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Updated: 18 hours 19 sec ago

Congress Passes Three Month Budget Continuation – Marijuana Protections Included

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 03:52

In a quick deal between President Trump and Congress, a three-month budget continuing resolution will be in effect until December 8, 2017, maintaining current spending levels.

While this seems mundane (it is), it is important for marijuana policy because it guarantees a temporary extension of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer protections for lawful medical marijuana programs from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In context, this comes on the heels of the House Rules Committee, led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX), blocking multiple amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House earlier this week, thus ending their consideration for the 2018 House CJS Appropriates bill.

Amendments included: ending the federal incentive to revoke drivers licenses from those charged with marijuana offenses; protections for states that have implemented hemp programs; a reduction in funding for the DEA’s cannabis eradication program; expanded access to researchersprotections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses; allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales, and expanded protections to the eight states that have outright legalized marijuana.

Most notably, Chairman Pete Sessions also blocked the amendment offered by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Earl Blumenauer, and other allies in the House This language has been included in budgets since 2014, with language maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Eariler this year, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee, meaning that the language will be considered in a conference committee regardless of the fact that the full House was denied the opportunity to express it’s support for the 30 states which have legalized medical marijuana and 16 states that have authorized CBD oil access.

The fight is still to come, and you can send a message to your elected officials about the need to include this in the budget process here by clicking here. 

 

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Federal Survey: Youth Marijuana Use Continues To Decline

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 13:23

Fewer young people today identify as current users of cannabis as compared to 2002, according to national survey data released today by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health report finds that 6.5 percent of respondents between the ages of 12 and 17 report having consumed cannabis within the past 30 days – a decrease of 21 percent since 2002 and the lowest percentage reported by the survey in 20 years. Adolescents’ use of alcohol and tobacco also declined significantly during this same period.

The findings are similar to those compiled by the University of Michigan which also reports long-term declines in young people’s marijuana use, which have fallen steadily nationwide since 1996.

The new SAMHSA data acknowledges an increase in the percentage of respondents ages 18 or older who report using cannabis, a trend that has similarly been identified in other national surveys. By contrast, rates of alcohol abuse have been steadily declining for over a decade among this same age group. Rates of problematic cannabis use by those over the age of 18 have largely held steady since 2002, and have fallen substantially among adolescents.

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House Rules Committee Blocks Marijuana Amendments

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 20:32

Late Wednesday night, the House Rules Committee led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked multiple amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer protections from Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it comes to cannabis.

Amendments included: ending the federal incentive to revoke drivers licenses from those charged with marijuana offenses; protections for states that have implemented hemp programs; a reduction in funding for the DEA’s cannabis eradication program; expanded access to researchersprotections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses; allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales, and expanded protections to the eight states that have outright legalized marijuana.

Most notably, the amendment offered by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Earl Blumenauer, and other allies in the House had again offered the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment to continue to protect lawful state medical marijuana programs from the federal government. Specifically, the language maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Representatives Blumenauer and Rohrabacher released the following statement in response:

“By blocking our amendment, Committee leadership is putting at risk the millions of patients who rely on medical marijuana for treatment, as well as the clinics and businesses that support them. This decision goes against the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws. These critical protections are supported by a majority of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. There’s no question: If a vote were allowed, our amendment would pass on the House floor, as it has several times before.

“Our fight to protect medical marijuana patients is far from over. The marijuana reform movement is large and growing. This bad decision by the House Rules Committee is an affront to the 46 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized use and distribution of some form of medical marijuana. These programs serve millions of Americans. This setback, however, is not the final word. As House and Senate leadership negotiate a long-term funding bill, we will fight to maintain current protections.”

Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer language, protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice.

Most recently, the amendment was reauthorized by Congress in May as part of a short term spending package, in spite of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions aggressively lobbying Congressional leadership to ignore the provisions. At the time of the signing of the bill, President Trump issued a signing statement objecting to the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer provision.

Without these maintained protections, it is difficult to assess how much business confidence and investment will continue to pour into the nascent industry, which currently serves over 3 million

However as the Congressmen indicated in their statement, the fight is not over. In July, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee, meaning that the language will be considered in a conference committee should the House be denied the opportunity to express it’s support for the 30 states which have legalized medical marijuana and 16 states that have authorized CBD oil access.

We will continue to advocate for the members who will be in the conference committee to maintain the language from the Senate version in order to continue to serve the millions of men, women, and children who depend on their medication. On Monday and Tuesday, September 11th and 12th, NORML will hold it’s annual Conference and Lobby Day in DC and will focus on the need to not allow our progress to be rolled back – if you can join us in DC, click here to register.

Keep fighting with us – send a message to your federal elected officials now. 

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An Important Message From Whoopi Goldberg

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 10:54

I’m writing to you with an urgent request: that you join me in telling Congress to protect lawful medical marijuana patients and programs from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Send a message to your member of Congress NOW

Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, known as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Thirty states have or are in the process of implementing a lawful market, serving millions of men, women, and children who depend on their medication.

I started my company Whoopi and Maya so that women suffering from debilitating menstrual pain could find relief from a safe, natural product rather than turning to potentially addictive and dangerous pharmaceutical drugs.

It is absolutely critical that we ensure these patients can continue to access their medicine.

Attorney General Sessions and the Department of Justice should not put patients at risk! Stand with me and NORML in our fight to defend medical access to cannabis by writing your elected officials in support of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment today.

Join me in sending a message to Congress now

Thanks for all that you do,
Whoopi

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McClintock/Polis Amendment to Limit Federal Interference of State Marijuana Laws

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 05:13

Representatives Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) have introduced an amendment that, if passed, would disallow the Department of Justice to use funds from Congress to enforce federal laws on activities that are legal under state law with regard to marijuana. Ultimately, this amendment seeks to limit the federal government’s ability to intrude in states that have regulated various aspects of marijuana production and access.

Thirty states (and the District of Columbia) permit the medical use of cannabis, while eight states now regulate the plant’s production and sale to all adults. (Washington, DC imposes no penalties on the personal use, possession, and cultivation of the plant, but does not allow for its retail sale.) More than a dozen additional states permit patients to possess a specific anticonvulsant compound found in the marijuana plant, known as cannabidiol. Additionally, more than half of all states permit farmers to cultivate industrial strains of cannabis.

The passage of this bill is especially important with Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. He believes that lawful medical marijuana patients are causing violent crime and contributing to transnational drug trafficking and has asked Congress to allow the Department of Justice to target and prosecute state-licensed medical cannabis facilities. There is no logical reason for such interference by the federal government.

Congressional passage of the McClintock/Polis amendment would allow these states and the citizens who reside in them, to engage in these permitted activities free from any threat of federal interference or prosecution. It is time for Congress to respect these measures and the rights of voters and state lawmakers who support them.

Click here to send a message to your elected officials in support of HR 975, the Respect States Marijuana Laws Act.

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Bonamici Files Amendment Preventing Federal Interference of State Hemp Laws

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 14:33

Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) has introduced an amendment to the House appropriations bill that, if passed, would not allow funds to be used to prevent states from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of industrial hemp. These laws are defined in section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014. In 2014, members of Congress approved language in the omnibus federal Farm Bill explicitly authorizing states to sponsor hemp research.

The majority of US states have already enacted legislation redefining hemp as an agricultural commodity and allowing for its cultivation. However, the federal government still includes hemp in the Controlled Substances Act, despite it containing minimal amounts of THC–the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

All parts of the hemp plant can be cultivated and used to produce everyday household items. It can be grown as a renewable source for raw materials such as clothing, paper, construction materials, and biofuel. Not only is it useful, but growing hemp is much more environmentally friendly than traditional crops. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.

If Bonamici’s amendment is passed, this could prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with states’ rights, specifically regarding to the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of industrial hemp. It’s time for Congress to respect state laws and allow them to engage in the environmentally responsible cultivation of industrial hemp.

Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of H.R. 3530, to exclude low-THC strains of cannabis grown for industrial purposes from the federal definition of marijuana.

 

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Amendment to Cut Funding of DEA’s Cannabis Eradication Program

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 07:20

Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) has reintroduced an amendment to cut funds from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) cannabis eradication program through their Salaries and Expenses Account. In 2016, the budget for the eradication program was $18 million and the amendment would cut that in half. The funds would be redirected to domestic abuse prevention and juvenile justice programs.  This CJS appropriations amendment that was also proposed last year.

In a 2015 statement, Rep. Lieu explained that this cannabis eradication program “is a ridiculous waste of precious federal resources, especially when multiple states and jurisdictions have already legalized marijuana…it is time for the federal government to stop making marijuana use or possession a federal crime.”

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Gaetz Introduces Amendment for Medical Marijuana Research

Sat, 09/02/2017 - 13:10

Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill that, if passed, would not allow the Department of Justice to use funds from the bill to prevent or delay the approval of an application to research medical marijuana. This past year, the DEA moved to create a new procedure to license more facilities to cultivate marijuana for research after hearing concerns about the lack of quality cannabis for trials. However, since this implementation, the DEA has not acted on any of the applications that have been submitted since the creation of this program in an attempt to keep the already outrageous restrictions.

“Because of marijuana’s draconian schedule 1 status, scientists are hindered in researching its medical potential — and then, because medical research is scarce, its schedule 1 status is upheld. It’s time to break this vicious cycle, and make it easier for researchers to investigate the potential medical uses of cannabis” said Rep. Gaetz. “How many lives throughout the nation could be improved with increased marijuana research — from cancer patients to veterans with PTSD? We do a disservice to them, and to all Americans, by limiting research. The time for change is now.”

Because marijuana is listed as a schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government does not see it as having any medicinal benefits. Trying to get the DEA to actually act upon these new applications to expand research is extremely difficult and it will be just as difficult to get the DEA accept them. If Gaetz’s proposed amendment is passed, it will make it harder for the DEA to deny these research applications.

In a bipartisan letter, Representatives Gaetz, Rohrabacher (R-CA), Polis (D-CO), and Blumenauer (D-OR) ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stop standing in the way of increasing research into marijuana’s medical potential. In the letter, the Representatives write “It is worrisome to think that the Department of Justice, the cornerstone of American civil society, would limit new and potentially groundbreaking research simply because it does not want to follow a rule.”

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Congressman Heck Introduces Marijuana Banking Amendments

Sat, 09/02/2017 - 09:19

Congressman Denny Heck (WA-10) with Representatives Perlmutter (CO-07), Lee (CA-13), and Titus (NV-01) have submitted two amendments to the financial services division to be included in the House appropriations bill. Both of these amendments focus on banking services for legal marijuana-related businesses and would be a temporary fix until the current legislation, the SAFE Banking Act, is passed into law.

The first amendment prohibits any funds in the bill from being used to punish banks for serving marijuana businesses that are legal under state law. The second amendment prohibits the Treasury from altering FinCEN’s guidance to financial institutions on providing banking services to legitimate marijuana businesses. These amendments, if included, would allow for legal marijuana-related business to operate according to state laws and enjoy access to the banking system.

Currently, hundreds of licensed and regulated businesses do not have access to the banking industry and are unable to accept credit cards, deposit revenues, or write checks to meet payroll or pay taxes. This situation is untenable. No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions.

Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult use of marijuana and more than half the states have implemented medical marijuana laws, so it is both sensible and necessary to include these proposed amendments so that these growing number of state-compliant businesses, and their consumers, may operate in a manner that is similar to other legal commercial entities.

You can click here to send an email in support of the SAFE Banking Act to your federal elected officials now. 

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Norton Files Amendment To Strike Anti-Home-Rule Rider For DC

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 13:09

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has introduced an amendment to strike all four anti-home-rule riders from the House fiscal year 2018 District of Columbia Appropriations bill. This amendment would strike the riders that prohibit DC from spending its local funds on marijuana commercialization and on abortions for low-income women, as well as those that repeal D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law, the Death with Dignity Act, and budget autonomy referendum. Norton’s marijuana amendment has already received bipartisan support in Congress and there should be no reason to prohibit DC from spending money in their local politics.

In 2015, D.C. voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 71, which legalized the cultivation and possession of limited amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older. However, because D.C. cannot control its own budget, Congress was able to block the District from legalizing, taxing, and regulating the sale of marijuana. This lack of regulation of non-medical marijuana has caused D.C. to lose out on millions of dollars in tax revenue and hundreds of good jobs in the marijuana-market. Additionally, because residents cannot legally purchase non-medical marijuana, this has lead to more grey and black market sales. The District should have full control over its budget to implement and regulate the sale of marijuana.

In a press release statement, Norton stated, “The anti-democratic interference in D.C.’s purely local affairs flies directly in the face of the oft touted Republican principle of local control, and I am making sure no Member gets a free pass on abusing congressional authority over the District. Republican Members from states where medical aid in dying and recreational marijuana are legal should particularly apply the same right of local autonomy that their states have used to the District of Columbia. In addition, I am prepared to fight any and all new anti-home-rule riders introduced by Republicans later this week. We will not be used as political fodder for overeager Members who would rather spend their time meddling in the District’s affairs than working on behalf of their own constituents.”

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AAA Is Doubling Down On Their Marijuana Distortions

Wed, 08/30/2017 - 13:48

First, we would like to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of you who responded to NORML’s request to contact the American Automobile Association and urged them to “stop lying about marijuana legalization.”

But even as public and media pressure grows, AAA affiliates are doubling down on their reefer madness rhetoric.

At a recent AAA Texas-sponsored event, attendees were falsely told that drivers testing positive possess a 25-fold risk of accident compared to sober drivers. But the actual study cited by AAA concluded nothing of the sort. Rather, the study in question — conducted by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — determined that THC-positive drivers possessed virtually no statistically significant risk of motor vehicle accident compared to drug negative drivers.

Similarly, AAA Mid-Atlantic is continuing to distort the truth about cannabis. Despite having been provided with peer-reviewed evidence to the contrary, a recent reply by their Director of Public and Government Affairs office shows that the agency is refusing to listen to the facts with regard to cannabis regulation and traffic safety.

“We are deeply concerned that lawmakers are considering the legalization of recreational marijuana,” the AAA’s response states. “AAA opposes the legalization … of marijuana for recreational use because of its negative traffic safety implications.”

Yet, recent studies of federal crash data find that changes in the legal status of cannabis are not associated with a rise in traffic fatalities – and, in some instances, regulating cannabis has been associated with a reduction in deadly motor vehicle crashes.

Send AAA the facts in a message now

Nonetheless, AAA Mid-Atlantic opines, “The problem of drugged driving … will only get worse if [a] state legalizes it for recreational use.”

AAA further argues that a 2015 Governors Highway Safety report finds that “drugs were present in … fatally-injured drivers with known test results, appearing more frequently than alcohol.” However, AAA fails to acknowledge that the Governors report was primarily highlighting a rise in the presence of prescription medications and over-the-counter medications in fatally injured drivers. As acknowledged by the paper’s authors: “For this report, a drug is any substance that can impair driving. There are four categories of drugs: illegal drugs, legal non-medical drugs, prescription medications, [and] over-the counter medicines.” The Governors’ report also fails to identify whether the drug-positive drivers identified by the study were either impaired at the time of the crash or even culpable for the accident.

Further, the Governors’ report has fallen under scathing public criticism from other traffic safety groups, including MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), who publicly repudiated its interpretations. “There is no way you can say that drugs have overtaken alcohol as the biggest killer on the highway,” MADD responded. “The data is not anywhere close to being in a way that would suggest that.”

They’re correct. Specifically, a 2014 review of US fatal traffic accident data by researchers at the Pacific Research Institute in Maryland reported definitively that alcohol remains a greater contributor to crash risk than all other drugs combined, concluding: “Alcohol was not only found to be an important contributor to fatal crash risk, … it was associated with fatal crash risk levels significantly higher than those for other drugs. … The much higher crash risk of alcohol compared with that of other drugs suggests that in times of limited resources, efforts to curb drugged driving should not reduce our efforts to pass and implement effective alcohol-related laws and policies.”

If we are going to achieve sane policy solutions in regards to cannabis reform, it is essential that we call out those who seek to deceive the public, even if we appreciate their roadside assistance.

Take Action:

Tell AAA to stop spreading disinformation on the impacts of legalization.

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FDA Seeking Public Comments On CBD

Tue, 08/29/2017 - 08:58

On Regulations.Gov, right now, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is soliciting public comments with regard to the therapeutic utility and abuse liability of various controlled substances, including cannabidiol (CBD).

The agency will consider these comments prior to preparing a formal response to the World Health Organization, which is considering placing the substances within their international drug scheduling code.

Now, to be frank, it’s a little silly that the FDA is seeking public comment on a topic that would normally be judged based on the merits of evidence-based science and data. But prohibition itself would be considered silly if not for the detrimental effects of a criminal record and lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it.

That being said, cannabidiol is defined by the US Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I controlled substance, despite:

  • Its therapeutic properties and lack of abuse potential, despite the safety trials which have determined the substance to be non-toxic and well-tolerated in human subjects
  • Seventeen states explicitly recognizing by state-law that CBD as a therapeutic agent
  • The head of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse publically acknowledging that CBD is “a safe drug with no addictive effects” 

So a request for public comment should never go unfulfilled. So we made it incredibly easy for you to do so.

CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT FORMAL COMMENTS TO THE FDA NOW

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Congressman O’Rourke Introduces Amendment To End Arbitrary License Suspensions

Mon, 08/28/2017 - 12:39

Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) with Representatives Amash (R-MI), Jeffries (D-NY), Nadler (D-NY) have introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill that the House is expected to take up next month. The amendment would eliminate the funding for enforcement of Section 159 of title 23, which reduces highway funding for states if they did not automatically suspend drivers licenses of anyone convicted of a drug offense.

This amendment is similar to the Better Drive Act, which Congressman O’Rourke introduced in April. The Better Drive Act removes the federal mandate that demands states to suspend the driver’s license of individuals with a marijuana possession conviction. Currently, any drug conviction, regardless of whether or not the motor vehicle was involved, results in an automatic suspension of the individual’s driving privileges for a period of six months.

Enacted over 25 years ago as a part of the so-called “War on Drugs,” this mandate imposed on states does not improve highway safety or help people address substance abuse. Rather, it had the opposite effect, as this mandate ends up costing minor offenders their ability to get to work and to school, and other undue economic hardships.

By adding an amendment to eliminate the financial penalty against states who do not follow the federal mandate, O’Rourke and his co-sponsors are pushing to ease the burdens against those whom are convicted for simple marijuana possession.

Click here to send a message to you member of the House to support the amendment and companion legislation, The Better Drive Act.

Texas resident? Congressman Beto O’Rourke has been working closely with Texas NORML to address federal reform. Click here to find out more about Texas NORML and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Bianca Jagger To Receive Second Annual Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award

Mon, 08/28/2017 - 04:16

Bianca Jagger

International human rights advocate Bianca Jagger will be in Washington, DC on Monday, September 11, 2017, to receive the Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), at our annual conference.

The inscription on the award reads as follows: “To Bianca Jagger, in recognition of your lifetime commitment to achieving social justice for all people, especially those without the resources or social standing to achieve justice on their own. Your willingness to speak for the underdog, the disenfranchised and the unpopular, like Michael Kennedy himself, has defined your exemplary personal and professional life.”

She campaigns to end capital punishment and violence against women and girls, and advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples and future generations.

She is founder, president and chief executive of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, which she established in 2005 to be a force for change and a voice for the most vulnerable. She is Council of Europe Good Will Ambassador, a member of the executive director’s Leadership Council for Amnesty International USA, IUCN Bonn Challenge Ambassador; and Senior Fellow, Center for International Governance Innovation

Bianca Jagger was born in Managua, Nicaragua in 1950 and left her native country when she was 17 to study political science in Paris with a scholarship from the French government. Her human rights advocacy has taken her to many countries, including Nicaragua, Honduras, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq; and she has been the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Right Livelihood Award (2004) also known as the “alternative Nobel prize”.

Other awards have included The United Nations Earth Day International Award (1994); The Abolitionist of the Year Award by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (1996); The Amnesty International USAA Media Spotlight Award for Leadership (1997); The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Champion of Justice award (2000); The American Civil Liberties Award (1998); the World Achievement Award (2004); and the World Citizenship Award from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

The Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award, named after the late Michael J. Kennedy, the legendary civil rights and criminal defense attorney (and general counsel to High Times magazine from its inception in 1974 until his death in early 2016), was established with the blessing of the Kennedy family to honor those individuals who, like Michael Kennedy, dedicate their lives to advancing the cause of social justice in America. Eleanora Kennedy, Michael’s widow, and their daughter Anna Safir, will speak at the ceremony, reminding us of Michael’s 40-year support for NORML and our mission to legalize marijuana.

The award will be presented to Ms. Jagger by nationally known civil rights and criminal rights lawyer Gerald H. Goldstein, the first recipient of this award in 2016.

Those interested can purchase tickets to the 2017 NORML Conference and Congressional Lobby Day here.

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