My name is Randy Quast and I am NORML’s new Acting Executive Director. Let me be the first to welcome you to a new era at NORML.
I’m from Minnesota. My background is in business. I worked my way up in trucking, starting with my family’s small 10-employee trucking company in the 1980s. I worked in various departments of the company and eventually became president and CEO in 1988. By the time I sold the company ten years later, it employed 700 people in 23 service centers in 10 Midwestern states and had revenues over $50 million a year.
After retiring, I turned my love of flying into 2,500 flight-hours. I volunteered myself and my airplane to AirLifeLine to fly patients who couldn’t afford commercial flights to receive medical treatments. I eventually became the president and CEO of that non-profit until we merged with another similar organization. The combined companies still operate today under the name Angel Flight.
Coming Out of the Closet
But throughout my previous careers, I had always been a regular marijuana consumer — a corporate stoner, if you will. But like many in similar positions, I kept that information private. It wasn’t until 2007 that I was forced out of the cannabis closet and into the arms of NORML.
While out for dinner one evening a thief broke in my home and dragged my safe, where I stored my marijuana, out the back door. When neighbors confronted the thief, he ran, leaving the safe in the middle of my back yard.
When I came home, there were cop cars all around my home. I’d left an aluminum one-hitter in the bathroom. That led to cops’ suspicions about what was in my safe. That led to a search warrant and a SWAT raid of my home. The three ounces in my safe led to a felony possession charge.
Because I was fortunate to be a white person and able to afford an attorney, I received a stay of adjudication with two years’ probation. When my probation ended in 2009, I attended my first NORML Conference in Portland, Oregon. I then returned home to start Minnesota NORML in 2010. Recently, I moved to Oregon in 2015 and co-founded Portland NORML.
Now, I’m in Washington, D.C., working to take National NORML into the next era, one that includes continuing the fight for legalization in places like Minnesota and includes expanding the rights of legal cannabis consumers in places like Oregon.
Positioning NORML For the Future
NORML has formed a search committee to find a new, permanent Executive Director. In the interim, we’re continuing our important work. We’re educating lawmakers and judges on the scientific truth about cannabis, public policy, and health.
We’re supporting our chapters and grassroots supporters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada as they push for legalization in 2016 and we are supporting our chapters and advocates in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, and Montana as they fight to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest.
We’re are also working with congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill to pass legislation needed to secure banking and tax relief for our legal marijuana industries.
On the state level, we’re working with legislators to reduce marijuana penalties and to increase patients’ access, while also organizing municipal initiatives to permit social use and to mitigate criminal sanctions.
In the past few months, we’ve witnessed many successes on the state level. Three states have enacted legislation to permit medical marijuana access while many others have expanded access to greater numbers of patients. Many states have amended their laws to significantly reduce penalties for the possession of marijuana or cannabis paraphernalia, while other states have taken steps to authorize the growing of industrial hemp.
As we look forward to the future, specifically this November, we realize that our role is more important than ever. With voters deciding on nine marijuana-specific ballot measures, this election is the most important in recent memory. And the results of Election Day hold the potential to transform American public policy.
So, as I begin this new chapter at NORML I ask all of you to join me. Please help usher in this new era by making a donation today of $50.00 or more to NORML. Your donation will help assure that we continue to play a necessary role in shaping public opinion and policy in such a way that puts the needs of responsible marijuana consumers first. As the nation continues to engage in this ongoing narrative regarding legalization, there exists a greater need than ever for politicians, media, and policy analysts to seek guidance and expertise from NORML with regard to the benefits of regulation as well as the health and societal effects of responsible cannabis consumption.
I’m excited to do my part to make NORML the best organization it can be and I hope you’ll join me.
Marijuana consumers do not access health care services at rates that are higher than non-users, according to data published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Internal Medicine.
Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin assessed the relationship between marijuana use and health care utilization in a nationally representative sample of 174,159,864 US adults aged 18 to 59 years old.
Authors reported “no significant increase in outpatient health care visits and overnight hospital admissions in marijuana users compared to non-users.” They also reported that those who consumed cannabis multiple times per day were no more likely to seek health care patient services as compared to those who used the substance less frequently.
They concluded, “[C]ontrary to popular belief, … marijuana use is not associated with increased healthcare utilization, [and] there [is] also no association between health care utilization and frequency of marijuana use.”
A previous assessment, published in 2014 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, similarly reported that the use of marijuana within the past three months was not associated with adverse effects on health, comorbidity, ER visits, or hospitalization.
An abstract of the study, “Marijuana users do not have increased healthcare utilization: A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study,” appears here.
According to the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, agents eradicated 4.25 million marijuana plants nationwide in 2015. That total is slightly less than the total reported by the agency for the year 2014 (4.3 million) and continues to the ongoing decline in eradication totals since 2010, when the agency reported eliminating some 10.3 million plants.
As in past years, DEA eradication efforts largely focused on California. Of the total number of plants seized nationwide by the DEA in 2015, 62 percent were in California.
Only about 7 percent of all plants seized by the DEA were from indoor grows.
The DEA reported making some 6,300 arrests in conjunction with their cannabis eradication efforts — a total that mirrors 2014 figures. By contrast, the agency reported making nearly 10,000 marijuana arrests in 2010 and 8,500 arrests in 2011.
Tables from the 2015 report are online here.
Among all the speeches and balloons and revelry of the recently completed Democratic National Convention — a convention that has already made history by nominating a woman for president – was a far less obvious, but important change in the Democratic Party platform. For the first time since marijuana was made illegal on the federal level in 1937, a major party platform has embraced a strategy they describe as a “reasoned pathway for future legalization.”
That’s right. While many mainstream elected officials remain skittish of endorsing or embracing potentially controversial social issues, the 2016 Democratic Party finally could no longer ignore the changing attitudes towards marijuana legalization reflected in the national polls, and evidenced by the growing number of states that have already moved in this direction.
The precise text of the history-making marijuana amendment was as follows:
“Because of conflicting laws concerning marijuana, both on the federal and state levels, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from its list as a Class 1 Federal Controlled Substance, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization”
In other words, the Democrats endorsed the strategy legalizers have been following since 2012, when we first legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington, despite the continuation of federal prohibition.
Now let’s be honest. We have all seen over the years that the national parties tend to adopt a platform favored by their candidate, which is then almost immediately ignored once the candidate is elected. The platform is a campaign tool, and it is malleable, so as not to box anyone into a position he/she is uncomfortable with.
Nonetheless, seeing the words “a reasoned pathway for future legalization” in the Democratic platform is truly empowering for those who have worked so long to try to get our state and national elected officials to embrace an end to marijuana prohibition. It provides political cover to any and all elected officials who have known all along that prohibition causes more harm than the marijuana it is intended to protect us from, but who have feared an honest position might endanger their political careers.
The Bernie Sanders Factor
We all recognize that Sen. Bernie Sanders had the strongest pro-legalization position; and that his publicizing that position during the hard-fought campaign, and fighting for those provisions during the platform debates, caused Sec. Hillary Clinton and her supporters to more to the left, first endorsing the medical use of marijuana, and most importantly, agreeing with Sanders that the states should be allowed to continue to experiment with full legalization, without interference from the federal government. That is a significant improvement over her earlier cautious statements calling for more research, and should assure us at least four more years to demonstrate to the public that legalization is an effective program with few if any unintended consequences. Thanks, Bernie, we are in your debt.
With social issues, occasionally progress comes in bold steps, especially if the courts get involved and determine that an existing policy is unconstitutional (e.g., Roe v Wade on abortion rights or Obergefell v. Hodges on gay marriages). Of course, each of these victories was preceded by decades of litigation, so they too were not exactly overnight successes. Change takes time in this country, and generally occurs in incremental steps, rather than by big steps.
But the courts have consistently refused to hold marijuana prohibition is unconstitutional (with the exception of a state decision out of Alaska back in 1975 (Ravin v State ) holding the marijuana laws were unconstitutional as applied to personal use amounts in the home). So we don’t have the luxury of designing a strategy to win this fight with one big, successful court decision. We will have to win legalization through a combination of voter initiatives in the states that offer that option, and passing legislation in the other states, a challenging task that almost assures those states will be among the last to change.
But prohibition has been in effect for 80 years, resulting in the arrest of more than 30 million Americans on marijuana charges, many serving time in prison, alienating generations of young people and severely limiting their ability to get an education and advance professionally in their chosen careers. If necessary, we can certainly spend a few more decades (and I believe it will require a decade or more to finally treat responsible marijuana smokers fairly, including ending job discrimination, unfair child care policies, and unfair DUID provisions) to repair the damage caused by prohibition.
For the first time in my lifetime, a major political party has suggested they too recognize the need to move towards legalization, and away from prohibition. It was certainly not the headline of a convention that nominated the first female candidate for president, but it surely was a wonderfully hopeful sign of things to come.
By the next quadrennial conventions, even the Republicans may have found the courage to state the obvious.
Senate Bill 2228 reduces the penalties for the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine) to a civil fine of no more than $200 — no arrest and no criminal record.
It also decriminalizes related offenses involving the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
Senate Bill 2228 also amends the state’s zero tolerance per se traffic safety law, stating that the presence of THC in blood at levels below 5ng/ml “shall not give rise to any presumption that the person was or was not under the influence of cannabis.”
The full text of the measure is available here.
According to the ACLU, Illinois police arrest some 50,000 individuals annually for marijuana possession offenses — ranking #5 in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests.
Illinois becomes the third largest state to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses.