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  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director May 9, 2014

    A new report released this week by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project reveals that marijuana arrests have actually increased in New York City under the new leadership of Mayor De Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton.

    In March 2014, the NYPD performed more marijuana possession arrests than in any month in the last six months under the Bloomberg administration. In fact, March 2014 saw more arrests than in 10 of the 12 months in 2013 under the previous administration. The total number of arrests for first quarter of 2014 are higher than both the third and fourth quarters of 2013.

    These arrests also continue the disturbing trend of disproportionately falling on individuals of color. In Brooklyn, in predominately white Park Slope, police made just 7 marijuana possession arrests in the first three months of 2014. In Carroll Gardens and Red Hook they made 12 marijuana arrests in that same time frame. More affluent neighborhoods saw even fewer arrests. In Manhattan, Police only made two marijuana possession arrests in the Tribeca/Wall Street area, one arrest in the Upper East Side, and four arrests in the Upper West Side. The story is quite different in predominately black or latino neighborhoods, where the police made significantly more arrests. In Bedford-Stuyvesant 111 individuals were arrested, 130 in Crown Heights, and 438 in East New York from January to March of this year.

    Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 2.12.19 PM

    Despite similar use rates across racial groups, 86% of those arrested in the first quarter of 2014 were blacks and Latinos.

    Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College, City University of New York, and co-director of Marijuana Arrest Research Project said:

    “At 28,000 arrests a year, New York still makes more marijuana possession arrests than any city in the world. Yet the simple possession of marijuana has not been a crime in New York State since 1978. Isn’t it time for these unfair, biased, damaging, often illegal arrests to just stop, now?”

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director May 1, 2014

    Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 5.23.24 PMNORML PAC has endorsed Neda Bolourian in her campaign to represent District 2 on the Montgomery County Council in Maryland.

    “NORML PAC believes that Neda will bring a fresh perspective and new leadership to the Montgomery County Council,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Her strong support for legalizing marijuana and reforming Maryland’s marijuana laws makes her a great champion for the cause. Her smart approach to these issues will help Montgomery County more effectively allocate its criminal justice and law enforcement resources away from arresting marijuana consumers and focus them more on violent crime.”

    “Prohibition didn’t work in the early 20th century and it’s clear it isn’t working now. The only path forward is to promote realistic drug policies,” Neda Bolourian said, “We need full legalization and nothing less. I’m thrilled to bring the movement for drug reform to Montgomery County.”

    You can read Neda’s public statement in favor of marijuana legalization on her campaign Facebook page here. To learn more about the campaign, check out their website, Facebook, and Twitter. The Democratic Primary for Maryland is scheduled for June 24th, you can consult this map of Montgomery County’s District 2 and see if Neda will be appearing on your ballot.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director April 29, 2014

    Senator Leach Talks Marijuana Policy with National NORML Comm. Director Erik Altieri and PhillyNORML Comm. Director Joe Forte

    Senator Leach Talks Marijuana Policy with National NORML Comm. Director Erik Altieri and PhillyNORML Comm. Director Joe Forte

    NORML recently interviewed Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach regarding marijuana law reform and the role it has played in state politics and his campaign. While serving in Harrisburg, Senator Leach introduced measures to legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes. In addition to currently serving in the state Senate, Daylin Leach is also a candidate in the Democratic primary to represent the Pennsylvania 13th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives (and had previously received the endorsement of NORML PAC).

    What personally made you embrace marijuana law reform?

    Senator Daylin Leach: My embrace for marijuana reform was based off of the pernicious and destructive laws currently in place. We live in a society where marijuana prohibition is putting a strain on our justice system that cannot continue, where sick children and adults are not getting the medicine they need, and where otherwise law-abiding citizens are losing their freedom for partaking in a “drug” that is so much less harmful than alcohol.

    Despite 58% of Americans supporting marijuana legalization, why do you think some politicians are still hesitant to support these important reforms?

    DL: Fear and lack of understanding Though the public is overwhelmingly supportive, understanding this support has not made its way up to many elected officials. They fear losing their next election and they do not understand what this polling means, how American sentiment on this issue has shifted.

    Only after they see other politicians running – and winning – on ending prohibition will they understand that the tide has truly turned.

    That is where NORML comes in, those of us who are running for Congress on this issue need your support so that we can show that this is not an issue to be afraid of, and that public support in polls is evident at the voting booth.

    What has the reception to your marijuana reform platform been like?

    DL: The reception from within the movement, from groups like NORML, has been fantastic.

    From voters and constituents, it has been gratitude that we are talking about finding an end to prohibition, that we are finding safe and legal ways for people to get the medicine that they need, and that we are bringing some common sense to the criminal justice system.

    The only push-back that I’ve gotten is from some of my fellow politicians who (as I stated in the earlier response) just don’t get it.

    What advice would you give to marijuana law reform supporters who are working to change laws and bring politicians over to their side?

    DL: Three words: win more elections.

    Whether it is through campaign contributions (every bit helps!), or volunteering to help make phone calls or knock on doors, we need everyone who cares about this issue to mobilize around elections. And once we start winning, the politicians will follow.

    If elected, what actions would you take to move away from our failed policy of marijuana prohibition?

    DL: Ideally, the federal government would end prohibition with a single piece of legislation, but realistically, we that won’t pass — yet.

    So, given the political realities, we need to push for more achievable goals. That is why, on taking office, I would add my name as a co-sponsor to HR 1635: the National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy Act; HR1523: the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act; and, most importantly, HR 2652: The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act so that businesses conducting legal business transactions can do so with the same federal banking protections as every other business.

    It is winning incremental steps like these that will slowly push lawmakers toward our ultimate goal.

    Any final words for the NORML audience?

    DLNo other candidate in the Congressional election in PA-13 supports anything close to marijuana legalization, and no other candidate has even addressed it as part of their campaign. I have, and I am proud of that. But I can only get there with your help.

    My Congressional district covers parts of Philadelphia and is in the 4th most expensive media market in the country (behind only New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago). Our election is May 20th and to communicate our message we are currently spending $200,000 a week!

    We need you. Only by wining victories like my race will the issue and the movement progress forward. If you can make a contribution, thank you. If you can’t, sign up to phone bank (which you can do from anywhere in the country), and if you live near Philadelphia, stop by to help us knock doors.

    This campaign lives and dies by the grassroots efforts of our supporters, and we need you now!

    Thank you for all of your support.

    Stay tuned for more interviews with policymakers, politicians, candidates, and public figures in the near future here on NORML Blog. For more information about Daylin Leach you can click here. The Pennsylvania Democratic Primary will be held on May 20th of this year, click here to find your polling place and here. A map of the Pennsylvania 13th Congressional District is available here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director April 28, 2014

    ebbinToday, NORML PAC is pleased to announce its endorsement of Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin in his campaign for U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District.

    “NORML PAC believes strongly that Senator Ebbin has the tenacity, coalition building skills, and political acumen required to help end our country’s destructive war on marijuana consumers,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Outgoing Congressman Jim Moran has a long history of supporting important marijuana law reform proposals at the federal level and Adam Ebbin is a proven and effective leader that will carry on that important legacy by working to roll back the damage marijuana prohibition is having on families and communities across the nation.”

    “I have a record of supporting decriminalization and, like President Obama, do not believe that the effects of marijuana are more harmful than alcohol,” Senator Ebbin said. “For more than a decade, I’ve been fighting for progressive causes in the General Assembly. In Virginia, marijuana-related arrests make up over 50% of all drug-related arrests, costing the state over $67 million.  We must focus our time and resources on job creation, clean energy, healthcare, education, and our economy. I look forward to continuing my work for our shared progressive values as the next member of Congress from the 8th District.”

    State affiliate Virginia NORML is also joining NORML PAC in their support of Senator Ebbin’s campaign.

    “Virginia NORML realizes that any federal cannabis policy reform will act as a powerful catalyst for changing our state laws,” commented Virginia NORML Communications Director Duane Ludwig, “We are excited to endorse Adam Ebbin for Congress because he will be a bold, progressive advocate for fair and reasonable cannabis policy.”

    In Virginia, more than 4 out of 5 residents support the legalization of medical marijuana and a majority support decriminalization. A recent poll revealed that in Northern Virginia, where the 8th Congressional District is located, over 50% of residents support fully legalizing and regulating marijuana.

    The Democratic Primary for the Virginia 8th District is on June 10th. You can check your voter information and find your polling place here.

    You can click here to join NORML PAC in supporting Senator Ebbin’s campaign and learn more about his platform. Below is a video from a recent NAACP candidate forum in which Senator Ebbin calls for decriminalization and legalization in addition to casting a spotlight on Arlington’s egregious racially disparate marijuana arrests.

  • by Mitch Earleywine April 24, 2014

    A new study on marijuana appeared in Journal of the American Heart Association. These are interesting data, but we have to interpret them very carefully.

    Sure, we know cannabis can raise heart rate briefly, but most users develop tolerance to the effect. We’ve also seen (in a much larger sample) that it doesn’t increase mortality rates even among survivors of heart attacks.

    But the new study made the news anyway. Investigators specifically searched a French database where physicians are legally bound to report any drug-related case that they view as “leading to temporary or permanent functional incapacity or disability, to inpatient hospitalization or prolongation of existing hospitalization, to congenital anomalies, or to an immediate vital risk or death.”

    They then looked for cannabis users and found a shade less than 2,000 in the past 5 years. It’s impossible to know what that number means without knowing the number of people these physicians saw or how many patients used cannabis and did not end up reported to this database.

    They then found a whopping 35 of these who had cardiac complications. It is impossible to know what to make of this number without knowing the number of cannabis users in France, which the authors report is 1.2 million. If you divide 35 by 1.2 million you get roughly .00003. I’m guessing that not all these cannabis users went to the doctor and not every person who used cannabis and had cardiac complications fessed up to the doctor, so let’s say that we’re off by two orders of magnitude. Let’s give the prohibitionists the benefit of the doubt and multiply by 100. That’d put the rate of problems up to .003.

    If those are the chances of having cardiac complications as a French cannabis user, my first thought is that using cannabis protects people from cardiac problems. We need a comparison group of people who don’t use cannabis to know their rate of cardiac problems, but, as the authors point out, we simply don’t have those data. The closest estimates were 57 per 10,000 people, based on another study, which is .0057, or almost twice as bad as the rate among the cannabis users (after our generous overestimation). I’m not going to hold my breath for the the headline, “Cut your heart disease in half with cannabis.”

    In short, this study tells us a lot about what kinds of cardiac complications appeared in people who were reported to the French government for cannabis-related problems, but tells us little about the link between cannabis use and cardiovascular disease.
    ?

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