In early June, the SenateÂ blocked a widely supported bill that would have removed criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.Â HB 618, which the House approved 297-67 in March, would have made possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense. Under current state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.
New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
President Obama announced on Monday that he was commuting the sentences of 46 federal drug offenders, more than doubling the number of nonviolent criminals to whom he has granted clemency since taking office.
âThese men and women were not violent criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years; 14 of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses, so their punishments didnât fit the crime,â Mr. Obama said in a video released on the White House Facebook page, in which he is shown signing the commutation letters. âI believe that America, at its heart, is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.â
Mr. Obamaâs action on Monday brought the total number of commutations he has issued to 89, exceeding that of any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, who commuted 80 sentences during his tenure. It also meant that he has commuted more sentences than the last four presidents combined.
WhileÂ it is unclear how many of those people were in prison for marijuana charges, this is a good sign that the administration, and the greater public, is open to substantiveÂ drug policy and criminal justice reform.
Most marijuana arrests do not result in jail time, but the collateral consequences can be still negatively impact a person for life.
However, there are a number of people serving long sentences for nonviolent marijuana offenses, some of them for life.Â The Department of Justice needs to reexamine these cases immediately.
To be sure, most voters aren’t single-issue marijuana voters (on either side of the legalization issue). Most voters make their decisions after processing a soup of positions and paid ads. So MPP’s intent is to inform a piece of that upcoming decision-making process, rather than claiming that marijuana legalization is the main issue for many voters.
That said, it’s worth noting that hardcore supporters of legalization are now finally capable of having a measurable impact on campaigns. For example, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) raised more than $100,000 at a marijuana-specific fundraising event in Portland on June 5. This is real money for a U.S. House race.
MPP’s early donations to Peter Shumlin (D-VT) almost certainly made the difference in his first primary contest for governor in 2010. And during the 2011-2012 election cycle, MPP was the largest donor to his campaign, edging out donations from AFSCME, Coca-Cola, and the Democratic Governors Association.
As for the presidential race, many members of the marijuana industry — which is generally defined as marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under various states’ laws — are supporting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). At a group fundraising meeting at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s annual conference in Denver on June 30, a room of canna-business leaders discussed the issue with Sen. Paul and donated more than $100,000 to his campaign. (This is real money for any presidential campaign.) MPP had previously donated $15,000 to Sen. Paul’s three campaign committees.
Setting aside the ability of the cannabis industry to have some degree of impact on the current presidential race, what are the positions of some of the more interesting candidates?
The BBCreportsthat Chileans may soon be able to legally grow up to six marijuana plants thanks to a bill that was passed by a lower house of congress. Previously, those who possessed or cultivated the plant risked 15 years imprisonment. Last October, the country began its first medical marijuana trial program.
The new bill will go before a health commission and then the Senate for approval. Members of the lower house approved the bill by a wide margin, with 68 in favour and 39 against.
Several other countries have eased restrictions for medical or personal use of marijuana in recent years. In the US, more than 20 states allow some form of medical marijuana and Colorado and Washington have legalised it for personal use. Uruguay became the first country to create a legal marijuana market in 2013 and earlier this year Jamaica decriminalised personal use of the drug.
As more and more U.S. states consider ending marijuana prohibition, countries around that world that were pressured into mimicking U.S. marijuana policy are starting to re-examine their laws as well.
Earlier today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill in the Senate that would banks to do business with the marijuana industry in states where it is legal for medical purposes or adult use.
Introduced by the Senate delegations from Oregon and Colorado, two of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, the bill would prohibit the federal government from penalizing banks that work with marijuana businesses.
Though four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, the drug is still illegal under federal law. That makes it difficult for businesses operating in those legalized states to access financial services through the banking industry. Instead, those companies have to run all-cash operations that the senators say invite crime.
The entire legal landscape that legal marijuana currently faces is âinsane,â said GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado in an interview.
Last Friday, MPP released the 2016 Presidential Candidates Report Card, which grades the various major candidates based on their support for marijuana policy reform or the willingness to allow it to move forward. Since then, a wide variety of news outlets have written about it, including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Washington Times, and others. In particular, there was quite a bit of interest inÂ Republican Sen. Rand Paul receiving the highest grade of any candidate: A-.
Mr. Paul, received a grade of âA-â from the Marijuana Policy Project. The group said his grade was based largely on his sponsorship of a medical marijuana bill, support for reducing marijuana-related penalties and support for allowing states to regulate marijuana for adult use.
Mr. Christie and Mr. Santorum, meanwhile, two other GOP contenders, both received a grade of âFâ âbecause they oppose reform efforts and they are the most vocal supporters of enforcing federal prohibition laws in states that have made marijuana legal,â the group said.
âSome of these guys who tout statesâ rights, fiscal responsibility, and getting the government out of peopleâs private lives want to use federal tax dollars to punish adults for using marijuana in states that have made it legal,â said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the group. âThey say using marijuana is immoral or just too dangerous to allow, but serve alcohol, a more dangerous substance, at their fundraisers. The hypocrisy is astonishing.â
Last November, 56% of Oregon voters approved Measure 91 â choosing to regulate marijuana like alcohol and allowing adults to use, possess, and cultivate it. Today, legal protections for adult possession, use, and cultivation official take effect!
As of 12:01 a.m., individuals 21 or older may possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and grow up to four plants in their household. Adults may also gift up to an ounce of marijuana to other adults. The state is setting up regulations that will govern the production and sale of marijuana, so access is currently limited to home cultivation. However, the state is considering legislation that will allow medical dispensaries to sell limited quantities of marijuana to any adult 21 and older starting this October.
Measure 91 resembles ballot measures that have removed penalties for adultsâ possession and use of marijuana in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. Colorado and Washington have implemented effective public health and safety regulatory structures governing the production and sale of marijuana, and Alaska and Oregon are in the process of doing the same. In the meantime,Â ask your state representative and senator to support legislationÂ that will more quickly take the marijuana market from criminal actors.
None of this would be possible without the good and hard work of theÂ New Approach OregonÂ campaign, their volunteers, and, of course, the voters of Oregon. For more information about Measure 91, please seeÂ our summary.
The first,Â HB 149, significantly reduces penalties for marijuana possession! Although penalties will still be harsh for possessing a substance safer than alcohol, HB 149 is an important step forward âÂ it shaves months, and in some cases years, off of cannabis consumersâ sentences. This law is effective immediately.
While first offense marijuana possession remains a misdemeanor, the penalty for possessing 14 grams or less is now far less severe than it was. The maximum jail sentence is reduced from six months to 15 days while the maximum fine is reduced from $500 to $300. HB 149 also significantly reduces the sentences for second and subsequent marijuana possession charges.
Gov. Jindal also signed into law a bill that could, in the future, support a compassionate medical marijuana program for Louisianans, although it will not allow patients to use the medicine in smokable form.
SB 143Â allows Louisiana physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in accordance with FDA and DEA guidelines. Since these federal guidelines donât exist, this law is not currently operable.Â Physicians risk losing their prescription license if they use it to prescribe marijuana. But hope remains for future regulatory improvement. Overall, both new laws signed by Gov. Jindal represent improvements for Louisianaâs marijuana policies.
Last week, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed HB 39 into law, making itÂ the 20thÂ state to decriminalize â or in four cases, legalize â possession of personal use amounts of marijuana. The Senate approved the bill less than an hour earlier in a 12-9 vote.
Introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley, HB 39 will make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is currently a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $575 fine and up to three months in jail. HB 39 goes into effect six months after enactment.
Please thank the governor for his leadership! You can call him at (302) 744-4101 or send him a message on social media or by webmailÂ here.
Wednesday evening, the Delaware Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-2Â to approve legislation that would stop the stateâs ineffective and cruel practice of jailing individuals for possessing a small amount of marijuana â a substance that is safer than alcohol. The bill can now be voted on as early as tomorrow. Since the House has already approved the bill, a positive Senate vote will send it to the governor for final approval.
Introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley, HB 39 would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail. Under current Delaware law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $575 fine and up to three months in jail. More than two-thirds of Delaware voters support this policy.
The opinions expressed by our viewers and posters do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Marijuana Policy Project. These views are those of their individual authors alone. MPP does not condone or support the illegal use of marijuana. We do encourage open and frank discussion, but if a comment has been posted that is in some way significantly inappropriate, please email us at [email protected] to report it. Thank you, and we're looking forward to what you think!
"Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use."
"Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care. ... It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record."
"The amount of money and of legal energy being given to prosecute hundreds of thousands of Americans who are caught with a few ounces of marijuana in their jeans simply makes no sense - the kindest way to put it. A sterner way to put it is that it is an outrage, an imposition on basic civil liberties and on the reasonable expenditure of social energy."