An ever-growing group of strong, motivated women is captivating the cannabis community with a new organization called The International Women’s Cannabis Coalition. The IWCC was founded December 5 of this year on the premise of uniting dedicated women to end cannabis prohibition worldwide. They aim to do so by promoting education and creating conversation about the positive aspects of the cannabis plant.

“Locally, nationally and internationally, The International Women's Cannabis Coalition is a vocal advocate for the legalization of cannabis. We aim to be recognized in every corner of the globe and to help create a better and safer future for our children.” Mission Statement, IWCC website 

As we all know, the war on cannabis is a war on families. The IWCC as women, wives and mothers, sisters and daughters, the cornerstones of the family unit, are tired of watching families torn apart, loved ones die, and children taken from their families over a natural, beneficial, and often lifesaving plant. These are women whose first concern is family and they know that the repeal of cannabis prohibition would return the decisions about cannabis back to individuals, which is where they belong.

The IWCC kicked off right away with their “Under the Rainbow” project, which is a wonderful way for the group to support many different causes that need immediate attention by the cannabis community. You can even submit your own cause for assistance through their website at In addition to the “Under the Rainbow” project, The IWCC is also forming more permanently focused Outreach Teams to assist with CPS defense and Veterans issues, and already has event dates scheduled and posted through the end of the year.

Although this is a brand new organization, their fan base is exploding on social media networks, with numbers in the thousands in just the early weeks. The IWCC kicked off their public debut with 56 chapters spanning the globe in 5 different countries, with many more in the works, and plans to incorporate both in the United States and Canada. It’s no surprise that people are so taken with this group already; The IWCC founders’ backgrounds are as diverse as they are varied and as an incredibly inclusive group, they strive to build their strength from this diversity, welcoming anyone and everyone who wants to find a place in the activist community.

“While we are an organization founded by women, for women and run by women, we know we would not be here without the loving support of our men behind us! Everyone, man and woman is welcome at The IWCC.” –IWCC Facebook page

The ladies responsible for bringing all of this together, Candace Junkin, Diane-Marie Jensen, and Cheri Shaw, are the most down to earth, passionate, and welcoming ladies you will ever meet, each one bringing something special to the table at The IWCC.

“I have seen with my own eyes how cannabis prohibition is harming our families far worse than cannabis itself. I know that women were instrumental in ending alcohol prohibition in the 1930's and I believe women have a pivotal voice in the movement to end cannabis prohibition today.” Candace Junkin, co-founder  

“The war on cannabis goes much deeper than the average person thinks. There are people dying daily because they can't access this simple plant that can give them a chance at a better life. We can't just sit back and watch the vultures feed off our bloody corpses...we can't just sit back and watch our babies least I can't, so I fight.” Cheri Shaw, co-founder

“Activism comes with its ups and downs, but they are all worth their while, because somewhere, somehow, for someone other than yourself, you ARE making a difference. Believe in yourself...others do! I am proud to be a co-founder of the International Women's Cannabis Coalition and I am very proud of the women who stand behind it.” Diane-Marie Jensen, co-founder

Collectively, these ladies’ accomplishments and previous involvement in the cannabis activist community is astounding, with a list of fundraisers, publications, and rallies a mile long. And while they are all very experienced activists themselves, they continue to stress the practice of inclusion in the IWCC, making certain that everyone has the opportunity to get involved as much or as little as possible, and allowing for productive and effective activism by handling the structural details with utmost professionalism.

It is a pleasure to introduce this amazing group of women, so go visit them on Facebook at, on the web at, or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to get involved or get connected with a chapter of The International Women’s Cannabis Coalition in your area! ~


Building A Foundation


In participating, advocating, lobbying, and testifying throughout the course of the 2013 Texas legislative session, there is much that I (as well as many others) have learned. But be mindful of that learning process for it is the place where we, as advocates, can gain the tools and discipline required to build a strong foundation with our Texas State Representatives. I admit that when I testified for the first time at a public hearing in 2011, I was skeptical, intimidated, nervous, and quite weary of hidden agendas and tactics to silence the issue of cannabis reform altogether. There was indeed plenty for me to learn as it took me some time to realize exactly how important the act of establishing these relationships would be; I had stepped into new territory but steadily encouraged my willingness to learn more.

My first impression of the Texas Legislature in 2011 as compared to this session of 2013 is night and day; for anyone who experienced the two sessions, I honestly believe, you would agree. But the political climate has changed in 2013, and so don’t be shocked or surprised when I say that the Texas Legislature is ready to have this conversation. While we are not running a race but more of a marathon, we are inevitably making progress, and let’s be honest with ourselves in saying that any kind of progress is better than no progress at all. As this progress may not be in the form of actual laws just yet, the biggest change that we’ve achieved here in Texas is in the act of starting the conversation, starting the discussion. Conversation of the issues pertaining to cannabis reform and medical cannabis in general is exactly what needs to happen for any real change to take place and be brought forth.

We have seen history unfold here in Texas in 2013. For the first time, we finally had a bill get voted out of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee; though stalled in Calendars, House Bill 184 would have lowered the penalty for possession of up to an ounce or less to a C Misdemeanor for first time offenders under the age of 21. As some may not agree with the age limit that had been amended into this bill, it would have been beneficial in at least keeping our younger individuals out of the prison system, which in my opinion, would have been a start. Coming from the standpoint of a medical cannabis patient though, I personally disagree about this being a “maturity issue” and disagree for the need of an age limit because for those suffering with disease and disability (regardless of age), we are forced to make mature decisions about our health and quality of life each and every day.

With House Bill 594, the affirmative defense bill which had been introduced over the previous five legislative sessions, history was made as we finally received our first public hearing from the Public Health Committee; though not getting voted out of committee, the hearing in of itself was progress as it brought out the need for medical cannabis legislation into the open! If anything, our legislators became more aware of the need to protect patients who use cannabis to alleviate the pains and symptoms of legitimate bona-fide medical conditions; they are also became more aware of the need to protect doctors to openly discuss or suggest cannabis as a possible treatment option for their patients. Therefore, it is up to us as participating lobbyists and advocates, to continue to educate our lawmakers on and about the change we are seeking and why.

Another aspect that we should all keep in mind and not underestimate is the national picture and its influence that it can have on surrounding or individual states, because let’s be truthful here, the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington set off more than just a light-bulb, it set off a beacon and with 18 medical cannabis states to add to that, and a few more to add by 2014, I’d say that the scales are about to tip; it’s only a matter of time!

As constituents of the state of Texas, we should hold our heads high and be inspired by the progress we have made for we have taken the first steps in building that strong foundation, that strong relationship with our lawmakers. It’s all about having the freedom to openly discuss and be attentive to the issues pertaining to cannabis reform and the thousands of medical patients that could benefit from the legislation of medical cannabis. I believe the issue speaks for itself of the conversation we will be having even more-so in Texas.

It’s about maintaining the discipline to not get angry, upset, and disappointed by the outcomes of these bills, and by seeing the good in the lessons we’ve learned even if no laws have been passed or made just yet.  It’s a work-in-progress that’s going to take some time and there’s plenty of work for us to do. From this point on, all the way to 2015, it’s of great importance that we continue to build on what’s been learned and established with the 2013 Texas legislature. How we can do this is by maintaining contact with the representatives that we established chemistry with and continue to talk about the issues, because chances are quite a few of these state representatives will be returning come next session.

We must be unwavering, dedicated, focused, respectful, and disciplined, for how we present ourselves today can greatly affect the influences and outcomes of tomorrow, but it is time to definitely talk about cannabis! ~




Rep Elliott Naishtat


In February 2013, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Texas State Representative Elliott Naishtat-D; this native New Yorker who has lived in Texas for forty-one years has not only earned a Masters in Social Work and Law from the University of Texas, but has become a consistent proponent in trying to bring-forth a bill (for the protection of medical marijuana patients and their physicians) over the legislative sessions of 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011, and the current session of 2013. We talked about plenty, from a possible affirmative defense to the national picture, legislator support, and simply where we are in Texas!

AUSTIN420: For our readers out there, can you explain what House Bill 594 would do for medical marijuana patients and their physicians?

NAISHTAT: It would not legalize anything, and that’s why I think it has a chance of gaining momentum to create an “affirmative defense”. And the best way to explain it is this way: If you have a bona-fide medical condition, a legitimate condition (AIDS, Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Glaucoma), and you’re experiencing pain, and your physician, your licensed doctor, suggests that you try marijuana for medicinal purposes, the doctor might say, ‘You know, I can’t prescribe anything because it’s illegal, but I’m going to suggest, to recommend that you try this. We’ve tried just about everything that is out there and it hasn’t worked. You still have chronic and debilitating pain. This will help you to work, if you want to try to work. This will help you live’. So, here are two hurdles or pre-conditions, a bona-fide medical condition recognized by your doctor and the doctor suggesting or recommending that you try marijuana to relieve the effects, the symptoms of the condition. Let’s say that you’re in your house and you’re smoking some marijuana and they break-down the door, arrest you and bust you; that’s where the “affirmative defense” kicks in. So, per the affirmative defense, you would be authorized to go to court, go before the judge to say, ‘Your Honor, look at me, I have multiple sclerosis, or I have AIDS. I am not a criminal. My doctor suggested I try this. It’s working for me. It helps me live and work with the pain associated with my condition.’ And the judge (per this legislation) would be able to look you in the eyes and say ‘Go home, I’m going to dismiss the charges.’ Included in the legislation, are protections for physicians. So that if they do this, law enforcement can’t come after them. Someone told me that doctors can’t, that they break some code or by laws if they talk about illicit drugs or suggest the use of them, that’s why we put the protections in there. This is a bill that helps people who are sick and again, it doesn’t legalize anything.

AUSTIN420: What personally inspired and encouraged you to write this bill?

NAISHTAT: It was people coming here, several who had been busted and arrested. So, over the next 3 sessions, ’07, ’09, and ’11, the bill (not sure why) was not referred to the criminal jurisprudence committee. I think it was referred instead to the Public Health Committee, and the Chair in ’07 said, ‘I understand what you’re trying to do and we’re not ready for it’. The next session, (and I’m on the Public Health Committee as Vice-Chair) the Chairman wouldn’t give me a hearing. She said, “Why build-up peoples hopes Elliott, it’s not going to go anywhere, it will not get out of the Public Health Committee. Why waste peoples time, why waste the committee’s time?’ So we didn’t get a hearing. Last session, she said the same thing. But last session, we didn’t have a lot of people coming in saying they wanted to work on it. Last session she said, ‘I really don’t want to take the committee’s time. If you really insist on it, I’ll let you have a hearing’. And we made some phone calls and checked with Dorothy Brown and she said, ‘not much has really come in.’ I assume she would have given me a hearing, if I had said, ‘I’ve got to have a hearing; please let’s just have a hearing’, but I didn’t see any reason to push it, for a bunch of reasons, political reasons. So now, we’ve come to this session, she got reappointed Chair of the Public Health Committee, she’s a Republican, I’m the Vice-Chair and I’m a Democrat, and a lot of stuff has happened. After the last several years, there are now 18 states (plus D.C.) that have either legalized the medicinal use of marijuana or in one way or another authorized its use without legalizing it. Plus, we have the state of Washington and the state of Colorado who have legalized!

AUSTIN420: And that walks right into my next question about how the national picture of the cannabis movement” has been influential to the Texas Legislature?

NAISHTAT: Well, I don’t know, but I will get a hearing this time. I’ve been talking to members on The Public Health Committee or who are interested in Health and getting much-more positive feedback. A couple of members have said “let me think about this Elliott”; they’re not just saying, “No I can’t”. We reelected a bunch of sort of Right-wing Republican Tea-Party Libertarians and I’ve talked to two or three, explaining it so carefully that ‘this does not legalize anything, doctors cannot prescribe this per HB594’ and they are saying, ‘this is good for everybody, it protects those who are sick, a doctor has to be involved, the doctor is protected and a judge can say, ‘charges dismissed; go home’.

AUSTIN420: This has been your 5th time in introducing an affirmative defense bill, what has been the major difference this time around?

NAISHTAT: There’s been a lot of attention focused on health care, via the Affordable Care Act, so it’s very much on the eyes and ears of this country. Two states (while this generated a ton of publicity) have legalized marijuana for recreational use. We know that there are now 18 states (including D.C.) that have legalized medicinal marijuana or have come up with a way to authorize its use. There’s also been a lot of publicity about what’s happening in California with distribution and clinics, and so it’s more on people’s minds than it ever has been. A lot of the press has been negative, it’s all been critical, and this affirmative defense bill avoids all of the problems that have been articulated, because it doesn’t pretend to legalize anything. There’s nothing in there except an individual who has a bona-fide medical condition and his or her doctor, and the doctor says, ‘it might help, there’s been a lot of studies. I know people who’ve had positive results using marijuana, why don’t you try it.’ It puts in a protection for the doctor; the doctor can’t prescribe it he can only suggest it and then IF you get arrested, all you do is go before the judge. No laws have changed, nothing’s been legalized and the judge would be authorized (by this bill) to say, ‘you’re obviously not a criminal, you’re a sick person whose dealing with the pain; go home.’

AUSTIN420: If passed, do you think an affirmative defense law could be the stepping stone to opening the discussion for a broader medical marijuana bill in the future?

NAISHTAT: It could be. Right now, what I am trying to do is be realistic about where we are in Texas. I am trying to get a bill through that will help people who are sick. If this opens doors to a better approach for people who are ill and have a bona-fide medical condition, so be it. There’s one bill that’s been introduced this session that would decriminalize marijuana, a certain amount; it would still be illegal but that’s not what my bill is about. I’ve been asked many times about the slippery-slope, the Trojan-Horse, but I don’t get into that. For me, this is not step one, I don’t have a hidden agenda; this is what I want to do. What that does down-the-line is up to the people.

AUSTIN420: The Texas Democratic Party’s platform now endorses both medical marijuana and decriminalization, would you consider being a co-sponsor or support Rep. Dutton’s HB184 (which would reduce the penalty for possession of an ounce or less to a Class C Misdemeanor)?

NAISHTAT: I would consider it, but I don’t want members of the legislature, or the public, to get confused as to what I’m trying to do. Harold is a dear friend; we’ve talked about it, and as far as me getting this bill through, which I think has a much better chance than decriminalizing, I haven’t decided yet whether that would help or hurt “my efforts” to get this bill passed and Harold understands that. ~


Let The Dominoes Fall


For the first time ever, recreational use and possession of marijuana has been legalized! It may only be in two states, but this is a game changer for public policy regarding marijuana.

Residents (and visitors) to both Colorado and Washington will no longer face arrest or prosecution for being in possession of marijuana, and in Colorado even growing up to six plants for recreational use is now legal. Both states passed their respective legalization ballot initiatives by a solid ten point margin (Colorado’s Amendment 64 and Washington’s I-502), and both will now allow adults, 21 and older, to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

Both states will license commercial growers and producers to sell marijuana to adults for recreational use, including infused products, and neither will alter the existing medical marijuana laws. To say this election was historic would be a massive understatement.

Although the victories weren’t a big surprise (both initiatives held consistent leads in polling), the reality of it has yet to fully sink in. Meanwhile, the positive effects from these newly passed initiatives have already begun. Just three days after the election, Dan Satterberg, prosecutor in King County, Washington (that state’s largest county including Seattle), announced the dismissal of all misdemeanor marijuana possession cases. Multiple other counties in Washington followed suit, as did prosecutors in Boulder and Denver, Colorado, sending a strong message that they’re ready to embrace this new public policy.


History In The Making

News of the initiatives reverberated across the globe as well, quickly getting the attention of Latin American leaders including those from Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica. A week after the election, a joint statement was given by the Presidents of those countries calling for the United Nations' General Assembly to hold a special session on drug prohibition by no later than 2015. U.N. drug treaties currently oblige all signatories to prohibit drug legalization, including marijuana, so hearing the call for a special session on that subject is refreshing. At the same time, Uruguay is on the verge of legalizing marijuana for its citizens, and in September Guatemala's president, Otto Pérez Molina, proposed legalizing drugs at the U.N. General Assembly. Significant changes to drug policy in the United States, the world’s biggest consumer of drugs, as well as a leader in the drug war, would undoubtedly push other countries to follow, increasing the real potential to bring about a change at the international level.

Back in the states, even as activists celebrate, they are taking notes and preparing to push forward with many more attempts across the country. Colorado and Washington weren’t the only states with marijuana legalization initiatives on their ballots this year. Oregon had one on their ballot, which lost on election day, but there were three other states who tried and fell short of the signatures needed; California, Missouri, and Michigan. For the most part, the four who missed their chance this year will be trying again within the next five years, and in states like Oregon or California it’s highly likely that legalization will happen sooner rather than later. Preparations are already being made for new legalization initiatives in many states including, California, Oregon, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Montana, all of which would have at least a decent chance of winning if they could succeed in making the ballot. All of these developments are happening in the wake of continued federal crackdowns on medical marijuana businesses in several states, setting up a renewed showdown between state and federal law in Colorado and Washington.

Regardless of the federal response, in all of these places local and state authorities are moving forward with the new laws. The week following the election, Washington’s new Governor-elect, Jay Inslee, held a press conference during which he said it would be in the best interest “not only of our state, but in our country” for President Obama and the federal government to allow the new law to move forward. And, on December 6th, Washington’s I-502 officially went into effect, with “Legalization Day” events all over the state starting the minute the clocks struck midnight. It was a blessed sight for activists to see adults in our country legally lighting up and consuming cannabis without fear of arrest or prosecution!

Not to be outdone, Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper, on December 10th, signed an executive order formalizing Amendment 64 as part of their state Constitution, making legalization official nearly a month before the January 5th date it was originally scheduled to take effect. Governor Hickenlooper told reporters he saw no reason to wait, and didn’t see any point in allowing the Amendment to take effect without his proclamation, saying, “If the voters go out and pass something and they put it in the state constitution, by a significant margin, far be it from myself or any governor to overrule. I mean, this is why it’s a democracy, right?”

Interestingly, the federal government was mostly silent on the ballot initiatives not only prior to the election, but also after they passed. That is, until President Obama himself told ABC News’ Barbara Walters: “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal. … We’ve got bigger fish to fry.” He went on to say that he does not “at this point” support widespread marijuana legalization (which appears to be a change from previous statements he has made on the subject), and that it “is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law.”

U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, had previously told Bloomberg News that the administration would formally announce its intentions “relatively soon,” but he gave no details or indications as to what they might be. Of course, the federal government already does not use its resources to go after individual users for minor possession, which leaves open the very real possibility that they will be going after the growers and sellers. But, in both Colorado and Washington, growers and retailers will be licensed and strictly regulated directly by the state governments, just as the medical marijuana dispensary system in Colorado is done. This is the reason many people believe, that Colorado dispensaries have largely been spared the widespread federal crackdown that has plagued those businesses in California. Still, it will take up to a year for Colorado and Washington to work out their business models, and get retailers up and running.

As these two states begin the process of mapping out a legal marketplace for recreational marijuana, activists around the globe and here in Texas are just giddy at the idea that we have now seen the first two legalization dominoes fall, and will be eagerly awaiting as the remaining dominoes drop. Let the dominoes fall, and let’s get marijuana legalized for adults everywhere! ~


Can You Smell It?

This year could likely be the most significant in marijuana law reform history. In case you hadn’t heard, three states, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, will be voting on some form of marijuana legalization on November 6th, and two states, Arkansas and Massachusetts, will be voting on medical marijuana.

Perhaps even more significant than all of these proposals, are the recent nationwide polling numbers regarding marijuana legalization. In October, 2011, for the first time ever, Gallup reported a plurality of Americans, 50%, were in favor of legalizing marijuana, with 46% opposed. Then, in March, 2012, Rasmussen also reported a plurality of Americans in favor of “legalizing and taxing” marijuana (47% favored, 42% opposed) in order to “help the nations financial problems.” However, the biggest news came just a few months later when Rasmussen, again, asked the question, but with a slightly different slant. In May, Rasmussen asked Americans if they were favored legalizing and regulating marijuana “in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco,” and the answer was overwhelmingly yes, with 56% in favor and just 36% opposed. Considering the polling trend over the past decade, this most recent poll seems to suggest that we are nearing a point where Americans support marijuana legalization at a two to one margin. This is huge news, but it doesn’t necessarily mean an easy or quick victory.

The last time any state voted on marijuana legalization was in 2010, when California’s Prop. 19 was voted down in what many people viewed as an upset. That defeat, despite widespread support of marijuana legalization in California, demonstrated the complicated nature of voter ballot initiatives, and also highlighted fault lines in the activist community. Marijuana law reform activists and supporters are not a monolithic group. More than fifteen years of legal medical marijuana in California, brought about by the passage of Prop. 215 in 1996, have changed the activist landscape there and, more broadly, the west coast. Subgroups and alternate factions of activists, with different goals and agendas, have popped up not just in California, but in many states which have seen years of legal medical marijuana access.

Differences between activist groups were highlighted prior to California’s vote on Prop. 19. Some medical marijuana activists feared it would harm their access, and some legalization activists feared it didn’t go far enough, or still included too many restrictions. The problem with that logic is medical marijuana has been increasingly under attack, and even in California, according to the California Criminal Justice Statistics Center, misdemeanor arrests for marijuana have sharply increased over the past 20 years to record levels of nearly 55,000 per year, comprising 22% of all drug arrests. Marijuana possession arrests in California have increased more than 100% since 1990. Nationwide in that same time, marijuana arrests have increased more than 250%, going from 326,850 to more than 850,000, and nearly 90% of those arrests are for possession. What conclusion should activists take from this?

Despite the success of medical marijuana laws, there is much more work to be done in order to end the massive number of marijuana arrests nationwide. And if history is any indicator of how to accomplish that, states like California will have to take the lead as they did with medical marijuana. Since California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, 16 other states, and Washington D.C., have followed suit. Even with more than one third of our country having passed some form of medical marijuana, our Federal government has not yet moved on the issue.

Enactment of marijuana prohibition didn’t happen overnight; neither will its end. 

Consider that the first state to pass a law against marijuana was Massachusetts in 1911, 26 years before Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. During the 26 years between Massachusetts’ law and the Tax Act, nearly 20 other states passed anti-marijuana laws. Solidification of marijuana prohibition came more than thirty years after the Tax Act, when it was listed as a Schedule I Controlled Substance under 1970’s Controlled Substances Act, after which marijuana arrests began to balloon. The lesson here is that changing established public policy is not something that can be accomplished uniformly, quickly, or easily. But, nationwide policy is more likely to change as more states join in, and this November could very well bring about the first state to vote for legal marijuana. If so, it will likely be the first in a long line of states to do so before the Federal government.

For that reason it is imperative for marijuana law reform activists in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, to put everything into passing their respective legalization initiatives.

The sooner we can get the first “domino” to fall, the quicker more broad changes will happen. Activists fighting against activists are delaying progress, and they should keep in mind that public opinion plays a vital role in voter initiatives. If 56% support legalizing and regulating marijuana “in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco,” it’s highly likely the number will significantly drop without sensible regulations. Even many in the legalization community agree with some sensible regulations, especially if that expedites an end to hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests every year.

Ending those arrests is the goal of organizations like NORML, and that is why we support any and all steps in that direction. Whether it’s a decriminalization bill, an affirmative defense medical bill, (both of which NORML has supported in Texas for years) or if it’s a legalization bill (with regulations) in Colorado, Oregon, or Washington, NORML supports any and all chances at protecting responsible, adult marijuana consumers from arrest and imprisonment.

Election Day 2012 is November 6th, so keep an eye on Colorado, Oregon, and Washington to see who will be first to legalize. Keep an eye on Arkansas and Massachusetts to see who will be the next medical marijuana state.

It is the biggest Election Day in the history of marijuana law reform.~


For more information on marijuana law reform around the country, visit: