This Friday, the Rhode Island House will debate H 5151 Sub A, the budget bill for the coming fiscal year. As written, Article 15 of this legislation would make two significant changes to undermine the state's medical marijuana program.
First, the House budget would require all patients who wish to grow for themselves to register as their own caregiver. Then, it empowers the Department of Business Regulation to establish criteria for caregivers, which may include "eligibility" and "a demonstration of need." Depending on how the department uses this authority, it could effectively eliminate home cultivation for all but a few patients.
Second, while the current budget proposal would increase the number of compassion centers from three to nine, it also raises the annual licensing fee for these facilities to $500,000 a year, which is 10-100 times more than what most other states require for medical marijuana business licenses. This fee will ensure that only people with deep pockets can enter the market, and the increased costs will be passed down to patients in the form of increased prices.
Limiting patients' ability to grow their own medicine while simultaneously increasing costs for patients at the compassion centers is a cruel and unnecessary way to balance the budget. Enough is enough.
Thank you for taking action!
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy reiterated his commitment to voters in his budget yesterday, which states that: “New Jersey will join other progressive states such as California, Massachusetts, Washington, and Colorado by legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana,” by January 1, 2019. In his speech, he also refuted claims by opponents that decriminalization alone would address the harms of marijuana prohibition.
“Decriminalization alone will not put the corner dealer out of business, it will not help us protect our kids, and it will not end the racial disparities we see,” he said. “If these are our goals — as they must be — then the only sensible option is the careful legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales to adults.”
We couldn't have said it better ourselves. If you are a New Jersey resident, please thank Gov. Murphy for his continued commitment to sensible marijuana policy and urge your lawmakers to support ending prohibition in New Jersey.
A budget deal approved in Congress on Friday extended federal protections for state-legal medical marijuana patients and providers until Dec. 8, potentially creating another opportunity to ensure they are inluded in the FY 2018 budget.
Earlier this week, the House Rules Committee blocked an amendment introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) from being heard by the House during the rest of the budget negotiations. This made it very likely that the amendment, which prevents the Department of Justice from targeting state medical marijuana programs, would not be included in the final budget for next year. Without inclusion, these protections would have expired Sep. 30.
This budget deal gives us a little more time to put pressure on Congress to do the right thing. Please contact your lawmakers and urge them to support medical marijuana.
Republican Congressman Urges Conservatives to Support Medical Marijuana Ahead of Crucial Budget Rules Vote
On Tuesday after Congress returned from recess, Rep. Dana Rohrbacher published a column in the Washington Post asking his conservative colleagues to support his budget amendment that would protect state-legal medical marijuana patients and providers from federal interference.
Not long ago, a supporter of mine, visiting from California, dropped by my Capitol office. A retired military officer and staunch conservative, he and I spent much of our conversation discussing the Republican agenda.
Finally, I drew a breath and asked him about an issue I feared might divide us: the liberalization of our marijuana laws, specifically medical marijuana reform, on which for years I had been leading the charge. What did he think about that controversial position?
“Dana,” he replied, “there are some things about me you don’t know.” He told me about his three sons, all of whom enlisted after 9/11.
Two of his sons returned from the battlefield whole and healthy. The third, however, came home suffering multiple seizures each day. His prospects were bleak.
His medical care fell under the total guidance of the Department of Veterans Affairs, whose doctors came under federal restraints regarding the treatments they could prescribe. (Among the treatments allowed were opioids.) Nothing worked.
Finally, a sympathetic doctor advised our young hero to see him in his private office, where he could prescribe medication derived from cannabis. The prescription worked. The seizures, for the most part, ceased.
“Dana,” said my friend, “I could hug you right now for what you’ve been doing, unknowingly, for my son.”
What had I been doing? With my Democrat friend Sam Farr, the now-retired California congressman, I wrote an amendment to spending bills that prohibits the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana cases in states where voters have legalized such treatment. The amendment passed two consecutive years, the second time with a wider margin than the first, and has been extended through continuing resolutions and an omnibus spending bill.
Unfortunately, my longtime friend Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, has urged Congress to drop the amendment, now co-sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). This, despite President Trump’s belief, made clear in his campaign and as president, that states alone should decide medical marijuana policies.
I should not need to remind our chief law enforcement officer nor my fellow Republicans that our system of federalism, also known as states’ rights, was designed to resolve just such a fractious issue. Our party still bears a blemish for wielding the “states’ rights” cudgel against civil rights. If we bury state autonomy in order to deny patients an alternative to opioids, and ominously federalize our police, our hypocrisy will deserve the American people’s contempt.
The amendment must be approved by the House Rules Committee in order to get a vote, where it will likely be approved for the FY 2018 federal budget. If it is not, a conference committee will need to choose the Senate version of the budget later this month. If one of these two options doesn't happen, medical marijuana patients and providers will be open to federal prosecution once again.
We can't let these protections expire. Please contact your lawmakers and ask them to support medical marijuana, and to ask their colleagues on the House Rules Committee to rule the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment "in order."
Connecticut representatives proposed an amendment to another bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults’ use. This provided members a historic opportunity to debate the issue on the House floor, but the amendment did not actually receive a vote.
However, there is still a very real chance for ending marijuana prohibition in Connecticut this year.
Last month, Connecticut Democrats revealed a budget proposal that included the regulating and taxing of marijuana, demonstrating that legislative leaders in the majority party understand regulating marijuana like alcohol is a necessary part of a responsible budget solution.
When Trump’s pick for attorney general, anti-marijuana Senator Jeff Sessions, steps into office, he will not be able to go after lawful medical marijuana patients and entities for several months (if he opts to do so at all).
Since these protections are only temporary, we must push strongly to keep intact the current federal policy that allows states to regulate marijuana without intrusion by the federal government.
On Friday, the District of Columbia Superior Court upheld the Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012, which 82% of D.C. voters approved in spring of 2013. Then, on Tuesday, D.C.’s Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer said they would not appeal.
Now, instead of having to wait for Congress to appropriate funds to D.C., the budget will simply be reviewed in the same way as every other law passed by the D.C. Council. So, the appropriations rider that has blocked the council from making any improvements to D.C.’s marijuana policies will expire on September 30, 2016. This means that the council can move forward to determine how to tax and regulate marijuana and pass a law to do so this fall.
While Congress could still block a tax and regulate bill or a D.C. budget that includes funds for the regulation of marijuana sales, it would have to do so by passing a joint resolution in both houses that would be subject to presidential veto. Thanks to congressional gridlock and President Obama’s support for D.C. choosing its own marijuana policy, this would be much more difficult than simply adding a rider to a lengthy appropriations bill funding the federal government.
Earlier today, MPP released a new poll finding that a clear majority of Rhode Islanders support “changing Rhode Island law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol.” Fifty-three percent of Rhode Island voters favor marijuana policies similar to those in Colorado, where adults 21 and over can purchase marijuana from regulated stores; only 41% oppose this policy change. If you are a Rhode Island resident, please take a brief moment to call both your state representative and your state senator and ask them to support ending marijuana prohibition in 2014.
Over the past couple of years, it’s become apparent that marijuana prohibition is coming to an end. It is no longer a question of if Rhode Island will legalize marijuana for adults and regulate it like alcohol, but when. Passing legislation this session will allow the state to begin creating hundreds of much-needed jobs and realizing tens of millions in annual tax revenue. With the state facing a $150 million budget hole and Rhode Island having the highest unemployment rate in the nation, let your lawmakers know now is the time to end marijuana prohibition in the Ocean State.
Nearly Three-Quarters of Democrats Break with Administration Policy, Vote to Prevent Federal Agencies from Targeting Individuals in Compliance with State Medical Marijuana Laws
Democrats in the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve an amendment to the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill late Tuesday that would effectively end the ability of federal agencies to enforce federal marijuana laws against individuals who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. The amendment stated that federal agencies may not use any funds to target individuals in states with medical marijuana laws, as long as those people are following the laws of their respective states. This amendment, which was debated five times last decade, was reintroduced after an increase in federal actions against state-legal medical marijuana providers throughout the country over the last year.
The amendment was supported by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-New York), Rep. Sam Farr (D-California), and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-California). It was defeated in the House by a vote of 163-262 at the close of voting. Of those in favor, 134 were Democrats and 28 were Republicans, with 72% of Democrats backing the measure. The strong support among Democrats is notable in light of recent criticism of the Obama administration’s crackdown on medical marijuana providers despite campaign promises that he would not use federal resources to undermine state medical marijuana laws.
“It is encouraging to see so many members sending a clear message to the Obama administration,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. “These 163 members are tired of seeing federal resources dedicated to undermining state medical marijuana laws. They understand, especially members from medical marijuana states, that when the Obama administration forces the closure of medical marijuana dispensaries, they are driving patients back to the streets to acquire their medicine. States are doing the right thing by ensuring that patients have safe access to medical marijuana. It is only a matter of time before every member of Congress accepts this truth.”
Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with a recommendation from their doctor. Connecticut is poised to become the 17th state to pass a medical marijuana law. Another ten states are considering bills to make marijuana legal at this time.
The amendment performed about as well this time around as it did the last time it was considered in 2007. While that may not seem like progress, it is actually quite a step forward. In the most recent vote, we saw an increase in the percentage of both Democrats and Republicans that supported this policy change. The reason that the overall support for the amendment remained relatively unchanged is that support among Republicans is still fairly low, and many more of them are now in office than in 2007.