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NORML Chapters

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director December 31, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaAs support for marijuana legalization in America reaches an all-time high, NORML chapters are hoping to tap into the energy and enthusiasm of their most ardent supporters for their 2018 lobby days. According to the most recent nationwide polling data compiled by Gallup, Sixty-four percent of US adults support the legalization of adult-use marijuana. That’s why NORML chapters are gearing up for an aggressive push to advance marijuana law reforms in states across the country.

    Looking Back

    As the year comes to an close, NORML chapters have certainly earned the right to celebrate their hard work and a very productive year. With a record number of state-level lobby days, the passage of several decriminalization measures and a strong presence at congressional town hall meetings, and legislative offices, NORML chapters had an undeniable impact on marijuana policy in 2017.

    To kick things off earlier this year, NORML chapters around the country organized more than two dozen lobby days, where legislative victories ranged from an effort by Virginia NORML to end automatic driver’s license suspension for marijuana possession, to a push by Delaware NORML that resulted in the passage of a marijuana legalization bill out of committee. A first for the Delaware legislature.

    After wrapping up state legislative sessions, NORML chapters continued their work well into the summer months, but shifted their focus to local efforts. While some chapters dedicated their time to collecting signatures for statewide marijuana law reform initiatives and others to community outreach projects, NORML KC, Peachtree NORML, Madison NORML and Ohio NORML set their sights on decriminalization. Each chapter was successful in reducing the penalties for personal possession of marijuana in their community from a criminal infraction to a simple fine or no fine at all.

    Following a busy summer filled with local activism and congressional town hall meetings, chapter leadership from around the country gathered in our nation’s capital for NORML’s 2017 Conference and Lobby in Washington DC. With the help of NORML’s political team led by Justin Strekal, NORML coordinated more than 150 meetings with congressional offices, and to the surprise of many, a face-to-face meeting with Senator Cory Booker, who recently introduced The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017.

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    Looking Ahead

    With the new year quickly approaching, NORML Chapters around the country are busy mobilizing supporters in advance of their 2018 lobby days. NORML activists will be meeting with state representatives where they’ll help educate them about the advantages of ending marijuana prohibition and encourage support for dozens of statewide reform bills. To date, Virginia NORML, NORML KC, NORML of Florida, Lehigh Valley NORML, NORML Women of Washington, Pittsburgh NORML, Ohio NORML, Missouri NORML, Illinois NORML, Delaware NORML, Kentucky NORML, Maryland NORML, New Mexico NORML, Wyoming NORML and Greater St. Louis NORML have scheduled the first round of NORML lobby days for the new year.

    In Pennsylvania, Jeff Reidy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML will be in Harrisburg with a broad coalition consisting of marijuana activists from the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and several other NORML chapters for what’s expected to be one of the largest grassroots marijuana-centric lobby days in the state’s history. With Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana patients now receiving their state registration cards and the expected opening of dispensaries in early 2018, the coalition will be pushing for statewide decriminalization.

    “Marijuana activism begins with NORML. Being a member of this organization implies a desire to push our agenda, while engaging policy makers,” said Reidy. “Lobbying our elected officials is the simplest way to deliver the voice of the people to our politicians. We only win when we engage, speak out, endure, and fight for our freedoms. It’s time to Lobby!”

    In Washington State, where medical and adult-use marijuana is already legal, Danica Noble, executive director of NORML Women of Washington and her colleagues with Washington NORML will be focused on protecting progress and expanding the rights of marijuana consumers by addressing issues like home cultivation and workplace discrimination.

    “In Washington State, our top legislative priorities will be on legalizing homegrows, expunging felony convictions for simple possession, and establishing workplace protections for marijuana consumers, said Noble. “In addition to not having the legal right to grow our own marijuana, marijuana consumers in Washington are being denied employment opportunities and still carry the burden of a felony conviction for simple possession. This has to change.”

    While the legislative priorities of each NORML chapter can vary, the goals of protecting the rights of marijuana consumers and ending marijuana prohibition are shared by all.

    Empowerment Resources

    To support these grassroots lobbying efforts, we recently updated NORML’s Citizen Lobby Guide. This comprehensive guide will assist NORML activists in the planning and execution of a successful lobby day and also provides organizational checklists and a legislative questionnaire. So regardless of the state or legal status of marijuana, NORML activists will be fully prepared to discuss meaningful marijuana law reforms and effectively communicate NORML’s message of ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.

    NORML Lobby Guide: http://norml.org/pdf_files/NORML_CitizenLobbyGuide.pdf

    NORML’s Action Center

    In addition to offering support through NORML’s Citizen Lobby Guide, we have created more than a dozen action alerts targeting lawmakers across the country urging their support for marijuana law reform legislation being considered in their state. To join the conversation, simply click on the link below, find the action alert for your state and enter your information!

    NORML Action Center: http://norml.org/act

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    For more information about a NORML’s 2018 Chapter Lobby Days, please email Chapters@NORML.org or visit http://norml.org/about/chapter-calendar for list of upcoming chapter lobby days and meetings.

  • by Jordan Person, Executive Director, Denver NORML May 15, 2017

    14963351_1825384024368232_2740677872685265191_nCurrently marijuana is legal to purchase, possess and consume in the state of Colorado, but the question is: Where can it be legally consumed? Well, if you happen to be in the city of Denver (or most anywhere else in Colorado) the answer is very simple: marijuana can only be legally consumed in a private residence. But what if your landlord won’t allow it or you are one of the thousands of tourists who regularly visits our great city? It appears that we’ll have to continue to wait for state lawmakers to answer that question.

    Denver Moves Forward with Social Consumption

    Last November, Denver voters passed I-300; a social use initiative that approved the commingling of marijuana and alcohol in bars and restaurants across Denver. Obviously a much different approach when compared to Denver NORML’s Responsible Use Campaign and something the State of Colorado disagreed with. In response, the State of Colorado adopted language making it clear that liquor licenses would not be allowed to permit the consumption of marijuana on their premises. According to the Denver Post, this change went into effect on January 1st of this year and vastly changed the intent of I-300.

    “We all want adult consumption everywhere, but this is reality,” said Judd Golden, Legal Counsel for Denver NORML. The news of removing language that allowed the commingling of alcohol and marijuana frustrated proponents of I-300 so a lawsuit was filed against the State of Colorado to push the issue.

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    Kevin Mahmalji, outreach director for NORML shared his thoughts on combining the two substances. “As it currently stands, we can easily make the argument that marijuana is safer than alcohol, because the two are separated. If we allow the two to be mixed, any incident fueled by alcohol could potentially be blamed on marijuana. That’s why I believe responsible adults deserve their own space to consume marijuana similar to those who enjoy craft beer or cigars.”

    In addition to the state’s decision to prevent the commingling of marijuana and alcohol, the City of Denver created the Social Consumption Advisory Committee that consisted of 22 influential decision makers – ranging from city officials to marijuana business owners – to go over the language line by line. The group met six times over several months and offered countless suggestions to improve the original language of I-300. Including a recommendation that would require patrons to sign a waiver before entering consumption areas. Essentially providing a layer of protections against unwanted exposure by non-consumers and those under 21 years of age. A recommendation that Denver NORML fully supports.

    The 12 page document lists pages and pages of suggestions to make the law work effectively for the city of Denver. Last week the draft rules were finally posted.

    Push for Social Consumption Statewide: SB-184

    In addition to our work on the local level, members of Denver NORML spent a lot of time at the state Capitol educating lawmakers on social consumption and the need for a legislative solution. The result? SB-184, which would have empowered local governments to permit private marijuana clubs and better defined what “open and public” means to marijuana consumers. Once the bill was introduced, Denver NORML organized two citizen lobby days with more than 45 participants followed by months of face to face meetings with state lawmakers in support of a statewide solution.

    Unfortunately during the final weeks of Colorado’s legislative session, many things with the bill began to change. Most notably, the bill’s sponsors tried to include language that would have criminalized marijuana consumption on the front porch of a private residence and aimed to exclude a newly established cannabis church from operating as a marijuana club. Thankfully the Senate and the House could not come to a consensus and the bill died in committee on the last day of the 2017 legislative session.

    Until state lawmakers are willing to pass legislation that will provide a set of rules and protections for business owners and marijuana consumers to responsibly consume marijuana, Colorado municipalities will continue to struggle with this issue.

    With the Denver’s Social Consumption Advisory Committee wrapping up its final meeting and Colorado’s legislative session coming to an end, there are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the social consumption of marijuana in Colorado.

    Denver NORML will apply the lessons learned this year and with their allies, continue to push for statewide reform in the next legislative session.

    For more updates on local reform efforts, follow Denver NORML by visiting their website and on Facebook and Twitter!

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML May 11, 2017

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    **Update: Peachtree NORML has just informed us that the vote has been postponed. We will keep you posted as developments unfold. 

    On Monday, May 15, 2017, the City Council of Atlanta, Georgia will vote on an ordinance that would decriminalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana within Atlanta’s City Limits. Under Georgia law, the possession of one ounce or less is an arrestable offense that could result in up to a $1000 fine and 12 months in jail. This ordinance would allow for the issuance of a citation which carries a $75.00 fine. The ordinance would only apply to the Atlanta Police Department. Other agencies operating within the City, such as the State Patrol and Fulton County Sheriff, would still be able to arrest for the offense.

    While it may not seem like much protection, the passage of this ordinance would be a giant step in Georgia. The small town of Clarkston passed a similar ordinance in July 2016. While that stirred up some news, the Capital of Georgia passing it would have a major ripple effect. One mayoral candidate, Vincent Fort, who is a current member of Georgia’s Senate, has made decriminalization the major plank in his campaign platform. It is a hot topic in Georgia.

    Peachtree NORML, in association with Georgia C.A.R.E. Project, has begun a City-by- City campaign which is beginning to have some success. By providing fact-based data to municipal governments wishing to consider such measures, we hope to begin reducing the harm caused by an arrest for small amounts of marijuana in Georgia.

    If approved by Council, Atlanta will join a growing list of cities around the country that have adopted a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level. Kansas City, Houston, Memphis, Nashville, Tampa, Orlando, Milwaukee, Monona, Toledo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and several others have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

    Sharon Ravert, the Founder of Peachtree NORML is fond of saying, “When we are talking, we are winning.” Hopefully the City of Atlanta will prove her right next Monday.

    Contact your council representatives today and urge them to vote “Yes” on a fiscally sensible proposal that will enable police, prosecutors, and the courts to reallocate their existing resources toward activities that will better serve the public.

    Click the link below to get started!

    TAKE ACTION: http://act.norml.org/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=20611

    For more updates on local reform efforts, follow Peachtree NORML by visiting their website, Facebook and Twitter! To make a donation to Peachtree NORML, please click here.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director May 1, 2017

    10253989_10152787252362360_1345699000664750724_nFor marijuana activists in Texas, the road to reforming marijuana laws has not been easy.

    With the state legislature only meeting every two years and no ballot initiative process or ability to reform marijuana laws on the local level, activists must put all their time and energy into lobbying state lawmakers in support meaningful reforms.

    Although there has been several minor victories this legislative session, some within the Texas state legislature are determined to derail or at the very least, stall any effort to provide ailing patients with access to medical marijuana. But activists like Jax Finkle, Executive Director of Texas NORML and Clif Deuvall, Executive Director of Waco NORML aren’t planning to allow these obstacles to slow their progress.

    “With Texas being restricted from using traditional ballot initiatives, it is so imperative that the citizens of Texas engage with the legislators. These connections matter even more when forged during the interim of the Legislative Session,” said Jax Finkle. “In fact, engagement over the two year cycle is so important that we hosted 16 trainings across Texas with curriculum that was targeted based on the part of the cycle it was to enable people to be force multipliers in their areas. As a result, we are seeing even stronger numbers of support in Texas, more action in the legislature and we will see more results unfold over the 85R Legislative Session.”

    Over the last three years, Jax has worked tirelessly with more than a dozen local NORML chapters to grow their annual lobby day from just a few dozen to more than 375 participants. From El Paso to Beaumont and Amarillo to McAllen, supporters of marijuana legalization from all over Texas continue to show they’re ready, willing, and able to fight for what they believe in.

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    “The advocacy and educational opportunities which arise give way to understanding of the issue and the legislative process,” said Clif Deuvall. “In Texas, I’ve seen Lobby Day attendance rise from a handful to several hundred in a few years. These individuals, encompassing a variety of demographics and locations across the state, have created a strong grassroots coalition.”

    With this new strategy of facilitating statewide trainings for grassroots volunteers, supporters of marijuana law reforms can be certain NORML members across Texas are fighting daily to end marijuana prohibition.

    “The message has become more cohesive in an effort to provide the clear understanding of the overall needs of Texas’ cannabis consumers,” added Deuvall. “It is through efforts, such as a lobby day, Texans have seen steady progress in cannabis reform across the state.”

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    Next up, members and volunteers with Texas NORML and affiliate chapters will be focusing their attention on HB-2107 which is scheduled to be heard by the Health Committee on Tuesday, May 2nd. If passed, HB 2107 would make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive for patients with debilitating medical conditions.

    TAKE ACTION: Contact Texas lawmakers to urge them to support House Bill 2107 by clicking here! Texan patients deserve safe and legal access to medical cannabis just as 30 other states currently provide.

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in the Lone Star State, follow Texas NORML by visiting their website, Facebook page, and Twitter!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director April 26, 2017

    10917798_556577754478075_8539327547197949760_oFor more than three decades, supporters of marijuana legalization have gathered in cities across the country on 4/20 to celebrate all things marijuana, and to protest the federal government’s failed War on Drugs. From what started as a loosely organized group of people protesting federal marijuana laws, has now grown into a nationally recognized movement, and now, a day of action.

    To continue this tradition, members of Lehigh Valley NORML organized the 4/20 March on Easton; an effort to highlight the need for marijuana law reforms on the local and state level. With Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. and more than a hundred supporters on hand, Jeff Reidy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML and his colleagues provided educational materials to attendees and spoke about several marijuana bills being considered by state lawmakers.

    “This year’s March was an announcement that we plan to press our policy-makers, offer up facts, and influence change in our community and across this state,” said Jeff Reidy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML. More than 100 attended the event, both young and old, meandering about Centre Square, holding signs and sharing the moment, while celebrating the leaf.”

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    With marijuana decriminalization measures adopted in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg and recent comments by Philadelphia’s Mayor Jim Kenney and Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to end marijuana prohibition in the Commonwealth, advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances in Eaton

    “We are grateful for our community of supporters here in the Lehigh Valley, but know we need to grow that support and strengthen our voice, in order to effect change,” added Reidy. “The fight continues, but damn, this is one 4/20 I will long remember.”

    TAKE ACTION: Contact Pennsylvania lawmakers and urge them to support House Bill 928 by clicking here!

    Read more here: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/easton/index.ssf/2017/04/420_rally_in_easton_keeps_it_l.html

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Lehigh Valley NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page!

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