2015 was an epic, monumental year in the Pennsylvania cannabis reform movement and Keystone Cannabis Coalition was right in the middle of it once again as in years past.
January 10th we started out with the Pennsylvania Hemp Conference at the 99th annual Pennsylvania State Farm Show. It was there we held the press conference broadcast statewide on PCN where state senators Judy Schwank and Mike Folmer announced the introduction of the Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Act, SB50, a bill that we had lobbied to introduce.
January 27th we attended the press conference on SB3. On that same day Erica and I met with the Executive Director of the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee to discuss moving our hemp bill.
January 29th I gave a speech to the Denver and Ephrata area Rotary Club in Lancaster County regarding hemp and medical cannabis history and legislation.
February 11th Myself, Susan Love and Dana Ulrich met with State Senator Ryan Aument in his Lititz district office to discuss medical cannabis and industrial hemp legislation. In the evening, Erica and I attended the medical cannabis town hall in Bernville (Berks County) organized by our friend Luke Schultz.
February 20th Susan Love and I met with Representative David Zimmerman at his office in New Holland to discuss medical cannabis and hemp legislation.
February 25th we attended the senate hearing on SB3. After the hearing we met with then minority chair of the State Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee John Sabatina and his Executive Director, Destiny Zelders. Right after the meeting we attended the press conference on SB 3 organized by Campaign for Compassion. After the press conference we met with State Senator Margo Davidson, state senator Judy Schwank and Folmer then Erica and I both did interviews on the Rick Smith radio show.
As we went into March there was no let up in the breakneck pace and in fact we even accelerated our momentum.
March 2nd I headed down to Trenton, New Jersey to be a guest on Fully Baked Radio with my good friends NJ Weedman, Lefty Grimes, Wayne Kannabis King Burrini and Phil. We had a good two hour discussion about hemp and all aspects of reform.
March 4th I was a guest on BCTV (Berks County Television) in Reading on the show called Community Conversations. I shared the bill with Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, State Senator Judy Schwank and Matt Null from the Council on Chemical Abuse. We had an hour long conversation on air about medical cannabis, industrial hemp, decriminalization and full legalization and took questions from the live audience.
March 11th Erica and I gave speeches and participated in a panel discussion at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Lebanon County. Fellow participants and speechmakers were state senators Daylin Leach, Mike Folmer, Lt. Governor Mike Stack, well known Campaign for Compassion activists Lolly Bentch Myers and Dana Ulrich and highly respected cannabis expert Jahan Marcu.
March 18th Susan Love and I met with Representative David Zimmerman in his district office near New Holland in Lancaster County to discuss medical cannabis and hemp legislation. In the afternoon, Erica and I met with Representative Russ Diamond at his district office in Lebanon to discus his hemp legislation, House Bill 967. After the meeting with Rep. Diamond Erica and I both did interviews with WEEU radio station and drove to Philadelphia to participate in a panel discussion hosted by Cannavation.
March 19th I went by invitation with a group of medical cannabis activists to Harrisburg to meet with and engage in dialogue with newly elected Governor Tom Wolf. Wolf listened to us and learned as well as imparting political advise on how to proceed. He assured us that he was on our side. This was a big breakthrough because the previous governor would not meet with medical cannabis advocates
March 24th Erica and I went to Philadelphia to attend the House hearing on medical cannabis. Baker had stacked the deck against us and allowed absurd reefer madness testimony.
March 26th Erica and I along with Adam Thompson and Scotty Bolton attended and set up a hemp stand at the York Agricultural Banquet. While there we spoke with Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. I gave him a copy of my book and we secured his support for our hemp legislation. We also spoke to Rep. Seth Grove’s chief of staff and several others. Grove signed on as a cosponsor for SB50 the next day. The Sec. of Ag was seen with my book on his desk weeks later.
March 30th we did a hemp lobbying trip to Harrisburg. We took a team of seven – Luke Shultz, John Musare, Jay Clymer, Adam Thompson, Susan Love plus Erica and myself. Together we reached 23 different legislators, concentrating mostly on members of the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee to discuss our hemp legislation and the necessity for joint hearings.
Erica and I met with Representative Moul from Adams County at 9:30 AM. Moul was impressed. We told him about the work that Scotty Bolton is doing in Adams County, getting 18 municipalities on board with hemp over there and he said that he was well aware. He promised us that he would not only support the bill but also sign on as a cosponsor. Within a day he was in the news as a confirmed and enthusiastic cosponsor of HB967.
At 11:30 Susan, who was in between meetings she had scheduled, accompanied Erica and me to our meeting with Representative John Lawrence. Lawrence generally opposes medical cannabis but was open to industrial hemp. We learned months later when his committee voted he was indeed a yes vote.
In between our scheduled meetings we dropped off some more materials with Rep. David Zimmerman from New Holland, who I had spoken with a couple of weeks ago with Susan. Zimmerman had a few extra minutes so he invited us in again and we talked for a few minutes before we had to run for our next meeting. We also met with Rep. Marty Flynn. Flynn was immediately and firmly on our side and immediately signed on as a cosponsor to HB967.
We also met with the sponsor of our hemp bill in the House, Rep. Russell Diamond. We had a good conversation for more than a half hour, strategizing an briefing him on our efforts.
We also met with Bill Evans, Executive Director for Senator Judy Schwank, sponsor of our hemp bill in the state senate, SB 50.
Then we dropped off information and books for Representatives Regan, Hill, Millard and Seth Grove. Adam, Susan, Jay, Luke and John met with another ten Reps combined or else dropped of information and spoke with the staff.
Luke also did some lobbying on medical cannabis and sometimes the medical cannabis issue was discussed in our hemp meetings as well, although we primarily focused on hemp.
April 3rd Susan Love, Erica McBride and myself met with the leaders of a Pennsylvania institution that may be interested in growing experimental plots of industrial hemp. It was a productive meeting.
April 8th we again went to Harrisburg for another Hearing on medical cannabis by Matt Baker’s Health Committee.
April 21st we had another Hemp Lobby Day. Adam Thompson, John Musare, Erica McBride and I had a very productive meeting with Rep. Martin Causer, the Chairman of the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee concerning possible hearings concerning hemp. By the end of the meeting he was convinced that we needed to hold joint hearings.
After the meeting Erica and I met with two Deputy Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture, both of whom offered valuable insights and who informed us that there is strong support from the Department and all the way from the top of the administration.
After the meeting, which kept us from witnessing the Governmental Affairs Committee vote on SB3, we briefed State Senator Judy Schwank on our efforts and then trudged around the halls and gave books, information packets, seed packets and brochures to 9 more state reps and senators and had in-depth conversations with their staff and chief executive officers. All of them were interested and we gathered more cosponsors for both of our bills and definitely more support.
We met with State Senator Mike Folmer and briefed him as well and one more meeting with Senator Schwank and staff and then it was back home to Reading.
Several reps told us that we gave the most professional presentation and best materials that they have ever seen. When we told Senator Schwank that she was a hero she said no, we are the heroes and thanked us for doing the heavy lifting.
May 12th Erica and I did a one hour television show on hemp and cannabis issues for BCTV in Reading. We took calls from the live audience.
May 13th we attended the joint hearing on industrial hemp legislation by both the State Senate and the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs committees. This is the hearing that we had spent so much effort to make happen. Geoff Whaling brought in people to testify, a hemp farmer from Canada and a person involved in the hemp industry in Kentucky. Pa. Farm Bureau and Penn State also testified in support. I submitted over 50 pages of written testimony.
May 16th we held the Lancaster Hemp Freedom rally and it was a success. It was attended by more than 100 people and we got some great press.
May 18th we went to the Governor’s Mansion in Harrisburg to meet with Governor Wolf and attend his roundtable discussion on medical cannabis. I asked if decriminalization was called for and the question was echoed by Derek Rosenzweig of Philly NORML. The press asked him about it and Wolf affirmed his support right there once again for statewide decriminalization of cannabis. Erica and I also had the chance there to speak with Policy Advisor John Hanger, Katie McGinty, Pa. Physician General Levine, State Senators Daylin Leach, Mike Folmer and others.
May 19th I gave a speech on the history of the hemp industry in Pennsylvania at the Reamstown Historical Society in Lancaster County. I spoke and took questions for nearly two hours.
May 23rd Erica and I set up a stand for KCC at the March Against Monsanto rally in downtown Lancaster.
June 6th we had our favorite event yet – the Hempcrete Workshop. We teamed up with Riley Cote and his Hemp Heals Foundation for this event and brought in master builder John Patterson who led a class teaching participants to make Hempcrete blocks used for building.
The workshop included speeches by the sponsors of our House and State Senate hemp bills – State Senators Judy Schwank and Mike Folmer and State Representative Russ Diamond. I also spoke and we all had a blast. We received excellent press in the Reading Eagle.
June 13th Erica and I set up a stand for KCC at the Pennsylvania Federation of Democratic Women Convention held in Lancaster.
July 11th we held the West Chester Hemp Freedom rally. Attendance was poor but we were able to get great press for it and it was a lot of fun. We had an after party and Ryan Olah’s band played.
July 31st Erica and I set up a stand for KCC at Riley Cote’s Hemp Heals Music Festival. Definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. I got to give a speech to a crowd of about 6,000 people and hearing them roar when I said that we were going to legalize cannabis gave me an INCREDIBLE rush!
August 25th we attended a meeting with Lancaster City Council with Deb Guy from Lancaster NORML. We gave speeches and presentations on our proposal to decriminalize cannabis in the city. We gave them information packets and an ordinance already written based on the Philly decrim ordinance. We were well received and we are still continuing the conversation to get it done.
September 5th KCC teamed up with Jesse Nova of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Cannabis Network for the Wilkes Barre Hemp Freedom rally. It was a great time. George Wesley played music at both the rally and the after-party.
September 22nd we went to the medical cannabis rally organized by Campaign for Compassion and stood on the steps of the Rotunda.
October 6th we attended the historic House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee vote to move our hemp legislation to the full House for a vote. The vote was unanimous, 24-0!
October 27th we headed to Harrisburg once again for another historic occasion. This time it was the State Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee vote on our hemp legislation – SB50. Just as the House vote weeks earlier, the Senate ag committee voted unanimously to move SB50 out of committee and to the floor for a vote.
November 14th I traveled to York County for the Hanover MMJ and Hemp rally organized by Christy Billet and her organization. I had the honor of speaking there for about 10 minutes. It was another inspiring event that got good media coverage.
November 21st KCC teamed up with Dana Ulrich and volunteers from Campaign for Compassion and Legalize for Lorelei in Bucks County to hold the Bristol MMJ and Hemp rally. It was starting to get cold but once again, well attended and great press.
November 23rd I went to Harrisburg again for yet another medical cannabis rally organized by Campaign for Compassion and spent the rest of the day in the “waiting room” set up in the Rotunda to remind our legislators the urgency of passing SB3.
December 3rd Erica and I drove to Philadelphia to give speeches for the organization called Women Grow. We discussed our efforts on the industrial hemp, medical cannabis and decriminalization fronts.
December 11th we officially announced the formation of PAHIC. After months collaborating with Geoff Whaling we joined with him to form the Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Council. Geoff is our President and Erica is the current Secretary and Treasurer and future Executive Director. Riley Cote, Adam Thompson and myself serve on the board. The goal is to accelerate the return of the Industrial Hemp Crop to the Pennsylvania agricultural landscape. To effectively achieve our aim of broad adoption of Industrial Hemp as a rotational crop by farmers, we will build a vital and effective collaboration of agencies, individuals and the general public. We are very excited to have our debut event at the upcoming 100th PA Farm Show in January.
Our work with PAHIC will not slow down our work with KCC but will allow us to give space between the issue of industrial hemp and the broader reforms that we seek.
Of course, all this only tells the half of the story. We went to a dozen more meetings and other events. We wrote blogs and worked with several journalists who wrote outstanding articles for us on our issues. We kept everyone informed and up to the minute in our KCC group page on Facebook, wrote blogs and kept everything flowing. I’m sure I’m missing some things.
All in all it was a good year for KCC and the cannabis and hemp reform movement in Pennsylvania. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of leaders like Patrick Nightingale of Pittsburgh NORML we now have decriminalization in not just Philadelphia but the biggest city on the western side of the state. The state senate passed SB3 way back in May for the second time. Our hemp bills are moving. We are like right on the verge of major change in Pennsylvania but yet we just are not there yet.
We look ahead to 2016 with hope and optimism tempered with a hard-headed realist approach. We know that the Pennsylvania General Assembly is not going to give in without a fight. We are going to continue to take the fight to them, working in collaboration with every organization or individual in the state who wants to end cannabis and hemp prohibition forever.
We see medical cannabis and industrial hemp legislation passing soon in the state. As soon as a budget is passed we expect they will finally get to the important work of the people. We are going to hold their feet to the fire.
Everything that we have been able to achieve in 2015 was made possible by the generous donations that we have received and we thank you all for making our work possible.
If you would like for KCC to be able to continue our work and effect real, positive and profound change then please consider making a donation today.
Together we will hasten the day when the national prohibition of cannabis and hemp falls.
Thanks for being a part of our KCC family and best wishes for a very Happy New Year!
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