Study: Medical Cannabis Registrants More Likely To Cease Using Opioids Compared To Non-Participants

Pain reliefChronic pain patients enrolled in a statewide medical cannabis access program are significantly more likely to either reduce or cease their use of opioids as compared to non-enrolled patients suffering from similar pain conditions, according to data published online in the journal PLOS One.

A team of investigators at the University of New Mexico assessed opioid prescription use patterns over a 21-month period in 37 pain patients enrolled in the state’s medicinal cannabis program versus 29 non-enrolled patients.

Compared to non-users, medical cannabis enrollees “were more likely either to reduce daily opioid prescription dosages between the beginning and end of the sample period (83.8 percent versus 44.8 percent) or to cease filling opioid prescriptions altogether (40.5 percent versus 3.4 percent).” Enrollees were also more likely to report an improved quality of life.

Authors concluded, “The clinically and statistically significant evidence of an association between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription cessation and reductions and improved quality of life warrants further investigations on cannabis as a potential alternative to prescription opioids for treating chronic pain.”

Prior studies similarly report that patients enrolled in cannabis access programs are more likely to reduce their use of opioids and other prescription drugs.

Full text of the study, “Association between medical cannabis and prescription opioid use in chronic pain patients: A preliminary cohort study,” appears online here. NORML’s marijuana and opioids fact-sheet is online here.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Michigan: Legalization Coalition Turns in 360,000 Signatures to Place Issue on 2018 Ballot

Legalize marijuanaProponents of a Michigan voter initiative effort to legalize and regulate the personal use and retail sale of cannabis today turned in more than 360,000 signatures in an effort to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot. Advocates must possess a total of 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters in order to place the initiative — the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act — on next year’s ballot.

The initiative permits those over the age of 21 to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to the commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales.

Proponents of the effort, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, include members of the Marijuana Policy Project, the ACLU of Michigan, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association, Michigan NORML, MI Legalize, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, and lawyers from the State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section. Today’s press conference is archived on the Coalition’s Facebook page here.

Advocates sought to place a similar measure on the Michigan ballot in 2016. That effort was ultimately turned back when lawmakers imposed and the courts upheld new rules limiting the time frame during which signatures could be collected.

Marijuana law reform advocates are presently gathering signatures for voter-initiated efforts in Missouri and Utah. Proponents of a medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota have turned in their signatures and are awaiting a review by the Secretary of State’s office. A statewide initiative legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Oklahoma has already qualified for the 2018 electoral ballot.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Connecticut: NORML Affiliate To Co-Host Gubernatorial Debate

voteThe Connecticut state chapter of NORML and the Yale University branch of the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy will co-host the inaugural gubernatorial candidate debate of the 2018 governor’s race. Candidates will be asked to weigh in on questions specific to adult use marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform, hemp production, and the state’s current medical marijuana program, among other issues.

Confirmed to appear at the event are: Middletown Mayor Dan Drew (D), former state Sen. Jonathan Harris (D) of West Hartford and Afghanistan war veteran Micah Welintukonis (R). Organizers are actively reaching out to additional candidates.

The debate is scheduled for Tuesday November 28, 2017, from 7:00pm to 8:30pm at Yale University’s Sheffield Sterling Strathcona, Room 114 at 1 Prospect Street in New Haven. The debate will be moderated Aaron J. Romano, legal advisor for Connecticut NORML and a member of NORML’s Legal Committee. The event will be live-streamed on the Connecticut NORML facebook page here.

Several legislative proposals to regulate the adult use and sale of cannabis in Connecticut were debated during the spring 2017 session. However, momentum for these efforts stalled after Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy publicly expressed his opposition to legalizing cannabis.

According to statewide polling, 63 percent of registered voters favor permitting adults to legally possess personal use quantities of cannabis. When considering new sources of tax revenue in Connecticut, 70 percent of voters support the idea of “legalizing and taxing marijuana.”

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Buffalo/Western New York: Blacks Disproportionately Arrested For Minor Marijuana Offenses

Cannabis PenaltiesAfrican Americans in the city of Buffalo (population 257,000) are disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana possession offenses, according to an analysis of arrest data by the advocacy group Partnership for the Public Good.

Researchers evaluated marijuana arrest data for Erie County, New York for the years 2012 to 2016. Countywide, blacks comprised 71 percent of all low-level marijuana offenders, despite comprising only 13.5 percent of the population. In the city of Buffalo, 86 percent of those arrested for minor marijuana possession violations were either African American (80 percent) or Hispanic (six percent). Blacks and Hispanic represent fewer than 50 percent of the city’s population.

“[T]he disparities in the number of marijuana possession arrests cannot be explained by a higher use among black or Hispanic people,” authors concluded. “Legalizing marijuana would reduce low-level drug arrests by ten percent, and help reduce racial disparities in overall arrest numbers.”

Recent analyses from other states, such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, have similarly identified racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests. Nationwide, African Americans are approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, despite members of both ethnicities using the substance at similar rates.

Full text of the report, “Advancing Racial Equity and Public Health: Smarter Marijuana Laws in Western New York,” appears online here.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Women Who Weed

women weed blogIn the era of increasing acceptance and outright legalization of cannabis use, cannabis-centric television keeps getting better and better. From comedies like The Lucas Bros Moving Co (Fox) to documentaries like Weediquette (Viceland) and dramas like High Maintenance (HBO), you will never be at a loss for something to zone out to. Unless, of course, you’re a woman.

Through the zonked-out adventures of stoner dudes in the Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke and Pineapple Express, the category of “stoner comedies” was born and solidified as commercially successful. However, as is true in the more general comedy category, women are frequently excluded from this narrative– lest it become a national issue (see: the release of the all-female Ghostbusters and the subsequent end of the world).

Thankfully, the male-dominated world of cannabis tv is finally changing. More women are being showed smoking weed and not being demonized for it. However, like the revolution to end cannabis prohibition itself, there is still much work to be done. So, let’s look at the most prominent fictional female cannabis icons in popular media today:

Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) –  Weeds 

3leafOne of the most prominent female cannabis users is Nancy Botwin, fictional star of HBO’s Weeds. Nancy is a sexy, suburban soccer mom looking to make a little extra cash who turns to selling weed to support her family. Unfortunately, however, Nancy doesn’t really smoke weed—just sells it. Throughout the show’s nine season run, Nancy is only shown smoking weed twice. Plus, there’s the fact that she started as a small-time suburban weed dealer and ended up entangled in the Mexican heroin cartel running a laundering front with multiple deaths on her hands. So, overall, not great for the cause. My favorite episode: “Pittsburgh”, season 2 episode 12.

Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler (Abbi Jacobsen and Ilana Glazer) – Broad City  

leaf5For millennial weed smoking women, Broad City (Comedy Central) is our Cheech and Chong. Abbi and Ilana are two young women navigating the messy lives of millennials in New York City—but not before hitting their gold Pax, of course. Abbi and Ilana are two of the most prominent female cannabis users in pop culture today and are generally here for being yourself in every way possible. The women depict cannabis use in an everyday sense as well as in a funny, typical stoner way (they regularly video chat each other as they rip bongs on their toilets). Perhaps I’m biased, but the rating system for these reviews is leaf emojis so I don’t think we have to worry too much about journalistic integrity here. My favorite episode: “Coat Check”, season 2 episode 9. Honorable mention: “Pu$ $ y Weed”, season 1 episode 2.

Donna Pinciotti and Jackie Burkhart (Laura Prepon and Mila Kunis) – That 70’s Show ?

2leafIn That 70’s Show, the girls aren’t really considered a part of “The Circle” until season 2, and despite their introduction, Foreman, Hyde, Kelso, and Fez remain the core members. While Donna is viewed as more of an equal, Jackie is usually used as comedic relief and makes ditzy remarks about shopping and makeup. Plus, Jackie acts much more stereotypically affected by weed, leading to comments like “no more for the cheerleader” from the boys. The whole show is hokey in and of itself (remember their cover of Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker”?), so the “girls like shopping” jokes and the fact that the girls are constantly “catfighting” is to be expected. Still, not a great representation of women who weed. My favorite episode: “Reefer Madness” Season 3, Episode 1.  

Ruth Whitefeather Feldman (Kathy Bates) – Disjointed

4leafOkay, look—I had the same reservations about Disjointed that you did. It’s a corny multi-camera set-up with a painful laugh track and a lot of stereotypical, one-dimensional characters. BUT, Ruth Whitefeather Feldman, played by the legendary Kathy Bates, is a shining light that will guide you through this show.  She’s a 70-year-old single mom running a dispensary in California, working to help and heal (or, as the show cringingly refers to it, “healp”) her patients through the magical medicine of cannabis. Ruth is a great example for women that have been a part of the cause since the 70’s and how her activism is affected by the changing perceptions of marijuana consumption and legalization. You must be able to withstand the uproarious laughter of the audience at jokes that fall flat to get to the best parts of this show: innuendos, weed, and trippy animation—but it’s worth it. My favorite episode: “The Worst”, Part 1 Episode 10 (the last five minutes, in particular).

 

Those are my thoughts, tell me yours in the comments below!

 

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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We Need Your Help to Protect Patients from Jeff Sessions

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 7.32.58 PMDuring a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted his Department of Justice would be required to abide by budget amendments that restrict their use of funding to go after state-legal medical marijuana programs.

Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) grilled Sessions on a number of his Reefer Madness talking points including his comments stating marijuana consumers are not “good people” and if he believed that he would be bound by budget amendments, like Rohrabacher-Blumenauer and McClintock-Polis, that ban him from using DOJ funds to target state marijuana laws. Sessions agreed.

This explains why he was vigorously lobbying Republican members of the House to oppose these amendments earlier this year. We know full well that Jeff Sessions despises marijuana and is a die-hard drug warrior from the Just Say No era. While these restrictions remain in place, he cannot pursue his lifelong dream of returning us to old, failed drug war policies.

Unfortunately, these budget amendments need to be renewed on an annual basis, and so far they have not been for 2018. If these protections go away, there is no guarantee that the Department of Justice won’t begin to implement federal prohibition laws in states that have moved in a more common sense direction on marijuana policy.

The good news is: YOU CAN HELP STOP SESSIONS IN HIS TRACKS.

CLICK HERE TO SEND AN URGENT EMAIL TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TO URGE THEM TO PROTECT STATE MARIJUANA LAWS NOW!

The best defense is a good offense and we need to make our voices heard loudly and clearly now, before it is too late. Take a minute today to stand up for respecting state marijuana laws and tell Sessions we won’t accept any attempts to crack down on these important programs. Send a message NOW.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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NORML France Conference: Think Change or Change The Bandage?

conference-sorbonne-norml-ceryxFresh off of an organizational restructuring, NORML France will be hosting their conference entitled “Cannabis: Think Change or Change the Bandage?” about the failure of French cannabis prohibition at Université la Sorbonne in Paris.

Their credo is simple, to explain that reform will benefit everyone, not only cannabis consumers.

From their website:

The “NORML France” Organization is aiming to inform citizens and give support to cannabis users by facilitating the access to the defence of their rights and reach health programs, promote scientific researches and bring together civil society actors in favor of a more comprehensive drug policy reform. Evidence of the failure of the so called “war on drugs” is no longer needed. Together, we are building a fair and effective regulatory model that focuses on health, safety, employment, social justice and human rights, with an inclusive strategy based on the cross-expertise of the cannabis users and involved professionals.

 

Speakers include Viola Ridolfi, Secretary General of Ceryx; Geneviève Garrigos , Former President of Amnesty International France; Nathalie Latour, Delegate General of the Addiction Federation; Fabrice Olivet, Director General of the Self-Support of Drug Users; and Katia Dubreuil, Magistrate at the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris, National Secretary of the Union of Magistrates.

More information about their conference can be found HERE.

You can follow the efforts of NORML France on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Fresh crop: Wilson among Kentucky’s new hemp farmers

Chad WilsonChad Wilson of Cave City stands next a row of industrial hemp he is growing on his farm called the Sacred Seed Farm. He is growing hemp for the cannabidiol or CDB, which is extracted from the plant and can be used to treat certain illnesses. Gina Kinslow / Glasgow Daily Times

BY GINA KINSLOW [email protected]

CAVE CITY – Seven years ago, Chad Wilson was anti-industrial hemp, but that’s mostly because he didn’t really know what it was. He thought industrial hemp and marijuana were the same thing.

But they’re not. Industrial hemp is different from marijuana, even though they are part of the same plant family.

“All my life I was told to stay away from the Devil’s lettuce, and that’s what I did as a good southern boy,” he said. “I didn’t understand that hemp wasn’t marijuana.”

The major difference between the two is that industrial hemp contains a much lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, than marijuana.

THC is the hallucinogenic that is found in marijuana.

“There is no getting high off industrial hemp,” he said.

After seven years, Wilson has come a long way. He has gone from being anti-industrial hemp to being an industrial hemp farmer. He is also now a cannabis activist.

He grows hemp on land in Cave City he calls the Sacred Seed Farm, and says he got into industrial hemp farming by accident.

“I was doing organic farming on a little two acre plot in Bowling Green. I realized my son did not know how to grow his own food and seeds. At that point I was just doing traditional gardening, so I got into finding ways to teach him and stumbled across some stuff on hemp and the nutritional value,” he said.

Then he discovered that studies are showing an extract of industrial hemp can be used to aid in the treatment of certain illnesses, even epilepsy. He also learned that industrial hemp can be used to make biodiesel fuel and clothing, among other things.

Wilson planted a little more than nine acres of industrial hemp this year. He is one of two hemp farmers in Barren County, and one of many across the state.

“In order to be a hemp producer, it is a permitting process and that process is handled by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in cooperation with law enforcement so that everybody is on the same page. They know where every hemp production is,” said Chris Schalk, Barren County’s Agriculture Extension Agent. “I guess this is probably the second or third year for the permitting process.”

The federal farm bill of 2014 allowed state departments of agriculture to create industrial hemp research pilot programs.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles hosted a roundtable discussion for Barren County producers in October at the Barren County Cooperative Extension Service’s office off West Main Street, and during his talk he mentioned industrial hemp.

“Industrial hemp obviously gets a lot of publicity. We have a very strong industrial research hemp program here. We want to remind people that this may not be a silver bullet for tobacco, but it might be something that works for some farmers. It may not work for others,” he said. “My family used to grow it in World War II because the government asked them to for the U.S. Navy. For some people we believe this could be a profitable market.”

On Wilson’s Sacred Seed Farm, he grows industrial hemp for the cannabidiol or CDB, a natural plant compound with significant medical benefits.

Wilson is co-owner of a Louisville-based business called Green Remedy.

“We buy the hemp from the farmers and then we take it into our facility and we have a CO2 extraction where we extract the CDB and then we make the tinctures and the capsules and the isolets and all the different kinds of products, and it is a Kentucky Proud Product,” he said.

Wilson is also owner of another business called Modern Concepts, which is located on the Sacred Seed Farm in Cave City.

“This is about a 4-year-old business that I moved from Bowling Green because I wanted to get back to small town America. I wanted to get back to country living and back home to the country,” Wilson said. “We’re losing farm families every day across the state and my family was one of the ones who lost their farm in the early ’80s due to the economics of farming. For me, it’s personal and it’s about getting my boys back to the farm and living simpler.”

Modern Concepts is a garden supply center that will offer organic, hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponicly grown plants.

“We’re also a distributor for a “Shark Tank’ product – the Tree-T-Pee. What we’re doing is basically going out and finding the specialty product for this industry and bringing it to Cave City,” he said.

Industrial hemp farming has become an economically viable business for many producers.

“There’s not a lot crops out there right now that can bring the economic hope to the small Kentucky farm like this plant can right now,” Wilson said.

Despite all the things industrial hemp has going for it, it is considered to be a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, along with other varieties of cannabis. But that is something U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, is hoping to change.

“I have a bill that I’m working on … that will address all of the updates that are needed with the hemp industry. And that’s the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017,” Comer said.

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017 will do a lot of things, but the main thing it will do is reclassify industrial hemp from a controlled substance to an agriculture crop.

“That will solve a lot of the problems right there,” he said.

Comer, a former Kentucky commissioner of agriculture, referred to industrial hemp as being “a huge success story.”

“That’s something I was glad to be a part of in a big way and that’s kind of the issue that I’m identified with. When we passed it in 2013 in Kentucky, nobody would have predicted that here we are four years later and we are the leading hemp producing state in the nation,” he said. “It’s just been a real good success story. There’s a lot of hemp being grown in Kentucky. A lot of companies that are coming into the state are making a big private investment, so I think the future looks very bright for the hemp industry in Kentucky.”

Extracting CDB from industrial hemp is not the only thing that can be done with the plant.

“It is being used as fiber in textiles. It is being used as a heavy duty fiber in a lot of the tarps that is used in the military. We’ve got companies trying to use the fiber to make components for the automotive industry for mainly the dashboards and door panels for cars in Europe,” Comer said

Industrial hemp is also being grown for livestock feed.

“Murray State University is doing a lot of research on hemp from that aspect because it yields so much more per acre than fescue hay,” he said. “And they are testing the digestibility and the nutrient content. Cattle eat it. That’s for sure.”

Comer continued that he thinks more and more uses will surface for industrial hemp because it is a plant than can be used in so many ways.

“It can be used in bioenergy. It can be used in textiles. It can be used in pharmaceuticals. It can be used in construction. There seems like for every potential use of hemp there is interest in companies to come into the state and make an investment and start processing the hemp here in Kentucky, which would be good,” he said. “It would be good for farmers. It would be good for job creation.

“I think that once we can get legislation on the federal level that deregulates hemp, I think you’ll see more private dollars flow in and more processing facilities come online and therefore more farmers will grow it.”

CONTINUE READING!

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Election Night 2017: Marijuana Races to Watch

voteIt is once again election night in America. While 2017 doesn’t feature any statewide marijuana initiatives, there are still a number of races to watch tonight that will impact marijuana law reform efforts across the nation.

Virginia Governor

Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (D): Democratic candidate, and current Lt. Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam has been outspoken in his support for ending criminal penalties for marijuana. Earlier this year, Northam published a letter calling for decriminalization and an expanded medical marijuana program.

Northam wrote: “We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $ 67 million on marijuana enforcement?—?money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.

As a doctor, I’m becoming increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD. By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”

Ed Gillespie (R): Republican candidate, and former Republican National Committee Chair, Ed Gillespie has stated he does not support the legalization or outright decriminalization of marijuana believing it “sends the wrong signal” to children.

Gillespie does support a very limited change to Virginia’s marijuana laws, that would move possession to a three strike system – dropping the possibility of jail time for an individual’s first two marijuana possession arrests, but retaining it for the third.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR VA VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

 

New Jersey Governor

Phil Murphy (D): Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has made marijuana legalization a priority issue in his campaign. In addition to publicly campaigning in support of ending marijuana prohibition in the state, in his primary election victory speech Murphy said he wants a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana in the Garden State on his desk within the first 100 days of taking office.

“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Phil Murphy said the night he won the Democratic primary. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.

Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno (R): Republican candidate, and current Lt. Governor, Kim Guadagno has stated that she is “wholly opposed to legalizing marijuana” citing inaccurate information in regards to marijuana’s impact on driving.

“I have personal experience about what exactly happens to somebody who drives while they’re high, which is why I would oppose legalization of marijuana,” Guadagno said during a debate during the Republican primary.

During the general election, she further stated her opposition, saying she believed legalization would “put a whole generation of children at risk.”

“I don’t want our children, I don’t want our people to walk down the street and buy a pack of cigarettes and be drug dealers.”

Despite her opposition to legalization, Guadagno has stated she would support decriminalization of possession and limited expansion of the state’s existing medical marijuana program.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR NJ VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

 

Athens, OH: Athens Cannabis Ordinance

Residents of Athens, Ohio will have the ability to vote on the “Athens Cannabis Ordinance” which would significantly reform many of the penalties around marijuana possession and cultivation in the city. The ordinance would drop the fine for the following offenses to $ 0, effectively removing any criminal or civil punishment:

  • Possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana and up to 10 grams of hash
  • Cultivation of up to 200 grams of marijuana
  • Gifts of up to 20 grams of marijuana
  • Possession and sale of paraphernalia

CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR ATHENS, OH VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

 

Atlanta Mayor (Note: If none of the candidates in tonight’s election receive more than 50% of the vote, there will be a run-off election this winter between the top two vote getters. Atlanta’s mayoral race is also non-partisan.)

During the debate surrounding the now approved decriminalization bill in Atlanta, news outlet the AtlantaLoop got a majority of the mayoral candidates on record in regards to their views on marijuana penalties. The incoming mayor will oversee the implementation of this ordinance so it is important to have a supportive incoming mayor in power in 2018.

Peter Aman, former Atlanta COO: “I support the deprioritization of marijuana enforcement and will work with the courts and the police department and community to examine a procedure focused on fines, rather than jail time. Criminal justice reform is not just a buzzword. It is a thoughtful approach to finding ways to ensure citizens do not carry a lifelong burden for instances that do not cause harm to the public. Equally important, deprioritization is a cost-saving measure on the courts and the public safety budget. It allows our officers to focus on crime fighting and keeping our communities safe.

Also, I firmly believe, and research shows, marijuana use has clear impacts on the brain development of children and young adults. In addition to, or in lieu of other penalties, I will ask the courts to examine requiring individuals below a certain age to attend an educational course on the cognitive impacts of marijuana and to help them make informed choices in how, when, and where they use such a substance – as we do in case of abuse of alcohol use.”

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves: “It is high time that Atlanta City Council members and Mayor Kasim Reed stop talking, and start doing something on the issue of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. Generally, that means these offenses are treated like a minor traffic violation: no arrest, prison time, or criminal record for a first-time possession.

Unlike my opponents who have sat on their hands while our young people suffer, I have a track record of actually doing something about issues like this one. For example, as Fulton County Chairman, I pushed through the first-ever expungement program, to give people a second chance after arrests for minor offenses— including those never prosecuted. I also championed the successful Fulton County diversion program that has seen our jail population decrease and our recidivism rate drop dramatically.

As a long-standing criminal justice, youth diversion and expungement advocate, my main concern is that for small amounts of marijuana possession, a person can have a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their life. While we must be for law and order, we also must be fair. That means using best practices based on other local government experiences. For example, the Clarkston City Council, voted unanimously last year to reduce the fine from up to $ 1,000 to $ 75 for possessing less than an ounce, and eliminating the possibility of jail time. In the nation’s capital city of Washington, D.C., voters approved decriminalization for people over the age of 21.

For a city as diverse as Atlanta, a decriminalization ordinance in this direction makes sense.

As Atlanta’s next mayor, I will continue to make juvenile justice a top priority and will work to provide laws that are fair to everyone, no matter their zip code.”

State Sen. Vincent Fort: “I’m talking about a ticket, a citation, I’m talking about no mugshot, no arrest. A citation, go on your way, pay.  Anywhere from $ 25, $ 50 to $ 75.

Two, I am very concerned that there’s this confusion, quote-unquote confusion issue.  I’ve heard some city council members and some candidates for mayor talk about how people from the outside of the city would come in and think that they could smoke dope and there’d be no consequences.  That is a red herring.  Then there are some other people who have said, ‘Oh I’m not going to have quote-unquote blood on my hands,’ by virtue of the fact that they say, ‘Well there’s a kid who thinks he can smoke dope anywhere, any way he wants and he gets arrested because the officer has discretion … and they’ll resist arrest and thus you know blood’ll be on the hands of anyone who supports this.’ That’s just crazy, it’s absolutely crazy. It’s unfortunate that elected officials would engage in such mendacity, intentionally trying to create confusion on the issues.

… [I]f there are all these cities all over the country including in the South, that can decriminalize marijuana, if tiny Clarkston can do it, the city of Atlanta can do it. The fact of the matter is, the city council and the mayor have been in power, in place, as well as the Fulton County Commission has been in place for years and young African American males … have been pushed into the entryway for mass incarceration and they [officials] have done nothing. And now that they have the chance to do it, they’re abdicating their responsibility.”

Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall: “It is a high priority for my administration to be able to roll out an effective and well-communicated marijuana declassification, so [people are not] not excessively penalized for possession of less than an ounce.”

Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood: “I want a dialog with the police department as to the impact of changing the city’s ordinance and what does to offenders and whether or not … the state law would then apply.  What we need is an understanding from the police department as to the steps that occur now and the steps that would occur for their police officers on the street with offenders with the changes.”

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell: “When I was a child being raised in this city, the last thing my father wanted to do as a police officer was to destroy the lives of young people.

The time and effort spent apprehending and sending people to jail for this minor offense would be of better use to law enforcement in their pursuit of dangerous criminals. When police officers spend time on these offenses, jail cells end up filled with non-violent offenders, while repeat and violent offenders often go free.

Atlantans deserve to have a city that encourages kids to reach their potential, not one that embraces punishment for every misstep.

While usage rates are roughly the same across different races, statistics show that African-Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. For many Atlanta kids, it is a gateway to prison. We need to do everything we can to end a process that hurts our kids by serving as a fast track to incarceration”

Two candidates, Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard and Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, did not respond to AtlantaLoop’s request for comment. However, it is worth noting that both serve on the Atlanta City Council, which unanimously approved teh decriminalization measure earlier this year. You can view their full article here.

 

CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR ATLANTA, GA VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

 

Stay tuned…

NORML will be covering the results of these elections throughout the evening on our blog and social media channels. Stay tuned for results and reactions later tonight.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Election: Pro-Legalization Phil Murphy Wins NJ Governor Race

vote_keyboardTrenton, NJ: After making the legalization of marijuana a core issue in both his primary and general election campaigns, Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has claimed victory in the New Jersey gubernatorial election over Republican Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno.

In fact, in his primary victory speech, Phil Murphy proclaimed his desire to sign a marijuana legalization bill within his first 100 days in office.

“Candidates across the country should take notice, as Phil Murphy won the Governor’s seat soundly because of, not in spite of, his open and vocal support for legalizing marijuana – a position supported by 65% of New Jersey voters and 64% of Americans nationwide,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “NORML looks forward to working with Governor-Elect Murphy and other stakeholders in the state to end the disastrous policy of marijuana prohibition and to implement the moral, economic, and scientifically sound policy of legalization and regulation in the Garden State.”

Polling data released this week by Predictwise/Pollfish Survey revealed that a 65% of New Jersey voters support legalizing marijuana outright.

Currently in New Jersey, a possession conviction of anything under 50 grams of marijuana can carry a sentence of 6 months in jail and a $ 1,000 fine. The ACLU-NJ found that police make a marijuana possession arrest in New Jersey on average every 22 minutes and that black New Jerseyans were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite similar usage rates.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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