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Vermont Senate Approves Legalization Compromise Bill

June 21st, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

For the third time this year, the Vermont Senate has passed a marijuana legalization bill. This time, the bill has been revised to address Gov. Phil Scott’s concerns, and we have good reason to expect that he will sign it when it reaches his desk.

Unfortunately, it is not clear at all when the amended bill, H. 511, might receive a vote in the House. The House voted to pass a similar bill earlier this year, so there is little question that H. 511 will pass when it is brought to a vote. However, since the current veto session is scheduled to end tomorrow, the bill will not be considered unless three-quarters of House members vote to suspend the rules and allow consideration.

Republican House Leader Don Turner has said that his caucus will likely block the bill from being considered until 2018. Vermonters should not tolerate this attempt to obstruct a reform that has earned the support of the Senate, House, and governor.

“There is no good reason for the House to delay passage of this modest and sensible legislation,” MPP’s Matt Simon said in a press release. “Now that Gov. Scott has agreed with the House and Senate that marijuana should be legal for adult use, House Republicans should follow the governor’s lead and vote to advance this compromise. Failing to waive the rules will only mean the marijuana regulatory commission has less time to do its important work.”

If you are a Vermont resident, please call your representatives right now, and urge them to push for an up or down vote on H. 511.

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Texas Advocates Release TV Ad Featuring Active Duty Police Officer and Victim of Marijuana Prohibition

May 4th, 2017 2 Comments Heather Fazio

A television ad in support of a bill to reduce marijuana penalties in Texas will begin airing Friday, just days before the state House of Representatives is expected to vote on the measure. It can be viewed here.

The 30-second spot features Nick Novello, an active duty police officer and 23-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, and Heather Jackson of Houston, an ovarian cancer survivor who was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana in El Paso in 2007.

“Arresting people for marijuana possession does not make our communities any safer,” Novello says in the ad. “It’s a terrible waste of police resources.”

Jackson notes that she was found with less than one gram of marijuana and spent a total of four days in jail. She was initially jailed for two days. She was forced to spend an additional two days in jail because she violated the terms of her probation by traveling from El Paso to Houston for treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“It has affected so many different things in my life,” Jackson says in the ad. She now has a criminal record that has prevented her from getting a teaching job.

The ad concludes by urging viewers to tell their legislators to support HB 81, a bipartisan bill that would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250. A fourth offense would result in a misdemeanor punishable by only a fine. The measure passed out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee last month and is expected to receive a full vote in the House next week.

The ad is scheduled to air through Monday in Austin and through the weekend in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC.

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Vermont Police Major Claims Governor Opposed to Non-Commercial Legalization

February 16th, 2017 No Comments Morgan Fox

A Vermont state police major claimed to be speaking on behalf of Governor Phil Scott’s administration while testifying in opposition to H. 170, a bill that would eliminate penalties for adults’ possession of two ounces or less of marijuana and two mature plants. An administration official later backed the major’s statement. This would appear to contradict Governor Scott’s own comment from just last week: “I didn’t say, ‘Never.’ I said, ‘Not now’… We’ll take a look at whatever they pass.”

There has never been a more important time to make a phone call on behalf of marijuana legalization. Please call Governor Scott’s office right now and urge him to support H. 170!

The House Judiciary Committee appears likely to pass H. 170 regardless of the administration’s position. However, we urgently need to generate as many calls as possible to the governor’s office. Please email our grassroots coordinator, Matthew Tolley, to find out how you can help.

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Marijuana Policy Reformers Wary of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General

December 8th, 2016 31 Comments Marijuana Policy Project
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Sen. Jeff Sessions (PHOTO: Gaga Skidmore)

President-elect Trump’s pick for the top law enforcement position is known for making some disturbing statements, particularly about marijuana, that have made activists extremely nervous about federal marijuana policy in the next administration. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), who is likely to be confirmed as attorney general in the coming months, has been pretty clear that he is no fan of marijuana, legalization, or marijuana consumers.

The Week reports:

Sessions has called for more federal prosecutions of marijuana growers and businesses in states where it is legal. He said in April that it’s important for the government to send a “message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He declared that “we need grownups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”

One of the major difficulties in the burgeoning pot industry has long been the federal government’s ability to prosecute businesses that the states say are legal. Making Sessions the head of the agency in charge of federal law enforcement and prosecutions has many in the cannabis community quite concerned.

Robert Capecchi, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, noted that Sessions would face at least one stumbling block: The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment to the annual appropriations bill (which has to be renewed annually) prohibits the Department of Justice and the DEA from using money to target or prosecute state-compliant medical marijuana businesses. But other than that hurdle, Capechhi said, the only thing standing between Sessions and a crusade against states’ legal pot industries is “just DOJ policy.” And policies are not laws. “There’s nothing set in stone.”

Capecchi, though, is holding out hope, noting that Trump had suggested on the campaign trail that he supported medical marijuana and the states’ rights argument in favor of full legalization. “I think the business man in Mr. Trump can see if you go after these businesses you drive all this legal and regulated marijuana market back underground.”

Many marijuana policy reform supporters, including MPP, are hopeful that Sessions will respect the rights of states to establish their own marijuana policies — a position President-elect Trump took during the campaign). Of course we will be closely monitoring the situation, defending the progress we have made so far, and continuing to pressure the administration and Congress to end marijuana prohibition.

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What Does a Trump Presidency Mean for Marijuana Policy?

November 17th, 2016 22 Comments Morgan Fox

On the same night that voters in eight states were approving marijuana policy reform initiatives, Donald Trump was on his way to being elected the next President of the United States. the_white_house_in_washington_dcWhile this divisive election has left some people jubilant and others outraged, many are wondering what a Trump presidency will mean for the future of marijuana policy reform efforts as well as the progress we have made so far.

While it is difficult to tell what will happen in the next administration, MPP is hopeful that the current federal policy of not targeting people and businesses in compliance with state marijuana laws will continue in the next administration. Read the rest of this entry »

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California Campaign Ramps Up Support With New Ad Campaign

October 6th, 2016 2 Comments Morgan Fox

On Tuesday, the campaign supporting the initiative to tax and regulate marijuana in California began running ads throughout the state urging voters to back Proposition 64.logo

Yes on 64 announced the ads in a press release this week:

The ads — in a straightforward, fact-based way – highlight for California voters Proposition 64’s comprehensive approach to marijuana decriminalization, its toughest-in the-nation safeguards for families and local communities and its funding of important youth and job training programs.

To view the new ads, go to www.Yeson64.org 

“Californians overwhelmingly support replacing marijuana criminalization with a smarter, safer approach,” said Brian Brokaw, Campaign Manager for Yes on Proposition 64. “Proposition 64 is the most comprehensive, thoughtful marijuana policy in the nation and reflects the input of the hundreds of organizations and experts – and these ads are designed to straightforwardly communicate the vast safeguards and benefits of Proposition 64 to every voter in the state.” Read the rest of this entry »

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DEA Fails to Reschedule Marijuana, but Opens Path for More Research

August 23rd, 2016 No Comments Rory McPeak

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has decided that marijuana will remain classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The decision to keep marijuana in the category reserved for drugs with no accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse was, according to the DEA, based on consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services. According to DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg, “If the scientific understanding about marijuana changes — and it could change — then the decision could change…. But we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands. It certainly would be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise.”2000px-US-DrugEnforcementAdministration-Seal.svg

The fact that the DEA has maintained its position that marijuana has no accepted medical value may come as a surprise to many, especially given the thousands, if not millions, of seriously ill patients who currently use marijuana to treat a number of symptoms and conditions.

In a more positive development, it was also announced that the federal government will be removing major obstacles to marijuana research. The only source of federally approved research-grade marijuana has been the University of Mississippi, and it has been so difficult for researchers to obtain that it has effectively created a research monopoly held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Now, universities may apply for federal approval to grown their own supply of marijuana, creating fewer roadblocks for researchers in the future.

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State Legislators Urge Federal Government to Reform Failed Marijuana Policies

August 10th, 2016 3 Comments Rory McPeak

capitolAt their annual summit in Chicago, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) approved a policy resolution calling for marijuana policy reform at the federal level. The NCSL has adopted a resolution advocating for the Controlled Substances Act to be amended in order to remove marijuana from Schedule I and to allow banking for marijuana businesses in states where they may legally operate.

Even in states in which marijuana is legally sold in a taxed and regulated market, businesses that sell either medical or retail marijuana face significant financial and regulatory burdens due to marijuana’s Schedule I status. Perhaps the most significant of those burdens is restriction from banking services of any kind, forcing such businesses to carry vast sums of cash and making them particularly vulnerable to theft.

As Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project told Marijuana.com,

The resolution adopted this year recognizes that outdated federal marijuana laws are presenting the states with some serious public safety issues. …There is an immediate need for access to banking and other financial services for state-legal marijuana businesses. Like most Americans, state lawmakers are tired of waiting for Congress to catch up on this issue.

This is the second year in a row that the NCSL adopted a policy position urging federal marijuana policy reform; last year, the conference passed a resolution supporting a state’s ability to reform its own marijuana laws without fear of federal interference. Both of these resolutions required 75% support from member states present; both passed on voice vote.

While the resolutions have no binding power over federal law, they reflect the nation’s widespread frustration with federal marijuana policy, especially its interference with state marijuana laws. State-legal businesses must be allowed to protect their own finances; state legislators recognize this, but we continue to wait for federal legislators to do the same.

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Federal Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Oregon Teen Caught with Gram of Marijuana

August 9th, 2016 No Comments Rory McPeak

Federal prosecutors have agreed to dismiss charges against Oregon teen Devontre Thomas, sparing him a potential yearlong prison sentence after being caught with a single gram of marijuana.

Thomas made nSeal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Justice.svgational headlines when federal prosecutors charged him with misdemeanor possession. This offense carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, a revelation that sparked widespread outrage, especially in the state of Oregon, which had already voted to end marijuana prohibition.

The case caught the attention of Oregon state representatives and other elected officials who have called for marijuana to be taxed and regulated. U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley wrote to Oregon U.S. Attorney Billy Williams about the case.

Thomas’ attorney stated in a court filing that prosecutors have agreed to drop the case as long as the teen works or attends school and abides by all laws in the next two months.

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License Pre-Approvals for 15 Growers, Processors in Maryland

August 8th, 2016 1 Comment Rory McPeak

On Friday, August 5, Maryland’s medical marijuana commission voted to grant preliminary approval to 15 growers and 15 processors who applied earlier in the year. The decision regarding which applicants would be approved was based on a scoring system provided by the Towson University Regional Economic Studies Institute, which processed tmaryland state sealhe applications.

When the names of the approved growers and processors are released on August 15, the applicants will have to proceed with financial and background checks before obtaining licenses. The commission was only permitted to give preliminary approval to 15 growers; there was no limit to the number of processors they could approve, but they opted to only approve 15 to maintain consistency.

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