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NORML Blog

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 7, 2016

    vote_keyboardArkansas voters will decide this November on a statewide initiative to permit qualified physician-authorized patients to possess and cultivate cannabis.

    The Secretary of State’s office today affirmed that proponents, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, submitted sufficient signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

    The 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act establishes a statewide program for the licensed production, analytic testing, and distribution of medicinal cannabis. Under the program, patients diagnosed by a physician with one of over 50 qualifying conditions may obtain cannabis from one of up to 38 licensed non-profit care centers. Qualified patients who do not have a center operating in their vicinity will be permitted to obtain a ‘hardship certificate’ in order to cultivate their own medicine at home.

    A similar initiative narrowly failed in the state in 2012, garnering over 48 percent of the vote.

    Separate statewide medical use measures will be decided by voters this November in Florida and Missouri. Initiatives to permit the adult use of cannabis will be decided on in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. A Michigan initiative remains in litigation.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel July 6, 2016

    C1_8734_r_xLike door-to-door preachers warning us of the threat of hell, fire, and damnation, the prohibitionists seem never to give up their fight against personal freedom. Someone, somewhere must be enjoying themselves, and the evangelizers can’t rest while some of us are enjoying marijuana.

    With the legalization victories in four states and the District of Columbia starting in 2012, those of us who favor legalization have been on a political roll. And there is good reason to be optimistic about the likelihood of adding a number of additional states to the list in November.

    But that success needs to be seen in perspective. While we have been winning most of these voter initiatives, the outcomes have been relatively close. We won with 55% support in Colorado, 56% in Washington, 56% in Oregon, and 53% in Alaska. Only in the District of Columbia was the legalization vote overwhelming (70%).

    So we are clearly winning, but our opponents continue to enjoy the support of a large segment (although no longer a majority) of the voters. And they are not giving up the fight.

    Quite the contrary. So it’s important we legalizers continue our reform efforts as well, full speed ahead.

    Amendment 139 in CO

    The latest example of this is Amendment 139 in CO, where opponents to legalization have begun circulating petitions to qualify a voter initiative for the ballot that would significantly limit the choice and quality of marijuana products available in that state. The proposal is being sponsored by a group calling itself the Healthy Colorado Coalition, recently established by a handful of anti-marijuana zealots specifically to run this initiative.

    They first tried to convince the state legislature to impose potency limits, an effort that failed, and likely would have been enjoined by the courts because language in the initial 2012 marijuana legalization initiative (A-64) expressly permits all forms of marijuana.

    So now they are attempting to amend the state constitution.

    Potency Limits and “Reefer Madness” Propaganda Required

    Amendment 139 would limit the potency of cannabis products to 16 percent THC. According to a state study, currently, the average potency of Colorado pot products is 17.1 percent for marijuana and 62.1 percent for marijuana extracts.

    The amendment would further require absurd, unscientific warnings on pot packaging claiming those who use marijuana risk “permanent loss of brain abilities” and “birth defects and reduced brain development.” Talk about “reefer madness!”

    If passed by voters, the proposed amendment, according to one industry spokesperson, would eliminate as much as 80% of the products currently on the shelves in the state.

    Industry Mounts Opposition Effort

    Fortunately, a new coalition calling itself the Colorado Health Research Council (CHRC) has surfaced to fight A-139, funded by the legal marijuana industry in CO. According to reports in The Cannabist, CHRC has raised more than $300,000 for its campaign against Amendment 139. They are poised to protect their new industry, and this is one of those times when consumers and the industry can and should work cooperatively. The proposal would be harmful to both constituencies, limiting the choice of legal marijuana products available to consumers, and severely constricting the current robust legal industry in Colorado.

    As I have acknowledged in earlier columns, I am personally an old-fashioned marijuana smoker who enjoys rolling and smoking joints. I smoke high-quality marijuana, so I certainly enjoy a good high. That’s the point, after all. But I prefer the high from smoking flowers to the high from edibles or concentrates.

    But that just reflects my personal taste; it is not based on any perceived danger from the more potent concentrates. I’ve seen absolutely no science indicating those using the more potent forms of marijuana are at greater risk.

    The best news about imbibing too heavily in marijuana (for those who may occasionally do that) is that one cannot overdose. That is, unlike alcohol, no amount of marijuana or active marijuana ingredients will cause death, or even lead to serious harm. It is certainly possible to have an unpleasant experience — a “bad trip” — especially if one is an inexperienced user and doing edibles, but there is no permanent harm to the individual.

    No Valid Public Health Reason To Limit THC

    So there is no valid public health basis to arbitrarily limit the maximum level of THC permitted in marijuana products in legal states. The proponents are selling a solution to a problem that does not exist.

    Alcohol drinkers very quickly learn the difference between drinking hard liquor versus drinking wine or beer, and they learn to exercise more moderation with the stronger forms of alcohol.

    The same is true with marijuana smokers and those who use marijuana concentrates. The key is taking personal responsibility for your conduct, regardless of whether we are talking about marijuana or alcohol.

    It’s Important That We Defeat A-139

    So let’s help the public understand that responsible use is the key to healthy marijuana use, not unnecessary and arbitrary limits on strength, quantity or availability.

    And let’s make a special effort to demonstrate by our personal conduct what we mean by “responsible use.” Let’s not provide our opponents with any fodder to feed these misguided efforts to limit the quality or quantity of marijuana products available legally to adults.

    ______________________________________________________________

    This column first ran on Marijuana.com.
    Read more http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2016/07/attempt-to-limit-strength-of-thc-in-co/

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel July 1, 2016

    C1_8734_r_xA few days ago the California Secretary of State’s office made it official; proponents of The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) have handed-in more than 600,000 valid signatures, assuring that full marijuana legalization will appear on the ballot in CA in November.

    That’s right; Californians this fall will have yet another chance to end marijuana prohibition and legalize the responsible use of marijuana in the most populous state in the country. Most of us would have predicted California would be the first state to legalize marijuana, and they came close in 2010. But the proposal had some unexpected opposition from those who said they favored legalization but opposed particular provisions of the initiative and ended up losing with 46.5% of the vote.

    This time, it really is important that we get it right.

    What Will the AUMA Allow?

    This pending proposal, if approved by the voters, will permit adults to legally cultivate up to six marijuana plants and to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or eight grams of marijuana concentrates; and it will license the commercial cultivation and retail sales of marijuana products to adults.

    Current polling indicates public support for the proposal at 60%. The AUSA has been endorsed by an impressive array of organizations, including the California Democratic Party, the California Medical Association, the California NAACP, ACLU of California, as well as NORML, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, and the Drug Policy Foundation.

    We have the public support to approve legalization in California if we avoid the mistakes of earlier legalization efforts.

    What Does That Mean?

    First, and most importantly, it means we have to keep our eye on the goal, which is ending marijuana prohibition and establishing a legal market where consumers can obtain their legal marijuana. We simply must not permit the differing views regarding some of the details of legalization to be used to divide us and maintain prohibition.

    The “Reefer Maniacs” and the Special Interests

    Of course, there are those who, for whatever reason, oppose marijuana use and simply want to continue prohibition. They include individuals who, despite the scientific evidence, have an exaggerated view of the potential dangers of marijuana; as well as those special interests who benefit from prohibition, including many law-enforcement agencies and related businesses for whom marijuana prohibition is a jobs program.

    While these special interests continue to have an exaggerated influence with many elected officials, their influence on a voter initiative is far less significant. That is demonstrated by the series of marijuana-related voter initiatives we have passed all around this country, despite near unanimous opposition from police and prosecutors.

    Our “Friends” Who Oppose Legalization

    But perhaps the more important concern is not from our natural political opponents – the anti-marijuana zealots – but from those who claim they support marijuana legalization, but just not this version of legalization. These “friends” refuse to throw this destructive prohibition policy on the great trash heap of history because they disagree with some of the details of the particular legalization proposal before the voters.

    The “Tomato Model”

    Some of these folks favor the “tomato model,” under which one could possess, cultivate or sell as much marijuana as one wanted, with literally no restrictions, age or otherwise.

    One can certainly sympathize with the goal of fewer restrictions and the right to have larger quantities of marijuana, if one is a marijuana smoker or otherwise understands that marijuana really is a safe product, and most of those restrictions are unnecessary. But that ignores the reality of nearly 80-years of prohibition with decades of “reefer madness” propaganda and the impact that policy has had on the attitudes of many voters, especially non-smokers.

    The Necessary Support of the Non-Smokers

    Polling indicates we currently enjoy the political support of a majority of the non-smokers in this country (whom, it should be noted, comprise roughly 86% of the electorate; only about 14% of the adults in the country are current smokers), but their support is based on their belief that marijuana prohibition is a failed public policy. They have concluded that marijuana prohibition causes far more harm to society than the marijuana it is intended to prohibit.

    Their support is not based on a favorable view of marijuana smoking. In fact, 64% of the non-smokers who support full marijuana legalization say they do this despite holding a generally negative view of marijuana smokers! Apparently, some of the “Cheech and Chong” stereotypes that many of us who smoke have learned to enjoy and laugh at, are taken more seriously by many non-smokers.

    Most Smokers Are “In the Closet”

    In addition, this unfavorable view of marijuana smokers is largely the result of the reality that most middle-class marijuana smokers do not have the luxury of “coming out,” as it would cost them their jobs and their ability to support their families. So the people who are the most visible marijuana smokers, and who are all too frequently pictured in the media, are smokers who by their lifestyle choices live on the fringes of society. They are generally not, for example, the responsible parent who, in addition to smoking marijuana, is working tirelessly to support the family financially while spending quality time with their children, and instilling in them the common values of hard work and honesty and the importance of community service and helping those less fortunate.

    Lots of marijuana smokers fit that description, but most are not visible to the non-smokers. Thus many non-smokers continue to hold on to a silly stereotype that suggests those of us who smoke marijuana are lazy, irresponsible, self-centered, and primarily interested in getting high. That is a terribly unfair and harmful stereotype, and we must continue to work to dispel those myths.

    But that will take time, and we have only a few months before the voters in CA (and in several other states) will be voting on a full legalization initiative. So in the short run, it is imperative that we keep our anti-prohibition coalition together, including especially those non-smokers who oppose prohibition.

    And that means we do not have the luxury of demanding unlimited quantities, or no restrictions, age or otherwise. Were we to do that, we would lose the initiatives, and would be stuck for several more years with prohibition in CA. In no state, including California, do current smokers comprise anywhere near a majority of eligible voters.

    It’s Time to Finally Win

    So now is the time for responsible marijuana smokers in CA (and in several other states) to lay aside their differences; join hands with the majority of non-smokers who, like us, oppose prohibition; and end marijuana prohibition once and for all.

    There will be time in future years, after marijuana has been legalized and the arrests have ended, to revisit each of these new laws to make improvements where they are needed. Our work is not completed until responsible marijuana smokers are treated fairly in all areas of their lives, ending job discrimination, child custody issues, and unfair DUID laws. But we simply must not permit the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

    Let’s get it right, CA. Let’s adopt the Adult Use of Marijuana Act this November.

    This is only incidentally about marijuana; it is really about personal freedom.

     

    This column was first published on Marijuana.com.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director

    map_leafFederal lawmakers requested action this week on restoring medical marijuana access to veterans, while proponents in Arizona came one step closer to qualifying to the November ballot. Keep reading to get the latest news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.

    Federal:

    A bipartisan group of 11 lawmakers wrote a letter this week to Congressional leadership urging them to reconsider the Veterans Equal Access Amendment. Majorities in both the US House and Senate voted in May to include the provision as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee decided last week to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. The latest version of the Appropriations bill now awaits action by the Senate.

    A separate coalition of US Senators and representatives also drafted a letter this week to DEA officials calling on the agency to move swiftly to reclassify marijuana under federal law, and to allow private producers to cultivate cannabis for clinical research purposes. “We request that you take immediate action to remove ‘cannabis’ and ‘tetrahydrocannabinols’ from Schedule I. We also ask that you issue a public statement informing the research community that the DEA, in compliance with international obligations, will accept new applications to bulk manufacture cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, to be approved on merit-based criteria,” lawmakers requested. In April, DEA officials pledged to issue guidance on the scheduling of cannabis within the first half of this year, a promise they recent walked back.

    State:

    Arizona: The campaign to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Arizona yesterday turned in more than 200,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. The campaign needs at least 150,000 of those signatures to be certified in order to qualify for this November’s ballot. Under the proposed initiative, those age 21 and older are permitted to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes. The measure would also establish a licensing system for the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis.

    thumbs_upLouisiana: Last week the city of New Orleans began implementing the new ordinance lowering the penalties associated with the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The ordinance was originally approved by City Council back in March in hopes of diverting police resources from minor crimes and keeping low-level offenders out of jail. The ordinance reclassifies minor marijuana possession offenses as non-criminal violations punishable by a fine-only: $40 for a first offense, $60 for a second, $80 for a third, and $100 for a fourth and beyond. Under state law, second and/or third convictions are punishable by between 6 months and 2 years in prison.

    In statewide news, decision-makers at Louisiana State University and Southern University have agreed to apply for cultivation permits to supply medical cannabis. Under state law, qualified patients are permitted marijuana-infused products under a doctor’s recommendation. The state’s nascent medical cannabis program is anticipated to be up and running by 2018.

    Pennsylvania: Members of the Harrisburg City Council are considering a measure to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana within the city limits. In recent days, members of the City Council amended the language to reduce the fines for possession, increase the fines for smoking marijuana in public and expand the effort to include possession of marijuana paraphernalia. The members are scheduled to vote on the measure on July 5th. If you live in Harrisburg you can find the contact information for City Council here.

    Washington D.C.: The D.C. Health Department issued a report this week recommending the District legalize the retail sale of marijuana. Specifically, they recommend D.C. to “impose state taxes on production, distribution, and sales along with a licensed market participation, age restriction, and prohibitions on advertising and marketing to minors,” and ““use current regulatory models for tobacco and alcohol to base legislation to enact effective marijuana controls.”

    Residents of Washington D.C. voted in 2014 to legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana. However Congressional leaders have prohibited the district from implementing a recreational market through annual budget riders. With this new report from the district’s health department and willingness from the Mayor and City Council to create a regulated market, it’s questionable how long Congress will continue to block the will of the people.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director June 30, 2016

    Canova profile picThe NORML PAC is proud to announce its endorsement of Tim Canova, democratic primary challenger to US House member and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for Florida’s 23rd congressional district race.

    Mr. Canova, a law school professor and political activist, is the first Democratic challenger to Representative Wasserman-Schultz since she’s held the office and NORML is excited to support his Congressional campaign.

    Unlike Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz, who has cast a number of votes opposing sensible marijuana law reforms, candidate Canova is making drug policy reform a key plank of his campaign. He writes:

    In Florida, I supported the 2014 medical marijuana referendum that garnered about 58 percent of the vote state-wide, falling just short of the required 60 percent mark. My opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is a drug warrior who opposed the medical marijuana referendum. Calling marijuana a “gateway” drug, she refuses to allow her constituents in South Florida, in consultation with their doctors, to decide for themselves whether to utilize this plant-based medicine to alleviate pain and other symptoms of various illnesses and the side effects of other medications.

    Certain industries have a special interest in keeping marijuana illegal – for example, the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries, both of which view recreational and medicinal use of marijuana as a competitive threat; and the private prison industry, which profits from warehousing people in jails, including for marijuana possession. Not surprisingly, having taken in lots of campaign donations from the alcohol, pharmaceutical, and private prison industries and their political action committees (PACs), Debbie Wasserman Schultz opposes medical marijuana and supports privatized prisons and mass incarceration. Unlike my opponent, I do not take any contributions from these special interests, or from any corporate interests at all.

    In addition to Florida’s medical marijuana referendum, I also support the recent reforms by Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to decriminalize marijuana for personal use, and I call on the federal government to “de-schedule” marijuana from the list of controlled and dangerous substances.

    In many of the states that have moved in the direction of legalization and regulation of marijuana for personal use, entire new industries are flourishing, adding jobs and increasing tax revenues, and crime rates are falling. While I support state efforts to allow individuals to make their own decisions, I also recognize the need to provide young people — and people of all ages — with many more job and educational opportunities in a time of decriminalization and legalization.

    Earlier this year NORML released our 2016 Congressional Scorecard, an all-encompassing database of information related to marijuana law reform that graded members of Congress on their willingness to reform our country’s archaic marijuana laws. Representative Wasserman-Schultz was one of 37 congressional members to receive an “F” grade, a grade reserved for members who have spoken out against and actively opposed marijuana reforms.

    NORML would like to commend Mr. Canova for his commitment toward amending America’s antiquated and overly punitive marijuana policies.

    Please consider donating to Mr. Canova’s campaign here. Additionally, you can also volunteer for his campaign from the comfort of your own home! All you need is a phone, computer, and internet connection. This call tool on his website allows anyone to call into his district to contact voters to urge their support for Mr. Canova.

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