As more and more Americans support ending marijuana prohibition and an increasing number of states consider marijuana policy reform legislation, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are still a lot of people in prison for marijuana-related violations. As shocking as it may seem, some are slated to spend the rest of their lives behind bars for something that millions of Americans do every day and that people in Colorado and Washington do legally.
If you would like to know more about prisoners serving insanely long sentences for marijuana, please visit Life For Pot and share these stories with anyone who will listen. No on deserves to be arrested for a substance that is safer than alcohol, but putting people in cages indefinitely for it is inexcusable.
Gov. Martin O’Malley has stated repeatedly that he opposes decriminalizing marijuana, a sensible measure already adopted by 16 other states, including red states like Nebraska and Mississippi. Gov. O’Malley does not support measures being considered in the legislature that would remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. One such bill passed the Senate in a bipartisan vote last year, but the House never took it up.
Gov. O’Malley needs to hear that caging people, entangling them in the justice system, and burdening them with criminal records for life, simply because of a few joints, is a waste of law enforcement resources. The ACLU of Maryland estimates that $106 million is wasted annually on enforcing marijuana possession laws. Criminalizing marijuana has destroyed lives, making it difficult for people to find a job or even get housing. These anti-marijuana laws also disproportionately target African Americans.
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced a bill Tuesday that would change federal law so that the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), commonly known as the “drug czar,” is no longer prohibited from studying the legalization of marijuana and no longer required to oppose attempts to legalize marijuana for medical or broader adult use.
Specifically, H.R. 4046, the Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act of 2014, would amend the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 to remove the following language from the obligations of the director:
(12) shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of [the Controlled Substances Act] and.take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that –
(A) is listed in schedule I of section 812 of this title; and
(B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;
Rep. Cohen and other members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform slammed the ONDCP during a hearing last week. Rep. Cohen chided the office for failing to address the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s obstruction of research into the medical benefits of marijuana. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) criticized it for relying on marijuana “propaganda.” ONDCP Deputy Director Michael Botticelli drew criticism for refusing to acknowledge that marijuana poses less potential harm to the consumer than heroin or methamphetamine.
Members of Congress grilled a representative from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Tuesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and slammed the office for failing to acknowledge key facts about marijuana. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) chided the drug czar’s office for relying on marijuana “propaganda.” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) criticized the office for failing to address the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s obstruction of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.
During his testimony regarding the Obama administration’s marijuana policy, ONDCP Deputy Director Michael Botticelli refused to acknowledge that marijuana poses less potential harm to the consumer than heroin or methamphetamine.
The D.C. Council approved Bill 20-409 (The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013) Tuesday that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the District. The measure, which is sponsored by Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells and supported by eight of the council’s 13 members, is expected to receive final approval at the council’s next legislative session.
The measure would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals 18 years of age and older and replace them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a parking ticket. Individuals under the age of 18 who commit a violation would also have their parents notified. The bill also removes penalties for possession of paraphernalia in conjunction with small amounts and specifies that individuals cannot be searched or detained based solely on an officer’s suspicion of marijuana possession. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
The council adopted several amendments that weakened the scope of the bill, including one that would continue to criminalize public use, making the smoking of marijuana in public a misdemeanor that could lead to arrest and jail time, as opposed to a civil violation. An amendment was also passed that would make the odor of marijuana reasonable cause to perform a search of a vehicle.
At-large Council member David Grosso has introduced separate legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.