Congress Passes Spending Bill Continuing Protections for State Medical Marijuana Programs


, , , , , , , , , , , 20 Comments

The Justice Department will continue to be prohibited from interfering in state medical marijuana laws under the federal spending bill passed Thursday in the Senate. The bill has already passed the House, and President Trump has said he will sign it.

The legislation includes a provision that is intended to prevent the department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to arrest or prosecute patients, caregivers, and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

The provision stems from an amendment originally sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and former Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), which was first approved by the House in May 2014. It was approved again by a larger margin in June 2015, then included in the continuing appropriations packages that have funded the federal government since October 2016.

Unfortunately, the spending package approved Thursday also includes a provision that prevents the District of Columbia from regulating the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for adult use. It was originally introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) and approved in 2015, after District voters approved a ballot initiative to make possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older.

MPP’s Robert Capecchi released the following statement:

“Congress appears to be growing increasingly comfortable with states adopting their own marijuana policies,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unfortunately, spending prohibitions like these expire at the end of the fiscal year, so there is still a need for a long-term solution.

“The time is right for Congress to adopt permanent legislation that protects individuals from federal enforcement if they are in compliance with state laws,” Capecchi said. “It is difficult to understand what they’re waiting for. The vast majority of U.S. voters oppose the federal government interfering in state marijuana laws, and there is now near-universal support for legalizing medical marijuana.”

Read More

Four States End Marijuana Prohibition


, , , , , , , , , 20 Comments

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.

 

Read More

Election Day Voter Guides


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 20 Comments

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!

 

 

Read More

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


, , , , , 20 Comments

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.
Read More

MPP and Institute for Justice Fight for Free Speech in Alabama


, , , , , , , , , 20 Comments

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.

Read More

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


, , , 20 Comments

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.

Read More

D.C. Council Primaries Bode Well for Marijuana Policy


, , , , , , , , , 20 Comments

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!

Read More

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


, , , , , 20 Comments

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.

Read More

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


, , , , , , 20 Comments

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.

Read More

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


, , , , , 20 Comments

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.

Read More