It’s Official: Oregon Legalization Initiative Qualifies For The 2014 Ballot

Oregon voters will decide this November in favor of a statewide initiative to regulate the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana.

State election officials today announced that petitioners, New Approach Oregon, had submitted enough valid signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

The proposed ballot initiative (Initiative Petition 53) seeks to regulate the personal possession, commercial cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Taxes on the commercial sale of cannabis under the plan are estimated to raise some $88 million in revenue in the first two years following the law’s implementation. Adults who engage in the non-commercial cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis for personal use (up to four marijuana plants and eight ounces of usable marijuana at a given time) will not be subject to taxation or commercial regulations.

Passage of the initiative would not “amend or affect in any way the function, duties, and powers of the Oregon Health Authority under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.”

A statewide Survey USA poll released in June reported that 51 percent of Oregon adults support legalizing the personal use of marijuana. Forty-one percent of respondents, primarily Republicans and older voters, oppose the idea. The poll did not survey respondents as to whether they specifically supported the proposed 2014 initiative.

Alaska voters will decide on a similar legalization initiative in November. Florida voters will also decide in November on a constitutional amendment to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis therapy.

How to Prevent Employment Discrimination Against Cannabis Smokers

Now that America has some form of legalization in 23 states and the District of Columbia, activists must reevaluate those state’s laws to refine the details of their legalization systems. There are three distinct areas in which cannabis laws need clarification and evolution: employment issues, child custody issues, and DUID charges. This week, I will discuss the important area of employment discrimination.

First, let’s be clear: no one should go to work in an impaired condition, regardless of what drug is involved. It’s not fair to the employer or to one’s fellow employees, and may well constitute a safety risk. Also, some jobs are so sensitive that it may well be good public policy to require a zero tolerance policy towards all drug use. Certain jobs in the nuclear energy field, for example, or jobs in which an employee is working around nuclear weapons or flammable material fall into this category. Some risks are simply too great to allow even occasional drug use of any kind, whether it’s cannabis or alcohol.

But most jobs are not. They require a sober individual who can responsibly and safely perform their job. Whether they smoked a joint over the weekend, or even the night before, has no impact on the workers’ ability to perform their jobs in a safe and responsible manner.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON MARIJUANA.COM

District Of Columbia’s Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance Goes Into Effect Tonight

A new District ordinance reducing marijuana possession penalties to a $25.00 fine-only violation goes into effect at midnight tonight.

Washington, DC City Council members overwhelmingly approved the legislation, entitled “The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act,” this past spring. The measure amends District law involving the possession or transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a civil violation (punishable by a $25.00 fine, no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record).

Offenses involving the public consumption of cannabis remain classified as a criminal misdemeanor under DC law, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine. The possession of cannabis-related paraphernalia will be re-classified as a violation, not a criminal offense.

An analysis published by the American Civil Liberties Union reported that the District possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.

Weeks ago, Congressman Andrew Harris (R-MD) introduced a language to undermine the implementation of this act. However, that provision remains pending and is strongly opposed by the White House.

The District’s $25.00 fine-only measure is similar to existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.

Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense.

Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.

House Approves Amendment to Allow Financial Institutions to Work With Marijuana Businesses

This afternoon, the House of Representatives voted 231 to 192 in favor of the Heck-Perlmutter-Lee-Rohrabacher Amendment, which will restrict Treasury Department and SEC funds from being spent to penalize financial institutions for providing services to marijuana related business that operate according to state law. This proposal amends H.R. 5016, a spending bill for fiscal year 2015 that funds the Internal Revenue Service, Treasury Department, and Securities and Exchange Commission.

The amendment reads:

“None of the funds made available in this Act may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, or Wisconsin or the District of Columbia, to prohibit, penalize, or otherwise discourage a financial institution from providing financial services to an entity solely because the entity is a manufacturer, producer, or person that participates in any business or organized activity that involves handling marijuana or marijuana products and engages in such activity pursuant to a law established by a State or a unit of local government.”

This vote comes on the heels of another recent historic vote in the House of Representatives, that restricted Department of Justice and DEA funds from being used to interfere in state approved medical marijuana programs. That measure is still awaiting action in the US Senate. This measure, HR 5106, will now be sent to the Senate as well.

“The recent votes in the House of Representatives demonstrate bi-partisan support at the federal level to allow states to experiment with new marijuana policies, free from federal interference,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “If implemented, this amendment will help alter the current untenable status quo that forces otherwise law abiding businesses to operate on a cash only basis, making them a target for criminal actions and unduly burdening their operations.”

Poll: Six Out Of Ten Americans Support Retail Marijuana Sales In Colorado

More than six out of ten Americans – including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – support the regulation and retail sale of marijuana in Colorado, according to the findings of a nationwide HuffPost.com/YouGov poll released today.

Colorado voters in 2012 approved a statewide initiative legalizing the personal consumption and cultivation of the plant. The measure also allows for the state-licensed commercial production and retail sales of cannabis to those over the age of 21. Commercial cannabis sales began on January 1st of this year. To date, these sales have generated nearly $11 million in tax revenue.

Sixty-one percent of Americans – including 68 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Independents, and 52 percent of Republicans – say they “support” Colorado’s efforts to regulate the commercial cannabis market. Only 27 percent of respondents oppose the Colorado law.

Respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 (65 percent) as well as those age 65 and older (64 percent) were most likely to support Colorado’s efforts, while those between the ages of 45 to 65 (55 percent) were less likely to do so.

The results of a separate poll of Colorado voters commissioned by Quinnipiac University in April similarly reported that most Coloradoans support the state’s efforts to regulate marijuana sales and consumption.

Similarly licensed commercial retail sales of cannabis began last week in Washington state.

In response to a separate HuffPost/YouGov poll question, 54 percent of those surveyed said that the US government should not enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states that have legalized and regulated the plant. Only 29 percent of respondents endorsed the notion of enforcing federal prohibition in states that are pursuing alternative regulatory schemes.

“Every day in America, hundreds of thousands of people engage in transactions involving the recreational use of marijuana, but only in two states – Colorado and Washington – do these transactions take place in a safe, above-ground, state-licensed facility where consumers must show proof of age, the product sold is of known quality, and the sales are taxed in a manner to help fund necessary state and local services,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Not surprisingly, most Americans prefer to have cannabis regulated in this sort of legal setting as opposed to an environment where the plant’s production and sale is entirely unregulated and those who consume it are stigmatized and classified as criminals.”

Complete poll results are available online here.

The White House Opposes Congressional Attempts to Hinder DC Marijuana Reform

In a Statement of Administration Policy, released today, President Obama’s administration took a firm stance against recent efforts by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) to restrict the District of Columbia from using any of its funds towards reducing the penalties for, or legalizing, marijuana for recreational use.

The memo states that “the Administration strongly opposes the language in the bill preventing the District from using its own local funds to carry out locally- passed marijuana policies, which again undermines the principles of States rights and of District home rule. Furthermore, the language poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department’s enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District.”

“It is encouraging to see the White House stand up for DC’s right to pursue the reformation of their marijuana laws,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Prohibition is a failed policy and we are pleased to see President Barack Obama beginning to act in accordance with the view of an overwhelming majority of Americans that states and localities should be free to pursue new approaches to marijuana, free from federal incursion.”

You can read the full text of the memo here.

You can click here to quickly and easily contact your elected officials and encourage them to oppose this amendment.

NORML Launches ‘Better Business Bureau’ for the Pot Industry

NORML has been fighting for nearly half a century to replace our nation’s overreaching, under-serving and (by any objective measure) disastrous marijuana laws with a sensible, regulated retail system – and in 2014, real change is finally upon us.  The effective launch of Colorado and Washington State’s new cannabis market is a clear indication that the days of prohibition are numbered.  Marijuana is now a true commercial commodity, and with that comes a new set of standards – the likes of which the industry, and the movement have never seen before.

NORML Business NetworkAs a result of the commercialization of this new industry, NORML is pleased to announce the launch of the NORML Business Network, a new initiative seeking to bridge consumer advocacy with the cannabis industry.  The Network will be collaborating with marijuana companies and ancillary businesses that are committed to using their enterprise as a positive example of corporate social responsibility, and a platform for ending marijuana prohibition nationwide.  The NORML Business Network has already partnered with WeedmapsMarijuana.com and High Times Magazine to further promote this initiative, and to highlight other members of the NORML Business Network through their various mediums.

The NORML Business Network is a selective, industry focused, membership-based program that advocates for high industry standards, and using business as a force for change.  The Network’s mission is to empower the market early on to become invested in creating a culture of self-regulation, and to encourage entities to adopt a socially conscious corporate model that integrates the interests of their customers and communities into the fabric of their business’ DNA.  Similar to that of the Better Business Bureau, stores or products that carry the NORML Business Partner seal confirms that they are operating a “values-driven” enterprise, and are active supporters of marijuana law reform nationwide.  NORML Business Partners will be required to meet certain criteria, including various market and industry qualifiers such as testing, labeling, environmental sustainability, fair wages, decent pricing and special discounts for certain populations such as seniors and veterans.

The cannabis industry is under more scrutiny than any other developing market has ever been, and it is critical for all stakeholders to remain cognizant of this enduring challenge.  The public as well as lawmakers will be watching closely at how these new policies in Colorado and Washington affect the communities and environments of those states, and beyond their borders.  How retail marijuana unfolds in these early years will determine the future course of legalization nationwide.

As a consumer advocacy nonprofit, NORML is dedicated to identifying and protecting all new and evolving stakeholder interests – while also continuing on the path to legalization nationwide.  The organization recognizes that the implementation of Colorado and Washington State’s commercial retail cannabis market have permanently changed the scope of the consumer advocacy debate, and the NORML Business Network is a natural evolution for the forty-five year old organization. The evolution of this burgeoning industry is creating entirely new legal and logistical challenges, which call for new standards and industry accountability – and NORML will continue to advocate for consumer’s interests under a legal regime.

“We want to recognize the positive impact these marijuana businesses are having on their communities by highlighting those who go above and beyond the letter of the law in an effort to align their economic benefits alongside the interests of their customers and communities,” said Sabrina Fendrick, NORML’s Director of Strategic Partnerships.

The NORML Business Network will promote these good corporate citizens to a national audience, media, elected official and the public safety community, amplifying their work as positive examples of the marijuana industry.  This in turn will help solidify the integrity of legalization as public policy, and ensure the sustainability of the industry as reform takes root nationwide.  For more information visit www.norml.org/business.

 

The Origins of NORML: How Marijuana Reform Was Born

normlrallyI’m sometimes asked how a midwestern farm-boy ended up starting a marijuana smokers’ lobby. I had been raised in the 1950s in southern Illinois by southern Baptist parents, and there was nothing in that environment that would cause one to challenge authority or attempt to change the prevailing cultural values.

But then came the Vietnam War. Like many young men of my generation who came of age during that war, I had been radicalized by the war, or more specifically, by the threat of being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam, a war few of us understood and even fewer wanted to die for (58,000 Americans eventually died in Vietnam). My primary focus at the time was avoiding the war in any way possible – a “draft dodger” was the derogatory term used for those of us who did not wish to serve.

Back then, before the draft lottery had even been established, all young men, by the time they were 18 years of age, were required to register for the draft, and unless they were a full-time student, were promptly inducted. So many of us stayed in school for as long as possible, but we remained subject to the draft until we turned 27 years of age. So when I graduated law school in 1968 at 25, I immediately received my draft notice, passed my physical, and was only two weeks away from my report date, when, with the help of some dedicated lawyers working with the National Lawyers’ Guild, I managed to get what was called a critical-skills deferment, that allowed me to spend my two years working at a presidential commission in Washington, DC, instead of getting shot in Vietnam.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON MARIJUANA.COM

Washington, DC: Marijuana Initiative Backers Turn In 57,000 Signatures For Proposed 2014 District Ballot Measure

Proponents of a District initiative to permit the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana by those age 21 or older have turned in 57,000 signatures to the DC Board of Elections. The total is more the twice the number of signatures from registered voters necessary to place the measure on the 2014 electoral ballot.

District of Columbia election officials will meet in mid-August to certify the measure for the ballot.

The proposed ballot initiative (Initiative Measure 71) seeks to remove all criminal and civil penalties in regard to the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants (no more than three mature).

Nearly two out of three District residents favor legalizing the possession and use of marijuana by adults, according to a January 2014 Washington Post poll.

Even if approved by District voters this fall, members of the DC City Council still possess the authority to amend the measure. Members of Congress could also potentially halt the law’s implementation. Federal lawmakers possess oversight regarding the implementation of all District laws.

This spring, DC city council members approved legislation reducing minor marijuana possession offenses to a $25 civil fine. That ordinance is scheduled to take effect later this month. However, federal legislation seeking to undermine this measure is presently pending in the US House of Representatives.

Washington: State-Licensed Retail Cannabis Sales Begin

Washington’s first state-licensed retail cannabis operators opened for business this morning.

The state’s Liquor Control Board issued 24 marijuana retailer licenses late last week. (Under state regulations, the Board may issue up to 334 licenses to retail facilities.) Of those, six opened for business today – the first day legal sales were permissible – according to the Associated Press.

Retail sale prices for a gram of cannabis ranged from $10 to $20 per gram on opening day, according to news reports. Prices are expected to fall once additional retailers open and once existing retailers obtain additional supplies of the product.

Similar state-licensed stores have been operating in Colorado since January 1.

Voters in both states in 2012 approved ballot measures regulating the commercial production, retail sale, and adult use of cannabis.

Voters in Alaska and Oregon will vote on similar measures this November.

Said NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri: “Every day in America, hundreds of thousands of people engage in transactions involving the recreational use of marijuana, but only in two states – Colorado and Washington – do these transactions take place in a safe, above-ground, state-licensed facility where consumers must show proof of age, the product sold is of known quality, and the sales are taxed in a manner to help fund necessary state and local services.”