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  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director July 26, 2019

    The City of Jacksonville, Florida could join a growing list of cities around the country that have embraced a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level. Currently more than a dozen Florida municipalities have decriminalized the possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana including: Alachua County, Broward County, Cocoa Beach, Hallandale Beach, Key West, Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, Orlando, Osceola County, Palm Beach County, Port Richey, Tampa, Volusia County, and West Palm Beach County.

    Jacksonville Residents Click Here to Send a Message to your Council Representatives 

    Citing concerns about the collateral consequences of a marijuana charge and the disproportionate impact marijuana prohibition continues to have on communities of color, Council Member Garrett Dennis recently introduced the, “Jacksonville Civil Citation for Small Quantity Marijuana Possession Ordinance.” If approved, the ordinance would impose a $100 fine for possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana instead of jail time. 

    “During my reelection campaign, I spoke to many citizens whose lives were thrown into a downward spiral due to possessing minimal amounts of marijuana. Families were in debt because of legal issues, loss of employment or the inability to secure gainful employment; based on these misdemeanor arrests,” said Council Member Dennis. 

    Read more from First Coast News

    To support this effort, Council Member Dennis has announced a series of community meetings. Each meeting is free to attend and open to the public. 

    Date:  Saturday, July 27, 2019                                         

    Time: 10:30 a.m.

    Location: South Mandarin Library, 12125 San Jose Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32223

    Date: Monday, July 29, 2019

    Time: 6:00 p.m.

    Location: Bennie Furlong Senior Center, 281 19th Ave S, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250

    Date: Tuesday, July 30, 2019    

    Time: 6:00 p.m.

    Location: Legends Center, 5130 Soutel Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32208

    Date: Monday, August 5, 2019  

    Time: 6:30 p.m.

    Location: Webb Wesconnett Library, 6887 103rd Street, Jacksonville, FL 32210

    Click Here to Review NORML’s Decriminalization Report

           Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Dispel the myths with the NORML Fact Sheets. Follow NORML on FacebookInstagram and Twitter and become a member today!

                                                                                                                              

  • by Jamie Kacz, Executive Director of NORML KC July 16, 2019

    Things are heating up in Kansas City!

    We are happy with the outcome of Kansas City’s Council vote to reduce the buffer zone from daycares, churches and schools to 300ft. We appreciate the Councilmembers hearing our testimony and taking our concerns into consideration. We look forward to working with them again in the future. Thank you to newly elected Mayor Quinton Lucas for working with us on this. THANK YOU to everyone who called, emailed, tweeted, texted, and who showed up to give public testimony over the last few weeks. It’s incredible what a small group of supporters can accomplish when we come together!

    From the The Kansas City Star: “The ordinance passed Thursday places medical marijuana facilities a minimum of 300 feet away from schools, churches and day care facilities. Cultivators, manufacturers and testers face the same distance requirement for day care facilities and churches, but they must be at least 750 feet from schools.”

    Patient Seminars II – Home Cultivation and Compliance 

    Are you planning to cultivate your own medical cannabis or interested in being a caregiver? Please make plans to join us for our Patient Seminar II: Home Cultivation and Compliance. We will be breaking all of this information down into easy-to-understand steps. Join us at the 18th Street Union on July 20, from 2pm-4pm. This location is accessible and the general public is welcome to attend. We will also be discussing chapter updates, continued efforts and upcoming events.

    Our Special Guest Speakers Will Be:

    Kevin Mahmalji is the national outreach director for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

    As a registered medical marijuana patient in the state of Colorado, Kevin has been growing marijuana for almost a decade. Most of his work has been from seed, both regular and feminized, but has also grown from clone. Much of his growing experience has been indoor, but recently expanded to try his luck with Colorado’s unpredictable outdoor growing season.

    As a self-taught grower, Kevin has real world experience with each stage of the marijuana plant’s life cycle. From germination and seedlings, to vegetative and flowering, he has the proven knowledge to sustain a perpetual harvest and maximize yields. In 2015 Kevin used his knowledge of cultivating marijuana to organize Colorado’s first home grow safety symposium, which brought together top breeders, respected growers and processors and other thought leaders to explore the world of personal cultivation.

    Paul Anderson is a licensed lawyer and experienced litigator in the state of Missouri. He helped pioneer one of the most prominent battles in sports – the NFL and NCAA Concussion Litigation.

    Medical marijuana is of special interest to Paul since he knows firsthand the devastating effects traumatic brain injuries have had on his clients and the public. The promising medical literature points to cannabis as being a tool to combat and treat brain injuries. With the passage of Amendment 2, Paul intends to be at the forefront of accelerating access to qualifying patients.

    Be sure to Save the Date for our Summer Seminars III (Cannabis and Mental Health) on August 17 

    We are looking for volunteers to help at The Whole Person’s Main Street Music Festival, on July 27. We have shifts available throughout the day to help at our booth.  For more information, please email us at newnormlkc@gmail.com

    Are you a business owner who would like to sponsor one of our upcoming meeting or events? Contact us at newnormlkc@gmail.com. Please consider making a donation to help us further marijuana law reform and continued community and patient education.

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Help dispel the myths with NORML’s Fact Sheets! For more information follow NORML KC on Facebook, and visit our website!

     

  • by Mary Kruger, Executive Director, Roc NORML May 24, 2019

    Rochester-based organizations and community groups today released a new report that comprehensively outlines continued racial disparities in marijuana enforcement in the City of Rochester and Monroe County.

    According to the report, which is based on data from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services from 2010 to 2018, the vast majority of people arrested for low-level marijuana possession in the City of Rochester were Black (81%) — despite the fact that there are comparable numbers of Black and white residents living in Rochester and government reports consistently show that black and white people consume marijuana at similar rates.

    The new report also documents how Monroe County has one of the highest arrest rates for low-level marijuana-related offenses in New York State: Monroe ranks fifth-highest by county for low-level marijuana possession (outside of NYC). For every one white person arrested for low-level marijuana possession in Monroe County, there are four Black people arrested for that charge, despite white people comprising the majority population in the county and comparable rates of use.

    This report comes as Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and the Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger are working to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S.1527/A.1617) this year, which would include legalizing and regulating cannabis for adult-use in New York, centered in justice and equity for victims of the War on Drugs.

    This legislation has the potential to boost New York State’s economy by potentially creating a $1.7 to $3.5 billion industry that focuses on local businesses and creates total employment between 30,700 and 43,400 employees. At the same time, the bill would redirect tax revenue from a legal industry towards various programs that redress harms from the War on Drugs, while also increasing and improving public education and treatment programs geared towards responsible use, reducing overdoses, and saving lives.

    Leading Rochester organizations Roc NORML, Metro Justice, and VOCAL-NY have been working in Rochester and Albany to raise the extreme racial disparities in marijuana policing and organizing to change local policies, including working with the Rochester City Council, which released a letter in support of marijuana legalization and justice and urged state representatives to take action.

    The leaders say it’s time to stop the ineffective and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition and to bring an end once and for all to the ongoing harms that marijuana prohibition causes families – while also reinvesting tax revenue in the communities that have been most harmed.

    Advocates point to how in the face of extreme racial disparities in arrests, the mayors of NYC and Buffalo chose to end or de-prioritize low-level marijuana possession related arrests. District Attorneys in NYC, Syracuse, Albany, Buffalo, and Westchester, and more have said they should stop prosecuting these offenses.

    Unfortunately, Mayor Warren of Rochester and District Attorney Doorley of Monroe County haven’t taken any of these actions. The City of Rochester police department is still arresting for low-level marijuana possession, and the District Attorney’s office is still prosecuting for these offenses. These numbers speak for themselves and with Rochester being the third largest city in New York, it’s time we join the rest of the state in advancing marijuana justice.

    The Rochester advocacy groups are hosting a series of community education and outreach events to mobilize support for immediately passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S.1527/A.1617), known as MRTA, this legislative session in Albany.

    The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will better serve community well-being, equity, justice, and public health across New York by:

    • Regulating cannabis and creating a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol for adults over the age of 21.
    • Clearing prior cannabis-related criminal records and addressing additional devastating impacts of marijuana criminalization in the fields of immigration, family law, housing, and employment.
    • Protecting youth – particularly young people of color, who continue to be disproportionately impacted – by both eliminating a common reason for introduction to the criminal justice system and preventing access to marijuana through a regulated market.
    • Safeguarding safety and public health through advertising restrictions, stringent quality control, harm reduction options, and public education.
    • Creating tax revenue that will be directed to repairing the harm caused by the war on drugs, school-based prevention efforts, job training, and youth development programming.
    • Establishing a licensing structure designed to create a favorable environment for small businesses and family-scale farmers, which creates space for entrepreneurial efforts to be launched in small towns and rural areas, as well as disproportionately impacted communities across the state.

    Despite New York’s Marihuana Reform Act of 1977 that decriminalized low-level marijuana possession, there have been more than 800,000 arrests made in the last 20 years in the state.

    Statewide in 2018, Black and Latinx people comprised of 81.3% of all low-level marijuana arrests, despite making up 34.5% of the state’s population. The impact of criminal convictions on educational, employment, and other life opportunities – especially for young people, who comprise nearly two-thirds of all low-level marijuana arrests, despite being only one-third of the state population — can be severe, even for minor marijuana offenses.

    Racial disparities in marijuana enforcement continue to be extreme across the state as well. In 2017, in the main upstate cities, black people were 12.1 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people; Latino people were 6.4 times more likely. In the rest of the state in 2017 (outside of NYC and the main Upstate cities), black people were 11.2 times more likely to be arrested while Latino people were 5.2 times more likely. Additionally, in upstate cities the number of marijuana arrests resulting in a jail sentence increased from 9.8 percent to 17.8 percent in 2016.

    The only way to begin to unravel this legacy of disparate impact is to move marijuana into a fully regulated market at the state level.

    If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Mary Kruger at 585-469-6731, or email at rocnorml@rocnorml.org.

  • 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.

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