Pricilla Harris talks about the importance of advocating for marijuana legislative reform. She is the executive director of Sensible Movement Coalition and the lobbying director of NORML Appalachia Ohio. Both organizations are hosting “2022 Lobby Day” at the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio on 4-20, a day known as the international cannabis smoking day. The goal is to advocate for cannabis reform in the state of Ohio. Participants are expected to range from members of the general public to state legislatures and former professional football players who are advocates for the legalization of cannabis, based on personal appearances
Why did you plan a lobby day event?
Sensible Movement Coalition & NORML Appalachia Ohio have been spearheading a sensible approach to decriminalize cannabis up to 200 grams to “no fine-no jail time” across the state of Ohio.
So far, 30 cities have passed this very ordinance either by citizen’s initiatives, through our ballot process, or via legislation through city councils. We have protected over three million Ohioans since we began our campaign, and that number is projected to continue to rise.
Seeing the racial discrimination still happening in many communities across Ohio, we decided to write a white paper on statewide sensible cannabis decriminalization. This was quickly accepted by State Representatives Terrence Upchurch & Sedrick Denson and was incorporated into HB 210. This bill not only decriminalizes cannabis to the lowest level of enforcement (our “no fine no time policy) but also includes automatic expungement and a 12-plant home grow. That bill has been stuck in committee since the beginning of this 134th General Assembly.
In addition to HB 210, at the present time, there are currently six other cannabis bills in the state legislature. There are roughly seven months remaining in this legislative session. We need to push our lawmakers if we expect anything to be accomplished this year.
Why is the event on 420?
Everybody knows 4:20 as the time to smoke pot. And everybody knows 4/20 as the international pot-smoking day. Breathe deep folks, and remember…cannabis isn’t a bad thing. The entire nation knows what I’m talking about and why we are here today to lobby for change. We aren’t just a group of stoners celebrating. We are here to “Free the Weed” legislatively and stop the prosecutions of cannabis offenses. By the way, this isn’t just a workday for us. We have a social event planned for later in the day. It is 4/20 after all.
What do you hope to accomplish from the day of activities?
We are seeking to let our state lawmakers know that now is the time to legalize and decriminalize cannabis in a way that is sensible for all Ohioans, not just to benefit our evolving industry. We want legalization and decriminalization that is by the people and for the people. That must include the automatic expungement of prior offenses and a reasonable homegrow allowance of no less than 12 plants per household.
How and why did you get involved with the Sensible Movement Coalition?
After seeing friends and others close to me suffer because of our state’s cannabis laws I wanted to influence policy in a way that would have an immediate impact on the lives of Ohioans. I began working on Sensible Decrim at the local level during my time with Cleveland NORML. I realized that Sensible Decrim was the best way to address the unfair and unequal enforcement of a law that, itself, is unjust. Later, a group of like-minded activists came together and founded SMC to teach others how they too can help change the laws in their communities.
How are you feeling in general about Ohio’s Cannabis Journey?
I personally feel very blessed to be actively involved and able to watch the progress we have made in the cannabis movement. It’s inevitable that legalization/decriminalization will happen in Ohio, with or without the support of our legislators. The people are making our voices heard. It’s time they truly listen to their constituents or get replaced. We need progressive leadership that will stand up for Ohioans.
On another note, if our legislators pass an adult-use legalization/ decriminalization bill and some parts need to be amended they can. If the people take it to the ballot and it passes, there is no way to amend the law without going back to the ballot box. That’s something the legislators should really take into consideration before denying the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative & sending us back out to get the remaining signatures. We will succeed, and shame on the current leadership that is blocking current reform efforts. Some smoke for the soul… Look at our federal representatives and what is trending at the federal level.
Why are you interested in participating in OCHBS in the fall?
It’s an opportunity to support the industry, and to network with other activists, industry professionals, and experts in cannabis business and advocacy. Any time that there is an opportunity to connect and work with others it’s something I feel we should take advantage of, especially when it comes to fighting for our individual rights. It’s un-American to do anything else.