Legalization Measure Introduced to Legislature

New York state Senator Liz Krueger plans a new push in favor of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) (Senate Bill S3040B), legislation to legalize the adult possession, use, and sale of marijuana in New York. According to a recent poll by Emerson College, 62% of New Yorkers support the outright legalization of marijuana for adults 21 and over.

Over the past twenty years, many New Yorkers have been negatively affected by the harms of prohibition in New York. With people of color accounting for nearly 85% of those arrested annually, the MRTA directs the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana to these communities. Because structural racism is ingrained in marijuana prohibition, it’s important that the MRTA both ends marijuana prohibition and promotes racial justice. Significant steps are taken in the amended MRTA to ensure racial justice and a small business-friendly industry, including:

●    Creating a micro-licensing structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, which allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.

●    Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.

●    Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses.

Update: An April 2018 Sienna State College Research Institute poll found that 52 percent of registered voters support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

Update: On January 11, the New York State Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Health, and Alcohol and Drug Abuse held a public hearing to discuss MRTA.

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Permit Physicians To Recommend Cannabis In Place Of Opioids

Legislation is pending in both chambers,  A. 9016 and S. 7564 to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

Numerous peer-reviewed studies show that cannabis acts as a safe and effective substitute for opioids. In states where cannabis is readily available available, opioid-related  abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality has fallen. Rates of problematic cannabis use are far lower than rates for opioid abuse. Several studies also suggest that cannabis helps those with opioid dependence complete drug treatment.

Update: On January 25, 2018, A. 9016 and S. 7564 advanced to the third reading.


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Assemblyman Gottfried introduced A.8904, to permit practitioners' discretion to recommend medical marijuana, without being limited by the existing list of qualifying conditions.

The bill “defines a serious condition regarding the medical use of marihuana as a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition, or symptom or complication of the condition or its treatment, for which, in the practitioner's professional opinion and review of past treatments, the patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from primary or adjunctive treatment with medical use of medical marihuana.”

Currently, New York’s program only allows practitioners (including physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who are working under the supervision of physicians who are registered in the program) to recommend patients to use medical marijuana if they suffer from any of 12 qualifying conditions, which include PTSD, chronic pain, cancer, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease.

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Update: A Senate companion bill, S.7755, was introduced on 2/16.

Update: A.8904 advanced to its third reading on February 8, 2018.

Update: A.8904 was referred to the Codes Standing Committee on January 23, 2018.


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Jeff Sessions Is Targeting Marijuana – It’s Time For Congress To Step In

On Jan. 4th, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department has rescinded, effective immediately, Obama administration guidelines – known as the Cole memorandum – which directed US attorneys to not interfere with those compliant with state cannabis laws.

While the AG’s actions were not totally unexpected, they do clash with pledges previously made by President Donald Trump, as well as with comments made by Sessions during his Senate confirmation process. At that time, Sessions acknowledged that the guidelines laid out in the memorandum were “appropriate.”

More significantly, this move by the administration runs contrary to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of US voters, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – who support the regulation of adult cannabis use and also believe that determining marijuana policy ought to be a state issue, not a federal one.


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The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 Introduced

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Barbara Lee have introduced comprehensive marijuana reform legislation, the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 to both chambers of Congress.

This marks the first time that companion legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The bills, S. 1689 and HR 4815 would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for re-sentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.


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Tell Your Congressional Representative: Join the Cannabis 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) have formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws. 

Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation's nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of adults throughout America, 93% of whom support medical marijuana (Quinnipiac, 2017) and 60 percent of whom endorse the outright legalization of recreational cannabis (Gallup, 2016). 

The leadership displayed by Representatives Rohrabacher, Blumenauer, Polis, and Young is a testament to this growing public consensus. The official establishment of this Caucus represents our growing, bipartisan support in Congress.


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Bipartisan Leaders Reintroduce the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, has reintroduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

HR 975 states, ‘‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.’’

Passage of this Act would halt federal officials from prosecuting individuals and businesses for violating the Controlled Substances Act in the 29 states that permit either the medical or adult use and distribution of marijuana. According to national polling, 71 percent of voters believe that the federal government should respect these laws and not interfere with them.

Update: Indicating to reporters that a federal crackdown is forthcoming, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said "I'm definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana," he said. "States they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not."

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Bill Introduced To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced comprehensive marijuana reform legislation, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, HR 1227, eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing marijuana. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

This bill would also remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, which would allow for more marijuana research both recreationally and medicinally.

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Amendment To Expand Veterans’ Access to Medical Marijuana

The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which would expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans, is expected to be offered to the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations (MilCon-VA) bill.

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.

Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 MilCon-VA bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. We must not allow a similar outcome again this year. Lawmakers must stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass and enact this amendment.

Update: The Veteran Affairs Department has reiterated their lack of support for medical marijuana access for veterans in a update on their website. The new language also makes erroneous claims about the legality surrounding their ability to allow VA doctors to recommend medicinal marijuana.

Update: Identical language was introduced in the House by Representative Earl Blumenauer and cosponsored by 9 Republicans and 9 Democrats. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions blocked the amendment from consideration.

Update: The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the amendment as part of the 2018 MilCon-VA bill.


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