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Citizen Lobbyists

  • by Troy Smit, Communications Director, Empire State NORML June 15, 2017

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    Lobby Day
    The Drug Policy Alliance, along with other campaign pillar groups Empire State NORML, VOCAL-NY, Cannabis Cultural Association, LatinoJustice and the Immigrant Defense Project, held a press conference and lobby day to announce the Start Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade (Start SMART) campaign to advocate for the substantially amended version of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) this past Monday, June 12th.

    Dozens of activists from all around the state took buses, drove cars and rode trains to Albany to join the campaign in launching and lobbying for the legalization bill. After the excellent citizen lobby day training provided by the Drug Policy Alliance, the group split up to divide and conquer before the press conference hitting as many offices as they could as well as attending scheduled meetings.

    In the afternoon the press conference was held in front of the Senate Chambers. Joining advocates at the press conference were the MRTA’s prime sponsors in both houses, Senator Liz Krueger (D-New York) and Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), as well as key MRTA sponsors including: Assemblymember Dick Gottfried (D-New York), Senator Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), Senator Jesse Hamilton (IDC-Brooklyn), Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), Assemblymember Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblymember Michael Blake (D-Bronx). We also heard from representatives of Start SMART pillar groups, Drug Policy Alliance (Kassandra Frederique), Empire State NORML (Doug Greene), LatinoJustice (Juan Cartagena), VOCAL-NY (Nick Malinowski), Immigrant Defense Project (Mizue Aizeki) and Cannabis Cultural Association (Nelson Guerrero and Jacob Plowden).

    Afterwards the group of dedicated activists went back to work. Some went to the Senate and Assembly chambers to pull their members off the floor to seek their support of the new bill, while others continued dropping off materials at the offices of legislators who have voted for further decriminalization but haven’t supported taxation and regulation of marijuana.

    The Start SMART campaign

    The substantially amended MRTA would reestablish a legal market for marijuana in New York and create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol and the craft brewery industry, for adults over the age of 21. Over the past twenty years, nearly 800,000 people have been negatively affected by the harms of prohibition. With people of color accounting for nearly 85% of those arrested annually for possession, the collateral consequences are felt most in these communities. Because of the racial injustice caused by prohibition, the bill is not only an end to prohibition in New York, but also a win in the ongoing fight for racial equality. Significant steps are taken to ensure that those most negatively affected by prohibition will benefit from its repeal.

    The reworked Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) includes substantial racial justice and small business-friendly amendments, including:

    • Creating a micro-license structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, that allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.
    • Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.
    • Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses

    Start SMART NY is a campaign to end marijuana prohibition and repair the harms to communities convened by the Drug Policy Alliance in partnership with groups dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition, including Empire State NORML.

    NY resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of the bill. 

    Make sure to visit Empire State NORML’s website by clicking here and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

    Click here to see the press release from earlier in the week. and click here to go to the Start SMART NY website

  • by NORML May 29, 2017

    for_painVeterans have served our nation honorably. So this Memorial Day, why is the federal government denying those veterans suffering from debilitating ailments like chronic pain and PTSD access to the therapeutic effects of marijuana?

    Presently, V.A. doctors residing in states where medical cannabis is legal remain forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a medical marijuana recommendation — thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of an expensive, private, out-of-network physician.

    Recently introduced legislation, HR 1820, ends this prohibition.

    Send a message to your member of Congress and tell them to support veterans by supporting HR 1820. 

    Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.

    Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it stands to replace.

    Tell your Representative, don’t play politics with the health of our veterans.

  • by Chris Thompson, Executive Director, Las Vegas NORML May 21, 2017

    1294bbf7-8ed0-450d-9f98-5f7fd0090ae4With state lawmakers in Nevada quickly approaching their fast-tracked deadline of July 1st to implement the state’s new adult-use marijuana program, NORML is focused on ramping up our activism efforts in Las Vegas!

    Over the past two months, we’ve been busy planning, attending legislative hearings, tabling at events, doing community outreach, volunteering at our local community garden, and more to get the word out about our new chapter, and post-legalization activism in Las Vegas.

    So far during the 2017 legislative session, there have been several key pieces of legislation introduced. One of the most important bills that we’re currently pushing is Senator Tick Segerblom’s SB 329, which would safeguard many protections for marijuana patients and the legal marijuana industry. These protections include re-establishing patient grow rights, allowing medical marijuana research facilities, allowing marijuana establishments to be organized as a corporation, and adds PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.

    Another important piece of legislation that we’re watching closely is SB 236; if adopted by lawmakers, this legislation would permit social use marijuana clubs across Nevada. With the issue of social marijuana consumption quickly becoming a main issue for marijuana advocates in post-legalization states, Las Vegas NORML believes this legislation would be the first step in providing marijuana consumers with a safe and legally defined space to responsibly consume their legally purchased marijuana.

    To learn more, join us for our next meeting on Tuesday, May 23rd where we’ll discuss the various pieces of marijuana-related legislation in Nevada! Get involved and invite your friends!

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    Creating a Space for Marijuana Activism

    We’re at a crucial time in the legislative session, so we need our members and supporters to speak-up for Nevada marijuana consumers by urging their representatives to support marijuana-related legislation. To help facilitate this, Las Vegas NORML has organized a postcard writing party! This will give everyone a chance to share their personal stories and reasons why they support marijuana legislation with their lawmakers.

    We also have two guest speakers from Nevada’s marijuana industry that will be joining us: DB Labs and Sahara Wellness. DB Labs will be educating our members on marijuana testing in Nevada, and Sahara Wellness will be sharing their story of helping patients in the community. Plus we’ll have event sign-ups, membership packages, legislative updates, and even FREE SNACKS! Who can say no to that?

    Be sure to RSVP using our Facebook Event Page, and invite all of your friends in Las Vegas!

    For more information on Las Vegas NORML, please find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or email us at LasVegasNORMLchapter@gmail.com.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director May 20, 2017

    revolutionbumperWelcome to this week’s edition of the NORML legislative roundup!

    This year, it seems that multiple states are vying for the honor of becoming the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislative process and four of them had movement this week. Ranked most-to-least likely, here is the action we saw in the last 7 days:

    Vermont: S. 22, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults has been transmitted to Governor Phil Scott.

    If signed or simply ignored, (aka not vetoed by the Governor), the measure will legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, and the cultivation of two mature marijuana and four immature plants in a private residence beginning July 1, 2018. The Act will become law in lieu of action by the Governor Wednesday due to the procedural processes of the Vermont.

    Connecticut (tied for 2nd): Senate and House Democrats are lobbying for provisions to permit the retail sale of marijuana to adults as a way to address the state’s estimated $5 billion budget gap. The proposal would initially permit state-licensed dispensaries to sell cannabis to non-patients, and then establish regulations to oversee the establishment of commercial producers and retailers.

    The proposed plan is estimated to yield about $60 million in additional revenue for the state next fiscal year, and $180 million by 2018-19.

    Rhode Island (tied for 2nd): Members of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced H. 5551 to create a study commission on May 17, but failed to call H. 5555 The Adult Use of Cannabis Act for a vote. The study bill now awaits action on the House floor while H. 5555 is likely dead for this session. Yet several lawmakers are now working on a compromise approach which would enact several provisions of legalization similar to Vermont this year and then let decisions on issues like edibles, product testing, business licensing and local opt-out be triggered by a study commission’s recommendations.

    New Jersey (distant 4th): Legislation has been introduced by State Sen. Nicholas Scutari to legalize and regulate the adult use, production, and retail sale of marijuana. Yet in his last year as Governor, Chris Christie has made it clear that he will not sign such legislation, however it does position the Garden State well to pass legalization next year as Gov. Christie is term-limited out.

    At the Federal level, in the House, Representatives  Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) have introduced The Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017, HR 2528, which would protect states that have ended prohibition at the state level from federal interference. This bill is substantially similar to that of HR 965, the bipartisan Respect State Marijuana Laws Act introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

    Additionally, the bipartisan Senate version of the SAFE Banking Act was introduced to allow marijuana businesses access to basic banking services.

    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.

    Thanks for all you do and keep fighting,
    Justin

    Priority Alerts

    Federal
    Respect State Marijuana Laws: On May 18, Representatives Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Diane DeGette (D-CO) introduced HR 2528, The Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017.

    Click here to send your member of Congress a message to support the bill. 

    Bank Safely: Currently, banks face the threat of federal sanction for working with marijuana-related businesses and entrepreneurs. The SAFE Banking Act (Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act) would extend protections to banks from the federal government, thus allowing responsible businesses access to basic banking services.

    Click here to send both your Senators and Representative a message to support these measures.

    Join The Caucus: With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) earlier this year formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.

    Click here to email your Member of Congress to urge them to join the Congressional Cannabis Caucus

    Connecticut
    Senate and House Democrats are lobbying for provisions to permit the retail sale of marijuana to adults as a way to address the state’s estimated $5 billion budget gap.

    CT resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of legalization.

    Nevada
    Senate legislation is pending, SB 236, introduced by Sen. Tick Segerblom to regulate the social use of cannabis.

    The measure allows select businesses to apply for licensing to permit adult marijuana use on their premises. It would also allow event organizers to seek permits to allow adult use at specific events.

    Update: SB236 passed out of the Assembly Government Operations Committee on May 16.

    NV resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of marijuana social clubs.

    New Jersey
    Legislation has been introduced by State Sen. Nicholas Scutari to legalize and regulate the adult use, production, and retail sale of marijuana.

    According to a 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton poll, nearly six in ten New Jersey adults support “legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over.” Similar percentages of voters through the country also endorse legalization.

    NJ resident? Click here in support of legalization in the Garden State

    Rhode Island
    Several lawmakers are now working on a compromise approach which would enact several provisions of legalization similar to Vermont this year and then let decisions on issues like edibles, product testing, business licensing and local opt-out be triggered by a study commission’s recommendations.

    RI resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of legalization

    Vermont
    S. 22, to completely depenalize marijuana, was transmitted to the Governor on May 18. Governor Phil Scott has until the end of Wednesday May 24 to either sign or veto the legislation, and should he not act, the bill will go into effect by default.

    VT resident? Click here to send a message to Governor Scott in support of legalization

    Other Actions to Take

    Delaware
    Senate Bill 24 has been introduced by Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry to make it easier for those suffering from PTSD to obtain their medicine.

     

    DE resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of those with PTSD

    New York
    A pair of bills are pending in the Senate to expand patients’ access to medical cannabis.

    Senate Bill 6092 expands the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis access to include those with Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and a number of other debilitating diseases. It also removes arbitrary caps imposed on the amount of THC permitted in oral products.

    Senate Bill 6308 allows for additional cannabis providers to operate in the state in order to improve patients’ access.

    NY resident? Click here to express your support for these measures to your lawmakers.

     

     

     

     

  • by Jordan Person, Executive Director, Denver NORML May 15, 2017

    14963351_1825384024368232_2740677872685265191_nCurrently marijuana is legal to purchase, possess and consume in the state of Colorado, but the question is: Where can it be legally consumed? Well, if you happen to be in the city of Denver (or most anywhere else in Colorado) the answer is very simple: marijuana can only be legally consumed in a private residence. But what if your landlord won’t allow it or you are one of the thousands of tourists who regularly visits our great city? It appears that we’ll have to continue to wait for state lawmakers to answer that question.

    Denver Moves Forward with Social Consumption

    Last November, Denver voters passed I-300; a social use initiative that approved the commingling of marijuana and alcohol in bars and restaurants across Denver. Obviously a much different approach when compared to Denver NORML’s Responsible Use Campaign and something the State of Colorado disagreed with. In response, the State of Colorado adopted language making it clear that liquor licenses would not be allowed to permit the consumption of marijuana on their premises. According to the Denver Post, this change went into effect on January 1st of this year and vastly changed the intent of I-300.

    “We all want adult consumption everywhere, but this is reality,” said Judd Golden, Legal Counsel for Denver NORML. The news of removing language that allowed the commingling of alcohol and marijuana frustrated proponents of I-300 so a lawsuit was filed against the State of Colorado to push the issue.

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    Kevin Mahmalji, outreach director for NORML shared his thoughts on combining the two substances. “As it currently stands, we can easily make the argument that marijuana is safer than alcohol, because the two are separated. If we allow the two to be mixed, any incident fueled by alcohol could potentially be blamed on marijuana. That’s why I believe responsible adults deserve their own space to consume marijuana similar to those who enjoy craft beer or cigars.”

    In addition to the state’s decision to prevent the commingling of marijuana and alcohol, the City of Denver created the Social Consumption Advisory Committee that consisted of 22 influential decision makers – ranging from city officials to marijuana business owners – to go over the language line by line. The group met six times over several months and offered countless suggestions to improve the original language of I-300. Including a recommendation that would require patrons to sign a waiver before entering consumption areas. Essentially providing a layer of protections against unwanted exposure by non-consumers and those under 21 years of age. A recommendation that Denver NORML fully supports.

    The 12 page document lists pages and pages of suggestions to make the law work effectively for the city of Denver. Last week the draft rules were finally posted.

    Push for Social Consumption Statewide: SB-184

    In addition to our work on the local level, members of Denver NORML spent a lot of time at the state Capitol educating lawmakers on social consumption and the need for a legislative solution. The result? SB-184, which would have empowered local governments to permit private marijuana clubs and better defined what “open and public” means to marijuana consumers. Once the bill was introduced, Denver NORML organized two citizen lobby days with more than 45 participants followed by months of face to face meetings with state lawmakers in support of a statewide solution.

    Unfortunately during the final weeks of Colorado’s legislative session, many things with the bill began to change. Most notably, the bill’s sponsors tried to include language that would have criminalized marijuana consumption on the front porch of a private residence and aimed to exclude a newly established cannabis church from operating as a marijuana club. Thankfully the Senate and the House could not come to a consensus and the bill died in committee on the last day of the 2017 legislative session.

    Until state lawmakers are willing to pass legislation that will provide a set of rules and protections for business owners and marijuana consumers to responsibly consume marijuana, Colorado municipalities will continue to struggle with this issue.

    With the Denver’s Social Consumption Advisory Committee wrapping up its final meeting and Colorado’s legislative session coming to an end, there are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the social consumption of marijuana in Colorado.

    Denver NORML will apply the lessons learned this year and with their allies, continue to push for statewide reform in the next legislative session.

    For more updates on local reform efforts, follow Denver NORML by visiting their website and on Facebook and Twitter!

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