Kansas City Voters Approve Initiative to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession


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Voters in Kansas City — the largest city in Missouri and the sixth largest city in the Midwest — overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure on Tuesday to reduce the city’s penalties for marijuana possession.

The Kansas City Star reports:

The measure lowers the maximum fine for marijuana possession in city court to $25 from $500 and eliminates jail time as a penalty. Under the old ordinance, a sentence of 180 days was possible.

The change applies only to cases in Kansas City Municipal Court in which defendants possessed 35 grams or less of marijuana — about 1 1/4 ounces.

The issue landed on the ballot through a petition drive led by the Kansas City chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Jamie Kacz, executive director of NORML KC, said residents who signed the petitions sent a message that they don’t want people jailed or fined heavily for marijuana offenses.

 

The ballot measure also eliminates city charges for possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia, which carried penalties of 15 days to six months in jail and fines from $100 to $500.

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Missouri Decriminalization Law Finally Takes Effect


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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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Missouri Man Serving Life Sentence for Marijuana Released Today


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In August, a Missouri man serving a life sentence for a non-violent marijuana violation was pardoned after an outpouring of public pressure. Today, Jeff Mizanskey walked out of prison a free man after more than 20 years of incarceration.

KRCG reports:

Jeff Mizanskey walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center and into the arms of more than a dozen family, friends and supporters Tuesday morning. Mizanskey was granted parole on Aug. 10 after Gov. Jay Nixon commuted his sentence to life with the possibility of parole in May. The only person in Missouri serving a life-without-parole sentence for a marijuana offense, Mizanskey had been the focus of an intensive lobbying effort. When Mizanskey was arrested in 1993 after selling 6 pounds of marijuana to a dealer connected to Mexican drug cartels, life without parole was an option for repeat drug offenders. State lawmakers repealed that provision in 2014 as part of a broader overhaul of the state’s criminal code.

Mizanskey said he plans to continue to advocate for marijuana legalization and prison reform.

 

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Missouri Man Serving Life in Prison for Marijuana Granted Parole


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Jeff Mizanskey, a Missouri man who was serving life in prison for non-violent marijuana offenses, was granted parole after public outcry and a Change.org campaign to reduce his sentence.

WDAF reports:

The only man in Missouri serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for non-violent marijuana related
offenses is now getting released from the maximum-security prison in Jefferson City, according to the man’s son.billboard Mizanskey

Jeff Mizanskey was told Monday morning that he has been granted parole, according to his son, Chris. Chris Mizanskey says his dad should be released within 10 to 25 days. He says his dad called him briefly Monday morning to share the news. They planned to talk again Monday night.

Jeff Mizanskey has already served more than 20 years in the prison for repeat marijuana offenses. He is now 62-years old.

 

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Missouri Legislature to Consider Allowing Public Vote on Regulating Marijuana


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Missouri State Rep. Brandon Ellington’s HJR 15 would give voters a chance to put an end to the failed experiment of marijuana prohibition, and would replace it with legalization, taxation, and regulation for adults 21 and over.

Brandon Ellington
Rep. Brandon Ellington

A companion bill also sponsored by Rep. Ellington, HB 166, would expunge some marijuana-related convictions if voters approve the constitutional amendment.

The Missouri-based Show-Me Cannabis is also in the process of preparing for a similar voter initiative in 2016. If approved, that measure would not only allow and regulate retail sales for adult use, it would also provide unique protections for medical marijuana patients. In addition, the measure would allow individuals to remove harmful marijuana-related convictions from their records.

In the coming years, there will be several opportunities for Missouri to join the four states that have moved away from failed and wasteful marijuana prohibition policies.

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MPP’s Rob Kampia Gives His Take on What’s Next for Marijuana Legalization


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Executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia, discusses what’s next for the push to make marijuana legal in the United States:

The state that will most likely be next to legalize is Rhode Island, which would be the first to do so via state legislature. Also this spring, the District of Columbia is expected to enact a similar law through its city council.

There’s also a real opportunity to legalize marijuana through five more state legislatures between now and 2017 – Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont. There will also be serious legislative activity in other states, such as New York, but it is less clear when such legislation will pass.

In November 2016, at least five states are expected to vote on similar ballot initiatives – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada – and one could potentially appear on the ballot in Missouri.

By the end of 2017, marijuana could be legalized in 15 states and D.C., which would comprise 26% of the nation’s population.

Read the rest of Kampia’s column here.

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Missouri Governor Signs Bill to Make Limited Marijuana Extract Available to Patients


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Gov. Jay Nixon

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed a limited medical marijuana bill into law yesterday. HB 2238 allows some patients with intractable epilepsy access to products containing marijuana extracts. Those extracts must be limited primarily to a non-psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant called cannabidiol, or CBD.

Many believe high-CBD marijuana extracts are effective in helping alleviate severe seizure conditions — reducing both the frequency and intensity of seizures. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of patients who can benefit from medical marijuana have this condition, so the vast majority of seriously ill patients in Missouri will be left out of the state program. MPP has a short analysis of the law available here.

Several other states have passed laws that are similarly limited. For the most part, laws passed in other states are not workable due to limitations imposed under federal law. By contrast, Missouri’s carefully crafted law is unique in that it may actually lead to a functioning program. This will be great news for those few seriously ill seizure patients who will be able to participate.

 

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Missouri Becomes 19th State To Decriminalize Marijuana Possession


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Gov. Jay Nixon

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon made Missouri history by allowing the state to join the ranks of 18 others that have eliminated the possibility of jail time for the possession of marijuana. The new law made several significant reforms to the state’s criminal laws, including protecting people caught with up to 10 grams from incarceration for choosing a substance that is safer than alcohol.

The governor decided not to sign SB 491, instead allowing it to become effective without his signature. In addition to “decriminalizing” simple possession of marijuana, this new law also reduces possible sentences related to the sale and cultivation of marijuana, including the current ban on probation or parole for those with 3rd felony offenses.

Unfortunately, the law is somewhat limited. It will not take effect until January 1, 2017, and the protections against jail time only apply to people without prior marijuana convictions. Also, a possession charge — even without the possibility of jail time — is still a crime and can mark a person for life, affecting housing, employment, and future employment opportunities.

Nonetheless, this represents several major improvements, and now statewide law is beginning to reflect those of both St. Louis and Columbia, which previously decriminalized possession of up to 35 grams of cannabis.

MPP wishes to thank Missouri attorney and activist Dan Viets and Show-Me Cannabis for their strong contributions to the new law!

 

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Missouri Bill Would Keep Marijuana Users Out of Jail


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On April 24, the Missouri House and Senate passed a bill that would eliminate the possibility of jail time for people caught with up to 10 grams of marijuana — at least the first time. The bill, SB 491, was sent to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature on April 28. He has until May 13 to sign the bill or veto it.

Jay Nixon
Gov. Jay Nixon

Nearly half a million Missouri residents already live in cities, including St. Louis and Columbia, which have local ordinances that treat possession of 35 grams or less as a non-arrestable offense.

SB 491 isn’t the only marijuana-related bill on the move.

Earlier this month, SB 951 passed out of committee; it may soon receive a vote in the Senate. While far from perfect, it would allow a broad range of severely ill patients to use medical marijuana products that include THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. A second, very limited bill, HB 2238, would allow some patients to access CBD-rich cannabis oil with trace amounts of THC. It passed both houses and will be sent to Gov. Nixon for his signature. For an overview of the bill, click here.

The Missouri Legislature made significant progress this year to improve marijuana-related laws, due in large part to the hard work from groups like Show-Me Cannabis.

 

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Life In Prison for Marijuana?


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As more and more Americans support ending marijuana prohibition and an increasing number of states consider marijuana policy reform legislation, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are still a lot of people in prison for marijuana-related violations. As shocking as it may seem, some are slated to spend the rest of their lives behind bars for something that millions of Americans do every day and that people in Colorado and Washington do legally.

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Jeff Mizanskey

One such person is Jeff Mizanskey. He is currently serving life without parole after his third non-violent, marijuana-only offense due to Missouri mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Please sign this Change.org petition asking Gov. Jay Nixon to grant clemency to Mr. Mizanskey.

If you would like to know more about prisoners serving insanely long sentences for marijuana, please visit Life For Pot and share these stories with anyone who will listen. No on deserves to be arrested for a substance that is safer than alcohol, but putting people in cages indefinitely for it is inexcusable.

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