The Boston Herald reported today that lawmakers in New England have been emboldened by the 2012 victories in Colorado and Washington. Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts are addressing the prospect of taxation and regulation of marijuana. Vermont is considering decriminalization, and New Hampshire is pushing to legalize medical marijuana.
While the reform discussion isn’t entirely new in the northeast – Rep. Ellen Story (D-MA) has submitted multiple bills in the past – MPP is optimistic about present and future measures in the region and is lending its support. MPP’s communications manager, Morgan Fox, told the Herald, “We’ve just won the first two victories in what’ll be a long road. The wind’s at our back now.”
This past year was undeniably the most productive 365-day period in the history of the marijuana policy reform movement. There were a number of significant accomplishments, but here is the Marijuana Policy Project’s list of the “Top 10 Marijuana Victories of 2012.” As with our previous annual lists, it includes neither important scientific developments nor important international developments. Rather, this list focuses on the biggest marijuana-related policy accomplishments in the U.S. in the last year.
The law overwhelmingly passed by Massachusetts voters in November officially went into effect on January 1, joining 17 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing the seriously ill to use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Nearly a third of the U.S. population can now access medical marijuana if they have a qualifying condition!
While the people of Massachusetts are generally quite pleased about this, local governments are trying to delay implementation of the new law until the Department of Public Health can establish regulations to govern the program.
Apparently, local leaders would rather continue to arrest the seriously ill than wait four months for guidance from the state.
After the marijuana-policy-reform movement’s huge victories in Colorado and Washington on November 6, many people are asking, “What states will be next to enact measures to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol?” (We refer to these as “T&R” bills or initiatives.)
It is important to note that this pair of 55 percent victories would have been less resounding had they appeared on the ballot during a midterm election. Presidential elections traditionally attract far more voters, many of whom are younger and more supportive of T&R than older voters. And when there are more voters, there tends to be more support shown for ending marijuana prohibition.
With that in mind, here is what the Marijuana Policy Project will be pursuing from 2013 to 2016:
The statement comes from the ruling on a 2010 case in which a person with around six grams of marijuana in three separate bags was charged with intent to distribute marijuana. Defense attorneys argued that intent did not matter if the amount was less than an ounce because there are no criminal charges for that amount. A lower court judge agreed, but was overruled by yesterday’s decision.
The law that removed criminal penalties for small amounts, passed through referendum in 2008 by a significant majority of voters, was not intended to remove penalties for sale of marijuana. But intent to sell is something entirely different. It is highly doubtful that anyone with less than an ounce has the intent to distribute any of it. The burden of proof must lie on the state when charging someone with so little marijuana with being a distributor. To have it otherwise could provide overzealous prosecutors with a method of circumventing the 2008 law.
In this particular case, the ruling is based on pretty flimsy evidence. The defendant had six grams of marijuana stored in three separate bags when he was searched. Even though the police did not witness him conduct a sale, he was charged with intent to distribute simply because his marijuana, which was less than a quarter of what he would need to invoke criminal penalties, was not stored in a single container! Continue reading →