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Grassroots

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML September 20, 2017

    Awful News

    My friend Stephen Bradley called me on Friday, September 14th and asked if I was sitting down. I knew it couldn’t be good news, but when he told me our mutual friend James Bell had died suddenly, I experienced several moments of simple denial. This just can’t be true, I thought. Then the enormity of the news dropped on me like a heavy stone as I realized how large a hole James’ death leaves in the politics of Marijuana Law Reform in Georgia.

    JB-Rotary-03-300x175

    The James Bell I Knew

    I met James in the fall of 2014 in Dublin, Georgia. He was there videoing a Justice for David Hooks rally. David had been killed in his own home during the execution of a fruitless search warrant, based on the word of an addict/thief who had burglarized David’s property the night before his death. Soon after, I met James again when I testified against the term no-knock warrant being written into black letter Georgia Law before a Senate Committee. We had an opportunity to talk for a while that day, discovering that we had several interests in common. We became friends and allies and called each other often. Over time, James shared the tragic story of his niece, Lori Knowles with me, and I understood his interest in David Hooks and no-knock warrants much better. I think the incident with Lori added fuel to the fire of James’ activism and drove him harder over the past 3 years.

    As James and I talked (and he could talk), I realized just how central a figure he was in the fight for cannabis law reform in Georgia. He was involved in the movement since at least as far back as the 70s, and his interest covered all things cannabis. From advocating the freedom to make personal, adult choices about smoking it, to supporting the use of medical marijuana, to reintroducing Hemp as a staple crop in Georgia, James was involved in it all. He truly believed that the re-legalization of cannabis could be accomplished here in Georgia. He was a constant presence around the Gold Dome when the Legislature was in session, both testifying on issues and videoing procedures. His easy way, his extensive knowledge, and his passion paved the way for good relationships with lawmakers. He was well-known and respected by many.

    James was keenly aware of the societal harm caused by the War on Marijuana. He and I often spoke of Harm Reduction during our conversations, and he felt that an arrest and subsequent criminal record for mere possession of a small amount of marijuana was unjust. No victim, no crime.  He believed a grassroots approach to the problem at the Municipal level, combined with lobbying for change at the State level was the key. He testified in advocacy of Harm Reduction ordinances in Clarkston and Atlanta. He tried in Temple but was met by a crowd of rabid Prohibitionists who hijacked the Town Hall meeting. Clarkston passed their ordinance, and the City hasn’t fallen into a sinkhole. Atlanta is still considering it and the upcoming Mayoral election has several candidates with pro-decriminalization planks in their platforms.

    What Now?

    I will miss talking to James. I’ll miss his counsel. I’ll miss his laugh. I’ll miss seeing him around the Capitol. I know in my heart, though that he would want us to carry on. No one can ever fill James’ shoes, but others will step up.  Others will ensure his legacy and work continue. I’ll be among them.

    Go rest high upon that mountain,
    Son your work on Earth is done

    I’ll see ya further on!

  • by Jamie Kacz, Executive Director of NORML KC August 21, 2017
    NORML KC

    NORML KC

    Originally, NORML KC formed to focus on the criminal penalties. We looked towards fellow Missouri towns such as Columbia and St. Louis which had already decriminalized, and we wanted Kansas City to join those municipalities on a more progressive and tolerant path. Our initial goal was to reduce the current penalties in Kansas City for cannabis possession, remove the threat of jail time, and significantly lower the fine amount for less than 35 grams.

    On April 4th of this year, after months of building our coalitions, speaking at town halls, and utilizing media and community outreach, Kansas Citians came out to show their support at the ballot box. We all watched as the results came in and Question 5 was overwhelmingly supported by 75 percent! That number is a remarkable achievement, especially considering the local newspaper, The Kansas City Star, and Mayor Sly James came out against the measure.

    Question 5 Passed With Over 75% of the VoteQuestion 5 Passed With Over 75% of the VoteNow, as we approach our chapter’s two-year anniversary at the end of August, we have a victory in hand and our sights are now set statewide for access.

    Our grassroots group had little funding and was mainly supported by a core group of dedicated volunteers and activists who worked tirelessly gathering petition signatures to place the initiative on the ballot. We had many roadblocks and opportunities to give up, but instead, we chose to fight harder. Not only did we prove that Kansas Citians were ready to reform the city’s unjust marijuana laws, we also proved what a small group of committed activists could accomplish with passion and support from the National NORML chapter.

    But we’re not going to stop there, because the result at the voting booth on April 4th is only the beginning of our success in Kansas City, and across the state of Missouri.

    new-approach-missouri-medical-marijuanaWe are now taking the lessons of the ballot initiative and working with New Approach Missouri, a statewide medical cannabis initiative. The campaign is off to a strong start and has already collected over 50,000 signatures statewide. NORML KC is excited to be supporting this important effort, together with the other Missouri NORML chapters. United, we will bring positive change to our community and beyond.

    Click here to support NORML KC’s work with a contribution

    As part of this effort, we will be joining our fellow activists from across the country this September for the National NORML Conference and Lobby Day.

    There, we will participate in a day of panels, trainings, and briefings to both better equip us with the knowledge and confidence we need to engage members of Congress and bring back the experiences from NORML chapters throughout the country back to Missouri to be more effective in our home state.

    At this critical time in our nation’s history, we have reached an inflection point and it is essential to build the organization and power. If we could do it in KC – why not MO or DC?

    Thanks for all that you have done, are doing, and will do in the future. We’re only going to win when we work together.

    Jamie Kacz is the Executive Director of NORM KC, and the architect of the successful 2017 ballot initiative which decriminalized marijuana in Kansas City.

    Click here to support NORML KC’s work with a contribution

    You can follow NORML KC on Facebook and Twitter

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML August 14, 2017

    553529_215119851939362_39287076_nPost originally published on Peachtree NORML.

    At the Georgia Republican Assembly Convention on 8/12/2017 David Baker, the Executive Director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia, used a portion of a 1993 quote from the then Executive Director of NORML, Richard Cowan.  Mr. Baker quoted Cowan as saying “The key to it (marijuana legalization) is medical access”.  Baker’s comments were videoed by AllOnGeorgia’s Jonathan Giles, who wrote about them.  Jonathan reached out to me and asked for a comment or two, which I happily obliged him with.  You can watch the video and read his commentary by clicking here.  I highly suggest you do.  It’s what we are fighting here in Georgia.

    What Richard Cowan said in 1993 was, “The key to it is medical access, because once you have hundreds of thousands of people using marijuana medically under medical supervision, the scam is going to be blown”.  Cowan’s statement is an indictment of the DEA classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance, having a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value.  Prior to 1937 and The Marihuana Tax Act, Cannabis, marijuana’s real name, was widely used in the preparation of medicines. The American Medical Association condemned its pending Prohibition in a letter to the Ways and Means Committee that enacted the legislation.  The AMA letter stated, in part, “Since the medicinal use of cannabis has not caused and is not causing addiction, the prevention of the use of the drug for medicinal purposes can accomplish no good end whatsoever. How far it may serve to deprive the public of the benefits of a drug that on further research may prove to be of substantial value, it is impossible to foresee”.  Keeping cannabis away from us by prohibiting it was a scam.  That is Cowan’s point.

    David Baker and his Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia have taken the first six words of a 29-word statement and used them to imply that legal medical access to marijuana is a part of some nefarious scheme by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  Nothing is further from the truth.  One of NORML’s missions is to unveil the truths about the roots of cannabis prohibition.  To educate our society about the corporate greed, willful ignorance, propaganda and government corruption that was involved in the 1930s, and is still involved to this day.

    The science of cannabis proves that it is safer than either cigarettes or alcohol.  It proves that cannabis is a beneficial plant.  The evidence is out there for anyone to find.  David Baker is uninformed at best and willfully deceptive at worst.  In today’s information age, ignorance is a choice.

    Whose Faith and Freedom are you talking about when you spew your deceptive venom, Mr. Baker?  Faith?  I am the son of a Baptist preacher, a Godly man who served his Lord to the end of his days.  I was born into the Fold and I am washed in the Blood.  I know a thing or two about Faith and the Teachings of Christ.  What I hear in your Prohibitionist rhetoric seems far removed from those teachings.  It is certainly not the Faith of those hundreds of thousands in this Nation who are currently being helped, just as Mr. Cowan predicted, by marijuana.  They have faith, alright.  They have faith in the fact that marijuana is doing for them what Big Pharma can’t in a safe, effective manner.

    Freedom?  I am also a 20-year Veteran of the U.S. Air Force.  My father survived the Ardennes Forest in WWII.  I know what Freedom looks like.  This ain’t it!!  What you advocate would keep cannabis away from those Veterans whom it would benefit.  Those Veterans who did the Government’s bidding and fought for YOUR Freedom, sir.  NORML advocates Freedom.  The Freedom of adults in this great land, which was founded on individual rights and freedoms, to make their own choices concerning the use of this plant.  Whose Freedom do you advocate for, Mr. Baker?  That of your shrinking, narrow-minded ilk that refuses to see the benefits of full legalization?

    For you and your organization to take it a step further and vilify Representative Allen Peake, a true Georgia hero, for his efforts to obtain safe access to cannabinoid medicine for legal Georgia patients is unconscionable.  Now there is a man who is putting his Faith to work.  Shame on you, Mr. Baker.  If you had half of Allen’s Compassion, a principle taught by Christ, you wouldn’t be doing this.

    As the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, I challenge you to PROVE IT, David Baker.  PROVE to the citizens of Georgia that marijuana is dangerous and should remain illegal here.  PROVE to us that the cultivation, processing, and sale of marijuana will lead to an increase in crime, or poverty, or any other social ill in Georgia. Prove that your rhetoric is not just atavistic fear-mongering, akin to that of Harry J. Anslinger.

    How about it, Dave?  Let’s get someone from NORML on a stage with you for a public debate on the issue.  Let’s invite the Press.  Let’s have an audience Q&A after the debate.  It’ll be the Fight of the Century.

    Tom McCain is the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, the Georgia State Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform Of Marijuana Laws. 

    Find out more at http://www.peachtreenorml.org/, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and support their efforts by making a contribution at http://www.peachtreenorml.org/donate.  

  • 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 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.

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