I will match your donation to the Maine Legalization Initiative

I’ve worked hard to help legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use in Washington State (where I live) and in Oregon. This November, Maine voters will have the opportunity to approve a ballot initiative that will end prohibition and replace it with a sensible marijuana policy in their state too.

As a NORML Board Member, I am proud to announce that NORML is endorsing this initiative. And to demonstrate my commitment, I am going to match every donation up to $50,000, dollar-for-dollar. This October, I’ll be visiting Maine to speak about the initiative and help build support for legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana in the state.

If you donate $50, $100 or even $500, I’ll double it. Click here to make a donation through the campaign website today.

Through my travels in Europe, I’ve learned that pragmatic harm reduction makes much more sense than legislating morality. And I believe in civil liberties. Responsible adults should be able to use marijuana, just as they can use alcohol. Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska have demonstrated that it is possible to build a system of marijuana control and regulation that works.

This isn’t about being "soft" or "hard" on drugs. This is about being smart – and controlling and regulating marijuana the right way.

Please consider making a donation today. Together, we can make history in Maine. (And I hope to see you in October!)

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Contact
David Boyer, Campaign Manager, Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol
207-274-4633, dboyer@regulatemaine.org

Nation’s Oldest Marijuana Policy Organization – and One of Its Most Widely Recognized Board Members – to Throw Support Behind Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Maine

In an email announcing NORML’s endorsement, internationally renowned travel writer and television personality Rick Steves said he will match up to $50,000 in contributions to the campaign and visit Maine in October to help promote the ballot measure

PORTLAND, Maine – Internationally renowned travel writer and television personality Rick Steves announced on Wednesday that he and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) are throwing their support behind the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Maine. Steves serves on the board of directors for NORML.

In an email announcing NORML’s endorsement to initiative supporters, Steves offered to match every contribution to the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol dollar-for-dollar up to $50,000. He also said he plans to visit Maine in October to help promote the ballot measure, which would end marijuana prohibition in Maine and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

"Through my travels in Europe, I’ve learned that pragmatic harm reduction makes much more sense than legislating morality," Steves said in the email. "And I believe in civil liberties. Responsible adults should be able to use marijuana, just as they can use alcohol.

"Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska demonstrate that it is possible to build a system of marijuana control and regulation that works," he continued. "This isn’t about being ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ on drugs. This is about being smart – and controlling and regulating marijuana the right way."

Steves actively campaigned in support of the ballot initiatives that successfully ended marijuana prohibition in Oregon in 2014 and his home state of Washington in 2012.

"NORML is pleased to be working with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and with our colleague Rick Steves, to help ensure that Maine joins the growing list of states to legalize the responsible adult use of marijuana this November," said NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre. "Our board of directors has enthusiastically endorsed this measure and we will continue to work for its passage."

NORML, founded in 1970, is a national organization with state and local chapters operating throughout the country. It is the nation’s oldest and most widely recognized marijuana policy reform organization.

"NORML has spent decades educating the public about marijuana and advocating for sensible marijuana policy reform," said campaign manager David Boyer. "We are proud to have their support, and we are very grateful for Mr. Steves’ exceptionally generous offer. A lot of celebrities express support for ending marijuana prohibition, but few put their money where their mouth is."

# # #

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is supporting a 2016 statewide ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Maine and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. For more information, visit http://www.RegulateMaine.org.

Two New Studies That Help Estimate Tax Revenue and Getting It Right with DUID

C1_8734_r_xTwo new studies helpful to those who are advocating for marijuana legalization came out over the past few weeks. One quantifies the enormous potential tax revenue generated from a legal marijuana system, which should encourage additional states to reconsider their marijuana policies; the second confirms that per se DUID laws are scientifically baseless, and concludes that no one should face conviction of a DUID charge without a showing of impairment.

Tax Revenue Left on the Table

The Tax Foundation, a Washington, DC-based think-tank, released a series of reports (on 4/20, no less) quantifying the potential state and federal tax revenue from a nationally legal marijuana market. Their conclusion: $28 billion annually!

That’s right. The states and the federal government are losing that much tax revenue annually as a result of their reticence to embrace a legal marijuana market. The states would raise an estimated $20.5 billion through the collection of excise, sales, income and payroll taxes. The federal government is losing another $7.5 billion from income, payroll, and excise taxes.

Tax experts reached figures from an estimate that a nationally legal marijuana market would generate $45 billion in annual sales. This is obviously relevant information for any elected officials who might be considering supporting marijuana legalization. We know from the experience with legal gambling in the US that initially only one state (Nevada) was willing to raise tax revenue by legalizing and regulating gambling, and then a second (New Jersey) elected to jump on board the gaming bandwagon. The other states knew this could be a helpful source of tax revenue, but so long as the issue was considered too controversial (or in some states, considered immoral conduct), they were unwilling to take advantage of the potential revenue stream.

But today, some form of gambling is available in almost every state. The aura of impropriety has gradually given way to the reality that people gamble regardless of whether it is legal and regulated or remains illegal. The primary difference is that with illegal gambling the government realizes no tax revenue.

That scenario is one that is almost certain to be repeated in state after state over the coming years, as marijuana smoking is increasingly seen as no big deal, and the enormous tax revenues are more and more crucial for states struggling to balance their budgets without cutting essential services. With every new state that adopts full legalization, there are a larger number of neighboring states that will be forced to reconsider their marijuana policies with a view towards keeping that tax revenue in their own states.

Fair DUID Policies

The second piece of good news came from the respected American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, a somewhat unexpected source. Following a thorough review of the scientific evidence, AAA concluded that motorists are being convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana based on arbitrary state standards – called “per se” laws — that have no connection to whether the driver was actually impaired.

Under these laws, if the driver is found to have a certain level of THC in their system, they are convicted of a DUID offense, without any showing of impairment.

Five states (Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington) presently impose per se limits for the detection of specific amounts of THC in blood, while eleven states (Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin) impose zero tolerant per se standards — meaning any THC in the system is sufficient for a conviction. In Colorado the presence of more than 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC in the blood gives rise to a permissible inference that the driver was impaired.

The problem with these laws is that residual levels of THC may be present in the blood for extended periods of time (days or even weeks) after the last use of marijuana, although the impairment from smoking generally lasts no more than 90-minutes.

The AAA finding is similar to that of the US National Highway Safety Administration that has previously found “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects … It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”

This study confirms the position that NORML has taken for years, arguing for impairment testing, rather than per se THC standards. As NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano has written, “[R]ecently adopted statewide per se limits and zero tolerant per se thresholds in the United States criminally prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle by persons with the trace presence of cannabinoids or cannabinoid metabolites in their blood or urine are not based upon scientific evidence or consensus … [T]he enforcement of these strict liability standards risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations, including those persons who are consuming cannabis legally in accordance with other state statutes.”

Information is Power

Information is power, and both of these new reports provide us with tools to better shape the debate over the advantages of marijuana legalization, and to assure that new legalization laws do not unfairly treat responsible marijuana smokers as dangerous drivers. Now if we can get our elected officials to focus on the facts, we can continue to refine the image of fair marijuana legalization.

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This column was first published on Marijuana.com.

Grassroots Support for NORML’s Congressional Lobby Day

lobby_day_2016

Today marijuana activists, patients and business owners from around the country are gathering in our nation’s Capitol to officially kickoff NORML’s 2016 Conference and Lobby day in Washington DC. We’re extremely excited about our line up of speakers and panelists for our conference, followed by a busy day of meetings with members of the House and Senate.

To start off, NORML members and supporters will be meeting at George Washington University, for a full day of presentations and panel discussions with policy experts and seasoned lobbyists. I’m especially excited to hear from John Hudak with the Brookings Institute. He recently wrote an open letter to presidential candidates urging them to take the issue of marijuana law reform more seriously. You can read more, here!

Tomorrow morning, NORML members will gather at the Longworth building on Capitol Hill where they will be addressed by: Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR), Congressman Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman Delbene (D-WA). They are expected to speak in detail about the various pieces of legislation that are highlighted below. With more than twenty pieces of federal legislation aimed at reforming America’s archaic marijuana and hemp laws, it is imperative that we do our part by educating them on the many benefits of embracing a new approach. The same applies to everyone who will not be able to attend, except the focus will be on making phone calls, writing letters and/or sending emails using our online action center.

To access the information below, simply click on any of the links and you’ll be directed to a three-page document that includes everything you and your fellow activists will need to assist us with our lobbying efforts (talking points, phone script, letter template etc.). Feel free to contact your representatives about each one, or pick a few that you’re most passionate about!

House:

H.R. 3561: The Fair Access to Education Act

H.R.1013: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act

H.R.1538: The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act

H.R.1940: The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act

Senate:

S. 2557: The Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act

S. 2237: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act

S.683 – Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act

During last year’s congressional letter writing campaign, our network of affiliates and chapters generated more than 2000 letters and emails to congressional offices so I hope we can do the same or better this year!

take_action

 

Feds: Marijuana Trafficking Falls Following Statewide Legalization

CongressFederal marijuana trafficking prosecutions have declined significantly since the passage of statewide laws regulating the plant’s production and retail sale to adults, according to data provided by the United States Sentencing Commission.

According to the new report, the number of marijuana trafficking offenders prosecuted at the federal level fell dramatically after 2012 — declining from over 6,000 annually to fewer than 4,000 in 2015.

“The number of marijuana traffickers rose slightly over time until a sharp decline in fiscal year 2013 and the number continues to decrease,” the report concludes.

The period of decline overlaps with the passage and enactment of adult marijuana sales in various US states, including Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

Federal data also reports a similar decline in cocaine trafficking since 2012. By contrast, federal prosecutions for heroin and methamphetamine trafficking have slowly risen over the better part of the past ten years.

Those convicted of marijuana trafficking spend an average of 29 months in prison, the report found.

A copy of the USSC report is available for download here.

NORML’s Legislative Round Up May 20th, 2016

map_leafThis was a huge week for marijuana law reform. Congress voted for the first time to expand medical cannabis access to military veterans, and Governors in numerous states signed cannabis legalization and depenalization measures into law. Keeping reading to get the latest news and to learn what you can do to take action.

Federal:

Members of the US House and Senate voted yesterday for the first time to expand military veterans’ access to medicinal cannabis in states that allow it. House members voted 233 to 189 last week in favor of the Veterans Equal Access Amendment. The amendment, offered by Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) to the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, prohibits the federal government from sanctioning V.A. physicians who wish to recommend cannabis therapy to their patients. Members of the US Senate Appropriations Committee previously voted in April in favor of a similar provision and the full Senate also signed off on their version of the bill yesterday. The House and Senate versions of FY 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations now await a concurrence vote prior to being sent to the President.

State:

Colorado: House and Senate lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved legislation, House Bill 1373, to permit qualified patients access to the use formulations of medical cannabis while on school grounds. The measure now awaits action by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who indicated that he would sign the bill into law. Once enacted, a primary caregiver may administer non-inhalable formulations of medical cannabis to a qualifying patient while that patient is on the grounds of a pre-school, primary, or secondary school in which the student is enrolled. Medical marijuana patients may not be denied eligibility to attend school because of their cannabis use.

Connecticut: Democrat Gov. Dannel Malloy this week signed legislation expanding patients’ access to the state’s medicinal cannabis program. House Bill 5450 permits qualifying patients under the age of 18 to possess and consume medical cannabis preparations. The proposal also expands the list of qualifying illnesses eligible for cannabis therapy to include: ”uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder,” ”irreversible spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity,” “cerebral palsy,” “cystic fibrosis,” or “terminal illness requiring end-of-life care.” Other provisions in the bill seek to establish a statewide clinical research program, and protect nurses from criminal, civil, or disciplinary sanction if they choose to administer marijuana to a qualifying patient in a hospital setting. The new law takes effect on October 1, 2016.

fifty_dollar_fineIllinois: Members of the House voted 64 to 50 on Wednesday, May 18, in favor of Senate Bill 2228, legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Members of the Senate had previously voted 44 to 12 in favor of the measure, which makes the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100-$200 — no arrest and no criminal record.

Currently, those caught possessing that amount could face up to six months of jail time and fines of up to $1500. The bill also amends the state’s zero tolerance per se traffic safety law. Senate Bill 2228 now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner. Last year, the Governor issued an amendatory veto to a similar bill. However, this year’s language addresses the Governor’s past concerns.

Kansas: Governor Brownback recently signed House Bill 2462 into law to amend marijuana possession penalties. The law reduces criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses from a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine) to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by no more than six months in jail and a $1,000 fine). Second convictions will no longer be classified as a felony offense. You can read the full summary of the engrossed bill here. The sentencing changes take effect imminently.

Louisiana: Governor John Bel Edwards signed legislation yesterday amending the state’s dormant medical marijuana law. Senate Bill 271 permits physicians to ‘recommend’ rather than ‘prescribe’ medical cannabis therapy. The change allows doctors to authorize cannabis without running afoul of federal law, which prohibits the prescription of a schedule I controlled substance.

The measure also expands the pool of conditions eligible for cannabis therapy to include the following: “cancer, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy, or multiple sclerosis. Separate legislation, SB 180, which explicitly immunizes the program’s participants from state criminal prosecution, remains pending in the House and is anticipated to be voted on as early as next week.

Maine: Governor Paul LePage has signed legislation, LD 726, into law permitting qualified patients to use medical marijuana while admitted in Maine hospitals. This measure does not require hospital staff to administer medical marijuana to a patient and will only allow for patients to consume cannabis preparations in a smokeless form. The law also establishes licensing protocols for marijuana testing facilities and the labeling of medical cannabis products.

New Hampshire: Members of the Senate on Thursday, May 19, sent House-backed decriminalization provisions to conference committee rather than engage in an up/down vote of the bill. Members of the House previously voted 298 to 58 to amend Senate Bill 498 to make first-time offenses a civil violation rather than a criminal offense. The civil penalty would be limited to a fine only: no arrest, prosecution, or criminal record. Subsequent offenses would continue to be classified as misdemeanors. In past years, the Senate has been consistently hostile to any House efforts to decriminalize marijuana possession penalties.

The conference committee, consisting of members of the House and Senate, will now try to agree upon a finalized version of SB 498. It is important that Senate members hear from you and are urged to keep the House provisions in SB 498. #TakeAction

cannabis_pillsOklahoma: Governor Mary Fallin signed legislation into law on Friday, May 13, to expand the pool of patients eligible to possess cannabidiol (CBD) under a physician’s authorization. House Bill 2835 extends existing legal protections to the following patients: those with “spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or due to paraplegia, intractable nausea and vomiting, appetite stimulation with chronic wasting diseases.” The measure also removes the age requirement limitation from existing law so that adults with various forms of epilepsy are eligible for CBD therapy. The expanded law takes effect on November 1, 2016.

Rhode Island: On Thursday, May 19th members of the Senate approved legislation, Senate Bill 2115, to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. The measure will now be sent to the House for consideration. #TakeAction

Louisiana: Governor Signs Legislation Amending State’s Dormant Medical Marijuana Law

mj_researchGovernor John Bel Edwards signed legislation today amending the state’s dormant medical marijuana law.

Senate Bill 271 permits physicians to ‘recommend’ rather than ‘prescribe’ medical cannabis therapy. The change allows doctors to authorize cannabis without running afoul of federal law, which prohibits the prescription of a schedule I controlled substance.

The measure also expands the pool of conditions eligible for cannabis therapy to include the following: “cancer, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy, or multiple sclerosis.”

The bill does not amend language in the state’s Therapeutic Research Act limiting the preparation of medicinal cannabis products to non-herbal formulations, nor does it address provisions limiting state-licensed cannabis cultivation to a single provider, or the dispensing of cannabis products to no more than ten licensed pharmacies. Those restrictions were put in place by legislation signed into law last year. Separate legislation, SB 180, which explicitly immunizes the program’s participants from state criminal prosecution, remains pending in the House and is anticipated to be voted on as early as next week.

Senate Bill 271 does include language requiring the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and the Southern University Agricultural Center to decide whether or not they wish to seek licensing to grow medical marijuana for the state’s program by September 2, 2016.

You can read the enrolled measure here.

Louisiana is set to become the 25th state to permit for the physician-supervised use of medical cannabis and/or cannabis-infused preparations for qualified patients. 

Congress Votes To Permit Military Veterans Access To Medical Cannabis

US_capitolMembers of the US House of Representatives voted today for the first time to expand military veterans’ access to medicinal cannabis in states that allow it.

Members voted 233 to 189 in favor of the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, offered by Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) to the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, that prohibits the federal government from sanctioning V.A. physicians who wish to recommend cannabis therapy to their patients.

“We should not be limiting the treatment options available to our veterans,” Rep. Blumenauer opined on the House floor.

Under the provision, military veterans who reside in states with active medical marijuana programs would be able to obtain a recommendation from their V.A. physician rather than having to seek out a private doctor.

The vote is a marked change from last year, when House members defeated a similar amendment 213 to 210.

You can watch today’s debate and vote here. A roll call of the amendment vote is here.

Members of the US Senate Appropriations Committee previously voted in April in favor of a similar provision. This afternoon, legislation containing the amendment was approved on the Senate floor.

The House and Senate versions of FY 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill will now await a concurrence vote prior to being sent to the President.

New State Laws Permit Medical Marijuana Use In Hospitals

oil_bottlesLegislation recently signed into law in Connecticut and Maine permit for the use of medicinal marijuana formulations by hospitalized patients.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy yesterday signed legislation, HB 5450, to protect nurses who administer medical marijuana to qualified patients in hospital settings from any criminal, civil, or disciplinary action. Other provisions in the bill expand the pool of patients eligible for cannabis therapy to include those under the age of 18, and seek to establish a state-sponsored research program.

In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage recently signed LD 726 into law, which similarly protects hospital administrators and staff from criminal or civil liability if they permit qualified patients access to non-inhaled preparations of medical marijuana in hospitals. Under the law, patients would not necessarily be provided or administered medical marijuana by hospital staff, but could be provided cannabis products by third parties.

Separate provisions in LD 726 establish licensing protocols for marijuana testing facilities and the labeling of medical cannabis products.

Connecticut and Maine are the first states to explicitly provide immunity to hospitals that permit patients to medicate with cannabis.

A summary of 2016 state legislation is online from NORML’s Take Action Center here.

What’s The Problem with Elected Officials and Marijuana?

C1_8734_r_xEvery state that has fully legalized marijuana to date has accomplished that change by voter initiative, which means a majority of the voting public in those states clearly favored ending marijuana prohibition. However most statewide elected officials in those states publicly opposed legalization prior to the vote; and even after the initiatives passed, many attempt to undermine the new laws.

These out-of-step public officials must be dismayed that their opposition to legalization appears to have had little impact on the voters, who no longer trust their elected officials to determine marijuana policy.

Which raises the question of why so many of our elected officials remain so dismissive of the public health and other advantages of a regulated marijuana market over a black market. When presented with a choice, they frequently exaggerate the potential dangers from marijuana and embrace the status quo, ignoring the massive costs of prohibition.

Colorado

Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, first elected governor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, who made his fortune as founder of the Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver, was a leading opponent of Amendment 64 in 2012 when it was approved by 55% of the voters.

Still today, when asked whether pot legalization has been a good thing, or a bad thing, for Colorado, the governor can’t quite decide. The new law has created tens of thousands of new jobs in the state, is currently bringing in well over $120 million in taxes to the state treasury each year, and has reduced marijuana arrests in Colorado by 80%, but the governor continues to contradict himself from one day to the next – depending on what audience he is addressing.

During his re-election campaign in 2014 Hickenlooper called the legalization of marijuana in Colorado “reckless,” although he had no problem soliciting campaign donations from the marijuana industry behind closed doors.

And in 2015, he told CNBC “If I could’ve waved a wand the day after the election (in 2012), I would’ve reversed the election and said, ‘This was a bad idea.’ You don’t want to be the first person to do something like this,” he said, advising other governors to “wait a couple of years” before moving forward with legalization.

This man, who became rich selling alcohol, just can’t seem to get comfortable with legal marijuana, despite the obvious benefits to his state, and the popularity of legalization with Colorado voters.

And in the states expected to have full legalization on the ballot this November, the most prominent state elected officials continue to bury their heads in the sand.

Massachusetts

The most organized opposition to a pending legalization initiative this year can be found in Massachusetts. A bipartisan coalition of public officials, calling themselves “A Campaign for A Safe and Healthy Massachusetts,” has announced their commitment to maintaining marijuana prohibition in MA. The anti-marijuana coalition includes Republican Governor Charles Baker, along with State Attorney General Maura Healey, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, all Democrats. It is truly a “who’s who” of Massachusetts state politics.

The basis for their opposition, they say, is that legalization poses a public health and safety threat, especially to young people.

Governor Baker explained his opposition to the legalization initiative in a statement warning against “legalizing a recreational marketplace for a drug that would put our children at risk and threaten to reverse our progress combating the growing opioid epidemic so this industry can rake in millions in profits.”

And Mayor Walsh recently explained his opposition. “I’ve met far too many families in Boston and elsewhere where kids have lost their way in school and been shut out of success in the workplace due to addiction and abuse of marijuana. Where marijuana is legal, young people are more likely to use it and a vote against legalizing the commercial marijuana industry is a vote to protect our kids and communities.”

Of course, no one is suggesting that kids should be using marijuana, and American teens themselves tell us each year in federal surveys that under prohibition, marijuana is easier for them to obtain than alcohol, because of the age requirement for alcohol. A regulated marijuana market would provide a significant deterrence against the use of marijuana by minors whereas no one ever asks for an ID in the black market.

Despite this high-profile establishment opposition in MA, legalization advocates continue to anticipate a victory in November, expecting the voters to have grown disillusioned by these tired scare tactics.

Arizona

In Arizona, Republican Governor Doug Ducey has been a vocal public opponent of the legalization initiative in his state, saying he believes the majority of problems the state faces can be linked back to drugs “from unemployment, to homelessness, to domestic violence, to child neglect, to our prison population”.

California

In California, Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has been silent regarding his position on the pending legalization initiative, although back in 2014 he expressed his opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana, observing “if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation.”

I should note that current Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who convened a Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy to study policy options, has endorsed the pending legalization initiative in CA (AUMA), and supported efforts to qualify the measure for the ballot. He is somewhat unique among statewide elected officials, and his public support has provided a needed boost to the legalization effort in that state.

Maine

In Maine, Republican Governor Paul LePage has long opposed efforts to legalize marijuana, despite polling showing majority public support, calling it a “gateway drug.” The governor actually called for the state to “bring back the guillotine” to publicly behead drug traffickers!

Nevada

In Nevada, Republican Governor Brian Sandoval has indicated he too opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana, but he does not appear to have made a big deal about his opposition. Nevada is a state that has long understood the benefits of regulating gambling, but the principle apparently does not extend to marijuana.

Victims of Their Own Propaganda

To some degree, what we see in all of these states reflects the cautious instincts of most elected officials. Their top priority is getting re-elected, and they see change, especially involving contentious social issues, as politically risky behavior. That underlying reality explains why not a single state legislature has yet approved full legalization.

But with current polling clearly showing a majority of the country now supporting legalization, fear of a political backlash should be abating. Perhaps this refusal by most elected officials to acknowledge the obvious benefits to legalization is based on an unwillingness to finally admit what the rest of us have known all along – their passionately-held anti-marijuana views were based on ignorance, prejudice and misinformation.

To some degree, they are the victims of their own propaganda. And they can’t let go of those dated views without acknowledging their complicity in the misguided and destructive war on marijuana smokers. The policy they support has resulted in the senseless arrest and prosecution of tens of millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans, simply because they smoke pot. And our elected officials do not wish to accept that responsibility.

Instead of moving forward with a fresh approach, these public officials prefer to assume the voters have been fooled, or they are stupid, or otherwise incapable of making these decisions for themselves.

That screeching we are hearing from the establishment politicians in these states is the sound of a dying breed, squarely on the wrong side of history. Where do they get these clowns?

Fortunately for the reform community, voters are way ahead of their elected representatives on our issue. And the time is coming for our elected officials to catch-up or be held accountable and replaced at the ballot box by these same voters.

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This column first appeared on Marijuana.com.

NORML’s Legislative Round Up May 13th, 2016

legalization_pollThis week we’ll give you updates on legislation in Florida, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Ohio. Plus we have exciting ballot initiative news out of California and Missouri! Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform this week.

California: Proponents of the marijuana legalization ballot initiative, the AUMA (Adult Use of Marijuana Act), announced announced at a press conference that they have gathered more than 600,000 signatures from registered voters. This total is far more than the required number of 365,880 signatures needed in order to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. The Board of Directors of NORML has endorsed the measure, which permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales.

Florida: Members of the Orlando City Council voted  4 to 3 this week in favor of a new municipal ordinance giving police the option to cite, rather than arrest, minor marijuana possession offenders. Under the ordinance, which takes effect on October 1, 2016, first-time and second-time possession offenses involving up to 20 grams of cannabis may be punished by a fine of no more than $200 – no arrest and no criminal record. Under state law, similar offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Similar local measures have been recently approved in several other Florida cities and counties, including Tampa, Miami-Dade county, Palm Beach county, and Volusia county.

Louisiana: Members of the House of Representatives have approved senate legislation, Senate Bill 271, to fix and expand the state’s dormant medical marijuana law. Existing law only permits for the patients’ use of medical marijuana in instances where the plant is ‘prescribed.’ However, under federal law, physicians cannot legally ‘prescribe’ cannabis or any schedule I substance. Senate Bill 271 seeks to change the language of existing law so that physicians may ‘recommend’ rather than prescribe cannabis therapy. The measure also expands the pool of conditions eligible for cannabis therapy to include Crohn’s disease, HIV, multiple sclerosis, and other disorders. The bill will now return to the Senate for concurrence. Governor John Bel Edwards has expressed support for the medical marijuana expansion measure, stating that he wants a ‘meaningful’ bill that will ‘actually work.’ #TakeAction

namlogoblueMissouri: Representatives of New Approach Missouri, the group pushing for a statewide medical marijuana ballot question this November, announced earlier this week they have turned in just under 250,000 signatures to the state for certification — well over the 167,000 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. The measure, which NORML has endorsed, would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to patients at their discretion, and would also permit qualified patients to cultivate marijuana or obtain it from licensed dispensaries.

New Hampshire: Members of the House approved an amended, Senate-backed sentencing reform bill, Senate Bill 498, in a 298-58 vote on Wednesday, May 11th. The amended language would make first-time marijuana possession offenses a civil violation rather than a criminal offense. The civil penalty would be limited to a fine only: no arrest, prosecution, or criminal record. Subsequent offenses would continue to be classified as misdemeanors. The legislation now returns to the Senate for concurrence. Members of the Senate have previously rejected decriminalization for several years running. #TakeAction

Ohio: House lawmakers approved revised legislation, House bill 523, to establish guidelines for those who may qualify to use medical marijuana and how it may legally be consumed, in a 71-26 vote on May 10th. The revisions outline 20 ailments for which cannabis may be recommended, including epilepsy, AIDS, and intractable pain. However, the revised language prohibits the consumption of medicinal cannabis via smoking. Such restrictions exist in three other states: Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania. The measure will now be considered by members of the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday, May 17th. #TakeAction

A separate, more comprehensive medical marijuana measure is likely to appear on the 2016 ballot initiative. Proponents of the initiative, the Marijuana Policy Project, must collect 305,591 valid signatures of Ohio voters by early July to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. The MPP-backed measure would permit qualified patients to cultivate their own medicine and/or obtain cannabis from licensed dispensaries. You can read a summary of the measure here.

lobby_day_2016We are ten days out from NORML’s 2016 Conference and Congressional Lobby Day and we are excited to share with you the full itinerary! Have you registered to attend? We have some fun events planned and it would be a shame for you to miss out!