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NORML Blog

  • by NORML May 17, 2018

    Medical marijuanaToday, the House appropriations committee for the first time heard and passed language, known as the Joyce amendment, to restrict funding for the Department of Justice to prosecute state-legal medical marijuana programs.

    “Today marks a victory for medical marijuana programs and a loss for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Passage of this amendment through regular order in the appropriations committee represents another big step in the normalization of state level marijuana reform in the Congress of the United States,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal

    Previously, the amendment had not gone through the committee process and was inserted into the appropriations bill on the floor of the House, yet was blocked in 2017 by Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a militant marijuana prohibitionist. The amendment was offered by Representative David Joyce (R-OH).

    “States have clearly taken a lead on the access to medical marijuana for those suffering from severe pain looking for options other than opioids. I think it’s time we cut through the federal red tape for those 46 states, like Ohio, who have on some level legalized the medical use of cannabis. This gives the states more freedom to provide for their suffering citizens,” said Mr. Joyce upon the passage of his amendment.

    “We thank Representative Joyce for his leadership to protect the 46 states that have reformed their marijuana policies and the over 2 million patients that they serve,” said Strekal.

    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, previously known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, 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.”

    Last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a letter to Congressional leadership to remove these restrictions, writing: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

    According to recently released nationwide survey data, the majority of Americans are on our side. A whopping 94 percent support the medical use of marijuana. Perhaps most importantly, 70 percent of voters — including strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.”

    To send a message to your Representative in support of maintaining these protections, click here.

  • by David Holland, Executive Director of Empire State NORML

    In a surprise joint press conference, Cyrus Vance Jr. and Eric Gonzalez, the respective District Attorneys of Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York City, both announced that with limited exception low-level marijuana-related offenses would no longer be prosecuted.  Both cited a six-month-long study that revealed that there was no discernible impact upon issues of public health and safety by ending the prosecution of these minor cannabis offenses.  The positive side of this new policy is the discontinuance of the persecution of communities predominated by people of color who have been disproportionately arrested and prosecuted for these low-level cannabis offenses.  As such, both District Attorneys publicly vowed that as of August 1, 2018, they would no longer prosecute low-level marijuana possession and consumption cases.    The talismanic significance of that delayed date is unknown as New York City needs this program implemented now, not weeks from now.

    This new approach comes on the heels of past mayoral pledges that sought to relax enforcement policies.  Until recent years, an individual caught smoking marijuana was required to be arrested and processed through the system resulting in criminal misdemeanor charges. Often the amount of time elapsing between arrest and arraignment would be anywhere from 12-24 hours or more before a defendant would be produced before the court to answer the charges.  Many of those charged with a cannabis misdemeanor would nonetheless have their cases effectively dismissed by moving under the Penal Law for an “ACD” which meant that the defendant’s case would be adjourned in contemplation of dismissal provided that they not be rearrested during a 6-month post-arraignment period.  The costs for in man hours and salaries to pursue even a single soon to be dismissed arrest was staggering.

    Under Mayors Bloomberg and DeBlasio the process was significantly truncated where an individual would be arrested and processed at the police precinct and released with a “DAT” which was a desk appearance ticket advising the defendant to show up in court on a particular day in the future and answer the charges. Those DAT cases most often resulted in ACD status meaning that there was no criminal conviction for the defendant and the arrest would be stricken from their record after the probationary period of time.  But, it appears that prosecution approach was not equally applied to people of color who were still disproportionately arrested and given DATs even though the statistics show that marijuana use is relatively equal across all ethnicities.  It is this continued evident disparity that has prompted the pronouncement of the District Attorneys.

    In a subsequent interview with a reporter at NY-1 news station, Cyrus Vance Jr., the DA for Manhattan, stated in sum and substance that the criminal prosecution of cannabis was essentially futile because there was no further intervention by the legal system which would otherwise admonish or assist the criminal defendant who’s case would eventually be dismissed in any event.

    Under the new policy, the individual arrested would be issued a summons for a violation which is not a crime and the punishment being a monetary fine and/or a maximum of 15 days in jail rather than the 1 year period for a criminal misdemeanor conviction for cannabis.

    While this is definitely a positive development it still waits to be seen if this new policy is applied more fairly and equally regarding people of color.  As the goal of the violation is for the city to not to continue to incur the expenses of futile criminal prosecutions, it is the goal of the city by means of violations to fill its coffers with monies collected from fines.  These are monies that would not otherwise be collected during the course of a criminal prosecution resulting in an ACD.

    It will only be a matter of time to review the statistics to determine if people of color are finally be treated more fairly and equally in the newly proclaimed cannabis friendly administrations.

    David Holland, Esq is the Executive and Legal Director of Empire State NORML in New York. You can visit their website by clicking here and follow them on Facebook and Twitter

     

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 15, 2018

    In testimony before Congress last week, by DEA acting administrator Robert Patterson opined that the medicalization of cannabis is exacerbating opioid abuse. But when prompted to provide evidence in support of the agency’s position, he acknowledged that he could not. Further, he denied being aware of any evidence — including recent, well-publicized studies by the US National Academy of Sciences and others — indicating that cannabis mitigates pain or that its legal access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related mortality.

    I summarize this mind-boggling exchange in my recent Hill op-ed, which is excerpted below

    Specifically, when asked by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz if the DEA was aware of the landmark 2017 National Academy of Sciences study finding, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis [is] effective for the treatment for chronic pain,” Patterson answered that he was not.

    He further acknowledged that he was unfamiliar with several state-specific, longitudinal studies, such as those from Minnesota and New Mexico, finding that chronic pain patients who register to partake in cannabis therapy dramatically decrease their use of opioids and other pain-relieving drugs. (Separate assessments of state-authorized medical cannabis patients in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and elsewhere affirm these conclusions).

    He further claimed ignorance with regard to the findings of a highly publicized study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finding that medical cannabis regulation is associated with year-over-year declines in overall opioid-related mortality, including heroin overdose deaths.

    Moreover, when pressed to provide evidence — any evidence — in support of the DEA’s questionable position, Patterson readily admitted that he knew of none. In fact, upon further questioning, he acknowledged that the DEA has, to date, never even so much as reviewed the issue. He further suggested that those patients seeking an alternative to opioid analgesics may wish to try “Tylenol.”

    The testimony concluded:

    Rep. Gaetz: “You’re the acting administrator of the DEA. You cannot cite a single study that indicates that medical marijuana creates a greater challenge with opioids, and you’re unaware of the studies, including studies from the National Academies of Sciences, that demonstrate that medical marijuana can be an acceptable alternative to opioids. Is that what I’m understanding?”

    Robert Patterson: “Yes.”

    To read the entire op-ed, please click the link here.

    To watch a video of this exchange, as archived by MarijuanaMoment.net, please click here.

  • by Matthew Maulding, Executive Director, NORML of Catawba Valley May 14, 2018

    North Carolina NORML along with several other pro-cannabis organizations recently organized the Tar Heel State’s largest pro-cannabis march in recent memory. There were people from across the state, and even some long time residents that had to move to a state that allows them to medicate the way they want, despite having a majority of their families here.

    On April 20th, we saw the biggest push for reform at a federal level ever by North Carolinians. North Carolina NORML along with veterans, people with disabilities, and folks from all walks of life were able to come together and march in solidarity with one another.

    The cannabis movement has been stagnant in North Carolina, at best. There is a great divide in supporters who are ready for any small step, even if that means giving up their right to grow their own or even to medicate with “flower” or bud. Other supporters within the state have a sense that if they settle for “extract only” laws or laws that restrict growing rights, that they will not be able to get those rights added in later.

    To see fractions of the movement come together for this event is enormously satisfying. Under new leadership, North Carolina NORML has began turning up the heat and focused on getting people involved. We understand that people need to be constantly involved otherwise they get bored and move on. We need to make sure everyone is engaged, and informed , and that is what we have done, and will continue to do.

    In addition to the 4/20 march which focused on an end to marijuana prohibition federally, we also took part in the Global Marijuana March on May 5th and have held monthly public meetings across the state to increase visibility and to give people an opportunity to start their own chapter. To continue the fight, North Carolina NORML is hosting its first Lobby Day next Tuesday, May 22, 2018, where members will be focused on inviting supporters of marijuana law reform efforts to educate lawmakers (RSVP HERE).

    If you are a North Carolina voter, look forward to a voter guide on NC NORML’s website to help you choose candidates in the general election who favor (or not) and will sponsor bills if elected. Incumbents also have a chance to show supporters’ what they have sponsored or co-sponsored in the past. Reform is coming for North Carolina, and we refuse to be the last state to do so.

    For more info, please call 828-455-8203 or email commdirector@ncnorml.org. You can also follow North Carolina NORML on FaceBook and Twitter!

  • by Jenn Michelle Pedini, NORML Development Director May 11, 2018

    NORML Aspen Legal Seminar

    We’re just a few weeks away from NORML’s annual Aspen Legal Seminar at the beautiful Gant Hotel. We hope you’ll join us there to enjoy a taste of freedom and connect with professionals committed to establishing industry best practices that are consumer-friendly and promote social justice. Network with leading criminal defense and cannabusiness attorneys who’ll share expert advice in federal and state marijuana laws. Indulge in a delicious meal by critically acclaimed chef Chris Lanter of Cache Cache restaurant at the NORML Benefit Dinner hosted by Chris and Gerry Goldstein.

    RESERVE YOUR SPACE TODAY

    If you haven’t already, please take a moment to share the event with your networks.

    Link to share: https://norml.org/about/events/aspen-legal-seminar

    Sample language for attendees:

    Join me in Colorado for NORML’s Aspen Legal Seminar. Get expert advice from the best and the brightest in cannabis law while enjoying the sweet taste of freedom. Attorneys earn CLEs. You don’t want to miss this!

    General sample language:

    NORML’s Aspen Legal Seminar is just a few weeks away. Get expert advice from the best and the brightest in cannabis law while enjoying the sweet taste of freedom. Attorneys earn CLEs. You don’t want to miss this!

    NORML Aspen Legal Semnar

    If you can’t join us this year, please consider a tax-deductible donation to the NORML Foundation in support of NORML’s work reforming marijuana laws. Click here to make a contribution.

    As always, thank you for your continued support and dedication to NORML’s mission. Looking forward to seeing you in Aspen!

    GET YOUR TICKETS HERE

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