Dear NORML members and supporters,
For all and intent purposes since the good people of California voted in the majority in 1996 to create legal access for qualified medical patients to cannabis, the pace of public advocacy work in support of cannabis law reform at NORML has been, in a word, manic–with one political victory after another piling up at the state level.
As we turned the calendar from 2012, where voters in the states of Colorado and Washington had just elected to end cannabis prohibition, to 2013, I was confident that the then coming year would be the busiest and most productive in the organization’s forty-three year history.
Thankfully for cannabis law reform in America (and the world), I’ve been proven correct.
The Future of Marijuana Legalization is Happening Right Now, Finally!
This annual report briefly summarizes the many advances gained by NORML in 2013, and the progress made in general by the ever-increasing popularity for cannabis law reform in the country.
When NORML was founded in 1970, Gallup polling indicated less than 10% support for legalizing cannabis. Today, Gallup polling reveals that 58% of the American public favor cannabis legalization over its continued prohibition. The prestigious Brookings Institute commenced an educational policy series in 2013 on cannabis prohibition laws, and concluded that the massive change in public attitude in favor of cannabis legalization is likely irreversible as the reforms are increasingly popular with nearly all demographics.
Most of the substantive cannabis law reforms today are affected at the state level–with 21 states having medical cannabis access laws, 16 states have decriminalized cannabis possession for adults and 2 states have crossed the legalization Rubicon. This is placing terrific upward political pressure on a recalcitrant federal government, who otherwise would try to maintain the untenable status quo of cannabis prohibition.
Federal Government Says ‘Uncle’, More States and Countries To Soon Follow
In September, federal officials and leaders in the Senate pushed forward with memos and public hearings making it clear that the Obama Administration was not going to interfere with states adopting cannabis legalization, and were in fact publishing criteria allowing pro-reform states to move forward with implementing full legalization schemes for cannabis.
This monumental decision by the Department of Justice was historic in every sense of the word, and likely marks the death knell for cannabis prohibition in America (and around the world).
To wit, seeing American voters chuck now unwanted cannabis prohibition laws, replacing them with ‘tax and control’ laws that allow retail access for adult consumers, in mid-December, following America’s lead, the country of Uruguay became the first country in modern history to replace prohibition laws with legalized sales of cannabis.
Today, more and more elected policy makers, as well as those ascending into politics, are contacting NORML at record levels seeking public endorsements, asking the organization to prepare reform legislation and campaign funding.
The number of actual legalization bills offered for passage demonstrates another prime example of how mainstream politicians from both major political parties are increasingly embracing cannabis law reform. In 2007, no American politician was willing to work with NORML on a cannabis legalization bill. In 2014, NORML’s lobbying staff anticipates fifteen states will be debating cannabis legalization bills (up from ten states in 2013).
NORML By The Numbers
When I was hired in 1991 to work at NORML, the organization had five basic revenue streams, was in chronic financial dire straits, had numerous liens on bank accounts, rent had not been paid in over a year and the IRS was raking it over the coals in a particularly harsh financial audit.
I was asked to "help right the ship". My parents thought I’d lost all my senses forgoing opportunities to work in corporate America for a then struggling and politically-lost-in-the-woods non-profit organization.
Keeping the organization fiscally sound, compliant with non-profit regulations, and transparent (financial tax forms are posted annually to NORML’s webpage) for the public have been organizational priorities for over twenty years.
In 2013, the budget for the organization is nearly four times the size of the one I inherited in the early 1990s. The organization now has over twenty five revenue streams, 150 chapters, 600 lawyers on the NORML Legal Committee, the staff conduct well over 2,000 media interviews annually and NORML’s online presence, as well as size of its opt-in social network have no peer in the drug policy reform movement. Despite having larger annual budgets secured by a few billionaire donors, NORML’s webpage traffic and number of Facebook and Twitter followers dwarfs most all of the other pro-drug policy reform groups’ online footprint, combined.
In a recent Zogby poll, when the American public is asked ‘what does the acronym N.O.R.M.L stand for?’, 25% percent responded with an answer like ‘NORML is the marijuana lobby group.’ So well known in American culture, the organization was featured as a question on the December 13, 2013 broadcast of Jeopardy! (So too in 2005 edition of Trivial Pursuit). Annually, NORML signs numerous trademark agreements with major TV networks and movie production companies who want to employ NORML’s apparent cachet in their film and TV productions.
NORML’s Unique Role and Vexation
For NORML, America’s most recognized and respected cannabis law reform organization, these are heady days witnessing and helping to end cannabis prohibition. Especially serving as public representatives for cannabis consumers, to help shape what legalization is ultimately going to look like in our country.
Also unique to the organization is NORML’s dual mission of not only advocating for policy changes to occur post haste, we provide help and legal assistance to the victims of these long misguided cannabis prohibition laws as well. We lend support to many of the millions of men and women busted, prosecuted and incarcerated for what never should have been crimes in our freedom-loving, free-market oriented democracy.
Bittersweetly, NORML’s staff is viciously whipsawed between phone calls from citizens in states with legal cannabis laws seeking help on procuring a permit to sell or cultivate the herb, while the very next phone call is from a fellow cannabis consumer busted in a pot prohibition state for a minor amount, facing serious, life-altering consequences.
For forty-three years NORML has been standing loud and proud, publicly favoring cannabis law reform. The American public is now squarely in NORML’s corner. We’ve helped change our country (and the world) for the better.
Please help us finish the job at hand.
Allen St. Pierre
NORML Executive Director
At a press conference this morning, New York Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and state Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) announced their intent to introduce legislation to legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis.
Speaking at the press conference, the Assembly bill’s sponsor Rep. Gottfried said, “We really need to move beyond our totally broken prohibition model to a sensible tax and regulate model. I think it’s widely recognized that marijuana is at most nowhere near as potentially harmful as alcohol and our law is dishonest.”
Added Sen. Krueger, “I don’t believe a drug that is proven to be less dangerous, from a health perspective, than alcohol or tobacco should be under laws that actually criminalize and ruin lives when alcohol or tobacco are regulated and taxed.”
The proposed Assembly and Senate measures would allow adults over the age of 18 to possess up to 2 ounces of dried marijuana, 1/4 ounce of marijuana concentrates, and to cultivate up to 6 plants. The legislation would also establish regulations for state-licensed retail cannabis outlets throughout the state. Retail sales would be limited to adults over the age of 21.
New York City Comptroller John Liu estimates that taxing the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults would yield an estimated $400 million annually, just in the city alone.
According to a 2013 ACLU report, no state arrests more of its citizens for marijuana possession than New York.
NEW YORK RESIDENTS: Click here to easily contact your elected officials and urge them to support this legislation.
Members of the Uruguay Senate late today approved legislation authorizing for the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to all citizens age 18 and older. Members of Uruguay’s House had previously approved the measure months earlier. The bill now goes to President José Mujica, who intends to sign the measure into law in the coming days.
Uruguay will be the first nation in modern history to regulate the licensed production and sale of cannabis.
“This is an attempt to bring an end to the illegal drugs trade by identifying the market and bringing it into the light of day,” said President Mujica in a statement.
Under the pending law, residents of the South American nation will be able to legally purchase up to 40 grams per cannabis per month. (Sales to non-residents are will not be allowed.) Price controls will set the cost of cannabis available at state-stores to $1 per gram. The forthcoming law would also allow households to grow up to six cannabis plants each; it also allows for the establishment of cooperatives, which will be able to grow as many as 99 plants.
Specific regulations overseeing the new policy must be in place 120 days after the measure is signed into law.
Under present law, the possession of personal use amounts of cannabis is not subject to criminal penalties; however, marijuana cultivation and sale are classified as criminal offenses.
On December 5th 1933 at exactly 5:32pm eastern standard time, Utah signed on as the last of the 36 states needed to ratify the 21st amendment, repealing the nation’s failed 13-year prohibition policy experiment banning the sale and use of alcohol nationwide. At 6:55 p.m., President Roosevelt signed an official proclamation announcing the nation’s new alcohol policy.
It was clear to the public, and politicians of the day that alcohol prohibition had failed in everything it was trying to achieve. The 18th amendment led to widespread disrespect for the law, black market violence, serious loss of tax revenue, and a drain on police resources.
Here we are again, eighty years later fighting another, equally damaging policy of marijuana prohibition. Unlike the short lived 18th amendment however, our nation’s punitive and disastrous marijuana laws have been in effect for more than 75 years. The longevity of this current prohibition has resulted in exponentially more damage to our society than that caused by the alcohol laws of the 1920’s and early 30’s. Today’s laws have ruined millions of lives and wasted hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. It has fueled the black market, contributes to the erosion of civil liberties and continues to line the pockets of criminals and cartels.
Eighty years ago today, our President and 36 states came to the same conclusion: That making something a majority of people perceive as harmless and fun illegal will not make it go away, or solve any problems perceived to be associated with its use. It is about managing public safety by containing the market and managing the user experience. The majority of alcohol drinkers and marijuana users are responsible people who consume in moderation. It is time for our lawmakers to recognize what their predecessors did so many years ago, legalization and regulation is the only sensible solution. Colorado and Washington are pioneering a new policy allowing for the legal, taxable sale of marijuana to adults 21+, and it is only a matter of time before more states follow suit. Through an environment of control, standardization and accountability, both for the individual and the industry, our nation can begin to undo the generations of damage brought on by marijuana prohibition.
The days of marijuana prohibition are numbered and one day, marijuana will take its rightful place alongside alcohol as a legal recreational alternative. One day, we too will be celebrating our very own day of repeal.
Despite experiencing setbacks when it came to reintroducing marijuana legalization legislation for the 2014 Maine legislative session, efforts are already underway to prepare for 2015. The primary sponsor of the previous marijuana legalization bills in the state, Rep. Diane Russell, and NORML are seeking input regarding the drafting of this legislation. We feel the current draft is well written and accomplishes a number of goals we can all agree on, such as the establishment of retail outlets to sell marijuana to those over the age of 21, allowing for home cultivation, protecting the current medical marijuana program, dedicating tax revenue to establish subsidies to low income patients to help them afford their medical cannabis, implement a reasonable tax structure for marijuana sold at retail, and give deference on retail licenses to those who have held residency in Maine for several years. Below is a message from Rep. Russell, read it over then click the link to read the current bill draft and leave your comments (be polite and constructive!).
I’ve been working hard to draft a responsible bill that balances a variety of stakeholder interests, along with what is politically viable. It is designed to be a rational, pragmatic bill designed to move Maine forward toward ending prohibition.
My goal has always been to pull together the best version I could, and then open it up for public comment this week so everyone can help make it even better. I just wanted to be sure we had a good version of the bill to start from. Just log in with Facebook or Twitter and leave the comments and suggestions for all of us to see. You can start a “new suggestion” in the control box to the right, after you sign in.
It’s yours now.
So here’s the deal. Write whatever you want, suggest whatever you think makes it better. It’s yours to critique, to provide feedback and to comment freely.
All comments received before December 15, 2013 will be aggregated, and I will work to incorporate constructive, realistic feedback into the final bill which I’d like to release early next year.
Some Key Goals:
1. Adhere to the eight guidelines issued by the Department of Justice.
2. Protect patients.
3. Protect our communities and our kids. Would my mom approve? Would yours?
4. Ensure the industry is for Maine people and boosts local economies across the state.
5. Ensure adults could grow at home.
6. Constructively balance the varied interests and concerns coming from often opposing view points
7. Make Mainers Proud.
It’s in your hands now. Make it a better bill!
-Rep. Diane Russell
Want to do more to help bring marijuana legalization to Maine? We encourage all Mainers to check out www.yesmaine.org to review the information there. You can also submit your contact information if you are interested in playing a role in the formation of a Maine NORML chapter. It was with your support we have made the progress in Maine that we have, keep up the hard work and we can finish the job come 2015.
Together, we will legalize marijuana.