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NORML Blog

  • by NORML June 29, 2018

    Vermont Legalizes MarijuanaAdults in Vermont will be able to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis legally under state law, beginning this Sunday, July 1.

    Vermont joins Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington in legalizing the adult possession and use of marijuana. It is the first state to enact legalization via an act of the legislature rather than by the passage of a voter initiative.

    “The majority of Vermonters, like the majority of the American public, desire to live in a community where responsible adults who choose to consume cannabis are no longer criminalized or stigmatized,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Vermont lawmakers and Gov. Scott are to be recognized for responding to the will of the voters, rather than choosing to ignore them.”

    He added: “Vermont is leading by example. Lawmakers in other states would be wise to follow.”

    The new law, which Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed in January, legalizes activities by adults specific to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, and with regard to the private cultivation of six marijuana plants (two mature and up to four immature). Those who cultivate marijuana for their own personal use may possess at home the total quantity of their harvest. The measure also imposes new civil penalties for consuming cannabis while driving, and imposes additional penalties for those who operate a motor vehicle impaired with a minor in the vehicle. (Read a summary of the new law here.)

    “This is a libertarian approach,” Gov. Scott said prior to signing the bill into law. “I know there are diverse opinions … as to whether we should move forward, but I still firmly believe that what you do in your own home should be your business, as long as it doesn’t affect someone else.”

    Over 20 percent of the US population now resides in jurisdictions where adult marijuana use is legal under state law. To date, the enactment of these policies has not been associated with any significant upticks in either crime, adolescent marijuana use, or motor vehicle accidents. Earlier this month, Canada’s Parliament passed legislation legalizing the use, cultivation, and retail sale of marijuana by those age 18 and older. That new law takes effect on October 17, 2018.

    According to nationwide polling data published last week, 68 percent of US voters – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – support legalizing and regulating the use of marijuana by adults. That percentage is the highest level of support ever reported in a nationwide scientific poll.

  • by NORML June 27, 2018

    Senator Chuck Schumer introduces the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with Senators Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine, and Tammy Duckworth, just introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.  

    Passage of descheduling legislation is necessary to resolve the existing and ever-growing state/federal divide over marijuana policy. Thirty-one states regulate medical marijuana use and nine states regulate the plant’s use, production, and sale for all adults.

    Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” and 73% support expunging the records of those previously convicted of marijuana-related offenses. according to national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress.

    Click here to send a message to your Senators and encourage their support for the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act. 

    Commenting on the bill’s introduction, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:

    “The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is comprehensive legislation that would end our nation’s failed 80-year prohibition of marijuana and allow states to implement reforms free from the threat of federal interference.”

    “The importance of this bill’s emphasis on facilitating the expungement the criminal records of individuals for marijuana possession cannot be overstated. Millions of individuals have suffered from the lifelong collateral consequences of criminal prohibition, making it harder for them to find a job, obtain housing, and access higher education.”

    “This bill is a welcomed shift of policy from Democratic party leadership. At a time when 68 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, including outright majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent), it is time for ending federal prohibition to become a truly bipartisan issue.”

    Senator Schumer said upon the bill’s introduction:

    “The time to decriminalize marijuana is now,” said Senator Schumer. “The new Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is about giving states the freedom to be the laboratories that they should be and giving Americans – especially women and minority business owners as well as those convicted of simple possession of marijuana intended for personal use- the opportunity to succeed in today’s economy. This legislation is simply the right thing to do and I am hopeful that the balanced approach it takes can earn bipartisan support in Congress and across the country.”

    Click here to send a message to your Senators and encourage their support for the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act. 

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director

    Representative Jared Polis, who was endorsed by NORML PAC, scored a resounding victory in Colorado’s Democratic primary for governor.

    The results from the Democratic gubernatorial primary are not just a victory for Jared Polis and supporters of sensible marijuana policy, they are a victory for anyone who believes that our prohibition on marijuana is a failure and that states should be free to set their own policies when it comes to cannabis, free from federal incursion. Jared Polis has been the preeminent champion for ending our nation’s failed federal prohibition on marijuana while in Congress and an unrelenting force in standing up for Colorado’s legalization and medical marijuana laws. Just as he has always stood and fought by our side against federal prohibition, we will continue to fight for Jared Polis until he takes his rightful place in the governor’s mansion.

    Upon receiving our endorsement, Polis stated, “I’ve been proud to lead the fight for cannabis reform in Congress, and NORML has been an incredibly valuable partner in that effort, Here in Colorado, we’ve proven that legal cannabis creates jobs; funds schools, not cartels; and boosts our economy, not our prison population, and I look forward to growing this industry. It’s an honor to have NORML’s endorsement, and I will proudly stand with them against Jeff Sessions or anyone else who tries to come after legal cannabis in Colorado.”

    To learn more about Jared’s campaign and find out how you can help him win in November CLICK HERE.

  • by NORML June 26, 2018

    Sooner state is the 31st state to legalize and regulate medical cannabis access

    A majority of Oklahomans today voted to enact State Question 788 a statewide voter-initiated measure that permits doctors to use their discretion to recommend medical cannabis to those patients who will benefit from it. Oklahoma is now the 31st state to legalize and regulate the use of medical cannabis under state law.

    “Public support for medical marijuana access is non-partisan,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Even in a predominantly ‘red’ state like Oklahoma, it is the will of the voters to enact common sense, yet significant marijuana law reforms.”

    He continued, “The ongoing expansion of compassionate medical marijuana in states like Oklahoma places additional pressure upon Congress to take action to end this existing state/federal conflict. It is time for members to move forward with legislation like The States Act or The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would allow states the flexibility and autonomy to regulate cannabis as best they see fit — free from the looming threat of undue federal intervention.”

    State Question 788 permits licensed medical marijuana patients to cultivate up to six mature plants and to possess personal use quantities of marijuana flowers, edibles, or infused concentrates. It also establishes a regulatory framework for the retail production and dispensing of medical cannabis at licensed facilities. The full text of SQ 788 is available online here.

    Oklahoma voters endorsed the plan despite organized opposition from law enforcement, political leaders, and other groups. Opponents of the measure spent an estimated $500,000 in the final week of the campaign on an advertising blitz that falsely claimed that “SQ 788 was not about medical marijuana,” a mischaracterization that was previously determined to be purposely misleading as by the state Supreme Court.

    “It is our hope that Oklahoma politicians will respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact SQ 788 in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law,” NORML’s Armentano said.

    Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, who publicly opposed SQ 788, said that she intends to call lawmakers back for a special session to address the passage of SQ 788. Proposed rules and regulation regarding the implementation of SQ 788, drafted by the Oklahoma Department of Health, appears online here.

    Under existing Oklahoma laws, the possession of any amount of cannabis is classified as a criminal offense — punishable by up to a year in prison. Engaging in cannabis cultivation or sales may be punishable by up to life in prison. According to a study released earlier this month, Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is 1,079 per 100,000 people — the highest rate in the United States.  

  • by NORML June 25, 2018

    Regulators at the US Food and Drug Administration today granted market approval for Epidiolex, a prescription medicine containing a standardized formulation of plant-derived cannabidiol (CBD), for the explicit treatment of two rare forms of severe epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

    The FDA’s decision was not unexpected, as the proprietary extract formulation — developed by the British biotechnology firm GW Pharmaceuticals — had previously demonstrated safety and clinical efficacy at reducing seizure frequency in several placebo-controlled trials. Epidiolex had previously received Fast Track Designation and Orphan Drug Status from the FDA. It is the fourth marijuana-based medicine to receive US FDA approval — joining dronabinol (aka Marinol), nabilone (aka Cesamet), and liquid synthetic THC (aka Syndros). However, Epidiolex is the first FDA-approved medicine containing plant-derived, non-synthetic cannabinoids.

    Commenting on the agency’s decision, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The FDA’s approval of this plant-derived medicine provides an additional option to patients seeking the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. However, it remains to be seen whether physicians will be comfortable prescribing this new agent to those patients who may benefit from it, and whether it will be priced in a range that patients may afford.” According to the New York Times, analysts expect Epidiolex to cost $2,500 to $5,000 a month.

    He added: “We anticipated that Epidiolex will be the first of many potential FDA-approved medicines based on the cannabis plant. Nonetheless, these alternatives should not be regulated as options to replace the use and regulation of herbal cannabis — a product that humans have used safely and effectively as a medicine for thousands of years and is approved today by statute in 30 states.”

    Federal agencies have 90 days to determine the scheduling of Epidiolex. The new drug is anticipated to become available to patients later this fall. In clinical trials, patients administered Epidiolex, on average, obtained a 40 percent reduction in seizure frequency.

    Lennox-Gaustaut syndrome is estimated to account for between one and four percent of all cases of childhood epilepsy. Dravet syndrome is estimated to effect about 1 in 40,000 people.

    Despite today’s approval, the FDA acknowledged in a statement that the cannabidinoid CBD still remains classified at this time as a schedule I controlled substance, and that the agency is “prepared to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with serious, unproven medical claims.” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb further added: “This is the approval of one specific CBD medication for a specific use. … [T]his is not an approval of marijuana or all of its components.”

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