Welcome to this week’s edition of the legislative roundup. With prohibitionists fighting nationwide, from Massachusetts to deny the will of the voters with the implementation of legalization to Hawaii where the state is seeking to impose increased monitoring of drivers who may be under the influence of marijuana, NORML is constantly working to fight the rising tide of anti-science legislation cropping up.
Below are the priority bills that we’ve tracked this week, with more being posted on our http://norml.org/act page every day.
If you have not yet, make sure 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.
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Legislative efforts are pending to amend the state’s voter-initiated medical marijuana law in a manner that would restrict qualified patients from smoking herbal preparations of the plant. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson indicates that he favors the plan.
NORML opposes this effort to fundamentally change the law for the following reasons.
The inhalation of herbal cannabis is associated with the rapid onset of drug effect while the oral consumption of other preparations, such as oils, extracts, or pills, is associated with significantly delayed onset. For patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms, such as those suffering from severe nausea, seizures, or spasms, inhaling herbal cannabis is the fastest and most effective route of administration. Inhaling cannabis also permits patients to better regulate their dose.
Further, the effects of orally ingested cannabis are far less predictable in comparison to inhaled cannabis. This is because there exists far greater variability in the ways that marijuana is metabolized when it is consumed orally — meaning that patients may experience disparate and even dysphoric effects from dose to dose, even in instances where the dose is standardized.
Additionally, SB 130 prohibits individuals from operating a motor vehicle if they have 5 or more nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood. NORML opposes this proposal.
It should not be presumed that the detection of THC is predictive of psychomotor impairment and such a presumption should not be codified in Arkansas traffic safety statutes. The imposition and enforcement of this measure risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations.
Legislation is pending, SB 548, to legalize the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for those over the age of 21.
According to 2014 statewide poll, 66 percent of Hawaii voters support the taxation and regulation of marijuana.
Additionally, Legislation is pending, SB 17, that seeks to establish a per se limit of “five nanograms or more per milliliter of active tetrahydrocannabinol” for anyone driving a motor vehicle.
NORML opposes this proposal.
It should not be presumed that the detection of THC is predictive of psychomotor impairment and such a presumption should not be codified in Hawaii traffic safety statutes. The imposition and enforcement of this measure risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations.
On Wednesday, December 28, a handful of lawmakers met in a special session and voted to delay the roll out of retail marijuana providers from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018. As summarized by The Boston Globe, “The extraordinary move, made in informal sessions with just a half-dozen legislators present, would unravel a significant part of the legalization measure passed by 1.8 million voters just last month.” Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill into law just two days later.
But this was only the beginning.
Now, Senator Jason M. Lewis is proposing bills that would reduce the amount of marijuana that an individual can possess, restrict the number of plants that a person can grow, and ban various forms of THC infused products including edibles.
The arrogance and hubris lawmakers are showing toward voters is shocking, and is typified by the comments of Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg who, only hours after the vote, pronounced: “I believe that when voters vote on most ballot questions, they are voting in principle. They are not voting on the fine detail that is contained within the proposal.”
It’s time for you to send another clear message to your lawmakers: Abide by voters’ decision or suffer the consequences.
State Senator Anna Wishart has introduced comprehensive medical marijuana legislation, LB622.
Senator Wishart’s bill is similar to legislation that was introduced in 2016 and narrowly defeated. LB622 will allow patients with conditions such as Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, opioid addictions and some types of cancer to obtain marijuana. Additionally it would permit patients to grow up to 12 plants and/or possess up to six ounces of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Last year’s bill was narrowly defeated by lawmakers.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Nebraska patients deserve these same protections.
After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 may finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized.
HB640, sponsored by 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats, will amend criminal penalties for marijuana possession is pending in the House, where lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported such efforts for eight years in a row. However, legislators this year are hopeful that, for the first time, they also have sufficient votes to also clear the Senate.
Additionally, Multiple bills are pending before lawmakers to expand the pool of patients eligible to qualify for medical marijuana therapy.
In particular, these measures would permit patients with conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress to obtain legal access to marijuana.
Most recently, an exhaustive report released by the National Academies of Sciences determined that there is “conclusive” evidence that cannabis is “effective for the treatment of chronic pain.” Authors concluded, “In adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids (constituents found organically in the marijuana plant) are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction of pain symptoms.”
Senator Liz Krueger (D) has introduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in the New York General Legislature.
The act legalizes possession and cultivation, and would establish a market for legal marijuana for adults 21 and older.
Legislation is pending, HB 1340, in the statehouse to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and marijuana-related paraphernalia.
Under existing law, marijuana possession of one ounce or less is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, while the possession of greater amounts are classified as a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison. Possessing marijuana-related paraphernalia is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
UPDATE: SB1091 has passed the full Senate by a vote of 38-2 and HB 2051 has passed it’s first committee vote in the House of Delegates.
State Senators Adam Ebbin (D), Bill Stanley (R) and Delegate Les Adams (R) have introduced SB 1091 and HB 2051 respectively, legislation that would remove the mandatory driver’s license suspension currently imposed for those with a marijuana possession conviction.
Under current law, any drug conviction, regardless of whether or not a motor vehicle was involved, results in an automatic suspension of the individual’s driving privileges for 6 months.
Additionally, SB 1298 has cleared the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on a 9-4 vote as it seeks to establish affirmative defense for possession of cannabidiol if an individual has written certification that they require the substance due to an approved medical condition.
Affirmative defense establishes a basic set of facts surrounding cannabidiol possession cases. If someone with a qualifying medical condition is caught possessing marijuana, an affirmative defense for the individual would likely result in a more lenient punishment.
Legislation is pending before the House, HB 1094, to prohibit employers from discriminating against patients who legally consume marijuana during non-work hours.
The bill amends existing law so that: “An employer may not refuse to hire a qualifying patient, discharge or bar a qualifying patient from employment, or discriminate against a qualifying patient in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of the qualifying patient’s: (i) Status as a qualifying patient; or (ii) Positive drug test for marijuana components or metabolites.”
Changes in the legal status of marijuana has not been associated with any adverse changes in workplace safety. In fact, a pair of studies from 2016 find that legalization is associated with greater workforce participation and with fewer workplace absences. Most recently, the National Academies of Sciences just-released marijuana and health report found “insufficient evidence” to support an association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.