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Legalization

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director October 3, 2018

    With 47 states and the District of Columbia permitting the use of marijuana or its extracts in some form, new questions concerning employers’ rights, lawful marijuana use by employees, and maintaining a safe workplace have been raised. The biggest issue? While it’s legal to possess and consume marijuana in several states, it’s still illegal under federal law, an inconsistency that has created some confusion for employers who are unsure how to address marijuana in the workplace from a policy perspective. This untenable situation puts millions of law-abiding and responsible adults at risk of losing their employment simply because of a THC-positive drug test.

    Workplace Drug Testing

    Urinalysis testing is the most common form of pre-employment and workplace drug testing, but because it only detects trace metabolites (inert waste-products) of past use of a wide range of substances, they fail to prove either impairment or how recently marijuana was consumed. This activity is particularly discriminatory in the case of marijuana, where such metabolites may be detectable for weeks or even months after consumption.

    Surprisingly, there is no requirement for most private employers to have a drug-free workplace policy of any kind. However, there are a few exceptions such as federal contractors and safety-sensitive positions (e.g. airline pilots, truck and bus drivers, train conductors, etc.). Even employers who are required to maintain a drug-free workplace are not required to use drug testing as a means to enforce company policies.

    Impairment Detection

    New technology developed in recent years provides an extraordinary opportunity to change the way we discuss the issue of workplace drug testing. By embracing a new strategy that emphasizes the importance of impairment detection and workplace safety, we can reframe the conversation to focus on creating a 21st century workplace that’s free of dangerous impairment levels, not just from illegal substances, but also alcohol, prescription drugs, stress, and fatigue.  

    That’s why we’re stressing the importance of impairment detection. One example of such a technology is from Predictive Safety, a company based in Centennial, Colorado that created AlertMeter, which measures a person’s cognitive abilities with a 60 second test and can easily be used on most smart devices.

    “The road to normalization is about detecting impairment, not past marijuana use. The only thing that should matter is, ‘Are you fit for work?,’ not, ‘Have you ingested marijuana?,’” said Carol Setters of Predictive Safety.

    Vforge, an aluminum fabrication company has been using this new technology for several years. As a result, they’ve seen a 90% decrease in drug testing costs and a 70% reduction in worker compensation claims – further proof that a new strategy focused on impairment detection is not only beneficial for employees, but more profitable for companies as well. This changes the dynamic of the conversation all together.

    AlertMeter: https://vimeo.com/253068230

    Unlike drug tests that do not measure impairment, implementing reasonable impairment testing contributes to safe workplaces while protecting individual rights.

    What’s Being Done?

    NORML chapters from around the country are shifting their attention to protecting honest, hardworking marijuana consumers from antiquated, discriminatory workplace drug-testing practices, in particular the use of random, suspicionless urine testing. Earlier this year NORML chapters in Colorado and California worked diligently to address the issue legislatively, but experienced push back from conservative lawmakers and pro-business organizations, respectively.

    Several states including Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine*, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania Massachusetts and Rhode Island currently prohibit employers from discriminating against workers based on their status as a medical marijuana patient. Laws in Arizona, Delaware, and Minnesota specify that a positive drug test alone does not indicate impairment. Similar protections have long applied to medical use of opiates and other prescription drugs.

    Looking ahead, NORML chapters in California, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington are planning their legislative strategies and educating lawmakers on the issue in advance of their 2019 state legislative sessions. We’ll likely see legislation to address workplace drug testing introduced in California, Oregon and Colorado while chapters in other states will focus their time and energy on educational efforts.

    At the federal level, Representative Charlie Crist recently introduced H.R. 6589: The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act, bipartisan legislation that would explicitly prohibit federal agencies from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a marijuana consumer, or testing positive for marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

    Marijuana Legalization and Workplace Safety

    Mounting evidence continues to prove there is no logical reason why adult marijuana consumers should be treated with any less respect, restricted more severely, and denied the same privileges we extend to responsible adults who enjoy a cocktail after a long day at the office. As a matter of fact, researchers with Colorado State University, Montana State University, and American University came to the conclusion that the legalization and regulation of medical marijuana is associated with a 19.5% reduction in the expected number of workplace fatalities.

    “Our results suggest that legalizing medical marijuana leads to a reduction in workplace fatalities among workers aged 25–44. This reduction may be the result of workers substituting marijuana in place of alcohol and other substances that can impair cognitive function and motor skills.”

    Read more here: http://blog.norml.org/2018/08/10/study-medical-cannabis-access-laws-associated-with-fewer-workplace-fatalities/

    Additionally, researchers with Quest Diagnostics recently found that the rate of positive drug tests in Colorado, where medical and adult-use marijuana is legal, increased by 1% between 2016 and 2017 while the national average increased by 4% during the same timeframe.

    “When Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational marijuana, a short-lived spike occurred in the rate of positive drug tests, but it has since tapered off,” said Barry Sample, Quest’s senior director for science and technology.

    Read more here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/legal-marijuana-hasnt-led-to-epidemic-of-high-workers/

    The following factsheet highlights several recent peer-reviewed studies assessing the potential impact of marijuana regulation on workplace safety and performance: http://norml.org/aboutmarijuana/item/marijuana-legalization-and-impact-on-the-workplace

    Considering marijuana’s increasingly legal status and availability in states across the country, consumers should no longer be forced to choose between a job and consuming a legal substance that doesn’t impair the facilities because of outdated employment practices.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 1, 2018

    Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation, Assembly Bill 1793, facilitating the review and expungement of hundreds of thousands of past marijuana convictions.

    The new law requires “the Department of Justice, before July 1, 2019, to review the records in the state summary criminal history information database and to identify past convictions that are potentially eligible for recall or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation pursuant to AUMA (the Adult Use Marijuana Act).” Prosecutors would have up to a year to either vacate the conviction or to reduce it from a felony to a misdemeanor.

    An estimated half-million Californians are eligible for relief under the law. “Long after paying their debt to society, people shouldn’t continue to face the collateral consequences, like being denied a job or housing, because they have an outdated conviction on their records,” the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, said.

    Other states – including Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, and Rhode Island – have enacted similar expungement laws following the passage of either marijuana decriminalization or legalization.

    Governor Brown also took action on several other marijuana-related bills. Specifically, he vetoed Senate Bill 1127, which permitted certain students to access medicinal cannabis products on school grounds, and Assembly Bill 1996, which authorized the University of California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research to cultivate marijuana for clinical trial research. The Governor also vetoed Senate Bill 829, which prohibited cultivation taxes from being imposed on medicinal cannabis designated for donation to indigent patients, and signed into law Senate Bill 1294, which allocates grant funding to assist minority-owned businesses in the cannabis industry.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 26, 2018

    Last week, I did something that I had never done before: I traveled to North Dakota.

    This summer, the grassroots group LegalizeND successfully collected enough petition signatures to place a statewide marijuana legalization initiative (Measure 3) on this November’s general election. If enacted in November, North Dakota would become the tenth state — and by far the most politically conservative one — to legalize the adult use of marijuana in the United States.

    And as if I need to tell you, that would be a game-changer in our country.

    Measure 3 has a sort of beauty in its simplicity. Thirty days after passage, it removes the criminal and civil penalties for adults over the age of 21 to possess, privately consume, and privately cultivate personal possession of marijuana. Unlike initiatives in other states, that often possessed robust and sometimes overly-complicated and exclusionary regulatory schemes for the licensing of commercial marijuana market, Measure 3 focuses on the individual consumer — not commercial businesses. In short, it halts new arrests and expunges past convictions. It’s that simple.

    If lawmakers in the future wish to enact specific regulations licensing and taxing the marijuana market, that decision will be up to them.

    But can Measure 3 win this November? I went to North Dakota to see for myself.

    The fundamentals are strong. In 2016, voters passed a medical cannabis regulatory program with 64% of the vote. But then the legislature gutted the law, rewrote the rules, and ultimately ignored the patients who still today bear the black mark of being criminals in the eyes of the state. And voters in North Dakota are, to say the least, very upset.

    This bodes well in the event of Measure 3’s passage, as pressure would ramp up on the lawmakers to swiftly implement a pro-consumer set of rules to compensate for the new legal status of cannabis.

    According to the polling by the campaign earlier this year, a plurality of voters favor the measure. In my time in North Dakota, I spoke with numerous supporters — going to door-to-door with campaign volunteers — and appeared on several media outlets to discuss the initiative. As we like to say at NORML, “The more we’re talking about ending prohibition, the more we’re winning.”

    Here is just some of the media hits that NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri and I participated in while supporting our friends at LegalizeND and their quest to end criminalization in North Dakota.

    National marijuana reform leaders visit ND to offer support: 

    The message to North Dakotans from one of the nation’s most well-known marijuana reform organizations is fairly simple as voters consider a ballot measure to approve recreational marijuana this fall: They want to protect the personal freedom of responsible adults to smoke it without a negative effect on public safety.

    The executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Erik Altieri, and federal political director, Justin Strekal, were in the state for a three-day visit starting Friday, Sept. 21, to discuss the issue through the media, hold a fundraiser, train volunteers supporting the measure and to “support our friends.”

     Read more: Grand Folks Herald, Bismarck Tribune, Inforum, Jamestown Sun, Dickinson Press

     

    Washington D.C. advocacy group in North Dakota in support of recreational marijuana: 

    A Washington DC advocacy group has arrived in North Dakota to support the Measure 3 campaign.

    Measure 3 would legalize marijuana for adult use and cultivation. Erik Altieri is executive director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He says NORML has a 50 year history and they’ve worked in several states that have already legalized marijuana for recreational use. Altieri says North Dakota is 5th in the nation for per capita incarcerations related to marijuana, and this measure would help keep otherwise law abiding citizens out of jail. He says much like campaigns they’ve worked on in other states, here they will educating the public about recreational marijuana.

    Political director Justin Strekal says the legislation would be beneficial to veterans. He says 22 percent of veterans report using cannabis to treat ailments, but if they do it in North Dakota they are considered to be criminals.

    Read more: Prairie Public (NPR)

     

    Washington nonprofit pushes for legal recreational marijuana in North Dakota: 

    Supporters of legal recreational marijuana in North Dakota are getting backers from Washington.

    The director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is asking North Dakota voters to say yes to Measure 3 this November.

    Read/Watch: WDAY

     

    Volunteers Advocate for “Yes” Vote on Measure 3, Which Would Legalize Marijuana:

    When you head to the polls, you’ll see something on the ballot called Measure 3. It will legalize marijuana in the state of North Dakota, and advocates say that would help many families.

    Read/Watch: KVRR-TV

     

    NORML and Measure 3 in ND:

    Source: POVnow CBS-KX4 / West Dakota FOX

     

    GET INVOLVED: You can follow LegalizeND on Facebook, visit their website at http://legalizend.com/ and click here to support their work.

  • by NORML September 25, 2018

    Happy National Voter Registration Day!

    It’s critically important that we make sure all reform supporters are registered and turnout to vote for pro-cannabis candidates this year for the “Marijuana Midterms.”

    With just six weeks until Election Day, NORML is proud to roll out the following educational tools for you to take with you to the ballot booth.

    Smoke the Vote: NORML has graded every incumbent and major candidate for federal office throughout the country – making it easy for you to get the facts.

    NORML chapters around the country have recorded many of the positions of candidates for state-level offices. This scorecard is meant to be a living document, and with over 10,000 legislators at the state and federal level across the nation, we NEED your help to keep it up to date. If you see that we’re missing a candidate’s position or a great quote from them regarding marijuana policy, send it our way.

    NORML Election Central: Learn about the various ballot initiatives around the country and see all of the NORML PAC endorsed candidates.

    NORML Voter Registration Tool: NORML has partnered with Rock the Vote making it easy and fast for you and your friends to register to vote!

    We need more voices supporting reform in the political process. If our supporters are not registered and voting, lawmakers will not hear the need for legislative action. Make sure your friends, family, and neighbors are registered to #SmokeTheVote and make 2018 the Marijuana Midterms!

    Share our Voter Registration Tool on Facebook

    Share our Voter Registration Tool on Twitter

    Below are a few more resources that should come in handy over the next couple of months.

    Resources and Tools for Voter Registration:

    Stay informed – Rock The Vote offers voter registration resources, election FAQs, and opportunities to help build the political power of young people in the United States.Voter Registration Deadline – Use U.S. Vote Foundation to find your state’s deadline.

    Long Distance Voter – Is a website where you can request an absentee ballot.

    Verify your Registration Status – Vote.org offers an online tool to check the status of your voter registration.

    Polling Place – Check out Rock the Vote to find a polling location near you.

    Additional Resources:

    Election Laws: https://bit.ly/2MdVn1s

    State Information: https://bit.ly/2xb1SPW

    Voting Rights: https://bit.ly/2NrVM57

  • by NORML September 24, 2018

    Are you ready to legalize marijuana? Registering to vote is the first step. Tomorrow is National Voter Registration Day, and you can help NORML make sure everyone knows voting is an essential part of the fight to end the prohibition. It is crucial that supporters of reform register to vote in time to cast their ballots in the November 6th election.

    Are you registered to vote? Check the status of your voter registration here.

    Ready to register to vote? You can do so by clicking here.

    We need more voices supporting reform in the political process. If our supporters are not registered and voting, lawmakers are will not hear the need for legislative action. Make sure your friends, family, and neighbors are registered to vote.

    Share our Voter Registration Tool on Facebook

    Share our Voter Registration Tool on Twitter

    As the old adage goes, elections are decided by those who show up. The 2018 midterm elections will be decisive for marijuana reform. NORML is working to bring as many supporters of responsible marijuana policy to the polls as possible. Will our communities voice be heard on November 6?

    Let’s finish what we started. Let’s legalize it.

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