Houston non-profit group in a prime position to change Texas laws
Houston NORML has been around for nearly a quarter of a century, far longer than most other marijuana reform organizations. Located in the fourth largest U.S. city of over 2.1 million people, the potential for this non-profit group to play a lead role in helping to change marijuana laws in Texas is staggering. Jason Miller, the recently elected executive director, believes he can harness that potential.
President and CEO of Internet LAVA, a web development company specialized for law firms, Miller started his business when he was 26 and attending The Art Institute in Houston. His first experience with a cannabis activism organization came when his company sponsored the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law’s (NORML) 2010 Legal Seminar in Key West, Florida.
Since then, his company has sponsored the past eight seminars, which are held twice a year by the NORML Legal Committee.
We originally sponsored as an opportunity to meet great criminal defense lawyers from all over the country. We continued to sponsor for several reasons: we’ve been able to acquire new clients as a result of the sponsorships, the seminars and social events are a lot of fun. we are able to meet a lot of great people and learn a great deal about legal issues surrounding marijuana laws both nationally and state issues in different states. I believe in what NORML stands for, I feel like I am part of this movement and more than happy to show my support year after year.
It was during this time that he began to meet many of the prominent lawyers who have supported NORML throughout the years, including Founder and Legal Adviser Keith Stroup, Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, Deputy Director Paul Armentano, and Chair of the Board of Directors, Norm Kent. These people set him on the path for getting further involved with NORML.
He attended the Texas Regional NORML Conference in 2013, put on by DFW NORML in Fort Worth, and followed up by attending the second annual conference in 2014. It was there he was able to meet chapter leaders from around the state and learn about activism and outreach. A short two weeks later on June 19, Miller was elected Executive Director of Houston NORML.
Deciding earlier in the year to run for the position now that he had more time to dedicate, he was especially excited when former director Steve Nolin nominated him for the position.
Already politically involved as a member of the Republican Party of Texas where he served as a delegate to the state conventions in 2012 and 2014 as well as a precinct chair, along with his work with the Houston Young Republicans, and Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, his experience made him an ideal candidate for the job.
In a heavy Republican state where knowledge of political activism and a streak of actual involvement are paramount for accomplishing anything, Miller brought a new element to the organization.
Focusing on better organization, alliances with other political organizations, fundraising, and marketing are essential areas he plans to target, and he believes his business experience will help the group get there.
He plans to bring the core group of members closer together while simultaneously expanding Houston NORML’s membership ranks through community outreach.
By holding social events outside of official business, and sometimes joining the social outings with other groups, Miller hopes to promote a more cohesive atmosphere while introducing activists from various groups to one another. He also believes it will lead to more members joining and staying active within the group.
One thing he particularly wants to focus on is political outreach.
Since Texas does not have a voter ballot initiative process, all legislation must be crafted and passed by the legislature. This requires three things: reaching out to candidates, voting, and then further reaching out to elected officials. Miller wants to mobilize people in Houston to conduct an outreach campaign to elected officials in the upcoming 2015 legislative session.
For that he plans to write formal open letters and have members attach their names to them. He also wants to keep a close eye on local politicians and their stances concerning marijuana law reform.
He hopes to put together a street team which would go out to events around the city and pass out educational material concerning cannabis and information about the group to people who may be interested in getting involved.
Being that raising money is paramount for running an effective organization, merchandise in Houston NORML’s online store has been expanded and the group plans to hold a series of fundraisers.
Organization has been tough for many groups, however Miller believes he can fix that by applying his business work ethic and skills to the structure of Houston NORML. He plans to restructure the group and appoint volunteers to work in the areas they’d be most effective in.
So far, he sees everything falling into place, and has made sure Houston NORML has been involved politically. Most recently he and others were in attendance at a press conference for Houston District Attorney candidate Kim Ogg, who announced a plan to keep low level marijuana offenders out of jail.
Houston NORML’s first major event under Jason’s direction, called Reforming Marijuana Laws Through Political Activism, will be held in late August. He is coordinating with Marijuana Policy Project, Harris County Young Democrats, Houston Young Republicans, and the Harris County Libertarian Party to carry out the event.
With a strong lineup of speakers, the idea is to educate people on how they can be effective in the political process. It will all be followed by live music and networking.
He figures it to be the first of many to be held in Houston.
“It ain’t gonna legalize itself.”
By: Stephen Carter
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