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NORML Chapters

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML September 20, 2017

    Awful News

    My friend Stephen Bradley called me on Friday, September 14th and asked if I was sitting down. I knew it couldn’t be good news, but when he told me our mutual friend James Bell had died suddenly, I experienced several moments of simple denial. This just can’t be true, I thought. Then the enormity of the news dropped on me like a heavy stone as I realized how large a hole James’ death leaves in the politics of Marijuana Law Reform in Georgia.

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    The James Bell I Knew

    I met James in the fall of 2014 in Dublin, Georgia. He was there videoing a Justice for David Hooks rally. David had been killed in his own home during the execution of a fruitless search warrant, based on the word of an addict/thief who had burglarized David’s property the night before his death. Soon after, I met James again when I testified against the term no-knock warrant being written into black letter Georgia Law before a Senate Committee. We had an opportunity to talk for a while that day, discovering that we had several interests in common. We became friends and allies and called each other often. Over time, James shared the tragic story of his niece, Lori Knowles with me, and I understood his interest in David Hooks and no-knock warrants much better. I think the incident with Lori added fuel to the fire of James’ activism and drove him harder over the past 3 years.

    As James and I talked (and he could talk), I realized just how central a figure he was in the fight for cannabis law reform in Georgia. He was involved in the movement since at least as far back as the 70s, and his interest covered all things cannabis. From advocating the freedom to make personal, adult choices about smoking it, to supporting the use of medical marijuana, to reintroducing Hemp as a staple crop in Georgia, James was involved in it all. He truly believed that the re-legalization of cannabis could be accomplished here in Georgia. He was a constant presence around the Gold Dome when the Legislature was in session, both testifying on issues and videoing procedures. His easy way, his extensive knowledge, and his passion paved the way for good relationships with lawmakers. He was well-known and respected by many.

    James was keenly aware of the societal harm caused by the War on Marijuana. He and I often spoke of Harm Reduction during our conversations, and he felt that an arrest and subsequent criminal record for mere possession of a small amount of marijuana was unjust. No victim, no crime.  He believed a grassroots approach to the problem at the Municipal level, combined with lobbying for change at the State level was the key. He testified in advocacy of Harm Reduction ordinances in Clarkston and Atlanta. He tried in Temple but was met by a crowd of rabid Prohibitionists who hijacked the Town Hall meeting. Clarkston passed their ordinance, and the City hasn’t fallen into a sinkhole. Atlanta is still considering it and the upcoming Mayoral election has several candidates with pro-decriminalization planks in their platforms.

    What Now?

    I will miss talking to James. I’ll miss his counsel. I’ll miss his laugh. I’ll miss seeing him around the Capitol. I know in my heart, though that he would want us to carry on. No one can ever fill James’ shoes, but others will step up.  Others will ensure his legacy and work continue. I’ll be among them.

    Go rest high upon that mountain,
    Son your work on Earth is done

    I’ll see ya further on!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 19, 2017

    pa demsEarlier this month, citing racism, bigotry, and mass-incarceration, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party adopted a resolution to “support Democratic candidates and policies which promote the full repeal of cannabis prohibition by its removal from the Controlled Substances Act, and to support the creation of new laws which regulate it in a manner similar to other culturally accepted commodities.”

    The resolution was drafted by Derek Rosenzweig, long-time cannabis activist from Pennsylvania and former board member of PhillyNORML. This change in party policy comes as Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale continues to be a loud and active voice for state and held a seminar on legalization the day before the vote.

    Thanks to Derek and all of those working hard to change hearts, minds, and the law in Pennsylvania and throughout the country.

    Click here to send a message to your federally elected officials in support of HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act

    Read the full resolution below.

    Resolution – Platform Policy on the Legalization of Marijuana/Cannabis

    WHEREAS, The prohibition of cannabis was based on racism and bigotry, but not science or sound reasoning [Testimony of Harry J. Anslinger – Marihuana Tax Act of 1937; Findings of LaGuardia Committee & Shafer Commission]

    WHEREAS, The government, at all levels, regulates the legal sale of substances known through scientific rigor to be harmful or deadly to humans, by means other than the Controlled Substances Act

    WHEREAS, Cannabis is one of the most well-studied plants in human history [Google Scholar search for `”cannabis sativa” OR marijuana` produces 556,000 results]

    WHEREAS, As of September, 2017, the People and legislatures of 28 states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, have already legalized cannabis for medical purposes; 8 states (plus Washington D.C.) have ended prohibition on cannabis and have legalized, regulated markets for adult recreational use

    WHEREAS, Cannabis is regularly used safely and responsibly without medical supervision by almost two million Pennsylvanians [SAMHSA 2012: 20.2% respondents aged 15 and older use cannabis; PA 2010 Census 9,861,456 aged 15 or older]

    WHEREAS, Cannabis does not fit any of the criteria to be placed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act [Act of Apr. 14, 1972 P.L. 233, No. 64; Section 4-1]

    WHEREAS, Approximately 25,000 People are arrested per year for possession, sale, or cultivation of cannabis on a State and local level in Pennsylvania

    WHEREAS, The Commonwealth spends unknown millions of dollars per year enforcing prohibition policies

    WHEREAS, The current Auditor General of Pennsylvania has publicly called for the immediate legalization and regulation of cannabis specifically for judicial, criminal justice, and economic benefits

    WHEREAS, The black market resulting from the prohibition of cannabis is opaque to public entities, is
    totally unregulated, and is thus not a good outcome of policy

    WHEREAS, The prohibition of cannabis has had no meaningful positive effect, as it is widely available in
    the Commonwealth. In over 80 years, the prohibition of cannabis has not achieved its stated goals

    WHEREAS, Pennsylvanians have been arrested, imprisoned, fined, or otherwise punished and stigmatized
    resulting in lost productivity and quality of life for their possession or use of cannabis

    WHEREAS, Approximately 56% – 61% of Pennsylvanians support the full legalization of cannabis [May
    2017 Franklin & Marshall Poll; August 2017 Quinnipiac University Poll]

    WHEREAS, The DNC included support for legalization in the party platform in 2016

    NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED , to adopt an official platform position which recognizes the above facts about cannabis. The Party resolves that cannabis is safe enough, and ubiquitous enough in society, that it does not need to be restricted or prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act.

    NOW THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, to support Democratic candidates and policies which promote the full repeal of cannabis prohibition by its removal from the Controlled Substances Act, and to support the creation of new laws which regulate it in a manner similar to other culturally accepted commodities.

    Submitted by: ______________________ Cynthia Purvis
    Date: ______________

     

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 18, 2017

    First off – a huge thank you to all of those activists and chapter leads from around the country who came to DC to participate in our National Conference and Lobby Day.

    By the numbers:

    –     140+ attendees
    –     21 speakers
    –     5 members of Congress
    –     150+ congressional meetings
    –     1 goal: End marijuana prohibition.

    More to come as we follow up with our attendees and continue to build on the momentum generated (and have our photographer send us the rest of the pictures!).

    Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Maryland State Senator Richard Madaleno, and aide to Virginia State Senator Dave Marsden receive awards from the DMV NORML Coalition

    Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Maryland State Senator Richard Madaleno, and aide to Virginia State Senator Dave Marsden receive awards from the DMV NORML Coalition

    Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) addresses NORML citizens before they depart to their congressional meetings

    Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) addresses NORML citizens before they depart to their congressional meetings

    Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) met with NORML chapter leaders from around the country to discuss his legislation known as The Marijuana Justice Act

    Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) met with NORML chapter leaders from around the country to discuss his legislation known as The Marijuana Justice Act

    Some of the feedback from the lobby day we received:

    Mikel Weisser, Executive Director of Arizona NORML in a meeting with Senator Flake’s staffer, reported “She [Katie] is familiar with Endocannabinoid Receptor System. It is one of her policy issue areas. She said she did not know if the Senator was aware of the E.R.S., so I wrote a short note on [the] materials and she said she would show him.”

    In a meeting with Senator Casey’s staffer, Les Stark, head of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition reported “They are open to the issue but do not seem very bold. They don’t want to set too far ahead of the Pennsylvania legislature…we intend to follow-up.”

    Jane Preece, in a meeting with Senator Harris’s staffer, reported “Ms. Hira is smart and is interested in the recent research showing pot is safe and effective.”

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  • by Whoopi Goldberg September 5, 2017

    Whoopi GoldbergI’m writing to you with an urgent request: that you join me in telling Congress to protect lawful medical marijuana patients and programs from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Send a message to your member of Congress NOW

    Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, known as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    Thirty states have or are in the process of implementing a lawful market, serving millions of men, women, and children who depend on their medication.

    I started my company Whoopi and Maya so that women suffering from debilitating menstrual pain could find relief from a safe, natural product rather than turning to potentially addictive and dangerous pharmaceutical drugs.

    It is absolutely critical that we ensure these patients can continue to access their medicine.

    Attorney General Sessions and the Department of Justice should not put patients at risk! Stand with me and NORML in our fight to defend medical access to cannabis by writing your elected officials in support of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment today.

    Join me in sending a message to Congress now

    Thanks for all that you do,
    Whoopi

  • by Bailey Hirschburg, WA NORML Legislative Associate August 23, 2017

    Bailey-Hirschburg-LobbyistWASHINGTON STATE: For the first time Washington NORML had a regular lobbyist in Olympia this year. The truth is NORML has almost always been staffed by volunteer activists. That’s what I was, at a NORML chapter in Missouri, interning for NORML’s national office in Washington DC, and later as head of NORML’s Thurston County chapter. The reward I got from it was doing the right thing, great stories, and lifelong friends. (Oh, as an intern NORML reimbursed subway fare.)

    I was shocked when Kevin Oliver, the head of Washington NORML, said he’d raised some money to hire a lobbyist. But the professional he had in mind wanted it all, and didn’t believe the legislature would pass home growing of cannabis by adults, so wasn’t going to try. I promised to do it for much less, and give a damn about the things recreational consumers care about because I was one. I’ve lobbied as a citizen, but doing this as a job was another level.

    Lobbying part time along with a second job I got up close and personal with a lot of bills. What did I do, and what changed? My focus this session broke down into five areas:

    • Securing fair permitting for on-site cannabis use by for adults 21 and older. A draft bill to allow special permits for marijuana consumption events was drafted and shopped around to various members. Despite bipartisan interest failed to find a primary sponsor in time. However, a previous bill to allow cigar bars may be adapted to include marijuana on-site consumption. This leaves two avenues for social use, at a time that the policy is expanding among legal cannabis states.
    • Securing cannabis homegrow protections and establishing a system of seed/clone sale for adults 21 and older. Two bills were heard this session to legalize personal cultivation, HB 1092 & 1212. HB 1212 passed unanimously out of Commerce & Gaming, and through the Rules review to the Finance committee, the farthest any such bill has progressed in the state. I searched for a sponsor for a draft bill to allow seed/clone sales to adults, making the law continent on personal cultivation being enacted this year. Apathy in the state senate slowed progress along with lingering questions about enforcement needs and federal intervention. In SB5131, the LCB has been mandated to produce a report on personal cultivation for the legislature by December. Beyond submitting information and rallying stakeholders, WA NORML will be looking for the best ways to raise consumer influence in this report, without which, it’s recommendations may not be trustworthy.
    • Promote taxation/regulatory reforms that will benefit adult cannabis consumers. With the passage of an organic-like certification for cannabis products, legalized sharing/gifting of cannabis, expanded hemp access and use in consumer products, and regulation of infused edible production that is closer to other food industries, there are several ways in which the legal consumer will be better off with the changes in this session. Particularly the sharing/gifting of cannabis, while not a source of many arrests, remained a blindspot and common complaint against our legal framework.
    • Promote reforms that will increase access and security in the sale of medically affordable compliant cannabis to patients/caregivers.  Patient access to legal clones/seeds will be larger due to laws passed this year. Involving a rules process takes time, new laws will bring greater availability and stability to patients and caregivers producing their own medicine. Similarly to regular consumers, patients will also benefit from the organic-like certification, as recreational plant testing is often deemed inadequate for patient needs. Maddie’s Law, which would assist patient-students medicating on school property passed the house with broad support, and initially had senate momentum, but senate leadership halted progress and kept the bill from a floor vote. However, it’s simple change and broad popularity leave it well positioned to be addressed in the future, particularly as the U.S. Congress has maintained a ban on DEA interference in state-legal medical programs.
    • Working to improve legislation where possible and oppose when necessary. An unfortunate reality is that some of the biggest victories this year were stopping damaging bills or amendments. In other cases objections were ignored. Nonetheless, opposition to billboard bans, increased public consumption penalties, increased packaging/concentrate penalties, banning of bitcoin, and retail bans in Alcohol Impact Areas helped keep these issues from advancing. Other areas like out-of-state financial stake, or increased licensee fees were opposed but amended into other legislation. While not perfect, success in stopping bad legislation is crucial to stemming any prohibition resurgence.

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    Most of my efforts were on HB1212, HB1060, ESSB5131, and searching for sponsors for two draft bills on seed sale and social use permitting. I also testified, signed in with a position available to answer questions at legislative hearings, submitted written materials, or spoke with lawmakers about the following bills:

    Medical Cannabis Bills- 

    Pro: HB1098, HB1094, HB1060/SB5290, HB2021 Con: SB5933

    Recreational Cannabis Bill-

    Pro: HB1092, HB1099, HB1212, HB1124, HB1461/SB5323, HB1462 (enacted)/SB5324 Con: HB1416, HB1065, HB1151, SB5282 Other: HB1250 (enacted)

    Hemp Bills-

    Pro: HB1692 Other: HB2064 (enacted)

    Research/Misc. Bills-

    Pro: HB1895 Other: SB5131 (enacted)

    Changes from Enacted bills- 

    HB2064- Removing industrial hemp from the scope of the uniform controlled substances act.

    Removing hemp from Washington’s CSA is positive in that it makes an ecologically and industrially beneficial plant available. However it’s lack of rules damage long term viability of the industry and outdoor cannabis grows with the risk of cross-pollination, absence of certified seed programs, and absent research component as required by Sec. 7606 of the federal Farm Bill. Amendments in SB5131, and recent rules proposed by the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture, should establish some hemp licensing, research parameters, and use in marijuana products but a seed certification program still depends on some federal cooperation.

    HB1250- Authorizing retail marijuana outlets to give a free lockable drug box to adults age twenty-one years and over and to qualifying patients age eighteen years and over subject to restrictions.

    By updating RCW 69.50.357, this bill allows retailers to “donate the lockable boxes and provide the related literature to any person eligible to purchase marijuana products” that they receive from a third party entity. Nothing in the law requires person eligible to buy anything in order to receive a lockbox and literature, and retailers are allowed to sell lockboxes (assuming they weren’t donated to the retailer) as well as distribute lockboxes that have been donated. I lobbied for the term “upon request” to be added so that consumers who actively want to store cannabis in lockboxes will get them versus the first customer offered a free item.

    HB1462- Adding authority to the department of agriculture to regulate sanitary processing of marijuana-infused edibles.

    This bill creates an edible endorsement for processors and greater authority for the Dept. of Agriculture to regulate infused edibles similar to that agencies other food handling regulation. While edible production was within the scope of licensed processors with approved facilities, those licensees will now need this endorsement with a separate application/renewal process all edible sales. This will involve Dept. of Agriculture adopting rules specifically for marijuana edibles, with an understanding “Such rules must be written and interpreted to be consistent with rules adopted by the board [LCB] and the department of health.” By April 1st, 2018 rules will regulate edibles similar to other food handling licenses with some exceptions including:

    • issuance of the endorsement in lieu of a food processing license through the Dept. of Ag. business licensing system;
    • separate penalty schedule to operate in addition to the penalty schedule of the LCB;
    • must be obtained by any licensee that “processes, packages, or makes marijuana-infused edibles;”
    • endorsement renewal will coincide with marijuana processors license renewal, but must already hold processors license before initial issuance.
    • The licensee needs a separate endorsement for each location, and no facility can be used to process non-marijuana infused foods except “solely for tasting samples or internal product testing.”

    SB5131- Addressing provisions concerning marijuana with respect to research licenses, local authority notifications, the retail licensing application process, processor wholesale events, and jurisdictional requirements.

    Just signed into law by Gov. Inslee. I’ve written extensively on this bill for MJNewsNetwork, and have described it as “omnicannabis” because it is multiple bills addressing a wide variety of issues. Here’s a brief overview of what it does:

    -Medical Garden Access: Allows licensed marijuana producers to sell immature cannabis plants, clones, and seeds to qualifying patients who enter the state’s medical marijuana database. A close reading of Sec. 11 suggests authorized but unregistered patients may be able to buy seeds, this may be allowed or banned by LCB rules process.

       -Homegrow Report: The LCB must examine the viability of allowing recreational users to grow their own marijuana, with the enforcement priorities outlined in the Cole Memo as the central guidelines for their recommendation.

    -Retail License Limit: A retailer or individual “with a financial or other ownership interest in” a retail license can own up to five retail licenses.

    -Forfeiting Licenses: Require the LCB forfeit retail licenses which have been issued but are not operational and open to the public unless the delay is due to circumstances beyond the licensee’s control, for example if the licensee has been unable to open because of a local moratorium, ban, or because zoning, licensing or other regulatory measures prevent it from opening.

    -Gifting Marijuana: Adults can deliver marijuana each other in half the legal possession amounts so long as the pot is offered as a gift without financial remuneration so long as the marijuana shared is either in it’s original packaging, or not in public view.

    -Tribal Oversight: The LCB must get approval from a federally recognized Indian Tribe prior to granting a license on tribal land.

    -Licensing Contracts & Disclosure: Allow a licensees to enter into agreements or consulting contracts “with any individual, partnership, employee cooperative, association, nonprofit corporation, or corporation” for goods or services, trademarks, trade secrets or proprietary information. The agreement must be disclosed to the LCB, but various information and financial considerations are exempt from the state’s Public Disclosure Act.

    -Organic-Equivalent Pot: The LCB is instructed to adopt regulations for marijuana similar to products federally certified as organic. The LCB will implement regulations for marijuana to be grown similar to organic products. These products will have a uniform title and labeling.

    -Processing Hemp: The LCB must study the viability of letting licensed processors process industrial hemp. This may lead to legislation to allow processors to purchase plant material from farmers licensed to grow hemp.

    -Advertising: Significant changes focused on advertising to kids. Prohibits licensees from taking “any action directly or indirectly to target youth in the advertising, promotion, or marketing of marijuana and marijuana products, or take any action the primary purpose of which is to initiate, maintain, or increase the incidence of youth use of marijuana or marijuana products.” This includes prohibiting toys, movie/cartoon characters, or images that would pique underage interest in pot. It also bans using commercial mascots, as defined to mean “a live human being, animal, or mechanical device used for attracting the attention of motorists and passersby so as to make them aware of marijuana products or the presence of a marijuana business.” This covers staff in costume, inflatable tube displays, or sign spinners. Cities and counties can further restrict advertising, but must enforce extra limits themselves.

      -Billboards: A marijuana retailer may now only use a billboard to identify the name or nature of the business and directions to its location. Outdoor signs could not contain depictions of marijuana plants, products, or images that appeal to children. Outdoor advertising would be prohibited in “arenas, stadiums, shopping malls, fairs that receive state allocations, farmers markets, and video game arcades.” An exception allows outdoor advertising at adult-only events.

    As you see, I got a lot done, and I had help and support, but faced off with a lot of professional lobbyists whose careers or relationships in Olympia go a long way. There are bad lobbyists and corrupt special interests. But typically, with them comes big money and disproportionate influence. I talked with a woman earlier this year who said she wouldn’t trust any marijuana activist that got paid to lobby. I told her I understood, then shook her hand and told her I hoped she had just met one she could trust. I hope being open and clear about what I did, didn’t do, or hoped to do offers a small gesture that I mean well, even if I’m not the slickest salesman ever. Cannabis consumers care about fair influence after generations of laws being made ABOUT them but not WITH them.

    Are there other lobbyists publicize the oversight of themselves? Maybe, but I’ve never met any who did. In my first article about my lobbying here at MJNewsNetwork, I explained that you can find my lobbyist reporting to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission here: 

    I’m honored and humbled that any group would pay me to lobby for better pot laws. I dream of doing that more often than gaining online fame. But between my wife and me, we have a full time job, three part time jobs, and one car to get us to them. My payment from Washington NORML is a matter of record, and has been very generous, but it’s not making me rich.

    That’s fine, my getting rich is not the point. Our fight is far from over, but the battlefield is different, and organizing protests or petitions is costlier and won’t engage a voting public that largely finds pot accessible and available. Traditional lobbying carries risks, no doubt, and it’s not the same as flipping off the status quo for it’s many oppressive practices. But supporting consumer lobbying is going to get more wins in legal states than future statewide ballot efforts. The point is that the marijuana community should work together and support traditional lobbying in places with legal pot. It’s not as exciting or visible, but it’s crucial.

    The problem with gains is they have to be maintained. I’ll be speaking up for home grow, or any other legislation that makes sense next year, no matter what. I don’t know if WA NORML will have support to pay me, or anyone, to lobby. I’ll do what I can, but don’t know what time I’ll have left to do it. This has always been the struggle of volunteer activists, but these are gains worth maintaining, hopefully cannabis consumers will support WA NORML the way WA NORML has supported them (and me).

    Follow WA NORML of Facebook and Twitter

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