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NORML Blog

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 20, 2017

    legion_displayFor more than a year, The American Legion has been calling on the federal government – and specifically the Veterans Affairs Department – to support research into the therapeutic benefits of cannabis in treating veterans with PTSD.

    Many veterans, especially Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, have told both the Legion and NORML that they have been able to eliminate or reduce their dependency on other drugs, specifical opioids.

    Now, the Legion is ramping up their efforts to convince VA Secretary Shulkin to expand research into the therapeutic and medicinal effects of cannabis.

    In a letter sent yesterday and released publicly today, they state:

    Dear Mr. Secretary:

    For more than a year, the American Legion has called on the federal government to support and enable scientific research to clinically confirm the medicinal value of cannabis. The National Academy of Medicine recently reviewed 10,000 scientific abstracts on the therapeutic value of cannabis and reached nearly 100 conclusions in a report issued earlier this year. As a two million member strong veteran service organization, our primary interest and advocacy is grounded in the wellbeing and improved health of our veterans, and specifically our service disabled veterans.

    The American Legion supports VA’s statutory medical research million and has donated millions of dollars toward expanding VA’s scientific research. VA innovation is widely championed for its breakthrough discoveries in medicine and has been recognized over the years with three Nobel Prizes for scientific work that has benefitted the world over.

    Your immediate attention in this important matter is greatly appreciated. We ask for your direct involvement to ensure this critical research is fully implemented.

    Sincerely,
    Denis H. Rohan
    National Commander

    This comes just one month after the Legion adopted a resolution calling on federal officials to expand veterans’ access to medical marijuana.

    NORML has documented the longitudinal data on how cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, and opioid-related overdose deaths

    You can read the full letter to VA urging cannabis research access here.

    Click here to send a message to your federal officials in support of HR 1820, the bipartisan Veterans Equal Access Act introduced by Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair Earl Blumenauer

    Earlier this year, a budget amendment that reflected the Veterans Equal Access Act’s language was introduced by Senator Daines (R-MT) and passed in the Senate Appropriations Committee and introduced by Rep. Blumenauer and blocked in the House Rules Committee. The amendments fate will likely be decided in a joint conference committee later this year.

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML

    Awful News

    My friend Stephen Bradley called me on Friday, September 14th and asked if I was sitting down. I knew it couldn’t be good news, but when he told me our mutual friend James Bell had died suddenly, I experienced several moments of simple denial. This just can’t be true, I thought. Then the enormity of the news dropped on me like a heavy stone as I realized how large a hole James’ death leaves in the politics of Marijuana Law Reform in Georgia.

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    The James Bell I Knew

    I met James in the fall of 2014 in Dublin, Georgia. He was there videoing a Justice for David Hooks rally. David had been killed in his own home during the execution of a fruitless search warrant, based on the word of an addict/thief who had burglarized David’s property the night before his death. Soon after, I met James again when I testified against the term no-knock warrant being written into black letter Georgia Law before a Senate Committee. We had an opportunity to talk for a while that day, discovering that we had several interests in common. We became friends and allies and called each other often. Over time, James shared the tragic story of his niece, Lori Knowles with me, and I understood his interest in David Hooks and no-knock warrants much better. I think the incident with Lori added fuel to the fire of James’ activism and drove him harder over the past 3 years.

    As James and I talked (and he could talk), I realized just how central a figure he was in the fight for cannabis law reform in Georgia. He was involved in the movement since at least as far back as the 70s, and his interest covered all things cannabis. From advocating the freedom to make personal, adult choices about smoking it, to supporting the use of medical marijuana, to reintroducing Hemp as a staple crop in Georgia, James was involved in it all. He truly believed that the re-legalization of cannabis could be accomplished here in Georgia. He was a constant presence around the Gold Dome when the Legislature was in session, both testifying on issues and videoing procedures. His easy way, his extensive knowledge, and his passion paved the way for good relationships with lawmakers. He was well-known and respected by many.

    James was keenly aware of the societal harm caused by the War on Marijuana. He and I often spoke of Harm Reduction during our conversations, and he felt that an arrest and subsequent criminal record for mere possession of a small amount of marijuana was unjust. No victim, no crime.  He believed a grassroots approach to the problem at the Municipal level, combined with lobbying for change at the State level was the key. He testified in advocacy of Harm Reduction ordinances in Clarkston and Atlanta. He tried in Temple but was met by a crowd of rabid Prohibitionists who hijacked the Town Hall meeting. Clarkston passed their ordinance, and the City hasn’t fallen into a sinkhole. Atlanta is still considering it and the upcoming Mayoral election has several candidates with pro-decriminalization planks in their platforms.

    What Now?

    I will miss talking to James. I’ll miss his counsel. I’ll miss his laugh. I’ll miss seeing him around the Capitol. I know in my heart, though that he would want us to carry on. No one can ever fill James’ shoes, but others will step up.  Others will ensure his legacy and work continue. I’ll be among them.

    Go rest high upon that mountain,
    Son your work on Earth is done

    I’ll see ya further on!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 19, 2017

    pa demsEarlier this month, citing racism, bigotry, and mass-incarceration, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party adopted a resolution to “support Democratic candidates and policies which promote the full repeal of cannabis prohibition by its removal from the Controlled Substances Act, and to support the creation of new laws which regulate it in a manner similar to other culturally accepted commodities.”

    The resolution was drafted by Derek Rosenzweig, long-time cannabis activist from Pennsylvania and former board member of PhillyNORML. This change in party policy comes as Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale continues to be a loud and active voice for state and held a seminar on legalization the day before the vote.

    Thanks to Derek and all of those working hard to change hearts, minds, and the law in Pennsylvania and throughout the country.

    Click here to send a message to your federally elected officials in support of HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act

    Read the full resolution below.

    Resolution – Platform Policy on the Legalization of Marijuana/Cannabis

    WHEREAS, The prohibition of cannabis was based on racism and bigotry, but not science or sound reasoning [Testimony of Harry J. Anslinger – Marihuana Tax Act of 1937; Findings of LaGuardia Committee & Shafer Commission]

    WHEREAS, The government, at all levels, regulates the legal sale of substances known through scientific rigor to be harmful or deadly to humans, by means other than the Controlled Substances Act

    WHEREAS, Cannabis is one of the most well-studied plants in human history [Google Scholar search for `”cannabis sativa” OR marijuana` produces 556,000 results]

    WHEREAS, As of September, 2017, the People and legislatures of 28 states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, have already legalized cannabis for medical purposes; 8 states (plus Washington D.C.) have ended prohibition on cannabis and have legalized, regulated markets for adult recreational use

    WHEREAS, Cannabis is regularly used safely and responsibly without medical supervision by almost two million Pennsylvanians [SAMHSA 2012: 20.2% respondents aged 15 and older use cannabis; PA 2010 Census 9,861,456 aged 15 or older]

    WHEREAS, Cannabis does not fit any of the criteria to be placed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act [Act of Apr. 14, 1972 P.L. 233, No. 64; Section 4-1]

    WHEREAS, Approximately 25,000 People are arrested per year for possession, sale, or cultivation of cannabis on a State and local level in Pennsylvania

    WHEREAS, The Commonwealth spends unknown millions of dollars per year enforcing prohibition policies

    WHEREAS, The current Auditor General of Pennsylvania has publicly called for the immediate legalization and regulation of cannabis specifically for judicial, criminal justice, and economic benefits

    WHEREAS, The black market resulting from the prohibition of cannabis is opaque to public entities, is
    totally unregulated, and is thus not a good outcome of policy

    WHEREAS, The prohibition of cannabis has had no meaningful positive effect, as it is widely available in
    the Commonwealth. In over 80 years, the prohibition of cannabis has not achieved its stated goals

    WHEREAS, Pennsylvanians have been arrested, imprisoned, fined, or otherwise punished and stigmatized
    resulting in lost productivity and quality of life for their possession or use of cannabis

    WHEREAS, Approximately 56% – 61% of Pennsylvanians support the full legalization of cannabis [May
    2017 Franklin & Marshall Poll; August 2017 Quinnipiac University Poll]

    WHEREAS, The DNC included support for legalization in the party platform in 2016

    NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED , to adopt an official platform position which recognizes the above facts about cannabis. The Party resolves that cannabis is safe enough, and ubiquitous enough in society, that it does not need to be restricted or prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act.

    NOW THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, to support Democratic candidates and policies which promote the full repeal of cannabis prohibition by its removal from the Controlled Substances Act, and to support the creation of new laws which regulate it in a manner similar to other culturally accepted commodities.

    Submitted by: ______________________ Cynthia Purvis
    Date: ______________

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 18, 2017

    First off – a huge thank you to all of those activists and chapter leads from around the country who came to DC to participate in our National Conference and Lobby Day.

    By the numbers:

    –     140+ attendees
    –     21 speakers
    –     5 members of Congress
    –     150+ congressional meetings
    –     1 goal: End marijuana prohibition.

    More to come as we follow up with our attendees and continue to build on the momentum generated (and have our photographer send us the rest of the pictures!).

    Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Maryland State Senator Richard Madaleno, and aide to Virginia State Senator Dave Marsden receive awards from the DMV NORML Coalition

    Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Maryland State Senator Richard Madaleno, and aide to Virginia State Senator Dave Marsden receive awards from the DMV NORML Coalition

    Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) addresses NORML citizens before they depart to their congressional meetings

    Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) addresses NORML citizens before they depart to their congressional meetings

    Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) met with NORML chapter leaders from around the country to discuss his legislation known as The Marijuana Justice Act

    Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) met with NORML chapter leaders from around the country to discuss his legislation known as The Marijuana Justice Act

    Some of the feedback from the lobby day we received:

    Mikel Weisser, Executive Director of Arizona NORML in a meeting with Senator Flake’s staffer, reported “She [Katie] is familiar with Endocannabinoid Receptor System. It is one of her policy issue areas. She said she did not know if the Senator was aware of the E.R.S., so I wrote a short note on [the] materials and she said she would show him.”

    In a meeting with Senator Casey’s staffer, Les Stark, head of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition reported “They are open to the issue but do not seem very bold. They don’t want to set too far ahead of the Pennsylvania legislature…we intend to follow-up.”

    Jane Preece, in a meeting with Senator Harris’s staffer, reported “Ms. Hira is smart and is interested in the recent research showing pot is safe and effective.”

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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    Marijuana medicineChronic pain patients enrolled in a statewide medical marijuana program are more likely to reduce their use of prescription drugs than are those patients who don’t use cannabis, according to data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

    Investigators from the University of New Mexico compared prescription drug use patterns over a 24-month period in 83 pain patients enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program and 42 non-enrolled patients. Researchers reported that, on average, program registrants significantly reduced their prescription drug intake while non-registrants did not.

    Specifically, 34 percent of registered patients eliminated their use of prescription drugs altogether by the study’s end, while an additional 36 percent of participants used fewer medications by the end of the sample period.

    “Legal access to cannabis may reduce the use of multiple classes of dangerous prescription medications in certain patient populations,” authors concluded. “[A] shift from prescriptions for other scheduled drugs to cannabis may result in less frequent interactions with our conventional healthcare system and potentially improved patient health.”

    A pair of studies published in the journal Health Affairs previously reported that medical cannabis access is associated with lower Medicaid expenditures and reduced spending on Medicare Part D approved prescription medications.

    Separate studies have reported that patients with legal access to medical marijuana reduce their intake of opioidsbenzodiazepinesanti-depressantsmigraine-related medications, and sleep aids, among other substances.

    An abstract of the study, “Effects of legal access to cannabis on Scheduled II–V drug prescriptions,” appears online here.

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