Illinois May Soon Be the Next State to Decriminalize Marijuana

August 14th, 2015 6 Comments » Chris Lindsey
Rauner 2
Gov. Bruce Rauner

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has taken an important step on a bill that would help thousands of Illinoisans avoid arrest, jail, and harmful criminal convictions for the possession of a personal amount of marijuana. The governor has used his authority to amend several key provisions of HB 218 and is sending it back to the legislature for another vote.

If you are an Illinois resident, please take a moment to ask your state legislators to vote in support of the amended bill.

Time is incredibly short: The legislature has just a few weeks to vote on the amended bill and is only meeting on a few of those days. The amended bill is not perfect, but it would vastly improve current law. It would eliminate criminal penalties for the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, including arrest, jail, huge fines, and a damaged criminal record. The bill would impose a fine of up to $200 — instead of the thousands of dollars possible today. Finally, the bill makes critical improvements to current DUI laws, which today can lead to a conviction even when a person hasn’t consumed marijuana for weeks before driving.

If this bill is not approved by the legislature with the governor’s changes, Illinois’ marijuana consumers will continue to face arrest, jail time, and shockingly unequal enforcement of the law.

Read more

Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Denver Campaign for Limited Social Use Submits Signatures

August 10th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

The Denver Campaign for Limited Social Use submitted more than 10,000 signatures Monday in support of a city initiative that would allow the limited social use — but not sale — of marijuana at commercial establishments in areas restricted to adults 21 and older.

Campaign for Limited Social Use’s Mason Tvert and Brian Vicente

4,726 valid signatures of registered city voters are needed to qualify for the November 2015 ballot. The city clerk has 25 days to certify the petition.

Under the proposed measure, businesses that have a license to sell alcohol for onsite consumption would be able to decide whether to allow cannabis consumption on the premises. Businesses that choose to allow only cannabis consumption (without licensed alcohol consumption) would be subject to regulation by the city, including restrictions on location and hours of operation. All commercial establishments that allow adults to use marijuana would be required to comply with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which means (1) only non-smokable forms of marijuana would be allowed indoors, and (2) smoking marijuana would only be allowed in existing designated smoking areas that are not viewable to the public.

A strong majority (56%) of likely 2015 voters in Denver support the proposed initiative, according to a survey conducted in June by Public Policy Polling. Just 40% are opposed. The full results are available here.

Read more


Missouri Man Serving Life in Prison for Marijuana Granted Parole

August 10th, 2015 1 Comment » Morgan Fox

Jeff Mizanskey, a Missouri man who was serving life in prison for non-violent marijuana offenses, was granted parole after public outcry and a campaign to reduce his sentence.

WDAF reports:

The only man in Missouri serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for non-violent marijuana related
offenses is now getting released from the maximum-security prison in Jefferson City, according to the man’s son.billboard Mizanskey

Jeff Mizanskey was told Monday morning that he has been granted parole, according to his son, Chris. Chris Mizanskey says his dad should be released within 10 to 25 days. He says his dad called him briefly Monday morning to share the news. They planned to talk again Monday night.

Jeff Mizanskey has already served more than 20 years in the prison for repeat marijuana offenses. He is now 62-years old.


Read more

Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

New York Times Publishes Another Editorial In Favor of Regulating Marijuana

August 10th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

On Saturday, The New York Times repeated its editorial support for ending marijuana prohibition, New-York-Times-Logothis time calling on Congress and President Obama to be less timid in their support for regulating marijuana.

Even as support for ending marijuana prohibition is building around the country, Congress and the Obama administration remain far too timid about the need for change.

Last year, residents in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voted to join Colorado and Washington State in making recreational use of marijuana legal. Later this year, residents of Ohio are expected to vote on a ballot measure that would legalize it. Nevadans will vote on a legalization proposal next year. And Californians could vote on several similar measures next year.

Instead of standing by as change sweeps the country, federal lawmakers should be more actively debating and changing the nation’s absurd marijuana policies, policies that have ruined millions of lives and wasted billions of dollars.

You can read the full editorial here.

In July 2014, the paper of record published a series of editorials covering a variety of marijuana policy issues and supporting making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it similarly to alcohol.


Read more


National Conference of State Legislatures Urges Federal Government to Respect State Marijuana Laws

August 6th, 2015 6 Comments » Morgan Fox

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) approved a resolution Thursday urging the federal government to allow states to determine their own marijuana policies. For a resolution to pass, it must be supported by a majority of participating legislators in each of 75% of the states represented at the conference’s general business meeting.

08.06.2015_NCSL_Renny Cushing w Karen O'Keefe - Matt Simon - Bob Capecchi
Rep. Renny Cushing (second from left) with MPP’s Karen O’Keefe, Matt Simon, and Robert Capecchi

The preamble to the resolution, introduced by New Hampshire State Rep. Renny Cushing, notes that “states are increasingly serving as laboratories for democracy by adopting a variety of policies regarding marijuana and hemp,” and it highlights the fact that “the federal government cannot force a state to criminalize cultivating, possessing, or distributing marijuana or hemp — whether for medical, recreational, industrial, or other uses — because doing so would constitute unconstitutional commandeering.”

The resolution states:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures believes that federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference and urges the administration not to undermine state marijuana and hemp policies.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes that its members have differing views on how to treat marijuana and hemp in their states and believes that states and localities should be able to set whatever marijuana and hemp policies work best to improve the public safety, health, and economic development of their communities.

The full resolution can be found here.

Read more

Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

DOJ Misled Congress to Influence Medical Marijuana Vote

August 5th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

In a exclusive, Tom Angell reports that the Department of Justice intentionally misled Congress to discourage2000px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Justice.svg passage of a budget restriction that would prevent them from spending funds to interfere with state implementation of medical marijuana programs.


Justice Department officials misinformed members of Congress about the effects of a medical marijuana amendment being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives, according to an internal memo obtained by

The amendment, which lawmakers approved in May 2014 by a vote of 219-189 despite the Obama administration’s objections, is aimed at preventing the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

But in the days leading up to the vote, department officials distributed “informal talking points” warning House members that the measure could “in effect, limit or possibly eliminate the Department’s ability to enforce federal law in recreational marijuana cases as well,” according to the document. [Emphasis added.]

The newly obtained memo, drafted by Patty Merkamp Stemler, chief of the Criminal Division’s Appellate Section, admits that the talking points were “intended to discourage passage of the rider” but do not “reflect our current thinking.”

Basically, the DOJ told Congress that a piece of legislation they did not like would have more impact than intended. Now that it has been enacted, despite their efforts, they are saying that it does less than intended!

Please take the time to read the full report.

We need laws based on facts. Congress should be able to count on law enforcement to give them accurate information, not propaganda to support their policy preferences.

If you would like to tell the DOJ what you think about these tactics, you can contact the DOJ Office of Legislative Affairs at (202) 514-2141 or via email.


Read more

Prohibition, Research

New Hampshire Poll Shows Increasing Support for Ending Marijuana Prohibition

July 29th, 2015 2 Comments » Morgan Fox

A WMUR Granite State Poll found that 60% of New Hampshire adults support making marijuana legal. It also reported 72% support for decriminalizing  simple marijuana possession.

In early June, the Senate blocked a widely supported bill that Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 12.33.57 PMwould have removed criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. HB 618, which the House approved 297-67 in March, would have made possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense. Under current state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.


Read more


Pres. Obama Commutes Sentences for Nonviolent Drug Offenders

July 13th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

On Monday, President Obama announced the commutation of 46 prisoners who were convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

From The New York Times:

President Obama announced on Monday that he was commuting the sentences of 46 federal drug offenders, more than doubling the number of nonviolent criminals to whom he has granted clemency since taking office.

“These men and women were not violent criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years; 14 of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses, so their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” Mr. Obama said in a video released on the White House Facebook page, in which he is shown signing the commutation letters. “I believe that America, at its heart, is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”

Mr. Obama’s action on Monday brought the total number of commutations he has issued to 89, exceeding that of any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, who commuted 80 sentences during his tenure. It also meant that he has commuted more sentences than the last four presidents combined.

While it is unclear how many of those people were in prison for marijuana charges, this is a good sign that the administration, and the greater public, is open to substantive drug policy and criminal justice reform.

Most marijuana arrests do not result in jail time, but the collateral consequences can be still negatively impact a person for life.

However, there are a number of people serving long sentences for nonviolent marijuana offenses, some of them for life. The Department of Justice needs to reexamine these cases immediately.

For more information on the recent commutation, visit

(Image: Dietmar Klement)

Read more


How Is Marijuana Policy Factoring into the Presidential Campaign?

July 13th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

MPP’s Executive Director Rob Kampia recently published his thoughts on how marijuana policy will factor into the 2016 presidential elections:

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) recently released its quadrennial report card detailing the most prominent presidential candidates’ positions on marijuana policy.

To be sure, most voters aren’t single-issue marijuana voters (on either side of the legalization issue). Most voters make their decisions after processing a soup of positions and paid ads. So MPP’s intent is to inform a piece of that upcoming decision-making process, rather than claiming that marijuana legalization is the main issue for many voters.Republican-Elephant-Democrat-Donkey

That said, it’s worth noting that hardcore supporters of legalization are now finally capable of having a measurable impact on campaigns. For example, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) raised more than $100,000 at a marijuana-specific fundraising event in Portland on June 5. This is real money for a U.S. House race.

MPP’s early donations to Peter Shumlin (D-VT) almost certainly made the difference in his first primary contest for governor in 2010. And during the 2011-2012 election cycle, MPP was the largest donor to his campaign, edging out donations from AFSCME, Coca-Cola, and the Democratic Governors Association.

As for the presidential race, many members of the marijuana industry — which is generally defined as marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under various states’ laws — are supporting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). At a group fundraising meeting at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s annual conference in Denver on June 30, a room of canna-business leaders discussed the issue with Sen. Paul and donated more than $100,000 to his campaign. (This is real money for any presidential campaign.) MPP had previously donated $15,000 to Sen. Paul’s three campaign committees.

Setting aside the ability of the cannabis industry to have some degree of impact on the current presidential race, what are the positions of some of the more interesting candidates?

You can read the complete analysis at the Huffington Post.

Read more


Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Moves Forward in Chile

July 13th, 2015 2 Comments » James McArdle

The BBC reports that Chileans may soon be able to legally grow up to six marijuana plants thanks to a bill that was passed by a lower house of congress. Previously, those who possessed or cultivated the plant risked 15 years imprisonment.chile flag Last October, the country began its first medical marijuana trial program.

The new bill will go before a health commission and then the Senate for approval.
Members of the lower house approved the bill by a wide margin, with 68 in favour and 39 against.

Several other countries have eased restrictions for medical or personal use of marijuana in recent years. In the US, more than 20 states allow some form of medical marijuana and Colorado and Washington have legalised it for personal use. Uruguay became the first country to create a legal marijuana market in 2013 and earlier this year Jamaica decriminalised personal use of the drug.

As more and more U.S. states consider ending marijuana prohibition, countries around that world that were pressured into mimicking U.S. marijuana policy are starting to re-examine their laws as well.

Read more