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states rights

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 8, 2018

    President Donald Trump on Friday expressed verbal support for recently introduced, bi-partisan legislation that seeks to codify legal protections for state-sanctioned marijuana-related activities.

    In response to a question from reporters, the President acknowledged that he “probably will end up supporting” The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018, sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Corey Gardner (R-CO). Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also reportedly promised to permit a vote on the legislation.

    The bill mandates that the federal Controlled Substances Act “shall not apply to any person acting in compliance” the marijuana legalization laws of their state. It also amends federal law to explicitly remove industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. A bipartisan House companion bill, sponsored by Reps. David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), is pending in the House of Representatives.

    Also today, Governors from 12 states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging passage of the STATES Act.

    In April, Sen. Gardner acknowledged that he had spoken with the President regarding the intent of his bill and that Trump “assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

    Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of the States Act. 

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 13, 2018

    Republican Senator Cory Gardner (CO) says that he has received a verbal commitment from President Donald Trump specifying that the administration will not take action to disrupt marijuana markets in states that legally regulate the substance.

    “Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” Gardner told the Associated Press. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.”

    He added: “Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all. Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees.”

    In January, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidelines directing federal prosecutors not to take action against those who were compliant with state-sanctioned cannabis regulations. In response to that decision, Rep. Gardner had vowed to block all nominees for Justice Department jobs.

    On Friday, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said, Trump “does respect Colorado’s right to decide for themselves how to best approach this issue.” At a separate press conference, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that the President and Sen. Gardner had spoken about the issue and that the senator’s account is “accurate.”

    In response to the administration’s pledge, NORML Director Erik Altieri stated: “We applaud this commitment from President Trump, who promised during his campaign to take a federalist approach with regard to marijuana policy. That campaign promise was not reflected by Trump’s appointment of longtime marijuana prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to the position of Attorney General or any of the actions that Sessions has taken since becoming the nation’s top law enforcement officer.”

    “With the President now reiterating this commitment, it is time for Congress to do its part and swiftly move forward bipartisan legislation that explicitly provides states with the authority and autonomy to set their own marijuana policies absent the fear of federal incursion. Doing so would not only follow through one of Trump’s campaign promises, but it would codify the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans.”

    Senator Gardner reiterated that he and his colleagues “are continuing to work diligently on a bipartisan legislative solution (to the state/federal conflict) that can pass Congress and head to the President’s desk.”

    Thirty states have enacted statutes regulating the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Nine states have passed laws regulating marijuana use by adults. By contrast, federal law defines the marijuana plant as a ‘Schedule I’ prohibited substance that lacks “currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director January 15, 2018

    As tensions between AG Sessions and federal lawmakers continues to grow, proponents of marijuana legalization are finding new allies in state legislatures around the country. Despite the recent move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the Cole Memo, a 2013 DOJ memorandum that allowed state sanctioned marijuana business to thrive despite the quagmire between state and federal laws, lawmakers in several states are advancing marijuana reform legislation.

    Reject AG Sessions’ Efforts to Revert to the Failed Criminal Policies of the ‘Just Say No’ Era.

    Within hours of the rollout of the DOJ’s new policy, lawmakers in Vermont passed a depenalization bill out of the House and Senate with overwhelming support and it’s now headed to Governor’s office. With Governor Scott already promising to sign the measure into law, it’s safe to say that Vermont will surely be the newest thorn in the side of an already agitated Sessions. As if the news from Vermont isn’t frustrating enough for the Attorney General, House lawmakers in New Hampshire also passed legislation that would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and up. And Thursday, members of the New York State Assembly heard hours of testimony in support of adult use regulation.

    In addition to the advancement of marijuana law reform legislation in Vermont and New Hampshire, a number of other states such as Kentucky, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Delaware, New Hampshire, Virginia, Missouri and New Mexico will also be debating several marijuana-related bills during their 2018 legislative sessions. To support these legislative efforts, members of Virginia NORML, NORML KC, NORML of Florida, Lehigh Valley NORML, NORML Women of Washington, Pittsburgh NORML, Ohio NORML, Missouri NORML, Illinois NORML, Delaware NORML, Kentucky NORML, Maryland NORML, New Mexico NORML, Wyoming NORML, Springfield NORML and Greater St. Louis NORML will be meeting with their state representatives to encourage support for marijuana reform legislation

    With the help of NORML chapters, 2018 could prove to be a very successful year for marijuana law reform efforts.

    Virginia NORML

    Taking a more conservative approach than lawmakers in Vermont and New Hampshire, lawmakers in the Commonwealth of Virginia are considering both medical marijuana and decriminalization bills this session. While there hasn’t been any notable criticisms of the DOJ’s new policy from the state legislature, Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA) recently introduced HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act which would gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML had this to say about the current political climate.

    “Attorney General Sessions isn’t stopping Virginia from moving forward in the 2018 legislative session with both medical cannabis expansion and decriminalization. We have strong, bipartisan representatives working on marijuana policy in Congress, Reps. Beyer, Garrett, Griffith and Taylor, and the same holds true in our State House. Republicans and Democrats are united on advancing these common sense reforms demanded by the overwhelming majority of Virginians.”

    Las Vegas NORML

    In Nevada, where state lawmakers approved a measure to fast track rules and regulations for the state’s adult-use marijuana program in 2017, the news of the DOJ’s new policy prompted partisan reactions from Carson City. While Republican lawmakers refrained from publicly criticizing AG Sessions, Democratic Senator Tick Segerblom wasted no time. Speaking to a group of legalization advocates at a rally outside of a marijuana dispensary In Las Vegas, Senator Segerblom had this to say:

    “Contact your legislators in Washington DC and tell them to tell Trump to back off until we get this thing resolved. This is a great industry for Nevada. The people have spoken…this is a state’s rights issue.”

    After hearing the news about the shift in federal policy, Chris Thompson, executive director of Las Vegas NORML quickly shifted his focus from state-level lobbying efforts to mobilizing pro-marijuana advocates and scheduling meetings with Congressional leaders.

    “It’s definitely a precarious situation right now, but thankfully Las Vegas NORML is working with our representatives at the state and federal level to prevent Sessions from trampling over states’ rights and prosecuting legal cannabis,” said Thompson.

    With virtually no federal lawmakers expressing support the Sessions’ reversal, as reported by Politico, and state lawmakers seemingly unphased by this shift in the administration’s tone, it appears that AG Sessions severely underestimated the political juggernaut the issue of marijuana legalization has become.

    For more information about a NORML’s 2018 lobbying efforts, email Chapters@NORML.org or visit http://norml.org/about/chapter-calendar for list of upcoming chapter lobby days and meetings. If you’re unable to attend a NORML lobby day in your state, please take a few minutes to contact your representatives using NORML’s Action center http://norml.org/act

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 23, 2017

    Record numbers of voters support regulating the marijuana market and oppose federal efforts to interfere or undermine state laws permitting the plant’s use or sale, according to nationwide polling data released today by Quinnipiac University.

    Ninety-three percent of voters — including 96 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans — support “allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes,” the highest total ever reported in a national poll. Among those respondents older than 65 years of age, 92 percent endorsed legalizing medical marijuana.

    Fifty-nine percent of voters similarly support making the adult use of marijuana legal in the United States. That total is in line with recent polling data compiled by Gallup in 2016 which reported that 60 percent of US adults support legalization — a historic high. Respondents who identified as Democrats (72 percent) were most likely to support legalization. Fifty-eight percent of Independents also expressed support, but only 35 percent of Republicans did so. Among the various age groups polled, only those over the age of 65 failed to express majority support for legalization.

    Finally, 71 percent of respondents say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.” This percentage is the highest level of support ever reported with regard to limiting the federal government from interfering in states’ marijuana policies.

    The rising support may provide a boost for pending federal legislation, HR 975: The 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. You can urge your members of Congress to support this act by clicking here.

    The Quinnipiac University poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.

  • by NORML January 5, 2017


    On Monday, NORML and our supporters will participate in a Day of Action to mobilize opposition to the appointment of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General.

    Senate lawmakers will be deciding Tuesday whether Jeff Sessions is fit for the position of America’s top law enforcement officer. Unless he is willing to acknowledge that, as Attorney General, he will respect the rights of marijuana consumers in the majority of US states that have legalized the plant, we believe that he is the wrong man for the job.

    Our concern is not without merit. Senator Sessions is a militant opponent of any efforts to reform marijuana policy who once notoriously remarked that the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.” He is a staunch proponent of the long-discredited ‘gateway theory,’ and has called on federal officials to return to the ‘Just Say No’ rhetoric of the 1980s. In fact, he was one of only 16 US Senators to receive a failing grade from NORML in our 2016 Congressional Report Card because of statements like these :

    “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”

    “[Marijuana] cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

    Senator Sessions’ views are out of step with mainstream America and they are in conflict with the laws of over half of the states. We must demand that Senators ask this nominee whether he intends to respect the will of the voters in these states, and whether he truly believes no that “good people” have ever smoked pot.

    If confirmed by the US Senate, Sen. Sessions will possess the power to roll back decades of hard-fought gains. He will have the authority to challenge the medical marijuana programs that now operate in 29 states and the adult use legalization laws that have been approved in eight states.

    Will you join us in this important day of action? You can help us amplify our message by signing up for our ThunderClap HERE.

    What is a Thunderclap? Think of Thunderclap as a social media flash mob. Supporters can sign up to have a mass message published to their account at a coordinated date and time. Thunderclap is similar to crowdfunding, but uses social currency instead of money. Your audience can “donate” a Tweet or Facebook post to help you spread the word. Your one tweet and post can go along way in helping us bring awareness to this important effort.

    Sign up for the Thunderclap. Then, on Monday morning we will be posting in-depth directions regarding our call to action (including a suggested script for you to use when calling your US Senator) right here on norml.org . Then, on Tuesday, we will be shifting our focus to the members of the Judiciary Committee to assure that Sen. Sessions is made to defend his past statements, and is asked about whether he will respect the will of the voters moving forward.

    Together, we can make our voices heard and demand that statewide marijuana laws be respected and upheld. Stand with us on Monday to send a clear message: The incoming Attorney General must not interfere with state laws that have legalized and regulated marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

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