Friday, November 29, 2013
Friday, March 1, 2013
by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director
February 28, 2013
A Message from the Chair of NORML’s Board of Directors, Norm Kent:
NORML is the pioneer, the grand patron and founder of the marijuana policy reform movement in America. We are still here and by your side, and we are needed now, more than ever.
Some have said that as our nation moves towards medicalization, decriminalization, or legalization, our tasks will be diminished, our duties lessened, our essence threatened.
The truth is that it is just the opposite.
Now, with cannabis reforms about to blossom in city after city, from small communities to large counties, our nation needs a respected consumer advocacy group more than ever.
Our nation needs a lobby such as the new NORML, firmly planted, and nationally respected, which will protect the rights of cannabis consumers, as no one else has in the past or can in the future.
Our nation needs a new NORML, which ensures that the distribution of cannabis to anyone is universally safe, readily accessible and fairly affordable to everyone.
Our nation needs a new NORML that ensures that the laws which legislatures pass favor freedom and fairness, not moneymakers or mercenaries.
Our nation needs a new NORML that ensures patients have access to safe medicine, consumers acquire healthy products, and distribution mechanisms protect gender, age, and race, available not just to corporate conglomerates but individual entrepreneurs.
The new NORML today contains a NORML Women’s Alliance representing the power of feminism and professionalism, bringing passion and gender diversity to the cause of personal freedom and individual choice.
The new NORML brings vast youth advocacy to the table, with hundreds of chapters in 50 states, young men and women fighting with their heart and soul to ensure scholarships are not revoked, driving privileges are not taken away, and jobs are not lost because they make legal decisions to use cannabis responsibly.
The new NORML will bring activists and academicians, economists and entrepreneurs, to political forums, explaining how justly taxing cannabis legally today can stop the bleeding of state, city and village budgets tomorrow.
The new NORML will still need and provide the national canvas with a network of criminal defense attorneys to represent clients who are wrongly arrested and unjustly prosecuted, from patients with medical conditions to adult drivers illegally stopped.
The new NORML needs to remind Americans that decriminalization in 18 states means we still have a ways to go in 32 others, where nearly a million Americans a year still go to jail for consuming cannabis.
Thus, the new NORML needs to remind everyone that apathy and inertia has no room for intrusion; that our advocacy must still be engaged, that our voices still be heard.
The new NORML thus needs to blend innovative social media tools to drive activists with initiatives from coast to coast and in community after community. With hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, and millions of cannabis consumers living and supporting our cause all across America, our word must be spread on the web and throughout the country. We must remind Americans everywhere that it is unjust and unfair for adults consuming cannabis privately and personally to get arrested anywhere, anytime, or in any place.
The new NORML needs to be advocates not just for patients who want access to safe medicine and fair distribution systems, but adults who demand the right to responsible use along with just access for righteous, recreational use, needing no apologies for exercising their individual sovereignty openly and freely.
The new NORML also needs to be advocates who rectify the injustices of past decades, for individuals whose futures were destroyed by a drug war that failed to do anything but ruin good lives with bad laws.
The new NORML needs to marshal public policy so that the laws are changed everywhere not in the next few decades, but in the next few years. To achieve national reform, we need to harness the energy and network of drug policy reform organizations throughout this country. We need to speak with a common voice and universal message.
The message to be shared and the story to be told is not just that prohibition was wrong all along, or that the drug war has been a financial and moral failure. That is a past we have learned all too well.
The message for the new NORML is to state that Americans citizens have always come to support equal civil liberties for all, from women to African Americans, to our friends in the gay and lesbian community. After decades of pain, that morning has come for cannabis consumers. The new NORML will celebrate the future, not condemn the past.
For 40 years, NORML has been on the side of those who embraced individual choice and the responsible use of cannabis, as an extension of personal freedom.
Now, more than ever, the new NORML will remain by your side in order to ensure that as cannabis is distributed and disseminated to consumers from state to state, or coast to coast, it becomes readily accessible, equitably affordable and universally safe.
Chair, NORML Board of Directors
Saturday, February 2, 2013
By Norm Kent
More and more prudent politicians, thoughtful columnists, and fiscally responsible legislators are re-thinking outdated marijuana laws. It is long overdue, and thoroughly welcome.
The mainstream view is to now decriminalize marijuana entirely, or allow for its distribution to adults legally. In fact, more than 70 percent of Americans support, at the very least, legalizing medical marijuana. Last year, citizens both in Colorado and the state of Washington voted for legalization. It is amazing what can happen when you close the curtain in that voting booth. We are developing a national recognition the ‘drug war’ has been a failure.
For decades, politicians running on ‘law and order’ campaigns were afraid to speak out about unjust drug laws, for fear of being perceived as ‘soft on crime.’ Consequently, they supported sending people to the joint for smoking joints. Florida is one of the more archaic states. Just a little more than a half an ounce of marijuana is still a felony, which can cost you not just your freedom, but expose you to losing a job, college scholarships and having your car forfeited. That is ludicrous.
In Florida this year, though, medical marijuana initiatives will be presented to the state legislature for consideration. Last week, in the Sun Sentinel, even conservative columnist Kingsley Guy suggested our nation’s drug laws be reconsidered. Leonard Pitts did so last year in the Herald. Encouraging and responsible voices for decriminalization are emerging everywhere. Across the nation, legislators or citizens in over 18 states have now voted for decriminalization or medical use. The wave has arrived. Let's all ride it.
Statistics for national marijuana arrests are kept by the FBI. In its last report, for 2011, 757,969 arrests for marijuana were reported nationwide- and over 663,000 of them were for simple possession. But in progressive states, where dispensaries are allowed and decriminalization has been advanced, arrests are down and society is not compromised. The trains still run on time and the world has not crumbled. In fact, new cottage industries are springing up for 'medibles,' herbal uses, and natural homeopathic uses for cannabis.
Three decades of harsh drug laws have done little more than institutionalize racism into our justice system. Statistically, minorities have always been incarcerated at a drastically higher rate than their Caucasian counterparts. But if you think Americans love guns, we love jails more. In fact, we put people in jail at 5 to 10 times the rate of most countries in the world, including all the democracies in Western Europe. But locking people up for smoking a joint is asinine, and must come to an end.
Last week, an appellate court stupidly refused to reschedule marijuana, maintaining its classification as a harmful drug with no respected medical uses. The decision employed strained logic and lacked common sense. It ignored documented studies establishing the medicinal uses of cannabis historically and presently. It will be used as a tool for continued repression and arrest. Hopefully, a higher appellate court will vaporize that ruling. It was forty years ago that a Presidential commission had the foresight to recommend decriminalizing marijuana. Instead, our nation launched an unconscionable drug war against innocent citizens. That war is not against drugs. That war is against people, and it has inexcusably compromised our civil liberties.
None of this makes any sense in terms of public safety, health or fiscal policy. Federal crackdowns have not curtailed the ever-growing and omnipresent trade in marijuana. However, legalizing marijuana, or even allowing for medical dispensaries, will enhance urban and rural tax bases, and provide medical marijuana to those who need it. The federal government should defer to those states now doing so, allowing them a chance to see if this new approach won’t work successfully. If it can save lives, cut prison costs, generate tax revenues, and expand our essential freedoms, we ought to ‘give pot a chance.’
It is time for courageous community leaders and politicians to speak out against unjust marijuana laws, especially since most of them have smoked pot themselves. And look- they have grown up to become respected realtors, entrepreneurs and even educators. Let’s get real about pot. If you are a member of a local city commission, you should be directing your police agency to make pot arrests their lowest priority.
If Republicans really want to espouse core values such as individual liberty and states’ rights, along with economic opportunity, they should join in the emerging common sense approach to decriminalizing marijuana. If Democrats want to stand up for equality for all classes of citizens, and ending social injustice, they should also be proposing laws for responsible adult use of marijuana.
The decriminalization and legalization of marijuana is and has always been a cultural and political struggle. The laws against public legal consumption were never in the public interest. They have been tools to silence dissidents, minorities, and young people living outside the mainstream. The federal government has always been the bully. Well, it is time we started passing anti-bullying laws.
The gay community should be especially concerned as well. Informal polling in the LGBT community shows not only 80 percent support decriminalization, but routine use and social acceptance, from age 22 to 82. Less than a month ago in an emerging gay-centric community in South Florida, Wilton Manors, a 75-year-old retired Harvard professor was taken to jail for smoking a joint in his living room. The laws would be a joke if they did not fashion such an injustice from coast to coast.
If pot smokers had come out of the closet with the courage and numbers that gay and lesbians have, we would be further along the path to legalization. But maybe the LGBT community can do for cannabis activists what they have done for themselves- stand up and be counted. Gay men and women should actively support and join the growing nationwide movement for marijuana legalization.
You ought to be able to put into your body what you want, whether it’s a partner’s private part or a joint you rolled. As the Supreme Court justices wrote in the landmark case defining gay rights in Texas just a few years ago, there is a sphere of civil liberties beyond government control. That is the fundamental premise of our constitution, and it is one we should always fight for. It is not about the pot. It is about your right to choose. As gay men and women, we should always choose free choice as our governor. As American citizens, we should embrace those who do so as well.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Sunday, August 26, 2012
The city, however, imposed a restrictive condition on their contract with Martin, stating that “advertising of tobacco, firearms, massage parlors, adult book stores, adult theaters, adult escort services and pornographic or obscene matters are prohibited. The determination of objectionable, obscene advertising shall be the right of the City, and their decisions shall be final.”
Friday, February 24, 2012
by Norm Kent
Vice President, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
After being exonerated by major league baseball yesterday from his potential suspension, Ryan Braun owes all fantasy baseball players an apology.
In his press release acknowledging the support he had from his family and friends, he forgot to thank all those early-drafting fantasy players who stood by him and selected him in the top 20 picks. After all, as the NL MVP he was one of baseball's best players in 2011.
But now let me speak as a constitutional rights lawyer. Neither a technicality nor a loophole today freed Ryan Braun from a 50 game suspension. What saved Braun today was the fact that we leave in a society which is supposed to preserve due process, insure fairness, and honor agreements protecting the rights of employees. Baseball is no different. Players are very well paid obviously, but as Curt Flood, challenging baseball's free agency system years ago once stated, 'A high paid slave is still a slave.'
Today, baseball players are hardly slaves. Free agency has given them vast negotiating rights, but that does not change the fact that drug testing procedures in America are inherently flawed. Every day, using a substantially compromised field test, cops arrest innocent people for purportedly carrying contraband that turns out not to be so. The list and litany of false positives could and do fill a book, and I cite a few examples in a link at the bottom of the page. Beware of Dr. Bronner's natural, herbal, liquid soaps. They could put you in jail.
Nevertheless, in this era of steroids and performance enhancing drugs, major league baseball players and its management negotiated drug-testing protocols to insure the integrity of the game and trust of its fan base. However, as lawyers for the players sat down to work out the drug testing initiatives, it was imperative that mechanisms and processes be implemented that would insure the integrity of drug testing and fairness for both sides.
Scientists and lawyers had seen for years a panoply of poorly administered procedures which compromised the accuracy of results. These included a variety of situations, from not properly storing drug specimens at specific temperatures, to failing to initiate a timely testing of the sample. The reason meticulous guidelines and standards were imposed for all drug testing was because the failure to do so would render the test inherently unreliable, and could very well lead to false positives wrongly accusing an otherwise innocent individual.
The issue today with Ryan Braun is apparently chain-of-custody, but the reason chain-of-custody is critical is because the failure to preserve it exactly could potentially compromise the integrity of the test. That is why the failure to safeguard chain of custody was negotiated as a material factor in relying upon a drug test in the first place- because there is a history of insanely false positives when chain-of-custody protocols are not exactingly followed, or the specimens are not tracked thoroughly.
As the Ryan Braun case unfolds, it appears those procedures, agreed upon in writing by major league baseball and the players’ association, were not followed. He was ‘acquitted’ of wrongdoing not by a technicality. He was ‘acquitted’ of wrongdoing because of the wrongdoing by major league baseball operatives not abiding by the agreement they entered into.
This is not about a player getting off. This is about a contract being honored; about both parties being faithful to the rules and regulations they mutually negotiated before a player’s career could be interrupted and his reputation irreparably stained.
It is not that drug testing lost today. Fairness won. It is not a technicality that saved Ryan Braun. It is that we as a society have preserved due process, and the same procedures that have been used to affirm a dozen previous rulings on steroids, have now been applied to exonerate one. That is the way it should be when one side does not abide by its agreements. This time, it was the owners that lost, but neither did baseball win.
What won was the right of a censured athlete to argue an appeal and mandate that the landlords of the game respect the rights of its tenants pursuant to the terms of a lease they mutually negotiated beforehand.
For more information on how drug testing procedures in America are flawed, visit this article I published at http://jaablog.jaablaw.com/2011/08/18/field-drug-tests-fa.aspx It is hard to believe a bar of chocolate or some herbal incense can put you in jail, but in our Amerika, it still can.
As for Norm Kent, the fantasy baseball player, I should have known better. I should have had more faith in my own words, and drafted Ryan Braun in the freaking first round. My bad.