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Lobby Day

  • by Josh Kasoff, Nevada NORML August 13, 2019

    Las Vegas NORML has once again found themselves busy with many types of advocacy for patient and consumer rights, both statewide and federally. Following a rapidly successful Nevada legislative session where the historic AB 132 and AB 192 were passed, Las Vegas NORML has kept the legislative momentum moving. Seeing the sheer willpower of the advocates and people themselves to become politically involved and speaking with their representatives directly, the local NORML chapter has been collecting signatures for a significantly more monumental federal bill that could result in drastic criminal justice reform and further legalization and access to financial services for legal cannabis businesses.   

    Introduced by New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler and California Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris, The MORE Act (Marijuana, Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act) would directly address and provide a remedy to the many troubles and difficulties still associated with cannabis, everything short of stopping Taco Bell from sounding appetizing. 

    For starters, cannabis would be decriminalized on the federal level and therefore removed from the entirety of the Controlled Substances Act. Furthermore, those convicted of cannabis charges on the federal level could apply for expungement of records and apply for re-sentencing if needed. For those who desire to work in the industry, yet have a federal felony record, and are therefore unable to in many states due to felonies being instantly prohibited, this reform may allow that desire to become a reality.  

    Any issues related to receiving public benefits due to cannabis usage will be stopped and a five percent federal tax will be implemented, the revenue of which will be directed to a program called the “Opportunity Trust Fund”. This fund would establish financial services such as grants and loans to “socially and economically-disadvantaged” communities most affected by the life-wrecking failures of the War on Drugs.

    Last Saturday at NuLeaf, Las Vegas NORML collected dozens of signatures from consumers who support such a comprehensively reformative bill. With the consumer’s information, the team will hand-deliver the pre-written letters of support to their respective representative in both Congress and the Senate during our trip to Washington, DC, and show irrefutable evidence of this bill’s popularity and need.

    Our packed August meeting went excellently and we were so thrilled with the number of fresh faces we got to see. Being able to hear Representative Neal and McCurdy’s testimonies about how they championed for the need for AB 132 and 192 spoke volumes to advocates, and Ashley Ciliberti of MA Analytics showed the absolute importance and interest in cannabis lab testing. Countless more signatures were collected in support of the MORE Act, and a good amount of funds were raised for Las Vegas NORML’s Washington DC national convention and lobbying efforts.

    “Our volunteers look forward to our annual trip to DC each year because it provides the one-on-one opportunity to interact with policy makers.” said Nevada NORML Executive Director Madisen Saglibene. “Traveling to the nation’s capital for these meetings sends a strong message to our leaders that constituents care about these developing cannabis policies.”

    Learn more at www.lvnorml.org
    Contributions being accepted at paypal.me/lasvegasnorml
  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director

    When NORML was founded in 1970, roughly 12% of Americans supported legalizing marijuana. After decades of hard work by thousands of committed activists around the country, we are gradually winning the hearts and minds of a majority of the public today. Currently sixty-five percent of adults nationwide support ending marijuana prohibition and establishing a regulated market where responsible consumers can legally purchase marijuana. But there’s still plenty of work to do.

    With a network of more than 160 affiliate chapters, NORML offers plenty of opportunities to join the fight to end marijuana prohibition. First, you’ll need to become a member of NORML. As a member you’ll be the driving force behind meaningful marijuana law reform efforts on the local, state and federal levels. Regardless of the policy you’re advocating for (e.g., adult-use, patient access, decriminalization etc.) you’ll find an extensive collection of recent studies and fact-based information that will reinforce your position in NORML’s Online Library.

    Second, get involved with a NORML chapter in your community. As an active member of a NORML chapter, you’ll engage in educational outreach, lobby local and state lawmakers, and work within your community to bring awareness to the failings of marijuana prohibition. If there isn’t a NORML chapter in your community, we can work together to organize a new network of NORML activists to support your efforts. Click here to find the NORML chapter nearest you!

    Third, use NORML’s Action Center to contact your members of Congress in support of marijuana law reform efforts. Priority legislation includes: the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act and more! At any given time NORML is monitoring dozens of bills around the country so we’re able to provide our network with legislative updates and relevant fact sheets

    2019 NORML Conference

    Lastly, register for NORML’s 2019 Conference and Lobby Day! You’ll join NORML members from around the country for a three-day event where you’ll learn about effective lobbying strategies, hear the latest scientific and political advancements and meet with Congressional offices to advocate for the end of marijuana prohibition. Get your tickets today!

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

    Marijuana policy should be evidence based. Dispel the myths with the NORML Fact Sheets.

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

     

  • by Analise Pruni, Staff Writer, Wisconsin NORML July 23, 2019

    With our neighboring Midwestern states surrounding Wisconsin with cannabis policy reforms, a majority public opinion favoring some form of legalization and with the governor’s support, why would Wisconsin NORML need a lobby day at the capital in Madison? The truth is, there is much more work to be done! 

    After a long day of meetings and presentations, what republican policymakers seemed to be continuously asking for was evidence, proof, more information and testimony about the efficacy of cannabis for medicinal purposes in particular. 

    Donate Today to Support our Work Across Wisconsin

    Norah Lowe has Rett Syndrome which makes it difficult for her to control her movements or speak. Despite this, she has given several testimonies to county boards about the value of medicinal cannabis for her condition and on lobby day, she addressed republican Rep. Joe Sanfelippo. Norah is 10 years old. Her parents Megan and Josh say to those in opposition of medical cannabis, “Here is your evidence.”

    “I hear you, I understand you, I am smart,” Norah says to Sanfelippo through her digital device. Before beginning treatment with CBD oil, she was on six prescription medications. Now she is down to just one. 

    Megan and Josh live in Sauk County in his family’s sixth generation farm house. They don’t understand why their only option to get treatment for their daughter may be to move away from the place they have lived all of their lives and they are not the only family going through this crisis. Norah’s friends with Rhett’s out of state have said that THC has immensely helped their symptoms, particularly with seizures. Norah’s parents are desperate for the opportunity to try these treatments without risk of criminal prosecution, driving out of state or leaving their home altogether. The current cost of CBD oil in Wisconsin has also driven the Lowe’s to grow their own hemp to produce the oil themselves. They will leave WI if they have to though, to get the best possible care for Norah. 

    Sanfelippo listened through their story and said he sympathized with them and their situation, however insisted that he was listening to the professionals about the ill effects of cannabis. He cited the American Psychiatric Society as deeming cannabis “as dangerous to children as lead.” 

    The path to legalization starts with dispelling the stigma and disinformation surrounding cannabis. Stories and testimonies are needed; from professionals, doctors, parents with children who have benefitted from cannabis treatments and veterans who use it to ease their anxiety, PTSD and injuries. This strategy includes educating representatives on the needs and will of their constituents and bringing all of the pro-cannabis community into the conversation.

    “As always we really want to educate these lawmakers; that’s our goal every time we come here,” said Alan Robinson, executive director of Wisconsin NORML. “We want to impress upon them that their constituents matter, their constituents want cannabis.”

    There are successful models of cannabis policy in other states that need to be looked as WI gears up for the introduction of several cannabis bills in the fall. It needs to be made clear to policymakers that a restrictive medical bill that grants access only to a small portion of “qualified” patients is not enough for the residents of WI who across every county in majority voted yes last fall for some form of legalization in the non-binding referendum.

    Donate Today to Support our Work Across Wisconsin

    Executive Director Eric Marsch of Southeastern WI NORML knows that a restrictive medical bill, while a step in the right direction, isn’t pushing the needle far enough. 

    “We want to make sure that patients are allowed to grow their own, so that they’re able to control costs and guarantee access to a strain that works best for them,” Marsch said. There are around 113 cannabinoids in the plant in which different strains help alleviate different symptoms and disorders in varied forms such as edibles, tinctures, whole plants and oils. 

    “We want doctors to be able to choose what conditions a patient is qualified to get medical cannabis for rather than just having a narrow list that restricts who is able to have access to it,” Marsch added.

    For families like Norah’s and countless other pro-cannabis supporters, their question to policymakers is this: 

    “How do we start that conversation; how do we work together on this?” Norah’s dad Josh asked Sanfellipo. 

    Presenting a united front of advocacy, education and reform must be a priority of all WI constituents who voted yes for cannabis and have had their voices ignored by those who would claim to represent them.

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

     

  • 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

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