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  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director January 15, 2018

    As tensions between AG Sessions and federal lawmakers continues to grow, proponents of marijuana legalization are finding new allies in state legislatures around the country. Despite the recent move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the Cole Memo, a 2013 DOJ memorandum that allowed state sanctioned marijuana business to thrive despite the quagmire between state and federal laws, lawmakers in several states are advancing marijuana reform legislation.

    Reject AG Sessions’ Efforts to Revert to the Failed Criminal Policies of the ‘Just Say No’ Era.

    Within hours of the rollout of the DOJ’s new policy, lawmakers in Vermont passed a depenalization bill out of the House and Senate with overwhelming support and it’s now headed to Governor’s office. With Governor Scott already promising to sign the measure into law, it’s safe to say that Vermont will surely be the newest thorn in the side of an already agitated Sessions. As if the news from Vermont isn’t frustrating enough for the Attorney General, House lawmakers in New Hampshire also passed legislation that would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and up. And Thursday, members of the New York State Assembly heard hours of testimony in support of adult use regulation.

    In addition to the advancement of marijuana law reform legislation in Vermont and New Hampshire, a number of other states such as Kentucky, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Delaware, New Hampshire, Virginia, Missouri and New Mexico will also be debating several marijuana-related bills during their 2018 legislative sessions. To support these legislative efforts, members of Virginia NORML, NORML KC, NORML of Florida, Lehigh Valley NORML, NORML Women of Washington, Pittsburgh NORML, Ohio NORML, Missouri NORML, Illinois NORML, Delaware NORML, Kentucky NORML, Maryland NORML, New Mexico NORML, Wyoming NORML, Springfield NORML and Greater St. Louis NORML will be meeting with their state representatives to encourage support for marijuana reform legislation

    With the help of NORML chapters, 2018 could prove to be a very successful year for marijuana law reform efforts.

    Virginia NORML

    Taking a more conservative approach than lawmakers in Vermont and New Hampshire, lawmakers in the Commonwealth of Virginia are considering both medical marijuana and decriminalization bills this session. While there hasn’t been any notable criticisms of the DOJ’s new policy from the state legislature, Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA) recently introduced HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act which would gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML had this to say about the current political climate.

    “Attorney General Sessions isn’t stopping Virginia from moving forward in the 2018 legislative session with both medical cannabis expansion and decriminalization. We have strong, bipartisan representatives working on marijuana policy in Congress, Reps. Beyer, Garrett, Griffith and Taylor, and the same holds true in our State House. Republicans and Democrats are united on advancing these common sense reforms demanded by the overwhelming majority of Virginians.”

    Las Vegas NORML

    In Nevada, where state lawmakers approved a measure to fast track rules and regulations for the state’s adult-use marijuana program in 2017, the news of the DOJ’s new policy prompted partisan reactions from Carson City. While Republican lawmakers refrained from publicly criticizing AG Sessions, Democratic Senator Tick Segerblom wasted no time. Speaking to a group of legalization advocates at a rally outside of a marijuana dispensary In Las Vegas, Senator Segerblom had this to say:

    “Contact your legislators in Washington DC and tell them to tell Trump to back off until we get this thing resolved. This is a great industry for Nevada. The people have spoken…this is a state’s rights issue.”

    After hearing the news about the shift in federal policy, Chris Thompson, executive director of Las Vegas NORML quickly shifted his focus from state-level lobbying efforts to mobilizing pro-marijuana advocates and scheduling meetings with Congressional leaders.

    “It’s definitely a precarious situation right now, but thankfully Las Vegas NORML is working with our representatives at the state and federal level to prevent Sessions from trampling over states’ rights and prosecuting legal cannabis,” said Thompson.

    With virtually no federal lawmakers expressing support the Sessions’ reversal, as reported by Politico, and state lawmakers seemingly unphased by this shift in the administration’s tone, it appears that AG Sessions severely underestimated the political juggernaut the issue of marijuana legalization has become.

    For more information about a NORML’s 2018 lobbying efforts, email Chapters@NORML.org or visit http://norml.org/about/chapter-calendar for list of upcoming chapter lobby days and meetings. If you’re unable to attend a NORML lobby day in your state, please take a few minutes to contact your representatives using NORML’s Action center http://norml.org/act

  • by NORML January 10, 2018

    thumbs_upToday, the Vermont state Senate approved a measure that would legalize the possession and limited home cultivation of marijuana. Under this legislation, H. 511, individuals 21 years of age or older would be able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate a limited amount for personal use.

    “While prohibitionists like Attorney General Jeff Sessions desperately try to force our country to return to the dark ages, his flailing seems to be for naught, as Vermont is now positioned to be the first state to legalize marijuana possession by legislative action,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “The American people have made their position clear, it is time to move away from the failed policies of the past and to move in the sensible direction of legalization. Vermont will likely be the first state to take such an action this year, it is unlikely to be the last with New Jersey, Delaware, New Hampshire, Connecticut and others likely to give legalization legislation serious consideration during the 2018 legislative session.”

    H. 511 was approved by the state’s lower chamber last week in a 81-63 vote. Now that it has passed the state Senate, the bill will be sent to Governor Phil Smith for his signature. Despite vetoing a similar effort last year, Governor Scott has stated he would likely sign this renewed effort.

    Passage of legalization in Vermont in 2018 would be a legislative first. To date, all eight states that have enacted legalization of the adult use of marijuana, as well as the District of Columbia have done so by a direct vote of the people.

    One in five Americans reside in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute, and the majority of citizens reside someplace where the medical use of cannabis is legally authorized. As is evidenced by Vermont lawmakers’ actions, it is clear that the Trump administration is not going to be able to cease this momentum in favor of the enactment of rational marijuana policies.

    “For the second time in two years, Vermont lawmakers have rejected the failed Flat Earth policies of marijuana prohibition,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said,”The majority of Vermonters, like the majority of the American public, desire to live in a community where responsible adults who choose to consume cannabis are no longer criminalized or stigmatized. Governor Scott would be wise to provide Vermonters with this path forward, rather than cling to the failed policies of the past.”

    WANT TO CHANGE THE MARIJUANA LAWS IN YOUR STATE? CLICK HERE TO EASILY WRITE YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS IN SUPPORT OF REFORM.

  • by NORML January 9, 2018

    legalization_poll

    UPDATE 01/09/18 1:30 PM Eastern: New Hampshire House Leadership, instead of sending the approved bill directly to the state Senate, has referred the legislation back to the House Ways and Means Committee. Now, either the committee declines to take action and sends the bill to the state Senate or holds hearings on the bill before sending it back to the House floor for another full vote.

    This morning, in a direct rebuke to the bluster coming from US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 207 to 139 in favor of a measure that would legalize the possession of up to 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of 3 mature plants for adults 21 years of age or over. This legislation is similar to a measure passed by members of the House of Representatives in neighboring Vermont last week. Both measures now await action by their respective state Senates, with a vote in Vermont expected for later today.

    A broader legalization bill, which included commercial cultivation and retail sales, was voted down in a New Hampshire House committee last November. Today, state Representatives voted to overturn that initial vote and amended that legislation to only include the legalization of personal possession and cultivation. Currently, there is a standing legislative study committee in the state that is researching and reviewing the potential of legalized commercial marijuana in New Hampshire and is expected to give recommendations later this year.

    “Despite the best attempts by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice to intimidate state governments, the recent votes in Vermont and New Hampshire demonstrate that legislators are ignoring this bluster and are standing up for the will of the people,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “An overwhelming majority of Americans want to see marijuana legalized and their elected officials are smartly siding with this broad public opinion and sensible policy direction over the Reefer Madness being spouted by Attorney General Sessions.”

    NORML will keep you updated as these and other legislative reform efforts advance.

    TAKE ACTION IN SUPPORT OF MARIJUANA REFORM LEGISLATION IN YOUR STATE HERE.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 8, 2018

    At an event over the weekend, Kansas State Representative Steve Alford (R) defended the continuation of marijuana prohibition by reverting to the kind of overtly racist rhetoric originally deployed by Henry Anslinger when this failed policy was first implemented.

    It is important to remember: Marijuana prohibition perpetuates institutional racism and is itself being perpetuated by racists.

    “What you really need to do is go back in the ’30s, when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas (and) across the United States,” Kansas Rep. Steve Alford said. “What was the reason why they did that? One of the reasons why, I hate to say it, was that the African Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off to those drugs just because of their character makeup, their genetics and that.”

    Watch the video:

    Read more here.

    You can share your thoughts with him here (since they apparently don’t have social media back in 1928):
    j.stephen.alford@house.ks.gov

    Help us fight back against this unacceptable and disgusting ideology. Click HERE to send your Senators a message in support of the Marijuana Justice Act, which would deschedule marijuana and begin to dial back the devastating impact our nation’s war on marijuana has had on communities across the country.

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

    3410000930_95fc2866fa_zOklahoma voters will decide this June on State Question 788 — a statewide ballot measure legalizing the use, cultivation, and distribution of medical cannabis to qualified patients.

    Oklahomans will vote on the issue on June 26 during the primary election. Republican Mary Fallin set the date via an executive proclamation, issued yesterday.

    State Question 788 permits physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to patients at their discretion. Patients possessing a state-issued medical license are permitted to engage in cannabis possession or cultivation, or they purchase marijuana products from a licensed dispensary.

    Initiative proponents gathered sufficient signatures to place the issue before voters in 2016. However, the vote was postponed because of litigation over contested ballot title language. In a 7 to 1 ruling in April, justices rejected the state attorney general’s rewording of the initiative’s ballot title, which proponents had argued was purposely misleading, and ordered that the measure’s initial language be restored.

    Under Oklahoma law, the cultivation or distribution of cannabis is classified as a felony offense punishable by up to life in prison.

    Proponents of separate statewide medical cannabis initiatives are gathering signatures in Missouri and Utah. Proponents of a medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota have turned in their signatures and are awaiting a review by the Secretary of State’s office. In November, proponents of a voter initiative effort to legalize and regulate the personal use and retail sale of cannabis in Michigan turned in more than 360,000 signatures in an effort to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot.

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