Read the letter here: MI Federal Legislator Letter 2017
By: Matthew Abel
Today, on the occasion of President’s Day, and in the spirit of the President’s heralded as “leaders of the free world”, the Michigan Affiliate of NORML participated in a national campaign to contact our members of Congress by mailing them each a letter. This letter is our third in a series of letters in 2017 that has included Vice President Mike Pence and the 109 members of the Michigan House of Representatives. Direct mail is an effective and powerful way to be seen by the Representatives themselves or their Chiefs of Staff and to communicate a message.
First we introduced ourselves and provided information about who we are and what we have done in Michigan. We communicated some concerns and and made some policy suggestions. We specifically asked each of them to support The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, HR 975, and to become members of the newly-formed Cannabis Caucus. We reminded them of the damage caused by prohibition and urge them to change federal law. It is a friendly letter, but very direct and specific.
Sending a letter to 14 out of 435 Representatives may not seem very effective, but when the fourteen members of the Michigan Delegation read our message, and legislators from other states receive and read letters from other NORML state affiliates echoing th e same message, collectively, NORML affiliates will have reached hundreds of Members of Congress with a clear, strong and unified message!
Engaging elected officials is a primary function of NORML and all its affiliates. As the Michigan Affiliate of NORML, we are pleased to participate in this and other NORML nationally-coordinated campaigns that reach out to federal representatives in a collaborative way that reinforces the strength of support for cannabis reforms.
Today we recognize and celebrate the 45 Presidents who have led this great nation. Michigan NORML appreciates what these leaders have done and their significance in history, and it is in that spirit that we ask the fourteen men and women of the Michigan Delegation to take the lead, and help shape the policies that will regulate the emerging cannabis industry.
The fact that 190 million Americans now live in states where marijuana has been legalized to some degree is raising a number of questions and issues about how to integrate the American workforce and marijuana consumers rights in regards to drug testing. With medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and recreational marijuana for adult use in 8 states and Washington DC, millions of responsible and otherwise law-abiding adults remain at risk of being excluded from the workforce due to a positive drug test — even where the use does not affect an individual’s job performance or has taken place days or weeks prior to the test.
NORML believes that this practice is discriminatory and defies common sense. As a result, a growing coalition of NORML Chapters in California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington have come together to advocate for necessary legislative and workplace reforms to protect responsible marijuana consumers.
NORML’s Workplace Drug Testing Coalition’s efforts will focus on these four areas:
- Reform workplace drug testing policies
- Expand employment opportunities for marijuana consumers
- Clarify the difference between detection technology and performance testing
- Highlight off-duty state law legal protections for employees
“Even though marijuana is legal and readily available in several states, consumers are being unfairly forced to choose between their job and consuming off the clock as a result of out-of-date employment practices,” said Kevin Mahmalji, National Outreach Coordinator for NORML. “That is why many NORML chapters active in legal states are now shifting their attention to protecting honest, hardworking marijuana consumers from these sort of antiquated, discriminatory workplace drug-testing practices, in particular the use of random suspicionless urine testing.”
Employer testing of applicants or employees for trace metabolites (inert waste-products) of past use of a legal substance makes no sense in the 21st century. This activity is particularly discriminatory in the case of marijuana where such metabolites may be detectable for weeks or even months after the consumer has ceased use.
With the 2017 Legislative Session underway, this issue is finally getting the attention it deserves. Legislation has already been introduced in Oregon and Washington, and is gaining traction in those states.
“Random suspicionless drug testing of applicants or employees for past marijuana use is not just unfair and discriminatory, it’s bad for business,” said attorney Judd Golden of Boulder, Colorado, a long-time NORML activist and Coalition spokesperson. The modern workforce includes countless qualified people like Brandon Coats of Colorado, a paraplegic medical marijuana patient who never was impaired on the job and had an unblemished work record. Brandon was fired from a Fortune 500 company after a random drug test, and lost his case in the Colorado Supreme Court in 2015. The Court unfortunately found Colorado’s lawful off-duty activities law that protects employees for legal activities on their own time didn’t apply to marijuana use.
California NORML is also expecting legislation to be introduced this session to address this issue. Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML said, “One of the most frequently asked questions we have been getting since Prop. 64 passed legalizing adult marijuana use in California last November is, ‘Am I now protected against drug testing on my job?’ Sadly in our state, not even medical marijuana patients are protected against job discrimination, and it’s a priority of Cal NORML to change that. We are hoping to get a bill introduced at the state level and are working with legislators, unions, and other reform groups to make that happen.”
NORML Chapters across the country are advocating on behalf of the rights of responsible marijuana consumers against discrimination in the workplace. “Our coalition was formed with the intention of not only educating legislators, but also with businesses in mind. It is important they know testing for marijuana is not mandatory, and that employers have testing options,” said Jordan Person, executive director for Denver NORML. The Denver chapter is currently working with companies that offer performance impairment testing of workers suspected of on-the-job impairment or use rather than unreliable bodily fluid testing to help provide options for employers.
For decades drug testing companies and others have pushed their agenda through a campaign of misinformation. Until now there has never been an organized effort to challenge the profit- driven ideology of those who seek to benefit from intrusive drug screening. Mounting evidence continues to prove there is no logical reason why adult marijuana consumers should be treated with any less respect, restricted more severely, and denied the same privileges we extend to responsible adults who enjoy a casual cocktail after a long day at the office.
For legal questions, please contact Coalition spokesperson Judd Golden at firstname.lastname@example.org. For other marijuana related questions or an interview, please contact Kevin Mahmalji at email@example.com.
The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of NORML ISU right to use a marijuana leaf and the logo of the school on their promotional items.
Here is the background as written in the Washington Post by Eugene Volokh:
NORML ISU at first got permission from the Trademark Office to use a T-shirt “that had ‘NORML ISU’ on the front with the ‘O’ represented by Cy the Cardinal,” with “Freedom is NORML at ISU” and a cannabis leaf depicted on the back. But after a Des Moines Register article mentioned the T-shirt, a state legislator and someone at the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy heard about this and objected, and the University barred NORML ISU from printing further T-shirts with the design. After that, the University’s Trademark Guidelines were changed to ban “designs that suggest promotion of the below listed items … dangerous, illegal or unhealthy products, actions or behaviors; … [or] drugs and drug paraphernalia that are illegal or unhealthful.”
The court disagreed.
“NORML ISU’s use of the cannabis leaf does not violate ISU’s trademark policies because the organization advocates for reform to marijuana laws, not the illegal use of marijuana,”
The circuit court decided that students’ “attempts to obtain approval to use ISU’s trademarks on NORML ISU’s merchandise amounted to constitutionally protected speech.”
Basically, ISU violated the students’ first amendment rights and discriminated against them on the basis of their viewpoint.
The suit was overseen by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, FIRE’s director of litigation, released a statement saying “We are so pleased to see Paul and Erin’s victory unanimously affirmed by the Eighth Circuit today. Paul and Erin had the courage to stand up for their First Amendment rights, and thousands of students in seven states will now benefit from their commitment.”
This can only come as a reminder to us to stand up and fight back against those looking to suppress advocates for marijuana legalization (and fashionable people everywhere). We as a constituency have the unalienable right of freedom of speech, so make your voice heard and get involved with a NORML chapter near you.
Despite historic opposition, members of the United States Senate voted 52 to 47 last week to approve the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for US Attorney General.
NORML thanks the tens of thousands of you who responded to our action alerts opposing this nomination and the thousands more who took time to make phone calls. While we are disappointed with this outcome, we are pleased that several members of Congress cited the senator’s opposition to marijuana policy reform as an impetus for rejecting his appointment.
We’ve previously told you why Jeff Sessions is the wrong man for the job, but today it is time to move forward, not backward.
So now what?
Well, during his testimony before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, Sen. Sessions said that it is not the responsibility of the Attorney General to pick and choose which federal laws to enforce. “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act,” he said. “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”
Just hours prior to Sessions’ confirmation vote, US Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, introduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.
HR 975 states, ‘‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.’’
Passage of this Act would halt US Attorney General Jeff Sessions or any other federal official from prosecuting individuals and businesses for violating the Controlled Substances Act in the 29 states that permit either the medical or adult use and distribution of marijuana. According to national polling, 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.
With the appointment of Sen. Sessions to the position of US Attorney General, passage of this Act is necessary to ensure that medical marijuana patients and others are protected from undue federal interference.
There will be a number of bills in the coming months that will build upon the progress that the movement to legalize marijuana will support. As we always have, NORML will keep you informed and provide you the tools needed to connect with your elected officials.
Please take action today to urge your federal lawmakers to support HR 975, the ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and when you have finished, please also take a moment to make a generous and much appreciated donation to NORML here so that we can continue to make progress in our federal and statewide efforts.
With NORML members throughout the country organizing lobby days and taking action over the coming days and weeks, the fight for cannabis freedom will continue with renewed energy.
NORML has resisted marijuana prohibition for 47 years – We’re not going to stop now; in fact, we’re just getting started. Are you in?
On the heels of the 2016 election – where four states voted to approve adult-use marijuana initiatives, and four more voted to approve medical marijuana initiatives – NORML Chapters across the country are lobbying their state legislators for additional reforms. In the coming weeks, NORML Chapters around the country, such as California NORML, Connecticut NORML, Wyoming NORML, and Virginia NORML, will be focusing their time and energy in support of dozens of statewide reform bills seeking to amend various aspects of their state’s marijuana policies.
To help increase the likelihood of success for these volunteer-led lobbying efforts, NORML has created a citizen lobby guide. This comprehensive booklet will assist activists in planning and execution of a successful lobby day. It also provides organizational checklists and a legislative questionnaire so that marijuana activists, regardless of the state they’re located in, will be fully prepared to meet with state lawmakers to discuss meaningful marijuana law reforms and to most effectively communicate NORML’s message of ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.
Citizen Lobby Guide: http://norml.org/pdf_files/NORML_CitizenLobbyGuide.pdf
In addition to offering support through NORML’s Citizen Lobby Guide, we have created more than 30 action alerts targeting state lawmakers across the country urging their support for marijuana legislation being considered in their state. Simply click on the link below and enter your information to join the fight!
Take Action: http://norml.org/act
We hope that with these tools, along with the direct support of NORML staff, marijuana activists will have the resources needed to effectively lobby state lawmakers in support of marijuana law reforms.
Here’s a list of scheduled NORML Chapter Lobby Days below:
- Virginia NORML – Jan 30
- Arizona NORML – Feb 2
- Texas NORML – Feb 8
- Houston NORML – Feb 8
- DFW NORML – Feb 8
- Waco NORML – Feb 8
- New Mexico – Feb 21
- Missouri NORML – Feb 28
- Kansas City NORML – Feb 28
- Greater St. Louis NORML – Feb 28
- Mid-Missouri NORML – Feb 28
- Springfield NORML – Feb 28
- University of Missouri NORML – Feb 28
- North Carolina NORML – Mar 1
- Charlotte NORML – Mar 1
- Denver NORML – Mar 7
- Colorado NORML – Mar 7
- Monterey County NORML – Mar 7
- NORML Women of Washington – Mar 7
- Washington NORML – Mar 7
- Portland NORML – Mar 7
- Michigan NORML – March 30
- Illinois NORML – May 17
- California NORML – June 5
To get involved or to find out more information about a lobby day in your state, please email: KevinM@NORML.org.