Archive for the ‘prohibition’ category

Virginia to Consider Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

December 16th, 2014

When the Virginia Legislature convenes in January, a bill to stop criminalizing those who simply possess marijuana will be awaiting consideration.

Today, an individual convicted of marijuana possession in Virginia20100115152653!Virginia_new_sign can be thrown in jail for up to thirty days, fined up to $500, or both! This overly punitive approach can destroy dreams — a criminal conviction makes it harder to get a job, housing, and education. Criminalizing marijuana possession also wastes vast amounts of resources. In 2012, there were more than 20,000 arrests made in Virginia for marijuana possession. It takes time for police to book marijuana users, prosecutors to try cases, and labs to test marijuana. Meanwhile, more than half of all reported rapes and 80% of all burglaries went unsolved.

SB 686 takes a more sensible and humane approach by replacing the criminal penalties with a civil penalty of up to $100. Punishing marijuana possession with a civil citation recognizes that no one should be denied housing or a job because they possessed a substance safer than alcohol. It also allows Virginia’s law enforcement to quickly issue a ticket and move on to police more serious matters.

If you are a Virginia resident, please email your state delegate and senator today and ask them to support this sensible and long overdue reform — SB 686.

Bill to Reduce Penalties for Possession Filed in Texas

December 15th, 2014
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Rep. Joe Moody

At a press conference held today and hosted by Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, State Representative Joe Moody announced the details of his new bill to stop branding Texans as criminals for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana.  

Many members of our coalition, including Texas District Court Judge John Delaney, the ACLU of Texas, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, and the Marijuana Policy Project, joined him for the big announcement.

Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Rep. Moody said. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”

More than 60% of Texas voters support limiting the punishment for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a fine of $100 with no possibility of jail time, according to a September 2013 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Now is the time to contact your state legislators. They cannot represent you if they don’t know about your support for this bill! If you are a Texas resident, click here to send an email now. Then, spread the news to your friends and family, so that they, too, can speak out to support more humane and sensible marijuana policies.

 

DOJ Will Allow Marijuana On Native American Land

December 11th, 2014

According to a memo released Thursday, the Department of Justice is instructing U.S. attorneys not to enforce marijuana prohibition on Native American land. This includes territory within states where marijuana is still illegal.

usattorney
Timothy Purdon

The new guidance, released in a memorandum, will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues.

But the Justice Department will generally not attempt to enforce federal marijuana laws on federally recognized tribes that choose to allow it, as long as they meet eight federal guidelines, including that marijuana not be sold to minors and not be transported to areas that prohibit it.

“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” Purdon said.

There are 36 states with federally recognized tribal territories. Native American leaders across the country now have the opportunity to take the marijuana market out of the hands of criminals and reap serious financial gains by allowing their residents and neighbors to use a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol.

From USA Today:

“Regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol would ensure the product is controlled, and it would bring significant revenue and new jobs to these communities,” [MPP’s Mason] Tvert says. “Studies have consistently found above-average rates of alcohol abuse and related problems among Native American communities, so it would be incredibly beneficial to provide adults with a safer recreational alternative.”

Congress Poised to Pass Historic Medical Marijuana Amendment

December 10th, 2014

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.Capitol

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.

Two Thirds of Americans Want Congress to Exempt States from Federal Marijuana Enforcement

December 10th, 2014

A new study shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans want the federal government to stay out of state-level affairs associated with changes in marijuana law.

According to The Washington Post, that is one of the conclusions of a survey on legal marijuana recently commissioned by Third Way:

The survey found Americans split on the question of full legalization, with 50 percent supporting versus 47 percent opposed. However, the poll did find that six in ten respondents said that states, not the federal government, should decide whether to make marijuana legal. Moreover, 67 percent of Americans said Congress should go further and specifically carve out an exemption to federal marijuana laws for states that legalize, so long as they have a strong regulatory system in place.

How this would work for marijuana is detailed in an exhaustive forthcoming study in the UCLA Law Review. In short, Congress could allow states to opt out of the Controlled Substances Act provisions relating to marijuana, provided they comply with regulatory guidelines issued by the Department of Justice.

This is already the de-facto federal policy toward Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, although it cannot become a formal policy without an act of Congress. Third Way heartily endorses this approach, as it represents a “third way” between the current policy of outright prohibition, and the full legalization route favored by marijuana reform activists.

It is time for Congress to get out of the way and let states determine what marijuana policies work best for them.

MPP’s Rob Kampia Gives His Take on What’s Next for Marijuana Legalization

December 9th, 2014

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.

Incoming Committee Chairmen Discuss Oversight and Making Marijuana Legal in the Nation’s Capital

December 5th, 2014

After the passage of Initiative 71 in November, which made small amounts of marijuana legal for adults in the nation’s capital, D.C. residents are awaiting approval from Congress when the new session resumes in January. Despite limited opposition, statements by the new chairs of two key committees are making advocates hopeful that Congress will not interfere.

According to Roll Call:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, won a four-way contest for the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on November 18. Two days later, he met with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., to lay the groundwork for a working relationship.

In a statement, Norton expressed optimism that Chaffetz would continue the tradition of staying out of D.C. affairs. The Utah Republican acknowledged that members of Congress “have a role to play” in oversight over the District, though he said he does not expect the committee to interfere unless in an unusual circumstance.

In the Senate, the likely coming chairman of the committee with authority over D.C. shares Chaffetz’s hands-off philosophy.

“I’m somebody who really thinks the federal government should be very limited and where governing is best close to the governed,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who is expected to take the role of chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Nov. 19. “You know, I really look for local control as much as possible so I’ll try and – unless there’s some real massive imperative—let D.C. governance take care of itself.”

One of the first District issues Chaffetz and Johnson will confront as chairmen is how to address making marijuana legal in the D.C., since voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot initiative to make the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana legal.

Both Chaffetz and Johnson are personally against the adult use of marijuana, but Johnson indicated that he would be open to holding a hearing to examine how legal marijuana is playing out in the four states that passed similar measures.

Given the successful implementation of legal marijuana markets in Colorado and Washington and the overwhelming support from voters, Congress should enable D.C. to move forward as well.

Marijuana Policy Reform is Heating Up in Texas

December 3rd, 2014

As Texas lawmakers prepare for the state’s next legislative session, marijuana policy reform advocates are already pushing for the introduction of several bills that would drastically improve current policies.

According to the San Antonio Current:

Harold Dutton

On December 2, Houston Representative Harold Dutton, D-142, filed a bill seeking to reduce certain penalties for marijuana possession.

As explained by the Marijuana Policy Project’s Texas Political Director, Heather Fazio, who briefly looked at a copy of the bill (H.B. 414), it would classify a conviction for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C Misdemeanor instead of a Class B. However, if a person is convicted three times it would be bumped back to a Class B Misdemeanor.

Moreover, while the bill would allow for cite-and-release, a suspect may also be arrested. If convicted, the fine would be $500.

There are downsides to the bill though, Fazio said. She explained that arrest is traumatizing and may result in negative consequences regarding family and employment. She also thinks the $500 fine is rather excessive. Furthermore, there is the criminal record that comes with a conviction, which for a small-time marijuana charge, results in unnecessary harm to education, employment, and housing.

 We are proposing an alternative. [MPP emphasis added] Our bill will make the possession of 1 oz. or less a civil penalty, removing the opportunity for arrest, jail time, and a criminal record. The fine would cap at $100,” Fazio stated, adding the El Paso Representative Joe Moody, a former prosecutor who serves on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, would introduce the bill in approximately two weeks.

The Marijuana Policy Project and our allies are working to introduce a variety of marijuana policy reform legislation in Texas over the next few years. With all the current excitement and national interest in marijuana policy reform, hopefully Texas lawmakers will join in implementing more sensible marijuana laws when the legislative session convenes.

Uruguay’s Marijuana Marketplace Still Safe With the Re-election of Ex-President, Tabare Vazquez

December 2nd, 2014

According to Yahoo News:

Tabare Vazquez

Tabare Vazquez, who served as president of Uruguay from 2005-2010, easily won Uruguay’s presidential election against rival, center-right candidate Luis Lacalle Pou, returning to power a left-leaning coalition that has helped legalize gay marriage and moved to create the world’s first state-run marijuana marketplace.

The runoff vote counted Vazquez to have 53 percent in support of his reelection. Lacalle Pou, on the other hand, who promised to undo much of the plan to put Uruguay’s government in charge of regulating the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana on a nationwide scale, garnered only 40 percent in support of his election.

Vazquez, who previously served as President of Uruguay, belongs to the Broad Front coalition, which has been in power for a decade and has passed laws supporting same-sex marriage and a nationwide marijuana marketplace, among many other social issues.

Therefore, Vazquez’s popularity and experience, coupled with current President Jose Mujica’s popularity, as well as the country’s strong economy that remained consistent during Mujica’s tenure, aided in propelling Vazquez’s reelection into office.

This is good news for the marijuana policy reform movement. Hopefully, Vazquez’s tenure in the world’s first state-run marijuana marketplace will demonstrate the successes of regulating marijuana on a nationwide scale and influence other countries around the world to implement sensible marijuana policies.

Marijuana Credit Union Could be Open in Colorado by January 1 Under State Charter

December 2nd, 2014

Colorado marijuana businesses may soon be able to move away from using cash-only systems.

According to The Denver Post:

The Colorado Division of Financial Services … issued Fourth Corner Credit Union an unconditional charter to operate, the first state credit-union charter issued in nearly a decade.

The next hurdles will be obtaining insurance from the National Credit Union Administration, the federal regulator of credit unions, and getting a master account from the Federal Reserve System.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office called the charter “the end of the line” for the state’s efforts to solve the marijuana industry’s nagging problem: obtaining banking services. Although the NCUA insurance is not guaranteed — sale and consumption of marijuana remain illegal under federal law — Fourth CornerFourth Corner can operate until NCUA makes its decision.

“A Colorado law of 1981 allows a credit union to open its doors while an application for share-deposit insurance is pending,” said attorney Mark Mason, one of Fourth Corner’s key organizers.

Currently, many banks and other financial service providers have been unwilling to work with the marijuana industry out of fear of violating federal law. Some lawmakers have been trying to address this issue with the help of the National Cannabis Industry Association, but until they are successful, such credit unions may be the only solution available to marijuana businesses.