For Best Chance of Legalizing Cannabis in Pa: Pull the Lever Straight Democrat

Posted by on Oct 30, 2018 in Blog

Maybe you are a Democrat. Maybe you are a Republican. Maybe you are a Libertarian or Green. Then again, maybe you’re an anarchist or simply apathetic or apolitical. Maybe you couldn’t care less about politics. I want to talk to all of you and tell you the truth about how we stand the best chance of legalizing cannabis in Pennsylvania.

In short, we recommend voting straight Democrat this year.

Now, I know that for some of you who read this, you would never base your vote on just one issue alone. It’s good to consider a broad spectrum of economic, political, cultural and societal issues and come to a reasoned conclusion.

Keystone Cannabis Coalition is not fighting to end property taxes, roll back environmental regulations, privatize the prisons, “put prayer back in the schools”, go full force with fracking, ban abortion, dismantle the public schools and put everyone in private charter, religious or corporate schools, break up the unions or any of those issues. If we were, we’d be telling people to vote Republican. To people who value those issues over and above cannabis legalization then they will vote Republican.

KCC is a cannabis legalization organization so we have the responsibility not to tell you the best way to get tax reform or crack down on the immigrants but to tell you the best way to get cannabis legalization and that is by voting for Democrats.

Now, you might say, “What have the Democrats ever done for us?”

That’s a fair question. Let’s see what the Democrats of Pennsylvania have done for us.

Who remembers the fight we waged together to win decrim in Philadelphia? After a year-long campaign of civil disobedience we got Democratic city councilman Jim Kenney to introduce a decrim ordinance, it was passed by a Democratic council and signed by a Democratic mayor. Now that councilman is Mayor and he supports the full legalization of cannabis. Democratic District Attorney Larry Krasner is not even prosecuting cannabis offenses anymore.

When we passed decrim in Harrisburg it was introduced by a Democratic councilwoman. Worked on and improved by a Democratic city council and signed by a Democratic mayor.

When decrim was passed in Pittsburgh it was introduced by Democrats and signed by a Democratic mayor.

When we passed Decrim in York it was introduced by a Democratic councilman and signed by a Democratic mayor.

When decrim was passed in State College it was introduced by a Democrat, passed by a Democratic council and signed by a Democratic mayor.

When decrim was passed in Erie it was introduced by a Democratic councilman, passed by the Democratic city council and was signed by the Democratic mayor.

In Easton a Democratic councilman is introduced a decrim ordinance and was initially supported by the Democratic mayor. Though the ordinance was declined by one vote Easton passed a resolution of support for statewide decrim.

When decrim was passed in Allentown it was introduced by a Democratic City Councilwoman, passed by the Democratic council and signed by the Democratic mayor.

Decrim was introduced by a Democrat in Bethlehem, passed by the Democratic city council and signed by the Democratic mayor.

In Reading, we got a decrim ordinance introduced by two Democratic council members. The ordinance was dropped in favor of a resolution supporting statewide decrim and the Democratic council passed it.

In Lancaster, we got the ordinance introduced by Democrats, passed by the Democratic city council and signed into law by the Democratic mayor.

Everyone knows that the full legalization of cannabis is supported by the Auditor General of Pennsylvania, Eugene DePasquale. Guess what, he’s a Democrat. He’s out there fighting for legalization constantly.

All five of the Democrats who ran for Lt. Governor of Pa. supported legalization of cannabis. The winner, John Fetterman, was the most gung-ho of them all saying that Pennsylvania should go “Full Colorado”. If he wins, he will be the number two man in Pennsylvania, a sort of right-hand man to Governor Wolf.

So far, all the legalization bills ever introduced into the Pa. legislature and every single legislator who signed onto those bills as cosponsors have been Democrats. Jake Wheatley is our new champion in the House with HB2600 and at last glance he has 14 Democratic cosponsors though the legislation is so new you can smell the ink.

In fact, as of September of 2017 it is the official policy of the Pennsylvania State Democratic Party to support the full legalization of cannabis and candidates who support it. The resolution is fairly radical, written by a veteran of Philly NORML, Derek Rosenzweig. If you want to know what the official policy is as written, you can read it here.

Now, I know you might be saying, “Hey, what about medical cannabis? That was a bipartisan effort, you know!”

Yeah, it was bipartisan but here are some facts about the whole effort. From 2009 until 20013 the fight was on for medical cannabis legalization and it was entirely led by Democrats. There were zero Republicans that would touch it with a ten foot pole.

The bills of mmj that were introduced by the Democrats In both the House and the Senate both had home grows, full plant right from the outset and lightly regulated. No Republican would go along with that.

Enter our first Republican hero – Mike Folmer. Folmer caught the world by surprise. Republicans gasped. No one could believe it. They braced themselves to see what would happen and saw Mike elevated to rock star status. Other Republicans jumped in and before long the majority of them joined in.

Of course, the only way the Republicans would get onboard is if they could cut out home grows, cut out actually cannabis buds, make it oils only and regulate the whole thing tighter than a frog’s ass.

When the bill came up for a vote every single Democrat voted Yes. All of our most vehement opposition came from Republicans. Who could ever forget Matt Baker? Or the time when the Republican Speaker Mike Turzai broke down crying when he realized medical cannabis would win? There were more than 40 No votes and every single one of them came from Republicans.

So yeah, it was bipartisan, sort of, but if the Democrats would have had their way we would have won six years earlier and we’d be growing our own.
Let’s not forget where we were just four short years ago. Why would we ever go back to that time when Republican Governor Tom Corbett ruled over us? We have zero chance back then at medical cannabis. Zero chance at industrial hemp. Zero chance at decrim and not a chance in Alabama of legalizing it.

Governor Wolf had to win four years ago. Had he not have won we’d be in big trouble. We still would not have medical cannabis, we still would not have industrial hemp and he may have decided to crack down on the cities that have enacted decrim ordinances. Governor Wolf supports statewide decrim and he has encouraged cities to take the lead as he tries to steer the state in that direction. Having a supportive governor has definitely encouraged and emboldened cities to take action.

Now, I have to say, when it comes to industrial hemp there was a true and completely bipartisan effort. If you count the votes in the state senate and the house, the vote was 233-0! That means that every single Democrat and every single Republican voted Yes for hemp. That was a truly remarkable achievement but it could have only been done by having a governor and an administration that supported hemp legalization and before Wolf we never did before.

Is there more good news about Pennsylvania Republicans?

Yes, slightly. The majority of them now support the decrim-light bill introduced by Berks County Republican, Barry Jozwiak – HB928. It recently passed out of the House Judiciary Committee where it had been held up for more than 18 months. It passed 20-4. Once again, every Democrat voted Yes and every No vote came from Republicans.

Still, it is impressive to note that the majority of Republicans currently support HB928, a definite step in the right direction. Impressive that is until you realize that only ONE Republican supported the much better Democratic bill introduced by Rep. Ed Gainey – HB195. That bill had 24 cosponsors, all of them Democrats but one. It wasn’t punitive enough though for the Republicans. They would only get onboard if the fine was raised by hundreds of dollars and a third strike escalation to misdemeanor.

That’s the typical path for Republicans. They will resist all cannabis reform that is supported by Democrats. They will resist and resist until they can tell that resistance will cost them politically. Then, they support the idea but only if the bills can be watered down and made more punitive or more restrictive.
On the bright side, seeing how Republicans supported industrial hemp, evolved on medical cannabis and evolved now on the decrim-light issue, I can foresee a possibility anyway that they will come around to supporting full legalization and home grows. Eventually. That time is not now though.
Currently, zero Republicans in the entire Pa. legislature support legalizing cannabis!

Say what? How many Republicans support full legalization of cannabis?

Zero. Zip. Nada. None. Not a damn one of them.

Okay, I think we can count on two Republicans who would vote Yes although neither one of them will say so publicly, afraid of their Republican leadership and their Republican constituents.

Zero Republicans in the House support legalization and zero Republicans support legalization in the senate. Zero Republicans have signed on as cosponsors to legalization bills and zero Republicans have publicly supported legalization. ALL of our support comes from Democrats and it is absolutely real. Pa. Dems have a record of delivering for us.

The Republican candidate for governor is Scott Wagner. He is VEHEMENTLY opposed to full legalization of cannabis and won’t even say he supports decrim, only that he is “open to considering it”. He says that if a legalization bill hits his desk he would veto it without consideration.

Wagner would be disastrous to our cause because it wouldn’t only be just him. He would bring in an entire new administration and this man who is so hostile to cannabis legalization would be surrounded by hardcore prohibitionists at all levels. The current mmj program would be handed over to the right-wingers. Is that what we want to happen? We can’t and we must not let that happen.
Republicans control everything in Harrisburg.

Right now the Republicans have a super-majority in the state senate. They have an overwhelming majority in the state house. They control every single committee. They control the entire legislative agenda. They decide which bills get considered, which bills die, which get passed and which bills fail. None of them support legalization now and if Scott Wagner is elected they will stay hardened in their opposition for possibly the next eight long years. We can’t take that chance.

Some of you might hate Democrats. Keep in mind that if you live in a gerrymandered district usually won by Republicans you can rest assured that your representative is safe. It’s tough to root out incumbents.

Ninety percent of all incumbents win, so most Republicans and most Democrats are safe. The Republicans have such an overwhelming advantage that voting Democrat is not going to magically transform the entire political landscape. The Republicans are still going to control the state legislature next year. Electing a few more Democrats is not going to cause some kind of socialist revolution but it will give us a slightly better chance at legalization.

The election is next Tuesday, November 6. Make sure you get out and vote. If cannabis legalization is your most important issue we recommend voting straight Democrat. If other issues are more important to you, well, then vote your conscience but know you are voting to stick daggers into the legalization movement.

In one week the election will be over and we will have to work with whoever wins. We will conduct our political campaign in a completely non-partisan fashion because we MUST convince Republicans to support legalization or we have no chance. Currently we have zero Republicans onboard for legalization. That has to change. In the meantime, vote Democrat if you want even half a chance.

~Les Stark, Executive Director, KCC
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Pennsylvania Primary Day – VOTE CANNABIS!

Posted by on May 15, 2018 in Blog

Ladies and gentlemen, today is an important day for cannabis reform in Pennsylvania and it is time for YOU to get out and vote for pro-cannabis candidates in today’s primary elections.

“What? Are there pro-cannabis candidates in Pennsylvania? You bet!

 The most important race today for those of us who want to see cannabis legalized in Pennsylvania is the race for Lt. Governor.

Four years ago we endorse the current Lt. Governor Mike Stack because when he was in the state senate he introduced a bill for statewide decriminalization of cannabis. He just started saying that we should look at other states that have legalized cannabis.

If Mike Stack wins it will not be a disaster for us but our cause is not a passion for him. For John Fetterman, cannabis legalization is a passion. He has gone out of his way to meet with leaders and members of the Pa. cannabis movement and has been outspoken in his support for not only our cause but many related issues of social justice. He’s got our backs and we’ve got his.

Governor Wolf is a strong supporter of decriminalization but he has been “on the fence” when it comes to full legalization. Electing John Fetterman to be his running mate in November will be a HUGE wakeup call and shakeup the entire state in a very positive way for us! Fetterman will get Wolf off the fence and take us into the future.

Shawn Mauck for State Senate: 28th District – If you live in the district that includes the city of York you have the opportunity to elect a good man to the state senate to fill the seat vacated by State Senator Scott Wagner, who dropped out to run for governor. Mauck is the current Mayor of West York and last year put up the good fight to decriminalize cannabis in the borough. As State Senator, Mauck will fight for us to fully legalize cannabis in the Keystone State. He’s got our back and we’ve got his.

Gary Wegman for Congress, 9th District – The 9th district poses a dilemma for us. There isn’t just one pro-cannabis candidate but two! Both Gary Wegman and his opponent Laura Quick support full legalization of cannabis on a federal level. The third Democratic opponent does not. So we have to decide between Gary Wegman and Laura Quick. We give Wegman the nod because he was quoted in national media supporting legalization, though if Laura Quick wins we will celebrate her victory too!

Erin Vecchio for State Representative, 32nd District – Eric Vecchio is challenging longtime incumbent state Rep. Anthony DeLuca. Erin supports the full legalization of cannabis.


Madeleine Dean for Congress, 4th District – We need to put Madeleine Dean in Congress. She supports federal decriminalization and is receptive to full legalization. We endorse her candidacy.


Joe McGurk for State Representative, 10th District – Joe and his wife were activists for medical cannabis in the state.

Write in Lou Jasikoff for State Rep., 117th District

Write in Jay Sweeney for Pa. Senate, 20th District

Joe McGurk – Beaver County, 10th District. He and his wife have also been advocates of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania because two of their four children have a form of epilepsy that can be treated by medicinal cannabis.

Those are the main cannabis candidates we want to see win today so get out there and vote! We will have a more comprehensive cannabis voters’ guide for the November elections.

~Les Stark, Executive Director

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Pa. Cannabis Reform Action Alert: May Month of Action

Posted by on May 4, 2018 in Blog

This month we are marking a grim anniversary. We are coming up on the 85 year anniversary of “marihuana” prohibition in Pennsylvania. It is a war that has damaged the lives of HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE since 1933.

It is fitting that on this 85 year anniversary month that cannabis reform is proceeding at a feverish pace. There are very important things happening throughout the state and therefore I am issuing this urgent call to action to all members of the cannabis reform community and all concerned citizens who have absolutely had enough of this madness.

On May 8, Allentown City Council will be considering the adopting one of the most progressive cannabis decriminalization ordinances in the state. Those caught with up to an ounce of cannabis will be charged with a summary offense and given a $25 fine. Second offense is $50, third offense is $100 and fourth offense is either $150 or 8 hours of community service.

Allentown City Council will meet Tuesday, May 8 at 6pm in Allentown Council Chambers (at City Hall on Hamilton at 5th St).

Allentown is the third largest city in Pennsylvania so we cannot overemphasize the importance of passing this ordinance. It will be a HUGE step forward and it will cause the dominoes to fall and accelerate the rate of change on a state level.

We need all hands on deck in order to show overwhelming support. We need our best, brightest and most articulate to be willing to speak in favor of the ordinance, to share their stories and sufferings because of the current law. For those not confident enough to speak, don’t worry we need YOU too. Never underestimate the power of simply showing up.

We recommend that those attending dress respectable and those speaking should maintain respect to all members of council. Local residents are the most effective, though people not from the area may still be able to help make a compelling case.

Here is the link to the Facebook event page. Click on the link and let us know you’re coming. More information will be posted in the event page and you will want to know concerning the council meeting and the ordinance.

May 15 is the important Pennsylvania Primary elections. We need to win some important elections to set the tone for cannabis reform in Pennsylvania. First and foremost, KCC GIVES OUR FULL ENDORSEMENT TO JOHN FETTERMAN FOR LEUITENANT GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA! John Fetterman supports the full legalization of cannabis and nothing will send a message to Governor Wolf in November and the entire state legislature than electing Fetterman as Wolf’s partner and right-hand man.

IN YORK COUNTY KCC ENDORSES SHAWN MAUCK FOR STATE SENATE. Mauck is the current mayor of the borough of West York and his running in the 28th District for a seat being vacated by Republican Gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner.

In Lancaster County’s 98th District we recommend Mary Auker-Endres for State Representative.
We will have more endorsements and recommendations coming over the next couple weeks leading up to primary election day on May 15.

May 22 is an important day with two major events, one in Harrisburg and one in the city of Bethlehem.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018 is the 85 year anniversary of “marihuana” prohibition in Pennsylvania. To commemorate the occasion we are having a press conference/rally and lobby day from 2:30 to 3:30 in the afternoon in the Main Rotunda of the State Capitol building in Harrisburg.

We need everyone within an hour or two’s drive of Harrisburg to attend this important event where we will let the media, the Pa. state legislature and the people of Pennsylvania know that the 85 year war is coming to an end. We will discuss the history of cannabis prohibition in the Keystone state and its devastating consequences while making the case for change – immediate decriminalization of cannabis followed by the full legalization of cannabis with the right to grow our own.

Some of us will be meeting with our state reps and state senators and other legislators and we encourage others to do the same though it is not mandatory in order to attend the press conference and stand with us.

KCC is working to organize this event in conjunction with Lehigh Valley NORML, South Philly NORML, Pittsburgh NORML, Pittsburgh NORML Women’s Alliance and national NORML.

Also at the May 22 event in Harrisburg we will be announcing a BIG rally in Harrisburg sometime in September that will commemorate the 85 year anniversary of the date that cannabis prohibition went into effect in the state and the first arrests began in September of 1933.

Click on the link to the event and let us know you are coming. WE NEED YOU TO JOIN US IN HARRISBURG ON TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2018!

May 22 is also the night that Bethlehem City Council will consider a decriminalization ordinance. Council meeting starts at 6pm in Bethlehem Council Chambers at 10 E Church St, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 18018 (across the plaza from the Public Library at City Center).

We urge all persons within a one hour drive of Bethlehem to please attend this important council meeting.

Please pick either the Bethlehem or Harrisburg events or, if you are feeling exceptionally motivated do like some of us are going to do on May 22 and go to BOTH important events.

Click on the link to the event page for Bethlehem City Council meeting on May 22 and let us know you are coming. Remember, never underestimate the power of showing up! (across the plaza from the Public Library at City Center).

CALL YOUR STATE SENATOR AND STATE REPRESENTATIVE THE ENTIRE MONTH OF MAY and ask him or her to support HB195 or HB928 specifically and the general concept of decriminalization.

Also, call the members and leaders of the HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE.

Contact for all members and leaders of the House JUDICIARY COMMITTEE can be found by clicking on this link…

Our friends at Lehigh NORML have written a short suggested script:
“Hello, Representative (insert politician name here), my name is (your name here), I stand with tens of thousands Pennsylvanians asking your support and possible cosponsorship of House Bill 928, which amends the state penalties for adults who possess small, personal use amounts of marijuana. Pennsylvanians demand more sensible cannabis laws, and today I ask your support for House Bill 928.”

*BTW, you may call ANY PA House member and ask cosponsorship. You can use this link to find your State Rep:…/le…/home/findyourlegislator

There is lot going on and May is a busy and very important month with multiple opportunities to make a real difference in Pennsylvania. We are taking the fight to Harrisburg, Allentown and Bethlehem. Please help us to make this month of May in 2018 a MONTH OF ACTION!

One last thing, please consider making a generous donation to KCC so that we can continue to do this important work of laying the foundation for the complete end of cannabis prohibition in Pennsylvania with the full legalization of cannabis and the right to grow our own. You can make a donation by clicking on this link…

You can guarantee that KCC will put all donations to good use, using the funds to print brochures, fliers, information packets, gas money to get to events, permit fees, event insurance etc. Together we can do this and pooling our collective resources our community will be unstoppable.

Thank you, and we love you all. It is your donations that have allowed us to do so much so far and it is YOU and YOUR ACTIONS that is going to see to it that we succeed in the future.

Les Stark
Executive Director, Keystone Cannabis Coalition

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KCC 2017 Year in Review – The Year of Hemp and Cannabis Reform

Posted by on Jan 1, 2018 in Blog

Once again it is time to take a look back at another tremendous year for cannabis reform in Pennsylvania and the role that Keystone Cannabis Coalition played.

What a year 2017 was! Once again KCC was right in the center of all the action. It was our busiest year yet and that’s saying LOT because we have been extremely busy since our birth as an official 501(C)4 non-profit organization in July of 2014 and even the two years prior when we were working unofficially as Pennsylvania Hempland Security.

We’ve done so much over the last few years it would make your head spin and on an individual human level I have to tell you how profoundly fulfilling it has been to have been right there for the headiest of moments as we achieved unimagined heights of success. It’s been intoxicating and though we have a sense of tremendous pride in what we’ve accomplished and have been a part of we also have a sense of humility and humbleness as we realize how far we have to go yet.

To understand the year of 2017 you have to understand the foundational work that it took to get here. The past, the present and the future are a seamless web and where we’ve been, where we are now and where we are going is all connected.

If you want to know what we’ve done to get here read this year-end review of 2015 and you will start to realize how much we’ve done and the quality of our work.

If you read the report for 2015 and that kind of blew your mind then read the year-end review of 2016 and you will be even more amazed.

But 2017 was the busiest and most amazing year we have ever had! It was intense. It was profound. In some ways we fulfilled lifelong dreams and changed the landscape, both political and physical forever.

We have had many cannabis reform accomplishments but more than anything, 2017 was the year of hemp. If you read the reviews of 2015 and 2016 you know that Erica McBride and I are the ones who got the hemp legislation introduced and we walked it through every step of the way all the way up to the day it was signed by Governor Wolf into law.

When we were several months into our legislative hemp journey we were joined by Geoff Whaling and we also had a couple dozen volunteers helping us. Geoff helped us tremendously to advance the hemp legislation so Erica and I worked with him to organize another organization, the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council in December of 2015. Geoff is the President, Erica is the Executive Director and I am a Board Member along with Riley Cote and Adam Thompson.

When we work on hemp issues we are PAHIC. When we work on cannabis issues we are KCC. But, I consider the work one and the same because when we started KCC our mission was to work on four distinct areas of cannabis reform – industrial hemp, medical cannabis, decriminalization of cannabis and the full legalization of cannabis. Therefore I include the work we did for PAHIC and our work with hemp in this review because it is all profoundly important to our overall mission.

Of course, even though we did a LOT for hemp this year we did not neglect our mission to decriminalize and legalize cannabis in Pennsylvania and our accomplishments in that regard are impressive. In the following article you will learn about the strides we have made in both hemp and cannabis reform in 2017.

We are based in Exeter Twp. in Berks County, Pennsylvania, right outside of the city of Reading. All journeys begin from there.

January 6 Erica and I drove to the Pennsylvania State Department of Agriculture building in Harrisburg to put in our permit applications to become a part of the first legal wave of hemp farmers in over 80 years. It was exciting but nowhere near the excitement that was yet to come.

January 10 Erica and I did a press conference at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show in Harrisburg with Representative Eric Nelson of Westmoreland County. Nelson is a strong supporter of hemp and he is gung ho about developing the hemp industry in the western part of the state. Here is a short slide show of the event.

January 19 we held a Town Hall in the city of Reading on the decriminalization of cannabis with Representative Mark Rozzi. Participating in the panel discussion was Reading City Council members Donna Reed, Marcia Hinnershitz, Reading City Council President Jeff Waltman, Derek Rosenzweig and a woman representing a rehab center. It was a successful event with about 60 people in attendance, all of them in favor of decrim/legalization. You can watch the event here:

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:

January 26 Erica and I drove to King of Prussia to do an event for the Pennsylvania Cannabis Association. The name of the event was People Power and Pa. Cannabis Advocacy. We conducted a class on effective lobbying and talked about the cannabis reform bills currently being considered by the Pa. legislature. Although the audio is not great, you can watch a video of the event.

Earlier, on the same day I got the rare and unique opportunity to teach a college class to a group of students in Temple University. My good friend Chris Goldstein teaches a class there called Marijuana and the Media and he invited me via Skype to give a lecture on the history of hemp and cannabis in Pennsylvania. I enjoyed it greatly and I think the class did too.

January 30 Erica  met with Governor Wolf’s Chief Policy Advisor Secretary Gallbally. They pressed our message to the governor that Pennsylvania had to put forth a bolder vision for the hemp program. We impressed upon the administration the great importance this industry could have to the state.

February 4  Erica and I travelled to Penn State for the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). Erica gave a great presentation about the Pennsylvania hemp program for 2017. Interest was strong and her lecture was well attended.

February 6 I travelled to the Borough of West York to speak in favor of a cannabis decriminalization ordinance that had been introduced by West York Mayor Shawn Mauck. Here is local coverage of the meeting.

February 8, Erica and I met with Pa. Secretary of Agriculture and other representatives of the PDA to discuss our concerns with the hemp program. Specifically, we wanted to end the five acre cap and we wanted the ability to get seeds from Kentucky instead of being forced to get seeds from Canada.

After our meeting at the Dept. of Ag we went to the Capitol and met with the Chief of Staff for State Senator Chuck McIlhinney. McIlhinney is the Chairman of the State Senate Law and Justice Committee. The purpose of our meeting was to persuade the committee to hold hearings of SB213, the bill for full legalization of cannabis introduced by State Senator Daylin Leach. At the end of the meeting it was clear that there would be no hearings on the bill this year. They were not receptive to our pleas.

February 27 and 28 Erica and I traveled to Washington D.C. for a two day lobbying event for industrial hemp. We represented the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council and were joined by Geoff Whaling. We set up a table in the Rayburn building along with hemp organizations from around the country and we were joined by host Congressman Jared Polis and Co-hosts Congressman Earl Blumenauer, congressman Thomas Massie, & Congressman James Comer with Honorary Co-host Senator Ron Wyden.

We broke up into teams and collectively visited with many members of congress. The goal was to advance federal hemp legislation that will blow open full blown commercial production of hemp nationwide. Among the meetings we attended was with Congressman G.T. Thompson, who we later successfully persuaded to sign on as a cosponsor to HR3530.

Another successful meeting was with our Congressman from Berks County Ryan Costello. He also signed on as a cosponsor to HR3530. On the 28th we met the sponsor of HR3530, James Comer of Kentucky.

March 20 West York Borough Council held their second meeting on their proposed cannabis decriminalization ordinance. I was there once again to speak in favor of the measure. You can find coverage of it here .

March 26 we worked locally in the city of Reading. Erica spoke at a meeting for Indivisible Berks and joined a panel discussing successful activism and lobbying. We also had a table there for KCC.

April 3 we had a very important event. We organized a Lobby Day to advance the decriminalization bills currently being considered in the House Judiciary Committee. We were joined by leaders and members of Philly NORML, the Pennsylvania Cannabis Association and volunteers from KCC. We broke into teams and collectively had over 20 meetings with state reps and members of the Juidiciary. Adrienne Leasa, Skip Shuda and I met with the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Ron Marsico. In addition to our meetings we dropped off dozens of information packets with dozens of others including all 24 member of the House Judiciary Committee. All of our meetings were positive and everyone was receptive to our message.

April 17 was the one year anniversary of the signing of the medical cannabis legislation so we went to Harrisburg to the celebration event led by Governor Wolf and joined with State Senators Mike Folmer and Daylin Leach and other leading champions and advocates who fought hard for the bill.

April 19 we had our biggest day of the year and our most important event for cannabis reform. We held the Pennsylvania Marijuana Decriminalization Rally in the Rotunda of the State Capitol in Harrisburg. We were joined by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale who made a strong call for full legalization of cannabis, State Representatives Ed Gainey and Mark Rozzi, Patrick and Theresa Nightingale of Pittsburgh NORML, Chris Goldstein and N.a. Poe.

The rally was a huge success and we got lots of great coverage. Please take some time to scroll through the posts on the event page  and you will see some great pictures and videos from the rally along with the reports seen in the media.

April 21 to April 22  we headed out to Pittsburgh for a two day event called the World Medical Cannabis Conference. We had a booth where we again represented PAHIC and told everyone about the Pa. hemp program. While there Erica participated in two panel discussions, hosting one and speaking on another. She spoke on “Industrial Hemp and the Opportunities Beyond CBD” and hosted on “Ag Tech and Sustainability”.

April 23 We woke up in the morning and made the five hour journey to Scranton for the Pennsylvania Cannabis festival organized by Jeff Zick of BigYield Hydroponics. We set up a stand for KCC and it was an amazing, important and profound event! It was absolutely beautiful to see around 5,000 people gathered to celebrate cannabis. Make sure you attend this important event in 2018.

Next year’s festival on April 22 in Scranton promises to be the biggest and best yet with 17,000 people who say they are “going” and 120,000 who say they are “interested”. If you don’t go you will be missing out on something really special. KCC will be there and we will be speaking as well.

May 25 Erica did a one hour television show on BCTV (Berks County Television) with Representative Mark Rozzin on the subject of effective lobbying in Harrisburg.


May 31 was certainly a day to remember. Erica and I went to Harrisburg to pick up 670 pounds of hempseed, enough to plant 15 acres of hemp for our approved trials. Here is the photo album of that day.


June 1 we made history! We planted five acres of hemp in the Lehigh Valley! Although a few ceremonial seeds were planted by our friends in Montour County and some seeds got into the ground in Mifflin the day before, ours was the first entire field of hemp legally planted in Pennsylvania in perhaps 80 years! Check out the pictures of our planting

June 3 we planted a few more acres of hemp at Pinchot State Forest just outside of Wilkes Barre. The site was on an abandoned anthracite mine and the goal was soil remediation/land reclamation. If we can make it successful there we may have the opportunity to remediate one million acres of similarly damaged land in the state! We had a lot of volunteers to help us. Here are photos of the day.

June 5 I attended and spoke for the third time at the West York Borough Council meeting on their proposed cannabis decriminalization ordinance. The meeting was intense and our side was outnumbered. Council voted after much heated discussion and the ordinance was defeated narrowly on a 4-3 vote, much to the disappointment of Mayor Shawn Mauck who was anxious to sign it.

June 6  I spoke in front of the York City Council meeting along with activists from KCC in support of the cannabis decriminalization ordinance introduced there. We kicked ass, determined to not be defeated as we had been in the borough of West York.

June 8  One week after planting, we check our field in Lehigh and to our happy surprise the hemp was sprouting! It was a thrill to see the little baby hemp plants populating the five acre field. Here are pictures of the first batch of hemp sprouting in the state.



June 10 we held an event called the Hemp History Day and Celebration. We were joined by State Senators Judy Schwank and Mike Folmer, Representative Russ Diamond, Pa. Secretary of Agriculture Russ Redding and other members of the PDA and many others. We had live music and events, a hempcrete workshop, hempseed oil pressing and other hemp businesses represented and we led a group to visit our field to see the young sprouting hemp.

June 12 – We checked out the project in Pinchot State Forest and were thrilled to see hemp sprouting throughout the field. To learn about this important project click on this link to see the photos and a description of what we are attempting to do there.

June 15 was the two week anniversary of our first hemp planting so I stopped by the field in Lehigh to check out their progress. It was thrilling to see them growing.

After checking on the hemp I headed over to the city of Easton where I spoke at a meeting of the Lehigh Valley NORML. I gave a pep talk to the organization, explaining the work that we have been doing on cannabis reform and giving tips on how to be effective lobbyist for cannabis reform locally and in Harrisburg.

June 21 we checked the plants in Pinchot and were disappointed with the results though were impressed with the stubborn plants still hanging in there

June 22 we attended the PA Abandoned Mine Reclamation Conference. The theme of the conference was “The Future of Reclamation in PA”. Erica gave a power point presentation about the hemp project we are doing in the nearby Pinchot State Forest on the site of an abandoned anthracite mine.

The same day on June 22 we checked the Lehigh field to see their progress at 3 weeks

June 25 we did a second planting with volunteers at the site at Pinchot State Forest.

June 28 Erica and Geoff Whaling went to Washington D.C. to meet with United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to discuss official department policy concerning federal hemp regulations.

July 2 We visited both fields. The field in Pinchot  and the field in Lehigh where we found our prediction of “knee high by July” to be true.

July 5 Erica was named the Executive Director of the National Hemp Association in addition to her duties as Executive Director of PAHIC and the Secretary/Treasurer of KCC.

July 10 we visited the hemp field in Lehigh and installed bee hives to help pollinate the hemp and to make succulent honey.

July 15 we visited the site at Pinchot State Forest to dig up soil samples to be used in experimental growing over the winter to find what works and what doesn’t.

July 16 we visited the field in Lehigh to find plants up to seven feet tall!

Check out the updates from July 23, July 30 and August 2 when the plants were 10 ft. tall.

July 18 Another historic day! I spoke at the York City Council meeting again along with KCC activists in support of the decriminalization ordinance. A vote was taken that night and guess what – WE WON!!! Cannabis is now decriminalized in the city of York! Here is a video of the council meeting. I come on at the 13:30 mark.

August 4 Erica and I set up a stand for KCC at the Hemp Heals Festival in Philadelphia at Festival Pier. We both made a speech from the main stage in front of about 6,000 people. We took with us a 10 ft. stalk from our Lehigh hemp field.


August 12 we visited our friend’s five acre hemp crop in Perry County grown by the Perry County Land and Cattle Company.

August 15 was Ag Progress Days at Penn State. I gave a one hour lecture and powerpoint presentation about the history of hemp in Pennsylvania and Erica gave a one hour presentation on our current hemp projects.

While we were there we checked out the hemp crops being grown by researchers at Penn State

August 25 we were there for another historic day! We witnessed the first legal hemp harvest in Pennsylvania done by the Rodale Institute in Berks County!

September 1 was another historic day as we watched our friends in Montour County harvest their hemp along with the Pa. Secretary of Agriculture along with other members of the PDA and state reps.

September 2 – Finally it was OUR historic day – the harvest of our hemp crop in Lehigh! It was a thrilling day.

September 6 Deb Guy of Lancaster NORML and I met with Lancaster City Mayor Richard Gray to discuss the decriminalization of cannabis in Lancaster.

September 9  I went to the Democratic State Committee meeting in Harrisburg to help Derek Rosenzweig persuade state committee members to vote Yes on the resolution to direct the state Democratic Party to support the legalization of cannabis in Pennsylvania.Derek barely needed my help. He already had the situation well in hand. He had already laid the foundation. When the vote was taken the strongly worded resolution passed UNANIMOUSLY! It’s official – the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania now officially supports the full legalization of cannabis! You can read the full resolution.

September 10 – We had a KCC picnic in Kirby Park in Wilkes Barre. It was an informal get-together and we discussed strategy to advance cannabis reform in Pennsylvania.

September 12 and September 13 – Erica and I spent two days in Washington D.C. Erica and Geoff met with Senator Bob Casey. ‘GT’ Thompson and Ryan Costello and persuaded them to sign on as a cosponsor to HR3530, the federal hemp legislation. They also met with members of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and NIFA. I joined up with NORML and lobbied several congressman and along with the group met with Senator Cory Booker to discuss his Marijuana Justice bill recently introduced in the Senate.


September 16 We were thrilled to have the opportunity to set up in the Homegrown Village at Farm Aid this year. We teamed up with othe National Hemp Association, Limeworks and Hemp Heals Foundation. It’s always a wonderful thing to have such an opportunity to educate not only the general public but also farmers. Our friends at Limeworks conducted a full, hands on hempcrete workshop.


October 9 In September of 2016 Erica and I along with Brianne Archer successfully got a cannabis decriminalization ordinance introduced to Reading City Council. Although we had majority of support on council the mayor refused to sign the ordinance so the bill died. So, after that we took up the next best thing and got a Resolution of Support for Statewide Decriminalization introduced. On October 9 it passed by a 4-2 vote!

October 13 we helped set up a stand for Jefferson University at the DVIRC Greater Manufacturing Summit. We let the manufacturing community know all about the exciting opportunities with industrial hemp.

October 16  Erica and I spoke at the press conference in the State Capitol in Harrisburg organized by the Pennsylvania branch of the ACLU about the full legalization of cannabis. The press conference addressed the recent ACLU report where they found gross racial disparities in rates of cannabis arrests for minorities.

October 24 We attended the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture stakeholders meeting. There, all of hemp farmers participating in the first year of trials gathered to share our experiences and discuss how we can do better in year two. We made recommendation for how the PDA could improve the program for 2018.

October 25 Erica and Geoff went to DC to have a meeting with top several congressmen and then met with top DEA officials to discuss the Hemp Statement of Principals and the impact is it having on states implementing their hemp programs.

November 27  We attended a fundraiser for Kentucky Congressman James Comer in Philadelphia. Comer is the prime sponsor of federal hemp legislation, HR3530.

December 5  Deb Guy of Lancaster NORML and I met with Lancaster City Councilman John Reichenbach. Our meeting lasted two hours. We discussed plans to introduce a decriminalization ordinance to the city of Lancaster which we expect to occur within the next several months.

So there you have it, a short summation of our activities in the year of 2017. Although the list is impressive I am only telling you half the story. The work behind the scenes was way more than this. Erica especially has been super busy with hundreds, if not thousands of emails and phone conversations to put together all the moving pieces. We met with many people over the course of the year.

Another big part of our year was Erica’s tremendous efforts as a part of two teams, one going for a medical cannabis growers license called Bunker Botanicals and another team going for a dispensary license. Both efforts involved a tremendous amount of work and planning but ultimately both efforts failed. Still, a lot of valuable insights and experience was gained in the effort.

Erica also travelled to Amsterdam and Germany to witness the processing of hemp and meet with interested parties who may be interested in doing great things in Pa.

We had a tremendous year in 2017. We brought back hemp to the fields of Pennsylvania, we won the decriminalization of cannabis in the city of York, got a resolution of support for decriminalization of cannabis in Reading and laid the groundwork for decriminalization of cannabis in Lancaster and successfully influenced the expansion of the Pennsylvania hemp program for 2018, got cosponsors for federal hemp legislation and laid the foundation for a great hemp industry in the state.

None of our accomplishments would have been possible without the generous support of KCC activists. We did all this on a very tight budget. We raised about 6 ½ thousand dollars in 2017 and spent just over 4 thousand dollars. We used that money for signs, advertising, batch of t-shirts, gas, parking and information packets etc. We go into 2018 with a slight surplus.

In addition to our achievements we are consulting with others such as Art Leopold, who is working on a decriminalization project in the city of Erie. Their decrim ordinance is expected to be passed in just a few weeks! Also we are consulting with Jeff Riedy of Lehigh Valley NORML who is working to pass a decrim ordinance in the city of Easton. Their ordinance is expected to pass shortly as well. He is also attempting to pass similar ordinances in Allentown and Bethlehem as we all work together to pass statewide decriminalization of cannabis as soon as possible.

If you believe in our work and want to help us make 2018 and even more incredible year of accomplishments please  make a generous donation to KCC. All money donated goes directly into the fight for the full legalization of cannabis with the right to grow our own.

Thank you KCC and HAPPY NEW YEAR! Together let’s make 2018 the best year yet!

Les Stark
Executive Director, KCC

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This Man Holds the Fate of Pa. Cannabis Decriminalization in His Hands

Posted by on Jul 25, 2017 in Blog

In the Pennsylvania legislature there are some members who wield a tremendous amount of power. Some of those are men like House Majority Leader Dave Reed, House Speaker Mike Turzai and several others.

Some of the most powerful members are the chairs of the committees.

All bills that are introduced are assigned to a committee. A committee can have anywhere from 12 to 24 members. Senate committees are smaller than House committees.

20371199_10210009168965935_490964408_nIn any committee, although each member has one vote, there is only one person who really wields the power and that is the chair of that committee. In the House Judiciary Committee that man is Ron Marsico.

Right now, there are two bills for decriminalization of cannabis that are sitting in the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Representative Ron Marsico.

1977223_734016720054185_6009592695473201343_nKCC supports HB195, which was introduced by Representative Ed Gainey. It is a very good bill. It eliminates the threat of jail for possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, lowers the maximum fine to $100, reduces the charges from a criminal misdemeanor to a summary offense and removes the threat of losing your driver’s license.

The other bill that sits in the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Marsico is HB928. It is very similar to Rep. Gainey’s bill but the max fines are higher. KCC does not enthusiastically support HB928 but we do not oppose it. If it passes it will be a major victory for us and will put us in a much more tolerable position while we work for the full legalization of cannabis that includes the right to grow our own.

The last I checked, HB195 had two dozen cosponsors. 23 of them were Democrats. Although KCC supports HB195 we also realize that the state senate and house are both controlled by large Republican majorities. Every single head of every single committee is a Republican. Democrat bills, especially on matters relating to cannabis are a steep climb.

The path of least resistance is probably HB928. It was introduced by Representative Barry Jozwiak of Berks County. Jozwiak was a career law enforcement officer until he became a lawmaker just a few years ago. He is the type of champion that conservative Republicans like, a law and order man proposing a more reasonable approach. They can get behind that.

PORTJozwiakRep. Jozwiak introduced HB928 at the behest of Berks County District Attorney, John Adams. That also bodes well for us, an endorsement from a law and order District Attorney. Most of the cosponsors of HB928 are Republicans.

In April, we met with Chairman Marsico to discuss moving these bills to pass them out of committee so we can debate and get a floor vote. We suggested that the House Judiciary Committee hold hearings on HB195 and HB928.

Chairman Marsico and his chief of staff both seemed open to holding hearings on the bill but said that they were busy until at least June, which they indicated would be the earliest time to schedule such hearings. Chairman Marsico did not tip his hand but all three of us who attended the meeting agreed that he seemed to be ON OUR SIDE. The arguments we made in favor of decriminalization seemed to make sense to him and he seemed to agree that the time has come to address the need to take away the threat of jail and reduce penalties.

Well, here we are in July and still no word on hearings. No news of anything happening with HB195 or HB928. It’s just sitting there, in the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Ron Marsico.

In our conversation, Chairman Marsico admitted that HB928 had a far greater chance of passing than HB195. He seemed to be in favor of HB928. The problem was, HB928 had already been referred to the House Transportation Committee. We wanted that bill in Marsico’s committee and he did too, so he made a motion to have the bill re-referred to the Judiciary Committee and it was done. Now he has it and has complete power over it, to let it die or to pass it on to the House.

18156352_1227090214080164_8842963523030944600_oA couple weeks after our meeting with Marsico and his staff, we held the Pennsylvania Marijuana Decriminalization Rally in the Maine Rotunda of the State Capitol in Harrisburg. One of our speakers was Representative Ed Gainey, prime sponsor of HB195, the bill supported by KCC. Gainey took us to CHURCH with his soaring Martin Luther King-esqe rhetorical oratory. He stirred the passions in the 400 people who gathered to support immediate decriminalization and full legalization of cannabis.

Given our movements embrace and support of HB195 we think Representative Gainey has earned some serious political clout.

If the Republicans want to pass Representative Jozwiak’s HB928, they need the support of Ed Gainey and all of his cosponsors.

We are hoping to see some form of compromise between Gainey’s bill and Jozwiak’s bill. Maybe they can meet in the middle and come up with something that everyone can support. When hearings are held hopefully it will lead to the committee adopting language that we all can support.

When we passed hemp legislation the key were the senate and house Agriculture and Rural Affairs committees. We were told that most members of the legislature know nothing about agriculture, so if the ag committees pass on a bill it is almost always certain to pass.

In the same way, if the House Judiciary Committee passes on the billto the House it will be as though they baptized the bill, blessed it and passed it on with a strong recommendation of passing it. If we can get a floor vote, we will win. If we can win in the House then we will definitely win in the Senate and we know that Governor Wolf will sign it.

How do we get to that point though? What do we have to do to make this happen? We have to educate our lawmakers and press them to support and take action on HB195 and HB928. This is the order of importance of who we must convince.


1. Chairman Ron Marsico – Although every single committee member must be educated and asked to support HB195 and HB928, Marsico is the man who we must persuade to move this legislation. He is the man who wields ALL the power to move or to kill any bill in his committee. He represents Dauphin County and his cousin is the DA of Dauphin County, Ed Marsico. Ed Marsico was a supporter of the decriminalization ordinance passed by Harrisburg City Council in July of 2016. Call Ron Marsico’s office and ask him to hold hearings on HB195 and HB928. You can reach him at his Harrisburg office at (717) 652-3721 or his capitol office at (717) 783-2014.

2. Every member of the House Judiciary Committee – Next to Marsico, the next most important person to reach is Demoratic Chair Joseph Petrarca. All members of the Judiciary Committee must hear from citizens, must be educated and persuaded to support decrim and taking action in their committees. None of them wield the power of the chairman but we will have to count on their Yes votes. You can find Judiciary Committee members and their contact numbers on this site.

3. Every member of the General Assembly – Start with your own state senator and your own representative. Your state senator cannot cosponsor HB195 or HB928 because those are House bills. They still must be educated and their support for decrim must be achieved. Right now, most of our focus is on the Representatives in the House. Once the bill is passed out of committee and voted on and passed in the House then it will be time to focus all efforts on the Senate.

4. Public support – Without focused attention on dealing with the legislators in the General Assembly all the public support in the world won’t mean anything. However, although the most recent F&M poll showed that 56% of Pennsylvanians support full legalization of cannabis, there is still LOTS of resistance and some districts where support for legalization is lower than the state average. For this reason, continuing education of the public is absolutely necessary. To accomplish this, it is useful to write letters and op-eds to the newspapers, write blogs, share articles on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and anything else you can think of to educate as many people as you know why decriminalization and legalization are good policies.

I saw a story today called Despite Growing Support for Marijuana, Legalization Faces Rocky Road on It contained this quote:

“G. Terry Madonna, a public affairs professor who coordinates polling for Franklin and Marshall College, says legislatures are unlikely to take up legalization because most are controlled by Republicans who are less likely to support marijuana legalization and because supporters of legal marijuana don’t care enough about legalization to pressure lawmakers into voting for it.

9251426_orig“The question I always ask is, ‘Do [voters] care about it?’ ” he said. “What’s the level of concern that they have. And right now, for the vast majority of Americans, it’s not a cutting-edge issue.”

Sigh. “Supporters of legal marijuana don’t care enough about legalization to pressure lawmakers into voting for it.”

Is that true? Are our supporters too apathetic to win? There has been some truth to this so far. Lots of people have been doing work on this issue and KCC is on the front lines. We appreciate all of those who have stood with us and fought the battles so far. If we are going to win the next victory though it is going to take the continued effort of all of us AND we must grow our movement.

The decriminalization bills in the House Judiciary Committee are not dead. We have until the last day of December of next year before the bills are dead. Our goal has been to pass a decrim bill by the time the medical cannabis dispensaries open up. We are racing to meet that goal. If not, we MUST pass it before the current two year legislative session is up. Failure is not an option.

Take-A-Stand-e1397491401780I hope you can help KCC by joining in our efforts to persuade Chairman Marsico to hold hearings on HB195 and HB928, gain the support of every member of the Judiciary Committee and to garner enough support to win on the floor votes.

You can support the efforts of KCC by making a generous donation today.

Thank you, together with your help we WILL win!


Les Stark

Executive Director, Keystone Cannabis Coalition

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