How do we move from prohibition to legalization in my state?
That’s one of the most asked questions we hear every week at NORML.
With national media attention focusing on the favorable experience with legalization in Colorado and Washington, and on the not-yet-implemented legalization programs recently adopted in Oregon and Alaska, anyone living in a state that continues arresting and jailing marijuana smokers would naturally wonder why their state seems to have missed out on the drive to end marijuana prohibition.
More accurately, many of those states are lagging behind in the legalization movement, but that, too, will change. As we continue to gather data demonstrating these new laws are working as intended, with few unintended consequences, the drive to end marijuana prohibition will soon reach every state in the union, and beyond. We are no longer debating theory and conjecture; we now have real-life experiences that can be evaluated, and that data resource will grow with each new state.
Patience and persistence still required
We all need to accept the reality that changing public policy is a complex process that requires financial resources, re-education and political organizing. Following more than 75 years of criminal prohibition, and “reefer madness” propaganda by our state and federal governments, many Americans — especially older Americans — hold a negative view of marijuana and marijuana smoking, believing it presents a risk to health or public safety.
Since all but a few of us have lived under prohibition for our entire lives, it is understandable that many would presume there must have been some justification for those tens of millions of marijuana arrests. Surely our own government would not needlessly wreak havoc on all those lives and careers without a good reason.
District of Columbia city officials this week moved forward with their intentions to implement a voter-approved municipal initiative depenalizing marijuana possession and cultivation offenses.
On Tuesday, city officials confirmed that Initiative 71 was transmitted to Congress for review. Under federal law, all District laws are subject to a 30-day review process by Congress, during which time members may take action to halt the law’s implementation.
Speaking to Roll Call this week, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said that language previously adopted by Congress in a December 2014 spending bill already prohibits DC officials from implementing I-71 and, thus, no further action by Congress is necessary. However, several District officials – including DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson – said that the federal provision in question in no way blocks city officials from enacting the new law.
“The District’s examination agrees with our analysis that the initiative was enacted when voters approved it and will take effect at the end of the 30-day congressional review period,” Del. Norton said in a statement.
Chairman Mendelson agreed, saying, “I happen to believe that the initiative was enacted so I think there’s no question that after the 30-day review it will be law.”
The District of Columbia Attorney General’s office has not yet commented in regard to how the District will respond if Congress does not address the initiative during the review process, Roll Call reported.
In November, 70 percent of District voters approved I-71, which removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants.
Separate DC municipal legislation – ‘The Marijuana Legalization and regulation Act’ – which seeks to regulate commercial cannabis production and retail sales, is also pending before the Council. If enacted, this legislation would also go before lawmakers for Congressional review and likely would force a federal challenge.
The inhalation of one marijuana cigarette per day over a 20-year period is not associated with adverse changes in lung health, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society.
Investigators at Emory University in Atlanta assessed marijuana smoke exposure and lung health in a large representative sample of US adults age 18 to 59. Researchers reported that cannabis exposure was not associated with FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) decline or deleterious change in spirometric values of small airways disease.
Authors further reported that marijuana smoke exposure may even be associated with some protective lung effects among long-term smokers of tobacco. Investigators acknowledged, “[T]he pattern of marijuana’s effects seems to be distinctly different when compared to that of tobacco use.”
Researchers also acknowledged that habitual cannabis consumers were more likely to self-report increased symptoms of bronchitis, a finding that is consistent with previous literature. Separate studies indicate that subjects who vaporize cannabis report fewer adverse respiratory symptoms than do those who inhale combustive marijuana smoke.
Authors concluded, “[I]n a large representative sample of US adults, ongoing use of marijuana is associated with increased respiratory symptoms of bronchitis without a significant functional abnormality in spirometry, and cumulative marijuana use under 20 joint-years is not associated with significant effects on lung function.”
This study is the largest cross-sectional analysis to date examining the relationship between marijuana use and spirometric parameters of lung health.
A separate study published in 2012 in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) similarly reported that cumulative marijuana smoke exposure over a period of up to 7 joint-years (the equivalent of up to one marijuana cigarette per day for seven years) was not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function.
A 2013 review also published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society acknowledged that marijuana smoke exposure was not positively associated with the development of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, or bullous lung disease. It concluded: “[H]abitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function. Findings from a limited number of well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use. … Overall, the risks of pulmonary complications of regular use of marijuana appear to be relatively small and far lower than those of tobacco smoking.”
You may view an abstract of the study, “Effects of marijuana exposure on expiratory airflow: A study of adults who participated in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Study,” here.
From Michigan NORML:
The attitude of Michigan voters is evolving toward acceptance of legalizing and taxing marijuana use for adults, per a recent EPIC-MRA survey commissioned by the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (MiNORML).
The poll shows 50% of Michigan adults would likely vote in favor of a system like those being utilized in Washington and Colorado, where marijuana is sold to adults and the proceeds are taxed by the state. 46% of respondents opposed the program. The results show a 3% increase in the acceptance of the tax and regulate legalization model from the previous survey, conducted in 2013 by the same firm.
The 2014 poll asked respondents if they would vote for a ballot proposal that would legalize marijuana use for adults 21 and over, create a system of licensed dispensaries to distribute the marijuana and tax its sale. 600 participants were surveyed on December 10 through 14, including 20% cell phone contact and the poll has a margin of error of ±4%.
“Michigan is a leader in the national trend toward reform of marijuana laws,” said Matthew Abel, attorney with Cannabis Counsel PLC in Detroit and the Executive Director of MiNORML. “This latest poll shows a major shift in attitude toward marijuana legalization over the last year. Legislators, take note: Michigan is ready for this.”
Support for legalized marijuana was greater among parents (52% likely YES) than among those voters without children (49%). Voters of all educational levels would approve a marijuana legalization ballot proposal; more than 50% of all the poll’s respondents (309) identify themselves as college-educated. 69% of those in the 18-34 age group responded as likely YES votes, as did 60% of all men age 18-49 and 70% of male Democrats. The largest demographic of opposition: Republican males (63% likely NO).
In conservative western Michigan the staunchest support for legalized marijuana was higher (40% definite YES), and opposition was lower (35% definite NO), than statewide averages (39% definite YES/36% definite NO). The statewide averages are skewed by numbers from the Bay Region that are significantly more negative toward legalization (38% likely YES/60% likely NO) than any other region surveyed.
Keith Stroup, national NORML founder and legal counsel, said “The latest Michigan polling results are in line with what we are seeing all across the country. Numerous polls have shown a majority of the public nationwide now support ending marijuana prohibition, and regulating and taxing the responsible use of marijuana by adults. It’s promising to see that voters in Michigan agree.”
The beginning of a new year provides an opportunity for reflection about what we hope to accomplish over the coming year, and whether there is a need to revise or fine-tune our tactics or strategy. It is also a time for allowing our hopes and dreams to take flight, even as we acknowledge we may not accomplish everything on our wish list within the next twelve months. By setting lofty goals, some of which may initially seem out-of-reach, we will surely move closer to our ultimate goal of full legalization all across the country.
Here are some strategies I propose we embrace for 2015.
1. Legalization is working well in Colorado and Washington, and we must continue to gather and spread the good news.
A poll conducted by the firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) revealed that 60% of Virginia voters would support decriminalizing the adult possession of small amounts of marijuana, indicating strong support for state Senator Adam Ebbin’s marijuana decriminalization measure, Senate Bill 686. Decriminalization had majority support from every age, racial, and gender demographic.
The survey also had support for legalization and regulation of marijuana in the Commonwealth at a record high of 49% support to 44% opposed.
With the legislative session kicking off in Virginia, expect to hear much more about this pending legislation in the coming weeks. If you are a Virginia resident, please CLICK HERE to quickly and easily contact your state Senator and urge their support for SB 686. It is time that our state officials pursued a policy on marijuana that was “Smart on crime and smart for Virginia.”
We strongly encourage you also attend Virginia NORML‘s lobby day in Richmond on January 16th to help put the pressure on state legislators in person. You can click here for more information on lobby day.
If you find yourself traveling in the Richmond area, keep your eyes peeled for Virginia NORML’s billboard in support of SB 686, which should be going on display very soon on Route 360 as you drive over the James River (the billboard image is featured at the top of this post).
This poll was commissioned by MPP and conducted by Public Policy Polling. You can read the full results here.TAKE ACTION VIRGINIA – CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR STATE SENATOR IN SUPPORT OF SB 686
One of the current challenges facing both Colorado and Washington is how to successfully implement a full legalization system along side an existing medical use system. In Colorado, for example, the state elected to permit their existing, licensed medical use dispensaries to be the only dispensaries permitted for the first year (although they were required to keep the two sides of their business separate), to take advantage of the existing infrastructure for growing and dispensing marijuana. Thereafter those without prior experience in the medical marijuana marketplace were allowed to apply for licenses to grow and sell recreational marijuana.
NORML reviews the top news stories of 2014.
#1 Marijuana Legalization Measures Win Big On Election Day
Voters in Oregon and Alaska decided on Election Day in favor of statewide initiatives legalizing the commercial production and sale of marijuana for adults, while voters in the nation’s capitol and in numerous other cities nationwide similarly decided on local measures to eliminate marijuana possession penalties.
#2 Colorado And Washington Begin Regulating Retail Marijuana Sales
Two states, Colorado and Washington, initiated retail marijuana sales in 2014. Colorado’s program began on January 1. In Washington, state-licensed retail outlets began legally selling cannabis to adults in July.
#3 Congress Enacts Measure Protecting State-Sponsored Medi-Pot Programs
President Barack Obama signed spending legislation into law in December that included a provision limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states. The amendment states, “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
#4 Congress Moves To Permit State-Sanctioned Hemp Cultivation
Federal lawmakers approved legislation in February permitting state-sponsored hemp cultivation to move forward despite the plant’s federal status as a Schedule I prohibited substance.
#5 Federal Judge Hears Challenge To Cannabis’ Schedule I Status
United States District Judge Kimberly Mueller heard five days of testimony in October in regard to the constitutionality of marijuana’s Schedule I status under federal law. Defense counsel and their experts argued that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s present categorization. Judge Mueller is expected to make her ruling in early 2015.
#6 JAMA: Fewer Opiate-Related Deaths In Medical Marijuana States
The enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, according to data published in August in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”
#7 President Acknowledges That Booze Is More Harmful Than Marijuana
Consuming cannabis is less harmful to the individual than is drinking alcohol, President Barack Obama acknowledged in January in an interview with The New Yorker. “I don’t think it (marijuana) is more dangerous than alcohol,” he stated. He added, [W]e should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time.”
#8 Study: Medical Marijuana States Have Fewer Violent Crimes
Medicinal cannabis laws are not associated with any rise in statewide criminal activity, according to data published in April in the journal PLoS ONE. “Medical marijuana laws were not found to have a crime exacerbating effect on any of the seven crime types. On the contrary, our findings indicated that MML precedes a reduction in homicide and assault,” authors concluded. “In sum, these findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.”
#9 NYT Editors Opine In Favor Of Legalizing Cannabis
The New York Times editorial board in July called upon federal lawmakers to end the criminalization of cannabis for those over the age of 21. The paper’s editors opined: “The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. … Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. … [W]e believe that on every level, … the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization.”
#10 Americans Say Marijuana Is Less Harmful To Health Than Sugar
Americans believe that consuming cannabis poses less harm to health than does the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, or sugar, according to the findings of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in March. Respondents were asked which of the four substances they believed to be “most harmful to a person’s overall health.” Most respondents said tobacco (49 percent), followed by alcohol (24 percent) and sugar (15 percent).
2014 was truly a watershed year for the movement to legalize marijuana in this country.Two states joined the list of jurisdiction to switch from prohibition to regulated sales, and the District of Columbia, as well as a number of cities, adopted complete decriminalization for minor offenses. And scores of additional states saw their first serious legalization proposals introduced in their state legislatures, a fact that holds great promise for more victories to come in the near future.
While far too many marijuana arrests continue to occur in this country, and hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens still have their lives and careers turned upside-down each year because of their use of marijuana, it is also true that the number of marijuana arrests dropped for the fourth straight year, reversing a pattern of increasing numbers of arrests that had been expanding for several decades. With additional states moving from prohibition towards decriminalization or full legalization, those numbers should continue to decline for years to come. We did not get into this mess called marijuana prohibition overnight, and it will require both persistence and patience to put it fully behind us.
A lot of the progress we have seen over the last year occurred in ways that reflect the increasing public acceptance of marijuana, a necessary precursor to political change. 2014 was truly another banner year for legalizers.
Here is my list of the most significant milestones of the last twelve months.
To Read the balance of this column, please go to Marijuana.com.
Dear NORML members and supporters,
Thanks for providing this venerable 44-year old non-profit organization the support necessary–both financially and spiritually–in helping achieve its two stated public policy goals:
- End cannabis prohibition and replace with system of taxation and regulation similar to alcohol and tobacco products
- Help the victims of cannabis prohibition enforcement (from those busted for possession to workers being denied employment over drug testing to patients who need to access cannabis as a therapeutic)
To the former, the math is simple: four states down (AK, WA, OR and CO have legalized cannabis commerce and taxation), forty-six more to go.
To the latter, NORML and its 160 plus chapters are both sympathetic to and helpful outlets for the many hundreds of thousands of cannabis consumers, cultivators and sellers arrested annually on criminal charges.
Attached is an end-of-year synopsis of many of the projects and efforts put forward by the organization in 2014 to advance cannabis law reforms.
Important issues going forward post legalization present a myriad of public policy concerns for groups like NORML to advocate for adult cannabis consumers:
- To be able to imbibe in a licensed establishment in the same manner alcohol consumers do (in other words, it is not sufficient or prudent to banish cannabis consumers to use the herbal drug only on private property, which does not even include most public accommodations like hotels. Americans want Dutch-like ‘coffeeshops’ to buy and use the product responsibly on-site);
- Employment protections for cannabis consumers not impaired in the workplace;
- Child custody rights;
- Second Amendment rights (under federal law, cannabis consumer and state-sanctioned patients can’t buy guns or ammunition);
- Reasonable taxes for consumers and businesses (so as not to encourage continuance of black market);
- Legal protections for cannabis consumers who currently fall under federal government’s specter (military personal, government contractors, university students, federal workers and contractors)
- Scientific based drugged driving testing
The public’s support since 1970 has aptly guided NORML thus far, looking into the political crystal ball for 2015, here are four items to be prepared for:
- There will be in excess of fifteen states that debate legalization bills in their 2015 legislative sessions (a state, likely in New England, will pass cannabis legalization legislation for the first time as all previous legalization successes have come about via voter ballot initiatives)
- The US Congress will have nearly twenty cannabis law reform bills introduced, ranging from legalization to rescheduling to sentencing to industrial hemp reforms.
- Reform organizations, including NORML, will be increasingly focused on passing a voter initiative in California in 2016 legalizing cannabis
- Non-partisan advocacy of presidential candidates for 2016 to support ending cannabis prohibition
Going into the New Year, possibly the penultimate year for cannabis law reform in the United States, please consider in 2015 the remarkable contrast occurring in the few states that have ended cannabis prohibition with the nightmare scenarios our fellow cannabis consumers still face in a vast majority of states in America.
Bittersweetly, here at NORML we’re caught betwixt and between prohibition and legalization where we field as many daily inquiries from citizens still getting screwed by antiquated cannabis prohibition laws as we do now very eager entrepreneurs wanting to know how they can become a legitimate cannabis-related business.
Please help NORML continue to push forward with achieving our stated policy objectives with your continued financial support in 2015.**
Thanks in advance for both caring and sharing!
Allen St. Pierre
NORML and NORML Foundation
**Donations of cash, stocks, securities and property to The NORML Foundation are fully tax deductible.
Legislation decriminalizing the possession of one ounce or less of cannabis in the United States Virgin Islands became law this weekend.
On Friday, Senate lawmakers voted to override Gov. John P. DeJongh’s line-item veto of the decriminalization provision, which had been included in territory’s 2015 fiscal year budget.
The depenalization measure eliminates jail time for minor marijuana offenses. Under the new law, cannabis possession for those age 18 and older is classified as a civil offense, punishable by a fine between $100 and $200. Those under the age of 18 will also be required to complete a drug awareness program.
(Under the previous law, minor marijuana possession offenses were punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.)
The enactment of the new law “will go a long way in easing cost on the judicial system and judicial process,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Terrance Nelson. Senators voted 14-0 to override the President’s veto.
For those of us in the business of changing public policy, sometimes we judge our progress on what we have accomplished; and other times we judge our effectiveness by the desperate acts of our opponents. The federal law suit filed late last week by the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma, seeking a declaratory judgment from the U.S. Supreme Court holding Colorado’s legalization provisions to be unconstitutional, clearly falls in the latter category.
This suit is more political theater than a serious legal challenge. These two conservative state attorneys general know they are losing this fight in the court of public opinion, so they are hoping the Supreme Court will step in and overturn the will of the voters. Desperate times lead to desperate tactics, and the plaintiffs in this action were clearly feeling desperate.
The states of Nebraska and Oklahoma have asked the United States Supreme Court to issue a declaratory judgment finding that Colorado’s laws regulating the state-licensed production and sale of marijuana to adults violates the US Constitution.
The suit, filed today by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt, alleges that marijuana is being diverted into their states from Colorado, causing plaintiffs to suffer “irreparable injury.”
The Attorney Generals contend in their suit: “Plaintiff States are suffering a direct and significant detrimental impact – namely the diversion of limited manpower and resources to arrest and process suspected and convicted felons involved in the increased illegal marijuana trafficking or transportation.”
They are asking the Supreme Court to strike down Colorado’s law on the basis that it is “fundamentally at odds” with the federal Controlled Substances Act. They allege, “The diversion of marijuana from Colorado contradicts the clear Congressional intent, frustrates the federal interest in eliminating commercial transactions in the interstate controlled-substances market, and is particularly burdensome for neighboring states like Plaintiff States where law enforcement agencies and the citizens have endured the substantial expansion of Colorado marijuana.”
They seek “a declaratory judgment stating that Sections 16(4) and (5) of Article XVIII of the Colorado Constitution are preempted by federal law, and therefore unconstitutional and unenforceable under the Supremacy Clause, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.” The US Attorneys are also asking the State of Colorado “to pay the Plaintiff States’ costs and expenses associated with this legal action, including attorneys’ fees.”
The suit does not ask for the Supreme Court to enjoin any other states’ laws regulating the production or dispensing of cannabis for either social or therapeutic purposes, though it is possible that the Court’s actions may have implications for those laws going forward. To date, four states have approved measures allowing for the regulated production and sale of cannabis to adults. Twenty-three states have approved measures allowing for the use of the plant for therapeutic purposes.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers responded to the suit, stating: “[I]t appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Commenting on the suit, NORML Legal Counsel Keith Stroup said, “This suit is more political theater than a serious legal challenge. These two conservative state attorneys general know they are losing this fight in the court of public opinion, so they are hoping the Supreme Court will intercede.”
Stroup further noted that in recent days a majority of Congress approved language limiting the ability of the federal government to interfere in the implementation of state-sponsored marijuana regulatory schemes. He added: “The majority of Americans, including 55 percent of Colorado voters who endorsed this policy in 2012, support regulating cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol. The Attorney Generals pushing this lawsuit are not only out-of-step with existing public opinion and emerging political opinion, but they are also clearly on the wrong side of history.”
President Barack Obama signed spending legislation into law on Tuesday that includes provisions limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states.
Specifically, an amendment sponsored by California Reps. Dana Rohrbacher and Sam Farr to the $1.1 trillion spending bill states, “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
Said Farr following Congress’ passage of the legislation: “The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws. This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.”
Similar language prohibiting the Justice Department from undermining state-sanctioned hemp cultivation programs was also included in the bill.
Also contained in the appropriations measure is a rider sponsored by Maryland Republican Andy Harris that seeks to limit DC officials’ ability to fully implement a November 2014 municipal initiative depenalizing the personal adult possession and cultivation of cannabis. At this time however, it remains unclear whether the enacted language is written in a manner that can actually do so. On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson “plans to ignore the provision” and that he will “send a bill implementing Initiative 71 to Congress in January for a 30-day review, during which federal lawmakers can veto it or let it stand.” Such a review is necessary before any DC initiative can become law.
Washington DC’s Initiative 71, which was approved by 70 percent of District voters, removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants.
The results of a new poll recently released by Third Way, a Washington, D.C. think tank, confirms the country remains largely divided over marijuana policy, a fact also made clear from a number of previous polls, including Gallup, Pew and others. This is, of course, a positive situation for those of us who favor legalization. Only 12 percent of the public supported legalization in 1970, when NORML began challenging prohibition, and it has been a long, slow slog to win their support.
And we can reasonably anticipate even higher levels of support in the near future, as the public become comfortable with the results of full legalization in the first few states to head in that direction. Legalization is no longer just a legal theory that people can speculate about; we finally have the opportunity to measure and analyze the results of actual legalization systems in place in several states (four and counting).
In a completely unexpected move by the Obama Administration, the US Department of Justice released a memo on October 28 indicating to Native American tribes that they can engage in cannabis commerce–cultivation, processing and retail sales–as long as they comport with the existing eight rules put forward in a previous August 2013 Obama Administration memo allowing states the autonomy to develop cannabis-based businesses in states where voters have passed binding ballot initiatives or elected policymakers have passed reform legislation.
- Distribution of marijuana to minors
- Revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels
- Diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it remains illegal
- State-authorized marijuana activity being used as a cover for trafficking other illegal drugs or activity
- Violence or the use of firearms as part of cultivation and distribution of marijuana
- Drugged driving or the exacerbation of other negative health consequences associated with marijuana use
- Growing marijuana on public lands
- Marijuana possession or use on federal property
US News writes that “there are 326 federally recognized American Indian reservations, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Many reservations are in states that don’t allow marijuana for medical or recreational use, such as Oklahoma, Utah and the Dakotas. Others are located near major East Coast cities and far from legal pot stores in the West.
“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” U.S. attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon, chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues, told the Times.
In a statement, the Department of Justice said U.S. attorneys will review tribal marijuana policies on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors retain the right to enforce federal law.
“Each U.S. attorney will assess the threats and circumstances in his or her district, and consult closely with tribal partners and the Justice Department when significant issues or enforcement decisions arise in this area,” the statement says.
Read the DOJ memo allowing Native American tribes to regulate cannabis-related businesses here.
A detailed map of Native American tribes is found here.
As written, the rider seeks to restrict the District from utilizing federal or local funds to “to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.” A summary of the provision posted on the House Appropriations Committee website acknowledges that the language is intended to prevent any funds from being used to “implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District.”
Washington DC’s Initiative 71 was approved by over 70 percent of District voters in November. The initiative seeks to legalize the adult possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivation of three mature and three immature plants.
“This rider is an affront to the concept of democracy,” commented NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Seven out of ten voters in Washington, DC cast their ballot in favor of ending prohibition and legalizing the adult possession and limited cultivation of marijuana, this attempt by members of Congress to flout the will of the people is a gross injustice to these voters and to the democratic system.”
The House will vote on the final version of the omnibus bill in the next couple days and then it must be approved by the Senate. This rider has no impact on the District’s current decriminalization or medicinal marijuana policies. NORML will keep you updated as the situation develops and what precisely this means for legalization in the nation’s capital.
Federal Omnibus Includes Amendment to Prohibit DOJ/DEA From Interfering With State Medical Marijuana
The final version of the House omnibus appropriations bill includes the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year. The amendment restricts the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from using taxpayer funds to interfere in state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs in the 20+ states that have enacted them.
NORML supporters have rallied in favor of this provision, with over 22,000 emails and countless direct calls being directed at federal lawmakers regarding the amendment this year.
“This amendment is an important step towards relieving the tension between federal and state policy when it comes to medical marijuana,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “By restricting these agencies in this manner, the nearly two dozen states that implemented medical marijuana programs can hopefully breathe easier knowing federal money won’t be spent to interfere with their progress. We hope this leads to further reforms at the federal level further enshrining this sentiment into law.”
The House is expect to hold a final vote on this bill in the next couple of days, with a Senate vote to follow. You can read the full bill here.
At NORML, our goal is the full legalization of marijuana for all adults, regardless of why one smokes. But even as we continue to move forward politically, there are still hundreds of thousands of Americans being arrested for marijuana-related offenses each year, and until we achieve that goal, the criminal defense bar will continue to play a crucial role defending those citizens. Until we finally legalize marijuana for all adults, we have a continuing obligation to try to assist the victims of prohibition.
The reality is that marijuana smokers remain the target of aggressive and misguided law enforcement efforts in most states today. Responsible smokers in most states read about the newly-won freedoms in a handful of states, and dream of the day when their state will become more tolerant; but they are still being busted in large numbers and have to worry that the next knock on the door may be the police with a search warrant, about to destroy their homes and wreck their lives, looking for a little pot.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report was recently released, confirming that marijuana arrests are finally on a downward trend in the US. The marijuana arrests for 2013 totaled 693,481, down from 749,825 arrests in 2012 and 757,969 in 2011. The progress we have been making with decriminalization and legalization at the state level are beginning to be reflected in these arrest numbers.
Congress is finalizing their appropriations bills for the coming year, the final draft going around includes a provision blocking DC’s marijuana legalization measure from being implemented.
From The Washington Post:
Tucked in the massive spending bill needed to prevent a federal government shutdown may be a measure sought by conservative House Republicans to halt marijuana legalization in the nation’s capital, advocates for the measure say.
Seven in 10 D.C. voters backed an initiative last month to follow Colorado and Washington state in legalizing marijuana.
But three people who have been closely tracking the issue say budget negotiators in the Democratic-controlled Senate have agreed to curb the popular measure. Congress has the power to do so by restricting city spending.
Congressional Republicans have previously used the technique, known as a spending “rider,” to prevent the heavily Democratic city from spending money on abortion coverage for the poor. For 11 years, one was used to prevent D.C. from implementing a voter-backed measure to allow medical marijuana.”
Time is quickly expiring to change this, we NEED all of you to call House and Senate leadership and tell them this is an unacceptable flouting of the democratic process.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – (202) 224-2541
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – (202) 224-3542
House Majority Leader John Boehner – (202) 225-0600
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – (202) 225-4965
Suggested talking points: “I’m calling today to ask you to please stand up for the will of Washington, DC voters and the principles of democracy. Please reject efforts to overturn the voter approved DC marijuana legalization initiative. DC residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of this measure and it goes against the democratic spirit of our country to attempt to block this measure from going into place. Thank you.”
Do your part to help defend the will of DC voters and ensure that Initiative 71 is properly implemented. TAKE ACTION NOW.