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LEGISLATION

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 3, 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.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 30, 2014

    A new Maryland law depenalizing marijuana possession offenses takes effect this Wednesday.

    Senate Bill 364, signed into law this past April, amends statewide 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 law does not reclassify penalties involving the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, which remains a criminal offense.

    A 2013 ACLU analysis of state-by-state marijuana arrests data reported that Maryland has the fourth highest rate of marijuana possession arrests in the nation.

    Nearly 20 additional states, as well as the District of Columbia, now classify minor marijuana possession as a non-arrestable offense.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 8, 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.]

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director August 20, 2014

    Earlier today, the Democratic Party of Oregon came out in support of Measure 91, which would legalize and regulate the adult use, cultivation, and sale of marijuana in the state.

    These endorsements were made by a “voting body comprised of the State Central Committee delegates, alternates, and associates.” A measure required a two-thirds vote for or against for the Party to take an official position.

    In a press release highlighting their supportive position, the Democratic Party of Oregon stated that “a majority of Americans and large majority of Democrats now support state regulation of legal marijuana use. Measure 91 is the right approach to legalization in Oregon, strictly regulating use while funding law enforcement and schools. Vote Yes on 91.”

    You can read the full release here.

    You can learn more about Measure 91, including ways you can donate or volunteer, by visiting their website here.

    NORML will be providing much more coverage on this and other ballot initiatives as election season heats up. Stay tuned.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 18, 2014

    Nearly seven out of ten Pennsylvania voters believe that marijuana should be legal for either medicinal or recreational use, according to the results of a statewide survey released by Keystone Analytics.

    Sixty-nine percent of respondents said that cannabis should be made legal under state law, with 47 percent of voters endorsing its medicinal use and another 22 percent agreeing with the statement, “It should be legal for any adult to use for any reason.”

    Twenty-seven percent of respondents believed that cannabis “is a harmful substance that should remain illegal to buy and use in Pennsylvania.”

    The poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent.

    House and Senate legislation (HB 1181/SB 1182) seeking to authorize cannabis therapy to qualified patients remains pending in the state. A Senate floor vote on the measure is expected when lawmakers return from their summer recess.

    In coming months, the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association will be holding a series of educational seminars on the subject of cannabis and its potential therapeutic application. The Association is on record in support of “the establishment of efficient drug (cannabis) delivery, growing and dispensing systems as contained within SB 1182.”

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