Beginning Tuesday, January 10, members of the US Senate will begin confirmation hearings on the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for the position of US Attorney General — the top law enforcement officer in the land.
As a US Senator, Sessions has been among the most outspoken anti-marijuana opponents in Congress, and he was one of only 16 US Senators to receive a failing grade from NORML in our 2016 Congressional Report Card.
Senator Sessions has a long and consistent record of opposing any efforts to reform marijuana policy. He once notoriously remarked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.” More recently, he condemned the Obama administration’s ‘hands off’ policy with regard to state marijuana laws, stating, “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”
Fast-forward to today: Senator Sessions is on the cusp of becoming the top law enforcement officer in the United States. That is, unless your members of the US Senate hear a loud and clear message from you!
If confirmed by the US Senate to be US Attorney General, Sen. Sessions will possess the power to roll back decades of hard-fought gains. He will have the authority to challenge the medical marijuana programs that now operate in 29 states and the adult use legalization laws that have been approved in eight states. Senator Sessions views on marijuana are out of step with those of the majority of the American public and also with those of President-Elect Trump, who has said that questions regarding marijuana policy are best left up to the states, not the federal government. In short, the appointment of Sen. Sessions would be a step backwards at a time when the American public is demanding we push marijuana legalization forward. He is the wrong man for the job, and he represents a clear and present danger to the marijuana law reform movement.
Please take action today to assure that he is vetted properly. At a minimum, Sen. Sessions must be asked whether he intends to respect the will of the voters in the majority of US states that have enacted to pursue alternative marijuana policies. If he is not willing to act on the behest of the majority of Americans and to respect the laws of the majority of US states, then he does not deserve the support of the cannabis reform community.
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Since its founding in 1970, NORML has provided a voice in the public policy debate for those Americans who oppose marijuana prohibition and favor an end to the practice of arresting marijuana smokers. A nonprofit public-interest advocacy group, NORML seeks to represent the interests of the tens of millions of Americans who enjoy marijuana responsibly. By completing the membership survey, you are telling us about yourself, why you care about marijuana law reform, and most importantly how we can better serve you as advocates.
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National NORML, Michigan NORML and dozens of other state and local chapters have released an open letter to Vice President-Elect Pence seeking clarity and common sense from the incoming administration regarding marijuana policy. During the campaign, President-Elect Trump, on multiple occasions, has voiced support for allowing states to move forward with medical and recreational marijuana laws if they chose to do so. Yet his nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be the next Attorney General, who infamously stated that “good people don’t use marijuana” during a Senate hearing in 2016, the administration is currently sending mixed messages in regards to the future of marijuana law reform under the incoming administration.
In keeping with President-Elect Trump’s message of economic growth, the marijuana advocacy groups wrote: “Voters are less and less convinced that cannabis is a criminal problem and no longer want their hard earned tax dollars used to arrest and prosecute non-violent users or entrepreneurs and employees of state licensed cannabis businesses.”
The letter, co-signed by over 50 NORML chapters throughout the country as well as the national organization, represents tens-of-thousands of advocates for cannabis reform.
“As a Michigan resident, I know that Mr. Trump would not have won my state had he campaigned on the continued criminalization of responsible marijuana users,” said Brad Forrester, Communications Director of Michigan NORML, “as the transition Chairman and soon to be Vice President, Mr. Pence has an enormous responsibility to his voters and the American people to support federal policy that respects adults to make their own decisions.”
National NORML recently released a petition to President-Elect Trump with a similar request for marijuana clarity with the letter reading “On behalf of the millions of loyal Americans who use marijuana, we hope he will respect the right of states to determine their own marijuana policy, as you advocated in your campaign. Can you clarify whether you will support states’ rights and allow states that chose to reform their laws to do so or will you use the force of the federal government to interfere with or shut down these programs?”
The three biggest winners on election night were Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and marijuana. Given the broad support for marijuana reform across essentially all demographics, the Trump-Pence administration would be wise to allow states to continue to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention. This is not just good policy, it’s good politics.
Below is the full text of the letter sent to Vice President-Elect Pence
Trump Transition Team
Chairman Mike Pence
1717 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington D.C, United States
December 20, 2016
Vice President-Elect Mike Pence,
American drug policy is at an important crossroads and the incoming Trump/Pence Administration will inherit an unprecedented schism between state and federal law in regards to the regulation and enforcement of cannabis statutes.
Where will the new administration take cannabis policy? President-Elect Trump has said he supports medicinal cannabis and states’ rights to set their own policies without interference by the federal government while on the campaign trail. Now that you both are about to assume office, we ask for clarity regarding the new administration’s plans.
Currently, twenty-one states have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes with a combined population of over 123 million people, fifteen states have enacted CBD cannabis oil laws with a combined population of over 97 million people, and eight states plus the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult consumption with a combined population of over 67 million people.
Only six states still reflect the federal prohibition of cannabis, composing just 11% of the U.S. population.
However, recent cabinet appointments have sent shockwaves through patient communities, emerging industries, and responsible private citizens as many of the recent nominations that have been selected are historic opponents to cannabis law reform. In order to maintain economic stability in a rapidly growing market, the country would benefit from the Trump/Pence Administration articulating its priorities for future cannabis policy in a manner that respects state autonomy as guided by the 10th amendment of the US Constitution.
National NORML, Michigan NORML, and the undersigned chapters request that the incoming administration meet with advocates from a cross section of the cannabis community in order to formulate workable policies that reflect the popular will of independent states and protect responsible consumers of cannabis within the parameters of enacted state policies.
The 2016 election was a watershed moment for cannabis reform as it was for the Trump/Pence Presidential ticket. Voters from across the country responded favorably to both the Trump/Pence message of law and order and the message for cannabis reforms that stop the arrests of ordinary cannabis consumers. Voters are less and less convinced that cannabis is a criminal problem and no longer want their hard earned tax dollars used to arrest and prosecute non-violent consumers or entrepreneurs and employees of state licensed cannabis businesses.
Voters recognize that local resources should be devoted to addressing crimes that adversely affect their communities ranging from burglars and identity thieves to murderers and terrorists. Now more than ever, Americans want law enforcement officers to focus on issues that are truly a threat to public safety, not enforce the outdated prohibition of marijuana at the cost to responsible citizens and businesses.
The Michigan NORML Board of Directors and The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
Also endorsed by the following NORML chapters: Aiken (SC) NORML, Arizona NORML, Ball State (IN) NORML, Benzie County sub-chapter of Michigan NORML, Berrien County sub-chapter of Michigan NORML, Calhoun County sub-chapter of Michigan NORML, California NORML, Central Florida NORML, Central Ohio NORML, Charlotte (NC) NORML, Columbia (SC) NORML, Connecticut NORML, Delaware NORML, Denver (CO) NORML, El Paso (TX) NORML, Empire State (NY) NORML, Florida NORML, Greater St. Louis NORML, Harrisonburg (VA) NORML, Humboldt (CA) NORML, Illinois NORML, Indiana NORML, Jackson County sub-chapter of Michigan NORML, Kalkaska County sub-chapter of Michigan NORML, Los Angeles (CA) NORML, Las Vegas (NV) NORML, Low Country (SC) NORML, Macomb County sub-chapter of Michigan NORML, Madison (WI) NORML, Maryland NORML, Eastern Shore Miami (FL) NORML, MN NORML, Monterey County (CA) NORML, NC NORML, NC NORML of the Triad, NM NORML, North Central Ohio NORML, Northeast Indiana NORML, Northeast Lower Peninsula sub-chapter of Michigan NORML, Northern Wisconsin NORML, Northwest Indiana NORML, Oakland County sub-chapter of Michigan NORML, Ohio NORML, Pittsburgh (PA) NORML, Purdue (IN) NORML, Purdue Northwest (IN) NORML, Santa Cruz (CA) NORML, Shiawassee County sub-chapter of Michigan NORML San Luis Obispo (CA) NORML, Stanislaus (CA) NORML, Washington NORML, Washtenaw County sub-chapter of Michigan NORML, Wayne State Law Students sub-chapter of Michigan NORML, Western New York NORML, and Wyoming NORML
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With eight states and the District of Columbia legalizing marijuana for adult use and more than half of the country allowing for the medical use of marijuana, it is time we double down on our efforts and finish the job. As we’ve done since 1970, NORML will be on the frontline fighting for legalization nationwide. Will you stand with us?
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This morning in Ottawa, a government task force assigned to study legalizing and regulating the adult use of marijuana in Canada released their recommendations. The task force recommended that sales should be restricted to those over the age of 18 with a personal possession limit of 30 grams. Their recommended model of legalization would put heavy restrictions on most types of cannabis advertising and tax the product based on THC content. The task force suggested that both storefronts and delivery services would be allowed as well as the home cultivation of up to four plants. They also believe that all of Canada’s current laws regarding medical marijuana remain in place as they are currently with no change.
“The prohibitory regime exists does not work and has not met the basic principles of public health and safety that have to be at the core of this public policy,” stated Anne McLellan, former minister of justice and chair of the task force.
The group’s nine members had discussions with scientific experts across Canada and received the opinions of over 28,000 citizens via online consultations before making their recommendations. They also made visits to states in the US that have already legalized marijuana for adult consumption.
While the task force’s recommendations are non-binding, they announced during the press conference that the Canadian government will present legislation in the spring of 2017 modeled after this report. The implementation date of that legislation is still unclear.
With Canada blazing a new and smarter path forward on marijuana policy, the pressure will only continue to build on the United States government to reform our federal marijuana laws.
You can read the full report HERE.