• by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator October 24, 2015

    Beginning on Monday, October 26, 2015, NORML Affiliates and Chapters from across the country will begin contacting their representatives to urge them to support one of the seventeen marijuana-related bills introduced since the 114th Congress convened on January 3, 2015.

    NORML Letter Writing Campaign and ContestOver the past few months, NORML Affiliates and Chapters have demonstrated their ability to mobilize thousands of marijuana advocates from around the country so we hope all of you will join us in making this a successful campaign!

    Project: NORML Congressional Letter Writing Campaign and Contest

    Who: NORML Affiliates and Chapters

    When: Monday, October 26, 2015 through Tuesday, November 3, 2015

    Summary: Letter campaign targeting members of the House and Senate requesting their immediate support of pending marijuana-related legislation. We encourage the use of handwritten letters and emails.

    Target Legislation:

    CARERS Act

    Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act

    Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act

    Fair Access to Education Act

    State Marijuana and Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act

    Contest: We’re excited to announce that we have partnered with High Times to offer a pair of Cannabis Cup tickets to two lucky winners who participate in our campaign! By offering a contest, we hope to create some additional excitement around our 2015 Congressional Letter Writing Campaign, and in return, drive participation and engagement.

    To enter, contact at least two of your three representatives using NORML’s Action Center by clicking one of the five bills listed above or simply use one of our templates that can be found here. Then, take a picture of your letter and post it to your Facebook or Twitter page using the #ActNORML hashtag so we know you’re participating in the campaign! Once the campaign comes to an end at 7PM MST on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, a random winner will be selected from Facebook and Twitter.

    For more details about the contest, please click here for our Official Contest Rules!

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

    Budgetary provisions enacted by Congress in 2014 forbid the Justice Department from taking action against medical marijuana providers who are operating in compliance with state law, a federal judge for the northern district of California determined earlier this week.

    The ruling, issued by US District Court Judge Charles Breyer, rejects the Justice Department’s ‘tortured’ interpretation of the statute (Section 538 of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015) and affirms that the “plain reading” of the law prohibits the federal government from spending funds in a manner that interferes with a state’s ability to authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana. Consequently, the statute forbids the federal government from taking actions that would result in the closure of state-compliant medical cannabis facilities, the Court opined.

    Breyer ruled: “It defies language and logic for the Government to argue that it does not ‘prevent’ California from ‘implementing’ its medical marijuana laws by shutting down these … dispensaries, whether one shuts down one, some, or all. … [C]ontrary to the Government’s representation, the record here does support a finding that Californian’s access to medical marijuana has been substantially impeded by the closing of dispensaries.”

    He added: “[T]he legislative history of Section 538 points in only direction: away from the counter-intuitive and opportunistic meaning the DOJ seeks to ascribe to it now. … [T]he statutory language … is plain on its face [and] the Court must enforce it according to its terms.”

    Breyer’s ruling removes an injunction that had forbidden the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana from operating. The injunction had been in effect since federal officials took action to close down the facility in 2011 as part of a statewide crackdown against dispensary operators.

    Although Section 538 was included as part of a fiscal year 2015 spending bill, the language is expected to be renewed by Congress later this year as part of a FY 2016 appropriations measure.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe that “the use of marijuana should be made legal,” according to nationwide polling data released today by Gallup.

    The percentage ties the highest level of support ever reported by Gallup, and is more than twice the level of support reported in the mid-1990s.

    Younger Americans, Democrats and independents are the most likely to favor legalizing cannabis, while Republicans and Americans over the age of 65 are least likely to do so. Among those poll respondents age 18 to 34, 71 percent endorse legalization. Among respondents age 35 to 49 years of age, 64 percent support legalizing marijuana.

    Gallup Poll: Americans' Views on Legalizing Marijuana

    “Americans’ support for legalizing marijuana is the highest Gallup has measured to date, at 58 percent,” pollsters concluded. “Given the patterns of support by age, that percentage should continue to grow in the future. Younger generations of Americans have been increasingly likely to favor legal use of marijuana as they entered adulthood compared with older generations of Americans when they were the same age decades ago. … Now senior citizens are alone among age groups in opposing pot legalization.

    “These trends suggest that state and local governments may come under increasing pressure to ease restrictions on marijuana use, if not go even further like the states of Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska in making recreational marijuana use completely legal.”

    The 2015 Gallup poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

    Commenting on the latest polling data, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Supporting the status quo — the notion that marijuana and those adults who consume it responsibly ought to be criminalized — is now a fringe position in America. These results ought to embolden campaigning politicians, as well as elected officials, to take a more pronounced stance in favor of legalizing and regulating cannabis in a manner that is consistent with the desires of the majority of their constituents.”

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director October 20, 2015

    legalization_pollLiberal Party candidate Justin Trudeau has defeated incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper to become Canada’s next Prime Minister. Trudeau’s win is expected to usher in a new wave of political priorities, with marijuana legalization nearing the top of the list.

    From the Liberal Party’s website:

    We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.

    Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work. It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug.

    Arresting and prosecuting these offenses is expensive for our criminal justice system. It traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses. At the same time, the proceeds from the illegal drug trade support organized crime and greater threats to public safety, like human trafficking and hard drugs.

    To ensure that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals, we will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.

    We will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code, and create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who provide it to minors, those who operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the new regulatory framework.

    We will create a federal/provincial/territorial task force, and with input from experts in public health, substance abuse, and law enforcement, will design a new system of strict marijuana sales and distribution, with appropriate federal and provincial excise taxes applied.

    In his quest to become Prime Minister, Trudeau actively campaigned on a platform that included taxing and regulating marijuana.

    “What is very clear right now is that Mr. Harper’s current approach is making marijuana too easy to access for our kids, and at the same time funding street crime, organized gangs and gun runners,” Trudeau said.

    The Liberal leader also said he would “work with the provinces to makes sure that the control and regulation of marijuana is done in a way that is responsible.” And he repeatedly stated, “”My focus is on making it more difficult for young people to access it.”

    While a concrete timeline has not been provided as to when Canadians can expect a legal and regulated marijuana market, Trudeau has promised to get to work on the changes “right away”.

    For more information please contact our NORML Canada chapter, here.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel October 19, 2015

    With the 2015 election day only two weeks away, and prodded by our friend Russ Belville at 420 Radio for failing to more enthusiastically embrace Issue 3 in Ohio, this seemed like a good time to take a second look at the measure on the ballot in Ohio to both legalize marijuana for medical purposes and fully legalize marijuana for all adults.

    First, one might justifiably ask the authors of this measure why they would bother with medical marijuana at all. If marijuana is legal for all adults, that includes patients as well as recreational users, and it removes the need for patients to pay a physician to confirm their need for marijuana. With the exception of a small medical use program that would cover those minors who have a legitimate medical need, there is no need for two separate legalization distribution systems.

    But having somewhat duplicative legalization systems, while it may not be efficient, is not a reason to oppose Initiative 3.

    Provisions Limiting Access to the New Market Are Not New

    The reason given by most who claim to support legalization, but who oppose the Ohio proposal, is the reality that the investors who have put up millions of dollars to qualify the initiative for the November ballot also stand to profit handsomely from their investment, by controlling the 10 commercial cultivation centers allowed under this plan. It strikes many of us as inappropriate to build such an economic advantage by a few rich investors into the state’s constitution.

    But as Belville and others (including this author) have noted, several other states that have legalized marijuana (for medical use) have limited entry into the legal industry by placing severe limits on the numbers of licenses that will be permitted, or by requiring such enormous financial investments that ordinary citizens are effectively shut out of the industry. So limiting access to the commercial cultivation centers in the newly legal market would be nothing new, nor should it justify opposing this opportunity to end marijuana prohibition in Ohio. We should focus on ending prohibition, and not get distracted by who will profit from the legal market.

    Why NORML Supported I-502

    In his latest rant, Belville questions why NORML and other pro-legalization organizations would endorse I-502 in Washington state in 2012, which failed to legalize personal cultivation, and included a 5 nanogram per se DUID provision that would leave many smokers unfairly subject to a DUID charge, but would either remain neutral on Issue 3 in Ohio (MPP, ASA and DPA) or tepidly endorse the proposal (NORML).

    The answer to this question is simple: In 2012 marijuana for personal use was illegal in all 50 states, and had been for more than 75 years. It was crucial that some state – any state – show the courage to break the mold and openly defy federal law, as New York and a handful of other states did near the end of alcohol prohibition. For the legalization movement to gain credibility and force our way onto the mainstream political agenda, we had to take legalization out of the theoretical realm and demonstrate that it actually works.

    Our opponents had always claimed that if we legalize marijuana, the sky would fall. Everyone would sit home and get stoned all day; no one would go to work or live an ordinary life; and western civilization as we know it would come to an end (perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the point).

    Of course, we would counter that legalization would stop the senseless arrest and prosecution of otherwise law-abiding citizens who smoke marijuana responsibly, and save enormous amounts of law enforcement resources that could be redirected to fighting serious and violent crime.

    But until we had at least one state with the fortitude to declare itself out of the prohibition game, we had no actual data to validate either position. It was an endless theoretical argument, with no clear winner.

    The approval of legalization in Washington and Colorado in 2012, by giving us these two state laboratories where we could measure the actual impact of legalization, was the game changer that catapulted full legalization into the mainstream political debate, and gave us the measurable evidence that legalization is indeed the solution that most Americans are looking for. And the fears that were stoked by our opponents – of a spike in adolescent marijuana smoking, or carnage on the roads caused by stoned drivers – simply did not materialize. In fact, just the opposite. Adolescent use is slightly down in the legalization states, and there has been no increase in DUID cases.

    We gave our strong support to I-502 in Washington (as well as A-64 in Colorado) even with its limitations, because of the crucial need to demonstrate that a majority of the voters in a state would support full legalization, and that legalization actually works on the ground, with few, if any, unintended consequences. Those first two victories made it possible for our subsequent victories in Alaska and Oregon in 2014, and hopefully many more to follow.


    There. Now I have said it, clearly and unequivocally. Issue 3 in Ohio should be endorsed by all who favor legalization, even with its imperfections. As the NORML board of directors concluded when we endorsed the Ohio proposal, unless the current proposal in Ohio is approved, it will likely be five years or more (perhaps far longer) before marijuana will be legalized in Ohio. Under their current laws, roughly 12,000 Ohioans are arrested on marijuana charges each year. Does anyone really believe we should sit by waiting for a more acceptable version of legalization to magically appear, while another 60,000 to 100,000 smokers are arrested in Ohio?

    In addition, just as the victories in Washington and Colorado were especially significant because they were the first, and opened the door for serious consideration in additional states, it would be an enormous step forward politically to adopt full legalization in Ohio — a large, conservative midwestern state. And it would suddenly put full legalization on the table for serious consideration by many other similarly situated states.

    Its time to legalize in Ohio.

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