Forbes Debunks Report on Sky Falling in Colorado

September 18th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

On Tuesday, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,RockyMountainLogo a federal law enforcement organization that has continuously opposed making marijuana legal, released a report claiming that regulating marijuana like alcohol in Colorado is having severe negative consequences and losing support among residents. Supporters of marijuana policy reform quickly and correctly criticized the report as biased and unscientific. MPP’s Mason Tvert said“Yeah, it’s joke[.] It would receive an F in any high school class, let alone any college class.”

The most complete refutation of this report comes from Jacob Sullum in Forbes:

In 2012 Coloradans approved Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use, by a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent. Last February a Quinnipiac University poll found that 58 percent of Colorado voters supported that decision, while 38 percent opposed it and the rest weren’t sure.

For prohibitionists determined to portray marijuana legalization in Colorado as a disaster, those poll results are inconvenient, since they indicate that public support for Amendment 64 was higher after more than a year of legal recreational sales and more than two years of legal possession and home cultivation than it was in 2012. Honest drug warriors would acknowledge the Quinnipiac numbers and perhaps try to balance them with other poll results. Dishonest drug warriors would do what the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) does in its new report on marijuana legalization: change the numbers.

The RMHIDTA, a federally supported task force dedicated to suppressing marijuana and other illegal drugs, claims only 50 percent of Colorado voters supported legalization in that Quinnipiac survey—eight points lower than the actual result. It also understates the 2012 vote for Amendment 64 by a point, but the comparison still supports the story that the task force wants to tell: The consequences of legalization in Colorado have been so bad that public support for the policy already has fallen.

Even assuming that the RMHIDTA’s misrepresentation of the Quinnipiac survey was a mistake, the direction of the error is not random. You can be sure that if the report had overstated support for legalization by eight points, someone would have caught it before the text was finalized. Which underlines a point that should be obvious by now: Despite its pose as a dispassionate collector of facts, the RMHIDTA, which issued similar reports in 2013 and 2014, is committed to the position that legalization was a huge mistake, and every piece of information it presents is aimed at supporting that predetermined conclusion. So even when the task force does not simply make stuff up, it filters and slants the evidence to play up the purported costs of legalization while ignoring the benefits. Here are some examples of what I mean.

Read the complete story here.

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Illinois: Decrim Bill Dies, But Another To Replace It By Years’ End

September 15th, 2015 1 Comment Chris Lindsey

HB 218, an Illinois bill that would have reduced the penalty for possessing a personal use amount of marijuana to a non-criminal fine, will not advance further. Instead, lawmakers are currently working on a compromise with the governor’s office, and a new bill is expected to emerge.

Please take a moment to ask your senator and representative to support a replacement bill before the end of the year. Let them know Illinoisans should not have to wait another year to end the unfair and costly law currently in place.

After the legislature approved HB 218 earlier this year, the governor issued an amendatory veto, making several significant changes to the text of the bill. Unfortunately the clock ran out on approving HB 218 with the amendatory language, but there is still plenty of time for a new vehicle to be used for a proposal the governor can sign. Gov. Bruce Rauner, bill sponsor Rep. Kelly Cassidy, and the majority of the General Assembly all agree it is time to stop jailing and criminalizing Illinois residents for possessing a small amount of marijuana — and a solution is in the works.

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Alaska: Third Round of Proposed Marijuana Rules Under Consideration. The Marijuana Control Board should hear from you!

September 10th, 2015 No Comments Chris Lindsey

The third round of proposed rules drafted by the Alaska Marijuana Control Board (MCB) has been issued and those who wish to provide feedback may do so before 4:30 p.m. Thursday, September 10. The current set of rules addresses regulations related to cultivators, product manufacturing, and testing.

If you wish to be heard, please take a moment to provide your feedback to the MCB and take a look at the campaign’s comments, available here.

As with previous rounds, most of the proposed rules are reasonable, but several areas should be improved. For example:

  • The draft rules would prohibit the sale of marijuana-infused cooking oil directly to consumers which could be burdensome to medical marijuana patients who wish to create their own edibles.
  • The rules seek to impose an artificial limit on the percentage of THC available in any product, despite the fact that the federal government has approved a medicine that contains 100% synthetic THC.
  • They would prohibit cultivators from allowing odors to be detected by the public, even for large operations in rural areas.

For a closer look at our comments, take a look at our letter to the board. And if you wish, you can either submit your own comments or click here to send an email to the board immediately.

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Decriminalization is Spreading Across Florida!

September 10th, 2015 No Comments Brendan Valentine

This month is off to a great start for marijuana reform in Florida. Both West Palm Beach and Key West became the latest Florida cities to enact measures intended to replace most marijuana arrests with civil penalties. The Key West City Commission voted unanimously to allow police to issue a $100 fine for possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana, rather than arresting and prosecuting people who have chosen a substance safer than alcohol. West Palm Beach approved a similar ordinance. This trend began in July, when Miami-Dade County reclassified marijuana possession so that police could issue a civil fine in lieu of arresting Floridians. Since then the cities of Miami Beach and Hallandale Beach have followed suit. Similar measures are being considered by Alachua, Broward, and Monroe counties.

Unfortunately, simple possession remains a crime under state law, and police officers may still choose to arrest under that authority. Statewide, possession of small amounts of marijuana carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000. According to retired Florida judge Rand Hoch marijuana arrests weigh down the system, “One out of every two offenses, drug offenses that end up in court, are for marijuana.” Statistics from police in Miami Beach show that processing an arrest for possession costs taxpayers five times as much as issuing a citation. A marijuana arrest can also result in a lasting criminal record that diminishes opportunities related to employment, housing, financial aid, scholarships, and immigration. “You have these cases that are going to court, which are already over burdened,” Judge Hoch says. “Anything that can ease the burden on the court and help people not get saddled with a criminal record is beneficial.”

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MPP’s Rob Kampia Provides Update on What’s Happening in Congress

September 9th, 2015 5 Comments Mason Tvert

Rob KampiaWith Congress returning from its August recess this week, MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia dedicated his latest Huffington Post column to discussing where things stand for marijuana policy reform on Capitol Hill.

He describes how 2015 has been the most successful year to date:

The_Huffington_Post_logo.svgUntil last year, neither chamber of Congress had ever passed any measure in support of reforming federal marijuana laws. That changed in May 2014 when the House, with 219 votes, passed a budget restriction that was intended to block the enforcement of federal marijuana laws for people and businesses acting in compliance with state laws that permit medical marijuana. That measure, sponsored by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), became law when it was included in the so-called “CRomnibus” in December 2014.

In June of this year, the House approved the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment again, this time with 242 votes. And the House wasn’t alone this time; the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to include the amendment in its version of the U.S. Justice Department’s funding bill by a 21-9 vote.

But unlike last year, Congress didn’t stop there.

Read Rob’s full piece for a list of the other victories we’ve had in Congress this year, as well as his thoughts on what we can expect to see in coming months.

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Initiative to Regulate Marijuana in Massachusetts Moves Another Step Closer to 2016 Ballot

September 3rd, 2015 10 Comments Mason Tvert

Regulate Mass Logo-CIRCLEThe Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has certified the petition in support of an initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana in the state, moving it one step closer to the 2016 ballot.

According to a press release from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts:

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) will now file the petition with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which has 14 days to sign off on it, at which point the campaign will begin its signature drive. Initiative backers must collect the signatures of 64,750 registered Massachusetts voters over a nine-week period from September to November. The petition would then be transmitted to the Massachusetts Legislature. If the legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot. 

You can find out more about the proposed initiative, which was filed last month, by visiting the campaign’s website.

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Missouri Man Serving Life Sentence for Marijuana Released Today

September 1st, 2015 8 Comments Morgan Fox

In August, a Missouri man serving a life sentence for a non-violent marijuana violation was pardoned after an outpouring of public pressure. Today, Jeff Mizanskey walked out of prison a free man after more than 20 years of incarceration.

KRCG reports:

Jeff Mizanskey walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center and into the arms of more than a dozen family, friends and supporters Tuesday morning. Mizanskey was granted parole on Aug. 10 after Gov. Jay Nixon commuted his sentence to life with the possibility of parole in May. The only person in Missouri serving a life-without-parole sentence for a marijuana offense, Mizanskey had been the focus of an intensive lobbying effort. When Mizanskey was arrested in 1993 after selling 6 pounds of marijuana to a dealer connected to Mexican drug cartels, life without parole was an option for repeat drug offenders. State lawmakers repealed that provision in 2014 as part of a broader overhaul of the state’s criminal code.

Mizanskey said he plans to continue to advocate for marijuana legalization and prison reform.


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Tax and Regulate

Vermont House Speaker Supports Legalization

September 1st, 2015 4 Comments Morgan Fox

Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith, previously undecided about whether to support a bill that would make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol, has put his support behind such a measure for the 2016 session

VT House Speaker Shap Smith (photo: Ben Sarle) .

Vermont Public Radio reports:

For months, Smith has taken a “wait and see” position concerning the legalization of marijuana. He said he wanted to remain undecided until Vermont lawmakers could closely evaluate the experience of Colorado and Washington, the two states that have legalized marijuana for more than a year.

Smith is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2016, and this legislation could be become a campaign issue.

Smith says he thinks it makes sense for Vermont to legalize marijuana if it can be done with a thoughtful approach.

“It’s clear to me in my discussions with Vermonters that in general, the people in this state probably favor legalization,” Smith said on VPR’s Vermont Edition on Aug. 28. “And I certainly believe that we can legalize marijuana if we do it right … we’ve seen what has happened in Colorado and Washington, and we can learn from their experiences.”

Earlier this year, Sen. David Zuckerman and Rep. Chris Pearson introduced legislation to regulate marijuana, but the session adjourned before they were able to get a vote.

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Medical Marijuana

Michigan Official Rejects Autism as Qualifying Condition for Medical Marijuana Program

August 28th, 2015 2 Comments Morgan Fox

On Thursday, a Michigan official denied an application to add autism to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in the state.

Detroit Free Press reports:

The decision followed three years of efforts by parents of autistic children, their lawyers and supporters to have Michigan become the first state to specify that marijuana could be used to treat autism.

Mike Zimmer, appointed in December as director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs — LARAlara — said he was concerned that an approval would apply not just to serious cases of autism but to all cases. And he said that parents applying to use medical pot would need the approval of two medical doctors, yet there was no requirement that either doctor be experienced in treating autism.

No state specifically allows medical cannabis for autism, although California and Washington, D.C., allow using the drug for any condition that a medical doctor believes it may help, said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit group that favors legalizing marijuana.

A bill that would broaden Michigan’s medical marijuana act to allow other forms of medical pot — House Bill 4210, sponsored by state Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto — has been in the House Judiciary Committee since February, after a similar bill failed to pass last year.

While this is disappointing, it does provide a road map of sorts for a successful application next time. Hopefully, autism sufferers will soon be able to access medical marijuana in Michigan.

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New Hope for Casualties of Georgia’s Failed Prohibition Policies

August 28th, 2015 No Comments Chris Lindsey

Georgia has begun releasing marijuana and other drug offenders who were sentenced under the state’s harsh sentencing laws. The new law allows those facing life sentences for illicit sales to be considered for parole. Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply to those facing sentences just for possession.

Following adoption of a misguided “get tough on crime” campaign in the 90’s, many Georgians found themselves in horrifically long prison terms for nonviolent offenses, including the sale of marijuana. Journalists with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that black people were an astonishing 26 times more likely to receive life sentences than were whites under these laws.

For many, the war on marijuana seems to be winding down. But for those who languish in prison under long sentences, the war could mean a life sentence.

Darion Barker (Photo: Bob Andres)

The first person to benefit from the new law was Darion Barker, sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for sale of marijuana and other drugs. Officials released him in July after serving 20 years.

But while the new law is a major step forward, there is more to do. Others just like Darion remain behind bars, many for lesser charges, including marijuana possession. If you are a Georgia resident, please ask your representative and senator to include those subject to long prison sentences for possession to be eligible for parole like Darion.

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