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Study: Cannabinoids Are Safe, Effective For Pain Treatment

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 19:45

Cannabinoids are safe and effective for the treatment of chronic pain, according to the results of a systematic review of randomized controlled trials published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

Investigators from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and McGill University in Montreal evaluated the results of 11 placebo-controlled trials conducted between the years 2010 and 2014. Trials assessed the use of various types of cannabinoid preparations, including herbal cannabis, liquid and oral cannabis extracts, and nabilone (a synthetic analog of THC), in pain treatment.

Cannabinoids possessed “significant analgesic effects” and were “well tolerated” in the majority of studies reviewed.

Authors concluded, “The current systematic review provides further support that cannabinoids are safe, demonstrate a modest analgesic effect and provide a reasonable treatment option for treatment chronic non-cancer pain.”

A 2011 review of 18 separate randomized trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of cannabinoids for pain management similarly reported, “[C]annabinoids are a modestly effective and safe treatment option for chronic non-cancer (predominantly neuropathic) pain.”

In September, Canadian researchers reported that pain patients who consumed herbal cannabis daily for one-year experienced decreased analgesia and no increase in serious adverse side effects compared to matched controls.

An abstract of the study, “Cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain: An updated systematic review of randomized controlled trials,” appears online here.

Ganja, Rastafarians and the High Times Jamaica Cannabis Cup

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 10:50

The flight out of Washington, D.C., to Charlotte, N.C., to catch my connecting flight to Jamaica, looked like most flights when I am leaving D.C.: A lot of suits and ties and business people on board heading to or returning from a business meeting or a meeting with their members of Congress, or their office in the nation’s capital.

But the flight from Charlotte to Jamaica left no doubt that this was no longer a business trip for most on the plane. They were dressed casually, and some were obviously dressed for the beach. Something about Jamaica that suggests relaxing on the beach with a nice rum drink and some good ganga — the term generally used for marijuana in Jamaica.

I realized I might well be one of the only people on my flight who were actually going to Jamaica on a business trip – albeit heading to the first High Times Jamaica Cannabis Cup in Negril. I know; it’s tough work, but someone has to do it!

Jamaica – Yeah, Mon!

The flights from DC to Montego Bay, the closest airport to Negril, take about five hours, and once one is on the island and through customs, it is then another 90-minute drive to Negril. That travel time allows one to slow down a bit, to begin the necessary emotional process of getting in sync with the Jamaican pace of life, and to begin to enjoy the island culture.

In Jamaica, one really has no choice but to leave the hard-charging lifestyle aside. The Caribbean island nation operates on its own take-life-easy pace – it is called “Jamaica time” — which is one of the appealing aspects for those coming to Jamaica on vacation, along with the endless sandy beaches and beautiful blue Caribbean water.

The first thing one notices is that Jamaicans drive on the “wrong” side of the road, an unsettling practice for us Americans, a reminder that Jamaica was a long-time British colony, before finally gaining their independence in 1962. That also explains their decidedly British accent, which sometimes is difficult for Americans to understand.

The Jamaican High Times Cannabis Cup

High Times, as many readers will know, has been holding an annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam for 28 years, on Thanksgiving weekend. And with the advance of legalization in the U.S., they now hold a number of domestic Cannabis Cup events each year. But this event in Negril is their only other event held outside the U.S. And because of the long relationship between ganga and Jamaica, the decision to schedule a Cup in Jamaica seemed only appropriate.

In late February of this year, the Jamaican Parliament enacted new laws governing ganja, which took effect on July 15, removing criminal penalties for possession of up to two ounces of marijuana, substituting a $5 civil fine with no arrest or criminal record. In addition, households are now permitted to cultivate up to five marijuana plants. The legislation also authorized officials to enact regulations licensing the cultivation and dispensing of medical and industrial cannabis, as well as recognizing the right of the Rastafarians to use ganja as a religious sacrament.

Already they have invited U.S. marijuana tourism by announcing that those from the U.S. who hold medical recommendations will also qualify to obtain up to 2 ounces of medical ganja while they are in Jamaica. Justice Minister Mark Golding described the reforms as “long overdue.”

But still planning the Jamaican Cup was not easy. Before the required government permits could be obtained, High Times was advised it would be necessary to win the approval and cooperation of the Rastafarians. Under the new Jamaican marijuana law, only the Rastafarians are legally permitted to hold public demonstrations using ganga, and that is because it is now their legally recognized religious sacrament.

The Rastafari

The ancestors of present day Rastafarians arrived in Jamaica as African slaves destined to work in the Jamaican sugar cane fields during the early 1800s. Thought slavery was abolished in Jamaica in 1834, by edict of the British Parliament (some three decades before it was ended by the Civil War in the U.S.), Rastafarians remained the underclass of Jamaica society.

As with other communities, there are several factions and different leaders who speak for and represent the four different tribes of Rastas in Jamaica. The task of building a coalition with the Rastas fell to the Associate Publisher Rick Cusick and Board Chair Michael Kennedy from High Times, and to Harvard Law Professor Ron Nesson, a man with a long relationship with Jamaica and the Rastafarians. And Jamaican Justice Minister Mark Golding was an active participant in that process, which might not have been possible otherwise.

The negotiations leading-up to the permit for the event were challenging for all the parties, with several deadlines missed and new deadlines set, but somehow in the end common sense prevailed and the event was approved by all the stakeholders.

The government saw this event as an appropriate way (at last) to show respect to the Rastafarians, a culture with a long history of discrimination, and the Rastafarians astutely saw this as an opportunity to showcase their religion, and their culture, in a more favorable light.

So this latest event – the High Times 2015 Jamaica Cannabis Cup – a four-day Cup, held at a public park on the beach in Negril, with lots of exhibitors and Jamaican live music and the annual awards ceremony judging the finest ganga in Jamaica on the final evening — was officially sponsored by the Rastafari Rootzfest. And the Rastafarian culture and religion were common themes throughout the four days, with drum circles and Rastafarian chants prominently featured in the opening ceremonies, and Rasta speakers featured daily at the seminar tent. And the Rastas maintained a food-court next door to the Cup, with traditional Rastafarian offerings.

The most significant thing I gleaned from this brief Jamaican visit was a far greater appreciation of the Rastarian culture and the importance they attach to the legalization of marijuana in Jamaica. It was clear that these Rastafarian leaders perceive the recent changes legalizing ganga in Jamaica as a significant step towards recognizing the legitimacy of their entire culture – not just their use of ganga – and to them this moment has the feeling of freedom and dignity, after a long period of disrespect and discrimination.

For most Americans, I suspect Rastas are seen as colorful people, with their bright orange, yellow and green clothing, and their distinctive dreadlocks, but aspects of the Rastafarian religion may seem strange; e.g., the worship of the late Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie as their savior. I am not here to try to convince anyone that they should worship Haile Selassie, or that they should become a practicing Rastafarian.

But I recognize now that those who truly hold this religion in their hearts and their lives deserve the same respect we show other religions; such as those who believe the Pope is infallible and is a direct descendant of St. Peter; or those who believe one must be baptized in the blood of Christ to have ever-lasting life. All religions require a giant leap of faith, but most of them also appear to play an important cohesive role in the disparate cultures. And the specific beliefs of the Rastafarians do not seem to me more difficult to abide, than do the beliefs of many of the more prominent religions.

As they see the full legalization of ganga looming in the near future in Jamaica, the Rastas want to assure that their culture will at last benefit financially from the legalization of their sacred herb, and that they will not be shoved aside and exploited by outside interests.

Legalizing marijuana in Jamaica is a change that has brought a measure of freedom, and promise of a brighter future, economically and culturally, to the Rastafarians. That is a milestone we can all celebrate.

The fight to legalize marijuana was never limited to the U.S., and while we continue to lead the way, legalization is alive and well and moving forward in many other countries, including Jamaica. It’s a lovely thing to see.

Yeah, mon!

Study: Marijuana Consumers Less Likely To Suffer From Metabolic Syndrome

Fri, 11/13/2015 - 16:17

Current consumers of cannabis are 50 percent less likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome as compared to those who have never used the substance, according to findings published online ahead of print in The American Journal of Medicine. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat, which are linked to increased risk of heart disease and/or type 2 diabetes, among other serious health consequences.

Investigators from the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine analyzed the association between cannabis use and metabolic syndrome in a cohort of nearly 8,500 subjects aged 20 to 59 who participated in the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Researchers classified subjects as suffering from metabolic syndrome if they possessed more than three of the following symptoms: elevated fasting glucose levels, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, elevated systolic/diastolic blood pressure, and increased waist circumference.

Among subjects with no history of cannabis use, 19.5 percent met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. By contrast, 17.5 percent of former users and only 13.8 percent of current users met the criteria.

“Among emerging adults, current marijuana users were 54 percent less likely than never users to present with metabolic syndrome,” investigators reported. Specifically, mean fasting glucose levels were significantly lower among current marijuana users when compared to never users, while waist circumference was significantly lower among males who reported current marijuana use when compared to those with no cannabis use history.

“These findings have important implications for the nation as marijuana use becomes more accepted and we simultaneously face multiple epidemics of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” authors concluded.

The findings are consistent with those of previous observational studies showing an inverse relationship between cannabis use and diabetic markers, and support previous population data showing that those who use cannabis typically possess smaller waist circumference and lower body mass index than those who do not.

An abstract of the study, “Metabolic Syndrome among Marijuana Users in the United States: An Analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data,” is online here.

NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up

Fri, 11/13/2015 - 12:34

With many state legislative sessions coming to an end and the federal government beginning final budget negotiations, we’ve seen plenty of marijuana legislation move forward this week. Keep reading below to catch up on this week’s legislative action!

A full list and summary of pending state and federal legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.


On the eve of Veterans Day members of the US Senate adopted language to permit Veterans access to medical marijuana in states that allow for its use. Senate members passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs APpropriations Bill, which for the first time includes language to allow Veteran’s Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. You can read more about this measure here.


New Jersey: Governor Chris Christie signed legislation into law on Monday, November 9, that allows for the administration of edible forms of cannabis for children attending school.

A4587 and S3049 “require facilities providing services to persons with developmental disabilities and schools to adopt policies permitting administration of medical marijuana to qualifying patients.”

Additionally, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Monday, November 16th at 1:00PM in Committee Room 4 of the state capitol to discuss the merits of legalizing and regulating marijuana in New Jersey. The informational hearing comes ahead of the anticipated introduction next session of legislation to legalize the plant’s production, sale, and use. To express your support for legalization in New Jersey, click here.

Vermont: Members of the Senate Government Operations Committee are discussing how best to implement a regulated marijuana industry in Vermont. Statewide polling reports that 57 percent of Vermont voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana production and sales. State lawmakers acknowledge that 2016 is the “time” to regulate cannabis in Vermont and they need to hear from their constituents that legalization is a priority. To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization, click here.

North Carolina: Senate Bill 313, an act to establish a pilot program for hemp cultivation in North Carolina, has become law absent the Governor’s signature. The legislation declares, “The General Assembly finds and declares that it is in the best interest of the citizens of North Carolina to promote and encourage the development of an industrial hemp industry in the State in order to expand employment, promote economic activity, and provide opportunities to small farmers for an environmentally sustainable and profitable use of crop lands that might otherwise be lost to agricultural production.”

New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that seeks to accelerate medical marijuana access to patients who are suffering from critical conditions and are in urgent need for medical cannabis. Assembly Bill 7060 & Senate Bill 5086 require the Commissioner of Health to establish emergency access to medical cannabis access for patients with conditions for whom a delay would pose a serious risk to the patient’s life or health.

Florida: The Broward County Commission approved a marijuana ordinance on Tuesday, that will give police officers the option of issuing a $150 civil citation to someone caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana instead of filing a misdemeanor criminal charge against that person. Similar ordinances have been passed in Miami-Dade County and Key West.

Palm Beach County will be voting on a similar measure, December 15th. Contact your County Commissioner today and urge their support for the option of issuing a civil citation for the nonviolent possession of marijuana! You can find out who your County Commissioner is here.

Texas: In Houston, District Attorney Devon Anderson announced last Thursday that starting January 1st, those who are caught with less than two ounces of marijuana will be offered a diversion program and released rather than receiving a criminal charge. The suspect must complete the program to avoid facing charges.

Anderson said, “It frees up space in jail. It minimizes the administrative burden that officers face when filing charges. It reduces the cost for prosecution and court proceedings. And of course, it gives the offender an opportunity to have a completely clean record,” she said. “When we don’t offer it until after the offender is charged, we lose a lot of the best benefits of the program.”

Illinois: More than two years after lawmakers initially approved medical cannabis legislation in the state, patients are finally getting relief. This week, several of the state’s licensed dispensaries began serving patients for the first time. About 3,300 patients with Illinois-issued ID cards were able to purchase medical cannabis at one of five dispensaries opening Monday. Besides Canton, retail shops in Addison, Marion, Mundelein and Quincy were among the first to open. An estimated 25 facilities are anticipated to be operational by the end of the year.

Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!

** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

US Senate Approves Funding Provision Expanding Medical Cannabis Access To Veterans

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 13:44

On the eve of Veterans Day, members of the US Senate adopted language to permit Veterans access to medical marijuana in states that allow for its use.

On Tuesday, Senate members passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill,which for the first time includes language to allow Veteran’s Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in states where medical marijuana is legal.

The Daines/Merkley amendment had been previously approved by members of the US Senate Appropriations committee in May. By contrast, House members narrowly rejected a similar amendment this spring. House and Senate leaders will now need to reconcile the two versions of the FY2016 spending bill.

Under current regulations, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs prohibits doctors from issuing cannabis recommendations even where it is legal. If the Daines/Merkley amendment is ultimately included in the reconciled version of the FY2016 spending bill, the Justice Department will be barred from spending any money to limit VA doctors from recommending marijuana, or to penalize veterans who choose to use medical marijuana in states that allow it’s use.

Nation’s Capital: Massive Reduction In Marijuana Arrests

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 10:42

The results are in from Washington, D.C. one year after 70% of the voters chose to end cannabis prohibition: A nearly 100% reduction in marijuana-related arrests!

According to the Washington City Paper, the number of annual arrests for marijuana dropped from 895 in 2014 to 7 so far in 2015 (a 99.4% reduction in arrests; an even greater percentage drop in marijuana-related arrests occurred between 2013 and now, when there were 1,215 arrests).

This dramatic reduction in marijuana arrests is consistent with the prior experience in the other states where voters have cast off unpopular cannabis prohibition laws. Post prohibition, arrest rates for marijuana-related offenses in Colorado and Washington State dropped from nearly 12,ooo annually to <200.

Washington, D.C.’s huge reduction in arrest rates is not a result of legalized marijuana (where such a policy allows for the legal cultivation and selling of marijuana, and that government regulates and taxes the production and sale of marijuana products). Instead, in the nation’s capital cannabis has been fully de-penalized where adults can cultivate a personal amount of marijuana and possess up to two ounces, but, there is no legal source to purchase marijuana and the government derives no taxes or fees (however, Washington, D.C. does have medical marijuana laws, where approximately 8,000 registered medical patients who’re qualified can legally purchase marijuana products at up to four retail locations).

Report: One In Eight Federal Drug Prisoners Serving Time For Marijuana Offenses

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 19:41

Over twelve percent of federal drug prisoners are incarcerated for marijuana-related violations, according to data compiled by US Bureau of Prisons and the United State’s Sentencing Commission and published by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics

Of the 94,678 federal inmates incarcerated for a drug violation as their most serious offense, 12.4 percent (11,533 persons) are serving time for violating marijuana laws. Most marijuana offenders are imprisoned for trafficking violations. The average length of prison time for those incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses is 88 months.

Nearly half (44.3 percent) of federal marijuana inmates are offenders with minimal criminal histories who have not previously served time in prison. Eight-five percent of marijuana offenders did not possess a firearm.

Over a third (36.5 percent) of federal marijuana prisoners are age 40 or older. Thirty-five percent of federal marijuana prisoners are not US citizens.

The percentage of marijuana-related federal prisoners has remained virtually unchanged over the past decade.

Full text of the BJS report, “Drug offenders in federal prison: Estimates of characteristics based on linked data, is online here.

Hillary Clinton Endorses Marijuana’s Reclassification

Mon, 11/09/2015 - 21:05

During an appearance in South Carolina over the weekend, Hillary Clinton endorsed amending marijuana from it’s current Schedule I classification, reserved for the most dangerous of drugs, to Schedule II, a lesser classification intended for drugs that have recognized medical applications but also have a high potential for abuse and severe psychological or physical dependence.

The presidential candidate said, “What I do want is for us to support research into medical marijuana because a lot more states have passed medical marijuana than have legalized marijuana, so we’ve got two different experiences or even experiments going on right now. And the problem with medical marijuana is there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about how well it works for certain conditions, but we haven’t done any research. Why? Because it’s considered what’s called a Schedule I drug, and you can’t even do research on it.”

Let’s take a look at these statements a little more closely.

First, Clinton’s claim that “we haven’t done any research” on cannabis’ safety and potential efficacy is false. NORML documents hundreds of relevant trials here. Clinton’s allegation is further rebutted by the findings of a 2012 review of FDA-approved clinical trials involving the use of herbal cannabis in various patient populations, “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

Second, while Clinton’s comments mark an evolution in her position on marijuana policy, she is late to the game among the presidential candidates proposing policy solutions to marijuana’s prohibition. Fellow democrat presidential candidate, Martin O’Malley previously pledged to use his executive authority, if elected, to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II. And Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is a sponsor of the CARERS Act, legislation that, among other things, would also move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II.

Third, while all of these statements by presidential candidates is a step in the right direction, NORML has and will continue to advocate for marijuana’s removal from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Rescheduling marijuana from I to II would not limit the federal government’s authority to prosecute marijuana offenders, including those who are in compliance with state law, nor would it likely stimulate clinical trial research trials beyond those studies funded by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and reliant upon government-grown marijuana.

Fortunately, Vermont Senator and Democrat Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation to remove marijuana from the US Federal Controlled Substances Act. The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 would deschedule cannabis from the CSA, similar to alcohol and tobacco. It would also allow states the power to establish their own marijuana policies and banking policies free from federal interference.

Reform advocates can contact their member of the US Senate in support of The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 by clicking here.

NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 14:45

This week was a busy one for marijuana law reform around the country. There were several election day measures and a new bill was introduced in the Senate. Let’s take a closer look at this week’s marijuana happenings:

The controversial ResponsibleOhio measure failed to garner enough support in Ohio to become law. You can read more on what was learned from the campaign here. The measure was defeated 65 to 35 percent so it’s clear the initiative had some qualities that were less than desirable by Ohio residents. Those living in the city of Logan, OH also had the chance to vote on a local depenalization measure but voters rejected that measure 57 to 43 percent.

On the successful end of things, residents in two Michigan cities approved local measures to reduce the penalties associated with the possession, use, transfer and transportation of small amounts of marijuana.

Following election day, Vermont Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders introduced legislation, S 2237, to remove marijuana from the US Federal Controlled Substances Act. The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 would deschedule cannabis from the CSA, as is alcohol and tobacco. This legislation provides states the power to establish their own marijuana policies and banking policies free from federal interference.

What’s notable about this legislation is that it is the first ever bill introduced in the Senate that has called for the end of marijuana prohibition at the federal level. And it’s only the fourth marijuana law reform bill to have ever been introduced in the Senate. You can take action on this legislation, here.

While not necessarily legislative news, a couple other important events took place this week:

Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in a 4-1 decision that the prohibition of marijuana is unconstitutional. The ruling declares that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use.

While this is definitely a step in the right direction for a country that is almost crippled with drug cartel problems, what happens next remains to be seen. The ruling does not strike down current drug laws and it only applies to the four plaintiffs involved in the case. It could however, pave the way for more substantive policy changes to be made later on.

Disappointingly, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chief, Chuck Rosenberg said this week he doesn’t believe smoking marijuana is actually medicinal and called the entire premise a “joke”.

He said, “What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not. We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine. That is a joke.”

“There are pieces of marijuana — extracts or constituents or component parts — that have great promise” medicinally,” he said. “But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana, which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana, it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”

To have a top official, largely responsible for our country’s drug policy, refuse to acknowledge the therapeutic effects of the whole marijuana plant is disappointing and very misleading. To learn more about medical marijuana and it’s scientifically proven medical efficacy, click here.

Thanks for catching up on what happened in marijuana law reform this week and keep following our blog for more updates as they happen!

Mexico’s Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Marijuana

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 15:56

Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled in a 4-1 decision that the prohibition of marijuana is unconstitutional. The ruling declares that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use.

Mexico has increasingly considered reforming their marijuana policies in recent months following the well known case of 8 year old, Graciela Elizalde, whose parents launched a successful social media campaign to pressure the Mexican government to approve a CBD treatment for their daughter. This treatment however, was approved only for Graciela, leaving many other patients in the dark for medication.

This ruling comes in a country that has undoubtedly played a significant role in the drug war. It has been reported that Mexican drug cartels and the forces fighting them have resulted in the deaths of more than 83,000 people between 2007 and 2014.

While this Supreme Court decision is definitely a step in the right direction, what happens next remains to be seen. The ruling does not strike down current drug laws but it could pave the way for lawmakers to make more substantive policy changes in the future.

Lessons Learned from the Debacle in Ohio

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 10:30

Issue 3, the marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot in Ohio this past Tuesday, was surprisingly unpopular with the voters, and lost the vote by 65 percent to 35 percent. It was an old-fashioned ass kicking – a drubbing that came despite polls indicating a slim majority of the public in Ohio favored legalizing marijuana.

That dramatic difference between the generic support for the concept of marijuana legalization, and the far lower support for the provisions contained in Issue 3, lead to a number of conclusions.

First, it suggests that unlimited amounts of money may not be the magic bullet for enacting legalization in a traditionally conservative state. Obviously a fat wallet makes it possible to collect the signatures to qualify the proposal for the ballot, and to hire campaign workers to canvas eligible voters door-to-door, to encourage their support. But in the end, if specific provisions of the proposal are unpopular, money alone cannot overcome substantive weaknesses.

Investor Driven Initiatives

Clearly the fact that this initiative was investor driven, and would have enriched those who put up the money for the initiative, raised serious issues that were likely fatal to this initiative. Even many who favored marijuana legalization were unwilling to support this version, because of the oligopoly of commercial growers that would have been established for the state, assuring financial rewards for decades to come for those who were rich enough be part of the investment team.

In the run-up to the election in Ohio, the opposition focused far less on an argument that legalization was bad public policy that would somehow harm residents of the state (the traditional arguments favored by opponents to legalization), and far more on the fact that the small group of investors were guaranteed to get rich. There was significant opposition to allowing this small group of people to use the voter initiative process for such obvious self-enrichment.

Voter initiatives were a creation of the Progressive era, a method for average citizens to adopt public policy change without the involvement of the elected legislature, and the public perceived this effort in Ohio as a perversion of the voter initiative process. And they refused to permit that to occur, even though a slim majority supported the basic change that was being proposed.

No one, except that small group of investors, liked the self-serving provisions contained in the language of the proposal, and even those of us who endorsed the proposal, because we felt it would stop the arrest of marijuana smokers years earlier that would likely happen if the change has to come through the state legislature, did so with strong reservations about that part of the proposal.

NORML begrudgingly endorsed the initiative, because we are a single-issue organization and the proposal did contain the basic changes we have been fighting for, for more than four decades. But we underscored our dislike for the self-enrichment terms in the language, and said we did not consider it a model that should be considered by other states.

But clearly a majority of the voters in Ohio put a higher priority on opposing those troublesome economic provisions, and were willing to continue prohibition rather than permit this attempt to pervert the initiative process to succeed. Whether this same conclusion will be shared by voters in other states is uncertain, but it surely should cause would-be investors hoping to cash-in in other states to proceed cautiously.

And frankly, some of the problems leading to this result had to do with the seemingly cluelessness of Ian James and the others at Responsible Ohio, who were in charge of the campaign. When opponents began to focus on the economic interests of the initiative funders, the sponsors attempted to sell what was an obvious liability as the price one had to pay to move the marijuana issue out of the hands of hippies and the counter-culture, and into the political mainstream. They insulted those who had worked long and hard to move public policy towards legalization for decades, and suggested they were doing us all a favor by agreeing to embrace our basic political goal of legalization, for a price.

Similarly, apparently unaware of the traditional low voter turnout by young voters in non-presidential election years – the strongest group of supporters for legalization — Responsible Ohio chose to run their initiative in 2015, rather than waiting for 2016 (as proponents have done in California, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Maine and Massachusetts). Again, instead of learning from the many marijuana initiatives that have occurred in this country going back to 1996, this gang who could not shoot straight claimed they preferred to run it in 2015, because of the usual low voter turnout, thinking their money could somehow invigorate the youth vote and they could sneak in a victory while the older voters were not paying attention. Talk about arrogance and hubris. These guys make Donald Trump seem humble!

A further example of their cluelessness was their use of a colorfully decorated bus and a silly mascot named “Buddy” – a sort of superhero with a big marijuana bud for the head – in a state-wide tour, as their primary tactic for getting the youth vote energized and excited about the upcoming chance to legalize marijuana.

Apparently they had never heard of “Joe Camel”, the cartoon camel that was used for years by big tobacco as a device to entice young Americans to try tobacco smoking, where once addicted, they would be tobacco customers for life, although that life would likely be cut short because of their use of tobacco. Following the discovery by Congressional investigators of documentation proving that was the intent of spending huge amounts of money to publicize Joe Camel, the tobacco companies were finally publicly shamed into ending the campaign and retiring Joe Camel.

But when confronted by NORML and others for their eerily similar use of “Buddy,” James and the Responsible Ohio campaign ignored our warnings that many Americans, even those who favor marijuana legalization, remain concerned about the risk that legalization might somehow lead to an increase in adolescent marijuana smoking, and that they were setting themselves up as an easy target by long-time opponents of legalization (which, of course, came almost instantly). James actually insisted that their “Buddy” campaign was popular, was gaining them great press exposure, and the campaign continued all across the state, right up to the election.

Again, the arrogance of this group was amazing, and their failure to understand the caution that is required when dealing with the marijuana issue, as contrasted to many other issues of public policy, was astounding.

It is impossible, without exit polling (and I doubt Responsible Ohio will share their exit polling, assuming they even made the effort to find out why opponents voted the way they did) to know which of these several tactical and strategic blunders was primarily accountable for their embarrassing defeat. My personal belief is the economic self-enrichment was the major flaw in the campaign, but the decision to mount the effort in an off-year election clearly contributed to their defeat (the youth vote turnout was low), as did their use of “Buddy” with a tin ear to the likelihood it would appear they were appealing to adolescents.

Responsible Ohio had this plan to legalize marijuana and get rich at the same time, and they were simply not interested in learning from the past, or even consulting with others who had far more experience in running marijuana-related initiatives.

As a result, only James came out ahead, as he was allegedly paid more than $4 million dollars to run the ill-fated campaign. And even James may well learn to rue the day he took on this badly conceived campaign, as he is a professional who has made his reputation running more traditional campaigns, and it is difficult to imagine that his reputation will not suffer from this unnecessary debacle. Issue 3 will forever be a case study for how NOT to run a marijuana initiative.

But the real losers are the marijuana smokers in Ohio, who will continue to be arrested for years to come – nearly 20,000 each year — when a better drafted and more professionally run campaign could have ended prohibition and stopped the marijuana arrests.

2015 Election Results Are In — Ohio’s Issue 3 Fails

Wed, 11/04/2015 - 01:14

Voters decided on several important marijuana measures on the state and local level today. Here are the results:

Issue 3, ResponsibleOhio failed to pass. (34.8%-65.1%)

Most notably was the controversial ResponsibleOhio measure that sought to permit the limited commercial production, retail sale, and personal use of cannabis for those 21 years or older in the state. The measure would have initially established 10 state-licensed commercial growing sites, allowed for 1,000 retail dispensaries, five regional testing facilities and also a non-profit medical marijuana dispensary system to provide access to those patients with a recommendation from a physician.

This proposal received a significant amount of backlash from Ohio residents who believed awarding the 10 growing licenses to private investors, who fronted the costs of the campaign, was overly restrictive in nature.

NORML Deputy Director, Paul Armentano said: “We are disappointed though not entirely surprised by the outcome of this vote. While it remains clear that a majority of Ohioans support ending criminal marijuana prohibition for adults, and patients in particular, the majority of the debate surrounding Issue 3 focused on provisions regarding the limited number of entities who would financially profit from this proposed market model. It has been clear for some time now that Americans want legal marijuana; it is also abundantly clear that most voters want the free market, not an artificially restricted one dictated by special interests, to govern this emerging marketplace. It is our hope that Ohio lawmakers will listen to the will of the people in Ohio and work toward crafting sensible legislation to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of marijuana in a manner that comports with the free-market values of Ohioans.”

Nonetheless, voter sentiment remains in favor of legalizing marijuana. Next November, voters are expected to decide on ballot measures regulating marijuana in a number of states including California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Arizona. These measures will not contain the restrictive provisions similar to those proposed in Ohio.

At the local level, residents in Keego Harbor and Portage, Michigan were also faced with a ballot decision today on whether or not to remove the criminal penalties associated with the possession, use, transfer and transportation of small amounts of marijuana. At this time, it has been confirmed that Keego Harbor has approved their ballot measure (55.3%-44.7%). Portage voters also narrowly approved their measure (50.6%-49.4%). Residents in Logan, Ohio voted on a similar depenalization measure that was defeated (56.9%-43%). 

The results of two candidate races boded well tonight for marijuana law reform. In Kentucky, Republican candidate for Governor, Matt Bevin defeated Attorney General of Kentucky, Jack Conway. The Kentucky Governor in waiting has made supportive statements in the past for legalizing medical marijuana, while his opponent called marijuana a dangerous gateway to addiction.

Additionally, former city councilmen Jim Kenney won the race to become Philadelphia’s next mayor. Kenney championed the city’s now successfully implemented marijuana decriminalization measure and has expressed interest in reducing fines and enforcement even further. 

NORML Chapters Lead Reform Efforts on the Local Level!

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 19:36

Everyday NORML affiliates and chapters around the country pour countless hours into contacting representatives, hosting events, and talking to voters, all with the hope of passing meaningful marijuana reforms on the local, state and federal level! In an effort to highlight their hard work and accomplishments, we will feature their stories on and promote the content through our social media channels.

State and Local

Without a citizen initiative process, Virginia NORML is forced to rely on their state legislature to change state law; therefore, volunteers have been working hard over the past few months to unseat Virginia’s most anti-marijuana politician this November!
Action Alert: Help Virginia NORML Oust A Marijuana Prohibitionist

Days before the 2015 General Election, marijuana advocates In North Carolina held a rally to remind candidates that marijuana is, and will continue to be an important issue for voters. The group is also asking law enforcement agencies to make marijuana arrests their lowest priority.
Charlotte NORML Supports Marijuana Reform

Sharon Ravert, executive director of Peachtree NORML shared her thoughts about law enforcement getting involved in health-related matters such as medical marijuana.
Commission Hears Sheriff’s Objections to Medical Cannabis in Georgia

Wyoming NORML remains determined after Campbell County representatives announced their opposition of an effort to put medical marijuana on the ballot in 2016.
County Commissioners Back Anti-Pot Campaign

Close to 1,000 marijuana advocates took to the streets of Texas to educate community leaders about the need for a more comprehensive medical marijuana bill for suffering Texans!
Hundreds Join ‘Marijuana March’ in Dallas

Now that Mr. Mizanskey has been released from prison, he has found his calling as the Show Me State’s most vocal opponent against the federal government’s War on Drugs and the negative impact it has had on American families.
Jeff Mizanskey Spent Over a Third of His Life in Prison

Josh Chittum, executive director of Mid-Missouri NORML continues his work to change local laws regarding marijuana. He’s focused on changing the penalties associated with the cultivation of marijuana in Columbia, Missouri from 15 years in jail to a municipal fine.
Local Groups Asking for Signatures on Marijuana Legislation

Northwest Ohio NORML recently endorsed Mike Ferner for Toledo Mayor citing his support for a voter-approved ordinance that aimed to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana crimes.
Northwest Ohio NORML endorses Ferner for Toledo mayor

Dale Gieringer, executive director of California NORML shares his thoughts on Operation Golden Flow, a drug test aimed at finding heroin users among returning Vietnam veterans and the profits that help fuel the failed War on Drugs.
Operation Golden Flow: America’s Urine is Liquid Gold for Drug War Profiteers

Pittsburgh NORML recently avoided a long court battle with the NFL over a dispute related to the pro-marijuana group’s popular logo and one used by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pittsburgh Steelers Threaten NORML Chapter

Members of Virginia NORML met to discuss their strategy to expand on HB 1445, a severely limited medical marijuana bill that was passed by the state legislature earlier this year.
Proponents of Legalized Pot Plot Strategy

With plenty of snowy months ahead, Wyoming NORML remains optimistic as they continue their work to gather roughly 25,000 signatures to put medical marijuana on the 2016 ballot.
Signatures Still Needed to Get Medical Marijuana Up for Wyoming Vote

Pamela Novy, executive director of Virginia NORML recently met with community leaders to discuss an effort to decriminalize marijuana in the city of Roanoke, Virginia.
VA NORML Works With Local Lawmakers on Decriminalizing Marijuana


Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML pushed back against claims that marijuana is more harmful and dangerous than alcohol by citing a government-funded study that took place between 2012 and 2013.
Americans’ Marijuana Use Has Doubled in the Past 10 Years, Report Finds

Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML shared his concerns about major GOP candidates not taking a more definite position on the issue of legalizing marijuana on the federal level.
Marijuana Industry Advocates Find GOP’s Lack of Pot Talk a Major Bummer


Missouri NORML Fall Conference, November 7, St. Louis
Marijuana Business Conference & Expo, November 11-13, Las Vegas
High Times Cannabis Cup, November 12-15, Jamaica
Denver NORML Holiday Potluck & Silent Auction, November 21, Denver
NORML’s Legal Seminar, December 3-5, Key West

Poll: Majority Of Voters Support Legalizing Adult Use Of Marijuana

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 17:23

Fifty-five percent of registered voters believe that the personal use of marijuana should be legal, according to national tracking poll data compiled by Morning Consult – a Washington DC consulting firm. Thirty-eight percent of respondents polled said that they oppose legalization and eight percent were undecided.

Majorities of both men (57 percent) and women (52 percent) said that they support legalization. Among registered voters between the ages of ages of 18 and 44, over 60 percent endorse legalizing cannabis.

Majorities of both Democrats (63 percent) and Independents (59 percent) support legalization, according to the poll, while most Republicans (58 percent) do not.

The Morning Consult polling data is similar to those of other recent national polls, such as those by reported by Gallup, CBS News, and Pew, finding that a majority of Americans now support ending marijuana prohibition.

Justin Trudeau and Marijuana: Like Father, Like Son

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 12:16

The recent victory in Canada by Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party, a landslide triumph that ended nearly a decade of rule by the Conservative Party, promises a significant change in the politics of Canada in a number of policy areas, including a boost in spending to stimulate the economy; raising taxes on the wealthy; and legalizing marijuana.

Stephen Harper, head of the Conservative Party, attempted to use marijuana legalization as a wedge issue against Trudeau in the recent campaign, making the rather bizarre claim that marijuana is “infinitely worse” than tobacco (an estimated 37,000 Canadians die each year from tobacco smoking). His allegation fell flat with the voters and likely helped Trudeau demonstrate the need for new, fresh and more innovative and honest leadership.

Trudeau has long favored the legalization of marijuana, publicly acknowledging his own past use of weed (including an admission of smoking when he was a member of Parliament). Shortly after the recent Liberal Party victory, he announced legalization would move forward as one of his top priorities. We share a common border stretching nearly 4,000 miles, and whatever occurs in the U.S. inevitably has an impact on Canada. It appears our domestic experience with marijuana legalization has favorably impacted attitudes in Canada, and they too are now ready for a tax and regulate regimen.

The First Prime Minister Trudeau

This needed change in Canadian marijuana policy reminds some of us of earlier times when Canada had a far more progressive and tolerant marijuana policy than the U.S., going back to the 1960s and 1970s, when Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, was the Prime Minister. Pierre Trudeau served as prime minister from 1968 to 1979, and again from 1980 to 1984. He was a dominant political presence who, with his glamorous wife Margaret Trudeau, was part of the fast-lane crowd during the 1970s, famously partying with the Rolling Stones; hanging-out at then-popular Studio 54 in New York; and, in a strange moment in a Washington Post news article, once publicly invited disillusioned young Americans to visit Canada, promising they would not be harassed if they brought along a couple of joints.

This was during the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement, when young Americans burning their draft cards and long hair and marijuana smoking were all part of the cultural rebellion that would transform American society and eventually bring that war to an end. Canada, and Pierre Trudeau, were generally opposed to the war, and supportive of U.S. draft resisters (offering them asylum in Canada) and others who were working to stop the killing.

Raising the “Pierre Trudeau Defense”

It was this public invitation to visit Canada that led me to raise the “Pierre Trudeau defense,” when I was busted with a joint entering Canada to give a college lecture in Calgary in the mid-1970s.

I was (obviously) not familiar with the rigors of international travel at the time, and had stuck a joint in the pocket of my sports coat to share with the students when the lecture was over. We usually went back to someone’s apartment after a college lecture, where the students would generally pass around a joint of whatever weed was available on the black market, at prices most students could afford, and frequently it was not high quality – what we might call “ditch weed” today. So I always enjoyed bringing a joint from my own stash – high quality homegrown – to share with the students, to let them experience the better marijuana that was available if one had the right connections on the black market.

As further evidence of my naiveté, I also was wearing a gold marijuana-leaf lapel pin on my sports coat, oblivious to the fact that the marijuana pin might well bring closer scrutiny as I entered the county. I almost made it through Customs without a problem, but at the last minute, one of the officers recognized my pin, and decided to stop me and search my pockets, where he found the joint.

As I was being taken into custody, a group of the students who were meeting me to take me to the lecture saw what was happening, and someone had the good sense to bring the lecture fee that I would have received, to use as bail, so I could get out of custody and deliver the lecture on schedule later that night.

When I returned in a few weeks to go to trial, my old friend Gerry Goldstein, a young Texas criminal defense attorney who was then heading Texas NORML, accompanied me as my attorney. Since we knew possession of a single joint in Canada would bring, at most, a slap on the wrist and a modest fine, we decided to engage in some street theater, and to make it into a show trial, at which we put on the “Pierre Trudeau defense”.

I was never quite sure why Trudeau had made that statement. Perhaps he simply wanted to demonstrate how hip he and his wife were, since they were known to have smoked marijuana with the Rolling Stones at some point. Regardless, it sure sounded like something that might help me justify my actions in Canada, and it would surely make good theater for the media.

So attorney Goldstein first introduced a copy of the Washington Post article into evidence, and then had me take the stand, and under oath, say I admitted bringing the joint into Canada, but insisting that I had done it on the reliance that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had assured me (and other young Americans) that we would not be hassled.

It was obviously not a legal defense, but it did have a certain appeal to the media, and seemed to further NORML’s position that there is nothing wrong with smoking pot.

The judge saw the humor in what we were doing, and allowed us to put on our defense, but then convicted me (on my own testimony), imposed a modest fine, and sent me on my way home, none the worse for wear. It had been exhilarating to challenge the system, and we felt we had successfully pushed the policy envelope by being so out-front and unapologetic about my marijuana smoking.

Busted Again, On the Way Out of the Country

But then things turned ugly. On our way through customs as we were leaving the country, still beaming from the fact that we had pulled-off our legal street theater without harm, the Canadian customs officials found an empty one-gram cocaine vial which I had inadvertently left in my shoulder bag, with trace amounts of cocaine still in the bottle, and I was taken back into custody. Suddenly, this little Canadian joke did not seem so humorous, and especially not to the prosecutor or the judge who had just allowed us to pull-off our stunt in his courtroom.

I was thrown in jail overnight, and the following morning Goldstein arranged for me to plead guilty to the new cocaine charge, pay a larger fine, and finally get out of the country, with a warning that I would never be permitted back into the country. (In fact, I have since been back to Canada on several occasions, so apparently someone saw fit to remove me from the list of banned travelers at some point.)

But all these many years later, when I hear the name Trudeau as the newly elected Prime Minister of Canada, I cannot help but smile as I remember the good-old-days, when a combination of youth and naiveté allowed us to live close to the edge, with little or no fear of the consequences.

Today I lead a far less dangerous lifestyle!

NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 13:36

Election day is around the corner but some legislators aren’t waiting for that to work towards reforming their marijuana laws. Keep reading to find out what happened this week in marijuana law reform.

To support the measures below, please use our #TakeAction Center to contact your state and federal elected officials! A full list and summary of pending state and federal legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.

Federal Bill Highlights:

NORML is currently in the midst of a week long Congressional Letter Writing Campaign Contest! To enter, contact at least two of your three representatives using NORML’s #TakeAction Center by clicking one of the five bills listed below. You can also use of our templates that can be found here. Then take a picture of your letter and post it to your Facebook or Twitter page using the #ActNORML hashtag so we know you’re participating in the campaign! Once the campaign comes to an end at 7PM MST on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, a random winner will be selected from Facebook and Twitter.

We’re excited to announce that we have partnered with High Times to offer a pair of Cannabis Cup tickets to two lucky winners who participate in our campaign!

CARERS Act: The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, is pending in the US Senate to strengthen statewide medical marijuana protections and impose various changes to federal law.

Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act: This act removes cannabis from the United States Controlled Substances Act. It also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matter concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.

Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act: The DEA program distributes funds to state and local law enforcement agencies for the purpose of locating and destroying marijuana cultivation sites. HR 3518 reads, “[B]eginning in fiscal year 2015, and for each fiscal year thereafter, no amounts in the Fund may be used for the Domestic Cannabis Suppression/Eradication Program of the Drug Enforcement Administration, or any substantially similar program.”

Fair Access to Education Act: Presently, the Higher Education Act prohibits those convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana possession crime while enrolled in secondary education from being eligible to receive financial aid. This ignores the fact that using and possessing marijuana is legal in at least four states and the District of Columbia. This bill would “exclude marijuana-related offenses from the drug-related offenses that result in students being barred from receiving Federal educational loans, grants, and work assistance, and for other purposes.”

State Marijuana and Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act: Under this proposal, the US federal Controlled Substances Act would be inapplicable with respect to states that have legalized and regulated marijuana in a manner that addresses key federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, violence or use of firearms in cultivation and distribution of marijuana, and drugged driving.

State Legislative Highlights:

Illinois: The Illinois General Assembly did not take action following Governor Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of House Bill 218. The bill is dead for the 2015 session, though reformers are hopeful that similar legislation will soon be pre-filed for 2016.

As originally approved by the legislature, HB 218 reduced penalties for the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana to a civil violation punishable by a fine of $125. The measure also sought to amend the state’s zero tolerance law for those who operate a motor vehicle with trace levels of marijuana metabolites in their system.

Pennsylvania: Members of the Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee have unanimously passed SB 50 to make industrial hemp a legal cash crop in the state of Pennsylvania. This bill is the companion legislation to HB 967, which members of the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee unanimously passed a few weeks earlier. Both bills will now be voted on by the full House and Senate.

Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!

** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

Presidential Candidate Calls For Descheduling Marijuana

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 13:38

Vermont Senator and Democrat Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders yesterday pledged to get the federal government out of the marijuana enforcement business by removing the substance from the US Controlled Substances Act.

Senator Sanders called cannabis’ present schedule I status under federal law “absurd.” He added: “In my view, the time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana. … [S]tates should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern the sale of alcohol and tobacco.”

The Senator also said that state-compliant marijuana operations “should be fully able to use the banking system without fear of federal prosecution.”

Senator Sanders comments differ from those of Democrat opponent and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley who promised to use the executive powers of the President to “to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act.” Republican candidate Rand Paul [R-KY] has also co-sponsored federal legislation, SB 683, that seeks to reclassify cannabis to Schedule II under federal law. However, simply rescheduling marijuana from I to II would not limit the federal government’s authority to prosecute marijuana offenders, including those who are in compliance with state law.

While several other Presidential candidates have called on federal officials to respect states’ marijuana policies, none have proposed amending federal marijuana laws.

Senator Sanders latest position is consistent with the view of most voters. According to a 2015 Pew poll, 60 percent of Americans agree that the government “should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states that allow use,” while recent Gallup survey data finds that 58 percent of US citizens over the age of 18 believe cannabis should be legal for adults.

Ohio: Recent Polls Show Voters Split On Issue 3

Mon, 10/26/2015 - 15:43

Ohioans will decide next Tuesday on Issue 3, the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, and recent polls indicate that voters are evenly divided on the issue.

Bowling Green State University polling data released late last week finds 44 percent of respondents supporting the measure and 43 percent opposing it. Thirteen percent of respondents are undecided.

By contrast, the Bowling Green poll reports that 56 percent of respondents favor Issue 2, a counter-measure placed on the ballot by state lawmakers to prohibit state regulators from permitting the limited production of “any Schedule I controlled substance.”

A separate poll, conducted by the University of Akron, also reports that voters are split on Issue 3, with 46 percent of respondents favoring the measure and 46 percent opposing it. The poll reports that voters are far more informed about Issue 3 than other ballot issues, including Issue 2, which voters back by a margin of 40 percent to 28 percent (with 32 percent undecided).

The latest polling data differs from survey data released earlier this month by WKYC/Kent State Polling, which reported that 56 percent of voters backed Issue 3.

If both competing measures (Issue 3 and Issue 2) are passed by voters, it will likely be up to the courts to decide which initiative takes precedence.

Support for Legalization Continues to Grow Into The Future

Mon, 10/26/2015 - 10:38

Public policy, in a democracy, depends on the will of a majority of the citizens. Only when a clear majority favor a change in policy can that change occur, and even then, when working with elected legislators, these is always a significant lag between a change in the public attitudes, and a change in public policy. Most elected officials, with an eye towards being re-elected, find it safer to vote for the status quo, until it is unavoidably obvious they are on the losing side.

Fortunately, in half the states citizens have the option of going around their elected state legislatures and changing public policy by a voter initiative – a direct vote of the people. Which explains how the marijuana legalization movement has been so successful over the last few years. As public attitudes have increasingly shifted against prohibition, and in support of legalization, we have had the ability to ask the citizens in several states to approve legalization, despite the trepidation of their state elected officials.

And that has allowed us to enact legalization in a few states several years earlier than would have been the case if we would have had to move the proposal through the state legislature. For that, we are truly benefiting from the successes of the Progressive movement of an earlier era, for the concept of a voter initiative.

The Latest Gallup Poll

But none of that matters unless a proposed change in policy enjoys the support of a majority of the public. And as the latest Gallup Poll results underscored, the support for legalizing marijuana continues to increase, and there is every reason to believe that trend will only increase in the coming years. And the political implications of that are obvious.

More specifically, this latest Gallup Poll found that 58 percent of the public nationwide now support the full legalization of marijuana, matching the highest level of support Gallup has ever found over 46 years of polling on the question.

Gallup first polled the American public about their support for legalizing marijuana in 1969, the year before NORML was founded, and found the support level at only 12 percent. That number rose to 28 percent by 1977, before beginning a decline, falling to 23 percent by 1985. Support then again began to rise gradually over the next 25 years, until finally reaching 50 percent in 2011. Gallup found support peaking at 58 percent in 2013, before showing a decline to 51 percent in 2014 (those numbers are within the 4 percent margin of error for their telephone survey of just over 1,000 respondents), and then rebounding to 58 percent again in 2015.

These latest 2015 findings were overwhelmingly favorable in all age groups, with a majority level of support in all age categories, except seniors (my own group), and even there we are showing big gains.

Younger Americans, Democrats and independents are the most likely to favor legalizing cannabis, while Republicans and Americans over the age of 65 are least likely to do so. Among those poll respondents age 18 to 34, 71 percent endorse legalization. Among respondents age 35 to 49 years of age, 64 percent support legalizing marijuana. Among those age 65 and up, support fell to 35 percent, but this too reflected a sharp increase in support.

We Are Outliving Our Opponents

At NORML we have often joked that our strategy, if all else failed (and there were certainly decades when we were making very little measurable progress), was to out-live our opponents. We were only partially kidding, as we were aware that younger Americans were far more supportive of legalization than were older Americans, and eventually we would win.

The most significant implications of this latest Gallup data is the likelihood that this trend will continue for many years in the future, as more seniors are replaced by younger Americans, making it possible for us in the next few years to adopt legalization in many more states that offer a voter initiative; and importantly, in many other states that do not, by way of the state legislature. Even elected officials can only ignore the will of the public for so long, before either supporting that change, or being replaced by those who do. It is only a matter of time.

The poll’s authors suggested the future looks positive for those who favor legalization. “Given the patterns of support by age, that percentage should continue to grow in the future. … These trends suggest that state and local governments may come under increasing pressure to ease restrictions on marijuana use, if not go even further like the states of Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska in making recreational marijuana use completely legal.”

Or as NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano has pointed out, continuing to support marijuana prohibition is now a “fringe position” in America. “These results ought to embolden campaigning politicians, as well as elected officials, to take a more pronounced stance in favor of legalizing and regulating cannabis in a manner that is consistent with the desires of the majority of their constituents.”

This is an important point to keep in mind when thinking about who might be elected the next US president, and whether that individual will continue “the Obama policy” of allowing the states to determine their own marijuana policy, without interference from the federal government. With support for full legalization reaching nearly 60 percent nationwide, it will be difficult, and likely politically impossible, for the next president to change that policy, regardless of her/his personal views.

We have, after a long and sometimes frustrating public debate covering several decades, finally won the hearts and minds of a majority of the American public, and with that, the power to move marijuana legalization forward full speed, until it is the law of the land. We are now the majority.

It’s a wonderful time to be a marijuana smoker.

2015 Congressional Letter Writing Campaign 

Sat, 10/24/2015 - 12:15

Beginning on Monday, October 26, 2015, NORML Affiliates and Chapters from across the country will begin contacting their representatives to urge them to support one of the seventeen marijuana-related bills introduced since the 114th Congress convened on January 3, 2015.

Over the past few months, NORML Affiliates and Chapters have demonstrated their ability to mobilize thousands of marijuana advocates from around the country so we hope all of you will join us in making this a successful campaign!

Project: NORML Congressional Letter Writing Campaign and Contest

Who: NORML Affiliates and Chapters

When: Monday, October 26, 2015 through Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Summary: Letter campaign targeting members of the House and Senate requesting their immediate support of pending marijuana-related legislation. We encourage the use of handwritten letters and emails.

Target Legislation:


Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act

Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act

Fair Access to Education Act

State Marijuana and Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act

Contest: We’re excited to announce that we have partnered with High Times to offer a pair of Cannabis Cup tickets to two lucky winners who participate in our campaign! By offering a contest, we hope to create some additional excitement around our 2015 Congressional Letter Writing Campaign, and in return, drive participation and engagement.

To enter, contact at least two of your three representatives using NORML’s Action Center by clicking one of the five bills listed above or simply use one of our templates that can be found here. Then, take a picture of your letter and post it to your Facebook or Twitter page using the #ActNORML hashtag so we know you’re participating in the campaign! Once the campaign comes to an end at 7PM MST on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, a random winner will be selected from Facebook and Twitter.

For more details about the contest, please click here for our Official Contest Rules!