The term ‘marijuana’ (sometimes spelled ‘marihuana’) is Mexican in origin and typically refers to any part of — or any one of — the three distinctive subspecies of the cannabis plant: cannabis sativa (which tends to grow tall and stalky), cannabis indica (which tends to grow smaller and bushier), or cannabis ruderalis(found primarily in Russia and Eastern Europe.) Grown outdoors, the cannabis plant typically achieves maturity within three to five months. Cultivated indoors under optimum heat and lighting, the plant may reach maturity within as few as 60 days.
Despite almost a century of federal, criminal prohibition, an estimated one in seven US adults acknowledge being current marijuana consumers. NORML opines that our nation’s public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it.
NORML supports the adoption of a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers can buy marijuana for personal use from a safe legal source. This policy, generally known as legalization has been adopted (either in part or in full) in a number of US jurisdictions: Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. At present, Washington state does not permit personal home cultivation, and Vermont and the District of Columbia do not permit retail sales.
In jurisdictions where legalization is not yet achievable, NORML also supports the immediate removal of all criminal penalties for the private possession and responsible use of marijuana by adults, including cultivation for personal use, and casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts. This policy, known as decriminalization, removes the consumer — the marijuana smoker — from the criminal justice system, but still maintains civil penalties/fines.
Enforcing marijuana prohibition results in the arrest of more than 600,000 individuals per year, predominantly people of color and young people. This annual total is far more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 90 percent were charged with possession only. The remaining individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes all cultivation offenses, even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use.
Marijuana, or cannabis, as it is more appropriately called, has been part of humanity’s medicine chest for almost as long as history has been recorded.
Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications. These include pain relief — particularly of neuropathic pain (pain from nerve damage) — nausea, spasticity, and movement disorders. Marijuana is also a powerful appetite stimulant, specifically for patients suffering from HIV, the AIDS wasting syndrome, or dementia, among other disorders.
More than 60 U.S. and international health organizations support granting patients immediate legal access to medicinal marijuana under a physician’s supervision and the majority of US states now regulate its retail access.
Marijuana prohibition causes more problems than it solves, and ruins thousands more lives than it supposedly tries to save.
NORML’s State Laws outlines the laws & penalties for marijuana conduct in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and under federal law. Marijuana laws change rapidly and are enforced and interpreted differently even in the same legal jurisdiction. Please consult a criminal defense lawyer if you have been busted or if you want to know how a particular conduct might be punished. The NORML Legal Committee provides legal support and assistance to victims of the current marijuana laws. NORML also monitors developments in state and federal law, and files appellate and amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in cases which may affect the interpretation of existing marijuana laws, or which will, hopefully, change them.
Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa L. that contains minimal (less than 1%) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. It is a tall, slender, fibrous plant similar to flax or kenaf. Various parts of the plant can be utilized in the making of textiles, paper, paints, clothing, plastics, cosmetics, foodstuffs, insulation, animal feed and other products.
In 2014, members of Congress approved language (Section 7606) in the omnibus federal farm bill authorizing states to sponsor hemp research absent federal reclassification of the plant. A majority of states enacted legislation to permit such programs. In the 2018 omnibus federal farm bill, Congress descheduled hemp (as defined as cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC) and cannabinoids derived from these plants from the Controlled Substance Act. States can now apply to have their commercial industrial hemp programs approved by the USDA.
For over 40 years, NORML has served as a clearinghouse for marijuana-related information that includes health reports, the latest national and state polls, written testimony, and arrest data. To date, are tens of thousands of published studies or reviews in the scientific literature referencing the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids, nearly half of which were published within ten years.