Democratic Party Includes Marijuana Reform As Part Of Its 2016 National Platform

Representatives within the Democratic National Committee have approved provisions specific to marijuana law reform as part of the party’s 2016 platform.

A 15-person decision-making panel unanimously voted to adopt the following language:

“We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research to be done on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African-Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites despite similar usage rates.”

thumbs_upSeparate, more specific language was proposed by Bernie Sanders-appointed members of the panel however it did not garner enough support.

Though the language falls well short of calling for an end to federal cannabis prohibition, it nonetheless marks a stark contrast between the two major political parties.

Last week, Republican leaders in Congress quashed a number of proposed marijuana law reforms. Specifically, provisions previously voted on by Congress to expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans were removed by leadership during the conference committee process and earlier there was a decision to deny members the opportunity to vote on a Democrat-sponsored amendment that sought to permit banks and other financial institutions to engage in relationships with state-compliant marijuana businesses.

With many Congressional Republicans actively discouraging marijuana related reforms at the federal level, it’s motivating to see Democrats pro-actively finding ways to include the need for cannabis policy reform in the party’s national conversation.

Get Involved with NORML Today!

As predicted, 2016 is turning out to a historic year for the marijuana legalization movement. With three statewide initiatives already cleared for the November ballot (Florida, Nevada, Maine) and several other initiative campaigns awaiting certification, there has never been a greater need for grassroots marijuana activism. From gathering signatures and making volunteer recruitment calls, to data entry and talking face to face with voters, there is still plenty of work to be done. To get involved today, simply follow the three easy steps below!

First, please consider becoming a member of our organization (NORML Membership). In addition to being a part of the nation’s longest serving marijuana law reform group and getting a great membership package, we have compiled an extensive collection of fact-based information that you can use to support your efforts as you engage lawmakers in your community. Regardless of the point you’re trying to make (recreational, medical, hemp, CBD, etc.) you’ll find recent studies, articles and other resources that will help reinforce your argument (NORML Library).

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Second, if there isn’t already a NORML affiliate in your community (Chapter Locator), I encourage you to begin the process of forming your own chapter. For more than 40 years, NORML affiliates and chapters have been leading reform conversations on the local and state level, and they continue to be the driving force behind policy decisions regarding marijuana. If this is something that you’d like to be a part of, please take a few minutes to review NORML’s new Chapter Starter Packet. It will serve as your number one resource as you get started. If you need help finding others to join you, I’m happy to help connect you with people in your area.

Third, start contacting your local, state and federal representatives about pending marijuana-related legislation by using our online Action Alert Center. We’re constantly monitoring dozens of marijuana-related bills from around the country so we’re able to provide you with the most up-to-date legislative alerts and talking points. In addition to advocating for marijuana law reform using the legislative process, we also welcome the opportunity to work with your organization to draft a municipal ordinance, similar to the ones recently adopted by local governments in Ohio and Florida.

I look forward to working with you to establish a new community of marijuana activists in your state! For more information about forming a NORML chapter or getting involved with marijuana law reform efforts, please email KevinM@NORML.org or visit NORML.org.

Can We Bury This Canard Once and For All?

C1_8734_r_xLegalization Does Not Result in an Increase in Adolescent Marijuana Use

Recent survey data released by the University of Colorado — The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey — a combined effort involving the state Departments of Education, of Human Resources and of Health and the Environment, should be quite helpful in the several states with legalization initiatives expected to appear on the ballot this fall. The latest data, based on four years of actual experience, reconfirms that legalizing marijuana for adults does not result in an increase in usage by adolescents

But What About the Kids?

Although one might hope the rather silly argument that adults should only be allowed to engage in conduct appropriate for adolescents would be dismissed out-of-hand, in fact that spurious argument seems to remain an excuse for many who oppose legalization. “But what about the kids,” is the usual refrain.

Chris Ingram of the Washington Post quotes the National Families in Action, a prominent anti-drug group warning that legal marijuana would “Literally dumb-down the precious minds of generations of children,” and psychiatrist Christian Thurstone, another prominent anti-marijuana zealot, warned that adolescents in CO would not be able to resist the temptation presented by this pernicious plant. “Reefer Madness” is never far away, and it can always outweigh any common sense or personal discipline.

We first ran into the argument with President and Nancy Reagan and their “just say no” program of the early 80s, in which they successfully shifted the public focus for a time from the damage being done to individuals needlessly arrested on minor marijuana charges, to the possible harm being done to adolescents who might somehow (unexplainably) be harmed by responsible adult use.

Similarly, we discovered from exit polling following the unsuccessful CA legalization initiative in 2010 that one of the two concerns expressed by those who opposed the measure was the fear that there might be a spike in adolescent marijuana smoking should the initiative pass (the second fear was a spike in impaired drivers on the road).

If we were really to apply that test, adults could not drive cars, ride motorcycles, fly planes, have sex, skydive, get married, drink alcohol or engage in many of the ordinary activities that make our lives interesting.

In addition, no one is suggesting that adolescents should be permitted to smoke marijuana. Quite the contrary. We would all prefer that our kids remain drug-free as long as possible, while their minds and bodies are fully developing. There is plenty of time to experiment with a different consciousness once one is an adult, and presumably capable of making those decisions in a responsible manner.

With Prohibition, Kids Say Marijuana is Easier to Get than Alcohol

Yet the kids themselves have been telling us for years in the federal Monitoring the Future surveys that marijuana is far easier for them to obtain than alcohol because to purchase alcohol, the adolescent must find an older friend to buy the alcohol for him/her, or obtain a fake ID. Those are obviously not impossible barriers to overcome, but they surely do make it more difficult for a young person to obtain alcohol than marijuana, where illegal marijuana sellers do not ask for an ID.

New Data from Colorado

But now we have the benefit of new evidence, released over the last few days, providing the data from Colorado that confirms that adolescent marijuana usage has actually declined slightly in Colorado since marijuana was legalized in 2012.

That’s right. There are actually fewer adolescent marijuana smokers today, four years after Colorado first adopted full legalization, than there were before the state legalized marijuana in 2012!

According to Colorado’s 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS), the survey of approximately 17,000 junior high and high school students throughout the Centennial State, the semiannual assessment discovered 21.2% of high school students in Colorado admitted using some form of cannabis within the past 30 days (less than the national average among teens at 21.7), retreating marginally from the reported 22% in 2011– a year before marijuana was legalized for recreational purposes in Colorado. The 2015 survey also discovered that 78% of Colorado high school students have refrained from marijuana consumption over the past 30 days, and 62% have never tried marijuana. Of those who do use marijuana, 91% prefer flowers.

Another interesting, and promising, piece of data is that 9 out of 10 CO high school students currently reject the use of tobacco.

“The trend for current and lifetime marijuana use has remained stable since 2005, with four out of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally,” the Colorado Health Department said in a news release.

According to a previous Marijuana.com article on this topic by Monterey Bud, “the purpose of Colorado’s comprehensive survey is to gather factual information and useful data. By collecting this data every two years, the information can then be utilized by both public and private organizations including schools and parents to identify trends and enhance programs that improve the health and well-being of young people.”

Let’s hope this finally puts the stake through the heart of those who insist on claiming the sky will fall if we end prohibition, and that our youngsters will be stoned-out zombies. It turns out, legalization has no impact on the usage rates of adolescents. But common sense tells them marijuana is far safer than smoking tobacco.

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This column first appeared on Marijuana.com.

NORML’s Legislative Round Up June 24th, 2016

ballot_box_leafThis has been an exceptionally busy week at the state and federal level for marijuana law reform. Keep reading to get the latest news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.

Federal:

A bipartisan coalition of House and Senate lawmakers have proposed legislation, the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016, to expedite clinical investigations into the safety and efficacy of cannabis. Passage of the measures — House Bill 5549 and Senate Bill 3077 — would expedite federal reviews of clinical protocols involving cannabis, provide greater access to scientists who wish to study the drug, and mandate an FDA review of the relevant science. #TakeAction

State:

Arkansas: Representatives of the group Arkansas for Compassionate Care turned in over 100,000 signatures from registered voters this week in hopes of qualifying the 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act for the November ballot. The proposed initiative establishes a statewide program for the licensed production, analytic testing, and distribution of medicinal cannabis. Under the program, patients diagnosed by a physician with one of over 50 qualifying conditions – including ADHD, intractable pain, migraine, or post-traumatic stress – may obtain cannabis from one of up to 38 licensed non-profit care centers. Qualified patients who do not have a center operating in their vicinity will be permitted to cultivate their own medicine at home.

In 2012, 51 percent of voters narrowly rejected a similar statewide initiative, known as Measure 5. However, recent polling shows that support has increased dramatically since then, with 84 percent of registered Arkansas voters agreeing that “adults should be legally allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes.”

For more information on the campaign, please visit Arkansans for Compassionate Care.

California: Both the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the California Democratic Party have publicly endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The initiative, which is expected to appear on the November ballot, 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. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possession and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes.

oil_bottlesDelaware: House lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved legislation, SB 181, to permit designated caregivers to possess and administer non-smoked medical marijuana formulations (e.g. oils/extracts) to qualifying patients “in a school bus and on the grounds or property of the preschool, or primary or secondary school in which a minor qualifying patient is enrolled.” Senate lawmakers previously approved the bill on June 9th.

Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, is expected to sign the legislation into law. The measure will take effect upon the Governor’s signature. To date, two other states — Colorado and New Jersey — impose similar legislation.

Florida: Elected officials of yet another Florida county have voted to provide local law enforcement with the option to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana possession offenders. Osceola County commissioners passed the ordinance on Tuesday. The new ordinance is similar to those recently passed in Orlando, Tampa, Volusia County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, West Palm Beach, Key West, Hallandale, Miami Beach and Miami-Dade county.

New Jersey: Legislation to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions eligible for medical marijuana is moving forward through state legislature.

Members of the Assembly approved the legislation in a 56 to 13 vote on June 16th. On the same day, members of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved an identical measure, Senate Bill 2345, in a 6 to 3 vote. Thirteen states already allow PTSD patients to access medical marijuana including Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
The measure now awaits a vote by the full Senate. #TakeAction

New York: Legislation has been approved to facilitate the processing and sale of hemp and locally produced hemp products. The measures, A 9310 and S 6960, expand upon New York’s existing hemp research program to permit for the sale, distribution, transportation and processing of industrial hemp and products derived from such hemp. Under existing law, licensed farmers are only permitted to engage in the cultivation of hemp for research purposes as part of an academic program.

Both chambers have approved the legislation so now it awaits a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo.#TakeAction

Rhode Island: House and Senate lawmakers approved House Bill 7142, legislation to permit post-traumatic stress patients to be eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. Members of both chambers overwhelmingly approved the measure. It now heads to the desk of Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo.#TakeAction

House and Senate lawmakers also approved legislation to create the “Hemp Growth Act “. This measure will classify hemp as an agricultural product that may be legally produced, possessed, and commercially distributed. The Department of Business Regulation will be responsible for establishing rules and regulations for the licensing and regulation of hemp growers and processors. The Department is also authorized to certify any higher educational institution in Rhode Island to grow or handle or assist in growing or handling industrial hemp for the purpose of agricultural or academic research. The legislation now awaits action from Governor Gina Raimondo. If signed, the law will take effect January 1, 2017.#TakeAction

Congressional Leadership Resists Bipartisan-Backed Marijuana Reforms

CongressCongressional leaders have moved in recent days to quash a number of proposed marijuana law reforms.

Specifically, provisions previously voted on by Congress to expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans were removed by leadership during the conference committee process. Members have yet to speak publicly as to why the language was removed. Both the Senate and the House versions of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill contained the marijuana-friendly provisions prior to the reconciliation process.

The move follows a decision earlier this week by Republican leaders on the House Rules Committee to deny members the opportunity to vote on a Democrat-sponsored amendment that sought to permit banks and other financial institutions to engage in relationships with state-compliant marijuana businesses. Senate Appropriations Committee members had approved a similar amendment last week by a vote of 16 to 14. That amendment, which is now included in the Senate’s version of the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, awaits further action on the Senate floor. If approved, the Senate bill will ultimately need to be reconciled in conference committee with House leadership.

In April, NORML released a Congressional Scorecard assigning letter grades ‘A’ through ‘F’ to every member of the US House and Senate based on their marijuana-related comments and voting records. To see what grades your Congressional members received, please click here.

The NORML Business Network: The “Better Business Bureau” for the Marijuana Industry

norml_biz_netThe Emerging Legal Marijuana industry

I had the pleasure of speaking at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition in New York this past week; a major B2B Expo held at the Jacob Javits Center with hundreds of exhibitors displaying their products and services intended to appeal to those hoping to enter the new legal marijuana industry emerging around the country. It was an impressive display of the myriad of choices available for those willing to take the dive into the increasingly competitive marijuana industry.

It is clearly a positive development that so many entrepreneurs have surfaced to try to find a niche they can fill to provide a newer or better product or service, to distinguish themselves from others attempting to compete for the same space. There will be both winners and losers in this new market. As competition continues to grow, new products bring improvements over the previous versions, and a significant number of well-intentioned would-be business successes get sidelined by more creative newcomers with better technology or better funding or simply a better business model.

Estimates are that as high as 40% of all new marijuana-related businesses may fail within the first couple of years. Yes, the newly legal marijuana industry offers incredible opportunities for entrepreneurs and others with the capital to invest; but for every individual who succeeds in this new industry, another will fail. It is simply the nature of new industries, and as appealing as legal marijuana is to millions of Americans, that industry will experience the same economic pressures, including business failures, that other new industries experience.

For the next several years, the legal marijuana industry will remain one that involves impressive individual business successes, along with some failures; and some business consolidations. Because of the different state legalization laws and regulations, at least for the immediate future, that concentration will be significantly limited, and most big companies that want to extend to other states will have to establish separate companies in each state. All of this suggests the legal marijuana industry may well end up looking more like the wine industry in America, with room for small producers, rather than the tobacco or alcohol industry. And that is positive for consumers, and for the industry.

The True Believers and the Investors

The industry appears to be comprised of two distinct groups of people: those who were active in the marijuana legalization movement for years, and understand the enormous damage done by prohibition; and who have migrated to the business side of the issue. And those who have no background or interest in legalization movement, but who have resources and see the new market simply as an opportunity to get rich. Obviously, it is the latter group that worries many of us, because of their sole focus on profits, and their lack of understanding of the long struggle that led to this point, and the millions of Americans who paid dearly for the right to grow or sell or smoke marijuana.

We live in a free market economy in which Americans are encouraged to create jobs and make products that people want with the hope of building a successful business. So we cannot expect that the newly legal marijuana market will be immune from these basic economic rules.

Marijuana is Different

But marijuana is also different. For decades, it was popular primarily among an underground culture, and shunted and harshly punished by the dominant culture. Those of us who smoked marijuana had to be careful from whom we bought our marijuana, and with whom we chose to smoke marijuana. One bad decision could lead to a bust that would result in jail time and a criminal record that would forever limit one’s ability to get an education or a good job. A marijuana bust was sort of a life sentence, a handicap assuring one would never have the opportunity to maximize their potential fully. Once labeled as a criminal, many growers, smugglers, and dealers were left with few options other than staying in the illegal marijuana business.

So now that we have, as a culture, begun to come above ground, and at least in a handful of states (with many more to come), and we are no longer running from the police, most consumers want to maintain some control over who produces and sells marijuana, to keep the scale of production small and local, and to keep the multinational corporations out of the field – or at least keep their influence modest as the legal marijuana industry develops. What we don’t want is to see the tobacco companies, or other large industries, come in and control the marijuana markets. On that point, the legalizers are in agreement with our opponents – such as Kevin Sabet and Project SAM, who now claim they no longer support prohibition, but they oppose “big marijuana.” (One might reasonably see their change in position as recognizing the reality of current public polling, rather than reflecting a real change in values.)

The NORML Business Network

But there is also some common ground between the smokers and the industry. NORML is a consumer group – that is we represent the interest of smokers. And we have established a program called the NORML Business Network, that will become the equivalent of the Better Business Bureau, allowing responsible businesses to distinguish themselves from those businesses that are only interested in getting rich, with no concern for the welfare of their workers or the safety of the consumers. I am delighted to report that both Marijuana.com and it’s parent company, Weedmaps.com, are among our first NORML Business Network Preferred Business Partners.

Those marijuana businesses who qualify to become a NORML Preferred Business Partner are encouraged to display prominent seals of approval at their stores and on their websites indicating they have taken the high road and are using their business to build a community that respects workers and consumers, that tests their products to assure they contain no molds or pesticides, and that provide accurate labelling so the consumer knows the strength of the THC and the CBD, and the primary terpenoids.

And those of us who smoke should demand that businesses adhere to these standards, or we must shop in a store that does. As consumers we have the power to force marijuana businesses to follow the highest standards, to be socially responsible, and to protect the health of consumers, if they are to become a successful business. Now it is time that we begin to do that.

Marijuana companies that wish to apply for the NORML Preferred Business Partner can apply online, and if approved, will be provided with stickers for the store and signs that make it clear to consumers that your business meets these standards, and is a good corporate citizen that deserves to be frequented.

We have lots of work to do before we have totally ended prohibition in America, and stopped the senseless arrest of marijuana smokers. We continue to make significant progress, and this fall we expect to add several new states to the list of legalization states.

But it is never too early to begin to impose some ethical standards to this emerging industry, and to begin to distinguish between those that are simply interested in getting rich and those who want to develop a responsible business that is as concerned about being a good corporate citizen as they are about making money.

The NORML Business Network is our way of helping underscore that distinction for the consumer.

Read more http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2016/06/the-norml-business-network-the-better-business-bureau-for-the-marijuana-industry/

Leveling the Playing Field in Florida with CFL NORML

After a narrow defeat in 2014, Florida voters will have another opportunity to legalize medical marijuana this November by voting YES on Amendment 2, but not before being inundated with misinformation from some of Florida’s most notorious marijuana prohibitionists. With more than $10 million dollars committed to defeating the measure, Floridians can expect a salvo of refer madness unlike anything we’ve seen in the past. Even in states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana – Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska – anti-marijuana groups spent roughly $800k between all four states fighting legalization efforts.10256946_530961753717152_6194363317718419167_n

In an effort to level the playing field, Central Florida Chapter of the National Organization of the Reform of Marijuana Laws (CFL NORML) led by executive director, Christopher Cano, recently launched a grassroots fundraising campaign with a goal of $250,000 to combat the continuous flow of fear mongering and attacks expected this fall. Indiegogo, the crowdfunding platform being utilized by the organization features a video produced by CFL NORML, pictures of past events, and of course a donation page where contributions can be made.

“We are appalled at the gross amount of funds the opposition plans to spend in order to continue the unjust policy of marijuana prohibition in Florida,” Cano said. “The Medical Marijuana Movement should be about one thing and one thing only, the patients. Mel Sembler and his No On 2 allies are willing to spend obscene amounts of money to hurt veterans and sick patients, and we simply are not going to take that laying down”.

To show your support, please donate by clicking the link below or volunteer by contacting CFL NORML using the following email address: contact@cflnorml.org.

Donate to Central Florida NORML Today!

It’s election season, support the NORML PAC!

It's election season, support the NORML PAC!

The summer season is upon us and with the warm weather comes heated elections around the country.

2016 is set to be a monumental year in marijuana law reform. Three states have already qualified marijuana related initiatives for the November ballot (Nevada, Florida, and Maine) and nine more states are still collecting signatures in hopes of making the ballot (California, Arizona, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Oklahoma).

But we want to support more than the pending initiatives. The NORML PAC is ready to support candidates that wish to make marijuana law reform an important pillar in their campaign platform. We want to empower candidates who are challenging prohibitionists and we want to help them win. But we need your help.

Donate to the NORML PAC today and in return for you supporting marijuana friendly candidates around the country, you will receive a couple of our favorite products!

It's election season, support the NORML PAC!

*For a $40 donation to the NORML PAC you will receive a NORML glass stash jar. For a $60 donation to the NORML PAC you will receive a NORML grinder. For a $75 donation, you will receive both!

Help support the NORML PAC so that we can endorse and donate to candidates around the country that are running on a platform that includes reforming our country’s archaic marijuana laws. The only way we can continue our progress is to support and elect these candidates!

Thank you for your continued support and membership.

P.S. We can only raise PAC funds from NORML members. Therefore, if you wish to contribute to the NORML PAC, and you are not currently a NORML member, the first $25 of your contribution will be applied to your membership dues. The balance will go to the NORML PAC to provide financial help to candidates who support our positions on marijuana policy.

* PAC premium donation ends on June 21, 2016.

CDC: Changes In State Marijuana Laws Associated With Declining Teen Use

no_marijuanaThe passage of statewide laws regulating the consumption of cannabis by adults and/or qualified patients is not associated with increased rates of teen marijuana use, according to a statistical analysis of results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

CDC data reports that the percentage of high-schoolers ever reporting having used cannabis fell from an estimated 43 percent in 1995 to just under 39 percent in 2015. The percentage of teens currently using cannabis (defined as having used marijuana at least once in the past 30 days) also declined during this same period, from 25 percent in 1995 to just under 22 percent in 2015.

During this time period, two-dozen states enacted statutes permitting qualified patients to consume cannabis, and four states enacted laws permitting the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey results are consistent with those of numerous other studies — such as those here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here — finding that changes in cannabis’ legal status are not associated with increased use among adolescents.

The Value of Community in the Legalization Movement

C1_8734_r_xThe 2016 NORML Aspen Legal Seminar

I just returned a few days ago from a lovely long weekend in beautiful Aspen, CO, a charming old silver-mining town in the Rocky Mountains with breath-taking views, that serves as a popular playground for skiers in the winter and biking and hiking enthusiasts in the other seasons. And it is the location of an annual NORML legal seminar held each year in early June.

The Seminar Itself

First, for those attorneys who attend this event, it is a truly unique opportunity to hear from some of the most brilliant and creative criminal defense and marijuana business attorneys in the country.

This year the attendees heard San Antonio’s Gerry Goldstein present his annual review of the many 4th Amendment decisions handed down by the Supreme Court, and the federal appellate courts, each year. Few lawyers in America are more familiar with the legal intricacies of search and seizure law, or can present the information in such an entertaining manner. And NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, who lectured on the science legalization advocates need to know to counter the frequent claim that “we just don’t know enough about marijuana,” citing more than 23,000 marijuana studies available on Pub Med.

Former ACLU lawyer Adam Wolfe from San Francisco discussed the several legal challenges to the CO legalization law; while Mary Chartier and Natalie Alane from Lansing, MI, lectured on the impact of marijuana use on child welfare and custody cases.

This year we heard from a range of impressive new speakers as well, including Carl Hart, Ph.D, from Columbia University, talking about ways that marijuana legalization can significantly reduce racism in the criminal justice system; and Emily Gant, from Seattle, whose lecture “Marijuana Business 101,” analyzed the basic business issues with which any attorney needs to be familiar, if they intend to represent some of the newly legal marijuana businesses arising either in the medical use states or the full legalization states.

And certainly one of the more inspiring lectures was given by former US Attorney for the state of Kansas (he had retired just three weeks earlier), Barry Grissom, entitled “Why Marijuana Legalization Makes Sense from the Perspective of a US Attorney”, in which he compared the record of the Obama administration with that of three prior administrations. Grissom stressed the several significant steps taken by President Barack Obama and his Department of Justice to reduce the length of non-violent drug sentences and the number of non-violent drug offenders serving time in federal prisons; and the administration’s willingness to stand-back and permit the several states to fully implement their various marijuana laws, free from federal government interference. It reminded us that not all prosecutors are mean-spirited, and some of them are seeking justice, just like most defense attorneys.

And we heard from Law Professor Sam Kamin, who holds the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy position at Denver Law School, discussing ways to overcome the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws; Lisa Padilla from New York discussing estate planning techniques for cannabis business owners; Mary Conn from Houston, TX discussing the damage to society of criminalizing mental illness, drug addiction and homelessness; Danica Noble of Seattle discussing the unfair business practices and consumer protection issues emerging in the newly legal marijuana markets; and Portland, OR attorney Courtney Moran discussing the law and history of industrial hemp.

Those who might enjoy listening to these lectures, you can find those audio files online, thanks to Cannabis Radio personality “Radical” Russ Belville.

The Social Events – More Than Just Fun

The weather this year was perfect, with brilliant blue skies and temperatures in the low and mid-severties, and the opening reception on the roof of the Gant conference center; the benefit dinner at the fabulous log-cabin mansion of Christine and Gerry Goldstein, catered by Cache Cache Chef Chris Lanter; and the Saturday afternoon picnic with live music at Owl Farm, the legendary home of the late Hunter S. Thompson, were all fabulous events giving the seminar attendees and their guests special memories to last a lifetime (one attorney, as he was leaving, said to me, “I just wish I had discovered this seminar 10-years earlier!”).

In short, these various NORML events held throughout the year provide a valuable opportunity for those of us who are responsible marijuana smokers to make new friends and meet new colleagues who share our support for legalization, and to renew friendships we have made in earlier years. It is largely from this network of like-minded individuals that we draw the inspiration and emotional strength required to continue the struggle to end prohibition.

The Community of Marijuana Smokers

While it was certainly not the intention of those who initially put prohibition in place in the early 20th century, in fact prohibition forced those of us who did not accept the government’s exaggerated anti-marijuana propaganda, and who chose to find a way to obtain and smoke marijuana despite the threat of harsh criminal penalties, to build an underground community comprised of others who share our values and were also willing to assume the legal risks associated with “scoring” and using marijuana. Those same oppressive forces who dedicated their lives to arresting and jailing marijuana smokers were unwittingly establishing an underground culture that would nurture us during the most difficult years, and help us find a black-market supply of marijuana all during the decades of prohibition.

And that was no small task. Without the many daring smugglers and growers and “dealers” willing to risk long prison sentences to provide us consumers with marijuana, we would have had no marijuana to smoke; and with no marijuana to smoke, there would be no marijuana legalization movement.

We need to recognize the crucial role these brave pot pioneers have played in getting us to where we are today, and to find the political courage to demand those individuals who remain in jail be freed, and those with criminal records have their records expunged. Otherwise we find ourselves finally winning this long, terrible war against marijuana smokers, but leaving our POWs behind. That is neither a moral or ethical option.

Inspired and Re-Energized

As I left Aspen this year, and headed home to Washington, DC, I was reminded of the tremendous value these communal experiences play in our personal and professional lives. We draw critical strength and energy and inspiration, and our commitment to change is reinforced, when we spend quality time with others who share our political views and our belief in the importance of ending prohibition.

I would encourage any of you who share our values and political goals to join us at the next opportunity, to take a public stand for freedom. The 2016 NORML Key West Legal seminar on December 7, 8 and 9 would be a good place to start.

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This column firs ran in Marijuana.com.

Photo courtesy of EQRoy / Shutterstock.com