Prohibition

Maryland Senate Approves Bill to Address Criminal Overcharging

March 9th, 2018 1 Comment Marijuana Policy Project

Back in 2014, Maryland lawmakers decriminalized the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana. Unfortunately, in some jurisdictions, people in possession of less than that amount are still being criminalized. Increasingly, some prosecutors are charging individuals with “possession with intent to distribute” — a felony — based on very limited evidence, like having their marijuana in more than one baggie (which could easily be because they purchased it that way or had a few different strains, rather than because they were selling it).

In order to address this overcharging, Sen. Bobby Zirkin, Chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, introduced SB 128, which MPP supported. The bill just passed the Senate 45-1. The bill now goes to the House of Delegates.

SB 128 would simply create a legal presumption that people who have less than 10 grams should not be charged with possession with intent to distribute. Prosecutors could still make the case if there’s evidence of an intent to sell.

Even being arrested for a felony can have serious collateral consequences. For example, some jobs will suspend or fire employees immediately due to a felony arrest. Lawmakers intended to reduce the number of people caught up in the criminal justice system for having small amounts of marijuana — ask them to help fulfill that goal by passing this bill.

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Prohibition, Research

MPP Publishes Voter Guide for Maryland Democratic Gubernatorial Primary

March 6th, 2018 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

MPP has just released our voter guide for the Maryland gubernatorial primary election. We hope that Maryland’s Democratic voters will find this guide useful as they prepare to vote in the state’s Democratic primary elections on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. There are big differences between the candidates, whose grades range from A+ to C based on their responses to our survey, public statements, and record in office. We plan to update our voter guide with information on the general election candidates after the primary.

This is an important election because, even if marijuana legalization appears on the ballot alongside the gubernatorial candidates (which we hope it does), the governor will have a lot of influence over the implementation of taxation and regulation of marijuana. The field is still wide open, as nearly half of Democratic voters remain undecided. The voter guide also provides contact information for all the candidates, and we encourage you to contact them to share your views on marijuana policy reform — and encourage them to discuss the issue.

If you want more information on how to register to vote, please visit the Board of Elections website.

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Prohibition

Wyoming Senators Still Trying to Move Marijuana Policy Backwards

February 23rd, 2018 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

The Wyoming Legislature is only meeting for a limited, budget session this year, but two-thirds of senators voted to spend time considering an increase in the penalties for possessing marijuana products.

Senate File 23, sponsored by the Joint Judiciary Committee, would set the threshold for a felony charge — for mere possession — at three grams of concentrate, three ounces of edibles, or 36 ounces of liquids (such as infused soda). This is extremely low; one tray of marijuana brownies could easily weigh one pound (16 ounces) and contain only 1/8 of an ounce of cannabis flower. Yet, three ounces of flower is required to trigger a felony charge under current law.

Instead of wasting time trying to give more citizens felony records, which will have a huge negative impact on their ability to get a job, housing, or an education, the legislature should consider more sensible policies. If you are a Wyoming resident, please ask your lawmakers to eliminate the existing felony for possession of marijuana flower and remove jail time for possessing personal use amounts of cannabis.

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Prohibition

Alabama to Consider Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

February 20th, 2018 1 Comment Marijuana Policy Project

The Alabama House Judiciary Committee will be considering a bill that would decriminalize less than one ounce of marijuana.

Currently, Alabamans caught with small amounts of marijuana can be sent to jail for up to one year. These bills, HB 272 and SB 251, would change the penalty for possessing less than one ounce of marijuana to a violation instead of a misdemeanor. That means the penalty would be paying a fine of up to $250 instead of facing jail time.

There is real momentum to pass this bipartisan bill this year. One of the sponsors, Rep. Patricia Todd, said, “I haven’t talked to one person who is against.”

If you are an Alabama resident, please ask your representatives and senators to support HB 272 and SB 251.

 

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Prohibition

Federal Spending Deal Keeps Medical Marijuana Protections in Place… For Another Few Weeks

February 9th, 2018 4 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

After a government shutdown lasting only a few hours, Congress passed yet another temporary spending bill on Friday that will keep medical marijuana patients and providers safe for a little while longer. The bill includes the amendments that has been part of the spending budget since 2014, which prevents the Department of Justice from spending resources to prosecute people or businesses that are in compliance with state laws. This deal is set to expire on March 23.

Congress will need to pass another spending bill before then in order to continue keeping state medical marijuana programs safe. In the event of a government shutdown, there will be nothing to stop federal prosecutors from targeting medical marijuana programs around the country.

However, supportive lawmakers are using the temporary reprieves to push for even more comprehensive protections, including amendments that would extend protections to businesses in the adult-use market.

Please contact your lawmakers and ask them to support state marijuana protections in the final spending bill.

 

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Prohibition

Penalty Reduction Bill Introduced in Iowa

January 25th, 2018 No Comments Morgan Fox

The Iowa Legislature is back in session, and there is renewed hope for common-sense marijuana policy reform. Last week, a Senate subcommittee recommended passage of SF 432, a bill that would reduce the penalties for marijuana possession. The bill would change the penalty for first offense possession of marijuana under five grams from a serious misdemeanor to a simple misdemeanor.

The bill, though not perfect, would be a step in the right direction for Iowa. You see, the Iowa Legislative Services Agency studied the bill and reported that this reform would result in “considerable fewer jail admissions” and “savings to local governments.”

The fiscal note also detailed how marijuana prohibition disproportionately affects the African American community. In FY 2016, 18% of the persons convicted for first-offense marijuana possession were African American, yet African Americans only make up 3.5% of the Iowa population and have nearly equal marijuana usage rates as white Iowans.

If you are an Iowa resident, please ask your lawmakers to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession.

 

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Massachusetts Bill Introduced That Protects Legal Marijuana Businesses

January 24th, 2018 5 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

In the wake of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind Obama-era guidance that protected legal marijuana businesses, legislators in Massachusetts have introduced a bill that would prohibit state and local police from participating in federal cases against people or licensed operators who follow state marijuana laws. The bill also serves as a response to the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, who declined to ensure that that his office would uphold the will of Massachusetts voters, calling marijuana a “dangerous drug” and refusing to limit potential prosecutions to illicit dealers.

The State Police and the Boston and Worcester Police Departments have indicated that they will not participate in federal interdiction, but other smaller departments may still be tempted by the prospect of receiving unencumbered funds from civil asset forfeitures. This legislation, if passed, will make it much more difficult for federal agents to disrupt state-legal commerce. Representatives Dave Rogers and Mike Connolly introduced the bill, calling it the “Refusal of Complicity Act.” According to Rep. Rogers, “We have a state law, it’s valid, and we think it should be respected. If federal law enforcement has something different in mind, they can use their own resources, because Massachusetts taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to do something that goes against our laws.”

MPP’s Will Luzier, a leader of the Yes on 4 campaign, helped to conceive the bill. “I think it will help local law enforcement agencies to have clear parameters regarding their involvement with federal actions against lawfully permitted cannabis establishments,” said Jim Borghesani, an MPP spokesman.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Illinois Vows to Ignore Court Decision to Add Chronic Pain to Qualifying Conditions

January 23rd, 2018 2 Comments Chris Lindsey

A court in Cook County, Illinois ruled last week that the Illinois Department of Public Health must add intractable pain as a qualifying condition to the state’s medical cannabis pilot program. Incredibly, the state has vowed to appeal the ruling and continue to shut pain patients out of the state program.

This is an outrage. A MoveOn.org petition is circulating that allows supporters to voice their opposition to the misguided decision by the state. If you agree the state should add intractable pain and want the state to drop its appeal plans, click here.

Patients and advocates have been working to add the condition to the state program since it went into effect in 2015. A panel of doctors and experts charged with considering new conditions voted unanimously to add pain, yet the health department refused to listen.

Even after a court reached the same conclusion, the health department continues to push back and deny access. As the nation struggles to bring a deadly opioid epidemic under control, medical cannabis should be an option for those who seek a safer alternative. Patients in Illinois should not be encouraged to seek relief from the underground market, when a regulated and tested alternative is available.

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Prohibition

Good and Bad Bills on the Table in Arizona

January 23rd, 2018 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

The Arizona Legislature began its 2018 legislative session last week, and lawmakers already have several marijuana bills to consider. Unfortunately, many would undermine the existing medical marijuana program.

HB 2068 would allow prosecutors to determine whether individuals on parole or probation can access medical marijuana, despite a 2015 state Supreme Court decision that held medical marijuana could not be withheld from patients under those circumstances. Another bill, SB 1060, would make it a felony and a $10,000 fine for anyone who publishes the address of a dispensary that is different from that on file, including typos!

Lawmakers should be improving patient access, not creating new obstacles.

Meanwhile, in a move toward improving marijuana policies, Rep. Mark Cardenas has introduced HB 2014, which would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to $100. Please urge your state legislators to support HB 2014!

Imprisoning individuals for possessing small amounts of a substance that is safer than alcohol wastes valuable resources and can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses.

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Prohibition

Vermont Becomes First State to Make Marijuana Legal Through Its Legislature

January 22nd, 2018 13 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Until today, all eight of the states that have made marijuana legal for adults did so through ballot initiatives. Over the past three elections in 2012, 2014, and 2016, voters in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada (and Washington, D.C.) approved ballot questions to legalize marijuana.

Today, we reached an important milestone in Vermont: a state legislature has enacted a law, signed by the governor, that legalizes possession and home cultivation of marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. H. 511 eliminates Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana and removes penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants for people 21 and older, beginning on July 1.

“After more than 15 years of hard work by MPP and our allies in the state, adults in Vermont no longer need to fear being fined or criminalized for low-level marijuana possession and cultivation,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a press release. “This is a great step forward for the state and the whole region. Responsible adults will soon have the freedom to enjoy a safer option legally, and law enforcement will be free to concentrate on serious crimes with actual victims. We are looking forward to working with lawmakers and state leaders to continue improving marijuana laws in the Green Mountain State.”

Our coalition’s goal, this year or next, is to enact a law that regulates marijuana and allows for its legal sale (the newly enacted law only allows possession and home cultivation).

 

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