Archive for the ‘decrim’ category

Maryland House of Delegates Approves Marijuana Decriminalization

April 5th, 2014

Today, the Maryland House of Delegates voted 78 to 55 in favor of Senate Bill 364 which reduces the penalty for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil offense.

Senate Bill 364 was originally amended by the House Judiciary Committee to simply form a task force to study the issue of marijuana decriminalization. However, this morning, under pressure from the House Black Caucus, the House Judiciary Committee reversed their vote and instead voted 13 to 8 to approve an amended version of SB 364. As amended by committee, the bill would make possession of 10 grams or less a civil offense with the first offense punishable by a $100. The fine for a second offense would be $250, and the fine for a third and subsequent offenses would be $500. The original Senate version set the fine at $100, no matter which offense it was. SB 364 is now expected to go to conference committee to resolve the differences between the version approved by the House and the one approved by the state Senate.

Commenting on today’s vote, NORML Communication Director Erik Altieri stated, “This bill represents a great step forward in reversing the devastating effect current marijuana policies have on communities in Maryland. While the state must now move forward on the legalization and regulation of marijuana, we applaud Maryland legislators in taking action to end the 23,000 marijuana possession arrests occurring in the state every year.”

According to a 2013 ACLU report, Maryland possesses the fourth highest rate of marijuana possession arrests per capita of any state in the country. Maryland arrests over 23,000 individuals for simple marijuana possession every year, at the cost over of 100 million dollars.

NORML will keep you updated on the progress of this legislation.

NORML PAC Endorses Tommy Wells for Mayor of DC

March 14th, 2014

NORML-Endorse-SuareThis morning, NORML PAC announced its endorsement of Councilman Tommy Wells for mayor of Washington, DC.

“Councilman Wells is a passionate crusader for the cause of marijuana law reform,” stated NORML PAC manager Erik Altieri, “Wells showed his skill and acumen for the issue when he championed the District’s marijuana decriminalization measure, which was overwhelmingly approved by the DC City Council just this month. The District of Columbia would greatly benefit from having his compassion, knowledge, and strong leadership in the mayor’s office. Under a Tommy Wells administration, DC will continue to roll back its failed prohibition on marijuana and move towards a system of legalization and regulation.”

“Decriminalization is the first step in ending the failed War on Drugs that has unfairly affected our minority communities and ruined countless lives,” stated Councilman Wells, “We still have much to do to bring about common sense changes – like legalization – so that DC can set an example for the rest of the country.”

A large majority of Washington, DC residents agree with Wells’ position. A poll of District residents released by the Washington Post in January revealed that 63% were in favor of legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, only 34% were opposed. Legalization had majority support amongst every single demographic surveyed.

The District of Columbia currently leads the rest of the country in marijuana arrests per capita, with 854 individuals arrested for every 100,000 residents. These arrests are also disproportionately impacting people of color. While only accounting for about 51% of the population, African Americans constitute 90% of all marijuana possession arrests. This is despite the fact that African Americans and whites use marijuana at similar rates. Councilman Wells’ recently approved marijuana decriminalization measure will be a great first step in rolling back this social injustice.

The Democratic primary for the DC mayor’s race will be held on April 1st. DC voters can get more information on how and where to vote in the primary on the District of Columbia’s website here.

You can learn more about Tommy Well’s campaign on his website or Facebook page.

New Hampshire House of Representatives Votes Overwhelmingly in Favor of Marijuana Decriminalization

March 12th, 2014

Today, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 215 to 92 in favor of House Bill 1625. This legislation to significantly reduce marijuana penalties in New Hampshire.

Under present law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year of incarceration and a maximum fine of $2,000. Passage of this act would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of $100 — no arrest and no criminal record. It would lower the classification of cultivation of six marijuana plants or less to a Class A misdemeanor. You can read the full text of this measure here. House Bill 1625 now awaits action in the state Senate.

New Hampshire Residents: Click HERE to quickly and easily contact your member of the state Senate and urge them to support this important legislation. You can also view how each member of the House of Representatives voted here.

Maryland House Committee to Hear Decriminalization and Legalization Bills, Advocates to Rally in Support

March 12th, 2014

Tomorrow, the Maryland House Judiciary Committee will be holding a public hearing to discuss House Bill 880 (legalization) and House Bill 879 (decriminalization) at 1:00pm in Annapolis.

Maryland residents can click here to contact their legislators in favor of decriminalization and here to contact them in favor of legalization. It only takes a few minutes, so please take a moment of your time to let your voice be heard.

Please also consider calling both House Judiciary Committee Chairman Delegate Vallario and Speaker of the House Delegate Busch to let them know that Marylanders support reforming the state’s marijuana policies. These two will be key in seeing these measures advance and have had prior history of opposing such efforts. Their contact information is below:

House Judiciary Committee Vallario
P: 301-858-3488

Speaker of the House Delegate Busch
P: 301-858-3800

Prior to the hearing, marijuana law reform advocates will be rallying at Lawyers Mall outside of the state house at 11:00am to show support for these important pieces of legislation. They will be joined by legalization and decriminalization bill sponsor, and NORML PAC endorsed candidate for Maryland Governor, Delegate Heather Mizeur. More information on the rally is available here.

Thank you for supporting our efforts to legalize marijuana in Maryland. Together, we can bring about great change in the state this legislative session!

DC City Council Committee to Hold Hearings on Marijuana Decriminalization

October 23rd, 2013

The DC City Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will hold public hearings on legislation introduced earlier this year by Councilman Tommy Wells, B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013. The measure will receive two public hearings, one on Wednesday evening from 6:30pm until 9:00pm at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library located at 1800 Good Hope Road SE. The hearing will reconvene Thursday at 11:30am in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building located at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW.

NORML will be testifying along with other allied groups in favor of this legislation. The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act would make the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by those 18 years of age or older a civil violation, punishable by a $100 fine. Currently, the possession of any amount of marijuana in the District of Columbia is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months incarceration or a maximum $1,000 fine. A survey conducted by Public Policy Polling earlier this year found that 75% of DC residents support this reform.

A live stream of the hearings should be available here, the video will also be archived on the City Council website for viewing at a later date.

If you live in DC and can’t attend the hearing, you can quickly and easily contact your City Council member in support of this measure by clicking here.

You can read NORML’s testimony below:

Written Testimony Regarding B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013, Before the DC City Council, Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

By Erik Altieri, Communications Director
NORML | NORML Foundation
Washington, DC
October 24, 2013

NORML applauds the members of the City Council for holding this hearing regarding the decriminalization of personal use amounts of marijuana.

B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013 reduces minor marijuana possession penalties (those involving the possession of 1 ounce or less) from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1000 fine, to a civil infraction punishable by a fine only. This common sense, fiscally responsible proposal will cut costs, improve public safety, and have a positive impact on the quality of life of thousands of adults in the District of Columbia.

This Measure Will Improve The Quality Of Life For DC Citizens

In 2011, about 4,300 District citizens were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana at the estimated cost of over 20 million dollars. These arrests disproportionately effect people of color, with African American residents being arrested at 8 times the rate of their white counterparts despite similar use rates. This statistic makes the District 2nd in the nation when it comes to racial disparities, falling just behind Iowa. While only accounting for 51.6% of the population, people of color account for more than 90% of all marijuana arrests. Passage of this measure would spare many of these citizens from criminal arrest, prosecution, and incarceration, as well as the emotional and financial hardships that follow — including the loss of certain jobs, students loans, federal and state subsidies, and child custody rights.

Most adult marijuana users act responsibly. They are not part of the crime problem and they should not be treated like serious criminals. This legislation would maintain monetary sanctions for marijuana possession violations, but would spare offenders from being saddled with lifelong criminal records. This change would continue to discourage marijuana abuse, while halting the practice of permanently criminalizing thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

B20-0409 Will Cut Costs And Improve Public Safety

Law enforcement resource allocation is a zero-sum gain. The time that a police officer spends arresting and processing minor marijuana offenders is time when he or she is not out on the streets protecting the public from more significant criminal activity. Passage of this bill would allow law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts to re-allocate their existing resources toward activities that will more effectively target serious criminal behavior and keep the public safe. In recent years, lawmakers in California (2010), Connecticut (2011) and Vermont (2013) have enacted similar legislation for these reasons. To date, these laws are working as lawmakers intended.

District Residents Strongly Support Decriminalization

Public opinion strongly favors such a reprioritization of law enforcement resources. Marijuana ‘decriminalization,’ as proposed under The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act, presently enjoys support from the majority of Americans. According to a DC poll conducted by Public Policy Polling earlier this year, 75 percent of D.C. residents support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

Contrary to the concerns of some, the passage of this legislation would not negatively impact marijuana use patterns or attitudes. Passage of similar legislation in other states has not led to increased marijuana use or altered adolescents’ perceptions regarding the potential harms of drug use. In fact, the only United States government study ever commissioned to assess whether the enforcement of strict legal penalties positively impacts marijuana use found, “Overall, the preponderance of the evidence which we have gathered and examined points to the conclusion that decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people.”

Support Public Safety: Vote ‘Yes’ On The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act

The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act seeks to reduce government expenditures and promote public safety. These are goals that lawmakers should support. It makes no sense to continue to treat responsible adult cannabis consumers as criminals. While NORML encourages the Council to approve this measure, we hope that you will also continue to pursue further marijuana law reforms. Amending this legislation to include limited personal cultivation of several marijuana plants would allow consumers to have an alternative source instead of continuing to funnel money into the black market. Ultimately, we urge the Council to consider moving further, to a system that regulates marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, which would put marijuana commerce in the hands of regulated businesses and away from criminal elements. Thank you for your time and consideration of this measure.

Everything is Bigger in Texas, Including Support for Marijuana Legalization

October 8th, 2013

normlpollban

They say things are bigger in Texas and, according to new survey data just released by Public Policy Polling, that includes support for marijuana law reform.

PPP’s polling found that 58% of Texans support regulating marijuana like alcohol and only 38% were opposed. This change in policy was supported by 59% of women, 70% of Democrats, 57% of Independents, a majority of all racial demographics, and a majority of all age demographics.

The survey also reported that 58% of Texans supported medical marijuana and 61% supported the decriminalization of possession of an ounce or less.

You can read the full survey here.

With a high profile governor’s race shaping up between Senator Wendy Davis, the only declared
Democrat, and a Republican challenger (Attorney General Abbot seems to be leading in current polls) the time is ripe to make marijuana law reform a major issue in America’s second most populated state.

TEXANS: You can contact the announced candidates for Texas governor by clicking on their links below. Send them a quick message telling them:

“Public Policy Polling found that 58% of Texans support ending our costly war on marijuana and replacing it with a system of regulation similar to how we deal with alcohol. This majority support was spread across all age and ethnic demographics. It is time we consider a new approach to marijuana. As a Texas voter, I am very concerned with your position on the issues of marijuana law reform and would greatly appreciate if you could inform me of your stance on the taxation and regulation of marijuana, as well as allowing for its medical use and decriminalization of personal possession.”

DEMOCRAT:
State Senator Wendy Davis

REPUBLICAN:
Attorney General Greg Abbott
Tom Pauken
Miriam Martinez
Larry Kilgore

(If you receive a response please forward it to erik@norml.org)

CANDIDATE RESPONSES:

Miriam Martinez (posted in response to a question on her Facebook page): “I support the medical use of marijuana and decriminalization of personal possession.”

PA Gubernatorial Candidate John Hanger: Marijuana Reform Can Elect the Next PA Governor

August 28th, 2013

Marijuana in the Race for New York City Mayor

August 14th, 2013

appleUPDATE: Thompson, McDonald, Catsimatidis, and Carrion’s positions have been added. The race to become the next mayor of New York City is one of the most publicized and followed of 2013 and the issue of marijuana has been playing a prominent role, with a large majority of the candidates backing some degree of reform. NORML has compiled this list of the candidates and their statements surrounding marijuana policy to help educate New York City voters where they stand on the issue.

DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY

Supports Full Legalization:

Sal Albanese

Background: Former New York City Council Member

Position: “I believe that the time has come to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana. By legalizing it, we can allow police officers to focus on local crime issues and improving clearance rates for homicide, rape, and robbery. By regulating marijuana, we can put black-market drug dealers out of business. By taxing marijuana, we can raise billions of dollars in new revenue to pay teachers better, create pediatric wellness centers, and expand health services.” – Sal Albanese’s Response to NORML

Click here for more info.

John Liu

Background: Current New York City Comptroller

Position: “By keeping it illegal, you actually encourage more violent crime. Why not regulate and tax it? We can derive $400 million in revenues for the city, use that money to cut CUNY tuition in half and reduce the disparate social impact that’s occurring in too many of our communities.” – John Liu Statement to NY1

Click here for more info.

Supports Decriminalization:

Bill de Blasio

Background: Current Public Advocate for New York City

Position: “In New York City, nearly 50,000 people were arrested last year for marijuana possession. Low-level marijuana possession arrests have disastrous consequences for individuals and their families. These arrests limit one’s ability to qualify for student financial aid and undermine one’s ability to find stable housing and good jobs. What’s more, recent studies demonstrate clear racial bias in arrests for low-level possession, with African-Americans arrested four times more frequently as whites — despite roughly equal usage rates. This policy is unjust and wrong.

First-time offenses for possession of small amounts of marijuana are supposed to be punishable by fine only, unless publicly displayed. Commissioner Kelly instructed NYPD officers to stop making arrests for marijuana possession unless it is in public view. However, too many young African-Americans and Hispanics — without prior convictions — are still arrested for marijuana possession after being stopped and frisked by police, who then treat it as public display.

Bill de Blasio will direct the NYPD to stop these misguided prosecutions and push for the passage of Governor Cuomo’s marijuana possession law, which would remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession under 15 grams. Bill de Blasio will enforce these standards and ensure cases of marijuana found through police stops are treated as possessions, not public displays. These commonsense changes will help reverse the racial impact of low-level marijuana arrests and align policing practices with constitutional protections.” – From Campaign Website

Click here for more info.

Christine Quinn

Background: New York City Council Speaker

Position: Supported Governor Cuomo’s efforts to decriminalize marijuana. Also supports medical marijuana.

Click here for more info.

Bill Thompson

Background: Former New York City Comptroller

Position: Supports decriminalization of small amounts and medical marijuana, but not legalization. (Source)

Click here for more info.

Anthony Weiner

Background: Former United States Representative (D-NY)

Position: “End Arrests for Small Amounts of Mari- juana. These arrests serve no purpose; they worsen NYPD/community relations, create criminal records that ruin lives, and waste the time and energy of officers who should be fighting serious crime.” – Campaign Website

“I can tell my police officers and my police commissioner, that’s [marijuana arrests] not a priority for my administration. [It] damages lives, and very rarely do you catch a master criminal that way.” – Anthony Weiner to Capital New York

Click here for more info.

No Formalized Stance:

Erick Salgado
Ceceilia Berkowitz

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

Supports Full Legalization:

Joe Lhota

Background: Former Deputy Mayor of New York City, Chief of M.T.A.

Position: Supports marijuana legalization, but believes that responsibility for acting on the issue falls to the governor and federal government.

Click here for more info.

Supports Decriminalization

George McDonald

Background: Founder and President of the Dole Fund

Position: Supports decriminalization. (Source)

Click here for more info.

John Catsimatidis

Background: Owner, president, chairman, and CEO of the Gristedes Foods

Position: Supports medical marijuana, but not legalization.

Click here for more info.

The independent candidate, Adolfo Carrión, Jr, supports decriminalization, but not legalization.

Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Introduced in the District of Columbia

July 10th, 2013

Today, DC City Council Member Tommy Wells introduced legislation that would decriminalize personal possession amounts of marijuana in Washington, DC.

Under the proposed measure, the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana would become a civil infraction, similar to a parking ticket, with a fine of no more than $100. Recent survey data released by Public Policy Polling in April 2013 revealed that 75% of DC residents favored this reform.

“This reform cannot come soon enough,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “The District of Columbia has the highest arrest rate per capita for marijuana charges of any city in the country and those arrests are disproportionately impacting people of color, who are about 8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana charges than their white counterparts, despite similar use rates.”

NORML will keep you updated as this legislation moves forward.

New Poll Shows Huge Support for Marijuana Law Reform in New Hampshire

January 16th, 2013

Polling data released this week by Public Policy Polling shows a large base of support for marijuana law reforms in New Hampshire. Not only is there majority support from New Hampshire voters for the medical use of marijuana and decriminalizing its possession, but more than half support regulating and taxing marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

When asked if they would support or oppose changing New Hampshire law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, where stores would be licensed to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older, 53% responded they would support this law and only 37% were opposed.

62% stated that they would support a change in the law to provide for a fine of up to $100 without jail time or the threat of arrest for those who possess an ounce or less of marijuana and 68% support allowing for its physician supervised use. Even more enlightening, 52% stated an elected official’s support of medical marijuana made them more likely to support them.

Fortunately for New Hampshire lawmakers, they have the opportunity to capitalize on this groundswell of support for sensible marijuana laws. Legislation has already been introduced to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and a separate measure has been introduced to allow patients to use marijuana for medical purposes. The incoming governor has even voiced her support for legalizing medical use.

If you live in New Hampshire, you can use NORML’s Take Action to easily contact your elected officials in support of these measures. Click here to view our alert for decriminalization and here for medical use.

You can view the full polling data here.