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  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director April 6, 2017

    arrestedUnited States Attorney General Jeff “Marijuana Consumers Aren’t Good People” Sessions has issued a formal memorandum calling on members of the Justice Department’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety to “undertake a review of existing policies,” including federal enforcement policies with regard to cannabis.

    The memo was sent on April 5 to 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices and Department of Justice component heads.

    The Attorney General has requested a report back from task force members by no later than July 27th. You can read the full memo here.

    The release of this memorandum provides us with a general time frame during which to expect any formal announcements from the new administration with regard to addressing marijuana policy — specifically whether the Justice Department will respect state legalization laws.

    In the interim, members of Congress can remove all of the bite from Jeff Sessions’ bark by approving the bipartisan Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which prevents the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

    Speaking recently before Congress, Attorney General Sessions said that his job is to enforce federal law. Let’s change federal law to ensure that our reform victories remain in place, and so that we can build upon these victories in the future.

    CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IN SUPPORT OF RESPECTING STATE MARIJUANA LAWS.

    But while the Justice Department contemplates its next move, state politicians are taking action. In recent days, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the Obama Administration’s largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo.

    “Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

    Political and social change rarely comes from the top on down, it comes from the bottom up. That is why it is imperative for you to not only contact your federal officials in support of changing policy, but also to continue to push for change at the local and state level.

    Click HERE to view pending federal and state legislation and easily contact your elected officials in support of them.

    Click HERE to find a local NORML chapter in your area and get involved. NORML Kansas City this week successfully placed marijuana decriminalization on their municipal ballot and saw it pass with 71% support. This is the kind of positive change a group of committed volunteer citizens can bring to their communities.

    A people united will never be defeated and together we WILL end marijuana prohibition nationwide.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 29, 2015

    thumbs_upVermont Senator and Democrat Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders yesterday pledged to get the federal government out of the marijuana enforcement business by removing the substance from the US Controlled Substances Act.

    Senator Sanders called cannabis’ present schedule I status under federal law “absurd.” He added: “In my view, the time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana. … [S]tates should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern the sale of alcohol and tobacco.”

    The Senator also said that state-compliant marijuana operations “should be fully able to use the banking system without fear of federal prosecution.”

    Senator Sanders comments differ from those of Democrat opponent and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley who promised to use the executive powers of the President to “to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act.” Republican candidate Rand Paul [R-KY] has also co-sponsored federal legislation, SB 683, that seeks to reclassify cannabis to Schedule II under federal law. However, simply rescheduling marijuana from I to II would not limit the federal government’s authority to prosecute marijuana offenders, including those who are in compliance with state law.

    While several other Presidential candidates have called on federal officials to respect states’ marijuana policies, none have proposed amending federal marijuana laws.

    Senator Sanders latest position is consistent with the view of most voters. According to a 2015 Pew poll, 60 percent of Americans agree that the government “should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states that allow use,” while recent Gallup survey data finds that 58 percent of US citizens over the age of 18 believe cannabis should be legal for adults.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director February 12, 2014

    Earlier today, 18 members of Congress signed onto a letter that was delivered to President Barack Obama calling for him to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

    “We request that you take action to help alleviate the harms to society caused by the federal Schedule I classification of marijuana. Lives and resources are wasted on enforcing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws,” the letter reads, “Nearly two-thirds of a million people every year are arrested for marijuana possession. We spend billions every year enforcing marijuana laws, which disproportionately impact minorities. According to the ACLU, black Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable usage rates.”

    The letter was signed by Representatives Blumenauer (OR), Cohen (TN), Farr (CA), Grijalva (AZ), Honda (CA), Huffman (CA), Lee (CA), Lofgren (CA), Lowenthal (CA), McGovern (MA), Moran (VA), O’Rourke (TX), Polis (CO), Quigley (IL), Rohrabacher (CA), Schakowsky (IL), Swalwell (CA), and Welch (VT).

    “Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana,” the letter continued, “A Schedule I or II classification also means that marijuana businesses in states where adult or medical use are legal cannot deduct business expenses from their taxes or take tax credits due to Section 280E of the federal tax code. We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.”

    You can read the full text of the letter here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 5, 2013

    Friday, September 6, 2013 marks the 25-year anniversary of an administrative ruling which determined that cannabis possesses accepted medical utility and ought to be reclassified accordingly under federal law.

    The ruling, issued in 1988 by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis Young “In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling,” determined: “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”

    Young continued: “It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.”

    Judge Young concluded: “The administrative law judge recommends that the Administrator conclude that the marijuana plant considered as a whole has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, that there is no lack of accepted safety for use of it under medical supervision and that it may lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II [of the federal Controlled Substances Act].”

    Judge Young’s ruling was in response to an administrative petition filed in 1972 by NORML which sought to reschedule cannabis under federal law. Federal authorities initially refused to accept the petition until mandated to do so by the US Court of Appeals in 1974, and then refused to properly process it until again ordered by the Court in 1982. In 1986, 14-years after NORML filed its initial petition, the DEA finally held public hearings on the issue before Judge Young, who rendered his decision two years later.

    However, then-DEA Administrator John Lawn ultimately rejected Young’s determination, and in 1994, the Court of Appeals allowed Lawn’s reversal to stand – maintaining marijuana’s present classification as a Schedule I prohibited substance with “no accepted medical use,” and a “lack of accepted safety … under medical supervision.”

    In July 2011, the DEA rejected a separate marijuana rescheduling petition, initially filed in 2002. This past January, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the DEA’s decision, ruling that insufficient clinical studies exist to warrant a judicial review of cannabis’ federally prohibited status. Petitioners have appealed the ruling to the US Supreme Court, which may or may not elect to review the matter.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director October 4, 2011

    In 1972 NORML filed the first major lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to change the legal status of cannabis from schedule I to schedule II. Would this make cannabis legal for an adult to purchase and use like alcohol and tobacco products?

    No.

    All the organization was seeking was an acknowledgement that cannabis had been badly mis-scheduled as a dangerous and highly addictive drug with no accepted medical value. The organization argued in one of the longest (and strangest) legal cases in US history, NORML vs. DEA (1972-1994), that cannabis is a safe, non-toxic herbal medicine that should be within the ambit of choices for a physician to recommend to a sick, dying or sense-threatened medical patient.

    In the late 1990s a coalition of cannabis reform groups refiled a petition to reschedule, which was rejected this past summer by the DEA (see below).

    Please review and sign a new petition asking President Obama to once and for all listen to the many numerous DEA administrative law judges that have previously ruled in the reformers’ favor and all of the clear science published that cannabis is in fact a medicinal product of great worth, providing maximum safety with minimal unwanted side effects and at relatively little cost for the consumer.

    “Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality…Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death…In practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity…In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume…Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” – DEA administrative law judge, Francis Young, NORML vs. DEA (1988)

    About 3,000 more signatures are needed by October 23 to meet the necessary threshold. I’ve been told that the White House may raise the threshold soon to qualify petitions for Presidential review from 5,000 to 25,000. Undeterred-in-the-slightest, I’m totally confident that the NORML community will generate in excess of 25,000 signatures in support for this important and long-suffering cannabis re-scheduling for medical purposes.

    Please sign the cannabis rescheduling petition here.

    Medical Marijuana Advocates Sue Federal Government Over Rescheduling Delay
    MONDAY, 23 MAY 2011 11:34

    WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–May 23 – A Coalition of advocacy groups and patients filed suit in the DC Circuit Court today to compel the Obama administration to answer a 9-year-old petition to reclassify medical marijuana. The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) has never received an answer to its 2002 petition, despite a formal recommendation in 2006 from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the final arbiter in the rescheduling process. As recently as July 2010, the DEA issued a 54-page “Position on Marijuana,” but failed to even mention the pending CRC petition. Plaintiffs in the case include the CRC, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Patients Out of Time, as well as individually named patients, one of whom is listed on the CRC petition but died in 2005.

    “The federal government’s strategy has been delay, delay, delay,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel of ASA and lead counsel on the writ. “It is far past time for the government to answer our rescheduling petition, but unfortunately we’ve been forced to go to court in order to get resolution.” The writ of mandamus filed today accuses the government of unreasonable delay in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. A previous cannabis (marijuana) rescheduling petition filed in 1972 went unanswered for 22 years before being denied.

    The writ argues that cannabis is not a dangerous drug and that ample evidence of its therapeutic value exists based on scientific studies in the US and around the world. “Despite numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies establishing that marijuana is effective” in treating numerous medical conditions, the government “continues to deprive seriously ill persons of this needed, and often life-saving therapy by maintaining marijuana as a Schedule I substance.” The writ calls out the government for unlawfully failing to answer the petition despite an Inter-Agency Advisory issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 and “almost five years after receiving a 41-page memorandum from HHS stating its scientific evaluation and recommendations.”

    The two largest physician groups in the country — the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians — have both called on the federal government to review marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. The National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health, added cannabis to its website earlier this year as a Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) and recognized that, “Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years prior to its current status as an illegal substance.”

    Medical marijuana has now been decriminalized in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and has an 80% approval rating among Americans according to several polls. In a 1988 ruling on a prior rescheduling petition, the DEA’s own Administrative Law Judge Francis Young recommended in favor of reclassification stating that, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”

    A formal rejection of the CRC petition would enable the group to challenge in court the government’s assertion that marijuana has no medical value. “Adhering to outdated public policy that ignores science has created a war zone for doctors and their patients who are seeking use cannabis therapeutics,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of ASA and a plaintiff in the writ. Jon Gettman, who filed the rescheduling petition on behalf of the CRC added that, “The Obama Administration’s refusal to act on this petition is an irresponsible stalling tactic.”

    A synthetic form of THC, the main chemical ingredient in the cannabis plant, is currently classified Schedule III for its use in a prescribed pill trademarked as Marinol®. The pill goes off-patent this year and companies vying to sell generic versions are petitioning the government to also reclassify the more economical, naturally-derived THC (from the plant) to Schedule III. The rescheduling process involves federal agencies such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, HHS, and DEA. On average, it takes 6 months from HHS review to final action, whereas it’s been nearly 5 years since HHS issued its recommendation on the CRC petition, more than twice as long as any other rescheduling petition reviewed since 2002.

    Further information:
    CRC rescheduling petition
    2006 HHS recommendation
    2010 DEA Position on Marijuana

    Writ filed today
    Backgrounder on rescheduling

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