North Texas Daily

Denton NORML planning for major progress in new year

Denton NORML planning for major progress in new year

January 21
02:22 2016

Kyle Martin | Staff Writer

@Kyle_Martin35

It’s a new year, but Caroline Turner, Marshall Williams and Denton NORML will still have to patiently wait until 2017 for the Texas Legislature to reconvene and begin their legislative sessions.

Williams’ recent hashish bill is written and prepared, along with other bills, but neither he nor NORML can make any moves until elections are over and the new House of Representatives is determined.

In the meantime, Turner, a junior at North Central Texas College and president of Denton NORML, and Williams, its vice president, are looking to revamp the organization into a legitimized 501(c)(4) organization. The goal is to be able to focus their efforts on public education through advocacy programs and events.

Marshall Williams poses during Denton Norml social hour at Oak Street Draft House on Tuesday. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

Marshall Williams poses during Denton Norml social hour at Oak Street Draft House on Tuesday. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

Any 501(c) organization is a tax-exempt nonprofit. Becoming a 501(c)(4) allows Denton NORML to be politically active and use resources to push for their political agenda. Once granted the title of 501(c)(4), the advocacy group will have more freedom to lobby and advance their efforts as a political organization.

“In the past, our meetings have been about ongoing events, things that are going on now and just sort of general topic stuff,” Williams said. “We’ve now moved our meetings to be ‘agenda-based’ events.”

Upcoming meetings will include discussion on veteran care, patients and how mature cannabis use could be used to aid in treatment. Other topics will be the election cycle and understanding how the election process works, which coincides with the Texas Primary Election set for Tuesday, March 1st and the general election, taking place on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Things on the group’s hit list for the coming year include activist seminars, a general push for cannabis education throughout the Denton community and implementing “cite-and-release” county-wide.

According to the Texas Cannabis Report, the policy of “cite-and-release” has recently picked up momentum in Harris County, which now implements a mandatory court summons instead of jail time for first-time offenders caught with less than two ounces of marijuana.

Turner said she is hopeful that the North Texas suburb can adopt the same approach as NORML begins its trek into the new year.

“Our education is our No. 1 priority,” Turner said.

Activism is a significant part of the fight for marijuana legislation reform, which includes lobbying and speaking with local representatives about what changes need to be made and why. Neither Turner nor Williams are strangers to accessing their local legislature.

“One thing you’re definitely going to see out of Denton NORML in 2016 is, while we are a marijuana-focused organization, we’re ramping up for the legislative session in 2017,” Williams said. “So that means this year we’re going to be doing a lot of legislative training.”

The couple and NORML plan to show interested individuals specifically how to approach their representatives and how they can show their voices to the elected officials who are there to represent the people.

Caroline Turner, left, and Marshall Williams race to look up a current law on their phones to answer a question during Denton Norml social hour at Oak Street Draft House on Tuesday, January 20, 2015. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

Caroline Turner, left, and Marshall Williams race to look up a current law on their phones to answer a question during Denton Norml social hour at Oak Street Draft House on Tuesday.  Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

“I can really relate to people when talking about it because I can remember very distinctly the first time I ever spoke with my representative,” Turner said. “I remember the first phone call I ever made. I remember the first letter I ever wrote. [It’s important] having people who can relate to those who have never done it before.”

Troy Gattis, 24, has lived in Denton for 13 years and is currently the director of marketing for Denton NORML. He finds local businesses and groups to support their cause, handling the business end of the organization.

After living here for so long, he said he understands the town and its many inhabitants and believes if there is a Texas town that could make a change, Denton is definitely one of them.

“I just know that the support is here, and it’s truly not being represented,” Gattis said. “I’m hoping that we can get the rednecks, the hip-hoppers, the hipsters, the goths, the geeks and get everyone that we all truly have something in common with and make an actual change.”

Denton NORML will have its next monthly meeting Feb. 13, themed “Understanding Election Season.” More information can be found on their Facebook page.

Featured Image: Caroline Turner listens as Marshall Williams speaks about current marijuana laws in Texas during Denton Norml’s social hour at Oak Street Draft House. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

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