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Grassroots

  • by NORML April 5, 2018

    Legalize marijuanaSince the beginning of the year, NORML Chapters throughout the country have been busy organizing lobby days for the 2018 legislative session. With the hope of reforming various aspects of their state’s marijuana policies, NORML affiliated activists have been meeting with state representatives to educate lawmakers and their staff about the advantages of ending marijuana prohibition and encourage support for over 100 pieces of legislation nationwide.

    In addition to organizing more lobby days than was previously done in 2017, many NORML chapters including Delaware NORML, Denver NORML, Illinois NORML, and Lehigh Valley NORML have scheduled multiple lobby days for their 2018 legislative sessions. To date, NORML chapters have organized and/or participated in nearly 30 lobby days in 16 states. From fighting for employee protections in Colorado, Oregon and California, to pushing to expand access for patients in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and working to pass legislation to tax and regulate adult-use marijuana in Delaware, NORML chapters have been working overtime this legislative session.

    Virginia

    Members of Virginia NORML, led by Executive Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, have been focused on securing access and protection from prosecution for all patients since 2016. This session, their hard work finally paid off with unanimous passage of HB 1251 and SB 726 to expand the state’s limited medical cannabis oil law by removing qualifying conditions and instead allowing doctors to decide when to issue a recommendation.

    “Virginia will be the first state to expand a hyper-restrictive single qualifying disorder program to include any diagnosed condition. This didn’t happen because of industry dollars or high powered lobbyists, it happened because two moms wouldn’t take “no” for an answer,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini.

    Follow Virginia NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and support their work here.

    Colorado

    There’s an effort underway in Colorado to define off-duty marijuana use a legal activity under Colorado’s prohibition of legal activities as a condition of employment law. Democratic Representative Jonathan Singer is leading the effort in the House, but proponents – consisting mostly of members of Denver NORML, Colorado NORML, and Southern Colorado NORML – are working to lock down a Republican sponsor before the bill is introduced to encourage bipartisan support.

    Also in Colorado, state lawmakers recently formed the first-ever statewide Cannabis Caucus to facilitate discussions on how to best address the various areas of public policy that have been impacted since voters approved the state’s marijuana legalization measure in 2012.

    “This kind of caucus is something we at the national level have been looking at for quite some time,” says NORML Outreach Director Kevin Mahmalji, who’s based in Denver. “Since the formation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, it just made sense to have something similar at the state level.”

    California

    Members of California NORML are also working with state lawmakers on a bill that would bar employers from discriminating against workers because of their status as a medical marijuana patient, or a positive drug test for medical marijuana use. NORML believes that this practice is discriminatory and defies common sense. While law-abiding and responsible adults in some states have the legal option to consume marijuana in the privacy of their homes, they still are at risk of losing their employment as a result of a positive drug test — even in instances where the use took place on weekends or after-hours.

    Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of California NORML shared her thoughts on the effort: “Eleven states protect medical marijuana users’ employment rights in their laws, but not California. Cal NORML is sponsoring AB 2069, the Cannabis Worker Protections Act, to give workers in California the same right to use medical cannabis as opiates and other prescription drugs, as long as their use does not impair them on the job. Supporters can write to their representatives in favor of the bill at and join Cal NORML at our Lobby Day in Sacramento on June 4, 2018.”

    Follow California NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and support their work here.

    Maryland

    Members of Maryland NORML focused their time on lobbying members of the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee in favor of HB 1264 / SB 1039 – a constitutional amendment that would put a question on this November’s ballot to let the voters decide on the issue of marijuana legalization and retail sales.

    While that effort was not successful, Maryland is now in a position to expand the amount of personal possession of marijuana that is decriminalized from 10 grams to 30 grams as SB 127 continues to move forward after passing in the state Senate.

    Follow Maryland NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and support their work here.

    Delaware

    Members of Delaware NORML lobbied for legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults. The Delaware Marijuana Control Act regulates and taxes marijuana in the same manner as alcohol. It allows adults over the age of 21 to legally possess and consume under 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use. It does not permit people to grow their own marijuana.

    Hosting three lobby days already this year with a number on the way, Delaware is one of the states that we expect to achieve reform this decade.

    Follow Delaware NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and support their work here.

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director March 27, 2018

    In his ongoing effort to expand the Garden State’s medical marijuana program to be more patient-oriented, Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) has made dramatic changes to the state’s regulatory program.

    Changes include: reduced cost of the medical marijuana registry for patients by 50%; reduced cost for veterans, seniors, and those on disability by 90%; expanded the qualifying conditions list to include Tourette syndrome, chronic pain, and other conditions; and other much needed technical fixes.

    These changes have been long advocated for by advocates in New Jersey, including South Jersey NORML leader, Temple University Professor, and Philly.com contributor Chris Goldstein.

    Click here to tweet at Gov. Murphy and thank him for his efforts.

    New Jersey resident? Visit http://www.normlnj.org/ and get plugged into the Facebook organizing group by clicking here.

  • by Brad Forrester, Michigan NORML Director of Social Media March 26, 2018

    Michigan NORML is pleased to announce the launch of our 2018 Candidate Questionnaire. The survey asks nine questions relating to cannabis and provides an additional space for candidates to make a personal statement on this issue. The results are posted on our website and will be utilized by our visitors to inform them about each candidate’s views on cannabis. All candidates that respond will be featured on our Candidate Profiles page with their complete response and links to their websites.

    The format asks yes or no questions but provides space for candidates to elaborate on their answers.

    We asked tough questions and frankly, a simple yes or no seemed inadequate. We want candidates to participate, but we felt the “gotcha” yes or no format hindered them from doing so. We believe the written option enables candidates to articulate the nuances of their positions and that seemed fair to them and our visitors.”

    Michigan NORML is a non-partisan organization and we welcome candidates regardless of party affiliation, seeking any office from Township Trustee to Governor, to give us an honest report of your views toward cannabis. This tool was created to highlight individuals, not parties, and the only mention we make of party is on our main profile page where each candidate is listed.

    Part of our mission and education here is no better way to educate than to ask candidates directly and broadcast their unfiltered responses directly to the public.”

    Another response just came in… I have to split.

    Brad Forrester is the Michigan NORML Director of Social Media. You can visit their website at https://minorml.org/ and follow them on Facebook and Twitter

    Make a contribution to support their efforts by clicking here. 

  • 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 NORML January 16, 2018

    Allentown, PA – Residents of the Keystone State will gather in Harrisburg on January 23, 2018 to speak with legislators about legalizing marijuana in an event co-sponsored by local NORML chapters, the ACLU-PA and the Keystone Cannabis Coalition.

    A press conference is planned at 10:00 a.m. that will feature elected officials, advocates, medical marijuana patients and cannabis consumers.

    Lehigh Valley NORML is spearheading the event with NORML chapters from Pittsburgh, South Philly and Lancaster sending volunteers to supply education tables and make office visits.

    “Considering our current political climate, we have a unique opportunity to assemble the voices of cannabis advocacy from across this state to show legislators that we are united in our resolve for reform,” said Jeff Riedy of Lehigh Valley NORML, “We will arrive in Harrisburg determined to persuade our policymakers to follow the strong sentiment of Pennsylvania voters by ending our  prohibition on marijuana.”

    This will be the first of several planned marijuana rally days in Harrisburg with NORML chapters in 2018.  A demonstration of a typical cannabis home cultivation setup, with a small indoor garden and LED lights, will be on display.

    “With Delaware and New Jersey poised to legalize cannabis in 2018 we think Pennsylvania is ready to join the conversation,” said Chris Goldstein of South Philly NORML, “We can save more than 70 million tax dollars every year by stopping marijuana possession arrests alone, and we can see more than 300 million in new tax revenue for the commonwealth with retail cannabis.”

    The Vermont legislature recently passed a bill to legalize marijuana possession and home cultivation. This was the first time a cannabis reform bill for adult consumers passed through the legislature instead of the ballot process. According to current data, Pennsylvania police are arresting 49 people, every single day (more than 18,000 per year), for less than 30 grams of cannabis.

    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a change in posture at the Department of Justice towards regulated cannabis on January 4, 2018, the same week that Pa. medical cannabis providers were approved to begin growing. NORML chapters applaud the strong response from Gov. Wolf. state Sen. Mike Folmer, Auditor General Eugene Depasquale and middle district U.S. Attorney David Freed who stood up for our local laws.

    The following week Rep. Dwight Evans (D, PA-2) became the first member of Congress in the area to cosponsor HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. “First, I think I have different view because I served in the state legislature and I voted for the medical marijuana bill,” Evans told Philly.com, “ Second, I have long believed [marijuana] should be decriminalized because that is what Mayor Jim Kenney did in the city of Philadelphia, particularity because we were targeting African American males [for arrests]. Last, I think that the whole aspect of moving in the direction of recreational marijuana is something that we should do because there are many opportunities in that.”

    Rep. Mike Doyle (D, PA-14) and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D, PA-13) also signed on to a letter with 70 members of Congress rebuking Sessions for his new cannabis posture. Pennsylvania now joins just a handful of states with active marijuana reform at all levels with decriminalization ordinances underway in Erie and Easton, a thriving hemp program, a nascent medical cannabis program, and now members of our Congressional delegation involved with national efforts.

    While the January 23 Pennsylvania Marijuana Lobby Day was planned months ago, the new move by the Trump administration has added a new energy. By working on local reform, residents and advocates are sending a strong message to Washington DC that States are moving forward with cannabis.

    Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1718833171482975/

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