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Community Organizing

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator August 8, 2017

    blogstickerNORML Chapters around the country are currently organizing efforts to engage their representatives on the issue of marijuana law reform during the upcoming congressional recess where members of the House and Senate will host town hall meetings in their districts. In addition to providing unique opportunities for face-to-face interactions with congressional representatives, town hall meetings provide our volunteers the chance to promote NORML’s message of ending the federal prohibition of marijuana to an audience of politically engaged voters.

    With the help of Town Hall Project, a nonprofit organization that’s focused on empowering constituents across the country to have face-to-face conversations with their elected representatives, we have identified almost a dozen town hall meetings taking place in cities with strong NORML representation. To take advantage, NORML leadership is focused on mobilizing our supporters to ask specific questions and encourage their representatives to support legislation that will: protect consumers and businesses in legal marijuana states, expand access to medical marijuana for veterans, stop civil forfeiture and end the federal prohibition of marijuana.

    Below is a list of town hall meetings that NORML Chapters will be targeting. We will continue to update the list as new town hall meetings are announced:

    (Updated: 8/14/2017)

    Rep. Ruben Kihuen (Democrat, NV-4)
    Tuesday Aug 1, 2017 at 09:00 AM
    Walnut Community Center
    3075 N Walnut Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89115

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Republican, CA-48)
    Tuesday Aug 1, 2017 at 6:30 PM
    Aliso Niguel High School Gym
    28000 Wolverine Way, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

    Rep. Bradley Byrne (Republican, AL-1)
    Thursday August 3 2017 at 3:00 PM
    Gulf Shores City Hall
    1905 W 1st St, Gulf Shores, AL 36542

    Rep. Steve Cohen (Democrat, TN-9)
    Saturday August 5, 2017 at 10:00 AM
    Memphis College of Art
    1930 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

    Rep. Will Hurd (Republican, TX-23)
    Sunday August 6, 2017 at 1:00 PM
    Horizon City Dairy Queen
    800 N Zaragoza Rd, El Paso, TX 79907

    Rep. G.K. Butterfield (Democrat, NC-1)
    Tuesday August 8, 2017 at 6:00 PM
    Bertie High School
    716 US-13, Windsor, NC 27983

    Rep. Donald Norcross (Democrat, NJ-1)
    Wednesday August 9, 2017 at 7:30 PM
    Carmen Tilelli Community Center
    820 Mercer St, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002

    Rep. Glenn Thompson (Republican, PA-5)
    Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 8:00 PM
    WPSU
    100 Innovation Blvd, University Park, PA 16802

    Rep. Adam Smith (Democrat, WA-9)
    Saturday August 12, 2017 at 10:00 AM
    Foster High School Performing Arts Center
    4242 S 144th St, Tukwila, WA 98168

    Derek Kilmer (Democrat, WA-6)
    Sunday August 13, 2017 at 2:00 PM
    Aberdeen High School Auditorium
    410 N G St, Aberdeen, WA 98520

    Jimmy Panetta (Democrat, CA-20)
    Monday August 14, 2017 at 6:00 PM
    California State University Monterey Bay World Theater
    5260 6th Ave, Seaside, CA 93955

    Senator Maria Cantwell (Democrat, Senate)
    Tuesday August 15, 2017 at 6:00 PM
    Gonzaga University, Cataldo Hall, The Boone Room
    502 E Boone Ave, Spokane, WA 99258

    Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (Republican, NC-9)
    Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at 6:00 PM
    Cleveland Community College – Mildred Keeter Auditorium
    137 S Post Rd, Shelby, NC 28152

    Rep. Gary Palmer (Republican, AL-6)
    Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 6:30 PM
    North Highlands Baptist Church
    4851 15th Street Rd, Hueytown, AL 35023

    Rep. David Scott (Democrat, GA-13)
    Saturday August 19, 2017 at 09:00 AM
    Mundy’s Mill High School
    9652 Fayetteville Rd, Jonesboro, GA 30238

    Rep. Trent Franks (Republican, AZ-8)
    Tuesday August 22, 2017 at 7:00 AM
    The Colonnade
    19116 N Colonnade Way, Surprise, AZ 85374

    Rep. Tom Rice (Republican, SC-7)
    Chapin Memorial Library Meeting Room
    Tuesday August 22, 2017 at 10:00 AM
    400 14th Ave N, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

    Rep. Bradley Byrne (Republican, AL-1)
    Wednesday, August 23, 2017 at 3:00 PM
    John L. LeFlore Magnet High School,
    700 Donald St, Mobile, AL 36617

    Rep. Danny K. Davis (Democrat, IL-7)
    Thursday August 24, 2017 at 7:00 AM
    Oak Park Village Hall
    123 Madison St, Oak Park, IL 60302

    Rep. Rodney Davis (Republican, IL-13)
    Friday August 25, 2017 at 8:30 AM
    Litchfield City Hall
    120 E Ryder St, Litchfield, IL 62056

    Rep. Ami Bera (Democrat, CA-7)
    Tuesday August 29, 2017 at 10:00 AM
    Folsom Public Library
    411 Stafford St, Folsom, CA 95630

    Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Republican WI-5)
    Saturday September 9, 2017 at 1:00 PM
    Elm Grove Village Park
    13600 Juneau Blvd, Elm Grove, WI 53122

    To support these efforts, NORML has prepared a guide to town hall meetings, as well as a list of questions specific to each representative. If you would like to participate or want a copy of either document, please email chapters@NORML.org.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator July 27, 2017

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    With the recent passage of a marijuana decriminalization ordinance, the City of York joins Philadelphia, State College, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg in no longer criminalizing the simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. Following several meetings to discuss the proposal, members of city council heard from Chris Goldstein, former executive director of Philadelphia NORML and Les Stark, executive director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. Both spoke in support of the proposal and even provided encouraging data showing a decline in marijuana arrests in other municipalities that adopted similar measures.

    “Towns across Pennsylvania are moving away from handcuffs and towards issuing fines instead, that’s good news in a state where we have more than 18,000 consumers arrested every year,” said Chris Goldstein.

    Similar to other decriminalization measures that have been adopted by municipalities in the Commonwealth, the ordinance approved by the York City Council replaces criminal prosecution and potential jail time with a simple fine or community service for those possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana. The ordinance also decriminalized the public consumption of marijuana.

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    While local governments across Pennsylvania continue to adopt measures to reduce the penalty for personal possession of marijuana from jail time to a simple fine, state lawmakers have been more apprehensive on the issue. But advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances on the local level. “This really puts the pressure on legislators in Harrisburg to vote on statewide bills and start having the bigger conversation about full legalization,” added Goldstein.

    Read more here: http://www.ydr.com/story/news/2017/07/19/york-city-council-passes-bill-decriminalize-possession-small-amounts-marijuana/480013001/

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Philly NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page!

  • by NORML July 18, 2017

    majority_supportOver the first six months of 2017, the American Automobile Association (aka AAA) has been spreading misinformation and propaganda in a lobbying effort to defeat marijuana legalization legislative efforts in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and other states.

    As reported by Leafly.com, AAA representatives have recently preyed upon unsubstantiated fears regarding the alleged “increased plague of drugged driving” and the claim that “more babies will be born high” on marijuana in their lobbying efforts against adult use regulatory reforms. The distortions do nothing to advance the public debate surrounding legalization, but they do tarnish the organization’s reputation.

    Send a message to AAA telling them to put the brakes on lobbying against legalization efforts

    According to federal data, auto accident fatalities have fallen significantly over the past two decades – during the same time that a majority of US states have legalized marijuana for either medical or social use. In 1996 when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were an estimated 37,500 fatal car crashes on US roadways. This total fell to under 30,000 by 2014.

    Further, a recently published study in the American Journal of Public Health reports that fatal traffic accident rates in legal marijuana states are no different than those in states where cannabis remains illegal. A separate study published last year in the same journal previously reported that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with a reduction in traffic fatalities compared to other states, particularly among younger drivers.

    One would hope that AAA would be nonpartisan in this debate; that they would be the group to separate the facts from the myths so that politicians and law enforcement would be more likely to pursue evidence-based policies with regard to regulating marijuana in a manner that strengthens public safety. Instead they’re largely fear-mongering and further politicizing the issue — calling for the continued criminalization and arrest of millions of Americans who choose to use marijuana privately and responsibly. By doing so, they are arguing in favor of the failed criminal justice policies of the past and they are alienating the 60 percent of Americans who endorse the outright legalization of recreational cannabis by adults (Gallup, 2016).

    Tell AAA to stop distorting the truth, send their public affairs department a message right now

    There are areas of public policy where AAA is absolutely in agreement with reform advocates, including NORML. For instance, we both agree that driving under the influence of cannabis should be discouraged and legally prohibited, and that the detection of either THC or its metabolites in blood or urine is not indicative of psychomotor impairment and, therefore, should not be used a legal standard of criminal liability.

    Our hope is that some day groups like NORML and AAA can work together to advocate for rational policies that work to keep our roadways safe from the threat of impaired drivers. Specifically, we recognize — as does AAA — that there is a need for greater tools and methods  to more accurately determine whether or not someone is under the influence of cannabis, such as via the use and promotion of handheld performance technology.

    Tell AAA that the days of ‘reefer madness’ are over. It’s time for a rational and evidence-based discussion regarding how best to regulate the use of marijuana by adults and how to keep our roads safe.

  • by Daniel Rouleau, Deputy Director, Virginia NORML July 6, 2017

    A common cliché for overcoming a difficult obstacle asks, “how do you eat an elephant?” The answer is, “one bite at a time.” In Virginia politics, the tough question facing cannabis policy reform advocates is, “how do you change the minds of political Elephants?” The answer is, “one law at a time.” Although progress in cannabis reform has been slow in Virginia, two recent bills signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe are significant signs that change is coming, and quicker than ever before.

    Ending Automatic Driver’s License Suspension for Cannabis Possession

    In May 2017, Gov. McAuliffe had a signing ceremony for Senator Adam Ebbin’s Senate bill 784 and Delegate Les Adams’ House bill 2051. These companion bills ended the absolute requirement that Virginians convicted of marijuana possession lose their driver’s license. Until this change, which takes effect July 1, the judge had no option but to suspend, even if the offense was totally unrelated to a vehicle. A driver’s license is necessary in commuter-based economies such as Virginia, where most residents work, attend school, receive medical treatment, or worship outside of their home city, and the public transportation is less then reliable.

    Virginia NORML led the lobbying for this bill, and helped sway lawmakers in the General Assembly who were wary of the proposed changes. The legislators were convinced by explaining the law in detail, and highlighting the positive results from allowing individuals to maintain their license for work and education – no extreme rhetoric or exaggeration needed. Ryan Johnson, membership coordinator for Virginia NORML, testified for both pieces of legislation was congratulated by many thankful legislators at the ceremony.

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    Gov. Terry McAuliffe (VA-D) and Ryan Johnson

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    Ryan Johnson with Delegate Les Adams (R-16)

    “With Virginia NORML’s guidance, I was able to craft impactful testimony, helping pass meaningful legislation that will make a difference for thousands of Virginians,” said Ryan Johnson at Gov. McAuliffe’s ceremony. “I was humbled by how many legislators thanked me for stepping outside of my comfort zone and sharing my story in the 2017 General Assembly.” 

    Johnson_group.jpg

    Del. Paul Krizek (D-44), Del. Les Adams (R-16) ,Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), Ryan Johnson, Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30)

    Watch the video

    The new law is a significant step for cannabis policy reform in Virginia for two reasons. First, this is one of the very few marijuana-related criminal justice reforms that advocates have successfully pushed through the difficult, Republican-controlled House subcommittees. Those subcommittees are the sticking point for most criminal justice reform legislation, the bottle neck that prevents bills from proceeding to a full House vote. Second, this is important because it allows judges discretion to apply the standard first-offender’s program and community service to an adult discovered possessing cannabis somewhere completely removed from any vehicles. Admittedly, this is a small step. However, every step, even the very small ones, put Virginia closer to a more sensible criminal justice system that does not criminalize marijuana possession or consumption.

    Welcome to the Medical Cannabis States Club, Virginia

    In June 2017, Gov. McAuliffe had another bill signing ceremony, this one for Senator Marsden’s Senate bill 1027. This bill is significant because it officially makes Virginia a medical cannabis state. Medical cannabis dispensaries will be called “pharmaceutical processors,” and will become medical cannabis patients’ legal source of the cannabis oil permitted under Virginia law. The processors will be vertically integrated facilities. That means the plants will be grown, cured, and trimmed onsite; all extraction, distillation, and synthesis of custom biopharmaceutical medicines will be done in the on-site laboratory; and, finally, patients will interact with and receive medication from a pharmacist. Unlike the medical cannabis dispensaries in Colorado, this will more closely resemble a traditional pharmacy.

    Virginia families were instrumental in getting this landmark legislation passed. However, despite the great success, the law has serious shortcomings. There will only be five (5) pharmaceutical processors. This places a huge burden on applicants, financially and logistically, and could result in the exclusion of start-up ventures owned by minorities, women, and veterans without access to large capital resources. Second, the related laws allowing patient access to medical cannabis is very short: one (1). Only one patient group, those with intractable epilepsy, can possess medical cannabis oil. The major legislative goal for the 2018 session is the “Let Doctors Decide” bill, which would end the eugenics-style creation of state-permitted patient groups and instead allow trained medical professionals to decide if cannabis would be effective for the individual patient’s treatment plan. Jenn Michelle Pedini was at the ceremony representing Virginia NORML, and spoke to the families of several epilepsy patients and lawmakers who had supported the bill.

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    Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) and many families watch as Gov. McAuliffe signs historic medical cannabis legislation. Photo courtesy Michaele White, Governor’s Office.

    “It was an exciting day for the families who spent hours at the General Assembly gaining support for this bill which passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. We are looking forward to continuing this path next year and expanding the current law to include all patients for whom medical cannabis would provide relief,” said Beth Collins, Senior Director Government Relations and External Affairs at Americans for Safe Access, and mother of a child with intractable epilepsy.

    These landmark bills are significant signs of the change coming in Virginia’s cannabis policy. Decriminalization is being studied by the State Crime Commission, following a request by Senate Majority leader Tommy Norment. The Driver’s License bill may be the first overly punitive prohibition measure to fall, and like dominoes, the changes to criminal justice reform will gain momentum and culminate in decriminalization of adult cannabis possession within the next couple years. The pharmaceutical processor bill is a huge hurdle for both patients seeking legal access to medical cannabis medications, and for individuals interested in the regulated cannabis industry. Although Virginia’s cannabis industry will fall under heavy regulation and oversight by the Commonwealth, the new industry presents new opportunities, jobs, and tax revenue.

    Virginia NORML is the leading cannabis law reform organization in Virginia, but we can only continue our success in changing outdated laws with your help! The Summer of Change Campaign is currently underway, and we are trying to raise $42,000 to support our efforts in the 2018 session and the push for “Let Doctors Decide.” Virginia has a major election this year, and the outcome could determine the success – or failure – of our efforts. Donate today to the Summer of Change campaign! With your help, Virginia NORML will continue its track record of success in Richmond bringing marijuana policy reform.

  • 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

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