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Decriminalization

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director September 20, 2018

    With a state legislative session spanning almost an entire calendar year, supporters of marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania are working overtime to make sure their voices are heard. That’s why members of Lehigh Valley NORML, Pittsburgh NORML, Lancaster NORML and Philly NORML are teaming up with the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and ACLU of Pennsylvania for rally and lobby day next week in the state’s capital of Harrisburg.

    Click Here to RSVP Today!

    “Marijuana activists in Pennsylvania are poised to introduce an aggressive agenda for reform in 2019 when they fill the Capitol Rotunda at 10am on Monday, September 24,” said Jeff Riedy, Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML. “With cannabis arrest counts rising across the state and neighboring states threatening legalization, the time is right for this discussion in Pennsylvania.”

    But activists in the Keystone State have come a very long way in just a short amount of time.

    Local Victories

    In late 2014 Philadelphia’s city council decriminalized simple possession of marijuana. Little did they know, their decision would trigger a wave of municipalities across the Commonwealth to adopt similar measures. In the years following, local lawmakers in Pittsburgh, State College, Harrisburg, York, Erie, and most recently, Bethlehem followed suit.

    These local victories were celebrated not just by advocates, but also the Commonwealth’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who shared the following statement:

    “Decriminalization saves millions of dollars spent yearly on marijuana prosecutions. Decriminalization also has human benefits by reducing the loss of income and other social, personal and emotional impacts on those arrested for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana.”

    Full statement here: https://bit.ly/2NvfopR

    Statewide Victories

    Following the flurry of local marijuana law reform victories across the Commonwealth, lawmakers in Harrisburg passed SB 3: The Medical Marijuana Act in 2015 which was later signed into law by Governor Wolf in early 2016. Passage of the law established rules and regulations for the state’s medical marijuana program which permits registered patients to access cannabis oils, pills and tinctures, but due to a restriction against smoking, the availability of marijuana flower was delayed.

    After months of pressure from patients and advocacy groups, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana advisory board recommended several updates to the state’s program. One of which, was allowing the sale of marijuana flower. The catch? It must be consumed using a vaporizer. This means no smoking. Regardless of a few hiccups, dispensaries began serving patients earlier this year.

    Looking ahead, advocates are hoping to educate state lawmakers about the benefits of ending the criminalization and harassment of honest, hardworking Pennsylvanians for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana.

    “New legislation will be introduced at the rally, as 2019 will mark the first time that PA will have partner bills for decriminalization and legalization in both House and Senate. If Pennsylvanians could vote on cannabis legalization in November, I am confident that we would win,” added Riedy.

    Midterm Election

    Considering Pennsylvania is one of several states that lacks a ballot initiative process, all marijuana law reform efforts must be pursued through the state legislature. This means, in order to be successful, advocates must educate those who are willing to listen or elect new, more supportive lawmakers to represent them in Harrisburg. So make no mistake, the outcome of this November’s election will certainly have an impact on the future of marijuana in the Keystone State.  

    Register To Vote Today!

    That’s why we’re encouraging voters in Pennsylvania to support Jon Fetterman, an outspoken supporter of legalizing marijuana, who is running for Lieutenant Governor. Mr. Fetterman was the very first candidate endorsed by NORML PAC for the 2018 midterm elections.

    Read more about our endorsement here: https://bit.ly/2OMBjoM

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Lehigh Valley NORML on Twitter and Facebook!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 30, 2018

    Democrat Gov. John Carney signed legislation into law today vacating past marijuana convictions.

    Senate Bill 197, which took immediate effect, “provides mandatory expungement eligibility to individuals who were convicted of the possession [of one ounce or less], use or consumption of marijuana prior to Delaware’s decriminalization of these offenses.”

    State lawmakers in 2015 enacted legislation reducing the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis from a criminal act to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest, and no criminal record.

    To be eligible for expungement under the new law, the defendant must have no other criminal convictions on their record.

    In recent years, lawmakers in several states – including Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, and Rhode Island – have enacted similar expungement laws following the passage of either marijuana decriminalization or legalization. In California, legislation providing for mandatory expungement of past marijuana convictions is awaiting the Governor’s signature. An estimated 220,000 cases would be eligible for erasure or a reduction under the proposed law.

    According to a nationwide poll released in June, 73 percent of Americans support the enactment of legislation “to automatically seal the records of individuals convicted of crimes related to the possession of marijuana.”

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director August 21, 2018

    Just a few weeks after Delaware NORML made the trek down to Washington DC, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) cosponsored The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act (S. 3174), far-reaching legislation that would end the federal prohibition of marijuana and provide resources to expunge the criminal records of those who suffer the collateral consequences of a possession charge.

    Send a message to your Senators now and tell them to cosponsor the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act NOW! 

    Given the public support for outright legalization in Delaware has regularly polled with over 60% support in the First State and across the country, public support is in the low to mid 60 percent range, Senator Carper’s new-found commitment to reform represents another important mile-marker on the highway to victory.

    As states continue moving forward with ending their war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive prohibition are able to see previous harms remedied, and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation. Crucial aspects of the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act include funding to provide record expungements, funding for small entrepreneurs through the Small Business Administration paid for by the taxes on the existing industry, and other provisions.

    With the addition of Senator Carper, there are now 10 Senators on the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act and 13 out of 100 Senators are declared in support of descheduling legislation (including the Marijuana Justice Act). An additional 7 Senators support of the States Act, which would create an exemption in the Controlled Substances Act to protect states that have reformed.

    This is in contrast to the last congressional session when there was only one bill to deschedule marijuana from the CSA, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders which none of his colleagues had the foresight to cosponsor.

    Send a message to your Senators now and tell them to cosponsor the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act NOW! 

  • by Jeff Riedy, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley NORML August 16, 2018

    Greetings from your friends at Lehigh Valley NORML! With Summer rushing by, we just wanted to check in with our supporters. We want to fill you in on recent activities and upcoming meetings, events, and happenings.

    As many of you hopefully already know, we have planned a Rally and Lobby Day in Harrisburg for Monday, September 24, along with our friends at Pittsburgh NORML, Keystone Cannabis Coalition, AND ACLU-PA. The Rally is 10-11 AM, with lobbying to follow. We hope that many of you can find the time to join us. To help bring our friends to the rally, we have priced out a chartered bus with TransBridge, seating 56 people. The bus would leave the Lehigh Valley at 7am from the William Penn Rideshare off Route 33, between Freemansburg Avenue and William Penn Highway. And would bring everybody to Harrisburg and then back home around 6pm.

    If we fill the bus (56 person capacity), it would cost $25pp at full price. HOWEVER, Lehigh Valley NORML IS PAYING HALF THE COST OF THE BUS, and may have a benefactor to help with the other half. So, with our contribution, a full bus will cost each rider $12.50 ($14pp w/ 50 riders to $20pp w/ 35 riders), but you’ll have to be one of the first to register for the bus. We expect a few backouts and will accept about 100 registrants, BUT only 56 seats will be available (unless we find benefactors to cover a second bus). We will call in chronological order to reserve your spot on the bus. There are already a few people pre-registered. Don’t hesitate, as we’ll need to confirm riders by the end of the month, with payment in full. We are allowing our mailing list advanced notice, but by week’s end we will reveal the remaining inexpensive seats to all on Facebook.

    **We cannot smoke on the bus, but we’re working on a cool after-party when we return! Please CLICK HERE to reserve your seat!**

    LOBBYING? We’ll be lobbying in Harrisburg after the Rally. Soon we’ll be setting up a scheduler to help organize lobbying appointments for those who want to press their legislators.

    UPCOMING FESTIVALS… We want to remind everybody that we’ll have a booth at Pride in the Park this coming Sunday, August 19, noon-6pm. Because of recent rains, the festival is at Allentown’s Jewish Community Center, at 22nd and Tilghman Sts.. We also plan to table ArtsFest again this year, September 28-30, at Allentown’s Cedar Beach Park.

    PETITIONING EASTON is still in our mind. We hope to start organizing people, petitions, and clipboards for Downtown Easton in the coming weeks. If you might have some spare time to ask for residents’ signatures on a petition pressing City Council to reconsider Citywide Decrim, drop us a note, please! We hope to make this the start of our Action Committees, to help us coordinate future events and volunteers, as we build our community.

    NEXT MEETING: As August flies by, we’re already planning for our September meeting. We are hosting an all-afternoon family affair, and renting the larger pavilion (closest to street) at Illicks Mill/ Monocacy Park in Bethlehem on Sunday September 16, noon-6pm. There will be a short meeting, and then we’ll just hang, play, commune, drink beers (canned beers allowed), and eat some food. Maybe a POT LUCK (wink)? Bring the kids. Pack a basket!

    Meeting page: http://www.facebook.com/events/2138643323124158/?ti=icl

    WEEDSTOCK, hosted by our friends at Delaware NORML is happening August 24-26. Two days of bands, camping, and fun in the First State! Details can be found here:  http://www.facebook.com/events/181136362592813/?ti=icl

    Finally, we want thank everybody who came out to say hello at the GRATEFUL FOR GREG fundraiser the other week. The incident at Bernville was tragic and still hurts, but we managed to get some media coverage, opening a view to the world. All over TEN PLANTS! Our work is not done, until incidents like this never happen again.

    In the Leaf ?

    Lehigh Valley NORML

    P.S. Here is the Facebook Event page for the Harrisburg Rally. Please RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/2081707708735937/?ti=ia

    P.P.S. And please remember that all these programs we run and events we help fund happen only through your kind donations and merchandise purchases. We’ll soon have a revenue site up, but in the meantime DONATE, DONATE, DONATE. Hit us up on PayPal with your donation @ lehighvnorml@gmail.com.

  • by NORML June 20, 2018

    Local Marijuana DecriminalizationEven though recreational marijuana remains criminalized in a majority of US states, more and more municipalities are moving ahead with local laws decriminalizing the possession of cannabis within city limits. For the first time, NORML has released a comprehensive breakdown of these citywide and countywide decriminalization policies.

    Efforts to liberalize municipal marijuana possession penalties in states where cannabis remains criminalized have become increasingly popular in recent years. Since 2012, over 50 localities, such as Albuquerque, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and St. Louis in a dozen states — including Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have enacted municipal laws or resolutions either fully or partially decriminalizing minor cannabis possession offenses. Today, over 10.5 million Americans reside in these localities. (Please note: This total does not include cities or counties in states that have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana statewide).

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri: “Local politicians see firsthand the punitive and disproportionately adverse effects that statewide marijuana criminalization has on their communities and upon their constituents. That is why they are exercising their local legislative powers to protect citizens in their community when state politicians are either unwilling or lack the political courage to do so.”

    DECRIMINALIZATION EXPLAINED

    Under full decriminalization, minor offenses are defined by statute as either non-criminal violations or infractions. Violators are not subject to arrest. Instead, they are cited and mandated to pay a small fine. Violators are not subject to a court appearance nor are they saddled with a criminal conviction or record.  Under partial decriminalization policies, minor marijuana offenses may remain classified as misdemeanor offenses. However, violators are issued a summons in lieu of a criminal arrest.

    Beginning with Oregon in 1973, 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. (Eight of these states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Vermont — have since replaced their decriminalization statutes with statewide adult use legalization legislation.)

    Today, nine states — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island — have fully decriminalized activities specific to the private possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults. Four additional states — Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio — have partially decriminalized marijuana possession offenses. In these latter jurisdictions, cannabis remains classified as a misdemeanor under state law, but the offense does not carry the penalty of jail time. In New York, marijuana possession ‘in public view’ remains punishable as a criminal misdemeanor.

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal: “As public support in favor of marijuana law reform has grown, so too have local efforts by legislators and voters to address the issue at the municipal level. In many regions of the country, local lawmakers are moving to shield their local citizens from state prohibitions — one city at a time.”

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