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  • by NORML March 28, 2019

    In the first of what is anticipated to be multiple Congressional votes to address the federal prohibition and criminalization of marijuana, the House Financial Services Committee today voted to advance The SAFE Banking Act, HR 1595, 45-15.

    Currently, thousands of state-licensed and regulated businesses lack access to the banking industry and are unable to accept credit cards, deposit revenues, or write checks to meet payroll or pay taxes because federal law discourages financial institutions from engaging in such partnerships. This ongoing federal prohibition forces this newly emerging billion-dollar industry operates largely on a cash-only basis — an environment that makes businesses more susceptible to theft and more difficult to audit. It also places the safety and welfare of these business’ customers at risk, as they must carry significant amounts of cash on their persons in order to make legal purchases at retail facilities.

    Help us keep up the momentum on the way to the House floor. Contact your representative today using our action alert HERE.

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:

    “This is a positive step forward to address an untenable tension between state-legal cannabis marketplaces and federal marijuana prohibition. No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions. In order to best support the states that have had the good judgment to license and regulate businesses to produce, manufacture, or distribute cannabis, it is critical that Congress address the lack of basic banking services and amend federal law accordingly and the SAFE Banking Act is one pathway to address this situation.”

    “Ultimately, the banking issue is just one symptom of the toxic and cruel policy of federal marijuana criminalization. In order to truly bring the vibrant marijuana economy out of the shadows, actions need to be taken by Congress to end federal prohibition and the discrimination the comes with this failed policy.”

    “This will certainly not be the last hearing of this Congress to have a high-minded conversation about marijuana and we expect a full hearing on prohibition to be scheduled in the months to come.”

    Committee Chair Maxine Waters stated:

    “Though it is just one component of broader reforms that are needed to, that are related to marijuana. I have long fought for criminal justice reform, and deeply understand the need to fully address the historic racial and social inequities related to the criminalization of marijuana. While H.R. 1595 is the only aspect of these efforts that are within the committee’s jurisdiction, as the bill moves forward, it must be a part of holistic approach to considering these reforms. In short, Congress must take the long view that all these efforts – and I will work to ensure that when it comes to passing H.R. 1595 that the House does not take a ‘one and done’ approach but that we will also comprehensively work especially with our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee on a series of marijuana related reforms. So I would urge all of my colleagues so support H.R. 1595.”

    Representative Ed Perlmutter commented:

    “The SAFE Banking Act is about public safety, accountability and respecting states’ rights. Our federal banking laws were designed to prevent illicit activity and help law enforcement do their jobs. These laws need to be applied to legitimate marijuana businesses and employees in order to improve transparency and accountability and help root out illegal transactions. Most importantly, the SAFE Banking Act will get cash off our streets, reducing the risk of violent crime and making our communities safer. While Congress has stuck its head in the sand on this issue for many years, this Committee showed leadership today and I want to thank my cosponsors and members of the Committee for their support.”

    Representative Earl Blumenauer (Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus) said: 

    “This is the most significant step we’ve seen so far toward addressing our outdated federal marijuana policies. We’ve actually gone through the process, fully debated, and seen broad bipartisan support. I applaud the outstanding work of Chairwoman Waters and Representatives Heck and Perlmutter for making this possible. The SAFE Banking Act solves a major problem for the state legal cannabis industry and its success moving through the committee is a signal of how we can move forward with other critical proposals.”


    According to the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report, police made 659,700 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2017. That total is more than 21 percent higher than the total number of persons arrests for the commission of violent crimes (518,617) in 2017. Of those arrested for marijuana crimes, just under 91 percent (599,000) were arrested for marijuana possession offenses, a slight increase over last year’s annual totals. Total marijuana arrests in 2017 increased for the second straight year, after having fallen for nearly a decade.

    Thirty-three states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Moreover, an estimated 73 million Americans now reside in the ten states where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. An additional fifteen states have passed laws specific to the possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for therapeutic purposes.

    Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to 2018 national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.

    Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.

    To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue.

    Specifically, a 2019 report estimates that over 211,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director March 7, 2019

    Today, we stood with Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Don Young as they introduced the Ending Federal Prohibition Act and Marijuana Data Collection Act. While these two bills are overtly about addressing the failures of marijuana prohibition, what they are truly about is accepting reality.

    This legislation is about accepting political reality. Currently, ten states and the District of Columbia have legalized the adult use of marijuana and thirty-three states and DC have medical marijuana programs. When you additionally factor in decriminalization and marijuana-specific CBD laws, there is, in fact, only 4 states in this entire country that are actually in compliance with federal law and the controlled substances act. This tension between state and federal laws is and remains untenable. If states truly are the laboratories of democracy, we need to fully deschedule marijuana from the CSA and allow them to move forward with reforms to their marijuana laws, unimpeded by federal law. This is not just good policy, but good politics. The American people are sick and tired of our failed prohibition. 68% of all Americans support legalizing marijuana and well over 70% believe this is an issue that should be governed by the state, not the federal government.

    This legislation is about accepting scientific reality. While there is still more we can learn, there are over 29,000 peer-reviewed studies on cannabis in existence – we know enough to say that it does have medical applications and that it is objectively less harmful of a substance than currently legal alcohol and tobacco. As long as marijuana remains a Schedule I substance, federal policy remains ignorant of this fact. Descheduling marijuana through the Ending Federal Prohibition Act would ease hurdles to research and the Marijuana Data Collection Act would allow us to learn from the real world experience of states who have already moved forward with adult use or medical marijuana.

    This legislation is about accepting economic reality. The legal marijuana industry in this country already employs over 200,000 Americans in full-time jobs, nearly 300,000 when you include ancillary industries. That is six times the number of jobs currently in the coal industry and over twice the number of Americans working in the textile industry. It is also generating billions of dollars a year in revenue across this country. Despite this economic boon, marijuana businesses are still unable to utilize financial services and face issues regarding taxation that no other legal business faces. This legislation would be a huge step forward in treating the legal cannabis industry like any other legal industry in this country and allow us to truly embrace its job creation and revenue potential.

    Perhaps most importantly, this legislation is about accepting moral reality. Despite our progress, marijuana prohibition still results in over 600,000 Americans being arrested every year on simple marijuana possession alone. Worse still, these policies are applied in racially disparate ways, overwhelmingly those arrested are people of color or members of other marginalized communities. Whether an arrest leads to incarceration or not, having a charge for marijuana possession on your record has life-altering collateral consequences. Americans with a criminal marijuana record lose access to federal financial aid for higher education, have a hard time finding gainful employment, can risk losing public housing, face issues with child protective services, and see their future permanently altered or dreams deferred for nothing more than possession of a joint. Descheduling marijuana would open the door to finally ending marijuana prohibition nationwide and bring to a halt these draconic policies that have ruined so many American lives.

    The overwhelming majority of the American public has accepted these realities and it is time for their elected officials to do the same. It is time to pass the End Federal Prohibition Act, close this dark chapter in our nation’s history, and move on from the failed policies of prohibition and towards the sensible policies of legalization and regulation.

    CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TODAY IN SUPPORT OF THE ENDING FEDERAL PROHIBITION ACT!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 5, 2018

    Texas Republican and ardent marijuana prohibitionist Pete Sessions trails by four points in his re-election bid, according to polling data released yesterday. According to the survey results, Sessions is behind Democratic challenger Colin Allred by a margin of 46 percent to 42 percent in the race for Texas’ 32nd Congressional District.

    As a member of Congress, Sessions has been one of the nation’s most vocal and powerful forces against our efforts to enact sensible marijuana policy reforms. Speaking publicly on the issue earlier this year, Sessions opined: “Marijuana is an addictive product, and the merchants of addiction make it that way. They make it to where our people, our young people, become addicted to marijuana and keep going.”

    As I wrote last month in my ‘Marijuana and the midterms” op-ed in The Hill, “Pete Sessions has used his position as Chairman of the House Rules Committee to block House floor members from voting on over three-dozen marijuana-related amendments during his leadership tenure.” His actions have almost single-handedly killed a number of popular, bipartisan-led reforms — such as facilitating medical cannabis access to military veterans and amending federal banking laws so that licensed marijuana businesses are treated like other legal industries.

    Representative Sessions received an ‘F’ grade in NORML’s latest Congressional Scorecard. By contrast, his Democratic challenger received a B+ grade as a result of his stated support for cannabis decriminalization and medical marijuana access.

    Texas’ 32nd Congressional District represents the city of Garland and the northeastern section of Dallas.

  • by NORML September 11, 2018

    The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Political Action Committee (NORML PAC) has announced their most recent slate of bi-partisan reelection endorsements for incumbent members of the United States House of Representatives.

    “There was more momentum behind federal marijuana law reform in 2018 than in any previous year, and that is in no small part due to some of our longstanding, outspoken allies in Congress,” stated NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri, “In order to finally cross the finish line and end our failed federal prohibition on marijuana, it is important that we not just vote out reefer mad prohibitionists, but we need to support and ensure our key allies remain in office. Their seniority and passion for the issue makes them true leaders in taking our country in a new and sensible direction on marijuana policy and with their help we will finally resolve the tensions between state and federal laws regarding marijuana. We encourage voters in their districts to support them in November and ensure they serve in Washington another two years to help us finish the fight.”

    The newly announced endorsements are listed below.

    Republican Endorsements: Rep. David Joyce (R-OH14), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI3), Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA2) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC3).

    Democratic Endorsements: Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN9), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA13), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI2), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA33), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA17), and Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA2).

    Of the lead sponsors of NORML’s priority legislation, NORML PAC Director Erik Altieri released the following statements:

    On the Marijuana Justice Act, HR 4815 introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee…

    “We are exceptionally pleased to endorse Representative Barbara Lee, the lead sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act, which would not only end federal marijuana prohibition, but also penalize states that maintain the unjust and disproportionate targeting of minority communities as a result of state-level criminalization,”

    “Rep. Lee has been a long time champion of reform. She has been instrumental to the recent explosion of support at the federal level and is a tremendous advocate for her constituents.”

    On the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, HR 1227 introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard…

    “We are happy to endorse Representative Tulsi Gabbard, the lead sponsor of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would end the failed national policy of cannabis prohibition.”

    “Rep. Gabbard is never afraid to speak truth to power and has been one of the most sensible voices in the Congress on improving public policy.”

    On the States Act, HR 6043 introduced by Rep. David Joyce…

    “We are pleased to endorse Representative David Joyce, the lead Republican sponsor of the States Act, which would create an exemption in the Controlled Substances Act to end the threat of federal interference with state-legal marijuana programs.”

    “Rep. Joyce has quickly become the leading Republican in the House of Representatives to address the federal-state policy tensions and has served as a sensible advocate for his constituents.”

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director July 12, 2018

    In advance of NORML’s 2018 Conference and Lobby day that’s taking place July 22nd – 24th in Washington, DC, NORML chapters from around the country will be contacting their representatives to urge their support for marijuana-related bills introduced since the 115th Congress convened on January 3, 2017. For more than four decades, NORML Affiliates and Chapters have demonstrated their ability to mobilize thousands of marijuana advocates from around the country so we hope to create some additional excitement around pending marijuana law reform legislation, and in return, drive participation and engagement.

    We hope all of you will join us in making this a successful campaign!

    Project: NORML 2018 Congressional Letter Writing Campaign

    Who: NORML Chapters and Affiliates

    When: Thursday, July 12, 2018 through Wednesday, July 25, 2018

    Summary: Grassroots letter writing campaign targeting members of the House and Senate requesting their immediate support of pending marijuana-related legislation. We encourage the use of handwritten letters and emails.

    Target Legislation:

    S.1689 / H.R. 4815: The Marijuana Justice Act

    H.R. 1820: The Veterans Equal Access Act

    Why Letters?

    Legislators often tell us that the most effective method of communicating our position on issues is through letters. Letters can be mailed or easily faxed. Phone calls are necessary and helpful, but letters from constituents make the most difference. E-mails are also a great tool, but sometimes it may be difficult to verify that the sender is a constituent. Also, they normally will respond back to the letter sender.

    Must Be A Constituent!

    Know who you’re writing! Legislators disregard any letters not from their constituents, and their staff actually check names and addresses to ensure legitimacy. If you use our online tool or email, make sure to include your address and/or a sentence stating, “I live in your district” or “I am your constituent” to ensure that your letter/email is read.

    Sample Letters: If you decide to use the templates below, please make sure you research the name and address of your representatives. With 535 members of Congress, offices are spread across Capitol Hill in six different Senate and House office buildings.

    To find the correct address, simply type in your zip code and the “Find Your Representative” page will direct you a page with all the details to who your Congress member is and where there office is located. In regard to Senators, each state is represented by two United States Senators, so after you click the link, “Find Your Senator”, you will be directed to a page with a list of US Senators. Here, unlike using your zip code, you can simply select your state utilizing the drop down menu in the upper left hand corner of the website and it will display the names and addresses to your Senators.

    Letter Templates:

    S.1689: The Marijuana Justice Act

    H.R. 4815: The Marijuana Justice Act

    H.R. 1820: The Veterans Equal Access Act

    Social Media Templates: Please use the following templates to help promote our efforts via Facebook and Twitter. Simply cut and paste the information located within the text boxes below into your social media accounts. Also feel free to tag your representatives in your social media posts.

    Marijuana Justice Act – Facebook:

    Click below to support the Marijuana Justice Act!

    If passed by Congress, the Marijuana Justice Act will remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities, expunge federal convictions for marijuana possession, allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing, and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

    The ongoing enforcement of marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

    http://norml.org/action-center/item/support-the-marijuana-justice-act

    Marijuana Justice Act – Twitter:

    Federal: Urge your members of #Congress to support the #Marijuana Justice Act today! Click below to get started. https://bit.ly/2L5DZfm

    Veterans Equal Access Act – Facebook:

    Click below to support the Veterans Equal Access Act!

    If passed by Congress, the Veterans Equal Access Act will expand access to medical cannabis for eligible military veterans. Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of H.R. 1820 will lift this prohibition.

    Lawmakers must stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass the Veterans Equal Access Act!

    http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-house-bill-introduced-to-expand-veterans-access-to-medical-marijuana

    Veterans Equal Access Act – Twitter:

    Federal: Our Veterans deserve better! Contact your lawmakers and urge them to support the #Veterans Equal Access Act today. https://t.co/LPuM3aqTct

    Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please email chapters@norml.org for more information about starting a NORML chapter today!

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