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Municipal

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 11, 2019

    Members of the New York City Council approved a pair of municipal bills this week limiting situations where those seeking employment or on probation may be drug tested for the past use of cannabis.

    Council members overwhelmingly voted in favor of a municipal proposal (No.1445) barring employers from drug testing certain job applicants for the presence of marijuana.

    The proposal states, “[I]t shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer, labor organization, employment agency, or agent thereof to require a prospective employee to submit to testing for the presence of any tetrahydrocannabinols or marijuana in such prospective employee’s system as a condition of employment.” Council members passed the bill by a vote of 40 to 4.

    Under the plan, employees seeking certain safety sensitive positions – such as police officers or commercial drivers – or those positions regulated by federal drug testing guidelines, would be exempt from the municipal law.

    The measure now awaits final approval from City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. The new rules would take effect one-year after being signed into law.

    Studies have identified the presence of the inert carboxy-THC metabolite in the urine of former marijuana consumers for periods of several months following their last exposure.

    Council members also advanced separate legislation (No. 1427) to the Mayor’s office limiting situations in which persons on probation may be drug tested. Once signed, the new rules will take immediate effect.

    A resolution (Res. 641) calling on the New York City officials to expunge the records of all city misdemeanor marijuana convictions is pending. New York City police made over 78,000 marijuana possession arrests between the years 2014 and 2017.

  • by NORML March 15, 2019

    Minor marijuana possession offenders will no longer be criminally prosecuted in Hennepin County, Minnesota, according to a new policy announced Thursday by County Attorney Mike Freeman. An estimated 1.2 million people live in the County, which includes the city of Minneapolis.

    Commenting on the new policy, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The Hennepin County Attorney is to be commended for taking this proactive stance. Branding individuals — many of whom are at an age when they are just beginning their professional careers — as lifelong criminals, and in some cases felons, for minor marijuana possession offenses results in a litany of lost opportunities including the potential loss of employment, housing, professional licensing, and student aid, and serves no legitimate societal purpose. This change is a recognition that marijuana criminalization is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern. But it should not be a criminal justice matter.”

    Under the policy, prosecutors will not criminally charge anyone for marijuana offenses involving the possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis. Rather, defendants will be ordered to complete a diversion program or partake in community service. Under state law, marijuana possession offenses involving over 42.5 grams are classified as felony offenses – punishable by up to a five-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.

    Under special circumstances, such as if the defendant possessed a firearm or is a habitual offender, prosecutors may still file criminal charges.

    Freeman said the policy change was necessary because he believes that the state law is overly punitive and produces racial disparities in incarceration rates. “My job is to determine if people are charged and how to spend my resources,” Freeman said. “Spending resources on these cases is just wrong.”

    The County Attorney for Ramsey County (population 500,000), which includes the city of St. Paul, enacted a similar policy earlier this year.

    Similar actions have been taken in recent months by prosecutors in Baltimore, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Norfolk, among other metropolitan areas.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director January 8, 2019

    Since the passage of Proposition 1, officially known as the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, which legalized the sale, possession, consumption and cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and up last November, members of Michigan NORML have encountered a new challenge: municipal opt-out. Similar to other states that have legalized adult-use marijuana like Colorado, California and Oregon, it’s up to municipal governments in Michigan to decide if legal marijuana businesses can operate within their communities.

    To date, more than 80 municipalities in Michigan have imposed moratoriums or outright bans on the sale of adult-use marijuana. In some cases, like with the city of Troy where residents opposed Proposition 1, it’s due to a lack of support for legal marijuana. In other cities, municipal governments are simply waiting until they have a better understanding of how the new law will be implemented by state lawmakers before exploring rules and regulations for local licensing.

    “I’m confident that many municipalities will opt-in after the State promulgates administrative rules and sample ordinance amendments are made available to municipal attorneys,” said Brad Forrester, Board Member of Michigan NORML. “Some of the municipal officials I’ve spoken with have expressed an interest, but they don’t really understand exactly how the process works and they said they’re awaiting guidance from State officials.”

    Considering many who supported Proposition 1 believed passage of the new law was going to eliminate underground marijuana sales by providing access to a legal and regulated alternative, the decision by municipal governments to opt-out of the sale of adult-use marijuana appears to undermine the intent of the initiative and expectations of voters. We’re at a tipping point in America with regard to public support for ending marijuana prohibition, but there’s still plenty of work to do, especially at the local level.

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Help dispel the myths and misinformation with NORML’s Fact Sheets! Follow Michigan NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

     

  • by Nevada NORML January 2, 2019

    With a new year on the horizon, members of Nevada and Las Vegas NORML wanted to take time to shine light on 18 of our most memorable moments from 2018. (It was hard to choose just 18!)

    January 2018: Protested Jeff Sessions

    We certainly didn’t expect the opportunity to protest Jeff Sessions alongside Congresswoman Dina Titus and State Senators Aaron Ford & Tick Segerblom at the Apothecary Shoppe Dispensary with every news outlet present, but it happened! We loved the chance to stand up for the State of Nevada and to be able to show our community that we are a strong voice of the people!

    February 2018: Dr. Dabber became a sponsor

    Yeah, that freaking happened! It was such an honor to have a company like Dr. Dabber, that we all know and respect, believe in our work and sponsor us! Together, we were able to provide record sealing services and great education throughout Las Vegas. They were even cool enough to offer hella deals to NORML members!

    January – March 2018: Partnering with Harrison House

    Throughout the earlier part of 2018, we had the great pleasure of volunteering for Harrison House, which was the 1st African American Guest House in Las Vegas during a very segregated time. In learning about Las Vegas’ history from a perspective that isn’t often discussed, we got a firm grasp on how marijuana has undisputedly been a tool used for oppression. This only reaffirmed that social justice needs to be a priority when discussing marijuana policy in this community. We participated in gardening and yard clean up at Harrison House, held a Black History month panel together, and helped with a Mardi Gras neighborhood celebration.

    April 2018: “Setting the Record Straight” Program

    Instead of hosting a 420 bash this past April, we decided to focus on having community impact through restorative justice. Finding lawyers like Garrett Ogata and Nick Wooldridge to refer prior marijuana conviction victims to, was invaluable! We created a dope set of resources to give to people interested in sealing their record and held an educational seminar educating them on the steps. We will continue to provide education on record sealing in Nevada throughout 2019 and help clients find financial assistance to do so when qualified!

    May 2018: Primary Voting Rally

    The 2018 midterms were NO JOKE. This was our first year dabbling in the candidacy aspects of things, but quickly learned the value of being an educated voter and focusing on primary elections. We held a press conference with our National NORML Political Director, Justin Strekal, a voter registration event at 7th & Carson in downtown Las Vegas, and even did phone banking to encourage voting in primaries all throughout May. It was amazing to see an increase in younger voters registering!

    June 2018: Collected 79 Candidate Surveys from across Nevada

    Nobody said it was going to be easy, and it definitely wasn’t, but it was really rewarding showing voters statewide how candidates felt on specific marijuana related issues. Because of the hard work from National NORML, we helped produce the Smoke the Vote platform for voters to refer to, and the feedback we got was incredible!

    July 2018: Social Use Venue Advocacy

    The City of Las Vegas began drafting ordinances for social consumption this year, and we were proud to show up and voice our concerns on the record. Although it has still not been remedied, Las Vegas NORML members advocated strongly against 24 hr surveillance fed directly to law enforcement and raised concerns about mixing cannabis with alcohol. This will continue to be an area we advocate for throughout 2019 because of the intersectionality with criminal justice reforms and consumer protections. We hope that with the introduction of social lounges, tourists and residents will both have legal places to consume!

    July 2018: Lobby Day in DC

    Each year, NORML activists from around the nation gather in D.C. to engage their lawmakers in marijuana policy reform. We are proud of the relationships we developed with Congress throughout this time and are confident that we can achieve great things together! D.C. can be an intimidating place, but we are loving the chance to navigate it again in 2019.

    August 2018: Public Meetings at Acres

    Earlier this year, Acres Cannabis Dispensary was kind enough to offer their space in the Underground to Las Vegas NORML and our members! Every first Wednesday of the month, we host a free educational meeting that is open to adults 21 or older.  A huge part of our mission includes providing education to the community, so having this valuable space has been a huge blessing!

    September 2018: Election Education & Voter Reinstatement

    This past election cycle, we focused really hard on not only educating the community, but our board too. We worked really closely with Aaron from Restore Your Vote to learn more about how those with a criminal history can reinstate their right to vote. It’s a very common misconception that if you had a past marijuana conviction, you are ineligible to vote in Nevada, but we found out this is not solely the case. We are truly passionate about being a voice for those who have lost hope and love being able to provide resources to help educate them.

    October 2018: Hung with Keith Stroup & National NORML

    It’s not everyday that the founder of NORML is in your hometown! It was an absolutely memorable experience to have Keith here to help us host a voter rally at the World Famous ‘Cannabition’ Cannabis Museum in downtown Vegas! We even had the pleasure of meeting several other members of the National NORML board, too. We consider it a great privilege that we were able to show them our city and more of our work on a local level!

    October 2018: Pumpkin Bongs at Cheba Hut

    Our cool friends over at Cheba Hut Toasted Subs let us throw down some pumpkin carving for our October Informal with NORML, and we ran with it! Who doesn’t make bongs and steamrollers out of fall vegetables?!

    November 2018: Jeff Sessions is OUT and Cannabis friendly legislators are IN!

    What a relief that Sessions’ is finally gone and we can start to progress Marijuana policy at the federal level. Cannabis friendly Governors and Commissioners are taking over Nevada and the West in general. We have a lot of conversations to have with new office holders, but it’s never been easier now that 66% of Americans support legalizing marijuana!

    November 2018: Herban Expo

    Las Vegas NORML was the education sponsor for the inaugural Herban Expo at the Rio and coordinated over 25 educational presentations and panels over the course of 3 days! It was really impressive to see how much our community came out to listen to the speakers and the engagement it created. Herban Expo will 100% be back in 2019!

    November 2018: 600 letters to Congress

    Yep, you read that right…We collected 600 physical letters to members of Congress with the help of Denver NORML in just one weekend in Las Vegas! We set a goal, and people like you helped us reach it by making a small effort to tell Congress that marijuana reform is important!

    December 2018: “Access for All” Patient Voucher Program

    It’s been truly challenging for us to figure out a way to help patients in the state of Nevada because of regulation often making it impossible to provide medicine to those who need it. We are so eternally grateful that we have finally found local businesses like Sweet Cannabis and The Source to help distribute cannabis to patients who qualify. We look forward to building this program out even more in 2019! Visit lvnorml.org/patients for more info

    And some year-long focuses we are especially proud of:

    Progression and development of media

    We were really fortunate to gain really talented media pros and graphic designers as volunteers this year to help us develop more interesting content. Hella props to friends like Rev from Rocester NORML and Mrs. Rex 420 here in Vegas for helping us design digital content this year! Weed TV, Vegas Cannabis Magazine and Kool Katz Media were also incredible blessings that have helped us astronomically with other media exposure this year!

    Growing our squad

    Grassroots activists are hard to come by these days, but it’s been clear that the 2018 Las Vegas NORML crew is no force to reckon with! The newly organized board, expert advisors, team of awesome volunteers & sponsors have been quickly gaining traction in the community and everyone is having a blast doing it! Las Vegas NORML volunteers are a diverse and passionate group of individuals that have worked tirelessly this past year to develop a positive reputation throughout the community. It is because of community members and new activists involvement that the organization continues to strengthen and grow!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director December 20, 2018

    While lawmakers in Albany continue to explore the intricacies of legalizing and regulating adult-use marijuana in New York, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced a plan to expunge low-level marijuana convictions from criminal records. In a recent interview with CBS New York, Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez had this to say. “I do not believe these cases keep us safer. They cause a lot of distrust in our justice system. We all here know there is a tremendous racial disparity in respect to how these cases have been enforced in the past.”

    Following the announcement from the District Attorney’s Office, David C.  Holland, Esq., Executive and Legal Director of Empire State NORML, weighed in on the DA’s decision. “Justice is being vindicated by District Attorney Gonzalez through his actions by openly acknowledging that cannabis was and is not the source of social ills or disruption. Rather, his actions continue to help the Empire State continue to move to responsible use legislation as communities and individuals most impacted by the misguided drug war may become innovators and leaders in this new green industrial era. ”

    For months, state legislators and officials with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office have been soliciting feedback from stakeholders and hosting roundtable meetings with the hope of drafting legislation for next year’s legislative session that’s scheduled to convene on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. In addition to discussions about tax revenues and health and public safety, many are urging lawmakers to include language that would allow for the expungement of past marijuana convictions and expansion of re-entry programs to those disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition.

    Most recently, Governor Cuomo outlined his agenda for 2019 which prioritizes the legalization of adult-use marijuana and establishment of a tax and regulate program. During his remarks, the Governor also expressed his full support for restorative justice provisions that would begin to address the many injustices of marijuana prohibition. With Democrats controlling both chambers of New York’s legislature, it’s likely Governor Cuomo will have the support he needs to deliver on his promise.

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Dispel the myths with the NORML Fact Sheets. For more information follow Empire State NORML on Facebook and Twitter and visit their website!

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