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  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator August 22, 2016

    Cannabis PenaltiesStatewide marijuana legalization efforts in Ohio have proven to be more difficult than many expected. After Ohio voters overwhelming rejected Issue 3 – a well-funded ballot initiative, that would have legalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and over, but also contained severe restrictions with regard to retail production of the plant – many advocates promised to return with a better plan for marijuana consumers. But those plans were quickly derailed after the Ohio General Assembly established a limited, yet workable medical marijuana program with the passage of House Bill 523.

    With no statewide initiative, many activists decided to shift their focus to working with state lawmakers to strengthen HB 523 by expanding access and advocating for amendments to permit for home cultivation for patients and caregivers. And since the possession of less than 100 grams (roughly 3.5 ounces) of marijuana is considered a “minor misdemeanor,” punishable by a maximum fine of $150 plus $100 in court costs, some activists found themselves complacent with the status quo. After considering these points, members of Ohio Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) decided to explore reform options on the local level.

    Taking a page out of their own playbook, Eleanor Ahrens and Chad Thompson, led by executive director Cher Neufer, decided they would retool a local decriminalization measure that was approved by Toledo voters in 2015. With this strategy the group set their sights on several municipalities across the state. Activists in the municipalities of Newark Bellaire, Bellevue, Cleveland, Elyria, Logan, Huron, Athens and Norwood, as well as in Lucas County, started to collect signatures for a “complete decriminalization” measure that would further decriminalize the possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana flower, up to 10 grams of concentrates, paraphernalia, by removing all fines and court costs.

    “Complete Decrim is a new innovative way to make any misdemeanor offense basically legal,” Neufer said. “With no fines, no jail time, no drivers license suspension, and no court costs, we are making the police just walk away from misdemeanor marijuana offenses as if it were a legal substance.”

    To date, the group has successfully qualified the measure for the municipal ballot in the cities of Newark and Logan this November, but fell short in the city of Athens. Activists with Ohio NORML plan to continue their effort. An effort that could extend well into 2017. For more information about or to get involved with Ohio NORML, please email info@ohionorml.org today!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator June 28, 2016

    As predicted, 2016 is turning out to a historic year for the marijuana legalization movement. With three statewide initiatives already cleared for the November ballot (Florida, Nevada, Maine) and several other initiative campaigns awaiting certification, there has never been a greater need for grassroots marijuana activism. From gathering signatures and making volunteer recruitment calls, to data entry and talking face to face with voters, there is still plenty of work to be done. To get involved today, simply follow the three easy steps below!

    First, please consider becoming a member of our organization (NORML Membership). In addition to being a part of the nation’s longest serving marijuana law reform group and getting a great membership package, we have compiled an extensive collection of fact-based information that you can use to support your efforts as you engage lawmakers in your community. Regardless of the point you’re trying to make (recreational, medical, hemp, CBD, etc.) you’ll find recent studies, articles and other resources that will help reinforce your argument (NORML Library).

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    Second, if there isn’t already a NORML affiliate in your community (Chapter Locator), I encourage you to begin the process of forming your own chapter. For more than 40 years, NORML affiliates and chapters have been leading reform conversations on the local and state level, and they continue to be the driving force behind policy decisions regarding marijuana. If this is something that you’d like to be a part of, please take a few minutes to review NORML’s new Chapter Starter Packet. It will serve as your number one resource as you get started. If you need help finding others to join you, I’m happy to help connect you with people in your area.

    Third, start contacting your local, state and federal representatives about pending marijuana-related legislation by using our online Action Alert Center. We’re constantly monitoring dozens of marijuana-related bills from around the country so we’re able to provide you with the most up-to-date legislative alerts and talking points. In addition to advocating for marijuana law reform using the legislative process, we also welcome the opportunity to work with your organization to draft a municipal ordinance, similar to the ones recently adopted by local governments in Ohio and Florida.

    I look forward to working with you to establish a new community of marijuana activists in your state! For more information about forming a NORML chapter or getting involved with marijuana law reform efforts, please email KevinM@NORML.org or visit NORML.org.

  • by Jordan Person, Executive Director, Denver NORML June 10, 2016

    Marijuana is legal to purchase, possess and to consume in the state of Colorado, but where? Well, if you happen to be in the city of Denver (or most anywhere else in Colorado) the answer is very simple, you can only legally consume cannabis in a private residence. But what if your landlord won’t allow it, or if you are one of the thousands of tourists that visits our great city on a daily basis. Then where do all of those people go? This question is one Denver NORML hopes to help answer this November.

    The local chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws spent several months working with various stakeholders to develop a regulatory framework to create a space where responsible adults can consume their legally purchased marijuana products. Denver NORML is currently collecting signatures for the Responsible Use Denver initiative. The initiative will provide a license for the establishment and operation of private, 21-and-over members-only facilities where adults and bring their own cannabis and peacefully consume it in a relaxed, legal public setting.Logo-1-R4

    The initiative language was written to provide the city with what it is lacking, a set of rules and standards to open a business and maintain a license for a place for adults to responsibly consume marijuana. There are several businesses right now in the city of Denver operating in a grey area. Currently these businesses have no laws to follow or to protect them. This grey area needs definition. Those same businesses could now open marijuana clubs with their namesake or these businesses could now apply for special event permits where marijuana will be permitted.

    Once passed, the Responsible Use Denver initiative will not only provide private marijuana clubs it will also allow for any individual or entity to apply for 24 event permits per year. The private invitation only events would be 21 and up, allow no onsite distribution and allow guests to bring their own marijuana products to consume. What does a marijuana event look like? These events could be catered and be as creative as any party planner could dream up. They could be intimate occasions or it could allow for an entrepreneur to create a large event venue for occasions such as the Cannabis Cup to return to Denver.

    The Responsible Use Denver initiative is the answer to an ongoing issue that is not going away. As other states continue to legalize marijuana across the country, we are going to continue to see this as a post prohibition concern in more and more jurisdictions. If we had 200 places to purchase alcohol but no place to drink it, where would people drink? Most likely on sidewalks, loitering in front of businesses, in parks, in their cars and anywhere else they could. This is what marijuana consumers are dealing with. It is time for change and it is time for a solution.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator May 23, 2016

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    Today marijuana activists, patients and business owners from around the country are gathering in our nation’s Capitol to officially kickoff NORML’s 2016 Conference and Lobby day in Washington DC. We’re extremely excited about our line up of speakers and panelists for our conference, followed by a busy day of meetings with members of the House and Senate.

    To start off, NORML members and supporters will be meeting at George Washington University, for a full day of presentations and panel discussions with policy experts and seasoned lobbyists. I’m especially excited to hear from John Hudak with the Brookings Institute. He recently wrote an open letter to presidential candidates urging them to take the issue of marijuana law reform more seriously. You can read more, here!

    Tomorrow morning, NORML members will gather at the Longworth building on Capitol Hill where they will be addressed by: Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR), Congressman Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman Delbene (D-WA). They are expected to speak in detail about the various pieces of legislation that are highlighted below. With more than twenty pieces of federal legislation aimed at reforming America’s archaic marijuana and hemp laws, it is imperative that we do our part by educating them on the many benefits of embracing a new approach. The same applies to everyone who will not be able to attend, except the focus will be on making phone calls, writing letters and/or sending emails using our online action center.

    To access the information below, simply click on any of the links and you’ll be directed to a three-page document that includes everything you and your fellow activists will need to assist us with our lobbying efforts (talking points, phone script, letter template etc.). Feel free to contact your representatives about each one, or pick a few that you’re most passionate about!

    House:

    H.R. 3561: The Fair Access to Education Act

    H.R.1013: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act

    H.R.1538: The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act

    H.R.1940: The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act

    Senate:

    S. 2557: The Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act

    S. 2237: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act

    S.683 – Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act

    During last year’s congressional letter writing campaign, our network of affiliates and chapters generated more than 2000 letters and emails to congressional offices so I hope we can do the same or better this year!

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  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator April 1, 2016

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    As Colorado approaches its fourth year of legal marijuana, consumers around the state are still struggling with the issue of acceptance. With local governments passing restrictive laws aimed at preventing the public consumption and/or display of marijuana, marijuana consumers are being forced to enjoy their legally purchased products behind closed doors. Take Denver for example. In 2013, City Council members passed an ordinance that established fines of up to $999 for those who are caught smoking in a public space. This left in state consumers with nowhere to consume their marijuana other than a private residence, and left out-of-state consumers with no legal place to consume at all.

    After the new law was put into place, Denver police officers issued more than 650 tickets within the first year, compared to just over 117 for the previous year. This massive increase of 461 percent in citations speaks volumes to the obvious need for a more thoughtful approach. It just doesn’t make sense to provide a legal avenue for adults to purchase marijuana while simultaneously applying restrictions that severely limit the act of consuming it. It’s fairly simple, marijuana consumers deserve similar rights that our society typically affords to someone who enjoys a glass of wine at a local wine bar after an exhausting day.

    Hopefully this situation will soon change. Last week Denver NORML filed the Responsible Use initiative with the city of Denver. If passed by voters this November, it would legalize the establishment of private marijuana clubs for adults 21 and up. Passage of this ordinance would be a historic first step in moving towards the ultimate goal of normalizing the consumption of marijuana in our country. The initiative would provide responsible adults a legally defined space where marijuana could be consumed and shared with other like-minded adults — a simple, yet necessary accommodation for states that have passed some form of legalization. It’s time for marijuana consumers to embrace the idea that just like any other consumer focused industry, we have rights.

    We have our work ahead of us: gathering signatures, voter outreach and coalition building will be our top priorities over the next few weeks. Even in a progressive city such as Denver, where marijuana is fairly popular, we must work to earn the support non-consumers to ensure a victory on this issue. I believe we can accomplish this by offering a pragmatic initiative that will focus on the basics. There are plenty of places to grab a drink or a quick bite to eat, but we as marijuana consumers have no where to legally consume marijuana other than the privacy of someone’s home. If we focus on what is truly needed, I believe we can increase our chances of being successful this November.

    To learn more about the Responsible Use Initiative or to get involved, please visit the campaign’s website by clicking, here!

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