• by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director February 27, 2013

    According to survey data released this week by The Field Poll, a record number of Californians now support legalizing and regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

    The poll, conducted February 5-17 among 834 registered California voters, found that 54% support making the use of marijuana legal, with age and other controls like those that apply to alcohol, only 43% were opposed. This is the highest level of support for legalization since The Field Poll began asking the question. In their 2010 poll, only 50% of California voters supported legalization and 46% were opposed.

    This survey also found that an overwhelming 72% of Californians support the state’s medical marijuana program and 52% favor allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to open in their town.

    California narrowly rejected Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana in 2010, but clearly public opinion has continued to move in our favor since then. It is reasonable to expect that by 2016, when many believe there will be another voter initiative to legalize marijuana, support will have reached the critical mass required to approve of such a measure.

    You can view the full poll results here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director January 28, 2013

    Huffington Post reporters Ryan Grimm and Ryan Reilly publish one of the most comprehensive and insightful pieces to date on the current friction between state and federal laws regarding cannabis in America, and conclude that federal prosecutors at the regional level—not elected policymakers or department leaders in Washington—are largely creating an ad hoc enforcement policy from state-to-state.


  • by Sabrina Fendrick December 12, 2012

    Defense Attorney Lauren K. Johnson won a major court victory for parents who legally use marijuana for medical purposes last week in Los Angeles.  In the case of Drake A. (case # B236769), Division Three of the Second Appellate District, California Court of Appeal ruled on December 5, 2012 that there was no evidence showing that the defendant, a father, is a substance ab­user for simply being a legal medical marijuana patient. The court confirmed that while parents who abuse drugs can lose custody of their children, a parent who uses marijuana for medical reasons, with a doctor’s approval, isn’t necessarily a drug abuser.

    The father, “Paul M.” was placed under DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) supervision after he testified in an October 2011 hearing that he used medical marijuana about four times a week for knee pain.  During that same hearing, he also stated that he never medicates in front of his children, nor is he under the influence while they are in his care.  DCFS supervision requires drug counseling, parenting classes and random drug testing.  During subsequent drug screenings the father tested positive for marijuana, and negative for all other drugs.  As a result, the Superior Court of Los Angeles ruled that the child was to become a “dependent of the court based on the trial court’s finding that [the] father’s usage of medical marijuana placed the child at substantial risk of serious physical harm or illness…”.

    “Paul M.” appealed the former court’s ruling, which was challenged in the Second Appellate District of California.  The Appellate court subsequently ruled in favor of reversing the Superior court’s judgment.  The official ruling stated “[that the] DCFS failed to show that [the] father was unable to provide regular care for Drake [the minor child at issue] due to father’s substance abuse.  Both DCFS and the trial court apparently confused the meanings of the terms ‘substance use’ and ‘substance abuse’.”

    Johnson issued a press release noting that this is the first case to distinguish between marijuana use and abuse with regards to child protection laws. “In overturning a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling against the plaintiff, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the Appellate Court said the ‘mere usage of drugs,’ including marijuana, is not the same as substance abuse that can affect child custody, as alleged in this case by the lower court.”  She went on to say, “The ruling illustrates a growing recognition of the legitimate use of medical marijuana in this state and other states. We want kids to be safe, but we also want parents to be able to use legally prescribed medications when children appear not to be at demonstrated risk of harm.”

    This has been a pervasive issue in California, as well as other medical marijuana states. Legal patients have lost custody of their children and been forced to turn their children over to a juvenile protection agency.  The NORML Women’s Alliance has been working hard to bring this issue to the forefront.  NORML Women’s Alliance Director Sabrina Fendrick issued the following statement; “This ruling is a small victory in our fight for legal marijuana patients’ parental rights.  We hope that future judicial hearings, as well as child protection agencies will utilize this judgment and adopt new policies that reflect the Appellate court’s ruling.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 25, 2012

    On Wednesday, October 24, a group of California dispensary operators, medical cannabis providers, and patients, as Plaintiffs, filed their Opening Brief before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, asking the Circuit Court to hold that Plaintiffs, in their continuing litigation against the Federal Government, have a constitutional Ninth Amendment and Substantive Due Process fundamental right to distribute, possess and use medical cannabis. The brief, filed by members of the NORML Legal Committee, also contends that the Federal Government’s criminal prohibition of medical cannabis has no rational basis and thus violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Plaintiffs further contend that the Federal Government is Judicially Estopped from enforcing medical marijuana prohibition in states that allow such activity because the Administration has previously asserted in public and in court that they would no longer do so.

    Plaintiffs in November 2011 initially filed suit in California’s four federal districts against Eric Holder (United States Attorney General), Michelle Leonhart (Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the individual US Attorneys of each California District: Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego — following increased efforts from the Obama administration and the state’s US Attorneys to crack down on the production and distribution of medical cannabis. Plaintiff’s are asking the Ninth Circuit to reverse the district court’s dismissal of that complaint, and to allow the plaintiff’s the opportunity to prove their contentions in a court of law.

    Three members of the NORML Legal Committee — Matt Kumin and David Michael from San Francisco and Alan Silber from Roseland, NJ — are representing the Plaintiffs in this appeal. In a press release, they stated, “The ill, in compliance with state law and with a physician’s recommendation, are made to suffer needlessly by the federal threats and denial of access to medical cannabis due to irrational governmental policy. Judicial intervention is the only way to stop the federal government from acting irrationally and from willfully ignoring the science supporting the use of cannabis as medicine.”

    The cases are El Camino Wellness Center, et al. v. Eric Holder et al. (Sacramento), Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, et al. v. Eric Holder, et al. (San Francisco), and Alternative Community Health Care Cooperative, et al. v. Eric Holder, et al. (San Diego).

    Other NLC attorneys who participated in the litigation of these cases are Lance Rogers of San Diego, Mark Reichel of Sacramento and Edward Burch of San Francisco.

    A copy of Plaintiff’s Opening Brief is available here.

  • by Sabrina Fendrick August 13, 2012

    [Editor’s note: New video from Reason depicts the Caravan for Peace’s start at the US -Mexico border.]

    NORML and the NORML Women’s Alliance are pleased to announce their support and official endorsement of The Movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity, along with the American-based organization Global Exchange’s “Caravan for Peace.”

    “This campaign will draw public attention to the damage marijuana
    prohibition is causing not  only in our country, but in Mexico as well.  This multi-national coalition of drug reform, human rights, religious and progressive organizations have come together with one objective; raising awareness about, and ending, our 75 year violent and failed drug prohibition,” said Sabrina Fendrick of the NORML Women’s Alliance.

    [From the website:] The Caravan represents one element of a broad strategy responding to Mexico’s violent national emergency resulting from Drug War policies (in Mexico and the U.S.) gone tragically wrong. The idea of the Caravan is to make Mexico’s national emergency tangible in the United States and to create a platform where those affected by the Drug War from Mexico, the U.S. and elsewhere can join their voices to inform public opinion on both sides of the border.


    The Caravan takes place at a politically charged moment. It begins in San Diego, six weeks after Mexico’s July 1 presidential election and arrives in Washington, D.C. in September, six weeks prior to the U.S. elections. This summer we will bring communities together around events large and small, turning awareness into action and building a movement that will continue pushing for changes at the local, state, national and international level long after the Caravan has passed through.

    The U.S. Caravan’s mission is, among other things:

    • To make the connections between the impacts of the Drug War in Mexico (violence, deaths and rise of organized crime) and in the U.S. (criminalization, incarceration, and life-long marginalization- disproportionately affecting African-American and Latino communities);
    • To promote a civil society discourse with the American public and opinion leaders about the policies (easy access to assault weapons, militarization of drug enforcement and U.S. prohibition policies) at the root of the crisis;
    • To foster collaboration and effective solidarity among a broad range of progressive, grassroots, religious, humanitarian and other organizations; and
    • To leave, in the Caravan’s wake, informed, organized, and mobilized communities of activists who will pursue reform strategies in the near and long-term on both sides of the border.

    NORML chapters across the country, as well as NORML Women’s Alliance community groups will be taking part in the campaign as the caravan arrives in their respective locations.  If there are other groups who are interested in getting involved with the Caravan, please click here to find your local contact.

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