A local group based out of Waco is attempting to make a comeback after being relatively inactive for a year and a half.
NORML of Waco Inc., a sub-chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is a local non-profit organization founded in 2009 dedicated to changing cannabis laws in the Lone Star State and educating Central Texans on the plant, its history and uses.
In the words of executive director and founder Clif Deuvall, the organization is “starting from scratch.”
Held at C&R Sports Bar on Saturday, June 1, in all there were five people in attendance. The meeting lasted just over an hour and a half.
There was no agenda and Deuvall drifted from topic to topic during the meeting, touching on cannabis related bills introduced during the 2013 Texas legislative session, plans for their fourth annual birthday bash, the need for board members and volunteers, a website redesign and membership fees.
During the legislative session Deuvall visited the state capitol and talked with several legislators about cannabis and the two bills that were introduced.
The first bill, HB 184, would reduce penalties for the possession of one ounce or less to a $500 fine with no jail time. It would ultimately pass out of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee by a vote of 6-3 but would fail to see its way to the floor due to the Calendar Committee not scheduling the bill for a hearing.
A recent Reason-Rupe poll found that only 6% of Americans believe people should be jailed for possession of marijuana.
Seeking to help those who consume cannabis for medical purposes, HB 594 would have given patients an affirmative medical defense which could be used in court. Currently those who are prosecuted for possession are not allowed to claim in court that they use cannabis in a medical capacity. This bill died in committee, even though according to a recent survey in the New England Journal of Medicine, 76% would approve the use of marijuana as treatment.
Deuvall remarked “With the late legislative developments, the hearings of HB 594 and HB 184, and the passing of HB 184 in committee, I see a growing chapter involved in the development of a statewide, multi-organizational push for effective cannabis reform during the 2015 Texas Legislative Session.”
Moving on to the birthday bash, several bands have been lined up for the event, which is slated to take place on July 20 at Lakeside Tavern. Several other cannabis related organizations are expected to table booths at the event.
Following this the topic turned to the need for board members.
In all, four voting positions are vacant including Deputy Director, Communications Director, Secretary and Treasurer. The positions of Event Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator and NORML Women’s Alliance Representative are vacant as well.
Nominations for these positions will be taken during the July meeting and will be voted on during the August meeting.
Deuvall explained the need for quality leaders who will be able to dedicate the necessary time to the positions.
In order to become a member of the board a person must be a paid member of the organization. Membership dues for new members are $25, and $10 for those who are former members or are renewing. Students and disabled veterans will receive a special rate of $15.
He further stated that the chapter needs volunteers who are willing to put up fliers and help recruit new supporters and members.
Deuvall stated that he understands that people can be afraid of showing their support for such an organization, not necessarily due to fear of the government, but because of what their community or employers may think. While he encourages everyone to be vocal and supportive of legalizing or at least relaxing the laws on a plant which a majority of Americans believe should be legalized, he also says that anonymous donations can be made in support of the cause as well.
Originally founded in 2009 by Deuvall, he was the executive director of the organization until he stepped down to run for the Texas House of Representatives. Due to a medical condition sustained from injuries during his service in Vietnam, he was sidelined and forced out of the race. During this time the Waco chapter fell to inactivity.
Deuvall has high hopes though, stating that they “will just have to build back up.” Currently the organization has 10 paid members with an estimated 30 supporters. The group hopes to see some 75 former members renew their memberships in the near future.
Those interested may contact Deuvall by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.normlwacoinc.org. The group also has a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/NORML-of-Waco-Inc/121281251236475.