Poll: Two-Thirds Of Americans Say ‘Efforts To Enforce Marijuana Laws Cost More Than They Are Worth’

legalization_pollSixty-five percent of Americans ages 18 and older believe that “government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth” and 55 percent of respondents say that the plant’s use ought to be legal, according to national polling data compiled by YouGov.com.

Those living in the western region of the United States (65 percent), Hispanics (64 percent), Democrats (63 percent), and those under 30 (63 percent) were most likely to endorse legalizing marijuana use. Republicans (45 percent), African Americans (44 percent), and those over the age of 65 (40 percent) were least likely to be supportive.

By contrast, a majority of respondents of all ages and political persuasions agreed with the notion that marijuana law enforcement costs more than it’s worth.

In response to a separate polling question, respondents agreed by a margin of more than 2 to 1 that the government should not enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states that have legalized its use.

A majority of those polled also disputed the allegation that cannabis use is a ‘gateway’ to other illicit drug use. Of those under the age of 60, only 25 percent believed the claim.

The YouGov.com survey polled 1,000 US citizens and possesses a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent.

NORML’s Legislative Round Up July 22nd, 2016

take_actionThe DEA announced that they will amend their quotas for 2017 regarding the cultivation of research-grade marijuana and hemp legalization bills in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have been signed into law! We also have updates from Illinois, Florida, and Ohio. Keep reading to learn the latest in marijuana law reform news from around the country and to find out how you can #TakeAction!

Federal:

In a notice published in the Federal Register, Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg proposed amending the amount of marijuana that may be produced under federal license in 2017 to approximately 1,041 pounds. The agency alleges that this quantity will be sufficient to provide for the “estimated medical, scientific, research and industrial needs of the United States.”

The US Drug Enforcement Administration is also preparing to respond to an administrative petition calling for the reclassification of marijuana as a schedule I prohibited substance. Their determination was originally expected in the first half of 2016 but it has yet to be released.

State:

Florida: Next Tuesday, the state’s first state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary will open to the public. Trulieve, a licensed cannabis cultivator and distributor, will provide a high CBD, low THC strain of the plant to patients that are registered with the state. However, as of today not a single eligible patient is registered with the state to legally access the product. This is because Florida’s law, initially passed in 2014, is among the strictest in the country. Under the law, patients diagnosed with cancer, seizures, or intractable muscle spasms are eligible for CBD-dominant cannabis, while those diagnosed with a terminal illness are eligible for THC-dominant cannabis. To date, however, only 15 physicians in the state are participating in the program.

Illinois: Two months ago lawmakers voted in favor of Senate Bill 2228, legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But Governor Bruce Rauner has yet to sign the measure into law. The bill 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 $1,500. The bill also amends the state’s zero tolerance per se traffic safety law.

#TakeAction  and contact Governor Rauner to urge him to sign this legislation into law.

Ohio: Governor John Kasich has signed legislation so that certain drug offenses are no longer punishable by a mandatory loss of one’s driver’s license. Under previous law, any drug conviction carried a mandatory driver’s license suspension of at least six months, even in cases where the possession offense did not take place in a vehicle. Senate Bill 204 makes such suspensions discretionary rather than mandatory. The law will take effect September 13th, 2016.

industrial_hempPennsylvania: On Wednesday, July 20th, Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation, House Bill 967, to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp.” The new law took immediate effect. Twenty-eight states have now enacted similar legislation.

Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo has signed legislation, H8232, to establish rules for the commercial, licensed cultivation of hemp in the state. The legislation creates the “Hemp Growth Act” to treat hemp as an agricultural product that may be legally produced, possessed, distributed and commercially traded. The Department of Business Regulation will be responsible for establishing rules and regulations for the licensing and regulation of hemp growers and processors.

NORML Seeks New Executive Director

11863500_10154119506728032_5435735672135739216_nTHE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR THE REFORM OF MARIJUANA LAWS (NORML)

NORML has advocated on behalf of cannabis consumers since 1970.  The past 20 years have seen the adoption of medicinal marijuana programs in more than two dozen states, and the adoption of full marijuana legalization for all adults in four states, including the establishment of a legal retail market. NORML’s Board of Directors anticipates more states will be legalizing adult consumption this November by ballot initiative.

With fewer states criminally prohibiting cannabis, NORML’s consumer protection advocacy will be focusing more on products and services in the cannabis market. Further, as the nation continues to engage in this ongoing narrative regarding legalization, there will exist a greater need for politicians, media, and policy analysts to seek guidance and expertise from NORML with regard to the benefits of regulation as well as the health and societal effects of responsible cannabis consumption.

OUR OPPORTUNITY

The Board of Directors seeks a dynamic and innovative Executive Director to lead our national organization based in DC, with more than 100 active, volunteer state, local, and student chapters in the U.S., as well as chapters in nine other nations.  NORML also has an affiliated PAC, Legal Committee, and 501(c)3 Foundation. The Executive Director is responsible for the smooth operation and growth of the national organization, and maintaining NORML’s well-earned reputation as a trusted resource for accurate information about cannabis.

PRINCIPAL RESPONSIBILITIES

Advance NORML’s relevance to cannabis consumers in a rapidly-changing cultural and political landscape.

Oversee the everyday operation of our DC office and our Denver office, recruit staff and volunteer interns, hire, manage and dismiss staff.

Manage the finances of the organization.

Play a key role in advocating for and tracking ongoing and forthcoming legislative efforts to reform marijuana policies and penalties at the state and federal level, and at the ballot box.

Develop the means for the organization to become financially self-sustaining, with a predictable minimum annual income.

Publicly represent NORML in the media, in testimony to legislative bodies and in amicus briefs, to our chapters and members, and at conferences, conventions, and other events, requiring extensive travel.

Oversee NORML’s social networks and advise on strategies to increase NORML’s social media presence, and seek ways to harness revenue from these networks.

Ensure legal compliance with the requirements of both a 501(c)4 and a 501C3 nonprofit organization, an affiliated NORML PAC, including the timely filing of all taxes and reports.

Maintain a collegial, respectful relationship with the Board of Directors, staff, and Chapter leadership including transparency and open communication about NORML’s goals and achievements.

Develop alliances and strategic relationships between NORML and other drug policy advocacy groups, nonprofit and for-profit entities.

SKILLS AND ABILITIES

Deep knowledge of cannabis prohibition, politics, and current policies, both in the U.S. and globally.  Familiarity with cannabis consumers, their values, and their cultures.

Demonstrated leadership working with and guiding nonprofit and/or volunteer organizations, including staff management.

A record of organizational development, budgeting and fundraising.

Effective verbal and written communication with experience in public policy advocacy, public relations, grant writing, and public speaking.

Social media fluency.

Planning and execution of public events.

QUALIFICATIONS AND EXPERIENCE

At least a Bachelor’s Degree or the equivalent, with ten (10) or more years experience working in nonprofit, public advocacy, or public policy fields, and a proven record of increased responsibilities and achievements.

A record of participation in cannabis or other drug policy advocacy is strongly preferred.

TO APPLY

Please forward a Vision Statement for NORML and its role going forward into the 2020’s, your Resume, and Salary Requirements to: Randy@norml.org.

2016 Marijuana-Related Statewide Ballot Proposals

ballot_box_leafWe’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: 2016 is set to be a monumental year for marijuana law reform. There are currently nine pending ballot initiatives to either legalize adult marijuana use or to legalize the use of medical marijuana for qualifying medical conditions. The country could double the number of states that allow the recreational use of marijuana and could potentially expand the therapeutic benefits of marijuana use to millions of Americans come November.

Find below a summary of each of these pending initiatives, links to the campaign websites and to the initiative texts so you can be an informed voter this November. (A Michigan social use initiative effort is in litigation and is not included in the summary below.)

Arizona
Name: Arizona Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act
Ballot Number: N/A — signatures awaiting verification from the Secretary of State’s office
Proponents: The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (Marijuana Policy Project)
Website: Regulate Marijuana Like AlcoholInitiative Language
Summary: The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act allows adults twenty-one years of age and older to possess and to privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana; it creates a system in which licensed businesses can produce and sell marijuana; establishes a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, and sale of marijuana; and provides local governments with the authority to regulate and limit marijuana businesses.


Arkansas
Name: The 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act
Ballot Number: N/A
Proponents: Arkansans for Compassionate Care
Website: The Arkansas Medical Cannabis ActInitiative Language
Summary: The 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act 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 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 obtain a ‘hardship certificate’ in order to cultivate their own medicine at home. A similar initiative narrowly failed in the state in 2012, garnering over 48 percent of the vote.


California
Name: Adult Use of Marijuana Act
Ballot Number: Proposition 64
Proponents: Let’s Get It Right CA
Website: Yes on Prop 64Initiative Language
Summary: Passage of the measure would permit 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 possess and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes. The initiative language specifies that it is not intended to “repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt … laws pertaining to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.” The AUMA is endorsed by the ACLU of California, the California Democratic Party, the California Medical Association, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California NAACP, the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and NORML. Sixty percent of likely California voters say that they intend to vote for the initiative this fall, according to a February 2016 Probolsky Research poll.


Florida
Name: Use of Marijuana For Debilitating Conditions
Ballot Number: Amendment 2
Proponents: United For Care
Website: United For CareInitiative Language
Summary: Passage of the amendment would permit qualified patients to possess and obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities. According to a recent statewide poll, 68 percent of Florida voters say that they support the passage of the amendment. According to Florida law, 60 percent of voters must approve a constitutional amendment in order for it to become law. In November 2014, Floridians narrowly rejected a similar amendment, which received 58 percent of the vote.


Maine
Name: Marijuana Legalization Act
Ballot Number: Question 1
Proponents: Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol
Website: Regulate MaineInitiative Language
Summary: If enacted by voters in November, the measure would allow adults to legally possess up to two and one-half ounces of marijuana and to cultivate marijuana (up to six mature plants and the entire yields of said plants) for their own personal use. The measure would also establish licensing for the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis. Retail sales of cannabis would be subject to a ten percent sales tax. Non-commercial transactions and/or retail sales involving medical cannabis would not be subject to taxation.


Massachusetts
Name: Marijuana Legalization Initiative
Ballot Number: N/A — signatures awaiting verification from the Secretary of State’s office
Proponents: The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts
Website: Regulate Marijuana Like AlcoholInitiative Language
Summary: The initiative allows adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their residences and up to 10 ounces of marijuana in an enclosed, locked space within their residences, which mimics the current in-residence allowance established by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for medical marijuana patients. It allows adults 21 years of age and older to grow up to six marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked space within their residences and possess the marijuana produced by those plants in the location where it was grown.


Missouri
Name: New Approach Missouri
Ballot Number: N/A — signatures awaiting verification from the Secretary of State’s office
Proponents: New Approach Missouri
Website: New Approach MissouriInitiative Language
Summary: The initiative creates a statewide system for production and sale of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products. It also provides for limited and regulated patient cultivation. The initiative levies a four percent retail tax, and all revenue in excess of the cost of regulating the medical cannabis program will go to help Missouri’s veterans. The initiative maintains the current prohibition on public use and driving under the influence. It also allows the Department of Health and Senior Services to institute a seed-to-sale tracking system to ensure that the product and money do not reach the illicit market. The initiative puts the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in charge of licensing and implementation, but also allows the department to contract with other state agencies when necessary for effective and efficient regulation. Sixty-two percent of registered voters voice support for the measure, according to survey data compiled by Public Policy Polling.


Montana
Name: Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative
Ballot Number: I-182
Proponents: Montana Citizens for I-182
Website: YesOn182Initiative Language
Summary: I-182 repeals the limit of three patients for each licensed provider, and allows providers to hire employees to cultivate, dispense, and transport medical marijuana. I-182 repeals the requirement that physicians who provide certifications for 25 or more patients annually be referred to the board of medical examiners. I-182 removes the authority of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities, and requires annual inspections by the state.


Nevada
Name: Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative
Ballot Number: Question 2
Proponents: Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Nevada
Website: Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in NevadaInitiative Language
Summary: The ballot language permits adults to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce and/or six plants) for non-commercial purposes. The measure also regulates and taxes the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis. It states, “The People of the State of Nevada find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older, and its cultivation and sale should be regulated similar to other businesses.”

Montana: Medical Cannabis Restoration Initiative Qualifies For November Ballot

vote_keyboard

Montana voters will decide this November on a statewide initiative to restore and expand elements of the state’s medical cannabis program.

The Secretary of State’s office has affirmed that initiative proponents, Montana Citizens for I-182, submitted sufficient signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

The Montana Medical Marijuana Act (I-182) amends the state’s existing law to expand the pool of patients eligible to access cannabis therapy and removes certain restrictions on recommending physicians and providers. The measure also establishes a regulatory scheme overseeing the testing and distribution of medical cannabis products.

Montana voters initially approved ballot initiative language in 2004 authorizing qualified patients to possess and grow medical marijuana. In 2011, lawmakers passed legislation significantly revising the law. This spring, members of the Montana Supreme Court upheld several of those amendments, including provisions that called for additional oversight for physicians who recommend cannabis therapy to more than 25 patients annually, and permitting law enforcement to engage in warrantless inspections of the premises of marijuana providers.

The full text of I-182 is available online here. A fact sheet about the measure is available here.

Voters this November will also decide on separate statewide medical use measures in Arkansas, Florida, and Missouri.

Initiatives to permit the adult use of cannabis are pending in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. A Michigan initiative remains in litigation.

Summaries and status of pending 2016 statewide initiatives is available from NORML’s Take Action Center here.

National NORML Endorses Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative

 

majority_supportAt a board meeting held on Saturday, February 20th in Washington, DC, the NORML Board of Directors voted to endorse the Arizona Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act initiative to legalize marijuana in Arizona. That initiative has now officially qualified for the ballot in November.

The NORML Board reversed its former policy of waiting until an initiative has officially qualified for the ballot before endorsing it, believing our endorsement could have a greater impact on the eventual outcome if it came earlier in the process.

The Board took this action aware there was another proposed initiative in Arizona that included provisions that were even more consumer-friendly, but that alternative was perceived as having little chance of qualifying for the ballot (which proved to be true) or being approved by a majority of the state’s voters.

The  Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) proposal would end marijuana prohibition; legalize personal use and possession by adults of an ounce of marijuana, and personal cultivation of up to six plants of marijuana; establish a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to regulate commercial cultivation, testing, transportation and sale to establish a legally regulated market where consumers can obtain their marijuana.

The NORML Board also endorsed full legalization initiatives that will appear on the ballot in Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and California; as well as medical use initiatives expected to appear on the ballot in Missouri and Florida.

 

 

 

NORML’s Legislative Round Up July 15th, 2016

map_leafMembers of Congress this week heard testimony on the state of marijuana research, and leading members of the US Senate introduced legislation to potentially reclassify CBD. A medical marijuana initiative in Montana qualified for the November ballot and Governors in three states signed marijuana related bills into law. Keep reading below to get this week’s latest marijuana news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.

Federal:
On Wednesday, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a hearing titled, “Researching Marijuana’s Potential Medical Benefits and Risks”. Testimony was provided by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who are co-sponsors of the CARERS Act, as well as by officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While several witnesses were asked by the committee whether or not they expected to the DEA to reschedule cannabis, none provided a direct answer. An archive of the hearing is available online here.

Today, US Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Pat Leahy (D-VT), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced legislation, the “Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.” The Act requires the Attorney General to make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be reclassified under the Controlled Substances Act and would expand research on the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol and other marijuana components. You can voice your support for this measure, as well as other pending federal legislation, by clicking here.

State:

Hawaii: On Tuesday, Governor David Ige signed legislation, House Bill 2707, to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.

The measure expands the pool of practitioners who may legally recommend cannabis therapy to include advanced nurse practitioners. Separate provisions in the bill remove the prohibition on Sunday dispensary sales and on the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia by qualified patients. Other language in the bill permits the transportation of medical marijuana across islands for the purposes of laboratory testing, but maintains existing prohibitions banning individual patients from engaging in inter-island travel with their medicine.

Full text of the bill is available here.

Missouri: Governor Jay Nixon signed legislation into law today making it easier for those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged.

The legislative measure expands the number of offenses eligible for expungement from roughly a half dozen to more than 100 non-violent and non-sexual crimes. It also allows people to expunge their records sooner, shortening the waiting period to three years for misdemeanors and to seven years following a felony offense. However, the law does not take effect until January 1, 2018.

Missouri’s NORML coordinator Dan Viets said, “This law will allow many thousands of people who have a marijuana conviction on their public records to escape the lifelong disabilities such a conviction has caused in the past.”

For more information, contact Missouri NORML here.

pills_v_potMontana: On Wednesday, a statewide initiative to expand and restore the state’s medical marijuana program qualified for the November ballot. The initiative is seeking to reverse several amendments to the program that were initially passed by lawmakers in 2011.

If approved by voters, I-182 allows a single treating physician to certify medical marijuana for a patient diagnosed with chronic pain and includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a “debilitating medical condition” for which a physician may certify medical marijuana, among other changes. You can read the initiative language here.

Pennsylvania: On Monday, legislation to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp” was sent to Governor Wolf for his signature.

This measures allows state-approved applicants to research and cultivate industrial hemp as part of an authorized pilot program. This proposal is compliant with Section 7606 of the omnibus federal farm bill authorizing states to sponsor hemp cultivation pilot programs absent federal reclassification of the plant. More than two dozen states have enacted similar legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with this statute. #TakeAction

Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo signed legislation, House Bill 7142, this week to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. Members of both chambers previously overwhelmingly approved the measure. Full text of the bill is available here. The new went into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.

Democratic Party Calls For “Pathway for Future Legalization”

thumbs_upOver the weekend the Democratic National Committee voted to endorse a “reasoned pathway to future legalization” of marijuana and called on the federal government to downgrade marijuana from it’s current Schedule 1 of the United States Controlled Substances Act.

In an 80-81 vote, the following language was added as part of the Democratic party’s official 2016 platform:

“Because of conflicting laws concerning marijuana, both on the federal and state levels, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from its list as a Class 1 Federal Controlled Substance, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization.”

Previously, a 15-person panel of the Democratic National Committee voted to include the following language which will also be included in the party platform:

“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 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.”

While the language that was originally approved by the panel sufficiently addressed marijuana law reform as a party priority, the additional amendment which nods towards future legalization, bodes well with advocates all around. This is surely a large step in the right direction by one of our country’s main political parties.

As the Democrats worked to finalize what faction of marijuana law reform they would like to endorse, the Republicans had a different debate on the subject.

On Monday, the Republican party voted not to endorse medical marijuana in their 2016 platform. And throughout the debate some of oldest marijuana myths were spouted as fact. Delegates contested that marijuana is linked to mental health issues, that mass murderers are all smoking pot, and that the heroin epidemic is a result of teenagers smoking weed. While there were some pro-medical marijuana delegates present and who attempted to push back at the theories, it was not enough to result in a medical marijuana endorsement by the party.

The Republican party missed their opportunity to endorse any language related to marijuana law reform which could have ranged from medical marijuana to simply endorsing the conservative principle of limited government, allowing states to move forward with their reforms free from federal interference.

It’s a wonder how one political party has come so far in acknowledging scientific fact and public opinion, which puts voter approval for medical marijuana at 78 percent and voter approval for adult marijuana use at 61 percent, while another political party seems so far from that same point.

Thanks and Blessings

Thanks and Blessings

Post heavy consideration and consultation with family and friends — and after a serious life changing event recently — I’ve decided to resign as NORML’s executive director after some 25 years with the organization.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling 2008 book Outliers, he puts forward the premise that when humans focus intensely on a vocation or particular skill set, after approximately ten thousand hours of dedicated work and apprenticeship, most humans will come to ‘master’ whatever the given subject matter.

Having poured nearly seventy thousand hours working uber full time on cannabis law reform since early 1991, I’m seeking to apply this deep knowledge base and network of contacts in numerously different ways as America (and other countries too), finally, transitions from cannabis prohibition to cannabis commerce.

Coming To NORML

When I was a far younger person I wrestled with a fundamental question: ‘What to do post college‘? Did I want to work for a business? For government? In politics? Academia? Possibly for my family’s small businesses on Cape Cod, where I grew up?

After volunteering for NORML as little more than a concerned cannabis consumer who wanted prohibition to end post haste, I quickly learned that working at a non-profit advocacy group for the public interest focusing on cannabis law reform could be immensely rewarding regarding both the organization’s ability to provide aid and assistance to the victims of pot prohibition enforcement while at the same time effectively advocating at all levels of governments (and litigating in the nation’s courts) to end the long-failed prohibition on cannabis.

As NORML’s former executive director and board chair Richard Cowan once noted: “Working at NORML is both intellectual heaven and an emotional Hell.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

A Long-Failed Prohibition…

The depth and cost to my fellow citizens of the carnage wrought from what has been nearly an eighty year failed federal prohibition on cannabis has at times stretched my capacity as a human to relate to the financial costs, physical and emotional pain, suffering, separation, isolation and ostracization that the over 25 million cannabis law offenders have endured (arrests, incarcerations, civil forfeiture, child custody, drug testing, drug tax stamps, etc.).

On any given day after working at NORML any employee over it’s long history can be forgiven for feeling as though they’ve incurred a form of PTSD.

…Is Giving Way To Cannabis’ Legalization

However, because of immense devotion, sacrifice, energy and donated resources by like-minded citizens, literally a cast of thousands have worked cooperatively over decades to make incredible strides to, pun intended, normalize the responsible use of cannabis by adults, and advance voter initiatives and legislation that has brought us to this juncture in the nearly fifty year effort by citizen-activists to end cannabis prohibition.

To wit:

  • When NORML was found in 1970, national polling pegged public support for legal cannabis at twelve percent (when I arrived at NORML in 1991, a little more than twenty percent favored legalization). Today, according to Gallup, fifty-eight percent of the public support legalization. A 2014 Brookings Institute paper indicates that, like gay marriage in America, cannabis legalization is all but a political given.
  • Today, the voters in four states have broken through the government’s Reefer Madness to create the ‘beginning of the end’ for national pot prohibition, with hundreds of millions in local and state taxes coming into government coffers assures that other states are going to soon follow. (Fifteen states have decriminalized possession for a small amount; by some people’s measure over three-fourths of states have medicalized access to cannabis products).
  • Even at this early stage of cannabis commerce there are over four thousand tax-paying, licensed cannabis-related businesses, who, now joined with longstanding cannabis law reform organizations, will work vigorously to try to bring a fast conclusion to national cannabis prohibition.

The importance of the existence of non-profit groups like NORML, Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project to end cannabis prohibition in our lifetime can’t be overstated (or under appreciated by an emerging and nascent cannabis industry).

NORML Puts The ‘Grass’ In Grassroots

As unabashed and full throated supporters for cannabis law, NORML has built up a large social network online that reaches millions of concerned citizens weekly, making the days in NORML’s office pre-Internet in the early 1990s a very distant memory. We are blessed with consumer activists, coupled with a large (and politically active) network of state and local chapters, and, a NORML Legal Committee fueled by over six hundred lawyers — all of which helps to maintain NORML’s clear dominance in the United States organizing and informing millions weekly in the cannabis community.

Times are changing at NORML and in the broader marijuana law movement…where there are now equal calls and emails from aspiring ganjapreneurs than there are from victims of prohibition enforcement seeking help.

Fruits Of One’s Labor

Ever mindful that two generations of NORML’s supporters, board members and staff were not fortunate enough to witness the social changes they agitated for, or, don’t reside in a state where bona fide cannabis law reforms have occurred, I feel tremendous gratitude that I’ve lived long enough to see cannabis go from verboten to tax-n-regulated commerce.

As a resident of the District of Columbia I too now get to enjoy the fruits of reformers’ labor by growing my own ‘NORML director quality’ cannabis and readily sharing it with friends and family (at this year’s NORML Lobby Day Conference in May I gave away nearly half a pound of fine cannabis to the adult attendees who had to do little more than hold their hands out; a middle aged woman from Florida attending a cannabis-related conference for the first time, cried when I asked her to hold two hands out, and placed what used to be worth hundreds of dollars of ganja in her hands. She rightly declared that the amount of cannabis I conveyed upon her would surely get her busted back in Florida. I immediately agreed and welcomed her to a post prohibition world of our making. In effect, welcome to freedom).

While the financial compensation working full time at a non-profit organization can leave one wonting, the immensely awarding scope of the work and positive impacts on people’s individual lives and the advancing of societal-changing public reforms and public policies has, for me, always been the driving impetus to pour, literally, half my life into working for cannabis law reforms at NORML and NORML Foundation.

Life Changes: Blessings

In late March, after years of fits-n-starts, tribulations, rivers of tears and unspeakable amounts of money, my wife and I are finally blessed with the birth of a beautiful and healthy daughter.

As a new father-at-fifty the frenetic workload and travel schedule that I’ve maintained for so long at NORML/NORML Foundation — compounded by low pay and no genuine prospects to increase one’s compensation after twenty five years at the non-profit organization — to be the father that I’ve always aspired to become does not at all comport with continued full time employment at NORML/NORML Foundation.

However, I love NORML as much going out the door as much as I did walking in, so I intend to serve out the two remaining years of my board seat, working in concert for weeks with the Interim Director Randy Quast (Randy is among a handful of current NORML board members that I recruited in 2013; he has selflessly donated over half a million dollars in support of Minnesota, Portland and national NORML) and whomever the board chooses as my successor to continue NORML’s important and relevant public advocacy work on behalf of cannabis consumers.

As alluded to earlier, the country is in a transitional period between pot prohibition and a legal cannabis industry that will soon reach $20 billion in annual sales — NORML and it’s chapters, along with working hard to end cannabis prohibition in the remaining forty six states while concurrently helping the victims of prohibition enforcement — must also too pivot while working where mutually possible with the nascent cannabis industry, advancing consumer access to sensibly-regulated and taxed cannabis-related products.

Gratitude And Thanks

There are simply too many thousands of people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with and meeting over these twenty-five years at NORML to properly thank here, but I surely want to acknowledge Paul Armentano, Richard Cowan, Rick Cusick, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Justin Hartfield, Eleanora (and her late husband Michael) Kennedy, Ethan Nadelmann, Rick Steves and Keith Stroup for abundantly providing me professional support and guidance for so many years.

Lastly, I would have likely been headhunted away from NORML over a dozen years ago if were not for the love and support of my wife Sara, who, always allowed me to continue public advocacy work in favor of cannabis law reforms despite it’s impact on our families’ lives.

Please continue to provide support and fidelity to Randy and NORML’s staff in this transition period, and, importantly going forward, for NORML’s incoming executive director, whomever the courageous individual chosen by NORML’s board of directors.

Cannabem liberemus!

Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Linked To Less Prescription Drug Use, Medicare Spending

substitutionThe enactment of statewide medicinal cannabis laws is associated with a quantifiable decline in the use of traditional prescription drugs, according to data published in the July edition of the scientific journal Health Affairs.

Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the relationship between medical marijuana legalization laws and physicians’ prescribing patterns in 17 states over a three-year period (2010 to 2013). Specifically, researchers assessed patients’ consumption of and spending on prescription drugs approved under Medicare Part D in nine domains: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity.

Authors reported that prescription drug use fell significantly in seven of the nine domains assessed.

“Generally, we found that when a medical marijuana law went into effect, prescribing for FDA-approved prescription drugs under Medicare Part D fell substantially,” investigators reported. “Ultimately, we estimated that nationally the Medicare program and its enrollers spent around $165.2 million less in 2013 as a result of changed prescribing behaviors induced by … jurisdictions that had legalized medical marijuana.”
Investigators estimated that prescription drug savings would total more than $468 million annually were cannabis therapy to be accessible in all 50 states.

They concluded, “Our findings and existing clinical literature imply that patients respond to medical marijuana legislation as if there are clinical benefits to the drug, which adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the Schedule I status of marijuana is outdated.”

An abstract of the study, “Medical marijuana laws reduce prescription medication use in Medicare Part D,” is available online here.