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Citizen Lobbyists

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 5, 2017

    cropsOn Wednesday, NORML and Washington NORML both submitted public comment to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) in support of the regulatory body drafting model legislation to allow the lawful home cultivation of marijuana for personal use.

    You can review the comprehensive assessment and recommendations made by Washington NORML’s Legislative Associate Bailey Hirschburg and Executive Director Kevin Oliver by clicking HERE.

    NORML Board Member and Travel Writer Rick Steves submitted:

    The ending of a wrong-minded prohibition happens incrementally. Home-brewing of beer was not immediately on the docket as states made alcohol legal again with the repeal of Prohibition back in the 1930s. It eventually became clear that “home brewing” was a logical extension of the progress made on that issue and today we have the right to home brew as part of the rights afforded to adults that allow them to engage in responsible drinking. In the same way, we believe that home cultivation of marijuana is a smart step for our state to take at this time.

    NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano wrote:

    NORML maintains that the inclusion of legislative provisions permitting the non-commercial home cultivation of cannabis serves as leverage to assure that the product available at retail outlets is high quality, safe, and affordable to the general consumer. Just as adults have the right to brew small amounts of alcohol for personal purposes, adults should also have the right to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis at home. There is no reason or compelling state interest to infringe this right in a jurisdiction where the cannabis plant is no longer defined as contraband.

    Legislation enacted in 2017 directed the WSLCB to “conduct a study of regulatory options for the legalization of marijuana plant possession and cultivation by recreational marijuana users.” The study must take into account the “Cole Memo,” issued by the United State Department of Justice in 2013, which outlines the federal government’s enforcement priorities in states where medical or recreational marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized. The study and recommendations are due to the Legislature on Dec. 1, 2017.

    Media hits surround NORML’s involvement in this area includes:

    Public comment closes on October 11, 2017. If you are a Washington State resident, you can easily submit written comments by clicking HERE.

    Follow Washington State NORML by clicking HERE.

     

  • by NORML October 2, 2017

    marijuana_gavelToday, Atlanta City Council voted to pass Ordinance 17-O-1152, decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses. This measure amends the local law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is punishable by a $75 fine — no arrest, jail time, or criminal arrest record.

    Annually, over 30,000 Georgians — many of whom reside in Atlanta — are arrested and charged with violating marijuana possession laws. Those arrested and convicted face up to one-year in prison, a $1,000 fine under state law, or up to six months in jail under local statutes. National statistics indicate that African Americans are an estimated four times as likely as whites to be arrested for violating marijuana possession laws, despite using marijuana at rates similar to Caucasians.

    “Court costs, the jail time, ruining young people’s lives, they lose their scholarships, it breaks up families, and it wastes our tax dollars. That’s the reason for doing this,” said Kwanza Hall, a city Councilman and candidate for Mayor.

    With the passage of this measure, citizens of Atlanta no longer have to fear unnecessary jail time for possessing a drug that should not be illegal in the first place. However, because the law only applies to Atlanta city limits, it conflicts with the state law that calls for jail time and gives police leeway in deciding which law (state or city) should be enforced.

    However, Atlanta has now joined the growing list of cities around the country that have adopted a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level. This new ordinance may not be perfect, but it is a victory nonetheless.

    “Atlanta is celebrating a big win for their community, for their future. Citizens should be aware of the actual law not just assume they can use Cannabis unfettered across the city. There will be a learning curve and we at Peachtree NORML will do everything we can to make sure the citizens are educated as we continue our work at the State level. For now, 800 arrests will not occur next year if this ordinance stays true to what the essence was meant to accomplish,” said Sharon Ravert, founder of Peachtree NORML.

     

    Follow Peachtree NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website.

  • by Clare Sausen, NORML Junior Associate September 21, 2017

    Canadian parliamentWhen Trudeau announced his decision to legalize marijuana in Canada (set to take effect in 2018), Trump-fearing Americans vowed to seek refuge with our Northern neighbors.

    So what brought Trudeau to his decision to repeal prohibition? You know what they say: behind every great man there’s even greater, weed-loving woman.

    In November of 2012, two NORML Canada board members, Kelly Coulter and Andrea Matrosovs, met with Trudeau and convinced him that supporting full legalization– not just decriminalization– was the right course of action for the Parliamentarian.

    “Al Capone would have loved it if alcohol were only decriminalized,” Coulter said, convincing Trudeau that decriminalization wouldn’t keep organized crime rings and gangs out of the marijuana business.

    “I saw the light go on in his eyes,” Coulter said. “He was seeing this as a politician, realizing ‘I can sell this,’ ” she recalled.

    Following in their footsteps, NORML Canada Board members Marc-Boris St-Maurice and Abigail Sampson went to testify before Parliament last week, discussing The Cannabis Act (C-45) with other jurisdictions in which cannabis is legal, to share their experiences in terms of public health, tax, and banking implications for legalization.

    In addition, NORML Canada Board member Kirk Tousaw went to Parliament to talk international considerations and how to deal with the transport of marijuana across border lines as it remains federally illegal in the United States.

    NORML Canada President John Conroy then took part in a panel on the issue of household cultivation (the current bill proposes four plants per household).

    NORML Canada members are proving that citizen involvement in legalization efforts with lawmakers, even simply having a discussion like Coulter and Matrosovs did with Trudeau, can make an enormous difference. Only time will tell if the United States will be able to follow the example set by our neighbors to the North.

    Follow NORML Canada on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website at: http://norml.ca/

     

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML September 20, 2017

    Awful News

    My friend Stephen Bradley called me on Friday, September 14th and asked if I was sitting down. I knew it couldn’t be good news, but when he told me our mutual friend James Bell had died suddenly, I experienced several moments of simple denial. This just can’t be true, I thought. Then the enormity of the news dropped on me like a heavy stone as I realized how large a hole James’ death leaves in the politics of Marijuana Law Reform in Georgia.

    JB-Rotary-03-300x175

    The James Bell I Knew

    I met James in the fall of 2014 in Dublin, Georgia. He was there videoing a Justice for David Hooks rally. David had been killed in his own home during the execution of a fruitless search warrant, based on the word of an addict/thief who had burglarized David’s property the night before his death. Soon after, I met James again when I testified against the term no-knock warrant being written into black letter Georgia Law before a Senate Committee. We had an opportunity to talk for a while that day, discovering that we had several interests in common. We became friends and allies and called each other often. Over time, James shared the tragic story of his niece, Lori Knowles with me, and I understood his interest in David Hooks and no-knock warrants much better. I think the incident with Lori added fuel to the fire of James’ activism and drove him harder over the past 3 years.

    As James and I talked (and he could talk), I realized just how central a figure he was in the fight for cannabis law reform in Georgia. He was involved in the movement since at least as far back as the 70s, and his interest covered all things cannabis. From advocating the freedom to make personal, adult choices about smoking it, to supporting the use of medical marijuana, to reintroducing Hemp as a staple crop in Georgia, James was involved in it all. He truly believed that the re-legalization of cannabis could be accomplished here in Georgia. He was a constant presence around the Gold Dome when the Legislature was in session, both testifying on issues and videoing procedures. His easy way, his extensive knowledge, and his passion paved the way for good relationships with lawmakers. He was well-known and respected by many.

    James was keenly aware of the societal harm caused by the War on Marijuana. He and I often spoke of Harm Reduction during our conversations, and he felt that an arrest and subsequent criminal record for mere possession of a small amount of marijuana was unjust. No victim, no crime.  He believed a grassroots approach to the problem at the Municipal level, combined with lobbying for change at the State level was the key. He testified in advocacy of Harm Reduction ordinances in Clarkston and Atlanta. He tried in Temple but was met by a crowd of rabid Prohibitionists who hijacked the Town Hall meeting. Clarkston passed their ordinance, and the City hasn’t fallen into a sinkhole. Atlanta is still considering it and the upcoming Mayoral election has several candidates with pro-decriminalization planks in their platforms.

    What Now?

    I will miss talking to James. I’ll miss his counsel. I’ll miss his laugh. I’ll miss seeing him around the Capitol. I know in my heart, though that he would want us to carry on. No one can ever fill James’ shoes, but others will step up.  Others will ensure his legacy and work continue. I’ll be among them.

    Go rest high upon that mountain,
    Son your work on Earth is done

    I’ll see ya further on!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 18, 2017

    First off – a huge thank you to all of those activists and chapter leads from around the country who came to DC to participate in our National Conference and Lobby Day.

    By the numbers:

    –     140+ attendees
    –     21 speakers
    –     5 members of Congress
    –     150+ congressional meetings
    –     1 goal: End marijuana prohibition.

    More to come as we follow up with our attendees and continue to build on the momentum generated (and have our photographer send us the rest of the pictures!).

    Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Maryland State Senator Richard Madaleno, and aide to Virginia State Senator Dave Marsden receive awards from the DMV NORML Coalition

    Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Maryland State Senator Richard Madaleno, and aide to Virginia State Senator Dave Marsden receive awards from the DMV NORML Coalition

    Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) addresses NORML citizens before they depart to their congressional meetings

    Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) addresses NORML citizens before they depart to their congressional meetings

    Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) met with NORML chapter leaders from around the country to discuss his legislation known as The Marijuana Justice Act

    Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) met with NORML chapter leaders from around the country to discuss his legislation known as The Marijuana Justice Act

    Some of the feedback from the lobby day we received:

    Mikel Weisser, Executive Director of Arizona NORML in a meeting with Senator Flake’s staffer, reported “She [Katie] is familiar with Endocannabinoid Receptor System. It is one of her policy issue areas. She said she did not know if the Senator was aware of the E.R.S., so I wrote a short note on [the] materials and she said she would show him.”

    In a meeting with Senator Casey’s staffer, Les Stark, head of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition reported “They are open to the issue but do not seem very bold. They don’t want to set too far ahead of the Pennsylvania legislature…we intend to follow-up.”

    Jane Preece, in a meeting with Senator Harris’s staffer, reported “Ms. Hira is smart and is interested in the recent research showing pot is safe and effective.”

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