• by Nicole Powell, NORML Intern January 30, 2018

    On Sunday, January 21st & Monday the 22nd, NORML members along with non-member cannabis-reform-supporters gathered at the general assembly in Virginia for a Lobby Day. I [Nicole] was among the participants in this specific effort to advocate for marijuana legislative reform. Having lived in Virginia my whole life and being a current constituent of Representative Tim Hugo [R] and Senator David Marsden [D], this definitely felt like my call-to-action. This was my first time lobbying, and I am grateful my introductory experience was in support of sensible cannabis reform, something I so vehemently endorse on a personal level.

    Our purpose in gathering was in order to influence, and essentially demand, lawmaker support for HB 1251, and SB 111. These legislative works would legalize medical cannabis oil under physician recommendation [to include all diagnoses, not just intractable epilepsy] as well as decriminalize simple possession charges, respectively.

    If you have ever considered joining the marijuana movement, but don’t think you know enough to contribute effectively or even where to begin, never fear! On Sunday I was among numerous fellow supporters in attendance of a conference orchestrated by Virginia NORML’s Executive Director, Jenn Michelle Pedini. There, keynote speakers covered marijuana policy, how to effectively persuade with facts and knowledge regarding marijuana, and went on to take an in-depth look at how prohibition has negatively affected citizens and society. This abundantly informative and motivational colloquium couldn’t have prepared me more to speak with lawmakers and provided great relief to an otherwise intimidating situation. Let’s say hypothetically you have absolutely no interest in lobbying for marijuana reform. Attending the conference portion is still extremely enlightening, and I would recommend it to supporters and prohibitionists alike. A little extra knowledge never hurt anyone, right?

    While at the capitol building, I had great conversations with both Rep. Tim Hugo and Sen. David Marsden. Although it was still a bit nerve-racking to be in front of these prestigious figures; I am confident that I was able to effectively communicate the message of necessary marijuana reform in conjunction with the legislation denoted above [greatly due in part to the preparation I received at the conference], and have gained their support on these issues. This has been an experience I will never forget, and I will be sure to seize the chance at every opportunity to do it again in the future. NORML lobby day in any state is the opportunity to affect change and be part of history. Please join us, and we can make it happen together!

    Nicole Powell is a current intern at the National NORML office, as well as a current collegiate-level honors student. She has been “saved from a life of opioid drug abuse & dependence due to medical cannabis therapy” [to which she became at serious risk of after a major vehicular accident], in addition to the various other drastic medical benefits cannabis has provided to her after this accident.

    Follow Virginia NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website: http://www.vanorml.org/

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel January 29, 2018

    The individual most responsible for the medical marijuana movement in CA, and eventually in more than 30 states across this country, was San Francisco gay rights and marijuana advocate Dennis Peron, who died this past weekend from lung cancer at age 71.

    Peron was drafted and sent to Vietnam in 1966, where he first discovered marijuana. When his tour of duty ended and he returned home, he also managed to bring two pounds of marijuana with him – starting a career that he later acknowledged would last more than 40-years. In the 1970s, he opened the Big Top, a café in San Francisco where marijuana was openly sold and customers could smoke and socialize. The café was eventually closed by San Francisco police, who arrested Peron on numerous occasions.

    Peron was among the earliest marijuana and gay rights advocates to recognize that marijuana could provide relief to HIV-positive and AIDS patients. In 1991 he organized the nation’s first medical marijuana initiative, Proposition P,  approved by 80% of voters of San Francisco. Subsequently, he founded the nation’s first medical marijuana dispensary, the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers’ Club, where patients with HIV and other illnesses could openly buy, use and share marijuana.

    The “buyers club” served as many as 11,000 patients before eventually being forced to close by the courts in 1998.

    In 1996, with the help of Dale Gieringer and CA NORML, Peron organized the first state initiative to legalize medical marijuana, the Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215), which went on to be approved by 56% of California voters. The favorable experience with medical marijuana in CA eventually led to the adoption of medical marijuana laws in an additional 29 states and growing.

    But Peron’s influence went well beyond the medical use of marijuana. Of the 9 states that have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana by adults, each one has first adopted the medical use of marijuana. Only after the states had grown comfortable with medical use, and had seen first-hand that marijuana was an important medicine that helped tens of thousands of seriously ill Americans, were they willing to move forward to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, regardless of why they smoked.

    All of us who smoke marijuana, whether for medical or recreational use, are truly indebted to the courageous early work of Dennis Peron. Without his willingness to stand-up publicly and fight for the medical use of marijuana, despite it’s illegal status at that time, we would not be where we are today.

    May he rest in peace

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director January 25, 2018

    On Wednesday, January 24th, fifty-four members of Congress representing both political parties sent a letter to President Trump denouncing the recent rescinding of the Cole Memo by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Led by Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Senate side and Representative Jared Polis in the House, the signers stated:

    “These new policies have helped eliminate the black market sale of marijuana and allowed law enforcement to focus on real threats to public health and safety. This action by the Department of Justice has the potential to unravel efforts to build sensible drug policies that encourage economic development as we finally move away from antiquated practices that have hurt disadvantaged communities.”

    The Cole Memo was a Justice Department memorandum, authored by former US Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013 to US attorneys in all 50 states, directs prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

    The signers further pointed out the during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump declared that “we should leave (marijuana) up to the states.” You can read the full letter by clicking here.

    At a time when the majority of states now are regulating marijuana use in some form, and when nearly two-thirds of voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or moral perspective for Attorney General Sessions to take this step.

    It is great to see leaders like Senator Warren and Representatives Polis, Blumenauer, and others step up to demand action to comport federal law with majority public opinion and to end the needless criminalization of marijuana — a policy failure that encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.”

    Should the Trump administration go through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels.

    Send a message to your elected officials to speak out against AG Sessions. 

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 24, 2018

    On Tuesday, January 24th, activists from a wide array of Pennsylvania NORML affiliates, allied groups, and state lawmakers took the fight for marijuana law reform to the state capitol building in Harrisburg.

    The event co-sponsored by local NORML chapters, the ACLU-PA, and the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. Activists were joined by State Auditor General Eugene Depasquale and State Representatives Ed Gainey and Jordan Harris, and state Senator Sharif Street. The goal was to further the discussion on the full legalization of marijuana and to support legislation currently pending that would decriminalize marijuana possession statewide.

    Watch the news coverage below:

    Thanks to committed grassroots advocates, we are continuing to make progress nationwide. Get involved and help us relegate marijuana prohibition to the dustbin of history. Click HERE to take action on pending state and federal legislation, click HERE to find your nearest NORML channel and get involved, and click HERE to chip in $5 bucks or more to support NORMLs efforts.

    Together, we WILL legalize marijuana.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Tuesday calling on state regulators to review the state’s eight-year-old medical cannabis access program and to recommend ways to increase participation from patients and physicians.

    “Our goal is to modernize the program in New Jersey, bring it up to current standards, and put patients first,” he said.

    The Governor’s order mandates state Department of Health and the Board of Medical Examiners to submit recommendations within 60 days on ways to improve the program.

    Presently, only five dispensaries statewide are licensed to service an estimated 15,000 patients. Compared to other medical cannabis access states, New Jersey possesses among the lowest rates of participation among eligible patients and doctors. Retail costs for medical cannabis products are also among the highest in the nation.

    If you reside in New Jersey, you can urge regulators to take actions to improve the state’s medical cannabis law by clicking here.

    Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie routinely voiced his disapproval for the program, which was signed into law by his predecessor Jon Corzine, and he pushed for various rules and regulations to both delay and limit its implementation.

    While campaigning for Governor, Murphy pledged to reform the state’s marijuana policies, and spoke in favor of legalizing adult marijuana use.

    Again, if you live in New Jersey, take time today to tell regulators to put the interests of New Jersey’s patients first!

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