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GOVERNMENT

  • by NORML November 7, 2018
    Jeff Sessions is TERRIFYING!

    Jeff Sessions is TERRIFYING!

    United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced that he is resigning, effective immediately, from the office of the Department of Justice.

    In both his tenure in Congress and as Attorney General, Sessions was a longstanding, vocal opponent of marijuana policy reform, who once opined, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” As Attorney General, his office rescinded the 2013 Cole memorandum which directed prosecutors not to interfere in state-sanctioned marijuana activity. However, that action encouraged numerous members from both parties to strongly criticize the office, and eventually led to the introduction of The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018 – bipartisan House and Senate legislation that seeks to protect jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana from federal intervention.

    Commenting on his exit, NORML Director Erik Altieri said, “Attorney General Jefferson Sessions was a national disgrace. NORML hopes that he finds the time during his retirement to seek treatment for his affliction of 1950’s reefer madness.”

    Commenting on the prospects for his replacement, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “With 33 states now recognizing the medical use of cannabis, and with 10 states having legalized the use and sales of marijuana for all adults, it is pivotal that the next US Attorney General be someone who recognizes that most Americans want cannabis to be legally regulated and that they oppose any actions from the Justice Department to interfere with these state-sanctioned efforts.”

    Sessions’ chief of staff Matt Whitaker will serve as acting Attorney General until a permanent appointment is confirmed.

  • by NORML

    Marijuana reformers enjoyed numerous federal, state, and local victories last night. Here are the highlights.

    STATE BALLOT INITIATIVES

    Florida: Sixty-three percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which amends the state constitution to restore voting privileges to those with non-violent felony convictions – including tens of thousands of those convicted of marijuana-related offenses. Passage of the amendment is anticipated to reinstate voting rights to some 1.4 million Floridians.

    Michigan: Voters by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent approved Proposal 1, legalizing the adult use, cultivation, and retail marketing of marijuana. Michigan is the first Midwest state to legalize adult marijuana use and sales, and it is the tenth state overall to do so. Under the measure’s provisions, adults will be able to legally begin possessing cannabis ten days following the certification of the 2018 election results. An estimated 25 percent of the US population now resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use and possession of cannabis is legal.

    Missouri: Sixty-six percent of Missourians approved Amendment 2, which amends the constitution to permits physicians to recommend medical marijuana at their sole discretion, and provides licensed dispensary access to qualifying patients. The measure beat out two competing ballot initiatives, neither of which received more than 50 percent support from voters.

    North Dakota: Fifty-nine percent of North Dakota voters rejected Measure 3, a grassroots initiative that sought to strike marijuana from much of the criminal code and would have ended most marijuana-related arrests. Though the campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, NORML is proud to have worked closely with local organizers over the past months, and is looking forwarding to coordinating future statewide reform efforts under the North Dakota NORML banner here.

    Utah: Fifty-three percent of Utah voters approved Proposition 2, which facilitates legal medical cannabis access to qualified patients. In the coming months, state lawmakers are anticipated to hold a special legislative session with regard to implementing the new law. NORML is calling on state politicians to “respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact The Utah Medical Cannabis Act in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law.” With yesterday’s passage of medical marijuana legalization in Missouri and Utah, 33 US states now recognize the therapeutic use of cannabis by statute.

    KEY FEDERAL RACES

    There were some major changes in the US House of Representatives that bode well for the prospects of future, federal marijuana law reform. Perhaps most importantly, Congress’ chief marijuana prohibitionist – Texas Republican Pete Sessions – lost his re-election bid. Representative Sessions used his position as Chairman of the House Rules Committee to block House floor members from voting on over three-dozen marijuana-related amendments during his leadership tenure. His actions single-handedly killed a number of popular, bipartisan-led reforms — such as facilitating medical cannabis access to military veterans and amending federal banking laws so that licensed marijuana businesses are treated like other legal industries.

    But Rep. Sessions is not the only prohibitionist leaving Congress. Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte – who as House Judiciary Chair failed to schedule any significant marijuana bills for hearings – has retired and will no longer be in Congress following the conclusion of this term

    With Sessions and Goodlatte out of power, it is likely that members of the House will once again weigh in on and pass a number of important legislative reforms in 2019.

    In addition to these notable departures, a number of NORML-endorsed Congressional candidates and incumbents won their races – including leading reformers like: Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), David Joyce (R-OH), and Barbara Lee (D-CA). To see the outcomes for races involving all of NORML’s 2018 endorsed candidates, please visit here.

    KEY STATE RACES

    In four states — Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois — voters elected Governors who openly campaigned on a platform that included legalizing adult marijuana use. In two other states — California and Colorado — voters elected Governors who have a long-history of spearheading legalization reform efforts. And in Maine and in New Mexico, two of the nation’s most rabid marijuana prohibitionists, Paul LePage and Susana Martinez, have been replaced by Governors who are open to enacting common-sense cannabis reforms. For a complete run-down of gubernatorial races impacting marijuana policy, please visit the NORML blog here.

    LOCAL BALLOT VICTORIES

    Voters in Ohio and Wisconsin approved a series of binding and non-binding local marijuana reform initiatives on Election Day.

    In Ohio, voters in five cities — including Dayton (population 140,000) — approved municipal ordinances seeking to either eliminate or significantly reduce local fines and penalties associated with marijuana-related offenses. Voters approved similar measures in the communities of Fremont (population 16,000), Norwood (population 20,000), Oregon (population 20,000), and Windham (population, 2,200). And in Wisconsin, voters in sixteen separate counties — including Milwaukee County — approved non-binding ballot questions expressing support for the legalization of cannabis for either medical purposes or for adult use.

  • by NORML

    Voters on election day decided in favor of several gubernatorial candidates who campaigned on promises to either address or enact statewide marijuana law reforms as Governor.

    NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano
    said: “In four states — Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois — voters elected Governors who openly campaigned on a platform that included legalizing adult marijuana use. In two other states — California and Colorado — voters elected Governors who have a long-history of spearheading legalization reform efforts. And in Maine and in New Mexico, two of the nation’s most rabid marijuana prohibitionists, Paul LePage and Susana Martinez, have been replaced by Governors who are open to enacting common-sense cannabis reforms.”

    He concluded, “In 2019, we anticipate unprecedented legislative activity at the state level in favor of marijuana law reform legislation, and we expect to see several significant legislative victories before the year’s end.”

    Below is a summary of several key races:

    CALIFORNIA: Voters elected Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to be California’s next Governor. Newsom received an A grade from NORML for his longstanding support for marijuana legalization, which includes empaneling the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy and campaigning on behalf of California’s 2016 adult use marijuana legalization law. He replaces Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown (B grade from NORML).

    COLORADO: Voters elected Democratic Congressman and NORML-endorsed candidate Jared Polis to be Governor. As a member of the US House of Representatives, Polis spearheaded prominent legalization legislation, such as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, and was a founding member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. He replaces outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper (B grade from NORML).

    CONNECTICUT: Democrat Ned Lamont replaces Dan Malloy (B- grade from NORML) as Connecticut’s next Governor. In contrast to Malloy, who said that legalizing marijuana was not the state’s “best interest,” Lamont acknowledged during the campaign, “The time has come for Connecticut to responsibly legalize marijuana.” According to the results of an August Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent percent of Connecticut voters support “allowing adults in Connecticut to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.”

    ILLINOIS: Democratic candidate J.B. Pritizker defeated Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner (C+ rating from NORML). Pritzker was outspoken in his support for marijuana policy reform throughout the campaign, stating, “In the name of criminal justice reform, consumer safety, and increased state revenue, Illinois needs a governor who is ready to legalize marijuana.” He also campaigned in favor of commuting the sentences of those incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes. Sixty-six percent of Illinois voters support “the legalization of recreational marijuana if it is taxed and regulated like alcohol,” according to a 2018 Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll.

    MAINE: Democrat Janet Mills will replace outgoing Gov. Paul LePage, who received a D- grade from NORML earlier this year. As Governor, LePage campaigned against the states’ 2016 adult use legalization initiative and later vetoed legislation that sought to fully implement it into law. By contrast, Mills acknowledges that “properly implemented, marijuana legalization has the potential to create thousands of jobs, grow the Maine economy, and end an outdated war on drugs.”

    MICHIGAN: Democratic candidate Gretchen Whitmer defeated Republican candidate Bill Schuette in Michigan’s Governor’s race. Whitmer endorsed the state’s 2018 adult use legalization measure, Proposal 1, which was enacted by 56 percent of the state’s voters. By contrast, former Attorney General Schuette opposed Proposal 1, and formerly campaigned — unsuccessfully — against the passage of medical cannabis access in Michigan.

    MINNESOTA: Democratic candidate Tim Walz has been elected to be the next Governor of Minnesota. During his gubernatorial campaign, Walz embraced marijuana legalization, pledging to “replace the current failed policy with one that creates tax revenue, grows jobs, builds opportunities for Minnesotans, protects Minnesota kids, and trusts adults to make personal decisions based on their personal freedoms.” Fifty-six percent of Minnesota adults support legalizing adult marijuana use, according to the results of an October Survey USA poll.

    PENNSYLVANIA: Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf was re-elected as Governor of Pennsylvania. Wolf received B- grade from NORML and has been vocal in his support for amending the state’s marijuana laws so that minor marijuana possession offenses are no longer classified as criminal misdemeanors. NORML-endorsed candidate John Fetterman was successful in his bid to be elected Lt. Governor.

    NEW MEXICO: Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham will replace Republican Susana Martinez. Grisham has said that she would be “inclined to sign” legislation regulating adult marijuana use. By contrast, Martinez vetoed numerous marijuana reform bills, including those expanding medical cannabis access and legalizing hemp. She received an F grade from NORML.

    WISCONSIN: Democratic candidate Tony Evers defeated Republican incumbent Scott Walker to become Wisconsin’s next Governor. Walker opposed efforts to amend adult use marijuana law during his tenure as Governor – receiving a D+ grade on NORML’s gubernatorial scorecard. By contrast, Evers says he’s “not opposed to” legalization. “I’d support it, but I do believe there has to be a more thoughtful, rigorous conversation around it as a state. So I would love to have a statewide referendum on this.” Sixty-four percent of registered Wisconsin voters say that marijuana should be “legalized for use by adults, … taxed, and regulated like alcohol,” according to a statewide October 2018 poll.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 6, 2018

    One of Congress’ most powerful and vocal marijuana prohibitionists, Republican Pete Sessions of Texas, failed in his re-election bid for Congress’ 32nd District. Sessions was defeated by Democratic challenger Colin Allred.

    Representative Sessions used his position as Chairman of the House Rules Committee to block House floor members from voting on over three-dozen marijuana-related amendments during his leadership tenure. His actions single-handedly killed a number of popular, bipartisan-led reforms — such as facilitating medical cannabis access to military veterans and amending federal banking laws so that licensed marijuana businesses are treated like other legal industries.

    “Representative Pete Sessions was the single greatest impediment in the US House to the passage of common-sense, voter-supported marijuana law reform measures,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “His departure opens the door for the possibility of House lawmakers in 2019 enacting a number of significant, NORML-endorsed policy changes.”

    Representative Sessions received an ‘F’ grade in NORML’s latest Congressional Scorecard. By contrast, his Democratic challenger received a B+ grade as a result of his stated support for cannabis decriminalization and medical marijuana access.

    Texas’ 32nd Congressional District represents the city of Garland and the northeastern section of Dallas.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel

    The test should be, “Is it better than Prohibition.” Does the proposal stop the arrest of smokers and establish a legal market where consumers can obtain their marijuana?

    I want to take the opportunity today to personally thank you for being a marijuana policy reform supporter. Whether you are new to the cause or an old hand like myself, we at NORML both appreciate and rely upon your continued support.

    When I founded NORML in late 1970, only 12% of the country supported legalizing marijuana; 88% were opposed to our goals. After decades of hard work by tens-of-thousands of committed supporters like you, together we have gradually won the hearts and minds of a majority of the public. Today, some two out of three adults nationwide support ending marijuana prohibition and establishing a regulated market where consumers can obtain marijuana in a safe and secure setting.

    Election Day is a time when we can make our collective voices heard. That is why I am personally asking you to share NORML’s voter guide so that your friends and neighbors can be as informed as you are when they go to cast their ballot.

    Click here to share our scorecard on Facebook

    Click here to share our scorecard on Twitter

    Click here to share our scorecard on Instagram

    We are certainly proud of the enormous progress we have made toward ending marijuana prohibition nationwide, and we are especially proud of the gains we have made over the last several years. Today, over 30 states have legalized the medical use of marijuana; and nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational adult use of marijuana.

    Our friendly neighbors to the North have also been busy. Canada has become the second nation to explicitly legalize the social use, possession, cultivation, and retail production and sale of marijuana. It’s important to note that Prime Minister Trudeau was not always in favor of legalization, in fact, for many years he opposed it. That was until he met face-to-face with NORML Canada advocates Kelly Coulter and Andrea Matrosovs in 2012. They presented Trudeau with pro-legalization arguments that he’s still using today as prime minister. That is why we must all continue to raise our voices and advocate for change.

    Frankly, I have been smoking marijuana for more than 50 years, beginning when I was a first-year law student at Georgetown Law School in 1965. I enjoy my marijuana when I am relaxing in the evening, just like millions of other Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine at the end of their workday. But this issue is only incidentally about marijuana; it is really about personal freedom.

    Most Americans don’t want the government intruding into our homes in order to learn what books we read, what music we listen to, or how we conduct ourselves in the privacy of our bedroom. Neither does the government have the right to know whether we consume marijuana or drink alcohol.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the responsible use of marijuana by adults. It  is time for our lawmakers to recognize this fact and to act to make this policy a reality. That is why I am asking you to share NORML’s voter guide so that this election day we can elect reform-minded candidates up and down the ballot.

    Click here to share our scorecard on Facebook

    Click here to share our scorecard on Twitter

    Click here to share our scorecard on Instagram

    With your dedication, diligence, and continued support, together we will win to fight for personal freedom.

    Regards,

    Keith Stroup, Esq.
    NORML Founder and Legal Counsel

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