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ACTIVISM

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel January 18, 2016
    The test should be, “Is it better than Prohibition.” Does the proposal stop the arrest of smokers and establish a legal market where consumers can obtain their marijuana?

    The test should be, “Is it better than Prohibition.” Does the proposal stop the arrest of smokers and establish a legal market where consumers can obtain their marijuana?

    As we look forward to what should be a fantastically successful year for marijuana legalization, it is important that those of us who support legalization join arms and move forward in a unified manner. All political progress requires some measure of compromise, and legalizing marijuana is no exception.

    Each state that legalizes marijuana, at least during this early stage of legalization, will still need to revisit the topic within a couple of years to fix things not covered in the original proposal (e.g., employment and child custody issues). We will need to expand and perfect these early models. But we must not permit the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

    Supposed “Legalizers” Sometimes Opponents in Early States

    In the first group of states to legalized marijuana, we witnessed some of our own friends and colleagues opposing the initiative in their state, sometimes serving as the primary opponents to the proposal, when they had the opportunity to end prohibition and stop the arrest of smokers. Their justification was always the same: the specific legalization proposal was not good enough.

    Sometime their opposition was based on the failure of the initiative to permit home cultivation; sometimes it was because they opposed the DUID provisions; and sometimes they opposed the limits on the amount of marijuana one could legally possess or cultivate.

    NORML has always insisted that consumers have the right to grow their own marijuana; we have led the efforts to require a showing of actual impairment before someone is convicted of a DUID; and, as consumers, we would be delighted if we were allowed to possess or grow larger quantities of marijuana, without the risk of arrest. But those are all political goals that we will continue to push for; not excuses for opposing legalization proposals that are less than perfect.

    Is It Better Than Prohibition?

    The test should be, “Is it better than Prohibition.” Does the proposal stop the arrest of smokers and establish a legal market where consumers can obtain their marijuana?

    While it is understandable that those who have invested their time and energy, and sometimes resources, to advance a specific legalization proposal would feel a vested interest in seeing that version be the one that advances to the ballot, what is most important is that one good legalization proposal qualify for the ballot, and that the legalization movement both in-state and nationwide come together to embrace and support that proposal.

    Although there have been competing versions of legalization advanced in most of the states where legalization is expected to appear on the ballot this November, there are encouraging signs that a consensus is forming in most of these states supporting one of the competing proposals, increasing the likelihood of ultimate success in November. There is still too much in-fighting in some of these states between different factions, but the trend looks positive.

    Maine

    In Maine, there were two competing initiatives (The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and Legalize Maine), and the one with the best funding has now merged efforts with the one comprised primarily of local activists, even accepting their language for the initiative,. The result is an apparent unified effort assuring that only one legalization proposal will appear on the ballot this fall, one that has an excellent chance of being approved by the voters.

    This clearly required compromise from both groups, who were willing to make some concessions in the belief that the goal of legalizing marijuana was more important than the relatively minor differences between the two proposals. All parties should be commended.

    Massachusetts

    In Massachusetts, where there were two competing versions of legalization being circulated as potential voter initiatives, the qualifying process seems to have largely resolved the matter. One proposal, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, continues to meet the steps required to qualify for the ballot, and is expected to officially qualify shortly; while the other proposal, Bay State Repeal, the one that had been endorsed by the NORML affiliate in Massachusetts, MassCann/NORML, has failed to qualify. While not everyone previously involved with Bay State Repeal have agreed to support the remaining proposal, most have, suggesting the opposition in November will primarily come from the prohibitionists; not from disgruntled supporters of Bay State Repeal.

    That willingness to accept a partial victory, in order to end prohibition, is the crucial element for success. Our friends in MA deserve our thanks for doing the right thing.

    California

    In California, the ultimate prize in the marijuana sweepstakes, and the state most of us presumed would be the first to fully legalize marijuana, the sheer size of the state has in the past resulted in several competing legalization proposals being advanced by different interest groups, and prohibition has continued in place, albeit a version tempered by the “anyone qualifies” medical marijuana system. The same potential was in play over the last year in CA, with as many as 8 different versions of legalization being filed with the Secretary of State, and no assurance that anyone would be willing to compromise.

    But in fact, calmer heads prevailed this year in CA, with crucial leadership provided by Democratic Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, and a consensus has now formed around a single proposal, the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Once the sponsors were willing to accept some revisions in the language, the other leading effort, Reform CA, which enjoyed the support of CA NORML, agreed to withdraw its initiative, and most of the principles of that effort have now endorsed the Newsom effort. And it now appears likely California voters will approve marijuana legalization in November of 2016.

    Again, kudos to those who saw the big picture and were willing to accept some compromises in order to end prohibition.

    Nevada

    In Nevada, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol appears to have had a relatively unobstructed path to qualify for the ballot, without organized competition from other legalization supporters pushing their own version of legalization. That is a rare situation in the world of marijuana legalization today.

    Arizona

    Arizona may be the exception to the rule this year. While efforts were made to forge a general agreement on the terms of the legalization initiative, with early battles over whether to allow personal cultivation, there appears to exist a great deal of enmity between supporters of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and those supporting a competing proposal being circulated by Arizonans for Mindful Regulations, seeking fewer limitations.

    The differences may not seem terribly important from a distance, but both sides are digging in, with little indication anyone is willing to compromise. There have been some steps taken to bridge the two camps by local activists, including efforts by Arizona NORML, but the two sides appear far apart.

    The sometimes heated rhetoric and tactics between the competing factions has the potential to undermine a successful legalization effort in Arizona. Because the vote in Arizona appears to be close, it is most important that those who support marijuana legalization set aside their differences and agree to get legalization approved in the state. There will be time down the road, once the arrests have stopped, to come back and improve and expand these initial legalization provisions.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator January 15, 2016

    chapter_spotlightLATEST 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

    Arizona
    “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

    California
    “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

    Illinois
    “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

    Minnesota
    “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

    Pennsylvania
    “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

    Texas
    “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

    Virginia
    “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.?

    Wyoming
    “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


    Federal

    “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?

    Events

    Pittsburgh NORML Bets Colorado NORML a Friendly Wager of Weed vs Whiskey
    Texas NORML’s 3rd Annual Puff-N-Putt Spring Fling at Willie’s Golf Course

    Kevin Mahmalji is NORML’s national outreach and chapter coordinator

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director January 14, 2016

    map_leafThe momentum for marijuana law reform continues this week with new legislation introduced in Illinois and Virginia, updates on pending legislation in Alaska, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, and an exciting update from abroad! Keep reading below to find out about the latest legislative developments and what actions YOU can take to move forward in ending prohibition!

    International:

    Germany introduced legislation this week to legalize medical marijuana use. The bill titled, “Cannabis as Medicine” permits doctor to prescribe cannabis for patients in a manner similar to other prescription medications.Additionally, under the proposed law, the cost of the medicine in certain cases would be covered by health insurance. Cannabis would be cultivated under a federal license and be dispensed in pharmacies.

    State:

    Alaska: Lawmakers are setting a national precedent by regulating the adult use of cannabis in licensed, public facilities. No other state to date permits public cannabis consumption, which will remain subject to both state and local approval.medical_dispensary

    Illinois: Companion legislation to House bill 4357 is pending in the Senate to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses in Illinois. This proposal largely mirrors legislation previously introduced in the spring of 2015 that was approved by members of both the House and Senate, but was ultimately vetoed by the Governor.

    To contact your lawmakers in support of this legislation click here.

    Patients and advocates in the state are also increasing pressure on state health officials to expand the list of qualifying conditions permitted under the state’s medical marijuana program.

    Late last year, the state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board recommended letting people suffering from PTSD, chronic pain and autism, among other conditions, legally use medical cannabis. But the state Department of Public Health still must decide on whether or not to add any additional qualifying conditions.

    Click here to sign a petition urging them to expand access to medical marijuana in the state!

    Maryland: Maryland NORML and their associates in the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland need your help to override Governor Hogan’s veto of 2015 legislation (SB517) that sought to decriminalize the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.  Under this measure, the possession of paraphernalia specific to the use of marijuana would have no longer been classified as a criminal offense.  Click here to email your Representatives and urge them to override the Governor’s veto on this important legislation.

    Pennsylvania: Governor Tom Wolf again encouraged lawmakers to pass medical cannabis legislation. His staff has stated, “It was a top priority in 2015 for the governor and remains a top priority for 2016. We should not be denying a doctor recommended, scientifically proven treatment.”

    Legislation is currently pending in the state to allow patients, including those with intractable pain, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, and other qualifying conditions, access to certain cannabis-infused products, such as oils or pills.

    Senators previously approved the legislation, but House members have continued to oppose it, adding more than 100 amendments to the bill — most of which seek to make it completely ineffective.

    To learn more, click here.

    Vermont: Senate Bill 241, sponsored by Senator Jeannette White and Senate Bill 95 , sponsored by Senator David Zuckerman, will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, January 19th. Both bills seek to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana by adults.legalization_poll

    Statewide polling reports that 57 percent of Vermont voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana production and sales.

    Democratic Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has expressed support for regulating cannabis, having stated , “My bias on legalization is toward legalization. Let’s remember, we have this conversation and we pretend that you can’t get marijuana now. In the real world, folks, if you want to get marijuana in Vermont, we’re in Lala Land if we’re pretending you can’t. The question is how do we move to a smarter approach that doesn’t promote addiction, that doesn’t promote abuse and really accepts the reality.”

    Click here to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization in Vermont!

    Virginia: Two additional decriminalization bills were introduced this week in the Virginia General Assembly. House bill 997, introduced by Delegate Mark Levine and House bill 1074, introduced by Delegate Steve Heretick. Both measures seek to decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana.

    This makes a total of three bills filed so far this legislative session that seek to eliminate criminal penalties for the simple possession of marijuana.

    Click here to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for these common sense reforms!

    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 Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director January 11, 2016

    Update: The entire show can be watched here.

    Premiering tonight on The History Channel at 9PM (eastern) is the new documentary ‘The Marijuana Revolution‘, which looks at the history of cannabis use in America, the forty-five year effort to reform prohibition laws, the dramatic increase in public support recently to finally re-legalize the herbal drug and the hundreds of companies already cultivating, infusing, testing, marketing and selling cannabis-related products.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director January 8, 2016

    map_leafThe new year marks a fresh slate and new beginnings for many and here at NORML it’s no different. The year 2016 is going to be monumental for marijuana law reform and we’re already starting to see an influx of marijuana law reform legislation being introduced around the country. In the coming days and weeks we’ll see a significant increase in the number of marijuana related activity so be sure to stay up to date on what YOU can do to help pass these reforms in your own communities.

    This week we’ve seen bills introduced in Georgia, Indiana, and Virginia plus some exciting news in Massachusetts, Washington D.C., New York and Vermont. Keep reading below to find out what the latest is!

    State:

    Georgia:  Senate Bill 254 seeks to amend the state criminal code so that no marijuana possession offense may any longer be classified as a felony. Under current law, any marijuana possession offense involving more than one ounce of cannabis is classified as a felony offense, punishable by one year (mandatory) to up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Passage of SB 254 would reduce these offenses to misdemeanors. According to an analysis of arrest data by the ACLU, Georgia ranks sixth out of all US jurisdictions in total annual marijuana possession arrests and ninth in per capita possession arrests. To support SB 254, click here.

    House bill 722 seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes.

    Under a 2015 law, qualifying patients are permitted to possess 20 ounces of infused cannabis oils containing not more than 5 percent THC and a equal or greater amount of CBD. However, the law provides no legal supply source for these products and, as a result, has failed to meet the needs of patients. House bill 722 would rectify this situation and impose other improvements, such as patient protection from job discrimination. To learn more about this measure, click here.

    Indiana: A Senate lawmaker has introduced legislation, SB 209, to protect qualified patients who consume cannabis under a physician’s written authorization.

    The measure, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Karen Tallian, will permit qualified patients — including patients with arthritis, migraine, PTSD, and seizures — to engage in cannabis therapy. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Indiana patients deserve these same protections.

    For more information, please contact Indiana NORML here or visit their Facebook page here. To contact your lawmakers in Indiana to urge their support, click here.

    Massachusetts: Just a reminder that The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 will be the subject of a hearing NEXT Wednesday, January 13, before the Judiciary Committee. This is your chance to speak before your lawmakers in support of legalization!legalization_poll

    The Act would regulate the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. It also permits the home cultivation.

    For more information on next week’s legislative hearing, click here.

    New York: Medical marijuana dispensaries opened Thursday in the Empire state. To date, only eight of out of the state’s allotted 20 dispensaries are operational; they’re located in Manhattan, Westchester County, Kingston, Albany, two in Buffalo and two in the Finger Lakes region.

    Though the dispensaries are now be open to patients, due to the law’s unnecessary strict regulations only 51 patients in the state have qualified for access so far. Furthermore, the law only allows for non smokable forms of marijuana restricting access to capsules, liquids or oils — restrictions that NORML opposes and that unnecessarily limit patients choices..

    So far, about 150 doctors in New York have registered to be part of the program.

    Vermont: Governor Peter Shumlin made his annual state of the union speech yesterday and called upon lawmakers to pass pending legislation to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana by adults in the state.

    The Governor said, “I will work with you to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably. I believe we have the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right the Vermont way. Let’s do it together.”

    Vermont has long been considered a state that could be the first to legalize recreational marijuana legislatively.

    To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization click here.

    Virginia: Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) has reintroduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses.

    Senate bill 104  eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses, replacing them with civil fine-only penalties — no arrest and no criminal record.thumbs_up

    Presently, Virginia ranks among the top ten states in annual marijuana possession arrests. In fact, the number of Virginians arrested for violating the state’s marijuana possession laws increased 76 percent between the years 2003 and 2014, at a time when arrests for similar violations were falling nationwide. Clearly there is a need for reform in the Old Dominion state. To this end, the Virginia chapters of NORML will be holding their State Lobby day to lobby the General Assembly in Richmond on January 14th at 8:30 a.m. Advocates from around the state will meet with legislators in support of SB 104.

    To find out more information about this legislation click here and for info on the upcoming lobby day you can contact Virginia NORML here or visit their Facebook page here.

    Washington DC: When marijuana possession was legalized in DC via voter initiative in 2014, Mayor Muriel Bowser quickly asked the City Council to bar marijuana smoking at nightclubs, private clubs and virtually any other businesses licensed by the city. But on Tuesday the subject was revisited when City Council voted to legalize the smoking of marijuana at certain rooftop bars and sidewalk cafes, where cigarette smoking is currently permitted, and in private clubs. However, 30 minutes later, reversed itself, extending the current ban for an additional 90 days.

    The flip flop was again the result of Mayor Bowser’s influence. The City Council has to take permanent action on this soon so we’ll be meeting with the Mayor’s office in the coming weeks to ensure a public use provision is considered with accompanying regulations and provisions for responsible use.

    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!

     

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