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NORML Blog

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel May 18, 2015

    6_8_NORMLK.StroupPortrait_zWe sponsor two legal seminars each year at NORML, one in Key West, Florida, in early December, and the other in Aspen, Colorado, in late May/early June. Those are two wonderful venues for those who are looking for a mini-vacation, in addition to a valuable legal seminar. The 2015 Aspen legal seminar will be held next week (May 28-30) at the Gant Hotel.

    This seminar is available for non-lawyers, as well as attorneys, for those who have an interest in the criminal defense and regulatory side of the legalization movement. And a visit to Aspen, now that marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, provides an excellent opportunity for those from other states to see what legalization actually looks and feels like, since there are now several legal dispensaries operating in Aspen. If you have not yet had the pleasure of walking into a retail store to legally purchase your marijuana, now is your chance. It is an empowering experience, and one that reinforces the importance of ending prohibition.

    At NORML our basic goal is to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, regardless of why one smokes. Until we achieve that ultimate goal, we also do our best to provide assistance and support to victims of the current laws. The NORML Legal Committee (NLC), comprised of several hundred criminal defense and business attorneys, plays a major role in providing that support. NORML is the only legalization organization that has a legal committee, sponsors legal seminars, or that provides legal assistance or advice to those who have been arrested or who need legal assistance entering the legal marijuana market.

    Lawyers who specialize in defending victims of prohibition, and business lawyers who represent the interests of the newly legal marijuana businesses in several states, are a special breed. Motivated by their commitment to legal marijuana, they have chosen a legal specialty that may not pay them the financial rewards they could make practicing corporate law, or probate law, or personal injury law, or many other higher-paying fields of practice; but they are at the cutting edge of the legal profession, willing to push the cultural and legal envelope. They generally feel an emotional and cultural attachment to the legalization movement, and most would tell you they get far more personal satisfaction by helping their clients stay out of jail on a marijuana charge (or avoid a criminal charge altogether), or by helping new marijuana entrepreneurs through the labyrinth of regulations and permits necessary to enter these newly legal markets, than they would get from helping rich individuals or institutions get richer, which is what many lawyers do.

    This group of committed lawyers draws strength and knowledge from attending these seminars, and from the opportunity to spend time with their legal colleagues from around the county. It reminds us all of why we do what we do, and it empowers us to go forth and fight the good fight. Being an effective lawyer means trying new theories and defenses, and not being discouraged by the fact that we are not always successful. If it were easy, the clients would not need an attorney.

    Because we have room at our Aspen venue (unfortunately we do not have extra room at our Key West venue), we permit non-lawyers to attend at a discounted registration fee. And those non-lawyers who do attend report they enjoy the opportunity to meet some of the leading NLC attorneys in an informal setting, and they find fascinating the internal debates and discussions regarding legal theories and new challenges being faced by this group of attorneys. It’s a rare opportunity to be part of this subset of NORML, and one well worth experiencing.

    In addition to the seminar, social events where one can relax and get to know the other attendees, including the speakers, include an opening reception on Thursday night; a benefit dinner at the lovely home of Christine and Gerry Goldstein in Aspen on Friday evening , catered by Chris Lanter, chef and co-owner of the trendy Cache Cache restaurant in Aspen; and a Saturday afternoon cookout with live music at Owl Farm, the legendary Woody Creek home of the late Hunter S. Thompson, outside of Aspen a few miles.

    If the 2015 NORML Aspen Legal Seminar and related social events is of interest, whether you are an attorney or someone who follows the legalization movement and wishes to learn more, you can still register for this seminar on line and join us in Aspen next week. I hope to see you there.

     

    This column was originally published on Marijuana.com.

    http://news.marijuana.com/news/2015/05/annual-norml-aspen-legal-seminar-a-great-experience-for-lawyers-and-non-lawyers-alike/

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director May 15, 2015

    wammThere are thousands of licensed cannabis-related businesses these days in states like Colorado, Washington and California; and soon enough too in Alaska and Oregon. Medical cannabis-related businesses also dot the national landscape as well.

    When Californians were the first in 1996 to cast votes in favor of allowing medical access to cannabis, with a near singular message of ‘compassion’ for patients that need therapeutic access to the plant. Advocates for the passage of Prop. 215 (including NORML) didn’t envisage that the initiative did more than two primary things:

    -exempt from criminal arrest and prosecution medical patients who possess physician’s recommendation to use cannabis as a therapeutic

    -allow for ‘compassionate’ access through collectives that, ideally, were to be not for profit

    Well…culture, custom, commerce and the free market–not too surprisingly–largely came to trump compassion as a primary impetus for a medical cannabis collective’s being. The hundreds of medical cannabis businesses that currently exist in California labor under laws originally meant for lending legal protections for ‘self-preservation’ and ‘collectivism’ regarding how medical cannabis was to be a distributed to the sick, dying and sense-threatened.

    However, one genuine cannabis patient collective has managed to survive for 20 years, the Santa Cruz-based WAMM.

    Headed by NORML Advisory board member and MS patient Valerie Corral, WAMM has been a remarkable leader in legal challenges to federal encroachment, medical and botanical research. WAMM provides a comfortable, nurturing and inviting environment–physically and emotionally–to women and men who need therapeutic access to cannabis, in safe environs and who want to be part of a community that cultivates and shares the cannabis grown amongst the collective’s members.

    Please see links to related articles about the current challenges WAMM faces at High Times and Good Times.

    If possible, please make a timely donation to Save WAMM!

     

     

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director May 14, 2015

    It is hardly a secret to any long observing advocate for cannabis law reform to recognize early on in their efforts to end cannabis prohibition that if it were not for government–federal, state and local governments–spending, there would be relatively few examples of private money being employed in the last forty-five years to try to maintain the status quo of cannabis prohibition.norml_remember_prohibition2

    The tens of billions spent annually to keep the Reefer Madness going in America largely is taxpayer-funded bureaucracies such as the so-called drug czar’s office, DEA, NIDA, SAMHSA, DARE, PDFAblahblahblah.

    Even in the face of this tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars annually, still, a majority of the US public rejects the policy of cannabis prohibition.

    Unbelievably, the drug czar’s office actually mandates that the office must use tax funding to publicly oppose cannabis legalization efforts–even though such is no longer a popularly supported public policy.

    Add one more prime example of cannabis prohibitionists in government not yielding to the will of voters, and worse, rather than pool their own private funding to advance their no-longer-popular-views, they want the taxpayers to pick up the bill of their anti-cannabis advocacy.

    Arizona voters approved a medical cannabis initiative in 2010. Many in the law enforcement community in the state, including prosecutors, have consistently opposed implementing the change of policies and/or still harass medical cannabis producers or patients.

    They’re sore losers.

    Now, consistent with large swaths of the country, Arizona voters are organizing once again in the state to place a full cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot for 2016.

    What is the reaction from some in the law enforcement community in Arizona to the prospects of citizens again instructing their workers what public policies they want them to enforce?

    Sure, law enforcement personnel are citizens too, and their opinions are as meaningful as any other citizens’, however, law enforcement personnel who oppose the public’s will on changes of public policy should never employ taxpayer funding to try to sway the populace or propagandize–on matters ranging from police wearing body cameras, to forfeiture reform to cannabis legalization.

    Well that is not at all happening currently in Yavapai County Arizona, where the local prosecutor Shelia Polk thinks it wise and prudent to steer forfeiture money derived from the criminal justice system (with most of the proceeds coming to law enforcement from currently illegal drug profits seized in previous criminal filings) to propagandize to voters that they should not vote to end cannabis prohibition in the state.

    Ever hear law enforcement roll out the tired ol’ line of “we don’t make the laws, we only enforce them?”

    It’s largely a lie (I mean…prevarication).

    Police and prosecutors (aided and abetted by fellow pot prohibitionists wearing white coats at NIDA, for example) regularly, using taxpayers’ money, actively seek to influence the outcome of public policy legislation, court cases and voter initiatives that seek to reform cannabis laws.

    It is pretty simple at this point in the now five-decade-old public effort to end cannabis prohibition, if police and prosecutors want to defend the status quo of a failed and unpopular public policy, then, if they really cared about the issue, they’d put their own skin in the game by organizing as private citizens.

    If prosecutors, cops, narcs, sheriffs and chiefs of police want to pony up their own money to try to stave off cannabis prohibition ending in their lifetimes–go for it.

    Reformers will more than match them dollar-for-dollar and are always spoiling for a good debate about wisdom for rationale continuing cannabis prohibition…and we’ve got the public on our side, they no longer do.

    What can not and should not happen anymore in the modern public policy debate about whether America should or should not continue another nearly eighty-years with cannabis prohibition enforcement are government officials and law enforcement personnel using their power of the purse and bully pulpit to try to persuade voters on ANY matters of public policy–let alone on policies where conflicts of interest are as obvious as prosecutors using government money to oppose the will of local voters who’re seeking to reform unpopular laws.

    Cannabis law reformers can and will win a fair fight on cannabis legalization, but, the impending political victory will be delayed if government officials are permitted to continue to use taxpayer funding to oppose the very will of the voters.

    Government for and by the people? Not when government officials are sore losers and want to use government funding to try to tip the scales of public opinion.

    When government stops spending taxpayer dollars to keep cannabis prohibition going, the unpopular policy will die an ignominious and swift death.

    Editor’s note: Thankfully, late yesterday AZ’s Attorney General came to reconsider this blundering policy of allowing government funding to be used to campaign against cannabis legalization efforts in the state.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director May 13, 2015

    2015 NORML Legislative Fly-In

    The NORML Legislative Fly-In in Washington, DC is one week away. Please join NORML in this call to action.*

    If you’ve not pre-registered for the May 20th cannabis lobbying training and messaging day, please do ASAP by going here. The conference schedule and speaker list are online.

    NORML activist and leadership awards, a silent auction and social on Thursday night are all on tap (so to speak…).

    Marijuana is becoming legal in our lifetimes. Please join us at the nation’s capitol and help hasten these long-needed public policy reforms by lobbying your elected policy makers.

    *There are over 40 million cannabis consumers in the United States (according to government data) and NORML knows that 99.99999% of these direct stakeholders are not going to come to Washington to lobby on cannabis law reforms next week, but, that does not mean they can’t be active on May 21st–NORML Lobby Day–contacting their federal policymakers (one congressperson and two senators)

    If you and your cannabis tolerant friends and family can’t join us in Washington, D.C. next week, please consider, for the day, being a ‘virtual lobbyist’ for cannabis law reform. To do so, please visit NORML’s Take Action Center

    Thanks in advance and hope to see you next week in Washington (where the possession and use of cannabis by adults over 21 years of age is legal).

    Allen St. Pierre
    Executive Director
    NORML / NORML Foundation

    p.s. The NORML social has separate ticket necessary for attendance @ $25/per person.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel May 11, 2015

    What We Might Expect form a Hillary Clinton PresidencyHillary Rodham Clinton, born in 1947, is an early “Baby Boomer”, the generational name generally assigned to those born during the post-World War II baby boom, between 1946 through 1964. This is a generation who came of age during the domestic cultural conscientiousness associated with the Viet Nam war era. It was a tumultuous time.

    But Hillary Rodham (later Clinton) seems to have largely been immune to those cultural influences.

    A native of Park Ridge, Illinois, an affluent Chicago suburb, Hillary Rodham attended Wellesley College, a highly selective private women’s liberal-arts college outside Boston, graduating in 1969 with a major in political science. She then attended Yale Law School, earning a JD degree in 1973. It was at Yale where she first met future president Bill Clinton, whom she married in 1975.

    She has a long record as an advocate for children’s rights, and for better legal services for the poor, having been appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the board of the Legal Services Corporation in 1977, becoming their first female chair in 1978. Clinton was named the first female partner at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1979, and was twice included as one of the one hundred most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal.

    Claims She Has Never Smoked Pot

    Boomers are often associated with the counterculture, and the civil rights and the feminist movements of the 1970s. And while these cultural and legal changes have clearly left their impact on Clinton, she acknowledges she was not on the barricades during the cultural revolution that occurred in America in the late ’60s and the ’70s, and claims never to have smoked marijuana, recently telling Christiane Amanpour “Absolutely not. I didn’t do it when I was young, I’m not going to start now.”

    Clinton has spent her entire adult life, including serving as first lady of Arkansas for a total of 12 years, eight years as America’s first lady, and eight years as a U.S. Senator from New York, living with the political reality that one could never be too careful when talking about contentious social issues — especially the then-radical idea of marijuana legalization — and it was always politically safer to support incremental change than to advocate for radical change. She exudes competence and strength, not innovation or risk-taking.

    Yet there are reasons to be optimistic should she become president in 2017.

    Her Position During the 2008 Campaign

    While campaigning for president in 2007, Clinton rarely mentioned drug policy, but when she did she made it clear she was firmly against decriminalizing marijuana. “I don’t think we should decriminalize it, but we ought to do research into what, if any medical benefits it has.” Even then she showed some interest in the medical use of marijuana.

    She did not indicate why she favored continuing to treat marijuana smokers as criminals, nor did she need to. None of the other candidates for the Democratic nomination were willing to challenge her on that issue. Then-candidate Barack Obama was himself no champion for pot law reform during that campaign. It was then considered both too radical for a mainstream politician, and too insignificant compared to other issues the country was dealing with.

    Clinton’s Most Recent Statements

    While Clinton has been slow to evolve her position on marijuana policy, her most recent statements do reflect a recognition that the politics of marijuana legalization are changing, and she must reflect some of those changes or risk alienating large numbers of voters, especially younger voters.

    “I’m a big believer in acquiring evidence,” Clinton told NPR affiliate KPCC in July of 2014. “And I think we should see what kind of results we get, both from medical marijuana and from recreational marijuana, before we make any far-reaching conclusions. We need more studies. We need more evidence. And then we can proceed.”

    Also in 2014, during a town hall with CNN, Clinton told Christiane Amanpour that she wants to “wait and see” how legalization goes in the states before making it a national decision. “There are younger people here who could help me understand this and answer it,” Clinton began. “At the risk of committing radical candor, I have to say I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. I don’t think we’ve done enough research yet, although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and who have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances.”

    Then, showing her uneasiness with discussing marijuana policy generally, she attempts to make sure she has not gone too far, by adding: “But I do think we need more research because we don’t know how it interacts with other drugs.”

    Clinton also sounded supportive of new Colorado and Washington laws that have legalized recreational marijuana for adults. “On recreational, states are the laboratories of democracy,” Clinton said. “We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is.”

    This time around it is clear that some of her advisors have alerted her to the reality that the marijuana legalization movement has finally come of age, and legalization is an option that must now be part of the national discussion. Marijuana legalization appears to be favored in several swing states. A Quinnipiac University survey conducted in March of 2015 found a majority of voters support full legalization in Florida (55 percent), Ohio (52 percent), and Pennsylvania (51 percent) — all key states that a Clinton campaign may need to win the general election.

    What We Can Expect from a Hillary Clinton Presidency

    Assuming the public support for marijuana legalization continues to surge, by the time President Hillary Clinton would be taking office, I would expect she will realize the political climate really has changed dramatically regarding this issue over the last few years, and she will have the option politically to do a number of helpful things without endangering her majority support. Reading tea leaves is always risky, but here are my best guesses as to how she would respond.

    First, President Hillary Clinton would use her executive authority to reschedule marijuana to a lower schedule under the federal Controlled Substances Act, to facilitate more research on marijuana’s many medical uses. And while that would also open up the opportunity to eventually allow physicians to prescribe marijuana and pharmacists to dispense it, that process would first require the drug be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, a process that usually takes a decade or longer and costs tens of millions of dollars.

    This modest change would be a politically safe move to make, as national polling consistently shows public support for the medical use of marijuana at nearly 80 percent.

    Second, President Hillary Clinton would almost certainly continue the Obama policy of having the DOJ stand aside, and permit those states that wish to experiment with versions of legalization, both medical use and full legalization, to do so without federal interference. Changing course would be difficult for any incoming president, including the anti-pot Republican candidates, as the newly legalized industries in a handful of states (that list continues to grow) will have created tens of thousands of new, badly needed jobs, and raised hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for those states. And, public support for ending prohibition will reinforce the importance politically of continuing the Obama policy.

    And third, President Hillary Clinton would likely embrace the full decriminalization of marijuana, under both state and federal law, as initially recommended by the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (the Shafer Commission) in 1972.

    While this would be a total reversal of her position expressed during her campaign for president in 2007, it’s a “flip-flop” that can easily be justified on the basis of the unfair racial impact of the marijuana laws on black and brown Americans. She can embrace removing penalties for the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana, as a criminal justice reform, without embracing the use of marijuana itself.

    Of course, no president can, without the support of a majority of Congress, decriminalize marijuana under federal law. But should she decide to use her “bully pulpit” to legitimize and advance the movement to decriminalize minor marijuana offenses, it would have a powerful impact on the state level, where nearly all marijuana arrests occur.

    The first two of these advances would likely come during her first term, while the latter would more likely await the first couple of years of her second term, assuming her re-election. As President Obama has demonstrated, it is in the second term, when no further campaigns remain and the fear of alienating voters has abated, that most significant progress on these types of issues occurs.

    More later on what we might expect from some of the Republican candidates, should they become president. But I will wait for a few months, to let the wackiest of the Republican candidates fade into oblivion. No point in wasting time analyzing candidates who have no chance of getting the nomination, and who should have had the good sense to stay out of the race. But first, let’s all enjoy the clowns in the circus we call a presidential campaign.

    http://news.marijuana.com/news/2015/05/what-we-might-expect-from-a-hillary-clinton-presidency/

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