• 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.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director February 14, 2018

    Steves House Briefing

    Yesterday on Capitol Hill, bestselling guidebook author and travel host Rick Steves held two briefings to address marijuana prohibition to a gathering of members of Congress and their staff. Inspired by Europe’s pragmatic approach to drug policy, with success measured by harm reduction rather than incarceration, Steves said that he is motivated to speak in favor of legalization because of its impact on civil liberties.

    “ There are so many reasons to end the prohibition on marijuana. Whether you’re concerned about the well-being of children, fairness for minority communities, redirecting money away from criminals and into state’s coffers, stemming the horrific bloodshed in Mexico, or civil liberties; it is clearly time for a new approach,” said Rick Steves.

    The discussion on marijuana policy covered the current issues stemming from the current tension between federal prohibition and the ever-evolving patchwork of marijuana law reforms at the state level.

    “It’s not 2010, we have years of data that is showing from my home state of Washington that regulation works,” said Steves.

    Steves Senate Briefing

    One of the nation’s leading voices to end the prohibition of marijuana, Rick Steves serves as a member of the board of NORML and has advocated extensively in support of the successful legalization efforts in Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and his home state of Washington.

    The events were organized by NORML in cooperation with the recently formed bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus. The Cannabis Caucus bills itself as “to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.”

    “Rick Steves has worked for decades to shine a light on the impact of our outdated marijuana laws. He has been a tireless advocate to end cannabis prohibition,” said Rep. Blumenauer, co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus. “We are thrilled to welcome him to Capitol Hill as we continue to educate Members and their staff about the importance of addressing this issue now.”


    Click here to send a message to your federal officials and demand that they reform our nations marijuana laws.

  • by NORML November 27, 2017

    revolutionbumperOne of NORML’s primary missions is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults. One of the ways we successfully achieve this goal is by debunking marijuana myths and half-truths via the publication of timely op-eds in online and print media. Since the mainstream media seldom casts a critical eye toward many of the more over-the-top claims about cannabis, we take it upon ourselves to set the record straight.

    The majority of NORML’s rebuttals are penned by Deputy Director Paul Armentano. In the past few weeks, he has published numerous op-eds highlighting the therapeutic effects of marijuana, the racial disparities in prohibitions’ enforcement, and the overall need for reform.

    Below are links to a sampling of his recent columns:

    “Cannabis has a record of safety, efficacy”
    Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. November 23, 2017

    “African Americans are disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana violations — and the disparity is growing”
    Alternet. November 21, 2017.

    “Cannabis saves lives”
    Santa Fe New Mexican. November 13, 2017

    “Medical marijuana should be legal in Indiana”
    Indianapolis Star. November 10, 2017

    “How to heal our sick system for managing pain and fighting the opioid epidemic”
    Los Angeles Times. November 3, 2017.

    “American opinions have changed when it comes to marijuana, federal law should change too”
    The Hill. October 28, 2017

    For a broader sampling of NORML-centric columns and media hits, please visit NORML’s ‘In the Media’ archive here.

    If you see the importance of NORML’s educational and media outreach efforts, please feel free to show your support by making a contribution here.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 16, 2017

    ACLU PAAfrican Americans in Pennsylvania are over eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession offenses than are Caucasians, according to an analysis of statewide arrest data by the American Civil Liberties Union.

    The ACLU Pennsylvania report reviewed arrest data for all 67 counties from 2010 to 2016. Excluding Philadelphia, which decriminalized cannabis possession offenses in 2014, adult marijuana possession arrests increased 33 percent during this time period – at a cost of $225.3 million to taxpayers. Black adults were 8.2 times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested for possessing marijuana – up from 6.5 percent in 2010.

    Recent analyses from other states, such as New Jersey and Virginia, have similarly identified racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests. Nationwide, African Americans are approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, despite members of both ethnicities using the substance at similar rates.

    “Pennsylvania’s insistence in continuing to fight the war on marijuana, is at the root of the problematic data presented in this report,” the ACLU of Pennsylvania concluded. “Law enforcement has not only continued its business-as-usual arresting policies in enforcement of cannabis prohibition, it has ramped up enforcement as marijuana use has become more accepted throughout the commonwealth and the nation. If laws don’t change, this pattern will likely continue; law enforcement could become even more heavy handed until policymakers are clear that it is time to end this approach. The clearest way to send that message is to end prohibition altogether.”

    This October 20th marks the third anniversary of the decriminalization of marijuana in Philidelphia, making the birthplace of the American Constitution the largest city to have marijuana possession a non-arrestable offense outside of a legalized state. Yet there is much progress to still be made beyond decriminalization.

    “It is time for us to chart a better path forward. When politicians and police stop treating cannabis consumers like criminals, Pennsylvania can gain thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue,” wrote Temple Professor Chris Goldstein for Philly.com earlier this month. “I hope that by next October, the verdant harvest of Pennsylvania cannabis is something that will benefit every single resident of the commonwealth.”

    And the political winds are changing.

    In September, 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.”

    “It’s time to stand on research, and the research shows it’s time to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania,” said state Rep. Jordan Harris of Philadelphia, who is chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

    “Millions of dollars are spent each year on marijuana prosecutions. And prosecution costs are just part of the story,” wrote Pennsylvania Auditor General of  Eugene DePasquale in September, “There is also the loss of income and other social, personal, and emotional impacts on those arrested for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana. That’s ridiculous. The police and court systems have more urgent issues to address.”

    PA Resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of pending legislation for statewide decriminalization and then click here to send a message in support of pending legislation for outright legalization. 

  • by NORML October 8, 2017

    You can follow MassCann/NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website



    MassCannWe are the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, Inc., state affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, known as MASS CANN/NORML.

    We are the largest, oldest and most successful cannabis law reform organization in the northeastern United States. We have run the annual Boston Freedom Rally on Boston Common every year for 28 years, which has raised over $500,000 for our cause. We have run over 50 public policy questions in local districts throughout the Commonwealth – all of which were approved by voters by healthy majorities. The results of those public policy questions and our professional polling persuaded the Marijuana Policy Project to finance the decriminalization of marijuana by ballot initiative in 2008.

    We alone have been representing cannabis users for years. Our activists made decriminalization, medical marijuana and, now, regulated cannabis the new reality. We represent the voters who made your Commission possible.

    Unlike others seeking to advise you, we alone purely represent the interests of cannabis users. We are the marijuana user group in Massachusetts. We are motivated by our collective desire to be free from overly intrusive, overly repressive government.

    We are not motivated by money, as so many others who hope to advise you are. We are an all- volunteer organization. None of us are paid for what we do.

    We are not motivated by career interests, as so many others who hope to advise you are. MASS CANN/NORML employs no one.

    We are not motivated by a desire for political power, as so many others who hope to advise you are. We are a public education organization and are barred by law from doing political work.

    What MASS CANN/NORML is asking you to do:

    We are asking for no regulations about marijuana that would be ridiculous if applied to alcohol. As a recreational substance, marijuana is less debilitating and less addictive than alcohol. As a medicine, it is one of the safest therapeutic substances known, far safer than aspirin. Regulations concerning storage, distribution, and handling that require marijuana to be treated like enriched plutonium—regulations like those put out during the disastrous rollout of medical marijuana—have no basis in reality. They’re just the kind of governmental overreach the voters rejected in passing Question 4. You recall that Question 4 was called an act to “tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.”

    We want you to avoid regulations based on fear-mongering:
    – Legalization has NOT led to increased marijuana use by youths.
    – Legalization has NOT led to more highway accidents.
    – Opening marijuana outlets has NOT increased crime in the neighborhoods that have them.
    There are many, many other examples of false claims that we can disprove.

    Value freedom over compromise. No compromising with our freedom. Freedom is precious. The first colonists came to Massachusetts to escape repressive government. Ever since, many have fought in many ways for freedom and some have died for it. You have no more sacred duty than to maintain whatever freedom is possible.

    We want you to evaluate the other stakeholders in this discussion in light of their particular interests.

    It is in the interest of capitalists, for instance, to corner the market. Therefore, they would favor regulations making it hard for us users to grow our own plants for free. The influence of those well-heeled interests is hard to resist. Please resist.

    Prosecutors and police want to maintain their ability to target us marijuana users and to define us as criminals. They have used marijuana laws to enforce institutionalized racism. They still will seek to criminalize us to the greatest degree they can. Voters rejected their approach when they passed Question 4. The job of prosecutors and police is to enforce the laws that are given them. They should not be shaping policy.

    The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has proved they are interested only in benefitting their bureaucracy, expanding their budget, employing a larger workforce, and consolidating their power—NOT in helping medical marijuana patients. In fact, they are a principal reason that so many patients have gone for years without legal access to their medicine. They should not be listened to as some kind of voice of experience. They should just be studied as a history of horrible examples.

    Treatment professionals are interested in maintaining their gravy train. They want all cannabis use to be defined as drug abuse, and they want all users to be forced into expensive court-ordered rehab programs. They have no larger social interest at heart, and they do not deserve a seat at our table.

    All of these stakeholders have an interest in treating legal marijuana as a disaster to be delayed and restricted as much as possible. But the voters didn’t vote for a disaster, they voted for an opportunity: new jobs, new revenue, safer communities, better community-police relations. We want you to respect the will of the voters, and that means not working against legalization as some kind of threat, but moving ahead with legalization as a fine new opportunity. Legal marijuana is a great thing for Massachusetts! Make it happen!

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