Today marijuana activists, patients and business owners from around the country are gathering in our nation’s Capitol to officially kickoff NORML’s 2016 Conference and Lobby day in Washington DC. We’re extremely excited about our line up of speakers and panelists for our conference, followed by a busy day of meetings with members of the House and Senate.
To start off, NORML members and supporters will be meeting at George Washington University, for a full day of presentations and panel discussions with policy experts and seasoned lobbyists. I’m especially excited to hear from John Hudak with the Brookings Institute. He recently wrote an open letter to presidential candidates urging them to take the issue of marijuana law reform more seriously. You can read more, here!
Tomorrow morning, NORML members will gather at the Longworth building on Capitol Hill where they will be addressed by: Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR), Congressman Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman Delbene (D-WA). They are expected to speak in detail about the various pieces of legislation that are highlighted below. With more than twenty pieces of federal legislation aimed at reforming America’s archaic marijuana and hemp laws, it is imperative that we do our part by educating them on the many benefits of embracing a new approach. The same applies to everyone who will not be able to attend, except the focus will be on making phone calls, writing letters and/or sending emails using our online action center.
To access the information below, simply click on any of the links and you’ll be directed to a three-page document that includes everything you and your fellow activists will need to assist us with our lobbying efforts (talking points, phone script, letter template etc.). Feel free to contact your representatives about each one, or pick a few that you’re most passionate about!
During last year’s congressional letter writing campaign, our network of affiliates and chapters generated more than 2000 letters and emails to congressional offices so I hope we can do the same or better this year!
Federal marijuana trafficking prosecutions have declined significantly since the passage of statewide laws regulating the plant’s production and retail sale to adults, according to data provided by the United States Sentencing Commission.
According to the new report, the number of marijuana trafficking offenders prosecuted at the federal level fell dramatically after 2012 — declining from over 6,000 annually to fewer than 4,000 in 2015.
“The number of marijuana traffickers rose slightly over time until a sharp decline in fiscal year 2013 and the number continues to decrease,” the report concludes.
The period of decline overlaps with the passage and enactment of adult marijuana sales in various US states, including Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.
Federal data also reports a similar decline in cocaine trafficking since 2012. By contrast, federal prosecutions for heroin and methamphetamine trafficking have slowly risen over the better part of the past ten years.
Those convicted of marijuana trafficking spend an average of 29 months in prison, the report found.
A copy of the USSC report is available for download here.
This week we’ll give you updates on legislation in Florida, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Ohio. Plus we have exciting ballot initiative news out of California and Missouri! Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform this week.
California: Proponents of the marijuana legalization ballot initiative, the AUMA (Adult Use of Marijuana Act), announced announced at a press conference that they have gathered more than 600,000 signatures from registered voters. This total is far more than the required number of 365,880 signatures needed in order to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. The Board of Directors of NORML has endorsed the measure, which permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales.
Florida: Members of the Orlando City Council voted 4 to 3 this week in favor of a new municipal ordinance giving police the option to cite, rather than arrest, minor marijuana possession offenders. Under the ordinance, which takes effect on October 1, 2016, first-time and second-time possession offenses involving up to 20 grams of cannabis may be punished by a fine of no more than $200 – no arrest and no criminal record. Under state law, similar offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Similar local measures have been recently approved in several other Florida cities and counties, including Tampa, Miami-Dade county, Palm Beach county, and Volusia county.
Louisiana: Members of the House of Representatives have approved senate legislation, Senate Bill 271, to fix and expand the state’s dormant medical marijuana law. Existing law only permits for the patients’ use of medical marijuana in instances where the plant is ‘prescribed.’ However, under federal law, physicians cannot legally ‘prescribe’ cannabis or any schedule I substance. Senate Bill 271 seeks to change the language of existing law so that physicians may ‘recommend’ rather than prescribe cannabis therapy. The measure also expands the pool of conditions eligible for cannabis therapy to include Crohn’s disease, HIV, multiple sclerosis, and other disorders. The bill will now return to the Senate for concurrence. Governor John Bel Edwards has expressed support for the medical marijuana expansion measure, stating that he wants a ‘meaningful’ bill that will ‘actually work.’ #TakeAction
Missouri: Representatives of New Approach Missouri, the group pushing for a statewide medical marijuana ballot question this November, announced earlier this week they have turned in just under 250,000 signatures to the state for certification — well over the 167,000 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. The measure, which NORML has endorsed, would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to patients at their discretion, and would also permit qualified patients to cultivate marijuana or obtain it from licensed dispensaries.
New Hampshire: Members of the House approved an amended, Senate-backed sentencing reform bill, Senate Bill 498, in a 298-58 vote on Wednesday, May 11th. The amended language would make first-time marijuana possession offenses a civil violation rather than a criminal offense. The civil penalty would be limited to a fine only: no arrest, prosecution, or criminal record. Subsequent offenses would continue to be classified as misdemeanors. The legislation now returns to the Senate for concurrence. Members of the Senate have previously rejected decriminalization for several years running. #TakeAction
Ohio: House lawmakers approved revised legislation, House bill 523, to establish guidelines for those who may qualify to use medical marijuana and how it may legally be consumed, in a 71-26 vote on May 10th. The revisions outline 20 ailments for which cannabis may be recommended, including epilepsy, AIDS, and intractable pain. However, the revised language prohibits the consumption of medicinal cannabis via smoking. Such restrictions exist in three other states: Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania. The measure will now be considered by members of the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday, May 17th. #TakeAction
A separate, more comprehensive medical marijuana measure is likely to appear on the 2016 ballot initiative. Proponents of the initiative, the Marijuana Policy Project, must collect 305,591 valid signatures of Ohio voters by early July to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. The MPP-backed measure would permit qualified patients to cultivate their own medicine and/or obtain cannabis from licensed dispensaries. You can read a summary of the measure here.
We are ten days out from NORML’s 2016 Conference and Congressional Lobby Day and we are excited to share with you the full itinerary! Have you registered to attend? We have some fun events planned and it would be a shame for you to miss out!
Solid majorities of voters in the swing states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania support the legalization of marijuana for adult use, and super-majorities in Florida and Ohio support efforts to medicalize the plant, according to polling data provided today by Quinnipiac University.
Fifty-six percent of Florida voters believe that state law ought to allow “adults to legally possess for personal use small amounts of marijuana.” Only majorities of self-identified Republicans and respondents over the age of 65 oppose legalization.
With regard to the question of permitting medical cannabis access, 80 percent of Floridians say that “they will vote for a constitutional amendment this November allowing for medical marijuana.” The 2016 ballot measure, entitled the “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Conditions,” will appear before voters as Amendment 2. Passage of the amendment would permit qualified patients to possess and obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities. Support for the measure is over 70 percent among every party, gender, education, age and ethnic group measured, Quinnipiac reported.
In Ohio, 52 percent of voters endorse “allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use,” and 90 percent support “legalizing the use of medical marijuana.” Legislation to permit the limited use of non-herbal cannabis formulations by qualified patients was recently passed by Ohio House lawmakers and awaits further action by the Senate. A separate, more comprehensive medical marijuana measure sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project may appear on the November 2016 Ohio ballot.
In Pennsylvania, voters support by a margin of 57 percent to 39 percent the notion of “allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” As in Florida, only Republicans and voters over 65 years old expressed majority opposition to legalization. Quinnipiac pollsters did not ask voters to provide their opinions with regard to medicinal cannabis, which state lawmakers just legalized in April.
The Quinnipiac survey results are similar to those of other recent national polls, such as those by reported by CBS, Gallup, and Pew, finding that a majority of Americans now support ending marijuana prohibition.
A new CBS poll released on 4/20 is the first to show majority female support for marijuana legalization in the US. Though still trailing the 59% of men who are in favor of legalization, 54% of women now say they support it too.
Last year’s CBS poll found that only 43% of women were pro-legalization, versus 54% of men, an 11-point gap. This year’s poll narrows the gap to 5 points and represents an 11% jump in support from women in only one year’s time.
National polls in recent years have shown women’s support for legalization as high as 48%, but always trailing men’s approval by 8-13 points. Women are also around 15% less likely to admit that they have tried marijuana.
The same is true regionally: in Florida a 2015 Quinnipac poll found again 57% of men supported legalization and only 46% of women did. And if marijuana were to be legalized for recreational use in the state, 70 percent of women said they would ‘definitely not use’ it, compared to 59 percent of men.
Similarly in Ohio, there was a 12% differential between men at 59% support and women at 47%; and 71 percent of women, and only 57 percent of men, said they would ‘definitely not use’ legal marijuana.
But now perhaps we have reached a tipping point on women coming over to seeing the light of legalization. When I checked in January of this year, Cal NORML’s Twitter followers were 75% male, down from 85% a few months earlier; they’re now down to 66% male, a 20% drop in less than 6 months.
One reason for the shift, I think, is the increased number of female leaders at NORML chapters across the country, changing the perception of what a marijuana enthusiast looks like and giving women voters a greater comfort zone to voice their own support. A quick list of those leaders compiled by NORML Outreach Coordinator Kevin Mahmalji are:
- Eleanore Ahrens – Southeast Ohio NORML
- Vera Allen – Minnesota NORML
- Trish Bertrand – Springfield NORML
- Roseann Boffa – Los Angeles NORML
- Cara Bonin – Houston NORML
- Jes Bossems – Jefferson Area, Virginia NORML
- Monica Chavez – New Mexico NORML
- Cynthia Ferguson – Delaware NORML
- Jax Finkle – Texas NORML
- Karen Goldstein – Florida NORML
- Kandice Hawes – Orange County, California NORML
- Laura Judy – National Office
- Jamie Kacz – Kansas City NORML
- Danielle Keane – National Office
- Ellen Komp – California NORML
- Jessica Lee – Nacogdoches NORML
- Jenni Morgan – National Office
- Cher Neufer – Ohio NORML
- Theresa Nightingale – Pittsburgh NORML
- Danica Noble – NORML Women of Washington
- Pam Novy – Virginia NORML
- Jenn Michelle Pedini – Richmond NORML
- Jordan Person – Denver NORML
- Sharron Ravert – Peachtree, Georgia NORML
- Carrie Satterwhite – Wyoming NORML
- Mary Smith – Toledo NORML
- Jessica Struzik – Northern Wisconsin NORML
- Danielle Vitale – O’Brien – Miami Valley, Ohio NORML
- Destiny Young – San Antonio NORML
Women everywhere are getting the message. “It is not as harmful as alcohol … It also helps medical conditions as a more natural substitute to pharmaceuticals,” one 46-year-old woman told Pew pollsters in 2015. “I think crime would be lower if they legalized marijuana,” said another woman, aged 62. “It would put the drug dealers out of business.”
Campaigns directed at women in states with legalization measures seem to have had an effect. Only 49 percent of women polled in favor of Colorado’s 2012 legalization measure, but 53 percent of them voted for it. The majority of women voters in Washington State also voted in favor of that state’s measure to legalize.
Many people are aware that women helped bring about alcohol prohibition in 1919. What many don’t know is that women were also instrumental in repealing prohibition, notably Pauline Sabin, the Republican socialite for whom NORML’s award recognizing women’s leadership is named. It seems that women are now also key in bringing about marijuana legalization.