Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

D.C. Voters Want Mayor to Work Around Congressional Ban on Regulating Marijuana Like Alcohol

January 29th, 2016 No Comments Kate Bell

A survey release this week by Public Policy Polling showed that 66% of voters in the District of Columbia support Mayor Muriel Bowser pursuing legal methods to allow D.C. to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol despite a Congressional ban.Flag_Map_of_Washington_DC

Voters overwhelming approved Initiative 71 in 2014, which made marijuana legal in the nation’s capital, but Congress passed a budget rider that prevents the implementation of regulated commercial cultivation and retail establishments. Provisions related to personal possession and limited home cultivation were unaffected by the law and are currently legal in D.C.

This poll shows that the vast majority of D.C. voters would support the mayor using reserve funds to implement a system to tax and regulate marijuana. This would not only show that D.C. rejects Congressional interference with the will of the voters, but also bring the illicit marijuana market out of the shadows and reap millions in tax revenue.

In addition, 61% of voters are in favor of giving adults a safe and lawful place to consume marijuana outside their homes. Supporters including MPP met with the mayor last week, and she said she was open to working with us and our allies on the D.C. Council to move forward on a compromise that would end the blanket ban on use outside the home, currently set to expire on April 13. This will help restore the rights that D.C. voters supported when they voted yes on Initiative 71.

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Tax and Regulate

Vermont Senate Committee Approves Marijuana Regulation Bill

January 29th, 2016 2 Comments Matt Simon

VT Coalition logo - SmallThe Vermont Senate Committee on Judiciary approved a bill (4-1) on Friday that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and regulate marijuana for adult use.

S. 241 would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores. It would also create a study commission to examine issues such as edible marijuana products and home cultivation, which would not be allowed under the bill. It would remain illegal to consume marijuana in public or drive under the influence of marijuana. If approved, rulemaking would begin this summer, but the new law would not take effect until January 2018. The bill will now go to the Senate Committee on Finance for consideration.

VT commercial screenshotThe Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana is working to build support for the bill and keep up the momentum. It recently launched a  television ad, produced by the Marijuana Policy Project, which features former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney. Cheney was also the subject of a series of web ads launched earlier this month.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Marijuana Policy Bills Progressing in Kansas

January 28th, 2016 1 Comment Kate Bell

Two bills that would improve Kansas’ marijuana policies have passed the House and are moving in the Senate.

The first bill, now called SB 147, would permit patients with seizures to access low-THC cannabis, called medical hemp preparations in the bill.Seal_of_Kansas.svg While it is not a full medical marijuana law and would leave many patients behind, the bill proposes a workable system to provide immediate relief to some seriously ill Kansans. In addition, by passing the House, it has advanced much further than any medical marijuana bill ever has in Kansas.

The second bill, which is currently designated as the Senate Sub. for HB 2049, would reduce the penalty for first, second, and third-time marijuana possession. A first offense would be punishable by a maximum of six months, instead of one year, in jail, and a second offense would no longer be a felony, removing many of the associated collateral consequences. The Senate combined the marijuana-related provisions with another bill that increases penalties for burglary, on which MPP does not take a position.

If you are a Kansas resident, please urge your senators to support common sense reform.

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Tax and Regulate, Video

Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Launches TV Ad Campaign

January 28th, 2016 No Comments Matt Simon

The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana released a new television ad this week, produced by the Marijuana Policy Project, featuring Vermont’s former top law enforcement official. The ad began airing statewide on Tuesday and will appear on WCAX, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC through Sunday.

VT commercial screenshot

In the ad, titled “Time to End Prohibition (Again),” former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney points out that “marijuana prohibition has caused a lot of the same problems” as Alcohol Prohibition. The ad ends with Cheney urging viewers to contact their state senators and tell them, “It’s time to end prohibition and start regulating marijuana in Vermont.”

In a news release, MPP’s Montpelier-based New England political director, Matt Simon, said:

“Mr. Cheney decided to appear in this ad for the same reason he served as the state’s top law enforcement official. He cares strongly about the safety and wellbeing of Vermont citizens. 

“There are a lot of current and former law enforcement officials out there who support ending prohibition and regulating marijuana. It’s important that citizens and lawmakers hear from them.”

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Medical Marijuana

Congress Members Urge VA to Change Medical Marijuana Policy

January 27th, 2016 4 Comments Robert Capecchi

In a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald released Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senate and House members urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow VA doctors to write medical marijuana recommendations to veterans in accordance with state laws.

The letter comes four days before the expiration of a directive that prohibits VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana, even in states that have made it legal.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

The Congressional members, led by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in the Senate and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in the House, say the current policy “disincentivizes doctors and patients from being honest with each other,” noting, “It is not in the veterans’ best interest for the VA to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.”

“Congress has taken initial steps to alleviate this conflict in law and we will continue to work toward this goal,” the senators and representatives wrote. “However, you are in a position to make this change when the current VHA directive expires at the end of this month. We ask that you act to ensure that our veterans’ access to care is not compromised and that doctors and patients are allowed to have honest discussions about treatment options.”

The letter also highlights the “sea change in the legal framework surrounding marijuana in the United States” since the directive was issued in 2011. Comprehensive medical marijuana laws have been adopted in 23 states and Washington, D.C., and Congress has twice approved appropriations amendments intended to prevent the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana programs.

 

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Prohibition

New Orleans City Council to Consider Reducing Marijuana Penalties

January 26th, 2016 No Comments Maggie Ellinger-Locke
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Councilwoman Susan Guidry

Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. CST, the New Orleans City Council will consider whether to pass a new bill that reduces the penalties for possession of marijuana. Councilwoman Susan Guidry’s bill calls for law enforcement to give a verbal warning instead of an arrest on a first offense marijuana possession charge. The council chamber meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, January 27, will take place at:

1300 Perdido Street, Second Floor West
New Orleans, LA 70112

In addition to turning up to show support at the hearing, let your council members know you support Councilwoman Guidry’s bill by sending them an email letting them know where you stand on this important issue.

 

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Uncategorized

Iowa State University NORML Chapter Wins Censorship Case

January 25th, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Last week, a federal court ruling struck a blow against censorship directed at marijuana policy reform advocates at Iowa State University. The case, brought by two students with the university’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), was heralded as a major victory by the plaintiffs.

…the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa issued a permanent injunction barring Iowa State University (ISU) administrators from using a trademark policy to prevent the campus chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML ISU) from printing t-shirts depicting a marijuana leaf. Students Erin Furleigh and Paul Gerlich, both former presidents of the group, sued ISU in July 2014 as part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.

Because ISU had rejected the student group’s t-shirts “due to the messages they expressed” in an effort to “maintain favor with Iowa political figures,” the court found that ISU engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.

The court also denied the defense of qualified immunity to the named defendants, including ISU President Steven Leath and Senior Vice President Warren Madden, meaning that they may be held personally liable for violating Furleigh and Gerlich’s First Amendment rights. In so ruling, the court found that “a reasonable person would understand that Defendants’ actions treaded on Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights of political expression and association.”

Senior District Judge James Gritzner, who issued the ruling, observed that “[t]he development of First Amendment doctrine in the university context has repeatedly affirmed that student groups may not be denied benefits on the basis of their espoused views.” After reviewing the record, the court concluded that “Defendants took action specifically directed at NORML ISU based on their views and the political reaction to those views so that Defendants could maintain favor with Iowa political figures.”

In their original complaint, the students detailed how the university censored the group’s t-shirts based on their marijuana-related messaging and imagery, removed NORML ISU’s advisor, and implemented new guidelines for using ISU’s trademark in order to restrict NORML ISU’s speech. And in a January 2015 ruling, the court rejected every argument ISU made in its initial attempt to have the case dismissed.

You can view the full press release here.

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Tax and Regulate

Delaware Supporters to Lobby State Lawmakers Thursday

January 25th, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

This Thursday, the Cannabis Bureau of Delaware Cannabis Bureau of Delawarewill be hosting a lobby day to urge lawmakers to support ending marijuana prohibition in the First State. Residents who want to see real marijuana policy reform should  set up an appointment with your elected representatives to let them know why you think it is time Delaware joins Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington in making marijuana legal for adults.

Unlike the four states that already tax and regulate marijuana, Delawareans cannot vote on ballot initiatives to change existing laws. This is why it is so important that you make your voice heard.

Register here to lobby on Thursday, January 28 in Dover.

We will begin with a training session with John Flaherty, Director of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, who has 20 years of experience as a lobbyist. He will guide us through best practices, helping you to become a more effective advocate.

If you can’t make it to speak up for sensible marijuana policy in person, you can send your legislators a quick message using our automated system.

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Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Bill to Add PTSD as Qualifying Condition Introduced

January 25th, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project
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Assemblyman Joe Lachance

Now that medical marijuana cards are finally being issued to qualifying patients in New Hampshire, one lawmaker is working to make sure others who could benefit are not left behind. On Thursday, Assemblyman Joe Lachance introduced a bill that would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying conditions.

Al Jazeera America reports:

The proposed legislation comes as New Hampshire grapples with an opioid and heroin addiction and overdose crisis. Medical marijuana advocates argue that better access to cannabis would offer an alternative means of pain relief to people now using painkillers or heroin. In 2015 the state’s medical examiner attributed 385 deaths to opiates, almost double the 192 fatalities in 2013, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

Also, adding PTSD to the list of illnesses approved for cannabis treatment could provide another option to people who’ve found no relief with standard anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication, advocates say.

Joe Lachance, a Republican state assemblyman who co-sponsored the PTSD measure, is one of the 62 medical marijuana cardholders in the state of 1.6 million people. A military veteran and former police officer, Lachance said he suffers from chronic pain and PTSD, ailments only marijuana has helped ease. He also said marijuana helped him kick an opiate habit.

 

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Medical Marijuana

MPP Exploring Options for Ohio Medical Marijuana Initiative in 2016

January 25th, 2016 3 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

2000px-Seal_of_Ohio.svgMPP was all over the news this past week when we initiated the process of putting a medical marijuana initiative on the November 2016 ballot in Ohio.

MPP communications director Mason Tvert issued the following statement:

MPP is committed to working with local patients, advocates, and professionals to pass a well-written initiative that ensures seriously ill Ohioans are able to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. We are in the very initial stages of this process — filing a committee, starting to build a campaign team, and conducting outreach to potential coalition partners and donors. MPP has helped pass several state medical marijuana laws through the initiative process and through state legislatures. We are looking forward to working with our allies in Ohio to produce the most effective and responsible medical marijuana system possible.

This initiative and campaign will be very different from the broader and ultimately unsuccessful 2015 initiative to legalize marijuana for medical and adult use.

State lawmakers are also contemplating medical marijuana legislation. The House recently announced it is launching a task force that will meet with medical professionals and representatives from business and law enforcement to discuss the issue. Meanwhile, members of the Senate announced they would be touring the state to hear testimony from Ohio residents.

It’s great to see some legislators are finally taking this issue seriously and MPP would support well-written, comprehensive medical marijuana legislation if it is brought forward. In the meantime, we feel it is important to move forward with plans for an initiative in the case that the legislature fails to take action this year. That seems quite likely given the discouraging remarks some legislative leaders have been making in the news.

 

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