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Policy

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director September 28, 2018

    We as advocates of marijuana law reforms have never been in a better position than we are today to further our cause. Prior to states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and others, legalizing and regulating marijuana, there was very little data to support our arguments to end marijuana prohibition. But, things have changed.

    So, is the legalization and regulation of marijuana working? Of course it is, but we must be able to articulate why it’s working to be successful in our efforts. We can start by looking at some of the data regarding the impact marijuana legalization is having on public health and safety. Study after study published by the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, the National Academies of Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control, the Journal of Adolescent Health and the American Journal of Public Health are providing us with all the information we need to make fact-based, data-driven arguments in support of ending marijuana prohibition.

    Regardless if you’re looking at state-level data related to crime, teen access and use or the decline in opioid use, hospitalizations and overdose, the legalization and regulation of marijuana is having a positive impact. And this is no longer our opinion; it’s fact, backed by legitimate research and data. The information is there. We no longer have to speculate about the potential impacts marijuana legalization will have on public health and safety, and other areas of concern. We can now depend on facts and data to further our efforts to end marijuana prohibition.

    Touting the economic benefits of legalization such as tax revenues and job creation can also be helpful in our push to end marijuana prohibition. To date, there have been between 125,000 and 160,000 full-time jobs created as a result of the legalization and regulation of marijuana. This includes those who work directly with the plant (e.g., cultivation, bud tenders, infused products) as well as ancillary businesses such as packaging, gardening supplies and lighting companies. Regarding tax revenues, Nevada’s regulated adult-use program generated over $55 million within the first ten months of its roll out. While Colorado’s pulled in more than $245 million in tax revenue for 2017.

    If you’re working to advance marijuana law reform efforts on the local, state or federal level, these studies can be used to persuade opponents of legalization that ending marijuana prohibition is a step in the right direction, or at the very least, neutralize their prohibitionist rhetoric. Am I suggesting there’s no need to continue to closely monitor the impact marijuana legalization is having on public health and safety? Absolutely not.

    With only a handful of states enacting laws to legalize and regulate adult-use marijuana, the jury is certainly still out on whether or not marijuana can be regulated in a way that’s safe and productive for society, so I expect a healthy and thoughtful debate around the issue for years to come. However, since Congress approved the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, we as advocates of marijuana law reforms have never had access to more fact-based evidence supporting our longstanding argument that ending marijuana prohibition is not only good public policy, it’s the right thing to do.

    For more than 45 years NORML chapters have been the driving force behind policy decisions on the local and state level. Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please email NORML Outreach Director Kevin Mahmalji at KevinM@NORML.org for help with starting your own!

    Ready to start a NORML chapter in your hometown? Click here to find out how!

  • 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.

  • by NORML September 13, 2018

    Members of the House Judiciary Committee voted today in favor of legislation (HR 5634: The Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018) to facilitate federally-approved clinical trials assessing the efficacy of whole-plant cannabis. The vote marks the first time that lawmakers have ever decided in favor of easing existing federal restrictions which limit investigators ability to clinically study marijuana in a manner similar to other controlled substances.

    “The federal hurdles in place that currently discourage clinicians from engaging in clinical cannabis research have long been onerous and irrational,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “It is high time that lawmakers recognize this problem and take action to amend it so that investigators may conduct the same sort of high-quality clinical research with cannabis that they do with other substances.”

    Currently, federal regulations mandate that investigators participating in FDA-approved clinical trials involving cannabis must obtain marijuana from a single, federally-licensed source, the University of Mississippi. However, many of those familiar with their product have criticized its quality, opining that it possesses subpar potency, is often poorly manicured, and that it does not accurately reflect the wide variety of cannabis products and strains available to consumers.

    As the result of a lawsuit, DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner in 2007 ruled that expanding the pool of federally licensed providers would be “in the public interest.” The agency ultimately rejected that decision. In 2016, the DEA publicly changed its stance and amended regulations in a manner to permit additional applicants to apply for federal licensure to grow marijuana. However, the United States Attorney General’s office has failed to take action on any pending 25 applications submitted following the 2016 rule change.

    House Bill 6534, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and 40 cosponsors mandates the Attorney General to take action on these pending federal applications, and to approve at least two additional marijuana manufacturers within a year. The measure also explicitly permits the Veterans Affairs office to engage in clinical trials involving the cannabis plant.

    While some Democrats on the Committee, as well as some drug policy reform organizations, expressed criticism with regard to a provision in the bill restricting applicants with a drug-related conviction, lawmakers indicated that they would consider revising this language prior to the bill receiving a vote on the House floor.

    Armentano concluded: “While this vote marks a step forward, it must also be acknowledged that despite existing barriers to research, ample studies already exist to contradict cannabis’ federal, schedule I status as a substance without medical utility, lacking acceptable safety, and possessing a high potential of abuse. More clinical research is welcome, but unfortunately science has never driven marijuana policy. If it did, the United States would already have a very different policy in place.”

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 11, 2018

    Lawmakers have removed language from pending federal legislation that sought to facilitate veterans’ access to medical cannabis in jurisdictions that regulate it.

    The decision to strip out the Veterans Equal Access Amendment flies in the face of the horrific medical realities that our nation’s heroes who are desperate to mitigate. This move thwarts the will of the majority of Americans who support medical marijuana and 81% of veterans who believe that the federal government should protect its therapeutic access. Further, by not creating protections for veterans, the Congress continues to view 22% of those who have worn the uniform as criminals.

    Under existing federal regulations, physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs are prohibited from filling out the necessary paperwork required in legal medical marijuana states. A budgetary amendment included in the Senate’s version the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill sought to end this prohibition. However, Congressional leaders this week elected to eliminate the provision during hearings to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill.

    Congressman Earl Blumenauer, the author of similar legislative language now pending in the House of Representatives, said “Denying veterans the care they need by the doctors they trust is shameful. The Senate passed this amendment. It has broad bipartisan support in the House. This should have been a no brainer. Yet, Republican leadership has once again stymied progress toward fair and equal treatment for our veterans. Their continued neglect of commonsense and the will of the American people is a disgrace.”

    Veteran and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said, “Our veterans put their lives on the line for our country, and many come home dealing with visible and invisible wounds. To continue limiting their access to quality healthcare through the VA is a disservice to them and the sacrifices they’ve made.”

    The Veterans Cannabis Coalition released a statement saying “Every day that cannabis prohibition continues is a day a veteran dies unnecessarily. The Republican conferees on the House Appropriations Committee and House Republican leadership should be ashamed of this backroom deal that stripped the Veterans Equal Access amendment from this year’s MILCON-VA appropriations bill. This decision of Republican leaders flies in the face of science, compassion, and overwhelming public support. The Republican conference has steadfastly voted to send millions of other people’s sons and daughters to fight in endless wars while fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent the study of something that provides relief and healing to those injured in military service. Leadership can’t claim to care about veterans health and well-being while refusing to even discuss cannabis. Enough hypocrisy. We call on House Republicans to listen to the literally tens of thousands of veterans who have benefited from cannabis access, negotiate in good faith, and allow votes to take place.”

    “This move by Congressional leadership is egregious and constitutes a slap in the face to the heroes who put their lives on the line to defend our country,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “Continuing to treat veterans who risked it all as criminals when they opt to utilize a safe and effective treatment option like cannabis is immoral and un-American.”

    Similar language was included by both chambers in the 2016 version of the funding bill, but was similarly stripped from the text in conference committee.

    Last week, Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) for the first time introduced stand-alone Senate legislation to expand medical cannabis access to military veterans. A recent American Legion poll found that nearly one in four veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director September 10, 2018

    As more and more states decide to legalize and regulate marijuana, businesses outside of America’s new billion dollar marijuana industry around the country are doing their best to navigate the murky waters of entering into partnerships with state-sanctioned marijuana businesses.

    Some are responding by adopting new company policies more considerate of state laws that grant marijuana-related businesses the freedom to engage in activities that are still prohibited by the federal government (e.g., sale and distribution of marijuana). On the other hand, some of the largest and most well-known social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have decided to steer clear of the issue all together. Instead of evolving like the majority of the American public, where more than 68% support the legalization of adult-use marijuana, they appear to be aggressively suspending social media accounts of marijuana-related businesses while offering little to no explanation as to why.

    Without question, companies, regardless of their products or services, need a strong presence on social media to compete, and ultimately survive in today’s digitized marketplace, but social media accounts of state-sanctioned, legal marijuana businesses are routinely being shut down without warning, and frankly without just cause. This is a devastating blow to companies that have invested time, money and energy into building robust following of tens of thousands of dedicated supporters and potential customers.

    Considering the restrictions against marijuana-related activities outlined in the “Terms of Use” and/or “User Agreement” adopted by most popular social media platforms are based on the fact that marijuana is federally illegal and categorized as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, the problems companies like Natural Remedies and Dixie Elixirs are currently experiencing can only be solved by Congress.

    That’s why I believe the focus should be on ending the federal prohibition of marijuana by encouraging members of Congress to pass HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, S.3174: The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, or S.1689/HR 4815 The Marijuana Justice Act. Not only would marijuana-related companies be able to promote their events and market products on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms, it will end the harassment, arrest, and incarceration of marijuana patients and consumers, not to mention all of the collateral consequences related to a marijuana charge (e.g. employment and housing discrimination).

    I’m in no way trying to minimize the challenges with censorship that business owners operating in the marijuana industry are facing, but merely trying to redirect focus to the root of the problem. Currently there are numerous business-centric marijuana law reform bills being considered by Congress, and while NORML’s focus continues to be on ending marijuana prohibition and being a voice for marijuana consumers, we are generally supportive of these efforts.

    We at NORML understand and appreciate how marijuana consumers benefit when a company has access to basic banking services such as checking accounts, small business loans and merchant services. We understand that without a stable and predictable environment where businesses can thrive, consumers will be the ones to suffer at the end of the day.

    I’ve highlighted a few business-centric marijuana law reform bills that NORML has created action alerts for below:

    The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/support-the-secure-and-fair-enforcement-banking-act-safe-banking-act

    The Small Business Tax Equity Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-legislation-pending-to-cease-penalizing-state-compliant-marijuana-businesses-under-the-federal-tax-code

    The States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-legislation-pending-to-halt-forfeiture-actions-against-marijuana-facilities

    The State Marijuana And Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-support-the-state-marijuana-and-regulatory-tolerance-smart-enforcement-act

    For a comprehensive list please visit NORML’s Action Center.

    As a nonprofit organization that’s focused on the larger goal of ending federal marijuana prohibition, we also promote business-centric marijuana law reforms to our members and supporters. If your business would like to support our efforts, please consider becoming a sponsor today!

    “Businesses can do well by doing good, when they join the fight to end prohibition,” says NORML’s development director, Jenn Michelle Pedini. “NORML’s grassroots includes tens of thousands of reform-savvy consumers, and businesses gain exclusive access to that network when they stand alongside them and fight for freedom.”

    Whether you’re a longtime business owner or new to the marijuana industry, we’ll recognize your company on our website and social media for supporting NORML’s longstanding mission of reforming marijuana laws in our country.

    For more information about becoming a NORML Sponsor click here!

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