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NORML Blog

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 23, 2015

    The majority of the US Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday cast votes in favor of expanding medical cannabis access to United States veterans. The committee vote marks the first time that a majority of any body of the US Senate has ever decided in favor of increased cannabis access.

    Committee members voted 18 to 12 in favor of The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. It was added in committee to a must-pass military construction and veterans affairs spending bill (the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act). The bill is “certain” to pass on the Senate floor, according to a Drug Policy Alliance press release.

    Weeks ago, House members narrowly killed a similar amendment in the House version of the Appropriations Act by a floor vote of 210 to 213. Once the Senate version of the act is passed by the Senate floor, House and Senate leaders will need to reconcile the two versions.

    The Daines/Merkley amendment permits physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use. Under current federal law, VA doctors are not permitted to fill out written documentation forms authorizing their patients to participate in state-sanctioned medical cannabis programs.

    Stand-alone legislation (HR 667) to permit VA physicians to recommend cannabis therapy is pending in the US House of Representatives, Committee on Veterans Affairs: Health Subcommittee. A similar provision is also included in Senate Bill 683/HR 1538, The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act.

    NORML coordinated its 2015 legislative ‘fly-in’ and lobby day in Washington, DC this past week, where many attendees visited with US Senators and urged them to vote for the Daines/Merkley amendment, among other pending reform legislation. Archived presentations from the conference are online here.

    To learn and/or to contact your elected officials in regard to other pending marijuana law reform legislation, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator May 18, 2015

    Summary:

    2015 NORML Legislative Fly-InFor those not able to attend NORML’s Legislative Fly-in, I have put together a list of marijuana-related bills currently pending in Congress as well as the names and Twitter accounts associated with members of specific committees that we plan to target during our social media campaign. By using social media, we will be able to add another layer to our lobbying efforts and will also provide each and every one of our members a chance to have their voice heard on these issues. I encourage all of you to start promoting our Twitter campaign to your networks as soon as possible.

    Objective:

    Apply pressure on members of the House Subcommittee on Health, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations by engaging them through a coordinated social media campaign using specific messaging and hash tags to track our activity. Using the #NORML hash tag gives us the power to bring attention to and mobilize a larger and more diverse coalition of social media activists to support and/or join our efforts. Also, it’s important that we stay on message so please avoid altering the language provided. By maintaining a consistent message, we will be able to present a coordinated and disciplined effort.

    Directions:

    Simply cut and paste the Twitter handle and language provided below into your Twitter account and hit send. Please make sure that you use the directory so that you contact each representative directly. I’ve provided an example of what each tweet should look like for each bill. I recommend coordinating specific times with your organization and its membership to maximize our efforts.

    Language:

    H.R. 1013: “[Insert Twitter  Handle] I urge you to support House Resolution 1013, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. It’s time for a new approach! #NORML

    S.683: “[Insert Twitter  Handle] I urge you to support the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act. America is ready! #NORML

    H.R. 667: “[Insert Twitter  Handle] I urge you to support House Resolution 667, the Veterans Equal Access Act. America’s veterans deserve better! #NORML

     

    1. H.R. 1013: Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act                                       

    Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations

    Members & Twitter Accounts:

    Example:

    Screenshot_2015-05-15-18-21-23

     

    2. S. 683 – Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act

    Committee on the Judiciary

    Members & Twitter Accounts:

    Example:

     Screenshot_2015-05-15-20-40-06

     

    3. H.R. 667: Veterans Equal Access Act                                                                          

    Subcommittee on Health

    Members & Twitter Accounts:

    Example:

    Screenshot_2015-05-15-20-40-32

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel

    6_8_NORMLK.StroupPortrait_zWe sponsor two legal seminars each year at NORML, one in Key West, Florida, in early December, and the other in Aspen, Colorado, in late May/early June. Those are two wonderful venues for those who are looking for a mini-vacation, in addition to a valuable legal seminar. The 2015 Aspen legal seminar will be held next week (May 28-30) at the Gant Hotel.

    This seminar is available for non-lawyers, as well as attorneys, for those who have an interest in the criminal defense and regulatory side of the legalization movement. And a visit to Aspen, now that marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, provides an excellent opportunity for those from other states to see what legalization actually looks and feels like, since there are now several legal dispensaries operating in Aspen. If you have not yet had the pleasure of walking into a retail store to legally purchase your marijuana, now is your chance. It is an empowering experience, and one that reinforces the importance of ending prohibition.

    At NORML our basic goal is to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, regardless of why one smokes. Until we achieve that ultimate goal, we also do our best to provide assistance and support to victims of the current laws. The NORML Legal Committee (NLC), comprised of several hundred criminal defense and business attorneys, plays a major role in providing that support. NORML is the only legalization organization that has a legal committee, sponsors legal seminars, or that provides legal assistance or advice to those who have been arrested or who need legal assistance entering the legal marijuana market.

    Lawyers who specialize in defending victims of prohibition, and business lawyers who represent the interests of the newly legal marijuana businesses in several states, are a special breed. Motivated by their commitment to legal marijuana, they have chosen a legal specialty that may not pay them the financial rewards they could make practicing corporate law, or probate law, or personal injury law, or many other higher-paying fields of practice; but they are at the cutting edge of the legal profession, willing to push the cultural and legal envelope. They generally feel an emotional and cultural attachment to the legalization movement, and most would tell you they get far more personal satisfaction by helping their clients stay out of jail on a marijuana charge (or avoid a criminal charge altogether), or by helping new marijuana entrepreneurs through the labyrinth of regulations and permits necessary to enter these newly legal markets, than they would get from helping rich individuals or institutions get richer, which is what many lawyers do.

    This group of committed lawyers draws strength and knowledge from attending these seminars, and from the opportunity to spend time with their legal colleagues from around the county. It reminds us all of why we do what we do, and it empowers us to go forth and fight the good fight. Being an effective lawyer means trying new theories and defenses, and not being discouraged by the fact that we are not always successful. If it were easy, the clients would not need an attorney.

    Because we have room at our Aspen venue (unfortunately we do not have extra room at our Key West venue), we permit non-lawyers to attend at a discounted registration fee. And those non-lawyers who do attend report they enjoy the opportunity to meet some of the leading NLC attorneys in an informal setting, and they find fascinating the internal debates and discussions regarding legal theories and new challenges being faced by this group of attorneys. It’s a rare opportunity to be part of this subset of NORML, and one well worth experiencing.

    In addition to the seminar, social events where one can relax and get to know the other attendees, including the speakers, include an opening reception on Thursday night; a benefit dinner at the lovely home of Christine and Gerry Goldstein in Aspen on Friday evening , catered by Chris Lanter, chef and co-owner of the trendy Cache Cache restaurant in Aspen; and a Saturday afternoon cookout with live music at Owl Farm, the legendary Woody Creek home of the late Hunter S. Thompson, outside of Aspen a few miles.

    If the 2015 NORML Aspen Legal Seminar and related social events is of interest, whether you are an attorney or someone who follows the legalization movement and wishes to learn more, you can still register for this seminar on line and join us in Aspen next week. I hope to see you there.

     

    This column was originally published on Marijuana.com.

    http://news.marijuana.com/news/2015/05/annual-norml-aspen-legal-seminar-a-great-experience-for-lawyers-and-non-lawyers-alike/

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director May 15, 2015

    wammThere are thousands of licensed cannabis-related businesses these days in states like Colorado, Washington and California; and soon enough too in Alaska and Oregon. Medical cannabis-related businesses also dot the national landscape as well.

    When Californians were the first in 1996 to cast votes in favor of allowing medical access to cannabis, with a near singular message of ‘compassion’ for patients that need therapeutic access to the plant. Advocates for the passage of Prop. 215 (including NORML) didn’t envisage that the initiative did more than two primary things:

    -exempt from criminal arrest and prosecution medical patients who possess physician’s recommendation to use cannabis as a therapeutic

    -allow for ‘compassionate’ access through collectives that, ideally, were to be not for profit

    Well…culture, custom, commerce and the free market–not too surprisingly–largely came to trump compassion as a primary impetus for a medical cannabis collective’s being. The hundreds of medical cannabis businesses that currently exist in California labor under laws originally meant for lending legal protections for ‘self-preservation’ and ‘collectivism’ regarding how medical cannabis was to be a distributed to the sick, dying and sense-threatened.

    However, one genuine cannabis patient collective has managed to survive for 20 years, the Santa Cruz-based WAMM.

    Headed by NORML Advisory board member and MS patient Valerie Corral, WAMM has been a remarkable leader in legal challenges to federal encroachment, medical and botanical research. WAMM provides a comfortable, nurturing and inviting environment–physically and emotionally–to women and men who need therapeutic access to cannabis, in safe environs and who want to be part of a community that cultivates and shares the cannabis grown amongst the collective’s members.

    Please see links to related articles about the current challenges WAMM faces at High Times and Good Times.

    If possible, please make a timely donation to Save WAMM!

     

     

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director May 14, 2015

    It is hardly a secret to any long observing advocate for cannabis law reform to recognize early on in their efforts to end cannabis prohibition that if it were not for government–federal, state and local governments–spending, there would be relatively few examples of private money being employed in the last forty-five years to try to maintain the status quo of cannabis prohibition.norml_remember_prohibition2

    The tens of billions spent annually to keep the Reefer Madness going in America largely is taxpayer-funded bureaucracies such as the so-called drug czar’s office, DEA, NIDA, SAMHSA, DARE, PDFAblahblahblah.

    Even in the face of this tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars annually, still, a majority of the US public rejects the policy of cannabis prohibition.

    Unbelievably, the drug czar’s office actually mandates that the office must use tax funding to publicly oppose cannabis legalization efforts–even though such is no longer a popularly supported public policy.

    Add one more prime example of cannabis prohibitionists in government not yielding to the will of voters, and worse, rather than pool their own private funding to advance their no-longer-popular-views, they want the taxpayers to pick up the bill of their anti-cannabis advocacy.

    Arizona voters approved a medical cannabis initiative in 2010. Many in the law enforcement community in the state, including prosecutors, have consistently opposed implementing the change of policies and/or still harass medical cannabis producers or patients.

    They’re sore losers.

    Now, consistent with large swaths of the country, Arizona voters are organizing once again in the state to place a full cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot for 2016.

    What is the reaction from some in the law enforcement community in Arizona to the prospects of citizens again instructing their workers what public policies they want them to enforce?

    Sure, law enforcement personnel are citizens too, and their opinions are as meaningful as any other citizens’, however, law enforcement personnel who oppose the public’s will on changes of public policy should never employ taxpayer funding to try to sway the populace or propagandize–on matters ranging from police wearing body cameras, to forfeiture reform to cannabis legalization.

    Well that is not at all happening currently in Yavapai County Arizona, where the local prosecutor Shelia Polk thinks it wise and prudent to steer forfeiture money derived from the criminal justice system (with most of the proceeds coming to law enforcement from currently illegal drug profits seized in previous criminal filings) to propagandize to voters that they should not vote to end cannabis prohibition in the state.

    Ever hear law enforcement roll out the tired ol’ line of “we don’t make the laws, we only enforce them?”

    It’s largely a lie (I mean…prevarication).

    Police and prosecutors (aided and abetted by fellow pot prohibitionists wearing white coats at NIDA, for example) regularly, using taxpayers’ money, actively seek to influence the outcome of public policy legislation, court cases and voter initiatives that seek to reform cannabis laws.

    It is pretty simple at this point in the now five-decade-old public effort to end cannabis prohibition, if police and prosecutors want to defend the status quo of a failed and unpopular public policy, then, if they really cared about the issue, they’d put their own skin in the game by organizing as private citizens.

    If prosecutors, cops, narcs, sheriffs and chiefs of police want to pony up their own money to try to stave off cannabis prohibition ending in their lifetimes–go for it.

    Reformers will more than match them dollar-for-dollar and are always spoiling for a good debate about wisdom for rationale continuing cannabis prohibition…and we’ve got the public on our side, they no longer do.

    What can not and should not happen anymore in the modern public policy debate about whether America should or should not continue another nearly eighty-years with cannabis prohibition enforcement are government officials and law enforcement personnel using their power of the purse and bully pulpit to try to persuade voters on ANY matters of public policy–let alone on policies where conflicts of interest are as obvious as prosecutors using government money to oppose the will of local voters who’re seeking to reform unpopular laws.

    Cannabis law reformers can and will win a fair fight on cannabis legalization, but, the impending political victory will be delayed if government officials are permitted to continue to use taxpayer funding to oppose the very will of the voters.

    Government for and by the people? Not when government officials are sore losers and want to use government funding to try to tip the scales of public opinion.

    When government stops spending taxpayer dollars to keep cannabis prohibition going, the unpopular policy will die an ignominious and swift death.

    Editor’s note: Thankfully, late yesterday AZ’s Attorney General came to reconsider this blundering policy of allowing government funding to be used to campaign against cannabis legalization efforts in the state.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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