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SOCIETY

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 23, 2014

    A majority of US adults believe that the consumption of marijuana ought to be legal, according to the results of a nationwide CBS poll released today.

    Fifty-one percent of respondents answered affirmatively to the question, “Should marijuana use be legal?” The percentage is the highest ever reported by the survey, which has been tracking public opinion on the issue since 1979 (when only 27 percent of adults endorsed legalization), and marks a six point jump in support since the last time pollsters posed the question in April 2013.

    Forty-four percent of respondents opposed legalizing cannabis.

    Age, gender, and political affiliation influenced respondents’ opinions regarding legalization. A majority of all respondents under age 65 now support legalizing cannabis. Most men (57 percent), but not women (46 percent) back legalization. Most self-identified Democrats (59 percent) and Independents (54 percent), but not Republicans (35 percent) support making marijuana legal.

    Separate, recently released nationwide surveys by Gallup and CNN also reported that a majority of Americans are now in favor of legalizing cannabis.

    When asked about their views on the therapeutic use of cannabis, 86 percent of respondents told CBS pollsters that physicians ought to be allowed to authorize marijuana use to their patients — an increase of 24 percent since 1997, when pollsters first began asking the question.

    Sixty-two percent of respondents also endorsed letting individual states rather than the federal government specify marijuana policies. That figure was up slightly (3 percent) since November 2012.

    Over 1,018 adults nationwide participated in the survey, which possesses a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

  • by Sabrina Fendrick, Director of Women's Outreach January 22, 2014

    GA Poll Packet Cover

    Atlanta, GA – A newly released poll found that over half of Georgia voters support a marijuana legalization policy similar to that of Colorado and Washington (54%), however that same report found that even larger majority supports decriminalization.  62% of respondents believe that the state should remove criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce of pot, and replace it with a $100 civil fine, without the possibility of jail time.  Only 32% were opposed.  Interestingly, 56% of seniors, and republicans respectively, were among that nearly two-thirds majority.

     The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) was commissioned by state affiliates of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Georgia NORML, and Peachtree NORML.  Said Peachtree NORML’s Executive Director Sharon Ravert, “The citizens of Georgia agree, marijuana prohibition is a wasteful and destructive policy.  It is time for our state to catch up with public opinion and find a more sensible solution to the status quo.”  Peachtree NORML and other advocacy groups are working with lawmakers and various state coalition groups to amend Georgia’s criminal marijuana laws. In 2010, some 32,500 Georgians were arrested for violating marijuana laws, according to the FBI. That is the sixth highest total of any state in America.

    Also of note, only 9% of respondents were millennials.  This demographic is known to be overwhelmingly supportive of this issue, but their limited representation highlights the fact that there is significant support among other age groups.  71% of those questioned were between the ages of 30 and 65 which suggests that older generations, who are more likely to vote, are also strongly in favor of decriminalization.   It’s clear that the widespread support for marijuana law reform in the traditionally conservative state of Georgia has grown to such an extent that it now reaches across all party lines, age groups and races.

    “Though it may be surprising to some, these numbers are consistent with a growing trend of support for reform in the southern region of the country,” said Sabrina Fendrick NORML’s Outreach Coordinator for the southeastern region.   Recent polls conducted in Louisiana and Oklahoma both show a majority of support (56% and 53% respectively) for a change in the law providing for a $100 fine without jail time for those who possess an ounce or less of marijuana.  Said Fendrick, ”Everywhere you look you will see more and more people dissatisfied with the strict penalties associated with current marijuana laws, and an ever increasing number of southerners are ready for a  sensible alternative to existing failed policies, including decriminalization.”

     

     

     

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 15, 2014

    Residents of the District of Columbia strongly favor legalizing marijuana consumption for adults, according to the findings of a Washington Post poll, released today

    Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they favor “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.”

    Since 2010, the last time residents were polled on the question, Washingtonians of every age, race and ethnicity — black and white, teenage and elderly — have registered double-digit increases in support for legalization, The Washington Post reported.

    Thirty-four percent of respondents said that they opposed legalization. However, among those respondents, nearly half (16 percent) acknowledged support for reducing the criminal penalties for marijuana offenses.

    Earlier today, Members of the DC Committee on Public Safety voted unanimously in favor of legislation amending local marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a non-arrestable civil infraction (punishable by a $25 fine for possession and a $100 fine for public consumption). The full City Council is expected to act on the measure within the coming weeks.

    Any legislation approved by the DC City Council may be overridden by an act of Congress.

    A 2012 report published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland reported that DC possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.

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

    Fifty-five percent of Americans favor making cannabis legal for adults, according to the findings of a CNN/ORC International survey released late Monday. The percentage is the highest ever reported by the survey, which has been tracking public opinion on the issue since 1973, and marks a 12 percentage point jump in support since the last time pollsters posed the question in 2012.

    In addition, only 35 percent of those polled responded that consuming cannabis was “morally wrong” — down from 70 percent in 1987, the last time pollsters posed the question.

    The CNN/ORC polled surveyed 1,010 Americans and possesses a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

    The survey’s findings are similar to those of a fall 2013 Gallup poll which reported nationwide support for legalizing marijuana at 58 percent, the highest level of support ever recorded in a national scientific poll.

  • by Norm Kent, Chair, NORML Board of Directors

    leaf copyThe gravesite closest to President John Kennedy in Arlington belongs to a courageous, but assassinated congressman from Long Island, Allard Lowenstein, who fought many years to bring an end to the Vietnam War. His tombstone reads: “If a man stands his ground and there abides, the whole world will come round to him.” As the four decade long war against cannabis consumers comes to a crashing halt in America, I think of those words today.

    I think too of the 1960’s folk singer, Phil Ochs, who once penned a remarkable song, “The War is Over.” The drug war now is. We have won. Nothing can stop us now.

    We have climbed every mountain, challenged every foe, met every test, and we have proved to America that marijuana is medicinal, cannabis is recreational, and responsible adults ought to be able to consume it under the law, not outside it. The days of jail and bail need to go the way of Jim Crow laws. Let’s find a scale instead.

    The public has spoken. Whether it is CNN holding a nationwide poll, or regional balloting in rural and urban communities, the marijuana majority is finally, after all these years, being heard. The popular numbers for allowing citizens to access cannabis are over 80%. Politicians have seen the polls, and their failure to listen to you will now take a toll on them.

    Still, there is a lot of work for NORML to do, and many ways for you to continue to help us. Complacency leads to a bad place. We can’t just kick back on the carpet and roll joints just yet. Let me outline ten steps you can employ to carry the momentum forward. We still have to move the needle, control the debate, and gain supporters.

    First of all, let’s not forget while the tide has turned in 22 states, our America has 50. Don’t be fooled by the long lines in Colorado as long as we are still jailing people with long sentences in Cheyenne. Organize locally and let your chapter’s voice be heard loud and clear in every state capitol. Whether you focus the debate on harm reduction, medical use, or decriminalization, get the discussions going where you live.

    Second, in those states where progressive legislatures are taking the first steps to alter their cannabis laws, participate actively in the process. Insure that the regulations are reasonable, that taxes are not prohibitive, and that the consumers are protected. Insist that the instruments of decriminalization do not become tools for over-regulation. Make sure the product is pure. NORML has always been the voice of the cannabis consumer. Now we need our individual members to become the voice of NORML.

    We need to guarantee that the cannabis delivered to the marketplace is pure and clean, free of herbicides or criminal cartels that would corrupt these new initiatives. You need to insure that the rules for your dispensaries are fair, and that your friends are following the rules. If we allow the process to become fractured, our own goals will be shattered.

    Third, remember this drug war has taken a toll on innocent people. Your friends have been jailed, denied scholarships, turned away from jobs, and altogether demonized with criminal records for marijuana arrests. Don’t just work to free the leaf today. Work to rectify and right all the wrongs of yesterday. We are in the process of undoing the social stigma of being a cannabis consumer. Let’s see if we can also undo some of the many legal injustices already inflicted.

    Fourth, don’t use this time of change to criticize the voices who for so long opposed us. Respect their willingness to alter their own course. We don’t need to demean those who fought us. We need to now have them on our side and to fight with us.

    A few days ago the former Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, told me that he had been wrong in the past about the medical uses of marijuana. As he runs again on the Democratic ticket, he has endorsed a statewide constitutional amendment to provide medical marijuana for Floridians. We need new friends. Let’s welcome them today so we are better situated tomorrow.

    I was in a local retail store the other day, and ran into a 65 year old salesman with Bell’s palsy.
    “You know,” he said to me, “I have been smoking for years and it has helped me so much, so much more so than all the prescriptions the doctors have given me. But I couldn’t tell anyone.”

    I understand, of course, and so must we all. We have to respect that so many of our friends had and still have reason to fear. There are jobs and lives and freedoms still at risk.

    Still, the fifth thing I would ask of you is to learn what the LGBT community has learned in fighting for its rights. Come out of the closet. Speak up and be heard. Today, become one of the millions who, like Howard Beale in the great 1976 movie Network, called upon America to tell the government to leave us the hell alone in our living rooms; that you are a human being and your life has value.

    Beale railed that we should all get up, go to our windows, and shout out loud, “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take this anymore.” It’s time for us to do so; time to speak the truth from the beaches of South Florida to the ports in Seattle to the sediment that is Washington, D.C.

    Sixth, so how do you do that? Send NORML a couple of bucks and join our member’s base. Go to Café Press and buy one of our gold buttons or t shirts or hats. Wear it proudly. Walk down the street with it and watch how a friend says, “Right On.” You deserve to celebrate. You are on the right side of history. You always have been.

    Seventh, you don’t need a gun to stand your ground and be proud. You see, you have never really been the criminal. It’s the laws that locked you up, took away your freedom, and jailed your friends that have always been criminal. It’s the justice system that was more unjust than just.

    Look, NORML is not asking for everyone to be allowed to smoke pot in an elementary schoolyard, and we never have been. And we are not asking you to drive high and be stoned all day either. We never have. We are asking that you be able to drive your own decisions freely, without the fear of arrest and prosecution. Tell your congressman if he can get probation for snorting cocaine you ought to get a reward for just smoking a joint.

    Eighth, get educated. Be in front of the debate. Surf our website. Learn about hemp and cannabis and decriminalization or legalization. Be able to speak intelligently and argue cogently for your cause. Hell, yes, there is a big difference between shooting heroin, smoking meth, and using a vaporizer to inhale high quality THC cannabis. Marijuana eases stress, reduces muscular spasticity, retards glaucoma, and treats the side effects of chemo.

    Yes, responsible adults can distinguish between products that are good for you and stuff that is real bad. It’s a simple debate to win. We make similar choices everyday when we buckle our safety belts and look both ways before we cross a street.

    Ninth, your local newspaper editorial boards are speaking out as well. Dozens of major newspapers have now endorsed marijuana decriminalization. All are doing op-ed pieces pro and con. Do not let antagonistic and regressive articles go unchallenged. Write back and be heard, in print, on the net, and in public. Speak out.

    Tenth, well this last bud’s for you. Tell me what you think. Neither NORML nor myself has all the answers. This is a column on the NORML blog with room for comments below. Our national office does large things with small numbers. We still need your advice and input; your concern and commitment. So here is your chance.
    Talk to me and the rest of the staff. Fill the space below with your wisdom and words; the direction you want NORML to go. We have been working together for decades, but there are still roads to ride, joints to roll, and paths we can take together.

    You tell me, what’s next?

    A national symposium in Washington, D.C.?

    A nationwide write-in to the Obama Administration, telling them finally and firmly to back off from using federal agents to enforce marijuana prohibition laws? It’s time they did so, don’t you think?

    Let me know.

    If you want to reach me personally, you can on twitter, @normkent.

    Thank you.

    Whether you are baking in Colorado, shoveling snow in New York, or sunbathing in Florida, have a great New Year.

    Onward and upward always. We will get there together.

    -Norm Kent, Chairman, NORML Board of Directors

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