February 10, 2016

Philadelphia Marijuana Activism in High Gear

Philadelphia; Liberty Bell 4:20PM on 4/20/13

5/9/13 by Chris Goldstein Advocates working to legalize marijuana are keeping a busy schedule in the Philly area with a series of public events.

On May 7th the NORML Women’s Alliance held a vigil at the historic Betsy Ross House in a memorial tribute to Rachel Hoffman and victims of Prohibition.

After an arrest in Florida for marijuana Hoffman was recruited as a police informant, a role that led to her murder.

NORML Women's Alliance - Rachel Hoffman Memorial (via Ken Wolski)

The group of about two dozen activists, almost all women, solemnly read the names of those who have suffered tragically under prohibition policy including prisoners currently behind bars in America’s war on marijuana consumers.

Vanessa Waltz helped to organize the event; “The mood was very reflective and somber;  these were people who were killed in botched police raids or because they felt they had to be police informants,” Waltz added; “I hope everyone realizes that there are people in prison, for life, because of non-violent marijuana offenses.”

On Saturday May 11th PhillyNORML will hold the annual Global Cannabis March on South Street. The long-running event (over a decade) attracts hundreds of participants for a 4:20PM walk from Broad Street to the Front Street pedestrian bridge.

“Cannabis prohibition costs the Commonwealth more than three-hundred million tax-payer dollars every year for about twenty-four thousand arrests,” said Philly NORML Executive Director Kevin Clough.

“This march shows how sick and tired people are of closing schools, building prisons and wasting money on marijuana prohibition.”


Then the following week, on Saturday May 18th, PhillyNORML and comedy/activism crew The Panic Hour will be back on Independence Mall for their monthly “Smoke Down Prohibition” protest. During the last outing, hundreds lit joints in open civil disobedience to call for cannabis legalization on a sunny 4/20/13.


Pennsylvania has two pieces of marijuana reform legislation currently active in Harrisburg. The Governor Shafer Compassionate Use Act HB1181/SB770 would allow for seriously ill patients to access a state medical marijuana system. The bill is different than New Jersey’s ineffective law because it also allows for patients and caregivers to cultivate at home.

Informational hearings were held for the medical access bill in the PA House during the 2010 and 2011 sessions but the Public Health Committee never held a vote. It is currently assigned to the same committee chaired by Republican Rep. Matthew Baker, who is an opponent of the measure.

Several polls by Franklin&Marshall put public support for a local cannabis program above 80% (impressive for any issue ) making it one of the most popular policy issues in PA politics.


A separate bill has been introduced to create a taxed and regulated system to sell recreational marijuana to adults. SB 528 is currently assigned to the Senate Law and Justice Committee chaired by Senator Charles McIlhinney, a Republican who has not offered a position on the bill. The same committee is currently (and not without irony) embroiled in the issue of privatizing PA’s state-run liquor stores.

The primary sponsors of both cannabis bills are Mark Cohen in the House and Daylin Leach in the Senate.

Yet the legislation is Harrisburg seems stalled. The respective committees (namely their chairperson) will need to offer the bills for hearings to move them forward. The Republican majority caucus of the PA General Assembly seems unwilling to take a break from their heavy investment into alcohol and consider the benefits of something far safer.

Still, the overwhelming super-majority of Pennsylvanians (in both parties) support some level of change … so the spring of 2013 seems to be the right time for this surge of public participation to have some measurable impact on politicians.

FB Event – Philly March 5/11:    https://www.facebook.com/events/136148226571083/

FB Event – Smoke Down Prohibition protest 5/18   https://www.facebook.com/events/455712674507072



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Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions? chris(at)freedomisgreen.com

Quick Report: 26K Marijuana arrests in PA and Philadelphia

Marcher holding a volunteer-crafted sign at PhillyNORML

11/26/12 by Chris Goldstein – Pennsylvania maintains a crime reporting database that is almost unique in the United States for the excellent level of “sunshine.”  At PhillyNORML we’ve been analyzing the marijuana arrest data for many years.  Unlike other states – we can access detailed information about the marijuana arrests in every county or even down to individual precincts in a city. [Read more…]

PA Congressional Hopeful Supports Marijuana Reform and Occupy Philadelphia

Marijuana reform signs at Occupy Philadelphia 10/10/2011 - Photo by Chris Goldstein

2/2/2012 – A progressive activist is getting national attention after announcing his run for US Congress in Pennsylvania’s 13th District. Nathan Kleinman, 29, is seeking the Democratic nomination from incumbent Allyson Schwartz. Kleinman has been consistently involved with Occupy Philadelphia on the front lines of many protest actions and in the General Assembly process.

Some of of Kleinman’s talking points as a potential candidate include ending marijuana prohibition and re-thinking the drug war.

A recent Times-Herald article pointed out:

Kleinman said he plans to stump on civil liberties issues, including marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans, and advocates complete decriminalization of marijuana and drug policy reform. He said Schwartz has let down her constituents by being silent on topics that matter. read full

No stranger to politics, Kleinman worked on several high-profile campaigns and did a stint as a legislative assistant for a PA state representative. Still, this is his first run for office.

Freedomisgreen.com caught up with Nate yesterday; he was brimming with excitement while planning the next steps for the campaign. “It was really amazing when  the first people came out to sign the petition…there’s so much support. That’s why we’re going to win this.”

More info at –  http://www.nateforcongress.com/ on Twitter @nateforcongress


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IMPORTANT – Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

Freedom Buzz

Maryjane’s Corner

Sensible Science

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com

East Coast Marijuana Reform Bills Staying Active

8/12/2011 – Politics are staying green this summer as state legislators keep momentum on bills to legalize medical cannabis or decriminalize pot possession for adults. Extended debates continue for some legislation, but there is significant momentum behind new campaigns.

Here is a short rundown of what’s already on the books.

Massachusetts: It looks like there will be two chances in 2011/2012 for medical marijuana to become law. HB625/SB1611 had an important hearing in June before the Joint Committee on Public Health. Patients and advocates are preparing for an active fall session. At the same time, the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance has submitted language for a statewide ballot initiative on medical cannabis. Voters could have a say in the matter during the important 2012 election. Finally, the Bay State is also considering a bill to Tax and Regulate recreational marijuana for adults. HB1371 is supported by MASSCANN/NORML and is seeking a hearing before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in 2011.

The 22nd Annual Boston Freedom Rally takes place on September 17, 2011. The largest marijuana reform event on the East Coast draws a crowd of 50,000 to the Boston Common. MASSCANN/NORML and other local groups helped to pass a statewide ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana in 2008.

New York: Two important bills remain active in the Empire State. Advocates have kept up the medical marijuana fight for thirteen years, now there are more co-sponsors than ever for HB2774. Unfortunately the language has evolved to be very limited, following New Jersey’s model of prohibiting home cultivation. The restricted scope may be more palatable to politicians. Legislators also took a strong step in June to bring New York City in line with the existing marijuana decriminalization policy.  A new bill, SB5187/AB7620, would stop more than 50,000 racially disparate pot arrests each year in the Big Apple.

Rhode Island: Advocates are continuing to pressure Gov. Lincoln Chafee to lift his suspension of medical marijuana dispensaries. Three compassion centers have been approved but have not been allowed to open.  A bill to Tax and Regulate marijuana remains on the legislative schedule. HB 5571 would set up at least one cannabis retail store per county.

New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie announced that he would expedite the startup of medical marijuana Alternative Treatment Centers. Six have been approved and the Garden State government is working though final regulations for implementation. Concurrent resolutions are active in the Senate and Assembly that would revise the proposed rules. ACR188/SCR151 would remove some of the worst restrictions like the 10 percent cap on all THC potency.

New Jersey also got its first decriminalization bill this year. A4252 was introduced in June with the first reading and a committee assignment expected in the fall. The legislation would remove criminal penalties for adults caught with 15 grams or less. The effort has notably strong support right out of the gate with 18 bi-partisan co-sponsors.

Pennsylvania: The Keystone State will go into its third year of considering medical marijuana. SB1003/HB1653 were re-introduced and assigned to the Health committee in both houses. Favorable public hearings were held in 2009 and 2010.  Philadelphia has been making news about the Small Amount of Marijuana program. The new court diversion for minor pot possession cases has saved the city millions and measurably reduced the jail population.

Maryland: As mandated by the legislature this year, the state will continue a study phase for medical cannabis. A law allowing seriously ill residents to offer a positive medical necessity defense was passed as an interim measure to a full program.

East coast advocates are hopeful for some further reform activity in the fall such as marijuana bills in North Carolina, Connecticut, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Florida.

Check back for more updates on cannabis politics here at Freedomisgreen.

NORML’s Take Action Center

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IMPORTANT – Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

Freedom Buzz

Maryjane’s Corner

Sensible Science

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com




Penn. Prosecutors: Medical Marijuana Not a Law Enforcement Question

7/12/2011 – During an hour-long public radio program Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed said that the Pennsylvania DA’s Association is taking no position on the medical marijuana bill. Freed explained the stance on WITF’s Radio Smart Talk , “I don’t think any prosecutor I know would want to prevent a terminally ill person from alleviating [their] suffering.”

Freedomisgreen Editor Chris Goldstein was the proponent guest representing Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana and PhillyNORML.

Later in the program Freed reinforced the position, “I don’t think that medical marijuana is necessarily a law enforcement issue. I think that advocates like Chris need to go to the Legislature and what happens there …happens.” [Read more…]

PA Medical Marijuana Bill On the Move

Logo for PA4MMJ.org

6/23/2011 – The medical cannabis bill in Pennsylvania has been stalled in House and Senate committees but some procedural wrangling this week could put the issue back in motion. HB 1653 was first assigned to the House Health Committee chaired by Rep. Matthew Baker. At previous public hearings Baker was a vocal opponent of the measure. Today the bill was re-referred to the House Human Services Committee. This means much better chances that public hearings and/or a committee vote will be be scheduled. [Read more…]

PA Medical Marijuana Bill Named After Gov Shafer

Logo for PA4MMJ.org

6/15/2011 by Chris Goldstein – State Representative Mark B. Cohen has re-introduced a bill to regulate medical cannabis in the Keystone State. The legislation, HB1653, has a new name: The Governor Raymond P. Shafer Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. This refers to the Republican former governor (1967-1971) and PA party leader. [Read more…]

East Coast Marijuana Update: May 2011

5/27/2011: UPDATE 6/4/2011 – Elected officials on the East Coast continue a period of intense activity working on marijuana reform bills. From Maine to Florida legislators are considering medical access, decriminalization and full legalization of cannabis for recreational use. Some bills have passed or remain active while others have been stalled or killed in committees.  Here are some details of the notable actions along with a quick-reference list that includes activism links. [Read more…]

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Stalled In Senate Committee

5/26/2011 – State Senator Pat Vance (R-31) chairs the Public Health and Welfare Committee where the medical marijuana bill, SB 1003, has been assigned.  And the bill may be staying right there. Senator Vance’s Chief of Staff, Amy Bolze, said that there is currently no intention to scheduling any public hearings. Further, she stated that there is no intention to bring the bill before the committee for a vote. [Read more…]

Hundreds March In Philadelphia For Marijuana Reform

Saturday May 21st was the only sunny day last week in Philadelphia. The weather was a blessing for the crowd of about 1,000 people who participated in the annual Cannabis Peace March on South Street. PhillyNORML organizes the local demonstration that enjoys one of the best attended marijuana marches in the country. Similar events took place in over 300 cities.

Police and marchers showed mutual respect; there were no incidents or arrests. The message of marijuana legalization rang out in the city where the roots of American government were planted. [Read more…]