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Grassroots

  • by Matthew Maulding, Executive Director, NORML of Catawba Valley May 14, 2018

    North Carolina NORML along with several other pro-cannabis organizations recently organized the Tar Heel State’s largest pro-cannabis march in recent memory. There were people from across the state, and even some long time residents that had to move to a state that allows them to medicate the way they want, despite having a majority of their families here.

    On April 20th, we saw the biggest push for reform at a federal level ever by North Carolinians. North Carolina NORML along with veterans, people with disabilities, and folks from all walks of life were able to come together and march in solidarity with one another.

    The cannabis movement has been stagnant in North Carolina, at best. There is a great divide in supporters who are ready for any small step, even if that means giving up their right to grow their own or even to medicate with “flower” or bud. Other supporters within the state have a sense that if they settle for “extract only” laws or laws that restrict growing rights, that they will not be able to get those rights added in later.

    To see fractions of the movement come together for this event is enormously satisfying. Under new leadership, North Carolina NORML has began turning up the heat and focused on getting people involved. We understand that people need to be constantly involved otherwise they get bored and move on. We need to make sure everyone is engaged, and informed , and that is what we have done, and will continue to do.

    In addition to the 4/20 march which focused on an end to marijuana prohibition federally, we also took part in the Global Marijuana March on May 5th and have held monthly public meetings across the state to increase visibility and to give people an opportunity to start their own chapter. To continue the fight, North Carolina NORML is hosting its first Lobby Day next Tuesday, May 22, 2018, where members will be focused on inviting supporters of marijuana law reform efforts to educate lawmakers (RSVP HERE).

    If you are a North Carolina voter, look forward to a voter guide on NC NORML’s website to help you choose candidates in the general election who favor (or not) and will sponsor bills if elected. Incumbents also have a chance to show supporters’ what they have sponsored or co-sponsored in the past. Reform is coming for North Carolina, and we refuse to be the last state to do so.

    For more info, please call 828-455-8203 or email commdirector@ncnorml.org. You can also follow North Carolina NORML on FaceBook and Twitter!

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate May 11, 2018

    Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    Let’s talk about Congress. Earlier this week, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) cosponsored the Marijuana Justice Act! Sen. Harris announced in a video message that she will be joining Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden in promoting this important legislation. This comes just a week and a half after California senior Senator Diane Feinstein (D) told reporters that she has dropped her opposition to ending the federal prohibition of marijuana. And U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he is cosponsoring Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) hemp legalization bill.

    Additionally, in a historical first, a Congressional committee has advanced marijuana law reform legislation; one that would encourage the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct more studies on cannabis’ medical benefits.

    At the state level, Michigan Senate Republicans are expected to discuss whether to enact marijuana legalization instead of allowing the question to appear on the November ballot, with the fear that a ballot question would turn out hundreds of thousands of democratic voters. The New Jersey Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee will hold a Saturday hearing on marijuana legalization, and county prosecutors across Vermont are looking at ways to expunge prior marijuana convictions.

    Also, Connecticut’s legislative leaders said marijuana legalization is off the table for this session. As more state legislatures are adjourning for this year, more and more bills are dying, and therefore there are not as many legislative updates as we’ve been seeing earlier in the year.

    At a more local level, The Allentown, Pennsylvania City Council gave initial approval to a proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance, and also adopted a resolution calling on state lawmakers to end cannabis criminalization. The Milwaukee County, Wisconsin County Board’s Judiciary Committee voted in favor of placing a nonbinding marijuana legalization on the November ballot, and Denver, Colorado is planning to use marijuana tax revenue to fund public housing.

    Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Click here to e-mail your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation

    Louisiana

    House Bill 579 would expand the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis by permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, severe muscle spasms or glaucoma.

    Update: HB 579 was approved by the Senate 25-9 on 5/9. The bill now heads back to the House for review of Senate changes. A separate measure, HB 627, to permit patients with autism to be able to qualify for medical cannabis access, also passed the Senate and awaits reconsideration by the House.

    LA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical expansion

    California

    Assembly Bill 2069 seeks to strengthen employment rights for medical cannabis patients. The bill would explicitly bar employers from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

    Update: AB 2069 will be heard by the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee on 5/16 at 9am in State Capitol, Room 4202.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of employment rights for patients

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    Arizona

    Senate Bill 1098 seeks to establish an industrial hemp agricultural pilot program.

    The program is designed to research the “growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp” by licensed providers. Lawmakers acknowledge that “developing and using industrial hemp can improve the economy and agricultural vitality” of Arizona.

    Update: SB 1098 passed the Senate on 2/15 and passed the House on 5/3. It now awaits action from Governor Ducey.

    AZ resident? Click here to email Gov. Ducey in support of an industrial hemp pilot program

    Illinois

    Senate Bill 2298 seeks to expand the state’s hemp law.

    The bill provides for the ability of individuals to cultivate hemp with a state license even if they are not part of the state’s Agriculture Department pilot program. That program only permits hemp cultivation as part of a state-sponsored research program.

    Update: SB 2298 was heard by the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee, and then approved by the committee on 5/8.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of industrial hemp expansion

    California

    Banking
    Senate Bill 930 seeks to assist financial institutions in safely conducting transactions with licensed cannabis businesses.

    Update: SB 930 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 5/22.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of banking access for cannabis businesses

    Taxes
    Assembly Bill 3157 seeks to temporarily reduce tax rates imposed on the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis.

    Update: AB 3157 was heard by the Assembly Committee on Business and Professions on 5/8, and then approved by the committee on 5/9. The bill will be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 5/16.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of temporarily lowering taxes

    That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • 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!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director April 18, 2018

    Following tradition, marijuana consumers and advocates from around the globe are organizing rallies, marches and other acts of political expression or civil disobedience in advance of this year’s celebration of 4/20, an annual protest against the prohibition of marijuana. While these public events are often effective at generating some buzz and raising public awareness, they are rarely organized to directly influence or appeal to those elected officials who continue to oppose common sense marijuana law reform efforts.

    To increase the political effectiveness of these events, NORML chapters are planning to combine these traditional events with a robust presence on social media that includes a call-to-action urging federal lawmakers to support HR 1227: The Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act. If passed by Congress, this legislation will eliminate federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing marijuana, give states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference, and remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, which would allow for more marijuana research both recreationally and medicinally.

    NORML Chapters will continue to use these public events to demonstrate that our culture is a growing part of the broader community, and to raise awareness and support for marijuana law reform efforts.

    A couple examples of which are:

    Members of Chicago NORML have a lot to celebrate after voters in Cook County, Illinois voted to approve, “the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older,” through a non binding referendum earlier this year. Organizers are planning a 4/20 celebration that will help fund educational & outreach efforts in their community.

    In South Carolina, members of Lowcountry NORML are hosting a 4/20 rally in downtown Charleston to raise awareness about marijuana’s proven medicinal benefits, its hundreds of industrial uses, and the obvious need to end the mass arrest, stigmatization, and incarceration of nonviolent marijuana consumers. To help spread the word, supporters will be wearing t-shirts, holding signs, sharing stories, and asking others to join the fight to end marijuana prohibition.

    Below is a list of events that are taking place around the country:

    Alabama

    Alabama NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/144416092932869/

    California

    Humboldt NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/176073716520697/

    Monterey County NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/150183702470495/

    Colorado

    Denver NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/2137082429854938/

    Southern Colorado NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/165225564129646/

    Delaware

    Delaware NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/420211771762876/

    Florida

    Northeast Florida NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/2049355575350535/

    Illinois

    Chicago NORML – https://chicagonorml.z2systems.com/np/clients/chicagonorml/eventRegistration.jsp?event=503&

    Indiana

    Indiana NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1964672153792901/

    Purdue NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/353749958430389/

    Iowa

    Iowa NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1173742189395622/

    Kentucky

    Kentucky NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/155608048425043/

    Minnesota

    Minnesota NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/582709222121912/

    Minnesota NORML Women’s Coalition – https://www.facebook.com/events/121504848551480/

    New Mexico

    New Mexico NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1546743615424372/

    New York

    Western New York NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1983972578530607/

    North Carolina

    North Carolina NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1568205869881130/

    Charlotte NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/296119900919588/

    NC NORML of the Triangle – https://www.facebook.com/events/457312888018481/

    South Carolina

    Aiken NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/146375166036064/

    Lowcountry NORML – https://normlsc.org/pages/420-rally

    Tennessee

    Memphis NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1673604129371656/

    Texas

    DFW NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/185597428714345/

    El Paso NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1779571042339535/

    Houston NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/556580421390187/

    Hub City NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1893685727608368/

    Hub City NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/576627839344019/

    Southeast Texas NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/221071241791222/

    Texas NORML – http://www.austinreggaefest.com/

    Virginia

    Hampton Roads NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/217136348839688/

    Roanoke NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/158436751510406/

    Wisconsin

    Southeastern Wisconsin NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1894312693920769/

  • by Jeff Riedy, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley NORML April 10, 2018

    As a longtime Pennsylvanian, I have gotten used to the slow drudge of progress and the archaic mindset of our policymakers in this state. With that said, we did manage to pass a Medical Marijuana Law two years ago this month, though the law became a skeleton of its robust beginnings. Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act was enacted earlier this year, as the first facilities began growing, processing, and dispensing cannabis-derived products (oils, tinctures, topical, vapes, and pills). The program has seen many pitfalls in its infancy, including supply shortages, a lack of qualified doctors, and many other shortcomings yet to be addressed. But public response has been phenomenal, with nearly 30 thousand patients have registered in the program’s first few months.

    Recently the Department of Health (parent to our state’s Medical Marijuana Office), announced the second round of applications for permits for growers/processors and dispensaries. Our state also made a bold move and announced that it would be one of the first states to offer permits for clinical research of medical marijuana. As a crescendo to all of that, yesterday the PA-DOH MMJ Advisory Board convened two years after the program’s inception (as was written into the law) to make recommendations to the Department of Health, its committees, and the Governor. The formation of this committee was included in the law, to act as an independent voice to meet and make recommendations periodically, composed of doctors, law enforcement, government officials, and patients advocates.

    The Board’s recommendations included adding indications (to the 17 already in place), adjusting rules, and adding flower (to be vaped) as a form of medication. The addition of flower was our biggest ask of this committee. Yesterday’s proceedings were only a first step and are merely “recommendations”. The Secretary of Health has up to one year to act upon yesterday’s recommendations, and that will include the political bureaucracy of committees making recommendations as well as studying and implementing the necessary infrastructure to accommodate any of these changes in the law. This is FAR from being law, but Secretary of Health, Doctor Rachel Levine, has been a proponent of the program thus far, and we are hopeful for swift action in Harrisburg.

    What will this mean for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana patients? The added indications will create a more inclusive program. The inclusion of flower to the program will provide added relief to many patients, including those with PTSD. Optimistically, this NORML Executive Director sees this as an even greater victory as it puts into place all of the instruments necessary to handle the eventual statewide LEGAL sale of recreational marijuana. Like any new idea, PA’s program has its’ faults but is growing faster than anticipated. I believe that these ongoing Advisory Board reviews are our best hope for a more perfect program for everybody. As an advocacy group, Lehigh Valley NORML will continue to push our politicians for more reform, until we get it right. In the end, we fight for the people – and the people want this reform. The patients need these reforms. And we DEMAND them!

    Jeff Riedy is the Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML. Follow their work on Facebook and Twitter.

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