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Lobby Day

  • by Mary Kruger, Executive Director, Roc NORML; Director, NY NORML March 3, 2020

    MRTA: A-

    CRTA: C- 

    New York State is set to legalize and regulate cannabis for adult-use, and improve our existing medical marijuana and hemp programs by April 1st with the 2020-2021 NYS Budget. But our work isn’t over yet and we need to fight for SMART legalization now more than ever!

    The MRTA (Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act) was first introduced by Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Liz Krueger in 2013, and has been re-introduced every session since. The bill has gone through several versions to include improvements through the years, taking what we’ve learned from other states successes and failures, aiming to create the gold standard of marijuana legalization legislation. The bill currently has 22 co-sponsors in the Senate and 43 co-sponsors in the Assembly.

    The CRTA (Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act) was first introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo with the 2019-2020 budget proposal. It failed to pass with the budget in 2019 due to lack of support from the legislature, and a similar version of the bill was introduced again this year with the 2020-2021 NYS budget proposal. 

    Late February, a revised version of the 2020-2021 NYS budget proposal was introduced – but disappointingly, no changes were made to the section containing the CRTA.

    While neither bill is perfect, NY NORML chapters unanimously agree the MRTA is far superior to the CRTA, and revisions must be made to the CRTA before it is passed into law.

    Let’s take a look at some of the key differences between these bills, which have been used to grade each one, resulting in an A- for the MRTA and a C- for the CRTA:

    Tax revenue to reinvest into social programs for communities disproportionately harmed from the war on drugs

    YES MRTA= % of tax revenue from marijuana legalization is allocated specifically for a Community Reinvestment Grant program.

    NO CRTA = claims tax revenue could potentially be used for social programs but no specific money is allocated.

    Prevents further criminalization of cannabis consumers for possessing small amounts of illicit marijuana

    YES MRTA = possessing illicit marijuana (from an unlicensed source) is a violation with a fine, for up to 2 pounds of flower and 4.5 ounces of concentrate; any amount over these limits can be a misdemeanor, arrestable offense.

    NO CRTA = possessing any amount of illicit marijuana is a misdemeanor
    Important Note: The Decriminalization Bill passed by Governor Cuomo in 2019 made it so any amount of marijuana flower, up to 2 ounces, is a violation, but the CRTA proposes going backwards to any amount of marijuana from an unlicensed source being a misdemeanor, arrestable offense.

    Allows for home cultivation for personal use

    YES MRTA = allows up to 6 plants for adult-use, per adult per household, and any amount over that limit is a violation with a fine.

    NO CRTA = prohibits home cultivation for adult-use and classifies any amount of plants as at least a misdemeanor. Medical marijuana patients can register with the state to obtain a home cultivation permit, which allows the state to enter a patient’s house at any time for inspection. Medical patients are restricted to 4 plants total, per household. Medical patients are restricted from making any consumable or topical products for personal use from their marijuana plant. If any of these limits are broken, it is at least a misdemeanor, arrestable offense.

    Promotes and supports growth and sustainability of small businesses and building diversity and equity in the industry

    YES MRTA = creates a multi-tier licensing structure, modeled after the craft beer industry, restricting vertically integrated companies to prevent the creation of an oligopoly in the market. This licensing model allows for multiple points of entry into the system with affordable licensing fees.

    NO CRTA = few limitations around current vertically integrated companies in the medical marijuana industry getting licenses in the adult-use industry, which would cripple small businesses from having a chance to compete.

    Access to commonly found cannabis products in the regulated market

    YES MRTA = keeps commonly found cannabis products on the market legal, keeping current consumers patronizing the legal market.

    NO CRTA = aims to regulate potency and types of products available, which will inevitably drive consumers to the illicit market to find familiar products.

    Formation of Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the cannabis industry and regulations

    YES MRTA = all members are appointed by the Governor, pending legislative approval, providing checks and balances for the people being chosen to hold these positions.

    NO CRTA = all members are appointed solely by the Governor and the legislature has no control over the people chosen to hold these positions.

    Affordable tax rate

    NO MRTA

    NO CRTA

    Neither bill offers affordable tax rates. At the current proposed tax rate, which is the same in both bills, it is estimated an eighth of flower will cost anywhere from $60-$70. This is unacceptable and will destroy the chance of building small, craft cannabis businesses.

    Adequate improvements to the medical program

    NO MRTA

    NO CRTA

    Neither bill offers adequate improvements to the medical marijuana program. At the very least, improvements must include the addition of flower into the medical marijuana program, tax exempt medical marijauna products until insurance companies begin to cover the medicine, and reciprocity granted to patients certified in other jurisdictions.

    Legalization in NYS has 3 main goals:

    1. Address decades of harm caused by marijuana prohibition
    2. Create a regulated market so cannabis consumers have access to affordable, safe products
    3. Create a new source of tax revenue for the state

    When we look back at some of the key things we’ve learned from the states that have legalized before us is over-regulation and over taxation is what has been most damaging to this budding industry. 

    If NYS wants to accomplish any of the 3 goals that have been set, we need our leaders in Albany to learn from the mistakes made by other states, and revisions must be made to the CRTA before it can be passed into law.

    All month long, until March 31st, we need everyone to be calling, emailing, tweeting, and meeting with our leaders in Albany to urge them to make changes to the proposed legalization bill.

    1. Use this action alert to send an email to the Governor and Speakers of the Assembly and Senate
    2. Use this form to sign up for our March 24th state wide lobby day
    3. Use the phone numbers and script below to call them and help us ring their phones off the hook in response to the anti-legalization lobby day happening today:

    Governor Cuomo: 518-474-8390

    Speaker Heastie: 518-455-3791

    Leader Stewart-Cousins: 518-455-2585

    “My name is (your name), a constituent from (your city). I am a supporter of Start SMART NY and NORML, and I want to urge you to support legalization in the budget, but the bill as it stands today must have changes made. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (Senate Bill 1527/Assembly Bill 1617) is the bill to look at for guidance on changes that are needed to the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (the bill included in the Governor’s budget proposal). The most important changes needed to the CRTA include:

    1. Allocating a specific % of tax revenue to reinvest into social programs for communities disproportionately harmed from the war on drugs;
    2. Preventing further criminalization of consumers for possessing small amounts of illicit marijuana;
    3. Allowing for home cultivation of cannabis for personal, adult-use;
    4. Promoting and supporting the growth and sustainability of small businesses and building diversity and equity in the industry;
    5. Access to commonly found cannabis products in the regulated market with a goal of keeping current consumers patronizing the legal market;
    6. Formation of the Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the cannabis industry and regulations, with checks and balances provided through legislative approval;
    7. Affordable tax rate; and
    8. Adequate improvements to our medical program

    New Yorkers are tired of waiting for legalization but we won’t accept legalization at any means necessary. We urge you to listen to the recommendations being made by members of the Start SMART NY alliance and make these important changes to the CRTA before it is passed into law.

  • 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.

  • by Delaware NORML January 27, 2020

    Delaware cannabis patients and advocates will gather in Dover on Wednesday to rally support for The Delaware Patient Right to Grow Act, House Bill 243. This change would allow registered patients and registered caregivers to grow medical cannabis at home. The bill will have a hearing in the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee where committee members accept public comment before voting to release the bill to the full House for consideration.

    Hearing details:
    Wednesday 1/29/20 @ 2:30PM
    House Minority Caucus Room 
    411 Legislative Avenue 
    Dover, DE 19901

    Patients are legally permitted to cultivate medical cannabis in about half of the states that regulate its use and distribution. In almost all cases, these provisions have led to few incidences of abuse or diversion. No state has repealed home cultivation, and there has never been a serious push to do so. 

    Allowing patients to grow their own cannabis at home could dramatically increase access.  Delaware has approximately 9000 medical cannabis patients who depend on cannabis as a medicine, but insurance does not cover the cost of cannabis.  For many patients, medical expenses and a reduced ability to work combine to make the price of store-bought cannabis out of reach. For some patients, proximity to a dispensary can often be a challenge as they must drive long distances to access medical cannabis. Securely cultivating cannabis at home alleviates these issues.  Most patients respond best to specific strains of cannabis. Allowing patients, the option to grow specific strains at home assures that they will have an uninterrupted and cost-effective supply of the medicine that is best suited to their own therapeutic needs.

    In addition, home cultivation would allow access to parts of the cannabis plant, such as leaves, roots, stalks and seeds, that are usually trimmed away by our current medical dispensaries before being sold.  Whole plant cannabis contains more than 100 distinct cannabinoids and numerous terpenes that also possess a variety of therapeutic effects.  Many scientists now believe that the combined administration of all these parts of the cannabis plant produce a synergistic effect that is necessary for patients to achieve maximum therapeutic benefit.

    Delaware patients have waited long enough for home cultivation, lawmakers must act promptly to ensure Delaware patients have the right to grow.

    Can’t make it to the hearing? Send a message to your lawmakers now in support of home cultivation rights for Delaware patients

  • by Josh Kasoff, Nevada NORML November 5, 2019

    To honor both those who have bravely served and those who still suffer due to federal cannabis laws, Nevada NORML will be hosting a unique event on Veteran’s Day. The virtual lobby day, a lobbying event done entirely through electronic means, will raise awareness of the many federal pieces of legislation that could benefit veterans such as Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz and California Congresswoman Barbara Lee-sponsored The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, which would allow veterans in states or Indian tribal lands with current medicinal laws to both possess medical cannabis and discuss medical cannabis options with a Veterans Affairs-affiliated doctor – without fear of repercussions.

    Another crucial benefit of The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act is that its passage will enact a series of studies conducted by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs two years after it’s passing, one on the “effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain” and another pertaining to “the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by states, the access of veterans to such programs, and a reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.”

    Six months following the completion of these studies, the Secretary will compile the findings into a detailed report that will then be submitted to Congress, hopefully providing undeniable evidence to the prohibitionist members of the Legislative Branch who refuse to believe in medical freedom.

    With Nevada NORML’s Virtual Lobby Day, volunteers will be utilizing a variety of communication mediums, from letter writing campaigns to phone banking and social media, to contact their representatives to demonstrate support for these federal bills. Through registering to vote from The Nevada Secretary of State’s Office, volunteers will then be directed to a script containing valuable speaking points depending on which bill they’ll be calling the representative about along with their contact information.

    “We have set a goal of 1,000 calls to our representatives’ offices in DC on November 12th.” said Nevada NORML Director Madisen Saglibene. “We know that with our statewide efforts, we can show our leaders the constituent support that exists to urge their support for the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.”

    To stand in solidarity through social media, shareable graphics will be produced by NORML with accompanying hashtags such as “#freedomisNORML” and #homemeansNevada.

    The time we’re living in is among the most crucial for cannabis reform, and continued demonstrations of support for reform and medical expansion for our nation’s heroes will hopefully lead to quicker results than waiting idly for change.

    Rep. Barbara Lee with Nevada NORML’s leadership

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