Prohibition||Research

Vermont Legislators Will Begin 2015 Session with Report on Marijuana Legalization

In January, Vermont’s lawmakers will receive a detailed report analyzing many of the issues surrounding the possibility of making marijuana legal in the state.

The report will not make any recommendations either for or against making marijuana legal in Vermont. It will, however, provide data that will help policymakers understand the issue, and it will prepare legislators for the vigorous debate over marijuana regulation that is expected during the 2015 session.

[caption id="attachment_8332" align="alignright" width="300"]Beau Kilmer Beau Kilmer (Photo courtesy of the RAND Corporation)[/caption]

The co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corporation, Beau Kilmer, is working with Vermont’s Secretary of Administration to prepare the report. In a recent presentation, Kilmer said the first section of the report would be an examination of what he called “Vermont’s marijuana landscape.” In other words, how many people currently use marijuana in Vermont?

“And so we’re able to kind of cobble together information from surveys what we know about misreporting, information we have about total amount consumed, we’re able to put that together to come up with a range,” said Kilmer. “So I’m optimistic about the future of marijuana market studies.”

In addition to determining how many people use marijuana in Vermont, Kilmer said the report will analyze health and safety issues, various potential regulatory models, and projections of the expected impacts of reform, including tax revenue.

The Secretary of Administration is expected to present the finished report to the legislature by January 15.

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General||Prohibition

MPP to Introduce Three New Marijuana Reform Bills in Texas

As part of the Marijuana Policy Project’s multi-year legislative campaign in Texas, we are developing bill proposals to address decriminalization, as well as allowing marijuana to be used for medical reasons and eventually regulating it similarly to alcohol for adults.

[caption id="attachment_8221" align="alignright" width="230"] Heather Fazio[/caption]

According to Heather Fazio, Texas Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, the group will be pre-filing the three bills this November, in anticipation of the 84th Texas Legislative Session, starting in January.

“We are working with a diverse coalition to introduce a civil penalty bill which [would] make small possession punishable by a simple fine, rather than a criminal charge,” said Fazio.

“This means no opportunity for jail time, and none of the collateral sanctions which come along with a criminal drug arrest. These collateral sanctions include limited access to resources for education, housing, employment, etc. It will also help to break down the stigma which goes along with being arrested and jailed for the possession of this plant.”

“We will [also] be introducing a bill to create a legal market for marijuana, similar to alcohol, for responsible adults who are 21 and over,” says Fazio.

The three bills cite Texans’ support for reduced marijuana penalties, the passage of medical marijuana laws, and taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Moreover, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and RAND Corporation data, 1,267,200 Texans already use marijuana each month, with the average user consuming 100 grams per year. Should Texas regulate and tax marijuana, with a tax of $50 per ounce implemented, the Lone Star State would stand to make between $150,971,063 and $264,199,294 in tax revenue annually.

Read the full Houston Press article for more information on the proposed marijuana policy changes in Texas, as well as an overview of the three bills.

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Research

Making Marijuana Legal in Washington, D.C. is the Better Choice

Supporting Washington, D.C.’s ballot initiative 71, which would make marijuana legal in the nation’s capital, makes sense in terms of economics, safety, and fairness, according to Economics21.

If the initiative passes on November 4, it would eliminate the criminal and civil penalties associated with personal possession, private use, and cultivation of marijuana — within limits (two ounces for possession, no use in public places, and six plants).

In terms of safety, the infamous argument that marijuana is a gateway drug and leads individuals to resort to harder drugs has repeatedly been called into question. Moreover, a Rand Corporation research report concluded:

“The harms of marijuana use can no longer be viewed as necessarily including an expansion of hard-drug use and its associated harms.”

In terms of legal marijuana’s economic viability, there are many benefits found in easing the burden on legal and corrections systems, money which can be used to fund various beneficial measures associated with public health and safety and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crime

Lastly, marijuana possession makes up nearly half of all drug arrests. The arrests of those who have been labeled as criminals for committing low-level crimes make it significantly harder to find employment.

In an interview in 2013, former Secretary of State George Schultz said, “According to the World Health Organization, the use of drugs is higher in the United States than most comparable countries. So you have to say that the war on drugs has simply not worked... We have wound up with a large number of young people in jail, mostly blacks, a huge cost, and a debilitating one to our society. And big foreign policy costs.”

In the end, it is quite clear that voting yes on Initiative 71 is the safer, fairer, and smarter choice. Please vote November 4 and lead the nation’s capital towards establishing a more sensible approach to marijuana policy. Encourage family, friends, and neighbors to do the same!

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Research||Tax and Regulate

Vermont Voter Guide Published; Coalition Website Launched

As the Aug. 26 Vermont primary election approaches, it’s clear that momentum for ending marijuana prohibition in Vermont continues to build. Governor Shumlin’s administration is currently working with the Rand Corporation to study the potential impacts of marijuana regulation, and many legislators are already convinced that marijuana should be treated similarly to alcohol.

If you have been wondering where candidates on your ballot stand on marijuana policy, today is your lucky day. Please click here to view MPP’s voter guide for the Vermont primary election.

Voting for favorable candidates is one important way to advance the issue, but we know that supporting good candidates is rarely enough to create real change on its own. We understand that it will take an organized, statewide effort to build support for this reform.

Accordingly, we are also very pleased to unveil the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana’s new website.

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Prohibition||Tax and Regulate

Rand Corporation to Consult on Marijuana Study in Vermont

[caption id="attachment_7890" align="alignright" width="180"]Governor Peter Shumlin Governor Peter Shumlin[/caption]

Beginning this week, the Rand Corporation will send representatives to Vermont to work with the state’s Secretary of Administration on a study of the effects of taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol, the Manchester Journal reports.This research was mandated by an amendment to a bill that made several improvements to Vermont’s medical marijuana law. Vermont will be funding the initial part of the study, paying Rand $20,000, with up to $100,000 in private donations coming from the non-profit organization GiveWell. Rand Corporation is a non-partisan organization with no official position on marijuana legalization.

Governor Peter Shumlin, Commissioner Keith Flynn of the Department of Safety, and other top officials have expressed interest in learning more about how marijuana regulation would impact Vermont. State Senator David Zuckerman, who sponsored a marijuana regulation bill this year, said he was enthusiastic about the study process: "I think the study will help with legislators and the public who inherently think it's a good idea but want evidence they can hold up to show people." Matt Simon, MPP’s New England political director, said, “The narrative from Colorado has been 'so far, so good.’ The sky clearly hasn't fallen." The report is due to be completed by January and lawmakers hope that it will lead to an informed debate on marijuana policy in the coming legislative session.

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