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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 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 Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 25, 2017

    Marijuana and the LawStandard roadside field sobriety tests (FST) are not reliable indicators of marijuana-induced impairment, according to a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

    Justices determined that there is a lack of scientific consensus as to the validity of FSTs for determining whether a subject is under the influence of cannabis. They opined: “There is ongoing disagreement among scientists, however, as to whether the FSTs are indicative of marijuana impairment. In recent years, numerous studies have been conducted in an effort to determine whether a person’s performance on the FST is a reliable indicator of impairment by marijuana. These studies have produced mixed results. … We are not persuaded … that the FSTs can be treated as scientific tests establishing impairment as a result of marijuana consumption.”

    As a result, justices ruled that police may only provide limited testimony with regard to a defendant’s FST performance. An officer “may not suggest … on direct examination that an individual’s performance on an FST established that the individual was under the influence of marijuana,” the court determined. “Likewise, an officer may not testify that a defendant ‘passed’ or ‘failed’ any FST, as this language improperly implies that the FST is a definitive test of marijuana use or impairment.”

    The court further ruled that a police officer may not testify “without being qualified as an expert [as] to the effects of marijuana consumption [or] offer an opinion that a defendant was intoxicated by marijuana [because] no such general knowledge exists as to the physical or mental effects of marijuana consumption, which vary greatly amongst individuals.”

    Attorneys Steven Epstein and Marvin Cable filed an amicus curiae brief in the case on behalf of national NORML.

    The case is Commonwealth v. Gerhardt.

  • by Clare Sausen, NORML Junior Associate September 21, 2017

    Canadian parliamentWhen Trudeau announced his decision to legalize marijuana in Canada (set to take effect in 2018), Trump-fearing Americans vowed to seek refuge with our Northern neighbors.

    So what brought Trudeau to his decision to repeal prohibition? You know what they say: behind every great man there’s even greater, weed-loving woman.

    In November of 2012, two NORML Canada board members, Kelly Coulter and Andrea Matrosovs, met with Trudeau and convinced him that supporting full legalization– not just decriminalization– was the right course of action for the Parliamentarian.

    “Al Capone would have loved it if alcohol were only decriminalized,” Coulter said, convincing Trudeau that decriminalization wouldn’t keep organized crime rings and gangs out of the marijuana business.

    “I saw the light go on in his eyes,” Coulter said. “He was seeing this as a politician, realizing ‘I can sell this,’ ” she recalled.

    Following in their footsteps, NORML Canada Board members Marc-Boris St-Maurice and Abigail Sampson went to testify before Parliament last week, discussing The Cannabis Act (C-45) with other jurisdictions in which cannabis is legal, to share their experiences in terms of public health, tax, and banking implications for legalization.

    In addition, NORML Canada Board member Kirk Tousaw went to Parliament to talk international considerations and how to deal with the transport of marijuana across border lines as it remains federally illegal in the United States.

    NORML Canada President John Conroy then took part in a panel on the issue of household cultivation (the current bill proposes four plants per household).

    NORML Canada members are proving that citizen involvement in legalization efforts with lawmakers, even simply having a discussion like Coulter and Matrosovs did with Trudeau, can make an enormous difference. Only time will tell if the United States will be able to follow the example set by our neighbors to the North.

    Follow NORML Canada on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website at: http://norml.ca/

     

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