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Citizen Lobbyists

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director November 2, 2017

    IMG_2898 copyIn a new poll of US service veterans conducted by The American Legion and presented today on Capitol Hill, one in five veterans self-reported using marijuana to alleviate a medical or physical condition.

    Flanked by lawmakers including Reps Tim Walz, Mark Takano, Julia Brownley, and Matt Gaetz, veterans presented their own personal stories of the efficacy of marijuana as a therapeutic treatment for a litany of conditions.

    Other notable data points revealed by the survey:

    •  81% of veterans support federally-legal treatment
    • 60% of respondents do not live in states where medical cannabis is legal
    • 40% of respondents live in states where medical cannabis is legal
    • And the partisan divide is nearly non-existent:
      • 88% of self-identified conservative respondents support federally legalized medical
        cannabis
      • 90% of self-identified liberal respondents support federally legalized medical
        cannabis
      • 70% of self-identified non-partisan respondents support federally legalized medical
        cannabis

    My favorite data point from their poll: 100% of respondents aged 18-30 support federally legalized medical cannabis.

    You can support the same legislation that the American Legion supports, the Veterans Equal Access Act, which would allow those who have served our country to discuss and be recommended medical marijuana in the states that have implemented programs by CLICKING HERE. 

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 31, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesOn Monday, October 30th, I took a short trip down to Richmond, Virginia to testify alongside Virginia NORML regarding proposals to decriminalize the personal possession of marijuana, in order for those who are stopped by law enforcement to no longer face jail time or a criminal charge.

    Among the policy proposals are options that are line with those of numerous other states, including Nebraska and Mississippi. Such a change will save taxpayers money and allow police and the courts to re-prioritize their resources toward addressing more serious crimes.

    Minor marijuana possession offenders, many of them young people, should not be saddled with a criminal record and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it.

    Watch the testimony of Jenn Michelle Pedini, Executive Director of Virginia NORML below. You can support their work by clicking here. 

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 24, 2017

    Protections for the medical marijuana markets that are now legal in 30 states are set to expire on December 8th.

    After that, over 2 million registered patients’ continued access to their medication will rely on the prohibitionist whims of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been lobbying aggressively for the ability to use the full force of the Justice Department to interfere with their operations.

    But your member of Congress could make the difference. We’re targeting key elected officials who we need to publicly support these continued protections and need your Representatives to speak up and encourage them to stand with patients.

    Send a message to your Representative NOW

    Here is the full backstory: The House Rules Committee, led by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), blocked multiple marijuana-related amendments from receiving consideration by the full House earlier this year, including the one known as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer. Specifically, this language maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    However, in July, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed similar language in the Senate Appropriations Committee. This means that the amendment will be considered in a bicameral conference committee despite the fact that the House was denied the opportunity to express its support.

    If the Republican Congress decides to strip the amendment out of the Senate budget, over 2 million patients in 30 states will lose these protections and could face the full attention of Jeff Sessions.

    We need your Representative to speak up. Send a message right now.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 16, 2017

    ACLU PAAfrican Americans in Pennsylvania are over eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession offenses than are Caucasians, according to an analysis of statewide arrest data by the American Civil Liberties Union.

    The ACLU Pennsylvania report reviewed arrest data for all 67 counties from 2010 to 2016. Excluding Philadelphia, which decriminalized cannabis possession offenses in 2014, adult marijuana possession arrests increased 33 percent during this time period – at a cost of $225.3 million to taxpayers. Black adults were 8.2 times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested for possessing marijuana – up from 6.5 percent in 2010.

    Recent analyses from other states, such as New Jersey and Virginia, have similarly identified racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests. Nationwide, African Americans are approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, despite members of both ethnicities using the substance at similar rates.

    “Pennsylvania’s insistence in continuing to fight the war on marijuana, is at the root of the problematic data presented in this report,” the ACLU of Pennsylvania concluded. “Law enforcement has not only continued its business-as-usual arresting policies in enforcement of cannabis prohibition, it has ramped up enforcement as marijuana use has become more accepted throughout the commonwealth and the nation. If laws don’t change, this pattern will likely continue; law enforcement could become even more heavy handed until policymakers are clear that it is time to end this approach. The clearest way to send that message is to end prohibition altogether.”

    This October 20th marks the third anniversary of the decriminalization of marijuana in Philidelphia, making the birthplace of the American Constitution the largest city to have marijuana possession a non-arrestable offense outside of a legalized state. Yet there is much progress to still be made beyond decriminalization.

    “It is time for us to chart a better path forward. When politicians and police stop treating cannabis consumers like criminals, Pennsylvania can gain thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue,” wrote Temple Professor Chris Goldstein for Philly.com earlier this month. “I hope that by next October, the verdant harvest of Pennsylvania cannabis is something that will benefit every single resident of the commonwealth.”

    And the political winds are changing.

    In September, citing racism, bigotry, and mass-incarceration, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party adopted a resolution to “support Democratic candidates and policies which promote the full repeal of cannabis prohibition by its removal from the Controlled Substances Act, and to support the creation of new laws which regulate it in a manner similar to other culturally accepted commodities.”

    “It’s time to stand on research, and the research shows it’s time to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania,” said state Rep. Jordan Harris of Philadelphia, who is chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

    “Millions of dollars are spent each year on marijuana prosecutions. And prosecution costs are just part of the story,” wrote Pennsylvania Auditor General of  Eugene DePasquale in September, “There is also the loss of income and other social, personal, and emotional impacts on those arrested for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana. That’s ridiculous. The police and court systems have more urgent issues to address.”

    PA Resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of pending legislation for statewide decriminalization and then click here to send a message in support of pending legislation for outright legalization. 

  • by NORML October 8, 2017

    You can follow MassCann/NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website

    MASS CANN/NORML TESTIMONY BEFORE THE CANNABIS CONTROL COMMISSION

    10/02/2017

    MassCannWe are the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, Inc., state affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, known as MASS CANN/NORML.

    We are the largest, oldest and most successful cannabis law reform organization in the northeastern United States. We have run the annual Boston Freedom Rally on Boston Common every year for 28 years, which has raised over $500,000 for our cause. We have run over 50 public policy questions in local districts throughout the Commonwealth – all of which were approved by voters by healthy majorities. The results of those public policy questions and our professional polling persuaded the Marijuana Policy Project to finance the decriminalization of marijuana by ballot initiative in 2008.

    We alone have been representing cannabis users for years. Our activists made decriminalization, medical marijuana and, now, regulated cannabis the new reality. We represent the voters who made your Commission possible.

    Unlike others seeking to advise you, we alone purely represent the interests of cannabis users. We are the marijuana user group in Massachusetts. We are motivated by our collective desire to be free from overly intrusive, overly repressive government.

    We are not motivated by money, as so many others who hope to advise you are. We are an all- volunteer organization. None of us are paid for what we do.

    We are not motivated by career interests, as so many others who hope to advise you are. MASS CANN/NORML employs no one.

    We are not motivated by a desire for political power, as so many others who hope to advise you are. We are a public education organization and are barred by law from doing political work.

    What MASS CANN/NORML is asking you to do:

    We are asking for no regulations about marijuana that would be ridiculous if applied to alcohol. As a recreational substance, marijuana is less debilitating and less addictive than alcohol. As a medicine, it is one of the safest therapeutic substances known, far safer than aspirin. Regulations concerning storage, distribution, and handling that require marijuana to be treated like enriched plutonium—regulations like those put out during the disastrous rollout of medical marijuana—have no basis in reality. They’re just the kind of governmental overreach the voters rejected in passing Question 4. You recall that Question 4 was called an act to “tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.”

    We want you to avoid regulations based on fear-mongering:
    – Legalization has NOT led to increased marijuana use by youths.
    – Legalization has NOT led to more highway accidents.
    – Opening marijuana outlets has NOT increased crime in the neighborhoods that have them.
    There are many, many other examples of false claims that we can disprove.

    Value freedom over compromise. No compromising with our freedom. Freedom is precious. The first colonists came to Massachusetts to escape repressive government. Ever since, many have fought in many ways for freedom and some have died for it. You have no more sacred duty than to maintain whatever freedom is possible.

    We want you to evaluate the other stakeholders in this discussion in light of their particular interests.

    It is in the interest of capitalists, for instance, to corner the market. Therefore, they would favor regulations making it hard for us users to grow our own plants for free. The influence of those well-heeled interests is hard to resist. Please resist.

    Prosecutors and police want to maintain their ability to target us marijuana users and to define us as criminals. They have used marijuana laws to enforce institutionalized racism. They still will seek to criminalize us to the greatest degree they can. Voters rejected their approach when they passed Question 4. The job of prosecutors and police is to enforce the laws that are given them. They should not be shaping policy.

    The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has proved they are interested only in benefitting their bureaucracy, expanding their budget, employing a larger workforce, and consolidating their power—NOT in helping medical marijuana patients. In fact, they are a principal reason that so many patients have gone for years without legal access to their medicine. They should not be listened to as some kind of voice of experience. They should just be studied as a history of horrible examples.

    Treatment professionals are interested in maintaining their gravy train. They want all cannabis use to be defined as drug abuse, and they want all users to be forced into expensive court-ordered rehab programs. They have no larger social interest at heart, and they do not deserve a seat at our table.

    All of these stakeholders have an interest in treating legal marijuana as a disaster to be delayed and restricted as much as possible. But the voters didn’t vote for a disaster, they voted for an opportunity: new jobs, new revenue, safer communities, better community-police relations. We want you to respect the will of the voters, and that means not working against legalization as some kind of threat, but moving ahead with legalization as a fine new opportunity. Legal marijuana is a great thing for Massachusetts! Make it happen!

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