Prohibition

Top Legislative Victories of 2016

August 23rd, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Now that most state legislative sessions are over for the year, MPP’s Rob Kampia has published a list of the biggest victories in what is already the biggest year on record for marijuana policy reformers!Rating_Badge_JO

On July 29, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill removing the threat of arrest for small amounts of marijuana, capping a record year of legislative and administrative marijuana policy reforms throughout the country.

Two states, Pennsylvania and Ohio, enacted effective medical marijuana laws via their legislatures, making them the 24th and 25th states to do so, respectively. As a result, more than half of the U.S. population now lives in states that have opted to legalize medical marijuana.

In addition to Illinois, a number of other states enacted laws to reduce marijuana possession penalties. Kansas lowered the maximum jail sentence for first-time possession and reduced second offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Louisiana and Maryland removed criminal penalties for possession of paraphernalia, with the Maryland Legislature overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto. Oklahoma cut the penalties for second marijuana possession offenses in half, and Tennessee reduced a third possession offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, making the maximum penalty less than a year in jail. At the local level, New Orleans and a number of Florida counties passed ordinances that give police the option to issue summons or citations instead of arresting people for low-level possession.

You can read the full article in the Huffington Post.

 

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Medical Marijuana

Federal Court Ruling Gives Hope to Medical Marijuana Patients and Providers

August 23rd, 2016 No Comments Morgan Fox

In a decision released on August 16, a federal court ruled that the Department of Justice cannot spend funds to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers who are in compliance with state law.2000px-US-CourtOfAppeals-9thCircuit-Seal.svg

Time Magazine reports:

The ruling comes after a 2014 Congressional law that prohibited the DOJ from interfering in state implementation of marijuana laws. That law led people being prosecuted by the federal government to seek the dismissal of their charges, arguing they were in compliance with state law. On Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, sending their cases back to lower courts to determine if they were in compliance with state laws. Some of the defendants ran Los Angeles based marijuana stores and faced charges for distributing 100 marijuana plants.

Tuesday’s decision by a three-judge panel was unanimous. But in its opinion, the court warned Congress could change its mind and again allow federal funding for prosecution of state-sanctioned marijuana use. “DOJ is currently prohibited from spending funds from specific appropriations acts for prosecutions of those who complied with state law,” the Court wrote. “But Congress could appropriate funds for such prosecutions tomorrow.”

John Hudak at the Brookings Institute agrees that this ruling is a positive development, but warns against celebrating too much. You can read his detailed analysis here.

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Uncategorized

DEA Fails to Reschedule Marijuana, but Opens Path for More Research

August 23rd, 2016 No Comments Rory McPeak

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has decided that marijuana will remain classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The decision to keep marijuana in the category reserved for drugs with no accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse was, according to the DEA, based on consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services. According to DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg, “If the scientific understanding about marijuana changes — and it could change — then the decision could change…. But we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands. It certainly would be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise.”2000px-US-DrugEnforcementAdministration-Seal.svg

The fact that the DEA has maintained its position that marijuana has no accepted medical value may come as a surprise to many, especially given the thousands, if not millions, of seriously ill patients who currently use marijuana to treat a number of symptoms and conditions.

In a more positive development, it was also announced that the federal government will be removing major obstacles to marijuana research. The only source of federally approved research-grade marijuana has been the University of Mississippi, and it has been so difficult for researchers to obtain that it has effectively created a research monopoly held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Now, universities may apply for federal approval to grown their own supply of marijuana, creating fewer roadblocks for researchers in the future.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona Qualifies for November Ballot as Prop. 205

August 23rd, 2016 No Comments Michael Wilcox

On Thursday, state officials informed the supporters of The Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona that the initiative has qualified for this November’s ballot as Proposition 205. In less than three months, the people of Arizona will determine whether to end marijuana prohibition and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.13925181_550967435082980_8533437240301629316_n

Eighty-three years ago, Arizona voters approved a ballot measure to repeal the failed policy of alcohol prohibition,” said J.P. Holyoak, chairman of the Yes on 205 campaign. “This November, we will have the opportunity to end the equally disastrous policy of marijuana prohibition. Prop 205 would establish a more sensible system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

Prop 205 would allow adults 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana; establish a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol; and enact a 15 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, from which a majority of the revenue would be directed to Arizona schools and education programs. The Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimated the initiative would generate more than $123 million in annual tax revenue and license fees by 2020, including more than $55 million per year for K-12 education and full-day kindergarten programs.

For more information, visit http://RegulateMarijuanaAZ.org.

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Tax and Regulate

Arizona Judge Rejects Initiative Opposition Lawsuit

August 23rd, 2016 No Comments Morgan Fox

On August 19, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by opponents of Proposition 205 who want to keep the measure off the November ballot.Yes_on_205_Header

Arizona Republic reports:

Foes argued in court last week that supporters of legalization are deceiving voters with their pitch of the measure. An attorney argued a 100-word summary of the initiative failed to adequately summarize the measure’s impact on laws affecting motorists, child custody, workplaces and licensing of certain professions.

In her decision, [Judge] Gentry disagreed, writing: “Plaintiffs demonstrated no ability to prepare a summary that would comply with the 100-word limit and with their objections. Plaintiffs, nonetheless, persist in asserting that omitting these provisions from the summary along with what they consider misstatements about the provisions that were included makes the summary fraudulent. Plaintiffs’ position is in essence that the summary should have more fully described what the initiative will do but do not explain how they could do it better. Instead, Plaintiffs simply argue that such a summary creates a risk of confusion and unfairness and threatens the integrity of the initiative process.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Prohibition

MPP’s Rob Kampia Weighs in on DEA Scheduling

August 23rd, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

In response to the recent decision by the DEA not to move marijuana out of Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, MPP’s Rob Kampia offered the following analysis of the situation, and what the best course of action would be:

In the wake of the DEA’s decision against rescheduling marijuana, the super-majority of the American people who support legalizing medical marijuana might properly wonder, “How bad is this news?”

As the leader of the largest marijuana-policy-reform organization in the nation, my answer might surprise you: It barely mattered which way the DEA ruled.

Back in 1970, Congress and President Nixon placed marijuana in Schedule I, along with LSD and heroin, defining these drugs as having no therapeutic value and a high potential for abuse. Simultaneously, drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine were placed in Schedule II, which are defined as having therapeutic value.

This “Flat Earth Society” view of marijuana has been challenged numerous times since 1970, but the DEA and federal courts have rejected all such attempts, including the Washington and Rhode Island governors’ 2011 petition that the DEA just rejected.

To be sure, moving marijuana to Schedule II would have had symbolic value, showing that prohibitionists were wrong to stubbornly claim for decades that sick people were merely imagining or lying about the medicinal benefits they experienced. However, there are federal criminal penalties for marijuana possession that are imposed regardless of its schedule. Even if the DEA had moved marijuana to Schedule II, growing 100 marijuana seedlings would still land you in federal prison for a minimum of five years…

You can read the entire article at Huffington Post.

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Uncategorized

State Legislators Urge Federal Government to Reform Failed Marijuana Policies

August 10th, 2016 1 Comment Rory McPeak

capitolAt their annual summit in Chicago, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) approved a policy resolution calling for marijuana policy reform at the federal level. The NCSL has adopted a resolution advocating for the Controlled Substances Act to be amended in order to remove marijuana from Schedule I and to allow banking for marijuana businesses in states where they may legally operate.

Even in states in which marijuana is legally sold in a taxed and regulated market, businesses that sell either medical or retail marijuana face significant financial and regulatory burdens due to marijuana’s Schedule I status. Perhaps the most significant of those burdens is restriction from banking services of any kind, forcing such businesses to carry vast sums of cash and making them particularly vulnerable to theft.

As Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project told Marijuana.com,

The resolution adopted this year recognizes that outdated federal marijuana laws are presenting the states with some serious public safety issues. …There is an immediate need for access to banking and other financial services for state-legal marijuana businesses. Like most Americans, state lawmakers are tired of waiting for Congress to catch up on this issue.

This is the second year in a row that the NCSL adopted a policy position urging federal marijuana policy reform; last year, the conference passed a resolution supporting a state’s ability to reform its own marijuana laws without fear of federal interference. Both of these resolutions required 75% support from member states present; both passed on voice vote.

While the resolutions have no binding power over federal law, they reflect the nation’s widespread frustration with federal marijuana policy, especially its interference with state marijuana laws. State-legal businesses must be allowed to protect their own finances; state legislators recognize this, but we continue to wait for federal legislators to do the same.

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Uncategorized

Federal Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Oregon Teen Caught with Gram of Marijuana

August 9th, 2016 No Comments Rory McPeak

Federal prosecutors have agreed to dismiss charges against Oregon teen Devontre Thomas, sparing him a potential yearlong prison sentence after being caught with a single gram of marijuana.

Thomas made nSeal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Justice.svgational headlines when federal prosecutors charged him with misdemeanor possession. This offense carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, a revelation that sparked widespread outrage, especially in the state of Oregon, which had already voted to end marijuana prohibition.

The case caught the attention of Oregon state representatives and other elected officials who have called for marijuana to be taxed and regulated. U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley wrote to Oregon U.S. Attorney Billy Williams about the case.

Thomas’ attorney stated in a court filing that prosecutors have agreed to drop the case as long as the teen works or attends school and abides by all laws in the next two months.

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Uncategorized

License Pre-Approvals for 15 Growers, Processors in Maryland

August 8th, 2016 No Comments Rory McPeak

On Friday, August 5, Maryland’s medical marijuana commission voted to grant preliminary approval to 15 growers and 15 processors who applied earlier in the year. The decision regarding which applicants would be approved was based on a scoring system provided by the Towson University Regional Economic Studies Institute, which processed tmaryland state sealhe applications.

When the names of the approved growers and processors are released on August 15, the applicants will have to proceed with financial and background checks before obtaining licenses. The commission was only permitted to give preliminary approval to 15 growers; there was no limit to the number of processors they could approve, but they opted to only approve 15 to maintain consistency.

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Uncategorized

Chronic Pain Added as Qualifying Condition in Minnesota

August 1st, 2016 No Comments Rory McPeak

Pain patients in Minnesota can now find hope, as they are now able to access the state’s year-old medical marijuana program. Supporters of this move believe it will provide thousands of patients with a safer alternative to prescription opioids and allow them to prevent or overcome dependency on prescription-based painkillers.

Minnesota legalized meSeal_of_Minnesota-altdical marijuana in 2014, allowing smoke-free forms of the substance to be consumed by those with doctors’ recommendations. The medical marijuana program took effect in 2015, and starting July 2016, patients with incurable pain could register for the program, though they could not legally purchase the medicine until Monday, August 1.

The patient advocacy group Sensible Minnesota has praised this decision. The group’s leader, Maren Schroeder, has campaigned for state legislators to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions next year.

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