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Grassroots

  • by Jenn Michelle Pedini, NORML Development Director May 12, 2020

    NORML Activist SpotlightTamara Netzel was a middle school English teacher, an Army officer’s wife, and possibly the most cannabis naive individual you could have met. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2013, and for a few years believed she could continue to teach and live her life as long as she followed all the doctors recommendations and took the medications they prescribed. When those very medications led to liver failure in 2017, triggering chronic pain and other MS symptoms, she was forced to retire from teaching. 

    A friend suggested Tamara try CBD oil for her pain, and it gave her relief like nothing else had. She didn’t have a clue what CBD was, nor did she know it was then illegal to possess. By the time she learned she was breaking the law, cannabis medicine was saving her life. Tamara knew she had to get involved and work to change the law in her state of Virginia. In no time at all she found herself front and center in Virginia NORML’s fight to legalize medical cannabis, testifying before the General Assembly, pleading for legal access not only for herself, but for all Virignians. Years later and after countless hours devoted by herself and other advocates at Virginia NORML, the state’s first medical cannabis dispensaries will finally begin opening dispensary doors to patients this summer. 

    Tamara Netzel testifies before the Virginia General Assembly with Senator Siobhan Dunnavant

    Tamara Netzel testifies before the Virginia General Assembly with Senator Siobhan Dunnavant

    Though for Tamara it was initially about trying to heal herself, she quickly realized that telling stories like her own could help others heal. And not just physical pain, but the mental pain associated with the criminalization of this plant. While some may discredit anecdotal information in efforts to reform marijuana laws, Tamara came to see that statistics and research must be accompanied by human stories to truly help others understand why these laws must be changed.

    As Virginia made significant progress in a short time with medical cannabis, Tamara quickly learned she needed to educate herself about the criminalization of cannabis. It concerned her that even as a registered patient, she could still be arrested. She had never had any experience with the criminal justice system, and she didn’t know anyone who had. People would tell her she had nothing to worry about because she was a middle aged white woman with MS. “I knew I didn’t fit the description of people who are disproportionately targeted for marijuana charges. At that point, I realized I had two choices: I could just be satisfied with my own white privilege, or I could try to use that privilege for good,” said Tamara.

    Once her teaching career had ended, Tamara was forced to answer the question of who she was now in this world. “I remembered I’m who I’ve always been, a person who helps others, and helps others learn,” recalled Tamara.  Her passion for helping and teaching led Tamara to begin curating a powerful new project, Cruel Consequences: Portraits of Misguided Law.

    Tamara Netzel and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring at the Virginia 2020 Legislative Cannabis Summit

    Cruel Consequences was founded with the mission of bringing awareness to the enormous suffering many experience from the collateral damage of marijuana – negative impacts that can last well after court costs and sentences have been fulfilled, and often for a lifetime. Through her advocacy work, Tamara met more and more people who had been arrested for cannabis, and it troubled her how important pieces of those stories were left out of the news coverage the general public sees.

    “Before I came to see cannabis as medicine, that missing that information was never a concern for me,” recalled Tamara, and like many other readers, she would unconsciously fill in the blanks with negative assumptions. She quickly learned that even after someone completed their sentence, they still suffered consequences like being denied employment, college loans, housing, and child custody, when all they wanted was to move on from the experience and live their best lives.

    After visiting the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Tamara was inspired to make Cruel Consequences a portrait exhibit. Marijuana arrest or conviction stories never tell the reader who that person really is, a loving parent, a hardworking son, a heroic veteran, a brave patient battling a horrible disease. If there is ever a photo with such a story, it is typically a mug shot or other unflattering image, taken often when someone  is having their worst day of their life. Why not show these people on a good day? Hopefully those opposed to marijuana law reform could then see the human side of this issue.

    Virginia NORML's 2020 Activist of the Year Tamara Netzel

    Virginia NORML’s 2020 Activist of the Year Tamara Netzel

    In Cruel Consequences’ first year, its portrait exhibits were displayed at dozens of events across the Mid-Atlantic. Notably, the project was the only art exhibit at the first Virginia Legislative Cannabis Summit, hosted by Attorney General, Mark Herring and the Virginia Legislative Cannabis Caucus to educate state lawmakers to learn about cannabis policy, and several portraits were on display throughout the Virginia General Assembly Building during the 2020 legislative session.

    This January, Virginia NORML recognized Tamara as Advocate of the Year, and she says she’s proud to have played a small part in their legislative victories. The project is always looking for more stories, please consider sharing yours. Like Tamara, by sharing your story, you can change lives.

     

  • by Josh Kasoff, Nevada NORML March 12, 2020

    In the same vein as our historic start to 2020, the month of February proved to be an equally memorable and important month for the Las Vegas chapter of NORML. Throughout the city, we’ve been making sure that criminal justice advocacy stays at the forefront of the social cannabis community’s mind. From staying up to date on the happenings of the legal adult use industry to the patient and consumer rights that we stand for, we’re going into March with an even stronger, fired up passion and our forever memorable February is to blame. 

    Dana Gentry at February’s meeting

    At our monthly meeting hosted by our generous dispensary/cannabis mini-museum sponsor Acres, members and guests were able to hear from award-winning investigative journalist and longtime Las Vegan media personality Dana Gentry. Most recently, the reporter exposed the many misdeeds of the Department of Taxation throughout a series of articles with the Nevada Current, from blatant examples of nepotism and playing favorites with certain cannabis companies over others to full on corruption within the very regulatory body supposedly put in place to act as an authority figure over this newly legal industry. 

    Continuing from our inaugural meeting in January, the team at Las Vegas NORML has spread across cannabis-related events and locations across Sin City getting the information out about our Smoke The Vote campaign. With methods such as hosting popups at dispensaries and providing knowledge about all the upcoming state and federal elections with plans to helping people get registered to vote at the dispensaries themselves, Las Vegas NORML is ensuring that the democratic voices of cannabis patients, consumers and advocates are heard clear as day and that thorough cannabis reforms are enacted. 

    For the Presidential debate hosted in the heart of Sin City which certainly had a slight focus on issues directly facing Nevadans, Las Vegas NORML hosted a watch party complete with popcorn and snacks in The Cannabis Business Den. The Democratic candidates, many of them considered senior citizens, traded verbal blows and “threw shade” as the Gen Z’ers would say about a certain candidate’s previous errors or scandals like it was a high school trash talking contest. From Elizabeth Warren absolutely eviscerating Michael Bloomberg over non-disclosure agreements he signed in relation to sexual harassment incidents to of course, Joe Biden awkardly touching Pete Buttigieg, the debate was undoubtedly more theatrical than analytical, but everyone’s hilarious banter and reactions to the hijinks of an actual presidential debate made it a great time regardless. 

    Aariel Williams with a handful of panelists

    And as the pinnacle of February and the importance of remembering the history of a culture of America’s society that have contributed to the greater good of our country in an endless amount of ways. For our 3rd Annual Black History Month Summit and Celebration, Las Vegas NORML paired up with the Cannabis Law Society, an organization consisting of UNLV Boyd School of Law students advocating for cannabis and drug sentencing reform founded by our member Aariel Williams. 

    “I’m grateful that we were able to have these conversations,” explained Williams, “because that is how we work towards change. We had a Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter from Golden Gate School of Law attend, and they said it was one of the best cannabis education events they’ve attended.” 

    Hosted in UNLV’s Richard Tam Alumni Center, the summit had a series of panel discussions with successful, well experienced and influential people of color who incorporate cannabis into their lives and professions in a variety of ways. The spectrum of speakers and their subjects of expertise varied greatly, from XXL Freshman-featured musician Dizzy Wright to G Five Cultivation CEO Larry Smith, Director of Black Caucus Nevada Yvette Williams and NORML Board of Directors Member Kyndra Miller Esq. 

    “We began this year with intense momentum and passion for education & reform within the Silver State.” said Executive Director Madisen Saglibene. “I am proud to say that with the Black History Month Summit completed, and Smoke the Vote well underway, it’s obvious we aren’t slowing down. I look forward to what’s in store as we head into this local elections cycle – defining vital seats who will either align with us, or vote against us.”

  • by Jenn Michelle Pedini, NORML Development Director February 21, 2020

    The 2020 Presidential campaigns are in full swing. Candidates are hitting the campaign trail, and blasting you with ads social media, radio, and television, vying for your votes. Whether they’re red or blue, yellow or green, they need to know that ending America’s unjust war on marijuana is a top priority for you. That’s why we’re launching this campaign.

    Claim your sticker!

    Claim your I’m Voting for Marijuana sticker when you become a sustaining donor of $10 or more

    National polling shows two-thirds of Americans support legalizing marijuana at the federal level and presidential candidates like Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar who are ready to end prohibition won big in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

    We know that when marijuana is on the ballot, people show up to vote. Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and Oklahoma  will all be likely to vote on marijuana issues come November.

    And while not every state is voting to legalize marijuana in November, every state is holding an election. Whether it’s a local, state, or federal race, your vote is your voice and that vote matters. We must stay strong in our fight for freedom. President Trump is again threatening to derail the progress we’ve made. His recently released 2021 federal budget proposes slashing all legal protection for state medical marijuana programs, potentially jeopardizing the patients that rely on them.

    Show your pledge to vote for marijuana in 2020

    NORML’s mission is fueled by good people like you – not corporate cannabis – not willing to endure our country’s failed policy of prohibition any longer. We’re counting on you to head to the polls and to help ensure NORML has the resources to represent you in the fight to legalize America. Your contribution will help us fund important election year programs such as our upcoming in-depth look at the presidential candidates and the re-launch of the most comprehensive candidate marijuana scorecard in the country, Smoke the Vote.

    We’re in this together and we won’t stop until Americans are no longer criminalized for the responsible use of cannabis.

    Thanks for your support.
    The team at NORML

    P.S. A huge thanks to NORML’s fundraising partner, Sticker Mule for supporting this campaign.

  • 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.

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