As of midnight Wednesday, D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law is officially in effect. The new law — approved by the D.C. Council, signed by Mayor Gray,
and submitted to Congress for a 60-day review — replaces misdemeanor criminal charges for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil violation, costing the offender $25. Now D.C. has the third-least punitive marijuana laws in the country, behind Colorado and Washington State.
It is important to note that this is only a change in District law, not federal law. Marijuana possession on federal lands, including the National Mall, is still a criminal offense and violators may be arrested and prosecuted. Public use is still illegal as well. Please see our summary of this new law for more information.
The president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) expressed on Tuesday that he believes marijuana laws are total failures, reports mlive.com. John Dixon III is a police chief from Petersburg, VA and spoke at the annual NOBLE conference, saying that law enforcement is too concerned with arresting people for minor marijuana offenses that can irreparably harm those who are charged. He said, “We, as law-enforcement professionals, we need to really take a look at how we can decriminalize marijuana, especially user amounts. We are locking people up for a dime bag, for a joint. They’re put in the criminal-justice system which pretty much ruins the rest of their lives.” Dixon went on to discuss how he believes that medical professionals should be in charge of dealing with drug use and addiction, commenting, “Why do I have to lock you up for that? What benefit am I giving you, then? We have to get out of the business. That should be the focus of the medical field.”
The ACLU and others have noted that marijuana laws are disproportionately enforced against minorities across the country, despite similar use rates across racial demographics.
Dixon is far from the only law enforcement officer expressing his displeasure with prohibition. Major Neil Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), attended the seminar on Tuesday and insisted that law enforcement officers push to decriminalize marijuana by giving voice to the problems marijuana laws pose as seen by those who deal with them in the field every day.
MissouriGov. Jay Nixonsigned a limited medical marijuana bill into law yesterday. HB 2238allows some patients with intractable epilepsy access to products containing marijuana extracts. Those extracts must be limited primarily to a non-psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant called cannabidiol, or CBD.
Many believe high-CBD marijuana extracts are effective in helping alleviate severe seizure conditions — reducing both the frequency and intensity of seizures. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of patients who can benefit from medical marijuana have this condition, so the vast majority of seriously ill patients in Missouri will be left out of the state program. MPP has a short analysis of the law available here.
Several other states have passed laws that are similarly limited. For the most part, laws passed in other states are not workable due to limitations imposed under federal law. By contrast, Missouri’s carefully crafted law is unique in that it may actually lead to a functioning program. This will be great news for those few seriously ill seizure patients who will be able to participate.
A bill that would establish regulations and protections for a wide range of medical marijuana businesses in California continues to make progress in the legislature. Sen. Lou Correa’sbill SB 1262recently emerged from the Assembly Public Safety Committee, and will next be considered in the Appropriations Committee in August.
Sen. Correa’s bill has been heavily amended no less than five times since it was introduced in February. Many of the changes in the past few months have been big improvements, but some provisions remain troubling. For instance, the current version of the bill requires costly business license fees, saddles local governments with primary responsibility to enforce the law, and gives wide latitude to law enforcement officials to prohibit businesses.
We have been told it is too early to know if these requirements will change as negotiations among many different groups continue at a rapid pace. The only thing that is certain is that the bill remains very much a work in progress. For a list of MPP’s concerns with the current draft of the bill, click here.
Ohio has recently seen increased support for allowing adults to choose to consume marijuana, according to Cincinnati.com. Public opinion nationally is at an all time high, with 54% in support of making marijuana legal, and this has prompted many officials, including law enforcement, to reconsider the issue. Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for MPP, attributes the changing attitudes to Americans viewing marijuana as less dangerous, saying they “realize [marijuana] is a much safer alternative to alcohol. It doesn’t lead to violence and harmful effects.” In addition to this, many view the “war on marijuana” to be futile, including a number of law enforcement officers.
Roger Moore, the Chief of Police in Chillicothe, Ohio, believes that marijuana is like alcohol and should be treated similarly. He believes that in light of the opiate epidemic that many places across America are facing, marijuana offenses are minor at best. Moore says, “I believe it’s just like alcohol. Just because you drink beer doesn’t mean you drink hard liquor … Those that do marijuana, they do marijuana. There’s plenty of people who don’t smoke marijuana who do heroin, ecstasy and cocaine. (Marijuana enforcement) is not what my priority is in Chillicothe, it’s heroin.”
In Ohio, possession of 99 grams or less is a non-criminal citation, and residents can possess up to seven ounces of marijuana before facing any felony charges. Despite these relatively lenient penalties, prosecuting adults for marijuana in Ohio continues to saddle citizens with unnecessary criminal records at enormous costs in law enforcement time and resources.