Pending Marijuana Legislation

MO NORML 

The Missouri Affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

Greater St. Louis NORML, Mid-Missouri NORML, MU NORML, NORML KC

Springfield NORML, St. Charles NORML, St. Joseph/NWMO NORML, SEMO NORML

 

15 N. 10th St.                                                               facebook.com/MissouriNORML

Columbia, MO  65201                                                                                  monorml.org

573-443-6866, 573-819-2669                                                          DanViets@gmail.com

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May 13, 2020

Re:  Pending Marijuana Legislation

Dear Missouri NORML Members and Supporters,

This is the final week of the regular 2020 session of the Missouri General Assembly.  At 6:00 p.m. this Friday, May 15, the session will end.

The primary marijuana-related bill which is being actively debated at this point requires the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to remove the cap on the number of commercial medical marijuana licenses issued.  Presently, DHSS has limited the number of dispensaries, manufacturers and cultivators to the minimum number allowed under Article XIV, Missouri’s medical marijuana law.  The legislation which is under consideration would require them to issue a commercial license to anyone who meets the minimum qualifications.

Many believe this would be in the best interest of patients because it would lead to greater competition, lower prices and more convenient access.  If you agree, I urge you to contact your Missouri state Senator and your Missouri state Representative immediately!

            Each of us has one state Senator and one state Representative.  I urge you to both telephone and e-mail your state Senator and your state Representative and urge them to support the amendment which would remove the cap on the number of commercial medical marijuana licenses.

            This amendment is currently attached to two bills, SB 600, et al. and SB 580, et al.  SB 600 deals with crime measures.  It contains several provisions which increase the penalties for violent crimes and reduce regulations on firearms.

SB 580 is the more appropriate vehicle for this amendment since it originally focused on health-related matters.  The amendment may be attached to other bills, as well.  Therefore, I suggest that you simply urge your legislators to support any bills which contain language which would remove the cap on commercial medical marijuana licenses. 

            There are also bills under consideration which relate to charging people with DWI’s if they merely test positive for the presence of THC.  This would be a terrible idea since one may test positive for THC up to a month or more after last using marijuana.  Many people, including medical marijuana patients,  who are not impaired or unsafe to drive would be convicted of DWI if such a bill passes.  Therefore, I suggest that you urge your legislators to vote against SB 766 or any bill which contains such language.

Another bad bill, SB 610, would make it clear that any employer may discriminate against medical marijuana patients.  A positive drug test for marijuana, even for a legal medical patient, would be grounds for dismissal or refusal to hire.  Article XIV does not require employers to hire medical marijuana patients, but there is no reason to pass a law specifically encouraging such discrimination.

Please take action now!  Please contact your state Representative and state Senator!

Sincerely,

Dan Viets

Missouri NORML Coordinator

DV:ck

 

 

 

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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 CoordinatorFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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:thFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.

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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.     

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