Archive for the ‘decriminalization’ category

Marijuana Decriminalization Takes Effect In Nation’s Capital

July 17th, 2014
As of midnight Wednesday, D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law is officially in effect. The new law — approved by the D.C. Council, signed by Mayor Gray,

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Mayor Vincent Gray

and submitted to Congress for a 60-day review — replaces misdemeanor criminal charges for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil violation, costing the offender $25. Now D.C. has the third-least punitive marijuana laws in the country, behind Colorado and Washington State.

It is important to note that this is only a change in District law, not federal law. Marijuana possession on federal lands, including the National Mall, is still a criminal offense and violators may be arrested and prosecuted. Public use is still illegal as well. Please see our summary of this new law for more information.

Thank you so much to all the individuals and organizations that took part in reforming the previously outdated law. Further reform is still needed, however. If you are a District resident, please contact your council members and urge them to treat marijuana like alcohol.

 

District Of Columbia’s Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance Goes Into Effect Tonight

July 16th, 2014

A new District ordinance reducing marijuana possession penalties to a $25.00 fine-only violation goes into effect at midnight tonight.

Washington, DC City Council members overwhelmingly approved the legislation, entitled “The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act,” this past spring. The measure amends District law involving the possession or transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a civil violation (punishable by a $25.00 fine, no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record).

Offenses involving the public consumption of cannabis remain classified as a criminal misdemeanor under DC law, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine. The possession of cannabis-related paraphernalia will be re-classified as a violation, not a criminal offense.

An analysis published by the American Civil Liberties Union reported that the District possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.

Weeks ago, Congressman Andrew Harris (R-MD) introduced a language to undermine the implementation of this act. However, that provision remains pending and is strongly opposed by the White House.

The District’s $25.00 fine-only measure is similar to existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.

Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense.

Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Montgomery County Council Urges Maryland Assembly to Decriminalize Paraphernalia

July 9th, 2014

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council unanimously adopted a resolution de-prioritizing certain marijuana offenses and urging the state to decriminalize possession of marijuana paraphernalia. This is just the latest step towards humane and sensible marijuana policies in Maryland.

The county’s resolution comes on the heels of Gov. Martin O’Malley signing into law SB 364, which will impose civil fines — not criminal penalties — on possession of less than ten grams of marijuana. The law, which goes into effect October 1, did not include paraphernalia. Montgomery County’s resolution urges the state to fix that by making “adult paraphernalia possession a civil offense, no more serious than adult possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana.” It also states that simple possession of marijuana and paraphernalia should be the lowest law enforcement  priority in the county. Read the full text here.

While we support the effort to include paraphernalia in Maryland’s decriminalization law, the state should go beyond that reform and follow the leads of Colorado and Washington. Colorado opened its first legal adult use marijuana stores in January, and the first adult use stores in Washington State just went live today. It’s time for Maryland to end its costly and destructive criminalization of marijuana and replace it with sensible regulations and taxation.

If you are a Maryland resident, please let your legislators know that you support adopting a system of taxation and regulation of marijuana.

 

Philadelphia City Council Overwhelmingly Approves Decriminalization of Marijuana Possession

June 19th, 2014

Today, the full Philadelphia City Council voted 13 to 3 in support of a measure that would lower the penalty for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a civil infraction, punishable by a $25 fine.

All 13 of the Democratic members of the City Council voted for it and all three Republicans voted against. The measure now goes to Philadelphia Mayor Nutter’s desk for signature. NORML’s local chapter, Philly NORML, has been working hard on advancing these reforms for many years and those efforts seem to be finally paying off.

Councilman Bill Greenlee, who voted in support of decriminalization, stated, “It does not seem fair for what most people consider a minor incident to potentially risk people’s future.”

Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who also voted “Yes” on the bill, said, “To spend the time and the amount of money that is really required to prosecute someone with small amounts of marijuana, while we have so many other bigger issues in the city, does seem a little bit not where we need to be headed.”

Bill sponsor Councilman Jim Kenney estimates that the new pot policy could save the police department and the courts about $4 million a year.

NORML will keep you updated if and when the mayor signs this measure.

Delaware House Committee Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana

June 19th, 2014

Yesterday, the Delaware House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee voted 6-1 to release Rep. Helene Keeley’s decriminalization bill. This bill would remove criminal penalties for the simple possession of small amounts of marijuana, and instead impose a civil fine. The proposal may now be considered on the House floor.

This is a strong step towards more fiscally sound and humane marijuana policies. A March poll found that 68% of Delawareans across the political spectrum support making the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use punishable by a fine of up to $100, without jail time. Across the nation, 19 states and the District of Columbia have already passed similar measures.

This is a much-needed measure in Delaware, where African Americans are more than three times more likely to be arrested for the possession of marijuana than users of other races are, despite similar rates of use across all races. Criminal records have devastating effects; they can become obstacles to obtaining an education, employment, and even housing. This measure would also free up law enforcement to focus on addressing serious crimes instead of arresting adults for using a substance objectively safer than alcohol.

 

Jamaica: Government Promises Relaxation Of Ganja Possession Laws

June 13th, 2014

The Jamaica government is poised to relax marijuana possession penalties.

Justice Minister Mark Golding said yesterday in a statement that a majority of lawmakers are ready to endorse a proposal decriminalizing the possession of the plant.

“[T]he criminalization of possession of a small quantity of ganja and of smoking ganja has caused significant hardships in Jamaica, particularly among young men,” he said. “A conviction for possession or use of ganja results in a criminal record, which often precludes the offender from engaging certain employment, impacts his ability to get visas to travel overseas, and generally limits his life prospects. This is a serious human rights issue, supporting the cry for reform to our laws in this area.”

The proposed change in law amends Jamaica’s Dangerous Drugs Act by eliminating criminal penalties pertaining to the private possession of two ounces of cannabis by adults. Rather, such behavior will be reclassified under the law as a “non-arrestable, ticketable infraction … which does not give rise to a criminal record.”

The proposed changes intend to provid broader protections for those using cannabis for religious or medicinal purposes. “[R]eligious use of ganja ought not to be criminalized, given Jamaica’s history and prevailing socio-cultural and economic environment,” the Justice Minister said. He added, “It is not only wrong but also foolhardy to continue with a law that makes it illegal to possess ganja and its derivatives for medicinal purposes.”

The Justice Minister said that a majority of Parliament are also backing separate legislation that seeks to expunge the criminal records of those with minor marijuana convictions. Additional legislative efforts are also “underway to develop a legal framework which will allow the emergence of medical ganja and industrial hemp industries in Jamaica,” Golding said.

Various Jamaican national commissions have previously called on Parliament to enact similar reforms, but lawmakers in the past have largely ignored their recommendations.

MPP Releases Report on Collateral Consequences of Marijuana Convictions in New Hampshire

May 7th, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, the New Hampshire Senate refused to consider a bill that would have reduced marijuana penalties in the state, but MPP and its allies are not giving up on the 2014 session. Several representatives in the House are working to keep this issue alive, and we are still making the case that now is the time to stop criminalizing and jailing people for consuming a substance that is safer than alcohol.

Today, MPP released a new report — Marked for Life — that shows how the lifelong stigma associated with a marijuana conviction can derail dreams by making it difficult to obtain jobs, an education, and even housing. If you have experienced any of these collateral consequences of a conviction for simple possession, please let us know.

It’s past time for New Hampshire to catch up with 15 other states — including all five other New England states — by reducing the penalty for marijuana possession to a fine.

 

 

Study: Medical Cannabis Laws Not Associated With Increased Use By Adolescents

April 22nd, 2014

The enactment of state laws legalizing the physician-recommended use of cannabis therapy is not associated with increased levels of marijuana use by young people, according to data published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University assessed the impact of medical cannabis laws by examining trends in reported drug use by high-schoolers in a cohort of states before and after legalization. Researchers compared these trends to geographically matched states that had not adopted medical marijuana laws.

Authors reported overall “no statistically significant differences in marijuana use before and after policy change for any state pairing,” and acknowledged that some states that had adopted medical cannabis laws experienced a decrease in adolescent’s self-reported use of the plant. “In the regression analysis, we did not find an overall increased probability of marijuana use related to the policy change,” they stated.

Investigators concluded, “This study did not find increases in adolescent marijuana use related to legalization of medical marijuana. … This suggests that concerns about ‘sending the wrong message’ may have been overblown. … Our study … may provide some reassurance to policy makers who wish to balance compassion for individuals who have been unable to find relief from conventional medical therapies with the safety and well-being of youth.”

A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health similarly concluded that the passage of medical marijuana laws in various states has had no “statistically significant … effect on the prevalence of either lifetime or 30-day marijuana use” by adolescents residing in those states.

A 2012 study by researchers at McGill University in Montreal reported: “[P]assing MMLs (medical marijuana laws) decreased past-month use among adolescents … and had no discernible effect on the perceived riskiness of monthly use. … [These] estimates suggest that reported adolescent marijuana use may actually decrease following the passing of medical marijuana laws.”

Read the abstract of this latest study, “The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Legislation on Adolescent Marijuana Use,” online here.

Maryland Becomes 21st Medical Marijuana State, and 18th to Decriminalize

April 15th, 2014

Yesterday morning, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law both the medical marijuana bill and the decriminalization bill, making Maryland the 21st state with an effective medical marijuana program, and the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The medical marijuana bill expands a program that, while established last year, was unable to get off the ground. The previous law relied on the participation of teaching hospitals, which understandably did not want to be involved with a substance that is still federally illegal. The law signed today will allow registered cultivators to grow medical marijuana and up to 15 licensed cultivators to provide the medicine to patients and dispensaries. This new law will finally provide real access to seriously ill Marylanders.

The decriminalization law removes the criminal penalties for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, and replaces them with a civil fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program. The measure will officially go into effect on October 1.

This is incredible progress, but our work is not done yet. A September 2013 poll found that 53% of Marylanders support legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and up, and taxing and regulating it like alcohol.

Maryland: Governor Signs Marijuana Reform Measures Into Law

April 14th, 2014

Democrat Gov. Martin O’Malley today signed two separate pieces of legislation reforming the state’s marijuana laws.

Senate Bill 364 amends existing penalties for marijuana possession offenses involving ten grams or less from a criminal misdemeanor (presently punishable by arrest, up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a criminal record) to a non-arrestable, non-criminal fine-only offense ($100 fine for first-time offenders, $250 for second-time offenders). The new depenalization law takes effect on October 1, 2014.

House Bill 881 seeks to provide for the state-licensed production and dispensing of marijuana to qualified patients who possess a written certification from their physician. The new law will take effect on June 1, 2014, at which time the state shall establish a commission to draft rules and regulations overseeing the production and distribution of medical marijuana. However, the licensing program is not anticipated to be up and running until 2015.

Maryland is the 18th state to depenalize minor marijuana possession offenses to a non-arrestable offense. It is the 21st state to allow for the doctor-recommended access to medicinal cannabis.