We’re just over halfway through this year’s legislative session, and the fate of legalization remains uncertain. A clear majority of Rhode Islanders are ready to end the failed policy of prohibition, but lawmakers may not act unless they hear from their constituents. Help us move the issue forward and contact your state legislators.
Rhode Island will only dig itself into a deeper hole if the General Assembly fails to pass a legalization law this year. Multiple states around us are moving forward with marijuana policy reform legislation, and if Rhode Island becomes an island of prohibition, the state will lose out on an opportunity to gain a foothold in the fastest growing economic sector in the country.
Gov. Raimondo’s proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana could be improved in several ways, and as we advocate for passage of a legalization law this year, we must also urge the General Assembly to adopt amendments around medical marijuana patient access, competition and fairness within the market, and provisions to address the historical injustices of marijuana prohibition.
We need supporters of sensible marijuana policy to take action. Without a broad push for legalization, Rhode Island will continue spinning its wheels while Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other New England states move forward. We need progress this year, and you can help make it happen by sending a message to your state legislators right now.
Study commission announces five listening sessions; call Gov. Scott today!
Possession and limited cultivation of cannabis has been legal for adults in Vermont since July 1, but sales in the state remain illicit, unregulated, and untaxed. Fortunately, the November election paved the way for the state to legalize and regulate retail sales in 2019. The Vermont Democratic Party officially endorsed legalization and regulation at its convention in August, and then it expanded its legislative majorities in November, increasing the likelihood that the House and Senate will agree to pass a cannabis regulation bill.
Unfortunately, Gov. Phil Scott, who was re-elected, has said that he thinks Vermont “isn’t ready” for retail cannabis. However, now that sales to adults have begun in Massachusetts and Canada, he may be convinced to evolve on the issue in 2019.
Gov. Scott needs to hear that regulating cannabis will create jobs, spur economic development, and produce tax revenue while taking money and power away from organized crime. If he isn’t willing to evolve, we may need to override his veto by earning support from two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.
Additionally, the study commission has announced that it will be holding five listening sessions around the state. All sessions will begin at 6:30 p.m., and members of the public will be welcome to comment.
• Monday, November 26 in Rutland – Asa Bloomer Building, 2nd Floor, Room 266, 88 Merchants Row
• Wednesday, November 28 in Williston – Williston Central School Auditorium, 195 Central School Drive
• Monday, December 3 – Morse Center, Black Box Theatre, St. Johnsbury Academy, 1000 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, VT
• Wednesday, December 5 – Vermont Veteran’s Home, 325 North Street, Bennington, VT
• Thursday, December 6 – White River Junction National Guard Armory, 240 Main Street, White River Junction, VT
CONGRESS — In March, MPP helped coordinate the congressional advocacy effort that succeeded in renewing the federal policy that prevents Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department from interfering in state medical marijuana programs. This is an extremely important protection for patients and caregivers across the country.
VERMONT — Years of MPP-led advocacy work in the Green Mountain State yielded a major victory in January, when the legislature became the first ever to enact a marijuana legalization law legislatively (as opposed to a ballot initiative). We continue to work in Vermont with the goal of passing a law next year that will allow regulated and taxed sales (the current law only allows possession and home cultivation).
SOUTH CAROLINA — MPP, working with allied patients and loved ones, is maintaining an aggressive push for medical marijuana in the state legislature. Our bill was recently sent to the Senate floor, and we now have majority support in the House, leaving us well-positioned for passage in 2019.
MASSACHUSETTS — After winning the 2016 ballot initiative campaign and defending the law from political interference in 2017, we have remained engaged in the year-long implementation process in the Bay State. MPP has also been pushing back against local marijuana business bans. As a result of MPP’s work in Massachusetts, the licensing process for marijuana businesses just started, and the first adult-use marijuana stores in New England will open later this year.
CONNECTICUT — Since last year, MPP has led the advocacy effort to legalize and regulate marijuana in Connecticut. Last Thursday, for the first time ever, a committee approved a legalization bill, sending it to the full House.
MPP is also playing a leading role in two ballot initiative campaigns:
There is no shortage of work ahead in 2018 but, with your support, MPP can and will continue to win. Thank you for your commitment to the Marijuana Policy Project mission.
Three out of five Rhode Islanders agree that it’s time to legalize marijuana for adult use. The conversation that should be taking place among state policymakers is not if Rhode Island should legalize and regulate marijuana. They should be discussing how it will be done.
Yesterday, we published a comprehensive new report addressing the best way for Rhode Island to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. We are sharing this document with lawmakers in an effort to accelerate the process and move us closer to enacting real policy.
Although three New England states have already ended marijuana prohibition, Rhode Island’s state legislature continues to delay serious consideration of legalization. Unfortunately, lawmakers are now thinking about extending the legalization study commission established last year, which will only delay progress. However, another bill has been introduced which would put the issue to the voters.
We need the General Assembly to stop dragging its feet and take action. If you are a Rhode Island resident, please contact your state senator and representative and urge them to take action this year on marijuana policy reform.
On Friday, for the second time this year, the Vermont Senate voted to legalize marijuana for adults’ use! The Senate voted 20-9 to attach the legalization language from H. 170 to an unrelated bill, S. 22, and added a study commission to consider regulation and taxation. It will now be up to the House whether or not to concur with the Senate’s offer of amendment.
This move represents an attempt by the Senate to compromise with the House, which voted for the first time in its history to legalize marijuana earlier this week. H. 170, which would eliminate penalties for adults’ possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, two or fewer mature plants, and four or fewer immature plants, passed the House in a 75-71 vote. The Senate prefers a regulated market approach, but today’s vote shows that senators are willing to accept H. 170 as long as it includes a pathway to sensible regulation.
Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, released the following statement in a press release:
“You have to give the Senate credit for standing up for Vermont voters, who strongly support making marijuana legal for adults. We hope the House will do the same and concur with S. 22 as amended by the Senate. This is not just a reasonable compromise, but an important step forward for supporters of both home cultivation and regulation. The bill would eliminate penalties for adult possession and cultivation, as the House sought to do with H. 170, and create a commission to explore regulating and taxing marijuana, which the Senate clearly supports. This bill proposes a very thoughtful and deliberate approach to replacing prohibition with a more sensible marijuana policy.”
The Vermont House Judiciary Committee will begin holding hearings this week on H. 170, a bill that would legalize possession and limited home cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and older. This bill is sponsored by the committee’s chairman, vice-chair, and ranking Republican, and its prospects appear to be bright: Vermont Public Radio reported on Friday that the House "appears more receptive" to legalization in 2017, and Governor Phil Scott is "willing to consider the House plan."
Although this bill would not legalize and regulate marijuana sales in Vermont, it still represents a very significant development.
Last week, Maine became the second New England state — following Massachusetts — where adults are no longer punished for possessing small amounts of marijuana or a limited number of plants. Now that marijuana is legal in two other New England states, there is no reason whatsoever for Vermont to continue punishing adults for choosing to use a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.
If you are a Vermont resident, please contact your lawmakers and tell them to support this sensible legislation.
On this date two years ago, Gov. Maggie Hassan signed HB 573, making New Hampshire the last state in New England to approve a medical marijuana law. Unfortunately, so far this law has failed to benefit patients in any way. Some patients, including well-known patient-advocate Clayton Holton, have passed away while waiting for the law to take effect. Others, such as Ron Mitchell, have had no choice but to leave their families behind and move to another state in search of relief.
To raise awareness about the program’s many shortcomings, MPP has published Confusion, Delays, and Continued Arrests: A Two-Year Retrospective on New Hampshire’s “Therapeutic Use of Cannabis” Law.
This report includes the most recent updates, analyzes why the law is not yet effective for patients, and makes recommendations for improving the law and policy moving forward.
Yesterday, the New Hampshire House passed HB 618, a bill that would reduce the penalty for possessing up to one-half ounce of marijuana to a violation. This was the sixth time the House has approved a marijuana decriminalization bill since 2008, and this time the vote was an overwhelming 297-67!
HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and up to $500 for third or subsequent offenses. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
The next step will be the state senate, which has rejected previous efforts to decriminalize marijuana possession.
If you are a New Hampshire resident, please contact your senator today!
A bill has been introduced in the New Hampshire House of Representatives that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The House passed a nearly identical bill last year by a vote of 215-92, but the Senate refused to consider it.
HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of up to $100. It would also make cultivation of up to six marijuana plants a Class A misdemeanor instead of a felony. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
A couple of weeks ago, the New Hampshire Senate refused to consider a bill that would have reduced marijuana penalties in the state, but MPP and its allies are not giving up on the 2014 session. Several representatives in the House are working to keep this issue alive, and we are still making the case that now is the time to stop criminalizing and jailing people for consuming a substance that is safer than alcohol.
Today, MPP released a new report — Marked for Life — that shows how the lifelong stigma associated with a marijuana conviction can derail dreams by making it difficult to obtain jobs, an education, and even housing. If you have experienced any of these collateral consequences of a conviction for simple possession, please let us know.
It’s past time for New Hampshire to catch up with 15 other states — including all five other New England states — by reducing the penalty for marijuana possession to a fine.