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NORML Blog

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator July 27, 2017

    PhillyNORML-logo-720w

    With the recent passage of a marijuana decriminalization ordinance, the City of York joins Philadelphia, State College, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg in no longer criminalizing the simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. Following several meetings to discuss the proposal, members of city council heard from Chris Goldstein, executive director of Philadelphia NORML and Les Stark, executive director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. Both spoke in support of the proposal and even provided encouraging data showing a decline in marijuana arrests in other municipalities that adopted similar measures.

    “Towns across Pennsylvania are moving away from handcuffs and towards issuing fines instead, that’s good new sin a state where we have more than 18,000 consumers arrested every year,” said Chris Goldstein.

    Similar to other decriminalization measures that have been adopted by municipalities in the Commonwealth, the ordinance approved by the York City Council replaces criminal prosecution and potential jail time with a simple fine or community service for those possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana. The ordinance also decriminalized the public consumption of marijuana.

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    While local governments across Pennsylvania continue to adopt measures to reduce the penalty for personal possession of marijuana from jail time to a simple fine, state lawmakers have been more apprehensive on the issue. But advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances on the local level. “This really puts the pressure on legislators in Harrisburg to vote on statewide bills and start having the bigger conversation about full legalization,” added Goldstein.

    Read more here: http://www.ydr.com/story/news/2017/07/19/york-city-council-passes-bill-decriminalize-possession-small-amounts-marijuana/480013001/

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Philly NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director
    Senator Patrick Leahy

    Senator Patrick Leahy

    Today, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee to protect lawful medical marijuana programs from the Department of Justice.

    Initially enacted by Congress in 2014, the amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Last August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the language bars the federal government from taking legal action against any individual involved in medical marijuana-related activity absent evidence that the defendant is in clear violation of state law.

    The decision to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment language by the Senate committee illustrates both compassion and common sense when it comes to marijuana policy. Now, the majority of states and over 90 percent of the public approves of the use of marijuana as a medicine and Congress should not stand in the way of these reforms.

    Whether or not the House of Representatives will take a vote on the amendment is unclear. They did not include its language in the version of the 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill that passed the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month. Last year, the amendment passed on the floor of the House by a vote of 242-186.

    Although the amendment was reauthorized by Congress in May as part of a short term spending package, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been aggressively lobbying leadership to ignore the provisions. President Trump also issued a signing statement objecting to the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer provision.

    You can send a message to your Representative to support this language in the House by clicking HERE. 

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director July 26, 2017

    Medical marijuanaTomorrow, the Senate Appropriations Committee will have to decide: Will they protect our nation’s 2 million lawful medical marijuana patients or subject them to the wrath of Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

    The amendment they will be debating, known as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, simply prevents the United States Department of Justice from spending any of our tax dollars enforcing federal marijuana prohibition against the 30 states which have now, or are in the process of, implementing a medical cannabis system.

    Tell your Senators to protect patients by supporting the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment

    There is NO moral reason to punish qualified patients and veterans from accessing marijuana for its therapeutic effects. Recently released data has revealed that the enactment of medical cannabis access is associated with lower rates of opioid abuse and mortality, and does not negatively impact workplace safety, teen use rates, or motor vehicle safety.

    Yet, in a letter to members of Congress on May 1, Sessions demanded the end of Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, citing: “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

    This is the delusional leadership we have coming out of the Justice Department. A man who equates those suffering from PTSD, cancer, AIDS, and other dire medical conditions to members of violent drug cartels.

    We cannot allow Jeff Sessions to be the only one communicating with Congress. SEND A MESSAGE TO YOUR SENATORS NOW.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    3410000930_95fc2866fa_zTwo weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the Veterans Equal Access amendment, introduced by Senator Daines (R-MT) as part of the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which would expand much needed medical marijuana access to our nation’s veterans.

    Yet House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) decided that he did not want the full House to be able to vote on this critical amendment.

    Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the amendments lead sponsor, testified before the committee that it was “a critical area of literally life and death.”

    Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction on a scale of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy. This is why, in recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups — AMVETS and the American Legion —  have resolved in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.

    Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 MilCon-VA bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.

    It is time that lawmakers stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass and enact this amendment. There is still the possibility of the Senate’s amendment making it through the conference committee so make your voice heard.

    You can send a message to your elected officials in support of veterans having access to medical marijuana by clicking HERE.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel July 25, 2017

    As an attorney, I am always disappointed that the courts in this country – both at the state and federal level – have refused to get involved in the efforts to end marijuana prohibition and end the practice of treating responsible marijuana smokers as criminals. But that is the reality.

    While the courts in this country have played a leading role in ending racial discrimination, in guaranteeing women the right to obtain a legal abortion, in protecting the rights of the LGBT community, and in many other areas involving the protection of personal freedom, they have consistently rejected attempts to declare state and federal anti-marijuana laws as unconstitutional.

    But that does not mean that we should give up the fight in the courts, and rely only on voter initiatives and elected officials to fix this problem. As long as there are new legal arguments to be made, and fresh and hopefully more convincing facts to be argued, we must continue to engage the courts in this struggle for personal freedom.

    Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al

    One such legal challenge, Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al, was recently filed in US District Court in the Southern District of New York by lead attorney Michael Hiller, with NORML Legal Committee (NLC) attorneys David Holland and Joseph Bondy serving as co-counsel. The full complaint can be found here.

    Individual plaintiffs in the suit were two young children, an American military veteran, and a retired professional football player, all of whom are medical marijuana patients; and a membership organization alleging their minority members have been discriminated against by the federal Controlled Substances Act.

    Seeking to overturn the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich, plaintiffs request a declaration that the CSA, as it pertains to the classification of Cannabis as a Schedule I drug, is unconstitutional, because it violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, an assortment of protections guaranteed by the First Amendment, and the fundamental Right to Travel. Further, plaintiffs seek a declaration that Congress, in enacting the CSA as it pertains to marijuana, violated the Commerce Clause, extending the breadth of legislative power well beyond the scope contemplated by Article I of the Constitution.

    Named as defendants in the case are Attorney General Jeff Beauregard Sessions, Acting Administrator of the DEA Chuck Rosenberg, the Justice Department, the DEA and the Federal Government.

    In their Complaint, plaintiffs allege that the federal government does not, and could not possibly, believe that Cannabis meets the definition of a Schedule I drug, which is reserved for the most dangerous of substances, such as heroin, LSD, and mescaline; and that classifying Cannabis as a “Schedule I drug,” is so irrational that it violates the U.S. Constitution.

     Among the other claims in the lawsuit are that the CSA: (i) was enacted and implemented in order to discriminate against African Americans and to suppress people’s First Amendment rights; and (ii) violates plaintiffs’ constitutional Right to Travel.

    Joseph Bondy, a federal criminal defense attorney and legalization advocate, explained he felt it was important to “question the agenda of those who continue to push for enforcement of the CSA, given its unlawful and discriminatory impact and that so few in America support such an effort.” Co-counsel David Holland, a litigator and Executive Director of Empire State NORML, noted that “the efforts to criminalize Cannabis are relatively recent and were largely underwritten by racial and ethnic animus,” referring to recent findings that African Americans and other persons of color are four times as likely to be arrested under the CSA than white Americans, even though marijuana is used equally by people of color and Caucasians.

    Perhaps the federal courts will surprise us at long last and finally take a critical look at marijuana prohibition, and find the courage to declare the CSA to be unconstitutional. That would be an enormous step forward in ending marijuana prohibition altogether. But regardless of the outcome of this particular suit, it is encouraging to see the criminal defense bar continue to push the legal envelope, and to advance the best and latest legal and factual arguments. At some point, the courts will have no choice but to strike downC1_8734_r_x prohibition as a violation of our personal freedom.

     

     

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