President Obama Says Marijuana Should Be Treated Like Alcohol

president_obamaIn a just published “exit interview” with Rolling Stone Magazine, President Barack Obama opined that marijuana use should be treated as a public-health issue, not a criminal matter, and called the current patchwork of state and federal laws regarding the drug “untenable.”

“Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse,” Obama said. “And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”

He added, “It is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that’s legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage.”

Although the administration, largely in its second term, has permitted states to experiment with marijuana legalization policies without federal interference, it has not pushed strongly for any permanent changes in federal law, such as amending cannabis’ schedule I classification or permitting banks to work closely with state-licensed marijuana businesses. As a result, some marijuana law reform advocates believe that President Obama has not done enough to move the issue forward during his tenure. Responding to this criticism, Obama said: “Look, I am now very much in lame-duck status. And I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go.”

Why Obama believes that he will have greater opportunities to address cannabis policy as a private citizen than he did as President of the United States leaves us scratching our heads, but we certainly hope that he follows through on his pledge to focus on drug policy reform in the next phase of his political career.

You can read President Obama’s exit interview with Rolling Stone in it’s entirety here.

#GivingTuesday

Since the craziness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has come to an end, NORML invites you to take part in #GivingTuesday, a movement created to kick-start the charitable season by supporting non-profits.

Donate to NORML Foundation to support our efforts (donations to NORML Foundation are tax-deductible).

With over 150 chapters nationwide, a professional staff based in Washington, DC, and a social media reach of over 1.5 million individuals, NORML is the largest group committed to working with members of Congress, business leaders, legal experts, and citizens from around the country to reform marijuana law and move our country forward.

With four states legalizing marijuana for adult use on Election Day this year and four additional states approving initiatives to allow the medical use of marijuana — this is clearly an issue on the move.  It is also an issue that has strong support across all demographics, with recent polling of nationwide support for legalization at 60%.

Over 600,000 Americans are arrested each year on marijuana charges, and these arrests disproportionately fall on already marginalized communities. If you are an African American you are 4 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana as Caucasians, even though consumption rates are similar.

Will you help NORML pursue policies which aim to remove the Schedule I classification of marijuana, provide safe and effective medicine to suffering patients, and create substantial reforms to our criminal justice system?

Donate to NORML to make a difference today.

Your support is truly appreciated!

Some State Leaders Challenging Marijuana Election Results

ballot_box_leafPolitical leaders in several states are threatening to thwart the implementation of voter-approved initiatives specific to the regulation of marijuana.

In Massachusetts, where voters decided 54 percent to 46 percent on election day to legalize the cultivation, use, and retail sale of cannabis by adults, politicians have suggested amending the law and delaying its implementation. Specifically, lawmakers have called for pushing back the date when adults may legally begin growing cannabis from December 15, 2016 to an unspecified point in time. Legislators have also called for delaying retail sales of cannabis until late 2018, and have proposed increasing marijuana-specific sales taxes. “I believe that when voters vote on most ballot questions, they are voting in principle. They are not voting on the fine detail that is contained within the proposal,” Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg said in regard to the proposed changes.

In Maine, where voters narrowly approved a similar ballot measure, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has said that he will seek federal guidance before moving forward with the law’s implementation. Governor LePage, who adamantly opposed the measure, said that he “will be talking to Donald Trump” about how the incoming administration intends to address the issue, and pronounced that he “will not put this (law) into play” unless the federal government signs off on it.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson made similar statements following voters’ decision to legalize the medical use of cannabis. “I don’t like the idea of implementing laws in Arkansas that violate federal law,” the Republican Governor and former head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration said. “This does not call for a state-by-state solution, it calls for … a national solution.”

During the Presidential campaign, Donald Trump voiced support for the authority of individual states to impose regulatory policies specific to the use and dispensing of medical cannabis, but was less clear with regard to whether he believed that state lawmakers ought to be able to regulate the adult use of cannabis absent federal interference. His nominee for US Attorney General, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, strongly opposes any liberalization in cannabis policy, stating in April, “[M]arijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”

In 2013, the Obama administration issued a memorandum directing US prosecutors not to interfere with statewide marijuana legalization efforts, provided those efforts did not undermine specific federal priorities – such as the diversion of cannabis to non-legal states. According to Gallup pollsters, nearly two-thirds of Americans support allowing states to decide their own cannabis policies.

Voters in eight states – Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota – approved statewide ballot measures this November regulating marijuana for either medicinal or social use.

Happy Danksgiving from NORML!

turkey-jointAs we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, NORML would like to acknowledge and give thanks to you, our faithful members and supporters. Without you, there is no us.

 As we reflect upon this unprecedented year, we have much to be thankful for:

  • – Lawmakers in 24 states approved more than 30 pieces of legislation specific to marijuana policy reform in 2016.
  • – We also made history at the ballot box on Election Day. Eight states voted in favor of statewide law changes to both medicinal and recreational use.

These notable victories would not have been achieved without your courage, conviction, and support.

Click here to continue the momentum and show your support for marijuana legalization this holiday season. 

As we look toward an uncertain future, we know we must work to both sustain our existing gains and to assure future progress. With your continued support, we are confident that we can bring the era of marijuana prohibition to an end and usher in the new era of legalization. Together, we will be unstoppable. Together, we WILL legalize marijuana across this great country.

From all of us at NORML to all of you, we hope you have a hempy and happy Thanksgiving.

Erik Altieri
NORML Executive Director

Governor Christie Blocks New Jersey’s Bridge to Legalization

11188089675_194d0213aaGovernor Chris Christie is the first and last to admit that there is only one more roadblock preventing the legalization of marijuana in the state of New Jersey – himself.

Speaking on New Jersey 101.5’s “Ask the Governor,” Christie took a call from one of his constituents on efforts by the legislature to move reform forward in the Garden State. The caller brought up prospect of using the projected tax revenue to either replace the regressive gas tax or simply have the additional revenue supplement the state’s budget, to which the Governor replied “…“There is nothing we spend in government that is important enough to allow me to willfully poison our children for that money. That’s blood money.”

Well Governor, 60% of the voters in the United States do not agree with you – and neither does your state legislature. Support among elected officials in New Jersey is rising faster than ever. Fresh off of a trip to Colorado to see first hand how the state that pioneered legalization handles their regulations, NJ Senate President Stephen Sweeney said “I was on board before we went, but I am absolutely sold that this industry can be regulated. It’s safe, it’s well managed. Colorado has done an amazing job.”

It doesn’t hurt that according to a recent report by New Jersey Policy Perspective and NJ United for Marijuana Reform projects that the public coffers would add an estimated $300 million dollars a year in tax revenue.

However, nothing can move until there is a change in leadership in the Governor’s office. In recent his interview, Christie went one step further, exclaiming that “You’re damn right I’m the only impediment [blocking reform]. And I am going to remain the only impediment until January of 2018.”

So there you have it – the Governor proudly proclaimed that the only thing preventing the end of marijuana prohibition in NJ is Christie himself. Conveniently for the residents of New Jersey, the Governor is term-limited out and the next election is November 7th, 2017.

BREAKING: Marijuana Prohibitionist for Attorney General

Goal Thermometer

We have some dire news to share. This morning, President-Elect Trump announced his pick for Attorney General and it couldn’t be much worse for the marijuana law reform movement and our recent legalization victories.

Trump’s pick, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, is a militant prohibitionist. We could go into great detail how Senator Sessions has been an outspoken opponent against reform, but in this case his rhetoric is so off the wall…we’ll let his past statements speak for themselves:

“It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

“Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to [marijuana] and it is not harmless.”

His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”

SOUNDS CRAZY, RIGHT? DONATE TODAY TO HELP US BE READY TO FIGHT BACK

Senator Sessions is clearly off the reservation on this one and stands diametrically opposed to overwhelming public opinion which stands in favor of the legalization and regulation of marijuana. This could foreshadow some very bad things for the 8 states that have legalized marijuana for adult use and the nearly half of the country with medical marijuana programs. With the authority the position of Attorney General provides, Sessions could immediately get to work attempting to block the implementation of the recent ballot initiatives, dismantling a legal industry in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, and begin conducting massive raids on existing medical and recreational retail stores.

We must be ready to fight back. We must be ready to mobilize in defense of all of our hard fought victories. We already have our opponents calling for a recount in Maine and prohibitionists in Massachusetts working to gut core provisions like home cultivation from their state’s initiative. With an assist from a newly minted prohibitionist Attorney General, things might get worse before they get better.

Help us send a message to President-Elect Trump and his Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions that the American people won’t stand for intervention into state marijuana programs and we want to move towards descheduling at the federal level and legalization in all 50 states.

DONATE $20 TODAY TO HELP US RAISE $4,200 FOR OUR EMERGENCY RESPONSE FUND!

Maine: Legalization Opponents File Petitions Challenging Election Day Vote

MEMarijuana legalization opponents in Maine are formally challenging the results of Question 1: The Marijuana Legalization Act, a statewide ballot initiative that received slightly over 50 percent of the vote on Election Day.

Legal counsel for the No on 1 campaign today turned in petitions to the Secretary of State’s office formally requesting a recount. If the recount goes forward, the process is expected to take approximately 30 days and cost taxpayers nearly $500,000.

If the vote is upheld, the measure will become law by January 7, 2017.

The Act permits adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program to possess personal use quantities of marijuana (up to two and one-half ounces and/or the total harvest produced by six plants). The measure also establishes regulations for the commercial cultivation and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Regulations governing marijuana-related businesses are scheduled to be in place by August 8, 2017.

Study: Medical Cannabis Use Associated With Improved Cognitive Performance, Reduced Use Of Opioids

Marijuana researchMedical cannabis administration is associated with improved cognitive performance and lower levels of prescription drug use, according to longitudinal data published online in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.

Investigators from Harvard Medical School, Tufts University, and McLean Hospital evaluated the use of medicinal cannabis on patients’ cognitive performance over a three-month period. Participants in the study were either naïve to cannabis or had abstained from the substance over the previous decade. Baseline evaluations of patients’ cognitive performance were taken prior to their cannabis use and then again following treatment.

Researchers reported “no significant decrements in performance” following medical marijuana use. Rather, they determined, “[P]atients experienced some improvement on measures of executive functioning, including the Stroop Color Word Test and Trail Making Test, mostly reflected as increased speed in completing tasks without a loss of accuracy.”

Participants in the study were less likely to experience feelings of depression during treatment, and many significantly reduced their use of prescription drugs. “[D]ata revealed a notable decrease in weekly use across all medication classes, including reductions in use of opiates (-42.88 percent), antidepressants (-17.64 percent), mood stabilizers (-33.33 percent), and benzodiazepines (-38.89 percent),” authors reported – a finding that is consistent with prior studies.

Patients in the study will continue to be assessed over the course of one-year of treatment to assess whether these preliminary trends persist long-term.

Full text of the study, “Splendor in the grass? A pilot study assessing the impact of marijuana on executive function,” appears online here.

The Marijuana Revolution Continues

Election Day dealt another body blow to our nation’s costly, failed, and discriminatory policy of marijuana prohibition. If anyone thought our victories in 2012 and 2014 were a passing fad, it is now clear that they were mistaken. With adult use meaures being approved in four states (CA, MA, ME, NV) and medical marijuana initiatives passing in another four (AR, FL, MT, ND), the era of marijuana legalization is upon us. By standing together and fighting for our shared beliefs, we spread the seeds of the cannabis revolution far and wide.

But now is not the time to become complacent. As we celebrate our recent successes, we must remind ourselves that legalization is not inevitable. It is dependent upon maintaining the fight. Our opponents are not going away. They remain well funded and ready for battle. So should we.

DONATE TODAY TO CONTINUE THE REVOLUTION AND CLAIM YOUR BUMPER STICKER

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From day one, NORML’s mission has been to shape public and political opinion so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer criminalized and stigmatized. NORML does so by standing up for the rights of the responsible cannabis consumer, and by presenting credible, evidence-based information about marijuana and marijuana policy reform to the general public, the mainstream media, pundits, and policymakers. And I firmly believe that nobody does it better.

That is why I’m honored be named NORML’s new Executive Director.

I’m no stranger to this cause or to NORML itself. From 2007 to 2015 I served as NORML’s Communications Director, PAC Manager, and chief lobbyist. Following a brief sabbatical, during which I fought to decrease the influence of big money in our political system, I am honored and excited to return to lead NORML during one of the most exciting and critical times in the group’s forty year history.

I urge you to stand with me, NORML’s staff, and with our nationwide network of chapters. We must capitalize on our newly minted successes and seize upon our growing public support. No one person or organization can win this fight alone. We must come together as advocates in a unified force so that we can make our desired policy reforms a reality.

Even with these victories, most Americans are still living under the specter of marijuana prohibition. Obviously, there is much more work that needs to be done. We need your help to finish the job.

NORML only exists and succeeds because of the support of passionate and dedicated individuals like you. With you standing shoulder to shoulder with us, we will continue to take our fight to city councils, state legislatures, and to Congress. Together, we are unstoppable. Together, we WILL legalize marijuana nationwide.

The revolution continues,

Erik Altieri
NORML Executive Director

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Maine Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

According to polling information, voters in Maine will approve Question 1, the Marijuana Legalization Act. Politico currently has the measure leading 51 to 49 percent with 86.9 percent of the vote being counted.

“In 2013, over 70% of voters in the city of Portland decided it was time to reject the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and embrace legalization. Tonight, a majority of voters statewide agreed with that assessment. With the approval of Question 1, Maine has elected to take a sensible approach to marijuana and reject the flawed ideas of the past. Thanks to them, Maine will no longer arrest otherwise law abiding adults for choosing to consume a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol and tobacco and in the process generate tax revenue that will be used to greatly improve education and other vital state services.” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s new Executive Director.

Maine Legalized Marijuana

Question 1, the Marijuana Legalization Act, permits adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program to legally grow (up to six plants, including all of the harvest from those plants, and/or up to 12 immature plants) and to possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to two and one-half ounces of herbal cannabis) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The law imposes a 10 percent tax on commercial marijuana sales. Under the law, localities have the authority to regulate, limit, or prohibit the operation of marijuana businesses. On site consumption is permitted under the law in establishments licensed for such activity.

The new law takes effect within 40 days. Regulations for marijuana-related businesses are scheduled to be in place by August 8, 2017. You can read the full text of Question 1 here.

“To those who allege that marijuana law reform is a west coast phenomenon, tonight’s votes tell a different story,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “The majority of Americans throughout this country recognize that marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts young people and communities of color. That is voters are rejecting the failures of criminalization and embracing these sort of regulatory alternatives.”