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  • by NORML June 6, 2019
    Doug Greene

    Photo: Buck Ennis/Crain’s New York Business

    NORML is deeply saddened to report the untimely and tragic loss of longtime member and activist, Doug Greene. Doug served as Empire State NORML’s Legislative Director, and worked tirelessly to reform marijuana laws in the state of New York.

    “Doug was a passionate advocate for ending America’s failed war on cannabis consumers, and his work with NORML and for the cause spans decades not years. This is a sad loss for his friends and family, the New York cannabis community, and the legalization movement,” said NORML executive director Erik Altieri.

    “Cannabis Excelsior, Doug.”

    Please take action today and honor Doug’s commitment to reform by sending a message to New York lawmakers in support of A.1617 and S.1527, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA).

    Read more about Doug and his activism below in a statement from Empire State NORML:

    It is with tremendous sorrow to share that our beloved Douglas Greene, Legislative Director, Board Member and Lifetime Member of Empire State NORML, passed away under tragic circumstances on June 4, 2019.

    Doug was a prolific longtime activist in the cannabis community, and dedicated decades of his life to many social causes. From ending the war on drugs and legalizing ibogaine to animal rights and veganism, he was a tenacious advocate always fighting for what he believed in.

    A paralegal, his expertise and knowledge of law and policy extended into his activism and set him apart as one of the most respected authorities on cannabis legislation. Whether it be providing input and testimony to various legislative bodies, advising foreign dignitaries at the State Department, delivering education to communities on complex legislative issues, his opinion was highly sought after, providing unique insights and vision. His efforts will continue to touch countless souls across New York state and around the globe.

    This is a tragic loss for Doug’s family. Our deepest condolences go out to them and his loved ones. We ask that you please be respectful of their privacy at this time.

    While our movement has truly suffered a tragic loss, Doug left us all with a legacy of indefatigable commitment which means we cannot let this paralyze us. Through these difficult times, we must find strength in ourselves and from within our community. Doug’s signature catchphrase was “Cannabis Excelsior,” excelsior meaning “ever upward” in Latin.

    Cannabis Excelsior.

    Sincerely,
    Empire State NORML Board of Directors

  • by Mary Kruger, Executive Director, Roc NORML April 1, 2019

    By: Jason Klimek, Esq., Legal Advisor to Roc NORML, and Mary Kruger, Start SMART NY Coalition Member and Executive Director of Roc NORML

    Sixty-five percent of New York residents support the legalization of cannabis. Democrats control the Governor’s office as well as majorities in both the Assembly and the Senate for the first time in a decade. After repeated calls over by politicians to pass adult-use as part of New York’s budget, New Yorkers are waking up on April 1st to find out that they’ve been the subject of, what looks like, an April Fool’s Day prank, several months in the making. Cannabis legalization was not included in the 2019 – 2020 New York State Budget.

    Both the legislature and the Governor’s office, after hearing New Yorkers’ opinions, have repeatedly stated cannabis legislation must address social justice concerns and avoid creating a cannabis economy that will allow large businesses to thrive to the detriment of small business. Focusing on social justice and small business will allow those communities that have been devastated by the failed war on drugs to participate in the cannabis economy and attempt to right the wrongs of the past. The longer New York waits, the less likely those goals will come to fruition. In the meantime, communities will continue to see their members arrested, prosecuted and jailed for cannabis-related offenses.

    Beyond the possibility that New York may see unified control disappear in upcoming elections, if New York to wait until 2020 or longer, the probability of federal legalization drastically increases. If federal legalization were to be implemented prior to New York legalization, small business will have absolutely no chance to compete against the largest businesses who have been operating legally in other states for years and have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars of investments.

    Even if New York were to legalize before the federal government, there continues to exist a high probability that New York will be surrounded by legal states, as Pennsylvania is introducing legislation to legalize, both Connecticut and Vermont are discussing the possibility of legalization, and New Jersey is sure to attempt to pass legislation again. Those surrounding states will create the markets in which small businesses will thrive and draw cannabis revenue to those states. The effect will be to deprive New York of the jobs and tax revenue while sticking New York with any issues that may arise from the legalization of cannabis.

    Legalization is still possible this year, but only if we continue to put the pressure on our elected officials to get it done. We have been talking a lot about the CRTA in the past few months, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, legislation drafted to legalize cannabis for adult-use, written by a team created by Governor Cuomo. This bill didn’t offer the social and racial justice, community reinvestment in a meaningful way, or consumer rights that we deserve. Our allies in the Senate and Assembly were willing to negotiate on some points, and agreed they couldn’t compromise on important issues for which New Yorkers voiced strong support:

    • The adult-use market must be created in a way that benefits and reinvests back into communities that have been most harmed and targeted in the War on Drugs

    • Provisions must be included that would build an equitable and diverse workforce, with meaningful and ownership level work in the industry

    • Restorative justice is included, in the form of sealing and resentencing past convictions for crimes that would now be legal after the legislation is passed

    • Provisions are included for home cultivation, allowing consumers and patients to grow their own cannabis if they wish; this is similar to the model we see in the thriving craft beer industry in New York

    The Start SMART NY campaign has been working with Senator Liz Krueger, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes for over five years on drafting legislation to legalize cannabis for adult-use in New York. They each sponsored companion legislation in the Assembly and Senate, the MRTA, or Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act. These allies in the Senate and Assembly have been working tirelessly with experts to create smart, sustainable legislation that offers marijuana justice and legalization, and we need to help them continue to do this work now, more than ever, and get this bill perfected and passed by the end of the legislative session in June.

    While the MRTA isn’t perfect legislation, it has about 90% of what we’re hoping to see the final draft have; compared to the CRTA which only have about 50% of what we’re hoping to see. The rhetoric from the Governor’s office last month about this issue being rushed because we just started having these conversations simply aren’t true; the MRTA is on its fourth draft and was originally introduced in both the Senate and Assembly five years ago. These conversations have been happening and our allies are willing to negotiate with the Governor, but he needs to do just that – negotiate.

    We must see the legislation rooted in justice, equity and restitution back into communities that have been devastated from the War on Drugs. When folks ask why, the answers are quite simple:

    Marijuana prohibition has not been effective in stopping or remotely curbing marijuana usage. Marijuana remains the most widely used illegal substance nationally, with half of Americans admitting having tried the substance in their lifetime. Despite this widespread experimental user, the rate of regular use has not changed significantly since the 1980s, steadily remaining at about 1 in 8 Americans – despite significant increases in enforcement over that time.

    Marijuana prohibition has not increased public safety. According to a Human Rights Watch report published in 2012, people who enter the criminal justice system with an arrest for public possession of marijuana are no more likely to be threats to public safety than someone who has not been arrested.

    Marijuana prohibition has been disproportionately enforced in communities of color and has led to devastating collateral consequences. An arrest and conviction for a marijuana offense can prohibit individuals from fully participating in society, inhibiting their ability to get a loan, get a job, go to college, or to access public housing, among other negative impacts. Statewide, people of color have borne these collateral consequences at alarming rates, with Black and Latino people representing 80% of those arrested for simple possession in 2016 alone, despite equal rates of use across populations.

    Marijuana decriminalization is not enough. New York State first decriminalized personal marijuana possession in 1977—yet more than 800,000 people have been arrested for low-level marijuana possession in the past 20 years alone. Although New York officials, including Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, have previously recognized these arrests as ineffective, unjust, and racially discriminatory, they still continue across the state because of a loophole in the law. Ending prohibition would end these arrests.

    Ending marijuana prohibition is a cost-saving measure. Legalizing marijuana will drastically improve the state’s ability to make investments that benefit and advance all New Yorkers, such as education, housing, and infrastructure. In 2010, New York spent more than $650 million enforcing marijuana prohibition. Those resources went to increased policing in communities of color, resulting in more than 50,000 marijuana arrests for simple possession that year, usually only for small amounts of marijuana.

    Visit http://smart-ny.com/join/petition/ to sign the petition now and pressure our lawmakers in Albany to pass smart legislation, this year. Another New Yorker’s life shouldn’t be ruined while we have folks right here in New York making money from selling the same plant.

    Go to norml.org/action-center/item/new-york-demand-support-for-marijuana-legalization and send a pre-written email to your lawmakers, urging them to support this effort.

    Go to vote.norml.org and find your New York State Assembly Member and Senator. Then call and tell them you want to see smart legislation passed, and you support the MRTA, sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

    Now is not the time to back down – now is the time for the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers who support legalization to make our voices heard loud and clear; we demand marijuana justice and legalization, and we won’t stop until we get it.

    ___________________________________________________________

    Start SMART NY – Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade – is the campaign dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition in New York. We believe that it is time to stop the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition and to create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice.

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate March 18, 2019

    A.1617, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), has been re-introduced this legislative session. The bill would legalize the adult possession, use, and regulated sale of marijuana.

    Over the past twenty years, many New Yorkers have been negatively affected by the harms of prohibition in New York. With people of color accounting for nearly 85% of those arrested annually, the MRTA directs the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana to these communities. Because structural racism is ingrained in marijuana prohibition, it’s important that the MRTA both ends marijuana prohibition and promotes racial justice.

    Significant steps are taken in the amended MRTA to ensure racial justice and a small business-friendly industry, including:

    • Creating a micro-licensing structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, which allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.
    • Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.
    • Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses.

    Our communities can’t wait. The decades of marijuana prohibition had created a stain on the fabric of our society, and urgent action is needed to begin to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs. Adult-use cannabis legalization must be passed in the state budget, and support for the MRTA goes a long way towards making that a reality. Freedom simply cannot wait any longer.

    Click here to send a message to your New York State Assemblymember in urgent support of this effort.

     

    We also encourage you to plug in with Empire State NORML. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their webpage HERE.

    ______________________________________

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate March 13, 2019

    In news that bodes well for the future of cannabis legalization in the state of New York, both chambers of the state legislature have included legalization language in their annual budget proposals.

    Both budget proposals also address the expedited expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions, implementing social equity programs in the state’s growing marijuana industry, and diverting tax money earned through the legal cannabis industry to benefit communities that have borne the brunt of the most brutal aspects of marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs in New York.

    Though Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal does not allow for the personal cultivation of marijuana plants, the NY General Assembly’s budget proposal does promote home cultivation upon the legalization of adult-use and retail sale of cannabis in the state. If home cultivation is included in final legislation and is signed into law by the governor, New York would help reinvigorate legislative support for the practice, which has waned considerably in other east coast states that are exploring legalizing cannabis for adult-use.

    The legal allowance of home cultivation in private residences is a core tenet of NORML’s Attributes of Adult Access Regulations. Read about home cultivation and our core tenets here.

    Though it remains to be seen if the Empire State will legalize cannabis for adult-use in 2019, we cannot let up in our fight for the personal freedoms of New Yorkers. As always, we need your help to make sensible marijuana reform a reality in New York.

    Click here to send a message to your state lawmakers in support of cannabis legalization in New York.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director December 20, 2018

    While lawmakers in Albany continue to explore the intricacies of legalizing and regulating adult-use marijuana in New York, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced a plan to expunge low-level marijuana convictions from criminal records. In a recent interview with CBS New York, Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez had this to say. “I do not believe these cases keep us safer. They cause a lot of distrust in our justice system. We all here know there is a tremendous racial disparity in respect to how these cases have been enforced in the past.”

    Following the announcement from the District Attorney’s Office, David C.  Holland, Esq., Executive and Legal Director of Empire State NORML, weighed in on the DA’s decision. “Justice is being vindicated by District Attorney Gonzalez through his actions by openly acknowledging that cannabis was and is not the source of social ills or disruption. Rather, his actions continue to help the Empire State continue to move to responsible use legislation as communities and individuals most impacted by the misguided drug war may become innovators and leaders in this new green industrial era. ”

    For months, state legislators and officials with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office have been soliciting feedback from stakeholders and hosting roundtable meetings with the hope of drafting legislation for next year’s legislative session that’s scheduled to convene on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. In addition to discussions about tax revenues and health and public safety, many are urging lawmakers to include language that would allow for the expungement of past marijuana convictions and expansion of re-entry programs to those disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition.

    Most recently, Governor Cuomo outlined his agenda for 2019 which prioritizes the legalization of adult-use marijuana and establishment of a tax and regulate program. During his remarks, the Governor also expressed his full support for restorative justice provisions that would begin to address the many injustices of marijuana prohibition. With Democrats controlling both chambers of New York’s legislature, it’s likely Governor Cuomo will have the support he needs to deliver on his promise.

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

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