Tennessee Marijuana Penalty Reduction Signed by Governor

May 2nd, 2016 2 Comments Kate Bell

The 2016 Tennessee legislative session, which ended on April 23, saw an incremental improvement in the state’s marijuana policies.Tennesseestateseallrg Last week, Gov. Bill Haslam signed HB 1478 into law, which will eliminate the provision that makes a third conviction for possession of marijuana a felony. The law will take effect on July 1, 2016.

This change will reduce the penalty for third-time possession from between one and six years of incarceration to less than one year in jail. In addition, having a misdemeanor rather than a felony record will reduce the collateral consequences associated with the conviction. The bill also increases penalties for repeat DUI offenders and defelonizes third-time possession of all drugs except for heroin.

There is more work to be done, however. The sentences for marijuana possession are still unduly harsh for a drug that is less harmful than alcohol, and the law is enforced in a racially disparate manner. If you are a Tennessee resident, please ask your legislators to consider removing all criminal penalties for marijuana possession in next year’s session.

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New Life for New Hampshire Decriminalization

May 2nd, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

The New Hampshire Senate killed HB 1631 in April, but last week the plan to reduce marijuana possession penalties to a violation was given new life in the House. In a 12-7 vote, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee agreed to amend a Senate-approved bill, SB 498, by adding provisions that would decriminalize possession of one-quarter ounce of marijuana for first offenses.

We expect that the amended SB 498 will pass the House by a wide margin before it returns to the Senate. Last week, 14 out of 24 senators voted against decriminalizing one-half ounce or less of marijuana, so we will need at least three of these senators to vote in favor of SB 498 in order to pass it. We are optimistic that this can be achieved, in part because Gov. Maggie Hassan has indicated that she would be willing to sign a bill if it was limited to first offenses of one-quarter ounce or less.

The amended SB 498 is far from perfect, but even in this modest form it would prevent many Granite Staters from being arrested and hauled into court for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Please take a moment to follow up with your senator and urge him or her to support this compromise.

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New Hampshire Senate Refuses to Reduce Marijuana Penalties for Seventh Time

April 21st, 2016 1 Comment Matt Simon

Despite overwhelming public support for reducing New Hampshire’s draconian marijuana penalties, today New Hampshire senators voted 14-10 to kill this year’s marijuana decriminalization bill. This marked the seventh time since 2008 that the House has passed a decriminalization bill only to watch it be shot down by prohibitionists in the Senate.

If you are a New Hampshire resident, please take a moment to thank or criticize your senator for his or her vote.

Fortunately, there is a bright side: Election season is just around the corner, and three prohibitionist senators have already said they will not be running for re-election. Also, Gov. Hassan is leaving the governor’s office to run for U.S. Senate, so New Hampshire will have a great opportunity this year to finally elect a governor who is willing to demonstrate real leadership on marijuana policy.

We have lost another battle with HB 1631, but don’t despair! With statewide polls now showing 62% support for legalization, it is only a matter of time before we prevail and end New Hampshire’s foolish, counterproductive war on marijuana.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

D.C. Council Bans Marijuana Consumption Outside Private Residences

April 20th, 2016 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

On Tuesday afternoon, the D.C. Council voted to permanently ban any social consumption of marijuana other than inside a private residence, despite a public forum being scheduled that evening to explore the merits of continuing the ban.Flag_Map_of_Washington_DC

Among the concerns voiced by activists is that the ban forces people who live in public housing, where consuming marijuana can lead to eviction, to break the law by smoking in public. This policy predominantly impacts poor people of color in the District, and many residents think that allowing social use clubs would go a long way toward addressing this issue. There may be options to overturn the ban, however.

DCist reports:

Numerous people brought up the racial disparity in marijuana-related arrests, which continues even in the era of decriminalization and legalization—81.9 percent of the 259 public consumption arrests from July 17, 2014 (when public consumption became a criminal offense) to the end of 2015 were of black people, according to data from the Drug Policy Alliance.

Kate Bell, an attorney for the Marijuana Policy Project, said that the ban isn’t the end of the road. “There are other avenues D.C. could explore,” she told DCist. “We’re not just talking about clubs. It’s a much broader issue.”

Nikolas Schiller of DCMJ has already written a draft referendum on the ban. But it’s an open question whether the referendum, if passed, could be implemented given the Congressional rider that hamstrings the city’s ability to regulate drug legalization. Bell says that MPP is working to ensure that the rider doesn’t appear in next year’s Congressional budget.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Illinois Senate Approves Decriminalization Bill

April 20th, 2016 9 Comments Chris Lindsey
Sen. Heather Steans

Illinois Sen. Heather Steans’ bill to decriminalize marijuana possession, SB 2228, passed the Senate Tuesday on a vote of 40 to 14. The measure will now be considered by the Illinois House of Representatives.

Sen. Steans’ bill would lower penalties by removing the possibility of arrest and a jail sentence for the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana. Perhaps more importantly, it removes the possibility of a harmful criminal record for cannabis possession, which can last a lifetime. Instead, the bill would replace criminal penalties with a fine of between $100 and $200.

SB 2228 is part of a multi-year effort to help move away from the harsh penalties currently in place and to help bring more consistency to possession laws in Illinois, which can be unfairly applied.

If you are an Illinois resident, please take a moment to ask your representative to vote in support of SB 2228.

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Prohibition, Research

Prominent Doctors Launch Group to End Marijuana Prohibition

April 15th, 2016 11 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Some of the country’s most prominent physicians have teamed up to launch the nation’s first organization of doctors formed to advocate for the legalization and regulation of cannabis for adult use.DRCR-LOGO-WEB-colors-small

Washington Post reports:

The group — which is announcing its formation Monday, under the name Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR) — is endorsing the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use, a break from the position of the American Medical Association, the largest organization of doctors in the country. DFCR argues that the prohibition and criminalization of marijuana use does more harm to the public than good. Citing hundreds of thousands of annual marijuana arrests, racial and economic disparities in marijuana enforcement, and the role of prohibition in keeping marijuana prices high and lucrative to violent drug dealers, the physicians say that creating a legal and regulated marijuana market is the best way to ensure public safety, combat the illicit drug trade and roll back the negative consequences of strict enforcement policies on disadvantaged communities.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Vermont House Committee Revives Marijuana Bill

April 15th, 2016 No Comments Matt Simon

Last week, some observers appeared to give up on Vermont legalization bill S. 241 after it was gutted by the House Judiciary Committee. Not so fast! Today, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to amend S. 241 and restore core legalization provisions. 2000px-Vermont_state_seal.svgThe bill would not only legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older, but it would also allow personal cultivation of up to two plants. Next, the bill is expected to be considered by the Appropriations Committee.

In order to legally cultivate two plants, a person would be required to purchase a permit from the Department of Health for $125. Permits would be good for one year, and information on permit-holders would have to be kept confidential by the department (no fishing expeditions by law enforcement would be allowed).

We will continue advocating for a regulated market approach, but we are very pleased with this development, and we will continue to push for improvements as the process continues.

If you are a Vermont resident, please contact your lawmakers and tell them to support this measure.

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Supreme Court Dismisses States’ Lawsuit Against Colorado

March 30th, 2016 6 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed Nebraska and Oklahoma’s lawsuit challenging Colorado’s marijuana regulation laws.


The decision is available here.

The attorneys general for Nebraska and Oklahoma filed the lawsuit directly with the Supreme Court in December 2014, arguing that the state’s decision to regulate the cultivation and distribution of marijuana was “placing stress on their criminal justice systems.” The Colorado and U.S. governments both filed briefs urging the court to dismiss the suit. Oklahoma Republicans also urged their attorney general to drop the suit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Court Ruling Allows D.C. to Pass Marijuana Regulation Bill

March 24th, 2016 2 Comments Kate Bell

On Friday, the District of Columbia Superior Court upheld the Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012, which 82% of D.C. voters approved in spring of 2013. Then, on Tuesday, D.C.’s Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer said they would not appeal.Flag_Map_of_Washington_DC

Now, instead of having to wait for Congress to appropriate funds to D.C., the budget will simply be reviewed in the same way as every other law passed by the D.C. Council. So, the appropriations rider that has blocked the council from making any improvements to D.C.’s marijuana policies will expire on September 30, 2016. This means that the council can move forward to determine how to tax and regulate marijuana and pass a law to do so this fall.

While Congress could still block a tax and regulate bill or a D.C. budget that includes funds for the regulation of marijuana sales, it would have to do so by passing a joint resolution in both houses that would be subject to presidential veto. Thanks to congressional gridlock and President Obama’s support for D.C. choosing its own marijuana policy, this would be much more difficult than simply adding a rider to a lengthy appropriations bill funding the federal government.

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New Orleans Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession

March 24th, 2016 1 Comment Maggie Ellinger-Locke
Mayor Mitch Landrieu

On Wednesday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed into law an ordinance decriminalizing marijuana possession in the City of New Orleans! Last week the City Council unanimously passed Councilwoman Susan Guidry’s measure, ordinance 31,148. Thanks to everyone who spoke out or turned out in support and to CommonSense NOLA for leading the charge.

Ordinance 31,148 allows law enforcement to issue a ticket — rather than arrest — for marijuana possession, and reduces penalties from possible jail time to a civil fine of $40 to $100 if the officer cites under local law instead of arresting under state law. The ordinance will go into effect on June 21 of this year. For more details, click here.

Also reminder that the Louisiana legislative session is now open and medical marijuana is on the agenda. If you are a Louisiana resident, please to let your representative and senator know that you wish to see a workable medical marijuana program in your state.

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