Md.: Legislature approves bill to automatically shield possession charges

Early adjournment leaves decrim fix bill up in the air — take action to keep it alive.

Good news! Both chambers of the General Assembly have approved HB 83, a bill that would automatically shield past cannabis charges occurring before October 1, 2014, in which possession was the only charge in the case. The bill now heads to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk for final approval.

If enacted, HB 83 would shield nearly 200,000 cannabis possession charges from public view on the Judiciary’s “Case Search” website. Unfortunately, this is not a full record expungement. Full record expungement of marijuana possession is available by application after four years. You can find more information on expungement here.

Del. David Moon’s initial version of HB 83 included automatic expungement. However, it was amended in committee due to the complexity and costs involved. Our plan is to push for the stronger bill as part of legalization next year.

In light of the coronavirus, the General Assembly will adjourn its session tomorrow and will hold a special session the last week of May.

The decision leaves the fate of another important cannabis reform bill — HB 550 —uncertain. The bill would increase the amount of cannabis decriminalized in Maryland from 10 grams to one ounce, which would save thousands of Marylanders from arrests and criminal charges for simple possession.

Please take a minute to urge your senator to take up HB 550 before the legislature adjourns. Then, forward this message to other Marylanders and encourage them to do the same.

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Maryland: Bill to decriminalize one ounce of cannabis introduced; hearing next week

Ask your lawmakers to support HB 550.

Although Maryland decriminalized simple possession of marijuana back in 2014, thousands of Marylanders continue to have their lives derailed by possession arrests. With your help, that could change this year: Delegate Nick Mosby (D) has proposed a bill to stop many of these arrests by increasing the decriminalized amount from 10 grams to one ounce.

Email your lawmakers today and ask them to support HB 550!

The bill — HB 550 — is scheduled for a House Judiciary Committee hearing next Tuesday. You can voice your support for this important reform by testifying in person or submitting written testimony.

What: Hearing on the decrim fix bill, HB 550

When: Tuesday, February 11, 1:00 p.m. (Note that other bills are also scheduled during this committee meeting, so there could be a significant wait before the bill is called.)

Where: House Office Building, Room 101, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD

You can find guidelines on providing testimony here. If you provide oral testimony, you will be limited to three minutes. Please be polite and respectful and dress in business or business-casual attire.

Under HB 550, possession of up to an ounce would be punishable by a civil fine of $100 rather than a criminal penalty that carries possible jail time. Also, a person could no longer be charged with possession with intent to distribute based solely on possession of an ounce or less.

HB 550 would reduce the number of arrests and criminal charges for marijuana possession. Arrests for simple possession can be traumatic, and a criminal conviction can hinder one’s ability to obtain a job, housing, or a college education.

Please take a minute to email your lawmakers and ask them to support HB 550, and consider showing your support at next week’s hearing. Then, forward this message to your friends and family in Maryland and encourage them to do the same.

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Oklahoma: Put decriminalizing cannabis on the legislature’s agenda

If you're an Oklahoma resident, ask your state lawmakers to stop criminalizing cannabis consumers.

Yesterday, the Oklahoma Legislature kicked off the first day of its 2019 legislative session. Let your lawmakers know it's time for Oklahoma to stop arresting and jailing cannabis consumers.

In September, the Oklahoma City Council reduced the penalty for simple possession of cannabis to a civil fine, after the reform was recommended by Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty.

Ask your legislators to take this modest but important reform to the state level.

Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate in the nation. Let your lawmakers know there are better uses of jail space and law enforcement's time. It's time to stop derailing lives over a substance that is safer than alcohol.

Please take action and spread the word.

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Pennsylvania committee approves partial decrim bill

Although 59% of Pennsylvania voters think it should be legal for adults to use marijuana, state law lags far behind popular sentiment. Pennsylvanians found with cannabis can still be locked in a jail cell and branded criminals.

But that could change soon. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a decriminalization bill, H.B. 928. Unfortunately, however, it first amended the bill to exclude minors and people in vehicles from decriminalization.

If you live in Pennsylvania, ask your state representative to support and fix the decriminalization bill.

Currently, simple possession is a misdemeanor carrying up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500, plus a six-month or one-year driver’s license suspension.

Except in the case of minors, possession in cars, or possession on school property, H.B. 928 would downgrade first and second offense possession of under 30 grams to a summary offense carrying a fine of no more than $300. Subsequent convictions would be misdemeanors carrying up to a $1,000 fine, but with no jail time.

Please take a moment to ask your rep to support H.B. 928, but to work to amend the bill. Let them know: Minors should also not be incarcerated for cannabis, and criminalizing possession in cars will still senselessly ruin lives.

Then, spread the word to others, so that they, too, can raise their voices.

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