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Decriminalization

  • by NORML June 20, 2018

    Local Marijuana DecriminalizationEven though recreational marijuana remains criminalized in a majority of US states, more and more municipalities are moving ahead with local laws decriminalizing the possession of cannabis within city limits. For the first time, NORML has released a comprehensive breakdown of these citywide and countywide decriminalization policies.

    Efforts to liberalize municipal marijuana possession penalties in states where cannabis remains criminalized have become increasingly popular in recent years. Since 2012, over 50 localities, such as Albuquerque, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and St. Louis in a dozen states — including Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have enacted municipal laws or resolutions either fully or partially decriminalizing minor cannabis possession offenses. Today, over 10.5 million Americans reside in these localities. (Please note: This total does not include cities or counties in states that have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana statewide).

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri: “Local politicians see firsthand the punitive and disproportionately adverse effects that statewide marijuana criminalization has on their communities and upon their constituents. That is why they are exercising their local legislative powers to protect citizens in their community when state politicians are either unwilling or lack the political courage to do so.”

    DECRIMINALIZATION EXPLAINED

    Under full decriminalization, minor offenses are defined by statute as either non-criminal violations or infractions. Violators are not subject to arrest. Instead, they are cited and mandated to pay a small fine. Violators are not subject to a court appearance nor are they saddled with a criminal conviction or record.  Under partial decriminalization policies, minor marijuana offenses may remain classified as misdemeanor offenses. However, violators are issued a summons in lieu of a criminal arrest.

    Beginning with Oregon in 1973, 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. (Eight of these states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Vermont — have since replaced their decriminalization statutes with statewide adult use legalization legislation.)

    Today, nine states — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island — have fully decriminalized activities specific to the private possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults. Four additional states — Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio — have partially decriminalized marijuana possession offenses. In these latter jurisdictions, cannabis remains classified as a misdemeanor under state law, but the offense does not carry the penalty of jail time. In New York, marijuana possession ‘in public view’ remains punishable as a criminal misdemeanor.

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal: “As public support in favor of marijuana law reform has grown, so too have local efforts by legislators and voters to address the issue at the municipal level. In many regions of the country, local lawmakers are moving to shield their local citizens from state prohibitions — one city at a time.”

  • by Jax Finkel, Texas NORML Executive Director June 19, 2018
    Texas GOP Platform Now Supports Decriminalization, Re-Scheduling, Hemp and an Inclusive Medical Program

    Republican Delegates at the State Convention in San Antonio succeeded in updating the Texas GOP platform to include planks that support making the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) more inclusive, removal of criminal penalty for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana, the re-scheduling of and growing industrial hemp in Texas. This took a powerful effort from the grassroots, delegates and Republicans in advance of the convention and during the long, multi-step process it takes to approve and adopt planks to the Republican Platform.

    Here is what happened over the week leading up to these planks adoption:

    • Monday night before the convention, the Criminal and Civil Justice Sub Committee passed a resolution to remove criminal penalties for possession of 1 ounce or less. The Health and Human Service Sub Committee passed a resolution to improve TCUP.
    • On Tuesday, the Legislative Priorities Committee (LPC) met to determine the top legislative priorities for the next session. The Committee took testimony from 15 people include sitting Representative Jason Issac.
    • When the Temporary Platform Committee (TPC) issued their report on Wednesday, it included both of the planks. Additionally, the LPC took an informal poll and medical cannabis was in the top ten. They would ultimately adopt 8 priorities and medical cannabis unfortunately did not make the cut.
    • Thursday the Permanent Platform Committee considered the TPC report. The final report the Permanent Platform Committee adopted included the following cannabis related planks, which were then voted on by the delegates on Saturday:
      • Penalty Reduction for Possession: We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time. (Passed 83%)
      • Expand Access to Medical Cannabis: We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to recommend to certified patients. (Passed 82%)
      • Call for Re-scheduling Cannabis: Congress should remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 and moved to Schedule 2. (Passed 90%)
      • Industrial Hemp: We recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity. We urge the Texas Legislature to pass legislation allowing cultivation, manufacture and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products. (Passed 83%)

    These types of changes are extremely important in advance of the 2019 Legislative Session. Pre-filing bills will start on November 12th, 2018 and the session will officially kick off on January 8th, 2019.

    You can help Texas NORML by becoming a member, a sustaining or onetime donor!

    If you are in the Fort Worth area or are a delegate to the Democratic Convention, join the Texas Cannabis Caucus on Friday, June 22nd, 2018 at 1pm.

     

    Jax Finkel is the Executive Director of Texas NORML, the state affliate of NORML. Follow their work on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Visit their website at www.texasnorml.org and make a contribution to support their work at www.texasnorml.org/donate/

  • by NORML June 13, 2018

    Last Friday, the Congressional Black Caucus announced its position on various marijuana law reforms.

    “Some of the same folks who told African Americans ‘three strikes and you’re out’ when it came to marijuana use and distribution, are now in support of decriminalizing the drug and making a profit off of it,” CBC Chairman Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-02) said. “The Congressional Black Caucus supports decriminalizing marijuana and investing in communities that were destroyed by the War on Drugs – which, in addition to be a failed war, was a war on black and brown communities. We also support expunging the records of those previously convicted of misdemeanors for marijuana-related offenses.”

    The position was supported by an overwhelming majority of the 48-member caucus.

    Read more here: https://cbc.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=903

  • by NORML May 8, 2018

    Police in the Pennsylvania cities of Allentown and Bethlehem continue to arrest hundreds of residents for less than 30 grams of cannabis while opiate and cocaine arrests seem to be going down.

    Last year Allentown put 315 people into handcuffs and the courts over marijuana possession, while the city reported just 31 other drug possession arrests during 2017, according to data from the Pa. Uniform Crime Reporting System.

    Bethlehem police also favor arresting cannabis consumers, between 130 and 160 per year are caught up in the criminal justice system over a few joints. Data from Bethlehem is also showing some odd trends, with zero opiate or cocaine arrests logged in 2016 or 2017.

    “Decriminalization would seem a simple and effective option anywhere,” said Lehigh Valley NORML Director Jeff Riedy, “When you consider the human cost to those convicted of arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.”

    A RAND Corp. study commissioned for Vermont found that each marijuana arrest is estimated to cost taxpayers $1,266 to perform. Prosecuting each person spends another $1,000 according to some estimates.

    That means Allentown and Bethlehem spent over $1 million last year treating otherwise law abiding cannabis consumers like criminals. Thankfully the city councils in both communities have introduced ordinances to address this expensive injustice.

    “The decrim ordinances, like that in Philadelphia, have helped to remove stigma, freed up the courts and allowed law enforcement to focus on more pressing issues. We should stop ruining lives over a joint,” said Riedy.

    Lehigh Valley NORML encourages members of the press and elected officials to review the marijuana possession arrest data included with this release.

    According to Pa. State Representative Michael Schlossberg (D., Lehigh), cosponsor of two statewide decriminalization bills in Harrisburg, “It’s time to put an end to senseless mass incarceration brought on by the prohibition of marijuana. I have added my name to legislation to decriminalize possession of marijuana and bring commonsense back to our criminal justice system.  Pennsylvanian’s cannot afford to continue to follow the path of failed policies which hurt individuals and communities.”

    Allentown introduced their ordinance at Council last week, and it has been moved to a Committee of the Whole, scheduled for Tuesday, May 8 at 6pm in Council Chambers. If it passes the Committee with a majority vote, the ordinance will move to the full City Council for a vote next Wednesday, May 16 at 7pm. Public opinion is encouraged both dates.

    Allentown’s proposed ordinance: http://allentownpa.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=6212844&GUID=F77277E0-5440-436B-B430-9CAC4AFFB0BD

    For more info, please contact Jeff Riedy at 610-533-0906 or via email at lehighvnorml@gmail.com. You can also follow Lehigh Valley NORML on FaceBook and Twitter!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 16, 2018

    Philadelphia officials announced today that they will no longer prosecute marijuana possession offenses.

    In October 2014, Philadelphia enacted a municipal ordinance reclassifying cases involving the possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record. Since that time, annual arrests for marijuana possession violations have fallen by an estimated 85 percent. However, despite this decrease, police have continued to make several hundreds of marijuana possession arrests yearly. These arrest primarily target young people pf color.

    Newly elected District Attorney Larry Krasner declared today that the city will no longer prosecute those additional cases. “What we’re talking about is the 10 percent or so that are being charged as they used to be, as misdemeanors in court,” he said. “We are going to … drop any cases that are simply marijuana possession.”

    Krasner said that refusing to pursue these cases is “the right thing to do.”

    Last week, Seattle city officials announced their intentions to vacate the criminal convictions of minor marijuana possession offenders. The week prior, city officials in San Francisco announced plans to automatically expunge thousands of past marijuana possession convictions.

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