In a just published “exit interview” with Rolling Stone Magazine, President Barack Obama opined that marijuana use should be treated as a public-health issue, not a criminal matter, and called the current patchwork of state and federal laws regarding the drug “untenable.”
“Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse,” Obama said. “And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”
He added, “It is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that’s legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage.”
Although the administration, largely in its second term, has permitted states to experiment with marijuana legalization policies without federal interference, it has not pushed strongly for any permanent changes in federal law, such as amending cannabis’ schedule I classification or permitting banks to work closely with state-licensed marijuana businesses. As a result, some marijuana law reform advocates believe that President Obama has not done enough to move the issue forward during his tenure. Responding to this criticism, Obama said: “Look, I am now very much in lame-duck status. And I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go.”
Why Obama believes that he will have greater opportunities to address cannabis policy as a private citizen than he did as President of the United States leaves us scratching our heads, but we certainly hope that he follows through on his pledge to focus on drug policy reform in the next phase of his political career.
You can read President Obama’s exit interview with Rolling Stone in it’s entirety here.
We have some dire news to share. This morning, President-Elect Trump announced his pick for Attorney General and it couldn’t be much worse for the marijuana law reform movement and our recent legalization victories.
Trump’s pick, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, is a militant prohibitionist. We could go into great detail how Senator Sessions has been an outspoken opponent against reform, but in this case his rhetoric is so off the wall…we’ll let his past statements speak for themselves:
“You have to have leadership from Washington. You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana … you are sending a message to young people that there is no danger in this process. It is false that marijuana use doesn’t lead people to more drug use. It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”
“It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
“Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to [marijuana] and it is not harmless.”
His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
Senator Sessions is clearly out in the deep end when it comes to issues of marijuana policy and he stands diametrically opposed to the majority of Americans who favor the legalization and regulation of marijuana. This could foreshadow some very bad things for the eight states that have legalized marijuana for adult use and in the 29 states with with medical marijuana programs. With the authority the position of Attorney General provides, Sessions could immediately get to work attempting to block the implementation of the recent ballot initiatives, dismantling a legal industry in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, and begin conducting massive raids on existing medical and recreational retail stores.
We must be ready to fight back. We must be ready to mobilize in defense of all of our hard fought victories. We already have our opponents calling for a recount in Maine and prohibitionists in Massachusetts working to gut core provisions like home cultivation from their state’s initiative. With an assist from a newly minted prohibitionist Attorney General, things might get worse before they get better.
Help us send a message to President-Elect Trump and his Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions that the American people won’t stand for intervention into state marijuana programs and we want to move towards descheduling at the federal level and legalization in all 50 states.
According to the Associated Press, voters in Florida approved Amendment 2, an expansive medical marijuana law. The AP’s is reporting a final vote count of 71 percent to 29 percent. The Amendment required over 60 percent of the vote to become law.
“The overwhelming majority of Floridians, like voters nationwide, believe that patients ought to have the legal option to choose marijuana therapy as an alternative to conventional, and often dangerous, pharmaceuticals,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “With this historic vote, we can expect to see similar programs acknowledging the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis begin to take hold in the southeastern region of the United States.”
Amendment 2 amends the Florida state constitution so that qualified patients who possess a physician’s recommendation may legally possess and obtain medical cannabis provided by state licensed dispensaries. Under the law, a “debilitating medical condition” for which marijuana may be recommended includes is defined as “cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.” The home cultivation of cannabis is not permitted under the law.
Existing Florida law restricted limited qualifying patients only to high CBD strains of cannabis, unless they were terminally ill.
Department of Health regulators must begin issuing patient identification cards within nine months of the new law’s enactment. You can read the full text of Amendment 2 here.
“With broad support across all demographics, voters in Florida approved Amendment 2 by a landslide,” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s new Executive Director. “These results are a victory, not just for common sense public policy, but for patients all across the state who will now have access to a safe, effective treatment for a number of debilitating ailments.”
In less than five days, nine states will be voting on marijuana related ballot proposals potentially doubling the number of states that allow the recreational use of marijuana and expanding the therapeutic benefits of marijuana use to millions of Americans. Here’s where these measures stand in the latest polls.
Arizona: According to an October Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite poll, 50 percent of registered voters in Arizona favor Proposition 205 and 42 percent oppose it. The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act allows adults twenty-one years of age and older to possess and to privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana (up to one ounce of marijuana flower, up to five grams of marijuana concentrate, and/or the harvest from up to six plants); it creates a system in which licensed businesses can produce and sell marijuana; establishes a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, and sale of marijuana; and provides local governments with the authority to regulate and limit marijuana businesses.
California: Arguably one of, if not the most important state this election to consider legalizing and regulating the adult use of marijuana is the golden state. Passage of the Proposition 64 would permit adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possess and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes. The initiative language specifies that it is not intended to “repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt … laws pertaining to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.”
According to recent October polling by Survey USA, 54 percent of likely voters support Proposition 64 and the measure “now appears positioned to become law.” For more information on the ballot proposal, please visit the AUMA website.
Florida: Voters in Florida are getting their second chance at passing an expansive medical marijuana law this election day. In 2014, 58 percent of voters approved Amendment 2, however because state law requires a super-majority (60 percent of the vote) for constitutional amendments to pass, the amendment was narrowly rejected. It looks like this election will have different results though, with 71 percent of Floridians saying they will vote ‘yes’ on Amendment 2 according to an October poll by Saint Leo University. Passage of Amendment 2 would permit qualified patients to possess and obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities.
Maine: Hoping to bring legal recreational marijuana use for adults to the east coast, Maine is another exciting state to watch in the upcoming election. If enacted by voters in November, Question 1 or the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act would allow adults to legally possess up to two and one-half ounces of marijuana and to cultivate marijuana (up to six mature plants and the entire yields of said plants) for their own personal use. The measure would also establish licensing for the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis. Retail sales of cannabis would be subject to a ten percent sales tax. Non-commercial transactions and/or retail sales involving medical cannabis would not be subject to taxation.
Among likely voters, support for Question 1 leads by a margin of 50 percent to 41 percent, according to an October UNH Survey Center poll.
Montana: Voters in Montana are also faced with an important marijuana related ballot decision this election day with Initiative 182. I-182 expands the state’s medical cannabis law by repealing the limit of three patients for each licensed provider, and by allowing providers to hire employees to cultivate, dispense, and transport medical marijuana. I-182 repeals the requirement that physicians who provide certifications for 25 or more patients annually be referred to the board of medical examiners. I-182 removes the authority of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities, and requires annual inspections by the state. However, the measure is presently trailing in the polls. According to an October poll, commissioned by Lee Newspapers, 44 percent of voters approve of the measure while 51 percent are against it.
Nevada: Nevadans will also be facing the decision on whether or not to legalize the adult use and regulation of marijuana on Tuesday. Question 2, if passed, would permit adults to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce and/or six plants) for non-commercial purposes. The measure also regulates and taxes the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis. It states, “The People of the State of Nevada find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older, and its cultivation and sale should be regulated similar to other businesses.” According to an October poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, voters favor the measure by a margin of 47 percent to 43 percent.
Massachusetts voters appear poised to enact Question 4, which allows adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their residences and up to 10 ounces of marijuana in an enclosed, locked space within their residences. A just-released Western New England University Polling Institute survey finds the measure leading 61 percent to 34 percent.
Recent polling from Arkansas finds voters narrowly approving Issue 6 to regulate the use of medicinal marijuana by qualified patients, while no current polling is available regarding the passage of a similar measure in North Dakota.
For a summary on all pending ballot proposals, as well as to see the latest videos from each of the campaigns, visit our Election 2016 page.
Do you have election night plans? If you want to follow all of the marijuana ballot proposals being voted on check back in with us on our homepage Tuesday evening where we will be LIVE updating the results as they come in! We’ve teamed up with our friends over at cannabisradio.com to stream their live election night coverage as well and we hope you’ll join us!
With the 2016 election only days away, NORML is pleased today to release of our first ever Gubernatorial Scorecard. Inspired by NORML’s Congressional Scorecard, this extensive database assigns a letter grade ‘A’ through ‘F’ to every state governor based upon his or her comments and voting records specific to matters of marijuana policy.
Public opinion in support of marijuana law reform is at an all-time high. Nonetheless, few federal lawmakers are espousing views on cannabis policy that comport with those of the majority of their constituents. As a result, most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy is taking place at the state level. America’s governors are our nation’s most powerful, state-elected officials and they therefore play a key role in this ongoing legislative debate. NORML’s new Scorecard provides voters in all 50 states with pertinent information regarding where their governor stands on issues surrounding cannabis policy.
- 28 US governors received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (17 Democrats and 11 Republicans)
- Of these, only two US governors, both Democrats, received an ‘A’ grade
- 17 governors received a ‘B’ grade (11 Democrats and 6 Republicans)
- Nine governors received a ‘C’ grade (5 Republicans and 4 Democrats)
- 13 governors received a ‘D’ grade (All Republicans)
- Seven governors received a failing ‘F’ grade (All Republicans)
- Two governors received no grade because of insufficient data
- Of the 31 Republican US governors currently in office, 11 of them received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (35 percent)
- Of the 18 Democratic US governors currently in office, 17 of them received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (94 percent)
Similar to the findings of NORML’s Congressional Scorecard, this gubernatorial analysis affirms that voters’ views on marijuana policy are typically more progressive than the views held by the highest elected officials in their states — 56 percent of whom received a passing grade from NORML. For example, while sixty percent of Americans support legalizing the use and sale of cannabis for adults, only four percent of state governors voice support for this position. Governors overall are also far less supportive of legislation to legalize the medical use of cannabis than are their constituents – approximately 80 percent of whom back these type of reform measures.
Also evident is that gubernatorial support for marijuana law reform falls primarily upon partisan lines. While over 94 percent of Democratic governors received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (one Democrat received no grade), fewer than 40 percent of Republican governors did so. Further, all of the governors who received either a ‘D’ or a failing grade from NORML are Republicans. Conversely, both of the governors who received a ‘A’ grade from NORML are Democrats. This partisanship lies largely in contrast to voters’ sentiments, as the public tends to view many aspects of marijuana law reform, such as the regulation of medicinal cannabis, as non-partisan issues.
Commenting on the report’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “It is apparent that voters’ views regarding marijuana policy have evolved significantly over the past decades. Yet, the positions of their governors have not progressed in a similar manner. Constituents ought to demand that their lawmakers legislate on behalf of policies that more closely reflect marijuana’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”
To read how NORML’s grades were calculated and to review the individual profiles for the governors of all 50 states, please visit: http://norml.org/us-governors.