NORML: Exciting Marijuana Legalization Wins in 2020 and Beyond

Great reasons to become a member and join in the fight to end the prohibition of our age

These past few months have been tremendously important for marijuana policy reform as we’ve made tremendous progress during this time.

As an example of the exciting progress NORML is instrumental in making, in the last month we’ve had two big wins: New Jersey’s Governor signed long-awaited legislation into law legalizing the adult-use and retail sale of marijuana. The law ends the needless arrests of tens of thousands of New Jerseyans, and also provides for the expungement of past criminal records. And just days later, lawmakers in Virginia sent similar legislation to the Governor’s desk, making it the first southern state to repeal all civil and criminal penalties for marijuana-related offenses! And there’s lots more happening:

In 2020 The House of Representatives passes legislation repealing the federal marijuana prohibition
In late 2020 members of the US House of Representatives voted to approve the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act). This repeals federal marijuana prohibition by removing it from the federal Controlled Substances Act. This recognizes each state’s right to create its own marijuana policies without federal interference. It also allows for the newly legal marijuana industry to have access to conventional banking and for “expungement” (letting people convicted of past marijuana infractions have a clean slate). NORML prioritized lobbying for the bill’s passage and its members engaged in over 190,000 communications with members of Congress on behalf of the bill. We are now working closely with new Senate leadership in order to move this legislation through the Upper Chamber and, hopefully, to the White House where it will be signed into law.  

In 2020 Legal marijuana retailers are acknowledged to be “essential businesses.”
In dozens of states where recreational and medical marijuana are legal, retail outlets were designated to be “essential services”—explicitly permitting them to stay open during COVID lockdowns. For this to happen, politicians publicly acknowledged, often for the first time, that marijuana stores play a role in promoting health in their communities.

The 2020 election was a clean sweep for legalization ballot measures
Marijuana got more votes than Biden or Trump as bills to legalize, tax, and regulate the recreational use of marijuana won in every state where it was on the ballot. Big wins in Montana, South Dakota, New Jersey, and Arizona made it clear that there’s nothing partisan about legalizing pot: the American public—whether in blue states or red states—is ready to end the prohibition of our age.

In 2020 Virginia decriminalizes marijuana (leading to full legalization in 2021)
After years of lobbying and pressure by Virginia NORML and others, Virginia lawmakers in 2020 abolished strict criminal penalties for marijuana possession, replacing them with a $25 fine, no arrest, and no criminal record. (Following this legislative victory, NORML immediately—and successfully–pivoted to push for the full legalization in Virginia, which now awaits the Governor’s signature.)  

In 2020 over 100,000 (mostly black) citizens have their criminal marijuana records expunged
With the encouragement of NORML, thousands of citizens in the states of California, Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, and Washington previously burdened with the stigma of a lifelong marijuana conviction have had those convictions finally expunged. For the Black American community (which statistically smokes no more than the white community), marijuana convictions have been the new Jim Crow—making it impossible for them to vote. And, with our new administration and the hard work of NORML, this can change quickly.

2021 is ripe with more opportunities to end the costly American war on marijuana. And NORML is hard at work in this fight for common sense drug laws and civil liberties.
NORML, with an annual budget of $1 million, a hard-working staff in Washington DC, state affiliates across the country, and roughly 50,000 members is primed to finally end the prohibition of our age. And we need your help to make this happen in 2021. If you believe it is time to stop arresting pot smokers, NORML is fighting your battle in the halls of government. 

We need your help! 

NORML was instrumental in all this in 2020. With your help, it can do more in 2021. Please join and empower NORML for $5 a month and be on this team that is making history and making America a more just and free country.

 – Thanks, Rick Steves, NORML board chair