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  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate March 18, 2019

    A.1617, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), has been re-introduced this legislative session. The bill would legalize the adult possession, use, and regulated sale of marijuana.

    Over the past twenty years, many New Yorkers have been negatively affected by the harms of prohibition in New York. With people of color accounting for nearly 85% of those arrested annually, the MRTA directs the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana to these communities. Because structural racism is ingrained in marijuana prohibition, it’s important that the MRTA both ends marijuana prohibition and promotes racial justice.

    Significant steps are taken in the amended MRTA to ensure racial justice and a small business-friendly industry, including:

    • Creating a micro-licensing structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, which allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.
    • Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.
    • Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses.

    Our communities can’t wait. The decades of marijuana prohibition had created a stain on the fabric of our society, and urgent action is needed to begin to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs. Adult-use cannabis legalization must be passed in the state budget, and support for the MRTA goes a long way towards making that a reality. Freedom simply cannot wait any longer.

    Click here to send a message to your New York State Assemblymember in urgent support of this effort.

     

    We also encourage you to plug in with Empire State NORML. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their webpage HERE.

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  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate February 28, 2019

    Here in New Hampshire, there has been a great deal of progress in the last few years. Several bills have been introduced in the state legislature, ranging from legal hemp production to adult-use marijuana legalization, and the fight for freedom has never been more widely supported than now. New Hampshire residents overwhelmingly support marijuana legalization; in a recent poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire, 68% of New Hampshirites support full marijuana legalization, and the New Hampshire General Court is finally listening to the will of the people and is pushing for meaningful marijuana reform.

    There have been so far been eight major reform bills introduced in the New Hampshire General Court during the current legislative session.

     

    — Bipartisan bill HB 481 would legalize the personal adult-use, possession, cultivation, and retail sale of marijuana. It passed the House on 2/27/2019 by a vote of 209-147. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Senator in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — Bipartisan bill HB 399 would allow those convicted of past marijuana offenses to file a petition with the court to expunge any criminal records of the possession of three-fourths of an ounce of marijuana or less. This bill passed the House on 1/31 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Senator in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — Bills SB 175 and HB 461 would expand the qualifying conditions under New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program. S. 175 would allow physicians to recommend marijuana to any patient they believe would benefit from its therapeutic use, and HB 461 would allow physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients suffering from moderate to severe insomnia, moderate to severe anxiety, or Lyme disease. S. 175 was referred to the Health and Human Services Committee and HB 461 was referred to the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee on 1/03/2019.

    For more information on these bills and to send a message to your State lawmakers in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — Bipartisan bill HB 459 would legalize the production of industrial hemp in the state of New Hampshire to be in compliance with current federal hemp regulations and establish rules for such production. It was referred to the Environment and Agriculture Committee on 1/03/2019.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Representative in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — HB 350 would expand the number of medical professionals eligible to recommend medical cannabis by allowing physician assistants to issue recommendations to qualified patients. It was referred to the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee on 1/02/2019, which recommended that the bill “ought to pass with amendment” and will soon be brought to the House floor for a vote.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Representative in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — HB 335 would expand access to medical cannabis by allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to authorize additional dispensaries licenses in certain geographic areas of New Hampshire. It has passed the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Senator in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — Bipartisan bill HB. 364 would permit qualified patients to grow up to fourteen marijuana plants (two mature and twelve seedlings) and to possess up to six ounces of homegrown medical cannabis for their personal use. It was referred to the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee on 1/03/2019.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Representative in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — HB 366 would expand New Hampshire’s list of qualifying conditions for the State’s medical marijuana program to include opioid dependence and withdrawal. It was referred to the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee on 1/03/2019.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Representative in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    Though reform is inevitable, it will not happen without activists such as yourself making your voices heard in the name of personal freedom. We need your help to keep fighting to legalize marijuana nationwide. Please send messages in support of the bills summarized herein to spur sensible marijuana reform in the Granite State.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 18, 2016

    We have some dire news to share. This morning, President-Elect Trump announced his pick for Attorney General and it couldn’t be much worse for the marijuana law reform movement and our recent legalization victories.

    Trump’s pick, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, is a militant prohibitionist. We could go into great detail how Senator Sessions has been an outspoken opponent against reform, but in this case his rhetoric is so off the wall…we’ll let his past statements speak for themselves:

    “You have to have leadership from Washington. You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana … you are sending a message to young people that there is no danger in this process. It is false that marijuana use doesn’t lead people to more drug use. It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”

    “It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

    “Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to [marijuana] and it is not harmless.”

    His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”

    SOUNDS CRAZY, RIGHT? DONATE TODAY TO HELP US BE READY TO FIGHT BACK

    Senator Sessions is clearly out in the deep end when it comes to issues of marijuana policy and he stands diametrically opposed to the majority of Americans who favor the legalization and regulation of marijuana. This could foreshadow some very bad things for the eight states that have legalized marijuana for adult use and in the 29 states with with medical marijuana programs. With the authority the position of Attorney General provides, Sessions could immediately get to work attempting to block the implementation of the recent ballot initiatives, dismantling a legal industry in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, and begin conducting massive raids on existing medical and recreational retail stores.

    We must be ready to fight back. We must be ready to mobilize in defense of all of our hard fought victories. We already have our opponents calling for a recount in Maine and prohibitionists in Massachusetts working to gut core provisions like home cultivation from their state’s initiative. With an assist from a newly minted prohibitionist Attorney General, things might get worse before they get better.

    Help us send a message to President-Elect Trump and his Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions that the American people won’t stand for intervention into state marijuana programs and we want to move towards descheduling at the federal level and legalization in all 50 states.

    DONATE $20 TODAY TO HELP US RAISE $4,200 FOR OUR EMERGENCY RESPONSE FUND!

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director May 30, 2014

    After a long debate that had the US House of Representatives in session until after midnight, the lower chamber of Congress cast a historic 219 to 189 vote to restrict the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from using taxpayer funds to interfere in state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs in the 20+ states that have enacted them.

    This measure was co-sponsored by Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Reps. Rohrabacher (R-Calf.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Steve Stockman (R-Texas), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). You can read the full text of the amendment here.

    170 Democrats and 49 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment, 172 Republicans and 17 Democrats voted against it. You can view the full vote breakdown here.

    “It would be hard to overstate the importance of tonight’s vote,” said NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Approval of this amendment is a resounding victory for basic compassion and common sense.”

    Added NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, “This vote marks one of the first times since the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 that a majority of the members of a chamber Congress have acted in a manner that significantly alters federal marijuana policy.”

    “The conflicting nature of state and federal marijuana laws has created an untenable situation,” co-sponsor Rep. Blumenauer said just before the House debate. “It’s time we take the federal government out of the equation so medical marijuana business owners operating under state law aren’t living in constant fear of having their doors kicked down in the middle of the night.”

    The House also approved amendments that prohibit the DOJ and DEA from using funds to interfere with state sanctioned industrial hemp cultivation.

    In February, members of Congress approved language (Section 7606) in the omnibus federal farm bill authorizing states to sponsor hemp research absent federal reclassification of the plant. Since then, five states — Hawaii, Indiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Utah — have enacted legislation authorizing state-sponsored hemp cultivation. (Similar legislation is pending in Illinois and South Carolina.) In total, more than a dozen states have enacted legislation redefining hemp as an agricultural commodity and allowing for state-sponsored research and/or cultivation of the crop

    These amendments were made to the 2015 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, which now must be approved by the Senate and then signed by President Obama.

    NORML will keep you updated on this evolving situation.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director May 10, 2011

    [Editor’s note: Kellen’s brief review of a new organization dedicated to bringing attention to the numerous life sentences in America for cannabis-only related offenses is apropos as a 35-year-old father of a young child was sentenced in Louisiana Thursday for life in a cannabis possession case (the life sentence was triggered by the state’s controversial ‘three strikes and you’re out’ mandatory minimum sentences).

    Regrettably, and discernibly, the greater south of the United States is the hotbed for these kind of insanely long prison sentences for supposedly criminal acts that many citizens in fact no longer believe are crimes whatsoever.

    A new interactive map from the Sentencing Project aptly demonstrates that deep southern states like Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas have the highest prison incarceration rates not only in America, but the world.]

    By Kellen Russoniello, George Washington Law School student, NORML legal intern

    To many of us, the idea of anyone spending life in prison for a nonviolent marijuana offense is absolutely ridiculous. Yet with the recent passage of a bill in the Oklahoma State Legislature making the manufacture of hash punishable by life imprisonment, it is clear that life sentences for nonviolent marijuana offenders do exist.  In fact, a new website is drawing attention to this issue and has identified several people who are currently serving life sentences for nonviolent marijuana offenses.

    LifeforPot.com focuses on finding individuals who have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for federal nonviolent marijuana only offenses.  Beth Curtis, the founder of the website, has identified eight people, each with a unique background and story of how they came to spend the rest of their lives in prison for nonviolent marijuana offenses.

    Beth is very familiar with the subject: the first individual listed is John Knock, her brother. Since 2000, John has been serving two life sentences plus twenty years for his connection to a conspiracy to import multiple tons of marijuana and hashish from Pakistan and Lebanon into the United States and Canada, a sentence that Beth believes is the harshest ever for nonviolent marijuana crimes. When she talked to others about the severity of her brother’s sentence, she realized that people believed that nonviolent marijuana offenders could not receive such draconian sentences.

    Despite having retired and living in Hawaii when law enforcement came knocking on John’s door he was extradited to Florida—a state that he’d never lived in or committed a crime. Instead, John was drawn into a sting operation because of his contacts with a San Francisco area smuggler who had been indicted. However, John was never seen by law enforcement committing any of the crimes he was convicted of, he was never found in possession of marijuana, and his prosecution rested only upon the testimony of informants. Criminal defense lawyers describe his as a ‘dry case’, and the full story is available at johnknock.com and grandmasmind.com

    But how extraordinary is this sentence? Life for Pot lists some of the most famous drug kingpins and the sentences that they received, and it seems that John’s sentence was given special treatment. For example, “Freeway” Ricky Ross, the preeminent crack dealer of the Los Angeles area during the 1980s and early 90s was sentenced to life in 1996. His sentence was subsequently reduced to 20 years, and he was released in 2009. Manuel Felipe Salazar-Espinosa, deemed by the DEA to be one of the world’s most significant drug kingpins making up to $14 million in a week, was given 30 years for conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States and money laundering.

    It is clear that there are differences in the sentencing of these individuals. Life for Pot seeks to identify and make others aware of these discrepancies. Beth notes that the creation of mandatory minimums at the federal level has resulted in the increase in power of the prosecutor to decide the sentence by choosing which charges to pursue. She specifically points out that the 11th Circuit, which encompasses Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, has given 6 of the 8 life sentences identified for nonviolent marijuana only offenses.

    So where does this effort go from here? Although Beth has already received some feedback from politicians, attorneys, activists, and journalists, she hopes to start an organization focused on this issue soon. In order to do this, she explains that she will need advisers to help out, as well as a strong coalition. The roots of this coalition have already begun to take hold, with organizations like the November Coalition, Drug Policy Alliance, and Families Against Mandatory Minimums providing support, as well as media attention from a Columbia, Missouri NPR affiliate and High Times Magazine.

    Beth would also like to broaden the focus by included those serving de facto life sentences for nonviolent marijuana only offenses, including where older individuals are sentenced to long sentences (e.g., a 50 year old sentenced to 20 years).

    State sentences are another area that Beth would like to examine. Sentence reform efforts can be very successful at the state level. In order to do this, however, more resources must be available.

    A group petition for clemency is also in the works for those prisoners that have been identified as part of this effort.

    “The solution is political,” Beth declared. Legislative action is the best way to address the problem of egregious sentencing disparities. An organization focused on this issue would therefore be heavily focused on reaching legislators. So far, Life for Pot has sent out several cards and letters to federal congressmen and agencies. Beth also noted that advocacy efforts for the legalization of marijuana at the national level must be bolstered.

    In these times where some jurisdictions are locking up nonviolent marijuana offenders for life, it is good to hear that someone is bringing the inconsistency and irrationality of these practices to light.

    If you know someone that is currently serving a federal life sentence without parole for a nonviolent marijuana only offense, or would be able to assist Beth in her efforts, please contact her at johnknock@johnknock.com.