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  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director August 8, 2013

    CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta has reversed his previous opposition to marijuana law reform and delivered a full throated defense of cannabis’ medical applications in an editorial published this week on CNN.

    In his own words:

    Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called “Weed.” The title “Weed” may sound cavalier, but the content is not.

    I traveled around the world to interview medical leaders, experts, growers and patients. I spoke candidly to them, asking tough questions. What I found was stunning.

    Long before I began this project, I had steadily reviewed the scientific literature on medical marijuana from the United States and thought it was fairly unimpressive. Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled “Why I would Vote No on Pot.”

    Well, I am here to apologize.

    Click here to read the full article.

    Dr. Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondent, explains how he mistakenly bought into certain government propaganda surrounding cannabis, but through continued research and his experiences filming his upcoming documentary “Weed” (which airs on CNN on Sunday at 8pm ET and PT) completely changed his mind on the plant and its efficacy.

    I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.”

    They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true. It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works.

    NORML applauds Dr. Gupta for openly apologizing for his role in how Americans have been “terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States” on the issue of marijuana and his recent advocacy in favor of marijuana law reforms, something we can only hope will continue. Sanjay appeared on Piers Morgan Live last night to promote his new documentary, this segment alone demands some attention for his ability to explain the medical applications of cannabis and the hypocrisy of our current laws in an intelligent and articulate manner.

    If current momentum sustains itself, Sanjay Gupta (who was named Forbes #8 Most Influential Celebrity in 2011) is just one more of what will become a long line of prominent and respected media and medical professionals who will speak up against our failed cannabis prohibition. His advocacy can have nothing but a net positive effect on the current dialogue going on in mainstream America surrounding marijuana and help continue to push public opinion in our favor.

    Sanjay Gupta’s “Weed” airs this Sunday on CNN at 8pm ET and PT

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director July 30, 2013

    Voters in the District of Columbia approved Initiative 59, to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana, with 69% in favor in 1998. The effort was immediately put on hold after the US Congress passed the Barr Amendment, which prohibited Washington from using any of its funds for implementing its medical marijuana program. A decade later, in 2009, Congress finally overturned the amendment and the city could begin to implement the medical marijuana initiative in earnest. About four more years after that, the first sale of cannabis to a licensed medical patient occurred in the District of Columbia this week.

    On Monday evening, the first medical patient in the city was able to walking into Capital City Care, a dispensary located on North Capitol Street, and purchase their medicine.

    “After a couple of years of hard work, it’s exciting to open our doors and serve the patients our facility is really for,” Scott Morgan, communications director for Capital City Care, said to The Washington Post, “This is a moment we’ve all been looking forward to for a long time.”

    Capital City Care is the first of three dispensaries expected to be open and operational in the near future, but despite this landmark moment, there is still work to be done before the system is fully functional and serving the needs of Washington’s patients in a sufficient manner.

    Currently only 8 patients have received their approved medical marijuana cards and only about 20 doctors have received the required paperwork from the city to join the program.

    NORML will keep you updated as the program moves forward. You can read media coverage from The Washington Post about this event here. You can view Capital City Care’s website here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 3, 2013

    Legislation that allows for the therapeutic use of cannabis by qualified patients, Assembly Bill 6357, was approved today by members of the New York state Assembly in a 95-38 vote. The debate now moves to the Senate where members are expected to take up companion legislation, Senate Bill 4406, in the coming days.

    These measures would allow for the therapeutic use of cannabis by qualified patients who possess a recommendation from their physician. They are being supported by a bi-partisan coalition of more than 50 lawmakers.

    Under these measures, state-registered patients diagnosed with one of over a dozen serious medical conditions — including cancer, HIV, post-traumatic stress, arthritis, diabetes, or epilepsy — would be allowed to possess up to 2 and one-half ounces of cannabis. The measure also allows for the establishment of licensed not-for-profit and for-profit facilities to produce and distribute cannabis to qualified patients. Non-registered patients would be able to present an affirmative defense of medical necessity at trial.

    New York voters strongly support allowing patients to have access to marijuana therapy. According to a 2013 Sienna Research Institute poll, 82 percent of New Yorkers — including 81 percent of Democrats and Republicans — endorse the use of marijuana when authorized by a physician. This is an increase in support of 21 percent since pollsters last asked the question in 2012.

    Despite this widespread public support, Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County) has stated his opposition to the measure. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated he opposed the measure, but was keeping an “open mind” on the issue.

    If you live in New York, it is imperative that your elected officials hear from you. Please take a minute and click here to quickly and easily contact your State Senator, Senate Co-Leader Skelos, and Governor Cuomo and tell them to stand with the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers by supporting this important legislation.

    NORML will continue to update you in the coming weeks as this proposal moves forward. You can track the progress of marijuana law reform legislation in other states via NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director May 20, 2013

    Marijuana law reform is gaining some serious momentum in New York as we approach the end of this year’s legislative session.

    Recent polling data released by Siena Research Institute revealed that 82% of New Yorkers support the medical use of marijuana. Fortunately for New York lawmakers, they can take action to address this issue that’s supported by an overwhelming majority of their constituents. Medical marijuana legislation is currently pending in both Houses of the New York Legislature and these measures have been gaining substantial political support. This legislation is expected to be debated by elected officials in the coming weeks. If you live in New York, click here to quickly and easily contact your state politicians and urge them to support this important legislation.

    In addition to medical marijuana, it seems that full legalization will also soon be debated. State Senator Liz Krueger announced her intentions to introduce legislation that would legalize the recreational use and limited cultivation of marijuana. The measure would also allow for the commercial sale of marijuana at retail outlets regulated by the New York State Alcohol Authority.

    “It is my intention as a New York State senator to soon introduce a law that would actually decriminalize, regulate and tax marijuana in New York,” stated Sen. Krueger.

    NORML will update you when this legislation is introduced.

  • by Norm Kent, NORML Board of Directors April 4, 2013

    Today I share with you wonderful news from an all too conservative state, Florida, where the sun shines on everything but justice for cannabis users.

    Just a few weeks ago, I announced that the ‘New NORML’ would have an active, working legal committeethat would make a difference for all of us.

    Last month, State Senator Jeff Clemens in Tampa announced that he was introducing a medical marijuana bill in Florida, which would allow for the establishment of dispensaries in our state.

    The bill was named the ‘Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act’, in honor of a woman who has beenopenly using cannabis as medicine for over a quarter century, championing our cause from her wheelchair while living with an incurable condition- ALS; Lou Gehrig’s disease.

    Backed by her loving husband, Bob, who cultivates two-dozen plants on their farm for her personal use, Cathy has been a public advocate for cannabis law reform. Here she is:
    http://medicalmarijuana411.com/mmj411_v3/?p=10558

    One day after the state senator introduced the medical necessity legislation, publicizing her name and address, the DEA and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office paid her a not-too-polite visit, raiding her home, dressed in swat uniforms, armed with machine guns and wearing masks, seizing her cannabis and arresting her husband for cultivation. Her wheelchair was no defense.

    One NORML lawyer from our NLC legal committee immediately stepped up to the plate to come to her defense. Florida CAN, the Cannabis Action Network, contacted Michael C. Minardi, of Stuart, Florida. He undertook the defense.

    Michael had already prevailed on a medical necessity case on the west coast of Florida, and he at once met with Bob and Cathy Jordan. Both were adamant that they would take no pleas, but instead sought to fight for their right to use marijuana as medicine.

    Based in South Florida, I volunteered with another NLC Committee member, my law office partner, Russell Cormican, and entered into a civil retainer agreement with Cathy Jordan, to prosecute a pro bono civil legal action seeking a declaratory judgment that Cathy’s possession of cannabis warranted a judicial order stating that such ownership was entirely medicinal and lawful.

    I could not do it alone, so I contacted NLC Committee member Matt Kumin, who immediately agreed to join the cause on behalf of NORML, coming in as amicus curiae. “This is an impact case,” he concluded.

    Together, we decided that we had a viable claim Cathy had a legal right to grow her medicine, and a court would conclude as much. Matt brought in two more NLC colleagues, Alan Silber and David Michael. These guys are already arguing tough cases in the Ninth Circuit. But we have a good plaintiff and a strong case.

    This past Monday, the State Attorney dismissed all charges against Cathy and Bob Jordan. The decision by the State Attorney, explaining why he filed a ‘no information.” ratifies the defense of medical necessity for patients, and caregivers as well. The prosecutor’s determination goes beyond the customary and routine post of ‘case declined.’

    The decision outlined by the chief prosecutor goes out of its way to acknowledge the legal basis of the medical necessity defense and the ‘progressive, neurodegenerative disease’ that Cathy Jordan deals with daily. The state attorney said he could not in ‘good faith’ proceed with a criminal prosecution against an individual with such a compelling medical reason to use marijuana. It was a courageous decision to see a prosecutor protect a pot patient.

    The result came about in no small part to Bob Jordan, Cathy Jordan’s husband. He refused to accept a probationary plea offer. “If I could handle Vietnam,” he told me last week, “I can take whatever the State wants to try and hit me with. I am protecting my wife. No deals. No nothing. I want a trial. I want a jury to see my wife and try to convict her.”

    Michael C. Minardi and his client even refused to cop a plea to a deferred prosecution. Matt. Kumin, who has never met Bob, called him, “my hero.” Armed with solid case law, a determined defendant, and a courageous lawyer- Michael Minardi- the good guys prevailed.

    A talented team of NLC amicus curiae attorneys are now preparing to go to court and seek a judgment declaring that the use of cannabis by Cathy Jordan should continue as an exception to Florida drug statutes, based on her use being lawful, medically necessary, and legally protected. Hell, we might even get her pot back through a replevin action.

    Unfortunately, Florida is a conservative state. I won’t mislead you. The Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Bill is already ‘stuck like chuck’ in a legislative committee.

    However, also due to the efforts of NLC Committee member, Michael C. Minardi, the criminal prosecution of Cathy and Bob Jordan is dead in the water.

    Remember the TV show, ‘The Naked City,’ that ‘there are 8 million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.’

    My friends, there are thousands of Cathy Jordans across America who still need our help. There are hundreds of you capable of assisting so many of them. The spiritual rewards of engaging such tasks enrich your soul and make your practice so much more meaningful.

    Please consider also asking a friend to help expand ranks by joining NORML today. In fact, this week we are promoting new memberships by offering up a NORML Hemp Baseball Cap. Wear it to the ballpark, and let everyone know that it is NORML to smoke pot. Cheer for your home team, but stand up for freedom.

    Today, all of us throughout the country celebrate the victory of Cathy and Bob Jordan. We also thank the lawyer, Michael C. Minardi of Stuart, Florida, who stood up for them.

    We are all cannabis warriors with stories of our own to tell, lives of our friends to illuminate. Never forget the cause you are fighting for is more than to torch up a joint. It is to light a torch for personal sovereignty and individual freedom.

    Thank you.
    Norm Kent
    Chair, NORML Board of Directors

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