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Decriminalization

  • by Jeff Riedy, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley NORML August 16, 2018

    Greetings from your friends at Lehigh Valley NORML! With Summer rushing by, we just wanted to check in with our supporters. We want to fill you in on recent activities and upcoming meetings, events, and happenings.

    As many of you hopefully already know, we have planned a Rally and Lobby Day in Harrisburg for Monday, September 24, along with our friends at Pittsburgh NORML, Keystone Cannabis Coalition, AND ACLU-PA. The Rally is 10-11 AM, with lobbying to follow. We hope that many of you can find the time to join us. To help bring our friends to the rally, we have priced out a chartered bus with TransBridge, seating 56 people. The bus would leave the Lehigh Valley at 7am from the William Penn Rideshare off Route 33, between Freemansburg Avenue and William Penn Highway. And would bring everybody to Harrisburg and then back home around 6pm.

    If we fill the bus (56 person capacity), it would cost $25pp at full price. HOWEVER, Lehigh Valley NORML IS PAYING HALF THE COST OF THE BUS, and may have a benefactor to help with the other half. So, with our contribution, a full bus will cost each rider $12.50 ($14pp w/ 50 riders to $20pp w/ 35 riders), but you’ll have to be one of the first to register for the bus. We expect a few backouts and will accept about 100 registrants, BUT only 56 seats will be available (unless we find benefactors to cover a second bus). We will call in chronological order to reserve your spot on the bus. There are already a few people pre-registered. Don’t hesitate, as we’ll need to confirm riders by the end of the month, with payment in full. We are allowing our mailing list advanced notice, but by week’s end we will reveal the remaining inexpensive seats to all on Facebook.

    **We cannot smoke on the bus, but we’re working on a cool after-party when we return! Please CLICK HERE to reserve your seat!**

    LOBBYING? We’ll be lobbying in Harrisburg after the Rally. Soon we’ll be setting up a scheduler to help organize lobbying appointments for those who want to press their legislators.

    UPCOMING FESTIVALS… We want to remind everybody that we’ll have a booth at Pride in the Park this coming Sunday, August 19, noon-6pm. Because of recent rains, the festival is at Allentown’s Jewish Community Center, at 22nd and Tilghman Sts.. We also plan to table ArtsFest again this year, September 28-30, at Allentown’s Cedar Beach Park.

    PETITIONING EASTON is still in our mind. We hope to start organizing people, petitions, and clipboards for Downtown Easton in the coming weeks. If you might have some spare time to ask for residents’ signatures on a petition pressing City Council to reconsider Citywide Decrim, drop us a note, please! We hope to make this the start of our Action Committees, to help us coordinate future events and volunteers, as we build our community.

    NEXT MEETING: As August flies by, we’re already planning for our September meeting. We are hosting an all-afternoon family affair, and renting the larger pavilion (closest to street) at Illicks Mill/ Monocacy Park in Bethlehem on Sunday September 16, noon-6pm. There will be a short meeting, and then we’ll just hang, play, commune, drink beers (canned beers allowed), and eat some food. Maybe a POT LUCK (wink)? Bring the kids. Pack a basket!

    Meeting page: http://www.facebook.com/events/2138643323124158/?ti=icl

    WEEDSTOCK, hosted by our friends at Delaware NORML is happening August 24-26. Two days of bands, camping, and fun in the First State! Details can be found here:  http://www.facebook.com/events/181136362592813/?ti=icl

    Finally, we want thank everybody who came out to say hello at the GRATEFUL FOR GREG fundraiser the other week. The incident at Bernville was tragic and still hurts, but we managed to get some media coverage, opening a view to the world. All over TEN PLANTS! Our work is not done, until incidents like this never happen again.

    In the Leaf ?

    Lehigh Valley NORML

    P.S. Here is the Facebook Event page for the Harrisburg Rally. Please RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/2081707708735937/?ti=ia

    P.P.S. And please remember that all these programs we run and events we help fund happen only through your kind donations and merchandise purchases. We’ll soon have a revenue site up, but in the meantime DONATE, DONATE, DONATE. Hit us up on PayPal with your donation @ lehighvnorml@gmail.com.

  • by NORML June 20, 2018

    Local Marijuana DecriminalizationEven though recreational marijuana remains criminalized in a majority of US states, more and more municipalities are moving ahead with local laws decriminalizing the possession of cannabis within city limits. For the first time, NORML has released a comprehensive breakdown of these citywide and countywide decriminalization policies.

    Efforts to liberalize municipal marijuana possession penalties in states where cannabis remains criminalized have become increasingly popular in recent years. Since 2012, over 50 localities, such as Albuquerque, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and St. Louis in a dozen states — including Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have enacted municipal laws or resolutions either fully or partially decriminalizing minor cannabis possession offenses. Today, over 10.5 million Americans reside in these localities. (Please note: This total does not include cities or counties in states that have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana statewide).

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri: “Local politicians see firsthand the punitive and disproportionately adverse effects that statewide marijuana criminalization has on their communities and upon their constituents. That is why they are exercising their local legislative powers to protect citizens in their community when state politicians are either unwilling or lack the political courage to do so.”

    DECRIMINALIZATION EXPLAINED

    Under full decriminalization, minor offenses are defined by statute as either non-criminal violations or infractions. Violators are not subject to arrest. Instead, they are cited and mandated to pay a small fine. Violators are not subject to a court appearance nor are they saddled with a criminal conviction or record.  Under partial decriminalization policies, minor marijuana offenses may remain classified as misdemeanor offenses. However, violators are issued a summons in lieu of a criminal arrest.

    Beginning with Oregon in 1973, 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. (Eight of these states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Vermont — have since replaced their decriminalization statutes with statewide adult use legalization legislation.)

    Today, nine states — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island — have fully decriminalized activities specific to the private possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults. Four additional states — Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio — have partially decriminalized marijuana possession offenses. In these latter jurisdictions, cannabis remains classified as a misdemeanor under state law, but the offense does not carry the penalty of jail time. In New York, marijuana possession ‘in public view’ remains punishable as a criminal misdemeanor.

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal: “As public support in favor of marijuana law reform has grown, so too have local efforts by legislators and voters to address the issue at the municipal level. In many regions of the country, local lawmakers are moving to shield their local citizens from state prohibitions — one city at a time.”

  • by Jax Finkel, Texas NORML Executive Director June 19, 2018
    Texas GOP Platform Now Supports Decriminalization, Re-Scheduling, Hemp and an Inclusive Medical Program

    Republican Delegates at the State Convention in San Antonio succeeded in updating the Texas GOP platform to include planks that support making the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) more inclusive, removal of criminal penalty for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana, the re-scheduling of and growing industrial hemp in Texas. This took a powerful effort from the grassroots, delegates and Republicans in advance of the convention and during the long, multi-step process it takes to approve and adopt planks to the Republican Platform.

    Here is what happened over the week leading up to these planks adoption:

    • Monday night before the convention, the Criminal and Civil Justice Sub Committee passed a resolution to remove criminal penalties for possession of 1 ounce or less. The Health and Human Service Sub Committee passed a resolution to improve TCUP.
    • On Tuesday, the Legislative Priorities Committee (LPC) met to determine the top legislative priorities for the next session. The Committee took testimony from 15 people include sitting Representative Jason Issac.
    • When the Temporary Platform Committee (TPC) issued their report on Wednesday, it included both of the planks. Additionally, the LPC took an informal poll and medical cannabis was in the top ten. They would ultimately adopt 8 priorities and medical cannabis unfortunately did not make the cut.
    • Thursday the Permanent Platform Committee considered the TPC report. The final report the Permanent Platform Committee adopted included the following cannabis related planks, which were then voted on by the delegates on Saturday:
      • Penalty Reduction for Possession: We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time. (Passed 83%)
      • Expand Access to Medical Cannabis: We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to recommend to certified patients. (Passed 82%)
      • Call for Re-scheduling Cannabis: Congress should remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 and moved to Schedule 2. (Passed 90%)
      • Industrial Hemp: We recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity. We urge the Texas Legislature to pass legislation allowing cultivation, manufacture and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products. (Passed 83%)

    These types of changes are extremely important in advance of the 2019 Legislative Session. Pre-filing bills will start on November 12th, 2018 and the session will officially kick off on January 8th, 2019.

    You can help Texas NORML by becoming a member, a sustaining or onetime donor!

    If you are in the Fort Worth area or are a delegate to the Democratic Convention, join the Texas Cannabis Caucus on Friday, June 22nd, 2018 at 1pm.

     

    Jax Finkel is the Executive Director of Texas NORML, the state affliate of NORML. Follow their work on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Visit their website at www.texasnorml.org and make a contribution to support their work at www.texasnorml.org/donate/

  • by NORML June 13, 2018

    Last Friday, the Congressional Black Caucus announced its position on various marijuana law reforms.

    “Some of the same folks who told African Americans ‘three strikes and you’re out’ when it came to marijuana use and distribution, are now in support of decriminalizing the drug and making a profit off of it,” CBC Chairman Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-02) said. “The Congressional Black Caucus supports decriminalizing marijuana and investing in communities that were destroyed by the War on Drugs – which, in addition to be a failed war, was a war on black and brown communities. We also support expunging the records of those previously convicted of misdemeanors for marijuana-related offenses.”

    The position was supported by an overwhelming majority of the 48-member caucus.

    Read more here: https://cbc.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=903

  • by NORML May 8, 2018

    Police in the Pennsylvania cities of Allentown and Bethlehem continue to arrest hundreds of residents for less than 30 grams of cannabis while opiate and cocaine arrests seem to be going down.

    Last year Allentown put 315 people into handcuffs and the courts over marijuana possession, while the city reported just 31 other drug possession arrests during 2017, according to data from the Pa. Uniform Crime Reporting System.

    Bethlehem police also favor arresting cannabis consumers, between 130 and 160 per year are caught up in the criminal justice system over a few joints. Data from Bethlehem is also showing some odd trends, with zero opiate or cocaine arrests logged in 2016 or 2017.

    “Decriminalization would seem a simple and effective option anywhere,” said Lehigh Valley NORML Director Jeff Riedy, “When you consider the human cost to those convicted of arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.”

    A RAND Corp. study commissioned for Vermont found that each marijuana arrest is estimated to cost taxpayers $1,266 to perform. Prosecuting each person spends another $1,000 according to some estimates.

    That means Allentown and Bethlehem spent over $1 million last year treating otherwise law abiding cannabis consumers like criminals. Thankfully the city councils in both communities have introduced ordinances to address this expensive injustice.

    “The decrim ordinances, like that in Philadelphia, have helped to remove stigma, freed up the courts and allowed law enforcement to focus on more pressing issues. We should stop ruining lives over a joint,” said Riedy.

    Lehigh Valley NORML encourages members of the press and elected officials to review the marijuana possession arrest data included with this release.

    According to Pa. State Representative Michael Schlossberg (D., Lehigh), cosponsor of two statewide decriminalization bills in Harrisburg, “It’s time to put an end to senseless mass incarceration brought on by the prohibition of marijuana. I have added my name to legislation to decriminalize possession of marijuana and bring commonsense back to our criminal justice system.  Pennsylvanian’s cannot afford to continue to follow the path of failed policies which hurt individuals and communities.”

    Allentown introduced their ordinance at Council last week, and it has been moved to a Committee of the Whole, scheduled for Tuesday, May 8 at 6pm in Council Chambers. If it passes the Committee with a majority vote, the ordinance will move to the full City Council for a vote next Wednesday, May 16 at 7pm. Public opinion is encouraged both dates.

    Allentown’s proposed ordinance: http://allentownpa.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=6212844&GUID=F77277E0-5440-436B-B430-9CAC4AFFB0BD

    For more info, please contact Jeff Riedy at 610-533-0906 or via email at lehighvnorml@gmail.com. You can also follow Lehigh Valley NORML on FaceBook and Twitter!

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