Never Underestimate The Power Of A Single Face To Face Interaction

Legalize marijuanaCanadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is following through on his 2015 pledge to legalize and regulate the adult use of cannabis. Presently, Liberal Party backed legalization legislation is making its way through Parliament, which hopes to implement the new public policy by mid-2018.

But, as Toronto Star reporter Susan Delacourt writes, Trudeau was not always a supporter of marijuana policy reform. In fact, it wasn’t until he met face to face with NORML representatives that the Canadian Premiere ultimately changed his mind for good.

[Excerpt] When marijuana becomes legal in Canada next year, it will be mainly because Justin Trudeau had a change of mind in 2012.

… Five short years ago, Trudeau was not a fan of legalized pot. As he wandered around the 2012 Liberal policy convention in Ottawa — the same one in which a majority of party members voted in favour of legalization — Trudeau was a dissenting voice.

He told one interviewer that marijuana “disconnects you a little bit from the world” and that it was “not good for your health.” For those reasons alone, Trudeau said he wasn’t in favour of any measures that could make pot use more widespread.

“I don’t know that it’s entirely consistent with the society we’re trying to build,” Trudeau said in an interview that still lives on YouTube, where it’s immediately clear he hasn’t had his run-for-leadership makeover: he still sports a moustache and the long, unruly hair.

By the end of 2012, a lot of things had changed for Trudeau — beyond his appearance. He had changed his mind about running for Liberal leader, officially launching his campaign in October, and he was also starting to see that legalization was better than the decriminalization option he’d long favoured.

Today, Trudeau and his advisers trace the shift to a meeting with two women in his office in November of that year, who armed him with some of the pro-legalization arguments that he’s still using today — now, as prime minister. The two women were Kelly Coulter and Andrea Matrosovs, then representing what was known as the women’s alliance of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Coulter, who now lives in Victoria, remembers the meeting well, and is heartened to hear that Trudeau traces his conversion to this encounter.

“I actually saw the ‘aha’ moment,” Coulter says. It had been an emotional meeting in Trudeau’s tiny Parliament Hill office; the three of them talked about their own personal experience with marijuana. Trudeau talked about his mother using pot, and his brother, Michel, who had been charged with possession not long before he died. (Trudeau has subsequently told the story publicly of how his father used connections to get the charges dropped so that his son didn’t have a criminal record.)

Coulter told Trudeau flatly that decriminalization would not keep gangs and organized crime out of the marijuana business. “Al Capone would have loved it if alcohol had only been decriminalized,” she said — a line she often used when talking to politicians.

“I saw the light go on in his eyes,” Coulter said. “He was seeing this as a politician, realizing ‘I can sell this,’ ” she recalled.

Trudeau could see how this argument would blunt Conservative attacks on him as being soft on crime; with legalization, he could simultaneously seem liberal about marijuana but conservative about gangs and criminals. It helped persuade Trudeau that legalization, would be the best way for the government to regulate its use and keep it safe, especially for kids.

As we approach NORML’s upcoming National Conference and Lobby Day — taking place September 10-12 in Washington, DC — it is important to emphasize how influential a single face to face meeting with your elected officials can be. NORML’s interactions with lawmakers, whether its at town meetings or in the halls of Congress, are changing minds and shaping public policy.

Be part of the marijuana revolution. Get active. Get NORML.

Pennsylavania Cities Continue to Embrace Decriminalization of Marijuana

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With the recent passage of a marijuana decriminalization ordinance, the City of York joins Philadelphia, State College, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg in no longer criminalizing the simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. Following several meetings to discuss the proposal, members of city council heard from Chris Goldstein, former executive director of Philadelphia NORML and Les Stark, executive director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. Both spoke in support of the proposal and even provided encouraging data showing a decline in marijuana arrests in other municipalities that adopted similar measures.

“Towns across Pennsylvania are moving away from handcuffs and towards issuing fines instead, that’s good news in a state where we have more than 18,000 consumers arrested every year,” said Chris Goldstein.

Similar to other decriminalization measures that have been adopted by municipalities in the Commonwealth, the ordinance approved by the York City Council replaces criminal prosecution and potential jail time with a simple fine or community service for those possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana. The ordinance also decriminalized the public consumption of marijuana.

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While local governments across Pennsylvania continue to adopt measures to reduce the penalty for personal possession of marijuana from jail time to a simple fine, state lawmakers have been more apprehensive on the issue. But advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances on the local level. “This really puts the pressure on legislators in Harrisburg to vote on statewide bills and start having the bigger conversation about full legalization,” added Goldstein.

Read more here: http://www.ydr.com/story/news/2017/07/19/york-city-council-passes-bill-decriminalize-possession-small-amounts-marijuana/480013001/

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

New Hampshire: Marijuana Decriminalization Measure Signed Into Law

thumbs_upRepublican Gov. Chris Sununu signed legislation today decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.

House Bill 640, which takes effect in 60 days, eliminates criminal penalties for the possession of up to 3/4 of an ounce of cannabis and/or up to five grams of hashish for those age 18 or older. Under the new law, first time offenders will receive a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine.

Presently, first-time marijuana possession is punishable by up to one year in prison, a potential $2,000 fine, and a criminal record.

New Hampshire will soon join the chorus of states that recognize the baseline level of dignity for it’s citizens and tourists who choose to consume marijuana,” said Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director. “Soon, throughout New England, individuals will be able to freely travel without the threat of jail time for possession of marijuana.”

New Hampshire is the only New England state that presently treats minor possession offenses as a criminal offense.

Vermont: House Blocks Marijuana Depenalization Bill From Further Consideration

marijuana_seedlingMembers of the Vermont House of Representatives decided late last night to block a marijuana depenalization measure, H. 511, from further consideration this legislative session.

The vote came after Senate members approved the bill, which eliminated civil and criminal penalties for the private possession and cultivation of small quantities of marijuana. Republican Gov. Phil Scott – who had vetoed an earlier version of the bill in May – had also recently expressed his support for the revised legislation.

Further action on the bill during this week’s special veto session required the votes of three-quarters of the House. But only a majority voted to take action on the bill, with almost all Republican House members voting ‘no.’

If enacted, the bill would have permitted adults to legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis and to grow up two mature plants at home.

Atlanta City Council Considers Decriminalization of Marijuana

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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.

New Hampshire: Decriminalization Passes Senate, Soon Heads To Governor To Sign

arrestedNew Hampshire is the only New England state that has not either decriminalized or legalized adult marijuana use but that is soon to change.

Today, the state Senate passed an amended version of House Bill 640, which eliminates the threat of jail time for a possession conviction of less than 3/4 of an ounce and reduces the fine from $350 to $100.

HB 640 is a long overdue, fiscally sensible proposals that is supported by the voters, and that will enable police, prosecutors, and the courts to reallocate their existing resources toward activities that will better serve the public.

Governor Chris Sununu (R) has indicated that he will sign the bill.

Sixty-eight percent of New Hampshire adults support “legalizing [the] possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal recreational use,” and seventy-four percent of respondents endorse marijuana being sold at state-licensed outlets and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.

After years of stonewalling by former leadership, we commend lawmakers for finally correcting this injustice. Once law, Granite state residents will be one step closer to being able to truly ‘Live Free’ and not just ‘live free, but potentially be incarcerated.

Texas: HB 2107 Stalls at the Deadline – A Letter from Texas NORML Executive Director

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!

Vermont: Lawmakers Approve Measure Eliminating Penalties For The Adult Use Of Marijuana

thumbs_upHouse and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, Senate Bill 22, to eliminate criminal and civil penalties specific to the adult use and possession of marijuana.

The measure amends state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to two mature plants (and up to four immature plants) is no longer subject to penalty. It also establishes a nine member commission to make recommendations to the legislature regarding how best to regulate the adult use marijuana market.

If enacted into law, the penalty changes would go into effect on July 1, 2018.

Senate Bill 22 now awaits action from Gov. Phil Scott, who has previously expressed support for decriminalizing marijuana but has also said that “the timing’s not right” for legalization. In February, his office came out strongly in opposition to a more expansive Senate proposal that sought to license and regulate the commercial cultivation and retail sale of cannabis to adults.

Vermont’s legislature is the first ever to approve legislation eliminating criminal and civil penalties for adults who possess or grow marijuana for non-medical purposes.

If you reside in Vermont, you can contact the Governor in support of S. 22 by clicking here.

Historic: Decriminalization is Scheduled to Be Heard on the Texas House Floor

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.

 

 

Pennsylvania Marijuana Activists Continue to Push the Issue

15134788_1361964283815279_7643241837130367190_nHundreds of marijuana law reform advocates from across Pennsylvania gathered last week at the state capitol to express their support for marijuana legalization and also to express concerns regarding the future of the state’s limited medical cannabis program. The event was coordinated by local reform groups Pittsburgh NORML, Philly NORML, and the Keystone Cannabis Coalition to raise awareness about marijuana laws in the Commonwealth.

“On Wednesday dedicated activists from across the Commonwealth gathered in Harrisburg, our state capitol, to demand the end of criminal prohibition for cannabis possession,” said Patrick Nightingale, executive director of Pittsburgh NORML. “Speakers decried the waste of law enforcement resources while the Commonwealth is in the midst of a true opioid crisis.”

Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale kicked of the event with a powerful speech that electrified the hundreds of pro-legalization activists who gathered in the capitol rotunda. In addition to highlighting the many failures of marijuana prohibition, AG DePasquale also encouraged state lawmakers to consider options for a statewide solution such as decriminalization or outright legalization.

“We have a real and legitimate political voice in Harrisburg. Gone are the days of closed doors and whispered insults,” said Nightingale. “Now more and more of our elected leaders know that we are on the right side of history and that the ruinous and racist legacy of cannabis prohibition must end.”

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While local governments in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg have each approved measures to reduce the penalty for personal possession of marijuana from jail time to a simple fine, state lawmakers have been more apprehensive on the issue. But advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances.

“While PA’s conservative legislature may not be prepared to make the jump to full legalization, there is growing bipartisan support for statewide decriminalization with a Republican sponsored bill headed to Committee on Monday,” added Nightingale.

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

Read more here: http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news/auditor-general-speaks-at-harrisburg-marijuana-rally-in-support-of/article_a546ae06-2605-11e7-93c5-177c718a0193.html

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

Q&A with Houston NORML

10457838_1496853423881548_3582533077732459054_nNational NORML recently asked Cara Bonin, executive director of Houston NORML, a few questions about their involvement with the recent decision by DA Ogg to decriminalize marijuana in Harris County. Her response became an interview worthy of a blog post in itself. Enjoy!

NORML: What was Houston NORML’s involvement  if any in the decision by DA Og to decriminalize marijuana in Harris County?
Cara: Houston NORML has been backing Kim Ogg over the past two district attorney races. Incumbent Devon Anderson was appointed by Governor Rick Perry (R) on September 26, 2013, to succeed her husband, Mike Anderson, who died on August 31, 2013. She naturally became the incumbent in the 2014 race. Kim Ogg immediately made one of her campaign points to discuss marijuana policy reform in Texas. This was such a popular idea that it forced Devon Anderson to then campaign on a similar promise to change the way the county handled misdemeanor marijuana cases. Anderson won the election and implemented a the first chance program which was a very weak version of what Kim Ogg had campaigned on. The program had proven successful and data showed that it was getting results. Despite her loss, Ogg still stayed active in the Houston community, speaking at NORML events and even made it to Austin to testify in favor of decriminalization bills in the Texas house during the 2015 legislative session. Houston NORML supported the Kim Ogg campaign in 2016 and hosted a forum on live television showcasing Ogg’s plan for re-prioritizing marijuana cases in the county. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ap-4ylqY9sM
NORML: Has a decrease in marijuana arrests allowed Houston NORML to focus more on local and state legislation and activism and less on support and legal advice to people being arrested and prosecuted for possession?
Cara: The program has barely been in place one month. It is a huge relief to know we no longer have to focus on our county. We have the best policy in state thanks to the cooperation of the Harris County sheriff, DA, Houston Police Chief and dozens of other local policing agencies. We are now focusing on getting bills passed in the Texas legislative session.
NORML: What are some of the new goals and challenges of Houston NORML post decriminalization? What has changed? What hasn’t?
Cara: We are currently funneling all resources on reforming laws at the state level. Since the program has only been in place one month there are not a lot of statistics to share. Many of the surrounding counties have already spoken out in opposition to Ogg’s program. I live in Katy which is a tri-county city. Waller and Ft Bend county officials wanted to make it clear that it is business as usual when it comes to their arresting policies. A spokesman for the Lt Governor’s office claimed that Houston will become a sanctuary city for drug dealers and illegal immigrants. The Montgomery County DA came out in opposition the day before Ogg even announced the details of her program. They proudly show off their ignorance with such arrogance. It is proof that we still have a lot of work to do locally and state wide to change the opinions of policy makers and enforcers. For more detailed information on the Harris County Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program please visit the following site: https://app.dao.hctx.net/OurOffice/MMDP.aspx. I hope this helps.
NORML: Yes it does. Thank you Cara and Houston NORML for a job well done! And a special thanks to Corpus Christi NORML for gaining cooperation with Rep. Todd Hunter R-Corpus Christi to support HB81 who chairs the Calendar Committee!
Texans Take Action:

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

KC NORML Successfully Decriminalized Marijuana in Kansas City

Ballot initiative run by local group passes 71 to 29 to end arrests for possession of marijuana

17800391_10155957557253032_3769984899767242784_nKansas City, MO – In a blowout victory for sensible criminal justice policy, the voters of Kansas City, Missouri have decided to approve Question 5 and decriminalize marijuana to direct their law enforcement officers to no longer target citizens for possession of the plant and would replace current criminal penalties with just a civil fine.

The measure will amend local laws regarding the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and older from a criminal misdemeanor, previously punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, to a civil offense punishable by a $25 fine — with no arrest made or criminal record imposed.

“We could not be more excited about the positive impact passing Question 5 will bring to the communities of Kansas City. We fought long and hard for this result and could not have done it without the support of our volunteers,” said Jamie Kacz, Executive Director of KC NORML. “The era of reefer madness in Kansas City has come to an end and no longer will otherwise law abiding citizens be targeted or arrested for the mere possession of marijuana.”

This is yet another victory in the march to end the criminalization of marijuana in the United States.

“The passage of this initiative is not just a victory for the people of Kansas City, but for the democratic process,” said Erik Altieri National NORML’s Executive Director, “When concerned citizens stand up, stand together, and fight back against unjust laws, we will win. The overwhelming majority of Americans want to end our nation’s war on marijuana consumers and politicians across the country should take heed of the message voters sent in Missouri: if you don’t reform our marijuana laws through the legislature, we the people will do it for you.”

Nationally, more than 600,000 people a year are arrested for simple marijuana possession alone. These arrests are disproportionately targeted, the ACLU found that the racial disparity in marijuana charges were levied against people over color, by nearly 4 to 1.

Kansas City now joins the ranks of dozens of cities and states throughout the country that have ended the practice of arresting marijuana consumers,” said Kevin Mahmalji, outreach coordinator for NORML. “We at NORML are incredibly proud of the efforts of Jamie Kacz and her team at KC NORML and thank the voters of Kansas City for bringing a new era of sanity their law enforcement priorities and the overarching movement to end the prohibition of marijuana.”

Kansas City now joins 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. Houston, Memphis, Nashville, Tampa, Orlando, Milwaukee, Monona, Toledo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and several others have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

For more information, visit http://www.normlkc.org/ or http://norml.org/ 

 

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NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.

Houston Has Decriminalized Marijuana, Reveals Conflicting Attitudes and Budget Priorities of Law Enforcement

Cannabis PenaltiesOn March 1, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg decriminalized marijuana by instituting the new Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program. This decision in Harris County, which includes the city of Houston, affects more than 4.5 million Texans. As a result, possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana is now punishable by up to $150, required attendance of a “decision making” class, and no criminal record.

With so many Sheriffs Associations and prosecutors traditionally advocate for maintaining marijuana prohibition, even lobbying our legislators with our tax dollars in order to cash in on asset forfeitures, what happened in Harris County marks a real tipping point for ending prohibition in the state of Texas and reveals a growing organization within law enforcement that wants to correct currently ineffective marijuana policy by deprioritizing arrests for simple possession.

Harris County courts and jails were long overwhelmed by arrests and prosecutions for small marijuana possessions. According to internal data provided from the Harris County District Attorney’s office, the cost of enforcing marijuana prohibition in Harris County tax dollars prior to decriminalization (including court fees, indigent defense, DA fees, jail costs, crime labs and labor costs from local police) were estimated at $26,663,800 annually.

To put that amount of money into perspective, that’s more than enough money for the city of Houston to build a new high school or a 17-bed medical facility every year. Another way to look at it is that these freed up resources can now give prosecutors and police the ability and time required to test the backlog of rape kit evidence and investigate unsolved violent crimes in Harris County. What a concept! Instead of confiscating assets and ruining the lives of nonviolent citizens, we can prosecute the violent criminals that law enforcement are sworn to protect us from.

These estimates don’t include the tax dollars or collateral damage that marijuana prohibition on families including separation from loved ones, lost income from jailed parents or the emotional toll time spent in state custody can have on children. Even for Harris County, these remain real threats under state and federal law.

But after Ogg’s March 1st decision in Harris County, something changed. It was a change that could be felt in the halls of the Texas state capitol. During the Committee hearing on HB81 to decriminalize marijuana in Texas on March 13th, unlike any previous marijuana bill, not a single Sheriff’s Association came to testify against the bill; just one lonely prosecutor from Odessa. By contrast, the halls of the Texas State Capitol filled with members of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, friendly state Congressman like Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) and Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), Executive Director Jax Finkle of Texas NORML, and Heather Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy all lobbying on our behalf to get HB 81 and SB 170 into committee.

However, as Bob Sechler from the Austin American Statesman recently reported, “Still, some law enforcement representatives are dubious, saying among other things that low-volume pot possession can provide police with probable cause to investigate bigger crimes, and that there currently isn’t a good, on-the-spot test to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana.”

The other argument made by Lawrence, that “low-volume pot possession can provide police with probable cause to investigate bigger crimes,” is evidence of a different addiction: an addiction distinct to law enforcement for asset forfeitures. When an informant remains planted on a suspect for decades after a plethora of evidence to close the case, or when law enforcement stops only the cars going south with cash and not the ones going north with drugs, we have what can only be described as an asset forfeiture epidemic lead by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Lawrence doesn’t even take into consideration if the detection of marijuana is either a violent or dangerous threat to roadway safety, admitting his worry is he can’t determine if someone is impaired. (Hint: a good indication the driver is not impaired). By that logic, Lawrence implies he is satisfied with the casualties, tax expenses and arrests of nonviolent citizens whose only offense is possession of marijuana, so long as a portion of those arrested lead to “serious” crimes (or asset forfeitures). This erroneous argument is so preposterous he doesn’t appear to realize he is admitting that encountering someone who has consumed marijuana is relatively safe.

So let’s look at the financial motivations of law enforcement that remain loyal to marijuana prohibition. On the other side of Texas from Harris County, on the I-10 corridor near El Paso, federal grants used to be the major motivator for marijuana possession arrests by a self-proclaimed “Boss Hog” in Hudspeth County, where to fill a federal quota the Sheriff infamously arrested Willie Nelson and even Snoop Dog on road tours for possession. Those funds were more bureaucratic in that the grants kept the Sheriff and private jail facilities employed, but the profit motives were parasitic. The Obama administration tried to do away with private prison contracts but Trump and Sessions are bringing them back.

But what about those civil asset forfeitures? Sheriff’s Associations or prosecutors using our tax dollars to lobby for asset forfeitures are more sinister in that not all the money seized gets accurately reported, and since property and money are seized without due process, victims find it difficult and expensive to go to court dockets titled “The State of Texas vs. $10,000,” only to find in some instances a prosecutor instead of a judge in court.

However, looking at the DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture Program Annual report for 2012, the local money being reported as seized just doesn’t add up to the cost of incarcerating so many non-violent people in possession of marijuana. Harris County reported: $1,387,430 in seized assets, more than most other Texas counties. But we would have to add up the entire state total of $31,520,522 in local asset forfeitures before we can get passed the $26,663,800 in annual costs for prosecuting and jailing minor marijuana possessions in just Harris County alone. Federal agencies target all the big asset seizures but according to this inspector general’s report, what gets accurately reported of that money causes more corrupt internal fighting and competition between federal agencies than any shared resources with local law enforcement.

In short, for local jurisdictions, decriminalizing marijuana makes plain economic sense. And for districts with law enforcement overwhelmed and under budget decriminalization may be the only logical choice to keep up with the payroll.

What do we do as activists? We can pay attention to candidates for District Attorney and Sheriff to vet them on marijuana policy so we can take local action to decriminalize. (After they become Sheriff? Just say “Am I being arrested?” and make sure you know what a Motion to Suppress Evidence is: example here)

But the real people we need to contact to make effective improvement in marijuana policy is not the President, the DA, a cop or anyone in the executive branch: It’s our state and local Congressman in the legislative branch. And this is the right website to do so.

Texas resident? Take Action:

HB 81 and SB 170 to decriminalize marijuana is pending in their respective chambers. Contact your Texas Representative to support HB 81 and SB 170 by clicking here

Vice Chair Todd Hunter is also the Chair of the Calendar Committee which decides if bills get a floor vote in Texas. Hunter held up a decriminalization bill in 2015 by failing to put the vote on the Calendar. If you live in Chorpus Christi, give Todd Hunter a call and tell him to give HB81 a floor vote!

Also in Texas do not forget to mention SB380 to abolish civil asset forfeiture in the state of Texas.

Visit Houston NORMLs website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Kansas City Voters to Weigh in on Decriminalization Measure – Yes on 5

After more than a year of negotiations with city officials, and countless hours cultivating support for a ballot measure aimed at decriminalizing certain amounts of marijuana, members of Kansas City NORML will finally have a chance to hear from voters on the issue. Next Tuesday, April 4, 2017, Kansas City voters will weigh in on Question 5. If approved, the measure will amend local laws regarding the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and older from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, to a civil offense punishable by a $25 fine — no arrest made or criminal record imposed.

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“The main objective of this initiative is to eliminate jail time and reduce the current penalties for marijuana possession in our city. By voting Yes on 5, individuals caught possessing 35 grams or less of marijuana or marijuana products shall receive a maximum fine of $25,” said Jamie Kacz, executive director of Kansas City NORML. “We have received an outpouring of support from voters across Kansas City who are ready for change and no longer want to see their loved ones suffer for marijuana possession.”

A recent poll by Remington Research Group revealed that 56% of likely Kansas City voters currently support Question 5. With less than a week before polling locations are scheduled to open, this is certainly encouraging news for proponents of the measure.

“This is promising because the survey was done using landlines, which means that it was likely an older demographic weighing in on the issue,” added Jessica Kelly, who serves on the Board of Directors for Kansas City NORML. “Typically, younger demographics tend to vote in favor of marijuana reform, so this shows a good chance of the initiative passing with the support of both older and younger demographics.”

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If passed by voters, Kansas City 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. Houston, Memphis, Nashville, Tampa, Orlando, Milwaukee, Monona, Toledo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and several others have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

For more updates on Question 5 or local reform efforts, follow KC NORML by visiting their website and on Facebook and Twitter! Additionally, you can click here to find your polling location.

Wisconsin City Removes Fines for Marijuana Possession and Consumption

Following a national trend, members of the Monona City Council passed an ordinance that removed all municipal fines for the private possession and consumption of marijuana. Under the new ordinance, adults 21-years and older will no longer be subjected to a fine for possessing marijuana in public or in private spaces. Marijuana use in a private residence would also be exempt from a fine, but a $200 fine will still be given to those caught smoking in public.

243428_10150183848971408_290803_oThis came as no surprise to Nate Petreman, executive director of Madison NORML. For almost two years, Mr. Petreman along with several members of Madison NORML worked to build a broad coalition of active community members who attended countless meetings and provided testimony in support of the measure.

“Private use and possession and possession in public are no longer local offenses in Monona, WI. The new ordinance in Monona only prohibits public use. We were denied at the city last year, in part due to the Police Chief advocating on city time, and came just shy of the necessary signatures to trigger a vote on direct legislation in summer 2016,” said Petreman. “To succeed in our recent efforts, nearly 20 people attended each meeting along the way, many who were residents. These efforts resulted in the best known local ordinance statewide.”

On the state level, lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would provide qualified patients with legal access to medical marijuana and establish a statewide medical marijuana program.

Read more here about the statewide effort by clicking here. 

 

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