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Citizen Lobbyists

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director January 15, 2018

    As tensions between AG Sessions and federal lawmakers continues to grow, proponents of marijuana legalization are finding new allies in state legislatures around the country. Despite the recent move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the Cole Memo, a 2013 DOJ memorandum that allowed state sanctioned marijuana business to thrive despite the quagmire between state and federal laws, lawmakers in several states are advancing marijuana reform legislation.

    Reject AG Sessions’ Efforts to Revert to the Failed Criminal Policies of the ‘Just Say No’ Era.

    Within hours of the rollout of the DOJ’s new policy, lawmakers in Vermont passed a depenalization bill out of the House and Senate with overwhelming support and it’s now headed to Governor’s office. With Governor Scott already promising to sign the measure into law, it’s safe to say that Vermont will surely be the newest thorn in the side of an already agitated Sessions. As if the news from Vermont isn’t frustrating enough for the Attorney General, House lawmakers in New Hampshire also passed legislation that would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and up. And Thursday, members of the New York State Assembly heard hours of testimony in support of adult use regulation.

    In addition to the advancement of marijuana law reform legislation in Vermont and New Hampshire, a number of other states such as Kentucky, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Delaware, New Hampshire, Virginia, Missouri and New Mexico will also be debating several marijuana-related bills during their 2018 legislative sessions. To support these legislative efforts, members of Virginia NORML, NORML KC, NORML of Florida, Lehigh Valley NORML, NORML Women of Washington, Pittsburgh NORML, Ohio NORML, Missouri NORML, Illinois NORML, Delaware NORML, Kentucky NORML, Maryland NORML, New Mexico NORML, Wyoming NORML, Springfield NORML and Greater St. Louis NORML will be meeting with their state representatives to encourage support for marijuana reform legislation

    With the help of NORML chapters, 2018 could prove to be a very successful year for marijuana law reform efforts.

    Virginia NORML

    Taking a more conservative approach than lawmakers in Vermont and New Hampshire, lawmakers in the Commonwealth of Virginia are considering both medical marijuana and decriminalization bills this session. While there hasn’t been any notable criticisms of the DOJ’s new policy from the state legislature, Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA) recently introduced HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act which would gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML had this to say about the current political climate.

    “Attorney General Sessions isn’t stopping Virginia from moving forward in the 2018 legislative session with both medical cannabis expansion and decriminalization. We have strong, bipartisan representatives working on marijuana policy in Congress, Reps. Beyer, Garrett, Griffith and Taylor, and the same holds true in our State House. Republicans and Democrats are united on advancing these common sense reforms demanded by the overwhelming majority of Virginians.”

    Las Vegas NORML

    In Nevada, where state lawmakers approved a measure to fast track rules and regulations for the state’s adult-use marijuana program in 2017, the news of the DOJ’s new policy prompted partisan reactions from Carson City. While Republican lawmakers refrained from publicly criticizing AG Sessions, Democratic Senator Tick Segerblom wasted no time. Speaking to a group of legalization advocates at a rally outside of a marijuana dispensary In Las Vegas, Senator Segerblom had this to say:

    “Contact your legislators in Washington DC and tell them to tell Trump to back off until we get this thing resolved. This is a great industry for Nevada. The people have spoken…this is a state’s rights issue.”

    After hearing the news about the shift in federal policy, Chris Thompson, executive director of Las Vegas NORML quickly shifted his focus from state-level lobbying efforts to mobilizing pro-marijuana advocates and scheduling meetings with Congressional leaders.

    “It’s definitely a precarious situation right now, but thankfully Las Vegas NORML is working with our representatives at the state and federal level to prevent Sessions from trampling over states’ rights and prosecuting legal cannabis,” said Thompson.

    With virtually no federal lawmakers expressing support the Sessions’ reversal, as reported by Politico, and state lawmakers seemingly unphased by this shift in the administration’s tone, it appears that AG Sessions severely underestimated the political juggernaut the issue of marijuana legalization has become.

    For more information about a NORML’s 2018 lobbying efforts, email Chapters@NORML.org or visit http://norml.org/about/chapter-calendar for list of upcoming chapter lobby days and meetings. If you’re unable to attend a NORML lobby day in your state, please take a few minutes to contact your representatives using NORML’s Action center http://norml.org/act

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 12, 2018
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    Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, 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.”

    In the wake of Attorney General Jeff Sessions recent actions, it is time to expand similar protections to states that have also legalized the use and sale of marijuana to all adults now that one in five Americans resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute.

    Known as the McClintock-Polis amendment, after Representatives Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO), the amendment would simply remove the word medical from the current Rohrabacher-Blumenauer language.

    The fix would literally be that simple to give breathing room to state-lawful programs.

    In a letter to Congressional leadership authors by McClintock and Polis, co-signed by 67 other Representatives from both political parties, the members call for the amendment to be included in any future spending bill.

    In the one day that the letter was going around the hill, NORML members and supporters drove in nearly 5,000 messages to Congress and countless phone calls in support of their Representative signing on.

    “For several years, I have introduced a bipartisan amendment with Rep. McClintock, which would prohibit the Dept. of Justice from using federal resources to interfere with legal medical and recreational marijuana activities. Now with Attorney General Sessions’ shortsighted announcement, I am thrilled to welcome nearly 70 members who are asking for the amendment to be attached to the government-funding bill,” said Rep. Polis. “It would be a temporary, but urgent and necessary fix, as I continue to push for passage of my Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would finally lift the federal prohibition on marijuana.”

    Last year, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws. You can tell your member to join them by clicking HERE.

    Pressure is building. Sign up to our email list to get the latest news: https://norml.org/subscribe

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 11, 2018

    Legalize marijuanaThanks to the tens-of-thousands of individuals just like you, Congress seems to be starting to wake up. Right now, today, Republican Representative Tom McClintock and Democratic Representative Jared Polis are circulating a letter in support of their amendment to defund the Department of Justice’s ability to enforce federal prohibition in the states that have reformed their marijuana laws, both for medical and responsible adult-use.

    Today, one in five Americans resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute, and the majority of citizens reside someplace where the medical use of cannabis is legally authorized.

    Click here to tell your member to co-sign the letter NOW

    There has never been as much support in favor of Congressional action. This is because the politicians are finally starting to get the point. The polls don’t lie: outright majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents are in favor of full marijuana legalization.

    They want to deliver the letter tomorrow, so it’s crucial that we make our voices heard quickly. Click here to send a message now.

    After you send your letter so it will stay in their official records, click HERE to find your Representatives office number and then call their Washington, DC office.

    Thanks for standing with us, we will keep you posted as this continues to unfold.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 5, 2018

    Legalize marijuanaMontpelier, Vermont: Just hours after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidelines instructing US attorneys to take a ‘hands off’ approach in states with legal marijuana regulations, lawmakers in the Vermont House voted to legalize the personal possession and home cultivation of marijuana by a vote of 81 to 63. The measure now goes back to the Senate for a concurrence vote before going to the Governor, who has indicated that he will sign the bill into law.

    Passage of legalization in Vermont in 2018 would be a legislative first. To date, all eight states that have enacted adult use regulatory laws, as well as the District of Columbia have done so by a direct vote of the people.

    The progress in Vermont is groundbreaking. Should the Green Mountain State’s leadership move forward as promised, it will mark a huge turning point in the national movement to end the criminalization of marijuana. 

    One in five Americans resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute, and the majority of citizens reside someplace where the medical use of cannabis is legally authorized. As is evidenced by Vermont lawmakers’ actions, it is clear that the Trump administration is not going to be able to cease this momentum in favor of the enactment of rational marijuana policies.

    The political courage of Vermont’s lawmakers to break with nearly a century of legislative stagnation should be interpreted as a siren call in the halls of the state legislatures nationwide as well as the U.S. Capitol.

    You can follow the progress of the legislation on our Vermont Action Alert by clicking here.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director December 31, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaAs support for marijuana legalization in America reaches an all-time high, NORML chapters are hoping to tap into the energy and enthusiasm of their most ardent supporters for their 2018 lobby days. According to the most recent nationwide polling data compiled by Gallup, Sixty-four percent of US adults support the legalization of adult-use marijuana. That’s why NORML chapters are gearing up for an aggressive push to advance marijuana law reforms in states across the country.

    Looking Back

    As the year comes to an close, NORML chapters have certainly earned the right to celebrate their hard work and a very productive year. With a record number of state-level lobby days, the passage of several decriminalization measures and a strong presence at congressional town hall meetings, and legislative offices, NORML chapters had an undeniable impact on marijuana policy in 2017.

    To kick things off earlier this year, NORML chapters around the country organized more than two dozen lobby days, where legislative victories ranged from an effort by Virginia NORML to end automatic driver’s license suspension for marijuana possession, to a push by Delaware NORML that resulted in the passage of a marijuana legalization bill out of committee. A first for the Delaware legislature.

    After wrapping up state legislative sessions, NORML chapters continued their work well into the summer months, but shifted their focus to local efforts. While some chapters dedicated their time to collecting signatures for statewide marijuana law reform initiatives and others to community outreach projects, NORML KC, Peachtree NORML, Madison NORML and Ohio NORML set their sights on decriminalization. Each chapter was successful in reducing the penalties for personal possession of marijuana in their community from a criminal infraction to a simple fine or no fine at all.

    Following a busy summer filled with local activism and congressional town hall meetings, chapter leadership from around the country gathered in our nation’s capital for NORML’s 2017 Conference and Lobby in Washington DC. With the help of NORML’s political team led by Justin Strekal, NORML coordinated more than 150 meetings with congressional offices, and to the surprise of many, a face-to-face meeting with Senator Cory Booker, who recently introduced The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017.

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    Looking Ahead

    With the new year quickly approaching, NORML Chapters around the country are busy mobilizing supporters in advance of their 2018 lobby days. NORML activists will be meeting with state representatives where they’ll help educate them about the advantages of ending marijuana prohibition and encourage support for dozens of statewide reform bills. To date, Virginia NORML, NORML KC, NORML of Florida, Lehigh Valley NORML, NORML Women of Washington, Pittsburgh NORML, Ohio NORML, Missouri NORML, Illinois NORML, Delaware NORML, Kentucky NORML, Maryland NORML, New Mexico NORML, Wyoming NORML and Greater St. Louis NORML have scheduled the first round of NORML lobby days for the new year.

    In Pennsylvania, Jeff Reidy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML will be in Harrisburg with a broad coalition consisting of marijuana activists from the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and several other NORML chapters for what’s expected to be one of the largest grassroots marijuana-centric lobby days in the state’s history. With Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana patients now receiving their state registration cards and the expected opening of dispensaries in early 2018, the coalition will be pushing for statewide decriminalization.

    “Marijuana activism begins with NORML. Being a member of this organization implies a desire to push our agenda, while engaging policy makers,” said Reidy. “Lobbying our elected officials is the simplest way to deliver the voice of the people to our politicians. We only win when we engage, speak out, endure, and fight for our freedoms. It’s time to Lobby!”

    In Washington State, where medical and adult-use marijuana is already legal, Danica Noble, executive director of NORML Women of Washington and her colleagues with Washington NORML will be focused on protecting progress and expanding the rights of marijuana consumers by addressing issues like home cultivation and workplace discrimination.

    “In Washington State, our top legislative priorities will be on legalizing homegrows, expunging felony convictions for simple possession, and establishing workplace protections for marijuana consumers, said Noble. “In addition to not having the legal right to grow our own marijuana, marijuana consumers in Washington are being denied employment opportunities and still carry the burden of a felony conviction for simple possession. This has to change.”

    While the legislative priorities of each NORML chapter can vary, the goals of protecting the rights of marijuana consumers and ending marijuana prohibition are shared by all.

    Empowerment Resources

    To support these grassroots lobbying efforts, we recently updated NORML’s Citizen Lobby Guide. This comprehensive guide will assist NORML activists in the planning and execution of a successful lobby day and also provides organizational checklists and a legislative questionnaire. So regardless of the state or legal status of marijuana, NORML activists will be fully prepared to discuss meaningful marijuana law reforms and effectively communicate NORML’s message of ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.

    NORML Lobby Guide: http://norml.org/pdf_files/NORML_CitizenLobbyGuide.pdf

    NORML’s Action Center

    In addition to offering support through NORML’s Citizen Lobby Guide, we have created more than a dozen action alerts targeting lawmakers across the country urging their support for marijuana law reform legislation being considered in their state. To join the conversation, simply click on the link below, find the action alert for your state and enter your information!

    NORML Action Center: http://norml.org/act

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    For more information about a NORML’s 2018 Chapter Lobby Days, please email Chapters@NORML.org or visit http://norml.org/about/chapter-calendar for list of upcoming chapter lobby days and meetings.

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