Legislative Rally for Medical Marijuana in Raleigh – March 19, 2015

image - nc flag white marijuana leafOn Thursday March 19 NC NORML, NCCPN and activists from all parts of North Carolina and the South will be attending the annual Rally in Raleigh. By attending this event you are showing state congress that you are ready for them to pass a long overdue medical cannabis bill. A recent Public Policy Polling survey shows 70% of North Carolinians support a doctor’s right to prescribe medical cannabis.

Add this event to your Facebook Calendar.

There will be a formal presentation held in the main Legislative Auditorium with several speakers. (Details below) You are encouraged to contact your representative beforehand and let him or her know that this presentation about the value of medical marijuana is being held that day. Also NC NORML and NCCPN will be hosting a rally at Halifax Mall (the grassy courtyard between Legislation Office Buildings) from 10am to 3pm for supporters of cannabis legislation reform.

Contact your representative today. Schedule an appointment to speak with them. Most of the General Assembly is made up of conservatives that are traditionally closed minded about legalizing marijuana in any capacity. The thinking goes something like “Drugs are bad. Marijuana is a drug. End of story.” They are unfortunately loyal to outdated opinions that have no basis in science. Let them know medical doctors will be presenting at 11am. Politely and humbly ask them to join you in the auditorium for the evidence showing why patients should be allowed safe access to legal medical cannabis.

The program will include some of the following speakers:

– Representative Kelly Alexander: He has sponsored each of North Carolina’s medical marijuana bills, and this one too. He’ll say a few words about the legislation and what we can do to pass it.
– Dr. Kevin Baiko who is Board Certified in Cannabinoid Medicine and has current practices in Hawaii and Oregon. Dr. Baiko will take questions from legislators.
– Dr. (NP) Lee Porter who will present on the endocannabinoid system.
Also on hand will be Faculty Members of Patients Out of Time to answer questions. POT has presented all of the seminars for Doctors and other Health Care Professionals over the past decades. These seminars provide AMA certified recurrent training required for different professions.

If you do not agree with the current marijuana laws in North Carolina, it is important for you to attend. This is a numbers game. To demonstrate to the General Assembly that this issue matters, more people need to come out this year than ever before. Last year we had over 200. This year we hope to have hundreds more.

When will this presentation be held?
March 19, 2015 (Thursday)
Presentation begins at 10am .
Arrive early in the morning to meet with your Representative beforehand.
(Call for an appointment TODAY).
After you meet with your representative, gather with your peers in the Legislative Auditorium before the presentation begins.

Don’t know your Representative?

Where will we meet?
North Carolina General Assembly
Legislative Building
16 West Jones St
Raleigh, North Carolina

What should I wear?
Dress like you’re going to church or an interview. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but should show you respect the institution of law and your willingness to do what’s needed to give patients safe access to marijuana.

Who should attend?
If you think and feel that a doctor has the right to prescribe medical marijuana, you need to come out and show your support. This event’s success depends on you. The passage of this bill will only happen if you and your friends and family come out to show support and contact your representative.

Help us get the word out. Take a day off from work and join hundreds of like-minded individuals who know it is time North Carolina showed compassion towards its citizens who are in need of their non-toxic, natural medicine.

Contacting Your Legislator About Legalizing Cannabis in North Carolina

North Carolina does not have a ballot initiative process to pass laws. Instead of being able to gather enough signatures from registered voters in the state to put a referendum on the November ballot, we must persuade our legislators to pass the bills we want.

Reaching out to your representative is not difficult or time consuming, but it is extremely important to do so. It is the ONLY way the cannabis laws will change in North Carolina.

Below are guidelines to follow to make your contact with the state legislature effective and to persuade them into a new way of thinking. Unfortunately most of North Carolina’s General Assembly are against cannabis legislation because “marijuana is a drug, and drugs are bad.” They do not understand that cannabis is not a gateway drug. They do not know that it is impossible to die from overdose and chronic use of cannabis. They do not realize it is less addictive than alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine. They do not know that the National Cancer Institute (Cancer.gov) recognizes cannabinoids have cancer cell killing properties. The list of benefits is long, and the list of risks is short. Cannabis support continues to grow with registered voters, but North Carolina political officers remain loyal to an old anti-marijuana propaganda. Still, we need to have compassion for our legislators’ ignorance. Anger at them hurts our cause. We must be respectful and find a way to have a reasonable conversation with them.

IMAGE-NCpolling2015-MJ vs Politicians

Step 1 – Who are my state representatives and senators ?
The first step is to know who represents you in state congress and find the ways to reach out to them (phone, email, mailing address, etc). If you don’t know who represents you, read the article “Who Represents Me in North Carolina’s State Congress“.

Step 2 – Decide if you want to call their office or send a letter
Either one will work well. Email works too, but because sending email is so easy it doesn’t have the same effect as a conversation or printed letter. Decide if you are more comfortable talking on the phone or sending a letter in the mail. If you decide to call, be prepared to maintain a calm, respectful demeanor while asking specific questions. Be prepared to listen politely, even if you don’t like the answer you’re hearing.

Step 3 (Phone Option) – Call Your Representative
Have a pen and paper handy, pick up the phone and dial the office number.
Politely ask to speak with your Representative or Senator. If asked, explain that you would like to know more about his/her stance on cannabis and industrial hemp legislation. You may be asked to call back at a certain time. If so, that’s a good sign. You’re closer to getting your conversation…

When you are patched through to the representative, thank them for their time and say you’d like to ask 3 questions. Simply ask how (s)he feels about cannabis topics that interest you. Some examples include…
1) Allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana to qualifying patients
2) Decriminalizing marijuana so possession of small, personal amounts is an infraction (like a parking ticket) instead of a misdemeanor on your record
3) Legalizing industrial hemp (marijuana’s cousin plant that is used to make textiles, but can’t get you high) like Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia recently have done.

If you get a positive response from these questions, you can ask about full legalization like what’s been done in Colorado and Washington. Based on the representative’s answers to the first two questions, you’ll know if this one is worth asking.

Step 3 (letter writing option)Write Your Representative
Writing a letter is also very effective. It should be in your own words so it doesn’t look like we’re overwhelming them with a form letter. Don’t worry too much about punctuation and grammar. Just ask these some basic questions in the letter, include facts about the plant’s safety and efficacy. Conclude that you would really appreciate their time and a response on this issue.

The letter supporting medical cannabis might read something like this…

Dear Rep. xxxxxxx

Thank you for your time reading this letter and your service to our community. I would like to know how you stand on marijuana and industrial hemp. Specifically, do you believe doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana to qualifying patients?

Did you know that already 23 states already offer similar patients protections? Additionally Washington DC recently made it completely legal to grow and possess marijuana.  Moreover, in December Congress and the President signed off on language barring the Justice Department from interfering in the implementation of statewide medical marijuana programs.

Clinical trials acknowledge that marijuana possesses therapeutic efficacy. A recent review of several of these clinical trials assessing cannabis, published in The Open Neurology Journal concludes, “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification (for cannabis) is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

According to 2015 statewide polling, nearly 7 out of 10 residents favor allowing physicians to authorize cannabis therapy. In addition, existing law proposing for the allowance of cannabidiol (but providing no in-state supply source) for only an extremely limited number of patients has proven to be unworkable. Patients deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.

Please support HB 78 – North Carolina’s Medical Cannabis Act.

Your letter might conclude with some facts about how marijuana is non-toxic and no one has ever died from chronic use or acute overdose (compared to alcohol which kills 40,000 people every year according to the Center for Disease Control). Another nice factoid is that marijuana is less addictive than tobacco, alcohol and caffeine. You might also point out that the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) recognizes that marijuana has cancer cell killing properties.

Put the article in your own words. Stick to the facts and be respectful. The rest will come in time.

Step 4 – Tell NC NORML when you receive a response
Let us know how the representative responded. If you received a letter, it would be excellent if you could scan it and email it to us. This type of official record is great to keep on file. If you made a phone call or wrote a letter, email NC NORML a summary of the answers to the questions you asked.

Our email address is info@ncnorml.org

If you do not agree with the prohibition of cannabis and current laws, we ask that you do your part to change them.

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems. ~Mahatma Gandhi

HB 78 – Medical Cannabis Act (2015)

North Carolina’s House Bill 78 – Enact Medical Cannabis Act – was introduced by Rep. Kelly Alexander.

This 2015 bill has several co-sponsors and has some of the following features:

  • Patients are allowed to maintain a 24 ounce supply
  • Patients and caregivers are allowed a 250 square foot cultivation space
  • Qualifying conditions include… cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, ALS, Alzheimers, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, migraines, Crohn’s Disease, diabetes, hypertension, MRSA, spinal cord disease, arthritis, sleep apnea, and several other conditions.
  • A regulated caregiver and cannabis distribution system that allows for growing operations and dispensaries.
  • Patient ID cards are required before purchasing medical cannabis.
  • Creation of the North Carolina Cannabis Research Program overseen by the University of North Carolina system.

Support for medical marijuana in North Carolina has surged each of the past three years. As of February 2015, 70% of North Carolina residents are in favor of a doctor’s right to prescribe cannabis to qualifying patients.

North Carolina does not have a ballot initiative process. To pass medical cannabis legislation, a bill must be reviewed and approved by several committees in the General Assembly. Despite the strong support for medical cannabis in the state, a majority of representatives and senators are not yet in favor of passing cannabis related legislation.

To ensure passage of this bill, it is important for everyone who supports medical marijuana and patients’ rights to legal access to the plant to contact their representative. A brief explanation on how to do so can be found in the article “Who Represents Me in North Carolina’s State Congress”

Federally, cannabis has been a Schedule I controlled substance since 1970. Schedule I substances are deemed to have a high potential for abuse and no medical value.

Fewer than 10 percent of those who try marijuana ever meet the clinical criteria for dependence, while 32% of tobacco users and 15 percent of alcohol users do.

There have been no deaths from marijuana overdose or chronic use according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The National Cancer Institute (the U.S. government’s branch of cancer research) now recognizes marijuana has cancer cell killing properties.

UPDATE: 3/8/2015
H78 passed its first reading.
Now the bill must go through the Judiciary 1 Committee (8 Republicans, 3 Democrats).
If it passes the Judiciary 1 Committee, H78 must go through the Health Committee (19 Republicans, 11 Democrats including one primary sponsor and one co-sponsor).
If it passes the Health Committee, H78 must go through the Regulatory Reform Committee (20 Republicans, 9 Democrats including  two primary sponsors, and one co-sponsor).
If it passes the Regulatory Reform Committee, HB78 will go back to floor for 2nd reading, a 3rd reading, then a vote.
If it passes the House, then HB78 moves to the Senate (for reviews and votes).

Call for Cannabis Banking Legislation

Federal legislation is needed to specifically allow banks to open accounts for cannabis related businesses. A recent New York Times article, “The First Bank of Bud,” detailed efforts to create the nation’s first credit-union meant specifically for marijuana dispensaries. Because of federal money-laundering laws, risk-averse banks continue to refuse access to financial services which are necessary for the long-time survival of the cannabis industry.

In 2013 the US Justice department issued the “Cole Memo”, a legal memorandum stating that “in certain cases” it would be acceptable for banks to accept deposits from state-approved dispensaries.  This attempt by federal officials to allow banks room to maneuver, lacked clear protections against money-laundering laws, leading banks to refuse to accept deposits from many businesses, deemed a risk, in the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry. As a result the legal industry must operate as a purely cash business.

Payrolls, business costs, taxes, are all paid in cash, an extremely dangerous situation that invites robbery, violence, tax evasion and other criminal activity. But these are not the only threats to society; the sporadic enforcement of federal laws creates havoc, uncertainty, and sets a poor precedent for the future changes in law. In states where reforms of cannabis laws have been passed, the intended protections of legitimate, free, and regulated markets are jeopardized. This climate of uncertainty and fear undermines the spirit of law and justice, as well as cherished constitutional freedoms.

In the wake of the “Cole Memo”, financial institutions conducted expanded reviews of bank accounts to identify perceived risks.  This included businesses having nothing to do with sales of marijuana, such as the bank account of NC NORML. For three years after the incorporation of NORML of North Carolina, which occurred in 2010, Bank of America provided us with necessary services to pursue our mission. So it came as a surprise when our bank account was closed, due to the “nature of our business, and it’s associated risk.”

Even though we are not a marijuana retail business, it was the topic of our social and political advocacy which was deemed “unacceptable”. The state chapter adheres strictly to all federal and state laws, is wholly volunteer based, and like other social welfare organizations, such as Tea Party groups, the Sierra Club, or the Cato Institute, our work is vital to the democratic process. Our mission is to educate the public about the economic benefits of industrial hemp, the medical benefits of cannabis, and the social benefits of legalized recreational marijuana. If these activities are “unacceptable”, or “risky”, what about the activities of the National Rifle Association or the March of Dimes? Would American citizens stand for such blatant interference in the civic life of our nation?

The right to express political and social beliefs, as well as the right to peaceably assemble for social action, is paramount to the survival of our nation.  The refusal of financial institutions to provide bank accounts to dispensaries, or to nonprofit advocacy groups, is a tactic intended to influence public debate and to prevent those organizations from thriving over the long-term.  Such actions are not only attempts to stifle our message, our actions, and our political beliefs, they are attempts to influence the political process and to deprive the American public of making informed decisions. In the future these methods could expand to any issue, be they matters of foreign diplomacy, war, health care, security, or privacy.

A bank is chartered to accept deposits, make loans, and facilitate financial transactions, not engage in political maneuvering. The need for sound financial services is greatest when new industries are emerging. Thus, financial institutions deserve clarifications and protections from the Federal Reserve, Congress, the judiciary, and the Executive Branch.  Guidelines and memos from federal agencies are not sufficient. Whether they instruct federal prosecutors to not go after medical marijuana distributors in states where such activities are legal, such as the 2009 “Ogden Memo”, or provide vague protections for establishing bank accounts, federal law must protect and accommodate banking, financial, and agricultural industries where states have pursued marijuana reform. This will require comprehensive legislation passed by both houses of Congress and approved by the President.

In order for such momentous action to occur, there is much work to be done. NC NORML is working to further the goal of federal legalization through political and social efforts in the state of North Carolina, as are other chapters throughout the country. If you agree that we can prevent needless violence, provide cutting edge medical care, and reduce the harm to communities resulting from the failed War on Drugs, then please get involved. Contact your state Representatives and Senators, contact your U.S. Representatives and Senators, contact President Obama. Reach out to local officials and demand accountability.  Without your voice, without your support, people will continue to suffer and face imprisonment. Our society will pay the price if citizens are unwilling to participate in the democratic process.  Get involved.

If you don’t agree with the current cannabis laws, we ask that you do your part to change them. Go to http://www.ncnorml.org/getinvolved.htm.

Support for Medical Marijuana Surges for Third Year – North Carolina, 2015

Seven out of ten North Carolinians support a doctor’s right to prescribe marijuana to patients in need.

According to a Public Policy Polling survey – conducted in January of 2015 – 70% of the state is now in favor of legalizing medicinal cannabis for card carrying patients. This polling data shows a 7% increase each year since 2013.

The 2015 poll also showed 20% of the state is opposed and 10% undecided. Opposition to medical marijuana dropped 10% and the number of those who are undecided rose 3% since 2014 (63/30/7%). This trend suggests that, given time, people tend to realize the benefits of legal medical cannabis far outweigh the risks. These numbers improved significantly since 2013 (58/33/9%).

Those randomly selected for the survey were asked, “Do you think doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana, or not?”

The survey was conducted the weekend before House Bill 78 – Enact Medical Cannabis Act was introduced by Representative Kelly Alexander. It would protect people with severe diseases and specific medical conditions. The new law would create a regulated growing and distribution system of medical cannabis and associated products. This system is designed to be both safe and reliable.

This legislation is seen as a reasonable alternative to the CBD-only law that has helped zero families with  qualifying needs for the medicine.

Federally, cannabis has been a Schedule I controlled substance since 1970. Schedule I substances are deemed to have a high potential for abuse and no medical value.

Fewer than 10 percent of those who try marijuana ever meet the clinical criteria for dependence, while 32% of tobacco users and 15 percent of alcohol users do. There have been no deaths from marijuana overdose or chronic use according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The National Cancer Institute (the U.S. government’s branch of cancer research) now recognizes marijuana has cancer cell killing properties.
### -February 14, 2015

Coming Out of the Cannabis Closet

Aaron King recently risked his long-time dream of a career teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After receiving his purple belt, Aaron’s first major employer was a gym for people who “Want to Train like a UFC athlete.” Like other athletes who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, King was unable to put himself out in public long enough to teach martial arts1 without the medicine that works best for him – cannabis. This is why he wanted to share his experiences and help others through founding  NORML Athletics.

On January 12th, Aaron was fired.  The email notifying Aaron of his termination from UFC stated:
After conducting some research I came across a post on your Facebook page that is in conflict with our Communication Policy at the gym. On November 12, 2014, there was a post … with your picture attached, describing your involvement with NORML Athletics, an organization that supports the use of cannabis “as a vehicle towards athletic self-improvement.” Your position as Founder of NORML Athletics could jeopardize our relationships with members, schools, PTAs, corporate clients and our insurance carriers.

This Communication Policy is meant to balance business interests with freedom of speech online. Recognizing a diversity of staff, it explicitly forbids “drug use or illegal activity; derogatory statements towards any race, sexual orientation, gender or religion; sexually explicit language, sexual activity; and inappropriate or sexually explicit pictures.” The policy even provides a helpful “guiding principle”:

Is this communication something that someone else would find appropriate or acceptable in a face-to-face meeting?” or “Is this something you would be comfortable saying out loud to the intended recipient of your communication in front of the intended recipient, intended recipient’s parents, the coaching staff, the owners, or other coaches.”

King’s termination was due to a political interpretation of the Communications Policy, not for explicit “drug use” – he did not fail a drug test. A reasonable person would not see this as a violation of the spirit of the policy. Had King instead voiced his position on gay marriage, it would be perfectly acceptable and he would remain in his position as an instructor.

The issue of marijuana reform affects all Americans, not just people who use marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes. It affects disadvantaged and privileged youth, minorities, the workforce, economic and health policies, our prison system, and how every member of the public interacts with law enforcement. Several of the central themes listed in the Declaration of Independence speak to the very ideas of civil liberty and self-government that our society holds in the highest esteem.  Yet our supporters, people of every background, are afraid to act as a cohesive political group due to the very nature of the topic in question. If we are to succeed as a movement, we must all risk our very livelihoods, reputations, and honor, or we will fail to affect our collective “Safety and Happiness.”

This is how the Gay Rights movement began. “Crimes Against Nature”, laws on the books of several states making certain sexual activity criminal, were only ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2003. Gay citizens were marginalized, violently attacked, suppressed by law enforcement and acts of government. They were discriminated against, fired from jobs. Eventually, by demanding rights, the gay rights movement has become extremely successful, and is on the cusp of legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country. Can a similar strategy work for marijuana reform?

Over 100 million Americans have tried marijuana, and over 5% of the total population regularly use marijuana. Although four states have fully legalized recreational use, and 23 states (plus the District of Columbia) have medical marijuana (source: www.norml.org/marijuana). In contrast, only 3.8% of the total population identifies as a member of the LGBT community, according to the 2010 US Census, and thirty-three states have legalized gay marriage in some form (source: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_demographics_of_the_United_States).

NC NORML needs people with experience in business, law, academia, law enforcement, and politics. And we need all of our supporters, whether they are marijuana users or not, to participate in our operations. But people are scared to participate. Look at what happened to Aaron King. For exercising his right to freedom of speech he was fired! How many other people fear volunteering or donating to NC NORML because they are frightened the exact same thing will happen to them?

Resistance to social change, to the reform of marijuana laws, hurts all Americans. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson stated a right to self-government and to the existence of “certain unalienable rights”. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” must be respected by governments; when “Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People … to institute new Government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”  This idea demands individuals take action to solve modern social problems.  By creating NORML Athletics, King sought to advance the social status of cannabis using athletes, to challenge social and medical stereotypes, and to encourage others with similar experiences to political action.

If the community of marijuana users, as well as non-using supporters, wants to effect change, they must stand for their beliefs as others have. If supporters are unwilling to participate in the political process, if they are unwilling to engage friends, family members, and neighbors about their beliefs, if they refuse to donate time and funds, if they cannot organize themselves into a coherent political force, marijuana will continue to be illegal. People will continue to be sent to prison. Patients of many illnesses will not get treatment.  The War on Drugs will continue unabated. Marijuana users will continue to be ostracized and eliminated from society.  Social change requires the vanguard assume risk. Without leaders to stand up boldly, as a community, we cannot become the change we seek.

If you do not agree with the laws, we ask that you do your part to change them today www.ncnorml.org/getinvolved.htm
Alex Bumgardner