Facebook unveiled a new feature last week making it easy for users to connect with their government representatives. After entering your address into its new Town Hall app, up pops a handy list of your government reps — from municipal to congressional — and how to contact them. It even dials the number and enters the email address for you.
In honor of Facebook’s new civic engagement app, MERRY JANE’s compiled a handy guide to some key cannabis legislation across the country, along with where your politicians stand on the issues near and dear to your joint.
A good place to start is the recently introduced Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, which strikes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively ending federal penalties for possessing and growing the plant, giving state’s more control over their marijuana policies.
Equally important is the bipartisan backed Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017. Introduced to the floor by R-California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the bill is in reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ threat to ramp up federal enforcement of marijuana laws despite state-by-state policy. A comment backed-up by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who said at a press conference in February that Americans should expect to see “greater enforcement” of federal marijuana laws. The act bars federal agents from enforcing marijuana laws when a person is acting in compliance with the state laws. Currently on the floor, the bill is gaining ground with 16 co-sponsors from 13 states.
Taking a backdoor approach to protecting state marijuana policy, HR 331 seeks to halt federal forfeiture against medical marijuana facilities operating in compliance with their state law. This bill effectively seeks to prevent the DEA’s ability to profit from busts.
For any change to occur at the federal level, each bill has to pass through the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by 24-year incumbent R-Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte. Goodlatte has stated he believes marijuana has no medical benefit and called it a dangerous drug. Pro-marijuana lobbyists, activists, and lawmakers report that Goodlatte has historically stalled and stymied federal marijuana legalization and reform.
Statewide, Connecticut and West Virginia are currently considering adult-use legislation. Connecticut has three state house and one senate bill aiming to legalize retail sale and possession of recreational marijuana for residents over the age of 21. West Virginia’s Health Committee is considering HB 3035, aiming to regulate and tax marijuana similar to alcohol. In step, Delaware Senate Majority Whip D. Senator Margaret Rose Henry is aiming to introduce a bill for full adult-use in 2017, ideally expanding the state’s narrow medical marijuana program.
Indiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, North and South Carolina all have pending comprehensive medical marijuana bills. In South Carolina, R-Gov. Henry McMaster has been a vocal opponent of any move towards legalization.
Wisconsin R-Gov. Scott Walker told reporters he was “cautious” about full medical marijuana but would support a bill on the legislature floor, giving children and patients access to cannabinoid oils. Wisconsin’s medical marijuana program has been in limbo since 2014, when the state passed Lydia’s Law — legislation legalizing medical CBD oil without any regulatory framework.
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New Hampshire, New Mexico, and New York are all looking to expand their state’s narrow medical marijuana programs, pushing for legislation to expand what medical conditions qualify in NM and NH, and allowing patients to purchase and possess the whole-plant cannabis in NY. At the same time, New Mexico and New York are seeking full adult-use legalization, on top of looking to expand their medical marijuana programs.
Maryland is considering an amendment to the state’s constitution, giving its residents a legal right to possess, smoke, and cultivate marijuana. The state also recently passed a bill allowing people with past marijuana convictions to expunge their records.
Arkansas remains a battle ground, despite voter approval of a 2016 ballot initiative for medical marijuana. Legislation seeking to delay and restrict the rollout has been tabled, but opponents of the program remain vocal — most notably R-Senator Jason Rapert, who authored a bill prohibiting medical marijuana patients from smoking the medicine. R-Gov. Asa Hutchinson fought against medical marijuana but has said he will not stand in the way of the people’s vote.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Arkansas still has some of the toughest penalties for marijuana offenses, including up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500 for possession of less than 4-ounces. Arkansas residents in support of an expansive medical marijuana program should get in contact with their elected officials.
And remember, if there’s no pending legislation in your state, you can always urge your lawmakers to put something on the floor. Or, at the very least, ask them join the recently formed first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus, aiming to promote safe and sane marijuana policy at the federal level.
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