For nearly 40 years, NORML has provided a voice in the public policy debate for the tens of millions of Americans who enjoy cannabis responsibly. NORML is and has always been the ‘marijuana’ consumers’ lobby.
In the short run, NORML favors the elimination of all criminal and/or civil penalties prohibiting the possession of cannabis for personal use, regardless of whether one is using it for medical purposes or for personal pleasure. Further, NORML opposes sanctions that presently prohibit the not-for-profit transfer of small amounts of cannabis between adults. This policy, called “decriminalization”, was the recommendation of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse in their groundbreaking 1972 report, Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding. Versions of cannabis decriminalization have now been adopted in 13 states.
Cannabis consumers are ordinary Americans who work hard, raise families, pay taxes and contribute in a positive way to their communities. We are not criminals. Just as millions of Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day, we enjoy sharing a joint (or, for that matter, a vapor bag) when we relax in the evening. Of the nearly 900,000 marijuana arrests in America each year, about 90% are for possession of small amounts for personal use. Continuing with this Draconian policy makes no sense. That is why three out of four Americans now support decriminalizing the personal possession and use of cannabis.
NORML’s ultimate political goal is the establishment of a legally regulated market where consumers can obtain their cannabis in a safe and secure environment. This policy is generally called “legalization”. As our country discovered when we experimented with alcohol prohibition, it is only by providing a legally regulated market that we can significantly reduce the crime, corruption and violence associated with a criminal black market.
NORML supports the imposition of state and/or federal age and quality controls governing the commercial production, sale, and use of cannabis to assure public safety and to advise the consumer of the strength of the variety of cannabis being purchased.
And, importantly, we support the imposition of a reasonable tax on commercial cannabis sales that could raise substantial revenue for the various states, to be used for drug education and other programs to encourage responsible use and to discourage abuse. But as we work toward these goals, it is crucial that we underscore the importance of permitting consumers the option to grow their own cannabis.
Alcohol consumers possess the legal right to create their own home brew, free from government interference. Although the vast majority of alcohol drinkers never utilizes this freedom, and prefers the convenience of purchasing alcohol at a retail outlet, that option remains available to those who wish to use it. We believe that similar regulations should govern the non-retail production of cannabis.
The cultivation of cannabis for personal use is the single most important element of the NORML legalization proposal. Allowing for the legal, personal cultivation of cannabis provides consumers with the option to grow their own product should commercially available sources offer cannabis that fails to meet the consumers’ needs because it is excessively expensive, too heavily taxed, or of inferior quality. The mere threat of consumers exercising this option should be sufficient to assure that the legal market for cannabis will be responsive to the needs of consumers, and will not be exploitive.
So when any organization or any state or federal legislator proposes legalizing cannabis, either for medical use or for personal pleasure, but forbids the consumer from growing their own cannabis, those of us who lobby on this issue must insist on amendments to permit personal cultivation.
Otherwise we, cannabis law reformers, trade away our only leverage to keep the big corporations and the government honest and responsive to cannabis consumers.
By: Allen St. Pierre
July 1st, 2009