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  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director May 17, 2014

    Earlier this week, the Drug Enforcement Administration ordered that 250 pounds of hemp seed be seized at Louisville Airport in Kentucky. The seeds were being imported by the Kentucky government from Italy to plant at state universities in their hemp pilot program. Kentucky legalized industrial hemp in 2013 and the federal government approved legislation this year that allowed states to engage in limited hemp cultivation.

    When the DEA refused to return the seeds under reasonable conditions, the Kentucky Agriculture Department filed suit against the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Attorney General Eric Holder.

    On Friday, there was a preliminary hearing regarding the lawsuit. During the hearing, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II stated that the DEA must explicitly state what would need to be done for those participating in the pilot program to have the seeds returned. Federal officials responded that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture must fill out a narcotics license in addition to providing memorandum of agreement with the departments of universities planning to cultivate the crop.

    In an interview discussing the hearing with the Huffington Post, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer stated, “It sounds like a victory, but I’m not going to declare victory until those seeds go in the ground. It was very positive today. But we’ve felt pretty good throughout this entire process over the last several weeks, and the DEA would come back and change again. I’m not celebrating. It will be a victory when I have those seeds in hand.”

    Elected officials across the state have voiced their support for the hemp program and decried the actions of federal officials. US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated, “It is an outrage that DEA is using finite taxpayer dollars to impound legal industrial hemp seeds.”

    According to the Congressional Resource Service, the US is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop. However, in February, members of Congress for the first time approved language in the omnibus federal Farm Bill allowing for the cultivation of industrial hemp in agricultural pilot programs in states that already permit the growth and cultivation of the plant.

    The next court hearing is expected to occur on Wednesday, May 21. NORML will keep you updated as the situation evolves.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director May 16, 2014

    In the coming days, members of the House of Representatives are expected to debate and vote on budget appropriation legislation for the Department of Justice. Representatives Rohrabacher and Farr will be introducing an amendment to this measure to prevent any of the department’s funding from being used to interfere with medical marijuana programs in states that have approved them.

    Twenty-one states — Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington — as well as the District of Columbia have enacted laws protecting medical marijuana patients from state prosecution. Yet in all of these states, patients and providers still face the risk of federal sanction — even when their actions are fully compliant with state law.

    It is time that we allowed our unique federalist system to work the way it was intended. Patients, providers, and their state representatives should have the authority to enact laws permitting the medical use of cannabis — free from federal interference.

    Please write your members of Congress today and tell them to stop using taxpayer dollars to target and prosecute state-authorized medical marijuana patients and providers. For your convenience, a prewritten letter will be e-mailed to your member of Congress.

    CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 6, 2014

    Federal agencies are moving forward with plans to increase the US government’s production of research-grade cannabis.

    Last week, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) publicly announced in the Federal Register that it is increasing its marijuana production quota from 21 kilograms to 650 kilograms (about 1,443 pounds) in order to meet increasing demand for the plant from clinical investigators.

    Federal regulations permit a farm at the University of Mississippi to cultivate set quantities of cannabis for use in federally approved clinical trials. Regulators at the DEA, the US Food and Drug Administration, PHS (Public Health Service), and the US National Institute on Drug Abuse must approve any clinical protocol seeking to study the plant’s effects in human subjects.

    On various occasions, marijuana reform advocates and researchers have publicly criticized NIDA for failing to approve proposed trials seeking to assess the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. However, in March, federal regulators finally signed off on a long-delayed clinical protocol from researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine to evaluate the use of cannabis its in war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress. Also this spring, lawmakers in several states, including Alabama, Kentucky, and Wisconsin, passed legislation encouraging state-sponsored clinical trials to assess the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol – a nonpsychotropic organic component of cannabis – in the treatment of intractable epilepsy.

    “The additional supply [of cannabis] to be manufactured in 2014 is designed to meet the current and anticipated research efforts involving marijuana,” A NIDA spokesperson told TheHill.com. “[T]his projection of increased demand is due in part to the recent increased interest in the possible therapeutic uses of marijuana.”

    According to a keyword search using the terms ‘smoked marijuana’ on the clinicaltrials.gov website, eight trials are presently ongoing to evaluate the plant’s effects in humans. Two of these trials are assessing the plant’s potential therapeutic efficacy.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director April 29, 2014

    Senator Leach Talks Marijuana Policy with National NORML Comm. Director Erik Altieri and PhillyNORML Comm. Director Joe Forte

    Senator Leach Talks Marijuana Policy with National NORML Comm. Director Erik Altieri and PhillyNORML Comm. Director Joe Forte

    NORML recently interviewed Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach regarding marijuana law reform and the role it has played in state politics and his campaign. While serving in Harrisburg, Senator Leach introduced measures to legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes. In addition to currently serving in the state Senate, Daylin Leach is also a candidate in the Democratic primary to represent the Pennsylvania 13th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives (and had previously received the endorsement of NORML PAC).

    What personally made you embrace marijuana law reform?

    Senator Daylin Leach: My embrace for marijuana reform was based off of the pernicious and destructive laws currently in place. We live in a society where marijuana prohibition is putting a strain on our justice system that cannot continue, where sick children and adults are not getting the medicine they need, and where otherwise law-abiding citizens are losing their freedom for partaking in a “drug” that is so much less harmful than alcohol.

    Despite 58% of Americans supporting marijuana legalization, why do you think some politicians are still hesitant to support these important reforms?

    DL: Fear and lack of understanding Though the public is overwhelmingly supportive, understanding this support has not made its way up to many elected officials. They fear losing their next election and they do not understand what this polling means, how American sentiment on this issue has shifted.

    Only after they see other politicians running – and winning – on ending prohibition will they understand that the tide has truly turned.

    That is where NORML comes in, those of us who are running for Congress on this issue need your support so that we can show that this is not an issue to be afraid of, and that public support in polls is evident at the voting booth.

    What has the reception to your marijuana reform platform been like?

    DL: The reception from within the movement, from groups like NORML, has been fantastic.

    From voters and constituents, it has been gratitude that we are talking about finding an end to prohibition, that we are finding safe and legal ways for people to get the medicine that they need, and that we are bringing some common sense to the criminal justice system.

    The only push-back that I’ve gotten is from some of my fellow politicians who (as I stated in the earlier response) just don’t get it.

    What advice would you give to marijuana law reform supporters who are working to change laws and bring politicians over to their side?

    DL: Three words: win more elections.

    Whether it is through campaign contributions (every bit helps!), or volunteering to help make phone calls or knock on doors, we need everyone who cares about this issue to mobilize around elections. And once we start winning, the politicians will follow.

    If elected, what actions would you take to move away from our failed policy of marijuana prohibition?

    DL: Ideally, the federal government would end prohibition with a single piece of legislation, but realistically, we that won’t pass — yet.

    So, given the political realities, we need to push for more achievable goals. That is why, on taking office, I would add my name as a co-sponsor to HR 1635: the National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy Act; HR1523: the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act; and, most importantly, HR 2652: The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act so that businesses conducting legal business transactions can do so with the same federal banking protections as every other business.

    It is winning incremental steps like these that will slowly push lawmakers toward our ultimate goal.

    Any final words for the NORML audience?

    DLNo other candidate in the Congressional election in PA-13 supports anything close to marijuana legalization, and no other candidate has even addressed it as part of their campaign. I have, and I am proud of that. But I can only get there with your help.

    My Congressional district covers parts of Philadelphia and is in the 4th most expensive media market in the country (behind only New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago). Our election is May 20th and to communicate our message we are currently spending $200,000 a week!

    We need you. Only by wining victories like my race will the issue and the movement progress forward. If you can make a contribution, thank you. If you can’t, sign up to phone bank (which you can do from anywhere in the country), and if you live near Philadelphia, stop by to help us knock doors.

    This campaign lives and dies by the grassroots efforts of our supporters, and we need you now!

    Thank you for all of your support.

    Stay tuned for more interviews with policymakers, politicians, candidates, and public figures in the near future here on NORML Blog. For more information about Daylin Leach you can click here. The Pennsylvania Democratic Primary will be held on May 20th of this year, click here to find your polling place and here. A map of the Pennsylvania 13th Congressional District is available here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director April 24, 2014

    In an interview with NPR released today, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens came out in support for marijuana legalization.

    When asked if he believed the federal government should legalize marijuana, the 94 year old former Justice replied:

    “Yes, I really think that that’s another instance of public opinion [that's] changed. And recognize that the distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction. Alcohol, the prohibition against selling and dispensing alcoholic beverages has I think been generally, there’s a general consensus that it was not worth the cost. And I think really in time that will be the general consensus with respect to this particular drug.”

    You can listen to the full interview from National Public Radio here.

    Stevens joins the majority of Americans who are ready to see an end to our war on marijuana consumers and for the country to move towards a system of legalization and regulation.

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