On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council unanimously adopted a resolution de-prioritizing certain marijuana offenses and urging the state to decriminalize possession of marijuana paraphernalia. This is just the latest step towards humane and sensible marijuana policies in Maryland.
The county’s resolution comes on the heels of Gov. Martin O’Malley signing into law SB 364, which will impose civil fines — not criminal penalties — on possession of less than ten grams of marijuana. The law, which goes into effect October 1, did not include paraphernalia. Montgomery County’s resolution urges the state to fix that by making “adult paraphernalia possession a civil offense, no more serious than adult possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana.” It also states that simple possession of marijuana and paraphernalia should be the lowest law enforcement priority in the county. Read the full text here.
While we support the effort to include paraphernalia in Maryland’s decriminalization law, the state should go beyond that reform and follow the leads of Colorado and Washington. Colorado opened its first legal adult use marijuana stores in January, and the first adult use stores in Washington State just went live today. It’s time for Maryland to end its costly and destructive criminalization of marijuana and replace it with sensible regulations and taxation.
A ballot initiative in Oregon is gaining support and local marijuana policy reform advocates describe it as their “number one priority,” the Oregonian reports. New Approach Oregon is working in conjunction with Drug Policy Alliance and others to raise awareness of their campaign to pass the ballot initiative, which would allow adults to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana. Oregon’s Liquor Control Commission would regulate and oversee the market. Dave Kopilak, an attorney who helped to draft New Approach Oregon’s initiative, claims that if it is passed, Oregon will have lower taxes on marijuana than Washington or Colorado.
Revenue generated by the adult retail market that went to the state would be distributed to a variety of public health and safety programs: 40% would go to the common school fund, 20% to mental health and addiction services, 15% to state police, 10% to cities’ law enforcement, an additional 10% to local county law enforcement, and 5% to drug abuse prevention services. If it qualifies for the ballot, the initiative will be up for a vote in November.
A petition that would allow adults to use marijuana has gotten the required amount of signatures and has been submitted to the Board of Selectmen, Seacoast Online reports. The Board of Selectmen in York is scheduled to consider and possibly take action on the petition later today. According to MPP Maine Political Director David Boyer, the petition needed 100 signatures in order to be submitted to the Board of Selectmen. It received 174 signatures and was submitted on June 19. Should the Board decide against holding a public hearing on the petition, advocates would have 30 days to collect 600 signatures in order to bring the petition to a public vote.
The petition, if passed, would allow York residents over 21 to use or be in possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana. It would remove penalties for marijuana possession and allow individuals to consume it privately. Public use would still be prohibited, according to organizers. This is similar to an initiative that MPP helped to pass in Portland, Maine last year that allowed adults to be in possession of 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana. The decision on York’s petition is forthcoming and should be given by the end of the day.
This week, University of Arizona professor and leading medical marijuana researcher Dr. Sue Sisley was fired from her position at the university. The University of Arizona refused to renew Dr. Sisley’s contract after advocates engaged in a contentious political struggle with state lawmakers to secure funding for her clinical study on the beneficial effects of marijuana on veterans with PTSD. Dr. Sisley cites her medical marijuana advocacy and research as the reason for her abrupt dismissal. The university’s action will significantly delay — or even end — her groundbreaking research, which had finally received almost all of the necessary federal approvals.
Sisley charges she was fired after her research – and her personal political crusading – created unwanted attention for the university from legislative Republicans who control its purse strings.
“This is a clear political retaliation for the advocacy and education I have been providing the public and lawmakers,” Sisley said. “I pulled all my evaluations and this is not about my job performance.”
In March, the National Institute on Drug Abuse moved to approve Sisley’s research. The decision came as a surprise because some researchers have long accused the institute of hostility to proposals aimed at examining the possible health benefits of marijuana.
Sisley’s study was designed to involve veterans who would use marijuana in an observation facility on campus. She had lobbied state lawmakers for approval to use state funds collected at medical marijuana dispensaries to help pay for the work. When a powerful Republican senator maneuvered to block that money, some of Sisley’s allies launched an unsuccessful recall effort.
Dr. Sisley has long been at the forefront of medical marijuana science, often traveling to testify in legislative hearings to support compassionate bills and derail the misinformation that is so often repeated by opponents of reform. MPP wishes her luck in appealing this decision and continuing her valuable research.
Former President Bill Clinton spoke Sunday on Meet the Press expressing his belief that states should ‘experiment’ with allowing adults to use marijuana recreationally, Washington Post reports. “I think we should leave it to the states,” Clinton said. “If the state wants to try it, they can. And they’ll be able to see what happens.” Though this seems to be a new take from the former president, he claimed that there are still many questions to be answered. He said, “This really is a time when there should be laboratories of democracy, because nobody really knows where this is going. Are there adequate quality controls? There’s pot and there’s ‘pot’; what’s in it? What’s going to happen? There are all these questions.” This is a similar stance to that of Clinton’s wife, Hilary, who recently changed her official position.
This is in stark contrast to how President Clinton treated the issue during his presidency. Clinton’s administration wanted to punish doctors for even discussing medical marijuana as an alternative treatment with patients. Many who look at this see it as the act of a shrewd politician who has changed his position due to a shift in the political landscape. It could, however, be indicative of where the Clintons are moving when it comes to the evolution of the issue of drug policy.