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  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director September 16, 2013

    The FBI released their crime and arrest statistics for 2012 today and, despite the fact that a majority of Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized, the total marijuana related arrests in the United States is largely unchanged year over year.

    In 2012, marijuana arrests as a percentage of all drug arrests dipped very slightly from 49.5% in 2011 to 48.3% last year. This puts the total number of marijuana arrests at about 749,825 (compared to 757,969 arrests in 2011). 87% of these arrests were for possession only, meaning that about 658,231 Americans were forced into handcuffs last year for nothing more than simple possession. Another 91,593 were arrested for sale or manufacturing charges.

    That means a marijuana consumer is arrested for possession every 48 seconds. In the time it took you to read this short blog post, another marijuana consumer was taken to jail. Meanwhile, the occurrences of violent crime ticked up to 1,214,462 reported incidents, an increase of 0.7% over 2011 totals.

    You can view the FBI Crime Report for 2012 here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 5, 2013

    poeOn May 18th, The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML held “Smoke Down Prohibition V” in a free speech zone near the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA. As the name suggests, this was the fifth such event they had organized. The previous four were well attended, with hundreds of legalization advocates attending and peacefully demonstrating against our country’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition. You can view video of the largest event, held on April 20th of this year, by clicking here.

    The previous rallies went off without a hitch. Protestors were peaceful and respectful while law enforcement kept their distance and allowed them to voice their constitutionally guaranteed rights (as evidenced in this video, where National Park Police refuse to interfere with the event). This time, things were different. It was immediately clear from the outset that the police were taking a different approach to Smoke Down Prohibition V, from the very beginning the police presence was massive, with a couple dozen officers standing by and a newly erected fence in place to keep the attendees contained.

    Smoke Down Prohibition V continued as planned, despite the inclement weather and ominous group of National Park Service Officers and Philadelphia Police keeping watch. Speakers addressed the crowd of about 100 through the rain and things seemed to be going smoothly. However, as The Panic Hour’s N.a. Poe began the countdown to 4:20, a time at which the crowd traditionally engages in a moment of “cannabis reflection,” the police made their move. Rushing past a crowd of people openly smoking cannabis, they stormed the stage and began the process of violently detaining several marijuana activists, including N.a. Poe, radio host Adam Kokesh, and New Jersey Libertarian candidate for Senate, Don DeZarn. The travesty that followed can be best understood by watching cell phone video captured from the scene below:


    (Poe’s arrest starts around 1:50 mark, he is in the hat and yellow shirt being violently pinned to the ground by law enforcement.)

    When the dust settled, several were detained and released. N.a. Poe and Adam Kokesh were taken into federal custody. For six days they were held in solitary confinement at a nearby federal detention center, with Poe being denied even a single phone call. The confinement was supposed to provide him with one hour out of solitary for every 23 hours he was in, but this often did not occur, with Poe spending over 36 hours straight in his cell at points. During these six days, he was also denied recreation, access to lawyers, and medical treatment.



    Photo Credit: Vanessa Maria, The Panic Hour

    When they were brought up for a hearing on their charges, Poe was charged with felony assault on a federal officer and resisting arrest though Kokesh ultimately had his charges dropped to citations. Unfortunately, Poe still must appear in court under these trumped up allegations, which it seems rather clear to any who watched the countless videos, filmed at multiple angles, never happened.

    Despite law enforcement’s best efforts to silence him, Poe remains undaunted in his fight against our nation’s absurd marijuana policy. “The suppression of freedom of speech and targeting of activists expressing their views at the birthplace of liberty is a travesty that casts a bright light on the failure of marijuana prohibition at a federal level,” he stated.

    N.a Poe and The Panic Hour have long been supporters and friends of NORML and the marijuana legalization movement and the seemingly purposeful targeting of him and several other marijuana activists is an appalling example of the lengths law enforcement will go to, not just to criminalize marijuana smokers, but to silence our ability to utilize our First Amendment rights speak out against this prohibition. NORML will keep you updated as his case moves forward, you can click here to learn more how you can help by supporting N.a. Poe’s legal defense fund.

    Not ones to be intimidated, The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML will be hosting Smoke Down Prohibition VI on June 30th, featuring a pro-legalization march with the Cannabus and live comments from N.a. Poe (who will have to be video streamed in as the conditions of his release require him to stay off of federal park property). Stay tuned to The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML‘s facebook pages for more info very soon.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director September 30, 2011

    We reap what we sow….

    On the verge of a three night PBS documentary series on the abject failure of Alcohol Prohibition (one of the taglines for the documentary is ‘a look back to when a law made America lawless’) an email from a victim of the modern prohibition that has totally failed affirms the obvious: Cannabis Prohibition must end. We must stop arresting, prosecuting, incarcerating ,drug testing, labeling for life and causing great physical, mental and economic harm to citizens who choose to use cannabis for relaxation or as a therapeutic agent.

    NORML receives dozens and dozens of emails, letters and phone calls DAILY from citizens experiencing the waste, cruelty and ineffectiveness of Cannabis Prohibition vis-a-vis the criminal justice system. Of course, with over 850,000 cannabis-related arrests per year (with nearly 90% of the arrests for possession-only) there is a never ending reservoir of citizen-government horror stories that the organization can highlight.

    Want to know what can happen to you or your children during modern America’s Cannabis Prohibition era if caught with a mere trace of cannabis?

    Please find below an extremely well written email received by NORML last night by a young woman in Kentucky who has unfortunately experienced the lancet’s tip of Cannabis Prohibition. I respect her intelligence, moxie and recognition that what her own government did to her was wrong and that the policies have to change to stop what really has become nothing more than citizen abuse by Prohibition-loving law enforcement agencies. Regrettably, elected policy makers continue to not respect the general population’s desire for degrees of cannabis law reforms:

    According to most national polling today, approximately 75% of the population favors medical access to cannabis; 73% support decriminalizing; and 45% support legalizing it like alcohol.

    With clear public support increasing every year for substantive cannabis law reforms, when will politicians start listening more to their bosses—the voting public—than from the Prohibition-loving law enforcement agencies that created Cannabis Prohibition in the 1930s and who today vigorously defend an antiquated policy that causes more harm than good?

    Is it not shortsighted to the point of reckless that the producers and consumers of alcohol and tobacco products do not also recognize what kind of hurt from the government is coming down the pike for them too—using the same force of law and legal precedent established to rationalize 74 years of Cannabis Prohibition—once their products enter into the government’s crosshairs of political incorrectness?

    —— Forwarded Message
    From: Brittany M.
    Date: Thu, 29 Sep 2011 17:42:03 -0400
    To: <norml@norml.org>
    Subject: PLEASE READ! Why I Support NORML!

    Hello, fellow good-doers.  Since recently discovering NORML via internet research, I have become elated to realize that there is a group of serious people ready to make serious change regarding marijuana laws.  I am a citizen of Elliott County, Kentucky-an extremely small town in northeaster KY.  I believe that an abundance of citizens stand to gain a whole lot from your organization, if they can all be made aware of its existence.  Kentucky’s ridiculous marijuana laws have caused me so much turmoil and pain that I couldn’t resist contacting you PERSONALLY to tell you my story.

    I am seventeen years old now, but not in high school.  It’s not because I’m lazy or a drop-out, but because I graduated two years early, as a sophomore.  Not only have I always maintained straight-A’s, but I was accepted into Morehead State University at only sixteen years of age!  I had everyone’s support, and I was far beyond excited to finally be academically challenged.  My life had done a complete 180 at this point, because it wasn’t too long prior that I was in shambles…

    I suffer from anxiety and major depression.  When I was thirteen, I attempted suicide and began my journey into the world of psychiatric “help”.  I was medicated with Zoloft, Trazadone, and at least five other anti-anxiety/antidepressants that I can’t recall the names of.  Some of them made my hair fall out, while others caused me to sweat and shake uncontrollably.  All of them required a two-week period of adjustment upon starting, during which I would vomit more than I care to speak of.  Nowadays, I am prescribed to take two Prozac capsules every single day, and I may very well have to take them for the rest of my living days.  But, admittedly, marijuana helped me overcome the side effects that were crippling me. My first day on campus, in January of 2011, was the best I’ve had.  For the first time in a long time, I felt normal. I went to class, I met a boy, and everyone wanted to be my friend.  The next day, it was time for me to move into my dorm room.  I arrived well before my classes would begin, but I would never make it to class that day.  An anonymous tip had been called in to the campus police department that I was a “pot head”.  I had a debilitating anxiety attack while I watched three uniformed police officers tear through all of my belongings, throwing them aside as if they were garbage, and never once asking me, “What is wrong?”, or, “What are these medications for?”.  Minutes later I was whisked away, bad-mouthed by the Dean of Students (who had just been commending me on my ACT score of 30), and told that I was to leave and could not return until the Fall of 2013, a whole year after my original class, who I had long since surpassed, would graduate and move on.

    In August, after months and months of torture-seeing everyone else being happy and college-bound-and being tied up in Kentucky’s legal system, I had my final court date.  I was administered a supervised drug test, for which I passed all but THC, and sentenced to 7 days in Boyd Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Ashland, KY  I am fully aware that it is meant to be a punishment and not a vacation, but the facility was filthy and very poorly maintained.  I witnessed two staff members mocking a much younger boy who was obviously mentally handicapped.  I was forced to drink from a glass that had insects and dirt festering in the bottom.  On top of all of this, my mother was provided with paperwork stating that I was to be placed on a mandatory orientation that would last for 48 hours, which I was unaware of until I came home.  However, within the facility, we were told that orientation was no less than four days.

    I rested very well on night number four, having finally spoken to my family.  However, the next day I awoke to a brand-spanking-new, and very rigorous exercise regimen, introduced to us by a male employee who I was seeing on this day for the very first time.  During this regimen, I had an anxiety attack and everyone was asked to return to their cells while I was left to the floor, gasping for air and being closely watched, but otherwise unattended.  We ate our breakfast in the festering cesspool of a cafeteria, and then a female worker led us, not to our block, but to the gymnasium for more exercise.  Sometime during this activity, I began to feel weak, and weird.  Something totally foreign came over me, and I was scared.  I raised my hand, and waited to be called on, as was protocol, and quickly informed the staff member that I thought something was really wrong.  She simply replied that if I were to vomit, I would be cleaning it myself, and told me to run six laps for speaking out.  I’m not completely clear about what happened after that, other than that I hit the concrete floor, hard.
    I awoke much later, in a daze, and projectile vomiting ensued.  I was loaded into an ambulance, accompanied by the female worker who continuously asked me if I had medical insurance.  I was far too shaken, scared, and sick to pay her much attention at the time.  Here I was puking into a bag that the ambulance attendant provided me, and she wanted to know about my insurance policy?  I was whisked out of the ambulance and into the ER, with shackles around my feet.  All I could think about was my mother, and so I asked if she had been called.  She had not.  I noted a nearby clock on the wall of my hospital room read 9:45.  I was scanned, poked, prodded, and MRI-ed for what felt like an eternity, until they finally informed me that I had suffered an acute heart attack and may also have mitral valve prolapse (MVP), a heart condition that caused me synocopal episodes, and that I would need to be back the next day for more tests.

    Still too weak to walk, I was wheeled in a wheelchair to the front door, where BOTH the female and male staff members from BRJDC were waiting with big smiles and a bag of fast food for me.  Still, they were curious about my insurance  My family has zero income, and so I explained to them that I have a medical card provided to me by the state.  We pulled back into the facility, and I was put in a holding cell instead of my regular room.  I tossed and turned and listened to muffled voices from behind the door, until finally an unfamiliar staff member came to me with a box of my clothes, and announced to me that I was going home.

    I ran to my mother and hugged her.  I was seeing sunshine for the first time in five or six days.  It felt like a miracle.  In the car, I saw that it was 3:15.  I asked my mother why she didn’t come to the hospital, and she told me that she had only just been called, and rushed right over.  She had no idea what had happened to me.  Our brief reunion was devastated in the following weeks with doctors and tests, hospitals and neurologists, who finally put me on two new medicines that I will, once again, most likely have to be on for the rest of my life.
    BUT MY QUESTION TO YOU IS THIS…how much marijuana was I arrested with that caused me all this turmoil?  Back in January, back on campus, back in the campus PD…they weighed the crumpled cellophane from my pocket and the digital scale read 0.2 grams.

    My college career, my mental stability, and above all else, my health, have been irreversibly damaged.  I feel as though NORML can make sure that nothing like this happens to anyone in a situation similar to mine ever again.  I wouldn’t wish this travesty on any mother and daughter, and I know that you would not either.

    Thank you for listening,

    Brittany M.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 19, 2008

    Voters in Massachusetts will decide this November on Question 2, which seeks to replace criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of no more than $100. Polls show that nearly three-out-of-four voters back the measure.

    Who opposes it?

    That’s an easy one. Who else?

    Officials unite to fight marijuana initiative
    via The Boston Globe

    Law enforcement officials statewide are uniting against a referendum question they fear will increase marijuana use among teenagers and generate more crime across the state.

    The state’s 11 district attorneys are unanimously opposing Question 2 and are being joined by police chiefs and some community groups, fearing it will undo years of effort to reduce drug use among teenagers.

    … “Nobody goes to jail today for simple possession of marijuana,” said Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, who is listed as the treasurer for the opponents, who are using the name Coalition for Safe Streets during the campaign.

    Hmmm, where have I heard this before? Oh yeah.

    The irony and the idiocy
    via the NORML blog

    Just days before the FBI released statistics indicating that police in 2007 arrested over 872,000 Americans — the most ever reported in law enforcement history — for violating pot laws, reigning Drug Czar (and pathological liar) John Walters alleged on C-Span, “We didn’t arrest 800,000 marijuana users. … That’s [a] lie.”

    (Watch the video of Walters’ remarks here.)

    The Czar’s nose grew another six inches when he uncorked this whopper: “The fact is today, people don’t go to jail for the possession of marijuana. Finding somebody in jail or prison for possession of marijuana is like finding a unicorn. It doesn’t exist.”

    (The video can be seen here.)

    Pardon me if I’m confused. On the one hand, you have law enforcement claiming that nobody goes to jail for pot possession. On the other hand, you have law enforcement actively opposing any and all efforts to reform America’s marijuana laws so that, in fact, nobody would actually go to jail for pot possession.

    Question: Why do cops vehemently oppose measures that seek to comport the law in line with what they claim is already standard prosecutorial practice?

    Is the answer:

    a) The cops are full of it; people go to jail for violating marijuana laws all the time.

    b) If cops stopped arresting minor pot offenders they wouldn’t know what else to do with their time.

    or c) Most cops really believe marijuana consumers are “dirt bags” and “losers” who belong in jail.

    Answer: Take your pick!

  • by NORML September 15, 2008

    By Russ Belville, NORML Stash

    Record Number Of Americans Arrested For Marijuana

    The FBI has released its annual report on Crime in the United States 2007. Once again, the number of people in the United States arrested for marijuana has gone up. 872,721 Americans were arrested for marijuana in 2007, and of those arrests, 89% or 775,138 were arrests for simple possession – not buying, selling, trafficking, or manufacture (growing).

    US Arrests Chart
    Get Graphics Code

    This represents an increase in marijuana arrests of 5.2% from the previous year and the fifth straight year marijuana arrests have increased from the previous year. Now a marijuana smoker is arrested at the rate of 1 every 37 seconds and almost 100 marijuana arrests per hour.

    (more…)