• by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director August 24, 2018

    Every year since 1998 NORML has recognized activists from around the country who are working to advance marijuana law reforms at the local, state and federal level for their outstanding activism, academic study or political and cultural leadership in the field of marijuana policy reform. This year’s awards were presented during NORML’s 2018 Conference and Lobby Day that took place in Washington DC.

    Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award

    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.

    This year’s award was presented to Michael E. Tigar in recognition of his unwavering commitment to social justice and advancing human rights around the world.

    The inscription on the award reads as follows:

    “To Michael E. Tigar, 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.”

    Mr. Tigar was a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law where he helped found the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic and professor emeritus at Duke Law School. Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Tigar also made several trips to South Africa, where he worked with African lawyers who were fighting to end apartheid.

    Outstanding Chapter Award in Recognition of the Important Role Of Volunteer Activists Organized as Local and Regional NORML Chapters in the Fight to Legalize Marijuana

    This year’s Outstanding NORML Chapter Award went to Chicago NORML, an organization that truly hit the ground running. Immediately following the approval of their affiliate application, several board members traveled to Washington DC to attend NORML’s 2017 Conference where they lobbied their members of Congress in support of pending marijuana law reform legislation. Since then, Edie Moore and her colleagues have focused their time on expungement and elevating the conversation concerning the disproportionate impact the war on marijuana has had on communities of color and the ways Chicago NORML can make sure they have a seat at the table.

    Outstanding Cannabis Advocate Award for Advancing the Cause of Marijuana Law Reform

    Selecting NORML’s Outstanding Cannabis Advocate Award recipient for 2018 was not an easy decision. As NORML’s Outreach Director and “chapter guy,” I have the pleasure of working with some of the marijuana law reform movement’s brightest and most dedicated volunteers from all over the country. But in the case of Jeff Reidy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML he has certainly worked hard to set himself apart.

    Since re-establishing Lehigh Valley NORML in 2017 Jeff has formed strong alliances with the many marijuana-related nonprofits operating across Pennsylvania, such as Philly NORML, the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and Pittsburgh NORML. He has also forged strong, long-lasting relationships with local and state lawmakers that has resulted in marijuana law reforms in Allentown, Bethlehem and York.

    Pauline Sabin Award in Recognition of Exceptional Community Organization Dedicated to Repealing Marijuana Prohibition

    This year’s Pauline Sabine Award went to Cynthia Ferguson, executive director of Delaware NORML. In a state like Delaware, that has no voter initiative or referendum process, Cynthia has spent years lobbying local and state lawmakers in support of ending marijuana prohibition. Recognizing her passion and dedication to the issue, Cynthia was invited by Delaware Governor John Carney to participate in a roundtable discussion about the Marijuana Control Act, which would have legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults over the age of 21.

    With a strategy that combines fact-based arguments in support of social justice and economic opportunities, and keeping pressure on lawmakers by attending town hall meetings and hosting lobbying opportunities, Cynthia is doing her part to win the hearts and minds of Delaware  lawmakers.

    Lifetime Achievement Award in Grateful Recognition of A Lifetime Dedicated to Reforming Unjust Marijuana Laws and Advancing the Cause of Personal Freedom

    NORML’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Dale Geringer of California. For more than three decades Dr. Gieringer has served as the Executive Director of California NORML and continues to be a prominent voice and respected thought leader on marijuana policy and harm reduction. Dale also serves as the Vice-Chairman of NORML’s National board of directors, Director of the California Drug Policy Forum (DPFCA) and Treasurer of the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance (OCLA).

    In addition to his work with various advocacy groups, Dr. Gieringer has published research on medical marijuana usage, marijuana smoke harm reduction, potency testing, marijuana and driving safety, and drug urinalysis. He’s also one of the original co-authors of Prop. 215, California’s medical marijuana initiative that was approved by voters in 1996, and lead proponent of Oakland’s Measure Z cannabis initiative in 2004.

    Peter McWilliams Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advancing the Cause of Medical Marijuana

    For those of you who have been following NORML’s work over the years, especially in the state of Missouri, it should be no surprise that this year’s Peter McWilliams Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advancing the Cause of Medical Marijuana was presented to New Approach Missouri Campaign Board Chair and Executive Director of Missouri NORML Dan Viets.

    As a result of his leadership and overall influence, the New Approach Missouri campaign worked closely with Missouri NORML and other active NORML Chapters across Missouri to gather more than 372,400 signatures to place the measure before voters. The Initiative was recently certified by the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office and will appear on the November 6, 2018 ballot. Polling suggests support for medical marijuana in Missouri is well above 60%.

    Dan also serves as the Secretary of the National Board of Directors of NORML and has been recognized by, among others, Best Lawyers, Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers, and America’s Top 100 Criminal Defense Attorneys.

    Rufus King, Sr. Award For Outstanding Public Leadership in the Field of Marijuana Law Reform

    This year’s Rufus King, Sr. Award For Outstanding Public Leadership in the Field of Marijuana Law Reform was presented to Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) who shared the following with attendees of NORML’s 2018 Congressional Lobby Day after introducing the Marijuana Data Collection Act:

    “For decades, bad data and misinformation have fueled the failed War on Drugs that has ruined people’s lives, torn families apart, and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars incarcerating Americans for nonviolent marijuana charges. In 2016 alone, nearly 600,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession. Our laws must be informed by facts — not emotion, manufactured stigma and myths. Our bipartisan legislation, the Marijuana Data Collection Act, will lay the groundwork for real reform by producing an objective, evidence-based report on current marijuana laws that exist in 31 states across the country, and their impact on our communities.”

    Click here for Video of the Press Conference

    Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please reach out to KevinM@NORML.org for help starting your own! For over 45 years NORML chapters have been leading marijuana law reform conversations and continue to be the driving force behind policy decisions on the local and state level.

    Ready to start a NORML chapter in your hometown? Click here to find out how!

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate

    Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    In Congress this week, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and six cosponsors introduced a bill that would remove the penalty that strips college financial aid from students with drug convictions. Also, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) filed an amendment that would require the federal government to study the monetary and health impacts of state marijuana legalization. A Senate floor vote could occur in the coming days.

    At the state level, Oklahoma’s secretary of state determined that activists failed to collect enough signatures to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the ballot, and the legislature’s medical marijuana working group took public testimony on Wednesday.  And state Rep. Jake Wheatley of Pennsylvania launched an online petition to build support for a marijuana legalization bill he plans to introduce.

    New Jersey’s Senate president said he has the votes to pass marijuana legalization and medical cannabis expansion bills next month. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said he hopes lawmakers will pass a marijuana legalization bill this year. Separately, New Jersey’s attorney general does not plan to extend a moratorium on marijuana prosecutions when it expires next month and will instead issue a memo telling prosecutors that they can use their own discretion not to pursue cannabis cases.

    The California Senate approved a bill to allow safe consumption sites for illegal drugs, and the Assembly defeated a bill to allow medical cannabis administration at schools and one to allow financial institutions to work with the cannabis industry.

    There are also still a few bills pending before Governors around the country, including two bills in Delaware concerning medical marijuana program expansion and expunging past records, and two bills in Illinois awaiting action from the Governor concerning industrial hemp expansion and allowing cannabis as an alternative to opioids. It’s TBD on if/when these bills will be signed into law.

    At a more local level, Activists in Norwood, Ohio collected enough signatures to place a marijuana depenalization measure on the November ballot, but local police said they will continue charging people under state law even if voters approve the initiative.

    The Eau Claire County, Wisconsin Board voted to put a marijuana advisory question before voters. The Kenosha County, Wisconsin Board placed a medical cannabis advisory question on the November ballot. So did the Forest County, Wisconsin Board. But the Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin Board killed a proposed marijuana advisory ballot question.

    Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

    Your Highness,

    Priority Alerts


    End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Click here to e-mail your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation


    Assembly Bill 1793 seeks to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

    Update: AB 1793 was approved by the Senate with a 28-10 vote and now awaits action from Governor Brown.

    CA resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of expungement

  • by NORML August 23, 2018

    The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is endorsing North Dakota’s voter-initiated, adult use marijuana legalization effort, Measure 3.

    “NORML is pleased to support the grassroots Measure 3 campaign. With state legislators continuing to drag their feet with regard to reforming North Dakota’s outdated and failed marijuana prohibition laws, we believe that it is vital that voters have the opportunity to make their voices heard in favor of enacting a sensible and rational cannabis policy,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “North Dakota is among the top states in the nation when it comes to per capita marijuana possession arrests, by approving this measure voters can reprioritize limited police resources toward targeting more serious crimes and they can end the practicing of saddling otherwise law abiding citizens with the stigma of a lifelong criminal record and the lost opportunities that come with it.”

    “The Legalize ND campaign is honored and humbled to welcome NORML as a partner in our fight to pass Measure 3. We are excited to work with the NORML team to educate voters as to how recreational Cannabis will be a major benefit for all North Dakotans,” said David Owen, Chair of the Legalize ND campaign.

    This statewide ballot measure, organized by the grass-roots group Legalize North Dakota, seeks to legalize the personal possession and use of cannabis, as well as the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, by those over 21 years of age. It also establishes a process for the sealing of non-violent marijuana-related convictions. Unlike the adult use laws established in various other states, the measure does not establish explicit regulations for commercialized marijuana-related activity, such as retail sales.

    If enacted by a majority of voters on Election Day, North Dakota would be the tenth state to legalize adult marijuana use.

    NORML is going to be fighting hard to help pass legalization in North Dakota, but it is going to take all of us working together to win.



    You can also stay up to date on the campaign on their website or Facebook page.


  • by NORML August 22, 2018

    Legalize MarijuanaNearly two-thirds of New Jersey voters support legalizing the adult use of marijuana and expunging past criminal convictions associated with the substance, according to statewide polling data released today by Quinnipiac University.

    Sixty-two percent of voters say that they support allowing adults “to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Support is strongest among voters ages 18 to 34 years of age (90 percent) and Democrats (78 percent). Support was weakest among Republicans (41 percent) and those voters over the age of 65 (46 percent).

    “New Jersey legislators must support the will of their constituents and approve legislation to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use in New Jersey,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri.

    He added: “New Jersey holds the dubious distinction of ranking second in the nation in per capita annual marijuana arrests. This policy disproportionately impacts young people of color, violates civil liberties, and is an egregious waste of public resources that can be reprioritized elsewhere. The people of New Jersey are ready to end this failed prohibition and move toward the sensible policy of legalization and regulation. State lawmakers should not make them wait any longer.”

    Sixty-three percent of voters also say that they support “erasing criminal records for marijuana possession.” Once again, those voters ages 34 and younger were most supportive of the changes (81 percent), as were Democrats (74 percent).

    The new polling data comes just days after Senate President Steve Sweeney publicly announced that leadership has likely secured sufficient support in both chambers to pass an adult use legalization reform act.

    Governor Phil Murphy campaigned on a pledge to reform the state’s marijuana policies, and yesterday reiterated his hopes to sign legislative reforms by the end of this year. In his spring budget address, Gov. Murphy said: “Legalization will allow us to reinvest directly in our communities – especially the urban neighborhoods hardest hit by the misguided war on drugs – in their economic development, in health care and housing, child care and after-school programs, and other critical areas. …. [F]rom the standpoint of social justice, and from the standpoint of protecting our kids and lifting up our communities, I could not arrive at any other conclusion.”

    In July, the state’s Attorney General has called on county and municipal prosecutors to suspend marijuana-related prosecutions until early September.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director August 21, 2018

    Just a few weeks after Delaware NORML made the trek down to Washington DC, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) cosponsored The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act (S. 3174), far-reaching legislation that would end the federal prohibition of marijuana and provide resources to expunge the criminal records of those who suffer the collateral consequences of a possession charge.

    Send a message to your Senators now and tell them to cosponsor the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act NOW! 

    Given the public support for outright legalization in Delaware has regularly polled with over 60% support in the First State and across the country, public support is in the low to mid 60 percent range, Senator Carper’s new-found commitment to reform represents another important mile-marker on the highway to victory.

    As states continue moving forward with ending their war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive prohibition are able to see previous harms remedied, and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation. Crucial aspects of the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act include funding to provide record expungements, funding for small entrepreneurs through the Small Business Administration paid for by the taxes on the existing industry, and other provisions.

    With the addition of Senator Carper, there are now 10 Senators on the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act and 13 out of 100 Senators are declared in support of descheduling legislation (including the Marijuana Justice Act). An additional 7 Senators support of the States Act, which would create an exemption in the Controlled Substances Act to protect states that have reformed.

    This is in contrast to the last congressional session when there was only one bill to deschedule marijuana from the CSA, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders which none of his colleagues had the foresight to cosponsor.

    Send a message to your Senators now and tell them to cosponsor the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act NOW! 

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