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  • by NORML October 2, 2017

    marijuana_gavelToday, Atlanta City Council voted to pass Ordinance 17-O-1152, decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses. This measure amends the local law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is punishable by a $75 fine — no arrest, jail time, or criminal arrest record.

    Annually, over 30,000 Georgians — many of whom reside in Atlanta — are arrested and charged with violating marijuana possession laws. Those arrested and convicted face up to one-year in prison, a $1,000 fine under state law, or up to six months in jail under local statutes. National statistics indicate that African Americans are an estimated four times as likely as whites to be arrested for violating marijuana possession laws, despite using marijuana at rates similar to Caucasians.

    “Court costs, the jail time, ruining young people’s lives, they lose their scholarships, it breaks up families, and it wastes our tax dollars. That’s the reason for doing this,” said Kwanza Hall, a city Councilman and candidate for Mayor.

    With the passage of this measure, citizens of Atlanta no longer have to fear unnecessary jail time for possessing a drug that should not be illegal in the first place. However, because the law only applies to Atlanta city limits, it conflicts with the state law that calls for jail time and gives police leeway in deciding which law (state or city) should be enforced.

    However, Atlanta has now joined the growing list of cities around the country that have adopted a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level. This new ordinance may not be perfect, but it is a victory nonetheless.

    “Atlanta is celebrating a big win for their community, for their future. Citizens should be aware of the actual law not just assume they can use Cannabis unfettered across the city. There will be a learning curve and we at Peachtree NORML will do everything we can to make sure the citizens are educated as we continue our work at the State level. For now, 800 arrests will not occur next year if this ordinance stays true to what the essence was meant to accomplish,” said Sharon Ravert, founder of Peachtree NORML.

     

    Follow Peachtree NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website.

  • by NORML

    MarijuanaArrestsTimelineEighty years ago, on October 2, 1937, House Bill 6385: The Marihuana Tax Act was enacted as law. The Act for the first time imposed federal criminal penalties on activities specific to the possession, production, and sale of cannabis – thus ushering in the modern era of federal prohibition.

    “The ongoing enforcement of marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts young people and communities of color,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of those adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco.”

    Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of the Marihuana Tax Act, which largely consisted of sensational testimony by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger. He asserted before the House Ways and Means Committee, “This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.” His ideological testimony was countered by the American Medical Association, whose legislative counsel Dr. William C. Woodward argued that hard evidence in support of Anslinger’s hyperbolic claims was non-existent.

    Woodward testified: “We are told that the use of marijuana causes crime. But yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marijuana habit. … You have been told that school children are great users of marijuana cigarettes.  No one has been summoned from the Children’s Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit among children. Inquiry of the Children’s Bureau shows that they have had no occasion to investigate it and know nothing particularly of it.” He further contended that passage of the Act would severely hamper physicians’ ability to prescribe cannabis as a medicine.

    Absent further debate, members of Congress readily approved the bill, which President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed into law on August 2, 1937. The ramifications of the law became apparent over the ensuing decades. Physicians ceased prescribing cannabis as a therapeutic remedy and the substance was ultimately removed from the US pharmacopeia in 1942. United States hemp cultivation also ended (although the industry was provided a short-lived reprieve during World War II). Policy makers continued to exaggerate the supposed ill effects of cannabis, which Congress went on to classify alongside heroin in 1970 with the passage of the US Controlled Substances Act. Law enforcement then began routinely arresting marijuana consumers and sellers, fueling the racially disparate, mass incarceration epidemic we still face today.

    Despite continued progress when it comes to legalizing or decriminalizing the adult use of marijuana, data from the recently released Uniform Crime Report from the FBI revealed that over 600,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana offenses in 2016.

    After 80 years of failure, NORML contends that it is time for a common sense, evidence-based approach to cannabis policy in America.

    “Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, the demand for marijuana is here to stay. America’s laws should reflect this reality and govern the cannabis market accordingly,” stated NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, “Policymakers ought to look to the future rather than to the past, and take appropriate actions to comport federal law with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”

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  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate September 27, 2017

    Pass-the-Joint_NCF16_Credit-DUKEofHEMP-of-Sospact(dotcom)-(225)-WMIt’s time to exercise your civic duty and ensure that you are registered to vote!

    2018 is a critical midterm election year, and NORML is partnering with the National Cannabis Festival and HeadCount for the #WeCannaVote Voter Registration Drive. The goal is to register thousands of new voters before the 2018 National Cannabis Festival on April 21 & to educate those in and beyond the cannabis community about their right to vote. Click here to register.

    2016 was a great year for cannabis reform, with 8 states (out of 9 total) across the US passing ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana, 4 medical and 4 adult-use. Here’s a quick breakdown of the 2016 results:

    PASSED:

    Arkansas Issue No. 6: Medical Marijuana
    53% YES, 46.9% NO

    California Proposition 64: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    56% YES, 43.9% NO

    Florida Amendment No. 2: Medical Marijuana
    71.2% YES, 28.7% NO

    Massachusetts Question 4: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    53.5% YES, 46.4% NO

    Maine Question 1: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    50.1% YES, 49.8% NO

    Montana Initiative No. 182: Medical Marijuana
    57.6% YES, 42.3% NO

    North Dakota Initiated Statutory Measure No. 5: Medical Marijuana
    53.7% YES, 36.2% NO

    Nevada State Question No. 2: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    54.4% YES, 45.5% NO

    FAILED:

    Arizona Proposition 205: Recreational Marijuana
    51.9% NO, 48% YES

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    As you can see in Arizona, we lost by an incredibly close margin. If only a few more thousand voters turned out, we know we would have won. This just proves how important it is to get out and VOTE! Make sure that you are registered NOW.

  • by Clare Sausen, NORML Junior Associate September 26, 2017

    college blogWhat’s a medical marijuana card-holding college student to do when they are required to live in on-campus housing but their medicine is banned from the premises?

    Apparently, choose between suffering from their illness or face disciplinary action, at least according to the majority of University policy.

    In Washington DC, marijuana is legal to for those over the age of  21 to possess, transfer (exchange with no currency involved), and grow up to two ounces of marijuana in their homes and available to buy from a dispensary for medical use per a doctor’s recommendation. However, given its treatment on college campuses in the area, you would have no idea.

    For example, at American University, their code for student conduct clearly states the punishable offenses for “alcohol and illegal drugs” (despite the fact that cannabis has been legalized for medical and recreational use for adults 21+) include:

    • To use or possess any illegal drug (including medical marijuana) or drug paraphernalia in the residence halls.
    • To sell, manufacture, or distribute any illegal drug (including medical marijuana) or drug paraphernalia in the residence halls.
    • To knowingly and voluntarily be in the presence of any illegal drug (including medical marijuana) or drug paraphernalia in the residence halls.

    At The George Washington University, their policy on medical marijuana is less clear. Their policy for medical marijuana is not listed in their Code for Student Conduct, and when asked for clarification on the matter, the administration declined to respond.

    The code for student conduct does say, however, that students caught using, possessing, and distributing marijuana face a minimum $50 fine, mandatory drug education classes, and possible eviction from housing. If there’s an intent to distribute, students face suspension or expulsion.

    Alcohol penalties at the school, on the other hand, are significantly less harsh. The penalty for consumption and possession is parental notification, and in subsequent offenses, students could face a possible fine or alcohol education classes.  

    In addition to this, GW provides an Alcohol Medical Amnesty Policy, wherein underage, intoxicated students can receive a penalty-free ride to the hospital in a student-run ambulance for their first offense. Subsequent offenses receive harsher penalties each time, though it takes much longer for a student to reach serious disciplinary action than for marijuana users, who are harshly penalized for their first time.

    So why do these schools remain so behind the times? Why is marijuana classified so much more harshly than alcohol– which kills over 1800 students per year and is heavily associated with sexual assault?

    The answer comes down to the same reason a college makes any decision: funding.

    According to the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989 (that’s right, 1989), the use of “drugs” (a vague term that somehow excludes alcohol and caffeine) must be disallowed by schools, universities, and colleges. If they fail to comply, they become ineligible for federal funding.

    Until we can overcome the pervasive stereotype of cannabis users as sluggish, lazy, stupid, and unconcerned, it looks like students will have to continue to live in the impossible bind between relieving their illnesses and violating school policy.  

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 22, 2017

    yesIn their second formal assessment on the impact of legalization in the wake of the implementation of I-502, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) issued the next regularly scheduled report – and suffice to say, the news was very positive, unless you are still relying on tired and debunked prohibitionist talking points.

    Key takeaways from the WSIPP report:

    – Found no evidence that greater levels of legal cannabis sales caused increases in overall adult cannabis use
    – Found no impact on hard drug use in adolescents or adults
    – Found no evidence that state medical marijuana laws caused an increase in property and violent crimes reported by the FBI but did find evidence of decreased homicide and assault associated with medical legalization
    – Found evidence that nonmedical legalization in Washington and Oregon may have led to a drop in rape and murder rates
    – Found that among respondents under age 21, those living in counties with higher sales were significantly less likely to report use of cannabis in the past 30 days
    – Found no evidence of effects of the amount of legal cannabis sales on indicators of youth cannabis use in grades 8, 10, and 12

    As Kevin Oliver, the head of Washington NORML, always tells me: Legally High Regards.

    You can read the full WSIPP report by clicking HERE or read further analysis of the report by NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano HERE.

     

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