Tax and Regulate

Maryland Begins Session With Marijuana Policy on the Agenda

January 31st, 2018 1 Comment Marijuana Policy Project

Maryland’s legislative session began earlier this month, and there are several cannabis policy issues already on the agenda. MPP and our allies in the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition are supporting an effort to let the people of Maryland decide whether the state should tax and regulate cannabis for adults.

Unlike many other states, Maryland citizens can’t collect signatures to put an issue on the ballot. In order for the people to vote on an issue, lawmakers must pass a bill that puts a constitutional amendment on the ballot. We hope that Maryland lawmakers will allow voters to put an end to the ineffective, costly, and unfair policy of cannabis prohibition and replace it with a system that allows adults to lawfully consume a substance that is safer than alcohol.

In other news, the legislative black caucus introduced a bill that would license additional businesses that could go to women and minority-owned businesses in light of a disparity study that found these groups were at a disadvantage in the licensing processes. And Sen. Bobby Zirkin, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, has introduced bills that would expand Maryland’s decriminalization law, SB 127 and SB 128.

If you are a Maryland resident, please contact your lawmakers and tell them you want the chance to vote on legalization this year.

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Medical Marijuana

West Virginia Considering Medical Marijuana Improvements

January 31st, 2018 2 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

The 2018 legislative session is underway in West Virginia, and several bills have already been introduced to make the medical cannabis program more workable and accessible for patients.

The two most important bills that have been introduced so far are HB 4147 and HB 4149. HB 4147 would require the state to begin issuing ID cards to qualified patients and caregivers in July of this year instead of waiting until July 2019. HB 4149 would allow patients to purchase cannabis flowers from dispensaries, rather than limiting patients to more expensive extracts.

If you are a West Virginia resident, please email your state legislators today and tell them patients can’t afford to wait another year and a half, and that they need access to whole plant cannabis.

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Penalty Reduction Bill Introduced in Iowa

January 25th, 2018 No Comments Morgan Fox

The Iowa Legislature is back in session, and there is renewed hope for common-sense marijuana policy reform. Last week, a Senate subcommittee recommended passage of SF 432, a bill that would reduce the penalties for marijuana possession. The bill would change the penalty for first offense possession of marijuana under five grams from a serious misdemeanor to a simple misdemeanor.

The bill, though not perfect, would be a step in the right direction for Iowa. You see, the Iowa Legislative Services Agency studied the bill and reported that this reform would result in “considerable fewer jail admissions” and “savings to local governments.”

The fiscal note also detailed how marijuana prohibition disproportionately affects the African American community. In FY 2016, 18% of the persons convicted for first-offense marijuana possession were African American, yet African Americans only make up 3.5% of the Iowa population and have nearly equal marijuana usage rates as white Iowans.

If you are an Iowa resident, please ask your lawmakers to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession.


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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Massachusetts Bill Introduced That Protects Legal Marijuana Businesses

January 24th, 2018 5 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

In the wake of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind Obama-era guidance that protected legal marijuana businesses, legislators in Massachusetts have introduced a bill that would prohibit state and local police from participating in federal cases against people or licensed operators who follow state marijuana laws. The bill also serves as a response to the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, who declined to ensure that that his office would uphold the will of Massachusetts voters, calling marijuana a “dangerous drug” and refusing to limit potential prosecutions to illicit dealers.

The State Police and the Boston and Worcester Police Departments have indicated that they will not participate in federal interdiction, but other smaller departments may still be tempted by the prospect of receiving unencumbered funds from civil asset forfeitures. This legislation, if passed, will make it much more difficult for federal agents to disrupt state-legal commerce. Representatives Dave Rogers and Mike Connolly introduced the bill, calling it the “Refusal of Complicity Act.” According to Rep. Rogers, “We have a state law, it’s valid, and we think it should be respected. If federal law enforcement has something different in mind, they can use their own resources, because Massachusetts taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to do something that goes against our laws.”

MPP’s Will Luzier, a leader of the Yes on 4 campaign, helped to conceive the bill. “I think it will help local law enforcement agencies to have clear parameters regarding their involvement with federal actions against lawfully permitted cannabis establishments,” said Jim Borghesani, an MPP spokesman.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Illinois Vows to Ignore Court Decision to Add Chronic Pain to Qualifying Conditions

January 23rd, 2018 2 Comments Chris Lindsey

A court in Cook County, Illinois ruled last week that the Illinois Department of Public Health must add intractable pain as a qualifying condition to the state’s medical cannabis pilot program. Incredibly, the state has vowed to appeal the ruling and continue to shut pain patients out of the state program.

This is an outrage. A petition is circulating that allows supporters to voice their opposition to the misguided decision by the state. If you agree the state should add intractable pain and want the state to drop its appeal plans, click here.

Patients and advocates have been working to add the condition to the state program since it went into effect in 2015. A panel of doctors and experts charged with considering new conditions voted unanimously to add pain, yet the health department refused to listen.

Even after a court reached the same conclusion, the health department continues to push back and deny access. As the nation struggles to bring a deadly opioid epidemic under control, medical cannabis should be an option for those who seek a safer alternative. Patients in Illinois should not be encouraged to seek relief from the underground market, when a regulated and tested alternative is available.

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Good and Bad Bills on the Table in Arizona

January 23rd, 2018 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

The Arizona Legislature began its 2018 legislative session last week, and lawmakers already have several marijuana bills to consider. Unfortunately, many would undermine the existing medical marijuana program.

HB 2068 would allow prosecutors to determine whether individuals on parole or probation can access medical marijuana, despite a 2015 state Supreme Court decision that held medical marijuana could not be withheld from patients under those circumstances. Another bill, SB 1060, would make it a felony and a $10,000 fine for anyone who publishes the address of a dispensary that is different from that on file, including typos!

Lawmakers should be improving patient access, not creating new obstacles.

Meanwhile, in a move toward improving marijuana policies, Rep. Mark Cardenas has introduced HB 2014, which would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to $100. Please urge your state legislators to support HB 2014!

Imprisoning individuals for possessing small amounts of a substance that is safer than alcohol wastes valuable resources and can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses.

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Vermont Becomes First State to Make Marijuana Legal Through Its Legislature

January 22nd, 2018 13 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Until today, all eight of the states that have made marijuana legal for adults did so through ballot initiatives. Over the past three elections in 2012, 2014, and 2016, voters in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada (and Washington, D.C.) approved ballot questions to legalize marijuana.

Today, we reached an important milestone in Vermont: a state legislature has enacted a law, signed by the governor, that legalizes possession and home cultivation of marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. H. 511 eliminates Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana and removes penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants for people 21 and older, beginning on July 1.

“After more than 15 years of hard work by MPP and our allies in the state, adults in Vermont no longer need to fear being fined or criminalized for low-level marijuana possession and cultivation,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a press release. “This is a great step forward for the state and the whole region. Responsible adults will soon have the freedom to enjoy a safer option legally, and law enforcement will be free to concentrate on serious crimes with actual victims. We are looking forward to working with lawmakers and state leaders to continue improving marijuana laws in the Green Mountain State.”

Our coalition’s goal, this year or next, is to enact a law that regulates marijuana and allows for its legal sale (the newly enacted law only allows possession and home cultivation).


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Erie City Council Votes Unanimously to Decriminalize Possession

January 22nd, 2018 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Last week, the Erie, Pennsylvania, City Council voted unanimously to make the possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana into a summary offense with a $25 fine. Currently, the penalty is up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both. The mayor is expected to sign the measure into law.

Once enacted, Erie will join Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York, and State College — and 22 states and the District of Columbia — all of which have stopped jailing individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Across the state, towns and cities are considering similar commonsense policies. Unfortunately, however, law enforcement can still enforce state law and impose criminal penalties and possible jail time.

Imprisoning individuals for possessing small amounts of a substance that is safer than alcohol wastes valuable resources and can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses.

To get involved locally, contact the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. You can find some background materials on decriminalization here. And please let your lawmakers know it is time for statewide decriminalization.

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Constitutional Amendment Possible in Nebraska

January 19th, 2018 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Yesterday, Nebraska Sen. Anna Wishart introduced Legislative Resolution 293CA. If the  Legislature passes this resolution, Nebraskans will finally have the chance to vote on medical marijuana. “Tens of thousands of Nebraskans are needlessly suffering because they don’t have access to medical cannabis, including veterans, children and the terminally ill,” Sen. Wishart said. “Nebraska leaders have failed to act and provide these Nebraskans and their doctors the freedom to make decisions for their patients, without fear.”

Sen. Wishart has been a stalwart ally to patients in Nebraska, having been the primary sponsor of last year’s medical marijuana bill. The legislature failed to act on this important issue in last year’s session, but with this year’s resolution, the legislature could let the people of Nebraska make the right choice to give patients access to medicine they desperately need.

A February 2017 poll showed that 83% of Nebraskans support medical marijuana conceptually, and 77% support the ballot initiative.

If you are a Nebraska resident, please tell your senator to give you and your fellow Cornhuskers the chance to vote on medical marijuana.

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Tennessee

January 19th, 2018 2 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Yesterday, Sen. Steve Dickerson and Rep. Jeremy Faison introduced the Medical Cannabis Only Act of 2018, a bill that would allow Tennessee patients with certain health conditions to access safe, regulated marijuana. Nearly 80 percent of registered Tennessee voters support allowing patients the freedom to access medical marijuana.

If you are a Tennessee resident, please tell your legislators to support the Medical Cannabis Only Act!

Many patients who find relief from marijuana do not respond to prescription medications, and prescription drugs, like opiates, often come with far more serious side effects than marijuana. The majority of states recognize the medical value of marijuana, and it’s time for Tennessee to do the same.

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