… In case you were wondering what we have been doing in the six months since the election …
At AZ-NORML, our mission statement tells us to work on improving AZ’s cannabis climate in any and every way within our power. Through the years the mission involved a variety of things. During the last election cycle the mission was clear: do all within our power to advance the cannabis legalization initiative. We gave it our best shot.
Among other things, we collected literally thousands of signatures for Prop 205 and the AZFMR initiative before it suspended operations. AZ-NORML was the #1 volunteer signature gatherer group for the Prop205 campaign. We also distributed tens of thousands of pieces of campaign literature and crisscrossed the state, logging in more than 40,000 miles to make 26 Prop205 presentations somewhere in AZ in 2016 alone. As a result, AZ-NORML also helped launch satellite chapters in Yuma and Mohave Counties. It was a glorious adventure. But, after the election and the failure of Prop 205, Arizona NORML had some reconfiguring to do.
I had personally relocated to PHX for the entire two-year election cycle. I took the reins of AZ’s state chapter in July of 2015. In Jan. of 2016, I again became a congressional candidate for AZ-04, which allowed me to afford to carry our message of cannabis reform all over the rural areas of the state. With the election passed, I returned to my wonderful family in So-Hi, AZ in northern Mohave County and have been running the chapter from there since then. But that does not mean AZ-NORML’s work has dried up.
In addition to conducting our monthly chapter meetings in the PHX metro area, we are still attending and report on the monthly national chapter conference calls and, when possible, we joining with the Tucson NORML for their chapter meetings and projects. We have maintained our 24-hour hotline and provided information booths at the Errl Cup, MITA meetings and continued to distribute literature to rural cannabis communities in western AZ.
The majority of our work however has been at the state capitol where AZ-NORML has emerged as a key advocate on cannabis issues. In addition to helping create the annual opening day cannabis demonstrations at the state capitol, over the course of this legislative session, AZ-NORML met with 22 legislators from both parties on cannabis issues, held over a dozen formal legislative meetings and even got House Speaker JD Mesnard to assign a bill to committee on our recommendation. We testified both for and against bills in committees and worked closely with representatives from other cannabis advocacy groups. Our efforts helped create the first ever legislative meet and greet at the state capitol. And by the way, this year we were 4 for 4 in stopping bad bills before they became law.
Most importantly, after 5yrs of developing relationships at the capitol, this session AZ-NORML was a key player in shaping good bills like Rep. Pam Powers-Hannley’s HB2400, a bill to lower medical card costs, and Rep Mark Cardenas’ defelonization bill HB2002. After being involved w similar legislation for each of the past four legislative sessions, AZ-NORML consulted for months on Sen. Sonny Borrelli’s SB1337, the hemp bill that made it all the way to the governor’s office. We are already working with Borrelli and other state legislators and other stakeholders on next session’s bills for hemp and medical cannabis testing.
Depending on funding, our aspirations for the year ahead are every bit as grand as the work we have done so far. This fall, in addition to our annual role in helping organize the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo, AZ-NORML will be partnering with the Arizona Cannabis Bar Association and AZ’s Marijuana Industry Trade Association to host Arizona’s first statewide cannabis legal conference. Also with the help of our legal counsel, Tom Dean and Continuum Health, we are developing a “responsible use” drug counseling option for medical card patients on probation in the Maricopa County Superior Court system.
We aim to create new events for cannabis communities in rural parts of the state. We also aim to return to presenting cannabis updates to multiple civic organizations and political groups in Tucson and PHX metro areas, to continue manning booths at cannabis events and concerts, and things like PHX First Fridays. We want to continue distributing thousands of pieces of national NORML and state movement literature across Arizona. Arizona NORML hopes to continuously expand our presence across the state: more patient events, more cannabis presentations to local clubs, more local chapters, more education. There is still a long way to go.
And making AZ-NORML happen is still a glorious adventure. As cannabis evolves in AZ, AZ-NORML will continue to be there, to help, to give the public a way to activate on cannabis, to make a difference.
–Mikel Weisser, State Director, AZ-NORML