million adolescents (grades 9-12) over a 25 years period. Consistent with prior studies, authors concluded, “This study found no evidence between 1991 and 2015 of increases in adolescents reporting past 30-day marijuana use or heavy marijuana use associated with state MML [medical marijuana law] enactment or operational MML dispensaries.” Authors added: “Our main finding was that adolescents residing in states with MMLs had significantly lower odds of past 30-day (“current”) marijuana use compared to adolescents residing in non-MML states (6 percent). In grade stratified analyses, the 9th graders had 9 percent lower odds, whereas there were no differences for other grade levels.” Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These data, gathered from 46 states over more than two decades, show unequivocally that medical cannabis access can be legally regulated in a manner that is safe, effective, and that does not inadvertently impact young people’s habits. These findings should reassure politicians and others that states’ real-world experience with medical cannabis is a success from both a public health and a public safety perspective.” The abstract of the study, “Medical marijuana laws (MMLs) and dispensary provisions not associated with higher odds of adolescent or heavy marijuana use: A 46 state analysis, 1991-2015,” appears online. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, “Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.”

New Mexico: Lawmakers Fail to Approve Marijuana Legalization Before Key Legislative Deadline

Members of the New Mexico state House and Senate failed to approve House Bill 12 to legalize and regulate the adult-use marijuana market prior to Saturday’s adjournment of the 2021 legislative session. A spokesperson for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday evening that “the governor is prepared to call a special session to get cannabis done and done right.” “Lawmakers, for the moment, have once again failed to deliver common sense marijuana policy reform for the people of New Mexico, an overwhelming majority of whom support legalizing cannabis for adults.” said NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf. “In the interim, thousands of their constituents, disproportionately their constituents of color, will continue to be saddled with criminal records and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it.” House Bill 12 sought to allow adults to legally purchase up to two ounces of marijuana and 16 grams of cannabis extract from licensed retailers, and also would have permitted the home-cultivation of up to six mature plants for one’s own personal use. Under this measure, those convicted of offenses involving the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana possession would have been eligible for automatic expungement, and those currently incarcerated for these offenses would have been eligible for either a dismissal or a revision of their sentence.

NORML Comments on Reports of Marijuana-Related Firings of White House Staff

Newly published reports allege that “dozens of young White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program due to past marijuana use.”  The reports of the firings come just weeks after the Office of Personnel Management issued updated guidance indicating that federal agencies should not automatically disqualify applicants from federal service solely because of their past use of either cannabis or other controlled substances, but rather “should exercise special care before making a determination of unsuitability for criminal conduct based on marijuana possession.” In response to the reported firings, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said: “These reports, if accurate, are highly troubling. They appear to be counter to the Administration’s own policies, which recognize that a growing number of US jurisdictions – including Washington, DC – have legalized the use of cannabis by adults, and which acknowledge the undue hardships caused by the ongoing criminalization of marijuana at the federal level.” Altieri added: “This sort of ‘Flat Earth’ mentality refuses to recognize the reality that millions of Americans currently engage in the use of cannabis in a manner that is compliant with the laws of their states, and that these people are at no greater risk for occupational accidents or injuries. They should not be singled out and discriminated against solely for this activity, and it is highly inappropriate for the Biden Administration to take these punitive actions.”

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