Archive for the ‘Activism’ category

Demanding “Perfect Legalization” is a Formula for Defeat

January 26th, 2015

You don’t have to look too hard to see marijuana legalization efforts in several states that have a good chance of being approved by the voters in 2016. But many of those efforts are mired-down with competing proposals and competing proponents that could easily undermine the ability of supporters in those states to actually change public policy and end prohibition.

The inability to accept compromise in the interest of building a winning coalition threatens to turn some of these political opportunities into losing efforts. And that would be a disaster.

Specifically, different factions with different political demands are competing for control of the issue in Massachusetts, Ohio and California, three large and important states that would add enormous legitimacy and political credibility to the legalization movement, were they to approve legalization in 2016.

Click here to read the balance of this column.

 

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Want Legalization in Your State?

January 19th, 2015

Want Legalization in Your State?How do we move from prohibition to legalization in my state?

That’s one of the most asked questions we hear every week at NORML.

With national media attention focusing on the favorable experience with legalization in Colorado and Washington, and on the not-yet-implemented legalization programs recently adopted in Oregon and Alaska, anyone living in a state that continues arresting and jailing marijuana smokers would naturally wonder why their state seems to have missed out on the drive to end marijuana prohibition.

More accurately, many of those states are lagging behind in the legalization movement, but that, too, will change. As we continue to gather data demonstrating these new laws are working as intended, with few unintended consequences, the drive to end marijuana prohibition will soon reach every state in the union, and beyond. We are no longer debating theory and conjecture; we now have real-life experiences that can be evaluated, and that data resource will grow with each new state.

Patience and persistence still required

We all need to accept the reality that changing public policy is a complex process that requires financial resources, re-education and political organizing. Following more than 75 years of criminal prohibition, and “reefer madness” propaganda by our state and federal governments, many Americans — especially older Americans — hold a negative view of marijuana and marijuana smoking, believing it presents a risk to health or public safety.

Since all but a few of us have lived under prohibition for our entire lives, it is understandable that many would presume there must have been some justification for those tens of millions of marijuana arrests. Surely our own government would not needlessly wreak havoc on all those lives and careers without a good reason.

To Read the Balance of This Column, please go to Marijuana.com.

POLL: Majority of Michigan Voters Want to Legalize Marijuana

January 12th, 2015

cropsFrom Michigan NORML:

The attitude of Michigan voters is evolving toward acceptance of legalizing and taxing marijuana use for adults, per a recent EPIC-MRA survey commissioned by the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (MiNORML).

The poll shows 50% of Michigan adults would likely vote in favor of a system like those being utilized in Washington and Colorado, where marijuana is sold to adults and the proceeds are taxed by the state. 46% of respondents opposed the program. The results show a 3% increase in the acceptance of the tax and regulate legalization model from the previous survey, conducted in 2013 by the same firm.

The 2014 poll asked respondents if they would vote for a ballot proposal that would legalize marijuana use for adults 21 and over, create a system of licensed dispensaries to distribute the marijuana and tax its sale. 600 participants were surveyed on December 10 through 14, including 20% cell phone contact and the poll has a margin of error of ±4%.

“Michigan is a leader in the national trend toward reform of marijuana laws,” said Matthew Abel, attorney with Cannabis Counsel PLC in Detroit and the Executive Director of MiNORML. “This latest poll shows a major shift in attitude toward marijuana legalization over the last year. Legislators, take note: Michigan is ready for this.”

Support for legalized marijuana was greater among parents (52% likely YES) than among those voters without children (49%). Voters of all educational levels would approve a marijuana legalization ballot proposal; more than 50% of all the poll’s respondents (309) identify themselves as college-educated. 69% of those in the 18-34 age group responded as likely YES votes, as did 60% of all men age 18-49 and 70% of male Democrats. The largest demographic of opposition: Republican males (63% likely NO).

In conservative western Michigan the staunchest support for legalized marijuana was higher (40% definite YES), and opposition was lower (35% definite NO), than statewide averages (39% definite YES/36% definite NO). The statewide averages are skewed by numbers from the Bay Region that are significantly more negative toward legalization (38% likely YES/60% likely NO) than any other region surveyed.

Keith Stroup, national NORML founder and legal counsel, said “The latest Michigan polling results are in line with what we are seeing all across the country. Numerous polls have shown a majority of the public nationwide now support ending marijuana prohibition, and regulating and taxing the responsible use of marijuana by adults. It’s promising to see that voters in Michigan agree.”

Moving Legalization Forward in 2015

January 12th, 2015

 

The beginning of a new year provides an opportunity for reflection about what we hope to accomplish over the coming year, and whether there is a need to revise or fine-tune our tactics or strategy. It is also a time for allowing our hopes and dreams to take flight, even as we acknowledge we may not accomplish everything on our wish list within the next twelve months. By setting lofty goals, some of which may initially seem out-of-reach, we will surely move closer to our ultimate goal of full legalization all across the country.

Here are some strategies I propose we embrace for 2015.

1. Legalization is working well in Colorado and Washington, and we must continue to gather and spread the good news.

To read the balance of this column, please go to Marijuana.com

 

 

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POLL: 60% of Virginia Voters Support Marijuana Decriminalization

January 6th, 2015

vabillboardA poll conducted by the firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) revealed that 60% of Virginia voters would support decriminalizing the adult possession of small amounts of marijuana, indicating strong support for state Senator Adam Ebbin’s marijuana decriminalization measure, Senate Bill 686. Decriminalization had majority support from every age, racial, and gender demographic.

The survey also had support for legalization and regulation of marijuana in the Commonwealth at a record high of 49% support to 44% opposed.

With the legislative session kicking off in Virginia, expect to hear much more about this pending legislation in the coming weeks. If you are a Virginia resident, please CLICK HERE to quickly and easily contact your state Senator and urge their support for SB 686. It is time that our state officials pursued a policy on marijuana that was “Smart on crime and smart for Virginia.”

We strongly encourage you also attend Virginia NORML‘s lobby day in Richmond on January 16th to help put the pressure on state legislators in person. You can click here for more information on lobby day.

If you find yourself traveling in the Richmond area, keep your eyes peeled for Virginia NORML’s billboard in support of SB 686, which should be going on display very soon on Route 360 as you drive over the James River (the billboard image is featured at the top of this post).

This poll was commissioned by MPP and conducted by Public Policy Polling. You can read the full results here.

TAKE ACTION VIRGINIA – CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR STATE SENATOR IN SUPPORT OF SB 686

Merging the Medical Use Market with the Recreational Market

January 5th, 2015

herbal_cannabisOne of the current challenges facing both Colorado and Washington is how to successfully implement a full legalization system along side an existing medical use system. In Colorado, for example, the state elected to permit their existing, licensed medical use dispensaries to be the only dispensaries permitted for the first year (although they were required to keep the two sides of their business separate), to take advantage of the existing infrastructure for growing and dispensing marijuana. Thereafter those without prior experience in the medical marijuana marketplace were allowed to apply for licenses to grow and sell recreational marijuana.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON MARIJUANA.COM

2014: The Year In Review — NORML’s Top 10 Events That Shaped Marijuana Policy

December 30th, 2014

2014: The Year In Review - NORML's Top 10 Events That Shaped Marijuana PolicyNORML reviews the top news stories of 2014.

#1 Marijuana Legalization Measures Win Big On Election Day
Voters in Oregon and Alaska decided on Election Day in favor of statewide initiatives legalizing the commercial production and sale of marijuana for adults, while voters in the nation’s capitol and in numerous other cities nationwide similarly decided on local measures to eliminate marijuana possession penalties.

#2 Colorado And Washington Begin Regulating Retail Marijuana Sales
Two states, Colorado and Washington, initiated retail marijuana sales in 2014. Colorado’s program began on January 1. In Washington, state-licensed retail outlets began legally selling cannabis to adults in July.

#3 Congress Enacts Measure Protecting State-Sponsored Medi-Pot Programs
President Barack Obama signed spending legislation into law in December that included a provision limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states. The amendment states, “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

#4 Congress Moves To Permit State-Sanctioned Hemp Cultivation
Federal lawmakers approved legislation in February permitting state-sponsored hemp cultivation to move forward despite the plant’s federal status as a Schedule I prohibited substance.

#5 Federal Judge Hears Challenge To Cannabis’ Schedule I Status
United States District Judge Kimberly Mueller heard five days of testimony in October in regard to the constitutionality of marijuana’s Schedule I status under federal law. Defense counsel and their experts argued that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s present categorization. Judge Mueller is expected to make her ruling in early 2015.

#6 JAMA: Fewer Opiate-Related Deaths In Medical Marijuana States
The enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, according to data published in August in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

#7 President Acknowledges That Booze Is More Harmful Than Marijuana
Consuming cannabis is less harmful to the individual than is drinking alcohol, President Barack Obama acknowledged in January in an interview with The New Yorker. “I don’t think it (marijuana) is more dangerous than alcohol,” he stated. He added, [W]e should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time.”

#8 Study: Medical Marijuana States Have Fewer Violent Crimes
Medicinal cannabis laws are not associated with any rise in statewide criminal activity, according to data published in April in the journal PLoS ONE. “Medical marijuana laws were not found to have a crime exacerbating effect on any of the seven crime types. On the contrary, our findings indicated that MML precedes a reduction in homicide and assault,” authors concluded. “In sum, these findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.”

#9 NYT Editors Opine In Favor Of Legalizing Cannabis
The New York Times editorial board in July called upon federal lawmakers to end the criminalization of cannabis for those over the age of 21. The paper’s editors opined: “The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. … Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. … [W]e believe that on every level, … the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization.”

#10 Americans Say Marijuana Is Less Harmful To Health Than Sugar
Americans believe that consuming cannabis poses less harm to health than does the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, or sugar, according to the findings of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in March. Respondents were asked which of the four substances they believed to be “most harmful to a person’s overall health.” Most respondents said tobacco (49 percent), followed by alcohol (24 percent) and sugar (15 percent).

2014: A Wonderful Year for Marijuana Smokers

December 29th, 2014

2014 was truly a watershed year for the movement to legalize marijuana in this country.Two states joined the list of jurisdiction to switch from prohibition to regulated sales, and the District of Columbia, as well as a number of cities, adopted complete decriminalization for minor offenses. And scores of additional states saw their first serious legalization proposals introduced in their state legislatures, a fact that holds great promise for more victories to come in the near future.

While far too many marijuana arrests continue to occur in this country, and hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens still have their lives and careers turned upside-down each year because of their use of marijuana, it is also true that the number of marijuana arrests dropped for the fourth straight year, reversing a pattern of increasing numbers of arrests that had been expanding for several decades. With additional states moving from prohibition towards decriminalization or full legalization, those numbers should continue to decline for years to come. We did not get into this mess called marijuana prohibition overnight, and it will require both persistence and patience to put it fully behind us.

A lot of the progress we have seen over the last year occurred in ways that reflect the increasing public acceptance of marijuana, a necessary precursor to political change. 2014 was truly another banner year for legalizers.

Here is my list of the most significant milestones of the last twelve months.

 

To Read the balance of this column, please go to Marijuana.comyes-we-cannabis.

2015: NORML at Legalization Crossroads

December 23rd, 2014

Dear NORML members and supporters,

2014 NORML Annual Report

Thanks for providing this venerable 44-year old non-profit organization the support necessary–both financially and spiritually–in helping achieve its two stated public policy goals:

  • End cannabis prohibition and replace with system of taxation and regulation similar to alcohol and tobacco products
  • Help the victims of cannabis prohibition enforcement (from those busted for possession to workers being denied employment over drug testing to patients who need to access cannabis as a therapeutic)

To the former, the math is simple: four states down (AK, WA, OR and CO have legalized cannabis commerce and taxation), forty-six more to go.

To the latter, NORML and its 160 plus chapters are both sympathetic to and helpful outlets for the many hundreds of thousands of cannabis consumers, cultivators and sellers arrested annually on criminal charges.

Attached is an end-of-year synopsis of many of the projects and efforts put forward by the organization in 2014 to advance cannabis law reforms.

Important issues going forward post legalization present a myriad of public policy concerns for groups like NORML to advocate for adult cannabis consumers:

  • To be able to imbibe in a licensed establishment in the same manner alcohol consumers do (in other words, it is not sufficient or prudent to banish cannabis consumers to use the herbal drug only on private property, which does not even include most public accommodations like hotels. Americans want Dutch-like ‘coffeeshops’ to buy and use the product responsibly on-site);
  • Employment protections for cannabis consumers not impaired in the workplace;
  • Child custody rights;
  • Second Amendment rights (under federal law, cannabis consumer and state-sanctioned patients can’t buy guns or ammunition);
  • Reasonable taxes for consumers and businesses (so as not to encourage continuance of black market);
  • Legal protections for cannabis consumers who currently fall under federal government’s specter (military personal, government contractors, university students, federal workers and contractors)
  • Scientific based drugged driving testing

The public’s support since 1970 has aptly guided NORML thus far, looking into the political crystal ball for 2015, here are four items to be prepared for:

  1. There will be in excess of fifteen states that debate legalization bills in their 2015 legislative sessions (a state, likely in New England, will pass cannabis legalization legislation for the first time as all previous legalization successes have come about via voter ballot initiatives)
  2. The US Congress will have nearly twenty cannabis law reform bills introduced, ranging from legalization to rescheduling to sentencing to industrial hemp reforms.
  3. Reform organizations, including NORML, will be increasingly focused on passing a voter initiative in California in 2016 legalizing cannabis
  4. Non-partisan advocacy of presidential candidates for 2016 to support ending cannabis prohibition

Donate to NORML

Going into the New Year, possibly the penultimate year for cannabis law reform in the United States, please consider in 2015 the remarkable contrast occurring in the few states that have ended cannabis prohibition with the nightmare scenarios our fellow cannabis consumers still face in a vast majority of states in America.

Bittersweetly, here at NORML we’re caught betwixt and between prohibition and legalization where we field as many daily inquiries from citizens still getting screwed by antiquated cannabis prohibition laws as we do now very eager entrepreneurs wanting to know how they can become a legitimate cannabis-related business.

Please help NORML continue to push forward with achieving our stated policy objectives with your continued financial support in 2015.**

Thanks in advance for both caring and sharing!

Kind regards,

Allen St. Pierre
Executive Director
NORML and NORML Foundation
Washington, D.C.

**Donations of cash, stocks, securities and property to The NORML Foundation are fully tax deductible.

States Ask Supreme Court To Find Colorado’s Marijuana Regulations Unconstitutional

December 18th, 2014

States Ask Supreme Court To Find Colorado’s Marijuana Regulations UnconstitutionalThe states of Nebraska and Oklahoma have asked the United States Supreme Court to issue a declaratory judgment finding that Colorado’s laws regulating the state-licensed production and sale of marijuana to adults violates the US Constitution.

The suit, filed today by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt, alleges that marijuana is being diverted into their states from Colorado, causing plaintiffs to suffer “irreparable injury.”

The Attorney Generals contend in their suit: “Plaintiff States are suffering a direct and significant detrimental impact – namely the diversion of limited manpower and resources to arrest and process suspected and convicted felons involved in the increased illegal marijuana trafficking or transportation.”

They are asking the Supreme Court to strike down Colorado’s law on the basis that it is “fundamentally at odds” with the federal Controlled Substances Act. They allege, “The diversion of marijuana from Colorado contradicts the clear Congressional intent, frustrates the federal interest in eliminating commercial transactions in the interstate controlled-substances market, and is particularly burdensome for neighboring states like Plaintiff States where law enforcement agencies and the citizens have endured the substantial expansion of Colorado marijuana.”

They seek “a declaratory judgment stating that Sections 16(4) and (5) of Article XVIII of the Colorado Constitution are preempted by federal law, and therefore unconstitutional and unenforceable under the Supremacy Clause, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.” The US Attorneys are also asking the State of Colorado “to pay the Plaintiff States’ costs and expenses associated with this legal action, including attorneys’ fees.”

The suit does not ask for the Supreme Court to enjoin any other states’ laws regulating the production or dispensing of cannabis for either social or therapeutic purposes, though it is possible that the Court’s actions may have implications for those laws going forward. To date, four states have approved measures allowing for the regulated production and sale of cannabis to adults. Twenty-three states have approved measures allowing for the use of the plant for therapeutic purposes.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers responded to the suit, stating: “[I]t appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Commenting on the suit, NORML Legal Counsel Keith Stroup said, “This suit is more political theater than a serious legal challenge. These two conservative state attorneys general know they are losing this fight in the court of public opinion, so they are hoping the Supreme Court will intercede.”

Stroup further noted that in recent days a majority of Congress approved language limiting the ability of the federal government to interfere in the implementation of state-sponsored marijuana regulatory schemes. He added: “The majority of Americans, including 55 percent of Colorado voters who endorsed this policy in 2012, support regulating cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol. The Attorney Generals pushing this lawsuit are not only out-of-step with existing public opinion and emerging political opinion, but they are also clearly on the wrong side of history.”