Loading

NORML Blog

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML October 15, 2018

    One Year Anniversary

    October 2nd, 2018 marked the one year anniversary of the unanimous passage of Atlanta City Ordinance 17-O-1152, which reduced the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana within the city limits of Atlanta to $75.00 and no jail time.  While this ordinance isn’t a true “decrim” bill, because those arrested are still being fingerprinted, it was a great step toward sensible marijuana legislation here in Georgia.

    Curiosity

    I wanted to know just what effect 17-O-1152 had on “simple possession” arrests in Atlanta.  After all, the ordinance didn’t make it “legal”, it just reduced the penalties.  It didn’t really even “decrim”.  APD officers are still free to arrest offenders and take them to jail.  The question burned in my mind; “Did they, or did they use 17-O-1152 as a justification to act on a moral conviction?“.  I knew where to find at least a clue to the answer.

    ACDC — No, Not the Band

    I have to hand it to the folks in the Records Department of the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC).  I’ve asked them for data several times and they are always quick to respond.  It seems I even have a nickname with them.  More on that later …. maybe.

    So last week I asked them to provide me with the following data, which they promptly did.  I’ve added their response in blue:

    a) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2016, and Oct 2, 2017, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is an included charge:  2136

    b) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2016, and Oct 2, 2017, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is the ONLY charge:  952

    c) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2017, and Oct 2, 2018, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is an included charge:  683

    d) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2017, and Oct 2, 2018, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is the ONLY charge:  252

    The Inference

    To sum it up, personal-use possession arrests fell from 3088 to 935 the first year after implementation of this ordinance.  When you do the math, that’s a 69.8% reduction.  So consider these factors:

    • 17-O-1152 was not directed to the Atlanta Police Department, rather to the Municipal Court.
    • APD officers can still arrest
    • Folks in the Metro live it like it’s legal anyway

    I searched through APD’s Standard Operating Procedures and didn’t find a mention of reducing the emphasis on simple possession arrests, so that doesn’t seem to be a factor.  Chief Shields may have issued an internal memo to that effect, but I’ve found no evidence of it, and I’m fairly certain that would have made its way into print somewhere.  She did say publicly during the hearings associated with 17-O-1152 that possession of small amounts was not high on the APD’s priority list, and that certainly has to be taken into consideration.

    So what can we deduce from this information?  I think it’s simply this; Nearly 70% of cops in Atlanta really don’t have a problem with NOT arresting marijuana users and now that they have an opportunity to exercise their moral discretion, they are doing so.  I think that’s significant.

    Too Optimistic?

    I’m optimistic by nature.  I’m always looking to what’s around the corner, to what the positive, rather than the negative outcome of a situation can be.  When this ordinance was passed many of you in the marijuana movement in Georgia cast aspersions on it.  You felt like it was a hollow gesture, with no substance, and that it wouldn’t make a difference.  Well, apparently you were wrong.  ‘Nuff said.

    So now I’m excited to see how this pans out in Savannah, South Fulton, Fulton County, Forest Park, and Kingsland as they reach the anniversary dates of their “decrim” ordinances.  We already know that Clarkston’s City Council and Mayor Ted Terry were the first to enact such an ordinance, and their program is working well.

    I’m also interested, as we all should be, in whether or not our State Legislators are listening …. or rather, who they are listening to.  This is The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association’s (GSA) position on marijuana  posted boldly on the front page of their website:

    “The position of the GSA concerning marijuana and medical cannabis is as follows:

    • OPPOSE the legalization of marijuana for all social, recreational or industrial purposes.
    • OPPOSE the cultivation of marijuana for all purposes.
    • SUPPORT the use of chemicals derived from cannabis for medical use for certain well defined serious health conditions.
    • OPPOSE the medical delivery or application of chemicals derived from cannabis plants through smoking.
    • OPPOSE legislative proposals where appropriate controls and security measures do not exist and where strict civil and criminal penalties are absent.

    The Executive Vice President of the GSA is a paid lobbyist.  Sheriffs and other law enforcement execs are always telling us, “We don’t make the laws, we just enforce them” and “If you don’t want us enforcing the law, get it changed.”  How are we supposed to do that when phrases like “Danger, danger” and “slippery slope” and “gateway drug” are constantly being whispered in our law-makers’ ears by a paid lobbyist?  Get out of our way and we WILL change the law.  We’re going to change it anyway.  It’s now a matter of when not if.  Your Rank and File support it.  I know.  I talk to them.

    I also find it telling that the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police doesn’t even mention it on their website.

    Tom McCain is the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, fighting for the rights of Georgian cannabis consumers. You can visit their website at www.peachtreenorml.org, follow their work on Facebook and Twitter, and please make a contribution to support their work by clicking here. 

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director
    New York,  A coalition of over 20 organizations working at the intersection of the cannabis industry, racial equity, and reparative justice, will join local and community groups across the country for the inaugural National Expungement Week (N.E.W.) October 20-27, 2018. Conceived to aid those disenfranchised by the war on drugs, N.E.W. will offer free clinics to help to remove, seal, or reclassify eligible convictions from criminal records.

    N.E.W. events will be held in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Haven, Philadelphia, Prince George’s County, San Francisco and Washington, DC. Organizers will also provide attendees with a varied (depending upon location) range of supportive services including employment resources, voter engagement, health screenings, and more. The N.E.W. website also provides a link to an online toolkit so that interested parties can host their own record change events.

    In recent months, District Attorneys in a number of cities – such as New YorkSan FranciscoSan Diego, and Seattle  have moved to automate the process of expunging past marijuana convictions.

    For more information, visit https://www.offtherecord.us/ 
  • by NORML

    Legislation permitting the possession, use, cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis takes effect this Wednesday, October 17.

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri is hailing the policy change. “We applaud Canada for showing legislators in the United States what can be accomplished with true leadership and dedication to sound public policy,” he said. “America’s leaders would be wise to learn from our neighbors, and similarly replace our archaic and failed marijuana prohibition laws with a regulatory scheme that is largely evidence-based and that reflects cannabis rapidly changing cultural status.”

    Canada is only the second country in the world to explicitly legalize cannabis production and sales nationwide.

    The Act, Bill C-45, permits those age 18 and older to legally possess (up to 30 grams) and grow cannabis (up to four plants of any size per household). Individual provinces possess the authority to enact additional regulations with respect to distribution, such as raising the legal age limit to purchase cannabis or by restricting home grow operations.

    The Act also federally licenses commercial producers of cannabis and certain cannabis-infused products, while permitting provinces to regulate retail sales in public (government operated) and private stores, subject to local rules. Online cannabis sales will also be permitted in certain provinces.

    While fewer than 200 total retailers are anticipated to be operational on day one of the new law, additional facilities are anticipated to be operational in the near future. Cannabis-infused edible products are anticipated to be regulated and available at retail stores early next summer. The new social use regulations do not amend Canada’s existing medical marijuana access laws, which have been in place since 2001.

    The enactment of the new law fulfills a campaign pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised shortly after taking office to legalize and regulate the marijuana market. Prime Minister Trudeau, who formerly opposed legalization, cites a 2012 meeting with NORML members as the impetus for changing his position on the issue.

    In anticipation of the law change, the US Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection Agency published a memorandum in September affirming that those Canadians either involved or invested in the legal cannabis industry may be barred admission into the United States. The agency later updated their policy directive on October 9, 2018, acknowledging: “A Canadian citizen working in … the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the US for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the United States. However, if a traveler is found to be coming to the US for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”

    NORML criticized the agency for its stance. NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “Those thousands of Canadians participating in the legal cannabis industry pose no threat to the US and should not face discrimination or additional scrutiny,” he said. “At a time when public opinion and the culture surrounding marijuana is rapidly shifting, not just in the United States but around the world, it is inane for US border officials to maintain such a backward-looking policy.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 12, 2018

    This Wednesday, Canada will become the second nation to explicitly legalize the social use, possession, cultivation, and retail production and sale of cannabis. The new law marks the culmination of an effort led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised in 2015, shortly after taking office, to legalize and regulate the marijuana market.

    But PM Trudeau was not always in favor of adult use legalization. In fact, for many years he opposed it. That was until he met face-to-face with NORML advocates in 2012.

    Speaking with the Huffington Post in 2013, Trudeau acknowledged that he reversed his position after speaking with NORML members. “[Their] line of argument did a long way towards convincing me,” he admitted.

    Here is how the Toronto Star reported the event:

    Five short years ago, Trudeau was not a fan of legalized pot. As he wandered around the 2012 Liberal policy convention in Ottawa — the same one in which a majority of party members voted in favour of legalization — Trudeau was a dissenting voice.

    … By the end of 2012, a lot of things had changed for Trudeau — beyond his appearance. He had changed his mind about running for Liberal leader, officially launching his campaign in October, and he was also starting to see that legalization was better than the decriminalization option he’d long favoured.

    Today, Trudeau and his advisers trace the shift to a meeting with two women in his office in November of that year, who armed him with some of the pro-legalization arguments that he’s still using today — now, as prime minister. The two women were Kelly Coulter and Andrea Matrosovs, then representing what was known as the women’s alliance of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

    Coulter, who now lives in Victoria, remembers the meeting well, and is heartened to hear that Trudeau traces his conversion to this encounter.

    “I actually saw the ‘aha’ moment,” Coulter says. It had been an emotional meeting in Trudeau’s tiny Parliament Hill office; the three of them talked about their own personal experience with marijuana. Trudeau talked about his mother using pot, and his brother, Michel, who had been charged with possession not long before he died. (Trudeau has subsequently told the story publicly of how his father used connections to get the charges dropped so that his son didn’t have a criminal record.)

    Coulter told Trudeau flatly that decriminalization would not keep gangs and organized crime out of the marijuana business. “Al Capone would have loved it if alcohol had only been decriminalized,” she said — a line she often used when talking to politicians.
    “I saw the light go on in his eyes,” Coulter said. “He was seeing this as a politician, realizing ‘I can sell this,’ ” she recalled.

    Trudeau could see how this argument would blunt Conservative attacks on him as being soft on crime; with legalization, he could simultaneously seem liberal about marijuana but conservative about gangs and criminals. It helped persuade Trudeau that legalization, would be the best way for the government to regulate its use and keep it safe, especially for kids.

    The lesson here is clear. Never forget that change begins with a single step, and that significant policy reforms can be inspired by a single interaction with lawmakers. Or, as we like to say at NORML, “The more we’re talking about ending prohibition, the more we’re winning.”

    Let’s keep the conversation going.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate

    Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    This week, The U.S. House bill to respect state medical cannabis laws (CARERS Act) got two new cosponsors, for a total of 30.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a clarification to a policy many feared would prevent Canadians who work or invest in marijuana businesses from entering the country, indicating that “A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S. however, if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”

    At the state level, The working group appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to draft NY’s leglaization legislation is taking public comments on this initiative until the end of October, and you can submit your own comments by clicking here, or you can email comments to rmls@health.ny.gov.

    New Hampshire’s Commission to Study the Legalization Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana will deliver its final report to Gov. Chris Sununu by Nov. 1. The commission includes legislators, law enforcement officials, state regulators, and law and medical professionals. The report will include recommendations for a legal marijuana market if legalization legislation were to pass, ranging from regulatory framework, to licensing processes, to tax rates and revenue projections.

    New Jersey lawmakers discussed the finer details of pending marijuana legalization legislation. The forthcoming bill addresses taxes, regulations and eligibility to operate a marijuana business. It also includes provisions to address racial inequities in marijuana arrests, and to provide for expungement.

    Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo signed a bill into law allowing medical cannabis home cultivation.

    At a more local level, a Green Bay, Wisconsin City Council committee voted to delay consideration of a proposed ordinance to lower marijuana possession penalties, and the Lawrence, Kansas City Commission is considering a proposal to lower marijuana penalties.

    Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Click here to e-mail your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation

    Pennsylvania

    House Bill 928 was carried over from last year, seeking to reduce minor marijuana possession penalties.

    HB 928 amends state law so that first and second marijuana possession offenses (up to 30 grams) are reduced from misdemeanor offenses to a summary offense, punishable by a fine only.

    Update: HB 928 was heard by the House Judiciary Committee on 10/9 at 9:30am, then approved by the committee after shooting down a proposed amendment that would have barred local jurisdictions in the state from imposing their own decriminalization policies.

    PA resident? Click here to email your representatives in support of decriminalization

    That’s all for this week!

Page 1 of 53612345...102030...Last »