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Community Organizing

  • 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 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?

  • by Matthew Maulding, Executive Director, NORML of Catawba Valley May 14, 2018

    North Carolina NORML along with several other pro-cannabis organizations recently organized the Tar Heel State’s largest pro-cannabis march in recent memory. There were people from across the state, and even some long time residents that had to move to a state that allows them to medicate the way they want, despite having a majority of their families here.

    On April 20th, we saw the biggest push for reform at a federal level ever by North Carolinians. North Carolina NORML along with veterans, people with disabilities, and folks from all walks of life were able to come together and march in solidarity with one another.

    The cannabis movement has been stagnant in North Carolina, at best. There is a great divide in supporters who are ready for any small step, even if that means giving up their right to grow their own or even to medicate with “flower” or bud. Other supporters within the state have a sense that if they settle for “extract only” laws or laws that restrict growing rights, that they will not be able to get those rights added in later.

    To see fractions of the movement come together for this event is enormously satisfying. Under new leadership, North Carolina NORML has began turning up the heat and focused on getting people involved. We understand that people need to be constantly involved otherwise they get bored and move on. We need to make sure everyone is engaged, and informed , and that is what we have done, and will continue to do.

    In addition to the 4/20 march which focused on an end to marijuana prohibition federally, we also took part in the Global Marijuana March on May 5th and have held monthly public meetings across the state to increase visibility and to give people an opportunity to start their own chapter. To continue the fight, North Carolina NORML is hosting its first Lobby Day next Tuesday, May 22, 2018, where members will be focused on inviting supporters of marijuana law reform efforts to educate lawmakers (RSVP HERE).

    If you are a North Carolina voter, look forward to a voter guide on NC NORML’s website to help you choose candidates in the general election who favor (or not) and will sponsor bills if elected. Incumbents also have a chance to show supporters’ what they have sponsored or co-sponsored in the past. Reform is coming for North Carolina, and we refuse to be the last state to do so.

    For more info, please call 828-455-8203 or email commdirector@ncnorml.org. You can also follow North Carolina NORML on FaceBook and Twitter!

  • by NORML May 8, 2018

    Police in the Pennsylvania cities of Allentown and Bethlehem continue to arrest hundreds of residents for less than 30 grams of cannabis while opiate and cocaine arrests seem to be going down.

    Last year Allentown put 315 people into handcuffs and the courts over marijuana possession, while the city reported just 31 other drug possession arrests during 2017, according to data from the Pa. Uniform Crime Reporting System.

    Bethlehem police also favor arresting cannabis consumers, between 130 and 160 per year are caught up in the criminal justice system over a few joints. Data from Bethlehem is also showing some odd trends, with zero opiate or cocaine arrests logged in 2016 or 2017.

    “Decriminalization would seem a simple and effective option anywhere,” said Lehigh Valley NORML Director Jeff Riedy, “When you consider the human cost to those convicted of arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.”

    A RAND Corp. study commissioned for Vermont found that each marijuana arrest is estimated to cost taxpayers $1,266 to perform. Prosecuting each person spends another $1,000 according to some estimates.

    That means Allentown and Bethlehem spent over $1 million last year treating otherwise law abiding cannabis consumers like criminals. Thankfully the city councils in both communities have introduced ordinances to address this expensive injustice.

    “The decrim ordinances, like that in Philadelphia, have helped to remove stigma, freed up the courts and allowed law enforcement to focus on more pressing issues. We should stop ruining lives over a joint,” said Riedy.

    Lehigh Valley NORML encourages members of the press and elected officials to review the marijuana possession arrest data included with this release.

    According to Pa. State Representative Michael Schlossberg (D., Lehigh), cosponsor of two statewide decriminalization bills in Harrisburg, “It’s time to put an end to senseless mass incarceration brought on by the prohibition of marijuana. I have added my name to legislation to decriminalize possession of marijuana and bring commonsense back to our criminal justice system.  Pennsylvanian’s cannot afford to continue to follow the path of failed policies which hurt individuals and communities.”

    Allentown introduced their ordinance at Council last week, and it has been moved to a Committee of the Whole, scheduled for Tuesday, May 8 at 6pm in Council Chambers. If it passes the Committee with a majority vote, the ordinance will move to the full City Council for a vote next Wednesday, May 16 at 7pm. Public opinion is encouraged both dates.

    Allentown’s proposed ordinance: http://allentownpa.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=6212844&GUID=F77277E0-5440-436B-B430-9CAC4AFFB0BD

    For more info, please contact Jeff Riedy at 610-533-0906 or via email at lehighvnorml@gmail.com. You can also follow Lehigh Valley NORML on FaceBook and Twitter!

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