Prohibition

New Hampshire House Committee Approves Decriminalization Bill

February 9th, 2017 No Comments 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 5 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 1 Comment 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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Prohibition

Vermont House Judiciary Hearings on Marijuana Bill to Begin This Week

February 6th, 2017 No Comments Matt Simon

The Vermont House Judiciary Committee will begin holding hearings this week on H. 170, a bill that would legalize possession and limited home cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and older. This bill is sponsored by the committee’s chairman, vice-chair, and ranking Republican, and its prospects appear to be bright: Vermont Public Radio reported on Friday that the House “appears more receptive” to legalization in 2017, and Governor Phil Scott is “willing to consider the House plan.”

Although this bill would not legalize and regulate marijuana sales in Vermont, it still represents a very significant development.

Last week, Maine became the second New England state — following Massachusetts — where adults are no longer punished for possessing small amounts of marijuana or a limited number of plants. Now that marijuana is legal in two other New England states, there is no reason whatsoever for Vermont to continue punishing adults for choosing to use a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.

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

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Marijuana Bills Moving Through the Virginia Legislature

January 27th, 2017 1 Comment Maggie Ellinger-Locke

The Virginia General Assembly is in full swing, and lawmakers have already considered several marijuana policy reform bills. Sen. Adam Ebbin’s SB 1091 — which would end the automatic six-month driver’s license suspension for first offense possession of marijuana — was approved by the Senate on Friday.

Last year, the General Assembly approved a bill to allow in-state production of cannabidiol oil for patients with intractable epilepsy. However, to become law, that bill — Sen. Dave Marsden’s SB 1027 — needs to pass again this year. It passed the Senate on Jan. 26.

Companion legislation for both bills are now being considered in the House.

Unfortunately, the committee defeated two other bills, which would have decriminalized possession of marijuana — replacing possible jail time with a civil penalty.

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Prohibition

Decriminalization Bill Introduced in Wyoming

January 24th, 2017 No Comments Kate Bell

A new bill, HB 157, has been introduced in Wyoming by Rep. Mark Baker (R-Sweetwater) and a bipartisan group of legislators that would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. This would avoid branding someone with a lifelong criminal record for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.

HB 157 would apply to up to three ounces of cannabis or marijuana products (such as edibles) containing 500 milligrams or less of THC. Under current Wyoming law, possession of even a tiny amount of marijuana carries a penalty of up to one year of incarceration and a fine of up to $1,000. Rep. Baker’s bill would reduce the penalty to a civil fine of up to $200.

If you are a Wyoming resident, please ask your legislators to stop arresting people for cannabis so law enforcement can focus on violent crime.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Texas Legislative Sessions Begins With Efforts to Fix Medical Marijuana Law and Decriminalize Possession

January 10th, 2017 No Comments Heather Fazio

The Texas Legislature convened for the 2017 session today. Rep. Joe Moody reintroduced legislation that would replace Texas’ harsh criminal penalties for marijuana possession with a simple citation. His proposal would eliminate the threat of arrest, jail time, and — most importantly — the lifelong consequences of a criminal conviction.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jose Menendez is leading the charge to fix Texas’ inadequate medical marijuana law. Effective medical marijuana programs have been created in 28 states, but Texas instead has an unreasonably restrictive law that leaves most patients behind and includes a fatal flaw.

If you are a Texas resident, please let your lawmakers know you want the state to fix the broken Compassionate Use Act Gov. Abbott signed into law in 2015, and to reduce the penalties for possession.

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Prohibition

State Legislatures Back in Session and Tackling Marijuana Policy

January 4th, 2017 5 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Around the country, state lawmakers are gearing up for the new legislative sessions, and some are already making marijuana policy reform a top priority.

In Wisconsin, Rep. Melissa Sargent plans to reintroduce legislation that would end Wisconsin’s criminalization of adult marijuana consumers in exchange for taxing and regulating it like alcohol. Her proposal would also permit seriously ill Wisconsinites — both adults and minors — to access medical marijuana.

 

As Pennsylvania works to implement its new medical marijuana program, lawmakers plan to reintroduce legislation that would stop jailing marijuana consumers and instead impose a civil fine. Currently, an individual arrested for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana can still be sentenced to as much as 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Last year, Rep. Ed Gainey introduced HB 2706, a bill that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana. He is expected to introduce similar legislation this year.

In Rhode Island, advocates will once again be pushing legislators to end marijuana prohibition after voters in neighboring Massachusetts passed an initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in November.

Last month, Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison (R) and Sen. Steve Dickerson (R) announced that they are introducing a medical marijuana bill to bring meaningful access to many patients in Tennessee and establish 150 dispensaries throughout the state.

Texas Senator José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) pre-filed SB 269, a comprehensive medical cannabis bill, in early December. If passed, this legislation will bring safe and legal access to Texas patients with debilitating medical conditions like cancer, PTSD, chronic pain, and Crohn’s disease, among others. Advocates expect another bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana to be introduced soon.

The year is still early, and there will likely be many more marijuana policy reform bills introduced in the coming weeks. If you would like to find out what is happening in your state, please click here. MPP will continue to follow marijuana-related legislation in all 50 states and DC as it develops.

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Prohibition

Missouri Decriminalization Law Finally Takes Effect

January 4th, 2017 2 Comments Maggie Ellinger-Locke

Back in 2014, Missouri lawmakers enacted SB 491 — a bill to reduce penalties for possessing up to 10 grams of marijuana. That law finally took effect on January 1, 2017. Congratulations to Missouri for joining the 20 other states that have ended cannabis prohibition or replaced jail time with a fine! The new law institutes a fine of $250-$1,000, replacing the prior penalty of up to a year of incarceration and a fine.

While this is far better than current law, the hefty fine is still very harsh for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol. Worse yet, possession of over 35 grams remains a felony, subjecting marijuana consumers to a prison sentence of up to seven years and a $5,000 fine.

While lawmakers should be applauded for enacting marijuana reduction penalties, we hope you will let them know that the time to end prohibition is now. If you are a Missouri resident, please send an email to your state representative and senator and tell them you want to tax and regulate a substance that is safer than alcohol.

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Prohibition

Louisiana Man Serving 13 Years for Two Joints Has Sentence Reduced

December 9th, 2016 8 Comments Marijuana Policy Project
bernard-noble
Bernard Noble

Simply being arrested for marijuana possession is bad enough, and can have life-long consequences. But imagine spending 13 years in prison for a small personal amount of a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol. That’s what Bernard Noble, a Louisiana man with a history of minor non-violent drug possession offenses, has been subjected to since being convicted in 2010. Now, thanks to the tireless work of his family, his defense attorney, advocates around the country, he will free in 2018.

Huffington Post reports:

Bernard Noble, a 50-year-old father of seven, has spent the last six years in prison in Louisiana serving out a sentence of 13 and a half years for possession of what was the equivalent of two joints’ worth of marijuana.

Noble’s case was a rallying cry for those seeking reform of harsh sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders. And Monday, after years of litigation, multiple articles on his case (including from The Huffington Post), documentaries, podcasts, rallies and petitions, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro agreed to resentence Noble to eight years, Noble’s attorney Jee Park announced in a statement. That means he could be free in less than two more years given the time he’s already served behind bars.

“To me, eight years is still too long for Bernard and his family,” Park said, “but the prospect of going home and being reunited with his children in less than 2 years brought relief to Bernard.”

Park said she’s hopeful that Noble, who she described as a “caring and responsible father, successful entrepreneur, [with] no violence in his past” might be paroled and released even sooner. Noble’s previous sentence did not include the possibility of parole.

Noble was caught with the equivalent of two joints’ worth of marijuana in 2010. At first, Noble was sentenced to five years in prison. But the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office appealed that ruling and took the case all the way to the state Supreme Court.

Noble had seven prior convictions on his record, stretching back to 1989. All were convictions for possession of small amounts of drugs; two were for cocaine and the rest were for marijuana. All were nonviolent, and four were misdemeanors and three were felonies. The state used two of the felony charges in their branding of Noble as a “habitual offender” under Louisiana law. That allowed them to apply the maximum possible sentence against Noble, without a chance of parole.

Read HuffPost’s full interview with Noble from 2015 here.

MPP would like to congratulate Mr. Noble on this victory and thank all the people whose efforts are helping bring him home.

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