Marijuana Law Reform Efforts Advance in States Despite a Hostile Attorney General

As tensions between AG Sessions and federal lawmakers continues to grow, proponents of marijuana legalization are finding new allies in state legislatures around the country. Despite the recent move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the Cole Memo, a 2013 DOJ memorandum that allowed state sanctioned marijuana business to thrive despite the quagmire between state and federal laws, lawmakers in several states are advancing marijuana reform legislation.

Reject AG Sessions’ Efforts to Revert to the Failed Criminal Policies of the ‘Just Say No’ Era.

Within hours of the rollout of the DOJ’s new policy, lawmakers in Vermont passed a depenalization bill out of the House and Senate with overwhelming support and it’s now headed to Governor’s office. With Governor Scott already promising to sign the measure into law, it’s safe to say that Vermont will surely be the newest thorn in the side of an already agitated Sessions. As if the news from Vermont isn’t frustrating enough for the Attorney General, House lawmakers in New Hampshire also passed legislation that would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and up. And Thursday, members of the New York State Assembly heard hours of testimony in support of adult use regulation.

In addition to the advancement of marijuana law reform legislation in Vermont and New Hampshire, a number of other states such as Kentucky, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Delaware, New Hampshire, Virginia, Missouri and New Mexico will also be debating several marijuana-related bills during their 2018 legislative sessions. To support these legislative efforts, members of Virginia NORML, NORML KC, NORML of Florida, Lehigh Valley NORML, NORML Women of Washington, Pittsburgh NORML, Ohio NORML, Missouri NORML, Illinois NORML, Delaware NORML, Kentucky NORML, Maryland NORML, New Mexico NORML, Wyoming NORML, Springfield NORML and Greater St. Louis NORML will be meeting with their state representatives to encourage support for marijuana reform legislation

With the help of NORML chapters, 2018 could prove to be a very successful year for marijuana law reform efforts.

Virginia NORML

Taking a more conservative approach than lawmakers in Vermont and New Hampshire, lawmakers in the Commonwealth of Virginia are considering both medical marijuana and decriminalization bills this session. While there hasn’t been any notable criticisms of the DOJ’s new policy from the state legislature, Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA) recently introduced HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act which would gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML had this to say about the current political climate.

“Attorney General Sessions isn’t stopping Virginia from moving forward in the 2018 legislative session with both medical cannabis expansion and decriminalization. We have strong, bipartisan representatives working on marijuana policy in Congress, Reps. Beyer, Garrett, Griffith and Taylor, and the same holds true in our State House. Republicans and Democrats are united on advancing these common sense reforms demanded by the overwhelming majority of Virginians.”

Las Vegas NORML

In Nevada, where state lawmakers approved a measure to fast track rules and regulations for the state’s adult-use marijuana program in 2017, the news of the DOJ’s new policy prompted partisan reactions from Carson City. While Republican lawmakers refrained from publicly criticizing AG Sessions, Democratic Senator Tick Segerblom wasted no time. Speaking to a group of legalization advocates at a rally outside of a marijuana dispensary In Las Vegas, Senator Segerblom had this to say:

“Contact your legislators in Washington DC and tell them to tell Trump to back off until we get this thing resolved. This is a great industry for Nevada. The people have spoken…this is a state’s rights issue.”

After hearing the news about the shift in federal policy, Chris Thompson, executive director of Las Vegas NORML quickly shifted his focus from state-level lobbying efforts to mobilizing pro-marijuana advocates and scheduling meetings with Congressional leaders.

“It’s definitely a precarious situation right now, but thankfully Las Vegas NORML is working with our representatives at the state and federal level to prevent Sessions from trampling over states’ rights and prosecuting legal cannabis,” said Thompson.

With virtually no federal lawmakers expressing support the Sessions’ reversal, as reported by Politico, and state lawmakers seemingly unphased by this shift in the administration’s tone, it appears that AG Sessions severely underestimated the political juggernaut the issue of marijuana legalization has become.

For more information about a NORML’s 2018 lobbying efforts, email or visit for list of upcoming chapter lobby days and meetings. If you’re unable to attend a NORML lobby day in your state, please take a few minutes to contact your representatives using NORML’s Action center

32 thoughts

  1. TEXAS NORML action alert:
    Annual funding has run out. We need donations before the end of the month or operations will cease during the most important year in marijuana policy reform for the state of Texas. Please donate what you can here:

    We’re rolling out our voter guide next week and vetting candidates for March primaries and November elections where marijuana reforming candidates are on the ballot like never before. By the 2019 legislative sessions we WILL legalize medical marijuana.

  2. If Dr. King were alive today he most certainly would have embraced our movement to create a responsible adult marijuana market. For what we are fighting for are ALL the poor people of the world… the sick… the victims of synthetic, predatory prescription and the disproportionately incarcerated.

    While an attorney general sets us back to policies that prey upon poor communities… everywhere from opioids used as currency in a poor white neighborhood in Ohio to a white city council in Ferguson Missouri that has no imagination for an alternative source of revenue other than keeping a poor community of color in perpetual debt to court fees and fines, often for nothing more than a blessed, sacred plant that Jesus inhaled from the fragrant incense of a wise man when he was just a newborn baby.

    Marijuana legalization is OUR Time… OUR cause… our cause to rise up and pass the pipe of peace to our sick brothers and sisters rather than prey upon their illness with a predatory pill-for-profit system. Our Time to ask the Lord “When did we see you hungry or sick or in prison and bring you food, or clothes or medicine?” And the Lord said, “Even what you did for the Least of these, my brethren, you did it for Me…”

    It is our Time to turn prisons into marijuana dispensaries, as our good brother Damien Marley has done in California. It is Our Cause to purge the corruption and the black markets from within our White House and put the “Justice” back in the Department of Justice.

    Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions you may blame a weed that even the DEA admits has killed no one; But we have seen the money you have taken from private prisons and predatory pharmaceutical opioid cartels. And we know the problem is not the weed, the problem is the law. The Controlled Substances Act has turned enough law enforcement and politicians into predatory criminals. Foolish Pharisees… Clean the inside of the cup… and the outside will also be clean.

    1. Julian, while I do believe that marijuana should be legal worldwide, I also believe it’s ignorant people like you, spouting religious bullshit, that harms the effort to make it legal.

      There isn’t a shred of evidence anywhere that even suggest that God OR Jesus gives a rats ass either way, whether you smoke weed or not. And certainly no evidence that wise men blew marijuana smoke in Jesus’ face when he was a baby. It’s just plain ignorant to even suggest it.

      Besides that, the issue isn’t whether God “supports” weed use or not, the issue is whether other people have a right to stop me from doing as I damned well please, when I’m not hurting anyone.

      All the other stuff you talked about “may” be true, at least to a very tiny degree, but I wish you and everybody else would leave God out of the equation, since He hasn’t weighed in on the matter at all.

      At best, all anyone can say about God is that if He didn’t want us to smoke it he wouldn’t have made it, but even that don’t hold any more water than saying if God wanted us to fly, He would have given us wings.

      I FULLY support legalizing marijuana use. I’ve smoked weed for 45 years and will smoke it until I die. I do it because I like it, and it’s nobody else’s business what I do, not because God told me to.

      My reasons are the only reasons I need. And the only reason needed to legalize it.

      1. Where did you perceive from my “if Dr King were alive today” speech that I or God or anyone was “forcing” you to do anything?

        You do realize we can have vastly different perceptions of the world, religious or otherwise, and still agree on legalizing marijuana?

        Heck; You don’t even have to believe Jesus smoked weed (which he did… the evidence is abounds that sativas and indicas were available in and around Bethlehem at the time Jesus roamed the middle east. And one of the wise men, a devout Zoroastran belonged to one of the oldest religions in the world to incorporate cannabis into its rituals… Egyptian Coptics still mix marijuana resins into their incense to this day… but I’ll leave all that secular “bull$#!+” research up to you…)

        And what made you so important that even mentioning the relationship between religion and marijuana would suggest I’m “harming our efforts to make it legal?” It aint all about you, darlin’.

        If anything we should be piercing the Christian American misperceptions about Jesus and marijuana to get more of their votes out during elections.

        Here is a good article on the subject of Religion and the history of marijuana:

        Jesus smoked weed with the Scythians in large campfire bales before creating Christianity.

        Buddha drank it, smoked it and ate it to found Bhuddism.

        The list goes on and on.

        It doesn’t even matter whether you believe in marijuana’s religious history; Marijuana’s religious history lives in you.

      2. “Buddha drank it, smoked it and ate it to found Bhuddism.” Thankx J for this reminder of extrachristianic prophecy. Nearer our own time the ultimate Brahmanistic prophet, 18330507 J. Mohandas Brahms, candidate for Fifth Mo-prophet, would have lived to 100 had he had access to modern hydrocannabolistic weed, otherwise unfortunately he died of $igar cancer at age 63 years, 10 months, 27 days (adds up to 100).
        2. Thankx for “passing the peace pipe” (hopefully a 25-mg Single Vapetoke Einzelhitzer), we need Equal Time for Microdose now that a faction within NORML has naively cosponsored a Hot Burning Overdose Monoxide Puffpapers product– yes encourage the Jointpuffers to help support legalization but also encourage them to switch to inhaling from noncombustion moderation utensils further improving our mass health statistics advantage.

      3. Mexweed,

        Read the link on my next post that covers the prophet Zoroaster and his ancient religious practice with marijuana. It’s truly fascinating human history.

        As for “passing the peace pipe,” I hesitated writing that as, traditionally, that pipe would be filled with tobacco… but as Indian Country legalizes I like to think we can battle alcoholism and opioid addiction with some marijuana stuffed in the pipe.

        As for the NORML curved papers, they are made from %100 hemp; cannabis sativa, l. No tobacco in my curved joint… and to me, at least “joint” doesn’t conjure up intoxicating my herb with tobacco… “joint” makes me think of a “joint resolution” when I’m passing the herb to my brothers while passing state and federal laws to reform marijuana for us all. I guess it’s all about perception.

      4. And keep it into context Anna. I wrote that on Martin Luther King Day. Not Atheist-Secular Day. You might not agree with every religious holiday or even with Dr. King’s legacy but stop acting like anyone is “forcing” religion down your throat off a comments section from a GOT-damn NORML blog. Harden your fragile spirit up a little. It’s not like NORML is dragging religion into national marijuana policy debate while youre all tied up with your eyelids pryed open like Clockwork Orange. It’s not like I’m saying a prayer and passing a communion of marijuana bread around before chapter meetings… Although… you know what? I wouldnt have any problem if some NORML members chose to participate in their own ritual marijuana spirituality and others didnt. We’d still all show up for lobby day. Deal with it.

      5. Anna,

        Julian can probably be accused of many things (can’t we all?), but the man does his research. I personally don’t have much use for religion myself, but I say to each his/her own.

        As far as him harming efforts to make pot legal, I personally don’t know anyone–on this forum or anywhere else–who does more for our cause. And I’m not just saying that because I agree with his politics. But I get it–religion is a touchy subject with some people.

      6. Thanks Evening Bud,

        (I can tell it’s you from your diplomatic demeanor) 🙂
        We Americans really have to learn to be more objective with eachother’s perspectives and focus on clicking on the Act tab to work together despite our differences. I truly believe marijuana helps us get through that, but the learning curve is different for everyone.

        What is inspiring to one person will be discouraging to another. Funny thing is I remember last year on MLK Day I wrote a piece that had nothing but positive feedback. But then I’m not someone looking for “likes” on facebook or artificial approval. Hell, I’m barely forcing myself to use Facebook for the first time this week only because local NORML chapters don’t use much else here in Texas to communicate.

        I suppose the difference on last year’s post was I left my whole “If Dr King were alive today” speech in quotes. But then I bet Anna would still be pissed off… because she’s angry at “God,” and whatever that means to her. (Good luck with that, Anna. I really mean that. Get stoned. Face your Truth. Get reaaaal stoned…)

      7. Lol, you’re right, Julian, it was me–always forget to add my moniker!! (And I wasn’t even toking.)

        In regards to your OP, I like to think that MLK would’ve supported legalization. Kinda like Bernie Sanders in that respect–Sanders’ kneejerk reaction might be to reject legalization, as he might view it as satiating and dulling the masses–but somehow he was convinced by others of the justice in legalization. It is a civil rights issue as much as anything else, and Bernie has realized that, as would undoubtedly MLK.

      8. These are passionate political times in general, Bud. Marijuana reform is dredging up all our old racist and religious wounds out of the American subconscious… but I am convinced that what we are experiencing with marijuana as a nation… this national introspection and inventory of our identity… is all part of the healing process. Part of the reason marijuana turns PTStress into PTSGrowth is because under the pleasant feeling of marijuana’s multi-cannabinoid, high THC psychoactivity we are invited… with disinfecting love… to examine our own trauma from a lighter more objective perspective, and make better decisions accordingly.

        We all have pervasive, psychological and emotional barriers to our memories and experience with trauma. Difference is in how traumatic is the memory or experience and what sets us off.

        What happens to us when we consume marijuana is, initially, to our perception, we are gently forced to face our traumatic, supressed memories of fear and pain. We all grow accustomed to feeling sorry for ourselves at some point in our lives and have to choose empower ourselves out of this trap. Some are scapegoating their emotions with religions or political affiliations as a crutch to replace the broken barriers to their exposed emotions. For others it’s alcohol or opioids or other failed chemical pain mismanagements. We generally don’t feel good about being challenged to replace our emotional baggage with pride and joy. At least not at first.

        With marijuana we return to a recurring nightmare of barriers we create in the topics of sex, politics and religion and we happily work and dream of a better solution from a higher perception for ourselves. It’s just too hard to feel sorry for ourselves when we feel so damn good!

        Marijuana: Solving nature’s mysteries for 40,000 years.

      9. Julian,

        A part of me believes as you do, that this will be a healing process for our country. A part of me is very worried, on the other hand, that we are losing, and in fact, have lost our democracy. It was big money killed it, or is killing it. The corporatization of our press, the endless wars, the huge pentagon budgets, while the interior of our country is falling to hell . . .

        Politicians who are bought off, and the evil rich SOBs who control them. We’ve had our democracy supplanted by a plutocracy for years–and now, with Trump, we’re seeing a move for outright autocracy, and it’s only because of his sheer ineptitude that our democracy may survive this putsch.

        But Trump did expose the weakness in our democracy; and the GOP has exposed the weakness in our “homeland security,” specifically, the FBI. I never thought I’d see anyone attack and weaken the FBI–but we’ve seen that a determined party in power can actually do that. They haven’t yet completely succeeded–but I no longer believe it to be impossible. (And honestly, I’m shedding no tears.) The GOP has proven that they’ll readily toss someone under the bus–no matter how much that someone may have helped them in the past (including the FBI). Trump epitomizes that ruthless policy. What have you done for me lately?

        The CIA? I wonder . . .

      10. Bud,
        We Americans are always underestimating the power of our purchase and individual vote.
        Partly thats because taxation and purchase is juxtaposed in a capitalist economy.

        We’ve been “voting” for a legal marijuana market every time we purchase from a state regulated dispensary… even adverdently for a premium price…

        Likewise, we “purchase” the vote for our Congressional representation through willfull taxation of our responsible marijuana service and product.

        To achieve either taxation or representation we practically have to aim for the opposite. For example we voter initiated our marijuana taxation to achieve the goal of fair representation. (Noted the “fair” part takes some settling laws at least initially)

      11. Those are valid points, Julian, and give me a bit of hope. I suppose all the money in our political system can occasionally be useful.

  3. This is all the fault of the goddamn Republicans.

    First, the goddamn Republicans rallied around Trump, as they still do to this very day. That alone makes the Republicans a bunch of fuckwads.

    But then Trump nominated that sack of shit Sessions. The Republicans could have stopped him, but since they are fuckwads, the stinking Republican Senators confirmed him instead.

    When Elizabeth Warren tried to read Coretta Scott King’s letter about Sessions’ past racial crimes, she was censured and silenced procedurally by Mitch McConnell.

    That racist cracker-ass redneck Sessions didn’t just happen by accident. It was racist cracker-ass Republicans who put him there.

    Republicans suck ass.

    1. No need to get all riled up man. It will be Trump’s Republican administration that finally legalizes marijuana on the federal level, this year or next. Of course that is just my personal opinion so don’t attack me with all your hatred for republicans please.

      1. @propot: well now fancy that. Trump supporters are sensitive to insults. Well many Americans that haven’t voted Republican are referred to by Trump and his supporters in the most vile ways. He called countries like Haiti, “shithole”. He kicks Puerto Rico while the island is suffering and slurs the Mayor of San Juan. He makes racial slurs at the drop of a hat. Sessions, Trump’s attorney general which I hold Republicans directly responsible for, suggested that “good” people don’t smoke weed and wants to jail them. Republicans are complicit in Triump’s neofascist reign. You can’t run from that if you are carrying water for Trump. So who the hell is insulting whom? If you are not angry, you are not paying attention, or worse you are complicit! Trump supporters dish out insults and then turn around and accuse everyone else of being insulting. Typical Trump M.O.

      2. Wow. Politics everywhere. Do you really want to know why we won’t get very far this year? It’s because people refuse to set aside politics, religion, race and other dividing hypocrisies in order to work TOGETHER for a common cause.
        People, learn to argue both sides of the fence. Learn to use religious arguments to sway the bible toting fanatics. Learn to use economic arguments to sway the Republican officials.
        Learn to use human rights arguments to sway the Democratic officials.
        Learn to see the issue from the side of the detractors. Then use their own way of seeing the issue to form an argument they will think about.
        Above all, stop arguing with each other. Use that fervour to sway your state and federal government officials. Use that passion to sway your local leaders.
        It’s up to each and every one of us to decide if we want 2018 to be the year that we make them see the truth. Or will 2018 be just another year of in fighting over nonsense?

  4. Got a beef with my profanity?
    My language is intentionally crude, because Trump is a pussy-grabber, and because he brags about it, and because Republicans cover for his many crimes. When Trump no longer befouls the Office of The Presidency, then perhaps I will upgrade the level of courtesy in my discourse. Until then, shove your double standards up Trump’s shithole.

  5. Getting back to the subject at hand:

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal has a few good quotes from this article in Alternet. He mentions asset forfeitures bating racist law enforcement… a motivation from Sessions that often gets lost in his Big Pharma/ Private Prison mantra.

    But culturally we are dealing with a significant shift in attitude from law enforcement in regards to marijuana legalization. Here in Texas we are seeing sherriffs from major cities cooperating with DA’s to decriminalize marijuana and end predatory court fees and perpetual debtors prisons, even as Sessions reverses all of Obama’s sensible efforts to derail that at the federal level.
    In the Halls of our State Capitol during NORML Lobby Days I quietly observe more law enforcement from organizations like Law Enforcement Action Partnership advocating for legalization with our legislators. The only person to stand and testify against legal mmj in the 2017 hearing was some Pharma schmuck in a lab coat. That was the first time the Sheriff’s Association did not vocally oppose marijuana in a public hearing in Texas.

    What Sessions is doing at the federal level is galvanizing our movement at the local level. Trust me when I say that when Vermont legalizes legislatively this week, it will change our momentum federally from now on.

    1. Correction: “When Vermont depenalizes marijuana this week…” I’ts not a legal market with responsible adult dispensaries but it’s homegrow with mmj… enough to take traction in the Washington v. Sessions case and inspire federal Congress to take action.

      Really, the only key ingredient left to break down federal prohibition is for a brave, diplomatic nation to confront the 1961 Drug Convention and write new treaties… a kind nation with a liberal government that likes to apologize (alot) and is ready to roll out their marijuana markets this summer… “Cannibus… Cana… starts with a C…”

      1. So right, and if they put a Cannabis leaf on their flag it will actually help protect trillions of Maple trees worldwide, Cannabis is the ultimate weapon against crapaholistic deforestation, Cannabis stalk litter is the world’s best precursor-crop mulch for tree planting to reverse glowball warming and protect our climate.

  6. As always, great to hear….sigh…we have to march onward and keep pushing despite this CONTINUED opposition and ignorance. Including from courts and probation systems.

  7. re; Julian mentioned ‘Clockwork Orange’.

    what a wild movie !!

    did you notice they did not drink alcohol in that movie ??

    they went to the ‘milk bar’,
    to drink ‘milk plus’,
    milk with prescription drugs added,
    but, sold with no prescription required.

    1. For the record, I never watched “Clockwork Orange.” I just remember the VHS tape cover.

      But the allusions to this administration in title and cover are priceless.

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