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

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw63UTMfwwA
Part Two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csP-IUqHbd0
Part Three: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zZIEthP8e0

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