Members of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators recently resolved at their Annual Legislative Conference in favor of decriminalizing marijuana.
“Whereas state and local governments could potentially stand to save billions of dollars that they currently spend regulating marijuana use by decriminalizing the recreational use of marijuana, therefore be it resolved that the National Black Caucus of State Legislators recognizes the decision of the Administration to not challenge the choice made by citizens of these states, and urges the continued respect of state law, and encourages other states to consider decriminalization,” the Caucus resolved.
It added, “[The] NBCSL supports the states’ authority to make a determination as to what age, at or above 18, qualifies as a “legal adult” who may purchase, possess, or consume marijuana [and] … urges the federal government to reduce the penalties associated with the use and simple possession of marijuana.”
The 2014 resolution is LJE-14-40: Supporting States’ Rights to Decriminalize Marijuana Use.
A 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union reported that blacks nationwide were approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, even though both ethnic groups consumed the substance at similar rates.
The National Black Caucus of State Legislators represents more than more than 650 African-American legislators from 45 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands.
NORML filed an “amicus curiae” brief with the Massachusetts Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 18, urging the court to place more limits on police questioning and searches for possession of small amounts marijuana. Attorneys Steven S. Epstein, of Georgetown, and Marvin Cable, of Northampton, authored the brief.
In Western Massachusetts, a judge ruled that based on the odor of raw marijuana an officer could question the defendant about the presence of marijuana and seize a bag of marijuana at the direction of defendant in response to those questions. She reasoned, “a strong odor of marijuana to the officers training and experience triggered a suspicion that there was more than one ounce present.” That suspicion justified asking the Defendant about it and police entering his car to retrieve the marijuana he told them was there.
She further ruled that once police retrieved that bag they lacked the authority to search for more marijuana. She reasoned that a belief the bag was “probably” a criminal amount alone and combined with an officer’s characterization of the odor as “strong” amounted to nothing more than a “hunch.” She ordered the “other bags and the statements subsequently made by the defendant” could not be used at trial. The state appealed.
In its friend of the court brief, NORML reminds the Court of the precarious constitutionality of marijuana prohibition. It then proceeds to ask the Court to rule that: a police officer may not question a person about possible marijuana in his possession or control based only on the officer’s perception of odor, a civil violation in Massachusetts; and, that absent objectively reasonable evidence derived from weighing a bag suspected of containing over an ounce police may not detain, arrest or search a person or their possessions.
NORML argues the citizens of Massachusetts by voting to decriminalize an ounce or less of marijuana do not want police bothering people with anything more than a ticket when there are no articulated facts that a suspected possession of marijuana is criminal in nature. One of the intents of the decriminalization law was to free police to pursue more pressing issues than marijuana possession.
Oral argument in the case of Commonwealth v. Overmyer is scheduled for March 3, with a decision possible before the summer of 2014.
Polling data released today by Quinnipiac University revealed that a majority of Ohio voters support legalizing marijuana for recreational use and nearly 9 out of 10 support legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.
When asked if they supported or opposed allowing adults in Ohio to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use, 51% said they would support this policy and only 44% were opposed. Support was strongest amongst voters age 18-29 (72%), Independent voters (61%), and Democrats (54%) and weakest among Republicans (33%) and voters over the age of 65 (31%).
Essentially all voters stated they supported legalizing marijuana for medicinal use. 87% said they supported allowing marijuana for medical use and just 11% were opposed. No demographic had less than 78% support.
Rob Ryan, Ohio NORML President, is not surprised by the favorable Quinnipiac poll response. In his experience speaking to various non marijuana groups, even the most conservative citizens in south west Ohio, where Mr. Ryan lives, readily agree that marijuana is not a deadly, addictive drug with no medical use as it is defined by to be in the same class as heroin by state and federal law.
You can view the full results of the poll here.
On Friday, more than 40 state lawmakers in Maine co-signed a memo authored by State Representative Diane Russell that was delivered to the Appropriations & Financial Affairs Committee. The memo encouraged the committee to keep all options on the table in their upcoming financial deliberations, including potential tax revenue derived from an adult, non-medical market for marijuana.
“All options should be on the table,” Rep. Russell stated in the memo, “In this spirit, we propose committee members give serious consideration to the revenue options associated with legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis for responsible adult use.”
The memo was signed by prominent elected officials in the state including Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Allagash), House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham), Minority Whip Alex Willette (R-Mapleton), House Chair of Criminal Justice and Public Safety and former County Sheriff Rep. Mark Dion (D-Portland), and House Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Richard Farnsworth (D-Portland).
In 2013, the Maine House of Representatives fell just four votes short of approving a measure introduced by Rep. Russell which would have placed the issue of marijuana legalization before voters during the fall elections.
Last week, initial tax revenue estimates for the sales tax on recreational marijuana in Colorado were estimated to be just shy of 100 million dollars, far higher than the initial 70 million dollar estimate given to voters in 2012.
“Shenna Bellows has been at the forefront of the fight for marijuana legalization even before beginning this campaign,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “During her tenure leading the Maine ACLU, Shenna has demonstrated she has the skill and determination to fight for sensible reforms and has proven to be a vocal and articulate leader in calling for the end of marijuana prohibition. We believe she will be invaluable in the United States Senate to help move the country away from our failed war on marijuana and towards a new, smarter approach.”
“We need to end the war on drugs and reform our criminal justice system, and we cannot afford to wait. The United States incarcerates more people in total and more people per capita than any other country in the world, and the racial disparities are alarming,” Shenna Bellows wrote in a recent op-ed, “Even in my home state of Maine, which is the whitest state in the union, blacks are 2.1 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. Government spends billions of dollars each year enforcing counterproductive drug laws, which are truly the New Jim Crow. The economic and human rights costs are enormous.”
While we have long had support for marijuana law reform in the House of Representative, support in the Senate has long been harder to come by. In a recent interview with ThinkProgress, Ms. Bellows has made clear she looks to kickstart the movement for rational marijuana policy in the upper chamber of Congress.
“Right now on the Senate side, there doesn’t seem to be a leader who has the courage to move that forward,” Bellows said. “I would be that leader.”
You can donate to the NORML PAC to help elect pro-reform candidates nationwide here.
Most New York state voters support regulating the adult use of cannabis, while a super-majority endorse legalizing the plant for therapeutic purposes, according to a recently released Quinnipiac University poll.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents support “allowing adults in New York State to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Only 39 percent of respondents opposed the idea.
Respondents most likely to favor legalization include those age 18 to 29 (83 percent), Democrats (65 percent), those age 30 to 49 (61 percent), and men (63 percent). Support is significant lower among women (51 percent), Republicans (39 percent), and those over the age of 65 (38 percent).
On the issue of legalizing cannabis for therapeutic purposes, voter support rose to 88 percent — with the issue receiving super-majority support from respondents of every age and political affiliation.
In separate questions, only 13 percent of respondents say that they believe that cannabis is “more dangerous” than alcohol, and fewer than half believe that it is a ‘gateway’ to other illicit substance use.
The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points.
Legislation to legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of the plant — the “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act” — is pending in both the New York state Senate and the Assembly. Separate legislation to allow qualified patients to possess and purchase cannabis for therapeutic purposes also remains pending.
In January, Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who had previously expressed opposition to allowing for the medical use of cannabis — announced plans to use his executive powers to revive a dormant research program that would allow for the use of government-grown marijuana in select hospitals. However, efforts to reestablish similar programs in other states have not been effective.
Today, the Department of Justice and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network division of the Treasury Department released long anticipated guidance to banks and other financial institutions on how they can interact with marijuana businesses that are licensed under state law.
Under current regulations, financial institutions are required to file suspicious activity reports when they suspect the transaction has a drug connection. The new guidance creates a three tiered system for these reports: marijuana limited, marijuana priority, and marijuana termination. This will allow these institutions to work with marijuana businesses as long as they were operating in accordance with state laws and regulations. The Department of Justice reserved the right to pursue criminal charges when they suspect businesses are breaking the guidelines they released late last year and would still require banks to report any activity they suspect to be as operating outside of state regulations.
“Now that some states have elected to legalize and regulate the marijuana trade, FinCEN seeks to move from the shadows the historically covert financial operations of marijuana businesses,” noted FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery in a press release. “Our guidance provides financial institutions with clarity on what they must do if they are going to provide financial services to marijuana businesses and what reporting will assist law enforcement.”
“This reduces the burden on banks,” FinCEN stated during a briefing on the memo, “Marijuana under federal law requires a SAR. Now, the necessity is limited, reducing the banks’ burden a bit and more importantly clarifies where law enforcement focuses its attention.”
While this is a good start when it comes to allowing marijuana businesses to operate the same as those in any other regulated industry, memos such as these can be ultimately overturned by future administrations. To make this change lasting and binding, Congress must now act to codify it into law. The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act is currently pending before the House of Representatives and would do just that. You can click here to quickly and easily write your representative and urge him/her to support this important legislation.
Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) has introduced federal legislation, House Resolution 4046, to remove legal restrictions prohibiting the Office of National Drug Control Policy from researching marijuana legalization. These restrictions also require the office to oppose any and all efforts to liberalize criminal laws associated with the plant.
“Not only is the ONDCP the only federal office required by law to oppose rescheduling marijuana even if it is proven to have medical benefits, but it is also prohibited from studying if that could be even be true,” said Congressman Cohen. “The ONDCP’s job should be to develop and recommend sane drug control policies, not be handcuffed or muzzled from telling the American people the truth. How can we trust what the Drug Czar says if the law already preordains its position? My bill would give the ONDCP the freedom to use science—not ideology—in its recommendations and give the American people a reason to trust what they are told.”
These restrictions were placed on the Office of National Drug Control Policy by the Reauthorization Act of 1998, which mandates the ODCP director “shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that–
(A) is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and
(B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;”
You can quickly and easily contact your representative by clicking here.
Earlier today, 18 members of Congress signed onto a letter that was delivered to President Barack Obama calling for him to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
“We request that you take action to help alleviate the harms to society caused by the federal Schedule I classification of marijuana. Lives and resources are wasted on enforcing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws,” the letter reads, “Nearly two-thirds of a million people every year are arrested for marijuana possession. We spend billions every year enforcing marijuana laws, which disproportionately impact minorities. According to the ACLU, black Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable usage rates.”
The letter was signed by Representatives Blumenauer (OR), Cohen (TN), Farr (CA), Grijalva (AZ), Honda (CA), Huffman (CA), Lee (CA), Lofgren (CA), Lowenthal (CA), McGovern (MA), Moran (VA), O’Rourke (TX), Polis (CO), Quigley (IL), Rohrabacher (CA), Schakowsky (IL), Swalwell (CA), and Welch (VT).
“Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana,” the letter continued, “A Schedule I or II classification also means that marijuana businesses in states where adult or medical use are legal cannot deduct business expenses from their taxes or take tax credits due to Section 280E of the federal tax code. We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.”
You can read the full text of the letter here.
At a press conference this afternoon, State Senator Josh Miller (D-Cranston) and Representative Edith H. Ajello (D-Providence) will announce and discuss their proposed legislation that would make Rhode Island the third state in the country to legalize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis for adults.
This legislation would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to two marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked space. It would establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities.
“Rhode Island now joins over a dozen other state legislatures that are debating measures to legalize marijuana this year,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “A majority of Rhode Island voters, and Americans in general, support replacing our failed prohibition policy with one of regulation. Elected officials are wise to see that the desires of their constituents are being represented and we commend Representative Ajello and Senator Miller for being leaders on this issue.”
RHODE ISLAND RESIDENTS: Please consider calling your members of the state Senate and House of Representatives to urge them to co-sponsor this important legislation. Click here to find out who your elected officials are and their contact information.
Hi my name is (name), and I live in (city/town) in your legislative district. As you might know (Chairwoman Edith Ajello/Senator Josh Miller) is introducing a bill to tax, regulate, and control marijuana like alcohol. (He/She) is currently recruiting co-sponsors for this important bill. Our current policy of marijuana prohibition has been a total failure, and when something is broken, it needs to be fixed. Regulating marijuana is the right solution because it would take control away from illegal dealers, and it would help Rhode Island’s economy. I urge you to join (Chairwoman Ajello/Senator Miller) and co-sponsor this sensible legislation. Thank you.
NORML will keep you updated as this legislation moves forward.
Nearly 30 states, and the District of Columbia are considering marijuana law reform legislation this year, including bills that cover legalization for adults, decriminalization, medical marijuana and hemp. Some states have a variety of reform bills simultaneously pending such as Arizona which is considering legalization and decriminalization, and Pennsylvania which is considering legalization as well as medical marijuana legislation. Here’s a quick breakdown:
14 states are considering legalization: Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
12 states and the District of Columbia are considering decriminalization: Alabama, Arizona, DC, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wyoming.
11 states are considering legislation to establish effective medical marijuana programs: Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
3 states are considering allowing industrial hemp cultivation: Indiana, New York, and Tennessee.
Click here to access NORML’s Action Alerts and quickly and easily contact your elected officials to encourage their support of any pending reform bills. Be sure to keep checking NORML’s Take Action Center to see if your state has joined the list!
Alaska: Election Officials Affirm Legalization Measure Has Enough Signatures To Qualify For The 2014 Ballot
State election officials have affirmed that a proposed initiative to regulate the production and retail sale of cannabis to adults has obtained the necessary number of signatures from registered voters to appear on 2014 ballot.
The initiative’s proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska, gathered more than 45,000 signatures from registered Alaska voters. On Tuesday, the director of the Alaska’s Division of Elections confirmed that of those signatures, 31,593 have been verified, thus qualifying the measure for a public vote. The lieutenant governor’s office is expected to certify the measure for the 2014 ballot in the coming days, once all of the remaining signatures have been counted and verified.
Once certified, the initiative will be placed on the August 19 primary election ballot, as is required by Alaska election law.
If approved by voters, the measure would legalize the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants (three flowering) for personal consumption. The measure would also allow for the establishment of licensed, commercial cannabis production and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products to those over the age of 21. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis would be subject to taxation, but no taxes would be imposed upon those who choose to engage in non-commercial activities (e.g., growing small quantities of marijuana for personal use and/or engaging in not-for-profit transfers of limited quantities of cannabis.) Public consumption of cannabis would be subject to a civil fine.
The measure neither amends the state’s existing medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 1998, nor does it diminish any privacy rights established by the state’s Supreme Court in its 1975 ruling Ravin v State.
Under present state law, the possession of marijuana not in one’s residence is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 90-days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
According to the results of a statewide Public Policy Polling survey, released today, 55 percent of registered voters “think (that) marijuana should be legally allowed for recreational use, that stores should be allowed to sell it, and that its sales should be taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol.” Only 39 percent of respondents oppose the idea. The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.
Additional information about the campaign is available here.
At eight o’clock this morning, Iraq War Veteran Sean Azzariti stepped up to the counter at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver and made the first ever legal marijuana purchase in the United States. He didn’t have to show a medical marijuana program card, proving he paid a fee and consulted a doctor, he simply flashed his driver’s license to confirm he was over 21 and bought his cannabis products. This is a first for Sean, who uses cannabis to treat his PTSD, as his ailment was not an authorized qualifying condition for the Colorado medical marijuana program.
The first purchase? 3.5 grams of Bubba Kush and a marijuana infused truffle. Total cost? 58.74 with tax included ($40 plus tax for the Kush and $9.28 plus tax for the truffle. You can view his receipt he tweeted out here.)
So far, the 34 stores that were open for business today are reporting massive lines, but no real problems. The sky has yet to fall, drivers aren’t crashing continuously into buildings, violence has not erupted in the streets. Maybe it is possible, after decades of scare mongering, that regulation just might be the better alternative after all? The program is still in it’s beginning stages, and will naturally need fine tuning along the way, but so far it is already looking like a widely better solution than prohibition ever was. Judging by the lines that extended far outside the door and around the building at all of the retail locations, Coloradans seem to be very eager to give regulation a chance. Let’s work together to ensure this program works and that it sets the shining example for all other states to follow in the coming years nationwide.
Congratulations to Colorado and all those who worked so hard to get us to this point. It is truly a historic day.
The eyes and ears of the national and international media will be focused on Colorado on New Year’s Day as the nation’s first modern state-licensed retail cannabis dispensaries will be open for business.
Late last week, state and local regulators signed off on the first wave of licensed cannabis businesses, with hundreds more applicants awaiting final approval. (See the actual state-approved marijuana business license via today’s CNN video here.)
The Colorado NORML website has posted a clock counting down the hours and minutes until the nation’s first recreational cannabis sales become reality here. They also provide a statewide list of licensed cannabis retailers, as well as a ‘consumers’ guide’ to complying with Colorado state law here.
Like I told USA Today in its coverage today, “The genie’s out of the bottle and it’s simply not going back in.”
#1 Public Support For Legalizing Marijuana Hits Historic Highs
An unprecedented 58 percent of Americans believe that marijuana ought to be “made legal” for adult consumption, according to survey data reported in October by Gallup. The percentage is the highest level of support ever recorded by Gallup, which has been inquiring on the issue since 1969, and marks a ten percent increase in voter approval since 2012. Regional polls conducted this year in several states, including California, Louisiana, and Texas, also reported majority support for legalization.
#2 Nation Of Uruguay Passes Legislation Regulating Cannabis Use
Lawmakers in the South American nation of Uruguay enacted legislation authorizing the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to all citizens age 18 and older. Residents will be able to legally purchase up to 40 grams of cannabis per month from state-licensed stores at a price of $1 per gram. Uruguay is the first country in modern history to officially legalize and regulate the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis.
#3 Feds Pledge Not To Interfere In State-Licensed Retail Sales Of Cannabis
Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a three-page memorandum in August affirming that the US Justice Department will allow Colorado and Washington to move forward with statewide efforts to license and regulate the adult marijuana market. Cole later reaffirmed the agency’s position in testimony before the US Senate, stating, “We will not … seek to preempt state ballot initiatives.”
#4 States Finalize Regulations Governing Adult Cannabis Sales
Regulators in Colorado and Washington this fall began accepting applications from businesses seeking to engage in the licensed cultivation, production, and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products. In Washington, several thousand applicants have applied to pot business licenses. In Colorado, regulators have begun approving licenses and several commercial establishments are expected to be open for business on January 1, 2014.
#5 Record Number Of Statewide Marijuana Reform Measures Enacted Into Law
Lawmakers in a dozen states approved some 20 pieces of marijuana law reform legislation in 2013. Specifically, lawmakers in Colorado and Vermont enacted legislation licensing commercial hemp production; Illinois and New Hampshire legalized the use and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes; Oregon and Nevada approved regulations allowing for the establishment of medical cannabis distribution facilities; and Oregon and Vermont significantly reduced marijuana possession penalties.
#6 Cannabis Dispensaries Open In Washington, DC
Medical cannabis facilities opened for business in Washington, DC in 2013. The establishments are licensed and regulated by the District of Columbia, which finally unveiled its long-awaited medical marijuana program earlier this year. State-authorized dispensaries also opened for the first time this year in New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Lawmakers in four states, Illinois, Oregon, Nevada and New Hampshire, enacted legislation in 2013 allowing for the establishment of medicinal cannabis facilities.
#7 Study: Blacks Arrested For Pot Offenses At Rates Four Times That Of Whites
African Americans are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession offenses than are whites, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report released in June that analyzed arrest data from 945 counties nationwide. The report found that blacks were approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, even though both ethnicities consumed the substance at similar rates. Authors reported that the racial disparity in arrest rates had grown significantly over the past decade and that in some states African Americans were nearly eight times as likely as whites to be arrested for cannabis possession.
#8 FDA Approves Clinical Trials Of CBD In Cases Of Pediatric Epilepsy
The US Food and Drug Administration this fall granted approval for the importation of cannabidiol (CBD) extracts as an experimental treatment for a rare, intractable form of pediatric epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. Preliminary clinical trials assessing the safety and tolerability of the compound in children are scheduled to begin in early 2014. Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has been documented to possess a variety of therapeutic qualities, including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, anti-cancer, and bone-stimulating properties.
#9 Study: No Association Between Cannabis Smoking And Lung Cancer
Subjects who regularly inhale cannabis smoke possess no greater risk of lung cancer than do those who consume it occasionally or not at all, according to data presented in May at the annual meeting of the American Academy for Cancer Research. UCLA investigators analyzed data from six case-control studies, conducted between 1999 and 2012, involving over 5,000 subjects (2,159 cases and 2,985 controls). They reported, “Our pooled results showed no significant association between the intensity, duration, or cumulative consumption of cannabis smoke and the risk of lung cancer overall or in never smokers.”
#10 Members Of Congress Introduce Legislation To End Federal Pot Prohibition
Members of Congress in February introduced historic legislation, HR 499: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, to remove cannabis from the control of the Drug Enforcement Administration and authorize the US Department of Treasury to license state-authorized retail marijuana producers and distributors. Although Congress refused to vote on the measure in 2013, it was the most-viewed legislation on the Congress.gov website.
If there is another human being who has publicly debated more in favor of cannabis law reform, or, spoken to more legal victims of America’s cannabis laws than me, I want to meet and thank them. From these hundreds of debates and thousands of personal encounters with my fellow cannabis consumers busted for ganja, one single phrase that I constantly hear from those who still support cannabis prohibition that instantly pushes my button is: No one gets busted for pot anymore in America…It’s practically legal.
Thankfully, because of the non-stop work from a cast of thousands of citizen-activists, going back over forty years, the latter is somewhat true for about one-third of America’s population. However the former is a bald face lie that must be confronted every time it is uttered by the proponents of pot prohibition.
Even in states where cannabis is supposed to be decriminalized, where states have passed laws making cannabis a ‘minor civil offense’, an encounter with law enforcement regarding one’s cannabis possession or use can have expensive, life-altering and devastating negative effects on a person’s life.
Kudos to BuzzFeed for producing a very well done video profile of a beloved public school teacher in New York City named Alberto Willmore, who, save for this video, would be yet another faceless victim of New York City’s expensive and reckless enforcement of what should be a minor civil offense, like a parking ticket or citation for spitting on the sidewalk. Instead of simply issuing Mr. Willmore a civil fine for possessing a small amount of cannabis, New York City continues to disrespect state laws governing cannabis possession by arresting, detaining, prosecuting and forcing Mr. Willmore to lose his dream job as an art teacher for what law enforcement deem a ‘serious crime’, when the legislature does not–even more so when almost 60% of the US public support legalizing cannabis sales.
NORML has been advocating for almost twenty years in New York City for the city to return to it’s historic cannabis possession arrest rate of under 1,000 per year, down dramatically from the now nearly 40,000 cannabis possession arrests annually in New York City, which exploded under mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.
Next time you hear a law enforcement representative, opinion maker or politician declare that ‘nobody gets busted for pot any more’, remind them of one of America’s nearly 700,000 annual cannabis arrests: Alberto Willmore
With the recent release by incoming mayor Bill de Blasio’s family of a video from his daughter talking about her use of cannabis, and incoming police commissioner William Bratton’s long experience in effective policing, NORML hopes that 2014 will finally be the year that New York City ceases being the hotbed for cannabis arrests in America and relents on destroying the lives of it’s otherwise productive and appreciated citizens–like Alberto Willmore–who happen to choose to consume cannabis in their home.
Dear NORML members and supporters,
For all and intent purposes since the good people of California voted in the majority in 1996 to create legal access for qualified medical patients to cannabis, the pace of public advocacy work in support of cannabis law reform at NORML has been, in a word, manic–with one political victory after another piling up at the state level.
As we turned the calendar from 2012, where voters in the states of Colorado and Washington had just elected to end cannabis prohibition, to 2013, I was confident that the then coming year would be the busiest and most productive in the organization’s forty-three year history.
Thankfully for cannabis law reform in America (and the world), I’ve been proven correct.
The Future of Marijuana Legalization is Happening Right Now, Finally!
This annual report briefly summarizes the many advances gained by NORML in 2013, and the progress made in general by the ever-increasing popularity for cannabis law reform in the country.
When NORML was founded in 1970, Gallup polling indicated less than 10% support for legalizing cannabis. Today, Gallup polling reveals that 58% of the American public favor cannabis legalization over its continued prohibition. The prestigious Brookings Institute commenced an educational policy series in 2013 on cannabis prohibition laws, and concluded that the massive change in public attitude in favor of cannabis legalization is likely irreversible as the reforms are increasingly popular with nearly all demographics.
Most of the substantive cannabis law reforms today are affected at the state level–with 21 states having medical cannabis access laws, 16 states have decriminalized cannabis possession for adults and 2 states have crossed the legalization Rubicon. This is placing terrific upward political pressure on a recalcitrant federal government, who otherwise would try to maintain the untenable status quo of cannabis prohibition.
Federal Government Says ‘Uncle’, More States and Countries To Soon Follow
In September, federal officials and leaders in the Senate pushed forward with memos and public hearings making it clear that the Obama Administration was not going to interfere with states adopting cannabis legalization, and were in fact publishing criteria allowing pro-reform states to move forward with implementing full legalization schemes for cannabis.
This monumental decision by the Department of Justice was historic in every sense of the word, and likely marks the death knell for cannabis prohibition in America (and around the world).
To wit, seeing American voters chuck now unwanted cannabis prohibition laws, replacing them with ‘tax and control’ laws that allow retail access for adult consumers, in mid-December, following America’s lead, the country of Uruguay became the first country in modern history to replace prohibition laws with legalized sales of cannabis.
Today, more and more elected policy makers, as well as those ascending into politics, are contacting NORML at record levels seeking public endorsements, asking the organization to prepare reform legislation and campaign funding.
The number of actual legalization bills offered for passage demonstrates another prime example of how mainstream politicians from both major political parties are increasingly embracing cannabis law reform. In 2007, no American politician was willing to work with NORML on a cannabis legalization bill. In 2014, NORML’s lobbying staff anticipates fifteen states will be debating cannabis legalization bills (up from ten states in 2013).
NORML By The Numbers
When I was hired in 1991 to work at NORML, the organization had five basic revenue streams, was in chronic financial dire straits, had numerous liens on bank accounts, rent had not been paid in over a year and the IRS was raking it over the coals in a particularly harsh financial audit.
I was asked to "help right the ship". My parents thought I’d lost all my senses forgoing opportunities to work in corporate America for a then struggling and politically-lost-in-the-woods non-profit organization.
Keeping the organization fiscally sound, compliant with non-profit regulations, and transparent (financial tax forms are posted annually to NORML’s webpage) for the public have been organizational priorities for over twenty years.
In 2013, the budget for the organization is nearly four times the size of the one I inherited in the early 1990s. The organization now has over twenty five revenue streams, 150 chapters, 600 lawyers on the NORML Legal Committee, the staff conduct well over 2,000 media interviews annually and NORML’s online presence, as well as size of its opt-in social network have no peer in the drug policy reform movement. Despite having larger annual budgets secured by a few billionaire donors, NORML’s webpage traffic and number of Facebook and Twitter followers dwarfs most all of the other pro-drug policy reform groups’ online footprint, combined.
In a recent Zogby poll, when the American public is asked ‘what does the acronym N.O.R.M.L stand for?’, 25% percent responded with an answer like ‘NORML is the marijuana lobby group.’ So well known in American culture, the organization was featured as a question on the December 13, 2013 broadcast of Jeopardy! (So too in 2005 edition of Trivial Pursuit). Annually, NORML signs numerous trademark agreements with major TV networks and movie production companies who want to employ NORML’s apparent cachet in their film and TV productions.
NORML’s Unique Role and Vexation
For NORML, America’s most recognized and respected cannabis law reform organization, these are heady days witnessing and helping to end cannabis prohibition. Especially serving as public representatives for cannabis consumers, to help shape what legalization is ultimately going to look like in our country.
Also unique to the organization is NORML’s dual mission of not only advocating for policy changes to occur post haste, we provide help and legal assistance to the victims of these long misguided cannabis prohibition laws as well. We lend support to many of the millions of men and women busted, prosecuted and incarcerated for what never should have been crimes in our freedom-loving, free-market oriented democracy.
Bittersweetly, NORML’s staff is viciously whipsawed between phone calls from citizens in states with legal cannabis laws seeking help on procuring a permit to sell or cultivate the herb, while the very next phone call is from a fellow cannabis consumer busted in a pot prohibition state for a minor amount, facing serious, life-altering consequences.
For forty-three years NORML has been standing loud and proud, publicly favoring cannabis law reform. The American public is now squarely in NORML’s corner. We’ve helped change our country (and the world) for the better.
Please help us finish the job at hand.
Allen St. Pierre
NORML Executive Director
Teen Use Of Alcohol, Tobacco Falls To Historic Lows (But All The Media And The Feds Want To Talk About Is Pot)
Adolescent consumption of alcohol and tobacco fell to historic lows while self-reported annual use of cannabis held steady, according to survey data released today by the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor — which has been sampling teens consumption of various licit and illicit substances since the mid-1970s.
But you wouldn’t know these facts if you read today’s mainstream media headlines.
For example, the accompanying headline of McClatchy’s wire story inaccurately claims that marijuana consumption among young people rose between 2011 and 2012, stating “Feds decry rising marijuana use among kids”, despite the fact that the title of the study’s own press release affirms “The rise in teen marijuana use stalls.”
Other news outlets, such as PBS News Hour (in which I am quoted here) predictably highlight the federal government’s talking point that adolescents’ perception of pot’s risk potential is dipping (e.g., ’60 percent of 12th grade students do not view marijuana as harmful’). Unreported is the fact that this trend is is not new, but is rather an ongoing one. According to the University’s year-by-year data, teens’ perceptions regarding marijuana’s risks first began declining in the early 1990s — a time that predates the passage of statewide medical cannabis laws or more recent statewide depenalization/legalization laws. (Looking for an explanation for this trend? Try this: More and more teens are wising up to the fact that cannabis is not as equally dangerous as heroin, despite the federal government’s claims to the contrary.)
Overlooked in the mainstream media’s reporting is that the use of both alcohol and tobacco among all grades surveyed has fallen consistently since the mid-1990s and now stands at all-time lows. (In fact, more teens now acknowledge using marijuana than cigarettes, the study found.) Teens are also finding alcohol to be less availabile and are far less likely to engage in binge drinking now than ever before.
By contrast, teens self-reported annual use of cannabis has largely held steady since the late 1990s but remains elevated compared to the historic lows reported in the earlier that decade. (Present use levels, however, still remain well below the highs reported in the late 1970s.) Approximately 8 out of 10 12th graders surveyed said that marijuana was “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain, a percentage that has remained largely unchanged since 2009, but is well below previously reported highs circa the late 1990s.
Nevertheless, federal officials are utilizing the latest University of Michigan data to once again sound the alarm about cannabis, stating that the cannabis ‘problem’ is even “worse” than the data suggests while the Drug Czar once again tries to misleadingly link long-term trends to the passage of recent changes in law.
And what no public officials wish to acknowledge is the obvious elephant in the room. The reality that an increasing number of teens are steadily turning away from the legally regulated intoxicants alcohol and tobacco — a factoid that once again affirms that the most effective way to keep substances out of teens’ hands isn’t through criminal prohibition; it is through legalization, regulation, and public education. So why does the federal government (as well as the mainstream media) acknowledge the effectiveness of this strategy when it comes to booze and cigarettes, but continue to turn its back on these common sense principles when it comes to pot?
Cananbidiol (CBD), a non-psychotropic cannabinoid, alleviates psychotic symptoms and may hold promise as an alternative antipsychotic treatment, according to a review published in the November issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
Investigators in the Netherlands and in the United Kingdom reviewed preclinical and clinical data on the use of CBD as an antipsychotic agent. Authors reported that both animal and human studies document the ability of CBD to mitigate symptoms of psychosis. Specifically, CBD administration is associated with improved symptoms in clinical evaluations of patients with schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and ketamine-induced dissociative and psychotic symptoms.
Investigators also highlighted a 2012 double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial assessing CBD versus the prescription anti-psychotic drug amisulpride in 42 subjects with schizophrenia and acute paranoia. Authors reported that both CBD and the prescription drug were associated with “equally significant clinical improvement” in this patient population, but that cannabidiol “possessed significantly less side effects.”
Researchers concluded: “[E]vidence from several study domains suggests that CBD has some potential as an antipsychotic treatment. … Given the high tolerability and superior cost-effectiveness, CBD may prove to be an attractive alternative to current antipsychotic treatment.”
Previous human trials assessing the administration of CBD in healthy human subjects report that the cannabinoid is “safe and well tolerated.”
Separate investigations of CBD, primarily in animal models, have documented the cannabinoid to possess a variety of therapeutic qualities, including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, anti-cancer, and bone-stimulating properties. Recently, the FDA approved the experimental use of CBD extracts for the treatment of a rare form of intractable pediatric epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. Preliminary clinical trials assessing the safety and tolerability of the compound in children are scheduled to begin imminently.
Full text of the study, entitled “Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for psychosis,” appears online here.
At a press conference this morning, New York Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and state Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) announced their intent to introduce legislation to legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis.
Speaking at the press conference, the Assembly bill’s sponsor Rep. Gottfried said, “We really need to move beyond our totally broken prohibition model to a sensible tax and regulate model. I think it’s widely recognized that marijuana is at most nowhere near as potentially harmful as alcohol and our law is dishonest.”
Added Sen. Krueger, “I don’t believe a drug that is proven to be less dangerous, from a health perspective, than alcohol or tobacco should be under laws that actually criminalize and ruin lives when alcohol or tobacco are regulated and taxed.”
The proposed Assembly and Senate measures would allow adults over the age of 18 to possess up to 2 ounces of dried marijuana, 1/4 ounce of marijuana concentrates, and to cultivate up to 6 plants. The legislation would also establish regulations for state-licensed retail cannabis outlets throughout the state. Retail sales would be limited to adults over the age of 21.
New York City Comptroller John Liu estimates that taxing the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults would yield an estimated $400 million annually, just in the city alone.
According to a 2013 ACLU report, no state arrests more of its citizens for marijuana possession than New York.NEW YORK RESIDENTS: Click here to easily contact your elected officials and urge them to support this legislation.