When it comes to changing hearts and minds on medical marijuana, there's nothing more powerful than a roomful of patients and their loved ones sharing their stories. On Friday of last week, lawmakers listened to hours of testimony in favor of establishing a compassionate law that would end the practice of treating patients as criminals.
Alongside patients who had travelled from across the state and Sen. Anna Wishart — primary sponsor of the bill to legalize medical marijuana — sat MPP's director of state policies, Karen O'Keefe, who explained how the legislation would benefit thousands of Nebraskans.
The momentum for medical marijuana is growing, but we need you in the fight. If you agree that patients and their families deserve compassion, please contact your state senator and ask them to get behind LB 110.
Despite opposition from Gov. Ricketts, the effort to establish a compassionate medical marijuana program in Nebraska is picking up steam like never before. On the same day as the legislative hearing, the 2020 ballot campaign committee, Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, held its kickoff fundraiser in Lincoln and over 100 people attended!
There are reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for marijuana policy reform in Nebraska. But we need you to get involved.
Having worked in states across the country to pass humane, sensible marijuana laws, it’s exciting that in just two weeks voters in my home state, Michigan, will have a chance to legalize marijuana!
While polls are encouraging, the opposition is ramping up its misleading attacks, and we can’t take anything for granted.
Growing up in Michigan, I saw firsthand how marijuana prohibition failed my home state. When I was in high school, teenagers had easy — and dangerous — access to marijuana. While buying marijuana from an open-air drug market, someone I knew had a gun pulled on him. It’s heartbreaking to think of kids growing up on that street.
During college, two friends’ dreams of teaching and practicing law were derailed due to cannabis convictions.
Now, when I go back home, I experience pothole-plagued roads and read about shockingly high rates of unsolved crimes, while police waste time on marijuana.
At long last, we have a chance to end Michigan’s wasteful, cruel policy of marijuana prohibition. Proposition 1 will move marijuana sales off of the streets and into regulated stores, while creating good jobs and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Cannabis consumers will have a safe, tested product, and adults won’t be criminalized for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.
Michigan can set an example. So far, only East and West Coast states have legalized marijuana. Let’s bring sensible marijuana policy to the Midwest.
Together, we’ve got this!
- MPP Director of State Policies Karen O'Keefe
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) approved a resolution Monday urging that the Controlled Substances Act should be amended to remove marijuana from scheduling in order to give federally approved banks the ability to work with marijuana businesses. This would also allow states to determine their own marijuana policies without the threat of federal interference. For a resolution to pass, it must be supported by a majority of participating legislators in each of 75% of the states represented at the conference’s general business meeting.
Due to the Schedule I status of marijuana under federal law, federally insured banks risk penalties if they offer financial services to marijuana-related businesses. For that reason, many of these businesses are forced to operate on a cash-only basis, making them a target for criminals. While limited guidance has been issued, which intended to encourage financial institutions to serve marijuana businesses, access to banking remains a problem.
The full resolution can be found here.
MPP's Karen O'Keefe said the following statement in a press release:
“State legislators and the vast majority of voters agree that marijuana policy should be left to the states,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, which tracks marijuana policy in all 50 states and lobbies in state legislatures throughout the country.
“Legitimate, taxpaying marijuana businesses should not have to face the difficulties of operating on a cash-only basis. Allowing banks to offer them financial services will be good for the industry and benefit public safety,” O’Keefe continues. “Even more so, states should not have to worry about the federal government interfering with their marijuana policy choices.”
Delaware’s marijuana decriminalization law officially takes effect today, making Delaware the 19th state in the nation to remove the threat of jail, a punishment far too severe for simple marijuana possession.
Under the new law, the possession or private use of one ounce or less of marijuana will no longer trigger criminal penalties or create a criminal record for adults over 21 years of age. Instead, it will be a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine. Adults between the ages of 18 and 20 will face the same $100 civil fine for their first offense. Marijuana possession by minors and public consumption by people of any age will remain misdemeanors.
“Delaware’s marijuana policy is about to become a lot more reasonable,” said Karen O’Keefe, who lobbied for the bill as state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Most people agree adults should not face jail time or the life-altering consequences of a criminal record just for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol. Taxpayers certainly don’t want to foot the bill for it, and fortunately they will not have to any longer.”
Next week, the biannual International Drug Policy Reform Conference will take place in Denver, Colorado. This conference promises to bring together a wide range of drug policy and social justice activists to discuss the many issues surrounding current national and global drug policy. This year’s conference, from October 23-26, promises to be very productive and exciting, being located in one of the first states to make marijuana legal at a time when failed drug policies around the world are being questioned.
Anyone attending the conference can see MPP staff at the following speeches and panels:
Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?
Thursday, October 24, 4:00pm – 4:30pm in the Plaza Foyer
Mason Tvert, director of communications
Which States Will Legalize Next?
Thursday, October 24, 4:30pm-6:00pm in Plaza E
Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies
What About the Kids: How Will Legalization Affect Those Under 21?
Saturday, October 26, 10:00am-10:30am in Plaza E
Mason Tvert, director of communications
What Happens Next With Marijuana?
Saturday, October 26, 3:00pm – 4:30pm in Plaza E
Rob Kampia, executive director
The full program of the conference can be seen here.
Nevada state lawmakers approved a bill Monday that will establish a state-regulated system of dispensaries to provide medical marijuana to licensed patients. It will now be transmitted to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his signature, and he has said he is open to dispensary legislation.
MPP's Karen O'Keefe, who testified in support of the bill, was featured in a story by Reno's Fox affiliate station:
"Nevadans with serious illnesses who are using medical marijuana under the supervision of their doctors should have a safe and legal way to obtain it," said Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. "We applaud the Nevada Legislature for taking action to protect patients and promote a safer and healthier state for their constituents.
"We are hopeful that Gov. Sandoval will join legislators and the voters of Nevada in supporting a system of state-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries that is long overdue," O'Keefe said. “Regulating medical marijuana works."
SB 374 establishes rules and regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, infused product manufacturers, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities. In addition to standard sales taxes, medical marijuana will be subject to excise taxes of 2% on wholesale sales and 2% on retail sales, of which 75% will be directed to education and 25% will be directed toward implementing and enforcing the regulations.
Currently, patients must grow their own marijuana or have it grown for them by a physician-approved caregiver despite the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1998 and 2000 requiring the legislature to set up a medical marijuana program that includes appropriate methods of supplying medical marijuana to qualified patients. In 2012, Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley called the state's current system "absurd," "ridiculous," and unconstitutional. Apparently the legislature agreed. Let's hope the governor will, too.
Officials from Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), which has been charged with organizing the state’s medical marijuana program, heard compelling public testimony Monday morning as the department prepares to establish rules regarding dispensary operations.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a medical marijuana bill into law last May, and the state began accepting applications for medical marijuana licenses in October. Unfortunately, there are no dispensaries currently operating in the state, and it is illegal for patients to grow plants for personal use.
This loophole has left patients like Tracey Gamer Fanning in an unnerving legal gray-zone. Tracey was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2006. The myriad medication she was prescribed left her bedridden and unable to function. This all changed when her doctor recommend she try marijuana. "It gave me my life back," she told CBS.
Despite the impact it’s had on Tracey’s cancer, every time she uses the drug she is breaking the law. Dedicating her limited time to medical-marijuana advocacy, Tracey lined up to speak at Monday’s hearing.
I want the politicians to see my face, the face of a mother from West Hartford who is just grateful to be at the dinner table in the evening instead of in bed, of someone who is so thankful to be part of her children's lives, of someone who lost an advertising career but gained a life mission.
The DCP has composed a 70-page draft of regulations that mimics the state system that controls the distribution of such pharmaceuticals as OxyContin.
MPP’s Director of State Policies, Karen O’Keefe, expressed concerns over the expense of the system of production and distribution. “The provision that requires $2 million in an escrow for producers, that’s a huge sum of money,” Karen stated. “It could edge out the little guy.” MPP has submitted suggested changes to the state regulations.
Last week, a number of medical marijuana patients and supporters, including MPP’s Dan Riffle, were at the Maryland statehouse to testify on the need to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest.
Here is some TV coverage of the hearing:
The bill, sponsored by Sen. David Brinkley, is based on one of two draft bills proposed by members of Maryland’s medical marijuana workgroup. Only one version, the one suggested by Del. Dan Morhaim and MPP’s director of state policies Karen O’Keefe, would provide patients with safe and reliable access to their medicine.
Unfortunately, Gov. O’Malley has promised to veto the bill in its current form due to concerns of possible federal prosecution of state employees. To date, no state official has been charged with a crime for following medical marijuana laws. The bill is now being amended in an attempt to ease these unjustified concerns.
Today, the Marijuana Policy Project released an updated version of the Teen Use Report, which analyzes all available data from medical marijuana states both before and after passing their medical marijuana laws. The purpose behind this was to find out if permitting patients to use their medicine “sends the wrong message” to teens, as prohibitionists are so quick to claim.
Well, it turns out that it doesn’t. In fact, of the 13 states with available data, teen use rates have stayed the same or decreased since enacting medical marijuana laws. In some cases, these drops in teen use are pretty significant. This is not meant to imply that there is a causal relationship between medical marijuana and a drop in teen use. What the report does show, however, is that there is definitely no causal relationship between medical marijuana and an increase in teen marijuana use.
Not surprisingly, we’ve seen that arresting anyone for marijuana, even teenagers, does nothing to curb adolescent marijuana use. Some parents may be asking right about now, “how do I prevent my teenager from using marijuana?”
According to a study released this week by the University of Washington, the answer is … talk to them!