[Canniseur: Automatically sealing cannabis, non-violent offenses helps people continue with their lives in more meaningful ways. Reducing obstacles to employment makes a lot of sense to long term rehabilitation.]
Bipartisan legislation filed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday would automatically seal federal criminal records for marijuana convictions.
The legislation, titled the Clean Slate Act, would also create a new procedure allowing people to petition federal courts to seal records for other nonviolent offenses that aren’t automatically sealed under the bill, such as convictions involving other drugs.
“At the time of sentencing of a covered individual for a conviction pursuant to section 404 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 16 U.S.C. 844) or of any Federal nonviolent offense involving marijuana,” the bill text states, “the court shall enter an order that each record and portion thereof that relates to the offense shall be sealed automatically on the date that is one year after the covered individual fulfills each requirement of the sentence, except that such record shall not be sealed if the individual has been convicted of a subsequent criminal offense.”
The bill, which was introduced by Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), also seeks to create penalties for any official who improperly “accesses or discloses information contained in a sealed record.”
“If our goal is to reduce recidivism and improve the lives of millions of Americans, we cannot allow hardworking citizens who served their time to be defined by their worst mistakes in life,” Blunt Rochester said in a press release. “With an inerasable criminal record, they are locked out of the American Dream. It becomes harder to get a good-paying job, pursue education or training, and own a home. This creates a system that leaves many hopeless and trapped in a cycle of poverty, and it is time we broke that cycle.”
“In Pennsylvania alone, approximately three million individuals, or over a third of working age citizens, have criminal records. Although many of these are the result of low-level, nonviolent offenses, criminal records can present a significant obstacle to employment, housing, and education,” Reschenthaler added.
Highlighting how criminal justice reform is increasingly a bipartisan issue, both the Center for American Progress on the left as well as the American Conservative Union Foundation and the Koch-brothers-backed FreedomWorks have endorsed the new bill.
Politico reported that Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) plans to file companion legislation in the Senate and is actively seeking a GOP cosponsor.
Congressional Bill Would Automatically Seal Marijuana Conviction Records was posted on Marijuana Moment.
[Canniseur: The New Mexico legislature couldn’t pass the bills to legalize. But cannabis is decriminalized now. The least they could do and that’s what the legislature did. Now the legislative session is over for the year, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens next year.]
New Mexico is likely to become the next state to decriminalize marijuana, with legislation to do so on its way to the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D).
With just hours left in the legislative session, lawmakers gave final approval to bill to remove criminal penalties for cannabis possession early on Saturday morning.
The win for marijuana reformers comes amidst disappointment that a broader bill to legalize and regulate cannabis sales that was passed by the House earlier this month ended up getting stalled in a Senate committee.
The successful decriminalization bill was first approved earlier this month by the Senate. The House took it up on Friday, approving minor amendments made by the Judiciary Committee, and the proposal then went back to the originating chamber for a final vote to be sent to Grisham for her signature.
The more far-reaching legalization legislation was passed by the House on March 8. It then advanced through the Senate Public Affairs Committee last week but got stuck in that chamber’s Finance Committee, where the panel’s chairman refused to bring it to a vote.
That bill was unique compared to marijuana legalization laws that have been enacted in other states in that it would have mostly put legal cannabis sales in state-run stores (while making some allowances for the licensing of private retailers).
Meanwhile, the decriminalization proposal, sponsored by Joseph Cervantes (D), would decrease penalties for possession of up to half an ounce of cannabis to a $50 fine, treated as a penalty assessment misdemeanor without the threat of jail time.
A fiscal impact report on the bill highlights the cost savings it could help the state realize.
“SB 323 could have a positive fiscal impact on the courts, prosecutors, and public defenders; workloads could be lessened by reducing the charges of possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce and use or possession of drug paraphernalia to penalty assessments,” it says. “These penalty assessments would not require court hearings, unless the charges are contested.”
“Currently, these charges carry criminal penalties that require court hearings to be set automatically. Criminal charges, which carry the potential of jail time, require the defendant to be arraigned by a judge, and often require additional hearings to resolve the charges,” the Legislative Finance Committee document explained. “Processing of penalty assessments involves less court resources than criminal cases.”
Grisham said during her election campaign last year that she supports legalizing marijuana with appropriate safeguards, but she has not commented specifically on the more modest decriminalization bill that is now on its way to her desk.
Marijuana Legislation Tracking
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.
The post New Mexico Lawmakers Send Marijuana Decriminalization Bill To Governor appeared first on Marijuana Moment.
New Mexico Lawmakers Send Marijuana Decriminalization Bill To Governor was posted on Marijuana Moment.
[Canniseur: The New Mexico senate still must pass it, so it’s not a done deal. But, another state may be going to adult use. They seem to be doing this for the right reasons too.]
New Mexico’s House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use on Thursday.
After getting a favorable report from two House committees last month, the legislation cleared the full chamber in a narrow 36-34 vote, but not before being significantly amended from its original form.
Sponsored by Reps. Javier Martinez (D) and Antonio Maestas (D), the bill would establish a retail cannabis system in the state and would automatically seal previous records of individuals with convictions for marijuana offenses that are made legal by the bill.
Before final passage on the floor, Martinez offered a compromise substitute version of the bill that its sponsors worked out with Republicans “in the spirit of bipartisanship.”
“We have what could potentially be a watershed moment in the recreational use of cannabis legalization movement,” he said, noting the bipartisan nature of the amended proposal.
The new version merges in ideas from a separate Republican-backed bill in the New Mexico Senate that would have the state government directly run cannabis shops. The proposal was approved by the body’s Public Affairs Committee last month, but has not yet been scheduled for floor action in that chamber.
Under the compromise approved by the House, marijuana stores would generally be run by a new state regulatory commission. In areas where there isn’t a government-run retail operation within 25 miles, private sellers could be licensed.
Manufacturers would be privately licensed.
Notably, the amended bill also requires that cannabis consumers maintain a receipt of sale for marijuana they possess. Those found without the receipts could face criminal charges, Martinez said when describing the changes.
The initially proposed legal possession limit of two ounces was lowered to one ounce.
And, unlike the original House legislation, the new version does not allow for home cultivation of recreational marijuana. Patients would still be allowed to grow their own medical cannabis, however.
The Departments of Agriculture, Environment and Health would have varying regulatory responsibilities.
Marijuana tax revenue would be directed toward a grant fund for research into marijuana, public education campaigns, community grants for workforce training and substance abuse and mental health treatment.
“New Mexicans are with us on this issue,” Martinez said in floor remarks prior to the vote, referring to polling data showing that a majority of the state’s voters support legalizing marijuana.
“For 50 years we’ve waged the war on drugs with pretty poor results.”
He also spoke about growing up near the U.S.-Mexico border and “seeing narco culture all around me.”
“At a young age I realized how big an enterprise that was,” Martinez said, referring to drug cartels that would stand to lose profits once the marijuana market is legal and regulated.
Maestas said that the state-run stores in the compromise bill might be the “most responsible way” for regulating marijuana sales that has yet been tried in the U.S.
“Folks have been waiting 82 year for this vote,” Maestas added. “Prohibition does not work. We must prosecute the war against drugs differently than we are now.”
“Let’s end 82 years of a crime that should have never been on the books.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) championed marijuana legalization during her gubernatorial campaign last year and would likely sign the bill if it is passed by the Senate.
On Tuesday, that chamber passed a separate bill to decriminalize low-level cannabis possession and on Thursday approved legislation to expand the state’s medical cannabis law.
Kyle Jaeger contributed reporting to this story.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily
New Mexico House Passes Marijuana Legalization Bill was posted on Marijuana Moment.
[Editor’s Note: We feel the full legalization of hemp is a precursor to the full legalization of cannabis. Agree or disagree?]
A bipartisan group of members of Congress is pushing the Trump administration to provide a legal pathway for food products infused with the marijuana compound cannabidiol, better known as CBD.
In a letter sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday, the lawmakers wrote that a series of recent actions by state and local officials in New York City, Maine and Ohio to crack down on the sale of CBD foods and beverages have “spurred a tremendous amount of confusion among product manufacturers, hemp farmers, and consumers of these products.”
FDA has so far refused to say whether it was involved in the local crackdowns in any way.
“In light of the aforementioned state enforcement actions and the resulting confusion, we are calling on FDA to swiftly provide guidance on lawful pathways for food products with CBD,” the 12 lawmakers, led by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), wrote to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
Following the federal legalization of hemp and products derived from it late last year through the Farm Bill, FDA released a lengthy statement saying that it reserves the right to regulate cannabis-based products. The agency would take action against businesses making unsupported claims about CBD’s therapeutic potential, it said, even if the products in question were derived from legal hemp crops, and it warned against introducing such products into interstate commerce.
Gottlieb did say in the statement, however, that “pathways remain available for the FDA to consider whether there are circumstances in which certain cannabis-derived compounds might be permitted in a food or dietary supplement.”
He also said that FDA would hold a public meeting on the issue to “gather additional input relevant to the lawful pathways by which products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds can be marketed, and how we can make these legal pathways more predictable and efficient.”
Now, the group of House members is urging him to hurry it up, and they want answers to the following questions by Friday:
1. When will FDA provide guidance on lawful pathways for food products with CBD? For example, it would seem the GRAS Notification Program would be one such pathway.
2. Has FDA advised states—such as New York, Maine or Ohio—that have recently taken enforcement actions against food products with CBD?
3. When will FDA hold a public hearing on the regulation of products containing CBD?
“States are looking for immediate leadership from the Federal Government to eliminate confusion around this issue,” the House lawmakers wrote. “Furthermore, numerous states are pursuing legislative efforts that would allow for the intrastate commerce of food products with CBD, potentially leading to a patchwork of state regulations.”
Lawmakers joining Pingree on the letter include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Don Young (R-AK), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Peter Welch (D-VT), among others.
Separately, lawmakers have sent a number of other letters to federal agencies recently about aspects of the Farm Bill’s hemp legalization provisions.
For example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who together championed hemp legalization to passage, wrote to the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week urging that it move “expeditiously” to implement regulations on the newly legal crop.
Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) also sent a separate letter to the FDA last month criticizing “outdated regulations,” that “limit producers from taking full advantage of the industrial hemp market” such as the development of hemp-derived CBD products.
Read the full text of the new CBD letter to the FDA below:
FDA To Take Steps Toward Allowing CBD Products Following Hemp Legalization
Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.
Lawmakers Push FDA To Allow CBD-Infused Food Products was posted on Marijuana Moment.
[Editor’s Note: This new legislation is the fourth standalone cannabis bill that has been filed so far during the 116th Congress, which began last week. Hopefully at least one will pass this year.]
A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers on Friday filed legislation that, if enacted, would essentially revive the Obama-era marijuana enforcement memo that was rescinded by then-U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year.
The full text of the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act, sponsored by Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) and six other House members, is not yet online. But a bill that Correa filed last Congress under the same title would have clarified that the attorney general “shall not prosecute for any conduct that concerns marihuana for medicinal or recreational use and is authorized by the laws of the State involved.”
That legislation also carved out several exceptions for areas where the Justice Department could continue to enforce federal anti-cannabis laws, such as:
- Distribution of marijuana to minors.
- Revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels.
- Diversion of marijuana from States where it is legal under State law in some form to other States.
- State-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity.
- Violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.
- Drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use.
- The growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands.
- Marijuana possession or use on Federal property.
Those provisions closely mirror the so-called Cole Memo that was issued by the Obama Justice Department in 2013 to essentially direct federal prosecutors to respect state marijuana laws by not interfering with their implementation except in certain circumstances.
But Sessions formally revoked the guidance last January, a move that generated broad bipartisan pushback in Congress.
“The Department’s ill-conceived decision adversely affects California and other states that in ‘good faith’ implemented regulatory frameworks that relied on the memo,” Correa said in remarks inserted into the Congressional Record on Friday. “The repeal of the Cole Memo contravenes the will of the American public. Furthermore, this decision will negatively affect numerous Americans who utilize cannabis for medical purposes.”
“We need to provide consumers, patients, businesses, and regulators with certainty.”
Lawmakers that have so far signed onto Correa’s new proposal include Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Don Young (R-AK), Dina Titus (D-NV), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA). It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
The version that Correa filed last Congress did not receive a hearing or a vote.
The new legislation is the fourth standalone cannabis bill that has been filed so far during the 116th Congress, which began last week.
One bill, H.R. 420, would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and instead regulate cannabis like alcohol.
The other two pending House proposals concern access to medical cannabis.
No cannabis bills have yet been introduced in the Senate this year, though a staffer for Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) told Marijuana Moment that he would “soon” file comprehensive medical cannabis legislation.
New Congressional Bill Would Enshrine Rescinded Marijuana Memo Into Federal Law was posted on Marijuana Moment.