Now that Vermont’s marijuana legalization law is set to take effect on July 1, the state’s attorneys (prosecutors) for two counties have announced that they will host “Expungement Day” clinics in June to assist Vermonters with having their records cleared of misdemeanor marijuana offenses. Volunteers with the Center for Justice Reform at the Vermont Law School will reportedly assist with filling out expungement petitions in Windsor County on June 9 and in Chittenden County on June 12.
WHAT: Windsor County Expungement Clinic
WHERE: Vermont Law School, Oakes Hall Room 012, South Royalton
WHEN: Saturday, June 9, 9 a.m. to noon
WHAT: Chittenden County Expungement Clinic
WHERE: Costello Courthouse, Courtroom 2C, 32 Cherry Street, Burlington
WHEN: Tuesday, June 12, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Please note that there will likely be a fee required when the petition is filed.
If you have been convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession in another Vermont county, you may wish to call and ask what it would take to have your record expunged. You can find phone numbers for all of Vermont’s state’s attorneys’ offices here.
The first bill, now called SB 147, would permit patients with seizures to access low-THC cannabis, called medical hemp preparations in the bill. While it is not a full medical marijuana law and would leave many patients behind, the bill proposes a workable system to provide immediate relief to some seriously ill Kansans. In addition, by passing the House, it has advanced much further than any medical marijuana bill ever has in Kansas.
The second bill, which is currently designated as the Senate Sub. for HB 2049, would reduce the penalty for first, second, and third-time marijuana possession. A first offense would be punishable by a maximum of six months, instead of one year, in jail, and a second offense would no longer be a felony, removing many of the associated collateral consequences. The Senate combined the marijuana-related provisions with another bill that increases penalties for burglary, on which MPP does not take a position.
If you are a Kansas resident, please urge your senators to support common sense reform.
Wisconsin will stop punishing possession of a modest amount of marijuana if state Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) and state Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) have anything to say about it. Along with 14 of their colleagues, they have introduced legislation that would remove all penalties for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana.
If you are a Wisconsin resident, please email your lawmakers in Madison and ask them to support this modest reform today!
Possessing one ounce or less of marijuana in Wisconsin is currently classified as a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000. A subsequent possession charge could result in a felony conviction for simply having a small amount of a substance that is safer than alcohol. AB 246/SB 167 would repeal these draconian penalties that carry with them a host of collateral consequences associated with having a criminal record.
Yesterday, voters in Wichita, Kansas approved a ballot measure that greatly reduces the penalties for marijuana possession.
The Wichita Eagle reports:
Of the 37,000 Wichita voters, 54 percent said they wanted more lenient penalties for first-time offenders. About 45 percent wanted to keep the status quo.
The major provision of the ballot initiative was to reduce the punishment for a first-time marijuana conviction to a $50 fine. Violations would be an infraction that wouldn’t have to be disclosed on most job and college scholarship applications.
Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, attended an Election Night party with the measure’s supporters and said she hopes the win in Wichita will send a message to the capital for the state to ease up on marijuana....
Attorney General Derek Schmidt has issued an opinion that the initiative is unlawful, primarily because it conflicts with state law....Under state law, first-time marijuana possession is a Class A misdemeanor carrying a penalty of as much as a $2,500 fine and a year in jail. Legally, that puts it on par with violent offenses including assaulting a police officer.
A Kansas bill that would reduce harsh penalties for people found in possession of marijuana received a strong vote of support yesterday from the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice. HB 2049 received a unanimous vote by the committee and will now be presented on the floor of the House for a vote.
If you are a Kansas resident, please take a moment and ask your representative to support this important legislation.
HB 2049 would drop the sentence range for first time offenders from a Class A to a Class B misdemeanor -- reducing the possible maximum jail sentence from a year to six months and reducing the maximum fine from $2,500 to $1,000. Second-time offenders would likewise see a reduction in penalties – taking them from a felony to a misdemeanor.
According to testimony by the Kansas Sentencing Commission, these simple changes represent over a million dollars in savings and would free up space in overcrowded jails. While a majority of Americans prefer a system that would remove criminal penalties entirely for adult consumers, these changes would represent a welcome improvement for those who choose a substance that is safer than alcohol.
Thursday, the Louisiana Senate overwhelmingly approved HB 681 — modest marijuana policy reform — with a vote of 30-7. The House previously approved the legislation in a near-unanimous vote, 92-1!
HB 681 would make positive, albeit modest, reforms to the way Louisiana treats a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge for someone who is on parole. Currently, acquiring a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge while on parole automatically results in parole revocation. If signed by Gov. Jindal, this legislation will give judges discretion to penalize parolees charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession with administrative sanctions instead of outright revocation.
While this is a small step towards sensible marijuana policies, it is at least a step in the right direction.
Last Friday, news broke that former UNC Tar Heel Will Graves faces misdemeanor charges after police officers found 4.4 grams of marijuana in a house that Mr. Graves rents. Let your lawmakers know that they should not burden responsible adults with criminal convictions for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. If you are a North Carolina resident, please ask them to replace criminal penalties for the possession of a small amount of marijuana with a civil fine.
Mr. Graves just finished his degree. This should be a time of celebration for him and his loved ones. Instead, he must ponder how these charges could affect the rest of his life. While he readily accepts blame for his actions, he shouldn’t be in this situation to begin with. At the very least, simple possession of marijuana shouldn’t result in a criminal conviction that can destroy a person’s ability to pursue their dreams.
The time is right for North Carolina to take a serious look at its marijuana policies. Draconian penalties have done nothing to prevent use or access but have done a great job of enriching criminal actors and wasting taxpayer dollars. If you live in North Carolina, please take minute to send an email to your state lawmakers asking them to remove criminal penalties for the simple possession of marijuana.
On Monday, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed into law two bills that make sensible changes to Oregon’s marijuana laws. These new laws, which took effect immediately, reduce the severity of the punishment for certain marijuana crimes.
SB 40 reduces penalties for possession of more than an ounce of marijuana. SB 40 reduces the criminal penalty for possession of more than four ounces of marijuana from a class B felony, which carries up to 10 years in prison, to a class C felony, which has a maximum sentence of five years in prison. It reclassifies possession of one to four ounces of marijuana from a class B felony to a class B misdemeanor — reducing the maximum sentence from 10 years to six months. It also reduces the penalty for unlawful manufacture of marijuana from a class A felony to a class B felony — reducing the maximum prison term from 20 years to 10.
SB 82 eliminates a penalty for possession of under an ounce of marijuana, which is already a civil violation. The bill eliminates a section of law that forced courts to suspend the driving privileges of people found in possession of under an ounce of marijuana unless there were compelling circumstances not to. Please note that absent compelling circumstances, courts must still revoke the driving privileges of an individual found in possession of an ounce or more of marijuana.
Last September, after activists brought attention to the fact that New York City is the misdemeanor marijuana arrest capital of the United States despite marijuana being “decriminalized,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly directed the NYPD to respect the rules of “stop and frisk” and not charge those found with marijuana in their possession with a criminal charge unless the marijuana is in plain view or being smoked. New York cops have traditionally gotten around this rule by tricking people being frisked into exposing their marijuana. Research has shown that this ploy is used far more on minorities in New York City, despite higher use rates among whites.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, however, the total number of marijuana arrests for 2011 is actually greater than the previous year!
How could this be? Was there an explosion in marijuana use in New York City in the last year that led to more arrests? Doubtful.
Did some members of the NYPD simply ignore the Commissioner and carry on with their illegal, racist enforcement tactics? Probably.
Let’s see what Commissioner Kelly had to say:
“The numbers are what they are, based on situations officers encounter in the street,” Kelly said at an unrelated press conference Wednesday. “It’s very difficult to quantify whether or not what’s happening [out there],” he said.
The first sentence does not make a lot of sense and would require a massive increase in the number of people openly using marijuana to explain the arrest numbers.
The second sentence … isn’t even a sentence, much less a statement.
Eminent rapper and marijuana aficionado Snoop Dogg was arrested over the weekend when officers at a Texas checkpoint searched his tour bus and found a few joints. He was issued a citation and released.
Imagine that, Snoop Dogg has a few joints in his tour bus! That means the town of Sierra Blanca, TX should stop what it is doing and investigate immediately!
It should be noted that this is the same town in which Willie Nelson was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2010.
What is it with this particular town busting celebrities who are famous for proudly using marijuana? Could it be as simple as publicity stunts? Perhaps the local law enforcement really, really doesn’t like marijuana users, and they are intent on picking on the most famous of them. It is not a big jump in logic to assume that marijuana might be found on either of their buses, but does that make them priorities? Another thing I wonder about is how many illicit drug shipments get through that same checkpoint while the other officers are searching for anything they can find that will incriminate the entertainers?
This is just one more example of the folly of our governments’ approaches to marijuana. Taxpayers get to see their hard-earned money being spent to investigate and prosecute famous musicians, as well as more than 750,000 less-than-famous marijuana users every year, while serious crimes go undetected and unpunished right under the noses of law enforcement.
Will putting Snoop Dogg in jail make anyone safer? No. The same goes for any non-violent marijuana user. Yet our society continues to allow the arrests of these individuals at nearly record rates. Unfortunately, most of those people do not have millions of dollars, teams of lawyers, or the power of public sentiment on their sides. They are just statistics in a war that has gone on far too long.