• by Mary Kruger, Executive Director, Roc NORML; Director, NY NORML April 1, 2019

    By: Jason Klimek, Esq., Legal Advisor to Roc NORML, and Mary Kruger, Start SMART NY Coalition Member and Executive Director of Roc NORML

    Sixty-five percent of New York residents support the legalization of cannabis. Democrats control the Governor’s office as well as majorities in both the Assembly and the Senate for the first time in a decade. After repeated calls over by politicians to pass adult-use as part of New York’s budget, New Yorkers are waking up on April 1st to find out that they’ve been the subject of, what looks like, an April Fool’s Day prank, several months in the making. Cannabis legalization was not included in the 2019 – 2020 New York State Budget.

    Both the legislature and the Governor’s office, after hearing New Yorkers’ opinions, have repeatedly stated cannabis legislation must address social justice concerns and avoid creating a cannabis economy that will allow large businesses to thrive to the detriment of small business. Focusing on social justice and small business will allow those communities that have been devastated by the failed war on drugs to participate in the cannabis economy and attempt to right the wrongs of the past. The longer New York waits, the less likely those goals will come to fruition. In the meantime, communities will continue to see their members arrested, prosecuted and jailed for cannabis-related offenses.

    Beyond the possibility that New York may see unified control disappear in upcoming elections, if New York to wait until 2020 or longer, the probability of federal legalization drastically increases. If federal legalization were to be implemented prior to New York legalization, small business will have absolutely no chance to compete against the largest businesses who have been operating legally in other states for years and have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars of investments.

    Even if New York were to legalize before the federal government, there continues to exist a high probability that New York will be surrounded by legal states, as Pennsylvania is introducing legislation to legalize, both Connecticut and Vermont are discussing the possibility of legalization, and New Jersey is sure to attempt to pass legislation again. Those surrounding states will create the markets in which small businesses will thrive and draw cannabis revenue to those states. The effect will be to deprive New York of the jobs and tax revenue while sticking New York with any issues that may arise from the legalization of cannabis.

    Legalization is still possible this year, but only if we continue to put the pressure on our elected officials to get it done. We have been talking a lot about the CRTA in the past few months, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, legislation drafted to legalize cannabis for adult-use, written by a team created by Governor Cuomo. This bill didn’t offer the social and racial justice, community reinvestment in a meaningful way, or consumer rights that we deserve. Our allies in the Senate and Assembly were willing to negotiate on some points, and agreed they couldn’t compromise on important issues for which New Yorkers voiced strong support:

    • The adult-use market must be created in a way that benefits and reinvests back into communities that have been most harmed and targeted in the War on Drugs

    • Provisions must be included that would build an equitable and diverse workforce, with meaningful and ownership level work in the industry

    • Restorative justice is included, in the form of sealing and resentencing past convictions for crimes that would now be legal after the legislation is passed

    • Provisions are included for home cultivation, allowing consumers and patients to grow their own cannabis if they wish; this is similar to the model we see in the thriving craft beer industry in New York

    The Start SMART NY campaign has been working with Senator Liz Krueger, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes for over five years on drafting legislation to legalize cannabis for adult-use in New York. They each sponsored companion legislation in the Assembly and Senate, the MRTA, or Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act. These allies in the Senate and Assembly have been working tirelessly with experts to create smart, sustainable legislation that offers marijuana justice and legalization, and we need to help them continue to do this work now, more than ever, and get this bill perfected and passed by the end of the legislative session in June.

    While the MRTA isn’t perfect legislation, it has about 90% of what we’re hoping to see the final draft have; compared to the CRTA which only have about 50% of what we’re hoping to see. The rhetoric from the Governor’s office last month about this issue being rushed because we just started having these conversations simply aren’t true; the MRTA is on its fourth draft and was originally introduced in both the Senate and Assembly five years ago. These conversations have been happening and our allies are willing to negotiate with the Governor, but he needs to do just that – negotiate.

    We must see the legislation rooted in justice, equity and restitution back into communities that have been devastated from the War on Drugs. When folks ask why, the answers are quite simple:

    Marijuana prohibition has not been effective in stopping or remotely curbing marijuana usage. Marijuana remains the most widely used illegal substance nationally, with half of Americans admitting having tried the substance in their lifetime. Despite this widespread experimental user, the rate of regular use has not changed significantly since the 1980s, steadily remaining at about 1 in 8 Americans – despite significant increases in enforcement over that time.

    Marijuana prohibition has not increased public safety. According to a Human Rights Watch report published in 2012, people who enter the criminal justice system with an arrest for public possession of marijuana are no more likely to be threats to public safety than someone who has not been arrested.

    Marijuana prohibition has been disproportionately enforced in communities of color and has led to devastating collateral consequences. An arrest and conviction for a marijuana offense can prohibit individuals from fully participating in society, inhibiting their ability to get a loan, get a job, go to college, or to access public housing, among other negative impacts. Statewide, people of color have borne these collateral consequences at alarming rates, with Black and Latino people representing 80% of those arrested for simple possession in 2016 alone, despite equal rates of use across populations.

    Marijuana decriminalization is not enough. New York State first decriminalized personal marijuana possession in 1977—yet more than 800,000 people have been arrested for low-level marijuana possession in the past 20 years alone. Although New York officials, including Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, have previously recognized these arrests as ineffective, unjust, and racially discriminatory, they still continue across the state because of a loophole in the law. Ending prohibition would end these arrests.

    Ending marijuana prohibition is a cost-saving measure. Legalizing marijuana will drastically improve the state’s ability to make investments that benefit and advance all New Yorkers, such as education, housing, and infrastructure. In 2010, New York spent more than $650 million enforcing marijuana prohibition. Those resources went to increased policing in communities of color, resulting in more than 50,000 marijuana arrests for simple possession that year, usually only for small amounts of marijuana.

    Visit http://smart-ny.com/join/petition/ to sign the petition now and pressure our lawmakers in Albany to pass smart legislation, this year. Another New Yorker’s life shouldn’t be ruined while we have folks right here in New York making money from selling the same plant.

    Go to norml.org/action-center/item/new-york-demand-support-for-marijuana-legalization and send a pre-written email to your lawmakers, urging them to support this effort.

    Go to vote.norml.org and find your New York State Assembly Member and Senator. Then call and tell them you want to see smart legislation passed, and you support the MRTA, sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

    Now is not the time to back down – now is the time for the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers who support legalization to make our voices heard loud and clear; we demand marijuana justice and legalization, and we won’t stop until we get it.


    Start SMART NY – Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade – is the campaign dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition in New York. We believe that it is time to stop the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition and to create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice.

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate March 25, 2019

    Big news out of Connecticut today, as a bill to legalize the adult-use and retail sale of marijuana has passed through a critical vote in the General Law Committee with a 10-8 majority. In addition to legalizing adult-use and establishing a regulated retail market, the bill also includes strong social justice language that incentivizes minority participation in the state’s marijuana market. It also establishes a commission that would be tasked with studying the impacts of provisions not already included in the legislation, such as homegrow and microbusinesses.

    Next up for the bill is a vote in the state legislature’s Judiciary Committee on Thursday, March 28th. Should it pass through committee and successfully pass a floor vote, the bill will go to the governor’s desk. Governor Lamont has been very vocal about his support for marijuana legalization in the state, frequently referring to reform as one of his administration’s top legislative priorities.

    If Connecticut successfully passes and enacts marijuana legalization into law, it would become the first state to pass a regulatory framework for the retail sale of marijuana through the state legislature, rather than as a ballot measure for popular vote.

    Major reform is within reach in Connecticut. If you’re a Connecticut resident, click here to send a message to your state lawmakers in urgent support of legalization!


  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate March 20, 2019

    In some big news out of New Jersey, several marijuana reform bills have been voted out of their committees and are awaiting floor votes.

    Senate Bill 2703 and Assembly Bill 4497 have both passed out of their committees and are set to be voted on as early as Monday, March 25th. These bills would legalize the personal possession of one ounce or less of cannabis and would regulate and tax the adult-use and retail sale. Some highlights of this landmark legislation are-

    • Expedited expungement of past misdemeanor marijuana convictions
    • Taxing marijuana sales at three-percent, which will be collected by or paid to municipalities wherever retail stores exist
    • Incentives to promote socio-economic, racial, and gender equity in the state’s cannabis industry

    Governor Phil Murphy, one of the driving forces of marijuana legalization in the state since taking office in January, has already signaled his intent to sign a legalization bill once it gets to his desk. However, the margins in the New Jersey State Legislature are still very close, with a slight majority of the legislators being in favor of legalizing marijuana for adult-use in the state. With several state lawmakers still on the fence about legalization, input from residents of New Jersey is of paramount importance. Legalizing marijuana would result in dozens of positive impacts for New Jerseyans and cannot happen without the support of reform-minded residents who are committed to personal freedom in New Jersey.

    Are you a New Jersey resident? Click here to send a message to your legislators in support of legalizing marijuana in the Garden State.


    Other legislation, Senate Bill 3205 and Assembly Bill A4498 have both passed out of their committees and are awaiting scheduled votes. These bills would allow for the expedited expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions after marijuana legalization is signed into law in New Jersey. It reduces the wait time for expungement and expands the list of convictions eligible for expungement upon marijuana legalization in the state.

    Are you a New Jersey resident? Click here to send a message to your legislators in support of this effort.


    Separate legislation, Senate Bill S10 and Assembly Bill A10 have both passed out of their committees and are awaiting scheduled votes. These bills would expand the state’s medical marijuana program to allow for greater accessibility and protections for qualified patients. It increases the amount of medical cannabis a qualified patient is legally allowed to purchase and possess, protects patients from losing their jobs or custody of their children simply because of their status as a medical patient, and phases out retail sales taxes on medical marijuana to make the program more affordable for patients.

    Are you a New Jersey resident? Click here to send a message to your legislators in support of this effort.




  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director February 6, 2018

    When NORML was founded in late 1970, only 12% of the country supported legalizing marijuana; 88% were opposed to our goals. After decades of hard work by thousands of committed advocates like you, we have gradually won the hearts and minds of a majority of the public. Today, over 60 percent of adults nationwide support ending marijuana prohibition and establishing a regulated market where consumers can obtain marijuana in a safe and secure setting.

    We are certainly proud of the enormous progress we have made toward ending marijuana prohibition, especially the gains we have made over the last several years. Today, 30 states have legalized the medical use of marijuana; eight states and the District of Columbia have fully legalized the recreational use of marijuana. And we continue to add more victories each year.

    But legalization in Colorado means nothing to those who are arrested for simple possession in Georgia, just as a robust medical program in California means nothing to the cancer patient in North Carolina.

    So far this year, we are pushing for over 70 pieces of legislation and expect that number to easily eclipse 150 in the coming weeks.

    This is why your support is more important than ever and to show it, we’re bringing back the NORML membership cards.

    The goal at NORML is to achieve a policy under which responsible cannabis consumers are treated fairly in all aspects of their lives.

    First and foremost, our mission is to reform state and federal marijuana laws to ensure that no adult will ever face criminal or civil penalties for the responsible consumption of marijuana and that all Americans have the ability to access cannabis for medicinal use if recommended by their physician.

    However, just because more states have begun to legalize adult-use and medicinal marijuana doesn’t mean the fight is over; cannabis consumers are still being penalized and discriminated against in a number of ways.

    We believe that:

    It is wrong that consumers remain subject to job discrimination. Employers ought not to be able to fire employees solely for their off-job marijuana usage, just as employers are unable to sanction employees who consume alcohol after work or on the weekends.

    Marijuana consumers must not be subject to over-regulation and excessive taxation. Marijuana consumers want a product that is safe, convenient and affordable. We want the marijuana to be tested in a state-certified lab to assure it is free of molds and harmful pesticides, and we want accurate labelling of the THC and CBD levels.

    And parents all too often have to fight to maintain custody of their children. The mere fact that a parent chooses to consume marijuana must not be treated under the law as a presumption they are unfit parents.

    And thousands of drivers are arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, simply because they tested positive for some small amount of THC in their system, without the slightest evidence they were driving while impaired. NORML opposes the imposition of these zero-tolerance per se traffic safety laws and is lobbying for their repeal.

    So, as you can see, we still have lots of work ahead of us — even in those states that have enacted some form of marijuana legalization. “>Please join our fight today by becoming a card-carrying member of NORML.

  • 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.”


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