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  • by Norm Kent, NORML Board of Directors December 15, 2018

    home cultivationWriting from Key West last week, where I addressed the 35thannual legal conference of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, I was fishing not only for Blue Marlin, but justice.

    Two years ago, Florida citizens voted for and passed a constitutional amendment allowing our residents to use marijuana medicinally.

    The law passed overwhelmingly, with nearly 72 percent of the vote. No recount was required.  In this hotly contested and partisan state, no candidate running for statewide office won with that much of a majority. Candidate “Cannabis” garnered more votes than every Tom, Dick, and Sally running for office.

    Two years later though, there are few, if any, dispensaries on your corner. Two years later, the city commissions are still passing moratoriums on them. They are negligently joined at the hip by irresponsible legislators failing to fulfill their legal duties. The will of the electorate is inexcusably and unjustifiably being denied.

    Governor-elect Ron DeSantis has honorably stated that the legislature has a duty and obligation to implement a regulatory scheme, which carries out the will of the people.

    While DeSantis also said he does not support legalization, he has committed himself publicly to seeing Florida citizens be allowed access to medical marijuana.

    The incoming governor can take the first step by directing his new Attorney General to stop fighting a legal battle in the courts designed to prevent actual cannabis, the flowered plant, to be sold at dispensaries. Under the guidelines authored by Florida’s legislature, you can only buy cannabis oil and edibles. Folks, this “no smoke” is a joke.

    Let’s be real. When you, me and nearly 72 percent of all voters cast your ballots to make medical marijuana available, we meant the flowered plant, not a stool sample. You voted to enact a constitutional amendment, which provided for medical marijuana to be reasonably accessible to citizens of our state. You are entitled to make your vote matter.

    Unfortunately, the state legislature failed to enact your directive. It fraudulently fashioned rules forbidding dispensary owners from selling actual cannabis. Instead of partnering with a new industry wisely, it has created obstacles foolishly.

    The licensees empowered to open dispensaries have paid the state millions of dollars to cultivate cannabis lawfully. They have purchased large tracts of land to initiate outdoor grows. They have acquired enormous warehouse bays to produce high-grade, hydroponically grown marijuana. They are getting screwed, too. They can’t sell it and we can’t buy it.

    We are all tired of having to buy cannabis illegally on street corners. We are sick of watching our friends stupidly go to jail for purchasing a product we are now allowing the state to collect money from. Let’s get our act together. Let’s demand a change.

    Marijuana initiatives are passing all over the country. States are proactively enacting them, not foolishly postponing them. Seven more states joined the fold in November.

    In Florida, attorney John Morgan, out of Orlando, has led the battle to medicalize marijuana. With groups like the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, People United for Medical Marijuana and Regulate Florida also championing this cause, the citizenry of our state has spoken powerfully for medical pot.

    It is sheer foolishness and remarkable stupidity for politicians to oppose what is clearly a green wave sweeping across America.  Polling now suggests 65 percent of all Americans want pot legalized. Across America, 32 states have now decriminalized, medicalized, or legalized pot.

    It has taken nearly half a century, but now more than half of America is on our side. We have come a long way. If you stand your ground though, and there abide, the world will eventually come around to you.

    Marijuana use never should have been criminalized, and cannabis consumers never should have become criminals. Pot always was and still is a simple herb with medicinal uses and recreational qualities. It was never an evil which would end the world. To fulfill their own political agendas, our leaders lied to us. Surprise.

    The war against pot has been a waste of national resources, destroying lives, jailing good people, and diluting valuable law enforcement resources. It has been almost 50 years since the one-time governor of Pennsylvania, Raymond Schaefer, a Republican, released a report recommending that the federal government decriminalize the personal use of marijuana.

    Today, even the former speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, another Republican, works in the cannabis industry marketing legal marijuana for private entrepreneurs.

    In the United States Congress, we must once and for all end the legal farce that permits cannabis to be listed as a Schedule 1 drug with “no accepted medical uses.” This regulation is why 18-year-old kids in 18 states across this country are still having to post bail for using pot.

    Reasonable access to medical marijuana is now the law of our state, and if our city commissioners and state legislators don’t enact ordinances to provide for it promptly, they are the ones who should be held accountable at the ballot box.

    The failure of our state to make medical cannabis easily accessible in 2018 has inspired a new initiative for 2020. The next ballot amendment will ask you to support statewide legalization. Until then, we have a right to mandate that the constitutional amendment of 2016 be implemented fairly.

    If you cannot acquire medicinal pot in our state today, the only ones who belong in jail are the legislators who are failing to carry out your directives, entered at voting booths across this state two years ago. Lock them up, not you.

    As for you, there is no doubt. If you are a patient, you should be able to go into a dispensary and acquire cannabis lawfully. We as a people have decreed it as our legal right.

    Fighting for legal marijuana has always been a civil rights cause, more now than ever. Your right. Your body. Your choice.  No one can or should be allowed to stand in your way. Stand up and let your voice and votes be heard from South Florida to Tallahassee.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 1, 2018

    NORML Recommends:
    YES on Amendment 2
    NO on Amendment 3
    NO on Proposition C

    Voters this November have the opportunity to make Missouri the 32nd state to allow for the physician-recommended use of marijuana, and based on the latest polling data, they will likely do so.

    Therefore, the important question before voters is no longer if the Show-Me State should legalize medical cannabis access, but how Missouri will do so.

    That is because not one, not two, but three medical marijuana measures (two constitutional amendments and one statutory measure) will appear on the ballot on Election Day. But not all of these measures are created equal, and it will be up to voters to decide which one of these three is ultimately in the best interest of Missouri’s patients.

    On Election Day, NORML urges voters to stand with New Approach Missouri and vote “yes” for Amendment 2. Quite simply, Amendment 2 — unlike its competitors — puts the interests of patients first.

    Amendment 2 will let doctors — not legislators or bureaucrats — decide if marijuana is the appropriate option for their patients. Every day, we entrust physicians to use their discretion with regard to assisting their patients in making the right decisions. Amendment 2 upholds the sanctity of the patient-doctor relationship and leaves these important medical treatment decisions up to those who know best: Missouri’s practicing physicians.

    While a competing effort, Amendment 3, proposes the highest tax rate in the nation for medical cannabis products sold at retail (15%), Amendment 2 would set one of the lowest. The revenue raised by the retail sale of medical cannabis will go directly to the Missourian Veterans’ Health and Care Fund and will be used to help provide those in the state who put their lives on the line with necessary health services.

    While much has been written about the obvious flaws of the competing constitutional amendment, Amendment 3, these criticisms are worth repeating. While Amendment 2 is supported by a diverse coalition of patient advocates, Amendment 3 was funded entirely by one person, who drafted his amendment for his own personal benefit. It also puts this same funder largely in charge of overseeing the state’s medical marijuana program. This is hardly in the best interest of Missouri patients.

    Amendment 2, on the other hand, places the program’s oversight in the hands of the Missouri Department of Health. It also creates a robust statewide system for production and distribution of medical cannabis, with strict deadlines in place to ensure that qualified patients do not have to unduly wait for dispensaries to become operational.

    Finally, and most importantly, Amendment 2 is a constitutional amendment, which makes it more resilient to legislative tampering and intervention. By contrast, lawmakers can choose to amend Proposition C largely at their discretion, regardless of what voters decide.

    If you read each of these proposals closely, one clear choice emerges. Amendment 2 creates a broad and patient-centric program that is designed to be implemented in a timely manner and withstand any legislative challenges along the way. The other two can’t say the same. Not all ballot measures are created equal and that is why we encourage all voters to support the superior one this Election Day. Vote YES on Amendment 2. Vote No on Amendment 3 and Prop C.

  • by NORML August 2, 2018

    The Oklahoma Board of Health reversed course this week and revoked their previous set of proposed rules that went against the intent of SQ 788, which voters approved in the June special election. The measure, which legalized medical marijuana in the state, was approved with support from 57% of voters.

    After SQ 788’s passage, the board initially attempted to meddle with its implementation, passing rules that would have banned or severely restricted key components of the ballot question – including a ban on the retail sale of herbal cannabis, a requirement that dictated that dispensaries hire state-licensed pharmacists, and an arbitrary limit on the THC content of medical cannabis products. These former proposed rules have all been reversed.

    “The actions taken by an unelected group of health officials in Oklahoma were egregiously undemocratic. We are heartened to see them now reverse course, but they should have never attempted to meddle with a voter approved measure in the first place. It is our hope that state officials take heed at the nearly unanimous backlash they faced due to these actions and move to swiftly enact SQ 788 in the patient-centric manner the ballot language called for,” commented NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri.

    This reversal comes shortly after the state’s Attorney General warned health officials that they “acted in excess of their statutory authority” when they amended State Question 788. These new rules now go to Governor Fallin’s desk, she has 45 days to approve or reject them.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 3, 2018

    Proponents of a proposed 2018 medicalization initiative have gathered an estimated 160,000 signatures and appear poised to place the measure on the November ballot.

    Last week, a representative from the Lt. Governor’s Office said that officials have already validated 117,000 signatures from registered voters — more than than the 113,000 necessary to qualify for the state ballot. Proponents of the measure, the Utah Patients Coalition, still have approximately two more weeks to collect additional signatures.

    The Utah Medical Cannabis Act permits qualified patients to obtain either herbal cannabis or cannabis-infused products from a limited number state-licensed dispensaries.

    In recent days, both the Utah Medical Association and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert have publicly opined against the measure. Nonetheless, public support in favor of the initiative remains strong, with 77 percent of Utahns either “strongly” or “somewhat” endorsing the plan, according to a March UtahPolicy.com poll.

    In 2014, Utah became the first non-medical cannabis state to explicitly permit qualified patients to possess CBD-infused products. However, that law provided no legal in-state supply source or distribution for the products. This legislative session, lawmakers approved separate legislation permitting the Department of Agriculture and Food to contract with a third party to cultivate cannabis for the purpose of manufacturing marijuana-infused oils and other related products, but only for those patients who are terminally ill.

    Utah is one of at least four states where voters are anticipated to decide later this year on marijuana-related ballot proposals. Oklahoma voters will decide on June 26 whether or not to approve State Question 788 — a broad-based initiative that permits physicians to recommend medical cannabis to patients at their sole discretion. NORML endorsed State Question 788 in January. In Michigan, proponents of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act have turned in more than 360,000 signatures in an effort to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot. State officials must certify a total of 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters. According to a March 2018 EPIC-MRA poll, and commissioned by Michigan NORML, 61 percent of voters say that they would vote ‘yes’ on the measure “if the election were held today.” In Missouri, backers of a voter initiated effort to legalize and regulate the therapeutic use and distribution of cannabis statewide have surpassed well over 200,000 signatures. Advocates must collect a total of 160,000 qualified signatures in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts by May 6, 2018 in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 electoral ballot.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director March 20, 2018

    One development in our federal government that got a bit lost in the flurry of other headlines this week is that House and Senate leaders are putting the last minute touches on an omnibus appropriations package that would fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year.

    Something that many in the marijuana policy space have grown to take for granted is the continuation of a rider that was part of last year’s package known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which strips away funding from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the rest of the Department of Justice to prosecute state-lawful medical marijuana programs.

    Tell your federal officials to maintain this common sense protection for the 30 state medical marijuana programs and the 2,000,000 plus registered patients nationwide.

    AG Sessions wants nothing more than to see these protections go away. In a letter he sent to Congressional leadership last year, he wrote: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

    In the past month, NORML has worked with Representatives Rohrabacher and Blumenauer in recruiting 60 additional members of Congress to cosign a letter of their own to Congressional leadership, which states, “We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws. We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people.”

    Given the immense dysfunction in Washington, it is absolutely crucial that Congress not give AG Sessions another inch in his powers to roll back our progress. Further, with ballot initiatives expected in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah later this year, we cannot give our opponents another reason to sow doubt. Send a message now to maintain these protections this week in order to ensure that we’re well positioned to win further victories in the days and weeks to come.

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