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  • 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

    MASS CANN/NORML TESTIMONY BEFORE THE CANNABIS CONTROL COMMISSION

    10/02/2017

    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!

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate September 27, 2017

    Pass-the-Joint_NCF16_Credit-DUKEofHEMP-of-Sospact(dotcom)-(225)-WMIt’s time to exercise your civic duty and ensure that you are registered to vote!

    2018 is a critical midterm election year, and NORML is partnering with the National Cannabis Festival and HeadCount for the #WeCannaVote Voter Registration Drive. The goal is to register thousands of new voters before the 2018 National Cannabis Festival on April 21 & to educate those in and beyond the cannabis community about their right to vote. Click here to register.

    2016 was a great year for cannabis reform, with 8 states (out of 9 total) across the US passing ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana, 4 medical and 4 adult-use. Here’s a quick breakdown of the 2016 results:

    PASSED:

    Arkansas Issue No. 6: Medical Marijuana
    53% YES, 46.9% NO

    California Proposition 64: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    56% YES, 43.9% NO

    Florida Amendment No. 2: Medical Marijuana
    71.2% YES, 28.7% NO

    Massachusetts Question 4: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    53.5% YES, 46.4% NO

    Maine Question 1: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    50.1% YES, 49.8% NO

    Montana Initiative No. 182: Medical Marijuana
    57.6% YES, 42.3% NO

    North Dakota Initiated Statutory Measure No. 5: Medical Marijuana
    53.7% YES, 36.2% NO

    Nevada State Question No. 2: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    54.4% YES, 45.5% NO

    FAILED:

    Arizona Proposition 205: Recreational Marijuana
    51.9% NO, 48% YES

    15036543_10155415938533032_2263137071595121134_n
    As you can see in Arizona, we lost by an incredibly close margin. If only a few more thousand voters turned out, we know we would have won. This just proves how important it is to get out and VOTE! Make sure that you are registered NOW.

  • 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

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