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ACTIVISM

  • by NORML January 15, 2017

    As an American citizen, it is easy to become cynical about citizen participation in democracy.  Even the most basic form of participation, voting, can be difficult in the United States. Unlike most nations, who hold elections on a holiday or have mandatory voting requirements, the US holds elections on Tuesdays. When many people cannot vote, whether for time reasons or restrictive state laws, it is a struggle, for those of us enthused about participating in democracy, to watch less than 60 percent of the electorate turnout for a presidential election. One of the proposed reasons for the problem is a lack of voter efficacy. Voters don’t feel as if their voice is being heard. But stories of voters successfully influencing lawmakers are common, if not always reported.

    Recently, House Republicans revealed a plan to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The new body proposed by the GOP would have been a blow to anyone in support of governmental transparency. Unable to report its findings to the public, the proposed Office of Congressional Complaint Review would have even further clouded general understanding of what occurs behind closed doors in the legislative branch. However, congressional offices were subsequently flooded with calls and messages from angry constituents. Less than 24 hours later, the GOP changed course and backpedaled. After tremendous public pressure, the government radically changed its course in a short span of time.

    Simply making a phone call, sending an email or Facebook message to a representative, or retweeting a congress member’s phone number (which occurred thousands of times because of the ethics committee plan) can make a difference on the national level. However, many success stories about citizen participation can be found among the lower levels of the federal system. State and local governments are, at least in theory, designed to be more supportive of and responsive to individual citizens. Examples to support this theory is strong. States are known as “laboratories of democracy” and are often ahead of the federal government in terms of cutting edge policy.

    One only has to look at success stories like gay marriage or marijuana legislation in several states to see the effect of citizen participation on policy outcomes. We can see with both cases that state policy often follows national public opinion trends. When the tipping point came in regards to gay marriage, it was state judges and lawmakers that first instituted protections for the LGBTQ community. Organizations like Freedom to Marry and the American Civil Liberties Union penned action alerts to their members day after day pleading with them to contact their state representatives. And when the people spoke, politicians listened, and change happened.

    Marijuana legislation is following a similar path with organizations including NORML are creating a similar avalanche effect of states legalizing that will ultimately culminate in national legalization if sustained.

    To speed up the process one only has to get involved. It is easy to sit back and watch while progress occurs, but it is rewarding to be a part of such a movement. Emailing, calling, and having meetings with your representatives in a constructive way is simple and effective to push change.

    If the government is doing something that we as a citizenry do not approve of, we have the right to be heard. Although the mechanisms of government are far from perfect, it our duty as a dedicated and informed public is to try the best we can, in every way we can.

    Sign up for our email list to get our action alerts, keep checking the NORML action page for federal legislation and in your home state at http://norml.org/act, talk to your friends and neighbors about getting involved, join a NORML chapter or start your own at http://norml.org/chapters, and never, ever, stop fighting.

    revolutionbumper

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 13, 2017

    NORML supporters:

    Welcome to this week’s edition of the legislative roundup. With a majority of states now full swing into their legislative sessions, over 400 bills nationwide have been submitted that in some way, shape, or form address marijuana policies. Ranging from ending the criminal prohibition of marijuana to tweaking established legal medical marijuana programs in order to better serve patients; clearly, inch by inch, we are winning.

    Below are the priority bills that we are tracking so far, with more being posted on our http://norml.org/act page every day.

    blogstickerIf you have not yet, make sure 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.

    Thanks for all you do,

    Justin

    Federal

    – Protecting the sanctity of property rights for those targeted for marijuana related offenses

    Legislation is pending before Congress, HR 331, to halt the federal government from taking civil forfeiture action against properties involved in state-sanctioned, medical marijuana-related conduct.

    If approved, it would “amend the Controlled Substances Act … to exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by state law.”

    In the past, federal officials have sought to close dispensaries by threatening property owners with civil forfeiture proceedings. Under these proceedings, property may be seized if there exist evidence that it was involved in activities that violate federal law, regardless of whether those activities are licit under state law.

    Presently, the Justice Department is barred from taking such actions because of the passage of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. However, that protection will expire on April 28, 2017 unless renewed by Congress.

    Click here to email your Representative to urge them to support this measure.

    – A change in the guard at the head of the US Department of Justice

    Alabama Senator Jefferson “Jeff” Sessions began the confirmation process to become the next Attorney General of the United States.

    Senator Sessions is a militant opponent of any efforts to reform marijuana policy who once notoriously remarked that the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.” He is a staunch proponent of the long-discredited ‘gateway theory,’ and has called on federal officials to return to the ‘Just Say No’ rhetoric of the 1980s. In fact, he was one of only 16 US Senators to receive a failing grade from NORML in our 2016 Congressional Report Card because of statements like these:

    “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”

    “[Marijuana] cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

    NORML opposes his confirmation unless he will clarify that he does not intend to use the resources of the United States Justice Department against marijuana consumers and businesses that are operating in accordance with state laws in regards to medicinal or recreational marijuana.

    Click here to email your US Senators and urge them to raise this issue or #JustSayNoToSessions

    Connecticut

    Legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate its commercial commerce is pending now in both the House and Senate.

    SB 11 by state Senator Martin Looney (D) and HB 5314 by Rep. Melissa Ziobron (R) have been filed to regulate the personal use and retail sale of marijuana by adults.

    A similar legislative effort led by Juan Candelaria (D) and over a dozen co-sponsors, HB 5539, is also pending in the House. The House Speaker has previously acknowledged that he expects these bills to receive full hearings this session, so it is vital that your lawmakers hear consistent support for these measures from voters like you.

    CT Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Indiana

    A Senate lawmaker has reintroduced legislation, SB 255, to regulate marijuana access to qualified patients.

    The measure, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Karen Tallian, establishes a statewide medical marijuana program to permit qualified patients — including patients with arthritis, migraine, PTSD, and seizures — to legally obtain cannabis products and to  engage in cannabis therapy.

    IN Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Kentucky

    Legislation filed by Senator Perry Clark of Louisville, SB 57, seeks to establish a statewide, comprehensive medical marijuana program.

    Senate Bill 57, The Cannabis Compassion Act, establishes regulations overseeing the establishment of state-licensed dispensaries to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients. It also permits patients to home cultivate their own supply of medical cannabis.

    Senator Clark said: “Too many Kentuckians have had their lives stymied with criminal records as a result of nonviolent marijuana convictions. That is wrong. It is time to stop making criminals out of citizens due to outdated and ridiculous laws concerning cannabis.”

    KY Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Additionally, Legislation has also filed by Senator Perry Clark of Louisville, Senate Bill 76, seeks to legalize the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for those over the age of 21.

    KY Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Maine

    Maine Senate President Mike Thibodeau and House Speaker Sara Gideon have struck a deal to introduce emergency resolution LD 88 to impose a moratorium on the enactment of many of the key provisions in Question 1, the voter-initiated Marijuana Legalization Act.

    While the resolution maintains the January 30th, 2017 repeal of penalties for personal possession and home cultivation of marijuana, it delays provisions specific to the retail production or sale of marijuana, the social use of marijuana, and the consumption or possession of marijuana-infused products. If passed, this legislation would no longer mandate lawmakers to enact these provisions by January 1, 2018 — as is presently required by law — and opens the door indefinitely maintaining the black market’s monopoly on the marijuana market.

    Mainers have lived with the failings of marijuana prohibition for far too long already. Any further delay is unnecessary and is an affront to the will of the majority of Maine voters who passed Question 1 on Election Day.

    ME Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Mississippi

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 179, to establish a pilot program to provide qualified patients with legal access to medical marijuana products.

    Under this program, patients would be permitted to obtain up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and/or cannabis-infused products, such as extracts or edibles, from a state-licensed dispensing facility. Regulators must begin accepting initial applications from dispensaries and testing facilities by January 1, 2018.

    MS Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    New Hampshire

    After nearly a decade of frustration, 2017 may finally be the year that New Hampshire voters successfully see marijuana possession decriminalized.

    Forthcoming legislation to amend criminal penalties for marijuana possession is pending in the House, where lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported such efforts for eight years in a row. However, legislators this year are hopeful that, for the first time, they also have sufficient votes to also clear the Senate.

    In addition, new Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said during his campaign he would support decriminalizing marijuana.

    New Hampshire is the only New England state that has not either decriminalized or legalized adult marijuana use.

    NH Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Additionally, Legislation is pending in the New Hampshire House, HB 215, to establish a commission to study the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.

    NH Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    New Mexico

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 8, to amend the state’s medical cannabis program in a manner that would better serve patients’ needs. A number of basic fixes are included in the legislation, including expanding the amount of cannabis a patient can possess at a time and expedite the processing of medical marijuana state-issued identification cards.

    NM Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Additionally, State Representative Bill McCamley has announced intentions to propose legislation to regulate the cultivation and retail sale of marijuana in the state.

    ”It is either going to happen sooner or it is going to happen later and if it happens sooner we can realize the economic benefits now.” McCamley said.

    NM Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    New York

    Legislation has been filed for the 2017 legislative session to eliminate the ‘public view’ loophole exception in New York state’s marijuana law. Abuse of this provision has led to hundreds of thousands of needless marijuana arrests in recent years, primarily in New York City, despite the possession of the plant being decriminalized in the state since 1977.

    Under current law, private possession of marijuana is punishable by nothing more than a simple citation and fine. By contrast, the possession of small amounts of marijuana in a manner that is “open to public view” is classified as a criminal misdemeanor. This loophole has often been used to continue arresting a disproportionate number of minorities, largely as a result of ‘stop and frisk’ policies. Promises from law enforcement in recent years to correct this abuse have not come to fruition.

    NY Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Additionally, legislation is pending, Senate Bill 1087, to expand the state’s medical marijuana law by removing the existing prohibition on herbal cannabis preparations. This is a simple expansion of patient’s rights to access whole plant cannabis for medical purposes.

    NY Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Oregon

    Legislation is pending before the Senate, SB 301, to prohibit employers from discriminating against adults who legally consume marijuana during non-work hours.

    Senate Bill 301 states, “It is an unlawful employment practice for any employer to require, as a  condition of employment, that any employee or prospective employee refrain from using a substance that is lawful to use under the laws of this state during nonworking hours.”

    Passage of this act would not prohibit employers from sanctioning employees who are under the influence at work.

    Portland NORML‘s Legislative Committee, in conjunction with the Oregon Chapter of the Employment Lawyers of America, worked on the drafting and filing of this important legislation.

    OR Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Virginia

    Legislation has now been introduced in both chambers of the Statehouse to end the practice of suspending drivers licenses for those convicted of marijuana possession. Virginia is one of the few remaining states that implore this archaic policy and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers have stepped up to reverse it.

    VA Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    Washington

    Washington state Representative Sherry Appleton has introduced legislation, HB 1092: The Adult Home Grow & Criminal Reduction Bill, to allow adults the option to legally cultivate personal use amounts of marijuana in a private residence.

    Presently, eight states permit adults to obtain marijuana via retail sales. All of these states except Washington also permit adults the option to cultivate cannabis.

    NORML believes that criminalizing the personal cultivation of cannabis is an arbitrary prohibition that has absolutely no basis in public safety.

    WA Resident? Click here to email your representatives to urge them to support this effort.

    ###

    This Legislative Roundup is a weekly update by National NORML, cataloging the movements of legislation nationwide in order to give you, the citizen, a more effective voice in government.

    Sign up with your local NORML Chapter at http://norml.org/chapters

  • by NORML January 12, 2017

    for_painThe National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a comprehensive report today acknowledging that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain, and sharply criticized longstanding federal regulatory barriers to marijuana research – in particular “the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance” under federal law.

    Authors of the report also addressed various aspects of marijuana’s effect on health and safety, acknowledging that the substance may pose certain potential risks for adolescents, pregnant women, and for those who may be driving shortly after ingesting cannabis. In each of these cases, these risks may be mitigated via marijuana regulation and the imposition of age restrictions in the marketplace.

    Commenting on the report, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said:

    “The National Academy of Science’s conclusions that marijuana possesses established therapeutic utility for certain patients and that it possesses an acceptable safety profile when compared to those of other medications or recreational intoxicants are not surprising. This evidence has been available for some time, yet for decades marijuana policy in this country has largely been driven by rhetoric and emotion, not science and evidence.

    “A search on PubMed, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term ‘marijuana’ yields over 24,000 scientific papers referencing the plant or its biologically active constituents — a far greater body of literature than exists for commonly consumed conventional drugs like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or hydrocodone. Further, unlike modern pharmaceuticals, cannabis possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy.

    “Today, 29 states and Washington, DC permit physicians to recommend marijuana therapy. Some of these state-sanctioned programs have now been in place for nearly two decades. Eight states also permit the regulated use and sale of cannabis by adults. At a minimum, we know enough about cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to regulate its consumption by adults, end its longstanding criminalization, and to remove it from its Schedule I prohibitive under federal law.”

    The report marks the first time since 1999 that the National Academy of Sciences has addressed issues surrounding marijuana and health. Authors reviewed over 10,000 scientific abstracts in their preparation of the new report.

    You can read the full report here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 10, 2017

    marijuana_gavelDuring his confirmation for the position of Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions failed to give a straight answer with regard to how the Justice Department should respond to states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.

    The Alabama Senator was questioned by both Sens. Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT) with respect to whether the principles of federalism ought to apply to state marijuana laws.

    Senator Leahy: “Would you use our federal resources to investigate and prosecute sick people using marijuana in accordance with state law even though it might violate federal law?”

    Senator Sessions: “I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law, Senator Leahy, but absolutely it is a problem of resources for the federal government. The Department of Justice under Lynch and Holder set forth some policies that they thought were appropriate to define what cases should be prosecuted in states that have legalized, at least in some fashion marijuana, some parts of marijuana.”

    Senator Leahy: “Do you agree with those guidelines?”

    Senator Sessions: “I think some of them are truly valuable in evaluating cases, but fundamentally the criticism I think that is legitimate is that they may not have been followed. Using good judgment on how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine I know it wont be an easy decision but i will try to do my duty in a fair and just way.”

    Senator Leahy: “The reason I mention this, is because you have some very strong views, you even mandated the death penalty for second offense on drug trafficking, including marijuana, even though mandatory death penalties are of course unconstitutional.”

    Senator Sessions: “Well I’m not sure under what circumstances i said that, but I don’t think…”

    Senator Leahy: “Would you say it‘s not your view today?”

    Senator Sessions: “(laughs) It is not my view today.”

    Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) followed up with questions regarding how marijuana policy factors into federalism and asked if the way the Obama Administration has handled marijuana laws created any issues with separation of powers and states rights. Sessions replied that, “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer Congress should pass a law to change the rule, it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”

    So, after finally being put on the spot and questioned on the issue, we are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday. If anything, his comments are a cause for concern and can be interpreted as leaving the door open for enforcing federal law in legalized states. If Sessions wants to be an Attorney General for ALL Americans, he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population and support allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention.

    Clearly, the battle is just beginning to protect state legalization and medical marijuana laws. Can you contribute today to help us keep up our federal political actions and advance our efforts for state-level law reform?

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    On January 10th and 11th, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the nomination of Jeff Sessions to become the next Attorney General. Over the course of these two days, marijuana reformers and citizens alike from around the country will be calling members of the committee to have them ask a simple question: Does Sen. Sessions intend to respect the will of the voters in the majority of US states that have enacted to pursue alternative marijuana policies?

    The stakes are high.

    Senator Sessions is a militant opponent of any efforts to reform marijuana policy who once notoriously remarked that the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.” He is a staunch proponent of the long-discredited ‘gateway theory,’ and has called on federal officials to return to the ‘Just Say No’ rhetoric of the 1980s. In fact, he was one of only 16 US Senators to receive a failing grade from NORML in our 2016 Congressional Report Card because of statements like these:

    “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”

    “[Marijuana] cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

    Please take a few minutes and call the following offices using this simple script. All in it should only take less than 10 minutes to call either the DC or home offices of these members and you will make an outsized impact on the future of marijuana policy in America.

    “Hello, my name _______ and I am calling regarding the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. Senator Sessions views on marijuana are completely out of step with those of the majority of the American public. They also conflict with the stated views of President-Elect Trump, who said on the campaign trail that questions regarding marijuana policy are best left up to the states, not the federal government.  For these reasons, I urge you to ask Sen. Sessions whether he intends to respect the will of the voters in the majority of US states that have enacted to pursue alternative marijuana policies. If his answers are unsatisfactory, I urge you to reject his nomination.”

    Committee Chairman
    Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
    DC Office (202) 224-3744
    Des Moines Office (515) 288-1145

    Ranking Member
    Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
    DC Office (202) 224-3841
    San Diego Office  (619) 231-9712

    Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
    DC Office (202) 224-5251
    Salt Lake City Office (801) 524-4380

    Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
    DC Office (202) 224-5972
    Florence Office (843) 669-1505

    John Cornyn (R-TX)
    DC Office0 (202) 224-2934
    Dallas Office (972) 239-1310

    Mike Lee (R-UT)
    DC Office (202) 224-5444
    Salt Lake City Office (801) 524-5933

    Ted Cruz (R-T)
    DC Office (202) 224-5922
    Austin Office (512) 916-5834

    Ben Sasse (R-NE)
    DC Office (202) 224-4224
    Omaha Office (402) 550-8040

    Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
    DC Office (202) 224-4521
    Phoenix Office (602) 840-1891

    Mike Crapo (R-ID)
    DC Office (202) 224-6142
    Boise Office (208) 334-1776

    Thom Tillis (R-NC)
    DC Office (202) 224-6342
    Charlotte Office (704) 509-9087

    John Kennedy (R-LA)
    DC Office (202) 224-4623
    Baton Rouge (225) 930-9033

    Senator Mazie Hirono (D – HI)
    DC Office – (202) 224-6361
    Honolulu Office – (808) 522-8970

    Senator Richard Blumenthal (D – CT)
    DC Office – (202) 224-2823
    Hartford Office – (860) 258-6940

    Senator Christopher A. Coons (D – DE)
    DC Office – (202) 224-5042
    Wilmington Office – (302) 573-6345

    Senator Al Franken (D – MN)
    DC Office – (202) 224-5641
    Saint Paul Office – (651) 221-1016

    Senator Amy Klobuchar (D – MN)
    DC Office – 202-224-3244
    Minneapolis Office – 612-727-5220

    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D – RI)
    DC Office – (202) 224-2921
    Providence Office – (401) 453-5294

    Senator Dick Durbin (D – IL)
    DC Office – 202.224.2152
    Chicago Office – 312.353.4952

    Senator Patrick Leahy (D – VT)
    DC Office – (202) 224-4242
    Burlington Office – (802) 863-2525

     

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