Tax and Regulate

Michigan Legalization Initiative Qualifies for Ballot

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has cleared a major hurdle towards making marijuana legal in Michigan. This morning, the Board of State Canvassers approved the petition signatures, and the initiative to regulate marijuana will be on the ballot in November. If approved by voters, Michigan would become the first state in the Midwest with an adult-use cannabis law.

In addition to allowing adults age 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana, the initiative would: regulate marijuana businesses that cultivate, process, test, transport, and sell marijuana; legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp (used to make textiles, biodegradable plastics, food, construction materials, and fuel); protect consumers with proper testing and safety regulations for retail marijuana; impose a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sold at the retail level on top of the state’s six percent sales tax; and give local governments the option of whether they want to allow marijuana businesses in their communities.

Organizations supporting the coalition include the Marijuana Policy Project, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the ACLU of Michigan, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association, Michigan NORML, and MILegalize.

The initiative is being certified at a time when national attention is focused on marijuana policy reform. Earlier this month, President Trump reiterated his position in favor of not interfering with state marijuana policies in a conversation with Sen. Cory Gardner and assured him that the Department of Justice would not target individuals and businesses that are in compliance with state marijuana laws.

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Research||Tax and Regulate

New York Poll Shows 62% Support for Legalization

A new poll shows that 62% of New York voters support making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. Only 28% are opposed. The poll, conducted by Emerson College and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation and the Drug Policy Alliance, is available here.

The poll also found that voters were far more supportive of legalizing and taxing marijuana than other options for addressing the state’s budget deficit. Sixty percent of respondents supported legalizing and taxing marijuana to help address New York’s budget deficit, with 28% opposed. Between 15% and 27% of voters supported each of the other options presented — increasing sales or income taxes, increasing tolls, or cutting public education or other services.

It’s time New York stop wasting resources punishing otherwise law-abiding residents for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. Let your lawmakers know voters want them to take marijuana off of the criminal market, so we can create good jobs, build the economy, and fund essential services.

New Yorkers have spoken clearly — it is time to legalize marijuana in the Empire State.

If you are a New York resident, please email your lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo today. Let them know it is time to replace marijuana prohibition with thoughtful regulation.

 

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Prohibition

National Crime Data Shows Marijuana Arrests Dropping, Still Happen More Than Once a Minute

The FBI just released its annual Crime in the United States report, detailing national crime data for 2015. According to the report, marijuana arrests are at a two decade low. This is definitely a good sign, but even one marijuana arrest is too many, and more than one marijuana arrest occurs every minute.fbi

Huffington Post reports:

...authorities in the U.S. made 643,000 arrests for marijuana-related charges in 2015 ― or about one every 49 seconds. Charges related to the drug accounted for 5.9 percent of all arrests, and about 43.2 percent of all drug arrests. 

The number of marijuana arrests has been generally decreasing since peaking in 2007. That year, police made 872,720 total arrests related to the drug, including 775,137 for possession. Just about 574,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2015 involved possession, and arrests for the sale and manufacture of the drug reached a nearly 25-year low.

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Opponents to legalization often downplay the significance of marijuana arrests, arguing that they don’t lead to severe punishments and that a very small percentage of Americans wind up jailed for low-level marijuana offenses. 

Yet a recent report from the Drug Policy Alliance found that getting arrested for marijuana can still significantly affect a person, even though marijuana-related penalties have been scaled back in many places over recent years. 

“A marijuana arrest is no small matter,” reads the report, which also shows that most people arrested for marijuana are held in jail for a day or more. Many are also branded with a permanent criminal record, which can hurt their employment status and access to education and housing. 

Additionally, a one-year HuffPost analysis of jail deaths found that several inmates arrested on a marijuana offense died behind bars.

Such arrests are also costly ― authorities spend approximately $3.6 billion annually enforcing laws against marijuana possession, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

With five states considering initiatives to regulate marijuana like alcohol in November, another three voting on medical marijuana initiatives, and lobbying efforts planned in dozens of states next year, we could start to see those numbers drop even more in the coming years. There is still much work to do.

 

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Tax and Regulate

California Initiative to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana is Headed for the November Ballot

The campaign in support of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act announced today that it has collected more than enough signatures to place the initiative on the November ballot.13051785_1561302290867287_3261976781645789533_n
If you want to see California end marijuana prohibition this year, please sign up for the campaign to follow its progress and show your support for the initiative.
The Los Angeles Times reports:

A measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use in California appears headed for the Nov. 8 ballot.

A coalition that includes former Facebook President Sean Parker on Tuesday said it has collected 600,000 signatures, more than enough to qualify the initiative. …

The coalition, which includes some law enforcement and civil rights leaders, needed to collect 365,880 signatures of registered voters to qualify the initiative, which would also place a 15% tax on retail sales of the drug.

The campaign held a news conference featuring several prominent supporters of the initiative, including California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the president of the California NAACP, a former deputy chief of the LAPD, a former president of the California Fish and Game Commission, and the chief physician of the Hematology-Oncology Division at San Francisco General Hospital. Staff from the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, NORML, and other coalition partners were also on hand.
Lt. Gov. Newsom issued the following statement:
This November, California voters will finally have the opportunity to pass smart marijuana policy that is built on the best practices of other states, includes the strictest child protections in the nation and pays for itself while raising billions for the state
Learn more about the campaign and the initiative at http://www.LetsGetItRightCA.org. You can also follow the campaign on Twitter and join it on Facebook.

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Prohibition

Federal Marijuana Banking Bill Introduced In Senate

Earlier today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill in the Senate that would banks to do business with the marijuana industry in states where it is legal for medical purposes or adult use.

Politico reports:

 

Introduced by the Senate delegations from Oregon and Colorado, two of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, the bill would prohibit the federal government from penalizing banks that work with marijuana businesses.

[caption id="attachment_8967" align="alignright" width="200"]Cory_Gardner,_Official_Portrait,_112th_Congress Sen. Cory Gardner[/caption]

Though four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, the drug is still illegal under federal law. That makes it difficult for businesses operating in those legalized states to access financial services through the banking industry. Instead, those companies have to run all-cash operations that the senators say invite crime.

The entire legal landscape that legal marijuana currently faces is “insane,” said GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado in an interview.

According to a press release from Drug Policy Alliance, "Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced the House version of this Senate bill earlier in the year, having also introduced a banking bill the previous session."

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Research

Marijuana Legalization Could Improve Drug Education

In a recent article in Alternet, Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum of the Drug Policy Alliance suggested that not only will making marijuana legal for adults likely not lead to increased teen use, but could improve the methods and resources we use to educate them about drugs.

Many worry that legalization might “send the wrong message,” leading to an escalation in teenage use.

[caption id="attachment_8379" align="alignright" width="190"]KAP_DPA_Marsha_Rosenbaum-035-Edit_240 Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum[/caption]

As a federally funded researcher, I regularly check survey data and am reassured by the annual Monitoring the Future survey of high school students’ drug use, which found recently that a majority of teens say that even if marijuana was legal, they would not try it. Preliminary data from the post-legalization 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey revealed that high school marijuana use in Colorado had actually decreased.

This has also been the case in states where medical marijuana is legal. Research published in prestigious journals such as the American Journal of Public Health and the Journal of Adolescent Health generally show no association between medical marijuana laws and rates of teenage marijuana use. In California, where such laws have been in place for 18 years and are perhaps most lenient, marijuana use among teens is less prevalent now than before medical marijuana was legalized, according to the recent California Student Survey.

Even if legalization for adults does not affect teenage use, it does present an opportunity to re-think our approach to drug abuse prevention and education – both in school and at home.

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It’s time to get realistic – to devise innovative, pragmatic strategies for dealing with teens, marijuana, alcohol, and other drug use in this new era.

You can find out more about Rosenbaum's innovative approach to drug education here. 

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Prohibition

Speaker of the New York City Council Supports Making Marijuana Legal

[caption id="attachment_8323" align="alignright" width="199"] Melissa Mark-Viverito[/caption]

Just days ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio overhauled the city’s marijuana policy by instructing law enforcement officers to issue tickets for marijuana possession instead of arresting offenders. Now, the City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is going a step further and calling for making the substance legal.

“It’s not something we can just do randomly, but with a thought process, and looking how it’s being implemented in other areas. But I do support the legalization of marijuana,” she said at City Hall.

Mark-Viverito’s stance makes her the highest-ranking city official to support adopting such a policy, although it puts her at odds with Mayor de Blasio who does not support making marijuana legal in New York.

“States are speaking,” Mark-Viverito said. “Based on the conversations that we see happening nationally, and how people feel about it, I think that it’s just something that is appropriate at this time.”

The Drug Policy Alliance, a leading advocacy group based in New York City, praised the city council speaker’s stance:

“Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito’s announcement further proves that marijuana legalization is a mainstream issue,” said Kassandra Frederique, the group’s New York policy manager. “It is especially important that elected officials of color lead and frame this conversation as the harms of marijuana prohibition and criminalization overwhelmingly affect their communities,” she added.

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Prohibition

The Number of Marijuana Arrests in New York City Remain Racially Disparate Under de Blasio

More than 80 percent of the people arrested for the possession of marijuana during the first eight months of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration were people of color, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

[caption id="attachment_8292" align="alignright" width="300"] Credit: Photo Posted By Occupy Wall Street's Twitter Account[/caption]

During de Blasio’s run for mayor last year, he vowed to direct the NYPD to reduce the number of marijuana arrests citywide.

However, between the months of January and August 2013, there were 20,080 marijuana possession arrests; during the same period this year, there were 19,684 arrests, which accounts for a drop of about two percent, according to the data and a report provided by DPA.

The current mayor also took a firm stance concerning the treatment of first time offenders, saying that:

“First time offenses for possession of small amounts of marijuana are supposed to be punishable by fine only, unless publicly displayed.”

However, statistics show that under de Blasio, the NYPD still continues to arrest first time offenders rather than fining them. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, almost 75 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession under de Blasio have been first time offenders.

Moreover, since de Blasio has been the mayor of New York City, 85 percent of the individuals arrested for marijuana possession were either black or Latino, and the number of black people arrested was more than four times higher than the number of white people arrested for the same charge.

Most shockingly, in all but two precincts this year (not including Central Park), the percentage of black people and Latinos arrested for marijuana possession is more than their percentage of the population, according to census data obtained from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In the end, there is a blatant and obvious pattern that the percentage of arrests of black and Latino individuals is disproportionate. Furthermore, the reality is not that these populations use or possess marijuana more than their white counterparts. Use rates are similar across racial demographics. The reality is that these arrests are racially oriented and destroying countless lives.

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Prohibition

D.C. Voters Legalize Marijuana For Adults 21 and Older!

By an overwhelming margin, D.C. voters approved Initiative 71, which will allow adults 21 and older to use, possess, and grow limited amounts of marijuana! The new law, which will not take effect until after it successfully clears a 30-day Congressional review period, legalizes limited possession and cultivation of marijuana by those 21 and older under D.C. law. Check out our summary here. Please note that it does nothing to change federal law, under which marijuana is still strictly prohibited.

So much gratitude is owed to the folks at the Yes on 71 campaign who worked tirelessly to get this initiative on the ballot and to ensure its success. Adam Eidinger, Nikolas Schiller, and their entire staff and volunteers, along with Dr. Malik Burnett and his colleagues from the Drug Policy Alliance, ran a smooth campaign focusing on the injustice of marijuana prohibition that clearly resonated with D.C. voters.

While there is much cause for celebration, passage of I-71 is just the first step. The law does not become operational unless and until it clears a 30-day Congressional review. This should happen sometime in February or March of 2015. In addition, the initiative does not create a legal, regulated market for marijuana. Please encourage your councilmembers to create such a system.

Thanks again to everyone who worked on this historic effort, and please make sure your friends and family in D.C. have heard the news!

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Prohibition

Low-Level Marijuana Arrests Targeting Large Numbers of Minorities Still on the Rise in New York

[caption id="attachment_8215" align="alignright" width="270"] Bill de Blasio[/caption]

As reported by The Huffington Post, Bill de Blasio, a candidate for New York City mayor last year, promised to end marijuana arrests, noting that they have “disastrous consequences for individuals and their families.” As mayor, however, de Blasio is not living up to his promise.

According to a report released yesterday by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, between March and August of this year, NYPD made hundreds more low-level marijuana arrests than they did during the same six-month period under New York City’s previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

The report, which draws on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice, depicts the blatant racial disparity in low-level marijuana arrests: the NYPD continues to arrest Latinos at nearly four times the rate as white people and black people at seven times the rate of white people. This is in spite of numerous studies that demonstrate that young black people and Latinos in New York and elsewhere are no more likely than their white counterparts to use marijuana.

Moreover, the report analyzes the number of arrests by neighborhood, showing that the majority of arrests are centered in predominantly black and Latino areas.

“The NYPD is clearly never going to do on the Upper West Side, where there are two dozen arrests each year, what they’re doing in the 77th Precinct in Crown Heights, where there are more than 300,” said Gabriel Sayegh, managing director for policy and campaigns for the Drug Policy Alliance. “It just wouldn’t be allowed.”

Ultimately, the report portrays a typical arrest victim as a young person of color who generally abides by the law. In fact, as relayed in the report, three-quarters of those arrested for marijuana this year have never even been convicted of a misdemeanor.

“As a whole, we in the communities of color voted for him,” said Anastasia Sanders—a 21 year old woman from Prospect Heights in Brooklyn who voted for de Blasio hoping he would reform the police department’s practices. “So for us to continue to be arrested, to be honest, it’s not fair, and we just wish we had his support a little bit more.”

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