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Lobby Day

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director January 15, 2018

    As tensions between AG Sessions and federal lawmakers continues to grow, proponents of marijuana legalization are finding new allies in state legislatures around the country. Despite the recent move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the Cole Memo, a 2013 DOJ memorandum that allowed state sanctioned marijuana business to thrive despite the quagmire between state and federal laws, lawmakers in several states are advancing marijuana reform legislation.

    Reject AG Sessions’ Efforts to Revert to the Failed Criminal Policies of the ‘Just Say No’ Era.

    Within hours of the rollout of the DOJ’s new policy, lawmakers in Vermont passed a depenalization bill out of the House and Senate with overwhelming support and it’s now headed to Governor’s office. With Governor Scott already promising to sign the measure into law, it’s safe to say that Vermont will surely be the newest thorn in the side of an already agitated Sessions. As if the news from Vermont isn’t frustrating enough for the Attorney General, House lawmakers in New Hampshire also passed legislation that would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and up. And Thursday, members of the New York State Assembly heard hours of testimony in support of adult use regulation.

    In addition to the advancement of marijuana law reform legislation in Vermont and New Hampshire, a number of other states such as Kentucky, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Delaware, New Hampshire, Virginia, Missouri and New Mexico will also be debating several marijuana-related bills during their 2018 legislative sessions. To support these legislative efforts, members of Virginia NORML, NORML KC, NORML of Florida, Lehigh Valley NORML, NORML Women of Washington, Pittsburgh NORML, Ohio NORML, Missouri NORML, Illinois NORML, Delaware NORML, Kentucky NORML, Maryland NORML, New Mexico NORML, Wyoming NORML, Springfield NORML and Greater St. Louis NORML will be meeting with their state representatives to encourage support for marijuana reform legislation

    With the help of NORML chapters, 2018 could prove to be a very successful year for marijuana law reform efforts.

    Virginia NORML

    Taking a more conservative approach than lawmakers in Vermont and New Hampshire, lawmakers in the Commonwealth of Virginia are considering both medical marijuana and decriminalization bills this session. While there hasn’t been any notable criticisms of the DOJ’s new policy from the state legislature, Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA) recently introduced HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act which would gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML had this to say about the current political climate.

    “Attorney General Sessions isn’t stopping Virginia from moving forward in the 2018 legislative session with both medical cannabis expansion and decriminalization. We have strong, bipartisan representatives working on marijuana policy in Congress, Reps. Beyer, Garrett, Griffith and Taylor, and the same holds true in our State House. Republicans and Democrats are united on advancing these common sense reforms demanded by the overwhelming majority of Virginians.”

    Las Vegas NORML

    In Nevada, where state lawmakers approved a measure to fast track rules and regulations for the state’s adult-use marijuana program in 2017, the news of the DOJ’s new policy prompted partisan reactions from Carson City. While Republican lawmakers refrained from publicly criticizing AG Sessions, Democratic Senator Tick Segerblom wasted no time. Speaking to a group of legalization advocates at a rally outside of a marijuana dispensary In Las Vegas, Senator Segerblom had this to say:

    “Contact your legislators in Washington DC and tell them to tell Trump to back off until we get this thing resolved. This is a great industry for Nevada. The people have spoken…this is a state’s rights issue.”

    After hearing the news about the shift in federal policy, Chris Thompson, executive director of Las Vegas NORML quickly shifted his focus from state-level lobbying efforts to mobilizing pro-marijuana advocates and scheduling meetings with Congressional leaders.

    “It’s definitely a precarious situation right now, but thankfully Las Vegas NORML is working with our representatives at the state and federal level to prevent Sessions from trampling over states’ rights and prosecuting legal cannabis,” said Thompson.

    With virtually no federal lawmakers expressing support the Sessions’ reversal, as reported by Politico, and state lawmakers seemingly unphased by this shift in the administration’s tone, it appears that AG Sessions severely underestimated the political juggernaut the issue of marijuana legalization has become.

    For more information about a NORML’s 2018 lobbying efforts, email Chapters@NORML.org or visit http://norml.org/about/chapter-calendar for list of upcoming chapter lobby days and meetings. If you’re unable to attend a NORML lobby day in your state, please take a few minutes to contact your representatives using NORML’s Action center http://norml.org/act

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director December 31, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaAs support for marijuana legalization in America reaches an all-time high, NORML chapters are hoping to tap into the energy and enthusiasm of their most ardent supporters for their 2018 lobby days. According to the most recent nationwide polling data compiled by Gallup, Sixty-four percent of US adults support the legalization of adult-use marijuana. That’s why NORML chapters are gearing up for an aggressive push to advance marijuana law reforms in states across the country.

    Looking Back

    As the year comes to an close, NORML chapters have certainly earned the right to celebrate their hard work and a very productive year. With a record number of state-level lobby days, the passage of several decriminalization measures and a strong presence at congressional town hall meetings, and legislative offices, NORML chapters had an undeniable impact on marijuana policy in 2017.

    To kick things off earlier this year, NORML chapters around the country organized more than two dozen lobby days, where legislative victories ranged from an effort by Virginia NORML to end automatic driver’s license suspension for marijuana possession, to a push by Delaware NORML that resulted in the passage of a marijuana legalization bill out of committee. A first for the Delaware legislature.

    After wrapping up state legislative sessions, NORML chapters continued their work well into the summer months, but shifted their focus to local efforts. While some chapters dedicated their time to collecting signatures for statewide marijuana law reform initiatives and others to community outreach projects, NORML KC, Peachtree NORML, Madison NORML and Ohio NORML set their sights on decriminalization. Each chapter was successful in reducing the penalties for personal possession of marijuana in their community from a criminal infraction to a simple fine or no fine at all.

    Following a busy summer filled with local activism and congressional town hall meetings, chapter leadership from around the country gathered in our nation’s capital for NORML’s 2017 Conference and Lobby in Washington DC. With the help of NORML’s political team led by Justin Strekal, NORML coordinated more than 150 meetings with congressional offices, and to the surprise of many, a face-to-face meeting with Senator Cory Booker, who recently introduced The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017.

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    Looking Ahead

    With the new year quickly approaching, NORML Chapters around the country are busy mobilizing supporters in advance of their 2018 lobby days. NORML activists will be meeting with state representatives where they’ll help educate them about the advantages of ending marijuana prohibition and encourage support for dozens of statewide reform bills. To date, Virginia NORML, NORML KC, NORML of Florida, Lehigh Valley NORML, NORML Women of Washington, Pittsburgh NORML, Ohio NORML, Missouri NORML, Illinois NORML, Delaware NORML, Kentucky NORML, Maryland NORML, New Mexico NORML, Wyoming NORML and Greater St. Louis NORML have scheduled the first round of NORML lobby days for the new year.

    In Pennsylvania, Jeff Reidy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML will be in Harrisburg with a broad coalition consisting of marijuana activists from the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and several other NORML chapters for what’s expected to be one of the largest grassroots marijuana-centric lobby days in the state’s history. With Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana patients now receiving their state registration cards and the expected opening of dispensaries in early 2018, the coalition will be pushing for statewide decriminalization.

    “Marijuana activism begins with NORML. Being a member of this organization implies a desire to push our agenda, while engaging policy makers,” said Reidy. “Lobbying our elected officials is the simplest way to deliver the voice of the people to our politicians. We only win when we engage, speak out, endure, and fight for our freedoms. It’s time to Lobby!”

    In Washington State, where medical and adult-use marijuana is already legal, Danica Noble, executive director of NORML Women of Washington and her colleagues with Washington NORML will be focused on protecting progress and expanding the rights of marijuana consumers by addressing issues like home cultivation and workplace discrimination.

    “In Washington State, our top legislative priorities will be on legalizing homegrows, expunging felony convictions for simple possession, and establishing workplace protections for marijuana consumers, said Noble. “In addition to not having the legal right to grow our own marijuana, marijuana consumers in Washington are being denied employment opportunities and still carry the burden of a felony conviction for simple possession. This has to change.”

    While the legislative priorities of each NORML chapter can vary, the goals of protecting the rights of marijuana consumers and ending marijuana prohibition are shared by all.

    Empowerment Resources

    To support these grassroots lobbying efforts, we recently updated NORML’s Citizen Lobby Guide. This comprehensive guide will assist NORML activists in the planning and execution of a successful lobby day and also provides organizational checklists and a legislative questionnaire. So regardless of the state or legal status of marijuana, NORML activists will be fully prepared to discuss meaningful marijuana law reforms and effectively communicate NORML’s message of ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.

    NORML Lobby Guide: http://norml.org/pdf_files/NORML_CitizenLobbyGuide.pdf

    NORML’s Action Center

    In addition to offering support through NORML’s Citizen Lobby Guide, we have created more than a dozen action alerts targeting lawmakers across the country urging their support for marijuana law reform legislation being considered in their state. To join the conversation, simply click on the link below, find the action alert for your state and enter your information!

    NORML Action Center: http://norml.org/act

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    For more information about a NORML’s 2018 Chapter Lobby Days, please email Chapters@NORML.org or visit http://norml.org/about/chapter-calendar for list of upcoming chapter lobby days and meetings.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 7, 2017

    FBScorecardLate Wednesday night, the House Rules Committee led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked multiple amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer protections from Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it comes to cannabis.

    Amendments included: ending the federal incentive to revoke drivers licenses from those charged with marijuana offenses; protections for states that have implemented hemp programs; a reduction in funding for the DEA’s cannabis eradication program; expanded access to researchersprotections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses; allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales, and expanded protections to the eight states that have outright legalized marijuana.

    Most notably, the amendment offered by Representatives Dana RohrabacherEarl Blumenauer, and other allies in the House had again offered the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment to continue to protect lawful state medical marijuana programs from the federal government. Specifically, the language maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    Representatives Blumenauer and Rohrabacher released the following statement in response:

    “By blocking our amendment, Committee leadership is putting at risk the millions of patients who rely on medical marijuana for treatment, as well as the clinics and businesses that support them. This decision goes against the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws. These critical protections are supported by a majority of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. There’s no question: If a vote were allowed, our amendment would pass on the House floor, as it has several times before.

    “Our fight to protect medical marijuana patients is far from over. The marijuana reform movement is large and growing. This bad decision by the House Rules Committee is an affront to the 46 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized use and distribution of some form of medical marijuana. These programs serve millions of Americans. This setback, however, is not the final word. As House and Senate leadership negotiate a long-term funding bill, we will fight to maintain current protections.”

    Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer language, protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice.

    Most recently, the amendment was reauthorized by Congress in May as part of a short term spending package, in spite of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions aggressively lobbying Congressional leadership to ignore the provisions. At the time of the signing of the bill, President Trump issued a signing statement objecting to the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer provision.

    Without these maintained protections, it is difficult to assess how much business confidence and investment will continue to pour into the nascent industry, which currently serves over 3 million

    However as the Congressmen indicated in their statement, the fight is not over. In July, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee, meaning that the language will be considered in a conference committee despite the fact that the House was denied the opportunity to express it’s support for the 30 states which have legalized medical marijuana and 16 states that have authorized CBD oil access.

    We will continue to advocate for the members who will be in the conference committee to maintain the language from the Senate version in order to continue to serve the millions of men, women, and children who depend on their medication. On Monday and Tuesday, September 11th and 12th, NORML will hold it’s annual Conference and Lobby Day in DC and will focus on the need to not allow our progress to be rolled back – if you can join us in DC, click here to register.

    Keep fighting with us – send a message to your federal elected officials now. 

  • 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 NORML August 14, 2017

    take_actionNORML’s 2017 Conference at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, DC and Congressional Lobby Day at the United States Capitol is scheduled for September 10th-12th. Hundreds of marijuana consumers, activists, patients and business owners are expected to attend a day-long training and informational conference on Monday and re-convene on The Hill Tuesday to personally lobby their elected members of the House of Representatives and Senate.

    Whether you’re a longtime activist, college student, medical marijuana patient, or simply a NORML supporter, consider taking this all important step to directly lobby your members of Congress in support of common sense marijuana law reform. During your stay, you will meet and network with like minded activists from across the country, and your time on Capitol Hill will ensure that our message is brought face-to-face to those in Congress who need to hear it the most.

    Click here to sign up now

    We will be lobbying for expanded protections for those states that have reformed their laws, and to protect the progress that we have made from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his rogue Justice Department. Time and time again, AG Sessions has made it clear that he thinks those of us who consume cannabis are “not good people.” We will be in the halls of Congress to set the record straight.

    Sunday, September 10
    DMV NORML Coalition Welcome Reception & Vanguard Awards
    (Hosted by the DC, MD, and VA Chapters of NORML)

    Where: Dew Drop Inn (2801 8th St NE, Washington, District of Columbia 20017)
    When: 7pm
    FB Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/517232688618953/

    The DMV NORML Coalition, composed of DC NORML, Maryland NORMLand Virginia NORML, invites you to the Welcome Reception for the 2017 NORML Conference. You’ll enjoy an evening networking with activists from around the country, NORML leaders, and local legislators. The Coalition will present their annual Vanguard Awards to three lawmakers from the DMV who have significantly impacted marijuana policy reform. Proudly sponsored by Kulture

    Monday, September 11
    NORML 2017 Conference

    Where: Capital Hilton (1001 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20036)
    When: 9am – 5:30pm (Coffee and light refreshments will be served from 9am-10am)

    Agenda includes:
    – Putting the Grass in Grassroots Activism (How to Reform Marijuana Laws at the State and Local Level)
    – Our States Legalized Marijuana, Now What?
    – Smoke the Vote: How Marijuana Can Win at the Ballot Box
    – Shifting the Overton Window To Get To 51 (and 218 in the House) (How to Effectively Lobby your Federal Officials Training)
    – Marijuana Regulation: Impacts on Health and Safety — The Evidence to Date
    – Let My People Grow? Principles Versus Pragmatism in Marijuana Law Reform
    – Legalization as an Economic Stimulus

    We will also have a very special awards presentation and keynote speakers to be announced shortly.

    End Prohibition Again!
    (Prohibition Era Themed NORML Benefit Party)

    Where: Attendees will receive the secret venue location in advance of the conference, optional shuttle service from the Capital Hilton to the venue to be provided.
    When: 7pm

    Tuesday, September 12
    NORML Lobby Day

    Where: Congress
    When: 9am – 4pm

    We will meet in the morning in a reserved room on the hill. Registrants will meet with the offices of their elected officials throughout the day as scheduled (NORML staff will be assisting with setting up these meetings, so please register as soon as possible so we can start booking those with your specific officials). After lobbying we will reconvene one final time for happy hour drinks and to share stories of our efforts at a local establishment.

    Please register ASAP if you haven’t already so we can better plan scheduled lobby meetings and anticipate the number of attendees.

    Get your tickets now!

    See you in September,
    The NORML Team

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