Citizen Lobbyists

  • by Nicole Powell, NORML Intern January 30, 2018

    On Sunday, January 21st & Monday the 22nd, NORML members along with non-member cannabis-reform-supporters gathered at the general assembly in Virginia for a Lobby Day. I [Nicole] was among the participants in this specific effort to advocate for marijuana legislative reform. Having lived in Virginia my whole life and being a current constituent of Representative Tim Hugo [R] and Senator David Marsden [D], this definitely felt like my call-to-action. This was my first time lobbying, and I am grateful my introductory experience was in support of sensible cannabis reform, something I so vehemently endorse on a personal level.

    Our purpose in gathering was in order to influence, and essentially demand, lawmaker support for HB 1251, and SB 111. These legislative works would legalize medical cannabis oil under physician recommendation [to include all diagnoses, not just intractable epilepsy] as well as decriminalize simple possession charges, respectively.

    If you have ever considered joining the marijuana movement, but don’t think you know enough to contribute effectively or even where to begin, never fear! On Sunday I was among numerous fellow supporters in attendance of a conference orchestrated by Virginia NORML’s Executive Director, Jenn Michelle Pedini. There, keynote speakers covered marijuana policy, how to effectively persuade with facts and knowledge regarding marijuana, and went on to take an in-depth look at how prohibition has negatively affected citizens and society. This abundantly informative and motivational colloquium couldn’t have prepared me more to speak with lawmakers and provided great relief to an otherwise intimidating situation. Let’s say hypothetically you have absolutely no interest in lobbying for marijuana reform. Attending the conference portion is still extremely enlightening, and I would recommend it to supporters and prohibitionists alike. A little extra knowledge never hurt anyone, right?

    While at the capitol building, I had great conversations with both Rep. Tim Hugo and Sen. David Marsden. Although it was still a bit nerve-racking to be in front of these prestigious figures; I am confident that I was able to effectively communicate the message of necessary marijuana reform in conjunction with the legislation denoted above [greatly due in part to the preparation I received at the conference], and have gained their support on these issues. This has been an experience I will never forget, and I will be sure to seize the chance at every opportunity to do it again in the future. NORML lobby day in any state is the opportunity to affect change and be part of history. Please join us, and we can make it happen together!

    Nicole Powell is a current intern at the National NORML office, as well as a current collegiate-level honors student. She has been “saved from a life of opioid drug abuse & dependence due to medical cannabis therapy” [to which she became at serious risk of after a major vehicular accident], in addition to the various other drastic medical benefits cannabis has provided to her after this accident.

    Follow Virginia NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website: http://www.vanorml.org/

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 24, 2018

    On Tuesday, January 24th, activists from a wide array of Pennsylvania NORML affiliates, allied groups, and state lawmakers took the fight for marijuana law reform to the state capitol building in Harrisburg.

    The event co-sponsored by local NORML chapters, the ACLU-PA, and the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. Activists were joined by State Auditor General Eugene Depasquale and State Representatives Ed Gainey and Jordan Harris, and state Senator Sharif Street. The goal was to further the discussion on the full legalization of marijuana and to support legislation currently pending that would decriminalize marijuana possession statewide.

    Watch the news coverage below:

    Thanks to committed grassroots advocates, we are continuing to make progress nationwide. Get involved and help us relegate marijuana prohibition to the dustbin of history. Click HERE to take action on pending state and federal legislation, click HERE to find your nearest NORML channel and get involved, and click HERE to chip in $5 bucks or more to support NORMLs efforts.

    Together, we WILL legalize marijuana.

  • by NORML January 16, 2018

    Allentown, PA – Residents of the Keystone State will gather in Harrisburg on January 23, 2018 to speak with legislators about legalizing marijuana in an event co-sponsored by local NORML chapters, the ACLU-PA and the Keystone Cannabis Coalition.

    A press conference is planned at 10:00 a.m. that will feature elected officials, advocates, medical marijuana patients and cannabis consumers.

    Lehigh Valley NORML is spearheading the event with NORML chapters from Pittsburgh, South Philly and Lancaster sending volunteers to supply education tables and make office visits.

    “Considering our current political climate, we have a unique opportunity to assemble the voices of cannabis advocacy from across this state to show legislators that we are united in our resolve for reform,” said Jeff Riedy of Lehigh Valley NORML, “We will arrive in Harrisburg determined to persuade our policymakers to follow the strong sentiment of Pennsylvania voters by ending our  prohibition on marijuana.”

    This will be the first of several planned marijuana rally days in Harrisburg with NORML chapters in 2018.  A demonstration of a typical cannabis home cultivation setup, with a small indoor garden and LED lights, will be on display.

    “With Delaware and New Jersey poised to legalize cannabis in 2018 we think Pennsylvania is ready to join the conversation,” said Chris Goldstein of South Philly NORML, “We can save more than 70 million tax dollars every year by stopping marijuana possession arrests alone, and we can see more than 300 million in new tax revenue for the commonwealth with retail cannabis.”

    The Vermont legislature recently passed a bill to legalize marijuana possession and home cultivation. This was the first time a cannabis reform bill for adult consumers passed through the legislature instead of the ballot process. According to current data, Pennsylvania police are arresting 49 people, every single day (more than 18,000 per year), for less than 30 grams of cannabis.

    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a change in posture at the Department of Justice towards regulated cannabis on January 4, 2018, the same week that Pa. medical cannabis providers were approved to begin growing. NORML chapters applaud the strong response from Gov. Wolf. state Sen. Mike Folmer, Auditor General Eugene Depasquale and middle district U.S. Attorney David Freed who stood up for our local laws.

    The following week Rep. Dwight Evans (D, PA-2) became the first member of Congress in the area to cosponsor HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. “First, I think I have different view because I served in the state legislature and I voted for the medical marijuana bill,” Evans told Philly.com, “ Second, I have long believed [marijuana] should be decriminalized because that is what Mayor Jim Kenney did in the city of Philadelphia, particularity because we were targeting African American males [for arrests]. Last, I think that the whole aspect of moving in the direction of recreational marijuana is something that we should do because there are many opportunities in that.”

    Rep. Mike Doyle (D, PA-14) and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D, PA-13) also signed on to a letter with 70 members of Congress rebuking Sessions for his new cannabis posture. Pennsylvania now joins just a handful of states with active marijuana reform at all levels with decriminalization ordinances underway in Erie and Easton, a thriving hemp program, a nascent medical cannabis program, and now members of our Congressional delegation involved with national efforts.

    While the January 23 Pennsylvania Marijuana Lobby Day was planned months ago, the new move by the Trump administration has added a new energy. By working on local reform, residents and advocates are sending a strong message to Washington DC that States are moving forward with cannabis.

    Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1718833171482975/

  • 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

    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

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