Atlanta Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance

marijuana_gavelToday, Atlanta City Council voted to pass Ordinance 1700-1152, decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses. This measure amends the local law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is punishable by a $ 75 fine — no arrest, jail time, or criminal arrest record.

Annually, over 30,000 Georgians — many of whom reside in Atlanta — are arrested and charged with violating marijuana possession laws. Those arrested and convicted face up to one-year in prison, a $ 1,000 fine under state law, or up to six months in jail under local statutes. National statistics indicate that African Americans are an estimated four times as likely as whites to be arrested for violating marijuana possession laws, despite using marijuana at rates similar to Caucasians.

“Court costs, the jail time, ruining young people’s lives, they lose their scholarships, it breaks up families, and it wastes our tax dollars. That’s the reason for doing this,” said Kwanza Hall, a city Councilman and candidate for Mayor.

With the passage of this measure, citizens of Atlanta no longer have to fear unnecessary jail time for possessing a drug that should not be illegal in the first place. However, because the law only applies to Atlanta city limits, it conflicts with the state law that calls for jail time and gives police leeway in deciding which law (state or city) should be enforced.

However, Atlanta has now joined the growing list of cities around the country that have adopted a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level. This new ordinance may not be perfect, but it is a victory nonetheless.

Follow Peachtree NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Marijuana Prohibition Turns 80

MarijuanaArrestsTimelineEighty years ago, on October 2, 1937, House Bill 6385: The Marihuana Tax Act was enacted as law. The Act for the first time imposed federal criminal penalties on activities specific to the possession, production, and sale of cannabis – thus ushering in the modern era of federal prohibition.

“The ongoing enforcement of marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts young people and communities of color,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of those adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco.”

Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of the Marihuana Tax Act, which largely consisted of sensational testimony by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger. He asserted before the House Ways and Means Committee, “This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.” His ideological testimony was countered by the American Medical Association, whose legislative counsel Dr. William C. Woodward argued that hard evidence in support of Anslinger’s hyperbolic claims was non-existent.

Woodward testified: “We are told that the use of marijuana causes crime. But yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marijuana habit. … You have been told that school children are great users of marijuana cigarettes.  No one has been summoned from the Children’s Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit among children. Inquiry of the Children’s Bureau shows that they have had no occasion to investigate it and know nothing particularly of it.” He further contended that passage of the Act would severely hamper physicians’ ability to prescribe cannabis as a medicine.

Absent further debate, members of Congress readily approved the bill, which President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed into law on August 2, 1937. The ramifications of the law became apparent over the ensuing decades. Physicians ceased prescribing cannabis as a therapeutic remedy and the substance was ultimately removed from the US pharmacopeia in 1942. United States hemp cultivation also ended (although the industry was provided a short-lived reprieve during World War II). Policy makers continued to exaggerate the supposed ill effects of cannabis, which Congress went on to classify alongside heroin in 1970 with the passage of the US Controlled Substances Act. Law enforcement then began routinely arresting marijuana consumers and sellers, fueling the racially disparate, mass incarceration epidemic we still face today.

Despite continued progress when it comes to legalizing or decriminalizing the adult use of marijuana, data from the recently released Uniform Crime Report from the FBI revealed that over 600,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana offenses in 2016.

After 80 years of failure, NORML contends that it is time for a common sense, evidence-based approach to cannabis policy in America.

“Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, the demand for marijuana is here to stay. America’s laws should reflect this reality and govern the cannabis market accordingly,” stated NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, “Policymakers ought to look to the future rather than to the past, and take appropriate actions to comport federal law with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”

80new

 

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On The Passing of Hugh Hefner

C1_8734_r_xHugh Hefner, or “Hef” as he preferred to be called, played a crucial role in the early days of NORML. At a time when most Americans were accepting the government’s “reefer madness” propaganda, Hef, through the Playboy Foundation, provided NORML with our initial funding in early 1971, and became our primary funder all during the 1970s. And by focusing attention in Playboy magazine on some of the most egregious victims of the war against marijuana smokers, he helped us convince millions of Americans that marijuana prohibition was a misguided and destructive public policy.

Hefner was a fearless cultural crusader who believed deeply not just in the right to sexual freedom, but also in civil rights and the right to privacy. May he rest in peace.

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Let’s Get Registered! #WeCannaVote

Pass-the-Joint_NCF16_Credit-DUKEofHEMP-of-Sospact(dotcom)-(225)-WMIt’s time to exercise your civic duty and ensure that you are registered to vote!

2018 is a critical midterm election year, and NORML is partnering with the National Cannabis Festival and HeadCount for the #WeCannaVote Voter Registration Drive. The goal is to register thousands of new voters before the 2018 National Cannabis Festival on April 21 & to educate those in and beyond the cannabis community about their right to vote. Click here to register.

2016 was a great year for cannabis reform, with 8 states (out of 9 total) across the US passing ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana, 4 medical and 4 adult-use. Here’s a quick breakdown of the 2016 results:

PASSED:

Arkansas Issue No. 6: Medical Marijuana
53% YES, 46.9% NO

California Proposition 64: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
56% YES, 43.9% NO

Florida Amendment No. 2: Medical Marijuana
71.2% YES, 28.7% NO

Massachusetts Question 4: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
53.5% YES, 46.4% NO

Maine Question 1: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
50.1% YES, 49.8% NO

Montana Initiative No. 182: Medical Marijuana
57.6% YES, 42.3% NO

North Dakota Initiated Statutory Measure No. 5: Medical Marijuana
53.7% YES, 36.2% NO

Nevada State Question No. 2: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
54.4% YES, 45.5% NO

FAILED:

Arizona Proposition 205: Recreational Marijuana
51.9% NO, 48% YES

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As you can see in Arizona, we lost by an incredibly close margin. If only a few more thousand voters turned out, we know we would have won. This just proves how important it is to get out and VOTE! Make sure that you are registered NOW.

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Massachusetts High Court: Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Valid Measures For Determining Marijuana-Induced Impairment

Marijuana and the LawStandard roadside field sobriety tests (FST) are not reliable indicators of marijuana-induced impairment, according to a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

Justices determined that there is a lack of scientific consensus as to the validity of FSTs for determining whether a subject is under the influence of cannabis. They opined: “There is ongoing disagreement among scientists, however, as to whether the FSTs are indicative of marijuana impairment. In recent years, numerous studies have been conducted in an effort to determine whether a person’s performance on the FST is a reliable indicator of impairment by marijuana. These studies have produced mixed results. … We are not persuaded … that the FSTs can be treated as scientific tests establishing impairment as a result of marijuana consumption.”

As a result, justices ruled that police may only provide limited testimony with regard to a defendant’s FST performance. An officer “may not suggest … on direct examination that an individual’s performance on an FST established that the individual was under the influence of marijuana,” the court determined. “Likewise, an officer may not testify that a defendant ‘passed’ or ‘failed’ any FST, as this language improperly implies that the FST is a definitive test of marijuana use or impairment.”

The court further ruled that a police officer may not testify “without being qualified as an expert [as] to the effects of marijuana consumption [or] offer an opinion that a defendant was intoxicated by marijuana [because] no such general knowledge exists as to the physical or mental effects of marijuana consumption, which vary greatly amongst individuals.”

Attorneys Steven Epstein and Marvin Cable filed an amicus curiae brief in the case on behalf of national NORML.

The case is Commonwealth v. Gerhardt.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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College Medical Marijuana Policy Leaves Many Students Unable to Legally Consume

college blogWhat’s a medical marijuana card-holding college student to do when they are required to live in on-campus housing but their medicine is banned from the premises?

Apparently, choose between suffering from their illness or face disciplinary action, at least according to the majority of University policy.

In Washington DC, marijuana is legal to for those over the age of  21 to possess, transfer (exchange with no currency involved), and grow up to two ounces of marijuana in their homes and available to buy from a dispensary for medical use per a doctor’s recommendation. However, given its treatment on college campuses in the area, you would have no idea.

For example, at American University, their code for student conduct clearly states the punishable offenses for “alcohol and illegal drugs” (despite the fact that cannabis has been legalized for medical and recreational use for adults 21+) include:

  • To use or possess any illegal drug (including medical marijuana) or drug paraphernalia in the residence halls.
  • To sell, manufacture, or distribute any illegal drug (including medical marijuana) or drug paraphernalia in the residence halls.
  • To knowingly and voluntarily be in the presence of any illegal drug (including medical marijuana) or drug paraphernalia in the residence halls.

At The George Washington University, their policy on medical marijuana is less clear. Their policy for medical marijuana is not listed in their Code for Student Conduct, and when asked for clarification on the matter, the administration declined to respond.

The code for student conduct does say, however, that students caught using, possessing, and distributing marijuana face a minimum $ 50 fine, mandatory drug education classes, and possible eviction from housing. If there’s an intent to distribute, students face suspension or expulsion.

Alcohol penalties at the school, on the other hand, are significantly less harsh. The penalty for consumption and possession is parental notification, and in subsequent offenses, students could face a possible fine or alcohol education classes.  

In addition to this, GW provides an Alcohol Medical Amnesty Policy, wherein underage, intoxicated students can receive a penalty-free ride to the hospital in a student-run ambulance for their first offense. Subsequent offenses receive harsher penalties each time, though it takes much longer for a student to reach serious disciplinary action than for marijuana users, who are harshly penalized for their first time.

So why do these schools remain so behind the times? Why is marijuana classified so much more harshly than alcohol– which kills over 1800 students per year and is heavily associated with sexual assault?

The answer comes down to the same reason a college makes any decision: funding.

According to the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989 (that’s right, 1989), the use of “drugs” (a vague term that somehow excludes alcohol and caffeine) must be disallowed by schools, universities, and colleges. If they fail to comply, they become ineligible for federal funding.

Until we can overcome the pervasive stereotype of cannabis users as sluggish, lazy, stupid, and unconcerned, it looks like students will have to continue to live in the impossible bind between relieving their illnesses and violating school policy.  

 

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Marijuana Arrest Data Absent From Latest FBI Uniform Crime Report

Cannabis PenaltiesTabulations calculating the percentage of annual marijuana arrests nationwide are absent from the 2017 edition of the FBI Uniform Crime Report, which the agency released today.

The table,’Arrests for Drug Abuse Violations: Percent Distribution by Region,’ had for decades appeared in the section of the FBI report entitled ‘Persons Arrested.’ It was one of over 50 tables eliminated from this year’s edition of the Crime report. NORML had relied on the table in order to extrapolate and publicize annual marijuana arrest data, which it has tracked since 1965.

According to the latest FBI report, police made 1,572,579 arrests for illicit drug offenses in 2016. This total represents nearly a six percent increase in arrests since 2015.

Although data with regard to what percentage of these drug arrests were marijuana-related was absent from this year’s report, the FBI did provide percentages by request to Marijuana Majority‘s Tom Angell, who summarized the data in a column for Forbes.com.

The unpublished data estimates that police made 653,249 arrests for cannabis-related violations in 2016. Of these, 587,516 arrests (90 percent of all marijuana arrests) were for possession-related offenses.

The arrest total is an increase from 2015 figures and marks the first year-to-year uptick in nationwide marijuana arrests in nearly a decade. The uptick comes at a time when eight states have enacted laws to regulate the adult use of cannabis and when public support for legalizing the plant is at a record high.

“The recent uptick in the number of marijuana arrests is unprecedented in recent years, especially given the rate of state-level reform we have seen. This combined with the FBI’s disturbing change of protocol and lack of transparency in the publishing of arrest records only further demonstrates the need for state lawmakers to respect the will of the majority of their constituents and end the practice of marijuana prohibition once and for all,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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The Loss of an Activist, the Passing of a Friend, James Bell

Awful News

My friend Stephen Bradley called me on Friday, September 14th and asked if I was sitting down. I knew it couldn’t be good news, but when he told me our mutual friend James Bell had died suddenly, I experienced several moments of simple denial. This just can’t be true, I thought. Then the enormity of the news dropped on me like a heavy stone as I realized how large a hole James’ death leaves in the politics of Marijuana Law Reform in Georgia.

JB-Rotary-03-300x175

The James Bell I Knew

I met James in the fall of 2014 in Dublin, Georgia. He was there videoing a Justice for David Hooks rally. David had been killed in his own home during the execution of a fruitless search warrant, based on the word of an addict/thief who had burglarized David’s property the night before his death. Soon after, I met James again when I testified against the term no-knock warrant being written into black letter Georgia Law before a Senate Committee. We had an opportunity to talk for a while that day, discovering that we had several interests in common. We became friends and allies and called each other often. Over time, James shared the tragic story of his niece, Lori Knowles with me, and I understood his interest in David Hooks and no-knock warrants much better. I think the incident with Lori added fuel to the fire of James’ activism and drove him harder over the past 3 years.

As James and I talked (and he could talk), I realized just how central a figure he was in the fight for cannabis law reform in Georgia. He was involved in the movement since at least as far back as the 70s, and his interest covered all things cannabis. From advocating the freedom to make personal, adult choices about smoking it, to supporting the use of medical marijuana, to reintroducing Hemp as a staple crop in Georgia, James was involved in it all. He truly believed that the re-legalization of cannabis could be accomplished here in Georgia. He was a constant presence around the Gold Dome when the Legislature was in session, both testifying on issues and videoing procedures. His easy way, his extensive knowledge, and his passion paved the way for good relationships with lawmakers. He was well-known and respected by many.

James was keenly aware of the societal harm caused by the War on Marijuana. He and I often spoke of Harm Reduction during our conversations, and he felt that an arrest and subsequent criminal record for mere possession of a small amount of marijuana was unjust. No victim, no crime.  He believed a grassroots approach to the problem at the Municipal level, combined with lobbying for change at the State level was the key. He testified in advocacy of Harm Reduction ordinances in Clarkston and Atlanta. He tried in Temple but was met by a crowd of rabid Prohibitionists who hijacked the Town Hall meeting. Clarkston passed their ordinance, and the City hasn’t fallen into a sinkhole. Atlanta is still considering it and the upcoming Mayoral election has several candidates with pro-decriminalization planks in their platforms.

What Now?

I will miss talking to James. I’ll miss his counsel. I’ll miss his laugh. I’ll miss seeing him around the Capitol. I know in my heart, though that he would want us to carry on. No one can ever fill James’ shoes, but others will step up.  Others will ensure his legacy and work continue. I’ll be among them.

Go rest high upon that mountain,
Son your work on Earth is done

I’ll see ya further on!

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Washington State Releases Update On Legalization Findings – High Hopes Are Rewarded

yesIn their second formal assessment on the impact of legalization in the wake of the implementation of I-502, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) issued the next regularly scheduled report – and suffice to say, the news was very positive, unless you are still relying on tired and debunked prohibitionist talking points.

Key takeaways from the WSIPP report:

– Found no evidence that greater levels of legal cannabis sales caused increases in overall adult cannabis use
– Found no impact on hard drug use in adolescents or adults
– Found no evidence that state medical marijuana laws caused an increase in property and violent crimes reported by the FBI but did find evidence of decreased homicide and assault associated with medical legalization
– Found evidence that nonmedical legalization in Washington and Oregon may have led to a drop in rape and murder rates
– Found that among respondents under age 21, those living in counties with higher sales were significantly less likely to report use of cannabis in the past 30 days
– Found no evidence of effects of the amount of legal cannabis sales on indicators of youth cannabis use in grades 8, 10, and 12

As Kevin Oliver, the head of Washington NORML, always tells me: Legally High Regards.

You can read the full WSIPP report by clicking HERE or read further analysis of the report by NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano HERE.

 

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Hemp Inc. planted hundreds of acres of industrial hemp and high CBD hemp in North Carolina, Kentucky, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon…

Hemp, Inc. (OTC: HEMP) recently announced that it built the largest commercial industrial hemp processing facility in North America, and the company that intends to “make America hemp again” is now in full operation at its 70,000 square foot facility in Spring Hope, North Carolina.

In addition, August 17 marked the official launch of Hemp Inc.’s NuAxon Tech CO2 Supercritical Extractor. David Schmitt, COO of Industrial Hemp Manufacturing, LLC, said “Hemp, Inc. is now in position to be a fully integrated high quality [cannabidiol] CBD manufacturer,” in a release.

Opening the facility took over three years, plus millions of dollars spent on purchasing, disassembling, transporting, reassembling, rebuilding, refurbishing, beta testing and debugging.

Putting their new extractor to work is a significant step forward in the company’s ability to clone, grow, cultivate and process high CBD plants, with market prices on their side, Schmitt said.

“It basically all boils down to supply and demand. Today, market prices are somewhere in the ballpark of $20,000 per kilo and we have large amounts growing,” said Schmitt.

Hemp Inc. planted hundreds of acres of industrial hemp and high CBD hemp in North Carolina, Kentucky, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon. The CBD oil industry is expected to reach 1 billion by 2020.

Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp, Inc. CMW Media/Christian Rodas

Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp, Inc. said he intends to create infrastructure for a robust hemp industry by creating a business model of industrial and processing, education, farming, and extraction of CBD oil, so that people can start their own small family hemp farms.

“CBD is the fastest growing sector of the entire medical marijuana and hemp industry,” he said. He said he wants to support anyone who wants a start in the industry on the different technologies available for CO2 extraction, which allows the production of cannabinoid hemp oil.

Hemp, Inc. CEO Bruce Perlowin examines a hemp plant at a North Carolina farm. CMW Media/Christian Rodas

North Carolina Farmer Tony Finch grows hemp at his family farm. CMW Media/Christian Rodas

Perlowin invited President Donald Trump’s task force for Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America to see the new hemp facility, saying “President Trump’s Task Force or any member thereof should really visit Hemp, Inc.’s facility in Spring Hope, North Carolina.”

The small family farm, once a staple of the American landscape, is fast disappearing – and Perlowin hopes to change that. He imagines a model family farm is situated on 5 acres and consists of a cloning room, a greenhouse, and 5,000 hemp plants.

“By showing farmers how to grow high CBD hemp plants, operate a greenhouse and turn a barn into a cloning room to earn $500,000 a year, the small family farm can reappear in the American landscape. After all, the original small family farms in America were able to survive economically by growing hemp as their main cash crop and the first five presidents of the United States were all hemp farmers. Our infrastructure is 100 percent aligned with what the President today, is trying to accomplish with this Task Force.”

CONTINUE READING…

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