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Citizen Lobbyists

  • by NORML February 18, 2020

    It’s been three years and counting but President Trump is once again threatening to derail the progress we’ve made in reforming marijuana laws across this country. The latest offense is his recently released 2021 federal budget proposes slashing all legal protection for state medical marijuana programs and potentially jeopardizing the patients that rely on them.

    Because cannabis is still illegal under federal law, the DEA and other federal law enforcement would be able to use federal funds to shut down medical marijuana programs. We’ve largely been able to include an amendment to the annual federal budget that would prevent the Department of Justice to utilize any of their funds to go after medical marijuana programs, their compliant operators, and the patients that depend on those programs, but this new budget proposal puts all of that at risk.

    Sign our petition to demand Congress protect state-legal medical marijuana programs.

    We all know that patients are not criminals and that marijuana indisputably has medical value when it comes to treating a wide range of ailments, but Trump’s proposed federal budget would reprioritize law enforcement and prosecutors to target medical marijuana at the state level. 

    Despite Trump mentioning during his campaign that he supported medical marijuana and a general states rights approach to cannabis policy, his presidency has consistently proven these words to ring hollow. 

    Sign our petition, and make it crystal clear to our representatives that if they support this budget, we will not support them. 

    The data speaks for itself. It is not an alternative fact that medical marijuana has been proven to provide important benefits. No patient should have to worry about losing access to cannabis treatment options. 

    Thanks for being in the fight with us,

    NORML

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator February 11, 2020

    2019 was a record year for marijuana reform, with more NORML chapters holding lobby days than ever before. With the 2020 legislative session already in full swing in many states, NORML chapters across the country are organizing lobby days to advocate for sensible reform policies in their state. Here’s what’s been scheduled so far, past and future (This post is constantly being updated in real time as more information becomes available):

    Virginia 2020 Cannabis Lobby Day

    On January 13, Virginia NORML, along with eight more regional NORML chapters will lobby state lawmakers in Richmond in support of decriminalizing minor marijuana possession. Please sign up in advance if you plan to attend! Meetings will begin at 9am.

    Delaware Citizens’ Cannabis Lobby Day XXV

    On January 16, join Delaware NORML at 10:30am at the 2nd Floor Senate Hearing Room – Legislative Hall in Dover. We need the 61% of Delawareans who support legalization to stand with us to end cannabis prohibition in the 1st State. Delaware doesn’t have voter initiative like the other states, so citizen lobbying is the ONLY way to legalize cannabis in Delaware.

    Florida NORML Lobby Days

    On January 16, Florida NORML chapters will head to Tallahassee (Florida Capitol, Third Floor Rotunda) to lobby for marijuana legalization to include home cultivation, cafes, cultivation centers, and fair and equitable business entrance fees. Reciprocity and expansion of the medical marijuana program are also priorities for 2020.

    NORML Women of WA 4th Annual Lobby Day

    on January 20, Join NORML Women of Washington for our 4th Annual Lobby Day, at the State Capitol in Olympia at 9am. Meet up with amazing, passionate women from across the state and engage directly in democracy. Please sign up in advance so your meetings can be scheduled for you.

    KY4MM & KY NORML 2020 Lobby Days

    On January 22 and 23, join Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana and Kentucky NORML members at our Cannabis Lobby Days in Frankfort, KY to advocate for our comprehensive cannabis reform and forge a unified front with the to show the legislators there that action on reform must take place.

    During KY4MM and KY NORML Cannabis Lobby Days, members, advocates, patients, veterans, the sick and the healthy from across our Commonwealth descend on Kentucky’s Capitol to tell their stories and advocate for much needed reforms. Never been a citizen lobbyist before? We make it easy by offering training sessions before the event and on-site.

    2020 #MarijuanaJustice Lobby Days

    On January 28, The Start SMART New York Campaign, which includes several NORML chapters across the state, will host the first of a number of lobby days before the budget vote in Albany. Please save the following dates if you want to join the campaign up in Albany: February 12th, March 24th.

    Maryland Cannabis Policy Lobby Day

    On February 4, join Maryland NORML in Annapolis to lobby for cannabis legalization in Annapolis! Other priorities include expanding the decriminalization threshold and allowing medical cannabis access for patients at school.

    We STILL have work to do in Springfield – Lobby Day 2020

    On February 4, join Chicago NORML in Springfield to expand upon the tremendous gains from cannabis legalization in Illinois. The bus to Springfield leaves Chicago at approximately 6am and will return at 7pm. Lunch is included. Save your seat now!

    Patients First: Rallying to Fix Medical Marijuana in PA

    On February 5, Lehigh Valley NORML’s fourth MMJ Patients’ Rights Protest will take place in Harrisburg. For this protest we will assemble inside the Capitol Rotunda for a Rally and Lobbying efforts. This will be the next effort, fighting for patients’ rights. They intend to introduce the Patients’ Bill of Rights, and its Legislative supporters.

    Lobby Day HB 1089 Employee Lawful Off-duty Activity

    On February 19, join Colorado NORML in lobbing for a bill to prohibit an employer from terminating an employee for the employee’s lawful off-duty activities that are lawful under state law even if those activities are not lawful under federal law, such as cannabis consumption.

    Memphis NORML Lobby Day

    On February 25, join Memphis NORML in Nashville to lobby for sensible marijuana reform in Tennessee. Let your lawmakers know its time to #FreeThePlant and let us have our medicine! We will be standing outside with signs, as well as, making meetings with our representatives.

    Missouri NORML Lobby Day

    On February 26, join Missouri NORML in Jefferson City at 11:00 AM, in a room in the Capitol (to be determined). We will be briefed on pending bills & meet with some legislators. We will lobby until 3:00 PM. We will meet afterwards at Arri’s Pizza, across the street, shortly after 3:00 PM to review our work & eat/drink.

    Wyoming NORML Lobby Day 2020

    On February 28, join Wyoming NORML in showing support for cannabis law reform by meeting your representatives in Cheyenne at the newly remodeled capitol building!

    Delaware Citizens’ Cannabis Lobby Day XXVI

    On March 17, join Delaware NORML to help legalize cannabis for all adults 21 and older. Orientation begins at 10:30am at Legislative Hall, 411 Legislative Ave. Dover, Delaware 19901.

    Cal NORML / ASA Lobby Day

    On May 4, California NORML chapters, along with Americans for Safe Access will lobby for cannabis reform at the Capitol Event Center in Sacramento.

    This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

  • by Matthew Bratcher, Executive Director, KY NORML January 31, 2020

    Proponents of cannabis reform in Kentucky had an opportunity to have their voices heard at the legislative level on January 22nd and 23rd.

    Advocacy groups including Kentucky’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (KY NORML), Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana (KY4MM) and Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition (KCFC) organized advocacy day activities in Frankfort.

    Kentuckians throughout the commonwealth traveled to the Capitol Annex to participate in meetings with more than 80 legislators in an attempt to persuade lawmakers to vote to pass medical cannabis legislation as proposed in House Bill 136 sponsored by state Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, or as the emerging trend is becoming with Kentucky’s legislators, thanking them for their support.

    “It’s time in Kentucky for people who will be helped by medical marijuana to have access to it,” Nemes said in a recent interview. “It allows physicians if they think their patients will benefit from medical marijuana, to make a recommendation to the patient so they can get it.”

    “Out of state lobbyists are certainly trying to influence medical cannabis legislation in their favor and not in the interests of our patients here in Kentucky. Citizens need to let their lawmakers know how they feel about these issues. Organizing events like these helps get the people in front of their legislators so they can hear their opinions. They are there to represent their constituents, after all. That’s why it is so vital that our citizens, activists, and patients show a united front and let their voices be heard on HB136 as well as the other cannabis bills in Frankfort.” said KY NORML Executive Director Matthew Bratcher.

    Bratcher recommends advocates who visit or have a call with their legislators to be polite and respectful regardless of differing political opinions between constituents and elected officials.

    During the 2020 Advocacy Days, KY NORML hosted The Real Cannabus, operated by Enlighten, a Bowling Green-based cannabis technology company. The bus is a state-of-the-art rolling dispensary showroom meant to showcase Enlighten’s high-tech line of dispensary products, as well as educate people on the safety and regulations enacted in a regulated cannabis market. Lawmakers were encouraged to take a private tour of the Cannabus to experience it firsthand, and many took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the industry as well as safety protocols that are implemented in other states to prevent diversion.

    At the conclusion of Advocacy Days, KY NORML, KY4MM, and KCFC hosted a networking event at All Things Hemp, a CBD Health and Wellness store located in downtown Frankfort. The networking event included discussions about what was learned during Advocacy Days, the next steps for medical cannabis legalization, a summary of other upcoming cannabis-related legislation, and a path forward for cannabis reform.

    Over the course of the two-day lobbying effort and the following days, Sen. Steve West, D- Paris, introduced the companion bill to HB136, Senate Bill 107. Sen. West was joined by 10 of his colleagues in the Senate in co-sponsoring the bill. SB107 was then sent to the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, mirroring the path of HB136 through the House. Momentum in the House of Representatives has kept going, with House Bill 136 gathering 45 sponsors, consisting of almost half of its chamber’s members.

    KY NORML encourages Kentuckians who support medical cannabis reform to fill out to write your legislator or to call the legislative hotline at 1-800-372-7181. Callers must provide their name and zip code and are able to leave a message for lawmakers in support of medical cannabis reform and any other cannabis-related issue such as cannabis decriminalization in this legislative session.

  • by Josh Kasoff, Nevada NORML January 29, 2020

    Although we’re only one month into the Roaring 20’s, Nevada NORML has already hit the cannabis advocacy ground running at full sprint. Following a wild and groundbreakingly successful 2019 with several memorable events across both The Battle Born State and the nation as a whole, Nevada NORML wanted to ensure that their operations in 2020 surpassed even that of the previous year. After coming down from the high of coordinating all the panels for the CBD.io convention and hosting a festive Happy Holidays party at Nuwu’s historic cannabis consumption lounge, taking it to an even higher level in 2020 was absolutely vital.      

    Starting within the first few days of the year, Las Vegas NORML hosted their monthly meeting with a very special guest and a representative who’s become a huge legislative champion for cannabis, Assemblyman Steve Yeager. During the meeting, Yeager spoke about the new pieces of cannabis legislation signed by Governor Sisolak from the 2019 legislative session that Nevada NORML was instrumental in the passing of, such as Assembly Bill 132 and 192. As usual, Acres Underground was packed to capacity with passionate volunteers who span from across the cannabis community and those new faces eager to learn about cannabis advocacy.

    On January 22nd in the state-of-the-art Cannabis Business Den in the heart of Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada NORML then hosted the first meeting of their extensive campaign for the countless elections occurring throughout all branches of government in November, lovingly called Smoke The Vote. During the meeting, Madisen, Executive Direcor, and Tina, Communications Director, spoke about how to register, the various strategies throughout Nevada that NORML and the many volunteers will be using for mass voter registration and awareness for further cannabis reform within the state and desperately needed reforms on the federal level.

    “Smoke the Vote has been a strong national campaign by NORML for years, and we here in Nevada are proud to do our part to contribute to it.” says Nevada NORML Director Madisen Saglibene. “By building bridges between consumers, industry, and government officials, we anticipate extremely high participation in the 2020 election cycle and beyond.”

    The innovative ways in which Nevada NORML will be finding consumers and turning them into new voters and volunteers will be vast far reaching across the state. 

    “Through partnerships with local dispensaries along with other supporters, we will be popping up at various locations to spread the word about the voter registration process. As we get closer to November, we will be providing voters with a scorecard based on candidates positions on cannabis reform. We look forward to working with candidates and consumers alike to work towards sensible solutions within marijuana policy.” describes Saglibene. 

    And just this past weekend, Las Vegas NORML ventured to visit friends up north, Reno NORML, and assist in their defining activities over the weekend. While there, Nevada NORML exhibited its true strength for providing the unique blend of cannabis culture and cannabis advocacy at Hookava hookah bar. And to their credit, Reno NORML hosted an inaugural fundraiser/party this past Saturday with a turnout and an exhilarating energy that could easily match any party at a hookah bar in Vegas. 

    “The amount of people that came together for our very first fundraiser to support responsible cannabis use was unbelievable.” described Reno NORML Treasurer, Heather Carona. “It was a great kickoff event for NORML officially coming to Northern Nevada and was an opportunity to share what we are about. So many vendors and people were willing to offer their time, and products for raffles or sponsorships. It was very inspiring.”

    To document, a couple of Reno NORML volunteers put together a video of the event, perfectly detailing the success of the fundraiser. 

    “NORML is tat he core of legal cannabis and we are at the forefront. Our first fundraiser’s success shows how hungry the community is for cannabis law reformation. History is being made.” said Reno NORML Communications Director, Conchita Maberry. 

    With events focusing on everything from the next steps in the Smoke The Vote campaign to Black History Month and the racial injustices that have come with cannabis prohibition, February is guaranteed to be one to remember and especially one to become involved in.

  • by Chris Goldstein, Regional NORML Organizer January 28, 2020

    Preliminary data*, released on request from the Pennsylvania State Police Uniform Crime Reporting System, reveals that overall arrests for marijuana possession showed a decline in 2019.

    In 2018 there were nearly 24,000 adults arrested for less than 30 grams of cannabis. The new data shows 19,990 adults arrested for the same offense in 2019.

    Chris Goldstein, a writer and regional organizer for NORML, has gathered Pa. cannabis arrest data since 2008. He called this “a significant shift.”

    “Previously, there were steady annual increases in arrests for cannabis possession – thousands more every year – while other drug arrests had plateaued. Now, there is a clear downward trend in arresting marijuana consumers.”

    “This is likely the result of two major policy changes: More than twenty decriminalization or penalty downgrade ordinances passed by city councils across the Commonwealth, and approximately a quarter of a million registered medical marijuana patients,” said Goldstein.

    Philadelphia instituted civil fine tickets in 2014, starting a wave of municipal action to stem cannabis arrests. The largest cities followed suit such as Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Erie and York. Most recently, in January, Norristown joined the list. Pennsylvania began offering registration for the medical cannabis program in 2017.

    Lehigh Valley NORML Executive Director Jeff Riedy helped pass several ordinances, and noted that Allentown’s has yet to be implemented.

    “We are clearly going to legalize marijuana and tax it here in the Keystone State, so we should stop these arrests right now,” said Reidy.

    Andy Hoover, spokesperson for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said that the data shows incremental progress but more remains to be done.

    “At the very least, this means less people who are cannabis consumers are getting tied up in the criminal legal system. That’s a positive,” Hoover said. “The damage that is done when a person is arrested is significant, and it’s people of color who are disproportionately impacted, despite the fact that cannabis consumption is the same across races. Ultimately, the state legislature can stop these arrests from happening altogether by wiping marijuana possession from the commonwealth’s criminal law. For now, at least police in Pennsylvania are arresting fewer people.”

    Although the data points to a promising new trend, Pennsylvania still ranks in the top five states where cannabis consumers face frequent arrest and prosecution. A recent report from Pew Research noted that Northeast states account for 53 percent of the nation’s 663,000 marijuana arrests –  9 out of 10 were for possession.

    Reporting from every corner of Pennsylvania has documented the injustices happening every day:

    • Police aggressively searching property, vehicles and people on the premise of marijuana.
    • Those who face arrest or even summary offenses for possession are often made to undergo questionable and expensive drug treatment programs to avoid further prosecution.
    • Constant THC testing sending people into an endless cycle of probation violations.
    • Cannabis consumers – even registered medical patients –  regularly enduring deep discrimination by property owners and employers.

    NORML Chapters and policy reform groups across the commonwealth are calling for immediate action from the General Assembly, Governor Tom Wolf, and Attorney General Josh Shapiro stop police from targeting more than a million local cannabis consumers for arrest and discrimination.

    “Marijuana prohibition will end in Pennsylvania. Law abiding cannabis consumers deserve better than getting arrested right until the moment we’re taxed,” said Lehigh Valley NORML’s Jeff Reidy.

    * Preliminary data as released on request from the PAUCRS, these numbers may change slightly when the Annual Uniform Crime Report is published in the fall. 

    For more information, please contact Jeff Riedy, 610-533-0906, lehighvnorml@gmail.com or NORML Regional Organizer Chris Goldstein 609 726 6030.

    Lehigh Valley NORML is a local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a non-profit organization, fighting to reform cannabis laws nationwide. Their efforts include education, community outreach, and working with lawmakers.

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