Tax and Regulate

Florida: Legalization bill introduced!

Ask your lawmakers to support legalizing and regulating cannabis for adults 21 and older!

On Monday, January 13, Sen. Jeff Brandes (R) introduced a bill, SB 1860, to legalize and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and older. A House companion bill, HB 1389, was also introduced.

Meanwhile, it was announced this week that marijuana legalization will not make it to the ballot for voters to decide on in 2020. However, the state legislature could still legalize cannabis for adult use.

Ask your lawmakers to support SB 1860/HB 1389 to legalize and regulate cannabis for adult use!

Here are a few things the proposed legislation would do:

  • Allow adults to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis in a form for smoking from a licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC);
  • Eliminate the requirement that MMTCs be vertically integrated — meaning businesses would not have to grow, sell, and process cannabis — they could just perform one of the functions;
  • Direct the Department of Health to develop procedures to issue and renew licenses for the cultivation, processing, retail sale, and transportation of cannabis;
  • Provide for expungement of criminal records for past cannabis convictions; and
  • Direct the Department of Agriculture to issue a study on the effects of home cultivation.

By legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and older, Florida can reduce the number of cannabis-related arrests, displace the illicit market, and free up law enforcement resources to focus on serious crimes.

Ask your lawmakers to follow the will of the majority of Floridians to end prohibition and replace it with a system of regulation. Then, forward this message to your networks and encourage them to do the same.

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Prohibition

Virginia 2020 legislative session underway; decriminalization a priority

Ask your lawmakers to support SB 2!

The General Assembly kicked off its 2020 legislative session this week, and there is a real possibility that Virginia could decriminalize marijuana possession this year. To turn this possibility into a reality, lawmakers need to hear this is a priority for their constituents. That's where you come in.

Let your legislators know you want them to support SB 2 to decriminalize marijuana in 2020!

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has filed a bill — SB 2 — that would decriminalize marijuana possession by making possession of one ounce or less punishable by a maximum civil fine of $50. Under current law, simple possession of marijuana carries up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail. You can check out our one-pager on decriminalization in Virginia here.

Decriminalization has gained increasing support from both elected officials and Virginians. Just last week, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) put decriminalization at the top of his 2020 criminal justice agenda.

This move is long overdue. Virginia is currently lagging behind the 26 states that have stopped jailing their residents for marijuana possession.

Please email your lawmakers today and ask them to decriminalize cannabis in 2020. Then, share this message with your friends and family in Virginia and encourage them to do the same.

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General

Artful Dodgers: How the Candidates and Moderators Failed to Address Cannabis Policy at Another Debate

After a dozen hours of Democratic presidential candidate debates, there has been virtually no discussion about cannabis policy reform, leaving advocates sincerely disappointed. At a time when several pieces of cannabis legislation are pending in Congress, the absence of any cannabis-focused discussion is even more frustrating. Any list of issues important to Democratic primary voters would have to include not only the broad topic of criminal justice reform, but also the more narrow issue of cannabis policy.

Debate moderators have the opportunity and the responsibility to question the candidates on the issues facing the United States and its people. Federal cannabis prohibition happens to be one of these issues — yet there has not been one direct question focused on this. A recent poll found that legalizing cannabis is more popular than free college tuition, a $15 minimum wage, gun control, or a universal basic income. But you wouldn’t know it based on the questions posed to candidates during the debates.

Is it out of ignorance that debate moderators fail to ask about cannabis policy reform, or is it something worse? Do they think the topic is just not serious enough to ask about? Regardless,  the drug war is an issue many viewers care about, evidenced by the fact that on the rare occasion when the topic is broached, it almost always comes from one of the network’s social media partners. Yet, there’s apparently time to question Cory Booker about his vegan diet. Is veganism resulting in more than half a million arrests per year? Are there currently bills in Congress to end a failed policy on vegan prohibition? How about a policy question that’s at the forefront of people’s minds — one related to the  fact that hundreds of thousands of individuals are still being criminalized for using a substance that is safer than alcohol?

Not only have the moderators let us down by leaving cannabis out of the discussion, the candidates have too. Rarely has a candidate taken the opportunity to inject the issue of cannabis reform into a tangential topic such as criminal justice reform or racism. While the candidates may sound good discussing what they will do if elected president, many are having problems squaring the future with their past. During the last debate, the two biggest dodgers were Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Harris was questioned about her current support for legalization despite having prosecuted cannabis offenses during her time as California attorney general. She refused to directly answer the question, and the moderators, in turn, failed to dig deeper.

The most pressing question the Marijuana Policy Project wants an answer to and wants the public to hear is, “what role are you playing in the marijuana policy reform debate in your state and/or at the federal level, and how has your position evolved over time?” Harris had the opportunity to respond to just that but gave us nothing. Harris’ lack of response is unsatisfying, but it’s not too surprising considering Harris has also refused to answer questions regarding her vote on California’s Prop 64, the successful legalization initiative coordinated by a coalition of groups, including MPP.

Similar to MPP’s question for the candidates, a question from the Drug Policy Alliance focuses specifically on one candidate, asking, “what would you do differently as Biden in the 90s?” While Vice President Biden is the only candidate who mentioned the word “marijuana” during the most recent debate, his position showed that he is still not aligned with the majority of Americans who support legalization. Instead, he suggested that cannabis offenses should be classified as misdemeanors, many of which carry hefty fines and jail time. This was a perfect opportunity for the other candidates to step up and voice their support and reasoning for legalizing cannabis, but all we heard was silence. While many others on the stage have called for both ending federal prohibition and broader criminal justice reform, they failed to vocalize it, thereby missing a big opportunity.

There is no excuse for the lack of cannabis-focused discussion on the debate stage during the 2020 presidential race. It’s a bipartisan issue with nearly 70% support from the American public. It’s an issue that the president and Congress have the power to solve. It’s an issue that a majority of Americans want resolved. And most crucially, it’s an issue that is still causing harm to many of our citizens. We expect more questions, and the American people deserve more answers. 

Don Murphy, Marijuana Policy Project, Director of Federal Policies

 

 

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Tax and Regulate

Help New York become the next state to legalize marijuana!

With the New York Legislature in the final weeks of its 2019 legislative session, we need you to take action NOW to help get the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act across the finish line.

Just last week, the Illinois Legislature passed a landmark cannabis regulation bill, and New York can do the same — if we can get lawmakers to act!

In fact, New York's Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act closely mirrors the Illinois legislation — with far-reaching expungement provisions for prior convictions, funding for communities harmed by the war on drugs, social equity measures, and funding to ensure people from impacted communities are able to enter the cannabis industry.

This week, Assembly Majority Leader and bill sponsor Crystal Peoples-Stokes said she believes the Assembly support is there to pass the bill, and Gov. Cuomo signaled his continued support for legalization. But New York lawmakers MUST make passage a legislative priority, as the bill has to advance before the session ends on Wednesday, June 19.

The New York bill would not just ensure marijuana is legalized, but legalized the right way — rooted in racial, economic, and social justice.

Please take action to keep the pressure on Gov. Cuomo and New York lawmakers to pass marijuana legalization into law this year.

A big thanks goes to the Drug Policy Alliance for leading legalization efforts in New York. And thanks in advance for your help!

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Prohibition

Maine: Ask your lawmakers to seal and erase past marijuana convictions

If you live in Maine, click here to reach out to your lawmakers today.

Aside from implementing Maine's new adult-use marijuana law, there are other marijuana policy bills being heard in Augusta. Four Maine legislators, from both parties, have introduced bills that would help Mainers with past marijuana convictions. You can read more the bills and sponsors here.

Earlier this month, the Portland Press Herald published an editorial in favor of these reforms, saying: "Times change, and laws need to change with them. Maine voted to put the old marijuana laws behind us, and lawmakers should complete the process."

The bills would either seal past convictions or permanently erase them from their records. The language for these bills is not available yet, butgenerally adults who have convictions on their records for crimes that are no longer illegal — home cultivation and personal possession — may apply for their records to be sealed or expunged. Please ask your lawmakers to support this commonsense criminal justice reform.

As an aside, I hope to see you at next week's Cannabis Industry Mixer in Portland on Thursday, February 7. You can see the details and get your free tickets here. See you then!

 

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Tax and Regulate

New Jersey getting closer to finally legalizing marijuana

While the new bill to legalize and regulate marijuana has not yet been revealed to the public, lawmakers and the Murphy administration are reportedly close to reaching a deal. However, it is not yet clear what the legislature intends to do to help people who are still suffering from the collateral consequences of a prior marijuana conviction.

If you’re a New Jersey resident, please ask your lawmakers to support not only ending marijuana prohibition for adults moving forward, but also ensuring that those harmed by prohibition in the past are able to clear their records and move on with their lives.

New Jersey has been hotly debating the best way to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis since Gov. Phil Murphy made that an important part of his campaign in 2017. MPP continues to advocate for adopting the best practices of other states to ensure that legalization allows opportunities for people impacted by marijuana prohibition and small businesses, and we’re encouraged that these ideas are reportedly being included in the legislation.

However, we want to continue fighting to include criminal justice reform as well. If you live in New Jersey, please help by asking your legislators to include strong expungement provisions now.

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General

MPP has a new executive director!

We're pleased to announce that Steve Hawkins has been named the new executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. Steve brings three decades of experience fighting for criminal justice reform, having previously served in leadership roles at the NAACP, Amnesty International USA, and the Coalition for Public Safety.

The entire MPP staff is thrilled to welcome Steve to our organization.

Steve began his career as an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund challenging racial disparities in the criminal justice system. He later served as executive vice president of the NAACP, spearheading its efforts to end the police practice of “stop and frisk” in New York City and successfully encouraging the NAACP board of directors to adopt a policy in support of marijuana decriminalization. Steve also previously served as executive director of Amnesty International USA, as a program executive for the Atlantic Philanthropies, and as a senior program manager at the JEHT Foundation. You can read a more detailed biography here.

The marijuana reform movement has made incredible gains in the past several years but there’s still a great deal of work ahead. With Steve leading our experienced and talented team of reformers, and with your support, MPP will continue to enact medical marijuana and marijuana legalization laws that serve the interests of the American people.

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