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GOVERNMENT

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director January 5, 2018

    Jeff_Sessions_(29299022521)

    Following yesterday’s announcement by the DOJ that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had rescinded the Cole Memo, an Obama-era memorandum issued by Attorney General James Cole in 2013, federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle quickly denounced the decision.

    Reject AG Sessions’ Efforts to Revert to the Failed Criminal Policies of the ‘Just Say No’ Era

    In addition to taking to the floor of the Senate to express his frustrations, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) continued to vent on Twitter. He had this to say:

    “This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states.”

    Sharing some of the same frustrations as her counterpart in the Senate, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) shared the following in a email to supporters:

    “Sessions’ actions to protect the bottom lines of the for-profit private prison industry, and Big Pharma whose opioids and drugs flourish in part due to the marijuana prohibition, while trampling on states’ rights and turning everyday Americans into criminals, is the latest injustice that the Attorney General has suffered on the American people.”

    Being the cosponsor of pending legislation, that if passed by Congress would stop AG Sessions in his tracks, Representative Gabbard also took a minute to encourage support for her bill, HR 1227:

    “I am calling on every member of Congress to take up the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act to remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances.”

    With prominent Democrats and Republicans promising a fight and threatening to derail DOJ nominations, and thousands of calls and emails from activists asking lawmakers to reject Mr. Sessions’ misguided plan, it appears that political courage comes in many forms.

    To join the fight, take a few minutes to contact your representative and encourage their support for HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-bill-introduced-to-end-federal-marijuana-prohibition and email Chapters@NORML.org for a list of upcoming meetings and lobby days.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    Legalize marijuanaMontpelier, Vermont: Just hours after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidelines instructing US attorneys to take a ‘hands off’ approach in states with legal marijuana regulations, lawmakers in the Vermont House voted to legalize the personal possession and home cultivation of marijuana by a vote of 81 to 63. The measure now goes back to the Senate for a concurrence vote before going to the Governor, who has indicated that he will sign the bill into law.

    Passage of legalization in Vermont in 2018 would be a legislative first. To date, all eight states that have enacted adult use regulatory laws, as well as the District of Columbia have done so by a direct vote of the people.

    The progress in Vermont is groundbreaking. Should the Green Mountain State’s leadership move forward as promised, it will mark a huge turning point in the national movement to end the criminalization of marijuana. 

    One in five Americans resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute, and the majority of citizens reside someplace where the medical use of cannabis is legally authorized. As is evidenced by Vermont lawmakers’ actions, it is clear that the Trump administration is not going to be able to cease this momentum in favor of the enactment of rational marijuana policies.

    The political courage of Vermont’s lawmakers to break with nearly a century of legislative stagnation should be interpreted as a siren call in the halls of the state legislatures nationwide as well as the U.S. Capitol.

    You can follow the progress of the legislation on our Vermont Action Alert by clicking here.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director December 29, 2017

    revolutionbumperIn the wake of landmark cannabis victories in 2016, there was much momentum to build upon when state legislatures opened up at the beginning of 2017. With NORML chapters in nearly all 50 states, activists took the fight to the halls of state capitals and city councils from Florida to Washington State and everywhere in between. In all, lawmakers in 26 states have passed legislation to advance cannabis reform.

    Victories include: Nevada expediting the implementation of adult distribution of legal marijuana, becoming the first of the newly legal states to respect the will of their voters and come online in 2017; New Hampshire becoming the 22nd state to decriminalize marijuana, making it so that an individual can be in any state in New England without fear of being arrested for a simple possession charge; West Virginia becoming the 30th state to pass a medical marijuana program, which will soon serve patients suffering from a range of conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, and chronic pain; In Ohio, the Athens Cannabis Ordinance (aptly named TACO) passed to completely de-penalize marijuana possession; among many other advancements and legislative tweaks around the country.

    Nationwide, with public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all-time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) have formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and ease the tension between federal and state governments. As of this writing, (December 2017) 96 members of the House of Representatives, or 22% of the legislative body, have either authored or co-sponsored legislation to reform our nation’s outdated marijuana laws.

    This progress has come as a result of years of organizing and conversations with our fellow citizens about the role of government in relation to a plant. The tough conversations about the scope of the government’s right to stop, search, and incarcerate individuals for possessing or consuming marijuana for either personal or medical benefits may not always be easy, but they are necessary in order to advance reform efforts.

    And all said, the public is now strongly with us. The national polling outfit, Gallup, recorded for the first time ever outright majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents supporting the legalization of marijuana, representing 64% of Americans. For context, in 1969, the year before NORML was founded, only 12% of Americans supported legalization.

    2018 is going to be no different. With over two dozen states on the books with scheduled lobby days and more to come, now is the time to take action. To help increase the likelihood of success for these volunteer-led lobbying efforts, NORML has updated our citizen lobby guide, a comprehensive booklet that will assist activists in the planning and execution of a successful lobby day. It also provides organizational checklists and a legislative questionnaire so that marijuana activists, regardless of the state they’re located in, will be fully prepared to meet with state lawmakers to discuss meaningful marijuana law reforms and to most effectively communicate NORML’s message of ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.

    So use us as a resource – NORML.org has fact-sheets, talking points, and visit our Action Center at norml.org/act to track legislation moving in 2018 and to plug in with a chapter near you or start your own.

    As we look toward an uncertain future, we know we must work to both sustain our existing gains and to win future victories. Thanks for all that you do.

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML December 21, 2017

    18402697_1258339267617410_3397086841457512968_nBackground

    In June of 2016 members of Peachtree NORML began a practice of visiting official law enforcement Facebook pages when marijuana bust “brag” posts were put up. We began expressing our opinions on those posts. Those opinions were often deleted from these official pages and the citizens making them were blocked from commenting. These actions are an abridgment of a citizen’s First Amendment Right to criticize a governmental official or entity. Sheriff Joey Terrell of Habersham County, Georgia was one of the officials who deleted dissenting comments. We decided to contact the ACLU, and they decided to take up our case for us.

    The ACLU sent a letter to Sheriff Terrell, demanding that he cease the practice of deleting dissenting comments and restore commenting capabilities to those persons who had been blocked from the page. Initially, Hunt & Taylor Law Group replied to the letter, stating the following:

    Mr. Young:

    We are the county attorneys for Habersham County, Georgia. While we technically do not represent the Sheriff as he is an elected official and we are retained to represent the Board of Commissioners and various county departments that are not headed by elected officials, we do, on occasion, respond to requests from those elected officials of the County who seek advice. In that regard, the Sheriff shared with us your letter regarding his FaceBook page. He was concerned that it was his personal FaceBook account and contained information that he wanted to share about the Sheriff’s office. I explained to him that as the elected sheriff of Habersham County, he was the “face” of the department – even on his personal FaceBook page. He understands now that he cannot censor comments even on his account. He has advised me that he will make changes to his account and no longer receive any kind of comments but rather use it as an “announcement page”. I personally know very little about FaceBook and do not know exactly how that will be accomplished. My understanding is that his account will no longer be interactive as he is concerned about responses that will not be appropriate – such as bad language. He will now only post news items.

    Donnie Hunt
    County Attorney
    Habersham County, Georgia

     

    I personally felt Sheriff Terrell was taking the coward’s way out but to his credit, so far, he has acquiesced to our demands, restored the ability to comment to those who were blocked, and is still allowing comment. His post concerning the matter has a bit of a “whine” to it, though, and I’ll let you the reader determine if the Sheriff’s “personal” page is really personal, since it is riddled with the trappings of his Office.

    Oaths

    Elected officials in Georgia are required to swear several Oaths before taking office. Among them is an Oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. They don’t get to pick and choose which parts of it they will uphold. They are answerable to US, and we need to hold their feet to the fire when they abridge our rights.

    I hope this sends a clear message to ALL elected officials in Georgia regarding deleting dissenting comments from their Facebook pages. If it doesn’t, and they persist, we’re prepared to take this to the Federal Courts.

    Thank Yous

    I want to thank Sean Young, ACLU GA’s Legal Director, Fallon Traylor (who was the Policy Advocate when this all got started), and Chris Bruce, the Policy Counsel, who pointed me in the right direction to make this happen.

    I also want to thank all the members of Peachtree NORML who took screenshots and shared them with me. Without them, this couldn’t have happened. Thank you for standing up!!

    Much respect for all of you.

    Tom McCain is an Air Force Veteran, retired law enforcement officer, former Chief Deputy of Johnson County, and the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML. You can find out more at http://www.peachtreenorml.org/ and follow their work on Facebook and Twitter. Peachtree NORML is supported by grassroots contributions and your support means a lot – consider making a donation now

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director December 20, 2017
    NORML Board Chair Steve Dillon with Nadler


    NORML Board Chair Steve Dillon with Rep. Jerry Nadler during the 2017 National NORML Lobby Day.

    During a House Democrats meeting on Wednesday morning, the caucus elected marijuana reform supporter Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) to be the party leader on the powerful Judiciary Committee.

    Rep. Nadler has earned an “A+” rating on the NORML Scorecard for his support of ending the federal prohibition of marijuana, positive votes when given the opportunity, and his co-sponsorship of legislation including the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act in the previous session of Congress.

    The current Chairman of the committee is Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), a longtime opponent of marijuana reform who has earned a “D” on the NORML scorecard for voting against reform amendments when given the opportunity. However, Rep. Goodlatte had announced earlier this year that he will not be running for reelection, which will leave a wide-open race on the Republican side who will be the top member in the next Congress.

    Given the political climate, in order to secure hearings on legislation that would end prohibition, it is essential that the next Chairman of the Judiciary be willing to address the issue.

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