Marijuana is a Medicine, Not a Menace

Generic 18 January 2019 | 0 Comments

I am delighted to report that more and more government officials are promoting sanity in pot laws. Cannabis crosses political parties and generational lines.

Good weed gets you high whether you think the last attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was a Neanderthal or you think Beto O’Rourke should be the next Democratic presidential candidate, which I do.

I was right 50 years ago when I said as a Hofstra University college student on Hempstead, Long Island in New York in 1969 that pot should be legal. A half century later,  I am still correct. Only the weed is a lot better.

Over the years, I have learned that if a man stands his ground, and there abides, the whole world will eventually come around to him. Today, in 2019, 65 percent of America and apparently 84 percent of Wilton Manors agrees with me.

The legitimate powers of government should reach no further than controlling acts which are injurious to others. Freedom means having the right to be stupid, whether your parents or partners approve or not.

As Thomas Jefferson once said, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Pot never should have been criminalized. Outside of making North Dakota a state, locking people up for smoking weed was one of the dumbest things our government has ever done.

In Florida, our new Commissioner of Agriculture is Nikki Fried, a Jewish woman and law graduate who will give new meaning to the High Holy Days. She supports the legalization of marijuana.

Nikki has said she will be appointing a statewide Director of Cannabis to her agency. Man, I have held that position my whole life. Weed makes everything better, from sex to food to reading SFGN.

More seriously, on the right side of the aisle, cannabis has found surprising supporters. Importantly, in Florida there are people like Congressman Matt Gaetz, a northwest Florida Republican who I would ordinarily have nothing in common with, outside of sports and fast cars.

However, Gaetz is amongst a cadre of Republicans, like the former speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, who have actively promoted a new direction for federal marijuana policy. Damn, it’s about time.

Congressman Gaetz has already partnered with newly elected and young Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York State, to revise the Neanderthal laws.

Last year, when Attorney General Sessions called for a crackdown on cannabis, Gaetz stated it was a “cruel plan that harms some of our most vulnerable fellow Americans. I have seen children who have been helped by medical marijuana when all other treatments have failed. Some have gone from surgeries and seizures to baseball games and homecoming dances.” He’s right.

Cathy Jordan has suffered from ALS since 1986. When I met her back then, she was given 3-5 years to live. Along with the power and love of her devoted husband, smoking medical marijuana has kept her alive.

When Elvy Mussika was acquitted of growing pot in her Hollywood backyard in 1988, she was nearly going blind from glaucoma. The THC in cannabis reduced the intraocular pressures in her eyes, and thirty years later, she can still see.

Right now, despite 32 states moving in an opposite direction, cannabis is still regulated as a “Schedule 1 drug.” This means that the regulated substance has “no medicinal value.” Come on, we all know better by now, especially all those bar and restaurant workers that hang out after work in the alleyway by the Alibi in the Manors.

Encouragingly, the new nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, also stated in his confirmation hearings yesterday that he would support a continuation of the Obama Era regulatory guidelines.

These rules allow those states that have invested in medicinal marijuana laws to continue to rely on the rules generated by previous attorney generals. This allows dispensaries operating in those states to continue to run their business without fear of being raided or shut down.

Florida residents also passed a constitutional amendment to provide for medical marijuana two years ago. The regulatory system is flawed, and Florida’s new governor has said he will fix it. Now would be a good time.

Unfortunately, the first week in office for Ron DeSantis presented no encouragement. His legal team went into the Court of Appeals and argued that the legislative ban on smoking marijuana be upheld.  His actions make his campaign promise hollow.

A Leon County Circuit judge had previously struck down the smoking ban, but the decision was stayed after the State of Florida appealed. DeSantis could have made history by killing the appeal. He did not. He made the argument for maintaining it.

During the oral arguments last week in Tallahassee, an appellate panel of judges interrogated Florida officials about whether the legislature had not usurped the will of our citizens by using its political veto power to override an amendment its citizens overwhelmingly supported.

The Department of Health told the judges that since smoking causes cardiovascular and respiratory health problems, the Florida legislature could limit delivery methods to protect the public. I call BS on that.

It does not matter what side of the political aisle you are on, Americans have learned that cannabis is a cure, not a cancer. Let’s hope Ron DeSantis learns that as well.

Our citizens voted for smokable medical marijuana. A lawmaker in the state house should not make that choice. You should make the call, by yourself, with your partner, in your own house. Nothing less than your inalienable right to free choice is at stake.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri Discusses AG Nominee Barr and Legalization on CBS News

Generic 18 January 2019 | 0 Comments

Earlier today, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri made an appearance on CBS News to discuss Attorney General Nominee William Barr’s recent comments regarding marijuana legalization and how he would handle states that have reformed their cannabis policies if he were confirmed as the next Attorney General.

“It really falls to Congress at this point to take the initiative and to deschedule marijuana entirely from the CSA so the 47 states that currently aren’t in compliance with that act don’t have this untenable position with the federal government…[By opposing legalization personally] Barr finds himself in a dwindling minority on this topic, recent polling shows about 68% of all Americans support ending prohibition and legalizing marijuana. There’s no putting the toothpaste back in the tube on this.” – NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri

WATCH:

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Legislation To Produce And Research Cannabis Introduced

Generic 17 January 2019 | 0 Comments

A bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers has introduced The Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019 (HR 601), to facilitate federally-approved clinical trials involving cannabis.

Click here to send a message to your Representative and urge them to support the measure. 

The act ends the University of Mississippi’s existing monopoly on the growth of cannabis for clinical research purposes, by requiring the licensing of additional manufacturers.

To date, the US National Institute on Drug Abuse designates the University of Mississippi to be the sole provider of marijuana for FDA-approved research. However, many of those familiar with their product have criticized its quality, opining that it possesses subpar potency, is often poorly manicured, and that it does not accurately reflect the wide variety of cannabis products and strains available to consumers.

As the result of a lawsuit, DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner in 2007 ruled that expanding the pool of federally licensed providers would be “in the public interest.” The agency ultimately rejected her decision. More recently, in 2016, the DEA changed its position and amended regulations in a manner to permit additional applicants to apply to federal licensure to grow marijuana. However, the United State’s Attorney General’s office has thus far failed to take action on any pending applications.

Other provisions in the measure explicitly permits VA physicians to provide information to patients regarding their eligibility in clinical trials, and provides a “safe harbor” for universities, clinicians, and patients participating in federally-approved trials from federal interference.

Click here to send a message to your federal lawmaker and urge them to support the measure. 

A similar version of this bill was passed in the House Judiciary Committee in 2018 yet was not taken up by the full chamber.

At the time the bill passed committee, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano praised the effort, saying, “The federal hurdles in place that currently discourage clinicians from engaging in clinical cannabis research have long been onerous and irrational. It is high time that lawmakers recognize this problem and take action to amend it so that investigators may conduct the same sort of high-quality clinical research with cannabis that they do with other substances.”

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Gubernatorial Report Card: Learn Where Your Governor Stands on Marijuana Policy

Generic 17 January 2019 | 0 Comments

US Governors Marijuana MapTo kick off the 2019 state legislative season, NORML is pleased to release our 2019 Gubernatorial Scorecard. This extensive database assigns a letter grade ‘A’ through ‘F’ to states’ governors based upon their comments and voting records specific to matters of marijuana policy.

“Following the publication of our 2018 Scorecard, there has been a dramatic shift in opinion among elected officials in favor of marijuana policy reform,” NORML’s Political Director Justin Strekal said. “Never before have we seen so many governors go on record and pledge their support for legalizing the responsible use of cannabis by adults. As a result, we expect there to be unprecedented levels of legislative activity at the state level surrounding the need to regulate the commercial cannabis market in 2019 and in 2020.”

Key Findings

Twenty-seven US governors received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (22 Democrats, 5 Republicans)

Of these, nine US governors – all Democrats – received an ‘A’ grade; this marks a significant increase since 2018, when only two governors received ‘A’ grades. They are:

Gavin Newsom: California
Jared Polis: Colorado
Ned Lamont: Connecticut
JB. Pritzker: Illinois
Gretchen Whitmer: Michigan
Tim Walz: Minnesota
Phil Murphy: New Jersey
Kate Brown: Oregon
Jay Inslee: Washington

Ten governors received a ‘B’ grade (9 Democrats, 1 Republican)

Eight governors received a ‘C’ grade (4 Republicans, 4 Democrats)

Fifteen governors – 14 Republicans and 1 Democrat – received a ‘D’ grade

Four governors – all Republicans – received a ‘F’ grade

Four governors received no grade because of insufficient data

Of the 23 Republican governors receiving a letter grade, only five (22 percent) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher

Of the 23 Democratic governors receiving a letter grade, 22 of them (96 percent) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher

Among the 20 governors taking office for the first time in 2019, six (30 percent) received an ‘A’ grade. All are Democrats.

Seven governors received a raise in their grade since the publication of NORML’s 2018 report. They are:

Jay Inslee – Democrat, Washington: to B+ to A
Andrew Cuomo – Democrat, New York: from C- to B+
Tom Wolf – Democrat, Pennsylvania: from B- to B
Ralph Northam – Democrat, Virginia: from B- to B
David Ige – Democrat, Hawaii: from C to C+
Jim Carney – Democrat, Delaware: from C to C+
Greg Abbott – Republican, Texas: from D- to C-

The Takeaway

There exists now, for the first time, significant political support among US governors for marijuana policy reform. However, this support is more partisan than ever before. While almost half of all Democratic governors are now on record in support of adult use regulation, no Republican governors publicly advocate for this policy. This partisan divide is not similarly reflected among the general public. According to national polling data compiled by Gallup in October 2018, 66 percent of the public – including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – favor legalization.

The results of the 2018 midterm elections also show that advocating for marijuana legalization is a successful campaign issue. Several newly elected governors – such as Ned Lamont of Connecticut, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, and Tim Walz of Minnesota – actively campaigned on a pledge to legalize the commercial cannabis market, while two additional governors – Gavin Newsom of California and Jared Polis of Colorado – have prominent histories as marijuana law reform advocates. One governor, New York’s Andrew Cuomo, moved decidedly in favor of legalization during his re-election campaign.

This shift in political support among governors bodes well for the prospects of the passage of successful legislative reforms in various states in 2019 and beyond. While to date only one state – Vermont – has moved to legalize adult marijuana use via legislation (as opposed to the passage of voter initiatives), NORML anticipates that as many as four to five additional states (e.g., Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Rhode Island) may similarly do so in the near future.

Click here to see the full report

 

Acknowledgments

This information is continually changing and was last updated 4/12/2018. If you have an additional public comment that we do not have a record of or any additional information please email politics@norml.org.

Important and timely publications such as this are only made possible when concerned citizens become involved with NORML. Please consider making a donation today so we may continue to work towards legalization and providing you the tools necessary to be an informed voter.

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Attorney General Nominee Commits To Leave State-Legal Marijuana Programs Alone

Generic 16 January 2019 | 0 Comments

In Senate testimony today, nominee for Attorney General William Barr committed to not use the limited resources of the Department of Justice to prosecute state-regulated and compliant marijuana businesses. His statements came response to questions from Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) — each of whom represent states where marijuana is legally regulated for either medical or recreational purposes.

“It is encouraging that William Barr pledged not to enforce federal marijuana prohibition against the majority of US states that have reformed their laws. With this commitment, Congress has a clear mandate to take action and end the underlying policy of federal criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “In an era when 47 states have laws on the books that defy the Schedule 1 status of cannabis, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective to try to put this genie back in the bottle.”

Supporters of reform efforts can easily contact their elected officials by visiting NORML’s Action Center.

In January of 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded what is known as the Cole Memo, a 2013 Justice Department memorandum, authored by former US Deputy Attorney General James Cole to US attorneys in all 50 states. This memorandum directed prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and not to prosecute those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale — provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

Thirty-three states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Moreover, an estimated 73 million Americans now reside in the ten states where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Additional states have passed laws specific to the possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for therapeutic purposes.

Members of Congress in recent years have approved amendments protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” However, this amendment does not provide protections to state-regulated activity governing activities specific to the adult use of marijuana.

Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.

Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.

To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue.

Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that over 149,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

Click here to contact your elected officials in support of pending reform efforts. 

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