Archive for the ‘decriminalization’ category

New York City Officials Announce Plan To Halt Minor Marijuana Arrests

November 11th, 2014

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton publicly announced plans yesterday to halt the NYPD’s practice of arresting tens of thousands of minor marijuana offenders annually.

Under the new plan, set to take effect November 19, city police would issue first-time marijuana offenders a summons, payable by a fine, in lieu of making a criminal arrest.

Though the Mayor and the Police Commissioner have made pledges in the past to reduce the city’s marijuana arrest totals, which average nearly 30,000 per year, they have previously failed to do so. Of those arrested for minor marijuana offenses in New York City, a disproportionate percentage (86 percent) are either Black or Latino. Nearly three out of four arrested possessed no prior criminal record.

Although New York state law classifies minor marijuana possession offenses as a non-criminal offense, separate penal law (NY State Penal Law 221.10) defines marijuana possession in a manner that is ‘open to public view’ as an arrestable offense.

Mayor de Blasio called the City’s proposed depenalization policy “a smart policy that keeps New Yorkers safe, but it is also a more fair policy.”

Philadelphia Depenalizes Marijuana Possession

October 3rd, 2014

Philadelphia mayor signs depenalization legislation into lawAs anticipated, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed municipal legislation this week removing criminal penalties for the possession of minor quantities of cannabis by adults. (Watch a video of the Mayor’s ordinance signing and accompanying press conference here.)

The new measure amends citywide penalties pertaining to the possession of up to approximately one ounce of cannabis (30 grams) from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record. Public use of cannabis will be punishable by up to a $100 fine and/or the completion of community service.

Philadelphia NORML had long lobbied in support of a change in the city’s criminal classification of marijuana possession offenses. A 2013 review of marijuana arrest data by the organization reported that African Americans are arrested in Philadelphia for minor marijuana violations at five times the rate of whites despite both races consuming the substance at nearly equal rates.

Council member James Kenney, who sponsored the decriminalization ordinance, acknowledged that it was Philadelphia NORML’s outreach on this issue that ultimately persuaded him to push for the change in law.

The reduced penalties go into effect on October 20, 2014.

Maryland Decriminalization Bill Takes Effect Tomorrow

September 30th, 2014

Legislation adopted this year to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession in Maryland will go into effect on Wednesday. Maryland joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia that have decriminalized or legalized marijuana possession.

Senate Bill 364 makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a 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.

Philadelphia: Mayor To Sign Marijuana Depenalization Measure

September 8th, 2014

City mayor Michael Nutter announced today that he will sign municipal legislation into law decriminalizing marijuana possession penalties.

Under the measure, penalties pertaining to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis would be reduced from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record.

Members of the City Council in June voted 13 to 3 to reduce municipal marijuana penalties. A slightly amended version of this proposal is anticipated to be before the mayor by the end of this month. The revised language is expected to take effect on October 20.

Anyone cited under the pending ordinance would be required to make an appearance before a Municipal Court judge, but would not face criminal charges or a criminal record. Those caught smoking marijuana in public would face a $100 fine, which could be waived if the defendant agreed to perform several hours of public service.

Philadelphia NORML had long lobbied in support of a change in the city’s criminal classification of marijuana possession offenses. A 2013 review of marijuana arrest data by the organization reported that African Americans are arrested in Philadelphia for minor marijuana violations at five times the rate of whites despite both races consuming the substance at nearly equal rates.

“This will go a long way toward a much more saner and a much better policy for people in Philadelphia,” said Chris Goldstein, PhillyNORML co-chair. “This is something that should have happened earlier in the summer. It would have alleviated almost 1,000 people getting arrested.”

It remains to be seen to what extent local police will enforce the new ordinance, once enacted. In past statements, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey had publicly pledged to ignore the ordinance, stating, “State law trumps city ordinances.”

[UPDATE! It is now being reported that Chief Ramsey is on board with the amended ordinance.]

Voters in Santa Fe to Consider Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

August 28th, 2014

The list of localities considering making marijuana legal or decriminalizing possession of small amounts is steadily growing, and two New Mexico cities were just added to the list last week.

In Santa Fe, organizers submitted almost 11,000 signatures to allow voters to decide to remove criminal penalties for simple possession.

Currently in Santa Fe, first-time offenders in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana are charged with a petty misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50 to $100 and imprisonment of not more than 15 days. The proposal calls for possession to be treated as a civil infraction, requiring no jail time and punishable by a fine of no more than $25.

State and federal law would be unaffected by the change, if it were approved. Police officers would have discretion as to whether to charge violations under a city ordinance, handled in municipal court, or under state statute, adjudicated in magistrate court.

However, the petition called for possession of small amounts of marijuana and instruments used to ingest it to be considered “a lowest law enforcement priority.”

In Albuquerque, supporters were unable to get enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, but the city council included a similar provision in a package of local legislative bills. The mayor has voiced his opposition and threatened a veto, but it is unclear if he has the legal authority to do so.

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,

gray
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.