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NORML Chapters

  • by Patrick Nightingale, Esq, Executive Director, Pittsburgh NORML April 17, 2018

    Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis law created an Advisory Board to make recommendations to the Department of Health. The Board is comprised of medical professionals, law enforcement representatives, patient advocates and appointees from the majority and minority parties. Pursuant to section 1201(f) the Board “shall have the power to prescribe, amend and repeal bylaws, rules and regulations governing the manner in which the business of the advisory board is conducted and the manner in which the duties granted to it are fulfilled. The advisory board may delegate supervision of the administration of advisory board activities to an administrative secretary and other employees of the department as the secretary shall appoint.”

    The Advisory Board submitted its first recommendations to the Department of Health. The recommendations included allowing “dry leaf or flower” to be cultivated and sold at Pennsylvania’s licensed dispensaries. The law previously defined “medical marijuana products” as processed oils (including concentrates), tinctures, pills, and topicals. While smoking cannabis is specifically prohibited by the law, a form that can be “vaporized or nebulized” is permitted, thus opening the door to flower. The Board also recommended adding four qualifying conditions – Neurodegenerative Diseases, Dyskinetic and Spastic Movement Disorders, Addiction substitute therapy – opioid reduction and Terminally ill. Further, it recommended cancer in remission as qualifying as well as simplifying the definition of “chronic or intractable” pain.

    The Department of Health had up to one year to act on the recommendations of the Board. In a move that excited patients and advocates, Dr. Rachel Levine on behalf of the Department acted quickly adopting all of the recommendations above. Her rapid reaction is significant for a number of reasons: 1. It demonstrates the importance of the support of the Executive Branch. During the efforts to pass medical cannabis reform activist and legislators ran in to a brick wall in former Governor Tom Corbett (R). The former Governor refused to meet with patients and dismissed medical cannabis as a “gateway drug.” When Governor Tom Wolf took office in 2015 he made it clear that he fully supported the program. 2. The Advisory Board does not exist in name only. It clearly took its responsibilities seriously and acted quickly to address some important patient concerns; 3. Adding dry leaf/flower as a “medical cannabis product” give patients greater ability to find products that effectively treat their condition. Equally important is affordability. Processed oil products have been expensive as PA waits for its licensed cultivation facilities to be come full operational. Providing access to the plant itself at a lower price point than processed products is critical for patients on fixed incomes as medical insurance does not cover medical cannabis products.

    As more cultivation facilities become licensed and operational patients will have increased abilities to find the strain or product that most effectively treats their condition. By adding cancer “in remission” and streamlining the definition of “chronic pain” more patients will have access to medical cannabis. The four added conditions bring the number of defined qualifying conditions up to 21 from 17. Adding “addiction substitute therapy” is especially critical as Pennsylvania, like the rest of the nation, struggles to cope with the opioid crisis and the consequences of over-prescribing addictive narcotics. Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program may have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, but patients can feel confident that the Advisory Board takes its role seriously and is committed to improving the program.

    Patrick Nightingale is the Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML. You can follow their work on Facebook and Twitter. Visit their website at http://www.pittsburghnorml.org/ and make a contribution to support their work by clicking here. 

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director April 10, 2018

    …At least that’s how the public comment process works. 

    This year, the United Nations World Health Organization is due to review the current international classification of marijuana, THC, cannabidiol, and other related compounds and preparations this year. In the lead-up, the WHO is asking member nations submit feedback, of which no nation is more influential than the United States.

    Between now and April 23rd, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is seeking public comment from “interested persons” (I.E. you) regarding the international Schedule 1 Status of marijuana under international agreements.

    We have made it incredibly easy for you to make your voice heard and need you to join your voice with thousands of other NORML members in making it clear: Cannabis does not fit in a controlled substances agreement, let alone Schedule 1.

    Click here to submit a comment. 

    Right now, we are collecting comments and will be delivering them by hand to the FDA offices on April 23rd.

    In the action alert, you will find a pre-drafted comment that we encourage you to amend and include any other important aspects you deem worthy. You can draw additional information from our Factsheets and About Marijuana pages to expand your position for these public comments.

    Don’t forget, democracy is not a spectator sport. Go on record with the FDA and fill out a comment to recommend the international descheduling of marijuana NOW.

  • by Jeff Riedy, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley NORML

    As a longtime Pennsylvanian, I have gotten used to the slow drudge of progress and the archaic mindset of our policymakers in this state. With that said, we did manage to pass a Medical Marijuana Law two years ago this month, though the law became a skeleton of its robust beginnings. Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act was enacted earlier this year, as the first facilities began growing, processing, and dispensing cannabis-derived products (oils, tinctures, topical, vapes, and pills). The program has seen many pitfalls in its infancy, including supply shortages, a lack of qualified doctors, and many other shortcomings yet to be addressed. But public response has been phenomenal, with nearly 30 thousand patients have registered in the program’s first few months.

    Recently the Department of Health (parent to our state’s Medical Marijuana Office), announced the second round of applications for permits for growers/processors and dispensaries. Our state also made a bold move and announced that it would be one of the first states to offer permits for clinical research of medical marijuana. As a crescendo to all of that, yesterday the PA-DOH MMJ Advisory Board convened two years after the program’s inception (as was written into the law) to make recommendations to the Department of Health, its committees, and the Governor. The formation of this committee was included in the law, to act as an independent voice to meet and make recommendations periodically, composed of doctors, law enforcement, government officials, and patients advocates.

    The Board’s recommendations included adding indications (to the 17 already in place), adjusting rules, and adding flower (to be vaped) as a form of medication. The addition of flower was our biggest ask of this committee. Yesterday’s proceedings were only a first step and are merely “recommendations”. The Secretary of Health has up to one year to act upon yesterday’s recommendations, and that will include the political bureaucracy of committees making recommendations as well as studying and implementing the necessary infrastructure to accommodate any of these changes in the law. This is FAR from being law, but Secretary of Health, Doctor Rachel Levine, has been a proponent of the program thus far, and we are hopeful for swift action in Harrisburg.

    What will this mean for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana patients? The added indications will create a more inclusive program. The inclusion of flower to the program will provide added relief to many patients, including those with PTSD. Optimistically, this NORML Executive Director sees this as an even greater victory as it puts into place all of the instruments necessary to handle the eventual statewide LEGAL sale of recreational marijuana. Like any new idea, PA’s program has its’ faults but is growing faster than anticipated. I believe that these ongoing Advisory Board reviews are our best hope for a more perfect program for everybody. As an advocacy group, Lehigh Valley NORML will continue to push our politicians for more reform, until we get it right. In the end, we fight for the people – and the people want this reform. The patients need these reforms. And we DEMAND them!

    Jeff Riedy is the Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML. Follow their work on Facebook and Twitter.

  • by NORML April 5, 2018

    Legalize marijuanaSince the beginning of the year, NORML Chapters throughout the country have been busy organizing lobby days for the 2018 legislative session. With the hope of reforming various aspects of their state’s marijuana policies, NORML affiliated activists have been meeting with state representatives to educate lawmakers and their staff about the advantages of ending marijuana prohibition and encourage support for over 100 pieces of legislation nationwide.

    In addition to organizing more lobby days than was previously done in 2017, many NORML chapters including Delaware NORML, Denver NORML, Illinois NORML, and Lehigh Valley NORML have scheduled multiple lobby days for their 2018 legislative sessions. To date, NORML chapters have organized and/or participated in nearly 30 lobby days in 16 states. From fighting for employee protections in Colorado, Oregon and California, to pushing to expand access for patients in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and working to pass legislation to tax and regulate adult-use marijuana in Delaware, NORML chapters have been working overtime this legislative session.

    Virginia

    Members of Virginia NORML, led by Executive Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, have been focused on securing access and protection from prosecution for all patients since 2016. This session, their hard work finally paid off with unanimous passage of HB 1251 and SB 726 to expand the state’s limited medical cannabis oil law by removing qualifying conditions and instead allowing doctors to decide when to issue a recommendation.

    “Virginia will be the first state to expand a hyper-restrictive single qualifying disorder program to include any diagnosed condition. This didn’t happen because of industry dollars or high powered lobbyists, it happened because two moms wouldn’t take “no” for an answer,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini.

    Follow Virginia NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and support their work here.

    Colorado

    There’s an effort underway in Colorado to define off-duty marijuana use a legal activity under Colorado’s prohibition of legal activities as a condition of employment law. Democratic Representative Jonathan Singer is leading the effort in the House, but proponents – consisting mostly of members of Denver NORML, Colorado NORML, and Southern Colorado NORML – are working to lock down a Republican sponsor before the bill is introduced to encourage bipartisan support.

    Also in Colorado, state lawmakers recently formed the first-ever statewide Cannabis Caucus to facilitate discussions on how to best address the various areas of public policy that have been impacted since voters approved the state’s marijuana legalization measure in 2012.

    “This kind of caucus is something we at the national level have been looking at for quite some time,” says NORML Outreach Director Kevin Mahmalji, who’s based in Denver. “Since the formation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, it just made sense to have something similar at the state level.”

    California

    Members of California NORML are also working with state lawmakers on a bill that would bar employers from discriminating against workers because of their status as a medical marijuana patient, or a positive drug test for medical marijuana use. NORML believes that this practice is discriminatory and defies common sense. While law-abiding and responsible adults in some states have the legal option to consume marijuana in the privacy of their homes, they still are at risk of losing their employment as a result of a positive drug test — even in instances where the use took place on weekends or after-hours.

    Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of California NORML shared her thoughts on the effort: “Eleven states protect medical marijuana users’ employment rights in their laws, but not California. Cal NORML is sponsoring AB 2069, the Cannabis Worker Protections Act, to give workers in California the same right to use medical cannabis as opiates and other prescription drugs, as long as their use does not impair them on the job. Supporters can write to their representatives in favor of the bill at and join Cal NORML at our Lobby Day in Sacramento on June 4, 2018.”

    Follow California NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and support their work here.

    Maryland

    Members of Maryland NORML focused their time on lobbying members of the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee in favor of HB 1264 / SB 1039 – a constitutional amendment that would put a question on this November’s ballot to let the voters decide on the issue of marijuana legalization and retail sales.

    While that effort was not successful, Maryland is now in a position to expand the amount of personal possession of marijuana that is decriminalized from 10 grams to 30 grams as SB 127 continues to move forward after passing in the state Senate.

    Follow Maryland NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and support their work here.

    Delaware

    Members of Delaware NORML lobbied for legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults. The Delaware Marijuana Control Act regulates and taxes marijuana in the same manner as alcohol. It allows adults over the age of 21 to legally possess and consume under 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use. It does not permit people to grow their own marijuana.

    Hosting three lobby days already this year with a number on the way, Delaware is one of the states that we expect to achieve reform this decade.

    Follow Delaware NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and support their work here.

     

  • by NORML France March 28, 2018

    Le 17 mars 2018, NORML France a lancé une pétition à l’attention d’Emmanuel MACRON, Président de la République, et de Nicole BELLOUBET, Garde des Sceaux, Ministre de la Justice. Une semaine plus tard, ce texte a déjà recueilli près de 12.000 signatures. Une première en France pour une pétition portant sur le sujet du cannabis et de ses différents usages. 

    Nous devons désormais promouvoir ce texte au-delà de nos cercles d’influence, en le partageant avec le plus grand nombre de nos contacts. À l’heure où de nombreux pays avancent sur des régulations plus compréhensives quant au cannabis, le gouvernement français propose en catimini une proposition d’amende forfaitaire délictuelle qui ne résoudra aucun des problèmes liés aux mésusages et aux trafics de ce produit.

    Signer la pétition de NORML FranceÀ la vue des nombreux dérèglements générés par la prohibition du cannabis depuis plus de 45 ans, la régulation de la filière cannabicole dans son ensemble devient par dessus tout primordiale pour aller vers une société plus encline au respect des droits humains fondamentaux à travers l’accès à la santé, à l’emploi et à la justice sociale.

    Nos revendications sont plus que jamais  légitimes, c’est pourquoi tous les citoyens français doivent se sentir concernés par cette question. La guerre aux drogues s’est transformé en une guerre aux personnes, à la santé mais aussi et surtout à la réalité scientifique.

    Unis et nombreux, nos voix ne pourront être qu’entendues et respectées, c’est pourquoi nous vous demandons de signer cette pétition tout en la diffusant le plus largement possible.

     

    Le texte de notre pétition dans son intégralité :

    A l’attention de d’Emmanuel MACRON, Président de la République, et de Nicole BELLOUBET, Garde des Sceaux, ministre de la Justice.

    Le gouvernement a tranché : Pour l’usage de cannabis, tous les citoyens devront s’acquitter d’une amende forfaitaire délictuelle fixée à 300€. S’ils ne paient pas sous quarante jours, la somme est doublée. S’ils ont déjà été condamnés pour consommation, c’est le passage devant le juge assuré.

    Monsieur le Président, vous avez été élu sur une promesse de renouveau. En septembre 2016, vous disiez n’être pas contre la légalisation, être prêt à en parler et à en débattre. Nous sommes en mars 2018, le débat n’a jamais eu lieu, et la proposition finale du gouvernement n’est qu’un vulgaire paragraphe, caché dans 82 pages de texte, quelque part entre le statut du Parquet national terroriste et la législation sur les divorces.

    Le projet de loi que vous défendez est une commande politique qui continue de marginaliser les plus pauvres, de persécuter les minorités et d’affaiblir les plus faibles.

    A dire vrai, il n’y a qu’en France que le sujet pose encore problème. La Norvège dépénalise, le Portugal y est depuis plus de 15 ans, l’Allemagne y réfléchit, le Royaume-Uni infléchit ses positions, la Suisse aussi. A deux heures de Paris, tout le monde peut aujourd’hui se procurer du cannabis légalement.

    Aujourd’hui, les consommateurs sont déjà suffisamment incriminés. Certains parlent de “dépénalisation de fait”. C’est faux. La répression des drogues n’a jamais été aussi forte. En 2016, un usager régulier sur cinq a été interpellé. Lorsqu’il y a 220 000 interpellations chaque année, que la réponse pénale est systématique, on ne peut pas dire qu’il y a dépénalisation.

    Certes, une partie non négligeable de ces interpellations se solde par de “simples” rappels à la loi. Mais comment en vouloir à un juge réaliste qui constate qu’un citoyen ne fait de mal à personne – pas même à lui-même, en vaporisant son cannabis ? La loi qui incrimine l’usage n’est pas nécessaire, la peine est disproportionnée.

    Pourtant le gouvernement a décidé de punir plus. Cette amende va creuser les inégalités : Les plus aisés pourront payer pour consommer alors que les plus pauvres continueront d’être traînés devant la justice. Certains pensent qu’il s’agit d’une simple contravention, que nenni, l’usage reste un délit.

    Dans le même temps, rien n’est prévu pour la réduction des risques, qui devrait être la priorité absolue du gouvernement en la matière. Aucune mesure n’est prise pour régler les vrais problèmes: ceux de la consommation des mineurs, des consommations problématiques, de la difficulté d’accès à un produit sain, de la lutte contre les trafics. Dès lors, que vaut cette proposition qui ne résout rien ?

    Nous pensons que seule une modification profonde de la loi pourra vraiment changer les choses. Dès lors que l’interdit pénal demeure, les mêmes causes produisant les mêmes conséquences, le système ne changera pas et l’échec du système répressif sera de nouveau constaté.

    Que dire alors de ce cercle vertueux qui s’installe partout dans le Monde ? Il faut être aveugle pour ne pas remarquer que les pays ayant adoptés des lois plus réalistes et justes sur le cannabis, connaissent aujourd’hui bénéfices économiques, réduction des consommations, augmentation de la prévention, de meilleure lutte contre les addictions.

    Tous les modèles ne sont pas à suivre, il y a bien des limites dans chaque Etat. Mais il y a deux dénominateurs communs : Des centaines de milliers d’emplois créés et une réappropriation du chanvre par la population. Partout où il était hier la propriété de quelques riches trafiquants, aujourd’hui, ce sont des millions de consommateurs à travers le monde qui profitent pour leurs impôts comme pour leur santé d’un produit plus sain, moins cher, et mieux encadré.

    Nous ne voulons plus d’une législation qui incrimine. Un débat national sur le sujet est aujourd’hui nécessaire. Il est temps que la question de la dépénalisation et de la régulation soit posée.

    Monsieur le Président, nous sommes prêts au changement. 

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