The Maine MLI Committee has been back to work over the last two months on the latest iteration of their omnibus bill to establish regulations for the adult-use marijuana market. Unfortunately, most of the changes have been politically oriented to garner support from House Republicans. Changes that concern us the most are the removal of social clubs from the bill and reducing the number of flowering marijuana plants an adult can grow, from six to three per adult.
We are still waiting on the final language of the bill, which may be a week or two. Once the final bill is released, we will be sure to send it to you.
Across the hall, in the Health and Human Services Committee, some structural reforms are being considered. For the first time, in a long time, stakeholders are working together with the committee to make the medical program better for patients and the industry. We will keep you abreast of these changes as they occur.
In the meantime, we are meeting with Republican, Democratic, and Independent candidates for governor. Not only do these meetings allow us to ask the candidates where they stand on marijuana policy, but also, they allow us to be a resource and answer questions they may have. We are frustrated and disappointed that adults in Maine will not have a legal way to purchase marijuana this year and hope the next governor will make implementation a top priority.
Tom Angela reports for Forbes:
The 64% of Americans who say cannabis should be legal in a new Gallup poll released on Wednesday represents the highest level of support in the organization's 48 years of polling on the topic.
The new survey also shows that a majority of Republicans -- 51% -- support legalization for the first time. Seventy-two percent of Democrats and 67% of independents are on board.
Gallup been asking the same question -- "Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not? -- since 1969. That year, only 12% of Americans backed legalization.
MPP's Morgan Fox released the following statement:
It makes sense that support for ending marijuana prohibition is increasing. Americans are tired of wasting resources arresting hundreds of thousands of individuals every year for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. In the five years since the first states made marijuana legal for adults, it has become increasingly clear that — unlike prohibition — regulation works. Adult-use marijuana laws create jobs, generate tax revenue, and protect consumers while taking the marijuana market out of the hands of criminals.
As public support for ending marijuana prohibition continues to grow, it is crucial that states continue to be given the freedom to serve as laboratories of democracy. We urge the Department of Justice in particular to continue its policy of not interfering in states with well-regulated adult-use and medical marijuana programs while lawmakers catch up to the will of the people.
A proposal to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in Texas received bipartisan approval from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Monday and will soon be scheduled for a full vote in the House. The measure passed by a vote of 4-2, receiving support from two Democrats and two Republicans.
HB 81, authored by committee Chairman Joe Moody (D-El Paso) and Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) with 37 co-authors, would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250. Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
“This is a bipartisan proposal that represents a moderate shift in how Texas manages low-level marijuana offenses. The state’s current policy of arresting and jailing people for simple marijuana possession is completely unwarranted. Law enforcement officials’ time and limited resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes.
No one should be saddled with a lifelong criminal record simply for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol,” Fazio said. “Texans overwhelmingly agree that the punishment for simple marijuana possession should be reduced to a simple fine.”
On this Veterans Day, MPP would like to thank those who served for their sacrifice, and we are excited to note that a Senate vote yesterday brought them one step closer to being able to access medical marijuana.
U.S. News reports:
The Veterans Health Administration currently does not allow its physicians to discuss marijuana as a treatment option with patients in the nearly two dozen states with medical pot laws, forcing veterans to turn elsewhere for guidance and the paperwork necessary to acquire the drug.
The Senate legislation won’t change the federal illegality of using marijuana as medicine or open the door to greater legal research through changing its classification as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act – which deems it without medical value – but it’s nonetheless a big win for reform advocates.
The Senate measure was adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee in May by a vote of 18-12, with four Republicans joining Democrats in favor. The larger spending bill to which it was attached – funding veterans and military construction projects – passed the Senate without opposition Tuesday.
The medical marijuana language still must survive a negotiated spending deal between leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The lower chamber narrowly rejected the proposal in April when it passed its own version of the bill.
In recent months, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly said that he does not agree with marijuana legalization and would most likely end the current policy which allows states to determine their own marijuana laws provided they meet certain criteria, earning him a grade of "F" on MPP's Presidential Report Card.
On Tuesday, Gov. Christie reaffirmed this position, saying that state laws making marijuana legal are numbered if he is elected president. The Huffington Post reports:
“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie said Tuesday during a Newport, New Hampshire, town-hall meeting, Bloomberg reports. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”
Christie, one of 16 Republicans campaigning for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has made no secret of his long-held opposition to cannabis. As governor of New Jersey, he has opposed even his own state's limited medical marijuana program and has called similar laws in 22 other states a "front" for full recreational legalization. He has described taxes generated from the sale of marijuana as "blood money." And earlier this year in no uncertain terms, he said that, as president, he would "crack down and not permit" recreational cannabis in states that have legalized it.
Even Christie's fellow Republicans don't seem to favor such a hard-line stance. According to a recent Pew survey, while most GOP voters do not support legalization, they do support states' rights when it comes to marijuana -- with 54 percent saying that the federal government should not interfere with states that have already legalized cannabis. Among millennial Republicans, support for legalizing marijuana is significant -- with 63 percent in favor.
"Gov. Christie is either totally clueless or utterly careless," Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Huffington Post. "If Gov. Christie is trying to distinguish himself from the other Republican candidates, he’s doing a good job. He clearly has the least respect for states’ rights and the most desire to maintain our federal government’s failed program of marijuana prohibition."
Interestingly, Gov. Christie's dedication to enforcing federal law does not extend to sports gambling in his state, which is currently illegal under a 1992 federal ban.
Check out this encounter MPP's Matt Simon had with Gov. Christie in New Hampshire this morning:
The latest round of Battleground polls by George Washington University found respondents (nationally) would be 40% “much more likely” to visit the voting booth if marijuana’s legalization status was on the ballot. Thirty percent of respondents would be “somewhat” more likely as well. This brings the numbers up to a total of about 70% of voters who would be more likely to vote this fall if marijuana was in question.
Considering midterm elections have historically had low voter turnout, politicians are keeping a watchful eye on those states that have marijuana policy initiatives in the upcoming election. The results are promising for Democrats, because they tend to have a rougher time than Republicans in getting voters out in non-presidential election years.
The study goes on to show that 76 percent of liberals said they would be more likely to vote if marijuana was on the ballot, compared to a 64 percent for conservatives and 61 percent for moderates.
For instance, in Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott’s reelection campaign says the “spillover effect” from high voter turnout because of the medical marijuana ballot question threatens to weigh the scales against him. In fact, the state’s Republicans feel so threatened that they have filed a legal challenge to keep the referendum off the ballot.
“It’s an issue that the Democrats can use to pump up the youth vote,” said Alex Patton, a Republican political consultant and pollster based in Gainesville, Florida. “The politics of it are dangerous for the GOP.”
On Monday, CNN released a new poll showing 55% of Americans support making marijuana legal. Only 44% were opposed.
According to the CNN poll and numbers from General Social Survey polling, support for legalizing marijuana has steadily soared over the past quarter century - from 16% in 1987 to 26% in 1996, 34% in 2002, and 43% two years ago.
The survey found interesting divides on the issue.
"There are big differences on age, region, party ID, and gender, with senior citizens, Republicans, and Southerners the only major demographic groups who still oppose the legal use of pot," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
This increase in public support will no doubt affect legislation across the country in the coming years. Here is MPP’s Mason Tvert on CNN discussing how legal adult marijuana sales in Colorado may act as a catalyst for reforms in many other states:
A new Gallup poll shows that a record 58% of Americans think that marijuana should be made legal.
The poll shows a 10-point increase from just last year and reflects the growing political support nationwide. According to the poll, 62% of Independents, 65% of Democrats, and 35% of Republicans support legal marijuana, with growing Independent support largely responsible for the 10-point jump.
According to Business Insider, support for legal marijuana is higher than almost any other political movement. More people favor legal marijuana than think highly of the Republican or Democratic parties, and legal marijuana has more than five times the support that Congress has.
While causes with more support than Congress aren’t hard to come by, this poll marks a momentous event in the fight against marijuana prohibition. For the first time, a majority of Americans think that marijuana use should be legal. Hopefully, they won’t have to wait long.
Today, the New Hampshire Senate came three votes shy of overriding Gov. John Lynch’s veto of SB 409, the state’s medical marijuana bill.
Sixteen senators’ votes were needed, and 16 voted for the bill at one point during the year. Unfortunately, one “yes” vote, Sen. Andy Sanborn (R), resigned to run for another seat, leaving his seat vacant. In addition, two Democratic senators who had consistently voted for SB 409 put political allegiances ahead of patients and voted to uphold Gov. Lynch’s veto. Those senators were Senators Lou D'Allesandro (D) and Sylvia Larsen (D).
Crucially, the one man who stands in the way will be out of office next year: Gov. Lynch is not running for re-election, and we are hopeful that the next governor will be compassionate. In addition, at least two of today’s “no” votes in the Senate — Senators Russell Prescott (R) and Lou D’Allesandro — are facing challengers who support medical marijuana protections: Prescott in his primary and D’Allesandro in the general election.
Despite today’s setback, New Hampshire’s legislature did make history this year: This was the first time a Republican-led legislature voted to send effective medical marijuana legislation to the governor’s desk.
With changes in the governorship and the Senate, there are many reasons to believe that next year will be the year patients finally get relief.
Republican legislators nationwide should perk up their ears and take notice of what is happening in New Hampshire, where a Republican-sponsored medical marijuana bill has blazed a trail of surprising successes.
SB 409 had already passed the Republican-dominated Senate March 28, and today the 400-member House, which is about 75% Republican, voted 236-96 in favor, with strong bipartisan support.
How can this be possible, some might ask? According to the bill’s prime sponsor, Senator Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford), support for allowing medical marijuana is perfectly consistent with Republican principles. “I’ve never used marijuana in my life,” the former Air Force pilot has often explained, “but as a matter of principle, I don’t believe it’s appropriate for government to interfere with choices that should be made between a doctor and a patient.”
Forsythe and his Senate cosponsors, Senator Ray White (R-Bedford) and Senator John Gallus (R-Berlin), began with support from the Senate’s five Democrats, but they had a tough hill to climb with their Republican colleagues. Previous bills had never received more than one vote from a Republican senator, but after a compelling public hearing in which patients shared their stories face-to-face with legislators, the bill quickly gained momentum.
The paradigm shift began to materialize in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee March 22, when two former opponents announced they would be supporting the bill. The committee chairman, Senator Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), represented New Hampshire in Congress from 2003-2007, and Senator Gary Lambert (R-Nashua) is a retired Marine and a former prosecutor, so these were two very significant conversions.
The bill passed the committee that day in a 5-0 vote that sent shockwaves around the State House, and then, the following Wednesday, strong speeches on the floor by Senators Bradley and Lambert carried the bill to victory in a Senate comprised of nineteen Republicans and only five Democrats.
Has the world gone topsy-turvy? Or are Republicans in New Hampshire just getting on the right side of history in advance of some of their colleagues in other states?
Following today’s historic House vote and Governor Lynch’s heartless veto threat, all eyes will be on the eleven Republican senators who have not yet crossed the line from “undecided” to “supportive.” Three additional votes will be necessary to override the veto, but with the momentum SB 409 has shown so far, it would be tough to bet against the patients who are asking for this sensible, compassionate reform!