The summer season is upon us and with the warm weather comes heated elections around the country.
2016 is set to be a monumental year in marijuana law reform. Three states have already qualified marijuana related initiatives for the November ballot (Nevada, Florida, and Maine) and nine more states are still collecting signatures in hopes of making the ballot (California, Arizona, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Oklahoma).
But we want to support more than the pending initiatives. The NORML PAC is ready to support candidates that wish to make marijuana law reform an important pillar in their campaign platform. We want to empower candidates who are challenging prohibitionists and we want to help them win. But we need your help.
Donate to the NORML PAC today and in return for you supporting marijuana friendly candidates around the country, you will receive a couple of our favorite products!
Help support the NORML PAC so that we can endorse and donate to candidates around the country that are running on a platform that includes reforming our country’s archaic marijuana laws. The only way we can continue our progress is to support and elect these candidates!
Thank you for your continued support and membership.
P.S. We can only raise PAC funds from NORML members. Therefore, if you wish to contribute to the NORML PAC, and you are not currently a NORML member, the first $25 of your contribution will be applied to your membership dues. The balance will go to the NORML PAC to provide financial help to candidates who support our positions on marijuana policy.
* PAC premium donation ends on June 21, 2016.
I just returned a few days ago from a lovely long weekend in beautiful Aspen, CO, a charming old silver-mining town in the Rocky Mountains with breath-taking views, that serves as a popular playground for skiers in the winter and biking and hiking enthusiasts in the other seasons. And it is the location of an annual NORML legal seminar held each year in early June.
The Seminar Itself
First, for those attorneys who attend this event, it is a truly unique opportunity to hear from some of the most brilliant and creative criminal defense and marijuana business attorneys in the country.
This year the attendees heard San Antonio’s Gerry Goldstein present his annual review of the many 4th Amendment decisions handed down by the Supreme Court, and the federal appellate courts, each year. Few lawyers in America are more familiar with the legal intricacies of search and seizure law, or can present the information in such an entertaining manner. And NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, who lectured on the science legalization advocates need to know to counter the frequent claim that “we just don’t know enough about marijuana,” citing more than 23,000 marijuana studies available on Pub Med.
Former ACLU lawyer Adam Wolfe from San Francisco discussed the several legal challenges to the CO legalization law; while Mary Chartier and Natalie Alane from Lansing, MI, lectured on the impact of marijuana use on child welfare and custody cases.
This year we heard from a range of impressive new speakers as well, including Carl Hart, Ph.D, from Columbia University, talking about ways that marijuana legalization can significantly reduce racism in the criminal justice system; and Emily Gant, from Seattle, whose lecture “Marijuana Business 101,” analyzed the basic business issues with which any attorney needs to be familiar, if they intend to represent some of the newly legal marijuana businesses arising either in the medical use states or the full legalization states.
And certainly one of the more inspiring lectures was given by former US Attorney for the state of Kansas (he had retired just three weeks earlier), Barry Grissom, entitled “Why Marijuana Legalization Makes Sense from the Perspective of a US Attorney”, in which he compared the record of the Obama administration with that of three prior administrations. Grissom stressed the several significant steps taken by President Barack Obama and his Department of Justice to reduce the length of non-violent drug sentences and the number of non-violent drug offenders serving time in federal prisons; and the administration’s willingness to stand-back and permit the several states to fully implement their various marijuana laws, free from federal government interference. It reminded us that not all prosecutors are mean-spirited, and some of them are seeking justice, just like most defense attorneys.
And we heard from Law Professor Sam Kamin, who holds the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy position at Denver Law School, discussing ways to overcome the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws; Lisa Padilla from New York discussing estate planning techniques for cannabis business owners; Mary Conn from Houston, TX discussing the damage to society of criminalizing mental illness, drug addiction and homelessness; Danica Noble of Seattle discussing the unfair business practices and consumer protection issues emerging in the newly legal marijuana markets; and Portland, OR attorney Courtney Moran discussing the law and history of industrial hemp.
Those who might enjoy listening to these lectures, you can find those audio files online, thanks to Cannabis Radio personality “Radical” Russ Belville.
The Social Events – More Than Just Fun
The weather this year was perfect, with brilliant blue skies and temperatures in the low and mid-severties, and the opening reception on the roof of the Gant conference center; the benefit dinner at the fabulous log-cabin mansion of Christine and Gerry Goldstein, catered by Cache Cache Chef Chris Lanter; and the Saturday afternoon picnic with live music at Owl Farm, the legendary home of the late Hunter S. Thompson, were all fabulous events giving the seminar attendees and their guests special memories to last a lifetime (one attorney, as he was leaving, said to me, “I just wish I had discovered this seminar 10-years earlier!”).
In short, these various NORML events held throughout the year provide a valuable opportunity for those of us who are responsible marijuana smokers to make new friends and meet new colleagues who share our support for legalization, and to renew friendships we have made in earlier years. It is largely from this network of like-minded individuals that we draw the inspiration and emotional strength required to continue the struggle to end prohibition.
The Community of Marijuana Smokers
While it was certainly not the intention of those who initially put prohibition in place in the early 20th century, in fact prohibition forced those of us who did not accept the government’s exaggerated anti-marijuana propaganda, and who chose to find a way to obtain and smoke marijuana despite the threat of harsh criminal penalties, to build an underground community comprised of others who share our values and were also willing to assume the legal risks associated with “scoring” and using marijuana. Those same oppressive forces who dedicated their lives to arresting and jailing marijuana smokers were unwittingly establishing an underground culture that would nurture us during the most difficult years, and help us find a black-market supply of marijuana all during the decades of prohibition.
And that was no small task. Without the many daring smugglers and growers and “dealers” willing to risk long prison sentences to provide us consumers with marijuana, we would have had no marijuana to smoke; and with no marijuana to smoke, there would be no marijuana legalization movement.
We need to recognize the crucial role these brave pot pioneers have played in getting us to where we are today, and to find the political courage to demand those individuals who remain in jail be freed, and those with criminal records have their records expunged. Otherwise we find ourselves finally winning this long, terrible war against marijuana smokers, but leaving our POWs behind. That is neither a moral or ethical option.
Inspired and Re-Energized
As I left Aspen this year, and headed home to Washington, DC, I was reminded of the tremendous value these communal experiences play in our personal and professional lives. We draw critical strength and energy and inspiration, and our commitment to change is reinforced, when we spend quality time with others who share our political views and our belief in the importance of ending prohibition.
I would encourage any of you who share our values and political goals to join us at the next opportunity, to take a public stand for freedom. The 2016 NORML Key West Legal seminar on December 7, 8 and 9 would be a good place to start.
This column firs ran in Marijuana.com.
Photo courtesy of EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
Marijuana is legal to purchase, possess and to consume in the state of Colorado, but where? Well, if you happen to be in the city of Denver (or most anywhere else in Colorado) the answer is very simple, you can only legally consume cannabis in a private residence. But what if your landlord won’t allow it, or if you are one of the thousands of tourists that visits our great city on a daily basis. Then where do all of those people go? This question is one Denver NORML hopes to help answer this November.
The local chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws spent several months working with various stakeholders to develop a regulatory framework to create a space where responsible adults can consume their legally purchased marijuana products. Denver NORML is currently collecting signatures for the Responsible Use Denver initiative. The initiative will provide a license for the establishment and operation of private, 21-and-over members-only facilities where adults and bring their own cannabis and peacefully consume it in a relaxed, legal public setting.
The initiative language was written to provide the city with what it is lacking, a set of rules and standards to open a business and maintain a license for a place for adults to responsibly consume marijuana. There are several businesses right now in the city of Denver operating in a grey area. Currently these businesses have no laws to follow or to protect them. This grey area needs definition. Those same businesses could now open marijuana clubs with their namesake or these businesses could now apply for special event permits where marijuana will be permitted.
Once passed, the Responsible Use Denver initiative will not only provide private marijuana clubs it will also allow for any individual or entity to apply for 24 event permits per year. The private invitation only events would be 21 and up, allow no onsite distribution and allow guests to bring their own marijuana products to consume. What does a marijuana event look like? These events could be catered and be as creative as any party planner could dream up. They could be intimate occasions or it could allow for an entrepreneur to create a large event venue for occasions such as the Cannabis Cup to return to Denver.
The Responsible Use Denver initiative is the answer to an ongoing issue that is not going away. As other states continue to legalize marijuana across the country, we are going to continue to see this as a post prohibition concern in more and more jurisdictions. If we had 200 places to purchase alcohol but no place to drink it, where would people drink? Most likely on sidewalks, loitering in front of businesses, in parks, in their cars and anywhere else they could. This is what marijuana consumers are dealing with. It is time for change and it is time for a solution.
More Governors signed marijuana related legislation into law this week, and once again members of the US Senate have said ‘yes’ to marijuana law reform. Keep reading to get the latest news and to learn what you can do to take action.
Members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee took action this week, approving 18 to 11, an amendment to further protect doctors and patients who use medical cannabis in accordance with state laws.
The amendment reads, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this title shall be used in a manner that would interfere with the ability of a provider to recommend medicinal marijuana in accordance with State law, or of a patient to participate in a medicinal marijuana program consistent with such State law.”
This vote marks the third time in recent weeks that members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee have approved marijuana related amendments. Members also recently voted to expand military veterans’ access to medical cannabis and to bar the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.
California: Legislation NORML opposes is moving forward in the state legislature and we need you to #TakeAction to prevent it from becoming law. Members of the state Assembly voted 60 to 12 on June 2nd in favor of Assembly Bill 2243, legislation seeking to impose a new $9.75/ounce tax on the cultivation of medical-only marijuana. Similarly, members of the state Senate voted 27 to 10 on June 1st in favor of Senate Bill 987, legislation seeking to impose a special 15 percent statewide tax upon medical marijuana sales. This tax would be in addition to the imposition of existing state and local taxes.
Assembly Bill 2243 will now be considered by members of the Senate and Senate Bill 987 will now be considered by members of the Assembly.
While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of fair and reasonable sales taxes on the commercial sales of cannabis for recreational purposes, we do not support such excessive taxation on medical sales. #TakeAction
Colorado: On Monday, June 6th, Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1373 into law. This legislation permits qualified patients access to medical cannabis formulations while on school grounds. Under the measure, a primary caregiver may administer non-inhalable formulations of medical cannabis to a qualifying patient while that patient is on the grounds of a pre-school, primary, or secondary school in which the student is enrolled. Medical marijuana patients may not be denied eligibility to attend school because of their cannabis use. The measure took effect upon the Governor’s signature.
New York: Advocates are making a final push to pass legislation to significantly expand the state’s current medical marijuana program before the legislative ends on June 16th. New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014, however the law is one of the most restrictive in the country. Currently, 11 separate bills are pending before the legislature to improve and expand the state’s nascent program. #TakeAction
Ohio: Governor John Kasich signed legislation into law this week establishing regulations for the licensed production and dispensing of medical cannabis formulations to qualified patients. House Bill 523 authorizes the use of various forms of cannabis preparations for the physician-authorized treatment of a number of qualifying conditions. For a full list, click here. Ohio is the 26th state to enact statutory language permitting the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana.
Maryland: Governor Larry Hogan has signed legislation, House Bill 104, expanding the pool of medical professionals who can provide written recommendations for marijuana to qualifying patients. Passage of this legislation allows nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, among other medical professionals, who are in good standing with the state to provide written certifications to qualifying patients. The legislation takes effect June 1st, 2017.
Michigan: House-backed legislation to expand Michigan’s existing medical marijuana law is expected to be voted on imminently by members of the Senate Judiciary committee. House Bill 4209 would license and regulate above-ground, safe access facilities for state-qualified patients seeking medical marijuana. House Bill 4210 would provide qualified patients legal protections for their use of non-smoked cannabis derived topicals and edibles, as well as cannabis-based extract products. Lawmakers also passed a third bill, HB 4827, which seeks to establish regulations tracking the production and sale of medical marijuana products. Tell the Senate that it is high time to act upon these common sense measures! #TakeAction
Vermont: Governor Peter Shumlin has signed legislation into law expanding the state’s medical cannabis program.
Senate Bill 14 includes various patient-friendly provisions: It permits patients with glaucoma and ‘chronic pain’ and/or those in hospice care to be eligible for cannabis therapy; it eliminates the requirement that patients must have previously tried other conventional treatments “without success” prior to being eligible for medical cannabis; it amends existing doctor/patient relationship requirements in a manner that expedites certain patients eligibility to receive cannabis treatment; and it authorizes naturopaths to make medicinal cannabis recommendations.
The changes impacting patients’ eligibility took effect upon signing. Other changes in the law take effect on July 1, 2016. Full text of the new law is online here.
Great news for marijuana consumers in Kansas City, Missouri! After months of back and forth meetings with city officials, NORML KC, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of marijuana laws, has received approval to move forward with a municipal initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses. If passed, the measure will amend local laws regarding the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and up from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine to a civil offense punishable by a $50 fine — no arrest or criminal record. Read the full text of the initiative by clicking, here!
With a deadline of August 25, 2016 to collect the 1,703 signatures needed to qualify the initiative for a vote, the organization’s executive director, Jamie Kacz, is hoping to gather more than 2,300 to offset the possibility of some signatures being deemed invalid. Mrs. Kacz and her volunteers started the process of collecting signatures during last week’s First Friday Art Festival at the Crossroads Art District and will continue to work hard over the next twelve weeks.
“Current laws are unreasonably harsh and now is the perfect opportunity to make a change. It’s time for Kansas City to take this sensible step forward,” Kacz said. “This will be a grassroots effort and passionate volunteers will be an essential part of our efforts”.
If you live in Kansas City, be on the lookout for volunteers with NORML KC as they’re out and about with petitions looking to reform your city’s marijuana laws! Make sure you follow NORML KC on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with future events and announcements!