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

    As marijuana sales in Colorado exceed $1 billion, residents are seeing marijuana tax revenues being put to work in their communities. From funding local projects to restore historic sites and construct a new irrigation system in Denver, to providing college scholarships to more than 500 students in Pueblo, and statewide grants for early literacy programs, Coloradans from every corner of the state are benefiting from the legalization of marijuana.

    But there’s more. Similar to other areas of Colorado’s public education system that have benefited from marijuana tax revenues, the state’s School Bullying Prevention and Education Grant Program (BPEG), which has earned local and national recognition for its effectiveness, is being funded by the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund.

    “I think we provide an environment where you can concentrate on studying rather than just on conflicts,” Jessica Hale, Dean of Discipline at Skinner Middle School, stated in a recent interview with the Denver Post.

    Read more here: https://dpo.st/2Gr1DFj

    While some remain skeptical of marijuana legalization, it’s hard to ignore the positive impacts it’s having on communities across Colorado.

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Dispel the myths with the NORML Fact Sheets. For more information follow Colorado NORML on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website

  • by Mary Kruger, Executive Director, Roc NORML December 17, 2018

    Roc NORML was in the news earlier this week talking about what consumers and activists want to see included in the legislation currently being drafted to frame New York’s adult-use cannabis market. The legislation is being drafted by a work group, put together by Governor Cuomo, and we’re anticipating a first draft of the legislation will be introduced during the state of the state in January with the executive budget.

    So, what does this mean exactly? This means we are also anticipating the legislation will be on the trajectory to pass with the 2019 Budget Bill in April, with Article VII from the NYS constitution. It is not a matter of if, or even when, but a matter of what this legislation is going to look like and who it is going to benefit most.

    The article says: “The lawmakers working on writing the legislation that will be used as a framework for the program tell News10NBC they’d like to just “copy and paste” what the state of Nevada has done.

    “Nevada has definitely benefited from the implementation in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California,” says Senator Diane Savino.  

    Here’s what copying Nevada’s laws would mean for New York:

    • Legal recreational use for anyone over the age of 21.
    • Sales of one ounce per day.
    • No public consumption or usage while driving or in a vehicle.
    • Employers can still drug test and landlords can still prohibit usage while inside their dwellings.  

    When it comes to the business side of things, Senator Savino says she likes that Nevada started by offering recreational licenses to those who already have medical dispensaries.” Based on that statement, it would stand to reason that a holder of a medical marijuana license in New York has a vested interest in seeing a bill that gives all adult use license to medical marijuana license holders come to fruition.

    California based MedMen, Inc., one of the ten medical marijuana license holders in New York, was one of Senator Savino’s largest campaign contributors in 2018, donating $10,300 to her reelection campaign and has donated $20,600 to Senator Savino in total. It should also be noted that MedMen, Inc. has recently been sued in California for failing to “pay employees minimum wages for off-the-clock work, pay employees for the full amount of hours worked, including overtime, provide all mandatory meal and rest breaks, and keep accurate records of employee hours worked.”

    A New York resident might wonder why a California based company that does not operate a single licensed facility within the district of Senator Savino (who is also vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee) would be her second largest donor (Senator Savino’s largest donor is her own Diane J. Savino Campaign Committee). Moreover, why is Senator Savino listening to a company, accused of committing multiple wage and hour law violations, over the repeated statements of her own constituents and the Governor’s and Assembly’s statewide listening sessions who seek to ensure big businesses, especially those who are owned from outside of New York, do not create an oligopolistic market that shuts out locally owned small and medium sized businesses.

    Also quoted in the article, Mary Kruger, Executive Director of Roc NORML, said “We’re spending a lot of money on the black market right now and none of it is going back into the community,” regarding developing a Community Reinvestment Grant with tax money generated from an adult-use market in NY. And while some money from the illicit market is staying in communities, a majority of it is not, and the legislation must invest tax dollars into communities that have been directly targeted and harmed by the War on Drugs.

    While Nevada certainly has aspects that we can model after, Roc NORML, other activists organizations around the state, and allies in both the Senate and Assembly are in no way, shape, or form advocating to “copy and paste the Nevada model.”

    Assembly Members Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Liz Krueger sponsored the MRTA (Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act), companion legislation in the Assembly and Senate, introduced in 2017 to legalize and regulate cannabis for adult-use in NY. These Assembly members held listening sessions around NYS on this topic earlier this year, one of which Roc NORML was invited to speak at, are not in support of allowing the current medical license holders first dibs at the licenses. Nevada is currently in the middle of a costly lawsuit because of the way their licenses were distributed, has extremely restrictive home cultivation laws, which exclude almost all residents from being eligible for home cultivation, and doesn’t allow for on-site or public consumption; these are jusst some of the most important reasons why we urge NYS not to follow the Nevada model.

    As a consumer advocacy organization, alongside with other advocacy organizations around the state and allies in the Senate and Assembly, we firmly believe this legislation set to pass in April must include the following, non-negotiable points:

    • Restorative and reparative justice, which includes: proactively seal and expunge all low-level marijuana related offenses, at no cost to the victim; strategically promote diversity and equity within the industry, focused on the small business model and only allowing vertical integration licenses within micro-businesses; develop a Community Reinvestment Grants fund as a revenue source for new community based programs for communities that have been directly targeted and most harmed during the War on Drugs, created using 50% of the tax money generated from the adult-use market
    • Home Cultivation with Collective Gardening: allow home cultivation for 6 plants in flower, per individual, with provisions that allow collective gardening centers, promoting “incubators” or hubs where folks can go if they aren’t able to cultivate in their own home
    • On-Site Consumption: allow for businesses to obtain on-site consumption licenses, similar to how liquor licenses are distributed, giving the public a safe, legal, and social place to consume; excluding this from the law is unjust to consumers and medical patients who aren’t able to legally consume in their home

    All of these points, and more, were discussed in depth at the Marijuana Justice, Equity, Reinvestment conference earlier this week in Albany, hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance, which both Roc NORML Board of Directors and Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes were in attendance. These points were echoed by advocates, activists, and industry professionals from around the country during the conference, calling for the urgency to keep Justice, Equity, and Reinvestment at the forefront of this legislation.

    Feedback has been gathered from New Yorkers around the state through the Assembly hearings, as well as 17 listening sessions facilitated by the Governor. The feedback from New Yorkers across the state has not echoed the call to “copy and paste the Nevada model”, as Senator Savino has suggested we do. Instead, the call to action from New Yorkers has been to develop a model that is justice based and consumer focused, neither of which the Nevada model offers.

    Governor Cuomo has stated more than once that New York has waited to legalize cannabis for adult-use so we can learn from other states, and set the standard for other states around the country. This is our chance to do so and we need to learn from where other states have fallen short and make it better, not just “copy and paste” a flawed model.

    Take action now by going to rocnorml.org and:

    1. Take the survey on our homepage, conducted by NYS on cannabis consumption, to inform the legislation currently being written
    2. Under the Events section, RSVP for our statewide lobby day on March 27th, in partnership with Drug Policy Alliance and other organizations from around the state, to advocate for cannabis consumer rights in Albany
    3. Join our mailing list to stay updated on local cannabis news, events, hearings, and become a member of Roc NORML
  • by NORML October 26, 2018

    With the marijuana midterms right around the corner, it’s imperative that you know who and what is going to be on your ballot leading up to Election Day on November 6th. To see who the Votemarijuanamost pro-cannabis reform candidates are in your district, check out our Smoke the Vote scorecard and voter guide.

    One of the biggest hurdles to expanding the legal market in California has been local municipalities banning marijuana businesses in their jurisdiction. This election, at least 82 marijuana related measures will appear on ballots before voters across the state, spanning 10 counties and 58 municipalities.

    A majority of the local initiatives are asking about business taxes, which is often the first step needed to actually open up a cannabis business.

    You can check out the full list of local ballot initiatives here. If you live in any of those cities or counties, be sure to get out to the polls and vote on the marijuana ballot questions! Make sure you know where your polling location is before the election on November 6th and get ready to #SmokeTheVote!

     

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director September 10, 2018

    As more and more states decide to legalize and regulate marijuana, businesses outside of America’s new billion dollar marijuana industry around the country are doing their best to navigate the murky waters of entering into partnerships with state-sanctioned marijuana businesses.

    Some are responding by adopting new company policies more considerate of state laws that grant marijuana-related businesses the freedom to engage in activities that are still prohibited by the federal government (e.g., sale and distribution of marijuana). On the other hand, some of the largest and most well-known social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have decided to steer clear of the issue all together. Instead of evolving like the majority of the American public, where more than 68% support the legalization of adult-use marijuana, they appear to be aggressively suspending social media accounts of marijuana-related businesses while offering little to no explanation as to why.

    Without question, companies, regardless of their products or services, need a strong presence on social media to compete, and ultimately survive in today’s digitized marketplace, but social media accounts of state-sanctioned, legal marijuana businesses are routinely being shut down without warning, and frankly without just cause. This is a devastating blow to companies that have invested time, money and energy into building robust following of tens of thousands of dedicated supporters and potential customers.

    Considering the restrictions against marijuana-related activities outlined in the “Terms of Use” and/or “User Agreement” adopted by most popular social media platforms are based on the fact that marijuana is federally illegal and categorized as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, the problems companies like Natural Remedies and Dixie Elixirs are currently experiencing can only be solved by Congress.

    That’s why I believe the focus should be on ending the federal prohibition of marijuana by encouraging members of Congress to pass HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, S.3174: The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, or S.1689/HR 4815 The Marijuana Justice Act. Not only would marijuana-related companies be able to promote their events and market products on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms, it will end the harassment, arrest, and incarceration of marijuana patients and consumers, not to mention all of the collateral consequences related to a marijuana charge (e.g. employment and housing discrimination).

    I’m in no way trying to minimize the challenges with censorship that business owners operating in the marijuana industry are facing, but merely trying to redirect focus to the root of the problem. Currently there are numerous business-centric marijuana law reform bills being considered by Congress, and while NORML’s focus continues to be on ending marijuana prohibition and being a voice for marijuana consumers, we are generally supportive of these efforts.

    We at NORML understand and appreciate how marijuana consumers benefit when a company has access to basic banking services such as checking accounts, small business loans and merchant services. We understand that without a stable and predictable environment where businesses can thrive, consumers will be the ones to suffer at the end of the day.

    I’ve highlighted a few business-centric marijuana law reform bills that NORML has created action alerts for below:

    The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/support-the-secure-and-fair-enforcement-banking-act-safe-banking-act

    The Small Business Tax Equity Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-legislation-pending-to-cease-penalizing-state-compliant-marijuana-businesses-under-the-federal-tax-code

    The States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-legislation-pending-to-halt-forfeiture-actions-against-marijuana-facilities

    The State Marijuana And Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-support-the-state-marijuana-and-regulatory-tolerance-smart-enforcement-act

    For a comprehensive list please visit NORML’s Action Center.

    As a nonprofit organization that’s focused on the larger goal of ending federal marijuana prohibition, we also promote business-centric marijuana law reforms to our members and supporters. If your business would like to support our efforts, please consider becoming a sponsor today!

    “Businesses can do well by doing good, when they join the fight to end prohibition,” says NORML’s development director, Jenn Michelle Pedini. “NORML’s grassroots includes tens of thousands of reform-savvy consumers, and businesses gain exclusive access to that network when they stand alongside them and fight for freedom.”

    Whether you’re a longtime business owner or new to the marijuana industry, we’ll recognize your company on our website and social media for supporting NORML’s longstanding mission of reforming marijuana laws in our country.

    For more information about becoming a NORML Sponsor click here!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director June 14, 2018

    Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced The “RESPECT Resolution: Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades” to elevate the importance of equity within the legal cannabis marketplace. The RESPECT Resolution seeks both economic and reparative justice, ensuring that disenfranchised communities will be able to benefit equally in the emerging legal and regulated industry.

    “There’s no question that there is growing momentum – both within Congress and nationwide – for cannabis legalization. However, as we move into this new era, we must learn from the failed War on Drugs and ensure that entrepreneurs of color are included in this expanding industry. Due to unequal criminalization rates and disparities in access to capital, people of color are being locked out of the new and thriving legal cannabis trade,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “We need to address the systemic exclusion and discrimination at play. Otherwise, we will be prolonging and encouraging the injustices of the past – where brown men spend their lives in prison for cannabis, while white communities get rich off the industry. I encourage my colleagues to support the RESPECT Resolution, the first bill in Congress focused on building equity in the cannabis industry.”

    As more and more states dial back the war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive criminalization are able to see previous harms remedied and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation.

    It is absolutely crucial that future legalization efforts include avenues to expunge prior criminal convictions for actions which are now 100% legal. We sincerely appreciate Congresswoman Lee’s vision to facilitate those expungements at no cost to the individual. Currently, a complicated bureaucracy and unnecessary fees often prevent drug war victims from obtaining expungements and being able to fully participate in many aspects of civil society.

    Send a message to your Representative now in support of The RESPECT Resolution.

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