August 25, 2011

NORML Life: Marijuana Laws 101

NORML is an organization created many decades ago as lobby representation in Washington DC for responsible adult marijuana use. Since prohibition began in the late 30’s, Americans have paid billions of dollars to prosecute and jail marijuana users. NORML’s website notes an estimated 10 million citizens are arrested annually. Many Americans feel the time has come to reverse these destructive laws and have worked tirelessly to bring change on State, Local and Federal Levels.

1937 Marijuana Tax Stamp
The Marijuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937 made it illegal to grow marijuana if you did not have a Marijuana Tax Stamp. The government did not produce the stamp or offer it to farmers, so essentially growing marijuana became illegal. This happened just after a very well known propaganda campaign, Reefer Madness, essentially vilified the cannabis plant in the minds of general public. 

Since then, millions of people have been jailed for possession and personal use of marijuana costing the taxpayers billions of dollars. According to the NORML website 6.5 million people have been jailed in the last decade. NORML Website: War Against Marijuana Consumers
One marijuana smoker is arrested every 38 seconds in the United States according recent FBI statistical reports. For more information on annual arrests in the United States visit NORML’s page Arrest Statistics page.  NORML Website: Annual Marijuana Arrests in the US

Medical Marijuana laws are very complicated and somewhat difficult to understand. NORML helps tremendously keeping a large library of medical marijuana laws for the public to use as reference when trying to navigate the information including history, science and court cases. The first part of grasping the big picture is understanding the different ideas of legalization being debated in today’s think tanks. 

Although the use of Marijuana for medicinal purposes is against Federal law, many States have passed voter driven initiatives that lessen penalties and provide a layer of protection for patients being prosecuted on State levels for cultivating and using the plant. NORML’s website has a complete list of States with such laws in place and a directory showing which States currently have active initiatives on the voter ballots. 

Decriminalization means carrying small amounts of marijuana for adult personal use is considered a misdemeanor and treated similar to a traffic violation. A complete list of States who have decriminalized can be found here: NORML Website: States with Decriminalization Initiatives in Place
Click on the individual State links for more information on the initiatives and laws in place. 

Tax and Regulate allows the production and distribution of marijuana to be regulated by State and Local agencies and taxed for the benefit of the community. There are 16 States with active tax and regulation laws in place plus the District of Columbia. Complete List from NORML website: 
Click on the individual states for more information on regulations and patient programs in each area. 

Most Americans do not know 20 States in the United States currently use a system of taxation for possession of illicit drugs. After a person is arrested and processed through the court systems, they are additionally charged for tax evasion for not purchasing a Tax Stamp legally required to be affixed to contraband. Defendants are taxed by weight of the confiscated marijuana and penalized for non payment. For a list of States with Tax Stamp laws in effect and more information on penalties visit:NORML Website: States with Tax Penalties in Place

Legalization means the plant is completely legal to grow, distribute, buy and sell with no restrictions whatsoever.  Currently, there are no initiatives this extreme, however, there are groups advocating for the immediate and full legalization of the cannabis plants for all its uses. The MERP Model is one such example: MERP Model

Currently, The United States Federal Government has Marijuana in the Schedule 1 category, reserved for drugs with no medicinal benefits such as mescaline, heroin and lysergic acid. Rescheduling Cannabis to a less restrictive class would allow a broader range of businesses and individuals to work with cannabis as a medicine without the special permitting requirements necessary for schedule 1. NORML has been working with other activist organizations to reschedule the plant for decades. In 1972, NORML filed a petition and was not granted a hearing until 1986. That petition was eventually denied in spite of recommendations from court staff and industry experts to do so. Subsequent petitions have been filed since then including the most recent effort in May of 2011. For more information on NORML’s part in rescheduling cannabis, please visit their website. NORML Rescheduling Efforts

Many people are looking at the fiscal policies behind prohibition and wondering if we have the money to prosecute non violent marijuana users who would otherwise be responsible tax-paying citizens. States are starting to calculate the amount of tax revenue possible from a booming industry seemingly transcending a crashing World economy. NORML as an organization stays well ahead of the movement, supporting grass roots efforts at every level. They keep individuals updated on current issues, motivated with action items and show unwavering support to both recreational and medicinal users.  NORML chapters exist in most areas of the United States. Find a complete listing here: NORML Chapters

If you do not see a Chapter listed in your area, there is no affiliated group currently working there. Consider starting a Chapter! 

Find information on starting a local chapter here: Start a NORML Chapter

NORML Life, just released by Cinema Libre Studios to DVD explores the culture of an organization working to end the prohibition of the Cannabis Plant including interviews with activists, doctors, patients and providers. 

"NORML or National Organization of the Reform for Marijuana Laws has long advocated the decriminalization of cannabis for over 40 years. Its founder, current leaders and nationwide chapter representatives describe the patchwork of state and municipal laws that allow medical marijuana, while the federal government still regards cannabis as a dangerous narcotic. Voters in the US are increasingly recognizing the positive aspects of accepting and controlling medical marijuana in their communities for its medicinal benefits, as well as for its potential to generate needed tax revenue.

BONUS FEATURES: Ray Manzarek, co-founder of The Doors, speaks about his experiences with The Doors and marijuana."

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