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How the Candidates Responded to MPP’s ChangePolitics.Org Question

February 8th, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Last month, MPP partnered with ChangePolitics.org to seeChangePolitics-Socialshare-280x150 if we could get the presidential candidates on the record about serious marijuana policy reform issues. With you help and votes, we were able to get one of our questions asked of all the candidates last week!

The question: “If elected, how would your administration address the current tension between state and federal marijuana laws?

While marijuana is illegal under federal law, four states have adopted laws regulating the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for adult use, and 23 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territory of Guam have adopted laws regulating the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for medical use. Would your administration respect these jurisdictions’ policies? Or would it interfere with their efforts to carry them out?”

You can view the answers given by the Republican and Democrat candidates, and please remember to vote for our other questions so we can find out where the candidates really stand on these issues!

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Iowa State University NORML Chapter Wins Censorship Case

January 25th, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Last week, a federal court ruling struck a blow against censorship directed at marijuana policy reform advocates at Iowa State University. The case, brought by two students with the university’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), was heralded as a major victory by the plaintiffs.

…the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa issued a permanent injunction barring Iowa State University (ISU) administrators from using a trademark policy to prevent the campus chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML ISU) from printing t-shirts depicting a marijuana leaf. Students Erin Furleigh and Paul Gerlich, both former presidents of the group, sued ISU in July 2014 as part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.

Because ISU had rejected the student group’s t-shirts “due to the messages they expressed” in an effort to “maintain favor with Iowa political figures,” the court found that ISU engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.

The court also denied the defense of qualified immunity to the named defendants, including ISU President Steven Leath and Senior Vice President Warren Madden, meaning that they may be held personally liable for violating Furleigh and Gerlich’s First Amendment rights. In so ruling, the court found that “a reasonable person would understand that Defendants’ actions treaded on Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights of political expression and association.”

Senior District Judge James Gritzner, who issued the ruling, observed that “[t]he development of First Amendment doctrine in the university context has repeatedly affirmed that student groups may not be denied benefits on the basis of their espoused views.” After reviewing the record, the court concluded that “Defendants took action specifically directed at NORML ISU based on their views and the political reaction to those views so that Defendants could maintain favor with Iowa political figures.”

In their original complaint, the students detailed how the university censored the group’s t-shirts based on their marijuana-related messaging and imagery, removed NORML ISU’s advisor, and implemented new guidelines for using ISU’s trademark in order to restrict NORML ISU’s speech. And in a January 2015 ruling, the court rejected every argument ISU made in its initial attempt to have the case dismissed.

You can view the full press release here.

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Marijuana Policy Predictions for 2016

December 28th, 2015 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

MPP executive director Rob Kampia’s “Marijuana Policy Predictions for 2016” has been published by The Huffington Post.

predictions 2I don’t often use superlatives, but it’s easy to say that 2016 will be the most significant year yet in the battle to repeal marijuana prohibition in the United States.

Up until now, the two biggest years were 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, and 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.

2016 will likely comprise a cornucopia of cannabis policy advances, which I’ll enumerate in the form of predictions.

Click here to read the entire column.

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Top 10 Marijuana Policy Victories of 2015

December 28th, 2015 3 Comments Mason Tvert

Top 10 Marijuana Policy VictoriesMPP executive director Rob Kampia’s list of the “Top 10 Marijuana Policy Victories of 2015” has been published by The Huffington Post.

In 2015, state legislators considered bills to legalize marijuana in 21 states, decriminalize marijuana possession in 17 states, and legalize medical marijuana in 19 states.

Most of the action in 2015 was aimed at achieving substantial victories in 2016, which is slated to be the most successful year in the history of the movement to end marijuana prohibition.

With this in mind, the Marijuana Policy Project is hereby releasing its top 10 list for 2015. I’m excluding international and scientific developments, instead focusing on policy developments in the United States.

Click here to read the entire column.

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Advocates Urge D.C. Council to Ease Limits on Where Adults Can Consume Marijuana

December 15th, 2015 1 Comment Robert Capecchi

Late last week, the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary met to consider B21-0107, which would make permanent an expansion of what is considered “open to the public” for purposes of banning marijuana consumption. This legislation is excessively broad and unnecessary.2000px-Flag_of_Washington,_D.C._icon.svg

Should B21-0107 fail, owners and operators of private clubs and event spaces will be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to allow marijuana consumption by adults 21 and older. Currently, District residents are legally allowed to consume marijuana only in private residences. Because of restrictions on public housing and by some landlords, this leaves some District residents with nowhere they can consume cannabis.

District code already prevents marijuana consumption “any place to which the public is invited,” so marijuana could still not be consumed in bars or restaurants if B21-0107 is defeated.

Congress has prevented the Council from taking further action to treat marijuana like alcohol, but that does not mean they have to adopt excessively broad legislation such as B21-0107. If you are a District resident, ask your council members to oppose advancement of B21-0107 thereby allowing social marijuana use in limited, non-residential, private spaces. Marijuana is safer than alcohol; help us continue to shape policy to recognize this.

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Alaska Regulators to Allow On-site Consumption in Some Marijuana Retail Stores

November 23rd, 2015 1 Comment Chris Lindsey

The Alaska Marijuana Control Board voted on Friday to create a class of retail marijuana license that will allow onsite consumption. This is an important decision that benefits adult consumers, those who will be licensed to provide to them, and the communities that want to regulate use.Alaska-StateSeal.svg

Despite clear language contained in Measure 2, some state staff members had advised the board that it could not authorize retail licenses to allow onsite consumption. Many of those who supported Measure 2 were concerned that the issue would be confused and needlessly delayed as the board deferred to lawmakers rather than exercise its own authority. Public comments submitted to the board overwhelmingly supported this change, and we applaud the board for taking this important step.

While the definition of “public,” adopted by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in February, did improve with this change, it unfortunately still falls short of acknowledging the rights private business owners have under the law. Nonetheless, this decision marks an important moment in the rule-making process and a victory for those who worked so hard to make Alaska’s regulations successful.

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Brookings Institution Report Calls For Broad Reforms in Marijuana Research Policy

October 23rd, 2015 2 Comments Morgan Fox

Early this week, the Brookings Institution released a report titled ‘Ending the U.S. government’s war on medical marijuana research’, which analyzes the ways in which the federal government hinders effective research, and how these policies could be changed.logo_brookings_-axd_

The federal government is stifling medical research in a rapidly transforming area of public policy that has consequences for public health and public safety. As medical marijuana becomes increasingly accessible in state-regulated, legal markets, and as others self-medicate in jurisdictions that do not allow the medical use of cannabis, it is increasingly important that the scientific community conduct research on this substance. However, statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area. It is time for the federal government to recognize the serious public policy risks born from limited medical, public health, and pharmaceutical research into cannabis and its use.
The report specifically argues that simply rescheduling marijuana will not be sufficient to remove barriers to scientific study, and that broader reforms are needed. Currently, marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug under federal law, and all research must be approved by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

You can read the full report here.

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Federal Court Ruling Is Big Win for Medical Marijuana Patients, Businesses

October 20th, 2015 1 Comment Morgan Fox

A federal judge ruled Monday that a budget amendment approved by Congress prevents the Department of Justice from taking action against medical marijuana patients and providers who are operating in compliance with state laws.

Northern District of California Judge Charles Breyer

Judge Charles Breyer, U.S. District Court. 01/02/2013 060-2013
Judge Charles Breyer (Photo: Hillary Jones-Mixon / The Recorder)

said that by enacting the so-called Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, “Congress dictated…that it intended to prohibit the Department of Justice from expending any funds in connection with the enforcement of any law that interfered with California’s ability” to implement its own state medical marijuana laws. The decision was prompted by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s efforts to shut down the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a prominent San Francisco-area medical marijuana dispensary. Judge Breyer’s ruling is available here.

The Washington Post reports:

When the legislation was passed, advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the issue agreed that the bill basically prevented the DEA from going after medical marijuana dispensaries, provided that such dispensaries were acting in compliance with state law. The DEA, however, didn’t see it that way. In a leaked memo, the Justice Department contended that the amendment only prevents actions against actual states — not against the individuals or businesses or business that actually carry out marijuana laws. In their interpretation, the bill still allowed them to pursue criminal and civil actions against medical marijuana businesses and the patients who patronized them.

The DoJ’s reading of the amendment infuriated its sponsors. They called for an investigation into the Department of Justice’s “tortuous twisting of the text” of the bill, saying it violated common sense. Yesterday, judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. district court in northern California agreed.

Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project agreed. “This is a big win for medical marijuana patients and their providers,” he wrote in a statement, “and a significant victory in our efforts to end the federal government’s war on marijuana. Federal raids of legitimate medical marijuana businesses aren’t just stupid and wasteful, but also illegal.”

The ruling could discourage the DoJ from creative interpretations of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment going forward, which should let medical marijuana businesses and their patients in 23 states breathe a sigh of relief.

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Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Historic Medical Marijuana Regulations

October 12th, 2015 No Comments Chris Lindsey

Gov. Brown signed three landmark bills on Friday that together usher in a new era for medical marijuana patients and those who provide to them. AB 243, AB 266, and SB 643 establish important protections and regulations for California businesses that make medical marijuana available to patients. The Marijuana Policy Project applauds Gov. Brown and the legislature for adopting a much-needed regulatory framework for the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana in California. This is an important and long-awaited step forward not only for medical marijuana patients and providers, but also for the state as a whole. Nearly 20 years ago, California paved the way for patients’ rights to access medical marijuana. Finally, it is following in the footsteps of states around the country that have proven that regulating marijuana works. We hope localities that have banned medical marijuana establishments will rethink their policies now that these establishments have clear and uniform rules to follow. We wish to thank the many legislators and organizations that all contributed to this effort, including the governor’s office. Despite the many differences over how to proceed, the process saw unprecedented agreement on the solution. Read our summary of the new laws here.

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Legalization Bill Introduced in Michigan

September 18th, 2015 No Comments Chris Lindsey
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Rep. Jeff Irwin

Yesterday, Rep. Jeff Irwin introduced HB 4877, a bill that would end marijuana prohibition in Michigan and treat cannabis similarly to alcohol.

This historic bill would provide protections for Michiganders and state visitors aged 21 and over, license and regulate businesses, establish testing requirements for cannabis, and many other sensible provisions. Six representatives joined with Rep. Irwin in support, including Reps. Singh, Robinson, Hovey-Wright, Chang, Hoadley, and Roberts.

In addition to Rep. Irwin’s bill, two efforts are currently underway in Michigan to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults through the voter initiative process. Michigan now has several options to end the failed policy of prohibition, and 2016 could be the year Michigan joins those that have chosen a better path.

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