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NORML Blog

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 22, 2015

    Michele LeonhartDrug Enforcement Administration head Michele Leonhart is stepping down, US Attorney General Eric Holder has confirmed.

    Members of the US House Oversight Committee gave Leonhart a vote of “no confidence” last week after an Office of the Inspector General report revealed that senior DEA officials had participated in sex parties arranged by Colombian drug cartels and had also received weapons and cash from cartel members. None of the agents involved were fired by director Leonhart.

    Michele Leonhart began serving as the agency’s acting director in November 2007 before being confirmed as DEA administrator in 2010.

    Leonhart had consistently taken a hardline stance against any change in marijuana policy. Early in her tenure she oversaw dozens of federal raids on medical marijuana providers and producers in states that had legalized the plant. She set aside a verdict from the agency’s own administrative law judge that sought to expand and facilitate clinical research into marijuana as a medicine and she rejected an administrative petition calling for marijuana rescheduling hearings. She openly criticized remarks made by the President acknowledging cannabis’ relative safety compared to alcohol, and criticized the administration’s efforts to allow states to implement limited regulatory schemes for the retail production and sale of cannabis to adults. In public testimony, Leonhart refused to acknowledge whether she believed that crack cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin posed greater risks to health than marijuana — instead opining, “All illegal drugs are bad.”

    Ms. Leonhart also actively opposed hemp law reform during her time as DEA director. She criticized a decision to fly a hempen flag over the Capitol, saying it was “her lowest point in 33 years in the DEA.” Last year, her agency unlawfully seized 250 pounds of legal hemp seeds destined for Kentucky’s state Agricultural Department.

    Always a true believer in the drug war no matter what the costs, in 2009 she described increased southern border violence as a sign of the “success” of her agency’s anti-drug strategies.

    Michele Leonhart is expected to leave the agency in mid-May.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    Majority Of Americans Back Legalizing MarijuanaThe majority of Americans say that marijuana is safer than alcohol and believe that its use should be legal, according to nationwide polling data compiled by CBS News.

    Fifty-three percent of respondents answered ‘yes’ to the question, “Should marijuana use be legal?” That is the highest level of support ever recorded by CBS pollsters since they began posing the question in 1979. Forty-three percent of respondents opposed legalization.

    Males, younger voters, and Democrats were most likely to support marijuana’s legalization. Seventy-four percent of those who acknowledged having tried marijuana said that the plant ought to be legalized, compared to just 35 percent who have never used it.

    The majority of respondents (51 percent) agreed that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol. Only 12 percent of respondents said they believed that marijuana was more harmful than booze, while 28 percent said that both substances were equally harmful.

    Forty-three percent of respondents acknowledged having consumed marijuana, an increase of nine percent since 1997. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that it would not matter to them if a Presidential candidate admitted having tried it.

    On the question of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, 84 percent of respondents supported allowing physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to their patients.

    The CBS News poll is the latest in a series of national surveys showing majority support for legalizing and regulating marijuana.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 21, 2015

    The administration of oral cannabis extracts is associated with the mitigation of seizures in adolescents with epilepsy, according to clinical data published this month in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior.

    Researchers from the Colorado Children’s Hospital in Denver performed a retrospective chart review of 75 children provided cannabis extracts. Authors reported that 57 percent of subjects showed some level of improvement in seizure control while 33 percent reported a greater than 50 percent reduction in seizure frequency.

    Researchers also reported “improved behavior/alertness” in one-third of subjects and improved motor skills in ten percent of treated patients. Adverse events were reported in 44 percent of subjects, 13 percent of which reported increased seizure activity. Overall, however, authors concluded that the extracts were “well tolerated by children.”

    Separate clinical trial results publicized last week at the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology reported that the administration of a proprietary form of CBD (cannabidiol) extracts decreased seizure frequency by 54 percent over a 12-week period in children with treatment-resistant epilepsy.

    Survey data compiled by Stanford University in 2013 reported that the administration of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis decreased seizures in 16 of 19 patients with pediatric epilepsy.

    Last February, the Epilepsy Foundation of America enacted a resolution in support of the “rights of patients and families living with seizures and epilepsy to access physician directed care, including medical marijuana.”

    An abstract of the study, “Parental reporting of response to oral cannabis extracts for treatment of refractory epilepsy,” appears online here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director

    #FreePotPrisoners

    Our friends at High Times have launched a new campaign to call national attention to the next logical step in the country’s progression towards marijuana legalization: Freeing America’s Pot Prisoners

    While the federal government has relaxed its stance on marijuana, allowing states to implement their own laws and no longer prosecuting businesses running in accordance with these laws, the status of those persecuted under old laws remains ignored. High Times’ petition calls for a rectification between the United States’ past marijuana laws and the current situation.norml_remember_prohibition2

    “President Obama recently commuted 20-odd prisoners serving life for a first time drug offense,” says CEO of Trans High Corporation and volunteer lawyer for “Lifers for Pot” Michael Kennedy. “Nineteen of them were convicted of coke and meth crimes… clearly much more serious misdeeds than pot dealing, but the big O only commuted one marijuana lifer. While we at High Times totally support these commutations, we have to press the President to look more closely at our Lifers For Pot and free them forthwith!”

    The petition urges Attorney General Holder, as well as the Attorney General Designate, to recommend for the immediate release of all non-violent marijuana offenders and to provide new sentencing guidelines to give law enforcement other options besides imprisoning non-violent offenders. In 2013, 693,482 people were arrested for a marijuana law violation and of those, 609,423 (88 percent) were charged only with possession.

    Even in California, where marijuana prisoners are beginning to be released, 482 non-violent marijuana offenders remain in prison, which is not only a high human cost but a huge cost to taxpayers. For this reason, High Times is soliciting Attorney General Kamala Harris to act as an example for the other 49 states by immediately releasing these prisoners and recommending alternatives to incarceration for the use, sale, and cultivation of marijuana.

    Some non-violent marijuana prisoners, such as Antonio Bascaró and Jeff Mizanskey, have been imprisoned for non-violent offenses for much of their lives. Both fear perishing in prison without seeing a country swept with marijuana reform. High Times hopes this petition can change the fates of these two men and the others still imprisoned for non-violent marijuana crimes.

    Recreational marijuana is now legal in four states and the District of Columbia, medical use is legal in 24 others and 58 percent of Americans are in favor of legalized, regulated marijuana. This change in American perspective on marijuana, High Times argues, is the exact reason why non-violent offenders should be released.

    High Times’ petition is found at http://bit.ly/420Freedom.

    Signers are asked to spread word of the petition using #FreePotPrisoners across social media.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel April 20, 2015

    It's 420 Again! Let's Proudly Celebrate!

    As Joe Cocker famously pleaded in 1969 at Woodstock, "Let’s go get stoned."

    Happy 4/20 to marijuana smokers throughout the land. Today is our annual holiday, an occasion to celebrate all things related to marijuana and marijuana smoking.

    I am delighted to be spending my day at the High Times Denver Cannabis Cup, the largest of all the cannabis celebrations each April 20th, where NORML has a booth each year, and where we have the opportunity to meet and greet thousands of other marijuana aficionados. If you are in Denver, please do stop by our booth today and introduce yourself.

    Legalizing marijuana is serious business, and it requires the cumulative, ongoing effort of thousands of hard-working, committed citizen-activists to end prohibition and change state and federal policies that have been in place for more than 75 years. More than 700,000 Americans continue to be arrested each year on marijuana charges, needlessly damaging the lives and careers of these otherwise law-abiding citizens who prefer to smoke marijuana when they relax in the evening, just as millions of other Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine when they relax. And certainly the need to stop arresting responsible marijuana smokers must remain our top priority.

    Continue reading at marijuana.com »

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