Never Underestimate The Power Of A Single Face To Face Interaction

Legalize marijuanaCanadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is following through on his 2015 pledge to legalize and regulate the adult use of cannabis. Presently, Liberal Party backed legalization legislation is making its way through Parliament, which hopes to implement the new public policy by mid-2018.

But, as Toronto Star reporter Susan Delacourt writes, Trudeau was not always a supporter of marijuana policy reform. In fact, it wasn’t until he met face to face with NORML representatives that the Canadian Premiere ultimately changed his mind for good.

[Excerpt] When marijuana becomes legal in Canada next year, it will be mainly because Justin Trudeau had a change of mind in 2012.

… Five short years ago, Trudeau was not a fan of legalized pot. As he wandered around the 2012 Liberal policy convention in Ottawa — the same one in which a majority of party members voted in favour of legalization — Trudeau was a dissenting voice.

He told one interviewer that marijuana “disconnects you a little bit from the world” and that it was “not good for your health.” For those reasons alone, Trudeau said he wasn’t in favour of any measures that could make pot use more widespread.

“I don’t know that it’s entirely consistent with the society we’re trying to build,” Trudeau said in an interview that still lives on YouTube, where it’s immediately clear he hasn’t had his run-for-leadership makeover: he still sports a moustache and the long, unruly hair.

By the end of 2012, a lot of things had changed for Trudeau — beyond his appearance. He had changed his mind about running for Liberal leader, officially launching his campaign in October, and he was also starting to see that legalization was better than the decriminalization option he’d long favoured.

Today, Trudeau and his advisers trace the shift to a meeting with two women in his office in November of that year, who armed him with some of the pro-legalization arguments that he’s still using today — now, as prime minister. The two women were Kelly Coulter and Andrea Matrosovs, then representing what was known as the women’s alliance of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Coulter, who now lives in Victoria, remembers the meeting well, and is heartened to hear that Trudeau traces his conversion to this encounter.

“I actually saw the ‘aha’ moment,” Coulter says. It had been an emotional meeting in Trudeau’s tiny Parliament Hill office; the three of them talked about their own personal experience with marijuana. Trudeau talked about his mother using pot, and his brother, Michel, who had been charged with possession not long before he died. (Trudeau has subsequently told the story publicly of how his father used connections to get the charges dropped so that his son didn’t have a criminal record.)

Coulter told Trudeau flatly that decriminalization would not keep gangs and organized crime out of the marijuana business. “Al Capone would have loved it if alcohol had only been decriminalized,” she said — a line she often used when talking to politicians.

“I saw the light go on in his eyes,” Coulter said. “He was seeing this as a politician, realizing ‘I can sell this,’ ” she recalled.

Trudeau could see how this argument would blunt Conservative attacks on him as being soft on crime; with legalization, he could simultaneously seem liberal about marijuana but conservative about gangs and criminals. It helped persuade Trudeau that legalization, would be the best way for the government to regulate its use and keep it safe, especially for kids.

As we approach NORML’s upcoming National Conference and Lobby Day — taking place September 10-12 in Washington, DC — it is important to emphasize how influential a single face to face meeting with your elected officials can be. NORML’s interactions with lawmakers, whether its at town meetings or in the halls of Congress, are changing minds and shaping public policy.

Be part of the marijuana revolution. Get active. Get NORML.

Have a NORML 4th of July

Legalize marijuanaWhat are your plans this Fourth of July weekend? If you are like most Americans, you are likely to be having a cookout, watching fireworks with friends and family, or engaging in some other social event that celebrates your freedom.

But for the millions of Americans who consume cannabis, freedom can be fleeting.

In many states, our fellow citizens still face the possibility of arrest, criminal prosecution, and jail time for a first offense marijuana possession charge. For instance, in Arizona and Florida, first-time possession offenders may face felony charges. In Oklahoma, growing even a single plant is punishable by up to life in prison.

At NORML we understand that this harsh reality is probably not something that you think about every single day — particularly on July 4th. But we do. That is why we are working hard to empower our national network of engaged citizens — citizens like you — to change America’s antiquated and punitive marijuana laws. And, because of you and your efforts, we are succeeding!

Support NORML’s effort to empower citizens to participate in the democratic process and reform our nation’s marijuana laws.

It is the highest ideal of American democracy that our nation has a well-informed and politically engaged electorate. That is why every week — via our blog, social networks, and weekly e-zine — NORML aims to arm our supporters with the latest science and news, as well as legislative and legal developments pertaining to cannabis and cannabis policy. Via the NORML Action Center at www.norml.org/act, we keep you up to date on and engaged in all ongoing state and federal legislative efforts to reform marijuana prohibition and restore our freedoms. And we thank the 100,000+ individuals that have taken action over the past few months.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we come together and assert our authority over our elected officials. The Declaration of Independence explicitly states: That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

In sum: it’s our responsibility to compel our elected officials to institute change.

Tens of thousands of NORML people just like you support our mission. Make a contribution today so that we can continue our important work.

Our system of government is not perfect. In fact, it is far from it. But for hundreds of years, citizens have organized and struggled to come closer to Thomas Jefferson’s iconic aspiration, “That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Thomas Jefferson legally grew cannabis. You should be able to as well.

Help us change American for the better.

Happy Fourth of July,
The NORML Team

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President Trump Compliments Leader Who Executes His Citizens for Drug Charges

Duterte_delivers_his_message_to_the_Filipino_community_in_Vietnam_during_a_meeting_held_at_the_Intercontinental_Hotel_on_September_28If the latest comments and memos coming out of Attorney General Sessions’ Department of Justice didn’t raise concerns about the Trump Administration’s potential plans to reignite our nation’s failed war on drugs, his recent call with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte should sound alarm bells.

A reminder: President Duterte has extrajudicially executed thousands of his own citizens on drug charges during his tenure leading the country.

The Washington Post received a transcript of the phone call and describes Trump’s comments on Duterte’s drug “policy” as follows:

…in their call [Trump] praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

“Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said, according to the transcript.

After Duterte replied that drugs are the “scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation,” Trump appeared to take a swipe at his predecessor, Barack Obama, who had canceled a bilateral meeting with Duterte after the Philippines leader insulted him.

“I understand that and fully understand that and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that,” Trump said.

Read the full story in The Washington Post here.

‘Faces of Marijuana Prohibition’ Event Held on Capitol Hill

NORML held a ‘Faces of Marijuana Prohibition’ event on Capitol Hill on April 19th, in cooperation with the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, where congressional staff heard first-hand from those most adversely impacted by the criminalization of marijuana

Dozens of congressional staff attended, hearing from victims across the spectrum of marijuana criminalization. Perspectives included: a cancer survivor who consumed marijuana to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy, a federal staffer who lost his job as a result of a positive drug test, and those who received criminal charges and had their lives put on hold while they had to overcome the onerous penalties imposed by the state for a simple possession charge, among others. 

NORML Political Director Justin StrekalThis was yet another effort in our ongoing quest to educate our legislators on the need to to end the prohibition-industrial-complex and respect the basic rights of those who choose to consume marijuana, a substance safer than currently legal products like alcohol or cigarettes.

Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana users is out-of-step with the views of adults throughout America, 93% of whom support medical marijuana (Quinnipiac, 2017) and 60 percent of whom endorse the outright legalization of recreational marijuana (Gallup, 2016).

On April 20th (4/20), long considered the unofficial marijuana holiday, marijuana consumers and advocates will gather around the world to show their support for ending marijuana prohibition. NORML for its part will hosting an online day of action, driving tens of thousands of constituent contacts to members of Congress in support of HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. 

You can sign up for the 4/20 online day of action by clicking here. 

#GivingTuesday

Since the craziness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has come to an end, NORML invites you to take part in #GivingTuesday, a movement created to kick-start the charitable season by supporting non-profits.

Donate to NORML Foundation to support our efforts (donations to NORML Foundation are tax-deductible).

With over 150 chapters nationwide, a professional staff based in Washington, DC, and a social media reach of over 1.5 million individuals, NORML is the largest group committed to working with members of Congress, business leaders, legal experts, and citizens from around the country to reform marijuana law and move our country forward.

With four states legalizing marijuana for adult use on Election Day this year and four additional states approving initiatives to allow the medical use of marijuana — this is clearly an issue on the move.  It is also an issue that has strong support across all demographics, with recent polling of nationwide support for legalization at 60%.

Over 600,000 Americans are arrested each year on marijuana charges, and these arrests disproportionately fall on already marginalized communities. If you are an African American you are 4 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana as Caucasians, even though consumption rates are similar.

Will you help NORML pursue policies which aim to remove the Schedule I classification of marijuana, provide safe and effective medicine to suffering patients, and create substantial reforms to our criminal justice system?

Donate to NORML to make a difference today.

Your support is truly appreciated!

Marijuana Smoking Up, Marijuana Arrests Down

C1_8734_r_xIt’s a great time to be alive if you are a marijuana smoker. We are finally working our way out of the shadows of prohibition and into the mainstream. Following the reign of terror that resulted in more than 25 million Americans being arrested on marijuana charges since 1937, the country is at last looking for a better alternative.

Fewer marijuana smokers are being arrested.

Officer arresting someone breaking the lawFlickr/Oregon Dept. of Transportation – flic.kr

First, and most important, fewer and fewer states continue to treat responsible marijuana smokers like criminals. Seventeen states have decriminalized the personal use of marijuana, and four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use. With each new state that moves in our direction, the number of marijuana arrests continues to decline.

The latest marijuana arrest data released this week by the FBI show that 643,122 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges in 2015, with 89 percent of those arrests for marijuana possession only, not for cultivation or trafficking. While that number remains far too high — that’s a lot of individuals having their lives and careers disrupted unfairly over their use of marijuana — it is the lowest number of marijuana arrests reported since 1996. And it represents nearly a 25 percent reduction in arrests since the peak (almost 800,000 arrests) was reached in 2007.

“Enforcing marijuana laws costs us about $3.6 billion a year, yet the War on Marijuana has failed to diminish the use or availability of marijuana,” according to the ACLU’s 2013 report on marijuana arrests.

With five states scheduled to vote on full legalization this November, marijuana arrest rates are expected to continue to decline further in the coming years. We clearly still have lots of work to do, but the trend is all in our direction, and the pace appears to be accelerating.

More Americans are smoking marijuana.

woman-smoking-marijuana-joint

Second, marijuana smoking continues to become more mainstream culturally, with more and more adult Americans smoking each year. Instead of being ostracized and marginalized, marijuana smokers today are being embraced by the larger culture. For most Americans today, smoking marijuana is simply no big deal.

About 30 million Americans smoked marijuana over the past year, more than double the number of smokers in 2002, and 69 percent of the country now are aware that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

One in eight Americans (13 percent) now reports that they currently smoke marijuana, according to a recent Gallup poll. That’s nearly double the number of current users (7 percent) found by Gallup just three years earlier, with 43 percent of Americans acknowledging they have tried marijuana at some point in their lives. One in five adults under 30 years of age is now a pot smoker.

marijuanaFlickr/Dank Depot – flickr.com

And yet the number of adolescent marijuana smokers has not increased over the last decade, and adolescents tell us that marijuana is becoming less available to them than in prior years. The percentage of respondents aged 12-17 years who perceived marijuana to be “fairly easy or very easy to obtain” fell by 13 percent between 2002 and 2014, researchers at the CDC reported. Regulation with age controls is clearly more effective than prohibition.

As marijuana smoking continues to gain popularity, it also gains respectability, with fewer and fewer Americans supporting marijuana prohibition. They are not necessarily pro-pot, but — just as the country learned with the failed attempt at alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and early ’30s — a majority of the public has concluded that prohibition is a failed public policy that causes far more harm than the use of marijuana itself. Roughly 60 percent of the public now supports ending prohibition and legalizing marijuana.

Among generations, the demographics are strongly pointing toward ending prohibition altogether. About 68 percent of Millennials say marijuana should be legal, and 50 percent of baby boomers favor legalization. Young Americans simply have no problem with marijuana and can’t understand why it was ever made illegal.

High quality marijuana is available today.

man-smoking-and-cannabisFlickr/fredodf, Bigstock/greg banks – flic.kr

Finally, high quality marijuana is available to most consumers today, regardless of where you live. The marijuana legalization movement is only incidentally about marijuana; it is really about personal freedom. The government has no business coming into our homes to know what books we read, what music we listen to, how we conduct ourselves in the bedroom, and whether we drink alcohol or smoke marijuana when we relax in the evening. It is simply none of their business.

If there were no marijuana to smoke, this movement would still be an interesting intellectual exercise, but it would not be a political movement that is changing fundamental values in our country. We have political power as a movement because we are part of a community, and our marijuana smoking helps define that community.

There was a time when marijuana smokers had to make a serious effort to find a source to obtain decent marijuana, and in many parts of the country, there was frequently a “marijuana drought” for a couple of months each fall, before the new crop was harvested, when there was simply no marijuana available for consumers to buy on the black market. During those years, most high quality marijuana was imported. Some came from Canada, some from Mexico (“Acapulco Gold”). There was ganja from Jamaica, “Thai stick” from Thailand, etc. Domestic marijuana during those years was considered “ditch weed” and only smoked as a last resort.

And because of the legal risks involved importing marijuana, the price sometimes put high quality marijuana out of reach for many consumers, even if available. It was largely a connoisseur’s market.

Then the “grow America” movement took off. With seeds imported primarily from Holland and Canada, domestic marijuana growers began to produce the finest marijuana in the world. That remains the case today. Anyone who has traveled to Amsterdam, for example, will find that most of the marijuana available in the famous coffee shops, while good, is simply not as strong as the marijuana available in most states today, either via the legally regulated market or on the black market.

We’re looking for basic fairness.

man-smoking-joint-and-jointFlickr/Heath Alseike, Flickr/Unai Mateo – flickr.com

We still have a great deal of work to do before responsible marijuana smokers are treated fairly: Job discrimination, child custody issues, and DUID are just three of the more important areas where smokers are still treated like second class citizens. And we need social clubs where we can legally socialize with our friends and others who also smoke marijuana, outside a private home.

But these reforms will come as we continue to come out of the closet and gain political strength and as more and more Americans accept the fact that we are just average Americans who work hard, raise families, pay taxes, and contribute to our communities in a positive manner. When we relax in the evening, just as tens of millions of Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, tens of millions of us enjoy a joint.

Is this a great country or what?

_______________________________________________________________

This column first ran on ATTN.com.

http://www.attn.com/stories/11752/marijuana-smoking-increases-and-marijuana-arrests-decrease

 

A Pathway Towards Marijuana Legalization: The Significance of the Democratic Platform

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropAmong all the speeches and balloons and revelry of the recently completed Democratic National Convention — a convention that has already made history by nominating a woman for president – was a far less obvious, but important change in the Democratic Party platform. For the first time since marijuana was made illegal on the federal level in 1937, a major party platform has embraced a strategy they describe as a “reasoned pathway for future legalization.”

That’s right. While many mainstream elected officials remain skittish of endorsing or embracing potentially controversial social issues, the 2016 Democratic Party finally could no longer ignore the changing attitudes towards marijuana legalization reflected in the national polls, and evidenced by the growing number of states that have already moved in this direction.

The precise text of the history-making marijuana amendment was as follows:

“Because of conflicting laws concerning marijuana, both on the federal and state levels, we      encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from its list as a Class 1 Federal Controlled Substance, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization”

In other words, the Democrats endorsed the strategy legalizers have been following since 2012, when we first legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington, despite the continuation of federal prohibition.

Now let’s be honest. We have all seen over the years that the national parties tend to adopt a platform favored by their candidate, which is then almost immediately ignored once the candidate is elected. The platform is a campaign tool, and it is malleable, so as not to box anyone into a position he/she is uncomfortable with.

Nonetheless, seeing the words “a reasoned pathway for future legalization” in the Democratic platform is truly empowering for those who have worked so long to try to get our state and national elected officials to embrace an end to marijuana prohibition. It provides political cover to any and all elected officials who have known all along that prohibition causes more harm than the marijuana it is intended to protect us from, but who have feared an honest position might endanger their political careers.

The Bernie Sanders Factor

We all recognize that Sen. Bernie Sanders had the strongest pro-legalization position; and that his publicizing that position during the hard-fought campaign, and fighting for those provisions during the platform debates, caused Sec. Hillary Clinton and her supporters to more to the left, first endorsing the medical use of marijuana, and most importantly, agreeing with Sanders that the states should be allowed to continue to experiment with full legalization, without interference from the federal government. That is a significant improvement over her earlier cautious statements calling for more research, and should assure us at least four more years to demonstrate to the public that legalization is an effective program with few if any unintended consequences. Thanks, Bernie, we are in your debt.

Incremental Change

With social issues, occasionally progress comes in bold steps, especially if the courts get involved and determine that an existing policy is unconstitutional (e.g., Roe v Wade on abortion rights or Obergefell v. Hodges on gay marriages). Of course, each of these victories was preceded by decades of litigation, so they too were not exactly overnight successes. Change takes time in this country, and generally occurs in incremental steps, rather than by big steps.

But the courts have consistently refused to hold marijuana prohibition is unconstitutional (with the exception of a state decision out of Alaska back in 1975 (Ravin v  State ) holding the marijuana laws were unconstitutional as applied to personal use amounts in the home). So we don’t have the luxury of designing a strategy to win this fight with one big, successful court decision. We will have to win legalization through a combination of voter initiatives in the states that offer that option, and passing legislation in the other states, a challenging task that almost assures those states will be among the last to change.

But prohibition has been in effect for 80 years, resulting in the arrest of more than 30 million Americans on marijuana charges, many serving time in prison, alienating generations of young people and severely limiting their ability to get an education and advance professionally in their chosen careers. If necessary, we can certainly spend a few more decades (and I believe it will require a decade or more to finally treat responsible marijuana smokers fairly, including ending job discrimination, unfair child care policies, and unfair DUID provisions) to repair the damage caused by prohibition.

For the first time in my lifetime, a major political party has suggested they too recognize the need to move towards legalization, and away from prohibition. It was certainly not the headline of a convention that nominated the first female candidate for president, but it surely was a wonderfully hopeful sign of things to come.

By the next quadrennial conventions, even the Republicans may have found the courage to state the obvious.

Florida State Attorney Drops Charges Against Bob and Cathy Jordan

Today I share with you wonderful news from an all too conservative state, Florida, where the sun shines on everything but justice for cannabis users.

Just a few weeks ago, I announced that the ‘New NORML’ would have an active, working legal committeethat would make a difference for all of us.

Last month, State Senator Jeff Clemens in Tampa announced that he was introducing a medical marijuana bill in Florida, which would allow for the establishment of dispensaries in our state.

The bill was named the ‘Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act’, in honor of a woman who has beenopenly using cannabis as medicine for over a quarter century, championing our cause from her wheelchair while living with an incurable condition- ALS; Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Backed by her loving husband, Bob, who cultivates two-dozen plants on their farm for her personal use, Cathy has been a public advocate for cannabis law reform. Here she is:
http://medicalmarijuana411.com/mmj411_v3/?p=10558

One day after the state senator introduced the medical necessity legislation, publicizing her name and address, the DEA and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office paid her a not-too-polite visit, raiding her home, dressed in swat uniforms, armed with machine guns and wearing masks, seizing her cannabis and arresting her husband for cultivation. Her wheelchair was no defense.

One NORML lawyer from our NLC legal committee immediately stepped up to the plate to come to her defense. Florida CAN, the Cannabis Action Network, contacted Michael C. Minardi, of Stuart, Florida. He undertook the defense.

Michael had already prevailed on a medical necessity case on the west coast of Florida, and he at once met with Bob and Cathy Jordan. Both were adamant that they would take no pleas, but instead sought to fight for their right to use marijuana as medicine.

Based in South Florida, I volunteered with another NLC Committee member, my law office partner, Russell Cormican, and entered into a civil retainer agreement with Cathy Jordan, to prosecute a pro bono civil legal action seeking a declaratory judgment that Cathy’s possession of cannabis warranted a judicial order stating that such ownership was entirely medicinal and lawful.

I could not do it alone, so I contacted NLC Committee member Matt Kumin, who immediately agreed to join the cause on behalf of NORML, coming in as amicus curiae. “This is an impact case,” he concluded.

Together, we decided that we had a viable claim Cathy had a legal right to grow her medicine, and a court would conclude as much. Matt brought in two more NLC colleagues, Alan Silber and David Michael. These guys are already arguing tough cases in the Ninth Circuit. But we have a good plaintiff and a strong case.

This past Monday, the State Attorney dismissed all charges against Cathy and Bob Jordan. The decision by the State Attorney, explaining why he filed a ‘no information.” ratifies the defense of medical necessity for patients, and caregivers as well. The prosecutor’s determination goes beyond the customary and routine post of ‘case declined.’

The decision outlined by the chief prosecutor goes out of its way to acknowledge the legal basis of the medical necessity defense and the ‘progressive, neurodegenerative disease’ that Cathy Jordan deals with daily. The state attorney said he could not in ‘good faith’ proceed with a criminal prosecution against an individual with such a compelling medical reason to use marijuana. It was a courageous decision to see a prosecutor protect a pot patient.

The result came about in no small part to Bob Jordan, Cathy Jordan’s husband. He refused to accept a probationary plea offer. “If I could handle Vietnam,” he told me last week, “I can take whatever the State wants to try and hit me with. I am protecting my wife. No deals. No nothing. I want a trial. I want a jury to see my wife and try to convict her.”

Michael C. Minardi and his client even refused to cop a plea to a deferred prosecution. Matt. Kumin, who has never met Bob, called him, “my hero.” Armed with solid case law, a determined defendant, and a courageous lawyer- Michael Minardi- the good guys prevailed.

A talented team of NLC amicus curiae attorneys are now preparing to go to court and seek a judgment declaring that the use of cannabis by Cathy Jordan should continue as an exception to Florida drug statutes, based on her use being lawful, medically necessary, and legally protected. Hell, we might even get her pot back through a replevin action.

Unfortunately, Florida is a conservative state. I won’t mislead you. The Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Bill is already ‘stuck like chuck’ in a legislative committee.

However, also due to the efforts of NLC Committee member, Michael C. Minardi, the criminal prosecution of Cathy and Bob Jordan is dead in the water.

Remember the TV show, ‘The Naked City,’ that ‘there are 8 million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.’

My friends, there are thousands of Cathy Jordans across America who still need our help. There are hundreds of you capable of assisting so many of them. The spiritual rewards of engaging such tasks enrich your soul and make your practice so much more meaningful.

Please consider also asking a friend to help expand ranks by joining NORML today. In fact, this week we are promoting new memberships by offering up a NORML Hemp Baseball Cap. Wear it to the ballpark, and let everyone know that it is NORML to smoke pot. Cheer for your home team, but stand up for freedom.

Today, all of us throughout the country celebrate the victory of Cathy and Bob Jordan. We also thank the lawyer, Michael C. Minardi of Stuart, Florida, who stood up for them.

We are all cannabis warriors with stories of our own to tell, lives of our friends to illuminate. Never forget the cause you are fighting for is more than to torch up a joint. It is to light a torch for personal sovereignty and individual freedom.

Thank you.
Norm Kent
Chair, NORML Board of Directors

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