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SOCIETY

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 8, 2015

    Poll: Most Arizonans Favor Legalizing Marijuana For Personal UseMost Arizonans support permitting adults to legally possess marijuana for personal consumption, according to statewide polling data commissioned by the Behavioral Research Center.

    Fifty-three percent of respondents favor legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. That is an increase of two percent compared to when pollsters asked a similar question last year.

    Only 39 percent of respondents disapproved of the notion of legalizing cannabis.

    Legalization supporters were more likely to be under the age of 35 (71 percent) and to vote Democrat (64 percent). Respondents age 55 or older (45 percent) and Republicans (33 percent) were least likely to support legalizing the plant for adult use.

    Arizona is one of several states where voters will likely decide whether or not to legalize and regulate the use, production, and retail sale of the plant in 2016.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 3, 2015

    A majority of the US House of Representatives voted today to reauthorize legislation limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states.

    House members voted 242 to 186 in favor of the amendment, offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Joe Heck (R-NV), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Don Young (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Dina Titus (D-NV) as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill. Sixty-seven Republicans joined 175 Democrats in favor of the provision; 176 Republicans and ten Democrats voted against it.

    A similar amendment was signed into law last December. Because that language was included as an amendment to an annual spending bill, it must be reauthorized by Congress or else it will expire in September.

    Representative Rohrabacher recently introduced similar stand-alone legislation, H.R. 1940: Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015, after Justice Department officials questioned the extent to which their actions may be curtailed by budgetary amendments.

    House members narrowly failed to pass a separate, broader amendment, offered by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Don Young (R-AK), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that sought to halt the Justice Department from interfering in states that have legalized the plant’s production and retail sale for adults. That measure failed by a vote of 206 to 222. (See how your US Representative voted here.)

    House members also voted in favor of provisions to protect state sponsored hemp research programs and to restrict DEA funding for cannabis eradication efforts.

    The Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill will now go before members of the US Senate for further debate.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel June 1, 2015

    Having just spent the last few days attending the annual NORML Aspen Legal Seminar, I wanted to share some observations about the experience of spending time in a state that no longer cares if I smoke marijuana or not. And as you might expect, it feels wonderful.

    No longer must I deal with the fear of being arrested and jailed — treated like some dangerous or undesirable person who needs to be restrained to protect the good citizens who do not smoke. That, obviously, is the most important change.

    Second, I no longer have to deal with the uncertainties and dangers of engaging with those who risk serious prison time to sell marijuana on the totally unregulated black market. Over the years most of us identify those “in the business” whom we like and can trust, and we do our best to nourish those “connections” and to extend them as long as possible. But we always know that should the police raid our connection at the time we are conducting our business, we too will likely end up being hauled off to jail; or should our connection be robbed by some thug looking for an easy score, or some peeved competitor looking to settle a score, while we are buying our weed, we too are in harms way.

    And when those carefully nurtured relationships ultimately ended, because the connection decided to get out of the business, or moved away, or, God forbid, got busted, we would then have to start the process of identifying a good, reliable source of high quality marijuana all over again.

    In Colorado their are hundreds of licensed dispensaries — six in the rather small town of Aspen — and they compete for our business, leaving us free to compare costs and quality and to purchase our favorite intoxicant in a professional setting that is comfortable and safe.

    Third, I know when I buy recreational marijuana in Colorado (ironically medical pot in this state does not have to be tested), it has been tested for unhealthy molds and pesticides and labelled to let me know the strength of the product before I use it. No more buying a new ounce of pot only to find it causes me to sneeze every time I take a hit, or that is really only cheap “dirt weed” that hardly even gets me high, for which I paid a premium price. No more “let the buyer beware.” In Colorado, the consumer is now provided the information to make an informed decision.

    But there are also other less obvious benefits that legalized marijuana brings to those of us who smoke. Most importantly, we are no longer seen as deviants by our friends and neighbors and co-workers. This cultural change is almost tangible once a state removes the laws that define marijuana smokers as criminals. Just as criminal penalties reinforce the feeling that there must be something wrong with smoking and with those of us who smoke (otherwise, why would “they” make it a crime), ending marijuana prohibition reinforces the feeling that there is nothing wrong with the responsible use of marijuana and nothing wrong with those of us who smoke.

    That feeling of cultural acceptance and approval — I’m okay; you’re okay — was palpable at our recent seminar and related social events, whether at the private smoking area at the hotel, at the lovely home of Chris and Gerry Goldstein, or at the hallowed ground known as Owl Farm where the late Hunter S. Thompson lived and thrived. We proudly smoked marijuana with our professional colleagues and friends, and were empowered by the experience. We were both enjoying the marijuana high and exercising our hard-won personal freedom.

    I sometimes say “I smoke pot and I like it a lot”. But what I like even more is the feeling of acceptance and approval by, and inclusion in, the mainstream American culture for those of us who smoke, a change that seems to occur almost immediately following legalization. The tension between those who smoke and those who don’t is replaced by the recognition we all have much in common, and our choice of intoxicants is largely irrelevant.

    So yes, the feeling of freedom in Colorado is especially wonderful to those of us who smoke marijuana; but legalization also appears to be having a salutary effect on our friends and neighbors and co-workers who do not smoke, as well. Respecting personal freedom works for everyone.Aspen Logo

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director May 15, 2015

    wammThere are thousands of licensed cannabis-related businesses these days in states like Colorado, Washington and California; and soon enough too in Alaska and Oregon. Medical cannabis-related businesses also dot the national landscape as well.

    When Californians were the first in 1996 to cast votes in favor of allowing medical access to cannabis, with a near singular message of ‘compassion’ for patients that need therapeutic access to the plant. Advocates for the passage of Prop. 215 (including NORML) didn’t envisage that the initiative did more than two primary things:

    -exempt from criminal arrest and prosecution medical patients who possess physician’s recommendation to use cannabis as a therapeutic

    -allow for ‘compassionate’ access through collectives that, ideally, were to be not for profit

    Well…culture, custom, commerce and the free market–not too surprisingly–largely came to trump compassion as a primary impetus for a medical cannabis collective’s being. The hundreds of medical cannabis businesses that currently exist in California labor under laws originally meant for lending legal protections for ‘self-preservation’ and ‘collectivism’ regarding how medical cannabis was to be a distributed to the sick, dying and sense-threatened.

    However, one genuine cannabis patient collective has managed to survive for 20 years, the Santa Cruz-based WAMM.

    Headed by NORML Advisory board member and MS patient Valerie Corral, WAMM has been a remarkable leader in legal challenges to federal encroachment, medical and botanical research. WAMM provides a comfortable, nurturing and inviting environment–physically and emotionally–to women and men who need therapeutic access to cannabis, in safe environs and who want to be part of a community that cultivates and shares the cannabis grown amongst the collective’s members.

    Please see links to related articles about the current challenges WAMM faces at High Times and Good Times.

    If possible, please make a timely donation to Save WAMM!

     

     

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director May 14, 2015

    It is hardly a secret to any long observing advocate for cannabis law reform to recognize early on in their efforts to end cannabis prohibition that if it were not for government–federal, state and local governments–spending, there would be relatively few examples of private money being employed in the last forty-five years to try to maintain the status quo of cannabis prohibition.norml_remember_prohibition2

    The tens of billions spent annually to keep the Reefer Madness going in America largely is taxpayer-funded bureaucracies such as the so-called drug czar’s office, DEA, NIDA, SAMHSA, DARE, PDFAblahblahblah.

    Even in the face of this tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars annually, still, a majority of the US public rejects the policy of cannabis prohibition.

    Unbelievably, the drug czar’s office actually mandates that the office must use tax funding to publicly oppose cannabis legalization efforts–even though such is no longer a popularly supported public policy.

    Add one more prime example of cannabis prohibitionists in government not yielding to the will of voters, and worse, rather than pool their own private funding to advance their no-longer-popular-views, they want the taxpayers to pick up the bill of their anti-cannabis advocacy.

    Arizona voters approved a medical cannabis initiative in 2010. Many in the law enforcement community in the state, including prosecutors, have consistently opposed implementing the change of policies and/or still harass medical cannabis producers or patients.

    They’re sore losers.

    Now, consistent with large swaths of the country, Arizona voters are organizing once again in the state to place a full cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot for 2016.

    What is the reaction from some in the law enforcement community in Arizona to the prospects of citizens again instructing their workers what public policies they want them to enforce?

    Sure, law enforcement personnel are citizens too, and their opinions are as meaningful as any other citizens’, however, law enforcement personnel who oppose the public’s will on changes of public policy should never employ taxpayer funding to try to sway the populace or propagandize–on matters ranging from police wearing body cameras, to forfeiture reform to cannabis legalization.

    Well that is not at all happening currently in Yavapai County Arizona, where the local prosecutor Shelia Polk thinks it wise and prudent to steer forfeiture money derived from the criminal justice system (with most of the proceeds coming to law enforcement from currently illegal drug profits seized in previous criminal filings) to propagandize to voters that they should not vote to end cannabis prohibition in the state.

    Ever hear law enforcement roll out the tired ol’ line of “we don’t make the laws, we only enforce them?”

    It’s largely a lie (I mean…prevarication).

    Police and prosecutors (aided and abetted by fellow pot prohibitionists wearing white coats at NIDA, for example) regularly, using taxpayers’ money, actively seek to influence the outcome of public policy legislation, court cases and voter initiatives that seek to reform cannabis laws.

    It is pretty simple at this point in the now five-decade-old public effort to end cannabis prohibition, if police and prosecutors want to defend the status quo of a failed and unpopular public policy, then, if they really cared about the issue, they’d put their own skin in the game by organizing as private citizens.

    If prosecutors, cops, narcs, sheriffs and chiefs of police want to pony up their own money to try to stave off cannabis prohibition ending in their lifetimes–go for it.

    Reformers will more than match them dollar-for-dollar and are always spoiling for a good debate about wisdom for rationale continuing cannabis prohibition…and we’ve got the public on our side, they no longer do.

    What can not and should not happen anymore in the modern public policy debate about whether America should or should not continue another nearly eighty-years with cannabis prohibition enforcement are government officials and law enforcement personnel using their power of the purse and bully pulpit to try to persuade voters on ANY matters of public policy–let alone on policies where conflicts of interest are as obvious as prosecutors using government money to oppose the will of local voters who’re seeking to reform unpopular laws.

    Cannabis law reformers can and will win a fair fight on cannabis legalization, but, the impending political victory will be delayed if government officials are permitted to continue to use taxpayer funding to oppose the very will of the voters.

    Government for and by the people? Not when government officials are sore losers and want to use government funding to try to tip the scales of public opinion.

    When government stops spending taxpayer dollars to keep cannabis prohibition going, the unpopular policy will die an ignominious and swift death.

    Editor’s note: Thankfully, late yesterday AZ’s Attorney General came to reconsider this blundering policy of allowing government funding to be used to campaign against cannabis legalization efforts in the state.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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