Welcome to this week’s edition of the NORML legislative roundup!
So much to talk about this week, so let’s start with our favorite villain, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This week, Sessions superseded the 2010 Holder Memo, regarding DOJ’s policy on charging and sentencing decisions – establishing what I like to now refer to as The Sessions Doctrine, in which he directed the the thousands of assistant U.S. attorneys to pursue “the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.”
Holder had asked prosecutors to avoid slapping nonviolent drug offenders with crimes that carried mandatory minimum sentences, practices that, as NPR’s Tamara Keith explains, “give judges and prosecutors little discretion over the length of a prison term if a suspect is convicted.” Holder’s recommendation had been aimed partly at helping reduce burgeoning prison populations in the U.S.
Now, if prosecutors wish to pursue lesser charges for these low-level crimes, they will need to obtain approval for the exception from a U.S. attorney, assistant attorney general or another supervisor.
This is yet another clear example of the Trump administrations escalation the failed War on Drugs.
On a much brighter note, things moved quite a bit at the state level in 3 key battles.
Delaware: Members of the House Revenue and Finance Committee voted 7 to 2 on May 10 to move HB 110 to the House floor. Because the measure seeks to amend criminal penalties, it requires a two-thirds majority from House members to move to the Senate for further consideration. The vote marks the first time the “1st State” that lawmakers have ever approved legislation seeking to legalize and regulate the adult use marijuana market.
New Hampshire: Members of the Senate on May 11 voted 17 to 6 in favor of HB 640, to decriminalize marijuana in “The Granite State.” Because the Senate amended the bill’s language, it must return to the House for a concurrence vote, where it is expected to easily pass. Once reconciled, the bill goes to Governor Sununu, who has time and again affirmed his support for decriminalization.
Vermont: S. 22, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults has been passed by the Vermont legislature.
If not vetoed by the Governor, the measure would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, and the cultivation of two mature marijuana and four immature plants in a private residence.
Vermont would become the first state to completely depenalize the simple possession and cultivation of marijuana by the legislative process, thus breaking a stigma for legislators throughout the country.
Unfortunately, in Texas, while we saw historic process to both establish a medical marijuana program and decriminalize the plant in the state, our efforts came up short this year as the deadline for floor votes came and past on Thursday.
Texas NORML organized in a heroic fashion and I must give a special shoutout to their Executive Director Jax Finkel for all of her hard work and diligence. Never has the Lone Star state been so close on moving sane marijuana reform policy forward and we will now must build upon the tremendous momentum generated this year to achieve victories in the next legislative session. You can support Texas NORML’s work by clicking here.
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,
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.
House floor vote pending for marijuana legalization legislation, HB 110. The measure establishes a regulated commercial market for cannabis cultivation and retail sales, but does not permit unlicensed, home cultivation.
Decriminalization legislation is on its way to the Governor.
Legislation to eliminate adult use marijuana penalties and study legalization sent to Governor.
VT resident? Send a message to Gov. Scott now and call his office at (802) 828-3333
Other Actions to Take
State officials in Alaska are considering legislation, HJR 21, to urge the federal government to restrain from interfering in state marijuana laws.
HJR 21 urges the current Administration to respect previous federal arrangements in regard to state laws and to continue a policy of allowing legalized states autonomy.
The bill points to several reasons that Alaska would be harmed by a federal crackdown, ranging from economic ramifications to the confusion of law enforcement officers; federal enforcement would ultimately have negative results.
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.”
The majority of Californians desire a legally regulated marijuana market. Passage of this act will limit state or local agencies from working with the federal government to undermine these regulations.
Update: Read third time and amended on May 8. Ordered to third reading.
Legislation to expand Hawaii’s medical cannabis program has passed both legislative chambers.
The bill expands the number of qualifying conditions eligible to receive cannabis therapy to include: lupus, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and autism. It also permits patients’ caregivers to engage in medical cannabis cultivation, among other changes.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently made public statements calling the notion of regulating adult marijuana use “beyond stupidity.”
Yet, according to a 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton poll, nearly six in ten New Jersey adults support “legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over.” Similar percentages of voters through the country also endorse legalization.