2018 was a frustrating year for marijuana policy in the West Virginia Legislature, with the Senate’s excellent version of a medical marijuana improvement bill never getting a House vote, and other reforms stalling. Fortunately, it is now election season, and candidates all over the state have been talking to voters about marijuana policy. The primary election will take place on Tuesday, May 8.
Before you go to the polls tomorrow, please take time to review MPP’s voter guide for the West Virginia primary election. After sending surveys to all candidates for state House of Delegates and state Senate and compiling their responses, we now have quite a bit of information available on candidates. The voter guide also includes votes cast by incumbent legislators and any available public statements.
Gov. Chris Christie has said that he is the “only impediment” to taxing and regulating marijuana in New Jersey — and he is leaving office in January 2018. Phil Murphy (D), who has repeatedly touted his support for legalization, beat Kim Guadagno (R) by about 10 percentage points and will be the next governor!
Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22), sponsor of the bill to end marijuana prohibition in New Jersey, won easily, and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), another vocal supporter of legalization, was also victorious.
New Jersey is now well-placed to be the first state to end marijuana prohibition through the legislative process (as opposed to a citizens’ ballot initiative) — but a bill still won’t pass without hard work. And the details of the bill — things like ensuring people who have been criminalized for marijuana possession can expunge their records once marijuana possession is legalized — will require close attention to guarantee New Jersey implements the best possible public policy.
Virginia will elect its next governor tomorrow, November 7. Please take a minute to examine each candidate's position on marijuana policy before you head to the polls. While every candidate favors some form of reduced penalty for simple possession, they have significant differences in opinion regarding marijuana penalties in the commonwealth.
- Democrat Ralph Northam supports decriminalization of marijuana and legalizing the medical use of marijuana.
- Republican Ed Gillespie opposes decriminalizing marijuana but favors a three-strikes approach for simple possession. The first two violations would not carry criminal charges, but a third would. He is open to "appropriate, limited, tightly regulated use of marijuana for medicinal purposes."
- Libertarian Cliff Hyra supports decriminalization, the establishment of a medical marijuana program, and allowing responsible adults ages 21 and older to consume marijuana.
This election is important, as the governor holds considerable sway over the direction of Virginia's policies. Please visit your local polling station between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. tomorrow, November 7, if you are a Virginia resident. If you don't know where your polling station is, click here to find out. Check your voter registration here, and be sure to bring a photo ID with you when you head to the polling station. Make your voice heard tomorrow!
All four of the medical marijuana initiatives being considered by states on Election Night were approved by voters, adding to the considerable momentum of marijuana policy reform sweeping the country. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota approved initiatives for new medical marijuana programs, and Montana voted to significantly expand access and improve its existing program.
As of now, there are effective medical marijuana laws on the books in 28 states and the District of Columbia, covering 198 million Americans (or roughly 62% of the population). Patients in states without legal, safe, and reliable access to medical marijuana should continue to put pressure on their elected representatives to pass sensible reforms at the state and federal level. Together, we can make sure the seriously ill aren't treated like criminals for much longer.
There has been a lot of discussion about marijuana policy during the 2016 presidential race, but there are still some questions that the candidates need to address.
In order to get some answers, we have partnered with Change.org for the launch of ChangePolitics, a mobile elections platform that enables voters to engage with the candidates on the issues they care about by asking and upvoting questions.
- Do you think seriously ill people should be allowed to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it?
- Do you think it should be a crime for adults to consume marijuana responsibly? Why?
- If elected, how would your administration address the current tension between state and federal marijuana laws?
- Do you think marijuana prohibition has been more effective than alcohol prohibition, less effective, or equally effective?
While election day saw an overwhelming amount of media coverage surrounding marijuana issues, some of the details were confusing to people not living in those states, so here are the details for Michigan. Three cities in Michigan voted to remove criminal penalties associated with possession or transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana. The ordinances apply to those 21 and over on private property. Ferndale and Jackson voters passed city ordinances by 69% and 61% respectively, while voters in the capital city, Lansing, passed an amendment to their city charter with 63% of the vote. Ferndale, Jackson, and Lansing all join the ranks of other Michigan cities like Detroit, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and Kalamazoo, which had previously removed criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession or set marijuana as the lowest law enforcement priority.
Law enforcement is still able to enforce state and federal laws against marijuana, but local cops have the option to follow these ordinances and not charge adults for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Activists will be playing close attention to whether or not they heed the will of the voters.
According to a recent poll conducted by Hamilton Campaigns on behalf of People United for Medical Marijuana, 70% of Florida voters support a plan to mend the state constitution to allow the medical use of marijuana.
Those are great numbers, but analysts say that this level of support could actually have an impact on the gubernatorial race in Florida if it makes the ballot in 2014!
From the Miami Herald:
“Supporters of the proposed amendment are less certain to cast ballots in the 2014 governor’s race,” David Beattie, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s pollster, wrote in an analysis of the poll of 600 registered voters taken Jan. 30-Feb. 3 by his firm, Hamilton Campaigns.
If it made the ballot, the measure would draw even more attention to Florida’s nationally watched 2014 election in which Gov. Rick Scott will fight for his political life.
“The proposal to allow the medical use of marijuana could provide a message contrast in the Governor’s race,” Beattie wrote, “heightening its effectiveness as a turnout mechanism.”
Politicians should start to take notice of the effect marijuana bills can have on elections. As popular support for marijuana reform grows, so will the electoral chances of candidates that get in front of this issue.
In the wake of our victory in Colorado -- where 54.8 percent of the voters passed Amendment 64, a constitutional amendment to regulate marijuana like alcohol -- good people are understandably clamoring to pass similar measures in their states.
Here is a listing of the ingredients of the recipe that led to the historic victory in Colorado on November 6.
1. Presidential Election: Given that no one had ever previously legalized marijuana in the history of the world, we assumed that the election in Colorado would be close -- win or lose. So we intentionally chose to place our initiative on the ballot during a presidential election, which always attracts a larger proportion of young voters, who are more supportive. ...
To read more, please visit The Huffington Post.
We are now 18 days away from the elections, and three states are poised to lead the way in ending marijuana prohibition! Passage of any of these initiatives will set the tone for marijuana reform nationwide, so it’s important to everyone who cares about this issue, no matter what state you live in.
As more and more people learn about the failure of marijuana prohibition and are presented with the facts, support for changing our laws grows. We can’t change the conversation, however, until we start it. Now, you have the opportunity to start a conversation about marijuana reform with the people in a position to make that reform reality: registered voters.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has set up a system that makes it easy for anyone to call registered voters in Colorado and ask them to vote “YES” on Amendment 64.
Just click here and you can help change history:
You can make the difference in this election. It’s your call.
First, the good news: California attorney general candidate Steve Cooley conceded the election to his opponent, Kamala Harris. While Harris may not be the most outspoken supporter of Prop 215 or medical marijuana patients, she is sure to be a better option. Cooley's history of antagonism toward the medical marijuana field and complicity with federal law enforcement as district attorney of Los Angeles would have meant trouble for the state's more than 350K registered patients. Disaster averted!
Unfortunately, the marijuana-hostile legal and civic environment that Cooley helped create in Southern California resulted in Los Angeles and Orange County supervisors voting to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in all unincorporated areas. Rather than use the tools at their disposal to deal with illegal dispensaries, the supervisors elected to effectively deny patients in those areas access to their medicine unless they feel like a nice long drive (assuming they are able to travel, or even get out of bed).
L.A. County patients can take one small comfort, though. It appears that higher politics has left Cooley feeling a little burned out, judging from a statement he released suggesting that this is his last term in office:
"I will complete my third term and finish my career as a professional prosecutor in the office where it began over 37 years ago," he said.