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NORML Blog

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 30, 2018

    Democrat Gov. John Carney signed legislation into law today vacating past marijuana convictions.

    Senate Bill 197, which took immediate effect, “provides mandatory expungement eligibility to individuals who were convicted of the possession [of one ounce or less], use or consumption of marijuana prior to Delaware’s decriminalization of these offenses.”

    State lawmakers in 2015 enacted legislation reducing the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis from a criminal act to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest, and no criminal record.

    To be eligible for expungement under the new law, the defendant must have no other criminal convictions on their record.

    In recent years, lawmakers in several states – including Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, and Rhode Island – have enacted similar expungement laws following the passage of either marijuana decriminalization or legalization. In California, legislation providing for mandatory expungement of past marijuana convictions is awaiting the Governor’s signature. An estimated 220,000 cases would be eligible for erasure or a reduction under the proposed law.

    According to a nationwide poll released in June, 73 percent of Americans support the enactment of legislation “to automatically seal the records of individuals convicted of crimes related to the possession of marijuana.”

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    This week, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Congressman Rod Blum (R-IA) announced the Clean Slate Act, HR 6669, along with 22 original cosponsors, to seal the records for marijuana charges one year after the sentence is completed.

    The Clean Slate Act is important legislation that would ease the burden felt by those unjustly suffering the collateral consequences resulting from cannabis prohibition.

    Individuals saddled with a marijuana possession conviction are disproportionately either people of color or at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, and it is essential that they are not held back from being able to obtain employment, housing, access to higher education, and all of the other necessities of being an active participant in their community. Having been arrested for mere marijuana possession does not make one a bad person, but rather a victim of a cruel public policy.

    Click here to send a message to your Representative and encourage them to cosponsor the bill. 

    “One of our roles in reforming our criminal justice system is to reduce recidivism and ensure that citizens re-entering society can lead productive lives and contribute to our economy. Yet, too often, sentences place a scarlet letter on those that have served their time – keeping people and their families trapped in a cycle of lifelong poverty.  For millions of Americans, an arrest or minor record can permanently put owning a home, getting an education, or earning a good-paying job just out of reach,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “The Clean Slate Act would ensure that anyone who has paid their debts and earned a second shot has the opportunity to create a better life and future for themselves. This bill will also help employers fill the over 6.7 million unfilled jobs in our country – a win for our economy and society.”

    “Our criminal justice system is in need of reform. Of the 2.3 million estimated people who are incarcerated in the U.S., over 1.4 million are serving sentences for non-violent offenses. Data shows that over 76% of released inmates have found it difficult or near impossible to find work after serving their sentence,” said Congressman Rod Blum. “The issue is cyclical- if we do not remove barriers and create opportunities for these individuals to re-enter society, we are setting them up to fail. Statistically, these individuals are more likely to fall into habitual crime and end up incarcerated once again without jobs and a support system.”

    Click here to send a message to your Representative and encourage them to cosponsor the bill. 

  • by NORML August 29, 2018

    Shadowy ‘Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee’ Seeks To Derail Past, Future Legislative Reforms

    In reporting made public today by Buzzfeed News:

    “The White House has secretly amassed a committee of federal agencies from across the government to combat public support for marijuana and cast state legalization measures in a negative light, while attempting to portray the drug as a national threat.”

    In response to this revelation, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:

    “These are the death rattles of marijuana prohibition. Those who seek to maintain the oppressive policies of cannabis criminalization are grasping at straws in their effort to undo the public policy progresses that have now been enacted in a majority of states, and that are widely supported by voters of both major political parties.”

    “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a lifelong advocate for the failed policies of the ‘Just Say No’ era — which has resulted in the arrests of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens who possessed personal use amounts of marijuana.”

    “If these bureaucrats possessed any sincerity whatsoever, they would be clamoring to support the recently introduced, bipartisan ‘Marijuana Data Collection Act’, which tasks the National Academy of Sciences to compile an unbiased, comprehensive federal report on the effects of various state experiments with medical and retail marijuana regulation.”

    “In an era where 31 states now regulate marijuana sales and where more six out of ten voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective to try to put this genie back in the bottle. It is high time that members of Congress take action to deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and comport federal law with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”

    — Background and Data —

    We maintain and regularly update our factsheets that address the most common myths and arguments against reform: http://norml.org/marijuana/fact-sheets

    The most commonly used ones are:

    Marijuana and the ‘Gateway Theory’, Marijuana and Psychomotor Impairment, Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrests, Marijuana Regulation and Crime Rates, Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids, Marijuana Regulation: Impact on Health, Safety, Economy, and Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates.

    Thirty-one states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Moreover, an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in the nine states where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally.

    Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.

    Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.

    To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue.

    Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that over 149,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

  • by NORML August 28, 2018

    Today, Berks County District Attorney John Adams announced findings of an investigation into Gregory Longenecker’s death, which occurred as a result of being run over by a bulldozer, and the circumstances leading up to it.

    The bulldozer was carrying a Pennsylvania state trooper in pursuit of Mr. Longenecker, who was suspected to have been cultivating ten marijuana plants in Penn Township, PA. A police helicopter was also used in the search.

    The DA said, “On August 24, 2018, The Berks County Deputy Coroner issued the final death certificate, ruling the death an accidental death. I recognize the sanctity of life above all values. It is very unfortunate that a life was lost and our condolences go out to the Longenecker family. However, I support the actions of the Pennsylvania state police. Their efforts were reasonable and conducted in a safe manner in this situation.”

    NORML questioned law enforcements’ decision to pursue the suspect in such an extreme manner, especially over such a minor offense. You can read NORML’s original statement here.

    In response to today’s announcement, NORML leaders in Pennsylvania said:

    Patrick Nightingale, Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML said, “We are very disappointed in the findings by the District Attorney’s Office in this matter.  Under no circumstances whatsoever can the actions of law enforcement be justified.  This man and his companion were allegedly growing a handful of plants that posed absolutely no risk to anyone.  There were no ‘exigent circumstances’ requiring aggressive law enforcement tactics to protect the public from dangerous fugitives.  These heavy-handed tactics resulted in the death of a man, who likely would have received probation upon conviction.  This sad tragedy demonstrates the need for legalization because wherever cannabis is criminally prohibited some members of law enforcement will find an excuse to run a man over with construction equipment.”

    Lehigh Valley NORML Executive Director Jeff Reidy said, “Today’s disappointing ruling exemplifies once again that some within the criminal justice system still view marijuana as the enemy, and that the power of the badge can be blinding to others. A man is dead because law enforcement made some unnecessary choices in the heat of the moment, when a frightened man fled. There were other means available to track down this man. They had his friend in custody. And was he really a danger to anybody for growing ten marijuana plants? Until we reform our outdated laws, there will be more Greg Longeneckers being chased by law enforcement, over a handful of harmless plants growing in a field or forest. We can end such senseless acts by legalizing cannabis, and allowing homegrows across our state. No one should die for growing a plant that can do so much good!”

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director August 24, 2018

    Every year since 1998 NORML has recognized activists from around the country who are working to advance marijuana law reforms at the local, state and federal level for their outstanding activism, academic study or political and cultural leadership in the field of marijuana policy reform. This year’s awards were presented during NORML’s 2018 Conference and Lobby Day that took place in Washington DC.

    Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award

    The award, named after the late Michael J. Kennedy, the legendary civil rights and criminal defense attorney (and general counsel for High Times magazine from its inception in 1974 until his death in early 2016), was established, with the blessing of the Kennedy family, to honor those individuals who, like Michael Kennedy, dedicate their lives to advancing the cause of social justice in America.

    This year’s award was presented to Michael E. Tigar in recognition of his unwavering commitment to social justice and advancing human rights around the world.

    The inscription on the award reads as follows:

    “To Michael E. Tigar, in recognition of your lifetime commitment to achieving social justice for all people, including especially those without the resources or social standing to achieve justice on their own. Your willingness to speak for the underdog, the disenfranchised and the unpopular, like Michael Kennedy himself, has defined your exemplary personal and professional life.”

    Mr. Tigar was a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law where he helped found the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic and professor emeritus at Duke Law School. Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Tigar also made several trips to South Africa, where he worked with African lawyers who were fighting to end apartheid.

    Outstanding Chapter Award in Recognition of the Important Role Of Volunteer Activists Organized as Local and Regional NORML Chapters in the Fight to Legalize Marijuana

    This year’s Outstanding NORML Chapter Award went to Chicago NORML, an organization that truly hit the ground running. Immediately following the approval of their affiliate application, several board members traveled to Washington DC to attend NORML’s 2017 Conference where they lobbied their members of Congress in support of pending marijuana law reform legislation. Since then, Edie Moore and her colleagues have focused their time on expungement and elevating the conversation concerning the disproportionate impact the war on marijuana has had on communities of color and the ways Chicago NORML can make sure they have a seat at the table.

    Outstanding Cannabis Advocate Award for Advancing the Cause of Marijuana Law Reform

    Selecting NORML’s Outstanding Cannabis Advocate Award recipient for 2018 was not an easy decision. As NORML’s Outreach Director and “chapter guy,” I have the pleasure of working with some of the marijuana law reform movement’s brightest and most dedicated volunteers from all over the country. But in the case of Jeff Reidy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML he has certainly worked hard to set himself apart.

    Since re-establishing Lehigh Valley NORML in 2017 Jeff has formed strong alliances with the many marijuana-related nonprofits operating across Pennsylvania, such as Philly NORML, the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and Pittsburgh NORML. He has also forged strong, long-lasting relationships with local and state lawmakers that has resulted in marijuana law reforms in Allentown, Bethlehem and York.

    Pauline Sabin Award in Recognition of Exceptional Community Organization Dedicated to Repealing Marijuana Prohibition

    This year’s Pauline Sabine Award went to Cynthia Ferguson, executive director of Delaware NORML. In a state like Delaware, that has no voter initiative or referendum process, Cynthia has spent years lobbying local and state lawmakers in support of ending marijuana prohibition. Recognizing her passion and dedication to the issue, Cynthia was invited by Delaware Governor John Carney to participate in a roundtable discussion about the Marijuana Control Act, which would have legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults over the age of 21.

    With a strategy that combines fact-based arguments in support of social justice and economic opportunities, and keeping pressure on lawmakers by attending town hall meetings and hosting lobbying opportunities, Cynthia is doing her part to win the hearts and minds of Delaware  lawmakers.

    Lifetime Achievement Award in Grateful Recognition of A Lifetime Dedicated to Reforming Unjust Marijuana Laws and Advancing the Cause of Personal Freedom

    NORML’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Dale Geringer of California. For more than three decades Dr. Gieringer has served as the Executive Director of California NORML and continues to be a prominent voice and respected thought leader on marijuana policy and harm reduction. Dale also serves as the Vice-Chairman of NORML’s National board of directors, Director of the California Drug Policy Forum (DPFCA) and Treasurer of the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance (OCLA).

    In addition to his work with various advocacy groups, Dr. Gieringer has published research on medical marijuana usage, marijuana smoke harm reduction, potency testing, marijuana and driving safety, and drug urinalysis. He’s also one of the original co-authors of Prop. 215, California’s medical marijuana initiative that was approved by voters in 1996, and lead proponent of Oakland’s Measure Z cannabis initiative in 2004.

    Peter McWilliams Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advancing the Cause of Medical Marijuana

    For those of you who have been following NORML’s work over the years, especially in the state of Missouri, it should be no surprise that this year’s Peter McWilliams Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advancing the Cause of Medical Marijuana was presented to New Approach Missouri Campaign Board Chair and Executive Director of Missouri NORML Dan Viets.

    As a result of his leadership and overall influence, the New Approach Missouri campaign worked closely with Missouri NORML and other active NORML Chapters across Missouri to gather more than 372,400 signatures to place the measure before voters. The Initiative was recently certified by the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office and will appear on the November 6, 2018 ballot. Polling suggests support for medical marijuana in Missouri is well above 60%.

    Dan also serves as the Secretary of the National Board of Directors of NORML and has been recognized by, among others, Best Lawyers, Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers, and America’s Top 100 Criminal Defense Attorneys.

    Rufus King, Sr. Award For Outstanding Public Leadership in the Field of Marijuana Law Reform

    This year’s Rufus King, Sr. Award For Outstanding Public Leadership in the Field of Marijuana Law Reform was presented to Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) who shared the following with attendees of NORML’s 2018 Congressional Lobby Day after introducing the Marijuana Data Collection Act:

    “For decades, bad data and misinformation have fueled the failed War on Drugs that has ruined people’s lives, torn families apart, and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars incarcerating Americans for nonviolent marijuana charges. In 2016 alone, nearly 600,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession. Our laws must be informed by facts — not emotion, manufactured stigma and myths. Our bipartisan legislation, the Marijuana Data Collection Act, will lay the groundwork for real reform by producing an objective, evidence-based report on current marijuana laws that exist in 31 states across the country, and their impact on our communities.”

    Click here for Video of the Press Conference

    Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please reach out to KevinM@NORML.org for help starting your own! For over 45 years NORML chapters have been leading marijuana law reform conversations and continue to be the driving force behind policy decisions on the local and state level.

    Ready to start a NORML chapter in your hometown? Click here to find out how!

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