On Sept. 7, the cannabis industry gasped in unison when the House Rules Committee leadership blocked the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, the federal budget provision that protects state medical-marijuana programs, from coming to a vote.
But the next day, a funding compromise extended the budget, and the amendment, until Dec. 8. Three days later, 140 state and national leaders from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws assembled in the nation’s capital for the organization’s 2017 National Conference and Lobby Day. On Sept. 11, speakers discussed everything from the latest in medical research to strategies for winning ballot initiatives to what the future of cannabis might look like.
That night, at an awards presentation, Kansas City NORML executive director Jaime Kacz was given NORML’s Outstanding Cannabis Advocate award for leading the campaign for a city decriminalization initiative’s landslide victory in April. Texas NORML and its director, Jax Finkel, won Chapter of the Year for their legislative efforts, while another Lone Star State activist, Ann Lee, received the Special Appreciation award for creating Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. Philly.com writer and former Freedom Leaf senior editor Chris Goldstein got the Hunter S. Thompson Media Award, and NORML founder Keith Stroup was honored for Lifetime Achievement. Read about all the winners here.
On Sept. 12, NORML activists descended on Capitol Hill, contacting more than 150 Congress members. When chapters coordinator Kevin Mahmalji bumped into Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a hallway and introduced himself, McCain pointed to the NORML gold pot-leaf emblem on Mahmalji’s lanyard and winked, “You guys are winning, you know.”
Several Congress members participated in the events: Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) was the conference’s keynote speaker and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) fired up the crowd at the awards ceremony. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) spoke to the assembled activists in the Veterans Affairs Committee hearing room about their amendment, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) huddled with more than 30 NORML board members and state directors to discuss his bill, The Marijuana Justice Act.
“So far we haven’t created enough of a sense of urgency for all the [Congress] members to realize the importance of the issue,” he told them. “I need your help to create a sense of urgency to end prohibition once and for all.”
Learn which cannabis reform bills NORML is working on and what you can do to help here.
Access Power Point presentations of the conference panel discussions here.