A Year in Review
It has been an amazing and eventful year for Texas NORML, our supporters and marijuana law reform nationwide! Please remember, we are an all volunteer run nonprofit organization, focused on reforming Cannabis/Marijuana Laws in Texas. The progress we have seen this year has only been possible because of the time, money and skills we have all contributed, so thanks for your efforts in helping us! We have much work to be done between now and our next legislative session in 2015 and hope you’ll get more of your friends and family involved to join in pushing forward towards success and freedom in Texas.
Early in the 2013 Legislative Session, we kicked off Take a Step Texas, our campaign to educate state lawmakers with cannabis facts and connect constituents with their elected state officials. Texas is one of several states that does not allow collection of signatures to get a citizen vote on statewide issues, and a law passed in 1997 requires all drug laws to be enforced at the state level. With these limitations, we need our State Representatives and Senators to communicate with voters, each other, and join our efforts to change laws regarding cannabis. Texas NORML created this Legislator Education Package and helped voters meet with their lawmakers or staff to discuss the issues. With the help of our supporters, legalization activists delivered the Education Packet and Clinical Applications medical book to nearly every Representative and Senator at the Capitol! Please continue to stay in touch with your lawmakers and stay tuned for the 2014 Texas NORML Voters’ Guide to help you cast an educated vote in the next election!
In preparation for our legislative efforts, we held our Annual Activist Training Day in February and covered the legislative process, current bills, and our efforts to support them. We encouraged supporters to learn about and be involved with our various outreach efforts to athletes, patients, veterans, women and seniors. If you would like to learn more about how to be an effective activist, we have put together some amazing resources for you.
We also held our first Lobby Day at the Capitol where we connected NORML minded constituents with their legislators, hand delivered the Texas NORML Legislator Education Packet and asked the lawmakers to support two bills filed in the House of Representatives. See our group here!
The 2 bills we followed and supported during the 2013 Legislative Session were both taken more seriously than they have been in a decade:
HB 184 – reintroduced by Representative Harold Dutton, sought to amend penalties for minor marijuana possession to a Class C misdemeanor. Currently, possession of up to 2 ounces is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. You can see all of the current penalties in Texas here. Under the proposed bill, more than 1 ounce/up to 2 ounces would have remained Class B, but penalties for possession up to 1 ounce would be reduced to a $500 maximum fine and no jail time. With bipartisan support, the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee voted in favor of the measure by 6-3! The bill then moved to the Calendars Committee to potentially be scheduled for debate by all 150 State Representatives.
HB 594 – reintroduced by Representative Elliot Naishtat, would have allowed patients with a physician’s recommendation to present a medical defense for criminal charges related to cannabis use. This legislation would also allow doctors to discuss cannabis use with their patients without fear of losing their medical licenses. The Public Health Committee heard testimony from constituents late in the session, with great questions and interest by the Representatives, but the bill was not voted on and moved forward. You can read the full text here.
Texas NORML also went through a huge change. Josh Schimberg stepped down as Executive Director after 8 years in the position. He is dearly missed but remains active and supportive in the movement. Texas NORML’s Board of Directors agreed on Cheyanne Weldon as the new Executive Director and Jax Finkel as the new Deputy Director of the group. These three activists have been working hard together for several years in Austin, here they are at our annual Reggae Fest booth.
This past June the American
We also held our first Strategy Meeting in July. Click here to view pictures from the meeting. This is now a regular event held in a different location of the Greater Austin area on the 3rd Wednesday each month, allowing participation by more supporters. Click here to review what was covered in our meeting.
In August, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo confirmed his support of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s change in stance on mandatory minimums, saying “I think that if you talk to a lot of my colleagues around the country, most of us feel that addicts who are addicted to drugs, that are users, but aren’t the ones poisoning our kids by being the big dealers on the street that we are better served trying to get them treatment, break that cycle of addiction.” Acevedo says his priority is violent crime, “I’d rather not tie up an officer with somebody with a small quantity of marijuana. In the meantime somebody’s hiding in their closet, they broke in. I’d rather free them up to deal with that imminent threat to public safety.” Click here to view and read more coverage. In addition, Texas NORML’s Legal Counsel, Jamie Spencer was recently on the news to discuss the new policy and prison overcrowding. Click here to see his interview.
In other big news, the Executive Director of Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Rob Kampia got some local coverage. “It’s inevitable that we’re going to win,” Rob Kampia said from his new apartment complex in Austin. “We’re going to look at this Texas project as a multi-year plan.” He said his organization’s goal is to end marijuana prohibition in Texas by the 2017 legislative session. Click here to view the news coverage.
Texas NORML shares this goal and has partnered with MPP and other groups to hire a lobby firm and organizers to ensure our success. A California donor has pledged $100,000 to help legalize in Texas and we are helping to match those funds! View theofficial announcement at our August Open Meeting. Hear more information about ourLobby Campaign from Texas NORML Deputy Director, Jax Finkel. Donate NOW! Texas NORML’s excellent track record with grassroots organization and our proven ability to endure and succeed despite a conservative political climate gives us confidence that we are ready to pursue this opportunity and challenge, but we cannot do it without YOUR support. Give us the opportunity to put your hard earned dollars to work for cannabis reform in Texas. Double the effectiveness of your contribution with this matching opportunity – for each dollar you donate, our donor will match it! We have a well-developed plan to effectively use the funds and maximize NORML’s advocacy potential. We will take advantage of the momentum created by other states’ rapidly changing laws and continue building relationships with lawmakers, with plans to promote three bills for the 2015 legislative session – a decriminalization bill, a medical bill and a legalization bill.
We are hearing more from our elected officials, including Senator José Rodríguez of El Paso, who hosted the XXVII Border Legislative Conference last September and is the first of only 31 State Senators to publicly support marijuana law reform. Executive Director Cheyanne Weldon was invited to speak on the “Overview of Marijuana Initiatives and Legislation” panel at the annual conference. We were privileged and honored to be included in this very important event to educate lawmakers on both sides of the border about legalization. Cheyanne was joined on the Panel by Colorado Senator Nancy Todd and Diputado Fernando Belaunzarán Méndez, a Mexican Congressman. There were no panelists to speak “against” legalization, which is evidence that the waves of change are lapping at the Borders of Texas! View the local news coverage and photos from the Conference and the El Paso Meetup which started a new NORML chapter.
Cheyanne was also honored by Texans for Accountable Government (TAG) with this award for Excellence in Professionalism and Progress at our September Open Meeting. In addition, both Cheyanne and Deputy Director Jax Finkel were invited to speak at DFW NORML’s Open Meeting about Texas NORML’s statewide strategy and efforts.
Recently, Texas NORML and The Austin 420 proudly announced the creation of Patient Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (PACT!), founded by Vincent Lopez, Director of Patient Outreach for Texas NORML. The group’s objectives are to expand patient outreach, encourage patient empowerment, and educate fellow patients regarding etiquette, discipline, advocacy, and interaction with lawmakers to help protect patients and provide cannabis as a safer alternative in Texas. Click here to join the group.
We even have federal support with Congressman Steve Stockman of TEXAS signing on as a co-sponsor of the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, bringing the total co-sponsors to 19! Contact your elected officials and urge them to join Rep. Stockman in respecting state marijuana laws! Also, consider contacting Congressman Stockman to thank him for supporting the bill and encourage him to work on getting support from other Texas lawmakers.
Does that seem like a pretty epic year to you?!
Well in addition we held and participated in many events such as ~
THC – Run FORE the Money 5K Cross Country & 1K Walk Around the Greens,
Alamo 13.1 with Team Hope through Cannabis (THC),
Statesman Capital 10K with Team Hope through Cannabis (THC),
Texas Libertarian Party’s Liberty and the Legislature panel
Eeyore’s Birthday Flash Mob,
Reggae Fest (you can find us there every year!),
NORML Women’s Alliance Family Friendly Meetup,
NORML Regional Conference in DFW (presentation on forming unusual allies and breaking stereotypes),
Reefer Madness the Musical (multiple shows!),
Team Hope through Cannabis (THC) at an Austin Aztex soccer match!,
Texas NORML Annual Members’ Mixer (a super fabulous members only event),
Texas NORML’s 6th Street Smokeout feat. Clyde and Clem’s Whiskey Business, Subkulture Patriots and The Mau Mau Chaplains,
Race for the Cure, Austin ~ THC and Texas NORML,
as well as our Monthly Open Meetings (1st Wednesdays 8pm at Flamingo Cantina in Austin) and the Monthly Strategy Meetings (3rd Wednesdays 6:30pm at locations in the greater Austin area).
This is how we put your memberships and donations to work! Investing in Texas NORML is investing in change of Texas Cannabis Laws! Please start the year out right and show your support for Texas NORML. Donate now!
Here are some events that we already have in the works for 2014 ~
TODAY! Open Monthly Meeting – 1/8, 8pm – FREE! -Flamingo Cantina, 515 East 6th Street, Austin. We usually have our meeting on the first Wednesday of every month. In January, that date falls on New Year’s Day so we have had to push the date out a week to the 8th. We will be discussing what has been going on in Cannabis News around the nation, enjoying some stand up comedy and live reggae from the Mau Mau Chaplains. ASL interpreters will be provided. Click here for more information on the meeting. Please make sure to invite and share the Open Meeting with your friends and family. Did you miss last month’s meeting at Flamingo? Click here to listen to the November Meeting. Click here to view the December Meeting.
WebHosting.Coop – 1/11 – 8pm – FREE! – Haven Austin. Come join Texas Norml as we are featured in celebrating the launch of WebHosting.Coop, a completely transparent, socially democratic, internet-run web hosting cooperative. Live music by Mighty Mountain and The Contrabandits along with the always funny, socially conscious comedy of Chad Fisher. Texas NORML will have a table with some great new merchandise and our Executive Director, Cheyanne Weldon, will speak during the keynote followed by the smooth spinnings of Dean Campbell and OCD!
Monthly Strategy Meeting – 1/15 6:30pm – Mi Madres Restaurant, 2201 Manor Rd, Austin. Are you interested in meeting with Texas NORML representatives and other supporters to have a group discussion and make plans for how we can and WILL change laws in Texas? Please meet us there and let’s hash it out! We are changing locations every month! More details here!
Patient Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics Meeting – 1/23, 2-5pm Genuine Joe’s Coffee, Anderson Lane
Run Fore the Money 5K – 1/26 – 7:30am – Learn more about this Team THC (Team Hope through Cannabis) event!
Open Monthly Meeting – 2/5, 8pm – FREE! -Flamingo Cantina, 515 East 6th Street, Austin.
Activist Training Day – 2/22 – Cepeda Library branch, 651 N. Pleasant Valley, Austin. Stay tuned for more information.
High Times Doobie Awards – 3/16 (tentative) – Stay tuned for more information.
Team Hope through Cannabis Golf and Music Benefit for Veteran’s Summit – 3/22 – Willie Nelson’s Cut N Putt, 807 Paisley Drive, Spicewood. Stay tuned for more information.
Reggae Fest – 4/18-20 – Come and renew your membership at our biggest annual event! You know you want your membership card to read 4/20.
Eeyore’s Birthday Flash Mob – 4/26 – Stay tuned for more information.
Texas Marijuana March – 5/3 – Capitol Steps, Austin TX – Texas NORML participates in this annual global show of solidarity. Stay tuned for more information.
Texas Regional Conference hosted by DFW NORML 6/7-6/8 – Dallas/Fort Worth (details to be announced). Cheyanne Weldon one of many guest speakers. Stay tuned for more information.
Texas NORML Annual Veterans’ Summit – 7/19 – Carver Library, 1161 Angelina St, Austin. Join us for this inaugural event! A mixer will be held July 18th at 8 pm. Stay tuned for more information.
Thank you for your continued support!
Your Texas NORML Team