Prohibition

Erie City Council Votes Unanimously to Decriminalize Possession

January 22nd, 2018 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Last week, the Erie, Pennsylvania, City Council voted unanimously to make the possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana into a summary offense with a $25 fine. Currently, the penalty is up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both. The mayor is expected to sign the measure into law.

Once enacted, Erie will join Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York, and State College — and 22 states and the District of Columbia — all of which have stopped jailing individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Across the state, towns and cities are considering similar commonsense policies. Unfortunately, however, law enforcement can still enforce state law and impose criminal penalties and possible jail time.

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.

To get involved locally, contact the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. You can find some background materials on decriminalization here. And please let your lawmakers know it is time for statewide decriminalization.

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Prohibition

Penalty Reduction Bills Slated for Virginia Legislative Session

January 18th, 2018 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

The Virginia General Assembly convened last week, and marijuana law reform is on the docket! After a disappointing conclusion to last year’s session, the General Assembly appears ready to tackle decriminalization of marijuana.

Late last year, the Virginia State Crime Commission looked at the benefits of marijuana decriminalization in Virginia, and the majority leader of the Senate, Sen. Tommy Norment (R), expressed his intent to introduce a bill to decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. Sen. Norment’s bill has not yet been introduced, but he has indicated it will make the first offense a misdemeanor rather than making it a civil offense; we don’t expect the penalty for subsequent offenses to be reduced.

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), on the other hand, has introduced SB 111, which would reduce the penalty for simple possession to a civil penalty: $50 for the first violation, $100 for the second violation, and $250 for the third and subsequent violations. This bill is a huge step forward for Virginia, and Sen. Norment should stick to his promise of real decriminalization and support SB 111.

Considering Gov. Ralph Northam’s pro-decriminalization position during his campaign and the new makeup of the House of Delegates, 2018 could be the year the commonwealth stops arresting Virginians for simple possession.

If you are a Virginia resident, please contact your Senators today and tell them to support decriminalizing marijuana.

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Prohibition

Vermont Poised to Become the Ninth State to Make Marijuana Legal for Adults

January 11th, 2018 12 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Vermont is about to make history!

A bill that would make marijuana legal for adults received final approval on Wednesday from the Vermont Senate and will soon make its way to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott, who vetoed a similar bill in 2017.

Gov. Scott indicated again after passage that he intends to sign H. 511 into law.

H. 511 would eliminate Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana and remove penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants, beginning in July.

Vermont is poised to become the ninth state to make marijuana legal for adults and the first to do so through its legislature. Eight other states have enacted laws legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use, all through ballot initiatives. In Washington, D.C., voters approved a ballot initiative making personal possession and home cultivation legal for adults 21 and older.

The legislature approved H. 511 just days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the removal of guidelines that urged federal prosecutors to avoid targeting marijuana businesses and individuals who are in compliance with state law.

The Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island legislatures are expected to seriously consider making marijuana legal for adults this year as well, and the New Hampshire House approved a similar measure on Tuesday.

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Prohibition

New Hampshire House Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill

January 9th, 2018 2 Comments Matt Simon

The New Hampshire House of Representatives approved a bill to make marijuana legal for adults on Tuesday by a vote of 207-139. The bill will now move to the House Ways and Means Committee before moving on to the Senate.

HB 656, which was introduced last session by Rep. Glen Aldrich (R-Gilford), would make possession of three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana legal for adults aged 21 and older. Home cultivation of up to three mature and three immature plants would be legal for adults as well.

Last year, the New Hampshire Legislature voted overwhelmingly to replace criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with civil penalties. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signed the bill into law.

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Prohibition

Vermont House Approves Bill to Make Marijuana Legal for Adults

January 4th, 2018 No Comments Matt Simon

Today, the Vermont House passed H. 511 in a 81-63 vote. Gov. Phil Scott has already pledged that he will sign the bill after it passes one more procedural vote in the Senate.

H. 511 would eliminate Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana and remove penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants, beginning in July. Meanwhile, a governor-appointed task force will issue a final report on how the state should tax and regulate marijuana sales and commercial cultivation by December 15, 2018.

If you are available next Tuesday, January 9, that would be a great day to visit the State House. Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and allied reform organizations will participate in “a full day of press, advocacy and education” beginning at 10 a.m. in Room 10 of the State House. For more details, and to RSVP, check out the Facebook event page.

Tuesday may also be the day the Senate passes H. 511.

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Prohibition

Attorney General Rescinds DOJ Marijuana Policy Guidelines

January 4th, 2018 38 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Department of Justice policy that directed federal law enforcement not to target individuals or businesses that are in compliance with state law.

In a memo to federal prosecutors dated January 4, Sessions said, “In deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws with the Department’s finite resources, prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions. …. Given the Department’s well-established general principles, previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately.”

From August 2013 until yesterday, the Department of Justice policy had been not to enforce federal marijuana laws against individuals or businesses in states that are complying with state medical or adult-use marijuana laws, provided that one of eight federal priorities is not implicated. A Department of Justice task force subcommittee on marijuana policy recommended in August that the policy described in the 2013 Cole memo be maintained going forward.

MPP’s Matthew Schweich made the following statement in a press release:

This extremely misguided action will enable a federal crackdown on states’ rights with regard to marijuana policy. Attorney General Sessions has decided to use the power of the federal government to attack the ability of states to decide their own laws. A majority of Americans support legalization, and Sessions has simply decided to ignore their views. In the states where marijuana is legal, voters approved those legalization policies at the ballot box. This is a direct attack on the will of the people.

This decision may very well lead to federal agents raiding licensed, regulated, and tax-paying businesses — these businesses are employing thousands of Americans and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for public services including substance abuse treatment programs and new school construction. MPP will be pushing Congress to pass legislation this year that establishes marijuana policy as a states’ rights issue and prevents federal interference.

 

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Prohibition

Vermont Legalization Compromise Expected to Pass in January

December 20th, 2017 2 Comments Matt Simon

In recent weeks, legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Scott have reaffirmed that the legalization bill, H. 511, is expected to pass in early January. If that happens, marijuana possession and limited cultivation will become legal for adults 21 and older on July 1, 2018.

Despite these reassurances, we know that the vote will be close in the House of Representatives, so we are still fighting to earn every vote we can get. Please take a moment to call or email your representatives and urge them to support passage of H. 511.

Earlier this year, the Vermont became the first state to pass a legalization measure through its legislature. Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Scott, who opted to create a study commission to examine the issue. If the current measure becomes law, it will be the only legalization bill not passed through a voter initiative.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Congress Extends Window for Continuing Medical Marijuana Protections

December 8th, 2017 8 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

On Thursday, Congress reached a deal that would continue current government spending for another two weeks while they work toward reaching a final deal on next year’s spending budget. This means that the amendment to the current budget, which prevents the Department of Justice from interfering in state medical marijuana programs, will remain in place for now.

In September, the amendment that would continue these protections for patients and providers who are in compliance with state law were included in the Senate version of the budget, but the House Rules Committee prevented the House from voting on it. Now, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees must decide if they will include this language.

Marijuana policy advocates were increasingly concerned at the end of this week. If the amendment had not been included in the budget, or if this deal had not been reached and the government shut down, it would have allowed Jeff Sessions to direct the Department of Justice to begin targeting state-legal medical marijuana programs for the first time since 2014. Sessions has been trying to get rid of these protections for months, and he sent a letter to Congress in May urging them to strip the amendment from the spending bill.

The new deadline is now December 22. Please contact your members of Congress, and urge them to protect state medical marijuana programs.

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Prohibition

Dallas Implements “Cite and Summons” Policy for Possession

December 4th, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

On Friday, Dallas — Texas’ third largest city — implemented a policy that instructs police officers to issue citations and a summons to appear in court, rather than arresting those found in possession of marijuana. This new policy will spare people an initial trip to jail, which is a step in the right direction. However, individuals still face all the same criminal penalties, including up to six months in jail, up to $2,000 in fines, and a lasting criminal record.

In Texas, a criminal record carries the following collateral consequences:

-Hindered access to employment
-Diminished educational opportunities
-Impeded housing options
-Jeopardized parental rights
-Suspended drivers license (six months)
-Obstructed right to self defense/ license to carry (five years)

To see meaningful changes to marijuana laws in Texas, we must change the unreasonable statewide policies that allow for such harsh penalties.

If you are a Texas resident, please contact your legislators now in support of more reasonable penalties for marijuana possession.

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Prohibition

National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators Calls for Regulating Marijuana

November 20th, 2017 1 Comment Marijuana Policy Project

In August, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators adopted a resolution calling for national marijuana policy reform.

The resolution delves deeply into the history of marijuana prohibition, recognizing the racist foundations of the earliest marijuana laws being used to discriminate against people of color, through the racial disparity that exists in marijuana enforcement to this day.

The Caucus called on Congress to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, and for state lawmakers to regulate marijuana for adult use and seal previous marijuana-related criminal records.

You can read the full resolution here.

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