Prohibition

South Dakota Lawmakers Considering Marijuana Bills

March 10th, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Last week, the South Dakota State Senate passed Senate Bill 95, which would remove cannabidiol, or CBD oil, from the definition of marijuana and make it a Schedule IV controlled substance under state law. However, the bill included a requirement that CBD oil be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which would indefinitely curtail access to CBD oil in South Dakota.

On March 2, the House Health and Human Services Committee approved SB 95 by a vote of 7-3 and added an amendment eliminating prior FDA approval with the goal of increasing access for patients. MPP is closely monitoring SB 95 for potential problems, since pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists are pushing the South Dakota Legislature to keep the FDA approval requirement in the bill.

Additionally, Senate Bill 129 was introduced with a total of 15 sponsors. This legislation would revise the penalty for ingestion of marijuana, which would undo South Dakota’s uniquely severe law of criminalizing internal possession. However, the sponsors have unambiguously stated this is not a first step toward legalizing marijuana. Nonetheless, if enacted, this bill demonstrates a step toward reasonable regulatory laws relating to possession.

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Prohibition

New Hampshire House Approves Decriminalization Measure

March 10th, 2017 1 Comment Matt Simon

The New Hampshire House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved HB 640 on Wednesday (318-36), bringing New Hampshire one step closer to becoming the final state in New England to decriminalize marijuana possession. The bill will now be considered by the Senate.

HB 640, sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) and a bipartisan group of 10 co-sponsors, would reduce the penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, which is currently punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000, to a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense within three years, and $350 for a third or subsequent offense within three years of two previous offenses.

HB 640 has faced much less opposition than similar bills that failed in recent years. Only one person testified against it at a public hearing on February 1, and the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which voted 7-6 last year to kill a similar measure (HB 1631), approved HB 640 14-2. Additionally, Gov. Chris Sununu has consistently said he supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, whereas previous governors have been opposed.

More than seven out of 10 Granite Staters (72%) would like to see the Legislature decriminalize or legalize marijuana, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in July 2016.

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Prohibition

Vermont House Vote Expected on Bill Legalizing Possession and Cultivation

March 10th, 2017 1 Comment Matt Simon

The Vermont House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on H. 170, a bill that would eliminate penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and a small number of plants. The bill is expected to pass the House Judiciary Committee next week, and then it will likely advance to the House floor, where the vote is expected to be close.

Please call or email your representatives today, and urge them to vote YES on H. 170.

As amended by the committee, H. 170 would eliminate penalties for adults 21 and older who possess one ounce or less of marijuana, two mature plants, and four immature plants — as well as the marijuana produced by those plants, if stored properly in accordance with the law. Possession of between one and two ounces would become a civil violation punishable by a fine.

This is a modest reform, but it would be an important step for the state to stop treating adults’ marijuana possession as a problem for the criminal justice system.

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Prohibition

MPP’s Rob Kampia Responds to White House Comments

March 1st, 2017 2 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia just published a new article at the Huffington Post in response to recent comments by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer sparked a flurry of media coverage last Thursday, February 23, when he uttered approximately 320 words about federal marijuana enforcement.

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.

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Prohibition

Colorado GOP Senate Leader Downplays Federal Interference Fears

February 28th, 2017 2 Comments Marijuana Policy Project
Colorado Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg

In response to statements made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer last week, Colorado Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg said that he does not think the federal government will crack down the legal marijuana market in states where it is legal for adult consumption.

Denver Post reports:

“I’m not sure I’d put too much thought or too much credit into what he was saying,” Sonnenberg told reporters Monday morning. “This president has been all about federalism and giving the states more authority, this just flies in the face of that. So I would anticipate not much coming from that.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper downplayed the suggestion a day earlier in a “Meet the Press” interview, affirming that he didn’t believe the federal government would target states like Colorado that legalized weed.

Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has suggested a change in federal policy toward states on marijuana is unlikely, but Sonnenberg’s comments are the most forceful Republican pushback against the White House on the issue since the announcement Thursday.

“Colorado has been the leader when it comes to marijuana and the regulation,” he said. “People look to us for leadership, and I don’t think our new president will turn his back on allowing states to do what they need to do, whether (marijuana) or anything else.”

MPP will continue to monitor the Dept. of Justice for more info on their intended policy going forward.

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Prohibition

White House Comments on Marijuana Policy; Poll Finds 71% of U.S. Voters Want Feds to Respect State Marijuana Laws

February 23rd, 2017 8 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Just hours after a national poll was released showing widespread support for marijuana policy reform and staunch opposition to federal interference in state marijuana laws, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer caused a stir  by making some comments about marijuana enforcement during a press briefing.

Specifically, he reiterated President Trump’s support for legal access to medical marijuana, noting that the current budget prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. He said that recreational marijuana use is a different issue and suggested there would be “greater enforcement” of federal marijuana laws in states that have more broadly legalized marijuana. It was unclear what he meant the federal government would be interfering in such laws or simply stepping up enforcement against individuals who are violating them. President Trump said during his campaign that marijuana law should be left to the states.

MPP issued the following statement in response to Spicer’s comments:

“The vast majority of Americans agree that the federal government has no business interfering in state marijuana laws. This administration is claiming that it values states’ rights, so we hope they will respect the rights of states to determine their own marijuana policies. It is hard to imagine why anyone would want marijuana to be produced and sold by cartels and criminals rather than tightly regulated, taxpaying businesses. Mr. Spicer says there is a difference between medical and recreational marijuana, but the benefits of and need for regulation apply equally to both.

“Mr. Spicer acknowledged that the Justice Department is currently prohibited from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. It is critical that Congress once again includes that provision in the next budget, and we are hopeful that they will also adopt a provision that extends that principle to all state marijuana laws.”

According to the Quinnipiac University Poll released earlier in the day, the vast majority of U.S. voters support making marijuana legal and think the federal government should respect state marijuana laws. The nationwide survey of 1,323 voters found that five out of seven voters (71%) — including majorities of Republicans, Democrats, independents, and every age group polled — oppose the government enforcing federal prohibition laws in states that have made marijuana legal for medical or adult use.

The Quinnipiac poll also found that 93% of voters support allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and 59% support making it legal for all purposes. The results appear to be in line with national polls released by Gallup and the Pew Research Center in October, which found support for ending marijuana prohibition at 60% and 57%, respectively.

 

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Prohibition

Congressmen Form Bipartisan Cannabis Caucus

February 22nd, 2017 6 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) have formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.

They represent constituents in four of the eight states that have enacted laws regulating cannabis for medical and adult use. Twenty additional states have enacted comprehensive medical cannabis laws, and 16 additional states have enacted limited or unworkable medical cannabis laws. In total, 44 states have adopted laws rolling back cannabis prohibition at the state level, representing 95% of the U.S. House of Representatives and 88% of the Senate.

The Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Americans for Safe Access, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, and Clergy for a New Drug Policy released a joint statement in support of the formation of this group:

“We commend Representatives Blumenauer, Rohrabacher, Polis, and Young for their leadership on the issue of cannabis policy. The establishment of a Cannabis Caucus will allow members from both parties, who represent diverse constituencies from around the country, to join together for the purpose of advancing sensible cannabis policy reform. It will also facilitate efforts to ease the tension between federal prohibition laws and state laws that regulate cannabis for medical and adult use.

The formation of this caucus is a testament to how far our country has come on the issue of cannabis policy. There is a growing consensus that cannabis prohibition has failed, and it is time for a more sensible approach. A strong majority of Americans support making cannabis legal for medical and adult use, and an even stronger majority believes states should be able to establish their own cannabis policies without interference from the federal government. We look forward to working with caucus members to translate this growing public sentiment into sound public policy.”

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Prohibition

New Hampshire House Committee Approves Decriminalization Bill

February 9th, 2017 1 Comment Matt Simon

The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee overwhelmingly voted to pass HB 640, a bill that would decriminalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. The vote, 14-2, was overwhelming, and it appears very likely that the House will pass HB 640 with a huge margin of support.

The Committee also voted to “retain” HB 656, a bill that would make marijuana legal for adult use. This is a good thing because it means the Committee will be able to study the issue more thoroughly this summer and fall before they vote on the bill in early 2018.

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Prohibition

Jeff Sessions Confirmed as Attorney General

February 9th, 2017 32 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

On Wednesday, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was narrowly confirmed as the new Attorney General in a 51-47 vote, split largely along party lines.

MPP released the following statement from its federal policies director, Robert Capecchi:

“MPP remains cautiously optimistic that the Trump administration will refrain from interfering in state marijuana laws. When asked about his plans for marijuana enforcement, Attorney General Sessions said he ‘echo[es]’ the position taken by Loretta Lynch during her confirmation hearings. He repeatedly acknowledged the scarcity of enforcement resources, and he said he would ensure they are used as effectively as possible to stop illicit drugs from being trafficked into the country.

“President Trump has consistently said that states should be able to determine their own marijuana laws, and his spokesperson made it clear that the attorney general will be implementing the Trump agenda. We are hopeful that Mr. Sessions will follow the president’s lead and respect states’ rights on marijuana policy.

“A strong and growing majority of Americans think marijuana should be made legal, and an even stronger majority think the federal government should respect state marijuana laws. Eight states have adopted laws that regulate and tax marijuana for adult use, and 28 states now have laws that regulate marijuana for medical use. It would be shocking if the Trump administration attempted to steamroll the citizens and governments in these states to enforce an increasingly unpopular federal policy.”

Sessions was asked about marijuana policy on multiple occasions during the confirmation process. During his oral testimony, he conspicuously refrained from committing to enforce federal marijuana prohibition laws in states that are regulating marijuana for medical and adult use, noting the scarcity of resources available. In his written testimony, he said he “echo[es]” the comments made by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, when she was asked about marijuana enforcement during her confirmation hearing.

President Donald Trump has consistently said that he supports legal access to medical marijuana and believes states should be able to determine their own marijuana policies. During a January appearance on Fox News Channel, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer signaled that Sessions would adhere to Trump’s position that states should be able to establish their own marijuana policies. “When you come into a Trump administration, it’s the Trump agenda you’re implementing and not your own,” he said. “I think Senator Sessions is well aware of that.”

 

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Prohibition

GOP Congressman Introduces ‘Respect State Marijuana Laws Act’

February 8th, 2017 24 Comments Marijuana Policy Project
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday that would resolve the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws and allow states to determine their own marijuana policies.

The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act exempts individuals and entities from certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act if they are acting in compliance with state marijuana laws. This is the third time Rohrabacher has introduced the bill. Twenty of his colleagues in the House, including seven Republicans, co-sponsored the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015, which was introduced in the 114th Congress.

“The call for federal marijuana policy reform is growing louder and louder,” said Don Murphy, MPP director of conservative outreach. “Congress needs to listen to their constituents and to state lawmakers, most of whom agree marijuana policy is an issue best left to the states. This is a bipartisan solution that ought to find support on both sides of the aisle.”

 

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