Arkansas Governor Pardons High-Profile Marijuana Offender

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe recently announced he intends to pardon a young man convicted of a marijuana-related felony. The governor emphasized the importance of having a chance to get one’s life back on track following such a conviction, especially for young people. Local press covering the pardon emphasized another aspect to this story: The young man is the governor’s son, Kyle Beebe. Kyle was convicted of “possession with intent to deliver marijuana” in 2003.

In 2012, over 5,700 people were either arrested or cited for marijuana possession. Another 555 people just like Kyle were charged with felonies related to marijuana. Only a fraction will have an opportunity like the one Kyle has. Instead, most will face a lifetime of discrimination: A criminal record that can hurt job prospects, housing, and educational opportunities – long after the court sentence is over.

Arkansas needs a better approach. Like 19 other states, it can remove possible jail time for simple possession, bringing relief to thousands. If you are an Arkansas resident, click here to ask your legislators to support imposing a civil fine — not a criminal conviction — for simple possession.

Even better, Arkansas should implement a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adults who choose a substance that is safer than alcohol — just like Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. Why continue the reefer madness when there is now a better way?

Iowa Board of Pharmacy Delays Decision on the Reclassification of Medical Marijuana

After some members expressed reservations, the Iowa Pharmacy Board decided on Wednesday to delay its decision on marijuana’s drug classification until January.

A board subcommittee initially recommended that the entire board consider reclassifying the substance from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug. The recommendation was based on marijuana’s use for medical purposes, bolstered by a new law in Iowa that made the use of CBD oil, which is derived from the marijuana plant, legal for the treatment of children with epilepsy.

An Iowa Pharmacy Board member and pharmacist from Monona, Edward Maier, read the subcommittee’s recommendation:

“While the board believes that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, in 2014 the Iowa General Assembly passed the Medical Cannabinoid Act. The act permits the use of cannanbidiol for patients suffering from intractable epilepsy. The passage of this act is an affirmative recognition by the Iowa General Assembly that there is a medical use for marijuana. Continued placement for marijuana in Schedule I is not consistent with that act,” Maier said, reading directly from the recommendation.

Maier also emphasized that even if the Iowa Pharmacy Board decided to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II substance, the decision would not necessarily mean the de facto implementation of a medical marijuana law in Iowa. The move would also necessitate legislative and regulatory action.

In the end, however, the entire board voted unanimously to delay the decision until they are scheduled to meet again the first week of January.

Iowa Board of Pharmacy to Consider the Reclassification of Medical Marijuana

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy is considering renewing its recommendation that the state reclassify marijuana in a way that would make it easier to use the substance legally for medical purposes, following a hearing in the state’s capital yesterday where patients, medical professionals, and drug-abuse prevention specialists testified about whether Iowa should relax its strict ban on the use of medical marijuana.

“We’re in a bit of a predicament,” board Chairman Edward Maier told several dozen people who gathered for the Des Moines hearing, noting that Iowa law currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

A similar proposal failed to gain traction in 2009 when the board recommended that state legislators reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, which would make the substance legal with a physician’s recommendation.

Edward Hertko, a retired Des Moines physician and longtime proponent for making marijuana legal, said opponents have falsely characterized marijuana as addictive and as a gateway to harder drugs.

“Its hazards pale when compared with alcohol and tobacco,” he told the pharmacy board. “In fact, marijuana is less deadly than sugar, which causes thousands of deaths each year from obesity and diabetes,” he said.

In addition, Lori Tassin, a cancer patient also from Des Moines, said she believes the substance can shrink tumors and provide other medical benefits.

“It should be my choice,” she told the board. “It should be between my doctor and me.”

The entire Iowa Board of Pharmacy will further discuss the issue Wednesday. Moreover, Maier, a Mapleton pharmacist, noted that the board does not have the authority to make medical marijuana legal. However, he did state that the board could advise Iowa state legislators on the issue.

Vermont Legislators Will Begin 2015 Session with Report on Marijuana Legalization

In January, Vermont’s lawmakers will receive a detailed report analyzing many of the issues surrounding the possibility of making marijuana legal in the state.

The report will not make any recommendations either for or against making marijuana legal in Vermont. It will, however, provide data that will help policymakers understand the issue, and it will prepare legislators for the vigorous debate over marijuana regulation that is expected during the 2015 session.

Beau Kilmer
Beau Kilmer (Photo courtesy of the RAND Corporation)

The co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corporation, Beau Kilmer, is working with Vermont’s Secretary of Administration to prepare the report. In a recent presentation, Kilmer said the first section of the report would be an examination of what he called “Vermont’s marijuana landscape.” In other words, how many people currently use marijuana in Vermont?

“And so we’re able to kind of cobble together information from surveys what we know about misreporting, information we have about total amount consumed, we’re able to put that together to come up with a range,” said Kilmer. “So I’m optimistic about the future of marijuana market studies.”

In addition to determining how many people use marijuana in Vermont, Kilmer said the report will analyze health and safety issues, various potential regulatory models, and projections of the expected impacts of reform, including tax revenue.

The Secretary of Administration is expected to present the finished report to the legislature by January 15.

Speaker of the New York City Council Supports Making Marijuana Legal

Melissa Mark-Viverito

Just days ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio overhauled the city’s marijuana policy by instructing law enforcement officers to issue tickets for marijuana possession instead of arresting offenders. Now, the City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is going a step further and calling for making the substance legal.

“It’s not something we can just do randomly, but with a thought process, and looking how it’s being implemented in other areas. But I do support the legalization of marijuana,” she said at City Hall.

Mark-Viverito’s stance makes her the highest-ranking city official to support adopting such a policy, although it puts her at odds with Mayor de Blasio who does not support making marijuana legal in New York.

“States are speaking,” Mark-Viverito said. “Based on the conversations that we see happening nationally, and how people feel about it, I think that it’s just something that is appropriate at this time.”

The Drug Policy Alliance, a leading advocacy group based in New York City, praised the city council speaker’s stance:

“Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito’s announcement further proves that marijuana legalization is a mainstream issue,” said Kassandra Frederique, the group’s New York policy manager. “It is especially important that elected officials of color lead and frame this conversation as the harms of marijuana prohibition and criminalization overwhelmingly affect their communities,” she added.

Marijuana Policy Project