Chris Goldstein

  • by NORML January 16, 2018

    Allentown, PA – Residents of the Keystone State will gather in Harrisburg on January 23, 2018 to speak with legislators about legalizing marijuana in an event co-sponsored by local NORML chapters, the ACLU-PA and the Keystone Cannabis Coalition.

    A press conference is planned at 10:00 a.m. that will feature elected officials, advocates, medical marijuana patients and cannabis consumers.

    Lehigh Valley NORML is spearheading the event with NORML chapters from Pittsburgh, South Philly and Lancaster sending volunteers to supply education tables and make office visits.

    “Considering our current political climate, we have a unique opportunity to assemble the voices of cannabis advocacy from across this state to show legislators that we are united in our resolve for reform,” said Jeff Riedy of Lehigh Valley NORML, “We will arrive in Harrisburg determined to persuade our policymakers to follow the strong sentiment of Pennsylvania voters by ending our  prohibition on marijuana.”

    This will be the first of several planned marijuana rally days in Harrisburg with NORML chapters in 2018.  A demonstration of a typical cannabis home cultivation setup, with a small indoor garden and LED lights, will be on display.

    “With Delaware and New Jersey poised to legalize cannabis in 2018 we think Pennsylvania is ready to join the conversation,” said Chris Goldstein of South Philly NORML, “We can save more than 70 million tax dollars every year by stopping marijuana possession arrests alone, and we can see more than 300 million in new tax revenue for the commonwealth with retail cannabis.”

    The Vermont legislature recently passed a bill to legalize marijuana possession and home cultivation. This was the first time a cannabis reform bill for adult consumers passed through the legislature instead of the ballot process. According to current data, Pennsylvania police are arresting 49 people, every single day (more than 18,000 per year), for less than 30 grams of cannabis.

    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a change in posture at the Department of Justice towards regulated cannabis on January 4, 2018, the same week that Pa. medical cannabis providers were approved to begin growing. NORML chapters applaud the strong response from Gov. Wolf. state Sen. Mike Folmer, Auditor General Eugene Depasquale and middle district U.S. Attorney David Freed who stood up for our local laws.

    The following week Rep. Dwight Evans (D, PA-2) became the first member of Congress in the area to cosponsor HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. “First, I think I have different view because I served in the state legislature and I voted for the medical marijuana bill,” Evans told Philly.com, “ Second, I have long believed [marijuana] should be decriminalized because that is what Mayor Jim Kenney did in the city of Philadelphia, particularity because we were targeting African American males [for arrests]. Last, I think that the whole aspect of moving in the direction of recreational marijuana is something that we should do because there are many opportunities in that.”

    Rep. Mike Doyle (D, PA-14) and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D, PA-13) also signed on to a letter with 70 members of Congress rebuking Sessions for his new cannabis posture. Pennsylvania now joins just a handful of states with active marijuana reform at all levels with decriminalization ordinances underway in Erie and Easton, a thriving hemp program, a nascent medical cannabis program, and now members of our Congressional delegation involved with national efforts.

    While the January 23 Pennsylvania Marijuana Lobby Day was planned months ago, the new move by the Trump administration has added a new energy. By working on local reform, residents and advocates are sending a strong message to Washington DC that States are moving forward with cannabis.

    Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1718833171482975/

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 12, 2011

    The city of Philadelphia saved an estimated $2 million last year by ceasing criminal prosecutions for minor marijuana offenses, according to comments made last week by District Attorney Seth Williams to the Philadelphia Daily News.

    In April 2010, Williams publicly announced a citywide policy change whereby law enforcement officials would issue a summons rather than arrest and criminally prosecute minor marijuana offenders. Philadelphia NORML had actively lobbied for the policy change after finding that the city punished minor marijuana violations more severely than many neighboring counties. A February 2010 Philly NORML report also found significant racial disparities in the city’s marijuana prosecutions – noting that African American males comprised an estimated 83 percent of all persons in Philadelphia arrested for minor marijuana possession offenses.

    The new enforcement policy took effect in June 2010.

    Approximately 4,160 defendants were diverted under the program, called the Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM), during its first year, the Philadelphia Daily News reported. Defendants in the program pay a $200 fine to attend a three-hour drug awareness class. Those who complete the class and pay the fine do not have to appear in criminal court and will not have a criminal record.

    Previously, minor (under 30 grams) marijuana possession offenders in Philadelphia were criminally prosecuted with a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 30 days probation or jail time, a $500 fine, and a criminal record.

    “There’s no reason to waste tax dollars on harsh prohibition enforcement,” said Chris Goldstein, media coordinator for Philly NORML and publisher of FreedomIsGreen.com. “Removing the criminal penalties for marijuana possession helps to pay for firefighters, ambulances, and other necessary services. It’s that simple.”

    Additional information on this story will appear in this week’s NORML media advisory. Sign up to receive NORML’s news advisories free online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 13, 2010

    Senate lawmakers voted 22 to 16 today in favor of a concurrent resolution that forces the Department of Health and Senior Services to revise draft regulations regarding the implementation of the New Jersey Compassionate Medical Marijuana Act. Assembly lawmakers had previously approved the resolution in November.

    The Department now has 30 days to rewrite the regulations. (You can read NORML’s critique of the draft regulations here.) “Failure to publish proposed rules that are consistent with the intent of the legislature may result in the legislature passing a concurrent resolution to prohibit those proposed rules from taking effect in whole or in part,” the resolutions states.

    Lawmakers, patients, and reform activists took issue with several aspects of the draft regulations, which they argued violated the intent of New Jersey’s yet-to-be implemented medical marijuana law. These included provisions:

    * requiring qualifying patients to establish that their diagnosed condition has proven resistant to all other conventional therapies;

    * capping the number of state-licensed medical cannabis producers to no more than two;

    * restricting the varieties of marijuana available to patients to six strains, and capping the plant’s THC content at ten percent;

    * prohibiting the dissemination of any edible medical cannabis product;

    * mandating that doctors who authorize their patients to use marijuana must “make reasonable efforts” at least every three months to wean them off the drug.

    Earlier this month, Gov. Chris Christie — who has previously voiced disapproval of the state’s nascent medical cannabis law — agreed to allow for establishment of six licensed facilities to produce and dispense marijuana to authorized patients, and loosen the eligibility requirements for specific patients. The Senate’s vote today indicates that lawmakers will demand the administration to make additional changes regarding how the law is ultimately implemented.

    Chris Goldstein of New Jersey NORML and the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey said: “[We are] pleased that the New Jersey Legislature heard the concerns of severely ill residents in the continued fight for fair and legal access to marijuana. The vote today sends a strong message to the Department of Health and Senior Services as well as Governor Christie that officials need to craft more reasonable rules for the medical cannabis program. This can only be accomplished by engaging in a transparent process that involves patients and advocates.”

    For more information or to get involved, contact NORML New Jersey or the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey.

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator April 14, 2010

    Watch CBS News Videos Online

    As a longtime media observer, I’m beginning to see a shift in the way mainstream media are covering the medical marijuana issue. Back in the day, these sort of talking-head segments used to feature the host in-studio with the official-looking spokesperson for prohibition getting the opening and closing questions and being allowed by the host to dominate the discussion. The guest representing the reform position is then brought in for conflict and balance, but usually in a remote shot. The sober and serious prohib would be given open-ended questions and allowed to speak at length to make the point. The marginalized reformer would be given leading questions on some inane fallacy about “legalization” and then be forced to defend themselves against the implied frivolity of their position.

    In this interview, the roles are reversed. Chris Goldstein comes off as the sober and serious one in-studio, with the host hanging on his every word and eager to give him opportunity to advance the agenda. The fellow from Heritage Foundation comes off as the fringe defender of an unwelcome position, with the host’s leading questions that could almost be completed with “tell us why you believe that nonsense?”

    It’s getting to the point where mainstream media organizations are having difficulty booking guests to take an anti-medical marijuana position. Even those they find can only bring themselves to criticize the smoking of cannabis and even they are being rebutted by interviewers who are increasingly aware of vaporization, tinctures, and edibles.

    This is how NORML is working to end adult marijuana prohibition – by winning the hearts and minds of the American people through honest education about cannabis and through responsible intelligent spokespeople appearing in local and national news media. Chris Goldstein is but one of the hundreds of activists in our nationwide chapter network who are making a difference by stepping up to be the face and voice of the responsible adult cannabis consumer… won’t you join us?

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator November 19, 2009

    (PhillyNORML: Chris Goldstein & Derek Rosenzweig) Philadelphia could save more than $3,000,000 annually by not taking pot smokers in for mugshots.

    Minor marijuana possession arrests in Philadelphia are handled with mandatory custody; this is a different process than every other county in Pennsylvania costing the city millions of dollars. A disproportionate number of citizens (84%) arrested for marijuana possession in the city are black.

    Research by PhillyNORML this year has uncovered these two disturbing trends that present serious challenges to the city. But in a sign of a pragmatic shift in attitudes, city officials have held an ongoing dialogue with reform advocates to proactively address these concerns.

    In March of 2009 the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws performed their annual observation of the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report data for the marijuana arrest numbers. At the same time, the city was beginning to face a heartbreaking economic plight that pitted police jobs against a lack of Public Safety Budget funds.

    Data indicates that 4,716 adults were arrested in 2008 on the singular criminal misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession less than 30 grams. In Philadelphia such arrests are required to be custodial. For even a single cannabis joint this means an offender must be handcuffed, transported to a holding cell, photographed and perhaps make bail before release. In every other county in Pennsylvania there is no mandate for the custodial arrest of citizens found with small amounts of marijuana. Instead, summary violations are issued along with a date to appear in court.

    PhillyNORML is a sterling example of how ordinary cannabis consumers can band together under the NORML banner and affect real change at the local level. Reformers at the national level don’t have the on-the-ground knowledge of local politics like everyday citizens living in cities like Philadelphia. Local reformers can better cultivate personal relationships with mayors, city councils, and all their staff, as well as integrate with groups as disparate as unions and libertarian groups, parents and police, and churches and universities.

    If you’re sitting around wondering when they are going to legalize pot, you’re part of the problem. YOU have to legalize pot. You and your like-minded pot smokers, cannabis consumers, medical marijuana patients, and lovers of liberty, peaceably assembled to exercise your free speech and to petition your government for a redress of grievances… there’s nothing more American than being NORML.