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  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 7, 2017

    voteIt is once again election night in America. While 2017 doesn’t feature any statewide marijuana initiatives, there are still a number of races to watch tonight that will impact marijuana law reform efforts across the nation.

    Virginia Governor

    Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (D): Democratic candidate, and current Lt. Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam has been outspoken in his support for ending criminal penalties for marijuana. Earlier this year, Northam published a letter calling for decriminalization and an expanded medical marijuana program.

    Northam wrote: “We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement?—?money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.

    As a doctor, I’m becoming increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD. By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”

    Ed Gillespie (R): Republican candidate, and former Republican National Committee Chair, Ed Gillespie has stated he does not support the legalization or outright decriminalization of marijuana believing it “sends the wrong signal” to children.

    Gillespie does support a very limited change to Virginia’s marijuana laws, that would move possession to a three strike system – dropping the possibility of jail time for an individual’s first two marijuana possession arrests, but retaining it for the third.

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR VA VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    New Jersey Governor

    Phil Murphy (D): Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has made marijuana legalization a priority issue in his campaign. In addition to publicly campaigning in support of ending marijuana prohibition in the state, in his primary election victory speech Murphy said he wants a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana in the Garden State on his desk within the first 100 days of taking office.

    “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Phil Murphy said the night he won the Democratic primary. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.

    Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno (R): Republican candidate, and current Lt. Governor, Kim Guadagno has stated that she is “wholly opposed to legalizing marijuana” citing inaccurate information in regards to marijuana’s impact on driving.

    “I have personal experience about what exactly happens to somebody who drives while they’re high, which is why I would oppose legalization of marijuana,” Guadagno said during a debate during the Republican primary.

    During the general election, she further stated her opposition, saying she believed legalization would “put a whole generation of children at risk.”

    “I don’t want our children, I don’t want our people to walk down the street and buy a pack of cigarettes and be drug dealers.”

    Despite her opposition to legalization, Guadagno has stated she would support decriminalization of possession and limited expansion of the state’s existing medical marijuana program.

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR NJ VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Athens, OH: Athens Cannabis Ordinance

    Residents of Athens, Ohio will have the ability to vote on the “Athens Cannabis Ordinance” which would significantly reform many of the penalties around marijuana possession and cultivation in the city. The ordinance would drop the fine for the following offenses to $0, effectively removing any criminal or civil punishment:

    • Possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana and up to 10 grams of hash
    • Cultivation of up to 200 grams of marijuana
    • Gifts of up to 20 grams of marijuana
    • Possession and sale of paraphernalia

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR ATHENS, OH VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Atlanta Mayor (Note: If none of the candidates in tonight’s election receive more than 50% of the vote, there will be a run-off election this winter between the top two vote getters. Atlanta’s mayoral race is also non-partisan.)

    During the debate surrounding the now approved decriminalization bill in Atlanta, news outlet the AtlantaLoop got a majority of the mayoral candidates on record in regards to their views on marijuana penalties. The incoming mayor will oversee the implementation of this ordinance so it is important to have a supportive incoming mayor in power in 2018.

    Peter Aman, former Atlanta COO: “I support the deprioritization of marijuana enforcement and will work with the courts and the police department and community to examine a procedure focused on fines, rather than jail time. Criminal justice reform is not just a buzzword. It is a thoughtful approach to finding ways to ensure citizens do not carry a lifelong burden for instances that do not cause harm to the public. Equally important, deprioritization is a cost-saving measure on the courts and the public safety budget. It allows our officers to focus on crime fighting and keeping our communities safe.

    Also, I firmly believe, and research shows, marijuana use has clear impacts on the brain development of children and young adults. In addition to, or in lieu of other penalties, I will ask the courts to examine requiring individuals below a certain age to attend an educational course on the cognitive impacts of marijuana and to help them make informed choices in how, when, and where they use such a substance – as we do in case of abuse of alcohol use.”

    Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves: “It is high time that Atlanta City Council members and Mayor Kasim Reed stop talking, and start doing something on the issue of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. Generally, that means these offenses are treated like a minor traffic violation: no arrest, prison time, or criminal record for a first-time possession.

    Unlike my opponents who have sat on their hands while our young people suffer, I have a track record of actually doing something about issues like this one. For example, as Fulton County Chairman, I pushed through the first-ever expungement program, to give people a second chance after arrests for minor offenses— including those never prosecuted. I also championed the successful Fulton County diversion program that has seen our jail population decrease and our recidivism rate drop dramatically.

    As a long-standing criminal justice, youth diversion and expungement advocate, my main concern is that for small amounts of marijuana possession, a person can have a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their life. While we must be for law and order, we also must be fair. That means using best practices based on other local government experiences. For example, the Clarkston City Council, voted unanimously last year to reduce the fine from up to $1,000 to $75 for possessing less than an ounce, and eliminating the possibility of jail time. In the nation’s capital city of Washington, D.C., voters approved decriminalization for people over the age of 21.

    For a city as diverse as Atlanta, a decriminalization ordinance in this direction makes sense.

    As Atlanta’s next mayor, I will continue to make juvenile justice a top priority and will work to provide laws that are fair to everyone, no matter their zip code.”

    State Sen. Vincent Fort: “I’m talking about a ticket, a citation, I’m talking about no mugshot, no arrest. A citation, go on your way, pay.  Anywhere from $25, $50 to $75.

    Two, I am very concerned that there’s this confusion, quote-unquote confusion issue.  I’ve heard some city council members and some candidates for mayor talk about how people from the outside of the city would come in and think that they could smoke dope and there’d be no consequences.  That is a red herring.  Then there are some other people who have said, ‘Oh I’m not going to have quote-unquote blood on my hands,’ by virtue of the fact that they say, ‘Well there’s a kid who thinks he can smoke dope anywhere, any way he wants and he gets arrested because the officer has discretion … and they’ll resist arrest and thus you know blood’ll be on the hands of anyone who supports this.’ That’s just crazy, it’s absolutely crazy. It’s unfortunate that elected officials would engage in such mendacity, intentionally trying to create confusion on the issues.

    … [I]f there are all these cities all over the country including in the South, that can decriminalize marijuana, if tiny Clarkston can do it, the city of Atlanta can do it. The fact of the matter is, the city council and the mayor have been in power, in place, as well as the Fulton County Commission has been in place for years and young African American males … have been pushed into the entryway for mass incarceration and they [officials] have done nothing. And now that they have the chance to do it, they’re abdicating their responsibility.”

    Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall: “It is a high priority for my administration to be able to roll out an effective and well-communicated marijuana declassification, so [people are not] not excessively penalized for possession of less than an ounce.”

    Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood: “I want a dialog with the police department as to the impact of changing the city’s ordinance and what does to offenders and whether or not … the state law would then apply.  What we need is an understanding from the police department as to the steps that occur now and the steps that would occur for their police officers on the street with offenders with the changes.”

    Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell: “When I was a child being raised in this city, the last thing my father wanted to do as a police officer was to destroy the lives of young people.

    The time and effort spent apprehending and sending people to jail for this minor offense would be of better use to law enforcement in their pursuit of dangerous criminals. When police officers spend time on these offenses, jail cells end up filled with non-violent offenders, while repeat and violent offenders often go free.

    Atlantans deserve to have a city that encourages kids to reach their potential, not one that embraces punishment for every misstep.

    While usage rates are roughly the same across different races, statistics show that African-Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. For many Atlanta kids, it is a gateway to prison. We need to do everything we can to end a process that hurts our kids by serving as a fast track to incarceration”

    Two candidates, Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard and Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, did not respond to AtlantaLoop’s request for comment. However, it is worth noting that both serve on the Atlanta City Council, which unanimously approved teh decriminalization measure earlier this year. You can view their full article here.

     

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR ATLANTA, GA VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Stay tuned…

    NORML will be covering the results of these elections throughout the evening on our blog and social media channels. Stay tuned for results and reactions later tonight.

  • by NORML October 25, 2017
    Source: Gallup

    Source: Gallup

    A record percentage of US adults, including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and for the first time ever, Republicans, believe that the adult use of marijuana should be legal, according to polling data released today by Gallup.

    Sixty-four percent of adults believe that “the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States” — the highest percentage ever reported by Gallup since they began asking adults their views on legalization in 1969, which began at 12%. The following year NORML was founded.

    “At a time when the majority of states now are regulating marijuana use in some form, and when nearly two-thirds of voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or moral perspective to maintain the federal prohibition of marijuana,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “It is high time that members of Congress take action to comport federal law with majority public opinion and to end the needless criminalization of marijuana — a policy failure that encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.”

    Source: Gallup

    Source: Gallup

    There are multiple pieces of legislation now pending that would deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and allow states to regulate marijuana for responsible adult use in a manner similar to alcohol.  You can click here to contact your member of Congress to support HR 1227, The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.

    Since its founding in 1970, NORML has provided a voice in the public policy debate for those Americans who oppose marijuana prohibition and favor an end to the practice of arresting marijuana consumers. As a nonprofit public interest advocacy group, NORML represents the interests of the tens of millions of Americans who consume marijuana responsibly, with over 150 chapters across the United States and internationally.

    Legalize marijuanaFor nearly 50 years, NORML led the successful efforts to reform local, state, and federal marijuana laws — as well as to change public opinion. Today, NORML continues to lead this fight through our legal, lobbying, and public education efforts. Among other activities, NORML serves as an informational resource to the public and the national media on all topics specific to cannabis, marijuana policy, and the lawlobbies local, state, and federal legislators in support of reform legislation; publishes a regular newsletter; hosts an annual conference; places op-eds and letters to the editor in newspapers throughout the country, publishes timely and important reports and white papers, and serves as the umbrella group for a national network of citizen-activists committed to ending prohibition and legalizing marijuana.

    Our efforts are supported by thousands of people throughout the country as we work to advance marijuana reform in all 50 states and the federal level. Can you kick in $5, $10 or $20 to help us keep going?

     

  • by NORML October 8, 2017

    You can follow MassCann/NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website

    MASS CANN/NORML TESTIMONY BEFORE THE CANNABIS CONTROL COMMISSION

    10/02/2017

    MassCannWe are the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, Inc., state affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, known as MASS CANN/NORML.

    We are the largest, oldest and most successful cannabis law reform organization in the northeastern United States. We have run the annual Boston Freedom Rally on Boston Common every year for 28 years, which has raised over $500,000 for our cause. We have run over 50 public policy questions in local districts throughout the Commonwealth – all of which were approved by voters by healthy majorities. The results of those public policy questions and our professional polling persuaded the Marijuana Policy Project to finance the decriminalization of marijuana by ballot initiative in 2008.

    We alone have been representing cannabis users for years. Our activists made decriminalization, medical marijuana and, now, regulated cannabis the new reality. We represent the voters who made your Commission possible.

    Unlike others seeking to advise you, we alone purely represent the interests of cannabis users. We are the marijuana user group in Massachusetts. We are motivated by our collective desire to be free from overly intrusive, overly repressive government.

    We are not motivated by money, as so many others who hope to advise you are. We are an all- volunteer organization. None of us are paid for what we do.

    We are not motivated by career interests, as so many others who hope to advise you are. MASS CANN/NORML employs no one.

    We are not motivated by a desire for political power, as so many others who hope to advise you are. We are a public education organization and are barred by law from doing political work.

    What MASS CANN/NORML is asking you to do:

    We are asking for no regulations about marijuana that would be ridiculous if applied to alcohol. As a recreational substance, marijuana is less debilitating and less addictive than alcohol. As a medicine, it is one of the safest therapeutic substances known, far safer than aspirin. Regulations concerning storage, distribution, and handling that require marijuana to be treated like enriched plutonium—regulations like those put out during the disastrous rollout of medical marijuana—have no basis in reality. They’re just the kind of governmental overreach the voters rejected in passing Question 4. You recall that Question 4 was called an act to “tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.”

    We want you to avoid regulations based on fear-mongering:
    – Legalization has NOT led to increased marijuana use by youths.
    – Legalization has NOT led to more highway accidents.
    – Opening marijuana outlets has NOT increased crime in the neighborhoods that have them.
    There are many, many other examples of false claims that we can disprove.

    Value freedom over compromise. No compromising with our freedom. Freedom is precious. The first colonists came to Massachusetts to escape repressive government. Ever since, many have fought in many ways for freedom and some have died for it. You have no more sacred duty than to maintain whatever freedom is possible.

    We want you to evaluate the other stakeholders in this discussion in light of their particular interests.

    It is in the interest of capitalists, for instance, to corner the market. Therefore, they would favor regulations making it hard for us users to grow our own plants for free. The influence of those well-heeled interests is hard to resist. Please resist.

    Prosecutors and police want to maintain their ability to target us marijuana users and to define us as criminals. They have used marijuana laws to enforce institutionalized racism. They still will seek to criminalize us to the greatest degree they can. Voters rejected their approach when they passed Question 4. The job of prosecutors and police is to enforce the laws that are given them. They should not be shaping policy.

    The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has proved they are interested only in benefitting their bureaucracy, expanding their budget, employing a larger workforce, and consolidating their power—NOT in helping medical marijuana patients. In fact, they are a principal reason that so many patients have gone for years without legal access to their medicine. They should not be listened to as some kind of voice of experience. They should just be studied as a history of horrible examples.

    Treatment professionals are interested in maintaining their gravy train. They want all cannabis use to be defined as drug abuse, and they want all users to be forced into expensive court-ordered rehab programs. They have no larger social interest at heart, and they do not deserve a seat at our table.

    All of these stakeholders have an interest in treating legal marijuana as a disaster to be delayed and restricted as much as possible. But the voters didn’t vote for a disaster, they voted for an opportunity: new jobs, new revenue, safer communities, better community-police relations. We want you to respect the will of the voters, and that means not working against legalization as some kind of threat, but moving ahead with legalization as a fine new opportunity. Legal marijuana is a great thing for Massachusetts! Make it happen!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 5, 2017

    cropsOn Wednesday, NORML and Washington NORML both submitted public comment to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) in support of the regulatory body drafting model legislation to allow the lawful home cultivation of marijuana for personal use.

    You can review the comprehensive assessment and recommendations made by Washington NORML’s Legislative Associate Bailey Hirschburg and Executive Director Kevin Oliver by clicking HERE.

    NORML Board Member and Travel Writer Rick Steves submitted:

    The ending of a wrong-minded prohibition happens incrementally. Home-brewing of beer was not immediately on the docket as states made alcohol legal again with the repeal of Prohibition back in the 1930s. It eventually became clear that “home brewing” was a logical extension of the progress made on that issue and today we have the right to home brew as part of the rights afforded to adults that allow them to engage in responsible drinking. In the same way, we believe that home cultivation of marijuana is a smart step for our state to take at this time.

    NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano wrote:

    NORML maintains that the inclusion of legislative provisions permitting the non-commercial home cultivation of cannabis serves as leverage to assure that the product available at retail outlets is high quality, safe, and affordable to the general consumer. Just as adults have the right to brew small amounts of alcohol for personal purposes, adults should also have the right to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis at home. There is no reason or compelling state interest to infringe this right in a jurisdiction where the cannabis plant is no longer defined as contraband.

    Legislation enacted in 2017 directed the WSLCB to “conduct a study of regulatory options for the legalization of marijuana plant possession and cultivation by recreational marijuana users.” The study must take into account the “Cole Memo,” issued by the United State Department of Justice in 2013, which outlines the federal government’s enforcement priorities in states where medical or recreational marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized. The study and recommendations are due to the Legislature on Dec. 1, 2017.

    Media hits surround NORML’s involvement in this area includes:

    Public comment closes on October 11, 2017. If you are a Washington State resident, you can easily submit written comments by clicking HERE.

    Follow Washington State NORML by clicking HERE.

     

  • by NORML October 2, 2017

    marijuana_gavelToday, Atlanta City Council voted to pass Ordinance 17-O-1152, decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses. This measure amends the local law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is punishable by a $75 fine — no arrest, jail time, or criminal arrest record.

    Annually, over 30,000 Georgians — many of whom reside in Atlanta — are arrested and charged with violating marijuana possession laws. Those arrested and convicted face up to one-year in prison, a $1,000 fine under state law, or up to six months in jail under local statutes. National statistics indicate that African Americans are an estimated four times as likely as whites to be arrested for violating marijuana possession laws, despite using marijuana at rates similar to Caucasians.

    “Court costs, the jail time, ruining young people’s lives, they lose their scholarships, it breaks up families, and it wastes our tax dollars. That’s the reason for doing this,” said Kwanza Hall, a city Councilman and candidate for Mayor.

    With the passage of this measure, citizens of Atlanta no longer have to fear unnecessary jail time for possessing a drug that should not be illegal in the first place. However, because the law only applies to Atlanta city limits, it conflicts with the state law that calls for jail time and gives police leeway in deciding which law (state or city) should be enforced.

    However, Atlanta has now joined the growing list of cities around the country that have adopted a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level. This new ordinance may not be perfect, but it is a victory nonetheless.

    “Atlanta is celebrating a big win for their community, for their future. Citizens should be aware of the actual law not just assume they can use Cannabis unfettered across the city. There will be a learning curve and we at Peachtree NORML will do everything we can to make sure the citizens are educated as we continue our work at the State level. For now, 800 arrests will not occur next year if this ordinance stays true to what the essence was meant to accomplish,” said Sharon Ravert, founder of Peachtree NORML.

     

    Follow Peachtree NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website.

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