Safe Streets Alliance et al. v. John Hickenlooper, et al. – Good News, Bad News

C1_8734_r_xA ruling issued on June 7th by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in response to a series of legal challenges to Colorado’s adult cannabis use regulations, includes both good news and bad news.

The Good News

Most importantly for the legalization movement nationwide, the appeals court rejected the argument raised by the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma that Amendment 64 in Colorado, the voter initiative that legalized and regulated the adult use of marijuana, was preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act. That argument, made by these neighboring states, if accepted by the court, would have voided Amendment 64.

It should be noted that this was not a definitive ruling on the federal preemption argument. Rather, it was a procedural ruling, finding that only the US Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear disputes between the states. (The Supreme Court declined to consider a similar challenge in 2016.)

In fact, it was only after the Supreme Court had rejected their motion that the two states elected to raise these same issues with the 10th Circuit, by filing a motion to intervene in the Safe Streets case.

Also a big win, the Circuit Court rejected a similar attempt by a group of sheriffs and prosecutors from Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska to use the US Controlled Substances Act and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution to enjoin the enforcement of Amendment 64. The court found that the Supremacy Clause “does not give rise to a private right of action.”

Hopefully this will give pause to other anti-marijuana zealots out there who might wish to use the federal preemption argument to undermine the various state legalization laws.

The Bad News

The bad news is that the 10th Circuit did reinstate a civil RICO complaint filed by private landowners in Colorado against a state-licensed indoor cultivation center, alleging it had caused a noxious odor that damaged their property value. The appellate court remanded the case back to the US District Court for further proceedings to allow the plaintiffs to attempt to prove their RICO claims.

While this is necessarily concerning to those in the state-legal cultivation industry, since the problems presented by the odors emanating from large grow operations is a theme which has been raised in several Colorado communities, it likely does not open the floodgates for every neighbor to bring a RICO suit against any cultivation center. Rather it likely will accelerate the adoption of the most effective technology by cultivation centers to minimize the odor of marijuana.

In the court’s own words, “We are not suggesting that every private citizen purportedly aggrieved by another person, a group, or an enterprise that is manufacturing, distributing, selling, or using marijuana may pursue a claim under RICO. Nor are we implying that every person tangentially injured in his business or property by such activities has a viable RICO claim. Rather, we hold only that the Reillys alleged sufficient facts to plausibly establish the requisite elements of their claims against the Marijuana Growers here.”

Please do not support the proposed THC/DUI Bill

Open Letter to Legislators on the THC/DUI bill:

I am a social scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where I have been engaged in research on cannabis for several years. In 2012, Colorado passed Amendment 64 to “regulate marijuana like alcohol.” Since marijuana regulation is new, it makes sense to base regulations for cannabis on those for alcohol, but it is important to remember that this does not make marijuana actually “like” alcohol” in its scientific properties. Cannabis does not work like alcohol, and for this reason, the THC/DUI bill is misguided in trying to set laws as if they are the same.

To justify passing the THC/DUI bill, three solid pieces of evidence are required. First, we should know levels that indicate intoxication. Second, there should be an accepted and reliable way to accurately measure that level of intoxication. Third: there should be proof of sufficient need to encroach on individual rights based on danger to the public. Please allow me to address these in turn.

1. Knowing levels that indicate intoxication. Marijuana is not “like alcohol” in terms determining impairment. The science is simply not there. A nanogram limit cannot yet be clearly and unambiguously linked to impairment. Based on the best evidence currently available (Grotenhermen and colleagues review of the literature in 2005, the Medical Marijuana Industry Group report in 2011, which responded to the first proposal of this law, and William Logan’s 2012 chapter reviewing the literature on marijuana and driving in Mahmoud ElSohly’s book Marijuana and the Cannabinoids), it is clear that we simply don’t know the correct limit over which drivers are impaired. It turns out that inexperienced or occasional cannabis consumers may be subjectively impaired at a much lower nanogram level than medical or social cannabis consumers with years or decades of experience. Logan (2012) summarizes the evidence we have to-date and is clear on the point: it is not possible to use blood tests of THC to distinguish between recent impairment and “more distant higher-intensity marijuana use” (286). For medical consumers or other chronic consumers of marijuana, heightened THC in the blood may last long after the subjective experience of impairment. In fact, maintaining higher levels of cannabinoids in one’s system may be related to medical benefit for those treating severe pain and serious illness.

2. There should be an accepted and reliable form of measurement that indicates intoxication. On the second point, it is crucial to acknowledge that marijuana and alcohol are not the same when it comes to how the body processes them. These two substances are metabolized in completely different ways by the body. Alcohol is water soluble. It is rapidly and evenly distributed throughout the body, and for this reason, breath tests can be used to approximate blood alcohol level, and both tests can be reliably used to indicate impairment. There is no such proxy for cannabis. it’s distribution in the body is based on the unique pharmacokinetics of THC, its distribution in the body and the way it is metabolized. Marijuana is lipophilic, it dissolved in fat, not water, and is metabolized quite differently than alcohol. We do not have reliable estimates that are consistent across different individuals, allowing us to measure levels of impairment with the same assessments we use for alcohol. In fact, breath tests cannot be used to measure cannabis for this reason. Instead, blood samples, the most intrusive type of test, would be necessary. Because blood tests are highly intrusive, clear and unambiguous evidence for such an intrusion on individual rights is warranted.

3. Finally, we should be able to link the use of the substance to a clear public health danger on the roads. Cannabis has not proven to present a similar level of risk in traffic accidents. On this final point, we have to ask, is a separate law warranted when marijuana intoxication is already included under existing DUI-D laws? The answer: no. There simply is not data that suggests cannabis alone greatly increases accidents or risks on the road at a level that warrants a new, separate DUI law specific to cannabis. In the case of alcohol, there are clear and well established relationships showing increased risk of accidents linked with blood alcohol levels. Less data exists for cell phone use and prescription drug use, but those studies have consistently shown significant risk ratios that indicate significant crash risks. The data on marijuana shows lower risks than these other factors. The exception is when marijuana use and alcohol use are combined. Again, Logan’s review of the data on relative crash risk following marijuana use, “studies that made odds ratio assessments based on the presence of the inactive THC-COOH metabolite uniformly failed to show significant differences at the p=0.05 level in rate of accident involvement for the drug-positive drivers” (287). Recent evidence suggests that accident rates decrease in states with regulated medical marijuana. This has been attributed to the reduction of alcohol use in favor of marijuana, resulting in fewer alcohol-impaired drivers on the road, discussed by Time magazine in an article by Maia Szalaviz from December 2011.

For these reasons, those who have studied the issue and reviewed all available evidence do not recommend the use of per se limits without better science. To the degree that such policies are used, they urge great caution, and suggest that other methods for assessing impairment not be discarded or demoted given the lack of credibility on the currently available objective measures.

The current bill under consideration belongs to a dying breed. “Get Tough” policies have been popular among politicians because they have equated with success in the polls, but as more and more people acknowledge that the War on Drugs approach to drug control is a failure, these nonscientific approaches are bound to lose traction with the voting public.

Clearly no one wants impaired drivers on the road, and no one is arguing for that. This THC/DUI bill will do little to help prevent that, and it may end up punishing people who are not impaired. Until objective limits for cannabis intoxication can be clearly determined, measured, and linked to a genuine risk to public health on the roads, we should stick with our existing DUI-D law that already covers drug impairment.

Sincerely,

Shelli Newhart Walker

Alternet: “Will Obama Go After Legal Pot In Washington And Colorado?”

It has been nearly seven weeks since voters in Colorado and Washington made history, enacting at the ballot box unprecedented measures legalizing the adult possession on cannabis. Yet during this time, federal officials have largely remained silent.

One week ago, US Attorney General Eric Holder cryptically told Bloomberg News that the administration will formally announce its intentions “relatively soon,” but added no further details. Most recently, on Friday, President Obama told ABC News’ Barbara Walters: “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal. … We’ve got bigger fish to fry.” Of course, federal officials do not target minor marijuana offenders now — so the President’s statement provides little clarity as to what actions the Administration may take going forward as Colorado and Washington begin implementing broader regulatory reforms, including measures to license proprietors to commercially produce and sell cannabis to adults.

Today, in Alternet.org, I speculate as to what actions the Administration may take — and what actions they may not take — in the coming weeks as state lawmakers work toward the full implementation of Colorado and Washington’s newly enacted marijuana laws. An excerpt from this commentary appears below.

Will Obama Go After Legal Pot in Washington and Colorado?
via Alternet.org

With public opinion firmly behind the will of the voters, is it realistic to think that the Obama Justice Department will take action to try and nullify Colorado and Washington’s legalization laws? It’s possible, but it may not be as likely as some think.

For starters, states are not mandated under the US Controlled Substances Act to criminalize marijuana or to arrest and prosecute adult cannabis consumers and the federal government cannot compel prosecutors in Colorado or Washington to do so. The Justice Department and the US Drug Enforcement Administration could, theoretically, choose to selectively prosecute those individuals in Colorado and Washington who possess or grow quantities of plant that are compliant with state law. But such a scenario is hardly plausible. The federal government lacks the manpower and the public support – and therefore the political will – to engage in such behavior and this reality is unlikely to change any time soon. As acknowledged by former congressman and ex-DEA director Asa Hutchinson at a recent CATO Institute forum on the subject, the federal government never has prosecuted people for possessing an ounce of marijuana and it is not about to start doing so now.

By contrast, the Obama administration may attempt to actively prohibit states from allowing for the above-ground, licensed production and sale of cannabis by authorized proprietors. Justice Department officials could theoretically do so by either bringing a legal challenge against the states, by threatening local officials, or by proposing to withhold federal funding. But none of these actions are assured. Here’s why.

To date, the Obama administration has done little to interfere with the state-approved production and licensed distribution of medical marijuana in those states that explicitly license and regulate this activity — specifically in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, and New Mexico. (In recent days, some of the first state-approved dispensaries opened for business in Arizona and New Jersey. In coming months, licensed dispensaries are also anticipated to open their doors to the public in Vermont as well as the District of Columbia. **AUTHOR’S NOTE: By contrast, the Justice Department has taken actions to aggressively close operations in California, Oregon, Montana, and Washington — though none of these states explicitly license dispensaries.**) In Colorado – where the state has licensed several hundreds of cannabis dispensaries and oversees “seed to sale” regulations governing the plant’s production and distribution – federal officials have yet to either file suit or threaten any of the state regulators who oversee the program. In response to a lawsuit filed in 2011 by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who sought to invalidate the state’s 2010 medical cannabis law, lawyers for the federal government affirmed that the administration had never engaged in such strong-arm tactics and did not intend to.

The federal judge in the case agreed. She rejected Gov. Brewer’s legal arguments that the operation of state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries was preempted by federal law or put state employees at risk for federal prosecution, determining “[T]he Complaint does not detail any history of prosecution of state employees for participation in state medical marijuana licensing schemes [and] fails to establish that Plaintiffs are subject to a genuine threat of imminent prosecution and consequently, the Complaint does not meet the constitutional requirements for ripeness.”

A Maricopa County (AZ) Superior Court ruling from earlier this month further affirms that states possess the legal authority to regulate the legal distribution of cannabis, at least in some specific instances, without running afoul of federal anti-drug laws. In the case before the Court, White Mountain Health Center, Inc. v. Maricopa County, Judge Michael Gordon determined that the federal Controlled Substances Act did not preempt Arizona’s efforts to authorize “the local cultivation, sale, and use, of medical marijuana.” Writing for the Court, Judge Gordon declared that nothing in Arizona’s law circumvents federal law since Justice Department officials could still continue to locally enforce the Controlled Substances Act. In fact, Judge Gordon suggested that the new law “affirmatively provides a roadmap for federal enforcement of the CSA, if they so wished to” since the statute requires patients and proprietors to register their activities with the state. He concluded: “The Court rejects … arguments that the [law] violates public policy simply because marijuana use and possession violate federal law. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation permitting the use of marijuana in whole or in part. The Court will not rule that Arizona, having sided with the ever-growing minority of States, and having limited it to medical use, has violated public policy.”

Some legal experts, including law professor Robert Mikos of Vanderbilt University Law School, suggest an additional legal theory as to why Colorado and Washington’s proposed regulatory schemes may not be subject to federal preemption. Speaking at a recent CATO Institute sponsored forum, Mikos suggested that the newly enacted state legalization laws do not violate the spirit or the intent of the Controlled Substances Act because the federal law exists for the expressed purpose of limiting the consumption of certain substances by the public, particularly young people. One can argue that the proposed statewide regulatory schemes in Colorado and Washington – which impose age restrictions for buyers and limit sellers to those authorized by the state – are intended to serve a similar purpose. Further, the proposed state programs, “do not stop federal authorities from sanctioning registrants.” Notably, Superior Court Judge Gordon specifically highlighted these arguments in his decision to uphold Arizona’s law and to reject claims that it positively conflicted with federal law.

“No one can argue that the federal government’s ability to enforce the CSA is impaired to the slightest degree [by Arizona’s medical marijuana law],” he opined. “Instead of frustrating the CSA’s purpose, it is sensible to argue that the [law] furthers the CSA’s objectives in combating drug abuse and the illegitimate trafficking of controlled substances.”

You can read the full text of my commentary here.

It’s Official: Cannabis Possession And Cultivation Now Legal In Colorado

History was made once again today when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an Executive Order that makes an “official declaration of the vote” related to Amendment 64. This declaration formalizes the amendment as part of the state Constitution and makes legal the personal use, possession and limited home-growing of marijuana under Colorado law for adults 21 years of age and older.

“Voters were loud and clear on Election Day,” Gov. Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement. “We will begin working immediately with the General Assembly and state agencies to implement Amendment 64.”

Colorado joins Washington as the first two states in modern history to legalize the consumption of cannabis by adults.

As of today, the following acts are no longer unlawful under Colorado state law for persons 21 years of age or older:

(a) POSSESSING, USING, DISPLAYING, PURCHASING, OR TRANSPORTING MARIJUANA ACCESSORIES OR ONE OUNCE OR LESS OF MARIJUANA.

(b) POSSESSING, GROWING, PROCESSING, OR TRANSPORTING NO MORE THAN SIX MARIJUANA PLANTS, WITH THREE OR FEWER BEING MATURE, FLOWERING PLANTS, AND POSSESSION OF THE MARIJUANA PRODUCED BY THE PLANTS ON THE PREMISES WHERE THE PLANTS WERE GROWN, PROVIDED THAT THE GROWING TAKES PLACE IN AN ENCLOSED, LOCKED SPACE, IS NOT CONDUCTED OPENLY OR PUBLICLY, AND IS NOT MADE AVAILABLE FOR SALE.

(c) TRANSFER OF ONE OUNCE OR LESS OF MARIJUANA WITHOUT REMUNERATION TO A PERSON WHO IS TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER.

(d) CONSUMPTION OF MARIJUANA, PROVIDED THAT NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL PERMIT CONSUMPTION THAT IS CONDUCTED OPENLY AND PUBLICLY OR IN A MANNER THAT ENDANGERS OTHERS.

(e) ASSISTING ANOTHER PERSON WHO IS TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER IN ANY OF THE ACTS DESCRIBED IN PARAGRAPHS (a) THROUGH (d) OF THIS SUBSECTION.

Governor Hickelnlooper also announced today the formation of 24-member task force to oversee the implementation of the law, which ultimately mandates for the commercial production and sale of cannabis by those licensed to do so. A representative of Colorado NORML sits on this task force.

As I previously wrote last week, to be clear: This is not decriminalization — a policy change that amends criminal penalties for minor marijuana offenses, but that continues to define cannabis as illegal contraband under the law and subjects its consumers to civil penalties. Today in Colorado, like in Washington, cannabis — when possessed in private by an adult in specific quantities — is a legal commodity. And it is likely that there is very little that the federal government can do to stop it. States are not mandated to criminalize marijuana or arrest adult cannabis consumers and the federal government cannot compel prosecutors in Colorado or Washington to do otherwise.

The voters have spoken and change is upon us. Can you smell the freedom?

Cannabis Is Now Legal In Washington State

History was made in Washington on Election night when 55 percent of voters decided in favor of Initiative 502. And at 12am this morning, history was made once again.

Today, for the first time in 89 years (Washington lawmakers initially outlawed cannabis in 1923, 14 years ahead of the enactment of federal prohibition.), an adult may possess up to one ounce cannabis (and/or up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form) for their own personal use in private — and they may do so without being in violation of state law.

To be clear: This is not decriminalization — a policy change that amends criminal penalties for minor marijuana offenses, but that continues to define cannabis as illegal contraband under the law and subjects its consumers to civil penalties. Today in Washington, cannabis — when possessed in private by an adult in specific quantities — is a legal commodity. (By contrast, public consumption of cannabis is a civil violation. Existing penalties regarding home cultivation for non-patients remain unchanged. Rules regarding the regulated sale of cannabis to adults are to be codified later next year.)

Nevertheless, the immediate statutory changes effective today provide unprecedented legal protections for adult cannabis consumers. Rather than presuming cannabis to be illicit, and that those who possess it are engaged in illegal activity, the enactment of I-502 mandates law enforcement and prosecutors to presume that cannabis is in fact legal, and that those who possess it in personal use quantities are engaged in legal activity, unless the state can show that there are extenuating circumstances proving otherwise. Moreover, since up to one ounce of cannabis will no longer be classified as an illicit commodity under state law, police will have no legal authority to seize it from lawful adults. Finally, police will arguably no longer be permitted to legally engage in ‘fishing expeditions’ when they encounter cannabis in ‘plain view’ –- such as in someone’s home or in their car. Since marijuana is no longer defined as contraband, state police will no longer have sufficient cause to engage in a further search of the area because, legally, no criminal activity has taken place.

Yes indeed, the dominoes are falling and more will fall imminently. (Colorado’s legalization measure will take effect in early January.) And there is very little that the federal government — which on the eve of legalization said only that it is ‘reviewing’ the new law — can do to stop it. States are not mandated to criminalize marijuana or arrest adult cannabis consumers and the Federal government cannot compel prosecutors in Colorado or Washington to do otherwise.

Like alcohol prohibition before it, the criminalization of cannabis is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. How did America’s ‘Nobel Experiment’ with alcohol prohibition come to an end? When a sufficient number of states enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol laws prohibition effectively discontinued. With state police and prosecutors no longer enforcing the Federal government’s unpopular law, politicians eventually had no choice but to abandon the policy altogether.

History now repeats itself.

The Hill.com: “Voters Say ‘No’ To Pot Prohibition”

I have an op/ed today online at The Hill.com’s influential Congress blog (“Where lawmakers come to blog”).

Read an excerpt from it below:

Voters say ‘No’ to pot prohibition
via TheHill.com

Voters in Colorado and Washington made history on Election Day. For the first time ever, a majority of voters decided at the ballot box to abolish cannabis prohibition.

… Predictably, the federal government – which continues to define cannabis as equally dangerous to heroin – is not amused. According to various media reports, the Justice Department is in the process of reviewing the nascent state laws. Meanwhile, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has already affirmed that the agency’s “enforcement of the [federal] Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.” That may be true. But in a matter of weeks, the local enforcement of marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington most definitely will change. And there is little that the federal government can do about it.

States are not mandated to criminalize marijuana or arrest adult cannabis consumers and now two states have elected not to. The federal government cannot compel them to do otherwise. State drug laws are not legally obligation to mirror the federal Controlled Substances Act and state law enforcement are not required to help the federal government enforce it. Yes, theoretically the Justice Department could choose to prosecute under federal law those individuals in Colorado and Washington who possess personal amounts of cannabis. But such a scenario is hardly plausible. Right now, the federal government lacks the manpower, political will, and public support to engage in such behavior. In fact, rather than triggering a federal backlash, it is far more likely that the passage of these two measures will be the impetus for the eventual dismantling of federal pot prohibition.

Like alcohol prohibition before it, the criminalization of cannabis is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. How did America’s ‘Nobel Experiment’ with alcohol prohibition come to an end? Simple. When a sufficient number of states – led by New York in 1923 – enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws. With state police and prosecutors no longer complying with the government’s wishes to enforce an unpopular law, federal politicians eventually had no choice but to abandon the policy altogether.

… On Election Day, voters in Colorado and Washington turned their backs on cannabis prohibition. They are the first to do so. But they will not be the last. Inevitably, when voters in the other 48 states see that the sky has not fallen, they too will demand their lawmakers follow suit. As more states lead the way, federal politicians will eventually have no choice but to follow.

You can read the entire op/ed here. You can also post your feedback and comments to The Hill by going here. Congress is listening; tell them what’s on your mind.

Prosecutors In Colorado, Washington Dismiss Even More Marijuana Cases

Prosecutors throughout Colorado and Washington state continue to dismiss hundreds of pending misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.

On Thursday, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and City Attorney Doug Friednash announced that they would stop pressing charges and would review pending criminal cases involving minor cannabis possession offenses. Their announcement came one day after Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett announced he would dismiss pending cases that involved less than an ounce of marijuana.

Fifty-five percent of Colorado voters on Election Day approved Amendment 64, which allows for the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants in private by those persons age 21 and over. The law will take effect the first week of January, 2013.

Prosecutors throughout Washington are also dismissing criminal charges against minor marijuana offenders. Most recently, prosecutors in Thurston County and Olympia announced that they would be dismissing all pending criminal cases involving the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. Thurston County officials announced their decision shortly after receiving a request from the Thurston County chapter of NORML.

Thurston and Olympia County prosecutors join officials in several other Washington counties — including two of the state’s largest counties: King County and Pierce County — as well as Clark County and Spokane, all of which are have dismissed or are preparing to dismiss pending cannabis cases from the docket.

Washington state prosecutors’ actions follow voters’ passage of Initiative 502, which removes criminal penalties specific to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use (as well as the possession of up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form.) The law is set to take effect on December 6, 2012.

Explaining his decision to drop hundreds of pending cannabis cases ahead of the enactment of the new law, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg told The Seattle Times: “Although the effective date of I-502 is not until December 6, there is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month. I think when the people voted to change the policy, they weren’t focused on when the effective date of the new policy would be. They spoke loudly and clearly that we should not treat small amounts of marijuana as an offense.”

Voters In Colorado and Washington Make History: Vote To Repeal Cannabis Prohibition

Voters in Colorado and Washington on Election Day in favor of ballot measures that remove criminal and civil penalties for the adult possession of cannabis. The votes mark the first time ever that voters have decided at the ballot box to abolish cannabis prohibition.

In Colorado, 55 percent of voters decided in favor of Amendment 64, which allows for the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants by those persons age 21 and over. Longer-term, the measure seeks to establish regulations governing the commercial production and distribution of marijuana by licensed retailers. Initial returns show the measure passing with 54 percent support.

In Washington, approximately 55 percent of voters decided in favor of I-502, which regulates the production and sale of limited amounts of marijuana for adults. The measure also removes criminal penalties specific to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use. Initial returns indicate that 55 percent of voters backed the measure.

State lawmakers in Colorado initially prohibited the possession of cannabis in 1917. Washington lawmakers initially outlawed the plant in 1923.

Commenting on the historic votes, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 provide adult cannabis consumers with unprecedented legal protections. Until now, no state law has defined cannabis as a legal commodity. Some state laws do provide for a legal exception that allows for certain qualified patients to possess specific amounts of cannabis as needed. But, until today, no state in modern history has classified cannabis itself as a legal product that may be lawfully possessed and consumed by adults.”

Armentano continued: “The passage of these measures strikes significant blow to federal cannabis prohibition. Like alcohol prohibition before it, marijuana prohibition is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. Alcohol prohibition fell when a sufficient number of states enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws. With state police and prosecutors no longer engaging in the federal government’s bidding to enforce an unpopular law, the federal government had little choice but to abandon the policy altogether. Today, history begins to repeat itself.”

Separate marijuana law reform measures proved to be equally popular among voters. In Massachusetts, 63 percent of voters approved Question 3, which eliminates statewide criminal and civil penalties related to the possession and use of up to a 60-day supply of cannabis by qualified patients. It also requires the state to create and regulate up to 35 facilities to produce and dispense cannabis to approved patients. Massachusetts is the 18th state since 1996 to authorize the physician-recommended use of cannabis.

In Michigan, an estimated 65 percent of Detroit voters approved Measure M, which removes criminal penalties pertaining to the possession on private property of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults over age 21.

A statewide ballot measure to legalize the therapeutic use of cannabis in Arkansas appears to have narrowly failed by a vote of 49 percent to 51 percent. In Montana, a referendum that sought to ease legislative restrictions on the state’s medical marijuana law also failed. Oregon’s Measure 80, which sought to allow for the state-licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to adults, garnered only 45 percent of the popular vote.

The ballot measures in Colorado and Washington will take effect once the vote totals have been formally ratified, a process that typically takes up to 30 days.

NORML will provide additional updates on various other local measures throughout the day. Stay tuned to the NORML blog for more information.

Six States To Decide Tomorrow On Marijuana Measures

Millions of voters will decide on Election Day in favor of ballot measures to legalize and regulate the use of cannabis by adults. Voters in three states — Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — will decide on statewide ballot measures to legalize the possession and distribution of cannabis for those over 21 years of age. Voters in three additional states — Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Montana — will decide on measures to allow for the therapeutic use of cannabis by patients with qualifying ailments. In Michigan, voters in four cities – totaling over a million people – will decide on municipal measures to legalize or depenalize the adult use of cannabis.

Ballot measures in Colorado, Massachusetts, and Washington remain favored among voters, according to the latest statewide polls.

Since 1996, 17 states have enacted legislation to allow for the limited possession of cannabis when a physician authorizes such use. In ten of those states, voters enacted medical cannabis legislation via the statewide initiative process. But to date, no statewide proposal to remove criminal and civil penalties for the broader, personal possession and use of marijuana by adults has succeeded at the ballot box. This reality is likely to change tomorrow.

A summary of this year’s more prominent statewide and local ballot measures appears below.

ARKANSAS: Voters will decide on Measure 5, The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act of 2012, which allows authorized patients to possess up to two and one-half ounces of cannabis for various qualifying medical conditions, including cancer, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The measure also allows state regulators to establish not-for-profit facilities to produce and dispense cannabis to approved patients. Individual patients will also be permitted to privately cultivate limited amounts of cannabis (up to six flowering plants) if they reside further than five miles from a state-authorized dispensary.

COLORADO: Voters will decide on Amendment 64, which allows for the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants by those persons age 21 and over. Longer-term, the measure seeks to establish regulations governing the commercial production and distribution of marijuana by licensed retailers. Voters in the state approve of the measure by a margin of 50 percent to 44 percent, according to the latest Denver Post survey.

MASSACHUSETTS: Voters will decide on Question 3, which eliminates statewide criminal and civil penalties related to the possession and use of up to a 60-day supply of cannabis by qualified patients. It would also require the state to create and regulate up to 35 facilities to produce and dispense cannabis to approved patients. Individual patients will also be permitted to privately cultivate limited amounts of cannabis if they are unable to access a state-authorized dispensary. Voters in the state approve the measure by a margin of 55 percent to 36 percent, according to the latest Suffolk University poll.

MICHIGAN: Voters in four cities – totaling over a million people – will also decide on Tuesday whether to legalize or depenalize the adult use of cannabis. Voters in Detroit will decide on Proposal M, which removes criminal penalties pertaining to the possession on private property of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults over age 21. In Flint, voters will decide on a citizens’ initiative to amend the city code so that the possession on private property of up to one ounce of marijuana or cannabis paraphernalia by those age 19 or older is no longer a criminal offense. Grand Rapids voters will act on Proposal 2, which seeks to allow local law enforcement the discretion to ticket first-time marijuana offenders with a civil citation, punishable by a $25 fine and no criminal record. In Ypsilanti, voters will decide on a proposal to make the local enforcement of marijuana possession offenses the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.

MONTANA: Voters will decide on Initiative Referendum 124. A ‘no’ vote on IR-124 would repeal newly enacted restrictions to the state’s 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana law.

OREGON: Voters will decide on Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, which provides for the state-licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to adults. The measure does not impose state-licensing or taxation requirements upon those who wish to cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes.

WASHINGTON: Voters will decide on I-502, which regulates the production and sale of limited amounts of marijuana for adults. The measure also removes criminal penalties specific to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use. Voters in the state back the measure by a margin of 56 percent to 37 percent, according to the latest KING 5 poll.

Alternet: “Why Election Day Marks the Beginning of the End of Marijuana Prohibition”

Why Election Day Marks the Beginning of the End of Marijuana Prohibition
via Alternet.org

The criminalization of cannabis is a policy that has been in place federally since 1937 and on the state level, in many instances, long before that. Yet, it is a policy that fails to withstand serious scrutiny and possesses only limited public support. Today, a majority of Americans espouse ending America’s nearly century-long, failed experiment with cannabis prohibition and replacing it with a system of limited legalization and regulation. Recent national polls by Gallup , Rasmussen, The Huffington Post , and Angus Reid show that more Americans now support legalizing the adult use of cannabis than support maintaining its prohibition. Now it is time for a state to make this sentiment a reality.

Similar to alcohol prohibition, cannabis prohibition is a federal policy that largely relies on state and local enforcement. How did federal alcohol prohibition come to an end? Simple. When a sufficient number of states – led by New York in 1923 (several other states, including Colorado, later followed) – enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws. With states no longer doing the federal government’s bidding to enforce an unpopular law, the Feds eventually had no choice but to abandon the policy altogether.

Here’s to history repeating itself.

Read the full commentary here.

Smoke the Vote: Final Week Election Update


With just one week left until the election, there have been some recent news to report on, including two new campaign ads and several new polls.

WASHINGTON

New Approach Washington, the campaign behind the state’s I-502 to regulate marijuana, has released a new television ad focusing on the ways regulation will help control youth use. In the ad, a Washington mother discusses the issues of the black market and how cannabis legalization can help protect our children. “Young people have easy access to marijuana, and of course drug dealers don’t check IDs,” she states of the current system of prohibition. Regulating marijuana would help solve these problems, she says, it is “just common sense.”

You can view this new advertisement below:

Click here to view the embedded video.



Polling data released last week by Strategies 360 had I-502 at 54% support with opposition trailing at 38%.



COLORADO

The campaign in Colorado supporting Amendment 64 has also released a new television ad, this one focusing on the issues facing our veterans suffering from PTSD. The commercial features a father and returning veteran who is unable to procure the cannabis he needs for his condition under Colorado’s medical marijuana laws. Under the current law, patients suffering with PTSD do not qualify for access, but Amendment 64 would remove criminal penalties for possession and would provide them places of safe retail venues at which to procure their medicine.

“Please vote YES on Amendment 64 so that other vets don’t have to suffer.”

Click here to view the embedded video.


In other news from Colorado, the latest polling from PPP had Amendment 64 leading by ten points, 53% support to 43% opposition. Help us take Colorado to victory by utilizing our online phone banking programs and begin calling Colorado voters from the comfort of your home today! Each dial results in a person that is more likely to vote, and more likely to vote YES. You can use SSDP and NORML’s phonebank to dial voters under 30, or the JustSayNow phonebank for voters over 30.



OREGON

New polling data out of Oregon shows the number of undecided voters is diminishing. Data just released by The Oregonian has support for Measure 80, which would end the state’s marijuana prohibition, at 42% with 49% opposed and 8% still undecided. Previous polling had Measure 80 with 37% support and 41% opposition with 22% undecided. You can help push Measure 80 to success by using JustSayNow’s online phone bank to call voters in Oregon by clicking here.

MASSACHUSETTS

The latest polling out of Massachusetts still has their medical marijuana initiative, Question 3, with a strong lead over its opposition. In data released this week by Suffolk University/7NEWS, Massachusetts voters support Question 3 by a margin of 55% to 36%. This is a slight drop in support from polls earlier in the year, but still very much on the track for passage.

ARKANSAS
The latest polling data coming out of Arkansas shows a rough fight ahead for their ballot initiative to legalize the medical use of marijuana. In a poll conducted Thursday, October 18th, by TalkBusiness and Hendrix College had support for Issue 5 at just 38%, with opposition at 54% and 8% are undecided.

For more information on the initiative and on how you can help legalize medical use of cannabis in Arkansas this November, please visit the campaign’s website at www.arcompassion.com

MICHIGAN
Learn more about the local initiatives up for vote in Michigan here.

Don’t forget to get out and vote! Find your polling place, check your registration status, and read about all the state and local initiatives by using NORML’s 2012 voter guide, Smoke the Vote.

Women Needed to Legalize Pot

Colorado, and the multi-state effort to legalize marijuana in November needs you now more than ever.  In Colorado especially, polls are showing an encouraging growth in support for Amendment 64 among women (from 49% support in September, to 50% support in October), but female support still trails their male counterparts by 5% points.  Fact: this election will be decided by the female vote.  Marijuana can only be legalized if we have a majority of support among women.  It is crucial we do everything we can to support the work of Colorado’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and make history on November 6.

Our friends at Just Say Now have created an online phone bank you can use to make calls from anywhere in the country.  This tool includes its own woman-to-woman phone bank that we can use to reach out to women voters in Colorado and inspire them to support Amendment 64. The website makes it extremely easy to jump in, organize and get involved.

The NORML Women’s Alliance is calling on women nationwide, who believe in the controlled regulation of marijuana to host a phone banking party with your like-minded sisters and encourage women to vote “Yes” on CO’s Amendment 64.  Organizing a phone banking event to call women voters in CO is the most important contribution you can make in this election (and the cheapest).  We need to reach as many women as possible.

Links:
Phone Bank House Party – Sign Up
Phone Bank House Party – Host Packet
Phone Bank –  Log In 
(When you log in you’ll have 3 options on the left side.  Choose the second option down that says “Call Women Voters for Amendment 64″)

Click here to view the embedded video.

12 Days to Go: Latest Poll Shows Colorado’s Amendment 64 to Regulate Marijuana Gaining Support


The latest polling data for Colorado’s Amendment 64, that aims to regulate marijuana like alcohol, reveals a growth in support since the previous survey data, and the amendment looks to be marching its way towards victory on November 6th.

Public Policy Polling surveyed 904 likely voters in Colorado from October 23rd to 25th and found they support Amendment 64 by 53%. Only 43% were opposed and the number of undecideds has shrunk to 5%. The bump in support can be, in part, thanks to the closing of the gender gap, Women now support A64 by a margin of 50% to 46%.

Previous data, released last week by the Denver Post, had Amendment 64 holding onto a small lead, with 48% in support, 43% opposed, and 9% still undecided. It appears that the current campaign media blitz, including two television advertisements and a radio ad featuring Melissa Etheridge, may be having the desired effect. The number of undecided voters continues to dwindle and they look to be breaking in our favor.

Don’t take this victory for granted, this will still be a very close race come Election Day. Do your part to help us make Colorado the first state to re-legalize marijuana by participating in our online phone banking program. You can use the official Yes on 64 phone banking website from anywhere in the country and dial Colorado voters in support of Amendment 64. Each call can mean the difference between a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’ vote or the difference between staying home and going to the polls.

Smoke the Vote on November 6th. Vote YES on Colorado’s Amendment 64, because REGULATION WORKS!

Learn more about Amendment 64 and the other marijuana initiatives on the ballot this year by visiting NORML’s 2012 voter guide, Smoke the Vote.

We Can Legalize Marijuana This November in Colorado, But We Need Your Help!

Through much of the year, Colorado’s Amendment 64 has enjoyed a comfortable lead in the polls. As election day nears, as was to be expected, we are seeing the race tighten. Polling data just released by the Denver Post has Amendment 64 holding onto a small lead, with 48% in support, 43% opposed, and 9% still undecided.

We can close the gap needed for victory and win over undecided voters, but with only a few weeks left until Election Day on November 6th, we are going to need your help. The key to making sure our supporters get out to vote and to persuading those not sure on the measure, is an increased effort on the part of grassroots outreach. To further this mission, NORML is joining with SSDP and the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol to sponsor an online phone banking program.

Using this intuitive website, you can sign up and begin calling voters in support of Amendment 64 today! Everything you need is provided. You will be presented with the name and phone number of a registered Colorado voter and given a step by step script to follow. If every person reading this blog post made just ten phone calls a day from now until the election, our victory could all but be insured.

Even if you are not a resident of Colorado, this is the perfect and most effective way you can help us pass Amendment 64 and make Colorado the first state to legalize marijuana. To sign up for SSDP and NORML’s phone banking program, targeting voters under 35, please visit www.legalizecolorado.org and register today. You can begin making calls immediately. Remember: the best times to call are weeknights from 7pm – 8:30pm MT and weekends from 10am – 8:30pm MT (the phone bank will operate from 10am – 8:30p MT daily). Always speak slowly and clearly, and just be yourself. Get comfortable with the script by reading it over a couple times before you begin calling, and be very careful to accurately record voters’ responses.

REGISTER TO USE OUR ONLINE PHONE BANK: www.legalizecolorado.org

Consider hosting a phone banking party to multiply your efforts. Invite your friends, family, and neighbors to join you to call Colorado voters in support of Amendment 64. You can host a potluck, order pizza, or just provide space for people to make calls. Click here for the steps you can take to make your house party a success.

Our allies at FireDogLake have also established a phone banking program targeting Colorado voters over the age of 35, you can sign up for that program here.

The campaign is coming down to the wire. It’s time to really ramp up our outreach to Colorado voters, and now there is a way you can do that from anywhere in the country. Together we will end the war on cannabis consumers. Together we will legalize marijuana and we can do it this fall.

Melissa Etheridge Endorses Amendment 64 to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in New Ad

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has just released a new radio ad in support of Colorado’s Amendment 64, which aims to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

The ad, which will be airing on terrestrial radio as well as Pandora in the state of Colorado, features Melissa Etheridge relating her personal journey with marijuana. Through her experience of medical use during her struggles with cancer, Melissa realized the positive aspects of the plant and the dire consequences of the war on drugs and is now calling for legalized and regulated cannabis, which starts with voting YES on Amendment 64 this fall.

You can check out the radio ad with Melissa Etheridge below, in addition to the campaign’s latest television ad, which is currently airing across the state. To learn more about the campaign, visit their website here.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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