MPP to Host Events in Michigan to Explore 2018 Initiative to Regulate Marijuana
Top Legislative Victories of 2016
Now that most state legislative sessions are over for the year, MPP’s Rob Kampia has published a list of the biggest victories in what is already the biggest year on record for marijuana policy reformers!
On July 29, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill removing the threat of arrest for small amounts of marijuana, capping a record year of legislative and administrative marijuana policy reforms throughout the country.
In addition to Illinois, a number of other states enacted laws to reduce marijuana possession penalties. Kansas lowered the maximum jail sentence for first-time possession and reduced second offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Louisiana and Maryland removed criminal penalties for possession of paraphernalia, with the Maryland Legislature overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto. Oklahoma cut the penalties for second marijuana possession offenses in half, and Tennessee reduced a third possession offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, making the maximum penalty less than a year in jail. At the local level, New Orleans and a number of Florida counties passed ordinances that give police the option to issue summons or citations instead of arresting people for low-level possession.
MPP’s Rob Kampia Weighs in on DEA Scheduling
In response to the recent decision by the DEA not to move marijuana out of Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, MPP’s Rob Kampia offered the following analysis of the situation, and what the best course of action would be:
In the wake of the DEA’s decision against rescheduling marijuana, the super-majority of the American people who support legalizing medical marijuana might properly wonder, “How bad is this news?”
As the leader of the largest marijuana-policy-reform organization in the nation, my answer might surprise you: It barely mattered which way the DEA ruled.
Back in 1970, Congress and President Nixon placed marijuana in Schedule I, along with LSD and heroin, defining these drugs as having no therapeutic value and a high potential for abuse. Simultaneously, drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine were placed in Schedule II, which are defined as having therapeutic value.
This “Flat Earth Society” view of marijuana has been challenged numerous times since 1970, but the DEA and federal courts have rejected all such attempts, including the Washington and Rhode Island governors’ 2011 petition that the DEA just rejected.
To be sure, moving marijuana to Schedule II would have had symbolic value, showing that prohibitionists were wrong to stubbornly claim for decades that sick people were merely imagining or lying about the medicinal benefits they experienced. However, there are federal criminal penalties for marijuana possession that are imposed regardless of its schedule. Even if the DEA had moved marijuana to Schedule II, growing 100 marijuana seedlings would still land you in federal prison for a minimum of five years…
You can read the entire article at Huffington Post.
Marijuana Policy Predictions for 2016
MPP executive director Rob Kampia’s “Marijuana Policy Predictions for 2016” has been published by The Huffington Post.
Up until now, the two biggest years were 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, and 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.
2016 will likely comprise a cornucopia of cannabis policy advances, which I’ll enumerate in the form of predictions.
Click here to read the entire column.
MPP Banned From Fundraising in Mississippi
Recently, the government of Mississippi announced that MPP will not be able to raise any funds within the state, which could hamper efforts at reform there and throughout the South.
MPP’s Executive Director Rob Kampia writes:
The Mississippi government is saying that MPP is prohibited from raising money in that state because I’m a convicted felon.
Worse yet, we’re not even allowed to raise money in Mississippi to challenge the state’s stupid fundraising law.
This isn’t the first time MPP has been discriminated against.
For example, (1) MPP almost lost our employees’ retirement plan until a member of Congress intervened, (2) the bank where we’ve been doing business for 20 years won’t give us a line of credit because they don’t like our “mission,” (3) we had trouble opening a brokerage account, (4) we had trouble getting credit card processing for our five ballot initiative committees, (5) numerous landlords wouldn’t lease office space to us or our campaigns, and (6) the IRS has audited us twice.
And now we can’t raise any money in the entire state of Mississippi because of a marijuana conviction 26 years ago?
MPP’s Rob Kampia Provides Update on What’s Happening in Congress
With Congress returning from its August recess this week, MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia dedicated his latest Huffington Post column to discussing where things stand for marijuana policy reform on Capitol Hill.
He describes how 2015 has been the most successful year to date:
Until last year, neither chamber of Congress had ever passed any measure in support of reforming federal marijuana laws. That changed in May 2014 when the House, with 219 votes, passed a budget restriction that was intended to block the enforcement of federal marijuana laws for people and businesses acting in compliance with state laws that permit medical marijuana. That measure, sponsored by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), became law when it was included in the so-called “CRomnibus” in December 2014.
In June of this year, the House approved the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment again, this time with 242 votes. And the House wasn’t alone this time; the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to include the amendment in its version of the U.S. Justice Department’s funding bill by a 21-9 vote.
But unlike last year, Congress didn’t stop there.
Read Rob’s full piece for a list of the other victories we’ve had in Congress this year, as well as his thoughts on what we can expect to see in coming months.
How Is Marijuana Policy Factoring into the Presidential Campaign?
MPP’s Executive Director Rob Kampia recently published his thoughts on how marijuana policy will factor into the 2016 presidential elections:
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) recently released its quadrennial report card detailing the most prominent presidential candidates’ positions on marijuana policy.
To be sure, most voters aren’t single-issue marijuana voters (on either side of the legalization issue). Most voters make their decisions after processing a soup of positions and paid ads. So MPP’s intent is to inform a piece of that upcoming decision-making process, rather than claiming that marijuana legalization is the main issue for many voters.
That said, it’s worth noting that hardcore supporters of legalization are now finally capable of having a measurable impact on campaigns. For example, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) raised more than $100,000 at a marijuana-specific fundraising event in Portland on June 5. This is real money for a U.S. House race.
MPP’s early donations to Peter Shumlin (D-VT) almost certainly made the difference in his first primary contest for governor in 2010. And during the 2011-2012 election cycle, MPP was the largest donor to his campaign, edging out donations from AFSCME, Coca-Cola, and the Democratic Governors Association.
As for the presidential race, many members of the marijuana industry — which is generally defined as marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under various states’ laws — are supporting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). At a group fundraising meeting at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s annual conference in Denver on June 30, a room of canna-business leaders discussed the issue with Sen. Paul and donated more than $100,000 to his campaign. (This is real money for any presidential campaign.) MPP had previously donated $15,000 to Sen. Paul’s three campaign committees.
Setting aside the ability of the cannabis industry to have some degree of impact on the current presidential race, what are the positions of some of the more interesting candidates?
Congress Poised to Pass Historic Medical Marijuana Amendment
After 11 years of MPP lobbying and attending receptions on Capitol Hill, Congress is finally poised to pass an amendment that would prohibit the U.S. Justice Department — which includes the DEA — from interfering with state-level medical marijuana laws.
The U.S. House rejected the amendment in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. Finally, in May of this year, the House passed the amendment, which was introduced by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA).
Last night, the amendment was included in the annual spending bill that Congress is expected to pass today or tomorrow. It will then be the law through September 30, at which time it would need to be renewed each fall.
Unfortunately, a bad amendment to block local legalization in D.C. was also included in the spending bill. The D.C. mayor and council had been planning to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in our nation’s capital, which they’ll no longer be allowed to do.
That said, the medical marijuana and decriminalization laws in D.C. will remain in effect.
And it is MPP’s opinion that the ballot initiative that 70% of D.C. voters passed on November 4 will be allowed to move forward. This initiative — which removes penalties for adult possession and home cultivation — would take effect in approximately March (unless Congress affirmatively blocks the initiative).
The federal spending bill also prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from interfering with state-level hemp laws.
Finally, marijuana has become a big issue on Capitol Hill, which is a precursor to ending federal prohibition.
MPP’s Rob Kampia Gives His Take on What’s Next for Marijuana Legalization
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.
MPP’s Rob Kampia to Speak at NCIA Cannabis Business Summit
The National Cannabis Industry Association is launching its first national conference, The Cannabis Business Summit, June 24-25 in Denver, Colorado. The summit will offer cannabis business leaders a national stage on which to discuss the best practices and business developments from around the industry. The summit will include more than 35 sessions, more than 800 attendees, and an exhibition floor featuring more than 30 leading cannabis businesses over the course of two days. Several topic-oriented tracks will give attendees the opportunity to focus on their areas of expertise. Conference highlights and topics covered will include:
- Latest state and federal policy developments
- Best practices in cultivation, retail, and infused products
- Latest developments in banking and taxation
- Securing investment for cannabis businesses
- Streamlining your business with technology
- Security, compliance, and safety for you and your customers
- Integrating sustainability into your business plan
- Risk management and industry insurance
- Responsible and effective marketing
- Philanthropy and community engagement
Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Rob Kampia will also be speaking at the event!
NCIA’s Cannabis Business Summit will be held at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. Along with the educational sessions and an exhibitor showcase, the event will also include a fundraising reception to support NCIA’s work advancing the policy goals of the responsible cannabis industry. Visit the conference website online, and register at http://www.cannabisbusinesssummit.com.