The Changing Nature of Marijuana Politics – and How You Can Help

As I finish my first month as a NORML staff member, I am in awe of the incredible group of individuals that comprise NORML’s network; I’m also in awe of the political momentum that we presently enjoy.

NORML held a Legislative ‘Fly-In’/Lobby Day in Washington, DC just before I began my tenure here. Attendees visited with their US Senators and urged them to vote in favor of the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, permitting veterans the ability to utilize medical cannabis. The vote marked the first time the U.S. Senate had voted in favor of medical marijuana.

House members have also held important votes in recent weeks, including passing the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which limits the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed operations that are acting in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states.

A couple weeks ago, Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA), often known for their opposition to marijuana law reform, held a hearing calling for expedited cannabis research. U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow testified at the hearing and acknowledged the need for systemic federal changes, including the allowance of non-government sources of cannabis for clinical research.

Significant changes in cannabis policy are also afoot at the state level. Oregon enacted their voter approved legalization measure on July 1st and became the fourth state to permit adults to legally possess limited quantities of marijuana for their own personal use. (Separate legislation recently enacted by the Oregon legislature also defelonizes various marijuana-related offenses and provides for the expungement of past marijuana convictions.) Delaware lawmakers recently elected to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses, while Louisiana lawmakers have just amended their toughest-in-the nation repeat offender laws. A marijuana decriminalization measure is awaiting approval from the Governor in Illinois, while legislation to permit medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii also awaits final passage. Florida’s largest county, Miami-Dade, also recently approved a civil citation program for minor marijuana offenses, becoming the first county to do so in the state.

I choose to highlight these recent successes because they were made possible, in part, by you and your donations to NORML’s Political Action Committee. As we head into election season, the role NORML PAC will play in electing politicians who support sensible marijuana law reform policies will grow to a record level. But we need your help getting there. Please donate $25 or more to the NORML PAC today and understand you have contributed to bringing an end to marijuana prohibition by helping to elect responsible, marijuana friendly politicians who will support legislation that you care about.

NORML is now receiving more requests for funding from elected officials and political hopefuls than ever before. By making a donation to the NORML PAC, you are strengthening our ability to help elect these cannabis friendly politicians and to support our allies at the local, state and federal level.

I’d like to thank you in advance for making your contribution to NORML PAC and I hope you continue to reflect on the importance of electing those who share in NORML’s goals of ending marijuana prohibition.

25 thoughts

  1. Of course we are getting the attention of nonusers. We are a group of gentle people who have found the way of enjoying our existance, and reducing the stress in this hyped up modern world by use of a safe natural plant. Keep up the great work Danielle, we are all thankful to have you onboard.

  2. For Cancer patients, for kids suffering from Seizures, and for so many others, safe, legal, access to Medical Marijuana is a matter of life and death. Please call the whitehouse comment line at (202) 456-1111 and ask that the President have Marijuana removed from Schedule 1. Call every day, and ask everyone you know to call every day, and to keep calling, for however long it takes, until he does it. With luck the effort will go viral.

  3. I live Tennessee I wish it was legal here, I feel if your not on probation u should be able to use marijuana after a hard days work just as if you were to drink a beer, but without liver damage or having a hangover,all it does is make u happy and forget about everyday stress its our life.

  4. I would like there to be an East Coast equivalent to California, a state where the doctor is allowed basically to recommend cannabis for anything they think it will help with. I’d like the Pennsylvania House to expand upon its copying and pasting of Senate Bill 3–it’s available online in Word and PDF–and add many ailments to the list and language to allow a doctors recommend it for anything they see fit. I want Pennsylvania to add language to legalize seeds and allow MMJ patients and/or their caregivers to grow their own. I want patient collectives and clubs like in California. I want labs to be allowed to process the plant material right away to make tinctures and whatever that patients need. Smoking should be allowed, although with the quality of vaporizers these days I’m not sure why anybody would want to smoke, so vaporizers need to be affordable. I want Pennsylvania to include that employers can’t fire patients for off-job usage and that employers have to prove on-job use, and the tests they use have to show positive ONLY at the time of the test, so saliva or pupil dilation or something other than a piss test.

    Journalist Jon Baer wrote the article at the link below laying out the pathetic democratic deficit that Pennsylvania has, something used to refer to the European countries like satellite countries of the Soviet Union back in the day whose populace wanted western democratic freedoms and societies but whose leaders were beholden to the Politburo in Moscow and resisted any such change/progress.

    Pennsylvanians want a really good and broad medical marijuana law, not some restrictive shit the prohibitionists are planning on dishing up to us, like it’s some kind of bone and that we should be happy we even got anything at all. Not only are Pennsylvania politicians dragging their feet on MMJ, pushing it constantly off to the next session and the next, but they always manage to whittle it down to total shit with amendments so that the proponents have to start all over again rewriting the law from scratch. The state has the biggest disparity in funding between wealthy school districts and poor city school districts, that it just breaks my heart to see this kind of Jim Crow manifesting itself. Just because the state is north of the Mason-Dixon Line doesn’t mean there is no Jim Crow. Turzai was the Republican politician crowing (pun intended) on camera that the state’s voter ID laws were geared to give the election to the Republicans. You’ll see what I mean if you read Jon Baer’s article, link below:

    [Paul Armentano responds: “I would like there to be an East Coast equivalent to California, a state where the doctor is allowed basically to recommend cannabis for anything they think it will help with.” This is, in fact, the policy in Washington, DC. Similar legislation proposed this year in Maine narrowly failed.]

  5. I was so inspired by all of the great people that I met at the legislative fly-in and the fact that we had a real impact on our representatives, I called the board of directors of my local chapter and was cc’d into the secretary position soon after arriving back home. After what I witnessed in DC and the medical program in California, I truly believe that this is the time for making a difference. Wisconsin has a two strike policy on Cannabinoids resulting in a felony for simple possession on your second offense. There has been extreme opposition here and now with all of the new social and political movements around the country there seems to be a new dawn of acceptance on the horizon. Similar bills to what is now being reviewed and debated in our state senate have been tabled in the past. Call your representatives no matter where you are and tell them that prohibition has failed! Tell them that you support the legalization of medicinal and recreational cannabis! Please donate to your local chapter and national NORML accordingly!

  6. Thanks for weighing in on the East Coast California. Yes, DC could be that, but is not that because federal politicians fiddled with the funding of its implementation. Unfortunately for the people who live in DC it does not yet have the status of a state.

    I don’t want to downplay the accomplishments of reform groups such as NORML in the progress they have made in DE, but I meant an actual state so that Chaffetz and other federal politicians could not directly meddle with the public monies to prevent implementation. So long as DC is on hold–and who knows how long (Republican) prohibitionist politicians at the federal level can hold the law in abeyance–there is no functioning East Coast California.

    Pennsylvania, the House, has not yet finalized the legislation to go to the House floor for a vote, so there is still time to expand the ailments to just about anything a doctor recommends it for. I didn’t see anything in there for PTSD or even for stress and anxiety to replace prescription meds that give you suicidal thoughts, etc. Again, I would like to see patients & caregivers being allowed to grow their, patient and caregiver collectives and clubs without all the red tape a dispensary supplier has to jump through, legalization of seeds, clones, and employment guarantees, and mandates that employers can only use drugs testing techniques for cannabis that show impairment at the time of the test, i.e. saliva or pupil dilation tests that are actually accurate.

    The American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a disorder. They back medical marijuana, but so far they are taking a wait and see, data collection approach to adult recreational, even recommending to the feds that they change (remove cannabis altogether, I guess) from the CSA.

    As a cancer patient for years already, I’d like to extend my life and improve the quality of my life by having the option of legal cannabis in Pennsylvania instead of having basically to do without my medicine. East Coast states are making medical cannabis laws that are so restrictive that many patients who could benefit simply can’t, and they’re delaying the actual brick and mortar dispensaries for years and years, with cronyism about who gets the licenses in that they don’t allow personal cultivation, clones, seeds or patient/caregiver collectives and clubs.

    I do sincerely thank you for your progress in DC, but the law is held in abeyance, and the sheer size of the territory and population of an entire state positively affects so many more people while being a MAJOR psychological victory over cannabis prohibition.

    So you have anybody in Harrisburg rewriting the House Bill to make that happen? Pols there are on vacation right now.

  7. Treating my asbestos poisoning with cannabis has kept me alive and active for 25 year past my prescribed death date. Will cannabis ever receive the respect it deserves?

  8. From Oreeeeegon…
    To Waaaashington
    Our work…
    Aint done…
    Free the Heeeerb for everyone…

    To DC
    From sea-sea
    To shining sea
    Let’s Free Seed
    Stop Hate-Greed
    & Tax-Paid Bleed
    We will Lead
    A Good Deed
    So Schools Read
    Lord when did I feed
    You in Prisons Freed
    For Quota’s need
    We Hatebreed
    On Justice Peed
    Spread Love seed
    Grow the Weed
    And proceed
    To succeed…

    From Ooooregon…
    To Waaaashington…
    Our Love…
    Aint done…
    Free the Herb for Everyone’

  9. I realize that DC’s MMJ is up and running, but since the adult recreational is held in abeyance people who live in nearby states without MMJ laws or where the MMJ laws are so restrictive that they don’t qualify can’t just go to DC and get their medicine at an adult recreational shop, just so I clarify where I’m coming from on my previous posts in this thread.

    [Paul Armentano responds: To clarify, the medical marijuana law in the District is separate legislation than the recreational use measure. This legislation was amended last fall to eliminate the need for a qualifying condition. Thus, a DC-licensed physician can recommend cannabis therapy at his/her discretion under DC’s medical marijuana program. The broader recreational use initiative is separate legislation, which was enacted in November. That legislation took effect in January. Both laws are now in effect in the District.]

  10. Prohibitionists actually believe they can transcend human nature and produce a better world. They allow only one doctrine, an impossible to attain drug free society. All forms of dissent, be they common sense, scientific, or constitutional are simply ignored, and their proponents vehemently persecuted.
    During alcohol prohibition (1919-1933), all profits went to enrich thugs, and other criminals. While battling over turf and position many people died on inner-city streets. Corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary soared clean off the scale. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have been far more wisely allocated. On top of all the prosecution, and budget busting incarceration costs, billions in taxes and other revenue were lost. Finally, in 1929 the economy collapsed. Does that sound familiar?

  11. We have nonviolent marijuana offenders serving sentences of life without parole. I love to see the progress on legalization. I’d also like to see these nonviolent citizens be released before they die. It’s an unpleasant subject. Thanks for all you do. beth

  12. I am an exile from Tennessee living in Michigan for the medical marijuana that I can obtain legally here in Michigan. I use it for a host of ailments that are mainly caused by my stint in the USMC during the Vietnam war. The VA gives me a sack full of drugs with a host of horrible side effects that does not work. Marijuana has allowed me to have a life without pharmaceuticals, but I am a criminal in Tennessee if I use marijuana. I just want to go back to the hills and my family and be able to use the only thing that helps my ailments. I did my duty for my country, now it’s my countries turn to let me go home. Semper Fi

  13. This kind of delay, delay, delay like in New York is exactly why I want the MMJ law in Pennsylvania to allow patients/caregivers to grow their own with basically no red tape and low fees or no fees, allow formation of MMJ collectives and clubs, plus workplace protections, testing for impairment at the time of the test, MMJ use not a reason to deny someone employment as it’s part of their treatment for a disability in whole or in part, keep 2nd Amendment rights even if MMJ patient, legal seeds & clones for patients/caregivers to grow their own right away because states are dragging this out.

    See link below to source:

    One Year Later, Patients & Families Demand Emergency Access to Medical Marijuana in New York

  14. @Jay,
    The Kochs are losing their petro patents to legalized hemp industries growing in California, Colorado and Kentucky for the first time in more than half a century due to our persistent citizen lobbying combined with some power players in NORML PAC like George Soros, Jeff Bezos and members of Congress and presidential candidates who have made clear decisions to make marijuana legalization a campaign issue for 2016.
    The Kochs shut the government down a couple of years back to squeeze out subsidies and manipulate the Farm Bill and yet the hemp research amendment still passed through Congress. So despite their Oligarchy, despite the fact they purchased the original timber and petrochemical patents from Dupont in 2004 that outlawed hemp and marijuana way back in 1937, and despite they don’t want their patents in Georgia-Pacific, Kraft, Altria, stainmaster carpets, asphalt, dixie cups and so on from lowering in price by competing with a legalized hemp industry, we are succeeding in legalizing anyway.

    So no, Wisconsin won’t legalize when the Kochs say so, but when WE make our Congressman DO so. Go visit your Congressman. Politely educate them about how voting against cannabis legalization won’t get them reelected, no matter how much hush money the Kochs throw at them. Thats a fact and a promise. We’re not fooled by their chump money they throw at “think tanks” that are allegedly pro-marijuana while they buy up politicians for prohibition in bulk. (Too bad all that money in the Brookings Institute backfired on you, isn’t it David Koch? )

    During the early Marijuana Madness of the 1930s when Harry Anslinger teamed up with his father in law leading the Department of the Forestry and his uncle, then secretary of the Treasury, to use racism to define hemp the same as marijuana, he relied on America ‘s ignorance and hatred for the aquisition of resources and property. By grouping hemp in the same definition, the price of lumber, freely accessible from America’s Federally “protected” forests was artificially inflated. New patents like Nylon would make DuPont rich without a cheap domestic supply of hemp available. The oil industry could make plastics from their crude oil supplies instead of using cellulose plastics from hemp as Henry Ford had originally intended with his first model T made and fueled entirely from hemp. Oil prices would have plummeted with hemp fields growing next to chemical plants, refineries and factories.

    But times have changed. We all have smartphones to research and call our Congressman… Supplies of oil are finite and vulnerably unstable and corn failed us for ethanol…

    When Nixon’s Shaffer Comission reported that marijuana was innocuous, not worth incarceration and even treated brain tumors way back in 1970, Nixon promptly ignored the results, riding on the momentum of Americans scapegoating drugs for our socioeconomic inequality and violence.

    But times have changed… We can laugh with John Oliver as he breaks down the whole concept of American asset forfeitures, uncover empty “courtrooms” run by corrupt prosecutors that steal with impunity and without due process… Our Congressman are touring prisons and our President is ordering the reduction of mandatory minimum sentencing. The momentum is moving to treat our drug addictions and violence as health issues and not as law enforcement issues, with programs like L.E.A.D. Spreading from city to city, allowing domestic issues and the mentally ill to be dealt with humane social services instead of police brutality and incarceration.

    When Jack Herrer wrote the Emperor Wears No Clothes, and revealed the political links to Anslinger and the utility of cannabis to the human condition, he lived long enough only to see the first ripples of legalization from medical marijuana in 1996 when American Doctors bravely published that the endocannabinoid system even existed.

    But my how the ripples have grown… Or as a wise old Indian woman once told me; “Some one has to start them…”

    Today we are citizen lobbying our Congressman like the waves on the beach, and prohibition stands now before us like a prison made of sand, and the truth like the rising full moon over high tide…

    Foolish Pharisee;
    We will not be fooled by your prison quotas, your asset forfeitures, or your false pretense for “border security,” or “national security…” Clean the inside of the cup and the outside of the cup will also be clean… ” And for what do you forfeit our assets if the cost is the forfeit of your soul?

    We will legalize cannabis, tear down private prisons for profit and build schools out of fields filled with undulating waves of hemp. We will even love our enemies, and provide them the food and education they unwittingly denied themselves… For in the words of his faithful followers when they asked Jesus, “Lord , when did we see you when sick or in prison and give you food or clothes?” And for those of you, all children of one God, who are still struggling to free the sufferers and the unjustly incarcerated by the evil bonds of prohibition, to you, the Lord said “What you did for the least of these, my brethren, you did it for me.”

  15. While modern science and government claim that the human mind is an electrical state of the brain and weed affects that circuitry, I claim that the mind cannot fit inside such a box and so the Prohibition issue needs to be revisited (redressed as in the First Amendment). The government has therefore harmfully overextended its role by delaying mental health research and economic reform, plus personal privacy rights by confusingly associating the use of an ancient herb (the Ninth Amendment allows us vices) with a disease to contain (unreasonable search and seizure since the weed user is not sick, Fourth Amendment). I guess the problem here is that none of the big wigs reads the Bill of Rights anymore, but it is a contract in writing to which each official has sworn to uphold!

  16. Hi Danielle,
    As a long time reader of this blog I just want to welcome you here, and say that your blog posts have been a really great addition and I’ve enjoyed reading them. Keep up the good work!

  17. In addition to donating to the NORML cause, it is extremely important to vote out the prohibitionist political candidates! Most recently, another Republican prohibitionist has announced that he is running for president: Scott Walker

    What is it with these Republicans? With the sole exception of Rand Paul, I don’t think any of the Republican candidates are worthy of more than a seconds worth of consideration…

    According to Scott Walker (who subscribes to the gateway theory) says: “Marijuana should remain illegal because most folks with marijuana wouldn’t be sitting around a wedding reception smoking marijuana”.

    What an idiot!!!

  18. Todd, the way you explain your idea seems so odd to me, but you are 100% correct, there is a whole aspect about marijuana prohibition–it is illegal on several constitutional issues–yet our courts, the folks that are supposed to experts, keep siding with the illegal War on Some Drugs and Certain People. Why are the courts staffed by people without knowledge of Marijuana, yet feel entitled to make endless judgments about marijuana users??? This aspect of having no relieve from the courts, just goes to show it is just a show. A marijuana victimization show, “You’re (impossibly) hurting US with your marijuana and now we can hurt you back” victim-seeking evil I despise, when does the system start making “justice”? Or is justice a criminal activity?

  19. “What is it with these Republicans?”

    Umm, I think in their world it is only half past 1976. They still haven’t figured out what happened in Vietnam.

  20. @Dave;
    The judges are not ignorant, they’re purchased by “campaign donations” and asset forfeitures. And if they’re an appointed Federal Judge they have to scratch the President ‘s back to keep their job.
    Until we make our Congressman stop paying prisons with quotas, prosecutors and Governors with asset forfeitures and judges with kickbacks freedom will remain a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained, and the Drug War will never end.

  21. Prisons need to be paid based on their rehabilitation, not their quotas. And when they run out of prisoners? Instead of cutting the $10million federal grant if the private prison owner doesn’t maintain %90 capacity; Turn that building into an educational community center for programs like L.E.A.D.!

    Right now in Texas the police are on a rampant campaign to pull anyone over for anything (dirty license plate, brown skin and a decal of the Virgen de Guadalupe…) and throw immigrants into those prisons they built in south Texas for quotas and federal profit. It’s like nothing I’ve never seen before; Look Mexican? Pull’m over. One cop just stopped my mother for a cracked passenger mirror, said “oh, you have blue eyes..” And LEFT! And the son of a bitch was Mexican too! Immigrants cant get a driver’s license in the State of Texas like they do in California, so off they go to some jail in Pearsall just to squeeze $5 grand for bail, another 5 for the fees and another 5 to 10 for the lawyer. Wait… Who are the criminals again?

    Since its peak summer there are less child drug war refugees crossing up from Honduras and El Salvador so the private prisons holding women and children in south Texas are struggling to meet capacity. If you’re a private prison owner and your $10million Federal Grant is at risk just for meeting %90 capacity, what’s a million dollar kickback to Governor Abbot to stir law enforcement up for some quotas and asset forfeitures? Just get prosecutors to throw the judges out of the courtroom, install a margarita machine and call it a slush fund! (YouTube John Oliver-Asset Forfeitures). Besides, there ‘s no way to investigate the Governor now without a special committee because the State Congress took the corruption investigation unit out of the DA’s office and gave that authority to investigate the Governor to the Texas Rangers… Which makes sense of course, because the Texas Rangers report to and obey the Governor. It’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house, but in this case, the fox has a tax-payer funded margarita machine.

    So private prisons for profit are splitting up hard working families for profit while murderers and rapists go free and un investigated. Even worse, not even one prison in the U.S. Is drug free. ZERO.
    And as if it wasn ‘t bad enough, our prisons are such a failure that now prisoners are escaping from New York to Mexico. (Although to be fair, El Chapo Guzman was never really in “prison” per se. Nice cover by the Mexican government building that “mile long tunnel.” A drug lord just can’t fake a good prison sentence these days! Gotta fight all the Drug Warriors and loudmouthed Trumps out of New York and Washington. It ‘s a poisonous business this narco-trafficking… So Lose the pesticides and let’s get legal already!)

    The only way I see around this mess is to donate to NORML PAC, L.E.A.D. and make asset forfeitures, prison quotas and the failed drug war front and center in our upcoming elections.

    What is the saying in criminal justice? “Never a good deed goes unpunished.” I guess that means a little citizen lobbying too. Hello Dr. Evil… :-/

  22. I believe every blue state will be legal by 2020, 2024 at the max. Red states, maybe a few by 2200, another one or two by 4202.

  23. The mega Rx companies advertise POISON on TV! They admit to them being potentially lethal in their disclaimers.

    Advertize cannabis on TV! The disclaimer can say: “Cannabis is a naturally grown plant that does not require addititives of any kind prior to use.

    Cannabis has been proven to change the users attitude towards negativity. Be cautious when driving or opetating machinery until you become used to finding yourself driving along a road you’ve never seen in your life or being overly productive. Cannabis users have reported sudden bouts of uncontrolled laughter, acceptance of others and an extreme desire to eat cheese and grape products while using Cannabis. It is virtually impossible to overdose on Cannabis. Not a single death has beem atributed to ther use of cannabis in it’s known 10,000 year history.
    Don’t bother asking your doctor about Cannabis. Simply plant some quality hemp seed and enjoy!”

  24. The mega Rx companies advertise POISON on TV! They admit to them being potentially lethal in their disclaimers.

    Advertize cannabis on TV! The disclaimer can say: “Cannabis is a naturally grown plant that does not require addititives of any kind prior to use.

    Cannabis has been proven to change the users attitude towards negativity.

    Be cautious when opetating machinery until you become used to finding yourself becoming overly productive.

    If you must drive while undet the influence Cannabid, Don’t forget to bring your car.

    Cannabis users have reported sudden bouts of uncontrolled laughter, acceptance of others and an extreme desire to eat cheese and grape products while using Cannabis.

    It is virtually impossible to overdose on Cannabis. Not a single death has beem atributed to the use of Cannabis in it’s known 10,000+ year history.

    Don’t bother asking your doctor about Cannabis. Simply plant some quality hemp seed and enjoy!

    Cannabis: It’s about f***ing time!’ 😉

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