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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 3, 2010

    [Friday morning update!] In California, voters decided 46 percent to 54 percent, against Prop. 19, which sought to legalize the adult possession of limited quantities of marijuana in private, and to allow for local governments to regulate its commercial production and retail distribution. The 46+ percent (3,471,308 million Californians) voting ‘yes’ on Prop. 19 marks the greatest percentage of citizen support ever recorded on a statewide marijuana legalization effort.

    Commenting on the vote, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said that marijuana legalization is no longer a matter of ‘if,’ but a matter of ‘when.’

    “Social change doesn’t happen overnight, and in this case we are advocating for the repeal of a criminal policy that has existed for over 70 years federally and for nearly 100 years in California,” he said. “We are taking on the establishment and those who have vested interests in maintaining this longstanding failed policy. Yet, despite these odds, we have momentum and an unparalleled coalition of supporters – from law enforcement personnel, to civil rights groups, to organized labor, to lawyers, clergy, and public health professionals. In just a few short months, this campaign moved public opinion forward nationally, and led to the signing of historic legislation here in California that will end the arrest and prosecution of tens of thousands of minor marijuana offenders.”

    He continued: “Throughout this campaign, even our opponents conceded that America’s present marijuana prohibition is a failure. They recognize that the question now isn’t ‘Should be legalize and regulate marijuana,’ but ‘How should we legalize and regulate marijuana?’”

    He concluded: “In the near future there will be a slew of other states deciding on measures similar to Prop. 19 in their state houses and at the ballot box. And no doubt here in California, lawmakers in 2011 will once again be debating this issue, as will the voters in 2012.

    Backers of the measure have already announced plans for a similar campaign in 2012.

    In Arizona, voters are narrowly against Proposition 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which would permit state-registered patients to obtain cannabis legally from licensed facilities. But the gap is closing. As of Friday morning, the the race still remains too close to call, with Prop. 203 is trailing by less than 4,000 votes. With as many as 300,000 ballots and provisional ballots left to be counted, it could be several more days before election officials make an official decision. The proposal is sponsored by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, an affiliate of the Marijuana Policy Project. Learn more about Proposition 203 here: http://stoparrestingpatients.org/home/.

    In South Dakota, voters decided against Measure 13, the South Dakota Safe Access Act, which sought to exempt state criminal penalties for state-authorized patients who possessed marijuana. South Dakota voters had previously rejected a similar proposal in 2006. It is the only state where voters have ever decided against a medical marijuana legalization initiative.

    In Oregon, voters decided against Measure 74, The Oregon Regulate Medical Marijuana Supply System Act of 2010, which sought to create state-licensed not-for-profit facilities to assist in the production and distribution of marijuana to qualified patients. Oregon voters initially authorized the physician-authorized use of marijuana in 1998. Several states, including Colorado, New Mexico, and Maine, have enacted statewide regulations licensing the production and dispensing of medical cannabis.

    In other election developments that are pertinent to marijuana law reformers, California Democrat Kamala Harris is still narrowly leading Republican Steven Cooley for the office of state Attorney General. As of Friday morning, Harris is leading Cooley by less than one tenth of one percentage point (some 9,000 total votes) with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Yet with over two million ballots still left to count, The L.A. Times today reports, “With such a slim gap, the race for California’s top law enforcement office remained too close to call, and a clear winner may not emerge for days or even weeks.” Cooley is opposed by many marijuana reform organizations, including Americans for Safe Access, for his public opposition to medical marijuana, and his contention that any retail sale of medical cannabis is in violation of state law.

    Also, in California, voters approved citywide ordinances in Albany (Measure Q), Berkeley (Measure S), La Puente (Prop. M), Oakland (Measure V), Rancho Cordova (Measure O), Richmond, Sacramento (Measure C), San Jose (Measure U), Stockton (Measure I) to impose new taxes on medical marijuana sales and/or production and businesses licenses. California NORML, along with several other reform groups, specifically opposed the Rancho Cordova measure as an excessive penalty on medical cannabis growers. Groups were divided in their support of many of the other local proposals.

    Voters in Berkeley also approved a separate ordinance (Measure T) to permit a fourth medical marijuana dispensary in the city and reconstitute the city’s Medical Marijuana Commission Voters in Morro Bay and Santa Barbara rejected proposed municipal bans on dispensaries.

    New Mexico voters elected Republican Susan Martinez to be the state’s next Governor. While campaigning for the office, Martinez voiced opposition to the state’s medical cannabis law, which since 2007 has allowed the state Department of Health to authorize medical marijuana users and third party, not-for-profit providers.

    In Vermont, Democrat Peter Shumlin narrowly leads in the Governor’s race, with 91 percent of precincts reporting. While serving as state senator, Shumlin has been an advocate for both medical marijuana and decriminalization.

    Connecticut voters have narrowly elected Democrat Dan Malloy for Governor. However, as of Friday morning, his Republican challenger Tom Foley appears ready to legally challenge the vote count. Malloy reportedly supports decriminalizing marijuana for adults, and also supports the legalization of medical cannabis. Malloy’s predecessor, Republican M. Jodi Rell, vetoed legislation in 2007 that would have allowed for the legal use of marijuana by those authorized by their physician.

    In Massachusetts, voters in over 70 cities and towns decided favorably on non-binding public policy questions regarding the taxation of the adult use of marijuana and the legalization of the physician-supervised use of medical cannabis. Approximately 13 percent of the state’s registered voters weighed in on the questions.

    Finally, Dane County (Madison), Wisconsin voters resoundingly backed a non-binding local initiative that asked, “Should the Wisconsin Legislature enact legislation allowing residents with debilitating medical conditions to acquire and possess marijuana for medical purposes if supported by their physician?” Seventy-five percent of voters decided ‘yes’ on the measure. In recent years, Wisconsin has been a highly contested battleground state in the fight for medical cannabis access.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 2, 2010

    It’s on. Voters across the nation are taking to the polls.

    NORML will be closely following today’s election results — from the historic vote on California’s Prop. 19, to the statewide votes in Arizona (Prop. 203), Oregon (Measure 74), and South Dakota (Measure 13).

    NORML’s podcast producer Russ Belville will be broadcasting election day and night coverage live from the Prop. 19 Campaign headquarters, starting at approximately 1pm pst. You may view the stream here.

    You can also keep up-to-date on the latest election news via NORML’s facebook page here.

    Finally, in related polling news, a just-released national survey from Angus Reid finds that a plurality of Americans (42 percent) “believe the proposition’s passage would be good for the country,” while only 33 percent disagree.

    In other words, the nation is watching — and rooting — for Prop. 19.

    The polls close at 8pm California; let’s get busy!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 1, 2010

    In California, voters will decide Proposition 19, The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, which legalizes the adult possession of limited quantities of marijuana for adults in private, and allows local governments to regulate its commercial production and retail distribution. If passed, the measure would be the most expansive modern law ever enacted regarding the adult use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

    Learn more about Prop. 19 here: http://yeson19.com.

    In Arizona, voters will decide Proposition 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which permits state-registered patients to obtain cannabis legally from licensed facilities. Authorized patients who do not have a state-licensed dispensary in their local area (defined as within 25 miles of their residence) would be permitted under the law to cultivate their own cannabis for medicinal purposes. Other patients would not be allowed to grow their own marijuana.

    Learn more about Proposition 203 here: http://stoparrestingpatients.org/home/.

    In South Dakota, voters will decide Measure 13, the South Dakota Safe Access Act, which exempts state criminal penalties for state-authorized patients who possess up to one ounce of marijuana or six cannabis plants. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted medical marijuana laws since 1996; ten have done so by voter initiative.

    Learn more about Measure 13 here: http://sdcompassion.org/.

    In Oregon, voters will decide Measure 74, The Oregon Regulate Medical Marijuana Supply System Act of 2010, which creates state-licensed not-for-profit facilities to assist in the production and distribution of marijuana to qualified patients. Oregon voters initially authorized the physician-authorized use of marijuana in 1998. Several states, including Colorado, New Mexico, and Maine, have enacted statewide regulations licensing the production and dispensing of medical cannabis.

    Learn more about Measure 74 here: http://coalitionforpatientsrights2010.com/.

    In Massachusetts, voters in 73 cities and towns will decide November 2 on non-binding public policy questions regarding the taxation of the adult use of marijuana and the legalization of the physician-supervised use of medical cannabis. Approximately 13 percent of the state’s registered voters will be weighing in on the questions. The results will likely influence the language of a proposed statewide, binding ballot measure in 2012.

    Learn more about this campaign here: http://www.masscann.org/.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 16, 2010

    [Note: Bob Newland will be our guest on NORML SHOW LIVE this Thursday 8/19 – live.norml.org at 4pm ET / 1pm PT.]

    Twelve months ago, long time South Dakota NORML activist Bob Newland was legally barred by a state judge from engaging in any public advocacy for cannabis law reform while on probation for a marijuana possession offense. Newland’s First Amendment stripping sentence was all the more egregious given Bob’s high profile role in this November’s statewide ballot initiative campaign (‘Yes on 13’) to legalize the medical use of marijuana for qualified patients.

    After months of coerced silence, Bob has finally been unshackled and may once again enjoy his Constitutional right to advocate for rational and compassionate marijuana policies. And he isn’t wasting any time. His op/ed below, published last week in The Rapid City Journal, provides details on Bob’s court-ordered exile, and offers insight as to why he continues to articulately and passionately advocate for cannabis liberation. Bob’s comparison to Galileo, the renowned astronomer who spent decades under house arrest for daring to acknowledge publicly that the Earth revolved around the sun, is disturbingly appropriate.

    Marijuana prohibition aids few
    via The Rapid City Journal

    My tongue was bound. My typing fingers were paralyzed. On July 6, 2009, these acts were performed by a circuit court judge because I am a visible and ardent advocate of informed personal discretion regarding one’s choice of intoxicant or medical palliative.

    … Contrary to the beliefs of many, there is plenty of precedent for court-ordered suppression of the truth. Often recalled is the 40-year house arrest imposed on Galileo for pointing out that the Earth revolved around the sun. Millions were burned to death for less.

    I’m 62 years old. For 44 years I have observed the incalculably stupid custom of arresting people for possession of a demonstrably beneficial, easily cultivated herb. During the past 20 years alone, over 16 million people have been arrested on marijuana charges in this country, over 12 million of them for simple possession only.

    My statistics are understated, purposefully, because most people apparently can’t face how destructive cannabis prohibition has been. It’s been estimated that each arrest has cost the taxpayers of its jurisdiction a minimum of $500. If that were the extent of the damage, prohibition would be a bargain.

    It has become common practice for law enforcement to seize peoples’ cash, possessions and children, often based on only an accusation of cannabis use. Those convicted bear an undeserved social and income-reducing stigma for the rest of their lives. No one in government or the financial industry is immune to the lure of the inconceivable amount of cash generated by the prohibited substance trade in general, of which cannabis is the most prevalent. Children find it easier to obtain “prohibited” substances than they do tobacco and alcohol, because the nature of prohibition is to subsidize an unregulated and untaxed market.

    As for every politician who endorses prohibition, every judge who sentences someone for possession, every cop who arrests someone for possession; they all are awash in the blood of the 23,000 Mexicans who have been killed in the civil war over drug turf in Mexico during the past three years, and in the less visible detritus of the lives they have shattered senselessly.

    … In a twisted and particularly cruel way of parsing the matter, which above all else is the hallmark of prohibition logic, it makes sense for government to stifle the truth.

    You can read Bob’s entire commentary here.

    And if you reside in South Dakota, you can join with Bob and The South Dakota Coalition for Compassion by voting ‘yes’ this November on Prop. 13 — The South Dakota Safe Access Act.

    Bob has done — and continues to do — his part for marijuana law reform. Have you done yours?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 3, 2010

    The November election is shaping up to be one of the most important in modern history as it pertains to the struggle to end marijuana prohibition.

    Voters in several states will have the opportunity this fall to decide on ballot measures to significantly reform their state or municipal marijuana laws. To date, the following initiatives have been certified to appear on the November ballot:

    California: In what is arguably the most significant marijuana law reform measure in several decades, California voters will decide on The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. The measure would allow adults 21 years or older to possess, share or transport up to one ounce of cannabis for personal consumption, and to cultivate the plant in an area of not more than twenty-five square feet per private residence. (Read the full text here.) The act would also permit local governments to authorize the retail sale of marijuana or the commercial cultivation of cannabis to adults and to impose taxes on such sales. Personal marijuana cultivation or not-for-profit sales of marijuana would not be taxed under the measure, nor would it alter or amend any aspect of the California Health and Safety code pertaining to the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

    According to the most recent statewide poll on the issue, Californians support the measure 49 percent to 41 percent.

    South Dakota: South Dakota voters will decide this November on Measure 13, The South Dakota Safe Access Actwhich would exempt state criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana or six plants by authorized patients. (Read the full text here.) If enacted, South Dakota would become the fifteenth state since 1996 to legalize the medical use of marijuana.

    Oregon: Voters are anticipated to decide this November on a statewide measure to authorize the creation of non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries, which would be legally able to distribute cannabis provided by private growers. (Read the full text here.) Proponents of the measure turned in over 110,000 signatures in favor of the act to the Secretary of State Elections Division in May, and are awaiting certification.

    In 2009, Maine voters became the first to approve a ballot measure authorizing medical marijuana dispensaries. Oregon voters initially approved the legalization of medical marijuana in 1998.

    Arizona: Election officials on Tuesday affirmed that proponents of a statewide ballot measure to allow for authorized patients to possess and purchase medical cannabis from state-licensed facilities has qualified for the 2010 November ballot. (Read the full text here.) Under the proposed measure, state-registered patients would be permitted to obtain cannabis legally from licensed dispensaries. Authorized patients who do not have a facility in their local area (defined as within 25 miles of their residence) would be permitted under the law to cultivate their own cannabis for medicinal purposes. Other patients would not be allowed to grow their own marijuana.

    The ballot measure is sponsored by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, an affiliate of the Marijuana Policy Project.

    Detroit, Michigan: Detroit citizens are expected vote this November on a municipal measure to prohibit the criminal prosecution of adults who possess minor amounts of marijuana. If enacted, the measure would amend the Detroit City Code to remove criminal penalties for “the use or possession of less then one ounce of marijuana, on private property, by anyone who has attained the age of 21 years.” Voters have previously enacted similar municipal measures in several other cities, including Denver, Colorado.

    Washington: Sensible Washington proponents continue to collect signatures in favor of I-1068, which would remove state civil and criminal penalties for persons eighteen years or older who cultivate, possess, transport, sell, or use marijuana. (Read the full text here.) To qualify the act for the November ballot, supporters must turn over 241,000 valid signatures by July 2, 2010.

    According to a poll of 1,252 registered voters conducted last week, 52 percent of adults support the measure, and only 35 percent oppose it.

    Oregon: Proponents of The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) must turn in over 110,000 signatures by July 2 to qualify the measure for the November 2010 ballot. OCTA seeks to permit the state-licensed production and sale of marijuana to adults. Oregon NORML is sponsoring the campaign, and is seeking volunteers here.

    NORML will continue to keep you updated as additional statewide or municipal ballot proposals qualify to the November ballot.

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