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2018 Lobby Day

  • 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 Jenn Michelle Pedini, NORML Development Director February 8, 2018

    Virginia NORML has been focused on securing access and protection from prosecution for all patients since 2016. This session, our efforts paid off with unanimous passage of our Let Doctors Decide legislation, supported by the Joint Commission on Healthcare, in both the House and Senate.

    Patients like Nikki Narduzzi, who is now our coalition director at Cannabis Commonwealth, will now have the same rights that were initially granted in 2015 to only intractable epilepsy patients. I have spent hundreds of hours with Nikki in the halls of the General Assembly, in Committee rooms, in district offices, in coffee shops talking to Virginia legislators about this groundbreaking expansion legislation.

    “Little did I know, in 2015 when I attended my first local Virginia NORML chapter meeting, that patient advocacy would become such a large part of my life,” said Nikki. “For the past three years, I have been supported and mentored by courageous advocates like Virginia NORML’s Executive Director, Jenn Michelle Pedini who has worked tirelessly in the trenches to bring medical cannabis access to ALL Virginia patients.”

    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. We were pushed aside by other organizations interested in working for only small patient groups. We were railroaded by partisan antics more than once. We stood our ground, we pushed forward, and we prevailed.

    Read more here: http://www.suffolknewsherald.com/2018/02/06/advocates-cheer-bills-passage/

    To get involved or to stay up-to-date on the latest marijuana-related news in Virginia, make sure to visit our website at http://www.vanorml.org/ and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

  • 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