Four States End Marijuana Prohibition


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On Election Day, voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada declared an end to the war on marijuana in their states by approving initiatives to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol for adults. This historic event was by far the biggest victory for drug policy reform to date, and will help pave the way for progress around the country.recreational

There are now eight states where marijuana is legal for adults to possess and where cultivation and retail sales are regulated and taxed. Marijuana possession and cultivation are legal in the District of Columbia, but Congress has prevented the city from regulating the non-medical marijuana industry.

This means that marijuana is legal for 66.5 million Americans, or about 21% of the population.

Unfortunately, a similar initiative in Arizona is trailing while the final votes are being counted, but advocates are already preparing to continue the fight in the legislature and possibly at the ballot in coming years.

Support for ending marijuana prohibition is increasing across the nation, according to recent polls. Marijuana initiatives out-performed a number of successful politicians in some states as well. During President-elect Trump’s campaign, he voiced support for leaving marijuana policy up to the states. Advocates are hopeful that the next administration will support the will of the people and continue the federal policy of non-interference until Congress is able to pass meaningful marijuana policy reform.

 

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Election Day Voter Guides


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Today is the day! This is the biggest election in marijuana policy reform history, but even if you can’t vote on a legalization or medical marijuana ballot initiative today, you could play an important part to make future progress possible in your state.logo-mpp-286-mpp-and-we-change-laws

Before you vote, please check out MPP’s voter guides if you live in the following places:

Delaware

District of Columbia

Illinois

Nebraska

New Hampshire

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

Vermont

And don’t forget to tell your friends in Arizona, Arkansas, California, FloridaMaine, Massachusetts, MontanaNevada, and North Dakota to vote YES on their respective marijuana initiatives!

 

 

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D.C. Council Passes Major Improvements to Medical Marijuana Program


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On Nov. 1, the D.C. Council unanimously passed B21-0210, which includes many improvements to the medical marijuana program, such as: 1) independent laboratory testing will be required, to ensure patients know what they are purchasing; and 2) advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, dentists, and naturopathic physicians, in addition to M.D.s, will be able to recommend medical cannabis.
A few changes were made before the final vote on the bill. One of these was the adoption of Councilmember Grosso’s amendment (initially supported only by Councilmember Robert White) to make the medical marijuana industry more inclusive. Previously, all individuals with a felony conviction or a misdemeanor drug conviction were barred from the industry, disproportionately impacting African Americans, who were more likely to be arrested for drug possession than whites despite similar usage rates. Now, individuals with misdemeanor drug convictions or felony convictions for possession with intent to distribute marijuana will no longer be barred.
There are other provisions that require D.C. to implement an electronic tracking system for medical marijuana purchased in the District before they can take effect. Then, patients will be allowed to visit whichever dispensaries they choose — instead of being limited to one — and patients enrolled in another state’s medical program will be allowed to visit dispensaries in D.C.
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MPP and Institute for Justice Fight for Free Speech in Alabama


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Recently when attempting to lobby for marijuana policy reform in Alabama, MPP legislative counsel Maggie Ellinger-Locke discovered that she would have to travel to the Yellowhammer State and take an ethics class before she could speak with any lawmakers on the subject. This is a clear violation of free speech, and Institute for Justice is helping us fight back.IJ logo

Alabama Today reports:

Virginia-based public interest law firm Institute for Justice filed a new federal lawsuit on behalf of Maggie Ellinger-Locke and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

At issue is an Alabama law requiring all registered lobbyists to attend an ethics class offered only four times a year and in only one place – Montgomery.

Part of Ellinger-Locke’s job, says IJ Senior Attorney Paul Sherman in a recent op-ed, is to talk with legislators and government officials in nearly a dozen states on ways to make marijuana policy “more just, sensible and humane.”

“Unfortunately for her,” Sherman writes, “all lobbyists in Alabama are required to take an in-person ethics class.” The problem is, Ellinger-Locke lives in Arlington, Virginia and works at the MPP headquarters in Washington DC.

Sherman also points out that mayors, city and county council members, as well as members of local boards of education, are each required to take similar training – a program that could easily be offered online.

Nevertheless, Sherman adds that such a requirement is not only bad public policy but also unconstitutional. That is why IJ filed a First Amendment challenge in federal court.

“If a person wants to talk to an elected official about a matter of public policy,” Sherman concludes, “they shouldn’t have to take a government-mandated class. Instead, the only thing they should need is an opinion.”

We will post updates as they happen.

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D.C. Department of Health Recommends Regulating Marijuana Like Alcohol


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Flag_Map_of_Washington_DCIn an exciting new development, the District of Columbia Department of Health issued a report that, in its conclusion, recommends the legalization of the sale of marijuana within D.C.  The 32-page report calls on the District to “[i]mpose state taxes on production, distribution, and sales along with a licensed market participation, age restriction, and prohibitions on advertising and marketing to minors” and to “[u]se current regulatory models for tobacco and alcohol to base legislation to enact effective marijuana controls under District of Columbia laws”.

Additionally, the report urges the strengthening of addiction recovery programs, the improvement of marijuana education–especially for expecting and new mothers–and the monitoring of alcohol and tobacco use among both users and non-users of marijuana.

The D.C. Department of Health’s recommendation is highly encouraging, but is currently met with obstacles put in place by Congress. Check out our D.C. page to learn more about the situation

You can read the full D.C. Department of Health report here.

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D.C. Council Primaries Bode Well for Marijuana Policy


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The District of Columbia held its Democratic primary yesterday, and the results are mostly good news for supporters of marijuana policy reform.Flag_Map_of_Washington_DC Below are the (unofficial) results, along with the grade the council candidates received in MPP’s voter guide:

Ward 2: Jack Evans (A+) won (unopposed)

Ward 4: Incumbent Brandon Todd (F) beat challenger Leon Andrews (A), 49% to 41%

Ward 7: Challenger Vincent Gray (C+) beat incumbent Yvette Alexander (D), 60% to 33%

Ward 8: Challenger Trayon White (C+) beat incumbent LaRuby May (D), 51% to 42%

In the at-large race, all the candidates received an A or A+ from MPP. Challenger Robert White beat incumbent Vincent Orange 40% to 37%.

As the general election on November 8 approaches, MPP plans to update our voter guide to keep you informed on all the candidates’ positions, so stay tuned!

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MPP’s Voter Guide for D.C. Council Primary June 14


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MPP has just released our first-ever voter guide for D.C. Council elections. We hope that D.C.’s Democratic voters will find this guide useful as they prepare to vote in D.C.’s Democratic primary elections on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. There are big differences between the candidates, whose grades range from A+ to F based on their responses to our survey (and, for sitting council members, key votes on marijuana policy reform).Flag_Map_of_Washington_DC

D.C. Council elections are important because the nation’s capital can serve as an important model of sensible marijuana policy. In addition, each member of the council has a lot of influence since there are only 13 council members, while most state legislatures have over 100 members.

Some of these races are expected to be very close. For example, the last time that current Ward 8 Council member LaRuby May and challenger Trayon White faced each other (in a special election), the race was decided by only 78 votes. 

We have also included information about how to register to vote, update your registration information, and find your polling place.

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


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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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D.C. Voters Want Mayor to Work Around Congressional Ban on Regulating Marijuana Like Alcohol


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A survey release this week by Public Policy Polling showed that 66% of voters in the District of Columbia support Mayor Muriel Bowser pursuing legal methods to allow D.C. to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol despite a Congressional ban.Flag_Map_of_Washington_DC

Voters overwhelming approved Initiative 71 in 2014, which made marijuana legal in the nation’s capital, but Congress passed a budget rider that prevents the implementation of regulated commercial cultivation and retail establishments. Provisions related to personal possession and limited home cultivation were unaffected by the law and are currently legal in D.C.

This poll shows that the vast majority of D.C. voters would support the mayor using reserve funds to implement a system to tax and regulate marijuana. This would not only show that D.C. rejects Congressional interference with the will of the voters, but also bring the illicit marijuana market out of the shadows and reap millions in tax revenue.

In addition, 61% of voters are in favor of giving adults a safe and lawful place to consume marijuana outside their homes. Supporters including MPP met with the mayor last week, and she said she was open to working with us and our allies on the D.C. Council to move forward on a compromise that would end the blanket ban on use outside the home, currently set to expire on April 13. This will help restore the rights that D.C. voters supported when they voted yes on Initiative 71.

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D.C. Council Lifts Ban on Private Marijuana Clubs, Reverses Decision Moments Later


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Even though marijuana is legal for adults to possess and grow in the nation’s capital, the only legal place to consume it is in a private residence. Public consumption was not made legal by voters when they approved Initiative 71 in 2014, and the D.C. Council passed an emergency measure that also made consumption at any non-residential private event or location illegal. After hearing complaints from business owners who wish to allow marijuana use their private functions and advocates who noted that a lack of options forced low-income consumers to break the law in order to avoid jeopardizing their public housing, the Council decided to lift the emergency ban.

Minutes later, several council members changed their votes.

Washington Post reports:

The D.C. Council briefly opened the door on Tuesday to legalizing the smoking of marijuana in specially designated areas of public restaurants, music venues and private clubs, by failing to extend a ban on such activity that was put in place when pot was legalized in the city last year.

Within minutes, however, the council reopened debate on the measure, and extended the ban on smoking in private clubs for 90 days.

Council members Ruby May (D-Ward) and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) changed their votes after Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) said he had just heard from Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who was urging the council to continue the ban because the city would have no ability to license pot clubs that may spring up.

It is too bad that Mayor Bowser does not see how making these private gatherings legal will allow the city to regulate them much more quickly and effectively, and that illegal operations will proliferate in the vacuum created by this ban. Fortunately, there is still time to address the issue.

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