Marijuana Law Reform Is A Political Opportunity — Not A Political Liability

Last January I proclaimed in the The Hill‘s Congress blog: “Marijuana law reform is no longer a political liability; it’s a political opportunity.” Ten months later it appears that an unprecedented number of state-elected officials are heeding the message. Here’s just a sample.
COLORADO: Last week the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice recommended legislators to substantially reduce marijuana penalties so that the possession of up to four ounces of pot would classified as a petty offense. Offenses involving greater amounts of cannabis (up to 16 ounces) would be reduced to a misdemeanor. State Attorney General John Suthers told the Denver Post that he supports the Commission’s recommendations which, if enacted, would make Colorado’s pot possession laws among the most lenient in the nation.
RHODE ISLAND: A special nine-member Senate panel met for the first time this week to debate revising the state’s criminal marijuana policies. The panel’s chair, Democrat Sen. Joshua Miller, said that the task-force will primarily focus on the subject of decriminalization, but that members will also likely debate the merits of taxing a regulating the adult use of cannabis. The panel’s recommendations to the legislature are due on January 10, 2010. In 2009, Rhode Island’s legislature became only the second to approve legislation licensing the establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries.
WISCONSIN: Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle recently announced his support for legislation that seeks to make Wisconsin the fourteenth state to allow for the legal use of medical cannabis. Both the Assembly and the Senate Public Health Committees are scheduled to hear testimony in favor of the legislation, known as the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, on Tuesday, December 15, 2009.
WASHINGTON: Incoming Seattle city attorney Peter Holmes announced this week that his office will no longer charge anyone with simple marijuana possession offenses. “We’re not going to bring any more (marijuana possession) charges,” he said. There are other more important, more pressing public safety matters in need of attention with the limited resources we have.” Holmes added that he supports legislation that stalled in 2009 that seeks to depenalize marijuana. Those proposals are expected to be heard by the legislature in 2010.
PENNSYLVANIA: Next month legislators will hold their first hearing — ever — on legalizing the use of medical cannabis. The House Committee on Health and Human Services will hear testimony on HB 1393, The Barry Busch Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act of 2009, on Wednesday, December 2, at 11am in Room 140 of the Main Capitol. Contact Philly NORML for further details.
ARKANSAS: Democrat Senator Randy Laverty announced this week that he is considering introducing legislation to lessen or eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses. Legislators in several other states, including New Hampshire and Texas, are also expected to debate marijuana legalization proposals in 2010.
CALIFORNIA: In the coming months legislators are expected to hold additional hearings on Assembly Bill 390, the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, which seeks to tax and regulate the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to those age 21 or older. The California Assembly Committee on Public Safety is anticipated to vote on the measure by late January. The vote will mark the first time that California, or the legislature of any state, has voted on the issue of cannabis regulation in over three decades.
By any standard, 2010 will be a historic year for legislative activity regarding marijuana law reform. Will you play a role in bringing common sense marijuana regulations to your community? Get active, get NORML, and be the change you want to see!

0 thoughts

  1. what about new york
    [Paul Armentano responds: Medical marijuana legislation will be heard in New York in 2010.]

  2. Bring back the Thursday updates NORML, please.
    I always looked forward to seeing Florida on the front page, even though it never was there.
    [Paul Armentano responds: NORML’s weekly legislative updates will begin again in January, but you can always check NORML’s Take Action page for the latest here:

  3. Whoa!!!! My kitchen table just slid clear across the floor! bong water everywhere! I think we’ve reached the tipping point…..

  4. Wow that was a great read, it gets me pretty pumped for next year. I have a question for anyone who is in the know; how close is California to having a ballot initiative on legalization? I thought I had heard there were attempts to get something like this started.
    [Paul Armentano responds: The final phase of the signature drive for the The Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 is underway now. It is anticipated that this measure will appear on the November 2010 ballot in California. You can read more about this effort here:

  5. Every week I read more positive news in the strive for cannabis regulation, and it’s great to see Arkansas starting to make progress.

  6. We’re about to make it happen for real out here in Wisconsin! Thanks to everyone who wrote/called their state reps! We’re not done yet, but we’re pretty damn close to wrapping this up. *fingers crossed*

  7. WOW ive never seen so many states getting in on at least talking about cannabis reform. This is going to drive the LEOS nuts. I can only imagine the things that will be said about this.They will not go quietly as we are seeing in L.A. with the DA. While i agree that the winds of change are upon us, this is going to get harder from here on out. there are alot of us who dont get involved,(Iam one) but now is the time for people like me to come out and support this. I live in Texas and i will send my congress people a letter asking them get busy on any cannabis reform legislation.
    [Paul Armentano responds: Keep in mind that these efforts are taking place at the state and local level. These are the politicians that you should be in frequent contact with. Please visit to contact them directly.]

  8. N.O.R.M.L. gives everyone the freedom to post without censorship , without passwords , without looking at the color of your skin . I have absolutely no affiliation to N.O.R.M.L. They do not have my phone number nor have they ever written me . They have not asked me to say this .
    Please support N.O.R.M.L.
    I have both financially and with words given my suport to N.O.R.M.L..
    N.O.R.M.L. is freedom .
    The same freedom that this Country was founded on .

  9. Thats awsome news, but i have not read one article about New York. Wasn’t there a bill introduced to congress? Gov. Patterson is having a really difficult time in New York bc of the budget. There should be some articles on New York and the progressive movement on the medical marijuana laws.

  10. WTF Norml? Why no love for New Jersey? We have a really good chance of getting our Compassionate Use bill passed into law RIGHT now during the lame duck session. You can find out more info on the Bill here:
    86% of NJ supports this. Right now, we need for Assemblyman Joseph J. Roberts to post this bill up for a vote. It’s expected to pass, and the Governor already said he’d sign it. You can send him an email through this link:
    These are very exciting times indeed as we are participating and watching history unfold right before our eyes. Just give New Jersey a little bit of the spotlight every now and again. It’s not as bad here as everyone makes it out to be 😉
    [Paul Armentano responds: WTF? NORML’s Chris Goldstein just met with Gov. Corzine and Christie re: AB 804. See his recent call to action here: NORML has also in the past few days sent various NJ-specific list-servs out to our NJ supporters in support of both AB 804 and the requested pardon for John Wilson. Please sign up to receive NORML’s e-mail alerts, which we target state-specifically, to stay up-to-date. Thanks!]

  11. Due to the idiots that elected our new governor,i fear NJ will not be anywhere on this list for quite some time, nor do I expect MMJ here either.

  12. …Oregon- Cannabis Tax act will legalize for those over 21. I am looking forward to this. I hope this passes, woo hoo!
    Oh and they also opened the Cannabis Cafe in NE? Portland for Medical Marijuana folks.

  13. Now you said New Hampshire and Texas also expected to debate marijuana legalization proposals in 2010. Is that medical marijuana legalization or are we talking about something like AB390 in California; a full on tax and regulate style legalization bill?
    [Paul Armentano responds: Regulation on adult use, not just medical use. Oregon will also be debating this issue in 2010.]

  14. Proclaim all politicains corrupt,greedy tools. I have. They have to prove to me they love this country and ALL people in it. They have to ignore all this Politically Correct horseshit and do what is right, on this issue and many others,before they gain my trust. If this meessage grows ,then maybe we will get some sanity in governemnt again.

  15. On Saturday a gentleman known as , *Gene Burns* of KGO Radio out of San Francisco will put on a show dedicated to the consumption of Wine & other alcoholic beverages . Yet , he calls Marijuana a …DRUG… i can almost hear him snickering as he says the word …D-R-U-G- in a demeaning way .
    Alcohol is the leading cause of traffic fatalities ( not Marijuana ) on our Highways not to mention all the health related problems that occur from its use .
    Alcohol is one of the leading causes of Child abuse , neglect & marriage break – up . Anyone who pushes Alcohol is a Drug pusher .This sends the wrong message to Children .
    Please call KGO Radio and demand a stop to this type of drug – pushing . If we can save the life , neglect and abuse of even one Child wouldn’t it be worth calling or writing KGO Radio ( found online )?
    Most often he does not take calls ( he & his sponsors do not want to hear the TRUTH ) on his Saturday show but , lately he has been on evenings .
    Phone 1 415 8080810 ( Please be nice , Polite & Couteous )
    Thankyou for your support –

  16. i would like to see federal smoking of marijuana-let the federal prisoners take a horticulture class-grow it indoors-then let state prisoners package it(they make enough license plates).
    sell it-tax it and take the funds from war on drugs and use it towards securing our borders(from illegal drug dealers).if you need any other ideas-my head is full of them!

  17. Hmm. Very nice, I’m getting very excited. I think the end is near for this ridiculous prohibition. Anyone heard any news for Michigan? We’ve got Medical Marijuana but there’s not really any regulations or anything like that so people are still too scared to even ask their doctors and the doctors are uneducated on the subject so they’re just as scared to recommend it. I’m hoping we hop on the band wagon after California(Voting to tax and regulate)seeing as how we are the 4th worse state in the country economically.

  18. Thanks NORML for the legislative update. You people ROCK!!! I will be doing my part here in Arkansas. I wonder if Barney Frank and Ron Paul are having any success with their Industrial hemp bill.


  20. So now we have 7 states total with new legislation,and 4 new states joining in the good fight. My gracious, I mean – Arkansas? Wisconsin? This is what they refer to when they say “the proof is in the pudding”. The pudding this time, would be the truth. I mean, I am absolutely bowled over by the two I mentioned above – two of the most conservative states. Can you imagine how country music will start sounding? We all know for a fact that cannabis makes one more creative, so I am thrilled at just this thought alone (BTW, I am a HUGE country fan). Another thing is – will Wisconsin become a huge farming state for hemp? The new jingle could be “Puff, Wisconsin. Smile, Wisconsin. We grow can-na-bis. Mm, Wisconsin. Aah, Wisconsin. We have Ta-co Bell.”

  21. Can’t wait for Alabama. We are always last for everything. Keeping my thumbs crossed for good ole’ loretta nall.

  22. What is florida debating? i saw a video in the “stash” that highlighted Florida and a few others as “considering legalization”

  23. “welcome to the United Snakes, land of the theif, home to the slave; the grand imperial guard where the dollar is scared and power is god”

  24. When John Walters said finding a pot smoker in jail is like finding a unicorn, he basically admitted that we should not be locking people up for smoking. The old pot laws are starting to look draconian; most everything I read in the media is positive for marijuana legalization. It seems rare today to see a journalist bash pot or legalization.
    With as many states that are changing this fast, and looking at medical of already 14 states, the Feds will be forced to reconsider prohibition. I really think pot is going to be very legal at least somewhere in the USA before or no later than 2012.

  25. It is critical that we not let up. I have called Federal state representative just last week. I commit that prior to thanks giving, I will reach out to my representatives to the state legistlature. I believe we have enough representation to sway an election and I plan to question any politician on his stance on the decrimanliztion of marijuna. Please continue to study and work. I think we may be closer than we realize.

  26. The prohibitionist lies and special interest groups for alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical, and prisons are getting backed into a corner they cannot escape from. It’s only a matter of time now. Keep up the fight!
    Common sense over stupidity, truth over lies! Legalize!

  27. I sincerely wish with every ounce of strength in my heart that TN would at least look into Medical. I believe the bible belt is too strong here 🙁
    I cant seem to find any recent info on anything in tn from any site. The latest bill was dumped into a committee. I have been sending emails and phone calls to members on my state legislature and no one has answered me back.
    How terrible for TN. 🙁

  28. I am a medical marijuana patient with Multiple Sclerosis/Seizures in Ohio,I know that Ohio does not have a Medical Marijuana program set in place and I want change that!! 🙂 All my doctors told me to use cannabis as my medicine(after they seen me not getting no better from using the Opiate pills, that they force down our throat!)So thats what I do,I use marijuana to relax myself because it really does work!I got myself out of a wheelchair and now have a quality of life put back in me where ,”Im looking forward to each day!! 🙂 ” With the medicine I was prescriped,I just kept getting sicker and sicker to the point of not being able to get even out of bed!!The pain is UNBEARABLE ,which only cannabis has helped me instead of suffering everyday of my life!I say lets get this Medical Marijuana legal in every state of this great country,so no one has to suffer just like I have been doing for some time(till I tried marijuana)All my doctors have told me to use marijuana as my medicine and Im so grateful for them!! 🙂 The wheels are turning in our favor and Im glad to be part of it!! :)Peace to you all!! 🙂

  29. this is great news, legalization is becoming less and less unrealistic, I have not yet been very involved in getting active about legalization but I now deffinitly plan on sending a letter to my governor. BTW any news on legalization coming to ohio?

  30. you know there are a lot of hard working people in California getting name’s for the ballot initiative every time i go shoping im asked if im a voter and if i will sign keep up the good work people, Did i a member in good standing in the GOP A { R } a evil Republican sign YES i did I dont use it but it should be free to use and any real Republican should feel the same way Freedom 1st

  31. I found this on the site .
    I went to the site that the patent is on, its there. I downloaded the PFD on it.
    Now I dont know if this patent site is legit or not, but if it is then isnt this important for people to know? Do you guys of MPP,Norml know of this patent? I would think you do, but just in the event you dont. Other wise if this is real, everyone should know. Knowledge is power people.
    Below is what is posted on the Phoenixtears site.
    The Significance of US Govt Cannabinoid Patent 6,630,507
    Posted by Brinna
    When I was at the Patients Out of Time Medical Cannabis conference in Asilomar this last April, I overheard a remark that startled me: “The US Government has a patent on cannabis.” I couldn’t locate the person who made the comment, so I went home and did some online research. Sure enough, patent number 6,630,507 states unequivocally that cannabinoids are useful in the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of diseases including auto-immune disorders, stroke, trauma, Parkinson’s, Alzeheimer’s and HIV dementia. The patent, awarded in 2003, is based on research done by the National Institute of Health, and is assigned to the US Dept. of Health and Human Services.
    So, why is this important?
    Here is a legal document, in the public domain, which flies in the face of the US Government’s stated position with regard to the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance having no “currently accepted medical use”. Believe me, citing this patent stops the “medical marijuana is a myth” advocates dead in their tracks. They simply cannot argue with it.
    The forces that would keep cannabis illegal are vocal and well funded, but they are not impervious to persistent effort. The lynch pin in the War on Drugs is cannabis. Without the suppression and interdiction of this popular and widely used substance, there simply would not be enough “illegal drug use” going on to justify the huge amount of money and resources spent on “fighting drugs.”
    I believe disseminating information about this patent as widely as possible, and to as many people as possible is a crucial strategy in loosening that lynch pin, and changing public perception about cannabis. I, personally, downloaded the first page of this patent and sent a copy (with the assignee highlighted) to every one of my elected representatives. I have also included information about it in “letters to the editor” referencing any cannabis related news story I come across, I use it as an argument in every State medical cannabis and decriminalization initiative, and have mentioned it in all my comments to online posts and blogs of the same nature. I would be delighted if everyone who believes the War on Drugs is a failed and destructive policy, would do the same, until the existence of this irrefutable patent becomes widely held public knowledge, and government ’s rhetoric is shown to be as hollow as a busted drum.
    [Editor’s note: NORML first reported on the patents given to cannabis-related compounds in March 2008.]

  32. Heres something I found interesting.
    THC (tetrahydrocannabiol) is another of the cannabinoids that has been shown to be neuroprotectant in cell cultures, but this protection was believed to be mediated by interatction at the cannabinoid receptor, and so would be accompanied by undesired psychotropic side effects.
    Although it has been unclear whether cannabimimetric activity plays a role in neuroprotection against glutamate induced neurological injury, the teaching in this field has clearly been that a cannabinoid must at least be a antagonist at the NMDA receptor to have neuroprotective effect. Hence cannabinol, a cannabinoid devoid of the psychoactive effect has not been useful as a neuroprotectant.
    This above is from the patent language. It got me thinking. I’m no brain,but from what I can understand about the above statement is that They dont use THC because as it states,”cannabinol, a cannabinoid devoid of the psychoactive effect has not been useful as a neuroprotectant”, regular cannabinoids ,if used, will make you a little high, make you feel good. Now what is wrong with feeling good if your sick?
    This also got me thinking of marinol. It must be a cannabinol, hence the synthethic version of THC or regular cannabinoids, you know -the ones that make you a bit high and feel good. So if I understand this correctly…marinol is the cannabinol they speak of,which makes it useless. If so, why are they putting a useless produce on the market to sell?
    If anyone reading this sees anything I’m missing or not understanding, please enlighten me.

  33. Re the editor’s comment on post #37 – I think what R.O.E. was trying to say is this: the government’s patent directly contradicts their classification of cannabis, and in a significant enough way that we should be able to make a court case out of it. If cannabis has no medical utility, as per its schedule I classification, then any patent on its medicinal properties is fraudulent, given that these properties have been determined not to exist. If the government justifies the patent by saying it is trying to cover its bases because such properties might exist, then obviously its schedule I classification is unjustified. They can’t have it both ways. I realize a similar court case was already tried – I forget the specific name, but NORML was involved, so I’m sure you can supply the name. The case sought to reclassify cannabis on the grounds that the current classifications was against the weight of the scientific evidence. Our side lost, but from my reading of the case, the Court did not actually decide whether the classification was justifiable, but whether the Court could rectify such a problem. In other words, the Supreme Court read the case as asking whether the Court could reclassify cannabis. The Court answered that question properly; no, the Court cannot reclassify cannabis, as that function has been explicitly designated by Congress. However, that’s not the question that should have been addressed. I believe what NORML wanted the Court to answer was the question had the drug czar?(I don’t remember the specific person who determines classifications, and don’t want to break from writing to look it up, maybe some help from the editor?) properly performed his duties. His duties are to determine drug classifications, in part through a review of the scientific literature. If a drug’s classification contradicts scientific consensus about its value or danger, it would seem he didn’t fulfill his duty. Since this question would be an administrative determination of whether a government official had fulfilled his assigned duties, it would be fully within the Supreme Court’s power, as the highest administrative court of the land, to make such a determination. I’ve wondered for a while why this case wasn’t brought back to take advantage of this distinction. Seems to me that a government held patent which directly contradicts the government’s determination of cannabis’ medical value would really help to make our case.

  34. would like to know where you found this lil’ tid bit if info. R.E.O.
    So I can study it more………..

  35. What’s funny is: back in the ninety’s when I was in HighSchool…..Marijuana was NEVER spoken of on T.V.; unless U were watching one of those “partnership for B.S. america” commericals. The airwaves are now buzzing with Debates and rumors of legalization……
    shit is pretty cool man.

  36. Good work for those within those states. As for my state, Illinois…you better not fail me!!!! 14th would be awesome but so would 15th lol =)

  37. When he first visited the United States in 1921, Albert Einstein wrote of America’s ban on booze: “The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law … For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.”
    That’s as true today as it was then.

  38. I am so glad that the USA is starting to see sense in this madness that is prohibition… I am in the UK and since our Government sacked its chair of the drugs advisory committee for daring to say that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis, we are all living in fear of a crack down or backlash against us cannabis users.
    I never cease to be amazed at the propaganda and blatant lie that the British media and politicians spout about the most wonderful herb….it makes me want to cry with frustration.
    Hopefully, where the USA leads, the UK will follow.
    I wish we had an organisation like NORML in the UK, but our laws are potentially so punitative (up to 5 years in jail for possession of any amount) that many users here are too scared to raise their heads and risk losing everything by campaigning…they have us in a logic trap…..

  39. It’s unfortunate that the (greatest generation) and many young persona are brainwashed by anti-weed TV comercials and what they are being taught in school. Mississippi will be the only state still not doing anything 30 years after everyone else is smokin’. Legaliz it.

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