Government Study Suggests Marijuana Changes Your Brain – in a Good Way

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By Jon Kennedy

The U.S. government funded a study to examine ways marijuana use may alter a person’s brain and unwittingly showcased the plant’s value. The published results claim that marijuana changes critical parts of a user’s brain. Despite criticisms that the study’s methodologies and conclusions are flawed, the findings appear to support the idea that the world would be a better place if more people smoked pot.

The headlines this past week sensationally read “Even Casually Smoking Marijuana Can Change Your Brain”. The media is capitalizing on a study funded by the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) that imaged parts of the brain of 20 young marijuana smokers and compared those results to a sample of non-smokers. The fMRI results looked for differences in the amygdala and nucleus accumbens between the two groups. The researchers found users’ had denser gray matter in their nucleus accumbens and larger amygdalae compared to the control group.

According to Fox News the co-senior author of the study, Dr. Hans Breitner announced “the amygdala had abnormalities for shape and density, and only volume correlated with use [of marijuana]… the changes were greater with the amount of marijuana used.”

The areas of the brain picked for the study are associated with emotional processing, decision making and motivation. Specifically the nucleus accumbens is the part of the brain that plays an important role in pleasure as well as fear, aggression, impulsivity and addiction. The amygdala is responsible for processing memory, decision making, and handling emotions.

Critiques of how the study was performed and the conclusions it reached have been equally numerous. (Examples are here and here) The list of observations circulating the internet as of today (4/20/2014) can be summarized as:

  • Correlation does not equal causation.
    For instance, it is possible that the marijuana smokers already had variations in their nucleus accumbens – which could actually cause them to be predisposed to ingest more marijuana, drink more alcohol, smoke more tobacco and use other drugs for a dopamine boost. Use of all of these substances ranked significantly higher in the marijuana users compared to the control group.
  • The study used an unusually small sample size.
    Only 20 marijuana users were compared to 20 control group members. The findings represent a very small data point.
  • The marijuana group is not composed of “casual” users.
    On average each participant smoked marijuana 3.8 days each week and 1.8 joints per smoking occasion. This rate is near the “heavy” end of use. Also consider that participants were also asked to remember and estimate their use over the previous 90 days leading up to the study. This way of studying use introduces the potential for large errors. Detailed daily data collection would have been a more reliable way of documenting the usage rate.
  • The research did not actually study changes in the brain.
    There were no pre-marijuana magnetic resonance images taken. To actually measure changes, fMRIs would have to be performed on everyone in the marijuana user group before they took the first toke of their lives.  This study did not study changes, but merely compared different brain images and assumed variations were caused by marijuana. To conclude that marijuana “changed” the brain requires a biased leap of faith.
  • Variations in gray matter densities of nucleus accumbens are relatively unstudied.
    Previous studies revealing how abnormal nucleus accumbens affect behavior focus on how the presence of lesions (not size or density) correlates to addiction.
  • NIDA studies are inherently biased.
    Only studies that point to negative effects of drugs are accepted by NIDA. This particular study is designed to seek problems and is not objective.
  • The study found an increase in gray matter in the nucleus accumbens and amygdalae. Typically more gray matter is considered a good thing.

Despite taking issue with how the study was conducted or the legitimacy of the dangers it alludes to, most marijuana enthusiasts would agree that the plant, when ingested, does have an impact on the aspects of consciousness referenced in the study (emotional processing, decision making, and motivation). But in what ways?

Rather than repeating stereotypes or telling personal anecdotes, let’s look at the results of the first federally funded research that studied the common psychological impacts of marijuana ingestion. The 300+ page study, published under the somewhat dated title of On Being Stoned, surveyed users about their experiences from using marijuana.

The following is a list of all the common traits experienced during a marijuana high (of varying intensities) as reported in On Being Stoned in the same areas studied by Dr. Breitner:

Emotional Processing

  • Feel good, mild euphoria (occurs at “fairly” stoned level)
  • Learn a lot about psychological processes (“fairly” stoned)
  • Feel more open to experience (“fair to strongly” stoned)
  • Close mental contact with partner when making love (“fair to strongly” stoned)
  • Empathize strongly with others (“fair to strongly” stoned)
  • Mood before marijuana use amplified (“fair to strongly” stoned)
  • Group takes on a sense of unity (“fair to strongly” stoned)
  • Deep insights into others (“strongly” stoned)
  • Feel emotions more strongly (“strongly” stoned)
  • More aware of bodily components of emotion (“strongly” stoned)
  • Lose sense of separate self, at one with the world (“very strongly” stoned)

 

Decision Making

  • Easier to accept what happens, less need for control (occurs at “fairly” stoned level)
  • Feel as if mind is working more efficiently (“Fair to strongly” stoned)
  • Work on tasks less accurately, judged by later evaluation (“Fair to strongly” stoned)
  • Skip intermediate steps in problem solving (“Strongly” stoned)
  • More here-and-now, deeply in present moment (“strongly” stoned)
  • Can’t think clearly, thoughts slip away before grasped (“very strongly” stoned)

 

Motivation

  • Easier to accept what happens, less need for control (occurs at “fairly” stoned level)
  • Work at tasks with extra energy and absorption (“fairly” stoned)
  • Physically relaxed (“fair to strongly” stoned)
  • More involved in ordinary tasks (“fair to strongly” stoned)
  • Feel capable and powerful (“strongly” stoned)

A review of these psychological changes associated with marijuana use reveals a list of traits that, for the most part, we should all embrace and strive to cultivate as a society. Aside from short-term memory problems associated with the highest levels of marijuana intoxication, these side-effects should, if anything, encourage people to smoke more pot mindfully.

Going back to the NIDA study, the senior author notes a direct correlation between amount of marijuana use and amygdala size. Fortunately for marijuana users, this finding bodes well and corroborates the benevolent tendencies revealed in Tart’s research – marijuana smokers tend to be more benevolent, empathetic and understand their social role in a global context. Numerous studies on how larger amygdalae affect behavior show consistent results:

  • Previous amygdala research has shown that enlargement in the normal population might be related to creative mental activity.
  • Amygdalae volume correlates positively with both the size and complexity of social networks according to this study.
  • Individuals with larger amygdalae are better able to make accurate social judgments about other person’s faces. (source)
  • Larger amygdalae allow for greater emotional intelligence, enabling greater societal integration and cooperation with others. (source)
  • Bipolar patients tend to have considerably smaller amygdalae volumes. (source)

Also consider the recent data from Colorado that shows violent crime is down since marijuana’s legalization. If, as the NIDA-funded research suggests, marijuana does indeed increase amygdala size, previous studies show this to be a highly desirable outcome. If given the choice, we should ask for bigger amygdalae. Despite the flaws in this recent research, the conclusions suggest humans as a whole are better off with the plant.

But if you are intimately familiar with marijuana, you already knew that.
Let us declare nature to be legitimate. All plants should be declared legal, and all animals for that matter. The notion of illegal plants and animals is obnoxious and ridiculous.  ~Terence McKenna

Around the South – Progress on Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Legislation

Several Southern states have passed medical marijuana and industrial hemp bills. Others are on the cusp. Do you know which ones have already? Read on to determine where you or your family members may be traveling before you purchase that one-way ticket to Denver.

 

Tennessee
Industrial hemp

A bill legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp unanimously passed the Tennessee Senate April 9th. The Governor’s signature remains. Once Governor Haslam signs the bill, the Department of Agriculture will have three months to begin developing rules regarding the issuance of hemp seeds to farmers and regulating crops. Tennessee is about to become the 13th state to legalize industrial hemp in the U.S.

Medical Marijuana
The House and Senate have both passed a bill funding a four year study into the effects of CBD in treating epileptic seizures. While the Koozer-Kuhn bill, a broader medical marijuana bill similar to those that have passed in 21 other states, did not pass, Tennessee looks like it will join Alabama as another Southern state to pass a CBD-only bill once it gains the Governor’s signature.

 

Alabama
Medical Marijuana
Governor Bentley signed Carly’s Law after the bill passed both chambers of state congress unanimously. Originally the bill’s success looked bleak, but a ground swell of public support strongly persuaded lawmakers to re-examine the issue. Carly’s Law legalizes the use of CBD-oil for medicinal use. The bill allows the University of Alabama at Birmingham UAB’s Department of Neurology to prescribe the oil for qualifying patients.

 

Georgia
Medical Marijuana
The Peachtree state was almost the first Southern state to pass a medical marijuana bill. Even though the bill passed the House with only 4 nay votes, one senator effectively killed the bill when she added non-marijuana qualifiers that the rest of the Senate would not pass. Now the Governor is outlining options to import CBD-oils from GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company working on a CBD based product that will have FDA approval.

 

Kentucky

The state’s Attorney General has indicated that farmers will indeed be able to sell industrial hemp cultivated in Kentucky. There are no acreage restrictions on the amount of hemp a Kentucky farmer may grow. Kentucky is farther along the industrial hemp path than its Southern neighbors, so Tennessee farmers are able to see looming problems – how to obtain the seeds. Customs agents have already intercepted many seeds at the country’s borders and have been sending them back. The hope is to find a solution soon as hemp growing season begins the first week in May.

 

North Carolina
There are no new bills filed yet, but this blog post shows which cannabis related bills are still alive in North Carolina. Remember what happened in Alabama – the medical marijuana bill looked doomed, but once the people spoke up and demanded the state congress pass the legislation Alabama was turned into the first Southern state passing legislation explicitly allowing the use of marijuana based CBD-oil for medicinal use.

If enough people speak up across the state, North Carolina can also make a difference. NORML asks that you do your part and look into helping make North Carolina part of the national discussion.

 

Summary written by Jon Kennedy

Doctors Say, “Legalize Medical Marijuana”

By Jon Kennedy
April 15, 2014

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According to a recent WebMD survey a majority of doctors want the right to prescribe marijuana. Earlier this year 1,544 doctors were polled regarding their thoughts on marijuana. In both legal and non-legal states, the results were the same – marijuana has promise medicinally and the plant should be legal.

The survey revealed strong support for marijuana to be added to the general pharmacopeia:

  • 69% of doctors say marijuana is indeed effective treatment for certain conditions
  • 67% say the plant should be a medical option for patients
  • 56% support making marijuana legal nationwide
  • 50% of doctors in states where marijuana is NOT legal say it should be legal

Responses varied by specialty:

  • 82% of oncologists and hematologists saw medicinal benefits to the plant and should be a medical option
  • 70% of neurologists reported the having patients asked if marijuana is useful.

Today people suffering from various types of ailments report finding greater relief from marijuana compared to prescribed legal pharmaceuticals. Some of these conditions include depression, nausea, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, PTSD, glaucoma and anxiety. While reports of successfully treating or finding relief from these conditions are still considered anecdotal, a few thousand stories makes the plants benefits a reality.

Even though the plant is categorized as a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has no medicinal value and high potential for abuse, multiple decades of anecdotes from patients praising its efficacy and minimal side effects has doctors calling for the DEA to make the plant available for research.

“The medical community is clearly saying they support using marijuana as a potential treatment option for any number of medical problems… But health professionals are still unclear as to what the long-term effects may be. The findings would indicate a strong desire to have the DEA ease the restrictions on research so that additional studies can be done to conclusively show where medical marijuana can help and where it might not,” says WebMD Chief Medical Editor Michael W. Smith, MD.

Currently the only place in the United States where marijuana is grown legally is at the University of Mississippi campus, under the supervision of the National Institute of Drug Abuse. The purpose of the farm is to study the negative effects of marijuana only.

Today there are 21 states with legal access to medical marijuana plus Washington DC. North Carolina has attempted to pass three bills legalizing medical cannabis over the past 5 years. The statewide polls show the public is ready for doctors to have the right to prescribe marijuana as medicine. Now it’s up to the legislators in Raleigh to pass the laws that the voters and doctors are ready for.

Until then, NC NORML asks that if you do not agree with the laws, do your part to change them. Consider volunteering with NORML or donating to support its efforts today.

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

A History of North Carolina Cannabis Legislation (Living and Dead)

By Jon Kennedy

For even longer than NORML has existed in North Carolina, legislators have been pushing to pass some form of legislation to make cannabis accessible. Even though the state is technically decriminalized (there is no mandatory jail time for possession under 1.5 ounces), there has been little progress made towards providing safe access to medical patients or allowing farmers to cultivate industrial hemp.

NORML of North Carolina has a goal to push the legislators in Raleigh to pass bills that incrementally move the state closer to full legalization of the plant. In the mean time, here is a run down of the bills we’ve hung our hopes on over the years. Expect a few more in this year’s short session of the General Assembly.

* House Bills with an asterisk are still alive.

NC Medical Cannabis Act (there have been three attempts)
2009 – HB 1380 dies in the the Health Committee without vote
2011 – HB 577 dies in the Rules Committee without vote.
2013 – HB 84 is discussed in Rules Committee but is infamously killed with a disfavorable ruling due to its annoying popularity.

* Marijuana Legislative Research Commission
2013 – HB 941 is still alive and currently parked in the Rules Committee. If passed, it would require funding and qualified staffing to perform the required research.

* Industrial hemp commission
2006 – S1570 This bill to study the benefits of industrial hemp cultivation was passed but never funded or authorized.

* Expunction of Marijuana Convictions
2013 – HB 637 is still alive and currently in limbo. This bill was referred to Judiciary Subcommittee B on 04/10/2013

De-criminalization of small amounts of marijuana
2011 – HB 324 died in Rules Committee without vote

 

Perhaps the next bill will capture the legislators’ public’s attention enough to make new laws. Today the North Carolina media is riding the wave of the benefits of CBD – a non-psychoactive chemical found in both marijuana and industrial hemp. This popularity was created by a CNN documentary that showcased its anecdotal efficacy in treating severe forms of epilepsy.

North Carolina is currently controlled by a strongly conservative legislature, so the people’s powers of persuasion must hinge on talking points that resonate with those in power. We have much rational and charismatic work to do requiring great patience.

Until then, we ask that if you do not agree with the laws, do your part to change them. Speak openly with your friends and family about marijuana and industrial hemp. Listen to their concerns. Do your part to feed the statewide dialogue.

And, we sincerely ask that you consider volunteering with NORML or donating to support its efforts today.

 

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

Why NC NORML Does NOT Support CBD-only Legislation

By Jon Kennedy, NC NORML Officer & Chairman of the Board

In a recent blog NC NORML endorsed CBD legislation because epileptic children are finding useful and non-toxic medicine. They go to the front of the line when it comes to incrementally introducing cannabis legislation. We’ll take what we can get, but the push for cannabis legalization should not stop there for several reasons.

Several states are jumping on the CBD-only bandwagon, perhaps most notably North Carolina’s conservative Southern neighbor, Georgia – where a limited medical marijuana bill overwhelmingly passed the House by a vote of 171-4. Recently a North Carolina Republican representative publicly voiced support medical marijuana for epileptic children.

This momentum is due in large part to CNN’s one hour documentary by Dr. Sanjay Gupta exposing the medicinal benefits of marijuana. Special attention was paid to the therapeutic effects of a particular strain of marijuana that is high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in THC (the psychoactive component in marijuana).  There is now a surge of attention in the scientific community being paid to the anecdotal reports of CBD’s benefits to epileptic children. Even the FDA has approved a CBD-based drug for epileptic applications.

But North Carolinian’s must ask if abandoning the whole plant for a single compound (even one as valuable as CBD) is a worthwhile sacrifice to make. The families of epileptic children would say yes. The millions of other patients and NC NORML say no, and here’s why…

CBD in isolation has been studied far less than the entire plant. There have been no controlled clinical studies published for its effects on humans with epilepsy. While over 1000 papers are available that focus on CBD’s effects the vast majority of the research was limited to animals or petri-dishes. Some human CBD trials have been completed, however they all asses the compound’s safety, not its effectiveness.

By comparison, over 20,000 studies document the safety and therapeutic value of either whole plant marijuana or THC. Consider that about a third of the pharmaceuticals on the market won FDA approval with one clinical trial.  A 2012 University of California evaluation of smoking the natural flowers of the marijuana plant by hundreds of patients concluded that “recent clinical trials with smoked and vaporized marijuana, as well as other botanical extracts, indicate the likelihood that the cannabinoids can be useful in the management of neuropathic pain, spasticity due to multiple sclerosis, and possibly other indications…Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

The entire marijuana plant is safe and useful.

Further, NC NORML often receives phone calls from people claiming that the whole natural plant is far more effective and preferable than the synthetic derivative, Marinol, prescribed by their doctor. Scientific research backs up their individual reports. The British Journal of Pharmacology lists several studies that point to a new term in the marijuana community referred to as the “entourage effect”. The review finds that THC, CBD and dozens or hundreds of other naturally occurring compounds work together to produce a more effective medicine than any single chemical by itself. Dr. Sanjay Gupta concluded from his own research “just taking CBD out and using it alone doesn’t seem to work as well as when it is with all the other compounds.”

Dr. Gupta also created this helpful video infographic describing the entourage effect.

It is painfully clear that any political opposition to allowing patients to have access to full the plant is not based on unanswered questions about marijuana’s safety or medicinal value. People should not be prevented from having safe, legal and controlled access to the benefits of the entire plant.

The politics of North Carolina is currently conservative and hesitant to change its stance on what has traditionally been looked upon as a threat to family values. However the voting population is largely in support of medicinal uses of marijuana across the state and nationwide, so siding with marijuana legislation is no longer political suicide.

Full legalization is necessary, and CBD-only legislation does not go nearly far enough because
(1) the entire marijuana plant has been studied far more than many pharmaceuticals that currently have FDA approval – its safety and value are thoroughly documented;
(2) all the compounds in the plant work together more effectively than any one isolated chemical;
(3) limiting marijuana’s availability unmercifully leaves large patient demographics untreated; and
(4) the remaining illegality unnecessarily incarcerates otherwise law abiding citizens for possessing non-toxic and effective medicine.

While NORML of North Carolina sees CBD-only legislation as an incremental step towards full legalization, it is imperative that supporters continue to call their representatives to explain the reasons why the entire plant should be available to every adult and family today.

If you do not agree with the laws, NC NORML asks that you do your part to change them.

http://ncnorml.com/join-norml

“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

Why NC NORML Supports CBD Legislation

By Jon Kennedy

CBD Oil Bag - NC NORML

CBD Oil Bag – NC NORML

According to Liz Gorman at Hope for North Carolina Children with Epilepsy one out of every hundred children has medically refractory epilepsy. This means that medicines don’t work well, or at all, to control the seizures.

However it has been found that when isolated and increased, one of the chemicals in the cannabis sativa plant – Cannabidiol, or CBD for short – has an 80% success rate in treating the epileptic seizures. (In this case “success” means that there is at least a 50% reduction in the frequency of seizures.)

Since CNN’s documentary about the benefits of medical marijuana, there have been many phone calls to NORML of North Carolina by families with epileptic children asking what their options are. While the federal government refuses to allow any testing of marijuana, there are hundreds of anecdotal success stories that have compelled the news channel and the epilepsy foundation to strongly suggest it is time to have a rational look at the benefits of this non-toxic plant.

When families with epileptic children call NC NORML looking for more information about the life-giving tinctures, the ultimate question is “what are their cannabis options?”

There are two options. The first is the family can stay in North Carolina and choose a life of civil disobedience that values the health of the child over the laws of the state. The second option is to move to Colorado or some other state with medical marijuana laws that can provide a steady supply of high-CBD tinctures.

But the first option is not a real choice for these families. Their children don’t exist off the grid. They have blood drawn often by nurses that visit the children at home. By law Certified Nursing Assistants must report any illegal substances found in the child’s blood. Even if this cannabis-based medicine were to reach these North Carolina children safely, Child Protective Services would be contacted and forced to remove the child from the home. Thus presenting an unthinkable risk for the parents, despite the effectiveness of the cannabis in treating epilepsy.

So leaving North Carolina is the only real option. According to Liz, there are two North Carolina families that have already moved to Colorado to treat their child’s epilepsy. Five more are in the process of moving. They are all seeking a specific strain of marijuana that is high in cannabidiol developed and issued by the Colorado-based Realm of Caring Foundation.

Back in the Southern states though, medical marijuana hasn’t had much success. Despite three separate attempts to pass medical marijuana legislation in North Carolina, the bills have had short lives. Yet Rep. Kelly Alexander plans to submit another cannabis related bill during the 2014 short session.

As part of its mission, NORML works to remove all penalties associated with adult possession, cultivation and use of marijuana. But in North Carolina, we are realists too. Cannabis legislation is usually enacted incrementally. No state has gone directly from total criminalization of the plant to full recreational legality in one step. In each case some mild form of a medical marijuana bill has passed first.

Supporting the immediate needs of epileptic patients makes sense as there is a hierarchy of priorities. People in need of anti-seizure medicine go to the front of the line. People using the plant for cancer, pain, and other diseases are also treated as the highest priority. The rest who use the plant for its psychological healing properties will have to continue to do so covertly. Everyone’s time to smoke freely will come soon enough in North Carolina. The outcome is inevitable, but a function of how many people donate and volunteer with NC NORML.

If you don’t agree with the laws, NORML asks that you do your part to change them.
Please consider joining NC NORML today.

More links to Charlotte’s WBTV coverage of epileptic children in North Carolina responding well to CBD tinctures are listed below.

Feb 3rd - http://bit.ly/MTRVep — Major 1st piece. Charlotte’s Web.

Feb 4th – http://bit.ly/1lzwazM — Follow up with FB comments and Nicole Gross in CO (who’s from Huntersville).

Feb 6th – http://bit.ly/1fGPweV — Follow up in South Carolina with Fort Mill family.

Feb 18th – http://tinyurl.com/o7t5etw — National attention.

Feb 24th – http://bit.ly/1c31xi4 — Where NC/SC laws stand?

Feb 26th – http://bit.ly/1en7CFc — Wilmington family moving.

2013 Strategy to Legalize Marijuana in North Carolina

[NOTE: This is not a typical blog post inasmuch as it documents NORML of North Carolina's strategy to legalize cannabis in the state. We aim to be transparent in our approach to law reform. More people are joining the cause every day, and the establishment's 77 year argument is crumbling. Secrecy has no value. We hope you will reach out and offer to join NORML's mission to reform cannabis laws in North Carolina today.]

By Jon Kennedy

An effective strategy is comprised of goals and campaigns. The following are the ones NC NORML strove for in 2013. Each year we will revisit the previous year’s goals and revise as necessary

Involving the Public Locally
1 – Increase the number of active, dependable chapters and volunteers with NC NORML
2 – Increase revenue coming in to NC NORML
3 – Partner with sympathetic businesses and appropriate charities
4 – Obtain signatures from registered voters to pass Lowest Law Enforcement Priority (LLEP) initiatives at the city/county/campus levels

Involving the Public at a State Level
5 – Create and fuel a public discussion about legalization across North Carolina and the South
6 – Conduct a Statewide Public Opinion Poll

Addressing the General Assembly
7 – Inform legislators of the benefits of legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalization
8 – Persuade legislators to support any bills that move North Carolina closer to legalized marijuana

Addressing NC NORML
9 – Constant Improvement of NC NORML

Campaign #1 – Increase the number of active and dependable volunteers with NC NORML
For NORML to have a chance at legalizing marijuana in North Carolina and the region, thousands of people are going to have to show support. There are various levels of activism with increasing effectiveness that each NC NORML supporter can participate at. Each level is necessary and helpful.

To really thrive, NC NORML estimates it will need a core, statewide team of about 20 or 30 dedicated individuals.  These volunteers will set themselves apart from the other NC NORML activists, because they will commit to working a couple of hours every week in their role within NC NORML.
[See NORML’s “Snowflake” model of organizing local and state chapters]

Our task will be to accurately and efficiently determine the level of participation new volunteers are available and willing to commit.  This goal includes an active search for well-spoken individuals with a legitimate use of medical marijuana and no record of violent crimes.  Personal anecdotes are valuable when engaging legislators.

Campaign #2 – Increase revenue coming in to NC NORML
NC NORML is a member and donation driven organization.  In order to support our efforts to create a statewide discussion about the benefits of marijuana legalization, we will coordinate (at least) one large event in each urban area with an active local chapter across the state in 2013.  We will also have a presence at multiple like-minded events across the state.  The purpose will be to increase revenue, gain new active volunteers and increase awareness about the need for a rational discussion regarding marijuana in the North Carolina.

During the fund-raising, we will be transparent with regard to where the money is going.  We will provide clear cost estimates for billboard educational campaigns, statewide polls, educational and training material, radio time, and video production to explain exactly how money is spent.

As membership increases, we will be persistently looking for people to fill core and supporting roles.

There are several ways NC NORML can increase its revenue. Primarily through selling merchandise/memberships and receiving donations at…
NCNORML.org
CafePress.com
Local businesses
Tabling events
Fundraisers
local/campus chapter Open House

Campaign #3 – Partner with sympathetic businesses and appropriate charities
Many local business owners are supportive of the work NORML is doing in North Carolina.  There are ways for these businesses to help with NORML’s legalization efforts and increase their revenue at the same time.

Also there are several charities that a significant number of NORML members support and hold dear. For instance, now that the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) recognizes that cannabis has cancer cell killing properties, cancer charities are natural organizations for NORML members to donate their time to.

We anticipate that partnerships with the right businesses and charities will help accomplish the other NC NORML goals.

With local businesses, NC NORML can…
sell NC NORML merchandise
offer % discounts at the business for NC NORML card carrying members, promoting both the supportive business and NC NORML

With charities (local, state and national), NC NORML will…
volunteer time to support charity fund raising events
donate any money raised specifically to help that charity

Campaign #4 – Pass Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Initiatives at the city/county/campus level
The number of signatures required to put a LLEP initiative on the ballot varies by city.  The amount of signatures that are required in every major urban area differ.  Finding this information is our first task towards accomplishing this goal.

We also will need the advice of lawyers familiar with election law.  With clear direction, NORML’s team assigned to canvassing neighborhoods and petition signing will be able to clearly state our goals to inform the public, solicit donations and persuade opinion where possible.

We recognize that LLEP initiatives are largely symbolic as they do not bind a police department’s actual responsibilities.  However, as North Carolina cities pass these resolutions, the legislators in Raleigh will understand marijuana reform is an issue North Carolinians support.

Campaign #5 – Create and fuel a public discussion across North Carolina and the Southeast
There are many ways to create and fuel a public discussion across the state.

Some of these include:
Blogging and guest blogging at online publications addressing all audience types
Social Media Outlets (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
YouTube (video creation: How to… not get caught, handle police interactions, know your rights, canvass neighborhoods, talk to your friends & family about marijuana, write your legislator, persuade government officials, etc)
Mass Media (Billboards; Radio Ads; Television; Guerilla Marketing – tracts, flyers & stickers; Adopt-A-Highway)
Voters’ Guide and Tutorial on the Legislative Process
Tabling at Events and Fundraisers (Creating a visible public presence)
Canvassing and Signature Gathering
Speaking at local groups (like Rotary Club, Political Party meetings, etc)
Visibly support local businesses and charities [See Campaign #4]

Our first task (for this goal) is to design and fund one billboard in the state in a well-traveled section of highway.

Campaign #6 – Conduct a Statewide Public Opinion Poll
To better persuade the members of the NC General Assembly and Governor’s Office, a survey of how North Carolinians stand on issues regarding marijuana and industrial hemp will be required.  There are various polling agencies to pull from.  A statewide poll will inform NORML and government officials as to where this issue stands in North Carolina.

Update January 2013 – We organized a PPP Poll that showed 58% of North Carolinians support medical marijuana. We intend to extend our list of questions and fund new polls every few months.

Legislators are more likely to support passage of bills if NORML can refer to recent public opinion studies/surveys regarding marijuana.  Our hope is that North Carolina’s support of marijuana matches the nation as a whole (i.e. a majority support marijuana legal reform).

This type of poll requires funding and proper coordination. Public Policy Polling will conduct “public” polls for $100 per question.  They will conduct “private” polls at the rate of $2000 for 5 questions or $2500 for 10 questions.  This polling agency was recently praised in the New York Times as being the most accurate predictor of the 2012 Presidential Election.  We want our poll questions to match the same ones used in the national polls.

Campaign #7 – Inform Legislators of the benefits of MMJ legalization and Decriminalization
(This approach is adapted from the 2012 Goals of Texas NORML)
North Carolina NORML intends to send a copy of Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids <<http://norml.org/component/zoo/category/recent-research-on-medical-marijuana>&gt; to North Carolina legislators.  Along with this booklet, we will send customized packages with targeted facts about
Industrial Hemp (and how it can help North Carolina fill the textile industry’s void and provide other economic boosts to the state).
Medical Marijuana (its many treatments, non-toxicity and cancer cell killing properties are now recognized by the peer reviewed scientific publications and the National Cancer Institute).
The benefits of decriminalizing the possession of marijuana by adults (money and jail space saved and successes in other states).

Update Feb. 2013 – NC NORML and volunteers hand delivered legislative packets at the NC Medical Cannabis Act Legislative Day in Raleigh, Feb 12, 2013.  We will be mailing the packets that weren’t delivered.

The packages will also contain a letter that lets all legislators know that we have a positive, focused, and never-ending goal to change the marijuana laws in this state, and that ALL of the other legislators in North Carolina have these educational packages on their desks. We plan for this to encourage discussion between legislative colleagues and more understanding of the concerns of their constituents.

NC NORML will need volunteer help to get as many of these packets hand delivered to the members of the General Assembly as quickly as possible.

Campaign #8 – Persuade legislators to support any bills that move North Carolina closer to  legalized marijuana
NORML will have a lobbying presence at the NC General Assembly.  Some of NORML’s volunteers have expressed interest in scheduling meetings with their representatives.  About 30% of the members of the NC General Assembly responded to a questionnaire asking about their stance on marijuana and industrial hemp.  The responders and non-responders will be contacted for in-person interviews.  NC NORML will also ask if they will allow the interview to be recorded (video and/or audio).

People wanting to help NORML in North Carolina will be given a list of ways they can become involved.  Writing and contacting their state legislator is one of the most basic and powerful ways for citizens to influence government action.

NC NORML will also update its existing Voter’s Guide.  This guide will show readers how each Representative and Senator stands on the marijuana and hemp legalization issue.

Along those lines, at a recent rally at the General Assembly, one representative commented that the most letters he had ever received regarding any issue was 30.  If all the North Carolinians who like NC NORML on Facebook wrote a letter to their House and Senate members, we would break that record in each district (on average).

In 2013 we will begin a new letter writing campaign to support passage of medical marijuana and decriminalization bills.  Rather than hoping people take the few minutes to print, sign and mail a letter to their members of congress, NORML will actively guide people’s efforts start to finish.

Campaign #9 – Constant Improvement of NC NORML
Since NC NORML is a non-profit, the law requires a board of directors.  Also this board provides the necessary guidance (focus and energy) of the non-profit.  The NC NORML board of directors should be made up of people who
have a sincere passion to legalize marijuana and industrial hemp
are willing to be active with weekly practical work
have strong ties to the community
are diverse demographically with varying backgrounds of experience
have experience in lobbying, marketing, public relations, accounting and finance, fundraising and human relations.

A preferred board member is one that brings unique ability and perspective while taking an active role in the organization.  The majority of the current board is comprised of people who are new to activism and not well-known or respected in the larger community.  To be effective, NC NORML’s board should have experience with influencing local politicians and state legislators; drawing in large portions of the public charismatically; raising funds; and orchestrating multi-year strategic plans.

The current board is tasked with organizing itself effectively and finding its eventual replacements to ensure the constant improvement and growth of NC NORML.

To begin improving the NC NORML board’s effectiveness and participation, the current board will…

Develop and Abide by rules of running an effective board
For example, the current board must
develop a schedule of meetings determined six months in advance
distribute information material, including an agenda, two weeks prior to the meeting
keep meetings brief and focused
maintain thorough and accurate meeting minutes
make a clear distinction between the roles of the board and responsibilities of the volunteers
prepare a job description for individual board members
etc

Form Committees
Examples include…
Business Plan committee
Finance committee
Fundraising committee
Nominating committee (for future board members)
Voter and Legislator committee
Local Chapter Outreach committee

Constantly Be on the Lookout for Ways to Improve
Good judgment comes from experience; Experience comes from bad judgment.
Have the courage to fail miserably
Learn, Commit, Do