First Meeting Of Trump’s Opioid Commission: Will It Be Effective?

Marijuana medicineToday, the Office of National Drug Control Policy convened its first meeting of President Trump’s “Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.”

The Commission is tasked with making recommendations for improving the Federal response to opioid misuse and abuse.

Best evidence informs us that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Nonetheless, this administration continues to express skepticism with regard to the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana.

Today in The Hill newspaper, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano writes:

With opioid overdose deaths having risen four-fold since 1999, it is imperative that lawmakers and public health experts approach this issue with an open mind and remain willing to entertain all potential alternatives.

For many patients, cannabis provides a safe and effective substitute for the use of opioids and other potentially harmful substances. Committee members should set their political ideologies aside and give strong consideration to this rapidly growing body of scientific evidence.

You can read the full piece in The Hill by clicking here.

It is crucial that our government hear from us. Click here to send a message to the Commission urging them to include medical marijuana as part of any national response to the opioid crisis.

Legalization Takes the Stage in Major Congressional Race

voteWhile most political observers are keeping their eyes on the 2018 midterm elections, there are several important special elections to fill seats vacated by members of Congress who were recently appointed to positions in the Trump Administration. One of the more prominent upcoming races will decide who represents the Montana At-Large Congressional District, a position previously filled by the newly minted Interior Secretary Robert Zinke (R).

The two major party candidates, Montana folk musician Rob Quist (D) and conservative multimillionaire tech entrepreneur Greg Gianforte (R), will be facing off in a special election set to be held on May 25th. This election has been drawing nationwide attention and is expected to be highly contested. Over the weekend, the pair sounded off on a variety of topics in a debate aired by MTN News. Notably, the candidates were forced to go on record with their position on marijuana law reform.

Do you support the legalization of marijuana?

Rob Quist (D): 

“I went into a dispensary because I wanted to ask the proprietor…I said you know who uses this? The people that come in here are people whose bodies are burned out by pharmaceutical drugs and this is the only relief they can get. Quite frankly, I think that the war on drugs has been an abject failure, I think there’s a pipeline of money going into these organizations that can be better spent not incarcerating people, with our whole prison for profit…There are people in jail that don’t belong in jail because of this. I think the money can be better spent for rehabilitation and treatment. I think it’s important, the majority of Americans want to see that this is legalized.

Greg Gianforte (R): 

“One of the things that really came home to me as I travelled around the state was the addiction problems we have to meth, to opiates…The result is over 3,500 kids in foster care here in the state. I believe that marijuana has medicinal benefits and we should support that, but making it available for recreational use would just add to the addiction problem and cause more problems here and I oppose it.

The candidate for the Libertarian Party, Mark Wicks, also stated he supported the legalization of marijuana.

If you live in Montana, no matter who you support, be sure to participate in our democracy and cast your ballot in this special election. You can check your voter registration and find out all other information necessary to participate from the Montana Secretary of State HERE.

Pennsylvania Marijuana Activists Continue to Push the Issue

15134788_1361964283815279_7643241837130367190_nHundreds of marijuana law reform advocates from across Pennsylvania gathered last week at the state capitol to express their support for marijuana legalization and also to express concerns regarding the future of the state’s limited medical cannabis program. The event was coordinated by local reform groups Pittsburgh NORML, Philly NORML, and the Keystone Cannabis Coalition to raise awareness about marijuana laws in the Commonwealth.

“On Wednesday dedicated activists from across the Commonwealth gathered in Harrisburg, our state capitol, to demand the end of criminal prohibition for cannabis possession,” said Patrick Nightingale, executive director of Pittsburgh NORML. “Speakers decried the waste of law enforcement resources while the Commonwealth is in the midst of a true opioid crisis.”

Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale kicked of the event with a powerful speech that electrified the hundreds of pro-legalization activists who gathered in the capitol rotunda. In addition to highlighting the many failures of marijuana prohibition, AG DePasquale also encouraged state lawmakers to consider options for a statewide solution such as decriminalization or outright legalization.

“We have a real and legitimate political voice in Harrisburg. Gone are the days of closed doors and whispered insults,” said Nightingale. “Now more and more of our elected leaders know that we are on the right side of history and that the ruinous and racist legacy of cannabis prohibition must end.”

18121535_10209514408317088_8938532253180314932_o

While local governments in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg have each approved measures to reduce the penalty for personal possession of marijuana from jail time to a simple fine, state lawmakers have been more apprehensive on the issue. But advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances.

“While PA’s conservative legislature may not be prepared to make the jump to full legalization, there is growing bipartisan support for statewide decriminalization with a Republican sponsored bill headed to Committee on Monday,” added Nightingale.

TAKE ACTION: Contact Pennsylvania lawmakers and urge them to support House Bill 928 by clicking here!

Read more here: http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news/auditor-general-speaks-at-harrisburg-marijuana-rally-in-support-of/article_a546ae06-2605-11e7-93c5-177c718a0193.html

For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Pittsburgh NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page!

420: Take Action to End Prohibition!

Happy 420 to all!

420 Marijuana Day of ActionNever in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition and replacing it with regulation. The historic votes on Election Day 2016 — when a majority of voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada decided at the ballot box to regulate the adult use of marijuana, and several other states passed medical marijuana legalization laws — underscore this political reality., as do just-released polling data from CBS finding that a record high 61 percent of Americans say marijuana use should be legal.

It is time for the Congress, and your elected officials, to respect the will of the majority of American citizens.

Email your members of Congress and demand an end to federal prohibition.

At NORML, we started working to legalize marijuana in 1970, when only 12 percent of the public supported marijuana legalization. For several decades, as we gradually built support for our position, our political progress was modest at best. We decriminalized minor marijuana offenses in 11 states in the mid-1970s, following the release of the report of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. But then the mood of the country turned more conservative (think Nancy Reagan, “Just Say NO,’ and the emergence of the parents’ movement) and we made little further statewide progress over the next 18 years. The tide turned in 1996 when California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Today, a total of 30 states now recognize medical marijuana by statute and eight states have legalized its adult use.

We’ve achieved these successes solely for one reason: the hard work and struggle of you and so many others

We need to continue the fight until no American is subject to arrest for responsibly consuming marijuana, so tell your member of Congress to end prohibition now.

Happy Holidays to you and your friends and family,

The NORML Team

P.S. Our work is supported by thousands of people throughout the country as we work to advance marijuana reform in all 50 states and at the federal level. Can you kick in $4.20, $10 or $20 a month to help us keep going?

P.P.S. Have you picked up your NORML gear? Check out our store today

What Would A Federal Marijuana Crackdown Look Like?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Photo by Gage Skidmore

Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Ever since the 2016 election, marijuana legalization supporters have been wondering if President Trump will crack down on state-approved recreational and/or medical marijuana programs. The Heritage Foundation believes it knows the answer.

According to the conservative think tank, there are actions the government can take without needing to pass any new legislation or expend much political capital, such as reaffirming the federal government’s position as supporting marijuana’s illegality under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and reasserting support for the international treaties that require countries to enforce marijuana prohibition. These actions would make headlines, send a chill across the industry (particularly in states that have yet to formally launch their legal marijuana markets) and make clear the direction the White House has decided to go when dealing with legal marijuana businesses.

The Washington, D.C.-based group calls for rescinding the Obama Administration’s Cole memo, which gives leeway to the states to implement legalization and replace it with a memo that makes it clear that the DOJ “fully expects states to not permit commercialized marijuana production and sale.” With this memo in place, the DOJ could then select a number of marijuana businesses for prosecution of a violation of state and/or federal law, which would create “a real threat of prosecution.”

The right-wing policy shop recommends overturning previous guidance from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which opened the door to very limited banking for a handful of businesses in the marijuana industry. This would scare off the already minuscule number of financial institutions working, or considering working, with marijuana-related businesses. Using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the government could target investors.

With all of this in mind, the only option we truly have to ensure our victories are upheld and that we move forward with nationwide legalization is to change federal law. Amendments such as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer stem the bleeding a bit, but require a new political fight every year. Congress needs to pass The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which would prevent the federal government from interfering in state-approved adult use or medical programs. Even better, Congress should remove marijuana from the CSA entirely.

If you want to see the cannabis revolution continue, call your members of Congress today and tell them to support federal marijuana law reform. For more information on pending legislation and to easily email your elected officials, visit norml.org/act.

A Congressional Cannabis Caucus Is Born

US_capitolWith public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) have formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to promote sensible cannabis policy reform and to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.

The official establishment of a Congressional Cannabis Caucus represents yet another step forward toward ultimately reforming cannabis policy at the federal level. The creation of this caucus is yet another manifestation that our political power is growing — even inside the beltway.

Click here to email your Congressional Representative and urge them to join the Cannabis Caucus today.

NORML has been in this fight for over 47 years, representing the position that responsible adults who choose to consume marijuana should not be be persecuted or stigmatized. Throughout the country, our chapters are organizing to advocate for state level reforms. NORML represents a growing community of individuals who are coming together and working toward the mutual goals of building a more just and verdant society.

The end of marijuana prohibition will not come overnight. In fact, the forces of prohibition remain strong and the misinformation campaign that has spanned from Reefer Madness to D.A.R.E. is deeply entrenched in the psyches of lawmakers and voters alike. But just as we have for decades, we will not be deterred.

In order for our state and federal laws to be more reflective of the cold truths of reality and science rather than hysteria and racism, we must continue to educate our legislators and neighbors alike. Having a coalition of lawmakers in Washington, DC who will go on the record in support of advocating for cannabis freedom is something we haven’t had before, but it is an event that is long overdue.

So let’s keep building.

Send a message to your member of Congress now and tell them to join the Cannabis Caucus and support sanity in marijuana policy.

Florida Department Of Health Seeks Changes To Amendment Two and NORML Responds

3410000930_95fc2866fa_zMore than 70 percent of Floridians voted on Election Day in favor of Amendment 2 to regulate patients’ access to medical marijuana. However, newly proposed rules by the Department of Health seek to significantly amend this measure in a manner that undermines the law’s intent and is contrary to patients’ needs.

This week, town hall meetings are being held throughout Florida to discuss proposed rule changes and so far, turnout to these meetings have been so large that WTSP in Tampa Bay reported “The meeting was so full that there wasn’t even enough room for people to stand.”

For example, the rules arbitrarily limit those patients who may qualify for cannabis therapy only to those diagnosed with one of ten specific conditions. This change contradicts the explicit language of Amendment 2, which provides physicians the discretion to recommend medical marijuana in any instance where they believe that its use “would likely outweigh the potential health risks.”

NORML has submitted official comments to the state’s Dept. of Health addressing the need to address the following issues:

  • Physicians Must Be Permitted To Recommend Cannabis Therapy For Chronic Pain
  • Patients Should Have The Legal Option To Obtain Whole-Plant Cannabis
  • Market Demand Requires More Licensed Dispensaries
  • Do Not Mandate Multiple Patient Visits In A Single Calendar Year

It is unfortunate that after the passage of Amendment 2, so many attempts would be made to weaken the ability for patients to be able to obtain access to medical marijuana. If regulators truly intend to implement Amendment 2 in a manner that is in the best interest of Florida’s patient community, then they must revise these rules in ways that focus on serving the sick, not promoting political expediency.

There is still time to submit comments to the FL Department of Health online. For more information and to find out how, click here.

 

Join NORML of Florida on Facebook and visit their website at http://www.normlfl.org/

We Must Demand Lawmakers Respect the Will of the Voters

Legalize marijuanaVoters in eight states decided on Election Day to radically amend their longstanding marijuana policies. But many lawmakers in these states still aren’t getting the message.

Despite these voter mandates, many lawmakers remain reluctant to move forward with the legal reforms that the public has demanded. In some cases, legislators and regulators are outright defying voters’ will by proposing measures to undermine the election’s outcomes altogether.

THIS WILL NOT STAND, WE NEED TO FIGHT BACK! CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT NORML’S FIGHT AGAINST THESE SENSELESS DELAYS

For example, in Massachusetts, a handful of political leaders pushed through emergency legislation during an informal legislative session to delay marijuana sales until July 1, 2018. The Boston Globe summarized the event this way, “The extraordinary move, made in informal sessions with just a half-dozen legislators present, … unravel a significant part of the legalization measure passed by 1.8 million voters.” Additional measures before lawmakers seek to further derail several other aspects of the law, including adults’ ability to grow marijuana in their private residence.

In Maine, lawmakers have similarly passed legislation to delay the enactment of voter-initiated provisions governing the retail production and sale of marijuana until the spring of 2018. The emergency measure also rolls back specific initiative provisions that permitted on site consumption in specially licensed establishments, as well as the possession of marijuana-infused edible products.

In Florida, where 71 percent of voters endorsed a constitutional amendment providing doctors with the discretion to recommend medical marijuana to patients for whom they believed the benefits “would likely outweigh the potential health risks,” regulators are trying to strip medical marijuana access to those with chronic pain.

In Arkansas, one lawmaker has proposed legislation to postpone the enactment of the state’s new medical cannabis program indefinitely.

Even in California, where 56 percent of voters decided in favor of legalizing the adult marijuana market, some lawmakers are warning citizens to expect delays before the new law takes full effect.

NORML believes that these delays and proposed legislative changes are unacceptable, and we are working hard to assure that the will of the voters is upheld.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT OUR WORK AND HELP US FIGHT BACK AGAINST THESE EFFORTS TO DERAIL LEGALIZATION. WE MUST ENSURE OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS UPHOLD THE WILL OF THE VOTERS!

Voters like you made their opinions on marijuana policy clear at the ballot box in November. Lawmakers in these jurisdictions have a responsibility to abide by the will of the people and to do so in a timely manner. Americans have lived with the failings of marijuana prohibition for far too long. The people’s will should not be compromised, second-guessed, or held hostage by politicians who are unwilling to recognize that they are on the wrong side of history.

In Solidarity,
Erik Altieri
Executive Director
NORML

President Obama Says Marijuana Should Be Treated Like Alcohol

president_obamaIn a just published “exit interview” with Rolling Stone Magazine, President Barack Obama opined that marijuana use should be treated as a public-health issue, not a criminal matter, and called the current patchwork of state and federal laws regarding the drug “untenable.”

“Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse,” Obama said. “And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”

He added, “It is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that’s legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage.”

Although the administration, largely in its second term, has permitted states to experiment with marijuana legalization policies without federal interference, it has not pushed strongly for any permanent changes in federal law, such as amending cannabis’ schedule I classification or permitting banks to work closely with state-licensed marijuana businesses. As a result, some marijuana law reform advocates believe that President Obama has not done enough to move the issue forward during his tenure. Responding to this criticism, Obama said: “Look, I am now very much in lame-duck status. And I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go.”

Why Obama believes that he will have greater opportunities to address cannabis policy as a private citizen than he did as President of the United States leaves us scratching our heads, but we certainly hope that he follows through on his pledge to focus on drug policy reform in the next phase of his political career.

You can read President Obama’s exit interview with Rolling Stone in it’s entirety here.

The Marijuana Revolution Continues

Election Day dealt another body blow to our nation’s costly, failed, and discriminatory policy of marijuana prohibition. If anyone thought our victories in 2012 and 2014 were a passing fad, it is now clear that they were mistaken. With adult use measures being approved in four states (CA, MA, ME, NV) and medical marijuana initiatives passing in another four (AR, FL, MT, ND), the era of marijuana legalization is upon us. By standing together and fighting for our shared beliefs, we spread the seeds of the cannabis revolution far and wide.

But now is not the time to become complacent. As we celebrate our recent successes, we must remind ourselves that legalization is not inevitable. It is dependent upon maintaining the fight. Our opponents are not going away. They remain well funded and ready for battle. So should we.

DONATE TODAY TO CONTINUE THE REVOLUTION

blogsticker

From day one, NORML’s mission has been to shape public and political opinion so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer criminalized and stigmatized. NORML does so by standing up for the rights of the responsible cannabis consumer, and by presenting credible, evidence-based information about marijuana and marijuana policy reform to the general public, the mainstream media, pundits, and policymakers. And I firmly believe that nobody does it better.

That is why I’m honored to be named NORML’s new Executive Director.

I’m no stranger to this cause or to NORML itself. From 2007 to 2015 I served as NORML’s Communications Director, PAC Manager, and chief lobbyist. Following a brief sabbatical, during which I fought to decrease the influence of big money in our political system, I am honored and excited to return to lead NORML during one of the most exciting and critical times in the group’s forty year history.

I urge you to stand with me, NORML’s staff, and with our nationwide network of chapters. We must capitalize on our newly minted successes and seize upon our growing public support. No one person or organization can win this fight alone. We must come together as advocates in a unified force so that we can make our desired policy reforms a reality.

Even with these victories, most Americans are still living under the specter of marijuana prohibition. Obviously, there is much more work that needs to be done. We need your help to finish the job.

NORML only exists and succeeds because of the support of passionate and dedicated individuals like you. With you standing shoulder to shoulder with us, we will continue to take our fight to city councils, state legislatures, and to Congress. Together, we are unstoppable. Together, we WILL legalize marijuana nationwide.

The revolution continues,

Erik Altieri
NORML Executive Director

JOIN THE FIGHT TODAY

 

A Personal Message from NORML’s Founder

I’m writing to make sure you saw the post from our Deputy Director Paul Armentano last week. With just a few short weeks to go before the big marijuana legalization votes on Election Day, I first wanted to thank all of you who have already donated. Without support from people like you, NORML wouldn’t have been able to continue our fight for nationwide marijuana legalization for over four decades.

November 8th will be one of the most important days for us as a movement and that’s why I wanted to take a minute to send you a personal message asking you to stand with NORML during these crucial weeks leading up to the big votes:

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM NORML FOUNDER KEITH STROUP.

A personal message from NORML founder Keith Stroup

In order to ensure big wins on Election Day and take our fight to city councils, state legislatures, and Congress in 2017 and beyond, we need to know you are with us.

Please consider donating $25, $50, $100, or whatever you can afford today.

Together, we WILL legalize marijuana across this great country.

Donate to NORML

URGENT: Marijuana Legalization Needs Your Help!
by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
October 14, 2016

In just a few weeks, voters in nine states will go to the polls to vote on crucial marijuana policy reforms at a time when national polling shows that the public’s support for legalization has never been greater. I’m pleased to say that NORML is playing a key role in moving public sentiment toward marijuana sanity.

From day one, NORML’s chief mission has been to move public and political opinion sufficiently so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer criminalized and stigmatized. We do so by presenting credible, evidence-based information about marijuana and marijuana policy reform to the general public, the mainstream media, pundits, and policymakers. And nobody does it better than we do.

NORML remains the most well-known and most trusted source of cannabis-centric information in the United States. Nearly 30 percent of the entire American public is familiar with NORML and its mission, according to a 2016 YouGov poll, and the overwhelming majority of those who identify as marijuana consumers say that they possess a favorable impression of our organization.

Read more »

This Election Is Too Important To Sit Out!

C1_8734_r_xIn the middle of a tumultuous presidential election, in which one candidate threatens to have the other candidate arrested should he win (as if this were a third-world country with no political institutions), it is tempting to just tune-out of politics and refuse to participate. Without a doubt, we have managed to nominate one candidate for president who, according to President Obama, “says stuff that nobody would find tolerable if they were applying for a job at 7-Eleven” — let alone run our country.

And he has demonstrated a lack of respect for women, as evidenced by his comments that he made on the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he brags he can grope women without consent due to his standing as a “star.” Since the tapes came out, his subsequent video apology, and his claim at the second presidential debate that he did not actually grope women, more than a half-dozen women have come out with stories of Trump’s alleged improper behavior. Trump has categorically denied these allegations.

It is truly an ugly political contest that has coarsened the political discussion and embarrassed the country both internally and with our foreign allies.

But the election is too important to sit out.

On November, we will be making an extraordinarily important decision whether to elect Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

And taking the easy way out – that is, by refusing to participate in the political process by not voting – is precisely the wrong response. By missing the opportunity to cast your vote against Trump, you are missing the chance to help the country make a strong statement: rejecting both Trump and all the prejudice and bigotry he has demonstrated in his campaign — from calling Mexicans rapists, to calling women “pigs” and “dogs,” to saying he would ban Muslims immigrants or establish “extreme vetting.”

And don’t forget about Congress.

And separate from the presidential race, there are 435 member of the House of Representatives up for re-election, many with challengers trying to offer a better alternative; as well as 34 (out of 100) U.S. Senators up for re-election. Those willing to take the time to learn about the voting records of your House and Senate members need only check their voting report card prepared by NORML.

Although Congress is slow to change, especially with social issues, we have seen more support for ending marijuana prohibition at the federal level during the last two years than we have ever seen, and with each new legalization state, our support in Congress increases.

Legalization on the ballot in five states.

And this November there will be full legalization voter initiatives on the ballot in five states, including most importantly California (the most populous state in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014). Should we win all of these — and the polling is currently pointing towards victory in all five — that will be the final tipping point to end marijuana prohibition in this country, and adopt legalization, leaving us with 25 percent of the country living under state marijuana legalization.

In addition, four states will have medical use voter initiatives, including the states of Florida and Arkansas, two conservative Southern states that could open far more conservative states to the possibility of adopting medical use as well in the coming years. There is simply no turning back.

So please do your part and vote. There is a lot of be embarrassed by in this current campaign, but there is also the possibility of rejecting this current climate and moving the marijuana legalization movement forward in a significant manner.

Living in a democracy, we have the incredible privilege of voting for our elected officials, and sometimes directly for our public policies. People in many parts of the world have no such power to improve their own lives. So let’s exercise our sacred right to cast our votes for people and policies that will help bring our nation together. And let’s keep marijuana legalization moving forward all across this great country.

URGENT: Marijuana Legalization Needs Your Help!

Vote Marijuana Initiatives

In just a few weeks, voters in nine states will go to the polls to vote on crucial marijuana policy reforms at a time when national polling shows that the public’s support for legalization has never been greater. I’m pleased to say that NORML is playing a key role in moving public sentiment toward marijuana sanity.

HELP US KEEP UP THE FIGHT BY DONATING TODAY

From day one, NORML’s chief mission has been to move public and political opinion sufficiently so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer criminalized and stigmatized. We do so by presenting credible, evidence-based information about marijuana and marijuana policy reform to the general public, the mainstream media, pundits, and policymakers. And nobody does it better than we do.

NORML remains the most well-known and most trusted source of cannabis-centric information in the United States. Nearly 30 percent of the entire American public is familiar with NORML and its mission, according to a 2016 YouGov poll, and the overwhelming majority of those who identify as marijuana consumers say that they possess a favorable impression of our organization.

WE CAN’T SUCCEED WITHOUT YOUR HELP, CLICK HERE TO DONATE

The messaging put forward by NORML, its 100+ affiliates, and its staff is prominently featured almost daily in the mainstream media and in opinion-shaping publications like the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Hill – outlets that reach millions of readers and policy makers in the highest levels of government. Meanwhile, NORML reports, such as its new 2016 Congressional Report Card and its newly updated handbook, Clinical Applications for Cannabis, continue to inform the public about the latest scientific and political developments surrounding the cannabis plant. It is your donations and support that permit us to continue to do this important work and engagement.

CLICK HERE HELP US CONTINUE FIGHTING PROHIBITIONIST PROPAGANDA

Today, it is clear that NORML’s efforts are paying dividends. The 2016 state election season was the busiest on record with lawmakers in 25 US states enacting legislation to reform their marijuana laws – the most ever in a single year. On Election Day we anticipate even more victories, but we can’t slow down now!

There is little doubt that we are on the precipice of seismic changes in both public opinion and public policy. Help us make these changes a reality. Please consider making a contribution to NORML today of $25, $50, $100. We could not have gotten this far without your help and with your continued support we are confident that we will achieve historic victories on Election Day and beyond.

Donate to NORML

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

 

The Reason a Record Number of States Can Vote to Legalize Weed This Fall

Legalize MarijuanaThose of us who support the full legalization of marijuana are greatly benefiting from political reforms adopted during what is frequently referred to as the Progressive Era in this country.

The principal objective of the progressive movement was eliminating corruption in government, and to accomplish that goal, proponents sought ways to take down the powerful and corrupt political bosses and to provide access by ordinary Americans to the political system – a concept called direct democracy, as contrasted to representative democracy.

It was during this period that the concept of direct primaries to nominate candidates for public office, direct election of U.S. senators, and universal suffrage for women gained traction. And, most important to our work, the procedures known as referendum and initiatives began to be adopted in several states.

In 1902, Oregon was the first state to adopt the option of initiative and referendum to change public policy, permitting citizens to directly introduce or approve proposed laws or constitutional amendments. This process was called an initiative if the change originated by action of citizens, without the involvement of the legislature, and as a referendum if it originated from the legislature but was referred to the voters to decide.

By 1920, a total of 22 states had adopted provisions modeled on the Oregon system. Today, a total of 24 states offer a voter initiative. In the rest of the states, the only avenue to change public policy is through the state legislature.

This brief history of direct democracy is relevant today because it is this access to direct political action by voters that has allowed marijuana legalization to move forward, years earlier than would have been politically possible through the action of state legislatures.

The four states and the District of Columbia that have approved full legalization for all adults, and the five states that will be voting on full legalization in November, all rely on voter initiatives. These progressive procedures have worked precisely as they were intended back in the Progressive Era: They have allowed citizens to go around the establishment to alter the status quo.

Voter initiatives are unpopular among most elected officials.

Altering the status quo has not taken place without some legal kicking and screaming by the elected officials in those states. It comes as no surprise that most elected officials do not appreciate the fact that public policies in their states can, when necessary, be changed without their consent.

As we approach the end of summer and the coming fall elections, we once again see examples of the extraordinary time and resources many establishment politicians and other anti-marijuana zealots are willing to invest to try to prevent citizens in their states from voting directly on marijuana policy.

The reason, of course, is obvious. According to recent national polls, a clear majority of the American public (between 55 and 61 percent) supports an end to marijuana prohibition. If given the opportunity to vote on the issue, they will vote to legalize marijuana.

Elected officials, who otherwise claim to represent the will of the voters in their states, and other self-appointed moral guardians, go to great lengths to try to stop the votes from happening.

Democracy is something they support so long as the public favors the same policies they favor. When the public gets out ahead of the establishment, democracy be damned; they will use any tools available, including procedural and constitutional challenges, to avoid allowing the voters to decide the issue.

Full legalization proposals.

We will have full legalization measures on the ballot in five states this fall: Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Arizona, and California. A sixth, Michigan, would have qualified but for last-minute legislation.

In several of the states with pending initiatives, establishment prohibitionists have gone to court in a desperate effort to get the courts to intervene to keep the measures off the ballot.

In Maine, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap attempted to invalidate a significant number of the signatures gathered by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Maine, arguing that the signature of a single notary did not match the one on file with the state. Fortunately, Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy overruled Dunlap’s decision. When the signatures were recounted, the measure, Question 1, qualified for the ballot.

In Massachusetts, once the Secretary of State had qualified the legalization initiative for the ballot, a group of prohibitionists calling themselves the Safe and Healthy Massachusetts Campaign sued to have the measure removed from the ballot, claiming it violated the constitutional limitation prohibiting an initiative from dealing with two unrelated topics. This challenge was subsequently dismissed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and the measure, Question 4, will now appear on the November ballot.

In Arizona, a group calling itself Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy — including two prominent country prosecutors and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce — filed suit to try to keep the legalization initiative off the ballot, after it had been qualified by the Secretary of State. The group claimed that the 100-word summary (a limit set by statute) did not accurately reflect everything contained in the 30-page proposal. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jo Lynn Gentry rejected the argument and approved the measure, Proposition 205, for the ballot.

In California — the big enchilada for the 2016 elections and a state in which opponents to an initiative are permitted to include on the ballot their reasons for opposing the proposal — it was the proponents who went to court. The Yes on 64 advocates successfully challenged all six arguments that opponents had wanted to appear on the ballot, and Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang found all six “false and misleading.” She ordered the opponents to modify their arguments, most of which falsely claimed the initiative would permit pro-marijuana ads to appear on radio and television and would appeal to children.

And in Michigan, where proponents, MI Legalize, had turned in a sufficient number of signatures (more than 350,000) to qualify a legalization measure for the ballot, the state legislature quickly rammed through a new law in June declaring signatures older than 180 days to be invalid, leaving proponents shy of the required number of signatures. Proponents have filed suit against the state, challenging the new limitations on constitutional grounds, but it appears the appeal will not be decided in time for the initiative to appear on the 2016 ballot, even if the appeal succeeds.

Of the five full-legalization initiatives that will appear on the ballot this fall, only the Nevada initiative, Question 2, was free from a court challenge. Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller certified the proposal for the ballot at the end of 2014. While there are certainly organized opponents, none elected to challenge the measure in court.

Moving forward.

In the short term, proponents of legalization will continue to focus efforts in the states that offer the option of a voter initiative. So long as our elected officials, and the establishment interests they represent, continue to support the status quo of prohibition, it makes sense strategically to bypass the state legislature where possible.

But that is a strategy that must eventually evolve, as 26 states simply do not offer that option. For that half of the country, we will have to win the old-fashioned way: By building majority support among state legislators to pass the proposal through the legislature.

It’s a significant challenge for sure, but as we’ve demonstrated with the drive to legalize medical marijuana, after a few more states have adopted legalization by voter initiative, enacting legalization by statute will become more realistic.

For those who live in one of the 26 states without an initiative process, we must continue the painfully slow process of convincing individual legislators that prohibition of marijuana is a failed public policy and that full legalization makes sense.

Many already understand this but continue to fear being labeled “soft on drugs” should they acknowledge the obvious. It is frustrating to have to win over supporters one at a time, but each year it becomes easier as public support for legalization continues to increase, and elected officials ignore the wishes of their constituents at their own peril.

___________________________________________________________

This column first ran on ATTN:

http://www.attn.com/stories/11148/marijuana-legalization-and-voter-initiatives

 

Login | Register

Copyright Top Nug © All Rights Reserved · Top Nug Theme by Ame

PIXSELL8 Pixel Count Remaining