As MPP's role in national and state marijuana policy reform efforts continues to grow and evolve, our leadership structure must also evolve. As such, MPP founder Rob Kampia is stepping down as executive director and will be assuming a new role in the organization.
We would like to thank Rob for his leadership and his continued work to end marijuana prohibition. Rob released the following statement:
I am excited to announce that I will be transitioning to the new position of director of strategic development with the Marijuana Policy Project.
Matthew Schweich, who joined MPP as the director of state campaigns in early 2015, will serve as interim executive director as the organization searches for a permanent executive director.
Back in 1993, I moved to D.C. three days after graduating from Penn State for the sole purpose of legalizing marijuana. Fully 19 years later, in 2012, MPP stunned the world by legalizing marijuana in Colorado, and in the four years since then, MPP legalized marijuana in four more states, being responsible overall for five of the eight states’ legalization laws.
When I co-founded MPP in 1995, medical marijuana was illegal in all 50 states, and it had been a decade since a good marijuana bill was even pending in Congress. Since 1995, MPP has passed half of the 29 states’ medical marijuana laws, and MPP was the lead organization that successfully lobbied Congress in 2014 to block the Justice Department from interfering with those state laws, and that amendment from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is still the law nationwide.
I’m looking forward to spending more time on Capitol Hill to help craft and pass the best possible legalization law nationally. I also want to focus on legalizing marijuana in three of the 10 most populous states – Texas, New York, and Michigan.
Just yesterday, our Michigan campaign submitted a sufficient number of signatures to that state government, virtually guaranteeing that Michigan will be the only state to vote in November 2018 on a statewide ballot measure to legalize marijuana.
I'm honored to have served as executive director, I'm excited the board chose the person I nominated to serve as interim executive director, and I'm energized to help identify a new executive director to finish the job of ending marijuana prohibition in the U.S.
He did not articulate any new policy positions for the administration, which was good, because Donald Trump entered the White House with the best position on marijuana policy of any incoming president in modern history. Most notably, he has repeatedly said that states should be able to establish their own marijuana policies, without contradiction. He has also expressed support for legal access to medical marijuana, which Spicer mentioned.
Nevertheless, several media outlets leapt to the conclusion that the federal government is surely planning an all-out assault on state marijuana laws. I was also surprised to see that allies within the marijuana policy reform movement were also contriving a fight where none exists. According to a hyperbolic statement from one allied organization, “Spicer declared war on much of the cannabis community yesterday when he announced the Trump administration intends to engage in the ‘greater enforcement’ of federal anti-marijuana laws.”
But Spicer did not “declare” anything. He was not proactively announcing a prepared, written policy on behalf of the Trump administration. Quite the opposite, he was reactively offering an impromptu, oral opinion on behalf of himself. Those are important distinctions.
You can read the rest of the article here.
Now that most state legislative sessions are over for the year, MPP's Rob Kampia has published a list of the biggest victories in what is already the biggest year on record for marijuana policy reformers!
On July 29, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill removing the threat of arrest for small amounts of marijuana, capping a record year of legislative and administrative marijuana policy reforms throughout the country.
In addition to Illinois, a number of other states enacted laws to reduce marijuana possession penalties. Kansas lowered the maximum jail sentence for first-time possession and reduced second offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Louisiana and Maryland removed criminal penalties for possession of paraphernalia, with the Maryland Legislature overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto. Oklahoma cut the penalties for second marijuana possession offenses in half, and Tennessee reduced a third possession offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, making the maximum penalty less than a year in jail. At the local level, New Orleans and a number of Florida counties passed ordinances that give police the option to issue summons or citations instead of arresting people for low-level possession.
In response to the recent decision by the DEA not to move marijuana out of Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, MPP's Rob Kampia offered the following analysis of the situation, and what the best course of action would be:
In the wake of the DEA’s decision against rescheduling marijuana, the super-majority of the American people who support legalizing medical marijuana might properly wonder, “How bad is this news?”
As the leader of the largest marijuana-policy-reform organization in the nation, my answer might surprise you: It barely mattered which way the DEA ruled.
Back in 1970, Congress and President Nixon placed marijuana in Schedule I, along with LSD and heroin, defining these drugs as having no therapeutic value and a high potential for abuse. Simultaneously, drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine were placed in Schedule II, which are defined as having therapeutic value.
This “Flat Earth Society” view of marijuana has been challenged numerous times since 1970, but the DEA and federal courts have rejected all such attempts, including the Washington and Rhode Island governors’ 2011 petition that the DEA just rejected.
To be sure, moving marijuana to Schedule II would have had symbolic value, showing that prohibitionists were wrong to stubbornly claim for decades that sick people were merely imagining or lying about the medicinal benefits they experienced. However, there are federal criminal penalties for marijuana possession that are imposed regardless of its schedule. Even if the DEA had moved marijuana to Schedule II, growing 100 marijuana seedlings would still land you in federal prison for a minimum of five years...
You can read the entire article at Huffington Post.
MPP executive director Rob Kampia’s "Marijuana Policy Predictions for 2016" has been published by The Huffington Post.
Up until now, the two biggest years were 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, and 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.
2016 will likely comprise a cornucopia of cannabis policy advances, which I'll enumerate in the form of predictions.
Click here to read the entire column.
Recently, the government of Mississippi announced that MPP will not be able to raise any funds within the state, which could hamper efforts at reform there and throughout the South.
MPP's Executive Director Rob Kampia writes:
The Mississippi government is saying that MPP is prohibited from raising money in that state because I'm a convicted felon.
Worse yet, we're not even allowed to raise money in Mississippi to challenge the state’s stupid fundraising law.
This isn’t the first time MPP has been discriminated against.
For example, (1) MPP almost lost our employees' retirement plan until a member of Congress intervened, (2) the bank where we've been doing business for 20 years won't give us a line of credit because they don't like our "mission," (3) we had trouble opening a brokerage account, (4) we had trouble getting credit card processing for our five ballot initiative committees, (5) numerous landlords wouldn't lease office space to us or our campaigns, and (6) the IRS has audited us twice.
And now we can't raise any money in the entire state of Mississippi because of a marijuana conviction 26 years ago?
With Congress returning from its August recess this week, MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia dedicated his latest Huffington Post column to discussing where things stand for marijuana policy reform on Capitol Hill.
He describes how 2015 has been the most successful year to date:
Until last year, neither chamber of Congress had ever passed any measure in support of reforming federal marijuana laws. That changed in May 2014 when the House, with 219 votes, passed a budget restriction that was intended to block the enforcement of federal marijuana laws for people and businesses acting in compliance with state laws that permit medical marijuana. That measure, sponsored by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), became law when it was included in the so-called "CRomnibus" in December 2014.
In June of this year, the House approved the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment again, this time with 242 votes. And the House wasn't alone this time; the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to include the amendment in its version of the U.S. Justice Department's funding bill by a 21-9 vote.
But unlike last year, Congress didn't stop there.
Read Rob's full piece for a list of the other victories we've had in Congress this year, as well as his thoughts on what we can expect to see in coming months.
MPP's Executive Director Rob Kampia recently published his thoughts on how marijuana policy will factor into the 2016 presidential elections:
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) recently released its quadrennial report card detailing the most prominent presidential candidates' positions on marijuana policy.
To be sure, most voters aren't single-issue marijuana voters (on either side of the legalization issue). Most voters make their decisions after processing a soup of positions and paid ads. So MPP's intent is to inform a piece of that upcoming decision-making process, rather than claiming that marijuana legalization is the main issue for many voters.
That said, it's worth noting that hardcore supporters of legalization are now finally capable of having a measurable impact on campaigns. For example, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) raised more than $100,000 at a marijuana-specific fundraising event in Portland on June 5. This is real money for a U.S. House race.
MPP's early donations to Peter Shumlin (D-VT) almost certainly made the difference in his first primary contest for governor in 2010. And during the 2011-2012 election cycle, MPP was the largest donor to his campaign, edging out donations from AFSCME, Coca-Cola, and the Democratic Governors Association.
As for the presidential race, many members of the marijuana industry -- which is generally defined as marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under various states' laws -- are supporting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). At a group fundraising meeting at the National Cannabis Industry Association's annual conference in Denver on June 30, a room of canna-business leaders discussed the issue with Sen. Paul and donated more than $100,000 to his campaign. (This is real money for any presidential campaign.) MPP had previously donated $15,000 to Sen. Paul's three campaign committees.
Setting aside the ability of the cannabis industry to have some degree of impact on the current presidential race, what are the positions of some of the more interesting candidates?
After 11 years of MPP lobbying and attending receptions on Capitol Hill, Congress is finally poised to pass an amendment that would prohibit the U.S. Justice Department — which includes the DEA — from interfering with state-level medical marijuana laws.
The U.S. House rejected the amendment in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. Finally, in May of this year, the House passed the amendment, which was introduced by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA).
Last night, the amendment was included in the annual spending bill that Congress is expected to pass today or tomorrow. It will then be the law through September 30, at which time it would need to be renewed each fall.
Unfortunately, a bad amendment to block local legalization in D.C. was also included in the spending bill. The D.C. mayor and council had been planning to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in our nation's capital, which they’ll no longer be allowed to do.
That said, the medical marijuana and decriminalization laws in D.C. will remain in effect.
And it is MPP's opinion that the ballot initiative that 70% of D.C. voters passed on November 4 will be allowed to move forward. This initiative — which removes penalties for adult possession and home cultivation — would take effect in approximately March (unless Congress affirmatively blocks the initiative).
The federal spending bill also prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from interfering with state-level hemp laws.
Finally, marijuana has become a big issue on Capitol Hill, which is a precursor to ending federal prohibition.