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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 27, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesA recently released white paper published by the National District Attorneys Association is calling for the federal government to strictly enforce anti-cannabis laws in states that have regulated its production and distribution for either medical or recreational purposes.

    The working group, which consists of D.A.s and prosecutors from more than a dozen states (including representatives from adult use states like California and Colorado), hopes to influence the Trump administration to set aside the 2013 Cole memorandum. That memorandum, authored by former US Deputy Attorney General James Cole, directs state prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

    “To maintain respect for the rule of law, it is essential that federal drug enforcement policy regarding the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of marijuana be applied consistently across the nation,” the NDAA paper concludes.

    Predictably, authors repeat numerous falsehoods about marijuana and marijuana policy in an effort to bolster their call for a federal crackdown. Specifically, authors allege that cannabis damages the brain to a far greater extent than alcohol and that statewide regulations have increased young people’s access to the plant. Both claims are demonstrably false.

    The NDAA opines, “[Marijuana] is not like alcohol … because alcohol use does not cause the same type of permanent changes to teens’ ability to concentrate and learn.” Yet, well controlled studies dismiss the contention that cannabis exposure causes permanent structural damage to the brain.

    Specifically, a 2015 study assessed brain morphology in both daily adult and adolescent cannabis users compared to non-users, with a particular focus on whether any differences were identifiable in the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus, and the cerebellum. Investigators reported “no statistically significant differences … between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest” after researchers controlled for potentially confounding variables. In contrast to marijuana, researchers acknowledged that alcohol “has been unequivocally associated with deleterious effects on brain morphology and cognition in both adults and adolescents.”

    The NDAA further claims, “Legalization of marijuana for medical use and recreational use clearly sends a message to youth that marijuana is not dangerous and increases youth access to marijuana.”

    But data from the US Centers for Disease control reports that young people’s access to marijuana has fallen by 13 percent since 2002. The agency further reports, “Since 2002, the prevalence of marijuana use and initiation among U.S. youth has declined” – a finding that is consistent with numerous prior studies.

    Moreover, state-specific post-legalization data published in March by the Colorado Department of Public Health concludes: “[M]arijuana use, both among adults and among youth, does not appear to be increasing to date. No change was observed in past 30-day marijuana use among adults between 2014 (13.6 percent) and 2015 (13.4 percent). Similarly, there was no statistically significant change in 30-day or lifetime marijuana use among high school students between 2013 (lifetime: 36.9 percent, 30-day: 19.7 percent) and 2015 (lifetime: 38.0 percent, 30-day: 21.2 percent).” 2016 data compiled by Washington State Department of Social and Health Services similarly finds that “rates of teen marijuana use have remained steady” post legalization.

    The National District Attorneys Association is the largest and oldest prosecutor organization in the country. Their mission is to be “the voice of America’s prosecutors and strives to support their efforts to protect the rights and safety of the people in their communities.”

    The full text of the their paper, entitled “Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors’ Perspective,” is available online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 20, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaMore than six in ten Americans believe that the social use of marijuana should be legal for adults, according to nationwide polling data provided by CBS News.

    The percentage marks a significant increase since 2013, when only 45 percent of respondents endorsed legalization, and it is among the highest levels of public support ever reported in a national poll. Only a majority of those respondents over the age of 65 did not support legalization.

    Pollsters also reported that 88 percent of US adults support regulating the use of medical marijuana, and that 71 percent of Americans — including majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — oppose efforts on the part of the federal government to interfere in state’s that have legalized the plant’s distribution and use. The percentage represents a blowback to the Trump administration, which in February threatened “greater enforcement” of federal anti-marijuana laws in states that have legalized its adult use.

    Fifty-three percent of respondents said that they believe alcohol to be more harmful than cannabis, and a majority of those under the age of 65 acknowledged having used it.

    The CBS News poll possesses a margin of error of +/- four percent.

    [Update: A nationwide Quinnipiac University poll, also released this week, reports similar levels of public support. It reports that 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, the highest level of support ever reported by the polling firm. It further reported that voters oppose, by a margin of 73 percent to 21 percent. government enforcement of federal anti-cannabis laws in states that have legalized the medical or recreational use of marijuana.]

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director April 13, 2017

    legalizationToday, the federal Liberal government of Canada released a slate of proposed bills that would legalize and regulate the commercial sale and adult use of marijuana in the country. The legislation would establish 18 as the minimum legal age to purchase marijuana and would create a legal framework for production, sale, and distribution. The bills were introduced in the House of Commons by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Health Minister Jane Philpott and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freehand.

    You can read more details on the proposed legislation HERE.

    This sensible approach to marijuana stands in stark contrast to the direction and tone United States President Donald Trump and his administration have been taking on the issue. While the Canadian government is moving in the direction of legalization and regulation, the Trump Administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions seem more intent on reviving outdated and erroneous Drug War rhetoric than allowing science and facts to dictate public policy. The United States should follow Canada’s example and end our own costly and disastrous prohibition on marijuana.

    CLICK HERE TO EMAIL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TODAY AND URGE THEM TO END FEDERAL MARIJUANA PROHIBITION

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator April 3, 2017

    WV NORML[UPDATE: On Thursday, April 5, members of the House and Senate concurred on an amended version of SB 386, which significantly curtails patient protections included in the initial version of the bill. The amended bill now awaits action from Gov. Jim Justice, who is expected to sign it in to law.]

    Marijuana advocates in West Virginia are celebrating after the state senate voted to pass a bill that would legalize and regulate the use of medical marijuana in the Mountain State. After surviving two committee assignments, and being amended to allow home cultivation by registered patients, Senate Bill 386, sponsored by Senator Richard Ojeda, passed out of the full Senate by a considerable margin of 28-6.

    “West Virginia has a medical marijuana bill that is close to becoming law. Senate Bill 386 was introduced early in the session and surprisingly made its way through both of its assigned committees with very little opposition,” said David Dawson, Legal Counsel for West Virginia NORML. “SB 386  passed the Senate with huge support, 28-6, and is now on its second reading in the House of Delegates.”

    In the weeks leading up to the Senate vote on SB 386, Jesse Johnson, executive director of West Virginia NORML, along Rusty Williams, West Virginia NORML board member, worked diligently to build a broad coalition of volunteer advocates to lobby state lawmakers in support of the bill. From regularly calling legislative offices and writing their representatives, to meeting face to face with lawmakers, it’s safe to say SB 386 would not be where it is today if not for the efforts of West Virginia NORML.

    “These folks have worked their tails off and produced spectacular and unexpected results. The West Virginia legislature has shown what I knew it was capable of, bi-partisan compassion for our fellow West Virginians. The fight still continues as House opposition is seeking to amend the bill to death and put on expert testimony in opposition,” added Dawson.

    While there’s certainly a reason to celebrate, SB 386 still faces an uncertain future. With an uphill battle expected in the House of Delegates, members of West Virginia NORML are calling for supporters of SB 386 to join them in a final push to encourage a yes vote from members of the House.

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    TAKE ACTION: Contact West Virginia Lawmakers to Urge a YES vote on SB 386

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in the Mountain State, follow West Virginia NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page!

  • by Chris Thompson, Executive Director, Las Vegas NORML March 30, 2017

    17159166_1914499645452277_4695175184675219897_oThe Board of Directors of the newly-formed Las Vegas NORML recently traveled to the Nevada State House to lobby lawmakers in support of protections for marijuana patients and advocates.

    Less than a month after forming Las Vegas NORML, the organization’s founding members provided testimony to the State Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of SB-374, sponsored by Senator Tick Segerblom.

    SB-374 provides protection to citizens with professional licenses from having their license revoked for being a marijuana consumer. The bill would also prevent employers from taking disciplinary action against an employee for expressing opinions related to marijuana. Las Vegas NORML believes that SB-374 is great step forward in adding much needed protections for marijuana consumers who hold professional licenses.

    Among those giving testimony was Madisen Saglibene, deputy director of Las Vegas NORML, who testified that she could be at risk for losing her Nevada gaming license simply for being a medical marijuana patient and speaking out against unjust marijuana laws.”We’re so excited to have a chance to speak to local lawmakers and be a voice for marijuana consumers,” said Madisen. “We really think this bill will be another great step towards NORMLizing marijuana use in Nevada by protecting both patients and responsible consumers.”

    Las Vegas NORML’s Political Director and veteran Tim Petarra also gave comments at the Senate meeting, specifically mentioning that SB-374 would protect vets with professional licenses while they use medical marijuana for PTSD or depression. “After having been an activist for national legislation, focusing on state issues was a welcome change of pace and helped me use my experience to focus on issues closer to home,” said Petarra.

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    Chris Thompson, executive director of Las Vegas NORML also provided testimony, speaking on behalf of prospective engineers who could lose their professional engineering licenses just for being a recreational cannabis consumer.

    The trip up to Carson City was a huge learning experience for the young chapter, and everyone is extremely excited to continue reaching out to legislatures to ensure marijuana consumers are protected after legalization.

    Find Las Vegas NORML on social media and stay tuned with our mission to be a positive voice for cannabis consumers in Sin City!

    For more information on Las Vegas NORML, please find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or email us at LasVegasNORMLchapter@gmail.com.

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