Archive for the ‘Strategies for Reform’ category

Marijuana Law Refom Marching On: Legalization Highly Favored In New Massachusetts Poll

December 10th, 2011

58% support in Massachusetts for legalizing marijuana and regulating it as other agricultural commodities

Georgetown, MA – This evening, attendees at the Second Annual Massachusetts Cannabis Convention hosted by the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition/NORML (MassCann/NORML) at the Crowne Plaza in Natick heard the major results of a live telephone poll conducted in November by DAPA Research Inc. of 600 Massachusetts voters with a margin of error of +/-4%.

The most significant findings:

*Fifty-eight percent (58%) support legalizing marijuana and regulating it in the same manner as other agricultural commodities with sales prohibited to underage persons (69% Democrats, 44% Republicans, 54% Other).

*Sixty-two percent (62%) are more likely to support legalization if the proposed law would regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana to adults and tax it in the same manner as the state currently regulates alcohol (70% Democrats, 56% Republicans, 60% Other).

*Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the federal government disregarding state law in states legalizing marijuana, while only 35% support the federal government’s disregarding state law.

“The data strongly suggests that Massachusetts voters are more ready than voters in any other state to end prohibition and establish reasonable regulation of cannabis cultivation and commerce for all purposes,” said Steven S. Epstein, a founder and currently an officer of MassCann/NORML. “The data also establishes that if the legislature does not enact a law allowing medical use of marijuana this session the voters will overwhelmingly, perhaps 80%+, approve the voter initiative for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana at the ballot box in November.”

“Legalization is essential to ending crime created by the prohibition of cannabis,” said Cara Crabb-Burnham, a member of MassCann/NORML’s Board of Directors. “It is important to recognize legal vendors will card customers and keep it out of the hands of children.”

* * *

For more information contact:
Michael Crawford, 978-502-4080
Attorney Steven Epstein, 978-352-3300

CBS News Poll confirms troubling data for legalization and medical marijuana proponents

November 18th, 2011

[Update: Yes, I meant "proponents", not "opponents".  An 11-point gender gap and 52% believing medical marijuana is not for the severely ill, but for "something else" should trouble proponents of legalization. -"R"R]

The latest poll to ask the American people their opinions on medical marijuana and marijuana legalization reveals some disturbing trends for opponents of marijuana prohibition.

21st Century Legalization Polls

21st Century Legalization Polls by major news and polling organizations (click for full size version)

According a recent CBS News poll conducted at the end of October, a slim majority of 51 percent continues to think that marijuana use should be illegal. But support for specifically allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for serious medical conditions – or legalized “medical” marijuana – is far stronger: 77 percent Americans think it should be allowed.

CBS’s poll compares well to the bulk of polls on the issue over the past two years, which have ranged from 40% to 46% support for full-legalization.  It’s interesting to note that no news organization has ever shown a poll with majority support for full-legalization; the five polls showing 50% or greater support all come from Zogby, Angus Reid, and Gallup.

Still, even though most Americans support this, just three in 10 believe that the marijuana currently being bought in this country under state-authorized medical marijuana programs is being used in the way it has been authorized: for alleviating suffering from serious medical conditions.

In previous posts we’ve noted the gap between medical-only and full-legalization has shrunk from 44% to 20% in the Gallup Polls.  This CBS poll shows 77% nationwide for “Do you think doctors should be allowed to prescribe small amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses?” but also shows only 31% of the country believes “marijuana that is purchased in this country through state authorized medical marijuana programs is being used to alleviate suffering from serious medical illnesses”.  Majorities of Republicans (62%) and Independents (51%) and a plurality of Democrats (44%) believe “most of it is being used for other reasons”.

As usual, people between the age of 18-29 support legalization (52%) as do liberals (66%).  Greatest support geographically is again found in the West (48%).  But surprisingly, the Midwest (43%) beats the Northeast (41%) in support and Independents (48%) have greater support for legalization than Democrats (45%).  Also as usual, and still vexing for legalization proponents, is the gender gap of 11 points between men (46%) and women (35%).

If There Were Ever A Pro-Marijuana Video To Go Viral, This Is It

November 18th, 2011

THE BEST 4 MINUTES ABOUT MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION YET SPOKEN—Do your part—Help this piece go viral! G.R.

By George Rohrbacher, NORML Board of Directors, medical marijuana patient

In the decade that I’ve been on NORML’s board, I’ve worked with scores of bright, accomplished and passionate advocates for ending America’s 74-years of marijuana prohibition. Like never before, these voices are building into a chorus calling for the end of this cruel prohibition, whose penalties are suffered most by the poor, the young and people of color. This disastrous prohibition has led to the arrest of over 22 million Americans on marijuana charges since 1965.

Last week, dripping with irony, at the very same time the Obama Administration was stiffing the American public’s most popular action petition (for marijuana legalization) and was declaring all-out war on medical marijuana through the DOJ, IRS, etc., at this very same moment in history, we saw the huge verification of the success of NORML’s steady approach, the fruit of decades of work changing public opinion on subject of pot legalization. FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1969, WHEN GALLUP POLLS STARTED ASKING THE QUESTION—50% OF AMERICANS NOW BELIEVE MARIJUANA SHOULD BE LEGAL!!

Reflecting on achieving this auspicious milestone of public opinion, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell gives America the very best 4 min. on marijuana legalization we have ever heard. He asks the question, how public opinion could have grown to 50%, while support in the US Senate for legalization still stays at 0%. How, he asks, can America’s politicians, law enforcement and judges callously stand by while millions of young lives are wrecked by marijuana prohibition?

O’Donnell, formerly chief of Staff for the Senate Finance Committee, has gone toe-to-toe with the movers and shakers in government many times before. But this time, on the subject of marijuana legalization, O’Donnell does some of his finest work. With arguments as razor-sharp as a battle axe, he relentlessly chops away at the system that gives us marijuana prohibition and enforced by alcohol-sodden public officials stewing in hypocrisy. O’Donnell’s piece should be linked to all marijuana-related communications you send out in the coming year, sent to everyone on your email list, every single public official.

Please, help this piece go VIRAL, where it belongs!

Show-Me Cannabis Legalization

November 16th, 2011

Efforts are currently underway to put marijuana legalization on the ballot in Missouri next year. Missouri NORML and Show-me Cannabis Regulation are working together to acquire the number of signatures required to put a Constitutional amendment proposal before Missouri voters in November 2012. Missouri now joins several other states (including California, Washington, and Colorado) that are looking to put the issue of cannabis legalization before voters next election.

If you live in Missouri, and want to get involved, MO NORML and Show-me Cannabis Regulation will be holding a strategy meeting this Saturday, November 19th. For more information see the message below from Dan Viets, Missouri NORML Coordinator.

Dear Friends and Supporters of Missouri NORML:

Missouri NORML in conjunction with Show-Me Cannabis Regulation is holding a special meeting next Saturday, November 19, 2011 from noon to 6:00 p.m. at the Arts & Science building at the University of Missouri here in Columbia. this event will be a kickoff for the campaign to place marijuana legalization on the Missouri ballot in November, 2012.

We will be brainstorming ideas for how to move this campaign forward effectively and efficiently. We will be sharing ideas with our fellow activists from the state of Missouri. We will be talking with folks who have experience in similar campaigns to get their advice on how we can gather the signatures we need as quickly as possible.

SMCR has chosen to proceed with a Constitutional amendment proposal. This means we will need to gather nearly 150,000 signatures on petitions to place this issue on the ballot before next May. We will need the help of every one of our supporters to make this happen.

Following the meeting Saturday afternoon, we will hold a Dinner/Party/Fundraising event at one of Columbia’s finest restaurants. We ask everyone who attends to please bring something, large or small, which can be auctioned to help us raise funds for the campaign.

Please join us and become part of this historic effort to end the terrible injustice of cannabis prohibition in Missouri. For more information about the proposed initiative, go to www.showmecannabis.org. There is a football game in Columbia next Saturday so hotel and motel rooms will be in short supply. If you plan to stay in Columbia, you should probably search for a room immediately. You may need to look at accommodations in towns nearby since the hotels here may be full.

Sincerely,
Dan Viets, Missouri NORML Coordinator

You can see coverage of the proposal on Missouri’s local FOX affiliate here.

Cato, Cannabis, Conference and Coalescing For Reforms

November 14th, 2011

Joining my colleagues and friends Morgan Fox of Marijuana Policy Project, Paul Armentano of NORML and Norman Stamper of LEAP, I’m an honored contributor to a series of essays published by the Cato Institute’s Unbound series on the topic of cannabis law reform and the war on some drugs.

My essay examines 1) identifying concerns for reformers, 2) why cannabis law reform enjoys ever-increasing public support, 3) who supports continuing cannabis prohibition and 4) what are some steps to hasten reforms.

Many thanks to Cato’s Jason Kuznicki for inviting an array of contemporary essays from the perspectives of active reformers!

Allen St. Pierre, executive director, NORML, November 11, 2011:

With so many onerous institutional discriminations and restrictions—and the price of medical cannabis remaining inordinately high because of the existence of cannabis Prohibition—patients who genuinely need access to this low toxicity, naturally occurring herbal medicine would be far better served by ending cannabis Prohibition entirely than in trying to carve out special legal exemptions to the existing Prohibition.

The other essays in the series from Fox, Armentano and Stamper are found here.

Speaking of Cato, tomorrow they’re hosting what I hope is a news-making conference in Washington, D.C. that examines the growing tide of public wont and scientific research in support around the world for a different direction then ‘prohibition’ laws for currently illicit drugs like cannabis, instead favoring the emerging public health and criminal justice doctrine of ‘harm reduction’.

The line up of speakers and topics should not be ignored by the media and policymakers as Cato has assembled an impressive line-up:

Former President, Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mexico, Jorge Castaneda
Speaker of the House of Deputies, Uruguay, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou
Wall Street Journal, Editorial Board Member and Columnist, Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Columnist Glenn Greenwald
Law Professor and LEAP board member, Leigh Maddox
Drug Policy Alliance, Director, Ethan Nadelmann, Ph.D
Daily Caller, Editor, Tucker Carlson

Video messages are expected from former President, Mexico, Vicente Fox and former US Secretary of State, George Schultz.

Looks like you can watch the conference at Cato Live!

This Week in Weed: November 6th-12th

November 12th, 2011

This Week in WeedThe latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

This week, lawyers from the NORM Legal Committee bring lawsuits against the federal government and a new study looks at how medical marijuana laws affect youth drug use.

Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv every week to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.

NORML Attorneys file multiple constitutional challenges to federal medical marijuana crackdown

November 7th, 2011

NORML Attorneys Matt Kumin, David Michael, and Alan Silber, have filed suit (read here) in the four federal districts in California to challenge the Obama Administration’s recent crackdown on medical marijuana operations in the Golden State. Aided by expert testimony from NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano and research from California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, the suits seek an injunction against the recent federal intrusion into state medical marijuana laws at least and at most a declaration of the unconstitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act with respect to state regulation of medical marijuana.



Video streaming by Ustream
The NORML attorneys allege the federal government has engaged in entrapment of California patients and their caregivers.  They point to the courts’ dismissal of County of Santa Cruz, WAMM et al. v. Eric Holder et al. where the Department of Justice (DOJ) “promised a federal judge that it had changed its policy toward the enforcement of its federal drug laws relative to California medical cannabis patients.”  So after 2009, California providers had reason to believe that the federal government had changed its policy.  The legal argument is called ‘judicial estoppel’, which basically means that courts can’t hold true to a fact in one case and then disregard it in another.

Kumin, Michael, and Silber also argue the government has engaged in ‘equitable estoppel’, which most people commonly think of as ‘entrapment’.  That is to say, you can’t bust a person for committing a crime when the authorities told him it wasn’t a crime to do it!

Under established principles of estoppel and particularly in the context of the defense of estoppel by entrapment, defendants to a criminal action are protected and should not be prosecuted if they have reasonably relied on statements from the government indicating that their conduct is not unlawful. That principle should be applied to potential defendants as well, the plaintiffs in this action.  Such parties, courts have noted, are “person[s] sincerely desirous of obeying the law”. They “accepted the information as true and [were]…not on notice to make further inquiries.” U.S. v. Weitzenhoff, 1 F. 3d 1523, 1534 (9th Cir. 1993).

The US Constitution figures prominently in the legal challenge as well.  The 9th Amendment says that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  The NORML attorneys argue that threatening seizure of property and criminal sanctions violates the rights of the people to “consult with their doctors about their bodies and health.”

The 10th Amendment provides that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  The NORML attorneys argue that the States have the “primary plenary power to protect the health of its citizens” and since the government has recognized and not attempted to stop Colorado’s state-run medical marijuana dispensary program, it cannot suggest Colorado has a state’s right that California does not.

The 14th Amendment says that all citizens have equal protection under the law.  The NORML attorneys argue that the federal government:

1. Actively provides cannabis for medical purposes to individuals through its own IND program.
2. Actively allows patients in Colorado to access medical cannabis through a state-licensing system that allows individuals to make profit from the sales of medical cannabis.
3. Actively restricts scientific research into the medical value and use of cannabis to alleviate human suffering and pain.

Thus, according to Kumin, Michael, and Silber, the government can’t be allowing Colorado medical marijuana commerce, engaging it its own IND program that mails 300 joints a month to four federal medical marijuana patients yet squelching all attempts to study medical value of marijuana, then have a rational basis for shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries in California.  Under the 14th Amendment, the feds can’t treat Californians differently than Coloradoans and differently than four US citizens who get legal federal medical marijuana.

Finally, while acknowledging that Raich v. Gonzales 545 US 1 (2005) set the precedent that the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause does allow the feds to prosecute California’s medical marijuana, the NORML attorneys argue:

…it is still difficult to imagine that marijuana grown only in California, pursuant to California State law, and distributed only within California, only to California residents holding state-issued cards, and only for medical purposes, can be subject to federal regulation pursuant to the Commerce Clause. For that reason, Plaintiffs preserve the issue for further Supreme Court review, if necessary and deemed appropriate.

We will keep you posted on all updates related to this groundbreaking lawsuit.  Archive of our interview with the lead attorneys in this case is available in our “Audio/Video” section on The NORML Network.

Click here to join NORML today and help us in the fight to legalize marijuana.

NORML Attorneys File Suit Against Federal Government

November 7th, 2011

Today, three NORML Legal Committee attorneys will announce lawsuits against the federal government with hopes of ending the medical marijuana crackdown in California. Attorneys Matt Kumin, David Michael, and Alan Silber are coordinating the effort which aims to enjoin the federal government from this latest round of federal enforcement actions against the growers and dispensaries in the state.

The group plans on using a variety of legal theories including the 9th and 10th Amendments, equal protection and due process, and collateral estoppel in their case. NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano has also personally filed a declaration in this suit, which will be raised in each of the four federal districts in California.

NORML will have a more in-depth look at the suit later today when it is formally announced.

Medical marijuana turns 15 years old – Has it reached its zenith?

November 4th, 2011

Tomorrow, November 5th, 2011, marks the fifteenth anniversary of California’s passage of Prop 215, The Compassionate Use Act. The Act passed with 55.58% of the vote and remains the greatest achievement in marijuana law reform in the “War on Drugs” era.

NORML's Chart of Legalization Polls - data compiled by Russ Belville from various organizations asking a form of the question "Should marijuana be legalized in America?" (click graphic for full-sized version)

The successes of Prop 215 are well documented.  Two years following its passage, the rest of the West Coast and Alaska passed their own medical marijuana initiatives, with close to equal (OR 55%) or greater (WA 59% & AK 58%) support than California voters gave Prop 215.

The next decade saw twelve more states and the District of Columbia passing medical marijuana laws, with seven of those states doing so through the legislature.  Five of the citizen initiatives topped 60% support.  As states passed medical marijuana, some added more conditions for qualification, some legislated dispensary operations, and the most recent have instituted protections for the rights of patients to drive, work, have a home, get an organ transplant, and raise their kids.  In some ways, medical marijuana has improved in fifteen years.

In the 21st Century, medical marijuana support has flatlined and support for legalization of marijuana has almost doubled.

But a closer examination reveals a reform strategy that has stalled out and may even be in decline.  The last election saw Oregon fail to pass a dispensary measure for the second time with about the same support after six years.  South Dakota defeated medical marijuana with only 36% support, a drop of 12 points since they tried in 2006.  Arizona only barely passed medical marijuana with 50.13% support, when they had previously seen 65% in 1996 and 64% in a 1998 referendum (both 1990’s Arizona Acts were invalidated.)

Indeed, the national polls show a stalling on the medical marijuana issue as well.  When Gallup asked about support for medical marijuana and legalized marijuana in 1999, support was 73% and 29%, respectively.  We assume that someone who supports legalization for healthy people probably supports legalization for sick people, too, so that means 44% of those polled only support medical marijuana, not legalization.  But in the latest 2011 poll, legalization support has hit 50% while in the 2010 poll, medical support had dropped to 70%, down 8 points since 2005.  How has the support for legalization doubled (25% to 50%) since Prop 215 while support for making a medical exception to criminal marijuana has flatlined?

Your Bill of Rights does not fully apply in the shaded states

We’ve seen how courts, legislatures, and law enforcement have supported medical exceptions – by trying to make those exceptions as narrow and costly as possible.  No state followed California’s lead in making marijuana available by doctor’s recommendation for any other illness for which marijuana provides relief”, instead crafting strict condition lists and patient registries.  The West Coast standard of a dozen or more home-grown plants became 3-6 plants or no home growing at all.  The precedent of a half-pound or more of usable medicine became 1 or 2 ounces, tracked to the gram and filmed at all times.  Courts all across the Ninth Circuit have ruled that medical marijuana use does not protect patients from job discrimination and patients still experience housing, child custody, and medical procedure discrimination on a daily basis.

Medical marijuana laws have become stricter since California's Prop 215

Oregon legislators proclaimed the medical marijuana program rife with abuse on the sole evidence that 50,000 patients had signed on, so they doubled the mandatory registry fee (up to ten times greater if you’re poor and previously got a discounted fee) to reduce the medical marijuana registry numbers.  Oregon sheriffs are in agreement with the ATF that patients have no Second Amendment rights.  Colorado legislators passed a series of medical marijuana business regulations making it more difficult and expensive to operate a dispensary than a liquor store and impossible to be a personal caregiver who just supplies marijuana to a patient.  Montana outright repealed medical marijuana, saved only by a governor’s veto, only to enact new strict regulations to decimate (literally) the medical marijuana program.  California localities continue to restrict dispensary operations.  Washington’s governor vetoed a dispensary measure.  Arizona’s governor is stonewalling implementation of dispensaries.  Alaska, Maine, Nevada, and Vermont still have fewer than 1,000 protected patients.  New Jersey and District of Columbia leaders are dragging their feet and haven’t implemented their programs yet.

What don't we have on site? Spell check.

The basis of medical marijuana restrictions and discrimination depends on a federal Schedule I designation that defines the use of cannabis by healthy people a criminal act.  These restrictions, dropping poll numbers, and failing medical marijuana initiatives indicate a substantial portion of Americans that believe “compassionate use” is a ruse (I wonder what gave them that idea?).

I believe that there are three basic stands on medical marijuana among the voters not personally invested in the issue:

  1. The people who believe pot smoking is evil and will never support anyone using it for any reason (“prohibitionists”).
  2. The people who believe pot smoking is evil, but letting cancer and AIDS patients suffer is more evil (“medicalizers”).
  3. The people who don’t believe pot smoking is evil and would allow any adult to use it (“legalizers”).

If there are 1.5 million pot smokers protected from arrest by medical marijuana laws, why have marijuana arrests continued to climb?

The prohibitionists will never support medical marijuana and the legalizers have always supported medical marijuana.  So the fate of any medical marijuana proposal rests on whether a coalition of legalizers and medicalizers can form a majority.  Over the past fifteen years, forming that majority has required more restrictive definitions of medical marijuana to assuage the medicalizers who increasingly think evil pot smokers are getting through the loopholes.  Worse, forming that coalition requires legalizers to tacitly agree that healthy pot smoking is evil.

When medical marijuana began in the Nineties, the rallying cry was “If there’s going to be a ‘War on Drugs’, let’s get the sick and dying off the battlefield.”  If that’s the case, why do we continue to see a rise in “casualties” on the battlefield?  Even in medical marijuana states, annual arrests of cannabis consumers continue to rise.  All medical marijuana has done for marijuana convicts is improve their population’s average level of health in sixteen states.

It's time to stand up for healthy marijuana users

Medical marijuana started a revitalization of marijuana activism.  But I believe it has reached a point where any future medical marijuana laws will have to be increasingly restrictive.  And the near future holds DEA rescheduling of plant THC for use by Big Pharma in devices that will provide all the medical relief without the “high”, which will cleave some of the medicalizers away from further reforms.  We’ve gotten to a point in time where half as many people only support “medical legalization” over a decade and support of legalization for all adults now outnumbers opposition for the first time.

This is not to argue that we give up on medical marijuana campaigns.  It is to argue that the campaigns need to be re-framed away from “Oh, no, this isn’t legalization at all!” to “Yes, we’re going to legalize for sick people first”.  Until marijuana is supported as a good thing for all and not an evil thing we allow medical exceptions for, medical marijuana patients will remain in second-class citizenship and healthy marijuana smokers will remain behind bars.

Week in Weed: October 9th-22nd

October 25th, 2011

This Week in WeedThere was a slight delay due to the website relaunch, but the latest episode of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

After a decidedly negative installment last week, we bring you good news! Our stories this week include a new Gallup poll that shows over 50% of Americans support marijuana legalization for the first time ever and one of the largest physicians’ groups in the country calls to legalize and regulate cannabis.

Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv each Thursday afternoon to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.