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Can We Bury This Canard Once and For All?

NORML - 7 hours 10 min ago

Legalization Does Not Result in an Increase in Adolescent Marijuana Use

Recent survey data released by the University of Colorado — The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey — a combined effort involving the state Departments of Education, of Human Resources and of Health and the Environment, should be quite helpful in the several states with legalization initiatives expected to appear on the ballot this fall. The latest data, based on four years of actual experience, reconfirms that legalizing marijuana for adults does not result in an increase in usage by adolescents

But What About the Kids?

Although one might hope the rather silly argument that adults should only be allowed to engage in conduct appropriate for adolescents would be dismissed out-of-hand, in fact that spurious argument seems to remain an excuse for many who oppose legalization. “But what about the kids,” is the usual refrain.

Chris Ingram of the Washington Post quotes the National Families in Action, a prominent anti-drug group warning that legal marijuana would “Literally dumb-down the precious minds of generations of children,” and psychiatrist Christian Thurstone, another prominent anti-marijuana zealot, warned that adolescents in CO would not be able to resist the temptation presented by this pernicious plant. “Reefer Madness” is never far away, and it can always outweigh any common sense or personal discipline.

We first ran into the argument with President and Nancy Reagan and their “just say no” program of the early 80s, in which they successfully shifted the public focus for a time from the damage being done to individuals needlessly arrested on minor marijuana charges, to the possible harm being done to adolescents who might somehow (unexplainably) be harmed by responsible adult use.

Similarly, we discovered from exit polling following the unsuccessful CA legalization initiative in 2010 that one of the two concerns expressed by those who opposed the measure was the fear that there might be a spike in adolescent marijuana smoking should the initiative pass (the second fear was a spike in impaired drivers on the road).

If we were really to apply that test, adults could not drive cars, ride motorcycles, fly planes, have sex, skydive, get married, drink alcohol or engage in many of the ordinary activities that make our lives interesting.

In addition, no one is suggesting that adolescents should be permitted to smoke marijuana. Quite the contrary. We would all prefer that our kids remain drug-free as long as possible, while their minds and bodies are fully developing. There is plenty of time to experiment with a different consciousness once one is an adult, and presumably capable of making those decisions in a responsible manner.

With Prohibition, Kids Say Marijuana is Easier to Get than Alcohol

Yet the kids themselves have been telling us for years in the federal Monitoring the Future surveys that marijuana is far easier for them to obtain than alcohol because to purchase alcohol, the adolescent must find an older friend to buy the alcohol for him/her, or obtain a fake ID. Those are obviously not impossible barriers to overcome, but they surely do make it more difficult for a young person to obtain alcohol than marijuana, where illegal marijuana sellers do not ask for an ID.

New Data from Colorado

But now we have the benefit of new evidence, released over the last few days, providing the data from Colorado that confirms that adolescent marijuana usage has actually declined slightly in Colorado since marijuana was legalized in 2012.

That’s right. There are actually fewer adolescent marijuana smokers today, four years after Colorado first adopted full legalization, than there were before the state legalized marijuana in 2012!

According to Colorado’s 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS), the survey of approximately 17,000 junior high and high school students throughout the Centennial State, the semiannual assessment discovered 21.2% of high school students in Colorado admitted using some form of cannabis within the past 30 days (less than the national average among teens at 21.7), retreating marginally from the reported 22% in 2011– a year before marijuana was legalized for recreational purposes in Colorado. The 2015 survey also discovered that 78% of Colorado high school students have refrained from marijuana consumption over the past 30 days, and 62% have never tried marijuana. Of those who do use marijuana, 91% prefer flowers.

Another interesting, and promising, piece of data is that 9 out of 10 CO high school students currently reject the use of tobacco.

“The trend for current and lifetime marijuana use has remained stable since 2005, with four out of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally,” the Colorado Health Department said in a news release.

According to a previous Marijuana.com article on this topic by Monterey Bud, “the purpose of Colorado’s comprehensive survey is to gather factual information and useful data. By collecting this data every two years, the information can then be utilized by both public and private organizations including schools and parents to identify trends and enhance programs that improve the health and well-being of young people.”

Let’s hope this finally puts the stake through the heart of those who insist on claiming the sky will fall if we end prohibition, and that our youngsters will be stoned-out zombies. It turns out, legalization has no impact on the usage rates of adolescents. But common sense tells them marijuana is far safer than smoking tobacco.

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This column first appeared on Marijuana.com.

NORML’s Legislative Round Up June 24th, 2016

NORML - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:38

This has been an exceptionally busy week at the state and federal level for marijuana law reform. Keep reading to get the latest news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.

Federal:

A bipartisan coalition of House and Senate lawmakers have proposed legislation, the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016, to expedite clinical investigations into the safety and efficacy of cannabis. Passage of the measures — House Bill 5549 and Senate Bill 3077 — would expedite federal reviews of clinical protocols involving cannabis, provide greater access to scientists who wish to study the drug, and mandate an FDA review of the relevant science. #TakeAction

State:

Arkansas: Representatives of the group Arkansas for Compassionate Care turned in over 100,000 signatures from registered voters this week in hopes of qualifying the 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act for the November ballot. The proposed initiative establishes a statewide program for the licensed production, analytic testing, and distribution of medicinal cannabis. Under the program, patients diagnosed by a physician with one of over 50 qualifying conditions – including ADHD, intractable pain, migraine, or post-traumatic stress – may obtain cannabis from one of up to 38 licensed non-profit care centers. Qualified patients who do not have a center operating in their vicinity will be permitted to cultivate their own medicine at home.

In 2012, 51 percent of voters narrowly rejected a similar statewide initiative, known as Measure 5. However, recent polling shows that support has increased dramatically since then, with 84 percent of registered Arkansas voters agreeing that “adults should be legally allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes.”

For more information on the campaign, please visit Arkansans for Compassionate Care.

California: Both the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the California Democratic Party have publicly endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The initiative, which is expected to appear on the November ballot, permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possession and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes.

Delaware: House lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved legislation, SB 181, to permit designated caregivers to possess and administer non-smoked medical marijuana formulations (e.g. oils/extracts) to qualifying patients “in a school bus and on the grounds or property of the preschool, or primary or secondary school in which a minor qualifying patient is enrolled.” Senate lawmakers previously approved the bill on June 9th.

Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, is expected to sign the legislation into law. The measure will take effect upon the Governor’s signature. To date, two other states — Colorado and New Jersey — impose similar legislation.

Florida: Elected officials of yet another Florida county have voted to provide local law enforcement with the option to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana possession offenders. Osceola County commissioners passed the ordinance on Tuesday. The new ordinance is similar to those recently passed in Orlando, Tampa, Volusia County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, West Palm Beach, Key West, Hallandale, Miami Beach and Miami-Dade county.

New Jersey: Legislation to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions eligible for medical marijuana is moving forward through state legislature.

Members of the Assembly approved the legislation in a 56 to 13 vote on June 16th. On the same day, members of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved an identical measure, Senate Bill 2345, in a 6 to 3 vote. Thirteen states already allow PTSD patients to access medical marijuana including Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
The measure now awaits a vote by the full Senate. #TakeAction

New York: Legislation has been approved to facilitate the processing and sale of hemp and locally produced hemp products. The measures, A 9310 and S 6960, expand upon New York’s existing hemp research program to permit for the sale, distribution, transportation and processing of industrial hemp and products derived from such hemp. Under existing law, licensed farmers are only permitted to engage in the cultivation of hemp for research purposes as part of an academic program.

Both chambers have approved the legislation so now it awaits a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo.#TakeAction

Rhode Island: House and Senate lawmakers approved House Bill 7142, legislation to permit post-traumatic stress patients to be eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. Members of both chambers overwhelmingly approved the measure. It now heads to the desk of Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo.#TakeAction

House and Senate lawmakers also approved legislation to create the “Hemp Growth Act “. This measure will classify hemp as an agricultural product that may be legally produced, possessed, and commercially distributed. The Department of Business Regulation will be responsible for establishing rules and regulations for the licensing and regulation of hemp growers and processors. The Department is also authorized to certify any higher educational institution in Rhode Island to grow or handle or assist in growing or handling industrial hemp for the purpose of agricultural or academic research. The legislation now awaits action from Governor Gina Raimondo. If signed, the law will take effect January 1, 2017.#TakeAction

Congressional Leadership Resists Bipartisan-Backed Marijuana Reforms

NORML - Thu, 23/06/2016 - 12:07

Congressional leaders have moved in recent days to quash a number of proposed marijuana law reforms.

Specifically, provisions previously voted on by Congress to expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans were removed by leadership during the conference committee process. Members have yet to speak publicly as to why the language was removed. Both the Senate and the House versions of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill contained the marijuana-friendly provisions prior to the reconciliation process.

The move follows a decision earlier this week by Republican leaders on the House Rules Committee to deny members the opportunity to vote on a Democrat-sponsored amendment that sought to permit banks and other financial institutions to engage in relationships with state-compliant marijuana businesses. Senate Appropriations Committee members had approved a similar amendment last week by a vote of 16 to 14. That amendment, which is now included in the Senate’s version of the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, awaits further action on the Senate floor. If approved, the Senate bill will ultimately need to be reconciled in conference committee with House leadership.

In April, NORML released a Congressional Scorecard assigning letter grades ‘A’ through ‘F’ to every member of the US House and Senate based on their marijuana-related comments and voting records. To see what grades your Congressional members received, please click here.

The NORML Business Network: The “Better Business Bureau” for the Marijuana Industry

NORML - Mon, 20/06/2016 - 06:35

The Emerging Legal Marijuana industry

I had the pleasure of speaking at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition in New York this past week; a major B2B Expo held at the Jacob Javits Center with hundreds of exhibitors displaying their products and services intended to appeal to those hoping to enter the new legal marijuana industry emerging around the country. It was an impressive display of the myriad of choices available for those willing to take the dive into the increasingly competitive marijuana industry.

It is clearly a positive development that so many entrepreneurs have surfaced to try to find a niche they can fill to provide a newer or better product or service, to distinguish themselves from others attempting to compete for the same space. There will be both winners and losers in this new market. As competition continues to grow, new products bring improvements over the previous versions, and a significant number of well-intentioned would-be business successes get sidelined by more creative newcomers with better technology or better funding or simply a better business model.

Estimates are that as high as 40% of all new marijuana-related businesses may fail within the first couple of years. Yes, the newly legal marijuana industry offers incredible opportunities for entrepreneurs and others with the capital to invest; but for every individual who succeeds in this new industry, another will fail. It is simply the nature of new industries, and as appealing as legal marijuana is to millions of Americans, that industry will experience the same economic pressures, including business failures, that other new industries experience.

For the next several years, the legal marijuana industry will remain one that involves impressive individual business successes, along with some failures; and some business consolidations. Because of the different state legalization laws and regulations, at least for the immediate future, that concentration will be significantly limited, and most big companies that want to extend to other states will have to establish separate companies in each state. All of this suggests the legal marijuana industry may well end up looking more like the wine industry in America, with room for small producers, rather than the tobacco or alcohol industry. And that is positive for consumers, and for the industry.

The True Believers and the Investors

The industry appears to be comprised of two distinct groups of people: those who were active in the marijuana legalization movement for years, and understand the enormous damage done by prohibition; and who have migrated to the business side of the issue. And those who have no background or interest in legalization movement, but who have resources and see the new market simply as an opportunity to get rich. Obviously, it is the latter group that worries many of us, because of their sole focus on profits, and their lack of understanding of the long struggle that led to this point, and the millions of Americans who paid dearly for the right to grow or sell or smoke marijuana.

We live in a free market economy in which Americans are encouraged to create jobs and make products that people want with the hope of building a successful business. So we cannot expect that the newly legal marijuana market will be immune from these basic economic rules.

Marijuana is Different

But marijuana is also different. For decades, it was popular primarily among an underground culture, and shunted and harshly punished by the dominant culture. Those of us who smoked marijuana had to be careful from whom we bought our marijuana, and with whom we chose to smoke marijuana. One bad decision could lead to a bust that would result in jail time and a criminal record that would forever limit one’s ability to get an education or a good job. A marijuana bust was sort of a life sentence, a handicap assuring one would never have the opportunity to maximize their potential fully. Once labeled as a criminal, many growers, smugglers, and dealers were left with few options other than staying in the illegal marijuana business.

So now that we have, as a culture, begun to come above ground, and at least in a handful of states (with many more to come), and we are no longer running from the police, most consumers want to maintain some control over who produces and sells marijuana, to keep the scale of production small and local, and to keep the multinational corporations out of the field – or at least keep their influence modest as the legal marijuana industry develops. What we don’t want is to see the tobacco companies, or other large industries, come in and control the marijuana markets. On that point, the legalizers are in agreement with our opponents – such as Kevin Sabet and Project SAM, who now claim they no longer support prohibition, but they oppose “big marijuana.” (One might reasonably see their change in position as recognizing the reality of current public polling, rather than reflecting a real change in values.)

The NORML Business Network

But there is also some common ground between the smokers and the industry. NORML is a consumer group – that is we represent the interest of smokers. And we have established a program called the NORML Business Network, that will become the equivalent of the Better Business Bureau, allowing responsible businesses to distinguish themselves from those businesses that are only interested in getting rich, with no concern for the welfare of their workers or the safety of the consumers. I am delighted to report that both Marijuana.com and it’s parent company, Weedmaps.com, are among our first NORML Business Network Preferred Business Partners.

Those marijuana businesses who qualify to become a NORML Preferred Business Partner are encouraged to display prominent seals of approval at their stores and on their websites indicating they have taken the high road and are using their business to build a community that respects workers and consumers, that tests their products to assure they contain no molds or pesticides, and that provide accurate labelling so the consumer knows the strength of the THC and the CBD, and the primary terpenoids.

And those of us who smoke should demand that businesses adhere to these standards, or we must shop in a store that does. As consumers we have the power to force marijuana businesses to follow the highest standards, to be socially responsible, and to protect the health of consumers, if they are to become a successful business. Now it is time that we begin to do that.

Marijuana companies that wish to apply for the NORML Preferred Business Partner can apply online, and if approved, will be provided with stickers for the store and signs that make it clear to consumers that your business meets these standards, and is a good corporate citizen that deserves to be frequented.

We have lots of work to do before we have totally ended prohibition in America, and stopped the senseless arrest of marijuana smokers. We continue to make significant progress, and this fall we expect to add several new states to the list of legalization states.

But it is never too early to begin to impose some ethical standards to this emerging industry, and to begin to distinguish between those that are simply interested in getting rich and those who want to develop a responsible business that is as concerned about being a good corporate citizen as they are about making money.

The NORML Business Network is our way of helping underscore that distinction for the consumer.

Read more http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2016/06/the-norml-business-network-the-better-business-bureau-for-the-marijuana-industry/

Leveling the Playing Field in Florida with CFL NORML

NORML - Thu, 16/06/2016 - 10:43

After a narrow defeat in 2014, Florida voters will have another opportunity to legalize medical marijuana this November by voting YES on Amendment 2, but not before being inundated with misinformation from some of Florida’s most notorious marijuana prohibitionists. With more than $10 million dollars committed to defeating the measure, Floridians can expect a salvo of refer madness unlike anything we’ve seen in the past. Even in states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana – Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska – anti-marijuana groups spent roughly $800k between all four states fighting legalization efforts.

In an effort to level the playing field, Central Florida Chapter of the National Organization of the Reform of Marijuana Laws (CFL NORML) led by executive director, Christopher Cano, recently launched a grassroots fundraising campaign with a goal of $250,000 to combat the continuous flow of fear mongering and attacks expected this fall. Indiegogo, the crowdfunding platform being utilized by the organization features a video produced by CFL NORML, pictures of past events, and of course a donation page where contributions can be made.

“We are appalled at the gross amount of funds the opposition plans to spend in order to continue the unjust policy of marijuana prohibition in Florida,” Cano said. “The Medical Marijuana Movement should be about one thing and one thing only, the patients. Mel Sembler and his No On 2 allies are willing to spend obscene amounts of money to hurt veterans and sick patients, and we simply are not going to take that laying down”.

To show your support, please donate by clicking the link below or volunteer by contacting CFL NORML using the following email address: contact@cflnorml.org.

Donate to Central Florida NORML Today!

It’s election season, support the NORML PAC!

NORML - Tue, 14/06/2016 - 13:36

The summer season is upon us and with the warm weather comes heated elections around the country.

2016 is set to be a monumental year in marijuana law reform. Three states have already qualified marijuana related initiatives for the November ballot (Nevada, Florida, and Maine) and nine more states are still collecting signatures in hopes of making the ballot (California, Arizona, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Oklahoma).

But we want to support more than the pending initiatives. The NORML PAC is ready to support candidates that wish to make marijuana law reform an important pillar in their campaign platform. We want to empower candidates who are challenging prohibitionists and we want to help them win. But we need your help.

Donate to the NORML PAC today and in return for you supporting marijuana friendly candidates around the country, you will receive a couple of our favorite products!

*For a $40 donation to the NORML PAC you will receive a NORML glass stash jar. For a $60 donation to the NORML PAC you will receive a NORML grinder. For a $75 donation, you will receive both!

Help support the NORML PAC so that we can endorse and donate to candidates around the country that are running on a platform that includes reforming our country’s archaic marijuana laws. The only way we can continue our progress is to support and elect these candidates!

Thank you for your continued support and membership.

P.S. We can only raise PAC funds from NORML members. Therefore, if you wish to contribute to the NORML PAC, and you are not currently a NORML member, the first $25 of your contribution will be applied to your membership dues. The balance will go to the NORML PAC to provide financial help to candidates who support our positions on marijuana policy.

* PAC premium donation ends on June 21, 2016.

CDC: Changes In State Marijuana Laws Associated With Declining Teen Use

NORML - Mon, 13/06/2016 - 15:00

The passage of statewide laws regulating the consumption of cannabis by adults and/or qualified patients is not associated with increased rates of teen marijuana use, according to a statistical analysis of results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

CDC data reports that the percentage of high-schoolers ever reporting having used cannabis fell from an estimated 43 percent in 1995 to just under 39 percent in 2015. The percentage of teens currently using cannabis (defined as having used marijuana at least once in the past 30 days) also declined during this same period, from 25 percent in 1995 to just under 22 percent in 2015.

During this time period, two-dozen states enacted statutes permitting qualified patients to consume cannabis, and four states enacted laws permitting the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey results are consistent with those of numerous other studies — such as those here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here — finding that changes in cannabis’ legal status are not associated with increased use among adolescents.

The Value of Community in the Legalization Movement

NORML - Mon, 13/06/2016 - 06:25

The 2016 NORML Aspen Legal Seminar

I just returned a few days ago from a lovely long weekend in beautiful Aspen, CO, a charming old silver-mining town in the Rocky Mountains with breath-taking views, that serves as a popular playground for skiers in the winter and biking and hiking enthusiasts in the other seasons. And it is the location of an annual NORML legal seminar held each year in early June.

The Seminar Itself

First, for those attorneys who attend this event, it is a truly unique opportunity to hear from some of the most brilliant and creative criminal defense and marijuana business attorneys in the country.

This year the attendees heard San Antonio’s Gerry Goldstein present his annual review of the many 4th Amendment decisions handed down by the Supreme Court, and the federal appellate courts, each year. Few lawyers in America are more familiar with the legal intricacies of search and seizure law, or can present the information in such an entertaining manner. And NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, who lectured on the science legalization advocates need to know to counter the frequent claim that “we just don’t know enough about marijuana,” citing more than 23,000 marijuana studies available on Pub Med.

Former ACLU lawyer Adam Wolfe from San Francisco discussed the several legal challenges to the CO legalization law; while Mary Chartier and Natalie Alane from Lansing, MI, lectured on the impact of marijuana use on child welfare and custody cases.

This year we heard from a range of impressive new speakers as well, including Carl Hart, Ph.D, from Columbia University, talking about ways that marijuana legalization can significantly reduce racism in the criminal justice system; and Emily Gant, from Seattle, whose lecture “Marijuana Business 101,” analyzed the basic business issues with which any attorney needs to be familiar, if they intend to represent some of the newly legal marijuana businesses arising either in the medical use states or the full legalization states.

And certainly one of the more inspiring lectures was given by former US Attorney for the state of Kansas (he had retired just three weeks earlier), Barry Grissom, entitled “Why Marijuana Legalization Makes Sense from the Perspective of a US Attorney”, in which he compared the record of the Obama administration with that of three prior administrations. Grissom stressed the several significant steps taken by President Barack Obama and his Department of Justice to reduce the length of non-violent drug sentences and the number of non-violent drug offenders serving time in federal prisons; and the administration’s willingness to stand-back and permit the several states to fully implement their various marijuana laws, free from federal government interference. It reminded us that not all prosecutors are mean-spirited, and some of them are seeking justice, just like most defense attorneys.

And we heard from Law Professor Sam Kamin, who holds the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy position at Denver Law School, discussing ways to overcome the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws; Lisa Padilla from New York discussing estate planning techniques for cannabis business owners; Mary Conn from Houston, TX discussing the damage to society of criminalizing mental illness, drug addiction and homelessness; Danica Noble of Seattle discussing the unfair business practices and consumer protection issues emerging in the newly legal marijuana markets; and Portland, OR attorney Courtney Moran discussing the law and history of industrial hemp.

Those who might enjoy listening to these lectures, you can find those audio files online, thanks to Cannabis Radio personality “Radical” Russ Belville.

The Social Events – More Than Just Fun

The weather this year was perfect, with brilliant blue skies and temperatures in the low and mid-severties, and the opening reception on the roof of the Gant conference center; the benefit dinner at the fabulous log-cabin mansion of Christine and Gerry Goldstein, catered by Cache Cache Chef Chris Lanter; and the Saturday afternoon picnic with live music at Owl Farm, the legendary home of the late Hunter S. Thompson, were all fabulous events giving the seminar attendees and their guests special memories to last a lifetime (one attorney, as he was leaving, said to me, “I just wish I had discovered this seminar 10-years earlier!”).

In short, these various NORML events held throughout the year provide a valuable opportunity for those of us who are responsible marijuana smokers to make new friends and meet new colleagues who share our support for legalization, and to renew friendships we have made in earlier years. It is largely from this network of like-minded individuals that we draw the inspiration and emotional strength required to continue the struggle to end prohibition.

The Community of Marijuana Smokers

While it was certainly not the intention of those who initially put prohibition in place in the early 20th century, in fact prohibition forced those of us who did not accept the government’s exaggerated anti-marijuana propaganda, and who chose to find a way to obtain and smoke marijuana despite the threat of harsh criminal penalties, to build an underground community comprised of others who share our values and were also willing to assume the legal risks associated with “scoring” and using marijuana. Those same oppressive forces who dedicated their lives to arresting and jailing marijuana smokers were unwittingly establishing an underground culture that would nurture us during the most difficult years, and help us find a black-market supply of marijuana all during the decades of prohibition.

And that was no small task. Without the many daring smugglers and growers and “dealers” willing to risk long prison sentences to provide us consumers with marijuana, we would have had no marijuana to smoke; and with no marijuana to smoke, there would be no marijuana legalization movement.

We need to recognize the crucial role these brave pot pioneers have played in getting us to where we are today, and to find the political courage to demand those individuals who remain in jail be freed, and those with criminal records have their records expunged. Otherwise we find ourselves finally winning this long, terrible war against marijuana smokers, but leaving our POWs behind. That is neither a moral or ethical option.

Inspired and Re-Energized

As I left Aspen this year, and headed home to Washington, DC, I was reminded of the tremendous value these communal experiences play in our personal and professional lives. We draw critical strength and energy and inspiration, and our commitment to change is reinforced, when we spend quality time with others who share our political views and our belief in the importance of ending prohibition.

I would encourage any of you who share our values and political goals to join us at the next opportunity, to take a public stand for freedom. The 2016 NORML Key West Legal seminar on December 7, 8 and 9 would be a good place to start.

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This column firs ran in Marijuana.com.

Photo courtesy of EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

 

Denver NORML Pushes to Legalize Marijuana Clubs and Events

NORML - Fri, 10/06/2016 - 12:22

Marijuana is legal to purchase, possess and to consume in the state of Colorado, but where? Well, if you happen to be in the city of Denver (or most anywhere else in Colorado) the answer is very simple, you can only legally consume cannabis in a private residence. But what if your landlord won’t allow it, or if you are one of the thousands of tourists that visits our great city on a daily basis. Then where do all of those people go? This question is one Denver NORML hopes to help answer this November.

The local chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws spent several months working with various stakeholders to develop a regulatory framework to create a space where responsible adults can consume their legally purchased marijuana products. Denver NORML is currently collecting signatures for the Responsible Use Denver initiative. The initiative will provide a license for the establishment and operation of private, 21-and-over members-only facilities where adults and bring their own cannabis and peacefully consume it in a relaxed, legal public setting.

The initiative language was written to provide the city with what it is lacking, a set of rules and standards to open a business and maintain a license for a place for adults to responsibly consume marijuana. There are several businesses right now in the city of Denver operating in a grey area. Currently these businesses have no laws to follow or to protect them. This grey area needs definition. Those same businesses could now open marijuana clubs with their namesake or these businesses could now apply for special event permits where marijuana will be permitted.

Once passed, the Responsible Use Denver initiative will not only provide private marijuana clubs it will also allow for any individual or entity to apply for 24 event permits per year. The private invitation only events would be 21 and up, allow no onsite distribution and allow guests to bring their own marijuana products to consume. What does a marijuana event look like? These events could be catered and be as creative as any party planner could dream up. They could be intimate occasions or it could allow for an entrepreneur to create a large event venue for occasions such as the Cannabis Cup to return to Denver.

The Responsible Use Denver initiative is the answer to an ongoing issue that is not going away. As other states continue to legalize marijuana across the country, we are going to continue to see this as a post prohibition concern in more and more jurisdictions. If we had 200 places to purchase alcohol but no place to drink it, where would people drink? Most likely on sidewalks, loitering in front of businesses, in parks, in their cars and anywhere else they could. This is what marijuana consumers are dealing with. It is time for change and it is time for a solution.

NORML’s Legislative Round Up June 10th, 2016

NORML - Fri, 10/06/2016 - 09:45

More Governors signed marijuana related legislation into law this week, and once again members of the US Senate have said ‘yes’ to marijuana law reform. Keep reading to get the latest news and to learn what you can do to take action.

Federal:

Members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee took action this week, approving 18 to 11, an amendment to further protect doctors and patients who use medical cannabis in accordance with state laws.

The amendment reads, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this title shall be used in a manner that would interfere with the ability of a provider to recommend medicinal marijuana in accordance with State law, or of a patient to participate in a medicinal marijuana program consistent with such State law.”

This vote marks the third time in recent weeks that members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee have approved marijuana related amendments. Members also recently voted to expand military veterans’ access to medical cannabis and to bar the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

State:

California: Legislation NORML opposes is moving forward in the state legislature and we need you to #TakeAction to prevent it from becoming law. Members of the state Assembly voted 60 to 12 on June 2nd in favor of Assembly Bill 2243, legislation seeking to impose a new $9.75/ounce tax on the cultivation of medical-only marijuana. Similarly, members of the state Senate voted 27 to 10 on June 1st in favor of Senate Bill 987, legislation seeking to impose a special 15 percent statewide tax upon medical marijuana sales. This tax would be in addition to the imposition of existing state and local taxes.

Assembly Bill 2243 will now be considered by members of the Senate and Senate Bill 987 will now be considered by members of the Assembly.

While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of fair and reasonable sales taxes on the commercial sales of cannabis for recreational purposes, we do not support such excessive taxation on medical sales. #TakeAction

Colorado: On Monday, June 6th, Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1373 into law. This legislation permits qualified patients access to medical cannabis formulations while on school grounds. Under the measure, a primary caregiver may administer non-inhalable formulations of medical cannabis to a qualifying patient while that patient is on the grounds of a pre-school, primary, or secondary school in which the student is enrolled. Medical marijuana patients may not be denied eligibility to attend school because of their cannabis use. The measure took effect upon the Governor’s signature.

New York: Advocates are making a final push to pass legislation to significantly expand the state’s current medical marijuana program before the legislative ends on June 16th. New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014, however the law is one of the most restrictive in the country. Currently, 11 separate bills are pending before the legislature to improve and expand the state’s nascent program. #TakeAction

Ohio: Governor John Kasich signed legislation into law this week establishing regulations for the licensed production and dispensing of medical cannabis formulations to qualified patients. House Bill 523 authorizes the use of various forms of cannabis preparations for the physician-authorized treatment of a number of qualifying conditions. For a full list, click here. Ohio is the 26th state to enact statutory language permitting the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana.

Maryland: Governor Larry Hogan has signed legislation, House Bill 104, expanding the pool of medical professionals who can provide written recommendations for marijuana to qualifying patients. Passage of this legislation allows nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, among other medical professionals, who are in good standing with the state to provide written certifications to qualifying patients. The legislation takes effect June 1st, 2017.

Michigan: House-backed legislation to expand Michigan’s existing medical marijuana law is expected to be voted on imminently by members of the Senate Judiciary committee. House Bill 4209 would license and regulate above-ground, safe access facilities for state-qualified patients seeking medical marijuana. House Bill 4210 would provide qualified patients legal protections for their use of non-smoked cannabis derived topicals and edibles, as well as cannabis-based extract products. Lawmakers also passed a third bill, HB 4827, which seeks to establish regulations tracking the production and sale of medical marijuana products. Tell the Senate that it is high time to act upon these common sense measures! #TakeAction

Vermont: Governor Peter Shumlin has signed legislation into law expanding the state’s medical cannabis program.

Senate Bill 14 includes various patient-friendly provisions: It permits patients with glaucoma and ‘chronic pain’ and/or those in hospice care to be eligible for cannabis therapy; it eliminates the requirement that patients must have previously tried other conventional treatments “without success” prior to being eligible for medical cannabis; it amends existing doctor/patient relationship requirements in a manner that expedites certain patients eligibility to receive cannabis treatment; and it authorizes naturopaths to make medicinal cannabis recommendations.

The changes impacting patients’ eligibility took effect upon signing. Other changes in the law take effect on July 1, 2016. Full text of the new law is online here.

Canada: Rising Popularity Of Medical Cannabis Among Veterans Associated With Declining Opioid Use

NORML - Thu, 09/06/2016 - 13:53

Rising rates of medical cannabis use among Canadian military veterans is associated with a parallel decline in the use of prescription opiates and benzodiazepenes, according to federal data recently provided to The Globe and Mail.

According to records provided by Veterans Affairs Canada, the number of veterans prescribed benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax, Ativan, and Valium) fell nearly 30 percent between 2012 and 2016, while veterans’ use of prescription opiates declined almost 17 percent. During this same period, veterans seeking federal reimbursements for prescription cannabis rose from fewer than 100 total patients to more than 1,700.

Canadian officials legalized the use of cannabis via prescription in 2001.

While the data set is too small to establish cause and effect, the trend is consistent with data indicating that many patients substitute medical cannabis for other prescription drugs, especially opiates.

Prior assessments from the United States report that incidences of opioid-related addiction, abuse, and mortality are significantly lower in jurisdictions that permit medicinal cannabis access as compared to those states that do not.

Ohio: Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Vaporization Measure

NORML - Thu, 09/06/2016 - 08:52

Ohio Governor John Kasich has signed legislation into law establishing regulations for the licensed production and dispensing of medical cannabis formulations to qualified patients.

House Bill 523 authorizes the use of various forms of cannabis preparations for the physician-authorized treatment of the following qualifying conditions: acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Alzheimer’s disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease); cancer; chronic traumatic encephalopathy; Crohn’s disease; epilepsy or other seizure disorders; fibromyalgia; glaucoma; hepatitis C; inflammatory bowel disease; multiple sclerosis; pain that is either of the following nature: (i) Chronic and severe; or (ii) Intractable; Parkinson’s disease; positive status for HIV; post-traumatic stress disorder; sickle cell anemia; spinal cord disease or injury; Tourette’s syndrome; traumatic brain injury; and ulcerative colitis.

The new law, which takes effect in 90 days, requires state regulators to license the production, distribution, and testing of cannabis products, but it forbids home cultivation of the plant.

Cannabis-specific products may be dispensed as oils, tinctures, edibles, patches, or as herbal material. Smoking herbal cannabis is not permitted under the measure; however, the measure does not clarify how this prohibition would be enforced.

The vaporizing of medical cannabis products by patients is permitted by the legislation. Similar smoking restrictions exist in four other states: Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania.

THC content in herbal cannabis will be limited to 35 percent under the measure, while extracts will be capped at 75 percent THC.

Although the program is not anticipated to be fully operational until early 2018, provisions in the law provide limited legal protections for qualifying patients who acquire cannabis from alternative sources prior to this date.

A summary of the bill is available from the Ohio Patient Network here.

Ohio is the 26th state to enact statutory language permitting the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana. Last month, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed legislation amending the state’s dormant medical marijuana law to permit the licensed production and distribution of cannabis-infused preparations to qualified patients. However, patients are not anticipated to have access to cannabis products under that law until late 2017 or 2018.

Proponents in Ohio who sought to place a separate, broader medical marijuana measure on the 2016 ballot had recently announced that they were suspending their campaign, stating, “[A]ll in all, [HB 523] is a moderately good piece of legislation passed by lawmakers who were pushed hard by the patient community. We plan on continuing forward as an advocacy effort to ensure that the state of Ohio lives up to the promises contained in HB 523, but also working to better the program utilizing our amendment as a road map for those improvements.”

Survey: Pediatric Oncology Providers Favor Cannabis For Pediatric Treatment

NORML - Tue, 07/06/2016 - 16:14

More than nine in ten pediatric oncology providers with opinions favor patients’ access to cannabis therapy, according to survey data provided this week at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Investigators from various US cancer treatment centers surveyed 654 pediatric oncology providers, including physicians and nurses, at three National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington. Over 300 providers (46 percent) completed the survey.

Of those, 92 percent said that they were “willing to help pediatric cancer patients access medical marijuana,” and just over one-third (34 percent) acknowledged that cannabis therapy “is appropriate in the early stages of cancer treatment.”

Thirty percent of respondents reported receiving requests from patients or their families to access medical marijuana therapy at least once per month.

Overall, pediatric oncology providers hold “predominantly favorable attitudes toward medical marijuana use in pediatric cancer patients,” authors concluded.

Previous surveys of physicians and health care providers report similar attitudes. Survey results published in 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 76 percent of respondents supported the use of cannabis therapy in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. A 2014 poll of over 1,500 physicians commissioned by Web MD similarly reported that 82 percent of oncologists believed that marijuana treatment provides legitimate therapeutic benefits.

An abstract of the survey data, “Pediatric oncology providers and use of medical marijuana in children with cancer,” appears online here.

Poll: Majority Of Americans Say Make Marijuana Legal

NORML - Tue, 07/06/2016 - 10:04

The majority of US voters believe that the adult use of cannabis ought to be legalized, while more than nine in ten Americans endorse allowing its use for therapeutic purposes, according to the results of nationwide polling data provided by Quinnipiac University.

Fifty-four percent of respondents say that the “use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States.” Support for legalization is strongest among those age 18 to 39 (69 percent), Democrat voters (65 percent), Independents (61 percent), and males (60 percent). Support is weakest among Republicans (36 percent), those over 65 years of age (37 percent), and female voters (47 percent).

By contrast, super-majorities in all demographic categories — including 94 percent of Democrats, 93 percent of Independents, and 81 percent of Republicans — support permitting physicians to authorize medical marijuana use to qualified patients.

In response to a separate polling question, 87 percent of respondents agreed with a recently enacted Congressional amendment authorizing V.A. physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to military veterans in states that permit it.

The poll’s results are similar to those of numerous recent national surveys, including those by CBS News, the Associated Press, and Gallup showing majority support for marijuana law reform.

Kansas City NORML Moves One Step Closer to Decriminalizing Marijuana

NORML - Mon, 06/06/2016 - 09:55

Great news for marijuana consumers in Kansas City, Missouri! After months of back and forth meetings with city officials, NORML KC, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of marijuana laws, has received approval to move forward with a municipal initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses. If passed, the measure will amend local laws regarding the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and up from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine to a civil offense punishable by a $50 fine — no arrest or criminal record. Read the full text of the initiative by clicking, here!

With a deadline of August 25, 2016 to collect the 1,703 signatures needed to qualify the initiative for a vote, the organization’s executive director, Jamie Kacz, is hoping to gather more than 2,300 to offset the possibility of some signatures being deemed invalid. Mrs. Kacz and her volunteers started the process of collecting signatures during last week’s First Friday Art Festival at the Crossroads Art District and will continue to work hard over the next twelve weeks.

“Current laws are unreasonably harsh and now is the perfect opportunity to make a change. It’s time for Kansas City to take this sensible step forward,” Kacz said. “This will be a grassroots effort and passionate volunteers will be an essential part of our efforts”.

If you live in Kansas City, be on the lookout for volunteers with NORML KC as they’re out and about with petitions looking to reform your city’s marijuana laws! Make sure you follow NORML KC on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with future events and announcements!


Rick Steves: A Wonderfully Effective Advocate for Legalization

NORML - Mon, 06/06/2016 - 06:51

Travel writer and public television travel host (and NORML board member) Rick Steves is truly a breath of fresh air.

As countless American travelers know, Rick Steves is a popular, prolific, and clean-cut travel expert who hosts the popular public television series “Rick Steves Europe” as well the National Public Radio show “Travel with Rick Steves,” and he has written many guidebooks for Americans traveling in Europe. His company, Rick Steves’ Europe, also hosts hundreds of trips to Europe each year. He helps readers, viewers, and tour participants discover not only great cities but cozy villages off the usual tourist-trampled paths. He helps American travelers connect intimately with Europeans—often for a fraction of what mainstream tourists pay.

Steves says his company’s mission “is to inspire, inform, and equip Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. We value travel as a powerful way to better understand and contribute to the world in which we live. We strive to keep our own travel style, our world outlook, and our business practices consistent with these values.”

Steves, who is an active member of his Lutheran church, has a wonderfully wholesome and charming style and has developed a unique comfort level with average Americans. They like and trust him. And it comes as a surprise to many to learn that Steves has another side to him: he is also a marijuana smoker and a public advocate for legalizing the responsible use of marijuana. Because of his ability to personally connect with his audience, Steves is an especially effective NORML advocate whose public support carries great credibility.

More and more public figures are beginning to speak out, but Steves was ahead of most all of them and has insisted on making his personal views on the subject public, regardless of the audience. Steves made his first appearance as a featured speaker at a NORML conference in 2003, and has been a featured speaker at many of our conferences since. He also frequently joins us to address the annual Seattle Hempfest. He was first elected to the NORML board of directors in 2013 and he continues to serve in that capacity.

Steves has shown a willingness to articulate in public what many marijuana smokers believe but are uncomfortable saying out loud: that in the right situation, smoking cannabis can be a positive and life-enhancing experience. Not only is it not harmful behavior, when used responsibly, but it can actually improve the quality of one’s life. The mind is clearer, and one’s creative juices are enhanced by the experience of getting high. Beyond that, it can be a wonderful way to simply relax.

Steves has an effective way to explain his interest in marijuana smoking. “I’m a travel writer. For me ‘high’ is a place. Sometimes I just want to go there. And if my government says no, there better be a good reason. And there isn’t.” He finishes his talk by wishing his audience “Happy travels…even if you’re just staying home.”

Steves was an official sponsor and significant financial supporter, and toured his home state of Washington actively campaigning in support of the ballot initiative (I-502) that voters approved in 2012, and he actively supported and personally toured Oregon in support of the successful Oregon initiative (Measure 91) in 2014.

And he has announced he is making similar commitments to the legalization initiatives that will appear on the November ballot in both Maine and Massachusetts this fall. He will spend three days in both states this fall, barnstorming to build support for the measures, and he will make a significant financial contribution to the campaigns in both states.

Just this past week Steves announced he was putting up $50,000 as a matching grant to the Maine Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, to match the contributions from other supporters.

I’ve worked hard to help legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use in Washington State (where I live) and in Oregon. This November, Maine voters will have the opportunity to approve a ballot initiative that will end prohibition and replace it with a sensible marijuana policy in their state too.

As a NORML Board Member, I am proud to announce that NORML is endorsing this initiative. And to demonstrate my commitment, I am going to match every donation up to $50,000, dollar-for-dollar. This October, I’ll be visiting Maine to speak about the initiative and help build support for legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana in the state.

Through my travels in Europe, I’ve learned that pragmatic harm reduction makes much more sense than legislating morality. And I believe in civil liberties. Responsible adults should be able to use marijuana, just as they can use alcohol. Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska have demonstrated that it is possible to build a system of marijuana control and regulation that works.”

This isn’t about being “soft” or “hard” on drugs. This is about being smart – and controlling and regulating marijuana the right way.

Please consider making a donation today. Together, we can make history in Maine.

Best,

Rick Steves

Guidebook Author and Travel TV Host

NORML Board Member”

In a press release issued by the Maine campaign, they thanked NORML for endorsing the initiative and expressed their appreciation of Rick Steves’ generosity. “NORML has spent decades educating the public about marijuana and advocating for sensible marijuana policy reform,” said campaign manager David Boyer. “We are proud to have their support, and we are very grateful for Mr. Steves’ exceptionally generous offer. A lot of celebrities express support for ending marijuana prohibition, but few put their money where their mouth is.”

And that is the point of this column. Lots of celebrities talk the talk, but few actually walk the walk. It is a delight to be working with Rick Steves, a celebrity who does both exceptionally well. Rick Steves may well be the single most effective legalization advocate in America, and he is especially helpful bridging the gap between those of us who smoke and those who don’t.

Thanks, Rick, for all you do to advance the cause of personal freedom for all of us, smokers and non-smokers alike.

____________________________________________________

This column was first published on Marijuana.com.

Gerry Goldstein: A Champion for Social Justice

NORML - Mon, 30/05/2016 - 07:24

It was with great pleasure that NORML presented the first annual Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award this past week to criminal defense attorney Gerald H. Goldstein, a long-time NORML activist and senior partner with the firm of Goldstein, Goldstein and Hilley in San Antonio, TX.

The award, named after the late Michael J. Kennedy, the legendary civil rights and criminal defense attorney (and general counsel for High Times magazine from its inception in 1974 until his death in early 2016), was established, with the blessing of the Kennedy family, to honor those individuals who, like Michael Kennedy, dedicate their lives to advancing the cause of social justice in America. Eleanora Kennedy, Michael’s window, and their daughter Anna Safir, spoke at the ceremony, reminding us of Michael’s 40-year support for NORML and our mission to legalize marijuana, and suggesting he would be thrilled that his colleague Goldstein would be the first recipient of this annual award.

The inscription on the award reads as follows:

“To Gerald H. Goldstein, in recognition of your lifetime commitment to achieving social justice for all people, including especially those without the resources or social standing to achieve justice on their own. Your willingness to speak for the underdog, the disenfranchised and the unpopular, like Michael Kennedy himself, has defined your exemplary personal and professional life.”

And few lawyers in America better fit this description than my dear friend Gerry Goldstein.

Goldstein first became involved in the struggle to end marijuana prohibition back in 1972, when he volunteered to represent NORML in the state of Texas, which, at that time, was the state handing down the harshest marijuana sentences in the country. In fact, Texas at the time had more than seven hundred people serving sentences of ten years or longer for (mostly) non-violent marijuana offenses, with more than thirty people serving sentences of thirty years or longer, and thirteen people serving life sentences.

We realized it was important to publicize that cruel reality, and with Goldstein’s help, we managed to arrange a tour of the Texas prison system with major media, including the New York Times and the AP, to interview a sampling of these poor souls. As a result of the national publicity that resulted, the governor established a panel to review the sentences of those marijuana offenders, and most were subsequently released years earlier than would otherwise have been the case.

Goldstein also became the go-to-guy to represent Vietnam War draft resisters during that era, as well as other protesters willing to challenge unfair policies of the government.

And there have been many occasions over the years when Goldstein would fly across the country to represent a marijuana defendant facing a lengthy prison sentence because he understood the injustice of marijuana prohibition and could not look the other way. He is an extraordinarily talented and committed individual who has no fear of challenging those who would oppress the less fortunate among us. His personal and professional life has been a tapestry of helping others, and a model for those who seek to assure a more just society for all.

Over time, Goldstein joined the ranks of the elite criminal defense attorneys in the country, serving as president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and a founding member of the NORML Legal Committee (NLC), where he, along with noted San Francisco criminal defense attorney Michael Stepanian, were named “co-chairs for life.”

He has represented clients as diverse as Manual Noriega and the movie “Deep Throat” before the US Supreme Court; has represented many clients pro bono on behalf the Innocence Project, including the exoneration of Michael Morton, who served 25 years for a crime he did not commit — a case which led to the prosecutor and sitting Texas judge being sentenced to jail for Morton’s wrongful conviction. Goldstein has met with several US Attorney Generals to discuss issues confronting the criminal justice system; and has made himself available to fight some of the toughest battles with the government to protect the right of every citizen to a vigorous defense and the assistance of competent counsel when accused or suspected of a crime.

Goldstein received NORML’s Al Horn Memorial Award in 1999, and the Lester Grinspoon Award in 2011 for his lifetime of advocacy and support for ending marijuana prohibition; the Robert C. Heeney Memorial Award for the outstanding criminal defense attorney in the US from NACDL; the John Henry Faulk Civil Libertarian of the Year Award from the ACLU; and was named a “Legal Legend” by the State Bar of Texas and is a member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Hall of Fame, as well as scores of additional awards (literally too numerous to list) recognizing his commitment to social justice in America.

And throughout his storied career, Goldstein has never lost sight of the plight of “the underdog, the disenfranchised and the unpopular,” which is why he richly deserves this first annual Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award.

Thank you, Gerry, for a lifetime of fighting for the underdog.

_____________________________________________

This column was originally published on Marijuana.com.

NORML’s 2016 Conference and Lobby Day – A Debrief

NORML - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 13:50

NORML members, supporters, and chapter leaders gathered in our nation’s capital this week, for NORML’s 2016 Conference and Lobby Day. The events were filled with education, activism, socializing, and plenty of marijuana smoking. For those who weren’t able to attend, keep reading below to find out what you missed and how you can get involved in next year’s events.

On Monday we held our educational conference at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs. On the top floor, surrounded with ceiling to floor windows, the meeting room provided attendees a view of some of the district’s most iconic sights while hearing from some of the reform movement’s brightest minds.

Highlights on Day 1 included a presentation by Deputy Director Paul Armentano entitled, “We Don’t Know Enough About Cannabis? Think Again,” where he acknowledged that there are now more scientific studies and papers available specific to cannabis than most other conventional therapeutics.

John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at The Brookings Institute discussed the successes we have seen from Colorado and the other pioneering states that have regulated marijuana for adult use.

Attendees also heard from Queens College professor Harry Levine and investigator Loren Siegel, who highlighted the continuing racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement — a disparity that continues to exist even in jurisdictions that have regulated cannabis-related activities. Their presentations were a stark reminder that even as we celebrate or successes, there is still plenty of work left to do.

A summary of many of the day’s presentations is online here.

Finally, in one of the more notable events of the day Eleanora Kennedy and Anna Kennedy Safir awarded longtime NORML Legal Committee member Gerald H. Goldstein with the first annual Michael John Kennedy Social Justice Award.

Events continued Monday night at the historic O St. Mansion where attendees gathered for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. NORML hosted our 2016 award ceremony, highlighting various attendees for their extraordinary activism, and political and cultural leadership in the field of marijuana and marijuana policy reform. Award recipients included:

  • Outstanding Chapter Award to Norm Kent on behalf of Florida NORML
  • Student Activist Award to Chris Thompson, Purdue NORML
  • Lester Grinspoon Award to Harry Levine and Loren Siegel
  • Hunter S. Thompson Award to Bruce Barcott, Leafly
  • Pauline Sabin Award to Pam Novy, Virginia NORML
  • Peter McWilliams Award to Ken Wolski, Coalition for Medical Marijuana – NJ
  • Outstanding Cannabist Activist Award to Kevin Oliver, Washington NORML

On Tuesday attendees convened on Capitol Hill for a full day of lobbying. In the morning, attendees heard words of encouragement from five distinguished members of Congress: Reps. Sam Farr, Earl Blumenauer, Jared Polis, Suzan DelBene, and Dana Rohrabacher. Congressman Farr (D-CA), who is the co-sponsor of legislation protecting statewide medical marijuana programs from federal interference, will be retiring this year so it was a privilege for our lobby group to hear from him.

NORML awarded Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR) our 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for his continued leadership and focus on marijuana law reform throughout his career. Keith Stroup, NORML’s founder and legal counsel, spoke of the Congressman’s first days as a legislator in the Oregon State House of Representatives where he sponsored the state’s 1973 decriminalization law. Ever since then Congressman Blumenauer has continued to support our issue. Just last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment sponsored by the Congressman providing V.A. physicians the ability to discuss and recommend medical marijuana to U.S. veterans.

Congressman Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman DelBene (D-WA) encouraged attendees to continue their advocacy work. Congressman Polis is chief sponsor of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, legislation to to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. Congresswoman DelBene is chief sponsor of the SMART Enforcement Act, legislation to make the US federal Controlled Substances Act inapplicable with respect to states that have legalized and regulated marijuana in a manner that addresses key federal priorities.

Wrapping up the morning reception, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) made news when he acknowledged successfully using a topical marijuana treatment for his shoulder arthritis. His admission marked quite possibly the first time ever a sitting member of Congress has admitted using marijuana while serving in office! Congressman Rohrabacher is one of our most valuable leaders at the federal level and NORML wishes to thank him for not only addressing our group but for sharing with us his candid and personal testimony. You can listen to the archived audio from NORML’s Capitol Hill reception here.

Throughout the three day event, attendees were able to network with fellow activists, learn from leaders in the reform movement, and relax with some of best locally grown marijuana in Washington D.C. NORML would like to thank those of you who attended and contributed to this successful event and we look forward to seeing you all again next year.

NORML’s Legislative Round Up May 27th, 2016

NORML - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 09:42

Federal lawmakers pressured President Obama this week to take executive action to reform marijuana policy. Meanwhile, state legislative reforms are still moving forward throughout the country. Keep reading to get the latest news and to learn what you can do to take action.

Federal:

Fourteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter this week to President Obama urging the administration to enact various marijuana law reforms.

The letter requests the administration to reschedule marijuana under federal law to Schedule III or a lower category, or to deschedule it altogether; to license additional growers of cannabis for research purposes; to extend protections for secondary and tertiary businesses that serve the medical marijuana industry, and to ensure that the Justice Department better respects Congressionally-enacted legislation preventing it from interfering with well-regulated state medical cannabis programs.

The letter comes after the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced recently that it will soon issue a decision on pending petitions seeking to reclassify marijuana. However, lawmakers cautioned that reclassification is only one of many changes needed with regard to federal marijuana regulations. The letter reads, “We would like to caution against adopting the assumption that rescheduling alone is the panacea to the difficulties currently facing businesses, practitioners, and consumers. As such, we implore your Administration to investigate additional reforms that may be made administratively.”

State:

California: The Public Policy Institute of California released new polling information Thursday showing “broad and increasing support for a legal, regulated system of adult-use marijuana in California.” The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which is expected to appear on the November ballot, permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possession and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes.

Sixty-nine percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents and 45 percent of Republicans support regulating the adult use of marijuana, according to the poll, In each demographic, support has increased in recent months. National NORML has endorsed the AUMA, along with California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu and Dana Rohrabacher, the California Council of Land Trusts, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, the California Cannabis Industry Association, the California Medical Association, and the California NAACP.

Ohio: Lawmakers in both chambers have approved legislation, House bill 523, to regulate the use of medical cannabis preparations by qualified patients. The bill authorizes the use of various forms of cannabis preparations for the physicians-authorized treatment of nearly two-dozen conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy, and Crohn’s. It calls on the state to license the production, distribution, and testing of cannabis products. Home cultivation is not allowed. Products may be dispensed as oils, tinctures, edibles, patches, or as plant material. However, smoking herbal cannabis is not permitted under the measure. Vaporizing medical cannabis products is permitted. Similar restrictions exist in three other states: Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania.

The measure now awaits action from Gov. John Kasich, who may be contacted here.

Proponents seeking to place a separate, broader medical marijuana measure on the 2016 ballot announced on May 28 that they were suspending their campaign, stating, “[A]ll in all, it is a moderately good piece of legislation passed by lawmakers who were pushed hard by the patient community. We plan on continuing forward as an advocacy effort to ensure that the State of Ohio lives up to the promises contained in HB 523, but also working to better the program utilizing our amendment as a roadmap for those improvements.”

Pennsylvania: Representative Ed Gainey has introduced legislation, House Bill 2076, to amend the state’s controlled substances act so that minor marijuana possession offenses are considered a non-criminal offense. The legislation would impose a fine and a summary conviction for an individual possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana or eight grams or less of hashish. Offenders would no longer face criminal arrest, incarceration, or a criminal record. The bill is now pending before the House Judiciary committee. #TakeAction

West Virginia: Legislation was recently introduced to decriminalize the possession and cultivation of limited quantities of marijuana in West Virginia.

House Bill 114 permits the personal use, growth and possession of up to two ounces of marijuana by persons over the age of twenty-one who have acquired a “tax stamp” from the state. It removes marijuana from the state list of schedule I drugs and decriminalizes first-time marijuana distribution offenses involving under 30 grams of marijuana. Adults will be allowed to transfer to another person twenty-one years of age or older, without remuneration, one ounce or less of marijuana.

Adults who choose to grow their own marijuana will be permitted to cultivate and harvest up to six pants. #TakeAction

Study: Rates Of Problematic Cannabis Use Falling Among Teens

NORML - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 14:37

Fewer adolescents are consuming cannabis; among those who do, fewer are engaging in problematic use of the plant, according to newly published data in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis evaluated government survey data on adolescents’ self-reported drug use during the years 2002 to 2013. Over 216,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 participated in the federally commissioned surveys.

Researchers reported that the percentage of respondents who said that they had used cannabis over the past year fell by ten percent during the study period. The number of adolescents reporting problems related to marijuana, such as engaging in habitual use of the plant, declined by 24 percent from 2002 to 2013.

The study’s lead author acknowledged that the declines in marijuana use and abuse were “substantial.”

The study’s findings are consistent with previous evaluations reporting decreased marijuana use and abuse by young people over the past decade and a half — a period of time during which numerous states have liberalized their marijuana policies.

An abstract of the new study, “Declining prevalence of marijuana use disorders among adolescents in the United States, 2002 to 2013,” appears online here.

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