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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 13, 2011

    It’s January and once again it’s time for NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — activists’ one-stop guide to pending marijuana law reform legislation around the country.

    ** A note 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 to make the changes they want to see.

    Virginia: House Bill 1443 eliminates criminal misdemeanor penalties and convictions for minor marijuana possession offenders. You can contact your state officials in support of this measure here. Virginia NORML is also co-sponsoring a Lobby Day at the State Capitol in support of this effort on Monday, January 17, 2011. To learn more about this event or to attend, please write: Sabrina@norml.org. [UPDATE! HB 1443 is scheduled to be heard by the House Courts of Justice, Criminal Subcommittee this Monday afternoon. This hearing coincides with Virginia NORML’s Lobby Day at the Capitol. Please join with fellow Virginia marijuana law reform activists in Richmond and show your support for this important legislation.]

    Washington: Senate Bill 5073 and House Bill 1100 seek to provide state licensing to medical marijuana producers and dispensaries in order to assure that qualified patients “will have access to an adequate, safe, consistent, and secure source of medical quality cannabis.” The proposed laws do not amend patients’ existing rights to possess up to 24 ounces of marijuana for medical purposes and cultivate up to 15 cannabis plants. The proposals also expand legal protections for patients and producers of cannabis-based medical products by redefining legal cannabis to include “products that contain cannabis or cannabis extracts … “including, but not limited to, edible products, tinctures, and lotions.” SB 5073 has been assigned to the Committee on Health & Long-Term Care and as been scheduled for a hearing on Thursday, January 20th at 1:30pm in Senate Hearing Room 4 of the Cherberg Building. You can learn more about these proposals at NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page here.

    Montana: Montana lawmakers are considering dozens of proposals this session to curtail or repeal the state’s six-year-old medical marijuana law. Montana NORML, our allies Patients & Families United, and various other local groups have formed a coalition to halt these legislative efforts and to protect patients rights. Please visit Patients and Families United on Facebook here for up-to-date information on pending hearings and votes. You can also e-mail your members of the state House and Senate urging them not to repeal Montana’s medical cannabis law by clicking here.

    Texas: House Bill 548 amends Texas law so that the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is reduced from a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine) to a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not exceeding $500 and no criminal record. You can show your support for this measure by visiting here or by becoming involved with Texas NORML here. You can follow the progress of this measure online here and also on the Facebook page for Texas NORML here.

    To be in contact with your state officials regarding these and other pending legislation, please visit NORML’s Take Action Center here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 22, 2010

    Texas GOP drug warrior Rep. Lamar Smith (21st District) lashed out at the Obama administration yesterday on Fox News (Watch the video here.) — claiming that the President is ‘soft’ on pot and is refusing to enforce federal drug laws. But as I opine in today’s edition of The Hill.com’s Congress blog, Congressman Smith is fundamentally wrong on both counts.

    Failed marijuana policies are a bi-partisan boondoggle
    via The Hill

    [excerpt: read the full text here]

    Law enforcement officials prosecuted a near-record 858,408 persons for violating marijuana laws in 2009 – the first year of the Obama presidency. That total is the second highest annual number of pot prosecutions ever recorded in the United States.

    According to the arrest data, made public last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, some 88 percent (758,593 Americans) of those charged with marijuana violations were prosecuted for possession only. The remaining 99,815 individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes virtually all cultivation offenses.

    Does any rational person really think that arresting and prosecuting nearly one million Americans annually for their use of a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol exemplifies a ‘soft’ – or better yet, sound – public policy?

    Rep. Smith further claims that the administration has abdicated the enforcement of federal drug laws in the fourteen states that have legalized the physician-supervised use of marijuana since 1996. Not so. Despite promises from the U.S. Attorney General to respect the laws of these 14 states, the September 21 edition of DC’s Daily Caller reports that just the opposite is taking place.

    In an article entitled, ‘DEA, DOJ stay mum on medical marijuana raids,’ reporter Mike Riggs states: “Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder hasn’t stopped raiding marijuana dispensaries operating in states where sale of the drug is legal for medical purposes. But the DOJ has demonstrated one marked change now that it’s under Democratic control: The department has stopped publicizing medical marijuana raids, both by requesting that more cases be sealed under court order and by refusing to distribute press releases.”

    The story goes on to cite details of over a dozen recent federal raids of medical marijuana providers in California, Colorado, Michigan, and Nevada – all states that have approved the cultivation and possession of medical marijuana.

    Of course, if the stricter enforcement of marijuana laws – as Rep. Lamar advocates – was really the solution to curbing Americans’ appetite for pot then how does one explain this? Since 1965, police have arrested over 21 million Americans for violating marijuana laws; yet according to the World Health Organization more Americans consume marijuana than do citizens of any other country in the world.

    Rather than scapegoating the new administration, which has done little to alter longstanding U.S. marijuana policy, Rep. Smith ought to reconsider the past 40 years of failed drug war policies. … It is time to replace failed marijuana prohibition with a system of legalization, sensible regulation, taxation, and education.

    The Hill’s ever-popular Congress blog ‘is where lawmakers come to blog.’ It’s also where legislators and other politicos come to gauge the pulse of the public. Given that this is a paper of record on Capitol Hill, why not send Rep. Smith and his colleagues a message that their anti-marijuana rhetoric is woefully out of touch with voter sentiment? You can make your voice heard by leaving your feedback here.

    If you live in Texas (particularly if you live in the 21st District, which includes the cities of Austin, San Marcos, Kerrville, and San Antonio), you can also contact Rep. Smith directly here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director December 13, 2009

    Already Four States Have Marijuana Legalization Bills In Play; Californians To Vote On Legalization in 2010

    It can readily be said that 2009 was one of the busiest and most productive years in cannabis law reform since NORML’s founding in 1970. However, it appears as if 2010 is going to be an even busier year–notably marked by the increasing number of actual state legalization bills and a voter initiative in America’s most important state.

    Currently, there is legalization legislation pending in California, Massachusetts, Vermont, and a legalization bill was just introduced this week in Washington. Frankly, most of these bills do not have a strong prospect in passing this time out, however the immense public discussion that is generated is crucial for overall reform efforts.

    The formula is simple: No public discussion or debate about legalization, obviously equates to no substantive law reforms. This is what regrettably happened in the United States, Canada and Europe from 1980-2000, buttressed by extreme federal anti-marijuanism in the form of the DARE program in the public school, the blitzkrieg of Partnership for a Drug-Free America ads polluting media airwaves and omnibus federal crime bills overloaded with severe and costly penalties (i.e., mandatory minimum sentencing, civil forfeiture, mass drug testing, etc…). However, since the turn of the century, there have been ever-increasing public discussions and debates about marijuana prohibition–principally driven by the creation and implementation of medical cannabis laws in thirteen states–which is leading to greater public support for reform.

    Breaking News: NORML has just learned that the TaxCannabis2010 initiative in California has gathered more than enough signatures to qualify for the 2010 ballot and the announcement of such is imminent (like, this week!).

    This coming year the following states will have numerous cannabis law reform legislation or initiatives:

    Medical Cannabis

    State legislation: MN, IL, MO, OH, TN, MD, NC, PA, DE, OH, WI, NY, CT, MA, NH and TX; NJ has a special legislative session going on right now until January 7, 2010 where a pro-reform medical cannabis bill is pending and the outgoing Governor assures a signature to passed legislation.

    Voter Initiatives: AZ

    Cannabis Legalization

    State legislation: VT, MA, WA; CA’s legalization bill (AB 390) will kickoff a smoking hot year in cannabis law reform with a series of planned subcommittee hearings and testimonies currently scheduled for the first week in January.

    Voter Initiatives: TaxCannabis 2010 appears ballot bound and this means that Californians will have the opportunity on November 9, 2010 to effectively end cannabis prohibition in the United States, and arguably most of the of the civil world. Also, Nevada and Oregon voters may also be voting on cannabis legalization initiatives in 2012.

    In a country where one out of eight citizens live in a particularly state, and that state’s citizens democratically vote to end cannabis prohibition and replace it with tax-and-control measures, it is only a matter of time before a number of other states follow suit, then the federal government must end it’s failed three-quarter of a century social experiment of cannabis prohibition.

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator September 11, 2009

    Mark StepnoskiNORML is proud to confirm that Mark Stepnoski
    will be speaking at the 2009 NORML National Conference in San Francisco, CA.

    Mr. Stepnoski is a decorated pro athlete. Mark played for thirteen years in the National Football League, during which he won two Super Bowl rings (with the Dallas Cowboys) and was nominated for the Pro Bowl on five occasions. Mark was also named second team center on the NFL ‘All-Decade team’ for the 1990s.

    Since retiring from pro football in 2001, Mark has dedicated much of his energy to reforming America’s antiquated and draconian marijuana laws. He is a former President of Texas NORML and presently serves on NORML’s national advisory board. "I took great pride in my performance on and off the field, and often questioned why our culture embraces alcohol while simultaneously stigmatizing those who choose to consume a less harmful alternative, marijuana," he says. "[It] is inconsistent, both legally and socially, for our laws to punish adults who make the ‘safer’ choice."

    Mark will be leading an all-star panel discussion at this year’s conference pertaining to the use of cannabis among top athletes. "Since I was a kid, I wanted to play in the NFL," says Mark. "Even though I occasionally used marijuana, it never prevented me from attaining my goals."

    Mark says, "Yes we cannabis" and so should you! Meet Mark and hundreds of other likeminded people at NORML’s 38th annual conference, taking place September 24-26 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown San Francisco. For registration information, please visit: http://www.norml.org/conference.

    More about Mark Stepnoski:

    New York Daily News: Smoking Is NORML

    Reason.com: Lineman for Liberty — Former Cowboys center Mark Stepnoski tackles prohibition

    Valley Advocate: Tokers Got Game

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator June 25, 2009

    (Raw Story) A woman serving a short sentence in a Houston, Texas, jail for possession of marijuana died in custody over the weekend, and officers are not saying how or why.

    The 29-year-old, identified as Theresa Anthony, had expected to spend just two and a half weeks behind bars in the Harris County lockup. On Saturday, Cynthia Prude, Theresa’s mother, received a phone call from the jail’s Chaplain informing her that her daughter was dead.

    [caption id="attachment_9739" align="alignleft" width="191" caption="Theresa Anthony, victim of prohibition"]Theresa Anthony, victim of prohibition[/caption]

    Prude has not been allowed to see the body, nor has the Harris County Sheriff’s Department even spoken with her, according to area media.

    On 4 June 2009, the Justice Department concluded a 15 months-long investigation into the Harris County facility and determined in the subsequent 27-page report that over 142 prisoners had died there since 2001. Most expired due to lack of medical care, the report claims.

    The Associated Press noted that after the Justice Department declined to make its findings public, The Houston Chronicle was able to obtain a copy, which it released on the Internet.

    Wait a minute, how is this possible? According to our last Drug Czar, John Walters, finding a non-violent offender in jail or prison for simple possession is like finding a unicorn.

    Theresa Anthony could be you or me. Or could have been a young Barack Obama. Just another dead unicorn, expiring in a cage for the crime of preferring the safest choice of social relaxant or therapeutic medicine.

    President Obama, if you can stop giggling for a moment, could you please put “legalization” back on the table? Director Kerlikowske, could you please find the time to add “decriminalization” to your vocabulary? You have the power to see to it that Theresa Anthony is the last unicorn to die in a cell.

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