“Shenna Bellows has been at the forefront of the fight for marijuana legalization even before beginning this campaign,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “During her tenure leading the Maine ACLU, Shenna has demonstrated she has the skill and determination to fight for sensible reforms and has proven to be a vocal and articulate leader in calling for the end of marijuana prohibition. We believe she will be invaluable in the United States Senate to help move the country away from our failed war on marijuana and towards a new, smarter approach.”
“We need to end the war on drugs and reform our criminal justice system, and we cannot afford to wait. The United States incarcerates more people in total and more people per capita than any other country in the world, and the racial disparities are alarming,” Shenna Bellows wrote in a recent op-ed, “Even in my home state of Maine, which is the whitest state in the union, blacks are 2.1 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. Government spends billions of dollars each year enforcing counterproductive drug laws, which are truly the New Jim Crow. The economic and human rights costs are enormous.”
While we have long had support for marijuana law reform in the House of Representative, support in the Senate has long been harder to come by. In a recent interview with ThinkProgress, Ms. Bellows has made clear she looks to kickstart the movement for rational marijuana policy in the upper chamber of Congress.
“Right now on the Senate side, there doesn’t seem to be a leader who has the courage to move that forward,” Bellows said. “I would be that leader.”
You can donate to the NORML PAC to help elect pro-reform candidates nationwide here.
Most New York state voters support regulating the adult use of cannabis, while a super-majority endorse legalizing the plant for therapeutic purposes, according to a recently released Quinnipiac University poll.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents support “allowing adults in New York State to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Only 39 percent of respondents opposed the idea.
Respondents most likely to favor legalization include those age 18 to 29 (83 percent), Democrats (65 percent), those age 30 to 49 (61 percent), and men (63 percent). Support is significant lower among women (51 percent), Republicans (39 percent), and those over the age of 65 (38 percent).
On the issue of legalizing cannabis for therapeutic purposes, voter support rose to 88 percent — with the issue receiving super-majority support from respondents of every age and political affiliation.
In separate questions, only 13 percent of respondents say that they believe that cannabis is “more dangerous” than alcohol, and fewer than half believe that it is a ‘gateway’ to other illicit substance use.
The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points.
Legislation to legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of the plant — the “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act” — is pending in both the New York state Senate and the Assembly. Separate legislation to allow qualified patients to possess and purchase cannabis for therapeutic purposes also remains pending.
In January, Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who had previously expressed opposition to allowing for the medical use of cannabis — announced plans to use his executive powers to revive a dormant research program that would allow for the use of government-grown marijuana in select hospitals. However, efforts to reestablish similar programs in other states have not been effective.
Today, the Department of Justice and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network division of the Treasury Department released long anticipated guidance to banks and other financial institutions on how they can interact with marijuana businesses that are licensed under state law.
Under current regulations, financial institutions are required to file suspicious activity reports when they suspect the transaction has a drug connection. The new guidance creates a three tiered system for these reports: marijuana limited, marijuana priority, and marijuana termination. This will allow these institutions to work with marijuana businesses as long as they were operating in accordance with state laws and regulations. The Department of Justice reserved the right to pursue criminal charges when they suspect businesses are breaking the guidelines they released late last year and would still require banks to report any activity they suspect to be as operating outside of state regulations.
“Now that some states have elected to legalize and regulate the marijuana trade, FinCEN seeks to move from the shadows the historically covert financial operations of marijuana businesses,” noted FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery in a press release. “Our guidance provides financial institutions with clarity on what they must do if they are going to provide financial services to marijuana businesses and what reporting will assist law enforcement.”
“This reduces the burden on banks,” FinCEN stated during a briefing on the memo, “Marijuana under federal law requires a SAR. Now, the necessity is limited, reducing the banks’ burden a bit and more importantly clarifies where law enforcement focuses its attention.”
While this is a good start when it comes to allowing marijuana businesses to operate the same as those in any other regulated industry, memos such as these can be ultimately overturned by future administrations. To make this change lasting and binding, Congress must now act to codify it into law. The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act is currently pending before the House of Representatives and would do just that. You can click here to quickly and easily write your representative and urge him/her to support this important legislation.
Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) has introduced federal legislation, House Resolution 4046, to remove legal restrictions prohibiting the Office of National Drug Control Policy from researching marijuana legalization. These restrictions also require the office to oppose any and all efforts to liberalize criminal laws associated with the plant.
“Not only is the ONDCP the only federal office required by law to oppose rescheduling marijuana even if it is proven to have medical benefits, but it is also prohibited from studying if that could be even be true,” said Congressman Cohen. “The ONDCP’s job should be to develop and recommend sane drug control policies, not be handcuffed or muzzled from telling the American people the truth. How can we trust what the Drug Czar says if the law already preordains its position? My bill would give the ONDCP the freedom to use science—not ideology—in its recommendations and give the American people a reason to trust what they are told.”
These restrictions were placed on the Office of National Drug Control Policy by the Reauthorization Act of 1998, which mandates the ODCP director “shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that–
(A) is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and
(B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;”
You can quickly and easily contact your representative by clicking here.
Earlier today, 18 members of Congress signed onto a letter that was delivered to President Barack Obama calling for him to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
“We request that you take action to help alleviate the harms to society caused by the federal Schedule I classification of marijuana. Lives and resources are wasted on enforcing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws,” the letter reads, “Nearly two-thirds of a million people every year are arrested for marijuana possession. We spend billions every year enforcing marijuana laws, which disproportionately impact minorities. According to the ACLU, black Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable usage rates.”
The letter was signed by Representatives Blumenauer (OR), Cohen (TN), Farr (CA), Grijalva (AZ), Honda (CA), Huffman (CA), Lee (CA), Lofgren (CA), Lowenthal (CA), McGovern (MA), Moran (VA), O’Rourke (TX), Polis (CO), Quigley (IL), Rohrabacher (CA), Schakowsky (IL), Swalwell (CA), and Welch (VT).
“Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana,” the letter continued, “A Schedule I or II classification also means that marijuana businesses in states where adult or medical use are legal cannot deduct business expenses from their taxes or take tax credits due to Section 280E of the federal tax code. We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.”
You can read the full text of the letter here.
At a press conference this afternoon, State Senator Josh Miller (D-Cranston) and Representative Edith H. Ajello (D-Providence) will announce and discuss their proposed legislation that would make Rhode Island the third state in the country to legalize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis for adults.
This legislation would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to two marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked space. It would establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities.
“Rhode Island now joins over a dozen other state legislatures that are debating measures to legalize marijuana this year,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “A majority of Rhode Island voters, and Americans in general, support replacing our failed prohibition policy with one of regulation. Elected officials are wise to see that the desires of their constituents are being represented and we commend Representative Ajello and Senator Miller for being leaders on this issue.”
RHODE ISLAND RESIDENTS: Please consider calling your members of the state Senate and House of Representatives to urge them to co-sponsor this important legislation. Click here to find out who your elected officials are and their contact information.
Hi my name is (name), and I live in (city/town) in your legislative district. As you might know (Chairwoman Edith Ajello/Senator Josh Miller) is introducing a bill to tax, regulate, and control marijuana like alcohol. (He/She) is currently recruiting co-sponsors for this important bill. Our current policy of marijuana prohibition has been a total failure, and when something is broken, it needs to be fixed. Regulating marijuana is the right solution because it would take control away from illegal dealers, and it would help Rhode Island’s economy. I urge you to join (Chairwoman Ajello/Senator Miller) and co-sponsor this sensible legislation. Thank you.
NORML will keep you updated as this legislation moves forward.
Nearly 30 states, and the District of Columbia are considering marijuana law reform legislation this year, including bills that cover legalization for adults, decriminalization, medical marijuana and hemp. Some states have a variety of reform bills simultaneously pending such as Arizona which is considering legalization and decriminalization, and Pennsylvania which is considering legalization as well as medical marijuana legislation. Here’s a quick breakdown:
14 states are considering legalization: Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
12 states and the District of Columbia are considering decriminalization: Alabama, Arizona, DC, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wyoming.
11 states are considering legislation to establish effective medical marijuana programs: Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
3 states are considering allowing industrial hemp cultivation: Indiana, New York, and Tennessee.
Click here to access NORML’s Action Alerts and quickly and easily contact your elected officials to encourage their support of any pending reform bills. Be sure to keep checking NORML’s Take Action Center to see if your state has joined the list!
Alaska: Election Officials Affirm Legalization Measure Has Enough Signatures To Qualify For The 2014 Ballot
State election officials have affirmed that a proposed initiative to regulate the production and retail sale of cannabis to adults has obtained the necessary number of signatures from registered voters to appear on 2014 ballot.
The initiative’s proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska, gathered more than 45,000 signatures from registered Alaska voters. On Tuesday, the director of the Alaska’s Division of Elections confirmed that of those signatures, 31,593 have been verified, thus qualifying the measure for a public vote. The lieutenant governor’s office is expected to certify the measure for the 2014 ballot in the coming days, once all of the remaining signatures have been counted and verified.
Once certified, the initiative will be placed on the August 19 primary election ballot, as is required by Alaska election law.
If approved by voters, the measure would legalize the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants (three flowering) for personal consumption. The measure would also allow for the establishment of licensed, commercial cannabis production and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products to those over the age of 21. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis would be subject to taxation, but no taxes would be imposed upon those who choose to engage in non-commercial activities (e.g., growing small quantities of marijuana for personal use and/or engaging in not-for-profit transfers of limited quantities of cannabis.) Public consumption of cannabis would be subject to a civil fine.
The measure neither amends the state’s existing medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 1998, nor does it diminish any privacy rights established by the state’s Supreme Court in its 1975 ruling Ravin v State.
Under present state law, the possession of marijuana not in one’s residence is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 90-days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
According to the results of a statewide Public Policy Polling survey, released today, 55 percent of registered voters “think (that) marijuana should be legally allowed for recreational use, that stores should be allowed to sell it, and that its sales should be taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol.” Only 39 percent of respondents oppose the idea. The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.
Additional information about the campaign is available here.
A majority of Rhode Island voters back legalizing and regulating the use and sale of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, according to a just-released Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project.
Fifty-three percent of respondents support “changing Rhode Island law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, so stores would be licensed to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older?” Forty-one percent of respondents oppose the idea. Six percent of voters were undecided.
Legislation to legalize the adult consumption and licensed production and retail sale of cannabis in the state is expected to be reintroduced shortly. (Rhode Island does not have a statewide ballot initiative process.) In previous years, state lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported the passage of legislation to legalize the use, growing, and dispensing of medical marijuana to qualified patients. The PPP survey found that 77 percent of Ocean State voters support the state’s present medical marijuana program.
The PPP poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percent.
In recent months, separate statewide polls in Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Texas have all shown majority support for legalizing the adult consumption of cannabis.
Today, members of the DC City Council voted in favor of the Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act, which removes criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and reclassifies it as a civil infraction under DC law, punishable by a $25 ticket and no criminal record. Councilwoman Yvette Alexander was the only member who voted in opposition to this measure.
A 2012 analysis 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.
However, prior to today’s vote, Council Chairman Phil Mendleson introduced an amendment to retain criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses that involve public consumption. Despite concerns voiced by Councilmen Wells and Grosso, the amendment was adopted. If the measure is ultimately approved as amended, the public consumption of marijuana would remain a criminal offense subject to arrest and punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
A final vote by the DC Council on this measure is expected to occur in early March. At that time, the council could also overturn Chairman Mendleson’s amendment. NORML and our allies are advocating for such change, as continuing to criminalize the public consumption of marijuana will only perpetuate the District’s record of racially disparate arrests.
Once approved by a second vote of the City Council, the legislation enters a 30-day review period by members of Congress.
DC RESIDENTS: Click here to contact the DC City Council and urge them to support this measure and to oppose the Mendleson amendment.
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
Just Announced: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement tonight that his state of the union speech next week will include an announcement of an executive order making medical cannabis legal.
After this comes to be New York will become the 22nd state where qualified patients will have legal access to cannabis as a therapeutic.
At eight o’clock this morning, Iraq War Veteran Sean Azzariti stepped up to the counter at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver and made the first ever legal marijuana purchase in the United States. He didn’t have to show a medical marijuana program card, proving he paid a fee and consulted a doctor, he simply flashed his driver’s license to confirm he was over 21 and bought his cannabis products. This is a first for Sean, who uses cannabis to treat his PTSD, as his ailment was not an authorized qualifying condition for the Colorado medical marijuana program.
The first purchase? 3.5 grams of Bubba Kush and a marijuana infused truffle. Total cost? 58.74 with tax included ($40 plus tax for the Kush and $9.28 plus tax for the truffle. You can view his receipt he tweeted out here.)
So far, the 34 stores that were open for business today are reporting massive lines, but no real problems. The sky has yet to fall, drivers aren’t crashing continuously into buildings, violence has not erupted in the streets. Maybe it is possible, after decades of scare mongering, that regulation just might be the better alternative after all? The program is still in it’s beginning stages, and will naturally need fine tuning along the way, but so far it is already looking like a widely better solution than prohibition ever was. Judging by the lines that extended far outside the door and around the building at all of the retail locations, Coloradans seem to be very eager to give regulation a chance. Let’s work together to ensure this program works and that it sets the shining example for all other states to follow in the coming years nationwide.
Congratulations to Colorado and all those who worked so hard to get us to this point. It is truly a historic day.
The eyes and ears of the national and international media will be focused on Colorado on New Year’s Day as the nation’s first modern state-licensed retail cannabis dispensaries will be open for business.
Late last week, state and local regulators signed off on the first wave of licensed cannabis businesses, with hundreds more applicants awaiting final approval. (See the actual state-approved marijuana business license via today’s CNN video here.)
The Colorado NORML website has posted a clock counting down the hours and minutes until the nation’s first recreational cannabis sales become reality here. They also provide a statewide list of licensed cannabis retailers, as well as a ‘consumers’ guide’ to complying with Colorado state law here.
Like I told USA Today in its coverage today, “The genie’s out of the bottle and it’s simply not going back in.”