Federal government

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director July 22, 2015

    legalizationToday a Blue Ribbon Commission led by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom released a report providing a total of 58 recommendations for advocates to consider as they move forward to place a legalization initiative on the statewide ballot in November 2016.

    California will be joined by a number of other states hoping to legalize marijuana in 2016.

    This report seeks to provide regulatory guidance for the state’s forthcoming legalization effort. The commission prefaced its report by stating: “Legalization of marijuana would not be an event that happens in one election. Rather, it would be a process that unfolds over many years requiring sustained attention to implementation.”

    The 93-page report addresses policy options on a myriad of subjects, ranging from commercial production to taxation and everything in between. Authors advocate that the four core goals of legalizing cannabis are: promoting the public interest, reducing the size of the illicit market, offering legal protection to responsible actors, and capturing and investing tax revenue. Another predominant theme throughout the report is youth safety. The Commissions states, “A Tax and Regulate policy legalizing marijuana use by adults has the potential to reserve sufficient revenue to provide universal access to programs such as Student Assistance Programs (SAPs) that emphasize learning skills, remediation of academic performance, improved school climate, school retention, peer group interventions, family engagement and more effective drug education, prevention and counseling programs. ”

    Notably, the report acknowledges that if California voters were to legalize in 2016, “state officials should engage the federal government, both to ensure compliance with these federal enforcement priorities and to help change other federal rules that may be obstacles to safe legalization at the state level,” signaling that lawmakers intend to bring immense pressure to federal authorities to accommodate state legalization efforts. Specific changes the report wishes to see on the federal level are amendments to banking regulations and IRS rules.

    While the report itself avoids explicitly endorsing or opposing marijuana legalization, Lieutenant Governor Newsom has been an outspoken critic of prohibition and is currently the highest office holder in California calling for the plant’s legalization.

    Six separate initiatives have been filed in California so far in hopes of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Voters rejected legalization previously in 2010 but a recent poll performed by the Public Policy Institute of California puts support among likely voters at 56%.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director December 14, 2012

    [Editor’s note: Along with signing the below White House petition encouraging the president to grant clemency to these federal prisoners with life sentences for cannabis-only related offenses, please take a moment to do something even more important and write letters of support to the clemency petition to both the President (1600 Pennsylvania, NW, Washington, DC, 20500-0004) and the Office of Pardon Attorney (1425 New York Ave., NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20530) asking for immediate commutation of these prisoners’ sentences.

    Additionally, please mention each man by name: John Knock, Paul Free, William Dekle, Larry Duke and Charles Cundiff.]

    Cannabis Prohibition is ending in America (and likely soon around the world too). It is not going to end without prolonged legal, political and regulatory battles. This is well known and anticipated by reformers.

    Social justice movements take decades to build up credibility, social impetus and political saliency. There are, necessarily, many angles by which cannabis prohibition laws can be assaulted: legislation, binding voter initiatives and impact litigation.

    Recently, the law office of Michael Kennedy (the principle behind Trans High Corporation, publishers of High Times Magazine; lifetime member of NORML Legal member) filed an historic legal petition with the federal government seeking clemency for five elderly prisoners serving lifetime sentences for cannabis-only related crimes. In the many hundreds of debates and discussions I’ve had with law enforcement officials and elected policymakers about the need to replace cannabis prohibition laws with logical alternatives, I’m vexed to no end when they make the ridiculous claim: ‘no one gets arrested for marijuana anymore and certainly no one is incarcerated for the stuff!’

    To wit, 1) there are over 750,000 annual cannabis arrests (90% for possession-only) that generate many tens of thousands of cannabis-only offenders sent to jail or prison, and 2) these five men are serving lifetime sentences, for a product that is no longer contraband in two states, decriminalized in fourteen states and eighteen states (and the District of Columbia) now have medical cannabis laws (with six states allowing commercial retail access to the herb with a physician’s recommendation).

    This federal petition to release these men back to their loving families and to get off the tax roll is born out of the non-profit organization called Life For Pot (where the groups is tracking at least twenty prisoners serving life sentences for cannabis-only related offenses), the heart felt project of volunteer Beth Curtis.

    Mr. Obama indicated to ABC News that ‘he has bigger fish to fry’ when asked about what if anything the feds are going to regarding Colorado and Washington voters recently approving cannabis legalization measures. Whether the president is going to expend any political capital at all in actually advancing cannabis law reforms in his last four years remains to be seen, but, the man should act post haste, giving a nod to the new legal era America has entered regarding cannabis prohibition, on this well researched and written petition by granting clemency to these former and now elderly pot cultivators and smugglers.

    We can all help place greater public focus and attention on this federal petition by letting the White House know that President Obama should ‘do the right thing’ and pardon these lifetime prisoners for growing and supplying cannabis to a willing and wonting population of cannabis consumers while unpopular (and largely unenforceable) prohibition laws were still in place.

    Please help Mr. Kennedy’s petition for clemency, Beth’s life’s work and these five cannabis prisoners by signing the White House petition to act favorably upon it. You can review the petition here.


  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 30, 2012

    United States Representatives have introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress — House Bill 6606, The Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2012 — to amend the US Controlled Substances Act to provide that federal law shall not preempt state marijuana laws.

    The measure is sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, and is co-sponsored by Reps. Blumenauer (OR), Coffman (CO), Cohen (TN), Farr (CA), Frank (MA), Grijalva (AZ), Lee (CA), Paul (TX), and Polis (CO). It has been referred to Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

    “I am proud to join with colleagues from both sides of the aisle on the ‘Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act’ to protect states’ rights and immediately resolve any conflict with the federal government,” said Rep. DeGette in a prepared statement. “In Colorado we’ve witnessed the aggressive policies of the federal government in their treatment of legal medicinal marijuana providers. My constituents have spoken and I don’t want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens.”

    Added Rep. Polis, “The people of Colorado and Washington voted in overwhelming numbers to regulate the sale of marijuana. Colorado officials and law enforcement are already working to implement the will of Colorado voters, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in Congress and officials in the administration to deliver clear guidance that ensures the will of the people is protected.”

    House Bill 6606 states, “In the case of any State law that pertains to marihuana, no provision of this title shall be construed as indicating an intent on the part of the Congress to occupy the field in which that provision operates, including criminal penalties, to the exclusion of State law on the same subject matter, nor shall any provision of this title be construed as preempting any such State law.”

    While it is unlikely that members of Congress will address this measure in the final days of the 112th session, it is anticipated that Representatives will reintroduce the measure in 2013.

    Please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page for updates on contacting your members of Congress regarding The Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2012.


  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director August 10, 2012

    No matter the media medium, the tragic story of the federal government’s war against a beloved plant and the people who’re keen to it, can’t be told enough times, in enough ways.

    Artist-journalist Susie Cagle’s take on the federal government’s latest crackdown against medical cannabis providers in California is found at CartoonMovement.com

    This unique cartoon medium allows for audio embeds, some offensive language may be heard.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director August 5, 2012

    As more and more public, economic and political attention is being cast towards cannabis legalization during the failed policy’s 75th birthday week, these apparently are the years of sober public policy writing examining what an end to Cannabis Prohibition is possibly going to look like with tax lawyer Patrick Ogelsby’s cover article in State Tax Notes last year, Rand Corporation/Kleinman/Caulkins’ book ‘Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know — 2012’ and now a cover piece in the magazine we policy wonks live to read…Governing Magazine.

    The Governing writer touches upon what I’ve come to recognize as obvious:  rigid state medical cannabis programs like Colorado’s (as, for example, compared to California’s practically non-existent state regulations and laws regarding medical cannabis) as necessary precursor to state-sanctioned cannabis legalization for non-medical retail.

    With publications and books like these being distributed widely among policymakers, elected officials, staff, media and NGOs…it is not possible that Cannabis Prohibition can survive in free market-oriented democracies like America for an additional seventy-five years!

    Not possible!


    Hey Allen,
    Wanted to share the link to my medical marijuana feature, now it’s been posted online: http://www.governing.com/topics/public-justice-safety/gov-medical-marijuana-becoming-mainstream.html

    As I think I mentioned to you, it was our August cover! (You can see it in the upper right-hand corner). Feel free to distribute it through your own channels, and I’d love to hear any feedback. Couldn’t have done it without all the background and additional help and contacts that you gave me. Thanks again. Sure we’ll have a chance to chat again soon.
    – Dylan
    Dylan Scott
    Staff Writer
    GOVERNING | governing.com 
    A division of e.Republic | Smart Media for Public Sector Innovation
    1100 Connecticut Ave N.W., Suite 1300
    Washington, D.C. 20036

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