Marijuana Legislation in the 2019 Session of the Missouri General Assembly

Dear Friends,

Here is a summary of the fate of marijuana-related legislation in the 2019 Session of the Missouri General Assembly which ended last Friday, May 17.  Missouri NORML had its most active year ever.  Our efforts included four lobby days, on the fourth Wednesday of each of the four full months the legislature was in session.

The greatest positive achievement of the session was the passage of Senate Bill 133, which contained much of the language which was also a part of House Bill 824 concerning a dramatic expansion of the legalization of hemp in the state of Missouri.  The original “pilot program” which was part of a bill passed in 2018, never really got off the ground.  No one had been licensed to cultivate the 10-40 acre plots of hemp contemplated in that legislation.  The new law will almost certainly be signed by Governor Parson in the near future and will become effective upon the signature of the governor.

We are disappointed that House Bill 341, which would have expunged marijuana possession convictions, both misdemeanors and felonies, for medical marijuana patients, did not pass the Senate.  After passing in the House, it went to the Senate, but there was not sufficient time for it to reach the Senate floor.  Almost certainly Representative Ron Hicks will file a similar bill again next year.

House Bill 1095 sponsored by Representative Shamed Dogan would have reduced the penalty for distribution of up to 66 pounds of marijuana down to a misdemeanor in its original form.  I testified in favor of this bill, which we helped draft.  As anticipated, it was amended to a less dramatic reform, but still a very good one.  The amended bill received a unanimous endorsement from the Committee Representative Dogan chairs, but was defeated on the House floor.  We will continue working with Representative Dogan to pursue other creative reform bills next year.

It is generally easier to stop a bill from passing than it is to pass one.  This fact worked to our advantage in stopping the passage of three very bad bills this year.

House Bill 829 would have allowed the state to spend money from the Missouri Veterans’ Health and Care Fund created under Amendment 2, now Article XIV of the Missouri Constitution, the Missouri medical marijuana law, for the purpose of paying the state’s lawyers in regard to any medical marijuana related litigation.  This bill was arguably unconstitutional, but fortunately we will not have to go to court to stop it since it did not reach the floor of the Senate, after having passed in the House.  In fact, now that we are aware of this bill, and we have alerted our allies in the Missouri veterans’ organizations to it, we can probably stop it from passing again in the House next year, if it is reintroduced.

Senate Bill 5, and other similar bills, would have made it much harder for Missouri citizens to place an initiative on the ballot, including constitutional amendments.  It would have dramatically increased the number of votes required to pass a constitutional amendment.  The reason citizen advocates propose constitutional amendment initiatives is because the Missouri General Assembly will not hesitate to amend or repeal statutory initiatives.  Until our Constitution is amended to restrict the ability of the legislature to do that, it is very important that we maintain the right of citizens to amend our state’s Constitution, as the Amendment 2 campaign did.

Senate Bill 6 contained provisions which would have greatly restricted the sale of medical marijuana infused products, prohibiting the sale of any such product “designed to appeal to children” without really defining that term.  It would also have prohibited the sale of any infused products in the shape of a “human, animal or fruit”.  There is simply no need for such restrictions to be imposed on the new medical marijuana industry in our state.  We are happy to see Senate Bill 6 go down to defeat.

Missouri NORML will continue to be vigilant and active in support of progressive marijuana law reform legislation and in opposition to further efforts to restrict or punish responsible consumption of cannabis by adults in our state.  We held a very successful conference in Kansas City on April 27.  We are making plans for a similar Missouri NORML state conference to be held in St. Louis this fall.

We urge you to make plans now to attend the national NORML Conference and Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. on September 8, 9, and 10.  Go to norml.org for more details on this major national event.

Sincerely,

Dan Viets
Missouri NORML Coordinator

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

COLUMBIA MEDICAL MARIJUANA ZONING MEETING

The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission will conduct a public hearing regarding proposed city regulations for medical marijuana commercial operations tomorrow evening, Thursday, May 9.  Although the Commission will meet in a “work session” beginning at 5:30 p.m., city staff members have clarified that the public hearing on medical marijuana regulations will begin at 7:00 p.m.  The meeting is in the Council Chambers of Columbia City Hall at 701 E. Broadway, on the northwest corner of 7th and Broadway downtown.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Decrim Bill to be Heard Th., 4/4, 8:00 a.m.!

Dear Friends,

 

A very progressive marijuana decriminalization bill, House Bill 1095, filed by Representative Shamed Dogan of St. Louis, is now set for a public hearing next Thursday, April 4, 2019, at 8:00 a.m. before Representative Dogan’s Special Committee on Crime in House Hearing Room #1, in the basement level of the Missouri Capitol Building in Jefferson City!  The more witnesses who show up to support this bill, the better!

 

It was only last Wednesday, March 27, when Missouri NORML lobbyists visited the office of the House Speaker, Elijah Haahr, and asked him to assign that bill to Representative Dogan’s Committee.  The Speaker did exactly that on the very same day!

 

Since the sponsor of this bill is the Chair of the committee that is going to hear the bill, it is very likely to come out of that committee with a positive recommendation very quickly.   Missouri NORML helped Representative Dogan write this bill.  It would reduce the possession of up to 100 grams, nearly four ounces, to an infraction, a non-criminal offense with no jail time and a maximum fine of $400.  It would further reduce the distribution, sale or delivery of up to 66 pounds of marijuana down from a felony with a punishment of up to ten years, to a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of one year!

 

If you cannot make it to the hearing in Jefferson City next Thursday, please contact your State Representative right away and urge him or her to support House Bill 1095, Representative Dogan’s bill to decriminalize marijuana in Missouri!

 

Thank you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dan Viets

MO NORML Coordinator

DV:th

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Federal: Amendment To Expand Veterans’ Access to Medical Marijuana

Update: Identical language was introduced in the House by Representative Earl Blumenauer and cosponsored by 9 Republicans and 9 Democrats. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions blocked the amendment from consideration. 

Update: The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the amendment as part of the 2018 MilCon-VA bill. 

The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which would expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans, is expected to be offered to the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations (MilCon-VA) bill. 

 

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.

Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 MilCon-VA bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. We must not allow a similar outcome again this year. Lawmakers must stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass and enact this amendment.

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.

 

Follow this link and enter your information to urge your Senators to support the Veterans Equal Access Amendment.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Federal: Protect Lawful Medical Marijuana Programs

Update #2: The House Appropriations Committee released its 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which determines the funding levels for numerous federal agencies, including the Department of Justice. Predictably, the bill does not include language — known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment — limiting the Justice Department from taking action against state-sanctioned medical cannabis producers, retailers, or consumers.

Representatives Blumenauer and Rohrabacher released the following statement in reponse: “The policy championed by Representatives Blumenauer and Rohrabacher that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering in the ability of states to implement legal medical marijuana laws (previously known as “Rohrabacher-Farr”) has never been included in the base Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Subcommittee Appropriations bill. Rather, in previous years, Congress has amended the base CJS bill to include these protections.

We are exactly where we thought we would be in the legislative process and look forward to amending the underlying bill once again this year to make sure medical marijuana programs, and the patients who rely on them, are protected. Voters in states across the country have acted to legalize medical marijuana. Congress should not act against the will of the people who elected us.”

Update #1: House and Senate lawmakers have signed off on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 to fund the federal government through September 30, 2017. The measure reauthorizes and updates the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, as well as a similarly worded amendment protecting state-sponsored industrial hemp programs. Both amendments will remain in effect until September 30, at which time members of Congress will once again need to either reauthorize the language or let the provisions expire. Non-medical retail marijuana businesses operating in the eight states that regulate adult use sales are not protected by this act and still remain vulnerable to federal interference or prosecution.

Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, maintains that federal funds can not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” 

 

Congress re-authorized the amendment as part of a short term spending package. This bill extends federal funding through September 30, 2017, at which time the measure — and the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment -- will expire.

 

According to recently released nationwide survey data, the majority of Americans are on our side. A whopping 94 percent support the medical use of marijuana. Perhaps most importantly, 71 percent of voters — including strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents -- say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.”

 

Please enter your information below to contact members of the incoming Congress and urge them to include these important patient protections as part of any future, long-term appropriations legislation. 

 

This amendment is strongly supported by both voters and lawmakers and ensures the safety of millions of patients. Congress must not turn its back on those millions of Americans who rely on these state-authorized programs for their health and wellness. 

Follow this link to Maintain Protections For Lawful Medical Marijuana Programs

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Contact the ONDCP Commission: Medical Marijuana as an Alternative to Opioids

Update: On July 31, the Commission released it's initial report without including one mention of medical marijuana. This is after a combined 8,200 messages from NORML and other groups including Marijuana Majority.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy has issued the initial recommendations of President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis without one reference to medical marijuana as a part of a plan to address the ongoing epidemic of opioid misuse and abuse.

Best evidence informs us that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. For example, a widely publicized study in the esteemed Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine reports that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with year-over-year reductions in opioid analgesic overdose mortality. Overall, researchers determined, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” A similar review by investigators at the RAND Corporation determined, “[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”

Medical cannabis access is also associated with reduced prescription drug spending. Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the relationship between medical marijuana legalization laws and physicians' prescribing patterns in 17 states over a three-year period. Specifically, researchers assessedpatients' consumption of and spending on prescription drugs approved under Medicare Part D in nine domains: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity.

Authors reported that prescription drug use fell significantly in seven of the nine domains assessed. "Ultimately, we estimated that nationally the Medicare program and its enrollees spent around $165.2 million less in 2013 as a result of changed prescribing behaviors induced by ... jurisdictions that had legalized medical marijuana,” they concluded. A follow up study by this same team reported this year, “If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion.”

Nonetheless, this administration continues to express skepticism with regard to the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana. It’s time they learn the facts!

Send the pre-written letter to the ONDCP Commission to educate them to the positive role that cannabis access plays in curtailing opioid abuse. You can also contact the commission at (202) 395-6709.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail