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Working to reform marijuana laws
Updated: 11 min 58 sec ago
The language, included in the final version of the omnibus federal Farm Bill, was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The Senate is expected to sign off on the measure imminently.
The provisions allow for the cultivation industrial hemp in agricultural pilot programs in states that already permit the growth and cultivation of the plant. Ten states — California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia — have enacted legislation reclassifying hemp as an agricultural commodity under state law.
Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only minute (less than 1%) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Farmers worldwide grow hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food. However, US federal law makes no distinction between hemp and marijuana.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) — who advocated on behalf of the language to the 2014 Farm Bill conference, the group federal of lawmakers charged with finalizing the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill – called the bill’s expected passage “an important victory for … farmers.”
A 2013 white paper published by the Congressional Research Service concludes: “[T]he US market for hemp-based products has a highly dedicated and growing demand base, as indicated by recent US market and import data for hemp products and ingredients, as well as market trends for some natural foods and body care products. Given the existence of these small-scale, but profitable, niche markets for a wide array of industrial and consumer products, commercial hemp industry in the United States could provide opportunities as an economically viable alternative crop for some US growers.”
The agency notes that the United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop.
Also last week, the American Farm Bureau Federation at its annual meeting approved a new policy resolution urging for the repeal of the classification of industrial hemp as a controlled substance under federal law stating, “At a time when small farms are innovating and diversifying to remain competitive, we should provide every opportunity to increase farm incomes and allow the next generation the ability to continue living off the land as their families have for generations.”
Federal legislation to reclassify industrial hemp and to allow for its commercial cultivation remains pending in both the United States House and Senate.
Hawaii voters overwhelmingly support legalizing and regulating the adult use of cannabis, according to just-released statewide survey data by QMark Research and commissioned by the Hawaii Drug Policy Action Group.
Sixty-six percent of respondents said they endorsed legalizing cannabis, an increase of nine points since pollsters last posed the question in 2012.
Seventy-seven percent of respondents separately said that jail time is an inappropriate sanction for those found to be in violation of the state’s existing marijuana possession laws. Under present law, possessing any amount of cannabis for non-medical purposes in Hawaii is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Eight-five percent of those polled also backed the establishment of licensed medical cannabis dispensaries. Hawaii lawmakers legalized the possession and cultivation of medicinal cannabis by state-qualified patients in 2000, but did not provide for dispensaries.
Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, DC now have licensed medical cannabis dispensaries up and running. (California dispensaries are not licensed by the state.) Similar dispensary outlets are in the process of opening in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Oregon.
The QMark poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.
For those keeping score, recent statewide polls in Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Texas all show majority support for legalizing the adult consumption of cannabis.
The Super Bowl bet between Washington and Colorado NORML chapters, along with interviews with NORML board members Rick Steves and Kevin Oliver from Washington, was featured this morning on NBC’s Today Show. Additionally, Marketplace, heard on National Public Radio, also covered NORML chapter wager and the fact that the two teams competing for NFL title are from the states with legal cannabis sales.
Delegate Mizeur has made marijuana legalization a central plank in her campaign platform. Under her proposed plan, the state would generate $158 million for early-childhood education, enough to cover 23,600 children annually from revenue produced from regulated marijuana sales.
This reform is desperately needed in Maryland. According to a 2013 ACLU report, Maryland possesses one of the highest rates of marijuana possession arrests of any state in the country. Maryland arrests over 23,000 individuals for simple marijuana possession every year, at the cost over of 100 million dollars. Despite only constituting 30% of the state’s population and having similar use rates to their white counterparts, African Americans account for 58% of the state’s marijuana possession arrests.
“Maryland’s marijuana laws have ruined lives, been enforced with racial bias, and keep law enforcement from focusing their time and resources on more violent crime,” Mizeur stated, “We’re proud to have NORML PAC’s support in the effort to make Maryland the next state to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana.”
Heather is currently the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Maryland to support marijuana legalization.
“NORML PAC is pleased to endorse Delegate Heather Mizeur in her campaign to become the next governor of Maryland,” said Erik Altieri, NORML PAC Manager. “We believe Del. Mizeur and her running mate Delman Coates will provide the leadership required to help Maryland move towards a new, smarter approach to marijuana.”
You can learn more about Mizeur’s campaign here.
Our nation’s marijuana laws are being held hostage by a prohibition industrial complex.
The latest Wall St. Journal/NBC poll shows, yet again, that the majority of Americans support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults age 21 and over. But despite this surge in support (several other national polls have seen similar results), there are a few well financed, politically powerful groups that remain staunchly against reform – and will likely serve as the biggest hinderance to widespread change. These folks have made a lot of money off of marijuana’s current legal status, and those individuals (as well as their businesses/shareholders) are deeply invested in making sure things stay the way they are. The wide range of direct and auxiliary enforcement mechanisms, as well as the increase in drug testing laws are driven by companies and businesses who provide the services necessary to support this disastrous and wasteful policy.
One such industry that has a financial interest in maintaining the status quo is law enforcement, especially drug officers and private prisons. Drug officers benefit from forfeiture and federal grants. Private prisons keep their jails full and multi-million dollar state contracts in place. The Office of National Drug Control Policy requested $9.4 billion in funding for 2013, the majority of which went to enforcement and incarceration. More specifically, California police – one of the most vocal opponents to legalization in the state made $181.4 million by seizing and selling the homes and cars of Californians involved in marijuana cases from 2002 to 2012. Police in Washington are already taking budget hits as a result of the passage of I-502, the state’s marijuana legalization initiative that passed in 2012. It was reported that some police drug task forces lost 15 percent of funding due to decreased revenue from marijuana forfeiture cases. On a national level, marijuana cases netted $1 billion in assets forfeited between 2002 and 2012. Assets can be seized under federal or state law, depending on the situation. The Wall St. Journal recently reported that marijuana law reform would cut into a significant percentage of drug task forces’ revenue. Most cash generated from drug-related property forfeitures goes to the law enforcement agency that made the bust. The Journal reports that “Nationally, assets forfeited in marijuana cases from 2002 through 2012 accounted for $1 billion of the $6.5 billion from all drug busts.” Task forces also rely heavily on federal grants.
One example of a federal grant relied heavily upon by drug task forces is Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. The amount of money distributed is based on the number of drug arrests made for that year, among other components. The more drug arrests made, the more grant money provided, and 50% of all drug arrests are marijuana related. No drug will be able to fill the void of marijuana arrests. Marijuana is easier to spot and smell, and is consumed by more people than any other illegal drug, making marijuana arrest rates a significant percentage of overall revenue. Then you have state contracts with private prisons, which mandate that facilities be filled at 90% capacity at all times. If 50% inmates are there as a result of drug-related crimes, and half of that is for marijuana – legalization would be a serious threat to new contracts and increased profits.
Another industry tied into the prohibition industrial complex is the drug testing market. It’s a multi-billion dollar a year industry with its own, built in legislative advocacy machine. Take DATIA , the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association for example. This industry organization represents more than 1,200 companies and employs a DC-based lobbying firm, Washington Policy Associates. Their mission statement includes, among other things, creating “new opportunities for the drug testing industry.”
In 2002, a representative from the influential drug-testing management firm Besinger, DuPont & Associates (Robert DuPont, Nixon’s first drug czar is a high profile opponent to legalization) heralded schools as “potentially a much bigger market than the workplace.” Workplace drug testing is a declining market due to the fact that employees see minimal return on investment. In fact, a DATIA newsletter dubbed school children “the next frontier.” Unsurprisingly, this industry advocates testing in all grades and for all extracurricular activities. It should be noted that several reports have concluded that drug testing minors is not only ineffective but can be emotionally and psychologically damaging. Lucky, many schools have been reluctant to embrace testing.
Year after year, the drug testing industry gears up for another legislative push, ghostwriting bills for local and national lawmakers demanding testing for people who receive public assistance. Many of these elected officials are either financially investment in these companies, or received significant financial contributions from industry organizations. For example, in February 2012, Congress amended federal rules to allow states to drug-test select unemployment applicants. Among the lawmakers advocating for the change was Congressman Dave Camp, who owns at least $81,000 in assets in companies that are major players in the drug-testing industry, such as LabCorp and Abbott Laboratories. He has also received $5,000 in federal campaign contributions from LabCorp over the past three years. Abbott Laboratories spent $133,500 on campaign donations to Ohio and Texas state politician promoting drug testing to welfare recipients, in the lead-up to the 2010 and 2012 elections, in addition to more than $500,000 spent by the company on state lobbying contracts since 2010.
The industry is once again flexing its political arm pushing for policies that mandate drug testing for welfare recipients. Legislation has already been introduced in Virginia, New York, Arizona, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois and Mississippi, for the 2014 legislative session.
Two of the most outspoken opponents of marijuana legalization are David Evans and Robert DuPont. DuPont, Founder of Besinger, DuPont & Associates served as the nation’s first drug policy director under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. During that time he had advocated decriminalizing marijuana and its use a “minor problem.” Once he left public office however, he became a “drug-testing management” consultant. David Evans worked for Hoffmann-La Roche, a multi-billion dollar drug testing group encouraging workplace drug testing policies. He now runs his own lobby firm and has ghostwritten several state laws to expand drug testing. Drug testing overall detects marijuana more than any other drug, which stays in the body for up to a month — as opposed to other harder drugs like cocaine and heroin, which are metabolized within one to three days. That is why they have such significant stake in keeping the plant illegal.
The total income for all of these industries combined adds up to hundreds of billions of dollars annually, a significant amount derived from taxpayer dollars. An industrial complex is when there is a policy and monetary relationship between legislators, the public sector and an industrial base that supports them. Just like the military industrial complex, the prohibition industrial complex, and its cycle of laws, enforcement and contracts will pose a major challenge to reform efforts. This will be especially true in states that don’t have ballot initiatives, which is why it is so important for everyone to get active on a local level, and hold lawmakers accountable. Though difficult, this will not be an impossible challenge to overcome, as long as we remain diligent and active in the political process.
Please take a minute of your time today to utilize NORML’s Take Action Center to contact your representatives and urge them to support or sponsor marijuana law reform legislation. Click here to see if there is a bill pending in your state, and here to find contact information for your elected officials.
Earlier this week, we received news that United for Care, the campaign working to place a medical marijuana constitutional amendment on the ballot in Florida, had collected and certified the required number of signatures for qualification. Despite surpassing the signature requirement, the Florida Supreme Court still had yet to approve the language of the amendment. This afternoon, they ruled 4-3 in favor of allowing the amendment to be placed on November’s ballot.
“Florida and national NORML salute the decision of the Florida Supreme Court to allow our citizens the right to decide for themselves if medicinal marijuana is an appropriate course of conduct for their own adult lives,” stated NORML Board Chair and Florida resident Norm Kent, “Our group will be working vigorously, from Key West to our northwest panhandle, to pass this amendment and give our citizens the right to make health decisions best suited for their own lives.”
“This is a tribute to the initiative of John Morgan, the group United for Care, and the thousands of petitioners who labored all over the state to acquire the requisite number of petitions to get this item on the ballot,” Kent said.
20 states have now passed laws permitting medical marijuana and 2 have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Florida represents the first southern state to launch such an initiative, which divides the gubernatorial candidates, with the present governor, Rick Scott, opposing the initiative, and his likely opponent, Charlie Crist, saying he supports the effort.
The official ballot language can be seen below:
Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.
Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana.
The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers.
Applies only to Florida law.
Does not authorize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.
NORML will keep you updated as this effort progresses.
(Note: Florida law requires constitutional amendments to receive 60% or more of the final vote total to be approved.)
The Florida Division of Elections today confirmed that proponents of a 2014 statewide measure to allow for the physician-supervised use of cannabis have gathered sufficient signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
The measure seeks to authorize doctors to recommend cannabis therapy to their patients at their discretion and authorizes the state Department of Health to register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes.
Backers of the measure, United for Care, turned in over 683,000 valid signatures from Florida voters to qualify the measure. The initiative seeks to amend the state constitution.
Survey data released in November by Quinnipiac University reported that 82 percent of Florida voters support reforming state law to allow for the medicinal use of marijuana. Because the proposed measure seeks to amend the state constitution, 60 percent of voters must decide in favor of it before it may be enacted.
Proponents of the measure still await a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court as to whether the measure will appear before voters this fall. State Attorney General Pam Bondi is contesting the language of the measure in a suit backed by House Speaker Will Weatherford, Senate President Don Gaetz and Gov. Rick Scott.
The state Supreme Court must decide on the issue by April 1.
Federal officials are poised to unveil new regulations allowing for financial institutions to legally interact with licensed businesses that are engaged in cannabis commerce.
United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced the forthcoming guidelines yesterday in a speech at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.
“You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these place. They (retail facilities that dispense cannabis) want to be able to use the banking system,” Holder said. “And so we (the Obama administration) will be issuing some regulations I think very soon to deal with that issue.”
Presently, federal law discourages financial institutions from accepting deposits or providing banking services for facilities that engage in cannabis-related commerce because the plant remains illegal under the US Controlled Substances Act. While the Obama administration is unlikely to amend cannabis’ illegal status under federal law, the forthcoming rules are anticipated to provide clear guidelines for banks that wish to provide support for state-licensed cannabis facilities.
In Colorado, where retail stores began legally selling cannabis on January 1 to anyone age 21 and older, businesses were estimated to have engaged in over $5 million in marijuana sales in their first week of business.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bud Bowl. Weed Bowl. Fill a Bowl. Stoner Bowl. Super Stupor Bowl. Whatever you call it, the teams from Denver and Seattle are in it to win it! And so are cannabis consumers! The annual Super Bowl is always a great time for a few friendly wagers, and cannabis consumers are no exception. Happy to uphold this proud tradition, Colorado NORML and Washington NORML have made a little side bet on this historic game:
If the Denver Broncos win, WA NORML has agreed to dress in Bronco colors of blue and orange and sing Karaoke-style Colorado’s (second) official state song "Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver. If the Seattle Seahawks win, CO NORML will do the same, but in Seahawk blue and green and singing "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix, a native son of Seattle.
A video of the performance must be posted on the respective state chapter’s web site, Facebook page and on YouTube for a minimum of one week, with an acknowledgment that the winning team’s state is simply awesome.
The unfortunate irony is that, despite the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado, the NFL continues to ban its use among players, although it is not a performance enhancing drug. Both teams have each lost key players this season to marijuana-related suspensions. The Denver Broncos Von Miller, 2011 NFL defensive rookie of the year, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond, and Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner have all received suspensions for failing drug tests.
The NFL would be wise to be more open to marijuana use among players. Its value as a safer treatment than opiates for pain resulting from the brutality of the game, must be acknowledged. With concerns over repeat concussions and the resulting traumatic brain injury to players like Junior Seau, the league should be particularly interested in marijuana’s potential to prevent long-term damage associated with brain injuries. Some NFL players might use cannabis for its medicinal benefits, but others may choose it to unwind as an alternative to alcohol, just as others might drink a beer or a martini. However, cannabis use doesn’t have the same risks associated with mixing prescription drugs, particularly painkillers, and alcohol.
So while we celebrate this historic Super Doobie Bowl, cheering on our respective teams, and laughing about the irony of it all, let’s not forget those players on and off the field whose employers will not allow them to consume a legal substance that has never had an associated death in all of recorded history.
Let the schwag talking begin!
- Rachel K. Gillette, Esq., Executive Director, email@example.com 303-578-6848
- Teri Robnett, Board Member & Patient Advocate, firstname.lastname@example.org 720-351-8403
- Sean T. McAllister, Esq., Spokesperson, email@example.com 720-722-0048
- Kevin Oliver, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-641-0935
- Rick Steves (PBS Travel Guide) and Advisory Board Member, 206-641-0935
- Alison Holcomb (I-502 Author) and Advisory Board Member, 206-641-0935
A majority of US adults believe that the consumption of marijuana ought to be legal, according to the results of a nationwide CBS poll released today.
Fifty-one percent of respondents answered affirmatively to the question, “Should marijuana use be legal?” The percentage is the highest ever reported by the survey, which has been tracking public opinion on the issue since 1979 (when only 27 percent of adults endorsed legalization), and marks a six point jump in support since the last time pollsters posed the question in April 2013.
Forty-four percent of respondents opposed legalizing cannabis.
Age, gender, and political affiliation influenced respondents’ opinions regarding legalization. A majority of all respondents under age 65 now support legalizing cannabis. Most men (57 percent), but not women (46 percent) back legalization. Most self-identified Democrats (59 percent) and Independents (54 percent), but not Republicans (35 percent) support making marijuana legal.
When asked about their views on the therapeutic use of cannabis, 86 percent of respondents told CBS pollsters that physicians ought to be allowed to authorize marijuana use to their patients — an increase of 24 percent since 1997, when pollsters first began asking the question.
Sixty-two percent of respondents also endorsed letting individual states rather than the federal government specify marijuana policies. That figure was up slightly (3 percent) since November 2012.
Over 1,018 adults nationwide participated in the survey, which possesses a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
The way Nancy Grace on the HLN network screams about your baby sitter being on pot can make you think she is on crack. But the truth is she is not. She is in show business, knows a good topic, and can figure out how and when to run with it.
Last week she had three shows featuring the President of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. That would be me. Each time, she held the dump button, controlled the microphone, and was able to cut me off at will. No, that usually does not happen to me, but I was a guest on her show — in her court. But this is our issue. We live with facts. She sensationalizes fiction.
America has turned the corner on the possession of marijuana. No one wants it to be a crime anymore. Welcome to the party. You can now come out of the closet. Legalization, education and regulation have always made so much sense. It has worked with alcohol and tobacco and the use and consumption of both is down across America. I don’t want to fool you. It is not that the world is pro-weed. Everyone is just anti-prohibition.
The entire drug war has just been a jobs program for cops. Let them do real work and arrest criminals, not cannabis users. Nancy Grace chose to defend an indefensible topic that she is eventually going to lose. Her position was so histrionic in today’s America that Saturday Night Live did a spoof of her last weekend. Let’s face it. Pot smokers have become like the pods in the ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’ We are everywhere. We have taken control. Everyone who was in the closet about cannabis is coming out, from the President of the United States to the Democratic senator in Florida, a former astronaut, Bill Nelson.
Mind you, pot smokers and cannabis users have always been here, from Woodstock to Washington State. Many of you have been hiding behind closed doors, afraid to admit that you smoke. Whether you are a kid walking down Main Street in Middletown, USA, or a retiree living in Coral Gables, you smoke weed. Or someone you know does. And you know nothing the government has ever said about it is true. Reefer Madness, my ass! The only reefer madness has been the government’s prohibition against responsible personal consumption. We knew it was a farce then, and everyone is finally willing to say so now.
Legalization is not the experiment. Prohibition is, and it has failed dramatically. That cannabis is still illegal in 28 states stinks. Men with badges and guns can break down your doors, lock you up in steel cuffs, and bring you to jails where you are put in human cages. Legalization and regulation is so much safer. What you knew back when is still right today.
No more deals in dark alleys and no more cartels in criminal conspiracies. Let’s just have small businesses properly run, licensed and taxed, marketing the latest products and strains, from purple diesel to green kush. Free choice means Marlboros or Mary Jane; whiskey or weed. As long as you are an adult and not harming anyone, you must have the right to have your government stay the heck out of my life.
Our time is here. Light up your joint. Smoke where and when you want, but preferably not in an elementary schoolyard. Recreationally, medically, spiritually, everything tastes better with cannabis. Sex is better. Food is better. Watching Nancy Grace is easier. In fact, next time I do her show, I think I am going to get lit before the lights go on. How else do you come to grips with a delusional woman who is ranting about cab drivers smoking weed when every other person on the road seems to be a congressman on coke or mayor on meth?
The only time cannabis is dangerous is when a cop finds it on you. If Nancy Grace wants to be known as a victim’s rights advocate, let her speak up for over 29 million Americans that have been arrested for the possession of cannabis over the past 30 years. How crazy is that? And what does it say about how many have used it? Licensing, age controls, taxation, regulation, and an end to prohibition is so transparently the way to go.
It is not just that cannabis is not harmful; we have proven it medicinally invaluable. From treating muscular spasticity to glaucoma, marijuana is a healing alternative. Let’s live and let live. Let’s do no harm to each other. If we are concerned about drug abuse, treat the person and arrest the abuse. Don’t lock up the patient. We do not need any more pot prisoners.People like to say that cannabis is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and therefore it should be legalized because of that. No, it should be legalized because any abuses related to cannabis should be treated as a health or medical issue, not a criminal one.
No one has ever died from weed, but damn, society has seen its freedoms die away because of it. The criminal treatment of marijuana has opened the door to illegal seizures, outrageous forfeitures, massive fines, and unjust confiscations of personal property. We have sold our constitutional souls to arrest weed, and now it is time to free the leaf.
It is true that the majority of Americans now favor legalization of marijuana, and even more want decriminalization. One thing is sure, and that is we need to end criminalization. We have stood by and let people be wrongly placed in horrible jails with steel bars and strong locks, all to prevent them from consuming a substance that does them no harm. We have perpetuated an injustice. We owe it to ourselves to undo the hurt our deafening silence has caused.
We have harmed the fabric and freedoms our country held dear, discriminated unjustly against minorities, and denied to Americans the desires of its majority. There is no cannabis calamity or catastrophe in America. There is an awakening that will soon shine a soothing light on the rest of America, and with luck, one day, even Nancy Grace.
During his second inaugural address, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had some harsh words for our War on Drugs:
“We will end the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse,” Governor Christie stated, “We will make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands that every life has value and no life is disposable.”
While critiques of the War on Drugs are always welcomed (Governor Christie had previously made similar statements), it is hard to take his comments seriously when you consider his record regarding sensible reforms to New Jersey’s marijuana laws.
The same day he was calling for an end to this failed policy, two pieces of legislation that would have made pragmatic changes to New Jersey’s marijuana laws were sitting on his desk awaiting signature. The first would have allowed state farmers to receive licenses for industrial hemp cultivation as soon as the federal government changed the national policy on the issue. The other, Senate Bill 1220, would have ensured patients enrolled in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program would be able to receive organ transplants and not be disqualified because of their medicinal use of cannabis. You would think that a governor who just stood at a podium and lambasted our prohibition as a failed policy, would immediately leave the stage and eagerly sign these pieces of legislation.
He didn’t. These two important measures sat on his desk, unsigned and were ultimately doomed to failure by Governor Christie’s pocket veto.
In the previous few years, Governor Christie declared that he would veto any legislation decriminalizing marijuana that came to his desk and also fought against rational reforms to the state’s medical marijuana program tooth and nail. He eventually capitulated slightly on the latter, but not before watering down many proposed amendments to the state’s program.
We appreciate the Governor’s sentiment and welcome him in joining the overwhelming majority of Americans who think the War on Drugs has failed, but his statements are merely political bluster until his rhetoric is matched by his actions. While the ensuing years (and continual rise in public support) will only lead to more politicians, both aspiring and those currently in power, joining us in our call for a new approach to marijuana, we must be vigilante. Actions speak louder than words. If Governor Christie (and President Obama for that matter) want the rubber to meet the road between their statements and actual public policy, they will need to follow these flowery words with legitimate action.
Atlanta, GA – A newly released poll found that over half of Georgia voters support a marijuana legalization policy similar to that of Colorado and Washington (54%), however that same report found that even larger majority supports decriminalization. 62% of respondents believe that the state should remove criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce of pot, and replace it with a $100 civil fine, without the possibility of jail time. Only 32% were opposed. Interestingly, 56% of seniors, and republicans respectively, were among that nearly two-thirds majority.
The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) was commissioned by state affiliates of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Georgia NORML, and Peachtree NORML. Said Peachtree NORML’s Executive Director Sharon Ravert, “The citizens of Georgia agree, marijuana prohibition is a wasteful and destructive policy. It is time for our state to catch up with public opinion and find a more sensible solution to the status quo.” Peachtree NORML and other advocacy groups are working with lawmakers and various state coalition groups to amend Georgia’s criminal marijuana laws. In 2010, some 32,500 Georgians were arrested for violating marijuana laws, according to the FBI. That is the sixth highest total of any state in America.
Also of note, only 9% of respondents were millennials. This demographic is known to be overwhelmingly supportive of this issue, but their limited representation highlights the fact that there is significant support among other age groups. 71% of those questioned were between the ages of 30 and 65 which suggests that older generations, who are more likely to vote, are also strongly in favor of decriminalization. It’s clear that the widespread support for marijuana law reform in the traditionally conservative state of Georgia has grown to such an extent that it now reaches across all party lines, age groups and races.
“Though it may be surprising to some, these numbers are consistent with a growing trend of support for reform in the southern region of the country,” said Sabrina Fendrick NORML’s Outreach Coordinator for the southeastern region. Recent polls conducted in Louisiana and Oklahoma both show a majority of support (56% and 53% respectively) for a change in the law providing for a $100 fine without jail time for those who possess an ounce or less of marijuana. Said Fendrick, ”Everywhere you look you will see more and more people dissatisfied with the strict penalties associated with current marijuana laws, and an ever increasing number of southerners are ready for a sensible alternative to existing failed policies, including decriminalization.”
In a profile published online over the weekend in New Yorker magazine, President Barack Obama continued his softening towards marijuana legalization. In the interview, the president alluded to his own youthful marijuana consumption and clarified that, while he doesn’t believe it to be a healthy pastime and has discouraged his daughters from its use, it is a less dangerous substance than alcohol. President Obama also stated that current moves towards legalization are important experiments that can help end discriminatory arrest practices.
“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” President Obama stated when asked about the growing public support for ending marijuana prohibition.
When asked to clarify if he thought it was “less dangerous,” Obama replied that he thought it was less dangerous “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.” He continued that “it’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.”
“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do and African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.” he stated, “we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”
“It’s important for it [marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington] to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”
You can read the full article on the New Yorker’s website here.
Perhaps President Obama will continue to evolve and find himself on the right side of history when it comes to marijuana legalization. It would take just one simple Executive Order to deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and help institute some real lasting change in our nation’s failed war on cannabis. At a minimum, these statements show just how far we have come from the “Just Say No” era of American politics.
After a heated and lengthy debate on the floor of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, the lower chamber of New Hampshire’s legislature today voted 170 to 162 in favor of House Bill 492, which seeks to legalize under state law the personal use and home cultivation of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older and establish regulations for the retail production and sale of cannabis.
The historic vote makes the New Hampshire House the first state legislative chamber to ever vote in favor of regulating cannabis.
House Bill 492 had initially received a “Ought Not to Pass” report from the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. However, in New Hampshire legislative rules permit all House measures to receive floor votes by the full House. This afternoon, House lawmakers debated the measure for more than three hours before voting 170 to 168 to accept the committee report. But this was just the beginning.
Members of the House of Representatives voted 173 to 165 to reconsider their actions and hold a revote. On their second vote, a majority 170 members voted to reject the “Ought Not to Pass” report. House lawmakers then voted to adopt amendments to adjust minor details of the bill. More debate ensued, but when the final vote was held 170 voted in favor of approving HB492 as amended and sending it to and 162 voted in opposition.
“This vote is historic,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Today’s vote approving House Bill 492 is the first time a chamber of a state legislature has ever approved of legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana for all adults. Fifty-eight percent of Americans support ending our prohibition on marijuana and the New Hampshire House of Representatives’ actions today signal that politicians are finally beginning to acknowledge the will of their constituents.”
Tax issues pertaining to the bill will now be debated by the House Ways and Means Committee. A second House floor vote is anticipated in the coming months. However, Democrat Governor Maggie Hassan has already stated her opposition to this measure.
NORML will keep you updated on this evolving situation.
Residents of the District of Columbia strongly favor legalizing marijuana consumption for adults, according to the findings of a Washington Post poll, released today
Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they favor “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.”
Since 2010, the last time residents were polled on the question, Washingtonians of every age, race and ethnicity — black and white, teenage and elderly — have registered double-digit increases in support for legalization, The Washington Post reported.
Thirty-four percent of respondents said that they opposed legalization. However, among those respondents, nearly half (16 percent) acknowledged support for reducing the criminal penalties for marijuana offenses.
Earlier today, Members of the DC Committee on Public Safety voted unanimously in favor of legislation amending local marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a non-arrestable civil infraction (punishable by a $25 fine for possession and a $100 fine for public consumption). The full City Council is expected to act on the measure within the coming weeks.
Any legislation approved by the DC City Council may be overridden by an act of Congress.
A 2012 report published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland reported that DC possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.
The imposition of student drug testing programs is not effective in limiting students’ consumption of controlled substances, according to survey data published in the January edition of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Investigators from Israel and the United States assessed whether students’ awareness of drug testing programs in their school was associated with a reduction in the frequency of their use of alcohol, cigarettes, or cannabis.
Authors reported, “Consistent with previous research, results of the current study show that perceived SDT (student drug testing) is not associated with a reduction in initiation or escalation of substance use in the general student population.”
They concluded, “The current research reinforces previous conclusions that SDT is a relatively ineffective drug-prevention policy.”
An estimated 20 percent of US high schools impose drug testing upon members of the student body.
Previous assessments of student drug testing programs, including random testing programs, report that the imposition of such programs are not associated with reduced levels of student drug use and, in some instances, are “associated with increased use of illicit drugs other than marijuana.”
Full text of the study, “Student Drug Testing and Positive School Climates: Testing the Relation Between Two School Characteristics and Drug Use Behavior in a Longitudinal Study,” is available online here.
Marijuana laws are changing across the nation. They are changing because stakeholders are becoming actively involved in their own liberation by joining groups like NORML, forming NORML chapters, and making their voices heard.
NORML has always relied on the efforts of our regional affiliates – people like you – to personally spread the NORML message to local and state lawmakers. On Saturday, members of one such regional NORML affiliate, the northern Virginia chapter of NORML, presented an articulate, persuasive, and coordinated message to their elected officials: ‘It’s time to stop arresting responsible adults who consume cannabis.’ Their efforts are commendable – and necessary.
As we begin the 2014 state legislative session, a session that promises to be the busiest session for marijuana law reform in our history, it is vital that stakeholders play and active and participatory role in the legislative process. You can do so by joining any one of the dozens of NORML chapters nationwide or by starting your own. You can also do so by regularly logging on to norml.org/act to learn about the latest pending marijuana law reform measures pending in your state. By visiting this page, NORML will also identify your local elected officials and provide you with the tools to contact him or her in support of marijuana law reform. By visiting NORML’s facebook page, following NORML on Twitter, and/or by signing up for NORML’s newsletter, you will also receive timely e-mail alerts informing you of when legislative hearings and key votes are taking place in your state.
Today, the mainstream media, pundits, and elected officials are all talking about marijuana policy in unprecedented numbers. They are doing so because of people like you. Make your voice heard. Make your voice count. Get active; get NORML!
Fifty-five percent of Americans favor making cannabis legal for adults, according to the findings of a CNN/ORC International survey released late Monday. The percentage is the highest ever reported by the survey, which has been tracking public opinion on the issue since 1973, and marks a 12 percentage point jump in support since the last time pollsters posed the question in 2012.
In addition, only 35 percent of those polled responded that consuming cannabis was “morally wrong” — down from 70 percent in 1987, the last time pollsters posed the question.
The CNN/ORC polled surveyed 1,010 Americans and possesses a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
The survey’s findings are similar to those of a fall 2013 Gallup poll which reported nationwide support for legalizing marijuana at 58 percent, the highest level of support ever recorded in a national scientific poll.
The gravesite closest to President John Kennedy in Arlington belongs to a courageous, but assassinated congressman from Long Island, Allard Lowenstein, who fought many years to bring an end to the Vietnam War. His tombstone reads: “If a man stands his ground and there abides, the whole world will come round to him.” As the four decade long war against cannabis consumers comes to a crashing halt in America, I think of those words today.
I think too of the 1960’s folk singer, Phil Ochs, who once penned a remarkable song, “The War is Over.” The drug war now is. We have won. Nothing can stop us now.
We have climbed every mountain, challenged every foe, met every test, and we have proved to America that marijuana is medicinal, cannabis is recreational, and responsible adults ought to be able to consume it under the law, not outside it. The days of jail and bail need to go the way of Jim Crow laws. Let’s find a scale instead.
The public has spoken. Whether it is CNN holding a nationwide poll, or regional balloting in rural and urban communities, the marijuana majority is finally, after all these years, being heard. The popular numbers for allowing citizens to access cannabis are over 80%. Politicians have seen the polls, and their failure to listen to you will now take a toll on them.
Still, there is a lot of work for NORML to do, and many ways for you to continue to help us. Complacency leads to a bad place. We can’t just kick back on the carpet and roll joints just yet. Let me outline ten steps you can employ to carry the momentum forward. We still have to move the needle, control the debate, and gain supporters.
First of all, let’s not forget while the tide has turned in 22 states, our America has 50. Don’t be fooled by the long lines in Colorado as long as we are still jailing people with long sentences in Cheyenne. Organize locally and let your chapter’s voice be heard loud and clear in every state capitol. Whether you focus the debate on harm reduction, medical use, or decriminalization, get the discussions going where you live.
Second, in those states where progressive legislatures are taking the first steps to alter their cannabis laws, participate actively in the process. Insure that the regulations are reasonable, that taxes are not prohibitive, and that the consumers are protected. Insist that the instruments of decriminalization do not become tools for over-regulation. Make sure the product is pure. NORML has always been the voice of the cannabis consumer. Now we need our individual members to become the voice of NORML.
We need to guarantee that the cannabis delivered to the marketplace is pure and clean, free of herbicides or criminal cartels that would corrupt these new initiatives. You need to insure that the rules for your dispensaries are fair, and that your friends are following the rules. If we allow the process to become fractured, our own goals will be shattered.
Third, remember this drug war has taken a toll on innocent people. Your friends have been jailed, denied scholarships, turned away from jobs, and altogether demonized with criminal records for marijuana arrests. Don’t just work to free the leaf today. Work to rectify and right all the wrongs of yesterday. We are in the process of undoing the social stigma of being a cannabis consumer. Let’s see if we can also undo some of the many legal injustices already inflicted.
Fourth, don’t use this time of change to criticize the voices who for so long opposed us. Respect their willingness to alter their own course. We don’t need to demean those who fought us. We need to now have them on our side and to fight with us.
A few days ago the former Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, told me that he had been wrong in the past about the medical uses of marijuana. As he runs again on the Democratic ticket, he has endorsed a statewide constitutional amendment to provide medical marijuana for Floridians. We need new friends. Let’s welcome them today so we are better situated tomorrow.
I was in a local retail store the other day, and ran into a 65 year old salesman with Bell’s palsy.
“You know,” he said to me, “I have been smoking for years and it has helped me so much, so much more so than all the prescriptions the doctors have given me. But I couldn’t tell anyone.”
I understand, of course, and so must we all. We have to respect that so many of our friends had and still have reason to fear. There are jobs and lives and freedoms still at risk.
Still, the fifth thing I would ask of you is to learn what the LGBT community has learned in fighting for its rights. Come out of the closet. Speak up and be heard. Today, become one of the millions who, like Howard Beale in the great 1976 movie Network, called upon America to tell the government to leave us the hell alone in our living rooms; that you are a human being and your life has value.
Beale railed that we should all get up, go to our windows, and shout out loud, “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take this anymore.” It’s time for us to do so; time to speak the truth from the beaches of South Florida to the ports in Seattle to the sediment that is Washington, D.C.
Sixth, so how do you do that? Send NORML a couple of bucks and join our member’s base. Go to Café Press and buy one of our gold buttons or t shirts or hats. Wear it proudly. Walk down the street with it and watch how a friend says, “Right On.” You deserve to celebrate. You are on the right side of history. You always have been.
Seventh, you don’t need a gun to stand your ground and be proud. You see, you have never really been the criminal. It’s the laws that locked you up, took away your freedom, and jailed your friends that have always been criminal. It’s the justice system that was more unjust than just.
Look, NORML is not asking for everyone to be allowed to smoke pot in an elementary schoolyard, and we never have been. And we are not asking you to drive high and be stoned all day either. We never have. We are asking that you be able to drive your own decisions freely, without the fear of arrest and prosecution. Tell your congressman if he can get probation for snorting cocaine you ought to get a reward for just smoking a joint.
Eighth, get educated. Be in front of the debate. Surf our website. Learn about hemp and cannabis and decriminalization or legalization. Be able to speak intelligently and argue cogently for your cause. Hell, yes, there is a big difference between shooting heroin, smoking meth, and using a vaporizer to inhale high quality THC cannabis. Marijuana eases stress, reduces muscular spasticity, retards glaucoma, and treats the side effects of chemo.
Yes, responsible adults can distinguish between products that are good for you and stuff that is real bad. It’s a simple debate to win. We make similar choices everyday when we buckle our safety belts and look both ways before we cross a street.
Ninth, your local newspaper editorial boards are speaking out as well. Dozens of major newspapers have now endorsed marijuana decriminalization. All are doing op-ed pieces pro and con. Do not let antagonistic and regressive articles go unchallenged. Write back and be heard, in print, on the net, and in public. Speak out.
Tenth, well this last bud’s for you. Tell me what you think. Neither NORML nor myself has all the answers. This is a column on the NORML blog with room for comments below. Our national office does large things with small numbers. We still need your advice and input; your concern and commitment. So here is your chance.
Talk to me and the rest of the staff. Fill the space below with your wisdom and words; the direction you want NORML to go. We have been working together for decades, but there are still roads to ride, joints to roll, and paths we can take together.
You tell me, what’s next?
A national symposium in Washington, D.C.?
A nationwide write-in to the Obama Administration, telling them finally and firmly to back off from using federal agents to enforce marijuana prohibition laws? It’s time they did so, don’t you think?
Let me know.
If you want to reach me personally, you can on twitter, @normkent.
Whether you are baking in Colorado, shoveling snow in New York, or sunbathing in Florida, have a great New Year.
Onward and upward always. We will get there together.
-Norm Kent, Chairman, NORML Board of Directors