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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 19, 2015

    Marijuana law reform legislation is presently pending in over 30 states. Is your state one of them? Visit NORML’s online ‘Take Action Center’ here to find out.

    By clicking this link, you will have access to up-to-date bill status information. You can also quickly contact your elected officials and urge their support for these reforms with just one click.

    Right now, nearly 20 states — including Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont — are debating measures to legalize the adult use and sale of the plant.

    Some dozen states — including Delaware, New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Tennessee — are debating decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses.

    Medical marijuana legislation is also pending in 17 states, including Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

    Click HERE to view NORML’s full list of pending state and federal legislation.

    Get active; get NORML.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director March 16, 2015

    2015 NORML Legislative Fly-In
    Please join NORML on May 20/21 in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress for passage of cannabis law reform legislation pending before it.

    You’ve probably seen by now the historically important bill to reform medical cannabis laws introduced in the U.S. Senate. There has never been a more exciting and receptive time to be a cannabis law reform activist in America with this political backdrop:

    • 35 states have passed medical cannabis-related legislation (in 23 of these states patients have functional access to the medicine and legal protections)
    • 17 states have decriminalized the possession of cannabis for adults
    • 4 states have legalized the cultivation and sale of cannabis (Washington, D.C. has de-penalized the possession and use of cannabis for adults; allows limited home cultivation; no sales)
    • Every national poll, including the oldest social survey data set, now indicate a majority of Americans no longer favor cannabis prohibition.

    It’s indisputable. Cannabis law reform in America is happening in our lifetimes.

    By the time the NORML Legislative Fly-In convenes in late May, as many as 20 reform bills will have been introduced for us to rally around in our lobbying efforts–and with the new Senate bill, for the first time since the late 1970s, there is good reason to lobby the Senate as hard as the House.

    Also, and of great importance in placing upward political pressure on elected members of Congress and their staff, are the nearly 75 state legislative bills around the country that are now debating cannabis law reform measures–ranging from medical access to industrial hemp to decriminalization to legalization.

    This year upwards of half the states’ legislatures are looking at dozens of reform bills and this clearly positively impacts Congress to see these needed socio-legal reforms bubbling up from their home states and regions.

    For many in Congress, they know the political writing is on the wall for the federal prohibition on cannabis commerce to survive much longer.

    Let’s help make their jobs easier by showing them the necessary public support to hasten cannabis law reforms at the federal level.

    Lastly, there is a strong possibility that we’re going to add another event to the program, in conjunction with High Times…and featuring a famous TV and movie personality who has expressed strong interest in getting involved with the public discussion about cannabis law reform. TBA.

    Please pre-register for the NORML Legislative Fly-In, make your travel and hotel arrangements ASAP to assure lowest possible costs.

    NORML members and supporters get first shot at the low early bird pricing of $50/person.

    Also, there are sponsorship opportunities as well for cannabis-related businesses, services and organizations.

    Below is a brief breakdown of lodging options for the Conference.

    Thanks in advance and hope to see you at the height of Spring in the nation’s capital, being an active participant in an historic public advocacy effort to once and for all end cannabis prohibition.

    Cannabem liberemus,

    -Allen St. Pierre
    Executive Director
    NORML / NORML Foundation
    Washington, D.C.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 24, 2015

    Alaska Legalization Law Takes EffectLegislation enacted by voters in November legalizing the personal use and cultivation of marijuana takes effect today.

    Fifty-three percent of Alaska voters approved Ballot Measure 2 on Election Day, permitting those over the age of 21 to lawfully possess up to one ounce of marijuana and/or to grow up to six marijuana plants (no more than three mature) for non-commercial purposes. Sharing or gifting personal use quantities of marijuana is also permitted under the new law; however the consumption of cannabis in public remains an offense.

    Lawmakers will now begin the process of establishing licensing requirements for those who wish to commercially produce cannabis and/or engage in the plant’s retail sale. State regulators have up to nine months to enact rules to govern these commercial entities and are expected to begin granting operator permits by February 2016.

    Since 1975, Alaskans have enjoyed personal privacy protections based on a state Supreme Court decision allowing for the possession and cultivation of personal use amounts of cannabis in one’s home. However, state lawmakers had never before codified these protections into law or permitted a legal market for marijuana production and sales.

    Alaska is the third state – following Colorado and Washington – to legalize the personal possession of marijuana by adults and to license the plant’s retail production and sales. Oregon voters in November approved similar legislation (Measure 91), which is scheduled to go into effect later this year.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 23, 2015

    Get the Federal Government Out of the Marijuana Enforcement BusinessLegislation was introduced Friday in the US House of Representatives to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference.

    House Resolution 1013, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, removes cannabis from the United States Controlled Substances Act. It also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matters concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.

    Said the bill’s primary sponsor, Democrat Jared Polis of Colorado: “Over the past year, Colorado has demonstrated that regulating marijuana like alcohol takes money away from criminals and cartels, grows our economy, and keeps marijuana out of the hands of children. While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters in states like Colorado and 22 other jurisdictions to move forward, small business owners, medical  marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration – or this one—could reverse course and turn them into criminals. It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”

    Separate legislation, House Resolution 1014: the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, introduced by Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, seeks to impose a federal excise tax on the retail sale of marijuana for non-medical purposes as well as apply an occupational tax for state-licensed marijuana businesses. Such commercial taxes would only be applicable if and when Congress has moved to defederalize marijuana prohibition.

    “It’s time for the federal government to chart a new path forward for marijuana.” said Rep. Blumenauer. “Together these bills create a federal framework to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, much like we treat alcohol and tobacco. The federal prohibition of marijuana has been a failure, wasting tax dollars and ruining countless lives. As more states move to legalize marijuana as Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska have done, it’s imperative the federal government become a full partner in building a workable and safe framework.”

    Similar versions of these measures were introduced in the previous Congress but failed to gain federal hearings.

    To contact your US House member and urge him/her to support House Resolution 1013, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act and/or other pending federal marijuana law reform legislation, please visit NORML’s Take Action page here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 12, 2015

    Federal Judge Hears Closing Arguments In Constitutional Challenge To Cannabis’ Schedule I StatusYesterday in Sacramento a federal judge heard closing arguments in a motion challenging the constitutionality of cannabis’ Schedule I classification.

    At issue is whether a rational basis exists for the government’s contention that cannabis is properly designated as a schedule I substance — defined as possessing a “high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment,” and “a lack of accepted safety … under medical supervision.” A federal court has not heard evidence on the matter since the early 1970s.

    Lawyers for the federal government argue that it is rational for the government to maintain the plant’s prohibitive status as long as there remains any dispute among experts in regard to its safety and efficacy. Defense counsel — attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke of the NORML Legal Committee — contend that the federal law prohibiting Justice Department officials from interfering with the facilitation of the regulated distribution of cannabis in over 20 US states can not be reconciled with the government’s continued insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.

    In October, defense counsel and experts presented evidence over a five-day period arguing that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s present categorization. “Numerous clinical trials have been conducted using whole plant marijuana and have concluded the evidence strongly suggests therapeutic value,” defense counsel affirmed in a written brief filed with the court last month. “Physicians in 23 states and the District of Columbia have been recommending whole plant cannabis for treatment of a myriad of medical conditions. The United States, through SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of HHS), holds a patent [on the therapeutic utility of the plant.]”

    “… It is unimaginable to believe that if heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or even over-the-counter medications were being distributed in 23 states and the District of Columbia, Congress and the President would abdicate all regulatory authority to those jurisdictions, and then cut off all funds … to intervene in related distribution activities. … Even the most vivid imagination would be hard pressed to reconcile such action with a ‘rational belief’ that marijuana is one of the most dangerous drugs in the nation.”

    In a brief filed with the court by the federal government, it contends: “Congress’ decision to treat marijuana as a controlled substance was and remains well within the broad range of permissible legislative choices. Defendants appear to argue that Congress was wrong or incorrectly weighed the evidence. Although they failed to prove even that much, it would be insufficient. Rational basis review does not permit the Court’s to ‘second guess’ Congress’ conclusions, but only to enjoin decisions that are totally irrational or without an ‘imaginable’ basis.”

    They add: “Congress is not required to be ‘right,’ nor does it matter if the basis on which Congress made its decision turns out to be ‘wrong.’ All that is required is that Congress could rationally have believed that its action — banning the production and distribution of marijuana — would advance its indisputably legitimate interests in promoting public health and welfare. Because qualified experts disagree, it is not for the Courts to decide the issue and the statute must be upheld.”

    The Judge is anticipated to rule on defense’s motion within 30 days.

    Legal briefs in the case, United States v. Pickard, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM, are available online here.

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