Prohibition

Louisiana Man Serving 13 Years for Two Joints Has Sentence Reduced

December 9th, 2016 1 Comment » Marijuana Policy Project
bernard-noble
Bernard Noble

Simply being arrested for marijuana possession is bad enough, and can have life-long consequences. But imagine spending 13 years in prison for a small personal amount of a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol. That’s what Bernard Noble, a Louisiana man with a history of minor non-violent drug possession offenses, has been subjected to since being convicted in 2010. Now, thanks to the tireless work of his family, his defense attorney, advocates around the country, he will free in 2018.

Huffington Post reports:

Bernard Noble, a 50-year-old father of seven, has spent the last six years in prison in Louisiana serving out a sentence of 13 and a half years for possession of what was the equivalent of two joints’ worth of marijuana.

Noble’s case was a rallying cry for those seeking reform of harsh sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders. And Monday, after years of litigation, multiple articles on his case (including from The Huffington Post), documentaries, podcasts, rallies and petitions, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro agreed to resentence Noble to eight years, Noble’s attorney Jee Park announced in a statement. That means he could be free in less than two more years given the time he’s already served behind bars.

“To me, eight years is still too long for Bernard and his family,” Park said, “but the prospect of going home and being reunited with his children in less than 2 years brought relief to Bernard.”

Park said she’s hopeful that Noble, who she described as a “caring and responsible father, successful entrepreneur, [with] no violence in his past” might be paroled and released even sooner. Noble’s previous sentence did not include the possibility of parole.

Noble was caught with the equivalent of two joints’ worth of marijuana in 2010. At first, Noble was sentenced to five years in prison. But the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office appealed that ruling and took the case all the way to the state Supreme Court.

Noble had seven prior convictions on his record, stretching back to 1989. All were convictions for possession of small amounts of drugs; two were for cocaine and the rest were for marijuana. All were nonviolent, and four were misdemeanors and three were felonies. The state used two of the felony charges in their branding of Noble as a “habitual offender” under Louisiana law. That allowed them to apply the maximum possible sentence against Noble, without a chance of parole.

Read HuffPost’s full interview with Noble from 2015 here.

MPP would like to congratulate Mr. Noble on this victory and thank all the people whose efforts are helping bring him home.

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Medical Marijuana

Montana Court Rules Medical Marijuana Providers Can Start Helping More Patients Immediately

December 8th, 2016 No Comments Chris Lindsey
In an important new development in Montana, District Court Judge James Reynolds ruled Wednesday that medical marijuana providers may serve more than three patients starting immediately. This is welcome news to over 11,000 patients who may now re-establish critical access to medical marijuana. Without the ruling, severe limitations for patients would not have been removed until July of 2017. Following today’s decision, there is no need for delay.2000px-flag_of_montana-svg
Voters in Montana adopted I-182 in November, undoing many harmful provisions in the state medical marijuana law and creating new protections for businesses. Unfortunately, a typo contained in the measure suggested that providers could not re-establish their relationship with patients well into next year. The state would not simply correct the error, so the Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA), which supported the measure, sought relief in state court. Today’s ruling is yet another victory for patients and those who provide to them.
Special thanks to the MTCIA and their supporters for their hard work in support of the measure, and for taking the matter to court when relief was critical to thousands.

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Tax and Regulate

Maine Initiative Recount Wasting Time and Taxpayer Money

December 8th, 2016 1 Comment » Marijuana Policy Project

Last week, the group opposing the successful initiative to make marijuana legal in Maine moved forward with a recount, despite the cost to the taxpayer and the very slim chances of overturning Question 1.yes1

“We respectfully ask the No on 1 Campaign to follow the lead of the No on 2 Campaign and withdraw their recount request,” said David Boyer, Campaign Manager for the Yes on 1 Campaign. “There is no evidence that a recount would change the result of Question 1. At the same time, $500,000 would be wasted on the process of recounting ballots. That’s half a million taxpayer dollars that should be spent on heating homes and funding schools.”

The most recent statewide recount in Maine was the 2010 Oxford Casino initiative, when the opposition campaign demanded a recount. The Yes campaign won the original vote by 4,723 votes, and after roughly 20% of the recount was complete, the margin of victory actually increased.

Not satisfied with simply wasting taxpayer money, the prohibitionists couldn’t even be bothered to show up to the first day of counting with the legally required number of people to count the votes!

David Boyer, campaign manager for Yes on 1, said volunteers with his campaign pitched in to count for the “No” side to keep the process going on Monday and Tuesday.

“That is, quite frankly, silly. The whole point is to ensure the integrity of the vote and they can’t be bothered to do that,” he said. “What are we doing here?”

Boyer said the No on 1 campaign’s “lack of organization is costing taxpayers more money because it’s going slower.”

 

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Prohibition

Obama Thinks Marijuana Should Be Legal, Still Has Time for Pardons

December 8th, 2016 1 Comment » Morgan Fox

In an interview with Rolling Stone published Nov. 29, President Barack Obama spoke candidly about how he thinks marijuana should be treated:

You can now buy marijuana legally on the entire West Coast. So why are we still waging the War on Drugs? It is a colossal failure. Why are we still dancing around the subject and making marijuana equivalent to a Schedule I drug?640px-2011_state_of_the_union_obama

Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse. And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it. Typically how these classifications are changed are not done by presidential edict but are done either legislatively or through the DEA. As you might imagine, the DEA, whose job it is historically to enforce drug laws, is not always going to be on the cutting edge about these issues.

[Laughs] What about you? Are you gonna get on the cutting edge?
Look, I am now very much in lame-duck status. And I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go. But in light of these referenda passing, including in California, I’ve already said, and as I think I mentioned on Bill Maher’s show, where he asked me about the same issue, that it is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that’s legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage. There’s something to this whole states-being-laboratories-of-democracy and an evolutionary approach. You now have about a fifth of the country where this is legal.

Lame duck or not, there are still more than 40 days for Pres. Obama to grant pardons or commute sentences for those convicted of federal marijuana violations. Please contact the White House and ask the president to use his remaining time in office to restore justice for the victims of marijuana prohibition.

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Uncategorized

Marijuana Policy Reformers Wary of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General

December 8th, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project
jeff_sessions_by_gage_skidmore
Sen. Jeff Sessions (PHOTO: Gaga Skidmore)

President-elect Trump’s pick for the top law enforcement position is known for making some disturbing statements, particularly about marijuana, that have made activists extremely nervous about federal marijuana policy in the next administration. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), who is likely to be confirmed as attorney general in the coming months, has been pretty clear that he is no fan of marijuana, legalization, or marijuana consumers.

The Week reports:

Sessions has called for more federal prosecutions of marijuana growers and businesses in states where it is legal. He said in April that it’s important for the government to send a “message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He declared that “we need grownups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”

One of the major difficulties in the burgeoning pot industry has long been the federal government’s ability to prosecute businesses that the states say are legal. Making Sessions the head of the agency in charge of federal law enforcement and prosecutions has many in the cannabis community quite concerned.

Robert Capecchi, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, noted that Sessions would face at least one stumbling block: The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment to the annual appropriations bill (which has to be renewed annually) prohibits the Department of Justice and the DEA from using money to target or prosecute state-compliant medical marijuana businesses. But other than that hurdle, Capechhi said, the only thing standing between Sessions and a crusade against states’ legal pot industries is “just DOJ policy.” And policies are not laws. “There’s nothing set in stone.”

Capecchi, though, is holding out hope, noting that Trump had suggested on the campaign trail that he supported medical marijuana and the states’ rights argument in favor of full legalization. “I think the business man in Mr. Trump can see if you go after these businesses you drive all this legal and regulated marijuana market back underground.”

While many reformers are hoping that Sessions will respect his boss’s preference to leave marijuana policy to the states  (which Trump supported during the campaign), we will be vigilant for any threats to the progress we have made so far, and will continue to pressure the administration and Congress to help end marijuana prohibition.

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Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Dept. Of Health Asking for Patient Input on Medical Marijuana Regulations

December 8th, 2016 No Comments Becky Dansky
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has asked patients and caregivers to complete a brief survey to help gauge public interest in the medical marijuana program. The responses will be considered as part of the process of drafting medical marijuana regulations relating to patients and doctors.
The patient survey takes less than five minutes to complete and asks just 12 questions, including where you live in Pennsylvania,255px-flag_of_pennsylvania-svg what condition you seek to treat, and the types of treatments in which you are interested. You can also submit comments about the implementation process.
The Department of Health is also seeking public input from individuals interested in applying for a grower/ processor and/or dispensary permit — that survey is available here. The department is seeking to engage the community to determine both the level of interest in seeking these permits and where potential applicants intend to open these types of facilities.
Your answers to these surveys will be considered in the drafting of regulations related to doctors and patients.
MPP will continue to advocate for the strongest possible medical marijuana program for patients, but we need your help. Make sure Pennsylvania’s program includes you and your loved ones by completing the patient survey by December 14.

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Tax and Regulate

Delaware Activist Training Event in Wilmington on Dec. 10

December 8th, 2016 No Comments Maggie Ellinger-Locke
When the Delaware Legislature’s 2017 session begins on January 10, reformers expect lawmakers to take a serious look at ending cannabis prohibition. In order to move this important issue forward, we need to grow our team of effective advocates. That’s where you come in!dcpc_logo_348
Please join the Marijuana Policy Project on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 1 – 5 p.m. at the Wilmington Public Library for an activist training to sharpen your citizen lobbying skills! RSVPs are not required, but they are appreciated — you can do so here.
We have lots to talk about, including the contents of the proposed legislation and how the legislative process works. We will also discuss messaging and offer tips on communicating with your lawmakers. Come and sharpen your skills as an organizer.
The library is located in downtown Wilmington. Please join us this Saturday at:
Wilmington Public Library
DuPont Room (Second Floor)
10 E 10th Street
Wilmington, DE 19801

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Medical Marijuana

Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Texas

December 8th, 2016 2 Comments » Heather Fazio
On Dec. 6, Texas Senator MenĂ©ndez (D-San Antonio) pre-filed SB 269, a comprehensive medical cannabis bill. If passed, this legislation will bring safe and legal access to Texas patients with debilitating medical conditions like cancer, PTSD, chronic pain, and Crohn’s disease, among others.txas-map-flag
Last year, Texas passed the Compassionate Use Act, which was intended to allow access to low-THC cannabis for those with intractable epilepsy. Sen. MenĂ©ndez’s bill will make several improvements, including fixing a fatal flaw in the bill, allowing cannabis with any amount of THC, and expanding the law to include other qualifying conditions. As Senator MenĂ©ndez says, “Compassion should not be exclusive. Twenty-eight states have recognized the medical benefit of cannabis, including conservative states like Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota … It is time Texas steps up to the plate on behalf of our sickest patients.”
Legislators need to hear from you. If you are a Texas resident, please take a moment to send an email to the lawmakers who represent you. If you have a personal story to share or medical experience that has led you to support medical cannabis, please personalize your letter. Your representative and senator cannot properly represent you if they don’t know you.

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Medical Marijuana

New York Closer to Allowing Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain

December 5th, 2016 1 Comment » Kate Bell
On Dec. 1, the New York Department of Health announced that it will add chronic pain as a qualifying condition for the medical marijuana program. It will publish proposed rules, “which will include language specifying the chronic pain conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana.”2000px-flag_of_new_york_city-svg
Under current law, patients only qualify if their pain is caused by one of a few qualifying conditions. Allowing medical cannabis for patients with chronic pain will vastly expand the number of seriously ill patients who can enroll in the program. Medical cannabis can reduce patients’ reliance on dangerous opioids and lead to a statewide reduction in opioid overdoes.
Once the Department of Health publishes its proposed rules, the public will have the opportunity to comment before they become final. Stay tuned for more information about how you can submit your comments, and please pass the good news on to other compassionate New Yorkers.

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Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Adds PTSD to Qualifying Conditions

December 5th, 2016 1 Comment » Maggie Ellinger-Locke
In a press conference last week, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the Minnesota Commissioner of Health, announced the department will add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis. Patients who suffer from PTSD and have their doctor’s certification will be eligible to sign up for a medical cannabis card beginning August 2017.flag_of_minnesota-svg
Dr. Ehlinger also announced that the department will expand the program by allowing medical cannabis topicals, including patches, lotions, creams, gels, and ointments. Topicals have been shown to be a safe form of administering medical cannabis.
Last year, intractable pain was added to the Minnesota program, significantly increasing patient participation. The program — one of the most limited in the nation — had suffered from a lack of patient participation due to few qualifying conditions. The Commissioner reviewed a total of nine petitions requesting program expansion. While MPP wishes they had all been adopted, adding PTSD will help many hundreds of patients and is a significant victory.

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