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  • by NORML April 24, 2018

    We are pleased to release our 2018 Gubernatorial Scorecard. This extensive database assigns a letter grade ‘A’ through ‘F’ to states’ governors based upon their comments and voting records specific to matters of marijuana policy.

    KEY FINDINGS

    • Twenty-four US governors received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (14 Democrats, 9 Republicans, and 1 Independent)
    • Of these, only two US governors, both Democrats, received an ‘A’ grade
    • Fifteen governors received a ‘B’ grade (9 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 1 Independent)
    • Seven governors received a ‘C’ grade (4 Republicans and 3 Democrats)
    • Nineteen governors received a ‘D’ grade (18 Republicans and 1 Democrat)
    • Four governors received a failing ‘F’ grade (All Republicans)
    • Three governors received no grade because of insufficient data
    • Of the 31 Republican US governors receiving a letter grade, only nine of them received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (34 percent)
    • Of the 15 Democratic US governors receiving a letter grade, 14 of them received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (93 percent)

    Commenting on the results, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri stated, “While federal officials tend to receive most of the scrutiny in the fight for marijuana law reform, it is not just members of Congress who deserve our attention. In fact, with the majority of marijuana-related campaigns decided on the state level, it is our nation’s governors who often hold the key to our success or failure.”

    Similar to the findings of NORML’s 2016 Governors Scorecard, this gubernatorial analysis once again affirms that voters’ views on marijuana policy are typically more progressive than the views held by the highest elected officials in their states – only 48 percent of whom received a passing grade from NORML. For example, while 64 percent of Americans support legalizing the use and sale of cannabis for adults, only two Governors are public in their support of this position. Governors overall are also far less supportive of legislation to legalize the medical use of cannabis than are their constituents – more than 90 percent of whom back these type of reform measures.

    Also evident is that gubernatorial support for marijuana law reform often falls upon partisan lines. While 93 percent of Democratic governors received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher, fewer than 40 percent of Republican governors did so. Further, nearly all of the governors who received either a ‘D’ or a failing grade from NORML are Republicans. Conversely, both of the governors who received a ‘A’ grade from NORML are Democrats. This partisanship lies largely in contrast to voters’ sentiments, as the public tends to view many aspects of marijuana law reform, such as the regulation of medicinal cannabis, as non-partisan issues. (For example, according to 2017 Quinnipiac polling, 90 percent of Republicans, 95 percent of Democrats, and 96 percent of Independents favor “allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes.”)

    Altieri continued: “Voters need to push current governors and 2018 gubernatorial candidates to take a proactive and positive stance on marijuana policy. Constituents must let their governors know that holding positions on marijuana legalization that are of step with the will of state voters will cost them at the ballot box, and that embracing sensible reform policies will increase their support among voters.”

    He added: “Look to New Jersey as an example. The exit of anti-drug zealot Chris Christie and the election of pro-legalization Phil Murphy has changed the entire tenor of the debate. Already, the state is moving to expand and reinforce their long suffering medical marijuana program and his very election catapulted the topic of full legalization to the top of this year’s legislative priorities list.”

    To read NORML’s full report, please visit: http://norml.org/us-governors

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 7, 2017

    voteIt is once again election night in America. While 2017 doesn’t feature any statewide marijuana initiatives, there are still a number of races to watch tonight that will impact marijuana law reform efforts across the nation.

    Virginia Governor

    Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (D): Democratic candidate, and current Lt. Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam has been outspoken in his support for ending criminal penalties for marijuana. Earlier this year, Northam published a letter calling for decriminalization and an expanded medical marijuana program.

    Northam wrote: “We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement?—?money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.

    As a doctor, I’m becoming increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD. By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”

    Ed Gillespie (R): Republican candidate, and former Republican National Committee Chair, Ed Gillespie has stated he does not support the legalization or outright decriminalization of marijuana believing it “sends the wrong signal” to children.

    Gillespie does support a very limited change to Virginia’s marijuana laws, that would move possession to a three strike system – dropping the possibility of jail time for an individual’s first two marijuana possession arrests, but retaining it for the third.

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR VA VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    New Jersey Governor

    Phil Murphy (D): Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has made marijuana legalization a priority issue in his campaign. In addition to publicly campaigning in support of ending marijuana prohibition in the state, in his primary election victory speech Murphy said he wants a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana in the Garden State on his desk within the first 100 days of taking office.

    “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Phil Murphy said the night he won the Democratic primary. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.

    Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno (R): Republican candidate, and current Lt. Governor, Kim Guadagno has stated that she is “wholly opposed to legalizing marijuana” citing inaccurate information in regards to marijuana’s impact on driving.

    “I have personal experience about what exactly happens to somebody who drives while they’re high, which is why I would oppose legalization of marijuana,” Guadagno said during a debate during the Republican primary.

    During the general election, she further stated her opposition, saying she believed legalization would “put a whole generation of children at risk.”

    “I don’t want our children, I don’t want our people to walk down the street and buy a pack of cigarettes and be drug dealers.”

    Despite her opposition to legalization, Guadagno has stated she would support decriminalization of possession and limited expansion of the state’s existing medical marijuana program.

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR NJ VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Athens, OH: Athens Cannabis Ordinance

    Residents of Athens, Ohio will have the ability to vote on the “Athens Cannabis Ordinance” which would significantly reform many of the penalties around marijuana possession and cultivation in the city. The ordinance would drop the fine for the following offenses to $0, effectively removing any criminal or civil punishment:

    • Possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana and up to 10 grams of hash
    • Cultivation of up to 200 grams of marijuana
    • Gifts of up to 20 grams of marijuana
    • Possession and sale of paraphernalia

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR ATHENS, OH VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Atlanta Mayor (Note: If none of the candidates in tonight’s election receive more than 50% of the vote, there will be a run-off election this winter between the top two vote getters. Atlanta’s mayoral race is also non-partisan.)

    During the debate surrounding the now approved decriminalization bill in Atlanta, news outlet the AtlantaLoop got a majority of the mayoral candidates on record in regards to their views on marijuana penalties. The incoming mayor will oversee the implementation of this ordinance so it is important to have a supportive incoming mayor in power in 2018.

    Peter Aman, former Atlanta COO: “I support the deprioritization of marijuana enforcement and will work with the courts and the police department and community to examine a procedure focused on fines, rather than jail time. Criminal justice reform is not just a buzzword. It is a thoughtful approach to finding ways to ensure citizens do not carry a lifelong burden for instances that do not cause harm to the public. Equally important, deprioritization is a cost-saving measure on the courts and the public safety budget. It allows our officers to focus on crime fighting and keeping our communities safe.

    Also, I firmly believe, and research shows, marijuana use has clear impacts on the brain development of children and young adults. In addition to, or in lieu of other penalties, I will ask the courts to examine requiring individuals below a certain age to attend an educational course on the cognitive impacts of marijuana and to help them make informed choices in how, when, and where they use such a substance – as we do in case of abuse of alcohol use.”

    Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves: “It is high time that Atlanta City Council members and Mayor Kasim Reed stop talking, and start doing something on the issue of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. Generally, that means these offenses are treated like a minor traffic violation: no arrest, prison time, or criminal record for a first-time possession.

    Unlike my opponents who have sat on their hands while our young people suffer, I have a track record of actually doing something about issues like this one. For example, as Fulton County Chairman, I pushed through the first-ever expungement program, to give people a second chance after arrests for minor offenses— including those never prosecuted. I also championed the successful Fulton County diversion program that has seen our jail population decrease and our recidivism rate drop dramatically.

    As a long-standing criminal justice, youth diversion and expungement advocate, my main concern is that for small amounts of marijuana possession, a person can have a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their life. While we must be for law and order, we also must be fair. That means using best practices based on other local government experiences. For example, the Clarkston City Council, voted unanimously last year to reduce the fine from up to $1,000 to $75 for possessing less than an ounce, and eliminating the possibility of jail time. In the nation’s capital city of Washington, D.C., voters approved decriminalization for people over the age of 21.

    For a city as diverse as Atlanta, a decriminalization ordinance in this direction makes sense.

    As Atlanta’s next mayor, I will continue to make juvenile justice a top priority and will work to provide laws that are fair to everyone, no matter their zip code.”

    State Sen. Vincent Fort: “I’m talking about a ticket, a citation, I’m talking about no mugshot, no arrest. A citation, go on your way, pay.  Anywhere from $25, $50 to $75.

    Two, I am very concerned that there’s this confusion, quote-unquote confusion issue.  I’ve heard some city council members and some candidates for mayor talk about how people from the outside of the city would come in and think that they could smoke dope and there’d be no consequences.  That is a red herring.  Then there are some other people who have said, ‘Oh I’m not going to have quote-unquote blood on my hands,’ by virtue of the fact that they say, ‘Well there’s a kid who thinks he can smoke dope anywhere, any way he wants and he gets arrested because the officer has discretion … and they’ll resist arrest and thus you know blood’ll be on the hands of anyone who supports this.’ That’s just crazy, it’s absolutely crazy. It’s unfortunate that elected officials would engage in such mendacity, intentionally trying to create confusion on the issues.

    … [I]f there are all these cities all over the country including in the South, that can decriminalize marijuana, if tiny Clarkston can do it, the city of Atlanta can do it. The fact of the matter is, the city council and the mayor have been in power, in place, as well as the Fulton County Commission has been in place for years and young African American males … have been pushed into the entryway for mass incarceration and they [officials] have done nothing. And now that they have the chance to do it, they’re abdicating their responsibility.”

    Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall: “It is a high priority for my administration to be able to roll out an effective and well-communicated marijuana declassification, so [people are not] not excessively penalized for possession of less than an ounce.”

    Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood: “I want a dialog with the police department as to the impact of changing the city’s ordinance and what does to offenders and whether or not … the state law would then apply.  What we need is an understanding from the police department as to the steps that occur now and the steps that would occur for their police officers on the street with offenders with the changes.”

    Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell: “When I was a child being raised in this city, the last thing my father wanted to do as a police officer was to destroy the lives of young people.

    The time and effort spent apprehending and sending people to jail for this minor offense would be of better use to law enforcement in their pursuit of dangerous criminals. When police officers spend time on these offenses, jail cells end up filled with non-violent offenders, while repeat and violent offenders often go free.

    Atlantans deserve to have a city that encourages kids to reach their potential, not one that embraces punishment for every misstep.

    While usage rates are roughly the same across different races, statistics show that African-Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. For many Atlanta kids, it is a gateway to prison. We need to do everything we can to end a process that hurts our kids by serving as a fast track to incarceration”

    Two candidates, Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard and Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, did not respond to AtlantaLoop’s request for comment. However, it is worth noting that both serve on the Atlanta City Council, which unanimously approved teh decriminalization measure earlier this year. You can view their full article here.

     

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR ATLANTA, GA VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Stay tuned…

    NORML will be covering the results of these elections throughout the evening on our blog and social media channels. Stay tuned for results and reactions later tonight.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director January 15, 2017

    HumboldtFor marijuana activists in states with legal marijuana, the strategy quickly moves from legalization to normalization, but for some communities like Ferndale, California, the stigma remains. For months, organizers of the Humboldt County Cup and the Ferndale Police Department have gone back and forth over the decision to host their event at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds. Citing past complaints from the community and concerns about the reggae music that was to be played during the event, local law enforcement never specified what laws, if any, would be violated.

    “Smith-Caggiano — who is the executive director of the Humboldt County chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — said the Ferndale Police Department never cited any legal codes to back up their concerns despite requests for them to do so.”

    Regardless of receiving approval from the Humboldt County Fair Association, Mr. Smith-Caggiano was ultimately forced by the Ferndale Police Department to move the event location to the Mateel Community Center, located at 59 Rusk Lane, Redway, California 95560.

    Read more here: http://www.thecannifornian.com/cannabis-culture/cannabis-events/humboldt-county-pot-fest-moved-downsized-police-concerns/

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 9, 2016

    Election Day dealt another body blow to our nation’s costly, failed, and discriminatory policy of marijuana prohibition. If anyone thought our victories in 2012 and 2014 were a passing fad, it is now clear that they were mistaken. With adult use measures being approved in four states (CA, MA, ME, NV) and medical marijuana initiatives passing in another four (AR, FL, MT, ND), the era of marijuana legalization is upon us. By standing together and fighting for our shared beliefs, we spread the seeds of the cannabis revolution far and wide.

    But now is not the time to become complacent. As we celebrate our recent successes, we must remind ourselves that legalization is not inevitable. It is dependent upon maintaining the fight. Our opponents are not going away. They remain well funded and ready for battle. So should we.

    DONATE TODAY TO CONTINUE THE REVOLUTION

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    From day one, NORML’s mission has been to shape public and political opinion so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer criminalized and stigmatized. NORML does so by standing up for the rights of the responsible cannabis consumer, and by presenting credible, evidence-based information about marijuana and marijuana policy reform to the general public, the mainstream media, pundits, and policymakers. And I firmly believe that nobody does it better.

    That is why I’m honored to be named NORML’s new Executive Director.

    I’m no stranger to this cause or to NORML itself. From 2007 to 2015 I served as NORML’s Communications Director, PAC Manager, and chief lobbyist. Following a brief sabbatical, during which I fought to decrease the influence of big money in our political system, I am honored and excited to return to lead NORML during one of the most exciting and critical times in the group’s forty year history.

    I urge you to stand with me, NORML’s staff, and with our nationwide network of chapters. We must capitalize on our newly minted successes and seize upon our growing public support. No one person or organization can win this fight alone. We must come together as advocates in a unified force so that we can make our desired policy reforms a reality.

    Even with these victories, most Americans are still living under the specter of marijuana prohibition. Obviously, there is much more work that needs to be done. We need your help to finish the job.

    NORML only exists and succeeds because of the support of passionate and dedicated individuals like you. With you standing shoulder to shoulder with us, we will continue to take our fight to city councils, state legislatures, and to Congress. Together, we are unstoppable. Together, we WILL legalize marijuana nationwide.

    The revolution continues,

    Erik Altieri
    NORML Executive Director

    JOIN THE FIGHT TODAY

     

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate

    According to the Associated Press, voters in Maine have approved Question 1, the Marijuana Legalization Act. The Associated Press’s final vote count is 50.17 to 49.83 percent.

    “In 2013, over 70% of voters in the city of Portland decided it was time to reject the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and embrace legalization. Tonight, a majority of voters statewide agreed with that assessment. With the approval of Question 1, Maine has elected to take a sensible approach to marijuana and reject the flawed ideas of the past. Thanks to them, Maine will no longer arrest otherwise law abiding adults for choosing to consume a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol and tobacco and in the process generate tax revenue that will be used to greatly improve education and other vital state services.” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s new Executive Director.

    Maine Legalized Marijuana

    Question 1, the Marijuana Legalization Act, permits adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program to legally grow (up to six plants, including all of the harvest from those plants, and/or up to 12 immature plants) and to possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to two and one-half ounces of herbal cannabis) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The law imposes a 10 percent tax on commercial marijuana sales. Under the law, localities have the authority to regulate, limit, or prohibit the operation of marijuana businesses. On site consumption is permitted under the law in establishments licensed for such activity.

    The new law takes effect within 40 days. Regulations for marijuana-related businesses are scheduled to be in place by August 8, 2017. You can read the full text of Question 1 here.

    “To those who allege that marijuana law reform is a west coast phenomenon, tonight’s votes tell a different story,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “The majority of Americans throughout this country recognize that marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts young people and communities of color. That is voters are rejecting the failures of criminalization and embracing these sort of regulatory alternatives.”

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