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: A. 9016 came out of the Health Committee without a vote and was referred to the Rules Committee.

Update: A. 9016 was approved by the Assembly on 6/6, and now awaits action in the Senate Health Committee.

Update: A third measure, S. 8820, was introduced on 5/22, to include opioid use as a condition that permits the use of medical cannabis.

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

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Legislation to Seal Past Cannabis Convictions

Legislation is pending, A. 2142 and S. 3809, that would seal the records of those who have previously been convicted of certain marijuana misdemeanors.

New York has historically had one of the highest marijuana arrest rates in the nation largely because of arrests made under the public view and public smoking exceptions to New York’s decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana. These arrests primarily target young black and Hispanic men, and have been sharply criticized by leading politicians, civil rights advocates and newspapers.

This loophole in our decriminalization law has been disproportionately used by the NYPD in illegal “stop and frisk” encounters with people of color for far too long. A recent investigation by The New York Times found that in New York City, black and Hispanic people were arrested at five to eight times the rate of white people; in Manhattan, that ratio was 15 to 1.  NYPD’s abuse of this “public view” loophole has led to hundreds of thousands of harmful and needless marijuana arrests since the mid-90s, despite the possession of marijuana being decriminalized since 1977.

Passage of A. 2142 and S. 3809 will make it so these hundreds of thousands of minor offenders are no longer stigmatized by their arrest record. Currently, someone who’s busted in New York under the “public view” loophole will suffer from collateral consequences to their housing, education, employment and public benefits.

Update: A. 2142 was approved by the Assembly on 6/6, and now awaits action in the Senate Rules Committee.

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Let Practitioners to Decide When to Recommend Medical Marijuana

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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Enter your information to send a letter to your elected officials in support of this bill.

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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Legislation to Allow Schools to Administer Medical Cannabis

Legislation (S 8191) has been introduced in the State Senate to explicitly permit children and developmentally disabled individuals with serious conditions for which medical marijuana has been recommended to have their medicine administered at schools and other facilities, and require school districts and facilities to create policies for medical marijuana administration.

Please enter your information below to contact your lawmakers and help us make sure that schools and facilities that serve the developmentally disabled make it simple for their wards to take their medicine.

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Legislation To Expand Medical Marijuana Program To Include Pets And Veterinarians

Legislation to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana for dogs, cats and other pets in New York State is pending in the Senate (S. 8772) and Assembly (A. 10104) Health Committees. The bill would allow veterinarians to recommend marijuana for our furry companion animals.

Most non-human animals have an endocannabinoid system like we do, which means they can also benefit from the therapeutic effects of marijuana. While marijuana is one of the most researched substances, most of that research is centered around humans and not nearly as much is known about its effects on domesticated pets. We do know that giving pets medical marijuana is something that should be supervised by knowledgeable veterinarians. Given that our companion animals are so much smaller and different from us, please don’t assume you’ll know what dosage and cannabinoid ratio to give based on your own anecdotal experiences.  

The criminalization of medical marijuana, no matter the species of the certified patient or qualifying condition needs to end. Help us do so by filling out the form below to send your state legislators an email asking them to support this important bill.

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Legislation to Expand Veteran Access to Medical Marijuana

Legislation is pending, A 9945, to expand veterans’ access to medical marijuana.

The measure waives administrative fees for patients who are veterans and/or who have been ‘honorably discharged’ from military service.

Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. A retrospective review of patients' symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction on a scale of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy. This is why, in recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups -- AMVETS and the American Legion --  have resolved in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.

Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace without having to pay unnecessary fees.

Enter your information below to urge your lawmakers to support this effort.

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Federal Priorities


MJ Justice: Support the Marijuana Justice Act (includes expungements)

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Barbara Lee have introduced comprehensive marijuana reform legislation, the Marijuana Justice Act 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 resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

Thirty states, Washington, DC and the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis, while an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy changes. According to a 2017 Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and 71 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy.

NOTE: Enter your information and it say "no targets found"? That means your representative has already signed on to be a cosponsor. Send a letter to your lawmakers now to thank them for supporting the Marijuana Justice Act.

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Bipartisanship: The STATES Act To End Federal Enforcement In States That Legalized Medical or Adult-Use

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced bipartisan legislation, The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales. A bipartisan House companion bill has been introduced by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

This marks the first bicameral, bipartisan legislation to end the federal enforcement of prohibition in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.

Specifically, this legislation:
- Creates an exemption to the Controlled Substances Act for US states and territories that have reformed their laws with regard to marijuana policy, effectively restraining undue federal intervention
- Maintains federal legislative provisions (aka “guardrails”) to deter:
   - The interstate trafficking of marijuana into prohibition states from legal states
   - The prevention of those under 18 from working in the cannabis industry
   - The prevention of those under 21 from purchasing marijuana (unless recommended by a state-qualified physician to treat a medical condition)
   - Unsafe production conditions
- Provides greater flexibility for lawmakers in non-legal states to reform their laws in a manner that reflects the will of the of their constituents and regulates cannabis commerce
- Provides the ability for cannabis businesses to obtain basic banking services
- Removes industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act


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Join the Caucus: Tell your Congressional Representative to join the recently formed federal 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 64 percent of whom endorse the outright legalization of recreational cannabis (Gallup, 2017).

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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Veterans: House Bill Introduced to Expand Veterans’ Access to Medical Marijuana

Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has reintroduced H.R. 1820, the Veterans Equal Access Act, which expands medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans.

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 H.R. 1820 lifts this prohibition.

Update: Congressman Blumenauer has filed an amendment (Blumenauer #37) which would allow VA doctors to make recommendations for medical marijuana as long as it is compliant under State law.

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.


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Data: Acknowledge the Role of Cannabis in Combating the Prescription Drug Overdose Epidemic

Opioid-involved overdose deaths have increased five-fold since 1999 and were involved in over 40,000 deaths in 2016. Deaths involving benzodiazepines, a family of anti-anxiety drugs, have increased eight-fold during this same time.

Best evidence informs us that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related abuse, hospitalization and mortality.

In April of this year, the esteemed Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine published a pair of persuasive new studies reinforcing this opinion.

In the first study, investigators from the University of Kentucky and Emory University assessed the relationship between medical and adult-use marijuana laws and opioid prescribing patterns among Medicaid enrollees nationwide. Researchers reported that the enactment of both medicalization and adult-use laws were both associated with reductions in opioid prescribing rates, with broader legalization policies associated with the greatest rates of decline.

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Additional Federal Efforts