- Published on 15 February 2014
- Written by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director,
Anchorage, AK: State election officials have confirmed that a proposed initiative to regulate the production and retail sale of cannabis to adults has obtained the necessary number of signatures from registered voters to appear on 2014 ballot.
The initiative's proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska, gathered more than 45,000 signatures from registered Alaska voters. Last week, the director of the Alaska's Division of Elections confirmed that of those signatures, 31,593 have been verified, thus qualifying the measure for a public vote. The lieutenant governor's office is expected to certify the measure for the 2014 ballot in the coming days, once all of the remaining signatures have been counted and verified.
Once certified, the initiative will be placed on the August 19 primary election ballot, as is required by Alaska election law.
If approved by voters, the measure would legalize the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants (three flowering) for personal consumption. The measure would also allow for the establishment of licensed, commercial cannabis production and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products to those over the age of 21. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis would be subject to taxation, but no taxes would be imposed upon those who choose to engage in non-commercial activities (e.g., growing small quantities of marijuana for personal use and/or engaging in not-for-profit transfers of limited quantities of cannabis.) Public consumption of cannabis would be subject to a civil fine.
The measure neither amends the state's existing medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 1998, nor does it diminish any privacy rights established by the state's Supreme Court in its 1975 ruling Ravin v State.
Under present state law, the possession of marijuana not in one's residence is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 90-days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
According to the results of a statewide Public Policy Polling survey, released last week, 55 percent of registered voters "think (that) marijuana should be legally allowed for recreational use, that stores should be allowed to sell it, and that its sales should be taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol." Only 39 percent of respondents oppose the idea. The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or visit: http://regulatemarijuanainalaska.org.
- Published on 07 February 2014
- Written by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
Washington, DC: Members of the US House and Senate have approved an amendment in the federal Farm Bill loosening federal restrictions pertaining to the state-authorized cultivation of industrial hemp.
House members approved the language, which had been advocated for in conference committee by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), last week. Members of the Senate followed suit on Tuesday, sending the bill to the President's desk.
President Obama is expected to sign the legislation imminently.
The amendment "authorizes an institution of higher education or state department of agriculture to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes if the laws of the State permit its growth and cultivation."
Some ten states have enacted legislation allowing for the state-authorized cultivation of hemp for research or commercial purposes.
Commenting on Congress' passage of the amendment, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said "The approval of this language marks the first change in federal policy regarding hemp cultivation since World War II."
According to a 2013 white paper published by the United States Congressional Research Service, hemp is "genetically different" from cultivated cannabis because it contains virtually no THC. The paper stated, "[A] commercial hemp industry in the United States could provide opportunities as an economically viable alternative crop for some US growers."
United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop.
- Published on 25 January 2014
- Written by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
Washington, DC: Consuming cannabis is less harmful to the individual than is drinking alcohol, President Barack Obama acknowledged this week in an interview with The New Yorker.
Responding to questions regarding the public's growing support in favor of legalizing the plant, the President stated: "As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice. ... I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
When asked whether he believes cannabis to be less of a threat to public health than booze, the President replied affirmatively, stating that the plant poses fewer harms "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer." However, he added: "It's not something I encourage. ... I think it's a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy."
According to a 2009 review published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal, the health-related costs per user are eight times higher for drinkers of alcoholic beverages than they are for those who use cannabis, and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers.
The President also acknowledged that African Americans and Latinos comprise a disproportionate number of marijuana arrests compared to Caucasians despite engaging in similar rates of cannabis consumption. "Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do," he said. "And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties."
According to a June 2013 ACLU study, African Americans nationwide are approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Finally, the President acknowledged the significance of recently imposed changes in Colorado and Washington state laws allowing for the regulation of cannabis. Though he described the ongoing implementation of the new laws as a "challenge," he added: "[I]t's important for [these state reforms] to go forward because it's important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished. ... [W]e should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time."
In September, Deputy Attorney General James Cole testified to members of the United States Senate that the Obama administration "will not ... seek to preempt state ballot initiatives" regulating the plant's production and retail sale unless such activities specifically undermine eight explicit federal law enforcement priorities.
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano suggests this new position by the President is significant. He said: "While it is ultimately the responsibility of Congress to address America's longstanding and failed drug policies, the President can use the bully pulpit to set the tone and move the conversation in the proper direction. Until recently, he has largely failed to do so. But his recent public statements regarding the relative safety of cannabis compared to alcohol and his acknowledgement that criminalization disproportionately impacts minorities and the poor may indicate that the President and his Party are finally willing to utilize their public platform and political capital to fight for actual changes in law, rather than simply acknowledge changes in attitude."
Under federal law, marijuana is presently classified to be equally as dangerous as heroin.