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Community Organizing

  • 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 19, 2017

    pa demsEarlier this month, citing racism, bigotry, and mass-incarceration, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party adopted a resolution to “support Democratic candidates and policies which promote the full repeal of cannabis prohibition by its removal from the Controlled Substances Act, and to support the creation of new laws which regulate it in a manner similar to other culturally accepted commodities.”

    The resolution was drafted by Derek Rosenzweig, long-time cannabis activist from Pennsylvania and former board member of PhillyNORML. This change in party policy comes as Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale continues to be a loud and active voice for state and held a seminar on legalization the day before the vote.

    Thanks to Derek and all of those working hard to change hearts, minds, and the law in Pennsylvania and throughout the country.

    Click here to send a message to your federally elected officials in support of HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act

    Read the full resolution below.

    Resolution – Platform Policy on the Legalization of Marijuana/Cannabis

    WHEREAS, The prohibition of cannabis was based on racism and bigotry, but not science or sound reasoning [Testimony of Harry J. Anslinger – Marihuana Tax Act of 1937; Findings of LaGuardia Committee & Shafer Commission]

    WHEREAS, The government, at all levels, regulates the legal sale of substances known through scientific rigor to be harmful or deadly to humans, by means other than the Controlled Substances Act

    WHEREAS, Cannabis is one of the most well-studied plants in human history [Google Scholar search for `”cannabis sativa” OR marijuana` produces 556,000 results]

    WHEREAS, As of September, 2017, the People and legislatures of 28 states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, have already legalized cannabis for medical purposes; 8 states (plus Washington D.C.) have ended prohibition on cannabis and have legalized, regulated markets for adult recreational use

    WHEREAS, Cannabis is regularly used safely and responsibly without medical supervision by almost two million Pennsylvanians [SAMHSA 2012: 20.2% respondents aged 15 and older use cannabis; PA 2010 Census 9,861,456 aged 15 or older]

    WHEREAS, Cannabis does not fit any of the criteria to be placed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act [Act of Apr. 14, 1972 P.L. 233, No. 64; Section 4-1]

    WHEREAS, Approximately 25,000 People are arrested per year for possession, sale, or cultivation of cannabis on a State and local level in Pennsylvania

    WHEREAS, The Commonwealth spends unknown millions of dollars per year enforcing prohibition policies

    WHEREAS, The current Auditor General of Pennsylvania has publicly called for the immediate legalization and regulation of cannabis specifically for judicial, criminal justice, and economic benefits

    WHEREAS, The black market resulting from the prohibition of cannabis is opaque to public entities, is
    totally unregulated, and is thus not a good outcome of policy

    WHEREAS, The prohibition of cannabis has had no meaningful positive effect, as it is widely available in
    the Commonwealth. In over 80 years, the prohibition of cannabis has not achieved its stated goals

    WHEREAS, Pennsylvanians have been arrested, imprisoned, fined, or otherwise punished and stigmatized
    resulting in lost productivity and quality of life for their possession or use of cannabis

    WHEREAS, Approximately 56% – 61% of Pennsylvanians support the full legalization of cannabis [May
    2017 Franklin & Marshall Poll; August 2017 Quinnipiac University Poll]

    WHEREAS, The DNC included support for legalization in the party platform in 2016

    NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED , to adopt an official platform position which recognizes the above facts about cannabis. The Party resolves that cannabis is safe enough, and ubiquitous enough in society, that it does not need to be restricted or prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act.

    NOW THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, to support Democratic candidates and policies which promote the full repeal of cannabis prohibition by its removal from the Controlled Substances Act, and to support the creation of new laws which regulate it in a manner similar to other culturally accepted commodities.

    Submitted by: ______________________ Cynthia Purvis
    Date: ______________

     

  • by NORML August 24, 2017

    sheet-of-money-hempIn March of this year, Oakland City Council implemented the Equity Permit Program for marijuana businesses. This program is designed to address the past disparities in the cannabis industry by giving priority to the victims of the war on drugs and minimizing barriers of entry into the industry. Ultimately, their goal is to remove the barriers for those who have been wronged in the past and level the playing field in the medical cannabis arena. From their research developing this program, the Oakland City Council discovered that over the past 20 years, the Black community has been dramatically overrepresented in cannabis-related arrests–reaching as high as 90% of all these arrests at one point in time.  

    To qualify as an Equity applicant, the individual must be an Oakland resident who has an annual income at less than 80 percent of the Oakland Average Medium Income and either has a past marijuana conviction in Oakland or has lived for ten of the last twenty years in police beats that experienced a disproportionately higher amount of law enforcement. Additionally, the Equity applicants are not required to pay the permit application fee.

    Since the access to affordable rent and business locations is a huge barrier, Oakland’s medical cannabis regulations created the Equity Incubator Program. Under this program, general applicants receive permitting priority if they provide Equity applicants with free rent for a minimum of 1,000 square feet of space to operate their business.

    Overall, Oakland is addressing the discrimination within the cannabis industry that has plagued their city for far too long. Though the program may not be perfect, they are setting an example of how to begin to address marijuana-related oppression that has impacted historically marginalized groups.

    You can find more information from the City of Oakland by clicking HERE.

  • by Jamie Kacz, Executive Director of NORML KC August 21, 2017
    NORML KC

    NORML KC

    Originally, NORML KC formed to focus on the criminal penalties. We looked towards fellow Missouri towns such as Columbia and St. Louis which had already decriminalized, and we wanted Kansas City to join those municipalities on a more progressive and tolerant path. Our initial goal was to reduce the current penalties in Kansas City for cannabis possession, remove the threat of jail time, and significantly lower the fine amount for less than 35 grams.

    On April 4th of this year, after months of building our coalitions, speaking at town halls, and utilizing media and community outreach, Kansas Citians came out to show their support at the ballot box. We all watched as the results came in and Question 5 was overwhelmingly supported by 75 percent! That number is a remarkable achievement, especially considering the local newspaper, The Kansas City Star, and Mayor Sly James came out against the measure.

    Question 5 Passed With Over 75% of the VoteQuestion 5 Passed With Over 75% of the VoteNow, as we approach our chapter’s two-year anniversary at the end of August, we have a victory in hand and our sights are now set statewide for access.

    Our grassroots group had little funding and was mainly supported by a core group of dedicated volunteers and activists who worked tirelessly gathering petition signatures to place the initiative on the ballot. We had many roadblocks and opportunities to give up, but instead, we chose to fight harder. Not only did we prove that Kansas Citians were ready to reform the city’s unjust marijuana laws, we also proved what a small group of committed activists could accomplish with passion and support from the National NORML chapter.

    But we’re not going to stop there, because the result at the voting booth on April 4th is only the beginning of our success in Kansas City, and across the state of Missouri.

    new-approach-missouri-medical-marijuanaWe are now taking the lessons of the ballot initiative and working with New Approach Missouri, a statewide medical cannabis initiative. The campaign is off to a strong start and has already collected over 50,000 signatures statewide. NORML KC is excited to be supporting this important effort, together with the other Missouri NORML chapters. United, we will bring positive change to our community and beyond.

    Click here to support NORML KC’s work with a contribution

    As part of this effort, we will be joining our fellow activists from across the country this September for the National NORML Conference and Lobby Day.

    There, we will participate in a day of panels, trainings, and briefings to both better equip us with the knowledge and confidence we need to engage members of Congress and bring back the experiences from NORML chapters throughout the country back to Missouri to be more effective in our home state.

    At this critical time in our nation’s history, we have reached an inflection point and it is essential to build the organization and power. If we could do it in KC – why not MO or DC?

    Thanks for all that you have done, are doing, and will do in the future. We’re only going to win when we work together.

    Jamie Kacz is the Executive Director of NORM KC, and the architect of the successful 2017 ballot initiative which decriminalized marijuana in Kansas City.

    Click here to support NORML KC’s work with a contribution

    You can follow NORML KC on Facebook and Twitter

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML August 14, 2017

    553529_215119851939362_39287076_nPost originally published on Peachtree NORML.

    At the Georgia Republican Assembly Convention on 8/12/2017 David Baker, the Executive Director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia, used a portion of a 1993 quote from the then Executive Director of NORML, Richard Cowan.  Mr. Baker quoted Cowan as saying “The key to it (marijuana legalization) is medical access”.  Baker’s comments were videoed by AllOnGeorgia’s Jonathan Giles, who wrote about them.  Jonathan reached out to me and asked for a comment or two, which I happily obliged him with.  You can watch the video and read his commentary by clicking here.  I highly suggest you do.  It’s what we are fighting here in Georgia.

    What Richard Cowan said in 1993 was, “The key to it is medical access, because once you have hundreds of thousands of people using marijuana medically under medical supervision, the scam is going to be blown”.  Cowan’s statement is an indictment of the DEA classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance, having a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value.  Prior to 1937 and The Marihuana Tax Act, Cannabis, marijuana’s real name, was widely used in the preparation of medicines. The American Medical Association condemned its pending Prohibition in a letter to the Ways and Means Committee that enacted the legislation.  The AMA letter stated, in part, “Since the medicinal use of cannabis has not caused and is not causing addiction, the prevention of the use of the drug for medicinal purposes can accomplish no good end whatsoever. How far it may serve to deprive the public of the benefits of a drug that on further research may prove to be of substantial value, it is impossible to foresee”.  Keeping cannabis away from us by prohibiting it was a scam.  That is Cowan’s point.

    David Baker and his Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia have taken the first six words of a 29-word statement and used them to imply that legal medical access to marijuana is a part of some nefarious scheme by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  Nothing is further from the truth.  One of NORML’s missions is to unveil the truths about the roots of cannabis prohibition.  To educate our society about the corporate greed, willful ignorance, propaganda and government corruption that was involved in the 1930s, and is still involved to this day.

    The science of cannabis proves that it is safer than either cigarettes or alcohol.  It proves that cannabis is a beneficial plant.  The evidence is out there for anyone to find.  David Baker is uninformed at best and willfully deceptive at worst.  In today’s information age, ignorance is a choice.

    Whose Faith and Freedom are you talking about when you spew your deceptive venom, Mr. Baker?  Faith?  I am the son of a Baptist preacher, a Godly man who served his Lord to the end of his days.  I was born into the Fold and I am washed in the Blood.  I know a thing or two about Faith and the Teachings of Christ.  What I hear in your Prohibitionist rhetoric seems far removed from those teachings.  It is certainly not the Faith of those hundreds of thousands in this Nation who are currently being helped, just as Mr. Cowan predicted, by marijuana.  They have faith, alright.  They have faith in the fact that marijuana is doing for them what Big Pharma can’t in a safe, effective manner.

    Freedom?  I am also a 20-year Veteran of the U.S. Air Force.  My father survived the Ardennes Forest in WWII.  I know what Freedom looks like.  This ain’t it!!  What you advocate would keep cannabis away from those Veterans whom it would benefit.  Those Veterans who did the Government’s bidding and fought for YOUR Freedom, sir.  NORML advocates Freedom.  The Freedom of adults in this great land, which was founded on individual rights and freedoms, to make their own choices concerning the use of this plant.  Whose Freedom do you advocate for, Mr. Baker?  That of your shrinking, narrow-minded ilk that refuses to see the benefits of full legalization?

    For you and your organization to take it a step further and vilify Representative Allen Peake, a true Georgia hero, for his efforts to obtain safe access to cannabinoid medicine for legal Georgia patients is unconscionable.  Now there is a man who is putting his Faith to work.  Shame on you, Mr. Baker.  If you had half of Allen’s Compassion, a principle taught by Christ, you wouldn’t be doing this.

    As the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, I challenge you to PROVE IT, David Baker.  PROVE to the citizens of Georgia that marijuana is dangerous and should remain illegal here.  PROVE to us that the cultivation, processing, and sale of marijuana will lead to an increase in crime, or poverty, or any other social ill in Georgia. Prove that your rhetoric is not just atavistic fear-mongering, akin to that of Harry J. Anslinger.

    How about it, Dave?  Let’s get someone from NORML on a stage with you for a public debate on the issue.  Let’s invite the Press.  Let’s have an audience Q&A after the debate.  It’ll be the Fight of the Century.

    Tom McCain is the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, the Georgia State Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform Of Marijuana Laws. 

    Find out more at http://www.peachtreenorml.org/, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and support their efforts by making a contribution at http://www.peachtreenorml.org/donate.  

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