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LAW ENFORCEMENT

  • by NORML October 2, 2017

    MarijuanaArrestsTimelineEighty years ago, on October 2, 1937, House Bill 6385: The Marihuana Tax Act was enacted as law. The Act for the first time imposed federal criminal penalties on activities specific to the possession, production, and sale of cannabis – thus ushering in the modern era of federal prohibition.

    “The ongoing enforcement of marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts young people and communities of color,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of those adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco.”

    Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of the Marihuana Tax Act, which largely consisted of sensational testimony by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger. He asserted before the House Ways and Means Committee, “This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.” His ideological testimony was countered by the American Medical Association, whose legislative counsel Dr. William C. Woodward argued that hard evidence in support of Anslinger’s hyperbolic claims was non-existent.

    Woodward testified: “We are told that the use of marijuana causes crime. But yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marijuana habit. … You have been told that school children are great users of marijuana cigarettes.  No one has been summoned from the Children’s Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit among children. Inquiry of the Children’s Bureau shows that they have had no occasion to investigate it and know nothing particularly of it.” He further contended that passage of the Act would severely hamper physicians’ ability to prescribe cannabis as a medicine.

    Absent further debate, members of Congress readily approved the bill, which President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed into law on August 2, 1937. The ramifications of the law became apparent over the ensuing decades. Physicians ceased prescribing cannabis as a therapeutic remedy and the substance was ultimately removed from the US pharmacopeia in 1942. United States hemp cultivation also ended (although the industry was provided a short-lived reprieve during World War II). Policy makers continued to exaggerate the supposed ill effects of cannabis, which Congress went on to classify alongside heroin in 1970 with the passage of the US Controlled Substances Act. Law enforcement then began routinely arresting marijuana consumers and sellers, fueling the racially disparate, mass incarceration epidemic we still face today.

    Despite continued progress when it comes to legalizing or decriminalizing the adult use of marijuana, data from the recently released Uniform Crime Report from the FBI revealed that over 600,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana offenses in 2016.

    After 80 years of failure, NORML contends that it is time for a common sense, evidence-based approach to cannabis policy in America.

    “Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, the demand for marijuana is here to stay. America’s laws should reflect this reality and govern the cannabis market accordingly,” stated NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, “Policymakers ought to look to the future rather than to the past, and take appropriate actions to comport federal law with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”

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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 25, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesTabulations calculating the percentage of annual marijuana arrests nationwide are absent from the 2017 edition of the FBI Uniform Crime Report, which the agency released today.

    The table,’Arrests for Drug Abuse Violations: Percent Distribution by Region,’ had for decades appeared in the section of the FBI report entitled ‘Persons Arrested.’ It was one of over 50 tables eliminated from this year’s edition of the Crime report. NORML had relied on the table in order to extrapolate and publicize annual marijuana arrest data, which it has tracked since 1965.

    According to the latest FBI report, police made 1,572,579 arrests for illicit drug offenses in 2016. This total represents nearly a six percent increase in arrests since 2015.

    Although data with regard to what percentage of these drug arrests were marijuana-related was absent from this year’s report, the FBI did provide percentages by request to Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell, who summarized the data in a column for Forbes.com.

    The unpublished data estimates that police made 653,249 arrests for cannabis-related violations in 2016. Of these, 587,516 arrests (90 percent of all marijuana arrests) were for possession-related offenses.
    U.S. Annual Marijuana Arrests 1965-2016

    The arrest total is an increase from 2015 figures and marks the first year-to-year uptick in nationwide marijuana arrests in nearly a decade. The uptick comes at a time when eight states have enacted laws to regulate the adult use of cannabis and when public support for legalizing the plant is at a record high.

    “The recent uptick in the number of marijuana arrests is unprecedented in recent years, especially given the rate of state-level reform we have seen. This combined with the FBI’s disturbing change of protocol and lack of transparency in the publishing of arrest records only further demonstrates the need for state lawmakers to respect the will of the majority of their constituents and end the practice of marijuana prohibition once and for all,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.

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

    oil_bottlesOn Regulations.Gov, right now, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is soliciting public comments with regard to the therapeutic utility and abuse liability of various controlled substances, including cannabidiol (CBD).

    The agency will consider these comments prior to preparing a formal response to the World Health Organization, which is considering placing the substances within their international drug scheduling code.

    Now, to be frank, it’s a little silly that the FDA is seeking public comment on a topic that would normally be judged based on the merits of evidence-based science and data. But prohibition itself would be considered silly if not for the detrimental effects of a criminal record and lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it.

    That being said, cannabidiol is defined by the US Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I controlled substance, despite:

    • Its therapeutic properties and lack of abuse potential, despite the safety trials which have determined the substance to be non-toxic and well-tolerated in human subjects
    • Seventeen states explicitly recognizing by state-law that CBD as a therapeutic agent
    • The head of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse publically acknowledging that CBD is “a safe drug with no addictive effects” 

    So a request for public comment should never go unfulfilled. So we made it incredibly easy for you to do so.

    CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT FORMAL COMMENTS TO THE FDA NOW

  • by NORML August 28, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesCongressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) with Representatives Amash (R-MI), Jeffries (D-NY), Nadler (D-NY) have introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill that the House is expected to take up next month. The amendment would eliminate the funding for enforcement of Section 159 of title 23, which reduces highway funding for states if they did not automatically suspend drivers licenses of anyone convicted of a drug offense.

    This amendment is similar to the Better Drive Act, which Congressman O’Rourke introduced in April. The Better Drive Act removes the federal mandate that demands states to suspend the driver’s license of individuals with a marijuana possession conviction. Currently, any drug conviction, regardless of whether or not the motor vehicle was involved, results in an automatic suspension of the individual’s driving privileges for a period of six months.

    Enacted over 25 years ago as a part of the so-called “War on Drugs,” this mandate imposed on states does not improve highway safety or help people address substance abuse. Rather, it had the opposite effect, as this mandate ends up costing minor offenders their ability to get to work and to school, and other undue economic hardships.

    By adding an amendment to eliminate the financial penalty against states who do not follow the federal mandate, O’Rourke and his co-sponsors are pushing to ease the burdens against those whom are convicted for simple marijuana possession.

    Click here to send a message to you member of the House to support the amendment and companion legislation, The Better Drive Act.

    Texas resident? Congressman Beto O’Rourke has been working closely with Texas NORML to address federal reform. Click here to find out more about Texas NORML and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director August 15, 2017

    Jeff_Sessions_(29299022521)As first reported by Tom Angell of MassRoots.com, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson responded to a July 24 letter from US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in which Sessions’ made multiple allegations all based on a single misleading 2016 report.

    One would say, they didn’t pull any punches:

    “Your letter, citing the March 2016 Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NW HIDTA) report on marijuana in Washington, makes a number of allegations that are outdated, incorrect, or based on incomplete information.”

     

    Cutting right to the heart of the matter, i.e. facts, the Washington state leaders again articulated their desire to educate the (seemingly willing) ignorant Sessions.

    “We have twice requested an in-person meeting with you because we believe it will lead to better understanding than exchanging letters. If we can engage in a more direct dialogue, we might avoid this sort of miscommunication and make progress on the issues that are important to both of us. We therefore reiterate our request to meet with you, followed by further appropriate meetings between state and DOJ officials.”

     

    One of the most basic functions of government is to simply provide consistency and certainty in law enforcement. So after repeated efforts by the state’s leadership to receive clarification, basic facets of the Department of Justice’s approach are still unknown. In yet another attempt for guidance, the Governor and state Attorney General requested information on:

    • Whether DOJ intends to follow recommendations from its Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety—in particular, its reported recommendation to continue previous federal policy on state legalization of marijuana.
    • Whether President Trump’s previous statements of support for medical marijuana, and leaving recreational marijuana legalization to the states, represent the policy of the federal government.
    • Whether DOJ will support reasonable federal policies allowing financial institutions to provide service to licensed marijuana businesses, in order to avoid the public safety risks and transparency problems associated with all-cash businesses.
    • How state-regulated marijuana should be treated by the federal government following the President’s declaration that the opioid crisis constitutes a national emergency, and whether the federal government will support objective, independent research into the effects of marijuana law reform on opioid use and abuse.
    • Whether the federal government will help protect public health by supporting agricultural research on the safety of pesticides used in marijuana cultivation.
    • Whether the federal government will support research into expedited roadside DUI testing methods for law enforcement, as alternatives to blood draws.

     

    How Attorney General Sessions will respond, only time will tell.

    You can click HERE to send a message to your Representative to urge their support for The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, bipartisan legislation to prevent the Department of Justice from enforcing federal prohibition in states that have chosen to legalize medical or adult-use marijuana.

    You can view the full letter from Governor Inslee and AG Ferguson below:

    Washington Officials Respond to Sessions Marijuana Letter by tomangell on Scribd

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