No MO Med Cards

Last evening, I interviewed Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Missouri DHSS, on my radio show.  I asked him whether patients, and caregivers, were going to receive physical cards via US Postal Service or if the documents received from DHSS online will serve as the “cards”.  He told me he believed cards would be mailed out soon.

However, today I received a phone call from the attorney for the Medical Marijuana Program.  She told me that Dr. Williams was mistaken.  Patients and caregivers will in fact will not receive “cards” in the mail.  They will use the documents which are sent to them by DHSS when they are approved as proof of their patient or caregiver status.  I told her I would try to clear up any confusion on that point.

Sincerely,

Dan Viets

DV:rm

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Bonamici Files Amendment Preventing Federal Interference of State Hemp Laws

Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) has introduced an amendment to the House appropriations bill that, if passed, would not allow funds to be used to prevent states from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of industrial hemp. These laws are defined in section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014. In 2014, members of Congress approved language in the omnibus federal Farm Bill explicitly authorizing states to sponsor hemp research.

The majority of US states have already enacted legislation redefining hemp as an agricultural commodity and allowing for its cultivation. However, the federal government still includes hemp in the Controlled Substances Act, despite it containing minimal amounts of THC–the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

All parts of the hemp plant can be cultivated and used to produce everyday household items. It can be grown as a renewable source for raw materials such as clothing, paper, construction materials, and biofuel. Not only is it useful, but growing hemp is much more environmentally friendly than traditional crops. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.

If Bonamici’s amendment is passed, this could prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with states’ rights, specifically regarding to the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of industrial hemp. It’s time for Congress to respect state laws and allow them to engage in the environmentally responsible cultivation of industrial hemp.

Click here to Help.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Federal: Bill Introduced To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

Update: HR 1227 was referred to committee on March 16th.

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

With the recent confirmation of militant marijuana prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to the position of US Attorney General, and with comments from the Trump administration warning of a coming federal crackdown in adult use states, passage of The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act is necessary to ensure that marijuana consumers are protected from undue federal interference. 

Follow this link to enter your information to contact your lawmakers and urge them to support this pending legislation.
Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Federal: The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 Introduced

Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) has introduced comprehensive marijuana reform legislation, the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017.

The bill 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.

To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant's medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) has introduced comprehensive marijuana reform legislation, the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017.

The bill 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.

To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant's medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Enter your information here to send a message to your Senators to support The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

80 Years Ago Today: First Federal Anti-Marijuana Law

Eighty years ago today, on August 2 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt signed House Bill 6385: the Marihuana Tax Act into law. The Act for the first time imposed federal criminal penalties on activities specific to the possession, production, and sale of cannabis.

Congress’ decision followed the actions of 29 states, beginning with Massachusetts in 1914, that had previously passed anti-marijuana laws criminalizing the plant over the prior decades. It also followed years of ‘Reefer Madness,’ during which time politicians, bureaucrats (led primarily by Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger), reporters, and science editors continually proclaimed that marijuana use irreparably damaged the brain. A 1933 editorial in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology largely summarized the sentiment of the time, “If continued, the inevitable result is insanity, which those familiar with it describe as absolutely incurable, and, without exception ending in death.”

On April 14, 1937, Rep. Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina introduced HR 6385, which sought to stamp out the recreational use of marijuana by imposing a prohibitive federal tax on all cannabis-related activities. Members of Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of the bill, which largely relied on the sensational testimony of Anslinger — who opined, ”This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.” Over objections from the American Medical Association, whose representatives opposed the proposed federal ban, members of the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure by voice votes.

President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed the anti-marijuana legislation into law and on October 1, 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act officially took effect — thus setting in motion the federal prohibition that continues to this day.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

TWO MAJOR VICTORIES FOR STUDENT RIGHTS IN FEDERAL COURTS

By Dan Viets, J.D., Missouri NORML Coordinator

Federal courts have recently rejected the actions of university and college administrators who sought to inflict suspicionless drug tests on students at a public college and to restrict the First Amendment rights of marijuana law reformers at a public university.  Both decisions have important national implications.

Linn Tech Student Drug Testing Case

In 2011, Linn State Technical College administrators declared that they intended to drug test every student who applied for admission to the small, state-funded college located in Osage County, Missouri, a short distance east of Jefferson City.  No other public college or university in America had pursued such a program.  It seemed clear to those who follow such matters that college and university students have the same rights as other adults to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  While private institutions are not bound by the restraints of the Fourth Amendment, public tax-supported institutions are.  Nonetheless, Linn Tech seemed determined to pursue inflicting random, suspicionless drug testing on their students. 

Tony Rothert, the Legal Director of the ACLU of Missouri, filed suit against Linn Tech.  I filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, working with Alex Kreit, a law professor from San Diego.

U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey, sitting in Jefferson City, subsequently issued a decision prohibiting such testing, with a few narrowly-drawn exceptions for those participating in training programs involving heavy machinery or high-voltage electricity. 

Linn Tech appealed that decision to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.  Legal scholars were shocked when a three-judge panel of that Court later sided with Linn Tech.  In a decision which many believed ignored legal precedent and logic, two of three judges on the panel which initially heard the case sided with Linn Tech. 

Mr. Rothert then filed for a rehearing of the case by the full 11-judge Court.  Such hearings are rarely granted, but in this case, the Motion was granted.  Following that rehearing, all but two of the judges on the full Court sided with the students and the ACLU, overturning the decision of the three-judge panel.

Still not satisfied, Linn Tech squandered more public tax money pursuing a Petition for Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.  Civil libertarians were concerned that the current high Court might indeed overturn the Eighth Circuit if it had accepted that Petition for review.  However, on June 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court denied further review in this matter.  Therefore, the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court is now the final decision in this matter.  Linn Tech administrators have reluctantly acknowledged that they must now follow the Constitution and abandon their effort to impose suspicionless drug testing on their students. 

Iowa State University NORML Censorship Case

In another important case closely watched by many across the nation, members of the NORML Chapter at Iowa State University in 2012 applied for approval to print t-shirts which contained the name of the university-recognized organization and included an image of the school’s mascot, “Cy, the Cyclone”.  University administrators first approved those t-shirts, but when the ISU NORML Chapter asked to reprint them, the university caved in to pressure from legislative staff people who had complained that it appeared the university was supporting marijuana legalization. 

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) filed suit on behalf of the officers of the Iowa State University NORML Chapter, alleging content and viewpoint discrimination.  The lawsuit sought to prevent university administrators from treating the NORML Chapter differently from other university-recognized student organizations.  The federal district court in Iowa sided with the students and against the university.  The university appealed to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, which issued a decision in February of this year upholding the federal district judge’s ruling.

Iowa State University administrators then asked the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court to reconsider its decision.  The Court did so, which caused many to fear that they might change their minds. 

However, on June 13, 2017, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court reaffirmed its earlier decision and went even further, holding that university administrators who prevented the ISU NORML Chapter from using the university’s trademarked images were individually liable for their actions and could, therefore, be ordered to pay damages from their own pockets!

Administrators at the University of Missouri in Columbia have taken similar actions in regard to the MU NORML Chapter.  It is hoped that the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit will encourage MU administrators to reconsider their position.

The federal appellate court sent a loud and clear message to university administrators that they are required to respect the Constitutional rights of students, including those who advocate for reform of the marijuana laws. 

While Iowa State could do as Linn Tech administrators did and continue to squander more public tax money pursuing an ill-considered position, it is not at all likely the U.S. Supreme Court would grant further review in this matter.

Administrators at the University of Missouri in Columbia have taken similar actions in regard to the MU NORML Chapter.  It is hoped that the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit will encourage MU administrators to reconsider their position.

Taken together, these two decisions have reaffirmed the rights of students to be free from unreasonable drug testing and to have the same rights and privileges as other university-recognized student organizations.     

#       #       #

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

KANSAS CITY VOTERS OVERWHELMINGLY ENDORSE DECRIMINALIZATION OF MARIJUANA POSSESSION

Kansas City voters

More than 70% of voters in Kansas City on Tuesday, April 4, supported a measure to decriminalize the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana. This level of support for Question 5 is truly incredible, considering the fact that the voter turnout for municipal elections is typically very low and those who tend to vote in such elections skew toward the older and more conservative demographics.

It is also a remarkable outcome given the fact that The Kansas City Star newspaper repeatedly editorialized against the measure, calling it “a confusing half-step that didn’t solve a difficult problem”. Apparently the voters did not share The Star’s confusion and recognized the fact that political change is almost always evolutionary. Politics, after all, is the art of compromise. Opposing a measure because it is does not achieve everything one wants is a sure path to political oblivion.

The measure fits the classic definition of “decriminalization” because it eliminates arrests for possession, eliminates jail as a punishment and convictions in Missouri municipal courts are not considered criminal convictions. This initiative limits the fines for possession to a maximum of $25.

Based in part on an initiative passed in Columbia, Missouri in 2004, the KC initiative was placed on the ballot by NORML’s Kansas City Chapter led by Jamie Kacz who said, “It’s a very positive result . . . . Kansas City is ready for this change”.

Some opponents had argued that, because the City’s current contract with Legal Aid of Western Missouri allows Legal Aid to only represent defendants faced with the possibility of jail, the measure would deprive indigent defendants in that court of free legal representation. Those opponents failed to recognize that the obvious solution to this “problem” is to change the contract. It is foolish to argue that we need to continue threatening to put people in jail just so they can have a free attorney. If the crocodile tears shed by opponents reflected a real concern for the welfare of marijuana defendants, those opponents will recognize this and pursue amending the contract with Legal Aid.

In fact, Missouri NORML Coordinator Dan Viets spoke with attorneys on staff with Legal Aid who confirmed that they would certainly be willing to continue representing such defendants, even if the decriminalization initiative passed.

Further, under a new law which goes into effect January 1, 2018, such convictions can be expunged from all public records, so even those who choose to pay the $25 fine rather than be placed on probation and subjected to drug testing will still be able to eliminate this impediment to employment.

For More Information Contact
Dan Viets at 573-819-2669 or
DanViets@gmail.com or
Jamie Kacz at 816-974-3412 or
jamiepkacz@gmail.com

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Happy New Year

NEW AND IMPROVED MISSOURI MARIJUANA LAWS TAKE EFFECT ON NEW YEAR’S DAY

                On New Year’s Day, the new Missouri Criminal Code will become effective!  Contained in that massive reorganization of all of Missouri’s criminal laws are several changes which will reduce the penalties for a wide variety of marijuana law violations.

            I was honored to serve on the Missouri Bar Association’s Criminal Law Subcommittee which drafted the new Criminal Code.

            The change affecting the largest number of people is the elimination of the possibility of a jail sentence for the first offense possession of ten grams or less of marijuana.  While relatively few such cases result in jail sentences now, there are at least two counties in Missouri where every single misdemeanor marijuana or paraphernalia guilty plea results in a sentence of five days served in jail.  That will no longer happen starting January 1.

            In addition, the laws prohibiting the cultivation and distribution of marijuana will carry reduced penalties in the future.  Currently, any distribution or cultivation of marijuana, or even the attempt to do so, carries a range of punishment of five to fifteen years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.  Under the new Criminal Code, the maximum punishment for first such offenses will be ten years.

            Perhaps most importantly, the new Criminal Code eliminates the “prior and persistent drug offender” law.  This law allows prosecutors to charge defendants who have two or more prior drug felonies in such a manner that they face a range of punishment of ten to thirty years or life in prison.  That sentence must be served without the possibility of probation or parole!

            This is the law under which Jeff Mizanskey was sentenced to serve life without parole in prison for his third small marijuana law violation.  Jeff has no other criminal convictions whatsoever, but he was ordered to serve life without possibility of ever leaving prison under the law which will be repealed January 1.

            In 2015, marijuana law reform advocates, including NORML and Show-Me Cannabis, were able to persuade Governor Nixon to grant Jeff a commutation of his sentence which made him eligible for parole.  I had the privilege of representing Jeff in his parole hearing.  He was released from prison only a few days after that hearing took place, on September 1, 2015.         

            NORML, Show-Me Cannabis, ACLU and others will continue to work in 2017, both in the legislature and through the Initiative process, to continue the progress we have made in recent years.  Now is an excellent time to make a monthly pledge of support to NORML in the coming year at http://monorml.com/donation/.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail