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Community Organizing

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator June 12, 2019

    NORML in New JerseyNORML New Jersey stormed the halls of the state legislature during Monday’s press conference, rally, and lobby day to help break the legalization deadlock and demand that state lawmakers take action in support of adult use cannabis legalization in the Garden State.

    The crowd of activists and press heard from NORML’s state policy team, the ACLU-NJ, medical cannabis patients, and others who have been adversely impacted by New Jersey’s unjust cannabis policies on issues such as regulating sales, expunging past records, home cultivation rights, and more.

    Efforts to legalize cannabis in New Jersey have stalled in recent months as Senate and Assembly leadership negotiated details of the proposed legislation with Governor Murphy, who campaigned on the issue and pledged to enact legalization within his first 100 days in office. No action has been taken on the bill since a joint committee vote in November 2018.

    Members of the Senate and Assembly were scheduled to vote on the measure in March, but the vote was ultimately delayed due to a lack of the required number of votes to approve the measure in the Senate.

    On the same day, the Senate and Assembly approved legislation to expunge past records for certain cannabis possession offenses, which now heads to Governor Murphy’s desk.

  • by Chris Goldstein, NJ NORML Organizer June 8, 2019

    To join Chris and other New Jersey residents in calling for action on marijuana reform, attend NORML’s rally and lobby day in Trenton, NJ on Monday, June 10th. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

    A burning joint, pleasantly fragrant and wrapped in organic hemp paper, rests between my fingers. I am pondering the reality of war continuing against me for this choice. Like many, I bear scars.

    Marijuana smokers and medical cannabis patients in New Jersey are to remain second class citizens. The two-ring, bipartisan political circus in Trenton has failed to deliver a promise of our freedom… again.

    Now, we are essentially being held at gunpoint, by the police, until the very moment we are expected to pay out hundreds of millions in taxes. And that day could be as far out as 2022.

    Legislators, under the leadership of Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D- Gloucester), have frittered away every opportunity to come to our rescue. Legalization is on hold. Decriminalization isn’t really being entertained. Opposition pols, like Senator Ronald Rice (D-Newark), introduced a bill that would attempt to force us cannabis consumers into drug treatment if the cops catch us with a few grams.

    We get the message this time; loud and clear: Ending injustice is not a priority.

    Police departments from Hoboken to Cape May are gearing up to have a field day this summer. Young adults age 18-29, people of color, and tourists are targeted for marijuana arrests.

    Prosecutors will face a glut of cases in the fall. A lucrative handcuffs-to-treatment pipeline of unlucky young cannabis consumers is already flowing.

    Cannabis industry lobbyists have actually confided to me that they think NJ’s increasing possession arrests (more than 32,000 per year as of 2016) help their cause. I disagree. Emphatically.

    Everyone talking about the money that comes with legalization –  profits, taxes, stock launches – should be more worried about the welfare of their customers. We can’t spend any of our disposable income on marijuana if we’re all on supervision.

    Right now, our Garden State is putting 90 people into handcuffs every day for less than 50 grams of weed; more than for all other drugs, combined. For every single person behind those numbers, this is the start of a hugely negative experience in their lives; something that could take years to fix.

    While the expungement bills offer a good start at repairing some of the damage, it seems like a backward effort when the very same records are still being generated at such prodigious rates.

    It’s difficult not to be a cynical stoner after my experience in Trenton over the last few weeks.

    Politicians dropped press releases on Friday afternoons followed by numerous last-minute bill amendments, then lightning-fast hearings and floor votes.

    Declan O’Scanlon (R-Red Bank) was promising home cultivation for medical patients. Annette Quijano (D-Hudson) was floating $50 civil fines for possession. Others were touting clean slates for weed.

    I put on my suit and prepared testimony for a rainy Monday session. There was no chance at appearing before three committees in both chambers, all happening almost simultaneously. It was a joke for a citizen. For top-dollar lobbyists though, it was like Christmas.

    After the fast flurry of paper was over, home cultivation was gone, civil fines did not have a Senate sponsor, and expungements were on hold.

    Meanwhile, huge sections from the full weed legalization bill (S2703) were cut, copied, and pasted into a bill addressing medical marijuana regulatory concerns (A10) – The Jake Honig Act, named after a severely ill boy who died last year. Jake’s bill had actually been moving steadily through both chambers since 2018. Now it’s been hijacked.

    Right under the noses of voters, Sweeney and the Assembly Majority pulled off an impressively fast bait-and-switch.

    Utilizing S2703’s (the full legalization bill’s) language a new Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be created. The decade-old medical cannabis program will also be taken away from the NJ Department of Health, itself managed by Governor Phil Murphy’s appointees. It seemed like a political one-two-punch.

    The pragmatic tweaks to former Governor Chris Christie’s restrictive program rules contained within A10 became side-notes. Now, Jake’s bill is more about complex corporate structuring, grandfathering provisions for the current medical marijuana operating permit holders, and the start of larger-scale, wholesale production. Some lobbyists said it was the groundwork for adult-use.

    From my view, it was a total giveaway to the heavily salivating cartel of corporate cannabis operators who’ve been parked on just six permits all these years. Many have deep political connections.

    For instance, several former Christie appointees still own a medical cannabis garden and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) – the Majority Whip – serves as a shareholder and an attorney for state-regulated dispensaries in NJ and several other states.

    And yet, Sweeney and other top NJ Democrats have been stalling legalization since Gov. Phil Murphy was elected in 2016. We’ve been told, ad nauseum, there weren’t enough votes to pass a bill regulating cannabis with a separate commission. It sailed through an Assembly floor 65-5-6, and then easily won Senate approval.

    Now, some in Trenton are threatening to send a non-binding ballot question on legalization to voters before they make a move. Bring it.

    We, the cannabis consumers of New Jersey, welcome a chance to help end harassment, discrimination, and pure injustice. We are also likely to replace many long-time incumbents during our surge to the polls.

    Marijuana prohibition is a tragedy of policy. Two state legislatures, Vermont and Illinois, have ended it. The outright oppression of increasing arrests demands that New Jersey be next.

    If this legislature can’t deliver, we will smoke them out of office.

    Chris Goldstein is a 20-year marijuana legalization activist with NORML; columnist, educator, Quaker meditation practitioner, and fisherman from South Jersey. Twitter @freedomisgreen

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director June 7, 2019

    Every day NORML Chapters from around the country invest countless hours in advocating for meaningful marijuana law reforms on the local, state and federal level! Below is a brief rundown of some of their most recent accomplishments.

    NORML Announces Plans for 2019 Conference and Lobby Day

    “This September, we invite you to join NORML members from across America to learn effective strategies, hear the latest scientific and political advancements, and meet in person with influential members of Congress.”

    Read more from NORML.org!

    Follow NORML on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and become a member today!

    NORML Leaders in the Media

    Radio: Chris Morrow, Executive Director, Kansas NORML

    Radio: Kiana Hughes, Educational Director, Chicago NORML

    Radio: Mary Kruger, Executive Director, Rochester NORML

    Radio: Mary Kruger, Executive Director, Rochester NORML

    Alan Robinson, Executive Director, Wisconsin NORML

    “It’s not adversarial,” Robinson said. “It’s always us trying to provide information for them, us trying to be an informational resource or us trying to help them overcome the objections that they don’t understand.”

    Read more from WFRV Local 5!

    Follow Wisconsin NORML on Facebook and become a member today!

    Ali Nagib, Deputy Director, Illinois NORML

    “To a large degree, that has been a war on cannabis, but it’s also been a war on people, it’s been disproportionately a war on certain communities,”

    Read more from WTTW News!

    “This would be a big deal in terms of changing our policies to follow states like Colorado, Washington, California, that we’ve seen move forward ending prohibition, not only stopping the arrests, as we’ve done significantly in Illinois with our decriminalization laws, but to open up the marketplace.”

    Read more from Cheddar!

    Follow Illinois NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!  

    Ashley Weber, Executive Director, Colorado NORML

    “This bill offers retail consumers the option to consume legally in a social setting,” said Ashley Weber, executive director of the Colorado office of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “With the cannabis industry reaching a billion dollars in revenue, Coloradans understand that they cannot continue to re-criminalize the use of a legal substance.”

    Read more from The Daily Sentinel!

    “Adding a condition for which a physician could recommend medical marijuana instead of an opioid is a safer pain management tool that will be useful for both our doctors and patients.”

    Read more from the Denver Post!

    Follow Colorado NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    Cameron Pinkerton, Event Coordinator, DFW NORML

    “So we’re not getting our medicine from the street. And so we’re not throwing veterans into cages for trying to access a plant that grows in the soil they fought to keep free.”

    Read more from CBS DFW!

    Follow DFW NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    Chris Goldstein, Executive Director, South Philly NORML

    “Chris Goldstein, a local organizer with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the ban was bad for patients and sent a signal to the industry that it’s not wanted in Philadelphia.”

    Read more from The Philadelphia Tribune!

    “There shouldn’t be any neighborhood that bans medical cannabis dispensaries or makes it more difficult for them to open. They should be limited only by the patient population in Philadelphia, which is growing every day.”

    Read more from WHYY!

    Follow South Philly NORML on Facebook and become a member today!

    Chris Morrow, Executive Director, Kansas NORML

    “The biggest thing is with marijuana becoming more prevalent, more accepted, legal in a number of different ways across the country, the chances that somebody is going to get caught with a personal use amount of marijuana in their possession increases.”

    Read more from Wyandotte Daily!

    “We’re on an inexorable glide path towards legalization,” said Chris Morrow, the executive director of Kansas NORML. “Kansas is lagging behind.”

    Read more from KMBC 9!

    Follow Kansas NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    Dale Geringer, Executive Director, California NORML

    “More and more local governments are coming around, but progress has been slow,” says Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML.

    Read more from Reason!

    “The taxes are so high that there is a big incentive to avoid them,” said Dale Gieringer, director of pro-marijuana group California NORML. “The black market is presently at least as large or larger as the legal market.”

    Read more from NBC Bay Area!

    “This is really a Los Angeles phenomenon … I can’t tell you where there would be an unlicensed dispensary operating in Oakland or San Francisco.”

    Read more from the Los Angeles Times!

    Follow California NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    Dan Linn, Executive Director, Illinois NORML

    “It may very well end up not achieving the desired results, because of how much of a stranglehold the current medical cannabis industry will have on the adult-use market, since the current licensees will have the ability to double their current operations before any new entrants are even licensed for the new industry.”

    Read more from Rolling Stone!

    “People say to pass the best bill you can and come back later to try and make it better,” Linn said. “But we’ve had significant problems with the (existing) medical cannabis program that we still have not been able to fix.”

    Read more from the Chicago Tribune!

    “It may come as a surprise to some folks, but there’s probably already a lot of students selling or using on campus,” Linn said. “Prohibition hasn’t worked. But if we were to legalize it, these students could get jobs in this industry, and we could harness their entrepreneurial spirit.”

    Read more from the Daily Chronicle!

    “I’m concerned with how much of a handout this is to the current industry,” Linn said. “They crafted this legislation to give them an extreme advantage. If we have a limited amount of suppliers, prices are going to continue to be high.”

    Read more from the Chicago Tribune!

    “Limiting homegrow to just patients seems like too big a concession to law enforcement.”

    Read more from The Center Square!

    “Even after this bill passes there will still be work to do to give adults in Illinois access to cannabis without having to purchase it from a limited amount of stores and cultivators.”

    Read more from Complex!

    “The barriers to entry into this marketplace will only continue to expand the problems of the wealthy being able to profit from this new opportunity while others with fewer resources are unable to move from the illegal to legal marketplace in terms of growing and selling this product.”

    Read more from Rolling Stone!

    Follow Illinois NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    Ellen Komp, Deputy Director, California NORML

    “We have concerns,” Deputy Director Ellen Komp says. “If it’s state law, it [should be] state law everywhere,” she says, criticizing all the exemptions. “I think it’s a little heavy-handed. [Marijuana] is still going to have to achieve acceptance city by city, county by county. When you try to force it on a locality, it feels threatened.”

    Read more from the Los Angeles Times!

    Follow California NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    Evan Nisson, Board Member, New Jersey NORML

    “We need to make marijuana legal in New Jersey now to stop tens of thousands of unfair arrests a year and to be able to adequately compete with other states that have had legal, regulated cannabis industries for years.”

    Read more from NJ Today!

    Follow New Jersey NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    Jax Finkle, Executive Director, Texas NORML

    “Hemp has extraordinary political momentum behind it,” says Jax Finkel, executive director of Texas NORML, a cannabis law reform group. “McConnell’s now making it a campaign item for himself, and I think we’re seeing Texas legislators getting behind it for the same reason.”

    Read more from The Austin Chronicle!

    “With less than one percent of Texans being eligible for the current Texas Compassionate Use Program, the vast majority of Texas patients have been left behind since 2015.”

    Read more from Spectrum News!

    “Some of them are quite devastated because this has been a life changing medicine for them and I think that the senators recognize that,” Finkle said. “We are thankful for the expansion that we’ve gotten but there’s still a lot of work to do make sure that patients have the true medical freedom that we need in the state.”

    Read more from Fox 7!

    “(The bill) maintains the current .5% THC ratio. That’s concerning, because .5 THC will help some people but it will definitely not help everyone.”

    Read more from the Dallas Observer!

    “Many more patients are still being left behind, however, and will now have to wait until the next legislative session in 2021 for their next opportunity to find relief.”

    Read more from Raw Story!

    Follow Texas NORML on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and become a member today!

    Jenn Michelle Pedini, Executive Director, Virginia NORML

    “I think it’s an example of a Commonwealth’s Attorney leveraging what powers and discretion they are afforded to make as much of an impact on their community as possible,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, the executive director of Virginia NORML.

    Read more from WTKR News 3!

    “The unfortunate thing is that investigation after investigation show that many of these products don’t contain the amount of CBD that they claim to. Or they contain adulterants like dextromethorphan, melatonin, arsenic, heavy metals, or pesticide residue.”

    Read more from Fox 11!

    “We have decriminalization bills filed every year and this year I was given the opportunity to provide feedback to the administration on a decriminalization bill that they proposed. It was a good bill. I loved some of the policy.”

    Read more from The Virginia Pilot!

    Follow Virginia NORML on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and become a member today!

    Lisa Sewell, Board Member, DFW NORML

    “Cannabis overall is a great alternative therapeutic option replacing opioids and other medications…there’s a lot of research to show how much cannabis can help these patients but here in Texas we were so limited and a lot of Texans were getting left behind because there wasn’t enough ailments listed.”

    Read more from WBAP News!

    “The more education we get to them, the better. Period,” Sewell said. She said she has seen politicians become more open to legislation that would legalize marijuana, such as recent bills that have passed in the Texas House.

    Read more from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram!

    Follow DFW NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    Matthew Abel, Executive Director, Michigan NORML

    “All of this is affecting the 50 temporary operators who applied over a year ago,” says attorney Matt Abel, executive director of MI NORML. “It’s about time they wrapped up their applications one way or another.”

    Read more from Detroit Metro Times!

    “A lot of people aren’t aware of their right to have a ballot initiative,” says Matt Abel, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “More people need to become aware of it. We believe that will help stimulate more ballot initiatives.”

    Read more from Detroit Metro Times!

    Follow Michigan NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    Norm Kent, Board Member, NORML

    “The student is being unlawfully treated by the school, and the only thing more offensive and unconscionable than the university expelling her is that 10,000 students have not already gathered in the administration building and smoked the damn place out until they let her back in.”

    Read more from Miami New Times!

    Follow NORML on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and become a member today!

    Patrick Nightingale, Executive Director, Pittsburgh NORML

    “It’s clear they are not ready to address this,” Nightingale said. “What we do think we have a very good chance of moving forward with is decriminalization. At the very least take the criminal component away from prohibition.”

    Read more from the 90.5 WESA!

    “It’s clear they are not ready to address this,” Nightingale said. “What we do think we have a very good chance of moving forward with is decriminalization. At the very least take the criminal component away from prohibition.”

    Read more from WITF!

    Follow Pittsburgh NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    Rick Thompson, Board Member, Michigan NORML

    “Drug crimes, in particular, can be really damaging to a person’s employability, their ability to enroll in school or the military and just in their personal relationships in general,” Thompson added. “If you have a drug felony and people know that, I think you can expect to be treated differently. That’s just how it is. Expungement can help.”

    Read more from the Lansing City Pulse!

    Follow Michigan NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML

    “If Macon-Bibb does it, they will be the 10th jurisdiction in Georgia to have initiated some type of ordinance to reduce it,” he said. “Because it’s not really decriminalizing, it’s harm reduction.”

    Read more from WGXA News!

    “It sends a message to the state legislature that the people of this state are starting to want this. They’re tired of seeing people get locked up.”

    Read more from WGXA News!

    Follow Peachtree NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

    For more than 45 years NORML chapters have been the driving force behind policy decisions on the local and state level. Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please email NORML Outreach Director Kevin Mahmalji at KevinM@NORML.org for help with starting your own!

    Ready to start a NORML chapter in your hometown? Click here to find out how!

     

  • by NORML June 6, 2019
    Doug Greene

    Photo: Buck Ennis/Crain’s New York Business

    NORML is deeply saddened to report the untimely and tragic loss of longtime member and activist, Doug Greene. Doug served as Empire State NORML’s Legislative Director, and worked tirelessly to reform marijuana laws in the state of New York.

    “Doug was a passionate advocate for ending America’s failed war on cannabis consumers, and his work with NORML and for the cause spans decades not years. This is a sad loss for his friends and family, the New York cannabis community, and the legalization movement,” said NORML executive director Erik Altieri.

    “Cannabis Excelsior, Doug.”

    Please take action today and honor Doug’s commitment to reform by sending a message to New York lawmakers in support of A.1617 and S.1527, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA).

    Read more about Doug and his activism below in a statement from Empire State NORML:

    It is with tremendous sorrow to share that our beloved Douglas Greene, Legislative Director, Board Member and Lifetime Member of Empire State NORML, passed away under tragic circumstances on June 4, 2019.

    Doug was a prolific longtime activist in the cannabis community, and dedicated decades of his life to many social causes. From ending the war on drugs and legalizing ibogaine to animal rights and veganism, he was a tenacious advocate always fighting for what he believed in.

    A paralegal, his expertise and knowledge of law and policy extended into his activism and set him apart as one of the most respected authorities on cannabis legislation. Whether it be providing input and testimony to various legislative bodies, advising foreign dignitaries at the State Department, delivering education to communities on complex legislative issues, his opinion was highly sought after, providing unique insights and vision. His efforts will continue to touch countless souls across New York state and around the globe.

    This is a tragic loss for Doug’s family. Our deepest condolences go out to them and his loved ones. We ask that you please be respectful of their privacy at this time.

    While our movement has truly suffered a tragic loss, Doug left us all with a legacy of indefatigable commitment which means we cannot let this paralyze us. Through these difficult times, we must find strength in ourselves and from within our community. Doug’s signature catchphrase was “Cannabis Excelsior,” excelsior meaning “ever upward” in Latin.

    Cannabis Excelsior.

    Sincerely,
    Empire State NORML Board of Directors

  • by Jamie Kacz, Executive Director of NORML KC June 5, 2019

    With the arrival of summer time in Kansas City, we want to welcome everyone to take part in our Summer Seminar Series. All of these FREE events will focus on rules and regulations of Amendment 2, now Article XIV, for patients and caregivers. These events will have a special topic each month and everyone will have time for Q&A. One of our main objectives for these seminars is to ensure patients have free resources and education around the new medical marijuana program.

    Donate today to support our efforts!

    We will kick off our Summer Seminars with a discussion on how to navigate the finalized rules of Amendment 2/Article XIV from a patient and caregiver perspective, and how to be compliant under the new law. Attendees will also learn how to work with their physicians and clinics to acquire legal MMJ recommendations for qualifying patients, what steps are involved in the process, and what to expect after receiving a recommendation. We will be breaking all of this information down into easy-to-understand steps. Join us at Unity Temple on June 8 from 2pm-5pm! This location is accessible and the general public is welcome to attend.

    Special Guest Speakers:
    Emily Branch, Director of The Green Clinics
    A physician from The Green Clinics
    Jana Lappin, Pharmacist and Co-owner of Missouri Cannabis Clinic
    Pat Talks Law

    Save the Date for our next Summer Seminars on July 20 and August 17!

     We would like to thank everyone that attended the Missouri NORML Spring Conference in April. Our keynote speaker for the event was NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. The day was filled with several additional speakers including Missouri State Representative Brandon Ellington, Director of Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Program Lyndall Fraker, and Paul E. Callicoat, M.D. Thank you to Chris Smith for documenting our event and sharing the pictures in this newsletter!

    Please support our efforts by making a one-time donation! We’re also looking for volunteers to help move our chapter forward. If you want to help by donating time, your expertise or sponsor an event, please email us at newnormlkc@gmail.com. 

    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!

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