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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 4, 2017

    thumbs_upSpending legislation approved by Congress and signed into law reauthorizes language protecting state-sanctioned medical marijuana and industrial hemp programs.

    Specifically, Section 537 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, states that no federal funds may be appropriated to “prevent any [state] from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana..” That language, initially passed by Congress in 2014, is now known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment.

    A similarly worded amendment protecting state-sponsored hemp programs was also reauthorized.

    Both amendments will remain in effect until September 30, 2017, at which time members of Congress will once again need to either reauthorize the language or let the provisions expire.

    Forty-six states now recognize the therapeutic use of either cannabis or cannabidiol derived products. Thirty states recognize hemp as an industrial crop.

    Eight States regulate the adult use, production, and sale of marijuana. Non-medical, retail marijuana businesses operating in these states are not protected by these amendments and still remain vulnerable to federal interference or prosecution. In February, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer publicly said that the administration was considering engaging in “greater enforcement” of federal anti-marijuana laws in these jurisdictions.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 27, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesA recently released white paper published by the National District Attorneys Association is calling for the federal government to strictly enforce anti-cannabis laws in states that have regulated its production and distribution for either medical or recreational purposes.

    The working group, which consists of D.A.s and prosecutors from more than a dozen states (including representatives from adult use states like California and Colorado), hopes to influence the Trump administration to set aside the 2013 Cole memorandum. That memorandum, authored by former US Deputy Attorney General James Cole, directs state prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

    “To maintain respect for the rule of law, it is essential that federal drug enforcement policy regarding the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of marijuana be applied consistently across the nation,” the NDAA paper concludes.

    Predictably, authors repeat numerous falsehoods about marijuana and marijuana policy in an effort to bolster their call for a federal crackdown. Specifically, authors allege that cannabis damages the brain to a far greater extent than alcohol and that statewide regulations have increased young people’s access to the plant. Both claims are demonstrably false.

    The NDAA opines, “[Marijuana] is not like alcohol … because alcohol use does not cause the same type of permanent changes to teens’ ability to concentrate and learn.” Yet, well controlled studies dismiss the contention that cannabis exposure causes permanent structural damage to the brain.

    Specifically, a 2015 study assessed brain morphology in both daily adult and adolescent cannabis users compared to non-users, with a particular focus on whether any differences were identifiable in the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus, and the cerebellum. Investigators reported “no statistically significant differences … between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest” after researchers controlled for potentially confounding variables. In contrast to marijuana, researchers acknowledged that alcohol “has been unequivocally associated with deleterious effects on brain morphology and cognition in both adults and adolescents.”

    The NDAA further claims, “Legalization of marijuana for medical use and recreational use clearly sends a message to youth that marijuana is not dangerous and increases youth access to marijuana.”

    But data from the US Centers for Disease control reports that young people’s access to marijuana has fallen by 13 percent since 2002. The agency further reports, “Since 2002, the prevalence of marijuana use and initiation among U.S. youth has declined” – a finding that is consistent with numerous prior studies.

    Moreover, state-specific post-legalization data published in March by the Colorado Department of Public Health concludes: “[M]arijuana use, both among adults and among youth, does not appear to be increasing to date. No change was observed in past 30-day marijuana use among adults between 2014 (13.6 percent) and 2015 (13.4 percent). Similarly, there was no statistically significant change in 30-day or lifetime marijuana use among high school students between 2013 (lifetime: 36.9 percent, 30-day: 19.7 percent) and 2015 (lifetime: 38.0 percent, 30-day: 21.2 percent).” 2016 data compiled by Washington State Department of Social and Health Services similarly finds that “rates of teen marijuana use have remained steady” post legalization.

    The National District Attorneys Association is the largest and oldest prosecutor organization in the country. Their mission is to be “the voice of America’s prosecutors and strives to support their efforts to protect the rights and safety of the people in their communities.”

    The full text of the their paper, entitled “Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors’ Perspective,” is available online here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director April 6, 2017

    arrestedUnited States Attorney General Jeff “Marijuana Consumers Aren’t Good People” Sessions has issued a formal memorandum calling on members of the Justice Department’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety to “undertake a review of existing policies,” including federal enforcement policies with regard to cannabis.

    The memo was sent on April 5 to 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices and Department of Justice component heads.

    The Attorney General has requested a report back from task force members by no later than July 27th. You can read the full memo here.

    The release of this memorandum provides us with a general time frame during which to expect any formal announcements from the new administration with regard to addressing marijuana policy — specifically whether the Justice Department will respect state legalization laws.

    In the interim, members of Congress can remove all of the bite from Jeff Sessions’ bark by approving the bipartisan Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which prevents the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

    Speaking recently before Congress, Attorney General Sessions said that his job is to enforce federal law. Let’s change federal law to ensure that our reform victories remain in place, and so that we can build upon these victories in the future.

    CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IN SUPPORT OF RESPECTING STATE MARIJUANA LAWS.

    But while the Justice Department contemplates its next move, state politicians are taking action. In recent days, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the Obama Administration’s largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo.

    “Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

    Political and social change rarely comes from the top on down, it comes from the bottom up. That is why it is imperative for you to not only contact your federal officials in support of changing policy, but also to continue to push for change at the local and state level.

    Click HERE to view pending federal and state legislation and easily contact your elected officials in support of them.

    Click HERE to find a local NORML chapter in your area and get involved. NORML Kansas City this week successfully placed marijuana decriminalization on their municipal ballot and saw it pass with 71% support. This is the kind of positive change a group of committed volunteer citizens can bring to their communities.

    A people united will never be defeated and together we WILL end marijuana prohibition nationwide.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 28, 2017

    take_actionRepresentatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress to exclude marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act, thus providing states with the exclusive authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” removes the cannabis plant from the CSA so that it is no longer scheduled under federal law. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Individual states are “more than capable” of deciding their own cannabis policies, Rep. Garrett explained in a prepared statement.

    According to polling data released last week by Quinnipiac University, 59 percent of Americans endorse legalizing the adult use of marijuana, and 71 percent of voters — including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, believe that state governments, not the federal government, should be the ultimate arbiters of marijuana policy.

    With the recent confirmation of militant marijuana prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to the position of US Attorney General, and with comments from the Trump administration warning of a coming federal crackdown in adult use states, our best defense is a strong offense.

    Please take time today to contact your federal elected officials and urge them to act on passage of the “Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017.” You can do so by clicking here.

    Speaking earlier today before the National Association of Attorney Generals, Session’s doubled-down on his reefer rhetoricdenying scientific facts that legalizing cannabis access is associated with lower rates of opioid abuse (“Give me a break,” he responded) and urging state AGs, “[W]e don’t need to be legalizing marijuana.”

    If the Justice Department won’t listen to reason, then we must take this issue out of its hands. Act now to pass the “Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” to ensure that medical marijuana patients and others are protected from undue federal interference.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 10, 2017

    marijuana_gavelDuring his confirmation for the position of Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions failed to give a straight answer with regard to how the Justice Department should respond to states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.

    The Alabama Senator was questioned by both Sens. Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT) with respect to whether the principles of federalism ought to apply to state marijuana laws.

    Senator Leahy: “Would you use our federal resources to investigate and prosecute sick people using marijuana in accordance with state law even though it might violate federal law?”

    Senator Sessions: “I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law, Senator Leahy, but absolutely it is a problem of resources for the federal government. The Department of Justice under Lynch and Holder set forth some policies that they thought were appropriate to define what cases should be prosecuted in states that have legalized, at least in some fashion marijuana, some parts of marijuana.”

    Senator Leahy: “Do you agree with those guidelines?”

    Senator Sessions: “I think some of them are truly valuable in evaluating cases, but fundamentally the criticism I think that is legitimate is that they may not have been followed. Using good judgment on how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine I know it wont be an easy decision but i will try to do my duty in a fair and just way.”

    Senator Leahy: “The reason I mention this, is because you have some very strong views, you even mandated the death penalty for second offense on drug trafficking, including marijuana, even though mandatory death penalties are of course unconstitutional.”

    Senator Sessions: “Well I’m not sure under what circumstances i said that, but I don’t think…”

    Senator Leahy: “Would you say it‘s not your view today?”

    Senator Sessions: “(laughs) It is not my view today.”

    Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) followed up with questions regarding how marijuana policy factors into federalism and asked if the way the Obama Administration has handled marijuana laws created any issues with separation of powers and states rights. Sessions replied that, “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer Congress should pass a law to change the rule, it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”

    So, after finally being put on the spot and questioned on the issue, we are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday. If anything, his comments are a cause for concern and can be interpreted as leaving the door open for enforcing federal law in legalized states. If Sessions wants to be an Attorney General for ALL Americans, he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population and support allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention.

    Clearly, the battle is just beginning to protect state legalization and medical marijuana laws. Can you contribute today to help us keep up our federal political actions and advance our efforts for state-level law reform?

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