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Community Organizing

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director April 18, 2018

    Following tradition, marijuana consumers and advocates from around the globe are organizing rallies, marches and other acts of political expression or civil disobedience in advance of this year’s celebration of 4/20, an annual protest against the prohibition of marijuana. While these public events are often effective at generating some buzz and raising public awareness, they are rarely organized to directly influence or appeal to those elected officials who continue to oppose common sense marijuana law reform efforts.

    To increase the political effectiveness of these events, NORML chapters are planning to combine these traditional events with a robust presence on social media that includes a call-to-action urging federal lawmakers to support HR 1227: The Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act. If passed by Congress, this legislation will eliminate federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing marijuana, give states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference, and remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, which would allow for more marijuana research both recreationally and medicinally.

    NORML Chapters will continue to use these public events to demonstrate that our culture is a growing part of the broader community, and to raise awareness and support for marijuana law reform efforts.

    A couple examples of which are:

    Members of Chicago NORML have a lot to celebrate after voters in Cook County, Illinois voted to approve, “the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older,” through a non binding referendum earlier this year. Organizers are planning a 4/20 celebration that will help fund educational & outreach efforts in their community.

    In South Carolina, members of Lowcountry NORML are hosting a 4/20 rally in downtown Charleston to raise awareness about marijuana’s proven medicinal benefits, its hundreds of industrial uses, and the obvious need to end the mass arrest, stigmatization, and incarceration of nonviolent marijuana consumers. To help spread the word, supporters will be wearing t-shirts, holding signs, sharing stories, and asking others to join the fight to end marijuana prohibition.

    Below is a list of events that are taking place around the country:

    Alabama

    Alabama NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/144416092932869/

    California

    Humboldt NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/176073716520697/

    Monterey County NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/150183702470495/

    Colorado

    Denver NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/2137082429854938/

    Southern Colorado NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/165225564129646/

    Delaware

    Delaware NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/420211771762876/

    Florida

    Northeast Florida NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/2049355575350535/

    Illinois

    Chicago NORML – https://chicagonorml.z2systems.com/np/clients/chicagonorml/eventRegistration.jsp?event=503&

    Indiana

    Indiana NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1964672153792901/

    Purdue NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/353749958430389/

    Iowa

    Iowa NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1173742189395622/

    Kentucky

    Kentucky NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/155608048425043/

    Minnesota

    Minnesota NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/582709222121912/

    Minnesota NORML Women’s Coalition – https://www.facebook.com/events/121504848551480/

    New Mexico

    New Mexico NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1546743615424372/

    New York

    Western New York NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1983972578530607/

    North Carolina

    North Carolina NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1568205869881130/

    Charlotte NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/296119900919588/

    NC NORML of the Triangle – https://www.facebook.com/events/457312888018481/

    South Carolina

    Aiken NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/146375166036064/

    Lowcountry NORML – https://normlsc.org/pages/420-rally

    Tennessee

    Memphis NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1673604129371656/

    Texas

    DFW NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/185597428714345/

    El Paso NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1779571042339535/

    Houston NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/556580421390187/

    Hub City NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1893685727608368/

    Hub City NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/576627839344019/

    Southeast Texas NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/221071241791222/

    Texas NORML – http://www.austinreggaefest.com/

    Virginia

    Hampton Roads NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/217136348839688/

    Roanoke NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/158436751510406/

    Wisconsin

    Southeastern Wisconsin NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1894312693920769/

  • by Jeff Riedy, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley NORML April 10, 2018

    As a longtime Pennsylvanian, I have gotten used to the slow drudge of progress and the archaic mindset of our policymakers in this state. With that said, we did manage to pass a Medical Marijuana Law two years ago this month, though the law became a skeleton of its robust beginnings. Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act was enacted earlier this year, as the first facilities began growing, processing, and dispensing cannabis-derived products (oils, tinctures, topical, vapes, and pills). The program has seen many pitfalls in its infancy, including supply shortages, a lack of qualified doctors, and many other shortcomings yet to be addressed. But public response has been phenomenal, with nearly 30 thousand patients have registered in the program’s first few months.

    Recently the Department of Health (parent to our state’s Medical Marijuana Office), announced the second round of applications for permits for growers/processors and dispensaries. Our state also made a bold move and announced that it would be one of the first states to offer permits for clinical research of medical marijuana. As a crescendo to all of that, yesterday the PA-DOH MMJ Advisory Board convened two years after the program’s inception (as was written into the law) to make recommendations to the Department of Health, its committees, and the Governor. The formation of this committee was included in the law, to act as an independent voice to meet and make recommendations periodically, composed of doctors, law enforcement, government officials, and patients advocates.

    The Board’s recommendations included adding indications (to the 17 already in place), adjusting rules, and adding flower (to be vaped) as a form of medication. The addition of flower was our biggest ask of this committee. Yesterday’s proceedings were only a first step and are merely “recommendations”. The Secretary of Health has up to one year to act upon yesterday’s recommendations, and that will include the political bureaucracy of committees making recommendations as well as studying and implementing the necessary infrastructure to accommodate any of these changes in the law. This is FAR from being law, but Secretary of Health, Doctor Rachel Levine, has been a proponent of the program thus far, and we are hopeful for swift action in Harrisburg.

    What will this mean for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana patients? The added indications will create a more inclusive program. The inclusion of flower to the program will provide added relief to many patients, including those with PTSD. Optimistically, this NORML Executive Director sees this as an even greater victory as it puts into place all of the instruments necessary to handle the eventual statewide LEGAL sale of recreational marijuana. Like any new idea, PA’s program has its’ faults but is growing faster than anticipated. I believe that these ongoing Advisory Board reviews are our best hope for a more perfect program for everybody. As an advocacy group, Lehigh Valley NORML will continue to push our politicians for more reform, until we get it right. In the end, we fight for the people – and the people want this reform. The patients need these reforms. And we DEMAND them!

    Jeff Riedy is the Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML. Follow their work on Facebook and Twitter.

  • by NORML March 27, 2018

    CongressNORML 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?

  • by Brad Forrester, Michigan NORML Director of Social Media March 26, 2018

    Michigan NORML is pleased to announce the launch of our 2018 Candidate Questionnaire. The survey asks nine questions relating to cannabis and provides an additional space for candidates to make a personal statement on this issue. The results are posted on our website and will be utilized by our visitors to inform them about each candidate’s views on cannabis. All candidates that respond will be featured on our Candidate Profiles page with their complete response and links to their websites.

    The format asks yes or no questions but provides space for candidates to elaborate on their answers.

    We asked tough questions and frankly, a simple yes or no seemed inadequate. We want candidates to participate, but we felt the “gotcha” yes or no format hindered them from doing so. We believe the written option enables candidates to articulate the nuances of their positions and that seemed fair to them and our visitors.”

    Michigan NORML is a non-partisan organization and we welcome candidates regardless of party affiliation, seeking any office from Township Trustee to Governor, to give us an honest report of your views toward cannabis. This tool was created to highlight individuals, not parties, and the only mention we make of party is on our main profile page where each candidate is listed.

    Part of our mission and education here is no better way to educate than to ask candidates directly and broadcast their unfiltered responses directly to the public.”

    Another response just came in… I have to split.

    Brad Forrester is the Michigan NORML Director of Social Media. You can visit their website at https://minorml.org/ and follow them on Facebook and Twitter

    Make a contribution to support their efforts by clicking here. 

  • by Bennett Sondeno, Treasurer, WY NORML March 13, 2018

    Wyoming as a whole is staunchly conservative.  Sometimes one wonders why a legislator would even try to run with a “D” behind their name on the ballot.  That is not to say we have lacked excellent Democratic leaders, but the blood of the state runs very red.  This is a state dominated by energy production, a sense of uniquely independent national pride, and respect for nature and the dance with her that is the agricultural relationship.  The extreme end of this conservative bent is seated in law enforcement.  Too often Wyoming NORML hears from residents whose lives have been turned upside down by aggressive enforcement of laws designed to control a natural plant that the vast majority of people here support having access to.

    Despite our doggedly conservative character, we are a caring, pragmatic, and individualistic cast.  At last polling, the University of Wyoming determined that over 80% of Wyomingites support medical cannabis, and over 70% support decriminalization.  The breakdown between the people and the policies seems to stem in part from these complementary but potentially deleterious qualities.  While the violent treatment of cannabis consumers by the hard-right in law enforcement is well known, the “live and let live” attitude of the populace combines with fear of such force and judgmental retribution by the ultra-conservatives to keep most people from speaking up or outwardly supporting reform efforts in spite of personal convictions.  Many are concerned that voicing their political opinions may yield employment conflicts.  On top of much public silence, one of the loudest, hardest to ignore, and most well-funded law enforcement groups (WASCOP – Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police) actively lobbies against change at every legislative session, committee meeting, and in between.  While their lobbyist is paid over $85,000 annually from their publicly funded coffer of over $2.5M to wine and dine elected officials, our board members crossed the state on their own dime to speak at the capitol about this issue that is so dear to them personally.  This is the atmosphere in which Wyoming NORML seeks to raise up volunteers and alter bad laws, and neither is an easy task.  For the second year in a row our focus was to prevent felony edible limits of cannabis products from being written into state law.  The state attorneys group and WASCOP have been fighting hard to establish a felony punishment at the level of a 3oz edible, and they have friends in the Judiciary Committee.

    We touted our lobby day for months.  We encouraged every one of our supporters to volunteer on the date, to donate to our cause, and to interact with their legislators concerning marijuana law reform.  We set up easy to use mailing forms to effortlessly send messages to the Judiciary Committee that would first take up the bill we had targeted for defeat.  We used money donated by board members to buy hemp paper and printed off flyers personalized to each legislator expressing why the bill needed to be put to death.  We also had a ream of high quality hemp paper donated to the cause which we gave to a Wyoming printer to create nice little hemp paper scratch pads with the Wyoming NORML name and logo for our volunteers to hand out as they would speak with their representatives and senators.  We were ready.

    Then came the horse apples in the road.  Our recruited printer had a family emergency and had to leave town before completing the job.  As is customary in Wyoming when travel is necessary for any pre-planned wintertime event weather interfered with roads across the state.  When our board members gathered on the morning of the lobby day at the beginning of the legislative session only one loyal volunteer showed up to help; we were planning on having close to twelve.  Instead of tossing the bill the committee accepted it and sent it to the Senate.  Some Senators said that they had never even heard from their constituents on the topic.  Then our board members had to return home.  We were very discouraged.  But…

    At the eleventh hour a second printer in the same small Wyoming town was able to take on the task, complete it, and have the materials shipped overnight to Cheyenne where they were picked up by the one volunteer who brought them to the lobby day.  In spite of the weather three of our board members were able to attend the lobby day, and one returned with support to be present for each hearing of the bill as it moved through the legislative houses.  Both the Senate and House discussed the bill, and testimony was given of a legislator’s family member who illegally uses cannabis products for better health.  Another stated that he had moved from a position of supporting the felony bill to one of opposition after hearing from just a single voter about the desire they had for cannabis health products.  Though passed by the Senate, the bill was buried by the House and killed through neglect.  For two years running a small grassroots effort and a handful of volunteers have succeeded in defeating bad bills being pushed by powerful moneyed interests.

    Let this encourage you.  Though few in open numbers and lacking much financial support we have been able to urge people and legislators sufficiently so as to move cannabis policy in the right direction in this religiously “Right” state each year since we have been organized as a focused group.  We are picking up members and interest is growing because people are seeing that change can be made and that speaking up without serious reprisal is possible.  People are influencing the minds of their legislators for the good of the movement and the health of our society.  This shows why interaction between voters and elected officials is so important as to be incapable of being understated.  We will see sensible cannabis policy in Wyoming, and with work from motivated citizens your state can as well.

    Bennett Sondeno is the Treasurer of WY NORML

    Follow WY NORML on Facebook, visit their website at http://www.wyomingnorml.org/ and make a contribution to support their work by clicking here.

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