Yesterday, Albuquerque, New Mexico Mayor Tim Keller signed an ordinance that decriminalizes simple possession of marijuana under city law.
Once the ordinance goes into effect, the city’s penalty for under an ounce of marijuana will be a $25 civil fine. It will go into effect five days after it is published by the city clerk. Council members Pat Davis and Isaac Benton sponsored the ordinance, which passed the council in a 5-4 vote.
Police Chief Mike Geier voiced his support, saying, ”This new legislation allows officers to focus on violent crime, property crime and drunk driving.”
It will still be possible for a person to be charged under the statewide penalty — a fine of up to $50, up to 15 days in jail, or both. If you are a New Mexico resident, please let your state legislators know you want the state follow suit and stop criminalizing marijuana consumers.
Maryland has decriminalized the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana. But 10 grams is a lower threshold than the vast majority of states that have eliminated jail time for cannabis possession, many of which use one ounce as the cutoff. As a result, in 2016 at least 4,300 people were criminally prosecuted for cannabis possession in Maryland. SB 127 would raise the threshold to one ounce.
SB 128 would address the problem that people in possession of less than 10 grams are still being criminalized in some jurisdictions by being charged with “possession with intent to distribute” — a felony — based on very limited evidence (like having their cannabis in more than one baggie). In order to address this overcharging, SB 128 would create a legal presumption that people who have less than the amount decriminalized should not be charged with possession with intent to distribute.
Both of these bills are sitting in the House Judiciary Committee, and with the legislative session ending Monday night, lawmakers need to hear from you to ensure the bills get a vote.
If you are a Maryland resident, please ask your delegates to make sure SB 127 and SB 128 pass this year.
Passage of Vermont’s legalization bill, H. 511, was a huge step forward for the state — and the nation. Now that Gov. Scott has signed this bill allowing personal possession and cultivation, effective on July 1, it’s time for the legislature to begin moving forward with plans to regulate and tax marijuana production and sale for adults 21 and older.
Some legislators who voted NO on H. 511 have already said that they support regulating and taxing marijuana. Others are reconsidering their positions now that it’s clear that marijuana will soon become legal. A bill on this issue, H. 490, is still active in the House after being carried over from last year.
Vermont is about to make history!
A bill that would make marijuana legal for adults received final approval on Wednesday from the Vermont Senate and will soon make its way to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott, who vetoed a similar bill in 2017.
Gov. Scott indicated again after passage that he intends to sign H. 511 into law.
H. 511 would eliminate Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana and remove penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants, beginning in July.
Vermont is poised to become the ninth state to make marijuana legal for adults and the first to do so through its legislature. Eight other states have enacted laws legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use, all through ballot initiatives. In Washington, D.C., voters approved a ballot initiative making personal possession and home cultivation legal for adults 21 and older.
The legislature approved H. 511 just days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the removal of guidelines that urged federal prosecutors to avoid targeting marijuana businesses and individuals who are in compliance with state law.
The Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island legislatures are expected to seriously consider making marijuana legal for adults this year as well, and the New Hampshire House approved a similar measure on Tuesday.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives approved a bill to make marijuana legal for adults on Tuesday by a vote of 207-139. The bill will now move to the House Ways and Means Committee before moving on to the Senate.
HB 656, which was introduced last session by Rep. Glen Aldrich (R-Gilford), would make possession of three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana legal for adults aged 21 and older. Home cultivation of up to three mature and three immature plants would be legal for adults as well.
Last year, the New Hampshire Legislature voted overwhelmingly to replace criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with civil penalties. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signed the bill into law.
Today, the Vermont House passed H. 511 in a 81-63 vote. Gov. Phil Scott has already pledged that he will sign the bill after it passes one more procedural vote in the Senate.
H. 511 would eliminate Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana and remove penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants, beginning in July. Meanwhile, a governor-appointed task force will issue a final report on how the state should tax and regulate marijuana sales and commercial cultivation by December 15, 2018.
If you are available next Tuesday, January 9, that would be a great day to visit the State House. Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and allied reform organizations will participate in “a full day of press, advocacy and education” beginning at 10 a.m. in Room 10 of the State House. For more details, and to RSVP, check out the Facebook event page.
Tuesday may also be the day the Senate passes H. 511.
In recent weeks, legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Scott have reaffirmed that the legalization bill, H. 511, is expected to pass in early January. If that happens, marijuana possession and limited cultivation will become legal for adults 21 and older on July 1, 2018.
Despite these reassurances, we know that the vote will be close in the House of Representatives, so we are still fighting to earn every vote we can get. Please take a moment to call or email your representatives and urge them to support passage of H. 511.
Earlier this year, the Vermont became the first state to pass a legalization measure through its legislature. Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Scott, who opted to create a study commission to examine the issue. If the current measure becomes law, it will be the only legalization bill not passed through a voter initiative.
On Friday, Dallas — Texas’ third largest city — implemented a policy that instructs police officers to issue citations and a summons to appear in court, rather than arresting those found in possession of marijuana. This new policy will spare people an initial trip to jail, which is a step in the right direction. However, individuals still face all the same criminal penalties, including up to six months in jail, up to $2,000 in fines, and a lasting criminal record.
In Texas, a criminal record carries the following collateral consequences:
-Hindered access to employment
-Diminished educational opportunities
-Impeded housing options
-Jeopardized parental rights
-Suspended drivers license (six months)
-Obstructed right to self defense/ license to carry (five years)
To see meaningful changes to marijuana laws in Texas, we must change the unreasonable statewide policies that allow for such harsh penalties.
If you are a Texas resident, please contact your legislators now in support of more reasonable penalties for marijuana possession.
In Georgia this week, he Atlanta City Council took a historic step when it voted unanimously to stop jailing people for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana! Following the vote, Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed tweeted that he will sign the ordinance into law.
Once the measure is in effect, a person caught with one ounce or less of marijuana in the city would face a maximum fine of just $75 and no jail time under city law. Unfortunately, state law would not change, so it is possible that local law enforcement could still arrest under the harsher state penalties. This is also the case on college and university campuses, which may or may not change policy.
In other words, advocates should remain vigilant to ensure the spirit of the law is respected.
For the measure’s sponsor, Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, the change is about fairness in Atlanta’s criminal justice system. Shockingly, 92 percent of those arrested for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana in the city of Atlanta are African-American, even though they make up just over half the resident population in the city. This change to the law is a welcome one.
You can read the text of the measure adopted by the city council here.
If you are a Georgia resident, please let your state lawmakers know that you want them to follow Atlanta’s lead and stop arresting marijuana consumers.
Early this week in Pennsylvania, the York City Council voted to make the possession of small amounts of marijuana a summary offense with a maximum fine of $100 and no jail time. Previously, it was a criminal misdemeanor that carried up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both.
Imprisoning individuals for possessing small amounts of a substance that is safer than alcohol wastes valuable resources and can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses.
York joins Pennsylvania’s three largest cities — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg — and twenty-two states and the District of Columbia, which have stopped jailing individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Across the state, towns and cities are considering similar commonsense policies. The time has come for statewide decriminalization.