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  • 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 Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML September 20, 2017

    Awful News

    My friend Stephen Bradley called me on Friday, September 14th and asked if I was sitting down. I knew it couldn’t be good news, but when he told me our mutual friend James Bell had died suddenly, I experienced several moments of simple denial. This just can’t be true, I thought. Then the enormity of the news dropped on me like a heavy stone as I realized how large a hole James’ death leaves in the politics of Marijuana Law Reform in Georgia.

    JB-Rotary-03-300x175

    The James Bell I Knew

    I met James in the fall of 2014 in Dublin, Georgia. He was there videoing a Justice for David Hooks rally. David had been killed in his own home during the execution of a fruitless search warrant, based on the word of an addict/thief who had burglarized David’s property the night before his death. Soon after, I met James again when I testified against the term no-knock warrant being written into black letter Georgia Law before a Senate Committee. We had an opportunity to talk for a while that day, discovering that we had several interests in common. We became friends and allies and called each other often. Over time, James shared the tragic story of his niece, Lori Knowles with me, and I understood his interest in David Hooks and no-knock warrants much better. I think the incident with Lori added fuel to the fire of James’ activism and drove him harder over the past 3 years.

    As James and I talked (and he could talk), I realized just how central a figure he was in the fight for cannabis law reform in Georgia. He was involved in the movement since at least as far back as the 70s, and his interest covered all things cannabis. From advocating the freedom to make personal, adult choices about smoking it, to supporting the use of medical marijuana, to reintroducing Hemp as a staple crop in Georgia, James was involved in it all. He truly believed that the re-legalization of cannabis could be accomplished here in Georgia. He was a constant presence around the Gold Dome when the Legislature was in session, both testifying on issues and videoing procedures. His easy way, his extensive knowledge, and his passion paved the way for good relationships with lawmakers. He was well-known and respected by many.

    James was keenly aware of the societal harm caused by the War on Marijuana. He and I often spoke of Harm Reduction during our conversations, and he felt that an arrest and subsequent criminal record for mere possession of a small amount of marijuana was unjust. No victim, no crime.  He believed a grassroots approach to the problem at the Municipal level, combined with lobbying for change at the State level was the key. He testified in advocacy of Harm Reduction ordinances in Clarkston and Atlanta. He tried in Temple but was met by a crowd of rabid Prohibitionists who hijacked the Town Hall meeting. Clarkston passed their ordinance, and the City hasn’t fallen into a sinkhole. Atlanta is still considering it and the upcoming Mayoral election has several candidates with pro-decriminalization planks in their platforms.

    What Now?

    I will miss talking to James. I’ll miss his counsel. I’ll miss his laugh. I’ll miss seeing him around the Capitol. I know in my heart, though that he would want us to carry on. No one can ever fill James’ shoes, but others will step up.  Others will ensure his legacy and work continue. I’ll be among them.

    Go rest high upon that mountain,
    Son your work on Earth is done

    I’ll see ya further on!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator August 8, 2017

    blogstickerNORML Chapters around the country are currently organizing efforts to engage their representatives on the issue of marijuana law reform during the upcoming congressional recess where members of the House and Senate will host town hall meetings in their districts. In addition to providing unique opportunities for face-to-face interactions with congressional representatives, town hall meetings provide our volunteers the chance to promote NORML’s message of ending the federal prohibition of marijuana to an audience of politically engaged voters.

    With the help of Town Hall Project, a nonprofit organization that’s focused on empowering constituents across the country to have face-to-face conversations with their elected representatives, we have identified almost a dozen town hall meetings taking place in cities with strong NORML representation. To take advantage, NORML leadership is focused on mobilizing our supporters to ask specific questions and encourage their representatives to support legislation that will: protect consumers and businesses in legal marijuana states, expand access to medical marijuana for veterans, stop civil forfeiture and end the federal prohibition of marijuana.

    Below is a list of town hall meetings that NORML Chapters will be targeting. We will continue to update the list as new town hall meetings are announced:

    (Updated: 8/14/2017)

    Rep. Ruben Kihuen (Democrat, NV-4)
    Tuesday Aug 1, 2017 at 09:00 AM
    Walnut Community Center
    3075 N Walnut Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89115

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Republican, CA-48)
    Tuesday Aug 1, 2017 at 6:30 PM
    Aliso Niguel High School Gym
    28000 Wolverine Way, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

    Rep. Bradley Byrne (Republican, AL-1)
    Thursday August 3 2017 at 3:00 PM
    Gulf Shores City Hall
    1905 W 1st St, Gulf Shores, AL 36542

    Rep. Steve Cohen (Democrat, TN-9)
    Saturday August 5, 2017 at 10:00 AM
    Memphis College of Art
    1930 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

    Rep. Will Hurd (Republican, TX-23)
    Sunday August 6, 2017 at 1:00 PM
    Horizon City Dairy Queen
    800 N Zaragoza Rd, El Paso, TX 79907

    Rep. G.K. Butterfield (Democrat, NC-1)
    Tuesday August 8, 2017 at 6:00 PM
    Bertie High School
    716 US-13, Windsor, NC 27983

    Rep. Donald Norcross (Democrat, NJ-1)
    Wednesday August 9, 2017 at 7:30 PM
    Carmen Tilelli Community Center
    820 Mercer St, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002

    Rep. Glenn Thompson (Republican, PA-5)
    Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 8:00 PM
    WPSU
    100 Innovation Blvd, University Park, PA 16802

    Rep. Adam Smith (Democrat, WA-9)
    Saturday August 12, 2017 at 10:00 AM
    Foster High School Performing Arts Center
    4242 S 144th St, Tukwila, WA 98168

    Derek Kilmer (Democrat, WA-6)
    Sunday August 13, 2017 at 2:00 PM
    Aberdeen High School Auditorium
    410 N G St, Aberdeen, WA 98520

    Jimmy Panetta (Democrat, CA-20)
    Monday August 14, 2017 at 6:00 PM
    California State University Monterey Bay World Theater
    5260 6th Ave, Seaside, CA 93955

    Senator Maria Cantwell (Democrat, Senate)
    Tuesday August 15, 2017 at 6:00 PM
    Gonzaga University, Cataldo Hall, The Boone Room
    502 E Boone Ave, Spokane, WA 99258

    Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (Republican, NC-9)
    Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at 6:00 PM
    Cleveland Community College – Mildred Keeter Auditorium
    137 S Post Rd, Shelby, NC 28152

    Rep. Gary Palmer (Republican, AL-6)
    Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 6:30 PM
    North Highlands Baptist Church
    4851 15th Street Rd, Hueytown, AL 35023

    Rep. David Scott (Democrat, GA-13)
    Saturday August 19, 2017 at 09:00 AM
    Mundy’s Mill High School
    9652 Fayetteville Rd, Jonesboro, GA 30238

    Rep. Trent Franks (Republican, AZ-8)
    Tuesday August 22, 2017 at 7:00 AM
    The Colonnade
    19116 N Colonnade Way, Surprise, AZ 85374

    Rep. Tom Rice (Republican, SC-7)
    Chapin Memorial Library Meeting Room
    Tuesday August 22, 2017 at 10:00 AM
    400 14th Ave N, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

    Rep. Bradley Byrne (Republican, AL-1)
    Wednesday, August 23, 2017 at 3:00 PM
    John L. LeFlore Magnet High School,
    700 Donald St, Mobile, AL 36617

    Rep. Danny K. Davis (Democrat, IL-7)
    Thursday August 24, 2017 at 7:00 AM
    Oak Park Village Hall
    123 Madison St, Oak Park, IL 60302

    Rep. Rodney Davis (Republican, IL-13)
    Friday August 25, 2017 at 8:30 AM
    Litchfield City Hall
    120 E Ryder St, Litchfield, IL 62056

    Rep. Ami Bera (Democrat, CA-7)
    Tuesday August 29, 2017 at 10:00 AM
    Folsom Public Library
    411 Stafford St, Folsom, CA 95630

    Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Republican WI-5)
    Saturday September 9, 2017 at 1:00 PM
    Elm Grove Village Park
    13600 Juneau Blvd, Elm Grove, WI 53122

    To support these efforts, NORML has prepared a guide to town hall meetings, as well as a list of questions specific to each representative. If you would like to participate or want a copy of either document, please email chapters@NORML.org.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator July 27, 2017

    PhillyNORML-logo-720w

    With the recent passage of a marijuana decriminalization ordinance, the City of York joins Philadelphia, State College, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg in no longer criminalizing the simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. Following several meetings to discuss the proposal, members of city council heard from Chris Goldstein, former executive director of Philadelphia NORML and Les Stark, executive director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. Both spoke in support of the proposal and even provided encouraging data showing a decline in marijuana arrests in other municipalities that adopted similar measures.

    “Towns across Pennsylvania are moving away from handcuffs and towards issuing fines instead, that’s good news in a state where we have more than 18,000 consumers arrested every year,” said Chris Goldstein.

    Similar to other decriminalization measures that have been adopted by municipalities in the Commonwealth, the ordinance approved by the York City Council replaces criminal prosecution and potential jail time with a simple fine or community service for those possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana. The ordinance also decriminalized the public consumption of marijuana.

    man_smoking_joint

    While local governments across Pennsylvania continue to adopt measures to reduce the penalty for personal possession of marijuana from jail time to a simple fine, state lawmakers have been more apprehensive on the issue. But advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances on the local level. “This really puts the pressure on legislators in Harrisburg to vote on statewide bills and start having the bigger conversation about full legalization,” added Goldstein.

    Read more here: http://www.ydr.com/story/news/2017/07/19/york-city-council-passes-bill-decriminalize-possession-small-amounts-marijuana/480013001/

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Philly NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page!

  • by NORML July 21, 2017

    According to recently released polling data from Gallup, nearly half of all Americans have tried marijuana at one point in their lives, an all time high since they began asking the question in 1969 when only 4% of Americans admitted to having tried the substance.

    gallup1

    Additionally, 12% of survey respondents said they currently consume marijuana.

    gallup2

    Gallup concludes:

    “With 29 U.S. states allowing medical marijuana use, and eight allowing recreational use, legal cannabis is taking hold in American society.

    There may be obstacles to marijuana becoming fully “accepted” in the United States. Attorney General Sessions appears to be cracking down on marijuana use, and driving under the influence of pot continues to be a concern for many.

    Despite legal hurdles, however, a record-high percentage of Americans say they have tried marijuana.
    Smoking pot is still not as prevalent as cigarette smoking in the U.S., at 17%, but current marijuana usage is about as high as it has been.

    If more states legalize the drug, regular usage — or at least experimenting with marijuana — could rise. Legality may confer a certain societal acceptance of the drug. Sessions’ hopes to prosecute state-level marijuana crimes may prove to be a hindrance, but it is unlikely this multibillion-dollar industry will be stopped anytime soon.”

    Read the full survey results here.

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