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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 21, 2010

    We’ve celebrated 4/20; now it’s time to tell Congress to end marijuana prohibition once and for all.

    It’s High Time To End Marijuana Prohibition
    via The Hill

    By any objective standard, marijuana prohibition is an abject failure.

    Nationwide, U.S. law enforcement have arrested over 20 million American citizens for marijuana offenses since 1965, yet today marijuana is more prevalent than ever before, adolescents have easier access to marijuana than ever before, the drug is more potent than ever before, and there is more violence associated with the illegal marijuana trade than ever before.

    Over 100 million Americans nationally have used marijuana despite prohibition, and one in ten – according to current government survey data – use it regularly. The criminal prohibition of marijuana has not dissuaded anyone from using marijuana or reduced its availability; however, the strict enforcement of this policy has adversely impacted the lives and careers of millions of people who simply elected to use a substance to relax that is objectively safer than alcohol.

    NORML believes that the time has come to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education.

    Read NORML’s full commentary here.

    The Hill’s ever-popular Congress blog ‘is where lawmakers come to blog.’ It’s also where lawmakers come to gauge the pulse of the public. It’s 4/21; tell your member of Congress that it is time to replace prohibition with legalization and regulation. You can make your voice heard by leaving your feedback here.

    Now spread the word!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 5, 2010

    Lawmakers around the country are debating a record number of marijuana law reform bills in 2010. NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up is your one-stop guide to pending marijuana law reform legislation around the country, along with tips for influencing the policies of your state.

    ** To first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and make the changes they want to see. We can’t do it without you.

    Hawaii: Senate lawmakers approved a series of bills last week that seek to reform the state’s marijuana laws. Senators voted unopposed in favor of SB 2450, which seeks to reduce penalties for the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine to a civil offense. You can read NORML’s recent commentary and testimony in favor of this measure here and here. You can voice your support for the measure here.

    Senators this week also approved Senate Bill 2141, an act to increase the quantities of medical marijuana that a patient may legally possess under state law to ten plants and five ounces at any given time. Lawmakers approved the proposal by a 24 to 1 vote. Lawmakers also voted in favor of SB 2213, which would establish ‘compassion centers’ to provide medical marijuana to authorized patients. All three measures are now before the House for consideration. You can learn more about these proposals here.

    Washington: House lawmakers on Wednesday, March 3, voted 58 – 40 in favor of an amended version of Senate Bill 5798, which would expand the state’s nearly twelve-year-old medical marijuana law. Because the House made minor amendments to the bill, it now must be re-approved by the Senate — who previously had 37 to 11 in favor of the bill in February. If enacted, SB 5798 will allow additional health care professionals – including naturopaths, physician’s assistants, osteopathic physicians, and advanced registered nurse practitioners – to legally recommend marijuana therapy to their patients. Under present law, only licensed physicians may legally recommend medicinal cannabis. To learn more about this measure, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action’ Center here.

    Rhode Island: House lawmakers this week for the first time introduced legislation to legalize the production, distribution, and personal use of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. As introduced, House Bill 7838: The Taxation and Regulation of Marijuana Act, would exempt adults from any statewide criminal or civil penalty for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, engaging in the not-for-profit transfer of small amounts of marijuana, and/or the cultivation of up to three marijuana plants. The proposal also establishes licensing requirements for the commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana via retail facilities. The measure states that “at least one” marijuana retailer shall exist per county within one year following the passage of this act. To learn how you can support this act, please visit here.

    New Hampshire: Next Wednesday, March 10, House lawmakers are scheduled to vote on House Bill 1653, which would amend penalties for possession of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine, to a civil offense punishable by no more than $200.00. Members of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee previously voted 16 to 2 in favor of passing the bill, and NORML anticipates that House lawmakers will do the same. However, Democrat Gov. John Lynch has threatened to veto the measure. Contact information and talking points for Gov. Lynch may be found at NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    Massachusetts: The Joint Committee on Judiciary held a hearing on Tuesday to debate SB 1801, which seeks to “regulate and tax the cannabis industry” in Massachusetts. You can watch video from the hearing here, and you can contact your state elected officials in support of the measure here.

    For information on additional state and federal marijuana law reform legislation, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 21, 2009

    According to today’s New York Times the Mexican government has “legalized” drug possession. Really? Perhaps someone at the NYT ought to inform Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

    First of all, let’s explore the various connotations evoked by the word “legal.” After all, without proper context this term can mean many different things to many different people.

    Oranges are legal. So are alcohol and tobacco. Aspirin is legal, as are thousands of prescription medications — including highly dangerous drugs like oxycodone. Yet while all of these products are ‘legal’ — in the sense that they may be lawfully produced and purchased by certain consumers — their distribution and possession are governed by vastly different regulatory controls.

    Oranges, for instance, are widely available to all consumers, regardless of age. People can even grow their own, if they so desire. Aspirin is also readily available to the general public as an ‘over-the-counter’ medication, whereas prescription drugs may only be purchased at a state-governed pharmacy by those who possess written authorization from a licensed physician.

    The sale and possession of alcohol and tobacco are also legal, yet both substances are heavily taxed and tightly controlled. State-imposed age restrictions place limits on who can legally purchase and use both products, and federal laws also specify how and where these products may be advertised. Federal, state, and county laws also impose strict controls regarding where these products can be legally purchased. Adults may legally produce certain types of alcohol, like beer and wine, privately in their home — if their production is intended for their own personal consumption and not for sale to the public. By contrast, federal and state laws tightly regulate the commercial production of any type of alcohol.

    So then, when the NYT‘s headline asserts that drug possession in Mexico is “legal,” do they mean that marijuana is now legal like oranges are legal? Or like alcohol? Or like prescription drugs?

    Unfortunately, the answer is ‘none of the above.’ In fact, no definition of ‘legal’ that I’m aware of resembles Mexico’s new drug possession scheme. The Associated Press explains:

    The new law [Editor’s note: NORML initially reported on Mexico’s impending legal change this past May.] sets out maximum “personal use” amounts for drugs, also including LSD and methamphetamine. People detained with those quantities no longer face criminal prosecution.

    The maximum amount of marijuana for “personal use” under the new law is 5 grams — the equivalent of about four joints. The limit is a half gram for cocaine, the equivalent of about 4 “lines.” For other drugs, the limits are 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams for methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams for LSD.

    Anyone caught with drug amounts under the new personal-use limit will be encouraged to seek treatment, and for those caught a third time treatment is mandatory.

    … “This is not legalization, this is regulating the issue and giving citizens greater legal certainty,” said Bernardo Espino del Castillo of the attorney general’s office.

    So let’s review, shall we? Under Mexico’s new law:

    * The private production of cannabis will remain a criminal offense;

    * The commercial production of cannabis will remain criminal offense (and this production will continue to be monopolized by criminal enterprises/drug cartels);

    * The commercial distribution of cannabis to consumers will remain a criminal offense (and this distribution will continue to be monopolized by criminal enterprises/drug cartels);

    * The private possession of cannabis in quantities greater than “four joints” will remain a criminal offense;

    * The private possession of cannabis in quantities under “four joints” will no longer be a criminal offense, but the marijuana will continue to be classified as contraband (and therefore seized by police), and the user will be strongly urged to seek drug treatment (or coerced to do so if it is one’s third ‘offense.’)

    Does any of this sound like “legalization” (or even “regulation,” to quote the Mexican attorney general’s office) to you? I didn’t think so. A small step in the right direction, perhaps — but legalization? Not a chance — no matter how you define it!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 26, 2009

    FRIDAY UPDATE!!!

    Here’s another way you can let the White House know what you think. The Drug Czar’s blog, Pushing Back, is asking for the public’s feedback regarding Thursday’s Town Hall Meeting. You already know what they think; let them know what you think here.

    UPDATE!!! UPDATE!!! UPDATE!!!

    Since many of you are writing President Obama on your own, NORML would like to assist the process by providing you with a link for contacting the White House directly. Please log on and send your e-mails by going here.

    Also, please check The Hill.com (Read and comment here) and HuffingtonPost.com (Read and comment here) on Friday for updated versions of this commentary, and please post your feedback to those forums as well.

    Speaking live moments ago President Barack Obama pledged “to open up the White House to the American people.”

    Well, to some of the American people that is.

    As for those tens of millions of you who believe that cannabis should be legally regulated like alcohol — and the tens of thousands of you who voted to make this subject the most popular question in today’s online Presidential Town Hall — well, your voice doesn’t really matter.

    Asked this morning whether he “would … support the bill currently going through the California legislation to legalize and tax marijuana, boosting the economy and reducing drug cartel related violence,” the President responded with derision.

    “There was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation, and I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” he laughed.

    “The answer is no, I don’t think that [is] a good strategy.”

    Obama’s cynical rebuff was short-sighted and disrespectful to a large percentage of his supporters. After all, was it not this very same “online audience” that donated heavily to Obama’s Presidential campaign and ultimately carried him to the White House?

    Second, as I’ve written previously in The Hill and elsewhere, the overwhelming popularity of the marijuana law reform issue — as manifested in this and in similar forums — illustrates that there is a significant, vocal, and identifiable segment of our society that wants to see an end to America’s archaic and overly punitive marijuana laws.

    The Obama administration should be embracing this constituency, not mocking it.

    Third, will somebody please ask the President: “What is it that you think is so funny about the subject of marijuana law reform?”

    Since 1965, police have arrested over 20 million Americans for violating marijuana laws, yet nearly 90 percent of teenagers say that pot is “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain. That’s funny?

    According to this very administration, there is an unprecedented level of violence occurring at the Mexico/US border — much of which is allegedly caused by the trafficking of marijuana to the United States by drug cartels. America’s stringent enforcement of pot prohibition, which artificially inflates black market pot prices and ensures that only criminal enterprises will be involved in the production and sale of this commodity, is helping to fuel this violence. Wow, funny stuff!

    Finally, two recent polls indicate that a strong majority of regional voters support ending marijuana prohibition and treating the drug’s sale, use, and distribution like alcohol. A February 2009 Zogby telephone poll reported that nearly six out of ten of voters on the west coast think that cannabis should be “taxed and legally regulated like alcohol and cigarettes.” A just-released California Field Poll reports similar results, finding that 58 percent of statewide voters believe that regulations for cannabis should be the same or less strict than those for alcohol.

    Does the President really think that all of these voters are worthy of his ridicule?

    Let the White House laugh for now, but the public knows that this issue is no laughing matter. This week alone, legislators in Illinois, Minnesota, and New Hampshire voted to legalize the use of marijuana for authorized individuals. Politicians in three additional states heard testimony this week in favor of eliminating criminal penalties for all adults who possess and use cannabis. And lawmakers in Massachusetts and California are now debating legally regulating marijuana outright.

    The American public is ready and willing to engage in a serious and objective political debate regarding the merits of legalizing the use of cannabis by adults. And all over this nation, whether Capitol Hill wants to acknowledge it or not, they are engaging in this debate as we speak.

    Sorry Obama, this time the joke’s on you.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 12, 2008

    Marijuana is #1.

    To follow up on yesterday’s post, change.gov (the website of President-Elect Obama’s transition team) has now closed the webpage “Open for Questions.”

    NORML wishes to thank all of you who took the time to visit the website and demanded the incoming administration to reform America’s marijuana laws.

    Your message got through loud and clear.

    After receiving nearly 100,000 total votes on more than 10,000 separate public policy issues, the most widely voted on question for Obama is:

    Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?

    (Equally impressive, 16 of the top 50 overall questions posed to the new administration pertained to drug law reform. Now do we have your attention?)

    According to the latest update on the Change.gov site, “Over the next few days, some of the most popular questions selected by the Change.gov community will be answered by the Transition team, and their responses will be posted here on the site.”

    So does this mean that the Obama will post a response to the public’s outcry for tangible marijuana law reform? Or will the incoming administration choose to remain silent on the one progressive issue that the American public, but not their elected official, is ‘buzzing’ about?

    Meanwhile, over at the website Change.org (which is not affiliated with the Obama administration), your votes (Nearly 2,500 of them as of this morning) have made the question, Should we legalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana? the top rated idea on the website!

    According to the site, there will be a second round of voting (this first round ends on December 31, 2008) in January to determine which top 10 ideas are presented to the Obama administration on Inauguration Day.

    Finally, over at the highly popular website Digg.com, over 2,500 visitors have added their support for making marijuana law reform a key platform of the incoming administration. You can join the discussion here.

    It was just over a month ago when statewide marijuana law reform initiatives in Massachusetts and Michigan prevailed with more votes than America’s soon-to-be 44th President — once again reaffirming the widespread popular support for changing our nation’s antiquated and punitive pot laws. It wasn’t clear that either the national media or the incoming administration was listening then. Are they listening now?

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