Las Vegas NORML
Madisen Saglibene | Executive Director | Las Vegas NORML
Feature: Madisen Saglibene (G is silent, like lasagna. Sal-i-bay-knee)
Company: Las Vegas NORML
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Website: www.norml.org www.lvnorml.org
This year the Las Vegas Nightclub and Bar Conference had a cannabis section. Way to go 2018! The section was small but it was so amazing to see it there at all. It just reminds me of all the progress this industry is making, and I know that the cannabis section will just get bigger and bigger year after year.
I met Madisen as I was browsing the cannabis section at the Las Vegas Nightclub and Bar Conference during a break. She was so upbeat and excited to be there that we just hit it off. She told me about an event that NORML does with dogs which of course caught my attention and things just excelled from there. I was able to get an interview with her before I headed back out to the EU, and got all the details on the dog event as well as other things that the infamous NORML is up to in the even more infamous Las Vegas.
CM: Hey Madisen, I am so glad we got to do this interview, I feel like NORML has so much great information for the public and its just a matter of getting people to that information. Can we start off with you telling our readers a little bit about NORML and what it is that your company strives to do?
Madisen with NORML: Hey Shauna, thank you so much for giving us this opportunity with Cannabis Magazine. I’d be really happy to. NORML is the National Organization for the reform of marijuana laws and has been an organization since 1970. In the last 50 years we’ve really expanded. We have over 120 chapters Nationwide and we even have chapters in New Zealand, Ireland, and Canada.
NORML has been behind virtually every legalization effort. Our local Las Vegas chapter is a Grassroots organization that is working in the community to educate about marijuana, reform marijuana laws and protect responsible cannabis consumers in Las Vegas and Greater Nevada.
We feel like we cover a wide range here locally. We host panels, volunteer in community gardens and even attend to various hearings.
I feel like we are doing our best to be a positive influence in the community as marijuana proponents.
CM: Wow, 1970, that is amazing! I did notice that NORML was all over the country, I didn’t realize it was worldwide! That is such a great thing to have expanded so much and so far. So, in Las Vegas, we are coming up on our one year of legal recreational cannabis. What is the biggest issue NORML is currently working on?
Madisen with NORML: Thank you for acknowledging!
We’ve really come a long way in those years and it’s exciting to see that we are now being taken seriously, which was not something that NORML’s founder Keith Stroup often ran into back in the day.
Since we voted yes on question 2 in Nevada, there are actually some minor marijuana related offenses that qualify to be sealed off an individual’s record. We are really working hard in the state now to have the records of some of these individuals sealed, because we are finding that this is becoming something that disqualifies an individual for working in the marijuana industry. It’s a total shame, but a valuable part of the workforce is being shut out from our emerging industry based on past marijuana offenses! We hope that with the support of community lawyers and other government agencies that we can really provide some social justice here in Nevada.
We are also really focused on working with employers on developing fair drug testing policies.
I am actually working now with the Bartender’s and Culinary Union to provide them with my knowledge on this subject so they can keep that in mind when negotiating contracts. The Union is most of Las Vegas’ hospitality industry, so if NORML had influence in that, I would feel accomplished.
CM: Since record sealing is the next hot project, can you dive in a little deeper and tell us exactly how this is affecting people trying to get into the cannabis industry and is it affecting those in need of its products?
Madisen with NORML: Yeah, so as part of a requirement to get into any marijuana establishment as an employee, an agent card is required. In order to obtain this agent card, an individual has to undergo the vetting process through the state. This is where the state does the background check and finds out about any criminal records.
We understand that this is a mechanism in order to protect the industry, however, we would really like to see a little bit more effort on behalf of the State to try to reconcile this like many other US cities are.
In the meantime, we are just trying to educate people trying to work in the cannabis industry on how they would proceed if they did have a criminal record. They would need to make sure they qualify, then try to seal it. Once that is the case, we can get them the legal assistance so that they have an equal chance of hire.
CM: Well I can definitely see how that process must be a struggle and somewhat frustrating. For those that need help actually getting their records sealed, where should they start and what other information can you give them on moving forward in this process?
Madisen with NORML: The really upsetting thing about Nevada, is that our record sealing process has not been made easy. Unlike a lot of states, we don’t allow for “expungements” but instead we only allow “record sealing”. This is kind of limited because depending on who the employer is and the level of security clearance, an employer may very well be able to see the records still.
Being that it is more difficult here in Nevada, an individual who wants to seal all their record must first have a really strong commitment to want to do so. If a person decides that they really want to commit to this process, they should know that we are 100% here to support them and guide them through the entire thing.
It won’t be easy and it may take time, however, they are not alone. We will be able to provide the application and all the details, as well as facilitate to relationships with Attorneys and Legal Aid to make sure we get people headed in the right direction.
CM: Sounds like NORML really does a lot for people. It is so great to know that there are companies out there willing to help. Speaking of help, I understand that NORML is a nonprofit. How can people get involved and help you guys out?
Madisen with NORML: Being that we are a nonprofit that is completely driven by volunteers, we are always looking for people to help. Right now we are collecting donations to help pay for some of the fees for applicants, as well as looking for sponsors to partner with us in this movement.
The record sealing process can be very costly for some, so we really would like to help with that.
We will be holding record sealing seminars quarterly so that people who are curious about the process can come and learn more. If anyone would like to volunteer for these events, they can reach out to me directly by email.
There is a class that can be taken here in Las Vegas that is offered by Legal Aid to teach people the specifics. We recommend anyone that helps us to take the class in order to be best educated. We never want to provide misinformation, and at the end of the day we aren’t lawyers and cannot offer legal advice. Just tell them the steps they can take themselves.
CM: Since NORML is a National Organization the amount of political work you do is tremendous. I would love for you to talk a little bit about some of the new federal bills and how those could effect the forward move within the Cannabis industry.
Madisen with NORML: Nationally, NORML is prioritizing a few really key components to furthering our movement.
Right now the FDA is accepting public comment regarding the International De-schedule of Cannabis. THIS WOULD BE HUGE!
Among other things, cannabis doesn’t share the same high abuse potential that other schedule 1 drugs do. We would like to see it removed like legal substances such as tobacco and alcohol. The next thing really boils down to each state telling congress to reject Jeff Session’s on his reversal of the Cole Memo.
We really need our representatives to stand up in Congress and represent the voice of their constituents and acknowledge the will of the voters! If we voted in legal marijuana, the feds should respect states rights. Then, we are pushing for Cory Booker’s marijuana justice act which as of TODAY Bernie Sanders signed on to! This would deschedule cannabis and also provide support to those most impacted by the war on drugs.
CM: Along with that you mentioned earlier a fair workplace drug testing policy. Can you expand on this issue and what you guys are doing to help in this matter as well?
Madisen with NORML: I’m so glad you asked more about this topic! This is obviously a really hot topic right now and we spent tons of time and have done our due diligence to really try to understand what it is we can do. It’s hard because you can’t really tell a private business what to do and who they can hire.
What we can do, is educate them on certain types of drug testing and why it is either inefficient or ineffective. So this is a start.
As I mentioned previously, I am working with the Union here in town specifically to educate them on why testing for cannabis is a form of discrimination among a valuable part of the Nevada workforce. There has actually been software developed that has staff complete a series of puzzles upon clock in, to test if any, the level of impairment. This is a pretty cool development and companies that are using this software have seen a significant decline in workplace accidents and workers comp cases.
The businesses that utilize the Services don’t punish workers for failure of the puzzles, but rather use is it as a tool to keep it a safe workplace. They often find other easier administrative type jobs for people to do in the meantime. Eleven states have laws that specifically protect medical marijuana patients’ workplace rights.
In California, the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that Prop 215 does not protect workers’ rights; the effort underway to strengthen employment rights for medical marijuana patients. Legislation would explicitly bar employers from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test.
There are some links as well that can provide a closer look…
CM: Awesome! We have heard a lot about what is currently going on which has been phenomenal! However, on a larger scale, I would love to hear your thoughts on where you feel NORML will be in 5 years or so.
Madisen with NORML: What a cool question!
I think that as a national organization we will still be relevant across the country until every state has fully legalized and provided freedom for cannabis and it users.
I think that now more than ever, we have a really strong team on our national board of Directors that are taking us in the right direction. Politically, we are being taken much more seriously and I can personally thank our national political director Justin Street for that. He is a fantastic advocate and is really insuring that chapters are succeeding.
In 5 years, we will be just as relevant as ever and I think by then we will be protecting workers more and patients who need to cross state lines.
I hope to be running the Nevada State NORML chapter by then and living up north…like Tahoe. I really love Northern Nevada and feel like being closer to Carson City, our states capital, would be great for advocacy. I’m shooting for the stars! I am even working with women from NORML chapters over the country to rekindle the NORML Women’s group. I’d love to see us have a fully functioning Women’s Alliance in those 5 years!
CM: I love all of that, and Tahoe. It is so beautiful up there! I definitely think that the Women’s Alliance group is going to be a huge thing as well! I mean even just looking at what all the women in this country have done in the last year is massive! Plus so far the cannabis industry has been a little male heavy and getting women involved is wonderful! Adding on to the last question, do you see all 50 states adapting to allowing cannabis to become a normal venture?
Madisen with NORML: There are a few states that are really going to hold out for a while I think. Kansas and Oklahoma are really going to put up a big fight so as long as we can win these guys over I would say yes. Its going to take a lot of advocacy and education in those States to do so though.
CM: I know we have been talking a lot about NORML and what they do. Before we wrap up I would love to know a little more about you and what brought you into the cannabis industry.
Madisen with NORML: I have always just truly enjoyed being able to medicate freely with cannabis and though I am fortunate to say I have never been in legal trouble, it was always a wedge with my family. It was always something that my coworkers and colleagues at school judged me for too.
Even though I graduated with a bachelor’s degree and have an extraordinary work ethic, it was still something people felt like they could stereotype me over. I’ve hated that over the years, because I strongly feel that if you are lazy or lacking motivation, then the marijuana has nothing to do with that.
I’ve never wanted to get paid in the industry, rather just try to be a positive force that can educate so that just maybe people start to look at marijuana consumers differently. That is part of the reason why we started participating in the paws on the patio events. We felt like the audience at these events weren’t your typical marijuana Consumers, so it was a great place to educate people. Not to mention we felt like the best way to get to someone’s heart is through their pet!
CM: Well that is definitely the way to my heart! I am so glad you mentioned Paw on the Patio because that was my last question! I understand that these are summer events and I would absolutely LOVE to hear more about it! Also, if you have a date for the next one please!
Madisen with NORML: I apologize that we don’t have a day set for the next one, however paws on the patio is a really great time. It’s basically just an excuse to get out with your friends and pets at a local restaurant or bar! People really enjoy it because it’s often at places that many people over look, so it’s also a great introduction of a new spot!
Its super fun because the vendors are all pet friendly, so there are always lots of cool products to try. We actually have a sponsor that is a CBD infused powder that gets sprinkled on dog food to relieve a variety of symptoms including itching, anxiety and weak joints.
We really enjoyed handing out free samples and educating people about using CBD for your furry friends.
People don’t realize that veterinarian visit and pharmaceuticals are really the most expensive approach, but CBD is preventative and helps heal the cause for any other symptoms.
CM: That sounds right up my alley and I cannot wait for these events to start! Whenever you get a date for the first one of 2018 let us know and we can update to let people know! Thank you so much Madisen for taking the time to chat with us about some of the amazing things you and your NORML team are doing.
Madisen with NORML: Thank you so much for reaching out and letting us speak to current events within the industry! Don’t forget we are always looking for new board members and active volunteers. Our board positions are unpaid, however, if anyone is really down to fight for the cause then you know where to send them.
We love having different types of people join us with their perspective to help us further the movement! Oh, and the next event for record sealing information is on the 28th of April so see you there!
**Don’t forget to stay up to date with the Las Vegas NORML on all platforms @LasVegasNORML
**You can also contact Madisen on anything we covered in this interview by email Madisen@lvnorml.org