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ACTIVISM

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML September 20, 2017

    Awful News

    My friend Stephen Bradley called me on Friday, September 14th and asked if I was sitting down. I knew it couldn’t be good news, but when he told me our mutual friend James Bell had died suddenly, I experienced several moments of simple denial. This just can’t be true, I thought. Then the enormity of the news dropped on me like a heavy stone as I realized how large a hole James’ death leaves in the politics of Marijuana Law Reform in Georgia.

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    The James Bell I Knew

    I met James in the fall of 2014 in Dublin, Georgia. He was there videoing a Justice for David Hooks rally. David had been killed in his own home during the execution of a fruitless search warrant, based on the word of an addict/thief who had burglarized David’s property the night before his death. Soon after, I met James again when I testified against the term no-knock warrant being written into black letter Georgia Law before a Senate Committee. We had an opportunity to talk for a while that day, discovering that we had several interests in common. We became friends and allies and called each other often. Over time, James shared the tragic story of his niece, Lori Knowles with me, and I understood his interest in David Hooks and no-knock warrants much better. I think the incident with Lori added fuel to the fire of James’ activism and drove him harder over the past 3 years.

    As James and I talked (and he could talk), I realized just how central a figure he was in the fight for cannabis law reform in Georgia. He was involved in the movement since at least as far back as the 70s, and his interest covered all things cannabis. From advocating the freedom to make personal, adult choices about smoking it, to supporting the use of medical marijuana, to reintroducing Hemp as a staple crop in Georgia, James was involved in it all. He truly believed that the re-legalization of cannabis could be accomplished here in Georgia. He was a constant presence around the Gold Dome when the Legislature was in session, both testifying on issues and videoing procedures. His easy way, his extensive knowledge, and his passion paved the way for good relationships with lawmakers. He was well-known and respected by many.

    James was keenly aware of the societal harm caused by the War on Marijuana. He and I often spoke of Harm Reduction during our conversations, and he felt that an arrest and subsequent criminal record for mere possession of a small amount of marijuana was unjust. No victim, no crime.  He believed a grassroots approach to the problem at the Municipal level, combined with lobbying for change at the State level was the key. He testified in advocacy of Harm Reduction ordinances in Clarkston and Atlanta. He tried in Temple but was met by a crowd of rabid Prohibitionists who hijacked the Town Hall meeting. Clarkston passed their ordinance, and the City hasn’t fallen into a sinkhole. Atlanta is still considering it and the upcoming Mayoral election has several candidates with pro-decriminalization planks in their platforms.

    What Now?

    I will miss talking to James. I’ll miss his counsel. I’ll miss his laugh. I’ll miss seeing him around the Capitol. I know in my heart, though that he would want us to carry on. No one can ever fill James’ shoes, but others will step up.  Others will ensure his legacy and work continue. I’ll be among them.

    Go rest high upon that mountain,
    Son your work on Earth is done

    I’ll see ya further on!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 19, 2017

    pa demsEarlier this month, citing racism, bigotry, and mass-incarceration, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party adopted a resolution to “support Democratic candidates and policies which promote the full repeal of cannabis prohibition by its removal from the Controlled Substances Act, and to support the creation of new laws which regulate it in a manner similar to other culturally accepted commodities.”

    The resolution was drafted by Derek Rosenzweig, long-time cannabis activist from Pennsylvania and former board member of PhillyNORML. This change in party policy comes as Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale continues to be a loud and active voice for state and held a seminar on legalization the day before the vote.

    Thanks to Derek and all of those working hard to change hearts, minds, and the law in Pennsylvania and throughout the country.

    Click here to send a message to your federally elected officials in support of HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act

    Read the full resolution below.

    Resolution – Platform Policy on the Legalization of Marijuana/Cannabis

    WHEREAS, The prohibition of cannabis was based on racism and bigotry, but not science or sound reasoning [Testimony of Harry J. Anslinger – Marihuana Tax Act of 1937; Findings of LaGuardia Committee & Shafer Commission]

    WHEREAS, The government, at all levels, regulates the legal sale of substances known through scientific rigor to be harmful or deadly to humans, by means other than the Controlled Substances Act

    WHEREAS, Cannabis is one of the most well-studied plants in human history [Google Scholar search for `”cannabis sativa” OR marijuana` produces 556,000 results]

    WHEREAS, As of September, 2017, the People and legislatures of 28 states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, have already legalized cannabis for medical purposes; 8 states (plus Washington D.C.) have ended prohibition on cannabis and have legalized, regulated markets for adult recreational use

    WHEREAS, Cannabis is regularly used safely and responsibly without medical supervision by almost two million Pennsylvanians [SAMHSA 2012: 20.2% respondents aged 15 and older use cannabis; PA 2010 Census 9,861,456 aged 15 or older]

    WHEREAS, Cannabis does not fit any of the criteria to be placed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act [Act of Apr. 14, 1972 P.L. 233, No. 64; Section 4-1]

    WHEREAS, Approximately 25,000 People are arrested per year for possession, sale, or cultivation of cannabis on a State and local level in Pennsylvania

    WHEREAS, The Commonwealth spends unknown millions of dollars per year enforcing prohibition policies

    WHEREAS, The current Auditor General of Pennsylvania has publicly called for the immediate legalization and regulation of cannabis specifically for judicial, criminal justice, and economic benefits

    WHEREAS, The black market resulting from the prohibition of cannabis is opaque to public entities, is
    totally unregulated, and is thus not a good outcome of policy

    WHEREAS, The prohibition of cannabis has had no meaningful positive effect, as it is widely available in
    the Commonwealth. In over 80 years, the prohibition of cannabis has not achieved its stated goals

    WHEREAS, Pennsylvanians have been arrested, imprisoned, fined, or otherwise punished and stigmatized
    resulting in lost productivity and quality of life for their possession or use of cannabis

    WHEREAS, Approximately 56% – 61% of Pennsylvanians support the full legalization of cannabis [May
    2017 Franklin & Marshall Poll; August 2017 Quinnipiac University Poll]

    WHEREAS, The DNC included support for legalization in the party platform in 2016

    NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED , to adopt an official platform position which recognizes the above facts about cannabis. The Party resolves that cannabis is safe enough, and ubiquitous enough in society, that it does not need to be restricted or prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act.

    NOW THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, to support Democratic candidates and policies which promote the full repeal of cannabis prohibition by its removal from the Controlled Substances Act, and to support the creation of new laws which regulate it in a manner similar to other culturally accepted commodities.

    Submitted by: ______________________ Cynthia Purvis
    Date: ______________

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 18, 2017

    First off – a huge thank you to all of those activists and chapter leads from around the country who came to DC to participate in our National Conference and Lobby Day.

    By the numbers:

    –     140+ attendees
    –     21 speakers
    –     5 members of Congress
    –     150+ congressional meetings
    –     1 goal: End marijuana prohibition.

    More to come as we follow up with our attendees and continue to build on the momentum generated (and have our photographer send us the rest of the pictures!).

    Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Maryland State Senator Richard Madaleno, and aide to Virginia State Senator Dave Marsden receive awards from the DMV NORML Coalition

    Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Maryland State Senator Richard Madaleno, and aide to Virginia State Senator Dave Marsden receive awards from the DMV NORML Coalition

    Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) addresses NORML citizens before they depart to their congressional meetings

    Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) addresses NORML citizens before they depart to their congressional meetings

    Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) met with NORML chapter leaders from around the country to discuss his legislation known as The Marijuana Justice Act

    Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) met with NORML chapter leaders from around the country to discuss his legislation known as The Marijuana Justice Act

    Some of the feedback from the lobby day we received:

    Mikel Weisser, Executive Director of Arizona NORML in a meeting with Senator Flake’s staffer, reported “She [Katie] is familiar with Endocannabinoid Receptor System. It is one of her policy issue areas. She said she did not know if the Senator was aware of the E.R.S., so I wrote a short note on [the] materials and she said she would show him.”

    In a meeting with Senator Casey’s staffer, Les Stark, head of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition reported “They are open to the issue but do not seem very bold. They don’t want to set too far ahead of the Pennsylvania legislature…we intend to follow-up.”

    Jane Preece, in a meeting with Senator Harris’s staffer, reported “Ms. Hira is smart and is interested in the recent research showing pot is safe and effective.”

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  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 11, 2017

    3410000930_95fc2866fa_zIn a quick deal between President Trump and Congress, a three-month budget continuing resolution will be in effect until December 8, 2017, maintaining current spending levels.

    While this seems mundane (it is), it is important for marijuana policy because it guarantees a temporary extension of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer protections for lawful medical marijuana programs from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    In context, this comes on the heels of the House Rules Committee, led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX), blocking multiple amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House earlier this week, thus ending their consideration for the 2018 House CJS Appropriates bill.

    Amendments included: ending the federal incentive to revoke drivers licenses from those charged with marijuana offenses; protections for states that have implemented hemp programs; a reduction in funding for the DEA’s cannabis eradication program; expanded access to researchersprotections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses; allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales, and expanded protections to the eight states that have outright legalized marijuana.

    Most notably, Chairman Pete Sessions also blocked the amendment offered by Representatives Dana RohrabacherEarl Blumenauer, and other allies in the House This language has been included in budgets since 2014, with language maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    Eariler this year, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee, meaning that the language will be considered in a conference committee regardless of the fact that the full House was denied the opportunity to express it’s support for the 30 states which have legalized medical marijuana and 16 states that have authorized CBD oil access.

    The fight is still to come, and you can send a message to your elected officials about the need to include this in the budget process here by clicking here. 

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 7, 2017

    FBScorecardLate Wednesday night, the House Rules Committee led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked multiple amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer protections from Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it comes to cannabis.

    Amendments included: ending the federal incentive to revoke drivers licenses from those charged with marijuana offenses; protections for states that have implemented hemp programs; a reduction in funding for the DEA’s cannabis eradication program; expanded access to researchersprotections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses; allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales, and expanded protections to the eight states that have outright legalized marijuana.

    Most notably, the amendment offered by Representatives Dana RohrabacherEarl Blumenauer, and other allies in the House had again offered the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment to continue to protect lawful state medical marijuana programs from the federal government. Specifically, the language maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    Representatives Blumenauer and Rohrabacher released the following statement in response:

    “By blocking our amendment, Committee leadership is putting at risk the millions of patients who rely on medical marijuana for treatment, as well as the clinics and businesses that support them. This decision goes against the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws. These critical protections are supported by a majority of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. There’s no question: If a vote were allowed, our amendment would pass on the House floor, as it has several times before.

    “Our fight to protect medical marijuana patients is far from over. The marijuana reform movement is large and growing. This bad decision by the House Rules Committee is an affront to the 46 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized use and distribution of some form of medical marijuana. These programs serve millions of Americans. This setback, however, is not the final word. As House and Senate leadership negotiate a long-term funding bill, we will fight to maintain current protections.”

    Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer language, protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice.

    Most recently, the amendment was reauthorized by Congress in May as part of a short term spending package, in spite of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions aggressively lobbying Congressional leadership to ignore the provisions. At the time of the signing of the bill, President Trump issued a signing statement objecting to the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer provision.

    Without these maintained protections, it is difficult to assess how much business confidence and investment will continue to pour into the nascent industry, which currently serves over 3 million

    However as the Congressmen indicated in their statement, the fight is not over. In July, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee, meaning that the language will be considered in a conference committee should the House be denied the opportunity to express it’s support for the 30 states which have legalized medical marijuana and 16 states that have authorized CBD oil access.

    We will continue to advocate for the members who will be in the conference committee to maintain the language from the Senate version in order to continue to serve the millions of men, women, and children who depend on their medication. On Monday and Tuesday, September 11th and 12th, NORML will hold it’s annual Conference and Lobby Day in DC and will focus on the need to not allow our progress to be rolled back – if you can join us in DC, click here to register.

    Keep fighting with us – send a message to your federal elected officials now. 

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