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Paul Armentano

  • by NORML November 27, 2017

    revolutionbumperOne of NORML’s primary missions is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults. One of the ways we successfully achieve this goal is by debunking marijuana myths and half-truths via the publication of timely op-eds in online and print media. Since the mainstream media seldom casts a critical eye toward many of the more over-the-top claims about cannabis, we take it upon ourselves to set the record straight.

    The majority of NORML’s rebuttals are penned by Deputy Director Paul Armentano. In the past few weeks, he has published numerous op-eds highlighting the therapeutic effects of marijuana, the racial disparities in prohibitions’ enforcement, and the overall need for reform.

    Below are links to a sampling of his recent columns:

    “Cannabis has a record of safety, efficacy”
    Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. November 23, 2017

    “African Americans are disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana violations — and the disparity is growing”
    Alternet. November 21, 2017.

    “Cannabis saves lives”
    Santa Fe New Mexican. November 13, 2017

    “Medical marijuana should be legal in Indiana”
    Indianapolis Star. November 10, 2017

    “How to heal our sick system for managing pain and fighting the opioid epidemic”
    Los Angeles Times. November 3, 2017.

    “American opinions have changed when it comes to marijuana, federal law should change too”
    The Hill. October 28, 2017

    For a broader sampling of NORML-centric columns and media hits, please visit NORML’s ‘In the Media’ archive here.

    If you see the importance of NORML’s educational and media outreach efforts, please feel free to show your support by making a contribution here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director August 10, 2013

    (CNN) — Despite decades of propaganda from marijuana prohibitionists, a majority of the American public has indeed said “enough” to the policies of cannabis criminalization. And no amount of fear-mongering is going to change this fact.

    Writing in a just-published report by the Brookings Institute, “The New Politics of Legalization,” authors E.J. Dionne and William Galston conclude, “In less than a decade, public opinion has shifted dramatically toward support for the legalization of marijuana. … Demographic change and widespread public experience using marijuana imply that opposition to legalization will never again return to the levels seen in the 1980s. The strong consensus that formed the foundation for many of today’s stringent marijuana laws has crumbled.”

    Read the rest of the essay here.

     

     

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director July 6, 2011

    Let states enact their own marijuana policies

    By Paul Armentano, Special to CNN
    July 6, 2011

    (CNN) — It is hardly surprising that former drug czar William Bennett would, in his CNN.com op-ed, oppose any changes to America’s criminalization of marijuana. But it is surprising that he would lump Barney Frank and Ron Paul’s proposal to allow states the opportunity to enact their own marijuana policy with the effort to legalize drugs.

    Let’s be clear: HR 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, proposed by Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul, does not “legalize drugs” or even so much as legalize marijuana. Rather, this legislation removes the power to prosecute minor marijuana offenders from the federal government and relinquishes this authority to state and local jurisdictions. In other words, HR 2306 is just the sort of rebuke to the “nanny state” that conservatives like Bennett otherwise support.

    Barney Frank and Ron Paul: Get feds out of pot regulation

    The House bill mimics changes enacted by Congress to repeal the federal prohibition of alcohol. Passage of this measure would remove the existing conflict between federal law and the laws of those 16 states that already allow for the limited use of marijuana under a physician’s supervision.

    It would also permit states that wish to fully legalize (for adults) and regulate the responsible use, possession, production and intrastate distribution of marijuana to be free to do so without federal interference. In recent years, several states, including California and Massachusetts, have considered taking such actions either legislatively or by ballot initiative. It is likely that several additional states will be considering this option in 2012, including Colorado and Washington. The residents and lawmakers of these states should be free to explore these alternate policies, including medicalization, decriminalization and legalization, without running afoul of the federal law or the whims of the Department of Justice.

    Of course, just as many states continued to criminalize the sale and consumption of alcohol after the federal government’s lifting of alcohol prohibition, many states, if not most, might continue to maintain criminal sanctions on the use of marijuana.

    But there is no justification for the federal government to compel them to do so. Just as state and local governments are free to enact their own policies about the sale and use of alcohol — a mind-altering, potentially toxic substance that harms the user more than marijuana — they should be free to adopt marijuana policies that best reflect the wishes and mores of their citizens.

    Does Bill Bennett believe that state and local governments cannot be trusted with making such decisions on their own?

    Speaking during an online town hall in January, President Obama acknowledged the subject of legalizing and regulating marijuana was a “legitimate topic for debate,” even as he expressed his opposition. Yet Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, recently boasted that he would not even consider scheduling HR 2306 for a public hearing.

    There might be another reason people like Smith and Bennett will go to such lengths to try to stifle public discussion of the matter. To do so would be to shine light on the fact that the federal criminalization of marijuana has failed to reduce the public’s demand for cannabis, and it has imposed enormous fiscal and human costs upon the American people.

    Further, this policy promotes disrespect for the law and reinforces ethnic and generational divides between the public and law enforcement. Annual data published in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, and compiled by NORML, finds that police have made more than 20 million arrests for marijuana violations since 1970, nearly 90% of them for marijuana possession offenses only.

    It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to unregulated, criminal entrepreneurs and allow states the authority to enact common sense regulations that seek to govern the adult use of marijuana in a fashion similar to alcohol.

    In Bennett’s own words, “We have an illegal drug abuse epidemic in this country.” How is such a conclusion anything but a scathing indictment of the present policy? After 70 years of failure it is time for an alternative approach. The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011″ is an ideal first step.

    Editor’s note: Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML , the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and is the co-author of the book “Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” (2009, Chelsea Green).

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator October 16, 2009

    This week we’ve seen three usually staid mainstream media outlets – Newsweek Magazine, the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and FOX Business News – examining the growing movement in California and nationwide to discuss the inevitable re-legalization of cannabis in America.  [UPDATE:Apparently the FOX Business Channel (not FOX News) will have a series called “High Noon” beginning Monday at Noon ET / 9am PT.]

    We begin with the PBS NewsHour and their fine report featuring the Honorable Rebecca Kaplan from the Oakland City Council and Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University. For balance (I suppose) they also interview the police chief of El Cerrito, California, who provides the obligatory doses of “reefer madness” at around the 5:00 mark.

    Once again, I have to ask the cop at the end of the piece: How many people who don’t smoke pot now are going to start smoking pot once it is legal, and how much is that going to cost? Whatever it is, make the tax on pot equal to that amount, minus the expenditures we’ll save on not arresting people and sending helicopters on weeding missions, and we’ve covered the costs! (Actually, since Miron estimates that we’d reap in revenues and savings around $14 billion annually from legalized pot nationally, you have to convince us that the brand new legal pot smokers who aren’t already smoking now would cost society more than that.)

    We're still trying to figure out how you inject marijuana (from Newsweek photo essay on pot propaganda)
    We’re still trying to figure out how you inject marijuana (from Newsweek photo essay on pot propaganda)

    That stupid retort that legal weed will cost society more than the taxes only works if you believe that nobody is smoking weed now and suddenly when it’s legal, everyone will smoke weed. 22,000,000 PEOPLE ARE SMOKING WEED THIS YEAR ALREADY! Whatever that costs us as a society, we’re already paying NOW without taking in any tax money!

    Cannabis does not “add another vice” to tobacco and alcohol that costs our society so much more than their taxes bring in. Alcohol and tobacco use create huge medical bills and death. Cannabis does not. With three legal choices and cannabis being obviously safest, we’ll cut costs as people choose it over alcohol and tobacco, and raise tax revenues that are currently going to black marketeers.

    Read more about Newsweek and FOX Business News after the break…
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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 5, 2009

    When the producer of the FoxNews program ‘Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano‘ asked me to appear on air last week to discuss the issue of marijuana law reform, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.

    Fortunately it became clear from the host’s opening monologue that Judge Andrew Napolitano is a powerful and articulate friend of cannabis liberalization.

    “The War on Drugs that the federal government has waged, and on which it has spent billions and billions of taxpayer dollars, has been a complete waste of time, money, and effort.

    Take marijuana, for instance. It’s been grouped together and enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration with real hardcore drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. But states like California and soon New Jersey have pretty much legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. While the federal government contends that … marijuana has the potential to promote cancer, patients of cancer and other similar ailments actually use marijuana to fight these deadly diseases.

    So wouldn’t the federal government be better off creating the incentive to empower people to make the right choice, to make their own free choice, rather than persecuting them and prosecuting them for what the feds consider to be the wrong choice?”

    Watch our full interview below: