MPP is pleased to announce the release of our annual list of the “Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Consumers” in the United States!
President Barack Obama is at the top of the list, followed by several 2016 presidential candidates. At least eight (and as many as 17) of the 23 major-party presidential hopefuls have said or strongly indicated that they have consumed marijuana: Jeb Bush, Lincoln Chafee, Ted Cruz, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Rick Santorum.
Nine others do not appear to have said whether they have consumed marijuana, and they did not respond to inquiries from MPP: Joe Biden, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb. Only six candidates have said they never used marijuana: Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.
The list is intended to identify individuals who have used marijuana and achieved high levels of success or influence. It was created using the same criteria employed by Out Magazine to produce its "Power 50” list of LGBT Americans, such as “power to influence cultural and social attitudes, political clout, individual wealth, and a person’s media profile.” To qualify for MPP’s list, individuals must (1) be alive, (2) be a U.S. citizen, and (3) have consumed marijuana at least once in their life according to either their own account or that of a legitimate source. They do not need to currently consume marijuana or support marijuana policy reform.
Earlier this week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed two positive marijuana-related bills into law — a penalty reduction bill and a flawed medical marijuana program.
The first, HB 149, significantly reduces penalties for marijuana possession! Although penalties will still be harsh for possessing a substance safer than alcohol, HB 149 is an important step forward — it shaves months, and in some cases years, off of cannabis consumers’ sentences. This law is effective immediately.
While first offense marijuana possession remains a misdemeanor, the penalty for possessing 14 grams or less is now far less severe than it was. The maximum jail sentence is reduced from six months to 15 days while the maximum fine is reduced from $500 to $300. HB 149 also significantly reduces the sentences for second and subsequent marijuana possession charges.
Gov. Jindal also signed into law a bill that could, in the future, support a compassionate medical marijuana program for Louisianans, although it will not allow patients to use the medicine in smokable form.
SB 143 allows Louisiana physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in accordance with FDA and DEA guidelines. Since these federal guidelines don’t exist, this law is not currently operable. Physicians risk losing their prescription license if they use it to prescribe marijuana. But hope remains for future regulatory improvement. Overall, both new laws signed by Gov. Jindal represent improvements for Louisiana’s marijuana policies.
The Louisiana Legislature has sent Gov. Bobby Jindal two bills proposing positive reforms to Louisiana’s marijuana policies! While one bill is largely symbolic, the other will help dial back some of the country’s harshest penalties for marijuana possession.
"We are going to sign both bills. They've made it through the process. They are going to make to my desk in the next few days," Jindal told The Des Moines Register.
SB 143 amends a 1991 law allowing Louisiana’s physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in certain circumstances. Unfortunately, this prescription requirement was not removed and because no physician can prescribe marijuana without risking losing their license to prescribe other medications (or worse), we are concerned that this proposal will not create a workable program. However, we are pleased that the House and Senate recognized the medical value of marijuana, and are hopeful Gov. Jindal will too.
Meanwhile, HB 149 chips away at Louisiana’s draconian penalties for marijuana possession by reducing the fine and potential jail time for possession of 14 grams or less of marijuana. For a first offense, the maximum jail sentence would be reduced from six months to 15 days, while the fine would be reduced from up to $500 to up to $300. HB 149 would also significantly reduce the sentences for second and subsequent marijuana possession charges. While still harsh, this is a good step toward a more rational approach.
Wednesday afternoon, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee approved a bill that is intended to stop the cruel criminalization of seriously ill patients who benefit from medical marijuana. The bill, which has already passed the Senate with a 22-13 vote, now moves to the full House for a vote. If you are a Louisiana resident, please take a moment today to write your representative in support of this compassionate bill — SB 143.
SB 143, filed by Sen. Fred Mills, Jr. (R), would amend a 1991 law that allows Louisiana’s physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in accordance with FDA and DEA guidelines. Since these guidelines don’t exist, this law has never been operable. Sen. Mills’ proposal requires the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy to develop regulations governing distribution of medical marijuana.
Fortunately, the Health and Welfare Committee replaced the requirement that physicians “prescribe” medical marijuana with one stating that they “recommend” its use. This change was necessary as no physician — even in medical marijuana states — can “prescribe” medical marijuana because of federal law. While this is an important improvement, we are still concerned that the proposed program relies on pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana, which they are very unlikely to do because they are regulated by the DEA and distributing marijuana is a federal crime.
The Associated Press reports that Gov. Bobby Jindal has "no concerns" about the bill.
Thursday, the Louisiana Senate overwhelmingly approved HB 681 — modest marijuana policy reform — with a vote of 30-7. The House previously approved the legislation in a near-unanimous vote, 92-1!
HB 681 would make positive, albeit modest, reforms to the way Louisiana treats a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge for someone who is on parole. Currently, acquiring a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge while on parole automatically results in parole revocation. If signed by Gov. Jindal, this legislation will give judges discretion to penalize parolees charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession with administrative sanctions instead of outright revocation.
While this is a small step towards sensible marijuana policies, it is at least a step in the right direction.