America swept in medical and recreational cannabis across the country this election year, but the fight isn’t over for one of the oldest marijuana reform organizations.
“Now is not the time to become complacent,” wrote Erik Altieri, the newly appointed director of NORML.
“As we celebrate our recent successes, we must remind ourselves that legalization is not inevitable. It is dependent upon maintaining the fight. Our opponents are not going away. They remain well-funded and ready for battle. So should we.”
Kevin Mahmalji, the national Outreach Coordinator for NORML, is based in Denver. He came to the Denver NORML chapter monthly meeting in November to recap the election results.
“It was a big night for America,” said Mahmalji, avoiding the divisive Presidential election. “And to respect people’s views, I’m going to stick with the marijuana votes because we can all agree on that.”
Massachusetts goes recreational
Massachusetts was a surprise because all the polling was split 50/50. “It’s great for the momentum of the movement that another East Coast state is jumping on board with recreational.”
The crowd of consuming cannabis users released a collective “woah” when they heard from Kevin that the legislation allows for up to ten ounces in the home.
Nevada votes yes to recreational
He pointed out that Nevada was a state that recently implemented medical marijuana. “They did a quick switch to welcome recreational”, however, they joined most other 420-friendly states in banning public consumption.
The ban on public consumption is an issue for users in cannabis legal states. “We need to have public consumption in more legislation going forward,” advocated the national NORML representative.
The audience was in agreement; obviously, he was preaching to the choir.
“Yep, where are we supposed to consume responsibly outside our home?” said one woman as she puffed on a vape pen.
Medical Marijuana in Arkansas and North Dakota
“It came out of nowhere, like North Dakota,” Kevin commented. “That’s how quickly things are changing in our country.” People would have thought it crazy only a few years ago.
Florida passes medical marijuana measure
NORML is all about home grow, they have always advocated for the right to be able to grow a little on your own. They prefer language in favor of allowing home grows within state legislations, but are happy the Sunshine State now has medical marijuana.
“There won’t be home cultivation in Florida, but I can’t complain because it’s the first southern state to legalize medical,” said Kevin.
Montana expands medical marijuana
Issue 6 was an amendment to existing medical marijuana law. Since its passage, seventeen qualifying conditions were added to the list, and it allocates tax revenue to technical institutes, vocational schools, workforce training, and the general fund.
California finally goes recreational
It was a long time coming for California. Proposition 64 was approved, paving the way for recreational cannabis sales and cultivation taxes. While it’s good news for visitors who don’t have a medical card, many opponents said it would squeeze out the small cannabis businesses — some of which have been growing since even before the state went medically legal.
Arizona falls short
Arizona was the only cannabis measure voted down in 2016. But the good news is that 51 million Americans now have access to marijuana, a win that NORML is celebrating.
It’s a victory, but NORML will be watching the White House closely to see what happens with the coming Trump administration. “What will they do for states already online like Colorado? Or others getting started? Those are questions we always must ask,” said Kevin.
“This is one of the most exciting and critical times in the group’s forty-year history,” wrote Altieri in a statement on the elections. He warns like-minded cannabis advocates to be cautiously optimistic for the future of the plant:
“I urge you to stand with me, NORML’s staff, and with our nationwide network of chapters. We must capitalize on our newly minted successes and seize upon our growing public support. No one person or organization can win this fight alone. We must come together as advocates in a unified force so that we can make our desired policy reforms a reality.”
The likely new AG, Jeff Sessions, is not our friend. “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” said Sessions earlier this year. He lives in the past, invoking images of Nancy Reagan and the “Just Say No” campaign from the 1980’s. We’re going to have to be smart, tough, and we’ll have to hang together, in particular for our brothers and sisters in states where cannabis of any sort is not yet legal. My guess is cannabis arrests will increase, especially in not-yet-legal states in an attempt to intimidate people away from the reform movement. With an opioid and heroin epidemic on their hands the DEA should have other priorities. But make no mistake, an AG Sessions will look for ways to come at us hard, legal state or not. I don’t believe they can stop reform, but only impede it. We can weather the storm. But it’s not inevitable, either. We have to stay together now.
Thanks for doing a story and not mentioning a thing about Montana and the serious problem we are having in our state with voter approved bills being all but repeled by our state legislature