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Women Are Stepping Up For Legalization

NORML - Wed, 04/05/2016 - 15:44

A new CBS poll released on 4/20 is the first to show majority female support for marijuana legalization in the US. Though still trailing the 59% of men who are in favor of legalization, 54% of women now say they support it too.

Last year’s CBS poll found that only 43% of women were pro-legalization, versus 54% of men, an 11-point gap. This year’s poll narrows the gap to 5 points and represents an 11% jump in support from women in only one year’s time.

National polls in recent years have shown women’s support for legalization as high as 48%, but always trailing men’s approval by 8-13 points. Women are also around 15% less likely to admit that they have tried marijuana.

The same is true regionally: in Florida a 2015 Quinnipac poll found again 57% of men supported legalization and only 46% of women did. And if marijuana were to be legalized for recreational use in the state, 70 percent of women said they would ‘definitely not use’ it, compared to 59 percent of men.

Similarly in Ohio, there was a 12% differential between men at 59% support and women at 47%; and 71 percent of women, and only 57 percent of men, said they would ‘definitely not use’ legal marijuana.

But now perhaps we have reached a tipping point on women coming over to seeing the light of legalization. When I checked in January of this year, Cal NORML’s Twitter followers were 75% male, down from 85% a few months earlier; they’re now down to 66% male, a 20% drop in less than 6 months.

One reason for the shift, I think, is the increased number of female leaders at NORML chapters across the country, changing the perception of what a marijuana enthusiast looks like and giving women voters a greater comfort zone to voice their own support. A quick list of those leaders compiled by NORML Outreach Coordinator Kevin Mahmalji are:

  • Eleanore Ahrens – Southeast Ohio NORML
  • Vera Allen – Minnesota NORML
  • Trish Bertrand – Springfield NORML
  • Roseann Boffa – Los Angeles NORML
  • Cara Bonin – Houston NORML
  • Jes Bossems – Jefferson Area, Virginia NORML
  • Monica Chavez – New Mexico NORML
  • Cynthia Ferguson – Delaware NORML
  • Jax Finkle – Texas NORML
  • Karen Goldstein – Florida NORML
  • Kandice Hawes – Orange County, California NORML
  • Laura Judy – National Office
  • Jamie Kacz – Kansas City NORML
  • Danielle Keane – National Office
  • Ellen Komp – California NORML
  • Jessica Lee – Nacogdoches NORML
  • Jenni Morgan – National Office
  • Cher Neufer – Ohio NORML
  • Theresa Nightingale – Pittsburgh NORML
  • Danica Noble – NORML Women of Washington
  • Pam Novy – Virginia NORML
  • Jenn Michelle Pedini – Richmond NORML
  • Jordan Person – Denver NORML
  • Sharron Ravert – Peachtree, Georgia NORML
  • Carrie Satterwhite – Wyoming NORML
  • Mary Smith – Toledo NORML
  • Jessica Struzik – Northern Wisconsin NORML
  • Danielle Vitale – O’Brien – Miami Valley, Ohio NORML
  • Destiny Young – San Antonio NORML

Women everywhere are getting the message. “It is not as harmful as alcohol … It also helps medical conditions as a more natural substitute to pharmaceuticals,” one 46-year-old woman told Pew pollsters in 2015. “I think crime would be lower if they legalized marijuana,” said another woman, aged 62. “It would put the drug dealers out of business.”

Campaigns directed at women in states with legalization measures seem to have had an effect. Only 49 percent of women polled in favor of Colorado’s 2012 legalization measure, but 53 percent of them voted for it. The majority of women voters in Washington State also voted in favor of that state’s measure to legalize.

Many people are aware that women helped bring about alcohol prohibition in 1919. What many don’t know is that women were also instrumental in repealing prohibition, notably Pauline Sabin, the Republican socialite for whom NORML’s award recognizing women’s leadership is named. It seems that women are now also key in bringing about marijuana legalization.

Vermont: House Members Turn Back Marijuana Reform Efforts

NORML - Tue, 03/05/2016 - 17:52

Members of the Vermont House spent over six hours today debating various amendments to reform marijuana policy, but ultimately decided against enacting any significant changes in law.

House lawmakers voted 121 to 28 to reject Senate-approved language that sought to regulate the adult use, commercial production, and retail sale of marijuana. Although Gov. Peter Shumlin and Attorney General William Sorrell publicly supported the effort, House members expressed little interest in seriously considering the measure.

House members also rejected an alternative measure that sought to expand the state’s existing decriminalization law to also include the personal cultivation of marijuana. Representatives voted 77 to 70 to reject the ammendment.

Representatives also debated whether or not to put forward the question, “Should Vermont legalize marijuana for recreational purposes?” before voters as a non-binding initiative during the upcoming August primary election. Lawmakers decided against the proposal by a vote of 97 to 51.

House lawmakers narrowly voted 77 to 68 in favor of provisions establishing an advisory commission to make recommendations to the legislature with regard to future marijuana policy. Specifically, the commission would be tasked with “propos[ing] a comprehensive regulatory and revenue structure that establishes controlled access to marijuana in a manner that, when compared to the current illegal marijuana market, increases public safety and reduces harm to public health.” Those recommendations would be due by December 15, 2016.

House and Senate lawmakers previously approved a study commission in 2014. That commission’s report summarized various alternative regulatory schemes but made no recommendations with regard to if and how lawmakers should ultimately amend state law.

The amended measure now awaits a concurrence vote by the Senate.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Gov. Shumlin said, “It is incredibly disappointing … that a majority of the House has shown a remarkable disregard for the sentiment of most Vermonters who understand that we must pursue a smarter policy when it comes to marijuana in this state.”

The Next Step Towards Marijuana Justice: Don’t Forget the POWs

NORML - Mon, 02/05/2016 - 05:35

As we continue the march towards ending marijuana prohibition and legalizing the responsible use of marijuana, there remains a moral imperative that we must confront head-on: we must not forget those whose lives have been destroyed by prohibition — the POWs of the war on marijuana.

I’m specifically talking about the thousands of state and federal prisoners who were convicted of non-violent marijuana offenses – frequently involving large-scale cultivation or smuggling efforts – and who were sentenced to long prison sentences, frequently longer sentences than those given to violent criminals, and the hundreds of thousands of individuals who are no longer incarcerated, but who bear the unfair burden of a criminal record for conduct that is now becoming legal in more and more states.

A Fresh Look at Smugglers, Dealers and Large Scale Cultivators

For decades, the anti-marijuana propaganda machine in this country demonized those who smuggled, grew or sold marijuana. They were not seen just as citizens willing to ignore the dominant social norms and attendant legal risks of providing a product that millions of Americans wanted, and were willing to pay a premium price to obtain. Rather they were portrayed as evil individuals whose purpose in life was to corrupt and addict our youth and undermine our nation’s strength.

After all, if marijuana caused otherwise ordinary citizens to become depraved animals, leading to unthinkable acts of brutality, and eventually ending with insanity, as was the official party line, then of course those who allowed this threat to continue, and who enabled it by their actions, were perceived as worse than those who committed acts of violence. And routinely they were given harsher sentences than those who were committing violent crimes.

Today, as the country has become more familiar with and accepting of marijuana smoking, those earlier assumptions about the dangers of marijuana seem absurd and fanciful, and it is difficult to imagine they were ever accepted as fact. But they were, and the result was more than 30 million marijuana arrests.

The Perspective of Those of Us Who Smoke

First, let me make the obvious point that if no one would have had the courage to risk arrest and jail for smuggling, growing or selling marijuana, we smokers would have had no marijuana to smoke for all these years.

But even more importantly, without a thriving underground marijuana market in America, there would have been no serious marijuana legalization movement, and we would not have four states and the District of Columbia with legal marijuana, and more to come in November.

Ending prohibition might never have occurred if this were simply a theoretical argument about the wisdom of criminalizing marijuana. It is occurring because there are tens of millions of Americans who very much enjoy their marijuana, regardless of its legal status, and who were passionate about the need to bring it above ground and end prohibition.

Without a reasonably steady supply of black-market marijuana, this topic would be of interest to political science and sociology professors, but it would not be an enormous social movement with the political power to change laws and policy for the better.

So instead of demonizing these brave adventurers who were willing to provide us with marijuana, despite the enormous personal risk, we should be recognizing their role in getting us to where we are today, and taking whatever steps we can to minimize the harm so many of them have suffered. That means those who remain in jail or prison should be released, if what they were convicted of is now being legalized; and those who remain unable to vote or are otherwise limited professionally because of a marijuana conviction should have their records expunged.

I know that some are even calling for those who have been victimized by prohibition to be paid reparations for the damages they suffered, just as people who are proven innocent after years of imprisonment are frequently reimbursed for their suffering. While I see the innate justice in that suggestion, I recognize that is simply not a politically realistic option, at least for now.

But we should, and must, do what we can to restore to health those many lives we have unfairly damaged and destroyed, and we need to begin the public debate now. Once one acknowledges that marijuana is far safer than alcohol or tobacco, and a large majority of Americans now understand this basic fact, then there is simply no rational basis to leave non-violent marijuana offenders in jail or prison, or to limit their ability to succeed and enjoy a full and rewarding life, because of a past non-violent marijuana conviction on their record. A failure to help those previously convicted under prohibition would leave a moral stain on the legalization movement.

The Gentlemen Smugglers

I was reminded of this aspect of ending marijuana prohibition by a visit recently with Barry Foy, an old marijuana smuggler who was featured in the Wall Street Journal best-selling book by Jason Ryan titled Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting That Launched the War on Drugs. This is a real-life adventure by a group of fun-loving southern gentlemen based in South Carolina who successfully smuggled tons of marijuana into the US during the Ronald Reagan years, before eventually being caught and serving substantial prison sentences. These were middle-class adventurers who eschewed violence but thoroughly enjoyed the excitement, glamor, and pleasures available to those willing to live on the edge — the lifestyle celebrated in many Jimmy Buffett ballads.

These smugglers eventually married and had families, and when they were not smuggling marijuana, were indistinguishable from their more-ordinary friends and neighbors. Following a 13-year run, they were eventually taken down, not on smuggling charges, but like Al Capone, on tax-evasion charges, with Barry receiving an 18-year sentence (he served 11) and his partner receiving a 25-year sentence (he served 17 years). Yet today, both former smugglers say they have no regrets and remain unrepentant.

I am fully aware that we have much work to accomplish before marijuana smokers are treated in a totally fair manner. I have written frequently about the need to fix the laws that currently permit smokers to lose their jobs for testing positive for THC, without any showing of impairment on the job; the morally offensive policy of assuming parents who smoke marijuana are unfit parents, who must fight to retain custody of their minor children; and the factually unfair policy of treating those with THC in their system as presumed guilty of a DUID offense, without any showing they were driving in an impaired condition. Each of these areas must be revisited to protect the rights of responsible marijuana smokers.

But even as we move more and more states into the legalization column, we must not forget the need to reach back and minimize the harm we have caused to tens of thousands of our fellow citizens by labeling them as criminals for smuggling, growing or selling marijuana to those of us who wanted it. Like marijuana smokers, they too are largely ordinary folks, perhaps with a flair for living an adventurous life, with families and friends who very much care about them, and they should never have been treated with such contempt simply for ignoring the dictates of a failed policy called marijuana prohibition.

_______________________________________________________________________________

This column originally ran in Marijuana.com

 

NORML’s Legislative Round Up April 29th, 2016

NORML - Fri, 29/04/2016 - 13:10

A legalization initiative has officially qualified the ballot this November and separate legislative measures around the country continue to advance. Keep reading below to learn the latest legislative developments.

Alabama: Members of both chambers approved legislation this week, House Bill 61, to protect qualified patients eligible for CBD therapy under a physician’s authorization from criminal prosecution. The measure, known as ‘Leni’s Law’, seeks to allow qualified patients to possess CBD preparations containing up to three percent THC. The measure passed in the Senate by a vote of 29 to 3 and in the House in a 95 to 4 vote. The measure now awaits action from Gov. Robert Bentley. #TakeAction

California: A prominent GOP Congressman has endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which seeks to regulate the adult use, production, and retail sale of cannabis. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) announced, “As a Republican who believes in individual freedom, limited government and states’ rights, I believe that it’s time for California to lead the nation and create a safe, legal system for the responsible adult use of marijuana.” He added: “I endorse the Adult Use of Marijuana Act for the November 2016 ballot. It is a necessary reform which will end the failed system of marijuana prohibition in our state, provide California law enforcement the resources it needs to redouble its focus on serious crimes while providing a policy blueprint for other states to follow.” You can learn more about the initiative here.

Florida: Another Florida municipality has given preliminary approval to a proposed ordinance permitting police to cite, rather than arrest, minor marijuana offenders. Members of St. Petersburg’s Public Safety and Infrastructure Committee voted in favor of the policy that would create a system of fines that would begin at $75 for those caught holding 20 grams or less of cannabis. Two versions of the plan, one that one that would mandate police issue a citation and another that gives the officer the option to do so, will head to the full city council for a final vote in early May. Under state law, possessing any amount of marijuana is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine.

Maine: Maine voters will decide on election day on a statewide ballot measure seeking to regulate the adult use, retail sale, and commercial production of cannabis. The Secretary of State determined this week that initiative proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, gathered a sufficient number of signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The office had previously attempted to invalidate a significant portion of proponents’ signatures, but that effort was rejected by the courts earlier this month.

If enacted by voters in November, the measure would allow adults to legally possess up to two and one-half ounces of marijuana and to cultivate marijuana (up to six mature plants and the entire yields of said plants) for their own personal use.

North Carolina: House legislation was introduced this week to permit the limited use of medical marijuana. House Bill 983 exempts patients engaging in the physicians-recommended use of cannabis to treat a chronic or terminal illness from criminal prosecution under state law. Qualifying patients must possess a tax stamp issued by the state department of Revenue, and may possess no more than three ounces of cannabis at any one time. The proposal does not permit patients to cultivate their own cannabis, nor does it establish a state-licensed supply source. #TakeAction

 

Don’t forget, NORML’s 2016 National Conference and Lobby Day is being held May 23rd and 24th! We’ll hold an informational seminar where activists from around the country hear from the leaders of the movement, we’ll keep the party going at the Mansion on O St. with our annual award ceremony and finally, we’ll conclude on the Hill where attendees w
ill hear from and meet leaders in Congress who are doing their best to reform our federal marijuana laws! You can register here.

Denver and Alaska Set to Push Legalization Envelope

NORML - Thu, 28/04/2016 - 09:30

News out of Anchorage and Denver this week was good for marijuana smokers, as both the city of Denver and the state of Alaska moved closer to the legalization of marijuana social clubs. Smokers could thus socialize in a venue with other adults where marijuana smoking would be legal.

Until now, in the states that have legalized recreational use (and in the District of Columbia), marijuana smokers are only permitted to exercise their newly won freedom in their home or as a guest in someone else’s home. Holland-style coffee shops or marijuana lounges were not legalized by those early voter initiatives.

That is about to change.

Denver

Denver NORML and The Committee for the Responsible Use Initiative in Denver have announced the final language for their municipal initiative. They expect to be cleared this week by the city to begin circulating petitions seeking the signature of registered voters, putting the issue on the ballot for voters to decide in November.

The proposal would license and regulate private marijuana social clubs and special events where adult marijuana smoking would be legal. The state legislature had earlier indicated some interest in amending state law to permit marijuana social clubs, but when that stalled, Denver NORML began to move forward with their municipal voter initiative. Clubs could not sell or distribute marijuana, and bars, nightclubs and restaurants could not become private marijuana clubs or host special events.

The most current polling suggests the proposal is favored by a clear majority (56%) of voters in Denver.

Denver NORML executive director Jordon Person offered this appraisal of the proposed initiative. “Passage of this ordinance would be a historic first step in moving towards the ultimate goal of normalizing the consumption of marijuana in our country. The initiative would provide responsible adults a legally defined space where marijuana could be consumed and shared with other like-minded adults — a simple, yet necessary accommodation for states that have passed some form of legalization. This is a pragmatic approach that focuses on the basics and provides the city of Denver a solution to an issue that is not going away.”

Proponents have until August 15 to collect 5,000 valid signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

Alaska

In Alaska, the decision to license some version of marijuana lounges was made by the Alaska Marijuana Control Board last November, and this week the board issued draft regulations to define when and where “on-site consumption” would be permitted.

The proposed regulations are now open for public comment before the board finalizes them.

While the outline is still tentative, marijuana cafes would be permitted only in conjunction with an existing marijuana retail store, on the same premises, either indoor or outdoor, but with a separate entrance and separate serving area. A separate license would be required for on-site consumption.

Customers could purchase small amounts of marijuana ( 1 gram of marijuana, edibles with up to 10 milligrams of THC, or .25 grams of marijuana concentrates) to consume on-site and would not be permitted to bring their own marijuana to smoke on-site. Strangely, they would be required to leave any unfinished marijuana behind to be destroyed, and “happy hours” would not be permitted. Marijuana lounges would be permitted to sell food and non-alcohol beverages.

Marijuana Control Board chair Bruce Schulte explained the board was proceeding with a degree of caution, because this is new territory for state legalization regulatory agencies. One of the more difficult issues the board had to deal with, according to board member Brandon Emmett, was whether to permit dabbing.

Laboratories of Democracy

As former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “a state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Denver and Alaska are exercising that important role as we move forward with better and better versions of legalization. What we learn from these initial experiments with marijuana social clubs will inform subsequent states in the coming years.

This column first ran on Marijuana.com.

 http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2016/04/denver-and-alaska-set-to-push-the-legalization-envelope/

Maine: Marijuana Regulation Initiative Cleared For November Ballot

NORML - Wed, 27/04/2016 - 16:08

It’s finally official. Maine voters will decide on Election Day on a statewide ballot measure seeking to regulate the adult use, retail sale, and commercial production of cannabis.

The Secretary of State determined today that initiative proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, gathered a sufficient number of signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The office had previously attempted to invalidate a significant portion of proponents’ signatures, but that effort was rejected by the courts earlier this month.

If enacted by voters in November, the measure would allow adults to legally possess up to two and one-half ounces of marijuana and to cultivate marijuana (up to six mature plants and the entire yields of said plants) for their own personal use. The measure would also establish licensing for the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis. Retail sales of cannabis would be subject to a ten percent sales tax. Non-commercial transactions and/or retail sales involving medical cannabis would not be subject to taxation. You can read the full text of the proposed initiative here.

Maine is one of a number of states — including Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Nevada — where voters are expected to decide this fall on legalizing the adult use of cannabis. According to statewide survey data provided by the Maine People’s Resource Center, nearly 54 percent of likely Maine voters would approve the initiative if the election were held today. Only 42 percent of respondents said they would oppose it.

Join Us In Washington D.C. For Our 2016 National Conference and Congressional Lobby Day

NORML - Wed, 27/04/2016 - 12:55

We are excited to have finalized the agenda for our 2016 National Conference and Congressional Lobby Day! You can check out the full itinerary here.

Day one will include panel discussions on a variety of topics, including the prospects of marijuana law reform in the 114th Congress, the ongoing experience with legalization in Colorado, Washington, and other states, and post prohibition concerns for marijuana consumers. Throughout the day attendees will hear policy experts from NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, Americans for Safe Access, the National Cannabis Industries Association, and many others

NORML’s Conference seminar takes place on Monday, May 23rd, at the GW Elliot School of International Affairs located at 1957 E Street NW in Washington D.C. Register now here.

Following the seminar, attendees will head to the Mansion on O Street (2020 O St NW) for our NORML Social. Here, attendees will kick back and relax with fellow advocates and share stories of their activism. We will also be holding our 2016 Awards Ceremony, to honor our most dedicated activists and shine light on the hard work they’ve put in throughout the years. You won’t want to miss this event and entry is not included in your general Lobby Day registration. You can purchase a separate ticket to the NORML Social here.

On Tuesday morning attendees will meet on Capitol Hill for a morning reception to hear from our allies in Congress who are leading federal marijuana law reform efforts. Following that, attendees will separate into groups based on voting district/state and together will visit their federally elected officials offices to discuss with them the importance of ending the federal prohibition of marijuana.

**If you’re already registered to attend our 2016 Congressional Lobby Day, please contact your federally elected officials Washington D.C. office to schedule an appointment to talk with a staffer on Tuesday, May 24th. Walk-ins are generally not supported. If you have questions or would like assistance with this please email danielle@norml.org.**

If your organization would like to help support NORML’s 2016 Congressional Lobby Day please consider becoming a sponsor! More information on sponsorships is available here.

We can’t wait to gather like minded activists, volunteers, lobbyists, and marijuana consumers all together under one roof to discuss the state of marijuana law reform around the country, to honor our MVP’s of the movement and to lobby our federally elected officials together. Register today!

Study: Opioid Abuse Rates Lower In Medical Cannabis States

NORML - Tue, 26/04/2016 - 10:00

Rates of prescription opioid abuse are significantly lower in jurisdictions that permit medical marijuana access, according to data reported by Castlight Health, an employee health benefits platform provider.

Investigators assessed anonymous prescription reporting data from over one million employees between the years 2011 and 2015.

In states that did not permit medical marijuana access, 5.4 percent of individuals with an opioid prescription qualified as abusers of the drug. (The study’s authors defined “abuse” as opioid use by an individual who was not receiving palliative care, who received greater than a 90-day cumulative supply of opioids, and received an opioid prescription from four or more providers.) By contrast, only 2.8 percent of individuals with an opioid prescription living in medical marijuana states met the criteria.

The findings are similar to those reported by the RAND Corporation in 2015, which determined, “[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”

Data published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine also reported that the enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, finding, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

Full text of the new study, “The opioid crisis in America’s workforce,” appears online here.

Who Smokes Marijuana In America?

NORML - Mon, 25/04/2016 - 10:55

We know that roughly half the adults in the entire country have smoked marijuana at some point in their lives, and that more than 30 million Americans have smoked just in the last year, a number that continues to increase each year. What is not so clear is precisely who smokes marijuana. If one were to rely on the popular culture for that answer, you might conclude marijuana smokers are cultural misfits living a lifestyle better suited for the 1960s and 70s.

The Current Inaccurate Images Held by Non-Smokers

Because of a number of factors resulting from prohibition (i.e., recreational marijuana smoking remains illegal in most states; a social stigma still attaches to marijuana smoking; and most middle-class marijuana smokers must remain “in the closet” to protect their jobs), the public image of marijuana smokers has been largely shaped by those on the fringes of the marijuana culture. Too often the result, fueled by stoner movies and popular culture, has been a cartoon-like image of the stoned slacker whose life is all about getting and staying stoned all day.

While most of us who smoke marijuana have learned to enjoy the humor, it has without question held us back politically.

Because of those negative stereotypes, even in the states that have legalized marijuana and stopped arresting smokers, marijuana smokers are simply not treated fairly in a number of important areas that impact us on a daily basis. Private employers are still legally permitted to fire an employee who tests positive for THC without any evidence the employee came to work in an impaired condition. Child welfare agencies across the country routinely presume that any use of marijuana by a parent with minor children is evidence suggesting the parent may be unfit to retain custody of his/her child. And marijuana smokers remain subject to arrest and prosecution for a DUID charge, simply because some level of THC was found in their system , without any showing of impairment. These and other discriminatory practices would not be tolerated if those of us who smoke were seen as good, responsible citizens.

Who Smokes Marijuana Today?

While the survey was far too small to provide statistically significant data, a recent poll designed to learn more about the demographics of marijuana smokers does allow us to peek behind the curtain that continues to mask the identity of most marijuana smokers. This new poll, the Civilized Cannabis Culture Poll, suggests those negative stereotypes common in the media are pure fiction and do not accurately reflect the marijuana smoking culture in America. They found that smokers are just average people with families, careers and full lives, in addition to their marijuana smoking.

So We’re Not Slackers, After All

According to the Civilized poll results, most marijuana consumers are homeowners (66%); 74% are employed ; half have a household income of $75,000 or higher; 51% hold supervisory or executive roles at work; 52% have completed college or university-level programs; and 78% are married with children.

That sounds pretty mainstream and middle-class to me.

The poll also confirmed that most (73%) marijuana smokers admit they sometimes feel the need to hide their marijuana smoking from their family members, friends, or colleagues at work. Twenty-four percent of the men reported hiding their use from their wives or significant others, while 17% of women said they did the same. The percentage using marijuana surreptitiously was highest among young smokers and higher-income smokers. Without question, some social stigma remains attached to marijuana use, causing many smokers to keep their marijuana smoking a private matter.

This survey found that once smokers reach retirement age, more people feel free to come out of the closet. Less than 7% of those over 45 years of age said they hid it from their spouse or partner. Apparently there are some advantages to age, and being honest about one’s marijuana use is one of those.

Get To Know Your Neighbors

All of which brings me back to the need for more middle-class marijuana smokers to let their friends and neighbors and, where possible, their colleagues at work, know they are responsible marijuana smokers in addition to being good neighbors and loving parents.

If non-smokers understand that we are just like them, except that we prefer to smoke a joint at the end of the day to relax, just as tens of millions of other Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, then we can finally overcome the remaining obstacles that keep us from enjoying the same rights as all other citizens.

We do not need to blow smoke in the face of those who do not approve of marijuana, but we do need to demonstrate by our conduct that we are good, productive citizens. Our use of marijuana is just one aspect of our lives and nothing that should concern them.

Until we do this, we will continue to face unfair discrimination based solely on our choice of intoxicants. We have the ability to end marijuana discrimination, and we have the obligation to try.

We are only incidentally talking about marijuana smoking. We are really talking about personal freedom and equality.

________________________________________________________________________

This column was originally posted on marijuana.com:
Read more http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2016/04/who-smokes-marijuana-in-america/

 

NORML’s Legislative Round Up April 22nd, 2016

NORML - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 09:52

We’ve got federal news for you and an encouraging announcement out of Canada this week. Plus we’ll update you on pending state legislation across the country. Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform!

International:

Canada: The country’s health minister announced this week that federal legislation to legalize marijuana for adult use will be introduced in spring of 2017. Speaking at a special session before the UN, the minister said, “”We will work with law enforcement partners to encourage appropriate and proportionate criminal justice measures. We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem.”

Federal:

NORML Board member Evan Nison appeared on Good Morning America on Wednesday to ask Hillary Clinton her thoughts on legalization. Check out the clip here:

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee once again voted in favor of the Mikulski medical marijuana amendment. The provision prohibits the Justice Department, including the DEA, from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. Members of the Senate and House approved similar language last year.

A bipartisan group of 26 Senators and Representatives signed a letter last week urging President Obama to remove federal barriers that limit clinical cannabis research.

“Twenty-three states have passed laws establishing medical cannabis programs and an additional seventeen have passed laws regarding the medical use of cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from cannabis,” the Senators and Representatives wrote in the letter. “Despite these developments, researchers, doctors, and patients in these forty states are still subject to federal barriers impeding innovation and medical research. Until we have comprehensive scientific research on the medical risks and benefits of cannabis and its derivatives, we will continue to debate this issue on the basis of outdated ideology instead of modern science.”

State:

Florida: Members of the Orlando City Council voted 4-3 in favor of an ordinance to give local police the option of citing, rather than arresting, marijuana possession offenders. The second reading for the measure will be May 8th. If you live in Orlando, contact your City Commissioner and urge their support for this common sense proposal!

Louisiana: Members of the Senate this week decided in favor of legislation, SB 271 to amend the state’s dormant medical marijuana law. Despite vocal opposition from law enforcement groups, members of the Senate voted 21 to 16 in favor of the measure on Wednesday, April 20th. The bill now awaits action from members of the House.

Ohio: Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, Senate Bill 204, so that drug offenses are no longer punishable by a mandatory loss of one’s driver’s license. Under existing law, any drug conviction carries a mandatory driver’s license suspension of at least six months, even in cases where the possession offense did not take place in a vehicle. Senate Bill 204 would make such suspensions discretionary rather than mandatory. With no public opposition, the bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration. #TakeAction

New Hampshire: For the seventh year in a row, members of the Senate Judiciary committee voted to kill marijuana decriminalization. House Bill 1631 sought to amend state law so that offenses involving the possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana would be classified as a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense — no arrest, and no criminal record. New Hampshire remains the last state in New England that has not decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Washington D.C.: D.C. Council voted to permanently ban the creation of private clubs for marijuana consumption in the district this week. The legislation, approved in a 7-6 vote, modifies DC’s laws to add private-membership organizations to the list of public venues, and makes permanent a temporary ban the Council implemented in February when a few clubs sprouted up. The vote came just hours before a Council created “task-force” on marijuana clubs was scheduled to hold its first meeting.

On Wednesday, NORML released our 2016 Congressional Scorecard. An all encompassing database that assigns a letter grade, ‘A’ through ‘F’, to members of Congress based on their marijuana-related comments and voting records. Be sure to check out what grade your federally elected officials received and share the Scorecard with friends and family so they become engaged voters too!

CBS Poll: Majority Of Americans Say ‘Marijuana Use Should Be Legal’

NORML - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 12:00

Fifty-six percent of Americans say “Marijuana use should be legal,” according to the results of a nationwide poll commissioned by CBS News. The percentage is the highest ever reported by news agency.

Only 36 percent of respondents said that they opposed legalization.

Seventy-one percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 said that marijuana use ought to be legal, an increase of 10 percent since CBS posed the question last year. Among those age 35 to 64, 57 percent of respondents backed legalization, while only 31 percent of those age 65 or older did so.

Men (59 percent) were more likely than women (54 percent) to support making marijuana use legal. Democrats (63 percent) and Independents (58 percent) were far more likely to support legalization compared to Republicans (44 percent).

In response to a separate polling question, 51 percent of Americans admitted having consumed cannabis, up from 34 percent in 1997.

The poll possesses a margin of error of +/- four percent.

The CBS survey results are similar to those of other recent national polls, such as those by reported by Gallup, CBS, and Pew, finding that a majority of Americans now support ending marijuana prohibition.

420: It’s Time To Get Involved in the Legalization Movement

NORML - Wed, 20/04/2016 - 07:05

It is a wonderful time to be a marijuana smoker. Marijuana prohibition is coming to an end, and with it, the practice of treating marijuana smokers as criminals. Prohibition is being replaced with a legally regulated market, where consumers can buy their marijuana in a safe environment and know the product they are buying is safe. We still have a lot of work to do, but the tide of public support is clearly on our side.

At NORML, we started working to legalize marijuana in late 1970, when only 12% of the public supported marijuana legalization. For several decades, as we gradually built public support for our position, the 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 no further statewide progress for 18 years, when CA became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996. A total of 25 states now enjoy a version of legal medical marijuana.

Our first dramatic breakthrough with full legalization for all adults, regardless of why they smoke, came in 2012 when Colorado and Washington both legalized marijuana via voter initiative. Those initial successes were followed in 2014 by the approval of legalization initiatives in Alaska and Oregon (and the District of Columbia). And this fall, legalization initiatives are expected to qualify for the ballot, and be approved by the voters, in a number of states, including Maine; Massachusetts; Michigan, Nevada, Arizona and California.

What Marijuana Consumers Want

NORML is a marijuana smokers’ lobby; we represent the interests of consumers. Marijuana smokers want a high quality product that is safe, convenient and affordable. We want to know that the marijuana we buy legally has been tested by a state-certified lab for molds and pesticides, and is accurately labeled as to the THC and CBD content. And we don’t expect to pay black market prices for legal pot, or to drive half-way across the state to find a legal retail outlet.

And importantly, we need the option to grow our own marijuana. Most consumers will not likely exercise this option, just as most beer drinkers do not make beer in their basement, although they are legally permitted to do so. By keeping the option of growing our own marijuana, and boycotting those retailers who sell an inferior product or over-charge for their product, we can assure the industry remains responsive to the needs of consumers.

Majority Now Support Full Legalization – But They are Not Pro-Pot

After years of struggle with few victories, legalizers are now winning these political battles not because we have come up with better arguments, or a better strategy; but because we have finally won the hearts and minds of a majority of the American public. They realize prohibition is a failed public policy. But even this crucial point requires further clarification.

Roughly 14% of the American public are marijuana smokers, and of course most of us favor ending prohibition, which continues to result in the arrest of more than 600,000 of our fellow marijuana smokers each year in this country. But 86% of the public are not smokers. So the first point any effective advocate needs to understand is that those of us who smoke simply cannot achieve full legalization by ourselves; we must have the support of a majority of the non-smokers. We must be sensitive to their concerns as we move forward politically.

A recent survey by a DC-based group called the Third Way identified what they called “the marijuana middle.” That is, people who have concluded that prohibition is a failed public policy that causes far more harm than the use of marijuana itself; but they are certainly not pro-pot. This is an important distinction. Even as they agree that we should legalize and regulate marijuana, they nonetheless still have a negative impression of those of us who smoke.  Specifically, 64% of those non-smokers have a negative impression of recreational marijuana smokers.

This is largely the result of the “stupid stoner” stereotypes that too many Americans continue to embrace for recreational users. While many of us who smoke have learned to laugh at those stereotypes when they appear in the popular culture, apparently too many of our fellow citizens fail to see the humor, and take them seriously. They see us as slackers who fail to live-up to our potential, and whose primary interest in life is getting stoned. And until we correct this misimpression, it will be impossible to put in place policies that treat responsible marijuana smokers fairly.

In every policy area that arises, including especially employment discrimination, child custody issues and impaired driving, we need the support of the non-smokers to overcome discriminatory policies that continue to unfairly impact marijuana smokers, even under legalization.

It is only by demonstrating that marijuana smokers are just average Americans who work hard, raise families, pay taxes and contribute in a positive manner to our communities, that we can finally overcome those negative stereotypes that persist. And the best way to accomplish this is to come out of the closet.

The Challenge for the New Generation of Activists

This is the real challenge facing new activists who are just getting involved in the legalization movement. They must convince their non-smoking peers that there is nothing wrong with the responsible use of marijuana.

The latest generation of advocates must come out of the closet in far greater numbers – to stand-up tall and proudly announce that you are a responsible marijuana smoker, as well as a good neighbor and a productive citizen. We must convince the majority of the non-smokers that marijuana smokers are just average Americans – good people – who happen to enjoy smoking marijuana, just as tens of millions of Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day, when they relax.

We need to move the “marijuana middle” to a place where they are emotionally more comfortable with those of us who smoke.

The 2016 NORML Congressional Lobby Day

And there is no better place to prepare to effectively make this argument than the 2016 NORML Congressional Lobby Day on May 23rd and 24th. We will focus on the specific arguments that are most effective when dealing with non-smokers and elected officials, and on the most effective ways to respond to their principal areas of concern. We know from exit polling that those who vote against legalization are generally concerned about the potential danger of more impaired drivers on the road, and on the fear that legalization might result in elevated usage rates among adolescents. Neither concern is valid, but they are real concerns, and we must provide answers to those concerns. We will provide those answers during the lobby training sessions on Monday, May 23.

The following day we will meet on Capitol Hill and hear from a number of our strongest supporters in Congress, before spreading out across the Capitol to lobby our individual members of Congress. For those who may not have done this before, I can assure you it is an exhilarating experience. The act of exercising this most basic democratic right – to petition your elected officials to support your position on marijuana policy – reminds us all that democracies work best when average citizens get involved. And if you join us, it will almost certainly not be your last effort to lobby members of Congress.

The National Cannabis Festival

And I would encourage everyone in the DC area to come out to RFK and join us on Saturday for the National Cannabis Festival, a day-long celebration of all things cannabis, including live entertainment, an educational pavilion, representatives from the various marijuana law reform groups, and more. It’s an excellent opportunity for those new to the issue to meet those with more experience, and to identify those groups they feel comfortable working with in the future.

It’s time to get involved in the legalization movement.

_________________________________________________

This blog post first appeared on the National Cannabis Festival website:

http://nationalcannabisfestival.com/2016/04/19/getting-started-as-a-marijuana-legalization-activist/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy 4/20! NORML Unveils Our 2016 Congressional Scorecard

NORML - Wed, 20/04/2016 - 06:18

NORML would like to wish you a Happy 4/20! In honor of the annual holiday we are pleased to release our 2016 Congressional Scorecard.

With 61 percent of  American adults now advocating that “the use of marijuana should be made legal,” and 67 percent of voters believing states, not the federal government, ought to be the ultimate arbiters of marijuana regulatory policy, it’s no longer acceptable for the federal government to continue to be an impediment to progress.

Do you know where your federally elected officials stand?

Our Congressional Scorecard  is an all-encompassing database that assigns a letter grade ‘A’ through ‘F’ to members of Congress based on their marijuana-related comments and voting records.

Below are some key findings from the Scorecard:

Among the 535 members of the 114th Congress:

  • 312 members (58 percent) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (258 Representatives and 54 Senators)
  • Nineteen members (3.6 percent) received a grade of ‘A’ (17 Representatives and 2 Senators) and 37 members (6.9 percent) received failing grade (20 Representatives and 17 Senators)
  • Of the 233 Democrats in Congress, 208 members (89.3 percent) received a passing grade of a ‘C’ or higher.
  • Of the 302 Republicans in Congress, 102 members (33.8 percent) received a passing grade of a ‘C’ or higher.

You can access the complete 2016 Congressional Scorecard here.

You can read our Executive Summary here.

Projects like this are only possible because of the donations from NORML members. If you find our Congressional Scorecard useful and wish to support NORML’s efforts, please make a donation of at least $4.20 on this 4/20.

Thank you for your continued support and Happy 4/20,
-The NORML Team

P.S. Don’t forget to attend NORML’s 2016 Congressional Lobby Day, May 23-24 in Washington, DC.

Join Us In Aspen for the 2016 NORML Legal Seminar

NORML - Tue, 19/04/2016 - 15:34

We are pleased to announce that Barry Grissom, who until last Friday was the US Attorney for Kansas, will be speaking at the 2016 NORML Aspen Legal Seminar this June in Aspen, CO. The seminar is scheduled for June 2, 3 and 4, 2016.

We have had many wonderful speakers at our various legal seminars over the years, including many former prosecutors, but I believe this is our first former US Attorney to appear on the program. Barry’s topic, on Friday afternoon, will be The Advantages to Ending Marijuana Prohibition from the Perspective of a US Attorney.

If you are a practicing attorney and are expecting to attend the Aspen legal seminar this year, please register soon so we know which states we need to apply for CLE approval. This seminar is also open to non-lawyers.

We have a great program again this year with outstanding speakers, including some new faces, and fascinating topics dealing with cutting edge issues facing criminal defense and marijuana business lawyers today. Whether you are from a state still looking forward to an end to marijuana prohibition, or from one of the states that have begun to experiment with different legalization models, you will leave this seminar with the knowledge that you are current both with the law and the politics of marijuana legalization in America.

And, of course, we guarantee everyone a lively social calendar as well, including an opening reception at the Gant on Thursday; a benefit dinner at the lovely Aspen home of Chris and Gerry Goldstein (catered by Cache Cache chef Chris Lanter) on Friday, and an afternoon cookout with live music at Owl Farm, the guests of Hunter Thompson’s widow, Anita Thompson, on Saturday.

Please register early and reserve a reduced rate condo at the Gant, using code NORML16. We look forward to seeing you in Aspen in early June.

The Growing Acceptance of Marijuana Smoking in Society

NORML - Mon, 18/04/2016 - 07:50

We are at a tipping point in this country regarding the legalization of marijuana, and it is exhilarating to experience the ending of prohibition and the start of legalization. Even as the changes in marijuana policy evolve, however, I find it disturbing that many Americans and most elected officials are still not comfortable with the idea of adults smoking marijuana.

I have always been honest about my marijuana smoking, something relatively easy for me because for much of my adult life I have lived in a protective NORML bubble. We sometimes joke that at NORML we drug test employees, and if they don’t fail, they do not get hired!

In my world, people are not judged by their choice of intoxicants and whether or not they smoke themselves as marijuana smoking is simply no big deal. I realize that my world is atypical. Many Americans, perhaps most, are now willing to permit adults to smoke marijuana, but they would like for us to stay in the closet and keep our marijuana smoking to ourselves. It continues to carry a negative social stigma.

As we approach 4/20, the unofficial national holiday for marijuana smokers, I was asked how the public acceptance of marijuana smoking had changed since I first began smoking 50 years ago.

Enormous Gains in Acceptance

The easy answer, of course, is that we have seen enormous positive gains in the way the general public perceives marijuana smokers and marijuana smoking. The reality is actually more nuanced, and there are issues surrounding the use of marijuana that remain problematic and contribute to the prejudice we continue to experience.

The 1930s, 40s and 50s were the Dark Ages of marijuana prohibition, when marijuana was seen as a serious threat to the public health and safety, presumed to be evil, dangerous and capable of turning ordinary people into violent killers and rapists as well as ultimately leading to insanity. Marijuana smoking was seen as deviant behavior that reflected poorly on one’s character and morality.

Most Americans at the time had never smoked marijuana, knew almost nothing about it and had formed their opinions largely on the exaggerated anti-marijuana propaganda advanced by the government and reflected in major newspapers. While a few “reefer maniacs” remain, the country has moved beyond this ignorant phase of our drug policy history.

By the 1960s, marijuana smoking began to be popular among those on the cutting edge of the cultural revolution then taking place. Use was closely identified with those referred to as “long-haired hippies,” who were seen as lazy, rebellious and undisciplined, often involved in the growing anti-Vietnam War movement and therefore un-American.

The dominant culture feared the changes they were seeing among America’s youth and sometimes blamed marijuana as the cause. Young people were challenging traditional values and lifestyles, experimenting with “free sex” and communal living, trying hallucinogens (encouraged by Tim Leary’s call to “turn-on, tune-in and drop-out”), learning about eastern religions and generally seeking a “higher consciousness.” Marijuana was seen as a symbol for those who were challenging authority.

I first smoked marijuana in 1965 when I was a first year law student at Georgetown Law School in Washington, DC, and I can attest to the necessary fear and paranoia we all felt when we did get together with friends to smoke some weed. People were still being sent to jail for several years for the possession or use of even a little marijuana in many states, and those who took the risk to sell us marijuana were especially vulnerable to long prison sentences.

Naturally, everyone tried to be careful when deciding with whom and where they felt comfortable smoking. At that time, there was no public acceptance of marijuana smoking, and it was considered by most to be the first step towards a heroin habit, There was little tolerance for those who ignored the rules.

When we founded NORML in late 1970, only 12% of the public supported the legalization of marijuana. To most of the other 88%, marijuana smoking was seen as something that would disqualify one from being taken seriously by the mainstream culture. No employer would hire someone who acknowledged their marijuana use, assuming they would be an unfit employee. Most would call the police if they somehow discovered a neighbor was a marijuana smoker, fearing they might present a threat to the neighborhood if left to their own devices.

I recall vividly the reaction from many of my friends and associates when, having graduated from a prestigious law school, I began to be publicly identified with NORML and with marijuana smoking. Most reflected disappointment that I would “waste my time” on such a frivolous issue and some presumed I had lost my moral compass and was advancing an agenda that was misguided and bound to fail. Why would someone who had the good fortune to achieve a good education throw it all away in an effort to legalize marijuana?

Attitudes Today

Compared to those years, we have indeed come a long distance, and the world today seems relatively more enlightened towards marijuana smoking. Even today the President of the United States can joke about his earlier marijuana use without the slightest harm to his standing or credibility. In fact, to some degree it adds to his cachet and makes him more relevant than he might otherwise seem to younger Americans.

Roughly 60% of the country today support full legalization, regardless of why one smokes. While that obviously reflects a higher level of acceptance of marijuana smoking, it does not mean the prejudice against marijuana smokers has ended.

When one digs deeper into the survey data, we find that many of the non-smokers who now support full marijuana legalization do so because they see prohibition as a failed public policy and not because they approve of marijuana smoking. Although they oppose prohibition and favor regulation and control, 64% of those non-smokers have an unfavorable opinion of those of us who smoke. To them, the fact that we choose to smoke marijuana does not justify treating us as criminals but nonetheless causes them to think poorly of us.

The Fight for Social Clubs

We see the continued bias against marijuana smoking as even the first states to legalize marijuana for all adults have made no provisions to permit smoking outside the home. I don’t mean public smoking but rather clubs or venues where marijuana smokers can gather to socialize with other marijuana smokers and share their marijuana with friends.

Led by Denver NORML, efforts are currently underway to pass an initiative that would authorize licenses for marijuana social clubs and special events (think 4/20 and Cannabis Cups), because the city council has balked at efforts to pass similar legislation. Remember, most elected officials in Colorado opposed Amendment 64 when it was on the ballot.

Even in a state that has now largely embraced legal marijuana, that has a thriving legal marijuana industry providing more than $100 million in tax revenue annually to the state, and that encourages marijuana tourism, elected officials are still reticent to do anything that might officially acknowledge that marijuana smoking is acceptable conduct. We are begrudgingly allowed to smoke marijuana, so long as we stay in our homes and out of sight. Permitting us to smoke in a social setting apparently threatens the established social order.

Moving Forward

We clearly have more work ahead and need to consider why this anti-marijuana prejudice still exists and what we can do to move beyond it.

We will win this battle for totally fair treatment only when we improve the public perception of marijuana smokers. We have to overcome the “Cheech and Chong” stoner image of a pot smoker who sits on the sofa all day eating junk food.

Because marijuana remains illegal in most states and under federal law, most smokers who hold good jobs in business or industry or the professions simply cannot stand up and be counted, because they would lose their jobs and their ability to support their families. As a result, the majority of middle class smokers are largely invisible to the non-smoking public.

We have to find ways to let America know that marijuana smokers are just ordinary Americans who work hard, raise families, pay taxes and contribute in a positive way to our communities. We need to do a better job of letting our non-smoking friends and neighbors know that those of us who smoke are otherwise just like them, with varied interests and hobbies. Marijuana smoking is not the dominant facet of our lives. We are not slackers in any way, nor do we pose any threat to those in society who choose not to smoke.

For those smokers who are self-employed or who are otherwise not subject to drug testing, it is crucial that you come out of the closet and let your community and your professional colleagues see that you are good neighbors as well as responsible marijuana smokers. There should be no social stigma attached to the responsible use of marijuana.

I am confident that within a few years, marijuana smoking will be seen by most Americans as the equivalent of drinking alcohol but safer, and I look forward to that day.

We are not there yet.

_________________________________________________________

This column was first published on Marijuana.com.

http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2016/04/the-growing-acceptance-of-marijuana-smoking-in-society/

NORML’s Legislative Round Up April 14th, 2016

NORML - Thu, 14/04/2016 - 09:24

There is long awaited news from Pennsylvania, as the Keystone State is poised to become the 24th state to permit medical cannabis access and separate legislative efforts continue to move forward around the country. Keep reading below to get this week’s latest in marijuana law reform!

Federal:

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment today, for the second year in a row, to expand medical marijuana access to United States veterans.

The amendment, sponsored by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) from spending money to enforce a policy that prohibits the department’s physicians from filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal. It will be attached to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.

The bipartisan vote was 20 to 10, marking a slight improvement from last year’s 18-12 vote. Though a majority of the Senate passed the amendment in 2015, it was ultimately defeated in conference with the House.

State:

Alabama: Legislation to protect qualified patients eligible for CBD therapy is gaining traction in the legislature. Both the House and Senate are considering similar proposals to expand patient access. While existing state law permits qualified patients to use CBD if they are part of state-sponsored clinical trial, these proposed measures would legally protect qualified patients who possess the substance outside of a clinical trial environment. #TakeAction

Florida: Another municipality in Florida is considering decriminalizing offenses involving the possession of small amounts of marijuana. On Monday, Orlando’s City Council will review an ordinance to make possession of 20 grams (about two-thirds of an ounce) or less a violation of city code, punishable by a fine of $50 for first-time offenders. Tampa and Volusia County both approved similar ordinances last month. NORML first reported this trend of Florida cities and counties adopting decriminalization policies last August.

If you live in Orlando, you can contact your City Council member to urge their support for this measure here.

Louisiana: House and Senate legislation is pending to fix and expand the state’s dormant medical marijuana law. Existing law only permits for the patients’ use of medical marijuana in instances where the plant is ‘prescribed.’ However, under federal law, physicians cannot legally ‘prescribe’ cannabis or any schedule I substance. House Bill 1112 addresses these problems by: permitting physicians to recommend rather than ‘prescribe’ cannabis therapy; by licensing facilities to produce and dispense the product; and by expanding the pool of eligible patients to include ailments like cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and intractable pain. Law enforcement groups have voiced disapproval of the proposed change, so it is important that lawmakers hear from you. #TakeAction

Maryland: Governor Larry Hogan has signed legislation to permit the Department of Agriculture to authorize institutions of higher education to cultivate industrial hemp for academic research purposes. Members of the Senate voted 45 to zero in favor of the bill. House members voted 136 to zero in favor of the measure. Maryland is the 26th state to enact legislation recognizing hemp as a agricultural commodity.

State lawmakers have also approved legislation to expand the pool of medical professionals who can provide written recommendations for marijuana to qualifying patients. Under the proposal, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, among other medical professionals, who are in good standing with the state will be permitted to provide written certifications to qualifying patients. The legislation awaits action from Governor Larry Hogan. #TakeAction

Oregon: Governor Kate Brown has signed legislation into law that seeks to encourage financial institutions to engage in financial relationships with state-compliant marijuana businesses. The emergency legislation, House Bill 4094, “exempts financial institutions that provide financial services to marijuana related businesses, researchers and laboratories from any criminal law of this state.” The law took effect upon signing.

Pennsylvania: House and Senate lawmakers have given final approval to legislation, Senate Bill 3, to permit the production and use of medical marijuana products to qualified patients. Members of the Senate initially approved the measure in 2015. House leadership delayed acting on the bill for several months until finally passing an amended version of SB 3 in March. Senate and House members voted this week in favor of a concurrent version of the proposal. Once signed into law, Pennsylvania will become the 24th state to permit the use of physician-recommended cannabis.

South Carolina: Members of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee have defeated SB 672, the Medical Marijuana Program Act. However, identical legislation, H. 4037, remains pending in the House. The legislation would allow the use of medical marijuana for debilitating medical conditions; it also permits a registered patient or caregiver to possess up to, “two one-ounce packages of marijuana in leaf form, one ounce of cannabis oil concentrate, or eight ounces of diluted cannabis oil.” #TakeAction

Vermont: Members of the House Judiciary moved away from Senate-backed legislation, S. 241, to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. On Friday, April 8, members of the Committee voted 6 to 5 on an amended version of S. 241 to establish a study commission to evaluate the matter of legalization. The vote came after members of the committee narrowly rejected an effort to amend the bill in a manner that would expand the state’s existing decriminalization laws.

Members of the Senate previously voted 17 to 12 in favor of the legislation in its original form, and it continues to be backed by Gov. Shumlin, state Attorney General William Sorrell, and a majority of Vermonters. It is vital that members of both the House and Senate continue hear from you in support of S. 241 so that lawmakers will be persuaded to once again amend this bill in a manner that seeks to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. #TakeAction

Pennsylvania: Lawmakers Give Final Approval To Medical Marijuana Measure

NORML - Wed, 13/04/2016 - 15:15

House and Senate lawmakers have signed off on legislation, Senate Bill 3, to permit the production and use of medical marijuana products to qualified patients.

Members of the Senate initially approved the measure in 2015. House leadership delayed acting on the bill for several months until finally passing an amended version of SB 3 in March.

Senate and House members voted this week in favor of a concurrent version of the proposal. The measure now goes before Gov. Tom Wolf, who supports patients’ access to medical cannabis and has pledged to sign the bill into law.

Senate Bill 3 permits regulators to license up to 25 marijuana cultivators and processors, and up to 150 dispensary locations to provide cannabis products to qualified patients who possess a recommendation from select physicians. Qualifying conditions eligible to receive cannabis therapy include intractable pain, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, seizure disorders, and autism, among others. The measure permits for the dispensing of herbal cannabis via vaporization, as well as the use of marijuana-infused extracts or oils, but it does not permit smoking. (To date, only two other states — Minnesota and New York — impose similar restrictions regarding patients’ use of herbal cannabis.)

Once signed into law, Pennsylvania will become the 24th state to permit the use of physician-recommended cannabis.

NORML Endorses MI Legalize 2016

NORML - Wed, 13/04/2016 - 12:49

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is pleased to announce our endorsement of the MI Legalize 2016 initiative to regulate the adult use, production and retail sale of marijuana in Michigan.

MI Legalize, also known as the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee, has collected more than 270,000 signatures in its effort to legalize marijuana via the petitioning process. The grass-roots effort has been collecting signatures from registered voters since June, 2015, and represents the best opportunity to enact a regulatory system in Michigan, a state where it is highly unlikely the state legislature will take any similar action.

Recent polling in Michigan indicates growing public support for marijuana law reform, including the plant’s full legalization. An EPIC-MRA poll conducted in March found 53% support for legalization, up from 50% in 2015. That poll was commissioned by Michigan NORML.

Michigan NORML’s goal is to make Michigan the first Midwestern state to legalize the adult use of marijuana. If the initiative qualifies for the ballot and is approved by the voters in the November general election, the MI Legalize proposal will be the most liberal marijuana legalization law in the United States.

We invite marijuana law reform advocates across America to contribute to the MI Legalize campaign via the organization’s website, www.milegalize.com. A Michigan angel donor has made a matching funds pledge, and for a limited time all contributions received by the MI Legalize campaign up to $100,000 will be matched, and your contribution will have twice the impact.

Please support the MI Legalize marijuana legalization campaign in Michigan.

Time To Move Beyond Street Theater

NORML - Mon, 11/04/2016 - 06:43

I cringed last weekend when I saw news photos of a protest and demonstration in front of the White House in which the most notable image was a 51-foot inflatable “joint.”

That’s right. Here we are in 2016 on the verge of finally ending marijuana prohibition, and some activists seem caught in a time warp, using tactics more suitable for the 1960s and 70s. I question not only their tactics, but also their political focus.

This latest example of street theater came courtesy of DCMJ, the local group in DC who led the successful voter initiative to legalize marijuana in the District of Columbia in 2014. They deserve our appreciation for helping move reform forward in DC, where adults are permitted to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, to grow up to six plants for their personal use, and to give up to an ounce of marijuana to another adult for no remuneration.

This latest protest, though, was both misguided and counter-productive.

The Wrong Target

First, the stated purpose of the protest was to put pressure on President Obama, whom the group claimed had done nothing to legalize marijuana. “The Obama administration has been a big ZERO on cannabis reform,” the organizers of the event alleged in their press release announcing the White House protest.

Apparently they are unaware of the extraordinary action taken by President Obama to instruct his Department of Justice to step aside and allow the first few states that legalized marijuana to implement those laws without federal interference. That unprecedented action was an enormous gift to the legalization movement and permitted us to demonstrate that marijuana can be successfully legalized and regulated with no significant unintended consequences.

Under any prior administration, the DOJ would have filed for an injunction in federal court, seeking to use federal law to enjoin the provisions in these new state laws licensing the commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana. Most legal observers agree they would have been successful, based on the “supremacy clause” of the US Constitution.

It is the experience of these first few states that allows us to argue with authority that legalization is a legitimate option to prohibition. Ignoring the significance of this decision by President Obama, in order to justify some street theater, suggests a lack of political sophistication.

Also, President Obama has commuted the sentences of nearly 200 federal drug prisoners, including a number of people serving life sentences for non-violent marijuana offenses, and promises additional non-violent offenders will be pardoned or otherwise released from prison over the remaining months of his administration. It is difficult to imagine a public protest intended to embarrass the president would be a helpful tactic at this juncture.

The Wrong Time

Public protests have at times played a powerful role in our country’s history, most notably in building public opposition to unpopular wars, including especially the Vietnam war. However, those demonstrations involved hundreds of thousands of citizens, and demonstrated mass support for ending the war.

The latest protest at the White House involved perhaps 100 protesters, and rather than demonstrating mass opposition to President Obama and his marijuana policies, showed a handful of activists more concerned with seeing themselves on the evening news than engaging in the hard work of actually changing public policy. The utilization of the 51-foot inflatable “joint” left the impression this was more about fun in the park and less about serious political change.

Keep in mind that the City Council in the District of Columbia has been actively discussing the need to license commercial growers and retail sellers of marijuana. They would have done this earlier but for a provision attached by Congress on the District’s budget (Congress retains the right to review and possibly reject actions of our elected City Council).

Under the terms of a recent court case in DC (Council of the District of Columbia v DeWitt) , it now appears the Council may adopt a legally regulated market for marijuana, if they use only money raised from DC residents, excluding money provided to the District by Congress. The Council members understand they need to tread carefully in this area to avoid a backlash from the more conservative members of Congress, but a clear majority want to move forward.

Witnessing the juvenile demonstration at the White House could only complicate this delicate dance the DC City Council is trying to take regarding marijuana policy in the District. Instead of (symbolically) blowing smoke in their faces, these local activists could have been meeting with our supporters on the City Council to discuss how best to move forward with the least resistance from Congress.

Apparently, that would not have been nearly as much fun, nor would it have resulted in their being covered in the local news. All of us who engage in public advocacy for legalization need to be sure we are taking actions that move the legalization movement forward and not confusing media coverage with political progress. All news is not good news, and some news coverage definitely sets us back.

This latest street theater at the White House was one of those times. Though few of us were involved (none of the national reform organizations), it made us all look less than serious and politically naïve, and it did nothing to move us closer to full legalization in the District, or to encourage President Obama to push marijuana law reform further under federal law.

_______________________________________________________________________

This column first appeared on Marijuana.com:

http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2016/04/its-time-to-move-beyond-street-theater/

NORML’s Legislative Round Up April 8th, 2016

NORML - Fri, 08/04/2016 - 11:39

We’ve got several legislative updates from around the country this week. Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform!

State:

Colorado: Denver NORML filed the Responsible Use initiative with the city of Denver. If passed by voters this November, it would legalize the establishment of private marijuana clubs for adults 21 and up. Passage of this ordinance would be a historic first step in moving toward normalizing the responsible, adult consumption of marijuana. The initiative would provide adults with a legally defined space where marijuana could be consumed and shared with other like-minded citizens — a simple, yet necessary accommodation for states that have passed some form of legalization. You can show support for the initiative by liking their page on Facebook.

Florida: On April 1st, the city of Tampa began implementing its new decriminalization law. Under the new ordinance, people caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana will now only face a civil citation rather than a arrest, criminal prosecution, and a criminal record.

Also, The Florida Democratic Party has endorsed Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment to permit the physician-authorized use and state-licensed distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The initiative has also received recent endorsements from the Tallahassee Democrat, the Miami Herald, and the Bradenton Herald. Presently, 16 states explicitly exempt the use of CBD by qualified patients. But, to date, no of these states provide a regulated, in-state supply source for the product.

Maine: A superior court judge today overturned the Secretary of State’s ruling that a citizen petition seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine was invalid. The ruling mandates the Secretary of State to review the disputed signatures to determine whether petitioners submitted enough valid ones to qualify for ballot placement this November.

Missouri: This week, regulators at the Missouri Department of Agriculture granted licenses to two applicants seeking to grow CBD-dominant cannabis. Their products are anticipated to be ready for distribution this fall to state-qualified patients.

Pennsylvania: State lawmakers have unanimously passed separate pieces of legislation to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp.” Members of the Senate voted 49 to zero in March in favor of SB 50. House lawmakers more recently voted 187 to zero in favor of the House companion bill, HB 967. House Bill 967 will now go to the Senate  for concurrence with SB 50 and then to Gov. Tom Wolf, who has expressed support for the legislation. #TakeAction

Members of the Pittsburgh City Council have approved a new ordinance imposing more lenient penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses. Under this ordinance, marijuana-related offenses will now be classified as summary offenses, punishable by a fine of $100 for public smoking or $25 for the possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Virginia: Governor Terry McAuliff has signed legislation, Senate Bill 701, into law to establish regulations governing the in-state production of therapeutic oils high in cannabdiol and/or THC-A (THC acid). Senate Bill 701 requires the Board of Pharmacy to adopt regulations establishing health, safety, and security requirements for pharmaceutical processors of oils high in CBD and/or THC-A. The measure takes effect on July 1, 2016.

Don’t forget to join us in Washington D.C. May 23rd and 24th for our 2016 Congressional Lobby Day! Whether you are a longtime activist, a young college student, a medical marijuana patient, a social marijuana consumer, or just someone who opposes prohibition, this is an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals from across the country and get a glimpse into the Capitol Hill lawmaking process. It is an exhilarating experience for anyone who has taken the time to come to DC to lobby their members of Congress. Get your tickets today!

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