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NORML Chapters

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate December 24, 2015

    happy-holidays-greeting-14470407458EyWhile many are already celebrating the holidays with family and loved ones, we didn’t want to miss the chance to spotlight some important marijuana law reforms that have taken place this past week. We have exciting news internationally, federally, and in several states! Keep reading below to find out more!

    International:

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has signed legislation into law regulating the licensed production and exportation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

    Under the new policy, those seeking to grow medicinal cannabis commercially or manufacturer cannabis-based medicinal products may apply with government agencies for licensure. Regulators will also grant permits to those seeking to export medicinal cannabis products out of the country.

    Santos said that the goal of the policy “is for patients to be able to access medications made in Colombia that are safe, high-quality and accessible. It is also an opportunity to promote scientific research in our country.”

    While existing law allows for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis, the plant’s commercial production, manufacture, and sale had not been permitted.

    You can read more about this new policy here.

    US_capitolFederal: Back in July, we wrote about a letter authored by Senator Elizabeth Warren and seven other Senators that demanded answers from the federal government in regards to the facilitation of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.

    While the DEA, ONDCP, and HHS responded to the letter in October, the Senators were not satisfied and have just recently written a second letter asking for those answers again after claiming the initial response, “failed to answer key substantive questions.”

    Of importance to the Senators were topics such as the rescheduling of marijuana in the Federal Controlled Substances Act, the current monopoly the University of Mississippi holds on cultivating cannabis for federal research purposes, interagency coordination as well as the coordination between the federal government and states, and surveillance and epidemiological studies on the use of medical marijuana in the U.S.

    This second letter once again signals to many that medical marijuana is becoming an even more important issue in the political sphere not only to voters but also to their elected officials.

    Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a press release this week stating that they would “ease some of the regulatory requirements imposed by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) for those who are conducting FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabidiol (CBD), an extract of the marijuana plant.”

    Current federal regulation requires researchers who wished to expand their CBD based studies to submit a written request for additional CBD. This would delay the research while the request went through the approval process. According to the press release, “Under these changes, a previously registered CBD clinical researcher who is granted a waiver can readily modify their protocol and continue their research seamlessly.  This waiver effectively removes a step from the approval process.

    Deputy Director for NORML, Paul Armentano comments, “It’s a minor change. The DEA has done nothing to speed the process for investigators who want to do clinical work with CBD. In order to do clinical work on a drug on the Schedule 1 list, an investigator still needs approval from the FDA, the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.”

    State:

    legalization_pollMassachusetts: H. 1561: The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 has been scheduled for a hearing before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, January 13th at 1PM.

    This legislation would permit the personal possession, cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults. The measure would also permit home cultivation of the plant for non-commercial purposes.

    Bring your written testimony and testify in front of the committee in support of The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016.

    If you can’t make the hearing, you can contact your lawmakers and urge their support here.

    New Hampshire: Legislation has been prefiled for the 2016 legislative session to allow persons 21 years of age or older to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and to cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants without penalty.

    Police in New Hampshire arrest some 2,900 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses. The continued criminalization of adult marijuana use is out-of-step with the views of New Hampshire adults, some 60 percent of whom now endorse legalizing and regulating the plant, according to an October 2014 WMUR Granite State Poll.

    Click here if you’re a resident of New Hampshire and want to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for this legislation!

    Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh City Council on Monday voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, falling in line with a growing number of municipalities that have taken similar actions in recent years, city officials said.

    Under the ordinance passed with a 7 to 2 vote, police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s second-largest city, will begin to issue fines of $25 for possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana and $100 for smoking it in a public space instead of citing for misdemeanors, the city clerk’s office said.

    The ordinance is subject to approval by Mayor Bill Peduto, who has voiced support.

    chapter_spotlightVirginia: Virginia NORML in Richmond, VA will be holding their state Lobby Day on January 14th!

    Virginia NORML members and supporters will convene at the General Assembly building to bring our message directly to our lawmakers. RSVP now — this is their #1 advocacy event of the year, and they need all hands on deck in Richmond!

    Participants will be teamed with other constituents and meet with their legislators face-to-face to discuss the marijuana policy reforms critical to the Commonwealth. Participants will be lobbying for decriminalization, and for eliminating the driver’s license suspension upon a conviction.

    For more information click here.

    Wyoming: House legislation (HB 3) to depenalize marijuana possession offenses has been pre-filed for the 2016 legislative session, which begins February 8. 

    Annually, state and local police make some 2,100 marijuana possession arrests. The state ranks sixth in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests. Under state law, first-time marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

    House Bill 3  replaces criminal sanctions involving the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of no more than $100 — no arrest and no criminal record.

    To take action and contact your House member to urge their support for this measure, click here.

    takeactionban

    Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!

    ** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel November 5, 2015

    Issue 3, the marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot in Ohio this past Tuesday, was surprisingly unpopular with the voters, and lost the vote by 65 percent to 35 percent. It was an old-fashioned ass kicking – a drubbing that came despite polls indicating a slim majority of the public in Ohio favored legalizing marijuana.

    That dramatic difference between the generic support for the concept of marijuana legalization, and the far lower support for the provisions contained in Issue 3, lead to a number of conclusions.

    First, it suggests that unlimited amounts of money may not be the magic bullet for enacting legalization in a traditionally conservative state. Obviously a fat wallet makes it possible to collect the signatures to qualify the proposal for the ballot, and to hire campaign workers to canvas eligible voters door-to-door, to encourage their support. But in the end, if specific provisions of the proposal are unpopular, money alone cannot overcome substantive weaknesses.

    Investor Driven Initiatives

    Clearly the fact that this initiative was investor driven, and would have enriched those who put up the money for the initiative, raised serious issues that were likely fatal to this initiative. Even many who favored marijuana legalization were unwilling to support this version, because of the oligopoly of commercial growers that would have been established for the state, assuring financial rewards for decades to come for those who were rich enough be part of the investment team.

    In the run-up to the election in Ohio, the opposition focused far less on an argument that legalization was bad public policy that would somehow harm residents of the state (the traditional arguments favored by opponents to legalization), and far more on the fact that the small group of investors were guaranteed to get rich. There was significant opposition to allowing this small group of people to use the voter initiative process for such obvious self-enrichment.

    Voter initiatives were a creation of the Progressive era, a method for average citizens to adopt public policy change without the involvement of the elected legislature, and the public perceived this effort in Ohio as a perversion of the voter initiative process. And they refused to permit that to occur, even though a slim majority supported the basic change that was being proposed.

    No one, except that small group of investors, liked the self-serving provisions contained in the language of the proposal, and even those of us who endorsed the proposal, because we felt it would stop the arrest of marijuana smokers years earlier that would likely happen if the change has to come through the state legislature, did so with strong reservations about that part of the proposal.

    NORML begrudgingly endorsed the initiative, because we are a single-issue organization and the proposal did contain the basic changes we have been fighting for, for more than four decades. But we underscored our dislike for the self-enrichment terms in the language, and said we did not consider it a model that should be considered by other states.

    But clearly a majority of the voters in Ohio put a higher priority on opposing those troublesome economic provisions, and were willing to continue prohibition rather than permit this attempt to pervert the initiative process to succeed. Whether this same conclusion will be shared by voters in other states is uncertain, but it surely should cause would-be investors hoping to cash-in in other states to proceed cautiously.

    oh_yeson3

    And frankly, some of the problems leading to this result had to do with the seemingly cluelessness of Ian James and the others at Responsible Ohio, who were in charge of the campaign. When opponents began to focus on the economic interests of the initiative funders, the sponsors attempted to sell what was an obvious liability as the price one had to pay to move the marijuana issue out of the hands of hippies and the counter-culture, and into the political mainstream. They insulted those who had worked long and hard to move public policy towards legalization for decades, and suggested they were doing us all a favor by agreeing to embrace our basic political goal of legalization, for a price.

    Similarly, apparently unaware of the traditional low voter turnout by young voters in non-presidential election years – the strongest group of supporters for legalization — Responsible Ohio chose to run their initiative in 2015, rather than waiting for 2016 (as proponents have done in California, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Maine and Massachusetts). Again, instead of learning from the many marijuana initiatives that have occurred in this country going back to 1996, this gang who could not shoot straight claimed they preferred to run it in 2015, because of the usual low voter turnout, thinking their money could somehow invigorate the youth vote and they could sneak in a victory while the older voters were not paying attention. Talk about arrogance and hubris. These guys make Donald Trump seem humble!

    A further example of their cluelessness was their use of a colorfully decorated bus and a silly mascot named “Buddy” – a sort of superhero with a big marijuana bud for the head – in a state-wide tour, as their primary tactic for getting the youth vote energized and excited about the upcoming chance to legalize marijuana.

    Apparently they had never heard of “Joe Camel”, the cartoon camel that was used for years by big tobacco as a device to entice young Americans to try tobacco smoking, where once addicted, they would be tobacco customers for life, although that life would likely be cut short because of their use of tobacco. Following the discovery by Congressional investigators of documentation proving that was the intent of spending huge amounts of money to publicize Joe Camel, the tobacco companies were finally publicly shamed into ending the campaign and retiring Joe Camel.

    But when confronted by NORML and others for their eerily similar use of “Buddy,” James and the Responsible Ohio campaign ignored our warnings that many Americans, even those who favor marijuana legalization, remain concerned about the risk that legalization might somehow lead to an increase in adolescent marijuana smoking, and that they were setting themselves up as an easy target by long-time opponents of legalization (which, of course, came almost instantly). James actually insisted that their “Buddy” campaign was popular, was gaining them great press exposure, and the campaign continued all across the state, right up to the election.

    Again, the arrogance of this group was amazing, and their failure to understand the caution that is required when dealing with the marijuana issue, as contrasted to many other issues of public policy, was astounding.

    It is impossible, without exit polling (and I doubt Responsible Ohio will share their exit polling, assuming they even made the effort to find out why opponents voted the way they did) to know which of these several tactical and strategic blunders was primarily accountable for their embarrassing defeat. My personal belief is the economic self-enrichment was the major flaw in the campaign, but the decision to mount the effort in an off-year election clearly contributed to their defeat (the youth vote turnout was low), as did their use of “Buddy” with a tin ear to the likelihood it would appear they were appealing to adolescents.

    Responsible Ohio had this plan to legalize marijuana and get rich at the same time, and they were simply not interested in learning from the past, or even consulting with others who had far more experience in running marijuana-related initiatives.

    As a result, only James came out ahead, as he was allegedly paid more than $4 million dollars to run the ill-fated campaign. And even James may well learn to rue the day he took on this badly conceived campaign, as he is a professional who has made his reputation running more traditional campaigns, and it is difficult to imagine that his reputation will not suffer from this unnecessary debacle. Issue 3 will forever be a case study for how NOT to run a marijuana initiative.

    But the real losers are the marijuana smokers in Ohio, who will continue to be arrested for years to come – nearly 20,000 each year — when a better drafted and more professionally run campaign could have ended prohibition and stopped the marijuana arrests.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator November 2, 2015

    US_capitolEveryday NORML affiliates and chapters around the country pour countless hours into contacting representatives, hosting events, and talking to voters, all with the hope of passing meaningful marijuana reforms on the local, state and federal level! In an effort to highlight their hard work and accomplishments, we will feature their stories on NORML.org and promote the content through our social media channels.

    State and Local

    Without a citizen initiative process, Virginia NORML is forced to rely on their state legislature to change state law; therefore, volunteers have been working hard over the past few months to unseat Virginia’s most anti-marijuana politician this November!
    Action Alert: Help Virginia NORML Oust A Marijuana Prohibitionist

    Days before the 2015 General Election, marijuana advocates In North Carolina held a rally to remind candidates that marijuana is, and will continue to be an important issue for voters. The group is also asking law enforcement agencies to make marijuana arrests their lowest priority.
    Charlotte NORML Supports Marijuana Reform

    Sharon Ravert, executive director of Peachtree NORML shared her thoughts about law enforcement getting involved in health-related matters such as medical marijuana.
    Commission Hears Sheriff’s Objections to Medical Cannabis in Georgia

    Wyoming NORML remains determined after Campbell County representatives announced their opposition of an effort to put medical marijuana on the ballot in 2016.
    County Commissioners Back Anti-Pot Campaign

    Close to 1,000 marijuana advocates took to the streets of Texas to educate community leaders about the need for a more comprehensive medical marijuana bill for suffering Texans!
    Hundreds Join ‘Marijuana March’ in Dallas

    Now that Mr. Mizanskey has been released from prison, he has found his calling as the Show Me State’s most vocal opponent against the federal government’s War on Drugs and the negative impact it has had on American families.
    Jeff Mizanskey Spent Over a Third of His Life in Prison

    Josh Chittum, executive director of Mid-Missouri NORML continues his work to change local laws regarding marijuana. He’s focused on changing the penalties associated with the cultivation of marijuana in Columbia, Missouri from 15 years in jail to a municipal fine.
    Local Groups Asking for Signatures on Marijuana Legislation

    Northwest Ohio NORML recently endorsed Mike Ferner for Toledo Mayor citing his support for a voter-approved ordinance that aimed to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana crimes.
    Northwest Ohio NORML endorses Ferner for Toledo mayor

    Dale Gieringer, executive director of California NORML shares his thoughts on Operation Golden Flow, a drug test aimed at finding heroin users among returning Vietnam veterans and the profits that help fuel the failed War on Drugs.
    Operation Golden Flow: America’s Urine is Liquid Gold for Drug War Profiteers

    Pittsburgh NORML recently avoided a long court battle with the NFL over a dispute related to the pro-marijuana group’s popular logo and one used by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
    Pittsburgh Steelers Threaten NORML Chapter

    Members of Virginia NORML met to discuss their strategy to expand on HB 1445, a severely limited medical marijuana bill that was passed by the state legislature earlier this year.
    Proponents of Legalized Pot Plot Strategy

    With plenty of snowy months ahead, Wyoming NORML remains optimistic as they continue their work to gather roughly 25,000 signatures to put medical marijuana on the 2016 ballot.
    Signatures Still Needed to Get Medical Marijuana Up for Wyoming Vote

    Pamela Novy, executive director of Virginia NORML recently met with community leaders to discuss an effort to decriminalize marijuana in the city of Roanoke, Virginia.
    VA NORML Works With Local Lawmakers on Decriminalizing Marijuana

    Federal

    Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML pushed back against claims that marijuana is more harmful and dangerous than alcohol by citing a government-funded study that took place between 2012 and 2013.
    Americans’ Marijuana Use Has Doubled in the Past 10 Years, Report Finds

    Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML shared his concerns about major GOP candidates not taking a more definite position on the issue of legalizing marijuana on the federal level.
    Marijuana Industry Advocates Find GOP’s Lack of Pot Talk a Major Bummer

    Events

    Missouri NORML Fall Conference, November 7, St. Louis
    Marijuana Business Conference & Expo, November 11-13, Las Vegas
    High Times Cannabis Cup, November 12-15, Jamaica
    Denver NORML Holiday Potluck & Silent Auction, November 21, Denver
    NORML’s Legal Seminar, December 3-5, Key West

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate October 20, 2015

    legalization_pollLiberal Party candidate Justin Trudeau has defeated incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper to become Canada’s next Prime Minister. Trudeau’s win is expected to usher in a new wave of political priorities, with marijuana legalization nearing the top of the list.

    From the Liberal Party’s website:

    We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.

    Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work. It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug.

    Arresting and prosecuting these offenses is expensive for our criminal justice system. It traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses. At the same time, the proceeds from the illegal drug trade support organized crime and greater threats to public safety, like human trafficking and hard drugs.

    To ensure that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals, we will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.

    We will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code, and create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who provide it to minors, those who operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the new regulatory framework.

    We will create a federal/provincial/territorial task force, and with input from experts in public health, substance abuse, and law enforcement, will design a new system of strict marijuana sales and distribution, with appropriate federal and provincial excise taxes applied.

    In his quest to become Prime Minister, Trudeau actively campaigned on a platform that included taxing and regulating marijuana.

    “What is very clear right now is that Mr. Harper’s current approach is making marijuana too easy to access for our kids, and at the same time funding street crime, organized gangs and gun runners,” Trudeau said.

    The Liberal leader also said he would “work with the provinces to makes sure that the control and regulation of marijuana is done in a way that is responsible.” And he repeatedly stated, “”My focus is on making it more difficult for young people to access it.”

    While a concrete timeline has not been provided as to when Canadians can expect a legal and regulated marijuana market, Trudeau has promised to get to work on the changes “right away”.

    For more information please contact our NORML Canada chapter, here.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator October 18, 2015

    Every day NORML affiliates and chapters around the country pour countless hours into contacting representatives, hosting events, and talking to voters, all with the hope of passing meaningful marijuana reforms on the local, state and federal level! In an effort to highlight their hard work and accomplishments, we will feature their stories on NORML.org and promote the content through our social media channels.

    State and Local

    California NORML urges medical marijuana businesses to embrace new regulations by registering with California’s Board of Equalization and securing permits from local governments.
    California Reacts to New Medical Cannabis Regulations

    MassCann/NORML’s “Bay State Repeal Proposal”, a measure aimed at legalizing marijuana in 2016, was well received at this year’s Boston Freedom Rally. Volunteers worked hard gathering signatures over the weekend.
    Canna Culture Column: MassCann’s Freedom Rally on the Common

    Wyoming NORML utilizes both traditional and nontraditional tactics to push for medical marijuana in the Cowboy State! With just 26,000 signatures needed for their initiative to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, everyone is working overtime to get the job done.
    How Receptive are Teton County Residents to Legalizing Weed?

    Mid-Missouri NORML is leading an effort along with MU Students for Sensible Drug Policy and MU NORML to decriminalize the growing of marijuana in Columbia, Missouri. With only 2,567 signatures needed, volunteers are excited to get started!
    Local Petition Seeks to Decriminalize Growing up to Six Marijuana Plants

    Enthusiasm for legalization in Missouri is at an all time high as Springfield NORML, Show-Me Cannabis and New Approach Missouri ramp up their signature gathering campaign!
    Marijuana Petition Campaigns Kicking Off in the Ozarks

    After serving 22 years for the possession of marijuana, Jeff Mizanskey stopped by Springfield NORML to share some of the personal struggles he’s dealing with after spending a ? of his life behind bars.
    Mizanskey Visits Springfield After Prison Release

    Dale Gieringer, executive director of California NORML, shared his thoughts on the lack of banking opportunities for California’s soon to be legal marijuana industry and tried to dispel any fears about a new administration heavily enforcing federal marijuana laws.
    New Regulations Don’t clear all the hurdles for pot dispensaries

    Illinois NORML urged legislators to adopt new language for HB 218 that would have drastically reduced penalties for the possession of marijuana. Lawmakers ultimately passed the bill, but only after they increased some of the penalties defined in the bill.
    Senate Return Delayed but Little For it to Do

    Last week, national marijuana reform groups parted ways with Reform CA, California’s broadest based marijuana reform coalition. Dale Gieringer, executive director of California NORML, continues to vow his organization’s unwavering support for what he feels is a, “superior product”.
    Trouble in La La Land: Late Divisions Emerge Among California Legalization Initiative Supporters

    As things begin to heat up in the final weeks of the 2015 elections, Virginia NORML decided to jump in the fight for Virginia’s 24th House District by endorsing Ellen Arthur for House of Delegates.
    Virginia NORML endorses Ellen Arthur in 24th District House race

    Federal

    Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, sat down with ATTN: to discuss what impact, if any, marijuana will have on the 2016 election. With conflicting data related to turnout in 2012 and 2014, it’s hard to predict if the youth vote will be a factor.
    Marijuana Could Change the 2016 Election

    Events

    DFW NORML marijuana march, October 17, Dallas

    Virginia 2015 Cannabis Conference, October 17, Richmond

    NORML of Waco Halloween party, October 30, Waco

    Missouri NORML fall conference, November 7, St. Louis

    High Times Cannabis Cup, November 12-15, Jamaica

    NORML’s Legal Seminar, December 3-5, Key West

    Kevin Mahmalji is NORML’s national outreach and chapter coordinator

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