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Michigan: Legalization Coalition Turns in 360,000 Signatures to Place Issue on 2018 Ballot

NORML Blog - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:42

Proponents of a Michigan voter initiative effort to legalize and regulate the personal use and retail sale of cannabis today turned in more than 360,000 signatures in an effort to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot. Advocates must possess a total of 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters in order to place the initiative — the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act — on next year’s ballot.

The initiative permits those over the age of 21 to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to the commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales.

Proponents of the effort, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, include members of the Marijuana Policy Project, the ACLU of Michigan, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association, Michigan NORML, MI Legalize, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, and lawyers from the State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section. Today’s press conference is archived on the Coalition’s Facebook page here.

Advocates sought to place a similar measure on the Michigan ballot in 2016. That effort was ultimately turned back when lawmakers imposed and the courts upheld new rules limiting the time frame during which signatures could be collected.

Marijuana law reform advocates are presently gathering signatures for voter-initiated efforts in Missouri and Utah. Proponents of a medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota have turned in their signatures and are awaiting a review by the Secretary of State’s office. A statewide initiative legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Oklahoma has already qualified for the 2018 electoral ballot.

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Study: Medical Cannabis Registrants More Likely To Cease Using Opioids Compared To Non-Participants

NORML Blog - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 10:20

Chronic pain patients enrolled in a statewide medical cannabis access program are significantly more likely to either reduce or cease their use of opioids as compared to non-enrolled patients suffering from similar pain conditions, according to data published online in the journal PLOS One.

A team of investigators at the University of New Mexico assessed opioid prescription use patterns over a 21-month period in 37 pain patients enrolled in the state’s medicinal cannabis program versus 29 non-enrolled patients.

Compared to non-users, medical cannabis enrollees “were more likely either to reduce daily opioid prescription dosages between the beginning and end of the sample period (83.8 percent versus 44.8 percent) or to cease filling opioid prescriptions altogether (40.5 percent versus 3.4 percent).” Enrollees were also more likely to report an improved quality of life.

Authors concluded, “The clinically and statistically significant evidence of an association between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription cessation and reductions and improved quality of life warrants further investigations on cannabis as a potential alternative to prescription opioids for treating chronic pain.”

Prior studies similarly report that patients enrolled in cannabis access programs are more likely to reduce their use of opioids and other prescription drugs.

Full text of the study, “Association between medical cannabis and prescription opioid use in chronic pain patients: A preliminary cohort study,” appears online here. NORML’s marijuana and opioids fact-sheet is online here.

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National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators Calls for Regulating Marijuana

MPP Blog - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 09:29

In August, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators adopted a resolution calling for national marijuana policy reform.

The resolution delves deeply into the history of marijuana prohibition, recognizing the racist foundations of the earliest marijuana laws being used to discriminate against people of color, through the racial disparity that exists in marijuana enforcement to this day.

The Caucus called on Congress to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, and for state lawmakers to regulate marijuana for adult use and seal previous marijuana-related criminal records.

You can read the full resolution here.

The post National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators Calls for Regulating Marijuana appeared first on MPP Blog.

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New Hampshire House Committee Rejects Marijuana Regulation

MPP Blog - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 08:51

Last week, the New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 13-7 to recommend against passage of HB 656, a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for use by adults 21 and older. The committee also voted to defeat a proposed amendment that would simply legalize possession and limited cultivation for adults. The committee’s recommendation is not the end of the road for HB 656: The full House will debate and vote on it in January.

The minority of the committee decided to embrace the home cultivation amendment rather than the comprehensive marijuana regulation bill. This means that if the House overturns the committee’s negative recommendation, it will be expected to vote on the amendment next. You can read the amendment here — it would allow adults to cultivate six plants, three of which could be mature. It would also legalize possession of three-quarters of an ounce, and marijuana in excess of that amount would be legal as long as it is stored along with the plants that produced it.

If you are a New Hampshire resident, please call your representatives today — urge them to vote against this committee recommendation and in favor of HB 656.

 

The post New Hampshire House Committee Rejects Marijuana Regulation appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Smoke a joint and still be able to get a job

DrugWarRant - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 17:56

Of course, we all know that you can be a pot smoker and still be very good at any profession you could do if you weren’t, but there’s still the big-business drug testing industry trying to claim that you can’t, and for some jobs, merely admitting to past use could still disqualify you.

But that may be changing…

Smoking marijuana shouldn’t be a disqualifying factor for federal judgeship: Top senators say

Top senators said Thursday that people who smoked pot a couple of times in their lives shouldn’t be denied federal judgeships, saying it might soon become tough to fill out the federal bench if marijuana use was considered disqualifying. […]

Both Chairman Charles E. Grassley and ranking Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein said there’s been an evolving standard in society, and the committee is also having to adjust.

“If that’s the sole judgment on whether somebody ought to have a judgeship or not — or maybe any other position — we may not be able to find people to fill those positions,” said Mr. Grassley, who said his own views on drug use have also changed since he came to Congress three decades ago

If I wasn’t enjoying retirement so much, and I had actually gone to law school, I might put my hat in the ring.

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Connecticut: NORML Affiliate To Co-Host Gubernatorial Debate

NORML Blog - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 10:48

The Connecticut state chapter of NORML and the Yale University branch of the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy will co-host the inaugural gubernatorial candidate debate of the 2018 governor’s race. Candidates will be asked to weigh in on questions specific to adult use marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform, hemp production, and the state’s current medical marijuana program, among other issues.

Confirmed to appear at the event are: Middletown Mayor Dan Drew (D), former state Sen. Jonathan Harris (D) of West Hartford and Afghanistan war veteran Micah Welintukonis (R). Organizers are actively reaching out to additional candidates.

The debate is scheduled for Tuesday November 28, 2017, from 7:00pm to 8:30pm at Yale University’s Sheffield Sterling Strathcona, Room 114 at 1 Prospect Street in New Haven. The debate will be moderated Aaron J. Romano, legal advisor for Connecticut NORML and a member of NORML’s Legal Committee. The event will be live-streamed on the Connecticut NORML facebook page here.

Several legislative proposals to regulate the adult use and sale of cannabis in Connecticut were debated during the spring 2017 session. However, momentum for these efforts stalled after Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy publicly expressed his opposition to legalizing cannabis.

According to statewide polling, 63 percent of registered voters favor permitting adults to legally possess personal use quantities of cannabis. When considering new sources of tax revenue in Connecticut, 70 percent of voters support the idea of “legalizing and taxing marijuana.”

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Buffalo/Western New York: Blacks Disproportionately Arrested For Minor Marijuana Offenses

NORML Blog - Wed, 11/15/2017 - 15:42

African Americans in the city of Buffalo (population 257,000) are disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana possession offenses, according to an analysis of arrest data by the advocacy group Partnership for the Public Good.

Researchers evaluated marijuana arrest data for Erie County, New York for the years 2012 to 2016. Countywide, blacks comprised 71 percent of all low-level marijuana offenders, despite comprising only 13.5 percent of the population. In the city of Buffalo, 86 percent of those arrested for minor marijuana possession violations were either African American (80 percent) or Hispanic (six percent). Blacks and Hispanic represent fewer than 50 percent of the city’s population.

“[T]he disparities in the number of marijuana possession arrests cannot be explained by a higher use among black or Hispanic people,” authors concluded. “Legalizing marijuana would reduce low-level drug arrests by ten percent, and help reduce racial disparities in overall arrest numbers.”

Recent analyses from other states, such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, have similarly identified racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests. Nationwide, African Americans are approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, despite members of both ethnicities using the substance at similar rates.

Full text of the report, “Advancing Racial Equity and Public Health: Smarter Marijuana Laws in Western New York,” appears online here.

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We Need Your Help to Protect Patients from Jeff Sessions

NORML Blog - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 16:34

During a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted his Department of Justice would be required to abide by budget amendments that restrict their use of funding to go after state-legal medical marijuana programs.

Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) grilled Sessions on a number of his Reefer Madness talking points including his comments stating marijuana consumers are not “good people” and if he believed that he would be bound by budget amendments, like Rohrabacher-Blumenauer and McClintock-Polis, that ban him from using DOJ funds to target state marijuana laws. Sessions agreed.

This explains why he was vigorously lobbying Republican members of the House to oppose these amendments earlier this year. We know full well that Jeff Sessions despises marijuana and is a die-hard drug warrior from the Just Say No era. While these restrictions remain in place, he cannot pursue his lifelong dream of returning us to old, failed drug war policies.

Unfortunately, these budget amendments need to be renewed on an annual basis, and so far they have not been for 2018. If these protections go away, there is no guarantee that the Department of Justice won’t begin to implement federal prohibition laws in states that have moved in a more common sense direction on marijuana policy.

The good news is: YOU CAN HELP STOP SESSIONS IN HIS TRACKS.

CLICK HERE TO SEND AN URGENT EMAIL TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TO URGE THEM TO PROTECT STATE MARIJUANA LAWS NOW!

The best defense is a good offense and we need to make our voices heard loudly and clearly now, before it is too late. Take a minute today to stand up for respecting state marijuana laws and tell Sessions we won’t accept any attempts to crack down on these important programs. Send a message NOW.

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Women Who Weed

NORML Blog - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 04:20

In the era of increasing acceptance and outright legalization of cannabis use, cannabis-centric television keeps getting better and better. From comedies like The Lucas Bros Moving Co (Fox) to documentaries like Weediquette (Viceland) and dramas like High Maintenance (HBO), you will never be at a loss for something to zone out to. Unless, of course, you’re a woman.

Through the zonked-out adventures of stoner dudes in the Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke and Pineapple Express, the category of “stoner comedies” was born and solidified as commercially successful. However, as is true in the more general comedy category, women are frequently excluded from this narrative– lest it become a national issue (see: the release of the all-female Ghostbusters and the subsequent end of the world).

Thankfully, the male-dominated world of cannabis tv is finally changing. More women are being showed smoking weed and not being demonized for it. However, like the revolution to end cannabis prohibition itself, there is still much work to be done. So, let’s look at the most prominent fictional female cannabis icons in popular media today:

Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) –  Weeds 

One of the most prominent female cannabis users is Nancy Botwin, fictional star of HBO’s Weeds. Nancy is a sexy, suburban soccer mom looking to make a little extra cash who turns to selling weed to support her family. Unfortunately, however, Nancy doesn’t really smoke weed—just sells it. Throughout the show’s nine season run, Nancy is only shown smoking weed twice. Plus, there’s the fact that she started as a small-time suburban weed dealer and ended up entangled in the Mexican heroin cartel running a laundering front with multiple deaths on her hands. So, overall, not great for the cause. My favorite episode: “Pittsburgh”, season 2 episode 12.

Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler (Abbi Jacobsen and Ilana Glazer) – Broad City  

For millennial weed smoking women, Broad City (Comedy Central) is our Cheech and Chong. Abbi and Ilana are two young women navigating the messy lives of millennials in New York City—but not before hitting their gold Pax, of course. Abbi and Ilana are two of the most prominent female cannabis users in pop culture today and are generally here for being yourself in every way possible. The women depict cannabis use in an everyday sense as well as in a funny, typical stoner way (they regularly video chat each other as they rip bongs on their toilets). Perhaps I’m biased, but the rating system for these reviews is leaf emojis so I don’t think we have to worry too much about journalistic integrity here. My favorite episode: “Coat Check”, season 2 episode 9. Honorable mention: “Pu$$y Weed”, season 1 episode 2.

Donna Pinciotti and Jackie Burkhart (Laura Prepon and Mila Kunis) – That 70’s Show ?

In That 70’s Show, the girls aren’t really considered a part of “The Circle” until season 2, and despite their introduction, Foreman, Hyde, Kelso, and Fez remain the core members. While Donna is viewed as more of an equal, Jackie is usually used as comedic relief and makes ditzy remarks about shopping and makeup. Plus, Jackie acts much more stereotypically affected by weed, leading to comments like “no more for the cheerleader” from the boys. The whole show is hokey in and of itself (remember their cover of Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker”?), so the “girls like shopping” jokes and the fact that the girls are constantly “catfighting” is to be expected. Still, not a great representation of women who weed. My favorite episode: “Reefer Madness” Season 3, Episode 1.  

Ruth Whitefeather Feldman (Kathy Bates) – Disjointed

Okay, look—I had the same reservations about Disjointed that you did. It’s a corny multi-camera set-up with a painful laugh track and a lot of stereotypical, one-dimensional characters. BUT, Ruth Whitefeather Feldman, played by the legendary Kathy Bates, is a shining light that will guide you through this show.  She’s a 70-year-old single mom running a dispensary in California, working to help and heal (or, as the show cringingly refers to it, “healp”) her patients through the magical medicine of cannabis. Ruth is a great example for women that have been a part of the cause since the 70’s and how her activism is affected by the changing perceptions of marijuana consumption and legalization. You must be able to withstand the uproarious laughter of the audience at jokes that fall flat to get to the best parts of this show: innuendos, weed, and trippy animation—but it’s worth it. My favorite episode: “The Worst”, Part 1 Episode 10 (the last five minutes, in particular).

 

Those are my thoughts, tell me yours in the comments below!

 

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NORML France Conference: Think Change or Change The Bandage?

NORML Blog - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 11:45

Fresh off of an organizational restructuring, NORML France will be hosting their conference entitled “Cannabis: Think Change or Change the Bandage?” about the failure of French cannabis prohibition at Université la Sorbonne in Paris.

Their credo is simple, to explain that reform will benefit everyone, not only cannabis consumers.

From their website:

The “NORML France” Organization is aiming to inform citizens and give support to cannabis users by facilitating the access to the defence of their rights and reach health programs, promote scientific researches and bring together civil society actors in favor of a more comprehensive drug policy reform. Evidence of the failure of the so called “war on drugs” is no longer needed. Together, we are building a fair and effective regulatory model that focuses on health, safety, employment, social justice and human rights, with an inclusive strategy based on the cross-expertise of the cannabis users and involved professionals.

 

Speakers include Viola Ridolfi, Secretary General of Ceryx; Geneviève Garrigos , Former President of Amnesty International France; Nathalie Latour, Delegate General of the Addiction Federation; Fabrice Olivet, Director General of the Self-Support of Drug Users; and Katia Dubreuil, Magistrate at the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris, National Secretary of the Union of Magistrates.

More information about their conference can be found HERE.

You can follow the efforts of NORML France on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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NY Governor Signs Bill Adding PTSD as Qualifying Condition for Medical Marijuana Program

MPP Blog - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 08:02

A bipartisan bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for New York’s medical marijuana program was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during Veterans Day weekend. The Senate passed S 5629 in June (50-13), and the Assembly version, A 7006, received overwhelming approval in May (131-8). New York is the 28th state to allow medical marijuana to be used to treat PTSD.

“Gov. Cuomo should be applauded for helping thousands of New York veterans find relief with medical marijuana,” said Bob Becker, Legislative Director for the New York State Council of Veterans Organizations. “PTSD is a serious problem facing our state, and now we have one more tool available to alleviate suffering.”

Thank you to all of our supporters who joined our efforts by contacting your elected officials. It is because of your dedication we were able to get the PTSD bill signed in New York.

The post NY Governor Signs Bill Adding PTSD as Qualifying Condition for Medical Marijuana Program appeared first on MPP Blog.

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South Dakota Medical Marijuana Petition Signatures Submitted

MPP Blog - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 10:55

New Approach South Dakota submitted nearly 15,000 signatures to the Secretary of State with hopes of adding a medical marijuana measure to the 2018 ballot.

South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said the review of the submitted measure would likely be finished within four months. Her office conducts a random sampling of the signatures to determine validity, with at least 5% of the collected signatures being reviewed.

The medical marijuana measure that was submitted for signature validation would allow patients with certain conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic debilitating pain, and PTSD to obtain a registration card to possess up to three ounces of marijuana.

To read the full text of New Approach South Dakota’s proposed medial marijuana ballot initiative, check our their website. We are hopeful that the initiative will qualify for the 2018 ballot and that South Dakotans will have the opportunity to adopt a compassionate policy for medical marijuana patients.

The post South Dakota Medical Marijuana Petition Signatures Submitted appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Poland to Allow Medical Marijuana in Pharmacies

MPP Blog - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 08:49

Poland became the latest country to allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes this week.

The Independent reports:

Under new regulations that came into force on Wednesday cannabis from imported plants can be processed at Polish pharmacies – as long as it has been logged with the country’s Office for Registration of Medical Products.

Pharmacists are already prepared to make the drugs, according to the Polish Pharmaceutical Chamber (PPC).

A spokesman said: “Given the fact that there are nearly 15,000 pharmacies in Poland, an overwhelming majority is authorised to make prescription drugs – that’s around 90 percent.

“It is estimated that up to 300,000 patients could qualify for medical marijuana treatment.”

The post Poland to Allow Medical Marijuana in Pharmacies appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Virginia Governor-Elect Supports Decriminalization

MPP Blog - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 08:26

On Tuesday, Virginia was faced with a  choice between three candidates for governor, all of whom supported some kind of sensible marijuana policy reform. At the end of the day, they decided to back Ralph Northam, who was clearly the best candidate on this issue.

Marijuana Moment reports:

Northam, a Democrat, made marijuana decriminalization a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign, often describing the issue in racial justice terms. He also spoke about the medical benefits of cannabis.

Here’s a look at his statements and pledges on marijuana:

“We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana,” he wrote in a blog post early this year. “African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement — money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.”

As a physician, Northam is “increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD,” his campaign website says. “By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”

The lieutenant governor also sent a letter to the Virginia State Crime Commission, which is conducting a review of the effects of potential marijuana decriminalization. “Virginia spends $67 million on marijuana enforcement – enough to open up another 13,000 pre-K spots for children,” Northam wrote. “African Americans are nearly 3 times as likely to get arrested for simple possession of marijuana and sentencing guidelines that include jail time can all too often begin a dangerous cycle of recidivism.”

During a debate, Notham mentioned that his father is a judge while making a point about the cost of enforcing marijuana laws.

MPP is looking forward to working with Governor-elect Northam and the legislature to pass beneficial marijuana legislation in the upcoming session.

The post Virginia Governor-Elect Supports Decriminalization appeared first on MPP Blog.

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New Jersey Poised for Big Changes After Election

MPP Blog - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 08:20

Gov. Chris Christie has said that he is the “only impediment” to taxing and regulating marijuana in New Jersey — and he is leaving office in January 2018. Phil Murphy (D), who has repeatedly touted his support for legalization, beat Kim Guadagno (R) by about 10 percentage points and will be the next governor!

Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22), sponsor of the bill to end marijuana prohibition in New Jersey, won easily, and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), another vocal supporter of legalization, was also victorious.

New Jersey is now well-placed to be the first state to end marijuana prohibition through the legislative process (as opposed to a citizens’ ballot initiative) — but a bill still won’t pass without hard work. And the details of the bill — things like ensuring people who have been criminalized for marijuana possession can expunge their records once marijuana possession is legalized — will require close attention to guarantee New Jersey implements the best possible public policy.

The post New Jersey Poised for Big Changes After Election appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Election: Ohio City Completely Depenalizes Marijuana

NORML Blog - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 20:24

Athens, OhioThe Athens Cannabis Ordinance – better known as “TACO” – to completely remove all penalties for possessing, cultivating, and gifting of up to 200 grams of marijuana was approved by voters on election day by a vote of 77 percent to 23 percent.

In November 2016, four Ohio municipalities – Newark, Logan, Roseville, and Bellaire – passed similar depenalization ballot measures. Under Ohio state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as a minor misdemeanor, punishable by a fine, but no jail time or criminal record.

“Voters overwhelmingly approved of TACO because the continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of the vast majority of adults in the United States, 64 percent of whom now endorse legalizing and regulating cannabis,” said Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director. “While politicians continue to drag their feet, citizens are showing leadership at the local and state level in jurisdictions where the ability to achieve marijuana reform is possible at the ballot box.”

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Election: Pro-Legalization Phil Murphy Wins NJ Governor Race

NORML Blog - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 17:08

Trenton, NJ: After making the legalization of marijuana a core issue in both his primary and general election campaigns, Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has claimed victory in the New Jersey gubernatorial election over Republican Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno.

In fact, in his primary victory speech, Phil Murphy proclaimed his desire to sign a marijuana legalization bill within his first 100 days in office.

“Candidates across the country should take notice, as Phil Murphy won the Governor’s seat soundly because of, not in spite of, his open and vocal support for legalizing marijuana – a position supported by 65% of New Jersey voters and 64% of Americans nationwide,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “NORML looks forward to working with Governor-Elect Murphy and other stakeholders in the state to end the disastrous policy of marijuana prohibition and to implement the moral, economic, and scientifically sound policy of legalization and regulation in the Garden State.”

Polling data released this week by Predictwise/Pollfish Survey revealed that a 65% of New Jersey voters support legalizing marijuana outright.

Currently in New Jersey, a possession conviction of anything under 50 grams of marijuana can carry a sentence of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The ACLU-NJ found that police make a marijuana possession arrest in New Jersey on average every 22 minutes and that black New Jerseyans were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite similar usage rates.

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SAM burned by Angell

DrugWarRant - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 12:12

Tom Angell and the Marijuana Moment continue to keep on top of everything marijuana-related, including the ridiculous antics of Kevin Sabet and S.A.M.

In this latest post, Anti-Marijuana Site Features Pro-Legalization Politician (For Some Reason), Tom details a number of the past big efforts by Kevin and SAM that never amounted to anything. Worth checking out (and also worth supporting Tom’s efforts).

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Election Night 2017: Marijuana Races to Watch

NORML Blog - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 09:46

It is once again election night in America. While 2017 doesn’t feature any statewide marijuana initiatives, there are still a number of races to watch tonight that will impact marijuana law reform efforts across the nation.

Virginia Governor

Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (D): Democratic candidate, and current Lt. Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam has been outspoken in his support for ending criminal penalties for marijuana. Earlier this year, Northam published a letter calling for decriminalization and an expanded medical marijuana program.

Northam wrote: “We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement?—?money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.

As a doctor, I’m becoming increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD. By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”

Ed Gillespie (R): Republican candidate, and former Republican National Committee Chair, Ed Gillespie has stated he does not support the legalization or outright decriminalization of marijuana believing it “sends the wrong signal” to children.

Gillespie does support a very limited change to Virginia’s marijuana laws, that would move possession to a three strike system – dropping the possibility of jail time for an individual’s first two marijuana possession arrests, but retaining it for the third.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR VA VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

 

New Jersey Governor

Phil Murphy (D): Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has made marijuana legalization a priority issue in his campaign. In addition to publicly campaigning in support of ending marijuana prohibition in the state, in his primary election victory speech Murphy said he wants a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana in the Garden State on his desk within the first 100 days of taking office.

“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Phil Murphy said the night he won the Democratic primary. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.

Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno (R): Republican candidate, and current Lt. Governor, Kim Guadagno has stated that she is “wholly opposed to legalizing marijuana” citing inaccurate information in regards to marijuana’s impact on driving.

“I have personal experience about what exactly happens to somebody who drives while they’re high, which is why I would oppose legalization of marijuana,” Guadagno said during a debate during the Republican primary.

During the general election, she further stated her opposition, saying she believed legalization would “put a whole generation of children at risk.”

“I don’t want our children, I don’t want our people to walk down the street and buy a pack of cigarettes and be drug dealers.”

Despite her opposition to legalization, Guadagno has stated she would support decriminalization of possession and limited expansion of the state’s existing medical marijuana program.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR NJ VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

 

Athens, OH: Athens Cannabis Ordinance

Residents of Athens, Ohio will have the ability to vote on the “Athens Cannabis Ordinance” which would significantly reform many of the penalties around marijuana possession and cultivation in the city. The ordinance would drop the fine for the following offenses to $0, effectively removing any criminal or civil punishment:

  • Possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana and up to 10 grams of hash
  • Cultivation of up to 200 grams of marijuana
  • Gifts of up to 20 grams of marijuana
  • Possession and sale of paraphernalia

CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR ATHENS, OH VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

 

Atlanta Mayor (Note: If none of the candidates in tonight’s election receive more than 50% of the vote, there will be a run-off election this winter between the top two vote getters. Atlanta’s mayoral race is also non-partisan.)

During the debate surrounding the now approved decriminalization bill in Atlanta, news outlet the AtlantaLoop got a majority of the mayoral candidates on record in regards to their views on marijuana penalties. The incoming mayor will oversee the implementation of this ordinance so it is important to have a supportive incoming mayor in power in 2018.

Peter Aman, former Atlanta COO: “I support the deprioritization of marijuana enforcement and will work with the courts and the police department and community to examine a procedure focused on fines, rather than jail time. Criminal justice reform is not just a buzzword. It is a thoughtful approach to finding ways to ensure citizens do not carry a lifelong burden for instances that do not cause harm to the public. Equally important, deprioritization is a cost-saving measure on the courts and the public safety budget. It allows our officers to focus on crime fighting and keeping our communities safe.

Also, I firmly believe, and research shows, marijuana use has clear impacts on the brain development of children and young adults. In addition to, or in lieu of other penalties, I will ask the courts to examine requiring individuals below a certain age to attend an educational course on the cognitive impacts of marijuana and to help them make informed choices in how, when, and where they use such a substance – as we do in case of abuse of alcohol use.”

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves: “It is high time that Atlanta City Council members and Mayor Kasim Reed stop talking, and start doing something on the issue of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. Generally, that means these offenses are treated like a minor traffic violation: no arrest, prison time, or criminal record for a first-time possession.

Unlike my opponents who have sat on their hands while our young people suffer, I have a track record of actually doing something about issues like this one. For example, as Fulton County Chairman, I pushed through the first-ever expungement program, to give people a second chance after arrests for minor offenses— including those never prosecuted. I also championed the successful Fulton County diversion program that has seen our jail population decrease and our recidivism rate drop dramatically.

As a long-standing criminal justice, youth diversion and expungement advocate, my main concern is that for small amounts of marijuana possession, a person can have a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their life. While we must be for law and order, we also must be fair. That means using best practices based on other local government experiences. For example, the Clarkston City Council, voted unanimously last year to reduce the fine from up to $1,000 to $75 for possessing less than an ounce, and eliminating the possibility of jail time. In the nation’s capital city of Washington, D.C., voters approved decriminalization for people over the age of 21.

For a city as diverse as Atlanta, a decriminalization ordinance in this direction makes sense.

As Atlanta’s next mayor, I will continue to make juvenile justice a top priority and will work to provide laws that are fair to everyone, no matter their zip code.”

State Sen. Vincent Fort: “I’m talking about a ticket, a citation, I’m talking about no mugshot, no arrest. A citation, go on your way, pay.  Anywhere from $25, $50 to $75.

Two, I am very concerned that there’s this confusion, quote-unquote confusion issue.  I’ve heard some city council members and some candidates for mayor talk about how people from the outside of the city would come in and think that they could smoke dope and there’d be no consequences.  That is a red herring.  Then there are some other people who have said, ‘Oh I’m not going to have quote-unquote blood on my hands,’ by virtue of the fact that they say, ‘Well there’s a kid who thinks he can smoke dope anywhere, any way he wants and he gets arrested because the officer has discretion … and they’ll resist arrest and thus you know blood’ll be on the hands of anyone who supports this.’ That’s just crazy, it’s absolutely crazy. It’s unfortunate that elected officials would engage in such mendacity, intentionally trying to create confusion on the issues.

… [I]f there are all these cities all over the country including in the South, that can decriminalize marijuana, if tiny Clarkston can do it, the city of Atlanta can do it. The fact of the matter is, the city council and the mayor have been in power, in place, as well as the Fulton County Commission has been in place for years and young African American males … have been pushed into the entryway for mass incarceration and they [officials] have done nothing. And now that they have the chance to do it, they’re abdicating their responsibility.”

Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall: “It is a high priority for my administration to be able to roll out an effective and well-communicated marijuana declassification, so [people are not] not excessively penalized for possession of less than an ounce.”

Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood: “I want a dialog with the police department as to the impact of changing the city’s ordinance and what does to offenders and whether or not … the state law would then apply.  What we need is an understanding from the police department as to the steps that occur now and the steps that would occur for their police officers on the street with offenders with the changes.”

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell: “When I was a child being raised in this city, the last thing my father wanted to do as a police officer was to destroy the lives of young people.

The time and effort spent apprehending and sending people to jail for this minor offense would be of better use to law enforcement in their pursuit of dangerous criminals. When police officers spend time on these offenses, jail cells end up filled with non-violent offenders, while repeat and violent offenders often go free.

Atlantans deserve to have a city that encourages kids to reach their potential, not one that embraces punishment for every misstep.

While usage rates are roughly the same across different races, statistics show that African-Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. For many Atlanta kids, it is a gateway to prison. We need to do everything we can to end a process that hurts our kids by serving as a fast track to incarceration”

Two candidates, Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard and Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, did not respond to AtlantaLoop’s request for comment. However, it is worth noting that both serve on the Atlanta City Council, which unanimously approved teh decriminalization measure earlier this year. You can view their full article here.

 

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Stay tuned…

NORML will be covering the results of these elections throughout the evening on our blog and social media channels. Stay tuned for results and reactions later tonight.

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