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Citizen Lobbyists

  • by Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of California NORML May 29, 2018

    California NORML is once again teaming up with Americans for Safe Access to co-sponsor a Citizens Lobby Day in Sacramento on June 4, 2018.

    Lobby day begins with sign-in and a continental breakfast at 8:00 AM in the Metropolitan Terrace on the 7th Floor of the Citizen Hotel located at 926 J Street, Sacramento. If you have signed up in advance for lobby day, you will then receive your appointment times and locations for your representatives’ offices. If you haven’t signed up, you can visit a station where you can find out who your legislators are for drop-in appointments.

    The morning program starts at 9:00 AM, where we will present an overview of the bills on which we’ll be lobbying, along with tips for effective lobbying. You will then be armed with fact sheets on all the bills for your afternoon meetings with lawmakers, along with forms to report on your meetings. Bring the forms with you to the evening VIP reception for lawmakers and attendees in the Scandal Lounge back at the Citizen Hotel starting at 5:30 PM.

    Last year’s event was a success, with more than 200 patients, advocates, providers, industry workers, and others attending and lobbying their elected officials for marijuana reform bills. Lobby day efforts have resulted in a bill to protect employment rights for medical marijuana users, AB 2069, being introduced by Rep. Rob Bonta (Oakland).

    Other bills currently on the legislative agenda include:

    • SB 1302 (Lara) to end local delivery bans.

    • AB 1793 (Bonta), to to create a simpler and expedited pathway for Californians to have certain criminal convictions for cannabis-related offenses removed or reduced from their records.

    • SB 1127 (Hill) to allow for a parent or guardian to administer medicinal cannabis to a pupil at a schoolsite.

    • AB 2215 (Kalra) to require the Veterinary Medical Board to establish guidelines for licensed veterinarians to discuss the use of cannabis for animals

    • AB 3157 (Lackey/Bonta) to temporarily reduce taxes on cannabis sales

    • Two bills which would expand on the available venues for the sale and consumption of cannabis at temporary special events: AB 2020 by Asm. Bill Quirk (Hayward) and AB 2641 by Asm. Jim Wood (North Coast).

    Business bills that have been introduced or re-introduced this year include: AB1741 (Bonta), to allow for electronic tax payments for cannabis businesses; AB 1863 (Jones-Sawyer), to allow the deduction of business expenses for a licensed cannabis business under the state Personal Income Tax Law; AB 924 (Bonta) to direct the state to enter into agreements authorizing tribal cannabis activities; and SB 930 (Hertzberg), to establish a state-chartered bank that would allow for commercial cannabis activity in California.

    Supporters are urged to sign up in advance for lobby day so that organizers can make appointments with their representatives in the State Assembly and Senate. The cost for the day is $25, with no one turned away for lack of funds.

    Lobby day begins with a continental breakfast at 8:00 AM in the Metropolitan Terrace on the 7th Floor of the Citizen Hotel located at 926 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. The program starts at 9:00 AM. Meetings with lawmakers will take place in the afternoon, with an evening VIP reception for lawmakers and attendees in the Scandal Lounge at the Citizen Hotel starting at 5:30 PM.

    For more information about marijuana law reform efforts in California, you can also follow California NORML on FaceBook and Twitter!

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML May 25, 2018

    What’s A Straw Poll?

    For those that don’t know, a straw poll is an unofficial ballot conducted as a test of opinion.  On 5/22/2018 the question above appeared as the first local question on the Democratic ballot for Forsyth County, Georgia.  “Should Georgia amend the state Constitution to legalize the use of cannabis/marijuana for those 21 years old and older, allow a retail dispensary base, tax said products, and allocate revenue received equally to state education and transportation infrastructure?”

    The results are non-binding.  It was just a question to “test the opinion” of the voters.  Well, the voters spoke, and the results are pretty amazing, though not all that surprising.

    4996 (a whopping 77%) answered YES
    Only 1471 answered NO

    Did I mention that a whopping 77% answered YES?

    Marijuana On An Official Ballot in Georgia?

    How’d that happen?  I reached out to Melissa Clink, who currently chairs the Forsyth Democratic Party and asked that question.  She told me, “Our election board officials asked about a month ahead of elections if we wanted questions on our ballot. These questions take the temperature of voters and in my opinion alert elected officials how their constituents want them to vote on such matters.  I believed marijuana legalization was a high priority question in Georgia”.

    Clink said that there was some initial resistance from within the party, although support for medical usage was unequivocal.  As is the case with many citizens in Georgia, some believed Georgia had a viable medical marijuana program and were unaware of some of the hypocrisy in that program.  Clink explained that Georgia has a non-functioning medical use law that does not include in-state growth or access to medicine and that “we need to know how voters feel about outright legalization so that our elected officials can legislate according to the will of the people”.  The question was added to the ballot.

    Did I Mention That A Whopping 77% Answered YES?

    I bring that up because according to the latest Quinnipiac poll 63% of the Nation favors legalization.  The folks in Forsyth County, Georgia obviously favor it more than that.  Even the Republican Party there is saying they wish they’d asked that, and other, questions.

    Catherine Bernard, a liberty-loving criminal defense attorney said: “[this] matches up with my jury selection experience in Forsyth where almost everyone raised their hand when the prosecutor asked who thought it shouldn’t be against the law to have MJ!”

    The Heroin Triangle and Education

    Forsyth County is in Georgia’s “Heroin Triangle”, and this may have some bearing on why this county ranges 14% higher than the national percentage.  I’m sure they’ve been paying close attention to the growing evidence that marijuana is an exit from opiates, not the gateway.

    While the percentage of folks that want marijuana legalized in other Georgia counties may not be quite as high, we know that the majority of citizens want this.  We knew it in 2014 when we had a telephone poll done and over 50% of those polled were for full legalization.  That percentage has grown immensely over the past 4 years.

    Why Georgia, Why?

    So the questions become, “Why aren’t Georgia Legislators listening? Why aren’t more of them vocally supporting in-State cultivation for medical purposes?  Why aren’t they getting on board with decriminalizing possession of one ounce or less?  Why is it necessary to arrest more than 24,000 people a year for possession?”

    Take Action!!

    Contact your legislators during this recess.  Reach out to them on their home turf.  Call, write, email.  Express your support for more rational marijuana laws.

    Contact your Republican and Democratic Party Chairs.  Discuss a straw poll with them.

    “When we are talking, we are winning”.  Sooner now, than later, they will have to listen to us.  The tide is turning in Georgia.

    Tom McCain is the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, fighting for the rights of Georgian cannabis consumers. You can visit their website at www.peachtreenorml.org, follow their work on Facebook and Twitter, and please make a contribution to support their work by clicking here. 

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate

    Legalize marijuanaWelcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    Federally, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today became the fourth Senator to cosponsor the Marijuana Justice Act, joining the bill’s author, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and cosponsors Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

    At the state level, NORML PAC announced the endorsement of Jared Polis for Governor of Colorado. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that a state law banning medical cannabis on college campuses violates the state Constitution. And Nevada retailers sold more than $41 million worth of recreational marijuana in March, a new monthly record.

    At a more local level, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is directing the NYPD to stop arresting people smoking marijuana in public, and is moving to draft a plan to prepare the city for eventual legalization. The Los Angeles County, California Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution supporting state legislation to expunge marijuana convictions, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania City Council’s Public Safety Committee gave unanimous initial approval to a proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance, and The Milwaukee County, Wisconsin County Board voted to place an advisory marijuana legalization question on the November ballot.

    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.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Click here to e-mail your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation

    Minnesota

    HF 927 and SF 1320 are pending to regulate adult use marijuana possession and provide for retail sales. HF 927 has been awaiting action from the House Health and Human Services Committee since February and so has SF 1320 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Update: A third measure, HF 4541, was introduced on 5/20 to also regulate adult use marijuana possession and provide for retail sales.

    MN resident? Click here to email you elected officials in support of regulating adult use marijuana sales

    Commonwealth of the Nothern Mariana Islands

    SB 20-62 seeks to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The bill already passed the full Senate earlier this month.

    Update: The House Committee on Judiciary & Government Operations will hold a hearing on marijuana legalization on 5/29.

    CMNI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization

    Pennsylvania

    House Bill 928, which was carried over from last year, seeks to reduce minor marijuana possession penalties. The bill amends state law so that first and second marijuana possession offenses (up to 30 grams) are reduced from misdemeanor offenses to a summary offense, punishable by a fine only.

    Update: Representative Ron Marsico has offered a June vote before the House Judiciary Committee, with hopes of a full House, and then Senate vote by the end of the summer.

    PA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of decriminalization

    California

    Expungement
    AB 1793 would “allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

    Update: The Assembly’s Appropriations Committee is holding a hearing on AB 1793 on 5/25 at 9am.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expunging past records

    Employment Protections
    AB 2069 would explicitly bar employers from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

    Update: AB 2069 is scheduled for a vote in Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday, May 25. The bill must pass the full Assembly floor by June 1.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of employment protections for patients

    New York

    Record Sealing
    A. 2142 and S. 3809 would seal the records of those who have previously been convicted of certain marijuana misdemeanors.

    New York has historically had one of the highest marijuana arrest rates in the nation largely because of arrests made under the public view and public smoking exceptions to New York’s decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of sealing past records

    Medical
    S 8191 has been introduced in the State Senate to explicitly permit children and developmentally disabled individuals with serious conditions for which medical marijuana has been recommended to have their medicine administered at schools and other facilities, and require school districts and facilities to create policies for medical marijuana administration.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of allowing medical marijuana in schools

    Opioids
    A. 9016 and S. 7564 would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence. Both bills have been stagnant in their respective chambers since January.

    Update: A third measure, S. 8820, was introduced on 5/22, to include opioid use as a condition that permits the use of medical cannabis.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of adding opioid use to the qualifying conditions list

    Illinois

    SB 336 would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy as an alternative to opioid treatment. It was already approved by the Senate last month.

    Update: The House Executive committee voted 8-3 to approve SB 336 on 5/24.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of cannabis as an alternative to opioids

    New Jersey

    A3971 was recently introduced and would establish reciprocity with other states’ medical marijuana program.The measure would allow for out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders to access medical cannabis while visiting New Jersey, in accordance with state law.

    NJ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of reciprocity

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    Illinois

    Senate Bill 2298 provides for the ability for individuals to cultivate hemp with a state license even if they are not part of the state’s Agriculture Department pilot program. That program only permits hemp cultivation as part of a state-sponsored research program. The bill was already approved by the full Senate last month.

    Update: SB 2298 was approved by the House on 5/23. It will now go back to the Senate for concurrence.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of hemp law expansion

    New York

    Legislation to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana for dogs, cats and other pets in New York State is pending in the Senate (S. 8772) and Assembly (A. 10104) Health Committees. The bill would allow veterinarians to recommend medical marijuana for our pets. Most non-human animals have an endocannabinoid system like we do, which means they can also benefit from the therapeutic effects of marijuana.

    NY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical marijuana for our furry friends

    California

    AB 3157 would temporarily reduce tax rates imposed on the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis.

    Update: AB 3157 was supposed to be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 5/16, but the hearing was postponed until 5/25 at 9am.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of lowering taxes

    That’s all for this week, folks!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director May 23, 2018

    Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today became the fourth Senator to cosponsor the Marijuana Justice Act, joining the bill’s author, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and cosponsors Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

    The Marijuana Justice Act is the first ever companion legislation that has been introduced in both chambers of Congress remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

    The bills, S. 1689 and HR 4815 would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

    The House companion legislation is being sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and has 37 additional cosponsors.

    Click here to send a message to your federal officials to tell them to follow suit and cosponsor the Marijuana Justice Act.

  • by NORML May 22, 2018

    2018 NORML Conference and Lobby DayNORML is pleased to formally announce the dates for our 2018 National NORML Conference and Lobby Day. The conference will run from July 22nd – 24th in Washington, DC at the Capital Hilton. This year, we are excited to add an additional day of activities in addition to our traditional programming. Click here to register now!

    July 22nd: NORML Activist Strategy Summit

    For 2018, we’ve going to do a deep dive into grassroots organizing with the NORML Activist Strategy Summit. Attendees will be able to choose from a number of important areas of interest and engage in free-flowing, peer to peer strategizing on issues including running an effective chapter, communications strategy, social media and online activism, and more. Each topic area will be moderated by outstanding NORML activists from across the country paired with a member of the National staff and provide an outlet for individuals to share stories based on their advocacy experiences, exchange tips for best practices, and come up with new concepts to put into play to help push us closer to the end of prohibition.

    Topics include: Organizing political candidate forums, “big organizing” for lobby days, personal narrative development, and more.

    July 23rd: NORML Conference & Benefit Party

    On Monday, July 23rd we will host our formal conference programming. There will be panels, debates, and individual speakers covering a wide range of topics including: marijuana and its impact on the opioid crisis, how to engage in local reform efforts, NORML’s role in the 2018 midterms, marijuana reform as a social justice issue, and updates current 2018 ballot initiative efforts.

    In the evening, attendees will gather for a NORML benefit party to enjoy live entertainment and networking.

    July 24th: Congressional Lobby Day

    For the final day, NORML supporters will once again descend upon Congress to advocate for federal reforms. The reason we chose to hold the conference and lobby day at this point in the calendar was because this week represents the final week of legislative session before lawmakers go home for the August recess when they will be explaining to voters why they should be reelected.

    Last year, we had activists from 24 different states attend over 150 scheduled meetings with Congressional offices and we aim to exceed that this year, with your help!

    REGISTER NOW TO RESERVE YOUR PLACE AT THIS IMPORTANT EVENT

    We are at a critical time for our nationwide movement to end marijuana prohibition. Join citizens from all across the country to learn new strategies, hear about the latest scientific and political advancements in the reform movement, and meet in person with your elected officials and their offices to advocate for legalization. With over 60 percent of the American people in support of ending prohibition and three-quarters of voters supporting the states that have done so, the time to act is now.

    Can’t wait to see all of you this summer!

    The NORML Team

    P.S. Can’t make it in July? Our efforts are supported by thousands of people throughout the country as we work to advance marijuana reform in all 50 states and the federal level. Can you kick in $5, $10, or $20 a month to help us keep going?

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