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NORML PAC

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director August 28, 2013

    [caption id="attachment_12113" align="alignright" width="292"]John Hanger speaking at a Lancaster NORML Meeting - Photo credit: Matt Rohrbach John Hanger speaking at a Lancaster NORML Meeting – Photo credit: Matt Rohrbach
    [/caption]While the general election for governor is still a little over a year away, things are heating up in Pennsylvania as Democrats vie for their party’s nomination to run against incumbent Governor Corbett (R). Seven candidates have so far announced their candidacy and one of them, former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection John Hanger, is running on a pro-marijuana law reform platform and wants to not only decriminalize cannabis and allow for its medical use, he wants to see it fully legalized by 2017.

    With a crowded field, and no required run-off election, it is likely the winner of the primary will be decided by several thousand Pennsylvania voters. John Hanger sees this unique situation as not only a boon for his campaign, but for the marijuana law reform issue. “Marijuana law reform has power to elect next governor,” John Hanger stated, “If just 1 out of 3 monthly marijuana users vote, we will win.”

    John Hanger discussed his plans for marijuana law reform in a telephone interview with NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri. The transcript of that conversation is below:

    What was the impetus for taking up the issue of marijuana law reform?

    John Hanger: The tipping point for me was just running for governor and realizing that I’ll be in charge of implementing laws, that in the case of marijuana, are unjust. I don’t want to be in the position of enforcing unjust laws. I take doing the right thing seriously. I don’t want to deny cannabis to a sick child because our laws require me to do that as governor. I want to campaign to change unjust laws so I don’t have to administer unjust laws.

    I’ve been coming to terms with the seriousness of running for governor and being governor. The marijuana laws in Pennsylvania are unjust. It goes beyond medical marijuana, the criminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana is unjust, it is destroying people’s lives. It is branding them as drug criminals for the rest of their lives. It’s hurting them in a way that three presidents of the United States have not been hurt for their behavior. It is beyond hypocritical.

    I’m also very focused on making sure the Pennsylvania budget is invested in the real needs of our state. There is never enough money for all the things that need to happen. There are very important services that are underfunded, but we are spending 350 million dollars enforcing these unjust laws. It means less money for schools, less money for health, less money for roads and bridges. It is destructive to other vital needs in Pennsylvania.

    When you look at whats right and come to the conclusion these laws must be reformed, the public is with us on medical marijuana and decriminalization…the public is ahead of the politicians on the first two steps and I’m leading on the third step. I’m working to champion and build to the third step, legalization, because it is the right thing to do. I crafted this three step reform plan because this will allow PA’s to have confidence in moving through each step.

    What has the reception to your marijuana reform platform been like?

    JH: In terms of the overall reaction it has been positive. The public is well ahead of the politicians when it comes to medical marijuana and decriminalization. So this is an issue that the public opinion is forming and building, and building towards the right result.

    Around 60% of Democrats support legalization nationwide, about 70% of the highly coveted independent demographic support it, why do you think, by and large, other Democrats and politicians have been hesitant to take up the issue?

    JH: I think it is a mixture of not wanting to lead, not wanting to stick one’s neck out. The old saying in politics is that politicians wait for a parade to form and then run to the front to lead it. Most politicians are risk averse. Many politicians, I think, put their finger up in the air and wait to see which way is the wind is blowing and only when the wind is blowing strongly they move. That’s the normal political animal reaction to issues.

    Quite frankly, I’m not a politician. I ran two state agencies…I got into public policy and public life to make changes and help people’s real lives. I haven’t spent my career climbing up a political ladder, thats not my motivation. My motivation is to address real problems in people’s lives and make people’s lives better. For me, this issue is about doing the right thing. I’m going to do the right thing and I think that it is also going to be smart thing politically.

    Why do you think, so far, Pennsylvania has failed to move forward a medical or decriminalization bill? What will it take for that to happen?

    JH: I think we haven’t had leadership in the governor’s office. The governor has the biggest office, the bully pulpit. It effects how people think about issues, has tremendous influence on legislators. I do know how to get things done in Pennsylvania, we never had a governor to get this done in Pennsylvania. When a governor like me is leading the charge it goes to the top of the priority list. I know how to build public support to get major things done. I built my work in state government going back to Casey admin. I’ve been working on policy getting things done in and out of state government for 29 years.

    Quite frankly Governor Corbett, regardless of his politics, is not competent at the nuts and bolts of governing and has been hostile to marijuana reform. Beating him will send a huge message around the country, winning the primary sends a huge message to Democrats that they need to move [on marijuana reform]. When I win the primary, they are going to understand a major reason for my victory will be marijuana reform.

    What can Pennsylvanians do to help advance marijuana law reform?

    JH: The single best way is to make sure I win the Democratic primary. My candidacy is the equivalent of a marijuana referenda on the ballot. By voting for me you are voting for marijuana reform. Politicians will no longer be able to be on the wrong side of this issue.

    Thats what happens, we can win this issue in May 2014, by my winning that primary. It will shock the political establishment and accelerate the changing of the laws by years in Pennsylvania and around the country. I believe Pennsylvania is seen as a bellwether. If marijuana reform can win in Pennsylvania, it can win anywhere.

    NORML’s constituency group is a great group of people who are fighting for justice and fighting injustice. The great news is that we can win this battle in PA in just 8 months, thats exciting.

    You can read more about John Hanger’s campaign on his website here or Facebook page here. You can read his three step plan for marijuana law reform here.

    (VOTER NOTE: Pennsylvania has closed primaries. If you wish to vote in the Democratic primary in May of 2014, you would have to be registered Democrat before that election. There is no Republican primary this year. The incumbent, Governor Corbett, is running for reelection. Party affiliations can be changed at any time.)

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director August 14, 2013

    appleUPDATE: Thompson, McDonald, Catsimatidis, and Carrion’s positions have been added. The race to become the next mayor of New York City is one of the most publicized and followed of 2013 and the issue of marijuana has been playing a prominent role, with a large majority of the candidates backing some degree of reform. NORML has compiled this list of the candidates and their statements surrounding marijuana policy to help educate New York City voters where they stand on the issue.

    DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY

    Supports Full Legalization:

    Sal Albanese

    Background: Former New York City Council Member

    Position: “I believe that the time has come to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana. By legalizing it, we can allow police officers to focus on local crime issues and improving clearance rates for homicide, rape, and robbery. By regulating marijuana, we can put black-market drug dealers out of business. By taxing marijuana, we can raise billions of dollars in new revenue to pay teachers better, create pediatric wellness centers, and expand health services.” – Sal Albanese’s Response to NORML

    Click here for more info.

    John Liu

    Background: Current New York City Comptroller

    Position: “By keeping it illegal, you actually encourage more violent crime. Why not regulate and tax it? We can derive $400 million in revenues for the city, use that money to cut CUNY tuition in half and reduce the disparate social impact that’s occurring in too many of our communities.” – John Liu Statement to NY1

    Click here for more info.

    Supports Decriminalization:

    Bill de Blasio

    Background: Current Public Advocate for New York City

    Position: “In New York City, nearly 50,000 people were arrested last year for marijuana possession. Low-level marijuana possession arrests have disastrous consequences for individuals and their families. These arrests limit one’s ability to qualify for student financial aid and undermine one’s ability to find stable housing and good jobs. What’s more, recent studies demonstrate clear racial bias in arrests for low-level possession, with African-Americans arrested four times more frequently as whites — despite roughly equal usage rates. This policy is unjust and wrong.

    First-time offenses for possession of small amounts of marijuana are supposed to be punishable by fine only, unless publicly displayed. Commissioner Kelly instructed NYPD officers to stop making arrests for marijuana possession unless it is in public view. However, too many young African-Americans and Hispanics — without prior convictions — are still arrested for marijuana possession after being stopped and frisked by police, who then treat it as public display.

    Bill de Blasio will direct the NYPD to stop these misguided prosecutions and push for the passage of Governor Cuomo’s marijuana possession law, which would remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession under 15 grams. Bill de Blasio will enforce these standards and ensure cases of marijuana found through police stops are treated as possessions, not public displays. These commonsense changes will help reverse the racial impact of low-level marijuana arrests and align policing practices with constitutional protections.” – From Campaign Website

    Click here for more info.

    Christine Quinn

    Background: New York City Council Speaker

    Position: Supported Governor Cuomo’s efforts to decriminalize marijuana. Also supports medical marijuana.

    Click here for more info.

    Bill Thompson

    Background: Former New York City Comptroller

    Position: Supports decriminalization of small amounts and medical marijuana, but not legalization. (Source)

    Click here for more info.

    Anthony Weiner

    Background: Former United States Representative (D-NY)

    Position: “End Arrests for Small Amounts of Mari- juana. These arrests serve no purpose; they worsen NYPD/community relations, create criminal records that ruin lives, and waste the time and energy of officers who should be fighting serious crime.” – Campaign Website

    “I can tell my police officers and my police commissioner, that’s [marijuana arrests] not a priority for my administration. [It] damages lives, and very rarely do you catch a master criminal that way.” – Anthony Weiner to Capital New York

    Click here for more info.

    No Formalized Stance:

    Erick Salgado
    Ceceilia Berkowitz

    REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

    Supports Full Legalization:

    Joe Lhota

    Background: Former Deputy Mayor of New York City, Chief of M.T.A.

    Position: Supports marijuana legalization, but believes that responsibility for acting on the issue falls to the governor and federal government.

    Click here for more info.

    Supports Decriminalization

    George McDonald

    Background: Founder and President of the Dole Fund

    Position: Supports decriminalization. (Source)

    Click here for more info.

    John Catsimatidis

    Background: Owner, president, chairman, and CEO of the Gristedes Foods

    Position: Supports medical marijuana, but not legalization.

    Click here for more info.

    The independent candidate, Adolfo Carrión, Jr, supports decriminalization, but not legalization.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 18, 2013

    [caption id="attachment_12000" align="alignright" width="300"]Senator Leach Talks Marijuana Policy with National NORML Comm. Director Erik Altieri and PhillyNORML Comm. Director Joe Forte - Photo: Ellie Paisley Senator Leach talks marijuana policy with National NORML Comm. Director Erik Altieri and PhillyNORML Comm. Director Joe Forte[/caption]Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach has been an outspoken advocate on the issue of marijuana law reform during his tenure in Harrisburg. Senator Leach made a splash legislatively this year when he introduced Senate Bill 528, which would legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana in Pennsylvania, the first time such a bill was introduced in the state.

    Senator Leach was also featured as the keynote speaker at the first ever NORML Mid-Atlantic Conference which was held this March in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can view video of his remarks here.

    State Senator Leach is now looking to take his advocacy to Capitol Hill. He is running for an open seat representing Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives that will be vacated by Congresswoman Alison Schwartz, who is stepping down from her post to pursue the governorship in 2014. While the Democratic Primary for this position won’t be held until May of next year, Senator Leach’s campaign is already kicking into full gear and he is emerging as an early favorite in the race. In a statement released to NORML, Senator Leach has made clear that he intends to continue his fight for marijuana legalization while serving at the federal level:

    “We have spent billions of dollars nationally investigating, prosecuting, incarcerating, and monitoring millions of our fellow citizens who have hurt no one, damaged no property, breached no peace. In 15 years marijuana prohibition will be some quaint thing of the past that will be the subject of exhibitions at the Constitution Center. People will think it’s crazy that it was ever illegal. As State Senator in Pennsylvania I introduced legislation to end this costly, failed policy of marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization and regulation. If elected to the United States House of Representatives I will continue to fight for rational marijuana policies at the national level and work to bring an end to this discriminatory, ineffective prohibition.” – Pennsylvania State Senator and NORML PAC Supported US House Candidate, Daylin Leach

    We need more passionate supporters like Senator Leach in Washington, DC. As public opinion swings further in the direction of full legalization everyday, we can only hope Senator Leach’s candidacy, and his potential future terms in the House of Representatives, inspires more of his colleagues to join him in the fight for reforming our country’s marijuana laws. With more federal elected officials who can speak as articulately about the problems of our failed prohibition and the benefits of moving to a legalized, regulated system as Senator Leach, we will see reforms occur at the federal level sooner rather than later.

    To learn more about Daylin Leach’s campaign, you can visit www.votedaylin.com or his Facebook here.

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