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  • by NORML April 11, 2018

    It has been announced that former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, along with former Republican Governor of Massachusetts Bill Weld, have joined the Board of Advisors for Acreage Holdings, a multi-state corporation operating in the medical and recreational marijuana space. The company holds licenses for dozens of cannabis businesses in the United States.

    Boehner, in comments to the press, made it clear that he has reversed his long held opposition to marijuana legalization. In an interview with Bloomberg news wire, he stated: “Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically. I find myself in that same position.”

    In response to this announcement, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri issued the following statement:

    “John Boehner’s evolution on marijuana legalization mirrors that of both the American public in general and Republicans specifically. Recent polling finds that over 60 percent of Americans support adult use marijuana legalization and, for the first time, this percentage includes a majority of self-identified Republicans. Allowing states the flexibility and autonomy to set their own marijuana regulatory policies is consistent with conservatives’ long-held respect for the Tenth Amendment, as well as with the party’s recent embracing of populism.”

    Altieri continued, “Regardless of motive, former Speaker Boehner is still held in high regard by a large percentage of the GOP membership and voter base. We look forward to his voice joining the growing chorus calling for an end to cannabis criminalization. Anything that expedites the ability for patients to access this safe and reliable treatment alternative, and that facilitates an end to the practice of arresting otherwise law abiding citizens for the possession of a plant should be welcomed with open arms.”

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 16, 2014

    Guest Post by Jason Miller, Houston NORML

    From left to right: Dr. Teryn Driver, Zoe Russell, Jason Miller Photo credit: Nick Zalud

    From left to right: Dr. Teryn Driver, Zoe Russell, Jason Miller
    Photo credit: Nicholas Zalud

    The 2014 Texas GOP Convention wrapped up Saturday, June 7th, after a long week of debate and testimony concerning medical marijuana. Supporters of marijuana reform, including several members of RAMP (Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition) along with other medical marijuana advocates, including parents, veterans, and medical doctors, gave testimony in favor of an amendment to the platform in support of allowing Texans access to medical cannabis.

    It seemed like a short-lived victory when the Temporary Platform Committee passed the amendment after listening to emotional testimony from those whose loved ones could benefit or have benefited from medical cannabis. The Chairman of the committee broke the tie and the amendment passed by a 15-14 vote. In addition, a plank supporting Hemp Cultivation passed the committee and made it into the final platform.

    The following day, the Permanent Platform Committee met and voted on the medical marijuana amendment. This was the day I arrived at the convention after driving up to Fort Worth from Houston. My second time attending the Texas GOP Convention as a delegate, I was excited to hear about what was happening in the committees and was eager to help.

    Rewind to August 2013 when I first met Ann Lee. After being involved with NORML for the past 4 years as a corporate sponsor to the legal seminars in Aspen and Key West, I had heard of Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University, but I didn’t know the full extent of his story until hearing it from his mother. Ann Lee was visiting a group in Houston that several of my friends help organize called Liberty on the Rocks. Along with a representative from Houston NORML, originally co-founded by Richard Lee, Ann Lee spoke to us and her words resonated.

    She told us about growing up in Louisiana during segregation (Ann Lee is in her mid-eighties, she’s even older than marijuana prohibition itself), and she spoke of how unfairly people were treated and how unfairly minorities are treated today due to the enforcement of marijuana prohibition. She told us about her 5 sons, including educator and entrepreneur Richard Lee, who was injured in a workplace accident, leaving him in a wheelchair as a paraplegic. She told us about being a Republican activist since the 1970s and how she co-founded the group “Women for Reagan” in 1983, the year I was born. She told us about her husband, Bob Lee, and how they had initially reacted when Richard told them he uses medical marijuana to help with his muscle spasticity and neuropathic pain.

    Ann Lee testifying before the platform committee Photo credit: Zoe Russell

    Ann Lee with Liberty on the Rocks Houston, August 2013
    Photo credit: Sang Le

    Ann and Bob Lee founded RAMP in 2012. After much reflection, they had reached the conclusion that prohibition of marijuana is directly opposed to all of their Republican values. I was immediately intrigued upon learning about this. My interest in both party politics and marijuana policy were now being fused together by this idea. I immediately approached Ann and started asking her about RAMP. She handed me a little brochure with the Republican logo with three pot leaves instead of stars. My first thought was “OK, this organization really needs a new logo.”

    Fast-forward to 2014, new logo, website, social media, and a network of young people helping Ann Lee with RAMP. We’re ready to make an impact. We’ve formed a team, including John Baucum, President of Houston Young Republicans. We’d worked a great deal on networking and outreach, held our inaugural meeting, and conducted several interviews with news media. We knew a lot of people in Houston’s conservative scene and we knew many of them would be serving as GOP delegates.

    Upon my arrival to the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth on Thursday, I knew that I had a mission. The vote on the medical marijuana amendment was to take place later this day and the outcome was going to depend heavily upon how the Permanent Platform Committee was to shape up. Our strategy was to try to push anyone off the committee who voted against us and replace them with someone who is supportive.

    In my Senate District, our platform committee representative had voted against medical marijuana. So I started talking to people. I thought about who would make a good candidate and one person came to mind, a Military Veteran, an author, and a frequent lecturer on conservative issues. Although medical marijuana was not the primary issue, I knew this person would be supportive. At this point there’s a lot of whispering going on in the hallways, people pulling each other aside and talking under their breath. I knew that a good number of people would unite behind this candidate, and I was able to feel confident in my ability to “whip the votes.”

    Time was of the essence. I ran across the street to the Omni Hotel and printed up flyers, highlighting the candidate’s qualifications. After some trouble with the printer, I made it back to the convention just in time. I walked into our SD Caucus and handed everyone the flyers. There were two other candidates in the race for platform committee. Although my preferred candidate did not win, we pulled about 30% of the vote and made an impact on the outcome of the race.

    Immediately after the SD Caucus, the Permanent Platform Committee met and the moment of truth was upon us. There was a great deal of commotion outside the meeting room because it wasn’t big enough to seat everyone. People were outside the door yelling for them to relocate the meeting to a larger space. Some of the committee members had changed due the immigration plank of the platform, which was the most contentious issue up for debate. I tried to peer into the room to see who was on the committee. I was curious to find out any of our people were elected to the committee in other senate districts, but I assumed they didn’t have any better luck than I did.

    Ann Lee testifying before the platform committee Photo credit: Zoe Russell

    Ann Lee testifying before the platform committee
    Photo credit: Zoe Russell

    The medical cannabis amendment failed. Some of the committee members, who supported the amendment the day before ended up changing their vote. This may have been due to our opposition whipping the votes against us. However, an additional amendment supporting “research into the medical efficacy of cannabis” was introduced by a member of the committee and passed. Unfortunately, our opposition filed a ‘minority report’ signed by 9 members of the committee in support of striking this language from the platform.

    Perhaps the most amazing revelation was that another ‘minority report’ was filed, signed by 8 members of the committee, in support of adding the original medical cannabis amendment back into the platform. This was huge. A clear message was sent that support for medical cannabis is alive and well in the Texas GOP. We considered this to be a major victory because the issue would be up for debate during the general session on Saturday when the platform is adopted by the entire delegation.

    On Friday morning, we arrived at the Fort Worth Convention Center at 6:00am, with 2000 RAMP newsletters in hand. Volunteers, including founders of the group MAMMA (Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism) Thalia Michelle and Amy Lou Falwell, helped line seats with our literature. This day, we decided to forget about the platform and the stress, it’s time to network, educate people about medical cannabis, conduct interviews with media, and talk to as many elected officials as we can.

    Founders of MAMMA - Amy Lou Falwell and Thalia Michelle conducting a radio interview in the exhibitor area of the convention. Photo credit: Jason Miller

    Founders of MAMMA – Amy Lou Falwell and Thalia Michelle conducting a radio interview in the exhibitor area of the convention.
    Photo credit: Jason Miller

    On Saturday morning, several of us arrived early to get spots near each of the four microphones in the general convention arena. We wanted to make sure we were able to testify in support of medical cannabis. As the platform adoption process started, medical cannabis was the first topic up for debate. Our minority report in support of adding the amendment back in to the platform was introduced from the stage.

    Ann Lee spoke in favor of this amendment and told her story. She told the delegation about her son Richard and his injury. She used her entire 5 minutes of testimony and made a very clear point that garnered a great deal of applause, “Why should the federal government be able to prevent us from using a natural medicine that is clearly beneficial to sick people?”

    One person spoke in opposition to the amendment and tried to convince the delegation that Marinol and medical marijuana are the same thing, which is clearly false.

    Dr. Teryn Driver, a delegate from League City, made an emotional argument about children suffering from epilepsy and passionately educated the delegation about Cannibidiol (CBD).

    A motion was made to end debate and the crowd voted in favor of it. (The delegation will typically always vote in favor of anything that moves the process along faster). We then voted on adding the medical marijuana amendment back into the platform and it failed. We expected this to happen.

    The next item of business is the ‘minority report’ striking the support for research into the medical efficacy of cannabis from the platform. Zoe Russell, the assistant executive director for RAMP, spoke in opposition to striking this language; she testified that Texas prides itself on medical innovation and that getting our federal government out of the way of promising research will be a tremendous benefit to our medical community. She pointed out that Republicans don’t like federal interference in our healthcare choices and that should include the ability to conduct medical research. Her remarks were met with cheers and applause.

    Immediately following Zoe’s testimony, debate was cut off. A vote was taken, but it wasn’t clear. After a bit of demagoguery by the Chairman and a clarification that a no vote would leave the language in the platform, the vote was taken again. It was very close, but the yes votes won and the language supporting research of medical cannabis was stricken from the platform.

    Ann Lee speaking in favor of medical marijuana  Photo credit: Zoe Russell

    Ann Lee speaking in favor of medical marijuana
    Photo credit: Zoe Russell

    Our opposition’s only real strategy was to cut off testimony as quickly as possible. They don’t want the delegation to hear our message. They don’t want any discussion about changing these laws. But we’re having the discussion. We’re winning over the hearts of minds of people, and we had been doing it all week. After the convention ended, I made my way down the road about 4 blocks to the Texas Regional NORML Conference. Exhausted, I dragged myself into the conference and took a seat.

    Overall, the Texas GOP Convention was a huge success. We’re furthering the discussion about marijuana reform among Republicans and we’re having fun in the process. My time spent in Fort Worth was well worth it. I learned a lot about politics and procedure, activism and how to communicate and network with people. We met supporters from all over the state and we expanded our network. We’re now gearing up for the 2015 legislative session and we’re determined to legalize marijuana in the great state of Texas.

    It ain’t gonna legalize itself.

    Stay up to date on NORML Houston’s activities by following them on Facebook here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 21, 2012

    Not to be outdone by the Democrats, whose state parties in Washington, Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, and Iowa have all recently adopted pro-reform policies in their platforms, the Montana Republican Party has endorsed medical marijuana at their state convention held on June 16th. The official language from their 2012 platform is as follows:

    Medical Use of Marijuana

    We recognize that a significant problem exists with Montana’s current laws regarding the medical use of marijuana and we support action by the next legislature to create a workable and realistic regulatory structure.

    Source: Montana Republican Party 2012 Platform

    This endorsement should be taken with a grain of salt, considering it was the Montana Republicans who had previously attempted to veto Montana’s medical program entirely and, when that was not politically feasible, passed SB 423 which greatly restricts the number of patients who may qualify to use medical cannabis legally under state’s voter-approved law.

    The Republicans’ endorsement comes just over a week after the Montana Democratic Party adopted a similar resolution. At their convention, held from June 8th-9th, the Democrats also publicly voiced support for medical marijuana in their platform:

    Medical Marijuana

    WHEREAS, the voters of Montana approved by initiative the compassionate use of medical marijuana

    THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Montana Democratic Party supports the right of qualified patients, with a medical condition where marijuana is appropriate, to have safe access to medical marijuana.

    Source: Montana Democratic Party 2012 Platform

    This provides a rare instance where both the political right and left seem to agree on a single issue.

    Hopefully this political support turns into success at the ballot box. Montana residents will be casting their vote this November to decide whether or not to strike down SB 423, a measure passed in 2011 through the legislature that essentially gutted the 2004 voter approved medical marijuana measure already in place. You can read more about the upcoming referendum vote here.

    If you wish to learn more about the fight over medical marijuana in Montana, NORML highly recommends watching the documentary “Code of the West” as it does a fantastic job of explaining and detailing the ups and downs in the battle to save the state’s medical cannabis program.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 22, 2010

    Texas GOP drug warrior Rep. Lamar Smith (21st District) lashed out at the Obama administration yesterday on Fox News (Watch the video here.) — claiming that the President is ‘soft’ on pot and is refusing to enforce federal drug laws. But as I opine in today’s edition of The Hill.com’s Congress blog, Congressman Smith is fundamentally wrong on both counts.

    Failed marijuana policies are a bi-partisan boondoggle
    via The Hill

    [excerpt: read the full text here]

    Law enforcement officials prosecuted a near-record 858,408 persons for violating marijuana laws in 2009 – the first year of the Obama presidency. That total is the second highest annual number of pot prosecutions ever recorded in the United States.

    According to the arrest data, made public last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, some 88 percent (758,593 Americans) of those charged with marijuana violations were prosecuted for possession only. The remaining 99,815 individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes virtually all cultivation offenses.

    Does any rational person really think that arresting and prosecuting nearly one million Americans annually for their use of a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol exemplifies a ‘soft’ – or better yet, sound – public policy?

    Rep. Smith further claims that the administration has abdicated the enforcement of federal drug laws in the fourteen states that have legalized the physician-supervised use of marijuana since 1996. Not so. Despite promises from the U.S. Attorney General to respect the laws of these 14 states, the September 21 edition of DC’s Daily Caller reports that just the opposite is taking place.

    In an article entitled, ‘DEA, DOJ stay mum on medical marijuana raids,’ reporter Mike Riggs states: “Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder hasn’t stopped raiding marijuana dispensaries operating in states where sale of the drug is legal for medical purposes. But the DOJ has demonstrated one marked change now that it’s under Democratic control: The department has stopped publicizing medical marijuana raids, both by requesting that more cases be sealed under court order and by refusing to distribute press releases.”

    The story goes on to cite details of over a dozen recent federal raids of medical marijuana providers in California, Colorado, Michigan, and Nevada – all states that have approved the cultivation and possession of medical marijuana.

    Of course, if the stricter enforcement of marijuana laws – as Rep. Lamar advocates – was really the solution to curbing Americans’ appetite for pot then how does one explain this? Since 1965, police have arrested over 21 million Americans for violating marijuana laws; yet according to the World Health Organization more Americans consume marijuana than do citizens of any other country in the world.

    Rather than scapegoating the new administration, which has done little to alter longstanding U.S. marijuana policy, Rep. Smith ought to reconsider the past 40 years of failed drug war policies. … It is time to replace failed marijuana prohibition with a system of legalization, sensible regulation, taxation, and education.

    The Hill’s ever-popular Congress blog ‘is where lawmakers come to blog.’ It’s also where legislators and other politicos come to gauge the pulse of the public. Given that this is a paper of record on Capitol Hill, why not send Rep. Smith and his colleagues a message that their anti-marijuana rhetoric is woefully out of touch with voter sentiment? You can make your voice heard by leaving your feedback here.

    If you live in Texas (particularly if you live in the 21st District, which includes the cities of Austin, San Marcos, Kerrville, and San Antonio), you can also contact Rep. Smith directly here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 6, 2009

    Lots to report on this week, so let’s get right to it.

    If you have not yet gotten active in your state, now is most definitely the time to start.

    Here’s this week’s highlights of actions you can take right now to reform the laws in your state.

    For a complete listing of statewide actions, please visit NORML’s Take Action Center here.

    Decriminalizing Marijuana: In a historic vote, members of the Connecticut Joint Committee on Judiciary last week approved Senate Bill 349, which as amended, would mandate that the possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana by those over 18 years of age is punishable by a ticket — not criminal charges. The bill now awaits action from he full Senate. Show your support for this effort by logging on here or by getting in touch with Connecticut NORML here.

    In Texas, members of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will hear testimony on Wednesday in favor of House Bill 902 — an act to reduce the penalties for the possession of up to ounce of marijuana to fine-only offense. The hearing is scheduled for 2pm in room E-2028 in the State Capitol Building. If you live in Texas you can write your representative in support of HB 902 by going here. You can also leave a message for the Committee by going here. Full details on attending this week’s hearing are available from Texas NORML here.

    Legalizing Medical Marijuana: Minnesota lawmakers continue to show their support for making medical cannabis legal. Senate File 97 is now before the Senate floor, and the House companion bill is also gaining momentum. If you reside in Minnesota and want to see it become the fourteenth state to legalize the physician-supervised use of cannabis, please visit here to contact your elected officials and the Governor’s office.

    In Alabama, members of the House Judiciary Committee are scheduled to hear testimony this Wednesday in favor House Bill 434, The Michael Phillips Compassionate Care Act. If you live in Alabama you can contact your state officials here, and you can learn more about attending this week’s hearing from Alabamians for Compassionate Care here.

    And since so many of you have asked: yes, medical marijuana legislation is coming to Pennsylvania. Over the past weeks, NORML state affiliates in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been working closely with Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia) to draft legislation legalizing the authorized use of medical cannabis. Representative Cohen’s bill is anticipated to be formally introduced before the legislature later this month, and mainstream media outlets are already opining for its passage. For more information, or to become involved in this effort, please visit here, or contact the good folks at Philly NORML.

    UPDATE: Montana GOP Kills Marijuana Law Reform:
    On March 23, members of the Montana House Judiciary Committee deadlocked 9 to 9 on House Bill 541, which sought to reclassify the possession of thirty grams or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction. Not one Republican voted in favor of the bill. An effort by supporters to raise the measure for reconsideration also failed.

    Days later, members of the House Human Services Committee voted 8 to 8 on Friday, March 27, to table Senate Bill 326, which sought to expand Montana’s medical marijuana program. Once again, no Republicans endorsed the bill. A motion on the House floor to reconsider the bill failed 47 to 51.

    More information on this disappointing news is available here. If you live in Montana, don’t just get angry — get involved!

    To learn about additional pending legislation in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Vermont, please visit NORML’s Legislative Action Alerts page here.