By Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director
NORML members, supporters, and chapter leaders gathered in our nation's capital this week, for NORML's 2016 Conference and Lobby Day. The events were filled with education, activism, socializing, and plenty of marijuana smoking. For those who weren't able to attend, keep reading below to find out what you missed and how you can get involved in next year's events.
On Monday we held our educational conference at George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs. On the top floor, surrounded with ceiling to floor windows, the meeting room provided attendees a view of some of the district's most iconic sights while hearing from some of the reform movement's brightest minds.
Highlights on Day 1 included a presentation by Deputy Director Paul Armentano entitled, "We Don't Know Enough About Cannabis? Think Again," where he acknowledged that there are now more scientific studies and papers available specific to cannabis than most other conventional therapeutics.
John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at The Brookings Institute discussed the successes we have seen from Colorado and the other pioneering states that have regulated marijuana for adult use.
Attendees also heard from Queens College professor Harry Levine and investigator Loren Siegel, who highlighted the continuing racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement --- a disparity that continues to exist even in jurisdictions that have regulated cannabis-related activities. Their presentations were a stark reminder that even as we celebrate or successes, there is still plenty of work left to do.
A summary of many of the day's presentations is online here.
Finally, in one of the more notable events of the day Eleanora Kennedy and Anna Kennedy Safir awarded longtime NORML Legal Committee member Gerald H. Goldstein with the first annual Michael John Kennedy Social Justice Award.
Events continued Monday night at the historic O St. Mansion where attendees gathered for drinks and hor devours. NORML hosted our 2016 award ceremony , highlighting various attendees for their extraordinary activism, and political and cultural leadership in the field of marijuana and marijuana policy reform. Award recipients included: (Insert picture)
-Outstanding Chapter Award to Norm Kent on behalf of Florida NORML
-Student Activist Award to Chris Thompson, Purdue NORML
-Lester Grinspoon Award to Harry Levine and Loren Siegel
-Hunter S. Thompson Award to Bruce Barcott, Leafly
-Pauline Sabin Award to Pam Novy, Virginia NORML
-Peter McWilliams Award to Ken Wolski, Coalition for Medical Marijuana - NJ
-Outstanding Cannabist Activist Award to Kevin Oliver, Washington NORML
On Tuesday attendees convened on Capitol Hill for a full day of lobbying. In the morning, attendees heard words of encouragement from five distinguished members of Congress: Reps. Sam Farr, Earl Blumenauer, Jared Polis, Suzan DelBene, and Dana Rohrabacher. Congressman Farr (D-CA), who is the co-sponsor of legislation protecting statewide medical marijuana programs from federal interference, will be retiring this year so it was a privilege for our lobby group to hear from him.
NORML awarded Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR) our 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for his continued leadership and focus on marijuana law reform throughout his career. Keith Stroup, NORML's founder and legal counsel, spoke of the Congressman's first days as a legislator in the Oregon State House of Representatives where he sponsored the state's 1973 decriminalization law. Ever since then Congressman Blumenauer has continued to support our issue. Just last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment sponsored by the Congressman providing V.A. physicians the ability to discuss and recommend medical marijuana to U.S. veterans.
Congressman Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman DelBene (D-WA) encouraged attendees to continue their advocacy work. Congressman Polis is chief sponsor of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, legislation to to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. Congresswoman DelBene is chief sponsor of the SMART Enforcement Act, legislation to make the US federal Controlled Substances Act inapplicable with respect to states that have legalized and regulated marijuana in a manner that addresses key federal priorities.
Wrapping up the morning reception, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) made news when he acknowledged successfully using a topical marijuana treatment for his shoulder arthritis. His admission marked quite possibly the first time ever a sitting member of Congress has admitted using marijuana while serving in office! Congressman Rohrabacher is one of our most valuable leaders at the federal level and NORML wishes to thank him for not only addressing our group but for sharing with us his candid and personal testimony. You can listen to the archived audio from NORML's Capitol Hill reception here.
Throughout the three day event, attendees were able to network with fellow activists, learn from leaders in the reform movement, and relax with some of best locally grown marijuana in Washington D.C. NORML would like to thank those of you who attended and contributed to this successful event and we look forward to seeing you all again next year.