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LEGISLATION

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 5, 2014

    Oregon and Alaska legalized and regulated the commercial production and sale of marijuana for adults, while voters residing in the nation’s capitol and in numerous other cities nationwide similarly decided this Election Day to eliminate marijuana possession penalties.

    Voters in two states decided in favor of a pair of statewide measures to regulate the commercial production, retail sale, and personal use of marijuana by adults. Alaska and Oregon are the third and fourth states to enact regulations on the licensed production and sale of cannabis, joining Colorado and Washington. All four states have enacted their marijuana legalization laws via voter initiative.

    Commenting on the new laws’ passage, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The majority of voters in these states, like a majority of voters nationwide, agree that a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or potential abuse. Elected officials in Alaska, Oregon, and elsewhere should welcome the opportunity to bring these common sense and long overdue regulatory controls to the commercial cannabis market.”

    Under the new Oregon proposal (Measure 91), adults who engage in the non-commercial cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis for personal use (up to four marijuana plants and eight ounces of usable marijuana at a given time) will not be subject to taxation or commercial regulations. Imposition of the new law will not “amend or affect in any way the function, duties, and powers of the Oregon Health Authority under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.” The legalization measure takes effect on July 1, 2015.

    Under the Alaska measure (Ballot Measure 2), the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants for personal consumption will be legal and untaxed. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis will be subject to licensing and taxation. Since 1975, Alaskans have enjoyed personal privacy protections allowing for the possession and cultivation of small quantities of cannabis. However, state law has never before permitted a legal market for marijuana production and sales. The initiative becomes law 90 days after the election is certified, which is expected to be in late November.

    Some 56 percent of Oregon voters backed Measure 91 while 52 percent of Alaskans endorsed Measure 2.

    In California, nearly 60 percent of voters backed Proposition 47, which defelonizes simple drug possession crimes, such as the possession of hashish. Under the measure, Californians with felony records for certain marijuana possession offenses will also be eligible to have their records expunged. Those serving time for felony drug offenses will also be able to petition for resentencing.

    In the US territory Guam , 56 percent of voters decided in favor of Proposal 14A, the Compassionate Cannabis Use Act. The new law directs “the Department of Public Health and Social Services to regulate the use of marijuana as treatment for medical conditions.” The Department has up to nine months to provide rules for the territory’s medical marijuana program.

    By contrast, a proposed Florida amendment (Amendment 2) fell shy of the 60 percent support threshold necessary in that state to amend the state’s constitution. Fifty-eight percent of Florida voters endorsed the measure, including supermajorities in most every age group except for those voters age 65 and older. Said NORML’s Deputy Director: “This vote wasn’t a rejection of medical marijuana in Florida, but rather an affirmation that most Floridians want patient access to cannabis therapy. NORML hopes that the Florida lawmakers will hear this message loud and clear and take action in 2015 on behalf of the will of the majority of the electorate.”

    Municipal voters overwhelmingly decided in favor of depenalizing cannabis on Election Day. In Washington, DC, some 70 percent of District voters approved Initiative 71, which removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants. Adults who engage in not-for-profit transactions of small quantities of cannabis or who possess marijuana-related paraphernalia are also no longer be subject to penalty under this act.

    Unlike legalization measures in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, I-71 does not establish a regulatory framework for the regulation of a commercial cannabis market. However, members of the DC City Council are currently considering separate legislation to regulate the commercial production and sale of marijuana to adults. (Because Washington, DC does not possess statehood, all District laws are subject to Congressional approval prior to their implementation.)

    Voters in several Michigan cities, including Saginaw (population 51,000), Port Huron (30,000), and Berkley (15,000) also decided in favor of local ballot measures depenalizing offenses involving the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. Michigan lawmakers are anticipated to debate a statewide decriminalization proposal in 2015.

    Likewise, voters in South Portland, Maine approved a municipal ordinance eliminating local penalties in regard to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. Voters in Lewiston, Maine rejected a similar measure.

    In New Mexico, voters in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties decided in favor of advisory questions in support of the decriminalization of one ounce or less of marijuana at a city, county and state level. Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties represent a third of the state’s population.

    Finally, in Massachusetts, voters in several state representative districts voted in favor of various nonbinding public policy questions calling on state officials to legalize and regulate cannabis-related commerce.

  • 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.

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