This year our chapter has enjoyed our most successful year in my tenure as state director and possibly our most successful year since Kathy Inman led the chapter in passing the 2010 AMMA. THX Kathy, btw.

It wasn’t because of me. It was because of all of you. So, THX. Our chapter can be grateful for so many things this year. Let me name a few.

(from left: Jack Wilborn-LEAP, Brad Benson-AZ-NORML Communications Director, Todd Gilchrist-AZ–NORML board member at Errl Cup)

I want to thank Jim Morrison of the Errl Cup for our chapter getting to be one of the flower judges for the January 2018 Errl Cup. 194 samples, over 40 people helped me and our board smoke our way through it—a challenge definitely worth accepting. Even more so, great thx to Jim and his whole staff, Jay and Erin, Geo, Steve and Sarah, Paul and Frank, Mike and Inez, and Aileen [sp?] for adopting our wandering AZ-NORML chapter and hosting us for the entire year of 2018 despite having to change locations themselves. They even took us camping in Camp Verde in late October.

I want to thank Lee, the groundskeeper at the Arizona State Capitol complex for working with us for the 5th year in a row to create our annual opening day at the state legislature demonstration for cannabis reform. This was our most successful since 2015. THX also to Dave Wisniewski, Alex Gentry and Nakisha Azizi of Safer Arizona and to all the opening day activists on hand for other issues who joined our effort.

(2018 Opening Day demonstration, 90s era AZ4NORML director, Peter Wilson, 4th from right)

I want to thank all 73 co-sponsors of Sen. Sonny Borrelli’s hemp bill. We started joining the work on that bill in 2012, but the idea originated w former Yuma area State Senator Lynn Pancrazi long before that. THX also goes to Sen Lisa Otondo, who carried the bill against massive partisan opposition in the interim. I also want to thank Gov. Doug Ducey for ultimately signing the bill when it reached his desk in May. This was the first time we had seen a positive cannabis reform bill become law. But it won’t be the last.

(from left: Sen Lisa Otondo, Sen Borrelli and Rep Mark Cardenas)

Speaking of which, I have to thank Rep Mark Cardenas, who has been our steadfast reform champion since he first filed a defelonization bill originally drafted by the late Dennis Bohlke of Safer Arizona in 2014. In addition to numerous other bills over the years, Cardenas also filed a bill telling Jeff Sessions hands off AZ’s MMJ program. Cardenas will be missed, though probably not for long. Hard to keep a good man down.

(my hero, the late Dennis Bohlke)

I also want to thank Rep. Pam Powers-Hannley and Kevin Payne, within their respective parties for leading the fight for reform this year, yielding a record 14 bills filed calling for cannabis reform. This year MANY legislators deserve our thanks for their work to support cannabis reform. The entire GOP caucus in both chambers voted yes on a testing bill and on lowering patient card costs. LD19’s Diego Espinosa filed a bill on opioid dependency as a qualifying condition, Dr. Randy Friese did as well. THX also to Sen. Otondo (once more), Rep Hernandez and even now-defeated Republicans, Paul Mosley and Todd Clodfelter, who both filed pre-reform bills.

(Sen Borrelli w Brandy Williams- AZ-Arizona chapter of Mothers Advocating for Medical Marijuana for Autism aka MAMMAs)

Speaking of politicians, we should thank each and every one of the over two hundred federal, statewide, legislative and PHX mayoral candidates who were scored for our first-ever AZ-NORML election guides and part of national NORML’s Smoke the Vote campaign. But that would take WAY too much time, so we’ll just thank Mike Robinette, Maddy Grey, and George Griffeth who helped make our 2018 primary and general election guides our most popular articles ever.

I HAVE to thank my fellow reform activists at the capitol: our chapter science advisor, Dr. Hope JonesJack Wilborn of LEAP, Tory Roberg of MITA, Brandy Williams of MAMMAs, John Mendibeles of the American Legion and industry lobbyists Gibson McKay and Joe Demenna for a hard-fought session that led to 3 pro-cannabis bills making it to the final vote for the first time ever. I also need to thank the dozens of others who joined our work either through direct visits to the capitol or by emails and phone calls. Well done.

(from left: Brad Benson, Jack Wilborn, Maddy Grey-AZ-NORML Secretary, me, Brandy Williams, and Audrey Kerger-MAMMAs at AZ-NORML Lobby Day)

I get to thank Madisen Saglibene of our sister chapter Nevada NORML for putting AZ-NORML on their advisory board and having us speak at their events.

(Vegas Activists from left: Madisen Saglibene-NV-NORML, me, Christine Kramer and Brett Pojunis-Players Network, Joe Brezny-2016 NV legalization campaign at Herban Expo)

Props as well to the inimitable Jordan Person of Denver-NORML for all her support.

(Jordan Person)

I want to thank all the hundreds of other NORML activists who joined our chapter delegation in July for the annual NORML Lobby Days in DC.

(from left: Shawn Makil, Beth Weisser, Todd Gilchrist at National NORML Lobby Days)

Speaking of that, THX to all the national NORML staff who helped shape our work this year: the eternal inspiration of Keith Stroup, Eric Altieri, Paul Armentano, Kevin Mahmalji, Jean Michelle Pedini, Carly Wolf and especially my favorite “twin,” Justin Strekal, NORML national political director.

(w Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director)

I want to thank the outgoing members of our board, Chad and April Olshavsky for keeping the faith alive in the dark days after the 2016 loss of Prop 205 and the incoming board: Jen Gote, Maddy Grey, Amy Jones, Brad Benson, Todd Gilchrist and my personal inspiration, Beth Weisser, in helping us build the best year so far for our chapter in my tenure.

(Brad Benson, Amy Jones, Todd Gilchrist, me, Deputy Director Jen Gote, Maddy Grey and on TV screen, Beth Weisser, Treasurer)

I also want to thank former state director, now Tucson NORML’s director, John Gettel, for consistently being the shining example of what a NORML chapter can be.

(Jon Gettel)

Speaking of which, I want to thank Mike Ellis, Jesse Dowling, Travin Pennington, and John Gleason for serving as AZ-NORML’s rural contact people and spreading the word outside the usual PHX echo-chamber.

(w Jesse Dowling, Cottonwood)

I want to thank our good buddies at MITA, Demitri, Danielle, Laura, Kim, Christine, Sully, Scott, Taif, Virgil and Tim, Safer Arizona including Greg Fox and Deb Staires, Marvina and Parissa from Women Grow, Trevor Donaldson of the 710 Chronicle, Canna-friends, DOMM Life, BLK Live, Wasted Grain, The Saguaro, The Foundre, and others for helping or hosting cannabis events.

(from left: George Griffeth-AZ Cannabis Bar Association, Demitri Downing-MITA and Dr. Hope Jones–AZ-NORML Science Advisor at MJBizCon)

BTW Laura Franklin and Danielle Sedgwick earn extra kudos their non-profit, Leaf for Life who brought AZ-NORML along when they hosted a Veterans Night at a PHX Suns basketball game!

(from left, George Griffeth, Elizabeth Dennehy-AZ-NORML, me, 2 bearded guys, “Jake the Ginger,” and a cute kid)

Also deserving extra thx are the Phoenix Cannabis Coalition, PCC (especially my buddy Michelle Westenfield), who have revived the cannabis community tradition of providing court support for victims of AZ’s insane ongoing reefer mad war on weed.

(front row: Mr & Mrs Schindel-parents of-,Joelle Engstrom-Weedmaps, daughter of-, defendant, former AZ-NORML board member-Cynthia Engstrom; back row: Sarah Simpson-CannaEduCare, Adrianne, Rain Baker, RN-PCC, former defendant, Dr. Allen Harrison-defendant, me, Jennifer Do, RN-cannabis patient, Aileen [sp?] Errl Cup, and Andrew Young-Spray-in-Relief)

Special THX to another former AZ-NORML state director, Daron Babin, Brandy Babin and their entire extraordinary team that hosted the 2018 USCC PHX Cannabis Conference and Expo and invited AZ-NORML to again play a central role in AZ’s premier annual cannabis conference.

(This was the 4th year AZ-NORML has been a part of the Phoenix SWCC/USCC team since helping found the event in 2015.)

Got to thank the lawyers we’ve worked w this year: Gary Smith and Alex Karam of the AZ Cannabis Bar Association, Andy Bunske, Ryan Hurley, Jon Saline, House Legislative Counsel Jennifer Harris, David Dow, the indomitable Sonia Martinez, Robert Mandel, Jerry Chesler, George Griffeth and our nationally recognized AZ-NORML legal counsel, Tom Dean (+ his paralegal, Canna-Pam Clark) for fighting every case because it is life or death.

(from left: Tom Dean W Jim Morrison)

Also thanks to our allies in the ADA, Mark Steinmetz and Mike Coburn for helping address the Concentrates Crisis. THX as well to Ben and Bill Myers of AZ Organix  for their continued sponsorship of our work. Also thx to our reporter friends: Nick Meyers, Ray Stern, Will Stone, Colby Ayers, Cronkite News, and Bruce Barcott of Leafly for spreading the news of our fight. And, of course, thx to all our friends and supporters in the industry, the patient community and cannabis activists of all stripe.

(from left: Gary Smith-AZ Cannabis Bar President, Jen Gote, me, Tom Dean, Mike Coburn-KIND Concentrates)

Looking forward to thanking our 23 returning statehouse cannabis allies + our three fierce federal advocates and all the newly elected pro-reform legislators for what should be our best year yet at both the state and federal level for significant cannabis reform in 2019 and full legalization by 2020.

But I guess, this year, I most want to directly thank you, whoever you are, for reading all the way to this line in the first place. If YOU didn’t care we couldn’t get it done. Once upon time we all hid in the cannabis closet. Your faith has giving us the courage to fight. For that courage, thank you.

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving is as fulfilling as you have made mine.

(I should also thank Steve D’Angelo for providing this great pic to end on at MJBizCon last week)

Mikel Weisser, State Director, AZ-NORML