• 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.

    Theresa Anthony, victim of prohibition

    Theresa Anthony, victim of prohibition

    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.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 6, 2009

    Lots to report on this week, so let’s get right to it.

    If you have not yet gotten active in your state, now is most definitely the time to start.

    Here’s this week’s highlights of actions you can take right now to reform the laws in your state.

    For a complete listing of statewide actions, please visit NORML’s Take Action Center here.

    Decriminalizing Marijuana: In a historic vote, members of the Connecticut Joint Committee on Judiciary last week approved Senate Bill 349, which as amended, would mandate that the possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana by those over 18 years of age is punishable by a ticket — not criminal charges. The bill now awaits action from he full Senate. Show your support for this effort by logging on here or by getting in touch with Connecticut NORML here.

    In Texas, members of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will hear testimony on Wednesday in favor of House Bill 902 — an act to reduce the penalties for the possession of up to ounce of marijuana to fine-only offense. The hearing is scheduled for 2pm in room E-2028 in the State Capitol Building. If you live in Texas you can write your representative in support of HB 902 by going here. You can also leave a message for the Committee by going here. Full details on attending this week’s hearing are available from Texas NORML here.

    Legalizing Medical Marijuana: Minnesota lawmakers continue to show their support for making medical cannabis legal. Senate File 97 is now before the Senate floor, and the House companion bill is also gaining momentum. If you reside in Minnesota and want to see it become the fourteenth state to legalize the physician-supervised use of cannabis, please visit here to contact your elected officials and the Governor’s office.

    In Alabama, members of the House Judiciary Committee are scheduled to hear testimony this Wednesday in favor House Bill 434, The Michael Phillips Compassionate Care Act. If you live in Alabama you can contact your state officials here, and you can learn more about attending this week’s hearing from Alabamians for Compassionate Care here.

    And since so many of you have asked: yes, medical marijuana legislation is coming to Pennsylvania. Over the past weeks, NORML state affiliates in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been working closely with Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia) to draft legislation legalizing the authorized use of medical cannabis. Representative Cohen’s bill is anticipated to be formally introduced before the legislature later this month, and mainstream media outlets are already opining for its passage. For more information, or to become involved in this effort, please visit here, or contact the good folks at Philly NORML.

    UPDATE: Montana GOP Kills Marijuana Law Reform:
    On March 23, members of the Montana House Judiciary Committee deadlocked 9 to 9 on House Bill 541, which sought to reclassify the possession of thirty grams or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction. Not one Republican voted in favor of the bill. An effort by supporters to raise the measure for reconsideration also failed.

    Days later, members of the House Human Services Committee voted 8 to 8 on Friday, March 27, to table Senate Bill 326, which sought to expand Montana’s medical marijuana program. Once again, no Republicans endorsed the bill. A motion on the House floor to reconsider the bill failed 47 to 51.

    More information on this disappointing news is available here. If you live in Montana, don’t just get angry — get involved!

    To learn about additional pending legislation in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Vermont, please visit NORML’s Legislative Action Alerts page here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 2, 2009

    Each week, more states are moving forward to reduce or eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana offenses. If you have not yet gotten active in your state, now is most definitely the time to start. Here’s this week’s latest summary of how you can get involved!

    Illinois: On Wednesday, March 4, both chambers of the Illinois legislature will hold hearings to discuss the need to legalize the medical use of cannabis under state law. Members of the House Human Services Committee will hear testimony in favor of House Bill 2514 at 8am in the Stratton Building, Room D-1. Later that afternoon, members of the Senate Public Health Committee are also scheduled to hear testimony in favor of Senate Bill 1381. You can contact your elected officials in support of these measures by going here, or by getting in touch with the good folks at Illinois NORML.

    UPDATE!!! UPDATE!!! House Bill 2514 was voted out of Committee on a 4 to 3 vote. This marks the first time a House Committee has approved legislation regarding the medical use of cannabis. For more information, please visit here.

    Maine: Members of the the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee heard testimony last week in favor of LD 250, which seeks to amend state law so that the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana would be classified as a civil violation. Predictably, local law enforcement are opposing this effort. That is why Maine legislators need to hear from you. Contact members of legislature here, and tell them to vote ‘yes’ on LD 250.

    Texas: Anyone who follows the marijuana law reform issue knows that change in the Lone Star State is long overdue. That’s why it is important that members of the Texas cannabis community get behind House Bill 902, which would reduce minor marijuana possession penalties to a fine-only offense. Over 60,000 Texans are arrested for pot possession violations annually. Half of these defendants are under 25 years of age. It makes no sense to saddle these young people with a criminal arrest record or to put them in jail. Tell your representatives to support HB 902 by going here, and by becoming involved with Texas NORML.

    Rhode Island: This Wednesday, March 4, both chambers of the legislature will hear testimony in favor of legislation to mandate the Department of Health to establish rules governing the licensing of non-profit compassion centers “to acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, supply, or dispense marijuana, or related supplies and educational materials, to registered qualifying patients.” To learn more about this effort, or to attend these hearings, please visit our allies at the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

    New Hampshire: Next Monday, March 9, members of the House Health, Human Services & Elderly Affairs Committee will hear testimony at 10am in favor of House Bill 648, which seeks to legalize the use of medical cannabis is New Hampshire. Two years ago the House narrowly rejected (186-177) a similar bill, so it vital that you contact your House members and urge them to support HB 648. You can write them here. And if you wish to attend next week’s hearing, our allies NH Compassion have all the information you need here.

    To learn about additional pending legislation in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington, please visit NORML’s Legislative Action Alerts page here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 30, 2009

    Marijuana law reform bills are now pending in nearly a dozen states. Here is this week’s summary of pending state legislative activity and tips on how you can become involved in changing the marijuana laws in your area.

    Connecticut: Legislators introduced a bill this week to decriminalize the personal use of marijuana. Senate Bill 349 would amend Connecticut law so that adults who possess one ounce of marijuana or less will be issued tickets and assessed a nominal fine in lieu of criminal charges (up to one-year in jail, under current law). In the House, lawmakers will consider HB 5175, which seeks to legalize the medical use of cannabis. (The legislature passed a similar measure in 2007, only to have it vetoed by Gov. Jodi Rell.) Both bills are now before the Joint Judiciary Committee. Please show your support for these efforts here.

    Montana: Legislators tabled a pair of bills this week pertaining to the state’s medical marijuana patient registry. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today killed SB 212, a measure that NORML strongly opposed. However, in the House, members of the Human Services Committee deadlocked on House Bill 73, which would have allowed patients greater access to medical cannabis. A separate, more comprehensive measure to expand Montana’s medical marijuana program is expected to be introduced imminently.

    New Hampshire: House Bill 648, an act to legalize the medical use of marijuana, is now before the House Health, Human Services & Elderly Affairs Committee. A similar bill was narrowly rejected (186-177) by the House in 2007. For more information on this measure, please visit NHCompassion.org or click here.

    South Dakota: Lawmakers will hold hearings next week on a pair of bills to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest and jail. House Bill 1127, an act “to provide safe legal access to medical marijuana for certain qualified persons,” will be heard by the House Health and Human Services Committee at 7:45am on Tuesday, February 3. The House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony regarding a separate medical marijuana bill on Wednesday. To attend these hearings or to learn more about how you can support these efforts, please visit South Dakota NORML/South Dakotans for Safe Access or go here.

    To learn about additional pending legislation in Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, please visit NORML’s Action Alerts page here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director April 28, 2008

    Best wishes and happy travels to one of America’s great authors of music, masters of the performance stage and American highways.


    The cannabis law reform movement has never had a better, more honest or longer-serving goodwill ambassador for cannabis consumers as well as a dedicated proponent of hemp as an industrial crop that should be within the ambit of choices for the American farmer. Even on the rare occasion that Willie has been arrested on cannabis prohibition-related charges, the arresting law enforcement officers involved have oddly been embarrassed, giddy and ultimately honored to have the opportunity to meet Willie in person.

    On one occasion in Texas in 1995, Willie was arrested for possessing a couple of hand-rolled cigarettes that just happen to consist of cannabis rather than tobacco, and in a totally unlikely scenario the local sheriff was the individual who bailed him out!

    To the man who once smoked a joint on the roof of the White House and has donated the proceeds from events like the 2007 Austin Freedom Festival to support cannabis law reform advocacy, on behalf of NORML’s nationwide membership and chapters, as well as the board of directors, thanks for all your help and support for too many years.

    Bonus: Check out this great video from Amsterdam last week featuring Willie and Snoop Dogg. I don’t know what your grandfather is doing at the age of 75, but can you imagine how cool it would be if he invited you to his sold-out shows in Europe and on-stage jams with Snoop?!

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