Many traditionally write off the Southern United States as an area dead to cannabis law reform, but one Representative is behind a new effort that can change all of that.
This week, Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) has introduced House Bill 550, the Alabama Cannabis and Hemp Reform Act of 2013. This measure would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of up to 12 mature marijuana plants by those over the age of 21. It would also authorize the Department of Revenue to establish marijuana retail outlets. You can read the full text of the measure here.
As many of you have seen, yesterday, Pew Research released new polling data that revealed, for the first time in data from a US based polling firm, that Americans support legalizing marijuana by over 50%. The survey found that 52% support legalization and only 45% were opposed. This is no longer just an issue relegated to states such as those on the West Coast and Colorado, traditionally considered bastions of marijuana law reform, this support is now nationwide.
As it very well should be, marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that squanders hundreds of millions of tax dollars a year, inversely affects society’s underprivileged, violates civil liberties, and fuels a violent, criminal black market responsible for countless deaths on our border as well as our local communities.
If states such as the traditionally conservative Alabama are beginning the discussion around alternatives to our failed prohibition of marijuana, the collapse of the drug war machine and its war on a green plant cannot be too far behind.
ALABAMA: If you live in Alabama click here to easily write your Representative and urge him or her to support this legislation!
Today I share with you wonderful news from an all too conservative state, Florida, where the sun shines on everything but justice for cannabis users.
Just a few weeks ago, I announced that the ‘New NORML’ would have an active, working legal committeethat would make a difference for all of us.
Last month, State Senator Jeff Clemens in Tampa announced that he was introducing a medical marijuana bill in Florida, which would allow for the establishment of dispensaries in our state.
The bill was named the ‘Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act’, in honor of a woman who has beenopenly using cannabis as medicine for over a quarter century, championing our cause from her wheelchair while living with an incurable condition- ALS; Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Backed by her loving husband, Bob, who cultivates two-dozen plants on their farm for her personal use, Cathy has been a public advocate for cannabis law reform. Here she is:
One day after the state senator introduced the medical necessity legislation, publicizing her name and address, the DEA and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office paid her a not-too-polite visit, raiding her home, dressed in swat uniforms, armed with machine guns and wearing masks, seizing her cannabis and arresting her husband for cultivation. Her wheelchair was no defense.
One NORML lawyer from our NLC legal committee immediately stepped up to the plate to come to her defense. Florida CAN, the Cannabis Action Network, contacted Michael C. Minardi, of Stuart, Florida. He undertook the defense.
Michael had already prevailed on a medical necessity case on the west coast of Florida, and he at once met with Bob and Cathy Jordan. Both were adamant that they would take no pleas, but instead sought to fight for their right to use marijuana as medicine.
Based in South Florida, I volunteered with another NLC Committee member, my law office partner, Russell Cormican, and entered into a civil retainer agreement with Cathy Jordan, to prosecute a pro bono civil legal action seeking a declaratory judgment that Cathy’s possession of cannabis warranted a judicial order stating that such ownership was entirely medicinal and lawful.
I could not do it alone, so I contacted NLC Committee member Matt Kumin, who immediately agreed to join the cause on behalf of NORML, coming in as amicus curiae. “This is an impact case,” he concluded.
Together, we decided that we had a viable claim Cathy had a legal right to grow her medicine, and a court would conclude as much. Matt brought in two more NLC colleagues, Alan Silber and David Michael. These guys are already arguing tough cases in the Ninth Circuit. But we have a good plaintiff and a strong case.
This past Monday, the State Attorney dismissed all charges against Cathy and Bob Jordan. The decision by the State Attorney, explaining why he filed a ‘no information.” ratifies the defense of medical necessity for patients, and caregivers as well. The prosecutor’s determination goes beyond the customary and routine post of ‘case declined.’
The decision outlined by the chief prosecutor goes out of its way to acknowledge the legal basis of the medical necessity defense and the ‘progressive, neurodegenerative disease’ that Cathy Jordan deals with daily. The state attorney said he could not in ‘good faith’ proceed with a criminal prosecution against an individual with such a compelling medical reason to use marijuana. It was a courageous decision to see a prosecutor protect a pot patient.
The result came about in no small part to Bob Jordan, Cathy Jordan’s husband. He refused to accept a probationary plea offer. “If I could handle Vietnam,” he told me last week, “I can take whatever the State wants to try and hit me with. I am protecting my wife. No deals. No nothing. I want a trial. I want a jury to see my wife and try to convict her.”
Michael C. Minardi and his client even refused to cop a plea to a deferred prosecution. Matt. Kumin, who has never met Bob, called him, “my hero.” Armed with solid case law, a determined defendant, and a courageous lawyer- Michael Minardi- the good guys prevailed.
A talented team of NLC amicus curiae attorneys are now preparing to go to court and seek a judgment declaring that the use of cannabis by Cathy Jordan should continue as an exception to Florida drug statutes, based on her use being lawful, medically necessary, and legally protected. Hell, we might even get her pot back through a replevin action.
Unfortunately, Florida is a conservative state. I won’t mislead you. The Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Bill is already ‘stuck like chuck’ in a legislative committee.
However, also due to the efforts of NLC Committee member, Michael C. Minardi, the criminal prosecution of Cathy and Bob Jordan is dead in the water.
Remember the TV show, ‘The Naked City,’ that ‘there are 8 million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.’
My friends, there are thousands of Cathy Jordans across America who still need our help. There are hundreds of you capable of assisting so many of them. The spiritual rewards of engaging such tasks enrich your soul and make your practice so much more meaningful.
Please consider also asking a friend to help expand ranks by joining NORML today. In fact, this week we are promoting new memberships by offering up a NORML Hemp Baseball Cap. Wear it to the ballpark, and let everyone know that it is NORML to smoke pot. Cheer for your home team, but stand up for freedom.
Today, all of us throughout the country celebrate the victory of Cathy and Bob Jordan. We also thank the lawyer, Michael C. Minardi of Stuart, Florida, who stood up for them.
We are all cannabis warriors with stories of our own to tell, lives of our friends to illuminate. Never forget the cause you are fighting for is more than to torch up a joint. It is to light a torch for personal sovereignty and individual freedom.
Chair, NORML Board of Directors
Presently, possessing cannabis in the Ocean State is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine. Starting Monday, the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 years or older is a non-arrestable civil offense, punishable by a maximum fine of $150 but no jail time, and no criminal record.
Fifteen states have enacted similar decriminalization laws. Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana. (Colorado had previously decriminalized cannabis possession decades earlier, while Alaska’s legal protections were imposed by the state Supreme Court.)
Similar decriminalization legislation is pending this year in nearly a dozen additional states, including Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas, and Vermont.
Lawmakers in several other states, including Maine, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, are considering separate legislation to legalize the adult consumption of cannabis and regulate its retail production and sale.
Written Testimony In Favor of Senate Bill 297
To Be Heard By The Members of the House Judiciary Committee
Thursday, March 28, 2013, at 1:00pm
By Allen St. Pierre
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
I thank members of the Maryland House Committee on the Judiciary for considering Senate Bill 297, which proposes to in effect decriminalize small amounts of cannabis possessed by adults.
NORML and its members in Maryland encourage this committee to agree with their senate colleagues that now is the right and proper time for Maryland to adopt a decriminalization enforcement policy for possession amounts of cannabis, and to join fifteen other states—and numerous large cities across the country such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Denver and Seattle—by adopting this cost-effective, time-saving, resource-stretching and law enforcement-friendly alternative public policy to the state’s current ‘arrest-n-prosecute’ policy for minor cannabis offenses (for non-medical use).
Currently, well over one-third of the US population resides in states and cities that have adopted cannabis decriminalization, in some cases, decades ago, and to no discernible ill effects.
The fifteen states with decriminalized cannabis enforcement laws, from west to east:
Alaska, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine.
The Nixon-appointed ‘Shafer Commission’ strongly opined for cannabis decriminalization in 1972. Despite Mr. Nixon rejecting his own commission’s public policy recommendations, numerous states accepted the wisdom and guidance of the massive report, starting with Oregon in 1973, which became the first state to officially decriminalize possession amounts of cannabis for adults.
With the ever-growing public sentiment nationwide in favor of substantive cannabis law reform measures, generally stated at…
*75% in support for medical access
*73% in support of decriminalization
*50-52% in support of legalization (voters in CO and WA approved legalization ballot initiatives by 55% respectively in 2012)
…Maryland legislators should adopt these popular public policy reforms, specifically, with the legislation approved by the senate at bar before them, Senate Bill 297. (more…)
This week, Representative Diane Russell (D-Portland) formally introduced LD 1229: An Act to Tax and Regulate Marijuana into the Maine legislature. This legislation would legalize the sale of as much as 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana per week to people 21 or older at licensed retail locations. It would also permit for the cultivation of the plant in private settings. The measure has been assigned to the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.
In a previous session, an earlier version of Russell’s legalization measure was rejected by House lawmakers by a vote of 107 to 39. States Rep. Russell: “I think there’s been a major culture shift since I introduced this bill in 2011. What we’ll see is a lot more folks ready to talk about this issue.”
This cultural shift is readily apparent in the groundswell of support this legislation has already generated. LD 1229 was introduced with the backing of 35 co-sponsors from across the political spectrum. Those supporting the bill were 2 tribal representatives, 28 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and 1 independent. The previous version of this measure only had 4 co-sponsors.
NORML is pleased to support this historic legislation that would make Maine the third state to legalize the adult consumption of marijuana and regulate its retail production and sale. This is common sense legislation that would put Maine at the vanguard of a reform which is not only supported by over half of the country, but would also save the state precious law enforcement resources, create a new job and tax producing industry, stop the arrest of non-violent citizens, enhance protection of civil liberties, and help keep marijuana out of the hands of Maine’s children. We urge Representative Russell’s colleagues to join with her and the 35 co-sponsors of LD 1229 in taking a stand to end the state’s prohibition on marijuana and to start creating a safer Maine.
Our supporters generated hundreds of emails to their elected officials urging them to co-sponsor this measure and it looks like that outpouring of support is already paying off. However, we need to keep up the momentum. If you live in Maine, please take a moment today to contact your Representative and State Senator and urge them to support this important legislation. You can do so using NORML’s Take Action Center here.