• 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.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator October 18, 2015

    Every day NORML affiliates and chapters around the country pour countless hours into contacting representatives, hosting events, and talking to voters, all with the hope of passing meaningful marijuana reforms on the local, state and federal level! In an effort to highlight their hard work and accomplishments, we will feature their stories on NORML.org and promote the content through our social media channels.

    State and Local

    California NORML urges medical marijuana businesses to embrace new regulations by registering with California’s Board of Equalization and securing permits from local governments.
    California Reacts to New Medical Cannabis Regulations

    MassCann/NORML’s “Bay State Repeal Proposal”, a measure aimed at legalizing marijuana in 2016, was well received at this year’s Boston Freedom Rally. Volunteers worked hard gathering signatures over the weekend.
    Canna Culture Column: MassCann’s Freedom Rally on the Common

    Wyoming NORML utilizes both traditional and nontraditional tactics to push for medical marijuana in the Cowboy State! With just 26,000 signatures needed for their initiative to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, everyone is working overtime to get the job done.
    How Receptive are Teton County Residents to Legalizing Weed?

    Mid-Missouri NORML is leading an effort along with MU Students for Sensible Drug Policy and MU NORML to decriminalize the growing of marijuana in Columbia, Missouri. With only 2,567 signatures needed, volunteers are excited to get started!
    Local Petition Seeks to Decriminalize Growing up to Six Marijuana Plants

    Enthusiasm for legalization in Missouri is at an all time high as Springfield NORML, Show-Me Cannabis and New Approach Missouri ramp up their signature gathering campaign!
    Marijuana Petition Campaigns Kicking Off in the Ozarks

    After serving 22 years for the possession of marijuana, Jeff Mizanskey stopped by Springfield NORML to share some of the personal struggles he’s dealing with after spending a ? of his life behind bars.
    Mizanskey Visits Springfield After Prison Release

    Dale Gieringer, executive director of California NORML, shared his thoughts on the lack of banking opportunities for California’s soon to be legal marijuana industry and tried to dispel any fears about a new administration heavily enforcing federal marijuana laws.
    New Regulations Don’t clear all the hurdles for pot dispensaries

    Illinois NORML urged legislators to adopt new language for HB 218 that would have drastically reduced penalties for the possession of marijuana. Lawmakers ultimately passed the bill, but only after they increased some of the penalties defined in the bill.
    Senate Return Delayed but Little For it to Do

    Last week, national marijuana reform groups parted ways with Reform CA, California’s broadest based marijuana reform coalition. Dale Gieringer, executive director of California NORML, continues to vow his organization’s unwavering support for what he feels is a, “superior product”.
    Trouble in La La Land: Late Divisions Emerge Among California Legalization Initiative Supporters

    As things begin to heat up in the final weeks of the 2015 elections, Virginia NORML decided to jump in the fight for Virginia’s 24th House District by endorsing Ellen Arthur for House of Delegates.
    Virginia NORML endorses Ellen Arthur in 24th District House race


    Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, sat down with ATTN: to discuss what impact, if any, marijuana will have on the 2016 election. With conflicting data related to turnout in 2012 and 2014, it’s hard to predict if the youth vote will be a factor.
    Marijuana Could Change the 2016 Election


    DFW NORML marijuana march, October 17, Dallas

    Virginia 2015 Cannabis Conference, October 17, Richmond

    NORML of Waco Halloween party, October 30, Waco

    Missouri NORML fall conference, November 7, St. Louis

    High Times Cannabis Cup, November 12-15, Jamaica

    NORML’s Legal Seminar, December 3-5, Key West

    Kevin Mahmalji is NORML’s national outreach and chapter coordinator

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director October 16, 2015

    map_leafWhile the Presidential candidates clarify their marijuana-centric positions and voters in one state (Ohio) prepare to decide on legalizing the plant, state and federal lawmakers continue to move forward with legislative reforms. Here’s a look at some recent, pending legislative developments.

    To support the measures below, please use our #TakeAction Center to contact your state and federal elected officials! A full list and summary of pending state and federal legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.

    New Federal Bill Introduced:

    Washington Congresswoman Suzan DelBene is sponsoring H.R. 3746, the State Marijuana and Regulatory Tolerance (SMART) Enforcement Act, to protect medical patients, recreational consumers, and licensed businesses in states that regulate marijuana. Under this proposal, the US federal Controlled Substances Act would no longer be inapplicable in states that have legalized and regulated marijuana in a manner that addresses key federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors and drug-induced impaired driving.

    State Legislative Developments:

    California:  Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a legislative package of bills that seek to provide statewide regulations for California’s medical cannabis industry.

    The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which consists of three separate bills (Assembly Bill 266, Assembly Bill 243, and Senate Bill 643), creates a new state agency within the Department of Consumer Affairs to develop rules and licensing procedures for authorized medical cannabis dispensaries. Dispensaries must be compliant with local guidelines prior to receiving a state license. State-licensed dispensaries will be permitted to operate on a ‘for profit’ basis. However, the new regulations will not override existing municipal moratoriums, nor will they prohibit the collection of local sales taxes on marijuana purchases in communities that presently impose them.

    Separate language in the Act seeks to regulate the licensed production of cannabis and imposes rules in regard to growing, testing, and labeling cannabis like other agricultural products. The Act also seeks to provide additional oversight to physicians who recommend cannabis therapy. However, it does not limit physicians from recommending cannabis at their own discretion – activity that is codified under Proposition 215/the Compassionate Use Act.

    The new law takes effect on January 1, 2016. However, regulations imposed by the new law are not expected until early 2017.State licensing is anticipated to begin in early 2018.

    Illinois: House members are considering House Bill 4276, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, to permit those over the age of 21 to legally possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and/or to engage in the home cultivation of marijuana for non-commercial purposes (up to eight plants at any one time.) Adults would be permitted to possess the full harvest from their plants and would not be subject to any taxation or commercial fees for engaging in home cultivation. Existing criminal penalties involving the possession or cultivation of marijuana above these limits would also be significantly reduced under this measure.

    Michigan: House members recently amended and passed legislation to expand Michigan’s existing medical marijuana law.

    House Bill 4209 would license and regulate above-ground, safe access facilities for state-qualified patients seeking medical marijuana. Previously, lawmakers wanted to impose a special 8 percent excise tax on dispensary-related income; however, following the objections of advocates who argued that the imposition of additional fees would drive many patients to the black market, this proposed tax now been lowered to 3 percent.

    House Bill 4210  would provide qualified patients legal protections for their use of non-smoked cannabis derived topicals and edibles, as well as cannabis-based extract products. Lawmakers also passed a third bill, HB 4827, which seeks to establish regulations tracking the production and sale of medical marijuana products.

    This package of bills now goes before the Senate Judiciary committee for consideration.

    Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!

    ** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 15, 2015

    voteFifty-six percent of registered Ohio voters say that they will vote ‘yes’ this November on Issue 3, the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, according to newly released WKYC/Kent State Polling data.

    Sixty-seven percent of registered Democrats and 50 percent of Independents told pollsters that they endorse the measure. Sixty-five percent of Republicans oppose it.

    Only ten percent of voters remain undecided on the issue. The WKYC/Kent State poll possesses a +/- 4 percent margin of error.

    The measure would initially establish 10 state-licensed commercial growing sites and commercially produced cannabis would be sold at over 1,000 proposed retail dispensaries. The measure also permits adults to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis (up to four plants yielding no more than 8 ounces of usable product at any one time) at home.

    State lawmakers opposed to the plan have placed a competing measure, Issue 2, on the November 3 ballot that seeks to prohibit state regulators from permitting the limited production of “any Schedule I controlled substance.” If voters approved both measures, Issue 2 states that the “entire proposed constitutional [marijuana] amendment shall not take effect.” According to the WKYC/Kent State poll, 54 percent of registered voters — including 57 percent of those who say that they also support Issue 3 — say that they intend to vote in favor of Issue 2.

    Twenty-six percent of Ohio voters are undecided on the measure.

    If both competing measure are passed by voters, it will likely be up to the courts to decide which initiative takes precedence.

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