This past Friday, Denver NORML announced a new effort to enact a municipal voter initiative this year in Denver to legalize the social use of marijuana in certain venues within the city. The initiative will be known as “Responsible Use Denver,” and will seek to legalize private marijuana clubs for those 21 and up, as well as protect businesses that permit responsible adult marijuana use.
There are a number of important fixes needed to the initial legalization laws, but none impact more smokers than the current ban on marijuana smoking outside a private home.
Alaska officials are discussing the possibility of allowing marijuana smoking at some licensed marijuana retailers, and the DC City Council recently approved private marijuana clubs, and then reversed themselves in a second vote a few minutes later. So far, none of the legalization jurisdictions permit smoking outside a private home.
During 2015, an effort to license certain bars in Denver, CO, to permit marijuana smoking in areas where tobacco smoking is permitted, was circulated as a municipal voter initiative, before being withdrawn by the sponsors only a day before it was to be certified for the ballot. No public explanation was ever provided for the strange turn of events.
Denver NORML said their goal is to pick up where others left off in 2015. “We greatly appreciate the previous attempt to bring this issue to Denver voters, but we want to get this done,” said Jordan Person, executive director of Denver NORML.
Marijuana smoking is a social activity, and there is absolutely no valid reason to deny marijuana smokers the right to congregate and enjoy their favorite herb in a social setting. We should not be limited only to smoking in our homes.
In Colorado, a state which counts tourism as among its major industries, the level of tourism since marijuana was legalized has continued to grow, and 49% of those tourists say the right to smoke marijuana legally was one of the reasons they chose to travel to Colorado on vacation. Yet, the large majority of those marijuana tourists (with the exception of a small number who manage to stay at a marijuana friendly hotel or bed and breakfast), have no legal place to smoke the marijuana they legally buy.
That is a situation that cannot continue, and cries out for some common sense relief. Marijuana smokers need places they can congregate socially where, if they wish, they can also smoke marijuana. Either we legalize and regulate those smoking venues, or black-market “smokeasies” will continue to surface.
“NORML wants to bring Denver closer to the goal of treating marijuana like alcohol, as the voters overwhelmingly approved when Amendment 64 was passed in 2012,” Person said.
These could be Amsterdam-style coffee shops, where marijuana and food is available, but no alcohol; they could be smoking areas in existing bars that do sell alcohol; or they could be private clubs, where members pay a modest fee to enter. It would be instructive if different jurisdictions tried different models, providing us some guidance as we move forward.
And NORML is the right organization to push for this change. We represent the interests of marijuana smokers, and it is our obligation to bring the marijuana smoking culture above ground, and out of the closet; and nothing will accomplish that goal more effectively than the establishment of legal marijuana smoking areas in states that have legalized marijuana.
“We are coming from the perspective of the consumer and not as industry business owners or representatives,” Person said, “but of course we will work with a broad-based coalition of consumers, industry groups and business to gather the needed signatures and to ensure passage.”
It’s time we consumers get-up, stand-up, light-up and demand this right; we should not permit the prohibitionists to limit our smoking only to private homes.
With the Presidential election taking place this November, the majority of us are already being inundated with political propaganda from the political left and the right. In news cycle after news cycle, pundits can be heard offering their thoughts on the most recent poll numbers or political gaffes and rarely venture beyond hot button issues such as immigration or gun control. Some candidates have attempted to discuss drug policy reform, but most have avoided getting into any substantive discussions; ultimately offering a soundbite or two. In short, while most mainstream politicians acknowledge the problem, they by and large remain unwilling to address solutions. For those of us who have dedicated our lives to reforming America’s marijuana laws, this has been a bit frustrating to say the least.
Even with all the hoopla surrounding the upcoming election, it seem almost impossible to find a politician who is willing to have a meaningful conversation about reforming America’s archaic marijuana laws. Although the issue consistently holds the support of more than half of our country, most candidates continue to treat it as an afterthought. As we close in on the 80th year of marijuana prohibition in America, we can no longer wait for Washington to take action. The days of playing political hot potato with an issue that the majority of Americans support are over. Our time is now.
Change begins on the local level so be the catalyst for marijuana reform in your community. Start building relationships with city council members, county commissioners, judges and other elected officials. Explore opportunities to elevate the reform conversation through community forums and roundtable discussions. Even something as simple as writing a letter to your local paper will provide a chance to offer an enlightened perspective to a larger audience.
As marijuana activists, we must work hard to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward as we focus our attention on winning the hearts and minds of politicians and community leaders alike. With efforts to reform local and state marijuana laws ramping up across the country, NORML Affiliates and Chapters are committed to providing our members and activists with all the tools they need to work towards meaningful reforms. From developing helpful talking points and strategic messaging to working with our local organizations to create legislative scorecards, NORML’s national office is prepared to dedicate the necessary time and resources needed to ensure that 2016 is a historic year for marijuana reform.
If you haven’t already done so, please visit www.NORML.org to familiarize yourself with all of our available resources and other ways you can get involved. With over 160 Affiliates and Chapters worldwide, NORML will continue to be the leading voice for marijuana reform around the globe. For more information regarding NORML Affiliates and Chapters please email KevinM@NORML.org.
LATEST NORML NEWS
Everyday NORML Affiliates and Chapters from around the country invest countless hours into contacting representatives, hosting events, and talking to voters, all with the hope of passing meaningful marijuana reforms on the local, state and federal level! In an effort to highlight their hard work and accomplishments, we will feature their stories on NORML.org and promote the content through our social media channels. To get involved in your area, please send an email to KevinM@NORML.org to get started today!
Municipal and State
“Mikel Weisser, new National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws state director, plans to rebuild Arizona’s fractured NORML in anticipation of a vote to legalize pot for adult use in November.”
New Arizona NORML Director Committed To Fixing Fractured Marijuana Community
“Dale Gieringer, director of California’s NORML chapter, said a benefit of the loophole is that it has prompted jurisdictions to explore cultivation regulations sooner than they might have.”
San Diego Rushes To Establish Rules On Marijuana Cultivation
“Ali Nagib, assistant director of Illinois NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), expressed to the Cannabis Career Institute the importance of leveraging the estimated $500 million hemp industry for domestic economic growth”
Legalizing Weed: 4 Facts About Illinois’ Legalization of Industrial Hemp Farming
“I’m glad that they’re taking that step,” Harcus said. “It moves us closer toward full legalization, which is really the only solution to end prohibition.”
Proposal Would Sync Mpls. Marijuana Law With State
“Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML Patrick K. Nightingale challenged Board Member of Colorado NORML Chris Chiari to a friendly wager on the Steelers/Broncos game this coming weekend and the stakes are as you can say HIGH!”
Pittsburgh NORML Bets Colorado NORML On Steelers/Broncos Game
“According to Pittsburgh NORML, nearly 1,000 people are charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession in Pittsburgh each year. Under Pennsylvania state law, possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance
“Members of the Southeast Texas NORML chapter met Thursday night to go over a new law across the state, the Compassionate Use Act.”
Local Marijuana Reform Advocacy Group Plans Efforts for Upcoming Year
“People who simply are arrested for possession without any evidence of violent behavior,” said Pamela Novy with Virginia NORML, a nonprofit aimed at reforming marijuana laws across the country.”
8News Daily Poll: Should marijuana be decriminalized in Va.?
“Members of Wyoming NORML repeatedly have called for reforms to make the state’s initiative process easier on groups that are trying to get questions on the ballot.”
Pushing an Issue May Get Even Tougher in Wyoming
“Does smoking cannabis pose similar dangers to lung health? According to a number of recent scientific findings, marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke vary considerably in their health effects.”
What Are the Risks of Marijuana Smoke, Compared to Tobacco?
“Marijuana consumers do not typically use cannabis and alcohol in combination with one another, regardless of whether they are consuming cannabis for medicinal or social purposesPeople Don’t Mix Alcohol & Marijuana as Often as You Might Think
“NORML’s Armentano told MintPress that marijuana arrests have fallen in some states as a result of legalization or loosening of laws. At the same time, though, some states have seen increases in marijuana-related arrests — including Virginia”
Clemency Is Not Enough: Thousands Still Imprisoned For Nonviolent Marijuana Crimes
“Similarly, the DNC chair is no stranger to coddling up to Big Booze. Presently, representatives of the beer and wine industry rank as the fifth largest donor to Wasserman-Schultz’s re-election campaign. Until leading politicians wean themselves off booze, expect them to keep maligning pot.”
Marijuana Is Not a Gateway Drug, So Why Do Leading Republicans and Democrats Say Otherwise?
Kevin Mahmalji is NORML’s national outreach and chapter coordinator
While many are already celebrating the holidays with family and loved ones, we didn’t want to miss the chance to spotlight some important marijuana law reforms that have taken place this past week. We have exciting news internationally, federally, and in several states! Keep reading below to find out more!
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has signed legislation into law regulating the licensed production and exportation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Under the new policy, those seeking to grow medicinal cannabis commercially or manufacturer cannabis-based medicinal products may apply with government agencies for licensure. Regulators will also grant permits to those seeking to export medicinal cannabis products out of the country.
Santos said that the goal of the policy “is for patients to be able to access medications made in Colombia that are safe, high-quality and accessible. It is also an opportunity to promote scientific research in our country.”
While existing law allows for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis, the plant’s commercial production, manufacture, and sale had not been permitted.
You can read more about this new policy here.
Federal: Back in July, we wrote about a letter authored by Senator Elizabeth Warren and seven other Senators that demanded answers from the federal government in regards to the facilitation of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.
While the DEA, ONDCP, and HHS responded to the letter in October, the Senators were not satisfied and have just recently written a second letter asking for those answers again after claiming the initial response, “failed to answer key substantive questions.”
Of importance to the Senators were topics such as the rescheduling of marijuana in the Federal Controlled Substances Act, the current monopoly the University of Mississippi holds on cultivating cannabis for federal research purposes, interagency coordination as well as the coordination between the federal government and states, and surveillance and epidemiological studies on the use of medical marijuana in the U.S.
This second letter once again signals to many that medical marijuana is becoming an even more important issue in the political sphere not only to voters but also to their elected officials.
Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a press release this week stating that they would “ease some of the regulatory requirements imposed by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) for those who are conducting FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabidiol (CBD), an extract of the marijuana plant.”
Current federal regulation requires researchers who wished to expand their CBD based studies to submit a written request for additional CBD. This would delay the research while the request went through the approval process. According to the press release, “Under these changes, a previously registered CBD clinical researcher who is granted a waiver can readily modify their protocol and continue their research seamlessly. This waiver effectively removes a step from the approval process.
Deputy Director for NORML, Paul Armentano comments, “It’s a minor change. The DEA has done nothing to speed the process for investigators who want to do clinical work with CBD. In order to do clinical work on a drug on the Schedule 1 list, an investigator still needs approval from the FDA, the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.”
Massachusetts: H. 1561: The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 has been scheduled for a hearing before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, January 13th at 1PM.
This legislation would permit the personal possession, cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults. The measure would also permit home cultivation of the plant for non-commercial purposes.
Bring your written testimony and testify in front of the committee in support of The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016.
If you can’t make the hearing, you can contact your lawmakers and urge their support here.
New Hampshire: Legislation has been prefiled for the 2016 legislative session to allow persons 21 years of age or older to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and to cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants without penalty.
Police in New Hampshire arrest some 2,900 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of New Hampshire adults, some 60 percent of whom now endorse legalizing and regulating the plant, according to an October 2014 WMUR Granite State Poll.
Click here if you’re a resident of New Hampshire and want to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for this legislation!
Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh City Council on Monday voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, falling in line with a growing number of municipalities that have taken similar actions in recent years, city officials said.
Under the ordinance passed with a 7 to 2 vote, police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s second-largest city, will begin to issue fines of $25 for possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana and $100 for smoking it in a public space instead of citing for misdemeanors, the city clerk’s office said.
The ordinance is subject to approval by Mayor Bill Peduto, who has voiced support.
Virginia NORML members and supporters will convene at the General Assembly building to bring our message directly to our lawmakers. RSVP now — this is their #1 advocacy event of the year, and they need all hands on deck in Richmond!
Participants will be teamed with other constituents and meet with their legislators face-to-face to discuss the marijuana policy reforms critical to the Commonwealth. Participants will be lobbying for decriminalization, and for eliminating the driver’s license suspension upon a conviction.
For more information click here.
Wyoming: House legislation (HB 3) to depenalize marijuana possession offenses has been pre-filed for the 2016 legislative session, which begins February 8.
Annually, state and local police make some 2,100 marijuana possession arrests. The state ranks sixth in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests. Under state law, first-time marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
House Bill 3 replaces criminal sanctions involving the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of no more than $100 — no arrest and no criminal record.
To take action and contact your House member to urge their support for this measure, click here.
Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!
** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!
Issue 3, the marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot in Ohio this past Tuesday, was surprisingly unpopular with the voters, and lost the vote by 65 percent to 35 percent. It was an old-fashioned ass kicking – a drubbing that came despite polls indicating a slim majority of the public in Ohio favored legalizing marijuana.
That dramatic difference between the generic support for the concept of marijuana legalization, and the far lower support for the provisions contained in Issue 3, lead to a number of conclusions.
First, it suggests that unlimited amounts of money may not be the magic bullet for enacting legalization in a traditionally conservative state. Obviously a fat wallet makes it possible to collect the signatures to qualify the proposal for the ballot, and to hire campaign workers to canvas eligible voters door-to-door, to encourage their support. But in the end, if specific provisions of the proposal are unpopular, money alone cannot overcome substantive weaknesses.
Investor Driven Initiatives
Clearly the fact that this initiative was investor driven, and would have enriched those who put up the money for the initiative, raised serious issues that were likely fatal to this initiative. Even many who favored marijuana legalization were unwilling to support this version, because of the oligopoly of commercial growers that would have been established for the state, assuring financial rewards for decades to come for those who were rich enough be part of the investment team.
In the run-up to the election in Ohio, the opposition focused far less on an argument that legalization was bad public policy that would somehow harm residents of the state (the traditional arguments favored by opponents to legalization), and far more on the fact that the small group of investors were guaranteed to get rich. There was significant opposition to allowing this small group of people to use the voter initiative process for such obvious self-enrichment.
Voter initiatives were a creation of the Progressive era, a method for average citizens to adopt public policy change without the involvement of the elected legislature, and the public perceived this effort in Ohio as a perversion of the voter initiative process. And they refused to permit that to occur, even though a slim majority supported the basic change that was being proposed.
No one, except that small group of investors, liked the self-serving provisions contained in the language of the proposal, and even those of us who endorsed the proposal, because we felt it would stop the arrest of marijuana smokers years earlier that would likely happen if the change has to come through the state legislature, did so with strong reservations about that part of the proposal.
NORML begrudgingly endorsed the initiative, because we are a single-issue organization and the proposal did contain the basic changes we have been fighting for, for more than four decades. But we underscored our dislike for the self-enrichment terms in the language, and said we did not consider it a model that should be considered by other states.
But clearly a majority of the voters in Ohio put a higher priority on opposing those troublesome economic provisions, and were willing to continue prohibition rather than permit this attempt to pervert the initiative process to succeed. Whether this same conclusion will be shared by voters in other states is uncertain, but it surely should cause would-be investors hoping to cash-in in other states to proceed cautiously.
And frankly, some of the problems leading to this result had to do with the seemingly cluelessness of Ian James and the others at Responsible Ohio, who were in charge of the campaign. When opponents began to focus on the economic interests of the initiative funders, the sponsors attempted to sell what was an obvious liability as the price one had to pay to move the marijuana issue out of the hands of hippies and the counter-culture, and into the political mainstream. They insulted those who had worked long and hard to move public policy towards legalization for decades, and suggested they were doing us all a favor by agreeing to embrace our basic political goal of legalization, for a price.
Similarly, apparently unaware of the traditional low voter turnout by young voters in non-presidential election years – the strongest group of supporters for legalization — Responsible Ohio chose to run their initiative in 2015, rather than waiting for 2016 (as proponents have done in California, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Maine and Massachusetts). Again, instead of learning from the many marijuana initiatives that have occurred in this country going back to 1996, this gang who could not shoot straight claimed they preferred to run it in 2015, because of the usual low voter turnout, thinking their money could somehow invigorate the youth vote and they could sneak in a victory while the older voters were not paying attention. Talk about arrogance and hubris. These guys make Donald Trump seem humble!
A further example of their cluelessness was their use of a colorfully decorated bus and a silly mascot named “Buddy” – a sort of superhero with a big marijuana bud for the head – in a state-wide tour, as their primary tactic for getting the youth vote energized and excited about the upcoming chance to legalize marijuana.
Apparently they had never heard of “Joe Camel”, the cartoon camel that was used for years by big tobacco as a device to entice young Americans to try tobacco smoking, where once addicted, they would be tobacco customers for life, although that life would likely be cut short because of their use of tobacco. Following the discovery by Congressional investigators of documentation proving that was the intent of spending huge amounts of money to publicize Joe Camel, the tobacco companies were finally publicly shamed into ending the campaign and retiring Joe Camel.
But when confronted by NORML and others for their eerily similar use of “Buddy,” James and the Responsible Ohio campaign ignored our warnings that many Americans, even those who favor marijuana legalization, remain concerned about the risk that legalization might somehow lead to an increase in adolescent marijuana smoking, and that they were setting themselves up as an easy target by long-time opponents of legalization (which, of course, came almost instantly). James actually insisted that their “Buddy” campaign was popular, was gaining them great press exposure, and the campaign continued all across the state, right up to the election.
Again, the arrogance of this group was amazing, and their failure to understand the caution that is required when dealing with the marijuana issue, as contrasted to many other issues of public policy, was astounding.
It is impossible, without exit polling (and I doubt Responsible Ohio will share their exit polling, assuming they even made the effort to find out why opponents voted the way they did) to know which of these several tactical and strategic blunders was primarily accountable for their embarrassing defeat. My personal belief is the economic self-enrichment was the major flaw in the campaign, but the decision to mount the effort in an off-year election clearly contributed to their defeat (the youth vote turnout was low), as did their use of “Buddy” with a tin ear to the likelihood it would appear they were appealing to adolescents.
Responsible Ohio had this plan to legalize marijuana and get rich at the same time, and they were simply not interested in learning from the past, or even consulting with others who had far more experience in running marijuana-related initiatives.
As a result, only James came out ahead, as he was allegedly paid more than $4 million dollars to run the ill-fated campaign. And even James may well learn to rue the day he took on this badly conceived campaign, as he is a professional who has made his reputation running more traditional campaigns, and it is difficult to imagine that his reputation will not suffer from this unnecessary debacle. Issue 3 will forever be a case study for how NOT to run a marijuana initiative.
But the real losers are the marijuana smokers in Ohio, who will continue to be arrested for years to come – nearly 20,000 each year — when a better drafted and more professionally run campaign could have ended prohibition and stopped the marijuana arrests.