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Legalization

  • by NORML July 23, 2019

    Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (NY) introduced The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act. The Senate companion bill is carried by Senator Kamala Harris (CA). 

    “After nearly a century of prohibition, it is clear this policy has been an absolute failure and a national disgrace. All we have to show for the war we have waged on marijuana is the egregious harms it has wrought upon tens-of-millions of our fellow citizens. By passing the MORE Act, Congress can begin to remedy the pain caused by the criminalization of marijuana. This bill provides a real federal solution by fully descheduling of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and providing relief to those suffering under the collateral consequences of having a marijuana charge on their record by facilitating the process of expungements. The American public is overwhelmingly ready to legalize marijuana, their elected officials in Washington need to finally start representing the will of the people and advance this sensible legislation,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. 

    The MORE Act is the most comprehensive marijuana reform bill ever introduced in the US Congress and is backed by a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups. 

    Send a message to your lawmakers in support of the bill now! 

    “Never in American history has the Chairman of the Judiciary introduced a bill to end federal marijuana criminalization. At a time when the state you live in can determine whether cannabis can ruin your life or make you a millionaire, now more than ever we must end the national prohibition of marijuana. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act embodies the need to legalize cannabis and restore the rights of those who have suffered under the cruel and failed policy of criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. 

    If enacted, the bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus decriminalizing the substance at the federal level and enabling states to set their own policies. Descheduling will also allow the existing state-legal marijuana industry to no longer be barred from accessing financial services or standard tax treatment as every other legal business. Similarly, veterans will have better access to medical marijuana with VA doctors no longer risking federal prosecution for filling out state-legal medical recommendations.

    Given the restrictions the marijuana industry has had to abide by under section 280E of the IRS code, existing enterprises would have a significantly lower overall tax burden than under the current policy of prohibition. 

    The bill would tax marijuana products at a modest 5% to establish a Trust Fund to assist state and local governments in expunging criminal records and setting up regulatory structures for marijuana’s lawful production and distribution.

     The Trust Fund would have three functions:

    1. A fund administrated by a newly created Office of Cannabis Justice to issue grants to communities negatively impacted by the war on drugs for the development of expungement processes, employment programs, reentry guidance, youth resources and more. The Office of Cannabis would be one of the Justice Programs in the Department of Justice. This provision is modeled on the Marijuana Justice Act, by Senator Cory Booker (NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (CA).
    2. A fund administered by the Small Business Administration to encourage socially and economically disadvantaged people to enter the cannabis industry, similar to legislation introduced by Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (NY).
    3. A fund administered by the Small Business Administration to create equitable licensing programs in states and local governments that benefit communities most impacted by the prohibition.

    Currently, individuals with a marijuana conviction are saddled with collateral consequences, including a prohibition from obtaining federal benefits, student loans, or security clearances for government jobs due to marijuana’s criminalized status. To correct the historical injustices relating to prohibition, the MORE Act offers the opportunity to petition for resentencing and expungement. This will eliminate this discrimination and create new opportunities for individuals desperate to advance their careers, education, and quality of life. Immigrants will also benefit from the MORE Act because they will no longer be subject to deportation or citizenship denial solely based on a marijuana infraction. 

    Send a message in support of The MORE Act in less than 30 seconds now!

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate July 13, 2019

    As New Jersey continues to fail its constituents each day they do not pass cannabis legalization for adult-use, the name of one state senator at the forefront of the fight against legalization remains permanently inked in shame: State Senator Ron Rice of the 28th District.

    Despite 62% of New Jersey residents supporting legalizing cannabis for adult-use, State Senator Rice is now firmly in the pockets of the “Prohibition Now, Prohibition Forever” lobby, taking his marching orders and talking points from They Who Shall Not Be Named. As someone who likes to say he’s “of the people”, the state senator seems to have found a new group to whom he has pledged loyalty – and it’s not the people of New Jersey. 

    Click here (if you live in the 28th District) or here (if you are a New Jersey resident outside the 28th District) to send an email to State Senator Rice and let him know that you are in full support of cannabis legalization in the Garden State.

    State Senator Rice released an op-ed on the 4th of July, in which he made a plea to his peers in the New Jersey State Legislature to prioritize decriminalization-

    “We can make this happen and put our state at the vanguard of social justice in America. We can infuse our independence with a deeper level of freedom grounded in real justice for all. We can give the Fourth of July even greater meaning and let our fireworks reflect our own impossible formations of brilliance that make us one vibrant, colorful nation.”

    State Senator Rice is right about one thing. Arrests for cannabis possession must stop immediately, and the New Jersey State Legislature must put aside petty politics and get this done. But what the state senator fails to realize it that decriminalization alone is simply not enough to undo the havoc that prohibition has wreaked upon communities across the state, including Newark, in his home district.

    In a letter he wrote to his legislative colleagues earlier this year, State Senator Rice laid out a list of reasons to vote no on legalization bills S2703/A4497 and they read like they were taken straight from Kevin Sabet’s Twitter page. What State Senator Rice and the prohibitionist lobby fail to note is that their cherry-picked studies and alarmist prohibition propaganda ignore the larger studies that find that legalization has little to no negative impact on communities in legal states, and in most cases, bring positive change to the states who choose to legalize cannabis and implement common-sense regulatory structures.

    Click here (if you live in the 28th District) or here (if you are a New Jersey resident outside the 28th District) to send an email to State Senator Rice and let him know that you are in full support of cannabis legalization in the Garden State.

    All of this is unsurprising. State Senator Rice has a long history of a gross misunderstanding of the science behind cannabis and the real-world effects of legalization. In an interview given last year to NJTV, State Senator Rice said “that he believes marijuana is a gateway drug [(a theory consistently disproven)] and claimed that when recreational marijuana is legalized, ‘the number of people who’ve never used any type of drugs goes up substantially in terms of drug use.’” He went on to demonstrate his severe lack of knowledge by saying-

    “If in fact we legalize recreational marijuana, right across the street from my office they’re going to put up stores… They want to call them dispensaries, but they’re going to be stores that do retail selling cupcakes with marijuana, candies with marijuana, sex toys and oils with marijuana, lipsticks with marijuana, all those kinds of products that kids can get and people can get.”

    For a man who truly believes he is “of the people”, State Senator Rice seems to be completely out of touch with what the people of New Jersey actually want. That’s why it’s so important for you as a New Jersey resident to tell him that you support full cannabis legalization in the Garden State.

    Click here (if you live in the 28th District) or here (if you are a New Jersey resident outside the 28th District) to send an email to State Senator Rice and let him know that you are in full support of cannabis legalization in the Garden State.

  • by NORML July 9, 2019

    On Wednesday, July 10th at 10am, members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will hear expert testimony challenging the federal government’s failed policy of cannabis prohibition. The hearing, entitled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform,” will discuss alternative policy options — including ending cannabis’ longstanding Schedule I criminal status under federal law.

    The hearing is indicative of the growing support in Congress for marijuana policy reform and is reflective of the fact that over 60 percent of Americans — including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — now believe that the adult use of cannabis ought to be legal and that the federal government ought not to interfere in legal marijuana states.

    “For the first time in a generation there will be a candid conversation in the House Judiciary Committee that acknowledges the failures of marijuana prohibition in the United States, how this policy has adversely impacted tens of millions of Americans, and how it must be reformed at the federal level,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “The ongoing classification under federal law of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance — a categorization that treats it in the same manner as heroin — is intellectually dishonest and has been scientifically debunked. It is high time that Congress address this Flat Earth policy and move forward with a plan that appropriately reflects marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural status in America.”

    Hearing Details
    Title: Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform
    Time: Wednesday, July 10, 2019 – 10:00am
    Place: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515

    Today, NORML and other leading national criminal and public policy reform groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, The Immigrants Legal Resource Center, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Center for American Progress, released a joint Statement of Principals highlighting a legislative path forward.

    “Since the scheduling of marijuana as a Controlled Substance in 1970, over 20 million Americans have been unjustly arrested or incarcerated,” continued Strekal. “Entire communities have lost generations of citizens to cyclical poverty and incarceration that resulted from the collateral consequences of having a cannabis-related conviction on their record.”

    “The ongoing federal prohibition of cannabis is a disproportionate public policy response to personal behavior that is, at worst, a public health matter — not a criminal justice concern,” concluded Strekal.

    You can see NORML’s one-pager on the need to remove marijuana from the CSA HERE.

    You can read an Op-Ed that was published today in The Hill Newspaper by NORML Political Director Justin Strekal entitled It’s time to end the senseless and cruel policy of cannabis criminalization HERE.

    You can read the joint Statement of Principles below.

  • by NORML July 2, 2019

    On Wednesday, July 10th, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will hold a hearing entitled “Marijuana Laws in America:  Racial Justice and the Need for Reform” to discuss pathways forward as the Congress prepares for a substantial shift in public policy.

    “For the first time in recent memory, there will be a candid conversation in the Judiciary Committee about the failures of marijuana prohibition in the United States and how people have been impacted,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “We look forward to working with the subcommittee to best inform the conversation in committee next week and the public at large on the implications of how Congress should move forward.”

    Currently, there are dozens of pieces of legislation that have been filed to address aspects of the prohibition and criminalization of cannabis, ranging from tweaks to allow for scientific research into the plant to comprehensive approaches that end prohibition and provide resources for the expungement of criminal records.

    The witnesses for the Democratic caucus include States Attorney Marilyn Mosby of Baltimore, Dr. Malik Barnett, Dr. David Nathan. The witness called by the Republican caucus is Neal Levine.

    The Judiciary Committee is chaired by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), whose support of marijuana policy reform dates back to the ’70s when he was a state lawmaker in New York.

    The Subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), who recently voted in favor of restricting the Department of Justice from enforcing prohibition in states that have reformed, including her home state of California.

    It is expected that the committee will be taking up legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition and criminalization later this year, but it is not known if they will consider existing legislation or a yet-to-be-introduced comprehensive package.

    You can click here to tweet to Rep. Nadler and Rep. Bass thanking them for scheduling the hearing.

  • by NORML

    Marijuana and OpioidsAdults who purchase retail cannabis typically report using it to mitigate pain and to improve sleep, and often use it in place of conventional medications, according to data published online today in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

    A team of investigators from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and the University of Miami assessed marijuana use trends among 1,000 adult use customers in Colorado.

    Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said that they consumed cannabis to promote sleep, while 65 percent reported using cannabis to alleviate pain. Among those respondents with a history of taking prescription sleep aids, 83 percent reported either reducing or ceasing their use of those medicines. Among those respondents with a history of consuming prescription opioids, 88 percent reported mitigating or stopping their use.

    “Our findings suggest that de facto medical use may be highly prevalent among adult use customers, and that access to an adult use cannabis market may influence individuals’ use of other medications,” authors concluded. “Our findings … suggest that adult use customers may be similar to medical cannabis patients in their use of cannabis as a substitute for prescription analgesics and sleep aids. … While adult use laws are frequently called ‘recreational,’ … our findings suggest that many customers use cannabis for symptom relief.”

    NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said that the study’s findings are significant, though not altogether surprising. “Several prior studies similarly show that the use of cannabis by qualified patients is associated with the reduction, or even the elimination, of certain other prescription drugs — specifically opioids — over time,” he said. “These findings speak not only to the therapeutic efficacy of cannabis as an alternative analgesic option, but also to its potential role as a harm reduction agent.”

    Longitudinal studies assessing the use of prescription drugs following patients’ enrollment in state-sanctioned medical cannabis access programs frequently report a decline in the use of conventional medicines, specifically opioids, anti-anxiety drugs, and sleep aids.

    The abstract of the study, “Use of cannabis to relieve pain and promote sleep by customers at an adult use dispensary,” appears online here.

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