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Policy

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director January 5, 2018

    Jeff_Sessions_(29299022521)

    Following yesterday’s announcement by the DOJ that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had rescinded the Cole Memo, an Obama-era memorandum issued by Attorney General James Cole in 2013, federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle quickly denounced the decision.

    Reject AG Sessions’ Efforts to Revert to the Failed Criminal Policies of the ‘Just Say No’ Era

    In addition to taking to the floor of the Senate to express his frustrations, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) continued to vent on Twitter. He had this to say:

    “This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states.”

    Sharing some of the same frustrations as her counterpart in the Senate, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) shared the following in a email to supporters:

    “Sessions’ actions to protect the bottom lines of the for-profit private prison industry, and Big Pharma whose opioids and drugs flourish in part due to the marijuana prohibition, while trampling on states’ rights and turning everyday Americans into criminals, is the latest injustice that the Attorney General has suffered on the American people.”

    Being the cosponsor of pending legislation, that if passed by Congress would stop AG Sessions in his tracks, Representative Gabbard also took a minute to encourage support for her bill, HR 1227:

    “I am calling on every member of Congress to take up the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act to remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances.”

    With prominent Democrats and Republicans promising a fight and threatening to derail DOJ nominations, and thousands of calls and emails from activists asking lawmakers to reject Mr. Sessions’ misguided plan, it appears that political courage comes in many forms.

    To join the fight, take a few minutes to contact your representative and encourage their support for HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-bill-introduced-to-end-federal-marijuana-prohibition and email Chapters@NORML.org for a list of upcoming meetings and lobby days.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    Legalize marijuanaMontpelier, Vermont: Just hours after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidelines instructing US attorneys to take a ‘hands off’ approach in states with legal marijuana regulations, lawmakers in the Vermont House voted to legalize the personal possession and home cultivation of marijuana by a vote of 81 to 63. The measure now goes back to the Senate for a concurrence vote before going to the Governor, who has indicated that he will sign the bill into law.

    Passage of legalization in Vermont in 2018 would be a legislative first. To date, all eight states that have enacted adult use regulatory laws, as well as the District of Columbia have done so by a direct vote of the people.

    The progress in Vermont is groundbreaking. Should the Green Mountain State’s leadership move forward as promised, it will mark a huge turning point in the national movement to end the criminalization of marijuana. 

    One in five Americans resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute, and the majority of citizens reside someplace where the medical use of cannabis is legally authorized. As is evidenced by Vermont lawmakers’ actions, it is clear that the Trump administration is not going to be able to cease this momentum in favor of the enactment of rational marijuana policies.

    The political courage of Vermont’s lawmakers to break with nearly a century of legislative stagnation should be interpreted as a siren call in the halls of the state legislatures nationwide as well as the U.S. Capitol.

    You can follow the progress of the legislation on our Vermont Action Alert by clicking here.

  • by NORML January 4, 2018

    Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 7.32.58 PMAttorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Department of Justice’s hands-off policy towards state-legal marijuana.

    CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND URGE THEM TO STAND UP TO JEFF SESSIONS AND FOR THE RIGHTS OF PATIENTS AND RESPONSIBLE CANNABIS CONSUMERS.

    “By rescinding the Cole Memo, Jeff Sessions is acting on his warped desire to return America to the failed beliefs of the ‘Just Say No’ and Reefer Madness eras. This action flies in the face of sensible public policy and broad public opinion. The American people overwhelmingly support the legalization of marijuana and oppose federal intervention in state marijuana laws by an even wider margin. This move by the Attorney General will prove not just to be a disaster from a policy perspective, but from a political one. The American people will not just sit idly by while he upends all the progress that has been made in dialing back the mass incarceration fueled by marijuana arrests and destabilizes an industry that is now responsible for over 150,000 jobs. Ending our disgraceful war on marijuana is the will of the people and the Trump Administration can expect severe backlash for opposing it,” said Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director.

    The Cole Memo, a Justice Department memorandum, authored by former US Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013 to US attorneys in all 50 states, directs prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

    During a Q and A with reporters in Richmond, VA in March of 2017, Jeff Sessions said, “The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,”

    Additionally in 2017, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo. “Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

    Currently, medical marijuana protections are still in effect, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. 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-Blumenauer Amendment, maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    “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 for Attorney General Sessions to take this step” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “It is 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.”

    “If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels,” Strekal concluded.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director December 20, 2017
    NORML Board Chair Steve Dillon with Nadler


    NORML Board Chair Steve Dillon with Rep. Jerry Nadler during the 2017 National NORML Lobby Day.

    During a House Democrats meeting on Wednesday morning, the caucus elected marijuana reform supporter Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) to be the party leader on the powerful Judiciary Committee.

    Rep. Nadler has earned an “A+” rating on the NORML Scorecard for his support of ending the federal prohibition of marijuana, positive votes when given the opportunity, and his co-sponsorship of legislation including the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act in the previous session of Congress.

    The current Chairman of the committee is Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), a longtime opponent of marijuana reform who has earned a “D” on the NORML scorecard for voting against reform amendments when given the opportunity. However, Rep. Goodlatte had announced earlier this year that he will not be running for reelection, which will leave a wide-open race on the Republican side who will be the top member in the next Congress.

    Given the political climate, in order to secure hearings on legislation that would end prohibition, it is essential that the next Chairman of the Judiciary be willing to address the issue.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 11, 2017

    oil_bottlesThe use of the naturally occurring cannabinoid CBD is safe, well tolerated, and is not associated with any significant adverse public health effects, according to the findings of a preliminary report compiled by the World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence.

    Authors of the report declare that CBD is “not associated with abuse potential” and that it does not induce physical dependence. “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile,” they conclude.

    Nonetheless, they acknowledge that CBD remains classified as a schedule I controlled substance under US federal law – a classification that defines it as possessing a “high potential for abuse.”

    The WHO report also comments on CBD’s therapeutic efficacy, finding that the substance has “been demonstrated as an effective treatment for epilepsy,” and that there exists “preliminary evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions,” including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and psychosis.

    While authors acknowledge that the “unsanctioned medical use of CBD” oils and extracts is relatively common, they affirm, “[T]here is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

    The World Health Organization is in the process of considering whether to place CBD within the agency’s international drug scheduling code. In September, NORML submitted written testimony to the US Food and Drug Administration in opposition to the enactment of new international restrictions regarding CBD access. The FDA is one of a number of agencies advising WHO in their final review.

    Full text of the preliminary report appears online here. The full text of NORML’s written testimony appears here.

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