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ABNORML NEWS

  • by Dale Gieringer, Director of California NORML August 1, 2018

    NORML respectfully notes the passing of former Congressman and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums on July 30th. An outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War,  Dellums was also a pioneering opponent of the war on marijuana, being one of the first House members to serve on NORML’s advisory board in the 1970s, along with NY Senator Jacob Javits.

    Dellums was elected to Congress in 1970 from the Berkeley City Council as a self-proclaimed radical and socialist.   He remained unapologetic about his politics. “If it’s radical to oppose the insanity and cruelty of the Vietnam War, if it’s radical to oppose racism and sexism and all other forms of oppression, if it’s radical to want to alleviate poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, and other forms of human misery, then I’m proud to be called a radical,” Dellums said. 

    In 1983, a House investigation cleared Dellums and two other Congressmen from allegations of having used cocaine and marijuana. Dellums was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 1997 he was succeeded in Congress by his former aide Rep. Barbara Lee, sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act and other cannabis reform legislation.

    – Dale Gieringer

    Executive Director of California NORML
    NORML Board of Directors member
  • by Jax Finkel, Texas NORML Executive Director June 19, 2018
    Texas GOP Platform Now Supports Decriminalization, Re-Scheduling, Hemp and an Inclusive Medical Program

    Republican Delegates at the State Convention in San Antonio succeeded in updating the Texas GOP platform to include planks that support making the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) more inclusive, removal of criminal penalty for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana, the re-scheduling of and growing industrial hemp in Texas. This took a powerful effort from the grassroots, delegates and Republicans in advance of the convention and during the long, multi-step process it takes to approve and adopt planks to the Republican Platform.

    Here is what happened over the week leading up to these planks adoption:

    • Monday night before the convention, the Criminal and Civil Justice Sub Committee passed a resolution to remove criminal penalties for possession of 1 ounce or less. The Health and Human Service Sub Committee passed a resolution to improve TCUP.
    • On Tuesday, the Legislative Priorities Committee (LPC) met to determine the top legislative priorities for the next session. The Committee took testimony from 15 people include sitting Representative Jason Issac.
    • When the Temporary Platform Committee (TPC) issued their report on Wednesday, it included both of the planks. Additionally, the LPC took an informal poll and medical cannabis was in the top ten. They would ultimately adopt 8 priorities and medical cannabis unfortunately did not make the cut.
    • Thursday the Permanent Platform Committee considered the TPC report. The final report the Permanent Platform Committee adopted included the following cannabis related planks, which were then voted on by the delegates on Saturday:
      • Penalty Reduction for Possession: We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time. (Passed 83%)
      • Expand Access to Medical Cannabis: We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to recommend to certified patients. (Passed 82%)
      • Call for Re-scheduling Cannabis: Congress should remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 and moved to Schedule 2. (Passed 90%)
      • Industrial Hemp: We recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity. We urge the Texas Legislature to pass legislation allowing cultivation, manufacture and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products. (Passed 83%)

    These types of changes are extremely important in advance of the 2019 Legislative Session. Pre-filing bills will start on November 12th, 2018 and the session will officially kick off on January 8th, 2019.

    You can help Texas NORML by becoming a member, a sustaining or onetime donor!

    If you are in the Fort Worth area or are a delegate to the Democratic Convention, join the Texas Cannabis Caucus on Friday, June 22nd, 2018 at 1pm.

     

    Jax Finkel is the Executive Director of Texas NORML, the state affliate of NORML. Follow their work on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Visit their website at www.texasnorml.org and make a contribution to support their work at www.texasnorml.org/donate/

  • by Bennett Sondeno, Treasurer, WY NORML March 13, 2018

    Wyoming as a whole is staunchly conservative.  Sometimes one wonders why a legislator would even try to run with a “D” behind their name on the ballot.  That is not to say we have lacked excellent Democratic leaders, but the blood of the state runs very red.  This is a state dominated by energy production, a sense of uniquely independent national pride, and respect for nature and the dance with her that is the agricultural relationship.  The extreme end of this conservative bent is seated in law enforcement.  Too often Wyoming NORML hears from residents whose lives have been turned upside down by aggressive enforcement of laws designed to control a natural plant that the vast majority of people here support having access to.

    Despite our doggedly conservative character, we are a caring, pragmatic, and individualistic cast.  At last polling, the University of Wyoming determined that over 80% of Wyomingites support medical cannabis, and over 70% support decriminalization.  The breakdown between the people and the policies seems to stem in part from these complementary but potentially deleterious qualities.  While the violent treatment of cannabis consumers by the hard-right in law enforcement is well known, the “live and let live” attitude of the populace combines with fear of such force and judgmental retribution by the ultra-conservatives to keep most people from speaking up or outwardly supporting reform efforts in spite of personal convictions.  Many are concerned that voicing their political opinions may yield employment conflicts.  On top of much public silence, one of the loudest, hardest to ignore, and most well-funded law enforcement groups (WASCOP – Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police) actively lobbies against change at every legislative session, committee meeting, and in between.  While their lobbyist is paid over $85,000 annually from their publicly funded coffer of over $2.5M to wine and dine elected officials, our board members crossed the state on their own dime to speak at the capitol about this issue that is so dear to them personally.  This is the atmosphere in which Wyoming NORML seeks to raise up volunteers and alter bad laws, and neither is an easy task.  For the second year in a row our focus was to prevent felony edible limits of cannabis products from being written into state law.  The state attorneys group and WASCOP have been fighting hard to establish a felony punishment at the level of a 3oz edible, and they have friends in the Judiciary Committee.

    We touted our lobby day for months.  We encouraged every one of our supporters to volunteer on the date, to donate to our cause, and to interact with their legislators concerning marijuana law reform.  We set up easy to use mailing forms to effortlessly send messages to the Judiciary Committee that would first take up the bill we had targeted for defeat.  We used money donated by board members to buy hemp paper and printed off flyers personalized to each legislator expressing why the bill needed to be put to death.  We also had a ream of high quality hemp paper donated to the cause which we gave to a Wyoming printer to create nice little hemp paper scratch pads with the Wyoming NORML name and logo for our volunteers to hand out as they would speak with their representatives and senators.  We were ready.

    Then came the horse apples in the road.  Our recruited printer had a family emergency and had to leave town before completing the job.  As is customary in Wyoming when travel is necessary for any pre-planned wintertime event weather interfered with roads across the state.  When our board members gathered on the morning of the lobby day at the beginning of the legislative session only one loyal volunteer showed up to help; we were planning on having close to twelve.  Instead of tossing the bill the committee accepted it and sent it to the Senate.  Some Senators said that they had never even heard from their constituents on the topic.  Then our board members had to return home.  We were very discouraged.  But…

    At the eleventh hour a second printer in the same small Wyoming town was able to take on the task, complete it, and have the materials shipped overnight to Cheyenne where they were picked up by the one volunteer who brought them to the lobby day.  In spite of the weather three of our board members were able to attend the lobby day, and one returned with support to be present for each hearing of the bill as it moved through the legislative houses.  Both the Senate and House discussed the bill, and testimony was given of a legislator’s family member who illegally uses cannabis products for better health.  Another stated that he had moved from a position of supporting the felony bill to one of opposition after hearing from just a single voter about the desire they had for cannabis health products.  Though passed by the Senate, the bill was buried by the House and killed through neglect.  For two years running a small grassroots effort and a handful of volunteers have succeeded in defeating bad bills being pushed by powerful moneyed interests.

    Let this encourage you.  Though few in open numbers and lacking much financial support we have been able to urge people and legislators sufficiently so as to move cannabis policy in the right direction in this religiously “Right” state each year since we have been organized as a focused group.  We are picking up members and interest is growing because people are seeing that change can be made and that speaking up without serious reprisal is possible.  People are influencing the minds of their legislators for the good of the movement and the health of our society.  This shows why interaction between voters and elected officials is so important as to be incapable of being understated.  We will see sensible cannabis policy in Wyoming, and with work from motivated citizens your state can as well.

    Bennett Sondeno is the Treasurer of WY NORML

    Follow WY NORML on Facebook, visit their website at http://www.wyomingnorml.org/ and make a contribution to support their work by clicking here.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 14, 2018

    Today, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York heard oral arguments on the motion to dismiss Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al, a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Schedule I classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. The federal government argued to have the case dismissed. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York reserved the decision.

    The lead attorney for the case, Michael Hiller released the following statement:

    First, we would like to thank Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein for taking the time to hear the important oral argument made today. We appreciate the time he took to hear from the plaintiffs we represent —  all whom have heartbreaking stories about how their everyday lives continue to be negatively impacted by the prohibition of cannabis.  

     

    Protecting our American values, way of life and civil and constitutional rights are who we are as Americans. To many, it is obvious, we are living in an era where we must remain vigilant and ask hard questions. If we look back at our collective history, this is not the first time we have seen some in the US government shamefully argue out-dated ideologies under a legal mask that is inevitably on the wrong side of history. We saw this with slavery, segregation, women’s right to vote, the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, gay marriage, and sadly, countless other times.  

     

    We’ve seen civil rights trampled on before, but we have also seen everyday Americans and leaders rise to the occasion and have our judicial branch recognize when an interpretation of the law is obviously tragically flawed and wrong.  

     

    The stated basis for the Controlled Substances Act was to help Americans’ lives. However, today, the federal government came to court to preserve the right to put Americans in jail, who use cannabis — even when it used as an alternative medicinal treatment to addictive opioids and powerful prescription drugs. Tragically, what the federal government has done is taken the Controlled Substances Act and turned it on its head. Sadly, the government is now using the ‘Act’ to hurt and oppress US citizens, rather to liberate, deliberate and help them treat their illnesses and diseases.  

     

    We firmly believe the federal government is prostituting and perverting the Controlled Substances Act as well as blatantly criminalizing behavior that they themselves are inducing. We look forward to standing on the right side of history and ensuring that cannabis is descheduled once and for all as well as to receiving Judge Hellerstein’s decision, and moving the case forward.

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case include Michael Hiller and Lauren Rudick of Hiller, PC, NORML Legal Committee member Joseph Bondy, and Empire State NORML Director David Holland.

    A judge for the Federal District Court in Sacramento heard similar arguments in a 2014 legal challenge, also spearheaded by members of the NORML Legal Committee, but ultimately rejected them – opining: “At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional. But this is not the court and not the time.”

    Plaintiffs in the current lawsuit include a former NFL football player, a disabled military veterans, two children with severe movement disorders, and the non-profit group, the Cannabis Cultural Association. Plaintiffs argue that federal prohibition violates their civil and constitutional liberties, including their right to freely travel within the United States. They also argue that the federal prohibition of cannabis is “grounded in discrimination and [is] applied in a discriminatory manner.”

    Lawyers for the Justice Department argued today for a dismissal of the suit, opining: “There is no fundamental right to use marijuana, for medical purposes or otherwise. Because such a right is not ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ or ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history,’ the Court should reject such a claim.”

    The judge asked how anyone could say that the plaintiffs’ lives “have not been saved by marijuana.”

  • by NORML February 1, 2018

    Cannabis PenaltiesSan Francisco city officials announced plans yesterday to begin reviewing and automatically expunging thousands of past marijuana possession convictions.

    The District Attorney’s office says that it will review, dismiss, and seal an estimated 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1975. The office also intends to review and resentence many past felony convictions.

    Provisions in the state’s 2016 voter-approved marijuana law allow those with past marijuana convictions to petition the court for expungement. However, because this process that is often time consuming and can cost hundreds of dollars in legal fees, San Francisco’s D.A. George Gascón says that his office will instead “wipe out convictions en masse.”

    Commenting on the policy change, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement, “This example, one of many across our state, underscores the true promise of Proposition 64 – providing new hope and opportunities to Californians, primarily people of color, whose lives were long ago derailed by a costly, broken and racially discriminatory system of marijuana criminalization.”

    NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano concurred, telling reporters: “The stigma associated with a marijuana arrest and criminal conviction is lifelong, and can directly lead to numerous lost opportunities later in life. The San Francisco District Attorney’s office is to be commended for proactively rectifying this situation — one that has disproportionately burdened far too many young people and people of color. Let’s hope other jurisdictions follow San Francisco’s lead in righting the wrongs of cannabis criminalization.”

    Perhaps even more importantly, legislation now pending in the California Assembly, AB 1793, seeks to expand this automatic expungement process statewide. If you reside in California, please click here to use NORML’s Action Alert to urge your lawmakers to support this critical legislative effort.

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