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EDUCATION

  • by Dan Viets, Executive Director, Missouri NORML June 20, 2017
    Dan Viets speaking at a NORML conference

    Dan Viets speaking at a NORML conference

    Federal courts have recently rejected the actions of university and college administrators who sought to inflict suspicionless drug tests on students at a public college and to restrict the First Amendment rights of marijuana law reformers at a public university.  Both decisions have important national implications.

    Linn Tech Student Drug Testing Case

    In 2011, Linn State Technical College administrators declared that they intended to drug test every student who applied for admission to the small, state-funded college located in Osage County, Missouri, a short distance east of Jefferson City.  No other public college or university in America had pursued such a program.  It seemed clear to those who follow such matters that college and university students have the same rights as other adults to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  While private institutions are not bound by the restraints of the Fourth Amendment, public tax-supported institutions are.  Nonetheless, Linn Tech seemed determined to pursue inflicting random, suspicionless drug testing on their students.

    Tony Rothert, the Legal Director of the ACLU of Missouri, filed suit against Linn Tech.  I filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, working with Alex Kreit, a law professor from San Diego.

    U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey, sitting in Jefferson City, subsequently issued a decision prohibiting such testing, with a few narrowly-drawn exceptions for those participating in training programs involving heavy machinery or high-voltage electricity.

    Linn Tech appealed that decision to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.  Legal scholars were shocked when a three-judge panel of that Court later sided with Linn Tech.  In a decision which many believed ignored legal precedent and logic, two of three judges on the panel which initially heard the case sided with Linn Tech.

    Mr. Rothert then filed for a rehearing of the case by the full 11-judge Court.  Such hearings are rarely granted, but in this case, the Motion was granted.  Following that rehearing, all but two of the judges on the full Court sided with the students and the ACLU, overturning the decision of the three-judge panel.

    Still not satisfied, Linn Tech squandered more public tax money pursuing a Petition for Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.  Civil libertarians were concerned that the current high Court might indeed overturn the Eighth Circuit if it had accepted that Petition for review.  However, on June 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court denied further review in this matter.  Therefore, the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court is now the final decision in this matter.  Linn Tech administrators have reluctantly acknowledged that they must now follow the Constitution and abandon their effort to impose suspicionless drug testing on their students.

    Iowa State University NORML Censorship Case

    In another important case closely watched by many across the nation, members of the NORML Chapter at Iowa State University in 2012 applied for approval to print t-shirts which contained the name of the university-recognized organization and included an image of the school’s mascot, “Cy, the Cyclone”.  University administrators first approved those t-shirts, but when the ISU NORML Chapter asked to reprint them, the university caved in to pressure from legislative staff people who had complained that it appeared the university was supporting marijuana legalization.

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) filed suit on behalf of the officers of the Iowa State University NORML Chapter, alleging content and viewpoint discrimination.  The lawsuit sought to prevent university administrators from treating the NORML Chapter differently from other university-recognized student organizations.  The federal district court in Iowa sided with the students and against the university.  The university appealed to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, which issued a decision in February of this year upholding the federal district judge’s ruling.

    Iowa State University administrators then asked the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court to reconsider its decision.  The Court did so, which caused many to fear that they might change their minds.

    However, on June 13, 2017, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court reaffirmed its earlier decision and went even further, holding that university administrators who prevented the ISU NORML Chapter from using the university’s trademarked images were individually liable for their actions and could, therefore, be ordered to pay damages from their own pockets!

    Administrators at the University of Missouri in Columbia have taken similar actions in regard to the MU NORML Chapter.  It is hoped that the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit will encourage MU administrators to reconsider their position.

    The federal appellate court sent a loud and clear message to university administrators that they are required to respect the Constitutional rights of students, including those who advocate for reform of the marijuana laws.

    While Iowa State could do as Linn Tech administrators did and continue to squander more public tax money pursuing an ill-considered position, it is not at all likely the U.S. Supreme Court would grant further review in this matter.

    Administrators at the University of Missouri in Columbia have taken similar actions in regard to the MU NORML Chapter.  It is hoped that the decision of the Eighth U.S. Circuit will encourage MU administrators to reconsider their position.

    These two decisions have reaffirmed the rights of college and university students to be free from random, suspicionless drug testing and to speak out for drug law reform without censorship by administrators..

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director June 16, 2017

    Marijuana medicineToday, the Office of National Drug Control Policy convened its first meeting of President Trump’s “Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.”

    The Commission is tasked with making recommendations for improving the Federal response to opioid misuse and abuse.

    Best evidence informs us that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Nonetheless, this administration continues to express skepticism with regard to the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana.

    Today in The Hill newspaper, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano writes:

    With opioid overdose deaths having risen four-fold since 1999, it is imperative that lawmakers and public health experts approach this issue with an open mind and remain willing to entertain all potential alternatives.

    For many patients, cannabis provides a safe and effective substitute for the use of opioids and other potentially harmful substances. Committee members should set their political ideologies aside and give strong consideration to this rapidly growing body of scientific evidence.

    You can read the full piece in The Hill by clicking here.

    It is crucial that our government hear from us. Click here to send a message to the Commission urging them to include medical marijuana as part of any national response to the opioid crisis.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director April 22, 2017

    revolutionbumperWelcome to this week’s edition of the NORML legislative roundup!

    What a week it has been! With our 4/20 Online Day of Action, we have blown past the goals we had set and have now driven over 35,000 messages to Congress on HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017. If you have not yet, do so RIGHT NOW by clicking here. 

    This last week, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (D) signed into law the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act — a state-sponsored program that will permit qualified patients to obtain medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries. With the addition of WV, the United States will soon have 30 medical marijuana programs throughout the country.

    With the current Federal budget set to expire at the end of next week, it is imperative that Congress reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which protects those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. Send a message to your members of Congress now to protect patients.

    Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

    Thanks for all you do and keep fighting,
    Justin

    Priority Alerts

    Federal
    Protect Patients: Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, maintains that federal funds can not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    In December, Congress re-authorized the amendment as part of a short term spending package, House Resolution 2028. This bill extends federal funding through April 28, 2017, at which time the measure — and the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment — will expire.

    Click here to message your members of Congress to protect state medical marijuana and their patients. 

    Join The Caucus: With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) earlier this year formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.

    Click here to email your Member of Congress to urge them to join the newly created Congressional Cannabis Caucus

    Florida
    On November 8th, more than 71 percent of Florida voters decided in favor of the constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, to allow for the licensed production, use, and dispensing of medical cannabis to patients with a doctor’s recommendation. However, state politicians are contemplating legislative efforts to amend the law in a manner that violates both its spirit and intent.

    FL resident? Click here to send a message to your elected officials and demand that they support medical marijuana in Florida

    Iowa (at Governor)
    In a last minute deal by Iowa state lawmakers, both chambers passed HF 524, which would expand the narrow access of CBD with up to 3% THC to patients who have been diagnosed by an Iowa-licensed physician with Parkinson’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures, AIDS and HIV, Crohn’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, as well as most terminal illnesses that have a life expectancy of less than one year and untreatable pain. The bill also sets up a framework for in-state production of the medicine. The bill now goes to Governor Terry Branstad (R) for his signature or veto.

    IA resident? Click here to send a message to Gov. Branstad and urge him to sign HF 524

    Texas
    HB 2200, will provide an affirmative defense regarding medical cannabis that would protect patients, caregivers, and doctors, will be heard on April 24.

    Affirmative defense establishes a basic set of facts surrounding marijuana possession cases. If someone with a qualifying medical condition is caught possessing marijuana, an affirmative defense for the individual would likely result in a more lenient punishment.

    TX resident? Click here to send a message to your elected officials to support this common sense reform.

    Vermont
    Members of the Senate voted 21 to 9 on April 21 in favor of an unrelated House bill, H. 167, which Senators had amended to include language to legalize the recreational marijuana market. Other Senate amendments in the bill mimic language in H. 170, which eliminates criminal and civil penalties specific to the possession or cultivation of personal use quantities of cannabis. The amended version of H. 167 now returns to the House for further action.

    VT resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers and support legalizing marijuana in Vermont.

    Other Actions to Take

    Arizona
    Legislation is pending, SB 1337, to permit for the licensed production of industrial hemp.

    Update: Members of the House Standing Committee and the House Appropriations Committee both passed SB 1337 by votes of 7 to 1 and 12 to 1 respectively.

    AZ resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support hemp in Arizona.

    California
    Legislation is pending, Assembly Bill 1578, to try and limit potential federal interference in the state’s marijuana regulatory laws.

    The bill states, “This bill would prohibit a state or local agency, as defined, from taking certain actions without a court order signed by a judge, including using agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by law in the State of California and transferring an individual to federal law enforcement authorities for purposes of marijuana enforcement.”

    Update: AB 1578 was passed by members of the Public Safety Committee on April 18 by a vote of 5-2.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort. 

    Louisiana
    SB 35, introduced by Sen. Yvonne Colomb, provides explicit exemptions from arrest and prosecution for persons lawfully in possession of medical marijuana.

    Presently, state regulators are finalizing rules and regulations governing its nascent medical cannabis program, which seeks to permit the production, dispensing, and use of non-herbal preparations of cannabis for qualified patients. Passage of SB 36 amends various criminal statutes to assure that those involved in the program are not inadvertently subject to criminal liability.

    LA resident? Click here to support this common sense legislation. 

    Nevada
    Senate legislation is pending, SB 236, to regulate the social use of cannabis.

    The measure allows select businesses to apply for licensing to permit adult marijuana use on their premises. It would also allow event organizers to seek permits to allow adult use at specific events.

    Update: SB 236 was amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee on 4/12 and it passed as amended.

    NV resident? Click here to support marijuana social clubs in Nevada. 

    New Hampshire
    Multiple bills are pending before lawmakers to expand the pool of patients eligible to qualify for medical marijuana therapy.

    In particular, these measures would permit patients with conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress to obtain legal access to marijuana.

    Update: Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on April 20 passed HB 157 out of Committee.

    NH resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers to support patients. 

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director April 19, 2017

    NORML held a ‘Faces of Marijuana Prohibition’ event on Capitol Hill on April 19th, in cooperation with the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, where congressional staff heard first-hand from those most adversely impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. 

    Dozens of congressional staff attended, hearing from victims across the spectrum of marijuana criminalization. Perspectives included: a cancer survivor who consumed marijuana to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy, a federal staffer who lost his job as a result of a positive drug test, and those who received criminal charges and had their lives put on hold while they had to overcome the onerous penalties imposed by the state for a simple possession charge, among others. 

    NORML Political Director Justin StrekalThis was yet another effort in our ongoing quest to educate our legislators on the need to to end the prohibition-industrial-complex and respect the basic rights of those who choose to consume marijuana, a substance safer than currently legal products like alcohol or cigarettes.

    Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana users is out-of-step with the views of adults throughout America, 93% of whom support medical marijuana (Quinnipiac, 2017) and 60 percent of whom endorse the outright legalization of recreational marijuana (Gallup, 2016).

    On April 20th (4/20), long considered the unofficial marijuana holiday, marijuana consumers and advocates will gather around the world to show their support for ending marijuana prohibition. NORML for its part will hosting an online day of action, driving tens of thousands of constituent contacts to members of Congress in support of HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. 

    You can sign up for the 4/20 online day of action by clicking here. 

  • by NORML February 14, 2017

    chapter_spotlightThe four-year feud between Iowa State University (ISU) and the student group NORML ISU has finally concluded with a victory for the marijuana reform advocacy group.

    The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of NORML ISU right to use a marijuana leaf and the logo of the school on their promotional items.

    Here is the background as written in the Washington Post by Eugene Volokh:

    NORML ISU at first got permission from the Trademark Office to use a T-shirt “that had ‘NORML ISU’ on the front with the ‘O’ represented by Cy the Cardinal,” with “Freedom is NORML at ISU” and a cannabis leaf depicted on the back. But after a Des Moines Register article mentioned the T-shirt, a state legislator and someone at the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy heard about this and objected, and the University barred NORML ISU from printing further T-shirts with the design. After that, the University’s Trademark Guidelines were changed to ban “designs that suggest promotion of the below listed items … dangerous, illegal or unhealthy products, actions or behaviors; … [or] drugs and drug paraphernalia that are illegal or unhealthful.”

    The court disagreed.

    “NORML ISU’s use of the cannabis leaf does not violate ISU’s trademark policies because the organization advocates for reform to marijuana laws, not the illegal use of marijuana,”

    The circuit court decided that students’ “attempts to obtain approval to use ISU’s trademarks on NORML ISU’s merchandise amounted to constitutionally protected speech.”

    Basically, ISU violated the students’ first amendment rights and discriminated against them on the basis of their viewpoint.

    The suit was overseen by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, FIRE’s director of litigation, released a statement saying “We are so pleased to see Paul and Erin’s victory unanimously affirmed by the Eighth Circuit today. Paul and Erin had the courage to stand up for their First Amendment rights, and thousands of students in seven states will now benefit from their commitment.”

    This can only come as a reminder to us to stand up and fight back against those looking to suppress advocates for marijuana legalization (and fashionable people everywhere). We as a constituency have the unalienable right of freedom of speech, so make your voice heard and get involved with a NORML chapter near you.

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