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ACTIVISM

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator July 31, 2015

    NORML Nation Membership Drive Profile Picture

    One of the most valuable resources that NORML possesses is our members. They are our lifeblood and the driving force behind the multitude of statewide and local reform efforts taking place around the country. That’s why NORML is pushing to build our ranks in advance of the 2016 election by launching the weeklong NORML Nation Membership Drive. As many of you know, presidential elections tend to attract a larger pool of younger and more politically progressive voters. We hope to tap into this expected voting block to achieve unprecedented successes in 2016.

    2016 will be a watershed year for ending marijuana prohibition at the local, state and federal level. NORML and NORML chapters are engaging in multistate strategy to assist with marijuana-related ballot initiatives and legislative reform efforts, and we and the NORML PAC are pushing for federal reform by lobbying members of Congress in support of The CARERS Act, The Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act, and The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, as well as additional budgetary amendments and regulatory reforms.

    Funds that we raise through this membership drive will help us cover costs related to our ongoing lobbying efforts and expand our network of NORML Chapters. Also, a portion of the proceeds will be used to establish our Chapter Grant program which will dedicated to directly supporting NORML-led local reform efforts.

    NORML Nation Chapter Contest

    If you’re already NORML Chapter Leader of Member, you can earn money for your local NORML Chapter through the NORML Nation Chapter Contest! The top three chapters with the most referrals to the NORML Nation will earn $1,000, $500, and $250! I’ll be sending around an email to Chapter Leaders with more information about the NORML Nation Chapter Contest.

    Thank you in advance for helping us make this a successful membership drive. You can help us reach our goal by encouraging others to become members of NORML and to donate to our work. You can also join the NORML Nation Membership Drive Facebook event, and invite your friends!

    You can read more about NORML’s ongoing legislative efforts by visiting our ‘Take Action Center’ here, and/or the NORML PAC here.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director July 30, 2015

    imgresNewly appointed head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Chuck Rosenberg, says that marijuana is “probably” not as dangerous as heroin.

    Rosenberg’s comments, issued Tuesday, are seemingly in conflict with marijuana’s Schedule I classification under federal law, which places it in the same category as heroin and is a lesser category than cocaine. The law defines cannabis and its dozens of distinct cannabinoids as possessing “a high potential for abuse … no currently accepted medical use, … [and] a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug … under medical supervision.”

    Predictably, Rosenberg did emphasize that he believed cannabis posed potential harms, stating:“If you want me to say that marijuana’s not dangerous, I’m not going to say that because I think it is. Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert.”

    However, Rosenberg acknowledged that he has asked DEA offices “to focus their efforts and the resources of the DEA on the most important cases in their jurisdictions, and by and large what they are telling [him] is that the most important cases in their jurisdictions are opioids and heroin.”

    Rosenberg’s predecessor, Michelle Leonhart vigorously defended marijuana’s Schedule I classification. She oversaw dozens of raids on medical marijuana providers, criticized the President on his remarks of marijuana’s safety in relation to alcohol, and rejected an administrative petition calling for marijuana rescheduling hearings. NORML is pleased that although the new DEA administrator, by his own admission is not “an expert” on cannabis, he apparently possesses a better grasp on marijuana and it’s evident differences compared to other schedule 1 substances.

    Rosenberg’s comments, coupled with those of NIDA Director Nora Volkow publically espousing the safety of CBD indicate that it may no longer be a question of if the federal government will move to reclassify cannabis but when.

     

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator July 29, 2015

    Hello NORML Supporters!

    NORML has big things planned for the 2016 election season, and we need more grassroots volunteers to help us fight for cannabis legalization!

    That’s why we’re announcing the NORML Nation Membership Drive, taking place from August 5th to August 12th!

    We’re working with multiple partners in the cannabis industry to build NORML’s ranks. The goal of this membership drive is to add 1,000 new members to NORML! We’re offering three ways to participate:


    $25 Donor Package

    • Green “I Leaf NORML” Shirt (New design!)
    • Merchandise from Hemp Wick, Weed Maps, Mass Roots, and more!

     

    $50 Supporter Package

    • Limited Edition NORML NationLE Shirt Preview Shirt (Only available in this drive!)
    • Complimentary issue of Freedom Leaf Magazine
    • Everything in the Donor Package

     

    $100 Advocate Package

    • 30% off 1 month of 420 Goody Box
    • Weed Maps T-shirt
    • Special promotion from Spliffin (Details will be announced soon!)
    • Everything in the Donor and Supporter Packages

     

    In addition to all of the cool merchandise you will get with becoming a member of the NORML Nation, we are also going to help all new members get connected with their local NORML chapters! The best part about being a NORML member is getting involved in your local area to push for marijuana law reform. We’re also holding a contest for our local chapters, by offering monetary grants to the chapters that refer the most people to National NORML!

    The NORML Nation Membership Drive starts next Wednesday, August 5th and goes for a week, until August 12th. The 2016 election season is right around the corner, so this is the perfect time to get involved with cannabis legalization and support NORML!

    Stay tuned for more updates about the NORML Nation Membership Drive!

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director July 27, 2015

    While America’s public support for domestic prohibition of marijuana appears increasingly waning, quantifying the types of marijuana law reforms internationally could constitute a full time job for the eager.ReThink the Leaf

    This day’s news alone from overseas about cannabis law reforms strongly suggests that the contagion to end pot prohibition is hardly an America-only phenomena:

    Israel – The country’s deputy health minister announced today that medical cannabis will be made available for retail access via commercial pharmacies.

    Italy – Cannabis law reform group in Italy claims 250 out of 945 members of Italian Parliament support ending pot prohibition, which is a little more than twenty-five percent of the country’s elected policymakers. Drafted by the Intergrupo Parlamentare Cannabis Legale, the legislation would allow anyone over the age of 18 to cultivate as many as five plants at home. Italians could also team up to form a “cannabis social club,” with each having a maximum of 50 people growing as many as 250 plants.

    Surveys in Italy indicate that nearly eighty percent of citizens support the country adopting marijuana laws similar to American states Colorado and Washington.

    United Kingdom – A twenty-five year old economics student in the United Kingdom has forced the hand of parliament to debate the issue of marijuana legalization by submitting a petition with over one hundred thousand signatures.

    Australia’s Queensland – Joining New South Wales, the Australian state of Queensland took steps to formalize a system by which qualified medical patients can access cannabis products via a series of research trials.

    PortugalCalifornia’s Press Enterprise’s editorial board reminds all that the week marks the fourteenth anniversary of the first nation, Portugal, to entirely decriminalize drug use and possession, which is serving as a ‘harm reduction’ model for numerous countries.

     

     

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel

    If anyone would have suggested a year ago that Ohio might be on the verge of legalizing marijuana in 2015, I would have laughed at the idea.

    First, Ohio is a conservative Midwestern state that is seldom, if ever, on the cutting edge on social issues. And second, 2015 is an off-year election, with no statewide or federal elections, meaning the voter turn-out would be lower and the likely voters would be older and less supportive than would be the case if the proposal were on the ballot in 2016, a presidential election year when younger voters turn out in far higher numbers.

    But it turns out that Ohio voters may well be voting on marijuana legalization this November. And the circumstances surrounding this development raise new issues that legalization activists are struggling to deal with. The proposed constitutional amendment, called the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative, sponsored by a group calling itself Responsible Ohio, would legalize both the medical and the recreational use of marijuana.

    We have a scarcity of polling data that would indicate whether the voters in Ohio currently support marijuana legalization. A Quinnipiac University poll taken in 2014 found strong support for medical marijuana, and an almost even split (51 percent support) over full legalization. One can presume the sponsors of this initiative must have done their own private polling, but if so, they have not shared the results.

    Investor Driven Voter Initiatives

    But what is unique about this effort is that it is being funded by a few rich private investors who, under the terms of the proposed initiative, would then own the 10 specific cultivation centers around the state authorized to cultivate marijuana commercially. In other words, those investors who provide the funding to gather the required number of signatures, and to run a professional statewide campaign, would be richly rewarded for their investment, assuming the initiative is approved by a majority of the voters.

    Individuals would be permitted to cultivate up to four marijuana plants privately, and retail dispensary licenses would be open for all to apply for licenses, but the commercial cultivation would be limited to what the Rand Corporation has described as a “structured oligopoly.”

    As might be expected, this proposal, which would enshrine this special privilege for these investors in the state constitution, has met with some cries of outrage from some in the Buckeye state, both legalization activists and the state legislature.

    Some activists have raised objections to the proposal because it would not permit average Ohioans to compete for the commercial cultivation licenses, although ordinary citizens would be entitled to apply for licenses for the more than 1,000 retail dispensaries that would be authorized, claiming it is undemocratic. Some opponents have even argued it would be worse than the current prohibition — despite the fact that roughly 17,000 marijuana arrests occur each year in Ohio, and those arrests would largely be eliminated if this initiative were to pass.

    The Legislature Inserts Itself In The Fight

    But the situation in Ohio has become even more confusing because of the action of the Ohio legislature, in response to the filing of the Responsible Ohio initiative. The legislature has elected to use an option available to them (they are permitted this option by their state constitution, without the need to collect signatures) of adding a second voter initiative to the ballot this November that, if approved by the voters, they believe would render the Responsible Ohio proposal invalid. The proposal would ban the adoption by voter initiative of attempts to benefit select economic interest groups.

    The sponsor of this initiative, Democratic House member Mike Curtin, said he sponsored what he called his “anti-monoply” measue, not because he opposes the legalization of marijuana, but because he opposed the way Responsible Ohio is using the ballot measure to enrich themselves.

    What If Both Initiatives Are Approved

    Should the Responsible Ohio initiative be approved for the ballot, which is not yet certain (they recently turned in 695,273 signatures, more than double the 305,591 signatures required; but the Secretary of State’s office determined that only 42 percent of those were valid signatures, an unheard of failure rate, leaving them 29,509 signatures short, and 10 days to make-up the deficit), then the confusion really kicks-in.

    Ohio law appears to say if the two initiatives both pass, then the one with the highest number of votes would become effective. But Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican who opposed legalization, has announced his opinion that should the legislative proposal pass, it would take effect 30 days earlier than the citizen initiative, and would thus block the other proposal from taking effect. The only certainty is that should both initiatives pass, and the citizen initiative receive the higher total of votes, this is an issue that will eventually be decided in the Ohio courts.

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    So the question becomes whether groups such as NORML should get involved in the fight over who gets rich off the legalization of marijuana, or whether we should continue to focus on ending the practice of treating marijuana smokers like criminals, and the establishment of a legally controlled market where consumers can buy their marijuana in a safe and secure environment, and leave these economic fights to others. At the national level, this seems like an easy decision.

    Some people get rich off of marijuana legalization, wherever it is adopted. There are scores of successful entrepreneurs who have surfaced in Colorado and Washington, and who are beginning to surface in Oregon and Alaska, creating new businesses and new jobs, and sometimes getting rich in the process. The phenomenon is know as the “Green Rush.” So we should not act shocked to learn that someone is going to get rich off marijuana legalization in Ohio, should it occur.

    Nor should opponents act so offended by the fact that average citizens in Ohio do not have the resources to be part of those investors who would control the commercial cultivation licenses. In many of the states that have legalized marijuana for medical use, for example, the licenses to cultivate or dispense the marijuana have been quite limited, and enormously expensive.

    In Massachusetts, for example, those seeking a license to commercially cultivate marijuana were required to put $500,000 in escrow before their application would even be reviewed. And in Florida, where a medical marijuana bill was approved permitting only low-THC, high CBD marijuana, applicants for one of only five licenses for a cultivation center were required to post a $5 million performance bond and pay a $100,000 non-refundable application fee, and demonstrate they have been in the nursery business in Florida for a minimum of 30 years. Few average citizens in either state would have the ability to participate in the profitable legal marijuana market, yet we did not hear a lot of protest from citizens in either state.

    Further, most states that have legalized marijuana for either medical use or for everyone have established caps on the number of licenses for producers and distributors. These caps vary widely from state to state and market to market, with some states limiting the number of producers to no more than two (Minnesota) or three (Delaware).

    So there is really nothing unique about the Ohio proposal, other than it is being funded by the very people who will benefit from its passage, instead of by billionaire philanthropists. But the bottom line is that someone gets rich off legalization, regardless of how it is funded, or structured.

    At NORML, we recognize there are many inequities in the free market system, with an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the rest of us. But NORML is not an organization established to deal with income inequality; we are a lobby for responsible marijuana smokers. So we will leave other issues, including income inequality, to other organizations who focus on those issues, and we will continue to focus on legalizing marijuana.

    And if the investor driven legalization initiative in Ohio qualifies for the ballot, national NORML will almost certainly support it. And we hope, so will a majority of the voters in Ohio.

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