Archive for the ‘FAMILIES’ category

Responsible Pot Use, Responsible Parenting: What’s The Problem?

November 25th, 2014

Responsible parenting

One of the policy areas in greatest need of reform involves the typical response of our child custody system in this country when they learn that a parent smokes marijuana; in all states today, including those that have legalized marijuana either for medical use or for all adults, the child custody agency stubbornly maintains an unfair bias against parents who smoke marijuana.

I suspect most of us have personally witnessed the disruption to someone’s life that results when, for any of a number of possible reasons, a parent’s marijuana smoking becomes known to the state’s child welfare agency. Sometimes it is because the couple are going through a hostile separation or divorce, and one parent attempts to use the other’s use of marijuana to gain advantage, either to limit that parent’s access to the children or to get a more favorable financial arrangement. Other times it begins with the complaint of a nosy neighbor who claims to have smelled marijuana (or to have seen someone smoking it), and who calls the authorities.

Regardless of the origin of the complaint or the motivation of the complaintant, once the state’s child welfare agency is called into the dispute, a legal process is begun that will all too often be disruptive to the health and welfare of the child, the very opposite of the stated intent of the inquiry. It is also an expensive and heartbreaking experience to a parent or parents who have to hire lawyers and focus their life for months on end jumping through any number of legal hoops to demonstrate that, despite their marijuana smoking, they remain loving parents who provide a safe and healthy environment for their minor children.

To understand this awkward legal squeeze all too many parents find themselves facing, it is important to realize we have parallel legal systems in effect in these states: one deals with what conduct is or is not criminal; the other focuses only on what is in the best interests of the child. And even as we continue to make progress removing the responsible use of marijuana from the criminal code, either for medical use or for all adults, the child custody courts in those same states continue to begin any inquiry with the presumption that marijuana smokers are not fit parents, and marijuana smoking by adults, even when it is protected conduct under that state’s laws, is dangerous to any children and evidence of an unhealthy environment in which to raise a child.

Read the full article at marijuana.com

62% of Georgia Voters Support Marijuana Decriminalization

January 22nd, 2014

GA Poll Packet Cover

Atlanta, GA – A newly released poll found that over half of Georgia voters support a marijuana legalization policy similar to that of Colorado and Washington (54%), however that same report found that even larger majority supports decriminalization.  62% of respondents believe that the state should remove criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce of pot, and replace it with a $100 civil fine, without the possibility of jail time.  Only 32% were opposed.  Interestingly, 56% of seniors, and republicans respectively, were among that nearly two-thirds majority.

 The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) was commissioned by state affiliates of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Georgia NORML, and Peachtree NORML.  Said Peachtree NORML’s Executive Director Sharon Ravert, “The citizens of Georgia agree, marijuana prohibition is a wasteful and destructive policy.  It is time for our state to catch up with public opinion and find a more sensible solution to the status quo.”  Peachtree NORML and other advocacy groups are working with lawmakers and various state coalition groups to amend Georgia’s criminal marijuana laws. In 2010, some 32,500 Georgians were arrested for violating marijuana laws, according to the FBI. That is the sixth highest total of any state in America.

Also of note, only 9% of respondents were millennials.  This demographic is known to be overwhelmingly supportive of this issue, but their limited representation highlights the fact that there is significant support among other age groups.  71% of those questioned were between the ages of 30 and 65 which suggests that older generations, who are more likely to vote, are also strongly in favor of decriminalization.   It’s clear that the widespread support for marijuana law reform in the traditionally conservative state of Georgia has grown to such an extent that it now reaches across all party lines, age groups and races.

“Though it may be surprising to some, these numbers are consistent with a growing trend of support for reform in the southern region of the country,” said Sabrina Fendrick NORML’s Outreach Coordinator for the southeastern region.   Recent polls conducted in Louisiana and Oklahoma both show a majority of support (56% and 53% respectively) for a change in the law providing for a $100 fine without jail time for those who possess an ounce or less of marijuana.  Said Fendrick, ”Everywhere you look you will see more and more people dissatisfied with the strict penalties associated with current marijuana laws, and an ever increasing number of southerners are ready for a  sensible alternative to existing failed policies, including decriminalization.”

 

 

 

Marijuana Arrest: Devastation Of A Life Well Lived

December 26th, 2013

If there is another human being who has publicly debated more in favor of cannabis law reform, or, spoken to more legal victims of America’s cannabis laws than me, I want to meet and thank them. From these hundreds of debates and thousands of personal encounters with my fellow cannabis consumers busted for ganja, one single phrase that I constantly hear from those who still support cannabis prohibition that instantly pushes my button is: No one gets busted for pot anymore in America…It’s practically legal.

Thankfully, because of the non-stop work from a cast of thousands of citizen-activists, going back over forty years, the latter is somewhat true for about one-third of America’s population. However the former is a bald face lie that must be confronted every time it is uttered by the proponents of pot prohibition.

Even in states where cannabis is supposed to be decriminalized, where states have passed laws making cannabis a ‘minor civil offense’, an encounter with law enforcement regarding one’s cannabis possession or use can have expensive, life-altering and devastating negative effects on a person’s life.

Kudos to BuzzFeed for producing a very well done video profile of a beloved public school teacher in New York City named Alberto Willmore, who, save for this video, would be yet another faceless victim of New York City’s expensive and reckless enforcement of what should be a minor civil offense, like a parking ticket or citation for spitting on the sidewalk. Instead of simply issuing Mr. Willmore a civil fine for possessing a small amount of cannabis, New York City continues to disrespect state laws governing cannabis possession by arresting, detaining, prosecuting and forcing Mr. Willmore to lose his dream job as an art teacher for what law enforcement deem a ‘serious crime’, when the legislature does not–even more so when almost 60% of the US public support legalizing cannabis sales.

NORML has been advocating for almost twenty years in New York City for the city to return to it’s historic cannabis possession arrest rate of under 1,000 per year, down dramatically from the now nearly 40,000 cannabis possession arrests annually in New York City, which exploded under mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.

Next time you hear a law enforcement representative, opinion maker or politician declare that ‘nobody gets busted for pot any more’, remind them of one of America’s nearly 700,000 annual cannabis arrests: Alberto Willmore

With the recent release by incoming mayor Bill de Blasio’s family of a video from his daughter talking about her use of cannabis, and incoming police commissioner William Bratton’s long experience in effective policing, NORML hopes that 2014 will finally be the year that New York City ceases being the hotbed for cannabis arrests in America and relents on destroying the lives of it’s otherwise productive and appreciated citizens–like Alberto Willmore–who happen to choose to consume cannabis in their home.

NORML Partners with The Family Law & Cannabis Alliance

October 24th, 2013

momforpot

It’s no secret that there has been a proliferation government agencies across the country removing minors and infants from their home, based solely on the fact that a parent is a cannabis consumer, and the false presumption that the presence of marijuana poses a danger.  This even occurs in states with a legal medical marijuana program, or where marijuana possession is no longer a criminal offense.  Some of these experiences can be incredibly traumatic to the child, as well as the parents, as officers have a tendency to use aggressive and sometimes militaristic tactics while engaging with these families.

FLCAlogo_innerbottomtxt_smallNORML receives dozens of calls and emails every month from devastated parents who have lost custody of their children to state agencies, and we remain committed to providing support and resources to those forced into these unfortunate circumstances.  In light of such efforts, we are pleased to announce that NORML has recently partnered with the newly formed Family Law and Cannabis Alliance (FLCA), founded by longtime drug reform activists Jess Cochrane and Sara Arnold.  The FLCA is an informational clearinghouse that provides educational resources, advocacy information and legal referrals geared  toward reformers & affected families on the crossover of marijuana laws & the child protection system.

Sabrina Fendrick, Director of Women’s Outreach said, she is “looking forward to working with the Family Law and Cannabis Alliance to raise awareness about the devastating effects, and sometimes dangerous practice, of child services in removing children from their safe and loving homes for the mere fact a parent is a cannabis consumer.  It is time to end this destructive policy, and put an end to marijuana prohibition once and for all.”

Click here for more information on the Family Law and Cannabis Alliance.

Autistic Teen Tricked into Buying Weed for Undercover Cop

October 10th, 2013

In late 2012, a Riverside County, California police officer infiltrated a local high school, befriended a vulnerable, special needs student and then proceeded to send more than 60 text messages begging the student to buy him weed.  The student, who had been diagnosed with autism as well as bipolar disorder, Tourettes, and several anxiety disorders (and noticeably handicapped) became overwhelmed by the pressure, and the desire to keep his only friend.  He finally agreed to buy pot for “Dan” (the undercover cop).  It took the teenager weeks to find anything, eventually buying half of a joint from from a homeless man downtown.

Then, as reported by Reason Magazine, “On December 11, 2012 armed police officers walked into [the student’s] classroom and arrested him in front of his peers. He was taken to the juvenile detention center, along with the 21 other arrestees, where he was kept for 48 hours. First hand reports claim that the juvenile center was caught off guard by the large number of arrests and that some youths had to sleep on the floor, using toilet paper as pillows.”  The child was also expelled from school.

This story is a grotesque example of how our nation’s marijuana policies continue to encourage the use of barbaric and predatory tactics by law enforcement officials.  They are financially incentivised to not only target otherwise law abiding citizens, but actively work to manipulate innocent children.  Aside from the gross misappropriation of limited police resources, this incident clearly highlights many of the tragic implications marijuana prohibition continues to have on our nation’s youth.  Further, zero tolerance policies in schools have proven to be ineffective in the very purpose for which they were originally designed. The practice of engaging in high school undercover drug stings has proven to do nothing to curb teen drug use.  It does however, leave the student body traumatized and resentful of law enforcement, making them less likely to report legitimate crimes in the future.  It is an egregiously unfair and punitive practice by educational institutions to expel students as punishment for any infraction of a rule, a significant portion of which are for non-violent low level drug violations.  How does removing a minor from what is intended to be a stable, nurturing environment do anything to help prepare these individuals to lead responsible productive lives?  They are now forced to sit at home with nothing to do but hang out with other expelled peers, or in a juvenile detention center.

One can argue that this all leads back to the financial incentives driving police officers to arrest as many individuals on drug charges as possible.  Every year, law enforcement jurisdictions are given federal grants, swat gear, overtime pay and assets based solely on their number of drug arrests.  Perhaps it is a result of former Governor Schwarzenegger’s passage of SB 1449 in 2010, which reduced the crime of possession of an ounce of pot from a misdemeanor to an infraction for adults 18 and over.  Now, the only way to keep up their arrest rates is by targeting minors – whose charges remain misdemeanors.  It is time to stop the madness and put an end to these insane zero-tolerance policies.  Our children’s future depends on it.

**The family of the student framed by an undercover officer have set up a fundraiser to support their lawsuit against the school district.  Click here for more information.

Marijuana Prohibition Responsible for Death of 2-Year-Old Girl

August 7th, 2013

Alex HillMarijuana prohibition has taken yet another innocent life.  In January 2013, two- year-old Alexandra Hill was taken from her home in Round Rock, Texas because her parents had admitted to smoking pot after their child had gone to bed.   As a result, she was placed with an abusive foster mother, who subsequently beat her to death.

According to her father, Joshua Hill, who spoke with KVUE, a local ABC affiliate, “She would come to visitation with bruises on her, and mold and mildew in her bag. It got to a point where [he] actually told CPS that they would have to have [him] arrested because [he] wouldn’t let her go back.”  A few days later, the Hill family got a call informing them that their daughter was in a coma, and they needed to get to the hospital right away.  Two days after that, Alex was taken off life support.  Up until she was snatched from her family in January, the 2 year old had never been sick or gone to the hospital.

“When a parent who responsibly consumes marijuana after hours is seen as neglectful in comparison to a parent who responsibly enjoys a glass of wine, then the system isn’t just broken, it’s deadly,” said Sabrina Fendrick, Director of Women’s Outreach at NORML.  Little Alex’s fate was sealed the minute the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) determined that such behavior qualifies as “neglectful supervision,” and put her with a foster mother who had not been given a proper background check.

This is just one more tragic casualty of marijuana prohibition.  However, the practice of child snatching by CPS from marijuana-using parents is by no means unique to this story.  Current policy gives state agencies the right to legally kidnap minors and infants from their loving parents’ home (simply for the fact that they are cannabis consumers), and place them in an unknown, possibly dangerous or truly neglectful environment.  Hundreds of similar CPS cases pop up around the country every year.   Only when the government changes its view, and policies on marijuana can we truly protect the rights and integrity of good parents who responsibly consume cannabis after hours and out of their child’s view.  It’s time for CPS, the state of Texas and the federal government to step up, take responsibility for all of the damage they have caused, and commit to ending this disastrous and fatal policy.

Life Insurance for Marijuana Consumers

June 20th, 2013

One of the most asked questions received at NORML over the years has been ‘I smoke cannabis and I want to purchase or increase my life insurance, what companies provide underwriting?’sheet-of-money-hemp

A very informative news piece from LifeHealthPro provides an excellent overview of life insurance companies and their current policies regarding offering coverage to cannabis consumers–be them recreational consumers or medical patients:

Ratings for the Marijuana User

Marijuana usage is not viewed as other drugs such as cocaine, for example. Testing positive for THC will not lead to a flat rejection of a life insurance policy. However, the use of this substance can result in receiving a cigarette smoker’s rates, which are substantially higher than those of a non-smoker.

Life insurance classifications for a marijuana user are guidelines and are not set in stone; they can change at any time per the company consideration. Also other health conditions could change consideration.

American General: Smoking marijuana more than twice monthly could result in the rates of a smoker with the possibility of a table rating. Smoking two times per month will set the rating as a standard non-smoker. Applicants who smoke two times a year or less could be rated as a preferred best non-smoker.

- Banner Life:  Applicants could be considered a standard smoker with occasional use. They could be rated as a substandard table B smoker with daily use.

- Columbus Life:  Applicants over 25 years old who smoke pot experimentally to intermittently might get standard smoker rates. Moderate use could be a table 2 rating.  Heavy use will be declined.  Other drug use will also be a factor.

Fidelity: A standard smoker classification will be given if there is any marijuana use in the past 12 months. However, an applicant be classified as a sub-standard smoker if medical marijuana is prescribed.

Genworth Financial: Applicants who use marijuana eight times a month or less could be classified as a standard smoker. Users who smoke more than eight times may be considered a sub-standard smoker. Also, this company does not recognize prescription use of marijuana.

ING Reliastar: If marijuana is prescribed, users could be classified as a Table 4 Smoker. With daily use, they could be classified as a preferred smoker.

- Lincoln Benefit: If a prescription is shown on one’s medical records and usage is stated on the application, applicants could be classified as a non-smoker. Occasional users without a prescription can be classified as a standard smoker.

Lincoln National: Applicants can use marijuana up to two times per week and be classified as a standard non-smoker.  Usage of 3-4 times a week will result in a sub-standard Table B non-smoker rating. Applicants will be declined if they use marijuana more than four times per week.

Met Life: Applicants who otherwise would merit a preferred plus rating and uses marijuana occasionally (once a month to once a week) could get a preferred plus non-smoker rating. (More than once a week is equivalent to a smoker’s rate.)  Daily use could be a table 4 rating. Heavy users could be declined.

- Mutual of Omaha: Applicants will rate as a standard nons-moker with up to weekly use.  If lab results indicate more frequent usage, then smoker rates will apply.

- Minnesota Life: Applicants who test positive for THC could be given a smoker table 3 rating. Occasional or recreational users will be given preferred non-smoker rates but will have to test negative for THC.

- North American: Applicants over 25 years old who use marijuana 3-8 times per month could be rated a standard smoker. If they use 8-16 times a month they could be rated as high as a table 2 smoker. More than 16 times a month will be declined.

- Protective Life: Marijuana use could result in a standard smoker rating.

- Prudential Financial: Using marijuana up to two times per month and testing negative for THC will qualify applicants as a standard plus non-smoker. A Table B non-smoker (even with THC positive lab tests) rating will be applied if usage is up to four times per week. Usage over four times weekly will be declined.

- Transamerica - Marijuana smokers could be considered a standard smoker rate class with no other health issues.

Final advice from LifeHealthPro: Applicants who already have a life insurance policy in force may be paying unnecessarily high rates. Each company’s insurance underwriters view the use of marijuana differently. Don’t let your clients pay high life insurance premiums if less expensive alternatives are available.  

Read entire article @ LifeHealthPro

 

 

 

 

Minorities Disproportionately Arrested In U.S. For Marijuana

June 4th, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union released a new report affirming NORML’s historic data that minorities are disproportionately arrested (and most certainly prosecuted and, worse, incarcerated) at a rate four times higher than whites for cannabis (based on per capita cannabis use rates).

In some midwest states–like Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota–minorities are arrested at rates eight times higher than whites.

ACLU’s report ‘The War On Marijuana/In Black And White‘ is a fascinating and well researched multimedia presentation about why America’s failed seventy-five year-old social experiment known as ‘Cannabis Prohibition’ must end, and new public policies created that reflect today’s public sentiment in favor of such reforms.

Marijuana Prohibition Puts Industry Women at Risk

May 30th, 2013

1270896_chelsea As more women are drawn to Humboldt County’s marijuana trade and off-grid lifestyle, a local battered-women’s shelter has noticed a growing trend of violent encounters.  The Standard-Examiner reports that, “The bulk of… cases involve single young women aged 18 to 26, who may travel to the area and are lured to farms by promises of work, money and, often, romance. The women are hired for trim work, which involves cleaning freshly harvested pot and preparing it for sale.”  Most women who survive violence are hesitant to seek help in general.   The women in the pot-growing business however, are under even more pressure to keep quiet because they are part of a culture that promotes secrecy.

WISHsmall

There is no doubt the pot-growing industry supports the local economy by pumping much-needed cash into the community.   The problem is however, that because farm owners and managers (most of whom are male) are running illegal operations under federal law, standard employment regulations such as working conditions and sexual harassment laws do not apply.   The Director of W.I.S.H (Women’s Crisis Center of Southern Humboldt), points out that, “Men managing the farms can be paranoid over the threat of raids or people stealing the plants. Women’s cell phones may be taken away and they may not be allowed to leave until season’s end. Some are forced off farms at gunpoint without being paid. Women may be beaten or psychologically controlled…”.

The cycle of violence is perpetuated by an underground, black market economy.  This is just one more reason marijuana needs to be legalized and regulated.  Moving the entire marijuana industry above ground will protect workers’ rights, hold employers accountable, and remove the culture of secrecy that continues to foster female exploitation.

A Millennial Manifesto for Marijuana Law Reform

May 1st, 2013

As our nation edges cautiously toward majority support for marijuana legalization, the millennial generation is leading the way more than any other demographic in history.

Our generation has experienced as much or more tragedy than any post-WW II generation with the exception of the baby boomers.  The difference is that boomers, who witnessed the assassination of  a president, a presidential candidate and a major civil rights activist and who lived through significant social and political upheavals, also saw huge social progress, the evolution of equal rights, greater consumer protection and the end of the Cold War.  Despite many bumps along the way, the economy remained intact for that generation, jobs were available and college was still affordable.

Millennials experienced on 9/11, the first major attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.  We’ve grown up with homeland security threat levels, we’ve witnessed massacre after massacre in our schools and in  public places that used to be considered safe (think Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, the D.C. snipers, Boston, etc).  As young adults, we’ve been confronted with an economy on the verge of collapse, a world plagued by terrorism, an expensive and proliferating drug war, skyrocketing tuition costs and a job market that is barely there.  Yet with all of that, we still believe in the glory of the America we were told about growing up.  That, “America is the richest, most powerful country in the world, where everyone has the opportunity to make money and achieve the American dream,” and despite everything going on now, we believe that it still can.

So why, you wonder, do so many millennials (65% according to the latest Pew Research Poll) support the legalization of marijuana in light of all these other issues?  It’s because we believe this is a serious national problem with a sensible fix and a positive outcome for everyone.  

  • We believe that marijuana prohibition negatively affects so many aspects of our society and we believe that reforming this senseless policy will actually help the American people and our economy.
  • We’ve seen the lives of so many of our friends and loved ones destroyed, not by using marijuana, but by the impact of its prohibition.
  • We know that the D.A.R.E. program is a joke.
  • We know that hundreds of millions of our tax dollars are wasted to support a criminal justice system that must track down, arrest, prosecute, incarcerate and then parole hundreds of thousands of non-violent and otherwise law abiding citizens, who are burdened with criminal records for the rest of their lives.
  • We know that our failed, and incredibly expensive war on drugs is destabilizing and corrupting governments south of our border, while enriching brutal drug lords.
  • We know that as long as marijuana remains unregulated, it will be far easier for an American child or adolescent to buy pot from a street vendor then it will be for that same child to purchase a beer or buy a pack of cigarettes in a store, where she is required to produce a government-issued ID.

Not only will legalization protect our brothers and sisters from unjust prosecution and a life tainted with a criminal record, it will also generate billions of dollars in federal and state tax revenues, and it will create a whole new industry in the U.S. which means more jobs for Americans.  While marijuana represented a symbol of rebellion and counter culture to the boomer generation of the 60s and 70s – today, for millennials, marijuana legalization simply makes good political and economic sense.  We made up about 20% of all voters in the last election, and are well on our way to becoming the largest generation in American history.  Each year that passes brings millions of new young adults into the voting population. If policy makers don’t take note of our growing influence over future elections and begin to support the issues that are important to us, we will vote them out and find ones who do.