In the wake of landmark cannabis victories in 2016, there was much momentum to build upon when state legislatures opened up at the beginning of 2017. With NORML chapters in nearly all 50 states, activists took the fight to the halls of state capitals and city councils from Florida to Washington State and everywhere in between. In all, lawmakers in 26 states have passed legislation to advance cannabis reform.
Victories include: Nevada expediting the implementation of adult distribution of legal marijuana, becoming the first of the newly legal states to respect the will of their voters and come online in 2017; New Hampshire becoming the 22nd state to decriminalize marijuana, making it so that an individual can be in any state in New England without fear of being arrested for a simple possession charge; West Virginia becoming the 30th state to pass a medical marijuana program, which will soon serve patients suffering from a range of conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, and chronic pain; In Ohio, the Athens Cannabis Ordinance (aptly named TACO) passed to completely de-penalize marijuana possession; among many other advancements and legislative tweaks around the country.
Nationwide, with public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all-time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) have formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and ease the tension between federal and state governments. As of this writing, (December 2017) 96 members of the House of Representatives, or 22% of the legislative body, have either authored or co-sponsored legislation to reform our nation’s outdated marijuana laws.
This progress has come as a result of years of organizing and conversations with our fellow citizens about the role of government in relation to a plant. The tough conversations about the scope of the government’s right to stop, search, and incarcerate individuals for possessing or consuming marijuana for either personal or medical benefits may not always be easy, but they are necessary in order to advance reform efforts.
And all said, the public is now strongly with us. The national polling outfit, Gallup, recorded for the first time ever outright majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents supporting the legalization of marijuana, representing 64% of Americans. For context, in 1969, the year before NORML was founded, only 12% of Americans supported legalization.
2018 is going to be no different. With over two dozen states on the books with scheduled lobby days and more to come, now is the time to take action. To help increase the likelihood of success for these volunteer-led lobbying efforts, NORML has updated our citizen lobby guide, a comprehensive booklet that will assist activists in the planning and execution of a successful lobby day. It also provides organizational checklists and a legislative questionnaire so that marijuana activists, regardless of the state they’re located in, will be fully prepared to meet with state lawmakers to discuss meaningful marijuana law reforms and to most effectively communicate NORML’s message of ending the prohibition of marijuana on the local, state and federal level.
So use us as a resource – NORML.org has fact-sheets, talking points, and visit our Action Center at norml.org/act to track legislation moving in 2018 and to plug in with a chapter near you or start your own.
As we look toward an uncertain future, we know we must work to both sustain our existing gains and to win future victories. Thanks for all that you do.