Congress: House Members Re-Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Prevent Federal Prosecutions Of State-Compliant Marijuana Consumers, Businesses
California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, along with five other Republicans and six Democrats, has reintroduced legislation to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to marijuana.
HR 1094 states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.”
Representative Rohrabacher sponsored a budgetary amendment last year to limit federal interference in states with marijuana regulation schemes. (That provision expires this fall.) However, the Department of Justice has recently claimed that the law does not prevent the government sanctioning individuals or businesses in states where marijuana is legal.
“The American people … have made it clear that federal enforcers should stay out of their personal lives,” Rohrabacher said in a statement upon the bill’s reintroduction late last week. “It’s time for restraint of the federal government’s over-aggressive weed warriors.”
According to national survey data released today by Fox News, 51 percent of registered voters say that they favor “legalizing marijuana.” The figure is an increase of five percentage points since Fox pollsters asked the question in 2013. It is the first time that a majority of respondents have favored legalization in a Fox News sponsored poll. The poll is the latest in a series of national surveys showing majority support for legalizing and regulating marijuana
To learn more about HR 1940, or to contact your elected officials in support of this or other pending legislation, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
There have been a number of national surveys released over the last few months measuring the public’s support for marijuana legalization, confirming a majority of Americans continue to favor ending prohibition by legalizing and regulating marijuana.
While one of those polls (Gallup) did register an unexpected decline in support for legalization between 2013 and 2014 (a decline within the survey’s statistical margin of error, meaning it may not reflect an actual drop in support), the poll still found 51 percent support; and several other polls continue to find an increasing majority of the public nationwide support full legalization. And because of the demographics of this issue, that support should only continue to grow over the coming years.
General Social Survey
The most important of these latest surveys may be the General Social Survey, a national survey conducted every two years, that some consider the most reliable of the many national surveys. The survey involved interviews with 1,687 respondents between March and October of 2014, and found 52 percent support full legalization, with 42 percent opposed, and 7 percent undecided. This is the first time they have found majority support for full legalization, and the level of support represents a 9 point gain since they last asked the question in 2012.
GSS has been tracking support for legalization since 1974, when support stood at only 19 percent, before falling during the Reagan years to a low of 16 percent by 1990. Support has gradually climbed since 1990, although it was only at 32 percent as recently as 2006, rising 20 points in the last decade.
Pew Research Center
The Pew Research Center’s ongoing marijuana polling found 53 percent support nationwide for marijuana legalization in March of 2015, with 44 percent opposed. This includes 59 percent support among Democrats and 58 percent among self-described conservatives; but only 39 percent support among Republicans. Pew has recorded an astounding 11-point jump in support between the years of 2010 and 2013.
Sixty-nine percent of those polled believe alcohol is more harmful to the user than marijuana. And while 62 percent oppose public marijuana smoking, 82 percent have no problem if people smoke marijuana in their homes, and 57 percent say they would not be bothered if a marijuana store opened in their neighborhood.
Also, nearly half of all adults in the country (49 percent) say they have tried marijuana, with 12 percent using marijuana during the preceding year.
CBS News Poll
In a new poll released just before April 20, CBS News continued their periodic evaluation of the public support for legalizing marijuana, finding 53 percent of the public nationwide now favor ending prohibition, the highest level of support they have ever found. When CBS first surveyed the public in 1979, they found only 27 percent support. Revisiting the issue again starting in 2009, support levels had risen to 41 percent, finally reaching a slight majority (51 percent) by 2014. This latest finding is consistent with several other national polls.
Gallup first polled the American public about their support for legalizing marijuana in 1969, the year before NORML was founded, and determined the support level at only 12 percent. This number rose to 28 percent by 1977, before beginning a decline, falling to 23 percent by 1985. Support then again began to rise gradually over the next 25 years, until finally reaching 50 percent in 2011. Gallup found support peaking at 58 percent in 2013, before showing a decline to 51 percent in 2014. (Those numbers are within the 4 percent margin of error for their telephone survey of just over 1,000 respondents; and it is the only poll that has found a decline in support since 2013.)
Beyond the Beltway
Another recent survey of 1,032 interviews (with a margin of error of 3.05 percent), released in by Beyond the Beltway, a collaboration between the Benson Strategy Group and SKD Knickerbocker, found that 61 percent of the public currently support full legalization, with regulated sales as in Colorado and Washington, while 39 percent disagree. This is the highest national support level yet reported. Even 48 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of self-identified conservatives, said they support legalization. The support nationwide for eliminating the possibility of arrest and jail, and substituting a small fine, enjoyed the support of 72 percent.
A poll released in December of 2014 by a Washington, DC think tank called Third Way found support for full legalization at 50 percent, while 47 percent remained opposed. Interestingly, the poll also found 67 percent of those surveyed support Congress enacting a bill providing states the right to legalize marijuana without federal interference (the de facto Obama policy), establishing what they called a “safe haven” for those states wishing to move forward with legalization.
While 64 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of self-identified conservatives favored legalization, only 32 percent of Republicans agreed. The survey also confirmed a gender gap remains, with 52 percent of men supporting legalization, but only 45 percent of women.
Quinnipiac University Colorado Poll
A survey of 1,049 Colorado voters taken in February of 2015 shows that two years after Colorado voted to legalize marijuana, a solid majority of the public continue to support the new law. The survey found that 58 percent of Colorado voters support keeping pot legal, while 38 percent are opposed to the new law. There is no evidence of “buyers’ remorse” among the voters in Colorado.
The gender gap continues, with 63 percent of men in support, but only 53 percent (but still a majority) of women. The poll also found the usual generational gap, with 82 percent of voters ages 18-34 favoring it, while only 46 percent support among those 55 and above.
Survey USA Colorado Poll
After a year of legalized marijuana in Colorado, in a survey conducted for the Denver Post by Survey USA and released in late December 2014, 90 percent of those who had initially voted for legalization in 2012 would still do so today; and 95 percent of those who opposes the initiative would still oppose it today. Amendment 54 passed with 55 percent support.
Interestingly 12 percent of those interviewed said friends or family visiting from out of state had asked to visit a recreational marijuana shop. Twenty-two percent of respondents reported they currently use marijuana, with 70 percent of those saying their level of use had remained the same since the new law took effect. Seventy-eight percent of respondents ranked smoking marijuana as their favorite method of use; while 15 percent favored “vaping”, and 5 percent favored edibles.
Forty-five percent of current users say they get their marijuana from a recreational dispensary; 24 percent from a medical dispensary; 18 percent from a friend; 7 percent grow their own; and 6 percent continue to rely on a black-market dealer.
Because of the small numbers of voters asked their views on marijuana (175), the poll has a 6-7 percent margin of error.
Quinnipiac University Poll in Three Swing States
According to a March 2015 poll by Quinnipiac University, marijuana legalization is likely to become a crucial issue in three swing states in the 2016 presidential elections. Fifty-one percent of Pennsylvanians, 52 percent of Ohioan and 55 percent of Floridians report they favor legalization, a level of support higher than that registered for any of the current presidential candidate, including Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Mario Rubio and Ted Cruz.
As any legitimate pollster will tell you, this data is accurate within a statistical range, depending on the number of people polled and the method of polling. So it is not perfectly precise data by any means, and is at best a snapshot of support at a particular moment. But it is nonetheless valuable as a gauge over time as to which direction the country is headed on a particular issue, and with marijuana legalization, support remains strong and the direction appears headed even higher.
Drug Enforcement Administration head Michele Leonhart is stepping down, US Attorney General Eric Holder has confirmed.
Members of the US House Oversight Committee gave Leonhart a vote of “no confidence” last week after an Office of the Inspector General report revealed that senior DEA officials had participated in sex parties arranged by Colombian drug cartels and had also received weapons and cash from cartel members. None of the agents involved were fired by director Leonhart.
Michele Leonhart began serving as the agency’s acting director in November 2007 before being confirmed as DEA administrator in 2010.
Leonhart had consistently taken a hardline stance against any change in marijuana policy. Early in her tenure she oversaw dozens of federal raids on medical marijuana providers and producers in states that had legalized the plant. She set aside a verdict from the agency’s own administrative law judge that sought to expand and facilitate clinical research into marijuana as a medicine and she rejected an administrative petition calling for marijuana rescheduling hearings. She openly criticized remarks made by the President acknowledging cannabis’ relative safety compared to alcohol, and criticized the administration’s efforts to allow states to implement limited regulatory schemes for the retail production and sale of cannabis to adults. In public testimony, Leonhart refused to acknowledge whether she believed that crack cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin posed greater risks to health than marijuana — instead opining, “All illegal drugs are bad.”
Ms. Leonhart also actively opposed hemp law reform during her time as DEA director. She criticized a decision to fly a hempen flag over the Capitol, saying it was “her lowest point in 33 years in the DEA.” Last year, her agency unlawfully seized 250 pounds of legal hemp seeds destined for Kentucky’s state Agricultural Department.
Always a true believer in the drug war no matter what the costs, in 2009 she described increased southern border violence as a sign of the “success” of her agency’s anti-drug strategies.
Michele Leonhart is expected to leave the agency in mid-May.
The majority of Americans say that marijuana is safer than alcohol and believe that its use should be legal, according to nationwide polling data compiled by CBS News.
Fifty-three percent of respondents answered ‘yes’ to the question, “Should marijuana use be legal?” That is the highest level of support ever recorded by CBS pollsters since they began posing the question in 1979. Forty-three percent of respondents opposed legalization.
Males, younger voters, and Democrats were most likely to support marijuana’s legalization. Seventy-four percent of those who acknowledged having tried marijuana said that the plant ought to be legalized, compared to just 35 percent who have never used it.
The majority of respondents (51 percent) agreed that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol. Only 12 percent of respondents said they believed that marijuana was more harmful than booze, while 28 percent said that both substances were equally harmful.
Forty-three percent of respondents acknowledged having consumed marijuana, an increase of nine percent since 1997. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that it would not matter to them if a Presidential candidate admitted having tried it.
On the question of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, 84 percent of respondents supported allowing physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to their patients.
The CBS News poll is the latest in a series of national surveys showing majority support for legalizing and regulating marijuana.
Study: Oral Cannabis Extracts Associated With Seizure Control In Children With Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy
The administration of oral cannabis extracts is associated with the mitigation of seizures in adolescents with epilepsy, according to clinical data published this month in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior.
Researchers from the Colorado Children’s Hospital in Denver performed a retrospective chart review of 75 children provided cannabis extracts. Authors reported that 57 percent of subjects showed some level of improvement in seizure control while 33 percent reported a greater than 50 percent reduction in seizure frequency.
Researchers also reported “improved behavior/alertness” in one-third of subjects and improved motor skills in ten percent of treated patients. Adverse events were reported in 44 percent of subjects, 13 percent of which reported increased seizure activity. Overall, however, authors concluded that the extracts were “well tolerated by children.”
Separate clinical trial results publicized last week at the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology reported that the administration of a proprietary form of CBD (cannabidiol) extracts decreased seizure frequency by 54 percent over a 12-week period in children with treatment-resistant epilepsy.
Survey data compiled by Stanford University in 2013 reported that the administration of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis decreased seizures in 16 of 19 patients with pediatric epilepsy.
Last February, the Epilepsy Foundation of America enacted a resolution in support of the “rights of patients and families living with seizures and epilepsy to access physician directed care, including medical marijuana.”
An abstract of the study, “Parental reporting of response to oral cannabis extracts for treatment of refractory epilepsy,” appears online here.
Our friends at High Times have launched a new campaign to call national attention to the next logical step in the country’s progression towards marijuana legalization: Freeing America’s Pot Prisoners
While the federal government has relaxed its stance on marijuana, allowing states to implement their own laws and no longer prosecuting businesses running in accordance with these laws, the status of those persecuted under old laws remains ignored. High Times’ petition calls for a rectification between the United States’ past marijuana laws and the current situation.
“President Obama recently commuted 20-odd prisoners serving life for a first time drug offense,” says CEO of Trans High Corporation and volunteer lawyer for “Lifers for Pot” Michael Kennedy. “Nineteen of them were convicted of coke and meth crimes… clearly much more serious misdeeds than pot dealing, but the big O only commuted one marijuana lifer. While we at High Times totally support these commutations, we have to press the President to look more closely at our Lifers For Pot and free them forthwith!”
The petition urges Attorney General Holder, as well as the Attorney General Designate, to recommend for the immediate release of all non-violent marijuana offenders and to provide new sentencing guidelines to give law enforcement other options besides imprisoning non-violent offenders. In 2013, 693,482 people were arrested for a marijuana law violation and of those, 609,423 (88 percent) were charged only with possession.
Even in California, where marijuana prisoners are beginning to be released, 482 non-violent marijuana offenders remain in prison, which is not only a high human cost but a huge cost to taxpayers. For this reason, High Times is soliciting Attorney General Kamala Harris to act as an example for the other 49 states by immediately releasing these prisoners and recommending alternatives to incarceration for the use, sale, and cultivation of marijuana.
Some non-violent marijuana prisoners, such as Antonio Bascaró and Jeff Mizanskey, have been imprisoned for non-violent offenses for much of their lives. Both fear perishing in prison without seeing a country swept with marijuana reform. High Times hopes this petition can change the fates of these two men and the others still imprisoned for non-violent marijuana crimes.
Recreational marijuana is now legal in four states and the District of Columbia, medical use is legal in 24 others and 58 percent of Americans are in favor of legalized, regulated marijuana. This change in American perspective on marijuana, High Times argues, is the exact reason why non-violent offenders should be released.
High Times’ petition is found at http://bit.ly/420Freedom.
Signers are asked to spread word of the petition using #FreePotPrisoners across social media.
As Joe Cocker famously pleaded in 1969 at Woodstock, "Let’s go get stoned."
Happy 4/20 to marijuana smokers throughout the land. Today is our annual holiday, an occasion to celebrate all things related to marijuana and marijuana smoking.
I am delighted to be spending my day at the High Times Denver Cannabis Cup, the largest of all the cannabis celebrations each April 20th, where NORML has a booth each year, and where we have the opportunity to meet and greet thousands of other marijuana aficionados. If you are in Denver, please do stop by our booth today and introduce yourself.
Legalizing marijuana is serious business, and it requires the cumulative, ongoing effort of thousands of hard-working, committed citizen-activists to end prohibition and change state and federal policies that have been in place for more than 75 years. More than 700,000 Americans continue to be arrested each year on marijuana charges, needlessly damaging the lives and careers of these otherwise law-abiding citizens who prefer to smoke marijuana when they relax in the evening, just as millions of other Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine when they relax. And certainly the need to stop arresting responsible marijuana smokers must remain our top priority.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of NORML publicly celebrating the now international ‘cannabis consumers day of celebration‘ known as ‘420.’
With a remarkable degree of cultural and media penetration April 20 is now a well recognized day in America for celebration and/or protest regarding cannabis laws; in states where cannabis has been legalized (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State) this day marks an opportunity to celebrate hard fought victories. In the other forty-six states that unfortunately have not yet shifted from cannabis prohibition to tax-and-regulate, NORML members and supporters will be protesting or engaging in community service activities to bring attention to the need for marijuana law reform.
NORML Advisory Board member Bill Maher had some fun with Monday’s festivities by calling for April 20 to become a national holiday via a change.org petition online, as well as to poke some good fun at fellow Advisory board members Willie Nelson and Woody Harrelson.
NORML’s chapter network serves as national hub for 420-related activities across the country. Also, this Monday, NORML and our chapters will be converting our respective webpages to reflect the #GoGreen2015 social media campaign.
Also, one of the more significant fundraising projects for NORML occurs today when the organization makes available a collector’s item t-shirt reflecting this unique celebration, on this unique day, at this specific time at the end of cannabis prohibition (i.e., this year’s design highlights the four states that have thus far legalized cannabis). This year’s shirt design is also available in a hemp and cotton blend too.
With as many as half a dozen or more states expected to pass legalization initiatives in 2016, and survey after survey showing an increasing majority of Americans favoring legalization, this is by any measure the most exciting time ever in cannabis law reform!
When NORML was founded in 1970 about 10% of the population supported cannabis legalization, today most polls indicate 55% plus.
Please make a charitable donation to NORML on this April 20th to help the organization keep the momentum rushing forward towards legalization, and away from nearly eighty years of a failed cannabis prohibition policy–and receive a one-of-a-kind NORML ‘420’ t-shirt for 2015.
Thanks for supporting NORML’s longstanding public advocacy for cannabis law reform, have a safe and fun 4/20!!
Four down, forty-six more to go…
-Allen St. Pierre
Judge Kimberly J. Mueller of the Federal District Court in Sacramento, California issued her oral ruling during a 15-minute court hearing today. Judge Mueller heard closing arguments in the case in early February but had postponed her decision on several occasions. Her written opinion is not yet available but is expected to be posted publicly by week’s end.
“At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional,” Judge Mueller said from the bench. “But this is not the court and not the time.”
Defense counsel intends to appeal the ruling.
In October, defense counsel and experts presented evidence over a five-day period arguing that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s present categorization. Lawyers for the federal government countered that it is rational for the government to maintain the plant’s prohibitive status as long as there remains any dispute among experts in regard to its safety and efficacy. Defense counsel — attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke of the NORML Legal Committee — further contended that the federal law prohibiting Justice Department officials from interfering with the facilitation of the regulated distribution of cannabis in over 20 US states can not be reconciled with the government’s continued insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.
Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director who served as the principal investigator for defense counsel in this case said: “We applaud Judge Mueller for having the courage to hear this issue and provide it the careful consideration it deserves. While we are disappointed with this ruling, it changes little. We always felt this had to ultimately be decided by the Ninth Circuit and we have an unprecedented record for the court to consider.
“In the interim, it is our hope that lawmakers move expeditiously to change public policy. Presently, bipartisan legislation is before the House and Senate to recognize cannabis’ therapeutic utility and to reschedule it accordingly and we encourage members of Congress to move forward expeditiously to enact this measure.”
In a brief filed with the court by the federal government, it contended: “Congress’ decision to treat marijuana as a controlled substance was and remains well within the broad range of permissible legislative choices. Defendants appear to argue that Congress was wrong or incorrectly weighed the evidence. Although they failed to prove even that much, it would be insufficient. Rational basis review does not permit the Court’s to ‘second guess’ Congress’ conclusions, but only to enjoin decisions that are totally irrational or without an ‘imaginable’ basis.”
They added: “Congress is not required to be ‘right,’ nor does it matter if the basis on which Congress made its decision turns out to be ‘wrong.’ All that is required is that Congress could rationally have believed that its action — banning the production and distribution of marijuana — would advance its indisputably legitimate interests in promoting public health and welfare. Because qualified experts disagree, it is not for the Courts to decide the issue and the statute must be upheld.”
Said Armentano, “The continued Schedule I classification of cannabis, in 2015, in self-evidently ridiculous. But unfortunately, the law may be ridiculous and still pass constitutional muster.”
He added, “The judge in this case missed a golden opportunity to demand that federal law comport with available science, public opinion, and common sense.”
Legal briefs in the case, United States v. Schweder, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM, are available online here.
Fifty-three percent of Americans say that the “use of marijuana should be legal,” according to nationwide survey data published today by the Pew Research Center.
“Support for marijuana legalization is rapidly outpacing opposition,” pollsters opined, acknowledging that Americans’ support for legalizing marijuana has risen some 10 percentage points over the past five years. Forty-four percent of respondents oppose legalization in the 2015 poll and three percent are undecided.
The poll is the latest in a series of national surveys showing majority support for legalizing and regulating marijuana.
Millennials (68 percent) are most likely to support legalization while most of those age 70 or older do not (29 percent). Most Republicans (39 percent) and Hispanics (40 percent) also remain opposed to legalizing marijuana.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62 percent) oppose the use of marijuana in public. By contrast, most respondents (57 percent) said that they would not be bothered if a “business selling marijuana” opened in their neighborhood.
While it may not be apparent to casual observers of the current drive to legalize marijuana in America, we are truly the beneficiaries of political reforms adopted during what is generally referred to as the Progressive Era.
This period of social activism and political reform in America is generally defined as beginning in 1890 and running through 1920.
The principal objective of the Progressive movement was eliminating corruption in government, and to accomplish that goal, proponents sought ways to take down the powerful and corrupt political bosses and to provide access to ordinary Americans in the political system – a concept called direct democracy, as contrasted to representative democracy.
On the national level, progressivism gained a strong voice in the White House with the election of Teddy Roosevelt as president in 1901. Other national proponents included Robert La Follette and Charles Evans Hughes on the Republican side, and William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson and Al Smith on the Democratic side.
It was during this period that the concept of direct primaries to nominate candidates for public office, direct election of US senators, and universal suffrage for women gained traction; and most important to our work, the procedures know as referendum and initiatives began to be adopted in several states.
To read the balance of this column, please go to Marijuana.com.
The percentage in favor of legalization is the highest level of support ever recorded in the statewide poll.
African Americans (69 percent), Whites (64 percent), Democrats (63 percent), and Independents (57 percent) were most likely to express support for legalizing the plant’s use while Republicans (44 percent), Latinos (42 percent), and Asians (39 percent) were most likely to oppose the policy change.
Among those respondents who acknowledges having tried cannabis, 74 percent supported legalization. Among respondents who had never tried cannabis, 63 percent favored keeping it illegal.
The poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percent.
California is one of several states in 2016 where the issue of regulating marijuana is expected to be decided by ballot measure. The issue is also anticipated to be before voters next November in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and Nevada.
In 2010, California voters rejected a ballot initiative that sought to permit the personal cultivation and commercial sale of cannabis by a vote of 46.5 percent to 53.5 percent.
Washington, DC and New York City are only 225 miles apart, a four-hour drive up I-95, or a 3½ hour train ride on Amtrak. And both jurisdictions have taken positive steps over the last couple of years to stop arresting marijuana smokers. But in other ways, they are in parallel universes.
In one city the police chief is embracing marijuana legalization, and touting it as a helpful step in building community relations. And in the other, the police commissioner is saying marijuana has caused an increase in homicides and shootings, even worse than the cocaine and heroin epidemics of the 1980s and ’90s. It would be difficult to find a more stark contrast in policing strategies.
To read the balance of this column, please go to Marijuana.com.
Marijuana law reform legislation is presently pending in over 30 states. Is your state one of them? Visit NORML’s online ‘Take Action Center’ here to find out.
By clicking this link, you will have access to up-to-date bill status information. You can also quickly contact your elected officials and urge their support for these reforms with just one click.
Right now, nearly 20 states — including Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont — are debating measures to legalize the adult use and sale of the plant.
Click HERE to view NORML’s full list of pending state and federal legislation.
Get active; get NORML.
Nevada voters will decide next November on ballot language that seeks to regulate the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Lawmakers had until late last week to act on the initiative petition, filed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), but failed to do so – thus placing the measure on the 2016 electoral ballot.
The ballot language permits adults to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce and/or six plants) for non-commercial purposes. The measure also regulates and taxes the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis.
It states, “The People of the State of Nevada find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older, and its cultivation and sale should be regulated similar to other businesses.”
Similar ballot measures are likely to be decided in 2016 in several other states, including Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Missouri.
For more information on this campaign, please visit: http://www.regulatemarijuanainnevada.org/.
Please join NORML on May 20/21 in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress for passage of cannabis law reform legislation pending before it.
You’ve probably seen by now the historically important bill to reform medical cannabis laws introduced in the U.S. Senate. There has never been a more exciting and receptive time to be a cannabis law reform activist in America with this political backdrop:
- 35 states have passed medical cannabis-related legislation (in 23 of these states patients have functional access to the medicine and legal protections)
- 17 states have decriminalized the possession of cannabis for adults
- 4 states have legalized the cultivation and sale of cannabis (Washington, D.C. has de-penalized the possession and use of cannabis for adults; allows limited home cultivation; no sales)
- Every national poll, including the oldest social survey data set, now indicate a majority of Americans no longer favor cannabis prohibition.
It’s indisputable. Cannabis law reform in America is happening in our lifetimes.
By the time the NORML Legislative Fly-In convenes in late May, as many as 20 reform bills will have been introduced for us to rally around in our lobbying efforts–and with the new Senate bill, for the first time since the late 1970s, there is good reason to lobby the Senate as hard as the House.
Also, and of great importance in placing upward political pressure on elected members of Congress and their staff, are the nearly 75 state legislative bills around the country that are now debating cannabis law reform measures–ranging from medical access to industrial hemp to decriminalization to legalization.
This year upwards of half the states’ legislatures are looking at dozens of reform bills and this clearly positively impacts Congress to see these needed socio-legal reforms bubbling up from their home states and regions.
For many in Congress, they know the political writing is on the wall for the federal prohibition on cannabis commerce to survive much longer.
Let’s help make their jobs easier by showing them the necessary public support to hasten cannabis law reforms at the federal level.
Lastly, there is a strong possibility that we’re going to add another event to the program, in conjunction with High Times…and featuring a famous TV and movie personality who has expressed strong interest in getting involved with the public discussion about cannabis law reform. TBA.
NORML members and supporters get first shot at the low early bird pricing of $50/person.
Also, there are sponsorship opportunities as well for cannabis-related businesses, services and organizations.
Below is a brief breakdown of lodging options for the Conference.
Thanks in advance and hope to see you at the height of Spring in the nation’s capital, being an active participant in an historic public advocacy effort to once and for all end cannabis prohibition.
-Allen St. Pierre
NORML / NORML Foundation
The basic problem we are dealing with is the need to raise significant amounts of money to gather the required number of signatures to qualify a legalization proposal for the ballot, and then to run a professional campaign. At one time, those states that provide voters the opportunity to bypass the state legislature and enact new laws by a vote of the people, intended this to be something ordinary citizens could accomplish with a dedicated team of volunteers. It was an outgrowth of the progressive movement. But those days are gone forever.
State legislators, who understandably dislike the voter initiative process and prefer to maintain their control over the process of adopting new laws, have raised the bar for qualifying an initiative for the ballot, requiring more and more signatures; and sometimes requiring that a minimum percentage of those signatures be gathered from voters in every county in the state, making it impossible to qualify by simply focusing on the major population centers.
The result is that voter initiatives have become unrealistic as a vehicle to change public policy unless the sponsoring group has the ability to raise substantial sums of money. Political commitment and hard work are no longer sufficient.
We have had a handful of big donors supporting legalization initiatives going back to the successful Prop. 215 campaign in CA in 1996, and continuing through the two successful legalization initiatives approved in 2014. But those funders were motivated by their desire to end marijuana prohibition, and were not attempting to directly profit from those changes. Their motivation was high-minded.
And the need to earn the support of this group of philanthropic funders tended to assure that the language contained in those initiatives was similarly high-minded, seeking to establish legalization systems that were open to all entrepreneurs, both big and small. Until now, none of the successful initiatives attempted to establish “cash cows” to benefit the funders.
We have seen some ill-advised regulations adopted by the implementing state agencies in a few states that clearly favored those with big bucks, such as the medical marijuana regs in Massachusetts that required those seeking to apply for a license to commercially cultivate marijuana to put $500,000 in escrow before their application would be considered.
And in Florida, the medical marijuana bill that was passed by the legislature last year, permitting only low-THC, high-CBD marijuana, established only five licenses to cultivate for the entire state, and only applicants who could post a $5 million performance bond and pay a $100,000 application fee, and who had been in the nursery business in Florida continuously for a minimum of 30-years, could apply. A cynic might suspect the legislative leadership must be receiving some sizable contributions from the nursery industry.
New Investor Driven Voter Initiatives
But we are now dealing with a different, and potentially more significant, problem in which those who put up the funding to qualify a legalization initiative for the ballot seek to include specific language in the proposal put before the voters that assures them of a favored position in the soon-to-be legal market, and that essentially assures them of a huge “return on their investment.” For these individuals, who have not previously been involved in the legalization movement, this exercise is only incidentally about ending prohibition and stopping the arrest of smokers; it is really about getting rich in a newly legal industry.
On a purely political level, we should welcome these new developments, as these moneyed interests obviously have valuable political connections that could be helpful in ending prohibition more quickly than we could accomplish, at least in some states, without their help. And ending prohibition means stopping the barbaric practice of arresting responsible marijuana smokers, which must remain our highest priority. We have paid far too high a price for prohibition, in wrecked lives and careers.
But the arrival of these new potentially powerful interest groups, primarily motivated by greed instead of policy goals, causes most of us some concern, and some discomfort. Or as Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann recently told a journalist, when asked about this latest phenomenon, “This thing sticks in my craw.”
But whether we like it or not — and most of us do not — as a movement, we will shortly have to decide whether we can embrace proposals to end prohibition and implement legalization in states in which it appears likely those changes will directly enrich a small group of investors, and may erect market barriers for the small and mid-size entrepreneur.
The Loss of Innocence
As a movement, we have lost our innocence. For most of us, legalizing marijuana has been only incidentally about marijuana; it has really been about personal freedom. We are entering a new phase of the legalization movement in which some of the most powerful interests will be profit driven.
Last week, a group called Responsible Ohio announced it had raised $36 million to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to legalize marijuana in the state. They reportedly required investors to pony-up a minimum of $4 million each, for which these investors would be assured one of a handful of commercial cultivation licenses, authorized to grow medical marijuana in the state. The initiative language would establish an oligopoly who would largely control and profit from legal marijuana.
According to an article published in the Columbus Dispatch, one of their principal investors was recently recorded at an investment seminar as saying the business opportunities presented by their proposal are “beyond your imagination. … Let’s hop on this tsunami of money and ride the top of that wave to some enrichment for us.”
Talk about unabashed greed! These are not high-minded individuals. It turns out one of the investors reportedly made his fortune dealing with off-shore asset protection, and another likely investor is a federal felon who was convicted of 19 counts of insider trading in 2005. Legalizing marijuana is simply another get-rich-quick scheme for these scammers.
And rumors continue that a group of venture capitalists has formed in Michigan with the intent of qualifying an initiative for their ballot that sounds awfully similar to the Ohio approach. Investors put-up the money to pass an initiative, and they directly profit from that investment by being assured of licenses under the new system.
Different people will come to different conclusions. I continue to feel we should keep our eye on the prize of legalization, and not get sidetracked fighting over who will profit from legalization. After all, we live in a free enterprise system and we should not expect legal marijuana will be different.
But we may have our limits tested in the months ahead. Are we willing to be complicit in the establishment of oligopolies, which would likely lead to fewer choices and higher prices for consumers; or should we insist on the opportunity for small and mid-sized entrepreneurs to participate in this newly legal market?
The bottom line for me is to stop arresting marijuana smokers as soon as possible, in every state. And each year we defer ending prohibition, for whatever reason, we permit thousands of marijuana smokers to continue to be arrested; nearly 20,000 marijuana arrests annually in Ohio and in Michigan. That’s an enormous price to pay if we have the ability to end prohibition now, even if we do not like all the terms of the system to be established.
Big money has entered the picture, and we will have to deal with that. I prefer to keep the focus on personal freedom and stopping the arrests, but in some states we may have to swallow hard and accept legalization that is profit driven.
This column was originally posted to Marijuana.com.
More than six out of ten Connecticut voters favor legalizing marijuana use by adults, according to statewide polling conducted by Quinnipiac University.
Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they favored permitting adults to legally possess personal use quantities of cannabis. Only 34 percent of voters opposed this idea.
Legislation, House Bill 6703, is presently pending in the state, “to allow marijuana use for persons twenty-one years of age and older, and to regulate the sale, possession, use and growth of marijuana.” Connecticut residents can contact their lawmakers in support of this measure here.
State voters, by an overwhelming 82 percent to 15 percent margin, also support eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for offenses involving the possession of small amounts of illegal drugs, and allowing judges to decide sentences on a case by case basis.
The Quinnipiac University poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.
At a press conference this afternoon, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rand Paul (R-KY) announced plans to introduce a measure, The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, in the US Senate to strengthen statewide medical marijuana protections and impose various changes to federal law.
Passage of the measure permits qualified patients, doctors, and businesses to engage in state-sanctioned behavior involving the production, sale, or use of medical cannabis without fear of federal prosecution. The proposal reschedules marijuana at the federal level and removes the compound cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act. Additional provisions would allow opportunities for financial institutions to legally provide services to medical marijuana businesses, permit VA doctors to authorize medical cannabis, and would remove existing federal barriers to clinical trial research.
“It is emblematic of how far the movement to reform our country’s failed marijuana policies has come when a Republican presidential hopeful partners with two high profile Democrats to undo the damage done by the war on cannabis consumers,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “We’d encourage all members of Congress to rally behind this effort to end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana, something that over 80% of the country supports. Ultimately, marijuana needs to be descheduled out of the Controlled Substances Act entirely, but this bill provides an excellent start to that broader discussion.”TAKE ACTION: CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR US SENATORS IN SUPPORT OF THIS MEASURE!
Dear NORML Members and Supporters,
In the past 24 years I’ve penned hundreds of fundraising requests in the employ of NORML ranging from basic operating expenses to legal defense funds to advertising to match-the-donor grants to computer purchases to initiatives. Unfailingly, NORML’s members and supporters always come through with the needed funding to this venerable non-profit organization.
On this day I bring your attention to a NORML fundraiser self-conceived and implemented from a welcomed–but unlikely source.
I don’t think he’d mind me commenting that when one thinks of a long-distance runner, High Times’ Cultivation Editor Danny Danko does not immediately (or, at all!) come to mind.
So when Dan recently contacted NORML indicating that he’d decided to run in the 2015 New York City Half Marathon, and wanted to do so to raise money and awareness for NORML’s marijuana law reform work, it reminded me of the many types of personal self-sacrifice supporters of marijuana law reform work have been willing to make in support of the organization since its founding in 1970.
Dan has created a CrowdRise webpage for donations to be directed to the NORML Foundation that he is asking us to widely promote, as his employer, High Times Magazine, is willing to match dollar-for-dollar all of the money he raises through his long-distance running effort on Sunday, March 15.
A number of individuals, non-profit organizations and cannabis-related businesses have already pledged to support Dan’s fundraising efforts for NORML and marijuana legalization. Please take a moment and join them in recognizing Dan’s commitment to legalization, and to a non-profit organization near and dear to him and his family.
Dan has already raised nearly 40% of his stated $5,000 goal!
Thanks to Danny Danko, High Times Magazine and NORML’s supporters for putting the ‘grass’ into the organization’s longstanding grassroots efforts to end cannabis prohibition and stop the arrest of marijuana smokers.
Kind regards from a newly liberated Washington, D.C. (where cannabis became legal on February 26),
Allen St. Pierre
NORML / NORML Foundation