He did not articulate any new policy positions for the administration, which was good, because Donald Trump entered the White House with the best position on marijuana policy of any incoming president in modern history. Most notably, he has repeatedly said that states should be able to establish their own marijuana policies, without contradiction. He has also expressed support for legal access to medical marijuana, which Spicer mentioned.
Nevertheless, several media outlets leapt to the conclusion that the federal government is surely planning an all-out assault on state marijuana laws. I was also surprised to see that allies within the marijuana policy reform movement were also contriving a fight where none exists. According to a hyperbolic statement from one allied organization, “Spicer declared war on much of the cannabis community yesterday when he announced the Trump administration intends to engage in the ‘greater enforcement’ of federal anti-marijuana laws.”
But Spicer did not “declare” anything. He was not proactively announcing a prepared, written policy on behalf of the Trump administration. Quite the opposite, he was reactively offering an impromptu, oral opinion on behalf of himself. Those are important distinctions.
You can read the rest of the article here.
Simply being arrested for marijuana possession is bad enough, and can have life-long consequences. But imagine spending 13 years in prison for a small personal amount of a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol. That's what Bernard Noble, a Louisiana man with a history of minor non-violent drug possession offenses, has been subjected to since being convicted in 2010. Now, thanks to the tireless work of his family, his defense attorney, advocates around the country, he will free in 2018.
Huffington Post reports:
Bernard Noble, a 50-year-old father of seven, has spent the last six years in prison in Louisiana serving out a sentence of 13 and a half years for possession of what was the equivalent of two joints’ worth of marijuana.
Noble’s case was a rallying cry for those seeking reform of harsh sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders. And Monday, after years of litigation, multiple articles on his case (including from The Huffington Post), documentaries, podcasts, rallies and petitions, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro agreed to resentence Noble to eight years, Noble’s attorney Jee Park announced in a statement. That means he could be free in less than two more years given the time he’s already served behind bars.
“To me, eight years is still too long for Bernard and his family,” Park said, “but the prospect of going home and being reunited with his children in less than 2 years brought relief to Bernard.”
Park said she’s hopeful that Noble, who she described as a “caring and responsible father, successful entrepreneur, [with] no violence in his past” might be paroled and released even sooner. Noble’s previous sentence did not include the possibility of parole.
Noble was caught with the equivalent of two joints’ worth of marijuana in 2010. At first, Noble was sentenced to five years in prison. But the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office appealed that ruling and took the case all the way to the state Supreme Court.
Noble had seven prior convictions on his record, stretching back to 1989. All were convictions for possession of small amounts of drugs; two were for cocaine and the rest were for marijuana. All were nonviolent, and four were misdemeanors and three were felonies. The state used two of the felony charges in their branding of Noble as a “habitual offender” under Louisiana law. That allowed them to apply the maximum possible sentence against Noble, without a chance of parole.
Read HuffPost’s full interview with Noble from 2015 here.
MPP would like to congratulate Mr. Noble on this victory and thank all the people whose efforts are helping bring him home.
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.
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.
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.
Now that most state legislative sessions are over for the year, MPP's Rob Kampia has published a list of the biggest victories in what is already the biggest year on record for marijuana policy reformers!
On July 29, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill removing the threat of arrest for small amounts of marijuana, capping a record year of legislative and administrative marijuana policy reforms throughout the country.
In addition to Illinois, a number of other states enacted laws to reduce marijuana possession penalties. Kansas lowered the maximum jail sentence for first-time possession and reduced second offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Louisiana and Maryland removed criminal penalties for possession of paraphernalia, with the Maryland Legislature overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto. Oklahoma cut the penalties for second marijuana possession offenses in half, and Tennessee reduced a third possession offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, making the maximum penalty less than a year in jail. At the local level, New Orleans and a number of Florida counties passed ordinances that give police the option to issue summons or citations instead of arresting people for low-level possession.
In response to the recent decision by the DEA not to move marijuana out of Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, MPP's Rob Kampia offered the following analysis of the situation, and what the best course of action would be:
In the wake of the DEA’s decision against rescheduling marijuana, the super-majority of the American people who support legalizing medical marijuana might properly wonder, “How bad is this news?”
As the leader of the largest marijuana-policy-reform organization in the nation, my answer might surprise you: It barely mattered which way the DEA ruled.
Back in 1970, Congress and President Nixon placed marijuana in Schedule I, along with LSD and heroin, defining these drugs as having no therapeutic value and a high potential for abuse. Simultaneously, drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine were placed in Schedule II, which are defined as having therapeutic value.
This “Flat Earth Society” view of marijuana has been challenged numerous times since 1970, but the DEA and federal courts have rejected all such attempts, including the Washington and Rhode Island governors’ 2011 petition that the DEA just rejected.
To be sure, moving marijuana to Schedule II would have had symbolic value, showing that prohibitionists were wrong to stubbornly claim for decades that sick people were merely imagining or lying about the medicinal benefits they experienced. However, there are federal criminal penalties for marijuana possession that are imposed regardless of its schedule. Even if the DEA had moved marijuana to Schedule II, growing 100 marijuana seedlings would still land you in federal prison for a minimum of five years...
You can read the entire article at Huffington Post.
MPP executive director Rob Kampia’s "Marijuana Policy Predictions for 2016" has been published by The Huffington Post.
Up until now, the two biggest years were 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, and 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.
2016 will likely comprise a cornucopia of cannabis policy advances, which I'll enumerate in the form of predictions.
Click here to read the entire column.
Over the weekend, Hilary Clinton expanded on her position regarding marijuana policy reform. Specifically, she stated that she would like to see marijuana rescheduled.
Huffington Post reports:
Hillary Clinton wants to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous substance in order to allow more research into the drug's medicinal properties, the Democratic presidential candidate said Saturday in South Carolina.
Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, the most dangerous of five substance categories listed in the Controlled Substances Act. According to the federal classification, Schedule I drugs have "no currently accepted medical use." Other Schedule I substances include heroin, ecstasy and LSD.
Under Clinton's proposal, marijuana would become a Schedule II substance, which are considered to have "less abuse potential." Cocaine, OxyContin, Adderall and meth are Schedule II drugs. The move, Clinton said Saturday, would allow federal researchers to explore how to best use marijuana as medicine.
"What I do want is for us to support research into medical marijuana because a lot more states have passed medical marijuana than have legalized marijuana, so we've got two different experiences or even experiments going on right now," Clinton said after being asked about marijuana prohibition during a town hall. "And the problem with medical marijuana is there's a lot of anecdotal evidence about how well it works for certain conditions, but we haven't done any research. Why? Because it's considered what's called a Schedule I drug and you can't even do research in it."
"If we're going to have a lot of states setting up marijuana dispensaries so that people who have some kind of medical need are getting marijuana, we need know what's the quality of it, how much should you take, what should you avoid if you're taking other medications," she continued.
Clinton has said previously that she does not support legalizing marijuana, but believes in the medical use of cannabis and reforming the criminal justice system to keep low-level drug offenders out of jail.
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.
In what hopefully becomes a trend in other states, a Colorado court has overturned a marijuana conviction that occurred just after the passage of Amendment 64.
Huffington Post reports:
A state appeals court has overturned the marijuana conviction of a Colorado woman who was sentenced and convicted for marijuana possession just days after voters approved a measure legalizing recreational marijuana in the state almost three years ago -- retroactively applying the law to her case.
Citing a decision in a previous case, the appeals court ruled that convicted criminal defendants should receive “benefit of amendatory legislation which became effective at any time before the conviction became final on appeal,” the opinion, issued last week, reads.
"Amendment 64 is doing exactly what it was intended to do," Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project, said to The Huffington Post. "Colorado voters made it clear that they do not want adults to be punished for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Hopefully this ruling will ensure these convictions get overturned in any similar cases that might be pending. Fortunately, we have taken the steps needed to prevent these possession convictions from occurring to begin with.”
In the states where marijuana is now legal for adults and regulated like alcohol, there have been ongoing efforts to make sure that people arrested after the passage of these laws but before their implementation are protected by the will of the voters. In addition, there is a growing movement to apply these laws retroactively to people who were convicted before the laws passed.
In recent months, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly said that he does not agree with marijuana legalization and would most likely end the current policy which allows states to determine their own marijuana laws provided they meet certain criteria, earning him a grade of "F" on MPP's Presidential Report Card.
On Tuesday, Gov. Christie reaffirmed this position, saying that state laws making marijuana legal are numbered if he is elected president. The Huffington Post reports:
“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie said Tuesday during a Newport, New Hampshire, town-hall meeting, Bloomberg reports. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”
Christie, one of 16 Republicans campaigning for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has made no secret of his long-held opposition to cannabis. As governor of New Jersey, he has opposed even his own state's limited medical marijuana program and has called similar laws in 22 other states a "front" for full recreational legalization. He has described taxes generated from the sale of marijuana as "blood money." And earlier this year in no uncertain terms, he said that, as president, he would "crack down and not permit" recreational cannabis in states that have legalized it.
Even Christie's fellow Republicans don't seem to favor such a hard-line stance. According to a recent Pew survey, while most GOP voters do not support legalization, they do support states' rights when it comes to marijuana -- with 54 percent saying that the federal government should not interfere with states that have already legalized cannabis. Among millennial Republicans, support for legalizing marijuana is significant -- with 63 percent in favor.
"Gov. Christie is either totally clueless or utterly careless," Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Huffington Post. "If Gov. Christie is trying to distinguish himself from the other Republican candidates, he’s doing a good job. He clearly has the least respect for states’ rights and the most desire to maintain our federal government’s failed program of marijuana prohibition."
Interestingly, Gov. Christie's dedication to enforcing federal law does not extend to sports gambling in his state, which is currently illegal under a 1992 federal ban.
Check out this encounter MPP's Matt Simon had with Gov. Christie in New Hampshire this morning: