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ACTIVISM

  • by NORML July 4, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaWhat are your plans this Fourth of July weekend? If you are like most Americans, you are likely to be having a cookout, watching fireworks with friends and family, or engaging in some other social event that celebrates your freedom.

    But for the millions of Americans who consume cannabis, freedom can be fleeting.

    In many states, our fellow citizens still face the possibility of arrest, criminal prosecution, and jail time for a first offense marijuana possession charge. For instance, in Arizona and Florida, first-time possession offenders may face felony charges. In Oklahoma, growing even a single plant is punishable by up to life in prison.

    At NORML we understand that this harsh reality is probably not something that you think about every single day — particularly on July 4th. But we do. That is why we are working hard to empower our national network of engaged citizens — citizens like you — to change America’s antiquated and punitive marijuana laws. And, because of you and your efforts, we are succeeding!

    Support NORML’s effort to empower citizens to participate in the democratic process and reform our nation’s marijuana laws.

    It is the highest ideal of American democracy that our nation has a well-informed and politically engaged electorate. That is why every week — via our blog, social networks, and weekly e-zine — NORML aims to arm our supporters with the latest science and news, as well as legislative and legal developments pertaining to cannabis and cannabis policy. Via the NORML Action Center at www.norml.org/act, we keep you up to date on and engaged in all ongoing state and federal legislative efforts to reform marijuana prohibition and restore our freedoms. And we thank the 100,000+ individuals that have taken action over the past few months.

    Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we come together and assert our authority over our elected officials. The Declaration of Independence explicitly states: That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

    In sum: it’s our responsibility to compel our elected officials to institute change.

    Tens of thousands of NORML people just like you support our mission. Make a contribution today so that we can continue our important work.

    Our system of government is not perfect. In fact, it is far from it. But for hundreds of years, citizens have organized and struggled to come closer to Thomas Jefferson’s iconic aspiration, “That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    Thomas Jefferson legally grew cannabis. You should be able to as well.

    Help us change American for the better.

    Happy Fourth of July,
    The NORML Team

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  • by NORML June 30, 2017

    Nevada Legalized MarijuanaStarting on Saturday, July 1, specially licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in Nevada will have the opportunity to engage in the retail sale of marijuana to adults.

    State tax regulators finalized temporary rules on Monday governing adult use sales. Regulators so far have issued over 80 licenses to business establishments seeking to engage in activities specific to the production, testing, or sale of cannabis to adults.

    “Adults in Nevada will now be able to access cannabis in a safe, above ground, regulated environment,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “To their immense credit, lawmakers expeditiously to implement the will of their voters. Elected officials elsewhere would do well to follow Nevada’s example.”

    Adult use sales are anticipated to be limited because of an ongoing legal dispute regarding who may legally transport cannabis to retail stores. Last week, a Carson City judge issued an injunction prohibiting any entity other than liquor distributors from engaging in retail marijuana transport. As a result, retailers will only be able to sell their existing inventory.

    “While we applaud Nevada for moving to enact their voter approved legalization initiative in a timely fashion, interested parties must now move quickly and decisively to resolve the pending issues around distribution. If supply remains constrained in the state it will drive up prices and ultimately lead to most retail outlets being entirely out of sellable product for the recreational market.” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “This will only serve to continue to drive consumers to the black market, the very thing residents voted to demolish, and will deprive the state of needed tax revenue that will instead go to underground operators.”

    A majority of voters decided in November in favor of the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act – a voter-initiated regulating the adult use marijuana market. In May, state regulated decided in favor of expediting the timeline for retail marijuana sales from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2017.

    Seven additional states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington — no longer impose criminal penalties with regard to the adult possession or use of cannabis.

    Businesses in the state still do not have protections from the Justice Department, led by militant prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recently stated marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin.

    You can click here to easily send a message to your federal lawmakers in support of pending legislation, HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act by clicking HERE.

  • by Dan Viets, Executive Director, Missouri NORML June 20, 2017
    Dan Viets speaking at a NORML conference

    Dan Viets speaking at a NORML conference

    Federal courts have recently rejected the actions of university and college administrators who sought to inflict suspicionless drug tests on students at a public college and to restrict the First Amendment rights of marijuana law reformers at a public university.  Both decisions have important national implications.

    Linn Tech Student Drug Testing Case

    In 2011, Linn State Technical College administrators declared that they intended to drug test every student who applied for admission to the small, state-funded college located in Osage County, Missouri, a short distance east of Jefferson City.  No other public college or university in America had pursued such a program.  It seemed clear to those who follow such matters that college and university students have the same rights as other adults to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  While private institutions are not bound by the restraints of the Fourth Amendment, public tax-supported institutions are.  Nonetheless, Linn Tech seemed determined to pursue inflicting random, suspicionless drug testing on their students.

    Tony Rothert, the Legal Director of the ACLU of Missouri, filed suit against Linn Tech.  I filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, working with Alex Kreit, a law professor from San Diego.

    U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey, sitting in Jefferson City, subsequently issued a decision prohibiting such testing, with a few narrowly-drawn exceptions for those participating in training programs involving heavy machinery or high-voltage electricity.

    Linn Tech appealed that decision to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.  Legal scholars were shocked when a three-judge panel of that Court later sided with Linn Tech.  In a decision which many believed ignored legal precedent and logic, two of three judges on the panel which initially heard the case sided with Linn Tech.

    Mr. Rothert then filed for a rehearing of the case by the full 11-judge Court.  Such hearings are rarely granted, but in this case, the Motion was granted.  Following that rehearing, all but two of the judges on the full Court sided with the students and the ACLU, overturning the decision of the three-judge panel.

    Still not satisfied, Linn Tech squandered more public tax money pursuing a Petition for Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.  Civil libertarians were concerned that the current high Court might indeed overturn the Eighth Circuit if it had accepted that Petition for review.  However, on June 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court denied further review in this matter.  Therefore, the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court is now the final decision in this matter.  Linn Tech administrators have reluctantly acknowledged that they must now follow the Constitution and abandon their effort to impose suspicionless drug testing on their students.

    Iowa State University NORML Censorship Case

    In another important case closely watched by many across the nation, members of the NORML Chapter at Iowa State University in 2012 applied for approval to print t-shirts which contained the name of the university-recognized organization and included an image of the school’s mascot, “Cy, the Cyclone”.  University administrators first approved those t-shirts, but when the ISU NORML Chapter asked to reprint them, the university caved in to pressure from legislative staff people who had complained that it appeared the university was supporting marijuana legalization.

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) filed suit on behalf of the officers of the Iowa State University NORML Chapter, alleging content and viewpoint discrimination.  The lawsuit sought to prevent university administrators from treating the NORML Chapter differently from other university-recognized student organizations.  The federal district court in Iowa sided with the students and against the university.  The university appealed to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, which issued a decision in February of this year upholding the federal district judge’s ruling.

    Iowa State University administrators then asked the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court to reconsider its decision.  The Court did so, which caused many to fear that they might change their minds.

    However, on June 13, 2017, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court reaffirmed its earlier decision and went even further, holding that university administrators who prevented the ISU NORML Chapter from using the university’s trademarked images were individually liable for their actions and could, therefore, be ordered to pay damages from their own pockets!

    Administrators at the University of Missouri in Columbia have taken similar actions in regard to the MU NORML Chapter.  It is hoped that the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit will encourage MU administrators to reconsider their position.

    The federal appellate court sent a loud and clear message to university administrators that they are required to respect the Constitutional rights of students, including those who advocate for reform of the marijuana laws.

    While Iowa State could do as Linn Tech administrators did and continue to squander more public tax money pursuing an ill-considered position, it is not at all likely the U.S. Supreme Court would grant further review in this matter.

    Administrators at the University of Missouri in Columbia have taken similar actions in regard to the MU NORML Chapter.  It is hoped that the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit will encourage MU administrators to reconsider their position.

    These two decisions have reaffirmed the rights of college and university students to be free from random, suspicionless drug testing and to speak out for drug law reform without censorship by administrators..

     

  • by Troy Smit, Communications Director, Empire State NORML June 15, 2017

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    Lobby Day
    The Drug Policy Alliance, along with other campaign pillar groups Empire State NORML, VOCAL-NY, Cannabis Cultural Association, LatinoJustice and the Immigrant Defense Project, held a press conference and lobby day to announce the Start Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade (Start SMART) campaign to advocate for the substantially amended version of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) this past Monday, June 12th.

    Dozens of activists from all around the state took buses, drove cars and rode trains to Albany to join the campaign in launching and lobbying for the legalization bill. After the excellent citizen lobby day training provided by the Drug Policy Alliance, the group split up to divide and conquer before the press conference hitting as many offices as they could as well as attending scheduled meetings.

    In the afternoon the press conference was held in front of the Senate Chambers. Joining advocates at the press conference were the MRTA’s prime sponsors in both houses, Senator Liz Krueger (D-New York) and Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), as well as key MRTA sponsors including: Assemblymember Dick Gottfried (D-New York), Senator Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), Senator Jesse Hamilton (IDC-Brooklyn), Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), Assemblymember Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblymember Michael Blake (D-Bronx). We also heard from representatives of Start SMART pillar groups, Drug Policy Alliance (Kassandra Frederique), Empire State NORML (Doug Greene), LatinoJustice (Juan Cartagena), VOCAL-NY (Nick Malinowski), Immigrant Defense Project (Mizue Aizeki) and Cannabis Cultural Association (Nelson Guerrero and Jacob Plowden).

    Afterwards the group of dedicated activists went back to work. Some went to the Senate and Assembly chambers to pull their members off the floor to seek their support of the new bill, while others continued dropping off materials at the offices of legislators who have voted for further decriminalization but haven’t supported taxation and regulation of marijuana.

    The Start SMART campaign

    The substantially amended MRTA would reestablish a legal market for marijuana in New York and create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol and the craft brewery industry, for adults over the age of 21. Over the past twenty years, nearly 800,000 people have been negatively affected by the harms of prohibition. With people of color accounting for nearly 85% of those arrested annually for possession, the collateral consequences are felt most in these communities. Because of the racial injustice caused by prohibition, the bill is not only an end to prohibition in New York, but also a win in the ongoing fight for racial equality. Significant steps are taken to ensure that those most negatively affected by prohibition will benefit from its repeal.

    The reworked Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) includes substantial racial justice and small business-friendly amendments, including:

    • Creating a micro-license structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, that allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.
    • Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.
    • Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses

    Start SMART NY is a campaign to end marijuana prohibition and repair the harms to communities convened by the Drug Policy Alliance in partnership with groups dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition, including Empire State NORML.

    NY resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of the bill. 

    Make sure to visit Empire State NORML’s website by clicking here and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

    Click here to see the press release from earlier in the week. and click here to go to the Start SMART NY website

  • by NORML June 13, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesDeputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was questioned about federal marijuana policy during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today and his responses were disconcerting to say the least.

    Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) asked Rosenstein about the current tension between state and federal marijuana laws.

    “We do have a conflict between federal law and the law in some states. It’s a difficult issue for parents like me, who have to provide guidance to our kids… I’ve talked to Chuck Rosenberg, the administrator of the DEA and we follow the law and the science,” said Rosenstein, “And from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug. It’s properly scheduled under Schedule I. And therefore we have this conflict.”

    He further elaborated on the Trump Administration’s view of the Cole Memo, which was issued by President Obama’s Deputy Attorney General James Cole, which lays out guidelines for marijuana businesses operating in medical and legal states if they wish to avoid federal interference.

    “Jim Cole tried to deal with it in that memorandum and at the moment that memorandum is still in effect. Maybe there will be changes to it in the future but we’re still operating under that policy which is an effort to balance the conflicting interests with regard to marijuana,” stated Rosenstein, “So I can assure you that is going to be a high priority for me as the U.S. Attorneys come on board to talk about how to deal with that challenge in the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, whether it be for recreational or medical use…”

    He also said that the Department of Justice is “responsible for enforcing the law. It’s illegal, and that is the federal policy with regards to marijuana.”

    After testifying in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he also appeared before its House counterpart.

    Representative Kilmer (D-WA) further questioned the Deputy Attorney General on the Cole Memo and the Department of Justice’s pending review of it, asking for an update on Attorney General Jeff Sessions view on it.

    Rosenstein responded: “I do not have an update. I can tell you, it’s a very complicated issue for us. Under federal law as passed by the Congress, and given the science concerning marijuana, it’s a Schedule I controlled substance. That’s a decision I’ve talked with (DEA) Administrator Rosenberg about. Some states have taken a different approach and legalized or decriminalized marijuana for medical use and in some cases recreational use…The question of whether it’s legal under federal law is resolved because Congress has passed a law — it’s illegal. Scientists have found that there’s no accepted medical use for it. Cole made an effort to examine the issue and find a way forward for the department where we could continue with our obligation to enforce federal law and minimize the intrusion on states that were attempting to follow a different path.”

    Despite these critiques, Rosenstein stated any revisions are likely to happen further down the road.

    “For the moment the Cole memo remains our policy. There may be an opportunity to review it in the future, but at the moment I’m not aware of any proposal to change it. But I think we’re all going to have to deal with it in the future.”

    You can watch the exchange on CSPAN by clicking HERE

    Send a message to your member of Congress to support legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition by clicking HERE. 

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