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ACTIVISM

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator January 28, 2016

    legalization_pollFollowing the decision by Colorado voters to legalize recreational marijuana in November of 2012, we’ve seen similar victories in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and even in our nation’s capitol. To many outside observers, these recent successes appear to have come over night. But this is not the case. These changes have been decades in the making and cannot be attributed to any one specific person or campaign.

    For years, marijuana activists have worked tirelessly to lay the foundation for future legalization efforts in this country. From the early days of employing civil disobedience tactics such as public smoke-outs and regular protests, to a more modern approach of meeting with elected officials through citizen lobbying efforts, marijuana activists are the workhorses in the fight to end the prohibition of marijuana. They are the boots on the ground.

    Of course this level of commitment eventually takes its toll. Being a marijuana activist can be extremely draining, both mentally and physically. In addition to the constant scrutiny from friends and family, we often risk losing our job, housing and in some cases, custody of our children. Regardless of the many risks we face, we continue to fight another day, even with no guarantee of what the outcome may be — essentially risking our freedom to challenge over 70 years of oppressive marijuana laws.

    We wake up each day motivated by the hope of changing the unjust laws our country has embraced for so many years. We strive to bring justice to the thousands of Americans who have lost almost everything for a simple possession charge, and the families that have been ripped apart because a desperate mother tried to find her child some relief through medical marijuana.

    Marijuana activists in every state dedicate countless hours to advocating for marijuana reforms on the local, state and federal level. They are constantly educating our communities, building coalitions and planning the next step. Like a game of Chess, every decision is calculated. With doubtful community leaders and skeptical politicians, the tiniest misstep can quickly become a roadblock for future conversations about marijuana reform.

    Some of these activities may sound risky and not very glamorous. Nonetheless, marijuana activist will continue to be the driving force behind any success effort to reform our country’s marijuana laws. Whether through a citizen-led initiative or a legislative effort, marijuana activists are taking action into their own hands to end the senseless war against a plant and the American people. So to marijuana activists past, present and future, thank you for your sacrifices and continued dedication to ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.

    If you’re interested in changing marijuana laws in your city and/or state, there are several ways you can get involved. From working with our national office to organize a new group of passionate reformers in your community, to using our online Action Center to engage your elected officials, NORML is here to assist you with your efforts. 2016 is already shaping up to be a historic year for marijuana reforms so make sure your voice is heard by joining NORML today!

    Four states down, forty-six more to go!

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel January 25, 2016

    C1_8734_r_xThis 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.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director January 22, 2016

    map_leafPlenty of marijuana law reform legislation was introduced in state legislatures across the country this week! We have news out of Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, New Hampshire, Utah and Washington. Plus some news from abroad! Keep reading below to get the latest news in marijuana law reform from this week.

    International:

    Chile: A medical marijuana farm in the country was officially “inaugurated” this week, signifying a growing approval of medical marijuana use in the region. The farm is the largest medical marijuana plantation in Latin America and will provide medicine to about 4,000 patients in the country.

    Israel: The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee held a joint session with the Anti-Drug and Alcohol Committee to discuss reform of the country’s medical marijuana regulations. Currently only a small number of doctors can prescribe the medicine and there is a shortage of supply so officials are looking to expand physician privileges to prescribe cannabis.

    “People are dying and suffering [from lack of the drug],” they said. “We have heard grandiose promises, but so far there are no answers. There is plenty of bureaucracy that doesn’t know how to deal with individual cases.

    Mexico:  After a series of public debates and bipartisan support, a bill to allow the importation of medical marijuana products is expected to pass by May.

    The bill, proposed by Institutional Revolutionary Party Senator Cristina Diaz, aims to change Mexican laws to allow the import of medical marijuana products to help the roughly 5,000 medical patients currently without access to such drugs.”

    State:

    Georgia: A newly introduced Senate Resolution seeks to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2016 ballot to regulate adult marijuana use.

    SR6 would allow voters to decide if they wish to regulate the commercial cultivation, processing, and retail of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. You can read the full text of this proposal here. To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for the measure, click here.

    Kansas: Senate lawmakers are considering legislation, HB 2049, to amend various penalties and regulations specific to marijuana possession and use.

    House Bill 2049 seeks to a) establish a statewide research program to oversee the production of industrial hemp, b) authorize the limited use of cannabidiol for therapeutic purposes, and c) reduce criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine) to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by no more than six months in jail and a $1,000 fine).

    Click here to learn more and urge your lawmakers to support this legislation.

    Maryland: January 21, members of the Maryland House and Senate voted to override a 2015 veto and to decriminalize the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

    Members of the House decided 86 to 55 in favor of overriding the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 517. Members of the Senate decided 29 to 17 to enact the legislation.

    Senate Bill 517 amends existing criminal penalties regarding the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia from a misdemeanor, punishable by possible jail time, to a civil violation. However, amended language also includes a provision establishing a civil fine of up to $500 for offenses involving the use of marijuana in public. NORML and our affiliates will be working in the future to amend this penalty.

    New Hampshire: This week public testimony was heard on the three pending legalization measures in the House of Representatives.legalization_poll

    On January 27th, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will be voting on the  three separate bills that would legalize various amounts of marijuana.

    HB 1610, HB 1675, and HB 1694 all seek to permit the personal cultivation and commercial retail sale of marijuana in the state.

    For more information or to urge your lawmakers to support legalization in New Hampshire, click here.

    House bill 1631, legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, is also pending in the House of Representatives.

    Last year, similar legislation was overwhelmingly approved by the House in a 297-67 vote, but was tabled in the Senate. Click here for more information!

    Utah: SB 73, the Medical Cannabis Act, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, was introduced this week and seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis, including strains with higher THC content, for the manufacturing of medicinal products and/or herbal preparations.

    Under a 2014 law, qualifying patients are permitted to possess cannabis extracts that contain more than 15 percent CBD and no more than 0.3 percent THC. However, the law provides no legal supply source for these products and, as a result, it has largely failed to meet the needs of patients.

    Competing legislation seeks to only permit the use of CBD in pill or oil form and prohibits any form of THC.

    Click here to contact your lawmakers and urge them to support SB 73!

    Washington: Newly introduced legislation, HB 2629, The Adult Home Grow & Criminal Reduction Bill would permit adults to grow a limited number of marijuana plants for personal use.

    Similar legislation (SB 6083) was heard last year in a special legislative session.

    Click here to urge your lawmakers in Washington to support these measures.

    takeactionban

    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!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator January 20, 2016

    US_capitolWith 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.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 18, 2016

    personal_cultivationThe cumulative use of cannabis by adolescents has no direct effect on intelligence decline, according to longitudinal data published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Minnesota evaluated whether marijuana use was associated with changes in intellectual performance in two longitudinal cohorts of adolescent twins. Participants were assessed for intelligence at ages 9 to 12, before marijuana involvement, and again at ages 17 to 20.

    Researchers reported no dose-response relationship between cannabis use and IQ decline. They also found no significant differences in performance among marijuana using subjects when compared to their non-using twins.

    Investigators concluded: “In the largest longitudinal examination of marijuana use and IQ change, … we find little evidence to suggest that adolescent marijuana use has a direct effect on intellectual decline. … [T]he lack of a dose–response relationship, and an absence of meaningful differences between discordant siblings lead us to conclude that the deficits observed in marijuana users are attributable to confounding factors that influence both substance initiation and IQ rather than a neurotoxic effect of marijuana.”

    The findings follow the publication of a separate longitudinal study in the Journal of Pharmacology which concluded that cumulative adolescent marijuana use is not associated with lower IQ or poorer educational performance once adjustments are made for potential confounders, specifically cigarette smoking.

    An abstract of the study, “Impact of adolescent marijuana use on intelligence: Results from two longitudinal twin studies,” is online here.

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