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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 17, 2016

    fifty_dollar_fineLocal legislators in New Orleans, Louisiana and Tampa, Florida voted today in favor of municipal ordinances to halt minor marijuana possession arrests within city limits.

    Members of the New Orleans city council voted 7 to zero in favor of legislation permitting police to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders (defined as those who possess 14 grams or less), including repeat offenders. First-time violators are subject to a $40 fine while subsequent offenders may face fines of up to $100. Under state law, first-time possession offenders are subject to arrest and criminal prosecution (punishable by up to 15 days in jail) while repeat offenders face up to eight years in prison.

    Members of the Tampa city council voted 5 to 1 to amend local laws so that the possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis within city limits is a non-arrestable, fine-only offense. First-time offenders face a $75 fine, while multiple offenders could face fines up to $450. By contrast, Florida law defines similar possession offenses as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

    Tampa’s pending law is similar to those recently enacted in a number of Florida counties, including Miami-Dade, West Palm Beach, and Volusia, as well as in several other metropolitan areas, such as Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    wheelchair_patientAfter months of delay, members of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives finally approved legislation to permit the production and use of medical marijuana products to qualified patients.

    House members decided yesterday in favor of an amended version of Senate Bill 3. The measure passed by a vote of 149 to 43.

    The amended bill permits state officials to license up to 25 marijuana cultivators and up to 25 dispensaries to provide cannabis products to qualified patients who possess a recommendation from select physicians. Qualifying conditions eligible to receive cannabis therapy include chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, and inflammatory bowel disease, among others. The measure permits for the dispensing of herbal cannabis via vaporization, as well as the use of marijuana-infused extracts or oils, but it does not permit smoking.

    Because the House-amended legislation differs from the version initially approved by the Senate, the bill must be re-approved by the Senate or it will be negotiated in conference committee. Governor Tom Wolf supports patients’ access to medical cannabis and has pledged to sign the bill once it reaches his desk.

    Derek Rosenzweig of PhillyNORML, which has been lobbying on behalf of medical cannabis access legislation since 2009, said: “This is a historic day in Pennsylvania. Hopefully during concurrence they can fix some of the flaws in the bill.”

    Once signed into law, Pennsylvania will become the 24th state to permit the use of physician-recommended cannabis.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director

    Cropped SmigielThe NORML PAC has endorsed Mike Smigiel for U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.

    Smigiel, a former delegate in Maryland’s House of Delegates serving from 2003-2015, is challenging incumbent and anti-marijuana Congressman Andy Harris in the Republican primary. Congressman Harris became infamous for stepping between Washington D.C. and marijuana legalization when he attached a rider to an annual spending bill barring the district from implementing a recreational market following the District’s approval of Initiative 71.

    Smigiel on the other hand is a strong marijuana advocate, having sponsored a bill in Maryland that passed in 2014 to decriminalize marijuana. He supports eliminating all criminal penalties for the responsible use of marijuana by adults and additionally, supports state’s rights to move forward with full legalization.

    “Mike is an ardent supporter of marijuana law reform and has worked across party lines to implement real policy change in Maryland. NORML is proud to support his bid for Congress and we are looking forward to having another ally on Capitol Hill.” says NORML Political Director Danielle Keane.

    Recent polling shows that 58% of the voters in the 1st District would not vote for Andy Harris if they knew he was opposed to the decriminalization of Marijuana. If Mike Smigiel can get that message out he can unseat Andy Harris. You can find out more about Mike and his campaign by visiting his website or Facebook and if you wish to join NORML in supporting his campaign click here.

    For more information on the NORML PAC click here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 15, 2016

    legalization_pollFifty-two percent of registered voters support legalizing marijuana “for recreational use,” according to national tracking poll data compiled by Morning Consult — a Washington DC consulting firm. Forty-three percent of respondents polled said that they oppose legalization and five percent were undecided.

    Respondents between the ages of 18 to 29 (63 percent), Democrats (61 percent), and those aged 30 to 44 (60 percent) were most likely to support legalization. Republicans (37 percent) and those age 65 or older (36 percent) were least likely to be supportive.

    In response to separate polling questions, 68 percent of respondents said that they support legalizing marijuana “for medical use.” Fifty-nine percent endorse decriminalizing marijuana, defined as “no arrest, prison time, or criminal record for the first-time possession of a small amount,” and 83 percent of respondents said that cannabis did not belong classified as a schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law.

    The poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 2 percent.

    The Morning Consult polling data is similar to those of other recent national polls, such as those by reported by Gallup, CBS, and Pew, finding that a majority of Americans now support ending marijuana prohibition.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 9, 2016

    no_marijuanaThe enactment of statewide laws permitting the physician-authorized use of cannabis therapy has not stimulated increases in marijuana use by young people, according to findings published in The International Journal on Drug Policy.

    A team of researchers from Columbia University in New York City reviewed federal data regarding rates of self-reported, monthly marijuana use among 12 to 17-year-olds between the years 2002 and 2011.

    While the study’s authors acknowledged that many medical marijuana states possess greater overall rates of youth cannabis use compared to non-medical states, they affirmed that these jurisdictions already possessed elevated use rates prior to changes in law, and that the laws’ enactment did not play a role in influencing youth use patterns.

    “While states with MML (medical marijuana laws) feature higher rates of adolescent marijuana use, to date, no major U.S. national data set, including the NSDUH (US National Survey on Drug Use in Households), supports that MML are a cause of these higher use levels,” investigators concluded. “[W]hen within-state changes are properly considered and pre-MML prevalence is properly controlled, there is no evidence of a differential increase in past-month marijuana use in youth that can be attributed to state medical marijuana laws.”

    Their findings are similar to those of a separate 2015 study assessing the relationship between state medical marijuana laws and rates of self-reported adolescent marijuana use over a 24-year period in a sampling of over one million adolescents in 48 states. Researchers in that study reported no increase in teens’ overall cannabis use that could be attributable to changes in law, and acknowledged a “robust” decrease in consumption among 8th graders. They concluded “[T]he results of this study showed no evidence for an increase in adolescent marijuana use after the passage of state laws permitting use of marijuana for medical purposes. … [C]oncerns that increased marijuana use is an unintended effect of state marijuana laws seem unfounded.”

    Other studies reaching similar conclusions are available here, here, here, here, and here.

    The abstract of the study, “Prevalence of marijuana use does not differentially increase among youth after states pass medical marijuana laws: Commentary on and reanalysis of US National Survey on Drug Use in Households data 2002-2011,” appears online here.

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