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ACTIVISM

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director June 10, 2016

    More Governors signed marijuana related legislation into law this week, and once again members of the US Senate have said ‘yes’ to marijuana law reform. Keep reading to get the latest news and to learn what you can do to take action.

    Federal:

    substitutionMembers of the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee took action this week, approving 18 to 11, an amendment to further protect doctors and patients who use medical cannabis in accordance with state laws.

    The amendment reads, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this title shall be used in a manner that would interfere with the ability of a provider to recommend medicinal marijuana in accordance with State law, or of a patient to participate in a medicinal marijuana program consistent with such State law.”

    This vote marks the third time in recent weeks that members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee have approved marijuana related amendments. Members also recently voted to expand military veterans’ access to medical cannabis and to bar the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

    State:

    California: Legislation NORML opposes is moving forward in the state legislature and we need you to #TakeAction to prevent it from becoming law. Members of the state Assembly voted 60 to 12 on June 2nd in favor of Assembly Bill 2243, legislation seeking to impose a new $9.75/ounce tax on the cultivation of medical-only marijuana. Similarly, members of the state Senate voted 27 to 10 on June 1st in favor of Senate Bill 987, legislation seeking to impose a special 15 percent statewide tax upon medical marijuana sales. This tax would be in addition to the imposition of existing state and local taxes.

    Assembly Bill 2243 will now be considered by members of the Senate and Senate Bill 987 will now be considered by members of the Assembly.

    While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of fair and reasonable sales taxes on the commercial sales of cannabis for recreational purposes, we do not support such excessive taxation on medical sales. #TakeAction

    Colorado: On Monday, June 6th, Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1373 into law. This legislation permits qualified patients access to medical cannabis formulations while on school grounds. Under the measure, a primary caregiver may administer non-inhalable formulations of medical cannabis to a qualifying patient while that patient is on the grounds of a pre-school, primary, or secondary school in which the student is enrolled. Medical marijuana patients may not be denied eligibility to attend school because of their cannabis use. The measure took effect upon the Governor’s signature.

    pills_v_potNew York: Advocates are making a final push to pass legislation to significantly expand the state’s current medical marijuana program before the legislative ends on June 16th. New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014, however the law is one of the most restrictive in the country. Currently, 11 separate bills are pending before the legislature to improve and expand the state’s nascent program. #TakeAction

    Ohio: Governor John Kasich signed legislation into law this week establishing regulations for the licensed production and dispensing of medical cannabis formulations to qualified patients. House Bill 523 authorizes the use of various forms of cannabis preparations for the physician-authorized treatment of a number of qualifying conditions. For a full list, click here. Ohio is the 26th state to enact statutory language permitting the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana.

    Maryland: Governor Larry Hogan has signed legislation, House Bill 104, expanding the pool of medical professionals who can provide written recommendations for marijuana to qualifying patients. Passage of this legislation allows nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, among other medical professionals, who are in good standing with the state to provide written certifications to qualifying patients. The legislation takes effect June 1st, 2017.

    Michigan: House-backed legislation to expand Michigan’s existing medical marijuana law is expected to be voted on imminently by members of the Senate Judiciary committee. House Bill 4209 would license and regulate above-ground, safe access facilities for state-qualified patients seeking medical marijuana. House Bill 4210 would provide qualified patients legal protections for their use of non-smoked cannabis derived topicals and edibles, as well as cannabis-based extract products. Lawmakers also passed a third bill, HB 4827, which seeks to establish regulations tracking the production and sale of medical marijuana products. Tell the Senate that it is high time to act upon these common sense measures! #TakeAction

    Vermont: Governor Peter Shumlin has signed legislation into law expanding the state’s medical cannabis program.

    Senate Bill 14 includes various patient-friendly provisions: It permits patients with glaucoma and ‘chronic pain’ and/or those in hospice care to be eligible for cannabis therapy; it eliminates the requirement that patients must have previously tried other conventional treatments “without success” prior to being eligible for medical cannabis; it amends existing doctor/patient relationship requirements in a manner that expedites certain patients eligibility to receive cannabis treatment; and it authorizes naturopaths to make medicinal cannabis recommendations.

    The changes impacting patients’ eligibility took effect upon signing. Other changes in the law take effect on July 1, 2016. Full text of the new law is online here.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator June 6, 2016

    Great news for marijuana consumers in Kansas City, Missouri! After months of back and forth meetings with city officials, NORML KC, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of marijuana laws, has received approval to move forward with a municipal initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses. If passed, the measure will amend local laws regarding the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and up from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine to a civil offense punishable by a $50 fine — no arrest or criminal record. Read the full text of the initiative by clicking, here!

    With a deadline of August 25, 2016 to collect the 1,703 signatures needed to qualify the initiative for a vote, the organization’s executive director, Jamie Kacz, is hoping to gather more than 2,300 to offset the possibility of some signatures being deemed invalid. Mrs. Kacz and her volunteers started the process of collecting signatures during last week’s First Friday Art Festival at the Crossroads Art District and will continue to work hard over the next twelve weeks.

    “Current laws are unreasonably harsh and now is the perfect opportunity to make a change. It’s time for Kansas City to take this sensible step forward,” Kacz said. “This will be a grassroots effort and passionate volunteers will be an essential part of our efforts”.

    If you live in Kansas City, be on the lookout for volunteers with NORML KC as they’re out and about with petitions looking to reform your city’s marijuana laws! Make sure you follow NORML KC on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with future events and announcements!

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  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel

    Travel writer and public television travel host (and NORML board member) Rick Steves is truly a breath of fresh air.

    As countless American travelers know, Rick Steves is a popular, prolific, and clean-cut travel expert who hosts the popular public television series “Rick Steves Europe” as well the National Public Radio show “Travel with Rick Steves,” and he has written many guidebooks for Americans traveling in Europe. His company, Rick Steves’ Europe, also hosts hundreds of trips to Europe each year. He helps readers, viewers, and tour participants discover not only great cities but cozy villages off the usual tourist-trampled paths. He helps American travelers connect intimately with Europeans—often for a fraction of what mainstream tourists pay.

    Steves says his company’s mission “is to inspire, inform, and equip Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. We value travel as a powerful way to better understand and contribute to the world in which we live. We strive to keep our own travel style, our world outlook, and our business practices consistent with these values.”

    Steves, who is an active member of his Lutheran church, has a wonderfully wholesome and charming style and has developed a unique comfort level with average Americans. They like and trust him. And it comes as a surprise to many to learn that Steves has another side to him: he is also a marijuana smoker and a public advocate for legalizing the responsible use of marijuana. Because of his ability to personally connect with his audience, Steves is an especially effective NORML advocate whose public support carries great credibility.

    More and more public figures are beginning to speak out, but Steves was ahead of most all of them and has insisted on making his personal views on the subject public, regardless of the audience. Steves made his first appearance as a featured speaker at a NORML conference in 2003, and has been a featured speaker at many of our conferences since. He also frequently joins us to address the annual Seattle Hempfest. He was first elected to the NORML board of directors in 2013 and he continues to serve in that capacity.

    Steves has shown a willingness to articulate in public what many marijuana smokers believe but are uncomfortable saying out loud: that in the right situation, smoking cannabis can be a positive and life-enhancing experience. Not only is it not harmful behavior, when used responsibly, but it can actually improve the quality of one’s life. The mind is clearer, and one’s creative juices are enhanced by the experience of getting high. Beyond that, it can be a wonderful way to simply relax.

    Steves has an effective way to explain his interest in marijuana smoking. “I’m a travel writer. For me ‘high’ is a place. Sometimes I just want to go there. And if my government says no, there better be a good reason. And there isn’t.” He finishes his talk by wishing his audience “Happy travels…even if you’re just staying home.”

    Steves was an official sponsor and significant financial supporter, and toured his home state of Washington actively campaigning in support of the ballot initiative (I-502) that voters approved in 2012, and he actively supported and personally toured Oregon in support of the successful Oregon initiative (Measure 91) in 2014.

    And he has announced he is making similar commitments to the legalization initiatives that will appear on the November ballot in both Maine and Massachusetts this fall. He will spend three days in both states this fall, barnstorming to build support for the measures, and he will make a significant financial contribution to the campaigns in both states.

    Rick Steves - NORML Board MemberJust this past week Steves announced he was putting up $50,000 as a matching grant to the Maine Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, to match the contributions from other supporters.

    I’ve worked hard to help legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use in Washington State (where I live) and in Oregon. This November, Maine voters will have the opportunity to approve a ballot initiative that will end prohibition and replace it with a sensible marijuana policy in their state too.

    As a NORML Board Member, I am proud to announce that NORML is endorsing this initiative. And to demonstrate my commitment, I am going to match every donation up to $50,000, dollar-for-dollar. This October, I’ll be visiting Maine to speak about the initiative and help build support for legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana in the state.

    Through my travels in Europe, I’ve learned that pragmatic harm reduction makes much more sense than legislating morality. And I believe in civil liberties. Responsible adults should be able to use marijuana, just as they can use alcohol. Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska have demonstrated that it is possible to build a system of marijuana control and regulation that works.”

    This isn’t about being “soft” or “hard” on drugs. This is about being smart – and controlling and regulating marijuana the right way.

    Please consider making a donation today. Together, we can make history in Maine.

    Best,

    Rick Steves

    Guidebook Author and Travel TV Host

    NORML Board Member”

    In a press release issued by the Maine campaign, they thanked NORML for endorsing the initiative and expressed their appreciation of Rick Steves’ generosity. “NORML has spent decades educating the public about marijuana and advocating for sensible marijuana policy reform,” said campaign manager David Boyer. “We are proud to have their support, and we are very grateful for Mr. Steves’ exceptionally generous offer. A lot of celebrities express support for ending marijuana prohibition, but few put their money where their mouth is.”

    And that is the point of this column. Lots of celebrities talk the talk, but few actually walk the walk. It is a delight to be working with Rick Steves, a celebrity who does both exceptionally well. Rick Steves may well be the single most effective legalization advocate in America, and he is especially helpful bridging the gap between those of us who smoke and those who don’t.

    Thanks, Rick, for all you do to advance the cause of personal freedom for all of us, smokers and non-smokers alike.

    ____________________________________________________

    This column was first published on Marijuana.com.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel May 30, 2016

    SR2-11It was with great pleasure that NORML presented the first annual Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award this past week to criminal defense attorney Gerald H. Goldstein, a long-time NORML activist and senior partner with the firm of Goldstein, Goldstein and Hilley in San Antonio, TX.

    The award, named after the late Michael J. Kennedy, the legendary civil rights and criminal defense attorney (and general counsel for High Times magazine from its inception in 1974 until his death in early 2016), was established, with the blessing of the Kennedy family, to honor those individuals who, like Michael Kennedy, dedicate their lives to advancing the cause of social justice in America. Eleanora Kennedy, Michael’s window, and their daughter Anna Safir, spoke at the ceremony, reminding us of Michael’s 40-year support for NORML and our mission to legalize marijuana, and suggesting he would be thrilled that his colleague Goldstein would be the first recipient of this annual award.

    The inscription on the award reads as follows:

    “To Gerald H. Goldstein, in recognition of your lifetime commitment to achieving social justice for all people, including especially those without the resources or social standing to achieve justice on their own. Your willingness to speak for the underdog, the disenfranchised and the unpopular, like Michael Kennedy himself, has defined your exemplary personal and professional life.”

    And few lawyers in America better fit this description than my dear friend Gerry Goldstein.

    Goldstein first became involved in the struggle to end marijuana prohibition back in 1972, when he volunteered to represent NORML in the state of Texas, which, at that time, was the state handing down the harshest marijuana sentences in the country. In fact, Texas at the time had more than seven hundred people serving sentences of ten years or longer for (mostly) non-violent marijuana offenses, with more than thirty people serving sentences of thirty years or longer, and thirteen people serving life sentences.

    We realized it was important to publicize that cruel reality, and with Goldstein’s help, we managed to arrange a tour of the Texas prison system with major media, including the New York Times and the AP, to interview a sampling of these poor souls. As a result of the national publicity that resulted, the governor established a panel to review the sentences of those marijuana offenders, and most were subsequently released years earlier than would otherwise have been the case.

    Goldstein also became the go-to-guy to represent Vietnam War draft resisters during that era, as well as other protesters willing to challenge unfair policies of the government.

    And there have been many occasions over the years when Goldstein would fly across the country to represent a marijuana defendant facing a lengthy prison sentence because he understood the injustice of marijuana prohibition and could not look the other way. He is an extraordinarily talented and committed individual who has no fear of challenging those who would oppress the less fortunate among us. His personal and professional life has been a tapestry of helping others, and a model for those who seek to assure a more just society for all.

    Over time, Goldstein joined the ranks of the elite criminal defense attorneys in the country, serving as president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and a founding member of the NORML Legal Committee (NLC), where he, along with noted San Francisco criminal defense attorney Michael Stepanian, were named “co-chairs for life.”

    He has represented clients as diverse as Manual Noriega and the movie “Deep Throat” before the US Supreme Court; has represented many clients pro bono on behalf the Innocence Project, including the exoneration of Michael Morton, who served 25 years for a crime he did not commit — a case which led to the prosecutor and sitting Texas judge being sentenced to jail for Morton’s wrongful conviction. Goldstein has met with several US Attorney Generals to discuss issues confronting the criminal justice system; and has made himself available to fight some of the toughest battles with the government to protect the right of every citizen to a vigorous defense and the assistance of competent counsel when accused or suspected of a crime.

    Goldstein received NORML’s Al Horn Memorial Award in 1999, and the Lester Grinspoon Award in 2011 for his lifetime of advocacy and support for ending marijuana prohibition; the Robert C. Heeney Memorial Award for the outstanding criminal defense attorney in the US from NACDL; the John Henry Faulk Civil Libertarian of the Year Award from the ACLU; and was named a “Legal Legend” by the State Bar of Texas and is a member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Hall of Fame, as well as scores of additional awards (literally too numerous to list) recognizing his commitment to social justice in America.

    And throughout his storied career, Goldstein has never lost sight of the plight of “the underdog, the disenfranchised and the unpopular,” which is why he richly deserves this first annual Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award.

    Thank you, Gerry, for a lifetime of fighting for the underdog.

    _____________________________________________

    This column was originally published on Marijuana.com.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director May 27, 2016

    NORML members, supporters, and chapter leaders gathered in our nation’s capital this week, for NORML’s 2016 Conference and Lobby Day. The events were filled with education, activism, socializing, and plenty of marijuana smoking. For those who weren’t able to attend, keep reading below to find out what you missed and how you can get involved in next year’s events.

    NORML Congressional Lobby Day 2016

    On Monday we held our educational conference at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs. On the top floor, surrounded with ceiling to floor windows, the meeting room provided attendees a view of some of the district’s most iconic sights while hearing from some of the reform movement’s brightest minds.

    Highlights on Day 1 included a presentation by Deputy Director Paul Armentano entitled, “We Don’t Know Enough About Cannabis? Think Again,” where he acknowledged that there are now more scientific studies and papers available specific to cannabis than most other conventional therapeutics.

    John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at The Brookings Institute discussed the successes we have seen from Colorado and the other pioneering states that have regulated marijuana for adult use.

    Attendees also heard from Queens College professor Harry Levine and investigator Loren Siegel, who highlighted the continuing racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement — a disparity that continues to exist even in jurisdictions that have regulated cannabis-related activities. Their presentations were a stark reminder that even as we celebrate or successes, there is still plenty of work left to do.

    A summary of many of the day’s presentations is online here.

    awardFinally, in one of the more notable events of the day Eleanora Kennedy and Anna Kennedy Safir awarded longtime NORML Legal Committee member Gerald H. Goldstein with the first annual Michael John Kennedy Social Justice Award.

    Events continued Monday night at the historic O St. Mansion where attendees gathered for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. NORML hosted our 2016 award ceremony, highlighting various attendees for their extraordinary activism, and political and cultural leadership in the field of marijuana and marijuana policy reform. Award recipients included:

    • Outstanding Chapter Award to Norm Kent on behalf of Florida NORML
    • Student Activist Award to Chris Thompson, Purdue NORML
    • Lester Grinspoon Award to Harry Levine and Loren Siegel
    • Hunter S. Thompson Award to Bruce Barcott, Leafly
    • Pauline Sabin Award to Pam Novy, Virginia NORML
    • Peter McWilliams Award to Ken Wolski, Coalition for Medical Marijuana – NJ
    • Outstanding Cannabist Activist Award to Kevin Oliver, Washington NORML

    On Tuesday attendees convened on Capitol Hill for a full day of lobbying. In the morning, attendees heard words of encouragement from five distinguished members of Congress: Reps. Sam Farr, Earl Blumenauer, Jared Polis, Suzan DelBene, and Dana Rohrabacher. Congressman Farr (D-CA), who is the co-sponsor of legislation protecting statewide medical marijuana programs from federal interference, will be retiring this year so it was a privilege for our lobby group to hear from him.

    NORML awarded Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR) our 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for his continued leadership and focus on marijuana law reform throughout his career. Keith Stroup, NORML’s founder and legal counsel, spoke of the Congressman’s first days as a legislator in the Oregon State House of Representatives where he sponsored the state’s 1973 decriminalization law. Ever since then Congressman Blumenauer has continued to support our issue. Just last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment sponsored by the Congressman providing V.A. physicians the ability to discuss and recommend medical marijuana to U.S. veterans.

    Congressman Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman DelBene (D-WA) encouraged attendees to continue their advocacy work. Congressman Polis is chief sponsor of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, legislation to to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. Congresswoman DelBene is chief sponsor of the SMART Enforcement Act, legislation to make the US federal Controlled Substances Act inapplicable with respect to states that have legalized and regulated marijuana in a manner that addresses key federal priorities.

    rohrabacherWrapping up the morning reception, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) made news when he acknowledged successfully using a topical marijuana treatment for his shoulder arthritis. His admission marked quite possibly the first time ever a sitting member of Congress has admitted using marijuana while serving in office! Congressman Rohrabacher is one of our most valuable leaders at the federal level and NORML wishes to thank him for not only addressing our group but for sharing with us his candid and personal testimony. You can listen to the archived audio from NORML’s Capitol Hill reception here.

    Throughout the three day event, attendees were able to network with fellow activists, learn from leaders in the reform movement, and relax with some of best locally grown marijuana in Washington D.C. NORML would like to thank those of you who attended and contributed to this successful event and we look forward to seeing you all again next year.

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