So you’ve heard about Pennsylvania legalizing medical cannabis, maybe you’ve heard something about the state trying to legalize hemp and didn’t you hear something about the state trying to legalize it?
You have this burning desire to know every little detail about what is going on in the state but all you hear are soundbites every now and then and rumors around the water cooler and in the brake room at work. What’s the best way to really know just what the heck is going on?
The answer is easy.
Keystone Cannabis Coalition is the best page on Facebook or anywhere for that matter to keep right up to the minute on every single thing going on in the drive for cannabis reform in Pennsylvania.
Keystone Cannabis Coalition is the new name for the old page called Pennsylvania Hempland Security. PHS was started on November 10, 2012 from that very first day until today in 2016 we have kept our subscribers better informed on the movement for medical cannabis, industrial hemp, decriminalization and legalization in Pennsylvania than anyone else out there. Those who pay attention know this.
In July of 2014 we formed an official 501 C-4 non-profit organization called the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and a few months ago finally changed the name of the page to more accurately reflect who we are.
Not a day goes by when we are not searching out the best information to provide our subscribers. We stay constantly vigilant and rarely miss anything. What sets us apart further though is that we are a REAL WORLD activist organization. Our work is not just behind the keyboard but in the streets of our cities and in the halls of power in Harrisburg.
Keeping you informed is just one aspect of our mission. We have also organized 16 rallies – six in Lancaster, threw in York, two in Reading, two in Wilkes Barre (with Jesse Nova and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Cannabis Network), one in West Chester, one in Harrisburg (with Campaign for Compassion) and one in Bristol (with C4C).
Plus we organized a hempcrete workshop, hemp history event, hemp press conference and participated in dozens of other rallies, press conferences, panel discussion, lectures, town halls, committee hearings, city council meetings, conferences, etc. etc.
So when you come to Keystone Cannabis Coalition you know that not only are you getting an overwhelming amount of information but it is coming from the people who are on the front lines of the battle and are often the driving force behind the very news they are sharing.
Take some time to go through the photo albums and you will get an idea of how active we have been. Click on the past events and you will see the movement we have helped to create in Pennsylvania. Watch the videos. You will learn a lot about our journey that we have been on together.
Keystone Cannabis Coalition is not just a Facebook page. We are a movement. While the main page is great for sharing information it is not always conducive to in-depth discussion. For that, I invite you to our Facebook discussion group page here. The Keystone Cannabis Coalition group page has some of the best minds, most articulate and informed spokesmen and women and is chock full of the best and most renowned activists in the state.
Coalition is a key word in our name and our mission. Our good friend, the legendary Patrick K. Nightingale of Pittsburgh NORML and the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society is a regular. So is Chris Goldstein, the nationally known writer and activist from Philly NORML, Freedom Leaf and many other endeavors.
In fact we have a lot of people from both Pittsburgh and Philly NORML in our group. Almost all of the women we call the Mama Bears, the ones who led the charge for medical cannabis in Pa. are there such as Lolly Bentch Myers, Dana Ulrich and dozens more. (I would name them all but there are dozens and they all are equally awesome.)
We have activists from Lancaster NORML, Pennsylvanians for Safe Access, Northeastern Pennsylvania Cannabis Network and the Pennsylvania Marijuana Party in there. We have lawyers, politicians, writers, activists and everyday people. In other words, it’s a meeting of the minds.
The KCC group page is an activist page and we only let people in who are from Pennsylvania and want to work like crazy to change the antiquated cannabis and hemp laws of this state. It is a closed group so our conversations are private.
We invite everyone to participate but we do have some posting guidelines. You will not find irrelevant memes, pictures of buds, funny videos, amusing stories and all sorts of random stories about cannabis. We focus in like a laser beam on the mission to change the laws of Pennsylvania and keeping informed of everything that is going on. We only make posts that have to do with anything related to the following:
1. Medical cannabis in Pennsylvania
2. Industrial hemp in Pennsylvania
3. Decriminalization of cannabis in Pennsylvania
4. Full legalization of cannabis
5. Events in Pennsylvania pertaining to 1,2,3 or 4
6. Discussion on how we can pass, implement or improve 1,2,3 or 4
Spread the word. The Keystone Cannabis Coalition main page currently has 11,495 people but we need 20,000. The group page has a bit over 2,500 but we need 5,000.
We are building a movement and we need YOU to be a part of it. Thank you for coming along with us on this journey towards full legalization of cannabis.
Together we WILL make change in Pennsylvania!
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Harrisburg city is about ready to take a big leap forward. On Wednesday night, June 29, city council will vote on an ordinance that will reduce possession of up to an ounce of cannabis from a misdemeanor to a summary offense.
Keystone Cannabis Coalition enthusiastically supports the ordinance and urges a YES vote and a signature by Mayor Papenfuse.
Earlier this year KCC first heard of the proposal. Originally the mayor called for a fine of $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second offense. He proposed that a third offense be elevated back to a criminal misdemeanor and a $300 fine.
On February 11 of 2016 I attended the Harrisburg City Council meeting on behalf of KCC to applaud their decision to take on this important issue but to express strong opposition to the fines which we believed excessive, especially in light of the decrim ordinances passed in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh which only impose a fine of $25 for each offense. We also opposed the third strike provision. Full text to my remarks can be seen here.
Our position was talked about in various media reports and we were effective in getting the word out about both what we liked about the bill and what we felt was wrong with it. The mayor was put on the defensive a bit, insisting on the higher, escalating fines and the third strike misdemeanor.
Originally the proposal was brought to Mayor Papenfuse by council president Wanda Williams. She had been present when Philadelphia passed their decriminalization ordinance and she proposed that the city of Harrisburg copy exactly what they did. She wanted a $25 fine for possession of up to an ounce of cannabis just like was passed in Philadelphia.
Mayor Papenfuse was warm to the proposal’s general sentiment but felt that because central Pennsylvania is more conservative the citizens may not accept a measure as progressive as Philadelphia’s ordinance. He also wanted to legislation appear to discourage the use of cannabis and did not want it to be seen as a green light to “smoke weed”.
The ordinance as initially proposed reflected Mayor Papenfuse’s concerns. Although the idea sprung from council president Wanda Williams the proposal was now being represented as the mayor’s.
The city announced that they were going to have a serious of meetings to take public input on the ordinance so on March 10, I again attended the council meeting to speak about both the support and concerns of KCC. The text of my remarks can be found here.
KCC members also stuck to the same theme and backed up our opposition to the high fines, the escalating penalties and the third strike provision. Council heard us loud and clear and again we were able to get our position out to the media. Our ideas caught on and at subsequent council public input sessions many echoed the exact same things that we talked about.
On May 19 Harrisburg City Council held a discussion on the decrim proposal and once again I and other members of KCC attended and spoke. The conversation lasted for nearly two hours. It was preceded by a fascinating conversation on the bill that council is working on for improving the citizen complaint process against police misconduct. That’s another subject worthy of lengthy discussion. Suffice it to say, Harrisburg City Council is on the right side of the people. Everything they do is going up against a powerful police union.
The conversation about the decrim bill was intense. It was philosophical, a debate of ideas, insightful and informative commentary, moments of humor, introspection, reflection, genuine depth and intricate discussion. They covered a lot of ground. I was absolutely proud of them.
The mayor did not want to relent on his plan for the higher fines and escalating penalties. He seemed frustrated that council didn’t agree with him. He thought that if they get their way then we might as well just legalize it, but he opposes legalization. He was willing to decriminalize it but only if the ordinance kept a slightly punitive aspect to it.
Council wanted more of a Philly model, which is exactly what KCC advocated for. The mayor seemed like he was having his arm twisted a little bit and seemed slightly frustrated. At the end of council meeting I provided all my written testimony from the three council meetings that I attended.
When the council meeting was over I was concerned. Council refused to take action on the mayor’s decrim bill. They stuck to their guns and advocated for lower fines, no escalating penalties and no third strike misdemeanor. I was so proud of them and congratulated them but I was worried that now we had successfully killed their attempts to pass a decriminalization ordinance. I was worried that Mayor Papenfuse would not budge from his position.
We were really pleased to learn that evidently council has worked out a compromise that is acceptable to all parties. They came up with a $75 fine for both first and second offense. Those who cannot afford $75 can pay it off with 10 hours of community service.
Council opposed elevating a third strike to a misdemeanor but the mayor was adamant about this provision. They worked out a slight compromise. A third offense is a misdemeanor but only if it is within five years of the first offense.
Another thing council decided to do is to make a distinction between simply possessing an ounce of cannabis and smoking it in the streets. Public smoking of cannabis will still be a summary offense but it will carry a $150 fine. This is to send the signal that the decriminalization of cannabis does not necessarily mean a free-for-all.
KCC would have liked for the fine to be $25 but we can live with $75 for the first two offenses. It’s a lot better than the $100 and $200 fines initially proposed by the mayor. As for the third strike misdemeanor, we can live with that because it will be the rare offender who gets arrested 3 times in 5 years. Also, we believe that within 5 years cannabis will be legal, taxed and regulated in the state.
Keystone Cannabis Coalition applauds the mayor and Harrisburg City Council for their willingness to listen to each other and to the ordinary citizens and KCC and to sit down at the table compromise and make changes to the proposal. We urge council to vote YES on Wednesday and we urge Mayor Papenfuse to sign it.
Harrisburg will be the third municipality to decriminalize cannabis in Pennsylvania but it will not be the last. The city of Wilkes Barre has already decriminalized paraphernalia and are considering the decriminalization of cannabis next. State College is also currently considering a proposal to decriminalize cannabis and discussions are ongoing in Lancaster.
Obviously the answer is statewide decriminalization of cannabis and KCC strongly supports the legislation introduced by Representative Ed Gainey. It is called HB2076 and it proposes a MAXIMUM penalty of just $100 and reduces the penalties to a summary offense. Currently possession of cannabis in Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor and carries a max penalty of $500 and 30 days in jail.
The step that Harrisburg is about to take lends legitimacy to the drive for statewide decriminalization. The more cities and municipalities that pass decriminalization ordinances the more it will accelerate the drive for statewide decriminalization.
If you are from Pennsylvania join our Facebook group page where you can keep up to date on everything going on in the reform movement and learn how YOU can participate in what we are doing.
If you believe in what we are doing please make a generous donation today so that we can finally end the prohibition of cannabis and hemp once and for all.
Executive Director, Keytstone Cannabis Coalition
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This is the future of Pennsylvania so I want you to imagine it with me. There are greater visions of far off future years but I want you to see a future much closer. We are going to look just two years in front of us. What will we see?
It is the summer of 2018. Medical cannabis is growing in 25 locations throughout the state. The growers have hired many local citizens who have had previous experience in this particular botanical field.
The media is loving it because it is good for their ratings. We are seeing news stories showing the crystal-laden buds being harvested for medicine in our home towns. We’ll see the extraction being done as the buds are transformed to oils. Ancillary businesses will be getting in on the ground floor.
The medical cannabis program will still be relatively new but even so dozens of dispensaries will have already emerged with dozens more about ready to open and up to 150 on track to open their doors in the near future. The dispensaries will employ many locals in their communities.
The program is off to a fast start, tens of thousands already vaping oils in their vape pens to medicate the symptoms of their illnesses. Over the following year up to 100,000 Pennsylvanians will be receiving medical cannabis. Already stories are coming in with people reporting near miraculous cures!
One day, you drive by the medical cannabis dispensary and decide to take a ride through farm country. Rolling down the windows you smell an odor, oddly familiar, sweet but startling, fresh and organic. What is that towering field of tall green stalks and fragrant blossoms waving in the wind? Ah, it’s Jacob’s field and he is doing a trial run of ten acres of hemp. A bit past Jacob’s farm you notice that his neighbor Amos was a bit more bold – sixty acres of hemp! What’s he going to do with all that? Later you find out that he is growing it for seed and plans to supply his brother’s large poultry operation with nutritional seed. It is a part of a research program supervised by the state Department of Agriculture to determine the benefits of hemp as poultry and livestock feed.
The drive is pleasant. You are surprised to see that dozens of local farms are participating in the hemp trials. Some farmers just want to see if it will grow and start out with an acre. Others 6-8 acres, and some like Amos who go big with it.
You get home and pick up the newspaper. There is an article about the new hemp manufacturing plant being built to turn the local hemp into quality materials for a wide range of products. When they finish they will employ 250 locals who are badly in need of jobs since the old factory shut down and shipped their jobs overseas.
It’s a growing trend. The interest shown by Pennsylvania farmers has investors looking to open more hemp manufacturing facilities in various parts of the state. Suddenly the possibility of thousands of jobs becomes a reality.
Things sure seem different these days. In addition to these positive changes the state has decided to decriminalize the possession of an ounce of cannabis. In the old days it was a criminal misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of $500 and 30 days in jail. Now, it has become a low priority for law enforcement. Arrests are dropping dramatically but for those who are caught the penalty has been reduced to a summary offense and a max penalty of $100.
It was not an easy journey to get here but the general assembly passed Ed Gainey’s bill for statewide decriminalization after Pennsylvania citizens came together to pass House Bill 2076. Now, those who enjoy cannabis instead of alcohol can relax a bit easier.
Long time cannabis activists note the progress the state is making. They congratulate the thousands of patients receiving medical cannabis and thank all those who make it possible. They remark on how well the hemp industry is taking off. They are thankful that cannabis consumers are no longer considered criminals.
However, the activists point out that the problem now is that there are no legal channels of distribution for cannabis and no way to legally grow and sell it for the benefit of cannabis consumers, thus forcing them to count on an underground, unregulated industry.
By this time Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Arizona, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, and Washington DC have all fully legalized cannabis. You are anxious for November to see if the 4 states with cannabis on the ballot will vote yes. Quinnipiac , F&M and other polls show that 65% of Pennsylvanians now believe that cannabis should be fully legal in the state.
All of a sudden it’s all making sense to Pennsylvania. The people see that it was foolishness and absolute madness to lock people up and try to ban such a wonderful plant of so many uses, of such beauty and benefit.
The fight for legal cannabis in Pennsylvania is on and almost everyone agrees. Victory is in sight. You go to sleep at night dreaming pleasant dream of the future. You wake to the morning of a new day dawning in Pennsylvania. The world is changing and we are all changing with it and it feels good.
This vision is correct. What I have asked you to imagine I challenge you to create. This is a glimpse of just two years into the future. Carry the dream forward five, ten, twenty years – see what you come up with.
Join KCC in our mission to bring this dream to reality. Make a donation so that we can continue to take the fight to Harrisburg and the halls of power.
Also, if you are from Pennsylvania please come join us in our Facebook group page for Keystone Cannabis Coalition. There you can stay up to date on everything that is going on and learn how YOU can help us end the war on cannabis while hastening the day when the national prohibition of cannabis and hemp falls.
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It’s been a month since the last blog and so much is happening in the cannabis reform movement in Pa. it’s enough to make one’s head spin.
Things are moving at a rapid pace. Here are a few recent developments:
Industrial Hemp : KCC is responsible for getting two bills introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature. We worked with state senators Judy Schwank and Mike Folmer to introduce SB50 and we worked with representatives Russ Diamond and Marty Flynn to introduce HB967.
SB50 passed 47-0 in the senate. They sent it over to the house but the house took no action on it. Instead they voted on the house bill and passed HB967 187-0.
HB967 currently sits in the senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee and SB50 sits in the house ag committee. They have been stagnant for several months.
In addition to our duties with KCC, Erica McBride and I also are a part of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council. When we advocate for the hemp legislation we do so under the banner of PaHIC in order to emphasize the economic and environmental benefits of hemp without the stigma associated with the cannabis issue.
On Monday, June 6, PaHIC held a Hemp History Week press conference in the state capitol. In addition to Erica and I we were joined by fellow board members Adam Thompson and Riley Cote along with PaHIC president Geoff Whaling.
Also speaking at the event was Michael Kovich, president of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union, Hannah Smith-Brubaker, Deputy Secretary of the Pa. Department of Agriculture, State Senator Judy Schwank, State Senator Mike Folmer and Representative Russ Diamond. We also read prepared remarks by Rep. Marty Flynn. The best treat though was being able to read a written statement of hearty support for hemp by Governor Tom Wolf.
We talked all about the history of hemp in Pennsylvania. We talked about the situation with hemp right now in states like Kentucky and Colorado and we talked about all the great opportunities for hemp in Pennsylvania. Most importantly though, we urged the legislature to take action on the hemp issue and get a bill to Governor Wolf’s desk immediately.
Well, FINALLY we are on the threshold of a new industry. The senate ag committee will be voting on HB967 on Thursday, June 23. It will pass and then must go to the floor for a vote in the full senate. It is expected to once again pass easily, most likely unanimously once again. After that, since the bill has been amended, it must go back to the House where it will be quickly concurred. We may be one or two weeks away from finally passing industrial hemp legislation in Pennsylvania!
Unfortunately it is too late to get seeds in the ground this year, however we expect many farmers to be able to participate in hemp trials next spring.
Decriminalization: There’s good news and there’s bad news. Amidst the good and the bad there is opportunity for us to work for positive change. Let’s start with the good.
Earlier this year Harrisburg City Council considered a proposal by Mayor John Papenfuse to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of cannabis and make it a summary offense. It was a step in the right direction but the fines were excessive. It called for a $100 fine for first offense, $200 for a second offense and it elevated to a misdemeanor penalty and $300 fine for a third offense.
In a series of council meetings, KCC applauded the willingness of council to consider the ordinance but expressed strong concerns. We said that the fines were excessive. We opposed escalating fines and the third strike provision.
Council listened to our concerns and they were convinced. They worked out a compromise and scaled the fine back to $75 for both a first and a second offense. They differentiated between simple possession and smoking in public. For public smoking they are asking for a $150 fine, but still downgraded to a summary offense.
On the third strike misdemeanor they did a slight compromise. The mayor was adamant about this so council compromised with him. A third strike is a misdemeanor but only if it occurs within a five year time frame of the first arrests.
KCC will not be happy until cannabis is completely legalized but in the meantime we can support the new ordinance as written. Although we would have preferred a $25 fine like Philly and Pittsburgh have but in Harrisburg the best they could agree upon was $75. Those who can not afford the $75 can work it off with 10 hours of community service.
Keep in mind, we only have to put up with this situation until we achieve full legalization in the state, a process that could take 3-5 years. No individual municipality can legalize cannabis before the state does. What they can do is decriminalize it and that what Harrisburg City Council has chosen to do. We applaud them. Their efforts will give legitimacy to and accelerate the move towards statewide decriminalization.
Along these lines, we were thrilled to learn that Representative Ed Gainey has introduced a bill for statewide decriminalization that we can support. It is called HB2076 and it reduces possession of up to an ounce of cannabis to a summary offense and a MAXIMUM fine of $100. Under this bill a judge would be given discretion and could fine a defendant anywhere from a dollar to 100 dollars.
KCC supports full legalization of cannabis and will use every opportunity to discuss the merits of a fully legal cannabis industry. However, we know that the political climate in the Pa. general assembly is not there yet. Even though last month’s Quinnipiac poll showed that 58% of Pennsylvanians support full legalization there is very little support in the legislature.
However, there IS support for decriminalization and that is a battle that we can win. Decriminalization is not perfect. It is a temporary, partial truce in the war, an interim policy while Pennsylvania figures out the best way to regulate it.
As statewide decriminalization bills go you can’t do much better that Rep. Gainey’s HB2076.
Now on to the bad news…
A year ago we learned of what we call a fake decrim bill introduced by Berks County freshman legislator Representative Barry Jozwiak. It was called HB1422 and it was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, headed up by Representative Ron Marsico. Jozwiak was a career law enforcement officer and Marsico’s brother is the DA for Dauphin County. We took note of it but in hearing no action on the bill for the last year we forgot about it and assumed it was dead.
Suddenly about 10 days ago Andy Hoover of the Pa. branch of the ACLU alerted Chris Goldstein of Philly NORML who in turn alerted us that the House Judiciary Committee was going to vote HB1422 out of committee on June 14.
First I should explain what’s so bad about HB1422.
Right now the max penalty for possession of up to an ounce of cannabis in Pennsylvania is a $500 fine and 30 days in jail. It is considered a misdemeanor.
Although some people are detained overnight most people do not get any jail time for possession. Also most people do not receive the maximum fine either.
HB1422 reduces the penalty from a misdemeanor to a summary offense. Okay, so far so good BUT it makes the fine for a first offense a mandatory MINNIMUM $500 fine. Judges can show no discretion. They are forced to give at LEAST a $500 but if a judge is a right winger he can impose a fine of THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS if he so chooses.
Furthermore, HB1422 calls for a minimum of $750 for a second offense while escalating to a third strike misdemeanor with a mandatory minimum of a one thousand dollar fine!
We had 4 days to make a mad scramble to defeat this bill. The we sent out emails to every member of the House Judiciary Committee and laid out all the reasons why we oppose this bill. KCC got on it and so did Philly NORML and Pittsburgh NORML as well as the Pa. ACLU. Chris Goldstein spent hours on the phone talking to Judiciary Committee members and their staff trying to stop the bill. Others worked with reps to get them to withdraw their sponsorship or to introduce amendments to make the bill bearable if it got that far.
Together with Philly NORML, Pa. ACLU, Pa. for Safe Access, C4C, KCC showed up at the Judiciary Committee meeting on June 14 and then had a joint press conference where we voiced strong opposition for HB1422 and emphatic support for HB2076.
Speaking at the press conference was lead organizer Chris Goldstein from Philly NORML, myself, Luke Schultz from C4C, Adrienne Leasa, Andy Hoover of the Pa. ACLU, Randy Robertson and the man himself, Representative Ed Gainey.
It worked, at least temporarily. The Judiciary Committee was flooded with calls and emails and they recognized the problems with the bill so they tabled it for now. We do not know if they intend to revive it or not. They may get sneaky and try to attach it as an amendment to another bill.
We will stay vigilant and try to beat down any attempts to move HB1422 and in the meantime will make a strong push for a REAL bill for statewide decriminalization, HB2076.
Full Legalization: Representative Andy Harris has introduced a bill for full legalization in the House. Harris’s bill allows for home cultivation of cannabis and proposes that Pa. sells cannabis in the state stores.
KCC will constantly make the case for full legalization. There is no chance that the Harris bill will be passed by end of this two year legislative session which comes to a close at the end of this December. However, it does get the conversation started. It will have to be reintroduced in January and then it has two years to either pass or fail. Most likely, it will be statewide decriminalization that comes first, after a battle for it that is.
If you are from Pennsylvania, join our Facebook discussion page for Keystone Cannabis Coalition where we discuss in much detail everything that is going on every day. It’s the best way to stay up to the minute on all the Pa. cannabis and hemp news. It is also a place to learn how YOU can make a difference and help us on our mission to completely end cannabis and hemp prohibition in Pennsylvania while hastening the day when the wall of national prohibition falls.
Please support our work by making a generous donation to ensure our ability to continue taking the case directly to the public and right to the halls of power in Harrisburg.
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Executive Director, Keystone Cannabis Coalition