Today, the Vermont House passed H. 511 in a 81-63 vote. Gov. Phil Scott has already pledged that he will sign the bill after it passes one more procedural vote in the Senate.
H. 511 would eliminate Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana and remove penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants, beginning in July. Meanwhile, a governor-appointed task force will issue a final report on how the state should tax and regulate marijuana sales and commercial cultivation by December 15, 2018.
If you are available next Tuesday, January 9, that would be a great day to visit the State House. Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and allied reform organizations will participate in “a full day of press, advocacy and education” beginning at 10 a.m. in Room 10 of the State House. For more details, and to RSVP, check out the Facebook event page.
Tuesday may also be the day the Senate passes H. 511.
Last week, the New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 13-7 to recommend against passage of HB 656, a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for use by adults 21 and older. The committee also voted to defeat a proposed amendment that would simply legalize possession and limited cultivation for adults. The committee’s recommendation is not the end of the road for HB 656: The full House will debate and vote on it in January.
The minority of the committee decided to embrace the home cultivation amendment rather than the comprehensive marijuana regulation bill. This means that if the House overturns the committee’s negative recommendation, it will be expected to vote on the amendment next. You can read the amendment here — it would allow adults to cultivate six plants, three of which could be mature. It would also legalize possession of three-quarters of an ounce, and marijuana in excess of that amount would be legal as long as it is stored along with the plants that produced it.
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.
The Connecticut Legislature, which convened on January 4, is expected to consider legislation that would end marijuana prohibition for adult use and replace it with a system that would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.
Voters in nearby Massachusetts and Maine have voted to legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol. While polling shows 63% of Connecticut voters support this policy change, Connecticut lacks a ballot initiative process, so it’s crucial voters reach out to their elected officials. If you are a Connecticut resident, please tell your lawmakers to support sensible marijuana policy reform.
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.
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.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has publicly supported ending prohibition in that country, is becoming something of a trailblazer when it comes to world leaders’ positions on marijuana policy.
Speaking Wednesday at an economic conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made one of the more buttoned-down, straight-edged arguments for marijuana legalization I’ve heard in recent years. It’s worth quoting at length so I’ve done that below:
Look, our approach on legalizing marijuana is not about creating a boutique industry or bringing in tax revenue, it’s based on two very simple principles:
The first one is, young people have easier access to cannabis now, in Canada, than they do in just about any other countries in the world. [Of] 29 different countries studied by the U.N., Canada was number one in terms of underage access to marijuana. And whatever you might think or studies seen about cannabis being less harmful than alcohol or even cigarettes, the fact is it is bad for the developing brain and we need to make sure that it’s harder for underage Canadians to access marijuana. And that will happen under a controlled and regulated regime.
The other piece of it is there are billions upon billions of dollars flowing into the pockets of organized crime, street gangs and gun-runners, because of the illicit marijuana trade, and if we can get that out of the criminal elements and into a more regulated fashion we will reduce the amount of criminal activity that’s profiting from those, and that has offshoots into so many other criminal activities. So those are my focuses on that.
I have no doubt that Canadians and entrepreneurs will be tremendously innovative in finding ways to create positive economic benefits from the legalization and control of marijuana, but our focus is on protecting kids and protecting our streets.
But Trudeau’s argument for legalization is concerned less with creating benefits, and more with reducing harms. He starts from the same place that many legalization opponents start from — concern for the safety of children.
A Gallup poll released Wednesday shows 58% of adults in the United States think marijuana should be made legal, up from 51% in October 2014. Just 40% think it should remain illegal.
The national poll of 1,015 adults was conducted October 7-11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%. The full results are available at here.
Americans’ support for legalizing marijuana is the highest Gallup has measured to date, at 58%. Given the patterns of support by age, that percentage should continue to grow in the future. Younger generations of Americans have been increasingly likely to favor legal use of marijuana as they entered adulthood compared with older generations of Americans when they were the same age decades ago. Now, more than seven in 10 of today’s young adults support legalization.
But Americans today — particularly those between 35 and 64 — are more supportive of legal marijuana than members of their same birth cohort were in the past. Now senior citizens are alone among age groups in opposing pot legalization.
These trends suggest that state and local governments may come under increasing pressure to ease restrictions on marijuana use, if not go even further like the states of Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska in making recreational marijuana use completely legal.
Marijuana prohibition has been just as ineffective, inefficient, and problematic as alcohol prohibition, and both national and Arizona polls now regularly show support for a better approach. Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Regulating it would replace the underground market, and law enforcement officials’ time could be more effectively directed to addressing serious crime.
Rep. Cardenas has also introduced HB 2006, which would establish a $100 civil penalty for the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. In addition to the four states that have legalized marijuana for adults, well over a dozen states have lowered criminal penalties with sensible alternatives to putting people in jail for choosing a substance that is safer than alcohol.
Jose Mujica is not a man who compromises his beliefs. Before he became President of Uruguay, he was shot six times and spent fourteen years in a dungeon-like military prison. Now he lives a modest lifestyle, donates most of his income to social projects, and resides in a one-bedroom farmhouse with his wife, Congresswoman and former acting President of Uruguay, Lucia Topolansky. President Mujica, once known as the world’s poorest President (a nickname he is not fond of), is becoming known for something else – regulating marijuana.
Not only has the International Narcotics Control Board shown ignorance to the science of marijuana usage, but also it has lied about Uruguay’s willingness to work with the U.N., according to President Mujica.
“Tell this old guy not to lie,” Mujica told reporters, according to Colombian daily El Espectador. “Any guy in the street can meet with me. Let him come to Uruguay and meet with me whenever he wants… He thinks that because he’s in an international position, he can tell whatever lie he wants.”
The INCB president said on Wednesday he was “surprised” that the Uruguayan government “knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed legal provisions of the treaty.
But Mujica dismissed the criticism as a double standard, pointing out that the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington have already legalized weed and that both of the states’ populations individually exceed Uruguay’s 3.4 million inhabitants.
“Do they have two discourses, one for Uruguay and another for those who are strong?” Mujica asked.
In just 25 days, Portland, Maine could become the first East Coast city in the nation to legalize marijuana for adults.
On November 5, voters will decide whether to approve a local ballot initiative that would make the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older.
MPP is part of a coalition that’s backing the local initiative (which is known as “Question 1”), and we recently made national headlines when we launched a series of ads on Portland buses and bus shelters that highlight the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol. Virtually every major media outlet in Maine covered the campaign, and when critics demanded that the ads be taken down, the state’s largest newspaper defended our right to display them.
We’ve made no secret of our plans to support a statewide initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Maine in November 2016 (unless the state legislature does so first). Passing Question 1 in the state’s most populous city will build an incredible amount of momentum and send a message that broader reform will soon come to the entire state.
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"Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care. ... It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record."