News » NORML Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference
March 21, 2013 by Lenny
Written by Ramapo College NORML Chapter Leader Louis DiPaolo
This past Saturday marijuana smokers and activists met at the beautiful campus of the University of Pennsylvania for NORML’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference. Philly NORML welcomed fellow legalization supporters to the City of Brotherly Love for a day of panels and festivities about the current state of marijuana laws.
The event began with a panel on strategies for drug law reform, where Erik Williams of Connecticut NORML explained how he helped pass both a decriminalization law and medical marijuana law in a span of only two years (2011 and 2012, respectively). Erik, the Executive Director of CT NORML, is a professional political consultant who used his experience and connections in the political field to push his state to the forefront of marijuana law reform on the east coast.
After a quick smoke lunch break, the conference resumed with a panel on medical marijuana. Ken Wolski, Executive Director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, went over the many roadblocks put up by the Christie administration on the state’s medical bill, and how there is currently only one medical dispensary open in the state, even though the law was passed over three years ago. New Jersey’s medical marijuana laws are the strictest in the country, with harsh regulations on the potency of the marijuana (10%), and the amount of strains available (three).
Next to the podium was the keynote speaker, Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach, who spoke about his proposed legalization bill that could make Pennsylvania the third state in the nation to treat marijuana like alcohol. Senator Leach went over how legalizing marijuana is a common-sense policy, refuting the “gateway drug” myth, and then reiterated that the days of prohibition are numbered, saying, “Everyday a supporter of prohibition goes to Heaven, and an opponent of prohibition is born”. After announcing his run for the House of Representatives, Senator Leach was given a standing ovation as he left the stage.
Immediately following the Senator was a panel on the politics of marijuana, where Evan Nison, Executive Director of NORML New Jersey, gave updates on the Garden State’s push for decriminalization and industrial hemp. Gabriel Sayegh, State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance New York, discussed the racial disparities of marijuana arrests, and how the War on Drugs disproportionately affects men and women of color.
The final panel was on marijuana culture, and featured comedian Rob Cantrell and High Times Associate Publisher Rick Cusick. Rob had the audience in hysterics as he joked about his first marijuana arrest, and Rick gave a history lesson on marijuana culture’s deep roots with the Jazz Age of the 1920s.
Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Cohen then gave a quick speech about his support for marijuana law reform before Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML, gave the closing remarks, reminding everybody that marijuana legalization is within reach, as long as we all continue to fight for the cause.
After speaking with Allen St. Pierre, it seems like these regional conferences are here to stay. Make sure to check www.norml.org for updates on any conferences popping up in your area, because you definitely do not want to miss out!
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