Cambridge, MA Voters Have Say on Making Marijuana Legal

According to Wicked Local Cambridge, next month, Massachusetts’s voters in eight districts — including Precincts 1 and 3 — will get the opportunity to relay to state representatives their opinions on making marijuana legal.

The Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts (DPFMA), a nonprofit organization that supports new approaches to drug control policy, gathered enough signatures to include the following public policy question on the November ballot: “Should state representatives be instructed to support a measure to regulate marijuana similar to alcohol?”

The public policy question will be included on ballots in 56 cities and towns across Massachusetts. In addition, according to DPFMA, one in every 20 resident voters will be given the chance to express their views on the issue.

David Rogers

Cambridge is one of the districts that will get a say on the matter. In fact, the state representative who represents the 24th Middlesex District, David Rogers, said that he plans on voting in favor of the ballot question.

“Although obviously localities cannot legalize marijuana, we do have the ability to influence public discussion and debate, and ultimately public opinion,” Rogers told the Chronicle. “For far too long, the drug laws in the commonwealth and throughout the country have done more than good. It’s time to think creatively about new approaches. I favor legalization coupled with strong regulation.”

Moreover, there is overwhelming public support. Massachusetts’s voters have already approved 69 marijuana public policy questions throughout the state. During elections in 2000 and 2010, ballot questions pertaining to taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol appeared in seven districts and garnered 69 percent support, according to DPFMA.

Massachusetts voters, please continue to support sensible marijuana policy by expressing your views to your state representatives on Election Day. Please encourage family, friends, and neighbors to do the same!

Do Not Prosecute Medical Marijuana Related Offenses, Pennsylvania Lawmaker Says

Sen. Daylin Leach

As reported by PennLive.com, Sen. Daylin Leach has asked the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association not to prosecute offenses related to the medical use of marijuana.

“Given the likelihood that using lifesaving medical cannabis will not be a legal issue in Pennsylvania for much longer, I ask that you consider using your prosecutorial discretion,” wrote Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, in a letter today to the association’s president, Peter Johnson.

Last month, the Senate approved SB 1182, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act — a bill that would have established the rules and regulations governing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania — in a 43-7 bipartisan vote. However, despite overwhelming support, the bill ultimately failed to be taken up by the House.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Tom Wolf, has publicly stated that he supports medical marijuana legislation. Moreover, 80% of Pennsylvania voters support medical marijuana. Thusly so, there is reason to hope that the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association will refrain from prosecution of patients.

“I ask that you perform an act of compassion,” Leach wrote, adding that he hopes they will use their discretion by not prosecuting people who have demonstrated medical reason for using the substance.

Police Chief and Marijuana Advocate Debate South Portland Marijuana Ordinance

According to the Portland Press Herald, the issue of whether to implement a regulated and legal adult marijuana control system in South Portland, Maine took center stage Wednesday at a debate over the upcoming vote. Among the points of contention were whether marijuana is safer than alcohol and whether making marijuana legal will increase teen use.

South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins, a vehement opponent, and Maine political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, David Boyer, debated over the proposal.

Googins continued to perpetuate the misinformation that marijuana is not safer than alcohol.

Boyer, on the other hand, argued that marijuana use is safer than alcohol use, which according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is attributed to 37,000 deaths across the country annually. Conversely, he noted that no deaths have been attributed to marijuana overdoses.

“Despite this potential harm of alcohol, most would agree adults should be able to responsibly use alcohol. Why should an adult of age to consume alcohol be prohibited from using or from possessing marijuana?” Boyer stated. “It’s time to move beyond ‘Reefer Madness’ and pass laws that make sense.”

In regards to the second point of contention, both Googins and Boyer agreed on ensuring marijuana stay out of the hands of children and teens. However, Googins argued that making marijuana legal would normalize the substance’s use and make it easier for youth to obtain. Boyer countered that marijuana is already prevalent and circulating throughout the community. A better approach would be to focus on preventing marijuana use among teens by allowing adults to purchase marijuana through licensed and regulated businesses.

“I don’t think kids should use marijuana,” Boyer said. “We need to be honest with our kids. Being dishonest with our kids and telling them alcohol is safer than marijuana is dangerous.”

Eric Holder “Cautiously Optimistic” in Regards to Legal Marijuana

According to CNN, outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he is “cautiously optimistic” when it comes to Colorado and Washington’s implementation of regulated and legal adult marijuana control systems.

Eric Holder

“We don’t want to put into the federal system, low level people who are simply there for possessory offenses,” Holder stated Monday in an interview with CNN’s Evan Perez.

Last year, the DOJ chose eight enforcement areas that the department would concentrate on in a move aimed at calming nerves in Colorado and Washington. The eight “priority areas” have focused on the Justice Department’s attempts to prevent marijuana distribution to minors, as well as inter-state trafficking and violence associated with the illegal trade.

However, Holder noted in his interview Monday that the Justice Department could reverse its non-interventionist stance if Colorado and Washington’s regulatory frameworks are not up to par.

“What I’ve told the governors of those states is that if we’re not satisfied with their regulatory scheme that we reserve the right to come in and sue them. So we’ll see,” Holder said.

It remains to be seen how the new attorney general will treat states that decide to end marijuana prohibition going forward, but supportive lawmakers continue to push legislation that will finally protect states from federal interference and allow them to determine their own marijuana policies.

MPP to Introduce Three New Marijuana Reform Bills in Texas

As part of the Marijuana Policy Project’s multi-year legislative campaign in Texas, we are developing bill proposals to address decriminalization, as well as allowing marijuana to be used for medical reasons and eventually regulating it similarly to alcohol for adults.

Heather Fazio

According to Heather Fazio, Texas Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, the group will be pre-filing the three bills this November, in anticipation of the 84th Texas Legislative Session, starting in January.

“We are working with a diverse coalition to introduce a civil penalty bill which [would] make small possession punishable by a simple fine, rather than a criminal charge,” said Fazio.

“This means no opportunity for jail time, and none of the collateral sanctions which come along with a criminal drug arrest. These collateral sanctions include limited access to resources for education, housing, employment, etc. It will also help to break down the stigma which goes along with being arrested and jailed for the possession of this plant.”

“We will [also] be introducing a bill to create a legal market for marijuana, similar to alcohol, for responsible adults who are 21 and over,” says Fazio.

The three bills cite Texans’ support for reduced marijuana penalties, the passage of medical marijuana laws, and taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Moreover, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and RAND Corporation data, 1,267,200 Texans already use marijuana each month, with the average user consuming 100 grams per year. Should Texas regulate and tax marijuana, with a tax of $50 per ounce implemented, the Lone Star State would stand to make between $150,971,063 and $264,199,294 in tax revenue annually.

Read the full Houston Press article for more information on the proposed marijuana policy changes in Texas, as well as an overview of the three bills.

Marijuana Policy Project