Illinois Governor Announces Opposition to Sensible Marijuana Policy


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In an interview with WSIL-TV in Marion yesterday, Gov. Bruce Rauner officially announced his opposition to ending the harmful policy of cannabis prohibition in Illinois. The governor wrongly claimed we don’t yet know the effects of legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use, despite significant data available from states like Washington and Colorado, which both ended prohibition five years ago.

By announcing his stance, the governor is saying no to new jobs and to hundreds of millions of dollars (or more) in much-needed revenue for the state, and saying yes to allowing criminal enterprises to continue their control of a thriving and unregulated market. An estimated 750,000 Illinoisans consume marijuana monthly despite its prohibition — consumers who will likely continue to make illicit purchases whether it’s regulated or not. That money should go to our state and not into the pockets of drug cartels.

Chicago is one of the U.S. cities most closely associated with the failure of prohibition policies, and today, violence and harm continue on its streets. Instead of perpetuating a system that contributes to crime, revenue from taxing marijuana could be used to help prevent it.

Please make sure everyone in your network knows about Gov. Rauner’s misguided position. If you are an Illinois resident, please send a message to your lawmakers in support of legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana for adults.

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Virginia Governor-Elect Supports Decriminalization


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On Tuesday, Virginia was faced with a  choice between three candidates for governor, all of whom supported some kind of sensible marijuana policy reform. At the end of the day, they decided to back Ralph Northam, who was clearly the best candidate on this issue.

Marijuana Moment reports:

Northam, a Democrat, made marijuana decriminalization a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign, often describing the issue in racial justice terms. He also spoke about the medical benefits of cannabis.

Here’s a look at his statements and pledges on marijuana:

“We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana,” he wrote in a blog post early this year. “African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement — money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.”

As a physician, Northam is “increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD,” his campaign website says. “By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”

The lieutenant governor also sent a letter to the Virginia State Crime Commission, which is conducting a review of the effects of potential marijuana decriminalization. “Virginia spends $67 million on marijuana enforcement – enough to open up another 13,000 pre-K spots for children,” Northam wrote. “African Americans are nearly 3 times as likely to get arrested for simple possession of marijuana and sentencing guidelines that include jail time can all too often begin a dangerous cycle of recidivism.”

During a debate, Notham mentioned that his father is a judge while making a point about the cost of enforcing marijuana laws.

MPP is looking forward to working with Governor-elect Northam and the legislature to pass beneficial marijuana legislation in the upcoming session.

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New Jersey Poised for Big Changes After Election


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Gov. Chris Christie has said that he is the “only impediment” to taxing and regulating marijuana in New Jersey — and he is leaving office in January 2018. Phil Murphy (D), who has repeatedly touted his support for legalization, beat Kim Guadagno (R) by about 10 percentage points and will be the next governor!

Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22), sponsor of the bill to end marijuana prohibition in New Jersey, won easily, and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), another vocal supporter of legalization, was also victorious.

New Jersey is now well-placed to be the first state to end marijuana prohibition through the legislative process (as opposed to a citizens’ ballot initiative) — but a bill still won’t pass without hard work. And the details of the bill — things like ensuring people who have been criminalized for marijuana possession can expunge their records once marijuana possession is legalized — will require close attention to guarantee New Jersey implements the best possible public policy.

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Virginia Election Could Have Big Impact on Marijuana Policy


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Virginia will elect its next governor tomorrow, November 7. Please take a minute to examine each candidate’s position on marijuana policy before you head to the polls. While every candidate favors some form of reduced penalty for simple possession, they have significant differences in opinion regarding marijuana penalties in the commonwealth.

  • Democrat Ralph Northam supports decriminalization of marijuana and legalizing the medical use of marijuana.
  • Republican Ed Gillespie opposes decriminalizing marijuana but favors a three-strikes approach for simple possession. The first two violations would not carry criminal charges, but a third would. He is open to “appropriate, limited, tightly regulated use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.”
  • Libertarian Cliff Hyra supports decriminalization, the establishment of a medical marijuana program, and allowing responsible adults ages 21 and older to consume marijuana.

This election is important, as the governor holds considerable sway over the direction of Virginia’s policies. Please visit your local polling station between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. tomorrow, November 7, if you are a Virginia resident. If you don’t know where your polling station is, click here to find out. Check your voter registration here, and be sure to bring a photo ID with you when you head to the polling station. Make your voice heard tomorrow!

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MPP’s Virginia Primary Election Guide


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Virginia’s gubernatorial primary is less than one month away, and MPP has put together a guide on where the candidates stand on marijuana policy issues. Please check out our voter guide so you can be informed on this critical topic before heading to the polls.

We put together a candidate survey and asked each campaign for governor to give us their thoughts on three issues:

1) marijuana decriminalization;
2) medical marijuana; and
3) taxing and regulating cannabis for adults age 21 and over.

Based on their responses to our survey, along with any public statements they have made, we assigned each candidate a letter grade, which you can check out here.

In addition to the governor’s race, each of Virginia’s 100 seats in the House of Delegates will be on the ballot this year. Please consider asking the candidates from your district where they stand on these issues before casting your vote. Let us know if you get any responses.

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Maine Governor Signs Question 1, Making Marijuana Legal for Adults on January 30


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After recounting 30% of the votes for Question 1 in Maine last month, opponents of marijuana policy reform dropped their challenge, allowing the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol move to the Governor’s desk. On New Year’s Eve, Gov. LePage signed Question 1 into law.

Portland Press Herald reports:

LePage confirmed the proclamation Tuesday on a talk show on WVOM radio in Bangor. But he also called on the Legislature to place a moratorium on the sale of marijuana until lawmakers could work out all the details, including providing funding to set up a regulatory framework for legal marijuana.

Under the new law, adults over age 21 will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana or grow up to six plants. The law goes into effect on Jan. 30, which is 30 days after LePage issued the proclamation on Saturday.

Commercial sale of the drug would be regulated by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Ballot question opponents had requested a recount of the measure, which was approved by a 4,000-vote margin but the recount by the Secretary of State’s Office was ended in December after it appeared there would be no significant change in the results.

LePage said Tuesday he needs the Legislature to provide funding to the agriculture department in order for him to move forward with establishing an agency to regulate the sale of marijuana in Maine.

Advocates are urging the legislature to begin implementation immediately and not consider a moratorium until after they have had a chance to establish regulations.

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Kentucky Governor-Elect Supports Allowing Medical Marijuana


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Businessman_and_political_candidate_Matt_Bevin
Matt Bevin

On Tuesday, Kentucky voters took to the polls and elected Matt Bevin governor. Bevin, a Republican and Tea Party favorite, has acknowledged what the vast majority of voters know: “There is unequivocal medical evidence” that medical marijuana is beneficial for certain conditions. He defeated prohibitionist Jack Conway (D) 52.5% to 43.8%.

With House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) sponsoring medical marijuana legislation, next year holds great promise for the state taking a serious, bipartisan look at a more compassionate approach.

Americans living in 23 states and the nation’s capital can legally use and access medical cannabis, and upwards of 80% of Americans support allowing the seriously ill to use this beneficial medicine. Yet, some politicians — including defeated gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway — still haven’t gotten the message.

If you are a Kentucky resident, please make sure your lawmakers hear: Voters expect them to end the cruel status quo and to stop forcing patients to risk their freedom to improve their health.

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Maryland Governor Suffering From Reefer Madness


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O'malley
Gov. Martin O’Malley

Gov. Martin O’Malley has stated repeatedly that he opposes decriminalizing marijuana, a sensible measure already adopted by 16 other states, including red states like Nebraska and Mississippi. Gov. O’Malley does not support measures being considered in the legislature that would remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. One such bill passed the Senate in a bipartisan vote last year, but the House never took it up.

Gov. O’Malley needs to hear that caging people, entangling them in the justice system, and burdening them with criminal records for life, simply because of a few joints, is a waste of law enforcement resources. The ACLU of Maryland estimates that $106 million is wasted annually on enforcing marijuana possession laws. Criminalizing marijuana has destroyed lives, making it difficult for people to find a job or even get housing. These anti-marijuana laws also disproportionately target African Americans.

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I Spoke With Florida Gov. Rick Scott About Marijuana


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I just returned to D.C. from a conference in Palm Beach, where I briefly spoke with Gov. Rick Scott (R) about medical marijuana.

When I told him I was representing the Marijuana Policy Project, he responded by saying that he had received only one communication about medical marijuana during these first 14 months of his governorship. (It’s likely that he meant to say that he had spoken with only one constituent personally, as opposed to having received only one email message or one phone call from Florida constituents.)

In any case, his comment struck me as odd, because Floridians have consistently been more active via MPP’s website than MPP’s supporters in literally any other state. This has impressed me, because Florida is only the fourth most populous state, and Florida usually has almost no marijuana-related legislative activity in Tallahassee. So you’d think that Californians or New Yorkers would be more active than Floridians, but this hasn’t been the case.

I have no reason to believe that Gov. Scott was trying to fib, because there was no particular advantage or disadvantage to his taking a position on medical marijuana. Indeed, he wasn’t even taking a position on the issue.

But I’d like to view my conversation with the governor as a challenge to anyone in Florida who hasn’t already called or emailed Gov. Scott to say they’d like him to support medical marijuana legislation in Tallahassee. So, if you haven’t already done so, would you please call or email him?

If you live in Florida, you have a greater ability to influence his thinking than I do. And – if you do contact his office – please be polite, because I have the impression that he’s open-minded on our issue, at least in the long run.

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Vermont Governor Signs Dispensary Bill Despite U.S. Attorney Letter


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Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin – who MPP helped elect – just signed a bill to make Vermont state law the eighth to explicitly authorize and regulate dispensaries where registered patients can purchase medical marijuana. Today’s signing marks the culmination of a two-year lobbying effort led by MPP and the third bill signing we’ve been a part of just this month. Many thanks to Governor Shumlin and the bill’s sponsors, Senators Jeanette White, Hinda Miller, and Dick Sears for their leadership, and the dedicated patient advocates throughout the state who made the case for adding dispensaries to Vermont’s medical marijuana law.

MPP’s lobbyists and several of the state’s most committed patient advocates watch as Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin signs S. 17

Today’s signing bucks a trend of sorts. Governors in Rhode Island, Arizona, and Washington have all put the brakes on bills or laws to allow dispensaries, after receiving threatening letters from U.S. Attorneys in their states. Shumlin and legislative leaders received a similar letter on May 4, the day before the House of Representative was slated to vote on the dispensary bill. We were able to address concerns in the House and the administration, and the next day the House passed the measure 99-44 – with a copy of the letter on the desk of each representative.

One reason we were able to convince elected officials to move forward is that, despite the letters, there has still never been a raid on any dispensaries in states that explicity recognize and regulate dispensaries and that are in compliance with those laws. On the other hand, it’s unfortunate, but not uncommon, to see raids of dispensaries in places with more ambiguous laws that don’t specifically address dispensaries. In other words, in practice, it seems U.S. Attorneys are abiding by a narrow interpretation of the policy announced in the 2009 “Ogden memo,” in which these attorneys were instructed not to take action against anyone in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state law.

Ironically, that means the best way to avoid any federal enforcement action is to do exactly the opposite of what Washington, Arizona, and Rhode Island’s governors are doing, and instead embrace state laws that explicitly authorize and regulate dispensaries, like Gov. Shumlin and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell. Let’s hope today’s signing marks the end of this troubling trend.

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