Jan 10, 2022
2021 cannabis policy reform victories, Connecticut, decriminalization, Denise Tolliver, Kevin Caldwell, legalization, Louisiana, medical cannabis, New Mexico, New York, President and CEO, South Dakota, Toi Hutchinson, Virginia
MPP has played a leading role in enacting 10 of the 18 state legalization laws, along with numerous decriminalization and medical cannabis laws. In 2021, a record number of states legalized legislatively, and we laid groundwork for future victories in other states. This year, the movement achieved victories in ...
In March 2021, New York put an end to cannabis prohibition. Adults over 21 may possess up to three ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of concentrate. New York’s change in cannabis laws also includes provisions for automatic expungement and community reinvestment.
On April 7, 2021, Virginia became the first state in the South to legalize cannabis for adults. The new law went into effect on July 1 and allows adults to legally possess and share up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to four cannabis plants at their primary residence. Legal cannabis sales are scheduled to begin on January 1, 2024, but the legislature could speed up — or stall — implementation.
New Mexico also legalized adult-use cannabis in April 2021. Adults may possess up to two ounces and cultivate up to six mature plants. The new law went into effect in June 2021, and cannabis sales are set to begin no later than April 2022.
MPP is proud to have played a leading role in the effort to legalize cannabis in Connecticut. As of July 2021, adults over 21 are allowed to possess up to one and a half ounces of cannabis on their person and up to five ounces in a locked trunk or secure location in their home. Legal sales are expected to begin by late 2022. Adults will be allowed to cultivate cannabis at home as of July 2023.
The Connecticut legislation also included the expungement of lower-level cannabis records and dedicates a large amount of excise tax revenues into a Social Equity and Innovation Fund that will be used to promote a diverse cannabis industry and reinvest in communities that have been hit the hardest.
During the 2021 South Dakota legislative session, MPP — along with a coalition of groups — played a critical role in successfully defending the state's 2020 voter-enacted medical cannabis law. Gov. Kristi Noem, House Speaker Spencer Gosch, and their legislative allies attempted to severely delay implementation of the law via Speaker Gosch's House Bill 1100. In the end, the South Dakota Legislature did not pass any version of HB 1100, and as a result, the medical cannabis law approved by voters was not changed at all. This major victory for South Dakota medical cannabis patients and advocates was the result of many months of hard work.
As of August 1, 2021, the penalty for possessing up to 14 grams (or .49 ounces) of cannabis became a civil offense punishable by a fine of $100. For those who are unable to afford the fine, the court must use its discretion for an alternate penalty that includes community service and installment payments. Possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis is now enforced by a summons but not an arrest.
Louisiana’s most recent cannabis legislation does not reduce penalties for possessing more than 14 grams or for possession with intent to distribute or sell any amount. Until passage of the bill decriminalizing up to 14 grams, Louisiana was the incarceration capital of the U.S. Still, MPP believes that the state’s penalties for amounts over 14 grams are far too harsh.
Meet MPP's New President and CEO
Toi Hutchinson has officially joined MPP as our new President and CEO. A former Illinois state senator, she most recently served as senior advisor to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on cannabis legalization implementation.
“Toi’s unique resume is perfectly suited to lead MPP as we finish our reform work state-by-state across the country,” said MPP Board Chairman Sal Pace.
Toi earned a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences (English) from the University of Illinois and a Juris Doctor from Northern Illinois College of Law. She is a member of the Chicago Federation of Women, the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership, Links International, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
MPP welcomes Toi Hutchinson!
MPP's New Southeast Legislative Manager
Joining MPP in December 2021, Kevin Caldwell leads the organization’s lobbying efforts in Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Kevin is the founder of CommonSenseNOLA, a grassroots cannabis reform organization. He served as a board member of Sensible Marijuana Policy for Louisiana from 2014 to 2020. Kevin has advocated on the municipal and statewide levels for medical cannabis and removing criminal penalties for cannabis possession, as well as other criminal justice reforms.
MPP's New Communications Director
In late November, MPP welcomed Denise Tolliver to serve as the organization’s new director of communications.
Before joining MPP, Tolliver worked as a reporter and anchor for television and radio and served as Communications Director and Chief of Staff on Capitol Hill and for the D.C. Council. While employed on the Hill, she was sought after by Judy Smith of “Scandal” fame to assist with the mayoral crisis in Detroit. Upon finishing the crisis position with the mayor, she then stayed in Detroit to perform crisis assistance with the new Detroit City Council President. After her last crisis assignment was completed, she returned to the Hill where she worked for Rep. John Lewis and Rep. Marcia Fudge, who now serves as the Housing and Urban Development Secretary.