• by Colt DeMorris, El Paso NORML Executive Director November 19, 2019

    Last week, City Representatives Alexsandra Anello (District 2) and Dr. Sam Morgan (District 4) filed a resolution seeking to implement a Cite and Release program after working closely with members of El Paso NORML and LegalizEP.

    The resolution sought to end arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession which would include anything under 4 ounces. A Class A misdemeanor is defined as 2 to 4 ounces, while a Class B is under 2 ounces.

    The resolution originally had an item number of 20.5, meaning that it was most likely to be heard after the City Council’s break at noon. Once the regular agenda opened up, Representative Sam Morgan motioned for the item to be brought to the fore-front of the agenda. The motion was seconded and moved up.

    Ten people signed up to speak in support of the resolution. Among those who attended and spoke were State Representative Joe Moody, Assistant District Attorney and candidate for District Attorney, James Montoya, myself in my capacity as El Paso NORML’s Executive Director, Michael Castro from LegalizEP, as well as Michael Short, President of the El Paso Municipal Police Officers Association. Mr. Short was the only one to speak in opposition of the resolution.

    As the resolution was being discussed, Rep. Cissy Lizarraga had reservations about it because she felt that it wasn’t the City Manager’s position to implement the cite and release program, as well as voicing her opinion that the El Paso District Attorney and Chief of Police should be involved and have a say. She firmly stated that she would vote no.

    Representative Henry Rivera, who is a former law enforcement officer himself, cited that the City of El Paso already has a program like this – the First Chance Program. He also echoed Lizarraga’s concerns saying he believes that the Sheriff and Chief of Police should be brought to the table for discussion. Rivera not only stated he would vote no, he also motioned for the resolution to be deleted of the agenda. His motion to deleted was seconded by Lizarraga. The “First Chance” program that Rep. Rivera mentioned only targets those who have never been arrested and have no other charges when the marijuana is found by law enforcement. As State Representative Joe Moody pointed out, the First Offender Program targets the offender. Our cite and release resolution targets the offense.

    Next to speak on the issue was Representative Sam Morgan. As one of the representatives that filed the resolution, he described why he was in support of the resolution, citing fiscal responsibility and over crowding of jails, among other reasons.

    Representative Peter Svarzbein was curious as to how things worked, so he reached out to Joe Moody to ask questions. One thing he wanted clarification on was facts Joe Moody provided regarding the Texas Department of Public Safety policy stating that DPS Troopers are to Cite and Release for misdemeanor marijuana offenses. Rep. Svarzbein highlighted that with DPS already doing cite and release, it is a state wide policy that is already in affect. He also agreed, as with Lizarrage and Rivera, that the Chief of Police and Sheriff should be brought in on the conversation. You could tell that he was in support of the idea of cite and release.

    Representatives Hernandez and Salcido called for more information to be provided, information from jurisdictions that already have cite and release.

    Rep. Salcido motioned for changes to be made to the amendment. The changes were in regard to the wording of the resolution. To not have it voted down or deleted, Salcido motioned to change the language so the resolution didn’t read as to automatically implement cite and release upon the date stated in the resolution. Instead, she saved it so it would keep the conversation alive.

    After discussion, you can tell that a majority supported the idea of cite and release but most of them wanted more information on how the program works and statistics showing what the program does.

    After all of those from the public and signed up, and Council finished saying what they had to say, the two motions had to be voted on. The first motion, as they go in order, was Rivera’s Motion to Delete. The vote came back 2 – 6, with Reps. Rivera and Lizarraga being the 2 yes votes to delete the item from the agenda. The rest of the 6 council members voted no to the deletion.

    Following that vote, they voted on the Motion by Salcido that amended the language as to not actually implement a program, but to show support on implementing a cite and release program once they have researched and gathered information from other jurisdictions. The vote came back 6 – 2, with the only no votes of representatives not in support was again from Rivera and Lizarraga. The resolution passed.

    With the passage of this resolution, it say that El Paso City Council is ready for a discussion on ending arrests of those in El Paso that possess marijuana that would be considered a misdemeanor; anything under 4 ounces.

    The resolution, research and implementation of a cite and release program will be followed up at a council meeting suspected to be shortly after the new year. El Paso isn’t in the clear just yet.

    This is major news coming out of the city where prohibition started in 1915, 22 years before the federal prohibition. We’re doing it, we are ending prohibition where it started.

  • by NORML November 18, 2019

    marijuana plantNew Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari announced today they were moving away from their previous plans to approve legislation to end the state’s failed prohibition on marijuana this year in the state legislature, and are instead planning to put a question regarding a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana before state voters during the 2020 election.

    “It is unfortunate lawmakers in Trenton have elected to kick the can further down the road and allow tens of thousands more New Jersey residents to be saddled with criminal records for marijuana offenses due to their lack of action,” commented NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri “We are confident the voters in New Jersey will send them an unambiguous message in 2020: State residents are sick and tired of failed prohibitionist policies and overwhelmingly want to move towards the legalization and regulation of marijuana.”

    In a joint press release, Senators Sweeney and Scutari laid out their plans:

    “We are moving forward with a plan to seek voter approval to legalize adult use marijuana in New Jersey. We introduced legislation today to authorize a public referendum for a proposal that will lead to the creation of a system that allows adults to purchase and use marijuana for recreational purposes in a responsible way. This initiative will bring cannabis out of the underground so that it can be controlled to ensure a safe product, strictly regulated to limit use to adults and have sales subjected to the sales tax. We will now move forward with a plan that helps correct social and legal injustices that have had a discriminatory impact on communities of color. We can make real progress towards social justice at the same time that cannabis is made safe and legal.”

    NORML will keep you updated as this story develops.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director

    We won’t lie, this is HUGE.

    This week, we will very likely have the first vote to outright end federal marijuana prohibition. The House Judiciary Committee has posted a markup for HR 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act on Wednesday, November 20th and they will likely hold a vote on the same day.

    This has never happened in the history of our country and it is thanks to all the time and effort folks have put in for DECADES. The MORE Act isn’t just some half measure either. It contains many of the important reforms we have always wanted to see at the federal level. Not only will it remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act entirely, but it will also require federal courts to expunge prior marijuana-related convictions, provide grants and funding to communities most harmed by our failed war on cannabis consumers, and finally allow physicians affiliated with the Veterans Administration to recommend medical cannabis to veterans.

    The American people are overwhelmingly on our side and ready to end our failed prohibitionist policies and lately more and more elected officials are joining them. However, we NEED your help to get this legislation approved. We cannot allow this opportunity to pass us by, we need to show members of Congress that their constituents are demanding real change.


    Even if you have already contacted your elected officials, now is the time to do it again.

    Then share the link with your family and friends and encourage them to join you.

    Click here to share this alert on Facebook

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    The light at the end of the dark tunnel of prohibition is getting closer, let’s unite and make real marijuana law reform at the federal level a reality.

  • by NORML

    The House Judiciary Committee has posted a markup date for HR 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act. Members of the Committee will consider the bill on Wednesday, November 20th, 2019, and they will likely hold a vote at that time. The MORE Act was introduced by the Committee’s Chairman, Jerry Nadler of New York and it is expected to be positively received by Committee members.

    Send a message to your lawmakers in support of ending prohibition and criminalization now!

    “A supermajority of Americans, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents, support regulating the use of marijuana by responsible adults,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Thanks to the leadership of the House Judiciary chairman, never in history have we been closer to ending the failed policy of marijuana criminalization and providing pathways to opportunity for our brothers and sisters who have suffered under its oppressive reign.”

    Strekal added: “The MORE Act is the most comprehensive marijuana policy reform bill ever introduced in Congress and is backed by a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups. Those who oppose this legislation moving forward are defenders of a failed status-quo that ruins the lives of otherwise law-abiding adults on a daily basis, overwhelming enforced against the poor and communities of color.”

    Click here to share this alert on Facebook

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    Earlier this month, a Pew poll found that 67% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana.

    Earlier this year, members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security heard expert testimony challenging the federal government’s policy of cannabis prohibition. The hearing, entitled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform,” debated the merits of various alternative policy options – including ending cannabis’s longstanding Schedule I criminal status under federal law. The hearing marked the first time in decades that members have entertained debate regarding the need to end the federal criminalization of cannabis and to deschedule it from the Controlled Substances Act, which would end federal prohibition and free states to determine their own policies.

    Shortly thereafter, Chairman Nadler introduced the MORE Act to:

    • Remove the marijuana plant from the federal Controlled Substances Act,
    • Require the federal courts to expunge prior marijuana-related convictions,
    • Provide grants to local communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war
    • Permit physicians affiliated with the Veterans Administration to authorize medical marijuana recommendations to qualifying veterans who reside in legal states
    • Allow the Small Business Administration to support entrepreneurs and businesses as they seek to gain a foothold in this emerging industry.

    The American people are overwhelmingly on our side and ready to end our failed prohibitionist policies and lately more and more elected officials are joining them. However, we NEED your help to get this legislation approved. We cannot allow this opportunity to pass us by, we need to show members of Congress that their constituents are demanding real change.


  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 15, 2019

    Select retailers will begin engaging in adult-use marijuana sales next month, according to an advisory issued by the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency.

    Beginning on December 1, state-licensed medical dispensaries that possess the appropriate licensing will also be able to begin selling products to adult-only consumers.

    However, only a handful of facilities are expected to be ready to engage in adult-use sales next month, the agency’s director cautioned. Currently, 41 medical marijuana businesses have been pre-qualified to receive a retail sales.

    Michigan voters approved a statewide initiative last year calling upon state officials to regulate the plant’s production, use, and sale.

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