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NORML Blog

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 16, 2017

    ACLU PAAfrican Americans in Pennsylvania are over eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession offenses than are Caucasians, according to an analysis of statewide arrest data by the American Civil Liberties Union.

    The ACLU Pennsylvania report reviewed arrest data for all 67 counties from 2010 to 2016. Excluding Philadelphia, which decriminalized cannabis possession offenses in 2014, adult marijuana possession arrests increased 33 percent during this time period – at a cost of $225.3 million to taxpayers. Black adults were 8.2 times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested for possessing marijuana – up from 6.5 percent in 2010.

    Recent analyses from other states, such as New Jersey and Virginia, have similarly identified racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests. Nationwide, African Americans are approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, despite members of both ethnicities using the substance at similar rates.

    “Pennsylvania’s insistence in continuing to fight the war on marijuana, is at the root of the problematic data presented in this report,” the ACLU of Pennsylvania concluded. “Law enforcement has not only continued its business-as-usual arresting policies in enforcement of cannabis prohibition, it has ramped up enforcement as marijuana use has become more accepted throughout the commonwealth and the nation. If laws don’t change, this pattern will likely continue; law enforcement could become even more heavy handed until policymakers are clear that it is time to end this approach. The clearest way to send that message is to end prohibition altogether.”

    This October 20th marks the third anniversary of the decriminalization of marijuana in Philidelphia, making the birthplace of the American Constitution the largest city to have marijuana possession a non-arrestable offense outside of a legalized state. Yet there is much progress to still be made beyond decriminalization.

    “It is time for us to chart a better path forward. When politicians and police stop treating cannabis consumers like criminals, Pennsylvania can gain thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue,” wrote Temple Professor Chris Goldstein for Philly.com earlier this month. “I hope that by next October, the verdant harvest of Pennsylvania cannabis is something that will benefit every single resident of the commonwealth.”

    And the political winds are changing.

    In September, citing racism, bigotry, and mass-incarceration, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party adopted a resolution to “support Democratic candidates and policies which promote the full repeal of cannabis prohibition by its removal from the Controlled Substances Act, and to support the creation of new laws which regulate it in a manner similar to other culturally accepted commodities.”

    “It’s time to stand on research, and the research shows it’s time to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania,” said state Rep. Jordan Harris of Philadelphia, who is chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

    “Millions of dollars are spent each year on marijuana prosecutions. And prosecution costs are just part of the story,” wrote Pennsylvania Auditor General of  Eugene DePasquale in September, “There is also the loss of income and other social, personal, and emotional impacts on those arrested for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana. That’s ridiculous. The police and court systems have more urgent issues to address.”

    PA Resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of pending legislation for statewide decriminalization and then click here to send a message in support of pending legislation for outright legalization. 

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 13, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaRetail cannabis distribution in Colorado is associated with a reduction in opioid-related mortality, according to data published online ahead of print in The American Journal of Public Health.

    A team of investigators from the University of North Texas School of Public Health, the University of Florida, and Emory University compared changed in the prevalence of monthly opioid-related deaths before and after Colorado retailers began selling cannabis to adults.

    They reported: “Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado.”

    Authors concluded, “Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths.”

    Their data is consistent with prior studies finding that cannabis access is associated with reductions in prescription drug spending, opioid-related hospitalizations, and opioid-related fatalities.

    An abstract of the study, “Recreational cannabis legalization and opioid-related deaths in Colorado, 2000-2015,” appears online here.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 12, 2017
    Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) speaking a NORML Conference

    Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) speaking at a NORML Conference

    On Wednesday, October 11th, Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) testified before the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health on how to deal with the opioid crisis in America.

    In his testimony, the Congressman makes the case for medical cannabis as a safer alternative to highly addictive opioids, especially for our veterans—as well as the need to remove barriers to medical cannabis research.

    It is well documented that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, and opioid-related overdose deaths.

    Watch the video below and click here to send a message to your elected officials in support of the CARERS Act of 2017 in support of medical marijuana and click here to send a message to the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Opioid Commission to urge them to include medical marijuana as part of the national strategy to combat the opioid crisis.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 10, 2017
    Photo by Ryan Johnson

    Former Attorney General Eric Holder Photo by Ryan Johnson

    In recent remarks at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, former US Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about current Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ views on marijuana, saying “The Sessions almost obsession with marijuana I think is the thing that’s put the Justice Department in this strange place,” in regards to potential changes in current policy held up by what is known as The Cole Memo.

    Authored by US Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013 to US attorneys in all 50 states, the memo directs prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

    Despite Holder’s comments, he took no action while he had the power as the Attorney General to deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.

    Jeff Sessions has a long history of advocating for the failed policies of the “Just Say No” era — policies that resulted in the arrests of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens who possessed personal use amounts of marijuana.

    This comes as Congress is currently debating the extension of federal protections for the 30 state lawful medical marijuana programs and the 16 state lawful limited CBD access programs, know as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment.

    At a time when the majority of states now regulate marijuana use, and where six out of ten votes 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 comport federal law with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.

    Take action to contact your federal lawmakers and urge them to support the descheduling of marijuana to prevent Jeff Sessions from implementing a crack-down on marijuana consumers. 

  • by NORML October 8, 2017

    You can follow MassCann/NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website

    MASS CANN/NORML TESTIMONY BEFORE THE CANNABIS CONTROL COMMISSION

    10/02/2017

    MassCannWe are the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, Inc., state affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, known as MASS CANN/NORML.

    We are the largest, oldest and most successful cannabis law reform organization in the northeastern United States. We have run the annual Boston Freedom Rally on Boston Common every year for 28 years, which has raised over $500,000 for our cause. We have run over 50 public policy questions in local districts throughout the Commonwealth – all of which were approved by voters by healthy majorities. The results of those public policy questions and our professional polling persuaded the Marijuana Policy Project to finance the decriminalization of marijuana by ballot initiative in 2008.

    We alone have been representing cannabis users for years. Our activists made decriminalization, medical marijuana and, now, regulated cannabis the new reality. We represent the voters who made your Commission possible.

    Unlike others seeking to advise you, we alone purely represent the interests of cannabis users. We are the marijuana user group in Massachusetts. We are motivated by our collective desire to be free from overly intrusive, overly repressive government.

    We are not motivated by money, as so many others who hope to advise you are. We are an all- volunteer organization. None of us are paid for what we do.

    We are not motivated by career interests, as so many others who hope to advise you are. MASS CANN/NORML employs no one.

    We are not motivated by a desire for political power, as so many others who hope to advise you are. We are a public education organization and are barred by law from doing political work.

    What MASS CANN/NORML is asking you to do:

    We are asking for no regulations about marijuana that would be ridiculous if applied to alcohol. As a recreational substance, marijuana is less debilitating and less addictive than alcohol. As a medicine, it is one of the safest therapeutic substances known, far safer than aspirin. Regulations concerning storage, distribution, and handling that require marijuana to be treated like enriched plutonium—regulations like those put out during the disastrous rollout of medical marijuana—have no basis in reality. They’re just the kind of governmental overreach the voters rejected in passing Question 4. You recall that Question 4 was called an act to “tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.”

    We want you to avoid regulations based on fear-mongering:
    – Legalization has NOT led to increased marijuana use by youths.
    – Legalization has NOT led to more highway accidents.
    – Opening marijuana outlets has NOT increased crime in the neighborhoods that have them.
    There are many, many other examples of false claims that we can disprove.

    Value freedom over compromise. No compromising with our freedom. Freedom is precious. The first colonists came to Massachusetts to escape repressive government. Ever since, many have fought in many ways for freedom and some have died for it. You have no more sacred duty than to maintain whatever freedom is possible.

    We want you to evaluate the other stakeholders in this discussion in light of their particular interests.

    It is in the interest of capitalists, for instance, to corner the market. Therefore, they would favor regulations making it hard for us users to grow our own plants for free. The influence of those well-heeled interests is hard to resist. Please resist.

    Prosecutors and police want to maintain their ability to target us marijuana users and to define us as criminals. They have used marijuana laws to enforce institutionalized racism. They still will seek to criminalize us to the greatest degree they can. Voters rejected their approach when they passed Question 4. The job of prosecutors and police is to enforce the laws that are given them. They should not be shaping policy.

    The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has proved they are interested only in benefitting their bureaucracy, expanding their budget, employing a larger workforce, and consolidating their power—NOT in helping medical marijuana patients. In fact, they are a principal reason that so many patients have gone for years without legal access to their medicine. They should not be listened to as some kind of voice of experience. They should just be studied as a history of horrible examples.

    Treatment professionals are interested in maintaining their gravy train. They want all cannabis use to be defined as drug abuse, and they want all users to be forced into expensive court-ordered rehab programs. They have no larger social interest at heart, and they do not deserve a seat at our table.

    All of these stakeholders have an interest in treating legal marijuana as a disaster to be delayed and restricted as much as possible. But the voters didn’t vote for a disaster, they voted for an opportunity: new jobs, new revenue, safer communities, better community-police relations. We want you to respect the will of the voters, and that means not working against legalization as some kind of threat, but moving ahead with legalization as a fine new opportunity. Legal marijuana is a great thing for Massachusetts! Make it happen!

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