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Legalization

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director May 10, 2018

    Today, California’s junior Senator Kamala Harris announced in a video message that she will be joining Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden on the Marijuana Justice Act.

    This comes just a week and a half after California senior Senator Diane Feinstein told reporters that she has dropped her opposition to ending the federal prohibition of marijuana, however, did not elaborate on how to do so.

    The Marijuana Justice Act (S. 1689 and HR 4815) would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

    Senator Harris has come a long way on her position of this issue, most known for her response to a question in 2014 on legalizing marijuana when she laughed in the face of a reporter at the thought.

    Journalist Tom Angell noted last year that Senator Harris would oddly talk about the drug war in the past-tense when making public statements or on social media. By co-sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act, she is making it crystal clear that the Drug War rages on and that it is the responsibility of the Congress to do something about it.

    Have your federal officials co-sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act? Have you asked them to? Click here to send a message right now. 

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

    Medical marijuanaPatients enrolled in New York state’s medical cannabis program reduce their use of opioids and spend less money on prescription medications, according to data published online in the journal Mental Health Clinician.

    Investigators from the GPI Clinical Research in Rochester and the University of Buffalo assessed trends in patients’ medical cannabis and prescription drug use following their enrollment into the state’s marijuana access program.

    On average, subjects’ monthly analgesic prescription costs declined by 32 percent following enrollment, primarily due to a reduction in the use of opioid pills and fentanyl patches. “After three months treatment, medical cannabis improved [subjects’] quality of life, reduced pain and opioid use, and lead to cost savings,” authors concluded.

    The study’s findings are similar to those reported among enrollees in other states medical cannabis programs, including the experiences of patients in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and elsewhere.

    The full text of the study, “Preliminary evaluation of the efficacy, safety, and costs associated with the treatment of chronic pain with medical cannabis,” appears online here. NORML’s fact-sheet highlighting the relevant, peer-reviewed research specific to the relationship between cannabis and opioids is available online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 2, 2018

    A three judge panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a petition filed by the Hemp Industries Association challenging the DEA’s authority to establish a new administrative drug code specifically for marijuana extracts. The DEA first announced the proposed rule change in 2011, but did not enact the new policy until January 13, 2017.

    In a decision filed on April 30, the Court rejected petitioners’ arguments – opining the DEA’s classification of marijuana extracts does not conflict with the provisions of either the Agricultural Act of 2014 (aka the ‘Farm Bill) or the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which limits the Justice Department from spending federal dollars to intervene in state-sanctioned activities involving marijuana or industrial hemp. The Court also dismissed petitioners’ argument that the rule substantively amended the federal Controlled Substances Act. Justices opined that such extract products, including those containing primarily CBD, were already classified under federal law as schedule I controlled substances.

    The DEA has long contended that it possesses broad regulatory authority over “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L.,” including “the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin.” The agency includes among this definition products containing cannabidiol or any other non-THC cannabinoids derived from the marijuana plant. It further states, “[T]he Agricultural Act of 2014 does not permit entities [who are not registered with the DEA] … to produce non-FDA-approved drug products made from cannabis.”

    Over a dozen states have enacted legislation in recent years exempting certain persons who possess extracts high in cannabinoid from criminal prosecution. Legislation to approve the retail sale of CBD extracts to adults in Kansas is awaiting gubernatorial action. Indiana lawmakers approved a similar law in April. Several pieces of legislation seeking to exclude CBD from the federal definition of marijuana are pending in Congress. In 2015, Nora Volkow, the Director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, publicly acknowledged that CBD is “a safe drug with no addictive effects.”

    Petitioners say that they intend to appeal the ruling.

    The case is Hemp Industries Association et al., v. US Drug Enforcement Administration et al., (No. 17-70162).

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 26, 2018

    Legalize MarijuanaElection officials today confirmed that proponents of a statewide ballot measure, The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, have gathered a sufficient number of signatures from registered voters to place it on the electoral ballot this November.

    Proponents of the voter-initiated measure, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, submitted more than 360,000 signatures to qualify it for the November 2018 ballot. The initiative permits those over the age of 21 to grow and possess personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to the commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales.

    According to statewide polling commissioned by Michigan NORML, which is a leading member of the Coalition, 61 percent of voters say that they intend to vote yes on the measure.

    Voters in other states will also be deciding on marijuana-related ballot questions later this year. Oklahomans will decide in June on State Question 788, which permits qualified patients to access and cultivate marijuana for therapeutic purposes. Utah voters are also expected to decide on a narrower medicalization measure in November, though officials have yet to officially certify that measure for the ballot. Proponents of a medical marijuana measure in Missouri have surpassed the number of signatures required to place it on the November ballot, well ahead of the state’s May 6 deadline. In South Dakota, officials have confirmed that proponents of a 2018 medical use initiative failed to gather the necessary number of signatures to qualify for November’s ballot.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director April 19, 2018

    In a video tweet posted on Vice News, Leader Schumer says:

    “I’ll be introducing legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, from one end of the country to the other.”

    With this announcement, Senator Schumer has effectively made it clear that a legislative priority for the Democratic Party is to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. As Democratic Leader, it is his role to ensure that the caucus as a whole falls in line with this public policy position — a position that is held by more than 60 percent of Americans.

    This legislative relief must come sooner rather than later. Over 600,000 Americans, a disproportionate percentage of which are black, brown, young, and poor, are arrested for violating marijuana laws annually. These people bear the greatest burden and lifelong consequences of this ongoing failed federal policy, and it is time for Congressional leaders to take a stand to right these past wrongs.

    Vice reports: “The legislation, which his office expects will be released within the next week, has six main points. First, it would remove marijuana from Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances, which would end federal prohibition and leave it up to states to decide how to regulate the drug. Schumer stopped short of calling it legalization, but de-scheduling would essentially make marijuana legal at the federal level.”

    With Chuck Schumer now joining Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden in sponsoring comprehensive marijuana law reform legislation, it is time for the Democratic party to speak with one voice. The Party must be clear and consistent in their intent to legalize marijuana, as well as expunge the criminal convictions that hold millions of Americans back from basic needs like employment, housing, and pathways to higher education.

    As states start dialing back their war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive prohibition are able to see previous harms remedied, and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation. We fully applaud Senator Schumer acknowledging this reality with today’s announcement.

    More information about Senator Schumer’s bill to come in the days ahead. 

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