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  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 14, 2013

    New polling data, released this past week by the ACLU of Hawaii, shows strong support for marijuana law reform on the islands.

    57% of respondents stated that they believed marijuana should be “taxed, regulated, and legalized for adults” – only 39% were opposed. This is up a whopping 20 percentage points in support since they last polled the question in 2005.

    The survey also asked about the state’s medical marijuana program. An astounding 81% of respondents said they support the current law and 78% were in favor of passing regulations to allow dispensaries that would provide safe access to cannabis for Hawaii’s patients.

    As recent polling has shown, support for marijuana law reform is at an all time high in many states across the nation, now including the original home of the “Choom Gang” and President Obama.

    You can view the full survey here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 9, 2013

    In his State of the State address, delivered this morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reaffirmed his commitment to reforming his state’s marijuana laws. The governor proposed decriminalizing the possession of 15 grams of marijuana in public view to a civil violation. Currently only possession of marijuana in private is decriminalized, possession in public view is still currently a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250 with a maximum sentence of 90 days.

    “These arrests stigmatize, they criminalize, they create a permanent record. It’s not fair, it’s not right, it must end and it must end now,” Governor Cuomo stated.

    Last year, the Governor declared his support for a similar proposal, but was unable to gather significant support in the state legislature by the end of the year. NORML applauds Governor Cuomo’s commitment to the issue and we were glad to see him putting the topic front and center in a prominent speech.

    You can view Governor Cuomo’s speech on C-SPAN here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 19, 2012

    The message from our big wins on Election Day has already begun to reverberate around the nation. Right on the heels of the votes in Washington and Colorado, several other states (and countries!) are already beginning to consider similar measures in their legislature.

    Last week, representatives from Maine and Rhode Island announced their intentions to introduce legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana in their respective states. Rep. Diane Russell of Maine and Rep. Edit Ajello from Rhode Island will be submitting these bills soon. Reports from Marijuana Policy Project indicated that Vermont and Massachusetts intend to follow suit.

    Reform is spreading as far as Iowa. Today, Rep. Bruce Hunter announced his intentions of not only reintroducing his medical marijuana measure, but also a bill that would decriminalize the possession of cannabis.

    The push for sensible reforms does not end at the state level, this week 18 members of the House of Representatives cosigned a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart urging them to respect states that chose to experiment with new approaches to marijuana. You can read the full text of the letter here.

    Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) also declared that she will soon introduce legislation, entitled the “Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act,” which would exempt states where voters have legalized cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act provisions related to the substance.

    Leaders outside of the United States have also been following these recent reform efforts closely. Uruguay has just introduced legislation into their congress that would legalize the possession, cultivation, and state-controlled production of marijuana. In Mexico, lawmaker Fernando Belaunzaran of Party of the Democratic Revolution has introduced legislation that also aims to legalize the production, sale and use of marijuana.

    Now that two states have legalized marijuana, the floodgates of reform have opened and each day more Americans, and people around the globe, are waking up to the reality that the prohibition of marijuana has been an utter failure. The statement delivered by the voters of Colorado and Washington is that we must regulate marijuana and do away with the societal ills caused by prohibition. Further, it showed that if the government isn’t willing to take the first step, the people will do it for them. We can only hope this recent wave of reform measures is just the beginning and we must work diligently to spread these rational policies nationwide. If history is any indication, like alcohol prohibition before it, the one on marijuana will crumble at an accelerated rate as more Americans continue to stand up, in growing numbers, and demand sensible marijuana policy.

    Ruminating on the ‘domino effect’ of change, President Eisenhower once stated, “You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly.”

    May it be so with marijuana legalization.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 8, 2012

    Tuesday night, the states of Colorado and Washington sent a loud and clear message to the federal government that they no longer wish to enforce the futile prohibition on cannabis. The symbolic impact of these victories are immediate, but what are the practical effects on the ground now that these two initiatives have been approved?

    WASHINGTON

    In Washington State, regulations for the marijuana retail outlets are going to start being drafted by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. This process is expected to last about a year. The immediate impact of passing I-502 is on the state laws regarding possession. Starting on December 6th, Section 20 of the initiative will take effect. This section effectively states that any person over the age of 21 is legally allowed to possess up to 1oz of dried marijuana, 16oz of marijuana solids (edibles), and 72oz of cannabis infused liquids (think oils and lotions). It is also no longer a crime to possess marijuana paraphernalia.

    Law enforcement representatives in the state have already released some statements on this matter. Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, from the Seattle Police Department, said, “For us, the law has changed, and people can expect no enforcement for possession.”

    “What you can expect,” Sgt. Whitcomb clarified, “is no enforcement on possession, that is a reasonable expectation.”

    COLORADO

    The vote in Colorado is awaiting final certification, a process that is expected to take about a month. After this approval, it will immediately become legal in Colorado for adults over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and for them to grow up to 6 plants in a secure indoor space.

    The state is required to adopt a legal framework for retail sales by July of 2013, the first marijuana retail outlets could potentially open as early as the start of 2014.

    Colorado’s law enforcement seems just as keen as Washington’s, for the time being, to honor the will of the people. “We’re not federal agents,” stated Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, who opposed Amendment 64 during the campaign.

    “We can arrest people if they’re wanted on warrants on federal crimes, but unless we’re involved in a specific case … where (a deputy is) cross-commissioned as a federal agent,” he said, “we don’t directly enforce federal law.”

    While he ended his statement with a patronizing jab, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper seems willing to abide by the desire of his state’s citizens on this issue. “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Hickenlooper said Tuesday night.

    “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said,” he ended, “Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.”

    These protections in both states, when certified and placed into effect, will apply to anyone physically in the state, no residency required. Public consumption would remain a violation in both states, but a civil, not criminal, one.

    As always, NORML will keep you posted as these laws become certified and come into effect and will be tracking the process of implementing retail outlets every step of the way.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director October 23, 2012

    While the discussion of marijuana policy may be noticeably absent from the current dialogue in the presidential race, one prominent Democratic Party member is not backing down on his push to reform his state’s marijuana laws.

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has redoubled his efforts to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in public view after state legislators failed to act on the measure before the end of this year’s session. Amid discussions of a pay increase for legislators, Governor Cuomo told reporters this morning that, “I would not even consider, even consider a pay raise, unless the people’s business was being done in a thorough, responsible way.”

    Included in his definition of “the people’s business” is the decriminalization of marijuana he had championed earlier in the year, along with an increase in New York’s minimum wage.

    There have been talks about the legislature reconvening for a special session in the state after election day and before the start of next year’s session in January, but the governor made clear he would not sign off on their desired pay raise without action on these reform efforts.

    “I understand they may have an interest in a pay raise. I’m interested in a people’s agenda and that’s what the session would be about,” stated Gov. Cuomo.

    It is refreshing to see such a prominent sitting politician stand up for sound marijuana reform. New York’s current failed policy has cost the state around $75 million a year to arrest about 50,000 people for small amounts of marijuana, 85% of whom were people of color. This policy disproportionately targets the most vulnerable in our society and we applaud Governor Cuomo for taking a strong stance on this important issue. We can only hope other elected officials take notice and follow suit.

    UPDATE: New York City Council Member for Council District 8, Melissa Mark-Viverito, has released a statement applauding the Governor’s action:

    I commend New York Governor Cuomo for urging the State Legislature to adopt what he calls ‘The People’s Agenda,’ which includes an end to unjust small-quantity marijuana arrests, before they consider a potential salary hike for legislators.

    I strongly support this principled act of leadership in the face of a hostile Republican State Senate which in the last session blocked legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. This inaction has led to thousands more unjust stop-and-frisk arrests of young men of color when they are told to empty their pockets during stops. Enforcement of this policy costs the city an estimated $75 million each year.

    The new law would make marijuana possession merely a violation, like a traffic ticket, and not a crime that the police can arrest people for committing. Since there are currently over 50,000 annual stop-and-frisk arrests for small-time marijuana possession in NYC, this will dramatically reduce the unjust criminalization of our youth. Earlier this year, the New York City Council passed a resolution in support of this legislation, which I sponsored, and Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly have voiced their support of these reforms. The Commissioner even issued a directive to officers intended to slow down the number of marijuana arrests. Still, it is essential to codify this policy change at the State level, and I thank Governor Cuomo for taking this issue so seriously. – Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito (source)

    Note: This story was featured on The Colbert report last night. You can view the segment here. You can view more press coverage here.

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