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decriminalization

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 11, 2018

    Democrat Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation permitting those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged.

    House Bill 8355/S. 2447 allows those with past convictions for crimes involving the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis to petition the court to seek an order of expungement. It states, “[W]here the court has determined that all conditions of the original criminal sentence have been completed, … the court [will] order the expungement without cost to the petitioner.” The law took effect upon passage.

    State lawmakers decriminalzed minor marijuana possession offenses in 2013.

    “If an act has been decriminalized since a person was charged and paid their price for it, that person shouldn’t have to keep paying the price in the form of being denied jobs and other opportunities because of their criminal record,” bill sponsor Sen. Harold Metts said in a statement. “Let them move on, and they can better support themselves and their families and contribute to our communities and our state.”

    Delaware lawmakers passed similar legislation this month permitting the expungement of marijuana-related offenses that have since been decriminalized. That bill is awaiting action from the Governor. Maryland enacted a similar law in 2017.

    Both Massachusetts and Oregon have enacted legislation vacating the convictions of marijuana-related crimes that are now defined as legal under state law. In California, where voters elected to legalize the adult use of marijuana in 2016, District Attorneys in various cities and counties – including San Francisco and San Diego – are automatically reviewing and dismissing thousands of past marijuana-related convictions.

  • 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 NORML June 15, 2018

    Former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice and former Dean of the St. Louis University Law School, Michael A. Wolff, will speak in support of the New Approach Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative at a marijuana law reform conference which will take place at the St. Charles Opera House, 311 N. Main Street, in St. Charles this Saturday, June 16. Judge Wolff is a professor emeritus of law at St. Louis University and a highly respected legal scholar.

    Preceding his remarks at 4:00 p.m., there will be a full day of fascinating speakers. Mr. Paul Armentano, national Deputy Director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) will speak at 3:00 p.m. Mr. Armentano is one of the nation’s most knowledgeable and articulate experts on the science of medical marijuana. He will speak about how the legalization of medical marijuana in 29 other states has dramatically reduced opioid overdose and provided relief from suffering to thousands of Americans.

    At 2:00 p.m., the leader of the St. Louis NAACP, Mr. Adolphus Pruitt, will speak, followed by Mr. Tom Mundell at 2:20 p.m. Mr. Mundell is the former commander of the Missouri Association of Veterans’ Organizations (MAVO). He is a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran.

    At 2:40 p.m., Mr. Jeff Mizanskey will speak. Jeff was sentenced to serve life without possibility of parole for minor marijuana offenses. He has no other criminal convictions. After serving more than 21 years in prison, his sentence was commuted by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon following a nationwide campaign urging the Governor to do so.

    At 1:00 p.m., a panel of health experts and patients will discuss how medical marijuana is helpful to people with a wide variety of injuries and illnesses. At 11:30 a.m., St. Louis Alderperson Megan Green will speak about her efforts to reform local marijuana laws through the St. Louis Board of Alderpeople and through the initiative process. Earlier speakers will review the status of the New Approach Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative campaign and other state, national and local marijuana law reform efforts.

    For more information, contact Dan Viets via email at danviets@gmail.com.

  • 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!

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