Category Archives: Prohibition

prohibition

MPP’s Rob Kampia Gives His Take on What’s Next for Marijuana Legalization

Executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia, discusses what’s next for the push to make marijuana legal in the United States:

The state that will most likely be next to legalize is Rhode Island, which would be the first to do so via state legislature. Also this spring, the District of Columbia is expected to enact a similar law through its city council.

There’s also a real opportunity to legalize marijuana through five more state legislatures between now and 2017 – Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont. There will also be serious legislative activity in other states, such as New York, but it is less clear when such legislation will pass.

In November 2016, at least five states are expected to vote on similar ballot initiatives – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada – and one could potentially appear on the ballot in Missouri.

By the end of 2017, marijuana could be legalized in 15 states and D.C., which would comprise 26% of the nation’s population.

Read the rest of Kampia’s column here.

Incoming Committee Chairmen Discuss Oversight and Making Marijuana Legal in the Nation’s Capital

After the passage of Initiative 71 in November, which made small amounts of marijuana legal for adults in the nation’s capital, D.C. residents are awaiting approval from Congress when the new session resumes in January. Despite limited opposition, statements by the new chairs of two key committees are making advocates hopeful that Congress will not interfere.

According to Roll Call:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, won a four-way contest for the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on November 18. Two days later, he met with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., to lay the groundwork for a working relationship.

In a statement, Norton expressed optimism that Chaffetz would continue the tradition of staying out of D.C. affairs. The Utah Republican acknowledged that members of Congress “have a role to play” in oversight over the District, though he said he does not expect the committee to interfere unless in an unusual circumstance.

In the Senate, the likely coming chairman of the committee with authority over D.C. shares Chaffetz’s hands-off philosophy.

“I’m somebody who really thinks the federal government should be very limited and where governing is best close to the governed,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who is expected to take the role of chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Nov. 19. “You know, I really look for local control as much as possible so I’ll try and – unless there’s some real massive imperative—let D.C. governance take care of itself.”

One of the first District issues Chaffetz and Johnson will confront as chairmen is how to address making marijuana legal in the D.C., since voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot initiative to make the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana legal.

Both Chaffetz and Johnson are personally against the adult use of marijuana, but Johnson indicated that he would be open to holding a hearing to examine how legal marijuana is playing out in the four states that passed similar measures.

Given the successful implementation of legal marijuana markets in Colorado and Washington and the overwhelming support from voters, Congress should enable D.C. to move forward as well.

Marijuana Policy Reform is Heating Up in Texas

As Texas lawmakers prepare for the state’s next legislative session, marijuana policy reform advocates are already pushing for the introduction of several bills that would drastically improve current policies.

According to the San Antonio Current:

Harold Dutton

On December 2, Houston Representative Harold Dutton, D-142, filed a bill seeking to reduce certain penalties for marijuana possession.

As explained by the Marijuana Policy Project’s Texas Political Director, Heather Fazio, who briefly looked at a copy of the bill (H.B. 414), it would classify a conviction for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C Misdemeanor instead of a Class B. However, if a person is convicted three times it would be bumped back to a Class B Misdemeanor.

Moreover, while the bill would allow for cite-and-release, a suspect may also be arrested. If convicted, the fine would be $500.

There are downsides to the bill though, Fazio said. She explained that arrest is traumatizing and may result in negative consequences regarding family and employment. She also thinks the $500 fine is rather excessive. Furthermore, there is the criminal record that comes with a conviction, which for a small-time marijuana charge, results in unnecessary harm to education, employment, and housing.

 We are proposing an alternative. [MPP emphasis added] Our bill will make the possession of 1 oz. or less a civil penalty, removing the opportunity for arrest, jail time, and a criminal record. The fine would cap at $100,” Fazio stated, adding the El Paso Representative Joe Moody, a former prosecutor who serves on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, would introduce the bill in approximately two weeks.

The Marijuana Policy Project and our allies are working to introduce a variety of marijuana policy reform legislation in Texas over the next few years. With all the current excitement and national interest in marijuana policy reform, hopefully Texas lawmakers will join in implementing more sensible marijuana laws when the legislative session convenes.

Uruguay’s Marijuana Marketplace Still Safe With the Re-election of Ex-President, Tabare Vazquez

According to Yahoo News:

Tabare Vazquez

Tabare Vazquez, who served as president of Uruguay from 2005-2010, easily won Uruguay’s presidential election against rival, center-right candidate Luis Lacalle Pou, returning to power a left-leaning coalition that has helped legalize gay marriage and moved to create the world’s first state-run marijuana marketplace.

The runoff vote counted Vazquez to have 53 percent in support of his reelection. Lacalle Pou, on the other hand, who promised to undo much of the plan to put Uruguay’s government in charge of regulating the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana on a nationwide scale, garnered only 40 percent in support of his election.

Vazquez, who previously served as President of Uruguay, belongs to the Broad Front coalition, which has been in power for a decade and has passed laws supporting same-sex marriage and a nationwide marijuana marketplace, among many other social issues.

Therefore, Vazquez’s popularity and experience, coupled with current President Jose Mujica’s popularity, as well as the country’s strong economy that remained consistent during Mujica’s tenure, aided in propelling Vazquez’s reelection into office.

This is good news for the marijuana policy reform movement. Hopefully, Vazquez’s tenure in the world’s first state-run marijuana marketplace will demonstrate the successes of regulating marijuana on a nationwide scale and influence other countries around the world to implement sensible marijuana policies.

Marijuana Credit Union Could be Open in Colorado by January 1 Under State Charter

Colorado marijuana businesses may soon be able to move away from using cash-only systems.

According to The Denver Post:

The Colorado Division of Financial Services … issued Fourth Corner Credit Union an unconditional charter to operate, the first state credit-union charter issued in nearly a decade.

The next hurdles will be obtaining insurance from the National Credit Union Administration, the federal regulator of credit unions, and getting a master account from the Federal Reserve System.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office called the charter “the end of the line” for the state’s efforts to solve the marijuana industry’s nagging problem: obtaining banking services. Although the NCUA insurance is not guaranteed — sale and consumption of marijuana remain illegal under federal law — Fourth CornerFourth Corner can operate until NCUA makes its decision.

“A Colorado law of 1981 allows a credit union to open its doors while an application for share-deposit insurance is pending,” said attorney Mark Mason, one of Fourth Corner’s key organizers.

Currently, many banks and other financial service providers have been unwilling to work with the marijuana industry out of fear of violating federal law. Some lawmakers have been trying to address this issue with the help of the National Cannabis Industry Association, but until they are successful, such credit unions may be the only solution available to marijuana businesses.