Want to write about cannabis?

Then you’ve come to the right place! MU NORML is seeking daily cannabis content contributors and everyone is welcome. This is a great opportunity to establish your name in the growing cannabis community by having your work published online.

If you are interested, please send an email with the subject line “It’s NORML to smoke cannabis” to laurien.rose@gmail.com and include the following:

• Name, as you would like it to appear on your work (pen names are fine)

• A sentence or two about yourself and why you’d like to contribute your work. What are your passions? What sparked your interest in cannabis?

• Content ideas: What do you want to write about? We can help shape your ideas. If you’ve got something already written, send it our way and we will send it back to you with either editing notes or an explanation for rejection. You will have a chance to review all edits before the story hits publication.

We are not looking for fiction, personal essays or poetry.

Got questions? Feel free to ask.

It’s Official: Carnahan Approves Petition for Circulation

Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, a Columbia-based coalition of drug law reform groups, has gained approval from Secretary of State Robin Carnahan to begin circulating a petition to legalize cannabis in the state of Missouri. The official proposal can be seen here. If successful, the proposal, which lists the change of statutes, would make cannabis usage legal for all state residents over the age of 21. The law also allows for persons under the age of 21 to use cannabis for medical purposes under the supervision of a licensed physician and with the consent of a guardian.  Missouri’s General Assembly would be capable of taxing up to $100 per pound of dried cannabis. On top of this, anyone currently imprisoned or on probation for non-violent, cannabis-related offenses would be released upon its passage.

The law explicitly acknowledges that its passage would not protect anyone who has been operating a vehicle impaired or selling cannabis to minors, nor would it protect workers who are fired for impairment while on the job.  It does, however, allow for personal not-for-resale cultivation in a 10×10 area, distributing and selling from a licensed cannabis establishment, and leasing property to any adult lawfully possessing or using cannabis.  The Department of Health and Senior Services would be given a deadline of February 1, 2013 to set up a license and fee system for cannabis establishments and would be barred  from requiring any personal information from customers other than a photo I.D. for age verification.

The initiative would amend the Missouri Constitution to reflect these changes if passed. Signatures must be obtained from 8 percent of registered voters who participated in the 2008 gubernatorial election in six of the nine Missouri congressional districts. The deadline for collecting signatures is May 1, 2012. If these signatures can be attained, the issue will appear on the ballot for November 2012.

To qualify for the 2012 ballot, the petition must collect enough signatures in six of Missouri's nine congressional districts.

The constitutional amendment's signature requirement is equal to 8% of registered voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election. This number must be reached in two-thirds of Missouri's congressional districts.

If anyone in the Columbia area is interested in helping gather signatures for this petition, MU NORML will be holding a training session for signature gathering at 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 16 in Middlebush 133 on Mizzou’s campus. It’s important to note that you must be certified and have an official petition form when gathering signatures. If you cannot make it to the meeting but would like to know more about how to help out, please register as a volunteer with Show Me Cannabis Reform.

Illegal Drugs “Will Not be Tolerated” in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, a person can face life without parole along with up to $50,000 in fines for a first time non-violent drug offense, thanks to the passing of House Bill 1798, which enables this sentencing for anyone convicted of manufacturing hashish, cultivating marijuana, or selling. The Senate voted on the bill, 44-2, and the House approved it, 75 to 18, allowing the Legislature to pass it, back in April 2011. Under this House Bill, anyone facing a second offense will have doubled sentences and will be unable to receive a suspended sentence or probation.

Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Board of Narcotics, stated that the bill is meant to “send a message” that illegal drugs “will not be tolerated” in Oklahoma, but don’t you think life in prison is a little extreme for selling weed? Convicts are given shorter sentences for causing bodily harms to people – meanwhile, non-violent offenders are facing life in prison. Not only is this unfair to the sentenced person and their families, but each day in an Oklahoma prison costs $56 per person, which will then cost about $20,000 a year.

Many of you may have heard about Patricia M. Spottedcrow, the 25-year-old Oklahoma mother of four who was given a ten-year sentence for selling $31 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop back in February. Two years were added onto her sentence when police found marijuana in her jacket pocket as she was being picked up to go to prison. Her sentence has since been reduced to eight years. Her fifty-year-old mother,  Delita Starr, who was present at the time of the undercover cop’s purchase, is facing a 30-year suspended sentence with no incarceration, but with five years of drug and alcohol testing.

Patricia Spottedcrow, mother of 4, was sentenced to ten years in prison for the sale of marijuana to an undercover police officer.

“The punishment does not fit the crime,” said Josh Welch to Tulsa World, an Oklahoma City attorney who represents Spottedcrow. “We are pleased Judge Davis recognized her sentence needed to be modified, but we are simply not pleased with the amount of time that was modified,” Welch said. “I don’t walk away from this feeling good even with four years knocked down, and I’m not going to give up until she is released.”

Spottedcrow and Starr were both offered plea deals of two years in prison, because this was their first offense, but they took their chances and entered a guilt plea to the judge, without a prior sentence agreement. If you are ever faced with a similar situation, never enter a “blind guilty plea” like this.

This court case led to an uprising across the nation, with the creation of online petitions and donations to her children. A rally was held in Oklahoma City, featuring @waynecoyne of the The Flaming Lips.

State Senator Constance N. Johnson introduced Senate Bill 986, which would end life sentences without parole for nonviolent drug offenses and require the state Pardon and Parole Board to review all existing life without parole sentences for those offenses. The measure also addresses punishment enhancements for felony offenses. However, and as we all could have suspected, this bill has been completely disregarded by the state legislature.

Johnson continues fighting to reduce the sentencing for non-violent offenders facing life in prison, as she made an appearance at the parole board hearing for Larry Yarbrough, a 61-year-old who is seventeen years into his life sentence for possession of an ounce of cocaine and three marijuana cigarettes after having previous felony convictions, including distribution of marijuana and distribution of LSD in the 1980s.  There are currently 48 prisoners facing life in prisonin Oklahoma for non-violent, drug-related offenses.

Oklahoma State Senator Constance N. Johnson is fighting to reform the laws on drugs within the state.

“We have murderers, rapists and child molesters getting paroled, but here is a husband, father, grandfather, business owner and community servant who could spend half his life in prison costing the state millions of dollars,” said Johnson.  “We have people serving less time for greater amounts of drugs than what Mr. Yarbrough was convicted of—an ounce of cocaine and three marijuana cigarettes. Surely 17 years is a long enough punishment for his crime.  In the name of justice and common sense, I urge Governor Fallin to accept the board’s recommendations,” she added.

Although Oklahoma currently has some of the harshest drug laws in the nation, Johnson believes that there is hope for reform, especially after the passage of House Bill 2131, a sentencing reform bill sponsored by the Republican legislative leadership, which removes the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenses, expands community sentencing eligibility, and provides for GPS monitoring of nonviolent offenders.

Johnson stated, “Fortunately, other state and local officials are beginning to see that the current system has filled our prisons to near capacity, cost the state millions in tax dollars, and still isn’t working…We took a step in the right direction in the legislature this past session passing major reforms for our state’s correction system under House Bill 2131, which will save our state millions of dollars, and still protect the public from the state’s most dangerous, violent offenders. These were great first steps but we have even more to do this coming session and beyond.  We need to ensure that offenders’ sentences fairly match their crimes, both as a matter of human decency and fiscal responsibility.”