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  • by NORML May 11, 2017

    Fellow Texans,

    It is with a heavy heart that I write you. I must inform you that the deadline for a bill to be put on the House Agenda for the floor expired last night at 10pm. While HB 81 did make it on to the agenda before the deadline, HB 2107 did not.

    This was due to the paperwork not being completed for it’s enrollment in calendars with enough time, completed less than 3 hours before the deadline to be placed on the agenda. With no special Calendars meeting called to hear it’s addition, HB 2107 was not able to progress and is no longer a viable option in it’s form. However, it’s two main authors, Rep Lucio III and Rep Isaac, have promised to continue to look for avenues to codify protections for patients as this legislative session continues. You can also read this touching letter from them.Texas NORML will diligently support any attempts made to enact protections for patients in the upcoming weeks.

    Our thoughts are with the many patients, caregivers and practitioners in the state that are effected by this disappointment. Times like these are very difficult and we are all still working to process this.

    With that in mind, I would like to share some silver linings that have come from the historic actions taken to enact HB 2107 that I hope help soften the blow.

    Texas has never previously held a committee vote on a whole plant medical cannabis bill. We were able to hold our most powerful and effective hearing yet which ended in a 7-2 vote that we know have on the record for the first time. It is also remarkable to note that the Chair put the bill up for a vote out of turn and knowing he would vote against it. This is not a regular occurrence.

    A historic 70+ legislators signed up as coauthors on the bill in the 36 hour periodafter the hearing. 28 of those were Republicans. 4 of the 5 Doctors in the Houseare also included in the coauthor list. We have gone from a handful of legislative supporters to unprecedented numbers! Numbers that would have given HB 2107 the votes to pass. So we must diligently work to keep each one of these allies.

    With that many legislators vested, safe access to medical cannabis becomes a significant campaign talking point. It will be important the we check back in on the basics when the interim begins and prepare for the most important campaign season of medical cannabis’ history. We will of course have a new Texas NORML Marijuana Policy Voter Guide and Voting Appendix.

    It is important that we keep our lobbying efforts alive and sustain the work we are doing at the Capitol and across the state. There will be major opportunities in front of us that we must be ready to capitalize on.

    We learned a lot. We are carbon pressed to diamonds. We must continue to slice away at prohibition!

    Please take a moment to CALL or EMAIL your support for HB 81, so that we can work to remove the criminal penalty for possession of one ounce or less! It is imperative that we accomplish this by midnight on Thursday, the day the bill is scheduled.

    Jax Finkel

    Executive Director
    Texas NORML
    The problem is the law, not the plant.
    Re-legalize!

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director May 10, 2017

    Texas-NORMLOn May 11, new ground will be broken in Texas politics and the marijuana movement.

    HB 81, to decriminalize marijuana from jail time to a simple ticket, will be heard by the full Texas House.

    This is unprecedented as sensible sentencing reform has not been debated from the house floor since 1973, , when Texas changed their laws to their current state (previously, you could face life in jail for small amounts of possession).

    Are you a TX resident? Contact your lawmakers RIGHT NOW and urge them to support HB 81.

    Know people in Texas? Send them this information and have them contact their lawmakers.

    “This bill is about good government and efficient use of resources,” said Rep. Joe Moody, sponsor of HB 81, “Arrests and criminal prosecutions of low-level marijuana cases distract law enforcement and prosecutors, leaving fewer resources for violent crime.”

    You can read more about the effort from Texas NORML and support their work  here.

     

     

  • by NORML October 9, 2014

    betomemeNORML PAC is endorsing Representative Beto O’Rourke (TX-16) for re-election the the US House of Representatives.

    “Rep. O’Rourke is an ardent supporter of reforming our nation’s marijuana policies,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “In just his first term, he has proven to be an intelligent and pragmatic politician with a long future in front of him. We strongly encourage voters to support his re-election campaign to keep a true reform champion in Congress.”

    Representative O’Rourke issued the following statement to supporters and voters on the topic:

    “Those of us who live in this region, in El Paso and Juarez, have a unique perspective on the war on drugs. We know that billions of dollars in cash, drugs, guns and arms are transited through this community. We know that billions of dollars in federal resources from the United States and Mexico are spent on law enforcement to try and stop that illicit drug trade. And we also know, all too well, the suffering that accompanies that black market trade in illegal drugs. It is because of that experience and looking back over the 40-year, failed war on drugs that I’ve come to the conclusion that at least when it comes to a drug like marijuana, we owe ourselves, and especially our kids, a much better policy.

    As a rational and humane country, we can decide, as we did with alcohol that the harms in the prohibition of marijuana far outweigh any gains in security and in our efforts to keep these drugs away from our fellow citizens.

    If you support my work and advocacy on this issue, I hope I can count on your help.”

    For the next 24 hours, Rep. O’Rourke will be running a “Powered by People” campaign with the goal of raising $123,200 in amounts less than $200 to illustrate that everyday citizens can compete with special interests in politics and issues such as marijuana law reform drive voter engagement. If you are interested in donating to this campaign you can do so by clicking here (donations are tracked so donations made through this link will show as support for his marijuana reform stance).

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 16, 2014

    Guest Post by Jason Miller, Houston NORML

    [caption id="attachment_12543" align="alignleft" width="300"]From left to right: Dr. Teryn Driver, Zoe Russell, Jason Miller Photo credit: Nick Zalud From left to right: Dr. Teryn Driver, Zoe Russell, Jason Miller
    Photo credit: Nicholas Zalud[/caption]The 2014 Texas GOP Convention wrapped up Saturday, June 7th, after a long week of debate and testimony concerning medical marijuana. Supporters of marijuana reform, including several members of RAMP (Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition) along with other medical marijuana advocates, including parents, veterans, and medical doctors, gave testimony in favor of an amendment to the platform in support of allowing Texans access to medical cannabis.

    It seemed like a short-lived victory when the Temporary Platform Committee passed the amendment after listening to emotional testimony from those whose loved ones could benefit or have benefited from medical cannabis. The Chairman of the committee broke the tie and the amendment passed by a 15-14 vote. In addition, a plank supporting Hemp Cultivation passed the committee and made it into the final platform.

    The following day, the Permanent Platform Committee met and voted on the medical marijuana amendment. This was the day I arrived at the convention after driving up to Fort Worth from Houston. My second time attending the Texas GOP Convention as a delegate, I was excited to hear about what was happening in the committees and was eager to help.

    Rewind to August 2013 when I first met Ann Lee. After being involved with NORML for the past 4 years as a corporate sponsor to the legal seminars in Aspen and Key West, I had heard of Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University, but I didn’t know the full extent of his story until hearing it from his mother. Ann Lee was visiting a group in Houston that several of my friends help organize called Liberty on the Rocks. Along with a representative from Houston NORML, originally co-founded by Richard Lee, Ann Lee spoke to us and her words resonated.

    She told us about growing up in Louisiana during segregation (Ann Lee is in her mid-eighties, she’s even older than marijuana prohibition itself), and she spoke of how unfairly people were treated and how unfairly minorities are treated today due to the enforcement of marijuana prohibition. She told us about her 5 sons, including educator and entrepreneur Richard Lee, who was injured in a workplace accident, leaving him in a wheelchair as a paraplegic. She told us about being a Republican activist since the 1970s and how she co-founded the group “Women for Reagan” in 1983, the year I was born. She told us about her husband, Bob Lee, and how they had initially reacted when Richard told them he uses medical marijuana to help with his muscle spasticity and neuropathic pain.

    [caption id="attachment_12545" align="alignleft" width="300"]Ann Lee testifying before the platform committee Photo credit: Zoe Russell Ann Lee with Liberty on the Rocks Houston, August 2013

    Photo credit: Sang Le [/caption]Ann and Bob Lee founded RAMP in 2012. After much reflection, they had reached the conclusion that prohibition of marijuana is directly opposed to all of their Republican values. I was immediately intrigued upon learning about this. My interest in both party politics and marijuana policy were now being fused together by this idea. I immediately approached Ann and started asking her about RAMP. She handed me a little brochure with the Republican logo with three pot leaves instead of stars. My first thought was “OK, this organization really needs a new logo.”

    Fast-forward to 2014, new logo, website, social media, and a network of young people helping Ann Lee with RAMP. We’re ready to make an impact. We’ve formed a team, including John Baucum, President of Houston Young Republicans. We’d worked a great deal on networking and outreach, held our inaugural meeting, and conducted several interviews with news media. We knew a lot of people in Houston’s conservative scene and we knew many of them would be serving as GOP delegates.

    Upon my arrival to the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth on Thursday, I knew that I had a mission. The vote on the medical marijuana amendment was to take place later this day and the outcome was going to depend heavily upon how the Permanent Platform Committee was to shape up. Our strategy was to try to push anyone off the committee who voted against us and replace them with someone who is supportive.

    In my Senate District, our platform committee representative had voted against medical marijuana. So I started talking to people. I thought about who would make a good candidate and one person came to mind, a Military Veteran, an author, and a frequent lecturer on conservative issues. Although medical marijuana was not the primary issue, I knew this person would be supportive. At this point there’s a lot of whispering going on in the hallways, people pulling each other aside and talking under their breath. I knew that a good number of people would unite behind this candidate, and I was able to feel confident in my ability to “whip the votes.”

    Time was of the essence. I ran across the street to the Omni Hotel and printed up flyers, highlighting the candidate’s qualifications. After some trouble with the printer, I made it back to the convention just in time. I walked into our SD Caucus and handed everyone the flyers. There were two other candidates in the race for platform committee. Although my preferred candidate did not win, we pulled about 30% of the vote and made an impact on the outcome of the race.

    Immediately after the SD Caucus, the Permanent Platform Committee met and the moment of truth was upon us. There was a great deal of commotion outside the meeting room because it wasn’t big enough to seat everyone. People were outside the door yelling for them to relocate the meeting to a larger space. Some of the committee members had changed due the immigration plank of the platform, which was the most contentious issue up for debate. I tried to peer into the room to see who was on the committee. I was curious to find out any of our people were elected to the committee in other senate districts, but I assumed they didn’t have any better luck than I did.

    [caption id="attachment_12544" align="alignright" width="300"]Ann Lee testifying before the platform committee Photo credit: Zoe Russell Ann Lee testifying before the platform committee
    Photo credit: Zoe Russell[/caption]The medical cannabis amendment failed. Some of the committee members, who supported the amendment the day before ended up changing their vote. This may have been due to our opposition whipping the votes against us. However, an additional amendment supporting “research into the medical efficacy of cannabis” was introduced by a member of the committee and passed. Unfortunately, our opposition filed a ‘minority report’ signed by 9 members of the committee in support of striking this language from the platform.

    Perhaps the most amazing revelation was that another ‘minority report’ was filed, signed by 8 members of the committee, in support of adding the original medical cannabis amendment back into the platform. This was huge. A clear message was sent that support for medical cannabis is alive and well in the Texas GOP. We considered this to be a major victory because the issue would be up for debate during the general session on Saturday when the platform is adopted by the entire delegation.

    On Friday morning, we arrived at the Fort Worth Convention Center at 6:00am, with 2000 RAMP newsletters in hand. Volunteers, including founders of the group MAMMA (Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism) Thalia Michelle and Amy Lou Falwell, helped line seats with our literature. This day, we decided to forget about the platform and the stress, it’s time to network, educate people about medical cannabis, conduct interviews with media, and talk to as many elected officials as we can.

    [caption id="attachment_12546" align="alignright" width="300"]Founders of MAMMA - Amy Lou Falwell and Thalia Michelle conducting a radio interview in the exhibitor area of the convention. Photo credit: Jason Miller Founders of MAMMA – Amy Lou Falwell and Thalia Michelle conducting a radio interview in the exhibitor area of the convention.
    Photo credit: Jason Miller[/caption]On Saturday morning, several of us arrived early to get spots near each of the four microphones in the general convention arena. We wanted to make sure we were able to testify in support of medical cannabis. As the platform adoption process started, medical cannabis was the first topic up for debate. Our minority report in support of adding the amendment back in to the platform was introduced from the stage.

    Ann Lee spoke in favor of this amendment and told her story. She told the delegation about her son Richard and his injury. She used her entire 5 minutes of testimony and made a very clear point that garnered a great deal of applause, “Why should the federal government be able to prevent us from using a natural medicine that is clearly beneficial to sick people?”

    One person spoke in opposition to the amendment and tried to convince the delegation that Marinol and medical marijuana are the same thing, which is clearly false.

    Dr. Teryn Driver, a delegate from League City, made an emotional argument about children suffering from epilepsy and passionately educated the delegation about Cannibidiol (CBD).

    A motion was made to end debate and the crowd voted in favor of it. (The delegation will typically always vote in favor of anything that moves the process along faster). We then voted on adding the medical marijuana amendment back into the platform and it failed. We expected this to happen.

    The next item of business is the ‘minority report’ striking the support for research into the medical efficacy of cannabis from the platform. Zoe Russell, the assistant executive director for RAMP, spoke in opposition to striking this language; she testified that Texas prides itself on medical innovation and that getting our federal government out of the way of promising research will be a tremendous benefit to our medical community. She pointed out that Republicans don’t like federal interference in our healthcare choices and that should include the ability to conduct medical research. Her remarks were met with cheers and applause.

    Immediately following Zoe’s testimony, debate was cut off. A vote was taken, but it wasn’t clear. After a bit of demagoguery by the Chairman and a clarification that a no vote would leave the language in the platform, the vote was taken again. It was very close, but the yes votes won and the language supporting research of medical cannabis was stricken from the platform.

    [caption id="attachment_12547" align="alignright" width="225"]Ann Lee speaking in favor of medical marijuana  Photo credit: Zoe Russell Ann Lee speaking in favor of medical marijuana
    Photo credit: Zoe Russell
    [/caption]Our opposition’s only real strategy was to cut off testimony as quickly as possible. They don’t want the delegation to hear our message. They don’t want any discussion about changing these laws. But we’re having the discussion. We’re winning over the hearts of minds of people, and we had been doing it all week. After the convention ended, I made my way down the road about 4 blocks to the Texas Regional NORML Conference. Exhausted, I dragged myself into the conference and took a seat.

    Overall, the Texas GOP Convention was a huge success. We’re furthering the discussion about marijuana reform among Republicans and we’re having fun in the process. My time spent in Fort Worth was well worth it. I learned a lot about politics and procedure, activism and how to communicate and network with people. We met supporters from all over the state and we expanded our network. We’re now gearing up for the 2015 legislative session and we’re determined to legalize marijuana in the great state of Texas.

    It ain’t gonna legalize itself.

    Stay up to date on NORML Houston’s activities by following them on Facebook here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director October 8, 2013

    normlpollban

    They say things are bigger in Texas and, according to new survey data just released by Public Policy Polling, that includes support for marijuana law reform.

    PPP’s polling found that 58% of Texans support regulating marijuana like alcohol and only 38% were opposed. This change in policy was supported by 59% of women, 70% of Democrats, 57% of Independents, a majority of all racial demographics, and a majority of all age demographics.

    The survey also reported that 58% of Texans supported medical marijuana and 61% supported the decriminalization of possession of an ounce or less.

    You can read the full survey here.

    With a high profile governor’s race shaping up between Senator Wendy Davis, the only declared
    Democrat, and a Republican challenger (Attorney General Abbot seems to be leading in current polls) the time is ripe to make marijuana law reform a major issue in America’s second most populated state.

    TEXANS: You can contact the announced candidates for Texas governor by clicking on their links below. Send them a quick message telling them:

    “Public Policy Polling found that 58% of Texans support ending our costly war on marijuana and replacing it with a system of regulation similar to how we deal with alcohol. This majority support was spread across all age and ethnic demographics. It is time we consider a new approach to marijuana. As a Texas voter, I am very concerned with your position on the issues of marijuana law reform and would greatly appreciate if you could inform me of your stance on the taxation and regulation of marijuana, as well as allowing for its medical use and decriminalization of personal possession.”

    DEMOCRAT:
    State Senator Wendy Davis

    REPUBLICAN:
    Attorney General Greg Abbott
    Tom Pauken
    Miriam Martinez
    Larry Kilgore

    (If you receive a response please forward it to erik@norml.org)

    CANDIDATE RESPONSES:

    Miriam Martinez (posted in response to a question on her Facebook page): “I support the medical use of marijuana and decriminalization of personal possession.”

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