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SOCIETY

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 11, 2014

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton publicly announced plans yesterday to halt the NYPD’s practice of arresting tens of thousands of minor marijuana offenders annually.

    Under the new plan, set to take effect November 19, city police would issue first-time marijuana offenders a summons, payable by a fine, in lieu of making a criminal arrest.

    Though the Mayor and the Police Commissioner have made pledges in the past to reduce the city’s marijuana arrest totals, which average nearly 30,000 per year, they have previously failed to do so. Of those arrested for minor marijuana offenses in New York City, a disproportionate percentage (86 percent) are either Black or Latino. Nearly three out of four arrested possessed no prior criminal record.

    Although New York state law classifies minor marijuana possession offenses as a non-criminal offense, separate penal law (NY State Penal Law 221.10) defines marijuana possession in a manner that is ‘open to public view’ as an arrestable offense.

    Mayor de Blasio called the City’s proposed depenalization policy “a smart policy that keeps New Yorkers safe, but it is also a more fair policy.”

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

    cropsAccording to a poll released this morning by the University of Delaware, a strong majority of residents favor legalizing and regulating the adult use of marijuana.

    The poll revealed that 56% of Delawareans support legalizing marijuana while just 39% were opposed. Individuals over the age of 60 and self-identified conservatives were the only demographic groups without majority support.

    Commenting on the poll, University of Delaware political communications professor Paul Brewer stated, “I would say the numbers suggest solid support for fully legalizing marijuana in Delaware. The results also reflect what’s going on in public opinion at the national level, where the trends show a growing majority favoring legalization.”

    Pro-legalization state Senator Bryan Townsend said he hopes this data helps compel the state to move forward on broad reforms.

    “The poll just shows there is broad support for this,” said Sen. Townsend (D-Newark), “I hope this is a wake-up call to the General Assembly that a majority of Delawareans support us moving in this direction.”

    The data coming out of Delaware is in line with the ongoing trend to support marijuana legalization at the national level. Clearly, seeing the path blazed by Washington and Colorado has only embolden residents of other states to support similar reforms.

    You can read more about this poll here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 3, 2014

    Philadelphia mayor signs depenalization legislation into lawAs anticipated, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed municipal legislation this week removing criminal penalties for the possession of minor quantities of cannabis by adults. (Watch a video of the Mayor’s ordinance signing and accompanying press conference here.)

    The new measure amends citywide penalties pertaining to the possession of up to approximately one ounce of cannabis (30 grams) from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record. Public use of cannabis will be punishable by up to a $100 fine and/or the completion of community service.

    Philadelphia NORML had long lobbied in support of a change in the city’s criminal classification of marijuana possession offenses. A 2013 review of marijuana arrest data by the organization reported that African Americans are arrested in Philadelphia for minor marijuana violations at five times the rate of whites despite both races consuming the substance at nearly equal rates.

    Council member James Kenney, who sponsored the decriminalization ordinance, acknowledged that it was Philadelphia NORML’s outreach on this issue that ultimately persuaded him to push for the change in law.

    The reduced penalties go into effect on October 20, 2014.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 30, 2014

    A new Maryland law depenalizing marijuana possession offenses takes effect this Wednesday.

    Senate Bill 364, signed into law this past April, amends statewide penalties for marijuana possession offenses involving ten grams or less from a criminal misdemeanor (presently punishable by arrest, up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a criminal record) to a non-arrestable, non-criminal, fine-only offense ($100 fine for first-time offenders, $250 for second-time offenders).

    The new law does not reclassify penalties involving the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, which remains a criminal offense.

    A 2013 ACLU analysis of state-by-state marijuana arrests data reported that Maryland has the fourth highest rate of marijuana possession arrests in the nation.

    Nearly 20 additional states, as well as the District of Columbia, now classify minor marijuana possession as a non-arrestable offense.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 19, 2014

    Younger voters overwhelmingly agree that marijuana is less damaging than alcohol, according to the findings of a Rare.us/Gravis Marketing poll released yesterday.

    Among those voters age 18 to 40, 47 percent ranked alcohol as the most harmful substance to society, well ahead of both tobacco (27 percent) and cannabis (13 percent). (Thirteen percent of respondents were undecided.) Respondents among all age and ethnic groups were consistent in ranking marijuana as the least harmful of the three substances, as were self-identified Democrats and Independents. (Republicans rated tobacco to be the most harmful of the three products.)

    “[These] numbers suggest younger Americans are upending societal conventions, which have long seen alcohol as an acceptable drug while condemning marijuana,” stated Rare.us in an accompanying press release.

    The results are somewhat similar to those of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in March which reported that most Americans believe tobacco to be most harmful to health (49 percent), followed by alcohol (24 percent), sugar (15 percent), and marijuana (8 percent).

    Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a schedule I controlled substance, meaning that its alleged harms are equal to those of heroin. Both tobacco and alcohol are unscheduled under federal law.

    According to a study published in 2004 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the leading causes of death in the United States ware tobacco (435,000 deaths; 18.1 percent of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (365,000 deaths; 15.2 percent), and alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths; 3.5 percent).

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