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Legalization

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 15, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesAfrican Americans in the city of Buffalo (population 257,000) are disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana possession offenses, according to an analysis of arrest data by the advocacy group Partnership for the Public Good.

    Researchers evaluated marijuana arrest data for Erie County, New York for the years 2012 to 2016. Countywide, blacks comprised 71 percent of all low-level marijuana offenders, despite comprising only 13.5 percent of the population. In the city of Buffalo, 86 percent of those arrested for minor marijuana possession violations were either African American (80 percent) or Hispanic (six percent). Blacks and Hispanic represent fewer than 50 percent of the city’s population.

    “[T]he disparities in the number of marijuana possession arrests cannot be explained by a higher use among black or Hispanic people,” authors concluded. “Legalizing marijuana would reduce low-level drug arrests by ten percent, and help reduce racial disparities in overall arrest numbers.”

    Recent analyses from other states, such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, have similarly identified racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests. Nationwide, African Americans are approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, despite members of both ethnicities using the substance at similar rates.

    Full text of the report, “Advancing Racial Equity and Public Health: Smarter Marijuana Laws in Western New York,” appears online here.

  • by Clare Sausen, NORML Junior Associate November 14, 2017

    women weed blogIn the era of increasing acceptance and outright legalization of cannabis use, cannabis-centric television keeps getting better and better. From comedies like The Lucas Bros Moving Co (Fox) to documentaries like Weediquette (Viceland) and dramas like High Maintenance (HBO), you will never be at a loss for something to zone out to. Unless, of course, you’re a woman.

    Through the zonked-out adventures of stoner dudes in the Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke and Pineapple Express, the category of “stoner comedies” was born and solidified as commercially successful. However, as is true in the more general comedy category, women are frequently excluded from this narrative– lest it become a national issue (see: the release of the all-female Ghostbusters and the subsequent end of the world).

    Thankfully, the male-dominated world of cannabis tv is finally changing. More women are being showed smoking weed and not being demonized for it. However, like the revolution to end cannabis prohibition itself, there is still much work to be done. So, let’s look at the most prominent fictional female cannabis icons in popular media today:

    Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) –  Weeds 

    3leafOne of the most prominent female cannabis users is Nancy Botwin, fictional star of HBO’s Weeds. Nancy is a sexy, suburban soccer mom looking to make a little extra cash who turns to selling weed to support her family. Unfortunately, however, Nancy doesn’t really smoke weed—just sells it. Throughout the show’s nine season run, Nancy is only shown smoking weed twice. Plus, there’s the fact that she started as a small-time suburban weed dealer and ended up entangled in the Mexican heroin cartel running a laundering front with multiple deaths on her hands. So, overall, not great for the cause. My favorite episode: “Pittsburgh”, season 2 episode 12.

    Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler (Abbi Jacobsen and Ilana Glazer) – Broad City  

    leaf5For millennial weed smoking women, Broad City (Comedy Central) is our Cheech and Chong. Abbi and Ilana are two young women navigating the messy lives of millennials in New York City—but not before hitting their gold Pax, of course. Abbi and Ilana are two of the most prominent female cannabis users in pop culture today and are generally here for being yourself in every way possible. The women depict cannabis use in an everyday sense as well as in a funny, typical stoner way (they regularly video chat each other as they rip bongs on their toilets). Perhaps I’m biased, but the rating system for these reviews is leaf emojis so I don’t think we have to worry too much about journalistic integrity here. My favorite episode: “Coat Check”, season 2 episode 9. Honorable mention: “Pu$$y Weed”, season 1 episode 2.

    Donna Pinciotti and Jackie Burkhart (Laura Prepon and Mila Kunis) – That 70’s Show ?

    2leafIn That 70’s Show, the girls aren’t really considered a part of “The Circle” until season 2, and despite their introduction, Foreman, Hyde, Kelso, and Fez remain the core members. While Donna is viewed as more of an equal, Jackie is usually used as comedic relief and makes ditzy remarks about shopping and makeup. Plus, Jackie acts much more stereotypically affected by weed, leading to comments like “no more for the cheerleader” from the boys. The whole show is hokey in and of itself (remember their cover of Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker”?), so the “girls like shopping” jokes and the fact that the girls are constantly “catfighting” is to be expected. Still, not a great representation of women who weed. My favorite episode: “Reefer Madness” Season 3, Episode 1.  

    Ruth Whitefeather Feldman (Kathy Bates) – Disjointed

    4leafOkay, look—I had the same reservations about Disjointed that you did. It’s a corny multi-camera set-up with a painful laugh track and a lot of stereotypical, one-dimensional characters. BUT, Ruth Whitefeather Feldman, played by the legendary Kathy Bates, is a shining light that will guide you through this show.  She’s a 70-year-old single mom running a dispensary in California, working to help and heal (or, as the show cringingly refers to it, “healp”) her patients through the magical medicine of cannabis. Ruth is a great example for women that have been a part of the cause since the 70’s and how her activism is affected by the changing perceptions of marijuana consumption and legalization. You must be able to withstand the uproarious laughter of the audience at jokes that fall flat to get to the best parts of this show: innuendos, weed, and trippy animation—but it’s worth it. My favorite episode: “The Worst”, Part 1 Episode 10 (the last five minutes, in particular).

     

    Those are my thoughts, tell me yours in the comments below!

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director November 13, 2017

    conference-sorbonne-norml-ceryxFresh off of an organizational restructuring, NORML France will be hosting their conference entitled “Cannabis: Think Change or Change the Bandage?” about the failure of French cannabis prohibition at Université la Sorbonne in Paris.

    Their credo is simple, to explain that reform will benefit everyone, not only cannabis consumers.

    From their website:

    The “NORML France” Organization is aiming to inform citizens and give support to cannabis users by facilitating the access to the defence of their rights and reach health programs, promote scientific researches and bring together civil society actors in favor of a more comprehensive drug policy reform. Evidence of the failure of the so called “war on drugs” is no longer needed. Together, we are building a fair and effective regulatory model that focuses on health, safety, employment, social justice and human rights, with an inclusive strategy based on the cross-expertise of the cannabis users and involved professionals.

     

    Speakers include Viola Ridolfi, Secretary General of Ceryx; Geneviève Garrigos , Former President of Amnesty International France; Nathalie Latour, Delegate General of the Addiction Federation; Fabrice Olivet, Director General of the Self-Support of Drug Users; and Katia Dubreuil, Magistrate at the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris, National Secretary of the Union of Magistrates.

    More information about their conference can be found HERE.

    You can follow the efforts of NORML France on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

  • by NORML November 7, 2017

    vote_keyboardTrenton, NJ: After making the legalization of marijuana a core issue in both his primary and general election campaigns, Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has claimed victory in the New Jersey gubernatorial election over Republican Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno.

    In fact, in his primary victory speech, Phil Murphy proclaimed his desire to sign a marijuana legalization bill within his first 100 days in office.

    “Candidates across the country should take notice, as Phil Murphy won the Governor’s seat soundly because of, not in spite of, his open and vocal support for legalizing marijuana – a position supported by 65% of New Jersey voters and 64% of Americans nationwide,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “NORML looks forward to working with Governor-Elect Murphy and other stakeholders in the state to end the disastrous policy of marijuana prohibition and to implement the moral, economic, and scientifically sound policy of legalization and regulation in the Garden State.”

    Polling data released this week by Predictwise/Pollfish Survey revealed that a 65% of New Jersey voters support legalizing marijuana outright.

    Currently in New Jersey, a possession conviction of anything under 50 grams of marijuana can carry a sentence of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The ACLU-NJ found that police make a marijuana possession arrest in New Jersey on average every 22 minutes and that black New Jerseyans were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite similar usage rates.

  • by Aubrie Odell, NORML Junior Associate November 5, 2017

    In March of this year, Oakland City Council implemented the Equity Permit Program for aspiring marijuana entrepreneurs in the new green economy. This program is designed to address the past disparities in the cannabis industry by giving priority to the victims of the war on drugs and minimizing barriers to entry into the industry; ultimately trying to level the playing field within the medical cannabis arena. The Oakland City Council found that the Black community has been dramatically overrepresented in cannabis-related arrests in the past 20 years, accounting for 90% of these arrests at times.

    The city is including an incentive for non-equity applicants by fast-tracking permits from property owners who offer free rent to equity applicants as a way to assist the entrepreneurs who have had little access to capital. Additionally, tax revenue collected from this new licensing process will be used to establish an assistance program for equity applicants, offering no-interest startup loans, exemption from the permit application fee, and technical assistance.

    To qualify as an applicant and receive this assistance, the individual must be an Oakland resident with an annual income that’s less than 80 percent of the Oakland Average Medium Income and either has a past marijuana conviction in Oakland or has lived for ten of the last twenty years in police beats that experienced a disproportionately higher amount of law enforcement.

    Although the program may not perfect, Oakland is setting an example of how to begin to address marijuana-related oppression that has impacted historically marginalized groups. Other states that have legalized marijuana, or are in the process of doing so, should look to the Oakland model because legalization alone will not address the historic injustices perpetrated by law enforcement under prohibition.

    However, as states both decriminalize and legalize the recreational use of marijuana, researchers still find enormous racial disparities within arrest rates. From a 2013 ACLU report, researchers found that although marijuana use rates are almost equal among Black and White individuals, Black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to their White neighbors. Even with decriminalization, most states still have outrageous fines in lieu of jail time—$5 worth of marijuana can result in a $150 fine in Ohio. For most people, that is a large portion of their paycheck that would otherwise go towards rent, food, and other basic necessities. And, most importantly, the same racial disparities within arrest rates of marijuana possession are likely replicated in civil offenses for marijuana possession. Even with decriminalization, police are still going to be targeting Black people at the same rate. In Washington, DC last year, arrests for public use of marijuana nearly tripled just one year after marijuana use (but not marijuana sales) became legal in the city. Many of these arrests directly impact poor people and minorities, especially because it’s only legal to consume marijuana on privately owned property. Individuals who rent or are in public housing cannot enjoy private consumption.

    So, even when more states begin to legalize marijuana, Black individuals are still going to be less likely to be able to thrive in the regulated marijuana market because of the copious amount of fines, prison time, and harassment from law enforcement. Not to mention, even when fines are replaced for minor marijuana possession instead of jail time, those that are unable to pay the fine may be arrested or forced to appear in court–raking in additional fines to pay. However, not even programs similar to Oakland’s are enough to resolve these discrepancies. A number of states have laws that don’t allow those with past convictions to apply to open a marijuana business, which disproportionately discriminates against minorities that have been targeted for marijuana possession offenses prior to legalization. To rid of this disparity, states with legalization laws should be issuing automatic expungements of prior marijuana-related arrests.

    The enforcement of marijuana prohibition has gone out of its way to marginalize the Black community, so it’s only right that each state work just as hard to remedy this problem. A great place to start is with a program that allocates a certain amount of funds, resources, and applications for minorities who want to start a marijuana business, in states that have legalization laws. Without these programs and without recognizing these injustices, racial disparities will continue and Black people will not be given a fair opportunity to thrive in a regulated marijuana market.

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