Texas NORML to begin paying their Executive Director
As of September 1, Texas NORML will begin paying their executive director.
Traditionally an unpaid position, few board members of any chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws receive compensation for their time.
Texas NORML will become the first chapter in the state to create a paid position. The non-profit organization’s board voted in July to appoint Jax Finkel, a 9 year veteran of the organization’s board, to take the reins.
A statement released by the chapter states “Jax has been a member of the Texas NORML Board for nine years. She has served as Volunteer Coordinator, Political and Legislative Director and as Deputy Director. She has been involved in cannabis law reform since 2005 and has been an official Board Member since 2006. During her tenure, Jax has given hundreds of interviews and participated in many panel discussions and speaking engagements. She innovated the first ever cannabis-centric Voter’s Guide in 2012 and continues to prepare the Texas NORML Voter’s Guide for each election season. She helped spearhead the first Texas Chapter Training this year. She believes in freely sharing information and facilitating organizational growth. She works closely with Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy and our coalition partners along with many other cannabis groups. Jax is often at the Capitol pushing for cannabis law reform and building relationships with our Legislators. Cannabis law reform is her passion.”
The decision comes after an extremely busy year at the state capitol, with several reasons stated.
“In order to continue to be effective in advocating for reforming marijuana laws in Texas and continuing to improve our planning and operations as well as expanding the scope of our influence, our Board of Directors reached the conclusion that we must have a full-time Executive Director. The Executive Director will answer directly to the guidance and supervision of the Texas NORML Board. The duties and responsibilities of our Texas NORML Executive Director will be posted on our Texas NORML website.”
During 2015, the group, which averages about 500 members, has been involved with four major lobby events at the capitol, has held two major press conferences, helped coordinate testimony at committee hearings, held their annual marijuana march in Austin, and met with many legislators on the subject of cannabis law reform.
Several fundraisers and an activist training seminar has been put on by Texas NORML as well.
Finkel expects to work between 30 and 50 hours each week and states that the gross pay for the position will be $42,500 with no benefits, which is “within the regional market average for a comparable position.”
Asked about the impact on relations with other organizations and governing bodies from hiring a full time director, she stated “one of my goals is to continue the improved communication between all NORML chapters as well as our coalition partners. This should enable us to better communicate and coordinate across the state. I will also be coordinating with our coalition for upcoming strategy, meeting, events, etc.”
During the 2015 legislative session, 12 bills were submitted which would have either reduced the penalty for possession of marijuana, legalized the plant, created a whole plant medical marijuana program as well as a CBD-only program, legalized hemp for research purposes, and legalized hemp for full agricultural production.
Only one of those bills would become law, despite strong criticism from marijuana proponents. The CBD-only bill, which very strictly establishes a limited medical marijuana program for patients with severe epilepsy who have exhausted all other resources, was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott towards the end of the legislative session. Though the governor stated during the signing that this would not be a step towards changing marijuana laws in Texas, and that he would not allow them to be changed as governor.
The only other paid marijuana-oriented position in Texas is held by Heather Fazio, who is the Texas Political Director for Marijuana Policy Project. She also helps head up the Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy coalition.
*This article has been updated to reflect the salary for the Executive Director position.