Marijuana advocacy organization calls on new administration to respect new state laws, American public opinion, and responsible marijuana consumers
National NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), Michigan NORML and dozens of other state and local chapters on Tuesday released an open letter to Vice President-Elect Mike Pence seeking clarity and common sense from the incoming administration regarding marijuana policy.
Possession of marijuana in Indiana, where Pence is governor, is still punished harshly. Any amount of cannabis in the state can get you a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
When House Bill 1006 was introduced to overhaul Indiana’s criminal code, the bill originally included a clause to lower marijuana possession penalties, reports Lisa Rough at Leafly. But Governor Pence refused to accept lower penalties for pot, and demanded the Indiana Legislature bump possession back up to a Class B misdemeanor before he’d sign the measure into law.
“I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties,” Pence said at a press conference.
“I just had a longstanding belief that legalizing marijuana would not be in the interest of our youth or our people,” Pence said in 2014, reports US News & World Report. “And I’ll maintain my position in opposition to legalization as long as I’m governor.”
Meanwhile the official Republican Party platform was too timid to endorse even medical marijuana, which is supported by upwards of 80 percent of the American public. Instead, the GOP platform fell back on tired old Reefer Madness cliches regarding the dangers of cannabis, reports Stephen Calabria at HERB.
During the campaign, President-Elect Trump, on multiple occasions, voiced support for allowing states to move forward with medical and recreational marijuana laws if they chose to do so. Yet his nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be the next Attorney General, who infamously stated that “good people don’t use marijuana” during a Senate hearing in 2016, the administration is currently sending mixed messages in regards to the future of marijuana law reform under the incoming administration.
Sessions has called legalization a “tragic mistake,” reports James Higdon at Politico. “You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink,” he said when President Obama declared that cannabis is no more harmful than alcohol (we’ll see if he feels differently when it’s a white Republican who says it.)
“It is different,” Sessions claimed. “It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.” Of course, the only “disturbance” weed has caused in legal states is among people as equally clueless as Attorney General nominee Sessions himself.
Trump also has seemingly been unable to stick to a single coherent narrative when it comes to legalization. His views remain mixed, at best — and that’s taking an optimistic view of a man who will seemingly say whatever he thinks you want to hear, when it comes to pot.
“I say it’s bad,” Trump said, when asked about recreational legalization last year at CPAC, an annual conservative gathering. “Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think [recreational marijuana] is bad. And I feel strongly about that.”
When pressed by FOX moderator Sean Hannity on the states’ rights point, Trump relied, “If they vote for it, they vote for it. But they’ve got a lot of problems going on right now in Colorado. Some big problems.” If you consider the huge infusion of cash into Colorado’s tax coffers as a “problem,” Trump is right; otherwise ,not so much.
NORML Letter to Pence Stresses Economic Reasons
In keeping with President-Elect Trump’s message of economic growth, the marijuana advocacy groups wrote: “Voters are less and less convinced that cannabis is a criminal problem and no longer want their hard earned tax dollars used to arrest and prosecute non-violent users or entrepreneurs and employees of state licensed cannabis businesses.”
The letter, co-signed by over 50 NORML chapters throughout the country as well as the national organization, represents tens-of-thousands of advocates for cannabis reform.
“As a Michigan resident, I know that Mr. Trump would not have won my state had he campaigned on the continued criminalization of responsible marijuana users,” said Brad Forrester, communications director of Michigan NORML, “as the transition Chairman and soon to be Vice President, Mr. Pence has an enormous responsibility to his voters and the American people to support federal policy that respects adults to make their own decisions.”
National NORML recently released a petition to President-Elect Trump with a similar request for marijuana clarity with the letter reading “On behalf of the millions of loyal Americans who use marijuana, we hope he will respect the right of states to determine their own marijuana policy, as you advocated in your campaign. Can you clarify whether you will support states’ rights and allow states that chose to reform their laws to do so or will you use the force of the federal government to interfere with or shut down these programs?”
“The three biggest winners on election night were Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and marijuana,” said Justin Strekal, political director for national NORML. “Given the broad support for marijuana reform across essentially all demographics, the Trump-Pence administration would be wise to allow states to continue to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention. This is not just good policy, it’s good politics.”